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

RSS

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

Recent Posts

Business Transformation With the End in Mind

Move Beyond Herding Cats

Strategy In a VUCA World—Part 2

Strategy In a VUCA World—Part 1

Just Ignore the Trends—and Run to the Noise

The Brexit Effect—Deal With It

by Cyndee Miller

PMI brought back its 21st century spin on the salon at this year’s EMEA congress. This time around, the panel talked turbulence and uncertainty—political shifts, workforce demands and the risks of global conflicts.

 

So, yeah, really not all that different from the stuff they covered in the grand salons of the 17th and 18th century France and Italy. Plus ça change and all that …

 

These days, we’ve got Brexit, U.S. President Trump and a whole cast of other political characters shaking up the status quo.

 

It’s hard to escape the feeling of uncertainty.

 

For pharma giant AstraZeneca, the shifting landscape spurred a move to niche medicines and away from the blockbuster drugs they built their name on.

 

Managing that kind of change—especially in such a large company—requires a strong communication plan to ensure buy-in across the enterprise. “There is an important element in big complex organizations that you have a common goal and a common understanding of why you need to change,” said salonnier Maria Hedwall, PMP, of AstraZeneca.

 

“It takes quite some time to cascade change announcements throughout the organization, by the time it gets to the bottom of the organization, management is ready to change again,” she said.

 

In times of great change, all organizations must be prepared to respond—and respond quickly. For Clare Savage of Deutsche Bank, that has meant raising the profile of project managers.

 

“Project managers are right in the thick of it but they are very seldom the decision makers,” said Ms. Savage. So she’s created a framework that allows project professionals to stick their neck out, take charge of an effort and make the necessary assumptions as part of the decision-making process—without having to worry that said neck would get chopped off if things don’t work out as expected. The blame game, in essence, is over.

 

She’s also putting a priority on answering the “why” question. “One of the things we’ve been doing with the more junior project personnel is [ensuring] they understand the true value of the why of the project they are delivering,” says Ms. Savage.

 

In such a chaotic environment, the company cultures that get it right are the ones that encourage innovation, said Gabor George Burt. “Once people are freed up to be creative they can deal with change.

 

Moderated by PMI’s Murat Bicak, the salon pulled back the curtain on how companies are dealing with Brexit and the onslaught of other changes. It was a good discussion, although for what it’s worth, I think we need fancier clothes and maybe a nice aria or two if we’re going to have a proper salon.

 

What’s happening at your organizations? How are you dealing with Brexit and all the other shifts?

Posted by Cyndee Miller on: May 02, 2017 10:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Meet the Change Agents—Yes, We’re Talking About You

Roma called to me—the wine … the cheese … the shoes ... the project management.

This is, after all, the home of many an ancient megaproject. The Colosseum, for instance, was launched around A.D. 70-72 with a massive scope, including underground tunnels, seating for thousands and, if the suspicions of many archeologists are correct, drinking fountains and latrines to serve the needs of its patrons. At the same time, the schedule for the building—while relatively short for that day and age—stretched out a decade.

But we can’t get all caught up in the magnificence of Rome’s ancient megaprojects. Today’s project and program managers must follow a different grido di battaglia. And that battle cry is focused squarely on the future.

“As project managers you are the engineers of progress in your companies,” said author Gabor George Burt as he opened PMI® EMEA Congress 2017.

To survive in a business environment where disruption is the norm, organizations must reshape their futures. And, according to Mr. Burt, project and program managers should be leading the charge as agents of change.

Building on the Blue Ocean strategy, Mr. Burt outlined three levels organizations can operate in to make themselves indispensible:

  1. Blue Ocean: Create new value propositions that drive your company’s overall strategy  
  2. Blue Sea: Expand your current value prop for broader relevance
  3. Blue Lake: Refresh and optimize your current value prop

It’s an intriguing concept, especially for those daunted by the big, blue ocean. But even once a company chooses which waters to swim in, it must continuously stretch the definition of the value it brings to its target audience. “There is no mercy in the marketplace for companies that define what they do too narrowly.”

Companies and their project managers should also embrace the innovation shortcut. Instead of trying to invent something, he suggests mixing existing things in new ways. “The art of recombination is all around us,” said Mr. Burt. “It’s the most high-impact way for us to innovate.”

No matter the level, waters are sure to be choppy. But companies that get stuck in the past, or even the here and now, are destined to struggle—or worse, drown.

That’s it on project management for today. I need to answer the siren call of wine and cheese now. And maybe shoes tomorrow.

Posted by Cyndee Miller on: May 01, 2017 06:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

A Recurring Interview Process Ensures a Good Fit

Great preparation goes into identifying the right project manager for the job—including determining the project’s delivery complexity, defining the role profile, selecting interview questions and validating professional certifications.

 

However, the interview process shouldn’t end once the new project manager is hired. A recurring interview process ensures project managers remain a good fit. It also helps showcase a project manager’s capabilities to instill confidence among leadership groups, stakeholders and team members—especially if elements drastically change, as they are wont to do.

 

Not every project manager is a good fit for every project. Original assumptions that lead to the initial acquisition of a project manager may not hold true as the project progresses. And poor outcomes often result from hasty decisions to get a project manager on-boarded as quickly as possible to start a project within a desired timeframe.

 

Here are three questions that not only ascertain the health of a project, but also the fit of the project manager. Depending on the outcome, you may choose to retain the project manager or replace them with someone who is a better fit.


 

1. Where are we now? 

Being able to confidently articulate and identify the true position of a project and the recent progress velocity to get to that position is a foundation of project management success. Failure to know where the project currently resides puts future progress at risk.    

 

Assisting the project manager in this determination of project position includes schedule and budget performance metrics, resource availability, dependencies, risk, issues and other inorganic position indicators. In addition, a project manager should be able to organically identify the “so what” implications and potential remedies required to create a three-dimensional view of project progress.

 

2. Where will we be in six weeks?

An old adage says that a point shows a current position, two points make a line and three points make a trend. Project managers should be constantly triangulating their project trajectory from their current position. If they can’t, they’re putting the project’s finish in jeopardy.

 

This six-week timeframe means a project manager can have a clear vision of the visible road ahead, but isn’t so far where they have to speculate well beyond a reasonable horizon.

 

Use of predictive quantitative methods and tools and prior project experience can help a project manager confidently state where the project is headed.

 

3. What changed from the original project scope? 

Change is constant. It takes many forms and has diverse impacts. Additions or revisions of functional requirements, technical requirements, different implementation approaches, new expectations, supplier complexity, unfunded mandates and other events make up the aggregate, ever-changing landscape of a project.  

 

While the project manager does his or her best to control identification, processing and action around changes, in some cases the aggregate impact of change can overwhelm.

 

In many cases, changes—such as leadership changes, new suppliers, as well as portfolio management actions that can merge existing projects—have nothing to do with the project manager’s capability. But when the depth and breadth of project change exceeds the capability of the project manager, it may be time to secure a replacement.  

 

What line of questioning might you use to ensure that a project manager continues to be a good fit for the project they were hired for? 

Posted by Kevin Korterud on: April 28, 2017 03:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

Promoting Project Management In Conversation

by Dave Wakeman

Project management is a hot topic lately. In casual conversations, I’ve heard about the rise of project managers in legal, in sports and in government.

But this recent fame doesn’t mean we’ve gone mainstream. It’s likely that most people still don’t have a full grasp of what project managers do, why they are valuable and what they can really mean to an organization.

That’s why we have to continue promoting the role. I’ve pulled together a few talking points you can use the next time project management comes up in casual conversation.

1. Project managers are great at helping to solve the right problems.

This came up when I was talking about project managers in law. The question was, “How do we know we are doing this project management stuff correctly?” 

The answer is a little more complex because you can never be completely sure if you are solving the right problems. 

But, project managers who are very active in the planning and scope phases can frame the conversation in a manner that helps get to the root cause of the challenge. That helps organizations not just solve the loudest or most immediate challenge, but address the issue that is going to provide the most valuable long-term ROI.

2. Project managers aren’t just techies.

I’ve never led a technology project in my life. And, unfortunately, too many people equate project management with IT projects.

Ultimately, our best professionals—no matter what their industry—are often project managers without even knowing it.

This is a point you can highlight with your friends, colleagues and curiosity seekers by talking about the way that you communicate, plan, look for logical next steps and adapt to the situation.

In that way, project managers are just like everyone else.

3. Project management can take an organization from failure to success.

In startups, you hear “project management” thrown around pretty regularly. But, in truth, having solid project managers involved is the difference between success and failure.

In many startups, or new project situations, the whole framework of the project is based around an idea, a solution or a theme. This can often lead organizations down a road of throwing things at a wall and hoping something sticks. No rhyme or reason. Just action.

Fortunately for us, as project managers, planning is drilled into our psyche—and planning is the skill most crucial to success.

You don’t need more ideas for how to solve the problem, and you don’t need more people trying to figure out what will stick. 

You need a plan of attack with a process in place for collecting feedback and adjusting accordingly. This is basically the textbook definition of a project manager’s role.

To me, any attention to the project management role is great. But if we don’t talk about project management in the right way, I think we miss an opportunity to expand the profession’s impact across industries.

How do you talk about project management and promote the profession? 

Posted by David Wakeman on: April 24, 2017 08:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (13)

The Strategic Alignment of the Project Portfolio (Part 2)

By Conrado Morlan

“Without strategy, execution is aimless. Without execution, strategy is useless.” —Morris Chang, founding CEO, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Ltd.

In the first part of this series, I outlined the groups in the organization that must support the strategic alignment of the project portfolio:

  • Executive Group
  • Project Group
  • Operations Group

Let’s dive into those groups a little further.

The Executive Group

The executive group shares the strategic plan with the organization, highlighting the high–level strategic objectives that will support its growth and move it to the next stage.

This group defines the strategic governance processes — that includes policies and monitoring guidelines to ensure the strategic objectives will be achieved. It establishes a governing body that will ensure accountability, fairness and transparency. The project portfolio governance will adhere to the strategic governance to align the project portfolio and drive the execution of the strategic plan.

During the development of the strategic plan, a thorough risk assessment should be conducted to assign a risk level to the initiatives included in the strategic plan. The risk assessment will feed into the strategic alignment process to ensure the portfolio of projects will keep these risks top of mind each step of the way.

The governance body will also monitor the performance of  programs and project to ensure the expected benefits are being delivered as planned.

The executive group will interact on a frequent basis with the project group to address governance issues, changes in strategy that may impact the portfolio and risks. Meetings with the operations team, on the other hand, will focus on monitoring whether benefits are being created and harvested, as well as how those benefits are impacting — postively or negatively —the strategic objectives.

The Project Group

The project group will cover all areas of the project management profession: portfolio management, program management and project management.

This group will “translate” the strategic plan into elements of the project portfolio and align them with the strategy. Priorities, sequences, dependencies, risks and other elements from the strategic plan will cascade into the project portfolio.

The project portfolio will establish an execution framework that will consider the organization’s existing cross-functional capabilities, operations, and processes, and assess technical and operational requirements to identify gaps that need to be filled to support the successful execution of the project portfolio.

The project tam will:

  • Monitor risk: Establish the context of the risk identified in the strategic plan with the project portfolio and additional risks that have been identified in the portfolio. Update mitigation plans as required based on discussions with executive team.
  • Adhere to organizational governance: The project portfolio will follow the guidelines of corporate culture, transparent communication, accountability and integrity.
  • Assess capabilities: Identify the required capabilities through short-term and long-term program and project scenarios to ensure the required resources will be available when needed.
  • Delineate operational and technical requirements: Based on the prioritization and sequence of programs and projects defined in the portfolio, define the requirements with a holistic portfolio view and bind them with the strategic plan.
  • Establish metrics: Integrate metrics across operations and technology using industry baseline metrics in order to provide credibility to measurements and a route to quantification.

The project group will interact on a frequent basis with the operations group to ensure projects will deliver the expected benefits, and define how those benefits will be “harvested” and used as an input to subsequent phases of the protfolio and strategic plan.

The Operations Group

The operations group will support program and project teams during implementation and will be the recipient of the benefits delivered by the programs and projects. The execution of the strategic plan is a cross-functional effort and every function in the organization will need to contribute to its success.

The operations group may encompass many of the functions of the organization and will be active participants throughout project implementation. But this group’s participation is most important in the post-implementation phase to ensure a sustainable environment for the achievement of the strategic goals.

This group will work closely with the project group on the ongoing management of the portfolio to monitor benefits realization, and will play an active role in the orchestration of demand management and capability management to ensure resources will be available when needed in order to avoid any delays in the portfolio.

If you’ve worked on strategic initiatives, how have you collaborated with these groups in your organization? What advice can you share?

 

Posted by Conrado Morlan on: April 18, 2017 08:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)
ADVERTISEMENTS

"Imagine if every Thursday your shoes exploded if you tied them the usual way. This happens to us all the time with computers, and nobody thinks of complaining."

- Jeff Raskin

ADVERTISEMENT

Sponsors