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

Past Contributers:

Jorge Valdés Garciatorres
Hajar Hamid
Dan Goldfischer
Saira Karim
Jim De Piante
Geoff Mattie
sanjay saini
Judy Umlas
Abdiel Ledesma
Michael Hatfield
Deanna Landers
Alfonso Bucero
Kelley Hunsberger
William Krebs
Peter Taylor
Rebecca Braglio
Dmitri Ivanenko PMP ITIL

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Viewing Posts by Jen Skrabak

3 Career Goals for 2018

by Jen Skrabak, PfMP, PMP

Happy 2018! Make this year your best yet! 

I know we’ve been hearing these phrases for several weeks now, but one thing still rings particularly true: There’s no denying the fresh-start effect of the new year. 

And with another new year comes new resolutions. 

Instead of resolution, I like goals better. Goals are things that we should strive toward — not just at the beginning of the year, but throughout.

Here are the career development goals I would challenge you to strive for this year:

1.   As you progress through your career, it’s less about collecting a paycheck and more about making choices as to where you’ll do your best work. Don’t oversell yourself. Instead, spend time to really understand the company, roles/responsibilities, team(s) you’ll be working with and how you’ll fit. 

Over the past year, I’ve interviewed a lot of people for senior level program and portfolio positions. I’ve noticed that many are focused on selling themselves for the job instead of thoughtfully understanding the role, assessing how their skills/experiences match up with the expectations and how they will be contributing. If it’s the right fit, then you should articulate why. If it’s not the right fit, acknowledge that as well. Not every role or company is right for every person.

2.   We all know that your direct manager has a lot to do with your career success. As they say, people leave their managers, not the company.  Although you may not have the ability to change your managers, there are some things you can do to develop your career even when you work with a less-than-ideal manager:  

a.   Instead of worrying about what you can’t control, focus on what you can control. Don’t try to change people (such as your manager or team members). Instead, focus on roles and responsibilities. Most companies encourage candid conversations with your manager — be clear about what you would like to see differently about your role. For example, would you like to stretch yourself and have the opportunity to develop your skills in managing programs? Negotiation and influence are key leadership traits, and negotiating your role is a key component of career development.

b.   There is a common saying, “Dress for the job you want.” I say, “Manage yourself and your job for the next role.” When promotions happen, it typically means that you’ve already been doing the job for that next role. So, look at the job descriptions for the ideal role that you want (inside or outside of the company), and do an honest assessment of your gaps. Now that you know where you want to go (your ideal job), you need to know where you currently are (your current knowledge, skills and abilities). Then map out an action plan to get there.

3.   Do some new year’s decluttering and cleaning. Over time, I’m sure you have accumulated a lot of files, activities, commitments and even habits that you’ve been carrying around. Rather than assuming those are still needed, scrutinize what you actually need going forward, and be a bit relentless in simplifying and focusing on what you actually need.

Do you remember Thomas Guides? These were the definitive maps, especially for a car culture like Southern California where I’m based. It was a big event when the new year arrived, a time that also ushered in the new edition of the Thomas Guides. Now, our phones and Google Maps have made those guides obsolete. How many of the Thomas Guides (metaphorically speaking) do you still have around? Take a good look and do some ruthless cleaning.

What goals would you add to this list?

Posted by Jen Skrabak on: January 25, 2018 03:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (19)

Take Advantage of the Talent Gap

By Jen Skrabak, PMP, PfMP

There’s great news for the profession: According to PMI’s latest Job Growth and Talent Gap report, there will be a need to fill 2.2 million jobs globally each year until 2027, growing to a total of 88 million project management jobs in all. Moreover, much of the growth is outside the United States—in places such as China, India, Brazil and Japan. 

Project-related job growth is expected to be 33 percent overall, with health care (17 percent), manufacturing/construction (10 percent) and information services/publishing (6 percent) representing the top three industries.

How can you position yourself to take advantage of these trends? Here are three things to work on.

1.   Get a Certification

Although certification by itself doesn’t guarantee that you will be hired, it does mean that you have demonstrated knowledge and experience in project, program or portfolio management. There aren’t many PMI Portfolio Management Professional (PfMP)® credential holders out there, so obtaining this certification will help set you apart.

But, instead of viewing the PfMP certification as the goal, plan to take it as a journey. If you find that you don’t have the requisite experience, how can you position yourself by taking volunteer roles to gain the experience? 

Career development should be a joint responsibility between you and your manager. You should express the desire and develop the knowledge to grow your experience in certain areas, and your manager can work to open up opportunities to help you practice your knowledge.

2.   Practice

Work on delivering strategic initiatives, driving change and providing innovation consistently and reliably. It’s not experimenting, but actually delivering—first on a smaller scale, then on a larger scale.

For portfolio managers, for example, you may start by managing the portfolio of a department or product, then move to an entire business unit, segment or product line, and finally on to an enterprise level. 

There are three key areas to grow the depth and breadth of your experience:

1.   Strategic alignment: Go beyond understanding the strategy and proactively work to translate that strategy into specific initiatives. This can be done by defining the business cases, developing multi-year roadmaps or translating high-level concepts into specific projects that will deliver the result, benefit or transformation promised.

2.   Benefits realization: This starts with validating the business case and ownership of the benefits, and is typically realized three to six months after the project/program delivery via operational budget savings, reductions or reallocations. Few organizations realize the benefits because they are often too optimistic in the upfront business case and fail to follow through by ensuring that operational budgets reflect the promised savings or headcount efficiencies. 

3.   Project/program delivery: The foundation of portfolio management is good project and program execution to deliver the product, service or result on time, on budget and per the scope. It doesn’t matter if it’s agile, waterfall or hybrid. Although the portfolio manager may not be responsible for the delivery, the delivery affects the portfolio value.  Ensuring that the portfolio value is realized means ensuring the project or program was delivered effectively and efficiently regardless of the methodology.

3.   Communicate Effectively

Working on the portfolio level means that you’re communicating a vast amount of information—anywhere from 15 to 50 projects and programs—in an actionable way to executives. I’ve had executives tell me, “Don’t tell me what’s going right, tell me what’s going wrong and how to fix it.”  Your role is to remember the four “C”s—clear, concise, compelling and credible. Be to the point, tell the story and build trust with a clear plan of action to fix any potential issues proactively. 

Posted by Jen Skrabak on: August 07, 2017 11:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (11)

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 (6)

7 Ways to Align Portfolio Management with Strategy

by Jen L. Skrabak, PMP, PfMP

Successfully implementing strategic initiatives is a high priority for most organizations; however, few organizations are doing it well, if at all. In fact, only 10 percent are aligning portfolio management with strategy implementation.

Based on my experience, there are seven critical success factors to align portfolio management with strategy:

1. Agility: This is a broad umbrella for organizational culture and processes that are nimble and versatile. Being nimble suggests speed in reacting and being versatile suggests flexibility and adaptability. It’s crucial to build a nimble and flexible organization and portfolio management processes to take advantage of internal or external changes. Portfolio management must be seen as the enabler of strategic change and anticipate iterative, incremental and frequent adjustments to the portfolio.

2. The 3 C’s: Culture, Change Management and Communications: The “triple threat” of portfolio management is having all three components work in harmony to enable the strategy. Culture can be thought of as the personality and habits that an organization embodies, and although it may be difficult to describe, it can be seen and felt when walking around an organization. It’s been commonly cited that up to 97 percent of the employees in an organization don’t understand the strategy, and over 90 percent of mergers and acquisitions fail due to culture clashes. 

Rather than letting culture just happen by accident, organizations should consciously build and shape the culture of the organization. And, of course, the culture must be socialized through communications and change management to not only convey the right messages and keep employees engaged, but also recognize and reward the right behaviors.

3. Governance: Good portfolio management processes ensure these core governance functions are implemented:

·         Oversight: Leadership, guidance and direction. The key is being involved (through visible engagement and support in problem solving and removing barriers), not just informed (receiving status reports).

·         Control: Monitoring and reporting of key performance indicators, including leading (not lagging) indicators. Too often, portfolio managers report on scope, time and budget status, however, those are all retroactive events. Although course corrections can be made, it is too late to be proactive and, as we all know, it’s easier to stop a project’s problems earlier rather than later. Leading indicators, including risk exposure, incremental value delivered and requirements volatility, are predictive.

·         Integration: Alignment to strategy, as well as organizational ownership of the changes that the portfolio is implementing, should be driven by portfolio governance.

·         Decision Making: While empowering teams to make day-to-day decisions, broad decisions also need executive and management support to ensure buy-in across the organization.

4. Value: The value to the organization depends on performance of the portfolio holistically, not individual components. It starts with ensuring the right programs and projects are selected. Sometimes, the focus is on an individual project’s ROI instead of the fact that although a project may have a positive return, it should be compared against competing projects’ risk, return, and alignment to strategy.

5. Risk Management: There should be a balance of the negative and positive. Mitigate threats and take advantage of opportunities. Value is ultimately the result of performance x risk/opportunity.

6. PPPM Maturity: Portfolio, program and project management (PPPM) maturity ensures the process and talent exist to deliver the programs and projects reliably. Maturity is not measured by a single dimension such as the success rate of the “triple constraint.” Instead that measure includes speed to market, customer satisfaction and strategy enablement.

7. Organizational Structure: When building an organization to enable a strategic initiative (a type of portfolio), an organization should be defined by verticals of end-to-end processes and horizontal enablers. Horizontal enablers are common support elements that span across the verticals organized by the work instead of the functional area—such as change management, reporting, training.

How do you align portfolio management with strategy? I look forward to your thoughts!

Posted by Jen Skrabak on: October 20, 2016 08:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

What Is Strategy?

By Jen L. Skrabak, PMP, PfMP

Most portfolio managers are aware of the importance of aligning their portfolio to the strategy of the organization.

But what exactly is strategy?

Strategy is commonly misunderstood. Sometimes it is used to denote importance or criticality, for example, a “strategic program.” Other times, it may be used to convey an action plan—an organization may say that their strategy is to launch a new key product.   

In reality, however, strategy does not denote importance or complexity; rather, it represents the collective decisions that enable the organization to amplify its uniqueness in order to win.

It’s important to think of strategy as having three components:

Definition: The intent of the organization over the long term. 

Plan: Clear, concise and compelling actions expressed through a strategic plan and roadmap. Visualization helps to articulate the strategy, and align it with objectives and measurements. Frameworks and tools such as a strategy map, balanced scorecard and activity map help plan the strategy.

Execution: How the organization will achieve its defined plan through its portfolios (and corresponding programs and projects). The portfolio represents the decisions that the organization has made in order to execute on the strategy.

What Strategy IS and IS NOT

IS

NOT

Future/Long term (3+ years)

Current/Short term (1-3 years)

Different

Improvement

A unique position relative to competition

An endeavor to improve operational efficiency

Responsive to environment

Static

The strategy should define for the organization and individuals:

-Where are we going?

-Why are we going there?

-What’s my role?

In my next post, we’ll discuss how to align portfolio management to strategy.

Posted by Jen Skrabak on: August 19, 2016 07:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (11)
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