Voices on Project Management

by , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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.

About this Blog


View Posts By:

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
Rex Holmlin
Christian Bisson
Taralyn Frasqueri-Molina
Jess Tayel
Ramiro Rodrigues
Linda Agyapong
Joanna Newman

Recent Posts

Tips For Leading an Effective Taskforce

The Project Manager-Powered Management Model

Standing Out as a Project Manager

Award Winning Metrics For 2018

Project Leaders Are at the Forefront of Today’s Operating Models

Tips For Leading an Effective Taskforce

Categories: Taskforce

By Marian Haus, PMP

We’ve all heard about those projects in crises—the ones that required a quick and firm intervention with the help of a taskforce to bring it back on track.

No project manager wants to be in such a difficult situation, especially not with her or his own project.

But how do we, as the hero of the day, handle being tasked with saving a troubled project?

First let us examine what a project taskforce is and what it is good for.

A project taskforce is a mandate allotted by the project sponsors or the upper management of the project organization to a senior project manager or a senior leader. The goal is to find the best option for resolving a particular problem in a very short timeframe.

A taskforce is a management mechanism that should be only used in exceptional situations. It generally requires disrupting other project activities and deploying the best people to solve a particular problem under possibly highly stressful and energy-depleting conditions.

So how do we handle this? Here are some tips on what an effective taskforce needs:

  • One experienced lead: It can either be a senior project manager or a leader experienced with crisis situations. I put the emphasis on one, since single leadership is the key to getting the job done! The last thing you’d want in a taskforce is having two or more leads debating how to drive the taskforce. One person has to call the shots.
  • An elite team: The taskforce lead will need to quickly assemble an expert team, formed with the best people who have the required field expertise to quickly understand and resolve the problem. The smaller the team, the easier it is for the taskforce lead to motivate and steer the team to finding the right solution.
  • A sharp focus: The particular problem the taskforce is working on has to be clearly articulated and known to the entire taskforce team. The objectives the team will be working on also have to be clear to everyone involved. Secondly, several other project issues may come up along the way. But to be effective, the taskforce must remain focused on the main problem.
  • A short timeframe: Given the urgency, plus the high level of the deployed team’s energy, a taskforce is only effective if conducted in a short timeframe (matter of hours or a few days). If efforts go on for longer, it’s likely not a taskforce, since the energy and effectiveness dissipate over time.
  • The appropriate logistics: Due to the intensity and possibly a stressful situation, taskforces require an isolated project space—or war room. That entails a space that provides appropriate office materials (whiteboard, note cards, etc.) to facilitate brainstorming and for capturing the results (notes, action items, assumptions, decisions, solutions, etc.) of the taskforce.
  • Options for a solution: The taskforce’s outcome should include one or more options that lead to a resolution, with a recommendation for the best option. This option, even if it is technically the best the expert team can recommend, might not satisfy the risk appetite of the person or organization that has mandated the taskforce. Therefore, every option should also provide the related pros and cons.  
  • Qualified assumptions: Beware of unqualified assumptions. If the identified options are building up on assumptions that are not fully validated, highlight the risks or need for confirmation before making a final decision.
  • Plain outcome communication: To terminate the taskforce, its lead and the expert team will have to reduce the complexity and sum up the outcome of the conducted work (options with pros and cons, along with assumptions and their risks or opportunities). Ultimately the taskforce lead will communicate the outcome, confirm the decided solution and conclude the mandate of the taskforce.

If set up and executed properly, a taskforce can be an effective tool to resolving crisis situations in projects.

Have you ever worked on a project taskforce? What tips would you share?

Posted by Marian Haus on: March 06, 2018 02:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (15)

The Project Manager-Powered Management Model

By Wanda Curlee

In my last post, I discussed the project manager-powered management model that centers on neuroscience and people. Many models that discuss project management forget that people are the center of a project team. It is the people that have the power within the project.

Below is the model—let’s look at it in more detail.

By keeping the triangle in balance, the project success rate increases to 60 percent.

Time is the anchor as it can’t be managed. After all, time is constant — a person can’t make it go faster or slower.

Variables are on another side. They incorporate all those items that affect the project or program, including environment, politics, lack of resources, risks, opportunities and more. The effects of the project or program can be positive or negative. Hence, a powerful sponsor can increase the project’s success rate.

Finance is the final side. The word finance was chosen deliberately. Today, there are many ways to support a project or program. It may be normal currency. But financial support could also come in the form of bitcoin, credit cards, loans, various apps used to exchange money and even bartering. Each type is no better or worse than the other. In the future, there may even be something different that has not even be envisioned today.

Project or program managers and their teams have to keep the triangle in balance. If one side falters, the triangle collapses — hence the red bolt in the middle.

The project manager should lead efforts to keep the triangle in balance and drive results; the project team has the power to accomplish tasks.

The entire model is based on human emphasis, which is predicated on neuroscience. And once project or program managers understand the foundation of what drives human behavior, they can then motivate and drive projects to success.

However, the project/program manager has to have a sense of pAcuity: The “p” is project, program, or portfolio, while acuity means keenness. The leader, along with the team, has to have the keenness to take the project/program/portfolio in the right direction by understanding how to harness individuals’ power. Individuals, then, need to have the keenness to assess what is going on around them to drive the tasks to completion. This is done through neuroscience or understanding how we as humans think.

Stay tuned for my next post to understand the brain and how it drives us to perform on the project or program.   


Posted by Wanda Curlee on: February 28, 2018 07:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (17)

Standing Out as a Project Manager

by Dave Wakeman

Not all project managers are created equal.

The challenge for many of us is how to stand out in a marketplace where people are constantly talking about being a brand. Also, how do you stand out in culture where selling your importance to the project is often more important than actually getting things accomplished on the project? 

Here are a few ideas that can help you build your presence as a key part of your organization’s success and put you in line to be rewarded for the contributions you make.

Make sure you communicate up and down the organization.

Communication plans are a key part of what you do as a project manager. But have you ever thought about making sure that you communicate your teams’ accomplishments up and down the organization?

If you are anything like me, you’re likely falling into the trap that your work should speak for itself.

This isn’t always true.

In far too many instances, the person with the best results isn’t the one that is rewarded. That’s why it is essential that you communicate successes up and down the line on your projects.

This will not only help you stand out as a project manager, it will also give you a chance to show off the successes of your team and reward those efforts.

To more regularly celebrate results, you can build acknowledgement into the communications that are already scheduled. For example, you might start your next meeting off with “three things we did that really moved the project forward” or something along those lines.

Share your ideas inside the organization and with the project management community.

It’s easy for me to say this because I’ve been writing about project management for years, but one of the key ways that you can make sure you’re respected as a project manager is to share your ideas —inside and outside the organization.

One thing that is great about having a PMI Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification is that you’re rewarded for continuous learning and teaching with PDUs. Sharing also enables you to stand out because you’re the one offering up new approaches and ideas about what is challenging project managers and their organizations.

You can easily do that by starting a blog here. This website offers all of us in the project management community the chance to share our ideas.

Plus, blogging is a low barrier to entry.

On top of that, most local PMI chapters are always looking for speakers.

Push yourself to continually grow.

I mean this in a business sense as much as for project management.

Project managers really stand out when they go beyond technical proficiency. They should spend time learning about the larger environment that their organization is competing in and how that will impact what goes into the strategic decision-making process.

If you’re constantly working on improving your business acumen, you will set yourself apart from other project managers and become a go-to resource in your organization much more easily.

You can do this by reading the news a little bit every day. I use Flipboard to learn about new ideas and stories in the business world. The key isn’t to try and do everything. Instead, it’s to have an understanding of the business market that your organization is competing in.

The big key to standing out as a project manager is to never stand still. There isn’t one magic idea that will make you a world-famous project manager. But if you are constantly learning, communicating and sharing, you have a good chance at being a leader in your organization and in the project management field as well.

How do you stand out as a project manager in your organization?

By the way, I write a weekly newsletter that focuses on strategy, value, and performance. If you enjoyed this piece, you will really enjoy the weekly newsletter. Make sure you never miss it! Sign up here or send me an email at dave@davewakeman.com! 


Posted by David Wakeman on: February 22, 2018 08:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (21)

Award Winning Metrics For 2018


Award-Winning Metrics For 2018  

by Kevin Korterud

What are the best metrics for determining if a project is about to experience schedule, budget or quality slippages? These metrics are best categorized as delivery volatility metrics.


Executives already know when a project is in trouble — they are more concerned with those projects whose trajectory is on a currently unseen course to trouble.


PMI offers guidance on project metrics to help detect delivery volatility, such as the Cost Performance Indicator and Earned Value Management. While project reporting will likely have one or more of these metrics, I got to thinking what other metrics would indicate the potential of delivery volatility.


An additional complication is the various approaches used today, including agile, waterfall, company custom, software product, service supplier and regulatory. These can all generate their own set of metrics.


While pondering this question watching TV one evening, I noticed a multitude of movie, theater, television and music award shows that tend to occur this time of year. A characteristic of these shows is the numerous categories that are awarded to nominees — Best Supporting Actress, Best New Pop Group, Best Special Effects and so on.


As I was organizing my thoughts around metrics, I figured: Why not use award show categories to help shape an answer on which metrics would best suit early detection of delivery volatility?


As the Master Of Ceremonies for the 2018 Project Metrics Award show, here are a few of the winners:



  1. Best Supporting Traditional Metric: Schedule Performance Indicator (SPI)!


As our projects become more complex and more numerous, the ability to deliver on a set schedule becomes more important. The SPI has the great benefit of comparing actual and planned progress in an objective manner: earned value/planned value.


The true power of SPI comes into play when selecting a method for earned value accumulation. Assuming work plans are at a level of granularity where task progress can be measured within a two to four week window, a conservative earned value scheme such as 0%/100%, 25%/75% based on task start and completion is a very objective means of calculating progress.


With these conservative schemes, you capture value when the tasks have started (when resources are truly free to work on tasks) and whether the task has been completed (usually with acceptance of completion by a project manager or stakeholder).


Given today’s tight delivery timeframes, as well as the need to coordinate delivery with other projects, SPI is a good indicator as to the schedule fitness of a project.



2. Best Supporting Emerging Metric: Functional Progress Metrics!


As I shared above, there are now a multitude of methods available to run projects. From these methods, all sorts of new metrics are available to project managers to identify delivery volatility. These metrics can include completed user stories, forecast backlog, project burndown, build objects, test case performance and many others.


In addition to these new metrics, a whole host of new waterfall, agile and other tools have come into play that capture functional progress outside of the traditional work plan tasks and milestones. In fact, work plan detail requirements can be relaxed when these tools are used to shed light on the functional progress of a project.


The power of these functional metrics is that they allow the next level of inspection underlying project phases, tasks and milestones to see delivery trajectory. For example, being able to see the detailed completion progress of requirements, build objects and test cases in automated tools allows project managers to catch underlying barriers to progress before it is revealed in a work plan. 






  1. Best Metric For 2018: Planned vs. Actual Deliverables!

As project managers, the universal outcome for our efforts is that we need to create value for our project executives and stakeholders. While activities can lead to creating value, our mission revolves around the production of deliverables in a timely manner to fulfill a project value proposition.

The inherent power in providing and approving deliverables in a timely manner is that they are completely objective means of progress. No matter what method, effort, dependencies, resources, tools or other constructs of project management are employed, deliverables are an indicator of whether you are making progress. The track of deliverables being created, reviewed and approved on schedule means you are making definitive progress toward value.

Creating a track of deliverables and their targeted completion dates with progress that can be monitored through other metrics allows a universally understood path to project completion. For example, if a deliverable has not yet been approved by stakeholders, you are making visible a potential schedule delay that would impair future work activities.  


To host your own 2018 project metrics award show, one does not need a spotlight or trophies. You just need to think about what metrics can serve to detect early signs of delivery volatility beyond the self-declared green/yellow/red stoplights that are typically found in project status reports.


If you were handing out your very own 2018 project metrics awards, what categories would you select? What would win? 

Posted by Kevin Korterud on: February 17, 2018 03:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (15)

Project Leaders Are at the Forefront of Today’s Operating Models

By Peter Tarhanidis, M.B.A, Ph.D.

Many organizations are shifting their traditional operating models to include new innovative collaborations and social networks to sustain economic growth. These new operating models, however, challenge the future of leadership.

Most operating models used today were designed in the industrial age. In these models, the division of labor is by specialization, which is hierarchical in nature. This approach has been analyzed and debated by philosophers including Plato and economists such as Adam Smith, whose analysis is incorporated in current organizational designs defining a company’s value chain. The advantage of this approach is that it drives increases in productivity and efficiency by allocating teams by their skillset.

Yet companies are boxed in today. They have become efficient and productive, but are at a disadvantage in sustaining innovation.

Companies are challenged to design and integrate innovative operating models to continue to drive economic growth. Some ways companies are leveraging new operating models to drive innovation include creating internal groups to access and fund startups and sharing resources with external research centers to drive external collaborations that drive new product pipelines.

These innovative operating models challenge leaders to work collaboratively across value chains and external business partners. To meet that challenge, there must be a shift in a leader and team skill sets.

The organizational design shifts from a division of labor and specialization to one that taps into knowledge workers and social networks. This shift—to forge new innovations and operating models—challenges leaders to define new behaviors, styles, skills and professional networks to sustain economic growth.

Project leaders and their teams have been at the forefront of working across these emerging models, navigating both internally as productivity experts, externally as innovation collaborators, and professionally to develop social networks to foster and sustain economic growth.

One’s future as a leader comes down to navigating your development against these current organizational trends. One approach I find helpful is to define personal 360-degree feedbacks. Start with three simple questions to determine where you need to develop and build from, such as:

  1. What do senior leaders want from their leaders to sustain the company?
  2. What do clients and customers want from their partners to build strategic and trusted relationships?
  3. What do teams expect from their leaders to meet strategic initiatives and how can leaders help them succeed professionally?

Having used this personal approach, I learned the following three themes to form my development opportunities:

  1. Senior leaders are expected to communicate in a variety of forums and formats. Leaders should have the courage to ask for help. One should be very knowledgeable about the business and build the professional relationships required to be successful.
  2. Clients and customers expect great experiences with a company’s product and services. They expect leaders to learn their business, marketplace, and challenges. Build trusting relationships and strategic alliances through a successful track record.
  3. Teams want better leaders to sponsor the initiative and provide clear guidance. Align teams to a common shared purpose. Influence members to share in the success of the initiative by linking the initiative to the strategy. Demonstrate how the strategy aligns to the business and how the individual team members help the business meet its goals. Advocate for professional development and provide a mentoring opportunity to advance one’s professional goals.

One must then consider what actions they should commit to developing — whether it is leadership behaviors and styles, business relationships or knowledge — to lead today’s organizations and sustain economic growth and relevance.  

Posted by Peter Tarhanidis on: February 08, 2018 11:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (12)

"It takes a lot of courage to show your dreams to someone else."

- Erma Bombeck