Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Is life a bad chartered project ?

Once a friend of mine told me "Life is strange. Usually when you have the necessary introspection capability to make a choice, you discover that it is too late. Either you have already taken the wrong decision years ago and the chips are down now, or you have to drastically reduce your expectations and targets. This happens many times and in many ways."
I totally agree.
For example you have to choose which degree apply for when you have little idea of what you would like to do in your life. You become a lawyer and maybe you would have been more happy as a doctor.You will discover it...that's sure...but it will be too late.
Maybe one day you wake up and say out of the blue "Here I am...I want absolutely learn how to play jazz guitar...I will play in a band...I will...". But then you realize that you are 40 years old, with a full time job and 2 kids to play with. You still can learn jazz guitar...but you probably will end up playing "Autumn Leaves" or "Blue Bossa" alone in your basement, late at night, without having any clue on how to play a decent solo.
Doesn't this ring you any bell? Isn't this the same situation you will find yourself stuck into when you are managing a badly chartered project? Isn't this what you get when you realize to have put too little an effort in writing a project charter, either because you couldn't or because just you wouldn't ?

In a badly chartered project you will come at a point where the product you deliver is not what it should have been, when there is no more way to satisfy requirements or hit objectives. You can be sure of this.
Or, if you are lucky enough, you will come at a point where you have to dramatically review objectives and savagely cut scope, time, costs, quality...or all of them.

The result doesn't change...a failure.
Maybe you will succeed in make the sponsors and the clients buy in your deliverables...but they won't be properly satisfied and at the bottom of your heart you will feel that you have failed in some way.
So when you are taking up a project be careful to understand what is in the charter and what it is not and that both things be understood by the sponsor and key stakeholders.
This is a good rule of thumb even you are helping chartering the project.
So what do we hope to find in a solid project charter?
Well...many things...there is no silver bullet in this game...but if I had to write a list I would recommend at least
  • A detailed project description, including high level objectives and requirements. Sometimes stating what it doesn't belong to the project is as valuable as writing what it is a part of it.
  • Solid and well explained business case. This automatically define your options when it is time for change and/or control. If you know what is at stake you can choose which project constraints optimize at expenses of others. Moreover if the business case expires it is right that the project dies.
  • Most important constraints (time, budget, quality, ...). Also these informations help you in revising your options when it comes the time to change. 
  • How project objectives contribute to company objectives. This shows the value of your project as perceived by your company and the strength and the effort you will be allowed to profuse in your quest for success.
  • High level project risks. 
  • High level stakeholders. If you don't know by now who will be most influenced by the outcomes of your project or can influence the results in a massive way you will be rushing headlong toward disaster.
  • High level deliverables. If you don't know what you will be asked to deliver how would you possibly deliver it ?
  • Project manager authority. What are you in charge of ? You must know what you are entitled to do, which actions, countermeasures and decisions you can take and which you cannot take.
  • Time horizon of the project. 
If you cannot states all these informations at least at a very high level...well...it probably means that you don't have the necessary insight  into the project to charter it in an effective way.
If you can't describe it you can't project it and if you can't project it...it simply means that you can't do it.
So take your time and try to analyze every aspect of your project before finalizing the project charter, because it is the foundations over which your project will be build and because once released, you and your team will be committed to it. 

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Quest' opera è distribuita con licenza Creative Commons Attribuzione - Non commerciale - Non opere derivate 3.0 Unported.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Crumbs from Vancouver - 04

Here we are.

PMI® Global Congress 2012 - North America in Vancouver is ended.
What will remain with me of this terrific experience?
Well...a brand new insight in Project Management and new ways and methods to analyze old questions, to find functional answers to new and well known problems.
New questions? Yeah, why not! As your insight grows your curiosity spreads and you question what you know in more depth.
Links with valuable project managers from around the world, tons of material to study, books to read...
Well, all that project management is fascinating for.
Now the long journey home toward my beloved ones...I miss them much even if I consider a real privilege to have been here for a so long and engaging time.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Crumbs from Vancouver - 03

Today has been remarkable here at the PMI® Global Congress 2012 - North America in Vancouver.

Not just for the sessions, that are becoming every day more engaging but also because today, finally, the Vancouver sky has stopped pouring rain over us, poor project managers.
Today I have been through two truly amazing sessions. One about methods and good practices to write better projects requirements, the other about the never ending struggle of contingency reserves.
Theory is good but what happens when it meets the reality of companies that always want more with less ? That are always struggling to skinny their costs ?
That is where remain focused on good requirements and accurate estimates of contingency come into play and can truly make the difference.
The sessions were both highly interactive and the two speakers able in engaging the audience and in maintaining high the level of energy in the room.
Other two remarkable sessions I attended to were about leadership and the skills a project manager should have to succesfully create valuable teams. The socialization of power against the personalization of power, empathy and emotional intelligence can be a real breakthrough while bad management or negative attitudes can effectively spoil in few days all the good works that has been performed in months.
Other than for the sessions this meeting is truly amazing for the opportunity to meet people from every part of the world and to exchange ideas about project management and practices in a very multicultural environment.
An appointment that a passionate project manager shouldn't miss.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Crumbs from Vancouver - 02

End of day one at the PMI® Global Congress 2012 - North America.

I participated to the RPWS (Research Program Working Session) focused on the definition, the role and the maturity evaluation of a PMO.
The questions on the table were "How can we define a PMO ?" and "How do we evaluate a PMO maturity level ?".
In this all day long session all participants has been divided in groups and encouraged to respond to these questions by mean of brainstorming and focusing group techniques. Each group then in turn exposed its answers to other participants and responded to questions about the provided answers.
At the end PMI's researchers and staff summarized the discussion focal point and showed statisitcs and case studies about PMO implementations and the relative evolving scenario.
It has been a great experience, highly interactive and engaging.
I met a lot of experienced project managers and I had the opportunity of sharing ideas and opinions with very qualified people from almost every part of the world.
An experience that I recommend to every project management practitioner or passionate.
Stay tuned.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Crumbs from Vancouver - 01

Just landed in Vancouver to attend the PMI® Global Congress 2012 - North America.

Four days to dive into project management matters, processes, tools and techniques.
I was looking forward this meeting since the summer and I hope to gather many new ideas, to collect new advices and gain a greater insight into this fascinating world.
Vancouver seems a very hospitable town and the congress center magnificent.
Too bad that it is raining now and so I cannot take a sightseeing tour as complete as I would have liked through the great Stanley Park. I will spend a couple of hours visiting downtown.
I hope to be able to share impressions on the blog at the and of each day sessions...that is...if I won't be too tired.
Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Project management is the art of the possible

"Politics is the art of the possible" is said to have declared Otto Von Bismarck in 1863 to an interviewer from the St. Petersburgische Zeitung.
I am nor an aphorisms fan neither a Bismarck admirer but in its apparent triviality this sentence hide two big truths.
  • A pragmatic and wise politician distinguish between realities and desires, between opportunities and treaths, between possibilities and obligations. He or She has to know the environment in which  he or she operates.
  • Planning and negotiations, if properly conducted under a correct knowledge and interpretation of the previous environmental factors, can always lead to success. Provided objectives are realistic.

In this respect I state that (also) project management is the art of the possible. 
A good project manager should be able tell a viable budget or schedule from what are just hopes. He or She should be able to tell reality from management desires and hopes and eventually reconcile the differences. Obviously he or she should absolutely not commit himself  or herself to what is a beyond belief schedule (or budget, scope, quality plan, ...). I think that in many cases, especially if a project manager has not been involved in the project chartering process, this could be one of the most tricky parts of project management. 
Opportunities and treaths are what we could call risks and they should be treated through appropriate project management techniques. They should be identified, evaluated, documented and periodically revised. Plans should be put in place to address them in case they happens, to mitigate or enhance their impact on the project.
Every wise project manager knows that penetrating and understanding the environment in which the project evolve is a basic step toward a successfull completion. Marketplace conditions, industry standards, competitors, processes, tools, management attitude, Sponsor support, budget constraints, knowledge bases,... are all factors that can help or  hamper the project manager's (and team's) efforts and options. So all this factors, all this possibilities and obligations has to be continuously kept in mind and mastered. 
Under these premises the project manager operates and leads the team, implementing valuable processes and applying techniques suitable for planning, negotiating, monitoring project status and controlling project flow.
Said that, I strongly believe that if there is even a remote possibility to conclude a project on time, on budget and with a certain degree of quality, proper project management combined with an insight into environmental factors and process assets can significantly exploit the possibilities of success.
Obviously no project manager can do magic. Some conditions (good chartering, strong business case, management commitment...) has to be put in place before project start. A good project manager knows how to make use of everything is around him but remember, project management is the art of the possible.

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Quest' opera è distribuita con licenza Creative Commons Attribuzione - Non commerciale - Non opere derivate 3.0 Unported.