The ProjectExperts Bring Back Our PM Pills!

We first offered our PM Pills in 1983, and they were a very popular hit! They were merely candy in pill bottles, with tongue-in-cheek labels. Even six years after our first release, we occasionally saw the bottles on our clients’ office shelves. We also released a series for IPMA-USA, and they were very much in-demand in IPMA, the International Project Management Association. 

The Talent Series

The latest release is based on our recent series of articles, webinars, and blog posts on Project Talent. You can see our latest article, Acquiring, Developing, and Retaining Project Talent, here on our website. Inspired by the four Talent Areas in our Talent Tetrahedron–in our chart, they looked like M&Ms–we ordered the right colors, printed labels, and filled the pill bottles. TalentPillslg

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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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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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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.

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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.

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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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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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Most of 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;

Read moreMost of What Got You Here is Wrong for Performing Here!

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.

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