Do You Understand Project Scope Management?

Project managers have difficulty managing project scope. Many project managers encounter scope creep, but don’t know what’s happening or what to do about it. Why? Frankly, some individuals don’t grasp the core principles.

Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com (edited in Canva)

Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com (edited in Canva)

Do you understand project scope management? Test your understanding. Try this quick quiz before reading the terms below.Continue reading

The Curse of Project Management Knowledge

Can I be painfully honest with you for a minute?

What I am about to say may not feel good. In fact, I am certain that you will NOT enjoy it.

Photo courtesy of iStock.com.

Photo courtesy of iStock.com.

I have been hoping someone else would do the dirty work. But no one has stepped forward (at least that I know of).

You know how you’ve been struggling with your projects? Are you tired feeling like you live on another planet, and no one understands you.

Well, it’s not because you aren’t trying. It’s not because you don’t follow the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK). After all, you have your Project Management Professional (PMP) credential. You are a cut above the rest in your knowledge of project management.

So here it is.

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40 Reasons PMOs Fail

I’ve been managing projects and programs for more than 15 years. I’ve seen a little bit of everything. I’ve also had the joy and the pain of implementing two Project Management Offices (PMOs), one in an Information Technology Department and one Enterprise PMO.

Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com (edited in Canva)

Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com (edited in Canva)

Through the years, I’ve noted many reasons that PMOs fail or struggle. It’s rarely just one thing; it’s usually a combination of things. Here is a list of causal factors. I hope the list helps you find success.

  1. No project sponsor or project charter for the implementation of the PMO
  2. Failure to define the “P” in PMO (Project Management Office or Program Management Office)
  3. Failure to place the PMO at the right level of the organization (e.g., Enterprise PMO, IT PMO) based on the real problems of the organization
  4. Inability of the PMO to deal with institutional politics
  5. Passive-aggressive behavior of stakeholders
  6. Communicating to all the stakeholders in the same manner with the same level of detail
  7. Staffing of the PMO with technical project managers that lack leadership and strategic and business management skills
  8. The PMO requires that ALL project managers to adopt templates, forms, and strict methods
  9. The organization only wants window dressing rather than real change
  10. Showy Batman heroics of the PMO rather than day-to-day servant leadership
  11. Changes in executive leadership (out goes the individual who supported the PMO and in comes a person who does not favor PMOs)
  12. The lack of project management maturity of its business leaders
  13. The lack of in-depth project management experience in the PMO
  14. The lack of collaboration between the PMO and its stakeholders
  15. The lack of rewards and recognition when good things happen
  16. The lack of project management training
  17. The lack of business analysis skills in the PMO
  18. The lack of periodic assessments of the PMO
  19. The clashing of beliefs in traditional and agile life cycles
  20. Functional managers want complete control of the organizational projects that impact them
  21. Jealousy
  22. Power struggles
  23. The tendency of the organization to regress to bad behavior
  24. Embarking on large, complex programs immediately after or during the implementation of the PMO
  25. The unwillingness of senior management to make the investment of time to improve the project culture over the long haul
  26. The PMO lacks an understanding the organization’s problems
  27. Poor definition of the PMO success criteria
  28. The PMO doesn’t understand the organization’s culture
  29. The PMO doesn’t understand the stakeholder’s needs and expectations
  30. Not implementing the right type of PMO/degree of control (e.g., supportive/low control, controlling/moderate control, directive/high control)
  31. Thinking that PMOs can only bring value for mammoth programs
  32. The PMO is bureaucratic
  33. Failure to highlight early successes
  34. The PMO loses wind after the initial gains
  35. The PMO is seen as the process police/box checkers
  36. Too many meetings with too little to show
  37. The PMO lacks an understanding of the organization’s strategic plan and fails to align itself with the strategy
  38. Thinking that what worked at one company will work at another company
  39. Individuals craving the desire for former positions or status before the implementation of the PMO
  40. Expecting huge results in a short period of time

Homework

Are you planning to implement a PMO? Take the time to review this list; use it as a checklist in your planning and implementation. If you’ve already implemented a PMO, review the list to see where you might need to make some changes in your approach. I would love to hear about your success and pain points. Best wishes!

Question: What would you add to this list?

The Tower of Risk Management Babel

Why are many project managers confused about project risk management?

Why do some project managers include positive risks in risk management and others do not?

Why do project managers talk about risk management in different terms, as though they are speaking in different languages?

Let’s take a look at how risk is defined and why project managers need to clarify the definition and concepts of risk management with their project teams.

Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Risk is a Choice

Merriam-Webster defines risk as “the possibility of loss or injury: peril.” Most people think of risk as pure risk, as a possibility of loss. However, risk management has evolved to include a more holistic view that includes the potential for positive outcomes.

In his book Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk, author Peter Bernstein says, “The word ‘risk’ derives from the early Italian risicare, which means ‘to dare.’ In this sense, risk is a choice rather than a fate.” A modern definition of risk sees risk as “uncertainty about outcomes that can be negative or positive.”

The project manager’s job is to meet the project’s objectives through the management of risks, both positive and negative. The project manager’s choices drive their success or failure.

“When we take a risk, we are betting on an outcome that will result from a decision we have made, though we do not know for certain what the outcome will be.” -Peter BernsteinContinue reading

How to Deal With Pre-assigned Project Resources

Life is not easy. We are dealt hands that can be difficult. Project managers may be pre-assigned resources internally and externally that lack the skills and knowledge required for their projects.

How to Deal WithPre-assigned

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Why do we always feel like we get the left-over resources?

What can we do? Jump ship. Give up. Find another job. Let’s try some other strategies.

  1. Negotiate. First, determine who assigns the resources? Is it a functional manager? Does your organization have a resource manager? Will a vendor or supplier provide resources? Second, meet to discuss the goals of your project and the knowledge and skills that will be required for success. Third, recommend resources for the team.
  2. Influence. What do we do if we work for a large organization where we do not have access to the individuals making the assignments? Someone has access to these people. Does your sponsor have access? Does your manager have the right connections. If so, influence the people you know and make your case. Ask your connections to influence the decision makers.
  3. Acquire outside resources. When your organization lacks staff to complete the required project activities, see if you can acquire outside resources. Here is one reason that project managers need to be involved in projects early. You can make your case and build the resource cost in your budget. Carefully interview potential candidates.
  4. Develop your teams. At the end of the day, you will be assigned teams. Guess what? The teams will not be perfect. What skills and competencies are lacking? Are the team members motivated? What do you need to do to improve overall project performance? Look for ways to improve knowledge and skills, create team building opportunities, build trust, and encourage collaboration.

The Insanity of Resource Management

Many organizations have under-performing projects. Why? Organizations do a poor job of defining their projects and understanding the resource requirements. Next, organizations overcommit – they commit to more projects than they should. Team members are stressed and organizations experience a lot of employee turnover. Furthermore, organizations fail to identify and acquire and develop skills and knowledge for these resource bottlenecks.

I am sometimes asked to take a look at organization’s resource problems and help them find solutions. My response? Before I come, prioritize your project portfolio and kill or postpone half of your active lower-priority projects. Do fewer projects better. Of course, very few organizations will do this…the insanity continues.

Question: Perhaps you feel different. What would you recommend to improve project resource management?

50 Quick Risk Management Tips

I recently scanned all my blog articles to mine quick risk management tips. I sprinkled a few “You might be a Charlie Brown knucklehead if” sayings into the mix. Hope you enjoy!

Image showing the article title 50 Quick Risk Management Tips

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50 Risk Management Tips

  1. Start identifying risks early in your projects.
  2. Complete your stakeholder analysis in order to understand their expectations.
  3. Right size your risk management.
  4. Use organizational assets such as a risk register template, risk categories, risk checklists, probability/impact matrix.
  5. You might be a Charlie Brown knucklehead if you wait until a lion attacks you before responding.
  6. Identify one risk owner for each risk.
  7. Engage your team members and stakeholders in identifying risks.
  8. Use the risk meta-language: Cause -> Risk -> Effect to describe risks.
  9. Analyze assumptions to discover risks.
  10. Seek to integrate risk management with other project management processes.
  11. Don’t turn risk management into an unnecessary overhead.
  12. When you define your risk response plans, identify secondary risks that may arise as you execute the response plans.
  13. Clarify your project objectives.
  14. You might be a Charlie Brown knucklehead if your goal is to create a risk list longer than War and Peace.
  15. Associate every risk with at least one of your project objectives.
  16. Make your risk register public.
  17. Calculate your risk scores by multiplying probability times impact (e.g., 7 x 5 = 35).
  18. Minimize bias by defining your probability and impact scales.
  19. Define a threshold for your risks. For example, you might say risks with a risk score of 80 or greater require a risk response plan.
  20. Keep it simple!
  21. Periodically review and update your risks.
  22. Identify emerging risks.
  23. Take a calcium tablet when you feel overly stressed…then take some vacation time you’ve earned!
  24. Identify, exploit, and enhance opportunities.
  25. You might be a Charlie Brown knucklehead if you manage your ship-wrecked crew like the Skipper on Gilligan’s Island.
  26. Focus on the risks that matter!
  27. Identify high-powered, high-interest stakeholders.
  28. Determine if your risk response plans are working and adjust where necessary.
  29. Ask 5 Whys to dig deeper into the causal factors.
  30. Communicate your risks.
  31. Take care of your team members.
  32. Perform quantitative risk analysis when you need additional information to make significant project decisions.
  33. Define the term risk.
  34. Evaluate velocity (i.e., time to impact) along with probability and impact in your risk evaluation.
  35. Use the three-point estimate when estimating things where you lack experience and historical data.
  36. You might be a Charlie Brown knucklehead if you think you can do risk management as the Lone Ranger.
  37. Try the SWOT analysis to understand the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in your projects.
  38. Don’t be too general or too detailed in defining your risks…find the happy medium that allows you to assign risk owners and develop risk response plans.
  39. Brainstorming risks works for virtual teams too.
  40. Don’t try to eliminate every threat from a project – it’s not feasible or desirable.
  41. Take care of yourself first so you can serve others.
  42. Reevaluate your risks when there are significant changes in your projects.
  43. Not sure if your risk management processes are working? Conduct an audit.
  44. Monitor your risk triggers (i.e., predefined trigger conditions).
  45. Have busy executive risk owners assign risk action owners to monitor risks and to execute response plans.
  46. Stay connected with your sponsor.
  47. You might be a Charlie Brown knucklehead if you facilitate a risk identification session early in your project and never do it again.
  48. Periodically ask your team for feedback on how to improve the risk management processes.
  49. Update your risk checklist after a lessons learned session at the end of your projects.
  50. Remain humble – none of us have all the answers.

Questions: What’s your risk management tip?

How To Exploit and Enhance Project Opportunities

My father Royce Charon Hall was born on October 27, 1924 in Ideal, Georgia. The only problem was his living conditions were far from ideal. He grew up plowing barefoot behind a mule. Granddaddy and Grandmama Hall provided their children with food and clothes, but there wasn’t much more.

Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com (edited in Canva)

Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com (edited in Canva)

Daddy had a dream. He envisioned a day when he would have a good job, be married, and have a happy family. My father wasn’t quite sure how this would happen, but he had plenty of time to think about it as he plowed the fields. Daddy was highly motivated by the challenges of life.

Something interrupted his dream. It was called World War II. Daddy enlisted and hopped on a train out of Ideal to the far reaches of the world. After much training as a radio technician in the U.S., he was sent to the Philippines. Eventually, the war ended.

When Royce Hall returned home to the family farm, he was a different man. He had memories and bad dreams of a terrible war and a compelling desire to fulfill his future dreams.

Daddy pitched an idea to Granddaddy Hall to buy a tractor. His father’s response was, “Why do we need a tractor? We have two perfectly good mules. Besides, we don’t know anything ’bout a tractor.”

Eventually, Granddaddy Hall gave in to Daddy’s persistent requests. They borrowed the money and bought an Oliver tractor. Daddy not only plowed the family farm, but he made money plowing for other farmers.

In the first year with the tractor, he made enough money to pay off the tractor loan, purchase a car, and go to college. He took advantage of the G.I. bill to study agriculture at the University of Georgia. He became a county agent in Seminole County, Georgia where he met my mother, Dorothy King. They had four children – Rusty, Susan, Charles, and Harry. It wasn’t easy, but Daddy saw his dreams come true.

What is Opportunity?

I share this story to provide context to a brief discussion about opportunities. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines opportunity as “a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something.”

When my father returned from the war, he saw that few farmers had a tractor. He knew the hard life that farmers had plowing with mules. He saw the opportunity to invest in a tractor, to help others, and to create a path to his desired destination.Continue reading

17 Powerful Ways to Learn Project Management

Years ago, I decided that I wanted to become a project manager. I had a great job managing about 50 Information Technology professionals, but the company I was working for was not supportive of project management. I made the difficult decision to change companies and jobs.

Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com (edited in Canva)

Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com (edited in Canva)

I was hired as a project manager by my new employer, but frankly, I knew very little about project management. Furthermore, I was not a very good project manager…I had lots to learn. How did I learn? How did I apply the new knowledge in practical ways to drive project success?

Fortunately, I had a great boss and mentor. Theron took time each week to coach me, to share articles, and to point me to books. He also challenged me to get my Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, which I did. Since that time, I’ve been on a journey to learn and apply project management to help companies deliver products and services.Continue reading

10 Mistakes Unhappy Project Managers Make Daily

Some project managers find themselves unhappy…some miserable…some lost.

What can we do to right the ship? How can we get our footing again and move forward with meaning and purpose?

Stressed Young Businessman at Office

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The starting point is finding a place where you can invest your gifts and talents to meet the deep needs of the world. Beyond this foundational premise, let’s consider mistakes unhappy project managers make.

  1. Not growing as a project manager. When we stop learning and growing, life gets dry. Discovering new things keeps life fresh and enables us to do our jobs more effectively. How can we grow? Read. Take a project management course. Join a mastermind group.
  2. Worrying about things outside of your control. Project managers may find themselves dwelling on things outside their projects that they don’t control. It can consume us. Let go of the things outside of your control. Be a good steward of the things WITHIN your sphere of control. Perform with excellence. 
  3. Not forgiving someone. Someone hurt you on a project…really bad…three years ago. It may have been intentional or maybe not. Either way, that past grievance is keeping you from reaching your greatest potential. The unforgiveness is only hurting you. Forgive the individual. Release it. Put it in the past.
  4. Not addressing a problem team member. You have someone on a project team who is a slackard. You and others are constantly having to follow up with this individual. Other team members are being adversely impacted. Coach the individual. Help them see how their action or lack of action is hurting the team. If the individual continues to misbehave, get rid of this bad apple.
  5. Failing to take care of yourself. Some project managers are selfless servants. These individuals give until the tank is dry. They mean well, but they fail to recognize their finiteness. We must first take care of ourselves. Why? So we have the energy and health to serve others. Take time off from work. Exercise. Get adequate sleep. Maintain a healthy diet (okay, have a milkshake every now and then).
  6. Not focusing on what matters. When we fail to prioritize our work, we make everything of equal importance. We cannot be all things to all people. Work with your team to prioritize the work. Complete the most important tasks. Realize that some things won’t get done.
  7. Seeking everyone’s approval. Some people are approval addicts. These individuals exhaust themselves trying to appease everyone. Don’t seek the trophy of compliments. Simply serve others with humility.  
  8. Not trusting your team members. “People follow leaders by choice. Without trust, at best you get compliance,” says Jesse Lyn Stoner. Trust is the lubrication that makes it possible for teams to perform at their highest level. Look for opportunities to entrust your team members with responsibilities.
  9. Fearing failure. If we want to grow, we must embrace adversity and failure as a part of our lives. See your mistakes and failures as opportunities for personal growth. Persevere. Don’t give up. Press on. 
  10. Failing to live in the present. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” -Matthew 6:34. As a project manager, I spend lots of time planning for the future. So much so, I can lose sight of today. I fail to enjoy the present. Carpe diem – seize the day – live in the present!

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” -Viktor Frankl

12 Sure-Fire Ways to Improve Project Risk Management

If you survey people involved in projects on the importance of risk management for achieving project objectives, a high percentage of the participants will say risk management is important or very important. I’ve seen survey results where 90% of the people thought risk management was important. So…why do few people employ and support risk management?

Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com (edited in Canva)

Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com (edited in Canva)

Many people have had a bad experience. Project managers have performed risk management poorly. Let’s look at several reasons why project risk management can become useless and what we can do to gain better project results through risk management.

  1. Failure to lead by example. In order for organizations to mature and benefit from risk management, leaders including sponsors and project managers must walk the talk. People resist change. Without a consistent example by those in authority, people will likely seize opportunities to revert to their former behaviors. What must we do? Lead by example.
  2. Failure to focus on the risks that matter. Some project managers start their programs and projects with gusto. They facilitate risk identification exercises that result in a boatload of risks. However, no one knows which risks matter…there is no evaluation and prioritization of risks. People become overwhelmed and take no action. Be sure to evaluate and prioritize risks.Continue reading