How do you determine the best project resource once the unified realistic expectation is set and you are ready to pick a Project Manager (PM)? To answer this question, I’ll leverage Frederick Taylor’s scientific method to examine the 4 key phase of a project and translate that into the core capability of what a PM needs to boost productivity and deliver a high quality of work with fewer overhead cost within the confines of a project or program. The mastery of these skillset is critical in delivering successful projects. I decided not to include the initiation phase and focus on the other 4 phases primarily because that is where PMs have the most impact.

1. Planning: This necessary capability requires effective communication to leverage the knowledge of key stakeholders to determine the best processes, resource, technology and approach to deliver a project within the confines of the project owner. This includes identifying and eliminating/minimizing gaps in processes, resources, technology, approach, scope and clarity of acceptance criteria. Like Frederick Taylor, the PM needs to ensure that the outcomes are documented. The documentation format is not important. What is important is that the information is archived as a contract with Key Stakeholder for reference to address scope creep and change management. This documentation often forms the baseline for all projects and is the most important piece of documentation to correctly capture a project’s success/failure.

2. Execution: This next capability includes knowing how to break the project work to be performed into effective and logical trackable task. The balance is matching the agreed upon status intervals to the tasks cadence i.e. If you agree to report status weekly, then work should be broken into connecting task that are measured weekly. This also needs to get documented. The documentation format is not important here as well. What is important is that the information can be can be easily accessed and understood by the team with minimal help from the PM. This could be in the form of a Gantt chart and/or sprint board. In short, any way you can track and view the agreed-upon task is what is important.

3. Monitoring and controlling (“time and motion”) the agreed-upon task: In this step, monitoring means tracking and ensuring that the steps/task agreed-upon are being followed. Controlling means once the deviation is observed, corrective action is taken to ensure work gets back to the agreed-upon approach. The PM is leveraging time and motion capability to observes risks, inefficiencies, inoperable processes and/or opportunities and resource limitations. It becomes his/her responsibility to report it, document it and work with the team to make improvements, minimize risk and take advantage of opportunities.

4. Closing: The final capability is preparation to take advantage of lessons learned into the next project. This step is ensuring that project owners are engaged to execute on acceptance of outcome, documentations are finalized, assigned resources are encouraged by skilled PM to provide insights for improvements for the next project.

Capabilities 1 and 4 requires a PM with a high facilitation skillset. Leveraging these four capabilities, a PM’s Return On Investment (ROI) can be quantified. With this approach, if the customer cannot realize the quantitative value of having a PM on a project then I would argue that the PM is not a senior project/program/portfolio manager. It is my opinion that mastering capabilities 2 and 3 makes you a junior PM, mastering 1, 2, and 3 makes you a PM, and mastering all four makes you a senior PM. Today many companies hire PMs that are very good at 2 and 3. Although this adds value, the value added can only mostly be realized as qualitative. A PM who has mastered 1, 2, and 3 would allow his/her customer to realize cost saving in the assigned project. The return is mostly focused on the cost associated with reducing overhead as well as eliminating waste and delays at a typical savings of about 12% to 14%.

A senior PM goes beyond the returns realized on the current project and creates an environment where continuous improvement is cultivated through each project. The customer gains returns on productivity boost reduced overhead costs and quality with current and future projects; at typical savings of about 14% to 17% with a 1.2% year over year savings.