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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Final thoughts for 2005

As the year comes to a close, I thought it would be a good time to review my professinal goals for 2005, which I posted here at the beginning of the year. They were:
  1. Be a better listener
  2. Apply the principles of Earned Value to more of my projects
  3. Begin each project with the end (deliverables) in mind
  4. Rely less on e-mail and more on face-to-face conversations
  5. Be a better Project Leader
  6. Accept the fact that criticism from others is part of the project life cycle
  7. Be willing to accept failures and use them as learning experiences
  8. Believe that most people on your project team are doing the best they can do
  9. Be positive, enthusiastic, and supportive of others

I made good progress towards achieving some of the goals, but I need to work harder on some of the others. The only true measurement of my performance comes from my peers, management, and project stakeholders.

Looking back over 2005 I would sum up the year by saying it was at times frustrating, rewarding, confusing, challenging, but overall worth the time and effort. We probably all can agree that being a good project manager is difficult, however good is not enough. We must be great project managers is we are to be successful. The culture we work in will greatly impact just how good or great we will be, however we are ultimately the ones that determine our own success.

Have a Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Dr. Kerzner's 16 Points to PM Maturity

Have you heard of Dr. Kerzner? If not, you must be new to project management. One of my Project Management books is written by Dr. Kerzner - Project Management - A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling and Controlling. If you don't have this book in your library, get it. If you are new to project management you will find his book to be an invaluable reference. You can purchase a copy of his book from by clicking the link above.

One of the things I find valuable that Dr. Kerzner created is his "16 Points to Project Management Maturity". They are listed below and discussed in the book mentioned above.

1. Adopt a project management methodology and use it consistently

2. Implement a philosophy that drives the company toward project management maturity and communicate to everyone

3. Commit to developing effective plans at the beginning of each project

4. Minimize scope changes by committing to realistic objectives

5. Recognize that cost and schedule management are inseparable

6. Select the right person as project manager

7. Provide executives with project sponsor information, not project management information

8. Strenghten involvement and support of line management

9. Focus on deliverable rather than resources

10. Cultivate effective communication, cooperation, and trust to achieve rapid project management maturity

11. Share recognition for project success with the entire project team and line management

12. Eliminate non-productive meetings

13. Focus on identifying and solving problems early, quickly, and cost effectively

14. Measure progress periodically

15. Use project management software as a tool - not as a subsitute for effective planning or interpersonal skills

16. Institute an all-employee training program with periodic updates based upon documented lessons learned

Until next time...

Stephen F. Seay, PMP

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Paradoxes of Project Management

In Tom Peter's book "Liberation Management", (Peters, Tom. Liberation Management. New York: Alfred Knopf, 1992) he talks about the paradoxes of project management. In the book Tom outlines a few things we need to keep in mind when managing our projects.

Total Ego versus No Ego - On the one hand, project managers must be consumed by the project before them. On the other hand, they must have almost no ego. They deal with many outsiders and insiders whom they can hardly command. This means the project manager must take a smaller share of the credit for accomplishments and give a larger share of the credit to other participants.

Autocrat versus Delegator - When the chips are down, the project manager must issue orders fast. At the same time, the project managers must turn ownership over to the contributors.

Leader versus Manager - Effective project managers must match their passion for inspiring others with a passion for the grubby nuts and bolts of doing the job.

Oral versus Written Communication - Communicating orally and on the run comes easily to effective project managers. But, the must also be masters of the detailed plan and the daily checklist.

Complexity versus Simplicity - Nothing is more complex than dealing with a sophisticated, multi-organization project. The effective project manager must juggle, sometimes for years, hundreds of balls of differing and ever-changing shapes, sizes, and colors. On the other hand, the project manager must be adept at keeping it simple.

Big versus Small - Project managers must appreciate forests and trees equally. They must be able to see the relationship of the small to the big and the big to the small, and do so at every moment simultaneously.

Patience versus impatience - Smart, independent leaders spend lots of time on relationship building and networking. This is a s important as pushing project participants for action.

As long-time readers of this blog know, I value the insight of Tom Peters. I believe he hit the nail right on the head in regard to a Project Manager's behavior when managing projects.

Until next time...

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Lessons Learned?

Capturing lessons learned at the end of a project is important. My problem has always been how do I archive the learnings for use in the future? Post implementation meetings are good for capturing lessons learned, but outside of the team members that attend the meeting where does this knowledge go? How can it be used in the future? Where and how should it be stored?

One idea I read about related to how Boeing maintains diaries of lessons learned from each airplane project. I wonder how these diaries are accessed and utilized on future projects? Are they searchable, indexed by topic, etc...

If anybody reading this has ideas, let me know and I will publish them here.

Until next time...

Monday, November 14, 2005

Quality Revisited

Quality Revisited

Most of you know that this blog deals with the basics of Project Management.  For this week’s blog we will talk a little about Quality in Project Management.  Quality is a heavily tested knowledge area on the PMP exam and as such we should all be familiar with the subject.

According to Philip B. Crosby, Quality is “conformance to requirements”.  He goes on to state the Four Absolutes of Quality as:

  1. The definition of quality is conformance to requirements

  2. The system of quality is prevention

  3. The performance standard is zero defects

  4. The measurement of quality is the price of nonconformance.

Another Quality Guru is Joseph Juran.  He states that “Quality is fitness for use”.  He also defines something called the Quality Trilogy.  It is:

  1. Quality Improvement

  2. Quality Planning

  3. Quality Control

Juran also goes on to define the “Ten Steps in the Quality Improvement Process”.  They are:

  1. Build awareness of the need and opportunity for improvement

  2. Set goals for improvement

  3. Organize to reach the goals

  4. Provide training throughout the organization

  5. Carry out the projects to solve problems

  6. Report progress

  7. Give recognition

  8. Communicate results

  9. Keep score

  10. Maintain momentum by making annual improvement part of the regular systems and processes of the company.

Lastly, we look at what Dr. W. Edwards Deming says about Quality.  According to Dr. Deming, Quality is “continuous improvement through reduced variation”.  His five principles are:

  1. The central problem in lack of quality is the failure of management to understand variation.  

  2. It is management’s responsibility to know whether the problems are in the system or behavior of people.

  3. Teamwork should be based upon knowledge, design, and redesign.  Constant improvement is management’s responsibility.  Most causes of low quality and productivity belong to the system.

  4. Train people until they are achieving as much as they can (within the limits of the system).

  5. It is management’s responsibility to give detailed specifications.

Do the above statements reflect the situation in your work environment?  Is your management engaged in Quality?  Are they hands-on, hands-off, or asleep at the switch?

Quality is everyone’s job; however Quality cannot be managed with out the participation of management.  I would even be so bold to say that “poor quality equals poor management”.  

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Backwards Planning

I came across this article and thought it made some very good points.

Backwards Planning6 Simple Rules for Scheduling Next Year
“Russian Submarine Captains don’t (go to the bathroom) without a plan.” -Fred Thompson, in The Hunt for Red October

There’s another saying that goes: “The more you do of what you’re doing, the more you’ll get of what you’ve got.” Tired of getting the same results year and year out? It is time to start planning for success. It is time to try something different. Here’s 6 Steps to guide you in planning ahead for success in the year ahead. Use them in your next meeting and see how the orient your entire organization’s thinking.

1. RESULTS – Try planning backwards - Start with the results in mind. Most mid-level managers plan around their schedule in an effort to “fill the calendar.” If your group’s goal is to stay active and keep everyone busy this is a great idea. But if your goal is to accomplish something like, oh I don’t know, let’s say your organization’s mission or turn a profit, this is the dumbest way to start out. Really, what are you in business to do? Move the sand pile left then move it back right the next quarter?

Smart planners begin with the results they want to achieve. They ruthlessly eliminate everything that doesn’t support this goal. They never hesitate to say, “No, that’s not what we are about.” Great leaders stay focused on the main thing they and never deter from it. What do you want to see occur next year? Where do you want to be? Set that as your planning goal and let everything fall in to place around it. Guard this and don’t let any other activity or program get in the way.

2. ACTIVITIES – Next plan the activities it will take to accomplish your goal(s). Don’t schedule them yet. Just sit down and determine what it will take to get to the destination you have set. Some activities may be impossible to pull off, but this will give you a good idea of what you need to be doing and how you need to distribute resources to get things done. Planning activities will help you determine the Big Three questions that need to be answered in planning guidelines:

(A) What do you think you are doing?
(B) What ought you to be doing?
(C) What are you actually doing?

Examining all three perspectives will give you valuable insight into your job and time problems.

Activities that don’t meet these criteria or don’t support the mission of your company, corporation or mission should be eliminated, no matter how sacred they are. How many exercises do you do for no other reason than, we’ve always done them? Read Sacred Cows Make Great Burgers. Yes, it is risky to ask “Why?” but you’ve got to take a few risks to venture into new territory. Have some fun. Go around and ask people how certain historical practices originated and why they continue to schedule them every year. You’ll be surprised at how many people are clueless, but continue to perform them like mindless sheep.

3. PRIORITIES – The next step will happen almost automatically. You and your staff will begin to re-evaluate your priorities and find out what you need to be about in the year ahead. You’ll be surprised to find consensus when you have eliminated useless activities that don’t accomplish your mission or goals. Determining your goals and activities will help you establish clear priorities for the time period you are planning. It will help you enforce the “If it doesn’t support or goals, we’re not doing it” rule.

Use the Paretto Principle to establish priorities: “Eighty percent of our activities produce 20 percent of the results, while only 20 percent of our activities produce 80 percent of the results.” Vilifredo Paretto was a 19th Century Italian economist who established a rule for economics that works in almost every realm of planning. It is simple: List your top ten priorities in order, then circle the top two. Concentrate planning on those two and the other eight will take care of themselves. More organizations waste time on useless trivial activities that produce almost no results. The wisdom of life consists of eliminating the non-essentials.

4. TIME ESTIMATES – How long will it take? How much time will each activity require to get you closer to your annual goals? The key to successful planning is to plan both work and time. Start to determine what will take big blocks of time, how many people will be required to get it done and where will the resources be needed to accomplish each task. Next look at the smaller blocks of time and find out how they can be batched together to eliminate waste in funding and time. Where are the wasted time slots? How can they be reduced or wiped away completely?

Determine what time of the year is the peak performance time to get each task accomplished. Where are the slow periods annually that you can get more “behind the scenes” work done? When is your “showtime,” when visible tasks are best accomplished? Remember these are only estimates but they will give you a good idea as to when you need to be concentrating on the right tasks at the right time.

5. SCHEDULING - Now look at your actual calendar. Things that are scheduled tend to happen on time. Things that are not scheduled may never happen. As I said earlier, most managers tend to schedule first in an effort to fill the calendar and eliminate gaps. Knowing what you are about, why you are about it, and how long it will take will be the greatest ally you have in putting things on in ink.

Use this guideline for scheduling: Flexibility in time: Start early on major efforts, Big blocks come first; smaller jobs/activities come second; and group items that are similar in nature. Scheduling along these lines will do more to eliminate wasted time in your calendar. It will allow for the time estimates to become realities and your people to know what they are doing, why they are doing it and how it fits into your overall mission/goals.

6. FLEXIBILITY – Allow time for error and the uncertainty. This can only be done if you have set out to allow the proper amount of time for big projects. No one can predict the future (although we seem to have an abundance of philosophers, pundits and fanatics who attempt to do it every day). A well-known television economist spent the first two months of his new program telling everyone not to buy home improvement company stocks (Lowe’s, Home Depot, etc.) then was forced to retract every prediction when they soared following the devastating hurricanes in the Gulf Coast areas. One good rule: Don’t take advice from anyone who isn’t personally invested in the suggestions they are giving. You probably have example in your own life of people who said to do one thing only to change when things weren’t as certain as they assured you. Don’t get stuck paying the bill for their mistakes.

Planning flexibility allows you to adjust your schedule as needed. It allows you to drop back and re-evaluate your intentions and redistribute resources and personnel in key areas as are required. Be flexible about your schedule, but not your results or goals. Times change and although you can’t predict the future, the great leaders are able to see through the present times and prepare for both good and bad events. Those with the best outlook on life are always expecting the best, but prepared for the worst, just in case. To deny that problems will arise is foolishness. In summary, our ability to control our time is directly related to our attitude toward controlling our environment. Now you are in control of your schedule. You determine what to do and when to do it based on a simple rule: What results do we want? Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you are right.”A year from today, evaluate the tasks you accomplished. How did your employees, support staff come together to meet your goals? How long did it take for everyone to get in step with the master plan and find ways to cut wasted time and reallocate resources? How prepared were you for unforeseen events in the market and society? How much more can you accomplish next year? Try “Backwards Planning” and see how everything fits better into place.

Permission is granted to reproduce this article in whole or in part provided the following byline below appears along with the article and that a copy is sent to me after publication. Thank you: JIM MATHIS is an International Speaking Professional and Trainer.

To subscribe to his FREE personal and professional development newsletter, please send an email to with the word SUBSCRIBE. An electronic copy will be sent out to you every month. For more information on how JIM and his programs can benefit your organization or group, please call 888-688-0220, or visit his website:

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Accepting Criticism

The other day while talking with one of my bosses I was told that I can come off sometimes as being pessimistic. I wasn't expecting this remark and had to think for a moment about my response. Basically my response was that yes, at times I can be pessimistic. After the meeting I started to think about my behavior over the past year, which led me to remember something I learned long ago. If we expect criticism we will seldom be disappointed when we receive it.

There are many types of criticism, and usually none of it is welcome. Destructive criticism seldom offers any value to the person receiving it and can cause them to be close-minded regarding any future criticism. While the criticism I received was presented in a constructive way, it still didn't make it easier to take. And for what it is worth, we must remember that criticism is just one person's opinion.

What is my point regarding all of this? Constructive criticism can help make us better by forcing us to stop and think about how we act, and interact with others. We need to remember that a positive, optimistic attitude will help us to build strong relationships and obtain the trust and respect of others. 

Criticism is something we can avoid easily - by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing - Aristotle

Friday, October 14, 2005

Organizational Project Management Best Practices

A good reference book about Project Management is “The Portable MBA in Project Management by Eric Verzuh”. In the book Eric sites a major study that was conducted around what Project Management Best Practices look like in a typical large organization. Perhaps we can learn a few things by looking at the results.

Formal (agreed-upon) Project Management Structure

Companies that successfully implement and use project management have a formal structure in place. These organizations have repeatable project management processes, and executives of the company are engaged and accountable for the success of project management and the project’s that they sponsor.

A Repeat Project Management Process

Repeatable processes that are aligned to PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge) Guide’s Nine Knowledge areas have been shown to increase the probability of project success.

Alignment of Projects to the Organizations Strategy

Projects that aren’t aligned will probably not be given a high priority (or proper support) within the organization. Projects that are aligned will have an executive sponsor that is engaged and measured against the project’s success.

Use of Tools

Project Managers need tools to do their job just like any other profession. The tools can be project management software, templates, and other items. The tools need to be closely aligned around the organization’s project management processes.

Experienced Project Managers

This was found to be the single most important success factor in the companies studied. The skills that successful project managers exhibit were:

Experience in Project Management
Ability to see the big picture
Excellent communications skills (verbal and written)
Willingness to do what it takes
Leadership and organizational skills
Problem solving skills
Collaborative and cooperative
Positive Attitude

The book is a great Project Management reference, is well written, and contains a wealth of information that will help you to be a better project manager.

For more information go to:

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Wasted Time

As project managers we are very focused on time. As time passes, we often find that our project and personal objectives aren’t being achieved. We look back at our project or personal goals and see ways we could have done things differently that would have saved us time. We agonize over the loss of time, and look for ways to do more with less, or look to find additional resources to help make up for the lack of time.

I was recently sent a link to a website that brings the topic of time to the forefront. It has significant meaning, especially when applied to our personal lives. Be sure you have your sound turned up on your PC and give the link a try.

Hopefully in will enlighten you about the concept of time, and its importance in your personal as well as your business life.

Check out the site at: The Time Movie

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Project Manager as Planner

I think everyone agrees that the first responsibility of the project manager is planning. The project manager's main responsibility is to build the high-level plan, but it is the responsibility of the line/functional managers to build in or provide the details. We know that the project manager does not or should not control the resources that will ultimately do the work, but the project manager is responsible to see that that work is done right, on time, and on budget. There are some tips that will help the project manager create a better project plan and keep the project on track.

Some items to consider are:

  • Define your tasks using non-technical language, and include descriptions or notes detailing the work involved
  • Create milestones in your schedule to help track progress and use them as quality gates
  • Ensure you have agreement with the line managers about the skill sets required of his or her resources
  • Define up front how you will measure performance
  • Define up front how you will measure quality
  • Ensure you have a strong project sponsor that is engaged and supportive
  • Use Communication plans to keep everyone informed

Doing the above (and lots of other things) will help ensure that everyone involved with the project will better understand their roles and have a vision of what the end product or service will look like.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Knowledge Management

Knowledge Management

Organizations have a lot of knowledge. This knowledge is critical to the organization’s success and is housed in many places. Knowledge transfer among employees is always a challenge, and most importantly most organizations do not have processes in place to ensure that timely knowledge transfer takes place.

An organization’s culture can inhibit effective knowledge transfer. Ineffective knowledge transfer can cause knowledge to be lost or be unclear when and if it is transferred.

Some ways to overcome ineffective knowledge transfer are:

  • Face-to-face meetings

  • Create an environment that is conducive to collaboration

  • Set performance objectives around formal and informal knowledge transfer mechanisms

  • Establish regular knowledge transfer procedures (meetings, documents, reports, etc)

  • Hire people that are flexible and open to good knowledge transfer practices

  • Conduct brainstorming sessions and document the what is learned/transferred

  • Reward collaborative efforts

  • Use failures as a way to create new knowledge

A common language is important for effective knowledge transfer to take place. Glossaries, scope statements, project objectives and project assumptions will help you to begin the process of knowledge transfer in the early stages of your project.

Monday, September 12, 2005

PMI World Congress - Toronto, Canada

I'm at the Project Management Institute's annual World Congress, which is being held this year in Toronto. Lots of good information is being exchanged and I have attended many presentations that are focused on Program and Portfolio Management. As we all know these conferences can add value to our careers, however we have to be ready to accept these ideas and be willing to implement them when we return to our regular jobs.

One of the areas I plan to focus on in the new year is expanding my skills around communications and scope management. We can never stop learning if we want to excel in our careers.

Have a good day, eh!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

DISCLAIMER *** Yesterday’s Project Management Best Practices Checklist posting

DISCLAIMER *** Yesterday’s Project Management Best Practices Checklist posting

Just so I don’t get in trouble, I didn’t author the checklist that appeared on the blog yesterday.  I found it buried in the reams of documentation, templates, and various Project Management documents that I have in my possession.  While virtually all of the postings on this blog were written by me, I will always credit sources when available.  I am unsure of the source of yesterday’s posting.


Stephen F. Seay, PMP

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Project Management Best Practices Checklist

Identify the participants and their roles.
Identify potential project team members as well as the major players in the user community that will test and except the final product or service.

Assign an experienced project manager early
This Project Manager will make or break a project. Be sure the individual has the expertise to manage the project and works well with others. Don't hesitate to look at outside sources if there is no one on staff that qualifies.

Assess the qualifications and experience of the planned project team members
Along with the project manager, assess carefully the qualifications and experience of each team member as they pertain to the specifics of this project. Keep in mind the importance of team players, and the ability to get along with others.

Complete a detailed workplan
A preliminary workplan with major milestones should have been completed while developing the PIJ. Now is the time to work with the project manager in identifying the tasks involved for each milestone. The workplan should list the tasks for each milestone with the estimated hours, start and stop dates, costs and responsible parties. Sample workplans and templates are available through GITA upon request.

Establish an issues control tracking system
Establish a method by which, all issues pertaining to the project are recorded and can be reviewed regularly and tracked by the project team. All issues should eventually have a documented resolution. Software to perform these functions may be available through GITA upon request.

Establish a regular project team review meeting schedule
Regularly scheduled project review meetings should be incorporated into the workplan. These meetings are to review the current progress of the project including the percentage of completeness of workplan tasks.

Establish a participant update meeting schedule
Periodic participant update meetings should be incorporated into the workplan. These meetings are to present the current progress of the project to upper management and major participants in the user community.

Conduct a project kickoff meeting
Officially start the project with a meeting of all parties involved. The project team should be introduced, the milestones reviewed with estimated completion dates, and expectations as to the level of participation, should be outlined.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Keep IT Simple

There was a popular survey some time ago that asked leaders in several mid-sized companies about their success. One of the main reasons that many were successful is they focused on simplicity in everything they did. The study concluded that simple, focused companies were more profitable.

The Pareto or 80/20 Principle can help us realize the power of keeping things simple.

Some popular statistics that relate to the Pareto Principle are below:

80% of beer is consumed by 20% of the beer drinkers

80% of classroom participation comes from 20% of the students

80% of traffic jams occur on 20% of roads

20% of your clothes will be worn 80% of the time

80% of sales are generated by 20% of the sales staff

80% of problems are generated by 20% of the employees

80% of problems come from 20% of the customer base

Now that we know this, how do we make things simpler? The answer is "simple". We need to analyze the data. We cannot guess where the problems are. We cannot just use emotion. As I have stated in previous posts, it is important to look at your business processes to eliminate waste and complexity.

Questions to ask yourself and your organization when seeking to simplify your business processes:

What are our processes?

Who are our customers?

What systems do we use? Do we have the right systems in place to support our business?

What services do we offer internally and externally? Are they still valuable today?

Look for the 20% that adds value and eliminate or redesign the rest. Keep in mind that we are looking to automate, minimize, isolate, reduce, redesign, or reallocate those things that are not helping us to achieve simplicity.

Keep it Simple!!!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Project Management Behavior

When CIOs were interviewed by ComputerWorld in 2001 regarding what skills a Project Manager should have, the consensus was the following competencies are the most important: Technology, Business, Behavior - not necessarily in that order.

I know that I have lived a sheltered project management life, but I think many project managers haven't sufficiently mastered the "Behavior" competency. My experience is limited, but I have worked with many project managers, and I believe that we all could improve our skills as they relate to the "Behavior" competency. We should all be able to agree that in order to motivate people a project manager needs an understanding of human behavior and how to motivate teams. How many project managers do you know have mastered these skills? How well do you do in this area? I can admit that I have room for improvement.

As I said, "Behavior" was listed in the top three of the most important competencies. I find that to be interesting because other surveys of CIOs find that the number one complaint about project managers is that they are whiners and excuse makers. How can we change that? Collectively we must decide as project managers we will exhibit the highest ethical and behavioral standards. We will empathize with others, we will be known as good listeners, and we can be trusted to not gossip and participate in destructive office politics.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Project Managers and Meeting Facilitation

I really do not like meetings. For the most part, I find my time would be better spent doing other things. As project managers, we will be involved in meetings. When we call a meeting we need to ensure that the meeting has an agenda and that meeting minutes are taken.

I find that one of the things that is usually missing from larger meetings is a good facilitator. As a project manager that has called a meeting it is usually best if you have a person (other than yourself) designated as a meeting facilitator.

A Facilitator is: one who brings organization and process to the meeting so attendees are able to interact effectively and make sound business decisions. They enable good meeting habits and support the group to achieve exceptional outcomes.

A Facilitator provides leadership without taking control. They get others to assume responsibility and help them to participate and lead effectively.

Facilitators should:

Assist the group to identify goals and objectives around the meeting topic
Help identify attendee needs
Guide discussions to keep them focused on the agenda
Ensure assumptions are brought out and discussed
Guide the group to consensus on issues by ensuring all attendees are heard
Use tools and processes to ensure the meeting is run efficiently and good decisions are made
Lead brainstorming sessions
Help attendees to assess their skills and assist them in building new skills to support the meeting's objectives

A good facilitator can bring clarity and focus to a meeting. There are many resources on the internet, and there are many good books on the subject. Effective meetings help to build effective outcomes. Ineffective meetings can be seen as time-wasters and can alienate some of the people you need the most.

Make sure your meetings are efficient and effective. One way to do this is to survey meeting attendees to gather feedback.

Until next time…

Monday, July 25, 2005

Strategic MRO and Asset Management

I just returned from a conference entitled MRO-World. The purpose of the conference was to enhance learning around activities that support Asset Management and the Maintenance, Repair, and Operation (MRO) of those assets. How does this fit in with Project Management? As we all know, Operational activities are focused on maintaining, while Project activities are focused on change. Having said that, Operations activities still have change that needs to be managed.

Strategic MRO is composed of business processes, and is not meant to be an activity management mechanism. Strategic MRO is focused on managing change and continuous improvement in regards to a company's assets. Where I work, we have Strategic Assets that must work nearly 100% of the time. Our systems consist of Water Distribution, Waste Water Treatment, Storm Water Management, Land Fill Operations, Roads, Traffic Control, IT Systems, etc. How these assets are maintained, repaired, and operated can have a huge impact on the bottom line.

In my opinion Project Management can help in the implementation of software to manage assets, in helping scheduling the work to support the MRO of the assets (preventative maintenance for example) , and additionally through communicating the status of critical work and changes to assets going on in the Enterprise.

Part of any organization's responsibilities is to manage their assets to maximize their value. To do this they must:

Define the current state of the asset
Determine the future asset state objectives
Perform a gap analysis between the current and future states
Develop a prioritized task list of what needs to be done to close the gaps

This sounds a lot like project management to me. As I said, I will be doing more research in this area and will report my findings here. As always I welcome your feedback.

Monday, July 11, 2005

What is a Project?

As the readers of this blog know, I try to cover the basics of Project Management. As project managers, we get in trouble when we try to complicate things. In my career, I have worked for many different types and sizes of organizations. Some have embraced Project Management and others have made excuses so as not to be constrained by what they believe is a process that slows things down (adds cost and overhead). I have preached the same message for years. Project Management is designed to help reduce or eliminate rework and surprises at the end of a project.

So why don’t some organizations see the value of Project Management? Usually it is because they do not understand the benefits of Project Management, they do not trust the Project Managers they currently have, or the ones they have encountered in the past. OK, we can accept that, however, what we should never accept is the idea that Project Management just adds cost and overhead.

We need to educate those around us about the difference between projects and other organizational work. Senior management needs to realize the fact that work is basically broken down into two areas: Operations (focused on Maintaining) and Projects (focused on Change). Most organizations do an adequate job of managing their operations; however, my experience (limited as it is) has shown that projects and the support of project management vary greatly.

Every organization has projects; sometimes they are just too busy to realize it. As project managers, we need to keep fighting the good fight of educating the influencers in our organizations about the benefits of Project Management. In addition, we need to realize that the benefits of Project Management are demonstrated in the successful implementation of projects. Do not preach the benefits of Project Management; demonstrate them by walking the walk and talking the talk.

Therefore, to answer our central question and wrap this up, a project is:

A temporary endeavor to create a unique product or service


Constrained by a finite budget

Constrained by a finite timeline (defined start and end date)

Composed of interrelated activities

Focused on attaining one or more clearly defined objectives

The last point needs to be stressed. Without clearly defined and agreed upon objectives your project is doomed to fail from the start. I would also add that your project does not have a chance for success unless you have an engaged, influential, and respected executive in the role of project sponsor.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Quality Project Management

Continuous Improvement is the output of a good Quality Management process, and Continuous Improvement requires the proper application of Quality Tools and Techniques. One of the most recognizable Quality Tools is the "Deming Wheel". The Deming Wheel is a simple diagram that focuses efforts around: PLAN, DO, CHECK, and ACT (PDCA Cycle). While this diagram may seem simplistic at first sight, it is a very powerful tool when applied to projects. In fact, Project Management is dependent upon the PDCA Cycle to deliver effective results.

A quick summary of the PDCA Cycle follows.

Plan is the intial phase of the PDCA Cycle. High levels goals and objectives are agreed upon and resources are acquired. In this phase we are identifying a particular problem or problems and breaking them down into manageable tasks. We want to decide specifically how we will solve the problem and establish metrics to measure progress.

Do is executing the Plan. Also, reporting is done in this phase to check progress. Do can be prototyping in the IT world, designing experiments, constructing a building, buiding a model, etc.

Check is the evaluation phase. Did we do what we said we were going to do? Did we meet the project's objectives? What does the data tell us? This is where are metrics are analyzed. We are looking at our KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and making reccomendations for action.

Act is the adjustment phase. What are we going to do to get back on track or to make improvements? Should we continue or cancel the project? Do we need to replan and start the cycle over again? Here we are acting on our findings from the Check phase. We want to make sure we are acting on the right information at the right time.

The PDCA Cycle is a great tool to help us be successful in Project Management. Using proven Quality Management tools that support Continuous Improvement will help project managers to do a better job managing their projects.

Remember the Four Principles of Quality Management are:

Customer Satisfaction

Plan Do, Check, Act (PDCA) Cycle

Management by Fact

Respect for People

Combining these Quality Principles with your Project Management Processes will lead to powerful results for your customers.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Project Communications Plan

Project Communications Planning is a process that is continuous throughout a project. When building your initial Project Communications plan focus on the following:

Define Your Audiences - Who needs to know What, and When and How do they need to know it. Communication needs and audiences will change as the project moves forward. Plan for it.

Start from the Top and Work Your Way Down the Chain - Start your Communications with the highest levels of the organization first, then work your way down to the team members. Repeat this cycle.

Target Your Message to the Different Groups - Different groups (and sometimes individuals) may require different types of communications media (e-mail, status reports, web site, face-to-face, memo, etc.). Plan for these different types of communications vehicles up front.

Define Roles and Responsibilities - Ensure that your Project Communications Plan includes Roles and Responsibilities for key stakeholders.

Status Reports - Status Reports are a great form of Project Communication if kept short and to the point.

Repetitive Messages will be Required - The same message delivered using different mechanisms and sources will help to reinforce your message.

Anticipate Conflict - Tailor your communications to overcome Conflict before it occurs. Keep in mind that Conflict will always occur on a project. Conflict needs to be anticipated and managed continuously throughout the project.

Allow for Anonymous Feedback - Create a way for people to relay their positive and negative feedback anonymously.

Project Managers need to recognize that good Communication is important because it helps to reduce conflict, increases information distribution, and helps to silence critics while reinforcing the positive aspects of your project.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Wow! Projects

As many of you may know from my previous blog entries I really like Tom Peters. Tom has so much energy and passion, and additionally, he has some great ideas regarding reinventing work. In my opinion, his ideas around Project Management are revolutionary, bleeding-edge, and way out in front of what is considered the "norm". Recently while reviewing his website I found myself reading about what Tom calls "WOW! Projects". If you have a moment, take the time to read what Tom has to say about WOW! Projects.

To reflect a bit, as I look back over my career I do not think I have ever worked on a WOW! Project, and in hindsight that is a disappointment. As a Project Manager, I struggle every day trying to manage my projects to a "successful" conclusion. Over the course of my career when managing individual projects how that project's success is measured has many times been a moving target. Stakeholders and the project sponsor change their minds in the middle of the project regarding what they want and the ensuing scope changes cause the project success measurement bar to move.

While the project manager is responsible for project success and scope management, the project sponsor can influence project success when stakeholders have more influence over the scope of the project than the project manager does. While this does not happen on every one of my projects, a lesson to be learned is that I must be vigilant regarding stakeholder management.

NOTE: Remember the number one measure of Project Success (according to PMI) is Customer Satisfaction.

In my opinion WOW! Projects require a strong executive sponsor and a well-oiled projectized organization (in addition to many other things) that is not opposed to taking risks. In addition WOW! Project stakeholders must be committed to supporting the following goals of a WOW! Project.

A WOW! Project's Goals are:
An enhanced "customer experience" (internal and external)
Dramatically increased sales
Sharply reduced costs
Improved operating margins
Accelerated leadership and talent development
Innovative solutions to wide-ranging issues
Improved employee morale and job satisfaction
Accelerated post-merger integration
Enhanced stakeholder and community involvement
Cultural transformation

I recognize that I have a lot of work to do to turn my projects into WOW! Projects. Personally I do not think every project that we are assigned can be a WOW! Project, but I do believe if we keep the WOW! Project goals in mind our projects will add more value to the organizations we serve.

What do you think? Until Next Time...

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Best Practices for Project Management

Good Planning will Eliminate Many Surprises - Most project problems can be traced back to poor planning desicions, or inadequate planning. Take the time to plan your project properly.

Have Agreed-Upon Project Objectives - Ensure that the project has several agreed-upon objectives that can be reviewed throughout and at the end of the project to ensure they have been met.

Create Verifiable Milestones in your Project Schedule - To measure progress make sure you have milestones that can be verified by someone outside your team. This will assist you to measure real progress.

Manage Scope - Ensure the Project Sponsor approves all Scope Change Requests. Make sure you give the project sponsor your opinion whether the Scope Change Request (SCR) should be approved and why or why not.

Track and resolve Project Issues in a Timely Manner - Ensure that you keep an accurate log of Project Issues and that this log is distributed to the Project Team and Sponsor on a regular basis.

Continue to Assess Your Project Risks throughout the Project - When meeting with your team it is a good idea to reassess the Risks you identified in planning and to see if any new Risks have surfaced that need to be captured.

Communicate Status on a Regular Basis - Depending on the size of your project a status report can be delivered orally, via e-mail, formally, via a website or some other mechanism identified in your Project Communications Plan.

Be Personable and Approachable - Many people will be more willing to help the Project Manager if they are friendly, personable, and trustworthy. Don't be arrogant, rigid, or unreasonable. The project probably won't be successful if your team members distrust and dislike you.

Look for the Warning Signs - Is your team's morale low? Is your schedule off course? Are your team members fighting all the time? Is the team working excessive amounts of overtime? You better regroup now before the situation gets out of hand. Bring the sponsor in to your next meeting and let them assess the project by asking then team for a collective status report. Have the sponsor interview team members one-on-one to look for hidden agendas and unspoken fears.

Most of all, Have Fun.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Condemed to Repeat the Past?

Have you ever heard the old quote by the philosopher and poet George Santayana that states, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it"? In project management, we need to remember that historical data is our best friend when planning new projects. Do not forget when doing your planning to use empirical data from past projects. This data can help you to reduce negative risk and increase your odds for project success.

Other information to review when planning new projects:

Review your companies past project files for information regarding past resource estimates, lessons learned, budget data, risks, assumptions, etc...

Conduct interviews with select project team members from past projects to understand what went right and what went wrong.

Interview customers and other project managers for lessons learned from their past projects.

Do searches on the Internet about similar projects to gather information which might assist in planning your project.

Most importantly, use Risk Management during the planning cycle to identify issues that could cost you big later on.

Finally, do not fall victim to the project manager's curse of not learning from the past. Remember the old saying, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it"

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Perfect Project Manager

I have a book entitled “What Makes a Good Project Manager” by James S. Pennypacker and Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin. In the book, there is a reference to a 2001 ComputerWorld article that discusses “The Perfect Project Manager”. The consensus of the article was in the world of Information Technology (IT) there are three general areas of Project Management competency: Technology, Business, and Behavior (in no certain order).

One of the CIOs interviewed in the ComputerWorld article stated “in order to motivate IT workers, you need … an understanding of human behavior and how to motivate teams.” Do not miss this important point. Project Managers are primarily team leaders, motivators, and communicators. Project Managers will not be successful managing IT projects if they do not have an understanding of basic human behavior.

It has also been determined there are three Project Management skills that are required for success in IT:

General Management Skills

Project Management Skills

IT Management Skills

Under General Management, the key areas of expertise are (not in order):

Thinking Skills

Organizational Awareness


Interpersonal Relations

Communication Skills

Many companies are now interviewing Project Managers placing a heavy emphasis on character traits versus professional competencies. These companies realize if a Project Manager cannot get along well with others and have poor communication skills they will not be successful.

The key to project success is having a competent project manager and the number one competency of a project manager is honesty. Research has shown that projects are more likely to fail because the human elements are not managed. In order to mitigate this type of risk project managers need to develop skills that support sound decision-making, good communications, motivational techniques, and conflict management.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Are You Trustworthy - Part II

I have always admired Stephen Covey’s writings. In his book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” Mr. Covey talks about being Trustworthy. As project managers if we are not trustworthy, we are not going to be effective. When you are trustworthy, you can be counted on to keep your word. Trustworthiness is a qualitative measure so we cannot apply some objective measure to how honest or reliable a person is.

As mentioned in Paul Friedman’s Book “How to Deal with Difficult People”, Paul states “Faith in people is fragile”. “Every single breach of trust diminishes people’s confidence in you”. Paul goes on to say, “Most people believe themselves to be more trustworthy than others think they are. We forgive ourselves more readily for minor transgressions that linger in other people’s minds. We know why we neglected to do something. We know we had a good reason and intended no harm. However, others cannot read our minds or know what our lives are like”.

Take your promises seriously. When you are unable to keep your commitments, be quick to admit fault, explain, apologize and do whatever is necessary to repair the damage and reassure others that you will redouble your efforts so you do not repeat the same mistakes. Trust is earned, but it is earned only after you demonstrate that you are Trustworthy.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Project Requirements and the WBS

The project manager is responsible for controlling a project's requirements. To start the process of managing requirements the project manager works with the team to create a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS).

A couple of things to keep in mind regarding a WBS are:

A WBS should identify the level tasks to be completed, and relate to the project’s deliverables.

The customer(s), project sponsor, and stakeholders are actively involved in creating the WBS.

The WBS helps avoid future "scope creep".

As you can see the WBS is an important project artifact. The WBS accomplishes several things:

It assists the project team to identify and create specific work packages

It is another way of communicating the project's objectives to the team

It is the foundation for future project planning and activity sequencing

In closing, a WBS summarizes deliverables, shows work relationships, helps the team to estimate costs and perform risk analysis, and assists the team to identify project assumptions and dependencies.

The WBS is your friend. Start taking time to create one for every project.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Business Process Mapping

Does your organization perform business process mapping? Mapping of business processes is important if you want to understand what is happening. Mapping your "as is" processes tells you a lot about what you may already know, but also a lot about what you don't know.

When you begin to map your processes, you will start to see the activities, products, information, and decisions being made that support the process.

Some reasons to map your business processes are:

Mapping the "as is" processes will assist your team when doing detailed analysis

Helps to identify process ownership, and identifies the roles that support the process

Helps to show the difference between cycle time and value-added time

Helps to measure process performance

Helps to identify problem areas to address

Establishes performance baselines when creating "to be" processes

Identifies process bottlenecks, and disconnects

Shows relationships between activities and products

NOTE: When looking at what processes to model, the processes that cross functional business areas should be addressed first.

Three principles to keep in mind when process modeling are (in this order):

Eliminate wasted time and work

Consolidate efforts where possible

Automate (where it adds value)

When process mapping we are always asking questions like "why are we doing this", "why are we not doing that", "can this step be eliminated, consolidated, automated", "can we do this step/sub-process better, faster, smarter, cheaper”? Business process mapping can help your organization to operate more efficiently and respond to change faster, which ultimately will lead to improved customer satisfaction.

For more information be sure to Google "Business Process Mapping" or "Business Process Modeling"

Friday, April 22, 2005

Project Management Basics

To improve your project management results you need to look back over your organization's project management successes and failures. In doing so patterns or trends will emerge that will help you pinpoint areas for improvement. Research in the area of project management has shown the following simple steps can lead to radical improvements in your project management results.

Here are some ideas:

When starting a project a core team of competent, motivated people must be assigned as early as possible to the project and kept on the project until the end.

The project manager is held responsible for managing the success of the team and for motivating and monitoring the team's performance.

The project manager position needs to be a full-time position with documented job responsibilities.

The organization must ensure that the project manager is held responsible for the success or failure of the project.

The project sponsor's organization and/or the end user group(s) are responsible for defining the specifications of the project's product. This is not a project manager's responsibility, however the project manager works to coordinate these activities.

A project plan (word document) needs to be developed with the cooperation of the core team.
Developing the project plan is the responsibility of the team, not just the project manager.

A lessons learned/project close-out meeting needs to be held at the end of every project to determine if the project objectives were met and to identify project management process improvements for future projects.

A communications plan must be developed for the project, and kept up-to-date.

There are many other items we could add to this list, but the ones listed here are vital if an organization wants to have any success at managing projects.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Communicating with Discretion and Tact

How are your project communications? How do others perceive you? How do you perceive yourself as a communicator?

Let us review some rules of communication that will help us better manage our projects.

When making presentations know your:

OBJECTIVE – Goal, Purpose, Destination

LISTENER – Know facts about the group, the group expectations, the key people

APPROACH – Premise, Strategy, Theme, Pay-off for the Listener

When speaking with others one-on-one, use statements that show you are concerned about them. Remember the three “A”s when communicating.

APPRECIATING – Show appreciation for the other person’s problem or situation

Examples: “I appreciate you bringing this to my attention”
“Thank you for letting me know that”

ACKNOWLEDGING – This lets the other person know that you hear them

Example: "I can understand…”
“I sorry to hear that..."

ASSURING – Lets the other person know that you will help

Example: “This will be taken care of…”
“I will see to that personally.”

Some thoughts to ponder…

Project Managers that do not communicate effectively at the right times are destined to fail.

Poor communication skills have derailed many a career.

More than likely you will never be told that your communications skills are lacking.

Every project needs to have a written communication plan.

In closing, there are many good resources available to help us all improve our communication skills. A couple of books you might consider are: “The Four Agreements” and the “Seven Survival Skills for a Reengineered World”.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Conflict in Negotiations

In the book "Field Guide to Project Management" by David I Cleland, there is a discusson on page 282 about "Conflict in Negotiations". As the book mentions, PMI (the Project Management Institute) outlines eight project management functions that can be a source of conflict.

To paraphrase from the book, the areas are:

Scope: what is to be done (results, products, services)

Quality: what measures, what steps to be taken

Cost: financial outcomes, savings, ROI

Time: deadlines, resources, when complete

Risk: what risks are accepted, avoided, deflected

Human Resources: what resources, what skills, availability, competency

Contract/Procurement: cost, requirements/specifications, when, how, what, where

Communciations: when, how, to whom, contains what

There are several ways to approach handling conflict (see the Guide to the PMBOK), however the important point to keep in mind is we must confront the issue(s)and work with the individuals or groups to come to a win/win outcome.

Unresolved conflict can often lead to bitterness and resentment, which can linger and rise up later to sabatoge your project.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

When Project Managers Attack!

As a project manager I have had my share of frustrations over the course of my career. Some days while working on certain projects I feel like why bother. I get to the point of thinking, if others don't care about the project's objectives, why should I? I can only give one good reason why the project manager should care about their projects; THAT IS WHAT WE GET PAID TO DO!

Certainly there are other reasons to care: a sense of ownership, responsibility to our customers, a commitment to finish what we started, personal pride, professional integrity, because it is the right thing to do, because others are counting on us, because as leaders we must always do what is expected, etc, etc, etc...

Project managers wear many hats. We are members of teams, leaders of teams, we are followers, we are stakeholders, we are fiscal planners, we are risk managers, risk takers, planners, schedulers, mentors, quality assurance reps, writers, motivators, listeners, we are empathetic, we are sympathetic, we demonstrate common sense when others don't, we demonstrate a fair and balanced approach to problems, and lots more.... You get the idea. You can see why we are sometimes frustrated. You can see why we need to be as professional as we can all the time.

I have communicated with many people that read this blog, and there is a lot of frustration out there in the Project Management world. The consensus seems to be that yes, there are organizations that do a good job of Project Management and have a great support structure for their project managers. But, it seems that a large majority of organizations don't do a very good job implementing and/or supporting project management, and according to what I hear, quite a few do a terrible job.

In many organizations the project manager position (if one exists) isn't viewed as a profession, but a job that can be performed by virtually anyone in the organization. That can be frustrating for those of us that consider ourselves to be professionals. We all get frustrated sometimes no matter what job we have. We all feel like we aren’t being supported which can lead us to believe that we are being “setup to fail”.

You know what, we all get paid to do a job, and sometimes the job isn't easy, fun, or structured the way we would like. If our managers value us as individuals then they should be willing to hear our ideas about what we need to be successful.

Keep in mind; the project manager can’t be successful on his or her own. They need a management structure in place that is committed to seeing Project Management succeed. Management must at least agree that Project Management adds or can add Value. Management must be able to state the Value that Project Management is adding or should be adding to the organization. If management can’t do that then you probably need to find a new place to work. It is that important.

As you probably know by reading this blog I usually try to reinforce the basics of Project Management, and today won't be any different.

Rule #1 - Team Conflict hurts Projects!

Team members need to remember that they must manage their departmental responsibilities as well as their project tasks to support the project to which they are assigned. Their management needs to assist the team members in setting priorities so that the project work doesn't suffer when the departmental work becomes more important.

Rule 2 - Management Apathy Hurts Projects!

All levels of impacted management must remember that if they are not engaged and interested in a project's success then their lack of support is a major contributor to project failure.

Rule #3 - Poor Planning Hurts Projects!

Project Management can only work when the project manager is given time to plan properly. Also, the project sponsor must explain the project's objectives clearly, and most importantly, obtain the entire team's commitment to meet the all of the project's objectives (this is a critical planning component). Simple project management principle: If you Fail to Plan, then you Plan to Fail. The failure to allow enough time for proper project planning is the sponsor's fault.

Keep fighting the Good Fight!

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Loose Lips Sink Ships!

Have you ever heard of the "Three Ships to Success"? The one that is considered the best to have and/or demonstrate is Kinship. Kinship requires that you take time to nurture and build your relationships to make them stronger. The second ship is Sponsorship. This requires that a senior person in your organization take a personal interest in your career and your success. The third ship is Showmanship. This ship is your ability to delight and amaze your superiors, peers, and subordinates with your abilities and talents. While the three ships are important, without ability, skill, and knowledge the three ships will not take you very far.

While you work on your "three ships", keep in mind that if you work in a highly political environment you need to work on the following:

Don't criticize others.
Use data to back up your claims and don't exaggerate your needs or your customer's requirements.
Try to understand the political process where you work no matter how hard that may be.
Understand that many rules are out of date, no longer make sense, are not enforced, and are often ignored. Use this to your advantage, but never at the expense of another person, group, or your organization's reputation.
Prove yourself through your efforts, not by talking about what you once did.
Be respectful of others. Keep in mind they determine if you are treating them with respect, not you.
Be reasonable (this can be difficult). Note - I'm not sure who determines reasonableness.

On a personal note, I have never liked or performed up to my highest potential in highly political environments. The things I have listed above are weaknesses of mine and are things I need to work on to be a better project manager.

Remember relationships based on personal preference and personal styles are often major contributors to highly political organizations. Lastly, keep in mind the perceived and demonstrated values of your organization will drive the politics.

Rule of the day, the Three Ships of Success can help you to overcome political hurdles.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Project Management - Don't Do These Things

Don’t believe everything you are told about a potential project’s benefits. Investigate for yourself and plan accordingly.

Don’t take on a project that doesn’t have a strong sponsor that is committed to seeing the project succeed.

Don't forget that most project assumptions should also be risks.

Don't set project expectations that are higher than reality can deliver.

Don't try to define reality too early in the project planning phase.

Don’t define solutions that do not address needs.

Don’t forget to manage customer expectations.

Don’t forget to thank your team members for the good job they are doing.

Don’t be a whiner. A leader never whines and a whiner never leads.

Don’t forget that leaders need to have credibility.

Don’t forget that credibility requires honesty, dedication, commitment, and capability.

Don’t forget that people are the number one reason for project failure.

Don’t forget that empowering teams is a management function.

Don’t allow others to influence your attitude. Be positive in the face of adversity.

Don’t forget to have fun while working on your projects.

Don’t forget that Project Management is mostly art and some science.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Four Project Principles - Don't believe the Hype!

As I was reminded recently, it is always good to go back to the basics of what you know when confronted with issues that seem overwhelming.

Here are four basic Project Principles and some of my ideas regarding what to watch out for when managing your projects. As always, I welcome your feedback.

E-mail me at

(1) Projects are often constrained from the start (Initiation Phase) by a fixed, finite budget and defined timeline. In other words, many projects have budgets that have strictly defined constraints and a timeline with a set start and end date. This is obvious to all project managers, however what is not so obvious is many times these budget and timelines are not sufficient (or realistic) to accomplish the project’s objectives. From the start, ensure the project sponsor is aware that budget and timelines may need to be renegotiated as project planning progresses.

(2) Projects can have many complex and interrelated activities that need to be coordinated so that proper organizational resources can be applied at the proper time. The big thing to watch out for here is "proper organizational resources". While you may not have input on which resources you get for your project, you do have input on the project’s estimates and schedule. Do not allow others to dictate unrealistic schedules or estimates for resources that are unproven, unreliable or untested.

(3) Projects are directed toward the attainment of a clearly defined objective(s) and once they are achieved, the project is over. Yea, right! Not all projects have clearly defined objectives, and if they do, they are not always achievable given the budget, time, and organizational constraints. Not only that, your organization’s culture can be a huge impediment to successfully managing your project. Be very careful when accepting a new project to ensure you are not being setup to fail. Do not accept projects with unclear or unrealistic objectives.

(4) Projects are unique. Because they are unique, the risks are great and failure is always an option. Minimize the risks by informing your sponsor that until you are finished with your initial project planning activities you may not be able to provide realistic budget and time estimates. Once you have completed your initial project planning activities, (project planning is continuous) provide your sponsor with an estimated budget and time range, and remind him or her that as planning progresses these ranges will be adjusted to closer reflect reality.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Strategic Planning and Other Myths

Are your completed projects adding value to the organization? Was an ROI calculated for the project during or prior to Project Initiation? Did the project benefits ever come to fruition?

Virtually all projects - unless mandated by law or born out of technical or business necessity - should either reduce costs or increase efficiency. One way to ensure the organization will be working on the right projects at the right time is to involve the executives up front in aligning, prioritizing, and ranking proposed projects, and then ensuring they link to the Strategic Plan. If the proposed projects do not align to your organizations strategic goals then they should not be undertaken.

If your organization is good at Strategic Planning, you can avoid many of the traps that plague most organizations.

Poor Strategic Planning Traits:

There is no formal document that links the organization's projects to the organization’s strategic goals and plan.

Senior Management is not engaged in strategic planning, which leads to complaining later about how long it takes to get projects completed and frustration over why certain projects were cancelled or not started.

Projects are started without enough resources or have poorly qualified resources assigned to them.

Many projects that are completed do not achieve any improvements and actually end up costing the organization more money than if they had not undertaken the project.

Project priorities continually change, and resources are always in flux or in conflict with competing organizational needs

Project Managers have low morale and are pessimistic about achieving their project objectives

Executives have set measures that relate to their silos, which can conflict with what is best for the organization

Business plans ignore systems that are broken or in need or repair/replacement

Poor strategic planning almost always leads to undertaking wasteful projects. Even a good strategic plan will not be successful if the organization does not have the right people, tools, and data in place to support the organization's goals.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Project Management Websites

Today's posting includes some hyperlinks to a few Project Management websites. I use these sites on occasion and they all have something of value for the Project Manager. On a side note, some of the sites are government related, technology related, or process oriented.

In many cases you may need to do a search on "Project Management" to find what you are looking for.


Minnesota Office of Technology

PM Boulevard


TenStep Project Management Process

American Society for the Advancement of Project Management

Florida State Technology Office

Tech Republic

Software Program Manager's Network

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Good, Short Article on Project Failure

Click here for a good article on Project Failure. I would also add that your Project Management Processes, if poorly designed, can be a contributing factor in project failure.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Stupid Things Project Managers (and others) Say!

Quality Planning is only concerned about the number of bugs/problems in the final product.

The delivery date is going to slip because we have learned about new requirements.

Projects are always late and over budget. We shouldn't worry.

We can't predict our final costs because the requirements are changing.

The estimate is in line with management expectations.

Our schedule is good because we used a project-scheduling tool.

We can always add people to meet the deadline.

We are behind schedule because the customer can't make up their minds.

We can cut our testing time to make the delivery date.

Good people make up for bad processes.

Our process is good because it is repeatable.

If they quit we can quickly hire someone to take their place.

We don't involve the people doing the work in estimating because that will increase costs. Besides, they will just inflate/pad their estimates.

Using a Tool is not a Risk.

The sooner we begin coding the more successful we will be.

We will save more by reusing code, not architecture.

We will worry about the cost of maintenance later. There is no time now.

If it doesn't work we will fix it when we have time.

We don't need to document because we put comments in our code.

Technical people don't like to write documentation and we shouldn't insist that they do. Besides, they are terrible writers.

You can't blame the Project Manager. How were they supposed to know?

All of the problems we have been having our 's fault.

Trust me; we will deliver everything you want on time and at or under budget.

I think you get the idea. As Project Managers, we were hired to tell the truth and include the good, the bad, and the ugly in our status reports. Sugar coating project issues and problems for management will only get us in trouble later. Don't make excuses. Use status reports, e-mail, voice mail, and most importantly face-to-face meetings to relay project status. Don't be afraid to deliver bad news. Just make sure when you present management with issues and problems with your project you have a plan to get it back on track.

Be Responsible, take Ownership, and most importantly, be Trustworthy.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Constructive Behavior

Many of us deal with difficult people using the age-old adage of an "eye for an eye". If we are snubbed, we ignore the other person. If we are disrespected, we in turn show disrespect. If someone cheats us, we cheat them. This mentality is not only self-destructive, but is damaging to the career of a project manager.

When we reciprocate with bad behavior against another, nothing is resolved. By reverting to negative behavior we have fallen into a lose/lose relationship where nobody wins, and we do as much damage to ourselves as we perceive we do to others. What can we do when we feel bombarded by the negative attacks? There are several things we can do to avoid the trap of reciprocating rudeness with rudeness.

I suggest that you read a couple of books I have found to be enlightening. The first is Stephen Covey's "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" and the other is "Love is the Killer App" by Tim Sanders. Both books offer powerful insight into the human condition and more importantly offer critical advice you can use everyday in all of your relationships.

Some things to be aware of when dealing with others:

Be aware of the Perceptions others hold about you

Keep a balance between your Emotions and your Actions

Seek first to Understand, then be Understood (Stephen Covey Habit)

Be an Active Listener

Diagnose before prescribing

Consult with others you trust before making important decisions

Be Trustworthy

Don't Coerce, but Persuade

Accept the fact that some people will just be Unreasonable

Be the Solution, not the Problem

The best times in life and the worst times are usually tied to our relationships. Do not be a victim of your relationships, but an example of how others should act.

Monday, January 31, 2005

More random thoughts

The last several months have been challenging for me as a project manager. In fact, if I think about it my entire career in project management has been a challenge. Some days are better than others, but as I look back over the last eighteen years I'm glad I chose the profession of project management.

Over the course of my career I have met many people that call themselves project managers, but when questioned about their processes, they don't have much to say. Without a repeatable project management process in place, I'm not sure what you are doing, but it isn't project management.

You will find as I have that many people are promoted to have the title of project manager because of their organizational, business, or communication skills. Others are promoted because they are a highly valued employee and with good technical skills, but their personality isn't geared towards managing people. For project managers to be successful, keep in mind what I have repeated in the past - focus on process, communications and results in everything you do. Any person that is well skilled in these three areas will be successful in what ever endeavor they seek.

As PMI says, project management is both a science and an art. We must continually improve our skills (Sharpen the Saw) and always be aware of our communications. Dealing effectively with challenges and adversity will ultimately define who we are as project managers (god or bad). More times that not you will be judged and assessed on your personality, not your performance. Keep that thought in mind when dealing with your peers, your manager, and your customers.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Skills, Reputation, and Performance

As with any profession, your career prospects improve with ever increasing skills. Project Managers must have the skills to do the job, but also must have success in managing projects. One key to success in any field is to set goals. Ensure that your manager has bought into your goals and will use them as a basis of your performance review.

We must be ever mindful that our reputation affects our careers. A good reputation is earned and takes years of effort. You must be known first as trustworthy, an effective team leader, a person that works well with others, and for your resourcefulness. A project manager's job is unique because not only do we have to be great communicators, but we must also manage to the triple constraints. In addition, we must instill confidence with those we work with, and let them know that our project’s objectives are attainable, relevant, and important to the success of the organization.

When you take on a new project people’s perceptions will be based upon your performance, your results, and your communications. This falls in line with my view which says that all employees (including those at the top) should be measured (equally) on the Processes they use, the Results they achieve, and their Communications. What good are results when you have violated many or all of your department's/organization’s processes or have communicated poorly, which caused descent and ill will among your peers? Results are always important, but not at the expense of Process and Communications.

Remember, you don't need a high profile to succeed. You can achieve more with a very low, but exceptionally successful profile. You will know you are on the right track when management comes to you with the really hard work that needs to be done quickly, but efficiently without sacrificing you or your manager's integrity.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Don't take it Personally

Many people have fallen into a bad habit of taking things too personally because they want to protect the smaller picture (self) instead of the big picture (other people, relationships, the situation, and sometimes the truth). How do we get through the times where having a positive attitude seems impossible? Well, we can always choose to act as if the positive feelings/attitudes are still there. It is that simple, and it is always our choice.

We choose all of our feelings and actions. No one else is at fault for what we think, what we feel, and how we act. As Project Managers we can't let others dictate how we feel about ourselves. Project Managers by nature need to have thick skin and can't let the opinions of a few dictate how we feel and act.

It isn't a radical idea to believe that we can choose how to behave, regardless of how we feel. Additionally, by changing our behavior we might just discover that behaving differently can change how we feel. This changing of behavior knocks aside the notion that feelings help us find truth, especially when we are trying to assess an important business or life situation.

I feel that the old saying "Perception is Reality" is destructive. Many people act solely on what they perceive. Perception is only Perception. We can argue about what Reality is, or is not, but basing Reality on what we perceive can really screw up Reality for us and everybody else.

Mental Note for Slow Learners: Sometimes it seems like you can't change anything. Sometimes by changing yourself you change everything.

Monday, January 10, 2005

To the Idiot Mobile!

Here we go on another project journey. You have met with your stakeholders and all of them are in agreement as to where the project is going (objectives), what the journey will look like to get to the project’s destination (plan), and what can be expected when the project is complete (deliverables). But wait, your project (like a journey in a car) has been taken over by somebody else and is now out of your control. You have just found yourself in the back seat (no longer driving and in control) of the Project Idiot Mobile. You discover quickly that it is careening out of control and you are on a white-knuckle ride to who knows where. What do you do?

I have taken a ride in the Idiot Mobile more than once and here are some tips you can use to avoid this mind-numbing ride.

Be the Leader of the Team From the Start. Control the keys of the Idiot Mobile and don’t let anyone drive it and make sure you always leave it in the garage. Don’t assume anything unless it is documented in your project charter’s assumptions section. Don't allow stakeholders to take over your project and direct it onto a path that wasn't agreed upon in the Project Charter.

Understand Politics is a Way of Life on Your Project. Understand you will have to deal with people who don't want you to succeed. As Tom Peters said be aware that your project can fail because of "...people that are envious, people who feel their turf is being invaded, people who have a b-i-g stake in the status quo, people who are just plain afraid of change. Therefore, you will need ... Herculian (Clintonian) political skills to ... nuetralize ... finesse...and in some cases just plain outsmart-surround-coopt ... these naysayers".

Have Thick Skin. Be smart up front and try to recognize who will be unsupportive of your efforts. Be prepared with a response. Be able to accept criticism and bounce back quickly. Know when you are on the wrong path and get on the right path quickly.

Make Strong Allies with Those that Have the Power. Remember that those with the power make the decisions. A good project manager is a good politician, and also keep in mind that Politics is The Art of Getting Things Done.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Project Ethics

An ethical Project Manager is a successful Project Manager. The PMI has established a Professional Code of Ethics that all Project Management Professionals (PMP) must adhere to. These ethics are meant to ensure that all PMPs abide by a set of values, and they live up to those values in pursuit of their careers.

Project Ethics won't ensure you are a successful project manager, however not behaving ethically will almost always ensure your project will fail. As stated in the PMI Code of conduct, which in my opinion is the most important ethical behavior, a project manager must accept responsibility for his or her actions. This means admitting to all your stakeholders when you are wrong, learning from your mistakes, and putting actions into place that will help you to avoid making the same mistake twice.

A project manager is responsible for all activities that occur or fail to occur on their project. It is unethical for a project manager to blame others for mistakes that were clearly the fault of the project manager.

Do you have the ethics to accept and take responsibility for your mistakes? Are you willing to do this in the face of your harshest critics? If not, you need to leave the project management profession because you aren’t a mature, responsible professional, and as such you are hurting the profession of Project Management.