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Use Phantom Competitors to Drive Project Manager Efficiency

Competition improves performance. This is true in athletics and project management processes. Lack of competition fattens organizational structures, promotes incompetent but tenured project managers, and allows inefficient procedures to develop.

Just as an athlete develops and innovates when there is competition, your project managers will sink into the swamp grass without competition. The problem is that in large organizations there is usually no external competition for project management services. Your internal customers may be unhappy with the quality and cost of your project management service, but do not currently have an option to use an external project manager service. However, their loyalty may evaporate when the opportunity arises. Internal customers often have no option but to use the internal project managers who tend to create a self-sustaining bureaucracy inventing procedures and forms to justify their own existence. Project management becomes synonymous with administrative functions such as weekly status reports, without any ROI measurement or consideration for innovative efficiency improvements.

Although external competition cannot always be used to improve internal project management services, you can benefit from efficiency improvements that competition would bring. Use the concept of a phantom competitor to make your internal project managers take stock of the value they bring and the ROI of their services. If you don't know the value of your project management services and the ROI, then a hungry outsourcing account representative is probably sharpening his pencil as you read this.

Here is how you can help your project managers to realize the value of competition, before a true competitor comes out of left field and steals the prize. 

1.      Challenge your project managers and supervisors of project managers to explain the cost of their services and the monetary value that their services provide. The monetary value is the aspect that can easily be measured, although intangible value provided by project managers is just as valuable, just harder to measure objectively.

2.      Challenge your project management teams to present proposals to you on why the project management services should be performed in-house in your organization versus being performed by an offshore company. (The world is flat, remember?)

3.      Review career development plans for the past and future twelve months. (I assume that you are aggressively developing your project managers to lead larger projects in the future). Are your project managers focused on acquiring additional technical skills at a snails pace of one workshop per year, or proactively registered for a structured mentoring program to develop business, leadership and team building skills? The best project managers display behaviors that lead to project success. Vast technical skills for project managers are not indicators of project success.

4.      Call for proposals to reduce project management operating costs by 10%. The value in this exercise is to provoke thoughts and force a review of existing costs. If the costs of your organization's project management services are unknown, then you are blind to the fact that you are vulnerable to true competitors. You will have nothing to discuss if a true competitor supplies a proposal for a lower fee than the purchasers of your project management services perceive your fees to be.

5.       Ask your project managers "What would you focus on if you were to compete with this team?" What are our weaknesses that a competitor could capitalize on if they presented a proposal to the board of directors to outsource project management services?" What are our unique strengths to capitalize on? Let your project managers tell you which procedures are inefficient, unproductive and unnecessary.

6.      Challenge your project managers "If you were investing your retirement money in these project management services, would you be satisfied with the ROI?" "What would you do to improve your level of satisfaction?"

7.      For every project meeting that you attend, and every project status report that you receive, ask "What did this interaction cost? What is the value of this interaction?" "Explain to me why it was worth it". "How did this add value to the project?"

What gets measured, gets delivered. If you don't measure the cost of internal project management services then you are probably trying to tune a Model-T for a Formula 1 race season. Merely tracking salary expenditures for your project managers does not measure project manager efficiency. Don't act surprised when a phantom competitor springs to life.

Copyright 2018 Wayne Botha Email Wayne Cell: 860.214.4897