How efficient is your project delivery? By Ian Clarkson.
When I deliver training or work with organisations I use a number of catchphrases – it is kinda who I am and what I do. They are a bit of fun and very, very cliché – and that is why I use them! Here are a few of my favourites (get ready to groan):
- “Always keep your eye on the why” – to remember a project is to deliver benefits.
- “It’s easy to forget you came to drain the swamp when you’re busy fighting the crocodiles” – again, to remind you why you are doing the project.
- “A project is a journey – not a destination” – you need to manage the project process not just focussing on the final output.
I recently came across another one (which I am so going to start using):
“If we are only interested in results, we defeat the purpose. The process is the purpose” 
Is the journey as important as the destination?
And this quote got me thinking about the need for delivering projects efficiently and effectively. Was it really about the process? Is the journey as important as the destination? Was the process really the purpose? Is it only me thinking this?
So I checked some leading publications to see what their definitions of project management were (and programme management whilst I was at it) – and none of them explicitly calls out the importance of efficiency when delivering projects – and managing the process/journey:
- PRINCE2 defines project management as “the planning, delegating, monitoring and control of all aspects of the project, and motivation of those involved, to achieve the project objectives within the expected performance targets for time, cost, quality, scope, benefits and risk”.
- Association for Project Management (APM) define project management as “the application of processes, methods, knowledge, skills and experience to achieve specific objectives for change”. 
- APM define programme management as “the coordinated management of projects and business-as-usual (steady-state) activities to achieve beneficial change”. 
- Managing Successful Programmes (MSP) defines programme management as “the management of a temporary structure designed to lead multiple interrelated projects and other work in order to progressively achieve outcomes of benefit for one or more organizations”. 
- The Project Management Institute (PMI) define project management as “the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements". 
- The Project Management Institute (PMI) define programme management as “the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to meet program requirements”. 
The above definitions talk about the things that need to be done to run projects (planning, delegating, monitoring, controlling, experience, motivation) – yet we can plan, delegate, monitor, control and motivate such that the process/journey is not particularly smooth. How many times has the efficiency and effectiveness of the process been a secondary consideration to just “getting your projects finished”? I think we have all been there – I know I have (many times)!
The need for effective and efficient project delivery
When talking to organisations I usually append these definitions with “…in the most efficient and effective way”. Then there is no questioning the importance of the managing the process/journey. An analogy I use to emphasise the importance of efficiency is planning a trip. Indulge me - do the below thought exercise:
- Imaging you are planning a trip (you choose where you want to go)
- Got somewhere in mind? How do you get to where you want to go?
Choose one of the two options below:
- Do you just go to the airport/jump in the car and figure out your route as you go?
- Do you plan your route in advance, stop-offs, time to leave, and build in some contingency?
I assume you chose the second option. Why is a project any different? “… in the most efficient and effective way”.
I am that convinced of the need for effective and efficient project delivery that I go so far as to say if you are only interested in the result then do not bother with project management! Just get on with what you are doing and do it however you want to, and good luck to you! You may achieve the result eventually - yet I guarantee it would have been easier, more cost effective, less stressful with and efficient project delivery.
Whether it be infrastructure delivery (such as the UK National Infrastructure Strategy) or technology adoption, or any type of change initiative, efficient and effective project delivery is a major key to success. Likewise, efficient project delivery is not the sole domain of a waterfall approach. Whether using waterfall, or Agile, or a hybrid method there is still a responsibility to make sure these methods are executed well.
“To journey happily may well be better than to arrive successfully…” 
About the author
Dr Ian Clarkson is the Project and Programme Management (PPM) Practice Director at QA Ltd providing strategy, leadership and direction for QA’s PPM portfolio. He is a highly experienced consultant, author, trainer, and speaker with over 20 years’ experience in project management, organisational change, and learning – working with some of the world’s largest organisations in all sectors. He has contributed to many books on the subject and also written articles for leading magazines. Ian is passionate about helping organisations improve project delivery and encouraging the next generation of project management professionals. If you would like to learn more please visit his blog page or connect with him on LinkedIn.
 Headspace (https://www.headspace.com/)
 Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2, sixth edition, 2017. ISBN: 9780113315338
 APM Body of Knowledge, 7th Edition, 2019: ISBN: 9781903494820
 Managing Successful Programmes, 5th edition, 2020. ISBN: 9780113316762
 Peterson, Jordan B (2018). 12 Rules for Life, An antidote to Chaos, Penguin, 978-0141388511