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30 August 2016

10 Change Management Strategies Backed By Science




In this Forbes blogpost and video speech, Carol Kinsey Goman talks about 10 change management strategies backed by scientific evidence. Number one? Continually talk about change so that when it happens, it’s not a shock to the employee system.

 

Click here to read the full article on Forbes.

24 August 2016

Risk Management – Always bet on black




Risk management - always bet on black

It’s Vegas Baby!

In this article I’ll pose the question whether the problem is that people (or executives or both) don’t know what risk is or choose to ignore it. We will see what the implications of either and/or both are.

The streets at Edwards Air Force Base, where the majority of both the Air Force and NASA aeronautical flight testing and research takes place, are not named for generals. They’re named for pilots killed on test flights. It’s a reminder to all who work there that the junction between technology and nature can be a dangerous place.
(Lane Wallace, Why We’re So Bad at Managing Risk, 2010).

The streets at Edwards Air Force Base, where the majority of both the Air Force and NASA aeronautical flight testing and research takes place, are not named for generals. They’re named for pilots killed on test flights. It’s a reminder to all who work there that the junction between technology and nature can be a dangerous place.
(Lane Wallace, Why We’re So Bad at Managing Risk, 2010).

In the same article Lane goes on to talk about the catastrophic oil spill in the gulf. She points out that BP is not new to offshore operations or the risks inherent in drilling into the earth. Lane asks the question “how did the company misjudge the dangers, risk and consequences of an accident so badly?” Herein lies the crux of it. Financial return will trump any and every other concern.

Leaving the stark reality of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the Challenger space shuttle accident and the emotive discussion on where the blame lies. Let’s have a conversation about the industry we all work in, an industry where technology and people co-exist and collaborate for commercial reasons.

Substituting risk management failures for NASA and BP disasters I want to know how we keep getting it so wrong… so often? My assertion is that Lane Wallace thinks the easy answer is, there’s a financial incentive for going forward, and a financial disincentive for holding back. Is that it? Does it all come down to money at the end of the day, no matter what the consequences? Or is it more nuanced?

Richard Leblanc wrote an article 25 Reasons for Risk Management Failure (2015). Having spoken to directors and officers about risk management he presented 25 reasons for risk management failure. The link to Richard’s article will be included at the end of this post. For now I want to include a subset from Richard’s list to see do they all, some or any of them resonate with you:

  1. Lack of enterprise risk management expertise on the board.
  2. Governance gaps over a material risk(s) within the board or across committees.
  3. Directors incapable of identifying and fully understanding the risks, or worse yet, don’t want to understand. Committees show no interest when they should be shocked.
  4. Internal oversight functions reporting to management instead of the board. A complacent board does not correct.
  5. Directors do not insist on a real-time line of sight over material risks and their mitigation/treatment.

I like that Richard lets the voice of those he interviewed do the talking for him instead of sermonising. Richard does conclude (in his introduction) that “based on my experience assisting boards, including boards that have failed and boards that cannot afford to fail… I have never encountered a risk management failure where the board was not at fault, based on what the board said or did, or failed to say or do.”

Lane Wallace points out that “risk is an elusive, and ultimately unconquerable, opponent.” That said Lane advises to “expect the unexpected. And plan accordingly.” Expect the unexpected. And plan accordingly. We don’t. Why? Richard Leblanc presents the reasons. “I have never encountered a risk management failure where the board was not at fault, based on what the board said or did, or failed to say or do.” The three wise monkeys strain of the C-ostrich, Do-ostrich disease has reached epidemic proportions. Is it, like risk, an ultimately unconquerable opponent?

I’ll leave you with this question? When is the next Deepwater Horizon oil spill or the Challenger space shuttle accident going to happen? Place your chips. Roll the dice. It’s Vegas baby!

Please read Richard’s article (http://corporatecomplianceinsights.com/25-reasons-for-risk-management-failure/) to see the full list. It’s insightful and frighteningly familiar.

For an even more frightening example of risk management failing please read Lane’s article: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2010/06/why-were-so-bad-at-managing-risk/57522/

10 August 2016

Things you need to know about regtech




Over at Lexology.com I came across a good article by King & Wood Mallesons on the 10 things you need to know about regtech and the way it can transform compliance and client relationships. As well as breaking down regtech into these ten points they have provided downloadable BriefSheet in PDF.

So what should we know?

1. Regulatory technology or “regtech” is…

Technology that helps people comply with their regulatory obligations or facilitates regulators to execute their mandates. Regtech encompasses a range of technologies utilising algorithms, data analytics and machine learning, with an endless range of applications.

2. Regulation is costly to comply with — and to supervise.

Compliance costs have increased significantly in recent years. In 2013 one bank hired 4,000 additional compliance staff and in 2014 another bank spent an extra €1.3bn on compliance. Regulators are stretched to monitor compliance, with more regulation to supervise and more data to interpret and understand. Well-designed regtech can ease these burdens.

3. Regtech tools can detect reportable matters, predict problems…

Regtech enables the analysis of large volumes of data to extend to both real-time surveillance and the predictive detection of suspicious matters or significant breaches of financial services laws.

4. …and self-adjust over time.

Machine learning can help compliance algorithms become more powerful over time so that instead of relying on pre-programmed indicators of non-compliant behaviour, the algorithm uses statistical analysis to self-adjust, picking out the truest predictors of risk (rather than the most obvious ones). For example, the algorithm could find that loan repayments made by a third party are a truer indicator of money laundering than repayments of unusually high amounts.

Read the full article here.

27 July 2016

Project Management Quality – Where do you see it?




Serra Pelada (English: “Bald Mountain”) was a large gold mine in Brazil 270 miles south of the mouth of the Amazon River. The mine was made famous by the images taken by Sebastião Salgado showing an anthill of workers moving vast amounts of ore by hand. Because of the chaotic nature of the operation estimating the number of miners was difficult, but at least 100,000 people were thought to be present, making it one of the largest mines in the world. “I could hear the gold whispering in the souls of these men,” said Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado.

 

project management 
When you look at this photograph what do you see? Do you see men buried in mud while they dig for gold? In the context of project management what do you see? Let me be more precise. In the context of quality what do you see? Look at the photograph again? Think in the abstract. Where do you see quality? Is it the gold or is it the people?

At The Project Foundry we don’t invest in gold. We invest in people.
Call us on +353 1 445 2218 or contact us here to find out what we can do for you.

 

11 July 2016

“Gone”: New Project Management Mobile App is Launched




Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 18.13.58Mediasans has launched an innovative iPhone app, “Gone.” The new tool revolutionizes the way that creatives manage their project workflow on the go, and is available for free download from the iTunes store.

Los Angeles-based creative studio Mediasans has shared details of its freshly launched project management (PM) app, “Gone.” The free-to-download tool is a dedicated PM app for the unique demands and agile working environments of creatives, freelancers, consultants and small teams.

A key differentiating feature of “Gone” is that it was created and built specifically for mobile devices, thus avoiding the glitches that come from adapting and condensing a tool from a web experience to a mobile platform.

The mobile nature of the app gives creative and freelance users access to dynamic to-do lists, task sheets and project milestones to enhance their efficiency and simplify the successful execution of their day-to-day project duties.

“Gone” aims to fill the void in the market, by appealing directly to the needs of mobile users. This is in contrast to other PM tools (such as Jira, Asana and Trello), which focus primarily on the web or desktop user. “Gone” allows mobile users the flexibility to create their own working experiences; such as, creating singular projects for micro-tasks, or projects for multiple tasks according to specific subjects.

Will Taylor, founder and creator of “Gone,” gave the following statement to the press regarding the launch:

“We built Gone to be your personal pocket assistant; helping you to manage, track, collaborate and delegate tasks with your team or colleagues, from wherever you are in the world.”

He continued, “Many of us struggle to find time to sit at a desktop computer – so, it makes sense to use our mobile devices to manage our projects and prioritize our time each day. ‘Gone’ can help you do that in ways which you never thought a little app could!”

Regarding breakthrough features, “Gone” has wide functionality for optimum UX, enabling users to add content; mark tasks as being completed or in progress; assign priority to specific tasks with the ‘spotlight’ feature; and, assign tasks to team members.

By going beyond the capabilities of many other leading PM tools, “Gone” allows for the creation of special categories within each project. This notable feature is geared towards the power user who wants to closely manage the workflow of a project and input customizable settings. Furthermore, there are no limits to the number of projects that can be created.

“Gone” distinguishes itself further from other PM tools with its strong value-proposition. It is a completely free out-of-the-box comprehensive tool, built solely for a mobile experience. It has been designed to offer peak performance while retaining an interface that is intuitive, user-friendly and familiar.

Crucially, for high-volume users who wish to integrate “Gone” with cloud-based storage, there is no additional cost to add features for Dropbox and Google Drive compatibility.

Mediasans invites you to learn more about “Gone” by visiting their site and reading the case study.

You can get “Gone” at: http://www.getgone.io/.

11 July 2016

Eric Brechner: “Agile Project Management with Kanban”




There’s a way to organize your work, stay focused, avoid mistakes, and be hyper-productive that you can learn in five minutes using sticky notes and markers. It’s been used by Toyota to make cars, by Xbox to build software, and by individuals to maintain sanity. It’s called Kanban, and Eric Brechner, an Xbox development manager, has been using it with multiple teams for the past four years.

Let us know what you think of this technique by joining the conversation on our LinkedIn page, or let us know on Twitter.

 

5 July 2016

Politics and Project Management. It’s only a game, right?




politics of project management

I guess the answer to that depends on whether you see the game through the prism of the agitator or the agitated.

Are there ways to win the game of politics and if so what are they? You can play fair. Will you win? To be honest I don’t like your odds. You can play dirty. Will you win? You might. Will you feel good about yourself afterwards? I suppose it depends how many times you have been to war. “God hardens the heart of several kings to they would make war” (Joshua 11:20)

 

It is only one who is thoroughly acquainted with the evils of war that can thoroughly understand the profitable way of carrying it on.” (Sun Tzu’s The Art of War).

 

Ok, so politics isn’t war or it shouldn’t have to be. War is exhausting not to mention destructive. Politics is not really a game either but it is something that we, as project managers, need to be aware of and manage.

Before we think about winning the game of politics I’d like to bring your attention to Eight Leadership Lessons From Bad Politicians (Thom S. Rainer). Using Thom’s words “Let’s be fair. Many politicians are good and strong leaders. They have a high ethical standard… but some politicians are bad. They put self first. They seek power first.” Thom asks: “can we learn anything from bad politicians?” Before you answer can I re-phrase Thom’s question slightly and ask can we, as project managers, learn anything from bad politicians? Forget, for a moment, about winning games? Can we learn anything to help us deliver success for our organisations and value for our customers? Really isn’t that the name of the game?

 

Let’s look at the eight lessons we can learn from bad politicians according to Thom S. Rainer:

  1. Tell the truth. True leaders tell the truth. No matter what. No matter the cost.
  2. Don’t deflect responsibility. Great leaders take responsibility for that which they can lead.
  3. Don’t lead by placing blame. Great leaders are more concerned about what they can do well than what someone else does poorly.
  4. Communicate clearly. They make certain that the truth is communicated in such a way that others understand it clearly.
  5. Be aware of the lure of power. Great leaders are servants. Their motive is first to serve others.
  6. Be willing to sacrifice yourself. Leaders who make a difference will put their careers… before the good of those they serve.
  7. Lead by conviction, not by popularity. Great leaders will do what they sense is right rather than trying to win… popularity.
  8. Don’t sacrifice the needs of the future for the convenience of the present. Great leaders will make courageous decisions today, even if they aren’t popular decisions.

Now “here’s your moment of Zen” (Jon Stewart). Do these traits remind you of people you work with or should work with? If these are the traits of the good politician then if you are like me you work with or have worked with this good politician’s evil (doppelganger) twin.

So how can you defeat the evil twin and win the war between good versus evil? For starters you have to recognise you are in a game of sorts and you need to learn how to play it.

Mindful of traits of individuals who practice bad politics (the opposite of those outlined above) you need to work within the system and play (the game) by the rules. Check out Corporate Politics for Project Managers 101 (Dale Myers’ blog) because I’m about to use his recommendations for beating that evil twin:

  • Learn the political landscape of your organisation.
  • Actively manage your reputation.
  • Keep your options open / don’t take sides.
  • Don’t badmouth others.
  • Focus on your circle of influence.
  • Keep your friends close, your enemies closer.
  • Remember it’s not personal.
  • Think and look for “win-win” solutions.
  • Consult your core values.
  • Expect betrayal.

Dale calls corporate politics an “ugly game”. He’s right but it’s a game nonetheless that we, as project managers, have to play. It is just a question of how we play it.

Great people have great values and great ethics.” (Jeffrey Gitomer)

 

27 June 2016

The Agile Effect




Wrike.com recently surveyed over 800 marketers regarding work management, cross-department collaboration struggles, technology integration satisfaction, and how Agile methodologies are helping them improves.

Take a look at the infographic below to learn more about what it means to be Agile, and read some of the key findings from the survey:

The
Infographic brought to you by Wrike

16 June 2016

Out Of Scope:Defining different types of scope and their places in a project




woodenBuilding the wooden box

To make a wooden box go to http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Wooden-Box (“How to Make a Wooden Box”) and follow the 8 steps:

  1. Choose the wood.
  2. Gather your supplies.
  3. Measure and mark your boards.
  4. Cut your boards, if not already to size.
  5. Assemble the sidepieces using a butt joint.
  6. Attach the sides to the base.
  7. Attach a hinged lid to the box.
  8. Fill any nail holes.

 

Has he gone crazy I hear you ask? Some would say yes but that’s a different story for a different day. Bear with me for a moment. It will make sense, I assure you. Please keep the analogy of the carpenter and the wooden box in the back of your mind as we discuss out of scope and in-scope.

There are two places in a project where scope is defined. High-level scope is defined in the project charter. Low-level scope is defined in the business requirements document.

High-level scope consists of two main elements:

  • Deliverables: Defining your deliverables goes a long way to defining the overall scope of the project.
  • Boundaries: Boundary statements help to separate the stuff that is in scope and out of scope. Examples:
    • We will implement the CRM solution to the Irish geographical region and prove it there before implementing it to the UK geographical region once it meets certain criteria.
    • We will implement a change control model for the Lunar programme and perform cost/benefit analysis before implementing it for all other programmes.

Back to the carpenter and his wooden box for a moment. Imagine the high-level scope as the wooden box with the outside sides of the box as the boundaries separating what is in-scope and out-of-scope and the inside sides of the box as the deliverables of the project.

Oh how I hate using phrases like generally speaking or typically but needs must. Generally once the project starts there are not a lot of requests to change deliverables or boundaries. Most of the change requests are changes to the business requirements.

 

Filling the wooden box

The business requirements help to define the detailed scope from the high-level scope.

We spoke about the inside sides of the box being the deliverables of the project. Business requirements describe the details of these deliverables. Let’s use our analogy again? If the scope is the box with the outside side of the box as the boundaries and the inside sides as the deliverables, the requirements are what you fill in the inside of the box.

There are two types of requirements:

  • Features: these are the characteristics of the deliverables. If you were building a bridge this might include the number of vehicles that the bridge can hold, the strength of the steel, the length of the bridge, the weight that the bridge can hold.
  • Functions: this describes how people, things, stuff interacts the deliverables and how the deliverable interacts with other deliverables. For example a financial batch process for processing transactions and within it how billing transactions are processed. In the context of these billing transactions how people input the data into the system to complete an invoice. In this example we are referencing process, functions and people.

If you remember how the pieces of the box fit together, you’ll have an easier time defining the scope of your project and what’s out of scope for your project. You’ll also build a really nice wooden box for keeping stuff in.

1 June 2016

N – Don’t be a NARC: no project Accountability, Responsibility and Control




Accountability is one characteristic that is present every time success is realised on a project. Think about it. In a perfect world everyone would possess the requisite self-discipline to deliver in every situation. But the fact is it is not a perfect world. People avoid responsibility. People don’t like or want to be held accountable. Controls are often unused or not in place at all.

With accountability, we feel compelled to achieve what we say we’re going to do. When we accomplish something, regardless of how small it is, we get that endorphin kick and once hooked, we want it again.

Let’s ask the rhetorical question. Should project managers care about accountability? Only if you want to succeed!

narcLet’s state some assumptions. We are all intelligent people. The sponsors, project managers and team members on our projects are intelligent people. They understand the critical value of accountability to a project’s success. Am I correct in my assumptions or am I mistaken? If I am mistaken why is it the case that we (the intelligent people that we are) do not understand the value of accountability (responsibility and control) to a project’s success?

Before we get on to answering this question let’s paint the doomsday picture. If your organisation is a NARC organisation then (partially) quoting Henry Wadsworth’s poem (“The Day Is Done”, 1944) “It’s late, so let’s fold our tents”. Why? Because there is no reason to lead the project because the project is doomed to failure.

Why is (making) (asking) encouraging team members to take account so difficult? In no particular order and in no way meant to be an exhaustive list but often times the members of a project team report to a different organisational leader (remember the weak matrix organisation from last week’s post?) The implication being that the project manager’s direct authority is flaccid at best and non-existent at worst. The project is considered a lower priority to the daily (business-as-usual) responsibilities.

So how do we ensure accountability?

  • Set (clear) expectations.
  • Track (measurable) progress.
  • Integrate with organisation’s staff performance review system.

Set (clear) expectations

The outcome of setting clear (unambiguous) expectations is a matrix of tasks and accountabilities by role with named resources for each role.

How do you reach this outcome? Use people maps, influence maps, mind maps or whatever tool you are most comfortable with to capture all the people parts of a project. From it you can develop your RACI matrix. With it in place workshop and challenge your matrix and focus on real-life situations to make it real.

For each task in your matrix ask yourself a few questions for example:

  • If a business-as-usual issue occurs (from low to critical in business-impact/customer-impact) will the project team member lose focus on their assigned project task? Try and measure the impact if this happens.
  • If a team member’s (functional) manager asks them to complete a business-as-usual task (again) what is the impact?
  • If the project comes into conflict with a department’s priorities what will the outcome be and (again) what is the impact?

In most cases the outcome of such (real-life) scenarios will be to derail the project. As such it is an invaluable exercise to go through with a project team from sponsor down to think through the potential conflicts, determine priorities and communicate these decisions upfront and ahead of the project commencement.

Part of the exercise will also be to rank the likelihood of these situations occurring and weighting them accordingly.

The benefit to involving the whole project (ecosystem) team is the prioritisation, reasoning and process for resolving the issues becomes collaboration. An incidental (but invaluable) by-product is the sense of ownership that comes with inclusion. Miraculously your project will exceed (your/their) expectations!

Track (measurable) progress

Track progress! As Alexander The Meerkat says “Simples”. If you don’t know how you are doing then how do you know you are on track and worse if you are not on track how can you fix it? The trick is to not wait until the end but to track progress continuously. Pay particular attention to the most important tasks. Which ones are those? The answer is the tasks that are on the critical path. What is the critical path? Longest sequence of activities in a project plan which must be completed on time for the project to complete on due date.” (www.businessdictionary.com)

So track progress. Is Alexander right? Is it simple? It can be once you do it right.

Remember earlier we talked about a collaborative approach to set expectations. I would advise the same when it comes to tracking progress. Promote inclusiveness. Communicate it. Ask questions. Seek out opinions. You are tracking progress of the project. It is not the project manager’s soliloquy. Find out how core team members see progress. If critical path milestones are too far out, find out which tasks along the path to the critical path milestone are most likely to run into trouble. Don’t just track time. Track the result of a task against the criteria you (and your project ecosystem) have determined for success (be it quality, cost, service levels, performance).

Integrate with organisation’s staff performance review system

People focus on what’s measured. Does their performance on the project make a difference to their career success? How can you ensure it does? Integrate the performance of the people working on the project into their career objective settings and performance reviews.

There are several approaches to achieving this objective:

  • Publish and communicate metrics on a frequent basis.
  • Partner with the organisational leaders associated with your project team members.  Make sure the project objectives are a part of each team member’s career objectives.
  • Provide continual feedback (both positive and constructive), recognition and performance updates to the project team members and their managers.

Without a doubt accountability plays a vital role in ensuring success but it takes effort.  Will you put forth the effort to institute accountability practices in your project?

See you next time! If you have liked what you have read please like and remember to share.

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