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The 5 Critical Elements to Creating a Project Management Center of Excellence

Creating a Project Management Centre of Excellence is the driving force that takes an organization forward to realize their project management mandate.  It encompasses the process of creating a strategy for project management, re-shaping the culture to be more focused on the consistency in the management of projects and implementing a project management process.

Creating a Project Management Centre of Excellence

project_management_COEA Centre of Excellence is a business unit that has organization-wide authority.  The key elements of a successful Project Management Centre of Excellence include:

  1. Vision and Strategies
    A clear vision of what it represents and the strategies to identify how it will reach this vision in the short and long term.
  1. Competencies
    The selection of resources based on project competency requirements compared to actual project resource competencies.  The identification of coaching, training and other developmental activities to close any competency gap.
  1. Culture
    How to re-shape the organizational culture to be more supportive of the consistency in the management of projects.
  1. Processes
    The right processes, tools and templates that are helpful and meaningful to project managers and their teams.
  1. Quality
    The quality criteria for the project management framework, processes and documents.

1. Create the Vision and Strategies

One approach to creating a vision for the Centre of Excellence is to brainstorm ideas that focus on what the future will look like.  Start by creating scenarios that describe what the Centre will be doing 5 years into the future.  What are some of the things that they will be doing that reflect a successful Centre of Excellence?  What will employees and customers be saying about them?  How did they get there?

The outcome of this process is the creation of a vision statement for the Project Management Centre of Excellence.  Determine how this vision aligns and supports the organization’s strategic direction.

The alignment of the Centre of Excellence to the goals of the organization is key to driving strategy implementation.  Strategies translate this vision into reality. They close the gap between the present and the “ideal” future described in the vision scenarios.  These strategies must be described clearly so that the organization understands and accepts them.

Vision Statement Examples

  • Create a project culture where project management is a valued competency embedded in the organization and where project leaders and their teams embrace the project management processes to ensure that the organization’s projects deliver on their customer, quality and regulatory goals.
  • To foster and support an organizational culture of project management to ensure greater accountability and consistency

Strategy Examples

  • Develop a productive project culture where everyone involved in projects understands their role and responsibility in ensuring project success.
  • Sustain a continuous communication link between the senior management team and the Project Managers and provide them with accurate measurements on the progress of all projects.
  • Develop intuitive and simple to use project tools, templates and reports that deliver the right level of documentation and information to stakeholders
  • Assess project manager and team competencies in order to create developmental plans which will increase their competencies for project roles.

2. Identify and Develop Competencies

A key responsibility of a Centre of Excellence is to help in the selection of the right project managers and core team resources. Without competency evaluation tools, the best people with the right knowledge, skills and experience will not always be assigned to a project.

A competency is the knowledge, skills, ability, and characteristics associated with high performance on a job. Competencies can also help distinguish high performance from average and low performance.  Develop competencies for the Project Sponsor, Project Manager and various types of Project Team Members.  Create a competency assessment to identify the competency requirements for a specific project which can be compared to the competencies of the individual resources to be assigned to the project.  Identify the gaps between the project requirements and the resource capabilities.  Provide training, coaching and/or mentoring to help close the gap.

3. Develop the Project Management Culture

If project management is built into corporate culture than everyone who works on a project will immediately know what they have to do.   They won’t have to locate a PMO to tell them how to manage a project, what tools to use, what templates to use, etc.

Project Management will be a competency embedded into everyone’s role.

The steps to re-shaping the organizational culture to be more project focused are:

  • Create a definition for “Project Management Culture.”
  • Research the organization (focus groups, surveys, etc.) to determine what they would expect from a strong project management culture.  (Use a Project Culture Assessment)
  • Validate that the Project Management Centre of Excellence’s vision and strategies align with the results of the project culture assessment.  It is common that additional strategies will be added to ensure the gap between the current and ideal project management culture will be successfully closed.
  • Review projects managed over the past year to identify their challenges and to create the opportunities for improvement that a strong project management culture will provide.
  • Develop project management competencies to ensure the right people will be assigned to projects.
  • Identify training requirements for everyone who is engaged on a project.
  • Sustain the new project culture through project health checks and audits.

4. Develop Project Management Processes

Some organizations lack a consistent approach to the management of projects.  Others have implemented tools, templates and methodologies – but project performance hasn’t changed.  Most organizations operate with a diversity of project cultures that change from one project to the next, from one department to the next.  Every time a resource works on a project they have to learn a new approach, new templates, etc.  This is very time consuming and decreases project productivity.  The missing elements are consistent project management processes, tools and templates that can be used on all types and sizes of projects.

Project Management best practices must be embedded into the very framework and support systems of the organization.   Having effective, predictable and reusable project management tools, techniques and processes make it much easier for project teams to successfully deliver projects.  Research shows that the main reasons that projects fail is due to poor planning.  It shows up as a breakdown of communication, missed deadlines and running over budget.  Therefore, having proper project management tools and templates combined with training on how to use them will help organizations to significantly improve the success rate of their projects.

5. Develop Measureable Quality Standards

There are three international standards that help to provide the foundation for the development of quality standards for project.  These are:

  • PMBOK – The Project Management Body of Knowledge created by the Project Management Institute.
  • ISO 10006:2003 – Guidelines for Quality Management in Projects
  • ISO 21500:2012 – Guidance on Project Management

The Project Management Centre of Excellence should develop quality standards for all project processes and documents.   Examples of project quality standards:

Project Team

  • Project roles and responsibilities are defined, documented, and communicated to all stakeholders.
  • Each project team member’s competency is compared against competency requirements.
  • Project team competency gaps are closed through training, mentoring and/or coaching.
  • All project team staffing-related issues or risks have been appropriately identified and managed.

Scope Statement

  • The project goal identifies, in a single statement, what is the project and why it is important.
  • Each deliverable will identify the work to be accomplished and how it will be measured.
  • By accomplishing the work described in the scope, the project requirements will be satisfied, the project’s goal will be achieved, and the identified stakeholder’s expectations will be met.

Project Plan

  • All lower level tasks will be no more than 5 days in duration.
  • All tasks will have a resource identified
  • All tasks will have a predecessor and successor
  • There will be no more than double the number of milestones to the number of deliverables.

The Project Management Centre of Excellence

A Project Management Centre of Excellence will help your organization realize its strategic imperatives.  It will assist projects to be managed within their constraints and to meet their deliverables.  It’ll create the quality criteria to provide the right measurements to management.  It will help reshape the project culture.

Our research shows that a Centre of Excellence can have a profound effect on: reporting structures, performance systems, communication systems and resources.  Employees need to be prepared for the changes that will be necessary and to understand the benefits of the change.  As well, organizations that do not follow best practices are at a competitive disadvantage to those who apply a structured process to each project.  Project management best practises include a disciplined approach to planning, executing and learning from projects and applies quality management principles.  And finally, a quality-based approach to the management of projects gives corporations the ability to successfully execute projects time after time.

About Michael Stanleigh

Michael Stanleigh, CMC, CSP is the CEO of Business Improvement Architects. He works with leaders and their teams around the world to improve organizational performance by helping to define their strategic direction, increase leadership performance, create cultures that drive innovation and improve project and quality management. He has been instrumental in helping his clients increase productivity and profits with his innovative approaches and focus on quality. For more information about this article, please contact him at [email protected] or phone, 416-444-8225.

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