Archive for March, 2009

It may sound like a simple, maybe even simplistic question: how many project plans should you have for your project? Well, “one, of course”, you may answer. And you are right. 1 project -> 1 project plan. This is simple and basic project management knowledge.

Why is it then that ever so again I am stumbling over projects which are “led” by a PM who explicitly demands its project office to create and maintain more than one plan. Even better, asking the project office not to communicate any of them until further notice. What’s wrong in this picture? Several things:

  1. First of all, the project manager should be the master of the project plan. The minimum requirement is that he/she knows the project plan inside out. The PM may want to delegate updating the project plan to the project office if there is one. Still, the PM remains accountable for the accuracy and coherence of the project plan.
  2. Second, having more than one plan in place indicates that the scope is nearly clearly understood nor defined. Oops. So what exactly is the project objective? Could very well be that the PM thinks to know the answer to this question. But why does he/she need more than one project plan? Good question.
  3. Third, withholding vital information from the own project team and key stakeholders looms trouble. Trust is important. It has to be earned. And, trust is important if you want to successfully manage a project because you need a functioning project team you can trust and vice versa. The same applies to stakeholders. You need to know who the key stakeholders are and you need to manage, or shall we say “pamper”, them constantly. Withholding information is definitely the wrong strategy and achieves the opposite of project success.

What can you do in such a situation?

  1. You as the responsible and accountable PM need to revisit the scope of the project. Does the complete project team and stakeholders have the same understanding of the scope? And the timeline? If not, realign stakeholders’ expectations. Have a look at the presentation I gave at the PMI Global Congress North America 2008 in Denver (for the corresponding article click here) for ideas how to proceed.
  2. Review your project plans, identify the one which is meeting the minimum requirements. Communicate the plan to everyone involved, i.e., everyone should have at least read-only access. This includes the key stakeholders. Get rid of the others.
    OR …  if you find out that you do need 2 project plans, face it:  you are probably dealing with 2 separate projects.  In this case, set up the organization accordingly.  This means, 2 projects, 2 project plans, 2 status reports, etc.
  3. It is ok to prevent the plan from being messed up by more than yourself and the project office. Hence, save it with a password to edit.
  4. Trust has to be earned. Practicing open communication is critical. If you know a problem and risk as well as the mitigation, communicate it. If you don’t know what to do, ask. If you don’t, you will be hold accountable for not solving it, and, you are becoming the problem.
  5. The scenario described above indicates that this may not be the only issue. You may seriously consider conducting a formal project review by a third, neutral person who is competent of project management. Calling for a project audit does not mean that you cannot do your job. It means that you are asking for professional help. This may help save the project. In addition, it is an excellent learning opportunity (remember, Learning is a key component of effective leadership) and at the same time you cover your back. Sometimes it takes an outside view to see the obvious shortcomings.

Have you experienced similar situations? Let us know how you solved them and what you recommend.

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A good friend of mine, James Bowman, Ph.D, MSEd, Director and Founder of MOTIVATE2B, has forwarded me this excellent read.

Remember Lee Iacocca, the man who rescued Chrysler Corporation from its death throes? He’s now 82 years old and has a new book, ‘Where Have All The Leaders Gone?’.

Lee Iacocca Says: ‘Am I the only guy in this country who’s fed up with what’s happening? Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder! We’ve got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we’ve got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can’t even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, ‘Stay the course.’ Stay the course? You’ve got to be kidding. This is America, not the damned, ‘Titanic’. I’ll give you a sound bite: ‘Throw all the bums out!’

<You might think I’m getting senile, that I’ve gone off my rocker, and maybe I have. But someone has to speak up. I hardly recognize this country anymore. The most famous business leaders are not the innovators but the guys in handcuffs. While we’re fiddling in Iraq , the Middle East is burning and nobody seems to know what to do. And the press is waving ‘pom-poms’ instead of asking hard questions. That’s not the promise of the ‘America’ my parents and yours traveled across the ocean for. I’ve had enough. How about you?

I’ll go a step further. You can’t call yourself a patriot if you’re not outraged. This is a fight I’m ready and willing to have. The Biggest ‘C’ is Crisis! (Iacocca elaborates on nine C’s of leadership, with crisis being the first.)

Leaders are made, not born. Leadership is forged in times of crisis. It’s easy to sit there with your feet up on the desk and talk theory. Or send someone else’s kids off to war when you’ve never seen a battlefield yourself. It’s another thing to lead when your world comes tumbling down.

On September 11, 2001, we needed a strong leader more than any other time in our history. We needed a steady hand to guide us out of the ashes. A hell of a mess, so here’s where we stand. We’re immersed in a bloody war with no plan for winning and no plan for leaving.

We’re running the biggest deficit in the history of the country. We’re losing the manufacturing edge to Asia, while our once-great companies are getting slaughtered by health care costs.

Gas prices are skyrocketing, and nobody in power has a coherent energy policy. Our schools are in trouble.

Our borders are like sieves.

The middle class is being squeezed every which way.

These are times that cry out for leadership.

But when you look around, you’ve got to ask: ‘Where have all the leaders gone?’ Where are the curious, creative communicators? Where are the people of character, courage, conviction, omnipotence, and common sense? I may be a sucker for alliteration, but I think you get the point.

Name me a leader who has a better idea for homeland security than making us take off our shoes in airports and throw away our shampoo?

We’ve spent billions of dollars building a huge new bureaucracy, and all we know how to do is react to things that have already happened.

Name me one leader who emerged from the crisis of Hurricane Katrina. Congress has yet to spend a single day evaluating the response to the hurricane or demanding accountability for the decisions that were made in the crucial hours after the storm.

Everyone’s hunkering down, fingers crossed, hoping it doesn’t happen again. Now, that’s just crazy. Storms happen. Deal with it. Make a plan. Figure out what you’re going to do the next time. Name me an industry leader who is thinking creatively about how we can restore our competitive edge in manufacturing. Who would have believed that there could ever be a time when ‘The Big Three’ referred to Japanese car companies? How did this happen, and more important, what are we going to do about it?

Name me a government leader who can articulate a plan for paying down the debit, or solving the energy crisis, or managing the health care problem. The silence is deafening. But these are the crises that are eating away at our country and milking the middle class dry.

I have news for the gang in Congress. We didn’t elect you to sit on your asses and do nothing and remain silent while our democracy is being hijacked and our greatness is being replaced with mediocrity.

What is everybody so afraid of? That some bonehead on Fox News will call them a name? Give me a break. Why don’t you guys show some spine for a change?

Had Enough? Hey, I’m not trying to be the voice of gloom and doom here. I’m trying to light a fire. I’m speaking out because I have hope – I believe in America. In my lifetime, I’ve had the privilege of living through some of America ‘s greatest moments. I’ve also experienced some of our worst crises: The ‘Great Depression,’ ‘World War II,’ the ‘Korean War,’ the ‘Kennedy Assassination,’ the ‘Vietnam War,’ the 1970’s oil crisis, and the struggles of recent years culminating with 9/11.

If I’ve learned one thing, it’s this: ‘You don’t get anywhere by standing on the sidelines waiting for somebody else to take action. Whether it’s building a better car or building a better future for our children, we all have a role to play. That’s the challenge I’m raising in this book. It’s a “Call to Action” for people who, like me, believe in America’. It’s not too late, but it’s getting pretty close. So let’s shake off the crap and go to work. Let’s tell ’em all we’ve had ‘enough.’

Make your own contribution by sending this to everyone you know and care about. It’s our country, folks, and it’s our future. Our future is at stake!

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Conducting Lessons Learned workshop can be very valuable.  Not just after a project finish, but during the course of a project.  When conducting such a workshop, collect and sort the feedback of the team AND let the team prioritize its feedback.  Experience shows that it is best to focus on the top 3 lessons learned for the days to come.  This does not mean that the other collected feedback is less important.  Focusing on the top 3 lessons learned will it make it easier to focus the team energies on a limited number of goals rather scattering and wasting its energies.

The effective leader encourages lessons learned workshops.  We all learn from the past.  Hence, we should welcome and request constructive feedback.  It could very well be that the feedback is not to our liking.  Indeed, it this is the case it should make us think even harder how we can improve in the future.  Yes, this can be difficult at times.  But, how can we give feedback to others and block any critical remarks from others?!  Sharing feedback in a lessons learned workshop is a two-way street.  Effective leaders encourage this process to develop and take place.  The opposite of being open to feedback and growth opportunities is ignorance, arrogance and professional immaturity.  None of the latter characteristics are part of effective leadership.

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