Wednesday, July 26, 2006


I apologize for the recent gap in my posting. My laptop has been sent to the shop, and not only is this where my materials are, but the rest of my family has been active on our only other machine. Who would have thought, now I'm wishing we had another computer - more computers than TVs or bathrooms. I wonder what that says about me......

Back soon


Friday, July 14, 2006

Marketing Your PMO - Positioning Project Management

First a comment on some articles in the June 1, 2006 issue of CIO Magazine. The cover story “When Failure is Not an Option” is about how AG Edwards is making huge strides by improving their Project Management capabilities. Great stuff there for you, both in terms of practical advice on the how of getting this done. Too many people focus on the “what.” Also, showing your management that AgEdwards is doing this might give you some more ammunition in advancing PM in your organization. In the second article Sari Kalin talks about Portfolio Management. The article is short, easy to read and gives some excellent practical advice and spotlights Eastman Kodak’s work in Portfolio Management. This one is great for printing, circle a few key points and drop it off on your boss’ desk with a “thought you might be interested” comment.

With that as segue; I want to talk a little about the shameless promotion of the PMO and Project Management. Personally, I am not very good at this, but this is an essential part of your job as director. You are trying to institute a change in your company and the name of that change is Project Management. Even if you have a fairly fertile environment and a high maturity level, you still have to get out there and talk it up.

How many of you just said “yech?” Believe me I understand; Project Management is a good thing, that’s obvious right. All we should have to do is demonstrate success and everyone will see and want to implement Project Management immediately. As we internet geeks say – ROFL. For the most part, people will attribute your success to you, luck or some other factor. This is not to say that they do not appreciate it or harbor any ill-will to you.

We have been taught from the beginning that success is achieved through hard work, skill, perseverance and sometimes luck. When is the last time someone thanked a process for their success? OK, except for those infomercials that show you how to make millions in real-estate or surfing the internet. In our minds, success is a personal thing; even group successes are achieved through the personal contributions of the team members. We’ve grown up with great personal examples of success - heroes. This is another reason why the Hero Culture (see my July 3rd entry) is so prevalent. Admittedly, it’s not a bad thing for you to be associated with success, what you want to do is leverage the success to show people how Project Management can help them achieve success as well.

What you’re up against

Here is an example of the mental barriers you will face. Take a look at how computers are used. Today it is generally recognized that most workers can and do benefit from the use of computers. In particular, office workers get more work done with higher accuracy and in less time. (Of course we are now expected to do twice as much work in half the time). When mainframe computers and later personal computers came on the scene, they were widely resisted. There were still plenty of people doing their spreadsheets with calculators and typing memos on typewriters. Computers did not achieve success, they enable success. They were a lever that enabled people to do more, better, faster. Project Management is the same thing.

Position Project Management as an Enabler

When you talk about the successful completion of projects, spread the credit wide and excessively to every person involved. With this praise throw in phrases like “our PM processes enabled the team to identify and resolve issues before they became critical.” or “PM helped team members focus their efforts on the critical features that we delivered on-time on-budget.” And so on. If you can get any quotes from people – get them and publish them. Don’t force anything, you do not want false testimonials, you want something that the team members will repeat in 6 months without you around. The message here is that success does come from hard work AND Project Management gives you an advantage.

Position Project Management as a Tool

This is kind of an enabler too, but you will want to use the work tool, or toolkit. This model may work better for some people than the less tangible enabler model. In this case, you would rephrase the quotes above to something like: “Team members used the Critical Items log to ensure that they delivered the greatest value.” Not a great one, but you get the idea. An analogy here that I’ve use a lot is that you can hammer in a nail with a rock, a hammer, or a nail gun. We are tool users who are always seeking better tools, when you position PM as a tool, your message will resonate well.

Position Project Management as a Time-Saver

Personally, I like to position PM as a time-saver. My thought is that when you do a project, you will do the PM process one way or another. You will have to know what your issues are, you will have to know due dates, costs, resources, etc. You can either spend your time creating a method with each project, or you can use one that is proven to work, and change it as needed to meet your needs. So the quotes here are “the team saved significant time by prioritizing tasks using the Critical Items Log.”

Ultimately, you want to look for every opportunity to promote PM, but to promote different aspects and capabilities. You know your culture and the people you work with, some approaches will resonate, others will not. Part of your job will be to find this out and change your message to be meaningful. Don’t think that this ever ends, you will want to keep trying new avenues of communication and messages as things will constantly change and you will need to adapt – but you knew that!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Heroes and Soldiers

I want to talk about two of the many types of people you will work with. As with any attempt to categorize people, my examples will fall short of illustrating the true complexity of people. However, I hope this will be helpful when you are looking for candidates and trying to understand some of the motivations others (and maybe yourself). I know that these terms may raise some controversy for those of you in the states; I am using the archetypes here and not trying to make any judgment or inference.

We all know who these are, from Beowulf to Superman these are the people who slay the dragons and save the day. This is the “go to” person who can always solve the problem that no one else can deal with. Heroes live for the impossible task, the life-or-death struggle and the insurmountable challenge. Many of us probably were heroes at one time, getting juiced by the challenge, long hours and impossible odds and finally pulling it off at the last minute. We all love heroes, but everyone is not a hero, and sometimes you just don’t need a hero. Heroes have some characteristics that we need to understand whenever we work with them:

  • Heroes are responsive: Pick up the red phone, turn on the Bat-signal, yell for help and your hero is there.

  • Heroes get the job done (whatever it takes): If it absolutely, positively has to be done, then a hero will get it done. Great, but pull out your checkbook, heroes do not come cheap.

  • Heroes are Fast: Faster than a speeding bullet! A hero will be there, solve the problem and make everything right in a flash – there is no comic hero called “slow man” or “the Slug”, heroes fly to the rescue, they don’t walk.

  • Heroes are loners: The only place you will find a team of heroes is in the comics. Heroes don’t want to be bothered with others – sometimes they have a side-kick or trainee, but that’s often a dangerous job. To paraphrase “Q” from Star Trek Next Generation – “it’s hard to be a team player when you’re omnipotent.”

  • Heroes make a mess: When Superman battles it out with giant robot invaders, they usually tumble a city block or two causing billions in damages. Ever see a hero cleaning up afterward? No, they are gone on to the next crisis. This happens a lot in programming where the hero comes in and writes some obtuse code that invariably fails 3 months later.

  • Heroes are direct: Heroes act on problems, they “go for the jugular”, they are “can do” people who are “results-oriented.” Heroes go straight to the problem and solve it.

  • Heroes need contests (conflict): A bored hero will find a dragon to slay, princess to rescue or go on a grail quest. Simple tasks like farming or filling out a timesheet are beneath them, not worth their talents. Without a test of their talents, heroes are not heroes, they are just like you or I so a hero will always be looking for the next dragon or quest.

  • Heroes are egotistical: Some exceptions with reluctant heroes, but for the most part, these people are good and they know it. This means that they will have special needs that you will have to meet.

  • Heroes are lousy leaders: While a hero may lead a charge up the hill or be the first to attack a problem, they are not leaders. A hero is a terrible mentor. Heroes are not generally patient or circumspect or thoughtful. Heroes act, they do not talk or think or plan.

  • Heroes ride off into the sunset: Let me beat these clich├ęs to death. A hero leaves, they’re off to the next challenge, and they often leave a mess. Guess who gets to clean that up?

  • Heroes are dangerous: Just ask every Security officer on the Enterprise (red shirts). Standing too close to a hero can be a problem; our hero may be impervious to nuclear weapons, but those of us nearby are slightly less durable. When a hero comes in to save your project, if they succeed, they’re the hero (again). If they fail you will be watching them ride off into the sunset while you clean up the mess and count the cost.

    Sounds like I am against heroes. I am not against individuals who are heroic, I am opposed to hero cultures.

    The Hero Culture

    This is an organization that worships heroes. In these, everything is an emergency; it is all about getting it done and not about planning. Thinking is looked on as ineffectual since doing is paramount. In these organizations, there is always another fire to run to, another urgent problem to solve. People in these organizations are seen as heroes and only those who put forth heroic effort are viewed as valuable.

    Unfortunately, this culture thrives on these situations. It is far more exciting to pull the project out at the last minute by pulling 90 hour weeks than it is to just plan the work correctly and finish on time with no fuss. In a heroic culture, the latter type of project is looked on as if there was a failure. Projects that do not require heroic effort must have been underestimated and the team members were lazy. Think about a football game. Who is the bigger hero, the team that puts 7 points on the board every quarter and shuts out the opponents or the one who wins in the last 10 seconds by a hail-Mary pass?

    Problem is – projects are not contests, they are projects, and that is where the hero culture fails.