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9 March 2016

H – The view from a helicopter can be hallucinatory




Painting by Ralph Steadman

Painting by Ralph Steadman

In an earlier blog post “Why IT projects fail (and organisations go nuclear)” we used the analogy “dog with fleas” for project failure. In it we listed a number of early warning signs that will help you recognise and address the problems before things go nuclear. We did caveat those listed as only some of the early warning signs. It is a lucky thing too because we did not include the helicopter view.

Though there is a whole host of skills, knowledge areas and methodologies to consider, being a successful project manager comes down to an ability to do a few key things very, very well:

  • Communicate: communication doesn’t mean talking. Whether your audience is your team, an executive, a customer you need to be able to communicate your ideas and ensure they are understood, rather than simply heard.
  • Organise: you need to be a good juggler. You need to be able to keep track of multiple things at once and in an organised manner. The trick is not to find yourself in a state of overwhelm.
  • Solve problems/make decisions: you need to keep the “big picture” in mind while also working on the specifics. To coin (someone else’s) phrase the project manager must be “the general” and the foot soldier. We’ll return to Sun Tzu later in this article.

Back to problem and decision. When faced with a problem work at really analysing the problem and compile a list of alternative solutions. When trying to solve the problem remember to focus on the problem you are trying to solve then you will not get lost in “the forest or the trees”.

  • Build teams: your project team defines (your) project’s success. You don’t always get to choose your team but you do get to choose how to manage your team. Get good stuff out of them. Engage your team. Motivate them. An engaged and motivated team will perform at a higher level. How? Share your vision. Paint a clear picture of the outcome. Empower them to build their own paths to success. Develop the project’s critical path with your team. Involve them. Make the project real to them!

Back to The Art of War, Sun Tzu states that aleader should be wise (in making decisions), trustworthy (should inspire trust), caring (taking care of the team), courageous (to make tough choices), and strict (in ensuring compliance).” Sometimes however the general (the project manager) needs to get into the trenches to inspire his or her team. To set an example, the project manager should roll up his or her sleeves. When you work with the team in the areas where you can contribute, you send a strong message because you are showing that you are part of the team with your actions not just managing and directing. To quote Thomas Edison “vision without execution is hallucination.”

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

24 February 2016

Governance… works except when it doesn’t




An exceptional certainty if you will.

1984In last week’s blog we identified why IT projects fail and included such reasons as lack of user involvement, scope creep, communication, controlling budget and time. We also included poor governance as a reason.

For how could you establish even the most obvious fact when there existed no record outside your own memory?(1984 by George Orwell).

For how could you establish even the most obvious fact when there existed no record outside your own memory?(1984 by George Orwell).

Despite all the literature and evidence, the one thing that is clear is that organisations are not learning from previous lessons. When it comes to learning lessons is it better to learn from why projects fail or why projects succeed? The answer is from both.

When you analyse the reasons why projects fail and there are many (those identified in last week’s blog are by no means all of them), it is difficult (maybe impossible) to pinpoint one overriding factor that causes project failure. The issues (reasons) mentioned above (and in last week’s blog) are interlinked and are not really ‘technical’ issues, but rather ‘human’ issues that relate to management and training.

When it comes to fixing the issues (reasons project fail) where do you start? There are a number of formal models available for assessing organisational maturity in project management, each with its own set of advantages and limitations. Personally I am an advocate of the P3M3 maturity framework used for portfolio, programme and project management but canvasing support for it is thought food for another day. For now let’s say we have five seconds to choose an issue to tackle? Clock ticking. I choose poor governance and my weapon of choice to fix it (poor governance) is risk management. It is my view that an effective risk management approach to project governance can be used to ensure the maximum benefit and potential.

A survey conducted by the UK Government in 2013 listed “decision making failures” as one of the top five reasons for project failure. Although the discipline of risk management has matured, we continue to see projects failing to deliver successfully and by this we mean failing to deliver the expected outcomes as per their business cases.

The same study listed governance and stakeholder management as the second and third most common drivers of project failure.

What does good (effective) governance look like?

  • Informed decision-making.
  • Ability (and authority) to provide appropriate
  • Appropriate (“custom-fit”) and understood project management methodology or framework.
  • Skills and capability (knowledge and experience) of those governing.
  • True
  • Transparent (notlip service” or token) information exchange and communication.
  • Common, clear outcomes universally understood and
  • Invested

So risk management? Risk management, along with other knowledge areas of project management, contribute to a decision maker’s ability to make decisions.

My recommendation is that you develop and implement a risk management framework (driven by metrics) that examines risks in light of potential threats’ potential to effect the strategic goals of the project. Note: early posts on Benefits Realisation, Change Management and Delivery Maturity Assessment where I ask the C-suite executives (those cured of the dreaded C-ostrich, Do-ostrich affliction) to align all projects’ outcomes to their organisations’ strategic goals, otherwise why… why… why do the project?

The risk management framework will help organisations better identify, assess and respond to business threats in alignment with overall business goals. The method consists of three steps: identify, assess and action. This method is based on the fundamental principles of The Project Foundry’s 3As Maturity Model (read more here!):

  • Step one: establish goals for the risk management framework
  • Step two: align risk management framework with key business objectives and operations in order to develop key risk indicators.
  • Step three: design/define the risk management framework rules, principles and guidelines including when to involve the various levels of the organisation including C-suite executives, lines of business and IT.

In summary I am a dummy so I always like to follow a dummy’s guide. If you follow this dummy’s guide I think you will have more successes than failures:

  • Align projects to organisation’s strategy.
  • Define measurable success criteria for your projects.
  • Develop a risk management plan based on these metrics.
  • Align your governance plan to the triggers defined in your risk management plan.
  • Don’t forget to talk! It makes things so much easier.

“And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed – if all records told the same tale – then the lie passed into history and became truth. “Who controls the past,” ran the Party slogan, “controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.” And yet the past, though of its nature alterable, never had been altered. Whatever was true now was true from everlasting to everlasting. It was quite simple. All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory. “Reality control,” they called it: in Newspeak, “doublethink.” (1.3.18)” (1984 by George Orwell).

Finally for this week, if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right. If it’s not being done right, change it or leave!

“And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed – if all records told the same tale – then the lie passed into history and became truth. “Who controls the past,” ran the Party slogan, “controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.” And yet the past, though of its nature alterable, never had been altered. Whatever was true now was true from everlasting to everlasting. It was quite simple. All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory. “Reality control,” they called it: in Newspeak, “doublethink.” (1.3.18)”

(1984 by George Orwell).

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

 

 

15 February 2016

Why IT projects fail (and organisations go nuclear)




Why IT Projects fail
D-dog-with-fleas

For any organisation project failure is like a dog with fleas. It costs a lot of money to treat and the fleas come back making the life hell for the organisation and the dog. Sometimes the only thing to do is to put the dog out of its misery.

Before going to such extremes why not find out what the underlying problems are and fixing those? Best for everyone especially the dog.

Organisations often ignore or fail to read the signs of imminent failure until it’s too late. Early warning signs will help you recognise and address the problems before things go nuclear.

F1 F2 F3

 

The Project Foundry can help you with your project management initiatives (and with advice on how to de-flea your dog).

Call us now on 01 697 8248.

16 November 2015

Excellence in Project Management




In last week’s post I asked how mature your organisation is in terms of project management and if it even mattered? If your organisation is delivering value to your customer then where’s the problem? After much deliberation I concluded that a balance of focus on both maturity and value is probably going to be right for most businesses. To return to my satirical profile of C-suite executives in last week’s post I must remind you (before we proceed) of the (all too real) C-ostrich, Do ostrich affliction. This (three wise monkey) syndrome is not just whimsy and this week’s content should be footnoted with it (the wise monkey syndrome).

ex¦cel|lence /ˈɛks(ə)l(ə)ns/

Definition of excellence in English:

noun

1. The quality of being outstanding or extremely good: awards for excellence

a centre academic excellence

Excellence

This week’s poser: can excellence in project management be achieved or is it a utopian (impossibly idealistic) state? How realistic and achievable is it? Is excellence definable and if so can it be measured? Finally, is good… good enough?

In case you are new to my blog I should probably pin my colours to the mast as it were. If you take your projects seriously, then you should take project management seriously. Taking it seriously means you (your organisation) need(s) to adopt a project management mind-set. Build project management into the organisation. If you baulk at this then you should stop reading now and keep winging it. But I will remind you of (another) poser. Harold Kerzner posed it in the first chapter of his book (In Search of Excellence in Project Management). “Try to name one company, just one that has given up on project management after implementing it.” Ok, Harold, I hear you ask, but do we really need to be excellent? Is good not enough? I’d like you to answer the question but before you do let’s do a short multiple-choice quiz… you know for fun?

Are people the most valuable asset of any organisation? There could be buildings, machines and assets worth millions of euros but if the talent is not available, organisations could never scale the pinnacle of success.

A survey (by CTPRD 2013) involving 780 CEOs revealed that talent- shortage is the priority over any other consideration when it comes to productivity.

In conclusion good is great but excellent is better. Albert Einstein said: “strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value. “ A recurring theme but (customer) value should be at the heart of everything we do (as a project manager and as an organisation). Driving excellence through people will drive excellence in project management and transform daring utopias into reality (Miller & Lessard, 2000, p. 1)

… But first you must cure the C-ostrich, Do ostrich sufferers. Remember what Sun Tzu said: “The enlightened ruler is heedful, and the good general full of caution.

16 November 2015

Delivery Maturity Assessment




Just how mature is your organisation at project management or does it even matter? If you deliver value to your customer then where’s the problem?

Where’s the problem? Before we ask that question maybe we should ask the question is there a problem? Do we all agree that the answer is yes? Let’s look at what you say.

The PMI’s Pulse of the Profession: The High Cost of Low Performance (February 2014) claims that all of an organisation’s strategic initiatives are projects and programs, which inevitably “change the business”. It further claims that “most C-suite fail to realise this simple truth.” Is that a problem? Is that our problem? Is that the most worrying problem? What is the reason for it and how do we solve it?

C-ostrich Do-ostrich is the medical term for our problem! Don’t despair C-ostrich, Do-ostrich is not terminal. There is a cure. What is the cure? Part of the cure is culture change.

Projects and programs that are aligned to an organisation’s strategy are completed successfully more often than projects that are misaligned (The aforementioned PMI report has the figure at 48% versus 71%). Perhaps an obvious (or silly) question but one I’d like to direct to the C-ostrich, Do-ostrich sufferers. Why? Why would the C-suite executives (the rulers) approve projects and programs that are not aligned to an organisation’s strategy?

Ok, let’s keep things simple. Try this (www.dummies.com) definition for strategy for a moment (http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/business-planning-strategy-defined.html). The fine points of strategy are:

  • Establishes… different and tailored value to customers

Eureka! We should be providing value to our customers. Simple. Do we? Do we know? Do we know what our customer looks like? Has anyone ever seen one? Has anyone ever met one? Part of the cure is value to customer. We’ll come back to value… and the customer.

Let’s assume for a moment that we have value to customer nailed. Bear with me! Why are 44% of strategic initiatives failing (source: PMI’s Pulse of the Profession: The High Cost of Low Performance)? You’ll have to bear with me again. Close your eyes and imagine you are in work and a particular project or program has failed (or is perceived to have failed). Ask yourself why? Try to be objective. Would you agree with these reasons?

  • C-suite executives are often missing in action
  • Rather than micromanaging, C-suite executives should identify and focus on the key initiatives and projects that are strategically relevant.
  • A majority of companies either lack the skills or fail to deploy the personnel needed for strategy implementation.

Is your answer yes to the above? If so would the two elements we have identified as part of the cure go some way to (not solving the disease but) putting us on the road to recovery? The two elements are (namely) culture and value? Is the mist clearing? OK, let’s go on.

We want to include a third (magic) ingredient to the cure. Talent. If you have been following these blogs you know we are (the biggest) proponents of talent (People) and the role it (they) play. Everything starts and ends with people. We need to go back to basics.

55% of PM professionals say that their organisation provide too little time for PPM training and development.* A project staffed with uniformly very low-rated personnel on all capability and experience factors would require 11 times as much effort to complete the project as would a project team with the highest rating in all the above factors.** *Source: 4th Global Portfolio and Programme Management Survey, PwC 2014 **Source: Software Engineering Economics, Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, p431,Boehm B (1981)

Capturing the Value of Project Management, PMI (February 2015) claims that there is a direct correlation between effective talent management and better project performance: their research shows that organizations need to focus on the development and training of their talent in order to achieve superior project performance, successful strategic initiatives and become high performers.

Talent leads to success. I’d paraphrase this. Without talent there can be no success. A vital ingredient of the cure is talent.

Is talent enough? I say obviously(?) no. Organizations realise significantly more successful strategic initiatives when mature project management practices are in place.

three wise monkeysBack to strategy and the C-suite C-ostrich, Do-ostrich sufferers. Re-iterating what we just said organisations realise significantly more successful strategic initiatives when mature project management practices are in place. Assumption warning! This assumes that the organisation is working on projects and programs that are aligned to an organisation’s strategy. Full circle. Thankfully!

Why would there be a misalignment? The C-ostrich, Do-ostrich disease is worse than we thought? This medical term for this strain of the disease is three wise monkeys.

Wait. There is no flat-line yet. It is recoverable. How?

  • Culture: Understand the value of project management.
  • Talent: Focus on talent.
  • Process: Support project management though standardised practices
  • Strategy: Align projects to the organisation’s strategy.
  • Value?

How do we calculate customer value?

  1. Step 1: Calculate the profit contribution of each customer in the current year. …

Stop! A simpler way to do it might be to just ask. Your customer will tell you what they value.

Align your strategy to this and measure it.

In conclusion a balance of focus on both maturity and value is probably going to be right for most businesses and will give you the breadth of professional practice on which to build a great delivery team.

I’ll leave you with this… if you are suffering from C-ostrich Do-ostrich or know someone who is don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s the first step to recovery

For help go to: www.theprojectfoundry.com and also to find out about the stuff that matters!

                         Rebooting one cube at a time!

16 November 2015

Change Management – A Road To Nowhere?




In 1985 David Byrne, the lead singer with Talking Heads, wrote: “Well we know where we’re goin’ But we don’t know where we’ve been”

“Well we know where we’re goin’
But we don’t know where we’ve been”

Does this capture where change management is? We know where we’re going and we know where we’ve been? I think so. Question is how do we get to where we want to go?

In 2013, Prosci, a world leader in benchmarking research, undertook a change management benchmarking study. They asked participants for their insights into top trends in change management for the next five years. Now two years into the timeframe, Prosci decided to revisit it and see where the participants think we will be in the next three years.

  1. Continued Maturation of Change Management as an Industry: The top trend is the maturation and definition of change management as a practice with an emphasis on measurement and metrics.
  2. Stronger Internal Change Management Capabilities: By 2018, companies will recognise change management as a key organisational differentiator and will move toward adopting a standard approach.
  3. Greater demand for and Shortage of Change Management Practitioners: As companies focus more on change management capabilities, there will be a greater demand for change management practitioners.
  4. Recognition of Change Management’s Value in Benefit Realisation: More and more organisations are taking notice of change management and its role in delivering results.
  5. Better integration with Project Management: More change management will find its way into project management. Change management will be brought into projects earlier.

OK, so Change Management as an industry will continue to mature. Great. Organisations will place greater emphasis on change management competency and focus on improving sponsorship capabilities and on increasing manager change management comprehension. Excellent. There will be a greater demand for change management practitioners. Not so great, right? It’s okay. The path to becoming a change management practitioner will also be clearer with the addition of certifications, accreditation and credentialing. Phew! A business focus on sustained change results will help keep change management in the forefront of leader’s minds. And that’s good because leaders get it, right? Change management and project management continue to integrate. That’s good too because even if leaders don’t get it, project managers do, don’t they?

ὅπερ ἔδει δεῖξαι (q.e.d.) Right?

ὅπερ ἔδει δεῖξαι (q.e.d.) Right?

Finally. Problem solved. Where do I sign? Next. Wait!  Cork the champagne a second. Why? Think about your past and present experience as you mull over this one. How many people do get it? In my experience (past and present) very few.

Returning to the Prosci survey, and what its participants are thinking about. Permit to paraphrase. Change management will become a practice. Companies want to increase internal capabilities. There will be a greater demand for change management practitioners. There will be a greater emphasis on change management to realise benefits and a greater integration with project management. Darius Johnson, in his article (Insight #58: Constantly Focused on Successful Outcomes) asked organisations to Stop the Insanity. Darius eloquently argued that showing tangible benefits from change management increases the number of projects that succeed in achieving their objectives. Darius’ view is that people-related issues are reasons for projects missing the mark.

We’re coming close to the nub of it. It reminds me of an Eric Ries’ quote (in relation to entrepreneurs not being in the business of prediction but it [the quote] is relevant here also) “you can make all the models and forecasts you want but it’s basically a waste of time”. Why? “We can’t escape the fact that change management focuses on people” Darius Johnson)

In the end, there is value in all the contributions I have referenced in this week’s blog and it is all these parts (referenced), considered as a whole, will solve this Rubik’s cube: People, Process, Product and emPowerment but people a commanding and perpetual first.

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

P.S. Keep reading.

Change-Management

For more information on the movement go to: http://theleanstartup.com/

For more information on Darius Johnson’s Stop the Insanity go to: http://goo.gl/c76jRs

For more information on the Prosci 2015 Benchmarking Study, published in March 2015 go to: http://goo.gl/c76jRs

For more information on Rubik’s Cube go to: https://eu.rubiks.com/

For more information on Talking Heads and a link to the video for their song Road To Nowhere go to: http://www.talking-heads.nl/

 

David Byrne and Talking Heads may have been on a road to nowhere but it doesn’t mean you have to be. Find out more about our TPF 4Ps Model (People, Process, Product, EmPowerment) at www.theprojectfoundry.com and also to find out about the stuff that matters!

Rebooting one cube at a time!

But if I were you… I’d check out Talking Heads first!

4 November 2015

Benefits realisation: When success is not a benefit…..




 … A PARADOX!

You’ve delivered your project on time, within budget, the customer has signed it off and you’ve completed your closure report. You’ve done your job, right? Time to move on to the next project, right? It depends.

It depends on what kind of Project Manager you are and what success means to you and your organisation.

Essentially a Project Manager is accountable for the success or failure of a project. So far are we in agreement?

Typical responsibilities of a project manager range from planning, executing and closing projects to managing teams and stakeholders but indulge me for a second, who ensures projects deliver the benefits detailed in the business case are realised. In my experience no one does. I will return to this point later.

John Thorp (The Information Paradox) based his new approach to benefits realisation on the following premises:

  • Benefits do not just happen.
  • Benefits rarely happen according to plan.
  • Benefits realisation is a continuous process.

This “benefits mindset “, as John Thorp coined it (in 2003), has not been adopted and as such even today, investment in IT enabled business change is still not translating into business value. Why is this? Paraphrasing Michael Krigsman (of ZDNet) here, but people don’t know what they want. Permit me to add an addendum. If they got it (what they asked for) they wouldn’t know it.

“REALISING BENEFITS – IT’S WHAT PROJECTS ARE FOR!” Gareth Byatt and Jeff Hodgkinson said this. It sounds simple, right?

“REALISING BENEFITS – IT’S WHAT PROJECTS ARE FOR!”

Yes, but why then do upwards of 70% of projects fail (ESP Solutions Group, Gartner and ZDNet all back this up with their findings from as far back as 2008 to present day). So why is this?

The process of benefits realisation should begin at the earliest stages of initiation and should continue after the project deliverables have been met. Benefits should be defined in the project business case and should be related to advancing the organisation’s strategic objectives. Otherwise, adapting what Gareth Byatt and Jeff Hodgkinson said what are projects for?

From theory to practice, at The Project Foundry, the benefits realisation process is broken into four stages:

  • Identify: What is the problem you are trying to solve?
  • Define: Benefits should be clearly defined. For a project to be measured against benefits, these [benefits] must be defined as tangible, measurable benefits.
  • Plan: These [definitions] must be built into the specification of the project deliverables.
  • Realise: Once the deliverables are commissioned, these [changes] must be embedded so as they can become the “new business as usual” with the organisation’s performance targets [KPIs] adjusted to incorporate them.

At The Project Foundry, advocates all of John Thorp, I will leave you with one of his three necessary conditions for changing the way people think and manage “activist accountability that includes the concept of ownership”. With a willing client, benefits can be delivered, but only if the business sponsor is (willing) to take ownership and accept clear accountability for delivering the [project or program] benefits.

Finally, let me leave you with this thought? Ownership and accountability don’t have to be scary words. Benefit is good, right? Yes. Being accountable and owning something good is even better. We can empower you to make this happen.

WHEN SUCCESS IS A BENEFIT… CERTAINTY

4 November 2015

Agile is everywhere…Thankfully so is Dilbert




image001

Dilbert cartoons are funny but they always make us stop and think. “How true?”

Writing on LiquidPlanner, “7 Project Management Trends for 2015”, Will Kelly, forecast “More Agile, less Waterfall”. He predicted that 2015 was going to bring even more Agile project management practices into small and large businesses. This prevalent theme is trending with bloggers and technology researchers alike and while it (“More Agile, less Waterfall”) is not a new phenomenon it is gathering pace.

Vara Prasad Rongala, writing for Business Insider India, referred to the PwC’s 2012 report titled Insights and Trends: Current Portfolio, Programme, and Project Management Practices which surveyed more than 1,500 respondents across 38 countries. Of those that responded, around 97% stated that project management is critical to business performance and the success of the organization; 94% agreed that project management facilitates business growth and 59% of most organizations which employed an agile project management methodology credited it for project success.

While the juggernaut train has left the station, we need to ask, how ready are we? In 2015 Trends in Business Analysis and Project Management, Elizabeth Larson cautions “as the Agile bandwagon continues to grow, some organisations, previously reluctant to jump aboard, are running to catch up. Sometimes, though, Agile is implemented without much thought to unintended consequences of not having enough organisational commitment when adopting Agile.”

“as the Agile bandwagon continues to grow, some organisations, previously reluctant to jump aboard, are running to catch up. Sometimes, though, Agile is implemented without much thought to unintended consequences of not having enough organisational commitment when adopting Agile.”

Staying abreast of trends and predictions will position you to plan strategically to take advantage of the coming changes but positioning is one thing, planning for success quite another.

The PMI’s Pulse of the Profession “Capturing the Value of Project Management”, published in February 2015, predicted the continued rise of Agile it too “suggests” it is “time for organisations to revisit the fundamentals of project management and, essentially, go back to basics.”

These basics include fully understanding the value of project management, having actively engaged executive sponsors, aligning projects to strategy, developing and maintaining project management talent, establishing a well-aligned and effective PMO and using standardised project management practices throughout the organisation.

So Agile is everywhere? That’s what’s trending. If nothing else trends are fun to read. “Agile is in vogue.” Matthew D-Feu wrote in techradar.pro but one certainty about trends and fashion is they change.

Trends and fashions aside there is one certainty. To deliver success with certainty you need Talent. Process, Product and Knowledge Sharing of course but at the root of every success is People.

Talent is at the core of everything we do at The Project Foundry.

Really though when it comes down to it, Dilbert cartoons are just funny!

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