Nothing!… if they are any good. The distinction came about because of frustration by business that project managers delivering projects with IT components were not willing, or able, to understand that the project was supposed to deliver a business benefit and deliver the project to achieve the business need. But how do you tell?
Archive for September, 2011
… It only takes moments and it won’t hurt a bit.
A few years ago, a meticulous research study of 860 Project Managers (whittled down from 5,258 PMs) and 4,398 of their stakeholders was undertaken. Called ‘The Alpha Study’, and led by Georgia-based Project Manager and author Andy Crowe, one of the aims of this landmark study was to try to define the qualities that made an ‘Alpha’ Project Manager more effective than any other. Crowe published the findings in his book, ‘Alpha Project Managers (what the top 2% know that everyone else doesn’t)’, which challenged many of the assumptions in the profession of project management today.
Essentially, the assumptions of the PMs were tested against those of their stakeholders, and perhaps not surprisingly, it turned out that most of us are making incorrect assumptions about what our stakeholders want and how we should relate to them. Interesting too was that only 18 (2%) of the study group were identified as Alphas – 6 female and 12 male, a close approximation of the gender split across the whole study group.
Crowe discovered that Alpha PMs were the ones who consistently delivered projects that met the project goals, managed stakeholder expectation, and kept the customer, the team and the organisation in harmony. And whilst it might appear obvious that naturally, an elite PM would be achieving results like these, the reality is that most PMs find it simply impossible.
‘Alpha Project Managers’ is interesting, and has attracted discussion from all sides. But importantly, it encourages you to think about how you manage your own projects. I’ve extracted some quotes for you to read, but if you’d like to read more, it’s available from Amazon in either hard copy or ebook format.
Recently, I had the pleasure of attending an excellent presentation at the Sydney Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Michael Knapp, an IT professional and PM specialist, presented an inspiring paper discussing the difference between management and governance of projects.*
This crystallised my thinking about how we might excel at delivering projects for our customers. To me, it’s all about focus rather than activity. Knapp went into much empirical data, research backed and supported information that demonstrated how doing the “right project” will always deliver greater results than doing “projects right”.
As I listened, my mind began to process the impact of Knapp’s research and how we, as project professionals, could do better. Resource agencies will usually provide project managers to broadly fill a manpower need; project managers who can complete time sheets and “tick boxes” on project gantt charts.
For many organisations, this is a desired outcome that delivers a pay cheque, some accolades and possibly some expected results, but key benefits of a successful or important strategic imperative are often missed.
You’ve won the battle, but unfortunately lost the war.
Governance rather than management poses key questions that should be considered and answered when scoping project or program resources including:
- What does project success look like?
- Is the project outcome strategically aligned with the company’s vision? and
- Will the business case metrics that originally funded the project actually be met?
Knapp also explored an often ignored aspect of “company maturity”, an interesting take on an organisation’s capability to deal with an experienced, long range perspective on projects and programs. He ventured that the more mature an organisation is, the better able they are to realise long term goals, aspirations and also display the flexibility and intelligence to deal with project adversity and unforeseen circumstances.
So, are we doing the right projects as well as doing projects right?? Let’s talk some more.
Author: Ray Trevisan, Client Services, RNC Global Projects
* Acknowledgement to Michael Knapp, Presentation “Optimising Project Success: The Missing Piece” – 17 August 2011, PMI Sydney www.pmisydney.org
Portfolios Programs Projects – simply making them happen
I’ve been reading a book that I simply must recommend to you. Written by Kimberly Wiefling, ’Scrappy Project Management’ is one of the top ten PM books in the US, and it’s quite honestly the best book on the subject of PM that I’ve read in ages – and I read heaps of them!
Wiefling specialises in breakthrough leadership and project management excellence on a global scale, and in ‘Scrappy Project Management’ we are taken on a fascinating journey through ‘the 12 predictable and avoidable pitfalls every project faces’.
This book is for people who manage projects in the real world. According to Wiefling, “Projects are messy, and if you want to succeed you need the tools to do it!” Well, ‘Scrappy Project Management’ is filled with reminders of what we PMs do, why we do it and how it can all go wrong so easily. There are literally hundreds of insightful gems and quotes that really challenge your thinking.
Here are just a few of my favourite quotes to interest you to further reading…
“Running a project (or program) without first defining success is the equivalent of trying to steer a large boat by paddling with your hands; you’ll end up wherever the current takes you.”
“The major problem with communication is the illusion that it has occurred” – George Bernard Shaw
“I’ve had it with PMs who think their entire job can be done from a keyboard.”
“You can con a sucker into committing to an impossible deadline; but you can’t con him into delivering it.”
“If you are absolutely dependent on your pay check to survive, then do yourself a favour and don’t be a project manager.”
“There is only one boss; the customer and he can fire everybody in the company form the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else” – Sam Walton
“When we see someone else fail, it’s easy to assume they are just stupid; but when we fail, it’s simply an honest mistake or sheer bad luck. They should have seen it coming, but we were understandably taken by surprise, an innocent victim of circumstance outside our control”.
I could go on and on, but I’d end up reproducing the entire book! My own copy is highlighted, underlined and totally dog eared! It’s one of those books you can pick up again and again and each time you discover a completely new idea to ponder.
My favourite quote so far is, “No executive ever let their own rules stop them from doing what was in their own best interest.”
‘Scrappy Project Management is fun and worth the read… and I highly recommend it.
DianePortfolios Programs Projects – simply making them happen
Which one would YOU buy?
When considering a PM, clients look to see what we’ve done to improve ourselves over the years and what we’ve done to keep up. Are we up to date with the latest thinking (even if we think it’s rubbish)? Have we delivered the same project over and over, or are we fresh in our approach and broadening our thinking and value? Are we doing what worked years ago and trying to make today fit into yesterday ? Basically, can we deliver in the reality of today’s corporate environment?Portfolios Programs Projects – simply making them happen