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
Jess Tayel
Ramiro Rodrigues
Linda Agyapong
Joanna Newman

Past Contributers:

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

Recent Posts

Do You Know The 3 Drivers Of Project Success?

It’s Time for a Long, Hard Look at Processes

Trust: The Secret Ingredient to Project Success

The Traps of Textbook Scrum

Assessing Risk in the Real World

Viewing Posts by Cyndee Miller

Get Out of the Way

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?

Posted by Cyndee Miller on: November 16, 2018 03:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)

Evolve, Rinse, Repeat: Next-Gen PMOs In Action

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

Look for in-depth features of the three PMOs in upcoming issues of PM Network and check out video case studies on PMI’s YouTube channel.

Or perhaps your PMO is ready for the spotlight? Check out how to apply for the PMO of the Year Award here.

Posted by Cyndee Miller on: November 16, 2018 01:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (10)

Are We Done Disrupting Yet?

 

by Cyndee Miller

That digital disruption all the experts and thought leaders have been hyping for what seems like decades? It’s here.

For real.

I know, I know, dear readers. You’ve heard it before. From me. And I’m sure many of you would be content to never hear the D word again.

And yet…

There’s simply no disputing that disruptive technologies—the internet of things, 3D printing, robotics, artificial intelligence—are infiltrating our lives. And that means every project leader at every organization in every sector better brace themselves for some serious change. Attendees at PMO symposium seem quite aware of the situation.

JPMorgan Chase’s Noel Smyth said big data, cloud, blockchain and mobile technology are all changing project management at the financial services giant—all while it’s contending with a slew of fintech upstarts.

Even government agencies (not exactly known for their bleeding-edge habits) are no longer watching from the sidelines.

People demand the corporate crowd keep up with the latest social media platforms or cashless payment options—and expect the same from the public sector, said Joanie Newhart of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. And all too often, they’re disappointed.

One prime indicator project leaders are out to change their modus operandi comes from the U.S. Census Bureau. For the first time ever, the 2020 count will be conducted over the internet. Now that’s saying something, given the inaugural census was taken in 1790.

But the agency isn’t just tapping into digital delivery.

It’s digging deep into the data it collects about the country’s 300-million-plus residents. With that analysis, the Census Bureau can learn more about the people it serves, from their commuting patterns to the best ways to evacuate during an emergency, said the bureau’s Laura Furgione, PMP, during the PMO Symposium executive fireside chat.

To not just survive, but thrive, project leaders must have a curious mind—and be willing to think across projects and programs, said Linda Ott, PMP, of the U.S. Department of Energy. The public-sector project leaders of tomorrow need to stay wide open to what’s happening, even as they focus in on their particular mission.

Even with the best of efforts, though, some organizations are falling behind. And across various sessions, a consensus was building that PMO leaders should be the ones helping their organizations embrace the changes brought on by disruptive technology.

“[Organizations] are really not adapting and changing fast enough,” Melissa Eckers of Accenture Technology said in a panel discussion of the PMI 2018 Thought Leadership Series released at symposium. “There’s an issue with how effective we’re being with managing change.”

What’s the problem? Attiya Salik of Capgemini Government Solutions sees a trust gap between stakeholders and PMOs when it comes to change management. “Stakeholders see it as waste of time,” she said. “[We] have to educate stakeholders on what change management really is, what its impact is going to be and how it will facilitate the implementation process.”

PMOs themselves must also contend with their own change patterns: Sixty-six percent of the 529 PMO directors surveyed say disruptive technologies are affecting their PMO, according to Capgemini’s The Next Generation PMO, one of three reports in the series.

“The PMO of yesterday isn’t the PMO of today,” said Rebecca Sanchez of Accenture Technology during a panel dicsussion.

Has the disruptive revolution really begun? And how is all this cutting-edge technology changing how you manage your projects or your PMO?

Posted by Cyndee Miller on: November 14, 2018 11:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (13)

Go Ahead and Fail—It Could Be the Way to Succeed

by Cyndee Miller

Talk all you want about the “critical elements to business success.” What people—including me—really want to hear about is failure. We want the spectacular flameout. And we want all the gory details. Some of this is just human nature. But it’s more than that. Tales of failure are also wildly educational. Would the story of Steve Jobs be nearly as compelling—or informative—if he wasn’t fired from his own company? I think not.

Yet as a reporter, I know most people don’t like to discuss their mistakes. So imagine my delight when former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo told attendees at PMO Symposium® that failure isn’t just an option—it’s an option that should be exercised frequently.

As one must suspect, that shift has to start at the top. “By getting in front of your team and pointing out when you make a mistake, they start to get it and will start taking more courageous risks,” he said.

That will most likely lead to some dissent, which Mr. Costolo also said it’s perfectly acceptable.

“The goal isn’t social cohesion, it’s to get to the right answer,” he said. “Open debate toward the right answer is a good thing.”

But once a decision is made, Mr. Costolo expects the full team to fall in line.

The contrarian in me loves to see common business wisdom upended. But his advice also just seems inevitable in today’s fast-paced, disruption-happy environment.

Slow and steady doesn’t win the race. There’s a fresh urgency to execution and that means leaders need to be willing to try new things.

“In any organization as it grows, the default answer to any question increasingly becomes no,” he says. “What we developed inside Twitter was a common saying: bias to yes. There have to be many paths to yes inside the company for any idea. Any function is not allowed to tell a different function, ‘You’re not allowed to do that.’”

Taking Mr. Costolo’s lead, Twitter slashed the time it took to get new ideas in front of users from months to days.

At that pace, mistakes happen. But what we’re hearing over and over again at symposium is that that’s okay. In the very first session, self-proclaimed project management nerd Jonathan Gilbert, PMP, challenged project leaders to think fast, learn fast, fail fast.

Jan Musil, chief product owner at SAP America, took it one step further, saying project leaders shouldn’t even think of a project misstep as a failure. It’s continuous improvement.

How are you helping your teams fail, er, I mean, “continually improve”?

Posted by Cyndee Miller on: November 13, 2018 09:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (18)

Creativity Is for Project Managers, Too

by Cyndee Miller

“We are all inherently creative,” proclaimed Google’s Abigail Posner at PMI Global Conference.

And yes, that includes project and program managers.

Every year, Fast Companythat arbiter of all things cool and cutting edge— releases its 50 most creative people in business. It’s (justifiably) filled with big names like cosmetics guru Pat McGrath and Netflix VP of innovation Chris Jaffe. And while there aren’t a whole lot of project and program managers who make the cut—there is a whole lot of talk about how all those brilliant ideas got executed.

It’s a different kind of creativity, which doesn’t often get the spotlight. But Ms. Posner knows the score. “Some of my favorite partners are project managers.”

As head of strategic planning for Google, she’s constantly on the hunt for that next big idea. For her, it starts with one fundamental question: why? “[By] understanding what makes [people] tick, you’ll develop a foundation for so many ideas,” she said.

From there, look for the links. Creativity is making connections that others haven’t, Ms. Posner said. “Ideas don’t come out of nowhere. They don’t fall from the sky. There is no eureka moment.”

That means project and program managers must be open to lots of stimuli from a range of collaborators.

“The more you can ideate with people—especially people who think differently than you—the more creative you will be,” she said. “Do not try to be creative on your own.”

And although teams must resist the temptation to overanalyze, don’t throw too wide of a net. Even creativity can benefit from some constraints—something project leaders are probably very familiar with.

A quick survey of attendees revealed not all project managers consider themselves to be creative, but Ms. Posner sees it as part of everyone’s DNA.

“Being creative is what defines us as human beings,” she said. “We just don’t realize we have the tools inside of us or how to harness them.”

That’s it from this year’s conference, but I’ll have plenty more to report on from this year’s PMO Symposium on 11-14 November. And mark your calendars for the 2019 Global Conference on 5-7 October in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.

In the meantime, what’s your creative strategy? How do you and your team get past any innovation slumps?

Posted by Cyndee Miller on: October 10, 2018 12:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (21)
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