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In the context of big corporations, unexpected situations happened. Executive managers suspected some projects passed decisions gates without achieving minimum project management and technical requirements. This is a source of distortions in the investment portfolio process, which can lead to wrong decisions. At the same time, this is a risky event can be controlled and mitigated if executive managers support the assurance of quality in the project management system and ensure project, program and portfolio governance. That is what exactly they did.

As a part of a new multidisciplinary team, I was called to support project audits in my area of expertise: Risk, Planning and Control in projects. The target was seven large complex projects that included a cryogenic plant, a 400-km gas pipeline and a gas distribution network. We had to travel to each project location to conduct face-to-face interviews with key project team members. However, before this, I adapted an existent generic project review template to identify risk, planning and controlling practices in advance.

As planned, I reviewed the planning and control practices and the risk management procedures by using first templates to collect essential project information and second face-to-face interviews to confirm or validate the information, ensuring the objectivity in the whole audit/reviewing process. As usual, I used a respectful approach to each team member to create a win-win environment to collaborate, obtaining the real status of projects.

After two days, something unexpected happened. There was a problem with other audit team members responsible for reviewing the status of team building practices. My boss told me the audit technique was not applied properly because the lack of knowledge of auditors in this particular area (they were very experienced technical leaders but not enough prepared to understand soft skills issues). I had to assist them and recheck their evaluation. The key is everyone shall know the scope and the objective of the project. It is not enough that some team member to say, “Yes we understand this project”. According to the best practices in Oil and gas industry, Project & program managers are responsible for communicating the project vision, scope and objectives to the whole team (including contractors) to increase the probability of project success.

This episode makes me think in the clarity of criteria required to perform successful quality assurance and governance and the level of risk involved in this process. Project evaluations provide not only the status of project execution but also the final project result forecast if the project follows the current practices.

Lessons learned
• A prospective project review can be an effective quality assurance technique to mitigate risks at program and portfolio level.
• Quality assurance actions shall be aligned to the risk response plan at program and portfolio level.
• Project auditors do not need to be technical experts. They shall have an integrated view of project processes and shall be clear about project management practices and concepts.

What do you think?