Management: Moving Project Management to the Next Level of Performance
- Dutch Holland (Holland & Davis LLC) | Gary Skarke (Holland & Davis LLC)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- April 2006
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 54 - 58
- 2006. Copyright is retained by the author. This document is distributed by SPE with the permission of the author. Contact the author for permission to use material from this document.
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What an extraordinary opportunity to see how conventional management thinking actually plays out in the real world. In 2005, a professional development event “packed the house” with 300 highly experienced senior project managers in the global oil and gas industry. No rookies with outlandish expectations or unrealistic goals while learning their craft occupied these seats. Just the opposite. These were skilled professionals at the hub of projects sometimes costing as much as the gross domestic product of a small developing nation.
If this sounds like a gathering of corporate happy campers engaged in rounds of back-patting, hold that thought. Lean back and digest what they said in a questionnaire about their profession’s status within their energy company. Were they in tune with conventional management thinking or not?
Biggest Project-Management Challenges
On its face, the formal-sounding project management (PM) name would seem no more controversial than a business leader saying, “Business is a good thing.” However, PM’s history has been bumpier than a back country road, especially in the oil industry, which, ironically, thrives on policies, procedures, and protocol.
Consider questionnaire results about the greatest challenge faced by project managers in their oil industry organizations, in order of most frequent response:
- Getting PM recognized as a core work process. That includes differentiating PM from daily line management. That includes the reality that at most companies, supply chain, accounting, and procurement are typically viewed as formalized work processes that demand strict compliance. Why isn’t project management viewed this way, too?
- Companywide adoption of standardized templates/approaches for conducting PM. More typically, different regions of the same company use different PM approaches, making global projects difficult to manage. These big projects are hard enough without having to squabble over whose template is best.
- Invest in PM. Commit to PM, then put teeth into the commitment. Hire experienced project managers, hire enough of them, provide comprehensive training and development, provide cross-training for managers outside PM, and encourage certification/support of the PM organization. Significantly, PM tools (such as software) were not an expressed concern.
- Acute time pressure to make PM work. And these were only the top complaints, with many other noteworthy ones including too many projects but too little time; little or no upper management acceptance; lack of consistency or templates; focus on company earnings forcing shortsightedness in project planning; being expected to perform magic with few or no resources, poor executive understanding, or undercommitment; and the overwhelming need to get the word out that PM is important.
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