Project management must become an integral element of corporate culture

21 april 2017

"Project management is today being mentioned time and again as a kind of a refrain throughout the entire Krasnoyarsk Economic forum, even during the public governance session the participants periodically talked about project management issues," said the Head of the Analytical Center Konstantin Noskov, as he opened the Improving the Effectiveness of Project Management in Public Governance Session.

The session was held at the 14th Krasnoyarsk Economic Forum "Russian Economy: 2018-2024 Agenda." Instead of once again regurgitating the theoretical benefits of the project management approach, which have been obvious for quite some time now, its participants focused on ways to help introduce project management into the day-to-day running of public organizations both in the federal centers and in the regions.

"It is those who want to get results and achieve their targets that are most interested in using the project management approach," Andrey Slepnev, Deputy Head of the Administration of the Russian Government and Head of the Project Management Department of the Russian Government, noted in his presentation. The main question being asked by public officials is what is the difference between project management mechanisms and the standard planning and monitoring based approach that calls for setting targets and then tracking their achievement? Mr. Slepnev enumerated what he views as the main features that set the project management approach apart. These are systems based target setting, establishment of project teams, abandonment of level-based directives, and, most importantly, prioritization of spending implemented in practice, which results in the emergence of new principles of budget financing.

Top management formulates a development strategy, and then projects must be selected that need clear rating mechanisms, Mr. Slepnev explained. But the main area where difficulties are being encountered today is the formulation of project ideas, without which initiatives can hardly be implemented. In addition, people participating in project management need to learn to tell others about their work, so another relevant task today is that of selecting and disseminating the best project promotion practices.

Mr. Slepnev noted some of the successes that have become obvious after six months of hard work: when there is consistent movement towards a clearly defined goal people can see tangible results of their efforts, hitting all control points on time improves discipline, the process of interdepartmental coordination is being optimized, a core of people with solid project thinking are emerging. Of course there are issues that need further work: the strategic goals need to be updated, team work skills need improvement, and better methods are needed to estimate KPIs. "The project management approach keeps going strong and gaining in popularity, even though it has not yet become an integral element of our culture," Mr. Slepnev said answering a question about his overall impression of how much progress has been made with regards to introducing project management mechanisms.

Project management is a discipline that people need to learn. Oleg Bilev, The Head of the Project Management Center at the Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, believes that it is not just professional (technical) skills that are important, but the personal competencies of the people taking part in project management as well. It is on this basis and with international experience taken into account that the standard is now being developed that is going to be used in Russia.

The project management approach requires long term planning, according to Marat Atnashev, Provost of the Skolkovo Moscow School of Management. "It is not enough to just formulate what the project is, you also need to find someone who wants to implement it and who will be really trying hard to perform all the tasks and achieve all the goals," the expert believes. It is also important that the candidate not only is skilled in project management but also has competencies in the subject area that the project is about. The other participants in the discussion also talked about the "project spirit" as a necessary element of the system.

"If you take your typical organizational plan, break it down into 5 key tasks and then try and assign them to specific goals, most organizations will not be able to achieve anything because organizational plans describe the process rather than the result," said Azer Talybov, Deputy Minister for Economic Development of Russia. Efforts must be made to improve internal efficiency and project management must become part and parcel of the corporate culture. But nothing will happen if the head of the organization does not believe in the project management method.

Deputy Minister for Industry and Trade of Russia Vasiliy Osmakov also agrees that project management can only work if the project participants are personally interested in making it work. "It is vital that employees are on board with the project management process," Mr. Osmakov believes. "If the manager has an interesting idea, they should be able to take it to their boss and get financing for it. It is also important that successful members of the project team get performance bonuses."