How Optimism Can Kill Your Dreams

Have you ever had this gnawing feeling that optimism may be causing you harm? Sounds funny, doesn’t it?

I believe we live in a crazy world that needs more hope and confidence for the future. I like being around positive, encouraging individuals. However, unrealistic optimism can lead to problems. How?

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Photo courtesy of (edited in Canva)

North Carolina State University caught my attention with an article entitled Optimism Thwarts Risk Identification. I thought – huh? That sounds interesting. Susan Webber looked at the impact on an organization of valuing optimism over realism and the impact to risk management, which applies to projects, programs, and enterprises.Continue reading

How To Improve Your Bottom Line Through Projects

If I asked you about the profitability of your company, how would you respond? You might say, “we’re profitable, but our profits have been decreasing over the last three years.”

How does your company plan to get back on track? Work harder? Do more marketing? Find more customers?

Successful companies know a little secret – making your dreams a reality requires alignment between your strategies and your projects. It’s not a matter of just working harder; success requires doing the right things at the right time with the right people.

Insurance Company Example - Strategy to Projects Map

Insurance Company Example – Strategy to Projects Map

Improving your bottom line starts with answering these strategic questions: Where are you today? Where do you want to be in the future? How will you get there?Continue reading

Emerging Risks – Do You Have Ants in Your Bed?

Let’s talk about emerging risks. My friend Paul once told me an unbelievable story. One night Paul awoke and felt something stinging his leg. He pulled back the sheets and found a fire ant. As he looked around, he found other ants crawling in his bed.

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Photo courtesy of
(edited in Canva)

Paul woke his wife Jennifer. They pulled the sheets off the bed and lifted the mattress and found the unimaginable. Thousands of fire ants had built a massive ant bed in their box springs. Yikes!

In the middle of the night, they had the unwelcome task of dealing with this mess. In the following day, they incurred the expense of new box springs.

What Do Emerging Risks Look Like?

I share this story to illustrate some of the attributes of emerging risks (Paul and Jennifer’s threat was certainly emerging, huh?). Emerging risks may have one or more of the following characteristics:Continue reading

Project Leadership Matters

Every month or so, I like to provide you with a digest of featured articles on a particular topic. LEADERSHIP is this month’s topic.

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Photo courtesy of

Think you’re not a leader because you are not in senior management? Think again. Leaders are individuals who influence others, no matter where they are in an organization.

“Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.” John C. Maxwell

How does leadership fit in the world of projects? The focus of project management is helping an organization achieve its project objectives. Leaders define and cast the vision, whether at an enterprise level, department level, or project team level. Leaders then support their teams to make the vision a reality.

Featured Articles

Question: What three words would you use to describe project leadership? 

[callout]My favorite leadership podcasts include Michael Hyatt’s This Is Your Life and Andy Stanley’s podcast.[/callout]

5 Project Questions That Will Make You Feel Uncomfortable

Imagine that you are at a social gathering where your friend John begins a challenging conversation. John asks some probing questions to the group, questions that hit home with you. Unknowingly to the group, the questions shine a light on some things that are not right in your life. At an appropriate moment, you excuse yourself from the uncomfortable discussion.

Photo courtesy of (edited in Canva)

Photo courtesy of (edited in Canva)

Sometimes we need to hear hard questions, personally and professionally. Project managers need regular quiet times in their lives where they can think deeper about their attitudes, behaviors, and actions. While excessive introspection is unhealthy, we should periodically examine our lives to understand the deeper issues in our life.

I want to ask you five questions. My motive is not to MAKE you feel uncomfortable. Rather, my aim is to help you identify the deeper things that are limiting your effectiveness.

As you consider each question, be willing to ask yourself: Am I REALLY being honest with myself? Here we go…Continue reading

Why You Need A Project-Wide Risk Perspective

In 1992, my wife and I decided to move to Macon, Georgia. We found a house that we liked and decided to start the process to make the purchase. We contacted Ned, a certified home inspector, to do a residential inspection.

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Photo courtesy of

Ned walked around the house, through every room in the house, climbed on the roof, and crawled under the house (I bet he could tell some great snake stories). He looked for structural problems, rot, termites, moisture issues, roof damage, heating and air issues, plumbing problems, faulty wiring, safety issues, and health issues. Ned provided us with a full inspection report.

Ned identified several small issues and a couple of significant problems. We asked the homeowner to correct big problems and some of the smaller ones. The inspection process allowed us to discover and address risks before making the purchase and moving in.

Years later, I asked Ned to inspect our home again. Why? Well, we had lived in the home for about 12 years. I knew that things change. Once again Ned found several issues.

Imagine that you had a home inspection and found several issues that you could not afford to fix at once. What would you do? You would likely address the most significant risks first and address the smaller problems later. However, could it be possible that you are ignoring a combination of risks?

Here’s the point: You need a full picture of your home’s health before you can determine the response plans. Waiting until you fall through the termite-infested foyer or a fire starts in the attic due to faulty wiring is not wise. It’s best to proactively inspect and reinspect one of your largest investments in life, the home.

The purpose of project risk management is to inspect and determine the risks across the whole project or program. We’re not looking at one project activity or one facet of our project. We are looking at the full picture.

Once we’ve identified and assessed the risks, then we can determine which risks to address and the best way to treat each risk. The team will be in a better position to develop the best response plans including contingency plans and fallback plans.

How to Overcome Your Worst Project Problems

businessman_posing_question_400_clr_15784Allow me to ask you a question. When you face life’s most difficult problems, do you run away from your problems? Successful individuals, groups, and organizations have a habit of running TOWARD their problems, not away from them.

Rather than seeing problems as unwelcomed, problem solvers see challenges as opportunities to use their God-given talents and skills to make rich contributions to their organization.

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. –Winston S. Churchill

What are your most significant project problems? Are your project teams making decisions and changing their minds repeatedly? Do you find yourself spending more time reworking things than creating new things? Are your stakeholders constantly changing requirements?

Worry and anxiety are not productive ways to respond to life’s challenges. There is a better approach for solving problems. Irrespective of the types of problems you face, you can find effective solutions through the following 7-step process:Continue reading

8 Things Great Project Managers Say Every Day

Stop and consider the words you’ve spoken recently to your project teams. How would you characterize them? Are you speaking words that bring clarity, courage, and confidence to your teams? Are you asking the right questions to keep your team focused?

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Photo courtesy of (edited in Canva)

Never forget – you are working with human beings who need clarity and who have emotional needs. Your words matter. Before meeting one-on-one with team members or as a team, THINK about your words. Consistently use the phrases and questions below:Continue reading

7 Reliable Ways to Improve Project Estimates

Once upon a time, I sat in the office of a CEO as he described ten years of late and grossly over-budget Information Technology projects, much due to poor project estimates. He was more frustrated than a New York Mets fan losing another New York Yankees game. He asked why IT continued to promise the moon, but could not get off the launching pad.

Photo courtesy of (edited in Canva)

Photo courtesy of (edited in Canva)

As I interviewed stakeholders within the organization, I quickly discovered a primary cause of the underperforming project portfolio—poor estimates driven by a lax attitude. IT would provide estimates with little project definition or analysis. What would IT do when they missed the promised implementation period?

Like a spoiled kid failing college, they would ask for another semester, more toys, and more money. They always had an excuse: “The users never know what they want.”

Fixing this type of dysfunctional attitude and behavior is not easy. It starts with strong leadership to change the culture.

Stakeholders must be educated, and teams held accountable to improve estimates. Furthermore, management should reward and recognize teams and team members when improvements occur.

Why are estimates such a big deal? Estimates form the basis for our project schedule and our project budget. When we fail to render good estimates, we introduce additional uncertainty into our projects, programs, and portfolios.

There are different ways to improve the project estimates. These techniques can increase the probability that you will deliver projects as promised. Stakeholders will rely on you more as you make their dreams come true.Continue reading

A Look at PMO Risks and How to Handle Them

I recently published an article entitled 40 Reasons PMOs Fail that has performed extremely well. I received feedback from one individual who said, “With respect, although there’s some accuracy in the text, this is whining. Point these out doesn’t achieve much. Each should come with a strategy to tackle.”

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Photo courtesy of (edited in Canva)

Although I developed the list as a checklist to help individuals identify PMO risks, I respect and understand this individual’s comments. Let’s move beyond the risk identification and develop risk response plans.

Tip: Be sure to evaluate your risks before developing risk response plans. We should not develop response plans for every possible risk, only for the most significant risks.

I will address 10 of the 40 reasons for PMO failure. These response plans will not work in every organization. Perhaps these examples will get you thinking about how to use risk management to improve your chance for success.Continue reading