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

Recent Posts

A Recurring Interview Process Ensures a Good Fit

Promoting Project Management In Conversation

The Strategic Alignment of the Project Portfolio (Part 2)

The Strategic Alignment of the Project Portfolio (Part 1)

5 Steps to Manage Project Dependencies

Viewing Posts by Conrado Morlan

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 (6)

The Strategic Alignment of the Project Portfolio (Part 1)

By Conrado Morlan

“The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.”  —Michael Porter

Over the last two decades, organizations looking to remain competitive have realized that creating a strategic plan is not enough. The smart execution of that strategy is also needed to move an organization to the next stage.

One way to drive better execution is to align the project portfolio with the organization’s strategy. This should encompass all current and future initiatives, programs and projects — including business projects, operations projects, technology projects, etc.

The project portfolio is the strategic plan’s execution framework. It calls for cross-functional efforts that provide a holistic view to the participating areas, and helps them better understand the strategic goals and how their contributions will move the organization to the next level. This instills a sense of ownership among the participants.

Strategically aligning the project portfolio allows an organization to establish an execution approach that will allow it to improve existing processes and optimize the selection and sequence of initiatives.

Leaders should screen, filter, and select programs and projects based on the organizational strategy and — for those selected — they should define:

Roles and responsibilities: Who will be involved, as well as each person’s level of involvement and authority

Stakeholders: Who will be impacted by the initiatives and their level of influence in the organization

Resources: What resources could be assigned to programs and projects, and their current capacity and capabilities to support the selected initiatives

Funding: What funds will be available to implement the selected programs and projects

Risks: What internal and external risks would affect the strategic plan and therefore the portfolio of projects, and what risks will be accepted or mitigated

Benefits Realization: What benefits will be produced by each program and how those will be harvested

To achieve that alignment, the following groups must support the initiative:

  • Executive Group: This group will provide the strategic and portfolio governance guidelines.
  • Project Group: This group will handle portfolio management, focusing on delivering value to the business.
  • Operations Group: This group will ensure the organization can sustainably achieve its strategic goals.

In the second part of this series I will explore how these groups interact to establish the best execution approach and achieve the strategic goals defined in the strategic plan.

As a portfolio, program or project manager, have you been involved in the strategic alignment of the project portfolio in your organization? What was your experience?

 

Posted by Conrado Morlan on: April 15, 2017 07:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (14)

The Impact of Unforeseen Risks

By Conrado Morlan

Risk identification is one of the first tasks many project managers tackle when they’re assigned a new project. But identifying risks can’t be a one-time effort.

The risk log is a living document that needs to be scrubbed and updated on a regular basis. Future internal or external factors can always impact the project.

And while it may be natural to think of risks as negative, that’s not always the case. Risks can also present opportunities that uncover new project benefits or enhance the benefits that were originally defined.

Here are a few examples of risks—and opportunities—that emerged during a project and took me by surprise.

Force Majeure: The Eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull

The eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland caused enormous disruption to air transportation across western and northern Europe in 2010.

While much of the media focused on air travel, freight-transport customers around the world also experienced parcel delivery delays.

At the time, I was deploying a regional project across the Americas for a global logistics firm. The project was put on hold so all employees could support the emergency effort to deliver parcels during the crisis.

The response plan rerouted flights originally scheduled for the hub in Germany to several cities in Italy where parcels were then transported via ground vehicles. And customer service representatives increased communication with customers about their shipment’s status.

In the end, the logistics company didn’t lose any customers and, in fact, many customers were pleased with how the force majeure was handled. The company also demonstrated to the customer the company’s effective emergency plan for crisis situations.

While this unforeseen risk delayed the regional project I was working on, I kept the project stakeholders informed frequently of the project team activities throughout the crisis and shared the actions to be taken to bring the project back on track.

Geopolitical Events: Fidel Castro’s Death

In December 2015, the United States and Cuba agreed to re-establish regularly scheduled flights, allowing selected U.S. airlines daily trips between the two countries.

During the first quarter of 2016, those airlines were launching projects to open new services to one or more destinations in Cuba. It was a daunting job. The projects would need to comply with U.S. and Cuban regulations. And information was not flowing rapidly between the two countries.

The airline I was supporting was awarded three Cuban destinations. But in November, while we were finalizing details for the first flight to Havana, we learned about Fidel Castro’s death.

During the mourning period, all communications with Cuban government officials and agencies were suspended. Trips airline employees working on the project had planned to take to Cuba were canceled.

The project team was uncertain what this delay would mean for the first scheduled flights to Havana. To address the potential risk, different scenarios that included the postponement and cancelation of flights were defined and mitigation plans were drafted for potential implementation.

After the mourning period, communications were restored and project activities normalized. Ultimately, the geopolitical event did not impact the scheduled flights, but it was a risk that could not have been anticipated.

As a project manager, what unforeseen risks have impacted your projects? How did you address and mitigate those risks?

Posted by Conrado Morlan on: January 31, 2017 03:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Facing Generational Needs

Categories: Leadership, PMI, Volunteering

By Conrado Morlan

“Those who criticize our generation forget who raised it.” ―Unknown

I had the opportunity to attend PMI® Leadership Institute Meeting 2016—North America in San Diego, California, USA, and met PMI chapter board members from several countries.

An ongoing conversation during that meeting centered on how to renew and refresh chapter membership and appeal to younger generations.

One of the foundations that will help PMI chapters better interact with multi-generational communities is to develop and master “generational competence,” which according to Ceridian “describe the adaptations or competencies organizations must develop today to meet the very diverse needs of four generations in the workforce and the marketplace.”

While discussing the topic with my fellow chapter board members, I found there is a common belief that generations are defined by age when in reality generations are defined by common experiences and key events.

Also much of the research around generations and generational differences has grown out of the United States and therefore is U.S.-focused.

Here are some alternatives to the typical generational buckets:

U.S. Generation Name

Approximate Years of Birth

Alternate Terminology

Matures

1914 - 1945

Traditionalists (USA), Silent Generation (USA), Veterans (USA),

Baby Boomer

1946 - 1963

Generation Me (USA), Unlucky Generation (China), Dankai Generation (Japan)

Generation X

1964 - 1980

MTV Generation (USA), Baby Bust Generation (USA), Génération Bof (France), Crisis Generation (Latin America), Burnt Generation (Iran), Generation Bharat (India)

Generation Y

1981 - 2001

Millennials (USA), Generation Next (USA), Yutori Generation (Japan), Generation Pu (Russia), Born-Free Generation (South Africa)

Generation Z

 

Mid 90’s or Early 2000s -

Globals (USA), Post-Millennials (USA), iGen (USA), Digital Natives (USA), Globalized India (India)

Even individuals born in the same approximate marker years are defined differently by the events they have experienced. For example while the U.S. Baby Boomer generation is associated with the notion of the "American Dream,” the Unlucky Generation in China lived through three years of famine and cultural revolution.

At the same time, many of these generations are tied to stereotypes. For example, “Millennials are entitled narcissists,” “Gen Y looks for instant gratification,” “They are not capable of interacting offline,” are some of the comments I’ve heard. Stereotyping, however, fuels conflict within a multigenerational community.

What Generation Y Thinks

During the Leadership Institute Meeting, I looked for opportunities to speak with Generation Y attendees. Across the board, they felt PMI board members from older generations need to develop generational competence to bridge the gap of understanding. This competence will help them learn how to communicate, connect and engage with potential PMI members of different generations.

Membership campaigns will need to align with Generation Y values—happiness, passion, diversity, sharing and discovery, according to Patrick Spenner, a strategic initiatives leader at CEB.

PMI chapters will need to promote the profession as one that:

  • Offers continuous challenges as changes in projects happen
  • Enables growth in organizations and makes the work exciting
  • Opens new opportunities in different industries as project management skills are highly transferable

Perhaps the most important takeaway in my discussions with Generation Y members was that they reject generational labels. Call them young professionals

As a project manager volunteering for a PMI chapter, what is the most challenging situation you have faced within a multigenerational community?

Posted by Conrado Morlan on: November 16, 2016 10:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Wading Into the Deep Waters of Regulatory Compliance

By Conrado Morlan

During the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, you may have seen them on TV: men around the Olympic pool in red trunks and yellow t-shirts, with whistles around their necks and flotation devices tucked beneath their arms.

Yes, they were lifeguards.

Why are lifeguards needed in a pool where the world’s best swimmers are competing? The answer is simple: regulatory compliance.

FINA, the sport’s international governing body, states in its guidelines that “owners of public pools or pools restricted only to training and competition must comply with the requirements established by law and the health authorities in the country where the pool is situated.” The law in the state of Rio de Janeiro requires the presence of lifeguards at swimming pools larger than 20 feet by 20 feet, according to The New York Times.

As a project manager leading the efforts of a global or regional project, you will need to be aware of all the regulations that may impact your project. Assuming that you can lead a project in the same way you do in your country of origin is a bad assumption.

Preparing for Compliance

Complying with regulations can mean big hurdles in project deployment, so you need to plan ahead to avoid any major impacts. At the same time, regulations may be an opportunity to establish relationships with governmental entities that define the regulations (as Amway did in China in the last decade).

When dealing with regulations in your projects, remember:

  • You are not always in control. The existing standardized and repeatable processes to execute projects, as well as the existing technological platform to implement the project, may not be applicable or available in certain countries. You will need to think “outside the box” and move out of your comfort zone to make your project successful.
  • The rules in other countries are unique. Regulations, culture and resources vary. Get insights from your local team to understand and take advantage of the established rules.
  • You may need to take a step backward. Adaptation is key in global projects. All the features and functions delivered by your project may not be necessary for a particular country. Have a list of the minimum features and functions required to make your project successful.

As a global project manager, you need to develop and master your cultural awareness. This will help you to establish the foundation of communication and identify cultural values, beliefs and perceptions.

This will help you understand the local environment and market, build long-term, trusting relationships and keep your project in track.

As a global project manager, how do you face regulatory compliance in different countries?

Posted by Conrado Morlan on: September 02, 2016 05:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)
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