By Ramiro Rodrigues
Is risk management just an exercise in paranoia?
That’s the question I’m often asked. I like to respond by saying there are both negative and positive risks.
A risk is a situation in which it cannot be certain whether a specific result will happen. That potential cannot be discounted. Thus, any risk hypothesis—whether for small or large risks—is subject to some sort of management strategy. While we often think of negative risks, positive risks present opportunities for organizational or project gains.
Risk management strategies can be applied to our daily lives. Take, for example, my own experience.
A few years ago, I was invited to hold a workshop on project management best practices for a service company. Concerned about the event, I decided to invite a colleague whom I trust to share the work (strategy: share) and increase the chances of the workshop being successful (strategy: improve). When checking his schedule, my colleague realized that he would be returning from a trip at 6 a.m. on the day of the workshop, which was scheduled to start at 9 a.m. Even knowing that flight delays are more common than we would like, we decided to take the risk (strategy: accept).
In the weeks leading up to the event the preparation flowed well. We met with the client and tested the presentation dozens of times (strategy: explore), but the possible flight delay did not leave my mind. For this reason, I studied not only my part of the presentation, but also that of my colleague (strategy: eliminate).
When the day arrived, I woke at 6 a.m. to find two messages from my colleague on my phone. The first one said, "I've landed?” This gave me a sigh of relief. The second said, "I'm really ill. I'm going to a hospital.” I called my colleague and verified the illness.
What a great irony! All my fears arising from my colleague's risk of a delayed flight were realized, but not because of that event.
Some changes were necessary. First, I had to substitute the car journey with a taxi (strategy: transfer). Second, I had to remove specific parts from the presentation to reduce the impact of my colleague’s absence (strategy: mitigate). Even without doing so through a documented plan, I had used all of the recognized risk response strategies.
For me, it became clear that the great gain from risk management is in the exercise of thinking beforehand and being able to choose the best options available.
The outcome of the workshop? I imagine it would have been better if my colleague had been able to attend. But judging from the applause and words of praise, I believe that it was a success.
Keep These 3 Priorities In Focus
by Dave Wakeman
In today’s project environment, it can be difficult for project managers to know where they should—or shouldn’t—focus their time and energy. Stakeholders, team members, and sponsors, all with their own agendas, pull project managers in different directions.
That said, I think all project managers can gain a great deal by focusing on the following:
1. Opportunities within the project. I’ve never seen a project that’s set in stone. In truth, almost every project I’ve worked on has changed so much throughout the course of its existence that it often becomes unidentifiable with the initial scope.
This can be frustrating, but to maximize your success as a project manager, you should embrace the change process because it allows you to search for and capture opportunities that will enable you to have the highest impact.
Think about this simplified example: Let’s say you are working on a web project. The scope of the project calls for you to build a responsive website that can handle a certain amount of traffic, and you have three months to do it. That’s pretty clear-cut, right?
It is. And, you could definitely go right through the project and deliver. But what if you discovered a more cost-effective way to host the site with a better load speed? Wouldn’t that be identifying an opportunity and creating a better outcome for you, your team and your client?
2. Development of your team. One challenge we often face is resource uncertainty. Essentially, will our human capital sufficiently meet the project’s demands?
This is an ongoing challenge in many organizations. Staff members are often overburdened, and they’re not always up to speed on the newest ideas, techniques, and tools.
To maximize your impact, it pays to spend time thinking about and developing your team. Consider ways you can help build up your team’s skills in a way that will make your life as the project manager easier. It may be as simple as identifying a skill crucial to your project and providing some type of consistent coaching, information or feedback each week that helps improve that specific area.
3. Testing as you work your way through a project. Does this part work the way it should? Did that segment of the project produce the outcome we needed? Are people reacting the way we thought they would or should?
Pay attention to each step in the project and spend time testing your assumptions and your results against the work produced. It’ll pay off in the end.
In some cases, things will work out exactly how you thought they would. But in the cases where that doesn’t happen, testing can be the difference between the success and failure of your project.
Is there anything else you consistently remain focused on during your projects?
by Wanda Curlee
Imagine this: You’re walking in San Francisco, California, USA, when you spot an out-of-control trolley car headed toward a group of five people working on the track. You yell for them to get out of the way, but they don’t hear or see you. You’re standing next to a switch, which would send the trolley on a different track. But there’s one worker on the alternate track who, like the five other workers, doesn’t hear you or see the trolley.
You have a choice: Do you flip the switch? Do you take one life over five?
There is no right or wrong answer. It’s an ethical dilemma.
As project managers, we routinely face dilemmas, although they’re not typically as dramatic as the trolley scenario.
In project management, our answers to ethical dilemmas are typically driven by our moral compass or the company’s statement of ethics. Does that mean we are correct? Correct by whose standards?
The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) could bring new factors into our decision-making process. As project managers, we will use AI to make decisions or assist us with decision making. What the AI tool(s) decide to present can drive our decision making one way or another. What happens if AI presents us information that compromises the safety and efficacy of the projects? What happens if AI makes a decision that seems innocent but has dire consequences based on the logic tree—results that you, as the project manager, might not be visible to?
When revealing an ethical issue in a project management logic tree, it would seem that the decision making should be automatically deferred to the project manager. But whose ethics are used to decide when there is an ethical dilemma? What may seem a common decision to you is an ethical one to someone else.
AI is coming. It most likely will arrive in small bits, but eventually, it will be part of the project management landscape. So take steps to prepare now. Make sure you help with AI decision making when you can; participate in studies and surveys on AI and project management; study ethical dilemmas in project management and understand how the AI tool(s) are coded for ethics.
Be ready because project management is getting ready to change, not by leaps, but by speeding bullets in the near—and not so near—future.
Get Out of the Way
PMI PMO Symposium 2018
Categories: PMI PMO Symposium 2018
by Cyndee Miller
Project leaders aren’t exactly known as rebels.
And Luke Williams pulled no punches on why that needs to change, calling out project and program managers as frequent barriers to anything beyond incremental change. Too often, he said, they stick to established systems.
“Project management can exacerbate this path dependence,” the New York University professor said in his closing keynote at PMO Symposium. “You’re the ones enforcing this path.”
There’s far too little emphasis on delivering discontinuity, he said, which puts most organizations in a bad spot: Complacency is literally the most dangerous attitude in business.
So go ahead, chuck the best practices and traditional success measures and embrace your inner rebel. Forget reasonable predictions. Go for unreasonable provocations, Mr. Williams told attendees.
In his eyes, that’s the biggie: The most important thing a project leader does is manage the organization’s ideas.
Not every idea is going to work—there are bound to be some spectacular flameouts. So he encouraged project leaders to give themselves and their teams permission to be wrong.
That mindset can admittedly be a wee bit unsettling. But if you're going to commit to disruptive change, he said, your job is not to make everyone happy—it’s to make everyone uncomfortable.
The upside, according to Mr. Williams: Truly unexpected ideas have less competition—which means a longer lead time for execution and a stronger chance of success.
Who’s ready to embrace their inner rebel?
by Cyndee Miller
Disruption isn’t just change on steroids. It signals a fundamental shift in an organization’s DNA and how it sees itself—like say, when Australia’s largest telecom Telstra set out to become a world-class tech company.
It was a bold move—that was fizzling. So after an external assessment revealed 30 percent of Telstra’s capital investment projects were missing the mark, the company created a central PMO. Fast-forward about five years: 100 percent of its benefit KPIs are on track—and Telstra is named the 2018 PMO of the Year.
It certainly didn’t happen overnight, said Rob Loader, PMP, as he accepted the award at PMO Symposium with Peter Moutsatsos, PMP, the company’s chief project officer. The PMO had to transform the entire company culture, introducing a enterprise-wide gating model and creating a team of engaged sponsors.
“It’s been five years of blood, sweat and toil but also tears of joy and satisfaction as well,” said Mr. Loader.
But he also acknowledged that the PMO will need to “continue to evolve in a very different world both for telecoms and for project management.”
Kudos to Telstra and other two finalists that deftly navigated disruption in their own right:
Financial services companies, cutting-edge innovation—now there are two phrases that rarely go together. But Sloenvian insurance company Triglav Group knew a tech transformation was the only way to address changing consumer habits. To avoid the failures it had seen with past large-scale digitization projects, Triglav elevated its PMO giving it a direct link to the C-suite and the board of directors. Already one of southeastern Europe’s largest financial institutions, Triglav is now in a prime position for future growth, with the PMO’s digitization efforts helping the company post a 160 percent jump in online sales—and a 15 percent drop in operating costs.
PMOs are fairly de rigeur in just about every sector at this point, but a PMO in a school district definitely got my attention—especially when I saw the results. Tacoma Public School District serves more than 30,000 students in the U.S. state of Washington, but educators were struggling to keep kids engaged. With the PMO’s help in running innovation projects, though, the district saw graduation rates jump from 55 percent in 2010 to 86 percent in 2016. And they did it with hyper efficiency, raising the project completion rate from 10 percent to 90 percent over four years. With those kinds of numbers, the PMO is turning into a model for other school districts—and has spurred an interest in project management among administrators, teachers and even students
Or perhaps your PMO is ready for the spotlight? Check out how to apply for the PMO of the Year Award here.