Voices on Project Management

by , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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


View Posts By:

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

Why Certifications Matter (to Me)

Managing for an Uncertain Future

How to Motivate Your Team (Part 2)

How to Motivate Your Team

4 Change Management Tips for Project Managers

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)

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 (5)

Is Your Agile Communications Toolkit Up to Snuff?

By Taralyn Frasqueri-Molina

A lot of things change when moving from traditional project management frameworks to agile ones. But what doesn't change (or shouldn't!) is how much and how often teams communicate. 

Agile frameworks don't actually require daily stand-ups or regular retrospectives. But you should consider adding some new trade tools and a few other staples to your project management toolkit if you’ll be working in an agile context. You may find that they quickly become essential to keeping communication flowing through your team—and your project on track.

Here's a short list of tools I've used on all of my projects.  

Sync-ups/Planning Meetings: This helps me start a project off right by making sure the product owner and execution team are on the same page. We set expectations, talk requirements and the direction for deliverables in areas such as UX, design, marketing.  

Daily Stand-Ups: Quick check-ins with the entire team help gauge project health and bring roadblocks to the forefront sooner rather than later. This is also where we address scope creep, taking note of good ideas that need more exploration before being included in the backlog.

Retrospectives: After each sprint and after each project, a retro helps the team ensure processes are working— and decide if we want to carry over those processes to the next iteration.

Wiki: These often get a bad rap but can act as an excellent centralized location for real-time documentation editing and sharing. In my experience, it can serve as a digital asset management (DAM) system for sharing web copy and design assets. While not a perfect DAM solution, it will do in a pinch.

Instant Messaging: Whether collocated or remote, teams sometimes need quick answers to questions—and a meeting can be overkill as a way to get answers. The challenge with instant messaging, though, is to make sure teams are on the same page about how and when to use an IM tool.

Email: This tool still reigns supreme when it comes to quickly keeping a lot of people in the loop about what's going on. Even if it's an email directing people to a wiki, it's still one of the best tools for mass communication. But maybe not for decision-making!

What tools am I missing? And do you find any of the tools mentioned particularly good or bad for certain kinds of communications? Share your thoughts below.

Posted by Taralyn Frasqueri-Molina on: March 24, 2016 12:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Project Leaders as Ethical Role Models


By Peter Tarhanidis            

This month’s theme at projectmanagement.com is ethics.  Project leaders are in a great position to be role models of ethical behavior. They can apply a system of values to drive the whole team’s ethical behavior.

First: What is ethics, exactly? It’s a branch of knowledge exploring the tension between the values one holds and how one acts in terms of right or wrong. This tension creates a complex system of moral principles that a particular group follows, which defines its culture. The complexity stems from how much value each person places on his or her principles, which can lead to conflict with other individuals.

Professional ethics can come from three sources:

  1. Your organization. It can share its values and conduct compliance training on acceptable company policy.
  2. Regulated industries. These have defined ethical standards to certify organizations.
  3. Certifying organizations. These expect certified individuals to comply with the certifying group’s ethical standards.

In project management, project leaders have a great opportunity to be seen as setting ethical leadership in an organization. Those project leaders who can align an organization’s values and integrate PMI’s ethics into each project will increase the team’s ethical behavior. 

PMI defines ethics as the moral principles that govern a person’s or group’s behavior. The values include honesty, responsibility, respect and fairness.

For example, a project leader who uses the PMI® Code of Ethics to increase a team’s ethical behavior might:

  • Create an environment that reviews ethical standards with the project team
  • Consider that some individuals bring different systems of moral values that project leaders may need to navigate if they conflict with their own ethics. Conflicting values can include professional organizations’ values as well as financial, legislative, religious, cultural and other values.
  • Communicate to the team the approach to be taken to resolve ethical dilemmas.

Please share any other ideas for elevating the ethical standards of project leaders and teams, and/or your own experiences!

Posted by Peter Tarhanidis on: February 22, 2016 09:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (19)

Portfolio Management Predictions for 2016

Categories: Portfolio Management

By Wanda Curlee

Compared to project or program management, “portfolio management” is in its infancy. I suspect many still think of investment or financial portfolio managers when they hear the phrase.

Portfolio management—I don’t usually put “project” before these words—will certainly change significantly during the next decade. Think how much project management has changed in the last 10 years.

But instead of looking into a crystal ball to imagine the state of portfolio management in 2026, let’s just think about 2016. I’m keeping my eyes peeled for three things this year.

1) C-Suite recognition.

I expect many more people in the C-Suite to recognize that implementing strategy is doing the hard work. Someone needs to be the push between executives and senior management on one hand, and program and project managers on the other.

Some would say that this is the PMO manager’s position, but that misses the point. The portfolio manager sits above the PMO and does the hard work for the C-Suite. He or she has the ear of the C-Suite and makes tough recommendations to the governance team. This is primarily done by looking at the strategic objectives, aligning the projects and programs to them, and ensuring that the appropriate resources are available for execution.

2) New tools.

What else will we see? Tools! To date, there is no one tool that truly meets the need of the portfolio manager. Yes, some come close. But there is nothing that appears to have the input of a seasoned portfolio manager.

I hope some enterprising software company will retain an experienced portfolio manager to help design a brilliant tool. Because when the end user is asked to help design the software, a much better product happens.

3) Virtual abilities.

Along with the right tools, a portfolio manager needs to be able to work in a virtual environment. With clients, project managers, vendors and leaders in different parts of the world, many companies are now operating in a virtual environment. That means it’s increasingly important that portfolio managers have the ability to deal with time zone and cultural differences.

It’s hard to say exactly how working in a cloud-based environment could impact the world of portfolio management. It could conceivably provide greater transparency to an organization’s leaders, for example.

What do you expect to see as portfolio management matures in 2016 and beyond?

Posted by Wanda Curlee on: February 09, 2016 05:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

"You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you."

- Dale Carnegie