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Applying Leverage Points for Greater Project Success


Project, program and portfolio management are people intensive activities, subject to personalities, differing agendas, and misunderstandings. Successful managers are those who, while not immune from these challenges, correctly assess and determine how to navigate political minefields. Personal case studies, along with examples from other people and industries, provide a proven means, first to accept that these challenges will arise, and second to work through them and achieve desired outcomes.

balance_bar_tipped_400_clr_6313Leverage points are activities within a complex system where a small shift in one thing can produce big changes in everything. This idea is embedded in legend: the silver bullet, the trim tab, the miracle cure, the secret passage, the magic password, the single hero who turns the tide of history, the nearly effortless way to cut through or leap over huge obstacles. We want to know where they are and how to get our hands on them. Leverage points are points of power.

An example in the physical world:  trim tabs are small surfaces connected to the trailing edge of a larger control surface on a boat or aircraft, used to control the trim of the controls—to counteract hydro- or aerodynamic forces and stabilize the boat or aircraft in a particular desired attitude without the need for the operator to constantly apply a control force. This is done by adjusting the angle of the tab relative to the larger surface. This reduces the work of the engine by reducing the amount of manual control necessary, as well as providing for greater efficiency by keeping the ship in the ideal orientation for the conditions.

What is the equivalent trim tab [leverage points] in the world of people and relationships? L2M2:  Leadership, Learning, Means, and Motivation. Examples where these “forces” apply include:

  • Speaking truth to power
  • Getting past resistance to achieve results
  • Working through a difficult encounter
  • Applying controlled anger
  • Negotiating with reluctant stakeholders
  • “Selling” and implementing a new process

The simple model of key leverage points—L2M2—may perhaps be sufficient as a recipe for greater project success. All four factors are necessary for this recipe to succeed:

Leadership is a well-articulated communication from the organization of what kind of new behavior is required and why it is required, along with a road map of the change that will take place over time.

Learning is the process of supplying the knowledge and skill necessary for individuals to carry out new behaviors. It includes learning support from the PMBOK, project leadership, and business skills, etc..

Means are all the resources necessary to carry out the behaviors, including tools, organizational policies and structures, and time.

Motivation is the formal and informal system of incentives and consequences that reinforce new behaviors. These are differentiated by role so that the required role-based behaviors are supported in all parts of the organization.

Behavior begins to change when all four factors work in concert. Without Leadership, people will not know how to apply their new knowledge and skill in concert with business strategic and tactical objectives. Without Learning, people may know what they are supposed to do from Leadership, but not know how to do it. Without Means, people may know what to do and how to do it, but not have the tools and resources to carry it out. Without Motivation, people may know what leaders want, and how to do it, and have the resources to carry it out, but simply not bother to do it.

Challenges present themselves on every project and program. An attitude of acceptance is required to get past initial paralysis and/or frustration, then to assess, design, and apply an action plan. Base actions on leverage from L2M2.  Foremost, a belief in ability to prevail is required. An individual’s positive attitude that today is a good day and tomorrow will be even better provides the means to embrace and implement leverage points.

It is important to focus on people, relationships, values, and skills. Modify an approach depending on the situation, always knowing there are patterns in how nature and people respond. Tap leverage points in those patterns as a means towards greater project success. Changing a mindset to embrace change or a new approach may perhaps be the simplest and most powerful leverage point for an individual to implement. Apply a key phrase:  “I can think differently about this.”

Examples and a paper on this topic are available from the PMI Global Congress North America 2014.

Randall L. Englund, Englund Project Management Consultancy, www.englundpmc.com

Posted in: Guest Blogs, Leadership, Project Management

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Surviving in a Matrix: Simple Techniques for Effective Project Management in a Matrix Organization


You love projects.  You love good project management.  And you love the exhilaration of power teams and project success.  BUT you are struck in a matrix?  Not the matrix of the movie.  But the matrix of a strong line organization where projects have all but a miserable existence.  The line organization is dominating, politics is prevalent, people care more about securing their own posts, maintaining the status quo and thus focus on their daily tasks, not willing to look outside their box or even beyond their own desk.  Projects?!  Gee, hell no!  Those are activities where you have to work with people from other departments, maybe even in cross-functional teams.  But, what do those folks know about my area of expertise.  Nothing!  Hence, it is better to keep things as they are.

Does this sound familiar? Or, have you ever experienced or heard of such an organization and setting? – If so, continue reading.

Surviving in a Matrix: Simple Techniques for Effective Project Management in a Matrix Organization from Thomas Juli

On Thursday, 2 October 2014 from 11:30 AM – 1 PM EST I gave a free webinar for the IT Metrics and Productivity Institute.  The webinar is entitled “Surviving in a Matrix: Simple Techniques for Effective Project Management in a Matrix Organization”.  In this webinar I introduce a simple, yet very pragmatic approach to structure, plan and set-up a project in a matrix organization with strong line management and a weak project culture. I explain the need and value for developing a compelling project motivation, vision and objectives. I outline how to engage stakeholders in building a work package structure, outlining a project organization, implementing an early warning system for plan deviations, establishing risk analysis and management. Last but not least, I elaborate on how to cultivate continuous learning in a matrix organization.
Don’t stay stuck in your matrix.  Learn how to survive in your matrix, introduce effective project management techniques and become a master of your own project success.

Posted in: Empowerment, Leadership, Project Management, Project success

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The MVP Model for Project Success


I believe that for projects to excel and evolve into WOW projects it is not sufficient to focus on project objectives and even less so on requirements.  One of the reasons is that they are subject to change.  If involved project members and stakeholders believe them to constitute the foundation for the project, such changes ought to lead to terminate the project, unless they don’t really know what they want to do or strive for.

WOW Projects
WOW Projects are projects that add value, projects that matter, projects that make a difference, projects that leave a legacy. And those are projects that bring happiness into our daily lives – on the individual. team and customer levels.

Successful WOW projects are characterized by a strong, commonly understood and supported motivation and vision by all involved parties.

  • The motivation describes why the project starts in the first place.  This could be a problem that needs to be resolved or an idea worth exploring.
  • The vision delineates the ideal state in contrast to, for example, the problem that triggered the project.

Both motivation and vision are long-lasting, they are not necessarily time bound.  Unlike projects which are time-boxed, having a start and finish date.  Corollary, motivation and vision set the overall direction of a movement of which a project is a stepping stone.  In other words, motivation and vision may serve as a compass during the complete project life cycle.  Project objectives and requirements may change, the motivation and vision don’t.  If they did, a project lacks the necessary foundation of existence; if continued it may become a zombie project but that’s pretty much it.

In short,  for projects to excel and evolve into WOW projects you need the full understanding and support of your MVP – motivation, vision and project goals – by all project team members and stakeholders.

Sparks for WOW projects

Developing an MVP for a project is the first prerequisite for developing successful WOW projects.  It doesn’t stop there.  Project work is teamwork.  Hence, it is equally important to develop MVP’s for both the team and the individuals.

MVP Model and WOWRegarding the latter, individuals, project leadership ought to provide the space for individual team members to identify and share their personal MVP’s, i.e., what motivates them to work on the project, what they envision and what concrete goals they may have.  Sharing personal MVP’s may be strange for some people.  But then, if you are seriously interested in developing and sustaining a successful WOW project wouldn’t you want your teammates to know what drives you, what you expect, what you want to contribute and vice versa?!  Sharing personal MVP’s helps move a group of individuals closer together and thus contribute to team building.

Finally, aligning all three MVP dimensions – project, individual and team – is where magic can happen; it is the spark for WOW projects.  It takes teamwork to the next level.  It is like three separate entities moving into the same direction at an accelerated pace, not because of external pressure but intrinsic motivation.  The outcomes are greater happiness, productivity, quality and, last but not least, results.

Build your MVP’s for project success

Even the longest journey starts with the first step.  On this token, I encourage you and your team to have a closer look at your own project(s).  Please let me know if you’d like me to help you build WOW projects through customized workshops and trainings.  Workshops can be as short as 2 hours or several days depending on your needs.  Or, if you like, I can accompany your journey over a period of several weeks through coaching and consulting.

Posted in: Institute, Leadership, Tools, Uncategorized

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Let Happiness Turn Your Project Around



Ever wondered what could turn around your struggling project, or shape a project that it tells a story and convinces others just be hearing about the project?  Well, there could be a simple remedy.  And that is to link happiness to your project.  – Ok, let’s start slow.

This week I conducted a seminar on project leadership.  In one of the central exercises smaller groups worked on fictitious projects.  Seminar attendants could pick whatever topic, issue or question they cared about.  One group chose to ponder how to improve time management for students obtaining a graduate degree while having to work full-time and nourishing a family.  Another group analyzed ways and means to improve a business partnership with suppliers.  And yet another decided to talk about the need of drones for the German military.  At the end of each exercise session teams presented their results.  They shared their views what motivated them to work on their particular project, what they envisioned and what specific goals they were pursuing.  Not too surprisingly the project with the military drone got rather passive looks and no real feedback when they presented their project.  This changed when I asked the teams to address a simple question with respect to their project.  “How does your project contribute to happiness?”  That’s it; just this simple question.

HappinessI was curious what the teams would come up with.  Especially the drone project.  After all, linking a military weapon, defensive as it may be intentioned, with happiness?!  That would be a tough sell.  Well, things did not quite work out as assumed.  When it was their turn everybody expected them to talk about the various functionalities of a military drone, its specifications and how to use it in combat.  But instead the group talked about peace enforcement, conflict prevention and support for human rights.  And they talked about it in an appealing way that reached people and caused their emotional reaction.  All of a sudden, nobody was thinking of the weapon any more but how to help achieve world peace.  What happened?  Addressing the question “How does your project contribute to happiness?” project members checked for their inner motivation – not warefare but peace and stability – and they shared it openly and honestly.  This touched people, they could relate to the team’s motivation, even identify with it.  Instead of being doubtful and deprecating, not only did they appreciated the project presentation but even asked how they could help the team.

A project which moments earlier was dull, cold and tiring became lively, meaningful and attractive.  A simple question “How does your project contribute to happiness?” triggered the change of the nature of the project, its momentum and the attitude of team members and observers.  So, next time you face a troubling project, ask the team this question, “how does your project contribute to happiness?, and see what happens.

 

Posted in: Happiness, Leadership, Project failure, Project Management

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A wide-angle lense for your project efforts


gripWhile some of my peers are still thriving for planning tools and methodologies to strengthen their grip on projects, others offer ten keys to a happier living and pursuing a great dream. It’s the summary of this month’s PMI Netherlands Chapter’s 3rd Summit on the thin line between project success and project failure. Discrete task management as a 20th Century invention, cultivated from the times of Frederick Winslow Taylor‘s book The Principles of Scientific Management to David Allen‘s Getting Things Done. Resemblance with the classic Divide & Rule strategy elements is surprising:

  • creating or encouraging divisions among the subjects to prevent alliances that could challenge the sovereign
  • aiding and promoting those who are willing to cooperate with the sovereign
  • fostering distrust and enmity between local rulers
  • encouraging meaningless expenditures that reduce the capability for political and military spending

Proven project success factors however are e.g. trust, collaboration, communication, and contribution to a greater cause. Research led Daniel Pink to rethink Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (I bet you know this pyramid) and come up with 21st Century drivers for our professional and personal motivation:

  1. Autonomy – the desire to direct our own lives.
  2. Mastery — the urge to get better and better at something that matters.
  3. Purpose — the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.

sagrada familiaConnecting dots, zooming out of discrete tasks to larger structures up to the organization, value chain or customer journey shows a wide-angled view:

  • Working on brick by boring brick appears to the final stage of the Sagrada Família in Barcelona.
  • A piece of Java code skips a mouse click in an application form, raising chances a customer will continue buying an insurance policy.
  • Implementing legislation in processes, systems and information products avoids penalties and saves cash for investments.
  • A proper configuration of a server keeps hackers out and the business focused on their core business.

A monthly review of your risk log or skipping the benefits section in a mandatory business case for a ‘compliance project’ will get a different meaning, once you understand the effects of your efforts. Costs turn into values. System integration enables business sustainability. Daily routines like a stand-up or check-in become an index of project health or happiness of team members. What drives you home? And back to work tomorrow?

Posted in: Guest Blogs, Leadership, Project Management, Project success

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Top Secrets of a Project Leader to Build a Strong Performing Team


The leadership role is one of the most coveted ones, but also the most challenging one. In the words of Peter Drucker, the father of modern management techniques, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things“. Businesses have evolved over the years and job roles have changed over time, but what remains crucial to success is the presence of an effective leader who has the capability to build a strong team.

Leadership Struggel

While in many cases there are instances of born leaders who have led from a very young age, a large number of leaders are born out of tough situations that push them to perform better than others and thus lead the team. If you have the talent and the desire to excel and be in a  project leadership role, the best way to go about it is to follow your intuitive project leadership skills and have a deep understanding of the fellow members of your team. When handling a particular project, a project leader can hardly move even a step ahead without support from his team. As we delve deeper into what makes a project manager click and become successful, here are a few insights that can help you with the process.

Lead by example

You might have heard this multiple times and eventually learned to ignore it. However, this is one piece of advice that can fetch you many followers in the form of team members who make up a strong-functioning team. As soon as an employee is hired, he or she looks around for a mentor and some inspiration. To be able to create an effective team, it is important to provide positive inspiration that your team members can follow. If you want your team to be in office early, you would have to do the same. If you want a degree of discipline about work deadlines, you would have to submit your work at the earliest opportunity.

It may be tough to always play the role model, but it can also be rewarding in the end when you know you have a strong team that can take on more critical projects in the future. This also ensures that you are training every individual to be a project leader who can carry the mantleon their own once you have moved on to a higher role than project manager.

Be the comrade

Often leading a team or project is equated with being on a higher platform than the rest, and this leads to aloofness from the team and labels a leader as unapproachable. This hinders progress as your team members are not able to confide in you about their problems, be it about their project-related issues or even about their personal lives. Being a friend helps. It helps to know what’s blocking your team members’ progress and stopping them from providing quality work.

Each hire involves a lot of time and money for the organization as well as the team. As a leader, if you are able to be a friend and comrade who can nurture and grow individuals instead of letting them go, it will help in building a strong and tenacious team filled with experience and resilience.

Listen and give recognition

In the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, author Stephen R. Covey says, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”This attitude can be very harmful for the role of a leader. When your team members are trying to articulate something in times of a crisis, they should be able to do it without fear of being ostracized from the team or being labeled as over the top. Sharing ideas or apprehensions about a project, without fear, often provides new insight and solutions to existing problems. Contributing to the team and being recognized for it gives a team member a sense of accomplishment. Listening to even the smallest of ideas and promoting experimental processes can excite a team and encourage them to work harder.

Be the pillar

Being a leader calls for being the strong pillar of confidence. Being a straight shooter and asking direct questions can clear up the air and project you as being fair under all conditions. These actions require a lot of confidence and can in turn make you an immediate favorite among your team members. It assures team members that you can take charge of things and will be there to back them up whenever required. The true leader always backs up his or her team even in dire circumstances and always makes them feel safe. Ultimately, this feeling is what helps build loyalty among team members and their team lead.

So, which project leadership skills are you going to inherit? Do you have any other qualities to highlight? Share your thoughts with us.

Posted in: Guest Blogs, Leadership, Project Management

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A Happy, Happy Conference – PMI NL Summit 2014


I have just returned from a fabulous conference:  the PMI Netherlands Summit 2014 in beautiful Zeist, NL.

It was an honor and great pleasure to open the conference with my own keynote on “Leadership, Happiness and Project Success“.  In my presentation I explained why and how leadership and happiness are the key ingredients to project success.

A lot has been said and written about leadership and how it affects project success.  But ‘happiness’?!  Well, not so much.  This is sad I think for ‘happiness’ brings in the human factor into the equation.  It’s ok to satisfy the customer.  But is it sufficient?  I don’t think so.  If you and your team aim for a happy team and a happy customer it can take your project to a higher level.

Scientific research has shown that our brains work better when they are ‘happy’.  And when our brains are at ‘happy’ that positivity will ripple out to others and can raise productivity.  Hence, whenever you aim to promote happiness in your project you can likely improve performance and productivity.  Not bad, isn’t it?!

So, what is ‘happiness’?  How do you define it?  

Well, not so fast.  I am not sure if you can or actually want to come up with a formal definition of ‘happiness’.  It is personal, subjective in nature.  And yet, (most) people will agree that ‘happiness’ is great and worthwhile striving for.  The 3 P’s – pleasure, purpose, passion – give us a hint what ‘happiness’ entails.  In the context of a project I think that the purpose and passion characteristics of happiness a central.  In other words, you and your team have to have a common understanding of the motivation and vision of the project.  They need to know, support and share it.  Not by force but because they want to – on the project, individual and team levels.

Have a look at my presentation to learn more about it.

Happiness is a choice

At the conclusion of my keynote I invited the audience to take action to create a happier life.  For this purpose I handed out GREAT DREAM postcards.  It lists 10 key to happier living based on a review of the latest scientific research relating to happiness.

Everyone’s path to happiness is different, but the research suggests these Ten Keys consistently tend to have a positive impact on people’s overall happiness and well-being. The first five (GREAT) relate to how we interact with the outside world in our daily activities. The second five (DREAM) come more from inside us and depend on our attitude to life.

GREAT DREAMS postcard image

I want to thank the Action for Happiness movement for providing these postcards at no charge.

Take the Action for Happiness pledge

Giving a keynote on ‘happiness’ is a great experience. It gave me the chance not only to talk about happiness to a large audience but actually make people happy.  What a wonderful and fulfilling opportunity!

Learning more about happiness and how it can help us grow successful projects is one thing.  Applying the principles in our daily lives is another and more powerful thing.  Hence, I am asking you, the reader, to visit the Action for Happiness website, take the Action for Happiness pledge and start living a happier life.

Action for Happiness Pledge
“I will try to create more happiness and less unhappiness in the world around me”

 

Posted in: Centeredness, Happiness, Keynotes, Leadership, Project success

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Do It With Passion and Succeed


I believe that one of the key factors for happiness at work, and this includes projects, is PASSION. Passion comes from feeling like you are a part of something that you believe in, something bigger than yourself.

Passion in a groupThis meaning by itself is still fluffy if you expect a formal definition of the term.  Alas, I am not sure whether or not it is a) possible or b) desirable to offer a formal definition.  Passion is, just as ‘happiness’, very personal and subjective in its meaning and its implications. Hence, I like to stay it with the attempt of the offered description of passion, i.e., passion comes from feeling like you are a part of something that you believe in, something bigger than yourself.

Careful! Passion is contagious and the gate to being and expressing yourself

And yet as ‘passion’ is subjective as it may be it is not limited in its scope.  Passion can be contagious.  Look at a group of people who are passionate about their activities, may it be music, sports or work.  When you observe them not only can you see the smiles in their face, you can literately feel and sense their passion, their excitement and energy.  These people share something in common, something that moves them, something that excites them.  And they love every minute of it.  What would you do as an observer or bystander?

I can speak for myself: most likely, watching a passionate group of people would make me smile for I like it when I see people who are happy. And I may even admire them for having found their passion and expressing it.   It is cool and it is worthwhile striving for.  It may remind me of my own passion.  Or it may remind me that I yet have to identify my passion in a specific area and express it.  Fact is that expressing your own passion releases energy and it comes back to you multifold in a very positive way.  It is a ‘flow’ state where time seizes to exist and you enter a state of ‘being’.

Achieving a ‘flow’ stateIMG_1958

Achieving a flow state is a wonderful experience.  It is fun, exhilarating, exciting, stress-relieving, enjoyful, dramatic and pure.  It is multi-dimensional in the sense that it can come from your work or project, from your own personal self or from and with your team, or – even better for a project or work setting – from all of these levels, i.e, individual, group and project levels.  This is what happens in WOW projects.  WOW projects are projects that add value, projects that matter, projects that make a difference, projects that leave a legacy.  And those are projects that bring happiness into our daily work life.  Both on the individual and team level.

Passion is a key ingredient to this WOW experience.  So, go out, find your passion and do it with passion.

Learn more

Learn more about how to find your passion and use it in your projects at work.  For example, have a look at my seminar “Finding the Spirit of WOW Projects“.

I will be giving a keynote address on ‘Leadership, Happiness and Project Success’ at this year’s PMI Netherlands Summit on Thursday 12 June 2014.

Posted in: Happiness, Uncategorized, Upcoming Events, WOW projects

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Select for success – with happiness


In April I will be a speaker at this year’s Project Zone Congress in Frankfurt, Germany.  Listen to what I shared in an interview with Stamford Global.  The whole interview is available at http://projectzonecongress.com/news-articles/select-success-interview-thomas-juli

http://www.stamfordglobal.com/userfiles/PZC2014/Badges/stamford_badges_05-02.pngSelect for success – interview with Thomas Juli

Submitted by Helina.Pukk on Fri, 2014-01-24 15:59

Thomas Juli is an experienced professional on leadership in project and program management, consulting and training, as well as in teaching. He previously worked for SAP, Sapient and Cambridge, but has now committed to helping others improve their leadership skills through which to experience more project success. He is a welcomed quest at conferences and his book has gained lots of followers. We recently talked to Thomas about what is needed for project success and what happiness has got to do with it.

Excerpts:

Thomas Juli: First of all, whenever I say this title people say ‘Well what do you mean by happiness and how does this fit in?’ and I explain ‘You know, there is an equation for project success and that is: LEADERSHIP + HAPPINESS = PROJECT SUCCESS’. And people look at me asking What do you mean? –Because happiness can be a result of project success’ and I say ‘No. It’s the other way around.’ For example, people say ‘I want to be promoted to the head of PMO and then I will be happy’, and then they achieve this stage. Are they happier? No, because life continues. Happiness is not linked with a career move or to anything. But if you’re happy internally and the team is happy, you can really create a lot of things because team synergy is “Team Magic”, what I call it.

Listen to the podcast here or download the whitepaper of the complete interview.

http://www.project-roadmap.com/project-portal/attachments/download/971

 

Posted in: Empowerment, Happiness, Institute, Leadership, WOW projects

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Search for Happiness as a Prerequisite for Project and Business Success


Happiness is a key ingredient for project and business success. Happiness, of course, is very subjective.  On the other side there are three elements that are recurring when asking people about their understanding of happiness.  These three elements are:

(1) pleasure

(2) purpose

(3) passion

While pleasure seems obvious to most people, purpose and passion go deeper.  They imply that in order to find happiness you have to know what your driver – your purpose – is.  Seems simple?  Yes, it is, or it ought to be.  Unfortunately, a lot of people fall prone to their own hectic lifestyle and calendars, pressure from society and business.  As a consequence they move further and further away from knowing their purpose.  They are becoming hamster running in a wheel, spinning faster and faster.  No wonder it is more likely that you get a response to the question “What makes you unhappy?” rather than the question “What makes you happy?”

Interestingly when you ask a child the question “what makes you happy?” you are more likely to receive a response.  How come?! I believe it is because children have less fallen victims to external pressure (even though they too can have quite a weekly schedule with sports clubs, music lessons, etc.).  They live in the moment, can – or shall we say, are allowed to – be passionate about their activities.

[Image credit: premasagar]

[Image credit: premasagar]

Hence, today, let’s stop for a moment and ask ourselves what deep inside motivates us, what we are passionate about.  Let’s listen within and find the spark of happiness which makes our lives so much easier and at the same time moves us closer to happiness and success.

Posted in: Happiness

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