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
Rex Holmlin
Christian Bisson
Taralyn Frasqueri-Molina

Recent Posts

Authoritarian vs. Participatory Project Management

4 Reasons I Love Portfolio Management

My Favorite Research Tools

The Impact of Unforeseen Risks

The Reality Behind a Deadline

Authoritarian vs. Participatory Project Management

Categories: Communication, Leadership

By Marian Haus, PMP

Project managers have a major influence on the projects they run. Attitudes and leadership styles play a large part in how the team works together, how projects are delivered and the general environment for everyone involved.

Here’s a look at two very different project management approaches— authoritarian and participatory—and how they impact the entire project team.

Authoritarian Project Management

An authoritarian project manager dominates the project with his or her personality and ego, putting objectives first with a low emphasis on how the project team feels about the project journey. He or she imposes unquestionable edicts that must be followed no matter what. And goals and milestones are set without necessarily consulting the project team.

An authoritarian management and leadership style generally creates a tense project environment, with little room for independent actions and joy.

While an authoritarian style may be suitable in a rigid organization or in government or military institutions, this style will rarely work in other project environments where participation is encouraged or decisions must be made with the input of multiple departments.

Participatory Project Management

A participative project manager involves other team members or leaders in the decision-making process. A participatory project environment is, in general, a positive working environment, where responsibility and accountability are shared.

A participative project manager is typically more successful in small and collaborative teams and in projectized organizations where the project and its outcome are prioritized over obedience to the chain of command.

Without radical cultural changes, the participatory management and leadership style can be quite challenging when applied in a rigid and functionally organized project environment.

To quote author and management expert Kenneth H. Blanchard, a participative project manager understands that “the key to successful leadership is influence, not authority.”

What attitudes and leadership styles have you encountered? I’d like to hear your story.

Posted by Marian Haus on: February 15, 2017 04:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

4 Reasons I Love Portfolio Management

By Jen L. Skrabak, PfMP, PMP

 

The #PMLoveStories theme on ProjectManagement.com in February got me thinking about why I love portfolio management. 

1. Portfolio management closes the strategy to execution gap

Simply doing projects better by focusing on scope, time and cost is not improving our success rates. It’s time to improve portfolio management by identifying and selecting the programs and projects with the highest value.

2. The portfolio represents your organization’s actual priorities.

Look for the gap that may exist between what the organization’ says its strategy is and what its portfolio does

By examining your portfolio, you can start assessing how many programs and projects are truly aligned to the organization’s defined vision, mission, objectives and strategic plan. You can see where the resources are focused and what the actual vs. anticipated performance of the programs and projects are. 

In the end, you, the portfolio manager, are the conduit to strategic alignment and execution — a powerful role in an organization if done right. The key is to not only know the portfolio’s status, but also to monitor, react to and embrace change so the highest value work is done. 

3. Portfolio managers have to think like CEOs.

For portfolio managers, it’s about more than managing or controlling scope, schedule and cost. You are ultimately accountable for the results. You’re empowered to allocate resources (human and financial), and you have the ability to negotiate with and influence executives to determine the path forward. The portfolio manager is the only person who can oversee and communicate the state of the portfolio by aggregating data into actionable information, ensure the decisions are made in a timely manner, and proactively address key issues, risks, and opportunities.

4. Portfolio managers see the big picture.    

How would you describe your portfolio personality when you look at it holistically—aggressive, innovative, keep the lights on, or confused? What’s the overall value your portfolio delivers and how did managing it comprehensively boost that value? 

When value is not measured by time, scope, and cost, but aggregate and  measurable results, it puts different priorities into focus. That drives the identification, selection, and execution of the right programs and projects.

Share your #PMLoveStories!

Posted by Jen Skrabak on: February 13, 2017 10:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

My Favorite Research Tools

Categories: search, Tools, tools

By Wanda Curlee

Do project and program managers need to be experts in the industry or sector they work in? While many would say yes, others argue that a competent and experienced project or program manager can lead initiatives in any area.

I would agree with the latter—with one caveat. Project and program managers who lack experience in a given field must be willing to do research and fill any knowledge gaps to make their efforts successful.

Research is the key to staying current. As a program or project manager, you must be able to ask subject matter experts smart, targeted questions. By arming yourself with the right information, you’ll be able to challenge assumptions and better navigate schedules, risks and other issues. And raising these questions will also drive creativity and innovation.

There are several online tools that I often use to conduct project–related research, including:

Google Scholar: This is a good tool for Boolean, or combined keyword, searches. It returns a list of reputable articles, books, abstracts and court opinions from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other websites. For most results, the title, author's name and abstract can be seen, but the full piece is behind a paywall.

Semantic Scholar: This engine—still in beta—has artificial intelligence built into the search, which is amazing. For those who have used EBSCOhost or ProQuest as a student or an academic, Semantic Scholar will look somewhat familiar. It’s based on Boolean searches as well, but, unlike Google Scholar, 99 percent of the returned articles are available as PDFs.

Semantic Scholar also lets you narrow your search. For example, you can search based on author(s), limit the search to a certain publication timeframe and only review articles in certain journals.

Depending on the search, some articles can also be sliced and diced by topic. For example, when I did a search on neuroscience and leadership, I was able to pick articles on certain areas of the brain. Even more fascinating, I could filter down to the type of brain cell discussed.

These are two of my go-to tools. Where do you turn when conducting project research and preparing to lead an effort in a new field?  

Posted by Wanda Curlee on: February 08, 2017 10:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

The Impact of Unforeseen Risks

By Conrado Morlan

Risk identification is one of the first tasks many project managers tackle when they’re assigned a new project. But identifying risks can’t be a one-time effort.

The risk log is a living document that needs to be scrubbed and updated on a regular basis. Future internal or external factors can always impact the project.

And while it may be natural to think of risks as negative, that’s not always the case. Risks can also present opportunities that uncover new project benefits or enhance the benefits that were originally defined.

Here are a few examples of risks—and opportunities—that emerged during a project and took me by surprise.

Force Majeure: The Eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull

The eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland caused enormous disruption to air transportation across western and northern Europe in 2010.

While much of the media focused on air travel, freight-transport customers around the world also experienced parcel delivery delays.

At the time, I was deploying a regional project across the Americas for a global logistics firm. The project was put on hold so all employees could support the emergency effort to deliver parcels during the crisis.

The response plan rerouted flights originally scheduled for the hub in Germany to several cities in Italy where parcels were then transported via ground vehicles. And customer service representatives increased communication with customers about their shipment’s status.

In the end, the logistics company didn’t lose any customers and, in fact, many customers were pleased with how the force majeure was handled. The company also demonstrated to the customer the company’s effective emergency plan for crisis situations.

While this unforeseen risk delayed the regional project I was working on, I kept the project stakeholders informed frequently of the project team activities throughout the crisis and shared the actions to be taken to bring the project back on track.

Geopolitical Events: Fidel Castro’s Death

In December 2015, the United States and Cuba agreed to re-establish regularly scheduled flights, allowing selected U.S. airlines daily trips between the two countries.

During the first quarter of 2016, those airlines were launching projects to open new services to one or more destinations in Cuba. It was a daunting job. The projects would need to comply with U.S. and Cuban regulations. And information was not flowing rapidly between the two countries.

The airline I was supporting was awarded three Cuban destinations. But in November, while we were finalizing details for the first flight to Havana, we learned about Fidel Castro’s death.

During the mourning period, all communications with Cuban government officials and agencies were suspended. Trips airline employees working on the project had planned to take to Cuba were canceled.

The project team was uncertain what this delay would mean for the first scheduled flights to Havana. To address the potential risk, different scenarios that included the postponement and cancelation of flights were defined and mitigation plans were drafted for potential implementation.

After the mourning period, communications were restored and project activities normalized. Ultimately, the geopolitical event did not impact the scheduled flights, but it was a risk that could not have been anticipated.

As a project manager, what unforeseen risks have impacted your projects? How did you address and mitigate those risks?

Posted by Conrado Morlan on: January 31, 2017 03:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

The Reality Behind a Deadline

By Christian Bisson, PMP

A deadline is the project objective defined in terms of time. But on some projects (a lot of them, unfortunately) the delivery date is not necessarily realistic.

When projects get delayed, the obvious solution is to push back the deadline. But it’s not so simple for every project.

Here are a few factors to weigh before deciding how to move forward when facing project setbacks:

The Client Relationship

Assuming the agency runs client-facing projects, not internal products, this is typically the most important reason to deliver a project on time. Happy clients bring in more projects—and other clients by word of mouth.

Determining whether or not your client will react negatively to a project delay may depend on the cause of the holdup. Is the delay related to client actions, such as adding new requirements or delivering assets late? Or is it due to internal errors, such as poor estimating or planning?

Keeping clients happy also presents a sort of balancing act for many agencies. You have to keep clients happy because they bring in the money that runs the agency. But, on the other hand, you don’t want your team members so bogged down with additional requests and revisions that they become tired or frustrated to the point they will leave.

The Cost

Projects often have what we call hard deadlines, meaning the date cannot be changed under any circumstances. For example, in e-commerce, there are projects tied to holiday sales and, obviously, those dates cannot move. Missing those opportunities can have a drastic impact on sales. In these cases, it might actually be more cost-efficient to invest in more resources to speed up the project and have it ready on time.

The Big Picture

Delaying a project can have a direct impact on other projects, as well. Team members may be scheduled to move to another project once the first is completed, for example, so delaying that transition date can have a chain reaction on an agency’s planning. Talk to someone with a wide-angle view of the organization’s portfolio to better understand these potential implications.

There’s no magic solution for dealing with a delayed project. All you can do is balance the pros and cons and make a judgment call.

What factors do you typically weigh when deciding whether or not to push back the deadline on a delayed project? What advice do you have for other project managers facing a delay?

 

Posted by Christian Bisson on: January 28, 2017 10:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)
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