About The Author
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George Whitney 1 article
Residence: US Carmichael, California
Founder and CEO of Complete EM LLC
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I have over 25 years of experience in emergency and technology program management, including appointments at the local, state, and federal government levels. I am a former California Office of Emergency Services (OES) Chief of Operations, Acting Deputy Director and Acting Cabinet Undersecretary where I managed the state’s 24-hour alert, warning, safety, security, logistics, communications, and emergency response functions. In this capacity, I also chaired the State’s Response Information Management System Committee and led a number of statewide planning, training, and resource management initiatives. I am an experienced Emergency Management Accreditation Program (EMAP) assessor, team leader, trainer and former EMAP Technical Committee Chair. I've also chaired the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) Standards and Practices Committee.


The Key to Effective Project Management

Over the past 30 years, I’ve noticed many emergency managers have become more project and program managers than actual practitioners. It’s part of an overall trend I’ve noticed in government program administration. For one reason or another, people once hired to write plans or develop exercises are now overseeing vendors to accomplish the work. The same thing is happening in planning, public works, public health, social services and other departments.

Exploring the reasons for, and the benefits and costs of, this trend are beyond the scope of this post. Today, I want to offer a look inside effective project management for those who become project managers without any formal training.

As someone who has been managing complex projects for 30 years and who has been through the Project Management Institute’s Project Management Professional (PMP) certification process, I can tell you there’s a lot to effective management of complex projects. However, most projects can be made simple. Someone must first define a problem to solve. Then they must explore alternative solutions for that problem while carefully examining the pros and cons of each alternative. Then the project with a preferred alternative solution must be sold – yes, emergency managers also need to be effective at marketing and sales – so that authority, funding, staffing, and other resources can be properly allocated to solve a problem using a distinct approach.

Enter the most fundamental tool in project management – far more important than a budget or a Gantt chart - a simple document called the Conditions of Satisfaction (COS).

In its simplest form, a COS merely consists of a list of objectively-measured outcomes necessary to adequately satisfy a project sponsor. In practice, when the COS is achieved the project is satisfactorily completed.

Too many projects (and the programs that rely on projects to evolve) don’t use or place too little emphasis on COS. Consequently, projects prematurely end when a document is delivered, funding is exhausted or a time limit has expired. Deliverables are often used as evidence of project milestones or completion, but deliverables don’t necessarily ensure the satisfaction of project sponsors or stakeholders. Only a COS can help do that.

To create a COS, think about what your program wants to accomplish with the project and how sponsors will assess that accomplishment. For example, do you just want an Emergency Operations Plan that simply comports with CPG 101 or do you want a document that engages all stakeholders and demonstrates consensus on how a jurisdiction manages all phases of emergency management? Will an exercise project involve a table-top using the HSEEP process or will it examine how well a county activates, coordinates county-wide activity, accomplishes seven key objectives, sustains operations and demobilizes an EOC during an extended wildfire scenario?

Projects without clear and objectively-measured conditions of satisfaction cannot be completed because true project success hasn’t been defined and, thus, cannot be measured. These projects are simply accepted “as is” or abandoned.

If you haven’t tried it yet, take a few minutes to think about your next project and what you really want or need to accomplish. If you’re simply looking to develop a document to meet a grant requirement, you might get that document, but you won’t be evolving your program. However, if you’re really looking to build a team that functions well in an EOC environment for a range of scenarios and issues, work in that direction. Define exactly what you want to develop and with who. The resulting COS will help you find a good project team and help you focus on achieving project success. You’re project sponsors and program stakeholders will also thank you, and your next experience with project management will be a lot easier.


Published at pmmagazine.net with the consent of George Whitney
Source of the article: {Linkedin} on [2019-01-17]