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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The Work To the Left of Proposal, part 2

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
In Part 1 of this 2-part series, we discussed the importance of the actions of the first 10% of any project or program, the Buyer/Seller relationship in any complex project, and the role of Business Development in assuring success in each of those areas. In this part, we disclose a bit more of the attraction of Business Development, then introduce another key role that every complex project or program requires.

The Attraction of Business Development
Why should Project and Program Managers include and embrace the role of Business Development (BD) Managers in our initiatives? Several reasons, from our perspective. First, despite our best efforts, PM has been relegated from strategic to tactical in too many organizations. It was not always this way. In an earlier era, the PM was the “go-to person” who not only participated in the analysis of changes needed to establish competitive strategies, but also planned those needed to implement them.

Over the last 30 years we have seen and lamented that we we need to, as we say in our article, “Let’s Cure The Dumbing Down of Project Management”. While we came to PM from a Strategic Planning background, most others do not. And that is where BD comes in. Just as with Strategic Planning, BD is wide and thin; Project Management tends to be narrow and deep. A match made in heaven. Not only that, PMs could learn a thing or two about getting close to customers, alignment to organization strategy, and fixation with business results. On the other hand, this divergence in perspectives helps explain why some PMs don’t get along well with BD Managers.

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The Work To the Left of Proposal, part 1

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
What is the work to the left of Proposal? The answer depends on your role, your program or project, and your perspective. For example, although many programs involve proposals, many projects do not. In engagements that involve proposals, the majority of success often depends on the work that occurs before the Proposal is ever signed. What is that work, who performs it, and why is it so essential to both Proposal and engagement success? Let us begin by clarifying the actions that occur early in a successful engagements that do not involve contracts, then expand to the more-complex engagements that do involve contracts. Note that this complexity of multiple organizations in contracts is a key distinction between two Advanced Performance-Competence-based certifications, certified Project Manager (IPMA-USA’s IPMA-C) and certified Senior Project Manager (IPMA-USA’s IPMA-B).

Engagements Not Involving Contracts
Many engagements are intended for internal implementation, and do not significantly rely on proposals and contracts. In these projects, the actions that take place in the window of opportunity between inspiration and the beginning of Requirements elicitation are primary factors of success. For example, we’ve shown for years that the first 10% of any project or program’s effort is responsible for 90% of its success.

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Role and Rigor in PM Certifications

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
We have received some interesting reactions to our recent posting about Role and Rigor in PM Certifications. Some assert that we place the IPMA-D certification too low on the Rigor scale. Others are concerned about whether the average reader can decipher which “Other PM Certifications” are reflected by that basketball. Still others are shocked, shocked, SHOCKED, that their popular certification might be labeled an Entry-level certification, or that they are not really certified Project Managers, but instead, certified in project management.

Who is perpetuating this confusion? One answer: Some PM providers, especially those engaged in Entry-level certification preparation, continue the myth. Read through ads in magazines, on websites, or even in blog and social network postings. In marketing, they might guarantee that you will pass an exam in a week or refund your fees; then, some indicate that you are being certified as a Project Manager. These providers have clearly not yet joined the ranks of IPMA-USA PM Competence Enablers, because they do not understand the difference between exam-cram methods and improved PM Performance! After all, certifications in project management and Advanced certification as a Project Manager are two different markets.

The myth is propagated by some practitioners, who, having earned their knowledge-based certification, mistakenly believe that they truly are Certified as a Project Manager. In fact, there are LinkedIn groups filled with those misled and mistaken souls.

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Evaluating Role and Rigor in PM Certifications

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
We have seen a wide range of opinions, analyses, and presentations that fail to clearly show the differences between the Project Management certifications in the USA, and around the World. Certifications from IPMA-USA and IPMA (International Project Management Association) are particularly misunderstood, because they address specific roles and competence-oriented factors that other PM certifications do not. The purpose of this post is to clear up misunderstandings about the IPMA-USA/IPMA PM Certifications, and to clarify how they differ from other PM certifications that are available.

Role of Certificant
When we speak of Role, we are discussing the primary Role of the certification candidate. Entry-level PM certifications use knowledge-based exams about project management, and do not depend on the PM’s Role. Advanced certifications engage professional assessors in interviews to assess performance competence in a targeted Role. Some people fill multiple roles; in that case, the Role is the one selected as the basis for certification. This is only important in the case of Advanced (higher-Rigor) certifications.

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Building the Future of PM

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
This week (October 12, 2009) marks the introduction of a new book, PM Circa 2025, published by Project Management Institute. Dr. David Cleland (author with Dr. Lew Ireland of some of the most useful books in the PM discipline) worked with Dr. Bopaya Bidanda to recruit Chapter authors and to edit this major achievement.

They asked 28+ PM practitioners to expound (in 20 page chapters or less) on a variety of intriguing aspects of PM practice for the next 16+ years. Chapter topics include National, International, sector-specific, and Government entities.

Many of the chapter authors are from IPMA-USA; we have been preparing our readers, fellow-members and customers for the future for many years. Chapter authors whose names you may recognize include Lew Ireland, David Pells (twice!), Tim Jaques, Jonathan Weinstein, Stacy Goff, and others.

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A Rainbow of Different Purposes for Your PMO

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
In the previous post about PMOs, Program or Project Management Offices, we discussed the different flavors of PMOs, and made an assertion that everyone has one, but some are informal, rather than formal. And, the informal ones can be at least as effective as the formal ones. In this post, we discuss the different purposes of your PMO.

PMO Purposes
This summary list of purposes, functions and services for your Program or Project Management Office (PMO) is from our custom services series. I usually offer it as a coaching session for organizations that wish to establish or extend the effectiveness of their PMO.

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What Is a PMO, and What Flavor Is Yours?

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
What is a PMO?
A Project Management Office, or Program Management Office, is a formal or informal group that accepts responsibility for one or more Program/Project governance, support and/or mentoring functions, with the explicit purpose (in the best cases) of improving PM Performance.

What brings this topic to our blog at this time is IPMA-USA’s sponsorship and support for the PMO Symposium 2009, held November 8-10 in Atlanta, GA. Presented by the PMI® PMO SIG (Program Management Office Specific Interest Group), this event was one of your best opportunities this year to tap into the burgeoning world of effective PMOs. See the PMO Symposium site.

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Revving Up the Competence Enablers

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
IPMA-USA’s Competence Enabler program has been a key part of our society since our founding. We originally called it the Most Valued Provider program, and then Donna Fitzgerald, as part of her term as Education Director, coined the more-likeable Competence Enabler name.

Its purpose is several-fold:

  1. Develop a PM Vendor group that understands how to Demonstrate the Competence Difference, and in turn, helps match participants with PM practitioners who wish to explore and develop that difference.
  2. Identify those rare PM Vendors that have the competence, capacity and desire to actually improve PM Performance, not only in basic knowledge acquisition, but in competence and performance development.
  3. Establish a support system for PM Vendors that assess and help improve individual and organizational PM Competence Development, based on IPMA-USA’s and IPMA’s competence standards.

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Managing Small Projects

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
Happy 09/09/09!
This blog posting was prompted by an article provided to IPMA-USA by Curt Finch, What Mismanaging Small Projects Will Cost You. My “to do” list has had this topic on it for quite some time, so I am glad Curt brought it up. Curt is CEO of Journyx, and his article is great; see it here.

What Is a Small Project?
I have asked this question for over 24 years in kicking off one of my workshops, Small Project Management (also named Managing Small Projects). The first time I asked the question in a class was at an Aerospace/Defense company, and a grizzled old Engineer said, Sonny, a Small Project is anything less than a Billion Dollars”.

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Understanding Change: A Good First Step

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
If we are to be successful as Change Agents, we need to understand Change. That understanding ranges from the dynamics of Change, to the disciplines involved, even to the terminology around Change. This posting deals with some of the terminology around Program or Project Change.

For example, many years ago, when I wrote my first IT PM methodology, I called the processes around requesting, evaluating, approving and implementing needed project changes Change Management. In that era (pre-1985), it was more popular to call those actions Change Control.

My rationale was that we cannot control Change; in fact, we are foolish to attempt to do so. But we could manage the process, and manage the impact of the change on the product. Thus, Change Management. There was one obvious concern: If PM was the discipline of Managing Change (as I espoused from the early 80s), then Change Management in Managing Change was a bit too recursive.

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Report: 3rd Annual UT Dallas PM Symposium

PM Commentary, by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
IPMA-USA and IPMA were well-represented at the 3rd Annual University of Texas at Dallas PM Symposium August 13-14. With the theme Managing in a Changing World, and sponsored by the UT Dallas, the Dallas Chapter of PMI®, and by PM World Journal, this was the most interesting US conference we have participated in this year. We presented twice, and IPMA Secretary General Veikko Välilä also presented twice. One of our presentations was in a PM Career Management track, and the other was with Veikko in a Panel discussion about The Future of PM.

In the PM Career Management track, our paper, Essential Insights in Meeting the Rising Demand for PM Performance, was embraced by the audience. They resonated with the theme of moving beyond PM knowledge, to actions needed to increase skills, improve behavioral attributes, increase PM competence and ultimately, PM Performance. A now-familiar theme to most of our IPMA-USA members and friends, this was new perspective for some in this audience, and as a credit to their experience, they were excited by the prospects.

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When Does A Project Begin?

PM Commentary, by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
One of the greatest challenges in managing a project is managing its duration. And yet, inconsistent standards about when a project actually begins makes everything from duration metrics to Customer expectations inconsistent.

Let’s look at a hypothetical example. The dates are arbitrary, just to show the progression of steps, and are related to the diagram you see below. Whenever we share this insight, it never fails to stir discussion.

January 2, Inspiration: Your best internal Customer, a Functional Manager, riding or driving to work (there is lots of time to daydream in the morning journey), gets an inspiration for a project that would significantly improve operations. Once in the office, events of the day cause the idea to be shoved aside.

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Understanding the Competence Difference

PM Commentary, by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
Some people don’t know what we mean when we say at IPMA-USA, “Discover the Competence Difference.” And yet, would you want incompetent performance in your organization, your government, or even in your yard service (for those who can still afford it)?

So while most people clearly understand incompetence, too many still fail to understand the competence difference when it comes to Project Management. From one of our presentations, and repeated in a June article, Closing the Gap, the Competence Difference is clear from the following scenarios:

  • Would you fly as a passenger in a plane piloted by two “Air Academy” graduates who passed their final exam, but have never taken off or landed a plane (not even in a simulator)?
  • Would you consider “going under the knife” for brain surgery by a Surgeon who has attended all the classes, read all the books, passed the exams, but has never wielded a scalpel?
  • Would you allow a Lawyer to represent you in a criminal case, who, while having passed the bar exam, has never practiced before a jury?

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The Elephant in the Room

PM Commentary, by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
In the World of Project Management, any discussion about PM Societies must consider what we call The Other Organization (the elephant in the room). Many IPMA-USA members are also members of the other organization. In fact, a handful of our members can take credit for helping make it the success it is today.

If it is a great, successful organization, why does the USA need IPMA-USA? We are often asked that when we staff booths at major Conferences. There are several answers. First, any discipline that is dominated by just one strong provider is a discipline that is in decline. Part of the reason we started IPMA-USA was to increase the rate of advancements in Program and Project Management that slowed during the 1990’s.

Second, we saw the need for Advanced PM certifications, that actually assess and certify Project and Program Performance. This initiative has taken our volunteers three years to deliver. The good news, by the end of 2009, the entire suite of Advanced, Performance-Competence-based certifications of Project Manager, Senior Project Manager and Program Manager will be available. There are more reasons why the USA needed IPMA-USA. But they will be the subject for some later posting.

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Blog: We Build Change Agents

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
stacyProject Managers are the Change Agents who build tomorrow. Why do we say this? Because we can, and we do! In addition to my consulting firm, I work with our industry’s professional organizations to create beneficial change–both for their members, and for society. Thus the wide-ranging set of topics in this blog.

Key to beneficial change are two professional organizations, IPMA-USA and IPMA. IPMA-USA is the USA’s member association of IPMA. International Project Management Association, the world’s first professional association for project managers, is a federation of national associations.

IPMA-USA members range from young Project Managers to the experienced thought leaders of PM practice, we cover the gamut in experience. Our thrust is to improve the Performance Competence, and therefore the results, of Program and Project Managers, our initiatives, our stakeholders, and our organizations.

The IPMA-USA Certification Program, based on IPMA’s 4-L-C, Four-Level Certification program, is the envy of those who desire PM Certifications that use advanced assessments to verify Competence as the centerpiece of your PM Practice.

Learn more about IPMA-USA at the organization’s website. And learn more about IPMA at its website. Meanwhile, if you have comments about our blog posts, I’d love to hear them! Please use our Contact Us page.