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Archive for May, 2009

Preliminary results of my online survey of team-involvement and project re-alignment are available on the “Surveys” tab or at http://tinyurl.com/tjep-surveyblog.

The survey will run for another 2 weeks.  Please share the url to the survey with your friends and peers:  http://tinyurl.com/tjep-teambuilding.  The more people participate the greater the value of the survey results.

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The PMI Global Congress EMEA was held in Amsterdam May 18-20, 2009.  Once again it was an excellent conference on all kinds of topics of project management.  Attendants could pick from more than 70 sessions.

There was no lack of innovative and thought provoking topics such as agile projects or applying insights of systems,  complexity or chaos theory in daily project management.  Agile has been around for quite some time.  Still, it is just entering the realm of PMI.  The resistance to embracing agile is weakening.  Personally, I think it will have become a standard in the PMI world in another year or two.  Let’s bet on it if you like.
Regarding systems, complexity and chaos theory I think this is a trend worthwhile watching.  We are living in a complex, non-linear world.  The PMBOK serves as a solid framework for project management.  However, it has its limits given its linear character.  Systems, complexity and chaos theories overcome this shortcoming.  They expand the dimensions of traditional project management, encourage us to think beyond the PMBOK standards and apply insights from systems, complexity and chaos theory in everyday project management.

Regarding my own 2 workshops on Team-Building as a Means to Re-Align a Project: Both workshops went really well.  The interactions in the 2 groups and 7 break out teams were creative and productive.  Impressions of the workshops can be viewed in my online photo album.
Following up on the workshop and preparing for the upcoming PMI conference in Orlando I have started an online survey on team-involvement in project re-alignment.  This is a public survey.  Please share your insights and advice on this topic.  Results of the survey will be published on this blog, my website, the PMI Agile Discussion group and in my article  for the PMI Global Congress North America 2009 in Orlando.

Overall, it was an excellent conference.  If you are interested in the latest findings and / or thought provoking ideas  on project management and network, these PMI conferences are probably one of the best venues.  See you in Orlando!

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We are being taught that compromising is a good thing, rather than fighting for one position over another.  But is this always true?  I claim that in a situation of an ailing project, compromising paves the way to mediocrity if not even doom.
Take the following project example:  The scope and the project deadline were in a constant flux ever since project initiation.  The project consisted of several sub-projects which were mostly managed by subject matter experts, i.e., functional managers whom were asked to serve as project managers on a part-time basis.  As it happens to be the case, one of these sub-project managers was notoriously under-performing ever since the inception of the project.  A practitioner in his field of expertise for decades he was new to the realm not only of project management but to the project world per se.  Very soon it became evident that this fellow was overwhelmed by the assigned job.  Everyone was aware of it, including the project manager.  Still, nothing happened.  Finally, 5 months into this 8 month project the situation was escalated to the line manager.  To no avail; nothing changed.  Instead, 2 externals were added to this sub-project to conduct field work which, too, was behind schedule but not the source of the problem.  This way at least it was claimed that the sub-project manager received external support.  What a compromise!  The right thing to do would have been to either help the sub-project manager 5 months earlier or, if nothing changed after a few weeks, replace him (see my blog post on sacking a team member).  Bottom line: the sub-project continued to be behind schedule, deteriorated overall delivery quality, caused costs to increase, team morale to suffer.  Yes, the project was finished eventually.  But for what price!?

Lesson learned:  If you are dealing with an ailing project, follow a clear-cut strategy of re-aligning the project; regardless if you choose a top-down or bottom-up approach.  This is not the time to make compromises but to act.  You, as the project or recovery leader, have to follow through, lead the pack, set the direction. Personally, I believe it is best if you can still involve the whole team re-aligning a project.  However, there are times when the team has been or still is the main source of the problem.  In this case, follow a top-down approach.

At this point I like to quote Michele Sliger, “While continuing to grow, the state of agile adoption seems to be plucked straight out of an Ayn Rand novel, where the acceptance of mediocrity has infected the masses like a plague. Half-hearted adoptions have led to half-hearted results (as in “we suck less”) that in turn are leaving these organizations straddling a tipping point from which they more often than not slide backwards, rather than making the push over the top to high performance and exponential growth in ROI.

In short, if you want to leave the path of mediocrity and enter the way to performance and excellence, you have to act. Compromising is not the answer to problems.
Leadership requires courage and action, not compromises.

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There are countless books on project management available these days.   How do you pick the right one to start with?  At the end of the day it is your call.  Still, I can recommend the following books:

Eric Verzuh:  The Fast Forward MBA in Project Management

The Fast Forward MBA in Project Management is designed as an advanced textbook for businesspeople with a grasp of the basics and insufficient time (or inclination) to go back to school to learn more. […] this is not a heavy academic text.

Gregory T. Haugan:  Project Management Fundamentals:  Key Concepts and Methodology

Project Management Fundamentals takes the mystery out of project management through a step-by-step, detailed approach. Filled with practical examples of project management methodology, tools, and techniques, this book will help you manage projects successfully, no matter the size or complexity.

Gregory T. Haugan:  Project Planning and Scheduling

This is the only book that makes all planning methods and tools available to project managers at all levels easy to understand … and use. Instead of applying techniques piecemeal, you’ll take a cohesive, step-by-step approach to improve strategic and operational planning and scheduling throughout the organization. You’ll master advanced scheduling techniques and tools such as strategic planning models and critical chain and enterprise project management. Includes time-and-error-saving checklists.

You could supplement it with Greg’s latest book, Work Breakdown Structures for Projects, Programs, and Enterprises.

Kathy Schwalbe:  Introduction to Project Management, 2nd Edition

Best-selling author Kathy Schwalbe’s Introduction to Project Management offers a general yet concise introduction to project management. This book provides up-to- date information on how good project, program, and portfolio management can help you achieve organizational success. It includes over 50 samples of tools and techniques applied to one large project, and is suitable for all majors, including business, engineering, healthcare, and more. This text uses a chronological approach to project management, with detailed explanations and examples for initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing projects.

Neal Whitten: Neal Whitten’s No-Nonsense Advice for Successful Projects

If you have already have experience in project management, this is a must-have book.  Whitten takes on common questions from everyday project management and shares his insights.  It is right on the money.  I highly recommend this book.

Timothy J. Kloppenborg, Arthur Shriberg, Jayashree Venkatraman:  Project Leadership

Yes, there is a difference between project management and project leadership.  If you want to know what it takes to become a project leader, have a look at this book.

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The next PMI Global Congress EMEA held in Amsterdam May 18-20, 2009 is approaching.  This year I will be conducting two 3-hour workshops on project recovery.  The workshop is entitled, “Yes We Can: Team-Building as a Means to Re-Align a Project.”
Project recovery missions are probably one of the most difficult challenges a project manager may face. Alone a project manager cannot handle such a situation. It takes a team to do so. The workshop will show why and how team building can be an effective and efficient mean to re-align projects gone astray.

The presentation can be downloaded from my website.


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