What is a project office? Milan Krajnc
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Before we start to set up a new organization scheme and structure, we have to carry out a very detailed analysis of the whole company. With this information we draw a map of the current real situation in the organization. At the same time we draw the ideal structure of the project office according to the wishes of the company, public institution, association and the like. This organization then decides for itself which way it wants to go.

A project office is not just a software, but a way of organizing a work process, work organization and way of thinking.

Research has shown that most companies are convinced that they use project management in their
process. However, when asked what a project and what a project office is, only half a percent of
respondents answered correctly. 340 Slovenian companies were included in the survey. A good half of them already have a project office, and only half of them actually use it. And 82 percent of the respondents believe that the project office is software.

Due to a misunderstanding of the term project, project management is also misunderstood. Our project work is too “domestic”: that we all do everything and are responsible for everything. In project work, tasks and responsibilities are precisely defined. There is no more collective responsibility. Project work brings order and organization into the processes of organizations. However, it is important that the entire work process is project based, otherwise there will be confusion.

Introduction of a project office

Before we start to set up a new organizational chart and set up the structure, we have to make a very detailed analysis of the whole company, namely:

  • Analysis of the information flow (what information is exchanged by the employees, what is created, what comes and goes into the company)
  • Analysis of the inventory of processes and the links between them;
  • personality analysis of employees (character, reaction in critical situations, communication, leadership and the like),
  • Analysis of business documents (contracts, travel orders, files, regulations, etc.),
  • Analysis of information systems.

With this information we draw a map of the current real situation in the organization. At the same time we draw the ideal structure of the project office according to the wishes of the company, public institution, association and the like. This organization then decides for itself which way it wants to go.

What all can influence the choice of the path? Flexibility of the individual, change in internal distribution, systematization of jobs, new jobs, new information system, excessive stagnation of production and whatever else could be found. Indeed, the analysis says something about the state of the company and gives a clear picture of what a change in the way of working means. In this way we can find out how the individual reacts, what motivates him, what his strengths are. We analyze where and why bottlenecks occur in the process, where the process has time reserves and where cost savings are possible. In the following we also find out what possibilities there are to introduce a supporting information system.

When a customer decides on a path – it is very important whether he keeps the same team of employees or hires new ones – all employees must be involved.

The project office has only one manager

The organization of a project office requires that all things are in one place. If we look at the picture of the roles in a project-led organization, we see that such a project organization chart has only one leader. He cannot be the leader of any project (then he would not be supervised by anyone), but he can be the contractor. The head of the project office is the director of the organization. As an outside observer, he is unencumbered by the project and therefore notices errors earlier. If the organization is very large, control of the projects is taken over by its assistants, who are specialized in individual professional fields. However, they have to change the area of control from time to time so that they do not fall into fixed patterns.

What is project office - Milan Krajnc
Slika 1: Vloge v projektno vodeni organizaciji

The director is the head of the project office and his assistant is the assistant to the project office. The department heads in the organization are now project managers. However, all others in the organization take on the role of contractors. The project manager selects them according to the content of the project. The departments are transformed into project teams according to the company strategy.

For each project, a team of individuals must be put together who are focused on the same goal and are very independent. Tasks must be carefully divided, communication rules written and expectations clearly formulated. It is therefore best if each individual prepares a report and a plan for the execution of his or her task before starting work. In this way, the project manager will see if everyone
understands him and what he can expect from them. It is important to know how the individuals complement each other and in which areas the tasks are interdependent.  Project work requires serious, team-oriented work.

A typical project meeting

The project team must meet once every 14 days. It only differs if a problem arises that can be solved by the project manager and the individual designer. At project meetings we only talk about projects. Everyone must be informed at all times about changes that affect the progress of the project.

Minutes must be taken of each meeting. The minutes are only a document that is completed. It is recommended to keep the minutes of the forum.

Meeting rules:

  • The meeting must be convened at least one week (several) days before the meeting. The participants of the meeting must then also receive all documents and the agenda.
  • Before the meeting all those present switch off their mobile phones.
  • The meeting is chaired by the person who has organized it.
  • The agenda is read first.
  • The participants make suggestions for the agenda and approve it.
  • The first item of the sitting should be the adoption of the minutes of the previous sitting.
  • The minutes are drawn up by the deputy project leader during the sitting.
  • The minutes should contain questions (indicate who asked them) and answers (write who answered) and conclusions on each item.
  • Only one person should take the floor and at the end of their deliberations give the floor to the next person who wishes to add their comments.
  • All minutes of meetings are stored electronically on the intranet site.

Who is the project manager

We are all project managers who are involved in the project in any way. The first rule of a project
manager is to be honest. There is no manipulation in the project. Everyone must have all the information to do their job smoothly and take full responsibility for it. The project manager must be an independent person, but he or she must communicate with others and must not insist on his or her decision if it is not correct.

Poor communication leads to conflicts

The project can encounter problems for various reasons: mostly due to poor communication or a misunderstanding of the project goal, but also due to exploitation for personal interests.

We solve bad communication by asking everyone involved to give a written report about their work so far and a plan for the future and asking them what they think needs to be done. But we must give them clear rules for reporting. Then we prepare a joint workshop in which we reconcile the common goals so that there are no excuses and no transfer of responsibility to others. Let’s draw up a detailed
error plan, and the prerequisite for a successful solution to the problem is that the project plan was well prepared in the initial phase and that all responsibilities were laid down in the contract.

Employees are also projects

When selecting employees, we have to treat them as if each one were their own project, but of course only in this process. That sounds tough, but we must have the same rules for everyone, so that the relationship does not become strained or we do not have a guilty conscience. We must be very clear and honest about what we expect from them and what their obligations are, and we must emphasize our obligations to them. In a personal meeting, the relationship must of course be honest and friendly.

Project management in public institutions

In public institutions, projects should be more closely monitored, as public money is spent. Since they are supervised by regulatory authorities, the proper management of an individual project is very important. Let us just mention the legally correct implementation of public procurement for major investments. The procedure and documentation is extensive, reports have to be written, costs have to be monitored and so on.

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Because of the way it works, it is most effective to connect public institutions within the city administration as a common service. More and more public institutions are faced with survival or extensive administration, and in such situations they do not worry about the functioning of the project. By connecting under the auspices of the city administration, they can significantly reduce their operating costs. Joint services are set up, specializing in administration, maintenance, accounting, event organization and the like, and each public institution can devote itself to the professional work for which it was set up.

A project is a self-contained unit of tasks with a well-defined goal and a known beginning and end. The work on the project is called project management, and the institution that manages the projects is called project office.
The employees are supposed to work and are also paid by the project.

Avtor - Milan Krajnc
Author of the article: Milan Krajnc, pedagogue, entrepreneur & crisis manager I teach you to look “at yourself” as a third person. For more information or an introductory meeting, write to me at official@milankrajnc.com
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