I’ll be at the PMO Symposium 2015: Phoenix, AZ (8-11 November)

Are you headed out to the Phoenix PMO Symposium in November? We’ll I’ll be there too.

I’ll be on site from about 2 PM on Sunday until midday on Wednesday. I’ll be circulating, but I’d love to be booked up w/ meetings! Reach out to me via the comments or @crossderry.

Hope to see you then and there!

a16z Podcast: Tech’s Biggest Ideas and How They Take Hold

I really liked this pod from @a16Z…though it’s a @pmarca pod. Once he get’s rolling, you gotta be careful if you’re driving…I get lead-foot!

From the website’s intro:

Google, eBay, even the web itself: In the beginning all of these things appeared as point products, interesting in their way, but small. Of course, they weren’t. “There is this swallow-the-red-pill moment that happens,” Marc Andreessen says, “Where you realize something really, really big is going to happen.”

In this segment of the pod, Andreessen joins Optimizely CEO Dan Siroker during the company’s annual conference Opticon for a conversation about what’s most exciting in tech today: the spread of optimization tools, privacy trends, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, bitcoin, robotics, and more. All that, and why Donald Trump’s hair could use some A/B testing.

Source: a16z Podcast: Tech’s Biggest Ideas and How They Take Hold

Quotes on Saying No

Great stuff from Jonathan Becher in the link below. My favorite is similar to the Tim Ferriss quote he shared:

“How you spend your time tells me what you think is important.”

I don’t know how to attribute it, but I heard it from a McDonald’s executive I worked with back in the day.

Source: Quotes on Saying No

16 Startup Metrics

A great primer on measure your business’s effectiveness: startup or not.

Source: 16 Startup Metrics

This startup can grow metal like a tree, and it’s about to hit the big time

Cool beyond words!

Winning with Talent Management: Three Real-Life Examples

The wrong person in the wrong role costs real money.  Studies suggest bad hires cost 250% of the role’s salary. In other words, a bad $100K hire will cost you $250K! And when it comes to  the cost of a bad project manager, look at it this way: , what was the size of your last failed project: $1 million, $10 million, $100 million?

You win the talent game with the best talent. But how do you identify “best”? PM College has a tried-and-tested Competency Assessment Program that helps you find and develop the best project managers. Three of our leading clients are using it to get a competitive edge:

“We want to offer learning and development that our talent really needs.” Talent development and training are two critical drivers of job satisfaction, loyalty, and engagement.  These are the sweet spots for our assessments: to develop and sustain superior project management performance.

PMO leaders at a long-time client need to target their training, thereby eliminating unnecessary training programs. The PM College assessment program will do this, ensuring more return from their learning investments. They also want the assessment to  not only discover project managers with the most potential, but also to inform job assignment and development opportunities.

“We need to make sure that new hires can deliver our projects.” Bad hiring decisions drive eighty percent of employee turnover. Another PM College client requires absolute on-time delivery for every project: a hour late is a crisis; a day late can be a national disaster.  Their project managers need to be the best of the best … from Day One. Catching a single bad hire before the offer letter will provide a huge and immediate payoff.

We are working with this client to develop a profile of the ideal candidate, based upon assessments of their current staff. PM College will also use this profile to develop a set of interview guidelines to evaluate candidates on the most critical personality and knowledge topics, in order to target development plans for current project managers.

“We work in an emerging, fast-growing industry.” Organizational agility defines today’s most admired and innovative project-driven organizations. We are working with a global client to extend our standard assessment to cover two additional competency areas: industry and organizational knowledge. Just as PM College can deliver custom learning, we can also create custom assessment packages at a great value. This client will use the results to verify that its current – and future – project managers can keep up with its explosive growth and unique culture.

Are you ready to find, develop, and hire better project talent? Contact PM College now

What Specific Training Do You Suggest for Increasing Leadership Skills?

NOTE: I’m cross posting a PM College blog piece from Debbie Crawford from our recent webinar on the PM Skills Benchmark. –

What specific training efforts do you suggest for increasing leadership skills?

This is a great question, but one that does not have a “one size fits all” response. The first thing you need to do is decide what leadership looks like in your organization.

“Leadership” is one of those concepts that is extremely variable from organization to organization. In some contexts, it can mean showing bold, entrepreneurial behaviors; in others, knowing how to create a warm, supportive teaming environment. Still other companies simply need leaders to somewhat sternly ensure compliance with processes—for example, in situations where safety comes first. Defining what leadership means in the context of your organization is a critical first step in improving competency in this area.

What would such a definition look like? It needs to be precise. We think of leadership, like any other competency area, as being made up of three domains: knowledge, personal attributes, and demonstrated behaviors. So to define it, ask:

  • What knowledge do our leaders need to possess?
  • What personal attributes will help them succeed in the role?
  • What specific behaviors can we look for to determine if and when an individual is showing leadership?

Once you have defined leadership in context, review the roles where you expect people to take a leadership stance. The next step is to assess whether the people who presently fill those roles   have the requisite knowledge, attributes, and behaviors. Knowledge is relatively easy to measure or record. You may look at what education or certification individuals possess, along with their level and breadth of experience. Attributes and behaviors are trickier and are best assessed using a 360-degree  or similar evaluation to see if the individual’s workplace performance demonstrates them.

Once the performance gaps have been identified,  you need to establish a development plan, which should include some structured learning for knowledge, and some mentoring and coaching for the behaviors and performance.

Now at last we are back to your question: what training do I recommend? Well, based on the leadership profile for your organization, we have numerous options.

How to Lead a Team

  • 2 days
  • Team members, functional manager, customer, sponsor
  • Uses SDI; covers conflict and communications, especially with difficult people

Strategies for Effective Stakeholder Engagement

  • 2 days
  • Stakeholders and other team members
  • Uses Blake-Mouton Managerial; how to evaluate, analyze, prioritize stakeholders, determine expectations, communications plans

Managing Virtual Teams

  • 2 days
  • Virtual team
  • Managing all aspects of virtual teams, collaboration, structure, alignment, leadership

Managing Relationships for Project Success

  • 2 days
  • Stakeholders and team
  • Managing stakeholders, creating action plan, roles and responsibilities, difficult conversations

Managing Cross-Functional Teams

  • 2 days
  • Team Members only
  • Uses SDI to determine, manage and motivate when projects and good and when conflict occurs; team dynamics

Leadership in High-Performance Teams

  • 2 days
  • Workplace simulation on project team leadership
  • Based on Kouzes and Posner’s Leadership Challenge and Larson and LaFasto’s Teamwork; develop skill through simulation practice

PM College works with training clients to customize courses to fit the culture of your organization, and provide training experiences that deliver the competencies that make sense within your environment.

[Editor’s Note: Join Debbie next week as she discusses how to identify individual skill gaps and develop targeted training. Meanwhile, a full discussion of identifying requisite competencies can be found in our book, Optimizing Human Capital.]

Benefits Realization: Demonstrating Initiatives’ Value

Debbie Crawford just taught a refreshed version of our Benefits Realization class. The topic is one that bedevils PMOs, largely because it takes a while to figure out that it’s not a closing phase task. In other words, it has to be planned, executed, monitored, controlled, and delivered…just like any other initiative deliverable. Below is an overview of the class:

Benefits are not just another dimension of portfolio management, but are the basic rationale for any investment of funds.  As such, benefits should drive those investment or change decisions from initiation through implementation and beyond. It is the methodology needed by any organization intent on effectively demonstrating that desired benefits are achieved in practice.

This course, built on a wealth of real world experience and lessons learned, will engage the participants in achieving:

  1. Increased organizational ability to forecast benefits which are complete, realizable, and represent real value for the money. In other words, we are investing in the right things and getting them done.
  2. Realize forecasted benefits in practice by ensuring the required enabling, business, and behavioral change takes place; ensuring that the performance of the benefit matches the business case promise.
  3. Realize benefits as early as possible and sustain that realization for as long as possible.
  4. Capture and leverage emergent or unplanned benefits (and minimize any dis-benefits) to optimize the benefits realized and the value for money is achieved.
  5. The organization’s ability to demonstrate the above – not just as part of the framework of accountability but also so that we learn what works as a basis for continuous improvement.

Meet The New PMCollege.com!

If you haven’t explored pmcollege.com lately, you’re missing a lot! We’ve made the site much easier to navigate, especially on mobile devices. We also keep the PM College blog hopping with new content. Moreover, we have new PM College courses and services:

  • Spotlight Course: Managing Multiple Projects prepares project managers who need to step up to leading more than one initiative, but who can’t rely upon the structure of an overarching program to organize priorities and stakeholders. This course just received a content refresh and has received great reviews:

“Recommended for project executives who need help in the following areas: tendency to micro-manage, inability to communicate workload constraints, difficulty saying no, prioritizing, relationship management, confrontation, managing common risks across multiple projects.” –  Fortune 100 global diversified industrial firm

“[The PM College instructor] did a great job of involving the class and insuring that we were following the material, which can sometimes be difficult with web training.” – Fortune 50 global aerospace company

“The tools were shared and PRACTICED so we knew how to use them.” – Fortune 100 global diversified industrial firm

“Entire course was excellent. Most I participated in a class.” – State government construction agency

Finally, don’t overlook our talent strategy, assessment, curriculum, and customization services. Along with our courses, we revamped our service offerings to sustain your needs throughout the talent lifecycle. These services are our “secret sauce” for delivering project, leadership, and business training excellence … and can be yours.

NOTE: Originally published on the PMCollege.com blog.

Do PM Job Descriptions Address the Skill Gap?

My last post addressed the first question from our webinar: how to hire for the right project, leadership, and business skills. The webinar recording itself is here (registration required).

As I noted, that question is at the heart of sustainable talent management for your project managers. Even while we answered that question live, we received a follow-on question that was on point:

Do job descriptions for project managers reflect these gaps in skills between high-performing and low-performing organizations?

My experience is that job descriptions themselves are reasonably good. Even the role descriptions I have inherited have been workable. The most common adjustments I made were to prioritize skills and experience by reordering the document: the most important move up top, the nice-to-haves go below. When I need more content, there are plenty of good models available. I relied on J. Kent Crawford’s book, Project Management Roles & Responsibilities to help draft the role descriptions for my staff … and for myself!

However, this approach begs the question. It assumes that I – or my external sources – know what’s right for these roles. Unfortunately, what we write in our job descriptions, what we say we should do, then what we do, are not always coordinated: “For I do not do the good I want to do.” We get a better alignment between words and deeds when we verify these job descriptions by looking at the knowledge, behavior, and performance profiles of top performers.


Role definitions must be embedded in a sustainable talent management process (as shown in the graphic above). They should be addressed up front, when looking at strategic alignment. Continue reading

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