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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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
Ramiro Rodrigues
Linda Agyapong
Joanna Newman

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

Recent Posts

Find Purpose to Unlock Exceptional Performance

What is project success?

Predicting Performance: There Must Be a Better Way

Driving Diversity of Perspective

The Advantages of the Hybrid Project Manager

The Next-Gen PMO

by Jen Skrabak, PfMP, PMP

Project management offices (PMOs) have gained wide acceptance thanks to their ability to ensure the success of projects and programs. More than 80 percent of organizations have PMOs.

But, there is still some confusion with PMOs, as the “P” in PMO can refer to project, program or portfolio. At the same time, PMOs have been thought of as one of three categories:

  • Supportive: Low-level of control with a focus on status reporting and passive monitoring. This type of PMO has low authority, low visibility within the organization and performs primarily administrative functions. Project managers are usually part-time resources and report into functional areas.
  • Controlling: Moderate level of control and oversight over programs and projects. In this PMO, an overall project management framework, plus templates and tools, are in place. Project managers and other support staff (business analysts, project coordinators) report directly or matrixed into the PMO.
  • Directive: High-level of control over programs and projects. This PMO has a lot of authority and visibility within the organization to drive overall execution of programs and projects. Project managers, business/IT leads and other support staff report directly into and are accountable to the PMO.

The Next-Gen PMO, however, is disrupting these traditional categories. In the Next-Gen PMO, the focus is on ensuring the successful delivery of organization-wide strategic initiatives. In addition to traditional PMO functions, such as providing project management tools, templates and training, the Next-Gen PMO is responsible for organizational results. They also report directly to a C-suite executive within the organization. 

I see the four critical functions of the Next-Gen PMO as:

  1. Strategic Focus: Align, prioritize and focus the organization on the top critical initiatives based on organizational capabilities as well as constraints, such as resources or culture. The PMO should operate at the strategic level with executives, and align supply and demand of resources. That may include financial (such as budget), human (not on just number of people available, but skill and capability), or organizational culture (such as the capacity to absorb change, particularly sustaining change over time). 
  2. Governance: Implement the appropriate executive governing board with authority to make hard decisions. Decisions may involve escalated issues/risks, resolving resource contentions, as well as which projects/programs to start, stop and sustain. Often, governance is engaged in starting new projects — particularly low or underperforming ones — without appropriately counterbalancing which projects may have to be stopped in order to free up resources
  3. End-to-End Delivery: This takes a dedicated, seasoned project manager with authority and accountability to the PMO to define, plan and deliver the project, along with identifying appropriate resources and ensuring sponsor support and engagement. The PMO should create a culture where project management is valued and seen as a business enabler to successfully delivering projects. They should develop a roadmap of key initiatives, dependencies and resources that provide value to the organization. That cohesively brings together projects and cross-functional departments that are aligned to strategy.
  4. Benefits Realization: Achieving the promises of project proposals starts with a robust business-case review process, as well as ongoing monitoring for performance and its impacts on the benefits. The PMO should establish success criteria and KPIs to monitor project and portfolio health, and take corrective actions as needed to ensure that the original ROI is met.

Is your organization embracing the Next-Gen PMO?

Posted by Jen Skrabak on: August 02, 2018 06:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (15)

A Balanced Competency Model

By Mario Trentim

A successful project requires a combination of technical and managerial activities at every stage to jointly deliver the final result and its benefits.

If you have high levels of maturity in project management without the equivalent technical knowledge, your project is doomed to deliver a poor solution. On the other hand, when you have best-in-class technical knowledge without project management maturity, your project is also doomed to be inefficient and maybe even inefficacious.

Many organizations have already developed competency models to encompass technical and managerial aspects of projects, describing overlapping areas and highlighting essential project management and systems engineering foundations of successful projects.

Consider the U.S.’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) competency model, which “outlines distinct competency areas for project managers and systems engineers, as well as shared competencies that encompass both disciplines.”

Examples of defined project management competencies include:

  • Stakeholder management
  • Safety and mission assurance
  • Cost estimating
  • Risk management
  • Project control

Examples of defined system engineer competencies include:

  • Technical requirements definition
  • Product verification
  • Configuration management
  • Technical data management
  • Interface management

Examples of shared competencies include:

  • Workplace safety
  • Communication
  • Team dynamics and management
  • Safety and mission assurance
  • Knowledge capture and transfer

You might be asking yourself what does NASA have to do with your own daily projects? Most of us are working in projects and programs far simpler than building space systems. However, my objective here is to call attention to the best in class so that we can contextualize and tailor their model to our own reality.

Of course, in order to achieve a proper balance in your projects, thoughtful tailoring is essential. Take the International Council on Systems Engineering’s handbook, A Guide for System Life Cycle Processes and Activities:

“On smaller projects, where the span of required communications is small (few people and short project life cycle) and the cost of rework is low, Systems Engineering activities can be conducted very informally (and thus at low cost). On larger projects, where the cost of failure or rework is high, increased formality can significantly help in achieving project opportunities and in mitigating project risk.”

Even small and medium projects can benefit a lot from the proper combination of project management and systems engineering. Systems engineering is helpful not only in developing complex products and services, such as a spaceship or an air traffic control system, but also in less sophisticated products such as a bicycle or an alarm system. In fact, systems engineering is even helpful when you are designing your new house.

 

What product development approaches are you using today? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Posted by Mario Trentim on: April 03, 2018 01:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (19)

The Knowledge Management Paradox

by Ramiro Rodrigues

 

Years ago, I was invited to speak on project management trends to a group of entrepreneurs and businesspeople from small and medium-sized companies. When the subject of knowledge management in a project setting came up, I asked if people agreed that it was important for companies to retain the knowledge acquired for future projects. As expected, there was unanimous agreement.

 

I then asked people if they had already implemented some kind of system for lessons learned within their company. Only 15 percent of participants raised their hands.

 

This reflects a common corporate weakness.

 

Civil, architectural, marketing, research and development, and IT projects, among others, deliver products that rely on the intelligence and experience of those working on them. For these segments, the maintenance of this knowledge, or intellectual capital, offers a competitive advantage. After all, it’s this intellectual capital that allows the recurrence of new business transactions.

 

Imagine the case of a Brazilian construction company that has been awarded a contract for work in the Middle East. Geography, labor legislation and culture are complete unknowns for the company. The project is expected to experience a high number of challenges and errors. Even so, the project will be delivered. Now imagine that, years after the completion of that project, the same construction company is awarded another contract of similar size in a neighboring country in the region. Even though every project is unique, the knowledge acquired in the first project has immense financial value in helping avoid the same mistakes.

 

What we witness today is that the knowledgable worker is highly valuable. Imagine that, between the construction company's first and second project, its key leaders leave the company. If the organization has not implemented some kind of mechanism to retain the knowledge acquired during the first project, all the errors (and financial losses) that marked it are highly likely to be repeated in the second project.

 

And this, in some cases, can be fatal for the survival of the company.  

 

This brings us to a corporate paradox. Most executives are likely to agree that it’s important to develop some kind of knowledge transfer structure. But at the same time, there is clear lethargy in freeing up resources to implement knowledge management systems for projects.

 

Not that it's simple — initiating any knowledge management process is inherently difficult. There is veiled resistance among workers to explain the knowledge acquired during projects. Either they don’t agree with its importance, find the process annoying or even fear it will make them less essential.

 

Leaders have to overcome this resistance. Neglecting the issue can put them at risk of being exposed to market volatility.

 

What challenges have you encountered with knowledge management? How do you make it work within your organization?

Posted by Ramiro Rodrigues on: March 27, 2018 09:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

Project Methodology: Help or Hindrance?

Categories: Methodology, PMOs

​By Ramiro Rodrigues

I have heard arguments both for and against the effectiveness of corporations using standardized project management methodologies.

 

In general, a project management methodology should clarify which methods — steps, activities, gadgets and tools — can be used to reach a goal. And since a project is made up of a set of processes, each with their suggested methods or best practices, they are usually given the name of methodology.

 

The Arguments For

The fervent proponents of project management methodologies contend that there is a need for the implementing organization to establish an identity, which its clients will see. They believe that the methodology enhances the standardization of the particular strengths of the services offered.

 

According to them, a project originating from a corporation with a specific work methodology tends to have more predictable services and products, which decreases the interference of human factors associated with the individuals who lead the project. It also allows for greater clarity and understanding for the stakeholders with regard to what is to be expected at each moment.

 

Finally, they maintain, that a methodology enables a virtuous cycle of continuous improvement and development with regard to project management in an organization.

 

The Arguments Against

Opponents assert that methodologies often require disproportionate documentation efforts that do not add value. For them, methodologies are bureaucratic "machines" that increase their costs and stress levels, thus taking the focus away from the expected results.

 

There is no single solution to this issue. It is common knowledge that each organization must develop its own project management methodology in order to find the best set of methods.

 

Therefore, it is suggested that organizations wishing to improve should always consider whether the proposed methodology:

  • Makes the project management processes more effective
  • Brings clarity and transparency to the various phases of the enterprise
  • Minimizes rework and helps reduce the stress levels of those involved
  • Benefits the stakeholders
  • Helps speed up project deliveries without compromising quality

 

This latter issue, together with the need for resource optimization and a drop in the learning curve, has led corporations to search for alternatives — such as agile methods and using Canvas in project management.

 

However, this objectivity "line" should not be stretched too far. There’s a risk that while searching for leaner processes some aspects related to the optimal handling of a project may become too superficial. That could ultimately compromise the quality of project deliveries and the image of the implementing organization.

 

Therefore, there is no one perfect solution. Each market segment, project size and organizational culture should be carefully considered in order to find the best way to implement a project management methodology.

Posted by Ramiro Rodrigues on: January 10, 2018 11:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (21)

The Secrets to Business Transformation Success

The Secrets to Business Transformation Success

In the world of business transformation, there is usually a lot of enthusiasm surrounding the start of the transformation among the team.

But it quickly gets crazy and stressful thanks to tenders for third parties, recruitment, preparation for executives’ meetings, changes, wish lists, vague strategies and aggressive key performance indicator promises already made to the board.

Typically, the transformation team has a list of to-dos and we go running around building the empire around achieving them—and off goes the train.

Some of the pitfalls that transformation teams fall into are:

Assume success: Business transformation is usually about a list of changes we make to the business—whether with systems, people, processes, strategy, or all of these. We build the portfolio, write the briefs for our third parties, start the projects and setup the meetings and steering committees.

We plan our work with success in mind. But what if that doesn’t happen?

When we don’t account for failure it means we don’t really have the recovery mechanism in place both at the human and team level and at the tactical level.

That leads us to the second pitfall.

Inability to stop and reflect: In transformation, there is a lot at stake. That means a lot can go wrong quickly—and the trust that the transformation team once had can be put to the test.  

Because there are a lot of moving parts—and what you knew at a point in time may not be as valid or as accurate as it is at a later point—time to reflect and adjust course is essential.

At the end of the day, these teams work for their customers and when the customer needs change, so should the direction and the approach that the team takes.

Can’t or won’t say “no”: In successful and strong transformation teams, the ability to say “no” is crucial. That does not mean rejecting business requests, but rather working to prioritize and justify why things can or can’t be done.

Not understanding the capacity available can put the transformation team at risk. Senior managers and executives often look for a sounding board and an independent review of what might be possible. Don’t be shy to speak your mind and seek to understand and learn.  

Transformation is about saying “no” as much as it is about saying, “Yes, we can.” It’s important to keep the organization honest to its true ability to implement change and work together with your customers to create something that works.

And finally, during a transformation it’s important to stay humble and always seek to learn. Don’t let your ego stand between you and a successful business transformation. But that’s another topic for another day.

Stay tuned!

Posted by Jess Tayel on: December 10, 2017 10:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (11)
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