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Project vs. Product Management

There are important differences between project and product management as well as commonalities.

The project manager:
The project manager is responsible for managing the assigned project in time and in budget.  Whether or not the project manager is eventually accountable for the deliverables depends on the project organization and governance the project is set up in.
The project cycle usually ends with acceptance and sign off of the deliverables as well as the formal project closure sign-off.

The product manager:
First of all a product manager is accountable for the respective product for the comlete product life cycle.  This cycle usually outlasts a typical project life cycle.  For example, a project life cycle may end with the delivery of a finished product whereas the product life cylce lasts until the “exit” of the respective product from the market place.

Project vs. product manager
In case of a product development project, both the project and product manager need to work together.  Whereas the project manager is primarily responsible for the implementation of the product, the product manager is accountable and responsible for defining the product requirements, development, marketing and possibly sales and distribution of the product.  In this sense the product manager’s responsibilities go beyond those of the project manager.  After all, a product life cycle usually lasts longer than that of a project life cycle.
The question may arise to which extend a product manager needs to get involved in project manager.  It depends on the quality of project management.  At the end of the day it is the product manager who is accountable for the success of the product.  Hence, he/she must have more than a sincere interest that the project of the product development is running smoothly and delivers the desired results.  This implies that a good product manager should at least be knowledgeable of basic project management principles.  Ideally, a product manager has a solid project management understanding.  There may be cases where he/she has to make decisions escalated to him/her.  In this case, it is important to be able to read the complete project environment to come to a just conclusion.  In other cases, the product manager may be asked to coach or monitor the project manager.  In any case, it pays off for the product manager to know as much as possible about project manager based on own experience.
On the other hand, the project manager should have at least a basic understanding of the needs, expectations and processes of product management.  Often product management is the client of project management and its team.  Consequently, the project manager should treat product management as its client.

Buttom line, both the project and product manager need to work together in a team for the time of the project.  Roles and resonsibilities need to be clearly defined.  They must not interfere into each other’s realm of influence.  Instead, they should both strive for synergy effects and win-win outcomes.

On this token, please have a look at our white paper on requirements which can be downloaded from our website.

Posted in: Leadership, Project Management

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Effective Leadership: 3+1=4 It is

In a previous post I was contemplating about whether DELIVERY becomes a part of my definition of effective leadership.  It does as it has to.  For, how can you be an effective leader without delivering results?!  You can’t.  At the end of the day you have to deliver.

Hence, delivering results is both a prerequisite and an outcome of effective leadership.  The effective leader ensures delivery while incorporating the first 3 key characteristics of leadership:  defining vision, nurturing collaboration, promoting learning.

All four rules are important and critical for an effective leader to follow.  However, if I have to choose the most important element in effective leadership it is the first one:  Defining vision.  Without this element, no person can acclaim to be an effective leader.  A vision gives a direction, though not necessarily directives.  It paves the way to success, to delivery.  Alas, an effective leader is nothing without a functioning team.  This is why nurturing collaboration is so important.  Team building is both an art and a necessity without which no project leader can succeed.  Last but not least, we live in a complex and ever changing world.  We need to reflect our actions, learn from our mistakes and move to the next level.  An effective leader ensures and helps build an honest, sincere and productive learning environment.  This is an environment where it is ok to make mistakes – as long as we learn from them (“Never make a mistake more than twice, though.”).  Making mistakes must not be punished or used against the person who committed it.  If we are on a project the complete team should learn from individual and team mistakes.  This is what it can make the stream strong, help yield synergy effects.

What about constellations which are not “projects”?  The same rules apply to any organization there is.  And why should it be any different!?  An organization without a vision, without set goals, direction dies.  It loses the legitimacy to exist and will cease, sooner or later.  Entropy at its best, so to say.  For an organization to prosper and mature it needs to guarantee effective collaboration.  Learning is equally important.  Stagnation in today’s business world and economy leads to loss and failure.  Those companies which manage to re-invent themselves, develop new ideas, nuture and embrace innovation will survice and succeed.  That is, if and only if, they also manage to deliver the right results which bring us back to the first element of effective leadership:  vision.  The results have to be in sync, have to be in line with the vision.  If this is not the case the organization is inherently incoherent and lacks direction.

This brings me to the conclusion that if we illustrated the first 3 elements of effective leadership as a triangle with Vision at the top, Collaboration in the middle and learning at the buttom, the fourth element of delivery would be the circle around this triangle which makes it whole.  This is true, coherent and whole effective leadership.

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PMI Global Congress – Reflections, Part I

Wow, what a conference!  I cannot remember any conference or professional meeting I ever attended where there was such a wealth of knowledge, interesting people, inspiring ideas.  It will take a time to digest all the information.  All I can say is that I highly recommend this conference to anyone seriously interested in project management – and leadership.

The sessions I attended dealt with project leadership (vs. simple project management), complexity of projects, PMOs, communication to and for executives. In a nutshell?

  • The insights about how to set up and manage PMOs were not new but re-assuring.
  • Project leadership becomes ever more important in a complex world.
  • Effective project leaders manage executives to act for the success of a project.

Now, there is much more to it.  Of course, there is.  And I will write more about it in the days and weeks to come.  So stay tuned.

Posted in: Leadership, PMI Congress Denver 10'08, Project Management

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Effective Leadership = 3+1

Yesterday I met Robert Urwiler, CIO of Vail Resorts.  We also talked about my definition of effective leadership.  Robert pointed out that he would add a fourth dimension:  DELIVERY.

This is true and has been a missing piece.  Thank you, Robert, for pointing this out!

Whether it is a fourth pillar or a foundation of the first three pillars, mmh … let me know what you think!

Posted in: Leadership, PMI Congress Denver 10'08

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Leadership in a complex world

Today I have (re-)learned a lesson of complexity theory with respect to vision, the critical success factor of any effective leader according to my belief and experiences:

(1) “A vision without a system is as bad as a system without a vision.”
(2) “Simple rules can support a complex system.  Build a “good enough” vision.”

What does this imply for effective leadership?  The 3 principles (build vision, nurture collaboration, promote learning) still hold true.  With respect to the first element, building vision, an effective leader is skilled to build this “good enough” vision.  Note though that defining “simple” rules can be much harder than setting up a complex system of rules and regulations.  A good vision provides guidance, it is as strong as it is simple, i.e., simple to understand and simple to follow.

Thanks to Tom Johns, PhD, PE, PMP, MAPM, the founder and chairman of Business Management Consultants (www.bmc-online.com) for pointing out these valuable insights of complexity theory.
I am looking forward to attend his session “The Art of Project Management Complexity” at the upcoming PMI Global Congress in Denver.

Posted in: Leadership, PMI Congress Denver 10'08, Sociocybernetics

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Executing effective leadership

Responding to a comment on the 3 pillars of effective leadership and how to execute them I have written the following lines (see page and comments on the page “Leadership”):

This depends on the environment and the role and responsibility of the “leader”. If we are talking about a project manager the following elements are important.

(1) Building vision:

  • Vision document: Every project starts with a vision. Hence, the first step of any project is to ensure a common understanding of the project objectives. The results are documented in a “Vision Document”; the purpose of which is a) to describe the project objectives and b) to collect, analyze, and define high-level features of the solution. It focuses on key features of the solution which come from the top needs of the stakeholders and users. These will form the basis for the more detailed technical and contractual requirements detailed in a later step of the requirements management process.
  • Stakeholder interviews: In order to crete a vision document the project manager needs to meet and talk with all key stakeholders, understand their needs and expectations. Insights need to be documented.
  • Project objective workshop: Unless the project objectives are crystal clear and mutually understood and supported, conduct a project objective definition workshop. An example of a similar workshop is decribed in one of my articles (http://www.thomasjuli.com/Realigning_Project_Objectives_by_Thomas_Juli,Ph.D._v1.0.pdf) .
  • Team norming: A project leader is nothing without his / her team. A team norming addresses the project objectives, time frame, roles and responsibilities as well as expectations. It is recommended that the team norming is facilitated by a third person.

(2) Nurturing collaboration:

  • Conduct a team norming: Don’t start a project without one or you will fail. Develop a communication and escalation governance structure.
  • Team dynamics: Meet with your team daily. Identify issues AND risks, promote resolution finding on the team and individual levels.
  • Delegation: Only ineffective leaders try to do everything by themselves. Trust and empower your team.
  • Team dynamics: Every team goes through the famous four phases of team development (forming, storming, norming, performing). There is NO exception. Notice when you have entered the storming phase, because then it is time to revisit the results of the initial team norming and make modificiations where necessary.
  • Team events: Have fun! The absolute minimum should be team dinners once in awhile. Do something together where you don’t talk about work. Learn more about each other.

(3) Promoting learning:

  • Feedback: Create an open environment for constructive feedback. In my own projects I conduct feedback sessions on a weekly basis (what worked well last week, what do we need to do better).
  • Mistakes: Nobody is perfect. It is okay to make mistakes as long as we learn from them. A good leader first seeks to understand why a mistake was made; the root cause needs to be understood. Then he/she may make suggestions how to avoid the mistake in the future.
  • Innovation: I stated that an effective leader or organization should reserve a minimum of 10% of work for learning, creativity, and innovation. This holds true in a project setting, too. Build it in your project schedule. It will pay off. Note though that this is not a time buffer. Instead, these 10% are for feedback sessions, normings, team events, reviews, etc. Also, don’t forget to account for training and vacation.

The list is by far not complete, but it is a start. Feedback is highly welcome and requested.

Posted in: Leadership, Project Management

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Why is building vision most important in effective leadership?”

There cannot be effective collaboration or learning environment without vision. Defining vision sets the foundation for all subsequent activities. Vision entails the setting of a direction, may it be on a high level such as for a corporation or on a lower level such as a project.

There can be collaboration without a clear division, but for what purpose? It cannot be effective for it does not follow objectives. Effective means that work achieves the desired outcome. Without a clearly defined vision, there is no clearly defined outcome. Hence, it would be wrong to speak of effective collaboration without vision.

For a project environment this implies that the first and foremost activity of any project has to be clarifying the vision and objectives of the project. Project objectives have to be “smart” (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-boxed) and well understood and mutually supported by all key stakeholders. Do not start a project without a clear objective or it is likely to fail. In case a new project manager is assigned to an ongoing project she must first revisit the project objectives and check if they have been followed. If this were not the case, project objectives have to be re-evaluated and re-aligned among all key stakeholders.

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