The success of a project can be evaluated in three areas: quality, time and cost. Did the work performed meet the objectives? Was it completed by the deadline? Were the resources spent within the budgeted amount? If even one of those areas falls short, the project is considered a disappointment, or worse, a failure.
Clinton Padgett, president and CEO of Project Success Inc. (PSI), argues that projects fail for several basic reasons. In his book, “The Project Success Method,” Padgett points out that while companies are often good at managing repeatable processes, they struggle when trying to handle the details of individual projects.
Leaders and teams don’t recognize the unique challenges and uncertainty each project can bring. Global companies with offices spread across continents can find collaboration difficult. Goals may not be clearly defined, teams might procrastinate or they underestimate the task in front of them.
A clearer understanding of the importance of quality project management is essential for a successful result. Ideally, this begins at the highest levels of leadership. PSI teaches companies in its Project Success Method to overcome pervasive challenges. “Providing the missing link between strategy formulation and implementation, The Project Success Method is a blueprint for you to define, plan and control your strategic projects for superior performance and reap the competitive benefits of project success,” Padgett writes in his book. The Project Success Method is the project management foundation and methodology for any type of organization involved in just about any activity.
Although the ideas behind project management have been around since the dawn of construction, the history of project management as a formal discipline dates back less than a hundred years with the creation of the Critical Path Method in the late 1940s. Around 20 years later, the Project Management Institute began to create standard tools and language around those age-old ideas. It set up a certification process and, in 1996, published the first edition of the “Project Management Body of Knowledge” (PMBOK).
According to The Project Management Institute, about 16.5 million people describe their job as “project manager” and more than 650,000 have achieved Project Management Professional Certification through the organization. Becoming certified comes with a variety of benefits. Certified project managers tend to earn higher salaries and have more career options.
However, it doesn’t necessarily make them better at helming a project, Padgett says. The certification process doesn’t teach a methodology for practical implementation. Padgett likens Project Manager Certification to learning how to pilot an airplane by reading a book. In comparison, PSI’s training is like putting someone in the cockpit and showing them how to fly.
Few project managers have any rigorous education in the management of projects. Most are successful engineers or IT professionals who got promoted into project management roles without formal training, Padgett says. Until a few years ago, colleges and universities didn’t offer undergraduate degrees in project management. A single company might have dozens of project managers who each follow a different process. So, expecting consistency in managing projects seems impossible.
The primary advantage of Project Success Method training is that is teaches a practical project management method to be used on any project. “The most successful companies start with one or two projects and end up rolling the Project Success Method out in their entire organization, Padgett says. “It works over and over again.”
The PSI Advantage
PSI was formed in 1983 when a University of Georgia professor and a multi-degree engineer realized the problems facing project management. They wanted to develop a real-world methodology that could be used to manage a $5,000 project or a $5 million project,” Padgett explains.
The company started out as a training business, but as more people saw the value of the Project Success Method they asked PSI to not only come back to train other groups of employees, but to act as mentors and help implement the process. Over time, PSI evolved into a training and consulting company. Today, the Atlanta-based firm is a Microsoft Gold Partner and Project Management Institute-registered education provider.
The company has 20 consultants who have been engaged in over 10,000 projects in 25 countries. PSI’s list of clients includes large corporations and small businesses, from hotels to telecommunications, heavy machinery, construction and financial services. It has assisted one of its clients, a major sponsor of the Olympics and FIFA World Cup, in developing project plans for every Olympic Games since 1992 and every FIFA World Cup since 1998.
Clients have used the Project Success Method for a broad range of projects, including new product development and introduction and information technology implementation. It is also applicable to process improvement, facility start-ups and relocations, industrial maintenance, mergers and other strategic initiatives.
Some competitors teach project management skills in a hierarchical way. Employees must go through the basics before graduating to higher concepts, similar to the progress from an introductory 101 class to 102 course.
Businesses usually have a diverse group of project managers at different skill levels. Following the hierarchical approach can take a long time to get everyone to the same level – and it can leave more skilled participants disinterested in the course.
Because PSI teaches a specific, streamlined method, people with different levels of project management experience will be in the same class. Regardless of skill level, the Project Success Method course can make an immediate difference in people’s projects and careers. In addition, Padgett says, having teams and leaders from different parts of a company go through the training together helps with cohesion throughout the entire organization.
The basic course takes only two days, after which all participants are ready to implement the Project Success Method on their projects.
PSI’s trainers are people with real-world experience. Instructors average 38 years of experience in project management and 26 years of using the Project Success Method. Padgett says that level of experience is critical because when an instructor goes to a client they must be able to answer any question about how the Project Success Method can translate to their business – whether it is a leading beverage maker or a national bank.
Defining the Method
The Project Success Method is broken down into three integrated management processes for defining, planning and controlling a project. The initial phase, called the FirstStep Process, is the time to develop a project charter, appoint a project manager and form a cross-functional team. Project teams must ask themselves: “What do we need to do to launch this project without sacrificing quality?” All stakeholders must achieve consensus and clearly document the scope, objectives, constraints, assumptions and risks of the project.
The second phase is project planning. The team breaks the project down into manageable activities. Responsibilities are assigned. A schedule is created and the team determines whether it has access to the resources it needs to maintain that timeline.
The Project Success Method takes an innovative approach to scheduling. Instead of developing the timeline backward from the deadline – a practice called “back-scheduling” that does not allow for any unanticipated delays – PSI teaches clients to determine the normal duration for each activity and then network the schedule forward to determine a realistic timeline. Project managers can then make conscious trade-offs to compress activity durations or increase resources to meet or beat deadlines. Hence, the deadline is achieved without needing a miracle to occur.
Project control is covered in the third phase, during which the project manager monitors the project’s status to ensure deadlines will be met. The process allows project managers to quickly identify issues and take meaningful corrective action while keeping stakeholders informed.
Implementing the Process
The three-phase method is the focus of PSI’s two-day Project Success Method training course. The material is designed to be practical, easily digestible and requires no pre-requisite project management knowledge or certifications. PSI’s instructors present the principles, processes and techniques of the methodology, and participants leave the training with the knowledge to immediately apply the Project Success Method to all their projects, regardless of size.
The course emphasizes soft skills such as leadership, managing expectations, communication, problem-solving, decision-making, influencing and team building. The class also covers key project management principles, including:
- Project chartering
- Work breakdown structure
- Team organization
- Precedence network analysis
- Activity duration estimating/scheduling calculation
- Project duration and cost compression analysis
- Staffing and budgeting
- Project control
Project Management Foundation & Methodology
Because the methodology is software-agnostic, the Project Success Method can be used with whatever existing project management software the client already uses.
The training itself is similarly flexible. The two-day course teaches everything participants need to know to follow the Project Success Method, but the company offers additional training days that can go deeper into certain areas or types of projects – even how to use Project Success Method with popular software packages. During the initial class, PSI controls the examples participants work through during the training, but if a client wants to use one of their real-world projects then the company can facilitate the planning of a client-specific project during those extended sessions.
PSI can continue to offer services for its clients even after the training course is completed. The company’s consultants can reinforce the Project Success Method by providing hands-on assistance while project managers apply their classroom knowledge to real-world projects. Those clients that need further help in implementing the methodology can utilize PSI’s consulting team. The internationally experienced, multi-industry and multi-business disciplined team has been involved in thousands of projects across six continents.
The method, the training and the follow-up support all come together to position clients to better manage the unknowns and shifting problems that are inherent to undertaking a project. Padgett describes it as a disciplined but not limiting or rigid approach. “Good project management is not rocket science and should not be painful,” he says.