Segregating Project Management and Organisational Management

Continuing on from looking at how to establish the foundations for PM governance, this week I want to explore how the various roles in project management interact and still remain segregated.

Short-term vs long-term

Accomplishing the main objective of PM governance – efficiency and effectiveness of project management – requires less (but more focussed) organisational and project structures.

In this regard, while each project will be designed to produce lasting benefits it is a short-term operation. Meanwhile, the business of the organisation is a continuing process. Considering this, we can see that:

  • Organisational structure is long-term and is responsible for controlling business operations to meet the strategic view of the organisation
  • Project management teams are required as and when, starting at project initiation and concluding when the project is completed and embedded

The project steering committee

The project steering committee has the responsibility of ensuring that key decisions are taken and actioned for the benefit of the project stakeholders. It may be best to think about the steering committee as taking ownership of the project.

When considering the roles within the project steering committee, there are four main principles to consider:

Principle 1: Getting the right people

Ownership of the project needs to be both an individual and collective responsibility. The right people will provide clear leadership, and make clear and timely decisions. The steering committee should consist of no more than six people, with four positions of authority:

  • The project owner, who represents the organisation. He or she focuses on the business strategic outcomes required and on delivery of the project objectives. This function cannot be outsourced.
  • The senior user, representing the people or teams that will be the end users of the product or service delivered by the project. He or she also represents the people that will be otherwise impacted by the project. As such, this role may be occupied by more than one person (especially if there is another funding organisation).
  • The senior supplier is the person that represents the suppliers of services and products to the project. This position could be filled by either an in-house or external representative – or perhaps both – and must have the power to commit resources to the project.
  • The project director, who has ultimate responsibility to drive the project forward (for the project owner). He or she is a person who delivers and manages the outcomes required by the project owner.

Principle 2: Ownership of the project

While the above principle makes it clear who is the ultimate project owner, project ownership also extends to the senior user(s), senior suppliers, and project director. The project owner, likely to be highly senior within the organisation, may not have the time to commit to the project. In such a case, responsibility may be delegated to a project director.

Principle 3: Segregation of stakeholder management and project management

The project management team is answerable to the project steering committee, which is responsible for managing the relationships with stakeholders.

Principle 4: Segregate project and organisational structures

There are other stakeholders that will want and expect involvement in the project. For example, a strategic advisor group is made up of those whose support is vital but who also may not be interested in the technical aspects of the project. On the other hand, those that have an overriding interest in technical aspects would be considered as a stakeholder working group.

The stakeholder advisor group will be aligned to the project steering committee, while the project working group will be aligned to the project management team. This clear definition ensures a divide between project and organisation.

Don’t think that the organisational management should be directly involved in the managing of individual projects. It’s important that a steering committee holds responsibility for the strategic view, but project management specialists will provide the expertise and experience to deliver.

Of course, the above structure is predicated on the management of a single project. But what organisation doesn’t have several projects co-existing simultaneously? Next time, I’ll look at how an organisation can best manage a portfolio of projects.

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