Culling projects: A critical portfolio process

With most organisations reporting more projects that they can resource, stopping projects which are addressing yesterday’s problems may be even more important than not starting those projects designed to address today’s.

In a 2011 review of 15 client portfolios, the UK project consultancy group, CITI reported that in annual portfolio prioritisation more than one third of the projects and programmes approved were carried forwarded from previous years, with 20% having survived two annual review processes.  The question perhaps to ask is – does this reflect a real need for long-term projects or is it that management decision making around stopping something is just so much harder than approving a project to start?

Significant portfolio management attention has been paid over the last few years to developing improved governance processes around the front-end selection and prioritisation of projects.  But portfolio monitoring and control is a much greyer area and often confusion arises between the governance responsibilities at the portfolio and project sponsorship levels. Continue reading “Culling projects: A critical portfolio process”

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Top tip for 2018: Be a Modern Professional Learner

How to make this year successful

Late in 2017, Elizabeth Harrin, A Girl’s Guide to Project Management, asked me to contribute to her Top Tips for 2018 blog.  These blogs are available in an e-book on Elizabeth’s site.   Here is the long version of my thoughts.  Many thanks to Elizabeth for inspiring me to take out the time to reflect and gather my thoughts.

As a project coach, I get many opportunities to ask the question,” What did you learn from most over the last few years?”                 So far no one has ever answered; “There was this great course” or even, sadly; “There was this great presentation you did on…”.

Most adult learning comes from relevant experience: challenges faced on a project, interactions with peers, or opportunities which force reflection upon and make sense of our experience.

Continue reading “Top tip for 2018: Be a Modern Professional Learner”

Be a project management professional

Your development journey for 2018

The Future Work Skills 2020 report identifies six drivers for change in our learning practices and ten skills for the future.  What are these skills? How can we as project managers use them in the way we define and follow our professional career path in 2018?

Future work skills 2020

 

 

 

Continue reading “Be a project management professional”

Communities of Practice to encourage knowledge sharing in project-based organisations

This month’s ‘Insights’ blog shares lessons from applying a community of practice (CoP) approach to encouraging knowledge sharing across a project community.  While the research examines multiple PMOs in a large global organisation, I feel the insights are also applicable to the single PMO attempting to promote the sharing of best practices and lessons learned in the project manager community.

The paper gives us some insights into the challenges faced in promoting knowledge sharing, the success factors for the formation of an effective community and how you might recognise that your community is maturing (or not).

“If only we knew what we know…”

Continue reading “Communities of Practice to encourage knowledge sharing in project-based organisations”

The myths of stakeholder management

Project stakeholder management has borrowed many of its concepts from other discipline areas. This cross-usage of wisdom is helpful but its application in projects is still to be proven and bedded-in to the way we do things.  After all, it’s only in the last few years that stakeholder management has been recognised in project management bodies of knowledge.  In the meantime trial and error application has resulted in a number of myths about its application to projects.

Continue reading “The myths of stakeholder management”

The PMO as knowledge broker

Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely

Identifying lessons learnt is a necessary part of the project process, not only does this information have the capacity to lighten the workload of the project manager, but it also places the company running the project, in a position of increased competitiveness – however, this is only if the knowledge is actually applied. Unfortunately, the reality confronting many project managers is that once boxes have been ticked and projects completed, it is very rare that this information is accessed and utilised in future projects.

Continue reading “The PMO as knowledge broker”

Project manager: accountable for what?

As a job profiling consultant specialising in project management, I often hear questions like,Responsibility-ahead-Blog-14 ‘Who is responsible for…?’ and ‘Am I responsible for…?’ As questions, they seem straightforward enough, but further consideration reveals the complexity that can underlie them. Perhaps the questioner is just filling an acceptable gap in knowledge, or a check on understanding, but the question may also be reflecting more deep-seated management, or indeed company culture related problems:

  • confusion – nobody is clear who is responsible for what, and therefore who is going to take what action
  • fear – of having to take on responsibilities for which one is not properly equipped
  • anxiety – at having to be accountable for the discharge of the responsibility
  • concern – at the possibility of having to be accountable, without having discharged the responsibility oneself
  • anger – at having to take on responsibility that one feels should be discharged by someone else for a variety of reasons
  • frustration – trying to find out who is responsible in order to get action taken, make a complaint or obtain redress
  • ignorance – of the way in which responsibilities have been delegated or distributed and therefore who should be discharging them
  • obfuscation – when debates about who is responsible result in, or are used to explain, delays and inaction.

Perhaps you recognise some of these?

Continue reading “Project manager: accountable for what?”

Changing IT roll-outs into stakeholder-led implementations

When rolling out new IT infrastructure to a large number of client sites, it is tempting to consider it to be the same project over and over again.  But while the project may be justified in terms of the standardisation of technologies across the corporation, how those technologies get implemented and exploited by each business area may be substantially different.

Philpic1Phil and his team recognised that the crucial factor, the thing that would make-or-break this global project was not the technology but the differing business contexts and stakeholders concerns that each roll-out would deliver into.  A previous attempt at implementation had been a costly failure – the business knew it and needed other options.  Fifty-seven countries impacted;  12,000 applications reduced to just one thousand; the very way that users could access their PCs would change with admin rights removed from all personal computers.  These changes were far-reaching, and their instigation by a central controlling group was unlikely to meet with group-wide excitement and positive emotions!

The business agreed a new approach was necessary.  The first actions taken by the project manager, Phil Urwin, was to send members of his team to visit the twenty hub-countries and establish the stakeholder success criteria.  What would make it good for them at their site… in their words?  Phil’s aim was to convert the technology implementation into a stakeholder-led programme.  Each site visit resulted in a 2-page summary of what mattered to the local stakeholders, and each site was different.  Some reported non-technical users who would need hand-holding –  others reported good technical skills.  Implementation no-go times, PC wants and needs- all captured succinctly in the 2-page mandate for the site implementation.

The rollout project was a large initiative for the company.   At the Head Offices in the UK,  the normal governance structures existed – “these role-based stakeholder engagements were engaged through formal structures, but often there was little interest from them beyond getting a view about the status of the project.  It was with the agenda-based stakeholders that we needed to focus our attention.”  The project established open channels of communication with these groups using webex or whatever medium best suited the participants.  Before and during the implementation this was crucial and resulted in at least weekly meetings.  While the project team took responsibility for the initiation of the meetings, the agenda was driven by the stakeholders – it was definitely their meeting.

With fifty percent of the programme rolled out and four of the largest implementations completed the signs are good.  Customer satisfaction ratings were previously 2-3 and during and post the implementation moved from 4.1 to 4.6.  When asked about the lesson learned from the project, Phil describes two critical areas:

  • A stakeholder-led project. Right from the start, the project outcomes were aligned to the needs and agendas of stakeholders in their own business context.  Phil does not talk about the technology or what it could or could not do – his total focus is on addressing these concerns.
  • Stakeholder-focused, “like-minded team.” It’s not enough for the project and project manager to be stakeholder-focused this attitude and approach must be propagated throughout the whole team. Following the process is not good enough (although the process matters) the understanding and buy-in from every team member is crucial to translating good ideas into a reality on the client site.

Phil Urwin is currently a programme manager with The Grangeside Group.  In September he will be presenting at the New Zealand Project Management Conference in Christchurch on how to recruit the right project manager, develop and keep them. http://www.projectmanagementconference.org.nz/

My thanks to Phil for taking part in the Success Stories Shared initiative.

SSS-logo-smallSuccess Stories Shared is a South African initiative to encourage sharing across the project community. Driven by Louise Worsley & Linky van der Merwe, you can find these stories online on this blog site or at http://www.virtualprojectconsulting.com/success-stories-shared/

If you have a story to share, please do contact us:

  • Louise Worsley: lworsley@pi3learning.co.za