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Transparency is a Critical Success Factor

When we look at international project management standards there is often a lot of focus on the methods, processes and tools necessary to improve the practice of project management. However, one core concept that is not discussed as often is transparency.

What is transparency? Well, in the most simplistic terms transparency can be described as ‘clear and open communication about the project within the project team and with the customer’. Although transparency can prove to be a key factor that contributes to the productivity of a project team and ultimately the success of the project, it requires actual commitment from all working parties to provide honest and accurate information openly and without hesitation.

WHERE TO BEGIN?

It’s important to establish a culture of transparency right from the beginning of the project, that is, when the project’s goals and objectives are being identified. A sponsor or customer who can openly communicate the true problem that the project is trying to solve immediately sets a foundation for the project team to start building the solution upon.

In turn, it is equally important for the project team to be clear about what goals and objectives can and cannot be achieved. By outlining the boundaries and constraints faced by the project in the earlier discussions, the team can level set the customers’ expectations and eliminate misconceptions about what will be delivered.

This type of dialogue at the onset of the project may be challenging, especially if involved parties are just beginning to work together, but the benefit of having a shared vision for the project is unparalleled.

But it doesn’t stop there. Having a clearly defined set of goals and objectives is just a step in the right direction, but the team needs to continue the path of transparency throughout the project’s lifecycle.

AN ONGOING COMMITMENT

Projects by their very nature are plagued with issues that may surface from a variety of sources such as people, process and technology. A team needs to be able to openly discuss challenges and issues if they want to find creative solutions. Not only will discussing issues with others will help to find solutions faster, but the very activity fosters a culture of learning from each other and building solid working relationships. If hidden issues don’t come out they can fester and produce frustration and resentment that can eventually destroy team dynamics.

Status reports are a good way of keeping everyone up to date about the projects progress, if the project status report displays characteristics of the ‘watermelon effect’ (green on the outside and red on the inside), it’s just as well that a status report is not distributed. A project status report, must openly and clearly communicate the true progress when it comes to the schedule, budget and quality. Also, at a minimum the top three to five issues, risks and assumptions should be listed to make sure all those interested in the project have a realistic view of the project’s current state. Not only will this practice ensure that all stakeholders including management are informed of the true project status, but the status report can highlight to management when the project team needs support in overcoming a challenge or obstacle.

Below is a summary of practical tips that can help a project team to embrace transparency as a contributor to success:

  • Make project data easily accessible to the project team through a central mechanism for logging and tracking issues, risks, defects etc. Here’s some tips which will help with transparency:
  • Surface assumptions and point out ambiguities regarding the various aspects of the project;
  • Be realistic about what can and cannot be achieved;
  • Encourage open dialogue about things that are not working well;
  • Discuss issues and challenges in a non-confrontational but truly collaborative manner;
  • Incorporate discussions of risks and issues as part of the regular status discussions;
  • When mistakes do happen, acknowledge them, fix them and move on without worrying about who to blame;
  • Finally, create an environment where transparency is rewarded.

In conclusion, transparency is a key factor in project management success which is hardly considered in project management standards, but proves to be a very important factor that contributes to the success of the project and the project team.

Why Hire a Consulting Firm?

When it comes to project and program management, there are many challenges waiting for business executives. Some of these include, but are not limited to, issues with project performance (cost overruns, schedule delays, quality concerns), lack of expertise managing a particular project type, or simply lack of internal project management staff. Project management consulting
firms can supply experienced project managers who offer high-quality solutions to the complex issues facing organizations.

Here are five reasons why business executives turn to external consultants to provide project management support to their organizations:

RETURN ON INVESTMENT

The project may be a one-time endeavor that does not justify the costs associated with hiring and training new employees. Hiring and training full-time resources and mentoring them in the intricacies of an advanced project management approach can require more time than organizations have available. Project management consulting firms can fill the gap between an immediate need for project management support and the organization’s current capabilities. Project management consulting firms are generally able to ‘hit the ground running’ and can be available immediately to support an organizations project management needs.

SKILLS AND EXPERTISE

The complexity, size and exclusivity of a project may be significant enough to warrant a consulting firm who has experience and the necessary expertise to deliver a specific type of project. Furthermore, project management consulting firms have a better perspective on industry best practices and can use this knowledge to identify gaps and introduce improvement opportunities that would drive better business performance. Finally, project management firms have had the opportunity to work in many different organizational environments, under various circumstances and have experience and exposure dealing with a wide variety of issues and problems, so they can arrive at a solution a lot faster than in house resources.

METHODOLOGIES AND TOOLS

Project management consulting firms often possess a set of well-developed approaches, methodologies and tools that can guide the efficient initiation and execution of a project. Such tools and methodologies are often useful in identifying not only the necessary deliverables, but can also serve to alert executives of upcoming obstacles, risks and potential resource constraints. This allows a more proactive approach to project delivery and is pivotal in making better decisions and providing more cost effective solutions.

FOCUS AND COMMITMENT

A project management firm has the ability to deploy dedicated resources that are focused solely on the project’s deliverables. This allows them to complete deliverables and handle issues at a much faster pace compared to in-house staff who must also complete their day to day business tasks in addition to project management deliverables. Often times, when day to day business challenges arise, project deliverables have to be put on the back-burner, causing schedule slippages and cost over-runs, not to mention an overwhelmed workforce.

KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER

Engaging a project management consulting firm can provide an excellent opportunity for in-house staff to work directly and very closely with experts. This provides an opportunity to not only do the current project right, but also obtain on the job training and access to resources that can be used in future projects.

In conclusion, although hiring a project management consulting firm can be quite intimidating especially for the first time, the immediate availability of skilled and experienced resources who are focused and committed to delivering the project are good reasons why business executives are joining forces with project management consulting firms to satisfy their project and program management needs.