Running On Ice

Summer isn’t warm enough for lots of ice but the metaphor struck me as so true in a project rescue I was discussing with an old client. Their new project manager joined to turnaround a project but seems to be making little progress.

With a little coaching, the client admitted that the project manager was being pushed to deliver fast but had no control over the things that were the causes of his predecessor’s struggles: poor portfolio management and resource churn.

When the team is constantly being churned, leaving, reassigned and re-forming, momentum is lost. Inductions and hand-overs take time that should be spent on the project. Rework become inevitable because the learning curves are being trodden every day. The lack of stability in a team means communications channels are restarted (or fail to include the right people) nearly every day. That is wasteful.

The portfolio management was broken. There was so much pressure to get projects out of pipeline and to “started” states that there were more projects in progress than the organisation had capacity to  deal with.  That meant the rare, highly skilled resources had more churn than anyone else. They were getting worn down.

Time for my client to face reality. They had to stop running on ice. We laughed at the metaphor but my client’s presentation may have a cartoon on the page were he delivers the  tough message to the senior team: be serious guys, either resource the teams for the projects we are doing or do less projects at once. In agile terms: minimise work in progress.

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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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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

Prioritising Projects : a project manager’s dilemma

In an ideal organisation, project managers have an understanding of the organisation’s project portfolio and don’t have to prioritize one project over another: it is very clearly led by senior management.

Some methods assume that project teams should only work on one project at once.

There is sometimes an unfortunate reality: the project manager has to make an interim decision on which to project to prioritize. Read more of this post

IT Project failure: can we blame the techies?

The business commentators have noticed: IT is not giving most businesses the benefits they claim IT should.   The projects themselves bring change that the businesses and their people aren’t handling properly.  IT projects lock wasteful practices into new systems. The dream and the promises have been broken.

It is so easy to throw stones at IT people. Read more of this post

Humbled by a Compliment

This isn’t a self-help channel, don’t switch off!  Skip to the fourth paragraph if you must.

Sometimes the most unexpected things happen to you and you revert to type: you become the person you are when you are not being the professional you.  At least that is true for most people: there are some wonderful expectations who “are all that they are” in or out of the office. They always seem to be so successful and over the last few years the business press has told readers to “become authentic”. Read more of this post

Planning Resources and Training for Communication

 So far in your notes you have:

  • who needs what information when,
  • how you get feedback and information from stakeholder,
  • the timing and format of the communication. 

Now we need to add that work to the project schedule and assign the right resources. Read more of this post

PRINCE2, PMBoK, Agile

A project manager is a project manager right?  Project managers should be able to manage any project.  Well, yes and no.

Do project managers need to be technical experts to manage technical projects? No. The technical content may have some impact and provided a technical expert is there to work with the project manager, all should be fine. Read more of this post

Project communication – Getting Started

Communication is an important part of a project but many projects don’t really have a plan for communication activity.  Often, it is expected that the project manager will “just deal with it”.  That approach works for many smaller projects but, as projects get larger, the effort of dealing with ad hoc communication actually causes interruptions that can cause real difficulties with overall project progress. Read more of this post

Blueprint for Success

A team at Warwick Business School has surveyed 500 above average trading performance businesses employing between 20 and 250 staff.

These business had these approaches in common:

  1. Striving for growth – seeking to increase sales
  2. Managing flexibly
  3. People planning – skill needs and focus on staff development
  4. Marketing – reach new customers with broadcast
  5. Research and development – technology, new ways of doing business
  6. Process changes – reducing costs, improving service quality

How does this apply to programme management, change management or project management?   We can use these to consider things we might need to plan to under pin the success of our projects. Read more of this post