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
Vivek Prakash
Christian Bisson
Rebecca Braglio
Cyndee Miller
David Wakeman
Jen Skrabak
Mario Trentim
Shobhna Raghupathy
Rex Holmlin
Roberto Toledo
Wanda Curlee
Taralyn Frasqueri-Molina

Recent Posts

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 Motivate Your Team (Part 2)

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)

4 Change Management Tips for Project Managers

Categories: Change Management

By Christian Bisson, PMP

For project managers, change is constant—inseparable from day-to-day life. And if you work in IT, the pace of change is only getting faster. Unfortunately, human nature makes us reluctant to change. So for project managers and others who want to make change happen, here are a few tips:

1. Help people adapt

No matter the type of change—whether it’s a new technology, a new process or a new methodology—the steeper the learning curve, the fewer people who will be onboard.

Help people adapt to the change with these approaches:

  • Build tutorials: Any guide whatsoever will simplify the learning process. It can be very simple or more elaborate, depending on the size of the change. Avoid anything long and tedious. Aim for quick and simple to use, like cheat sheets or interactive tools.
  • Offer help: Let people know that you (or someone else) are available to help them. Obviously, make sure it’s true, and appropriate help in a timely manner.
  • Plan the change: People should be introduced step by step to the change instead of forced into it all at once. Going at a more reasonable pace will greatly reduce the fear.

2. Show how it’s helping THEM

This tip may not apply for all the changes we want to execute. But let’s say you want to change a tool that a team uses for projects. The team’s initial reaction might be skepticism or resistance.

You want to make sure that people are aware of how the changes are good for THEM—not you or management. In my example above, you could tell team members it’s going to make their overall work easier. They will have a more efficient tool that will quickly give them access to the information they need.

By focusing on that when you brief the others, they will also focus on that while they are juggling their emotions toward the change. As they fight their reluctance, they can remind themselves how the new tool will help them.

3. Ask “Why?”

This tip can be applied once reluctance is detected. It’s easy to insist on something or even to force it on people. But by simply asking why they are reluctant, you may learn that it’s because of simple reasons that can be mitigated. You may even find out that your idea is not as good as you thought, and you can adjust accordingly.

By asking why, rather than assuming you know how the other people feel (or trying to guess), you’ll receive valuable feedback.

Once a colleague was annoyed by new software we were using just because he was receiving too many notifications. I simply guided him toward the notifications preferences, and it made all the difference for him.

4. Don’t give up

Stay positive, and keep it up. The tips above should be repeated as needed.

 

Share  your tips and stories! I’m certain a lot of you are facing challenges with changes inside your teams.

 

Posted by Christian Bisson on: April 15, 2016 07:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

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)

3 Tips For Understanding Strategy and Project Management

by Dave Wakeman

In my posts from the last few months, I’ve been discussing strategy and how you can make yourself a more strategic project manager. A lot of project managers still struggle with this idea.

One source of this struggle seems to be uncertainty about what strategy means in relation to being a project manager and part of a larger organization.

First, let’s start with a simple definition of strategy: a plan of attack designed to achieve a major goal. So where does that apply to project managers? Pretty much everywhere.  Here are three ways you can look at it.

1. Think from the end backward, not from the start forward.

A few months back, I wrote about managing for the right outcomes. And that means starting with the end in mind. In being a strategic project manager, at its simplest, you are really just starting out by planning your project with the end in mind. Considering that we are all supposed to begin our projects with a planning phase, it makes sense to not just plan, but plan with the intention of fitting everything into a commonly focused outcome.

Think about it like this: The planning process is designed to make sure that you have the time and resources available for your project and that you know where you are going. In being strategic, you just need to make sure you always make your decisions with the end in mind.

2. Don’t become wedded to one course of action.

What I’ve seen in working with organizations around the globe is that it’s very easy to become wedded to one course of action. That can’t be your position if you want to work strategically.

When you’re approaching tasks and challenges and the inevitable same old ideas and solutions come up, ask simple questions: “What are our options here?” “Is there a different way of approaching this?”

All you’re looking for is opening up your actions to different avenues for success.

3. Lovingly steal from everything around you.

I’m not advocating a life of crime, but one thing you want to do is start stealing ideas from the businesses around you.

This is important because in too many cases, we become locked into one idea, one way of thinking or ways that projects have always been done. This is especially true in industries that have always been closely associated with project management, like construction and IT.

How should you go about stealing ideas that may be helpful to your projects?

To use a personal example, I found a use for my project management background in politics. In politics, many titles include “strategist” or “manager” or something that elicits the idea of project management and structure. But due to the intense nature and timeframes of a political campaign, most of that planning and structure is quickly tossed out of the window.

In my work in politics, I introduced the role of a traditional project manager and applied that framework to every aspect of the campaign and process. Essentially, I added a layer of change management and monitoring foreign to many in the industry.

Now think about what you can learn from outside your industry. Can you discover a management tactic from a TV show? Or is there a parallel in another industry that gives you a useful piece of insight?

Am I off base or what? Let me know 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: February 29, 2016 09:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

3 Lessons From My First Project Manager Job

By Jen Skrabak, PMP, PfMP

Fifteen years ago, I transitioned from being an IT manager to a project manager for the first time. With this month’s theme at projectmanagement.com being “new practitioner PM,” here are three key lessons I learned while managing my first projects.

When I was an IT manager, I always had projects that were assigned to my department. I loved being part of large projects so much I realized I wanted to do it full-time. So I made a conscious decision to transition to being a dedicated project manager.

Managing a project is truly like being a CEO of your own company—you have authority over budget, resource and key decision-making responsibilities. However, it’s an art, and mastery takes time. These are the three fundamental lessons I learned:

1) Communication is about simplifying and personalizing.

Although we may hear that 90 percent of a project manager’s job is to communicate, the best communication is one that doesn’t contain acronyms, special terminology or techno-speak.

Remember that key stakeholders are often involved in multiple projects. To get their attention, you need to make your communications concise and personal while clearly specifying the action desired.

Avoid lengthy mass emails, and tailor the frequency and channel according to the person. One sponsor told me she gets so many emails that I should schedule a meeting if it’s important. Another sponsor told me he works best with instant messaging if I needed something immediately.

The key is to know your audience and adapt accordingly. My first sponsor meeting always includes finding out how and when he or she would like to be communicated with.

2) Project management is about knowing which tools to use when.

Yes, project management is about processes, knowledge areas and ITTOs (inputs, tools and techniques, outputs), according to the PMBOK Guide. But, most importantly, it’s a menu of available options.

Trying to do everything by the book or insisting on adherence to every single template and tool is setting yourself up for disaster. Assess the needs of the project, and don’t ignore the culture of the organization. You can’t go from zero processes to textbook processes overnight. You may need to start slow by introducing concepts and build from there.

3) Build relationships.

Trust is key. When you’re starting out as a project manager, you’re an unknown, so you need to work extra hard to establish the relationships. It’s important to come across as professional, yet approachable and flexible in order to build confidence with your team, and most importantly, your sponsors and key stakeholders. Regular, relaxed one-on-one meetings, such as getting coffee or grabbing lunch, help to build cohesive partnerships that will pay dividends when the going gets tough on the project.

Posted by Jen Skrabak on: January 23, 2016 07:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (13)
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"Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric."

- Bertrand Russell

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