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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Leadership Defined. Period.


“Leadership is the art of accomplishing more than the science of management says is possible.” - Colin Powell

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Project Success


It has been said, you are only as successful as your last project. In my organization a project was recently implemented that was deemed a great success by the project manager while many excluded stakeholders deemed the project a failure. How could this happen? To summarize, the project was poorly planned, poorly documented, and communications were severely lacking. Also, the project was initiated in such a way that it purposely excluded key stakeholders so as to avoid a potential conflict.

Unfortunately, this project perfectly displays project management immaturity and inflexibility. It reinforces my stance to never allow weak project managers that have a history of poor communications and a "go it alone" mentality to manage a project. Past bad behavior can often be an indicator of future behavior.

Friday, August 21, 2009

To the Idiot Mobile! (Rewind)

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 ... Herculean (Clintonian) political skills to ... neutralize ... finesse...and in some cases just plain outsmart-surround-co opt ... 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, August 18, 2009

The Project Sponsor - Good and Bad (Rewind)

Most projects cross departmental or enterprise lines of authority, and many projects get funding from more than one source. We all should know that projects are temporary endeavors undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result. It is the temporary nature and uniqueness of projects that make the job of the project manager so difficult. Project managers must work with different groups of people (stakeholders) to meet project objectives, and usually don't have any much authority to get stakeholders to perform the project work. A strong project sponsor can help the project manager address the people issues (and many more project issues that will arise).

A project sponsor's role is to help make project decisions (formal authority), and he or she is ultimately responsible for the project's success. The sponsor comes from the executive or senior management ranks (depending on the size of the project) and should be influential, a respected politician, and have a track record for getting things done. You don't want a "Political Shark" for a sponsor.

The sponsors authority and stature should be such that they are independent as much as possible of the project's goals and objectives so they can cut through the political landscape to get critical project decisions made.

Sponsors don't just support projects; they support the project manager and project team. They are the project champion and won't allow others to sabotage the project manager, the project team, or the project's goals. They have authority that comes from their title and position within the organization. In order for sponsors to be effective they must have organizational respect, proven leadership qualities, and be honest in their dealings. As mentioned before, they aren't political sharks, they are adept at rallying the troops (project team and stakeholders), presenting a clear message, and are supportive of the project manager.

Ideal Sponsor Responsibilities

Writes the Project Charter

Help to define project team roles and responsibilities

Acts as an advisor to the project manager

Removes obstacles

Has control of project funding

Reviews and Approves any Statements of Work/Contracts and Planning Documents

Bad Sponsor Characteristics

Always too busy to meet with the project manager and project team

Doesn't have time to write a project charter

Won't get involved in assigning project roles and responsibilities

Doesn't have time to approve documents, or delegates all sponsor responsibility to others.

Blames others when things go wrong, and/or won't work to resolve project issues

Always takes credit for any project success

Is surprised when the project's deliverables aren't what they expected

A bad sponsor is a project manager's worst nightmare. Avoid them at all costs if possible.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Dysfunction Junction


I have worked in, around and for IT organizations for most of my career, and it still amazes me how poorly these groups communicate. Why do IT departments believe they aren’t accountable? Why won’t they communicate and form real partnerships (not pretend relationships). Why doesn’t IT management realize that in regards to IT tools and services many times perception is reality? Look at just about any survey, most IT tools and services are rated poorly by those that pay for them. Why? My answer is poor project management practices delivered through a dysfunctional organization.

What Does Dysfunction Look Like?

When you go to meetings, pretend to listen then walk away and criticize those you just met with, that is dysfunction

When you pretend to trust others, but look for ways to poke holes in their beliefs, that is dysfunction

When you reward mediocrity…dysfunction

When you create something that has questionable value yet hold it up as something awesome….hyper-dysfunction

When you support and encourage weak "leaders" that cause upheaval and mayhem …you have dysfunction

When enterprise standards and processes are ignored…you guessed it…dysfunction

When commitments are made than ignored…yep…more dysfunction

When the people in ivory towers refuse to sit down with the commoners... dysfunction

When you reward your team for winning the silent “us vs. them” war… dysfunction is the winner (guess who is the loser)

When you allow a rogue manager to steamroll others inside and outside your department…you have dysfunction

When you treat your staff like mushrooms (in the dark)…you again have dysfunction

In closing…be real, be relevant, be a team player, and most of all be trustworthy. Nobody respects a talking head. You have to be visible, engaged and respected to be effective and relevant.

Remember, if you aren't visibile you aren't relevant and if you aren't relevant you aren't needed.

Monday, August 10, 2009

No Democracy for America!

In America we don't live in a Democracy, we live in a Republic!

Good Video explaining the difference.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Thoughts on Talking


"Small minds talk about people, moderate minds talk about events and great minds talk about ideas" - Author Unknown. I could do a better job at this. It is very true statement.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Weekend Break - Monolith on Mars!



THIS mysterious monument could be proof there was once life on Mars.

The rectangular structure — measuring five metres across — was photographed by a super high resolution camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The giant monolith juts out of the planet’s surface casting a huge shadow below. Its emergence on website Lunar Explorer Italia has got space buffs speculating if it could have been constructed by creatures once living on the red planet. The monument resembles the black monolith seen in Stanley Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

In the movie the structure is believed to be a key to man’s evolution. And astonishingly Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the Moon, revealed a similar monolith was detected on Mars’ moon Phobos. Speaking last week, he insisted: “We should visit the moons of Mars. “There’s a monolith there – a very unusual structure on this little potato shaped object that goes around Mars once every seven hours.

“When people find out about that they are going to say, ‘Who put that there? Who put that there?’”

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Bad Project Theater

In earlier posts I have written about project failure and poor project management practices. In the IT world we all know that just because a project is seen as a failure doesn't mean that parts (or all) of that project aren't implemented. Many times egos in IT won't admit to project (product) failure, and end-users are stuck with crap systems that don't deliver anything approaching value. Sometimes these systems linger for years. Yikes, Help!

Project value can’t be dictated; it must be planned, agreed upon, and is easily recognized. We can't be told something has value. We must be shown and form our own opinions.

I have been a project manager in an IT/Telecomm environment for over twenty years. Failed IT projects aren't unique to any one industry or business segment. They are often a result of a mentality that says we know best, and we believe we are smarter than everybody else.

We can sum up this type of behavior in one word...Arrogance -

As taken from the Inner Frontier

ARROGANCE - "Those to whom much has been given sometimes suffer from arrogance; or rather the people around them suffer. Arrogance is doubly a pity, because the talents of the arrogant serve primarily themselves. The arrogant assumes his views and opinions are The Truth. In arrogance, natural confidence goes sadly awry. Rather than the self-assurance born of knowing his own strengths and limitations, arrogance admits no limits. The arrogant brooks no weakness in himself and may even secretly rejoice to find flaws in others. But imperfections are inherent in being human, so the arrogant, like everyone else, always has feet of clay, however well hidden they may be. Fearing exposure, haughtiness forms a hard shell masking inner emptiness."


Professional project managers are always honest, open, and ethical. They realize that project success is in large part determinded by the stakeholders and sponsor, not the project manager.

My advice is to (hopefully not arrogant) leave the drama, back door deals, and shady practices to others and be a valuable asset to your customers and sponsor.