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.portfolio

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.

take-off
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!

start
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.
PRO-190The 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’re 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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