Danger:too many projects!

It’s still February and rugby is still the preferred sport for a few more weeks. The big debate seems to be, simply, why doesn’t England win the Six Nations tournament more? England has a relatively big population, the biggest sports economy, the national rugby organisation with the biggest turnover, most players, more registered professional players, etc.  The press question if those resources are being wasted. The answer cannot be about numbers and statistical ratios but about what is done with those resources.

At the end of the game, the important thing is the result created by the 15 guys on the pitch. If they have good enough facilities, high quality coaches and plenty of practice, a player can leave the locker room at the start of the game with confidence of a good start and a potential win. If the 15 are focused on doing the small things right, take the opportunities that present themselves and play for each other as a team, then they could be running back to their lockers as winners. That is true no matter how big your resource pool is. If you have a squad of 50 instead of 22 (15 plus the 7 allowed substitutes) the dynamics of communication between players becomes problematic and building a coherent team is harder. If you have just enough players the team will  probably work well. If you have too few in the team, guys start to play more than one position and risk loosing focus on the important things.

So in reality, it does not matter how many players England have: it’s the quality of the team that is selected to play the big game and the support they get to win. For England, the number of players available may be a distraction because the selection process has to cope with more possibilities. The temptation will be to spend the same effort on all players for consistency of process (and fairness). But that robs people of the attention they need (if they need more than average) or wastes the coach’s time (if things can be done quickly.) The team’s key players need the best coaches. Those at the start of their career need coaches who can help them grow. Every player needs an appropriate time with the right coach to get them ready for the game they need to play.

Like every international team needs a selection process, every portfolio of projects needs a governance process. And like every player needs a coach, every project needs the right attention in the governance process. Each project team needs good preparation before the game begins. The processes around a project portfolio also need to increase the opportunities for success.  In really large portfolios, the time and energy to do this can seem inefficient but not doing it can be really costly. This is where some organisations start to go wrong: they have lots of projects and management start to feel there is too much time and cost devoted to the governance process – they want to spend the resources on the projects. The real measure should be about how well the governance process works: how many projects slip through and fail or how many real opportunities are missed? The right level of governance for each project must make sure that the right projects are run and the right resources are available for the best chance of success.

Quite simply, if you don’t have time and resources for an effective governance process, you have too many projects running in your portfolio. Time to consider either rescheduling the portfolio or looking at changing the resources applied to governance.

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Portfolio Ambition

It’s February and six weeks into the year I’ve listened to project portfolio managers wrestling with their organisations’ daydream-like expectations of the project portfolio. When the board signed off the portfolio with a list of change initiatives and project objectives in January, they had not made a proper evaluation of the resources available to complete the work or the risks involved.
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Risk Management – beyond the project

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Sarbanes Oxley Act and Risk Management

Sarbanes Oxley Act (SOX in the USA) gets blamed for all sorts of controls inflicted upon project. It has also been used by many business software providers as an excuse to sell their wares.  However, the cost of this additional requirement on an organisation must have some return on investment. Read more of this post

Building a relationship or giving a bribe?

The laws on bribery in the USA have been quite strong for around 10 years and have changed the way large global companies have viewed corporate gifts and “facilitation” fees. One company I worked with went as far as mandating that their strict anti-corruption policy on this would be posted in the main reception of all their buildings – something they did not do for any other policy. Read more of this post

PMO Confused?

Senior Managers seem to be confused: every consultant they talk to describes a different model for a PMO or PPSO (programme and project support office) from the last consultant they thought they understood. 

This is not new for larger organisations. The confusion for the PMO staff can be quite difficult and transition to new roles can be tough if you have staffed the PMO with completer/finisher admin or project managers in waiting. Read more of this post

Equality has value and a new law

90% of the new United Kingdom Equality Act became enforceable on 01 October 2010. This new act covers every aspect of equality and diversity and adds some more responsibility for employers and public bodies. It covers many aspects of life: service in shops, school opportunities, and equal pay for similar work. It applies to people gender, race, religion, sexuality, economic and family background. The underlying theme is that everyone must have the same chances to do what they can and some people may need extra help to get those same chances.

In a project where the team have very similar backgrounds “group think” can be a destructive force: risks are missed, assumptions are not challenged and decisions are not suitably scrutinised. Diversity is useful to mitigate these. Read more of this post

Scaleablity: strength or weakness?

One of my current projects is the consolidation of a diverse collections of legacy “systems” into one end-to-end integrated business system. Why are we doing it? Efficiency.  The organisation can streamline its operations and free staff to concentrate on the higher value work they never get to do at the moment (because they are doing things to join up the current systems manually.)  Scalability will be a strength for this system. Read more of this post

Discussions about Project Management

 I have seen 3 post and had 2 discussion this week (it is only Tuesday!) that suggested we should be more consistent about project management and not confuse people.  Agile method followers insist waterfall is dead and should be buried. Others say Agile is about product development and not project management and should get out!  There is a drive for consistency and conformance: “all businesses need to be run by project management”, “we need one method”

These are frustrating conversations and damaging to business and the project management profession.  They are also naïve. Read more of this post

Planning Communication for Governance

The first part of the planning should be about responsibilities and governance.  If this is decided early, then the decision-making process is easier when the project is under pressure.  Read more of this post