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Author: Catherine Daw

The Absolute Final Word on Top Ten Trends for 2010

2009 was a year of wait and hold as many organizations tried to determine which strategic initiatives to undertake and how much risk to assume with so much uncertainty. As we neared the end of 2009 we began to see a certain level of pent up demand – many companies had completed any necessary downsizing, finished key projects and programs which still needed to get done and looked for other ways to survive the effects of the recession with minimal downside risk.

Companies can no longer wait on the side lines at the risk of losing out on great opportunities to become a leader as we started to early signs of a move into recovery. At SPM we have likened this pent up demand to race cars at a start line – everyone is revving their engines, waiting for the flag to drop. There is an edge as to whether to go over the start line early and risk a yellow flag, no one is quite sure if the flag has indeed been dropped and may be wondering who has the starting flag anyway.

With these factors in mind how will 2010 shape up for companies in terms of strategy execution? We have looked back at the past year and gazed into our research crystal ball to see what trends may be emerging and what our clients are telling us is of critical importance to them in successfully executing their recovery strategy. With apologies to David Letterman here is what we see as the top 10 trends for 2010.

  1. Strategy Execution
    Michael Porter once said: “A bad strategy executed well is far better than a good strategy executed poorly.” In 2010 the need to execute strategy will be paramount to the survival of organizations as we crawl out of the recession. This means focused portfolio management to tightly manage initiatives – this is your strategy execution engine. Along with a portfolio and initiative management framework, it will be essential to implement the key components of a strategy execution culture. People will be the drivers of the execution engine.
  2. Hyper-efficiency
    Organizations will be looking for ways to deliver more effectively and efficiently than ever before. A trend which we saw starting to emerge in the latter half of 2009 will continue to build and get used even more. We are calling it ‘hyper-efficiency’ as organizations look for quick and effective means to deliver on initiatives faster.

    The use of ‘chopping’ and ‘chunking’ larger programs and projects into bite size pieces (4-6 month key deliverables) will be one way of increasing efficiency while still delivering results against desired benefits and results.

    Agile Project Management, Lean Project Management and Lean Six Sigma will also be methods companies begin to adopt. Some of this may stick and other parts of it will be a fad which may die off if it can’t deliver on expectations of hyper-efficient results.

  3. Savvy Business PMs
    It takes more than just being a project or program manager today. And even more so, it will takemore than a project manager who understands business. Project and program managers this year will be expected to be more about business, understanding the whys, whats and hows of strategy. They will need to be able to play more multi-purpose roles both inside and outside of the program or project they are managing. It will take higher levels of knowledge, skill and savvy appreciation of how business works and the strategic direction of the organization to ensure business results realize benefits. Savvy PMs will be able to speak CXO language and garner respect at the executive level. Telling truth to power will be an essential element in their tool kit.
  4. Need for Innovation
    Fostering innovation as we search for new ways of doing business will be essential. This will range from programs to bring in expertise from industry to in-depth training courses. Strategic initiatives will need to consider innovation as part of how to deliver on business results and meet the intended strategy. Project teams will also be expected to cultivate innovation and generate different ways to solve problems, make decisions and complete work. The web site has great ideas for helping teams maximize the value innovation can generate.
  5. Cognitive Diversity in Teams
    Diverse teams reach better decisions than teams of like-minded experts. Managers can employ a variety of tools to manage these teams. In partnership with the Need for Innovation and Changing Composition of the Workforce trends, teams will need to be able to shake it up. As we move to a more knowledge based economy an organization’s need for knowledge, its generation and application will be a critical competitive advantage. Organizational change will be created through teams and project work. The need for diversity in thought, problem solving, knowledge gathering, sharing and transfer will be essential.
  6. Changing Composition of the Workforce
    We have known for some time that as boomers retire the work force will begin to change. With the recession many people have taken the opportunity to take themselves out of the active workforce as well as choosing different work, part time or independent consulting style options. Different work styles, attitudes and the generational issues will become even more important. And it will affect the dynamics of project teams. These ‘up and comers’ will be more collaborative and expect to work in teams. Using this change in composition can be an advantage as companies work through the changes as a result of the recession and their place in the marketplace.
  7. Talent Management
    Acquiring, developing and retaining talent that moves projects forward will be essential in 2010. This also ties in with the changing composition of the workforce as there will be a need to also assess re­source management and project manager competencies as quick ways to leverage resources. Research indicates top-performing organizations are also making use of their enterprise PMO to manage resources more effectively. They are undertaking ways of maximizing talent and boosting performance that is measurable both for organization and the individual by:
    • developing skills inventories
    • leveraging portfo­lio management to allocate resources
    • engaging in the kind of training – focused, on-the-job training with immediate relevance to existing projects
  8. Office of Strategy Management and PMOs Join Forces
    Organizations will start to adopt more widely the concept of the Office of Strategy Management. With this trend taking hold it will become increasingly important to integrate Project Management Offices (PMOs). PMOs will become the glue between strategy and execution by not only overseeing projects and programs but also their executive execution against strategy through a tightly managed portfolio. Housing them together under one roof will create efficiencies in strategy execution which will be critical during economic recovery.
  9. Knowledge Outsourcing
    Knowledge Process Outsourcing is value added processes in which the achievement of goals is highly dependent on the skills, knowledge and experience of the people carrying them out. . Many experts see that, within the next 10 years, Knowledge Process Outsourcing will be the big trend in the outsourcing marketplace.

    As this trend is driven by the depth of knowledge, experience and judgment where internal efforts fail organizations will look for different and more cost effective ways to deliver projects and execute strategy. This could include components such as Project Management Offices housed outside of the organization or the use of external PMs and teams to complete project work.

  10. Total Transparency
    A key benefit of portfolio management is the transparency it provides to organizations on issues such as risks, finances, and other key measures. In 2010 the need for transparency will increase as organizations search for changes in the way they conduct business. This means there will be no hiding rather the demand will be to get issues and risks on the table. This will provide the ability to manage more effectively downside risk, conduct scenario planning and develop agility in a high adaptive environment.

So there you have it – ten trends to consider as you march into 2010. Keep them in mind and it could carry you and your organization a long way down the path to successful execution of strategy and change.

Don’t forget to leave your comments below

Catherine Daw is President and co-founder of SPM Group Ltd. She provides the vision and leadership needed to evolve the firm including the current corporate direction of enabling effective enterprises through strategic initiative management. Catherine is a pioneer who possesses over twenty-five years of experience, working in a variety of public and private sector companies, holding progressively higher positions both in Information Technology and Business areas. Catherine’s personal idiom has always been to deliver results within a foundation of integrity, open communication and with a strong understanding of value creation and strategic advantage for businesses.

Project Sponsor as Core Team Member

projectsponsor1Recently I was teaching one of our human dimension skills seminars and the question about who was on the core project team was put to the participants. Someone said the project sponsor was always part of their project team. When quizzed further they indicated that, in fact, the sponsor was also responsible for activities and deliverables in the project plan. This surprised me since we always position the sponsor on the project organization chart above the project manager and team in the overall hierarchy.

It made me wonder how are projects using their sponsor and what level of active involvement do they play?

Who Should the Sponsor Be?

The logical sponsor is the person who both wants the project accomplished and has responsibility for all of the organizational units affected. In essence the person who can make it happen.

This person needs to possess an organizational authority equal to or greater than the scope of influence of the project. The sponsor is usually an executive or member of management and champions the project, pays for it and makes sure the changes are accepted in the business units affected.

One of the most serious problems for projects is not having the right person as sponsor or having a steering committee as your sponsor. This could mean they do not have the organizational authority commensurate with the scope of the project. They could be either too high and have no time or they are too low and become ineffective in clearing the roadblocks that are inevitable in any project. Multiple or co-sponsors can create conflicting interests and put the project in stalemate or jeopardize its success.

What Role Should the Sponsor Play?

The sponsor has a number of key aspects to their role. Along with the management body that approves projects the sponsor will set the project priority, provide funding and approve resource levels. In addition the sponsor will

  • Finalize (and approve any changes to) the project objectives, scope and success criteria
  • Ensure the team has time and resources to achieve success
  • Communicate with business management
  • Commit resources from the various business areas
  • Participate in major project reviews and approve key deliverables
  • Make key project decisions
  • Ensure timely resolution of issues affecting project success

What are the Potential Problems?

If the sponsor is an active team member this will create conflict with their functional role as sponsor. It makes it very difficult for them to be an acceptor of project deliverables when they are responsible for the delivery of some of the components within the project. How will they be able to approve and ensure quality of the project product(s)?

It may undermine the project manager’s role and accountability. The sponsor needs to be able to clear the path for the project manager when there are issues that need to be dealt with at a senior management level. As a team member there will be confusion in making sure the sponsor meets their time and task commitments versus when a project manager needs their support to ensure specific resources are committed from the various functional areas. What happens if the sponsor is one of your resource problems? Then whom do you go to for support? The sponsor then becomes merely a figurehead with limited authority.

The sponsor as a team member also buries them in the micro or detailed level of the project, when their real role is to support and provide direction at the macro level. They need to eliminate possible obstructions and assist in key project decisions from an objective, neutral position. This would be fairly difficult if they are immersed in the day-to-day minutiae.

With a sponsor so actively involved it may even raise the question as to whether or not you indeed have the right sponsor. They may lack the credibility of your other project team members as well as senior management. They could even be viewed as meddling in the regular activities of the project.


What comes to mind is the analogy of the manager of the hotel also participating as a member of the restaurant staff. How would the chef be capable of successfully delivering meals to guests when the hotel manager is one of the cooks and still trying to manage the hotel?

An effective project sponsor can make the project and the project manager’s life immeasurably easier. Making sure they understand their role, responsibilities and what level of support you require at all stages during the project life cycle is a key ingredient of project success. The sponsor needs to be at the top of the project organization chart where they can affect the most influence and authority.

Don’t forget to leave your comments below

Catherine Daw, MBA, PMP is President and co-founder of SPM Group Ltd. She provides the vision and leadership needed to evolve the firm including the current corporate direction of enabling effective enterprises through strategic initiative management. Catherine has over twenty-five years of experience, working in a variety of public and private sector companies, holding progressively higher positions both in Information Technology and Business areas. Catherine’s personal commitment has always been to deliver results within a foundation of integrity, open communication and with a strong understanding of value creation and strategic advantage for businesses.