Planning a project can be a complex task. It can also produce reams and reams of paper. Unfortunately, producing too much paper can have several bad effects. Most importantly long project plans are not read and therefore aren’t checked for reasonableness. Long project plans also give the project team an excuse or opportunity to engage in responsibility avoidance.
So how do you limit the amount of time and effort in planning a project?
One of the answers is to document as many of the processes as possible prior to the project plan. Rather than engage in customizing all processes involved, the project can focus on those processes that are unique to the product. These standardized processes can also be incrementally improved. Effectively, by using standardized processes you can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of both the processes and the overall project plan.
But which processes should be standardized?
In this article, I’m going to describe the five processes which should be standard for all projects. These are common to all projects. However, they all have some variations. You project plans need to account for these variations. The five standard processes are:
1. Change management processes
2. Risk administration processes
3. People procurement processes
4. Materials procurement processes
5. Human Resource policies
Change management processes are the processes which allow a project manager to control changes to the scope of the project. This includes such functions as submitting, recording, approving and planning for the effect of changes to the project. It also includes such elements as change approval limits. These latter however, will typically be modified from project to project. As a result, the standardized processes may be very generic in nature.
Just as a project manager can uniformly administer change, risk management can also be administered the same way for all projects. Unlike change, however, this does not extend to the actual management of risk related items. The actual management will vary from project to project. However, such tasks as who to advise on risk event occurrence and identification of new risk events can be standardized.
People accomplish projects. Those people will not always be available. In most cases, even if they are available within the organization, they will need to be assigned to the project. Being able to identify, recruit, and assign people to tasks is typically determined across the organization. So it makes sense to document a common process for all projects. Note, however, that while this process may be similar to the organization’s regular hiring processes, it will most likely have a number of differences.
Not all projects need to purchase materials. However, many projects do need to acquire the use of materials available within the organization. The process to acquire these materials can be standardized across the organization. It makes sense therefore to document a common process for all projects.
There is little justification for treating project teams differently from regular employees and contractors. And many reasons not to. Rather than creating a separate set of policies and procedures for managing people a common human resources procedures and policies document should be used.