A Project Manager’s Mangers

December 29, 2010

Projects are a very effective way of creating the new products, services or results required by organisations to effect change. The concept of a project is well understood, as are the roles and responsibilities of the project manager. A range of international standards exist defining project management processes, with the PMBOK® Guide being the most widely distributed. Despite the range of standards, there is general agreement and consistency across cultures and languages. But projects are only the building blocks of organisational change and improvement, other management structures determine what projects should be undertaken and how their outputs will be used to create beneficial outcomes and value.

The purpose of this post is to look at the three main management processes that govern the project processes; Portfolio management, Program management and the role of Project Directors as the managers of project managers.

Portfolio management
Portfolio management is, or should be, a collective process undertaken by the senior managers within an organisation to select the best mix of projects and programs to achieve the organisations short, medium and long term objectives. Every organisation is constrained by the available funding, the available resources and its inherent capabilities; so for every project selected or continued many others are rejected.

This process defines the organisation for the future; the correct mix keeps the organisation functioning in the present, builds on existing strengths for the mid-term and creates new opportunities for the future. Taking a too conservative and risk adverse stance guarantees others will seize the future and the organisation will fade into insignificance or failure. Taking on too many risks can destroy the business in the short term.

These decisions are too important to delegate to a ‘portfolio manager’; they have to be the responsibility of the chief executive and the senior management group. However, making this type of decision needs viable and reliable data, both on current projects and on the evolving environment the organisation operates within.

Effective strategic planning processes at the executive level should lay out the environment and opportunities. The role of an effective Portfolio Manager should be to provide these decision makers with recommendations and suggestions based on accurate and meaningful data on the status of current and proposed projects and programs. In this context, meaningful data refers firstly to the alignment of the projects and programs to the organisations strategic objectives and secondly the value contribution expected from the project’s outputs; on time and/or on budget are largely irrelevant other than to appreciate the impact of any variance on the value currently expected as a consequence of effectively deploying the project’s outputs.

Portfolio management requires an effective PMO structure to gather analyse and manage the information flows from current and proposed projects and programs. However, given the executive decision making role the Portfolio Manager supports, within an ethical governance framework, it is probably inappropriate for the same person to be directly involved in the management of the projects and programs.

From the perspective of a project or program manager, whilst the Portfolio Manager should have little or no input to the day-to-day running of the work, he or she is a key stakeholder and the critical aspect of managing the relationship is understanding the current value proposition for your project or program and making sure this is communicated effectively.
[for more on Portfolio Management see: White Paper1017 ]

Program management
Programs are created to create a business benefit. Whilst there are several different types of program they all initiate and run multiple projects to obtain benefits that would not be achievable if the projects were managed in isolation. Programs are quite different to large projects. Programs typically create multiple deliverables that achieve a range of benefits desired by the organisation. Whilst not as well defined a project, there is a strong consensus world-wide as to the role of the program manager and the purpose of programs.

If a project is part of a program, the Program Manager is the project managers direct line manager and will have significant involvement in the running of the project. Also, as the project is an integral part of the program, the project manager will be a key player in the program manager’s team. This stakeholder relationship is probably the most important for the project manager to maintain as is the corresponding relationships between the program manager and her project managers.
[for more on program types see: White Paper 1022 ]

Project Director
The role of the Project Director has been somewhat overshadowed by the emergence of portfolio and program management; this is unfortunate. Project directors are managers of project managers. This role should be focused in two areas, firstly providing oversight and governance to projects that are outside of programs (this is probably the majority), secondly providing management input to the organisation’s project managers to help them develop and grow.

PMI recognise the role as the ‘Manager of Project Managers’ in composite and strong matrix organisations. AIPM as a ‘Certified Practising Project Director’ in their competency standards and RegPM credential structure. The role of the Project Director can be subsumed into an appropriate PMO as long as the PMO is focused on driving value and creating excellence.

Unfortunately at the moment, there is very little focus on this aspect of developing project management capabilities within an organisation. Unless there is a renewed focus on developing project managers and project management capabilities within an organisation it will rapidly lose any competitive advantage. Buying in ‘talent’ from elsewhere will become increasingly expensive and is largely counter-productive to the development of an effective corporate culture and enhanced organisational project management maturity.

Where Project Directors exist, they are another important stakeholder for the project manager to work with.

Advising upwards
Each of the managers defined above are important stakeholders and the project manager needs to effectively manage the relationships if their project is to be successful and the PM’s career enhanced. My new book, Advising Upwards: A Framework for Understanding and Engaging Senior Management Stakeholders is focused on the skills needed to build and maintain robust relationships, focused on engaging the support of senior executives, understanding their expectations and managing them through targeted communication. For more on the book and the expected publication date, see: Book Outline.

Summary
The three distinct roles defined above are critically important to the development of effective project management practices within an organisation. However, it is important to note each role is distinctly different and should be separated in a mature organisation, even if they are incorporated into an overall PMO structure.

PMI’s OPM3 assessment processes can help develop an organisations Project, Program and Portfolio management maturity see: more on OPM3

The roles and functions of various types of PMO are discussed in White Paper 1034


Software sales hype and the law

December 20, 2010

Effective and ethical stakeholder management is becoming mandatory. For decades the software industry has been able to largely ignore the needs of its clients, but the world is changing. The UK Construction and Technology Court is following the lead set in the BSkyB v EDS judgment and making software vendors live up to their promises! You can bet the rest of the world won’t be far behind….

In 2006 the Kingsway Hall Hotel paid £49,999 plus an annual licence fee of £7,528 for software vendor Red Sky’s Entirety package, which covered bookings, check-in and sales. Kingsway selected the system based on Red Sky’s recommendation.

Problems arose almost immediately. Issues included incorrect room availability and no-show reports, unallocated mini-bar charges and a main server crash. Entirety could not cope with group bookings and the servers frequently froze.

Kingsway’s solicitors wrote to Red Sky saying that Entirety was unfit for its purpose and Kingsway was entitled to reject it and seek damages. Kingsway claimed for loss of profit on lost room sales of between £222,000 and £311,000, plus £13,500 for an additional reservations manager, £36,333 for three additional shift leaders and £13,500 for wasted staff costs.

Red Sky claimed Kingsway had bought an off-the-shelf package after having ample opportunity to investigate it.

The judge held that Red Sky had been aware of Kingsway’s requirements and under section 14 of the UK Sale of Goods Act 1979 it could be implied that the Entirety software system would be fit for the purpose of increasing revenue and occupancy levels and allowing quicker check-in and check-out. Entirety did not meet that purpose, nor the standard a reasonable man would consider acceptable.

The court awarded Kingsway £50,000 in lost profits £24,000 in wasted expenditure and £38,000 for extra staff costs.

To avoid similar problems, effective requirements analysis is becoming mandatory backed up by delivering on the contracted promises to meet the identified stakeholder requiremets.

References:

Kingsway Hall Hotel Ltd v Red Sky IT (Hounslow) Ltd [2010] EWHC 965 (TCC) – UK Technology and Construction Court May 2010

BSkyb Ltd & Anor v HP Enterprise Services UK Ltd & Anor (Rev 1) [2010] EWHC 86 (TCC)


Challenges for managing in the next decade

December 14, 2010

As we move towards the ‘teen’ years of the 21st century, changes in the way we work will create a range of challenges to anyone involved in project management. Many of the basic issues were outlined in our paper Project Controls in the C21 – What works / What’s fiction [download the paper]; these remain. In addition the rapid development of ‘Web2’ and social media are changing the way people accomplish work.

The Gartner Group have recently identified ten emerging trends in the workplace that will have significant influence in the ‘teen years’ [see the full report]. Some of these trends that will have a significant impact on the management of many projects are:

The De-routinization of Work
Automation and ‘self-service’ are taking over the majority of routine activities efficiently and cheaply. People add their uniquely human value in non-routine processes through their analytical or interactive contributions. Non-routine skills are those we cannot automate and cannot ‘control’ using ideas from the 19th century. The challenge of efficiently automating areas of project work and adapting to managing the non-routine ‘knowledge work’ work will be significant.

Work Swarms
Swarming is a work style characterized by a flurry of collective activity by anyone and everyone available and able to add value. Traditional teams consist of people who work together in a designated structure, who know each other reasonably well and are involved in a defined program of work. Swarms form quickly, attacking a problem or opportunity and then quickly dissipating. Closely aligned to ‘crowd sourcing’ swarming is an agile response to an observed problem or opportunity. The phenomenon is powerful but not controllable in any traditional sense.

Using Weak Links
Weak links are the cues people can pick up from people who know the people they may choose to work with. They are indirect communication links that can influence people. In swarms, if individuals know each other at all, it may be just barely, via weak links. Project managers will need to learn to navigate their personal, professional and social networks and develop and exploit both strong and weak links and that, in turn, will be crucial to surviving and exploiting swarms for the benefit of their project.

Working with the Collective
There are many informal groups of people, outside the direct control of the organization, who can impact the success or failure of the project’s work. These informal groups use social media as a key communication medium and are bound together by a common interest, a fad or a historical accident, and have been described by Gartner as “the collective”. There is strength in numbers and each collective may be the source of support or opposition. Smart project managers will need to learn how to live in a business ecosystem they can only partially influence. The influencing process will require a good understanding of these external stakeholder groups and an effective, empathetic communication strategy.

Simulation and Experimentation
Project work may be enhanced by actively engaging with simulated environments (virtual environments) will come to replace drilling into cells in spreadsheets. This suggests the use of n-dimensional virtual representations of all different sorts of data. The contents of the simulated environment will be assembled by agent technologies that determine what materials go together based on watching people work with this content. People will interact with the data and actively manipulate various parameters reshaping the world they’re looking at.

Hyperconnected
Hyperconnectedness is a property of organisations, existing within networks of networks, unable to completely control any of them. For example, there is no guarantee a subcontractor in your supply chain will perform properly, even if the supply chain is ‘under contract’. Hyperconnectedness will lead to a push for more work to occur in both formal and informal relationships across enterprise boundaries, and that has implications for how people work and how the work is managed.

My Place
The workplace is becoming more and more virtual, with meetings occurring across time zones and organizations and with participants who barely know each other, working on swarms attacking rapidly emerging problems. Their work will increasingly happen 24 hours a day, seven days a week via ‘Blackberries’ and other Web2 systems. In this work environment, the lines between personal, professional, social and family matters will disappear. Individuals will need support to manage the complexity created by overlapping demands. Forcing individuals to operate in an over-stimulated (information-overload) state will be detrimental to the person and their performance on the project team.

The challenge will be to adapt to this environment to obtain the potential benefits for the project, the team and the organisation whilst maintaining appropriate levels of governance and remaining focused on the objectives the project was created to achieve.


Motivation

December 9, 2010

Leaders motivate their teams and the surrounding stakeholder community to actively work to support the leader’s objectives. Motivation does not happen by chance, there are many traits the leader can display that assist in creating a motivated team. Some of the key traits are:

Communicate effectively. Communicate with transparency, authenticity and clarity and make it a priority to make time to talk to each and every member of your team on a regular basis. You may be busy, but you really can’t afford to allow communication black holes to develop.

Uncertainty creates a void. Unless you, the project manager, fill that void with clear and positive communication, people will assume the worst and act accordingly. Fear and negativity will creep in and dominate their thoughts, behaviours, and actions.

Build trust and empathy. Travelling to meet with team members in person is an investment in building trust as is asking questions. When you show an interest people’s culture, families and personal lives, often they will open up and by expressing interest, you can establish a much deeper connection that leads to a much deeper level of trust

Build relationships. Relationships are the foundation upon which winning teams and organisations are built. It’s much easier to motivate someone if you know them and they know and trust you.

Create a shared vision. Create a vision statement that inspires and rallies your team and organization; a short, simple, rallying cry that means something to the each person on the team. This vision statement must come to life in the hearts and minds of team members. Share it, reinforce it, and inspire your people to live and breathe it every day. A positive vision for the future leads to powerful actions today.

Lead with optimism. Transfer your optimism and vision to others. This inspires others to think and act in ways that drive results. Great leaders inspire their teams to believe they can succeed. As a leader and manager, you are not just leading and managing people, but you are also leading and managing their beliefs and you must utilise every opportunity to transfer your optimism to the team. Both optimism and pessimism are contagious, make sure everyone catches the optimistic bug.

Create purpose-driven goals. Break the vision down into practical, purpose-driven goals. Real motivation is driven by a desire to make a difference; people are most energized when they are using their strengths for a purpose beyond themselves. When team members feel as though the work they do is playing an integral role in the overall success of the company, they are motivated to work harder.

When they feel as though they are working for something more than just the bottom line, and the overall purpose of the project is aligned their personal goals with they feel good about the work they are doing.

Staff the team thoughtfully and nourish your team. Belief plus action equals results. If you don’t believe that something can happen, then you won’t take the actions necessary to create it. If you believe that your team can do big things, they will believe it, too. And that belief will fuel the fires of action and provide you with the results you’re looking for. Surveys consistently demonstrate that employees who think their managers care about them are more loyal and productive than those who do not. If you nourish your team and take the time to invest in them, they will pay you back in productivity, creativity and loyalty. If your team members know that you care about them, they will want to do good work for you. It’s the greatest motivator of all.

Motivating a team is hard work but any of the alternatives are much harder. For more on motivation see WP1048 at http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/WhitePapers/WP1048_Motivation.pdf