Saturday, November 26, 2022

“Managing Projects Smarter”, Where are the Project Managers?

Like in any organization, department, unit or team, a manager is required to coordinate the people, process and systems involved to achieve set goals and above all someone has to be accountable for these goals. Projects are no exception as a Project Manager is required for all projects to coordinate, direct, control assigned resources to accomplish a given objective within the constraints of time, cost and quality. 

As projects gets larger and complex they require more competent and experienced project managers to assure the stakeholders and sponsors that the investments are adequately looked after and that the projects deliver to the benefits articulated in the business case. This is a professional responsibility for authorities involved to ensure that proper governance is applied to projects through the appointment of competent project managers. But does it happen?

This brings me to our projects here in the Botswana. The debate rages on about project management challenges and failure of projects from roads, stadia, new schools, technology, new universities, hospitals, hubs, dams, world cup etc.

These are projects which consume billions of pula and communities and the public have a strong interest in them as they are directly impacted by these projects in improving their quality of lives. Typically when the projects do not go well we see the Ministers, Task Teams and Public Relations Officers being put on the spot to provide explanations and one would wonder; where are the project managers?

The project manager is the face of the project and communicating to stakeholders on project progress and issues is at the heart of his/her responsibilities. We need to see project managers coming out more and accounting for both project successes and failures alike.  After a project is conceptualised, a project manager is normally appointed to oversee the successful panning, execution and close-out of the project. 

The project manager is allocated a project budget and other resources to execute the project and therefore has a professional responsibility to account for the utilisation of those resources throughout the lifecycle stages of the project.

A recent survey in South Africa (The Prosperous Report, 2010 Updated) indicated that the top factors for project success are; communication between project team and customers, clear business objectives, communication between project team members, clear requirements definition and good understanding of user needs. The project manager has to ensure that these factors are adequately handled to improve chances of project success with him/her taking the lead.  Note that most of these factors are during the early stages of the project which has the highest influence on whether a project will be successful or not.  In the end the success or lack of can be traced to whether the project manager was competent enough.

To address this issue let’s start by profiling the competencies of a project manager. Many organisations get into difficulty when deciding who to appoint to manage key projects and it is important to understand the competencies required. These requirements can be categorised into three; Knowledge Competencies, Performance Competencies and Personal Competencies.

For this article let’s start with the Knowledge Competencies which form the basic requirements for any project manager. This approach is applicable to any profession, whether an engineer, accountant, marketing officer, HR officer; basic qualifications are normally a requirement before appointment.┬á The candidate needs to have a theoretical grounding on the subject matter before assuming professional responsibilities.

He/she needs to understand the project management principles, techniques, processes and systems for the project to deliver successfully. Through many years of research and learnings from all types of projects the Project Management Institute has captured these in the form of the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOKTM) Areas.

These have been generally accepted globally as the foundation for any project and there are 9 of them. Every project manager needs to at the least have the basic understanding of these areas and know the techniques of applying them on projects.  These are management of; scope, time, cost, human resources, risks, procurement, quality, communication and integration of all these.

So, as a project sponsor or anyone in authority needing to appoint a project manager you need to ensure that the candidate satisfies this basic competency; knowledge of the principles and techniques of managing projects. Otherwise you are setting the project up for failure right from the start.  So many of our projects fail because the focus in skewed due to the knowledge shortcomings of the project manager. 

Many projects fail due to poor risk management, poor management of scope (which starts with clear user requirements definition), poor management of procurement etc. The project manager needs to have a holistic understanding of all these knowledge areas and importantly know the techniques of applying the knowledge to the project environment. Let’s starts appointing project managers with this basic competency which can be acquired through project management short courses available in the market. If the project is of a large scale and complex let’s get the project managers through globally recognised professional qualification programmes such as the PMI Project Management Professional (PMP) or PRINCE 2 Practitioner which are also available in Botswana. We urgently need to improve our projects success rates and raising competency levels is a good start.

The next article will focus on Performance Competencies for a project manager as just having the knowledge competency may not be adequate.

Oabona Kgengwenyane is the Director for InnoLead Consulting and X-Pert Group offering Management┬áand Project Management Consulting Services and can be contacted on 3909102 or 71303682, [email protected]

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