It has been almost a year since I wrote on “Efficient Project Management”,[1] and so I decided to revisit the topic of project management, but with a different approach.  That September, 2011 article focused on a broad overview of project management, or the big picture.  This time, I will look at 2 (“two”) specific models – namely the Stage Gate Project Management Model (as ideally recommended for Information Technology-enabled projects), as set-out by the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, in 2010,[2] and the “DILIGENT” Project Management Model, as sometimes used by S’imprime-ça (Strategic IMPRIME Consulting & Advisory, Inc.).  I will attempt to show how these models follow parallel paths, or can be melded as or into one model.

Background on the Stage Gate Model:

The Office of the Auditor General of Canada had issued a November, 2006 Report that identified 3 (“three”) main reasons that had consistently contributed to the failure of large, IT-enabled projects.  These were (i) “Project conception that results in unwise approaches”; (ii) “Unsupportive project environments that contain barriers to success”; (iii) Project participants who lack the necessary qualifications or experience for IT-enabled projects”.[3]  These reasons are, in my opinion, equally applicable to non-IT-enabled projects;[4] and I addressed these three shortcomings, under different guises, in the September article at: Getting to Landmarks (covering these points i and ii, here), and at Optimizing Outcomes (covering these points ii and iii, here).  Motivation (Indoctrination) also has a key role in avoiding all 3 (“three”) of these shortcomings.

I must here state that I do not agree with overly-rigid analyses or typologies that find one stage finishing before another begins.  Everything overlaps due to the fluid nature of projects, later realizations of the need for changes after work on an element, section, or phase[5] was supposed to have been completed, whether for changed specifications from a project authority, new security requirements or last minute enhancements to intended functionality, unforeseen complications in the task (excess rain or ground that is too hard or too soft and requires shoring or heavier coring), or faults tracked to workmanship or source materials – all “Change Orders.”  This does not even encompass multiple re-writes of (apparently) Final Reports or discrete sections of Final Reports when budgets are depleted, or project staff ready to move-on/just moved, to the next opportunity.

There is always a potential, sometimes high and sometimes low, for major sectional overlap; with one gate half-open whilst another is half-closed! The “project steamship” has no such watertight compartments and so must be guided through the waters with great skill and diligence.

Implementation:

Additional reports and committee work led to the implementation of the Stage Gate model and independent reviews as a way to better and more consistently ensure proper project delivery.  Essentially, then, “[a] gating framework defines points during the life of a project, from the early concept to post-implementation phases, when executive management carefully considers the project status and grants approval to proceed to the next decision point or “gate.”  Early project examination is especially crucial.”[6]  In this way, gatekeepers retain firm project control.  In addition and as stated in the TBS guide: “Project gating is most successful when used hand-in-hand with independent project reviews.  These are critical assessments of a project conducted by experienced and qualified people who are at arm’s length from the project.  A defined gating process clarifies when reviews should be performed and which issues should be examined at those points in time, while still allowing flexibility for ad hoc or “health check” reviews.  Independent reviews are most helpful when they are timed to provide assessment immediately before a decision is required at a project gate, thereby supporting the gating process.”[7]

Essence of the “Stage Gate” Model:

This, then, is the rationale behind the gating process over a Project Life Cycle (PLC) or a Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC), as applicable.[8]  In practice, there are 7 “virtual” such gates,[9] as follows:

Gate 1: (Strategic Assessment, and Concept);

-what is to be done, and why.

Gate 2: (Project approach);

-assessing plan feasibility and its fitness for the task.

Gate 3: (Business Case and general readiness);

-how it is to be done.

Gate 4: (Project Charter/Project Management Plan);

-clarify roles, oversight, approach, deliverables, and solutions for risks.

Gate 5: (Detailed project plan and functional specifications);

-RFP (Request for Proposals) issuance stage; contract award stage.[10]

Gate 6: (Construction, complete, and deployment readiness);

-deployment readiness, pilot deployment, full deployment

Gate 7: (Post-implementation review).[11]

-complete contractual obligations, deliver close-out report, assess lessons learned.

Essence of the “DILIGENT” Model:

The DILIGENT model, for its part, has 8 virtual phases, named by the first letter of the first word, of each line item.  These are:

  1. Determine objectives;
  2. Identify Project actors (both at the project authority and on the project);
  3. List roles;
  4. Impose priorities and timelines;
  5. Gather Team Leaders and meet; assign functions;
  6. Enact the project;
  7. Note and implement changes and adjustments in the above, as needed;
  8. Take stock of lessons learned; report on the project and on those lessons learned.[12]

Parallels:

In the Stage Gate model guide, the description of Gate 5 (Detailed project plan and functional specifications), refers to it as the RFP issuance stage, or the contract award stage.  This may seem odd to some, as appearing late in the sequence of only 7 Gates.  However, DILIGENT can also be read in a similar way, with the second “I” (impose priorities and timelines, or Stage 4 of 8), holding the same status.  In a very large or very complex project, a great deal of time and effort goes into setting the scope of the project, listing deliverables with great specificity, and stating the preferred bidder qualifications (both the mandatory and the desirable).  Once the project authority has received and evaluated the top “responsive” submissions (i.e. that hit all the right points), then they can make a decision based upon price, experience, or some other criteria or formulae.  With minimal additional negotiation needed, team leaders can meet with specific functions to be assigned (under the DILIGENT model) or the construction and installation or piloting of a solution, can commence (under the Stage Gate model), all being subject, of course, to such agreed-upon contractual checks and balances and additional reviews, as applicable.

Meshing:

Going back to the realization that the start and end of a stage on many a project is hardly fixed in time or place, we can meld or “de-conflict” these 2 models as follows.  I will refer to each model by Gate and by letter, for ease of reference and the avoidance of confusion.

The “D” (determine objectives), can actually be said to cover and capture Gates 1, 2, and 3 (Strategic assessment and concept; project approach; and business case and general readiness).

Whilst that first letter progresses, subsequent letters will start to come into play with the first “I” (identify project actors), “L” (list roles), and the second “I” (impose priorities and timelines), being spread-out to cover and capture Gates 3, 4, and 5 (with Gate 4 being the Project Charter/Project Management Plan, and Gate 5 being the Detailed project plan and functional specifications).  As stated under “Parallels”, the work can now begin on a larger or more complex project, at Gate 6 (construction complete and deployment readiness) or letter “G” (gather team leaders and meet; assign functions), as applicable.  In other and smaller or less complex projects, that work towards project deliverables will have already been well underway.

The “G” and “E” (Enact the project) essentially cover and capture Gate 4, 5, and 6.  We here include the Project Charter, Project Plan, and actual construction or deployment so as to account for those Change Orders that can both arise from and impact upon, any and all of these 3 Gates.

Similarly, “E”, “N” (note and implement changes and adjustments in the above, as needed), and “T” (Take stock of lessons learned; report on the project and on those lessons learned), cover and capture Gates 5, 6, and 7 (Post-implementation review).  The letters must all be taken, grouped, and treated together because both “N” and “T” are pertinent to “G” and “E”.

They are also together because of the need for clear, accurate, and consistent project documentation – in Change Orders and their rationales; in original and updated work specifications; in lessons learned; and in the project Final Report.  Where and when project documentation lacks these qualities, some important detail will almost inevitably be missed.

Summary:

Simply put, the Stage Gate model is also the DILIGENT model, and just answers to both names.

The former has been task-built for large IT projects, but retains some flexibility, through lighter variants, for smaller and less complex projects.  The latter, applicable to projects of all sizes, parallels the former, and also specifically allows for the inevitable overlap in project stages as the pace ebbs and flows.  Both are useful, tried and tested, and effective approaches; but a project authority may always mandate one or the other, or any additional model they feel fits the mold.

En tout cas: to each their own!!

***************************************************************************

Author:

Ekundayo George is a sociologist and a lawyer, with experience in business law and counseling, diverse litigation, and regulatory practice.  He is licensed to practice law in Ontario, Canada, as well as in New York, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C., in the United States of America (U.S.A.).  See, for example: http://www.ogalaws.com.  An avid writer, blogger, and reader, Mr. George is a published author in Environmental Law and Policy (National Security aspects).

Mr. George is also an experienced strategic consultant; sourcing, managing, and delivering on large, high stakes, strategic projects with multiple stakeholders, large budgets, and multidisciplinary teams.  See, for example: http://www.simprime-ca.com.

Hyperlinks to external sites are provided to readers of this blog as a courtesy and convenience, only, and no warranty is made or responsibility assumed by either or both of George Law Offices and Strategic IMPRIME Consulting & Advisory, Inc. (“S’imprime-ça”), in whole or in part for their content, or their accuracy, or their availability.

This article does not constitute legal advice or create any lawyer-client relationship.


[1] Ekundayo George. Efficient Project Management: There is an “I” in Team.   September 11, 2011.  Online: >>http://www.pmhut.com/efficient-project-management-there-is-an-i-in-team<<

[2] Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS).  A Guide to Project Gating for IT-Enabled Projects.  2010. Online: >>http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/itp-pti/pog-spg/irp-gpgitep/irp-gpgitep-eng.pdf<<

[3] Id. TBS at page 2.

[4] Supra note 2, TBS at page 4.  “An IT-enabled project is a project that has an IT component that is critical to achieving the intended business outcomes.”  Examples include: (i) implementation or modernization of program delivery; (ii) implementation of systems and databases; and (iii) implementation of internal administrative processes and systems.

[5] Id. TBS at page 6.  “A project phase is a period of time during which a logical grouping of activities will be performed and deliverables completed and approved (deliverables are tangible, verifiable work products).

[6] See supra note 3.

[7] Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS).  A Guide to Project Gating for IT-Enabled Projects, at page 3.  2010. Online: >>http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/itp-pti/pog-spg/irp-gpgitep/irp-gpgitep-eng.pdf<<

[8] Id. at page 8.  Admittedly, a number of recommended best practice caveats accompany the gating process, namely that: (i) projects only be stopped where “there is little or no possibility of attaining intended outcomes with the current course”; and (ii) projects only be interrupted and restarted if “a fundamental change in approach is required”.  In addition, the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat Guide does seemingly attempt to prevent micro-management and artificial delays by stating that “[c]are must be taken to ensure that routine project management decision making is not delayed pending the outcome of formal executive-level gate decision meetings.”

[9] Supra note 7 at page 13.  In addition to the full 7-gate model, an abbreviated version presents 3 gates (Business Case, Pre-Construction, and Post-Implementation); and an intermediate version presents 5 gates (Approach, Business Case, Pre-Construction, Pre-Deployment, and Post-Implementation).

[10] Supra note 7 at page 21.

[11] Supra note 7 at page 11.

[12] Courtesy of Strategic IMPRIME Consulting & Advisory, Inc.  online: >>http://www.simprime-ca.ca; http://www.simprime-ca.com.

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I am thankful that I have always had an inquisitive mind and kept a broad number of interests.  If not, I would have lost the opportunity to take a large number of courses in Business and Organizational Behaviour, Liberal Arts, and the interdisciplinary Technology, Society, Environment Studies (TSES) cluster, at Carleton University.[1]   Many group and individual projects later, and from personal practical experiences applying and revising some of what I learned, I confidently say: there is an “I” in team.

Efficient Project Management:

Everyone on the project, needs to be able to say to themselves “I go!”, and willingly so, as a statement to self of sincere commitment.  This is why efficient project management starts quite some time before the actual project, in order to bring everyone together on this level.  Each letter in that statement to self represents a stage of the process in getting on the team and staying on the team.  The “I” stands for Indoctrination; the “G” stands for Getting to landmarks; and the “O” stands for Optimizing outcomes.  These typologies have their own sub-typologies, and can also be described as: Inspirational leadership options; Good workflow organization; and Optimizing and re-engineering, generally.

To qualify common misconceptions, “I go” is, of course, not written as “ego”; although, the two are closely related because the Latin language question “quiz” meaning “who” or “whom” is answered by “ego”, meaning “I” or “me”.  So it is, that “Ego”, and “I go”, can be and mean the same thing, but only for so long as the “ego” is not ……. over-inflated!

Indoctrination (Inspirational Leadership options).

Indoctrination in this context is nothing insidious.  It just means buying-in to the program or project.  There are a total of 5 (“five”) options, as described and arranged in a “FOCUS” sub-typology, and they can also overlap to a greater or lesser extent.

F-unctions or tasks, denotes a critical or needed skill or ability, and so the bearer of same will be diligently and persistently recruited to join the project or program.

O-pportunity, denotes the ability of the person or persons with something to offer, to see that the project or program could well be their opportunity to shine, and therefore gain a following, spread their names, and build referral or repeat opportunities.  In this case, those potential participants with something to offer will be the ones working hardest to get on the team, as they are, in effect, inspired to lead themselves onto the team.

C-hallenge or crisis, denotes a situation where a challenge has been put out to the general community to address a problem, or the crisis is clear.  In this case, F, O, and other elements of this sub-typology may all come into play, because the situation most perfectly demonstrates the classic Latin “quiz?”, in a call for volunteers or options or suggestions, as defined and described above.

U-tility, denotes that situation where the necessity for the project is clear to all, or to a specific group or community with the requisite knowledge and understanding.  The need for that utility may have come about as a result of a crisis or challenge, or some other confluence of circumstances; and, again, F, O, C, and other elements of this sub-typology may all come into play, in some way.

S-pirit, denotes a spirit of nationalism and patriotism, ethnic or civic responsibility, or loyalty to the employer, that either draws one to volunteer for the group project, or, if already a member, inspires a very high level of dedicated performance.  This single element can be key and a rallying-cry to draw people in, or inspire their best.

Getting to Landmarks (Good Workflow Organization).

Other than “Analytics”, which I will describe in greater detail, below, the project manager must ensure that workflow is properly organized, and the tasks and sub-tasks well-assigned.  There should be deadlines and landmarks to gauge progress and the time taken to complete certain stages of the project.  The specific techniques and technologies used to achieve this will vary by project, industry, and individual project manager, but the general approach lies in a “MUTUAL”; sub-typology, as a way to remind all participants of the mutual benefit in their joint and indivisible success on a group program or project.

M-eeting, first with the initiators of, or critical stakeholders in, the project, is always a necessity – whether in-person or by electronic or virtual means.  In this first meeting or series of meetings, will be discussed the total picture and scope of the project, timelines applicable and resources available, and the tasks and sub-tasks required on the project.  Additional meetings with these initiators and stakeholders, and with the potential and actual project participants, will continue to be held, as the work commences and continues to its completion.

U-pgrades, will be made to the concept or the task as needed.  In line with the “Responsiveness”, that I will explain below, the project manager should not shy-away from asking for additional details, additional or alternative resources including but not limited to personnel, or additional time on a sub-task or main task, if and as needed.

T-asking-out of leadership roles, group members, reporting lines, and job functions by group, should be done in a clear and consistent manner and well-communicated.  Any and all changes should be timely communicated not just to those members of the group or team immediately impacted, but to all other members on the project who may need to know.  It is, of course, always preferable to avoid inundating team members with a steady stream of “noise”, which is information that is not immediately applicable or useful to them in their specific work.  For this reason, a notice board or bulletin-board system, where project updates are indexed by category and posted for all, would likely be the best, most efficient, and most convenient way to get this done.

U-nderstanding all deadlines, reporting lines, protocols and procedures in-depth and with clear and unequivocal certainty, is essential for the project manager and all managerial and supervisory staff.  If they are unclear on these, then their guidance of their subordinates will, likewise, be neither clear nor consistent, and mismatches and miscommunications may very soon ensue, and mount to the point of faults and failures.  Management must meet on a regular basis to ensure that everyone is on the same page, and has a consistent understanding of what needs to be consistently understood.  If and where there is disagreement or uncertainty or inconsistency that cannot be settled with the documents and specifications on hand or otherwise be reconciled, and which therefore needs ultimate clarification from higher up, then the project manager should take the lead and seek-out clarification on the issue from the initiators and stakeholders.

A-cknowledging and adapting to bottlenecks, is also a critical management function.  Issues and bumps on the delivery road will arise, to which management must take leadership in addressing, to ensure they are addressed in a way that is in accordance with best practices, specifications on the project, and applicable law.  An inconsistent approach to the same issue by different teams or task-groups, can lead to problems and arguments when notes are compared or personnel shared across the teams.

L-essons learned, is just that – learning from the experience, and any challenges or mistakes that arose in relation to it.  There should be a means for gathering and monitoring a central database of issues, problems and bottlenecks on the project, as well as the suggested or tried and tested means to address them, that is accessible to management across the project at an appropriate level for consultation, information input, discussion and debate, and urgent alerts.  The project manager for his or her own benefit, and for the benefit of the initiators or critical stakeholders, should be able to review progress and performance on the project throughout its lifespan, and re-design outdated or inefficient protocols and procedures, techniques and technologies, as the need arises.

Optimizing Outcomes (Optimizing and Re-engineering, generally).

The output of the various participants and the final results attained, cannot be or remain at their best if care is not taken along the way to engage in active management.  You cannot just start people off, point them in the general direction of your goals, and leave them to muddle their way through, somehow.  Good management is active management that knows when and how far to get into the micro-details; but on a sparing basis.  If the people you selected cannot manage the details, then you made an initial error in their selection that may or may not be too late to change.  If you build problems or poor performance into the formula from the outset, then you will be plagued by problems and poor performance throughout.  Starting correctly is always preferable to the project manager taking-on more work in quietly and shamefully opting to fix the problems of others and re-do their shoddy work in-house, time and again, and so not having time to do the main job of managing.  The wiser option would be to get a competent replacement.  Being, and spreading the need to be and to work, “SMART”, is the sub-typology, here.

S-haring, denotes a sharing and spreading of best practices, feedback, and available resources that are or may be useful to the task.  Of course, in a complex project or one with Law Enforcement and National Security (LENS) ramifications, information and specific elements of the project may be compartmentalized or have sharing and other restrictions imposed, in which case those requirements will take precedence and tend to make the need to get the right people emplaced on the first attempt, even more critical.

M-utual respect, denotes the need for all participants to have the requisite level of maturity and professionalism to be able to get along and focus on the project.  There should be a preference for low tones of address, low tempers throughout, and a high level of tolerance for slow learners to the extent that the project can tolerate them, unexpected delays, and bottlenecks.  Blazing tempers lead to distractions, and hotheads tend to be avoided, marginalized, and not get that level of support and information and cooperation that they need to get the job done right the first time, and then every time.

A-nalytics, denotes the proper use of scenarios and modeling, and ongoing reporting and quality controls, that lets everyone know what is right, what is wrong, and how to get it fixed.  There will inevitably be changes in the materials or the work, or the scope of the work.  In addition proper interviewing techniques and background checks will tend to weed-out the unsuitable or under-qualified or ill-adjusted, and quality controls in product and material inputs, will avoid many a failure and mismatch.

R-esponsiveness, denotes acting and reacting with alacrity to the above; whether something is uncovered by the analytics, or if either or both of sharing and mutual respect need some work in terms of a situation or a participant.  The project manager must always and quickly respond to needs, queries, and challenges as and when they arise; failing which, members of the team may resort to self-help or use their “initiative” in an unstructured and uncoordinated, and potentially counterproductive way in relation to a mission-critical requirement, system, or subsystem.  Sometimes, a discrete failure leads to a cascading failure in multiple systems or areas, and the project can be set back or cancelled in its entirety, if the cost or time for recovery or restart cannot be justified in terms of budgets, human and material resources, or the exigent situation.

T-eamwork, denotes an obvious and much touted, but often woefully neglected essential element.

(i) There must be unity of command, in a set chain of authority, including alternates per shift and per function, in times of unavailability, and for emergencies, also.

(ii) There must be unity of effort, and coordination amongst sub-disciplines, sub-units, and back office functions.  An overall board or coordinating group is inevitable for any larger project or program put together without a designed-in defect or obsolescence.

(iii) There must also be unity of outcome, in that all discrete element team-members must want the same tactical end-results; all members of management must be oriented-on the same optimal operational outcomes; and every person on the project must be strictly focused on the same mutually-beneficial, strategic goal of its overall success.

Summary:

Quiz?

Author:

Ekundayo George is a Lawyer and Strategic Consultant.  He is a published author in Environmental Law and Policy; licensed to practice law in multiple states of the United States of America, as well as Ontario, Canada; and has over a decade of solid legal experience in business law and counseling, diverse litigation, and regulatory practice.

Hyperlinks to external sites are provided as a courtesy and convenience, only, and no warranty is made or responsibility assumed for their content, accuracy, or availability.

This article does not constitute legal advice or create any lawyer-client relationship.


[1] The Technology, Society Environment Studies (TSES) cluster at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, is a collection of multidisciplinary and multi-focal courses addressing the highly complex interplay and increasing diversity of challenges and opportunities brought and wrought by these three elements; with a focus on addressing them by tailoring education to our projected future needs http://www2.carleton.ca/tse/

*This article has also been re-printed under “Best Practices”, on the site of The Project Management Hut, as available at:  http://www.pmhut.com/efficient-project-management-there-is-an-i-in-team

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