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

.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.

Read more.ru Ready?

Dinner Speech at PMAF Congress, Helsinki, part 2

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

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

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

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

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

Read moreDinner Speech at PMAF Congress, Helsinki, part 2

Dinner Speech at PMAF Congress, Helsinki, part 1

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

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

The Topics
The topics to address were:

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

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

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

Read moreDinner Speech at PMAF Congress, Helsinki, part 1

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!

Read moreExperiencing Newvember

Stakeholders Benefit From a PM’s 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.

Read moreStakeholders Benefit From a PM’s Perspective

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!

Read moreChanging the Way Things Are …

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

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.

Read moreA Brilliant IPMA 2010 Congress

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?

Read moreChilean Mining Rescue Miracle—A Program Success