Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Some Things Just Take Time.....

There is always the great debate about throwing resources at a project to try to pull off the impossible timeframe.  However, some things just take time.  When I train project managers, I use an analogy of what effort driven in Microsoft Project means.  I ask them, “Are you painting a fence or driving to Nashville?”  If you are painting a fence and it takes 8 hours to paint the fence, then it will also take the full 8 hours of time.  If you add a resource, it will still take 8 hours of effort, but will only take 4 hours of elapsed time since two people are splitting the work.  If it takes you 4 hours to drive to Nashville and you add a second person, it doesn’t mean you cut the time in half.  Now two people are spending 4 hours in the car so it doubles the amount of effort.  This is a cleaner version of the way that I used to explain this.  I used to say that you can’t always throw resources at a problem.  The example I would state is that you can’t put 9 women into a room and produce a baby in a month, some things just take time.  I used that for a couple of years and every once and a while, someone would be offended.  So I changed it to a cleaner version for most of my trainings.  However, a good friend John Ragsdale sent me this and it made me laugh.  I don’t know where this originated to give it proper credit, but to whoever pulled this together….it reminded me of when I got started.  Enjoy!

Definitions of Designations:

Project Manager is a person who thinks nine women can deliver a baby in one month.

Developer is a person who thinks it will take 18 months to deliver a baby.

Onsite Coordinator is one who thinks a single woman can deliver nine babies in one month.

Client is the one who doesn’t know why he wants a baby.

Marketing Manager is a person who thinks he can deliver a baby even if no woman or man is available.

Resource Optimization Team thinks they don’t need a man or woman; they’ll produce a child with zero resources.

Documentation Team thinks they don’t care whether the child is delivered; they’ll just document it in 9 months.

Quality Auditor is the person who is never happy with the PROCESS to produce a baby.

Tester is a person who always tells his wife that this is not the right baby.

HR Manager is a person who thinks that a donkey can deliver a human baby in 9 months.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I don't acknowledge it....therefore it doesn't exist!

Is this a reality?  I overheard a conversation last night at dinner where a guy was explaining to his friends that he has not gotten a cold in the last 15 years.  He stated that his grandmother told him that there is no such thing as a common cold.  He believed her and ever since he has never gotten a cold.  One of his friends asked, “Do you ever not feel good?”  He said, “Sometimes my nose will be stuffy or I get a sore throat or cough.  I will feel run down and will stay in bed a couple of days……but it’s not a cold!  They don’t exist!”  Call me old fashioned, but that sounds like a cold to me.
It reminded me of my top 5 favorite quotes from a sponsor.  We were running a project and the sponsor had announced to the entire customer base the completion date of the project before the project was even opened in the organization.  Her statement committed us to a 10 month project to be delivered in 4 months.  I approached the sponsor and told her that we would have to do some serious risk management on the project.  Her response is still a classic: “Rick, this project has no risk because it must be done on time!”  If we don’t acknowledge it, it must not exist.
This same denial seems to be true for sponsors when they set a project date or budget.  They often will tell a project manager, “just figure it out,” or, “just make it happen.”  As if the project manager can just wave their magic wand and a new month will be created or a bag of cash will appear.  Projects have been run this way since the beginning of time.  Why is it so misunderstood?  I like to compare projects to weight loss.  Look, I would love to take a pill at night, never have to work out, eat whatever I want, and lose weight.  The reality is that eating right and exercise is what it takes.  The sales numbers for weight loss fads, products, pills, exercise machines, etc. is staggering!  Every day I hear an ad for a new product that promised dramatic weight loss without changing and of the bad habits that lead to the weight gain in the first place.  It is this same mentality that continues to plague projects.  This mentality that if we put it out there it will happen and if we don’t acknowledge the bad stuff, it doesn’t exist is the basis of many of the organizations in business today.  Then everybody is surprised when something doesn’t go as planned.  This goes all the way back to the way the project was selected and how most likely the budget was trimmed via a spreadsheet to get it to meet an arbitrary number that feels right to the executives.  Sure we can cut 20% of this project, there was probably padding in it anyway!
Risk does exist.  Project failure is a very real and repeatable process.  Yet we continue to not acknowledge it.  For example, a project manager will be told that they do not have time to plan, the project must start now.  The project fails.  The project team does a lessons learned session and blames the lack of planning as the reason why.  Then the team will agree that more planning will be necessary.  Then the next project comes along and the same project manager is told that there is no time to plan, it must start right away!  One of the greatest things we can do as project managers is simply acknowledging that these things do exist.  Documentation and metrics capture that show these patterns is paramount.  We must acknowledge these failures.  It is the first step in resolution.
Go forth and document!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Where Has Customer Service Gone?

As many of you know, I travel quite a bit.  I am extremely loyal to my brands often going out of my way or not taking the convenient path to maintain that loyalty.  For example, I drove 55 miles each way for a speaking engagement to stay in the nearest Marriott.  However, more and more, I am seeing customer service get worse and worse.  In this economy, it is even more important to retain your customer base than ever.  I try not to complain, but two situations that just occurred have led me to this post.  Unfortunately, I will not change the names to protect any innocents.

The first experience was with the Vanderbilt Marriott in Nashville, TN.  They have one of the most amazing and wonderful staffs ever.  From the valet to the desk manager to the Concierge team, they are a class act.  I have had several customers in Nashville and have stayed over 100 nights in that hotel.  At one point, I didn't have to stay in Nashville for 6 months, yet everyone still knew me by name when I came in.  Most hotels have corporate rates and when I travel, I use the client's rates to lower expenses.  In every hotel I have ever stayed, if the corporate code is unavailable, I have been told to book a room anyway and get the code changed at the front desk.  This was the case for this particular reservation.  I booked the room and headed to Nashville.  When I arrived, I was greeted by the familiar valet guy by name.  The front desk manager welcomed me as she has for years.  We asked about each other's families and made the usual small talk.  I told her the rate situation.  She told me she can no longer change it and I can see she was upset at the inability to do so.  I asked her why.  She said that a new owner had taken over and that policy is not in effect anymore.  She stated that the owner representative was there and I could discuss it with him.  When I talked to him, I was appalled at the answer.  He said that the reason is due to a revenue model to ensure they stayed as viable as possible.  I explained to him that I had earned my platinum status at that hotel.  Not just that I am platinum, I earned enough nights at his hotel to become platinum.  The rate difference was $80.  I asked if an extra $80 was worth losing a customer that had spent easily $20,000 at that hotel.  He said that it was policy and his hands were tied.  So I cancelled my reservation and found another Marriott in Nashville.

The second item happened on my latest trip.  I rent with National Rent-A-Car and have been an Executive member for several years.  I realized when I arrived in Houston at IAH that I had left my driver's license at home.  It is Sunday night late and I am stuck at the airport.  I go to the rental counter and talk to the manager.  I explain what I had done, but that I rent a car from her counter every other week for quite some time.  I could have my wife fax her a copy of my driver's license to prove that she was in possession of it and that it was valid.  She was going to overnight the license to where I was staying.  I had my passport with me to prove my identity.  I had just rented a car there the prior week so it wasn't as if I was an unknown entity.  I can appreciate the policy and I can appreciate the adherence to it as well.  The attitude that I received from the manager was flippant and she just said, "I can't do anything," and walked away.  As she walked away I asked was there anything that could be done, any options, or anyway to get a cab from the location.  She continued to walk away mumbling and let the office door close behind her.  Fantastic customer service, I must say!  Again, I understand my mistake.  I can understand the policy.  The attitude was what was so infuriating.  She didn't even look up my name or what type of customer I was.  She didn't even try to assist when I was in need.

What happened to customer service?  There used to be trust in the consumer.  If I had never rented a car at that location or stayed at that particular hotel before, I can understand.  Even if I had only done so once or twice, I could understand.  To attain the highest level statuses of their loyalty programs and have their locations be where I attained those statuses, unforgivable.  Sometimes you have to look at the money lost or loyalty lost versus the immediate gain.  Policies are there to protect and serve, but not to the detriment of customer service.  Everything these days is recorded, outsourced, and has a total lack of empathy.  Bring back the human.  Bring back the humanity.  Please, loyalty should be more than a free gift.  Loyalty should mean the company should strive just as hard as the consumer.  It is just as easy for me to book somewhere else.

Stay loyal!


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"I want a PMO!" - Validate What They Mean

Clients will often state that they want me to come in and help them create a PMO. Unfortunately, that is all that they say. It is like me saying, “I want to be a better project manager.” It is a pretty vague statement. When the decision is made to create a PMO, there is some general reason why that is happening. It is important that you uncover those meanings.

For instance, a client had recently stated that a PMO was being created in a division and that all of the certain projects of a certain type would be brought into the PMO. At the time, there were 150 of these projects identified in the group. The group also had 6 project managers who already had a portfolio of 30 projects. There were several questions that this posed:
  • What do we mean by “brought into”? Does that mean we own the projects completely or we own the status reporting?
  • Will we get more staff to run these projects?
  • Why do we feel the need to create the PMO?
  • What is the end result of creating the PMO that you envision?
  • Will the PMO be part of the strategic planning of the division or just told to execute the projects?

Unfortunately, not many answers were provided. I compare the explosion of PMO’s to the Six Sigma craze. There was a popular article that stated a Six Sigma Master Black Belt could bring a company an average savings of $2M. Based on the article, many companies went on the hunt to find their Master Black Belt. They approached it as if the person would show up with a $2M check!

I fear that the explosion of PMO’s is due to the same reason. An executive will read an article or see a result published from a company that shows that a PMO increased revenues, decreased cost, and improved efficiencies. Therefore, they conclude that they must have one. In my experience, few executives are willing to make the changes that achieve the results in the article. Change must occur in order for results to be realized.

Faced with the situation above, my suggested course of action follows what is taught in my seminars and books. The path was:
  • Identify what it takes to manage a project in the environment and come up with a percentage of time on average it consumes of a project manager.
  • Apply the percentages to the projects to determine the number of project managers needed.
  • Identify alternate actions should head count not be increased (including not accepting the 150 additional projects)
  • Ensure that the data you are presenting is accurate.

Once all the steps have been completed, meet with the sponsor. Ask for the 30 additional project managers that would be necessary to accept the additional project load. If the answer is no, show the alternatives of what is possible with the current staff (including some of the ideas that I have blogged earlier titled “Do We Have to Own Projects Start to Finish” in May of 2011.) From there, this will take a life of its own. The important part is to ensure that you have validated what they mean when an executive states, “I want a PMO!”

Until next time,



Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Plague of Ulterior Motives

I continue to be amazed at how much time, effort, and money is wasted internally by companies.  One of the number one causes of this waste is ulterior motives.  These are people who will deliberately say and do things in public, but in private have another motive to their actions.  This is a rampant disease that can cost organizations millions of dollars.  Instead of having uncomfortable conversations or debating issues, the person or group would rather act is if they are playing along and hope that the initiative fails.  There are several of these types to watch for:

The Two Faced Approach.  This approach is been around for a long time.  As soon as any social structure is developed, this approach is evident.  My kids experience this in school and unfortunately, some never seem to grow out of the behavior.  The approach is to act one way in front of one group and then act a completely different way in front of the sponsors and executives.  For example, an individual can be openly combative and antagonistic towards you in a closed meeting.  Then in the team meeting, be open and friendly and act as if they have been working with you all along.  One of the greatest examples of this behavior is Eddie Haskell from Leave it to Beaver.  Eddie was conniving, manipulative, and mean to everyone.  However, when the parents were around, he had his best manners on display and gave the illusion to the parents that he was perfectly behaved. 

Transference of the Issue.  This approach will make sure to not answer a direct question or issue.  If you ask a direct question, they will talk around the subject without answering directly, transfer the answer back to you, or deflect the answer to a person or group that is not available at the time.  They make an art of not answering the question.  They will respond to questions with, "It will take whatever you think," or "What do you want it to do?"  These are purposefully vague answers to questions that can allow them to say they are being responsive without actually answering the question.

Secret Saboteur.  This group will secretly try to make the initiative fail.  Either they disagree with the initiative or they are scared of the change that it might bring.  Instead of working with the initiative, they purposefully delay, don't deliver, cause rework, or otherwise sabotage the work.  This is a particularly dangerous group. 

The Other Option.  I have seen this option several times.  This is where the group or individual wants the theme of the solution to be successful, but not necessarily the current selected solution to work.  For instance, a company wanted to do workforce management.   They looked at a portfolio and project management system and an enterprise resource platform.  The business and users wanted the project management system.  A key executive had former ties to the enterprise system and wanted that one.  Instead of debating the decision, the executive allowed the project management system to be purchased.  During the implementation, the executive put unrealistic demands on the team, changed the scope, and changed success criteria.  The first implementation group did not succeed.  A decision was necessary to continue with the current tool or get the one that the executive wanted.  Surprisingly, the business wanted to continue with the current system.  The executive again sabotaged the implementation to the point that the second implementation team failed.  Finally, the executive got the system that she had wanted.  However, it ended up costing the organization millions of dollars.

This can also manifest itself by stating that a group wants something when it isn't the true thing that they want.  For example, an organization that fights for a change of a tool.  The existing tool does what they want, but they convince the organization to change.  The reality is that they want control of the tool.  It isn't that one tool is better than the other.  It is that they can control the tool better if they own it.  I see this quite often with centralized IT departments.  You will get a department that wants to go rogue and get another tool.  In the end, what they wanted was to not have to utilize the centralized IT group.

We will explore how to deal with these types in later blog postings.  The first step in dealing with ulterior motives is to try to understand which one of these categories the group or individual belongs to.  From there, we can start to create a game plan on how to deal with them.

Am I missing any?  Would love to hear from you on this topic!


Friday, August 19, 2011

More Metrics!

Building on my last post, we are continuing to build some new metrics.  The last post talked about resource management metrics.  Here are some other ones that we are tracking now.

Execution Metrics
# of tasks
# of tasks on time
# of tasks past due
# of tasks severely overdue
# of team members
# of opportunities to turn in status report
# of status reports turned in

Planning Metrics
Date Project Assigned
Requested Project End Date
Project End Date Original Planned
Date Agreed upon with Sponsor
Date Project Actually Completed

There will be much more to come as we are developing a new concept that we are titling now as "Metrics 2.0:  New Metrics for a New Project Management Era"

Do you have some unique metrics that you track?  Please share!


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

New Metrics: Resource Management

I have several requests from people asking about some of the metrics that I track on my projects. I am working on a new book of metrics and new ways of thinking about metrics. Here is a sneak peek of some of the types of metrics that I track:

Resource Management Metrics
# of times invited to a meeting
# of times showed up to the meeting
Participation type (called in, showed up in person, etc.)
# of issues assigned
# of risks assigned
# of issues resolved
# of risks resolved
# of issues introduced
# of risks introduced
# of tasks assigned
# of tasks completed on time
# of tasks completed past due
# of e-mails sent (by pm)
# of e-mails responded to

This takes the metrics just a bit beyond what we normally track. It is not all % complete or estimates. It is also about quality. For example, I had a very large project that had impact on multiple departments. One of the departments was finance. Right at go live, the finance department went to the project sponsor and said that the project should be stopped. The project manager (which was me) did not consult them or did not get their input on the project. Therefore, since finance was not consulted, the project should be stopped.

When I was called in to the Sponsor’s office, I stated that I had not gotten their input. What finance had stated was completely correct. However, they were not an identified stakeholder on the project and based on their project focus rating, they did not appear to want to be involved. Finance asked, “What do you mean by a project focus rating?” I explained that I track how many times I had invited them to meetings, asked for input, number of issues assigned, number of e-mails that were sent and went unresolved, and overall participation on the project. Based on the information that I had, they were invited to 47 meetings and never showed, 31 e-mails went unanswered, 3 issues were assigned that never were completed, and 2 direct requests for assistance were not answered. Since all I can do is facilitate, I took the 83 separate times to have them provide input as a sign that they did not want to participate. In the end, finance didn’t have a leg to stand on. If they wanted to have direct input, they could have. What happened is that they felt the project would not impact them and they blew off the project. When they finally saw that there was impact, the project was too far down the road.

This is a common occurrence in projects. This is why we have to look at metrics that go beyond. The point is that we have to manage more of the quality or focus of individuals on a project. In environments when there are tons of competing projects and priorities, it is a necessity to measure the amount of focus a resource gives to the project.

Hope this helps!


Friday, July 29, 2011

The Chicken Little Syndrome

“The sky is falling, the sky is falling!”  Ah, the overreaction, the storm that breaks up the calm, or the person who is just trying to get noticed.  Whatever the cause, the Chicken Little Syndrome (CLS) can hurt your credibility as well as cause disruption and productivity loss for the organization.  What is the Chicken Little Syndrome?  This is taking a small fact or occurrence and blowing it out of proportion so that it becomes the center of attention to executives.  Many times the motivation behind it seems pure.  However, it also can be truly dangerous.

In my seminars and lectures, I always talk about “getting to the data.”  If I have more data than you and can speak intelligently about the data, then I have a higher chance of winning a conflict.  Just like anything else, data can be manipulated and misused.  Look at the poor egg.  I don’t know if they are good or bad for you anymore.  It seems every month a new study is released that states and proves the exact opposite of the study before that one.  It is a mystery!  So data can literally become the great chicken and egg debate……Squirrel! (That was for those loyal followers from my seminars ;)

Back to Chicken Little, Wikipedia states, “The Merriam-Webster Dictionary records the first application of the name Chicken Little to 'one who warns of or predicts calamity, especially without justification’ as dating from 1895.”  So the Chicken Little Syndrome is someone who takes a small fact, issue, or data point and uses it to warn of impending doom without understanding what the data point really is.  I see the syndrome almost on a weekly basis and sometimes more often than that.  When it really can become fun is if the data points are theoretical.  For example, take estimations of a work effort.  The first key word is “estimate.”  This word alone implies a guess.  There are tons of theories on how to do estimates.  My favorite estimation theory is PERT or Program Evaluation and Review Technique which was started in 1957 by the US Navy.  You can read more about PERT here.  At the end of the day and regardless of the theory, it is still an estimate.  What is great about an estimate is regardless of how much time and effort you put into the models, it will always be an imperfect value.  Whenever there are imperfections or data points that are open to widening levels of interpretation, the Chicken Little Syndrome can rear its ugly head.

Personally, I always feel that there is something behind the Chicken Little Syndrome.   Something else that may not be right on the surface, but it is the true issue of the prediction of doom.  For example, a consultant is working with an organization to build a work estimation model.  He or she works with client for an extended amount of time and designs an extremely comprehensive model that is +/- 7% accurate.  The model is accurate, but also requires the end user to track large amounts of different data points to help feed back into the work model.  A second consultant comes in and looks at the model and suggests a different way.  The different way is +/- 10% accurate but greatly reduces the amount of time the end user spends capturing the data.  The core team chooses the easier model and accepts the additional 3% of inaccuracy as an acceptable risk.  The first consultant feels strongly that the way it was designed originally is the best way.  To disprove the second consultant, CLS takes over.  The second consultant creates a specific case of where the model that was originally created is much better than the model in play.  This turns in to charts, graphs, and presentations stating that the sky is about to fall.  This grabs the attention of the executives which just finished a hefty investment in creating a system around the second model.  Doubt, worry, and panic sets in.  Meetings, conference calls, and many side conversations are generated based on the CLS.  This causes the second consultant to come in and defend the model that he or she created.  Instead of working in the existing system and focusing on the use of that tool, time is spent debating and validating models.  It becomes a war of presentations.  CLS has taken over the center stage and hours and hours of time are spent trying to prove that the sky is fully intact.  In the end, the first consultant was potentially only looking for validation.  There was time and effort and a great amount of good work placed into the model.  No model was truly right or wrong, they both had advantages and disadvantages.  However, because of the CLS, the organization is forced to choose.  Since the organization had to choose, this means someone won and someone lost an argument.  This is a dramatization, but a great example of what CLS is.

Another form of CLS is also called “blamestorming” or “issue deflection.”  Essentially, this occurs when there is an issue that someone causes or a major mistake is made on a project.  Instead of confessing to the issue or admitting fault, the person contracts the Chicken Little Syndrome.  The person launches into a meeting and creates a great hubbub about something in the complete opposite direction of the issue that he or she had caused.  Maybe a grandiose statement is made.  Sometimes it is just a downright lie.  Regardless of what is said, the intention of saying it is to create a commotion and take the attention off of them and place it elsewhere with the hopes that the original issue will be resolved or go away.  This just creates distraction and ultimately hurts the organizations, relationships, and often people.

I have also seen forms of CLS where the person sees everything as a personal battle.  It is as if the whole company is conspiring to interrupt the individual’s workflow.  These are the ones that every conversation is them discussing how they gave an ultimatum, or had to stop someone from destroying life as we know it.  Each story consists of what an idiot everyone else is and how they alone saved the day.  Usually, it is about everything in their lives.  Work, relationships, fights with the mailman, how the cable company is personally trying to rip them off, etc.  It is a defensive and hurtful posture.

Is there an antidote for CLS?  I am not sure.  It can be combatted in a couple of ways.  First, be savvy to what is really happening.  See if you can identify and work with the person that appears to have CLS and see if you can determine the root cause.  Make sure that they do not see the issue as a battle.  The other way to combat it is to call the behavior out for what it is.  Ask for the motivations.  Ask why they feel so strongly about their statements.  See if you can get them to discuss openly what is really happening.  A great technique to do this is the “5 why” technique.  This technique is a way to help try to identify the cause/effect relationship of an issue.  You can read more about that here.

If you feel like you are about to expose the next grand conspiracy or are trying to deflect blame or a mistake off of you, take a step back.  Are you creating a bigger issue than what it really is?  Could there be alternative solutions?  Is it possible the data you are referencing is not correct?  Make sure you are being objective before you raise such a large issue.  If I asked you to name someone that contracts CLS often, most of you reading this can come up with a name almost immediately.  Sometimes, these people just want to be appreciated for doing a good job.  Sometimes it is their insecurities.  Whatever the cause, nine times out of ten, there is a cause.  Find it and you too can stop this horrible disease.

No day but today!


Friday, July 8, 2011

R2 Website 2.0

How do you portray what project management is or better yet, what project management consultants do in fifteen seconds or less?  That was the question that I was trying to answer.  Like many small businesses, I originally setup my website.  I am also very active in social media through Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and of course, this blog.  It was time to upgrade the website and reintroduce the new and improved  Our new home page blends my speaking engagements, twitter activity, and blog posts all on one page while showing what it is that we do.  We wanted to be able to get across the services that we provide without the client having to hunt and peck.  It was time to call in the experts!

I contacted longtime friend Chase Morrow who currently runs IT Rockstars in Birmingham, AL.  We rolled up our sleeves and got to work.  I am very happy with the end result.  The home page came out exactly as I had hoped and Chase and his team did terrific work bringing my vision to fruition.  So please, check out and take the new website for a spin.  Please let us know what you think!  When you are done, check out the link for IT Rockstars and see if they can assist you in the same way they did me!


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Advice to Pass: My Mother’s Favorite Sayings

I apologize to my readers for not posting anything in the last couple of weeks. My mom passed away recently and as you know by now, each event is a learning opportunity. As we were gathering for the service and meeting with the pastor, he had asked my brothers and me to reflect and talk about some of our mom's favorite sayings. He asked what were things that we would hear around the house and things that she said that we will never forget. Here are some of those sayings:

If you seem to have a problem with the whole world, maybe it isn't the world with the problem. Ever feel that way? That it seems the whole world is coming down on you? I definitely know the feeling. When my mom would say this to me, it was not something that I really wanted to hear. Especially at that time! However, when I would think about it, I would be experiencing a defeatist attitude or just overall having a grumpy day. This saying would make me step back and think about how I was approaching the day. Believe it or not, it helped.

Someone needs to go back to their room and have an attitude adjustment! This was another famous saying that you didn't want to hear. Again, a grumpy day was taking over. We would go back in to our room and begin. It would first start with a mumbling of, "I don't have an attitude problem, she has the attitude problem." I would then trail off. Pretty soon, I would forget about what I was mad about in the first place and lo and behold, the attitude adjustment would work!

If you want someone to learn a behavior or skill, make them care about it. My mom was a saleswoman and seminar leader as well. She always would tell us the story of how motivation truly works. She would tell the story this way:

Ask somebody to learn how to play the tuba. Most likely, they will not or they will say that they can't. Now, take away their family, or home, or something that they hold dear. Tell them that they can't get it back until they learn how to play a specific song on the tuba. Amazingly, they will learn how to play the tuba.

The moral of the story is that unless they care about learning, doing, or being a part of whatever it is you want them to do, it won't happen. Find a way to make them care, and you will get results.

My mom had tons of sayings and knowledge nuggets that she passed on. I know my brothers and I are successful due to the drive, determination, and work ethic that she helped form in us. She will be missed. Rest in peace.


Friday, June 3, 2011

The Iron Triangle of the PMO: People, Processes, and Technology

Project management has always been fond of the "Triple Constraint" or the "Iron Triangle." In traditional terms, the sayings represent the three constraints on a project: cost, schedule, quality. It is often taught as the iron triangle because if one shifts, one of the other sides must also shift in order to stay balanced. For instance, if schedule is the constraint and you are behind schedule, you either add staff (cost) or reduce scope (quality) to bring the date back within the constraint. As I continue to work with executives and their PMO's, the iron triangle for the PMO is people, process, and technology. Company after company continue to make significant investments in one of the three areas and often neglect the other two. For instance, a company will purchase Clarity, but then not hire project managers thinking that the tool will fix their issues. Another company may make significant investments in creating the process but then not hire enough project managers to complete the process. Each time this occurs, the company will then question the value of the investment. Just like in projects, the PMO must make investments and measure their success on the three sides of their triangle.

In most of the organizations that I work in, they have some sort of governance or process that is documented. Many times, these have been purchased from various consulting firms and consist of templates and mandates of which documents are completed when. As outlined in an earlier post, "What About My Capacity" I outline how to quickly determine the amount of work it takes to complete the project management process. Companies are often frustrated at the lack of information or quality of information that they receive during project reviews. Their answer is to create templates and mandate the completion of the templates. However, they ask people who are not familiar with the concepts or the templates to fill them out. This is akin to handing somebody who finished high school math a tax form and expect the same results that a trained accountant would give them. An investment in the process is a key factor in the creation of a successful PMO. However, the process alone can't fix your issues.

PeopleThe right people in the right positions can make a tremendous difference in the quality of project management. I will state it as plainly as I can for the record: projects should be run by trained project managers. It is that simple. As an example, you are at a car repair shop because you have something wrong with your engine. You are told that the mechanic that is going to fix your car will not be able to fix it for 4 hours. Right then, a 17 year old kid walks up and says, "I know about cars, I can fix it." Do you wait for the trained mechanic even though it means waiting four hours or do you let the kid fix it? Most of us would wait. Why? We want someone who is trained, certified, and warranties the work. We also want someone with experience. You want experience and training. This is true for many professions: Teachers, Doctors, Dentists, Surgeons, Executives, Accountants, Home Builders, Engineers, Architects, etc. This is true for just about every profession.......except project management. I have worked with organizations that have invested many millions of dollars mandating processes. These processes require the project managers to complete forms, risk planning, project scheduling, etc. The process is so important that it is mandated. Then when they roll out the process, they do not have enough people to complete the demand for project management. This forces them to select someone who is not a project manager to complete the work. However, if the work is completed with poor quality or the results do not add up, it is the profession of project management whose value is questioned. Not the people performing the task, but the profession itself. In some cases, I have seen resources that cost three or four times the amount a project manager would cost to complete the activities. These people do so begrudgingly and will readily admit they don't want to do that type of work. I have seen organizations lose highly valuable resources because they were making them do activities outside of the job that they were hired to do. Why do we invest so much in a process, but do not invest in the people to complete the process? Or better yet, we think that if we by the right product, it will solve our issues.

TechnologyI have completed over 70 project and portfolio management technology implementations. I have worked with Clarity, Microsoft Project, Planview, Primavera, Daptiv, @task, and others. These are all great tools. However, they do not solve your project management process or people issues. What they will do is make your poor processes run faster or expose the lack of quality of information. They are compliance tools that help make your processes and people efficient. If the project manager you have selected on a project has never really written a project schedule or been trained how to do so, why do we think making them enter it into Clarity is going to make it better? I will give you the number one reason why PPM tool implementations fail: lack of executive mandate. Unless the executives prove that they are in the tool, looking at the data, using the data for decisions, and mandating compliance, then the tools just become another process that project managers (or the people selected to do project management) must fill out. I have taken over many failed PPM tool integrations. In each case, the executives were never really looking at the information or making sure that the information within the tool is accurate. I worked with one organization where they spent a significant amount of money purchasing and installing the tool. They never trained their project managers to use the tool properly because they thought that the cost was to high. In three months, the data was so disjointed that the project managers held a meeting and decided that the tool was too hard to use. So they all agreed that they would use the tool as a project reporting tool, but would maintain all plans and schedules outside of the tool. The executives never really checked the tool because they were using printed reports that came from the tool. The tool had become an afterthought. The next question then become, what is the value of the tool? In other organizations, they will say that the tool was the wrong tool and will consider purchasing yet another tool to try to do the same things. This tool then is not implemented properly so they will question the value of project management itself. It is a downward cycle that happens in roughly 70% of the clients that purchase the tools. They think that the investment in technology is going to solve their issues. It just exposes them.

PMO Value: Process, People, and Technology
Unless there is investment in all three branches, the PMO will usually either fail or become a non-strategic resource. To build a successful PMO, the following must occur:
  • People - If project management is important to the organization, then invest in project managers. Stating that you do not have the funds to hire a project manager and then turning over the duties to someone who costs three times as much is not only a waste of money, it is provides poor quality. Invest in the right people and the right training.
  • Process - Do not just invest in templates and mandates. Make sure the investment is made to educate the executives on the value of project management and the value of the proper process of project management. Dr. James Norrie in the book "Breaking Through the Project Fog: How Smart Organizations Achieve Success by Creating, Selecting and Executing On-Strategy Projects (Jossey-Bass Leadership Series - Canada)" has the best answer to the value of project management that I have heard to date: the value of a project manager grows exponentially the earlier you involve them in the process. The other key to proper process is to ensure the right amount of governance to the right amount of projects. There should always be some sort of tier system within projects so that the process to complete the governance of the project does not cost more than completing the project itself.
  • Technology - Invest in technology that will enable the organization to enforce compliance, each roles data builds on the other roles, and provides key decision metrics to executives. The technology should be invested in that streamlines the process, stops duplicate entry of information, is the single source of the truth, and provides value add activity. If you are entering the same information into three different systems or the system that you are entering information in is not the single source of the truth, then we are adding cost for process, not for results.

I have seen many organizations spend tremendous amount of money on one or two of the sides of the triangle while neglecting the others. To be successful, the three sides must be balanced to an organizations needs and ample focus should be placed on all three.

Be strong and stay true to your principles,


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Do We Have to Own Projects Start to Finish?

I know what I am about to suggest is controversial.  I will state up front that it is not the most ideal situation.  In my experience, over 90% of the companies that I work with have more projects than project managers.  This is a problem that plagues the industry.  Companies should recognize this as an issue and address it by either hiring or reducing the project load.  Instead, they give projects to other people who are not project managers, nor do they want to be.  In these environments, I have a new theory.  Do project managers have to own the project start to finish?

I know that is what we have been taught and what we believe.  However, if a company will not commit to the resources necessary, the answer can't be to wallow in self pity.  I recently worked with an organization on the maturity of their project management practice.  Using the capacity model that I explained in an earlier blog post, I found that the company needed 35 project managers and they had five on staff.  When we presented this to the CIO, he stated that he would just tap 30 of his resource managers to become project leads.  This is just as ludicrous as asking 30 people who finished high school math to help with the backlog in accounting.  It would never happen!  Yet it does on a daily basis in the industry of project management.  When we countered that the 30 people were not trained project managers, he stated that the 30 should be mentored by the existing project managers.  This would further reduce the time that the project managers had on their projects.

The decision was devastating.  We were all at a loss on how to proceed.  To further complicate the issue, the client was on Clarity.  This would mean the training of 30 people who are not project managers how to perform project management functions and try to protect the normalized data that was within Clarity.  It was definitely an uphill battle.  This is where the theory was born.  I held a meeting with the project managers.  Although we want to, the real question is do we have to own a project from start to finish?  We began to analyze the activities  that were required to run the project.  We came up with the average time it took to do the normal project management activities and the value that each activity played in the overall success of the project.  The high value activities were creating the WBS, project plan, risk analysis, and high level monitoring.  The lower value activities were scheduling meetings, writing meeting minutes, filling out the various reports.  There are some of you out there that may disagree with these value rankings, but this was the case at this company.

What we began to see is that if we split the duties on each project, there was a way to improve the quality of projects without the hiring of 30 more project managers.  What we decided was that all projects would be planned by project managers and they would be responsible for creating the initial schedule and loading that into Clarity.  They would also monitor the status logs, issues and risks, and monitor variances.  The project leads would schedule and conduct the status meetings, be responsible for the meeting minutes and status reports, and handle the day to day monitoring of the tasks.  This worked especially well since most of the project leads were resource managers and the tasks that they were monitoring came from staff that reported to them.  This approach allowed the project managers to focus on planning, risk, corrective, and preventative actions.  The project leads were responsible for day to day execution.  If projects were going well, then the project manager was free to monitor the other projects.  If the project wasn't going well, the project manager could re-engage and put the project back on track.

This model has been in place for over a year now and has been quite successful.  The overall quality if the projects rose because every project was being planned by a certified project manager.  Since then, the company has hired 5 more project managers to bring them up to 10.  They are beginning to realize the value that the certification brings and that there is a method to the madness. 

Again, I know this is not the ideal setup.  It is an effective one for a company that has a low maturity, questions the value of project management, and will not make the investments required to be successful.  This is a nice bridging technique that can be measured and prove the need for properly trained resources.  So I will answer my own question.  Do we need to own the project start to finish?  Ideally, yes.  However, with the current state of project management, it is time we start challenging some of the older principles and come up with innovative new ways to solve old problems.  So the answer is:  not always!

That is my story and I am sticking to it! 


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

But It's The Way It Has Always Been Done Here! - Part 2

After posting my last blog post, a friend of mine told me about this story. I researched the story and found what I believe to be the originating post. The link to the original blog can be found here: Original Blog

Here is the story written by Ron Beasley:

As a Psychologist I have studied human behavior. While I am not a veterinarian, I can make several applications and lessons learned from the following story about monkeys, especially as it applies to life and business. Can you?

Start with a cage containing five monkeys. Inside the cage, you'll see a banana hanging on a string with a set of stairs placed under it. Before long, a monkey will go to the stairs and start to climb towards the banana. As soon as he touches the stairs, all of the other monkeys are sprayed with cold water.

After a while, another monkey makes an attempt to obtain the banana. As soon as his foot touches the stairs, all of the other monkeys are sprayed with cold water. It's not long before all of the other monkeys try to prevent any monkey from climbing the stairs.

Now, put away the cold water, remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with a new one. The new monkey sees the banana and wants to climb the stairs. To his surprise and horror, all of the other monkeys attack him as he makes his way toward the stairs. After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs, he will be assaulted.

Next, remove another of the original five monkeys and replace it with a new one. The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked. The previous newcomer takes part in the punishment with enthusiasm! Likewise, replace a third original monkey with a new one, then a fourth, then the fifth. Every time the newest monkey takes to the stairs, he is attacked.

Most of the monkeys that are beating him have no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs or why they are participating in the beating of the newest monkey.

After replacing all the original monkeys, none of the remaining monkeys have ever been sprayed with cold water. Nevertheless, no monkey ever again approaches the stairs to try for the banana.

Why not?

The Answer is: That's the way it has always been done here!

Interesting story!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

But It's The Way It Has Always Been Done Here!

How many times have you heard that? Other familiar change barriers are "That's not the way we do it here," or "that will never work!" With that type of attitude, most likely they are right! I deal with change on a daily basis. As project managers, we enact change. We are the change agents and the front lines for change. I have brought in over 200 projects in my career and they all deal with change. I have heard many statements that try to stop the change from occurring in the first place. I have developed a technique on helping start the change discussion or even defend the change barriers that are typically thrown my way. That is the topic of this post.

I will find the ways that things "used to be done" in various industries and professions and use that to start the discussion for change. I usually like to make a game of it. For example, I was working on a project for a hospital and we were streamlining a process for the patients. The process would require the nursing staff to change a system that they were all comfortable with, but quite antiquated. The rumor mill had been quite active and many opinions had been formed about the project and it hadn't even been kicked off yet. At the initial kickoff meeting, you could feel the tension. I had done some research on the web and found a Top 10 list of insane medical practices published on a comedy site called Cracked. Click here for the article. Some of my favorites were: 
  • Children's Soothing Syrups were made to help calm children down. They were often pumped full of narcotics.
  • Mercury was used to treat wounds and a litany of other ailments.
  • Heroin was used to suppress coughs.
  • Bloodletting was used to cure just about everything.
I kicked off the presentation by showing some of these old medical practices. Then I followed up with, "Aren't you glad some things change?" There was quite a bit of laughter and surprise, but the point was made. Sometimes change isn't all bad! We moved right into the scope of the project and the tension was drained from the room. It was a fantastic lead in and the team really became engaged in the project.

Riding the success of this meeting, I began utilizing the technique for many other industries. For each project, I research practices that have changed or ideas that revolutionized the industry. I then have those on the ready when I am talking to someone and I hear a change barrier. I was working with a financial services firm when the CFO challenged one of the changes that the requested project was bringing. I answered back that all of his data entry people used to have to be trained on a 10-key by feel and processed manually as well. He said, "Good point."

Change is really just an idea coming to fruition. Someone has an idea, thought, product, or goal and change is what brings that to light. Some of these ideas are astounding such as CNN's article or Tim Crane's article of ideas that have changed the world. Some of the ideas are not so good, like the ones found in the Time article about the 100 worst ideas of the century. This technique has been very successful in preparing an organization for change. While it can be funny, it also sets the tone that things do change for a reason (most of the time). It is a good way to open the minds of the team and get them prepared. I will leave you with some of my favorite change resistance quotes of all time.

  • "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." -- Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943.
  • "I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won't last out the year." -- The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957.
  • "But it good for?" -- Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, 1968, commenting on the microchip.
  • "There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home." -- Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977.
  • "This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us." -- Western Union internal memo, 1876.
  • "The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?" -- David Sarnoff's associates in response to his urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920s.
  • "While theoretically and technically television may be feasible, commercially and financially it is an impossibility." -- Lee DeForest, inventor.
  • "The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a 'C', the idea must be feasible." -- A Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith's paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. (Smith went on to found Federal Express Corp.)
  • "Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?" -- H. M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927.
  • "I'm just glad it'll be Clark Gable who's falling on his face and not Gary Cooper." -- Gary Cooper on his decision not to take the leading role in "Gone With the Wind."
  • "A cookie store is a bad idea. Besides, the market research reports say America likes crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies like you make." -- Response to Debbi Fields' idea of starting Mrs. Fields' Cookies.
  • "We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out." -- Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962.
  • "Radio has no future. Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible. X-rays will prove to be a hoax." -- William Thomson, Lord Kelvin, British scientist, 1899.
  • "It will be years -- not in my time -- before a woman will become Prime Minister." -- Margaret Thatcher, 1974.
  • "With over 50 foreign cars already on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isn't likely to carve out a big slice of the U.S. market." -- Business Week, August 2, 1968.
  • "Everything that can be invented has been invented." -- Attributed to Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899, but known to be an urban legend.
Make sure you are ready for the next change headed your way!


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Want Success? Kill the Ambiguity!

I was talking with a friend recently and an old story popped into my head. I was working for a large organization and was the project manager for a notoriously tough client. The client, we will call Barbara, was known for constantly complaining, never being pleased, and generally difficult to deal with. At the time, my incentive package included a customer survey. I met the category of my incentive if I received an overall rating of 4 or 5. Barbara was widely known for distributing a 1 or 2 overall score. There is a large percentage of survey respondents who would rarely give a 4 or 5 based on the feeling that nobody is ever perfect!

In the first meeting, I openly told Barbara that I would be distributing a survey at the completion of the project. The survey would ask for ratings in several categories including an overall rating. I asked Barbara directly, "My goal is to have you be satisfied to the point that you feel compelled to select a 5 on the survey. Can I ask you, what constitutes a 5 in your mind?" She was perplexed. She asked me what I meant. I continued, "Given this project and what we are trying to accomplish, imagine you and I are now meeting for the final review and I have just given you the survey. In order for you to select a 5, what would the end look like?" She thought further and started to name things that she felt would be important. The first thing she said is that she wanted to be completely satisfied. I dove in deeper. "Barbara, while I want you to be completely satisfied, we need to define that into terms that can be measured. Such as stating we need to be on budget. If we were to come in over budget by 5%, would that be a 5?" She said no. I asked her what would be a 5? She thought further. At the end of the meeting, we had a list of defined objectives that could be measured. We both agreed that if the objectives were met, then I could receive a 5 on the survey. A couple of examples were:

- Budget: To achieve a 5, the budget must come in under the amount documented. If it goes over at all, it is a 4 and every 10% over will reduce the score further.
- Time: All tasks within the scope of control would be completed within the timeframe documented. If more that 10% of tasks run late, the score will be a 4. For every 10%, the score will reduce further.

There was a definition applied to each score on the survey. During the project, the software that was purchased and installed did not function as it had advertised. We were installing the hardware and then rolling out the package after the software had been delivered. Many tasks were late, but those that ran behind were outside of the scope of my control. There were also some new things, just like in every project, that the client had discovered, changed, or decided they wanted during the project. We completed the work, but due to the multiple software errors, the project felt clunky. It didn't flow very well. There were many issue resolution calls and lat nights. At the closing meeting, I presented the survey to Barbara. She proceeded to state that she would follow her pattern of circling 1's and 2's. I then went back to the definitions that we had agreed upon and showed the facts of the project. According to our definitions, I deserved a 5 on all categories. We discussed why she was thinking the 1's and 2's and each reason was something that came up well after she had defined success. While these items were items that we could address on the next project, it would be unfair to rate us against criteria she hadn't thought of until later. She agreed and circled all fives. She listed in her comments that she was unhappy about a few things but realized that they were not things that were directly attributable to me or my organization.

When the survey was turned in, I immediately received calls from many levels of management inquiring how I could have gotten her to turn in a survey saying that she was completely satisfied. I told them that it was simple. I asked her to define what a 5 was and then held up my end of the bargain. In the end, she held up hers. The next time I worked with her, she had new and tougher definitions of what constituted a 5, but we both were clear on what had to be done to achieve the rating. To this day, she is still a reference for me.
The reason I wanted to share this story is that we often list project success and failure in ambiguous terms: on time, on budget, within scope. I have taken the technique that I learned and now apply it to projects. I ask the sponsor to define what a 5 would mean. There are always issues and things outside of our control. This technique is a good one to start talking in more realistic terms as to what success really means.

Keep marching forward!


Monday, April 4, 2011

A Positive Mindset

It is what it is. This is one of my favorite statements. I teach project managers that they should always reveal the truth and believe in the concept of "it is what it is." No amount of sugar-coating or truth bending can shade the fact that the project is where it is. It may be behind budget, it may be late or doing very well. No matter what, the project manager should always tell the truth. This statement seems to get questioned the most. In a recent seminar, I received the question "Telling the truth is often considered 'being negative' or 'not a team player' even with data. How do you get past that?" Fantastic question! I get past that with my mindset.

I truly believe that with the right time and resources, a project manager can accomplish anything. In the 1960's, John F. Kennedy stated that we would put a man on the moon, which at the time was only accomplished in science fiction. We have accomplished that feat. There were many failures before success, but we did it. Computers today are more robust and cheaper than they ever have been. We would have never dreamed that 25 years ago. That being said, I have the mindset that we can accomplish anything, given that we have enough time and resources. If I have the proper mindset, then the message that I am delivering to my sponsors or stakeholders takes a different spin. If I say, "That date is impossible unless I get three more resources," then likely that is perceived as negative. However, if I state it as "We have analyzed what you want and found a way to deliver it successfully. I need three more resources, but we can deliver," it takes on a different connotation. I try to never say no. Instead, I try to say yes with conditions. It is the same statement. One is negative and one is more positive.

Being a stakeholder on many projects, more often the project manager approaches me with why something can't be done versus the data of what is necessary to accomplish the task. Remember that in your next negotiation. Instead of telling a sponsor why it is unlikely to achieve success, tell them how to achieve it. I often hear "we can't, we don't, it is unlikely" instead of "here is what I need for success." It is all about mindset and approach. If you establish the proper mindset, it can be very freeing. In fact, you are more likely to achieve success by asking the question of "how can we meet this objective" instead of "why will this objective fail?" It is human nature to grab the negative and roll with it. It takes practice and optimism to grab the positive and enable it.

I know that most project managers have been taught that they own a project from start to finish. Ownership and accountability are two different things. The reality is that project managers do not own the budget, timeframe, or scope. They enable them. Therefore, a project manager should never say no. They should say, "absolutely we can get that done, here is what we need." Try it. You might like it!


Monday, March 21, 2011

My Bruce Pearl Story

For my project management followers, I apologize for the off topic post.

The news abounds today about the firing of Bruce Pearl, Head Basketball Coach, University of Tennessee. I believe that more and more stories will come out as to what happened and different allegations. While I don't condone the NCAA infractions and the misleading that Bruce has already admitted to, I definitely do not condone bringing this story out before our first game in the NCAA tournament. That is too much pressure to put on college kids already under tremendous pressure. I do not know all of the facts about the case, but I do think that Bruce leaving hurts the University of Tennessee. There are many critics, but what he has done to bring energy to the program is without question or equal. I think Tennessee basketball will be setback several years as a result. With all of that said, I wanted to share what type of person that I think Bruce was and it is illustrated with a simple picture.

I had just finished doing some consulting for UT and taken my family to the Tennessee vs. UCLA game. On Sunday, as we were leaving the hotel, I saw Bruce outside. I had asked my wife Stephanie to get the camera. She couldn't find it. She searched and searched the bags. When she told me she had found the camera, I turned to ask Coach for a picture. By that time, he had gotten into his car, started it, and was about to leave. I said, "Hey Coach" and turned to see him in his car. I quickly turned back around thinking that we had missed the opportunity. Coach Pearl turned off his car and opened the door and shouted, "Did you want a picture?" I said that I did. He got out of the car and then graciously took a picture with me and my children.

For me, that told me all that I needed to know about Coach Pearl. He was a man of the fans. He understood that his role was more than coach, it was also ambassador. Painting his chest, rapping at a concert, and the genuine excitement that he had for Tennessee Basketball will be hard to match. Most coaches that come in already have to coach under the shadow of the great Pat Summitt. Now, they have to work under the shadow of Coach Pearl as well. Coach Pearl has such a large heart and passion and it shows. His team loves him and it shows. He loved the University of Tennessee and it shows.

I am sure that Tennessee had cause. Coach Pearl has already admitted that he had done wrong. I wish that both sides could have worked it out. Some of our greatest icons in sports had to overcome being human. Could we not have embraced and nurtured to overcome this one? Coach Pearl has done wrong and should shoulder the consequences. Being suspended 8 games, docked $1.5 million, and publicly humiliated out to be enough.

To Coach Pearl, good luck to you and you will be sorely missed by the Vol Nation.

A Sad Vol Fan,

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Resource WAR

Project managers are often faced with limited resources and tight time frames. They are also on the hook for the project success or failure. This often means the covertly degrading of quality to slam in the project just to satisfy the deadlines. However, it is difficult for most project managers to articulate their needs for resources. Therefore, I have come up with an anagram for you to remember how to phrase the discussion to your sponsors to give them options for project deadlines.

If you have ever heard me speak, I often state that the best mindset for a project manager is the one that never says no. I say, "I can absolutely do that, here is what I need." I also teach to ask either/or questions instead of yes/no. So this brings me to the resource WAR:

W - WAIT - We can wait for the resources to become available.
A - AUGMENT or ACQUIRE - We can go hire consultants, a vendor, or get some contractors to do the work
R - REDIRECT - We can redirect the resources from another project to this one.

For every project that is resource constrained, those are your options. The key is to get the data for each of the options so that you can present it to the sponsor appropriately. For example:

W - Find out when the resources will be available. For this example, we will assume October of this year.
A - Find out the cost of the consultant or contractor.
R - Find out which projects the resources are working on.

Once you have the data, it is time to present what you have learned to the sponsor:

PM: Mr. or Ms. Sponsor, in order to deliver the timeframe that you have requested, I will need three more resources or the date could slide to December of this year.
Sponsor: December? We need this to be done by July!
PM: The resources that we need are not available until October. I did find out that we could bring in a consultant for $XX.
Sponsor: We do not have additional budget.
PM: What about diverting the resources from project XX to this one?
Sponsor: We can't stop that project.
PM: It seems our options are to wait until December, hire the consultant, or redirect the resources. What would you like to do?

That may seem over-simplistic, but in reality, what are the other options? Get ready for the resource WAR. Get the data and present it to your sponsors. Good luck out there!


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Be Careful What You Ask For!

Wow....what a week!  I have been honored to work with a phenomenal organization to architect and develop a solution that can revolutionize an industry.  This project blends project management, business process re-engineering, and solution design.  It is a once in a lifetime type of project and the immediate team that I am working with is truly amazing.  We were paid one of the nicest compliments that I have ever received from a client.  This client had been working on the design of a solution and trying to find technology to deliver it for over two years.  He said to me last night, "Where we are now is where we had hoped to be 12-14 months ago.  However, having you guys on board made it worth the wait."  That was just one of the many compliments delivered to us this week by one of the most amazing clients.  I have never worked with a client that embraced and appreciated hard work as much as this one.  We heard from the top of the organization, the senior leadership, the project manager, the business liaison, the IT sponsor and everywhere in between compliments as nice as that I said in the a week!

Early on in my career, I was called in to rescue a  project that was one year past due and one million dollars over budget.  The goal of the project was to reduce the entry of the items by the employees in the field from 5 minutes per item to 3 minutes per item.  We spent another year developing this system that was originally estimated to take 6 months.  I begged to meet with users in the field and gain their input in the design of the system.  Each time, my request was denied.  When we finally debuted the system just slightly two years overdue, the field users hated it.  It now took them up to 15 minutes per item.  We had increased their time instead of decreasing their time.  The managers all thought they knew best and made all of the decisions during requirements and design.  They were wrong.  The end result was we lost the customer, they lost 2.5 years and 3 million dollars, and they had to start all over by throwing the system away and starting from scratch.  Learning from that mistake, we had asked for user involvement in this current system we are developing.  This leads me to the title of this blog careful what you ask for!

This week was the culmination of 16 months of requirements and 5 months of heavy development with 6 separate incremental demonstrations of the functionality.  We had a select group of individuals representing each of the roles in the system come in for the first true unveiling of the design.  While the system overall was a hit, we missed a core element of the system in a big way.  All of the requirements, all of the discussions, and all of the design sessions....and we missed a core element.  At first, it was devastating.  It was scary.  What did it really mean?  Luckily, it wasn't the first rodeo for me or the client.  We were prepared to have something go wrong, but we were all honestly surprised how far we missed the core element.  By the end of the session, we had a new design and a new approach hammered out and on the way to the core decision makers for their approval.

The moral of the story is you have to get to the users.  You have to get the true input of the people that are the ones that are going to use the system.  It does not matter how much expertise you have in the room, how good the developers are, or how long you spent doing requirements.  If you do not have the core users giving you input on how the systems should function, your chances of success are reduced exponentially.  At the same time, you must be careful what you ask for.  When you do solicit feedback, make sure it is early enough in the process that you can make the appropriate adjustments.  If we had this session 3-4 weeks later, I think it would have been detrimental to the project.

So the project management tip for this week, make sure you are getting users input.  Make sure that you do it early enough in the project where the feedback can be applied to the project without many changes.  Don't be afraid to ask....just be careful!

Until next time!


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Time for a New Set of Goals!

Happy Anniversary! I am proud and blessed to announce that R2 Consulting has turned 2 today. I can't believe it has been two years already. What an incredible journey this has been. The people that we have had a chance to work with, the solutions that we have been able to craft, and the ability to create an appropriate work/life balance have surpassed all expectations. We exceeded our first year revenue goals by over 10 % and grew an additional 5% over the next year. While 5% is modest growth, profitability grew by 61% year over year. We have also just concluded our largest revenue month ever. We created this little upstart in one of the most challenging economic times in our Nation's history and have been blessed to continue to do what we love while being able to support our families.

My VP of Sales, partner, and great friend Greg Huffman shared a story with me this morning on the 2 year anniversary. He had dinner last night with an associate of ours who told him the story of how he had met me. In 2005, I was a senior project manager for CA and was assigned to the Clarity implementation at a retail company in Jackson, MS. We were utilizing a partner company to do the implementation of the system. As I try to do with all of my partners and associates, I took the two gentlemen from this organization to dinner to become acquainted with them. Generally at these dinners, we tell stories of experience and past projects and begin to build a relationship with each other. At this particular dinner, I was asked what my career aspirations were. I had some ideas that were just brewing in my head at that time and listed my goals:

1) I wanted to write a book. (I have 3 on the market now)
2) I wanted to build a speaking career and seminar business around the book. (I speak for an average of two organizations or events per week)
3) I wanted to eventually own my firm. (R2 Consulting)
4) I wanted to consult in many different industries and inspire organizations to look at project managers as a strategic resource. (Our client and industry list continues to grow)
5) I wanted to travel the world with my family. (We go overseas at least twice per year. Once for vacation and at least once for a speaking engagement)

Those were my long term goals. When I woke up this morning, I had an e-mail from Greg wishing me a happy anniversary. He also said that our associate had relayed the conversation and was happy to see that I had achieved all that I said that I would. That made me pause for a moment. I have achieved what I had set out to do. Sometimes, we get so busy in our day to day routines that we often do not take a step back and reflect on where we have been, where we are, and where we are heading. I was blown away by the story. I can't believe that he remembered what I had said that evening. Now thinking back to what I had listed, those were items that I had wanted to accomplish over the next 10-15 years. I have been blessed to be surrounded with such a phenomenal group of friends, business associates, and family to help me achieve these goals so quickly. So it is time to set the next set of goals. Here goes:

1) Build a proven system that promotes project management and project managers as strategic resources that revolutionize the way organizations operate.
2) Create a motivational seminar series that teaches and empowers individuals and organizations to harness the power of change and improve their lives and communities.
3) Franchise the seminar series and create a worldwide audience.
4) Expand R2 Consulting to become the premiere resource for project management technology and development.
5) Spend more time fulfilling my roles for my family (Father, Husband)

There it is. Exposed for the world to see (or at least the 20 of you who actually read this post). Let's pray that the next 5 years grow like the last 5!

Finally tonight I wanted to touch on one other topic. On a post last April, I talked about why I like the small, family-based company feel ( I was heartbroken to hear the shocking layoffs of two of my friends. One had been with a company for 16 years. She just recently had her second child and upon returning from maternity leave, she found out that her job was being outsourced to India. My other friend was put in a position a few years ago with no training and little chance for success. He persevered and was achieving his sales goals for the company. Furthermore, he was about to close a very lucrative deal that he had put quite a lot of effort towards. Two weeks before the signature of the deal, he was laid off. The Department of Labor talks about how transient the workforce is these days. They estimate that an average person will have five jobs before the age of 30. We also are seeing statistics of average length of employment at a company is two years. For the young mother of two, 16 years of loyalty was paid off by giving her job to a cheaper resource. The message continues to be sent that profit is more important than loyalty and service. Where has common sense gone? Where has loyalty gone? I remember I was almost removed from a company because I had exceeded my goals and it would have been more of a cost savings to the company to not pay me my incentive. They had made the decision to keep the person who was not performing as well. If I had not closed a big deal when I had, then they would have gone through with it.

I pray for my friends and for all of you out there who may find yourself in this position. Keep your head up. Maybe it is time for you to find your passion and pursue a career that gives you the freedom to do what you want and the satisfaction of doing it your way. Maybe it is time for you to set some new goals......

Until next time!


Monday, January 31, 2011

#3 and Feeling Good!

It has been a couple of weeks since my last post. No, I am not breaking my New Year's resolution, things have just been quite busy and the blessings continue to come! Here are several updates of what has been happening:

1) We received a message last night that this little old blog has been ranked #3 in a new listing of the Top 25 Blogs You Aren't Reading Yet. The two in front of this one are collaborative efforts, so we can say we are the #1 individually run (stretch much?). The list was published by Mr. Manager. You can read the article here:

I have read through some of the other blogs listed and it is a great compilation of new project management blogs. I am quite honored!

2) I was interviewed recently by for their podcast. This is the 67th podcast that they have created. You can hear the podcast here:

Also, check out some of the other podcasts that they have. The content is fantastic!

3) I just finished working with the RMC Project Management team to create the audio book and an e-learning course based on the Stop Playing Games! book. I truly enjoy spending time with the RMC team. They always are so professional, down-to-earth, and driven for excellence. Laurie, Erica, Tim, Eric, Whitney, Jason, and a host of others are so much fun to be around and they make me look so much better than I really am!

Other than all of that, not much has been going on ;) Later this week I will restart the answering of questions that have been posed in the various webinars. I hope this message finds you well.

Passionately forging in to 2011,


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Value of a Resource Loaded Schedule

Here is the next question in my continuing series of answering questions posed to me through the various webinars.

How do you get the senior members of the organization to realize the importance of a resource loaded schedule?

The Setup

I think the only way to bring the visibility to the senior executives is to be consistent with all of the schedules and then roll them up to view a true view of capacity. For instance, say that you are running 4 projects right now. Make sure that all of your schedules are resource loaded and appropriate. If they are not setup appropriately, read some of my other blog posts or either of my books to learn how to setup the plans. Once the plans are setup, then you need to roll up an aggregate view of the demand for the resources. If you have Project Server, Clarity, or any of these types of Enterprise tools, then learn how to do it there. If you do not have any of those tools, then use the "Resource Usage" view of your project plan to look at a monthly view of the total demand hours in your plans and plot those in a spreadsheet. You will end up with a chart that will show how busy the resources really are. Now add their "Other Work" such as admin time and operational support time. This gives you the total view of the demand of the resources.

The DeliveryNow that you have all of the data, when an executive asks for a new project or to accelerate a different one, you present them with the options that they have in an assumptive manner. You could say, "We would be happy to take on this project, how would you like to handle it? Should we hire a consultant or are you alright with waiting until October?" Of course, the executives are going to want to know why they can't have it right now. This is where you present them the aggregated view of the resources. If your company is like most, then your resources are maxed out. When you show this data to the executives, they will try to pick it apart. This is when you show them the resource loaded schedule, essentially proving your data. During the entire encounter, you need to maintain a positive outlook that you are happy to do anything and are willing to, you just need a decision as to what direction to take. Force the tough decision back to the executive.

The AftermathIt takes a few times for this to work, but eventually the executives will begin to accept the data. It is up to you to keep the data updated and relevant. As a side note, if you use a resource loaded schedule to delay a project start date or extend a project end date, then you will have no problems ever getting estimates from those resources again! I have worked with many executives in this capacity. It most cases, he/she will start to see the data for themselves and will begin to make the decisions. Being on both sides of the issue, I have often seen project managers tell me that a date or objective is impossible. However, when I challenge them, there is no substance to back up the claim. Having resource loaded schedules and understanding their impact on resource capacity can help make incredible strides in organizations.

TipSeveral companies ask me regularly to help them balance capacity and demand. My greatest tip is to not try to do the whole company at once. Pick one division (maybe the PMO itself) and balance their capacity and demand as a pilot. This is a relatively low level of effort to begin to have some of the conversations. I have a blog post titled "What About My Capacity?" that gives you a quick formula to ascertain the capacity of a PMO. Once the data is collected and the value of the data is realized, then expand it to a larger group.

Hoping you are finding your life's passion,