Friday, December 6, 2013

How to Stay Competitive as a PM

One of the most difficult things to do, especially if you’re employed and very busy, is to keep on top of what is happening in your field of work. There are exceptions when it comes to type of work, like doctors who work in research hospitals or organizations. They almost always have the newest techniques and technology at their disposal, to the benefit of the patient. Even CPAs can argue that they are adept at the new rules, taxes, and guidelines that come out of Washington, DC. They have to if they are going to be preparing tax returns for individuals or conducting audits for corporations. What about the Project Manager (PM)? If the PM is busy on a project implementation,  that PM may not be able to stay on top of the new wave of project management like Agile, for example. So how does a PM stay competitive? How can a PM who works over 50 hours a week devote any time to exploring what is new in project management?

Belong to a PMI Chapter
Being part of a PMI Chapter presents opportunities to network and to learn of new PM work being done at organizations. I go to my state chapter’s annual symposium, which is a full day of break-out sessions of different topics ranging from Agile to how Edison was an innovator and how to incorporate his philosophy into your daily work life. I have never been disappointed with these symposia. Also, my state chapter has monthly programs that discuss a PM topic. If I am interested, I go to the meeting or one of its satellite meetings where the main meeting is broadcast. In other words, my state chapter provides options that fit my schedule.
Become an author
I can say with certainty and experience that becoming an author brings with it a certain level of authority. I am not suggesting that only a blog provides you with authority. It doesn’t hurt, but it is not the only avenue. As a matter of fact, your chapter usually sends out a monthly or quarterly e-zine or e-letter. They are always looking for articles to publish and almost no PM subject will be rejected unless the topic has been published before. Before publishing this blog, I wrote multiple articles, and not just for my chapter. I also authored an article for a website devoted to Professional Service Organizations (PSOs). So my question to you is, “What are you waiting for?” Pick a burning topic that you have wanted to discuss and write about it and submit is as an article for your chapter. I always hear from individuals that they fear the remarks on the article. I say, I want to hear from others and hear their viewpoints. How else are we to grow as PMs?
Meet with other PMs on a regular basis to discuss what’s new
I have found that one of the best methodsfor learning is to meet with other PMs in other organizations (which you can do at a chapter meeting). There is no better way to get outside of your comfort zone and learn something new. You may be surprised at how well your experiences and your lessons learned are appreciated by other PMs. I also find that networking with other PMs on a regular basis to discuss new techniques and methodologies is always educational.  Learning about another PM’s lessons learned is a way to branch out as a PM. I can’t tell you the number of new PM methodologies and techniques that I have used in my work that I have learned from others. It is something that shows maturity and a level of knowing how to grow.
In conclusion, there are a number of ways that a PM can stay competitive in their profession. This does take an additional effort on the part of the PM, but the PM wants to stay informed and competitive int the PM field, then additional effort is called for. I can say with experience, the need to stay competitive has never been more important for a PM. The field is very competitive and there is much changing due to Cloud Computing, Six Sigma and other new influences to the PM profession. My advice is to stay competitive and get involved.  
I am open to discussion at any time on these blogs or anything else related to project management you would like to explore. If you would like to comment about this blog, please do so by posting on this blog or by responding in an email at Benny A. Recine. You may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

What makes an organization agile?


Have you ever heard these phrases?  
·         “There is just too much paperwork to get anything done in this organization.”
·         “We have process paralysis in this organization.”
·         “How can we think creatively if we continue to suppress creativity   with paperwork?”

Most of us can relate to these phrases, and for some of us, they hit a nerve. As a Project Manager (PM), I believe that a defined process is much better than working in an adhoc environment where a PM puts out “fires” instead of bringing a project to completion. However, we can have the other side of the coin, can’t we? We can have a PM working mostly on paperwork and process and not being the leader that he/she should be to the project team and the organization in general.  

If you haven’t heard these phrases, congratulations! You work in an agile organization, namely, one that focuses on completing a project without over-burdening paperwork or process. What I mean by this is that an agile organization does adhere to some level of process, but is not encumbered by large amounts of documentation and ONLY driven by process. Some would ask if the size of an organization matters if that organization is more or less agile. I argue that it the areas should be in process and creativity.
 
Agility in Process 
 
Are smaller organizations more agile in process? Yes, because they have to be agile to be competitive. However, they tend to be adhoc when it comes to process and sometimes the fireman figure comes to mind. Smaller organizations are more concerned about being competitive than they are being process-driven. In a smaller organization, it is all about winning the next bid or making sure the project is successfully implemented, no matter how many corners you have to cut. This can also be said of a research organization, which tends to be large, for they are about getting the next drug to clinical tests or getting the next new product discovered. In these types of organizations, there tends to be a need for completion over process. This can also lead to chaos and no defined process. 
Agility in Creativity  
 
Are smaller organizations more agile in creativity? Again, yes, because they have to be stay competitive. However, I know of many large organizations that make it easier for individuals to be creative by rewards. For example, 3M comes to mind in that case. However, when it comes to project management, we PMs are focused on process and process-driven results. Creativity may have to take a back seat regarding the project, unless we require creative thinking to resolve project issues. It does become harder to get project team members to think “outside the box” when they are use to a process-driven method, but it can happen and I have seen success taken from the jaws of defeat in project teams that think creatively when asked to.
 
Is there a balance between a process-driven organization and a creative one?
Absolutely yes! As a matter of fact, I ask larger organizations using a process-driven methodology to think about reducing paperwork as an improvement project. Just because an organization has a process does NOT mean it must have a single form for every piece of information. Think about re-using existing forms for different phases. Can the requirements document be the basis of the user acceptance test cases? Well, why not? Every organization should be thinking in this matter.
An agile organization may be the answer to many questions and problems in an organization. One must begin by asking: “Are we adding documentation, or are we adding value?”

I am open to discussion at any time on these blogs or anything else related to project management you would like to explore. If you would like to comment about this blog, please do so by posting on this blog or by responding in an email at Benny A. Recine. You may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Should the Project Manager Play Multiple Roles on the Project?

One of the many comments I receive from executives is the multifaceted role of the Project Manager (PM) in the organization. I have heard many times that a person should not be JUST a PM, he/she must bring some other role, or in their minds, some other value to the organization. This is not to say that these executives don’t believe project management is an important function, they just believe it’s not the only function a person has. So invariably, the PM is asked to be the Business Analyst (BA) or the Subject Matter Expert (SME). I can speak from experience that working as both the PM and the BA has not been successful for me. As a matter of fact, objectivity is lost on the project because the PM cannot really evaluate the BA’s work. Similarly, the PM cannot be objective if he/she also serves as the SME. So, do costs go up because a division of labor is implied? Is a project better served by having a PM that has no other roles? Can executives defend the costs of a PM?

Should there be a division of labor?
In the end, that is the question one must ask. Unfortunately, my answer to this question is vague: it depends. If an organization is a start-up company, the answer may be that a person has multiple roles, including some PM functions.  Does that make that person a PM? I believe that it makes him/her responsible for the PM duties. The person may not see himself/herself as a PM, but the role has been placed on him/her. Is that a perfect position? Not really because the person is conducting activity that may not be his/her main specialty. Now, in a smaller organization, especially if it is a start-up, the mixture of tasks becomes necessary. The problem arises when someone is made the PM by default.  This has happened in IT often and until recently, the reason why many IT projects failed.
Can the PM be effective in dual roles?
The answer to this question can be yes, especially if the resource has done this before and is accustomed to performing dual roles and tasks. The problem arises when a resource really sees him/herself as a BA or SME more than a PM. When that happens, the PM’s tasks suffer because the resource wants to spend his/her time on the tasks that he/she believes are more important. Again, in smaller organizations like start-ups, this is not even a question. Being effective in dual or even multiple roles is a necessity. However, let’s assume that this organization is neither small nor a start-up. Giving a resource PM duties along with the resources duties of a BA, SME, or even a development manager is usually not a good idea. These roles are not the same and even conflict at times. When that happens, chaos exists and that is not good for anyone in the organization.
Are multiple roles common only in small organizations?
No, I have seen PMs playing multiple roles in both large and small organizations. I have seen successful projects delivered where the PM’s role is given to a resource that is responsible for other tasks. However, the risk of project failure is higher if the PM’s role is given to a person who does not want the role or who cannot function as a PM for any reason. It is my opinion that if an organization can do so, they should assign a PM to a project deliverable that only has PM responsibility.
Most times the role of a PM or comes down to cost and if senior executives can defend a sole PM role. If not, the PM should be prepared to work in a dual capacity.
I am open to discussion at any time on these blogs or anything else related to project management you would like to explore. If you would like to comment about this blog, please do so by posting on this blog or by responding in an email at Benny A. Recine. You may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Who is the Go-to Senior Manager During a Project?


The Project Manager (PM) has limitations to his/her authority during a project. Since a project is a temporary endeavor, there is a limitation inherent to it which can limit the PM’s influence.   So, the PM must know who is the final decision maker for the project. Most of the time, this is the project sponsor. Sometimes, the PM must go out of the “inner-circle” of the project and go to a mentor or senior manager who knows the organization very well. So, what is a PM to do?
Establish a network, and include senior managers
When a PM joins an organization, one of the first things he/she must do is to begin to lay the groundwork to become an effective PM. One of the tasks is to establish his/her network in that organization. How a PM does that is by beginning to conduct the work he/she has been hired to do and observe the actions of management. Sooner rather than later, the PM will begin to see a pattern in the person or persons who seem to make the final decision(s).  Those are the people whom the PM must associate with. 
Now if one of the influential senior managers becomes a project sponsor on one of the PM’s projects, that alignment becomes a little easier. Allow me to be clear: I am NOT suggesting kissing up for the sake of getting favors. Most senior managers will see right through that and will react negatively to that action. What I am suggesting takes more effort than just kissing up. I am not suggesting that the PM take an interest in the senior manager’s personal life. What I am suggesting is that the PM meet with the senior manager and inquire as to what aspects he/she considers to be most important to the project. The PM should understand the senior manager’s pain points regarding the project and what the senior manager expects from the project team.
What is the value proposition?
The question of value proposition is typically thought of in the context of employment: How can the applicant show their value or worth to the hiring organization to acquire the position? However, value proposition can also be considered in the context of project delivery. If the PM wants to have the senior manager as an ally, the PM must communicate and deliver the value of the project. If the PM can explain and deliver the value, the senior manager, as well as other senior managers, will take notice. The value of the PM goes up as he/she is viewed as successful.
This can usually be communicated easily if the project has been aligned strategically with the organizations goals. If the project sponsor understands this, then explaining the value proposition of the project is easily done.
I am open to discussion at any time on these blogs or anything else related to project management you would like to explore. If you would like to comment about this blog, please do so by posting on this blog or by responding in an email at Benny A. Recine. You may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

If it is the PM’s project then why isn’t the PM allowed to manage it?

Of all the questions and remarks I receive, this is by far the one I see most often. To be more direct, “What is the position title? Project what?” You see, I believe that if the title has the word “manager” in it, then the organization must hire managers. If they do not expect the person to manage, then I strongly suggest that the title be project administrator. As a matter of fact, I know of one organization that refuses to use the term Project Manager (PM).   But on the other hand, some PMs deserve to have the title of project administrator. Yes, I know there are some organizations or even some program managers who are micro-managers that are difficult to work for.
Thus, there can be many different perspectives regarding the PMs’ role and how they are viewed in an organization. What I would like to discuss is how a PM can get a feel for this organizational challenge. This can occur when a PM interviews for a position or is part of a merger or a re-org. But there may also come a time where a PM must take a hard look at him/herself in order to manage effectively.
 
When a PM interviews with a firm…
 
A PM (or any interviewee) can get a good idea of how an organization values their PM staff by the questions asked during the interview and the reaction to questions by the PM. A PM can get a sense of what the core beliefs of an organization are by the way the organization speaks to them. This is especially evident during the interview with the hiring manager. Watch how the hiring manager speaks--not just what the manager says, but how the manager says it. Watch not only the facial expressions, but also the body language. There has been many Myers-Briggs or DISC studies to distinguish the type of person the PM will be dealing with. I will not go over the published studies, but I am cautioning the PM to be aware of them and use them to distinguish how a manager will deal with the PM and the company PM community as a whole.
 
                        When a PM is part of a change in the organization…
 
Mergers and re-orgs are part of the changing landscape that a PM must deal with. With those changes, there may also be changes in how senior management deals with the PM community. In a PSO, this type of change may come every quarter. In a PMO, this change may not come as often, and presents a challenge to PMs who are used to a certain type of management. I caution and challenge every single PM reading this blog of this certainty: change is the new normal. Be prepared (as the Boy Scouts correctly state) for anything and everything. I am not suggesting there won’t be any surprises in the form of management change. That would be foolish. However, I am stating that our mentality must adjust to the new normal. And this change may take the form of how senior management deals with the PM community in that organization.
 
The PM must look in the mirror…
 
There is an old saying, “To thine own self be true.” Know yourself, and if you see that change must happen, the best place to start is with yourself. There are many organizations and personal coaches out there that can help assess your professional or personal life and provide you with sound, measureable steps to improve yourself. Or, if you believe you have all of the certifications professionally that are needed for a PM, then maybe you have to look away from a professional perspective and look to a personal one. I cannot provide a one-size-fits-all statement or belief that would satisfy every reader.  You have to take control and manage yourself. Once that happens, then you can manage others. If you show improvement, others will notice, including senior management. Once that happens, then the PM may receive more authority of the project and/or resources. Until that happens, then the PM must manage with what the PM has.
 
I am open to discussion at any time on these blogs or anything else related to project management you would like to explore. If you would like to comment about this blog, please do so by posting on this blog or by responding in an email at Benny A. Recine. You may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.

Friday, July 5, 2013

The “Reorg” and the PM’s Reaction


Rumors have been flying throughout the organization, but today the email announcing that the organizational reorganization (reorg) you have been hearing about has been delivered. Now for the bad news: the reorg directly affects your projects, and as a Project Manager (PM), you are still responsible for delivering your project(s) on time, within scope, and within budget. By the way, if you haven’t guessed it by now, there is no good news. However as a PM, you have to maintain your composure and your professional demeanor in the face of this news. Your project team depends on you to be the leader, even when this type of news directly affects you and your team.
What is the first thing you should do?
Your first reaction and response will be what is remembered by your project team. So I suggest NOT sending an email about how this reorg affects your team. Without question, schedule a meeting with your team even if some of them cannot be there in person and must conference in. The next thing is to outline what you want to discuss, namely the effect of the reorg on your team’s project and the next steps that the team will take. Preparation for this meeting is very important, even if you have only 15 minutes to do so. You must be the face of calm in this storm, so choose your words appropriately. Using terms like “screwed” or ‘blind-sided” will not help get your message across. However, you don’t want to “sugar-coat” the message either. You must be direct and stay away from jargon.  For example, “Ladies and gentlemen, the news we have been gossiping about is no longer gossip. That does not mean our responsibility of delivering this project has been eliminated. I, along with the project sponsor, will be meeting later and we will be discussing the impact of this news on our project. Until then, we expect you to deliver the quality that you have in the past. There is no doubt that this news affects us, however, we must remember what we are tasked to do and why we were chosen to be on this team.” Short and direct.
What about the questions?
Oh yes, there will be specific questions, some of which you will not know the answers. Do not be afraid to say that you don’t know the answer to a question instead of giving an answer you will have to take back later. However, you must then get the answer, especially for a question that depends on a delivery of an activity. When you have more clarity about how this affects your team, you must be transparent. In other words, you must not keep any information from your team. If the decision from the project sponsor and senior management is to discontinue funding on your project, then you must inform your team members and close the project. If you are told about something that will impact the project, even if funding continues, you must inform the team and together formulate a plan on how to meet that challenge. To sum this up, be up front with your team.
The next step…
After your meeting and gathering all the necessary information, you need to follow up with your team. Depending on the questions, you may be able to address them via email. However, if your team meeting is close, you may want to wait until then to answer questions, but do this only if the delay will not jeopardize the project. In this storm, you, the PM, will be judged on how you handled this adversity. If you handle this news as positively as you can, you will be seen in very good light.

I look forward to your comments and I am sure that this controversial topic will lead to many comments.
I am open to discussion at any time on these blogs or anything else related to project management you would like to explore. If you would like to comment about this blog, please do so by posting on this blog or by responding in an email at Benny A. Recine. You may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.  
 
 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Does utilization reporting help or hinder the PSO?

No matter which organization I have been associated with, whether a Project Management Organization (PMO) or a Professional Services Organization (PSO), almost every resource has complained about entering their time in a tool that keeps track of utilization. This is especially true if resources must enter their time in two separate systems, which I agree is tedious. However, there is no better management tracking system for allocating and justifying resources than a resource utilization system.  Particularly when it comes to justification of additional staff, utilization reports can be the proof senior/executive management needs. And let’s face it; this is when the utilization system can be a benefit to the staff.

Justification and Allocation: Why do we need proof?
“Doesn’t management see that we are all very busy? Are they blind?” Well, yes they are, but not for the wrong reasons resources may think. You see, senior/executive management must contend and deal with the bottom line. They must contend with the organization meeting budgets regarding costs and profits. If they are not meeting those numbers, even a utilization report that proves resources are stretched beyond their breaking point will not convince management to add staff. This is a realization that all resources, not just Project Managers (PMs), must come to terms with. Now, if the organization is meeting or somewhat exceeding their profits, then a utilization report proving that additional resources will benefit the organization is justifiable. But that is the only beginning.
What are the benefits?
The Implementation Manager/Director must be able to not only justify the additional staff, but make the case of increased revenues or reduced issues facing the organization. An additional technical resource is easier to justify when reducing issues because of specific development need or a specialized software or hardware that does not exist in the organization.  Most likely this could be a temporary position until the project ends and can be turned over to the client. However, let’s look at this as senior/executive management would.
1.       Can we justify the additional budget?
 
2.       Can we justify the work or the effort?

3.       Is this a temporary or permanent position? (Hint: a temporary position may be     easier to attain)

4.       What specifically would that resource be working on and why is that resource needed for that (or those) project(s)?
All of these questions must be answered, maybe not in the order that I have suggested, but you must have an answer to all of them. And those answers must specifically answer the one question: Can they prove to senior/executive management that there is a justifiable reason that can be defended?
Is this too much effort for the additional staff?
It better not be, or do not bother senior/executive management with this request. You see, if you cannot justify the effort that is necessary to attain a new resource, how can you convince management that a new resource is necessary?  So, what I am trying to say is that the utilization system can be your best friend when it comes to requesting additional resources. I believe that the utilization system is worth the effort, even if there is more than one system. Make sure the system that senior/executive management looks at is the one that has all of the numbers in them on a weekly basis.
I look forward to your comments and I am sure that this controversial topic will lead to many comments.
I am open to discussion at any time on these blogs or anything else related to project management you would like to explore. If you would like to comment about this blog, please do so by posting on this blog or by responding in an email at Benny A. Recine. You may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.  

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Review of the PMI-NJ Sunday Seminar and Monday Symposium

Every year, the PMI-New Jersey Chapter (http://pminj.org/) holds its annual Sunday Seminar and Monday Symposium. This year’s theme for both events was: Sell your skills: Advance your career. This year, I would like to provide my review of both events. So, I will offer my own rating system as follows: 1=Bad, 2=Needs improvement, 3=Neutral, 4=Good, and 5=Exceptional.

Allow me to begin with the location and logistics of the Seminar and Symposium. This year, as many years before, it was held at the Pines Manor in Edison, NJ (http://www.pinesmanor.com).  I believe the leadership of PMINJ deserves a pat on the back, mainly because I don’t believe there is a more central NJ site that can accommodate almost 600 individuals at such a reasonable cost. Yes, the Pines Manor is mostly in business for weddings, proms, and other similar social gatherings. However, not all companies (including mine) reimburse the cost to attend the Seminar and Symposium. The only reason I will not give a rating of 5 is because this is not one of the exceptional meeting locations of NJ. Then again, for the cost, it is a good location.
Rating = 4.
Sunday Seminar
The PMINJ leadership offers a Sunday Seminar for those who cannot attend the Monday Symposium, which I believe is admirable. Along with the 4 PDUs offered, this is a good way to network with other project managers (PMs). The seminar speaker (and symposium morning keynote speaker) was Todd Cohen, www.toddcohen.com, who has authored a book titled, Everyone’s in Sales. Now I must admit to everyone that I do belong to a couple of network groups and I am very well aware and believe whole-heartedly that everyone is in sales. So, I went into the seminar with a chip on my shoulder believing that I already know all there is to know about networking.. Todd quickly knocked that chip off my shoulder. Yes, there were topics that I have heard and practice. However, I must tell you that Todd’s enthusiasm was both infectious and refreshing. What I came away from this seminar is that when I approach networking, I must be positive, proactive, and project a positive attitude.
Rating=5

Monday Symposium
Monday Morning Keynote
Everyone’s in Sales
Todd Cohen (www.toddcohen.com)
Once again, Todd provided his enthusiastic pitch in about an hour, compared with the four-hour Sunday seminar I wrote about above. The only addition that I would add is that I boasted to all those at my Monday morning table that I attended the Sunday seminar and that they should have as well.
Rating=4. I am giving it a 4 because it wasn’t as intense as the Sunday seminar because of the time constraint.
Morning Breakout – Track 1
Process: Developing World Class Process Maps
Lori Britt (www.majoroakconsulting.com)
So, here is an admission and a bias: I love process maps. Especially those that are well documented and simple so that everyone can understand what is being depicted in the map. Here’s what I came away with from the presentation by Lori Britt and her co-presenter (whose name escapes me and was not documented): I was especially impressed of their admission that when they consult at a business, they request that management stay out of the process meetings. YEAH!! I also liked their example of how to map out a “customer experience.” I will make this recommendation to those who believe they can map out a process without bias; Lori convinced me that an objective third party is the best way to do this. I recommend that anyone who is looking to do this should go to their website and be ready to be impressed.
Rating = 4. The only reason I am giving this a 4 is because the documentation should list ALL of the presenters and not leave it up to the audience (who is copiously taking notes on the subject matter) to write down any additional names.
Second Morning Breakout – Track 1
Process: Leadership is Taken not Given
Gus Cicala (www.projectassistants.com)
I must say that when it comes to a session on ”vision” and communication issues in project management, I always attend as I believe communication issues contribute to most failed projects. Here’s what I took away from this presentation: Gus places the finger on the main reason why communication fails – a disconnect from the tactical reason of a project that connects with the overall organizations strategy. BINGO! I could not have said it better. The reason why project team members don’t understand the project or can’t communicate its main objectives, or value, is because the PM has not communicated them. Gus’ methodology was well communicated and understood. Better yet, it is a “play book” for good PM communication processes. I strongly recommend his methodology to all those who need some guidance.
Rating = 4. The only reason I am not giving this a 5 is because I believe this should have been a keynote. That is more for PMINJ to correct than Gus to adjust.
Lunch Keynote
Projects Mean Change, Are You Ready?
Martha Legare (www.ganttgroup.com)
Here’s what I took away from this presentation: Culture change is the most important reason for project failures. Yes, there are contributing factors like restructuring, mergers, and re-engineering, but culture change is the most important. Also, a PM must be aware of their surroundings like a soldier walking through a minefield.
Rating = 3. These are superior points that must be understood by all PMs. I am not sure that these points were well communicated. 
Afternoon Keynote
Behaviors That Lead to Exceptional Behaviors 
Neal Whitten (www.nealwhittengroup.com)
Neil Whitten’s experience and documented success speaks for itself. I cannot provide any evaluation except to say that if you were one of the individuals who left early and did not hear Neal, you missed possibly the best presentation of the two days. What I took away from Neal’s presentation are these key tips: Understand and practice empowerment, think for yourself, and manage daily to your top three priorities (this was the most important for me). There are many more items that I took away from Neal’s presentation, but I don’t want to be thought of as an intellectual property thief. If you have the opportunity to attend Neal’s next speaking engagement or webinar, I strongly recommend that you make the time to attend.  
Rating = 5.
I give the overall Seminar and Symposium rating as a 4.

My next article is about motivation and how to keep it in a project with your team.  
I am open to discussion at any time on these blogs or anything else related to project management you would like to explore. If you would like to comment about this blog, please do so by posting on this blog or by responding in an email at Benny A. Recine.You may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.
 
 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Revenue projections and actuals – Why do these matter?

The statement that Project Managers (PMs) get things done holds true. That is why the profession of Project Managers began: to manage projects. What gets lost in the discussion is that second word:  manager. You see, if you want to become a manager, then certain responsibilities come with that position. One of the most important, especially in a Professional Services Organization (PSO), is revenue projections and actuals or actual revenues. In the PSOs that I have been associated with, PMs have been responsible for the costs AND the revenues. This was a change from my original work as a PM, but was an excellent lesson in management. Yes, we have to be good managers regarding resources, time-lines, and expectations, to name a few. But the management of revenues is what can perplex and possibly make a PM stumble. In this article, I would like to discuss why revenues matter in a project, especially in a PSO.

Why revenues?
It must be noted that the triple constraint is still the most important threesome in a project. Scope, Resources, and Time are still the triple dilemma for any PM. However in a PSO, a fourth goal is added: revenue. You see, PSOs are consultative organizations that deliver consulting or implementation services. So, along with the constraints in a normal project, a PM is given revenues as a goal. Now, some would consider revenue a constraint, but unlike scope, resources, and time, where the word constraint is properly used, revenue is not a constraint. With every project, certain costs will be associated with each of the constraints. However with revenues, a PM is not limited within that number. You see a PSO that delivers a service or implements a product can also deliver additional value to the client by adding onto the project. Now, I know what you are thinking; you are thinking that I am advocating scope creep. Nothing could be further from the truth in this case. If in fact a PM sees an opportunity to add onto a PSO project, that PM will deliver a change request or a new Statement of Work (SOW) spelling out the additional work AND the additional costs to the client.  So you can see the difference between scope creep and the extension of a project in a PSO.
Generating revenues is why a PSO is in existence in the first place. An organization sees the benefit of implementing a PSO for its product, or an organization is formed that delivers consulting services. So a PM that is in this PSO understands that the bottom line is to keep the expenses at a pace that is consistent with the revenues. If the project team delivers the project within scope, then keeping revenues on track and expenses in check should not be an extraordinary task for the PM.
What are the obstacles?
Just like a project in a regular Project Management Office (PMO), a project in a PSO can have scope creep. If the delivery of the implementation of the product or the delivery of the desired result of the consulting project is “extended” in scope by the client and the PM goes along with it, then scope creep becomes a reality. Another reason why projects experience scope creep is because the scope of the project is not understood by the project team. What I have come across many times is that the individuals placed on a project at the client’s end often have a different perception of what is in scope. So I strongly suggest that the PM start the project with a kickoff and review the SOW that has the scope statement within it. When the PM does that, there is no doubt what is in scope and what is not. If the team members from the client object, there is only one place for them to go and that is their management.
Next…
My next article is about motivation and how to keep it in a project with your team.  
I am open to discussion at any time on these blogs or anything else related to project management you would like to explore. If you would like to comment about this blog, please do so by posting on this blog or by responding in an email at Benny A. Recine.You may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

What do you do with an overbearing project team member?


You know what they look like, we all do. At first, their smile is disarming and almost inviting. However within a meeting, you and the project team knows that this person is concerned about their agenda and only their agenda. No one else’s task, issue, or project report matters or should be considered more important than theirs. They attempt to take over the meeting quickly and they enjoy knowing that everyone on the team knows who runs the show. This person may even be the project sponsor or the client, which makes the task of trying to curb their overbearing nature that more difficult. So, what do you do? How do you confront this person? And make no mistake about it; you have to confront this person.
First, make sure that the person is truly overbearing
We sometimes mistake gushing enthusiasm with overbearance. If a team member is overly excited or has much to say, even when it is not their place to speak, then you can take that person aside and with gracious firmness, communicate your concerns with his “rational exuberance.” However, to be sure of the person’s intentions, watch and check with the other project team members.  Make sure that they feel that their voices, when called upon, are heard. If they tell you that they feel that they are being neglected, then you must take the next step and speak with the “excited” member with the gracious firmness I mentioned previously. What I mean by gracious firmness is telling the person that although you appreciate their excitement, you feel that the other members feel left out or not part of the team.
If the member continues to be overbearing
Hopefully, the discussion you have with this member will be enough. If it is not, you can try to intercede during meetings to allow another team member to be heard or to finish their thoughts. As the project manager, it is your duty to ensure that the meeting runs smoothly and that everyone that has a report to the project is heard. You can also ask for help from one or two other team members. When they are reporting their progress, they can speak at a higher tone when this overbearing person speaks up so as to finish their sentences or statements. If these tactics do not work, then you may have to take the person aside once again and, with more firmness, restate that he or she is becoming overbearing during project meetings. Let them know that although they are a valued member of the team, their attitude is becoming intolerable and their contribution to the team is being ignored.
If the person does not change their attitude, then you must speak to that person’s manager and possibly request a replacement. However, be prepared for the manager to take your request badly. In all of this process, you should keep your manager apprised of what you have done and the success you have achieved. Hopefully, you will not need to bring your manager into a meeting with the manager of the overbearing team member. This should resolve one way or another, the overbearing members’ attitude. What this also does is provide you with more tools in your managerial toolbox. This specific type of incident is not one that any of us want to confront. Realistically though, a project manager must realize that not all team members may have the best interest of the project in mind.

I am open to discussion at any time on these blogs or anything else related to project management you would like to explore. If you would like to comment about this blog, please do so by posting on this blog or by responding in an email at Benny A. Recine.You may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.

Friday, March 15, 2013

How to keep the project manager and the project team motivated

We all know the story line: The project is bogged down and the project team–and even the project manager–are losing hope that the project can be put back on track. There are a ton of excuses given and we all know them. “Development delivered the fix a month later than expected and the client has had other priorities come up. The project team members work on other projects and some of the team members’ projects are in the deployment phase.”  Or the best one: ”We have to re-baseline the project and our deliverables have to be re-scoped, so we cannot provide a new delivery date for some time.”  So how does a PMO Director or Director of Project Management keep the project manager, as well as the affected team, motivated?

Motivation may not be the only challenge
When some project team members have met their task deliverables and the project becomes bogged down, those members may have a negative outlook and affect other team members. Once a project manager sees that, it is the PM’s duty to nip this in the bud quickly and professionally. I am not suggesting that the PM use an iron fist on team members. As a matter of fact, I believe the PM must be transparent and make this the first discussion point in the next project meeting, even calling a special meeting if necessary. In the next project meeting or the special meeting, the PM should let the team members’ voice their concern AFTER the PM discusses the reality of the project and how important it is that the team members work through any discouragement they may be feeling.
If this project stays in the “red” for a protracted amount of time, it is easy to see how the team members will lose motivation and become negative. The PM must take positive steps. First and foremost, the PM must inform the PMO Lead and the project sponsor, first about the delay and then the issue of project members becoming dismayed and losing motivation. The PM must ask for support from both by having them use their influence in getting the late piece of work that is holding up the project completed as quickly as possible. Then the PM should ask that both attend the next project meeting to provide support to the PM and the team.
What if a member remains negative?
If a project team member remains negative, that specific person must be spoken to and dealt with as quickly as possible. What the PM does not want to happen is having the negativity of this specific person spreading to other members. The negative person must be allowed to express his or her views and issues to the PM. The PM must then assess them and have a plan for this person. If the person has legitimate issues, the PM must address them. If the person only has issues because the person is unhappy, it may be time to request that this person be removed from the project team.  
 
This is not the most pleasant action a PM can take, but it is necessary at times to ensure that the project moves forward and is completed successfully. 

How to deal with the fallout if a member must be removed

The removal of a project member may have a negative impact at first. The PM must be transparent and communicate with the other project members and assure them that this move was in the best interest of the project and the other team members. Once that is done, the PM must ensure that the project gets back on track.  

Some of the work a PM must do is not as pleasant as one would think. The PM has a duty to the other project team members, the project sponsor, the PMO Lead, and to himself or herself to ensure that this project is completed successfully. 
 
I am open to discussion at any time on these blogs or anything else related to project management you would like to explore. If you would like to comment about this blog, please do so by posting on this blog or by responding in an email at Benny A. Recine.You may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

What should a PSO weekly meeting be like in a PMO?


A weekly meeting to set the direction and ….
No one likes to attend meetings. They are always too long and most of the time, have no agenda. However, these meetings help set the direction regarding the health of the Professional Services Organization (PSO) as well as the Project Management Office (PMO).  When running a meeting once a week, the manager must set a consistent agenda so the resources know what to expect.  First and foremost is an overview of the status of the current projects. Second is a discussion of projects that are red or are at risk of going red and what must be done so that will not happen. Third and most importantly, is a discussion of projects in the pipeline.  Let’s take these one at a time. 
What is the status of the current projects?
This portion of the meeting should not be a full blown discussion of the status of each project, but rather a brief overview of the projects that are on track.  This should be the shortest portion of the hour and should take no longer than 10 minutes, mainly because you want to focus on the projects that need help and what is in the pipeline. The status should be something like, “The project is green and on schedule as it moves into the testing phase.” Short, sweet and to the point.
This weekly update does not negate the importance of the status meeting; the status meeting involves the client and that meeting should be meaty. But the weekly status meeting this is not the audience for a lengthy status. This portion of the meeting is to keep everyone informed on which stage the projects are in and if there are any roadblocks in the future.
Which projects are red or at risk of going red?
This portion of the meeting should take no longer than 15 minutes. I say that first because the project managers in charge of the project should come prepared to state what the issue or issues are with the project. These should be stated succinctly and to the point and without the BS that may have taken/is taking the project to red. The manager needs to know:
·         What is the main reason that the project has gone red?
·         Does the client understand the problem and is the client helping to resolve the problem?
·         What is the solution to bring the project back to green?
·         What is the cost of the solution and the project going red overall?
·         Has the solution gone before change management and has it been scheduled?
The manager also wants to hear that the project manager believes that this solution will keep the project in green for the duration of the project.
What projects are in the sales pipeline?
The next part of the meeting should take about 35 minutes and may include the sales manager. What is needed from the sales manager is a rundown of those sales that are closed or at least 85% closed.  With the sale as close as 85%, a project manager may be assigned to begin the project’s initiation phase (i.e., putting the scope together and beginning the Statement of Work). This gives both sales and the PSO a heads up to what is coming up and allows them to begin the process of getting the correct communications to the prospective client.
Now, you may ask, “Why does this have to be the biggest part of the weekly meeting?” The answer is because the PSO or even the PMO cannot survive very long if all it discusses are current projects. The PSO needs fresh projects to meet their revenue and career objectives.
With this meeting set up as I have described, the PSO can grind out the project and meet their annual objectives for the organization.

I am open to discussion at any time on these blogs or anything else related to project management you would like to explore. If you would like to comment about this blog, please do so by posting on this blog or by responding in an email at Benny A. Recine.You may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

How to Deal with the Underperforming Project Team Member

Dealing with a project team member who is not performing to his or her duties on the project team capability is a task that most Project Managers (PMs) don’t want to deal with. This person can be poison to the overall project and its outcome for multiple reasons: they can bring the morale of the team down, they can sabotage the otherwise good work of other team members, they can disrupt your management of the project, and worst of all they take the air of the project’s progress.

Now we can agree that there are times when a team member may underperform because of reasons that are out of his or her control. The PM must be careful not to judge a member as an underperformer if that is the case and to move quickly to remedy the situation. This is done with transparency, meaning with the member’s knowledge that he/she may have to leave the team to help remedy the situation, but would have no impact on the member’s credibility or career.
However, we know that there are individuals who underperform on projects as well as at their regular job. So, what are the tell-tale signs of an underperforming team member and what should a PM do to remediate the situation?
Tell-tale Signs of an Underperforming team Member
There are a number of signs of an underperforming team member, but here are some of the more usual examples:
·         Consistently does not attend meetings, or is always late to meetings

·         Does not meet targets and does not care about the impact to the project

·         Disrupts other team members when he/she does not meet targets

·         Does not understand deliverables and does not communicate this

·         Does not understand his/her role on the team
What Can a PM Do?
When a PM realizes that a member of the project team is an underperformer, the first step is to confront the member as soon as possible. Similar to working with a direct employee, the PM must take time to meet with the underperforming team member and communicate the impact of his or her performance on the other team members and the project as a whole. If there is a lack of understanding on the part of the team member, the PM has the responsibility and the authority to educate the member.
 After that meeting, the PM must track the progress of that team member to ensure that all issues have been resolved. If the underperforming team member continues to underperform, the PM must take the next step and meet with the member and his or her direct manager. In this meeting, the PM must bring documentation of the impact on the project and the other team members to the managers’ attention. This is a meeting the PM should request on record if the manager is aware of the situation, and if the manager has that report on other projects the PM is not aware of. If the manager has the member on more projects that was originally reported to the PM, then the PM must request that either the member be taken off the other projects or that a new member be allocated to the PM’s project.
If the manager does not make a decision in this case, the PM has no other option than to go to the sponsor, and possibly the Program Management Committee, and request removal of the underperforming team member.
If the manager does take the member off the other projects, then the PM must work with the member to ensure that the member now meets the required tasks and re-engages the project team. This may be difficult if the other team members do not want to have this member on the team. It is up to the PM to ensure that the other team members work with the member in question so as to move the project forward.
If the manager allocates a new member to the PM’s team, the PM must bring the new member up to speed. An additional meeting with the project team to introduce the new member and to allocate a “buddy” to the new member is the best solution.
Team Morale
During the process of dealing with the underperforming team member, it is crucial that the PM maintains the morale of the other team members. The PM must manage the team to meet their objectives and tasks to keep the project moving as best as possible. In all of this, the PM must keep the sponsor and the Program Management Committee informed to ensure there are no surprises. This is not easily done and will be an additional burden for the PM. The PM must keep the team focused on the project goals and may need the help of the sponsor and the Program Management Committee in doing so.
I am open to discussion at any time on these blogs or anything else related to project management you would like to explore. If you would like to comment about this blog, please do so by posting on this blog or by responding in an email at Benny A. Recine.You may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Right the first time?

In my career as an Information Technology (IT) Project Manager (PM), I have been fortunate to work and collaborate with exceptional individuals. One of them is Joseph (Joe) Puglisi, CIO of QDMH. He also authors a blog, A View from the Bridge, to which I have a link to on this blog site. Joe recently published an interesting piece titled, “An Ounce of Prevention.” In the column, Joe mentions an old adage that there is never enough time to it right, but there is always time to do it over and the correlation of that adage to the current state of IT where getting the job or project done is more important than getting it done right the first time. As a PM, I had mixed feelings about this statement. I agree with Joe that the current state of IT promotes getting “stuff” done, no matter what. I also believe that there are some C-Level executives (Joe being an exception) that want an implementation done quickly so as to put it on their list of accomplishments. Unfortunately, this is usually with little care of how the implementation is to be done and without regard to proper funding.

Getting the funding to do it right
Joe makes a great point that sometimes we in IT spend more time, and money, to patch or fix code that could have been done right the first time. Joe also mentions that the patch sometimes actually compounds the solution by not directly resolving the problem. That point really touches a nerve with me and I could not agree more. I am sure I can speak for many individuals in saying that, at times, we are our own worst enemy by not seeing the problem and solving it. However, this starts at the beginning in acquiring the correct amount of funding to do it right in the first place. As I have mentioned in previous articles, we in IT work for the business. So how do we get so messed up when it comes to scoping and funding a project?
It begins with proper scoping, but also explaining value
We all know this drill, don’t we? We must calculate the proper time, resources, and budget that will be required to provide the client (external or internal) what they need. This should be done with the requesting client with their specific request. What the PM or the estimating party must do is include what specifically is in scope. The PM must take that and correctly document what is in scope and what is out of scope. We all know that, but do we properly inform the client what will be the value of the final product? Do we explain that with this funding, what the project will produce with the implemented product or service? I suspect that sometimes (or more often than not) we do not explain what will be the value to the client. I submit that is where it is done right the first time. You see, when the client signs off on the scope, there can be no vagueness of the use of the product or service upon delivery at the end of the project.
Now, I will also state that sometimes (or more often than not), the client does not completely divulge everything that he/she needs. Be careful here, as I am not suggesting that the client may create scope creep. I am suggesting it is an incomplete scoping of the product or service. This can be corrected with a change request, but often this is looked upon as a failure of the PM. No, this is not anyone’s failure, but an incomplete scoping of the project that the client (as well as someone in the C-Suite) must take some responsibility for. Before the scoping of the project, it must be understood that anything not included in the scope that should be is considered out of scope unless the client initiates a change request. Once a change review board approves the change request, a project can be re-baselined with the new scope in it.
No blame creates gain
One of the things I have come to believe is that proper scoping along with proper estimation is absolutely critical in creating the proper project for an implementation. I also have come to believe that, if a project misses something in the scoping, the individuals did not fail in scoping the project. They have an opportunity to re-baseline the project with the addition of scope. A culture of laying blame creates a culture of project failure. If the PM and the project team feels that they can move the project along without fear of being blamed for additional scope, that only helps the project and the end user.
I am open to discussion at any time on these blogs or anything else related to project management you would like to explore. If you would like to comment about this blog, please do so by posting on this blog or by responding in an email at Benny A. Recine.You may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

An Interesting Article on PMOs

Recently, a colleague forwarded an article to me that appeared on Information Week. The article title was "Project Management Offices: A Waste of Money?" (November, 12, 2012). The author, Jonathan Feldman (of whom I corresponed with and spoken to) suggests
that establishing a Project/Program Management Office (PMO) carries with it great risks. Among those risks are increased IT costs, as well as a lack of significant improvement in processes. Jonathan was reporting on a study from the Hackett Group that looked at more than 200 organizations. Jonathan was kind enough to agree to a discussion and when we spoke about this, I stated that I agree with the study findings that if a PMO does not align itself with the strategic vision and values of the organization, it may very well fail its purpose.
 
Our discussion 

When we finally had a chance to speak at greater length, Jonathan mentioned several findings from the study that opened my eyes.

- The average lifespan of a PMO is under four years:
This is a shocking statistic, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. A PMO is not a silver bullet that delivers positive results just because an organization puts one in place. Similar to any strategic initiative, it must be well defined and thought out. If it is treated like a fad, then it will become a fad and fade out.
- My next question was "is Agile better suited for smaller organizations:"
Jonathan suggested, based on study findings, that this is a resounding NO. I will admit in full disclosure that I have not worked in a truly Agile PM environment. I will also admit that I was shocked that this study found that in some cases, implementing an Agile process produces better results than implementing a PMO. Jonathan stated that the reason why Agile may succeed where a PMO does not is because there is less overhead.
- Our next agreement was that some organizations plan to fail:
One of the things that Jonathan and I agreed on right away is that one reason Information Technology (IT) PMOs may fail is because in PM practices, there is planning and forecasting for a period of time that is unrealistic to plan and forecast properly. In other words, some PMOs engender lying because forecasting too long for a specific implementation may be unrealistic.

Business driven, nothing more, nothing less
Even though I have stated this before before, it is worth repeating. The PMO must be focused on strategic projects that are driven by the executive office: the C-Level Executive Suite, or as Jonathan put it, “the C-Suite.” In other words, projects must be business driven. That is why I am a proponent that a PMO should be an enterprise-driven group and could have projects that are not IT projects.  Whether their purpose is to improve the core business of the organization, or to enhance a product, or to improve a supporting process in a business, projects must be aligned with the strategy of the organization. In his article, Jonathan mentions that if a PMO is put in place and is only given lip service from the C-Suite, then the PMO is doomed for failure, as is anything that an organization implements without the correct support or resources.
                                                                A paradigm shift?

I hope that you understand that I still believe that a PMO that is properly implemented and supported by senior management can be successful. However, like any trend, it can be implemented for the wrong reasons, and have the wrong individuals running it. A properly supported and implemented PMO can drive an organization to excellence and have the organization speak as one voice to its clients. I am convinced that the PMO structure is a successful business strategy.
I am open to discussion at any time on these blogs or anything else related to project management you would like to explore. If you would like to comment about this blog, please do so by posting on this blog or by responding in an email at Benny A. Recine.You may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.