A model for high project delivery performance

Conventional approaches to improvement tend to include intensive support for a few high profile projects/programs, investment in training or recruitment of project managers, and redesign or purchase of new processes and systems to standardize the approach. These changes, in isolation, will deliver benefit to specific projects or programs but are often not sustained or do not deliver performance improvements across the organization.

Transforming project and portfolio management effectiveness means achieving a step change in current performance.

Our approach recognizes there are many drivers that can contribute to, or impede, overall delivery performance, including (but not limited to) project management and control disciplines.  In summary, these are:

  • Project & program management practices – Deployment of good project disciplines to ensure reliable delivery
  • Governance practices – Decision-making, oversight and clarity of accountabilities
  • Portfolio management practices – Doing more of the “right” things to achieve strategy and policy objectives while balancing risk, return and resource constraints
  • Design authority practices – Assurance that the architecture, technical strategies and standards will deliver as promised
  • Workforce management practices – Delivering the organizational, skill and personal capability at the right time
  • Resource management practices – The organization, scheduling, deployment and adequacy of resources to meet competing priorities
  • Financial management practices – Budgeting, financial tracking and forecasting to ensure adequate funding for projects in the portfolio.

Our experience and research into the drivers of delivery effectiveness shows that the best performing organizations recognize the inter-relationship of the various practice domains and have focused on getting their organizations to work coherently.  It has also enabled the development of a model of best practice, illustrated below.

The foundation of the model is the basic blocking and tackling of solid PM practices.  Without this strong foundation, effort to improve outcomes is generally ineffective.  Therefore, organizations starting on the journey of improvement should focus on consistency of core skills, common nomenclature and approaches – through implementing a consistent, structured delivery methodology.

Areas where most improving organizations have traditionally focused (those labeled as the “Integrating Practices” layer in the model), yield positive results – assuming strong project management foundations – up to the point at which the third level – “Differentiating Practices” becomes essential for progression.

The third layer, of resource management and project-related financial management, is often overlooked in our experience. These practices are dependent on solid integration and foundation layers (e.g. project cost management) but require significant additional effort and focus across organizational boundaries which it seems that many organizations are unable or unwilling to address.

The highest level of performance is dependent upon strong capability across the board, supported by a trust-based environment of open and honest communication that enables strategic decisions to be made for the good of the entire enterprise rather than for a single initiative.

Effective outcomes are, therefore, predicated upon a number of highly interdependent practices and so are vulnerable to the weakest link in the chain – a single practice performed poorly will limit the overall effectiveness of how well an organization is able to deliver strategic initiatives.

Ultimately, sustained performance gains result from getting your organization to work as a system, and addressing specific elements that impede delivery.

Tim Pare


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