How mature is your organisation in project management? By Ian Clarkson.

I’ve got a load of project management books either because it’s a text for a certification I teach or because they’ve been recommended to me, or I’ve been given them. Yet I always come back to the same one when I need to look something up about project management.  My ‘go to book’ if you like.

This book is “Project Management. A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling and Controlling”, by Harold Kerzner[1]

The version I have (and there are later versions) is 908 pages of just great project management content, and I have read it many, many times.  My favourite page (yes, I do have one) is page ii (as in the inside cover page) as it lists “Dr. Kerzner’s 16 Points to Project Management Maturity”.   The top two listed are (in order): 

  1. Adopt a project management methodology and use it consistently;
  2. Implement a philosophy that drives the company towards project management maturity and communicate it to everyone.

These two points are related, as having a standard project management methodology is an indicator of maturity. Harold Kerzner defines maturity in project management as:

“…the implementation of a standard methodology and accompanying processes such that there exists a high likelihood of repeated successes…maturity implies that the proper foundation of tools, techniques, processes, and even culture, exists”

The key in this definition is “repeated successes”.  Any organisation can implement a standard project management method and run one project successfully with it. Yet can they do it repeatedly? Use it consistently.

It's all about consistency

Over the years I have written many project management methods for organisations in all sectors, yet the one thing most have them have struggled with is its consistent use. It takes more than just a ‘manual’ or ‘intranet site’ with templates on to do project management well.  Sorry about that.  Organisations need a culture or philosophy that drives them towards project management maturity.  I remember working with an organisation where one department used one project management method, another department used a different method, and the rest of the organisation used nothing at all!

This organisation is by no means unique.  One Project Management Maturity & Value Benchmarking report states 58% of organisations are at the bottom two levels of maturity (on a five-level scale, where level 1 = initial process to level 5 = optimising process).  Add in level 3 and this percentage jumps to 80%.  Wow!

When it comes to an indicator of project management maturity, I categorise organisations into one of three levels:

  • Level 1: An organisation has no project management method
  • Level 2: An organisation has a standard project management method yet uses it inconsistently
  • Level 3: An organisation has a standard project management method and uses it consistently.

Levels 1 2 3 One Two Three Rising Up Improving 3d Illustration

These are my own defined levels, and there are other elements that need to be included to evaluate maturity fully: “proper foundation of tools, techniques, processes, and even culture, exists”, yet I use a standard project management method as a ‘lead indicator’.

Using these three levels my experience tells me two things:

1. Most organisations are at level 2 (do you agree?)

2. Moving from level 1 to level 2 is far easier than moving from level 2 to level 3 (e.g. having a few templates and a manual will get you to level 2).

What level is your organisation at?

There is no easy ‘fix’ to get to level 3 - that depends on your business need, do you even want to get there, recognition of the value project management brings, what executive management support you have, how solid your foundation of tools, techniques, processes are, and (being honest) budget available.

If you want to start your project management maturity journey somewhere, I suggest you take the advice of Dr. Kerzner when he said,

“adopt a project management methodology and use it consistently”.

I first took his advice in 2003, and I continue to do so every day.

Further reading:

Making the leap to cloud based software

5 project management alternatives to MS project

About the author

Ian Clarkson 21 Aug 2017 (3)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.



[1] Kerzner, H (2003). Project Management. A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling and Controlling, 8th Ed, John Wiley & Sons. ISBN: 0-471-22577-0