Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Breakthough Moment

I get asked often what it is that I do and why do I do it.  Being a project manager for a living is very tough to explain.  The easiest way to state it is that when companies want to improve, change, or try something new, they look to project manager's to make it happen.  That is the easiest part.  The harder part is trying to explain why I do what I do.  It means regular travel, long hours, and often work that goes unnoticed or unappreciated.  Maybe I just like to torture myself!

In reality, I love the challenge.  I love being a part of the creative process and watching great minds come together to accomplish something that has never been done before.  Most of all, I love the breakthrough moment.  It is a rare moment that happens only once or maybe twice on a project.  It is the moment that means everything is going wrong, stress is high, and failure is imminent.  Then, the team comes together and finds a solution, or a "breakthrough" and the project gains momentum.  Being a part of that moment is like being the star on the playing field making it happen for their team.  It is like solving the great mystery or finding something sentimental to you that you thought you lost forever.  It is an incredible feeling.

I remember having those feelings even when things did not go the way they were supposed to.  I remember working on a project that was absolutely doomed from the start.  However, the team and I were being great optimists and putting a tremendous amount of effort in to the project.  While the work was being completed, it was hard, depressing, and at times demoralizing.  Yet there were two distinct breakthrough moments on the project.  When they occurred, the entire team grew closer.  From time to time, I will hear from some of those team members and there is a bond between us that is very difficult to explain.  The only thing to say is that we went to the ends of the earth and back.....together.

Did you have a breakthrough moment?  If so, share!

Change is in you!


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,


Monday, July 12, 2010

New Blog Listing

My log has just been listed at  Thanks team!  Please visit this site as they have a tremendous amount of links to some great project management blogs!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Top Ten PM Desktop Clients

Here is a great review of the latest in software for project managers.  It is missing some of the open source proejct tracking tools like Open Workbench (  Good hunting!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Creating Proper Metrics

There has been quite a bit of debate around the selection of metrics for project reporting. Most organizations simply look at the "On Time, On Budget" statement and feel that is an acceptable status. Then there are the organizations that try to invest in Earned Value which is a technique that is widely taught in project management circles. The appeal of Earned Value is the reporting of % complete and % of budget expended were not sufficient in telling executives where the project actually stood. Earned Value gives two metrics (Cost Performance Index and Schedule Performance Index) that is engineered to give a quicker and more efficient status to executives. The problem with Earned Value is that it is extremely complex to maintain and most project managers do not have adequate information (like estimated hours to complete and work completed versus hours expended) to create an accurate picture. This is where the stoplight report comes in. Most companies rely on the subjective guess and feelings of the project manager on where the project cost, budget, and quality stand. So what metrics should be reported? The list can vary based on industry and corporate culture, but the following list can help create some metrics to get you started:

• Cost and Schedule: These metrics are still important and understanding where the project stands from a budget and time perspective is still vital information. It just can't be the only information provided.

• Project Plan Quality: How many tasks show a past due start date or a past due finish date? When was the last time the project plan was updated? How many times have the dates slid or moved on the plan? These metrics will show how closely the project manager is managing the plan. Also, by publishing these metrics, it gives the project manager notice that the plan must be managed.

• Project Issues Raised: How many issues have been raised? Too many can be a sign of a project in trouble and too few can be a sign of the project not being managed appropriately.

• Project Issue Close Rate: How many have been closed by the due date? Do issues have a due date? Metrics like this one will make sure that the team is putting appropriate focus on the issues of the project.

• Risks Planned For: How many risks have been raised and planned for? Again, too many shows a risky project and too few shows one that has not been managed appropriately.

• Meeting Attendance: How many meetings have been called and how well attended were they? This helps understand the effectiveness of called meetings. If there are too many or they are not well attended, or too few, this could be a sign.

• Communication Plan Execution: How many communications did the project manager plan during the project and were they effectively communicated? For instance, if they said an issue log would be created and disseminated every Thursday, did they send one every Thursday? This will assist in ensuring that everyone is getting the information that they planned to receive for the project.

• Decisions Requested and Received: How many decisions or issues have been raised to the stakeholders and/or sponsors and how many have had appropriate decisions? This shows the attention that the key people affected by the project are paying. If a decision seems to drag or items requested are overdue, this can put the project at risk.

These are just a few items that can be tracked to paint a clearer picture of how the project is being managed and the level of trust you can put into the reports received. Utilizing a broader metric base will allow you to give a confidence level to the reports and allow you to focus on the proper problem areas. For instance, if a project does not seem to be moving, where does the blame lie? It is easy to simply blame the project manager. However, if the project manager is waiting on the CEO of the company to make decisions and the decisions have not been made, the project manager may be wary to raise a red flag. It is important to make sure that all information is level set so that the most complete picture can be painted for statuses. Then, you truly have the right information in front of you to make the proper adjustment.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Death of a Pioneer - RIP Rita Mulcahy

I just got the sad news.  Rita Mulcahy, pioneer of the industry and the best selling project manager of all time passed away.  Here is the announcement:

Rita Mulcahy, Founder of RMC Project Management and the best-selling project management author of all-time, passed away on Saturday, May 15th 2010, from complications related to a five-year battle with Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC). She was 50. Rita leaves behind husband Tim Mulcahy, current Vice-President and Chief Legal Counsel for RMC, and two children, ages 7 and 5.

Rita was diagnosed with Stage 4 Inflammatory Breast Cancer in September of 2005, just days before two scheduled speaking appearances at PMI Global Congress in Toronto, Ontario. Given only months to live, Rita spent the next five years privately fighting her disease with a continuous regimen of both Western and Holistic treatments. During that time she continued to work, authoring five more best-selling books—including one with Fortune 100 leader Cisco Press—and delivering classes and keynote speeches across the globe. She also spent a great deal of time growing her business, and over the last five years watched RMC expand its training and product distribution to nearly 50 regions worldwide.

After her diagnosis, Rita worked feverishly to build RMC into one of the fastest-growing training organizations in the industry. Today, her thriving company is filled with some of the most sought-after experts in the fields of instructional design and delivery, learning development, and educational technology. Going forward, the Management Team at RMC will continue to leverage Rita's marketing-leading methodologies and learning techniques to develop more award-winning products, classes and e-learning courses in Project Management and numerous other related disciplines.

Even though Rita is no longer with us on a day-to-day basis, her unique and highly effective teaching style will live on through the hundreds of thousands of products and courses RMC delivers worldwide each year. In 2010, the Project Management industry lost its most passionate leader, advocate and friend. We will feel her loss every single day.

If you have questions regarding this release, we ask that you please direct all inquiries to Eric Rudolf, Director of Marketing at, or via phone at (952) 846-4484 420. Thank you.

Like many of you, I was certified through Rita's breakthrough learning system for the PMP.  There are others that do it now and many more options available.  However, she was truly the pioneer.  I got to talk with her a couple times and I have been blessed to have my third book picked up by the company she helped create.  She was a fascinating woman who really loved what she did.  She is an inspiration to us all.  RIP Rita, from the thousands of people you helped worldwide.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

To PMP or not to PMP, is that a question?

I am going to take my turn to weigh in on this debate.  As with any issue or opinion, some of you may agree and some of you may disagree.  The best part is that we have the opportunity to discuss and take sides!

Before I go any further into this post, yes, I know many PMP's who could not manage themselves out of a paper bag.  Yes, I know many PMP's who do not seem to know squat about project management.  There, I admitted it.  But does that mean the PMP is totally invalid?

I have seen many postings and articles debating the value of the PMP.  The Project Management Institute (PMI) has grown in leaps and bounds over the last few years.  One of the key reasons is the administering of the PMP exam and the credential itself.  Professionals seem to be deeply divided on whether this is a credible certification.  I think there is only one opinion that really matters.....yours.

I tweeted earlier this week that I thought a PMP was very beneficial.  One person responded to me that "Street cred is earned by exhibiting knowledge."  I couldn't agree more.  It made me think back to a time earlier in my career.  Due to a host of issues, I did not finish college on time.  I went into the workforce.  I even had my PMP before my college degree.  I remember responding to a job advertisement for an internal consultant.  I had all of the skills necessary and knew if I got the chance to interview, the job would be mine.  I couldn't even get past the first screening.  The reason?  No college degree.  When I was in school, I was studying for radio and television broadcasting.  This job was nowhere near that line of study and I had years of "Street Cred."  Couldn't even get an interview.  It was then that I decided to finish college and get my degree.  However, there were easy options thrown at me.  Degree mills or cheap ways to say that you had a degree.  I did mine the old fashioned way.  Hard work.  I did have a push though.  The current job I had been working stated that a college degree was necessary.  Even though I already had the job, took a 40% pay cut to accept the position, and was truly over-qualified, I would have lost it if I had not enrolled to finish my degree prior to joining the company.  I ask you, had I finished my degree when I was supposed to, would that make me any more qualified?  The better question is, if I need to distinguish myself from others, is a degree necessary?  Here is the wierd part.  Those who have degrees are shouting yes at the computer screen right now.  Those who do not have degrees are ready to comment how they were able to succeed without one.

I think it is the same for PMP's.  There are several classes of people out there.  There are those that agree with the principles, believe in the certification and get it for the right reasons.  There are those that simply got one to try to get a better job or salary.  There are those that got them through a certification mill or by doctoring their applications.  There are those that will never get one at all.  The question really is, which one of "those" do you want to be?

I agree with the "Street Cred" tweet that I received earlier this week.  Once you have the opportunity to show your knowledge and talents, will you follow the principles that you agreed to when you signed the ethics pledge?

I personally believe that the certification IS valid.  I believe that it is worthwhile and I am proud to not only have a PMP, but to participate in many levels of PMI.  I think those that received theirs through unpure motives will weed themselves out in the end.  I think those that go after it cheaply will see it leave just as easily.  There is a bigger question out there than this one.  If a company is going to require a PM to have a PMP, then the company should be willing to follow the process!  The answer to that issue is..........another post for another day.

Hope this post finds you well!

Rick A. Morris, PMP <- (and earned it!)