When our long term customer GNB produced a white paper on their implementation it held a surprise.  Of course they spoke about consistency of processes and improved reporting but also they noted project manager flexibility. So we thought it would be interesting to explore this benefit here in more detail.

project manager flexibility

So what is Project Manager flexibility?

In this context we mean the ability to move a PM between projects mid-flight without undue disruption to the project.

I’m sure many of you are lifting your eyebrows in surprise as that idea goes somewhat against conventional wisdom.  You usually avoid moving the PM because you expect chaos and confusion as a result.  You might also expect to introduce delays as the new PM winds up to speed.  However you would get some really attractive benefits if you could minimize those downsides.

And that is what GNB found.  In addition to their expected performance, time saving and quality gains, they listed benefits including:

  • Better use of their best project Managers. – They knew they had a limited cadre of PMs and is as usual some were more capable than others.  They found they could if necessary now swap an experienced PM from a stable project to help recover a problem one.
  • Improved Project Launch. – Experienced PMs could launch and stabilize a project before leaving delivery to a less experienced PM.
  • Better PM development.  – Less experienced PMs could work on certain aspects of a project delivery to strengthen their overall competence.  A PM can become scarred by being locked into a failing project. Switching the PM early prevents this.  Aspects of the PM role could also be shared or the junior mentored more effectively.  PMs learning on easier projects had more confidence and better locked in capabilities before moving to bigger projects.
  • PM’s felt more professional. – The PMs were now spending less time on mundane house keeping tasks and able to focus more on adding value.

What enabled them to achieve this project manager flexibility?

For GNB the key to unlocking this Project Manager flexibility was consistency.  They wanted a software tool which would help establish and support consistent documentation and reporting.  GNB selected PROJECT in a box because it would allow them to establish robust, consistent process and documentation for their projects.  They were looking to mature their PPM position and assessing against a maturity model.  Getting consistency into their project processes and reporting was a major factor in raising the maturity.

Their use of PIAB established a consistent framework for all documentation, and audit trail versions of all communications like emails etc.  This made it a much quicker process for a new PM to get up to speed with a project. So lowering the downsides of swapping PMs.  Reporting allowed management/PMO to see where projects were failing with performance or process. This also made it much easier to identify early the areas where PMs might benefit from mentoring or some other intervention.

GNB also operated a scaled methodology approach and an early assessment of the complexity of any new project.  This meant simpler/lower risk projects ran lighter processes and simpler reporting.  This made it easier to ‘blood’ new PMs on safer projects where they could gain confidence and establish good foundations of practice.

The white paper was focused on the early work within the shared services team.  Over the last couple of years the usage has widened out the whole of tier 1 Government of New Brunswick portfolio of strategic activities.

Your next steps to these advantages?

Just like GNB you could start your journey by using our completely free for life products and see if this way of working could help you.

Community Edition provides a personal methodology and documentation management capability. Planner provides consistent planning, risk, issue, cost management capability.  You can sign up today and download them both together and then use them forever.  If you like what you see you can upgrade for greater features or to use across your team.

You can also read the original white paper in full here.


About the authors:

Malcolm West MBA, BEng, has been an APM member for nearly twenty years and won the Sir Monty Finniston Award in 1999  for his work in developing a combined scaled methodology and competence framework (before such things were fashionable).  Malcolm is also the founder of PROJECT in a box which has been helping organisations worldwide to mature their PPM capabilities since 2005.

David Whelbourn MBA, PMP has been a project management professional for over 25 years, His experience covers a wide range of industries from Manufacturing to healthcare and projects from Medical Device R&D to Shared Services Implementation. He teaches part time at the University of New Brunswick on Project Management in their Technology Management & Entrepreneurship (TME) diploma.

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