A mature business will run on two parallels: the mature business as usual operations, which houses the day to day operations of the business and manages the interface of its products and the market. The second parallel will be the ongoing projects. Projects are an important aspect of a growing business as they not only keep the business relevant in a continuously changing market place but also keep the all-important innovative juices flowing. When a business starts to slow down in the area of ongoing projects, it can be a sure sign of apathy beginning to kick in.
Much as a business needs to stay relevant to changing market behaviors and ahead of its competition through innovation, the demands of bringing to success the projects that are produced out of this is often challenging to many Chief Executives.
IBM systems in their online magazine report that of all IT projects rolled out per annum, 25% fail outright, 20% – 25% don’t provide ROI, and 50% will require material rework to remain relevant. It only gets more interesting when we discover that out of the project failures, only 3% are due to technological challenges with up to 54% attributed to project management.
One could therefore argue that it is the oversight of the softer issues in projects that bring to failure this all important aspect of business continuity and success.
There are a number of factors that impact on project success, and several writers highlight them from different perceptions. Borrowing from my own 20 years of professional experience in banking and consulting, in which I was involved in a number of projects, I would like to narrow these to 4 keys to successful project management:
- The right Leadership
- Sufficient tools and resources
- Effective coordination of all stakeholders
- Risk management
In discussing these keys, I shall continue to borrow from the scriptures, especially the book of Nehemiah for Biblical perspective.
- The right leadership:
Richard Branson, in an interview with foundermag.com, says this about leadership: “I believe a good leader brings out the best in people by listening to them, trusting them, believing in them, respecting them and letting them have a go”. There is a lot that can be said about the broader leadership role and the reader can access an earlier posting in this magazine through http://www.faithfilledfamily.com/servant-leadership-learn-best/ . In this post I would like to focus on leadership from a project management position, by studying the approach of Nehemiah, recorded in the Book of Nehemiah.
Nehemiah was a Jewish leader who undertook the mammoth task of leading the efforts to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem after its destruction from a Babylonian invasion around 586 B.C. When Nehemiah arrived at Jerusalem from Babylon, his first action was to inspect the ruins of the entire wall of Jerusalem all by himself. I learned from this that not only did Nehemiah want to have a first-hand understanding of the full extent of the project without being corrupted by the views of others but he also needed to build up his personal faith to undertake the project. I see this as a critical task for every project leader, that is, to first grasp an in-depth appreciation of the project landscape and develop a personal passion for the transformation it is intended to bring, before inviting the rest of the team.
I have in the past been involved in projects in which the project managers tried to remotely control project activities without an appreciation of the local landscape, resources and culture. I don’t need to tell you that these projects not only faced significant overruns but were poorly implemented.
The second thing Nehemiah did was to rally all the Jews around this cause, getting them to see the gaps in their current circumstances and the benefits that would come from completing the wall (higher self-esteem and security). He also reassured them of the highest level of support he had garnered for the project, both from the King of Persia and the most High God. After this engagement, the people were won over: the scriptures record that they responded by saying “Let us rise up and build”. Then they set their hands too this good work.
We can borrow from the approach when rallying people behind projects. Let’s look at the steps that Nehemiah took
1) Highlighting the gaps
2) Showing the benefits at individual and corporate levels and
3) Reassurance of high level support.
We finally learn from Nehemiah leadership style that he distributed the project into working teams and fully entrusted them to complete their respective assignments. Trust is a key aspect of mature leadership as also seen from Richard Branson’s leadership approach.
Lameck Otim is from Uganda, Africa. After a train smash encounter with Christ that threw a tail spin in a 17 year Corporate banking career, he turned to writing in an attempt to reach out to peers and friends for Christ. It is in his writing that Lameck found purpose, sharing the life changing truths of the Word of God, mostly drawn from my his own experiences in the salvation journey, family and workplace.
Lameck has been married for 14 years and has 4 children (between one and 11 years old). Being a Christian has enabled him to find such fulfillment in family that he never thought was possible.