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Wednesday, 11 July 2012 00:00

In Defense of Project Instability

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Doubtlessly, many of us have experienced project(s) that seem to have been the direct opposite of the prescribed organizational and/or well-heeded PMBoK methodology we have been duly trained in.  When describing the project environment of a  relatively recent experience (aka project assignment) I was involved in, it would be more accurate to suggest the project footings were as steady as typing on a tablet while riding a unicycle.  In many respects, designing/architecting (a sort of planning) gave way immediately to execution, and the operational steady state was an interesting afterthought.  The focus of the article  (setting aside the issues of management decision making, project happenstance, and project processes) is to underscore the great lesson learned of how brilliantly people can excel and collaborate in an extraordinary fashion in the absence of commonly accepted documentation and governance practices.  The rarity of this project team interaction points out, for all its process faults, project instability can lead to successful projects.

Communication is widely recognized as being among the most critical responsibilities of any program, project or portfolio manager, given prominent standing by the Project Management Institute in A Guide to the Project Management Body Of Knowledge® (PMBOK® Guide). However, even with extensive guidance in this critical area, there is less clarity regarding how to devise and implement an effective project communications strategy. This article provides fundamental recommendations proven critical to success at any level of complexity, whether a small project, a large program including multiple interrelated projects, or a troubled project in need of recovery. This guidance is also beneficial for continuous assessment across complex project portfolios.

A core communication goal is to enable timely decision-making. Specifically, channels of communication (that is, the flow of communications through the web of stakeholders) should mirror as closely as possible the channels of optimized decision-making. This may appear trivial as many recall the game of Telephone where a message evolves in passing from one person to another until finally returning back to the first person. But failure to apply this rule is a leading cause of many project and program problems. This is most evident at the project sponsor and steering committee levels. Consider the consequences of playing Telephone with critical status and decisions on a large-scale program.

Tuesday, 03 July 2012 23:00

Don’t Be Confused by Quality

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What is quality? There are many different definitions of quality thus the term may cause confusion for project managers.

For the Project Management Professional (PMP) exam, you need to understand that quality is defined as conformance to requirements. The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) defines quality as "the degree to which a set of inherent characteristics fulfill requirements."

Quality management involves ensuring the project meets defined needs. The PMBOK states that quality management "ensures that the project will satisfy the needs for which it was undertaken."

With quality defined in these terms, you can begin to appreciate and more readily understand that clearly stated requirements are essential. Requirements should define project scope, describe what is considered to be acceptable quality, and indicate how quality will be measured. This is critical to understand for the exam.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012 07:00

Conflict Management

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Many of the questions on the PMI Professional Project Management (PMP) exam will be situational and will deal with handling conflict because this is such an important and challenging topic.

Most of the time, conflicts on projects occur over the following issues:        

  • Schedules
  • Priorities
  • Manpower
  • Technical issues
  • Administration
  • Personality conflict
  • Cost

Getting the Most from Your Project Staff
Part 3 of a 3 Part Series

As a Project Manager you are tasked with getting work done through others.  It may seem simple, after all these individuals are assigned to the project team and just need to do their job. But this is not reality. 

What is reality is that project resources are often assigned work beyond your project and may even be involved in other projects.  It is typical in the popular matrix project organization that team members do not report directly to the project manager, but rather a functional manager.  This makes it even more important that the project manager have the skills to get work accomplished through others. Even the most experienced project managers continually report this as one of their top challenges.

Having provided a high-level comparison of waterfall and agile methodologies (or frameworks) in my previous article, I will now begin to analyze core areas where misconceptions arise and create problems in an environment that has been declared agile.

A failed conversion from waterfall to agile

The term “requirements” means many things to many people, and I’ve often found that even in a waterfall environment there can be confusion. I once worked in a company that had a robust business development team whose job was to analyze trends, get ahead of the industry direction, and discover new business opportunities. This team flew around the country to meet with current customers and prospects alike, talking to customers about their needs, frustrations, and visions, and then capturing them in a series of business documents such as a business cases, RFPs, and SOWs before the project was approved and they were converted by the PMO into project documentation.

Monday, 18 June 2012 23:00

Five Skills to Enhance Project Management

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Seasoned hiring executives can tell you that when they review résumés of potential project managers, they are looking for clues as much as they are looking for credentials. While a project manager may be able to talk “triple bottom line” and “enhancing cloud technology” with the best of them, what a hiring executive is looking for in a project manager goes beyond education from a reputable program and experience with a notable employer.

Cultivate the following five attributes and your résumé should receive positive responses from prospective employers looking for the telltale clues of a strong, professionally mature project manager.

Five Often Overlooked Skills Needed to Excel in Project Management:

FEATUREJune13thNo project should be initiated without a charter or some kind of project initiating document. While they may include various topics and information, the key purpose of a charter is two-fold: 1) It sanctions the project (or phase), and 2) It gives authority to the project manager to apply organizational resources to the project.

I think most charters do a better job at sanctioning the work than they do at making clear the authority level of the project manager. I confirm this on a regular basis with project managers working on chartered project who are expected to get project work

FEATUREJune6Getting the Most from Your Project Staff
Part 2 of a 3 Part Series

 


As a Project Manager you are tasked with getting work done through others. It may seem simple, after all these individuals are assigned to the project team and just need to do their job. But this is not reality.

What is reality is that project resources are often assigned work beyond your project and may even be involved in other projects. It is typical in the popular matrix project organization that team members do not report directly to the project manager, but rather a functional manager. This makes it even more important that the project manager have the skills to get work accomplished through others. Even the most experienced project managers continually report this as one of their top challenges.

In this three part series you will learn techniques that will maximize your ability to get the most from those individuals assigned to your project. The strategies presented will provide a solid approach that can be used immediately with your team.
Tuesday, 05 June 2012 03:00

Why is Benefits Management so Hard to do?

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Almost every company accepts the need to manage project benefits, but very few actually do it!

Earlier this year, I started a discussion and poll on the topic of why benefits management is so hard to do. The response was intense, with over eighty-two PMO managers, consultants and professionals related to the topic. This article summarizes and comments on these responses and draws some conclusions.

The poll asked respondents to select one of five causes why benefits management is so hard to do. The results of the poll follow. This article will be structured around these five potential causes and, of course, as one respondent suggested, all of the above may be the winner.