Does Knowledge Want To Be Managed?

First published by Stacy Goff April 2, 2011, republished in 2021. We post this article to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of IPMA-USA, founded April 9, 2001. Our founders have been long-time leaders and innovators in the project and program management (PPM) practices. We have contributed greatly to the growth of PPM practices, and to other professional associations that had advanced them.

One of our founding objectives was to move past a project management certification process that focused just on knowledge. Instead, we focused on skills, attitudes and competence, on strategic alignment of projects, and improving project management interpersonal interaction. Our goal: to vastly increase project team and enterprise competence, performance, and business results.

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
This topic was inspired during a trans-Atlantic air travel dialogue with a young lady seatmate whose job responsibilities included Knowledge Management in an alternative energy company. We explored, and brought together, a range of the relevant terms and disciplines involved with knowledge acquisition, assimilation, retention, and application. Upon my return, and reflecting on the unresolved parts of our discussion, I scheduled an interview with Knowledge. This was more difficult than I thought, even though I had long-ago attributed traits of anthropomorphism to her. Finding Knowledge was easy. Getting dedicated time to interview her was the difficult part. Her? Of course, Knowledge is feminine in gender. Some men don’t really understand more than Facts, the younger step-brother of Knowledge.

Our Interview with Knowledge
My first question was the title of this posting. She asserted that “No one ever asked me!”  She expressed concerns that many of those purporting to “manage knowledge” do have some insights, but most do not understand the entire story. She pointed out that Knowledge is only one member of her large family of Intelligence, and some of her senior siblings are even less-understood than she. For example, her Grandmother is Wisdom. And, she asserted her deep concern that there are whole industries, educational systems, software support, and even certifications based on just her part of her family.

While some, such as Peter Senge, come close to deep understanding, many of his followers only grasp the obvious parts. And, especially disconcerting to Knowledge was her belief that man has had few new insights about her for several thousand years, since the illuminations in China, India, Greece and Egypt. The interview, while wide-ranging and deep in content, was a firehose blast of perspective, all absorbed in a 15 second interview. Ms. Knowledge had other pressing commitments elsewhere.

The Taxonomy of Data
The interview led me to reflect on my own journey toward Knowledge and the rest of her family many years ago. In the 1970s I performed presentations to various professional groups. One of my favorite presentations, especially for groups involving data and information systems, was The Taxonomy of Data. I did not invent the concept; I had read something in 1974 that inspired me.

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Advantages and Risks for PMs in the Gig Economy

PM ChangeAgent Commentary by Stacy Goff.
The first 20 years of the 21st century has seen increased interest in ‘The Gig economy’. This has been estimated to be in full force by 2020 or 2025. Because we are now less than a year away from the first of those targets, let’s imagine we have perfected all the actions needed to make PPM successful in the Gig Economy, and explore what it is like! (PPM = Program/Project Manager). Status Check: We are in the Gig Economy when…

A. The most successful enterprises accomplish much of their project and program work through contracts.
B. A high percentage of the best Gig PPMs successfully bid on well-planned contracts.
C. Project teams are staffed in the same way; they bid on projects or programs as team members.
D. Most meetings are virtual, using three-dimensional augmented reality immersion.
E. Of course, all communication is supported by 5G (Fifth Generation) wireless systems.

What are the advantages of this brave new world?

A. Enterprises that engage proven ‘Gig PPMs’ consistently get superior results, faster, and at lower cost.
B. Those project and program professionals who have mastered all needed competences thrive.
C. Executives who contract with them trust them more than their internal staff, an unfortunate situation.
D. Gig Agents, operating like movie star agents, match professionals with open gigs—for a fee.
E. Enterprises can access ‘Gig Reviews,’ much like on Amazon, to see performance reviews of candidates.
F. The best contract PPMs earn GIGantic fees, based in part on project/program performance rewards.

What are the risks/threats in this Gig Economy?

A. If your PPM candidate has merely passed a knowledge-based exam, and has little relevant experience, then he or she will consistently fail. Demonstrated competence and performance, against advanced and complete baselines, are required to manage both contractor and enterprise risks.

B. If your leadership & interpersonal skills, and strategic thinking & business savvy are not exceptionally high, then you will consistently fail in the Gig economy.

C. If relevant application area experience (e.g. Aerospace, or “Big Oil”), and experience with the initiative’s national languages and cultures are low, then you are a risk! Savvy executives will avoid you as a PPM candidate.

D. If Gig PPMs succeed by burning out their teams, then they will have difficulty collecting an effective team in future projects or programs.

E. If a PPM spends all their time in gigs, then she/he will fail to do the marketing and bidding needed to get more gigs. And the converse: marketing and bidding brings in no direct revenue. Reputation, or an alliance with a Gig Agent, are smart risk mitigations.

F. If your PPM candidates are not engaged in continuous learning, then their job will be lost to Artificial Intelligence—or to candidates who demonstrate their continuous learning, by sharing their freshest insights with others.

The Gig Economy can be risky, or it can be a market differentiator for the smartest enterprises. And it can be especially useful for project and program managers, and the organizations that employ them. This is because our practitioners are the smart secret to well-managed organizational change, and to high business benefit. The Gig Economy will, as it matures (and as decision-makers mature in its use), highlight the talents of the smartest Executives and Managers, and the best project and program managers.

Your Comments?

What Is Project Management?

PM ChangeAgent Commentary by Stacy Goff.
In project management workshops, I often kick off each class with questions for table-teams to answer as a group, then report to the class:

Definition of Project Management--Goff

1. What is your definition of a project?
2. How does a project differ from other work?
3. What is project management?

I began this practice long before Max Wideman’s PMBOK, and Duncan’s PMBOK® Guide. Despite efforts of practitioners and professional associations, there remains a wide variety of answers to my third question, What is project management?

After the teams report, I proclaim that each team’s answers were excellent. I also say, that, at the end of the class, I will share my answer to that third question, which is in the graphic at right.

I will parse this simple twelve-word sentence, and see if we can add any new insights for you, our reader. 

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PMR Interview: Small Projects

PM ChangeAgent Commentary by Stacy Goff.

In July, Project Management Review (PMR, in China) published an interview with me, covering seven topics. The interview appeared in their online magazine, their paper magazine, and in PM World Journal. This interview topic is about Small Projects.

PMR: You’ve mentioned that the secret weapon of high-performing project teams is small projects. What is the logic behind this statement?

For many organizations, small projects are an invisible 20-35% of their entire annual expenses. Funding usually comes from an operations budget, and staffing is based not on prioritized portfolios, but instead, on ‘who isn’t doing anything important right now?’ Most organizations don’t even have a definition of what constitutes a small project, or apply a consistent approach for identifying, prioritizing, delivering, and evaluating their success.

I noted this in the early 1980s, as I was coaching my clients to develop portfolios of their projects. I saw, in the most-advanced organizations, including global businesses and government agencies at national and local levels, an understanding that small projects needed different treatment than larger ones. For example, they often solved symptoms, rather than spending the time to understand underlying causes. Many times, the same symptoms occurred dozens of times before finally, someone would realize it was far too expensive to continue doing repetitive ‘quick fixes.’ Then, they would finally understand the root cause, and permanently cure the problem.

I defined a taxonomy of project sizes, and surveyed my clients for the relative delivery efficiency of project results across those sizes. The analysis for each project size was very interesting:

  • Small projects were the least efficient and least effective way to deliver project results.
  • Very large projects, with multiple years of duration and more than 24 people on multiple project teams, were next-least efficient way to deliver results. (We did not have programs in our survey.)
  • Large projects, six months to a year in duration, and one to three teams, were significantly more efficient that were very large projects, and faced lower risk.
  • Medium projects, three to six months in duration, and having three to seven half-time team members, were the most efficient way to deliver project results.

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Everything I Know About Project Time Management, I Learned in Sports Car Racing

PM ChangeAgent Commentary by Stacy Goff.
During the 2000s, we published a series of articles on the “Vital Signs” of project management. We included insights on project time, cost, risk, quality, scope, talent, communication, and stakeholder engagement.

Our 2008 article, “Everything I Know About Project Time Management, I Learned In Sports Car Racing,” was one of the most popular of the bunch. It remains so today, ten years later. So on this tenth anniversary of its publishing, we highlight that article.

Since its original publishing, this article has been the basis for global and national keynotes and webinars, and for chapter meetings and project team discussions. 

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What Makes IPMA’s Certifications Stand Out?

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
To help you decide which project and program management certifications are best for you, and to show why ours stand out, we researched and published an article on the subject. This post is an introduction to the article; see the full article download link below.

This fresh new analysis helps to balance misinformed impressions seen elsewhere on the web. As credited in the article, we based the analysis is on three independent studies and reports.

The full article, in Adobe Acrobat pdf format, is available here on the ProjectExperts website: Comparing PM Certifications. Below are a few of the highlights from the article.

Everywhere you look, on the web, in magazine ads and articles, and in some training companies’ marketing materials, you see a wide range of assertions about the value of a variety of project and program management certifications. What is a decision-maker to think? Are there rational ways to evaluate and compare the myriad offerings?

To explore the differences between the many PM certifications, we evaluated the factors that make a difference in their effectiveness. The result: the Certification Effectiveness Cube, a representation of three factors that are important in evaluating any certification:

A. Prerequisites
B. Breadth of Coverage
C. Rigor of Assessment

The full article explores those three factors, or criteria, and acknowledges that popularity is also an important consideration; the article also reveals an interesting relationship between popularity and effectiveness. 

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The ProjectExperts Bring Back Our PM Pills!

We first offered our PM Pills in 1983, and they were a very popular hit! They were merely candy in pill bottles, with tongue-in-cheek labels. Even six years after our first release, we occasionally saw the bottles on our clients’ office shelves. We also released a series for IPMA-USA, and they were very much in-demand in IPMA, the International Project Management Association.

The Talent Series

The latest release is based on our recent series of articles, webinars, and blog posts on Project Talent. You can see our latest article, Acquiring, Developing, and Retaining Project Talent, here on our website. Inspired by the four Talent Areas in our Talent Tetrahedron–in our chart, they looked like M&Ms–we ordered the right colors, printed labels, and filled the pill bottles.

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You Might Be a Project Manager If…

PM ChangeAgent Commentary by Stacy Goff.
Several years ago, I had a bit of fun with the title of this posting; I suggested the usefulness of this Jeff Foxworthy take-off for project managers and business analysts to a good friend, Tom Hathaway, of BA Experts. He followed through with it at his website. Click his link and see Tom’s results; I think he did a great job!

This year, the “You might be …” set-up came to mind as I was putting the finishing touches on an update to IPMA-USA’s PM-SAT; a self-assessment of knowledge, based on the new, 4th Edition of the IPMA (International Project Management Association) Individual Competence Baseline. What makes this 4th Edition especially interesting is the inclusion of 2-5 Key Competence Indicators for each competence element.

But, before we get into that, and for those who are unfamiliar with the genre, let’s explore the Foxworthy theme. It started with a rather cruel statement, then a series of ‘interesting’ indicators. For example, “You might be a Redneck if…”  followed by something like, “The taillight covers of your car are made of red tape.” Cute, and fun; and not too outrageous. It occurred to me that people who are friends (or family) of project managers probably have the same sayings about us–but are too polite to divulge them to our faces.

Re-purposed For Project Managers: You might be a project manager if …
a. You always show up for meetings, dates, or parties, on time. No matter what.
b. When driving, you always watch traffic 3-4 cars ahead.
c. You know how to develop the winning business case to get needed talent.
d. You are really good at creating a shopping list but expect your significant other to do the shopping.

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Imagine a World Where All Projects Succeed

PM ChangeAgent Commentary by Stacy Goff.

I have used this article’s title as my kick-off phrase at a half-dozen project-related keynotes and presentations over the last few years. Most audiences immediately “lean into” the thought, and its ramifications. For example, in Moscow, Hong Kong, Beijing, Tianjin, Brussels, and in the USA, my audiences immediately took notice, became engaged, and were eager to hear more.

This August (2015) was the first exception I’ve had to that typical reaction: As I voiced the introductory statement, I immediately detected disbelief among many in my audience. This was at one of the USA’s best PM Symposiums: I think this is one of the best because of the high-level audiences, the speaker selection process, and excellent event organization.

When I sensed this audience’s disbelief, I immediately asked the question, “How many think this (for all projects to succeed) is even possible?” Less than a quarter raised their hands. So I launched into an extended introduction, pointing out that …

  • Project managers cannot improve project (and business) success just by working harder. Most of us are already working our hearts out;
  • Nor can we improve performance by sending people to still more training;
  • Our team members? They are not only committed to our projects—they are over-committed;
  • And our stakeholders? They are engaged, and expect us to continue to make miracles happen.

No, (I asserted) it is our layers of managers, from first-level to the executive suite, who hold the keys to higher levels of success. And (I said), the purpose of this presentation is to identify  seven key insights that can help our organizations to improve PM performance—and business success. The paper that supports that presentation will be posted at PM World Journal (and later, at IPMA-USA), but the purpose of this article is to further explore this question of disbelief.

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Prototyping and Agile: Twins, Separated at Birth?

PM ChangeAgent Commentary by Stacy Goff.
We have written before about the intelligent application of Agile methods in Information Technology (IT) projects: See part 3 of our 4-part 2011 series, The First 10% of a Project: 90% of Success, here in our ChangeAgents articles. This article is a follow up with more insights. And, much has happened since our earlier article.

Agile is now maturing, and moving beyond the last-half-of-the-IT-life-cycle. For example, we have seen excellent discussions on the “hybrid” approach. This involves using Agile where it is most appropriate (and where the prerequisites are in place), and using other insightful pm methods where they are more appropriate. That approach in IT, plus increasing use of Agile concepts in areas such as New Product Development, shows promise.

I do still have concerns about a few of the agile zealots who insist upon contrasting Agile to Waterfall. Competent PMs moved away from “pure” Waterfall in the early 1980s. We also disposed, for the most part, of years-long, hold-your-breath-and-wait-forever IT projects. And, we eliminated the reams of never-used unneeded documentation–retaining only the useful stuff. What did we replace these 1960s-era artifacts with? Three-to-six-month, intensive bursts (we called them iterations, or increments) that delivered prioritized useful business functions.

Prerequisites for Success

Of course, in addition to speeding useful delivery, we also identified and implemented other key prerequisites for project and business success:

  • A good, high-level project plan;
  • A clear business case;
  • Understanding of the information needs and data structures;
  • Customer-driven high-level business requirements;
  • Risk assessment, and mitigation responsibilities;
  • The right talent assigned, the right amount of time; both on the IT side, and from customers;
  • Facilitated sessions (Rapid Initial Planning and Joint Application Design) for fast project planning, and requirements elicitation in 1-2 weeks;
  • And, all the other factors mentioned in part 3 of our Success series, mentioned above.

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Exploding the Myth of PM Best Practices

PM ChangeAgent Commentary by Stacy Goff; ProjectExperts CEO.
What are the Best Practices in the world of project and program management (PPM)? Are there a few immutable truths that are transferable across nations, organizations, industries, cultures, and project teams? I often see assertions promoting PM Best Practices—despite my belief that the phrase is an oxymoron—that our discipline is not yet mature enough to have universal best practices. This article is a recap of many discussions on best practices over my years as a PM practitioner, then as a consultant.

My opinions about PM Best Practices go back to the early 1980s, when, as a PPM consultant, I frequently encountered executives, line managers, project managers, and other consultants, who expected to hear my handful of easy-to-implement “PM Best Practices.” In that era, I often made recommendations for improved effectiveness, but I called them “Competitive Practices.” And I usually sought, uncovered, and identified them from within their own organizations. I understood over thirty years ago that one organization’s best practices could be a scourge for others. Here’s why…

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My First Project Portfolio

PM ChangeAgent Commentary by Stacy Goff; ProjectExperts CEO.
Many years ago (1973), in a Data Processing group in a local government organization we had several large projects, plus a huge backlog of small maintenance, support, and “quick fix” projects. And, for this backlog of projects, the priorities continually changed. The changes were so frequent that we could plan our week’s work on Monday, but by Friday, little of that work was complete, because of many new, “even more urgent” projects, and because of priority changes in our backlog.

We addressed this challenge by prototyping a solution: Keeping track of our “backlog” in (of all things) a box of punched cards. That was the primary input to many computer systems in earlier days. After we perfected the information we needed to track, we began to use an online version. In that era, online often meant a simple listing of card images on an 80-character screen. Unfortunately, our solution did little more than depress us—the backlog kept growing.

And then, several new books on Time Management emerged. We especially liked Alan Lakein’s How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life. We decided that his insights, including better methods of prioritization, were the key. We added Urgency and Importance fields to our backlog list, with entries limited to 1, 2 and 3, where 1 was most important or most urgent. Note that Alan Lakein used A, B and C for the three choices, we used 1, 2 and 3, because they could be more easily averaged. And, we required that all entries must average 2, to force a sense of high, medium and low Urgency and Importance. Otherwise, everything would soon become Priority 1, destroying the value of the system.

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Learning PM Success Secrets From Product Managers

PM ChangeAgent Commentary by Stacy Goff; ProjectExperts CEO.
In the early 1990s, a corporate executive and I were talking about the talent in his organization, and he asked me a question: “What’s the difference between a project manager and a product manager?” I knew he had his own answer already, so I asked him: “I can think of a dozen differences, but what do you think is the difference?”

He replied, “The Product Manager has a personality.”

I was shocked. As a practicing project manager and consultant, his reply stung. But then, this company was a major Aerospace/Defense contractor, and despite the Integrated Product Team initiatives of the 1980s, some of the old-timer Project Engineers were still not known for their interpersonal skills and scintillating style. But to make such a blanket statement? Even by the early 1990s, I had had worked with thousands of project managers who had great interpersonal skills—and personality galore!

A Product BOK
I was reminded of this discussion several years ago, when PM Consultant/Speaker/Author Gary Heerkens suggested that I should assist in a new initiative, to develop a Product Management Body of Knowledge. Gary put me in touch with Greg Geracie, who had completed a useful and popular book on the subject (Take Charge Product Management), and was working with a professional organization on this Body of Knowledge project.

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It’s More Than Project Take-off and Landing

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
In our previous post, Let’s Start at the Start, and Finish at the Finish, we left a teaser at the end. It’s the paragraph about the parts of an airplane flight that requires the most pilot skill. We were “piloting” our parallel concepts for a paper we were writing for the August 14-15 UTD PM Symposium. This event, hosted by University of Texas at Dallas, the PMI Dallas Chapter, and PM World Journal, is always one of the best regional PM events of the year. IPMA-USA and IPMA have participated in each of the events since they began, and they are always outstanding. Now I offer the rest of the parallel concept.

Five Crucial Value-add Timings and Results
Managing a project is much like piloting an aircraft. There are several crucial timings where deft leadership, talent, quick reactions and redirection are essential for success. There are other timings when we can run on “cruise control” and perhaps, even take part in completing project work packages or other actions.

From iStock

And just when are those crucial timings?

Clearly, as illustrated in the photo at right, take-off (and landing) are among the crucial timings. And how does our piloting analogy relate to projects? Project take-off must begin with an effective Kick-off meeting—the first get-together of the team. And the landing? That has to be the Project Closure & Review, with review of results, then reallocation of the team to new projects. The results of these two crucial timings may be obvious, but in projects they include, for Kick-off, all stakeholders safely aboard the project, buckled in, and with a clear sense of direction, timing, commitment, and intended result. 

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Let’s Start at the Start, and Finish at the Finish!

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
One of the greatest challenges in managing projects is engaging the full project life cycle. We too-often see practitioners who believe that the “real project” starts at execution of a preconceived solution. These folks seem to believe that the business case, stakeholder engagement, clear and measurable requirements, solution delivery staging, alternative solutions and approaches, and other essential-to-success actions are a gift from above.

Similarly, many project teams escape to other projects late in the project, before success is even evident. Crucial actions remain, such as defect correction, warranty period adjustments, follow-on change orders (chargeable, of course), that increase the return on investment of successful projects, and proof that you met the business need, and supported your sponsor’s strategy.

middleGiven this syndrome, these sadly misinformed project managers and teams should more accurately chart their projects’ precedence diagrams more like the one at left; after all, they are starting and ending their part of the project in the middle!


Meanwhile the more-savvy project teams (or luckier teams, as the case may be) follow the more effective, more success-oriented approach, which starts at the start, and finishes at the finish. This is shown at the right.

Why do less-effective teams skip the most important parts?

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Are You a PRO or an Amateur?

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
The tongue-in-cheek title of this article, as many will recognize, refers to PRO, the Performance Rated Organization standard. This is one of the few organizational PM (Project Management) assessments that is not just another maturity model. Not that we dislike Maturity Models. We have used SEI CMM/CMMi for (gee, approaching 30) years, and like it a lot for Information Technology organizations.

Our purpose with this article is to introduce a much more effective model, to move organizations from accidental (and too-often amateurish) results in project management, to a more performance-driven approach that delivers the intended business benefits—in all projects and programs.

We believe that organizational project management effectiveness is not an arena for maturity levels—it is more like a performance chain—one that is as strong as its weakest link. What brings this article to mind are several recent events. First, we have seen an increased interest in PRO. Next, and this is probably related, we changed our intellectual property rights; in December we moved PRO to a more-open license, that anyone can use, and can build upon.

IPMA-USA’s PRO Standard now uses the Creative Commons License. You are free to:

  • Share — copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format;
  • Adapt — remix, transform, and build upon the material;
  • For any purpose, including commercially.

See PRO, and download the freely available standard on our IPMA-USA website.

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.ru Ready?

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
Two recent experiences resulted in the title of this article: First, we were recently in Russia to keynote a very successful Project Management conference, and .ru is the national web domain for Russia. Second, we recently saw the latest updates in Project Management Institute’s “Are You Ready?” campaign. For the last few years, they have been pivoting to embrace the leadership/behavioral and context/strategic linkage aspects long-advocated by IPMA, International Project Management Association.

I especially appreciate this pivoting action because these were our PM consulting firm’s (Goff Associates, Inc., the ProjectExperts) key differentiators from the early 1980s. Our clients’ success was based on their early embrace of the importance of these demonstrated competences. And, I have long-fought for the consistent application of the factors that make the greatest difference in project and organizational success–even in the era when they were a difficult sale. It’s about time all professional associations recognize the importance of these factors for success!

Project Management 2013: Mission Possible!
The conference, organized by infor-media Russia, and held at the Swissotel Krasnye Holmy Moscow, was very well-managed, interesting, and informative. Among the most interesting parts was the level of experience of most participants–truly outstanding, compared to many events I have participated in. It is an audience similar to the high level of sophistication of the UT Dallas PM Symposium, the PMO Symposium, and of course, our IPMA World Congress. As kick-off keynote speaker, my primary role was completed early in the event (except for a panel later in the morning), so I had the opportunity to relax, observe and enjoy the other presentations.

So why was I in Russia, keynoting a major PM conference? Because this is a highly visible event, and SOVNET, IPMA-Russia, arranged for me to bring the IPMA global perspective, giving one of my “Stacy speeches.” SOVNET President Alexey Polkovnikov and past IPMA Executive Board member Alexandr Tovb made sure I was able to not only participate in the conference, but had the opportunity to see some of the major attractions of Moscow.

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“It’s a lot more fun when you are up there!”

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
The title of this article comes from a comment by a young lady at the IPMA World Congress, held in Dubrovnik, Croatia, September 30-October 2. I had been “on stage” a number of times in the Congress in my role as IPMA VP of Marketing & Events. In most of those brief sessions, I co-hosted with Prof. Mladen Radujkovic, President of IPMA. Together, we make a very good presentation team. And, I agree with the young lady: It is a lot more fun for me too, when I am up there!

Four events in two months
This was a relatively slow year for my speaking activities—until July, when a series of invitations popped up. An opportunity to do a keynote in Wuhan, China; a long-planned presentation at the UTD PM Symposium, sponsored by University of Texas-Dallas, PMI®-Dallas, and PMWorld Journal. A webinar on Stakeholder Engagement for Project Management Institute’s IS Community of Practice. And of course, the IPMA World Congress.

The UTD PM Symposium continues as one of the best US regional PM events of the year. Last year I presented the IPMA Keynote; this year, we brought in Jesus Martines Almeda (Spain), who regaled the audience with his insights into global project management. I spoke in a stream session on Stakeholder Engagement, using familiar analogies of being engaged versus managed, and recalling my racing days in Managing the Esses.

Our keynote in China was for PMRC, IPMA-China. I had done a keynote for the PMRC Congress two years earlier in Xi’an, China, and China is always a rewarding experience for a speaker. Because of the small pauses due to sequential translation, you have the opportunity to observe the roomful of participants, gauging the audience reaction. Of course, the choice of translator helps: Translation was again excellently done by PMRC Leader Xue Yan, a great friend and previous IPMA Executive Board member. In Wuhan, my keynote followed Mladen’s keynote, and again we established a complementary sequence of similarities and contrasts.

The IS CoP webinar was a special challenge: Over three thousand hopeful participants were signed up, with only a thousand seats available (first arrived, first served). And while I have spoken to well over a thousand people in one room, speaking to that many people scattered all over the world is a bit different. How do you keep people engaged, excited, and benefiting from the session, rather than checking their email? I decided that the key was to establish key points in the session that involved participants in responding to questions.

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Efficiency and Effectiveness in Project Management

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.

This article is inspired by the theme of the PMRC, IPMA-China, Congress held August 24-25 2013, in Wuhan China. The theme is Efficiency and Effectiveness in Project Management, and both Mladen Radujkovik, IPMA President, and I presented keynotes. This article provides more details on the first half of my topic, Balance Efficiency and Effectiveness With Actionable Project Information.

Efficiency Awareness
The 1960s were the era of the Efficiency Expert. These were people with training or skills in process optimization, who then moved into productivity improvement, which became a buzzphrase of the 1970s. This set of skills was merged with improved interpersonal skills to become a foundation of the systems analyst or business analyst of the 1980s. Look how far we’ve come: Today we have certifications for people who demonstrate many of these skills—and more. Efficiency became part of an entire gamut of systems engineering disciplines. Efficiency is clearly important.

But it was not consistently applied. In fact, a big part of the “re-engineering of the organization” that was done in the late 1980s and early 1990s was not RE-engineering at all. It was the first-ever true engineering of poorly-designed processes which were randomly piled on top of other processes during the ’70s and ’80s. The efficiency focus benefited projects, because many project managers brought the business concepts of efficiency and productivity into their projects. How do I know? I learned from some of the best during that time.

One problem with this emphasis on efficiency was shown by many organizations’ initiatives over the last 50 years. We can go overboard—sometimes focusing so much on efficiency that we forget about effectiveness. Part of this is because it is easier to look at efficiency; easy to identify it; to measure it. You see, efficiency by itself can be dangerous: If you look up Efficiency Expert on Wikipedia, one section notes: see also Layoffs.

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Do Project Managers Need Business Analysts?

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
Do Project Managers Need Business Analysts? Well, it depends! It depends on your application area—aerospace versus information technology versus construction, and so on. It depends on the size of the project—in smaller projects, the project manager must be a renaissance person—one who is able to do almost everything else, in addition to managing the project.

What raises this question is a Business Analysis Skills Evaluation (BASE) self-assessment that our friends at BA Experts have developed. First, a disclosure. I have known and worked with Tom Hathaway, principal at BA Experts, for over 25 years. Tom was among the early adopters of the IIBA®, International Institute of Business Analysis body of knowledge and curriculum framework.

It is no wonder that they embraced the IIBA initiative: They had been doing business systems analysis training, coaching, consulting, accelerated analysis facilitation, and methodology development since the early 1980s, as well as working in project management. But this is the back-story; let us tell a little bit more about our experience and discoveries when we took the BASE assessment.

Getting to First BASE
Because they know of my interests in learning and development, and with self-assessment tools, and with their subject, business analysis, Tom notified me when their BASE self-assessment went live on their website. So I went to their website. See their introduction and link to BASE. I clicked that blue Get me to first BASE! button, registered (it requires your name and email address), and completed the self assessment.

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Horse Racing and Project Team Parallels

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
Saturday’s (May 18, 2013) excitement in the USA’s Preakness horse race made me think of the parallels between the players in the horse-racing “sport,” and in successful projects. Each player fills an essential role in both cases, but it is the integration of all the roles that makes for success. And still, unanticipated events can cause even a “sure thing” to fail. I am not a horse racing enthusiast, but will admit to being drawn in this year (2013) to the hopes of the latest “Triple Crown” contender (a horse winning all of the big three racing events).

Horse Racing Roles
racingIt is the Horse that wins the race, right? Well, not so fast (so to speak). A fast horse, in most cases, is a key to success, but the Jockey has a key role as well. That role includes deep understanding and communication with the horse, plus the in-race tactics that require instantaneous judgements when situations change.

This weekend, when Orb, the “sure bet,” Kentucky Derby-winning horse was hemmed in at the rail, neither he nor his jockey could navigate to the outside, where he could regain his stride. Even the most talented jockey and a stellar horse cannot always assure success.

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A Health-Check for PPM Practices

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
Is it time now, to “Declare Victory, and Take the Weekend Off?” You’ll have to read more than this article’s “teaser” to find out.

The Backstory
We founded IPMA-USA in 2001 with a vision of accelerating the advancement of the project and program management (PM) discipline for beneficial change in organizations, the USA, and the world. But first we had to reverse a downward trend.

Our founders——many of whom had key roles in the success of other professional associations——believed that PM had not kept pace with the increased complexity of initiatives. Despite the heroic efforts of PM thought leaders like Lew Ireland, William Duncan, Bob Youker, and others, during the 1990s the momentum of beneficial change through PM had dramatically slowed and showed few signs of regaining traction. And so these same people met to share their insights about the symptoms and causes of the downward trend, and about how to regain momentum.

Downward or Upward? The Insights
Our IPMA-USA founders collected their insights into seven areas that needed serious attention to halt the downward trend and begin its upward acceleration. The areas (numbered here for easier referencing; no ranking implied) are:

  1. Author ownership of PM intellectual property
  2. Learning focused on improving PM performance
  3. Demonstrating PM performance
  4. Improving communication with stakeholders
  5. Improving integration and coordination across PM-related groups
  6. Managing projects to fulfill business objectives and deliver business success
  7. Establishing PM as a core, life competence

Some of the areas required redirecting the practice of PM in general. Some required establishing ways to demonstrate and measure PM performance and business value. Some areas would be easier to measure than others. And some areas would require a seismic shift in thoughts and acts about who we serve and why.

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Navigating the S’s in Our Projects

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
I recall from my days of Sports Car racing in the 1970s the importance of aggressively, yet smoothly, navigating “the Esses.” These were the sections of the racetrack with a series of somewhat gentle left and right turns–such that, if you looked at them from above, looked like several repeated capital letter S’s, laid down. The other competences of racing included preparation, apexing correctly, mastering the braking and acceleration points, all while maintaining steely focus and concentration, and strategic competitiveness. But even with all that, one’s performances through the Esses often made the difference between winning and losing. The reason: This is where the most-competent drivers gain the most speed.

The analogy is similar in projects. In projects, the Esses, or S’s, as shown in the title, include: Stakeholders, Sponsors, Sustainability and Success. And just as in racing, these appear to be gentle curves that the project throws at you—but competent and performing project managers know they are far more than that. They are the places where you can achieve the most project momentum.

Project Stakeholders
Everyone knows that Stakeholders are important in projects, yet too many project teams do a poor job of aligning with them, understanding their needs, and delivering to them. This is of recent interest for some, as the new ISO Standard for project management, 21,500, adds Stakeholders as one of the key Subject Groups. And, the PMBOK® Guide’s 2013 release also now includes Stakeholder Management as a knowledge area. Of course, many of us have long recognized Stakeholder savvy to include knowledge, skill, competence and a key performance area. This insight has been key to project success for decades.

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Public Speaking — Without PowerPoint

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
The title of this article is an observation I’ve made, about speakers and trainers who depend too much on PowerPoint slides. For over 40 years, I have used slides in presentations, first using transparencies, with a light-box projector. Later, I used portable computers; today, I can do so with an easy-to-carry tablet, connected to small projectors.  

The purpose of this article is to acknowledge the challenges involved in reducing OPD, Overwhelming PowerPoint Dependency, in speeches and public presentations. By the way, this is not a diatribe against PowerPoint; used correctly, it remains a very useful tool. But this year there were at least three occasions where I did not have the convenience of using PowerPoint and its projected images. I had to Speak –Without PowerPoint. Those occasions include Lew Ireland’s funeral, the Helsinki PMAF Congress, and my own Father’s funeral. Below are my insights from each.

Lew Ireland’s Funeral
IPMA-USA was represented at co-founder and past President Lew Ireland’s funeral last Spring by John Colville and myself. It was clear that Lew’s neighbors, friends and some of his family had little idea of the massive contributions Lew has made, over a 30+ year period, to the practice of professional project management. So we included the testimonies of people from all over the world in Lew’s Eulogy.

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Dinner Speech at PMAF Congress, Helsinki, part 2

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
We suggest that you begin with Part 1 of this post, a summary of points made at the Dinner meeting of the PMAF (Project Management Association Finland) national congress.

3. Highlights of IPMA Services and Product
The IPMA Competence Baseline, ICB, is the foundation for advanced application of the practice of project management. It is our profession’s key to moving beyond tested knowledge, to demonstrate competence and business results. And it uniquely focuses not just on technical aspects of project management, but the essential interpersonal skills and contextual savvy it takes to achieve project success.

That said, our 4-L-C, advanced Four-Level Certification system, assesses and recognizes the demonstrated competences at increasingly higher levels or roles, from Certified Project Manager, to Certified Senior Project Manager, Program Manager, Senior Program Manager and Projects Director (depending on the member association—not all certify all levels).

While recognizing individuals who produce results is smart, we don’t stop there. Successful project teams are the most valuable talent in any project oriented organization, and our Project Excellence Awards program recognizes the world’s most effective project teams. Participating in a rigorous evaluation, where independent, professional assessors evaluate both PM processes and business results, successful teams can benchmark their performance against other winners, and further improve their results.

At the overall organization level, IPMA Delta offers the unique opportunity to assess the strengths and areas for improvement of the entire organization. This helps Member Associations to grow stronger relationships with their corporate members, and attract new ones, as they see the value in smarter use of their performance improvement funds. And, IPMA Delta helps participating enterprises in their marketing, offering a unique certification of the enterprise’s level of project maturity.

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Dinner Speech at PMAF Congress, Helsinki, part 1

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
In November, we traveled to Helsinki, Finland, to represent IPMA, International Project Management Association, to “wave our flag,” at the PMAF (Project Management Association Finland) national congress. Leveraging our presence, hosts Heikki Lonka, President, Jouko Vaskimo, Certification Chair, and Jyry Louhisto, General Manager, signed us up for meetings with their organizational and certification leadership teams, added two presentations, two panel sessions, and the most challenging one, a dinner meeting presentation that was to address six areas of interest to PMAF members.

Most dinner meeting participants are usually more interested in visiting with friends they have not seen for months or longer, rather than listening to some dignitary from afar, droning on about topics of little interest. But Jyry was adamant that it was important to “wave the IPMA flag,” so we accommodated him. PMAF expected around 250 people for this dinner meeting, and there was to be no projector, and no Powerpoint slides. Naked-mic speaking, as it were!

The Topics
The topics to address were:

  1. IPMA’s basic principles
  2. The role of IPMA in support of member associations such as PMAF
  3. Highlights of IPMA’s services and products
  4. The importance of international networks to PMAF and its members
  5. PMAF’s role in the IPMA Family network
  6. What IPMA would like to be in the future

An interesting list of topics, and when asked how much time to take, Jyry said 15 minutes. A lot of ground to cover in a short time! To prepare, we used IPMA-USA co-founder Lew Ireland’s technique of posting the key thoughts on a series of note cards. Reviewing the notes afterwards, we realized that, while targeted for Project Management Association of Finland, most of the comments are accurate and useful for our other Member Associations in the IPMA Family—including IPMA-USA, IPMA-USA.

So you now have the benefit of a second helping of the starter course for the November 2012 PMAF dinner presentation (an excellent meal, by the way).

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The Importance of Eye Contact In Web Meetings

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
This year I have done even more webinars and webconferences than in years past. And that is significant, because I have been using these web technologies since 1996. And, as others begin to use these technologies, I observe that some intuitively use them correctly, and some do not. One big example of correct is the challenge of keeping at least occasional eye contact with others.

This question of eye contact is a challenge, because our natural tendency in a web meeting is to watch the other participants on our monitor. But the larger your monitor (or the more monitors you use), the less likely it is that you are maintaining eye contact. We have participated in quite a few meetings where we saw more of the tops of peoples’ heads than their eyes. Why? Because they are looking primarily at the other participants on their monitors, and seldom at the camera.

Why Do We Care?
This sure seems like an obscure topic, doesn’t it? Dear reader must think this is a slow Summer day, with no inspiring Change Agent topics to discuss. Au Contraire! This is an essential topic if you wish to establish trust, communication and credibility in webconferences or webinars. This is especially important with the significant increase in virtual projects, webconferences, and live and prerecorded webinars, that are taking market share from in-person meetings and classes.

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Project Managers: Playing Nice With Others

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
Project managers operate in many different contexts, ranging from operational companies with few projects, to project oriented enterprises. Competent and performing project managers not only respect and serve our context, but also manage to get the context–including the permanent organization, to work for us.

One secret to accomplishing that feat–for the permanent organization to work for us—is to look at our efforts and relationships from Executives’ and Managers’ point of view, instead of just a project view. In this article, we will explore facets of those and other views.

The Executive View
Executives view projects and programs as part of their portfolio. Perhaps just a minor part, in some cases; major in others. And from an Executive viewpoint, there are many different disciplines involved with these initiatives. In addition to the Functional Managers, who own the business area, manage much of the talent, and measure the benefits, there are quite a few other players involved with our initiatives, including…

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Do You Manage the Leading or Lagging Factors?

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
We have just returned from the outstanding-as-usual 2012 Resource Planning Summit, organized by the irrepressible Dick Rutledge, dean of the PM-related conference providers. Only a few others operate at the same level of excellence. One of the key differentiators of Rutledge’s events is his ruthless demands of his speakers for audience take-aways and truly new ideas, as opposed to retreads of tired themes. And this time, we experienced those demands first-hand, as we were a presenter–our first opportunity in the four events we have supported.

Our presentation, Tip of the Iceberg: Managing the Entire ‘berg Improves PM Performance, was developed for this audience of key managers and enterprise leaders. The presentation looked at project and program decision-making from the perspective of top Executives–the tip of the iceberg, as it were. And we identified key practices that Managers in the Middle follow when they add clear value for their executives, their project teams and their organizations.

We asserted, as we did in our 2005 article, Project Levers and Gauges, that the most-effective project and program managers don’t just provide lagging data, they also provide leading information. And, we have carried the theme further, pointing out that this leading information is a well-kept secret of the most effective managers of project managers.

But, let’s start with the background. Many are familiar with the old misconceptions of project management, illustrated by the Triple Constraint, the Iron or Golden Triangle, or some other name. It often includes Time, Cost and Scope. Sometimes Quality is there instead of Scope. Sometimes Performance is the third parameter, which might include Quality and Scope. So far, so good; but why do we call this a misconception in project management?

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The Importance of Effective Speaking

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
Last month we wrote about The Importance of Writing Well. This month, we gently approach the topic of Effective Speaking. This is not to be confused with dialogue between persons–that is yet another topic. Instead, this topic involves speaking in front of groups. Actually, that really makes this multiple topics, because different audience sizes require very different skills. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Effective Speaking has received a lot of recent attention. In part, this is because our USA President is perceived by some to be an excellent orator. In addition to political settings, we have observed many other situations where the ability to speak in a clear and compelling way is an asset to the initiative, whether that initiative is a project, a program, or any other Change Agent venue.

Great Writer = Great Speaker?
You’d think that great writers would find it easy to also be great speakers. After all, being able to clearly explain complex topics in a way that everyone understands, is a gift–one that should easily transfer to speaking. But ‘taint necessarily so. I recall the excitement, when it first came out, around the book, In Search of Excellence. Author Tom Peters (together with Robert Waterman, Jr.) wrote such a compelling book that everyone wanted him to speak to their group or company. As I recall, at that time, his speaking skills did not match his research and writing skills. Some people were disappointed.

But, Tom Peters understood: He worked on his Effective Speaking skills. Soon, he was such a great speaker that he had no need to write another book; his speaking, advisory services, and overall message were all so popular. But the question remains: Great Writer = Great Speaker? A web search turns up many interesting discussions, and the results are mixed. Some say “yes!” Some say, “not necessarily so.” 

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