Trust, but verify
Cillin Hearns, Kiwibank,
Wellington, New Zealand
CILLIN HEARNS DOESN’T LIKE to tell project managers at Kiwibank how to do their job.
“The old command-and-control philosophy is dead,” says Mr. Hearns, project governance manager at the Wellington, New Zealand bank. “I find my role is more and more about providing guidance and support to project managers. Today we focus more on empowering our staff and building their capability so they perform at their best.”
The structured-but-flexible approach puts the focus on project management principles rather than processes, he says.
“We pay a lot of attention to projects in the early stages,” Mr. Hearns explains. “And then trust our people to deliver with quality guidelines that are reviewed as the project progresses.”
The purpose of a project management process should be to encourage the right behaviors without constraining the skills and creativity that professional project managers bring to the table. Having a good project management structure in place provides assurance that your people are delivering while allowing them the freedom to exercise their skills and experience.
I’ve worked in organizations that are very process-driven, and it's very energy- and time-consuming. Conversely, I’ve worked in organizations where there's no formal process and anything goes. This leads to poorly managed projects, which inevitably causes a “firefighting” environment and employee burnout.
I think Kiwibank has the right formula. Hitting the middle ground allows us to ensure our projects are tracking according to plan and we're flexible enough to deliver quality products under tight deadlines.
How has your project management process matured?
A little more than a year ago, Kiwibank moved away from the traditional project management office model and split the function into two roles. The enterprise portfolio manager ensures we're doing the right projects, that these are prioritized and resourced appropriately and that we're realizing the benefits of these projects. The project governance manager focuses more on the planning and execution phases. Both managers work closely at the initiation and closure stages.
What benefits does this project management structure bring to Kiwibank?
Having a project management methodology brings clarity to project managers who are new to the organization. Every step in our methodology comes with tools and templates to support them from start to finish. This helps drive expectations and consistency across the project managers and business units. Every six months or so, we review the effectiveness of these tools and look to improve them where we can. The variability of on-time, on-budget projects has reduced significantly over the last 12 months.
Does project management give you a competitive advantage?
Time to market is a big driver for Kiwibank's success. As a challenger brand, we need to provide the best products with the best service and we need to do it first.
We're able to achieve this because we reduce the bureaucracy that plagues other large banks, and our project management practices reflect this. This approach potentially increases the risk of introducing high-maintenance products into the market, but our people take pride in their work. Product launches are not something we take lightly.
How does your methodology impact your ability to assess and manage risks in your industry?
Having a good understanding of the project benefits, the impact of noncompliance and a very clear understanding of the priorities of the existing project portfolio allows us to make quick decisions over which projects we can put on hold and adapt as needed. PM
MAY 2011 PM NETWORK