Sunday, December 29, 2013

"Top 10 Organization Challenges that Limit Project Success” by Tom Mochal - PROJECT ON TRACK 1

I wish you a Happy New Year and  hope that 2014 brings each of you new challenges and opportunities! I would like  ''Project on track'' to be the theme of 2014  and therefore would like to start a series of articles on how to make sure your project is successful. Let’s start from “Top 10 Organization Challenges that Limit Project Success” by Tom Mochal which I would like to share with you.

I met Tom Mochal at 8th International PMI PolandChapter Congress, which took place 2-3 December 2013 in Westin Hotel in Warsaw. Tom Mochal is the founder and president of TenStep Inc., a global company that specializes in consulting and training in business methodologies. He is also the author of „Lessons in People Management” and „Lessons in Project Management”.

1.     Active Projects Congestion
Problem: Very often there are too many projects opened as sponsors think that if a project is important needs to be started.
Solution: The best way to finish a project quickly is to staff it optimally. Fewer projects in portfolio means more stuff completed by the end of the year, so prioritize your projects and start when you have resources.
2.       Enhancement Distraction
Problem: Too many operational enhancements (small projects between 2-20 hours) might consume resources to be used on more important projects.
Solution: Squeeze enhancements to smaller percentage, so you have more resources to work on projects.
3.       Support/Operations Overload
Problem: Similar to enhancements support/operational work takes too much effort.
Solution: As projects is what get you to the future state make operational work as efficient as possible. Live with lower, but acceptable level of service!
4.       Resource Allocation Fog
Problem: You don’t know where resources are assigned and it’s crucial you understand when people have capacity for more work.
Solution: You need just minimal capacity of tracking people and work, so do not make it complicated. A simple high level s/sheet (updated monthly) to track resources by project, operations and support will be sufficient!
5.       Can’t Change
Problem: Very often people give up when they struggle with change. Usually is a result of a lack of governance and sponsorship.
Solution: Do not implement change unless you have senior management support!
6.       Mismatched PMO Expectations
Problem: Managers want PMO to “make it happen” and PMO cannot “make it happen”. You are only as much of successful as your sponsor is!
Solution: PMO provide information to managers who provide governance! Governance is management not PMO responsibility. This mismatch of expectation leads to dysfunction.
7.       Lack of Accountability
Problem: No one meets their commitments – it’s organisational wide: PMs, team members, managers. No one really cares.
Solution: Start a change initiative. First,  people need to understand their commitments – document them! Managers must hold staff and each other accountable for meeting commitments.  Add to performance review process – otherwise meaningless!
8.       Project Manager Isolation
Problem: Both sponsors and line managers do not support Project Managers!
Solution: Change the culture! Make sure everyone in organisation understands project management at practical level! Ensure everyone knows their role!
9.       Conflicting Roles
Problem: Roles and responsibilities are not clear – it applies to people and committees! Committees compete or overlap.
Solution: Document roles and responsibilities and rationalize across roles to minimize the confusion and overlap.
10.   Throwing PMs under the Bus.
Problem: Blaming project manager for all project ills!
Solution: Stop it!

Delivering projects, not operations/support work, is what get you to the future state – projects move a company towards goals/strategies. Project management enables projects to be more successful. Make sure the project management and other processes in your organisation work together for optimal results.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Challenges of Implementing Agile Project Management

During the Advance Project Management for the Utility and Power Generation Industry, held in Berlin, 11-13 December 2013, using the round table discussion format, we tried to answer following questions on  agile adoption in complex utility and power generation projects.

•  Agile is not only about doing agile, but also about being agile. How do we become agile?
•  What are agile management adoption challenges? What paradigms are we breaking? What are the solutions?
•  What’s your experience in using agile in complex energy projects? Are there any specific challenges? Can you recommend any solutions to these challenges?

 “Even projects are not agile the requirements are agile – prone to change”

We all agreed that agile is not a methodology (under the agile umbrella we have SCRUM, DSDM, TDD, FDD and more) and agility is both: doing and being agile. Doing agile is about the practices. Being agile is about living and acting on agile values and principles.

So what’s the definition of agile? My favourite is “a disciplined discovery & delivery framework” by Ellen Gottesdiener ( if you want to learn more on agile I recommend visiting her blog) and adopting agile is about transforming the culture of a company to support the Agile mindset. In other words: agile is about creating a culture/ team environment where everyone is self-motivated to contribute to the overall success of the project – the conclusion from the first Tricity Agile community meeting.

What do we mean by agile mindset? Trust, flexibility, relationships, partnering, welcome & promote change, simplicity, transparency, collaboration, participative approach, communication, self-organisation, focus on value/outcomes, experiment and learn from mistakes, feedback, uncertainty tolerance, system value. Trust is a challenge! I really like the expression: “preferential agility”. How to communicate effectively in large teams? This question was raised and my answer was to break the team into a few smaller teams, but although natural, there’s some risk associated to it with regards to communication breakdown.

We have also agreed that a broken waterfall based project execution approach is not sufficient reason to commit to agile. Agile is not a “silver bullet” or a solution to a mission critical initiative without any background in the approach and the more mature organisation in traditional project management is the easiest agile adoption might be.

We have also discussed the 3 planning horizons: now-view , pre-view (near future) and big-view (future) – ex: product roadmap.

Agile approaches challenge paradigms:
management focus: conformance to plan vs. response to change
culture: command & control vs. servant leadership/ collaborative
change: eliminate & control vs. welcome & promote
measuring success: task based/amount of work delivered vs. speed to value
design: big analysis/design upfront vs. speed to value
value: perfection vs. excellence - just enough

Find out your comfort level along the gradient of traditional (waterfall) and agile.

And finally we have come up with some suggestions for agile adoption in utility and power generation projects:
  • There’s some room for agility in early stages of the project
  • Might be useful in demonstration projects
  • Easier to implement in project management mature organisations with standardized traditional project management framework
  • For internal projects – within one company (when we do the project on your own).
  • We might try to add more flexibility to the approval process – ex. change requests are easy to approve
How far we go with agility depends on our individual mindset. Thank you very much for the participation and let’s try  more “disciplined discovery” and move more to the right side!

And for those who are interested in agile contracting, the presentation from the meeting I've mentioned (by the Dutch guy who set up a business in Poland), including the Polish case study.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

More on mentoring

In the previous post I have covered different types of mentoring and today I would like to talk on the benefits and how to kick it off. In the last part on the mentoring subject I will publish an interview with my mentor.


There are a lot of benefits of mentoring for both mentees and mentors but also for the companies.
q  Mentee
Ø  personal growth, development, help in applying learning, higher commitment to the company
Ø  opportunity to explore ideas in a neutral environment
Ø  faster transition into new roles or during change
Ø  develop expertise, wider perspective and larger network
Ø  better management of career goals/progression
Ø  increase confidence and self awareness
q  Mentor
Ø  understanding issues faced by other areas and levels
Ø  improve coaching and communication skills
Ø  satisfaction from helping to develop others
Ø  personal growth, development and enhanced credibility
Ø  exposure to new ideas
q  Business
Ø  better employee focus, engagement and retention
Ø  higher performance and increased knowledge
Ø  more effective transitions, e.g. new roles, change
Ø  employees clearer about their role and the company
Ø  improved communications and inter-departmental co-operation

What are we expecting from both parties?
From mentees:
  • Initiate and drive the relationship – the mentoring process should be mentee driven!
  • Identify initial learning goals
  • Seek feedback and take an active role in their own learning
  • Set up meetings and initiate discussions and activities
  • Allocate time and energy
  • Follow through on commitments

From mentors: 
  • Have reasonable expectations of the mentee
  • Be a resource and provide feedback
  • Allocate time and energy
  • Help the mentee develop an appropriate learning plan
  • Follow through  
Research has shown that effective mentoring can be achieved by just 60 minutes per month, even if not face to face. From my personal experience 60 minutes fortnightly would be the best. Usually mentoring relationships last from 3 up to 12 months, but can take longer if both a mentee and a mentor want to continue it – in my case it is already 3 years.

How to start the mentoring relationship? First 3 meetings goal:
          Meeting 1 – Interview and Agreement
          Establish the relationship and begin building trust
          Define the general direction and expectations for the relationship
          Meeting 2 – Clarifying goals
          Expand the relationship and continue building trust
          Clarify the learning objectives and set preliminary goals
          Meeting 3 – Effective dialog on initial issues
          Expand the relationship and continue building trust
          Use an effective dialog worksheet to clearly discuss your mentoring question or issue

Roundtable session at Agile Management 2013 conference
TIPS for Successful Mentoring:
For the mentor:
-       Assume you know best what’s in the mentee’s interest
-       Decide on the subject of discussion
-       Do most of the talking
-       Hide personal weaknesses
-       Forget that this could be a learning experience for you too 
For the mentee:
-       Bring the long list of things you want the mentor to do for you
-       Expect the mentor to be available whenever you want them
-       Expect the mentor knows all the answers and decide for you when to meet and what to cover
-       Blame the mentor when the advice does not work

-       Forget to follow up on commitments you made.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Celebrating International Project Management Day - a reflection from Synergy 2013

Let me start from the idea and the founder of International Project Management Day (IPMD), Frank Saladis. The purpose of IPMD is to promote appreciation for project managers, their teams and their achievements. And to promote the value of projects as a method for achieving success in any industry. International Project Management Day is a great idea from Frank so every project manager should be aware of this and join in the annual celebrations - it is always the first Thursday in November.

Frank suggests doing 5 things in support of IPMD
1.     First do something positive for yourself to increase your sense of personal power and self-worth
2.     Second, take the time to say thanks to your project managers and team members. Do something organizationally to recognize and appreciate those working on projects with you
3.     Third, participate locally in project management events
4.     Fourth, create or join a regional mission to enhance the public relations of the industry
5.     And finally, identify actions you can take to build your international network and become an international ambassador of project management.

For the last three years I celebrate this day in London at Synergy, so this year was the third time I had attended this event and must admit that the best ever - a world class conference, world class speakers and out of this world volunteers! Well done PMI UK Chapter.

This year, the event took place on Friday 8th November (one day after IPMD) at Westminster Central Hall and gathered .... delegates. The theme of this year was: "What does good look like and How to achieve it".  The conference was kicked off by Mark Langley, the PMI CEO, taking on "The Pulse of Profession" that reports on the "High cost of Low Performance" and states that the organisations that perform best come at project, programme and portfolio management from a different angle. For more go to The Pulse of Profession. Two top class project management experts, David Hillson and Michel Thiry, hosted the event in a great manner, sumarising the speeches and in the end the whole conference.

Great international speakers have been invited, including Jim Lawless advising on "Ten Rules for Timing Tigers" (more you can find in my previous post). Hamish Taylor presented "The Innovation of Managing Change", where he stressed the need for changing the way we understand our customers. Alison Charles in "Coping Strategies for Project Mangers" shared her story and suggested being mindful, taking care of yourself and learning saying no. Nick Fewings in "Arabian Nights: turning a Project team Around in the Desert" explained how important is knowing your team and yourself. Steve Carver  tried to answer the question "What does good really look like?" using the Olympics 2012 example. Not sure if you are aware, but: " In the end it's all in the eye of the beholder! And James Brown closing the event with the advise to "Kill What's Ugly While it's Young" - make people accountable, build the relationships and do not estimate the power of compliments!
68% of projects fail!
As in today's business complexity is increasing this topic appeared not only in the executive panel session: "Managing Projects in a Complex World: Real-Life Lesson Learned", but also in other presentations. We have learned that complex is not the same as complicated and people interactions create complexity. Availability is not the skill set, so because someone is available does not mean can deliver an we need to understand work first and then mach the right PM.  Complicated is linear and predictable and easy to understand for experts. On the other hand complex is nonlinear and unpredictable and can be divided to 3 categories: structural, emergent (ex: technological & commercial maturity) and socio-political. 246 PMs have asked two questions: 1) Which complexity is the most difficult to manage? The answer: socio -political. 2) In your own formal training and development which has received the most attention? The answer: structural!

To sum up let me share a fee take aways and my reflection in the end.
  • Write your own story! Jim Lawless.
  • Know and understand your customer! Hamish Taylor.
  • Talk to each other! Alison Charles.
  • Make sense before you engage! Know what the success looks like! Panel discussion.
  • Audit the team regularly to support the high performance! Nick Fewings.
  • Perception is nearer the truth than reality! Steve Carver.
  • Take responsibility! James Brown.

My reflection below:

I really enjoyed the event! Thanks a lot my friends from UK Chapter and see you next year. More pictures from the Synergy can be found here.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

AgilePMO celebrating one year anniversary and recommending project management books!

Today AgilePMO blog is celebrating one year anniversary! During this year 40 articles have been posted covering not only project management but also leadership, risk management, virtual and multicultural teams, collaboration, dream mapping and defining goals, creativity, team spirituality, motivating others, mentoring and more other topics! I hope you find the articles interesting and inspiring. Thank you very much for this year and fingers crossed for even more fruitful next years.

We have also a small gift for you - AgilePMO books' recommendation. Enjoy the reading!

2. To explore each of the project management approach: Effective Project Management: Traditional, Agile, Extreme by Robert K. Wysocki. In Polish: Efektywne Zarządzanie Projektami.

3. To develop as a Project Manager: The World Class Project Manager: A Professional Development Guide by Robert K. Wysocki, James P. Lewis, Doug DeCarlo.

4. To manage risk properly start with A Short Guide to Facilitating Risk Management (Short Guides to Business Risk) by Penny Pullan, Ruth Murray-Webster.

Hungry for more on managing risk not only in projects but also in your business or life?  David Hilson’s books should be your choice. You can also find “A Short Guide to Risk Appetite” review in one of my previous post.

5. To change the world and become the top class leader: Management 3.0: Leading Agile Developers, Developing Agile Leaders (Addison-Wesley Signature Series (Cohn)) by Jurgen Appelo

Monday, October 28, 2013

Speed, flash, mentoring circles or round tables - does these sound the bell?

Mentoring, coaching, facilitating, moderating – we all hear these words when talking about a great Project Manager. Do we really understand what they mean? In the next two posts I would like to write about mentoring. Definitions and types this time. Benefits and interview with my mentor next time.

We already know from my previous post  that the majority of learning comes from interaction with others: 70% of development comes from learning on the job and 20% from learning from others and this is where mentoring comes in. Only 10% of development comes from formal training.

Flash mentoring with Martin Price - Thomson Reuters London Unconference 2012

What is mentoring?
“A relationship in which a more experienced colleague uses their greater knowledge and understanding of the work or workplace to support the development of a more junior or inexperienced member of staff” (UK Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development)
 "Mentoring is to support and encourage people to manage their own learning in order that they may maximise their potential, develop their skills, improve their performance" (The Oxford School of Coaching & Mentoring)

Types of mentoring:
          One-to-one Mentoring
          Peer mentoring
          Reverse mentoring
          Mentoring circle

As probably one-to-one and peer mentoring are the most known types of mentoring, reverse, flash, speed and mentoring circles or round tables are getting more and more popular these days.

In the reverse mentoring, the mentee has more overall experience (typically as a result of age) than the mentor (who is typically younger), but the mentor has more knowledge in a particular area. More on this type of mentoring can be found here.

Mentoring Circles™ were developed by Inova Consultancy in 2001 and use an innovative methodology which combines the benefits gained from one to one mentoring with those from working with a group of peers. A combination of action learning, coaching and peer mentoring principles provides mentees with a wider source of support and inspiration for idea generation and greater creativity in problem solving during crucial times in their life”. More can be found here.

Another popular type of mentoring is flash mentoring - defined as “a one-time meeting or discussion that enables an individual to learn and seek guidance from a more experienced person who can pass on relevant knowledge and experience. The purpose of flash mentoring is to provide a valuable learning opportunity for less experienced individuals while requiring a limited commitment of time and resources for more. A variation of sequential flash mentoring is speed mentoring.  In speed mentoring the mentors (experts on different fields) sit in a semi-circle facing outwards. The exact same number of mentees sit on chairs facing them. They have dedicated time (10-20 minutes) to discuss the topic they are interested in before moving on. Each mentee has a chance to speak to a few different professionals. An example of a speed mentoring here.

We can also come across a group flash or group speed mentoring, sometimes called “round table”. In a group flash mentoring  an expert - mentor is paired with a small group of mentees for a one-time meeting or discussion. A variation of this flash mentoring technique is group speed mentoring, where a mentor meets with a small group of mentees for, some time and then rotates to another group of mentees. Round table is a similar to flash/speed form of discussion. Participants agree on a specific topic to discuss and debate. Each person is given equal right to participate, because of the circular layout usually used in round table discussions.

Thomson Reuters London Unconference 2012
Nowadays, where there are a lot of project management conferences and we do not know which one is worth attending,  organizers, bearing in mind that learning from others is more beneficial than just listening to a presentation add different forms of  mentoring to the events. Let me quote my colleague Hannah Kidson from Thomson Reuters who was taking about our internal event called unconference: “This wasn’t your normal sit down and listen event, we wanted to get people on their feet, talking to each other, sharing ideas and even presenting to each other on a wide range of project management topics. Leading up to the event, people attending had been asked to volunteer to lead a half hour session on any topic related to project management they wanted to.  We had a great response and were able to offer 30 presentations for people to attend, split over 5 time slots throughout the day”

If you find “round table” formula attractive please join me at Agile Management 2013 conference in Warsaw (13-14 Nov), where I will be facilitating tables on: Ideal Agile Team, Agile in Virtual Environment and Agile and Infrastructure Projects. And on the 11th December I will be in Berlin at Advanced Project Management for the Utility and Power Generation Industry conference chairing a table on “Challenges of Implementing Agile Project Management”.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Agile, change, leadership and high performing teams where the main themes at PW & WCBA in Orlando

For the last few months I have been preparing for the Project World & World Congress for Business Analysts. Really looked forward to this event - even more exciting for me as that was my first trip to United States, so I did not know what to expect. Although the event is over, it's still in my memory. More than 200 project management and business analysis experts from 20 top industries gathered together in the beautiful and sunny Disney's Contemporary Resort, Orlando, for this 3 day premier conference focused on collaboration through practice.

Whenever I attend an event I try to write at least a short wrap up on what happens there and this time someone did it for me - fantastic, saving a couple of hours of my precious time, so I could enjoy my holidays. Let me just highlight 2 keynote speeches and if you have appetite for more, the summary of all presentations, including mine, can be found on the PW& WCBA blog (go to left and search by subject) .

3 highlights from me - also mentioned in the short interview:
The view on the Magic Kingdom
  1. Co-located and face-to-face teams are like proverbial apples and oranges situations
  2. Show respect and personal interest to other cultures
  3. Do not micromanage but coach the team towards self-management by empowering team members.

These two speakers were two ladies, who really left me thinking. First was Naomi Karten talking on Embracing Change: Transforming Ideas and Challenges into Opportunities. Naomi described the steps of a change we go through: starting from jolt, moving through chaos, bumpy adjustments and ending at the new normal. I really like the Virginia Satir's model she presented and I'm planning to use it myself when taking about change.

Her advise:
  • Chaos is an opportunity, that's life (so true)
  • Think about planning your change - plan enough time for you and your team before kicking off the change
  • Be authentic - consistent between what you say and what you do
  • Be empathetic and listen
  • Look for common things before and after change
  • Do not mollycoddle (overprotect)!
More including the interview with Naomi can be found here (you need to scroll down).

Second one was Carey Lohrenz, #Navy’s First Female F-14 Fighter Pilot who kicked off the last day of the conference taking about leadership! Not sure if you are aware but average age of fighter pilots is 19.5 and when Lohrenz started her career in navy there were no women in the combat but she made it, thanks to her:
  • focus on what matters   
  • winning attitude
  • being  tenacious
  • being resilient

Lessons in leadership by Carey Lohrenz:
Be a catalyst, question the that to says "I'm not ready yet (do you remember "timing tigers"?), find a third way, be brave, take risks and be committed to excellence! Nothing beats experience and there's only ONE thing that makes a DREAM impossible to achieve: The FEAR of FAILURE! And

Trust appeared in every presentation or workshop
Carey left the audience with a question: what are you going to do? I have my plan in place and you? More including the interview with Carey can be found here .

I also made some friends and got some presents. Thanks a lot all of you for taking care of me and creating a fantastic atmosphere:-). I met great people and enjoyed the great event.

My next post will be on mentoring and I will share some more on speed mentoring session which took place during the conference.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Successful Teams Across Borders – PART 5. How to boost team performance?

For the last few months I have been writing on virtual collaboration and leadership.  In this post I will try to wrap up what has been already said on working and leading virtually and give some more advice.

Virtual and Co-located Teams are like proverbial Apples and Oranges
Whenever I start a discussion on the leadership, sharing my view on an ideal leader – spiritual or transformational leader (more on spirituality in one of my previous article), people seem not to understand me. Every time it happens to me I recall Alan Harpham’s, the co-author of “The Spirit of Project Management”, words: “only a few cutting edge leaders are aware of the emerging research and application of spiritual intelligence, particularly for the emerging discipline of managing complex projects “ I agree, you need to move to a higher level of leadership to understand it.

And if you really want to be a leader for the future, a “globe smart” leader, you need to move from the transactional leadership (people are motivated by reward and punishment) to a higher stage of transformational leadership - “a higher level of moral development as a result of life experience that allows the leader to put personal interests aside in favor of satisfying the needs of the followers”. (Avolio, 1994)
Transformational leadership “occurs when one or more persons engage with others in such a way that leaders and followers raise one another to higher levels of motivation and morality” and results in transforming effect holistic leader with genuine concerns for others on both leaders and followers” (Burns).

A transformational leader is more concerned with people than with process and serves as a catalyst of change, but never as a controller of change.

4 factors of Transformational Leadership:
  • Charismatic leadership /idealized influence
  • Inspirational leadership / motivation
  • Intellectual stimulation
  • Individualized consideration

Even though I’m self motivated I still expect from my leader a kind of intellectual stimulation, creating a trustful and creative environment and treating me as an individual – finding more about me, providing coaching, mentoring, and growth opportunities.

A Roadmap to boost team performance - RAMP Model
      Relationship -
Communication - experiment with different ways of communication! Create a platform for exchanging ideas and sharing personal information!
-        Trust – for me that’s the most critical factor. Trust replaces micromanagement and without trust there’s no virtual collaboration! Spend time learning about team members’ personalities, cultural backgrounds, and work habits!
-       Conflict Resolution- deal with conflict right away! Focus on problem not person!
-       Clarify roles and responsibilities and make sure the team understands them! 
Motivation – high performing teams are more motivated than less performing ones. They work together and help one another to achieve goals.
Brand your team. Create a group identity!
Recognize and celebrate success!
Provide interesting assignments that are outside normal work!
Process and Purpose. The most effective virtual teams establish clear goals, roles and process from the start.
Communication Plan
Team Charter
FB like platform for collaboration
To compensate face-to-face contact, successful virtual teams stress the interpersonal dynamics of virtual collaboration and implement practices for building trust, increasing transparency, and enhancing interpersonal relationships.