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
Cecilia Wong
Cyndee Miller
Shobhna Raghupathy
Wanda Curlee

Recent Posts

Risk Management Isn’t Optional. Here Are 5 Tips for Doing It Right

COO: A Position PMs Are Well-Suited For

How Talent Mapping Can Shore Up Your Project’s Future

Taking It to the Next Level: Portfolio Management

Has Your Project Hit Bad Weather? Here’s How to Communicate in Crisis

My New Year’s Resolution: Become SMARTer

By Conrado Morlan

About five years ago, I made a New Year’s resolution that I renew every year: become a SMARTer project practitioner. This annual resolution is how I strive for excellence in my professional life.

What is a SMART project practitioner? It’s a project professional — project manager, program manager or portfolio manager — who plays multiple roles within the organization and contributes to achieving goals emanating from the organization’s mission and strategy. It stands for strategic, mindful, agile, resilient and transparent.

The SMART project professional goes beyond just managing projects. He or she helps achieve business objectives by exploring new ways to lead, execute and deliver projects supported by dispersed and diverse teams. Technical expertise is not enough — SMART professionals must adopt a business-oriented approach.

Time has proved the concept of this more expansive definition of the project professional valuable. In the 2012 video “Are You Ready?” PMI President and CEO Mark Langley discusses the new skills and capabilities required by project professionals to fully support projects. Companies are struggling to attract qualified project professionals with strong leadership and strategic and business management skills, Langley notes.

Since technical expertise is no longer enough to drive high performance,the SMART concept includes a portfolio of skills the project professional must master to meet the needs of the organization in the coming years.

Being SMART means being:

Strategic. Demonstrate an understanding of the organization’s business goals to help it get ahead of the competition.

Mindful. Develop cultural awareness and leadership styles to influence and inspire multicultural and multigenerational project teams. Foster strong relationships across the organization’s business functions. Adhere to the organization’s values and culture as well as the professional codes of ethics.

Agile. Business strategy is not static and is frequently impacted by internal and external factors. Projects will need to be adjusted to remain aligned with the business strategy, so embrace change.

Resilient. Remain committed and optimistic, and demonstrate integrity, when realigning or repairing projects facing hardships because of miscommunication and problematic behaviors as well as cross-cultural issues and conflicts.

Transparent. Whether the project is in good shape or facing challenges, the state of projects needs to be shared promptly with relevant parties.

In summary: To become SMARTer, you need to continually strive for excellence and master new skills to support professional growth and help your organization achieve its business strategy.

Did you make (or renew) New Year’s resolutions for your professional life in 2015? If so, share them with me.

Posted by Conrado Morlan on: January 08, 2015 02:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

8 New Year’s Resolutions for Your Project Portfolio

By Jen L. Skrabak, PMP, PfMP

As you reflect on 2014 and prepare for the New Year, consider these eight resolutions for your project portfolio in 2015.

1.     Be a portfolio leader. Don’t just manage the portfolio — lead it by thinking in terms of profits and losses. In that sense, how does it compare to other portfolios or business units? What was your 2014 return on investment, and what is your 2015 estimated return? Is this within your organization’s expectations? What projects/programs were a drag and should be stopped? What projects/programs have the potential to generate the most returns and can be a calculated risk? (A calculated risk has a reasonable probability of generating a return; of course, what is “reasonable” depends on your organization’s risk appetite and threshold.)  If you were an investor, would you invest in your portfolio? Asking these questions may help you decide what to do differently in 2015.

2.     Accelerate the business. Ensure strategic alignment by thinking about your portfolio as dynamic and agile — an accelerator to business goals and objectives. How can you free up resources to innovate rather than just keep the lights on?

3.     Sell your portfolio’s value by understanding your audience. Speak the organization’s language while remembering the 5 C’s: clear, concise, credible, creative and compelling:

Clear— Frame the discussion in terms the other party can easily relate to and understand.

Concise— Long decks and presentations will lose your audience. Think elevator speeches: If you can’t sum it up in a sentence or two, it’s probably too complicated to understand. And if it’s too complicated, then you will not have the opportunity to influence, let alone reach agreement.

Credible— Know what you’re talking about and be prepared. This means doing your homework before coming to the table.

Creative— Look beyond the obvious to find the solution.

Compelling— Always know what’s important to the other party and what will drive them to action. Tease out the underlying need instead of only the stated desire. Understand what your bottom line is, and theirs.

4.     Establish a culture of innovation. Do this, and you can deliver long-term as well as quick wins. 

5.     Make data-driven decisions.Look at the facts to drive decisions, not emotions. Don’t get attached to pet projects.

6.     Engage with the world.Go beyond stakeholder engagement at work. Don’t forget about yourself, your home and your community.

7.     Trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. That little voice is an early indicator — listen to it. Sometimes when we forge ahead against our instincts, we find out later that it would have been better to take another course.

8.     Find meaning in your portfolio. Your portfolio delivers the impossible — innovative projects and programs that have not been done before. What achievements in the past year were key to the organization, in terms of values, culture and feeding creative juices? How can you do more of that in 2015?

Posted by Jen Skrabak on: January 06, 2015 02:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

In Good Company: Project, Program and Portfolio Management

Voices_Roger_Cloud Gate2.jpg

At the end of this month, Cloud Gate, a Taiwanese dance company, will celebrate its 40th anniversary with the performance of a new routine, "Rice." Its founder, Lin Hwai-Min, has received international recognition and awards, including the United States' Samuel H. Scripps American Dance Festival Award for Lifetime Achievement in Choreography in 2013, Germany's International Movimentos Dance Prize for Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009 and Time magazine's Asia's Heroes award in 2005. 

"Rice" looks to be a culmination of the company's past four decades of work. But it could not have happened without Mr. Lin's talents -- and his arts management team. Their involvement allows the choreographer to concentrate on his creative work. It wasn't always like that; in the early years, Mr. Lin was responsible for teaching and choreography, as well as staging, marketing and fundraising. This left him exhausted and unable to work creatively. 

Voices_Roger_Cloud Gate4.jpg

Mr. Lin realized Cloud Gate had to develop a management team. Nowadays, the company has divided its operation into three parts. Firstly, the performance of the routines. Secondly, the training and cultivation of artists, whether dancers or choreographers. And finally, the promotion of dance and taking part in wider cultural activities. The three divisions overlap, forming a coherent program of work that defines Cloud Gate as an organization. This is very much like portfolio management, dividing organizational objectives into different projects or programs.    

All of Cloud Gate's managers know they're there to allow Mr. Lin and the rest of the company to work creatively. They know their work helps fund performances for artists and also keeps Could Gate -- and them -- in work. This makes them both sponsors and key stakeholders. And since theater work is beset by a multitude of details, the managers have become skilled in tackling issues appropriately, discerning what is important for the business or for art. However, because ultimately they are part of a creative process, they know they have to be flexible in how they work with artists. 

An impressive archive of routines also contributes to the survival of the dance company. Cloud Gate has accumulated over 160 dance routines. Combinations of these can be used to stage a performance anywhere in the world. Routines based on well-known Chinese literature or folk tales, such as "The Dream of the Red Chamber" and "The Tale of the White Serpent," appeal to Chinese audiences. Those in a more abstract style, such as "Cursive," delight European audiences. The inclusion of different routines into a performance helps Cloud Gate develop new audiences or maintain the loyalty of existing ones worldwide.

Voices_Roger_Cloud Gate1.jpg

Mr. Lin also guides dancers' careers, cultivates young choreographers, and contributes to Taiwan's arts and culture. For example, Cloud Gate is the first dance company in Taiwan to provide its dancers with a salary and routine training. The company also regularly holds open classes and performances in all parts of Taiwan, using scholarships and awards to encourage young people to take up modern dance and choreography. 

Mr. Lin has spent most of his life searching for this: a sustainable way to run an international contemporary dance company. And project, program and portfolio management have helped get him there, delivering inspiring results. 

If you work in a creative industry, what's the role of your management team?
Posted by Lung-Hung Chou on: November 21, 2013 05:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Is Crowdsourcing Most Effective in Doses?

In my previous post about whether crowdsourcing was worthy of all the exposure and hype, I asked for people's opinions.

Well, you certainly responded, not only in comments on the blog but also through emails and on Twitter. Your responses were very helpful and well-thought-out.

After reading your feedback and doing some research, I came to the conclusion that crowdsourcing can be a very effective tool. But only if it's used for a well-defined, focused portion of a project. 

Crowdsourcing generally works best when you need a sampling of input from a large population. This can include activities such as requirements gathering, securing non-rights-protected content or a resource donation (such as computer bandwidth). Some mentioned software testing as a crowdsourcing activity. In this case, it's no different than what companies have always done when their products go "alpha" and "beta." People are simply slapping a new label on an old activity.

In any crowdsourcing scenario, the activities must be considered voluntary. There must be no compensation or contracts. And project participants must have a clear understanding that any contributions - tangible or intangible - are the property of the entity soliciting the input.

My rule regarding compensation for work could potentially be broken through a contest approach such as the Netflix Prize project, which focused on algorithms to enhance the company's ratings system. But activities like these would have to be tightly managed.

Are you or your company evaluating whether or not to foray into crowdsourcing? What types of projects will you use the activity for?


Posted by Geoff Mattie on: April 06, 2011 04:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Does Crowdsourcing Work in a Project Environment?

Can someone please help me understand the hype surrounding crowdsourcing?

I understand the premise: Tasks are essentially outsourced to a large group of people through a call to action. (For more, see "The In Crowd" in the June 2009 PM Network®.)

This seems like a project manager's worst nightmare. The requirements and quality management alone must be a huge undertaking:

  • How do you ensure a team of people who aren't getting paid remain focused enough to see your project through to completion?
  • How do you ensure no one is trying to game the system?  
  • How do you reward those contributing more than others?
I found one marketing agency that claims to be the first built on crowdsourcing principles. I certainly applaud the innovation and outside-the-box thinking. But when I read the description of how they manage resources for projects, it sounds more like a large freelance bench model rather than a brand-new approach. That's not meant as a stab at the agency -- it appears to do good work. Rather it's meant to illustrate that there remains a great deal of confusion in the marketplace around what this methodology is and how to implement it.
 
With many highly visible crowdsourcing projects, for example, there seems to be a lot of press about individuals within the "crowd" who ultimately feel cheated or used for their skills, having been inadequately compensated -- or not compensated at all.
 
It looks like you take a big chance when you sign on to these projects, given that there's usually no contract to fall back on. I imagine this risk goes both ways.

I hope this will serve as a conversation starter. What does your organization think about crowdsourcing?  Have you ever participated -- or managed -- a crowdsourced project? I'm very interested in hearing the challenges and victories out there around this approach.
Posted by Geoff Mattie on: March 01, 2011 04:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)
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