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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Wimps are Killing Your Large Project!

Do your organization's senior managers and executives understand the benefits of project management? How do you know?

Do your organization's senior managers and executives have formal training in project management?

Are large projects sponsored by and continually reviewed by senior management and /or executives? What is reviewed, and how often?

Do your senior managers and executives have their business processes mapped for their areas of responsibility?

It is a fact that good, proven, measurable business processes are critical to running an efficient organization, and also assist the project manager to deliver beneficial project results. It is also a sad fact that most senior managers and executives don't want to deal with things like business processes, yet it is the business processes that make or break organizations and projects, and bad business processes can cause an organization to waste time and money.

EMOTIONAL OUTBURST - If senior management isn't involved in reviewing their business processes to ensure they are delivering efficient results then they are either lazy or incompetent.

We can all agree that if senior managers and executives aren't regularly reviewing the performance of their organization (including the effectiveness of their business processes) they are not acting as responsible leaders. We have all heard them say that they just want somebody to figure out the problems and fix them, but many times that is where their participation ends. There is often no follow-up and no personal accountability for results. While problems need to be found and fixed, the "find them and fix them" mentality doesn't work for large projects. In fact, it can prove disastrous.

Project management is about delivering change. Executives and senior management have to drive the change, monitor the change, and ensure the change takes place. Change that isn't driven and monitored by senior management won't be accepted by the organization.

Don't get me wrong, we all need to have a "get it done" mindset, however on its own a get it done attitude isn't effective when dealing with today's enterprise problems and projects. Large projects create large change. Many times change creates, fear, panic, and chaos. Project managers can't implement change or change organizations alone. In fact, I would argue that for the most part they can't change organizations at all.

If you want organizational change and you want large project results at the same time then your organization's executives and senior management must be involved from the start, they must be continuously engaged, and the must be out front and visibly leading the change. Additionally, they need to be able to clearly and effectively communicate the value of the enterprise project's deliverables to their organizations. If they are unwilling to do these things, then your large project may need to be altered, deferred, or killed.

PERSONAL RANT: It is unacceptable for an organization to spend large sums of money on a project if senior management isn't prepared to roll up their sleeves and understand what is being delivered, understand the benefits of the deliverables, willing to hold others accountable for results, have an enthusiastic attitude, and have personal accountability tied to the project's success.

Project managers and team members can't afford to work on projects where ignorance and indifference is prevalent. Also, project teams can't afford to have "Teflon" managers" managing resources on the external resource teams, or in the positions of power or influence over their projects. Teflon" managers are never personally accountable for any project results because they choose ignorance over engagement. Shame on them, and guess what, the project manager and the project team pays the price of failure.

What happens when senior management isn't involved with projects from the beginning to the end? Things like those below, which if left unchecked will ensure you project is a failure or delivers less than desirable results.

There is no organizational commitment to the project's objectives (you have project objectives that were created by senior management, right?)

Project teams are left with the job of trying to change the organization's bad habits and culture (not possible without senior management buy-in and support)

Divisions and departments fight the change the project is creating

Mid-level managers, supervisors, and line workers refuse to get involved and often work to sabotage the project

To summarize, large projects require senior management commitment, involvement, and follow through. Without senior management involvement your large project is almost certain to fail. Project managers and project teams can't be successful, nor will project management deliver results in organizations where fear is pervasive. Senior management can do more to create fear and remove fear than any project manager ever could.

Finally, I will say what most of us know, many senior managers and executives are wimps, however, this doesn't need to be the case when it comes to large projects. They can speak out up front while the project is being initiated and demand to see a business case. They can and must be involved in setting the project's measurable objectives. Once they have bought-in to the project they can and must insist that their direct reports support the project and keep them appraised of project progress. Finally, they can and must hold their staff accountable for project results.

When it comes to large projects senior managers and executives can be engaged, involved, and act as leaders, or they can be wimps.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Executive Apathy and Project Failure

Ever had a project that begins with strong executive/senior management support and over time that support fades?

The symptoms are:

Executives/senior management remain silent during status meetings

Executives/senior management stop coming to status meetings and don't ask for meeting minutes

Executives/senior management lack a sense of urgency regarding "your" project

Executives/senior management become more confused and less supportive over time regarding project goals and objectives

Executives/senior management begin to focus on what has been "installed" vs. what business results have been realized

The project sponsor(s) becomes detached and less available for project updates

Executives, sponsors, and stakeholders start to forget the culture and try to force solutions to meet deadlines

I know first hand that executives/senior management will tell you they support your project, and then turnaround and encourage resistance in their departments, and allow or ignore passive-aggressive behaviors of key staff members regarding the project's goals and objectives. What can be done? Here are some ideas; however you must realize that your project is in serious trouble if you have observed the behaviors listed above.

Calculate the costs of the project so far. Consider scaling back the project or killing it all together. I know from experience that this is much easier said than done.

Identify key executives and stakeholders and meet with them personally and restate the projects benefits. If they still aren't sold or supportive, move on to the next group. Ensure you create a Scope Change and de-scope portions of the project that aren't getting support.

Reevaluate the project team. Do you need new people? Are they really focused on meeting the project's objectives and scope? Are the project's objectives and scope still realistic, attainable and relevant?

Reevaluate the organization's culture and re-plan the project if needed. Reset expectations, and identify sources of resistance. If the culture can't be changed quickly, perhaps the project's objectives, goals, and/or scope need to be adjusted.

Remember, project failure rests on the project manager's shoulders. Sometimes senior management is too busy to get or stay involved, however that doesn't release them from their responsibility to support your project. Determine if they are too busy or just too lazy to support your project. Not easy to do, but absolutely necessary.

Remember what Dr. Stephen Covey says is the 4th Discipline (The 4 Disciplines of Execution) - "Hold Each Other Accountable - All of the Time". If you are a project manager it is your job to hold all levels of the organization accountable for project success. Having said that, you must proceed with caution if you plan to do this with executives. Be tactful and respectful; however, don't let them off the hook.

A recent survey found that only 39 percent of workers feel highly energized and committed to their organization's most important goals. This survey includes executives and senior managers. Just because they have the title doesn't mean they will behave responsibly or be focused on doing the right things right!

Executives, senior management, and your project sponsor(s) may say they support you and your project, but it is up to you to figure out if they really are being supportive. Silence is not acceptance when it comes to dealing with the decision makers. When they stop asking questions, you are in deep trouble.

No Involvement = No Commitment.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

One Tough Project!

Like millions of others, I began the year with a resolution to lose weight and "get in shape" by years end. I took this resolution and determined that a "project" was required.

As everybody knows, weight loss projects have a high probability of failure. These types of projects are full of risks and obstacles. Thankfully, there lots of people that have had "project" success in regards to losing weight and getting into better physical condition. The success of others gives us historical data, which is the best kind of data to use when planning a project.

As with any project, we need ways to measure progress. If we don't measure progress we don't know if we are doing the right things. Measures and objectives are normally set in the Project Initiation phase.

Some measures of project progress that I'm using are:

Weight Loss

Losing Inches

Losing Fat – Body Mass Index

Lower Cholesterol

A project must have measurable objectives (goals) so we know at the end of the project if we were successful. The objectives I set for the project are:

Lose twenty pounds (minimum)

Lower Cholesterol by 20%

Lose three inches off waist

Run a 5K and a 10K by years end

Run 300 miles or more during the year

Ride bike over 1000 miles

Again, all objectives are measurable, so they will be used at end of the year to help determine project success or failure.

After the objectives and measures were set, planning began. Some equipment was required like new running shoes, and some equipment was just cool to have like a Nike+ iPod kit to wirelessly connect the new Nike running shoes to my existing iPod Nano.

Briefly, a Nike+ iPod kit helps a runner measure a number of items like distance traveled (miles), calories burned, pace, time spent running/walking, and additionally uploads exercise data to the website to help you track your goals and visually see your progress over time. The information on the nikeplus website can be shared with others, and you can setup your personal goals and issue challenges to other nikeplus users. I think this is all very cool, and in the end is a very usable tool. One last note on this subject, since you are carrying an iPod when you run/walk you can bring along your favorite music for additional motivation and inspiration. Who can resist running while listening to the likes of Green Day, Big & Rich, or Skillet!

Remember, measuring progress helps us to see our accomplishments, and the historical data we collected from other weight loss projects tells us that tools like the Nike+ iPod product can motivate us by giving us feedback of our progress. One disclaimer is needed, I'm not endorsing any products here, I'm just sharing what works for me.

While planning my project I also determined I should purchase a heart rate monitor. While not a required item, it is an important project monitoring tool since I am turning 50 (ouch) this year and want to monitor (Project Controlling) my heart rate to ensure I don't overdo my workouts. The heart rate monitor has an additional benefit of helping to ensure I stay in the best fat burning target zone during my workouts. Again, we can't manage what we don't measure.

Once the objectives were set and procurement was complete, it was time to begin the hard work of getting started (Project Execution). While getting started is important, it is also important that the scope of the project doesn't exceed the capabilities of your resources (heart, lungs, legs, willpower). To mitigate the issue of exceeding my resources and quitting after a few weeks or months because of injury or burnout, which happens to the majority of folks starting this type of project, I have made sure that I start slow and have small measurable goals.

One final thing I did to help achieve success was I downloaded a running plan from the internet entitled "From Couch Potato to Runner in Nine Weeks". I did modify the plan because I think it was designed for someone younger than I who was also in better shape; however it is a written plan that again helps me to measure progress.

ProjectSteps Rule: A plan that isn't in writing isn't a plan.

As far as a interim status report goes, I set a goal to run twenty miles in January and made the goal. Overall, I am pleased with my progress so far. Since January 3rd, I have lost 11 pounds. I have also changed my eating habits, walked more during the day, and generally feel better.

The bottom line, using project management techniques in your personal life can help you achieve your goals.

If you have experiences or tips let me know by sending a comment and I will publish them here.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

What is your Project Management Process?

Over the next few weeks I will discuss several Project Management product offerings available to help the Project Manager get their projects or programs organized. Most of these products are referred to as project management frameworks. A project management framework is a set of processes, tools and templates designed to be used together to manage a project through its lifecycle. It is important to know that a process isn't a framework, however a framework does include one or more processes.

The first set of products I will cover are from

There are several highly polished Project Management process offerings available from this vendor. The ones I either own and use or have reviewed are TenStep, PortfolioStep, PMOStep, SupportStep, and LifeCycleStep. has been around for several years and I was an early adopter of the TenStep process. Over the years the TenStep process has grown into a sophisticated framework that contains dozens and dozens of templates, support documents and clear steps on how to manage a project effectively. From the original TenStep process the vendor has added many new process/frameworks to assist the project manager to manage and support programs, portfolios, project management offices, etc. To summarize, the processes are clearly written using plain English (not jargon), include plenty of useful templates, and each process include many helpful hints to help you use each of the process steps effectively. What more could you ask for?

The TenStep web site has free templates and examples of each process for you to review prior to making a purchase decision, and additionally each of TenSteps processes are updated on a regular basis throughout the year. Take a look and form your own opinion by visiting their website.

As taken from the website, the TenStep Project Management Process is a methodology for managing work as a project. It is designed to be as flexible as you need to manage your project."

"For instance, it may not make sense to spend a lot of time on risk management for a project that requires 500 hours of effort and is similar to many projects that were done before. That does not imply that you ignore potential risks - just that you do not spend as much time as you might on another project (for instance, one where you were implementing new technology). This flexible and scalable approach is visible throughout the TenStep process and is one area that differentiates this methodology from others."

I personally own and use TenStep, PMOStep, and SupportStep. I highly recommend them all. Tom Mochal the owner of TenStep and his staff do a great job of regularly updating each Framework and the accompanying templates. I have been using TenStep processes for almost four years and their products have always exceeded my expectations.

Bottom line: an outstanding suite of products used by over 5000 companies and individuals. Highly recommended.