Saving the World Project Management (Part 3)

In parts 1 and 2 of this series, we looked at differences between private-sector PM work and public-sector PM work. Basically, we explored some common issues and challenges that arise when such disparate teams work together to both make money and save the world – and the challenges that arise when groups are trying to do both at the same time!

In addition to being inspiring and sensible, this type of collaboration (commonly called a PPP, or Public Private Partnership), is not without potential hiccups, which stem from different work cultures each employing different project management methodologies and procedures.

Take, for example, an assembled workforce tasked with planning and building a federal-level hydro-electric project in a remote region of the Himalayas, or more generally, a private sector plan co-joined with human development which is supposed to benefit all.


When Private-Sector Planning Joins with Human Development Planning

In the “developing world,” both private-sector and public-sector workers often collaborate on projects for the “good of the people.” Private-sector expertise with capital investment, financing, technology, skilled labor, and in general, effectiveness is most often needed by weaker governments under stress whenever a human-development project is undertaken.

These partnerships (PPPs) are often seen as contractual agreements between an initiating government agency and private-sector partners (often along with international or national donors), but more and more PPPs arebeing conceived and governed in a less “top-down” fashion. Instead of non-governmental partners and private contractors being seen as solely a contract partners, relationships with these players are considered as much collaborative as they are contractual. Subsequently, project plans are co-authored and executed jointly by everyone involved, instead of being dictated down from “on high” by the governing ministry or similar. In other words, no one partner is considered more or less important than another while underwriting project success, and the often disparate project management methods and means are ironed out from the get-go.

Technology helps this process run smoothly, as does top-managerial prowess in all things collaborative. For example, smart execs in these complex situations often “see the light” through the lens of a newly-established and often ad-hoc Project Management Office (or PMO), established with the express purpose of bringing all the partners together to begin the work from the same page. This PMO will literally dish out the project plan for all work that follows.

This scenario I just described was the case when the GoN (Government of Nepal), DFID (UK Dept. for International Development), and private-sector contractors from India and China all partnered together to expand Nepal’s hydro-electric capacity for itself and its power-hungry neighbors. An ad-hoc PMO was first established to make all the deals required for the work to flow over a course of five years or so. Dubbed the Centre for Inclusive Growth (CIG), this group had the mandate to  become a non-partisan, independent organization aiming to identify practical solutions and to create a business environment that would accelerate growth and promote greater social inclusion – all whilst setting the stage for the construction of several hydropower megaprojects deep within the Himalayas.

The CIG team essentially consisted of project management professionals from all walks of hydropower-development life, from lawyers to financial/investment experts and construction engineers. A governing board was set up with execs from GoN and DFID, as well as with lead PMs from each of the megaprojects planned (responsible for the initial $2.5bn invested in the program). The first task was to establish a platform where all parties could work together and get the work started.


How Everyone Starts Working On the Same Plan

As you may recall from Part 2 of this series, we discussed the importance of coming up with a common, custom methodology that works for all, and that can be presented in such a way that serves everyone involved. In the case of our hydropower example, a major donor was using Prince2 for their project work, GoN was not really using any methodology (or an indescribable combination of many), and all other players were steeped in the Waterfall method except for the legal team, which was using Kanban boards and the Agile method.

After nailing down other key aspects of the project charter (methodology=custom, standard=PMBOK) it was decided to use the Waterfall process to lay out the plan, and to use Microsoft Project as the main PM organizational / scheduling tool, as shown below.



Figure 1. Sample PPP PM System that is inclusive of all stakeholders.


After this structure was set up, all that was left to begin, was to actually build and follow a project plan…


Using Templates: A Key to Coordinated Project Success

Building a five year plan for any project using Microsoft Project is made simpler by using the “Master/Subproject” feature found in most all versions of MS Project (see Tim Runcie’s MPUG article here for info on that). It’s not hard to do, and surely a best-practice for longer, complex projects that span multiple years of reporting.

For the first year of a PPP where the PMBOK method is being followed, one of the best places to start is with a PMBOK MS Project template, tailored to suit. You can find one here, which basically follows PMBOK methodology and helps you establish your PPP’s PMO during its initial startup period. In the case of Nepal’s hydro projects mentioned above, this was used to establish the CIG PMO. For anyone following the PMBOK method for the first time, you will also find the MS Office templates linked here useful, as there is a lot of paperwork involved with PMBOK. Basically, these files will save you a lot of time.

You will notice that PMBOK requires that project-plan templates be built early on. Depending on your PPP’s mission, you might need construction, legal, and finance/investment templates as well. Build one first, and start by inserting project files where appropriate as a subprojects within the appropriate yearly subproject. Yes, nested subprojects are allowed and encouraged.

In the case of the legal activity within your mega-PPP project plan, you may find that the legal firm being used follows Agile methodology (so many do these days), and may deploy Kanban boards to schedule their work. Well, starting with Microsoft Project 2016, that’s supported as well, so their legal work can be inserted into your master/subproject structure maintaining the format.


Summing Up and Saving the World

To sum up for readers of my “Saving the World” series, and specifically for those arriving on the tail end here, we can all agree that any project involving international donors (such as DFID, Save the Children, UNICEF, etc.), government agencies, private law firms, and international services firms (construction, manufacturing, software and the like) is going to be one heck of party when it comes time to plan everything out.

Usually, a “normalization” of disparate methodologies, standards, processes, tools, and nomenclature occurs across the different work cultures during any lengthy public-private partnership. This is a natural occurrence, like water wearing down river rock; however, it’s up to project leaders to ensure that this normalization of differences be smoothed over from the start of the PPP and not any later. That is, normalize differing methodologies before one brick is laid or a single baby is saved!

This smoothing over of differences, using common methodologies, standards, processes, etc., is a proven path to success – I’ve seen it! In the hydro power example mentioned above, Nepal and India now have a Power Trade Agreement (for the first time) and several 900MW plants are on the way. The PMO I mentioned went on to become part of the Nepali government, using their prior work as a template for even more projects aimed at saving this part of the world for generations to come.


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Written by Jigs Gaton
Jigs Gaton is CEO of Phoenix Consulting and Training Worldwide, a company that helps developers design and implement better programs and build capacity with training and other resources. Jigs has over 30-plus years of experience in both the private and public sectors working as a project manager and PM consultant. He's currently based in Kathmandu, helping organizations with post-earthquake reconstruction and other disaster-relief efforts.

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