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Zen has been, is and most likely always will be one of the most influential, inspiring philosophies, perspectives of life.  Self-organizing teams on the other side seem to be a rather modern phenomenon, some people believe.  What does Zen and self-organizing teams have in common?.  Well, I don’t want to answer this question in depth at this time. However, what I can offer are two presentations I have uploaded to Slideshare.net which deal with Zen and Self-Organizing Teams.

Project Management and Zen

Today’s projects become increasingly complex and a test of our leadership. The question is how we can master this increasing complexity? Individuals in the team and the whole team need orientation and guidance or an inspiration how to do so by themselves. Personally, I have found that the philosophy of Zen offers many insights which can help us achieves this. This presentation introduces 10 Zen insights and translates them into the language of project management. It shows how to apply Zen insights in a project setting. Zen can help inspire us personally and how to interact effectively with our team, customers and stakeholders. Applying Zen in projects makes it easier to build teams, perform on a high level and deliver results which delight our customers and teams alike. It thus helps us and the team to evolve into a performing unit and excel.

Note: I have published this presentation under the Creative Commons agreement which allows you download the PPT-file for free and re-use it for your own purposes as long as you acknowledge the copyrights.

The Power and Illusion of Self-Organizing Teams

Teams and teamwork are the heart and soul of every project. This is especially true for agile teams. It is not the individual performance or accomplishment that counts but that of the team. Just like in team sports the team succeeds and fails together. The Agile Manifesto puts the team at the center of interaction. It states, “The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.” But what does “self-organizing” mean? Does “self-organizing” mean that team building is no longer necessary and that instead the teams do this by themselves? And, if teams are self-organizing why do so many teams and projects still fail?

I will give this presentation at the PMI Global Congress North America 2012 on October 21, 2012 in Vancouver, BC, Canada.

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This week’s German business magazine “Wirtschaftswoche” ran an article on interim management.  What it is, why companies need it and what they get out of it, and what it is like to be an interim manager.

If you always wanted to know what interim management is all about, have a look at it (provided you know German).

Happy reading!

 

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BQA Knowledge Base is a go-to repository of whitepapers, presentations, and articles intended to keep QA leadership and practitioners ahead of the game. Use the sorting tool in the right column to find the topic you seek.

Recent whitepapers include:

Soon my own whitepaper on Outline of Best Practice Requirements Management will be posted there, too.  Stay tuned.

 

 

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Projects become more prevalent.  Not surprisingly the art of project management becomes more popular.  Unfortunately this does not imply that the more projects there are the more successful they are.  As a matter of fact a significant percentage of projects fail or do not yield the desired results.  While in recent years the number of successful projects are on the rise, it is scary how slow this process has been.  Todd Williams’ book  “Rescue the Problem Project: A Complete Guide to Identifying, Preventing, and Recovering from Project Failure (2011) is a welcome and much needed aid to help rescue and re-align struggling and failing projects.  It is a very valuable resource for anyone working in a project management.  Regardless whether or not the own project is on its way to glory or doom.

Williams embraces a holistic approach to project management.  He explains the need and value of existing project management tools that help rescue the project management.  And he goes beyond the mere listing of tools.  In the Introduction of the book he stresses four key factors that are critical in rescuing a problematic project: (1) The answers to a problem in or with a project are in the team. (2) A strong team can surmount most problems. (3) Stay involved with the team. (4) Objective data is your friend, providing the key way out of any situation.  By emphasizing the value of the team Williams goes beyond a mechanical “Abhandlung” of a recipe book for project rescues.  He explains in simple, plain and thus easy to understand language why most answers to problems in and with a project are rooted in the team.  A project is not made up of resources but human beings interacting in a social environment, building communities and network.  As complex and complicated this network is, it contains an endless number of potential traps and opportunities at the same time.

Having set up the foundation of his approach to rescuing projects Williams outlines 5 steps to recover struggling projects:

The first step is to realize that a problem exists.  As simple as this sounds this may actually be the most difficult step of all.  The key is that the awareness of a problem is not limited to the operational level of a project but that management has to acknowledge this fact and expresses an interest in resolving the issue, helping the team to become successful.

The second step to project recovery is an audit of the project.  The term “audit” has a negative connotation to many project practitioners.  This must not be the case if all audits would follow the guidelines Williams describes in his book.  He starts analyzing the human role in a project, followed by reviewing the scope on a red project, determining timeline constraints and examining technology’s effect on the project.

The insights gained from the audit analyzed in the third step.  They are the ingredients for planning the actual project recovery.  To me this part of the book is the most valuable one.  Not because the author develops a clean and clear outline effective approaches to analyzing audit data but because he explains how they fit in with the core statement of the book, that a strong team is one of the critical success factors for project recovery.  Doing so he stresses that project recovery is not a mechanical task, following a checklist and applying sane project management techniques.  Instead he explains that it takes leadership and oversight, a deep understanding of the heart and soul of a project.  Acknowledging the fact that more and more projects do not follow the traditional, sequential waterfall approach, Todd Williams gives an overview of other project management frameworks and methodologies, namely Agile and Critical Chain.  He then compares them with respect change management needs, customer relationship, estimations, project constraints, subcontractor relations, and team structure.

The fourth step to project recovery is to propose workable resolutions.  This is when the recovery manager presents the insights from the audit analysis and concluding mitigations and negotiates the next concrete steps with the project sponsor and stakeholders.  Williams stresses the importance of staying focused on project recovery and not getting sidetracked by distractions such as maintenance and other conflicting projects.

Last but not least, the fifth step involves the actual execution of the recovery plan.

As hard, tedious, frustrating and rewarding project recoveries can be one of the key questions is what project managers can learn from past mistakes and successful recoveries.  This is covered in the final part of the book entitled “Doing it Right the First Time: Avoiding Problems that Lead to Red Projects”.  It shows that project failure often starts at the very beginning of the project.  It can be prevented by properly defining a project’s initiations, assembling the right team, properly dealing with risk and implementing effective change management.

While the book may be most interesting to those who are facing or have faced problem projects I hope that novice project managers read this book, too.  It will help them avoid common mistakes and set up a good and solid structure for project success.  And in case troubles arise this book will help them guide projects to safer havens.

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Last night I had the chance to talk with Kim Page, author of the upcoming book “From Corporate to Conscious“, about the new business paradigm moving to a more holistic and conscious leadership style. The conversation can be listened to at http://bit.ly/secSwx.

I was and am very excited about the opportunity to speak with the Quantum Scene’s Kim Page who takes a look at business from an entirely different perspective; A CONSCIOUS perspective.  This is no new abstract idea or academic exercise.  It is a shift back to our true human nature.  It can help make our business world a better place to live and work in.
It can be questioned whether or not this is actually a new paradigm.  From the strictest point of view this may not be the case because a conscious perspective strings a cord we are, or ought to be, familiar with in our daily life.  Fact is that we have moved away from our inner core.  The result is that we have been creating a business world which is often entirely driven by greed and glutiny.  The call for a conscious perspective is a reminder that business is about exchanging goods and services, i.e., serving each other.

Why not keep this new paradigm in mind as we enter the new year 2012?!  Let’s live this new paradigm and make a difference in our own daily life and influence others.  Happy New Year!

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The big and typical question you ask yourself at the end of the year how the past 12 months were, how you faired.  This year it is a simple question to answer: yes, it was a great year!  Or, shall I say another great year.  Most of my consulting this year was for an internet service provider in Karlsruhe.  Not only did were these consulting engagements challenging and intellectually rewarding it was and is convenient to our family for it is only a 35 minutes commute from Heidelberg to Karlsruhe.  One of the main reasons I am very grateful for this consulting opportunity.

Next to consulting I have been giving seminars, webinars, podcasts, presentations and interviews on numerous topics such as leadership, collaboration, learning project organizations, ethics, agile product development, team building, innovation, project management, and empowerment.  The main conferences I attended and spoke at were the PMI Global Congresses in Dublin and Dallas and the NASA Project Management Challenge in Long Beach, CA.  Wonderful events.  I can encourage every professional project managers to attend at least one of these conferences.  The learning is exceptional as are networking opportunities.

One of the major milestones in 2011 was the founding of i-Sparks I founded this summer.  i-Sparks is an open online innovation and learning community that facilitates innovation across entire systems. It provides a platform for people and institutions to discover, develop, and test new ways of operating and to put their ideas to work.  i-Sparks aims at every person or institution which is motivated to understand the root causes of today’s and tomorrow’s challenges, to rethink how people and institutions live and operate, and thus to create opportunities for redesigning business models and social change protocols, working more collaboratively across groups, institutions and sectors.

At present we are working on a first prototype which we plan to launch this coming spring.  Stay tuned and follow us on our website www.i-sparks.com.

Business is only one element in our life though it absorbs most of it these days.  Luckily there are the welcome breaks called vacation.  Have a look at my online photo albums for impressions of Long Beach,

Vail,

Vals

and South Tyrol.

So, what about next year?  The outlook is more than promising.  It is funny that lots of people talk about an economic crisis.  Unemployment is at a record low in southern Germany, economic growth is strong, the overall atmosphere and outlook are positive.  And yet other European countries and their economies are struggling.  There are numerous reasons for this imbalance.  I don’t want to start this debate.  What is worrying however is that people, i.e., European politicians and so-called experts, continue to talk about the dawn of another recession in Germany.  This, of course, can have an impact – psychologically.  Rationally and ethically, this chitchat is not comprehensible.  Let’s see what next year will bring.  I am optimistic and hope you too share this enthusiasm.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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This is the third part of my impressions of the 2011 PMI Global Congress North America in Dallas.  Part 1 talks about the conference setup.  Part 2 covers my lessons learned from sessions on sustainability, ethics, innovation, and Agile.

In this 3rd part I am talking about my takeaways from sessions about Leadership, Project Winners, the Learning Project Organization, and the future PMO.  Happy reading!

Leadership

Slides of my own session “SFT02 – The 5 Team Leadership Principles for Project Success – Part of Leadership Community Track” are available for download as well as on Slideshare.  Both Links are available on my blog.

Michael O’Brochta’s session “PRJ09 – Leadership Essentials for Project Management ProfessionalsPart of Leadership Community Track

What else can I say about any of Michael’s sessions?  You have to attend them.  They are and Michael is AWESOME.

Here are some of my tweets and insights I took away from this exceptional session:

  • Servant leadership: how can I help? What can I do to help?
  • Powerful leadership styles: collaboration, trust, empathy, ethical use of power
  • Situational leadership: participating, selling, telling, delegating
  • Transformational leadership behavior: inspiring change beyond self-interest
  • PMP + Leadership = Success
Thomas Juli and Michael O'Brochta

Thomas Juli and Michael O'Brochta

Lazy Project Managers

Peter Taylor’s session “ISS09 – The Lazy Project Manager Salutes the Project Superstars

Peter Taylor explains why we should think of us as superstars.  Why?  Because project management is – or shall we say, ought to be – more prevalent than most of think.

One of my tweets during this great session was:

  • Famous historical project managers: Leonardo da Vinci, Henry Ford, Nelson Mandela

The Learning Project Organization

Slides of my second presentation “ISS13 – The Learning Project Organization Part of Learning, Education & Development Community Track” can be downloaded from my blog at  or viewed on Slideshare.

The Future PMO

What I have said about Michael O’Brochta applies to Jack Duggal, too.  His sessions fall in the category “Must attend”.  In Dallas Jack talked about “Reinventing the PMO for the Next Decade”.

My tweets during this session included:

  • A high degree of compliance (80% and more) to project management processes did not correlate to project success, according to a recent study by Jack Duggal.
  • Today’s project environment: Dynamic and changing, ambiguous and uncertain, non-linear, complex, emerging
  • Bob Dylan: If you are not busy being born, you are busy dying.
  • The focus of the future PMO will and has to change:
From focus on … to focus on …
Service & support Ownership & accountability
Delivery Adoption and usability
Delivery-oriented governance Business-oriented governance
Delivery of projects & deliverables Benefits revitalization and value
Configuration-oriented change management Change leadership
Dealing with the pain of the day Holistic, balanced and adaptive approach

… what about the other sessions?

There were so many sessions I wanted to attend.  Often it has been very difficult to make a choice.  Luckily there are papers and presentations to download from the Congress’ websites.

Future Congresses

Oh yes, there will be many Congresses to come. And I hope that I too can participate in them.

So, tell me and all other readers what you have experienced in Dallas.  What were your highlights?  What did you miss?  And what did you take away from the Congress?

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This is the second part of my impressions of the 2011 PMI Global Congress North America in Dallas.  Part 1 talks about the conference setup.  You can read it here.

In this second part I am talking about my takeaways from the sessions I attended.  In other words, what have I learned?

Sustainability

On Saturday Oct 21 I attended the day-long research workshop “Sustainability and Project Management”.  It was a good mix of lecture, workshop / breakouts, discussions. If you prefer smaller crowds and like interactive sessions, these research workshops can be very good choice.  My own expectations were met.  Alas, it would have been nice if reading material would have been made available prior to the Congress.  Something PMI and future hosts should seriously consider.

Insights I tweeted during the workshop:

  • Corporations will not survive without embracing sustainability.
  • Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a source of opportunity, innovation, and competitive advantage. It hence makes holistic rather than one-dimensional investment analysis mandatory.
  • Accounting for sustainability principles ensures a holistic project setup.
  • Frame projects as learning opportunities.
  • Benefits of considering sustainability principles: cope with the complexity and dynamics of projects.
  • Investing in sustainability means having greater flexibility and more options in the future.
  • Sustainability is about effective project management and opportunities.
  • Understanding the project goals the desired sustainable outcomes forces innovation and out of the box thinking.
  • Sustainability requires a holistic management and leadership approach.

Ethics

PRJ15 – Really…Are You a Professional Project Manager? Presented by the Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct Implementation Advisory Committee (CIAC)

Speakers: Christiaan Kindermans, MSc, PMP; Saji Madapat, MBA, CSSMBB, PMP; Peter Pfeiffer, PhD, PMP; Michael O’Brochta, MPM, PMP

This session was a pleasant surprise.  Not only was the content really valuable, the structure of the session was wonderful, involved attendants from the very beginning.  After a few Pecha-Kucha style presentations (3-5 minutes each) the audience split into 4 groups discussing how to improve applying the code of ethics (1) responsibility, 2) honesty, 3) fairness, 4) respect) in our everyday project life.  Each group discussed the various codes for 5 minutes, then moved on to the next topic.  The session concluded with the presentation of the group discussions.

This session was exceptionally well prepared.  It proves that you can interact even with a big audience and get a lot out of 75 minutes.  Congrats!

My tweets during this session included:

  • You will attract more with honey than will vinegar. Hence, lead through your own positive example.
  • Saying what you mean and meaning what you say = integrity.
  • Opposite of professional conduct? An empty suit.

Maxwell Gladwell’s Keynote on innovation and the right organizational culture

Excellent keynote if you are interested in innovation in your project environment.  I loved it.

My tweets during this session:

  • You have to understand the social dimension of technology.
  • Innovation is a mass phenomenon and not an elite one.
  • We privilege resources too much.
  • Innovative tweakers take someone else’s ideas and turn them into money makers.  Perfect example: Google.

Want to learn more of what I am thinking and doing about innovation?  – Visit and follow www.i-sparks.com.

Agile

TRN10 – Agile Collaboration in a Virtual World: Harnessing Social Media, Web 2.0 and Beyond Presented by PMI’s New Media Counsel

Speakers: Elizabeth Harrin; Cornelius Fichtner; and (sorry, forgot the name of the 3rd speaker)

Very good session.  It was hands-on.  The speakers did not elaborate on abstract theories but covered what matters in day-to-day work when you are working with and for virtual teams in an agile setting.

Among my tweets during this session was:

  • The best architecture, requirements and design emerge from self-organizing teams.  However, even self-organizing teams still need a strategic decision.

Jesse Fewell’s session “PRJ26 – Fixed Price Agile Projects: Making the Impossible Possible Part of Agile Community Track

Boy, let me tell you Jesse does understand and live Agile. He is the person to go to if you have any questions about Agile.  Excellent session!  Thank you, Jesse, for sharing your experience.

——

Part III of my impressions and take-aways coming soon.  Topics will include leadership, the lazy project manager, the learning project organization, the future PMO, and upcoming conferences.  Stay tuned!

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The 2011 PMI Global Congress North America in Dallas is history.  Time to look back and see what I took back from this conference.  Overall, it was yet another GREAT conference.  It is impossible to describe all impressions and lessons learned.  It would fill volumes.  Since unfortunately I don’t have this time I will limit myself to the most significant take aways.  Here we go.

Networking, networking, networking

If there is one good reason to attend the PMI Global Congress it is networking.  Where else can you meet thousands of people working in project management, share experiences and learn.  If you are seriously interested in the project management profession attending such a big conference is a must at least every other year.

Sessions, sessions, sessions – which to choose?

There are so many sessions to choose from it is easy to get lost.  This is especially so if you attend a Congress for the first time.  My advice:  come prepared.  Take the time to read the abstracts of the sessions which sound interesting to you, then make your decision.  If you find out after a few minutes the session is not what you expected from it, it is up to you.  You can always stay for maybe you learn something after all.  Or you jump up and escape before it is too late. Unfortunately, this happened to me in one occasion (SFT11). Rather than an interactive session it was a lecture where the two folks were reading a transcript.  Disastrous and a waste of time for I can always read the article (which, by the way, is excellent and worth reading. I wish the presentation would have come close to it.  It didn’t).  It is faster and I may even get more out of it.
A conference is about content and the presentation.  – The good news is that most sessions are indeed worth attending.  At least this has been my experience.

Venue – in Texas everything is bigger than anywhere else

The Gaylord Convention Center is no exception.  It is BIG.  For those people who could stay at the hotel it was a convenient walk to the conference halls.  For the rest of us, either we were lucky to stay at hotels with shuttle-service, we took cabs or drove.  The Gaylord is in the middle of nowhere.  Personally, this year I didn’t mind at all as I was not really too interested in the city of Dallas or Fort Worth.  Still, if you wanted to go elsewhere in the evening, choices were limited.  Fortunately, next year’s Congress will not be at another Gaylord Hotel and Convention Center.  Instead, we will be in beautiful Vancouver.

Exhibition Hall – so much to see

The exhibition hall was just as big as last year’s.  It takes some time to see everything.  Either you focus on a select few or skip one or two sessions to visit all booths.  It would be nice if the Exhibition Halls would open earlier and stay up open longer.  A feedback I heard from many other people.  Will see if PMI takes this feedback seriously.

Do you twitter?

It is interesting to see / read how many participants have twittered about the event.  A trend which could be observed during the last 2 or 3 conferences.  The more people carry their iPads with them, the more they seem to twitter.  Maybe I have to get one of them in the near future for typing with your Blackberry is not that much fun.

If you are interested in my tweets, my twitter alias is @thomasjuli.

 

To come in part 2 following:  Insights from the sessions I attended; topics include sustainability ethics in project management, agile, leadership, innovation, and PMO.

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What would you say is the biggest problem on projects today? Is it the ever increasing complexity? Is it project sponsors who are absent?  Is it the impossible expectations that our customers have?

Robert Szilinksi and Michael Krebs (www.esentri.com and www.social-pm.com) say that it’s neither of these. Instead, our top problems are all internal to our project teams. They are communication, collaboration and integration of all team members and their knowledge into the overall project.

Robert and Michael’s answer to help improve project management is to enable our teams to work on a level that is more integrated, based on sharing and trust. Much of this in connection with Social media tools for project management. We’ll get a ton of tips, tricks and lessons learned from how they have used these social media tools on projects.

Want to learn more?  Visit Cornelius Fichtner’s latest podcast and spread the word.

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