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

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The Unsung Hero of a Mega Transformation

Victory Is Fleeting

Change Is Cool

Project Planning Using Canvas

by Ramiro Rodrigues

Project managers: Are you sometimes looking to make plans faster but without being superficial and therefore riskier to the project?

Developed in the 1980s, design thinking is a structured mental model that seeks the identification of innovative solutions to complex problems. Although the concept has existed for decades, it’s only made its presence known in the corporate environment over the last 10 years.

Swiss business theorist and author Alexander Osterwalder similarly sought to accelerate collaborative reasoning when he introduced the Business Model Canvas. Canvas helps organizations map, discuss, rework and innovate their business model in one image.

But a series of proposals for the use of the Business Model Canvas for various purposes outside of business models has also appeared — including innovation, corporate education, product development, marketing and more.

For project professionals looking at alternatives to developing quicker and more collaborative planning, Canvas may sound like a great option. Of all the proposals that come up for the use of Canvas in a project environment, integrating stakeholders may be the best. Canvas brings stakeholders into the process and will help to minimize resistance and increase collaboration, resulting in a better proposal for planning problems and making the project more aligned to the interests of organizations.

But while the arguments put forward for Canvas all seem positive, there is still a dilemma: Can Canvas fully replace the overall project plan and the planning process? Is it possible to do without a schedule of activities, a detailed cash flow, a matrix of analyzed risks — just to limit ourselves to a few examples?

That is probably too extreme.

The general sense is that the integration of Canvas with specific planning — such as the cost plan and the risk plan — is the most productive and generates the best results.

It may be worth asking your project management office for their thoughts.

Have you ever used a Canvas for your project planning efforts? If so, what tips can you share?

Posted by Ramiro Rodrigues on: October 20, 2017 02:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (13)

Project Management Triangles and Integrated Reasoning

By Wanda Curlee 

There are two triangles commonly referenced in the project management discipline: The Iron Triangle (sometimes called the Golden Triangle) and PMI’s Talent Triangle®. Each provides insight into the complexity of even the simplest project.  

 

However, I think there is a big component missing: the human psyche. Let’s look at both triangles. 

 

The Iron Triangle

 

The Iron Triangle has many versions that have been enhanced by subject matter experts to help define how to manage a project. On the triangle’s sides, you’ll find time, cost and resources. Quality and/or scope, which was added later, can be found in the middle of the triangle. 

 

My preference is to put time at the bottom part of the triangle as it is constant. When time has passed, it’s gone for good (until time travel is invented). All other sides and the interior of the triangle change and often do.  

 

Some would say the scope is constant because there is a statement of work that defines the scope. A good theoretical basis, but reality normally prevails. For instance, out of ignorance, incompetence or “doing a favor”, the scope can change. It may also change because of a customer or vendor request. All these changes affect the other axis and interior of the triangle. However, your time is gone no matter how the scope changes. Quality may go up or down depending on scope, resources and time.  

 

The Talent Triangle

 

PMI’s Talent Triangle acknowledges that the project professional must have soft and hard skills. These skills include leadership, a technical knowledge and an understanding of the strategic and business alignment of the project, program and portfolio—while also ensuring that projects stay within the Golden Triangle. 

 

Understanding the industry helps project professionals realize the importance of the endeavor for the company. Finally, understanding the politics and strategic fit of the project or program is a must. If the project or program manager cannot articulate how the effort drives the company’s strategic objective, it might be time to move to a different project or maybe find a new profession. 

 

The Human Psyche

 

While these two triangles are good, they don’t incorporate the missing link—the human psyche.  

We need to understand how to drive the project team to make sure no sides of the triangle fail. What does this mean? If one side of the Iron Triangle falls short or goes long then the triangle fails. The same could be said for the Talent Triangle. 

 

Three inherent manners can help: integrated reasoning, strategic focus and creative thinking. I want to look at integrated reasoning.

 

According to neuroscience, there are three ways a person thinks. He or she can be a rock star, coach/playmaker or rainmaker.  

 

The rock star is the junior to the experienced project manager and is normally focused on one or two tasks. Think budget timelines, schedules and risk management, among other things.

 

The coach/playmaker is the senior project manager and junior to the experienced program manager. These individuals see the forest. The coach knows how to lead to the final goal.  

 

Finally, there’s the rainmaker. These are the senior program managers, portfolio managers and C-suiters. They can see years into the future. The rainmakers know how to decide which projects and programs make sense for the strategic objectives. They see success.  

 

Why is this important? It leads to integrated reasoning. Project and program managers should recognize where members of their team fall on the spectrum. He or she then needs to encourage and provide the opportunity to jump into a new reality so they can be more effective on all sides of the triangle.  

 

For example, I am very comfortable in the rainmaker role. However, I force myself into the coach and rock star role. This allows me to see the organization, strategy and people from many angles, which increases my political rationality.

So, what is the political reality of your project or program? Does your reality agree with that of the sponsor? How about the project management office or portfolio manager? If you do not understand your political rationality from all angles you will fail yourself, your team and the triangle. 

Stay tuned for the next post in which I will put integrated reasoning into reality to help drive the strategic focus of your project or program. 

 

 

Posted by Wanda Curlee on: October 12, 2017 09:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (23)

Leaders exert influence for success

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?

Posted by Peter Tarhanidis on: May 31, 2017 10:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (15)

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 (8)

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 (15)
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