Pharma Focus Asia

Project Management

A case for high performance

Timothy Stockert, Principal & Owner, INNOVA Group Inc., USA

As increased competitiveness paves its way in the global arena, all market places, whether pharma, automotive or manufacturing are undergoing continual changes to cut cost and increase efficiency. This article brings with it the challenges faced by individual companies to tailor their project managements and stay ahead of the competition.

Global competition is changing how project management is practiced. Global marketplaces, be they automotive, construction, pharma, manufacturing, etc., are requiring business managers to continuously reduce cost, constantly increase work efficiencies and use more complex and flexible delivery methodologies. The everyday competitive mantra for any global business manager is to constantly make their organisation better, faster and cheaper than the competition. Therein lies the challenge-how can organisations stay ahead of their competition?

Structural change

To stay competitive, business managers are redesigning their organisational governance structures. Vertical evaluative and approval bureaucracies are being replaced with flat, matrix communication networks composed of work management processes. In this way, the voice of the customer is always heard and used to drive organisational decision-making. More importantly, every organisational member is continuously engaged in adding value and maximising potential.

Enabling new structures

Ochre OnlineTwo primary work management processes are being used to enable these new matrix communication structures. Toyota/Lean manufacturing processes are used to plan and control ongoing work activity in order to produce products and decrease costs while project management is used to govern unique and temporary work. Project management provides a common language, well-defined processes, and system controls to assure temporary work assignments (i.e. projects) are completed to customer requirements. International organisations like the Project Management Institute (PMI®) identify and promote the use of project management best practices and provide professional credentials to practitioners. In tandem, Lean and project management work processes provide the focus and accountability that matrix organisations need to achieve success in dynamic, customer-driven, globally competitive markets.

The challenge

Unfortunately, the historical application of project management was simplistic. It involved the use of well-known industrial engineering techniques to document temporary work assignments and existing work experience and knowledge used to assure work tasks were completed on time, within budget and on plan. Therefore, project managers didn't need training. They only needed product or service knowledge, organisational experience and software or templates to track and report results to be successful.

As global competition changes how organisations are structured, this simple application of engineering techniques to manage projects will not support business needs. Holistic customer negotiations, synergistic resource utilisation strategies, and integrated monitoring and control systems are now needed to achieve marketplace success. Traditional base level project management practices used to assure task completion are now being replaced by the use of high performance project management tools and techniques.

This evolution of project management practices has created the most important challenge confronting contemporary project managers: deciding how to lead and manage a project. In management, like nature, form always follows function. Misreading the context in which a project is being executed can lead to choosing a project management application that is ineffective in addressing marketplace dynamics and organisational contextual influences.

This challenge is much like deciding how to land an airplane. Landing in calm, stable conditions is different than landing in dynamic, cross wind conditions. If a pilot misreads the environmental context and makes the wrong choice in deciding how to land, the probability that tragic consequences will occur increases dramatically.

Evolution of project management

Traditionally, project management was called an accidental science. No longer! It is now recognised as an essential business science for designing and leading organisations. Today, most projects require: interdependent sharing of resources; compliance to absolute deadlines; soft/weak matrix communications; complex supplier agreements, and innovative action planning. Contemporary projects require high performance project management techniques and not traditional base level applications.

If projects are well defined, not subject to change, and sharing of resources is not required, then base level historical applications of project management can be effective. However, if a base level approach is used in a context of continuous change, complex internal and external marketplace dynamics, and discontinuous executive support, the project will not be successful. That is why, in today's highly complex business environments, high performance project management must be used to focus stakeholders and promote the pursuit of excellence.

Choosing a path forward

To be effective in choosing the right approach to execute a project, organisational project managers must understand the complexity involved in a project. High performance project management engages people interacting at high speeds under extreme conditions of uncertainty, ambiguity, change, and stress. To make good decisions regarding project management applications, the following should be considered in determining the project management approach needed.

  • The importance and urgency associated with a project
  • Executive commitment required to support the management of a project
  • Project communications needed to sustain project stakeholder commitments
  • Environmental drivers, restraints, and risks associated with a project
  • Existing organisational structure and management philosophy used to plan and control work
  • Resource acquisition challenges associated with the project
  • Professional project management image needed to engage and influence stakeholders
  • Leadership culture potential for encouraging the achievement of excellence.

Pharma industry executives and managers are no different than any other industry leaders. They are subject to the same global competitive pressures to constantly lower costs, be faster and improve results. Pharma industry customers, regulators and competitors are unrelenting in constantly increasing performance expectations.

Becoming a high performer

To address this change in marketplace dynamics, Pharma executives and managers are being forced to abandon traditional project management practices. In their place, they are installing high performance project management techniques and tools that promote learning with a marketplace and customers faster than the competition. Achieving this competitive advantage requires defining project potential through the use of Stage Gate strategies and institutionalising a project management infrastructure characterised by:

  • A common project management language using PMI? best practice guidelines to promote efficient communications
  • Shared and understood project controlling processes using PMI?'s initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and control and closing governance practices and instructions to define and executive work
  • • Using system controls to develop and sustain project portfolios, integrated communications and interdependent decision-making
  • Developmental leadership culture encouraging project stakeholders to use learning and achievement of potential as a power and influence base
  • Using professional project management credentials to define individual, team and organisational image of reliability and the pursuit of excellence
  • Six Sigma performance measures to encourage stakeholder achievement and excellence
  • Matrix structure to promote process management applications and resource utilisation synergies.

Collectively, these high performance project management practices promote effective learning with customers. When practiced efficiently and with discipline, they encourage the pursuit of excellence through innovative thinking, collective learning, planning collaborations and interdependent work execution.

High performance project management is fast becoming the standard performance management practice for the Pharma industry. Business development, construction projects and product transfers have become too complex and dynamic to use traditional base level project management tools and techniques. Global competition requires Pharma executives and managers to upgrade their project management knowledge and be more careful in deciding how projects are to be led and managed. Assuring the successful completion of temporary work tasks can no longer be the goal of project management. Project management now needs to not only satisfy customers but also enable an organisation to learn with customers faster than the competition. Base level applications or project management cannot succeed in a global competitive marketplace. High performance project management is needed to maximise project results and position an organisation for the future.

In summation

Instilling high performance project management is not easy. It requires preparation, patience and knowledge. Executives and managers often do not understand the ramifications of using different project management applications. As the Pharma industry begins to experience global competition, hopefully, Pharma executives and managers will use the experiences of other industry leaders to determine the best way to manage projects in dynamic and uncertain marketplaces.

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