Project management should fit the organisation’s maturity

Shana Coenen has been working in a project-, program- and change management since 2009. She works at the Federal Public Service Finance where she is responsible for the pool of transversal project managers.


What’s your current job title and what does that mean in practice?

My current job title is ‘Team Leader Pool Project Leaders‘.
In practice, this means that I am responsible for a team of project leaders, who are executing and leading the transversal transformation projects in our organisation.

The team is also responsible for the project methodology (“PMFin”, PRINCE2 based) within the organisation.
This means that we train all the project leaders and that we are responsible for all the training material.

My team mainly focuses on projects that impact all of our departments.
These projects help us accomplish our four strategic ambitions:

  • Tailored: personalized and accessible services
  • Cooperation: valuable interaction based on mutual trust
  • Smart: a data-driven, innovative organisation
  • Performance: a flexible organisation that creates pleasant working conditions

Some examples?
Our project ‘Chatbot’ is testing the possibilities of working with a chatbot for our organisation, another project is focusing on how we can digitize all of our incoming paper mail. The last example is a project that works on a participation culture and how we can move towards it in our organisation.


How did you end up in the world of Project, Program and Portfolio management?

I discovered the world of project management at the Public Service of Health. I started there in 2010 as a project leader. Three years – and a lot of projects and experience later – I switched to the Public Service of Finance where I now work for 8 years already.

After several projects, I also led the programme ‘Knowledge Management‘ and became a team leader.


What’s the biggest issue you see in your network at the moment regarding PM?

The biggest issue in our network is the different skill levels of the PMO’s and project leaders. We have some very experienced PMO’s and project leaders, but also a lot of juniors who are just starting.

A job as a project leader is extremely demanding. This means that you always have to deal with some turnover.


What’s your advice on how to solve/face the above-mentioned issue?

Different skill levels mean that you cannot work with a “one size fits all” approach. We already offer a wide range of training possibilities and workshops today: basic project management, planning, risk management, benefits management, resource management, communication and change management, …

In the future, we will evolve more towards individual coaching to work as customized as possible. Recent survey results show that project leaders prefer to follow e-learning in combination with coaching rather than following classes in groups or workshops.

We strive to keep our training up to date every year and to adjust them depending on their needs.


What are the specific challenges that you face within PM in the public sector?

I think it’s more difficult to launch innovative and creative projects in the public sector because our margin of acceptable failure is a lot smaller than in the private sector. In the private sector, you’re even obligated to take the risk of investing in innovation to stay relevant in the sector.

The investments that are made in the public sector have to be immediately socially relevant. The benefits of an innovative project often only become visible after a couple of years. That’s the reason why it’s not as easy to invest “taxpayer money” in projects that don’t have an immediate return on investment.


What kind of advice would you give to the public sector, in general, to prepare for the future coming years?

Don’t run before you can walk.

There are a lot of interesting steps to take in the world of Project Management (resource management, benefits management, tooling, …), but it’s important to adapt those choices to the level of maturity of your organisation and the teams.

It makes no sense to try to implement things where the people or the process aren’t ready for.


What are three things you’ve told yourself that you would like to learn in the near future to develop yourself and your team?

The last few years we mainly focused on “hard skills”: Project Management, resource management, benefits management, … In the near future I would like to focus on ‘soft skills‘: brainstorming techniques, creativity, collaboration in a team, solution-oriented thinking).

The world of Project Management is often a ‘hard‘ world where people like to focus on the technical part of the job. A pity, because what would a project leader be without being able to inspire his or her team, without facilitating, coaching, influencing, motivation, negotiation and trust-building skills?


Shana Coenen

Team Leader Pool Project Leaders

project team leaderShana Coenen has been working in a project-, program- and change management since 2009. She works at the Federal Public Service Finance where she is responsible for the pool of transversal project managers. Those project managers execute the transformation projects for the FPS. She is passionate about organizational development and never stops exploring opportunities to keep evolving the organization and the people who are part of it.