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.


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.

16 November 2015

Project Management Excellence: Is it a Utopia?

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:


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

a centre academic 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.

4 November 2015

Agile Project Management is everywhere…Thankfully so is Dilbert



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 predicted, “More Agile, less Waterfall”. 2015 was going to bring even more Agile project management practices into small and large businesses. This theme is trending with bloggers and technology researchers alike. While (“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. It 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. 59% of most organizations that employed agile project management credited it for project success.

While the train has left the station, we need to ask, how ready are we? In 2015’s 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 on top of trends and predictions will position you to plan strategically and take advantage of the coming changes. 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 “suggests” it is “time for organisations to revisit the fundamentals of project management and, essentially, go back to basics.”

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

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

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