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
Cecilia Wong
Vivek Prakash
Cyndee Miller
Shobhna Raghupathy

Recent Posts

Managing for Stakeholders — Not Stakeholder Management

It All Starts With Strategic Clarity, Say Symposium Speakers

Symposium Experts Offer Tips for Winning the Talent War

Organizational Strategic Alignment in Action

PMO of the Year Award Winner Helps Drive Rapid Growth

Organizational Strategic Alignment in Action

By Conrado Morlan

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a project management symposium in which government and for profit organizations shared their successes in aligning projects with organizational strategy. The takeaways of the sessions are listed below:


Takeaway: Develop partnerships. The city of Frisco, Texas, USA, shared its experience of working in a collaborative environment on public-private partnerships. Frisco has been named “The Best Place to Raise an Athlete,” and to keep achieving that vision, it has run several projects partnering with the U.S.’s major sports leagues and teams to create a thriving sports-related market. The most recent project that will enable Frisco to achieve its strategy is a new partnership with the Dallas Cowboys American football team, which includes the development of the team’s new training facility.

During the execution of the strategy, organizations need to secure the right capabilities and implement them in the right place at the right time. If those capabilities are not available inside the organization, partnering with external sources that share the organization's vision is the solution.
 

Takeaway: Understand how projects impact the business.The CIO of 7-Eleven explained that he had held several leadership positions at the U.S.-based convenience store company — from logistics and merchandising to operations divisions. With that deep knowledge of the business, he was able to reorganize the IT department from a business perspective. The new focus became selecting and strategically structuring priorities that align the IT function and projects with business needs to gain full support from stakeholders, and to execute and prioritize business initiatives through innovative technology.

The 7-Eleven example confirms that strategic and business acumen are part of the next generation of project management skills — or the “talent triangle”— that will assist organizations to effectively and efficiently achieve alignment of projects with strategy.

Takeaway: Set the framework from the start and at every level. Southwest Airlines described how its five strategic initiatives were determined through portfolio management, program management and project management, which set the foundation for the airline’s growth in international markets.

 

Organizations are finding their employees know what they need to do to perform well in their current jobs, but very few are clear about what is required over the long-term. Therefore, employees need to be familiar with the organization's strategy to understand their role and responsibility and how their contributions will benefit the organization.

 

While none of the keynote speakers referred formally to Organizational Project Management (OPM) — the strategy execution framework used to align and customize project, program and portfolio management processes to consistently and predictable deliver corporate strategy to produce better results and sustainable competitive advantage— the steps their organizations followed are ones suggested in PMI’s Implementing Organizational Project Management: A Practice Guide.

 

With the guide, project management practitioners and cross-functional team members can learn how an effective project management methodology and globally accepted best practices integrate with business-specific processes and techniques. In addition, they can learn about tools to help the organization develop a living and evolving methodology that enables the assessment and refinement of its practices.

 

Has your organization started any effort to elevate the project management discipline to a strategic level? If so, how is it achieving this goal?

Posted by Conrado Morlan on: November 20, 2014 05:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

To Learn or to Execute? That Is the Question

Categories: Talent Management

If you've ever been in a corporate training session, chances are you've noticed fellow project managers coming in late, or not at all. The excuse is often, "There is so much pressure on the project that it's very difficult to make time for training."  

In my experience, project managers who choose work over training often expect the same from team members. So when a project is running, learning all but stops. But here's a thought: Upgrading skills and project execution can -- and should -- take place in tandem.

Consider these two scenarios:

  1. Project manager focuses on execution and ignores training
  2. Project manager focuses on execution and training
In today's fast-changing world, it is necessary to continuously upgrade skills beyond what you can learn on the job to overcome future challenges. In the first scenario, the project manager consistently misses opportunities to upgrade skills. After some time, the organization finds it difficult to provide better and more challenging assignments due to lack of skills. The organization will very likely lose a frustrated project manager. In the long term, both the organization and project manager are in lose-lose situation.

In the second scenario, the project manager not only focuses on efficient execution but also prepares himself or herself and team members for current and future challenges. Due to time constraints, this is the hardest option for a project manager, but it's also the most rewarding. The key is developing a plan that combines learning and execution. 

For example, a project manager might enroll in a training session that pulls him or her away from the workplace. This forces the project manager to delegate his or her tasks to team members. In turn, that gives team members an opportunity to lead during the project manager's absence -- and experiment and learn what they will do in future. The net result is a positive cascading effect that upgrades the skills of everyone on the project.

Here is a simple plan to get you started:

  1. Evaluate your team members' roles and responsibilities -- yours included -- six months or one year down the line.
  2. Identify the skills that are required to perform those roles and responsibilities. 
  3. Map the existing skills and identify the gaps for everyone on the team. 
  4. Prepare a training plan for each member. 
  5. Build a main training schedule that addresses individual absences as team members complete their training. This schedule should plug in the skills gaps left by the absent team member.
With a firm training schedule, you and your team members can feel at ease to attend trainings. And since training sessions directly enhance skills for all roles, everyone can feed their newfound knowledge into the project.

Do you prioritize training over execution, or vice versa? How are you ensuring you advance your skills in the face of project work? 

Learn more about how organizations can recruit, train and retain talent in "Mind the Gap," a PM Network® online exclusive.

Posted by Vivek Prakash on: April 19, 2013 12:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Smart Organizations Sync Talent With Strategy

For all the talk of an economic recovery, many organizations continue to obsess over headcount. But a smaller (and smarter) group is focusing on getting the right people on the right projects -- positioning those people and the organization itself to grow. 

The payoff can be huge, according to PMI's Pulse of the Professionâ„¢ In-Depth Report: Talent Management. On average, 72 percent of projects meet their original goals and business intent at organizations with significant or good alignment between their talent management and organizational strategies. Now put that up against the 58 percent rate at organizations with moderate or weak alignment. 

Despite the potential ROI, only 10 percent of organizations report significant alignment. That stat takes on added significance when you consider what's shaping up as a true talent crisis. 

Pulse data revealed four in five organizations report difficulty in finding qualified project management candidates to fill open positions. Some organizations are resorting to some serious poaching -- check the battle for project talent between Silicon Valley tech titans Apple, Google, Yahoo! and Facebook. China Road and Bridge Corporation is adopting a more long-term approach, according to China Daily. Looking to build talent in a strategic market for its projects, the company is sponsoring a group of Congolese students to study engineering and project management in Xi'an, China. 

In this case, organizations that align talent management and strategy have an edge, reporting less difficulty in filling open positions. 

Organizations that align talent management to organizational strategy are also more effective at implementing formalized career paths, with 83 percent moving new hires to advanced project management positions. Among organizations with weak alignment, that number drops to 62 percent. 

The MD Anderson Cancer Center, for example, clearly outlines the path up. It requires 10 years of experience (including five years of project management) and a Project Management Professional (PMP)® credential for senior project managers who manage highly complex strategic projects that span three or more organizational boundaries. Establishing a career path not only makes employees feel like the organization has a vested interest in them, it also helps the organization spot -- and close -- any skills gaps that might prevent it from delivering on its business goals.

Recruiting and retaining top talent will only get organizations so far. They need to measure results, too. Across the board, organizations with strong alignment are more likely to measure outcomes such as staff turnover, learning development, and employee engagement, retention and productivity. 

U.S. space agency NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), for example, tracks the effectiveness of its professional development courses by assessing enrollment numbers and feedback from senior leadership. Armed with that information, the PMI Global Executive Council member knows what's working -- and what's not. 

No doubt, creating a talent management program comes with a hefty price tag. But consider the danger of skimping: On a US$1 billion project, organizations with significant or good alignment of talent management programs to organizational strategy put US$50 million fewer dollars at risk than organizations with moderate or weak alignment.  

With those kinds of numbers on the line, the bigger question is: Can an organization afford not to make the investment? 

Posted by Cyndee Miller on: April 08, 2013 10:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Manage The Knowledge Gaps

To be great in project management, we can't only be familiar with our role as the project manager. We must be educated about other roles in the profession, as well as most, if not all, knowledge areas.

But project managers often do the work they like and are familiar with, rather than work that needs to be done. Even if it's work that contributes to a project's overall success, I find that many of us focus on tasks that we're familiar with or that we already know we're good at.

Regardless of how great I am with some tasks, I know that I must fill in my own knowledge gaps with team members' expertise. Because in addition to being a good project manager, the real trick to getting things done is surrounding myself with a capable, well-trained project team.

Instead of trying to learn everything and being everything to everyone, I accept that I won't always know it all. I ask for input from the team on a regular basis. This makes the team feel needed and appreciated for their contributions and makes the project execution more efficient.

Do you tackle the tasks you're good at rather than those that need to get done? How do you balance your own expertise with that of your team members?

Posted by Dmitri Ivanenko PMP ITIL on: October 17, 2011 11:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Start With Acknowledging Yourself

Categories: Talent Management

After my last post, I received a thoughtful e-mail from a project manager in Barcelona, Spain. Because she was constantly criticized growing up, she said she had difficulty acknowledging others.

One's ability to acknowledge is an interesting and important topic. Although it focuses on our personal issues regarding whether or not we were acknowledged in our families, our schools and in our early jobs, we are all people first and project managers second. Therefore I would like to address the heartfelt question that was raised, as it has importance for all of us.

A person's ability to acknowledge others freely, generously and sincerely is linked to the way we're raised. If we were encouraged and praised as children, we're likely to grow up with a deep sense of self-worth and confidence. If we were constantly criticized, we have more work to do to gain a sense of self-worth.

We have to become our own support system, which can be hard. And it's even harder to acknowledge others when we've feel like we have not been acknowledged for who we are and the contributions we make. If that's true for you, then you will have to push yourself more to deliver acknowledgments that may come to mind but that you may have trouble carrying out.

We as human beings crave acknowledgment. Receiving acknowledgements releases a chemical called dopamine in our brains that makes us feel good, perform better and work harder to get more of what's called "the dopamine drench," per an article titled "In Praise of Praising Your Employees" published in the Gallup Management Journal.

So here's my advice if you were underacknowledged in your earlier life: Start by taking stock of who you are and what your contribution is to your workplace, your family and to the world. Then you can exercise the muscle on the underside of your right arm, as you reach up and over to give yourself a pat on the back!

In my courses, we always start by telling each other something special and unique about ourselves. I invite all of you to do just that--share something special about yourself with a friend or coworker--and send me an e-mail telling me about it. With your permission, I might even post it.
Posted by Judy Umlas on: September 14, 2009 12:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
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