Why Project Managers Must Focus on Last Mile Connectivity to Ensure Success

How Projects Fail Due to Poor Implementation and Last Mile Connectivity

Most projects are planned properly and conceived rightly. However, they often fail because of poor implementation as well as flawed execution on the ground. Indeed, the last mile connectivity or closing the loop from planning to execution is what determines the success of projects.

For instance, take the case of a typical construction project wherein the planning is perfect and yet it fails mainly due to on the ground problems related to lack of proper personnel management, issues with political stakeholders, and above all, the hands-off approach that most project managers embrace by leaving the actual implementation to their subordinates so of whom are either lacking in expertise or experience or have different agendas of their own.

The term hands-off approach is something that is very critical as it is the case that project managers must involve themselves with on the ground nuts and bolts rather than sitting in air-conditioned offices and being removed from the on the ground realities.

In addition, the fact that software projects often fail is due to the problems of flawed implementation from the last mile phase where the implementation team does not “connect” with the overall purpose of the project and instead, focuses on only on the last phase which might or might not be the key for successful implementation.

Real World Examples of Poor Last Mile Connectivity

Talking about last mile connectivity, take the case of telecom projects that often fail because the last mile connectivity is poorly planned and executed.

Indeed, in the Indian context, it is quite normal for the Telecom Majors such as Airtel, Reliance, and Vodafone to announce grandiose schemes to lure customers only to be beset later by poor broadband links at the last mile, inadequate tower capacity for mobile networks, and above all, poor coordination and communication between the various components of the end to end value chain.

How many times have we signed up to lucrative plans and offers from the Telecom Majors only to be faced with zero or unreliable connectivity during the times that we stay with such providers?

Thus, it is quite important for project managers to ensure superlative last mile connectivity without which the success of their projects is not guaranteed.

How Multinational Firms Groom Their Managers

Indeed, this is the reason why many experts on project management often point to the need for thorough planning that leads to flawless execution by taking on all the components of the planning process and integrating them with the implementation process.

This is also what is meant by closing the loop of the project cycle through planning that is complemented and supplemented by execution that takes into account the ground realities.

So, how does a typical project manager ensure that last mile implementation is successful? To start with, he or she must have experience and expertise in implementation and awareness of the ground realities.

For instance, it is often the case that corporates hire fresh graduates either from business schools or engineering colleges and make them project managers without testing them on the ground.

This is the reason why many multinational firms often mandate that fresh recruits work on the ground for a few years before being made project managers so that they gain valuable project implementation experience which then prepares them for the rough and tumble of project management.

This is also the reason why marketing majors such as Proctor and Gamble, Unilever, and Johnson and Johnson often require fresh recruits to engage with the rural and last mile pockets in urban areas before they are made managers.

Indeed, in our experience, we found that such firms often send the fresh recruits to go along with the salespersons and others on the ground such as Coke asking its recruits to be present in the delivery vehicles so that they gain valuable insights into the ground realities.

Awareness of On the Ground Realities

Apart from this, to be successful implementers, project managers must be cognizant of the on the ground political stakes and the personal agendas of labor unions and other human resources aspects.

For this, they need to be acquainted with how the on the ground implementers work around the various problems they face and get to know their problems as well as any solutions that they might receive in the process.

Indeed, project managers must have their “eyes and ears to the ground” to ensure that they receive feedback about what is going right and what is going wrong with the projects. Also, they should not abstain from taking feedback from the ground personnel and preferably, they must engage with them on a weekly or fortnightly basis if not more frequently.

Division of Responsibilities

It is not the case that project managers can do all these things and yet prove to be unsuccessful as far as the implementation is concerned. Thus, it is important for project management to be divided into the planning and implementation roles where the overall project manager has both the planner and the implementer reporting to him or her thereby ensuring that while there is a chain of command in place, it is also accompanied by close coordination up and down the organizational and project management hierarchy.

Conclusion

Lastly, it is also the case that there must be clear communication between the different personnel in charge of planning and implementation so that any problems during implementation are fed back to the core team who can then work with each other and solve the problems.


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