Project Management: A Strategic Managerial Approach

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Executive Summary

The author has recently participated in a project where their team installed a system for a client. The project succeeded, concluding on schedule but going slightly beyond the budget, and the client was satisfied with the result. With that said, the author decided to conduct a post-project review to determine whether the outcomes could be improved. They found that the budget excess was caused by a preventable communication mistake, which also affected the schedule. However, due to careful planning, the latter was within the allowance provided for risks, which appears to be a strong point for the project’s management. Additionally, through interviews with workers at the client company, the author identified a missed opportunity to provide a better service. The aspects of performance that have led to the success have to be retained and improved, but the factors that have led to the two problems identified also require consideration. To address both of these issues, the company will have to refine its communication systems. Its internal communications will have to incorporate failsafe measures, and the teams will have to build client trust and involve their workers at all stages. If these two items are addressed, the company will be able to deliver an excellent service that performs above client expectations while minimizing costs and errors.

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Post-Project Review Guidelines

Post-project reviews (PPRs) typically aim to understand whether the project was successful, as well as why it may have succeeded or failed. Wren (2018) differentiates these two objectives into Lessons Learned reviews and post-project ones, with the former aiming to understand the project management techniques used and the latter looking at the practical outcomes of the project. However, this paper will apply both of these concepts, unifying them in the idea of the post-project review and aiming to evaluate both the procedures in the project and its outcomes for the company and the customer. This section is dedicated to assessing how such a review should be conducted and integrated into the organization’s operations. It will attempt to explain the various considerations that are involved in the process and how it should be performed.

A post-project review relies on the project being available for in-depth evaluation, which is only possible if extensive amounts of data are transparently gathered and communicated. Without it, the procedure will have to rely on conjecture excessively, drastically reducing the usefulness of the results and introducing the possibilities for further error and quality reductions. Thomas et al. (2018) recommend that, to facilitate this trait, post-project reviews have to be planned before the project begins and integrated into its structure. While the process itself is beyond the scope of the project by its nature, data gathering for it should be integrated into the process and take place while the initiative is ongoing. Later on, this data can be verified and used to analyze the project’s performance at every step to more accurately determine where the principal mistakes occurred.

During the discussion of the project, it is vital that the underlying reasons behind the successes and issues are discovered and taken into consideration. As such, in-depth analysis that involves a variety of perspectives should take place during the meeting, focusing on specific topics to explore them thoroughly. Mantel et al. (2017) provide a number of recommendations to that end, including the use of cause-effect diagrams, historical considerations, and the examination of the broader system beyond the scope of the project. Overall, the provision of structure to the discussion is likely to benefit the conversation by leading it into the exploration of specific topics rather than general overviews. There are numerous sources from which issues can emerge, and the PPR team should be able to evaluate each of them and reach accurate and detailed conclusions. In doing so, it will be able to design appropriate strategies to combat them that can be used later on to improve future projects.

The members who participated in the review will be able to use their newfound expertise in these endeavors and recognize emerging problems to correct them in advance. However, particularly in large organizations, issues can arise when trying to implement the recommendations on a broad basis. In addition to the standard Lessons Learned report, the team should also consider other measures of disseminating the knowledge. In particular, it can conduct mentoring activities or intervene in ongoing projects that may be facing the same issues. Another option would be to promote the implementation of these measures in future projects and evaluate their success, showing the results to convince workers of the measures’ effectiveness. Overall, it is vital to demonstrate the practical viability of the demonstrations to as many members of the organization as possible. If this goal is achieved, the organization’s members will incorporate the new approach into their practices, and the knowledge retention will be complete.

PPR Activities

The project that the author reviewed was performed for a medium business customer. The author was part of a team that was tasked with installing a system that the company sells at their facility. The project featured planning the installation, completing it onsite, and training the client’s employees to use it effectively. The team also established communication channels for future support in case of any changes being necessary or technical issues emerging. The project proceeded on schedule and concluded successfully on the due date without the need to request extensions. The client has reported satisfaction with the system, which worked well and successfully improved their processes. Nevertheless, the author chose the project for the evaluation to determine whether there were any concerns that may have jeopardized it and should be avoided in the future.

As a member of the project, the author had access to its overall details and was involved in the planning as well as the installation. Throughout its duration, they collected and recorded information regarding the effort’s progress and changes in planning. They found that, while the project technically finished on time, it went over the initially established schedule. The reason was a miscommunication that resulted in inadequate amounts of physical equipment being supplied to the team. As a result, the installation was delayed until the situation could be rectified, with the workers standing by because they could not proceed with the other tasks in the meantime. With that said, the delay was still within the safety margin set during planning in case of such risks. As such, the project concluded within the deadline without other significant issues emerging during its course.

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The author also reviewed the documentation pertaining to the project, particularly the business case, status reports, and budget tracker. In doing so, they obtained a superior understanding of the objectives as well as the efforts taken to fulfill them. They found that most of the goals put forward in the business case have been completed without issues. However, the delay that took place led to workers having to arrive at the location for several more days than initially planned as well as several days of idleness. As a result, extra costs were incurred for their time, which the company shouldered at no charge to the client, and the project ultimately went slightly over budget. The excessive costs were higher than the allowance provided for such risks, though the company ultimately made a small profit on the project, nevertheless.

Lastly, the author interviewed members of the project as well as some of the client’s employees. They asked the former about the causes of the delay, to which the response was that a team member sent the preliminary request to the inventory management and forgot to update it once it became apparent that additional equipment would be necessary. As a result, an inadequate number of devices was sent, and the company was unable to supply the rest of the items quickly. The client’s employees were asked about their satisfaction with the installed system as well as any potential improvements that they would like to see. Overall, they reacted positively to the product but noted that there were some shortcomings that were not apparent in theory, though the installing company performed to specifications and could not be faulted.

PPR Results

Communication was the primary issue that emerged throughout the project and harmed its performance. The delay that slowed the initiative down and led to it going over budget was caused by the failure of the team to maintain communications with the inventory management team. As a result of the inadequate channel maintenance and monitoring, human error has led to the provision of a smaller quantity of equipment than needed. With more robust measures in place, such as a stringent monitoring and double-checking system, this issue may have been avoided. The project succeeded, regardless, which is indicative of excellent estimating and planning capabilities, but the day-to-day operations require improvement and refinement. The same consideration applies to cost control measures, which were not able to compensate for the problem and keep the project within budget.

The other communication-related matter, while not necessarily an issue, pertains to communication with the client. The buyer company ultimately identified some improvement opportunities that were not apparent to it at the time of planning. The reason was their lack of technical knowledge of the system and understanding of its operations. However, the author’s team had that knowledge, and the reason why it did not consider those potential weaknesses during planning was that it was unaware of the client’s needs. With more involved communication measures in place, the team would be able to identify the potential problem and plan to address it. As a result, the client would benefit from a superior product that they could be satisfied with, improving their opinion of the company (thereby delivering a benefit to it) and willingness to purchase from it again.

Knowledge Gained

The first item that has to be considered is the organization of communication systems in project formation. The current practices are not sufficiently robust because they rely on individual employees to perform vital tasks consistently and successfully. This arrangement creates opportunities for errors that damage the project, as seen in the initiative reviewed in this report. A double-checking system, whether performed by the project manager or the other members, would be beneficial for the company. If it were put into practice, the likelihood of internal communication mistakes would be reduced substantially. As such, at the beginning of each project, the team should design an extensive communication network with failsafe measures and cross-checking to prevent this variety of problem. As long as it can do so while maintaining its current quality of project management and improving the cost control measures, this variety of issue should be avoidable.

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The other area of improvement is communication and integration with the customer. The client’s workers are likely to have requirements that are not included in the documentation provided. Understanding these requests would enable the project workers to deliver a superior, highly satisfactory product and benefit from the associated reputation gain and buyer loyalty. However, to do so, the company will have to gather the opinions of each worker involved with the product, explain the current plan to them, and obtain their response. In order to achieve this result, project workers will have to improve their communication abilities and the volume of discussion that will be taking place. Moreover, it will need to secure the buyer’s permission to involve these workers in the project, for which closer integration with them will be required. As long as it can create the necessary trust, both the client and the organization will be able to benefit substantially.

Conclusions

Overall, the project was a success on most characteristics, but it ultimately went over budget. Moreover, it was unable to adhere to the original schedule, though the allowance granted for potential risks enabled it to conclude without going past the deadline. The primary reasons for this failing, as well as the missed opportunity to further improve and refine the product, was communication. Internal communication frameworks do not feature sufficient protective measures to prevent the emergence of errors. Moreover, the lack of integration with stakeholders within the client company has led the team to miss opportunities. With that said, the excellent planning and scheduling that have enabled the project to succeed and satisfy the client despite these shortcomings should be taken into consideration, as well. If the company can address its issues and refine its operations, it should be able to deliver excellent products to customers and create mutual benefits.

Recommendations

The company should consider improving its approach to communication when establishing project teams. Some variant of a failsafe measure should be implemented to avoid the emergence of human error without the responsible party noticing. In particular, cross-checking arrangements by members warrant discussion, as does a system where the project manager is responsible for controlling messaging. Additionally, the company should attempt to integrate itself better with its clients, establishing closer and more involved communication channels to discuss the projects and refine them. It should involve the customer’s workers who will be working with its systems at all stages of the project, using the team’s expertise to identify improvement opportunities. The result should be a superior and more satisfactory system that does not incur substantial extra costs and satisfies the client more than it might have otherwise.

References

Mantel, S. J., Shafer, S. M., & Meredith, J. R. (2017). Project management: A strategic managerial approach (10th ed.). Wiley.

Thomas, W. H., Lam, R. W., Thase, M. E., & Nutt, D. J. (2018). The basics of project evaluation and lessons learned (2nd ed.). CRC Press.

Wren, A. (2018). Project management A-Z: A compendium of project management techniques and how to use them. Taylor & Francis.

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