IMNZ Diploma in Project Management – Review
Surprising Invitation to Review Proposed Content
IMNZ (Institute of Management New Zealand) is tinkering with the current Diploma in Project Management (DipPM). The structure, content, and method of delivery will evidently be very much the same as the previous programme developed by SkillPower, and will still be waterfall-based, but some adjustments, such as the exclusion of project site visits that were designed to add a practical element to the otherwise classroom-bound tuition, have apparently been made to align the programme with new qualifications, but unfortunately there will still be no recognition of prior learning or cross-crediting for this programme as for NZ National Diplomas.
Frankly, I’m not sure the IMNZ is now in the project management training hunt and might be better to focus on their generic management training given the increasing presence of project management-specific training organisations, such as ProjectPlus, and our government’s endorsement of the PRINCE2 project management methodology. But possibly this IMNZ prototype programme is worth a trial run since it should at least be NZQA-approved, although I note that as at 2016 “NZQA is Not Yet Confident in the educational performance of New Zealand Institute of Management Incorporated” whatever that means.
Surprisingly, an IMNZ administrator has invited me to review and comment on the prototype Diploma in Project Management programme due to be launched by IMNZ later this year or next year.
To bring the proposed content somewhat up to date, I suggested to IMNZ that greater attention must be given to the project business case rationale, change management and benefits realisation – all now recognised as integral to PM success.
Formerly, PMs were exclusively preoccupied with completing projects on time and within budget, which are important measures of PM success, but not necessarily project success, which is about realising benefits. A project might be completed late and over budget, yet still yield benefits that ultimately exceed the costs involved and thus add value; an often quoted example being the Sydney Opera House that was completed ten years late and more than fourteen times over budget, but is now a celebrated landmark. So IMNZ might wish to give some greater attention to benefits management.
A recent KPMG survey emphasised that the following as important ingredients for project success:
- A proven PM methodology.
- A sound business case to support the investment.
- Early and on-going communication with stakeholders.
- Continuous management of risk.
- Accurate and up-to-date progress reporting.
- Effective change management and benefit realisation.
My own recent analysis of both successful and unsuccessful projects, suggests that the following are important principles for the successful management of projects:
- Establish and regularly reappraise the justification for our project.
- Have a sponsor who gives us clear direction and effective support.
- Agree and unambiguously define roles and responsibilities.
- Identify and communicate with users and other stakeholders early and often.
- Apply a disciplined approach from project conception to benefit realisation.
- Pre-empt problems, including HSWA hazards, and address issues promptly.
- Check progress regularly and take timely corrective action to keep on track.
- Manage change to ensure effective product adoption.
- Recognise project success occurs when business case benefits are realised.
- Capture lessons as the project proceeds and learn from each project.
Change Management. As we know, in recent years change has become more frequent and more dynamic, so much so that a whole new branch of management has been developed to address the subject. A lot of what we as PMs do are transformation projects that involve people working and behaving in a different way. Change management is key to embedding any change. Thus, PMs, to be effective, must be competent change managers. While this integration of PM and change management increases the workload for us PMs and adds some cost to our projects, it’s worthwhile if more projects then realise their promised benefits. The more dependent a project’s benefits are on project product adoption and usage, the larger contribution change management makes. This means that transition activities must be included in our PM plan. Yet, in many organisations change management is entirely reactive, and only applied as a last resort when employee resistance jeopardises project success.
Benefit Realisation. Traditionally projects were considered finished when their products were completed. However, benefit realisation doesn’t occur until products are used. In today’s environment, we PMs are now expected to understand the project business drivers, and help ensure that our projects deliver the benefits that were specified in the project business case, which is how an increasing number of organisations now view project success. Yes, it’s becoming more common to assess project success according to benefits realised rather than evaluating success solely in terms of the traditional measures of scope, time, cost and quality. Few could dispute that PMs are in the best position to monitor if a project is on course to deliver such benefits. While project benefit estimation is of pivotal importance during project acceptance decisions, once the project is underway many PMs are still exclusively focused on specifications, timelines, budgets and products. Also, amazingly, many organisations, including those keen to describe themselves as learning organisations, have no formal process in place to manage and realise benefits, don’t appoint anyone responsible for their tracking, have no post-implementation benefits review, and consider the project finished when project products are released. However, the mark of a more mature PM culture is that their PM methodology is extended to include a benefits realisation phase.
Summary. There is growing agreement that we PMs must assume greater responsibility for change management and benefit delivery. As a minimum we should include measures for managing change and securing benefits in our project plans, and appreciate the impact of proposed variations on anticipated benefits, which encourages us to stay focused on why the project was initiated in the first place. Thus, the revised IMNZ Diploma programme needs to recognise this new focus.