Project Management Institute

How do you measure the quality of your project management?

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PM Industry

In Focus

Steven S. Pinnell, president of Pinnell/Buch, Inc. of Portland, Oregon, founded the firm in 1975 to provide project and rogram management services to owners, contractors and designers. He is the developer and co-author of PMS80, a project management software program used by agencies of state and local governments, federal agencies, and contractors. He has taught several hundred seminars and authored numerous papers on construction methods and management, public works management, contract methods and construction dispute resolution. He is an authority on construction claims and often serves as an arbitrator or expert witness.

Jeff S. Busch, vice president, joined the firm in 1981 and has helped expand the Northwest firm into the national and international marketplace. In addition to managing the Construction Consulting Division, he conducts workshops throughout the U.S. and overseas, writes articles on project management, and recently authored a training manual for the National AGC. He is past president of the Portland PMI Chapter, a certified PMP, a nationally certified AGC instructor, and a panelist of the American Arbitration Association.

Does the title question seem a tough one? To many project managers, it is not. “I don't need project management, I just need a good golf course” (a golf course developer). “If the CNC machine I am developing turns out in line with the specifications, this project will be okay” (a product development manager). “We are looking at the bottom line-a functional water treatment plant” (a municipality program manager). All of these responses have one thing in common—they believe that quality of project management performance should focus exclusively on the project's end product (golf course, CNC machine, water treatment plant).

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Steven S. Pinnell

Traditionally American project management (PM) practices have concentrated on the fact of “producing” the project's end product. After, the fact, they may identify product defects and try to correct those for future purposes. While this approach has been decently effective in preventing most unsatisfactory end products from reaching the customers, it did little to change the internal PM processes that created the defects. Changing these processes requires a thorough understanding of the PM mission.

The PM mission is to provide for project success. Project success refers to the degree to which:

  • The projects contribute to the customer's organizational objectives;
  • Working with project customers has been satisfactory;
  • The project has been within budget and on schedule;
  • The project's end product conforms to the requirements.

We believe that a majority of the organizations undertaking the management of projects only measure the end product, which may be just one facet of the project success.

Project success is closely related to the quality of PM. The higher the quality of project management, the more likely the project success. In our opinion, success should be measured for every project on a regular basis, during the course of its life cycle, and after its completion. By measuring success of an ongoing project, we are able to measure quality of PM. Hence, the answer to the above question, “How do you measure the quality of your PM?” is: By measuring the project success.

The practice of focusing on the end product worked well until global competition entered the American marketplace. This competition has given birth to the Total Quality Management and Partnering wave in the U.S. With the advent of these concepts, project organizations and customers will discover that being “end product-oriented” may be very ineffective. Have you heard of the companies that developed perfect products, but their costs of development were so high that they generated no return on investment? Focusing improvement efforts on the PM process is the most effective means for achieving a wide range of project success.

How Do You Spell “PM”?

Focusing on the PM process calls for an in-depth understanding of PM, and many project managers lack this basic understanding: e.g. '“Project goals? I have no time to think about that, I have to work on my project.” “PM means that I have a CPM schedule on the job. Right?” But there are also project managers who have a good understanding of the PM ballgame, e.g., “It is really easy to deliver one extraordinary project. Get the best people, pour money in, give 'em top priority and management support, and they will deliver. But it is very tough to deliver a bunch of extraordinary projects because no organization has such abundant resources to ‘get the best people, pour money in…’ To deliver a bunch of extraordinary projects, it takes extraordinary PM.”

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Jeff S. Busch

To build such PM, the organization must first set the stage. This includes basic PM training, which should be beyond the miraculous learn-everything-about-PM-in-one-day seminars that are currently available. Setting the stage means goal setting, barrier reduction, and leadership. Management should have a clear vision of what it wants to achieve and how it will get there. The support systems to help focus on the PM process must be in place. For example, just having the PM software does not make the organization capable of performing PM. Unless the users have a clear understanding of PM concepts and principles, the true power of PM software is underutilized, or worse yet, misused.

Once the stage has been set, the organization should define its PM process as clearly and thoroughly as possible. The purpose is to determine how PM is currently performed and identify its measures of performance (e.g., scheduling performance index). All key project participants should be involved in this task. Otherwise, once the process has been defined, those not involved may comment, “It doesn't work this way. You guys should've asked us.” Working together, project participants precisely define the purpose of each step of the PM process and its outcome.

The definition of the PM process becomes the PM standard for the organization. By standardizing its process, the organization will establish the best cut-rent way to perform its PM process, measure its performance, and increase its projects' success in other terms as well as in basic time, quality and cost. Project people need to be trained to the PM standards which facilitate and enforce its use. These standards should be continually improved in order to enhance every facet of the PM process.

In a nutshell, the PM standards that organizations must strive for should be SMARTSimple, Measurable, Adaptable, Realistic, and Timely.

Focusing on the PM process is not the only solution to an internal organizational goal. Rather, it is the only avenue leading to the ultimate goal of PM-deliver the project that exceeds customers' expectations, with world-class PM standards.

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Organization Profile

Pinnell/Busch, Inc., founded in 1975, provides project and program management expertise to construction manufacturing firms, owners of major facilities projects, and government agencies involved in project and program management. The firm's services include:

  • Project program and construction management;
  • Management auditing, training, partnering, team building and development of standards and procedures;
  • Project planning, scheduling and control;
  • Claims prevention and dispute resolution;
  • Design and implementation of TQM systems;
  • Public Works organization and management;
  • Design and implementation of computer-based project management systems.

The firm has provided services for more than one billion dollars of construction throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. The firms clients include high technology manufacturing firms, agencies of the federal and several state governments, numerous cities and counties and over 200 construction contractors.

From its beginning, Pinnell/Busch has been an innovator in several areas of project management: computerized management systems, claims prevention and resolution, alternative contracting strategies, quality management techniques and procedures.

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