Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Some People....

Normally I will discuss items that happened career wise, but I had to share this story.  For a Christmas present, I flew up to Norfolk, VA and picked up the sweetest little 9 week old Pappion puppy for my family.  This little guy is so much fun that we take him with us everywhere we go.  Today, we had some last minute items to take care of for Christmas and as a family we ran several errands.  One of the errands was to the pet store in which we to Zeus (that is his name) in to the store with us.  We then continued into a grocery store.

Now Zeus is about 1/2 a pound at the most and had a sweater on.  My wife was carrying him as we picked up a couple of groceries.  Technically, there are no dogs allowed in the grocery store unless they are seeing eye dogs.  However, our puppy is so little that we did not want to leave him in the car and we didn't think anyone would mind.  Additionally, our trainer said to let Zeus meet as many people as possible to socialize the puppy as much as possible.

We barely made it down the first aisle when a lady ran up to my wife and tapped her on the shoulder.  She informed us of the rule and told us that Management was on the way to kick us out of the store.  We were confused.  About one minute later, a young kid apologized and asked us to take the puppy out.  He told me in confidence that nobody really minded and that many people loved to see the puppy, however, the lady that approached my wife had complained and he had to carry out the complaint.

This made me wonder about this lady.  Maybe she was allergic.  Maybe she has a fear that a 1/2 pound puppy would break free and severely injure her.  I do not want to judge why she did it, but I was truly apalled by her demeanor.  As I analyzed the scene, it was as if she wanted to make sure that we knew it was her that brought this to the stores attention.  She could have complained and management would have removed us and we would be none the wiser.  We wouldn't have even questioned it.  It was the fact that she confronted us that confused me.  Maybe she could brag to her girlfriends at the bridge club about how she evicted a Christmas puppy out of the store today.  Whatever her reason, she did that in front of my children!

After it is all said and done, we were not supposed to have the little man in there.  I just didn't understand the motivation behind the whole thing.  Some people.........

In an case, in our typical fashion, we laughed it off and chalked it up to another experience.  I thought I would just share ;)

Have a great holiday and remember, a great injustice was solved today by some random lady in the grocery store.  Film at 11.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Determining Business Value for Projects

I wrote this for a client today and thought maybe others would find value in this.  Hope it helps!

The key to understanding the business value of projects is to look beyond our standard metrics. Additionally, we will want to create measurements or metrics that will score projects in an objective versus subjective way while still allowing subjectivity to play a role. Sound confusing? It is! Our role as the Portfolio Management Committee is to break down the projects and create selection criteria to do our best to ensure that we are working on the right projects at the right time. However, the scoring and selection should be a guideline as to which projects should be completed instead of the hard and fast rule. The first thing we need to throw out is the generic definition of a project. It can't be as widely scoped as "anything over 40 hours" or "2 or more departments should be involved." It needs to be flexible enough that it encompasses many factors, but not so simple that every initiative becomes a project.

So how do we define what the measurement criteria should be? This is an iterative process that will take some time, but here are the first few questions we all should answer:

Overall Value for Entire Organization - What metrics can we create that would show the overall value to the entire organization? What is something today that crosses the whole organization and what does it do?

Overall Value for Department - Internally, there should be a measurement of how it fits the goals, directives, and compliance/regulatory initiatives for the department

Overall Value for Customer - How will this affect our customer base? What could we ask to track this?

Financial - What is the cost of the entire project? What is the cost of the alternatives? Return on Investment? Net Present Value? Internal Rate of Return? Payback Period?

Department Ranking - What is the rank of this project if they had to pick the most important to the least important? This is a subjective measurement.

Overall Ranking - What is the rank of this project if they had to pick the most important to the least important over the entire organization? This is a subjective measurement.

Risk - What risk factors should we track?

Organizational Capacity - Do we have the capacity to do this project? When would we be able to pick the project up?

Overall Scoring Methodology - How do we classify and score all the above criteria to pick which projects we should do?

Override - If we pick one project with a lower score than another, what type of override policy should we require?

The above items should be discussed, agreed upon and scored.  Then the scoring should help determine the apples to apples business value

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Valuing People

You will often hear me speak about the value of people.  The fact that I hate the term "Human Resources" is a dead giveaway.  I talk quite a bit about making sure that you are achieving the work/life balance and that people and their families are your greatest asset.

Another great asset to remember is your network and your friends.  You truly have no idea when or if you will need someone else's help and where that help will eminate.  I hear story after story about what a small world it is and how this person is tied to this person.  Have you ever tried to play "Six Degrees of Separation?"

Whenever I am asked for a favor or a recommendation, I try my best to lend my help.  You never know what it could lead to.  I have had huge contracts landed by simply replying to a question on a social networking site.  I have had many friends land positions at companies just because they asked someone for assistance.

This leads me to another conversation.  Those that close themselves off from this behavior.  Around the holidays, I am always nostalgic.  I have had a great deal of fantastic people drift in and out of my life.  Some relationships ended well, some did not.  However, every relationship was important to me.  I have learned something from just about everyone that I have ever met.  I overheard a conversation today about someone reaching out to a past relationship, only to be rebuffed.  The rebuttal was, "There is no need, it has been 20 years."

I am sure there are reasons and I am sure there is much more to the story.  However, it still made me think about the value of the people in my life.  Right, wrong, or indifferent, I am thankful for each of you that have ever taught me a lesson, shared an experience, or have given me the honor to call you a friend.  I value people, not our greatest resource, rather, our greatest asset.

No Day But Today,


Monday, December 7, 2009

The First Grade Lesson for the PMO Manager Search

I have had several conversations over the past week and a half with clients on the creation of a PMO.  I see this happen all of the time.  Companies want to have a PMO, but they are really not sure what they want the PMO to do.  Additionally, I get asked the question of whether to promote from within or hire externally for the PMO Manager.  I generally have two responses to this question:

1)  I think it is a cultural decision whether to promote from within or hire externally.  For the most part, the expertise can be found externally, but they have to learn the cultural and political land mines to navigate.  Internally, however, can sometimes just promote more of the same.  It may not bring the change companies are looking to make.

2)  To find a great PMO Manager, they are not necissarily your best project manager.  To breed change and to make an impact on the company culture, you need someone who is willing to color outside of the lines.  However, project managers have been taught to color inside the lines and ask for permission to let the color stray.  It becomes the age old debate of creativity versus functionality.

I do not think there are any right or wrong answers to this puzzle, except to say that companies must understand what they want the PMO to accomplish before embarking on this journey.  I will post much more on this topic in the coming weeks.


Friday, December 4, 2009

Date Compliance Check - Microsoft Project Formula

Here is a quick little formula that I developed that can help you keep an eye on your project's status.  I have some general rules for my project plans:

1) No manually typed dates
2) All tasks should have a predecessor
3) No past due start dates
4) No past due finish dates

To help with numbers 3 and 4, I have written the following formula:

IIf([% Complete]<100,Switch(([% Complete]=0 And (DateValue([Current Date])-DateValue([Start]))>0),1,((DateValue([Current Date])-DateValue([Finish]))<-5),3,(DateValue([Current Date])-DateValue([Finish]))>=-5 And (DateValue([Current Date])-DateValue([Finish]))<0,2,(DateValue([Current Date])-DateValue([Finish]))>=0,1),3)

If you open up Microsoft Project, insert a number field, and then right click the field and choose "Customize Fields," you will be able to select the "Formula" button and paste the formula in.  After you accept the entry, you can setup "Graphical Indicators" to show a Red "X" for the result of a 1, and a Green Flag for the result of a 2.

The results are as follows:

1 - The task has a past due start date and the task has not started or has a past due finish date and the % complete is not marked at 100.
2 - This task will be completing within the next 5 days.
3 - Does not meet conditions 1 or 2.

Anything with a red "X" should be dealt with.  Did the task start?  If so, then update the % complete.  If it did not start, then move the date to the anticipated start date.  If the task is in progress then the finish date may have been missed.  Has the task finished?  If so, mark the task 100% complete, if not, then move the finish date to the anticipated finish date.

Hope this helps!


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Time Out: Part 2

I wrote an earlier post on this blog wishing that I could call a time out.  I just came back from 12 days in Italy with my family.  It was truly an amazing time.  There was something that I witnessed while I was out there that piqued my interest.  We were walking down the street in Florence and we saw many kids coming down the street, entering shops, and then the shops closing up.  This was odd because it was 1:30 in the afternoon.  On closer inspection, we saw two sets of times for each day in the shop windows.  It read:

Aperto: 9 AM - 1:30 PM, 3:30 PM - 7:30 PM

We befriended a shopkeeper and asked about the hours.  We learned from him that in Italy, the kids generally get out of school at 1:30.  The parents will leave work and go home at 1:30 to have lunch as a family and then return afterwards.  The family unit is extremely important to Italian culture.  This is evident by watching them close their businesses to spend time with the family and then re-opening them later.  I found this very interesting.

My first management job was managing restaurants.  I remember being the only restaurant open on Thanksgiving.  Corporate thought it would be a good idea and mandated that we be open.  I had to schedule an entire staff to be there just in case people wanted to eat out.  We had two tables all day.  I looked around and saw how miserable my staff was.  I thought then what we sacrifice for profit.  I saw firsthand what appears to look good on paper can be devistating to your employees.  When I speak in my seminars, I bring up the fact that we need to take care of our people.  That your staff should be the most important thing to you and that achieving the right work/life balance is crucial.  I then saw this principle taken up a notch in Italy.  I think that they have it right.

We thanked the shopkeeper and let him get back to his family.  I turned and then looked at mine.  One of the greatest things I have done this year is take the time with them.  Many of you know that I bring them with me as much as possible when I travel, but this time was different.  This time it was just us.  There were no schedules or meetings or things that needed to get done.  Just us.  Just my family.  It was the time out that I needed.

Hope you had the time with your family as well during Thanksgiving.  Remember, there is no day but today.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Good Does Triumph!

I heard some fantastic news today.  I am not going to name names as to protect the innocent, but I had to talk about it.  There is someone in my network that I consider a mentor and someone I look up to.  He is absolutely capping off an incredible year!

The story starts with me as a very young and naive consultant.  I knew that I had some knowledge and passion to do the job right, but I was very new.  I was given a very exciting assignment to help an organization create service level agreements and standard operating procedures.  I had done this before for other organizations, but this one was a definite challenge.  In fact, for many of you that have heard me speak before, some of my favorite stories that I tell came from this engagement.  This was the first time I met this man.  He challenged me, made me laugh, but above all, he showed me how to lead with integrity by example.  At the end of the engagement, there were some tough decisions that had to be made.  There were a couple of people on the staff that were not in the right positions to make them successful, there were some changes that needed to be made internally, and there were some political decisions.  As the suggestions were offered, this man grilled me from every angle to ensure that we had uncovered everything.  I then watched him make some tough decisions.  Additionally, I was able to watch him act on the decisions.  What I learned was to always put people first.  Always take care of those around you and they will in turn take care of you.

For the next several years, we kept in touch.  I became a resource for him that he would reach out to from time to time.  Better yet, we became friends.  I told this man that anytime, anywhere, I would come work for him.  I got the chance not too long ago.  However, the organization that I had fought for 10 years to become a part of was changing, and it was changing in a way that didn't match the direction I was heading.  I also saw the organization leaving the values that had made it so great.  My suspicions were confirmed when shortly after I left, they laid off two of the most ethical men that I had ever known.  My friend was one of those.  On top of that, his wife was diagnosed with cancer.  My heart ached for him.  What do you do?  What do you say?  How do you help?  In the greatest of trials for him, he never lost his faith.  He never lost what made him so special to everyone that knows him.

I heard today that this mentor that I think of so highly just landed a very nice position at a company that is exactly the organization that he can thrive in.  In addition, his wife just had a scan after treatment and the cancer is in remission.  I got a chance to talk to my friend today and I can't help but think back and smile.  He has no idea the impact that he has made on my career and how I believe that many things that we did back so many years ago shaped me to the man that I hope I am.

I spoke at an event today and I took my 3 year old son with me.  He was an absolute angel.  At the end of the event is where I had heard the news and I got the confirmation from my friend shortly thereafter.  As my son and I were having fun together, I took a chance to reflect.  I can't wait to teach my son the values that I believe this man stands for.  I can't wait to tell him about someone that has shown such courage, compassion, and faith for so many years.  I can't wait to tell him that even in some of the darkest times.....good really does triumph!

No day but today,


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Where is Andrew Shepherd?

I am channel surfing in the hotel and I stopped at "The American President."

No matter what side of politics you are on, where are the men like Andrew Shepherd?  Integrity, leadership, and the ability to admit when he is wrong.  If you click on the link, you will hear one of the best 5 minutes in the movies.  I don't necessarily agree with the politics, but the way he takes a stand is definitely worth it.  It is a great speech.  Especially when he says that "America isn't easy." 

Neither is running projects or large organizations.  It takes guts to stand up and say what is right.  It takes integrity to report status as it should be.  It takes vision to truly be a leader and not just a manager.  My favorite line in the whole movie is when Andrew (Michael Douglas) states, "I was so busy keeping my job....I forgot to do my job.....well that ends today!"

I think that quote is perfect for project managers to remember.

No day but today,


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Time Out!

Sometimes in life....I wish we could just call a time out.  It works in sports, it works (sometimes) for little ones.  I wish at times that I could simply hit the pause button and regroup.

Tonight is one of those nights that I am really missing my family.  I have been on the road quite a bit and things have been very busy which is great.  We also have a family vacation coming up in the next week that is a dream vacation.  However, I want to be there right now.  I want to be with them right now.  They say behind every great man is a great woman.  That is certainly the case with me.

I live a blesssed life.  We work hard and play hard.  My goal in life was to ensure that my family would not want for anything.  I can provide them the opportunities and the lifestyle that they always wanted, but sometimes that costs me in time and relationship capital.  I am blessed to own R2 and to be able to achieve a much greater work/life balance than I have ever had before.  However, there are still times when I have to console over the phone or hear about issues from a distance that makes me so greatly want to be home.  It is a choice that we have made as a family and we are doing a great job of being a family.....and by no means is this a complaint or a "wish" for a change.  Just sometimes, I want a time out.  I want to invent the machine that I can use 3 times per half that just stops everything, lets me transport home and hug the kids, visit with my wife, and regroup.  Then hit the magical pause button again to resume.

Sometimes, I just want a time out!

No day but today,


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Do you want me to be honest?

"No....lie to him....he likes it!"

That is a quote that has always stuck with me from Mr. Mom.  Classic movie!  I had no idea that in the real world, it is the truth!  I am noticing a huge issue and disconnect between the executives and their project teams.  This was evident even today as I worked with a client. 

The project team has been told that the project must meet a certain date which is literally one month away.  The code for the project is not complete, they are weeks behind in testing, and the product is barely standing.  However, they are still going to push untested code in production.  The definition of in production is to put it on the desktop, roll it out, but tell people not to use it.  Here is the best part.....according to the project team, this is what the executive wants.  They are under the impression that he is fully aware of all of these facts and he would rather say that it was in production at a certain date than it to be pushed back and properly tested.

This is all to common in many businesses today.  I bet that if a frank discussion was had with the executive, then a different decision would be made.  I have been interviewing executives for my next book and I am being told from the executives that their teams would not do what happened at this client.....yet it was.  How do we become so disconnected?  How do we allow this to occur?

It is time for open and frank conversation and for PM's and executives to understand the reality of their relationship.  Through education and understanding, you can have your cake and eat it too.  I just want to make sure it is cake that I am eating (and not crow!).  That is my rant for tonight!

No day but today,


P.S. "Jack, you're doing it wrong!" - Mr. Mom

Monday, November 9, 2009

Calculating Return on Investment

I get many questions at seminars about ROI (return on investment) calculations.  Many people utilize this measurement for project selection.  There are several variations of the formula.  Depending on the information that you have available, the complexity of the calculation can grow.  Here are a couple that I use:

Simple:  (net profit / total investment) X 100 = ROI

If you are projecting a profit of $25 on an investment of $160, then the calculation is:

(25/150) X 100 = 15.625%

More complex:  Net Income + (current value - original value) / original value X 100 = ROI

This formula can be used for ongoing multiple year revenues.  For instance, if you purchased $5,000 in stock which is now valued at $5,200 and you have earned $100 in dividends, the calculation is:

((100 + (5,200-5,000) ) / 5,000) X 100 = 6%

Hope this helps!

No day but today,


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Blogging a Status?

Interesting thought!  I was reading an excerpt from Andy Wibbels titled "Blogs and Business: What You Must Know" and he suggested utilizing a Blog for project status.

He stated that "Blogs can provide an instant snapshot of a project's status, an archive of past reports, and an easier way to access deliverables.  You won't be annoying your employees by clogging their inbox with an 8 gigabyte PDF."

Clearly he has worked with PM's that have a fondness for charts and graphs!  However, it does provide an interesting thought.  Many companies are looking for ways to go green and many have not invested in a Project and Portfolio Management type of technology.  Some companies utilize Sharepoint for this, but it too can become cumbersome in navigation.  Blogging can be a perfect fit for those.

I have seen many organizations still want the ill-fated printed status report.  They must have their red/yellow/green!  The question is, when is the last time a decision was made off that status report?  When is the last time someone in your company stopped a project because it was red, or put more resources on a project when it went yellow?  If the answer is "never", then maybe a change to the way it is done is warranted.

In any case, the article did make me think!

Until next time!


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Quick Tip for WBS

There are many people that want to know how to get started doing a Work Breakdown Structure.  Some people have never done one and don't want the first one to be at their company.  I have two quick tips to assist:

1)  Practice with a charity or a church.  These organizations desperately look for volunteers and especially volunteers who can help organize and run events.  This will give you an awesome opportunity to practice!  Call the United Way and introduce yourself.  There will always be an opportunity to help your community!

2)  Here is a quick way to get started.  Send out the scope to the team prior to the meeting and ask them to send back an Excel spreadsheet of the initial tasks that they can think of.  From there, do a mail merge onto address labels and put those on sticky notes.  Before the first meeting, go ahead and put the sticky notes on the wall.  When the attendees come into the meeting, have them start putting the tasks in order before the even sit down.  This will cut down the awkward silence that generally starts these types of meetings.  In very short order, you will have a great network diagram to use for your project.

Of course, you could always use a technology like Nxt Note as well.  Very, very cool technology!  Check it out!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Time for a PM Revolution (The Value of Project Management)

Is anyone else getting as frustrated as I am about the debate over the value of Project Management? Project Managers are generally not consulted, then asked to do the impossible, and then blamed if it does not go well! For instance:

An Executive picks a pet project to complete. He looks at his staff and figures that anyone can do project management. So he selects Ron from Accounting (because he is generally reliable) and assigns him as the project manager. He then tells Ron, "I need this done by the end of the year. You have $1,000,000 to spend." As soon as Ron accepts the project, it has failed! How can we possibly know how much to spend or how long it will take before we have had a chance to plan? If Ron tries to plan, he is told, "We don't have time to plan, we have to get going to get this done!" When the project runs late or over budget, then the executive feels that there is no value in project management.

Do you think that this same executive would ask anyone who finished high school math to close the books for the quarter? NO! Why? Because accounting is a certified profession that has a clear process. We don't short change that process, it takes what it takes. Does a commercial developer select anyone who can draw to be an architect? NO! Why? Because it is a learned and certified profession! Isn't project management a certified and learned profession? It is time to realize that a PM Revolution is in order! It is time to understand that not everyone can do project management!

The reason that we can't find the value in project management is all that we are doing is executing poor decisions. You already selected a date, budget, and since anyone can do project management, whoever was available got the assignment. Project management will continue to be devalued until we as project managers stand up and educate. At least that is my opinion!

No day but today,