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Table of Contents

NON-STANDARDISATION OF PROJECT MANAGEMENT PROCESSES: A CASE STUDY OF ERICSSON SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA - Part 14

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4.6 SUMMARY

In summary of all data gathered and analysed, a few areas of improvement were identified. Jedd (2005:64) (citing Miller 2005) is of the opinion that: “The first step is to identify what needs improvement and the value that will be received through improvement”. Using the critical incident technique, as well as positivistic auditing, it is possible to identify such areas that require improvement.

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Improvement areas are listed as:

  • Alignment and standardisation of Project Offices across the market unit as detailed in the following:
    • Process clarity and expectations need more emphasis, more so in Nigeria.
    • Announcing any changes to existing processes.
    • Hosting a TG4 meeting and creating a Project Specification in the Nigerian Project Office.
    • Receiving an Assignment Specification from the pre-sales team in the South African Project Office.
    • Need more PMP® certified Project Managers.
    • Need more Ericsson EPM and SPM certified Project Managers in the NRO and SI domains.
    • Formal handover from pre-sales to execution.
    • SOX key controls CC9.6.1.1, CC9.8.1.1.
    • Financial Analysis report.


In continuation, Jedd (2005:64) (citing Miller, 2005) says that: “Maturity assessment is an inexact science, but one where gains translate to the bottom line.” Linking into the thought of inexact science is human capital, international challenges in the form of culture, as well as individualism. “We’re a knowledge-intensive organisation, our human capital is our greatest asset. The processes and technology are the means that enable skilled, experienced people to drive a global business.” (Montillet, 2005) cited by (Jedd, 2005:65). In an international setting, such as the one described in this research Walker, D., Walker, T. and Schmitz (2003:28) state that: “Today’s globalising organisations have found that the ability to collaborate, establish relationships, and produce results across social, cultural, and geographic distances is central to success in the new marketplace.”

The discussion that follows will address the improvement areas as listed in this summary section.

Addressing virtual teams would contribute towards improving alignment, clarity and expectations, as well as communication. Bouley (2006:24) (citing Pennypacker, 2006) elaborates on this point in saying that: “A number of research studies have shown that one of the key success factors – maybe the number one success factor – in being able to lead project teams is the ability to build trust among team members and among stakeholders. That’s important in every team and project, but it gets more difficult with more complex teams, particularly virtual teams where there isn’t necessarily face-to-face interaction. You have to work harder at building trust.” It seems fitting to make use of some of the more salient aspects as part of an emergent approach to strategic change. “…strategic change activities may include identifying supporters, attempting to change opposition views and building the maximum consensus for the new proposals” (Lynch, 2003:788).

It seems apt to identify a change model in support of the research question, which reads:

‘What is required to standardise project management processes within disjointed Project Offices in sub-Saharan Africa to optimise project efficiency?’

After careful consideration, it appears that Pettigrew and Whipp (1991 − cited in Lynch:779) have a model that can be utilised in order to achieve strategic change with an emergent approach. The Five Factors theory is briefly described in order to demonstrate its application related to the areas of improvement identified in this chapter. The model is described verbatim as presented by Lynch (2003:777-779):

  1. Environmental assessment. This should not be regarded as a separate study but a separate function. All parts of the organisation should be constantly assessing the competition. Strategy creation emerges constantly from this process.
  • The Central Functions team is identified as the change agents within the organisation. They are responsible to determine improvement projects, standardisation, as well as leading the organisation to become more mature. New process models are created in the head office in Sweden, which need to be shaped into workable solutions for this market unit.
    • Delivering a high level justification and proposal to senior management pertaining to the reason and value-add of the project form part of the planning activities.
    • Alliances are formed with key stakeholders and purposeful networks constructed across borders in order to affect buy-in and support.
    • Planning of key activities in a logical manner, as well as the marketing of such ideas are crucial starting points in order to prepare the organisation for alignment.
  1. Leading change. The type of leadership can only be assessed by reference to the particular circumstances of the organisation. There are no universal ‘good leaders’. The best leaders are always constrained by the actual situation of the firm. They are often most effective when they move the organisation forward at a comfortable, if not challenging, pace: bold actions may be counterproductive.
  • Senior management buy-in and support is crucial for this alignment project. Openly announcing such support and senior management acknowledging such in everything they do is needed in order to create the critical mass for change within senior management.
    • By sending out questionnaires to all participants affected by non-standardisation, it is possible to build a receptive context for change.
    • Detail steps to be taken in order for alignment to occur in easy-to-follow steps. Divide large concepts into smaller, more manageable ones that are easy to grasp and implement.
    • Small and regular wins speak louder than words.
    • Announce progress and successes on a regular basis.
    • Follow up with regular audits and publish results, while linking it back to value added items identified.
  1. Linking strategic and operational change. This may be partly prescriptive in the sense of a specific strategy for the organisation – ‘This is my decision.’ It may also be partly emergent in that the strategy may allow for evolution over time – ‘But naturally our new strategy will evolve as we implement it.’
  • Change is often met with: “…but this is the way that I have always done it.” Justifying the need for change will support and shed some light on why the changes in terms of alignment are being implemented. If everything else fails, it will be required to follow a more prescriptive approach.
    • A stronger case can be built by linking alignment efforts back to the organisation’s vision, values and business direction.
    • The Central Functions team is appointed as the driver for this project. Identifying change managers within relevant structures and setting exacting targets is a way in which sub-projects can be created. This aids in the accomplishment of an overall alignment program.
    • Think out-of-the-box and deploy creative ways, in which to communicate the plans to be achieved, as well as progress made to date.
    • Reward team members or teams when they achieve a positive result. Monetary rewards are not always possible; therefore, announcing their positive contribution not only within the unit, but also within Ericsson should be done.
    • Prioritise alignment initiatives. This will create the opportunity to set up a local negotiation climate for targets with lower prioritised initiatives as part of a bigger whole.
    • Not all targets and application of certain targets can be applied equally. Modification of some of the original visions might be needed in light of local context.
    • Change is only as effective as the monitoring and adjustment that we do. Internal audits and questionnaires are valuable tools.

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  1. Strategic human resource management – human resources as assets and liabilities. These resources constitute the knowledge, skills and attitudes of the organisation in total. Crucially, some people are better than others at managing people. It is a skill acquired over time and needing a learning approach. Long-term learning is essential for the organisation to develop its full potential.
  • Reach out to Line Managers in order for them to identify individuals who have natural talents with influencing other people.
    • If it is found that a certain area has more ‘natural influencers’ than another area, it might be necessary to strategically place these influencers.
    • Facts and figures drive home the need for business and people change. Obtain accurate data in order to do so.
    • Break the monotony, set up ad hoc, cumulative, supportive activities at various levels.
    • Improvement of scores when the global team performs their annual audits as per each process area is an example of mobilising external influences.
    • Devolution of line is needed in order to give power to the people. When someone feels that he has the ability to influence and be part of something great, he is more inclined to participate.
  1. Coherence in the management of change. This is the most complex of the five factors. It attempts to combine the four above into a consistent whole and reinforce it by a set of four complementary support mechanisms:
  • Consistency is a key factor in affecting change, be aware of contradictions. Change in itself is very confusing for the recipients who are affected by the change.
    • Alignment of processes, as well as the elimination of processes that do not work well, should add value to the organisation and work well within the area where it is implemented.
    • What are the advantages of eradicating non-standardisation? Is everyone really clear on this? Communicate clearly and concisely.
    • Money makes the world go round and, therefore, feasibility of these initiatives needs to form part of the initial scope and proposal development towards the executives. It is for this reason that this model is selected.
    • The Manager within the Central Functions team is appointed as the leader of all these initiatives. Though decentralised teams are established, all decisions and directions need to be in alignment with the leader’s goals.
    • Though senior management buy-in is vital to the success of any change initiative, the integrity of the senior management team is equally important.
    • If the intension of a particular change is to minimise the amount of steps in a process, then its implementation should reflect the same.
    • Creating a knowledge base that participants can frequent for information is needed.
    • Inter-organisational coherence is achieved when the goals of each initiative are clearly laid out and understood. Regular monitoring should take place to ensure that alignment is still being achieved.
    • It is not a good idea to make bold changes, therefore, managing a series of inter-related changes over time will yield more success.

Note that five factors relate to the whole strategy development process, not just to the implementation one. Overall, the organisation needs to be able to develop a balanced approach to change that is both focused and efficient internally, while adapting successfully to external changes. To assist this process, the researchers included two additional components for each factor:

  • The primary conditioning features.
  • The secondary actions and mechanisms that can only come into effect once the primary conditioning features are present.

In Figure 4.11 characteristics are listed that depict five factors as described. A multitude of these factors appear in recommendations made within the ambit of this research. It is clear that an emergent approach is best suited in order to work together to eradicate non-standardisation of project management processes. The cost to the organisation to implement this specific model is not very high, as it is created and implemented over an extended period of time.

Figure 4.11: Characteristics of five central factors (Source: Pettigrew, A. and Whipp, R., Managing Change for Competitive Success, 1991).

The areas of improvement identified can be grouped into four main focus areas:

  • Communication.
  • Process.
  • Maturity.
  • Financial.

Clarifying the content and purpose of processes, expectations related to each, as well as clear communication on any changes to existing processes or the creation of new ones, can be achieved in a couple of simple steps. Online collaboration pages are very flexible and easy to use tools in order to improve communication to virtual teams. By creating a section dedicated to processes only, the Project Office participant can easily find information pertaining to all processes related to the Project Office. Adding a caption or ‘call out’ which is highlighted in red next to any changes and/or updates will aid in quick identification of changes when someone scans over the page. Monthly electronic news letters can also be used in order to highlight any change and/or update to processes pertaining to the Project Office. Monthly knowledge sharing sessions in the form of a one hour conference call is a very effective manner, in which to supply summaries on updates. Steps taken in accordance with the ‘Five Factor’ model can also be stated in this manner in order to illustrate progress, as well as identify the next planned activities to be implemented. These are some steps that can be taken in order to improve communication.

When new models are implemented in the organisation such as PEMA or new employees join the Project Office, for whom all processes will be a new concept, it appears that more emphasis is needed on training of such processes. For new employees, the attendance of the Project Office on-boarding sessions should be seen as mandatory prior to them being assigned to a project. On-boarding sessions span over 2 days and the new employee is guided through a series of hands on sessions that pertain to all processes related to the Project Office, as well as all tools to be used. ‘Road show’ type training sessions are needed when a new model is introduced to the organisation as a whole. It is important for individuals to understand how the new process links into their daily tasks. If the new model has an overlap of any other models implemented, it should be highlighted and explained in detail. In the areas of improvement it appears that the majority of items related to process pertain to activities that need to occur at TG2. This is the point in time when the pre-sales team hands over the project scope, budget and time plan to the Project Manager for execution. These activities form such a crucial part of project success that a red flag is raised at this point in time. As described in factor 3 of the ‘Five Factor’ model, a more prescriptive approach might be required in order to remedy this area of improvement.

Certification of a Project Manager can only be done when that individual is ready. ‘Being ready’ means that the individual has passed a series of preparatory questions and pre-certification criteria. Included in this criterion is a section that pertains to process adherence. It is obvious why it is not possible to send more Project Managers for certification, based on the process adherence audit results reflected within the ambit of this research.

The final area of improvement pertains to financials. Project Managers need to be educated in order to stress the importance, as well as the severe impacts on the organisation if it is found to be non-compliant in terms of SOX key controls. It is recommended that the weight assigned to all financial measurements should be higher.

In order to achieve alignment, some strong key stakeholders who already perform well in terms of compliance can be requested to rally for the ‘cause’. Perhaps some one-on-one sessions are needed with individuals who consistently perform poorly. Internal audits work well and seem to be a very effective tool that reflects reality.

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In the introduction to this chapter it is mentioned that ‘best practice’ will be identified. Though some of the projects reflect a perfect score, the sampling is too small to be considered as the best practice. This chapter reflects the results and behaviours of Project Managers in different Project Offices. A comparison is made between the Nigerian and South African Project Office practices with results gleaned from primary and secondary data. This chapter reflects the ‘as-is’ position, whereas chapter 2 reflects the ‘to-be’ position.

In the next and final chapter of this research, a summary is made of the research, some conclusions are drawn and recommendations are made, which can be implemented in the organisation in order to eradicate non-standardisation of project management processes impacting successful project execution.

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