Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Communication - start with the fundamentals

I'm here people. Despite what the comment spammers may think. So you ask, what has he been up too... What insightful and entertaining diatribe will he expose during this edit. Well, let's find out.

In case you missed it, Project management is an ever evolving methodology. It's the beast that continues to find new ways to surprise you. Take for instance an initiative that should have wrapped up over a year ago and is still burning through millions of dollars. no need for specifics, we hear about these all the time. Why is this happening?

Only a few reasons, but take these away and your still left with one word.. and yes, you guessed it.

And we hear time and again, Communicate, Communicate,, ai yi yi!!! The message isn't that difficult to understand is it? Maybe it is, because the message shouldn't have been so simple.

If we want people to communicate then they need to know what to communicate about. We need to get down to fundamentals. The process of interaction. A process to leverage the strengths of the contributing team members. A process that will keep all informed, and not tripping over each other.

Walk before running... or suffer constant stumbling.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Whining at the beach

Can you imagine landing on the beach in your battle fatigues, the war going on in full force all around you, yet here you are, unable to protect yourself or perform your duty because the chain of command haven't given you the green light to think for yourself. You make a decision, you take the shot. Your aim is true... the end result is an unexpected casualty, you!

This my friends is a scenario that repeats itself by managers who cannot make quality decisions in time. It is a scenario that rewards the incompetent and frustrates the competent among us. It is likely a curse of some sort, a reward for being a passionate project manager working for a company with a strict organizational hierarchy vs projectized design.

My advice should you find yourself in this predicament; accept that it is what it is, yet do not think that your skill and knowledge is not valuable. Just find a way to keep promoting efficiencies in process while still keeping those decision makers with their finger on the button.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Implementing an audit function

2009 is starting off great. Am working for a new manager with a renewed mandate towards excellence in project management. Goodbye to my old manager, I learned very much from him. The challenge I've always encountered is how to bring the rest of the organization along for the journey. This challenge never stops, it just morphs into another facet.

The question that comes to mind is.. is this a curse that I've brought upon myself. Some of the kind words from my departing manager was that he doesn't know of anyone who is so dedicated to learning and growth as I am. Maybe he needs to get out more. But it is true to some degree, I guess. I am always reading books on project management, listen to a full collection of audio files from prominent podcasters, am an avid web surfer, and regularly attend my local chapter meetings. I guess this puts me somewhere between insane and passionate about my profession, or extremely fearful (probably). Anyways, so what is the burning interest at the moment.. implementing an auditing function.

I must recommend a good book by Gerrad M. Hill - "The Complete Project Management Office". Amazon link

What is the audit scope of the Governance PMO acting at arms length to the actual project management office? The PMI program management standard seems a bit light duty on the subject. It indicates that the audit function has a financial interest as well as a project management process interest, but leaves the reader wanting. For this I recommend reading Mr. Hills books. It takes the reader off the deep end. Great job Mr. Hill.

A bonus to those of you reading this who are also active members of PMI, go to the PMI website ereads and reference section. You will find this book available online. In the end you will likely come to the same conclusion as I did, it is worth the purchase.

Still though... how does one manage to influence the organization to adopt being audited to such a degree. Mr Hill suggests that an audit may take several weeks, and is conducted using an audit team. So far this has landed like a lead balloon... 1 yay, 4 nay, 2 remaining. I guess people are either too busy, or see little value in investigating with the potential outcome of informing the project leader and sponsor to do things differently.

Being an avid enthuiast in project management excellence has its drawbacks. Being able to let go has its advantages too. Back to the kind words of my previous manager, "sometimes it may take a year before people realize what you told them back then actually makes sense".

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Training Effectiveness

Just finished delivering Project Management training today. Tried to convey 8 hours of material into 4. Some things have a limit, and I now know that the lower limit is greater than 4. Feedback is a great thing, and it wasn't lost among the participants that there was too little time.

However so, this does not mean that the content needs to change, more the delivery and setting realistic expectations. The group initially requested an understanding of the tools. As such, theory was kept down to a minimum which allowed for more depth when tools and templates were involved. Informing the group that we may skip some of the theory in order to satisfy their interest in the tools sounds like a good strategy in hindsight.

To set the record straight, the feedback I received was very positive overall. So hopefully if you find yourself in a similar situation (which I know I will two more times over the next month), then you will be able to achieve that Utopian balance. It is tough to discard anything when your very passionate about a subject, isn't it.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Blinded by the dashboard lights

Most projects include the same basic collection of performance metrics. They comprise of the usual triple constraints; schedule, cost, and scope. However so, projects will likely include other non-typical performance metrics too. These metrics are often unique. As such, it is left up to the project leader to translate their performance for reporting out to the dashboard.

Translating performance requires an understanding of the message inferred by each dashboard status indicator. Let’s consider a four colour traffic light scale comprised of Blue, Green, Yellow, and Red. In this scale, Blue represents the highest degree of performance and Red is the lowest.

The message for Blue is that the metric is over achieving, it is doing GREAT! Subsequently, when status is Green, your achieving results as reasonably expected. Yellow indicates that issues are impeding performance, yet are manageable within the project team. Lastly, Red indicates that issues impeding performance are outside the control of the project team, requiring executive steering committee or sponsor intervention.

Here is a conundrum for you to think about. Consider that you’ve completed all the work planned, within the allocated budget, and to the satisfaction of the customer / stakeholders. How would you rate your performance? In my opinion, I would choose Blue, recognizing the ability to successfully deliver amidts the uncertainty. Other people may choose Green, stating that what was achieved was what was expected. My opinion does not come without caveats. It is based the opinion that in most cases, project leaders will be working within a tightly constrained environment. They will encounter difficulty and make compromises while achieving project objectives. What is guiding your opinion?

Some facts pertaining to projects:
Projects by definition are temporary and unique. This introduces a degree of uncertainty and risk that will mitigate performance. Therefore it is unlikely that a project will attain a perfect score each month. There can be cases where we find that a perfect score is achievable each month. This could occur in projects that have transferred all risk, such with firm fixed price contracts. It could also occur where planning, execution, and control activities were painstakingly and rigorously followed. This could also occur where there was sufficient reserve capacity available. Hopefully this isn't occurring due to inadequate performance translation or misreporting.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

2007 Wrap up

Hello all. It has been a couple of months since my last post. I haven't gone anywhere, just prioritizing between hobbies.

I noticed a few open discussions from my previous posts. I'll take a moment to update you on these and then open up with some new insights.

Project Performance Index:
Remember this is an assessment of the project performance as it pertains to alignment with Business Objectives / Support, Project Methodologies, and Team. The target was to achieve 80% performance. Well this target was never met. I surveyed many different projects, from small to large.

Results usually indicated:
  1. there was a need to improve business alignment
  2. project methodologies were a bit confusing but not excessive
  3. team performance was good to great

Fyi - I am skeptical that team performance is as good as people say it is...

I believe this measure is worth continuing in 2008. There have been some difficulties getting project leaders to buy into using it. I believe that most see it as a low value exercise. Perhaps you are of the same opinion. The glimmer of hope is still with me for now.

Moving on.. Updating the project management guideline used in our organization

This turned out to be something totally different than what was envisioned. If you recall, the original intent was:

  1. update the existing project management guideline
  2. add sections for program and portfolio management.

Well #1 was accomplished. There were quite a few references to the old program management office committees, templates, and other obsolete recommendations. So updating this was a good thing (it also reminded me of the original recommendations that are still in effect).

#2 came about in a much different fashion. I actually like where it went. Instead of adding new templates, recommendations, etc.. the program and portfolio morphed into a process flow diagram for Enterprise Portfolio / Program / Project management. This flow diagram addressed the need to formally establish the expectations for selecting and managing projects. You see, although we have guidelines, they are loosely followed in most instances. Therefore instead of creating yet another edition of a guideline it made sense to set expectations first. This flow diagram will take awhile before it is accepted. In the meantime its timing was very appropriate. You see we've just purchased a new pm software program. This flow diagram will provide a great model for the governance configuration.

Now on to new information.

Books.. This year I managed to read some great books. Some were project management specific, others were about benchmarking, change management, and time management. One book by David Allen - Getting Things Done has caused me to make a dramatic change in the way I accomplish work. I wholly recommend to anyone out there to keep up with your reading. A word of advice, consider why your reading the book. My preference is to learn. Therefore I often find myself re-reading a paragraph because I didn't understand it.

I'm currently reading a book about Project Metrics; by Parviz F. Rad and Dr. Ginger Levin ISBN: 1567261663. It is a difficult read, consisting of complex sentences and references to figures located on other pages. I am really enjoying this book nonetheless. I am only into the second chapter but I would recommend it for the experienced project manager. The reason I don't recommend it for the new project manager is that in my opinion, your success will come from understanding people first, template second.

Well.. enough of this post. It has been good just to catch up. I hope everyone had a great 2007 and are looking forward to a great 2008.


Monday, August 13, 2007

Revise Project Management Guideline

Hi out there. According to my spy in the sky, there are actually some people out there who are reading my blog. Yippee!! And to top it off, some of you are repeat visitors.. The wonders never cease.

Ok, so for today's post, and for the subsequent near future I figure it would be appropriate for me to talk about my current challenge:

"Revise the internal Project Management Guideline to include portfolio and program framework, and enhance existing project guidelines; establishing specific requirements based on tier criteria; incorporating the collaborative input from representatives of the affected stakeholder management within XX, YY, ZZ, AA, and BB; and engaging in discussions towards the capability maturity framework established in the Organizational Project Management Maturity Model standard "OPM3" developed by the Project Management Institute"

How about that!

I figure that this initiative isn't going to get legs under it unless I structure and execute it as a project. Do any of my readers have comments towards how they tackled a similar objective like this one in the past? The first thought that comes to mind is communications. I need to ensure that my target audience is working with me through the critical steps in the process. Have you noticed how no matter what, communications seems to be very difficult to get right?

Note to self - Be careful when drinking from teucu container.

Back to the project... so if communications are so challenging, then I had better allocate a good chunk of my energy towards that. What then are other high priority success factors
... being organized
... being integrated with other methodologies
... demonstrating value
... gaining momentum
... staying focused
... getting direction from end users
... influencing in accordance with best practice
... being in sync with organizational values & drivers

Well that is a pretty short list but I think there are some key items mentioned. One thought that came to mind is the OPM3 guideline for initiation processes and best practice. Reviewing this may also provoke some additional insights.

Wish me luck.. Hopefully I'll post some positive results the next time you visit.