Where Did the Term Stakeholder Come From?

Guest Post by IPMA-USA Co-Founder Robert Youker
In September of 2006, Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoelick used the word “stakeholder” when speaking about US/China relations. The Chinese language does not have a corollary word for “stakeholder” and the use of the word led to quite a fuss. The State Department suggested a Chinese phrase meaning “participants with related interests”.

The term stakeholder had come into common usage by the end of the last century, but where did the word come from? One possible source is the person who holds the money or stakes in a bet. Another possibility is in mining prospecting where you drive stakes into the fours corners of the property you want to claim.

Stakeholders are people inside and outside an organization who have a vested interest in a problem and its solution. They can be both positive and negative in their interests. Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, has a good section on the term. In all current project planning a stakeholder analysis is a vital step. But where did the common modern usage of people in “interest groups” come from?

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The Importance of Writing Well

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
For years I’ve used an introductory dialogue for classroom Communication topics. It involves a tee-up, “Based on research done by the US Navy years ago, different people have different preferences in the way they receive information.” And then I write on a flipchart the following, while saying most of these words:

  • 45% Readers
  • 45% Listeners
  • 5% Both
  • 5% Fool

The key is this: While I’d write Fool, I’d say Neither. Typical of American humor.

In a room of 20-25 people, around half would laugh, the others would wonder why they are laughing. It is because some were listening, and others were reading.

Improving Communication Effectiveness
But this little vignette brings up a very important point: Statistically, about half of all people prefer to listen to get their information, and about half prefer to read it. Which are you? While the cited statistics say that about 5% do both equally well, the majority of all participants usually think they are part of that 5%. And the majority think their husband/wife/manager/co-worker/customer (pick one) is the last on the list above.

Great communicators seem to intuitively understand the preferences of their audiences. Meanwhile, I resort to using simple models and observation to approximate a similar result. At least, I do when I focus on Conscious Communication, rather than just using my own preferences, and expect that everyone else understands perfectly. Is this Reader/Listener preference why many of us only communicate effectively with half our audiences? And then we wonder what’s wrong with them? Perhaps we can all benefit from a bit more Conscious Communication.

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Experiencing Newvember

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
Typically, and especially in the USA, November is a slow month—the calm before the storm of December, with its end-of-year project deadlines, and fiscal close-out for non-governmental organizations. It is a bit of a relief from the intensity of September and October. This effect is accentuated in the USA by the Thanksgiving week late in the month, that disrupts any schedule for a two week period.

But not this year.

I traveled more this month (on behalf of professional organizations) than any period since May-June, with:

  • A keynote for a major University, with a discussion about establishing a truly relevant PM curriculum;
  • Participating in an excellent PMO Symposium in Orlando; and (finally) meeting Cornelius Fitchner;
  • Speaking of which, contributing to The PM Podcast’s celebratory event, celebrating Cornelius’ 200th offering;
  • Participating in an IPMA Executive Board meeting in Sarajevo with a very informative Government/Business Roundtable for the Bosnia-Herzegovina IPMA Member Association;
  • A keynote at the incredibly successful 2nd Annual Symposium for AMIP, Asociacion Mexicana de Ingenieria de Proyectos, IPMA-Mexico, in Saltillo, Mexico.

Whew! Wore me out just reading it!

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Project Management: Delivering The Promise

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
This posting is inspired by the theme of IPMA’s 25th World Congress, Brisbane, Australia, October 10-12 2011. Thanks to the insight and graciousness of the Australians, we are again using the theme one more time at the IPMA-USA Congress scheduled for 5 March, 2012, in Washington DC. Nothing like taking a good idea and re-using it multiple times!

First, thank you to IPMA Member Association AIPM (Australian Institute of Project Management) for a great 2011 IPMA World Congress, and for the inspired theme of the Congress: Project Management—Delivering the Promise.

The promise of project and program management is efficient, effective and beneficial change. We as a profession make that promise to four types of audiences:

  • Individual PM Practitioners;
  • Project Teams and Stakeholders;
  • Enterprise Managers and Executives; and to
  • Nations and Society.

Each of these audiences has different needs and different expectations. Let’s explore them.

Our First Audience, Individual PM Practitioners,
expects to improve their project performance, while increasing their job satisfaction and career progression opportunities. To accomplish that, we must move beyond classroom knowledge and testing that brings only short-term results. Why is this important? Based on recent research the half-life of knowledge acquired but not applied is only two weeks. We must follow classroom training with on-the-job application of that knowledge, with four goals: Develop needed skills, improve behavioral competences, gain end-to-end project experience, and achieve measurable project performance results.

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Five Foundations for the Advancement of Project Management

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
On July 4, 2011 we noted IPMA-USA’s ten-year anniversary. We reflected on our intentions, progress, and achievements in our first ten years—and then, looked ahead at the next ten years. This article focuses on our intentions; but we cannot help but mention our progress. Not only have we helped to advance the practice of project and program management (an ongoing goal), we have inspired others to follow our lead: They are now also promoting (their own interpretation of) most of our Five Foundations, and many of our innovations.

We founded IPMA-USA after having been among the key drivers of success of other professional organizations, including Project Management Institute (Institute in the rest of this article). Many of us remained members of that great organization, and still do to this day. But we felt it was time for change. And what are project managers, if not change agents?

The Need For Change
Factors in 2000-2001 contributing to the need for change were many, a handful of them became our rallying points; they were also ingredients for our business case analysis in deciding whether to found a new organization, or to continue working to improve existing ones.

  • PM advancements, innovations and their sharing had significantly slowed;
  • Intellectual Property Ownership issues discouraged involvement of the most-talented practitioners;
  • Training and learning funds appeared to be shifting from project and program performance improvement to test memorization;
  • Association governance moved from member-driven to organization-CEO controlled;
  • Emphasis shifted from all pm sectors to favor Information Technology;
  • Levels of engagement shifted from advanced interaction of long-time practitioners to mass-training of simple subjects to newcomers.

IPMA-USA Founders
IPMA-USA was founded by a group of long-time pm practitioners with a variety of backgrounds: Practicing project managers; Managers of project managers; pm consultants and trainers; educators and authors. Founders of chapters and officers of other organizations, the average pm industry experience of the founding group in 2001 was around 20 years, with some going back 35 years and more.

Most had earned the Institute’s certification (Lew Ireland wrote its first exam). And we realized that there was a lot more needed than an exam to accelerate needed organizational benefits from our discipline. Many of us worked internationally, so we had a grasp of the status of pm practice in many other nations of the World. Thus, a dedicated group set out to advance the practice of project and program management in America.

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Stakeholders Benefit From a PM Perspective

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
Our recent series of IPMA (International Project Management Association) meetings and events in Asia was rich with the opportunity to meet great people, dialogue about the benefits of our chosen practice or profession, and with innumerable sudden insights. Not to mention a wealth of topics for this often-longer-and-deeper-than-normal blog.

In this case, the setting was an early Sunday morning flight over the Himalaya mountains of Nepal. Sponsored by PMAN, Project Management Association of Nepal (thank you again!), it was a beautiful morning, and on takeoff, we saw the city of Kathmandu waking up. Soaring to mountain heights, and rising above the clouds, we were able to track each of the peaks jutting above the clouds. Showing the benefit of a plan, we each had a map of the mountains we would see in our journey from North to South. 

The Stakeholder View
The first mountain we saw barely peeked through the clouds. The next several were progressively higher. From our window seat in the small plane, those on the left side of the plane had a decent view out of the tiny windows. Those on the right had a more obscured view. We all had other obstacles, such as the wing of the plane blocking a portion of the view.

Similarly, in many projects, our key Stakeholders don’t always have the same clear view of the project as does the team. The Stakeholders are often part-time participants. They don’t have time to read all the documents, and may miss important meetings, “because of pressing priorities.” They do not have the clear project vision they deserve.

One quick discovery made a difference in our blocked view. If we looked out-and-back, rather than out-and-ahead, the wing was not in the way. Of course, this was difficult, because it was clear that the route of the plane was taking us to ever-increasingly tall mountains, so in our eagerness, we were still often looking, even straining, to see what was coming.

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The Wonders of the Emperor Qin Project Portfolio

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
This article continues impressions from our recent trip to China, to honor PMRC, the Project Management Research Committee, and to celebrate their 20th Anniversary. And while we earlier mentioned the TerraCotta Warriors, a must-see adventure for any visitor to this part of China, there is much more to know about the founder of Xi’an, the heart of China’s governance for 2000 years.

We did our research before our visit, not wanting to be ignorant about this important part of China. Books in English about the area are not as common as those covering Beijing, Shanghai, and other parts of this fascinating nation. Among the books we read, we found a very useful book, Xi’an, Shaanxi and the Terracotta Army, by Mooney, Maudsley and Hatherly, published by Odyssey Books and Guides, 2009. We liked this book because of its great blend of geology, geography, art, history, politics, intrigue, and its description of the culture, tourist attractions, foods, and other facets unique to the area.

But the most interesting part was the story of Ying Zheng’s ascendance to his father’s throne as King Qin Shi Huangdi (Qin is pronounced Chin) in the year 246 BCE, and creation of a portfolio of projects that set the stage for unifying China as a nation. He began this at the age of 13—he would not yet even qualify for IPMA Young Crew. Over the next 25 years, he brought together (in battle) the Seven Warring States, and became China’s first Emperor.

Before proceeding, let’s clear up a bit about Emperor Qin’s name. Ling was his family name. Qin was the name of the state. Huang came from legends of three saintly sovereigns; Di came from legends of five saintly emperors. Shi? That means, the first. Such branding! Emperor Qin’s lasting impact was only partly based on his strong military power—his Dynasty was relatively short in duration—it expired quickly after he did. It is his wondrous portfolio of project results that has endured–such that still today, over 2000 years later, China benefits from his peoples’ achievements.

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The Rise of Project Management

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
This article is about the second half of my recent Asia trip, which in this case features China.

Hong Kong Stopover
I used Hong Kong as my pivot point for multiple flights and connections; it had the best routing for my multiple flights. And, I had not been to Hong Kong since the late 1980s, so it was interesting to see the changes. Internet connections can be difficult in Hong Kong, but the best that I had in my time there was on airport bus A21, which offers free wireless internet connections!

Everything is far more expensive in Hong Kong than when I last visited. But it still has the same vibe, the same crush of people, and the same unlimited options for meals. As a wine enthusiast, I think I have found the world’s most expensive place to purchase wines–but the selection is grand.

Super Xi’an
I flew to Xi’an to keynote and participate in a conference celebrating 20 years of PMRC, the Project Management Research Committee, IPMA-China. It was also the 10 year celebration of China’s use of IPMA’s advanced, Four Level PM Certification system. The Conference theme was The Rise of Project Management. IPMA was well-represented by Chair Brigitte Schaden, who spoke on PM Standards, and yours truly, who discussed the differences between organizations where PM rises slowly and those where it rises quickly. Brane Semolic, Research Management Board Chair, and Les Squires, our RMB social/business networking guru, were also at the Xi’an Conference, where they held a Festival of Knowledge event (mentioned below).

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Changing the Way Things Are …

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
Two weeks in Asia changes one’s perspective about many things. And when it is as eventful and enlightening as my last two weeks, it can be soaring and exhausting, at the same time. This article is about the first half of my trip, which was in a literally soaring country, Nepal.

PMAN Conference
The occasion was the Project Management Association of Nepal conference, where the IPMA Executive Board (ExBo) members held one of our meetings, and spoke at the conference. In part, we did this to support our Nepal Member Association, and to honor our IPMA Young Project Manager, Shailesh Nepal. Shailesh won this award at the 2010 IPMA World Congress, and it was a tough competition: All the three finalists were great! As an aside, the 2011 Young Project Manager award applications are due June 15. Have you submitted yours?

Each ExBo member who presented has a unique style. It is not difficult to tell us apart. I chose not to use the microphone, and Bill Young, then President of AIPM, the Australia IPMA Member Association, was in the front row. As I started up with my “Stacy voice,” he was blown into the 4th row. Taking a hint, I turned down the volume a bit. No one fell asleep during my presentation.

The PMAN leadership team did a great job, pulling together this, their first major conference, in less than 6 months. Congratulations to Saroj, Suraj and Tika, of PMAN, Project Management Association of Nepal!

Meeting Meg
One of our IPMA-USA members, Meg, lives in Nepal with her husband; she is involved with the IPMA Awards program, and will be helping start it in Nepal and in the USA, as well as managing the production of some IPMA promotional materials for awards. It was a pleasure to meet Meg, after several months of emails, and a special pleasure to hear her speak at the conference. She did a great job of proclaiming the strengths of project management in non-technical terms. Her subject was a recent project, assisting Masters Candidates in planning, researching, reviewing and on-time completion of their Masters Theses. Meg is a treasure for Nepal!

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Applying Our Six W’s For Managers In The Middle

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
We’ve used the Journalist’s Six W’s for over 25 years now in project kick-off, to help business case analysis and bring all the stakeholders onto the same page. And recently, working with a stellar group of Managers in the Middle, those people who manage project managers and their teams, we came up with a new (for us) use of the Six W’s.

Background on the Six W’s
Originally established as part of our IT Methodology, WiSDM, and our Small Project Guide in the mid-80’s we use the Six W’s to perform opportunity analysis. We’ve used the right selection of the W’s, in the right sequence, with many, many classes of project managers, customers, managers and team leads. The W’s we use, in the only correct sequence for project delegation, are: What, Why, Who, Where, When, and How. We admit to playing loose with the w’s, when people point out that How is an H, not a W. We assert that it has its W at the end because How is the last W to understand.

Some of the learning dialogue that accompanies the W’s is that there may be multiple Whens:

  • When does the organization need the result (the must)
  • When can the team deliver it? (the can)

We assert that the competent team can always show how they could beat the must (deliver faster) by 25%. In fact, if they cannot perform this simple analysis, we doubt if they understand enough about the project to manage it successfully: They are not yet competent. This is the type of learning, that causes Executives who see it to ask: “This is powerful stuff! Do our people know how to do this?” The answer is usually something like, yes, they do this in each project they begin, but you have six layers of managers between your teams and you, and part of their job is to filter out the information they think you don’t need. But we may be getting ahead of ourselves. We’ll come back to that thread below.

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Knowledge, Performance and the Opposable Thumb

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
Last month’s article, where we interviewed Knowledge, and gained many new insights about her and her family, must have been an interesting one. It received even more “hits” than normal, and not just from spammers… The time viewers spent on the page was also higher than most, a good indicator of perceived value—or maybe they were trying to figure out that strange anthropomorphism of Knowledge. But let us tie up a few loose ends on the themes we covered, and then finish with the importance of the Opposable Thumb.

Discoveries at the NASA Knowledge Forum
I had taken a copy of last months’s article along with me to the Knowledge Forum; I reported on that event in last month’s IPMA-USA newsletter. I shared the article with Larry Prusak, one of the key people in Knowledge Management (KM) practice. When he got around to reading the article, he sent a polite email that suggested that the data to information to knowledge relationships are more complex than my simple assertions. I agree, and will leave it at that. After all, that was a 30+ year-old story.

At that NASA event, I figured out that there is quite some difference between my own naive interpretations, and those of a bunch of really bright people in the KM practice. And, there were some striking parallels. For example:

  • My perspective about Knowledge is mostly on the individual side: How individuals grow, develop, and improve their performance. My realization at the event is that the KM discipline is much more oriented to the organizational accumulation and sharing of knowledge.
  • They view Knowledge very much along the lines of a complete Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning, where at the higher levels, you are dealing with synthesis. In other words, they are speaking of “Big K” Knowledge, not drill-and-test memorization—“little k” knowledge. That was a big aha for me.
  • My former KM biases were based on this: Far too much of my time spent in helping project teams (and their organizations) succeed has been spent overcoming the flaws of “little k” knowledge. This is often manifested by people who merely memorize enough to pass an exam, rather than to really understand how to apply the topic in a project.
  • In the NASA event final exercise, where all participants worked in teams to identify ways to improve the success of organizational Knowledge Management, I had another aha! moment. We were all identifying exactly the same Change Agent actions I have coached executives, project management offices and functional managers in for years. In what context? To help organizations adopt and adapt project management methodologies—to improve organizational PM performance.

The take-away: Project Management and Knowledge Management have many strong parallels. And, success in improving one in your area will also help in improving the other—for those who are so inclined. We saw exactly the same pattern with the successful Quality movements of the 1980s. Here is an example of the mutual reinforcement of KM and PM: Lessons Learned are one of the greatest opportunities for sharing knowledge in any organization. And yet, in too many cases, they are merely recorded—and then the same “learnings” are repeated in project after project, over again. That shows nobody learned anything. With a KM approach that actually institutionalizes applied prior knowledge, all projects will benefit, and performance will soar.

This is one reason why every one of our dozens of PM methodologies, both those we developed, and those we tuned for others for over 25 years, has a unique project kick-off action: Review the Lessons Learned from similar projects, including those with this team, this technology, and this customer. This might be a good KM policy for you to implement in your organization, if you do not already follow this savvy practice.

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The First 10% of a Project: 90% of Success, part 4

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
If you have not reviewed parts 1-3, we suggest that you go do that before continuing here. Some following this series are a bit incredulous. One week or less, huh? What a pipe-dream! Some teams spend an entire week and get 10% that much information, much less the needed levels of management commitment. We mentioned our Rapid Initial Planning processes. Many organizations perform this type of quick-start approach today, so our method is no longer anything new. The RIP (as we called it, although some thought that meant Rest In Peace…), is a way seek the prerequisites that smart project managers assure for every project.

Case Application: Product Data Management System
In the early 1990s, one of the few remaining US-based military shipbuilding companies had a mandate: Update to an end-to-end PDM (Product Data Management) System within several years, or lose their ability to bid on new warfighter systems. A PDM supports the entire process, from concept, through Design Engineering, to Construction, Sea Trials and Validation, Delivery, and importantly, Parts Inventory Management for the life of the resulting product; in this case, a warship. One could say that this was an Information Technology project, because IT was involved. We felt it was a business survival strategy, because the future of the entire business was at stake. Besides, while their shipyards were vast, their IT staff numbered fewer than 20 people.

A business partner, Dan Myers, of Requirements Solutions Group, engaged the client for one week, meeting with Business Executives. They performed an intensive Data Requirements-gathering session, papering the walls with all aspects of their ship-building business. These busy Executives dedicated an entire week, full-time, to understand everything about the ingredients of success for their business.

The following week, we went in, and spent four days working with that same group. We used our Project Initiation Rapid Initial Planning session. In a totally non-technical way, we parsed the massive program into subprojects (based primarily on timing and sequence of information flow across the organization), identified and measured scope of each project in the program, discussed strategies and approaches, including use of software packages, contracting out to “Big Six” consultancies who had relevant experience, identified assumptions and estimated the project multiple ways, stepped back and identified risks and responses, and developed fairly detailed project plans for each phase of each project of the program. In three and half days.

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The First 10% of a Project: 90% of Success, part 3

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
In the first two parts of this series, we discussed the timing and actions of the first portion of any successful project. We made assertions about a number of useful actions, that some people might find to be overwhelming. Is it really necessary to do “all that stuff?” Could some be skipped? Certainly, you could skip much of that, and “hero” your way through every project. Many organizations still operate that way, even after 25+ years of smarter approaches. Yet, there are exceptions, counterpoints and illustrations of the assertions we made in the first two parts of this subject.

Agile PM
Agile PM is thought to be a “new thing,” and is often proclaimed to be an alternative to BDUF, Big Definition Up Front mentality suggested by the first two articles in this series. Despite the claims of newcomers, Agile PM began, not in the mid-1990s, but in the early 1980s. Of course, we were early advocates of Ken Schwaber’s Scrum in the early 90s, and Kent Beck’s work with Extreme Programming later. But way before those advancements, there were two camps in Information Technology projects that were in favor of leaner PM methods:

  1. Development-oriented talent, who did not understand the importance of the fuzzy front end of a project, including estimating, funding, staffing, requirements definition and design alternatives. Often, the resistance to these actions was fierce, because they obviously didn’t generate code, and thus, only delayed getting to the good part of the project. Indeed, many of the “new agile methods” of the early and mid-1990s repeated this theme. I recall heated disagreement about the need to understand the existing situation, the flow of data, and the business processes, because “any adept developer can respond to those discoveries.”

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The First 10% of a Project: 90% of Success, part 2

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
If you have not reviewed part 1, with the project scenario, go do that before continuing here. Hopefully, you analyzed the scenario and answered the question, at least for yourself, about the additional take-aways from the scenario. They include:

  • The importance of taking the latency out of the period from project inspiration to initiation.
  • The value of clearly defined preliminary scope and business benefits from prioritization forward.
  • Confidence that, when you identify the talent and their needed availability, that you actually get it.
  • The impact of Customer/Manager engagement early in the project.
  • Assuring that the project team hears the project owner’s statement of its importance.
  • Verbal reassurance by the Resource Managers of all team members, about the project’s priority.
  • A focus on achieving Benefit Realization.
  • The partnering with internal customers from project initiation to benefit realization—and the celebration for achieving those benefits.

And those are just the obvious ones, from our year-old scenario. There are many other things to assure that  you achieve in the first 10% of any project; or, as we discussed in our corollary to Goff’s Law #1, that you should verify on the first day you are on any project. Let us take a look at those precious early ingredients of success.

Early Ingredients for Success
This list of early items is for a medium or larger project. It is in addition to the take-aways from the scenario discussed above. Project teams that assure that they complete these project ingredients consistently achieve project success:

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The First 10% of a Project: 90% of Success, part 1

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
We have long asserted that “doing the right things” in the first 10% of any project is 90% responsible for project success. There are over 250 unpublished “Goff’s Laws,” that provide insights on key parts of this first 10%, and beyond. Those insights include:

“1. You can get away with anything, on the first day of your project.”

The dialogue around this law (really just a common-sense observation) assures that you can move any deadline, ask for any budget, obtain unobtainable talent, or anything you need, if you identify that need on the first day of the project–especially if you have not yet said, “Yes! I will do this project!”

There is a corollary to the above Goff’s Law, that can be of some comfort to those who are assigned somewhat later in the project:

“1a. You can get away with almost anything, on the first day you are on the project.”

Of course, the next 10-15% of the project is important, too, because that is where most project teams establish great business requirements. There is another Goff’s Law about this; this one has been borrowed from other, more-experienced folks:

“12. You will spend 25% of total project effort getting good business requirements. Competent project teams spend most of that 25% in the first part of the project.”

But when is this first part of a project? What is it, that great project teams should assure that they do, during this first part, to assure project success? And, why are these important actions and key results so often skipped? We will begin to touch on these questions in this multi-part (it will require several sections, over time) Change Agent posting.

When Does a Project Begin?
We have discussed this dilemma for years. Different people have different opinions, and the answer you select has significant bearing on what should be present. For example, in Construction, or in most bidding projects (everything from a Defense initiative to an IT subcontract), for the Seller, the project essentially begins with a bid award sometime during the Buyer’s Design phase or stage. We’ll skirt that issue by focusing on an internal-to-your-organization project. To see our perspective, see the scenario we posted over a year ago. Go to When Does A Project Begin? and review that posting. Then, return here.

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A Brilliant IPMA 2010 Congress

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
A successful formula requires all parts of the equation shown above; especially when they are all multipliers. The 2010 IPMA World Congress certainly did have its challenges. The venue was moved up from 2011 at a late date. Speakers were surprised by changes. The final program took far too much time to go out. The Project Manager resigned. The Prime Minister’s schedule had a conflict.

On the other hand, the inspirations were numerous. The video trailer was outstanding. The theme was appropriate and relevant. The venue and setting was outstanding. The engagement of Turkey’s Prime Minister in the lead-off keynote was unprecedented.

Isn’t it something, how the vision, heroics, tenacity and everything else in-between, brings off yet another stellar IPMA World Congress? Certainly, there are things to do better in our next Congresses, but let us focus for a bit on this just-completed event, in early November, in Istanbul Turkey.

Look at the formula in the title of this posting: IPMA always brings something very special and unique to the world of PM events. While we have used the word Congress for many years, others have adopted this word for their major events, in hopes of capturing some of the magic. IPMA Congresses (Congressei?) are unique in the World for their breadth of coverage, their blend of different cultures, the perspectives and wide variety of types of projects and programs (And the evening events are unparalleled).

We admit that we are relative newcomers to IPMA Congresses, our first being Delhi and Shanghai in 2005 and 2006 respectively. Because of the comparisons between those events and our several decades of USA PM-related conferences (we still love the events of Dick Rutledge, ProjectWorld and ProjectSummit), we dedicated ourselves to making the IPMA Congresses our most-important International event of the year. Rome, (we missed Crakow) Helsinki and Istanbul were our reward.

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Chilean Mining Rescue Miracle—A Program Success

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
“Viva Chile!” Our World watched with awe, soaring hearts, and huge appreciation for the rescuers when the first two miners emerged from their Phoenix rescue capsule. We held off posting or celebrating project success until all the miners—and their rescuers—were safely above ground. And now, in addition to the backstories about the after-effects of 69 days underground, we can reflect on the magnificent Project Management performances of each participant in this most-watched rescue.

Just look at the many heroes, talented team members, inspiring leaders and willing families and pride-full citizens, all focused on one objective: Get our miners out safely. And it appears our entire World is the stakeholder group, as reports surface that this is one of the most-watched web events in history. This is such a lesson about not just passing an exam, but leaders and team members working in synch to successfully manage one of the most-important projects in recent history. With IPMA’s recent activities to certify competent Project Managers and Senior Project Managers in Chile, here is a great opportunity to identify clearly competent and performing end-to-end project managers; most might qualify for Senior Project Manager certification, demonstrating mastery in complex projects.

But was this a project? Two answers: Yes, of course it was, because any time mankind changes the path of fate, inertia, and the status quo, that is what the practice of competent project management brings to society. And no, not just a project, it was an entire complex program, consisting of many projects, some relatively simple (such as providing sufficient electrical power at this remote site), and some very complex, and all working together to achieve the objective: Get our miners out safely.

Repeatedly, the media has mentioned the flawless planning, the contingency actions, the attention to crucial details, the exquisite performance of the plan, and the individual heroics that accentuate success. Note that both the success and the tributes note the combination of technical aspects of project and program management with the contextual and behavioral aspects. This program of related projects will serve case studies for years after our starring miners have recovered from their ordeal. And what shall be the highlights of those case studies?

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Exposing the Myth of “Doing More With Less”

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
We first heard it in the early 00s—Executives and Managers saying, “We’ll just have to do more with less.” Well-intended at first, for some it soon became a poor alternative to managing effectively. While in specific situations the statement can be temporarily true, in most cases, we believe that those who proclaim and perpetuate the myth that this is an appropriate way to manage a workgroup, department or enterprise, are demonstrating their failure to manage.

What triggers this commentary is a recent workshop I performed for a customer I have worked with for over 29 years. I have seen them flex, grow, improve, and cut back, all in response to market conditions, the shape of their business, and their sense of coming business pressures. I did discuss the dangers of the “more with less” message with Executives and Managers 8 years ago, and with just a few exceptions, they have fortunately not fallen into that trap during this latest downturn. But in my recent sessions in this industry-leading business, I detected something sinister and terrifying.

While employees I encountered demonstrate strong loyalty to the organization, and show a sense of strong rapport up and down the chain of command, I detected individual contributors, project managers and managers alike who are overwhelmed and exhausted. People who have prided themselves on the quality and efficiency of their work in the past, are now deciding which essential project results will be eliminated or reduced; which project double-checks to push into post-project support; which internal customers to choose to fail to respond to. I have seen this death spiral before.

Jobless Recovery
I think many organizations are facing this dilemma, in part because of the uncertainty in the US, between politics, consumer spending, the high unemployment rate, the threat of possible hyperinflation, and the unknowns in the next set of policy decisions that will affect business. These concerns are the root cause of this Jobless Recovery, as businesses are afraid to add staff to meet current demands, so they continue to manage increasing business with existing, or remaining staff. And even when they are not using the tired “more with less” mantra, that is what it looks like to their employees. And, if you think this only affects project success, this affects the operations side even more than the projects side of the business.

How To Honestly Do More With Less

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Change Management: Confusion or Success Factor?

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
Many people we have spoken to over the last several years have expressed concern over the increasing level of confusion around the term Change Management. The confusion goes back many years, but appears to be getting worse. As Change Agents, it is important for Project and Program Managers to understand the topic, the relevant competences, and the different perceptions asserted by different interested parties.

Depending on your perspective, Change Management is one or more of the following:

  • The configuration management of developers’ code, and the operating environment in which it was validated.
  • Managing the impact of requested and approved project changes, during the project.
  • Managing the impact of needed changes, updates, and improvements on the project result after that result is in business use.
  • Managing the organizational changes needed to embrace and appropriately apply project results.
  • Figuring out how to get reassigned and work for a Manager or Project Manager who is more effective.

Well, we just made that last one up. We are not here to proclaim which is the right or wrong perception: However, in every project or program, we do proclaim that you need to have a common understanding of what everyone means when speaking of Change Management.

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Exploring Success Factors and Measures; 2 of 2

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
This is part two of our two-part post on Success Factors and Measures. Two independent events last month (an interview for a magazine article and a webinar) resonated around a frequently-discussed, but often disputed topic: What is project success, and how do you achieve it? The events covered two aspects of project success, the Success Factors (that lead to project success) and the Success Measures (used to evaluate success). This posting covers the Success Measures.

The Success Measures
Tim Jaques and Frank Salidis ran the latest webinar in the IPMA-USA 2010 Dialogue series the first week of July. The topic was Perspectives on Project Success: Excellence in Project Management. The well-presented and discussed Dialogue was excellent, but there is much more to the topic than an hour’s time. Some of the key points included the fact that the Triple Constraint is merely a project measure, and is certainly not as important to the end-user as such hard-to-measure items as customer satisfaction.

Other points included discussions about tangible and intangible value, including Return On Investment, Stakeholder satisfaction (beyond customers), and even enhanced PM intelligence. Perceived failures, at least according to project measures, may be successes by the time of product measurement. A key example provided was the Sydney Opera House. The distinction made: Project outputs versus project outcomes.

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Exploring Success Factors and Measures; 1 of 2

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
The last month brought us two interesting media events, an interview for a CIO magazine article and an IPMA-USA Dialogue webinar. Both covered key aspects of project success. Though independent events, both showed synchronicity around a frequently-discussed, but often disputed topic: What is success, and how do you achieve and measure it? The events covered two aspects of project success, the Success Factors (that lead to success) and the Success Measures (used to evaluate success). This first of two postings covers the Success Factors.

The Success Factors
Success Factors, also called Critical Success Factors (CSFs), are the activities or factors in a project that are essential for it to meet its goals and expectations. They are enablers of success. We recently participated in an interview for the CIO magazine article, IT Project Management: 10 Less-Considered Keys to Success. The article explored comments in a discussion at the magazine’s CIO Forum LinkedIn group (access only with approval). The lively discussion revolved around the most important, but least-well-known Success Factors, or inputs, for a successful IT project.

The first-mentioned Success Factor was (drumroll, please) A Clear Definition of Success. And, while the forum and article are targeted to CIOs and Information Technology projects, most of the comments apply to most project types, in any industry. One participant commented that too often success is based merely on elements of the “triple constraint”. He commented that project teams need to understand the expected value proposition of the project—and then achieve it.

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Working Towards PM Perfect, Now and Free

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
We participated in a Decision Sciences Institute conference in Toledo in April, and it was a very interesting event. A combination of practitioners and educators with a learning focus, the variety of papers presented was impressive. We presented on the educational outreach opportunities of PRO, the Performance Rated Organization standard. Drs. Gary Klein and Neeraj Parolia presented our unique SCiPM program–which generated great interest among the participants.

Exploring Perfect, Now and Free
But the purpose of this posting is to acknowledge the paper of one of the participants, who appears to have a clear grasp of what project stakeholders really want. Ms. Pushpa Agrawal, from the MBA Program Office, University of Nebraska at Kearney, is the presenter who impressed us with her insights. She spoke of the “voice of the customer”, in acknowledging that while Perfect, Now and Free is (currently) unachievable, that is what every project customer (and manager) desires.

Of course, popular project management practice continues to obsess about the “triple constraints”, “golden triangle, or “iron triangle”. Meanwhile, others, such as Duncan, continue to distinguish between project success measures and business success measures. And from our own part, we have for years treated them as part of the Vital Signs of project success, and published a range of articles here on our ProjectExperts website, that cover related topics:

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Is Yours a PM Certification or a Certificate?

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
We have noticed a significant recent increase in advertisements for “PM Certifications”, resulting in “Certified Project Managers”, that are really Certificates in a pm-related training. It would seem that some fail to understand the difference.

The increase in “certification” promotions makes sense, in part, because, the competition in the training industry is stiff. And as we frequently note, Billions of $USD spent in various project management-related training has led to little-to-no improvement in organizational project and program performance. Thus, organizations ranging from educational institutions to training companies are adding new certifications in project management. Or are they?

Most of these offerings are certificates, not certifications. And while I believe the offerers to be misguided, rather than intentionally misleading, these misstatements damage us all while they continue. Why? Because Executives funding these programs are expecting PM performance results they are not receiving.

An Early Certificate in PM
In 1985 my company (now named ProjectExperts®) instituted a PM Certificate for learning participants in organizations that engaged key portions of my curriculum. A few Aerospace companies, Insurance companies, and Government Agencies embraced this approach, because they valued some evidence of grasp of the key practices in project management. The curriculum included:

  • Small Project Management, a 2-day workshop
  • Early Project Estimating, a 2-day workshop
  • Project Management Tools ‘N Techniques® a 3-day workshop
  • Leading and Managing a Project Team, a 2-day workshop

The Certificate program included a six-week post-course follow-up for each workshop, where Managers of the learners worked with their staff to assess their application of the workshop’s Learning Objectives. To earn the Certificate, participants were evaluated in two ways:

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Overcome the Double-Whammy of Executive Grief Over IT and PM

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
An intriguing article in the 1st Quarter, 2010 CIO Insight magazine summarized the results of some (in our opinion) major research by Valuedance and Harvard Business Review. The article, Not So IT Smart, was filled with (appropriate for the magazine) insights, including a significant perception gap about performance on a range of key factors, as perceived by Business and IT Leaders. We urge you to read that well-researched and well-written article—after, of course, reading this posting.

The Executive’s Grief over IT
I recall the challenges of 30-35 years ago, when it appeared that Executive Managers just didn’t get it, about the proper use of what we then called DP (Data Processing). Then we changed the name of the practice to Management Information Systems (MIS), perhaps thinking that relabeling the same behaviors would change things. Of course, there were, even then, stellar examples of savvy Executives who knew how to make DP the centerpiece of competitive advantage; but those appeared to be in the minority.

Most of us either assumed or hoped that those Execs who refused to even use a keyboard would soon retire, and their successor would eventually become the visionary strategic leader, who would bring us out of our wilderness. But for most, it never happened. In fact, the criteria listed as differing perceptions in the above-referenced article are much the same as they were over 30 years ago.

Which could lead one to a conclusion that it is not those Executives at all, but a young and immature practice, that still focuses too much on the latest technologies and the detailed part of the life cycle.

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How I Learned to Balance the Project Vital Signs

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
I named the key project factors of Time, Cost, Scope, Talent, Risk and Quality the Project Vital Signs nearly thirty years ago. I named them to evoke the signs one measures in the Emergency Room at a hospital, not measure if the patient was dead yet, but to determine whether he or she was improving. My rationale: Effective project managers use those factors to manage for success, not just to identify when the project failed. But I did not originally learn the importance of balancing those Vital Signs in the project world; instead, I learned it in a number of early formative experiences. This article is about one of those experiences.

Growing Up In the Cherry Capital of the World
I grew up in The Dalles, Oregon, the fresh dark red, ripe, sweet cherry-producing capital of the World. Other competitive regions included Italy, California, and Michigan, but our orchards produced the largest, richest-flavored cherries. They were so much in demand, that flights to Paris would next-day deliver our cherries to such noteworthy gourmet places as Fauchon. One part of our packing process was to box the cherries in elegantly foiled and lined wooden boxes, so they made a classy image in the shops. And one of the choicest jobs, once I turned 18 years of age, was to be one of the workers who made those boxes.

The box-making process involved standing at a large, noisy machine, and following these steps:

  1. Insert two ends (called heads) and one side into the machine, and push the nailing pedal. A large mechanical device containing the hammers would rapidly descend and nail the parts. Caaarrrunch!
  2. Flip the box over and place the lid on the assembly (the boxes were filled from the bottom, with the top several rows carefully arranged by packers, the goal being, when opened, the customer would see exquisitely-perfect rows of artfully placed cherries). Press the nailing pedal; caaarrunch, went the machine.
  3. Flip the mostly-assembled box to its final position, add the last side, push the pedal; caaarrrunnch!
  4. Place the finished box on the slanted track behind me, where four people added the foil, cardboard, and poly liner, while I began to repeat the cycle.

Those four steps required 6-10 seconds for each box.

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Who Really Manages Your Projects?

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
In many organizations today, competent and experienced Project Managers, Senior Project Managers and Program Managers (all referred to as PM or PMs in this article) have the responsibility and authority to deliver the organizational changes and benefits expected by Senior Managers, Executives, and internal and external customers. Those PMs are a credit to their organizations, those Managers and Executives are incredibly effective, and those organizations (Government and Enterprises) thrive as a result. We shall call this phenomenon Exhibit A.

The IPMA-USA Advanced PM certification program, based on IPMA’s* World-recognized offering, is perfect for those competent and performing practitioners. And our PRO program, Performance Rated Organization, is a perfect match for the Exhibit A organizations.

And then we have the other organizations, that we shall call Exhibit B. In the Exhibit B organizations, it is usually several layers of Managers, rather than the nominal Project Managers, who are directing Time, Cost, Scope and Talent, leaving the PM to be a mere controller; despite his or her best efforts. The result: Poor PM Performance, and Executive Managers who blame the practice of PM, rather than the misplaced authority.

Who Sets Time, Budget, Scope and Talent?
Some of those Exhibit B organizations depend more on team heroics than deft management; project managers are identified after timelines and budgets are set; scope is never quite “nailed down”, and promised talent never appears, while cherished talent disappears. Much to the chagrin of PMs, requests for some flexibility somewhere are met with the classic excuse “we just have to do more with less” which almost always results in delivering far less with less.

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What Got You Here is Wrong for Performing Here!

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
This article is for those who are “moving up” in their project-oriented  organization, and for those who wish to. Not that everyone must do so; in fact, some of the most-competent, highest-performing contributors are those who are so good at what they do (and receive the recognition needed to sustain it) that they have no desire to do anything different. For the rest of us, however, there can be both excitement and danger in “moving on up”. We explore some of those factors here.

From Team Member to PM
Team Members who are high-performers sometimes have the opportunity to “move up” to Project Team Lead or Project Manager. The expectation is that your high performance will “rub off” on others. Sometimes that works, sometimes not, depending in part on your interpersonal skills, or as the USA-NCB (National Competence Baseline, based on the IPMA Competence Baseline) terms them, your Behavioral Attributes.

The challenge for this repositioned high-performer is that it is easier to do the toughest jobs yourself than to coach others through them. Not only that, but those of us who have been addicted to the adrenalin rush of significant accomplishment feel starved by the delayed trickle of appreciation that a Project Manager receives. Why? Your organization just expects that level of accomplishment from you.

The actions that brought you notice and acclaim as an individual contributor are the wrong things for you to focus upon as a Project Manager. Instead of brilliantly achieving, you must now carefully delegate, coach and nurture. Not at all the same set of competences, are they?

From Small, to Medium, to Large PM
Often, the progression as a Project Manager is to move from Small Projects, to Medium, and then to Large ones. And yet, the most-important competences that you demonstrate in Small Projects are the least important in Medium projects. Then in Large projects, they significantly change again.

We’ve known for years about the Fourple factor: That the skills, competences and performances in a thousand-hour project will work well for a twice-as-large project;

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Is Project Management Strategic?

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
On the surface, this is one of those questions with an obvious answer: Of Course It Is! However, the question goes much deeper than that, and deserves more exploration. The topic came up in a discussion with a friend and associate, Alex Jalalian (hailing from Iran and Canada) at last Fall’s IPMA Council of Delegates meeting. Alex is studying for a Doctorate in Strategic Project Management. While I encouraged him in his pursuit, the question came up: What books, research, and indeed, published practices support such a discipline?

One source that came to mind was the Cleland/Ireland book, Project Management, Strategic Design and Implementation (Fifth Edition). One reason we like this book is its span of the topic, from high-level strategic positioning down to the details of steps and relationships of successful projects. But perhaps we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Are Project Managers Strategic?
That is a different question than the one above. While strategic vision and thinking must occur in the project environment for project performance to be maximized, that thinking may not necessarily come from the Project Manager (PM). Sometimes it is best if it does not, such as in cases of massive organizational transformation. In that case, the Strategic Vision, and drive for change should be managed by a Sponsoring group, who will reinforce the vision and sustain the change, once the PM goes off to another series of projects.

Some Project Managers are strategic, and some are not. This depends to some extent on their preferred style, the size of projects, the nature of the projects, whether others in the organization take on the role, the training of the individual, the rewards received for demonstrating needed traits, and whether the PM is even capable of doing so. We believe the answer to this question is that some are, some are not. Perhaps a more important question is, can your Project Manager be strategic, when needed?

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A More PROfessional Way to Assess and Maximize PM Performance, part 2

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
In Part 1 of this introduction of PRO, we discussed the differences between classic PM Maturity Models and PRO; in this Part 2, we acknowledge the contributions of the PRO project team, and the insights we gained from other Models.

The PRO Team
What is the source of all these insights, that produced such an innovative organizational performance assessment in project and program management? Our answer: It is the volunteer team of experienced PM consultants, savvy PM practitioners with vast experience in multiple organizations, organizational maturity model assessors, and Management Consultants. For example, the original model was the inspiration of the same William Duncan who changed PM around the World with his multi-year effort leading the development of PMBOK® Guide, 1st edition. He now serves as architect for our tool and process that has the potential to do even more for organizations than his 1990’s effort did for individual practitioners. A key point: One of our early research findings was that the best Organizational Assessment models are led by single-minded vision, rather than the compromises of a random committee.

But wait, there’s more, as they say. Tim Jaques is a partner and consultant with Line of Sight, LLC, specializing in Government PM. Tim is the IPMA-USA Director of Standards, and the Project Manager for PRO. Tom Mochal, of the popular PM Consultancy TenStep, currently performs Assessments, and contributed greatly to PRO. He says he will be among the first to offer it to his customers. Brent Hansen, Scott Freauf and Nigel Blampied have “real jobs”, and gave us the perspective of the corporations and government agencies that will benefit from PRO. They are all long-term, experienced Project Managers, and have served in many other notable PM Standards.

Dennis Milroy brought years of experience in the Military, another targeted beneficiary of improved PM Performance. Matt Piazza has a passion for the topic, but could not directly participate. So he built and managed the collaborative infrastructure we needed to get the project rolling. And, what if we offered a Standard, and no one showed up? Dino Eliadis, a Management Consultant with Marketing Expertise, has kept us focused on the business need, the customer focus, and the marketability/manageability of our efforts.

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A More PROfessional Way to Assess and Maximize PM Performance, part 1

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
The December 2009 publishing of the Exposure Draft, together with the Press Release for PRO, Performance Rated Organization, is a key event for IPMA-USA, for the USA, and for improved PM Performance. You can see the background, the link to the Exposure Draft, and the audiences for this tool at the PRO section of the IPMA-USA website. The purpose of this posting is to share a bit more perspective about PRO, the factors that drove us to develop and introduce it, and to acknowledge the members of the PRO team.

Many organizational assessments for project management already exist. We studied the strengths and weaknesses of many of them as part of our initial research. We found many that were very useful, some that could be useful, but were far too difficult to apply, and some that could produce great insights, but required too much effort, distracting key staff from their priorities. Most were proprietary, few were based on any accepted standard, and some that appeared to be merely a way for consultants to find work in your organization.

Many of the Organizational PM Assessments are based on a Maturity Model approach, similar to the Capability Maturity Model pioneered by the US Defense Department and Carnegie Mellon University. This approach is useful because it can offer a logical sequence of improvements. Otherwise, an assessed organization could be forced to choose from dozens of expensive initiatives, with no clear way to decide which offered the greatest value.

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