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Please note that the blog “Empowering Leadreship” has moved to a new site.  The URL is http://motivate2b.com/blog/.

All past posts have been moved as well, so no content has been lost.  Enjoy the new site.

Thomas

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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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If you are interested or alreaday practicing agile project management Michele Sliger’s and Stacia Broderick’s book “The Software Project Manager’s Bridge to Agility” (Addison Wesley, 2008)  is a must-read.

There are a LOT of books on agile project management out there. Unfortunately, there are hardly any which explain how to build a bridge from traditional to agile project management. This books fills this gap.
One of the outstanding features of the book is that it explains how Agile differs from the PMBOK, one of the world standard in project management these days. Even more important it shows that Agile is not contradictory to the PMBOK or vice versa. It thus succeeds building the much needed bridge for traditionalists.

Readers who have read about Scrum, XP and other agile approaches are highly recommended to read Michele Sliger’s and Stacia Broderick’s book. The modern and effective project manager should be knowledgeable and experienced in both approaches and be able to pick the right approach for the customer.

I highly recommend this book.

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I am happy to reveal the design of my book cover:

The preliminary publication date has been set to August 23, 2010.  More information can be found on the Book tab.

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I will have a chance to present my book at the upcoming PMI Frankfurt Chapter meeting on March 29, 2010 in Frankfurt.  A preliminary version of the presentation is available at http://tinyurl.com/tjep-pmifc1003.  Feedback is welcome and appreciated.

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This is not new to experienced project managers:  project success is more than just the delivery of the project results.   There are a number of factors that need to be taken into consideration:

  1. time:  was the project delivered on time, i.e., as planned?
  2. budget:  was the project budget sufficient or did the project run out of money?
  3. project objectives met:  of course, we have to look at project objectives and if they were met.  This assumes that there were project objectives in the first place.  The question is whether or not these objectives were SMART, that is, specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-boxed.  If a project has SMART project objectives chances for mutual agreement and support are much greater compared to vague objectives statements.
    Quite a few projects I reviewed in the past had project objectives which fell way short of this key requirement.  Fact is, if you start a project without clear objectives you have a lot of room for interpretation.  Makes you wonder if some people are doing this on purpose.
  4. project vision:  Yes, vision.  The project vision sets the overall direction of the project.  For example, a project objective may be to integrate a certain CRM software application within a given time frame.  The project vision on the other hand is to improve overall customer service.  The software is a means to achieve this vision.
  5. project life:  this is the path between vision and results.  It answers the question how to get from your vision to project results.  It includes the following aspects:
    1. collaboration / teamwork:  a project is not about the individual project manager; it is about the team who is doing the work.  Collaboration goes beyond the core project team and extends to the key stakeholders of a project.  A project manager who claims project success for him- or herself lacks the understanding of the heart and soul of a project:  the team.
    2. performance on the individual and team level
    3. learning & innovation & flexibility to adjust to a changing environment and make the most out of it
    I am claiming that if your project has or had significant deficits in any of these three areas your project is either not aligned for project success or has already failed

Now, if you disagree with these points and believe that project results are THE most important aspect, i.e., more important than the path to delivery, you may ask yourself if you mistake a project with a product.
For example, all renown professional project management journals consider the German project “Toll Collect” as one of the best examples for project failure.  The end product on the other side is working today and the public tends to forget the chaotic project management.
There is nothing wrong with a good product.  Take the Opera House in Sydney, claimed as the 8th Wonder of the World.  But do you know that the project of building the opera house was a complete mess?!  It was over budget, way overdue, involved parties argued for years, and the list goes on.

What do you care for more?  A project or a product.  Make up your mind.  If you choose “product”, think twice before you take on the next assignment of project manager unless you understand what project success entails.  Just because you are a product expert doesn’t automatically make you a good project manager.

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Dear friends,

last night I had the opportunity to present my upcoming book “Leadership Principles for Project Success” at a meeting of the GPM chapter Mannheim / Ludwigshafen.  The presentation is available for download here; feedback is welcome and requested.

I am making great progress on my book.  The first draft of the book is finished.  I plan to complete the final manuscript by January 2010, or – who knows – even before Christmas.  We’ll let you know.  Stay tuned.

Thomas

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Dear Friends,

I still owe you a response to the question what I ended up doing in the situation described in my previous post.

Recall, the question I posed was, “What experience do you have advising clients which on the one hand asks you to stay on the project but on the other hand boycotts your well-intentioned efforts by every means available?

The options I faced were the following …

a) walk away from the project,

b) swallow, keep your head down, continue business as usual as long as your bill is being paid,

c) identify new avenues to convince the PM of the value of your best practice approach which is already customized to the client’s special needs,

d) …?

Your feedback turned out to be a great help.  There were two things which convinced me what the right thing to do was and is:  (1) It is about integrity and (2) it is about reputation.

(1) It is about integrity:
I was and I am not willing to compromise my integrity.  Ever.  With respect to my role in quality management this meant that I could not do anything which would jeopardize or contradict the quality standards I helped establish for the project.  Furthermore, I think it is false and not acceptable to please your client, for example, by reporting to him only the good things happening in the project while belittling issues and risks.

(2) It is about reputation:
Walking away from a difficult client certainly will affect my reputation as a consultant and coach.  The client would remember me as the consultant who left the project 5 minutes till high noon.  How wonderful!  This is certainly not the reputation I am after.  Instead, why run away from a challenge?!  The right and professional mature thing to do is to continue working with and for the client solving the issues in the project.  If the client threw me out because it did not like what I recommended I can live with this outcome.  For, there would be enough people in the client’s organization who knew what was going on in the project.  That chance that the client organization may come back to me for future consulting engagements is much greater because people remembered the difficult project situation, the role and behavior of the project manager and my own.

To make a long story short, I think that choice c) identify new avenues to convince the PM of the value of your best practice approach which is already customized to the client’s special needs was and is the best choice.
And this is what I did.

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Dear Friends,

Following-up a past, private blog entry on working for “difficult” clients I have received numerous replies by email.  Thank you all for your feedback and advice.

Again the question I posed was, “What experience do you have advising clients which on the one hand asks you to stay on the project but on the other hand boycotts your well-intentioned efforts by every means available?

The options I faced were the following …

a) walk away from the project,

b) swallow, keep your head down, continue business as usual as long as your bill is being paid,

c) identify new avenues to convince the PM of the value of your best practice approach which is already customized to the client’s special needs,

d) …?

Before I will let you know what I ended up doing, let me share some of the responses I received …

Thomas

——

  • If you are an independent consultant or working for hire for a subcontracting firm I suggest you strategize and move to option A.
    It is by all means a people issue and therefore doing your best will never be enough to change these people in the organization. You are the consultant. You have implemented the appropriate solution which would work if it is ultimately followed.
    It is not?
    Management for the last 6 months realizes there is a problem with the project and the PM and yet has done nothing to repair the situation. When things go wrong the consultant is there to blame. Even if your reporting in each week is appreciated I am sure the project manager reports in each week ( ? ) and it’s still his project.
  • As much as it is painful to walk away from a lucrative, long-term contract as an independent consultant, you need to be prepared to do that.  Have you considered that the PM actually wants you gone but is too passive-aggressive (avoids conflict) to make this obvious.
  • I had a similar situation. As a consultant for the “ease of use” of software my client (traditional organization) realized by virtue of the feedback on the product (internal research tool) that the product had serious usability problems. I went about analysis and redesign and provided optimum solutions and quick fixes. All of which for the most part were thrown to the wind. In response the project team would dismiss all complaints about the product with “we have a usability specialist”.  I even made an extra effort to reach management and explain the problem with redesign much to the unhappiness of the “hand that feed me”.  Essentially nothing really changed as only a portion of the redesign was implemented and half of a good thing is only half: not good enough.
    I realized my reputation was being eroded and therefore I left.
    You’ve been escalating the problem and it is still not on track.
    Why is this the right thing to do?
    Think of your professional career as there are a thousand other opportunities for you. I found that my experience which was the duration of a year  only produced a portfolio piece that was less than impressive along with the fact the experience was difficult to explain to my next employer. I actually avoid talking about this project.
    Think of your personal life is this wearing on you and the ones you love?
    In the end about one year later this whole product team was dissolved. The project failed and they were re-assigned to more core tasks. I found a really cool project in another one of their business units.
    Try some of those recommended techniques but start to look for a new opportunity because if this company is serious the moment you announce your departure they will ask you to stay and start to make changes (and maybe you will).
    Think of yourself; there is no glory in tolerating those who will not compromise on their position.
  • It was not clear if you were hired by the PM or someone higher up.  If someone higher up, they are the person you need to show loyalty to, not the PM. You should meet with the higher-ups and express your concerns about the project, and tell them that you may have to remove yourself from the project since there is no way for it to be successful given the current set of circumstances.  See what they propose.
    You may also want to check out John Kotter’s work, especially the book “A Sense of Urgency”.   It explains how people who are trying to sabotage an effort (which is what it sounds like the PM is doing) can not be brought on board.  They need to be re-assigned or removed from the company all together.
    Do the right thing on this project, and the company will bring you back in the future because your reputation is in tact.  Ride this project into the ground, and it might be your last one.
  • Documentation is needed for compliance stds like SOX also.  Its unfortunate that an Enron had to happen before govt mandated SOX. Using EA & BPM modelling tools this is now possible.
  • One very important task no one has mentioned – including yourself.  Document!  Document!  Document! and make certain these documents are going to the correct people.  You speak of meeting with upper management, but no where do I see that you hand them a written report of the issues, possible solutions or proposed mitigation options.
  • …Seems to me this is Change Management. Not technical, not business, its people. Best way to help someone feel secure is through strengthening the personal relationship. The PM is the weakest link. Try to find out what he/she likes to do outside work or at worst a drink or a meal. Change the environment, change your relationship. Try to deepen that friendship then there’s the possibility of the PM being open about fears and issues with a potential of you two becoming a team managing his/her team and thus taking control of the project.
  • … somewhere between B and C are the correct approaches.  Governance structures are cultural shift efforts, and could well take a lot longer than you would like.  As long as the client is aware of the situation and the risks that delays may pose, and the project is necessary, then proceed to the best of your ability.  Walking away could be detrimental to the effort, and won’t serve any good.  It could worsen the situation.
    Risk to the company isn’t yours to accept — it’s their management.  I would say keep advising on the risks, and working with the PM, particularly finding areas where the PM can be successful.  I say your job is to make the PM, team, and the overall company successful in their endeavors, even if it might be painful.  If it were easy stuff, your input wouldn’t have been needed in the first place, right?
    I have chosen D in a similar situation.  Keep escalating the issue until it gets notice.  The risk is being asked to leave (at least your integrity would be intact).  The possible reward is getting the project back on track.
  • Who hired you?  Who benefitted most from the success of the project? What is the true definition of ‘success’ for that company? What is the priority given to that project among other competing initiatives?
    From an organization perspective this is just one of many things they are doing, knowing the answers of the above questions will help you understand where things really stand and craft more detailed set of options.
  • I recently re-read (re-skimmed) Gerald Wineberg, since I faced a similar issue.
    It reminded me that clients hire consultants for various reasons — often because they know a project is in trouble, and rather than taking the advice (which they often already know) and fixing the underlying causes (often political), they choose to let the situation fester.  So the real reason they brought in an outside party was to have someone to blame when the project inevitably fails.  Note that they don’t have to take your advice to be able to blame you — they can instead whine to their management later about how your advice was impractical, or based on incomplete knowledge, etc.
    So my latest mantra is all about time horizons.  If you intend to establish a 20-year relationship with your client, then you’ll stick out the project, knowing that the key good people in the client organization will eventually rise to power.  You’ll just have to have enough staying power to outlast two or three major shifts in management turnover, hoping each time that more of “your” people will remain than the detractors and obstacles.
    If your time horizon is 6-18 months, then you should probably prepare an exit plan from this client, and focus on other client opportunities where you can show growth that you can showcase to bring in more new business elsewhere.
    If you can put junior people on this assignment, it’s good for training them (though perhaps not good for their morale), and you can lower your internal costs (assuming junior salaries relative to their billing rates are at an appropriate ratio, compared to partners and their billing rates).
    So your time horizon, and where this client stands relative to other work you could be doing, helps determine what opportunity this client really represents.  Maybe training, maybe just marking time until another deal is signed, or maybe maintenance until your management allies ascend to power and you can do Real Work.
    I think this same sort of evaluation matrix can help individuals at turning points in their careers, looking at their different opportunities in light of what they’re getting from their primary job, as opposed to their pro bono work on the side.
  • There is “people” issue between you and the PM.  He wants to say ‘I am in charge and I am always right.’ So, if you want then you check out some negotiation methods from Harvard Law school

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I have launched a new online survey “In Search for Key Factors for Project Success”.  Preliminary results are available online and will be presented as part of my presentation at the PMI Global Congress in Orlando on October 13, 2009.

The objective of the present survey is to find out more about your experiences, insights and ideas about key factors for project success.  We all need and thrive for successful projects.  But what does it take to get there?  There is no doubt that good project management is a critical success factor.  But is it really sufficient?  What other factors are important that decide whether or not your project turns out to be a success?  Does it make any difference if your project is mis-aligned, i.e., do the same project success factors still hold true?

Please take a few minutes and share your experiences and insights.


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