Procedural Documentation

People communicate in many ways. Often communications get filtered and somewhat distorted. For many reasons, agreements in a project environment must be in writing. Project management believes in the philosophy that only what is on paper is really important.

Another important facet of any project management system is to provide the people in the organization with procedural guidelines for how to conduct project-oriented activities and how to communicate in such a multidimensional environment. The project management policies, procedures, forms, and guidelines can provide some of these tools for delineating the process, as well as a format for collecting, processing, and communicating project-related data in an orderly, standardized format. Project planning and tracking, however, involves more than just the generation of paperwork. It requires the participation of the entire project team, including support departments, subcontractors, and top management. It is this involvement of the entire team that fosters a unifying team environment oriented toward the project goals, and ultimately to the personal commitment of the team members to the various tasks within time and budget constraints. The specific benefits of procedural documents, including forms and checklists, are that they help to:

• Provide guidelines and uniformity

• Encourage documentation

• Communicate clearly and effectively

• Standardize data formats

• Unify project teams

• Provide a basis for analysis

• Document agreements for future reference

• Refuel commitments

• Minimize paperwork

• Minimize conflict and confusion

• Delineate work packages

• Bring new team members on board

• Build an experience track and method for future projects

Done properly, the process of project planning must involve both the performing and the customer organizations. This involvement creates new insight into the intricacies of a project and its management methods. It also leads to the visibility of the project at various organizational levels, management involvement, and support. It is this involvement at all organizational levels that stimulates interest in the project and the desire for success, and fosters a pervasive reach for excellence that unifies the project team. It leads to commitment toward establishing and reaching the desired project objectives and to a self-forcing management system where people want to work toward these established objectives.

Few companies have introduced project management procedures with ease. Most have experienced problems ranging from skepticism to sabotage of the procedural system. Realistically, however, program managers do not have much of a choice, especially for the larger, more complex programs. Every project manager who believes in project management has his own success story. It is interesting to note, however, that many use incremental approaches to develop and implement their project management system.

Developing and implementing such a system incrementally is a multifaceted challenge to management. The problem is seldom to understand the techniques involved, such as budgeting and scheduling, but to involve the project team in the process, to get their input, support, and commitment, and to establish a supportive environment. Furthermore, project personnel must have the feeling that the policies and procedures of the project management system facilitate communication, are flexible and adaptive to a changing environment, and provide an early-warning system through which project personnel obtain assistance rather than punishment in case of a contingency.

The procedural guidelines and forms of an established project management system can be especially useful during the project planning/definition phase. Not only does it help to delineate and communicate the four major sets of variables for organizing and managing the project—tasks, timing, resources, and responsibilities—it also helps to define measurable milestones, as well as report and review requirements. This provides the ability to measure project status and per-

formance, and supplies crucial inputs for controlling the project toward the desired results.

However, none of these systems will really control project performance or rectify a problem unless the project plan has received approval and commitment from the people behind it. Such a self-forcing project control system14 is based on the following six key components:

1. Objectives andmeasurability. Existence of a sound system of standards and tools for planning and tracking the project effort, such as procedures and forms.

2. Involvement of all key personnel during project planning.

3. Agreement and commitment by all key personnel to the project plan and its specific results and performance measures.

4. Senior management commitment and continuous involvement.

5. Availability of quality personnel.

6. Proper project direction and leadership.

Some of the strongest drives toward high project performance are derived from an interesting and professionally stimulating work environment. For example, Thamhain and Wilemon found, in various field studies,15 that project success is directly associated with personal commitment, involvement, and top-management support. These factors are the strongest in a professional, stimulating work environment, characterized by interesting, challenging work, visibility and recognition for achievements, growth potential, and good project leadership. Furthermore, the same conditions are associated with other criteria for project success. Specifically, the more professionally stimulating and interesting the work environment is perceived to be by the project team, the more involved and committed are the people, and the more innovative, creative, and change oriented they are being perceived by top management.

In summary, developing an effective project management system takes more than just a set of policies and procedures. It also requires the integration of these guidelines and standards into the culture and value system of the organization. Management must lead the overall efforts and foster an environment conducive to teamwork. The greater the team spirit, trust, commitment, and quality of information exchange among team members, the more likely the team will develop effective decision-making processes, making individual and group commitments, focus on problem solving and operate in a self-forcing, self-correcting control

14 The concept of self-enforcing project control was first discussed in detail by Leonard R. Sayles and Margaret K. Chandler in Managing Large Systems (New York: Harper & Row, 1971).

15 For more detail see articles by Hans J. Thamhain and David L. Wilemon, "Managing Engineers Effectively," IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management, August 1983, "Team Building in Project Management," Project Management Quarterly, June 1983, and "Anatomy of a High Performing New Product Team," Proceedings of the Annual Symposium of the Project Management Institute, 1984.

mode. These are the characteristics that will support and pervade the formal project management system and make it work for you. When understood and accepted by the team members, such a system provides the formal standards, guidelines, and measures needed to direct a project toward specific results within the given time and resource constraints.

Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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