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Monday, March 30, 2009

Free Project Software

In case you didn’t know, there are a couple of free software packages available that fit nicely into the Project Managers tool box. The first is Control CE 6.3. The vendor states that this free program can be used for Process Mapping, Business Improvement, Business Reengineering, Software Package Implementation, and Quality Management.

The vendor goes on to say “Whatever the project, it all starts with an understanding of the business from a process and metrics perspective. That means mapping processes, and identifying KPIs. To get REAL ownership and buy-in they need to be developed in LIVE workshops. Control-CE was designed to be used confidently by consultants with little training, in live workshops where people have a short interest span.
Whilst control-CE has some great process mapping functionality, it extends beyond simply creating hierarchies of diagrams”.

I have reviewed and used the Control CE software and find that it is quite powerful and worth a look.

The other free software program is Open Workbench. According to the vendor, “Open Workbench is an open source desktop application that provides robust project scheduling and management functionality. Already the scheduling standard for more than 100,000 project managers worldwide, Open Workbench is a free and powerful alternative to Microsoft Project.

Open Workbench provides all the functionality and benefits that project managers expect in a world-class scheduling application:

• Open Workbench can be used and distributed free of charge throughout an enterprise.

• Open Workbench is a stand-alone desktop application that provides robust project scheduling functionality.

• Open Workbench provides the unique ability to generate project schedules based on resource constraints.

• Open source developers will find a ready-made community of business users interested in their enhancements and extensions.

The source code and other developer information are available on SourceForge.

The open source distribution and community development model will now bring quality, innovation and cost advantages to the project management world. Open Workbench can also be used in a fully integrated fashion with CA's Clarity solution. Please visit for more details.

I have found Open Workbench to be a powerful standalone project management scheduling software package. Again, you will have to determine if Open Workbench's features and functions can work for you.

Hopefully some of you will find one or both of the above software packages useful. Your comments are always welcome.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

My Rules for Project Management

Remove people from your team that don’t ask questions, don’t talk with other team members, won’t provide documentation, or won’t do analysis.

Only people that aren’t competent won’t show off their work

Question authority or live with the result

A sense of humor can help get teams through tough times. Keep in mind, some managers don’t appreciate humor unless they initiate it.

A working meeting should have no more than five people. Meetings with more than five should be reserved for providing updates or relaying information.

Paper status reports are worth what they are printed on.

Project failure is planned at the beginning of the project. Project initiation is the most important phase.

Be honest in all your dealings.

Project managers are expected to offer their opinions, but be accountable for your words.

When it comes to project scope, what is not in writing has not been said.

Have verifiable milestones

End of project surveys must be completed and the results distributed to the team

Bad conclusions lead to more bad conclusions

Documented assumptions are believed to be true for planning purposes

The best lessons learned come from failures

Without data you only have an opinion

Data doesn’t tell the whole story.

Bad data leads to bad decisions

Senior management is usually clueless when it comes to what your project is all about

A bad project team will never deliver good project results

If your project sponsor isn’t responsive you should put your project on-hold until such time they can become involved

The bottleneck is at the top of the bottle

A project manager’s main job is to keep the customer happy

At the end of a project if you have met all scope, quality, budget, and schedule objectives, but the customer isn’t happy your project is a failure

Documentation doesn’t replace knowledge

Most people want to do good work. Many times they don’t have the tools or information they need to perform well, or they aren’t managed properly

Project managers aren’t successful if their team members aren’t successful

Not all successful project managers are competent and not all unsuccessful project managers are incompetent. Sometimes you just have to be lucky

Good project managers are insecure by nature

An introvert can’t be a (successful) project manager

A project manager with lots of enemies won’t be able to be successful over the long run.

You must be a relationship guru and be ready to fall on the sword sometimes

A project manager must be a motivator

If you don’t listen, you can’t plan

Project managers deal with change. You must be the change agent for your project. Your project sponsor is the change salesman.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Business Process Basics

Project managers need to ensure that customer's are satisfied with a project's deliverables. Part of this process is ensuring that the customer's business processes are optimized. You can't provide the best possible project results if your customer's processes aren't efficient. Improving processes is about improving quality while reducing costs and waste.

Processes need measures. If you don't have measures then your processes aren't worth the paper they are printed on. Processes have to meet the needs of the organization, business unit that executes them, and the customer's requirements. Measures also help to identify and solve process problems, and help to ensure they are meeting the customer's requirements.

When it comes to process improvement, a good project manager understands:

How to develop team skills

How to break down work into processes

How to solve problems and to find the root cause of the problems

How to recommend solutions to problems that are acceptable to the majority

How to lead a team and when to let the team lead

Measure the effectiveness of a process by:

Looking at the cycle times between process steps

Identifying bottlenecks that cause unnecessary delays

Identify problems that cause defects to occur

In order to help develop good business processes, a project manager must have the knowledge, skills, and experience to ensure that the right people are doing the right things at the right time, using the right tools and delivering the results that are expected.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Use a Process to Manage Big Changes

Good steps to consider when making major changes in your organization. It was taken from the book "Leading Change" by John P. Kotter (see source information at the end of the posting).

1. Establishing a Sense of Urgency
a. Examining the market and competitive realities
b. Identifying and discussing crises, potential crises, or major opportunities

2. Creating the Guiding Coalition
a. Putting together a group with enough power to lead the change
b. Getting the group to work together as a team

3. Developing a Vision and Strategy
a. Creating a vision to help direct the change effort
b. Developing strategies for achieving that vision

4. Communicating the Change Vision
a. Using every vehicle possible to constantly communicate the new vision and strategies
b. Having the guiding coalition role model the behavior expected of employees

5. Empowering Broad-Based Action
a. Getting rid of obstacles
b. Changing systems or structures that undermine the change vision
c. Encouraging risk taking and non-traditional ideas, activities, and actions

6. Generating Short-Term Wins
a. Planning for visible improvements in performance, or “wins”
b. Creating those wins
c. Visibly recognizing and rewarding people who made the wins possible

7. Consolidating Gains and Producing More Change
a. Using increased credibility to change all systems, structures, and policies that don’t fit together and don’t fit the transformation vision
b. Hiring, promoting, and developing people who can implement the change vision
c. Reinvigorating the process with new projects, themes, and change agents

8. Anchoring New Approaches in the Culture
a. Creating better performance through customer and productivity-oriented behavior, more an better leadership, and more effective management
b. Articulating the connections between new behaviors and organizational success
c. Developing means to ensure leadership development and succession

SOURCE: Adapted from John P. Kotter, “Leading Change,” Harvard Business School Press 1996

Friday, March 13, 2009

Office Politics and Gossip

- This Soviet war poster conveys the message:
"Don't chatter! Gossiping borders on treason" (1941).

According to Marilyn Haight, at Office Politics “is the use of one's individual or assigned power within an employing organization for the purpose of obtaining advantages beyond one's legitimate authority.” Those advantages may include access to tangible assets, or intangible benefits such as status or pseudo-authority that influences the behavior of others. Both individuals and groups may engage in Office Politics."

I think most people would agree that those participating in office politics seek to gain an advantage. Being a skillful office politician may get you recognized or promoted, but it may also come at the expense of your or another’s integrity.

Remember, gossip is usually destructive (at a minimum unfair) to somebody, and should be discouraged whenever possible. If we are honest, we would all admit that we participate in office gossip. We need to limit office gossip to be the exception, not the norm in our daily conversations with others.

Be accountable for your words in the workplace. Work should be fun and our work relationships should be positive and healthy. Healthy work relationships are dependent on gossip being kept to a minimum.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

These Tips are Essential Right Now!

The quotes from Tom Peters below are very relevant in today's world. I have bolded the ones I like, and feel are the most important. Tom is one of my personal heroes, and I can't wait to read his new book.

Check out his website for free copies of some great documentation and for more information about all his books.

In any public-sector business, you must become an avid student of "the politics," the incentives and constraints, mostly non-economic, facing all of the players. Politicians are usually incredibly logical if you (deeply!) understand the matrix in which they exist.

Risk Assessment & Risk Management is more about stories than advanced math i.e., brilliant scenario construction.

Don't waste your time on jerks, it'll rarely work out in the mid- to long-term.

Under promise (i.e., don't over-promise; i.e., cut yourself a little slack) even if it costs you business; winning is a long-term affair. Over-promising is Sign #1 of a lack of integrity. You will pay the piper.

There is such a thing as a "good loss", if you have tested something new and developed good relationships. A half-dozen honorable, ingenious losses over a two-year period can pave the way for a Big Victory in a New Space in year 3.

Keep it simple! (Damn it!) No matter how "sophisticated" the product. If you can't explain it in a phrase, a page, or to your 14-year-old ... you haven't got it right yet.

Don't hold grudges. (It is the ultimate in small mindedness, and incredibly wasteful and ineffective. There is always tomorrow.)

Little People often have Big Friends!

Work hard beats work smart. (Mostly)

Phones beat email.

Obsess on ROIR (Return On Investment In Relationships).

Scoring off other people is stupid. Winners are always in the business of creating the maximum # of winners among adversaries at least as much as among partners.

Your colleagues' successes are your successes. Period.

Lend a helping hand, especially when you don't have the time.

Don't get too hung up on "systems integration", first & foremost, the individual bits have got to work.

For Gods sake don't over promise on systems integration it's nigh on impossible to deliver.

It's Relationships, Stupid; Deep and from multiple functions.

Don't over-schedule. Running late is inexcusable at any level of seniority; it is the ultimate mark of self-importance mixed with contempt.

"Preparing the soil" is the first 98 percent. (Or more.)

Be kind. It works.

Opportunism (with a little forethought) mostly wins.

"Reward excellent failures. Punish mediocre successes."

Integrity. Credibility. Humanity. Grace.

Strategic planning is the last refuge of scoundrels

Focus groups are counter-productive

All information making it to the top is filtered to the point of danger and hilarity

"Success stories are the illusions of egomaniacs (and "gurus")

If you believe the "cause & effect" memoirs of CEOs, you should be institutionalized

"Top teams" are "Dittoheads"

"Expert" prediction is rarely better than rolling the dice

Statistically, CEOs have little effect on performance

Success kills

Monday, March 09, 2009

Important Words

Important Words for the Workplace

The six most important words: "I admit I made a mistake"

The five most important words: "You did a great job."

The four most important words: "What is your opinion?

The three most important words: "If you please"

The two most important words: "Thank You"

The one most important word: "We"

The least important word: "I"

Important Words for Relationships

The six most important words: "I admit I made a mistake"

The five most important words: "You are everything to me"

The four most important words: "How can I help?"

The three most important words: "I love you"

The two most important words: "I'm sorry"

The one most important word: "Us"

The least important word: "I"

Friday, March 06, 2009

Commitment, Not Authority Gets Results

While getting ready to leave for the day I was reminded of a quote by Tom Peters, "Commitment, not authority produces results". All project stakeholders need to be committed to seeing that a project's objectives are met, but more importantly they need to be open, effective, and honest when it comes to their communications with the other team members and management.

To support the project team and ensure their success, management must provide the best people to participate on project teams, and have a deep seated belief that the people on the team are intelligent, creative, and have the capability to succeed.

The entire project team and all levels of management involved must have the attitude that they will do everything possible to ensure that the customer (end user) is satisfied with the product of the project.

The number one measure of project success is customer satisfaction. Having a set of "shared values" will help a project team increase customer satisfaction for every project they support.


Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Project Managment Culture

Moving your organization to embrace a “project management culture” takes time and patience. A great first step an organization can take is to ensure that their project leaders are trained and fluent in the discipline of Project Management. Also, and most importantly, senior management must understand and embrace the value of project management, and commit to support the process of implementing project management throughout all levels of the organization.

To help change the organizational culture to one that embraces and values project management, it should fund and support the development of a project office, which can help facilitate rolling out this “project management culture”.

Some first steps that should be taken:

Clearly define the roles and responsibilities of existing project managers and project support personnel

Develop a basic project management training plan for the entire organization to familiarize all with the project management verbiage and practices

Identify and provide specialized advanced training for all project leaders and functional managers

Develop a project management office (PMO) to provide enterprise coaching, and to develop and manage your organization’s project management methodology

In addition to the methodology, the PMO should develop and maintain standard project management templates for the organization to use

Ensure that existing projects are audited and meet your organization’s minimum project management standards

Setup a program where your PMO provides coaching to less experienced project managers and oversight of all enterprise projects

Ensure all projects have Lessons Learned captured

There are many more things that can be added to the list above, but the intent of this posting was to get people thinking about ways to change the Project Management Culture where they work.

To learn more, you can review the book entitled “Advanced Project Portfolio Management and the PMO” on There is a link to purchase the book on the left hand side of the blog.