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Deliver business value through projects

Carol Mould

Keeping a company on the rails is hard. Though an organisation might be singular in business vision, it comprises a myriad of expectations, approaches and deliverables. Like a colony of ants, a company may have one overarching purpose but that alone is no guarantee that everyone won't 'just do their own thing'. Among insects this is called a 'hive mind'. In a company, if this can't be sustained, the more apt word would be 'disaster'. What is the best way to keep the momentum going in a company?

Keeping a company focused on delivering its strategy is tricky, especially in today's environment which demands a high level of organisational agility. Increasingly, businesses are choosing to adopt projects as a means to deliver business value.

A popular approach, known as project portfolio management, involves treating an organisation's projects as like a financial investment portfolio:

  • There should be a business case for each project, with an approval committee overseeing the selection and prioritisation of projects.
  • Instead of regarding projects as isolated tasks, projects are treated in terms of how they impact a business, just like a financial investment would.

Organisations now realise projects are very effective at implementing strategy. But projects have been around for a long time and instead of making a company agile can do quite the opposite. Getting stuck in the muck of endlessly changing deadlines and objectives has scuppered many well-intended project implementations.

How can an organisation make projects work for it?

A good approach is to break projects down into phases:

  • Instead of a single three-year project, manage it in multiple segments that build up to your final goal. This makes it easier to make adjustments around the changing landscape of the business.

But to do this successfully, organisations also require the right skills, which are cultivated through training.

Training is vital. Your staff skills should be up to date and aligned with best practices. It's also essential to ensure that your employees adopt an agile mindset, which can be achieved through training and mentoring in organisational change management (OCM). OCM includes:

  • Providing a motivation for the change,
  • Creating a compelling vision for how the organisation will appear after the change, and
  • Implementing and embedding the change in the organisation so that it will be sustained.

It comes down to talent management

This starts with recruiting the right people onto projects through:

  • Effective assessment and selection practices,
  • Developing employees by providing the right training at the right time, and
  • Supporting project teams with effective processes and appropriate technology.

It's also important to strike a balance between permanent employees, and temporary contractors or consultants. You should always keep an eye on developing your talent pool and protecting your strategic business knowledge. If companies rely too heavily on external resources, they are in danger of losing the critical skills that build the agility they seek.

Carol Mould is portfolio manager at the Faculty Training Institute (FTI). She is an experienced facilitator, trainer, consultant and coach. Her main interests lie in skills development, performance improvement and career management. Carol's key strengths include being able to assess problems and opportunities at both an individual and organisational level, and to facilitate the definition of pragmatic solutions that suit the context of the organisation and the people involved. She is currently completing her masters in organisational psychology at the University of Cape Town.