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Author: Claude Emond

Paradigm shifts. The True Nature of Successful Project Teams; Everyone is a Sponsor

Not too long ago, there was an article published in Project Times about the role of a project sponsor and his/her relationship with the other project team members, “Project Sponsor as Core Team Member“. I differ very much with the opinion presented in this article, as it perpetuates a vision of team work that, for me, has nothing to do with the true nature of the relationships that exist between the many stakeholders who journey together in a project, nowadays. It perpetuates a vision of “project order” that does not seem to be in line with the new ‘chaordic’ paradigm ( that has emerged at the beginning of the 1990s and that is now accepted, by a majority of managers and employees I meet, as “how the world really works now”.

I do not want to start a crusade; there are too many of those going on, to no avail. I just wish that those who read this will understand that something is going on in the world of project management, something major that won’t go away. We have to adapt to these changes as project management professionals, if we want to be part of this team, part of this world in motion.

This new paradigm shift includes the Agile/Lean project management movement and the subsequent publication of the “Agile Manifesto” in 2001 ( This movement, that started almost simultaneously on traditional construction projects (LEAN) and on software development projects (AGILE), has continued to spread on more and more different types of projects, namely to the domains of innovation and new product development. Its modus operandi has finally been spelled out clearly by the prestigious founding members of the Agile Project Leadership Network ( when they put on the internet in 2005 the “Declaration of interdependence” (

What does it say? Go to the links and find for yourself, if you have not done so yet, before you really get into deep trouble by not adapting. What is said there is now taught in project management courses around the world. I myself teach it in four Master degree programs in Europe, as well as in all the workshops I give. Agility is now recognized as an essential quality of good project management; all major project management associations are now acknowledging this and shifting towards this paradigm, in which all stakeholders are the project team, and where everyone is both the sponsor of their own interests and a collaborator to the overall success of the project journey they have embarked on.

The vision that was presented in the article “Project Sponsor as Core Team Member” is not in line with this Agile project management paradigm that is now revolutionizing, not only the way businesses run projects, but also the way humans behave and interact both inside and outside their organisational boundaries. It is not in line with the now global awareness of our world as a huge system of highly interdependent elements that cannot succeed through unnatural structural hierarchies based on the illusion of “order and control”, but only through “collaboration and shared ownership and accountability”.

The Agile paradigm shift and the behaviours it entails are overwhelmingly well received now in most of the organisations I work with, because they know they have to make this shift for survival. Greg Howell, the co-founder and managing director of the Lean Construction Institute (LCI – told me one day in an email that Thomas Kuhn’s “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” ( was a book that shaped his thinking, and that I would enjoy reading it. I did. This is a book about paradigm shifts and the history of physics; it is about what happens to the “old brigade” (that comprises people of all ages) when it does not see the shift coming. Those who have not yet understood the depth of the organisational, structural and behavioural changes this paradigm commands or just do not want to “opt in” would surely benefit from reading Thomas Kuhn’s

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Learning from and Sharing in other Project Managers’ Misfortunes

I have been in Europe again, for more than a month now, giving agile project management and portfolio management workshops. And again, this year, I was invited to give a couple of conferences about project management issues.

One of my conferences was about project uncertainty and risks, and on why and how agile principles could help manage those issues more effectively. My conference was preceded by short presentations by two IT project managers. Their role was to give an account of some of their project misfortunes, and mine to reflect back on those misfortunes while showing how agile principles could help prevent similar ones. There was a short question and discussion period at the end of each presentation.

One of the project managers talked about a project that was over, but had been a complete mess. He offered factual elements, reflected on what went wrong, and then said what he learned and what fixes he was trying to apply to prevent similar problems from occurring on current projects. He was asking for confirmation that he was doing the right thing.

The other project manager was talking about an ongoing project, for which the scope was very fuzzy and the project client almost unreachable to discuss this issue. It seemed that this client was just waiting, so to speak, for a black box to be delivered that would do magic without putting in the effort to have the right contents in the black box! This project manager was a young fellow, very bright as far as I am concerned. He had tried some agile approaches but did not really know how to make them work, as the client was refusing to be part of it. He seemed somewhat at a lost and was looking for some help and enlightenment from fellow project managers.

The first project manager did not get, from the 70 or so people in the room, much confirmation that he was doing the right thing now. The second project manager did not get help and enlightenment on how to get out of the coming mess. Rather, they both got plenty of criticisms from people that were indirectly alluding they would have done or could do better. So easy it is to criticize while being an outsider; so easy to know better; so easy to know it all…and so easy to contribute nothing in doing so.

It took great courage and humility from these two project managers to share so generously of their misfortunes. I believe that showing that courage, that humility and that desire to reach out for help was in itself a great demonstration of what are the right behaviors to adopt as a project manager. I also believe that criticizing and playing know-it-all, not showing empathy was also a great demonstration of the behaviors to avoid as project manager.

Those two project managers helped me learn a lot, not only by sharing their misfortunes but also by displaying their courage and humility. This was the most important learning element of this event. I believe that, in the face of sharing and discussing others’ misfortunes, empathy is the right behavior to adopt. Each of us will need one day to reach out, humbly and with courage. We then deserve more than criticism and a slap in the face. We deserve a display of the same behavior, to be humbly listened to, with empathy and with the courage to share similar misfortunes and grow from them together. Courage, humility, empathy are the qualities of a true leader and project manager. And this is what has to be displayed, learned and shared in the face of others’ misfortunes.

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The Best Project Managers are Emotion-driven Leaders

A short while ago, Charles J. Pellerin, the author of How NASA Builds Teams: Mission Critical Soft Skills for Scientists, Engineers, and Project Teams, came to Montreal to lead a one-day workshop based on his book. This event was organised with the sponsorship of the PMI-Montreal chapter.

This was a very enlightening day. Charles used his own personal ill-fated story, as the project director for the launch of the Hubble telescope, to get us to travel with him on his journey to the discovery of true leadership. This journey not only got him to redeem himself through an officially ‘unauthorized’ 60 M US$ fix mission to get astronauts to repair the telescope, but also got him to better understand the root of true leadership and design a system to make it happen. This is this system he talks about in his book. This is the system he is now applying as a consultant to NASA teams with radical performance improvements, thoroughly documented, scientifically measured…and all generously and clearly explained to us for our own usage in his amazing book.

His leadership competency model is based on two continuums axes: the Emotional-Logical decision making process continuum and the Intuited-Sensed data preference continuum. Out of the reunion of those two continuums emerge four types of leaders, which are basically characterised as follows:

  • The cultivating Emotional-Intuitive leader (green): great at giving gratitude, s/he is a people-builder who cares deeply about human beings and creates strong loyalty; the ultimate coach for large very complex projects
  • The including Emotional-Sensing leader (yellow): great at making you feel included as a part of the greatest whole, s/he is a team-builder who develops harmonious teams and can mobilise and get the most difficult people to work as a team; the ultimate marketer for large complex projects
  • The visioning Logical-Intuitive leader (blue): mastering reality-based optimism and living through complete commitment, s/he is an idea-builder, fond of creative ideas and demanding excellence; the ultimate innovator that can lead research and early phase projects….but might get stuck there
  • The directing Logical-Sensing leader (orange): organiser in chief, s/he is a system-builder, highly disciplined, well organised and using reliable processes; the ultimate project ‘deliverer and closer’ in hard times, putting the task first and meeting the objectives ruthlessly.

Charles goes on, in his book and in his workshops, explaining that the most effective project leaders are those that can lead through their emotions, the ‘green’ and the ‘yellow’ ones, because project management is all about teamwork and human relationships, all about journeying together towards a better place for all stakeholders. He also says that, although emotion-driven leaders can always compensate for less logical abilities, by finding good ‘blue’ and ‘orange’ team collaborators, the reverse is not possible. So, ultimately, in order to become a very effective project leader, one who does not have innate emotion-driven leadership will have to develop the necessary genuine ‘gratifying’ and ‘including’ behaviours to succeed, and be able to handle effectively larger, more complex project teams.

Charles has been using assessments of these leadership competencies to measure leaders’ and teams’ profiles and behaviours along the two continuums. He has also designed programs to get teams in NASA and elsewhere to improve their profiles, behaviours and, subsequently, performance in delivering outstanding projects.

I wrote above that Charles Pellerin was very generous in the material he shares in his fabulous book. He is also very generous on his website ( If you go there and register, you’ll get access to some of his presentation PowerPoints. You will also be able to make a free assessment of your individual leadership style as well as a free assessment of your team profile. And, if ever Charles gets to your town for a workshop, just go have a journey into project leadership with him. This man, innately a ‘blue’ Logical-Sensing guy, has succeeded his transformation into a gratifying, very including man, who will lead you to a better self and coach you to awaken the great project leader you were born to be.

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“Why Management” – The Ultimate Knowledge Area

Three years ago, one of my master degree students at the Lyon CESI, France, wrote a very special memoir for his thesis: the document was structured like a chapter of the PMBoK®, with nice and tidy “inputs-tools and techniques-outputs” tables. He had written about what he considered was a missing knowledge area in the PMI® project management model, “Change Management”: all that has to be done to prepare the end users of the deliverables to deliver their own part of the deal, the anticipated benefits. He was challenging what is now a paradigm for many well-intentioned project management folks. How could he question the “nine knowledge areas” fabric of the PMBoK®? The thesis evaluation committee that processed his memoir flunked him! It was as if he was questioning Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, right? So, on that subject, I invite everyone to read Stephen Covey’s book: “The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness 1.

Maybe I am about to get flunked too for what I am going to say here, or maybe, to paraphrase Covey’s new book title, we can get together “from effectiveness to greatness” on our projects. My student was right about the missing 10th knowledge area of the PMBoK®. But he had proposed a subset of it, not all of it. I have slowly realised this was the case, these last few weeks, as I was working very hard with some of my customers in designing and integrating “benefits realisation management” processes into both their portfolio and their project management processes.

I talk a lot about the why of a project (its ultimate purpose, its “raison d’être”). So much so that one participant in my workshops, a seasoned project manager, told me after a two-day workshop that he was appalled to realise that, during his 30 years as a project manager, he had delivered projects without caring about the why of these projects. He said that in doing so, he had very seldom delivered projects providing the benefits intended. He cannot be blamed for that, because so many project managers do the same, as reflected in the best practices included in the PMBoK®: None of the knowledge areas is dedicated to “Why Management”.

Let’s have a quick look at the current contents of the PMBoK®:

  • Scope is mainly about “what”,
  • Time is about “when”,
  • Cost is about “how much”,
  • Quality is about “what”
  • HR and Communications are mainly about “who”
  • Risk is about “what”
  • Procurement is about “what” and “who” and “how”
  • Integration is about all of the above.

In the new 4th edition of the PMBoK ®, there is a brand new sub-process that has been added to Scope Management and which is done right before defining the scope: “Collect Requirements”. I believe this is a first step in the right direction, but still not enough to ensure that benefits realisation will be more effective. It is also understandable that this situation has prevailed for such a long time, because benefits realisation is a four-headed beast, at a shared boundary between project management, program management, portfolio management and production management. Some of it must be planned and cared for within the boundaries of a project. That entails delivering the “right thing” and managing organisational change (my student’s proposed 10th knowledge area) to ensure that the transition from the “before the project” state to the “after the project” new desired state is complete, so we can reap the anticipated benefits. Some of it is strictly the domain of program management, portfolio management and of the new recurring post-project operations, for which the use of the delivered “right thing” was intended.

I am certain that in future editions of the PMBoK®, this “little” glitch will be taken care of. Meanwhile, for those who cannot wait, this 10th knowledge area, “Benefits Realisation Management”, is amply discussed on the internet and even greatly documented through the project management processes, methodologies and tools generously shared with us by the Office of Management Commerce 2, the Government of Tasmania 3 and the like. And most material on benefits realisation management also includes a subset covering change management, clearly a project management issue for me and many others. The chapter on the 10th knowledge area is already written, although not yet integrated into the PMBoK®. It is slowly but surely coming to town.

  3. (The Tasmanian Government site is one of the great project management information resources on the internet – they are small but they rock!)

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Project Portfolio Management Goes Agile

I have co-led the development team responsible for the writing of the first edition of PMI’s “The Standard for Portfolio Management”, first published in 2006. Its second edition was published in December 2008. The standard, as most standards on processes, explains how the process works (or should work). It does not explain how to put it together and implement it. So you have to look somewhere else for that.

Part of my work involves coaching organisations in implementing and improving their portfolio management processes. I religiously buy and read most of what is published on the subject in English or French. More than often, I had to conclude that the book or article I just read, I could have written myself… and done only a half-job doing so. Most of the literature on the subject I have seen up to now, talked a lot about mathematical scoring models, tools and techniques, addressing mostly the mechanics of the process. It never addressed the soul of the process, the humans, and how to deal with the main challenge of portfolio management in this area, namely: “How do we get a whole organisation to live a common vision and be truly aligned and willing to make it happen through project work”. Most of the books, that have been published, focus on best practices and techniques and do not discuss behavioural aspects as a key issue…..up to now! 

I have talked a lot about Agile/Lean project management in this blog, often explaining that it was addressing human aspects of project management very well. The Agile/Lean community has recently entered the portfolio management arena with two pretty good books, in that context.

The first book, published less that a year ago, is “Agile Portfolio Management” by Jochen Krebs (, Microsoft Press, 2009 (ISBN-10: 0735625670). It gives a good introduction to Agile project management and then goes on to explain how portfolio management works and how to implement such a process. For me, a major contribution of this book is really how the author explains what can go wrong trying to do portfolio management using traditional project management techniques. This leads the author to redefine the three variables of the “Iron triangle” of traditional project management , Quality-Time-Cost, into a new set of three variables, Quality-Progress-Team Morale,  taking into account the importance of dealing with humans, their expectations and their perceptions. Jochen Krebs goes farther than philosophising on the subject; he provides metrics and explains how to measure, monitor and act upon all three variables. The first chapter of the book is titled “Motivations”, which tells of the importance the author gives the human aspects of portfolio management. Later on, he also gives a good view of the various portfolios interacting in an organisation (Project, Resource, Asset). He finishes the book explaining how you can extend the SCRUM technique from project to portfolio management.

The second book still smells of fresh ink, since it was published a few days ahead of schedule on August 19, 2009. This is “Manage Your Project Portfolio: Increase Your Capacity and Finish More Projects” by product development guru Johanna Rothman (, Pragmatic Bookshelf, 2009 (ISBN-10: 1934356298). This is Johanna’s third book. Her first two, “Behind Closed Doors: Secrets of Great Management” (ISBN-10: 0976694026) and “Manage It: Your Guide to Modern, Pragmatic Project Management” (ISBN-10: 0978739248) are real gems and won prizes for their quality and usefulness. I do not hesitate to say that “Manage It” is one of the best books around for giving practical advice to project managers. Her last book, as her two others, is full of real life examples and little case studies that support the principles, concepts and techniques offered. “Manage Your Project Portfolio” is really a very complete “How-to” book on how to set up and manage your project portfolio. As Jochen Krebs’ book, this book addresses human aspects very well, including a very nice chapter dedicated to collaboration work in a portfolio management context (chapter 6). The chapter on metrics and measurement is also straight to the point (Chapter 10). Johanna’s top-notch practical advices and examples are found all over the place up to the last page, with a great last chapter titled “Start Somewhere…But Start”, one of the best things to do when it is time to go forward with taking charge of your portfolio of projects. A very inspiring book!

I do believe these are two books that, at last, give a more complete view of what is at stake when dealing with project portfolio management and will really help organisations move forward faster with implementing and improving this key business issue of the 21st century, the Project Age.