6 Stages of Learning

Project Management

by Neil D. Hymas, PMP and George Davis, Ph.D.

Are there skills you’d like to have, but don’t? Things you wish you could do, but don’t know how? Taking a broader view, are there combinations of skills you’d like to have? Are you having trouble using the seven basic tools  of total quality management, the six steps to successful selling, the seven habits of effective people, and the principles of managing by project, all at the same time? How do they work together? How can you apply complete sets of skills to your work and your life?

Stop for a moment. How good are you at brain surgery? Sure, it’s a joke, but think about it: is a neurosurgeon born with fully developed surgical skills? When were the skills learned, and how? What about an airline captain, a software programmer, a heavy equipment operator, a TV technician? What about a car mechanic, an author, a teacher, a nurse? How did they learn to do what they do?

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Plan For Performance

Project Management

“Plan for Performance” is the next critical pillar that supports the “Project Performance Bridge.”  When combined with the first pillar of “Clearly Define Success,” the project team is well on its way to building a solid bridge toward effective performance and customer satisfaction.

High performing project managers have the ability to help the project team translate the PSP into goals, metrics and integrated baselines that effectively induce team performance.

This section discusses the second pillar of the bridge (“Plan for Performance”) by illustrating the importance of setting goals and metrics and integrating project baselines with the vision and PSP.

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Clearly Define Success

Project Management

What defines project success?  There have been many projects completed on time and under budget that have not been successful.  There have also been projects that did not meet schedule or budget requirements that were considered very successful.  So how can a team determine if they are achieving success on their current project?

We believe that project success is tied to one key, major principle - customer satisfaction.  At the outset of most projects, teams may have a good idea of their capabilities.  However, as the team members look across the oceans of uncertainty that separate their performance from customer satisfaction, their vision of success may be a little blurred.

(When we use the term customer here, we are referring not only to those external to the organization, but also to customers within the organization.  Projects are run for internal clients as often as they are for external clients.)

It is here that a good project manager begins adding a little color to the project by building the “Project Performance Bridge.”  The first section of the bridge is entitled “Clearly Define Success,” as shown on the next page in Figure 4-3.

Project managers can assist the team in clearly defining success in two ways.  First, they must create a project vision.  Second, they must prioritize Project Success Parameters (PSP).

We have already discussed the importance of over all vision at length.  However, it is critical that each project has its own project specific vision.  This vision should provide a convergence of need with possibility.  It should afford team members a clear picture of the desired outcomes that will, in the end, satisfy the customer.

One stakeholder group with which we associated created this vision statement for their project:

“We are a unified, dedicated, high-performance team, committed to providing a quality and timely installation of an emergency generator system that meets EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and JCAHO (Joint Commission for Accreditation of Hospital Organizations) regulatory standards and timelines, while maintaining uninterrupted health care at the hospital.”

Prior to going through an exercise to create this vision statement, many of the team members did not understand the importance of meeting the EPA and JCAHO regulatory standards and timelines.  The discussion that occurred helped the team understand that if they did not meet a specific EPA timeline, they would have to purchase entirely new generators and redesign the entire project around these new generators.  If they did not meet the JCAHO timeline, the hospital would risk losing accreditation.  This made it absolutely clear to them that these standards and timelines were positively the most important elements for achieving customer satisfaction on this project.

Creating a project specific vision was therefore a critical first step to clearly defining success and building the “Project Performance Bridge.”

Customer satisfaction is always the objective of any project.  As discussed, we believe that a project team cannot satisfy the customer unless they first build this critical portion of the “Project Performance Bridge” by “Clearly Defining Success” as early in the project as possible.

Dr. Denis Petersen is co-author of the book “Project Management Paradigms”, and founding partner with Milestone Management Consultants, LLC.

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