PM4DEV Blog

Ideas, suggestions and general thoughts about project management for development.

The Challenges of Development Projects

Development projects operate in challenging environments, where uncertainties about the future increase the risk to the project. Managers need to deal with extremely complex social, economic, and political factors that affect the delivery of goods and services. Development projects are implemented in some of the most remote and difficult locations in the world; additionally, projects operate in areas of high personal risk and high security threats to project staff. The lack of proper infrastructure, limited resources, and a changing environment put a strain on project managers who need to deliver the project outcomes. The constant changes in the social, economic, political, and natural environment; force many projects to change its original plans; in fact, project plans are built on many assumptions that eventually are challenged by the changes in the environment. Changes in the environment are not always reflected in the original design, which causes projects to miss significantly its ultimate objectives; this is why it is not uncommon to find a project that has delivered all its expected outputs but has failed significantly in reaching its objectives. From extensive observation and experimentation through working with development agencies for years, we have seen the following weaknesses in development projects:

  • Poor project planning
  • Inadequate management skills
  • Lack of accountability
  • Lack of stakeholder involvement
  • Unrealistic plans
  • No measure to evaluate quality
  • Poor, inconsistent project management discipline
  • Duplication of efforts
  • Poor risk management strategies
  • Unmotivated project staff

Development organizations can benefit from a standardized approach to deliver their projects not only on time and within budget but in the quality expectations of the stakeholders. Project management processes and techniques are used to coordinate resources to achieve predictable results. The value proposition for project management results by implementing a common set of project management processes, competencies and tools. The value of project management to development organization includes:

  • Better expectation-setting through up-front estimating, planning, and project definition.
  • Faster execution through the reuse of common processes and templates.
  • Fewer project problems encountered when utilizing proactive project management processes.
  • Better organizational decision making through more effective project communication.
  • Higher donor/beneficiary satisfaction and less rework by delivering a higher quality outputs the first time.

Project management provides a proven methodology to accurately and efficiently complete projects of any size and complexity. The detailed planning provides a realistic plan that helps manage risks before they occur and reduce costly changes late in the project. Benefits occur only when organizations consistently apply standard methodologies and principles on all projects.

 

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Who is Responsible for Project Quality?

In general, the project manager has overall responsibility for the quality management process. Some projects may also have specific roles for a quality assurance person or quality experts.

Even if the project has specific people with responsibilities for quality, project quality is not the responsibility of one or two people. It is everyone's responsibility. All the team members, including the stakeholders, have a role in ensuring that the deliverables produced are of high quality. Everyone is also responsible for surfacing ideas for improvement to the processes used to create the project deliverables. Some projects may also have specific roles for a quality assurance person or quality experts.

  • The project manager– Responsible for developing the quality management process and for ensuring that all the goods and services are delivered as they were designed.
  • Team members- Responsible for quality assurance and quality control for each of the tasks and activities they are assigned to complete. They are also responsible for ensuring all the quality standards are followed as designed.
  • The Organization- Responsible for standardizing quality controls and standards across all projects, responsible for ensuring all staff have the skills to deliver quality products and services.
  • Stakeholders– Responsible for communicating their expectations of quality product and services to the project and the organization, and responsible for accepting and approving the delivery of all goods and services

 

Quality is Not an Event

For Quality management to be effective, the team needs to adopt a continuous quality mindset. Team members need to take ownership of the deliverables they produce and ensure that all project deliverables are developed with quality when they are first created.  Team members must realize that a quality process allows the entire project team to produce quality deliverables, with a minimal amount of errors and rework.

Project quality starts with planning, but the implementation of quality must be carried out throughout the project. A holistic  approach to quality will include the following items.

  • Quality Definition, determining the quality standards for the project.
  • Quality Assurance, ensuring that quality is built into every element of the project.
  • Quality Control, monitoring and auditing quality.
  • Quality Improvements, making improvements to the project that will increase quality levels.

The project manager leads the quality management process from start to end and ensures that all parties involved have a good understand of the quality standards that will be used in the project. All quality management processes should be agreed and communicated to all participants.

An important strategy for quality management is to develop and foster a quality culture, by encouraging the belief that the right level of quality is more important than delivering the project under cost and under schedule. Everyone that participates in the project has a role to play in delivering quality results.

 
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