Showing posts with label sponsor. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sponsor. Show all posts

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, 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, November 11, 2010

Stroke the Ego of Your Stakeholders!

In the continuing series of answering questions asked after my presentations of Stop Playing Games! here is the next question I received:

"When you stated that Project Managers don't publish negative facts about the project for fear of backlash from their stakeholders, you mentioned that you should stroke their do you do that?"

That is a great question and  a technique that is not utilized often enough, in my opinion.  Project managers are often naysayers or are viewed as the ones who are very negative.  I think part of it is how we were taught.  We were taught to own the project.  Success and is the project manager's to own.  I think we should own the leadership, but there is a fundamental flaw in this belief.  It is not our scope, it is not our budget, most likely it is not our what exactly do we own?  Where did it become the norm that the project manager owns the outcome of a decision that they did not make?

Rolling with this theory, if we don't own it...then all we can do is facilitate it.  PM's must remember to ask for what they need and push the decision back to where it belongs.....the stakeholder or sponsor.  This is where we stroke the ego.  Make sure that you ask them...not tell them.....what they would like to do.  It goes something like this:

Mr. or Ms. Sponsor, we have an opportunity on this project, but I really need your help.  In order to secure the date that you have asked for, we would need to get an additional three resources.  However, we could move some scope around as well.  Not sure what the best answer is and I could really use your advice.

This pushed the decision back to the sponsor, but also shows that you respect them and their opinion.

So the technique is to truly value their opinion and bring them into the decision making process.  I have seen so many projects fail due to unrealistic demands where the date, budget, score, or how unrealistic the demands are discussed with the sponsors or stakeholders.  In my experience, if you get the data that you need, come up with options not problems, and present them in a respectful manner, you will be more successful.

Try it and let me know how it goes!

Hoping you too can find your life's passion,


Friday, July 23, 2010

Pushing Back...Is It OK?

It is amazing to me the difference between the way that project management is tought versus the way it is practiced.  If you follow the PMBOK, the PM is expected to have quite a bit of influence.  If you look at how project management is practiced, it seems that most PM's are just order takers.  For instance, in Rita Mulcahy's PMP Exam Prep, she goes over what she has coined as PMI'isms.  Some of the key ones are:

- PMI stresses the fact that a project manager must work within the existing systems and culture of the company.  They call these enterprise environmental factors and they are imputs to many processes.

- Percent complete is an almost meaningless number.  Project managers should not spend time collecting useless ingformation.  It is better to control the project and  know the status through other actions.

- A project manager has authority and power.  She can say "No" and work to control the project to the benefit of the customer.

- If at all possible, all the work and all the stakeholders are identifieid before the project begins.

- The work breakdown structure (WBS) is the foundation of all project planning and should be used on every project.

- Many project managers do not properly plan their projects.  Therefore, the work they do while the project work is ongoing is vastly different from what should be done.

-  There is a basic assumption on the exam that you have company project management policies (son't laugh, we will get there) and that you will adapt them for use on your projects.  These may include project management methodologies, risk procedures, and quality procedures.  So, assume you have them when you take the exam.

Many of you may scoff at these suggestions.  Here is the key.....Rita is absolutely right!  She couldn't be more right!  So then why is project management practiced in such a different manner?  Most organizations just truly do not understand the profession.  Our day is coming.  Our day is on the horizon.  The day where the project manager can say no, can push back, can be fearless in the delivery of messages.

Until that day comes, you must still try to follow the principles of project management.  Why?  Because they work!  The days of dictating dates and budgets while demanding scope are coming to an end.  Companies simply can't continue to operate with the blinders on.

Project managers, do not be afraid!  It is ok to push back!  It is ok to question the date!  It is ok to provide options!  I day you will be heard!

Keep pushing,