The whole reason to go through the planning process is to gain an edge and for that, all the vital elements are categorized to form E.D.G.E. (Engagement, Directives, Goals, Excellence).

E – Engagement:

This element refers to the engagement of all the stakeholders and resources required to perform the assignment. Both the people you work with (Colleagues) and people you work for (Customer) are important as they directly affect all aspects of planning. The expertise, experience and availability is often the most driving element in any planning.

Similarly, the level of domain knowledge, both for team and customer, is important in determining how much effort and time will be required to achieve the required level of understanding. This understanding could be at any stage of the project.

The same parameter is true for the other resources that need to be procured or made available during the project. The concept of “Just-in-Time” is important in the planning because early procurement will not be any good as the equipment will useless till the required time. It will not just require space and care but also may lose the warranty period. Another probability is that an upgraded version is released in the market while that old version is sitting in storage because it was procured well before the required timeline. Delay in acquiring resources has obvious consequences of affecting all timelines and all dependent tasks getting delay.

D – Directives:

This element refers to the Laws, Processes, Frameworks, Procedures, Policies and Protocols that encompass the project. Most of these sub-elements have their own boundaries related to the domain and without following those, it is not possible for any kind of activities to proceed. The other thing about these sub-elements are they are generally defined by a third party and are aimed at keeping the competition fair.

As part of the planning team, the Directives are termed as unsupportive and unproductive, in most of the cases as they add overheads in terms of effort and thus taking more time to long complete the job without them. But the reality is that the benefits of having directives is durable and long lasting but often they are realized after some time. That is the reason we, as consultants, always advise especially the senior management to be more patient and allow the adopted directives to mature before making a change.

Another important aspect of having these directives is to keep the playing field at the same level for all. That means equal opportunity for a newcomer as well as keeping the experienced persons or organizations at their toes. This brings in the “ever-improving” culture into individuals, teams and organizations.

G – Goals:

This element basically leads all the activities in a certain direction. There may be a combination of many motives towards setting a specific goal.

If you ask people, they will generally respond that the main goal for every individual or organization is to make money. That is true but if look into the success stories of individuals and organizations, we can see that they had some vision in mind for which they set themselves some goals and in order to achieve that plan they had a roadmap.

That is the primary reason, having a roadmap is important because once that in place, next comes the activities to achieve the goals. Whatever challenges and hurdles come in the way, prove a life-time experience and adds some value. Commitment Determination and Perseverance are some of the aspects of human behavior that are tested throughout these challenges.

One thing that has always been the most common point of discussion is that the Goals should always be realistic. Try to achieve impossible only results in a waste of time and other resources. That is true to some effect but the other school-of-thought is that “you cannot achieve if you cannot dream”. In order to achieve something, you got to have a vision and attitude to take the risks and face challenges.

I personally agree with the second school-of-thought. If you look at the people who made it to the top, their vision, especially at the start of the struggle, might have seemed impossible for the majority of people but once they were successful, they became role models for others. In the end, everybody tries to match their success but nobody talks about the failures and the hardships they faced leading up to that success.

What matters is not the number of times you have failed but how many times you were successful. Every time you failed, you learned something and you needed only one idea to be successful.

E – Excellence:

This element refers to consistently maintaining quality and consistently working towards improving it with each iteration. This element binds all the other elements together and keeps on focusing on taking them to a next level.

Getting to your targets and achieving your goals is difficult but staying at the top level consistently is even more challenging. It is never easy to top something that is already at an exemplary level. Also, there are often concerns about having the risk of losing something that was making it so good.

The common practice to maintain and look for improvements is by having a dedicated effort in this regard. That is the reason organizations, around the world, now have a dedicated department that consistently monitors the activities and helps teams and individuals to achieve excellence.  They also conduct frequent internal audits so that all the shortcomings are highlighted and can be then removed by working on them. This activity also prepares the organizations for external audits.

The external or independent audits are also aimed at reviewing the performance. The organizations now get certified through many Internationally Renowned Governing bodies. Clearing an audit and/or getting certified means that you as an individual or organization possess a verified and internationally recognized skillset.

The new growing trend, for organizations looking to excel, is to hire services of an independent consultant. As discussed in my other article “The Necessary Evil: Project Management Consultant”, the consultant brings in experience from different domains and different sectors. Also, the experience of working with different clients, around the world, induces more dimensions to the regular work and they are much more familiar with cultural norms and jargons. Due to working with a large number of projects, they have been through a lot of different situations facing different and unique challenges which have helped them build a very good list of “Lesson Learned” regarding what to do and what not to do in such situations.

The good thing about consultants is that they possess knowledge and experience of practicing different methodologies and following different Industry best practices so they can implement processes that are suited to support the project based on the ground realities. The internal manager may lack this vision or might just be implementing a methodology or process just for the sake of company policy or his/her lack of knowledge.

Another good thing about engaging a consultant is that actually, you are hiring services not resources. It means that you get a team of experts to perform work rather than engaging a resource in the same manner as having the internal Project Manager. This aspect provides you with a lot of flexibility in terms of that you can add any services, as per need, whenever required and only for the required timeframe without increasing any head-count. Even in terms of cost, the services are “Pay-As-You-Go”, which means that you pay for only services you used for only the duration of services.

One of the biggest differences and advantages I have noticed between hiring a consultant and an internal project manager is in the documentation related to the project. The consultants are much more skilled and comprehensive in preparing documentation. This is mainly due to the reason that there is a team of experts at the consultant’s disposal that involves reviewing each piece of work at each phase. In the case of an internal Project Manager, this review is limited to a single person for most of the case and often proves a bottleneck and can overlook important information.

Apart from the skills’ aspect, hiring a consultant, the other important advantage is the psychological factor that comes in of having support in execution and decision making. No matter how much experience, the internal Project Manager has, he/she will always be influenced by company psychology and will always be inclined towards its employer. This results in often making Project Manager to “Sugar Coat” mainly to avoid displeasure from the top management. In the case of consultants, this “influence” is missing as they follow standard processes and practices. In my experience, this helps most in highlighting any risk or issue at its earliest stage and also keeping things transparent to all stakeholders.

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