Most companies these days recognise the value of good project management. They know that keeping projects on track, monitoring productivity and addressing problems in a timely manner means better results and more profit.  

Many companies even employ project management specialists to make sure that everything is planned, executed, and measured properly. Those people develop great plans, create detailed reports, and suggest clever solutions to problems. But sometimes, the people they’re reporting to don’t know enough about project management to use that information properly.  

If you think there might be a project management disconnect in your organisation, read on to find out more about the problem, and what you can do.  

What’s Causing the Problem? 

Project managers usually aren’t upper management. They create plans, collect data, and make recommendations to keep projects on track and in budget, but the buck does not stop with them. All those reports and recommendations have to go up the food chain, and when they get there, sometimes, they get lost in the shuffle.  

When upper management don’t understand project management basics, they might not understand how a small delay now could become a major cost overrun later. They might not understand the urgency of addressing scope creep, or how to implement changes to accelerate the plan to ensure that the project is delivered on time.  

Project managers know that these kinds of problems snowball, getting larger and harder to solve the longer it takes to address them. But when the final say belongs to someone who doesn’t understand any of that, it might take far too long for anything to happen.  

It’s not upper management’s fault either. It’s like expecting someone to succeed as a CFO when they’ve never worked in finance. They might be the smartest person in the room, but if they don’t understand the basics, everything will go off the rails very quickly.  

How to Solve the Problem 

If you’re regularly dealing with projects that have gone far over time or are having major cost overruns, chances are it’s not because your project managers aren’t doing their jobs. It’s because it’s taking too long to take the necessary action when things start going wrong. There are several ways you can address this.  

Have Project Managers Report to Project Managers 

The most obvious and direct way to address this problem is to make sure that your project management team is led by a project manager. A senior project manager will already know how to read, interpret, and take action on the reports and recommendations your PM team offer, so they’ll be able to make the right decisions quickly.  

However, you might not have a project manager with upper management capability and hiring someone who can take on a role like this could be a process. So, you might need some other options.  

Train Your Management Team 

You don’t have to be a project manager to understand the fundamentals of good project management. In fact, even if you do hire an upper manager who is a seasoned, senior project manager, it’s a good idea to give everyone at the top some basic project management training.  

They don’t have to know how to do the job. But they should understand basic concepts about project planning, deliverables, milestones, the effects delays have on the whole project and how time really is money. When people understand things like these, they understand the urgency of making decisions as quickly as possible, so that the project stays on track.  

So, when you have your next project meeting, there will be more decisive action, and less delays and dithering.  

Empower Project Managers 

Another way to address the disconnect between project management teams and upper management is to change the way things are done, and to empower project managers to make more decisions on their own.  

Many companies, particularly more traditional ones, put a great deal of stock in following procedures and chains of command. But getting the right signatures and rubber stamps on the right piece of paper can slow things down tremendously.  

When you run into problems on a project, making a decision as soon as possible can mean the difference between profit and loss. So, there’s real money at stake. Your project managers understand that better than anyone else, and since the profitability and success (or otherwise) of any project reflects directly on them, they have a vested interest in doing the right thing, at the right time.  

Allowing project managers to make certain decisions without approval from above, and simply to report the changes that have been made can take the speed bumps out of the road and will almost certainly improve your project results. Do so safely by implementing so guardrails though! 

A Universally Valuable Skill 

Many people think of project management as a specialised skill. Much like people who say you’ll never use maths when you leave high school. But the truth is, most of us use maths a lot more often than we think we do, and project management basics are a lot more universal than we think.  

Anyone who has ever assigned another worker, team, or piece of equipment to a job that’s behind so they can speed it up is project managing. Everyone who has ever found an innovative solution to get something done faster or cheaper is project managing. Planning a vacation or creating your family’s weekly schedule are all forms of project management.  

We don’t all have to be trained, certified project management professionals, but we all can and do use the fundamentals of project management all the time. So, it’s worth teaching all the key players in your organisation to do the fundamentals correctly.  

Internal and External Projects 

Most people think of project management as an external function. We project manage things that we are doing for our customers. But good project management can improve your internal business processes and results too.  

Applying project management principles to your company processes can help you to identify bottlenecks and problems, trace their root causes, and develop new ways to avoid those problems.  

Planning big internal changes using project management principles can help you to keep them on track and get better results. This could be anything from moving to a new office to hosting a corporate function. Project managing these types of things properly will save you time and money, and almost certainly improve your results.  

Better Project Management Delivers Results 

You might be reading this, wondering how you will ever get everyone in your organisation to buy into some of these ideas. Or even to believe that by changing the way we think about project management, we might get better results. But the results of better project management will speak for themselves. You can expect to: 

  • Increase the benefits and return on investment for your projects 
  • Identify and address problems earlier, before they become complex crises 
  • Communicate better with your teams and with your clients 
  • Deliver better results for your clients 
  • Complete more projects on time and on budget 
  • Develop better processes and ways to do common tasks 
  • Have happier customers, who are more likely to come back  

Project management doesn’t have to be complicated either. Even if the thought of Kanbans and Gantt charts make your blood run cold, you can still use project management tools, processes, and strategies.  

A company calendar that includes all events, goals and milestones is a great way to keep everyone in the loop. A customised whiteboard on the wall in your production office can help to keep track of production targets and orders. Checklists, procedures, and processes for common tasks take the guesswork out of getting things done and ensures consistent results every time.  

Don’t Drop the Ball 

There are several strategies here that might address project management disconnects in your company. Some might not work for you, but you might be able to adapt others to your particular situation.  

The most important thing to remember is that if you let your project managers do their jobs, you will almost certainly get better results with less hassle. You don’t have to understand the process fully. You don’t have to spend time learning more about the process. But you do need to get out of their way and let them get things done.  

When you’re in the middle of any project, every decision, every delay, and every misstep will have an effect. You might think they will be small, but they might affect other tasks and deliverables, which might delay the whole project. That might mean you can’t start the next project or order until you’ve finished this one, which might affect your cash flow.  

Bad project management is like throwing a pebble into a pond. The initial splash might be small, but the ripples can go all the way to the shore. So, if you’re consistently having problems getting things done on time, take a closer look at where the delay is. If you can get rid of the pebble, you won’t have the ripples at all.  

Contact us, so we can help you create a straightforward, results-oriented framework that connects governance, delivery, and culture to help you thrive and organise. 

If you’d like to engage Fatimah as a coach/advisor for your organisation to help you make sense of the chaos, then you can reach out to her by email at Fatimah.a@agilemanagementoffice.com