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How the change to project organization is successful

When a company changes its structures from a line organization to a project organization, this means a profound organizational and also cultural change that is noticeable in many areas of the company. How does the conversion succeed?

The change from a line organization to a project organization affects the entire company: Working methods, hierarchical levels and career paths change. In addition to the technical work content, the disciplinary circumstances also change. Reporting paths are shifting, leading to new and possibly a larger number of contact persons than before.

In order to ensure that powers and responsibilities are comprehensible for each employee, management must define in advance exactly what is to happen to the individual job positions after the restructuring. The crux of the matter is therefore often to determine how existing career stages are transferred to the new system and which structures can be retained. A practical option here is to define completely new job positions, remunerate them accordingly and integrate them firmly into the personnel development system.


New competences and responsibilities

Although there are pure line organizations, pure project organizations are rather rare. Project-oriented companies are usually mixed forms or matrix organizations. Areas such as IT, accounting or HR are usually linear and next to them there is the project division with its own structure. The danger: If the transitions and interfaces are not clearly defined and the associated new positions and reporting paths are not conclusively solved, confusion quickly arises among those involved and instead of the hoped-for increase in productivity, there is a loss of efficiency. Many employees initially find it difficult to adapt to the new situation and the old structures cannot be got out of their heads so quickly. Work packages are mixed up between project and day-to-day business, communication channels are lacking and information does not reach the intended recipient in the project structure.

The Solution

Even if it may be unfamiliar at first, new hierarchies and responsibilities must be carefully considered. This requires a great deal of discipline from everyone involved and patience from management if everything does not work out as expected, but also the tenacity to enforce new rules. Project topics are discussed in project meetings, line topics in departmental meetings. If a team member is asked about the project status by his superior, he refers to the project manager. If the participants deviate from this principle, the project manager or moderator must intervene and guide the course of the discussion back to the defined topics. In order to be able to do this, he or she must have a very good internalization and presence of the respective work packages - i.e. the tasks and schedules defined at the beginning. The new roles, authorities, competencies and responsibilities must be clearly described and defined at the beginning of the changeover so that all persons involved are aware of their competencies and responsibilities. A large part of the later success is therefore based on the clean preparation.


Project competencies and career paths

For a project career to be successful, the image of the project manager with all his tasks and perspectives must be focused and sharpened. These tasks must be solved within the framework of personnel development. Questions that management and the HR department must ask themselves are What levels of success do we need to define for a project career? How do we evaluate performance and assess potential? And what does the corresponding remuneration model look like?

The Solution

A practicable basis for this is provided by prior training courses that are completed by the employees. In these trainings, the potential of the employees can be assessed and allocated well, for example by setting and testing different levels of difficulty (international certifications).

The possibilities for evaluating performance also need to be reconsidered at this point. It is common practice to evaluate performance based on the type and rank of the projects carried out. After completion, the project manager receives a performance evaluation and then a new project follows. For a project manager, this means that the size and importance of his project is decisive for his career path within the company. If, for example, his or her project enjoys great public interest, it is usually given high priority and a lot of attention in the company. If the performance is right, the project manager can therefore move up quickly and take on larger tasks. Thanks to the time limit of the projects, his individual potential can be identified quite quickly.


Project Portfolio Management

During the transition from a line structure to a project structure, the entire project management must be analyzed: According to which criteria are projects selected, prioritized, implemented and finally evaluated? Within a company there can be very different projects competing for attention and resources. It is necessary to systematically calculate the available resources (personnel, budget, time) and measure success in order to make project-oriented work efficient and sustainable. If employees are to be deployed individually in projects, there must be a way to classify the projects and measure the potential of the employees.

The solution

Mature project portfolio management (PPM) is essential. With project portfolio management, current and future projects are professionally classified and coordinated. The classification of the projects is also used to assess the performance of the project team members.


Criticism, resistance and fear

It is important for the employees in the company to recognise clear advantages from the introduction of the project organisation and also to be able to assess the attractiveness for their own career development. The new career models and development opportunities - such as the project career - must therefore be actively presented and supported within the company. Faster promotion opportunities and new career paths are attractive for many and they accept the challenges. But not everyone likes the innovations and there may be losers in the change. Those who manage the change process must be prepared for resistance to be formed.

The Solution

Sceptics and critics must be picked up and included before they transfer their frustration to others. Their attitude, fears and objections should be taken seriously. After all, criticism can also be justified and constructive. For complex structural changes, critical voices are therefore quite useful to uncover errors in planning. Addressing fears, taking them seriously and giving clear support are good methods of preparing the workforce for the big project.



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