By Ramiro Rodrigues
A great deal of effort is often put into a project kick-off meeting—so why isn’t that visibility just as important on the other end of the project?
What is a project closing party?
A project closing party is an event that intends to provide visibility and recognition to the main professionals involved in a completed project. Obviously, there is no sense in celebrating a project that got aborted or that didn’t reach its main goals and targets. So, we are talking about those projects that managed to get to end with the best combination of its intended results.
Within this proposal, it is reasonable to say that what will drive the size of the closing event will be the size (and budget) of the specific project, since it is necessary to achieve coherence between these variables.
What are the benefits?
I see two arguments for hosting these events at the end of a project—one strategic and one motivational.
On the strategic side, a closing party brings visibility to the executing organization (and, if applicable, the hiring organization) that the project has reached its predicted goals. It will help to reinforce to those at the strategic level of the organization that the team is capable and reliable.
From a motivational standpoint, these events will help recognize the efforts of the project team.
How should they be executed?
If you think a closing event could benefit your project efforts, here are some tips to abide by:
Done well, events like a project closing party can have positive repercussions on your next projects.
Do you regularly host or attend closing events at the end of your projects? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
by Ramiro Rodrigues
Project managers: Are you sometimes looking to make plans faster but without being superficial and therefore riskier to the project?
Developed in the 1980s, design thinking is a structured mental model that seeks the identification of innovative solutions to complex problems. Although the concept has existed for decades, it’s only made its presence known in the corporate environment over the last 10 years.
Swiss business theorist and author Alexander Osterwalder similarly sought to accelerate collaborative reasoning when he introduced the Business Model Canvas. Canvas helps organizations map, discuss, rework and innovate their business model in one image.
But a series of proposals for the use of the Business Model Canvas for various purposes outside of business models has also appeared — including innovation, corporate education, product development, marketing and more.
For project professionals looking at alternatives to developing quicker and more collaborative planning, Canvas may sound like a great option. Of all the proposals that come up for the use of Canvas in a project environment, integrating stakeholders may be the best. Canvas brings stakeholders into the process and will help to minimize resistance and increase collaboration, resulting in a better proposal for planning problems and making the project more aligned to the interests of organizations.
But while the arguments put forward for Canvas all seem positive, there is still a dilemma: Can Canvas fully replace the overall project plan and the planning process? Is it possible to do without a schedule of activities, a detailed cash flow, a matrix of analyzed risks — just to limit ourselves to a few examples?
That is probably too extreme.
The general sense is that the integration of Canvas with specific planning — such as the cost plan and the risk plan — is the most productive and generates the best results.
It may be worth asking your project management office for their thoughts.
Have you ever used a Canvas for your project planning efforts? If so, what tips can you share?
“There is nothing permanent except change.”
So goes the popular quote from the Greek philosopher Heraclitus. What do you think about the paradoxical nature of this statement?
Change may be a constant, but our reaction to it shouldn’t be—that’s according to Michael Jarrett, PhD. He makes that case in his oft-referenced article, The Seven Myths of Change Management.
He says that fear and survival are often the roots of resistance to change. Such resistance does not occur only in the work environment, but within different areas of the society, "to protect social systems from painful experiences of loss, distress, chaos and the emotions associated with change."
Peter Senge, the author of “The Fifth Discipline,” throws further light on this by stating that, "People don’t resist change. They resist being changed." While change is not easy, it is necessary for growth.
As noted by the former CEO of General Electric, Jack Welsh, in an annual report, "When the rate of change inside an institution becomes slower than the rate of change outside, the end is in sight."
Peter Drucker, one of the most influential management thinkers, supports this with his assertion that, “The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic.” This goes to confirm the saying that although change is difficult, not changing is fatal.
According to a 2018 McKinsey & Company survey, only 16 percent of respondents say their organizations’ digital transformations have successfully improved performance and also equipped them to sustain changes in the long term.
To drill down further, Lakecia Carter, PMP, warns that effective change management is not possible without communication and training, but training and communication aren’t possible without change management. This is especially important in the case of acquisitions, mergers and any other basic changes that occur within the organization. There have been numerous accounts of corporate mergers that have unfortunately ended due to ineffective change management.
This might make you wonder: If change is as critical as noted above, why is there such a huge failure rate? Some of the common reasons identified are ineffective top-down communication, lack of space and support, unclear objectives from management, lack of effective performance measures and last but not least, the underestimation of the emotions of those being impacted by the change.
In order to successfully drive organizational change, leaders need to engage individuals at all stages of the change process. This can be implemented using the change equation by Richard Beckhard and David Gleicher, among others, that can be written as D x V x F > R, where D = Dissatisfaction, V = Vision, F = First Steps, R = Resistance.
The equation means that in order for change to occur successfully, dissatisfaction with the status quo, a clear vision and first steps toward the vision must be greater than the resistance to change. Some of the popular change management models that can assist with this implementation are the Prosci ADKAR Model, the Kurt Lewin model and the 8-Step Process for Leading Change developed by John Kotter.
In conclusion, although change management is generally encountered throughout the overall corporate environment, it also has a specific application within project management. Within this setting, Carter advises that change management must begin at the project initiation phase—not the execution phase. She adds that change management should continue beyond the project life cycle, to enable the project manager to ensure that unapproved changes do not suddenly resurface as enhancements or requirements.
What have you learned from great thinkers on change management? Please share your experiences below.
By Wanda Curlee
Portfolio management is slowly being adopted by corporations. Or is it? I am speaking from my perspective, which admittedly is narrow, but I wonder if company leadership has what it takes.
I have worked at different organizations—from retail and legal to medical and government—and they all say yes, they are ready to do the hard work. But when you try to start developing requirements or even do a gap analysis, there are many reasons why it doesn’t happen: leadership is not in sync, resources aren’t available or there’s not an appetite for change. Or even worse, there is only one person who champions the cause, and he or she does not have the political momentum to push the effort.
The pushback can be major or minor. Leadership might say they had no idea you would need their people to develop the processes, templates and tools. Or leadership might ask if the company can just get a tool instead? There are solutions to all of these points, but leadership may not want to hear them.
So, how do you get over these hurdles?
For some, it’s a matter of providing training and knowledge. Leadership may truly have no idea what portfolio management is. In their eyes, it’s simply knowing what all the projects are in their area. That is one aspect, but there are several steps before you even get to that spot.
For instance, will you look at all projects in the organization, or only those of a certain budgetary value or length? Perhaps a combination of both?
Then there is the question of how to slice and dice the projects.
To slice and dice, you need to understand how to relate projects to strategy. Does your organization meet several of the corporate strategies or only one? If you have a project that is not allocated against a corporate strategy or sub-strategy, then why are you doing it? It’s taking resources and budget away from projects that do have strategic value. Even operational projects, such as upgrading software to a new version or implementing new enterprise software, need to map to a strategy.
For example, imagine your company has a strategy to increase sales by 20 percent in three years. The current sales tool has received well-deserved criticisms, and the tool is too small for the current sales volume. Implementing a new sales tool probably makes sense. However, the new tool would require the company to be running the latest version of operating software. The portfolio manager would recognize this, along with IT, and the portfolio manager would argue the case that these are interrelated. The opportunity exists here to make these two software projects and all the peripheral workstreams, such as training, into a program.
Do you have what it takes to push portfolio management forward? Or will you just succumb to pushback?
Don’t be afraid to speak up. If project portfolio managers don’t advocate for the correct way to do project portfolio management, organizations will suffer in the long run. The wrong way to do something is expensive and not beneficial.
Don’t let your company fall into that trap.
What experiences have you had when pushing portfolio management forward? Please share below.
By Christian Bisson, PMP
I recently had the privilege to participate in the 9th Montreal agile coach gathering. Along with meeting great people and having a chance to exchange ideas with them, I had the opportunity to learn about “liberating structures”, a concept developed by Henri Lipmanowicz and Keith McCandless.
Liberating structures are 33 alternative structures for facilitating meetings, work sessions or retrospectives. Unlike conventional structures, such as status reports or presentations, liberating structures are meant to distribute control of the conversation so that all participants are part of shaping direction. This ultimately helps everyone work together while feeling more in control. According to Lipmanowicz and McCandless, conventional structures are either too inhibiting or too loose and disorganzed to achieve this.
Within your organization, liberating structures can be used to organize and facilitate work sessions, retrospectives or other types of meetings. These structures range from simple and fast exercises to those suited for more structured and longer meetings, giving a diversified toolset for various circumstances.
One evening during the 9th Montreal agile coach gathering, everyone gathered into small teams, picked one of the liberating structures randomly, and took 25 minutes to understand and discuss it with the objective of presenting it to everyone else afterward within a three-minute timebox.
Our team picked “critical uncertainties”, which makes you focus on essential and uncertain realities, and then plan strategies according to different possible futures. Among brainstormed ideas, you need to identify the most robust strategies (i.e., the ones that would work with the most possible futures). You can then plan action items based on what was discussed.
Another one that caught my interest is “1-2-4-all.” It is simple and can be used in so many circumstances, yet it is efficient to help a group of people (small or large) communicate and share great ideas.
For anyone out there who is a fan of liberating structures, I’m curious to find out which ones you used, in what context, and how was the result. Please share and discuss!