by Dave Wakeman
Back in the old days of command-and-control project management, ideas were mostly helpful at the front end of a project: during the planning phase. But as we’ve moved away from command and control into a world of specialization, ideas in projects and project management have taken on an entirely new role.
More than ever, ideas are what make the difference between success and failure.
For many project managers, however, it’s challenging to embrace and utilize new ideas and new ways of approaching problems.
Here are a few ideas on how to embrace new ideas more readily in your regular project work.
1. Understand that your team is full of experts.
Old-school project managers needed to have a high level of expertise in many areas, but today project managers’ key skill is really the ability to communicate. This means it’s likely the project manager doesn’t really know everything about every aspect of a project.
Which is actually good for embracing new ideas. Because as someone who has the key role of communicating and putting team members in the position to be successful, you have to understand that you are dealing with teams of experts. They’ll have ideas—be sure to listen to them.
2. Always focus on outcomes.
I know that the idea of focusing on the outcomes should be common sense by now. But in too many instances, project managers still focus on activities rather than outcomes.
So focus on the outcomes and allow your teams to have the flexibility to take the actions they think will lead to a positive result.
3. Find a new point of view.
Too many people become wed to one way of looking at things.
The problem with that mentality ties back to my first point: project managers can’t control every decision. We don’t have expertise on everything that is going on in our projects.
Get out of your own head and try to gain a different point of view. Think about a challenge from the viewpoint of the end user, the sponsor or the members of the team required to do the work. Thinking from another point of view will help you come up with a different set of ideas that you can bring to your project.
The old ways of doing things or a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work in every case any longer. The success or failure of your project is likely tied to the ability of you and your team to come up with and implement new ideas.
How do you ensure you’re noticing and taking advantage of new ideas on the projects you lead?
By Linda Agyapong
During lunch one day, project managers Jim, Mary and Alex got into an argument over who was best adhering to their industry’s project success criteria. They all had sound arguments. The problem was, however, an “industry standard” did not appear to exist.
Jim argued that he follows the good old “triple constraints” or “iron triangle” concept (i.e., time, cost and scope). Mary sharply retorted that she follows the “quadruple constraints” concept (i.e., time, cost, scope and quality), where the “quality” minimized bugs or defects. Alex quickly asserted that he is the best project manager because in addition to what both Jim and Mary did, he reduces risk, meets stakeholder expectations, and his projects generally add value to the organization in extra areas.
Before we jump into crowning who we think should be project manager of the year, let’s take a trip down some project manager memory lane based on recent research I performed.
Although PMI’s A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) makes certain recommendations, the subject of project success criteria has been evolving for more than five decades.
In her report, Kate Davis summed up the different success criteria throughout the years:
1970s: Project success was centered on the “operations side, tools and techniques (‘iron triangle’).”
1980s: The technical components of the project and its relationship with the project team and project manager.
1990s: The “critical success factor” framework, and its subsequent dependence on both external and internal stakeholders.
21st century: The focus has primarily been on the stakeholder.
Davis isn’t the only one pointing out the changing criteria. Many academics and authors have noted the differences, including:
1980s: Jeffrey K. Pinto and Dennis P. Slevin expressed their frustration in a Project Management Journal article by asking, “How can we truly assess the outcome of a project when we (in the project management field) cannot fully agree on how project “success” should be determined?”
Late 1990s: David Baccarini from the Curtin University of Technology recounted in a Project Management Journal article that “a review of the project management literature provides no consistent interpretation of the term ‘project success.’”
2008: Graeme Thomas and Walter Fernández said that “although IT project failure is considered widespread, there is no commonly agreed definition of success and failure.” They described project success as being “a difficult and elusive concept, with many different meanings,” and hence called it protean (likening it to the Greek sea-god Proteus), based on its ability to continually change its “form to avoid capture.”
The current decade: Hans Georg Gemünden criticized the triple constraints for failing to consider other factors, such as stakeholder impact, since “value lies in the eye of the beholder.” He recommended project success criteria be based on its “targeted outcome and impact” to the organization’s business case.
Standish Group’s 2015 CHAOS Report redefined a successful project from one being “on time, on budget and on target,” to one being “on time, on budget and with a satisfactory result.” This redefinition was to ensure project deliverables met stakeholder expectations and also added value to the organization.
So based on the above, which of our three project managers (Jim, Mary or Alex) should be crowned project manager of the year?
Leaders exert influence for success
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Categories: Agile, Benefits Realization, Best Practices, Career Help, Change Management, Communication, Complexity, Education and Training, Ethics, Facilitation, Generational PM, Human Aspects of PM, Human Resources, Innovation, Leadership, Lessons Learned, Mentoring, New to Project Management, PM Think About It, PMI, PMI Pulse of the Profession, PMOs, Portfolio Management, Program Management, Project Delivery, Project Failure, Project Planning, Reflections on the PM Life, Roundtable, Stakeholder, Strategy, Talent Management, Teams
By Peter Tarhanidis
Whenever I’m in a leadership role I try to be sensitive to the level of influence I gain, retain and lose. Influence is a precious commodity for a leader. And it can be disastrous if you lose your team or if tensions arise that reduce one’s effectiveness to achieve a goal.
I recall one of my client assignments where the goal was to ensure a successful integration of a complex merger and acquisition. The team had slipped on dates, missed key meetings and there were no formalized milestones.
I set up casual meetings to discuss with each member what would motivate them to participate. One clear signal was that management had changed the acquisition date several times. This disengaged the team due to false starts that took time away from other priorities.
During the sponsor review, I reported there was a communication breakdown and that no one shared this effort as a priority. At that point, the sponsor could have used his position of power to pressure everyone to do their part. However, the sponsor did not want to come off as autocratic.
Instead, he asked if I would be willing to find an alternative approach to get the team’s buy in.
I realized my influence was low, but I wanted to help improve the outcome for this team. So I talked again with each team member to negotiate a common approach with the goal to be integration-ready without having an exact date.
Ultimately, our goal was to have all milestones met while a smaller core team could later remain to implement the integration when management announced the final date.
A leader uses influence as part of the process to communicate ideas, gain approval and motivate colleagues to implement the concepts through changes to the organization.
In many cases, success increases as a leaders exert influence over others to find a shared purpose.
Tell me, which creates your best outcomes as a leader: influencing others through power or through negotiation?
3 Steps to Outsourcing Success
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Categories: Benefits Realization, Best Practices, Change Management, Complexity, Innovation, Innovation, Leadership, Leadership, Lessons Learned, Lessons Learned, Nontraditional Project Management, PM & the Economy, Program Management, Project Delivery, Project Failure, Project Planning, Project Requirements, Risk Management, ROI, Roundtable, Stakeholder, Strategy, Teams
By Peter Tarhanidis
When leaders use outsourcing it is often in an effort to enhance the organization’s value proposition to its stakeholders.
Outsourcing allows leaders to focus on and invest in the firm’s core services while using cost effective alternative sources of expertise for support services.
When services are outsourced, management and employees need to prepare for a transformation in organizational operations—and project managers must establish a strategy to guide that change.
Creating an Outsourcing Strategy
Project managers can help to create an effective outsourcing strategy based on a three-part structure:
1. Assess the current state
This assessment should define the firm’s:
2. Consider the “to-be” state
The to-be state should be designed based on a comprehensive evaluation and request for proposal, including a good list of best alternatives to negotiated agreement items.
The to-be state must consider:
3. Consider the governance required to sustain the future state
A new internal operating model needs to be formed. This includes establishing teams to manage the contract, such as senior sponsorship, an operational management team or a vendor management team.
Then the outsourcer and the outsourcing organization should focus on continuous improvements that can be made to the process.
Avoiding Outsourcing Pitfalls
Project managers can avoid a few common pitfalls in their outsourcing projects:
Overall, if done with a defined end in mind, leaders can capitalize on outsourcing by reducing operational costs, reinvesting those savings in core services, and providing access to expertise and IT systems that would normally not have been funded via capital appropriation.
Have you been a part of any outsourcing efforts? What advice would you offer to project managers involved in similar projects?
By Marian Haus, PMP
Welcome to the age of digital transformation.
New technologies such as 3-D printing, augmented and virtual reality, and digital currencies are becoming commonplace. Connected and autonomous cars, and holographic displays are on the horizon. This is all on top of the various mobile devices—smartphones, tablets, laptops—that we can’t let go of.
All this has changed consumer expectations and behaviors for good. Services must be fast and easy-to-use (RIP user-manual/guide), fully transparent (in terms of product offering, quality, price), always available (24/7) and multi-device accessible (via desktop, mobile, wearables, etc.).
Fearful of being left behind, businesses look to understand and predict consumer needs through deep and semantic web search, machine learning and big data customer analytics.
The Upshot for Projects
But digital transformation is not only changing our lives and disrupting businesses. It’s also reshaping and speeding up project delivery models. The planning and execution of innovative projects in today’s digital era can no longer be done at the same pace, with the same methodologies and tools. To attain increased time-to-market results, speed and flexibility are key—so project managers must adapt their approaches.
So what’s a project manager to do? Here some thoughts.
1) Remain calm and confident! Remember when agile disrupted the well-established waterfall world? Project managers had to adapt their approach, toolsets and methodologies. We can adapt again.
2) Enable organizational and structural simplicity and dynamism. Foster flexible structures, smaller project teams and increasing collaboration within the project team. (Here are some tips on how to set up your team and organization.)
3) Improve execution speed by tailoring and simplifying your approach and methods. For instance, embark on some rapid prototyping as a proof of concept before implementing the final product. Or breakdown the project into several smaller projects that can move independently faster as together.
4) Foster new and innovative ideas. Encourage open-mindedness and increasing failure tolerance.
5) Focus on results, not process. Plans, Gantt-charts, budgets, forecasts, risk plans and stakeholder lists are important. But while prototyping or going through trial-and-error iterations during product development, don’t let methodology and specific techniques get in the way of the needed results.
6) Adapt your communication approach by providing stakeholders with rapid access to real-time project information. For example, establish an online project community that can easily be updated with the latest information. (Here are more ideas on how to improve communication.)
Finally, enjoy the exciting and intense times we leave in, driven by dynamism, innovation and more networking and collaboration than ever.
I’d like to hear from you on how you are managing projects and embracing change in the modern digital age.