Does Knowledge Want To Be Managed?

First published by Stacy Goff April 2, 2011, republished in 2021. We post this article to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of IPMA-USA, founded April 9, 2001. Our founders have been long-time leaders and innovators in the project and program management (PPM) practices. We have contributed greatly to the growth of PPM practices, and to other professional associations that had advanced them.

One of our founding objectives was to move past a project management certification process that focused just on knowledge. Instead, we focused on skills, attitudes and competence, on strategic alignment of projects, and improving project management interpersonal interaction. Our goal: to vastly increase project team and enterprise competence, performance, and business results.

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
This topic was inspired during a trans-Atlantic air travel dialogue with a young lady seatmate whose job responsibilities included 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. Some men don’t really understand more than Facts, the younger step-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. For example, her Grandmother is Wisdom. 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 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; I had read something in 1974 that inspired me.

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The First 10% of a Project: 90% of Success, part 4

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
If you have not reviewed parts 1-3, we suggest that you go do that before continuing here. Some following this series are a bit incredulous. One week or less, huh? What a pipe-dream! Some teams spend an entire week and get 10% that much information, much less the needed levels of management commitment. We mentioned our Rapid Initial Planning processes. Many organizations perform this type of quick-start approach today, so our method is no longer anything new. The RIP (as we called it, although some thought that meant Rest In Peace…), is a way seek the prerequisites that smart project managers assure for every project.

Case Application: Product Data Management System
In the early 1990s, one of the few remaining US-based military shipbuilding companies had a mandate: Update to an end-to-end PDM (Product Data Management) System within several years, or lose their ability to bid on new warfighter systems. A PDM supports the entire process, from concept, through Design Engineering, to Construction, Sea Trials and Validation, Delivery, and importantly, Parts Inventory Management for the life of the resulting product; in this case, a warship. One could say that this was an Information Technology project, because IT was involved. We felt it was a business survival strategy, because the future of the entire business was at stake. Besides, while their shipyards were vast, their IT staff numbered fewer than 20 people.

A business partner, Dan Myers, of Requirements Solutions Group, engaged the client for one week, meeting with Business Executives. They performed an intensive Data Requirements-gathering session, papering the walls with all aspects of their ship-building business. These busy Executives dedicated an entire week, full-time, to understand everything about the ingredients of success for their business.

The following week, we went in, and spent four days working with that same group. We used our Project Initiation Rapid Initial Planning session. In a totally non-technical way, we parsed the massive program into subprojects (based primarily on timing and sequence of information flow across the organization), identified and measured scope of each project in the program, discussed strategies and approaches, including use of software packages, contracting out to “Big Six” consultancies who had relevant experience, identified assumptions and estimated the project multiple ways, stepped back and identified risks and responses, and developed fairly detailed project plans for each phase of each project of the program. In three and half days.

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Exposing the Myth of “Doing More With Less”

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
We first heard it in the early 00s—Executives and Managers saying, “We’ll just have to do more with less.” Well-intended at first, for some it soon became a poor alternative to managing effectively. While in specific situations the statement can be temporarily true, in most cases, we believe that those who proclaim and perpetuate the myth that this is an appropriate way to manage a workgroup, department or enterprise, are demonstrating their failure to manage.

What triggers this commentary is a recent workshop I performed for a customer I have worked with for over 29 years. I have seen them flex, grow, improve, and cut back, all in response to market conditions, the shape of their business, and their sense of coming business pressures. I did discuss the dangers of the “more with less” message with Executives and Managers 8 years ago, and with just a few exceptions, they have fortunately not fallen into that trap during this latest downturn. But in my recent sessions in this industry-leading business, I detected something sinister and terrifying.

While employees I encountered demonstrate strong loyalty to the organization, and show a sense of strong rapport up and down the chain of command, I detected individual contributors, project managers and managers alike who are overwhelmed and exhausted. People who have prided themselves on the quality and efficiency of their work in the past, are now deciding which essential project results will be eliminated or reduced; which project double-checks to push into post-project support; which internal customers to choose to fail to respond to. I have seen this death spiral before.

Jobless Recovery
I think many organizations are facing this dilemma, in part because of the uncertainty in the US, between politics, consumer spending, the high unemployment rate, the threat of possible hyperinflation, and the unknowns in the next set of policy decisions that will affect business. These concerns are the root cause of this Jobless Recovery, as businesses are afraid to add staff to meet current demands, so they continue to manage increasing business with existing, or remaining staff. And even when they are not using the tired “more with less” mantra, that is what it looks like to their employees. And, if you think this only affects project success, this affects the operations side even more than the projects side of the business.

How To Honestly Do More With Less

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Change Management: Confusion or Success Factor?

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
Many people we have spoken to over the last several years have expressed concern over the increasing level of confusion around the term Change Management. The confusion goes back many years, but appears to be getting worse. As Change Agents, it is important for Project and Program Managers to understand the topic, the relevant competences, and the different perceptions asserted by different interested parties.

Depending on your perspective, Change Management is one or more of the following:

  • The configuration management of developers’ code, and the operating environment in which it was validated.
  • Managing the impact of requested and approved project changes, during the project.
  • Managing the impact of needed changes, updates, and improvements on the project result after that result is in business use.
  • Managing the organizational changes needed to embrace and appropriately apply project results.
  • Figuring out how to get reassigned and work for a Manager or Project Manager who is more effective.

Well, we just made that last one up. We are not here to proclaim which is the right or wrong perception: However, in every project or program, we do proclaim that you need to have a common understanding of what everyone means when speaking of Change Management.

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Exploring Success Factors and Measures; 2 of 2

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
This is part two of our two-part post on Success Factors and Measures. Two independent events last month (an interview for a magazine article and a webinar) resonated around a frequently-discussed, but often disputed topic: What is project success, and how do you achieve it? The events covered two aspects of project success, the Success Factors (that lead to project success) and the Success Measures (used to evaluate success). This posting covers the Success Measures.

The Success Measures
Tim Jaques and Frank Salidis ran the latest webinar in the IPMA-USA 2010 Dialogue series the first week of July. The topic was Perspectives on Project Success: Excellence in Project Management. The well-presented and discussed Dialogue was excellent, but there is much more to the topic than an hour’s time. Some of the key points included the fact that the Triple Constraint is merely a project measure, and is certainly not as important to the end-user as such hard-to-measure items as customer satisfaction.

Other points included discussions about tangible and intangible value, including Return On Investment, Stakeholder satisfaction (beyond customers), and even enhanced PM intelligence. Perceived failures, at least according to project measures, may be successes by the time of product measurement. A key example provided was the Sydney Opera House. The distinction made: Project outputs versus project outcomes.

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Is Yours a PM Certification or a Certificate?

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
We have noticed a significant recent increase in advertisements for “PM Certifications”, resulting in “Certified Project Managers”, that are really Certificates in a pm-related training. It would seem that some fail to understand the difference.

The increase in “certification” promotions makes sense, in part, because, the competition in the training industry is stiff. And as we frequently note, Billions of $USD spent in various project management-related training has led to little-to-no improvement in organizational project and program performance. Thus, organizations ranging from educational institutions to training companies are adding new certifications in project management. Or are they?

Most of these offerings are certificates, not certifications. And while I believe the offerers to be misguided, rather than intentionally misleading, these misstatements damage us all while they continue. Why? Because Executives funding these programs are expecting PM performance results they are not receiving.

An Early Certificate in PM
In 1985 my company (now named ProjectExperts®) instituted a PM Certificate for learning participants in organizations that engaged key portions of my curriculum. A few Aerospace companies, Insurance companies, and Government Agencies embraced this approach, because they valued some evidence of grasp of the key practices in project management. The curriculum included:

  • Small Project Management, a 2-day workshop
  • Early Project Estimating, a 2-day workshop
  • Project Management Tools ‘N Techniques® a 3-day workshop
  • Leading and Managing a Project Team, a 2-day workshop

The Certificate program included a six-week post-course follow-up for each workshop, where Managers of the learners worked with their staff to assess their application of the workshop’s Learning Objectives. To earn the Certificate, participants were evaluated in two ways:

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Is Project Management Strategic?

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
On the surface, this is one of those questions with an obvious answer: Of Course It Is! However, the question goes much deeper than that, and deserves more exploration. The topic came up in a discussion with a friend and associate, Alex Jalalian (hailing from Iran and Canada) at last Fall’s IPMA Council of Delegates meeting. Alex is studying for a Doctorate in Strategic Project Management. While I encouraged him in his pursuit, the question came up: What books, research, and indeed, published practices support such a discipline?

One source that came to mind was the Cleland/Ireland book, Project Management, Strategic Design and Implementation (Fifth Edition). One reason we like this book is its span of the topic, from high-level strategic positioning down to the details of steps and relationships of successful projects. But perhaps we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Are Project Managers Strategic?
That is a different question than the one above. While strategic vision and thinking must occur in the project environment for project performance to be maximized, that thinking may not necessarily come from the Project Manager (PM). Sometimes it is best if it does not, such as in cases of massive organizational transformation. In that case, the Strategic Vision, and drive for change should be managed by a Sponsoring group, who will reinforce the vision and sustain the change, once the PM goes off to another series of projects.

Some Project Managers are strategic, and some are not. This depends to some extent on their preferred style, the size of projects, the nature of the projects, whether others in the organization take on the role, the training of the individual, the rewards received for demonstrating needed traits, and whether the PM is even capable of doing so. We believe the answer to this question is that some are, some are not. Perhaps a more important question is, can your Project Manager be strategic, when needed?

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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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