Conceptualization of a project is the first and a critical stage in a project life-cycle. This is also termed as DPR phase in some of government projects, which involves preparation of DPR (Detailed Project Report). During this stage, a series of activities are carried out to establish that idea of the project is feasible and to ensure that outcome of the project will yield intended benefits. Consensus on the project idea and feasibility among stakeholders is sought, scope is defined and verified, deliverable are broadly finalized, tentative estimate related to time-cost-quality are finalized, project design and execution methodology is approved and major risks are identified. There are many tools and technologies available to help the Project Managers in the Project Conceptualization and most of the managers use them to be thorough and convincing with their proposals on conceptualization. However, it may be noted that project managers keep on learning and are consistently trying for perfecting themselves in project management approach and in application of tools and technologies to projects. Through my learning from different projects I have been associated with in last sixteen years of work experience, I feel keeping in back of mind the following points may be helpful for managers during conceptualization of projects:-
1. Recognize the Projects as Change Agents
While any Project is a Temporary Organization with a definite beginning and a definite end, the outcome of projects are usually long lasting. It is observed that outcome of most of projects are expected to have a profound impact on beneficiary community or are expected to become an integral part of implementing organization. In many cases, projects and programs act as organizational strategy implementation tools and progress of projects give feedback on strategic decisions taken by organizations for business sustainability or business expansion. This means, successful implementation of projects are important for future prospects of organizations and more importantly, in a way, this means that projects (and/or programs) play critical role of effective Change Agents.
A due considerations must be given to change agent aspect of a project. Not only, must a suitable change management plan be incorporated as a part of project plan, but it should also be ensured that change management plan gets executed to the extent that changes brought about by projects are well adapted for maximization of benefits of projects.
In this regards, assessment of impact of project in larger perspective may be considered. Indirect impacts of project to society at large and relation of the project outcomes to other projects within different programs must be accounted in the project assessment metrics.
2. Harness Learning from the Project
New learning during implementation of a project is critical for trapping the drifts in business environment. Therefore, minute observation of the learning from a project and establishing suitable correlation with information available from other sources could lead to important inputs. Such inputs could be helpful in supporting sensible decision making (to the business strategists, program managers or organizational change managers). At times, these inputs also help in assessment of continuous organizational adaptability for possible challenges expected in future. This holds true for all the different organizations participating in execution of project even though the perspective with which the organizations look at the project may differ. Thus, a Project Designer should keep in mind that apart from fulfillment of objectives of the project, all the learning from the project should get thoroughly processed through the Knowledge Management Framework (of participating organizations) with an intent to enrich organizational understanding of changing business dynamics.
3. Streamline Efforts made by Executing Partners
In large projects, different project responsibilities are shared with different executing partners. Each executing partner is usually bound to deliver product or services in accordance its obligation defined in contractual agreement. However, exactly who owns the onus to implement the project (Lead Executor) must be very clear to all the stakeholders. And keeping the Lead Executor at the center, the project governance model must be designed for establishing appropriate accountability and control during execution of the project. In the governance model, through suitable provisions, the Lead Executor must be made to be sensible in approach towards business interests of other executing partners. This organizes all the executing partners under a single umbrella and this also increases mutual trust among the executing partners by reducing mutual frictions (among executing partners) when deviations in time-cost-quality triad is experienced during course of project execution impacting divergent business interests (of executing partners).
The project should be able to function as an autonomous body and the Lead Executor should be able to exercise powers with authority to take decisions in the best interest of the project (of course, within the framework of project governance model and with suitable justification supported through facts and figures). Similarly, the project execution team should be adequately empowered to get the required resources from different stakeholders as a right.
In certain cases, when the Lead Executor role is with government department or with an organization with bureaucratic culture, the executing partners of international repute having result oriented approach and commitment to best practices for quality delivery (of goods and services) struggle to work in synchronized manner. Such instances are observed with many e-Governance projects in India (and may be in many other developing countries). Mr. Narayan Murthy, co-founder of Indian Information Technology giant Infosys has once told “I know about Infosys there is not a single project Infosys has done and I believe the same story where the company has not lost money, that’s a reality, when dealing with the governments,”. (in an interview with representative form CNBC-TV18)
Probably, bureaucratic way of project management introduces culture of hierarchical subordination among executing partners and among professionals participating in the project. Hierarchy limits application of creativity in execution required for implementation of multi-disciplinary, multi-dimensional, multi-stakeholder, technology intensive and complex projects having huge sums of money at stake.
4. Orient Project Team towards Successful Implementation of the Project
Execution of project is a teamwork. Every member participating in the team must associate with sole intent to make the project successful. It may be noted that chances of success of the project is severely limited without team members establishing personal bonding through a sense of belonging with the project. Project is a temporary organization and professionals usually associate for a short term with the project. For professionals, the project is a means to contribute to the best of their abilities for the success of the project, to enhance their experience and skills by facing new challenges of different dimensions and to do networking with other professionals.
But, more importantly, each professional assumes that working for the project will eventually contribute to strengthen the long term association with the organization, which has deputed her/him (parent organization) into the project. A fair and transparent mechanism to ensure that performance in the project will surely translate into the professionals’ long term association with her/his parent organization can make a difference.
Therefore, irrespective of which executing partner, a team member belongs to, a well-defined reward and recognition mechanism linked to contribution in the project must be ensured in concurrence with parent organizations of the professionals. These rewards and recognition must translate to strengthening long term career prospects for each of the team member (may be better income, better stature, better location or better work-life balance).
5. Ensure Professionals with Required Expertise Run the Project
Domain experts having significant experience of contributing to similar projects are the best persons to plan, execute, monitor and control projects. It should be understood that application of project management tools and technologies or project management methodologies can be most appropriately done by the people who can really understand the environment and dynamics of work to be executed. Leaders having lack of technical depth fail to make timely and meaningful decisions contributing to success of project. Therefore, ensuring that skillful experts (with domain expertise, know-how on applied technologies, business understanding and project management experience) lead the project with thorough professionalism contributes towards successful project implementation.
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