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February 2012 Archives

Project Goal Management: A Film Maker's Experience

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This year, "Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale," a Taiwanese film, was submitted for a nomination for a 2012 Academy Award, a top movie prize in the United States, for best foreign-language film.

Although the film industry is a particularly challenging and unpredictable way to attain success, the process of making the film provides a lesson project professionals in any industry can learn from.

Creating this film was like any project -- it faced unique challenges. To start, the Taiwanese box office is small, and the director, Wei Te-Sheng, needed financing for the film. But how could he find sponsors when he was a "no-name" director with a low budget?

The answer was obvious: Make a simple, yet successful film to create a good reputation and attract investment.  

To fulfil this goal, Mr. Te-Sheng directed "Cape No. 7" in 2008. It generated box office returns of more than NT$500 million (US$16,900,249) and won multiple awards. He was now in a position to begin producing his historical epic film. Financing opportunities came easily, and the end product was an film worthy of a submission for nomination to the Academy Awards.

Mr. Te-Sheng's progress should be recognizable to any business strategist as adhering to the principles of program management. The goal of Mr. Te-Sheng's program was to make  "Seediq Bale," but he had to complete smaller projects to achieve it:

  1. Come up with a plan or project that generates a desired benefit.
  2. Ensure the benefit can be realized with little compromise.
  3. Balance benefit-received and cost-paid, or the outcome may be compromised.
  4. Consistently aim for your goal.
This example reveals a lesson in terms of organizational strategy: Always remember to ensure the benefits of programs and projects align with the company's ultimate objective. Don't be distracted.

Have you ever completed smaller projects to prove to sponsors you could make a bigger project work?

Read more posts from Roger.
Read more on portfolio management.

Project Entrepreneurship: Beyond Management and Leadership

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Project management has begun to play an increasingly important role in organizations. Projects are identified to continuously improve the existing business performance and to prepare for the future per organizational strategy. Unfortunately, many of those projects fail.

It's my belief that if you approach a project with management, leadership and entrepreneurial mindsets, the success rate of projects will improve.

A management mindset helps project managers to initiate, plan, execute, monitor, control and close projects to deliver on time, within budget and expected quality deliverables. The management mindset focuses mostly on tasks, and not much on people. Under this mindset, project managers might fail to create a vibrant or positive work environment and satisfied teams -- even though they will satisfy the customers.  

A leadership mindset helps project managers to drive the project team toward a common project goal. It also focuses both on tasks and people, allowing the project manager to create a positive and enjoyable work environment.

A project manager with both the management and leadership mindset will satisfy his team and customers, but might fail to deliver complete business value to customer. That means that although a project is delivered on time, within budget and expected quality, the customer may not feel that the value he expected out of the project was not completely realized.

An entrepreneurial mindset is like an executive mindset for the project manager. He or she would focus on delivering high value to the customer, employees and his or her organization.

Ownership of projects is at its peak, innovation flows like water and alternative project techniques are used for continuous betterment of projects. A project manager's risk appetite is high in this mindset, and he or she also builds many reusable assets to repeat the success of future projects.

Is your organization focusing on building project management, project leadership and project entrepreneurship as an integrated competency?

Read more posts from VSR.
Read more on leadership.

Ask Good Questions to Ensure Project Governance

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Effective project management governance is becoming an important topic at all levels of many organizations. Project governance focuses on making sure the whole of an organization's project management system is effectively supporting its strategy.

Good governance requires that the governing board sets the strategy and provides direction -- and not become involved in the day-to-day management of the organization. It's up to the organization's managers to implement the strategy and provide the board with the necessary assurances, information and advice needed to support the governance process.

Good governance and optimum performance should be synonymous. And developing an efficient structure to ensure both is a subtle art.

The directors need to ask their executive managers the right questions and the managers need to develop efficient systems that deliver the right answers. Paul A. Samuelson, an American economist said, "Good questions outrank easy answers."

In other words, if you don't ask the right questions, you are unlikely to get the information you need to make good decisions. The governance processes need to focus on the aspects of project delivery that really matter.

Some key questions to ask include:

 - Are we doing the right projects?
 -  Do we have the optimum risk profile?
 -  Do we have the resources and capability to accomplish the selected projects?
 -  Are we properly supporting our project teams to encourage success?

The challenge we face as project professionals is that most directors and senior executives have had limited exposure to effective project management systems. Concepts such as project portfolio management are relatively new and are still evolving. PMI is providing strong leadership in developing these concepts, but I find that execution of the work is largely occurring at operational management levels.

The challenge we face as project management experts is educating our senior executives and directors to ask the right questions in order to help move the organization forward. We must encourage them to invest in developing the ability to effectively manage the organization's project management so the executives and directors can get meaningful answers.

Effective project governance structure provides the optimum environment to allow project and program managers to deliver successful outcomes, so encouraging its development is in everyone's interest.

How can you and your colleagues work to encourage the "right questions" in your organization?

View more posts on stakeholder management.

Rediscover Project Management Knowledge

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Do you ever notice how after learning a concept many years ago, when you come across it again, you understand it either differently or better?

As we experience "life" in project management -- managing various projects, working with new teams and wearing different hats on those teams -- we get to see various aspects of project management in action. We add to that knowledge from our own successes and failures.

We usually refer to those experiences as growth and development. The experience alters how we see things and how we communicate with people: our teammates, suppliers, third party partners, customers and clients. It also alters how we perform work because we gain a new point of view or change in our current point of view.

As such, it's valuable to review what you already know by reading through chapters of A Guide to Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) to focus on the key areas that you work in, be it in risk management, scope management or resource scheduling.

When you review the material after having had some experience, you not only remind yourself of what you learned initially, but you see it differently. You catch some elements that you didn't see how to implement before, or you recognize how to relate to something in a way that you didn't before. Having that "life" experience in project management alters how you see the material and how you apply it in everyday work.

This happened to me when I reviewed the PMBOK® Guide recently.  After reviewing the chapter on risk management, I realized that my company needed to include additional steps for how we handle a backup or restore operation. While many companies have testing strategies, ours only documented this step conceptually. I may not have noticed this if I hadn't reread the PMBOK® Guide.

I challenge you to review the knowledge in the PMBOK® Guide and see how you can apply it to your active projects. Areas that you can improve on will turn up and will add value to your project management practice.

How do you rediscover your project management knowledge? Have you rediscovered practices from the PMBOK® Guide recently?

Editor's note: From 17 February - 20 March 2012, the exposure draft of A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) -- Fifth Edition will be open for public review. Find out more and provide your recommendations and comments on the draft.  

Read more from Dmitri.

Contagious Enthusiasm in Public Speaking

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A few years ago, I was at a PMI chapter professional development day to give a presentation and attend some sessions.

Between sessions, I saw a young man who worked for one of the conference sponsors reading something. I asked him what he was reading, and he said he was going over his notes for his upcoming presentation.
"Excellent," I commented. "What will you be talking about?"

Our product," he replied. Then he added, "I'm probably going to bore everyone."

"Why would it bore everyone?" I asked. "Well," he said, "because it's a boring presentation."

Now I was really intrigued. I asked again why it's boring and got a similar response: "It's just not very interesting."

I kind of felt sorry for the guy, but thought maybe I could help him out.

I continued, "Certainly, it's interesting to you. You must have some enthusiasm for the topic -- the product you are here to sell! How can you share that enthusiasm with the folks who will be listening?"

"No," he replied, "I don't really find the topic interesting at all. I don't have any enthusiasm for it."

You can't give what you haven't got -- and the most important thing you can have when speaking is your enthusiasm for your topic. But having enthusiasm isn't enough. You have to be enthusiastic, and you have to be able to share your enthusiasm with others. But the biggest inhibitor to sharing enthusiasm is self-consciousness.

Therein, I believe, lays the great secret to effective public speaking.

Public speaking is a giving act. You are giving of yourself - your insights, your experience, your enthusiasm, your knowledge, your stories, your being. The effective speaker is fully tuned in to the people he or she is speaking to - fully conscious of their presence, their reaction, their needs - fully other-conscious. This leaves no room for self. No room for self-consciousness.

Next post, I'd like to explore this idea of being fully "other-conscious" a little more deeply. In the meantime, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts about how being "self-conscious" can inhibit a speaker's effectiveness.
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Make the Most of Your Agile Project Coach

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During your project management career, you may encounter an agile coach -- someone who helps you or your project team adopt and improve agile approaches.

Let's look at four types of coaches and how to best utilize them:

Fly in, fly out

This is usually a consultant who comes for a one-time session. He can provide a fresh perspective from having worked with several organizations.

Be sure the session is long enough for the coach to assess the state of your organization. Let his input be uninfluenced by your existing perceptions. Deploy the coach's suggestions in your own way or get him back for more extended consulting. If the coach's observations seem extreme, don't be surprised -- it may be necessary to get to the issues in a short amount of time. 

Continuous outsider

This "contract coach" typically spends a few months advising a team or an individual. This arrangement offers more continuity, as the coach can observe the flow of the process through all stages and still maintain her independent view. 

To get the most of your contract coach, be sure to include her in most meetings of the teams being helped. Do not think of these coaches as separate from your team just because they are not regular employees.

One insider

Some agile coaches will work alone, as a full-time employee. This situation is advantageous because the coach can set clear direction for an agile team without a potential conflict of interest among his and the proper organizational strategy.

While this arrangement assists in quicker implementation of decisions, it may not allow for as many fresh ideas. It can also be hard to scale the coaching effort to more agile teams as organizational needs grow.

Team of insiders

Some organizations employ an entire team of coaches, which is effective when working with difficult teams because the teams and coaches can support each other. For example, a team may have trouble adopting key practices, but pointers from another coach may help get the team unstuck.   

Multiple agile coaches can also balance the workload of coaching multiple teams so no one is overloaded.

The hazard is that the coaches may splinter into competing ideas on how to execute agile. Establish a process for when the gurus do not agree on which agile practices should be emphasized. Strive for a balance of standards and the ability to evolve as new practices emerge from the profession or successful teams.

In general, make sure there is synergy between your agile coaches, tools team, education people, and corporate governance or process definition body.

How do you best work with an agile coach?

See more posts on agile.
See more posts on teams

Best Practices Improve Customer Experiences

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In order to survive, project-driven organizations must compete on many levels. Delivering on time, to cost and with quality is always important -- but so is the interaction and customer experience they provide during the project.

Project-driven organizations must consider customer satisfaction as a critical success factor. Organizations that deliver projects that disregard customer needs create negative experiences and ultimately cause huge problems for the organization.

Typically, project teams that fail to capture what the customer actually needs or wants end up getting the product or service wrong. This can happen because:  

  1. A project manager blindly follows process and doesn't consider human compassion or understanding. Customer engagement seems like a formality or box-ticking exercise to him or her.
  2. Teams are rewarded on task completion and resolved issues -- not on the number of satisfied customers.
  3. Projects exist within organizations that don't create opportunities for customers to engage or provide feedback. Therefore, there's no information to improve processes. 
  4. There is lack of support and resources to actively engage and respond to customers. This results in poor employee morale and commitment. 
  5. Collaboration between teams and departments favoring the customer don't exist. Hence there is no sharing of insights and improvements.
  6. The overall culture and attitude within the organization is not customer centric, so there will be gaps in expectation and delivery.
I believe project managers and organizations should build in a best-practice approach to fulfil customer expectations.

In my experience, organizations with project management practices that deliver positive experiences are customer-focused and have proactive, sound processes in place. They also have dedicated, responsive teams who are flexible and able to satisfy customer needs.

I believe the following practices can help deliver a positive customer experience:

  • Prevent confrontation and problems by balancing your company's customer service expectations with your customers' needs.

  • Focus efforts on fulfilling requirements -- but remember to show compassion in the process.

  • Bridge gaps between customer requirements and what can actually be delivered through structured communications mechanisms.

  • Measure customer satisfaction and gather feedback to continuously improve processes.
  • Make "satisfied customers" a measure for success in a project -- in addition to quality, time and budget. 

  • Report, communicate and ensure project documents are updated and reflect the truth of the project. 

  • Have processes that inform and include the customers when making changes.

  • Capture the "voice of the customer." Make these a part of the organization's project management training.

  • Develop and use customer engagement models throughout the project life cycle.  This could be in the form of benchmarks and metrics that the customer scores and provides feedback on, for example. Or, contracts could have mutually agreed upon customer satisfaction orientated rewards and penalties.  
How do you create customer experiences when delivering your projects? What tools and best practices do you use to engage customers?

See more posts from Saira Karim.
See Taralyn R. Frasqueri-Molina's post on The Benefits of a Change Control Board.

6 Tips to Persuade Stakeholders to Say "Yes" to Your Project

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"Advertising is fundamentally persuasion, and persuasion happens to be not a science, but an art." -- Bill Bernbach, founder of Doyle Dane Bernbach, an ad agency

Starting a project is not always easy. It requires resources and changes the status quo, so there can be a lot of obstacles until you hear "yes" to a project.  

That's why you need to know how to effectively persuade your stakeholders to get on board with your project.

Dr. Alan H. Monroe's motivated sequence pattern, created in the 1930s, is useful for doing so:

1. Attention: Capture your stakeholders' attention with an interesting opening statement, or share a statistic related to your project.

2. Need: Identify the need that your project will address and share it with your stakeholders. The more information you have about the business needs, the better the chance your project is approved.    

3. Satisfaction: Let stakeholders know how your project will satisfy the identified business needs. In detail, describe the approach you'll use in your project to address the needs.

4. Visualize: Explain the 'perfect world' that will exist after the project has finished. Make it as vivid as possible -- explain how it looks, sounds and smells. Be very energetic and enthusiastic when you explain.

5. Action: Tell them what you need them to do. Let them know specifically what steps you are taking to achieve the vision you've just shared.

The sixth element I would add is to tell a story to help you make your point. It could be real or it could be fictional, but remember that people are more likely persuaded when they hear or read a story that transports them. If a story is told well, we get swept up and are less likely to notice things that don't match up with our everyday experiences.

Use your creativity -- find your own way to mix all of these elements and you can build a powerful tool to persuade even the most demanding stakeholder.

How do you reach and influence your stakeholders as people, not just businesspersons?

See more posts from Jorge Valdés Garciatorres.

See more posts about stakeholder management.

In Search of Project Management Stars

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Every project professional knows the massive effort that goes into a project delivered on time, on budget and in sync with organizational strategy. Now's the time to put the spotlight on all that hard work.

Established in 1989, the PMI Project of the Year Award recognizes the accomplishments of a project and project team for performance and exemplary execution of project management using processes and approaches consistent with A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) -- Fourth Edition.

PMI encourages nominations for projects from around the world, regardless of size, industry or location. Anyone can nominate a project or be nominated for a project; PMI affiliation is not required. The winner will be announced in October at PMI® Global Congress 2012 -- North America in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

But you have to act quickly. Nominations for the 2012 PMI Project of the Year Award must be received by Thursday, 1 March 2012.

Winning such a coveted professional award reaps many benefits for both organizations and individuals. These may include a boost in sales, attracting and retaining top talent, and gaining media exposure. It's also an excellent way to celebrate a project team's successes while affirming an organization's commitment to sound project management. For individuals, a professional award can enhance your résumé or CV and your career prospects.

Last year's project entries represented a diverse array. The Prairie Waters Project, aimed at preventing water shortages in Colorado, USA, took top honors. The finalists included the EMAL Smelter Complex in Al Taweelah, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, and the Oak Grove Steam Electric Station in Franklin, Texas, USA.

Learn more about the 2012 Project of the Year, download nomination guidelines and watch videos of 2011 award winners and nominees.

Have you submitted your nomination yet?

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