General Management Issues

Sunday, 28 February 2010 00:00

When PMs OD, Projects Run Better

Most projects do not fail for the problems on the project; they fail for the problems in the organizations associated with them. Even issues within the project are usually personnel related requiring the project manager to do more counseling than managing. So where does the project manager get these skills? Unfortunately, they come from experience; few come from formal training. Instead, project managers get training on process, which, as can be seen in many of my articles, is misguided. Project managers need to spend more time developing the organizations, making them stronger. Without doing extensive organization development, projects will continue to fail.

Alignment: Using the Balanced Scorecard to Create Corporate Synergies

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Author:Robert S. Kaplan, David P. Norton
Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press
Released: April 2006
Type: Hardcover
Pages: 320
ISBN:978-0201835953

Projects build capabilities to met corporate goals. If you are a CEO, you need to make sure your employees and vendors know what those goals are and how they fit in to the plan. If you are a project manager, you need to know the bounds of you project. If you are anywhere in-between, you need to understand how all the pieces fit together and keep it all aligned.

Most organizations consist of multiple business and support units, each populated by highly trained, experienced executives. But often the efforts of individual units are not coordinated, resulting in conflicts, lost opportunities, and diminished performance.

Tuesday, 18 April 2006 15:41

Guns of August, by Barbara Tuchman

The Guns of August

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Author: Barbara Tuchman,
Publisher: Random House
Released: 1962
Type: Print (Paperback)
Pages: 551
ISBN: 034538623X

The Guns of August is a military history book describing the events of the first month of World War I. The focus of the book is to provide the history of World War I from the declaration of war through the start of the French offensive that stopped the German advance through France resulting in a stalemate for the subsequent four years. In addition, the book provides history on the plans, strategies, world events and international sentiments prior to and during the war.

People. Process, then Technology

From her corner office, the new executive decried, "Decentralize the PMO. Let each department be responsible for their own projects." Maybe she had made a pact with another executive for some other bit of power, or it could be she lost a power struggle and the PMO had to go, or possibly she has little regards for project management thinking it is a mechanical, blue collar discipline that methodically follows a recipe to execute each project. Bottom line, she is missing the point of the Project Management Office (PMO)—it is all about business goals. Unfortunately, for the company, decentralized PMOs provide little if any value. They are similar to distributed teamwork—an oxymoron. The concept is illogical.

The quickest way to get lost, in business or in your personal life, is failing to make decisions. Not knowing where you are headed increases stress and frustration. It would seem natural, then, that teams on projects beleaguered with indecisive management would be excited to have the logjam broken by a dynamic, decisive leader. Simply put, they are not. Every decision has its opponents and they are bound to be irritated, feeling they have lost prestige or stature. However, turning the decision into action requires a unified team. One of the best tools to accomplish this is to understand what impeded decision making and tactfully educating the team members on the source of the problem. This will garner their backing and improve their willingness to support the decision.

Back in the eighties, I was working for a large aerospace company cutting my teeth as a systems analyst. My bosses were a little older than I am now, and they loved talking about the days before cubicles, pontificating on how personal computers were inferior to mainframes, and reminiscing about the days of the BOMARC missile. It was their way of telling us thirty-something kids that they were in control and we needed to respect their position. Then, as now, information was king and these pterodactyls were not letting it go. To earn the stripes, one had to partake in the tribal rituals, smoke cigars during three-martini lunches, and attend your boss's parties. They saw no value in email let alone the boondoggle shop floor automation project I was part of. In two words, communication sucked.

Sunday, 22 May 2011 00:00

I Want A Shining New PMO, Too

Last week I gave a presentation at the San Diego PMI Chapter's Tutorials conference. Flanking both sides of my ten o'clock presentation in the leadership track was Steve Romero. His two presentations were on IT governance. His energy, insight, enthusiasm, and passion (not to mention being the IT governance evangelist for CA Technologies) made him an excellent selection. And, what is so news worthy about that? Nothing. However, for someone that has little regard for adding one more layer of management to solve a problem, I was surprised that I sat through both of his presentations. He provided a three hours of information on governance—both PMOs and PPMs—crammed into two intense and valuable hours.

Sunday, 06 June 2010 00:00

Kill the Postmortem

In a recent blog on stupid decisions, a reader asked about lessons learned processes. I had to defer the question since my reply would have been as long as the blog he was commenting on. So here we go: the entire class of retrospectives, postmortems, and lessons learned are a waste of time. Well, to be fair, I have never seen them work. They may have worked for others. Maybe the reason I never see them work is that I am involved only on disasters, you know, those projects everyone talks about for years to come, the ones people cannot get way from fast enough. Surely, the type of work I perform taints my experience.

Project Risk Management

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Author:Bruce T. Barkley
Publisher: McGraw-Hill Education
Released: July 2004
Type: Softcover
Pages: 229
ISBN:978-0071436915

This book is currently under review, more details will be added when available

The publisher says:
"Risk Management—A Clear and Uncomplicated Approach to Business and Project Risk—Here is risk, simply put, with practical stories and cases.

"Barkley's approach to project risk management includes and enhances the current Project Management Institute Body of Knowledge on risk. Clearly spelling out simplified steps and useable risk matrix format, making risk management a team-based art as well as a science, Project Risk Management shows you why do risk and how to:

Picture of accountant

Few events start a project manager's day off worse than a yellow sticky note on his or her monitor saying, "The finance manager would like to talk to you." An email is equally as bad; however, the note at your desk means that someone actually hunted you down looking to talk about, you guessed it, finances. There must be some problem. Everyone knows the finance folks would never wander into project-land to invite you out for a friendly cup of coffee. You quickly review the project's finances. Everything seems in order. With a sigh, you contemplate whether you should walk over and see her or will a phone call be the least painful option? Yes, painful. Anytime the finance manager calls, there is going to be a lot of new work.

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