Thursday, February 26, 2009

Alltop Now Features Management House

Management House is now featured at

Alltop enhances your online reading by displaying articles from online sources that you’re already visiting. It also helps you to discover sources that you didn’t know existed. For more information about Alltop, check out the review in ReadWriteWeb.

You will find Management House under Alltop’s Project Management topic.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

How to Manage in a World Turned Upside Down

Working is stressful enough in times without a global recession, huge layoffs , and ongoing corporate bankruptcies. Managers can do a great deal to relieve an employee’s fears, ease a restructuring, or help prepare for a layoff. Managers are in a position to:
  • Deal honestly with employees
  • Be proactive with employees’ needs for information
  • Encourage participation in change where possible
  • Implement change gradually

Most people do not resist change. They resist the uncertainty associated with change. Honest and constant communication can help to reduce uncertainty. Each employee, like you, needs to make informed decisions about their (family’s) future. A friend of mine found a new job because he heard his team might be downsized in a few months. It wasn’t.

These observations may seem trite, but how often have you seen change go well? How many times have you been part of a reorganization and commented, “Excellent reorg. Smooth.” Do most people who are laid off conclude that they were treated with respect?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Sacred PM Practices -- Project Reporting

I next considered whether project recording could be a key factor in successful execution of a large IT project. Reporting has always been a rather dry subject, but perhaps I could discover something innovative in the frequency, topics, or audience of project reporting.

Frequency of Project Reporting

  • Thirty-two percent of projects reported on a monthly basis
  • Two of the projects (8%) never or rarely reported to senior management

Topics in Project Reporting


  • Senior management chooses to review project risks and project schedule for a significant percentage of the projects
  • Senior management reviews neither the project budget nor changes in project objectives for the majority of projects

Audience in Project Reporting


  • Sixty percent of the projects report that written project status reports are distributed to only those who attend status meetings
  • Even though sending an electronic report to the entire project team costs essential nothing, only 24% of the project managers do so

Did you find any surprises here? I have never really understood why a project report would not be shared with all team members. I have always found my name, next to a set of tasks with dates, to be very motivating.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sacred PM Practices – Stakeholder Involvement

Another topic that I pursued in my research, introduced in a Jan 25, 2009 posting, was the frequency of stakeholder involvement. I predicted that it would be nearly impossible to execute a project successfully without frequent interaction with project stakeholders.

  • Of the 25 successful projects, 84% report a daily or weekly interaction with stakeholders.

  • Twelve percent of the successful projects had infrequent interaction (i.e., less frequent than monthly) with stakeholders.

Can you believe that three of the projects reported a “rarely” for stakeholder involvement? Does your experience mirror the findings above? That is, are stakeholders typically involved daily or weekly?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Stepping Stones to Achieve Towering Competence

It has been said that McKinsey consultants strive for towering competence. That is, to be so competent in a field that one towers above all others. I have often wondered how one achieves this goal. I have created the list below to help to identify some practical steps to start down this path.

  • Bring up (insert your discipline here) with your colleagues, continuously
  • Ask an expert how he or she became a recognized leader

Literature Search (existing knowledge)

  • Read periodicals
  • Study case studies
  • Read constantly

Research (new knowledge)

  • Conduct surveys to learn more about (insert your discipline here)
  • Review the findings of others’ surveys
  • Visit leaders of (insert your discipline here) .
  • Conduct information interviews.


  • Attend seminars where (insert your discipline here) is discussed
  • Present your ideas at seminars

Project Work

  • Watch for opportunities where you can learn more about (insert your discipline here)
  • Build (insert your discipline here) into the project
  • Put a (insert your discipline here) angle on the project
  • Build a research portion of (insert your discipline here) into the project


  • Create a blog
  • Post on others’ blogs (see
  • Publish articles in periodicals
  • Publish your own book

No one can pursue all of these activities at once. Choose three or four that you can tackle during the next three months. Maybe you cannot focus on writing a book this year. Many training and travel budgets have been slashed so you are forced to defer the seminar avenue. Even in a global recession, you should be able to talk with colleagues, read a lot, and create a blog. When working towards towering competence, remember that it could take a few years, or a career, to achieve.

What have I missed? Are there other activities that can help a person along the way to becoming an expert in a field?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Sacred PM Practices -- Define Project Schedule

In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable” is a well known quote from General Eisenhower. While I would not propose managing a project is the same as ridding the world of tyranny, his sentiment strongly suggests that we should pay careful attention to planning. If a project manager is to be successful, he or she should take great care in planning. Eisenhower didn’t mention the use of any single planning approach like the PERT Estimate, or Simpson’s Rule, but surely a planning methodology is necessary to build a project schedule.



  • None of the projects reported a formality (e.g., Global Efficiency Factor, Productivity Adjustment Percentage, PERT Estimate) in scheduling

  • Project managers for 64% of the projects had to make all interim milestones fit a final milestone

This, by the way, was the most shocking discovery of my research project… not a single project used a formal estimating approach to define its project schedule. Others have found project management methodologies to be unnecessary for some types of projects (see We Don’t Need No PM Methodology by Pawel Brodzinski).

I tend to use one of two planning approaches. For unfamiliar types of projects, I will work with my technical leads using something like PERT Estimate. For types of projects where I am familiar with the activities to be performed, I just lean on my own judgment (a.k.a. relative comparison). It is quicker.

What about you? How much do you depend on formal methods of project planning?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Sacred PM Practices – Dedication of Staff

It looks like one key to success is to have a dedicated project team. The term dedicated means that the project team members are not expected to split their time between projects. The pie chart below should serve as a healthy argument for acquiring dedicated resources.


  • Eighty-four percent of the projects indicated that the core staff of the team was 100% dedicated

  • Only 16% of the successful projects reported a problem with insufficient resources
I have found a dedicated project team to be a luxury. How many times have you worked on only one project at a time? I have never worked for a large company where matrix management is not the norm. Lost in Matrix Management points us to many of the problems of this type of organizational structure.

Have you ever seen a large project succeed without dedicated team members? Perhaps sharing the time of team members is fine as long as their work is not on the schedule's critical path.

(For information about Sacred PM Practices, see the posting on Jan 25, 2009)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Sacred PM Practices – Project Manager Selection

How is a successful project manager chosen? I’d like to say, very carefully. However, my research shows that the majority of project managers are not formally chosen. That is, there is little effort in identifying what the project needs in a project manager, and then matching the project needs with a candidate’s abilities.


  • The selection of only 6 of the 25 project managers could be classified as formal or involving lengthy consideration (i.e., energy was spent identifying needed skills, reviewing candidates, and selecting an individual)

I asked my respondents to comment on the attributes that were important when selecting a PM for a large IT project. The following attributes were identified as selection criteria for project managers for the sample projects:

  • Communications skills – 6 responses

  • Business knowledge – 5 responses

  • PM came highly recommended – 5

  • Reputation for delivery – 5

  • Sound judgment – 4

  • Person was simply available – 4

  • Organizational skills – 3

  • Strong relationship with business community – 3

  • Technical knowledge -2

  • Negotiating skills – 2

  • Demonstrated leadership with business community – 2

  • Maturity level of person – 1

  • Similar work in the past – 1

  • PM was on the project’s steering committee – 1

Please note, some PMs were selected based on a few criteria. The number of responses does not equal the number of projects in the sample.

What do you think about the list of selection criteria? I was shocked at “Person was simply available.” This is an honest response, but weak. I have worked on many projects where “technical knowledge” of the project manager was considered critical. However, technical knowledge of the PM came into play for only two of the twenty-five projects.