What they weren’t telling you when you took over that project…



When house hunting, savvy shoppers quickly learn the meaning of some seemingly innocent phrases found in listing descriptions. For example, lots of potential means that you will have to spend a lot of money to make the house livable. Quaint implies that no upgrades have been made since the house was originally built.

When taking over a project from another project manager, similar rules apply. The customer, sponsor or departing project manager are all very motivated to get a competent replacement as quickly as possible. And while they wouldn’t blatantly mislead you, here are some telltale phrases to watch for while you are being wooed for the role.

We are a little over budget: The project has a cost variance which cannot be absorbed, metrics are likely not in place to quantify how big the problem is, and everyone involved is in denial.

We have a slick sponsor: That’s because he or she is made of Teflon with nothing sticking including escalated actions, risks, issues or decisions.

The team is very creative: I’ve just got two words for you – herding cats!

Stakeholders are very engaged: The only problem is that the majority of them are actively engaged in attempting to sabotage the project.

We’ve completed some deliverables: The team has produced a bunch of documentation.

There is a dynamic decision making process: Project governance processes were not well defined or practiced and decisions are being frequently challenged and reversed.

We are constantly learning: That’s because we are also constantly forgetting to apply the lessons we should have already learned.

This project will be a real feather in your cap: You’ll need the cap because you’ll likely tear all you hair out while managing it!

The project has been managed in an agile manner: Scope is constantly changing, nothing is documented, and everyone is doing whatever they feel like.

We have a project control book: Of course, no one looks and it because the content is very out-of-date.

You will need to roll your sleeves up: That’s because we have a significant resource shortfall.

While the purchase of a house might be the most significant personal investment many of us will make, leading a project represents an investment in our careers.

Caveat emptor.

Categories: Agile, Project Management | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Does ANYONE benefit from your PM information system?

FeedMeA project management information system (PMIS) is not an investment which most companies would make lightly. The one time and ongoing hard costs coupled with the change management effort involved in implementing such tools can be significant so it is reasonable to expect that there will be some tangible value derived once the dust settles.

Unfortunately, in spite of PMIS’s being commercially available for more than a couple of decades, they sometimes provide us with a live example of the Abilene paradox with everyone involved being fully aware that their system is a joy and money-leeching false deity which bestows no boons on anyone, least of all those who are required to offer information tithes to it on a weekly basis. Yet, investment in the system continues unabated, and the mandate to use it is frequently reinforced.

Does the mere existence of an implemented PMIS provide any benefit? Wouldn’t this be similar to installing a fake security camera which could provide some degree of assurance even though it is all form but no substance? Does the requirement to submit project updates regularly create the right kinds of discipline in project teams?

I highly doubt it.

Just because I am required to feed the beast on a weekly basis doesn’t mean that I will provide quality sustenance, especially if I see no WIIFM and even more so if I get coerced to do so.

What’s the root cause for such an unfortunate situation?

While we could point to a bad procurement decision, a lack of understanding of the processes being automated, or insufficient requirements gathering, these are sometimes just symptoms of the real culprit – poor stakeholder engagement.

If the PMIS purchasing decision and implementation is done without properly engaging one or more key stakeholder communities, the likelihood that data quality or presentation gaps exist will increase dramatically.

As with establishing PMOs, the implementation of a PMIS should be orchestrated like any other strategic project. It should be supported by an appropriately vetted business case, and planned and executed in a disciplined manner including effective, holistic stakeholder identification and engagement.

In other words, practice what you preach.

Categories: Project Management | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Does your organization truly support project management?

supportThe April 2016 issue of PM Network provided updated project management capability findings from PMI’s 2016 Pulse of the Profession ® report. An unfortunate statistic is that only 38% of organizations are placing a high priority on creating a culture which recognizes the importance of project management.

Organizational project management support can be either a blocker in lower maturity companies or an accelerator to project performance in higher maturity ones. A good project manager who is working in an organization which doesn’t value project management could find themselves stymied at every turn whereas a novice project manager could easily exceed expectations in a higher maturity firm.

Effectively supporting project management doesn’t just mean setting up a PMO and expecting that it will be able to work miracles as the report indicates that 68% of organizations have a PMO. Establishing a PMO within a low maturity organization but not vesting it with the authority or sponsorship to influence behaviors and culture can be the kiss of death.

Project management maturity is also not realized just by having good project sponsorship as the same report indicates that three out of five projects have engaged executive sponsors. While an engaged project sponsor can increase the odds of success for the projects or programs which they are sponsoring unless that executive has the influence and inclination to champion the transformations required to achieve a higher level of maturity such successes are likely to remain limited.

In addition to effective sponsorship, some of the following conditions should be met.

  1. Staff who are directly or indirectly supporting project work (e.g. functional managers, HR, operational support teams) should be provided with a good grounding in project management fundamentals and in the specific methodologies utilized within the organization. They should also be trained on the role they will need to play in achieving project success.
  2. Objectives and performance measures for these staff should include a healthy balance between operational and project success metrics.
  3. Project managers should have flexible growth prospects with the ability to either take on progressively more senior roles within the project management career path or to move laterally into functional leadership positions.
  4. Project managers will be expected to provide feedback into the performance evaluations of the team members who had worked on their projects.
  5. The path to an executive role should include the engaged sponsorship of at least one successful initiative.
  6. New sponsors are provided with onboarding support and ideally will be paired up with a seasoned executives to help them succeed.
  7. Lessons identified on projects are broadly shared and those which are deemed to be chronic, recurring blockers will be escalated to the appropriate level of executive visibility and resolved.
  8. The prompt communication & escalation of issues and risks is encouraged and identified issue or risk owners are encouraged to respond in a timely manner.
  9. Leaders spend significant effort ensuring that the structure and processes for project governance are efficient and effective.
  10. The culture encourages transparency – health status is reported consistently from the project team level all the way up to the top of the house.

What else do you feel is required to demonstrate effective organizational support for project management?


Categories: Facilitating Organization Change, Project Management | Tags: , | 2 Comments

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