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Good Project Management is ALWAYS in Style

Project Management always in styleWe don’t need to trouble you with a request for a project manager; we are using an iterative approach, and project management cannot be used.You could have heard a pin drop. One of our technology managers had basically said, “Thanks but no thanks,” and he was saying it to the Project Management Office (PMO) director. Without batting an eye, the director asked for a description of this iterative process. In fact, he said he wanted to learn about it because if we had a whole team of project managers who were no longer needed we could redeploy them elsewhere. Why would we pay for a team of people who were not needed and did not add value? Blithely unaware of the trap he had just set for himself, the technology manager described how every iteration was a mini-project of its own and how each mini-project would accomplish a small part of the project. Future iterations would build on the previous iterations. It was faster and more efficient and would provide better quality. It was too soon to know how many iterations would be needed or what would be accomplished in each iteration, but definitely the cost, schedule, scope, and quality goals would be met. You probably know how this ends. This particular project floundered. Cost and schedule targets changed quite a few times. The vice president stepped in and stated that this project could not continue without a project manager. The point is not that iterative approaches don’t work: of course they work. This is not about trying to show that a Waterfall approach is better. The best approach is the approach that fits the nature of your projects and allows you to deliver a quality result within the desired budget by a specified date. The result... the beginning of a stronger relationship between the PMO and the technology team. Any project manager could not have saved this project. The project manager who helped steer this project to success came with experience in iterative methodologies. He was hired from the outside and interviewed and selected by both the technology manager and the PMO director. He knew how to balance the strengths of the iterative approach with the strengths of project management. The result was a showcase project—an example for future projects and the beginning of a stronger relationship between the PMO and the technology team. Good project management is like the little black dress: it is always appropriate and always in style. For more stories on transitioning from Waterfall to Agile, be sure to check out ‘Waterfall to Agile’ a free eBook brought to us by AtTask, you can find it here: http://unbouncepages.com/agile-53187/
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It’s Time to be a Character

It requires less character to discover the faults of others than is does to tolerate them.” J. Petit Senn
JPetitSennAs the end of the year approaches you are called upon to be more and more tolerant of others. Deadlines are looming, people are stressing, some people are being unreasonable and others think that YOU are being unreasonable. It can be a real test of your strength.
You can really look around and see the weaknesses of your colleagues. There is the one who files all of his paperwork last minute and then tries to bully people into completing his work requests. There is the one who disappears for hours in the middle of the day, but can easily be found at the mall. And then there is the one who takes vacation time but does not notify anyone she simply just disappears. It is easy to point out what is wrong with everyone else. Look at all these crazy and annoying people around you. This person is lazy, this person talks too much and that person is just not the sharpest tool in the shed. You could go on and on, but you do not. YOU KNOW BETTER. We all have our idiosyncrasies. Dare I say it even you are not perfect! (Nor am I.) Only small or petty people spend their day finding flaw with others. People who are strong in character do not spend their time taking inventory of other people’s faults; they take inventory of their own growth opportunities and recognize that learning to get along with others no matter what their faults may be is all just part of the journey. The time to show strength of character is NOW.
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Thank you for Being Difficult

thank-youOK, that probably got your attention! I am not calling you difficult at all. I am noting that sometimes our most challenging people deserve some thanks. Have you ever worked for a horrible boss? Have you ever been stuck on a team with a co-worker who is chronically difficult? What about a family member who sets all of your nerves on edge? It would be amazing if you had not encountered at least one of these scenarios, or at least something very similar. In fact you may have encountered all of them. Here is a trick question for you. When was the last time you thanked one of these pain in the neck people? This might be the part where you ask me something along the lines of, “Why on earth would I thank any of these people?” You thank them for the opportunity they have given you. What opportunity is that? The opportunity to learn how to deal with people who set your nerves on edge, without losing it, without, well – setting your nerves on edge. You and I can talk about these people all we like. We can share strategies and plan how to react or how not to react to the ‘opportunity people’ in our lives. You and I can read and write all about the best ways to handle people who we would allow to make us crazy. At some point, all of our discussions need to lead up to actual practice. You don’t become a skilled surgeon just be reading the books. You don’t successfully remove someone’s tonsils just by talking about it. Of course it helps to read the books and talk about tonsillectomies with experts. You become good at tonsillectomies by performing tonsillectomies. You become skilled at handling your ‘opportunity people’ by interacting with them. The more you interact with them the better you will become at developing your technique so that they do not push you to or over the edge. Now you see why I call them ‘opportunity people’ and why I suggest that you and I can say to them, ‘Thanks for the opportunity.’ As annoying as they might be, you and I will not grow without them. Let’s offer thanks for the opportunity to interact with the people who get on our nerves. Of course I really mean silent thanks. Each time you deal with one of these people, I encourage you to give be appreciative of how those interactions make you a stronger person. If you really do thank one of your ‘opportunity people’, then good for you. At least good for you if you can say thank you to them, without any trace of sarcasm or hostility. I suppose if you do it might come as surprise to them and they might not know how to take it. Let’s thank our opportunity people.
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A Tale of Two PMOs

Project Management: A Tale of TwoI recently came across a statistic that states that 50% of all Project Management Offices (PMOs) fail. That seems so high, but when I reflect on my own personal experience in setting up two different PMO’s I can tell you that my experience supports that statistic. One PMO was successful and one PMO was not. Of course two experiences is hardly a solid scientific sampling. Yet it has prompted me to bring you a tale of two PMOs. The first PMO I was involved in had support from the very top. Our Executive Vice President was very much on board with the idea of the PMO. She could see that projects were floundering and she could see that each project was being managed differently and that this was leading to confusion. And so she tasked one of her directors with the creation of a project management office or PMO. In turn he brought in an expert in project management and an expert in PMO organization.  He selected some of the top project managers from the department and brought them into the PMO. Together they conducted research and went to seminars and hired the best consultants. Everything looked good. The Vice President told all of her directors what was happening and how she expected their full support. They all enthusiastically declared that they couldn’t wait for the results. They were all very happy to know there was going to be a group of people who was going to help them run their projects more efficiently. At least that’s what they said in public. Behind the scenes the PMO team was having a different experience with those same executives. It seemed that most of those executives were too busy to meet with them to discuss plans and processes. It seemed that those executives didn’t have any resources available to meet with the members of the PMO. And when members of the PMO invited people to discussion sessions and training on project management methodology nobody showed up. When asked about their participation, every executive denied that they were refusing to participate with the PMO. They blamed schedules and resource constraints and said that the PMO was being unreasonable and so it went back-and-forth with no real progress or solution. Out of desperation the members of the PMO started going to some of the people who were running projects and who were new to running projects. They offered help. They offered mentoring and support. By working directly with those who could benefit immediately with what they had to offer, the PMO began to experience some success. But alas it was too late. The bickering back and forth at the top level and the lack of progress lead to the dissolution of the PMO. The members of the PMO all learned an important lesson. We learned that company culture played such an important part in the success of a PMO. What we experienced was our own company culture. Our culture was nobody ever said no to something in public. Nobody said they wouldn’t do something or support something. They just did not do it. And if someone decided not to do something, nobody not even the Executive Vice President would make them do it. Grassroots was the way in which we experienced some success. By grassroots I mean going directly to the people who are going to use what you’re creating and engaging with them and helping them and having them help create your processes and your methodology. And that leads to the tale of PMO number two. A few years later at the same company a few of us who had worked on that first PMO found ourselves working together in another division. This division had a small PMO and they wanted it to grow. Surprisingly those of us who participated in the first PMO were called upon to help. It was surprising because they knew our previous attempt had not been a success. We were called upon because we had the lessons learned from the other PMO. We knew the company and we knew the culture. And use those lessons learned we did. We really socialized our PMO. We had an open house with games and suggestion boxes and of course fun food. We invited people to planning sessions; we walked around and spoke to all of the executives in informal and formal settings. We asked for their opinion, we asked for their feedback, and we did not announce or create any new policy without the involvement of the majority of the group. Was it a lot of work? You bet. Was it slower? Absolutely. But the time we spent doing this was time well spent. It was part of the plan and part of the process. We didn’t make unrealistic deadlines for the growth of the PMO. We created deadlines that assumed input from all concerned parties. We created drafts expecting people to come and tell us what they hated and what they loved. We assumed an attitude of “We are the PMO how can we help YOU succeed. Did we make everyone happy? Absolutely not. There were definitely some people who still did not trust us or the idea of a PMO and wanted to do things their way. Some of them came around, some did not. But in the end by working within our culture we were able to support projects and bring about positive change. And that was really the point. If you are curious about PMOs and you are looking for ideas on how to move forward with a PMO (and also Project Portfolio Management), check out this free eBook from Keyed In Projects on Why PMOs Fail. There is no reason for you to experience anything but success! Margaret
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Why Not Do Some Weight Lifting?

“There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.” – John Holmes
johnHolmesQuoteWhat is your exercise plan this week? Will you take a yoga class or do some Pilates? Have a trainer help you with some weight training? I hope you do have time to take a walk or go to the gym or go for a run. This is not just about reminding you to keep in shape. Yes it is a good idea for you to walk to meetings using the long route, or to take the stairs whenever possible. Both of these are good ideas. Being a leader is about mind, body and spirit. I am asking you to consider another form of heart healthy activity. The type that involves helping others. YOU have the ability to reach your hand out to others and lift them up. It is good for them and it is good for you. The opportunity for you to do this type of lifting is all around you.
  • When a colleague has a career set back or disappointment – lift.
  • When the team works non-stop to meet an impossible deadline – lift.
  • When layoffs or cutbacks are announced – lift.
  • When a favorite colleague leaves the team or the company – lift.
  • When ‘Murphy’s Law’ strikes and everything that can go wrong, goes
  • wrong – lift.
  • When a presentation goes badly or a prototype is rejected – lift.
These are just a few of the scenarios where you can lift people up. Anytime  morale is down, YOU lift people up. Add that to your exercise plan and you will recognize immediate benefits. No special diet or exercise equipment is required. Happy Lifting, Margaret
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