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It's About Time! The Journyx Blog
I recently asked a question at Raven's Brain, a popular project management blog, and Raven posted it for her readers to respond to. Her readers perceived my question as "Why are you a PMP?" but what I was really asking was this: "Is it the case that some project managers are dramatically better executors than others, and if so, what are the characteristics one would look for to find them?"
A typical answer to this question can be found at a post on the Eight to Late blog entitled, "Certifiably Mistaken: Two Wrong Reasons For Pursuing Project Management Certification."
Here are my thoughts on this:
1. Executors can talk about the last five projects they completed successfully, as well as
- what stood in the way of success
- how they overcame those obstacles
2. They may or may not have PMP or other certifications
3. They are probably not huge devotees of any particular PM tool
I'd love to hear what the rest of you out there think about this issue.
- Curt Finch, Journyx CEO
A project is in serious trouble having overrun its budget, and deliveries are far behind schedule. The previous project manager has been fired, team morale is low, sponsors are hopping mad, and senior management is fuming. You are brought in to take over the project and turn it around. What should you do?
Well, before getting into the thick of action, consider the following reasons why projects generally run into trouble:
- Insufficient commitment from project sponsors.
- Unclear requirements/scope.
- Inexperienced team members.
- Poor planning.
- Lack of formal project management processes.
- Cultural issues.
- Unclear roles of team members including that of the project manager.
- Inadequate communication
Learn the project turnaround pointers at ProjectMinds.
Nearly 30% of project managers have seen a cutback in investment or projects as a result of the current economic climate, according to a study done by Josh Nankivel recently. He asked the readers of pmStudent.com what impacts on project management they had seen caused by the economy.
Cutbacks and hiring freezes have lead to fewer human resources being available for project teams. There’s a noticeable clawing back of resources into core positions, and people seconded on to a project are finding it hard to balance priorities: they have to focus on the day job and therefore have less time to spend on project tasks – making it harder for the project manager. Lots of people responded that they were having to do more with less.
There is also a greater degree of financial scrutiny of projects, with 11% of people replying that this was more evident. Or are they just paying more attention now to the boring bits that other people normally do?
Read the entire article at Project Management Tips.
Most project managers know that trying to keep track of employees, with their various projects and skill levels, is a daunting task. Perhaps it is not so bad when you only have two employees, but when you work in an organization with 500, it is simply impossible to keep track of resources without a little help. Here are some of the biggest issues in resource management, as well as some advice on how to overcome them.
Managers don't know what people are working on
When you have 5, 10 or 25 people reporting to you, it becomes increasingly difficult to know what they are working on at all times. Is John wasting time on a project that is not all that important to the department, or the company? Is Mary spending all of her time on something a colleague has asked her to do, while neglecting the project you really need her to work on? What you don't know can most certainly hurt you.
Managers don't know if people are available to work on future projects
When a client asks if you can take on a major project and complete it by the end of the month, how do you answer? You might say yes and then scramble to free up the right people and get them to execute the project by the deadline. You might also refuse the project, despite the revenue it would bring, because you are unsure whether your people can handle it or not. The ideal situation would be to have a system that could show you, at a glance, what your resource availability is for the next month. Not only do you need resources to work on your project, but you need them to have the right skill sets. You may have three team leads available, but if the project absolutely requires a developer and the developers are booked up, your project doesn't stand a chance.
Managers don't know if people are over-allocated or under-allocated
One of your employees is constantly overbooked. He is scrambling to put in as many hours as possible and finish every task he is assigned to without compromising its quality. At the same time, another employee with similar skills often has free time on her hands. Isn't this something a manager should know and be able to address?
The success of a project highly depends on a project manager's ability to manage resources effectively. The larger the organization, the more difficult this becomes without the right system to provide visibility and communication.
- April Boland, Journyx Communications Coordinator
I have come to think of project management as the language of getting things done. It strikes me as being very much results oriented; focused on the end item deliverable product or service. And for project managers who fully embrace the techniques of breaking work down into manageable tasks the focus involves not just achieving the final outcome, but accomplishing all of the intermediate activities as well. This, after all, is the foundation of the best practice of critical path management.
So why then do we encounter project management situations involving procrastination? Are some project managers putting off doing things because of habitual carelessness or laziness? What is the impact of procrastination when it does occur? How can we recognize procrastination; and how can we prevent it?
For project management procrastination is when a planned task or activity does not begin when scheduled or when an action or decision is not made when it needs to. For the project manager procrastination may occur because of personal attributes such as carelessness or laziness, however, it is doubtful that a significant number or project managers with these characteristics remain project managers but for so long. Procrastination for project managers who have remained in the profession for a significant length of time is more likely to occur for other reasons; it is more likely to occur as a result of wishful thinking (if I just wait a bit things will improve), or as the result of fear (if I act now I may make a mistake), or as the result of a strategy to reduce risk (if I delay the odds of success improve).
Read the rest at PM World Today.
In a recession, managing every aspect of a business can be difficult. But no aspect is as complicated and emotional as managing your employees. Maintaining your culture--not to mention morale--can be a challenge in the face of layoffs. And asking employees to contribute more even as their pay remains flat is no small task. So how can a manager get the best out of his or her people these days? Here, 8 seasoned entrepreneurs weigh in.
Hang Out with the Youngest Workers
When the economy sours, many entrepreneurs turn to board members and industry veterans for help. Which is fine. But Scott Cook, the founder of Intuit, the tax software company, says it also makes sense to spend time among the most junior members of your staff. "Expect your contributions to be led by your youngest employees," he says. "Seek them out. Make them your mentors. Get them into a room and ask them to lead in creating ways for your company and customers to benefit. Then, help them act on some of the ideas that emerge. Consider setting up your own in-house “science fairs” so employees can showcase their thinking."
Read on at Inc. Magazine.
The subject of survivor guilt—the despair employees feel when co-workers fall victim to downsizing— comes up during every recession, but 2009 promises a uniquely virulent strain of the affliction.
"The layoffs are just starting," says Shafiq Lokhandwala, chief executive officer of NuView Systems, a maker of human resources software. "I think we have only seen about 25% of what's coming." According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in December alone the U.S. lost 524,000 jobs, for a total of 11.1 million unemployed Americans. With the exceptions of health care and education, the recession has hurt every type of industry.
In addition to the impact of their sheer volume, the current layoffs present less hope and more complications for folks cut loose by their employers. "In the past layoffs, there was the feeling laid-off people would get similar jobs to the ones they lost," says Sheryl Spanier, a Manhattan career coach. "Today whole types of jobs are going to be eliminated." So if you lived through the 1987 stock market disaster and 2001 dot-com bust, that was just a warm-up exercise in the survivor guilt arena.
Read more at BusinessWeek.
Undertaking any project, whether in-house or in partnership with a professional services firm, entails risk. Project risk is defined as any area of concern that could prevent a project from achieving all of its benefits. Project risk requires careful management and involves identification, assessment, and mitigation.
It is important at the beginning of any project to go through the risk identification process. Not all project risks are obvious. When identifying risks, look for areas in the project that are based on:
1. insufficient or unreliable data,
2. insufficient preparation,
3. inadequate resources, or
4. lack of control.
Read the rest at PROJECTmagazine.
The ironic thing about most communication advice we get form the “experts” is that they rarely provide actionable examples of how to communicate well. We hear up one side and down the other how important communication is, and it absolutely is, but how about telling us how to do it effectively?
I came across a blog by a guy named Jason Seiden who actually offers actionable advice for developing good communication skills. First, he explains what communication really is:
“Many of us have heard about the how the content of a message is as little as 7% of a communication, and how body language and tone of voice together make up the remaining 90%. What many of us don’t consider is that a communication event rarely happens in a bubble where the only elements being considered are voice, physicality, and content. Normally, a communication event is pregnant with all those other interactions that preceded it. You know, the baggage. If you want to communicate better, you need to minimize emotional baggage so that each one of your communications comes through clean and clear.”
Get all of the communication advice at TechRepublic.
As an IT professional, you don't often have the luxury of going with the flow. With businesses everywhere seeking both efficiencies and revenue growth, IT's mission is increasingly geared toward implementing and even spearheading many types of change.
That's never been more true than in today's economic climate. "Where do we think productivity is going to come from? From technology," says Charles Beard, CIO at San Diego-based Science Applications International Corp.
In a Gartner Inc. survey of 1,500 CIOs worldwide earlier this year, improving business processes was identified as the No. 1 priority for CIOs. And in a late-2008 survey of 100 IT leaders by CIO Connect, an independent networking forum for top CIOs in the U.K., 62% of the respondents said that their board-level colleagues were increasingly turning to them for insight and leadership in the area of business change...
When workers are laid off in large numbers, businesses need to deal with the "orphaned accounts" they leave behind in IT. These user accounts sometimes remain active long after an employee has left.
Insider impropriety already presents a considerable headache for IT managers. But as companies downsize and lay off employees in large numbers, the likelihood of insider security threats escalates.
Businesses are left particularly vulnerable when employees leave but their user accounts aren’t disabled. These so-called “orphaned accounts” can lead to the loss of your customer list to a competitor, the malicious disabling of your critical databases and the loss of other proprietary information. It’s the sort of damage a small to mid-sized business can find difficult to overcome.
“The smaller organizations can be more vulnerable,’’ says Ellen Libenson, vice president of marketing for Symark International, which produces systems access management solutions. “The smaller your business, the harder it is to recover...’’
Most lists for improving IT focus on project management issues like executive sponsorship and so on. While that’s important, many IT managers fail to think strategically about how technology fits into their organization’s larger business context. That shortsightedness causes lots of IT failures.
Law firm IT director, Peter Birley, developed a list of ten points to help IT folks think strategically. I like the list because it presents practical steps, without getting too caught up in the weeds of detailed project management...
I got a call last night from a dear friend of mine. He sounded down, and with good reason: His company had just laid off 75 percent of its workforce.
My friend was spared the chopping block — although he now comprises 50 percent of the entire IT department — but was pretty glum after watching his colleagues departing. Despite a long conversation in which we explored all possible silver linings, he was clearly shell-shocked and discouraged about the situation.
Which got me thinking. I’ve written recently about how to cut back without layoffs, and how to conduct layoffs gracefully … but how do you restore morale and productivity after layoffs occur?
The Hayes Group International suggests a five-pronged approach to keeping survivors afloat...
To weather the current economic maelstrom, enterprises not only are reducing head count but also are cutting back on ambitious or long-term projects in IT. Knowing how best to keep your IT project in the pipeline could mean taking a cue from those best versed in achieving project approval: outside consultants.
"Without a doubt, companies are cutting back significantly this year," notes John Gardner, CEO of Integrative Logic, a data-driven marketing group that helps its clients build customer loyalty. "They're getting pressure to optimize every dollar to either stop the bleeding or start the recovery. From our perspective, the key is showing them at the finest level possible that continuing with our initiatives will not cut their costs but help generate revenue..."
Service providers present a special challenge to organizations involved with complex IT projects. Although consultants are integral to many projects, dysfunctional service provider relationships can increase the customer’s risk of failure.
To explore this issue, I spoke at length with Alec Miloslavsky, CEO of Exigen Services, an outsourcing supplier that specializes in Agile development. I asked him why traditional relationships with system integrators sometimes cause a gap between customer goals and consultant interests:
Traditional consulting companies base their relationship model on labor arbitrage, where the services provider gains financial benefit primarily from differences in labor costs. As a result, the consulting firm neglects key issues in IT project delivery, increasing the customer’s risk.
Alec added that projects generally face three types of risk:
* Financial risk, where project cost rises above expectations
* Time to market risk, where the project is late
* Delivery risk, where the project doesn’t achieve planned objectives
Pure labor arbitrage contributes to all these problems, especially in environments where there is insufficient governance to control results.
I asked Alec for five tips to help services customers get the most from their relationship with external consultants. Here is his list...
From TechRepublic →
A major initiative has been launched in the United States in an effort to gain the attention of the new Obama Administration and to promote better project management (PM) on publicly funded programs and projects. The new effort, embodied in a “Project Management Manifesto for America”, is being led by project management pioneer Russell Archibald and a group of senior project management experts and authorities who met at The George Washington University in Washington, DC on 19 December, 2008.
While there has been a recognized need for better PM on government projects and programs for decades, the issue has taken on new urgency for two main reasons: (1) the current economic recession, and (2) President-elect Obama’s announced plans for an economic stimulus package of up to $1 trillion investment by the US government into infrastructure and other projects across the country.
While the emphasis of the federal government’s massive investment strategy will be job creation and economic stimulus, the invested funds cannot be wasted through mismanagement and inefficiency. The economic stimulus package will also drastically increase the federal debt in the United States. The funds must be invested wisely and managed judiciously in order to achieve the objectives without fraud, waste or the need for additional funding. Clearly the best way to do this is by ensuring that appropriate and proven project management is applied to all programs and projects that receive federal funds.
With all the disheartening news about layoffs recently, it's easy to want to stick your head in the sand and hope things pass. But that's not really an option when the very projects that keep you and (what's left of) your staff employed, as Mike Lecky observes in his blog at projecttimes.com
...a significant disruption such as a large layoff can affect the remaining workforce by altering the tone and motivational dynamic of the working environment. Understanding the impact this will have on project activities is important to managing the project through the organizational change.
Whether project managers are asked for an assessment of the impact of a major layoff or not, it is incumbent on them to do so and ensure adjustments in the corporation are properly reflected in the project they are managing.
Read the rest of Mike's blog. Free registration required.
Management is not a popularity contest. We’re hired to meet targets and expand markets—and that includes cracking down on inefficiencies and making sure standards, deadlines, and budgets are kept.
Experienced executives say that it helps to have your staff just a little afraid, just so they take your directives darn seriously. “I refuse to waste management time begging people to meet their deadlines,” says Boots, a creative director of a global advertising agency. “When I say I need something at 3 pm tomorrow, I expect it on my desk by 2:45.” Boots himself was trained by tough bosses. “I learned the most in jobs where I was forced to deliver under tough circumstances—when there was no excuse to fail.”
Read the rest at PM World Today.
With unemployment rates climbing into the stratosphere and job prospects becoming increasingly tenuous, IT pros need to think strategically and act effectively to keep their heads above water. Here are some recommendations to help you safeguard your career during the months to come.
#1: Make a specific plan
I’m not talking about making a wish list which, like New Year’s resolutions, will be forgotten by the third week of January. You want a plan that has specific goals for your job (what’s the best role for you next?) and your income (exactly how much would you like to be making by the end of 2009?). Writing down your plans makes them concrete, and it’s more likely you will attain them.
#2: SWOT yourself
Be honest with yourself. Review your strengths — like what you’ve got that can move you ahead; weaknesses — like those things you have or do that are holding you back; opportunities — things you can pursue at the company or in the industry; and threats — things that can derail you or sabotage your career advancement.
Read more at TechRepublic.