Project Management Institute

Planning the project to improve project management


This paper is about a project to deliver a project plan. The plan is for a project that will deliver (establish) a Project Management Office (PMO) and improve our client's project management processes. This is the second part in a trilogy about implementing a PMO and improving project management in a public agency. The first part was introduced at the 2001 PMI Seminars and Symposium (Paper 21214) and described how 32 recommendations were discovered during an investigative Phase I (yet another project!). This paper describes Phase II, the planning for implementation of these recommendations. As many experts have stated, change management is a project itself. Phase II produces plans, funding profiles, and deployment strategies for each of the recommendations from Phase I. In this case study the client, with the support of the consultant team, defined the change project activities, their relationships, the time and funding required, key team members and the stakeholders. The third part, to be completed in 2003, will be Phase III, execution of the project planned in Phase II. It will provide the training, organizational restructuring, deployment of a PMO as a functional entity, policies and procedures, and deployment of all 32 recommendations.

The agency desired to improve their management of public sector civil works projects. The goal was to move more toward PMBOK® principles. The initial goal set by the client was a review of current agency project management directives and project management software. However, the 32 final recommendations addressed other areas; the directives and software were found to need only minor revision. Project managers needed more authority and power and a PMO to support them and provide a career path.

The effort before the consultant in Phase II was how to plan the deployment of a PMO, integrate 32 recommendations into a workforce, lead a cultural change to a new business model, and not disrupt the ability for the client to meet their public mission. In effect, Phase II was the planning phase for Phase III. Phase III would execute, control, and finally closeout the project with a PMO and 32 recommendations in place.

The Client


The client was the Engineering Division of the Orange County (California) Sanitation District (OCSD). The OCSD is the third largest wastewater treatment system west of the Mississippi River. The District meets the needs of 2.4 million residents within 471 square miles. Over 240 million gallons of wastewater are treated daily while satisfying multiple levels of regulatory requirements and 26 customer cities. Their systems consist of 475 miles of large collection lines (inceptors and trunk lines), 175 miles of smaller local collection lines, and 21 off-site pumping stations.

In addition to basic water treatment for discharge into the ocean, OCSD also recycles all biosolids produced for use by the agriculture industry and reclaims up to 10 million gallons of treated wastewater every day used for landscape irrigation. The District also generates a daily average of 13,300 kilowatts of energy from byproducts of the wastewater treatment process. OCSD has an award-winning Ocean Monitoring Program that monitors and evaluates water quality, sediment quality, and sea life from Seal Beach to Corona Del Mar.

The annual budget for OCSD approximated $190M of which $80M is for capital projects. OCSD has approximately 500 employees. A 25-member Board of Directors representing each city governs the Orange County Sanitation District (OCSD).

The Engineering Division and Its Customer

The Engineering Division employs approximately 70 personnel divided into two major groups—Design Engineering and Construction Management. Design engineering oversees consultants hired to design the capital projects. Similarly Construction Management provides oversight to contractors completing the capital projects. In addition, OCSD has departments and divisions such as Operation and Maintenance, Finance, Purchasing, HR, and other common organizations found in industry. The Engineering Department within generally follows the “Weak matrix Organization” description.

Our study was conducted for the Engineering Department. It is important to establish who is their customer. Their customer is primarily the OCSD Operations and Maintenance Department who, in turn, provide services to the surrounding cities and agencies. Thus, the Engineering Department's customer is internal to OCSD.

The Consulting Team

The team that was awarded the consulting contract was formed specifically to address OCSD'S need. The team consisted of Management Technologies (Brea, CA), The Lewis Group (El Segundo, CA), and Marsha Peterson Scheduling (Yorba Linda, CA). Management Technologies brought understanding and experience with PMBOK® principles, including planning and scheduling, risk management, Earned Value, and other project management “hard skills.” The Lewis Group's core competencies applicable to this project were: organization diagnosis and development, process analysis, and team building. Marsha Peterson Scheduling provided assistance in use of scheduling tools and commercially available project management software.

Our Scope of Work

The OCSD statement of work for the consultant was “…{for} developing policies and procedures to more effectively manage the District's capital projects, based upon PMI's A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide).” Phase I concluded with the following recommendations. Phase II (this paper's subject) was to create the planning necessary to roll out the recommendations in Phase III.

The Recommendations

The recommendations we needed to implement were grouped into eight categories in the Phase I final report. These categories and recommendations are listed next. Key recommendations that will significantly improve their project management capability are noted.

Capital Project Process

KEY: Create a uniform Capital Projects Management Process (CPMP)

KEY: Identify specific deliverables for key CPMP phases and milestones

KEY: Use a standardized Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)

Capital Project Planning

Include asset management information in planning

Include stakeholder ownership of the capital project

KEY: Create project management plans to address specific PMBOK® areas

Capital Project Scheduling

KEY: Standardized schedule templates to three levels

Improve software tools, support resources, and training

KEY: Create a common scheduling database for all projects

KEY: Implement an earned value management system

Capital Project Execution

KEY: Define a standard project roles and responsibilities matrix

Increase use of design workshops (include all project team members)

KEY: Implement a gate review process

Capture best practices and lessons learned at closeout

Increase critical communications with key stakeholders

Streamline management report preparation

Integrate financial accountability and integrate with project tasks

Project Manager Authority

KEY: Open, suspend, and close project accounts

Review/audit project accounts

KEY: Start, suspend, and stop work

Communicate directly with consultants

KEY: Hold back design consultant payments

KEY: Periodically report team members performance to functional managers

KEY: Have appropriate signature and approval authority

Engineering Department Structure

KEY: Implement a Project Management Office structure

KEY: Implement a Project Planning & Controls function

Implement a Project Quality function

Assign engineering aides to specific project managers

Engineering Department Planning

KEY: Align department vision, goals, and performance appraisals to PMBOK® principles

KEY: Implement policies for scope change, risk, and quality management

Engineering Department Talent

Establish specific technical expertise

KEY: Provide training programs

The most significant recommendation and the most risky was the restructuring of the engineering department to a Project Management Office (PMO) and a Design and Construction Engineering organization. Previously projects were handed from a design project manager to a construction project manager, both of whom handled technical details as well. We now had a PMO and technical organization. A single project manager would take the project from initiation to closeout and address all issues from design through construction. This meant new working relationships, identification of new managers, assignment of existing staff to new roles, and training. This also meant defining new roles for technical people who would provide the project manager advice on technical issues, review technical documents, and ensure proper performance of the end deliverable.

The consultant was fortunate to have the trust of the head of engineering who displayed leadership in announcing the new structure five months before it was to be in place.

Perhaps the most important change was a shift in attitude about how projects will be managed in the future, and the role of a project manager as a person with not only responsibility and accountability, but also authority and power to back the authority.

Beginning the Culture Change

Involving the Client

If we were going to be successful we knew we had to begin the change process by including the client's staff. As with most culture changes there are three groupings of people (1) those who embrace the change as moving forward, (2) those who like the consistency of the “old” ways, (3) and those who don't care, “Whatever.” People from group one become the actual agents of change.

Exhibit 1. Sequence of Team Meetings and Information Flow

Sequence of Team Meetings and Information Flow

We needed the support and knowledge of the clients' workforce and with senior management assistance we populated planning teams and focus groups from forward thinking employees.

Planning Teams

The consulting team recognized that the success of their effort depended on knowledge held within the client's workforce. Further, we had an appreciation that the existing functionally organized project culture would need to undergo significant changes to embrace and practice the recommendations from Phase I.

To address this need we created employee teams to help with the planning of specific recommendations. The teams were organized around the following groupings of recommendations:

•   Project Management Processes, Standard Deliverables, Execution, and Roles (Blue Team)

•   Project Customer Expectations and Support (Orange Team)

•   Project Cost Estimating and Scheduling (Yellow Team)

•   Project Communications, Financial Controls, and PM Authority (Green Team)

•   Engineering and PMO Structure and Policies (Red Team)

•   Workforce skills and knowledge, and training programs (White Team)

•   Generation of a Project Management Polices and Procedure Manual (Purple Team).

Each team consisted of three to six experienced employees selected for their knowledge in specific areas, and facilitated by members of the consulting team. In some cases a person would be a member of two teams. Each team was tasked to plan the deployment of a subset of the recommendations. This effort would include identification of stakeholders (for and against the recommendation), implementation limitations, means to overcoming roadblocks, and client resources needed to implement the recommendation. The consultant most familiar with the principles behind each recommendation facilitated the team during discussion of that recommendation.

Each team assisted the consultant in completing the deliverables of Phase II. These consisted of a schedule, budget, and support materials for each of the recommendations. The teams met over a six-month period, meeting once or twice per month. Some teams' duration lasted the entire six months, others only a couple of months. Collaboration was done by purely manual means; we did not deploy any intranet collaboration tools other than email and common servers.

Teams defined their operating principles at their first meeting. These principles include constituency of a quorum, privacy, non-attribution policies, and the release of discussion details to non-members.

Focus Groups

Each of the teams had an associated focus group available as needed to provide feedback, concerns, and further acceptance of planning under discussion. Each focus group had 10–12 members representing every organizational entity in the District, including finance, information technology, quality, procurement, administration, training, human resources, and operations and maintenance. In other words, any organization that might be touched by the new PMO or any of the recommendations were included in the focus groups.

It is important to note that the focus groups did not have the power to object to implementation of the recommendations; only the planning efforts to deploy the recommendations. They provided the teams their concerns, possible roadblocks, and alternative means of implementing recommendations. This valuable insight gave the teams the confidence to complete their planning knowing that their focus group accepted their approach.

Senior Stakeholder Buy-In

Two levels of review and approval of the planning were created: one, an Engineering Committee and two, a higher-level District Committee. The Engineering Committee was empowered to approve the schedule, budget, and support materials for each of the recommendations. The District Committee performed a higher-level review of 20 recommendations that affected organizations outside Engineering.

These committees would provide the final approval to proceed with implementation of the recommendations in Phase III. This included agreement on the implementation sequence of the recommendation, training, policies, resources, and other essential items for success.

Since the ongoing projects had to proceed uninterrupted it was necessary decide which projects would follow the new recommendations and which ones would run to conclusion under the old scheme. The Engineering Committee would help guide this decision.

Inter-team communication

A chart of teams (Exhibit 1) was developed to show their relationship and dependence. Teams that made key decisions were earlier in the process where their results would steer downstream teams' efforts. Effectively this was a project network diagram showing precedence and dependence. Some teams started early in the process, others later. Some were short lived, others longer. Thus most information from the teams flowed toward the team dependent upon the information. Although a few members were part of two teams, most teams operated in relative isolation. Unfortunately some teams had an interative effect on previous teams works. This is shown in Exhibit 1 as red connecting lines. Although we attempted not to introduce interation it seemed necessary.

There were cases where concurrently running teams were co-dependent on each other. Where information or questions needed to be exchanged between the team a conduit was established. We had a “Messages for Other Teams” paper note board that was brought to all team meetings. This proved to help us keep the overall focus of the efforts and moderate the direction teams were going using the data from other teams.

Where we had made an error in sequencing a team incorrectly, we suspended a team until required information or decisions from other teams was available. At that time the team reconvened and proceeded to completion.

Beginning the Organizational Change

The major shift in the client's organization was the creation of the Project Management Office (PMO). Fortunately, we had the support of senior management who announced a rollout date five months before the new organization was to take effect. We would, in effect, be performing major surgery in the engineering department as we split the workforce into technical leads and project managers.

Shortly after the announcement two existing project managers were tasked to manage the installation of the PMO and all associated training, documentation, and procedural changes. These two project managers helped guide us and provided valuable insight as we approached the big day, July1. While we provided the technical project management knowledge and held the vision of the PMO, they had the task of managing the internal resources for our success. This included everything from selecting project managers for the new PMO to managing office moves to reviewing the new Project Management Manual.

Design, Integrate, Test, Implement, Evaluate

This sounds like a systems design effort. For our project Design, Integrate, Test, Implement, Evaluate became the basic steps for the deployment of each recommendation. Some recommendations did not require all five steps due to their simplicity or lack of dependence on other recommendations. For example, recommendations requiring an implementing procedure would need all these steps in order that the procedure has the proper steps (designed), consistent with other procedures (integrated), achieved desired results (tested), deployed (implemented), and modified as needed (evaluated).

A Surprise Benefit

Our Phase II effort yielded a pleasant surprise. Recall that our teams were composed of selected individuals from a variety of departments. We asked them to help us through the planning of each recommendation. As they discussed the recommendation among themselves there was a tremendous sharing of information. Suddenly there was increased communication between finance, design engineering, construction management, operations and maintenance, quality, information technology, and senior management. Like most functional organizations capital project work products had been tossed over the transom, with little understanding of what was done next.

Another benefits to the client was the development of a more holistic view of the typical capital project, who did what, when, and what they needed to complete their task. For the first time all the capital project tasks were identified and sequenced.


We used the best PMBOK® principles in managing a project to create the plan for a change project. Our Phase I basically set the scope and chartered the project to implement a PMO and associated recommendations. Phase II was the PMBOK® “planning” phase. Each recommendation (activity) was sequenced, scheduled, and budgeted. All stakeholders were involved in the process and senior level support was sought and obtained. The third part in our trilogy, Phase III, will be the execution, control, and closeout PMBOK® phases. Hopefully our results will be scheduled for inclusion and presentation in the 2003 PMI Seminars and Symposium.

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI or any listed author.

Proceedings of the Project Management Institute Annual Seminars & Symposium
October 3–10, 2002 • San Antonio, Texas, USA



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