Company growth at a small Federal contractor was driven by an increasing number of awarded contracts. Over a 5-year period, the company went from having about 10 concurrent projects at any given time to more than 30, a jump that required additional project managers. Rather than hiring experienced project managers, the company assigned the role to researchers and analysts – both those with no management experience, or to individuals that had some experience but came from other companies and sectors that had widely different management strategies. The company started experiencing missed deadlines, cost overruns, and quality issues due to a lack of a project management infrastructure.
The company had no defined responsibilities or expectations for the role of project managers, nor did they have formal processes or tools in place to ensure consistent project management practices across projects. There was also no system to provide project managers with the training or ongoing support and resources necessary to ensure all projects were conducted according to plan and in keeping with quality standards.
Since there was great variation in the type of contracts won and the nature of the work required under them, the company needed to develop a process that was flexible enough to accommodate various contract types, client requirements, and project teams.
I assembled a group of experienced project managers who had been with the company for varying amounts of time. Together, we developed a curriculum of project management basics and helpful practices with variations for different kinds of contracts. I incorporated key principles from my Project Management Professional (PMP) training, customized to the size and needs of the company. We also developed a number of templates and resources for project managers to use. Specific topics covered in the training included:
- how to read and understand a contract and gather project requirements
- how to define roles and manage performance of project team members
- how to develop and manage the project schedule
- how to manage scope and budget
- techniques for basic risk management
- the fundamentals of communication with clients, subcontractors, partners, and other key stakeholders
- processes for documenting decisions
The experienced project managers and I conducted individual and group trainings to introduce basic project management concepts to all project personnel. Project managers, and those who aspired to become project managers, received more intensive training on the responsibilities, templates, and resources. As a result, overall project management throughout the company improved, resulting in a marked decrease in quality issues, including fewer missed deadlines and a decrease in cost overruns.