PM Quote of the Day — Anonymous

If one person tells you that you have a tail you can ignore it; if two people tell you, turn around and take a look. 

PM Quote of the Day — Harold Geneen

It is much more difficult to measure nonperformance than performance

Hat tip: Jonathan Becher at Manage By Walking Around.

Project Management as “table stakes”

Regular readers know that I’ve been harping on the increasing importance of program management, especially when it comes to realizing the benefits or value of projects.  Project managers who simply run projects without reference to the larger business environment are becoming a commodity. 

During the recent Global Corporate Council forum, I heard two thoughts that illustrated the challenge for PMs:

  • Greg Balestrero, the CEO of the Project Management Institute (Greg’s blog is here), calls project management “table stakes”.  In other words, PM has become so widespread that it is no longer differentiating for an organization or person to be good at PM.  In Greg’s opinion, PM-only lets/keeps you in the game…no more.
  • One council member quanitified the value of the PMP in terms of experience.  He had to counsel a project manager who was very itchy to advance but was perplexed that his PMP hadn’t taken him further.  The council member put it to him bluntly: “A PMP is worth about two years of experience in our organization, which is something…  But it isn’t equivalent to leading and delivering a multi-year project or program.”

WSJ Interview on “The Experience Trap”

FYI, a Wall Street Journal article (“Dangers of Clinging to Solutions of the Past”) based in part on interviews w/ yours truly came out today (link here, page B4 in the paper).  Thanks to Kishore Sengupta of INSEAD for pointing the WSJ my way and to Phred Dvorak of the WSJ for conveying the perils of experience so well and so succinctly. 

As I’ve noted to a couple of colleagues, it is hard to believe that only 250 words of copy came out of two hours of interview time.  Insert your own joke re: my verbosity here…

Surviving PMO Success — The Process Maturity Trap

One of the unexpected challenges in our PMO journey has been that success can make an enterprise-level PMO appear less relevant.  A PMO must transform its approach to stakeholders or it won’t take full advantage of the improvements it fostered.  One manifestation of the problem unfolds thusly:

  1. An enterprise PMO composed of PM thought leaders executes a PM improvement program that delivers methodology, training, tools, and change management initiatives to its stakeholders (e.g., regional, local, unit PMOs).
  2. Those stakeholders [largely] adopt those initiatives and transform their project operations in significant and measurable ways.
  3. This transformation creates a new set of PM thought leaders, who often surpass the knowledge and hands-on experience of the original enterprise PMO.

The business problem has reversed; the enterprise PMO now becomes the organization that needs to change to reflect the new reality.  Deliverables that were relevant in moving from low maturity processes no longer work with a more sophisticated audience.  This issue is compounded by the difficulty in recognizing the changed environment.  Who wants to admit that he/she is no longer automatically at the vanguard of knowledge? 

In other words, the challenge for a successful enterprise PMO is: “Who will change the change agents?”

PM Quote of the Day — Bernard Ibbings Bell

A good education is not so much one which prepares a man to succeed in the world, as one which enables him to sustain a failure

PM Quote of the Day — Herb Kelleher

A company is stronger if it is bound by love rather than by fear.

Saying “No” the right way

A colleague of mine, Schalk Klee, has a couple of posts of interest (Schalk’s blog is here).  I had forgotten to link to his original post on saying “No” as a PM (here), so his follow up post on when and how to say “No” (here) was an appreciated reminder.  Schalk highlights the balance that must be struck:

We all know that good scope management and customer focus are both critical success factors for value adding projects and in a professional service environment there is always the sales focus as well.  How do I balance this?

This is where I believe the art of making a deal comes into play.  This is a skill that a “good” project manager has to develop.  How do I give my client what they want without putting myself into a worse position?  Creative thinking, negotiation tactics and customer focus all need to be combined. 

Deal-making and negotiation skills are not emphasized enough in most PM career paths; frankly, I could stand brushing up on them myself!

It’s a start to know you have a problem…

Good to be back from break.  Over the years, I’ve found that the paradox of a really good vacation is that by the end I’m raring to get back home and off to work.

Yesterday, I saw a great WSJ article on the travails of Toyota (here) that shows even great companies stumble — the company is facing its first operating loss in 70 years.  The author highlights recent quality issues and strategic missteps, especially over-expansion of capacity.  Toyota is taking steps to fix these issues, though

[t]he best news for Toyota is that [President Katsuaki] Watanabe seems worried.  As he told the Reuters news agency last February, before the current crisis struck: “I’m constantly trying to drive home the message that long-lasting success is elusive.”

Earlier in the article, Mr. Watanabe laid out the challenge in starker terms: “It’s a kind of emergency that we’ve never experienced before.”  The same challenge lays ahead for me and many of our firms.  We will need to make wrenching personal and organizational changes to survive and thrive. 

To that end, I expect to spend much of 2009 exploring how to prepare ourselves for the needed changes.

PM Quote of the Day — Herbert Spencer

There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance – that principle is contempt prior to investigation

I’ve always liked this quote and I happened upon it last night again.  Regardless of Spencer’s  (somewhat unearned) academic infamy as the father of Social Darwinism, it was other aspects of his thought that penetrated the way we think today. 

In particular, Spencer emphasized the ability of individuals to learn and discern.  His attempt to integrate 19th century concepts of evolution into this idea of perfectibility — an attempt to merge “nature” and “nurture” – ended up obscuring that optimistic message behind the more arbitrary and harsh ideas of natural selection.  

His suggestion here, that everyone could use the ideals of scientific enquiry to progress and improve, highlights the most attractive dimension of his thinking.

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