Putting Excellence in Your Project Management Practice

7 minute read

Sara Whitwer

Striving to be better. Taking that big step forward to be the organization that stands out in its field of project delivery. Selecting a team, come up with a few ideas that will make your organization a better place to work, or lead, or work with… like customers on projects, or come to… like executives and future employees looking for greener pastures. After all, you want to earn and attract the cream of the crop in project customers, project managers and those skilled resources who are bound to become part of future project delivery teams, right? You get there by becoming a center of excellence. A center of how things are done or should be done.

Where excellence begins

Where does excellence begin? It begins with several practices, concepts, and goals… Let’s examine these four key areas…

Best practices

First, excellence will always begin with best practices in mind. Best practices are methods or techniques that have been generally accepted as superior to any alternatives because they produce results that are superior to those achieved by other means or because they have become a standard way of doing things, like a standard way of complying with legal or ethical requirements. If an organization isn’t practicing best overall practices and working cooperatively, logically, effectively, efficiently and collaboratively together, it will likely never reach a level of excellence and ongoing, repetitive customer oversight and delivery. Success may often be within reach, but it will fall away because of issues that arise or risks that are realized due to sloppy practices and seemingly random behaviors and direction. In order to reach the center of excellence bar – just like reaching any corporate maturity model – it must first have best practices ingrained in the corporate environment and in practice on an enterprise basis.

Skilled, responsible resources

And who can best help to learn, adopt, rollout, and utilize those best practices on an enterprise-wide project by project basis among the corporate community? The skilled, accountable, experienced and responsible company resource base that has been hired and I boarded to lead and work on the very projects, programs and products designed to benefit the most from good responsible and logical processes that are put into action in the organization.

Strong company leadership

Another key success area of the mature focused organization is the leadership it has in place to move it along a successful path of delivery to customers and care for its valuable resources. Examples of strong company leadership qualities needed for the excellent organization are honesty, integrity, ability to make good decisions, ability to trust the employees and delegate effectively and – probably first and foremost – the ability to effectively and efficiently communicate clearly the corporate direction that needs to be followed. Experienced and involved C-level and other corporate leadership are essential to keeping the organization on the right path. But just finding and electing or hiring these top-level resources isn’t enough. They must be committed and involved in daily operations, daily oversight of processes and improvements and daily/weekly execution on projects for their very important corporate customers. They cannot just be figureheads in place to look good. Actions, buy-in, and support of those working to deliver to the corporate customer base are essential.

Enterprise commitment

Finally, excellence is realized by true enterprise commitment. Can your corporate resource base understand, learn, adopt and demonstrate the practices that show a corporate commitment to excellence and superior delivery to the awaiting customer base? They can if they are trained for, educated on, and ready to adopt the best practices and processes that will bring excellence to the corporation in it’s delivery to the corporate customer base. Enterprise commitment means putting funds, resources, time and effort behind the right practices and processes to ensure ongoing effective and efficient delivery. It’s about getting it right quickly and repeatedly for the employees and the customer.

Now for maintaining that excellence…

Once excellence is achieved it must then be maintained. Resting on your laurels is the fastest way to get bypassed on your way to industry dominance. Few if any stay at the top forever.

Consider these 3 concepts to sustaining your strategic excellence in the marketplace…

Know the competition

Know who your competition is. In order to climb to the top and stay on top, you must know who and what you are up against. Has any key player left the industry? Has a rising star entered or on the verge of entering it? Complacency will get you replaced. Consider the downfalls of Macy’s, Sears, Toys ‘R’ Us, and other retailers and service providers. The rose to the top but failed to innovate and be aware of their competition and therefore became obsolete.

Don’t grow too fast

Strategic planning and strategic execution to reach the top is a great accomplishment. Growing too quickly can be just as dangerous to your business as not growing at all. Over ambition to become larger and grow too fast can weaken the infrastructure and cause the company to be unable to deliver on contracts to key customers with disastrous results. It can cause financial mistakes. It can cause the hiring of wrong personnel to meet demand and failure to scale customer service and technology to the business needs.

Maintain industry relevance

Unfortunately, nearly every brand idea has an expiration date. We live in an iterative economy, where customers are constantly seeking new versions and upgrades, and the timeframes within which a brand must implement bold developments are becoming shorter and shorter. Maintaining relevance in your industry is a must, but it is never easy. Strategic planning and execution will always play a major role in maintaining your organization’s industry relevance. Whether the category we are servicing declines or new sub-categories emerge to direct demand elsewhere, maintaining the status quo is not always possible. But remaining relevant clan be possible if the right strategic planning and execution happen under the right leadership. Always stay close to the customer as that is where changes will originate, maintain consistency, continue to innovate and adapt, keep quality and value balanced and keep doing well what you have always done well.

Agility and quick response time in an organization’s industry is critical. Businesses must be able to embrace change as fast as, or faster than the changing environments to ensure they aren’t left behind. There will always be competition in any industry. Spending too much time worrying about what the rest are doing instead of focusing internally can also be a fatal error. Although market awareness is crucial, knowing exactly who you are as a brand and what you stand for, staying true to that, and constantly working to deliver the best possible service -in a way that is distinctive for your brand- will usually be your key to excellence and success.

Summary

In the end, it’s about understanding what your customer wants and needs are now in and in the foreseeable future and making those wants and needs what your overall strategic planning and execution focus on. It would be a risky move to make sudden changes when things are working. But it odd also equally risky to neglect valuable insight you can have access to from your customers in order to fine-tune your future corporate moves and how those relate to your customer delivery. Stay true to your organizational plans and directions but understand and utilize your valuable customer base, because being able to effectively meet those needs and demands is what is going to keep you afloat and, hopefully, thriving.

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