Focusing on project delivery

Project Management

This is the third in a series of blogs looking at the concept of business management in the people function and this week we’ll be looking at project delivery.  If you missed the first two blogs we talked about the overall principle, including a look at finance. Last week we focused on strategy and planning.

So, what is project delivery and when should we use it?

The simplest definition we’ve seen is that a project is ‘a piece of planned work or an activity that is finished over a period of time and intended to achieve a particular purpose’. For most activity that’s probably a good definition. However, projects delivering technology will be more complex. In this instance the Association of Project Management definition is probably more suitable. Which ever definition applies, it’s the concept of using a project approach that will support successful delivery of your people strategy.

Ideally, every time you introduce something new or make a change, applying basic project thinking will help. This can be for changes to people policies, processes, technology or services. Reflecting back on our last blog we talked about the planning required post strategy development. The plan should be made up of individual projects that will deliver the changes you’ve committed to. Even if you don’t have a defined strategy, when you’re making a change its good practice to apply some basic project thinking. We’ve all seen badly implemented change, avoiding this will make a big difference to the teams credibility.

In the rest of this blog we will focus on using basic project thinking, reporting and controls. This approach should be suitable for anyone in the people function to use. When deploying technology or a big service change the resource will need more technical project skills.

So, what do we mean by using basic project delivery thinking?

So, thinking back to the definition of a project, the key words to consider are work or activity, time and purpose. Delivering any changes with those three considerations taken into account will likely increase the chances of success. Now, taking each one in turn, but actually starting with the purpose first!

Agree the Purpose

Knowing the purpose will be will help define what you need to actually change or introduce i.e. a new employee benefit is being introduced to aid retention. The outcome should link directly back to the agreed people strategy. It may also be a change driven by legislation, a risk or audit finding, a service failure or organisational request. Understanding what success looks like will allow it to be measured i.e, reduced labour turnover.

Outcomes and Change

Define the Work or Activity required

Now define the work and activities required to make that change i.e. research, develop solution, identify supplier, sign off, communicate etc. The amount of activity will be determined by the size and complexity of the change i.e. amending a policy may only require 2 or 3 activities to be completed. However, implementing a new employee benefit opinion will require significantly more. Understanding the work and activity will also help with determining the resources needed to support, both people and financial.

Planning the Time required

Having defined the work and activity, it’s then a case of working out how long each will take to deliver. The simplest way to do this is break down more complex or longer activity into small achievable steps. Estimate how long each step will take and bring these together to indicate a rough timeline for that activity. When combined together these should give a view of the end to end time required


What else could be in place alongside the basics?

Having basic project disciplines in place is great start and should support successful plan delivery. However, if you have a sizeable people function and/or lots of change going on then setting up a basic project management office (PMO) can be helpful. So, what would a basic PMO provide?

  • Support. Training and coaching support to the team will help delivery.
  • Tracking and monitoring. Tracking each project will allow timely changes for those that deliver early or start to slip.
  • Resource management. Engaging with finance on budgets so that they reflect requirements and that benefit delivery is tracked.
  • Templates & tools. Effective use of organisational material or the creation of specific tools for use in the function and keeping them simple!
  • Reporting. Providing insight and reports to the leadership team on progress, budgets, risks and issues.

One additional area to consider should be continuous improvement. At InFocus HR we’ve seen a number of organisations invest in this area. Either through hiring people or buying in support with a focus on simplifying people processes. Whilst this tends to happen when looking at new technology or the functional operating model, it’s something that should be an active part of ongoing management of the function.

Further insight into Business Management

Over the next 3 weeks we will continue to explore the concept of business management within the people function covering:

  • Risk Management.
  • Supplier Management.
  • People analytics.

Do you want to find out how InFocus HR can help you with implementing or reviewing your current business management approach? If yes then click here for more information and to request an initial conversation.

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