13 June 2014

Project-focused librarianship: Part 3

In the last two posts I've talked about the benefits of getting involved in project work and some of the challenges. Today I wanted to finish up on this topic (for now!) with some observations about organisational project management capability and maturity.

Having now been involved in a range of projects at a range of organisations, I've observed that an organisation with a high level of maturity in project management will do many of the following things:

  • Ensure operational work and project work are balanced so that staff don’t get overworked and unhappy
  • Prepare formal budgets for all projects so that the true costs of undertaking something are understood by all the stakeholders
  • Seek consistency across all parts of the project lifecycle, rather than doing some parts well and other parts poorly 
  • Manage multiple projects collectively through portfolios and programs, and have a competitive process in which projects are judged not just on their own merits but against other projects
Of course, if you flip these you get some signs of immaturity. If you observe any of the following warning signs, your job as a project manager or project team member is going to be a lot harder!
  • Projects are staffed by people who already have operational roles requiring 100% (or more!) of their time; supervisors sign off on staff participating in projects but then don't in practice release those staff from their other duties to enable them to make the agreed contribution
  • Return on investment can't be calculated because no-one knows the actual cost of running the project, usually due to staff time not being properly budgeted (there's nothing wrong with running projects using 'in kind' resources but this should still be documented or how can you weigh up the costs vs the benefits?)
  • Lots of effort goes into project plans but little to none into project closedown and post-project evaluation; projects make the same mistakes over and over again because lessons learned are not documented and fed into future projects
  • Multiple projects, often involving the same people, are running at the same time, with no portfolio or program view that enables resourcing issues across projects to be addressed or priority to be placed on some projects over others.