What Is Project Management?

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

Definition of Project Management--Goff

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

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

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

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

Read moreWhat Is Project Management?

You Might Be a Project Manager If…

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

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

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

Re-purposed For Project Managers: You might be a project manager if … 

Read moreYou Might Be a Project Manager If…

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.

Read moreLearning PM Success Secrets From Product Managers

A Health-Check for PPM Practices

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Does Knowledge Want To Be Managed?

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
This posting was inspired during a trans-Atlantic air travel dialogue with a young lady whose job responsibilities include Knowledge Management in an alternative energy company. We explored, and brought together, a range of the relevant terms and disciplines involved with knowledge acquisition, assimilation, retention and application. Upon my return, and reflecting on the unresolved parts of our discussion, I scheduled an interview with Knowledge. This was more difficult than I thought, even though I had long-ago attributed traits of anthropomorphism to her. Finding Knowledge was easy. Getting dedicated time to interview her was the difficult part. Her? Of course, Knowledge is feminine in gender. Few men really understand more than Facts, the younger brother of Knowledge.

Our Interview with Knowledge
My first question was the title of this posting. She asserted that “No one ever asked me!” She expressed concerns that many of those purporting to “manage knowledge” do have some insights, but most do not understand the entire story. She pointed out that Knowledge is only one member of her large family of Intelligence, and some of her senior siblings are even less-understood than she. And, she asserted her deep concern that there are whole industries, educational systems, software support, and even certifications based on just her part of her family. While some, such as Peter Senge, come close to deep understanding, many of his followers only grasp the obvious parts. And, especially disconcerting to Knowledge was her belief that man has had few new insights about her for several thousand years, since the illuminations in China, India, Greece and Egypt. The interview, while wide-ranging and deep in content, was a firehose blast of perspective, all absorbed in a 15 second interview. Ms. Knowledge had other pressing commitments elsewhere.

The Taxonomy of Data
The interview led me to reflect on my own journey toward Knowledge and the rest of her family many years ago. In the late 1970s I performed presentations to various professional groups. One of my favorite presentations, especially for groups involving data and information systems, was The Taxonomy of Data. I did not invent the concept; undoubtedly I had read something in the mid ’70s that inspired me.

Read moreDoes Knowledge Want To Be Managed?

Four Forces Converge To Accelerate PM Competence

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
For over 25 years, this writer has campaigned for improved project and program results, through increased PM competence, better processes, and smarter upper management practices. Our audience has not been limited to pm practitioners, but includes every project and program stakeholder, from team members, to resource managers and sponsors, functional managers, executives, and beneficiaries of projects. And we have seen massive success in those organizations that respond to the clarion call for increased role-competence, and PM performance. By the way, at ProjectExperts®, PM Performance includes Personal, Project, Program, and Portfolio Management Performance).

Now, converging forces suggest that the era for PM competence is approaching. Four recent events are a “heads up” for all PM practitioners in the USA, and around the world:

  1. IPMA-USA Publishes a Research Report on FAC-P/PM Competency
  2. Two Papers Identify What Executives Really Want in IT PMs
  3. PMI® Updates the PMP® Exam, Moving Toward Competence
  4. IPMA-USA Completes Our Suite of Role-based, Advanced PM Certs

In this posting, we briefly explore these four converging forces.

1. IPMA-USA Publishes a Research Report on FAC-P/PM Competency
Over the last year and a half, an IPMA-USA team has worked with USA Federal government officials across multiple agencies, to explore the strengths and opportunities in one federal certification for Program and Project Management, FAC-P/PM. Among the purposes of the FAC-P/PM program is to overcome a common situation, faced by many organizations in the USA today. Peter R. Orszag, in anOMB Memorandum for Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies, said on June 28, 2010: “Federal Information Technology (IT) projects too often cost more than they should, take longer than necessary to deploy, and deliver solutions that do not meet our business needs.”

The IPMA-USA report, researched and written by Dr. Brent Hansen, Dr. Morgan Henrie, Timothy Jaques, and Michael O’Brochta, offers US Government Officials a roadmap to improve this situation. We think the US Government is already far ahead of many other organizations, including many enterprises: With this program they have embraced a competence-based approach, that goes beyond exam-based testing of pm knowledge. Further, the FAC-P/PM program targets levels of competence to roles, as has IPMA and IPMA-USA (IPMA-USA). The Moving Government Forward report is available for download at the IPMA-USA website.

Read moreFour Forces Converge To Accelerate PM Competence

Implications of 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.

Read moreImplications of Role and Rigor in PM Certifications

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.

Read moreBuilding the Future of PM