Case Study - North American Port Authority


I was once introduced to a PMO Director of a large North American port authority by a colleague of mine at one of the project management conferences. We chatted for a while, when he told me that his organization had been experiencing serious problems with their current projects and would appreciate my assistance in the matter.

We arranged for a meeting with the PMO Director, the CEO, COO and the CFO of the port authority where we agreed to proceed with an improvement program designed to address their problems.

Problems and Challenges

Interviews with various employees of the organization revealed the following problems (percentage of people who mentioned the issue are shown in brackets):

  • Lack of communications between the departments on larger interdepartmental projects (97%)
  • Lack of uniformity in project management approach across the departments (93%)
  • Lack of accountability for cost & time overruns and poor quality (80%)
  • Lack of feasibility analysis in project selection (77%)
  • Projects are not prioritized properly (75%)
  • Issues with underestimation (68%)
  • Projects are frequently over the budget or late (either underestimated or due to lack of skills) (64%)

Some comments from the participants:

  • "One department makes a commitment, and another has to fulfill it"
  • “Our organization is very siloed"
  • "Work is not properly scoped because the key departments weren't contacted on time"
  • "We are not invited at the right time"
  • "Lack of continuity on interdepartmental projects"
  • "Lack of trust (horizontal and/or vertical)"
  • "We do not spend enough time upfront"
  • "A little bit of a fiefdom warlord mentality"
  • "We do not recognize the interdependency of projects"
  • “Department A does its part on the project and then throws it over the fence to the Department B”


One of the major constraints encountered by Thinktank Consulting was a very strong resistance to change and lack of belief in project management by a large proportion of company employees

Another issue was that there were a lot of misconceptions about project management in general; for example, many individuals believed that a project manager is a simple clerical job that can be performed by any employee after a very short training.


The project management implementation program has been designed to span over two phases:


  • Initial “As Is” assessment of the situation at the port
  • “To Be” analysis especially in the areas of project management processes, templates and training
  • Initial implementation of project management processes and templates
  • Company-wide project management training adjusted for the port-specific project management processes
  • Hiring of designated project managers to run company’s strategic projects
  • Creation of a high-level continuous improvement framework


  • Fine-tuning and expansion of a continuous improvement framework
  • Development and implementation of a resource management process
  • Fine-tuning of existing project management templates and processes


  • After about six months the organization has reported the following changes in the situation with their projects:
  • Improved project scoping
  • Improved project planning resulting in decrease of reworks
  • Improved communications between various departments of the company while collaborating on projects
  • No “over the fence” throwing of tasks and assignments
  • Improved estimation efforts
  • Increased project control and accountability
  • First informal discussions about the feasibility and value of projects proposed have been initiated


About the Author

Jamal Moustafaev, MBA, PMP – president and founder of Thinktank Consulting is an internationally acclaimed expert and speaker in the areas of project/portfolio management, scope definition, process improvement and corporate training. Jamal Moustafaev has done work for private-sector companies and government organizations in Canada, US, Asia, Europe and Middle East.  Read Jamal’s Blog @

Jamal is an author of two very popular books: Delivering Exceptional Project Results: A Practical Guide to Project Selection, Scoping, Estimation and Management and Project Scope Management: A Practical Guide to Requirements for Engineering, Product, Construction, IT and Enterprise Projects.