Building a projects culture at a leading UK financial institution

Continuing our series of real life track record articles illustrating how delivery reliability is built on a systematic improvement of the basic project management processes, I elaborate this week on the most basic (and most common) issue – that of building a projects culture, the all-important foundation in our hierarchy in the diagram below.

During a period of intense change and faced with an increasing number, size and complexity of projects, this leading UK financial institution needed to enhance and standardize its project management capability.  PA helped the client design, develop and implement a dynamic, company-wide PM approach.

What we found

  • Development projects often failed to achieve projected benefits, despite substantial investment
  • Projects were often approved without clear objectives, timescales, deliverables, costs or benefit delivery plans
  • A common approach to project delivery had been identified, but its shortcomings had not been corrected and it was difficult to ensure its consistent application
  • No formal appraisal process or training program to understand and build capability amongst project personnel
  • No process to capture, disseminate and apply lessons learned

What we did

  • Developed a comprehensive Project Management Handbook (and training regimen) to document key techniques and define company-wide procedures for the control of projects
  • Implemented a capital-based control philosophy (based on a size-complexity matrix) to target assurance efforts and reduce the reporting burden
  • Established a central project office to monitor and coordinate the portfolio of projects undertaken across the bank
  • Adapted the appraisal process to monitor and incentivize the development of project delivery capability & experience
  • Established a program management center of excellence to capture lessons learned and oversee development

What was achieved?

  • Standardized and improved tools and processes encourage the development of a project-based culture, including effective project management principles
  • Targeted assurance processes increase ability to deliver projects on time, realize planned benefits, and maintain greater focus on business need
  • Increased performance incentives lead to the voluntary adoption of company-wide project standards, with improved results
  • Project personnel are trained in standardized processes that incorporate best practice, specialized business needs and individual considerations
  • PM center of excellence maintains and revised company best-practices to avoid deterioration of benefits

Establishing (and reinforcing in some cases) the projects culture helped to get everyone in this organization onto the same page while at the same time this elevated overall delivery perfomance relatively quickly to a high level and they continue to hone that as new challenges present themselves.

John Hall
PA Consulting Group

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