Saturday, 20 April 2013

The art of Project Management

Not that I heard of  project management  for the first time .On the contrary , I have been reading literature on this subject on a regular basis .But this time , when I shared the dais with Mr. Adesh Jain Honorary National President of PMA(Project Management Associates), India in Forest Training Institute , Kanpur (India) during the inaugural session of a three day training workshop for the middle level officers of Indian Forest Service(IFS) that I realized fully that every officer in the government needs a training in project management .If done , this single step can raise the efficiency and productivity of the government  substantially.We just do not do it because of our indifference.
                               We need to get familiar with the language and vocabulary of project management  to understand it and to imbibe it in our professional life .  We need to understand the life cycle( birth to closeout) of a project .How a project is conceptualized at political and senior bureaucratic levels .How it is formulated , planned and organized.Then how it is implemented, controlled,integrated , delivered and closed out .Finally , how we learn the lessons and create knowledge.We need to develop a project mindset.We need to projectize as many activities as are amenable .
                                 Three things are crucial:Time,cost and quality.Project management teaches us the skills about time , cost and quality management. Each project has to be planned in terms of time and scheduling, by working out milestones .In addition to cost , resources , budget and cash flows need to be planned.Metrics  of quality need to be worked out .Time and scheduling management skills are :Bar charts , Critical Path Method(CPM),Crashing , Fast tracking and PERT(Programme Evaluation and Review Techniques).Time management is not just being conscious of time .We need to develop the above skills in us to complete the project within time.Cost  management skills involve being conscious of market rates in labour  and material cost .Quality management involves inspection , bench marking, Noticing defects in order of frequency or importance (Pareto Chart).A good project manager should master all these skills.
                                                                  An organizational structure to implement the project needs to be put in place .The role and accountability of project manager and the sponsor have to be spelt out .Both the project manager and the sponsor are accountable for the success of the project. An efficient project management requires management of interfaces and co-ordination among important actors.          
                                      Information system , communication system(internal and external), reporting system have to be created .The reporting system should include progress reports and variance reports.For tracking the status and resolution of issues as they arise , an Issue Log book should be maintained.     To monitor the progress , Key Performance Indicators(KPI's) and Key Project Deliverables have to be worked out and regularly watched.                              
                              Apart from skills in respect of management of time , cost and quality , a project manager must have several technical , social/behavioural and contextual competencies.Procurement and contracts management affects all three factors of  time , cost and quality , and is very critical .Incidentally , this is the weakest area in governmental sector.
                                           Closure is very important .Taking over, and  accepting  requires documentation and formal sign-off.The maintenance of assets  created by a project could lead to a separate project .
                                        Last but not the  least is management of the expectations of stakeholders.No project manager can afford to ignore the expectations of important stakeholders.
                                   We need to encourage project management  method of working in all the departments of the  governments , both at the  federal and the state level .Project management training  should be made compulsory for the promotion to next level for every government officer .This , if accepted , would require a huge infrastructure and professionals  in the training institutes .That it will give  substantial returns, I have absolutely no doubt in my mind .