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
Joanna Newman
Christian Bisson
Linda Agyapong
Jess Tayel
Rex Holmlin
Ramiro Rodrigues
Taralyn Frasqueri-Molina
Wanda Curlee

Recent Posts

December 13, 2017 08:36 PM

The Secrets to Business Transformation Success

Specialist or Generalist: The Great Career Conundrum

Project Management Is For Everyone

Project Management? There’s an App for That.

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 (8)

Project Management? There’s an App for That.

By Conrado Morlan

If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” - Abraham Maslow

Over the last two decades, the project management profession has rapidly evolved. The number of professionals has grown worldwide, organizations have adopted, adapted or created frameworks and methodologies to support their projects, and technology has flooded the market with a plethora of mobile, desktop, server and cloud tools.

These tools are big players in establishing the ideal project management environment for organizations that want to track project metrics, performance, pipeline optimization, resource management, time, cost and budget—and the list can go on and on. These versatile apps also support an endless range of frameworks and approaches, from waterfall to agile to Kanban.

Organizations may go thru a selection process to choose the right tool for their environment. Many support their decision-making process with external sources from consulting companies that had reviewed several tools and classified them based on different criteria.

Once a tool is selected, the next step is to put together the various pieces of the puzzle—the project, practitioners and tool. They don’t always naturally match up—and that’s to be expected. That means training.

However, I’ve recently noticed a disturbing trend. I’ve seen several job postings in which the most important trait is the years of experience using a particular project management tool. Some of the job seekers told me that they did not get the job because of their lack of experience in a particular tool.

It makes me wonder: Are organizations “toolizing” project management? Are they boxing themselves into a tool environment? Why is a tool more important than a discipline?

Experienced project professionals exposed to different frameworks or project management methodologies may apply their knowledge to the tool and manage the portfolio, program or project. A tool expert does not make a project management professional.

Remember, at the end of the day, a fool with a tool is still a fool.

Do you think organizations are becoming “tool-centric”? If so, what’s driving this trend?

Posted by Conrado Morlan on: November 27, 2017 09:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (14)

The Importance of Iteration

by Christian Bisson, PMP

We’ve all encountered them on a project or two: stakeholders that want everything right away.

The result of this rush is often lots of money invested, a tight schedule, negative impact on the quality and frustrated people. But, carefully planned iterations of a project can help avoid the negativities of rushed efforts.

Here’s why:

Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

A well thought out MVP is the first iteration of your project. It means planning for the smallest scope possible, keeping in mind that it still needs to bring business value.

Let’s say you’re building a website. In this scenario, you’d identify the main features your website should have — based on goals — and focus on those instead of spreading the effort on all the features that might seem great to have.

There are many advantages to the MVP approach:

  • It can be deployed much faster compared to the complete scope.
  • You can monitor your project in action (ex. Google Analytics).
  • You can gather valuable feedback from people who use it.

Room to Adjust

Since you haven’t spent all the budget on the entire scope — and you now have precious data gathered from various sources — you can plan based on facts rather than hypotheses.

For example, after the MVP is deployed, you might have planned to work on a new feature. However, if new data suggests that the main feature of your project is not quite user friendly and needs adjustments, you can prioritize the adjustment and quickly add more value to your project compared to adding a new feature that might be less important.

Deploy When Ready

The MVP is only the first of many iterations. Do not fall back into the trap of building everything before you deploy your first update. Using the example above, if the first feature is actively affecting the quality of your project, adjust it and deploy right away. That way you will gain the added value of your improvement right away.

Some might argue that deployments cost money so you shouldn’t deploy all the time, and it’s a fair point. But keep in mind that the cost of those well-planned deployments are negligible compared to all the budget you can waste on a misfocused effort or a wrong hypothesis.

Taking a step-by-step approach to project management is crucial to the long-term success of projects. How do you manage the iterative or MVP approach? 

Posted by Christian Bisson on: November 04, 2017 01:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (11)

3 Metrics For Project Manager Performance

I’m frequently asked for insights on performance measurement criteria for project managers. This comes as a bit of a surprise given how professional certification programs, such as PMI’s Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification, have brought more consistency to project management skills.

 

Organizations’ typical performance measurement framework for functional roles is focused on growth and results. But that framework is becoming less effective at measuring project managers.

 

Project managers differ from functional roles in that they perform their duties with definitive time periods, outside influences, ever-changing activities and a higher level of uncertainty.

 

At the same time, more and more companies are seeking both individual and aggregate project management performance measures. Aggregate measures provide insights into overall capabilities and indicate if improvement initiatives — training, methods, processes — are actually increasing project manager productivity.

 

I’ve spent some time thinking about how to improve measurement criteria for project manager performance. Here are three areas I believe must be included:

 

  1. Project Metrics: Companies go to great lengths to capture and share metrics on project performance. If that same data is analyzed based on a project manager, it serves as a current and historical view of project manager performance.

 

Over time, individual project manager metrics, such as schedule and budget, can be analyzed to show the project manager’s track record. Supplementary metrics, such as change control activity, deliverable finish date delays and cost of poor quality, can provide a complete picture of project manager performance.

 

By aggregating and averaging these metrics — as well as using other data points such as labor cost — the enterprise capability of project managers can be measured.

 

 

 

2. Project Manager Engagement Reviews: The ability of a project manager to successfully engage with stakeholders is a key success factor for projects. A high level of engagement allows for early visibility to potential delivery issues, as well as a stronger understanding of the success criteria for a project.

 

The most effective means to measure project engagement is to conduct a post-project review with the project’s primary stakeholder. As engagement is not a binary yes/no condition, open-ended questions allow for deeper insights into the project manager’s level of engagement. For example, probing when project managers anticipated potential project issues would help to reveal engagement. These reviews are not meant to be punitive, but instead to guide and educate.

 

In addition, the reviewer should also look at the engagement level of the primary stakeholder. It’s not uncommon to find unengaged stakeholders, which can lead to poor delivery results for which the project manager is unfairly held to account. A balanced view of both the project manager and stakeholder will give the reviewer a true measure of engagement.

 

  1. Project Manager Histories: Beyond capturing fundamentals of project manager experience, credentials and projects, capturing performance details of projects led by project managers is of great value.


When interviewing project managers, I ask them to complete a table of both project fundamentals as well as performance histories. This profile helps me determine what would be the next best project for them, thus enabling a better chance of delivery success.  

Capturing project performance data allows project managers to share successes, as well as provide rationale for when things might not have gone as well as anticipated. It serves as a platform for career growth.

A project manager that comes to an interview prepared with structured project histories is usually well prepared to take on the next level of projects.

In today’s world of ever-increasing project complexity and scale, both companies and project managers need to expand their demonstrated performance results beyond what is found today.  

 

How do you measure project manager performance? Do traditional performance measurement frameworks for functional roles continue to meet the need? 

Posted by Kevin Korterud on: November 03, 2017 05:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (21)

3 Tips For Simplifying Complexity

By Dave Wakeman

Project managers have an essential—but sometimes thankless—job. They stand at the intersection of complex projects filled with countless stakeholders that don’t always see eye to eye.

This can lead to a great deal of frustration—but great communication skills can make the job easier.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about being a better listener. But over the last few weeks, I’ve come around to an even better goal for all of us: making things as simple as possible, even when the answer is complex.

Great communicators make the complex simple—and for project managers that can be the difference between success and failure.

The good news: With practice, we can all get better. Here are three ideas for turning the complex into something much simpler.

Focus on logical steps: When you’re working on a complex project, it can be easy to focus only on the finish line while all of the steps in between become weights hanging around your neck. This can lead to decision fatigue or analysis paralysis.

But, if you can train yourself to think about the project and how to simplify it for your teams, you can usually look to your milestones and see how the project might breakdown into micro-projects.

Within each micro-project there are likely a number of logical steps. Your job as a project manager is to make sure that your team sees those steps so that they can take action on them ASAP.

Thus, you’ve removed the roadblock of prioritization and simplified implementation.

Emphasize clear communication: Many of us communicate unintentionally. We don’t think about how we are saying things or that each audience might have a different understanding of our common language.

I tell my clients that it often helps to communicate like you are talking with a novice. That may be extreme, but you have to make sure that your communication is getting across clearly.

Over the years that I have been writing for PMI, I’ve written almost exclusively about the importance of soft skills. Communication is probably the most essential of these soft skills. And the most important rule of communication is that if someone doesn’t understand what you have instructed them to do or what you have shared with them, it’s your fault, not theirs.

To simplify your projects, I want you to think about how you can make communication clear to someone who may not be as deeply entrenched in the acronyms and jargon as you are.

And, if you aren’t sure that you are being clear, you can always ask: “Did that make sense, or did I make it sound like a foreign language?”

Always work to improve your processes: Logical steps and communication should teach you a lot about your project and your team. Over time, this should help you and your teams develop a high level of expertise and a number of best practices.

One great thing about best practices is that they can help simplify hard projects, communication and the amount of setup that goes into any project. The down side is that if you aren’t careful about capturing those best practices over time and working to spread these ideas across your organizations and teams, they become useless.

After all, without implementation, you have nothing but more knowledge. And knowledge without action is just noise.

As a leader, you must work to continuously improve the delivery processes that you and your teams use. The ultimate simplification is developed over time by improving processes, focuses and actions.

While improvement in this area isn’t necessarily a given, if you have been focusing on next logical steps and great, simple communications, it is likely that your processes will improve because the complex projects are likely to be slightly simpler.

With simplicity comes a greater awareness of what’s working and what isn’t. With that, you can be efficient. Something we should all hope to achieve.

How do you strive to simplify things for your teams?

 

BTW, if you like this stuff and the stuff I usually post, I do a Sunday email that talks all about value, connection, and humans. You can get that for free by sending me an email at dave @ davewakeman.com

 

Posted by David Wakeman on: September 25, 2017 09:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)
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