Voices on Project Management

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Voices on Project Management offers insights, tips, advice and personal stories from project managers in different regions and industries. The goal is to get you thinking, and spark a discussion. So, if you read something that you agree with--or even disagree with--leave a comment.

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Cameron McGaughy
Marian Haus
Lynda Bourne
Lung-Hung Chou
Bernadine Douglas
Kevin Korterud
Conrado Morlan
Peter Tarhanidis
Mario Trentim
Jen Skrabak
David Wakeman
Roberto Toledo
Vivek Prakash
Cyndee Miller
Shobhna Raghupathy
Wanda Curlee
Rebecca Braglio
Rex Holmlin
Christian Bisson
Taralyn Frasqueri-Molina

Recent Posts

How to Think Big While Managing Small Projects (Part 2)

How to Think Big While Managing Small Projects

Portfolio Governance—Ensuring Alignment to Strategy (Part 2: Definitions)

Why Certifications Matter (to Me)

Managing for an Uncertain Future

How to Think Big While Managing Small Projects (Part 2)

 

 

By Kevin Korterud

 

My last posthttp://www.projectmanagement.com/blog/Voices-on-Project-Management/20344/ offered two tips for project managers who want to develop a big-project mindset while executing small projects: leverage support resources and implement quality assurance practices. But why stop there? Here are two more.

 

1. Understand Change Management     

It’s easy to think small projects don’t require many business change management activities. But even a project that has a modest projected budget could face unforeseen change management activities.

 

For example, I worked on a project several years back that was straightforward to implement but required specialized support for remote locations. The original project budget estimate had not considered this.

 

Even for projects of modest size, project managers should examine the need for business change management activities such as business process transitions, different types and levels of training materials, and measuring the timely adoption of the functionality the project creates.

 

2. Validate the Project’s Complexity and Forecasting    

Project managers running small projects are often handed a budget and schedule that allow for neither timely nor successful implementation. This usually comes about from poor estimation processes that don’t take into consideration the necessary complexity analysis typically found on big projects.

 

This in turn can create budget and schedule errors of a much larger percentage than the small project can absorb. In addition, small project schedules can be affected by adjustments of large projects if they share a project or technical dependency, which creates unanticipated impacts to schedule and budget.  

 

Project managers can save themselves a lot of future pain by initially confirming the complexity assumptions for the project before proceeding. In addition, project managers running small projects still need to undertake the same level of forecasting rigor found on large projects: resource availability, work planning, milestone progress, cross-project and technical dependencies, business outage windows and other considerations that can more greatly impact a small project.    

 

When project managers “think big” on small projects, it allows them to be successful no matter the size of the project. Do you have any advice for project managers running small projects on how to think big?

 

Posted by Kevin Korterud on: May 06, 2016 05:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

How to Think Big While Managing Small Projects

 

By Kevin Korterud

 

It’s typical for new project managers to be assigned to a small project to build their skills. Why? Small projects have a limited value at risk, a modest budget, a shorter schedule and a smaller team. But project managers early in their career who have successfully led small projects often ask me how they can move on to leading big projects.

 

Small projects, to some degree, can be more difficult to lead than larger ones. You are given much less in the way of reserve budget, schedule and resources. However, big projects are not just smaller projects with larger budgets and longer schedules. They have inherent complexities relative to stakeholders, scheduling, resources and deliverables not found on small projects.

 

My recommendation to project managers wanting to move to larger projects is to “think big” while running smaller projects. Thinking big involves adopting, where possible, practices required for large projects.

 

Here are two ways project managers can think big on projects. My next post will offer two more tips.

 

1. Leverage Support Resources  

Many times, project managers running small projects attempt to perform all of the project operations activities themselves. This can include creating new work plans, calculating progress metrics, scheduling status meetings, and performing a host of supporting activities for the project.

 

While it may be a source of great pride to a project manager to perform these activities, they represent an opportunity cost. In other words, the project manager could instead be working on higher-value activities like stakeholder management or risk management.

 

Employing support resources even on small projects can save valuable time and costs. It also means the project manager doesn’t have to spend time becoming an expert in the tools and internal project operations processes. By having other people assist with the mechanics of building project plans and producing metrics, the project manager will have additional capacity for running the project.

 

 

2. Implement Quality Assurance Processes   

Project managers on small projects tend to become immersed in a level of detail not possible on large projects. The small project also allows for deep interaction with team members that may not be effective on large projects.

 

In addition, a project manager on a small project may be tempted to start serving in roles akin to a business analyst or technology designer. This can distract the project manager from actually running the project.

 

To keep focused on project management activities, quality assurance processes should be implemented. Phase gate reviews, deliverable peer reviews, change control processes, quality performance metrics and the definition of project acceptance criteria are all good examples of quality processes. With the implementation of these processes, project managers can focus on deliverables and outcomes without getting too deeply immersed in the details of the project.

 

Check back for my next post on more ways project managers can develop a big-project mindset while executing small projects.

 

Posted by Kevin Korterud on: May 05, 2016 10:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Portfolio Governance—Ensuring Alignment to Strategy (Part 2: Definitions)

 

 

By Jen Skrabak, PMP, PfMP

In the first part of this series, I introduced PMI’s new governance practice guide and reviewed basic differences between organizational (corporate) governance, portfolio management governance and portfolio governance.

With that foundation, I’ll now discuss the four basic governance functions, which together can ensure alignment to strategy. Since portfolios include programs and projects by definition, those are not called out separately.

  • Oversight. Provide guidance, direction and leadership for portfolios
  • Control. How to monitor, measure and report on portfolio status
  • Integration. Provide strategic alignment and integration for the portfolio
  • Decision-making. Provide decision-making structure, thresholds and membership, including delegation of authority for portfolios

In addition, there are four basic governance domains:

  • Alignment. Creating an integrated governance framework, and defining the governance relationships and hierarchy between portfolio governing bodies and other governing bodies (enterprise, functional, program and project-specific)
  • Risk. Identifying and resolving threats and opportunities proactively to ensure the balance of risk and reward for the portfolio
  • Communications. Disseminating information, engaging stakeholders and ensuring organizational change is carried out effectively
  • Performance. Measuring and evaluating KPIs to ensure portfolio value

For some portfolio managers, there may be confusion over governance activities versus portfolio management activities. Portfolio managers may play a governance role on certain programs and projects and provide oversight and decision-making. However, day-to-day portfolio management is distinct from governance, as shown in the diagram below:

Look for part three of this series—which will be focused on key success factors—in the coming weeks! And comment below to share your reactions.


 

Posted by Jen Skrabak on: May 02, 2016 04:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Why Certifications Matter (to Me)

By Conrado Morlan

The number of credentials offered by professional associations, hardware and software vendors and other organizations has grown sharply in the last decade. So have the number of credential holders.

There’s much to be said for certifications. Many companies require a certification to advance along their career path. In addition, salary surveys show that, overall, credential holders earn more.

On the other hand, some professionals and employers are not fans of certifications. They argue that many people have forged a career and reputation without them, that accelerated changes in science, technology and government regulations makes certifications hard to maintain, and that the cost and time of pursuing credentials are too high.

I see the value of certifications from two perspectives: the value given by the credential itself, and the value of my contributions to the credential.

The value given by the certification is the importance of the knowledge gained through earning it, the reputation of the institution or professional association that awards it, and the certification’s years on the market.

The value of my contributions to the credential has to do with how it engages me to actively research trends within my profession. This process can help experienced practitioners turn into thought leaders who share their experiences leading and managing projects across the globe. In other words, the value of a certification can cascade beyond the credential holder. Knowledge is shared with other practitioners, helping them to advance in the profession.

Yes, it’s true that some credential holders fall behind and don’t keep up with the latest knowledge and/or renew their credential. Other credential holders don’t follow the established code of ethics, which harms the reputation and value of the credential. But such misbehavior or lack of up-to-date knowledge isn’t the fault of the credential or the credential-awarding organization.

PMI, for example, has a strict renewal process for the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification that requires certification holders to earn a specific number of credits per cycle to keep the credential current.  And over the 30+ years since the PMP was created, those requirements have been updated to cover market and industry demands.

You may be wondering why I didn’t mention the cost of certifications, and whether they’re worth paying. To me, it’s a no-brainer. I take my professional development personally and always recall former Harvard University President Derek Bok’s quote, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”

If you’re a certification holder, how do you measure its value?

Posted by Conrado Morlan on: April 26, 2016 08:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Managing for an Uncertain Future

By Wanda Curlee

Marisa Silva, “the Lucky PM,” recently published a five-part series on portfolio management, “Thinking Outside the Triangle: Project Portfolio Foresight.” What intrigued me in the series were her thoughts about the future. She aptly points out that the project management discipline is about helping to understand the future. But the future, of course, is anything but predictable.

Project, program and portfolio managers take different views of the future. The project manager is at a tactical level and focuses on moving one project to its successful conclusion, or the future. Throughout the project, the project manager attempts to keep it on track. However, Marisa stresses that the project manager needs to think beyond the golden triangle of scope, timeline and budget by assessing the external environment and how it affects the project.

For example, imagine you’re a project manager leading a large, complex project. The project is key to the organization updating its antiquated systems. The vendor is about to announce a revolutionary change to the product that the project is implementing. What do you do? This affects your future and the company’s.

At the next level, the program manager is orchestrating a group of projects to deliver a complex environment and a single benefit or a set of interim benefits. Again, the program manager is gazing into the future to deliver these projects and benefits. He or she is constantly re-evaluating how to maximize the benefit for the company via the set of projects.

Finally, the portfolio manager takes a disparate set of projects/programs, maps them to strategy and then works magic to move the company from an “as-is” strategy state to the “to-be” strategy state envisioned by the leader of the organization.

Simple, right? Absolutely not. The portfolio manager is consistently looking at how to optimize the portfolio to keep within risk tolerance. He or she also optimizes resources to drive the best value for the company. Talk about looking into a crystal ball!

But according to Marisa, even this is thinking inside the triangle. The astute portfolio manager needs to have foresight. He or she should be thinking about various visions of the future and be adaptable enough to change. In other words, portfolio managers must have situational awareness of the current world and how it can change dramatically (sometimes in an instant). They must be ready to adapt to that change.

To describe the enormously complex world we now reside in, two acronyms have been coined: VUCA (vulnerable, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) and DANCE (dynamic, ambiguous, nonlinear, complex and emergent). As the project, program or portfolio manager, you help your organization prepare for and adapt to an uncertain future.

 

 

 


 

Posted by Wanda Curlee on: April 25, 2016 09:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
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