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
Vivek Prakash
Christian Bisson
Cyndee Miller
David Wakeman
Jen Skrabak
Shobhna Raghupathy
Rex Holmlin
Roberto Toledo
Taralyn Frasqueri-Molina
Wanda Curlee

Recent Posts

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

Are You Documenting Smartly?

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 (13)

Playing the Right Leadership Role

Leadership Role

By Peter Tarhanidis

It is not unusual for project leaders to fill a variety of leadership roles over the course of the many unique initiatives we take on.

As I transition from one client, program, employer or team to another, my personal challenge is to quickly work out the best leadership role to play in my new environment. Therefore, I find it helpful to have some knowledge of leadership theory and research.

Leaders must understand the role they fill in relation to staff and management. That typically falls into three categories, as defined by Henry Mintzberg, Cleghorn Professor of Management Studies at the Desautels Faculty of Management of McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada:

Interpersonal: A leader who is either organizing the firm or a department, or acting as an intermediary. He or she is the figurehead, leader or liaison.

Informational: A leader that gathers, communicates and shares information with internal and external stakeholders. He or she is the mentor, disseminator, and spokesman.

Decisional: A leader that governs and has to make decisions, manage conflict and negotiate accords. He or she is the entrepreneur, disturbance handler, resource allocator and negotiator.

During one of my recent transitions, I thought I was a decisional leader, but I was expected to play an informational role. When I acted on information rather than sharing it and gaining consensus toward a common goal, my team was very confused. That’s why it’s so important to know the role you’re expected to fill.

When you start a new effort, how do you determine what role you’re expected to play? How has that contributed to your success?

Posted by Peter Tarhanidis on: March 17, 2017 09:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (12)

A Better Path Forward For Federal Programs

 

 

By Kevin Korterud

 

Program management made news in December (though perhaps not front-page headlines) when the United States Senate unanimously approved the Program Management Improvement Accountability Act. The legislation enacted a number of initiatives for improving federal program delivery, which has suffered from past budget, schedule and quality challenges.  

While government legislation is not necessarily my weekend reading of choice, I recently spent time reviewing the new law. It quickly became apparent to me that, although targeted at improving the delivery of U.S. federal programs, it includes many considerations that are universally relevant to program delivery, even if you’re working in the private sector.

As part of the legislation, the deputy director of management at the Office of Management and Budget has been tasked with several new functions related to program and project management. Let’s take a look at two that I find particularly exciting and relevant to program managers around the world.

         

1. Chart A Strategic Course

Executives often tell me they don’t know where to start when it comes to improving program delivery. There are typically so many interrelated issues that it’s difficult to determine which actions would have the greatest impact on delivery results.

Other disciplines, such as technology architecture, business change management and customer satisfaction, typically work from some sort of strategic or transformational roadmap. The roadmaps identify common issues, solution strategies and transformational initiatives that drive success for that discipline.

The new federal legislation requires the deputy director of management to  “establish a 5-year strategic plan for program and project management.” A program management maturity roadmap will provide a common vision around necessary improvements. And given the size and complexity of federal programs, it will also help teams avoid repeating prior delivery missteps, and enhance the performance of program management processes.

 

2. Lay a Solid Foundation

Early in my project and program management career, it was common for companies to have a homogenous, centralized employee workforce with strong business and technical domain knowledge that was built over many years. Today, the landscape of program delivery is much more fragmented and fragile.

Global delivery centers, various delivery approaches (waterfall vs. agile), business leaders that rotate every few years, contractors that play a larger role in delivery and emerging technologies are all components that complicate program delivery. It is a wonder that program delivery is ever successful!

The new federal legislation says the deputy director must also, “oversee implementation of program and project management for the standards, policies, and guidelines…” The creation of program management standards, policies and guidelines will serve as a foundation to harmonize the discordant realities of modern program delivery. By establishing unified rules, boundaries, practices and performance metrics that drive a cohesive approach, the inherent complexities of today’s programs can be successfully addressed.  

 

What elements of the Program Management Improvement Accountability Act do you find most intriguing? I look forward to discussing. 

Posted by Kevin Korterud on: February 24, 2017 05:59 PM | 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 (6)
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