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Project Manager Knowledge Areas

Who is to blame when a project fails?

Project Manager Knowledge Areas

Categories: PMO Leadership

Knowledge (noun) / familiarity with someone or something.
 
Morale
 
Project Manager Knowledge Areas
 

Pick two. If I were to ask you to pick two of the following three areas of knowledge that you want you project managers to be adept in, which two would you pick?

  1. Knowledge in project management
  2. Knowledge of the business
  3. Knowledge of core technologies that drive the business

This is an age old discussion and debate. Usually the discussion concerns itself with whether or not a skilled PM can be effective cross-industry without being skilled in that industry. Often the example that follows is one of IT project management vs. construction project management.

That is an interesting discussion, but I have a more basic perspective. And that is not whether or not a skilled PM can be effective in different industry domains, rather can a skilled project manager be effective, at all, without an acceptable degree of knowledge of the business and knowledge of the core technologies that driven the business?

Not surprisingly, many PMO managers want to see their project managers have more expertise on the business side and in the technologies that enable and drive the business. However, there are those in the profession that would suggest that a project manager can be, effective and of value, in any project environment without needing to be industry savvy, skilled in the business, or technically deep. Really! And then there are those, that is, some project managers, that don’t care to be industry savvy or technical, preferring instead to just manage the project before them. These folks can tell you what drives Earned Value for a project, but they can't tell you what drives Market Value for their company. Hmn.

Consider the following.

  • How is it that some (not all of course) project managers regularly attend project management conferences and local chapter meetings to learn about project management (this is good of course), but they never seek to learn more about their business or to meet some of the divisions, departments, and people that make up their business?
  • How many of these project managers attend regular monthly meetings or conferences to extend their knowledge and skill in the industry of the company or to extend their knowledge and skill in the technologies that enable and drive their company’s business.

Or put another way, when a project begins to go wrong, is it really a technical project management issue that is behind the failing project? Or is it something else? And if it is that something else, what are we doing to ensure that our project managers have the skill they need to relate to, to recognize, and to manage that something else..?

Therein lies a real problem. Challenge your project managers to become experts in the company’s business and in the technologies that enable and drive the business. It will make them better project managers today, and for the future.

Posted on: August 29, 2012 10:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

Who is to blame when a project fails?

Categories: PMO Leadership

Blame (noun) / to assign responsibility for a fault or wrong.
 
Morale
 
Who is to blame when a project fails?
 

When a project fails, who is to blame? Should the blame fall entirely upon the project manager? Or, is a failed project the result of others not doing their work, whether that is the users responsible for but not providing clear requirements, the business analysts responsible for analyzing and validating the requirements, or the developers responsible for design and delivery of the solution, or perhaps management redirecting resources and jeopardizing the project.

Surely, the blame can be spread around. But, it is the project manager that is the person that must deliver the project and manage and be responsible for all issues and obstacles that stand in the way of successful project delivery. So, at the end of the day, there is only one person to blame for a failed project, the project manager.

Or, is something else really the blame.

According to Deming, “95% of a problem is the process, only 5% the people.” Perhaps not always, but more often than we would like to admit, project organizations have much better people skills and tools, than they do processes.  Treating project failure as a process defect, and correcting that defect, will likely be more beneficial to the organization and than berating the project manager, not to mention the right spot to place the blame.

Posted on: August 27, 2012 01:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)

Managing By Walking Around

Categories: PMO Leadership

Walking (noun) / to advance or travel on foot.
 
Morale
 
Managing By Walking Around
 

What is MBWA..? Chances are, if you are a manager and are over 50 years old, you know what MBWA is and probably have had management training in the technique. Back in the days when we had our business departments, in some cases divisions, all in the same office building and we managed face to face, MBWA was just one of many leadership techniques. But, if you are a manager under 30 years of age, you might not have ever heard this term. In fact, you may not even had any kind of management training and development. How times have changed!

MBWA - Manage by Walking Around.

Though I formally learned about MBWA in new manager training years ago, I experienced it first hand even before that. The year was 1983 and I was an Account Manager in Dallas. I was having lunch with my customer, a value added reseller of ours, and point of contact for our relationship. We were at their company cafeteria and it was a Wednesday. Now, you might be thinking, after three decades, how could I possibly remember that it was a Wednesday? Well, I remember for a fact that it was a Wednesday because on Wednesdays the company cafeteria served Prime Rib and every Wednesday we would have our customer/vendor status meeting and working lunch. Just me, from the vendor side, and my point of contact, from the customer side.

On one of these Wednesday’s and for no particular reason, a well dressed gentleman sat down and joined us for lunch. I immediately recognized this gentleman, though he had no reason to know of me. The only thing stranger than his sitting down and joining us were the two egg rolls and small ice tea on his tray. Not that I have anything against Chinese food, but it was Wednesday, prime rib day.

After joining us, this gentleman proceeded to ask us our names. He needed no introduction. He went on to ask us about our areas of responsibilities and our measurements as well as how business was going. And by how business was going, he didn’t mean good or bad.  He asked for details such as Year to Date percent of quota, forecast for the year, and top 3 sales opportunities for the month.

Throughout the conversation, he offered ideas and suggestions. And as our little lunch chat was coming to an end, he gave me his business card and offered that if I ever needed any help or had a problem in working with the company to give him a call. He also asked for my business card and told me how important my efforts and support were to the company. He then told the two of us to give him a call as soon as we achieved our reseller objective for the year so he could congratulate us. And, the sooner the call, the better. We learned quite a bit from this man’s suggestions and ideas. We are also quite inspired to achieve our goals and we continued on with our working session with renewed vigor and resolve. We were pumped up and it felt great.

That is the effect that MBWA, Manage By Walking Around, can have on others. It is a leadership technique that has withstood the test of time and that can be used by any manager, especially the PMO Manager.

Oh the company, it was EDS. And the gentleman that joined us for lunch in the company cafeteria, he was Ross Perot, the founder and Chief Executive Officer of EDS.

Posted on: August 26, 2012 04:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

The New Project Management Triangle: Part 2 - Business Acumen

Categories: PMO Leadership

Acumen (noun) / the ability to make good judgments and quick decisions, typically in a particular domain.
 
 
The New Project Management Triangle: Part 2 - Business Acumen

Most project management professionals are familiar with the term, the project management triangle. In the traditional project management triangle, the three points of the triangle (scope, time, and cost) refer to the triple constraints. Originally, it was intended to help with intentionally choosing project biases and analyzing the goals of a project. It is often used, and many would suggest misused, to depict project management success as measured by the project team's ability to manage the project, so that the expected results are produced while managing time and cost. Speaking at the Gartner Group PPM and IT Governance Summit, Mark Langley, the President and CEO of the Project Management Institute, offered the following pearls of wisdom, "If we continue to speak of project management only in terms of scope, time, and cost, then project management as we know it will fail us. We need to speak of project management in a new language, the language of business, with the project management triangle having at its three points (1) technical project management in terms of what we know of per our certifications, (2) business acumen, and (3) leadership." With this comment and perspective, Mr. Langley was given a loud and lasting applause by an audience of several hundred CIOs of today's leading companies, an audience not easily pleased nor impressed.

Addressing one of those new points of the project management triangle, today we have ten tips for PMO manager and project manager business acumen. These tips come to us from Barrett Brooks, who is currently writing a book on this all too important subject.

  1. Ask questions. The absolute dumbest thing we can do when entering the workplace is not ask questions. Yes, we might sound stupid for five second. But if the 'stupid' question prevents embarrassment for the entire team or organization later, was it really that stupid?
  2. Learn. Our ability to learn is our greatest asset. Seek to good in many skill sets and an expert in at least one.
  3. Industry knowledge. Be informed about your industry and your business environment. Without industry knowledge, your ability to add value to your organization will be limited.
  4. Business skills. Even if your present job does not require them, develop business skills. Learn how to read your company's annual report, the operating statements, and most importantly the business strategy.
  5. Add value. Seek to add value in any way possible. If you don't have the opportunity to add value then it might be time to find a place or role new where we can. Within three months of starting a new job, we have enough experience and we should have learned enough to be a valuable resource to someone in the organization.
  6. Communicate. Become a conversationalist. All workers need to talk. No matter what the role, the ability to create conversation will immensely increase our chances for success in our job, projects, and tasks.
  7. Write. Even though your business school might not have taught it, writing matters. Haphazard email is rampant in the work place and writing is becoming a lost skill. Those who do it well stand out. Consider it an investment – learn to write clearly, concisely, and with impact.
  8. Network. Seek to continually build meaningful relationships. When done right, networking is good. Spend time with colleagues. Work an extra hour to have an extra lunch with a colleague. Quality time with colleagues will help you develop new perspectives and skills.
  9. Welcome exceptions. There are exceptions to most rules. Exceptions represent business judgment. Rather than mandating rigid processes and policies, welcome exceptions to the rules.
  10. Goals. Set stretch goals, not 'good enough' goals. Setting mediocre goals that get accomplished is not nearly as impressive as setting stretch goals, some of which might not get met. The point of stretch goals is to inspire personal and professional growth. If we are punished for pushing for growth and coming up short, we need to find a new workplace.

It takes time to develop good business acumen. There is no class and absolutely no certification for business acumen. Anyone, in any job or position, can develop and cultivate business acumen skills. You don't have to be a C-Level executive to develop and exhibit good business acumen.

Posted on: April 13, 2012 01:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

The New Project Management Triangle: Part 1 - Leadership

Categories: PMO Leadership

Leadership (noun) / the ability to make things happen.
 
 
The New Project Management Triangle: Part 1 - Leadership

Most project management professionals are familiar with the term, the project management triangle. In the traditional project management triangle, the three points of the triangle (scope, time, and cost) refer to the triple constraints. Originally, it was intended to help with intentionally choosing project biases and analyzing the goals of a project. It is often used, and many would suggest misused, to depict project management success as measured by the project team's ability to manage the project, so that the expected results are produced while managing time and cost. Speaking at the Gartner Group PPM and IT Governance Summit, Mark Langley, the President and CEO of the Project Management Institute, offered the following pearls of wisdom, "If we continue to speak of project management only in terms of scope, time, and cost, then project management as we know it will fail us. We need to speak of project management in a new language, the language of business, with the project management triangle having at its three points (1) technical project management in terms of what we know of per our certifications, (2) business acumen, and (3) leadership." With this comment and perspective, Mr. Langley was given a loud and lasting applause by an audience of several hundred CIOs of today's leading companies, an audience not easily pleased nor impressed.

Addressing one of those new points of the project management triangle, today we have ten tips for PMO manager and project manager leadership. These tips come to us from David Hakala, a senior executive and expert in general management, manufacturing operations, and product and process development per his blog The Zen Scrivener, The Barking Unicorn.

  1. Integrity. This is the integration of outward actions and inner values. A person of integrity is the same on the outside and on the inside. Such an individual can be trusted because he or she never veers from inner values, even when it might be expeditious to do so. A leader must have the trust of followers and therefore must display integrity.
  2. Honesty. Honest dealings, predictable reactions, well-controlled emotions, and an absence of tantrums and harsh outbursts are all signs of integrity. A leader who is centered in integrity will be more approachable by followers.
  3. Dedication. This means spending whatever time or energy is necessary to accomplish the task at hand. A leader inspires dedication by example, doing whatever it takes to complete the next step toward the vision. By setting an excellent example, leaders can show followers that there are no nine-to-five jobs on the team, only opportunities to achieve something great.
  4. Magnanimity. This means giving credit where it is due. A magnanimous leader ensures that credit for successes is spread as widely as possible throughout the company. Conversely, a good leader takes personal responsibility for failures. This sort of reverse magnanimity helps other people feel good about themselves and draws the team closer together. To spread the fame and take the blame is a hallmark of effective leadership.
  5. Humility. Leaders with humility recognize that they are no better or worse than other members of the team. A humble leader is not self-effacing but rather tries to elevate everyone. Leaders with humility also understand that their status does not make them a god. Mahatma Gandhi is a role model for Indian leaders, and he pursued a "follower-centric" leadership role.
  6. Openness. This means being able to listen to new ideas, even if they do not conform to the usual way of thinking. Good leaders are able to suspend judgment while listening to others' ideas, as well as accept new ways of doing things that someone else thought of. Openness builds mutual respect and trust between leaders and followers, and it also keeps the team well supplied with new ideas that can further its vision.
  7. Creativity is the ability to think differently, to get outside of the box that constrains solutions. Creativity gives leaders the ability to see things that others have not seen and thus lead followers in new directions. The most important question that a leader can ask is, "What if … ?" Possibly the worst thing a leader can say is, "I know this is a dumb question ... "
  8. Fairness. This means dealing with others consistently and justly. A leader must check all the facts and hear everyone out before passing judgment. He or she must avoid leaping to conclusions based on incomplete evidence. When people feel they that are being treated fairly, they reward a leader with loyalty and dedication.
  9. Assertiveness. This is not the same as aggressiveness. Rather, it is the ability to clearly state what one expects so that there will be no misunderstandings. A leader must be assertive to get the desired results. Along with assertiveness comes the responsibility to clearly understand what followers expect from their leader.
  10. Humor. A sense of humor is vital to relieve tension and boredom, as well as to defuse hostility. Effective leaders know how to use humor to energize followers. Humor is a form of power that provides some control over the work environment. And simply put, humor fosters good camaraderie.

To be a good leader, you do not have to be tall, attractive, or smarter than everyone else. To the contrary. Anyone can develop and cultivate good leadership skills.

Posted on: April 06, 2012 11:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)
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