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All work is project work


Well, not all work but most. I have recently come across an article which states this. The article can be found at http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/24/wowproj.html is an excellent read.

It is entitled “The Wow Proejct”, yet goes way beyond project work. “Wow Projects”, the author, Tom Peters, writes are “projects that add value, projects that matter, projects that make a difference, projects that leave a legacy.”

Interestingly most of the projects I worked on or managed met these requirements. It has not been the nature of the project. It has been the attitude of the whole team and its desire to create something special. All of my Wow Projects started with a clear vision. Clear enough to become emotional about it. We could see, smell and feel the expected end results. This was a strong driver in our day-to-day activities. Other attributes of these projects were that collaboration was working. Roles and responsibilities were defined, team members’ expectations articulated and accounted for, all were reviewed regularly, adapting them where necessary. Creating and nurturing an innovative learning environment was another success factor. An atmosphere where feedback was sincere, honest and constructive. It was about helping and learning from each other. Last but not least, the Wow Projects were about delivering results. Not just the final deliverable. Instead, we set weekly goals to work on and deliver. This way we always had a good sense of accomplishments.

When you read the above mentioned article you will find a lot of parallels. You can call it Wow Projects or Effective Project Management or whatever you like. It doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that it works.

If you haven’t done so, go for it. It is worth, rewarding and fun.

Posted in: Leadership, Project Management

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Interview on effective leadership and creating a Team Norming workshop

I am proud and happy to announce that an interview I gave last month in Denver for the Project Leadership Podcast (http://www.projectleadershippodcast.com/ -> go to Episode 2) has just gone live.  In this featured Interview I talk about leadership and creating a “Team norming” workshop.

The Project Leadership podcast is designed to provide interested parties in the most up-to-date Project Management tools, techniques and ideas in the industry. The podcast strives to deliver new and cutting edge information on the Project Management industry so that listeners can take the best-of-breed information and use it directly in their work and home lives. Through interviews with top industry leaders and visionaries in the Project Management field the podcast will continue to challenge and inform the Project Management community.

Feedback and suggestions welcome.  Also, please let me know if you are interested in contributing to this Podcast and I will connect you with the founder and lead of the Podcast, Camper Bull.

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

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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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Agile Project Management: The Natural Way


In a recent coment I wrote, “AGILE PROJECT MANAGEMENT has been a topic at the [PMI] conference. Indeed, I believe there were 2-3 presentations on this very topic. For example, Michele Sliger, co-author of the newly published and excellent book “The Software Project Manager’s Bridge to Agility (Agile Software Development Series)”, talked about Agile Project Management.

In addition, agile project management was referenced in many other presentations.

I want to go a step further and state that agile project management is the natural way of effective project management.   There are very good reasons for this hypthesis to be true.  Textbooks suggest that project life cycles are linear.  This means that a project evolves along a pre-defined path:  initation – planning – executing – monitor & control – closeout.  This, for example, is what the PMBOK suggests.  Unfortunately, reality is more complex.  Indeed I have not seen a single project which has strictly followed this sequence.  Instead, a project goes from one phase to another and may jump back or forth.  Tom Johns of Business Management Consultants illustrated this in his presentation “The Art of Project Management (c) Complexity” at the PMI Global Congress 2008 in Denver.

I believe that every effective project manager has to be familiar with agile project management to survive, to cope with unexpected changes without losing control.

Regarding the various approaches of agile, let it be Scrum, XP, RUP, etc., it doesn’t matter.  As a matter of fact my experience shows that a hyprid approach may work best.  It has to be customized to the respective project environment and organization.  Strictly following a doctrine without looking left or right is narrow minded and one-dimensional.  It neglects the reality of complexity we are living in.  If doing so, you may be better off or at as well of following a traditional, linear waterfall approach thinking this may be good, structured project management.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Any model, may it be a waterfall or agile approach, serves as a guideline.  The art of project management is to identify and use simple rules which help constitute guidelines for effective and efficient project work which yield tangible results which are in sync with the vision and objectives of the project and the project organization.

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

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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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does a word still count?


… it depends.

My philosphy is that it should.  For example, in case of promises, commitments for a new project.  This has happend to me lately.  Unfortunately, the client could not back his verbal approval of a proposal of mine with a written email or alike.  In times of Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) this proved to be difficult.  Procurement or controlling have to formerly approve every single proposal.  Now, this is not new.  But why does this need to take so long.  There is a good reason for the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and we needed it.  The downside is that well too often it has slowed down business significantly because it has increased the workload of procurement and controlling departments significantly.  In addition, controlling and procurement departments may not have the business understanding to approve project proposals.  And it should not be necessary because other departments make these decisions.  Not so with SOX.

In my case, I believed in a commitment given to me which was not yet in writing.  I stopped my acquisition activities for other projects.  This was a costly mistake.  For 3 weeks later I am still waiting for the final written confirmation that I can start the new engagement.

Lesson learnedWhen it comes to contractual work, a word is good but worth nothing unless it is in writing and formally approved by the relevant departments (controlling, procurement, etc.).  Do not interrupt business development activities until you have actually started the new engagement.

Posted in: Project Management

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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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