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
Vivek Prakash
Christian Bisson
Cyndee Miller
David Wakeman
Jen Skrabak
Mario Trentim
Shobhna Raghupathy
Rex Holmlin
Roberto Toledo
Taralyn Frasqueri-Molina
Wanda Curlee
Joanna Newman
Linda Agyapong
Jess Tayel
Ramiro Rodrigues

Recent Posts

My 2018 Goals For All Project Managers

Project Methodology: Help or Hindrance?

Every Project Is a Change

In the Rearview Mirror: The Year in Project Management

A Guide to Perfect Planning

Victory Is Fleeting

By Cyndee Miller

Buckle up: The new world of transient advantage is upon us, according to symposium keynoter Rita McGrath, PhD. The days when a company could sit back on the glory of a competitive edge they’d diligently honed? Done.

“If the world around you is changing quickly, you can’t be the kind of leader who says, ‘This is our goal and we’re going to follow it relentlessly,’” she said.

Leaders high on their own success — and too attached to a goal — are laying the seeds of their organization’s demise. This is the time for “healthy disengagement,” the ability to shut a project down when it no longer makes sense and reallocate resources in a better direction when the project landscape shifts — as it inevitably will.

“We have to get away from thinking about stability as the normal thing and change as the weird thing,” she said.

The ultra-fast pace of change can make it hard to see a clear direction forward. But smart leaders know they must build project portfolios that cover more than just business as usual. They craft opportunities for future growth when the path forward becomes less foggy.

“You want to create options for yourself to make more substantial investments when you know more,” Dr. McGrath.

PMOs have a role to play in this whole transient advantage adventure. They’re like the sherpas guiding organizations up the mountain. They know the landscape of budgets and power, and how to implement the right kinds of change at the right time.

Are you and your PMO ready for the era of the transient advantage?

Posted by Cyndee Miller on: November 08, 2017 03:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Change Is Cool

By Cyndee Miller

Who’s a cool kid?

If organizations really want their tech transformations to take hold, the answer should be everyone.

That’s especially true in an era of digital disruption. Whether the source of change is a new cybersecurity threat or opportunities arising from nascent 5G networks, engaging all internal stakeholders and not just a select cadre will vastly increase enthusiasm and the likelihood of project success, said Tony Scott, CEO, TonyScottGroup LLC. He was the lead-off keynoter at PMO Symposium this week.

This fellow knows a thing or two about transformations, having served as CIO in transitional periods for major organizations including Microsoft, Disney and the U.S. federal government. “One of the most important functions of project managers and PMOs is to get people aligned and get people moving in the same direction,” he says. If a new direction is afloat, “make change a priority — and communicate it.”

Take his time in the White House. A massive data breach necessitated that teams across government departments update their security practices. But engagement with the government’s previous efforts to increase digital security was tepid at best. Whatever. That was before his time. His call? Make the transformation a contest and take the results public — which meant department leaders faced the prospect of a public reprimand.

“In 30 days, we made as much progress as they did in 10 years,” Mr. Scott said.

With change happening at such a head-spinning, mind-boggling pace, those people adept at handling such rapid shifts — i.e., project, program and portfolio professionals — are in a prime spot to reap some serious rewards. Anyone tasked with recruiting those people should get ready for a true battle royal for talent.

“Project management skills are more in demand today — and that need will only intensify,” Mr. Scott said.

How does your organization handle tech changes? Does it get the word out across the company — or does it just let a very special group of cool kids engage? 

Posted by Cyndee Miller on: November 08, 2017 12:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

PMOs Are a Beacon of Agility? Prove It

Monday's executive panel at the PMO Symposium in Houston, Texas, USA. From left: moderator Ed Hoffman, Mario Arlt, Anne Sparrenberger and Gordon Gaenzle.

By Cyndee Miller

It’s the great divide. More than 90 percent of executives get it: Organizational agility is table stakes for surviving in a disruption-laden world. Yet only 27 percent of them consider their organizations highly agile, according to Achieving Greater Agility, the latest in PMI’s latest Thought Leadership Series.

Closing that gap will take more than changing processes or delivery approaches, PMI President and CEO Mark A. Langley told leaders at the PMO Symposium in Houston, Texas, USA. It requires shifting mindsets and culture.

So move past the old agile versus waterfall debate. Leaders should be worrying about bigger things. Like staying relevant.

“The role of the PMO is changing just as rapidly as the world around it,” Mr. Langley said.

Reinforcing a common refrain across the morning’s discussions, Anne Sparrenberger of FedEx said organizational agility is about listening to — and incorporating — the voice of the customer.

But here’s a wakeup call: Barely more than a quarter of executives say they can leverage PMOs to be more agile.

Therein lies the opportunity.

PMO leaders need to step up and foster a culture of agility across their organizations, Bruce Rogers of Forbes Insights told attendees.

And they’re in a prime spot to do so.

“The PMO can play an important role in partnering with the C-suite to drive change,” IBM’s Gordon Gaenzle told the audience.

It’s been said that change is hard—people don’t always want to get on the bus, so to speak. Indeed, some people don’t even want to acknowledge there is a bus. For ABB’s Mario Arlt, PMOs prove their strategic value by convincing people affected by the change that the it’s necessary to the organization’s future.

“Ultimately, cultural change happens at the individual level,” he said.

Mr. Arlt also acknowledged that with agility — inevitably — comes some failure. The big question: Are you learning from those mistakes?

Howard Bagg from KPMG ticked off the four biggest transformation missteps: a dearth of exec sponsorship, lack of the enterprise view, failure to recognize the sheer amount of organizational change and the transition time required for that change.

What’s happening in your PMOs? Do executives at your organization see the PMO as a partner for change? Share your thoughts below. 

Posted by Cyndee Miller on: November 07, 2017 08:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

The Importance of Iteration

by Christian Bisson, PMP

We’ve all encountered them on a project or two: stakeholders that want everything right away.

The result of this rush is often lots of money invested, a tight schedule, negative impact on the quality and frustrated people. But, carefully planned iterations of a project can help avoid the negativities of rushed efforts.

Here’s why:

Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

A well thought out MVP is the first iteration of your project. It means planning for the smallest scope possible, keeping in mind that it still needs to bring business value.

Let’s say you’re building a website. In this scenario, you’d identify the main features your website should have — based on goals — and focus on those instead of spreading the effort on all the features that might seem great to have.

There are many advantages to the MVP approach:

  • It can be deployed much faster compared to the complete scope.
  • You can monitor your project in action (ex. Google Analytics).
  • You can gather valuable feedback from people who use it.

Room to Adjust

Since you haven’t spent all the budget on the entire scope — and you now have precious data gathered from various sources — you can plan based on facts rather than hypotheses.

For example, after the MVP is deployed, you might have planned to work on a new feature. However, if new data suggests that the main feature of your project is not quite user friendly and needs adjustments, you can prioritize the adjustment and quickly add more value to your project compared to adding a new feature that might be less important.

Deploy When Ready

The MVP is only the first of many iterations. Do not fall back into the trap of building everything before you deploy your first update. Using the example above, if the first feature is actively affecting the quality of your project, adjust it and deploy right away. That way you will gain the added value of your improvement right away.

Some might argue that deployments cost money so you shouldn’t deploy all the time, and it’s a fair point. But keep in mind that the cost of those well-planned deployments are negligible compared to all the budget you can waste on a misfocused effort or a wrong hypothesis.

Taking a step-by-step approach to project management is crucial to the long-term success of projects. How do you manage the iterative or MVP approach? 

Posted by Christian Bisson on: November 04, 2017 01:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (11)

3 Metrics For Project Manager Performance

I’m frequently asked for insights on performance measurement criteria for project managers. This comes as a bit of a surprise given how professional certification programs, such as PMI’s Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification, have brought more consistency to project management skills.

 

Organizations’ typical performance measurement framework for functional roles is focused on growth and results. But that framework is becoming less effective at measuring project managers.

 

Project managers differ from functional roles in that they perform their duties with definitive time periods, outside influences, ever-changing activities and a higher level of uncertainty.

 

At the same time, more and more companies are seeking both individual and aggregate project management performance measures. Aggregate measures provide insights into overall capabilities and indicate if improvement initiatives — training, methods, processes — are actually increasing project manager productivity.

 

I’ve spent some time thinking about how to improve measurement criteria for project manager performance. Here are three areas I believe must be included:

 

  1. Project Metrics: Companies go to great lengths to capture and share metrics on project performance. If that same data is analyzed based on a project manager, it serves as a current and historical view of project manager performance.

 

Over time, individual project manager metrics, such as schedule and budget, can be analyzed to show the project manager’s track record. Supplementary metrics, such as change control activity, deliverable finish date delays and cost of poor quality, can provide a complete picture of project manager performance.

 

By aggregating and averaging these metrics — as well as using other data points such as labor cost — the enterprise capability of project managers can be measured.

 

 

 

2. Project Manager Engagement Reviews: The ability of a project manager to successfully engage with stakeholders is a key success factor for projects. A high level of engagement allows for early visibility to potential delivery issues, as well as a stronger understanding of the success criteria for a project.

 

The most effective means to measure project engagement is to conduct a post-project review with the project’s primary stakeholder. As engagement is not a binary yes/no condition, open-ended questions allow for deeper insights into the project manager’s level of engagement. For example, probing when project managers anticipated potential project issues would help to reveal engagement. These reviews are not meant to be punitive, but instead to guide and educate.

 

In addition, the reviewer should also look at the engagement level of the primary stakeholder. It’s not uncommon to find unengaged stakeholders, which can lead to poor delivery results for which the project manager is unfairly held to account. A balanced view of both the project manager and stakeholder will give the reviewer a true measure of engagement.

 

  1. Project Manager Histories: Beyond capturing fundamentals of project manager experience, credentials and projects, capturing performance details of projects led by project managers is of great value.


When interviewing project managers, I ask them to complete a table of both project fundamentals as well as performance histories. This profile helps me determine what would be the next best project for them, thus enabling a better chance of delivery success.  

Capturing project performance data allows project managers to share successes, as well as provide rationale for when things might not have gone as well as anticipated. It serves as a platform for career growth.

A project manager that comes to an interview prepared with structured project histories is usually well prepared to take on the next level of projects.

In today’s world of ever-increasing project complexity and scale, both companies and project managers need to expand their demonstrated performance results beyond what is found today.  

 

How do you measure project manager performance? Do traditional performance measurement frameworks for functional roles continue to meet the need? 

Posted by Kevin Korterud on: November 03, 2017 05:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (22)
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