Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

PostHeaderIcon Check for Burnout

Feeling stressed?

Overwhelmed by your project(s)?

Enthusiasm waning?

Am I at Risk of Burnout?

If you’re thinking ‘Yes’, then MindTools has a quick self-test for stretched project managers:

http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTCS_08.htm

PostHeaderIcon ProjectManager.com

Now and again one comes across great resources for enhancing project management knowledge and offering practical support.

ProjectManager.com has it all:

  • Videos – almost 100 videos on seemingly every imaginable PM topic
  • Blog – a daily blog
  • eBooks – an array of useful references for building high performing teams and planning and managing projects
  • Templates – from Charter to Closure
  • Webinars – recorded sessions covering project management, leadership, scoping, tracking and more
  • Software – tools for planning, tracking and reporting.

And if that’s not quite enough, there are also postings of PM jobs and a regular newsletter.

To find out more, check out http://www.projectmanager.com/.

PostHeaderIcon Passion, Creativity, Excellence

What gives meaning to accomplishment? In the end, it is the journey that often matters more than the destination. How we get there and most especially, how we are led there, is what instills color in our memories – and most notably in our project and organization experiences. Superlative leadership inspires, motivates and brings meaning to what we do. As individuals, we also find our own way of facilitating a meaningful journey.

I live my working life by three themes, whether leading or contributing. Steve Jobs illustrates how these mattered at Apple:

Passion

My passion has been to build an enduring company where people were motivated to make great products. Everything else was secondary.

Creativity

Our job is to figure out what they’re (the customers) going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, “If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, ‘A faster horse!’” Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.

Excellence

I figured it was always my job to make sure that the team was excellent, and if I didn’t do it, nobody was going to do it.

I believe each of these themes are vital to every project and to every organization.

PostHeaderIcon Effective Project Management Education

How effective is your organization’s approach to project management skills development? Does it yield measurable, positive and sustainable change?

Change does not necessarily assure progress, but progress implacably requires change.

Education is essential to change, for education creates both new wants and the ability to satisfy them.

Henry Steele Commager

We should not equate education with training here – yet this often occurs. The most effective means of assuring progress in project management is a multi-faceted education approach that supplements training with strategies that not only embrace but emphasize:

  • Tailored coaching/mentoring
  • Regular (“push”) knowledge feeds
  • Practical (“pull”) resources, and
  • On-demand support.

Education does not equal training.

PostHeaderIcon A Quote for Closeout

Every project eventually comes to an end. That moment is a time for a joyous celebration of collective efforts, for deep reflection on what might have been done differently, and also for letting go – the intensity of commitment, the collaboration with others and the accomplishments of a unique venture that may be comparably repeated but not cloned.

We begin to see that the completion of an important project has every right to be dignified by a natural grieving process. Something that required the best of you has ended. You will miss it.

Anne Wilson Schaef

PostHeaderIcon Project Management and the Four Cultures

Project Management and Culture - not always love at first sight

One of the most critical success factors in implementing project management is ensuring the right fit of processes and systems with the culture of the organization. Yet culture is such a wonderfully complex and seemingly amorphous thing that it can be hard to know what “fit” really means if we can’t define the characteristics and boundaries of the firm’s culture.

The Re-Engineering Alternative by William Schneider provides both a fascinating insight into organizational culture as well as a practical toolkit for determining your own company’s core culture. This is not a new book but it is a gem. Designed as an aid to improving organizational effectiveness by leveraging cultural norms and behaviors, Schneider describes how peeling back the layers of any organization will yield one of four dominant culture types.

Understand Your Culture

Each culture is defined in fine detail by comprehensively describing the leadership and management styles, strengths and weaknesses, structure, relationships and decision-making attributes that characterize them. Discovering the differences will help explain why organizations operate the way they do and, by extrapolation, why project management has to be tailored to be sustainable. Schneider terms the cultures as:

  • Control – structured, domineering, task-oriented
  • Collaboration – trust-based, empowering, people-centric
  • Competence – achievement-oriented, impersonal, excellence-driven
  • Cultivation – potential-fulfilling, creative, informal

If you’ve worked in a variety of culturally diverse organizations, you’ll quickly recognize the distinctive traits of each of these four cultures that are described in the book so clearly and with plenty of examples.

Culture Limits Execution of Strategy

As Schneider rightly points out, culture limits strategy. And since culture sets expectations, priorities, managerial practices and communication patterns, it also limits the execution of strategy – and therefore projects. Culture ultimately defines how work is planned, organized and managed – which is why it is such a crucial consideration in any effort to improve enterprise project management.

PostHeaderIcon Process Balance and A Favorite Quote

Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to step inside a wide variety of organizations and view first-hand how they ‘do projects’. While a few seem to have got it right, too many suffer from a mismatch of either too little or too much process. Its a fine balance.

The trick to implementing sustainable project management is to tune process to the needs of the organization (right fit – which depends on culture and maturity) and to the needs of all projects (right scalability – which depends on differences in project scale and complexity).

Keep it Practical

Too often, well-intentioned PMOs get carried away in their zeal for rolling out a new and comprehensive project management process, that they forget about the customer – the project managers. Since they have to actually use the process, the right balance is key to ensuring the well-being of the project community.

For all those wanting to embed best practices, (or alternatively, trying to circumvent process overload), remember that:

  • (a) The PMBOK is simply a guide to the body of knowledge – it is not a methodology
  • (b) Good project management is first and foremost practical

With this in mind, here’s one of my favorite quotes:

An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory

(Friedrich Engels)

Its the mantra of all good PMOs.

PostHeaderIcon Construction Industry needs Project Management Education

When I first started in the project management services business, I was repeatedly led to believe that the construction industry was the beacon of leadership in project management maturity. My own experience over the years tended to question that wisdom and now the truth is out that this is indeed all nonsense. According to a recent survey by the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), which represents 42,000 members and sets standards for the management of the total building process, the construction industry has much to learn about project management.

The Shocking Truth

Not a towering force in project management

Not a towering force in project management

The survey results are based on data from 73 companies and over 2,000 projects. Its conclusions are available on the CIOB website – you can also watch an interesting video of the CIOB president Keith Pickavance presenting the results at the Project Management Asia Conference 2008. They make for a highly uncomplimentary denunciation of the state of project management practices in the industry- for example:

– more than 50% of projects reported on managed with simple bar charts and no CPM
– less than 15% used a linked network to define the schedule
– only 10% had a QA system in place to quality control the network
  • less than 15% used a linked network to define the schedule
  • more than 50% used only simple bar charts
    • (no chance of a critical path)
  • more than 50% used paper (not computerized) records
  • less than 15% kept logs of changes
    • (not much good in court)
  • 95% did not report delays to progress because they:
    • hoped no-one would notice
    • hoped they could catch up
    • did not want to upset the client
    • thought they could blame someone else.

Its not a pretty picture. Little wonder then, that the industry is dogged by delays, compensation claims and disputes.

The Way Forward

Clearly there is a need for some serious project management skills development. In the words of Mr. Pickavance himself:

We have no standards, we have no training, we have no qualifications.

All of which should be manna from heaven for project management educators, particularly in those regions where construction investment is being pumped up to help resurrect limp economies. Assuming of course that the building firms are open to changing their ways.

PostHeaderIcon PMP Mania and a Favourite Quote

As each year passes, the number of PMPs grows exponentially. I don’t have the latest stats but here are some data points:

  • 1986 – 100 PMPs
  • 1998 – 10,000 PMPs
  • 2007 – 250,000 PMPs

You get the picture.

Anyway, swept along in all this enthusiasm at seemingly the same rate of knots, is a fast-growing band of HR Managers, (or “Talent Managers” for the politically correct), who have been misled into believing that a PMP certification makes for a better project manager. In fact there is ample evidence that knowledge of the PMBOK does not make for a better PM. I have trained plenty of PMPs who by their own admission did not fully understand how to actually develop a high quality tactically viable schedule.

When organizations and recruitment agencies get locked onto PMP as a primary hiring criteria for candidate project managers, my first reaction is despair. My second reaction is excitement at another opportunity to provide some coaching in practical project management.

Which brings me to my favourite quote:

An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory.

(Friedrich Engels)