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
Cyndee Miller
Shobhna Raghupathy
Wanda Curlee
Rebecca Braglio
Rex Holmlin
Christian Bisson
Taralyn Frasqueri-Molina

Recent Posts

What Is Strategy?

When Scrum Meets a Large Virtual, Volunteer Project

Getting Risk Identification Right

The Benefits of Standardization

3 Tips For Strong Executive Support

What Is Strategy?

By Jen L. Skrabak, PMP, PfMP

Most portfolio managers are aware of the importance of aligning their portfolio to the strategy of the organization.

But what exactly is strategy?

Strategy is commonly misunderstood. Sometimes it is used to denote importance or criticality, for example, a “strategic program.” Other times, it may be used to convey an action plan—an organization may say that their strategy is to launch a new key product.   

In reality, however, strategy does not denote importance or complexity; rather, it represents the collective decisions that enable the organization to amplify its uniqueness in order to win.

It’s important to think of strategy as having three components:

Definition: The intent of the organization over the long term. 

Plan: Clear, concise and compelling actions expressed through a strategic plan and roadmap. Visualization helps to articulate the strategy, and align it with objectives and measurements. Frameworks and tools such as a strategy map, balanced scorecard and activity map help plan the strategy.

Execution: How the organization will achieve its defined plan through its portfolios (and corresponding programs and projects). The portfolio represents the decisions that the organization has made in order to execute on the strategy.

What Strategy IS and IS NOT

IS

NOT

Future/Long term (3+ years)

Current/Short term (1-3 years)

Different

Improvement

A unique position relative to competition

An endeavor to improve operational efficiency

Responsive to environment

Static

The strategy should define for the organization and individuals:

-Where are we going?

-Why are we going there?

-What’s my role?

In my next post, we’ll discuss how to align portfolio management to strategy.

Posted by Jen Skrabak on: August 19, 2016 07:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

When Scrum Meets a Large Virtual, Volunteer Project

Categories: Agile, Cloud Computing, Scrum

by Roger Chou

When the Bureau of Standards, Metrology and Inspection in Taiwan's Ministry of Economic Affairs decided to adopt ISO 21500 as the Chinese National Standard (CNS) for project management, they turned to a virtual team of volunteers to review and implement the standard.

After being asked to head this committee, my first step was to make Scrum practices the method for doing the work. From there I worked to:

1) Centralize collaboration.

Since our committee of more than 30 volunteers (broken into three teams) worked virtually, we needed a tool to communicate and collect information. We relied on the LINE communication app and Google Docs.

2) Create a product backlog.

This backlog was a key reference tool for the committee. It included key stakeholder interviews and user stories that established the needs of CNS.

For example, one story said:

“As the Committee for Chinese National Standards on project management, I want the second version revised to cover our terminology standards so that it won’t waste our time in reviewing the work.”

3) Plan how to perform the work.

I instructed the individual team leaders to let their team members break the user stories into tasks to help them feel ownership of the work and create more accurate tasks.

The tasks were set up to be no more than one day’s work over four sprints (4 weeks total), allowing us to keep the momentum going.

4) Meet regularly with team leads.

This helped ensure teams were working effectively with each other. In this meeting the individual team leads were asked the following questions:

- What has my team finished since the last meeting?

- What will my team do before the next meeting?

- Are there any impediments in my team's way?

- Are there any impediments caused by my team for other teams?

5) Hold sprint reviews.

Throughout the length of the project we held weekly sprint reviews with external stakeholders.

This step not only ensured the volunteers worked to a high standard, but since this work was reviewed collectively, it served as a reminder of the commitments the teams had made to each other — be that deadlines or level or work.

When the final project was completed, it was submitted for review with a panel of industry, government and academic leaders. Our final step was to create the final user story:

“As the product owner of the project, I want to collect each volunteer’s reflection and thoughts, of about 100 words, to make the closure report, So that I may let those new to project management know how to run virtual teams with Scrum and I want to publish these stories.”

Work on this project was constant, sometimes requiring long nights of work. But it was always as a labor of love.

How do you streamline projects for virtual teams? What would you have done differently when managing a large volunteer effort like this one?

Posted by Lung-Hung Chou on: August 18, 2016 08:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Getting Risk Identification Right

By Mario Trentim 

While uncertainty can influence project outcomes, contingency and proper risk response planning can decrease the potential sting. But, despite the rich theoretical background and defined best practices that have been developed for risk management, it remains a struggle for most organizations and project managers.

Why? Here are three reasons I often see:

  • It is not always well understood what a risk is—that it is an uncertain event that impacts one or more of the project objectives. Risks must be specific. Economy, for example, is not a risk; it is a category of risks. Instead, a specific risk might be currency exchange rates if you are importing expensive equipment from abroad.
  • Most project managers perform risk management to comply with organizational standards—in other words, they execute it because they have to, not because their projects would benefit from doing so.
  • Risk identification demands proper tools but the most widely used tool for risk identification is the least effective: brainstorming.  Facing a blank flipchart and imagining what could possibly go wrong in the project is a huge waste of time if used alone because it is sure to leave many risks uncovered.

Effectively Identifying Risks

Risk identification demands effort and time. It is easy to overlook risks in the first pass. That’s why it should be reviewed periodically throughout the entire project life cycle.

According to Rita Mulcahy in her book Risk Management, Tricks of the Trade, if you identified less than 300 project risks, you did a poor identification. To identify more risks (and exceed Ms. Mulachy’s target) try these three tips:

1) Review all documentation, including:

  • Contracts, agreements, quotes and specifications
  • Project charter and project management plan
  • Project documentation (WBS, schedule, resources, etc.)
  • Assumptions and constraints analysis

2) Utilize various information-gathering techniques:

  • Delphi technique, facilitated workshops, interviews or questionnaires
  • SWOT Analysis
  • Benchmarking
  • Expert judgment
  • Risk Inspection
  • HAZOP: Hazard and Operability Studies
  • HAZAN: Hazard Analysis

3) Try different diagramming techniques, such as:

  • Cause and effect diagrams
  • Fault Tree Method
  • Flow charts (system or process)
  • FMEA: Failure mode and effects analysis
  • Influence diagrams (graphical representations of situations showing causal influences or time ordering)
  • Organizational process assets
  • Checklists and categories
  • Risk Breakdown Structure
  • Historical information
  • Lessons learned
  • Hazard indices

How familiar are you with these tools? Which do you find the most useful? Is there another you would recommend? I look forward to your comments!

Posted by Mario Trentim on: August 13, 2016 07:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (10)

The Benefits of Standardization

By Christian Bisson, PMP

 

Standardizing project management across an organization is often met with resistance, as teams are typically eager to customize their efforts based on how they feel is the best way of working. But while there are often adjustments that must be made on a client-by-client basis, there are many benefits to creating a consistent project management experience no matter the endeavour.

Easier Handoffs

A project manager’s life can go from slow and steady to chaotic in a matter of minutes. If you have a common way of working it is easier for colleagues to grab your project for a day and coordinate while you focus on other—often more urgent—concerns.

For example, if your schedule is built using the same tool or template as your coworkers’ projects, opening it up to figure out what’s next is easy. It also keeps your colleague from messing up your well-organized plan, thus making it harder for you to jump back into the project when you’re able.

Shorter Learning Curves

When you hire a new project manager, he or she must learn how the company works—from clients and colleagues to tools and processes—before they can be efficient or add value.

If project management is standardized, it drastically reduces the learning curve for the new hire.

Cooperative Continuous Improvement

For anyone that reads my blogs, it’s quite obvious I’m an advocate of continuous improvement. The best way to do this is by working with other project managers, sharing ideas on how to improve our way of working, our tools, our templates, etc. Having multiple sources of feedback allows for better ideas to emerge and faster fine-tuning.

This is generally overlooked, however, if everyone works in a silo, doing his or her own thing.

Better Client Experience

If a client works with more than one project manager at the same agency, it creates a better experience when documents look the same across projects or communications are handled the same way by different project managers.

What do you think are the key benefits of standardizing project management across organizations? What have your challenges been? I look forward to discussing.

Posted by Christian Bisson on: August 11, 2016 08:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

3 Tips For Strong Executive Support

by Dave Wakeman

As project managers we are charged with balancing the needs of the C-suite with the needs of the day-to-day project implementers.

The problem is that this central role often lacks any clear or formal power. So we must rely on strong and meaningful executive sponsor support.

But how can you cultivate that support? Here are three tips.

1) Talk to your executive about the project’s ROI.

Tell them why the project is important now, where it fits into the organization’s long-term goals and what it will mean to the executive and the organization if you succeed.

Then listen to your executive sponsor’s perception of the project and why they see it as important. This will ensure you are on the same page and will give you the ammunition you need to have productive conversations moving forward — especially handy if you end up needing additional resources during the project.

2) Set a schedule for project updates.

Don’t let the momentum built during your first conversation die. Keep the executive engaged in the project through regular communications. And let your team know you will be discussing the project with your executive sponsor on a regular basis — this will help you have more productive conversations on both sides. Regular conversations with your team and executives helps you avoid the messy and time-consuming challenge of bringing people up to speed when they have been out of the loop for long periods.

3) Come forward with solutions.

When your project hits a rough patch, you can ask for help, you can wait to be told what to do or you can come forth with solutions.

The choice is easy: Always lead with solutions based on your expertise as the project lead. You are likely to get more buy-in from your executive sponsor with this approach because you have made the decision easier for them and you are acting like a partner, and not just a subordinate.

And that’s it from me. What advice do you have for engaging executive sponsors throughout the project lifecycle?

(And, if you’re interested, PMI’s Executive Sponsor Engagement report has some additional info on this topic.) 

If you enjoyed this piece, you will really enjoy the weekly newsletter. It is my most personal and strategic content delivered each Sunday morning to your inbox. Make sure you never miss it! Sign up here or send me an email at dave@davewakeman.com! 

Posted by David Wakeman on: August 08, 2016 01:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
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