Let's start with five key items in this article. They are neither complex nor difficult and nevertheless too often poorly implemented.
Establish simple and repeatable standards
We are rarely on virgin territories. So, I suggest that we start with the existing practices in the organization and combine these with the best practices of the profession such as the ones proposed by PMI. It is a matter of identifying the practices currently in use, selecting the best, identifying the gaps and addressing these by cherry picking some of the best practices of the industry and\or of project management. For example, you may already have in place a very good process to track requirements but a perfectible process for risks management. Also, one of the critical success factors in the implementation of standards is to establish them step by step, almost one by one. It is necessary to give time for the teams and project managers to appropriate for themselves the first standards before introducing new ones. Otherwise, we run the risk to demotivate them with an approach that's perceived as "mission impossible". In fact, it is very possible that the amount of work to be done is huge. It is by progressing one step at a time than we shall lead the organization towards our objective of standardization. We shall insist more particularly on the predictability aspect that many standards will provide to root these standards in the habits for all new projects.
Gather and follow-up on problems and actions
These basic processes are nevertheless not always very well established and all too often insufficiently communicated towards all stakeholders of the project. In particular towards the persons who may have problems to be responded to. It is necessary to have a very simple and very visible system accompanied with rigor in the regularity of reviews of the problems, their prioritization and the assignment of owners to find solutions and provide the answer. Naturally, it will also be necessary to follow-up on the proposed actions and close the loop with the originator in the end.
Elevate quickly risks and potential roadblocks
It remains difficult in large companies (which are not necessarily organized by project) to elevate quickly risks or roadblocks to address them effectively. It requires to meet and to convince numerous persons in the functional silos with which the project may transversally deal with. It is necessary to expose clearly and simply the identified risks and their precise impact on the interlocutor who is in front of us if nothing changes. The support of the sponsor can turn out to be necessary in addition to the stakeholders' identification and responsibilities matrix for the project.
Organize structured project reviews
Project Reviews with standardized agendas but which keep significant room for discussions about the business and the contents and not only focused on the format of the documents and the project metrics. It is important to have a standard set of slides or documents which will be up to date for the meeting and communicated to all participants at least 48 hours ahead of the meeting: progress update for the project, risks and issues, resources consumption, partial and\or final deliverables... However, to limit the meeting to reading these documents would be a waste of time for all. It is better to lean on these to have real discussions about the real topics of concerns which require some communication and possibly a debate with our sponsor and project committee. Do not forget to send the minutes with decisions and notes of the meeting within 48 hours of the working session, i.e. when everything is still fresh in your mind and for the steering committee.
Promote the use of predefined templates
These templates such as by project plan, risk register, actions tracker, the agenda of meetings, minutes of meeting, matrix of the roles and responsibilities... provide an immediate added value for the project managers and for the company. They allow at the same time not to reinvent the wheel with each project, to go faster, more effectively and they facilitate the standardization of some good practices through concrete documents. Furthermore, they will be appreciated by the management of the company who can review projects faster with these standardized documents. They will quickly learn to find the information of interest to them. However, do not run into the excess which would consist in making PMs fill tons of not always useful documents for every project or making some templates so complex that the persons would then have difficulty to fill them and to read them.
What other ideas would you suggest to enrich this list of the things which allow spreading effective project management?
I've been leading IT projects for more than 20 years at telecom and computer manufacturers: Thomson Sintra, Digital Equipment, NCR, Nortel Networks, Orange Business Services. My passion is Project Management and leadership and I run a blog on the PM best practices at http://dantotsupm.com/