Zimbabwe: Creating a Culture for Maturity

IN the rush to implement project management practices, most organisations in Zimbabwe are currently implementing large-scale training programmes, hiring project management consultants and setting up project management offices (PMOs).

Still, they are not realising the results they had anticipated. The reason is simple, they have not created the environment necessary for project management to grow and flourish.

What is a project environment and how can you create one? It is not easy, but it can be done.


Today we shall discuss some answers to the above questions and examine how Zimbabwean companies can accelerate their project management maturity levels to match global best practices.

According to a research that has been carried out by Kwekwe-based Zimasco Group Projects Engineer Alvin Makurumidze, there is a strong link between a company’s project success index and its levels of project management maturity.

Organisations that have invested in project management inculcation are likely to benefit in accelerated project management maturity levels.

Guidance on creating a project culture in your organisation

The following six steps may be useful for Portfolio Managers struggling to balance elevation of maturity levels, with or without a PMO.

It is useful guidance to those who are involved in creating a project management culture.

1. Ensure the organisation is prepared to handle a major organisational change.

If the organisation’s management is not trusted, any attempt to change will be treated with scepticism.

If you have ever heard the following statements where you work, you are facing an uphill battle: “This is just the flavour of the day” or “This too shall pass” or “this will last about a year then we will be into something else” and “this is just like TQM – here today, gone tomorrow.”

These statements reflect distrust in the organisation’s leadership. Change will be difficult in this organisation. Ask the following questions before implementing widespread change:

a) Is employee morale high?

b) Does the leadership have a history of successfully implementing major changes?

c) Is management known for tackling tough decisions and doing the “right thing?”

If the answer to these questions is yes, change will be embraced. If the answer is no, management must be consistent and plan for resistance. Constancy of purpose will overcome scepticism in the long run.

2. Is the proposed change consistent with the existing organisational culture?


If decision-making is centralised, if the organisation is a traditional vertical hierarchy, if communication is primarily up the chain, and if conflict is escalated rather than resolved locally, the change will require significantly more time, effort, and attention.

If, on the other hand, the organisation has already spent a lot of time and effort establishing a team-based culture, the change will be accepted much more readily.

3. Plan the change in as much detail as possible.

This is where creation and deployment of a project management methodology, and establishment of a project management office, come into play.

Specify why the change is necessary, what is threatening the current organisation and why the proposed change will defeat the threat.

Spend time and money developing the methodology, processes, policies.

Make it clear to people that they will receive training, will be expected to implement the new practices, and will be rewarded for doing so.

Communicate, communicate, communicate. Going halfway with this step will lead to disaster.

4. Ensure that the reward system is structured to motivate employees to focus on implementing the project management methodology.

People are smart. They figure out what the organisation rewards and that is what they do.

Management must reward good project behaviour and discourage ad-hoc approaches.

For example, if the new project methodology requires risk plans, and management never asks to see a risk plan or even asks about the top risks and associated response strategies, people will stop addressing risk.

They will return to their old ways, with predictable results.

This implies that senior management knows what is in the methodology – not always a valid assumption. This can be cured with a one-day “PM for Executives” course.

5. Allocate resources to maintain the new system.

As with any system, maintenance of a project management system is part of the total system life cycle cost.

Some time during the change to a project culture, a project office should be set up to help implement the change and to actually carry out many project duties.

The scope of the project office can vary between an informal group of passionate individuals to a collocated, permanent organisation.


Either way, the project office is responsible for updating the methodology, providing expert help to project teams, tracking and reporting project status, even managing projects for the more formalised project office. This takes resources – and it’s not really optional if you want the change to last.

6. Monitor the progress and effectiveness of the change to the organisation.

Adjust as necessary. This step is fundamental project management practice.

Performance must be monitored and variance eliminated to bring about lasting change.

Periodically check to make sure the change is taking effect, that you are getting the desired behaviours and project results.

If so, pat yourself on the back for a job well done. If not, check to see where the resistance is or lack of support exists and take action to get back on track.

Project management will improve cost, schedule, and technical performance. It will lead to satisfied customers.

But it does fail in some organisations due to the lack of a project management culture.

When we speak of changing the culture, we are talking about changing the set of shared beliefs, values and expectations that exist within the organisation.

A change as basic as this must be undertaken methodically. Follow the six-step plan described here to dramatically improve your chances of success.

Meanwhile, over 100 project managers from diverse sectors of the country’s economy converged on the November 3, 2011, at Chapman Golf Club in Harare to celebrate and mark the annual globally recognised International Project Management Day.

Local celebrations were organised by the Project Management Institute of Zimbabwe (PMIZ) with the support of local corporate sponsors.

Project management professionals from Botswana, South Africa and locally presented ecstatic papers on how project management should be used to benefit the drive for macro-economic growth of countries in the Sadc region.

Public Works Minister Joel Gabbuza, who was the guest of honour, reiterated Government’s support for all organised initiatives to up skill the country’s project managers in order to elevate the country’s project management maturity levels in both the public and private sector.

“Gone are the days of managing projects by faith, hope combined with trial and error because resources are finite and the costs of project failures go beyond the quantifiable financial figures.

“Thus it is an economic imperative that the country develops and retains project management skills and experience.

“However, it does not necessarily follow that when one obtains a degree or diploma in project management, they are automatically project managers – you become a project manager by applying the skill and delivering on time and within budget.

“Thus I would like to encourage professionals in Zimbabwe to regularise their project management responsibilities through obtaining internationally recognised requisite training . . . ,” said Minister Gabbuza.

Peter Banda is the Secretary-General Chief Executive of the Project Management Institute of Zimbabwe (PMIZ).

Published by the government of Zimbabwe

14 November 2011

Article source: http://allafrica.com/stories/201111150116.html


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