As easy as it seems to keep a well-planned project on-track, it isn’t! In working with hundreds of project teams over the course of my career, I’ve found that projects do not fail in formulation; they fail in execution. The best results follow those projects that are well-managed and kept on-track. Results are not just substantial in terms of monetary gain, but are also important to customer satisfaction and loyalty. In today’s Amazon-impacted marketplace, a leg up on the competition can be a vital competitive strategy. What are you doing to ensure success?
Recently we attended a Small Business Leaders conference in Washington, DC. Our speakers included US senators, cabinet secretaries and undersecretaries, under-undersecretaries, and a few associate assistant deputies thrown in for good measure. It wasn’t until one of these associate assistants told us that we were his first group not to be treated to a PowerPoint slide show that we realized that there had not been one PowerPoint slide in two days—no slides, not one bullet point or photo, no multi-media—just words. To be sure, some of the speakers referred to their notes from time to time, but these were people all knowledgeable about issues confronting small businesses in the United States.
We’re addicted to the search for THE answer to our problems. Good answers aren’t good enough. We want THE answer that will solve a particular problem in every situation. A suite of solutions that can solve the problem most of the time is judged as grossly inadequate.
I’m often quite wordy in my blogs. I’ll pose an initial question in the title, throw out a thousand words or so, and then present a conclusion. I’m not going to do that here. Instead, I’ll be much more succinct.
Project management has been identified as an important competency for those who aspire to a seat at the senior leadership table. But simply having managed projects is rarely enough – have you sufficiently demonstrated the skills required to be a successful C-level executive? If your sole focus has been on delivering your projects within the triple constraint, the answer is probably not.
C. K. Chesterton penned a quote that I’m especially fond of, “It isn't that they can't see the solution. It's that they can't see the problem.” It’s one that constantly reminds me that there is always, without fail, an opportunity lying around somewhere. I just need to find a way to find it.
Making sure key business processes and technologies are aligned to an organization’s strategic directions is almost a pre-requisite for survival these days. When upgrading those core services, a cloud solution is often in the mix. But a move to the cloud has been a risky and disruptive experience for some.
In this case, we’ll see how a CFO and her Controller managed a transition to a cloud service to transform the business and supporting operations. The project was a resounding success on all fronts. How did they achieve that result? With the help of some tried and true best practices.
Thanks to D.M. for the insights on this story.
It’s true that we achieve more together. Teamwork calls for unity, cohesion, a singular goal, bonding, and a clear understanding of who stands where.
More importantly, there’s a need for project managers who can spearhead projects and lead them to completion successfully. Companies need people who have a vision, who can get things done, and there’s a need for capable leaders who can bring out the best in others. Every business is looking for people who can solve problems. Managing projects is a responsibility that isn’t taken lightly.
What must we do to bring about a Change initiative as smoothly as possible? Communicate! Communicate! Communicate!
How much, and for how long do we do this? Until we get sick and tired of the sound of our own voice – then we take a deep breath and a drink of water, and we start all over again.
Communication isn’t something that stops and starts; it’s a constant activity before, during and after any Change initiative.
Best practices are best practices, right? Ummm…yeah…no. What you started out doing on projects five years ago may not be what you should be doing today for your projects and project clients. Look at how your organization has changed. Has your industry changed? Have your customers changed? Things just don’t stay the same in today’s world. They say business moves at the speed of change. What is that change? How much has changed? You have first to consider these questions before you can figure out how to respond to those changes.
It is fairly common for project teams and operational units to have their planned work interrupted with ad hoc requests for information and emergency needs for new projects and changes. As project managers, we know that it is difficult enough to provide a realistic plan and deliver quality results on time and budget without an uncontrolled flow of new or changed requirements from clients and sponsors.
We have change control and keep track of the number of ad hoc requests to stabilize the environment and/or justify late and over budget projects. Even so, ad hoc, emergency requests that must be responded to immediately are still disruptive.
No. That isn't a question about your personal life, it's a question about your work life. Are you still engaged? Or has the passion for your work worn off? More to the point? Are our staff still engaged? Do they look forward to arriving at the office, or are they regularly having to buy new alarm clocks because the old ones don't hold up to the Monday morning mauling to shut them up?
The issue of 'employee engagement' has become a bit of a trend lately. Head to Google Trends (www.google.com/trends) and type in 'Employee Engagement' for a visual representation of that trend based on Google searches. (Compare it to how my specialty of 'Change Management' is trending. Oops. Do I need to change my topic?)
Project sponsors, typically C-level business executives accountable for project spending and outcomes, can be excused for being sceptical about Agile project delivery approaches because there is a perception that they don’t support governance. Agile should not be ignored though, because it is proving to be a more effective way to deliver change faster and in a more flexible manner. In contrast, traditional methods used for delivering software solutions have not been very successful, industry studies (e.g. Standish Group research) have been reporting failure rates above 60% consistently for many years.
In thinking about the hundreds of client projects I’ve completed over the last ten years, if I had to pick one key to success, it would be project leadership. For example, I worked with one client on multiple projects simultaneously with several project leaders over the course of many months. The same senior leadership sponsored every project. A few were downright frustrating as we struggled to move an inch a week whereas others leaped forward a mile in the same timeframe. Of course my focus was to accelerate progress on the ones that inched forward; however, significant acceleration could go from an inch to 5 feet; still slow as molasses as compared with moving a mile.
We know that the active and sustained participation of a project’s decision-makers is the primary contributor to project success. Even Project Management Institute (PMI) research reveals “that having actively engaged executive sponsors is the top driver of project success.” So what does it mean to have actively engaged executives and how does one ensure that their project’s decision-makers are, in fact, actively engaged? Measure their level of satisfaction, of course!
What does swearing, kissing, chewing gum and eating garlic all have in common? Well, apparently they are just some of the more unusual ways you can quickly reduce your stress levels.
Mention Delphi method to anyone who has passed their PMP certification exam and you will likely be told that it’s an information gathering technique used to gain consensus from a group of experts. Press for more information and you’ll hear that it involves anonymous submission of initial feedback. All true, but that is like saying that a rose is just a flowering plant!
Eager project managers – and new project managers – may like to jump in head first into a new project and show enthusiasm to prove to their senior management that they are go-getters. That’s nice, but it may also be stupid. These overly eager PMs may be sending the wrong message to their leadership, who are really looking to see if they show any knowledge at all about how they should go cautiously into the night on a project… not jump in with pistols blazing.
Project Management is a relatively old profession. Some say it is not really a profession, but more of a line of work or collection of activities. Others say it is a discipline, a business practice that is somewhat challenged in the complex world of business.
If you were to have asked me about five years ago about agile team and organizational assessments, you might have gotten your head bit off. You see I used to be violently opposed to formally assessing agile teams in any way.
Accountability is one of those interesting things that everyone knows is a critical success factor for effective performance but is avoided like the plague.
“I’m a project manager. Why do I need to know about automated acceptance testing?
Isn’t that for the quality assurance people? Our user stories already have acceptance criteria – is this different?”