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.

About this Blog

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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

When Project Benefits Erode

What Do Next-Gen Project Leaders Look Like?

How to Avoid Useless Meetings

Future-Proof Projects — and Careers — With a Little Engineered Serendipity

I, Project: A Peek Into a Machine-Powered Future

What Do Next-Gen Project Leaders Look Like?

by Dave Wakeman

Care to do a little thought experiment with me? Let’s imagine what the new and improved next-gen project leader should look like. And let’s come up with a few key attributes that would make this new and improved project leader successful.

Here are a few of my ideas about how to achieve success in the future of project management:

1. Emphasize strategic ownership of your projects and your role in the organization.

I know that I’ve been hitting a constant drumbeat over the last few months about the need for project managers to become more strategic in their thinking and their actions. For good reason: As our businesses and organizations become more project-focused, the need to think and act strategically becomes a key factor in our success or failure.

One way you can jump on this before everyone else does is by always taking the initiative to frame your projects in a strategic manner when dealing with your sponsors and key stakeholders. Work with sponsors on ways that you can manipulate and focus your projects strategically.

2. Less domain knowledge and more business acumen.

The project management role in an organization has changed. Even in industries that have long embraced project management principles and the job title (e.g., IT), technical knowledge aspects have become less important because of specialization.

What has replaced the emphasis on specialization in the project manager’s role? An emphasis on strategic thinking and business acumen. This is likely to accelerate to become the new normal.

You can take advantage of this trend by working to think about your projects as tools to increase the value of your company and its products and services to your customers and prospects.

3. Communicate or die.

This last point shouldn’t be a surprise. Being a good communicator has been the differentiator between successful and unsuccessful project managers as long as project management has been a thing.

But as our world becomes more interconnected through technology, with teams dispersed across continents instead of floors, the ability to effectively communicate is going to be more and more important. And the ability to be that communicator is going to have a bigger and more meaningful impact on your career and your success in your organization.

What qualities do you think next-gen project leaders require? Please post your comments below! 

By the way, I write a weekly newsletter that focuses on strategy, value, and performance. If you enjoyed this piece, you will really enjoy the weekly newsletter. Make sure you never miss it! Sign up here or send me an email at dave@davewakeman.com! 

Posted by David Wakeman on: May 23, 2016 10:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

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 (4)

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 (2)

Want to be a Strategic Project Manager? Communicate Better!

by Dave Wakeman

In recent months, I’ve been talking about how to become a more strategic project manager on this blog (see here, here and here). I thought it would be a good idea to circle back and talk about how being an effective communicator will help you be more strategic.

Here are three tips to remember:

1. Communications is at the base of performance.

Never lose sight of the fact that as a project manager, you are basically a paid communicator. And, as a communicator, you have certain responsibilities: being clear, keeping your message concise and making sure you are understood.

If you aren’t meeting these requirements, you are likely going to struggle to achieve success in your projects. In addition, poor communicating may mean you miss the message about why this project is important to the organization. You also may miss information from the team on the ground that would shape the organization’s deliberations about the project.

So always focus on making sure that your communications up and down the organization are clear, concise and understood.

2. A free flow of communications delivers new ideas.

Managing a lot of communications and information is challenging—I get that. But by the same token, if you aren’t exposing yourself to information from many different sources (both inside and outside the organization), you’re likely missing out on ideas that can transform your opinions and open you up to new ways of looking at things.

While being a strong project manager is about having a good, solid framework for decision-making, you aren’t going to have all the technical expertise yourself. In addition, your team may be only focused on the one area that they are in charge of. So it’s important that someone is open to the flow of ideas that can come from any direction and that may have the power to reshape your project in unimaginable ways.

You can achieve this by making sure you have conversations up and down the organization and pay attention to things outside of your scope of work. You never know where a good idea is going to come from.

3. Relationships are the key to project success—and they’re built through communication.

If we aren’t careful, we can forget that our project teams are groups of people with wants and needs. Remember: at the heart of our work are real people whom our projects impact.

That’s why it’s essential that you focus on the human aspect of being a project manager, especially if you want to become a top-notch, strategic project manager. Our human interactions and relationships are the key to our success as project managers.

This is something you should be taking action on all the time. Maybe you start by pulling someone on your team aside for a conversation about what’s going on. Maybe you find out a little more about the person’s home life. Or, you just make sure you have an open-door policy when it comes to information on your projects.

The key is to make sure you give your personal relationships an opportunity to thrive in the project setting.

Let me know what you think in a comment below! 

By the way, I write a weekly newsletter that focuses on strategy, value, and performance. If you enjoyed this piece, you will really enjoy the weekly newsletter. Make sure you never miss it! Sign up here or send me an email at dave@davewakeman.com! 

Posted by David Wakeman on: April 10, 2016 02:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

Portfolio Governance—Ensuring Alignment to Strategy (Part 1)

By Jen Skrabak, PMP, PfMP, MBA

Governance is an extremely broad and often times misunderstood area. It can span functions, domains and types, depending on the context of an organization and other factors. Even across the various standards and current body of knowledge and research, there’s no consistent definition of governance or approach to its implementation.

Yet as portfolio managers, we all recognize that governance is perhaps the single most important enabler of good portfolio, program and project management. It helps to guide the appropriate oversight and decision-making that ensures successful execution of strategic initiatives.

That’s why I’m so proud of PMI’s recently released Governance of Portfolios, Programs, and Projects: A Practice Guide. I was fortunate to chair a committee of leading experts around the world that developed the guide, which fills a critical gap in the profession today.

An important accomplishment of the committee was to formulate a definition of governance that can be applied to the portfolio, program and project context. Governance may exist at various levels of the organization. It’s important to distinguish among those levels:

Organizational (or corporate) governance. This is typically a board of directors’ level and defines principles, policies and procedures around how the organization as a whole is controlled and directed. It typically includes areas of oversight such as regulatory, compliance, cultural, ethical, environmental, social responsibility and community.

Portfolio (or program, or project) management governance. This typically may be how an enterprise portfolio (or program, or project) management office (EPMO) determines common policies and procedures. This may define the hierarchy and relationships of governing bodies—for example, whether programs and projects report to a portfolio governing body and the specific criteria.

In some organizations, the EPMO may define guidelines for a phase gate approach to programs and projects. It also may define methodology for technology projects, such as adhering to standard processes (ITIL, RUP, Scrum, agile, SDLC, etc.).

Portfolio (or program, or project) governance. This is the oversight and leadership on an individual portfolio. In many organizations, there may be a capital investment committee made up of the senior executives of the business and technology areas that oversee all capital expenditures over a certain amount (typically US$1 million or more).

On an individual program or project level, it’s important to define the relationships of the various governing bodies and ensure that it’s aligned to a functional or portfolio level. A project may be required to report to functional governing bodies (IT and/or the business area), as well as the portfolio manager. It’s important to ensure that the thresholds and authority of decision-making are defined at the right levels.

In my next blog post, I’ll define terms related to using portfolio governance to ensure alignment to strategy.

Posted by Jen Skrabak on: April 02, 2016 11:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)
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