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.