Search This Blog

Friday, December 07, 2007

Trust and the Project Manager (revised repost)

In my career I have found that the ability to work well with others, show empathy towards their needs, and being trustworthy have done more to help me be successful than being overly reliant on tools such as pert charts, resource loaded histograms, and quantitative risk analysis documents.

When managing any size project the project manager needs to focus on what is most important to that project's success. Only you, your sponsor, and stakeholders can answer the question of what is most important. Is the most important thing getting the project done on time, coming in at or under budget, delivering at a high level of quality, or having a big WOW factor? (See Tom Peter's – “The Project 50” book for more on the WOW factor). You must decide what the Project “Driver” is before you begin your planning.

Remember, don't get caught in the trap of believing that if you meet your Time, Cost, and Scope objectives your project is a success. If your users and/or sponsor aren't satisfied with the project's results YOUR PROJECT IS A FAILURE! Every project needs a project sponsor, charter, a budget, a realistic agreed upon schedule, competent resources, a list of valid assumptions, a list of the project’s constraints, dependencies, and people assigned to your team that are dedicated and personally committed to seeing the project succeed. However, you as the project manager must have the trust of all stakeholders and demonstrate that your are committed to doing your best and delivering on your promises.

Without the trust of your peers, management, and customers your project management career is doomed to failure.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Clever or Wise?

Albert Einstein said "A clever person solves a problem; a wise person avoids it". After reading this quote, it reminded me that project managers spend a lot of time (or should be) avoiding problems. One thing that can help project managers to avoid problems is following a defined process, or more specifically, a Project Management Methodology (PMM). At its core a PMM is a set of agreed-upon processes that assists project managers to deliver predictable project outcomes.

To create a PMM you need to define all project management processes, procedures and policies used to deliver your organization's projects. Also, don't forget to develop or obtain a set of project templates as they are an important part of any PMM. Finally, you must develop a training program to introduce and educate your organization about the new PMM.

KEY POINT - When developing a PMM ensure you include input from your lead project managers and any other personnel that have a stake in your project management outcomes.

Once your PMM is implemented ensure you measure the results and make adjustments where necessary. If you need help in developing your PMM there are many products that can assist you and your organization to develop a custom PMM that works for you.

Two of my favorite vendors that specialize in this are are TenStep and Method123. I am affiliated with TenStep and Method123, and I own, use, and endorse their products.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Organizational Dysfunction and Projects

Just over a year ago I posted about Projects, Leaders, and Discipline.  I started the posting with the text below: 

One of the things that hurt project teams most is the lack of an enterprise (executive) focus and oversight regarding the management of projects.  It takes discipline to manage projects, and enterprise project discipline is lacking when executives are disinterested and/or disengaged from the project process.  Great organizations (not project managers) manage projects well, and in doing so they have employees with higher morale, they get better project results, and implement projects faster with higher quality.

Is your organization disciplined?  There have been many studies that show a lack of executive support for projects is a key contributor to project failure.  You can meet all your project objectives and still have failed if your project does not support a business need.

Organizations that have successfully embraced and implemented project management have a few things in common.  They are:

  They treat project management as a profession

  They treat project managers as assets

  They have internal policies that support the management of projects

  They align their strategies to a published project portfolio

  They recognize that a project management methodology is only works when it is coupled with         experienced   project managers

  They have a formal training program for new and experienced project managers

  They have a formal job classification and promotion path for project managers

  They have a strategic program/project management office

  Have been through a formal project management maturity assessment

Regarding discipline, George Washington said, "Discipline is the soul of an army.  It makes small numbers formidable, procures success to the weak, and esteem to all".  

You cannot have effective organizational project management processes without discipline.  Discipline begins at the top of the organization and works its way to the bottom.  Organizations that have weak organizational discipline have weak leadership.

As I have stated previously, undisciplined organizations have high turnover, low employee morale, and poor project results. These organizations cheat their investors, employees, and customers by not providing the highest level of service possible. Highly disciplined organizations make and keep commitments, manage to clearly articulated and measurable goals, and have executives that are engaged and visibly participate in the oversight of projects.

BOLD TRUTH - If you are not visible, your are not relevant.  If you are not relevant, you are not needed. 

In closing, dysfunctional organizations believe that the workers are solely responsible for managing projects and other day-to-day work. These organizations believe that the executives should spend the majority of their time strategizing and making policy. This is a failed approach (see General Motors, Ford, K-Mart, etc), and ensures the work, including projects, will take longer than planned and cost more than what was budgeted.

Executive leadership and oversight of projects has been proven to motivate project teams to be accountable, results driven, and focused on achieving a common goal.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Leading Geeks

Ralph Nader once said, "I start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers". In the IT world is is hard to produce leaders and it is doubly hard to produce and keep followers.

On his blog, Alexander Kjerulf talks about How Not to Lead Geeks and mentions that "the main reason IT people are unhappy at work is bad relations with management". He goes on to say that "the fact is that IT people hate bad management and have even less tolerance for it than most other kinds of employees".

Wow, I couldn't agree more. It is suprising that this flawed geek leadership strategy is still very prevelant today in our organizations. I see the mistakes listed below happen every day. I can only wonder how much more productive "geeks" would be if these mistakes weren't continuously repeated on a regular basis.

Here are Alex's thoughts on the top 10 mistakes he has seen managers make when leading geeks:

1) Downplay training

I had a boss once who said that “training is a waste of money, just teach yourself”. That company tanked 2 years later. Training matters, especially in IT, and managers must realize that and budget for it. Sometimes you get the argument that “if I give them training a competitor will hire them away.” That may be true, but the alternative is to only have employees who are too unskilled to work anywhere else.

2) Give no recognition

Since managers may not understand the work geeks do very well, it’s hard for them to recognize and reward a job well done, which hurts motivation. The solution is to work together to define a set of goals that both parties agree on. When these goals are met the geeks are doing a great job.

3) Plan too much overtime

“Let’s wring the most work out of our geeks, they don’t have lives anyway,” seems to the approach of some managers. That’s a huge mistake and overworked geeks burn out or simply quit. In one famous case, a young IT-worker had a stress-induced stroke on the job, was hospitalized, returned to work soon after and promptly had another stroke. This post further examines the myth that long work hours are good for business.

4) Use management-speak

Geeks hate management-speak and see it as superficial and dishonest. Managers shouldn’t learn to speak tech, but they should drop the biz-buzzwords. A manager can say “We need to proactively impact our time-to-market” or simply use english and stick to “We gotta be on time with this project”.

5) Try to be smarter than the geeks

When managers don’t know anything about a technical question, they should simply admit it. Geeks respect them for that, but not for pretending to know. And they will catch it - geeks are smart.

6) Act inconsistently

Geeks have an ingrained sense of fairness, probably related to the fact that in IT, structure and consistency is critical. The documentation can’t say one thing while the code does something else, and similarly, managers can’t say one thing and then do something else.

7) Ignore the geeks

Because managers and geeks are different types of people, managers may end up leaving the geeks alone. This makes leading them difficult, and geeks need good leadership the same as all other personnel groups.

8) Make decisions without consulting them
Geeks usually know the technical side of the business better than the manager, so making a technical decision without consulting them is the biggest mistake a leader can make.

9) Don’t give them tools
A fast computer may cost more money than an older one and it may not be corporate standard, but geeks use computers differently. A slow computer lowers productivity and is a daily annoyance. So is outdated software. Give them the tools they need.

10: Forget that geeks are creative workers

Programming is a creative process, not an industrial one. Geeks must constantly come up with solutions to new problems and rarely ever solve the same problem twice. Therefore they need leeway and flexibility. S trict dress codes and too much red tape kill all inovation. They also need creative surroundings to avoid “death by cubicle”.

Making one or more of these 10 mistakes (and I’ve seen managers who make all 10) has serious consequences, including:

Low motivation
High employee turnover
Increased absenteeism
Lower productivity
Lower quality
Bad service

Happy geeks are productive geeks, and the most important factor is good management, tailored to their situation.

Friday, October 12, 2007

PMI Global Congress Atlanta Wrapup

I just returned from the PMI Global Congress and I believe it was the best one I have attended (this was my eighth conference). During the Global Congress I attended several different awesome presentations covering a wide array of topics. Each presentation offered valuable information to help me do my job better.

I highly recommend you attend one of PMI's Global Congresses (next year's congress is in Denver, CO). Attending the PMI Congress is a great way for a project manager to earn PDUs (professional development units), which are required to maintain your PMI Project Management Professional (PMP) designation with PMI.

I have been a big supporter of the TenStep family of products and I rely on several of their methodologies to do my job. As usual, Tom Mochal and company from TenStep were at the Congress talking about their new products and training services. Check out Tenstep's website and look over their latest methodology called ProcessStep. Another great project management methodology vendor is Method123. I use and own some of their products and they make great tools and templates.

The Project Management Institute (PMI) has been busy over the past year, and during that time they have released a few new project management related standards. They are:

Practice Standard for Project Configuration Management – This standard defines processes and tools to help develop a project configuration management system.

Practice Standard for Earned Value Management – This standard helps the project manager objectively identify where a project is and where it is going. EVM methods cover project scope, schedule, and costs.

Practice Standard for Scheduling – A guide to help the project manager build effective schedules, and additionally help to provide quantifiable processes to determine the maturity of a schedule.

Also, PMI has made updates to existing standards, which are:

Project Manager Competency Development Framework – 2nd edition

Combined Standards Glossary – 3rd edition

Government Extension to the PMBOK Guide – 3rd edition

Practice Standard for Work Breakdown Structures – 2nd edition

There were many vendors at the show and I heard there may have been over 4000 attendees. PMI membership is growing fast and interest in the project management profession is at an all time high. If you have not yet earned your PMP certification now may be the best time to seriously consider earning this valuable credential.

The PMI Global Congress is a great place to network with other project managers. I met some great people at this year's conference and plan on keeping in touch with all of them. Your best project management learning experiences will usually come from talking with and listening to other project managers.

Until next time.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

ProjectSteps Has a New Look

I'm going to Atlanta, GA at the end of the week to attend the annual PMI (Project Management Institute) North American Global Congress. I always look forward to attending this event and this year is no different. If you are a PMP (Project Management Professional) it is a good place to earn some of your required PDUs (Professional Development Units) to maintain your PMP certification with PMI. Besides earning PDUs, it is a great forum to learn about the state of project management and current "best" practices in the project management industry.

By the way, if you are attending this year's Global Congress drop me an e-mail and maybe we can meet for a beer. You can reach me at sfseay(at) or sseay(at)

Finally, this week brings a new look for the ProjectSteps blog. Do you like it, hate it? Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts.

Have a good week and don't forget to have fun!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Don't Be a Victim of Politics

Politics and projects go hand in hand. Team conflict, competing agendas, stakeholder dysfunction, resource constraints, and a myriad of other challenges exist and will send your project careening out of control if not managed properly.

What is a project manager to do? Here is a list of things to keep in mind when managing projects in a highly politicized environment:

Learn to negotiate from a position of strength

Do everything you can to educate those around you about Project Management. Stress the benefits and overcome the objections by pointing to your successes.

Master the art of influence.

Understand that masterful politicians are sometimes helpful to you and your project, but can also be detriment to your project's success.

An effective executive sponsor can help minimize political time wasting events that slow project progress and increase project budgets.

Recognize that conflict on your project is inevitable and necessary. How you respond to conflict will determine how successful you are.

Mastering the art of negotiation is a critical skill for project managers.

Negotiate up front how much power you will have as project manager, how and where it can be used, and when it applies to securing needed resources for your project.

Realize that for the most part internal politics wastes time and is usually not something that people enjoy.

Team commitment and loyalty will help to minimize project politics.

Don't fight a political system you don't understand and can't influence. Leave that to the experts. (Hint: get these experts to support your project if possible).

A good communications plan will help to lessen the politics on your project.

Every project usually has at least one "politician" in the organization that is out to either sabotage it, or will try to ensure that it isn't fully implemented.

Recognize that change (which is what projects are all about) scares some people and your project's deliverables can lead to a loss of power or influence for certain individuals or departments. Anticipate this and have a plan to deal with the behaviors that will surface.

Successful project managers need to learn to "swim with the sharks" and not get bitten. They need to be determined, focused, and act professionally and ethically. Project managers must know how to relate to people and manage relationships by being effective leaders and by applying the right balance of negotiating skills, motivational techniques, team building, and optimized communications.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Would You Like Cheese with that Whine?

Project teams are dynamic and interpersonal relationships amongst team members are always in a state of flux. Some teams are high performing and function at a high level over a long period of time. Other teams can't seem to come together and function at all.

An effective, experienced project team leader is an important part of any successful team, however, all team members must be personally accountable for their actions and be supportive of other team members if the team and project are to be successful.

Individual team member behaviors can contribute to team success in many ways. Emotional maturity and willingness to compromise are two important team member traits that help make a good team dynamic and lead to a successful project outcome.

Here are some negative team member behaviors I have personally observed. These behaviors detract from team synergy and place an unfair burden on other team members.

Projects fail or take longer than they should when team members:

Leave problems for others to solve rather than solving the problems themselves

Routinely blame others (stakeholders and/or other team members) or circumstances for not getting their tasks complete on time

Aren't personally accountable for their project task outcomes and timelines

Are unwilling to hold stakeholders accountable for their responsibilities

Aren't properly documenting their findings and defining a scope of work or adhering to an agreed-upon project scope

Aren't documenting Scope Change Requests

Aren't bringing issues and concerns to the team for discussion

Are constantly complaining, whining, and finger-pointing

Are unwilling to reach consensus with their team members

Are unwilling to let go of past negative circumstances and relationships

Are unwilling to admit past and current mistakes and learn from them

Play the victim and exhibit passive-aggressive behavior

Have a recurring theme in their dealings with others that everybody else is wrong and they are right

Continually demanding that things be done their way when it is contrary to the stated direction of the team

Team members who exhibit some or all of the above behaviors above should be placed on a performance improvement plan as their behavior is disruptive to the team and the project.

Project teams can't afford to have team members that aren't willing to compromise, are emotionally immature, and are a constant distraction to the team. In addition to being placed on a performance improvement plan, these team members should be released from the team as soon as possible as they are detriment to team cohesiveness and productivity.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Good Project Manager

These are obvious, but you can never get enough good advice, right?

Show appreciation - thanking people for their assistance is not only the right thing to do it is expected.

Listen effectively - think before speaking. Listen attentively. Make the person feel like they are the only thing you are focusing on.

Give credit to others - always give credit where credit is due.

Don't be negative - negative people can kill team creativity. Eliminate them from your team if possible.

Have a work/life balance - don't forget that all work and no play makes for a dull life.

Don't have hidden agendas - they are only hidden for a while, and most people realize what you are doing.

Be willing to publicly admit your failures - there is nothing more pathetic than the person that never admits a mistake.

Talk about the problem not the person - don't personalize problems and make them about a person or group. Be willing to focus on only on the problem.

If you lie down with dogs you will get fleas - be careful of your relationships in the workplace. Trust, but verify.

Don't gossip - gossip can hurt careers and projects. Don't participate in gossip and don't allow it on your team.

Use Empathy not Sympathy when dealing with delicate issues - Empathic listening is listening with intent to understand. Sympathetic listening is a form of agreement and judgement.

Diagnose before your prescribe - if people don't have confidence in your diagnosis, they won't have confidence in your prescription

Keep your commitments and promises - enough said.

Remember while you are free to choose your actions, you aren't free to choose the consequence of those actions.

Monday, August 27, 2007

PMO Best Practices Checklist

Does your organization have a PMO? How is it going? If you are just starting a PMO review the checklist below and see if it makes sense for your group.

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. Ensure the Sponsor is engaged and has signed the Project Charter

Assign the project manager early
The Project Manager will make or break a project. Be sure the individual has the expertise to manage the project and they work well with others. Do not 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.

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.

Complete a detailed work plan
A preliminary work plan with major milestones should have been completed while developing the Requirements Document or Statement of Work. Now is the time to work with the project manager in identifying the tasks involved for each milestone. The work plan should list the tasks for each milestone with the estimated hours, start and stop dates, costs and responsible parties. Sample work plans and templates are available through the PMO 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.

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

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

Follow your Work Plan, create and maintain an issues list, and
Track, Manage, and Obtain Approval for
ALL Scope Change
I didn't create the above checklist and don't know the original author.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Tom Peters and the Dozen Truths

I have posted before about Tom Peters before, and he is someone I really admire. In reviewing some of his materials I came across the "Dozen Business Truths" below. Mr. Peters isn't about doing things the way that have always been done. I like his approach to business and it fits right in with cutting edge project management practices.

Successful Businesses' Dozen Truths: Tom Peter's 30-Year Perspective

1. Insanely Great & Quirky Talent

2. Disrespect for Tradition

3. Totally Passionate (to the Point of Irrationality) Belief in What We Are Here to Do

4. Utter Disbelief at the BS that Marks "Normal Industry Behavior"

5. A Maniacal Bias for Execution and Utter Contempt for Those Who Don't "Get It"

6. Speed Demons

7. Up or Out. (Meritocracy Is Thy Name. Sycophancy Is Thy Scourge)

8. Passionate Hatred of Bureaucracy

9. Willingness to Lead the Customer... and Take the Heat Associated Therewith. (Mantra: Satan Invented Focus Groups to Derail True Believers)

10. "Reward Excellent Failures. Punish Mediocre Successes"

11. Courage to Stand Alone on One's Record of Accomplishment Against All the Forces of Conventional Wisdom

12. A Crystal Clear Understanding of Story (Brand) Power

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Business Process Improvement and the Project Manager

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.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Project Management Professional Responsibility Questions Part 2

As mentioned last week, a few years ago Frank Saladis and Al Zeitoun compiled a list of Project Management Professional Responsibility Questions. These questions are an example of what might appear on the the Project Management Institute's (PMI) Project Management Professional (PMP) exam. I posted the first fifteen questions last week, and the remainder are listed below.

Here is the second set of questions.  Comments are welcome. 

16. In order for the project manager to fully and effectively understand a stake holder's personal concerns or grievances it may necessary to:

  1. Ask for a written description of the problem and submit it through the project office
  2. Schedule a project review session with the entire project team
  3. Attempt to empathize with the stakeholder
  4. Involve the project sponsor as an arbitrator

17. As the leader of a project team, the project manager may be required to assess the competencies of his or her team members. Occasionally, some weaknesses or areas for improvement will be identified. The project manager should:

  1. Remove any team members who have demonstrated weaknesses in critical knowledge areas
  2. Communicate those weaknesses and establish a performance improvement program
  3. Hire additional resources to compensate for weak areas
  4. Wait for the team members to fail in an assignment to justify termination.

18. You have just changed jobs and discovered that your new employer routinely violates OSHA/EPA and affirmative action requirements on projects. You should:

  1. Do nothing; it's not your problem
  2. Start by asking management if they are aware that regulations are being violated
  3. Talk to the corporate legal department
  4. Inform the appropriate government agencies about the violations

19. The project manager must be an effective communicator to ensure that project stakeholders receive and understand project related information and status. Prior to delivering information to the stakeholders the project manager should attempt to:

  1. Research and understand the region of experience of the stakeholder before transmitting information
  2. Identify only those stakeholders that have a the same background experience as the project manager
  3. Filter the information to remove any details
  4. Restrict information to specific technical details

20. As part of your project plan you must develop an effective method of communication for your multinational team of stakeholders. You have several choices of media available. The appropriate action to take in the development of the communication plans would be to:

  1. Discuss the available options with the stakeholders and obtain their input
  2. Use the standard media that has been in effect for your previous projects
  3. Use multiple forms of media to ensure that everyone receives the information
  4. Obtain additional funding from the project sponsor and develop a project specific communications infrastructure.

21. One of your employees is up for promotion. If the promotion is granted, the employee will be reassigned elsewhere causing a problem for you on your project. You can delay the promotion until your project is completed. You should:

  1. Support the promotion but work with the employee and the employee's new management to develop a good transition plan
  2. Ask the employee to refuse the promotion until your project is completed.
  3. Arrange to delay the promotion until the project is completed
  4. Tell the employee that it is his responsibility to find a suitable replacement so that the project will not suffer.

22. The integrity of the project manager is often challenged by stakeholders who attempt to use personal power or influence to change the scope of an agreed upon deliverable. In these situations the project manager's most appropriate response would be:

  1. Refer the stakeholder to the process for change documented in the approved contract.
  2. Agree to the change because customer satisfaction is the goal regardless of cost.
  3. Contact the legal department and suspend all further project work
  4. Determine the risks and rewards for implementing the change before taking any action.

23. During project implementation the client interprets a clause in the contract to mean the he is entitled to a substantial refund for work recently completed. You review the clause and disagree with the client's conclusion. As the project manager which of the following actions should be taken

  1. Disregard the customer's conclusion and continue to process invoices
  2. Document the dispute and refer to the provisions of the contract that address interpretations and disputes
  3. Advise the customer that ambiguous information in contracts is always interpreted in favor of the contractor
  4. Immediately correct the clause to remove any possible misinterpretation by the customer

24. Your executives, in appreciation for the success of your project, have given you a $10,000 bonus to be disbursed among your five-team members. One of the five, who is a substandard worker and accomplished very little on your project, is in your car pool. You should:

  1. Provide everyone with an equal share
  2. Provide everyone a share based upon their performance
  3. Ask the workers to decide among themselves how the bonus should be subdivided
  4. Ask the sponsor to make the decision

25. Before reporting a perceived violation of an established rule or policy the project manager should

  1. Determine the risks associated with the violation
  2. Ensure there is a reasonably clear and factual basis for reporting the violation
  3. Ignore the violation until it actually affects the project results
  4. Convene a committee to review the violation and determine the appropriate response

26. Project Managers can contribute to their organization's knowledge base and to the profession of project management most effectively by:

  1. Developing and implementing a project review and lessons learned process
  2. Establishing strict guidelines for protecting intellectual property
  3. Promote the use of ad hoc project management
  4. Ensuring that all project plans are developed before the project team is formed

27. You have been assigned two concurrent projects. Because of the nature of the projects, you have a conflict of interest. You should:

  1. Do the best you can and tell no one
  2. Ask to be removed from one of the projects
  3. Ask to be removed from both of the projects
  4. Inform your sponsor and ask for his advice

28. You receive a contract to perform testing for an external client. After contract award, the customer provides you with the test matrix to use for your 16 tests. The vice president for engineering says that the customer's test matrix is wrong, and she will use a different test matrix, which should give better results. This is a violation to the SOW. You should:

  1. Use the customer's test matrix
  2. Use the engineering test matrix without telling the customer
  3. Use the engineering test matrix and discuss the reasons with the customer
  4. Ask your sponsor for clarification, assuming that the vice president is not your sponsor

29. An effective method for improving an organization's project management knowledge base is through:

  1. Coaching and mentoring
  2. Referent power
  3. A weak Matrix organizational structure
  4. Fast Tracking 
  5. Answer Key

    1=c    8=b    15=d  22=a

    2=d    9=b    16=c   23=b

    3=a    10=a   17=b  24=c

    4=a    11=c   18=b   25=b

    5=c    12=b   19=a   26=a

    6=b    13=b    20=a  27=d

    7=c    14=d    21=a  28=d

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Project Management Professional Responsibility Questions

Some years ago Frank Saladis and Al Zeitoun compiled a list of Project Management Professional Responsibility Questions. These questions are an example of what might appear on the the Project Management Institute's (PMI) Project Management Professional (PMP) exam. I thought it would be an interesting exercise to post them here. How many did you get right? Post your answer on the comments section for this blog posting.

There are 29 questions total and the first 15 are published here. The answers to the questions appear at the end of this posting, and the remaining questions will be posted in the next few days.

1. While working on an external project your customer asks you to perform some additional tasks that are not included in the formal contract. You should:

a) Honor the customer's request as sign of cooperation to ensure future business
b) Refuse the request and report the customer to your sponsor
c) Acknowledge the request and advise the customer to submit a formal change request
d) Convene a meeting of the project team and rewrite the scope statement

2. You are managing an internal R&D project. The initial test results are very poor. You are afraid your management might cancel the project, and this could reflect poorly upon you. Verification testing could be done quickly and inexpensively. You should:

a) Be the first to recommend canceling the project
b) Inform management about the results and wait for a response
c) Inform management immediately and recommend retesting for verification
d) Withhold the information from management until you perform additional tests to verify the initial results

3. During an informal meeting with your project client you are offered a substantial monetary incentive to alter the configuration of the product to meet the client's personal need. This change may result in additional project costs and schedule delays. The appropriate action to take would be:

a) Refrain from accepting the offer and advise the customer to submit a request to the change control board.
b) Accept the offer and issue an internal configuration change request to the design group
c) Obtain additional information about the request and the customer's personal need before accepting the offer.
d) Delay acceptance of the offer until you can ensure that you can protect yourself from any legal liabilities.

4. As the project manager for a very large and highly visible project you receive a preliminary press release for your approval before distribution. You are expected to approve the release without comment. Your review identifies a major discrepancy regarding some key project financial estimates that may mislead the intended recipients. As the project manager it is your responsibility to:

a) Inform the project sponsor of the discrepancy and refuse to approve the release
b) Approve the release but send a memo to the sponsor advising that you are aware of the discrepancy and will refer any questions your receive to the sponsor
c) Completely rewrite the press release and include the correct information
d) Approve the release as requested

5. Your project is running out of cash and significant work remains. You are directed by senior management to instruct your people to use another project's charge numbers while working on your project. You should:

a) Follow instructions
b) Inform the corporate auditors
c) Understand the background of management's instructions before taking any action
d) Shut down the project, if possible

6. While reviewing the estimates from the functional managers assigned to your project you discover that one cost estimate is clearly higher than those submitted for previous projects. You should:

a) Reject the estimate and remove the functional manager from the project
b) Request the supporting details for the estimate to ensure it has been properly prepared.
c) Accept the estimate and plan to use the additional funding as a reserve.
d) Question each functional manager for information about this estimate.

7. You are working in a country where it is customary to exchange gifts between contractor and customer. Your company code of conduct clearly states that you cannot accept gifts from any client. Failure to accept the gift from this client may result in termination of the contract. The action to take in this case would be:

a) Provide the customer with a copy of your company code of conduct and refuse the gifts.
b) Exchange gifts with the customer and keep the exchange confidential
c) Contact your project sponsor and /or your legal or public relations group for assistance.
d) Ask the project sponsor or project executive to exchange gifts.

8. During your assignment as project manager you add a new member to your project team. This new team member was recently hired from a competitor and offers to share a substantial amount of proprietary information from his previous company. This information could put you and your team in a very strong position for future business. You are aware of a non compete
clause in the new hire's condition of employment. You should:

a) Accept the information and agree to keep it confidential between you and the new hire.
b) Review the condition of employment with the new hire and advise her to reconsider the offer.
c) Review the information and only accept only what may have a direct impact on the project's financial status.
d) Ignore the offer to share and move forward with the project

9. You are asked to write a paper for your sponsor so that he/she can present it at a technical meeting. You are informed that his/her name will be the only name on the paper. You should:

a) Follow instructions
b) Follow instructions but demand that your name also appears
c) Refuse to follow the instructions
d) Go over the head of your sponsor seeking advice

10. An example of a conflict of interest would be:

a) As a public official you make a decision about a contract award that will benefit you personally
b) You and a functional manager disagree with a task cost estimate
c) Your sponsor decides to cancel your project because it no longer supports the company strategy
d) Your personality conflicts with that of a key member of your project team.

11. Each of the following describes the use of an ethical approach except:

a) Attempting to understand the religious and cultural sensitivities of the country in which you have been assigned.
b) Ensuring that personal interest does not interfere with your decision making process.
c) Accepting gifts in exchange for favoring one contractor over another
d) Maintaining confidentiality of sensitive information obtained during the project life cycle.

12. To maintain the customer's schedule, massive overtime will be required between Christmas and New Years. Many of your team members have put in for vacation during this time. You should:

a) Let the schedule slip and inform the customer
b) First give the employees the choice of working overtime
c) Make the employees cancel their vacation plans and work overtime
d) Hire temporary employees for the overtime

13. Which of the following situations describes a violation of the PMP® Professional Code of Conduct?

a) Accepting a gift that is within the customary guidelines of the country or province you are currently working in.
b) Use of confidential information to advance your position or influence a critical decision.
c) Complying with laws and regulations of the state or province in which project management services are provided
d) Disclosing information to a customer about a situation that may have an appearance of impropriety.

14. In order to balance the needs of the many stakeholders involved in your project the most desirable method to achieve resolution of conflicts would be:

a) Compromise
b) Forcing
c) Controlling
d) Confrontation

15. You receive a contract to perform testing for an external client. After contract award, the customer provides you with the test matrix to use for your 16 tests. The vice president for engineering says that the customer's test matrix is wrong, and she will use a different test matrix, which should give better results. This is a violation to the SOW. Suppose your sponsor is also the vice president for engineering. You should:

a) Use the customer's test matrix
b) Use the engineering test matrix without telling the customer
c) Use the engineering test matrix and inform the customer
d) Tell your sponsor that you want to set up a meeting with the customer to resolve the conflict





Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Good and Bad Leaders

Why are there so few good leaders in organizations today? While I can't answer that question, I am always willing to chime in with things I have learned and believe.

Good Leaders...

need to have a vision that is different, but still able to be accepted by the masses.

step outside of their comfort zones to make change happen

take risks, make sacrifices, and sometimes pay a cost to achieve their vision

instill confidence in others because they themselves are confident

build consensus

with charisma can change organizations

are encouragers

are positive

have the interests of others above their own

attract followers

bring new perspective to problem solving

are enablers

are an inspiration

Bad Leaders...

drive wedges in between people, teams, and organizational structures

don't stand up for their peers or their subordinates

behave like children when they don't get their way

gossip and spread rumors

don't reward others for their accomplishments

use "technobabble" and jargon to confuse others

believe they are smarter than everybody else

are unaware (sometimes) that most people don't respect them

dictate policy and doctrine almost exclusively via e-mail

are invisible to most of the organization

don't want rules, process, or procedure except for others

prescribe before diagnosing

don't solicit input from others unless it is to validate what they already believe

kill organizations through their arrogance and unwillingness to listen

are silent when they should speak

speak when they should be silent

Bad Leaders are hurting our organizations, our governmental institutions, our local schools, churches, and neighborhoods. Bad leaders ruin opportunities for our kids, run organizations into the ground, and are culture killers.

Do your part to eliminate the "cancerous" effect caused by Bad Leaders. Be a "good" leader by exhibiting the necessary leadership principles and ideals that inspire and motivate others. Don't be just another talking head. Be visible, don't gossip, be respectful of others, build consensus, and most of all be honest in all of your dealings.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Value of a PMO

It takes courage for your organization's senior management to step up and support the concept of a professional Project Management Office (PMO). While forming a PMO shouldn't be taken lightly, the benefits are clearly documented.

According to Gartner Industry Research, "building a Project Management Office (PMO) is a timely competitive tactic". They believe that "organizations, who establish standards for project management, including a PMO with suitable governance, will experience half the major project cost overruns, delays, and cancellations of those that fail to do so". Gartner goes on to say that three basic types of PMOs have emerged.

Per Gartner, "at each end of the PMO spectrum are offices that on the one hand range from a repository, which collects and disseminates project management best practices and methodologies, to an internal consultancy model or enterprise project office, which directly provides project managers to run individual projects". "Between these two ends of the spectrum are variants of a coaching model". "These types of project offices provide expertise and oversight for the business (sometimes providing the Project Managers), in addition to advising on project setup, reporting (for example, via dashboard’ reports), and facilitating post-project reviews and metrics collection".

What Value can a PMO Offer?

Establish and deploy a common set of project management process and templates. These reusable components save time by allowing projects to start-up more quickly and with less effort.

The PMO builds and maintains the PM methodology and updates it to account for improvements and newly discovered best practices.

The PMO facilitates improved project team communication by having common processes, deliverables, and terminology.

The PMO sets up and supports a common repository so that prior project management deliverables can be candidates for reuse by similar projects. This helps to save start-up time.

The PMO is responsible for PM training. This training helps to build core PM competencies and a common set of experiences. This PMO training helps to reduce overall training costs paid to outside vendors.

The PMO coaches project managers to help keep projects from getting into trouble. At risk projects can be assisted by the PMO to mitigate further issues and risks.

The PMO serves as a tracking mechanism for basic project status information and provides a common project visibility report to management.

The PMO tracks organization-wide metrics on the state of project management, projects delivery, and the value being provided to the business by project management in general, and the PMO specifically.

The PMO is the overall PM advocate to the organization. This could include educating and selling management on the value of using consistent PM processes, or as a liaison to other business centers to provide project management training and support.

One fact is clear from the research I have conducted, a PMO is critical when it comes to supporting sound project management practices. The larger the project the more project management (PM) can help to bring about success. It is readily accepted that good Project Management processes support:

* Reduced Cycle Time and Delivery Costs
* Improved quality of project deliverables
* Early identification of project issues, budget, scope and risks
* Reuse of knowledge and the ability to leverage that knowledge on future projects
* Improved accuracy of project estimates
* Improved perceptions of the project management organization by our partners
* Improved people and resource management
* Reduced time to get up to speed on new projects

Questions or comments? Post directly on this blog, or e-mail me at sfseay(at)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Shared Vision and Goals

I found this document on line and found it very inspiring. I think it is an important message for Project managers since they must constanly get their project teams to agree to a shared vision and be willing to be flexible as conditions change.

Author Unknown

The Best-laid Plans

Climbing the world's highest mountain under normal circumstances requires months, sometimes years, of preparation. In May 1996, Breashears and his team faced a special challenge: making an IMAX film about their journey. Carrying and maintaining hundreds of pounds of filming equipment meant that planning was even more meticulous than usual. "We went to that mountain with a great plan, an elegant plan," said Breashears. For one, it was flexible. "A good plan makes you nimble, not stuck. Ours gave us options ... wiggle room." By rehearsing extensive "what if" scenarios long before they got to the mountain, the team was ready for the unexpected. So when a freak storm hit the day they were to approach the summit, Breashears' team turned back while other teams kept climbing. With the summit just within reach, the temptation to go on was enormous, Breashears recalled, especially since the team had already spent weeks on the mountain, passing through all four base camps and acclimatizing their lungs to the thin air. Yet, as Breashears noted, "We had to climb on the mountain's schedule, not ours," an acknowledgment that probably saved his life.

As Breashears' team went back down, they passed several other teams on their way up. By nightfall, eight people had perished, including Rob Hall, a world-renowned climber and friend of Breashears. Hall was leading a group of individuals who had paid him a substantial fee to lead them to the top. Jon Krakauer, a writer and outdoorsman who was on Hall's team, would eventually write the best-selling book Into Thin Air, chronicling in heartbreaking detail what had gone wrong.

Among the tragedies of that day was one event that many later described as a miracle. The storm that had hit as Hall's ill-fated team made its ascent caused many of the climbers to become separated. One small group was in desperate trouble: They had lost their way in the blinding snow and had run out of oxygen. In an attempt to save their own lives, they made the difficult decision to leave behind one of their team members, Beck Weathers, a doctor from Texas. By all accounts, Weathers was already close to death. He had no pulse and appeared to be frozen in the ground.

The next morning, however, as Breashears and his team helped with the rescue efforts for those teams still on the mountain, word came on the walkie-talkie that "the dead guy is alive." Weathers had spent the night in sub-zero temperatures fully exposed to the elements. The next morning, as the sun hit the mountain, he awoke from a hypothermic coma and, despite snow blindness and severe frostbite on his hands and feet, managed to stumble into camp. He was eventually flown off the mountain in a helicopter rescue that had its own share of danger and drama.

Having reached the summit of Mt. Everest five times, Breashears knows what he wants in a team. Surprisingly, he's not necessarily looking for the best climbers. "I look for talented people who believe in their craft, not those who are looking for praise," he said. "The most important quality is selflessness. I knew that no matter what, no one would leave me behind," he joked.
Sharing a common goal and vision is critical, and no one's ego can take precedence. "People who say 'me first' can be dangerous on Everest." Indeed, in Breashears' experience, the teams that operate best have a higher objective than themselves. Humility makes a great leader. "The kind of leader I want wakes up and asks, 'What did I do wrong yesterday, and how can I fix it today?' Your team doesn't need to like you, but they have to trust and respect you," he said. "A leader who puts his interests first is a highly demoralizing force."