Amit Kumar

My diverse work experience of 15 years — including 10 years in project management — has shown me that project management is an art and not a science.

Standard project management formulae taught in the classroom can solve project issues for a short time, but a winning formula for a project comes from a deeper understanding of organization practices, processes, and systems. Nothing can beat the learning that a project manager gets from being closely associated with one project lifecycle. And if the project is large and complex, it gives a better understanding of the complete value chain of the organization. In addition to this, if the project is a large infrastructure project, it gives the project manager a deeper understanding of how macroeconomics influences the growth of the country.

The success of a project largely depends on the competence of the project manager. It will not be an exaggeration to say that you need a superman of a project manager to handle large, complex projects whose success has a bearing on the country’s development. The project skills needed for such projects can be created with a sustained capability enhancement program by the top management of the organization.

Organizations need a strategic, long-term approach to solve tactical day-to-day issues of a project and set the foundation for project success.

To address the financial objective of a projectized organization, address the triple constraints of time, cost, and scope. This sounds simple, but you need enormous capability to address these risks that have derailed major infrastructure projects in the country and caused huge losses to the exchequer.

An organization can draft a sustained capability enhancement program in a series of steps and implement it strictly to achieve project success in its true sense.

Step 1: Identify the available projects in the organization.
Step 2: Identify a project manager for each project.

a) One project manager may handle more than one project, depending on the size, complexity, schedule, and cost of the project.
b) Identify a competent project manager for critical projects — in other words, projects that pose financial and reputation risk for the organization.
c) Identify project managers at the early stage of their career and groom them to handle projects independently.
d) The main job of the project manager is integration, i.e., integrating with all internal and external stakeholders and influencing the decision-making process in the project lifecycle. Considering the criticality of this function, give the project manager the opportunity to move to different functions in the organization so that he/she understands the needs of all the stakeholders. The project manager has the role of a generalist who understands and anticipates risks at each stage of the project.
e) Most importantly, give the project manager a free hand to discharge his/her responsibilities efficiently and effectively.

Step 3: Create a time-bound plan to strengthen the core technical skills in the organization and continually develop them. There should not be any gold plating in the project. Ensure that the technical scope of the project is well-defined and highly optimized.
Step 4: Make the procurement function of the organization competitive and knowledgeable. Outsourcing cannot be avoided in any large project. The higher the degree of outsourcing, the higher the number of contracts.

Contract drafting is the key job of procurement. Contracts should be win-win for all the parties. Right buying and competitive buying is a skill that gives the organization an edge among its competitors.

Step 5: We hear the terms “customer focus” and “customer satisfaction” frequently, but these are the least understood. Only people in functions where there is direct interaction with customers have a real understanding of customer focus and customer satisfaction.

The other support functions tend to have only a theoretical understanding of customer focus and satisfaction. This creates a big gap in the organization. Sometimes satisfying the internal customer becomes more challenging than satisfying external customers. The solution is to expose everybody in the organization to the customer so that they can learn the real meanings. This will help tremendously in creating synergy in the organization.

Implementation of the above steps will help in creating a robust projectized organization and ensure success in project delivery. Lastly, the implementation of this program must take a top-down approach. Only with the sustained determination of the top management can we create a robust projectized organization.

(Amit Kumar is a senior manager in Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL) - Industrial Systems Group, Bangalore. He has 16 years of diverse functional experience at BHEL, one of the largest public sector companies in India. Kumar has special interest in project and strategic management.)