Post-Implementation Reviews


Benefits to project and operations teams


By Pascal Bohulu Mabelo

Johannesburg, South Africa


Failing to appreciate that project management and operations management are twin disciplines, project and operations teams generally mistrust and resent one another to the detriment of the whole enterprise—a frosty handshake at project kick-off meeting is often the omen of unholy war.    Project teams are fixated on their Iron Triangle, whereas operations are seeking capabilities to exploit. Conducting Post-Implementation Reviews together should provide many benefits to both, the greatest of which being to reconcile, stop any unholy war amid project and operations teams.

Project Management versus Operations Management

A large project usually exists within a “broader” organisation involving other business endeavours.
From a strategy implementation point of view, two streams are concomitantly needed: (i) Run the Business through operations, and (ii) Change the business through projects. Further, from a systems perspective, there ought to be relationships between the project, operations, and the environment. Project management and operations management are like unto “boy-girl twins” that are congenitally joined by their hip. As different as they might be, you would not see one of them without the other:

“Project management fits within the general framework of business and management, but is a management discipline that is differentiated from the management of an organization’s operations by the temporary and unique nature of projects […] Operations and projects differ primarily in that operations are performed by relatively stable teams through ongoing and repetitive processes and are focused on sustaining the organization. Projects are performed by temporary teams, are non-repetitive and create original deliverables.” (ISO 21500, 2012)

Whether the twins (viz, one being from Mars, the other from Venus) would behave in the same way or that they will enjoy each other throughout their “shared” life cycle seems to be a different matter. Most project managers would express some resentment towards operations teams—in most project circumstances, the feeling is quite mutual. It is as if anyone arriving late at a meeting attended by project and operations teams (thus, has missed the introduction part) could easily pick up the body language, and the “us versus them” sitting arrangement to figure out who might be on which camp. This simmering distrust between project and operations teams could reach beyond skin-deep levels and escalate into an unholy war between the two groups, to the detriment of the whole organisation.

While Operations and Maintenance teams generally lack project or design experience, “They know very well how a plant should be operating” (Krauss, 2014) and, accordingly, will be needed to enable operators to take on the variety of tasks they need to reform in day-to-day operations. Hence, their input is very important to projects. Operations and Maintenance considerations and requirements ought to feed back into the preceding Specification and Design stages of the project life cycle. This systemic loop supports the author’s dictum of “Putting Empathy in Operations” (Mabelo, 2020b).

The dilemma is most Operations and Maintenance personnel are not exposed to project processes. In most cases, Krauss (2014) bemoans, they would be (and have indeed been) out of their comfort zone and normal sphere of influence and activities. Similarly, project personnel are not always attuned to operations team and to their needs within the project (i.e., they seem to dislike their inflexibility and their “greasy” ideas)—still, they need to learn to work together. Therefore, just as Operations and Maintenance personnel understand their function in the useful lifespan of the system as deployed in its environment, “Engineering Design teams require being competent [not narrowly] in the project delivery, [but also in] the understanding of operation requirements and the connecting of all parts of the project and its deliverables to the business case for the project” (Krauss, 2014).

Project managers would benefit from involving Operations and Maintenance in projects. “Often the issues arising in a project in the formulation of solutions and the intricate problems [e.g., operability] that require solving in achieving a deliverable [i.e., a successful system] are lost on the operations teams. They have to find their way into the project environment and learn to work with multiple disciplines, engineering, procurement and other personnel delivering the outcomes” (Krauss, 2014). What could perhaps get these teams working together? Would Post-Implementation Reviews assist?

Rationale for Post-Implementation Reviews (PIRs)

The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBoK, 2013) states that “Project Management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities in order to meet project requirements”—the emphasis here seems to be on project activities, which sounds more like “implementation”. The PMBoK definition of a project seems to give the same wrong impression:

“A project is a temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product, service or result.”

Yet again, it could be (and is often) misconstrued that the emphasis is on “create a unique product” —it should stop once a product is suitably created. Moreover, PMBoK (2013) states: “A project life cycle is the series of phases that a project passes through from its initiation to its closure”. The below Figure 1 (spotted after that definition in PMBoK) might reinforce the wrong perception that projects are all about producing a physical artefact, as if everything should stop at Closeout (Mabelo, 2016). Thus, a project manager asked, “What business is there of mine after Archived-Project-Documents?


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How to cite this paper: Mabelo, P. B. (2023). Post-Implementation Reviews – Benefits to project and operations teams; featured paper, PM World Journal, Vol. XI, Issue XII, December. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/pmwj124-Dec2022-Mabelo-post-implementation-reviews-benefits-2.pdf

About the Author

Pascal Bohulu Mabelo

Johannesburg, South Africa


 Pascal Bohulu Mabelo, MBA, MSc (Industrial), BSc (Civil), Pr Eng, Pr CPM, Pr. PMSA, PMP, has more than 25 years of professional experience and possesses a wide range of technical and managerial skills pertaining to large and complex infrastructure projects. He has worked in large infrastructure projects as a design engineer, project/programme manager, project consultant and project management executive. Pascal was honoured to serve as the national chairman of Project Management South Africa (PMSA), the leading Project Management professional association in Southern Africa.

Pascal has published the book: “Managing Engineering Processes in Large Infrastructure Projects” (2021); he has also published, “How to Manage Project Stakeholders—Effective Strategies for Large Infrastructure Projects” (2020) and “Operational Readiness—How to Achieve Successful System Deployment” (2020). He assiduously promotes the application of Systems Thinking and/or Systems Engineering principles and concept to unravel complexity in Large Infrastructure Projects (LIPs) in order to address their persistent risks of failure and their massive, even pernicious, cost and schedule overruns.

Pascal is currently a Director and Principal Consultant at E 6 Project Consulting (Pty) Ltd or E6PC; for any comments, further information, and clarifications he may be contacted at Consult@e6pc.com