Posts Tagged ‘peter taylor’

How to avoid a Project

November 24, 2017

The following is an extract from my new book ‘How to get Fired at the C-Level: Why mismanaging change is the biggest risk of all’ in association with my friends at Tailwind Project Solutions – previous extracts followed a series of 5 Challenges that I think every organisation should consider, and consider very carefully – and now we will look at the 5 tests of control:

The Cycle of Engagement (some also refer to this as the Cycle of Resistance, but that might be considered somewhat cynical) describes some typical stages in a project. Not stages of the project lifecycle you understand but stages of even getting to the project lifecycle, in getting the project started – despite the business case being approved and the project being well and truly ‘in the portfolio’

It goes something along these lines:

Corporate change initiative approved and announced, everyone cheers loudly. Kick off meeting (party) fueled by marketing spend is completed.

A department or team are asked to pick up the project and implement the change in relation to their day to day work.

The cycle commences…

  1. Ignore- Take a project logo’d beanie hat and mouse mat from the program kick off meeting and put on your desk, and then actively ignore the project for as long as humanly possible through non-communication
  2. Avoid – When ignoring the project, no longer works then instead loudly welcome the project initiative and then dodge your department or team being involved through any avoidance tactic you can think of
  3. Argue – When called out on this behaviour start arguing that you really aren’t the best team/department/group to be active at this point in time – if you can get away with pointing the finger at an alternative (and clearly in your opinion, better placed team/department/group to go before you) definitely do that – it may buy you more time
  4. Impact – An extension to the argument step can be that the impact is too much to bear right now and if only you can wait a few weeks/months/years (delete as appropriate) everything will be so much better and you can really focus
  5. Cost – Throw in cost as well if you can – this always gets people’s attention especially if you can challenge the assumptions on the initial business case (and if you can point to another team/department/group better placed i.e. more cost effective i.e. cheaper, to go before you then go for it)
  6. Start – Finally, you will most likely reach a point of acceptance (more than likely as a result of you wanting to keep your job) and the project, the change will finally be undertaken in your department/team etc’ – did out those logos’ goodies and shout ‘hallelujah’ for all to hear
  7. Fast – Then immediately ask a) what is the fastest way to get this done and dusted and b) can you just copy another team/department and make the change – even if it doesn’t really fit your real needs

You see what is happening here – no real commitment or buy-in, only lip service to the change and the value of that change.

Back to that classic isn’t it?

1.           What do we want? ‘Change’ comes the loud reply from all

2.           Who wants change? All hands go up as one

3.           Who wants to change? No hand goes up

Ensuring a successful change, it is necessary to create that clear vision and to make sure people are ‘on board’ with that change.

TAKE THE TEST: If you recognise this behaviour inside your organisation then you definitely have an attitude issue and your organisation needs to do a whole lot of Organisational Change Management[1] (OCM) and generally get out there making people realise that this stuff is important.

Tailwind Project Solutions was formed in 2014 to provide a bespoke approach to project leadership development. Owned by Director & CEO Alex Marson, the organisation works with large FTSE 250 clients including some of the biggest companies in the world in the Asset Management, Professional Services, Software, Automotive, Finance and Pharmaceutical industry. The company has a team of world-class experts who provide a bespoke approach to the challenges that our clients have, and the company was formed because of a gap in the market for expertise which truly gets to the heart of the issues clients are facing – providing a robust, expert solution to change the way that companies run their projects.

At the time, the market was becoming flooded with training companies, providing a ‘sheep dip’ approach to project management, and the consensus was that This didn’t solve the real challenges that businesses and individuals are experiencing in this ever-increasing complex world of project management. The vision was to hand-pick and work with the very best consultants, trainers and coaches worldwide so that Tailwind could make a difference to their clients, to sit down with them, understand their pain points, what makes them tick, and what is driving their need for support.

These challenges being raised time and time again are in the project leadership space, from communication issues, not understanding stakeholder requirements or having the confidence to “push back”, lack of sponsorship support, working across different cultures, languages, levels of capability and complexity. We expect more from our project managers – we expect them to inspire, lead teams and be more confident.

Tailwind’s experience is vast, from providing interim resources in the project and programme management space, supporting the recruitment process, experiential workshops, coaching – from project managers through to executives, providing keynote speakers, implementing PPM Academies, PM Healthchecks and Leadership development. The approach is created often uniquely – to solve the real challenges of each of their individual clients.

http://tailwindps.com/

[1] Organizational Change Management (OCM) is a framework structured around the changing needs and capabilities of an organization. OCM is used to prepare, adopt and implement fundamental and radical organizational changes, including its culture, policies, procedures and physical environment, as well as employee roles, skills and responsibilities.

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The ESP connection

November 18, 2017

The following is an extract from my new book ‘How to get Fired at the C-Level: Why mismanaging change is the biggest risk of all’ in association with my friends at Tailwind Project Solutions – previous extracts followed a series of 5 Challenges that I think every organisation should consider, and consider very carefully – and now we will look at the 5 tests of control:

Another quick test of control is the ‘Executive board to Sponsor to Project Manager’ relationship or the ‘ESP’ connection test.

Let’s start with the simplest form of this test by asking ‘Is there one?’.

Does the executive team interact with project sponsors on a regular basis, perhaps are they even the executive sponsors themselves? And do the sponsors interact and engage on a regular, bi-directional manner with the project managers?

Come up with a ’No’ at any of these connections and you have trouble ahead. You do need all three and you do need them connected and communicating.

If you don’t declare a complete and utter ‘No’ then the next step of the ‘ESP’ test is to consider any weak points in this ‘Executive board to Sponsor to Project Manager’ relationship. Here we can go back to the question of do the executives understand change (and projects), and/or do the change sponsors understand what it means to be such a sponsor, and how to go about being and effective sponsor, before arriving at the project management community and asking they know what they are doing, do they have experience and are they supported in skills and tools and method?

Such a consideration will allow another perspective on the robustness of your entire change management structure and to focus where there is a need.

One point here. If there is a problem at say the ‘E to S’ connection and also at the ‘S to P’ connection, then the priority has to be to focus and fix the ‘E to S’ problem first as the higher the issue the bigger the issue is in my personal experience.

TAKE THE TEST: Consider each level on the ESP connection and evaluate the change leadership maturity at each level – then assess the strength of connection at each of those touch points, ‘E to S’ and ‘S to P’.

Tailwind Project Solutions was formed in 2014 to provide a bespoke approach to project leadership development. Owned by Director & CEO Alex Marson, the organisation works with large FTSE 250 clients including some of the biggest companies in the world in the Asset Management, Professional Services, Software, Automotive, Finance and Pharmaceutical industry.  The company has a team of world-class experts who provide a bespoke approach to the challenges that our clients have, and the company was formed because of a gap in the market for expertise which truly gets to the heart of the issues clients are facing – providing a robust, expert solution to change the way that companies run their projects.

At the time, the market was becoming flooded with training companies, providing a ‘sheep dip’ approach to project management, and the consensus was that This didn’t solve the real challenges that businesses and individuals are experiencing in this ever-increasing complex world of project management. The vision was to hand-pick and work with the very best consultants, trainers and coaches worldwide so that Tailwind could make a difference to their clients, to sit down with them, understand their pain points, what makes them tick, and what is driving their need for support.

These challenges being raised time and time again are in the project leadership space, from communication issues, not understanding stakeholder requirements or having the confidence to “push back”, lack of sponsorship support, working across different cultures, languages, levels of capability and complexity. We expect more from our project managers – we expect them to inspire, lead teams and be more confident.

Tailwind’s experience is vast, from providing interim resources in the project and programme management space, supporting the recruitment process, experiential workshops, coaching – from project managers through to executives, providing keynote speakers, implementing PPM Academies, PM Healthchecks and Leadership development. The approach is created often uniquely – to solve the real challenges of each of their individual clients.

http://tailwindps.com/

ABI Evaluation

September 30, 2017

The following is an extract from my new book ‘How to get Fired at the C-Level: Why mismanaging change is the biggest risk of all’ in association with my friends at Tailwind Project Solutions – previous extracts followed a series of 5 Challenges that I think every organisation should consider, and consider very carefully – and now we will look at the 5 tests of control:

ABI stands for ‘Allocate, Burn or Invest’ and is a way of looking at how organisations truly ‘manage’ their change investments after they are sanctioned.

From the previous ‘Control Test’ of portfolio value you will now know the ‘what’, that is the ‘what is the value of our change investment’, which is an excellent start.

Now we come to the ‘so what’ part.

‘So what do we do with this change investment?’

The ‘A’ for allocate is when an executive team take the first part of the process very seriously and exhaust many, many hours scrutinising business proposals and change propositions, evaluate alternatives and options, ponders long and hard, challenges and re-challenges the change advocates and then allocates the money, whilst at the same time (in much the same way as in the Men in Black films) erase their minds of the change investment and everything that just occurred in order to carry on with the rest of their business responsibilities and business as usual.

What happens with this ‘Allocate’ path is that there is no ongoing control of the changes that have been launched and success is very much dependent of the under-lying organisational team and the priorities that the feel they have. Success is possible but far from ensured.

The second answer to the ‘So what do we do with this change investment?’ is the ‘B’ for burn. The allocate option works to some degree if there is some maturity of project delivery inside the organisation, it works if there are people who care, and it doesn’t work if these are not in place. In this situation, the allocate actually becomes a ‘burn.

Anything that is approved will be left to burn away (think of it as money on a bonfire) and be destined to not deliver most or any of the expected business benefits. Without management and control and accountability, alongside that maturity in change delivery, it will be wasted – perhaps not truly burnt but money used a little here and a little there, a resource ‘borrowed’, and a little help provided over there on that other important activity. The bottom line is it will go and the benefits will not replace its disappearance.

The third, and final, answer to the ‘So what do we do with this change investment?’ is the ‘I’ for investment. Here are in that happy place where the executive team do take the first part of the process very seriously and exhaust many, many hours scrutinising business proposals and change propositions, evaluate alternatives and options, ponder long and hard, challenges and re-challenge the change advocates and then finally allocate the money, but they do not forget all about it. They remember, they care, they enrage, they get updates and ask for status analysis and business benefit realisation progress and so much more.

Forgetting ‘burn’ (and I think you will agree we should) then ‘allocate’ means to distribute (resources or duties) for a particular purpose, which is a bit of a one-way process, whereas ‘invest’ means to ‘put (money) into a commercial venture with the expectation of achieving a profit – less of a one-way process and more of a ‘two-way/we’d like to get something back’ process to me.

And this requires ongoing and continual interaction with the change underway.

TAKE THE TEST: Think of your own organisation and (honestly) decide if you are an ‘A’, ‘B’ or ‘I’ type of executive team? You might even take it down to the individual executive team member (or make it personal to yourself perhaps) asking ‘is this person’, or ‘am I’ an ‘A’, ‘B’ or ‘I’ type?

Once you know this you can contemplate what this means for that big number you came up with in ‘The true value of change’ exercise.

Tailwind Project Solutions was formed in 2014 to provide a bespoke approach to project leadership development. Owned by Director & CEO Alex Marson, the organisation works with large FTSE 250 clients including some of the biggest companies in the world in the Asset Management, Professional Services, Software, Automotive, Finance and Pharmaceutical industry.  The company has a team of world-class experts who provide a bespoke approach to the challenges that our clients have, and the company was formed because of a gap in the market for expertise which truly gets to the heart of the issues clients are facing – providing a robust, expert solution to change the way that companies run their projects.

At the time, the market was becoming flooded with training companies, providing a ‘sheep dip’ approach to project management, and the consensus was that This didn’t solve the real challenges that businesses and individuals are experiencing in this ever-increasing complex world of project management. The vision was to hand-pick and work with the very best consultants, trainers and coaches worldwide so that Tailwind could make a difference to their clients, to sit down with them, understand their pain points, what makes them tick, and what is driving their need for support.

These challenges being raised time and time again are in the project leadership space, from communication issues, not understanding stakeholder requirements or having the confidence to “push back”, lack of sponsorship support, working across different cultures, languages, levels of capability and complexity. We expect more from our project managers – we expect them to inspire, lead teams and be more confident.

Tailwind’s experience is vast, from providing interim resources in the project and programme management space, supporting the recruitment process, experiential workshops, coaching – from project managers through to executives, providing keynote speakers, implementing PPM Academies, PM Healthchecks and Leadership development. The approach is created often uniquely – to solve the real challenges of each of their individual clients.

http://tailwindps.com/

The true value of change

September 22, 2017

The following is an extract from my new book ‘How to get Fired at the C-Level: Why mismanaging change is the biggest risk of all’ in association with my friends at Tailwind Project Solutions – previous extracts followed a series of 5 Challenges that I think every organisation should consider, and consider very carefully – and now we will look at the 5 tests of control:

We have already identified in an earlier article that knowing the true value of your investment in change, and the consequential cost of failure to deliver this change is critical.

On that basis now is the time for you to ‘do the math’ and work your change portfolio investment out, an example was covered in ‘Challenge 1 – Invest in the right portfolio management’ – so you can reference that if you wish.

Before you start how big do you think your Portfolio is right now and how big do you think it really might be? It will be interesting to compare later on.

OK – start with your Portfolio value. How simple is that to discover? The figure doesn’t have to be 100% accurate, you are looking for a rough order of magnitude really – but if it is really difficult to even start with a ROM valuation you might consider why that is, and how can your organisation manage change if it doesn’t know the basics?

Assuming that you do have that number to hand now all you need to know now is the ratio of Compliance projects versus Growth projects. The same argument stands in this case if you struggle to identify that percentage mix. But again, it is a rough estimate that is needed for this exercise.

And then select or identify the Cost/Impact ratio and the growth Value Add ratio – these really should be part of your business case approval process by the way.

And finally, estimates of disruption ratio percentage (use the 20% provided if you don’t have a true idea of your own organisations percentage) and failure factor ratio percentage but only for the growth projects. For the compliance projects it could well be something like ‘Go to Jail, do not Pass Go) or some serious fine etc. – feel free to quantify this if you can of course – it may well be significant.

 

 

P Portfolio Value (Starting Value) £
C/G Compliance (@ 40%) £

(40% of ‘P’)

Growth (@60%) £

(60% of ‘P’)

CI Cost Impact (2:1 for Compliance) £

(2*’C’)

VA Value Add (4:1 for Growth) £

(4*’G’)

TSF Total so far £

(‘C’+’G’+’CI’+VA’)

D Disruption (@20% of initial Portfolio value) £

(20% of ‘TSF’)

F Failure Factor (10% of Growth – planned value add) £

(10% of ‘VA’)

TP True Portfolio Value £

(‘TSF’+’D’+’F’)

 

 

TAKE THE TEST: Run the numbers and ‘do the math’ and then step back and take in the figure at the end

There you have it – the truth, the whole truth, and most likely, scarily nothing but the truth.

Tailwind Project Solutions was formed in 2014 to provide a bespoke approach to project leadership development. Owned by Director & CEO Alex Marson, the organisation works with large FTSE 250 clients including some of the biggest companies in the world in the Asset Management, Professional Services, Software, Automotive, Finance and Pharmaceutical industry.  The company has a team of world-class experts who provide a bespoke approach to the challenges that our clients have, and the company was formed because of a gap in the market for expertise which truly gets to the heart of the issues clients are facing – providing a robust, expert solution to change the way that companies run their projects.

At the time, the market was becoming flooded with training companies, providing a ‘sheep dip’ approach to project management, and the consensus was that This didn’t solve the real challenges that businesses and individuals are experiencing in this ever-increasing complex world of project management. The vision was to hand-pick and work with the very best consultants, trainers and coaches worldwide so that Tailwind could make a difference to their clients, to sit down with them, understand their pain points, what makes them tick, and what is driving their need for support.

These challenges being raised time and time again are in the project leadership space, from communication issues, not understanding stakeholder requirements or having the confidence to “push back”, lack of sponsorship support, working across different cultures, languages, levels of capability and complexity. We expect more from our project managers – we expect them to inspire, lead teams and be more confident.

Tailwind’s experience is vast, from providing interim resources in the project and programme management space, supporting the recruitment process, experiential workshops, coaching – from project managers through to executives, providing keynote speakers, implementing PPM Academies, PM Healthchecks and Leadership development. The approach is created often uniquely – to solve the real challenges of each of their individual clients.

http://tailwindps.com/

Professionalise Project Management

August 1, 2017

The following is an extract from my new book ‘How to get Fired at the C-Level: Why mismanaging change is the biggest risk of all’ in association with my friends at Tailwind Project Solutions – the extracts follow a series of 5 Challenges that I think every organisation should consider, and consider very carefully – this is the final of the five challenges:

Invest in great project management skills – not just project managers

And how can you Invest in great project management skills? Perhaps we might begin with the PMO.

Since PMOs lead the project management community – either directly or indirectly, according to your PMO model (see appendices) – then by considering what the best PMOs offer we can gain some insight and see that:

  • The best PMOs have consistent, repeatable PM practices across the enterprise. All projects are held to the same standards and requirements for success. They have also eliminated redundant, bureaucratic PM practices that have slowed down projects
  • The best PMOs have the most experienced PMs in place and have a program underway to recruit the best PMs, develop their existing PMs into the best and to maintain this level of quality and experience
  • The best PMOs sponsor training and facilitate communities of practice to promote PM best practices in their organisations. Such communities of practice provide PMs with a forum to share their knowledge and share experiences

You can see that is not just a matter of recruiting the best project managers. That helps of course, as does developing the best project managers. Nor is it just having the best sponsors in place (we have covered that in some detail already), although having the best sponsors means that there should be a path for project managers to become sponsors.

It is not just about the provision of a ‘lean’ framework for these sponsors and project managers to work to – and by ‘lean’ I mean that every part should add value and not create unnecessary waste.

And it is not only about having a great project community – think way wider than just project managers in that community – or about having amazing education, mentoring, coaching or any means to raise skills.

It is about having all the above and anything else you can constructively think of providing to create an environment that provides and celebrates great project management skills.

To understand Challenge 5 further take a look at these three arguments:

  1. Project Management will always be a niche capability
    1. It’s the skill and experience of the individual project manager that makes or breaks a project;
    2. The need for success means that projects have to be driven by a ‘niche capable’ project manager;
    3. General managers will never have the time, the experience, the training, or indeed the skills, to manage any project beyond that which is simple in its goals;
    4. No executive gets promoted because of their project management skills; they get promoted for other reasons. Executives do not need project management skills but project sponsorship and product ownership skills.
  2. Project management is a core skill
    1. If you believe, as most evidence is now directing us, that we are moving to the ‘projectification’ of society, where work is less and less a line activity and delivered in the majority through projects, then it is clearly vital that all managers now understand the dynamics of projects and have basic skills and understanding of the process of project management to make the most out their organisation’s investments;
    2. All managers need to think in terms of controlled and carefully monitored delivery of outcomes, against a fixed budget and expectations of a quality outcome, that is as projects;
  3. Project management is both a niche capability and a core skill
    1. Project management methodology is a ‘core skill’ that all managers need to be aware of but, the actual project management activity is still a ‘niche capability’, for which additional training and experience are required to be successful;
    2. Managing a small, simple project is no big deal and most people can do it. Managing a large, complex project with substantial risk, diverse stakeholders, a geographically distributed team, multiple constraints and high stakes is best reserved for experts;
    3. The successful business of the twenty-first century recognises the value of niche project managers working under a supportive executive that has a foundation of project core skills.

I personally believe that there will always be a need for project managers, but what is also needed these days is a new management capability of successful project delivery. One man can’t do it all on his own (even Batman has Robin by his side).

All of which, I believe will make you reconsider the full project delivery capability within your own organisation, and then consider how well you and your organisation are supporting these project leaders.

To completely address Challenge 5 – invest in great project management skills – not just project managers – for as many people as possible to ensure that ‘projects’ are appropriately understood, and supported as a consequence.

We have now explored the five key challenges

  1. The challenge of investing in the right portfolio dashboard (getting a good and accurate view from the very top);
  2. The challenge of investing in real professional project sponsorship or executive leadership (project sponsors are from Venus if you remember);
  3. The challenge of investing at the C-level in a chief projects officer and, ideally, a PMO (added to the C-level);
  4. The challenge of investing in the means to know the true status of your strategic change/project investment (having good analysis and good reporting)
  5. The challenge of investing in professionalising the project capability and competence within your organisation (professionalise your project management).

It is now time to take stock, and to assess your own organisation’s position regarding these five challenges.

In the subsequent blogs we will cover five test points to apply against these 5 elements before moving on to describe five simple steps to move forward with all of the above in a controlled manner.

Tailwind Project Solutions was formed in 2014 to provide a bespoke approach to project leadership development. Owned by Director & CEO Alex Marson, the organisation works with large FTSE 250 clients including some of the biggest companies in the world in the Asset Management, Professional Services, Software, Automotive, Finance and Pharmaceutical industry.  The company has a team of world-class experts who provide a bespoke approach to the challenges that our clients have, and the company was formed because of a gap in the market for expertise which truly gets to the heart of the issues clients are facing – providing a robust, expert solution to change the way that companies run their projects.

At the time, the market was becoming flooded with training companies, providing a ‘sheep dip’ approach to project management, and the consensus was that This didn’t solve the real challenges that businesses and individuals are experiencing in this ever-increasing complex world of project management. The vision was to hand-pick and work with the very best consultants, trainers and coaches worldwide so that Tailwind could make a difference to their clients, to sit down with them, understand their pain points, what makes them tick, and what is driving their need for support.

These challenges being raised time and time again are in the project leadership space, from communication issues, not understanding stakeholder requirements or having the confidence to “push back”, lack of sponsorship support, working across different cultures, languages, levels of capability and complexity. We expect more from our project managers – we expect them to inspire, lead teams and be more confident.

Tailwind’s experience is vast, from providing interim resources in the project and programme management space, supporting the recruitment process, experiential workshops, coaching – from project managers through to executives, providing keynote speakers, implementing PPM Academies, PM Healthchecks and Leadership development. The approach is created often uniquely – to solve the real challenges of each of their individual clients.

http://tailwindps.com/

Lazy but looking to be Busy

July 7, 2017

“Life? Don’t talk to me about life.”

 So said Marvin from The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Marvin, more fully known as Marvin the Paranoid Android, is a robot manufactured by the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation. He is equipped with “Genuine People Personalities”  technology which is designed to make him more like a person. Marvin is a severely depressed robot. He’s regularly so depressed that, when he gets bored and talks to other computers, they commit suicide and die.

And life, others say, is what happens to you whilst you are busy making other plans. That is very true in my own very recent experience as I am now back out in the big wide working world seeking new challenges and new opportunities.

 After two and half great years investing heavily in a Global PMO and in project and program management, the company I was working for have done a complete U-Turn and abandoned project management as a primary focus and, as a result, don’t feel the need for a Head of Global PMO. Warning to all you PMO leaders out there, you are never completely safe…

 And so, I speak to my world wide network of friends, peers, colleagues, and social acquaintances to seek any and every opportunity to continue my work in PMOs, project management development, and delivery of change.

 Speaker – Trainer – Workshops – General scaring the hell out of C-level executives – MC – Event host and/or manager, PMO development and re-engineering, and, well, pretty much anything else related to the project world – that’s me.

 Anything I can help you and your company with, anywhere in the world, then please get in touch and get the Lazy Guy back being Busy (and productively lazy) once again.

 Thank you. Peter

 

 

Peter Taylor is a PMO expert who has built and led four global PMOs across several industries, and has advised many other organisations in PMO and PM strategy.

He is also the author of the number 1 bestselling project management book ‘The Lazy Project Manager’, along with many other books on project leadership, PMO development, project marketing, project challenges and executive sponsorship.

In the last 5 years, he has delivered over 250 lectures around the world in over 25 countries and has been described as ‘perhaps the most entertaining and inspiring speaker in the project management world today’.

His mission is to teach as many people as possible that it is achievable to ‘work smarter and not harder’ and to still gain success in the battle of the work/life balance.

More information can be found at www.thelazyprojectmanager.com – and through his free podcasts in iTunes.

Know the value of your change

July 3, 2017

The following is an extract from my new book ‘How to get Fired at the C-Level: Why mismanaging change is the biggest risk of all’ in association with my friends at Tailwind Project Solutions – the extracts follow a series of 5 Challenges that I think every organisation should consider, and consider very carefully:

Challenge 4 – Invest in good analysis and good reporting

A great place for your new CPO, newly appointed after completing Challenge 3, to start perhaps is in ‘Project intelligence’.

We will come on to the definition of this term in one moment but to begin we need to clearly differentiate Challenge 1 – Invest in the right portfolio management, which was all about knowing what your true portfolio value is. Challenge 4 is all about correctly understanding the status and the health of that portfolio, and all the projects and programs that make up that portfolio.

This is ‘Project Intelligence’.

There are probably as many definitions of intelligence as there are experts who study it. Simply put, however, intelligence can be described as the ability to learn about, learn from, understand, and interact with one’s environment.

This general ability consists of a number of specific abilities including:

  • Adaptability to a new environment or to changes in the current environment
  • Capacity for knowledge and the ability to acquire it
  • Capacity for reason and abstract thought
  • Ability to comprehend relationships
  • Ability to evaluate and judge
  • Capacity for original and productive thought

Environment in this definition has a wider meaning that includes a person’s immediate surroundings, including the people around him or her. Environment in this case can also be something as small as a family, the workplace, or a perhaps a project team.

A project, as we all know, is a temporary endeavor, having a defined beginning and end (usually constrained by date, but can be by funding or deliverables, undertaken to meet unique goals and objectives, and usually to bring about beneficial change or added value. The temporary nature of projects stands in contrast to business as usual (or operations), which are repetitive, permanent or semi-permanent functional work to produce products or services.

But what if you combine ‘intelligence’ with ‘projects’, what would you achieve? Well a successful project manager certainly needs to address the specific intelligence abilities:

  • Adaptability to a new environment or to changes in the current environment – projects are all about delivering change and the ability to oversee such change requires a great degree of adaptability.
  • Capacity for knowledge and the ability to acquire it – projects also require a continuous learning process to understand the change that is being delivered, the lessons that are there to be learned. The combined knowledge of the core and extended project team offer the best platform for project success.
  • Capacity for reason and abstract thought – logical application through the methods of project management will deliver a degree of likely success, the ability to ‘think outside the box’ and supply beneficial adaptations to process and solutions will deliver the rest.
  • Ability to comprehend relationships – projects are all about people and the relationship of people with other people.
  • Ability to evaluate and judge – such is the essence of project leadership and decision making.
  • Capacity for original and productive thought – problem resolution and the comparative analysis of options is a constant need in good project management.

In all aspects, the project demands the intelligent project manager.

But what else is required to support successful project delivery, not from the individual’s perspective but from the organisation as a whole?

Here we can introduce a new term that refers to these requirements; Project Intelligence.

Project Intelligence (PI) refers to the skills, processes, technologies, applications, metrics and practices used to support successful project delivery from the organisation as a whole.

Common components of Project Intelligence include:

  • Project Management skills, maturity and certification (from project contributor through to senior project (or program) roles)
  • Project Sponsorship skills and maturity
  • Project Methodologies and practices
  • Project Management Information Systems
  • Project (or Program) Management Office (PMO) activities and focus (supportive, directive, controlling)
  • Executive/Management skills, maturity and experience in project delivery
  • Project based organisational maturity
  • Project Support technologies (Resource Management, Skills Database, Scheduling and Time Management, Cost Management etc.)
  • Project Dashboard and Reporting technologies

Project Intelligence aims to support a project based organisations successful project capability.

Whilst we may believe we understand all of these components of PI perhaps we should explore a few of them in some detail.

For example, many organisations have a growing capability in project management skills, this is the next challenge, Challenge 5 – Invest in great project management skills – but many do not specifically train beyond the project management role itself. They don’t develop great project sponsors, going back to Challenge 2 – Invest in non-accidental project sponsors – nor do they train people to undertake objective lessons learned activities either.

Executives in general have acquired project knowledge – well let’s be honest here, it tends to be project experience and usually ‘experience’ of a painful type – but few will come close to understanding the mechanics and skills of being a project leader unless they have been through the ‘project delivery’ world. This is Challenge 3 – Invest in a Chief Projects Officer in part but beyond that, why not consider some form of education – projects for the non-project managers – so that the widest audience can understand why projects are different.

And the deployment of project dashboards is, sadly, often a means to either move swiftly away back to safe operational issues if the dashboard looks ‘green’ or raise a lot of unhelpful noise when the dreaded ‘red’ appears; just when the project needs all the positive help it can get. This is this challenge, of course – Challenge 4 – Invest in good analysis and good reporting.

Project Intelligence is all about having the very best environment to nurture and deliver project success through the needed skills, processes, technologies, applications, metrics and practices.

You organisation deserves the best possible ‘knowledge’ about your change projects and therefore Project Intelligence is what you need.

Here is another thought

I saw something for the very first time the other day, and it was one of those ‘why on earth have I never seen this before it is so obvious…’ moments.

I was reviewing a portfolio dashboard at a software vendor and they, as I have seen many times in the past in many systems, offered me views by project manager, business unit, location, value, phase and so on. But then I asked, and was delighted to see (after a simple sort edit) a view of the portfolio by… yes, you guessed it, by sponsor.

And why not.

Portfolio management should be much more than just a prioritisation of projects and resources exercise. It should be the representation in projects (and programs) of the competitive strategy that will allow business executives to convert their intentions into reality.

So, this is pretty serious stuff then.

All of this is placed in the hands of project managers, and they need to be held to task and held accountable but in the words of Standish ‘The most important person in the project is the executive sponsor. The executive sponsor is ultimately responsible for the success and failure of the project’

To me, these days anyway, for the executive team to be able to view their portfolio also by project sponsor and to see who of these ‘ultimately responsible’ people are performing (and who are not, thereby putting the business strategy at risk) should be a ‘no-brainer’.

When it comes to financial accountability, it seems—at least anecdotally—that projects often go over budget, deliver late, and deliver less than was expected . . . and there are absolutely no significant consequences at sponsor level. No one appears to be accountable and no one gets removed.

Now, if something goes wrong in the ‘real’ side of the business—sales down, profits falling, share price dropping—then it seems like something will be done and someone will be held accountable. Maybe this is because this is seen as ‘real’ business and ‘real’ work and as such has to be taken seriously.

Project sponsorship needs the same strength of focus and importance of status. The success or failure of a project is a direct reflection on the sponsor as the keeper of the organisational vision.

A ‘sponsor’ view of the project portfolio is an absolute key to this in the future I believe, and fits exactly into Challenge 2 – Invest in non-accidental project sponsors and this Challenge 4 – Invest in good analysis and good reporting.

Executives; demand this today!

Tailwind Project Solutions was formed in 2014 to provide a bespoke approach to project leadership development. Owned by Director & CEO Alex Marson, the organisation works with large FTSE 250 clients including some of the biggest companies in the world in the Asset Management, Professional Services, Software, Automotive, Finance and Pharmaceutical industry.  The company has a team of world-class experts who provide a bespoke approach to the challenges that our clients have, and the company was formed because of a gap in the market for expertise which truly gets to the heart of the issues clients are facing – providing a robust, expert solution to change the way that companies run their projects.

At the time, the market was becoming flooded with training companies, providing a ‘sheep dip’ approach to project management, and the consensus was that This didn’t solve the real challenges that businesses and individuals are experiencing in this ever-increasing complex world of project management. The vision was to hand-pick and work with the very best consultants, trainers and coaches worldwide so that Tailwind could make a difference to their clients, to sit down with them, understand their pain points, what makes them tick, and what is driving their need for support.

These challenges being raised time and time again are in the project leadership space, from communication issues, not understanding stakeholder requirements or having the confidence to “push back”, lack of sponsorship support, working across different cultures, languages, levels of capability and complexity. We expect more from our project managers – we expect them to inspire, lead teams and be more confident.

Tailwind’s experience is vast, from providing interim resources in the project and programme management space, supporting the recruitment process, experiential workshops, coaching – from project managers through to executives, providing keynote speakers, implementing PPM Academies, PM Healthchecks and Leadership development. The approach is created often uniquely – to solve the real challenges of each of their individual clients.

http://tailwindps.com/

Add to the C-Level

June 22, 2017

The following is an extract from my new book ‘How to get Fired at the C-Level: Why mismanaging change is the biggest risk of all’ in association with my friends at Tailwind Project Solutions – the extracts follow a series of 5 Challenges that I think every organisation should consider, and consider very carefully:

Challenge 3 – Invest in a Chief Projects Officer

Well it starts with strategy formulation which is no longer the annual exercise it used to be – nowadays it is an ongoing iterative activity.

And since each strategy gives birth to one or more projects this adds to the portfolio constantly. Often, it should be honestly admitted, in some form of infinite capacity model – just keep adding projects and we will sort out the resources later.

The idea of a chief project officer is not new but it can be described as ‘emerging, with more organisations investing at this level in one person to represent the change programs at the highest level. If you think about CEO’s being most often fired for mismanaging change then it is a ‘no-brainer’ you would have thought if your portfolio is a significant one and – based on Challenge 1 – Invest in the right portfolio management – it is often more significant than you might think (see previous blog).

When project management, projects and change are elevated to the ‘C’ level of importance, one of the distinct advantages is it can no longer be viewed as optional, distracting, annoying, special or unimportant by all the other business functions. A Chief Projects Officer, or whatever title you may wish to bestow on this position, should make it easier to manage change initiatives across an organisation, should reduce that organisation’s exposure to the impact and potential; realisation of major risk, and can drive lower costs through economies of scale. All of which should deliver better results across the board, with higher engagement of all stakeholders and impacted employees.

A Chief Projects Officer (CPO) is typically responsible for providing governance over an organisation’s internal projects – external, or customer facing projects can be also covered but that is entering a slightly different world – with a focus on:

  • Ensuring all projects support the current strategic objectives
  • Managing the overall portfolio risk to the organisation
  • Driving efficiencies in delivery and economies of scale
  • Managing resource requirements across the project portfolio
  • Ensuring that all change is led by a skilled professional project management community
  • Leads, and is aided by, the PMO
  • Reports to the executive team

And how can you get a ‘CPO’?

Well why not fast track one through the project world?

I have seen in the companies that I have worked for, and I am sure that you have all seen it as well, the special ones amongst us that are on a fast track up through the organisation destined for the hallowed ground of ‘C’ level appointment. We all watch in awe and wonder at the skill and ability in acquiring new skills and mastering new responsibilities and generally doing a whole better than us.

And there is nothing wrong with that at all. They experience the company as broadly as possible with experiences in finance and in sales and in marketing and in manufacturing and even sometimes in services perhaps. They get first-hand experience of the component parts of the businesses that they will one day lead and this is a valuable preparation. These are the ones identified as having future leadership potential and any company will invest in such people for their joint futures.

Sadly, I have yet to see a future ‘C’ work their way through the project arena, the PMO, the project management practise. It seems as if, when it comes down to it, that the project side of the business (as opposed to the operational side of the business) is maybe a little less important, a little less attractive?

There is a danger of course in putting a non-project person in charge of projects.

A comment from my recent PMO Survey summed it up with ‘the management in charge of the PMO are highly experienced operational managers, each with a significant and solid track record. Unfortunately, that expertise does not translate into projects where the deadlines, delivery management and interaction between different role-players are significantly more acute than in operational management’.

So perhaps the ‘C’ is not immediately destined for the PMO leadership role but surely there is a critical need for such future leaders to understand the nature of their ever increasingly project based activities.

Take an action all of you executives – talk to the ‘powers that be’ and to the fast track talent development agencies in your companies, and open up your PMO with an invitation to ‘come on in and enjoy the experience’.

In the long run it will only benefit the PMO, your projects, you yourself and, of course, the organisation. Projects are here to stay and with the increase in project activity inside organisations then really the next generation ‘C’ level should understand as much as they can about our world.

 

Tailwind Project Solutions was formed in 2014 to provide a bespoke approach to project leadership development. Owned by Director & CEO Alex Marson, the organisation works with large FTSE 250 clients including some of the biggest companies in the world in the Asset Management, Professional Services, Software, Automotive, Finance and Pharmaceutical industry.  The company has a team of world-class experts who provide a bespoke approach to the challenges that our clients have, and the company was formed because of a gap in the market for expertise which truly gets to the heart of the issues clients are facing – providing a robust, expert solution to change the way that companies run their projects.

At the time, the market was becoming flooded with training companies, providing a ‘sheep dip’ approach to project management, and the consensus was that This didn’t solve the real challenges that businesses and individuals are experiencing in this ever-increasing complex world of project management. The vision was to hand-pick and work with the very best consultants, trainers and coaches worldwide so that Tailwind could make a difference to their clients, to sit down with them, understand their pain points, what makes them tick, and what is driving their need for support.

These challenges being raised time and time again are in the project leadership space, from communication issues, not understanding stakeholder requirements or having the confidence to “push back”, lack of sponsorship support, working across different cultures, languages, levels of capability and complexity. We expect more from our project managers – we expect them to inspire, lead teams and be more confident.

Tailwind’s experience is vast, from providing interim resources in the project and programme management space, supporting the recruitment process, experiential workshops, coaching – from project managers through to executives, providing keynote speakers, implementing PPM Academies, PM Healthchecks and Leadership development. The approach is created often uniquely – to solve the real challenges of each of their individual clients.

http://tailwindps.com/

How project management can improve your business

June 20, 2017

 

We all know that effective project management is a key contributor to a project’s success. Still, we often forget to think about the bigger consequences that project management can have on the rest of business. Working on your project management skills does a whole lot more than boost your resume, it has serious impact on your business’ bottom line. Now that’s a definite selling point for any potential employer.

Share knowledge across your company

No-one understands who works where and who knows what more than a project manager. With experience managing human resources across your projects, you’re well equipped to help a business build a culture of knowledge sharing. By using project management skills to identify where specific skill and knowledge sets are, you’re well equipped to strategically share your talents’ expertise across the organisation.

Make the most of the resources you have

By being held accountable for resources at every project phase, you become aware of where in your company resources are abundant, and where they are scarce. Project management teaches you to keep track of where human resources are and what they have to offer. You also learn the limitations and possibilities that come with managing a budget – all of which is integral to running a business. You can manage customer expectations when resources are scarce, find ways of improving productivity and reduce business costs by putting the right people in the right places.

Manage time and budget like a pro(ject manager)

Knowing how to manage a budget and keep projects tracking to deadline is one of a project manager’s most valuable skills. Managing the budget and timing for an entire business, however, is something only a project manager at the top of their game can handle. By bringing your expertise to the table, you can use your valuable skills to deliver business insights that other professionals might miss. Project managers run a tight ship, and that’s often the approach businesses need.

Strive for continuous improvement

Project managers learn to continuously improve their processes and find new, more efficient ways of completing tasks. In today’s age of disruption, businesses need this approach on a company-wide level. By implementing new processes on a company-wide level, you can instigate the change that sees profits rise and productivity skyrocket.

However, you can’t just expect everyone to jump on board straight away – and project managers know that. Great stakeholder management skills are crucial when it comes to rolling out any change or improvement in a company. Having experience managing stakeholders across teams and departments is a great card to have in your back pocket when managing a business.

Having a project management approach to managing business is more than just a nice philosophy – it’s common sense. Great project managers are well equipped to shine in the world of business. Improving your skills and applying them at an enterprise level is a sure-fire way to start your path to success.

If you’d like to improve your project manager skills, without having to leave the workforce, consider studying a Master of Project Management online at Southern Cross University Online. Flexible study loads mean that you can strengthen your experience with postgraduate study without putting life on hold.

Project Sponsors are from Venus

June 14, 2017

The following is an extract from my new book ‘How to get Fired at the C-Level: Why mismanaging change is the biggest risk of all’ in association with my friends at Tailwind Project Solutions – the extracts follow a series of 5 Challenges that I think every organisation should consider, and consider very carefully:

Challenge 2 – invest in non-accidental project sponsors

‘We are unique individuals with unique experiences’ John Gray, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus

Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus is a book written by relationship counsellor John Gray. It has sold more than 50 million copies (a handful more than my own best-selling book The Lazy Project Manager) and spent 121 weeks on the US bestseller list.

The book and its central metaphor have become a part of popular culture and so I found myself, as I thought about my ongoing (since 2011) Campaign for Real Project Sponsors, that maybe we could think of project managers and project sponsors in similar terms.

The book states that most common relationship problems between men and women result from fundamental psychological differences between the sexes. The author exemplifies this through the book’s eponymous metaphor: that men and women are from distinct planets – Mars and Venus respectively – and that each sex is in tune with its own planet’s society and customs, but those of the other are alien to it.

Now it is possible that this comes into play if, say the project manager is a man and the project sponsor is a woman. (I explored this in the book Strategies for Project Sponsorship (Management Concepts Press) with my co-authors Vicki James and Ron Rosenhead, where – at Vicki’s suggestion – we agreed to separate the roles by gender.) But for now, let’s simplify the situation by assuming that gender plays no part in this.

For project success many sources of authority boldly declare good project sponsorship is critical but sadly the reality of the situation is less than perfect sponsoring. Often – very often – project sponsors will have received no training or support for their critical role. In Strategies for Project Sponsorship we confirmed that, with 85% of organisations surveyed declaring that they had ‘sponsorship in place’ but 83% confirming the worrying truth that they did nothing to support, train or guide these project sponsors.

Many speak of the ‘accidental project manager’ but the reality is that the current generation of project sponsors can also be considered the ‘accidental project sponsors’. Although they may not have any background in project management or project-based activity, having reached a senior level within their organisation based on other achievements, they have assumed or have been given that role. Remember that there is not currently any official body of knowledge for project sponsors to help them understand best project sponsorship practices.

And yet project sponsors don’t just need to support projects; good project sponsors also support the project manager and project team. It is said that a project is one small step for a project sponsor and a giant leap for the project manager. Wouldn’t we all feel so much better if we knew that the project sponsor’s one small step would ensure that the complementary giant leap would lead to a safe and secure final landing?

The project sponsor/project manager partnership is one that needs to be built on a relationship of trust and mutual objectives.

As John Gray says, ‘If I seek to fulfil my own needs at the expense of my partner, we are sure to experience unhappiness, resentment, and conflict. The secret of forming a successful relationship is for both partners to win.’

Project sponsorship is not about an either/or situation but a win/ win, with both the project sponsor and the project manager benefiting.

It is, after all, about the project and therefore about the business benefit.

In Strategies for Project Sponsorship we found that the best of project sponsors operated in a very balanced way, being involved in the project, being objective about the project, being supportive of the project and project manager, and being reactive to project needs.

The project manager clearly needs to be equally balanced.

We also found that the best project managers understood what a good project sponsor should do and how they, as project managers, needed to behave within the reality of the partnership, and with the project sponsor that they were ‘given’. As the saying goes, ‘you can pick your friends but you can’t pick your relatives,’ and it must be appreciated that the same is true of project sponsors.

Each project sponsor (and each project manager) will be different, will be imperfect, and will have strengths and weaknesses but if the two individuals understand each other’s responsibilities and capabilities then a balanced, effective and positive relationship can be achieved (and subsequent project success). To once again quote John Gray, ‘Relationships thrive when communication reflects a ready acceptance and respect of people’s innate differences.’

This needs to be taken seriously and if the relationship is not working changes need to happen, fast.

There is some fantastic work going on with and for project managers.

We have landed on Mars and we are setting up home and making it look damn good (in most cases) but the weight of effort is all on that side of the scale. Venus, on the other hand is comparatively undeveloped and in need of a real make-over.

In ‘Project Management Institute, Inc. Pulse of the Profession™ March 2013’ it was assessed that the value impact on poor project sponsorship from the executive level had real significance. The report suggested that with regard to meeting project goals there was a +29% variance with good sponsorship in place but when there wasn’t good project sponsorship in place there was a -13% variance of project failure, that is there was a 13% greater chance of the project not delivering what was expected.

Investment in project sponsorship is evidence that the executives are taking strategy investment seriously, whereas not doing so can be seen as an example of the C-suite failing its own business and if we think about this in terms of the portfolio we valued in the previous article (we started with £20m and ended up with £105.6m remember?) doing nothing to develop good project sponsorship would mean that 13% of the value of the portfolio (£13.7m) could practically be written off from day one. Even if you only take the portfolio starting value – £20m – you are losing £2.6m.

How would your CFO feel if you asked him to take £2.6m in banknotes and stuff it in the shredder right now? If anything, not investing proper C-level support in strategy is worse than this, since besides the huge financial loss you should consider time and effort: all those people wondering what they have been working on all this time only to see negative returns.

I hope that the point is now well made – investment in professional project sponsors who see this as an integral part of their role is critical to your organisation protecting and benefiting from your portfolio of investment.

 

Tailwind Project Solutions was formed in 2014 to provide a bespoke approach to project leadership development. Owned by Director & CEO Alex Marson, the organisation works with large FTSE 250 clients including some of the biggest companies in the world in the Asset Management, Professional Services, Software, Automotive, Finance and Pharmaceutical industry.  The company has a team of world-class experts who provide a bespoke approach to the challenges that our clients have, and the company was formed because of a gap in the market for expertise which truly gets to the heart of the issues clients are facing – providing a robust, expert solution to change the way that companies run their projects.

At the time, the market was becoming flooded with training companies, providing a ‘sheep dip’ approach to project management, and the consensus was that This didn’t solve the real challenges that businesses and individuals are experiencing in this ever-increasing complex world of project management. The vision was to hand-pick and work with the very best consultants, trainers and coaches worldwide so that Tailwind could make a difference to their clients, to sit down with them, understand their pain points, what makes them tick, and what is driving their need for support.

These challenges being raised time and time again are in the project leadership space, from communication issues, not understanding stakeholder requirements or having the confidence to “push back”, lack of sponsorship support, working across different cultures, languages, levels of capability and complexity. We expect more from our project managers – we expect them to inspire, lead teams and be more confident.

Tailwind’s experience is vast, from providing interim resources in the project and programme management space, supporting the recruitment process, experiential workshops, coaching – from project managers through to executives, providing keynote speakers, implementing PPM Academies, PM Healthchecks and Leadership development. The approach is created often uniquely – to solve the real challenges of each of their individual clients.

http://tailwindps.com/