Project Management

Focused Performance 0

Jump start your 2015 business planning. Russell Martin & Associates has created The Focused Performance Bundle. The package includes everything you need to facilitate the planning sessions with your team. lou russell

Once you know where you want to go and where you don’t want to go in 2015, start brainstorming initiatives that will take you there.  It’s likely that each of these initiatives will generate multiple projects.  How do you pick which projects to do?  How do you prioritize the work over all four quarters of 2015 without adding so much project work that it’s impossible to focus on any of it?  Prioritization allows you to pick the projects you can charter utilizing a project sponsor and project manager who drive a project schedule for accountability.

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Lou Russell is the CEO of Russell Martin & Associates and L+earn, an executive consultant, speaker, and author whose passion is to create growth in companies by guiding the growth of their people. In her speaking, training, and writing, Lou draws on 30 years of experience helping organizations achieve their full potential. She is committed to inspiring improvement in all three sides of what she has dubbed the Optimization Triangle: leadership, project management, and individual learning.

Lou was a great guest and I am sure you will enjoy the podcast.

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Forming a Quality Group 0

This is the last in series of interviews that I had with Bob Petruska of Sustain Lean Consulting. We have covered subjects from Trystoming to Value Stream Mapping.

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One of the things Bob is most proud of and enjoys the most is the group of quality people that he collaborates with in his place of residence, Charlotte, NC. He discusses the start of this group and a few of the struggles they went through during the formation.

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What knowledge are you supposed to capture? 0

Do you capture everything?

Is everything a lesson learned?

How do you decide what you need to capture for the closeout?

I asked Mel Bost a Principal Consultant in BOT International’s PMO Practice who specializes in PMO best practices, project lessons learned, and program management those questions in a past podcast, Related Podcast and Transcription:  Learning in Project Management.

Mel:                 That’s a good question. I’m writing this book which is going to be out shortly. In my blog, I talk about this process in capturing and documenting lessons learned. Really, what I’m defining there is what I call significant events. A significant event is something where you may have a major deviation between expected result and actual result. That would probably be easy for a project manager to sit down with his project team and list 50 things that ought to be improved. I say take the top 5 or 10 where you’ve had a significant deviation between expected and actual result. Focus on those 5 or 10, if you’re able to do that, you’ve got the old 80/20 rule. Eighty percent of the value to be gained is probably in the first five or six lessons learned significant events that you identify. The rest of them trail off very quickly, but there can be a lot of things.

If an organization has a robust risk management plan in place, they are 90 percent of the way toward having a lessons learned process. They’ve already defined some potential risks. If those risks get triggered in a project and they have a mitigation plan, they’ve already identified some significant events. The definition of risk and carrying that out for a project, having that risk identified, and if it’s triggered, if it’s significant and you’ve got a mitigation plan, that ought to go right at the top of the list of lessons learned. When you say how do you know, what do you need to capture all the knowledge? I’d say pick the top 5 or 10 lessons learned, something where you had a major deviation between expected and actual result.

Joe:                  My next question is how do you share that knowledge? How is that shared so that knowledge is made explicit to other people?

Mel:                 Different organizations have handled that in different ways. Certainly some of the larger organizations, we have, especially the large oil companies have put knowledge management systems into place. Even companies like Schlumberger, which is an oilfield service organization, they were one of the first companies to put together a knowledge management system where they actually go in and put it into a database. Depending on how sophisticated the organization is, I’ve even seen a couple instances in NASA where organizations have developed what they call a knowledge-based risk. In other words, they’re using their knowledge database to inform their risk managers of previous project problems before the initiate a new project. I think it’s up to, once again, the individual organization.

In the case of ConocoPhillips, when I worked there, one of the first things we tried to do was to have a breakfast forum among our project managers and invite some of the project managers who were just completing projects to talk about lessons learned. We videotaped those, and we put them into a SharePoint system, so anybody goes out and look at those. We promoted that to all our project managers, especially those who were going to initiate a new project that was similar to one that had just been completed. Today, we have a project server system out there from Microsoft project that incorporates a lot of that and allows capture of lessons learned.

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A Project Charter, You Gotta Be Kidding Me 0

I was thrilled to have Lou Russell  of RMA Associates as my guest next week on the podcast.  She is a project management guru who cut her teeth in Accelerated Learning. In fact, she wrote the book,The Accelerated Learning Fieldbook: Making the Instructional Process Fast, Flexible, and Fun. Tune in to find the connection.

An excerpt from the podcast on her thoughts about Project Charters:

Lou Russell: One of the other things I think is just mystifying to me is that everybody, when left to their own devices, will skip project charter, skip it completely, and just do a schedule, because we have software for that. But we really don’t have the software for project charters – I guess we have templates, but it’s not cool enough – it doesn’t have, like, software. So, that means it mustn’t matter. Well, the project charter defines why you’re spending money on this project instead of something else. It gives you the whole reason for being of the project, and you skip it and build a schedule that’s supposed to actually be right? How can it be right? You don’t even know what you’re doing. That makes me crazy. That’s one of my little blasphemous pet-peeves, sorry.

Joe: I think you hit a very good point, because when you read any project management book, though they are discussing scope and charter, you are sitting there just waiting to get started.

Lou: Let’s go. Let’s build stuff.

Joe: That’s the feeling you get. What I like about your Project Manager for Trainers, OK – I mean, I love that book, because it’s very much, “Do it!” You know, here’s a charter, but do it.

Lou: Given that you’ve had the proper conversations, so let’s put that on the table – given that you’ve managed to capture long enough to get the need – basically, the project charter should take less than 45 minutes – it’s a draft. It’s always a draft. There’s no way you can build a final project charter before you’ve started the project. You don’t know what’s going on. It’s going to evolve. It’s an organic, evolving thing, as is the plan, and if neither of those are evolving – I know someone right now is having cardiac arrest about this – “You’re supposed to control a project!” No, you can’t. It doesn’t belong to you. It belongs to the business. Anyway, if it isn’t changing, then no one needs that project – you should be cancelling it right now.

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What Type of Individual Manages A Project Better 0

I asked MICHAEL SINGER DOBSON, a marketing executive, project management consultant and nationally-known speaker; “In all your experiences, is there a certain type of individual that manages a project better? To me there always seem that if you get the right guy heading the project, it gets done.”

Michel has been a staff member of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, award-winning game designer, and career counselor in his varied career. My favorite book of Michael’s, out of twenty or so he wrote, is Creative Project Management.

An excerpt from the Podcast and Transcription: Impossible Projects

Michael:   Yes, absolutely. But the right guy does vary project to project. There are projects in which say construction, nice classical project. The discipline, I am there’s a lot to be discipline. I don’t mean to trivialize it in any way, shape or form. It’s understood as a discipline. If you want to master it, you can master it. The mind-set is highly organized, forceful and detail oriented. You get somebody running R&D projects in the game business, since I’m familiar with that, what you need is somebody who’s out of the box thinker. The number of tasks and the complexity of tasks are normally not great. All of the brain’s sweat, all of the effort is on that creative side and frankly Microsoft Project does relatively small amounts of good in the environment like that. It’s a very different sort of situation. It is certainly the case that you want the confident right person.

Projects vary so much that the correct answer is different. Who do you need? I mean notice somebody like Steven Spielberg still has a team of staff producers. Kathleen Kennedy, people like that, who can run all the logistics to free him up to do the things that only he can do. If I’m a project management professional in here, yes I can lead the project in the areas in which I am confident but a lot of times the help I can give you is I can help somebody else set up the organizational component for you to get that off your back. It all varies; political skills, forcefulness, persuasive ability, negotiation. I tell people all the time that the best followup for basic class and project management is a class in negotiation. I mean, project managers are basically all blanche du bois; we rely on the kindness of strangers.

By the definition of a project, it’s something outside the normal routine. So, it’s mostly the case that a large part of your team are not people who report to you in some formal standard supervisory sense because the project is of limited duration, it will end and those resources would have to be released to somebody else. In most cases it’s true, if you’ve got a job to do, it’s almost always the case that you cannot possibly get it done without the willing and essentially voluntary cooperation of people over whom you have no direct official power or control and I know you’ve been there to, I’m sure.

Joe:          Oh, I’ve always been very convinced. It’s not about having the best idea. It’s about what can get implemented. Not the best idea always can be implemented.

Michael:   Absolutely. Politics is very simple. I have a test if you have office politics in the organization. It’s very simply. You do a head count, number exceeds 3; you’ve got it because people do not check their humanity, self-interests of goals at the door when they punched in to go to work. It never has been the case, never will be the case. If you can’t work with that, your effectiveness as project manager is going to be incredibly limited.

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Want To Be a Program Manager? 0

I asked Paula Wagner in a past podcast what qualities do you look for in someone that wants to fill the position of Global Program Manager? Paula Wagner, MBA, PMP, has more than 20 years of business experience in technology, strategy, and planning.

Related Podcast and Transcription: The Program Manager UnMasked

Paula:  With someone who’s a Global Program Manager, I would say for anyone working in a global business, the number one skill is flexibility. Because you have to be flexible and understand different cultures, different customs, different styles of doing business. I once talked to somebody and they said when they hire someone for a global position they always want to know is this person going to eat at the hotel restaurant or are they going to go and experience the culture and eat at the restaurant down the street and really experience their customs and their food.

There are a number of skill sets to being a program manager. Obviously, leadership, these people have to lead project managers who are very strong leaders in themselves, but also you’re leading this whole enterprise to achieve the business results you’re looking for. Understand the politics and the market conditions and the locations that you’re operating in that can affect any of the projects that you’re overseeing.

There’s also a need to be somewhat technical, technology savvy, or technical savvy, in the area that your projects are under so you can understand their language and their needs and their experiences. You also want to have a strategic vision. Be able to look and think broadly, and then act locally; understanding the organizational structure of the company as well as the structure of the program and the project managers. You also need some environmental awareness ? what’s going on in the world and how it would affect the work that you’re doing. And it’s always great to have experience as a project manager before stepping into the shoes as a program manager.

Program managers have to be real great time managers because they have to be flexible and obviously people are working around the world so you have to be cognizant of time zones, time changes. In the U.S., we have Daylight Savings Time. In around the world those that do practice Daylight Savings Times have different weekends that it changes, so they have to be aware of that.

I actually worked on a program where Daylight Savings had to be written into the software, so that can easily shift or add an hour or lose an hour during those two days of the year. And most importantly a program manager has to have strong communications skills as well as people skills. And sometimes those soft skills are often the hardest skills that there are, is the way to work with people and really be able to communicate both verbally and in writing so that people from many different backgrounds can understand you.

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When is there to much information on a page? 0

I asked Mick Campbell, MBA is co-founder and Managing Partner of OPPM International (The New One-Page Project Manager: Communicate and Manage Any Project With A Single Sheet of Paper) that question in a past podcast.

Related Podcast and Transcript: Easy, Not Simple Project Management

Joe: Has anyone ever claimed that there is too much information on a page?

Mick: That’s an interesting conversation. I recall a wonderful, in-depth conversation with a friend of mine at Texas Instruments whom I’ve come to know. He talked about using the OPPM as a front door step, as a boiler plate. As something that would draw in attention and then he wanted to have cells that you could click and find a litany of data in and behind that. That is as you would expect, because he is a detail oriented person.

One of the best thinkers and probably most successful project management writers, a gentleman by the name of Harold Kerzner has talked about an idea that we like and use, and he mentions it in some praise for some of our books. That executives, those who are making decisions have so much information to look at, and we, ourselves, we’ve got hundreds of web sites, we have multiple news publications, who know how many cable stations or satellite stations we have at our disposal, how many e-mail accounts you manage personally. We are inundated with information and so, how do we parse through that?

The idea being that when he goes out and does some things he causes that people write up a report, and invariably it is multiple pages and people have beautiful documentation that accompanies it, at the end of that he throws all this away to make a singular statement that I’ll share with everyone. I love this statement. I think it’s applicable to your comment about too much information on one page.

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He says that if there is a paper clip around it or a staple through it they won’t read it. So, we took that and applied it directly to our thinking, saying that you can’t choose or scrunch down your fonts size, you’ve got to keep it legible, and that, actually, for most of us who are detail oriented, which many people in the project world are, that becomes quite a bit of a struggle. In fact, when we’re out talking about the One-Page Project Manager that is sometimes the hardest thing for people to do is to try to determine how much information they’re going to put and what information is salient.