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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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 (0)

Executive Sponsorship: Benefits of Advising Upward

The purpose of a project or program is to have its deliverables create value. But this value can only be realized if the new process or artifact 'delivered' by the project is actually used to achieve the intended improvements.

Executives have a central role in this process. There is a direct link between the decision to make an investment in a project and the need for the organization to make effective use of the deliverables to generate the intended benefits. In turn, this creates a valuable ROI.

According to PMI's 2012 Pulse of the Profession, in organizations where senior management has at least a moderate understanding of project and program management, 59 percent of the projects successfully meet or exceed the anticipated ROI. This is compared to just 51 percent of the projects in organizations where the senior management has a limited comprehension of project and program management.

This is where a project sponsor comes in.

An effective sponsor is the direct link between the executive and the project or program. The sponsor is crucial to ensuring top-level management support for the project contributes to the project's success and is critical to achieving the ultimate goal of generating an ROI.

According to Pulse, 75 percent of high-performing organizations have active sponsors on 80 percent or more of their projects.

If your project has an effective sponsor, make full use of his or her support. The challenge facing the rest of us is persuading less effective sponsors to improve their level of support.

To impart project knowledge into other areas of the business, the team needs to be able to 'advise upward.' Here are three tips to do so:

1. Create a conversation about value with other project managers and teams within your organization. This is a very different proposition to being simply on time, scope and budget. It's about the ultimate value to the organization created by using the outputs from its projects and programs. The key phrase is "How we can help make our organization better?"

2. Use the right evidence. Benchmarking your organization against its competitors is a good start, as is understanding what high-performing organizations do.
 
3. Link the information you bring into the conversation with the needs of the organization. Show your organization's executive how this can provide direct benefits.

In most parts of the world, organizations need to do more with less to stay competitive. Developing the skills of project sponsors so they are active is one proven way to achieve a significant improvement with minimal cost.

In fact, if projects are supported more effectively, there may be cost savings and increased value at the same time. And what's in it for us as project managers? We have a much-improved working environment. Everyone wins.

Do you have an active sponsor on your project? Do you think active sponsors improve project success? How involved are the executives in your organization?

To discuss Pulse of the Profession on Twitter, please use #pmipulse.

See more on the Pulse of the Profession.
Posted by Lynda Bourne on: August 22, 2012 02:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

The Strategic Role of Project Management

I have a bit of resentment for organizations that view the role of a project manager as that of a 'traffic cop.' That is, as someone who simply ensures that requirements are documented, meetings facilitated, conference call numbers set up and everyone has their assignments in on time.

To be sure, these are all important facets of a project. But I believe that any qualified project manager should be performing these actions as a reflex. In other words, this is not the primary role of a project manager but simply the basic administrative tasks of a much bigger role.

That's why I was pleased to see the results of PMI's 2012 Pulse of the Profession report. Among many interesting findings, this observation hit home:

Research conducted with senior project management leaders on PMI's Global Executive Council found that the most important skill for managing today's complex projects and programs is the ability to align the team to the vision of the project and design the project's organizational structure to align people and project objectives.

This is the key to the future growth and a value-add of project management in today's organizations. If your company is not positioning project managers to help define, communicate and drive the strategic vision and goals of the projects project managers are responsible for, it is under-utilizing their resources.

Project managers should not view themselves as simply the administrative support team for a group of subject matter experts and executives. They should take ownership of the overall success of the projects they run. This goes well beyond meeting the key performance indicators that have been set out for them. It also includes recognizing and providing the strategic value of the project to the organization.

Beyond understanding the fundamentals of project management as laid out by A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide), you should also take the initiative to know your business and the industry in which you work. This way, you not only recognize the obvious success indicators but also the more subtle success factors -- and risks -- of the decisions you and your team make.

Take heart, Project Managers. It appears our true value-add is finally starting to be recognized. But also take heed: You must up your game to ensure you remain valuable in today's project management field.

How can project managers help align projects to organizational goals?

To discuss Pulse of the Profession on Twitter, please use #pmipulse.

See more on the Pulse of the Profession.

Posted by Geoff Mattie on: August 14, 2012 12:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Create a Project Plan to Reach Success

In project management, if basic technical knowledge is lacking, or the basics are ignored or underestimated, a project's success is not guaranteed.

On the contrary, mastering the project management basics is a prerequisite for project success.

PMI's 2012 Pulse of the Profession revealed that organizations that use basic, standardized project management practices have a 71 percent success rate, compared to the average success rate of 64 percent.

One of these basic pillar practices is taking the time to create a realistic implementation plan. But how do we build a comprehensive, yet realistic project implementation plan? Here are a few tips:

1. Start the project plan while keeping the final objective in focus. Write down and highlight why the project is being conducted and what the project objectives are.

2. Make sure that the project's requirements and overall project scope are clearly captured, along with the project deliverables and the given constraints.
 
3. Implement a well-defined change management process, agreed upon by all stakeholders. The Pulse report revealed that of the projects that used change management, 71 percent were successful.

4. Document the estimated project costs, the funding approach, how the actual costs will be monitored and how cost deviations will be handled.

5. Plan how project communication will be managed. Who are the project stakeholders? What are their project roles and responsibilities and how can they influence the project?

6. Do not underestimate the risks the project can encounter. The Pulse also showed that 72 percent of successful projects used risk management. Assess and document risks throughout the project and plan for mitigation and contingency approaches.
 
What role does project management basics and the project plan play on your projects?

To discuss Pulse of the Profession on Twitter, please use #pmipulse.

See more on the Pulse of the Profession.

Posted by Marian Haus on: August 08, 2012 10:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

A Different Mindset: From Project To Program Manager

As a project manager, leading a project to success provides a feeling of accomplishment. Having been successful at several projects, project managers could see becoming a program manager a likely career move.

But when PMO managers were asked about the most critical factors for success, developing the skill sets of project and program managers were an area of concern, according to PMI's 2012 Pulse of the Profession. As a result, many organizations will renew their focus on talent development, formalizing processes to develop competency.  

In my opinion, developing a program management mindset is a key first step to successfully transitioning to a program management role. For example, moving from the linear world of a single project to the molecular world of programs can be daunting. Plus, you'll face the new experience of leading other project managers.

Here are some practices I have found valuable to adopting a program management mindset:

1. Think big picture  
A common misperception about programs is when they are viewed as one big project. Keep in mind that a program is an interconnected set of projects that also has links to business stakeholders and other projects. Adopt a 'big picture' attitude to the overall program and avoid fixating on a single project's details.

2. Create a project manager trust model  
As a project manager, you develop trust with individual contributors performing delivery activities. As a program manager, you have to develop trust with project managers. Create a common interaction framework with every project manager for progress reporting, resource management, etc.

3. Encourage project managers to say "so what?"
As a program manager, you will deal with additional reports, metrics and other information that you didn't experience as a project manager. Encourage your project managers to start dialogs with "so what" outcomes. This will get right to the direct impact on the program. Have them support these outcomes with relevant information from their reports, dashboards and metrics.    

4. Establish credibility with business leaders   
With programs, customers are typically in business functions. Immerse yourself and your project managers in their business. Training, site visits and status meetings held at business locations are good ways to immerse your team in the customer's business.

5. Develop long-distance forecasting skills
Forecasting several weeks in the future is satisfactory with a project. However, a program with projects moving at different speeds and directions requires a longer forecast horizon. Set your forecast precision in terms of months, not weeks. In addition, look for multi-project forecasting considerations such as holiday blackout periods and external project dependencies.   

What have you found effective to make the mental leap from project manager to program manager?

To discuss Pulse of the Profession on Twitter, please use #pmipulse.

See more on the Pulse of the Profession.

Posted by Kevin Korterud on: July 23, 2012 12:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)
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