PMI Global Insights

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The Project Management Institute's annual events attract some of the most renowned and esteemed experts in the industry. In this blog, Global Conference, EMEA Congress and experienced event presenters past, present and future from the entire PMI event family share their knowledge on a wide range of issues important to project managers.

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Cameron McGaughy
Kristy Tan Neckowicz
Jack Duggal
Saurayan Chaki
Danielle Ritter
Marcos Arias
Dan Furlong
Karen Chovan
Lawrence Cooper
David Maynard
Deepa Bhide
Marjorie Anderson
Michelle Stronach
Nadia Vincent
Sandra MacGillivray
Laura Samsó
Cheryl Lee
Emily Luijbregts
Sarah Mersereau
Nic Jain
Yves Cavarec
David Davis
Fabio Rigamonti
Gina Abudi
Kristin Jones

Recent Posts

Interview to Thomas Walenta, PMI Board of Directors

What from PMI Global Conference will you put to work this week?

What I've learnt at #PMIcon17

The Agility of PMI

#PMIcon17 - A round up.

Backward Expert

backward

This is a backward blog posting!

This will be my final post before leaving for Chicago tomorrow morning.  So, I wanted to do this one more like the way I think about things – BACKWARDS.  Instead of telling what areas I can help with, I thought I’d ramble about what areas I like to talk about!  I guarantee it would be an entertaining discussion.  Just make select an open appointment here:  then wander over, say hello and lets just talk about one of MY favorite things.

1.  Project failure.   I know more than I ever wanted to know about this.  There was a group of us that Left NASA at the same time and moved to Orlando to start a company dedicated to turning around troubled projects, programs and operations.  When we started, we thought we’d seen just about all the problems that project can get into.  WRONG.  For the next 5 or 6 years we only worked on turning around projects that were at least 100% over budget, perhaps 3 or 4 years late, had irate customers… or simply failed to deliver anything of value. 

It’s not easy to judge project failure!  EVA won’t do it.  It’s a very subjective thing.  “Could anyone have done better in the same situation?” is a basic test, but there are many more. 

So, we fired, hired, replaced, improved… bought contracts, had contracts “novated” to us, and were very successful ending up with a stand-along building and 70 employees.  There’s a lot of trouble out there!   There were project mistakes made that I didn’t think cold be made.   We worked on Casino projects, entertainment projects, airline projects, and many other types.  

Our group learned a lot!  I love to talk about a failed project and how it can be recovered.  Number 1: be ready for stress.  We called being personally ready “the full wax job.”  Exercise, diet, mental toughness, how you dress…  no kidding!  But you need to be prepared.

2.  Working with a team that has widely diverse skills.  If the team gets diverse enough, sometimes you can’t understand what the other people are saying.  I’ve managed teams with theoretical physicists, mathematicians, brilliant engineers and more – of course, they were totally convinced they were ALL CORRECT, don’t even think about doubting their work.  This was great fun.  I loved it and learned a whale of a lot about things they didn’t teach me (a humble engineer) in school.

3. Project risk.  How to think about it, how to predict it, how to anticipate it, how to communicate it, how to budget for it, how to look for the often-neglected positive risk.  It’s CRITCAL that project managers and their teams master this skill.   I’ve had friends die a horrible death  because we (in a larger sense) didn’t manage risk well.

4.  Have the courage of your convictions.  Tell people what you believe, tell the bosses what your project team believes.  Don’t fall into the trap of “drinking your own bath water” or the “echo chamber.” 

Well, I feel better!   Wander over and chat with me!

-- Dave Maynard

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Posted by David Maynard on: October 26, 2017 01:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Rethinking the Charter

Since I retired after 26 years in one company, I have had assignments in various PMOs in different industries.  I’ve been in the energy sector, the insurance sector, credit card services, industrial/manufacturing, and now healthcare.  Every industry has struggled with the project charter.  What does baselining it mean? Does it ever get updated? Who should issue it? And the list goes on.  And while PMOs in all these industries try to invent the perfect process – we are ignoring one important aspect.

The project charter, as defined by PMI, does not meet the needs of today’s business!

Before you call me a heretic and an incompetent – hear me out.  The problem I have with the charter is it becomes a reformatting of existing information, bloated, and redundant – and it doesn’t provide the project team with the most important information it needs.  Shouldn’t the charter give the team a definition of what success looks like?

I propose the charter should be extremely streamlined.  After all, how many people, let along executives, will read a 14 page charter?  Many charter templates contain information that is already in one artifact and will no doubt be included in another.  I propose we throw away the bloated all-inclusive charter of today and replace it with a simple charter.

Project Organizational Wrapper

You need to have the organizational wrapper of project control structures.  If the project pipeline has a defined Demand Process and there is a demand id, it should be in the charter.   This should also be aligned to the business case information – what went into the approval, and other justifications.  No need to repeat them in the charter – they already exist in a corporate database of record.  If information is in two places – that doubles the risk of inconsistency, confusion, and delay.

If you have an integrated project management system (IPMS) that tracks project work in process – then that project id should be there. Projects assume titles and identify from the ideation phase through project initiation.  That title, or name, should be included in the charter because that’s the lingo that has defined the initiative.

Should be results focused

Once the project is ready to kick off, the work initiative needs to be focused on the results.  If your organization is mature enough to be doing Benefits Management Realization, the charter should map directly to the benefit register.  The next section of the charter should be:

What does success look like?

Quite simply – what is the vision in reality?  Knowing what success is far outweighs the value of several scope bullet points.  The definition of success can be expressed in several ways including:

Critical success factors

The essential areas of activity that must be performed well if you are to achieve the mission, objectives or goals for your business or project.

What can we do in the future that we can’t do now?

How do we measure success?

Not calling for specific key performance indicators here, but should have an idea of how we will measure success.  It also provides requirements for the product and what are the critical success factors.

External/legal requirements

If you are driven by a legal requirement or an industry standard (HIPPA or an ISO requirement comes to mind) than that should be identified.  The charter must identify conformation to external factors.

What benefits are being realized?

Again, if you have a mature benefits realization process, then the entire benefits quantification/qualification should be in place and your project is delivering outcomes and capabilities to realize the defined benefits.

Organizational RACI

The charter must be able to identify all the organizations that are impacted by the initiative.  After all, how did you get high level estimates for the business case if you didn’t have a means of identifying organizations involved?  This RACI should then be driven to know which groups need to receive and approve the charter. 

Time Frame

What time frame is expected for the organization to start to realize benefits?  Let’s avoid the charade of bottom up estimates and defining the schedule after you have all requirements defined etc.  We are driven by budget cycles and funding is only approved to last so long.  This isn’t to say those things can’t and shouldn’t happen, but at a Charter level – the approval has a defined end time.  This also helps define the scope.

I have purposely omitted several pieces of what is considered part of a charter.  Not that I don’t think they are important, I do, but they belong in defined sections of the project plan.  There is no need for budget as that should already be in the business case approval – and I don’t know if it directly contributes to the definition of the outcomes and capabilities.    Scope is implied in what success looks like and the Critical Success Factors.  If during requirements definition, a question is raised that doesn’t directly support the definition of success, than it is out of scope.  Assumptions, risks, issues, and constraints are all important, but they live elsewhere.  The charter should identify the future state, not dwell on the challenges of the present state.  And the charter should be a onetime document that is not modified or have addendums.  It initiates the work – other artifacts ebb and flow during the project life cycle.

In closing – the purpose of the charter is to authorize the project manager to start delivering on the project.  It is not to cut and paste from all over to make an all-inclusive summary of all business intelligence that justified the project.  I propose to make it a lean document focused on the outcomes and capabilities and the definition of success.  Items that have a workflow/life cycle (risks, assumptions, issues, etc.) do not need to be in a charter, they are taken care of elsewhere.  A lean, concise, and easy to read charter allows the team to focus on delivering within the success criteria.

 

 

Please sign up for a 1:1 with me while at the PMI Global Conference! We can talk about PMOs, healthcare project management, teaching project management, or any other topic related to project management!

To schedule a 1:1, use the SIGN UP button on this page.

Posted by David Davis on: October 21, 2017 06:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

I've Learned

Right after the Global Conference, I will be flying out to Vancouver to give presentations at ProjectWorld.  One of my presentations is on Influence and Advising as a Project Manager. This is my closing slide.

As a project manager, we are frequently in a position of advisor or influencer.  We need to understand our interactions have long term impact.  Not only for our self, but also our organization.  It's the feeling of value required in the trust relationship.  

The last bullet is most important, there may sometime be the "drop the mic" moment where you win a heated discussion - but the odds are good you will still need to work with that person - so give them an opportunity to save face.  That 15 seconds of satisfaction might be the prelude to months of resistance.  

Dave

Posted by David Davis on: October 05, 2017 12:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Making a Difference: Change For Free!

This post is unabashedly about adaptability and agility.

We all want to make a difference. We also want the things we work on and create through our work to make a difference. In order for the things we create to make a difference to our business clients, they have to reflect the knowledge and insights of what is needed we gain as we work on creating products. This recognizes that we can't know everything up front. 

One of the challenges with traditional approaches is how to address change to reflect the new knowledge and insights  that the business acquires along the way. We know how it works - create a change request, fill in all the necessary sections to talk about what the change means to cost, schedule, scope. risks, who needs to approve, etc. It gets even more complicated and onerous, and expensive when we are dealing with vendors. It often makes you wonder if it's even worth the effort as most changes get rejected due to their cost or schedule implications anyway. Near the end of the project the change requests are often focused on removing things from the project to stay within budgets, timelines, or both.

In my experience, some the things that get dropped under such conditions can have significant value, while some of the things that were done early on actually had far less value, as the delivery approach is not based on an incremental highest value first model.

However, when agile approaches are practiced correctly, change can be free. No really. They can be free.

How can I possibly say that?

Let's use Scrum as the premise. When teams use Scrum they do the highest value things first. The backlog has everything they know so far about what they intend to build into the product. It is a statement of intent though - it is not cast in stone. It can be changed for the next and future Sprints based on new information, changes in team and business understanding of what is possible with the product, as well as priority changes of what is highest value by the business and the Product Owner.

The Product Owner is the one that talks to the business about what the product mus do, how long it will take to build it (the number of Sprints) and the cost. It is not uncommon to fix the number of Sprints and hence the costs at the outset. A good reason for doing this is so that everyone develops a laser-focus on what is truly of highest value first. The premise for this post is this was done.

The Sprint demo is where the business gets to see what was done so far in the latest increment of the product. They also get to reflect on the choices so far about what is in the product. Their reflection is also about what to do next.

  • They can continue based on the backlog grooming and hence the highest value items at the top of the backlog
  • They can choose to redo the priorities of what's highest value based on what is already in the backlog
  • They can choose to add new things to the backlog as highest value and hence will need to be done next

The team has a cadence to which it develops and delivers.  If you can agree on the number of total points that the product will contain based on the agreed number of Sprints, then any changes you need to make along the way, as long you drop items with the same number of points as the ones you are adding, then the actual cost of a change is free.

This is one of the ways to look at what is so paradoxically different about the thinking in agile versus traditional approaches. It forces you to really think about what matters most and to truly get the idea of being adaptable to what emerges. If something emerges that  has a higher business value than what you had previously identified then it must take precedence. 

Remember it's about what is valued most, not everything that may have value. What is valued most is based on what we currently know, which can be quite different than what we knew a month or two ago.

So whether it is an internal Scrum team, or one that as put in place through a procurement process, if you're really willing to focus on what has the highest value and willing to drop items that are of lesser value, then you should be able to make changes for free!

Jeff Sutherland, co-author of the Manifesto for Agile Software Development and the Scrum Guide first suggested the idea of change for free in a class in the Netherlands in 2006.

What do you think - can we do a better job of facilitating others to make a difference today so that our organizations benefit now and continue to do so in the long run?

If you’d like to talk strategic intent, adaptive strategy, back-casting over forecasting, outcomes over outputs, any of the agilities, or pretty much anything you think I may be able to help you with in making a difference in your world, here is my availability during the conference:

  • Saturday the 28th from 1:30 to 4:30
  • Sunday the 29th from 3:00 to 5:00
  • Monday the 30th from 9:00 to 12:00

You can also connect with me at:

  • https://twitter.com/cooperlk99
  • https://www.linkedin.com/in/lawrencekcooper
  • www.TheAgilitySeries.com

Posted by Lawrence Cooper on: September 23, 2017 09:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

Making a Difference: Leaders are Everywhere...waiting...

Me again on the topic of making a difference.

I came across an article I though I'd share called How to Build Community Leaders of Today—and Tomorrow—Through Student Genius Hours.

In the spirit of Google's 20% time, Jen Schneider, a middle school Language Arts teacher in Omaha, Nebraska, decided to set aside one hour per week for her students to explore any question they would like. During Genius Hours "students get to use at least one hour of their class time each week to explore their own questions, create projects, and share with others."

From the article:

Genius Hour taught me to let go and let my students showcase their roles as active, engaged citizens. Their voices are powerful, and sometimes even stronger than our own.

These connections are beneficial not only for our students but the community at-large. Fostering relationships within the places where our students will attend school and possibly contribute as working members of society is beneficial for the common good.

Our students are future employees and leaders, but we shouldn’t be telling them that we’re preparing them for the future. In fact, programs like Genius Hour are preparing them for right now. They can make a difference today in their classrooms, cities, and the world.

So here we have a bunch of Grade 8 students, whose teacher recognized the value of creating a safe environment, facilitated their curiosity, and most importantly let them explore and find their own way. What resulted was far more that she or anyone else could have possibly imagined:

  • leaders emerged that no one knew existed in their midst
  • serendipity happened - they built off of each others ideas and willingness to try new things
  • students learned real world skills - building business cases, understanding of the importance of contributing to the social good, etc.
  • it broke the artificial barriers between teacher and student
  • it enabled some children to identify career aspirations - in grade 8!

So what does this have to do with making a difference in the world we live in at work? The answer is a lot:

  • potential leaders are all around us - are we creating the safe environment for them to emerge?
  • serendipity is huge force-multiplier - do we enable it or do we expect our people to sit in their cubes as they quietly beaver away on the work we told them to do?
  • learning new skills and capabilities help us in what we are doing right now, and pays huge dividends the more we acquire - do we encourage and facilitate that for our teams?
  • people often feel their leaders are not approachable or we require them to "follow the chain of command" - why can't we allow anyone to talk to anyone else in our organizations if it can help make things better?
  • people can get pigeon-holed according to their roles - but do you really know what they are capable of beyond their current role? Do you really think they have no other capabilities beyond what their current role requires? Do you really believe they necessarily want to do that role for their lives?

As leaders we have an obligation to create a safe environment, to facilitate the curiosity of our people, and to let them explore and find their own way in making choices about how best to do their work. It enables them to figure out how they can best make a difference. In so doing, we liberate ourselves from the burdens of management and share the benefits of leadership, wherever it may reside in our midst.

What do you think - can we do a better job of facilitating others to make a difference today so that our organizations benefit now and continue to do so in the long run?

If you’d like to talk strategic intent, adaptive strategy, back-casting over forecasting, outcomes over outputs, any of the agilities, or pretty much anything you think I may be able to help you with in making a difference in your world, here is my availability during the conference:

  • Saturday the 28th from 1:30 to 4:30
  • Sunday the 29th from 3:00 to 5:00
  • Monday the 30th from 9:00 to 12:00

Posted by Lawrence Cooper on: September 15, 2017 09:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)
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