Project Management, an important culture for the 21st Century

Britefire Director, Karen Parkin, May 2011

Project Management is not rocket science. It’s been around for centuries and its processes and disciplines are tried and tested.  Yet it is surprising today to see organisations that don’t value the practice, or even more startling is to come across companies that don’t use it. I fail to fathom how things get done without the rigours of project management. Within the discipline itself, there is a lot of focus on why projects fail. The main purpose for doing this is to work out how things can be improved in the future. But what if there is no project management at all? Now that’s a scary thought!

Organisations that have implemented project management have cited the improvements that they have enjoyed are financial controls, customer satisfaction, process improvements, employee satisfaction and overall learning and growth of the company. Certainly, companies that do not use project management will be at a competitive disadvantage to those who do.

Project Management processes provide us the tools with which to set and manage customer expectations, to define objectives and to break work up into logical and manageable parts. It helps us manage our company’s scarce resources efficiently and effectively. With change being an endemic part of our work and lives, project management is invaluable in helping us respond to and manage change. Many problems in organisations can be ultimately attributed to communication. Project Management gives us a framework for improving this across and within organisations.

Companies can implement project management gradually by using it for pilot projects and then roll it out across the organisation. But to grasp, and to be successful in using it, a company must adopt a project culture. It has to change from the top and from within. Adopting project management usefully will not happen if one day the CEO decrees, henceforth we will be using project management. To adopt a project management culture, a company must embrace it across all aspects of the organisation.

–       Planning: In all planning processes, the organisation’s plans should be translated into a projects roadmap. Each project or set of projects must be aligned with the organisation’s goals. And budgets and resources should be allocated according to value.


–       Organisation structure: the organisation structure needs to support the culture of projects and there needs to be a breakdown of organisations silos to promote cross-functional, cross organisational projects and teams. Project managers need to be empowered to lead the projects and appropriate steering groups put into place with the purpose to assure project success. Organisations should consider creating a Project Management Office which facilitates the creation and implementation of project management processes. 


–       Systems: The organisation needs to develop processes and systems that support projects. It needs to adopt a project management approach and the organisation needs to be trained to use the processes. Projects need to be visible within the organisation


–      Staff: The company’s training and recruiting programmes need to ensure that the right kind of people are employed who will have the capabilities that will enable them to work on and manage projects and in a project environment.

–       Management style: Key managers must lead the way in instilling a project culture. They need to nurture collaboration across functions and drive a process and methodology-driven organisation structure.


–       Company values: At its core, the organisation needs an understanding of how to work on projects whether as a team member or as a project manager. These values include a commitment to delivery on time, in budget and to the expected level of quality; working together as a team across functions; rewarding and appreciating people; the synergy that comes from working as an empowered and motivated team.


In today’s world, the age old and often underappreciated discipline of Project Management is a powerful tool that will help organisations navigate their way effectively through times of change and uncertainty. An organisation with a project culture is one that knows where it is going, is focused on results and has a professional team who knows what is expected of them.

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