Processes for project management success

The basis for a lean and agile project management organisation

The seven core processes discussed here can form the basis for a lean and agile project management organisation. They should be tailored and used where appropriate in conjunction with other practices such as Critical Chain scheduling, systems thinking etc. You can use Scrum, XP or any other agile approach in relation with managing the product delivery. I also recommend that you consider some of the practices recommended by Kanban. Individual methodologies on their own are not always the best answer, keep your toolbox of options and use the most appropriate mix for each situation.

Well designed, effective and repeatable processes give clarity

Well designed, effective and repeatable processes give clarity, on how projects or normal operations should work. Clarity is achieved because good processes are the foundation for accountability and discipline in how the work is done. Described is a set of core processes and management stages that will guide the project organisation from start to finish. With these processes you will have the basic governance framework that provides the organisation with structure, decision-making models and tools for managing projects. The thinking here is based on a combination of PRINCE2 and Agile approaches.

The use of established processes gives a structure to the management of a project that will improve communication and consistency. Use the processes wisely so that the project organisation, has the capability of rapidly and effectively adapting to maximise the opportunity of achieving the business goal.
Remember each sub-process or activity should deliver an output that adds value, therefor each core process will result in several outputs that add value to the project objectives. If you find that in the context of your project the output of a sub-process or activity does not add value then gain agreement with the rest of the team to drop the process until a time when it will add value. Use the processes as a means to help you fulfil your responsibility within the project organisation.

Seven Core Processes In a Project Lifecycle addapted from the PRINCE2 and Agile Methodologies
Seven Core Processes In a Project Lifecycle adapted from the PRINCE2 and Agile Methodologies

Each of the core processes will have several sub-processes that guide the team throughout the life of the project. In addition there are processes such as planning and quality management that will occur across the core processes.

If you are an “Agile” fan maybe you would like to see how these processes fit into the agile world. Read more on Can PRINCE2 be used in an Agile project

1 The purpose behind the “Start Up a Project” core process

This process should allow us to answer the following questions:
1.1: What new capability do we need in order to achieve the outcomes and realise the benefits that have been identified as lacking?
1.2: What product(s) or services will best supply the needed capability?
1.3: What is the best way to go about delivering the needed capability based on what we know now?
1.4: Is there a business case to pursue this further?

Read more on the Start up a project process
Sometimes you may discover the need for two or more products to give you the required capability. This will be an indicator that you should consider adopting a programme type organisation.

When the project is part of a programme or portfolio then some of the information will have been put together by the programme or portfolio organisation already.

For organisations adopting portfolio management, the information from this core process can be fed back into the project portfolio organisation so that each project can be prioritised according to its contribution towards achieving the strategic objectives of the organisation.

2 The purpose of having the core process for Directing a project and the project board responsibilities

Projects are a team effort and this process creates the structure and protocol for senior management and project management to interact enabling senior management to give direction and advice via the project executive and other project board members. Remember project managers are tasked to carry out the day-to-day management of projects on behalf of senior management or the project board. Projects managers must facilitate the work of the project team within the limits and boundaries set by the project board.
More on Directing a project and the project board responsibilities

3: The purpose of having the “Planning and Initiating” core process

We want to assimilate enough information and knowledge in order for the project board to be comfortable enough to give the go-ahead to start the development phase. The detail and amount of information and knowledge will be dependent on the sector and people involved. In general most organisations will want to be comfortable that they know enough about the benefits that will be realized, the scope of the project and the scope of the project product.
This is the first step in the project discovery and planning, as a general rule I recommend that you use rolling wave planning in order to optimise the use of time. Read about rolling wave planning here

Further information on the “Planning and Initiating” core process

4: The purpose of having the “Facilitating & Controlling Project Delivery” core process

By dividing the project up into stages we are able to breakdown the work that needs to be done into simpler components and deliverables. Each stage may in turn be broken down into of a series of sprints or work packages.
This structure enables us to monitor our progress and gain a better understanding as to whether we are on track to delivering the project output successfully.

For each stage in the build process there are four core processes involved;
1. Facilitating & Controlling Project Delivery (Owned by the project manager)
2. Managing Product Delivery (Owned by the technical team lead)
3. Directing a Project (Owned by the project board)
4. Managing a Stage Boundary (Owned by the project manager)

The Facilitating & Controlling Project Delivery core process gives us the structure that enables project managers to facilitate the work of the project organisation during the build and development phase.
More on Facilitating & Controlling Project Delivery

5 The purpose of the ‘Managing Product Delivery’ core process

The purpose of the ‘Managing Product Delivery’ process is to ensure that there is a formal interface between the management of delivering products/services (Customer Valued Functionality) and the project management activities. This process enables us to use one project management methodology with more than on production methodology.
More on Managing Product Delivery

Important outputs from this process will include completed work packages that meet the quality criteria set. For work done it is important to have the work signed off as done and accepted at that level.
This core process also includes a retrospective, so another output will be agreed improvements needed to continuously improve the performance of the project organisation.

6: The purpose of the “Managing a Stage Boundary” core process

This gives the project a formal process in which to identify what has been achieved in the current management stage. Based on lessons learned what now should be the focus in order to deliver the project product successfully.

This process enables the team to get answers to the following four questions:
1. Have we done what we planned to do in the current stage?
2. Based on what we now know and the current status of the project is it worth carrying on and making the investment in the next stage of the project?
3. Is the plan for the work that needs to be done in the next stage practical?
4. Does everyone know what we will be doing in the next stage and how we will measure successful delivery of the stage?

7 The purpose of the “Close the Project” core process

The purpose of the Close a Project process is to supply a fixed point where we confirm the project has either, delivered the project product to the approval of the client, supplier(s) and Project Board or that the project is no longer viable. The Close a Project process occurs in the ultimate management stage or when the Project Board gives an instruction to close the project prematurely.