Project Management: Old Habits Die Hard

As a project management consultant, one of the first things I need to assess is what an organization’s current methodology for conducting a project looks like.  I then follow this by observing the interaction of the team and how they engage with one another.

Too often organizations develop bad practices under the guise that ‘it works for us’ and ignore the fact that there is a culture in the business, or among departments, that is unhealthy. As a result, projects drag on, missing deadlines and costing the company more than projected.

How can one break away from a bad habit?

When a bad habit forms in a business system and process, it is usually due to the principle of the system and process not being understood. This then morphs into poor practice; everyone goes along with it as it makes sense or because that’s how they want it / have got used to it.

The first step is to get everyone to understand the principle behind that system and process. Then slowly introduce the practice which has been proven to be more successful than the bad habit that is currently in use. This usually requires a trial window and focus group. Like any new habit, this may take time to catch on and be accepted. Once it does, then one can start to address the process to replace a different poor practice.

One of the key elements in this exercise is that as a consultant, I cannot be fully leading the change. For any set of changes, I need to find a director or stakeholder to take ownership of this trial period and be the force behind wanting this change. If I don’t have a leader from within the organization, it will either be very difficult to make this change or impossible.

Create synergy among your project team.

For me, the key to any project team is creating and sustaining that relationship. There are a number of ways this can be accomplished:

  • The first step is to introduce team-building exercises prior to starting a project, regardless of whether they work together already.
  • Break them down into smaller groups to do both work-relationship and work-related exercises
  • Taking them out for breakfast or lunch where they are themself and connect
  • Put them together to discuss the details of the project and why this project is important to the organisation, review the scope, what the deliverable will be and how the project plan is laid out.
  • Buy into the conversations and understand the importance of reaching those deadlines
  • During this time, encourage and acknowledge their input and let them know they are valued

When organizations go through these exercises, they will find that the project team is more in sync with the project and that the team follows the plan and meets those targeted deadlines.

When it comes to a successful project, it boils down to understanding the principles and practices of project management and ensuring that they are implanted as well as adapted well to every organization. Yet, this will always fall short if the team culture is poor. It is therefore vital to develop the right atmosphere and encourage relationship building with your team to see your project succeed.


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