Showing posts with label Project Management. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Project Management. Show all posts

June 21, 2019

UNDERpromise + OVERdeliver

Every manager is rightly taught to underpromise and overdeliver. 

It's sound planning and good risk management to plan for contingencies--and certainly these do happen. 

Build in some buffer time and resources into your estimates, because reality bites and you need to have the ammunition to respond. 

My father used to tell me:
"A word is a word!"

When you say something, promise something, commit to something then that is it!"

To do otherwise is to have no honor, no character, and no fear of G-d. 

Similarly, when you overpromise and underdeliver, you fail yourself and your customers.

People commit time, resources, and faith in you, so you owe it to them to set realistic goals and plans to accomplish them.

To do otherwise, you risk damage to the longterm relationship, you hurt your credibility, and maybe most importantly, you hurt the chances of genuine progress. 

The philosophy that I believe works best is:  Be thoughtful. Be strategic. Be direct. Be honest.  

That's what I would want from others and that's also what I strive to be. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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May 4, 2019

Getting The Biggest Bang For The Buck

So I had the opportunity to sit in on a colleague teaching a class in Performance Improvement. 

One tool that I really liked from the class was the Impact-Effort Matrix. 

To determine project worth doing, the matrix has the:

Impacts (Vertical) - Improved customer satisfaction, quality, delivery time, etc.

Effort (Horizontal) - Money, Time, etc. 

The best bang for the buck are the projects in upper left ("Quick Wins") that have a high impact or return for not a lot of effort. 

In contract, the projects that are the least desirable are in the lower right ("Thankless Tasks") that have a low impact or return but come at a high cost or lot of effort. 

This is simple to do and understand and yet really helps to prioritize projects and find the best choices among them. ;-)

(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)
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May 3, 2019

What Are The Chances for IT Project Success?

So I was teaching a class in Enterprise Architecture and IT Governance this week. 

In one of the class exercises, one of the students presented something like this bell-shaped distribution curve in explaining a business case for an IT Project. 

The student took a nice business approach and utilized a bell-shaped curve distribution to explain to his executives the pros and cons of a project. 

Basically, depending on the projects success, the middle (1-2 standard deviations, between 68-95% chance), the project will yield a moderate level of efficiencies and cost-savings or not. 

Beyond that:

- To the left are the downside risks for significant losses--project failure, creating dysfunction, increased costs, and operational risks to the mission/business. 

- To the right is the upside potential for big gains--innovations, major process reengineering, automation gains, and competitive advantages. 

This curve is probably a fairly accurate representation based on the high IT project failure rate in most organizations (whether they want to admit it or not). 

I believe that with:
- More user-centric enterprise architecture planning on the front-end
- Better IT governance throughout
- Agile development and scrum management in execution 
that we can achieve ever higher project success rates along the big upside potential that comes with it!  

We still have a way to go to improve, but the bell-curve helps explains what organizations are most of the time getting from their investments. ;-)

(Source Graphic: Adapted by Andy Blumenthal from here)
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May 1, 2019

Contributors and Whiners


Have you ever noticed the relationship between those that contribute and those that whine. 

The bad news is there is a highly inverse relationship between contributing and whining.

- Those that contribute, don't whine--they are focused on how to make things better!

- Those that whine, don't contribute--they complain and naysay, but add no real value.

The good news is that some solid contributors can more than counterbalance the whiners.

- Unfortunately, too often the whiners outnumber the contributors.

- But fortunately the contributors outweigh the whiners.

Despite your best efforts, you may not be able to make the whiners stop whining and throwing up roadblocks. 

You're often best-off spending your time working with the other contributors who want to see things through to success. 

Be a leader, not a babysitter and help the contributors win! ;-)

(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal adapted from here with attribution to mediamodifier)
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April 24, 2019

Project Suicide

This was sort of a funny scene in a project meeting. 

One person describing the challenges at one point, spontaneously and dramatically motions to take a knife and slit both wrists.

This absolutely got people's attention.

Understanding the struggles the person was expressing, and trying to add a little lightheartedness to the situation, I say:

"This is a tough project, pass around the knife."

This got a good hearty laugh around the table, with one person saying that this was the quote of the day. 

Anyway, we want to make operations as effortless as possible on people, but the project work to get there is definitely making people work for it. 

Let's avoid project or people suicide--be supportive of each other, pace ourselves, team together, and problem-solve to get it successfully over the finish line.

Soon we can celebrate all the challenges we overcame together and from our determined efforts, all the wonderful results. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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February 7, 2019

Birthing An IT System

Managing IT projects is no easy task.

You've got to get the requirements right. 

Technical issues need to be resolved. 

Dependencies have to be lined up. 

Integrations need to work. 

Design should be user-friendly and intuitive. 

Change management takes real leadership. 

And so much more. 

A lot needs to go right for the project to be a success. 

While of course, just one or two bad apples in the project equation can quickly make for a failure if not controlled for. 

But you can't let it...the show must go on, progress is waiting to be made, and the systems need to be delivered for the benefit of the organization. 

This is where real strength and determination by so many good people come in. 

Keep moving things forward--one step at a time--don't stop!!!---another step and another--heave ho, heave, ho--until one day soon a beautiful and efficient IT system is born. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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December 19, 2018

Project Management - The Best Day

So a colleague said something interesting to me about project management:
The best day of project management is usually the first day, but I want to show you that the best day is really the last day of the project.
And as I thought about this, I sort of starting laughing to myself and thinking, you know what, I think this guy has something here. 

- Day 1 of a project, everyone is usually all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. 

We're embarking on an adventure together to build something new for the organization and our customers. 

We're going to team up and everyone will contribute.

And out of the project sausage maker--poof!--like magic comes a new system or product. 

- But as we all know, things don't always go so smoothly.

With some projects, the pretty smiley faces of day 1 may quickly turn to ugly frown faces.

There is analysis paralysis, scope creep, conflicting or changing priorities, resource issues, technical challenges, or the sausage just doesn't come our right--oh sh*t!

Thus, many  projects end up going bust in terms of cost, schedule, or performance. 

That is, they end up costing too much, being delivered behind schedule, or just not meeting the performance requirements. 

You have some projects that never even truly get off the ground, have multiple resets, or get dumbed-down or even cancelled altogether along the way. 

So by the time you reach the last day of the project, many people seem like they've been through the project ringer. 

I'm sure that I've heard more than one project manager say:
Just take me out back and shoot me!

So when this colleague said that he wants the best day of the project to be the last--in terms of satisfaction with the project (not that that pain was finally over!)--I really appreciated this as an awesome goal. 

We should all look to the last day of our projects as the best--one where we can look back and say: 
Wow, great job everyone!  We really got something great done here--and we did it right!  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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December 11, 2018

You Can't Eat The Elephant

So there is a popular saying:

"You can't eat the elephant in one bite."

The idea is that you need to break things down in little pieces to get them down. 

If you try to eat the elephant in one bite, I assume that your mouth would easily split in half and your face would literally explode. 

Similarly with projects, if you try to get to the nirvana end state in one fell swoop , the project explodes with complexity and risk, and you will fail miserably.

Thus, managing requirements and phasing them in chunks is critical to projects' succeeding. 

Sure, customers want to get the Promised Land immediately--where the projects have all the "bells and whistles"--but you don't want to sacrifice getting the train on the tracks for the accouterments either. 

Think big, but act small--little by little, one step at a time, you can actually eat an elephant. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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September 22, 2018

Snowflakes Are Unique

Thought this was an interesting analogy. 

A colleague refers to some customers as snowflakes.

At first, I didn't get it. 

Then I understood. 

Every snowflake is unique. 

Based on how the ice crystals fall to the ground through different temperatures, moisture levels, and atmospheric pressures, the shape of every snowflake is different. 

Sometimes when it comes to project management, customers too think they are unique, different, and special.

They think that solutions that work industry- or enterprise-wide could never work for them and their wholly distinct ways of doing business. 

Hence, as I learned, the term snowflake. 

For those of us who have been around the project management block a few times, we know that while there are specific customer requirements, most of them are not all that unique. 

And when some customers simply don't want to do things differently than they've done it before, there can be greater resistance to change. 

Hence, the "We're special. We're different" reframe along with the standoffishness, doubting, circling the wagons, throwing up obstacles, or just refusing to fully participate. 

Obviously, it's a lot more difficult to modernize and transform through technology and business process re-engineering when your customers aren't on board. 

So it is critical to manage organizational change, address the questions, the fears, and elements that are truly unique, and bring the people along as true partners. 

Not every requirement is a snowflake and neither is every customer, but we have to manage the similarities and differences in every project and make sure it improves performance and meets the needs of the customer and the organization. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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September 13, 2018

Succeed OR Fail

So I liked this saying from a colleague of mine at work:
We succeed or fail as a team.

It's not me. 

It's not you. 

It's not him.

It's not her. 
It's us!

No one can do it alone. 

- If we fail, we fail as a team. 

- If we succeed, we succeed as a team. 

So let's come together and be a team and give it our best shot! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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September 6, 2018

All Aboard!

So when the train is pulling out it's a loud call by the conductor of:
"All Aboard that's going abroard."

With project management, it can be the same too. 

Once an organization has decided to move out on a project and make the investment of time, resources, and reputation:

- Either you get on the train and help feed the engine of progress

OR

- You get left behind.

- You get thrown off the train.

- You get run over by the train.

There really are no other alternatives. 

My advice is get with the program. 

The train is moving out.

The organization is going to deliver on its promise. 

Get the h*ll on!  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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September 5, 2018

Cracking Heads--In War and Work

Thought this was an amazing painting of the medieval battlefield.

The warrior in the center is using his war hammer to literally split heads open.

Not only for physical fighting (i.e. life and death), I've heard this term in the past used in the office setting:
"Cracking heads" to get things done. 

While war is war, I don't think that getting to progress in the office ever merits cracking anyone's head--let along with a battle hammer. 

Yes, people can be stubborn and occasionally pose obstacles to moving forward, but that is what communication skills and persuasion are for.

You have to seriously question the leadership and sanity of anyone who thinks and talks about hurting people at work. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 24, 2018

"Shock And Awe" Project Management

So this is a new type of project management and it can be very effective. 

It's called (my name): 
Shock and Awe Project Management

This technique is similar to the military doctrine of shock and awe that uses speed and overwhelming power to dominate the battlefield and vanquish the enemy.

In project management too, there are often naysayers, Debbie Downers, resisters, excuse makers, and people that lay down obstacle after obstacle to progress. 

This invariably derails projects and causes them to fall behind schedule, go over budget, experience scope creep, not meet the genuine user requirements, and ultimately fail!

However, if you manage the project with "shock and awe" and set aggressive timelines, assign substantial and very good resources, and move the project full speed ahead, then you can similarly create a momentum to the project that enables it to overcome the "enemies of the progress" (i.e. those that don't really want it to succeed or are too busying covering their own a*ses).

This approach is not advocating speed at the expense of quality nor is it calling for cutting corners or riding roughshod over people, but rather to the contrary, it calls for techniques similar to the military of moving with absolute focus, determination, efficiency, collaboration, synchronization, and overwhelming "project power" to ensure it's success. 


Projects, like battles, can be "won" by putting the right resources on the field and moving them to get quick wins in rapid succession (where the enemies of progress don't stand a real fight) so that the projects get not only completed on time and within budget, but most importantly to real stakeholder satisfaction and the organization's success. 

(Source Photo: here with attribution to AlexVan)
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June 2, 2018

Agile Doesn't Mean Endless

So Agile development is great for iteratively working closely with customers to develop and refine information systems that are useful to them and the organization.

But even in Agile, there is a beginning and an end to the sprint planning and project management.

Taking Agile to somehow mean endless in terms of adding more and more requirements or scope creep is not what is intended. 

Agile has to be bound by common sense somewhere between what is needed for a minimally viable product (MVP) and what is achievable with the designated resources, objective, and scope. 

Good project managers always have to be sound arbiters and be willing to ask the tough questions and determine if something is truly a requirement or simply a wish list item that is out of scope (but of course, could perhaps make it in for future enhancements).

We need to understand the difference between genuine customer service and irrational project exuberance. 

It's not a dangerous project bubble we want to create that can and will get busted, but rather a successful project that is delivered for our customers that help them do their jobs better, faster, and cheaper.  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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May 11, 2018

Kanban Visual Task Boards

Just wanted to share this best practice for Kanban or Visual Task Boards

This is a way to layout work/workflow and track and communicate progress. 

Previously, many professionals use colored sticky notes on a wall or whiteboard.

Today, tools like ServiceNow have the capability built right in. 

This was an example that I created in just a few minutes. 

Visualize your team's work and focus on what needs to get done, who the tasks are assigned to, the status, and keep driving continuous improvement in the workflow and project. 

Color coding can be used for different tasks and you can see the legend at the top.  

Tasks can be easily dragged and dropped from one column (status) to another. 

Create transparency and collaboration on your projects--try Kanban Visual Task Boards. ;-)

(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)
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April 30, 2018

DMAIC Reengineering

A colleague gave a wonderful talk the other day on process engineering.

The key steps to reduce waste (Lean) or variation/defects (Six Sigma) are as follows:

Define - Scope the project.

Measure - Benchmark current processes.

Analyze - Develop to-be processes (with a prioritized list of improvements) and plan for implementation.

Improve - Executive process improvements.

Control - Monitor/refine new processes.

It was amazing to me how similar to enterprise architecture this is in terms of: defining your "current" and "future" states and creating a transition plan and executing it.

Also, really liked the Project Scoping questions:

- What problem do you want to solve/what process do you want to improve?
- Why do you need this?
- What is the benefit?  And to whom?
- What are your objectives for this effort?
- Who are the key stakeholders?
- When is this needed and why?

I think process improvement/engineering methodologies like this can be a huge benefit to our organizations, especially where the tagline is "Why should we change--we've always done it this way!" ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 2, 2018

Project Manager - The DIRECT(or)

So I learned this cool acronym for the roles of a project manager:

DIRECT

The project manager directs the project (similar to a director who is the project manager of a movie).

Here is how the project manager DIRECTs the project:

Define - Identify the opportunity or issue that the project will address including, the vision, scope, resources, and measures of success. (i.e. the "Charter").

Investigate - Explore options and pros/cons for each (i.e. an "Analysis of Alternatives").

Resolve - Solve and resolve (i.e. commit to) the course of action that will be pursued (i.e. "Project Plan").

Execute -Do the project and track/manage cost, schedule, scope, quality, risks, and actions items (i.e. "Scorecard").

Change - Identify process and technology techniology changes, test these, fix outstanding items, and make the cutover (i.e. "User Acceptance Testing," "Punch List," and "Go Live Plan").

Transition - Migrate people to the new solution, communicate the changes, overcome resistance, and conclude the project (i.e. "Communications Plan" and "Lessons Learned").

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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December 13, 2017

Anything Is Possible

So you're all aware of the 3 legs of project management:

- Cost

- Schedule

- Scope

I remember learning the adage that if you change any one of these then there is an impact on the others. 

For example, if you "crash" the timeline on a project to finish more quickly, then you either need more money or you need to reduce the scope. 

Similarly, if you want to cut costs on the project then you may have to extend the timeline or scale back on the requirements. 

Recently, I heard someone says the following:
"We can do anything with enough time and resources."

And when I thought about this, it's true enough.

If you provide more money and time for a project then, of course, you can do more in terms of the scope of the project.

Pour enough bucks and time into something and conceptually, we really can do anything. 

Technically, we can do the proverbial "anything," but that's only if the politics and infighting don't get in the way of progress. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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October 26, 2017

Supervisors vs. Team Leaders

Here is a comparison of the roles and responsibilities of supervisors and team leaders. 

Often there can be confusion over who is supposed to do what. 

This table should help clarify what supervisors and team leaders do in terms of strategic planning, work assignments, resource management, employee training, and performance management. 

I hope you find this a helpful resource, and that you can organize your staff more efficiently and productively ;-)

(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)
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October 6, 2017

People, Process, and Technology Lifecycles

The table describes the alignment of the various people, process, and technology lifecycles commonly used in Information Technology to the CIO Support Services Framework (CSSF).

The CIO Support Services Framework describes the six key functional roles of the Office of Chief Information Officer (OCIO)--it includes:

1) Enterprise Architecture (Architect)
2) Capital Planning and Investment Control (Invest)
3) Project Management Office (Execute)
4) CyberSecurity (Secure)
5) Business Performance Management (Measure)
6) IT Service (and Customer Relationship) Management (Service)

All these OCIO Functions align to the lifecycles for process improvement (Process), project management (People), and systems development (Technology).

- The Deming Life Cycle describes the steps of total quality management and continuous process improvement (Kaizen) in the organization.

- The Project Management Life Cycle describes the phases of managing (IT) projects.

- The Systems Development Life Cycle describes the stages for developing, operating and maintaining application systems.

Note: I aligned cybersecurity primarily with doing processes, executing projects, and designing/developing/implementing systems.  However, cybersecurity really runs through all phases of the lifecycles!

My hope is that this alignment of people, process, and technology life cycles with the roles/functions of the OCIO will help bridge the disciplines and make it easier for people to understand the underlying commonalities between them and how to leverage the phases of each with the others, so that we get more success for our organizations! ;-)

(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)
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