Tag Archives: Managers

Do You Manage the Leading or Lagging Factors?

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, asapm President, IPMA VP.

We have just returned from the outstanding-as-usual 2012 Resource Planning Summit, organized by the irrepressible Dick Rutledge, dean of the PM-related conference providers. Only a few others operate at the same level of excellence. One of the key differentiators of Rutledge’s events is his ruthless demands of his speakers for audience take-aways and truly new ideas, as opposed to retreads of tired themes. And this time, we experienced those demands first-hand, as we were a presenter–our first opportunity in the four events we have supported.

Our presentation, Tip of the Iceberg: Managing the Entire ‘berg Improves PM Performance, was developed for this audience of key managers and enterprise leaders. The presentation looked at project and program decision-making from the perspective of top Executives–the tip of the iceberg, as it were. And we identified key practices that Managers in the Middle follow when they add clear value for their executives, their project teams and their organizations.

We asserted, as we did in our 2005 article, Project Levers and Gauges, that the most-effective project and program managers don’t just provide lagging data, they also provide leading information. And, we have carried the theme further, pointing out that this leading information is a well-kept secret of the most effective managers of project managers.

But, let’s start with the background. Many are familiar with the old misconceptions of project management, illustrated by the Triple Constraint, the Iron or Golden Triangle, or some other name. It often includes Time, Cost and Scope. Sometimes Quality is there instead of Scope. Sometimes Performance is the third parameter, which might include Quality and Scope. So far, so good; but why do we call this a misconception in project management? Continue reading

Better Stakeholder View

Stakeholders Benefit From a PM’s Perspective

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, asapm President, IPMA VP.

Our recent series of IPMA (International Project Management Association) meetings and events in Asia was rich with the opportunity to meet great people, dialogue about the benefits of our chosen practice or profession, and with innumerable sudden insights. Not to mention a wealth of topics for this often-longer-and-deeper-than-normal blog.

In this case, the setting was an early Sunday morning flight over the Himalaya mountains of Nepal. Sponsored by PMAN, Project Management Association of Nepal (thank you again!), it was a beautiful morning, and on takeoff, we saw the city of Kathmandu waking up. Soaring to mountain heights, and rising above the clouds, we were able to track each of the peaks jutting above the clouds. Showing the benefit of a plan, we each had a map of the mountains we would see in our journey from North to South. 

The Stakeholder View
The first mountain we saw barely peeked through the clouds. The next several were progressively higher. From our window seat in the small plane, those on the left side of the plane had a decent view out of the tiny windows. Those on the right had a more obscured view. We all had other obstacles, such as the wing of the plane blocking a portion of the view.

Similarly, in many projects, our key Stakeholders don’t always have the same clear view of the project as does the team. The Stakeholders are often part-time participants. They don’t have time to read all the documents, and may miss important meetings, “because of pressing priorities.” They do not have the clear project vision they deserve.

One quick discovery made a difference in our blocked view. If we looked out-and-back, rather than out-and-ahead, the wing was not in the way. Of course, this was difficult, because it was clear that the route of the plane was taking us to ever-increasingly tall mountains, so in our eagerness, we were still often looking, even straining, to see what was coming. Continue reading

Exposing the Myth of “Doing More With Less”

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, asapm President

We first heard it in the early 00s–Executives and Managers saying, “We’ll just have to do more with less.” Well-intentioned at first, for some it soon became a mostly-poor alternative to managing effectively. While in specific situations the statement can be temporarily true, in most cases, we believe that those who proclaim and perpetuate the myth that this is an appropriate way to manage a workgroup, department or enterprise, are demonstrating their failure to manage.

What triggers this commentary is a recent workshop I performed for a customer I have worked with for over 22 years. I have seen them flex, grow, improve, and cut back, all in response to market conditions, the shape of their business, and their sense of coming business pressures. I did discuss the dangers of the “more with less” message with Executives and Managers 8 years ago, and with just a few exceptions, they have fortunately not fallen into that trap during this latest downturn. But in my recent sessions in this industry-leading business, I detected something sinister and terrifying.

While employees I encountered demonstrate strong loyalty to the organization, and show a sense of strong rapport up and down the chain of command, I detected individual contributors, project managers and managers alike who are overwhelmed and exhausted. People who have prided themselves on the quality and efficiency of their work in the past, are now deciding which essential project results will be eliminated or reduced; which project double-checks to push into post-project support; which internal customers to choose to fail to respond to. I have seen this death spiral before.

Jobless Recovery
I think many organizations are facing this dilemma, in part because of the uncertainty in the US, between politics, consumer spending, the high unemployment rate, the threat of possible hyperinflation, and the unknowns in the next set of policy decisions that will affect business. These concerns are the root cause of this Jobless Recovery, as businesses are afraid to add staff to meet current demands, so they continue to manage increasing business with existing, or remaining staff. And even when they are not using the tired “more with less” mantra, that is what it looks like to their employees. And, if you think this only affects project success, this affects the operations side even more than the projects side of the business.

How To Honestly Do More With Less Continue reading

Who Really Manages Your Projects?

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, asapm President

In many organizations today, competent and experienced Project Managers, Senior Project Managers and Program Managers (all referred to as PM or PMs in this article) have the responsibility and authority to deliver the organizational changes and benefits expected by Senior Managers, Executives, and internal and external customers. Those PMs are a credit to their organizations, those Managers and Executives are incredibly effective, and those organizations (Government and Enterprises) thrive as a result. We shall call this phenomenon Exhibit A.

The asapm Advanced PM certification program, based on IPMA’s* World-recognized offering, is perfect for those competent and performing practitioners. And our aPRO program, asapm Performance Rated Organization, is a perfect match for the Exhibit A organizations.

And then we have the other organizations, that we shall call Exhibit B. In the Exhibit B organizations, it is usually several layers of Managers, rather than the nominal Project Managers, who are directing Time, Cost, Scope and Talent, leaving the PM to be a mere controller; despite his or her best efforts. The result: Poor PM Performance, and Executive Managers who blame the practice of PM, rather than the misplaced authority.

Who Sets Time, Budget, Scope and Talent?
Some of those Exhibit B organizations depend more on team heroics than deft management; project managers are identified after timelines and budgets are set; scope is never quite “nailed down”, and promised talent never appears, while cherished talent disappears. Much to the chagrin of PMs, requests for some flexibility somewhere are met with the classic excuse “we just have to do more with less” which almost always results in delivering far less with less. Continue reading