May 17, 2022
Despite low productivity, UK firms still don’t look for ways to improve on past performance
Despite the UK’s persistent low productivity, less than a fifth of business owners are actively looking back at projects to identify areas for improvement. A large proportion of business owners (65 per cent) and senior managers (82 per cent) have increased their use of project-based methods on everyday tasks, such as introducing measures to identify and manage risk. Despite this, many are still failing to assign enough dedicated project managers to the work. New research from the Association for Project Management (APM) claims that only 35 per cent of senior managers who participated in the survey regularly assign dedicated project managers to tasks, and only a quarter for business owners.
A third (33 per cent) of business owners (who say their organisation has increased project working methods) have existing internal processes which allow them to monitor projects as they are ongoing, while only 18 per cent actively perform post-task analysis in order to identify areas for improvement. These statistics highlight a glaring oversight at the top of organisations, meaning productivity is hindered and the business’ bottom line is impacted by the same mistakes being made repeatedly over time. Of those in senior management roles, only 27 per cent look back at projects to see what could have been done better.
The past two years have seen the UK’s productivity plummet to new lows, as businesses continue to suffer from the long-term ramifications of COVID-19, as well as post-Brexit restrictions and supply chain issues. The current global energy crisis has tightly squeezed output-based industries like Manufacturing, which this survey indicates is being disproportionately affected by rising energy prices. Indeed, 42 per cent of survey participants working in the manufacturing sector anticipate further increases in project costs due to the crisis.
In the manufacturing industry, the situation is strikingly inefficient. APM’s survey found that only 29 per cent of participants in the industry were working in organisations which regularly introduced post-task wash-ups to analyse performance and identify improvement opportunities. Similarly, only a quarter (25 per cent) of survey participants working in Manufacturing reported that their organisation required pre-project planning which would vastly improve productivity. Only a quarter said that they completed statements of work, case studies and reviews.
Professor Adam Boddison, chief executive of APM, comments: “The UK has been dealt a number of significant blows in the past two years, and we anticipate more difficulties to come as the long-term effects of the pandemic and Brexit are exacerbated by the looming energy crisis. At APM, we understand how project management methods can be invaluable to organisations delivering complex projects on time, on budget and to a high standard. Being adequately prepared to embrace uncertainty while at the same time looking for new ways of approaching workplace processes will be crucial for future major projects around the UK.”
The data collated by APM outlines a wider story: organisations need to adopt coherent and unified strategies to tackle these issues. New regulatory frameworks and government policies, coupled with a nationwide skills shortage mean that now, more than ever, action must be taken at top level. Businesses must incorporate project management methods like advance planning – investing time to ensure their longevity. Dedicated project managers, backed by senior leadership, can help to mitigate these concerns and provide greater clarity on how to streamline internal processes, suggests APM.
According to the survey, when asked about the impact of senior leadership in their organisation valuing the role of project professionals, the most common response was that it resulted in projects being delivered to a higher level of quality. Overwhelmingly, organisations have found themselves tightening budgets to offset the energy crisis, and other benefits of using project-based methods cited by survey respondents included projects being delivered on schedule and on budget more frequently.