golfWhy do golfers watch “The Golf Channel” on TV? I believe that at least 90% of the viewers already know how to play the game. Many of them are so good they compete in tournaments all over the world. But they still watch “The Golf Channel” every time they get a chance.

Well, the truth be known, it’s probably because all these golfers want to get better at playing the game. They are looking for those little tips from the experts, the PGA and LPGA pros and legends of golf to guide them to new ways to play the game. They are looking for those “Lessons” from the golfers who make golf their livelihood.

And, of course, every golfer defines for himself what it means to “get better.” All are looking for outcomes with their golf games that satisfy some inner objective they have in their lives.

Now if you examine the topics and approaches of many of these “Lessons” programs, they center on helping golfers “change” something about their game that is hindering them scoring like they really want to score.

But, if you look closely, they are also taking another approach these days. Some golfers have developed what I would term “Best Practices” in their swing or their putting, or their short game that continue to work for them day in and day out. It’s termed “success.”  Some of the legends of golf have those attributes as well. If you look at video footage of Arnold Palmer or Jack Nicklaus, they each have a unique mannerism in the way they swing the club. And it continued to serve them well throughout their careers. So one of the things “The Golf Channel” is focusing in on right now is the uniqueness that each golfer brings to his own game.

Fast forward to all you project managers who follow my blog. Everyone around you is always telling you to do it a different way which follows some group’s established project practices with regard to projects. And your PMO Manager is telling you to watch that budget and don’t let that schedule slip. But there are some things that are unique about what you do every day as a project manager. They make you what you are in your particular project group and business context.

Embrace that uniqueness…let it guide you to new heights of accomplishment in project management. You will be a guide to others and set new standards in your project successes.

As usual, let me have your feedback.

MP900387301So many projects employ third party contractors and technology development personnel on projects today. It seems like the norm for getting any large project done. Organizations these days infrequently rely on purely in-house talent to dedicate as resources on projects.

I want to focus on “Resource Risk” for all my project management practitioners today because I have run across so many elements and aspects to “Resource Risk” that PMOs don’t organically take into account.

There are basically five different aspects to “contractor resource” risk that I want to focus on so that you can take these into account when you help plan or execute a project.

1. Contractor Skills–Often it is the case that when projects are bid by contractors, they will identify the highest skilled and competent resource personnel they think will win the contract. However, when the job is actually carried out, often the contractor will rely on a mix of highly competent and “just plain support” personnel to really get the job done.

2. Contractor Availability–In project environments where a contractor has worked for a long time, and there is familiarity between the firm and the third party, it is almost assumed that the contractor will supply all the resources that he has supplied in previous work. But when the job actually starts, the contractor may say that he is spread too thin with his high quality resources, or the same resources that he has supplied in the past, so he seeks to substitute new resources with which the firm may be unfamiliar.

3. Contractor Sub-contracting–Unless actually specified by the project award of work, many contractors or third parties will sub-contract some work to be able to satisfy requirements among a number of firms looking for services in a given geographic area.

4. Contractor Working Conditions–This relates to a risk that I uncovered when I was working with a large organization that was engaged in a huge project where the site conditions were clearly undefined due to previous work in that area many years ago that had been abandoned and was now being revisited. Awarding a project contract in a geographic area where the contractor may encounter unknown site conditions, or even hazardous conditions, may result in additional cost and delay in cleanup which was not originally envisioned as part of the project. This results in a “Pay Me Now or Pay Me Later” type situation in which, either the firm identifies what hazards may be in the site before project initiation, or they will surely incur costs later when the contractor arrives on site for work.

5. Intellectual Property Arising from Technology Development–In addition to the use of third parties, there is a great deal of technology development being carried out with new projects today. The question of who owns the Intellectual Property from this technology development is always a point of contention if you do not address it up front in the project. It can be a “risk” if not handled properly. Be sure you understand when you launch your project that the alternative solutions could employ new technology and how you want the resource risk and technology development risk handled.

I hope this discussion prompts you to define “risk” appropriately for your projects and to have a mitigation plan in place for all the high probability/high impact risks you identify. I know that many of your organizations have robust project risk management plans in place and that is the best defense against “unknowns” that may be lurking in the woodwork to grab you as you proceed through the project.

Two weeks ago I presented a program to my weekly luncheon networking group, the Tulsa Business Alliance.  Over the last several years, I have noticed that many people, including some members of my luncheon networking group, have been reluctant to participate in the “social media” revolution. I believe the reason for this is that they do not fully understand how they fit in or can participate in the “social media” phenomenon as we know it today. So, I wanted to identify and clarify some “roles” they could take on in the new social media environment. My program title was “How Social Media Can Be Used to ‘Obtain Information’ or ‘Provide Information’ in Today’s World.”

In essence, that is what social medial allows us to do–to provide information to others, and to obtain information for ourselves to facilitate our lives and our processes. As a framework for the discussion, I chose an Engagement Pyramid or Model that Charlene Li presented in her book Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead. An Engagement Model describes the various “roles” a person can take on with regard to “subjects of interest” or “communities of practice.” The social media this is directed at can be “.com” sites, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or others.

After the presentation, I reflected on the feedback and questions from the network group. It was then that I realized that this Engagement Model could also form the basis for a self development framework for project managers. Was that a stretch or a valid observation?

Let’s examine this Engagement Model by Charlene Li to see how it fits the bill as a self development framework for project managers.

Certainly project managers seek to “obtain information” and “provide information” to the larger environment at hand and they are particularly interested in project management as a “subject” and the project community as a “community of practice.”

The levels of Charlene Li’s Engagement Model in ascending order are Watching, Sharing, Commenting, Contributing, and Curating.

Charlene Li’s Engagement Model shows that, at the lowest level of engagement, individuals “watch” events and read materials on media sites as a means of understanding the environment and obtaining information on subjects they are interested in. Sites such as “projectmanagement.com” are particularly good for “watching” because they provide numerous articles on project processes, methodologies, project competencies, etc. So a first level of project manager self development would be to “watch” and read many sources of project information in the media.

The second level of engagement according to the model is “sharing.” In sharing project information through emails or other media, a project manager begins to decide what is relevant to the larger project community from his own experience and he also receives information through sharing which outlines others perspectives on project issues and competencies.

The third level of engagement is “Commenting.” It means that a project manager has read an article or a blog post or some reference material and wishes to comment on the content or material presented. It also means that the project manager has formed some “position” with regard to the particular subject matter and is willing to defend his position as feedback to the source providing the original medial information. In this regard, a good example might be a project manager reacting to a PMBOK process as specified and, based on his experience in that area, he wished to provide some comment on the subject.

The fourth level of engagement is “Contributing.” Project managers who contribute to media information on project or other subjects generally have broad experience in the pros and cons of actions in that area, the insights from experience in projects and the willingness to put their opinions and positions on the line in on-line media for all to digest, ponder and comment on. Everyone is an “expert” in some area of their discipline or interest and contributing is a gesture of a project manager who wants to “gone on record” with his observations and insights.

The fifth level of engagement is “Curating.” Charlene Li says that less than 1% of a population takes part in curating.  Curating implies that the project manager wants to take on a role of setting standards for project management and processes, of monitoring the content of social media in a subject matter area, and making judgments concerning the appropriateness of the material to the subject. At this level, a project manager must have a genuine interest in furthering the literature of project management.

As a self development framework for project managers, the Engagement Model can be broadly interpreted in terms of “roles” a project manager can and should take on in his or her progression in the project community.

I hope this explanation has made it clear about how a project manager can pursue self development using the Engagement Model. Certainly formal course work and individual study fits into any development plan for a project manager seeking to develop himself or herself fully in the project community. But the Engagement Model, if thought of in simple terms of how to “provide information” and “obtain information” in the media can provide a very flexible and actionable plan of development for oneself in projects.

For project managers who are still grappling with this concept, I would suggest you use the “.com” site below to get started. “Projectmanagement.com” is the site for the on-line IT project community and provides an opportunity for each of the “roles” described above to be exercised and better understood.

http://www.projectmanagement.com/

For example, a project manager can join “projectmanagement.com” as a community member, read and comment on articles on the site, contribute original articles on project management subjects of interest, share information and insights through comments and blogs and answers to Discussions, and generally create their own “active roles” with regard to the community.

As a self development exercise, using Charlene Li’s model is an excellent way for project managers to progress from neophytes to skilled project practitioners.

Thank you.

I am certain that every active project manager has encountered a situation in which a project sponsor, stakeholder, or even a team member seems to be taking actions in the short term that would tend to undermine the success of the project, or to disagree with previous decisions on project scope, direction, or management. Some of these actions can be handled by the project manager by simply talking to the individual and expressing the common interest that he and the stakeholder or team member has to complete the project successfully.

However, there are some situations where the project manager may be at a loss to understand what recourse he has in the specific situation at hand. I would like to offer a few suggestions.

In the book Crucial Conversations, the authors teach us a process to create effective dialogue with our colleagues. When this process seems to break down (and it does often in project situations), the authors teach us to ask the question “In this instance, what would make a reasonable, rational person act as this person is acting? What are the drivers?”

Often, this question by the project manager can uncover aspects of the project or organizational environment that are adversely affecting the attitudes and actions of the project team member.

Another way of dealing with a difficult situation might be to follow the advice I heard in a recent TV series. In the SHOWTIME TV Series “Homeland,” Mandy Patinkin and Claire Danes are a CIA Manager and a CIA Agent, respectively, who are engaged in activities to protect the United States from terrorist threats. These two have obviously worked together closely for quite some time, and Claire’s character, Carrie, considers Mandy’s character, Saul, a mentor in her development as a CIA agent.

In an exchange in which they are discussing some recent interactions with terrorist activities, Saul says “Remember what I have told you. Focus on what makes these people human and not what makes them terrorists. That’s where the drivers of behavior are likely to be found.”

How many of you as active project managers have taken such an approach when trying to sort out colleague resistance and actions which seem counter to project success?

Often the key to disruptive behavior lies in their humanness and interactions with other colleagues. Focus on what makes them human, and not what makes them project managers.

How does a project manager uncover humanness in colleagues? Don’t rely strictly on your observations to lead you to a solution. Those of you who watch the CNBC or Bloomberg Business Networks on TV know that when a company such as Target or General Motors reports quarterly profits and sales, the CNBC or Bloomberg analyst will often interview an industry analyst who covers a specific industry to get a “perspective” on what contributed to the performance and how it compared with other competitors in that industry. Why do they do that rather than go directly to the Target or General Motors spokespersons? Obviously, elimination of bias along with introduction of industry comparison is a reason. So, when you investigate the behavior or actions of a stakeholder, sponsor, or project team member who seems to be acting in a manner which undermines the project direction, talk to his or her colleagues to get a balanced perspective of what makes that person “human.”

Of course, this applies in other disciplines like project management. In the legal profession, your interaction with another colleague might result in you asking “Why would a reasonable and rational person act this way?” Look for what makes that colleague human, and you will probably find a common ground to continue your collaboration.

Although project management can be defined as a disciplined methodology or framework for accomplishing a goal or objective, it takes finesse in human resource management to make it work effectively.

 

home improvementOne of the fallacies that many people who do not work in the project management field believe is that all those people in the project community are avid students of project management and that many of them are “certified” by somebody to be “real” Project Managers. In reality, it is a fact that anyone can use project management techniques and disciplines to improve their work processes or their leisure activities as well.

Take for example the TV channel HGTV (Home and Garden Television). This channel is focused on home ownership and all that goes along with it…acquisition of homes, marketing of homes, improvement of homes, etc. It is no surprise because home ownership is so important to economies and a home is probably the largest single investment of a person or a family in a lifetime. So it is natural that HGTV focuses on all types of “situations” that involve homes. I have noticed that over the past five years many of the programs have begun to incorporate project management techniques and methods in their stories and in the narrative.

You too can be an active project management “role” player in your own home situations.

As you watch episodes on HGTV, look for these distinct topics:

1. Requirements Management–The focus here is on what is the intended outcome of the project. It might me a new patio, garden wall or a restored room in a home. Watch HGTV as the project teams try to pin down exactly what they want to accomplish and then see if the clients or customers introduce any “scope creep” as the project proceeds.

2. Scheduling–This is a necessary piece of the home improvement since it determines how quickly some actions can take place and what actions must be completed before any new introductions of features occur. For example, suppose an existing floor needs removal before a new tile floor is installed. There is a sequence to this that helps determine the schedule.

3. Resources–How many people are going to participate in the project? What physical resources such as paint and draperies will be used? Identification of these “resources” is essential to a good project management plan.

4. Scope–It is as important to determine what will be included in the project work as it is to determine what will be excluded. Documenting these in some manner is a good idea to keep reminding the project team what they are working on and how it relates to the resources allocated to meet the objectives of the project.

5. Risk Management–Although perhaps not a prime consideration for new project managers, it is important to keep in mind what can go wrong and what events might dictate a change in plans or introduction of an alternate plan is certain events are triggered in the course of the project.

As you watch episodes of HGTV, look for these elements to be introduced to insure that the project is completed on time and within budget with the right requirements being satisfied for the project. Try out some of these topics in your next initiative to see how smoothly you can complete the initiative.

Yes, you have stepped squarely into the project management arena and, if you continue to develop your expertise with regard to these topics and others that arise in HGTV episodes, you will continue to develop your capability to approach any new “project” with real project management tools and practices.

 

In recent discussions with several evolving and maturing PMO organizations, it was obvious to me that they were wrestling with the question “What is more important:  To have a robust Project Risk Management Plan in place or an actionable Project Closeout and Lessons Learned Process?’

Those of you who have followed my PMO blog since I started it in January 2010 will realize that I have devoted much time and effort to developing a Project Closeout and Lessons Learned Framework which is aimed at providing an “actionable” process improvement output for an organization’s project group.  You have also heard me talk about the relationship between a Project Lessons Learned process focused on “Significant Events” in projects to an active Risk Management Plan for project work.  Talking to many in the project community, I believe that some have concluded that I believe that an “actionable” project lessons learned process is more valuable than a Risk Management Plan.

What I would like for those to understand is that a Project Risk Management Plan is just as important as an actionable Project Closeout and Lessons Learned Process.  As I have discussed in the past, most PMOs evolve by developing a “once through” project management methodology which offers the organization specific outcomes or deliverables from its projects.  Once PMOs digest the feedback from stakeholders, customers, auditors and others in the organization who have valuable input into a PMO’s competencies, capabilities and development, the PMO begins to introduce additional capabilities that justify themselves on a cost/benefit basis.  Such capabilities as Vendor Management and Risk Management are typically introduced in the methodology to provide additional benefits to the project successes.

I once worked for a Manager in an IT Project Office who said to me “You are going to be my audio visual man.”  To me that sounded like a very menial job but I began to ask questions about what that really entailed.  Because our conference rooms had not been installed with dedicated audio visual equipment, each time a project manager or other project lead presented to the group, I would have to check out a projector and any cabling from our HR department and set it up in advance of the presentation.  Since HR had only five such projectors, it meant scheduling the equipment in advance of a presentation and then securing it on the day of the presentation to be sure someone else did not beat me to the equipment.  As I learned over time, the projector and related cabling was just as important to the success of the presentation as the presenter being present to deliver the presentation.  I learned that all the competencies had to be in place for a successful presentation if the group and the company were to gain from the work.  Over time as I began to present more project work to the group, I realized just how important the audio visual equipment really was.

This is typical of the way maturing organizations operate.  As they recognize the need to build in capabilities, they incorporate those capabilities in the next “build out” of their facilities like the project presentation rooms.  Most mature organizations now have audio/visual equipment built into the facility so that capability can contribute to success of every presentation.  Likewise, in maturing a PMO building in Risk Management is a given so that it can contribute positively to every project.

Risk Management and Project Lessons Learned are two competencies and capabilities that need to be in place for a really successful project outcome and success.

In the wake of the school shooting tragedy in Newtown, CT this past week, many people are asking the question “What can I do to help?”  Many have answered that question by providing direct assistance to the town in the form of food or services.  But many others who are too far away to help directly feel the need to get involved either in the specific situation in Newtown or the larger debate on what can be done to avert future tragedies of this type. 

To lend a little assistance to all my project followers on this subject, I would like to revisit just how I started this blog in January 2010.  I wanted to share with the “project community” some of my insights gained from at least fifteeen years working in PMO and Project Office type environments.  The experiences I gained working with very capable and innovative project managers and PMO staff, I believed, would provide some great direction for those in the project community who were seeking answers to personal questions about project management.  I realized that everyone at some time is seeking “advice” from knowledgeable sources of information in specific subjects or disciplines.  That is just a fact of life.

Encouraged by my daughter, I decided to write a blog on PMO structure, activity, behavior, development and performance.  I needed a “name” or a “byline” to give it some authenticity.  My daughter suggested that I call it “MEL BOST PMO EXPERT.”  Although at firest I was a little concerned about the word “EXPERT,” some thought an conversations with others in the project community led me to realize that I was truly an “EXPERT” in certain specific PMO situations and scenarios.  That is not to say that I knew everything about a specific subject or how to react to specific actions and behavior of project managers, it was intended to provide those in the project community with some “trusting” advice about their very own lives as project managers.

Now, step back for a moment and realize that you too are an “EXPERT” in some specific scenarios you have lived through or have witnessed others reacting to in their own “communities of practice.”  Everyone is an EXPERT in some subject.

When you ask yourself the question “What can I do to enrich the discussion or questions about life experiences?” know that you are an EXPERT and can provide meaningful insights that others will value.  The “trust” they have in your advice will be built over time as you continue to step forward to offer more answers to questions.  Your insights will gain acceptance by a broader group of acquaintances as you continue to offer your EXPERT opinion.

In the weeks following the Newtown, CT incident, several former military personnel who had served in the Marines and Army stepped forward and volunteered their services to stand guard at elementary schools and offer a sense of PROTECTION and WELL BEING to the school environment.  In a sense, they were answering that question internally “What can I do?”  They were showing their EXPERTISE in PROTECTION which no one expected but everyone was grateful for.  In the face of an environment where people were all seeking answers and advice and individual expertise, they volunteered as EXPERTS.

Don’t hesitate to start this process today.  The quicker you get positive feedback from taking this action, the more you will feel involved in helping others cope with human experiences.  It’s your opportunity to give back and to say “Here is what I can help with.”

Readers of this column should be very attuned to my use of “reframing” of issues in project management, whether it be with regard to defining Significant Events for Project Lessons Learned, or addressing issues in projects that can have interpretations that lead to decisions of real consequence with regard to outcomes.  However, I have not spent too much time defining when and how a reframing takes place.

Let’s take a real life example to guide our thinking here.  This example is from the Major League Baseball playoffs this past season.  At one point, the New York Yankees were playing another team, and Mark Teixeira, the first baseman for NY, was on first base.  Mark had suffered a calf injury late in the season that impacted his running, but he had returned to the team just before the playoffs.  The announcers for the game speculated whether Mark would try to steal second base in this game.  They concluded that the calf injury was such that Mark would be content to stay on first and let the batter hit the ball to advance him to second base.  Prior to the next pitch, the first baseman was not holding Mark close to the bag so Mark took a big lead.  When the pitcher came home with the pitch, Mark took off for second base and easily stole the base standing up.  The announcers looked at each other puzzlingly because the action was contrary to their expressed thinking on the broadcast. 

But a “reframing” of this situation in the game revealed that Mark’s action was just the action called for in this situation.  First, the Yankees had not been hitting the ball well, or scoring runs in the playoff series.  Second, the first baseman, in not holding Mark on first base, was really allowing him to take a larger than normal lead toward second.  Third, the Yankees needed a run, and something to jump-start their momentum.  When the announcers reflected on these additional facts about the situation, it seemed a natural thing for Mark to steal second base.  As it turned out, the batter got a base-hit to the opposite field, and Mark scored a run from second base on the hit.  The stolen base was really a smart play.  The likelihood of him being thrown out at second was negated by the huge lead the first baseman allowed.  The surprise move was just what the Yankees needed to get their scoring started in that game.

Sometimes, in situations like this, we are shortsighted in our evaluation of all the relevant facts in the situation.  As a result, our decisions are based on limited inputs that we have chosen to use based on the defined situation.  However, as in the case with Mark Teixeira and the stolen base, a more complete look at the relevant facts to the situation revealed some options we might not have thought of.

In your project work, how often do you take a second look at the relevant facts in a situation before making a decision and proceeding with the action defined?  Perhaps the right thing to do would be to get some additional input from those around you who see the same project but perhaps with a different “perspective.” 

That’s what I am advocating for you right now.  Take a close look at all the relevant facts before making that decision.  It is not always possible to see all the relevant facts in the situation or they may be obscured by the actions of others around you.  But “reframing” remains a powerful way to present to yourself or to others “options” in strategy that may lead to very successful outcomes.  It’s your call.

A few weeks ago, I was watching a Charlie Rose interview with Renee Fleming which had aired on TV in 2003.  In the interview, she admitted that she had suffered several bouts of “stage fright” in her illustrious, musical and artistic career in opera.  When asked what can contribute to such a condition, her response was that often it occurs from an anxiety about a specific performance, a venue, a lack of preparedness, or a lack of a full understanding of the language or the music.  She said that one specific thing is not always the culprit.

So, I began to think.  Do project managers experience “stage fright?”  A good deal of my career has been spent observing project managers as well as managing a number of projects myself.  I had a gut feeling about this subject, but I decided to ask a number of my friends for input.

Wayne Thompson, an avid project manager in his own right, as well as author and contributor to the very popular blog, “Project Management War Stories,” told me that “performance anxiety” was probably a better term to use with project managers and, yes, he had actually witnessed several occasions when project managers experienced what I termed “stage fright.”    His explanation was that there were not adequate people skills, presentation skills, or group dynamics stressed in project management training.

Mark Price Perry, founder of BOT International, and an avid project manager for over 30 years in major corporations, said that he also believed that project managers often suffered from “stage fright,” especially when it came to addressing Leadership Teams in project organizations.   He believes that project managers do not have the requisite business acumen to speak the language of business. When asked simple questions, project managers often get a bit of stage fright, and sometimes a bit defensive, and then the start speaking project management mumbo-jumbo as opposed to the language of business.  He sees this a lot.   As long as project managers stay in their comfort zone they are okay.  It is outside that comfort zone where “stage fright” often sets in.

So, as project managers, we can all work on expanding our comfort zones and our general business acumen to avoid those “stage fright” situations that often paralyze us in the course of our project management lives.

I would be interested in hearing your input on situations where you have observed project managers in “stage fright” situations and what they did to overcome the situation.  Thank you.

In February 2012, my wife, Linda, had a knee replacement surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, AZ.  We planned to be in Phoenix for at least six weeks following the surgery for physical therapy and follow-up visits at the Mayo Clinic.  As we packed our bags for the trip to Phoenix, Linda included a new pair of white New Balance shoes for her physical therapy.  Toward the end of the packing, she also packed an old, ragged, pair of brown sandals with the idea that the weather might be warm enough to wear some really comfortable shoes around our hotel.

Linda’s surgery went well with no real complications.  But because she had experienced a DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) in her left leg about 30 years ago, the doctors were very cautious about her care, and even installed a valve in her vein system to keep any clots which developed in the legs from traveling to the heart.  Her left leg, ankle, and foot were extremely swollen from the surgery and remained that way for about six months.

When it came time for physical therapy, Linda realized that she could not get the new, New Balance trainers on her swollen left foot.  What to do?  As we thought about alternatives, the little pair of brown sandals seemed to be peeking out from a corner of the luggage.  She wore those sandals to physical therapy that first day, and for every day after for about five months.  They seemed to be the most appropriate alternative for her swollen foot and for maintaining mobility.

When I stopped to think about it, I was amazed that we had almost excluded the little brown sandals from her Phoenix wardrobe.  But I also thought that maybe we hadn’t taken into account some “risks” from the surgery, such as a swollen leg, ankle, and foot.

So I dubbed the brown sandals “The Little Sandals That Could.”

When we returned to Tulsa, Linda purchased two other new pairs of sandals to wear.  But she continued to rely on the little sandals that could.

Now what in the world does this have to do with Project Management, you may ask?

Ask yourself these questions:

How many project assets do you have in your portfolio that you may not be using to full advantage in your project work? 

How many members of your project team or your local project community have you overlooked, who might have skills and capabilities that might lead to real success on your projects?

Remember “The Little Sandals That Could.”  Are there “risks” in your project work for which some lesser project assets might provide good mitigation tools and accessories for alleviating and dealing with project risk?

William Bridges once said “Change Creates Opportunity.”  Change creates interfaces between old values and new values, between old methods and new methods, between old processes and new processes.  Those people who can successfully bridge the gap between old and new either by communication, facilitation, interpretation, or translation can play a key role in “Change Success.” 

How many “Little Sandals” are there in your organization who can fit this bill?

No doubt if you are a sports fan of any type, you heard that this past weekend that the American and European teams competed for the Ryder Cup Golf Championship at the Medinah Country Club in Chicago.  This three-day event alternates each year between a European golf site and a United States golf site.  The teams are chosen by a captain from the best PGA golfers from the United States and Europe each year.

In the championship, which was completed yesterday, the European team was down 8 to 4 after the first day of competition.  But, they battled back to retain the Ryder Cup, which they had won last year in Europe.  Saturday’s and Sunday’s rounds and competition were very intense, and a crowd estimated at 40,000 spectators was on hand each day to cheer on their respective teams.

What can project managers learn from the Ryder Cup Championship?  

Even though golf and project management are very different, there are some conclusions that we can draw from the actions and performance of the participants that would give us some good insight for future project endeavors.

First, the selection of each team is very significant to the overall capabilities and performance of the teams.  Each captain must choose complementing competencies and capabilities to make sure that all situations are covered.

Second, “resilience” is extremely valuable as a factor for competition.  Being down early in the competition did not deter the European team from being confident and aggressive in their approach to the Saturday and Sunday rounds.  “Resilience” means the ability to focus on an end goal or objective while absorbing all short term defeats and continuing to focus on the end goal.

Third, matching capabilities and competencies to the challenge or task at hand is very important.  On the last day of Ryder Cup competition, when the European team still needed to make up much ground, their captain chose his players very judiciously, according to their capability in “singles” play, which was the format of Day Three.  His best “singles” players were stacked at the front so the team could get off to the best start possible on Day Three.  Likewise with project managers, understanding strengths and capabilities and when to apply them most successfully is a great asset.

Fourth, I have to think that each captain chose his team’s participants because of their “work ethic” and “authenticity.”  No commentator on the Golf Channel would ever make so bold a statement but that is my statement.  I believe “work ethic” plays a tremendous factor in success, whether you are a golfer or a project manager, or a baseball player.  One of the reasons I follow Mark Teixeira of the New York Yankees so closely is because I think he exhibits an outstanding “work ethic” towards his professional sport.  And what is “authenticity” really?  WYSIWYG.  What You See is What You Get.  Remember that old expression.  When a person appears to be the same way and performs the same way whenever you encounter them, I believe it means a great deal to success and repeated outcomes of an action.

So as a project manager, how do you stack up against this list of factors?  Review this list occasionally and share it with others.  I will bet that you will get very good feedback and agreement with many of these principles.

When I was a teenager, I walked into our family room one evening and found my father on his hands and knees in the middle of the floor.  Around him were four flip charts and he was drawing with crayon freehand on each of the four flip charts.

“What are you doing?” I exclaimed.

“You remember last week when I was in Detroit for four days on that Service Training trip?”

“Yes.  I wasn’t sure which topics you were covering, but does this have any relation to that?”

“Yes.  I am preparing some charts to explain the new transmissions we are introducing in our tractors to our Service Managers and our Field organization.  This is really exciting stuff, but it takes a picture to make it come alive.”

“Didn’t the company give you any material to train your service people with; pictures and descriptions of the new transmission?”

“Well, of course they did.  But I did not think that those handouts really conveyed the ease of operation, and the full leverage that exists with the new transmission.  That is what impressed me the most.”

As he proceeded to fill the four flip charts with diagrams and words, I began to see what a “trainer” my father really was.  I never associated his job as Service Manager in the southeastern District of Ford Tractor as a training job, but he clearly did.

I was amazed that, by the end of the drawing that evening, when he explained the new transmission and its features to me, I actually understood what he was saying.  His pictures and words combined the right thoughts and pictures in my mind to make sense of this new engineering feature.

Now, I have to reflect on this situation today.  Is this why I am a good “trainer?”  Is this why I use words and pictures and diagrams and flow charts to express my ideas and concepts to my audience?  Did I see someone else in action who I copied in my later life as I developed into an excellent trainer?

Yes.  Decidedly, I believe that role models are the most effective means of experiential learning that we can have.  The lasting outcome of having role models in our lives is to provide living, responsive models for our development and our maturity.

I had never really considered my father to be a “trainer” before.  He was a “manager” of a number of other individuals who reported to him in the organization.

There are several principles at work here.  Lou Tice provided these principles in his teachings on developing potential and reaching for your own heights of success.

First, people move toward and become like that which they think about.  Having role models to view and interact with brings us closer to action that resembles the role model’s actions and outcomes.  That is not a literal statement, of course.  It really means that we “imitate” much more than we would think we might in our lives.

Second, people act in accordance with the “truth” as they perceive it to be.  When a role model presents a “truth” to us that matches our own value systems and beliefs, we adopt the mannerisms and processes that the role model exhibits.

What do good role models do that sets them apart from ordinary people?  

I believe that “role models” set the standard for the way a discipline or a field of endeavor is carried out.

First, role models are passionate about the field of their discipline.

Second, role models do more than the minimum required to get the job done.  They have a passion for conveying to other people more than exists on the surface.  Role models are often “risk takers,” but “calculated risk takers.”  They often rise to leadership positions in groups.

Third, role models are not pretentious.  They don’t try to show how much more they know or how much more they can convey.  They are “genuine” in their approach and that “genuineness” shows through to others clearly.

Fourth, role models view “teaching” as part of their job, part of their mission in their field.

Fifth, role models can provide extremely effective experiential learning for project managers.  Because role models can provide feedback and answer questions about their actions and resulting outcomes, they can provide the perfect “simulation” for view.

With the exception of mentoring–a one to one relationship between two persons–more than any other type of learning–classroom, team experience, case studies–role models are the most desirable of all leadership training routes. 

Let me provide a few examples of good project manager role models from my experience. 

There was a project manager with whom I worked at ConocoPhillips whose assignment was to merge three companies occupying the same geographic region into one company that used SAP as the financial and management reporting system for the company.  Before he assembled a project team or talked to the other principal stakeholders in the merger, he traveled around to all the company locations and talked to each employee individually getting feedback and comments on what had worked well in the past, what processes should be maintained, what processes should be abandoned, and how each person felt about their role in the new company to be formed.  At the time, some IT Shared Services Management questioned whether he should not have taken the trip, but rather, whether he should have gotten on with the task at hand of organizing his project team since a deadline loomed in the not-too-distant future for the merged company to be active.  What he did, however, was to successfully gain commitment from everyone at all levels of the organization, while reassuring them of their place in the new organization.  A real WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) example, so to speak.  When he formed his project team, he included many people from each of the three companies who advised and commented quickly on actions of the project team.  Everyone saw this as a great example of a role model at work solidifying the success of his project and the company going forward.

Another example is my introduction of Project Lessons Learned Breakfast Forums to the IT Shared Services PMO organization.  We had not had a formal project lessons learned process in place to that point in time.  I knew that commitment to such a program would only be solidified if I gained the confidence of a few “risk taking” project managers to make it happen.  One project manager stepped forward and volunteered to be the first project manager to address the Breakfast Forum with her project lessons learned.  We videotaped the sessions and they became a hit on our intranet. The project managers who stepped forward and participated in the program became instant role models for other project personnel.

What has your experience been with role models?  Perhaps someone has influenced your actions and behaviors without you really realizing the effect they have had on your thinking and your actions.

Look for role models in every discipline you are involved in.  They are worth the time and effort.  They are the essence of the new project leadership.

 

So you have been a project manager for quite some time now and you think you have done a good job.  Sure, you’ve made some mistakes and some bad decisions along the way that you wish you could have reversed at the time and sown better judgment in handling.  But, overall you think you have handled the basics of being a real “PROJECT MANAGER.” 

You have selected some good team members and guided them through some tough spots with projects.  You have successfully dealt with customers and stakeholders and made them partners in the process of getting the project done.  You have selected some good technologies to leverage the functionality of your project outcomes.  You have reached out to other project managers whose projects either provide significant inputs to your project or who depend on your project for information or deliverables to accomplish their objectives.

So where do you go from here?  What challenges are out there that really stir your blood?  What new project management techniques or Best Practices are lurking to “make your day?”

Let me give you a simple suggestion that you may not have thought of.  Or, if someone has mentioned it to you, perhaps you have brushed it aside without taking a closer look which it deserves.

Yes, I am talking about “Project Closeout and Lessons Learned.”  Perhaps you already know that lessons learned are an activity that most project managers try to ignore at the end of their projects.  Or you may have satisfied the requirement for itemizing some lessons learned by jotting down a few things from your memory and recall about the project that will make that other Manager go away when he mentions lessons learned.

My basic premise is that ACTIONABLE lessons learned from projects can be fed back in a continuous process improvement loop to improve the overall project management process or methodology which you have been working with.  Yes, you have the power to make improvements!  You are the Master of your Fate, You are the Captain of your should when it comes to defining process improvements which can benefit not only future projects but customer and stakeholder relationships and your company’s whole approach to projects.

Consider my Framework for Project Closeout and Lessons Learned which I have covered in this blog in previous posts as well as in Gantthead and other training courses offered through BOT International or CMCS.

A DISCIPLINED and ACTIONABLE approach to project closeout and lessons learned can be just the challenge that sparks you to new heights in your career.

Please consider it and let me know how I can help you in any way to make Project Closeout and Lessons Learned real for your company.

This is a reprint of my blog from last summer 2011 with the same subject.

I have always thought that summer was a time for “renewal.”

After all, isn’t that why there was no school in the summer, and why your parents sent you to those summer camp “enrichment” programs?  It was so you could relax and enjoy some subjects and activities that you were not exposed to during the remainder of the year.  And as you got older, perhaps you had a chance to attend a special summer program in a college or university setting, where other students like yourself could engage in debates and cultural activities that were “enriching.”

At some point in your life, you may have noticed that there was a transition away from those “renewal” activities that were planned by others, to renewal activities that you planned by yourself.  Maybe you didn’t notice this transition since you were caught up in the fast pace of growing up, but, as John C. Maxwell has said, “man has choices and the choices a man makes in turn make him.”

So–Summer is a time for renewal.  It’s up to you to grasp those opportunities for renewal wherever they might be in your life.

And, if you are part of a larger project community, or a member of a Program Management Office (PMO), it might be time for you to seek out some activities to renew your PMO as well.

What better time than the summer to pursue such renewal?

Give this some thought.  How can I as a project or PMO practitioner provide some renewal activities for my PMO?

Show some leadership and initiative to make this renewal something that lasts year-round in your PMO.

For example, look at some liason opportunities with a local PMI Chapter, or some special training that could be brought on-site to enrich your colleagues in the Best Practices of a PMO.

Renewal is up to you.  No one will plan for it any longer.  Summer is a great time to pursue it.  Get started today.

 

FOREWORD:  I began writing this blog post about a year ago.  My intent was to share with project managers and others in the project community some concepts I learned from a mentor which I have used over the years to guide my direction and career.  When project lessons learned became a compelling topic for me, I put this post aside thinking I would come back to it at some future point.  The recent death of Louis Tice of The Pacific Institute was the impetus for returning to this blog post and sharing my thoughts with you.  Lou was a great teacher, mentor and motivator in the area of “Achieving Your Potential” and “Investments in Excellence.”  His principles have been passed on to individuals and organizations around the world and have created successful lives wherever they have been applied.  Many of Lou’s principles and quotes have been used in my blog posts over the past couple of years because I really believe in his concepts and believe they apply to a vast array of human experiences in business, social, family and societal contexts.  This blog post is dedicated to Louis Tice and I hope the principles of “affirmation” and “visualization” serve you very well in your career development.

 

Consider the meteoric rise of Dunkin’ Donuts in the last few years.  Its brand is everywhere to be found now. 

 

I recall a time when my daughter Christina was a student at Yale University in New Haven, CT.  My wife and I would often fly into JFK in New York City and drive the I-95 to New Haven.  Along the way, we always made Darien, CT a favorite stop.  Darien was a sleepy but affluent community along the I-95 and the AMTRAK tracks to New York City.  Each time we would plan to stop at the Dunkin’ Donuts shop on the main street in Darien.  The shop was right next to the AMTRAK station so that customers were always coming and going on their way to or from New York City.  We would always think about what type of donuts we would have and I could just taste the great coffee when I was driving I-95.  Would it be a jelly filled donut and what flavor?  We would always take a little bag of goodies to Christina who always claimed hardship with the food in the Morse College dining hall at Yale.

 

It was fun to watch the patrons of the donut shop rush in to place their orders and then run to catch a train.  Or, in the evening when we were on our way back to JFK, we often stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts for a quick donut an coffee.  People always seemed to be de-training from their trip from Grand Central Station to be picked up by a family member but also to stop and get a donut and coffee.

 

I am sure the workers behind the counter at the Dunkin’ Donuts shop never dreamt that someday their beloved shop name would be a common household brand known to many throughout the world.

 

But someone in that organization had to visualize what it would be like if they could someday rival Starbucks in name recognition.  If somehow, the customers that frequented shops like the one in Darien would take that name Dunkin’ Donuts to a new height in the world of business.  Lou Tice teaches us a basic principle that “People move toward and become like that which they think about.”

 

Someone thought about what Dunkin’ Donuts could be.  They visualized how it would work.  They gathered the impetus from their previous successful experiences and made Dunkin’ Donuts the name it is today.

 

Today the brand “Dunkin’ Donuts” is everywhere.  Their coffee is sold not only in their stores but in other retail stores on the same shelves as Starbucks.  Their brand presence is the result of someone clearly visualizing what a future might look like for such a brand and then proceeding to plan for it.  Goal setting, expectations, performance measurement and feedback have clearly become elements of their continuous performance improvement framework.  They are a living, breathing BRAND.

 

Lou Tice introduced me to a method of visualization and affirmation which I have used for many years.  It is all based on the principle that you move toward and become like that which you think about and that your thoughts words control your future.  It is also based on the principle that people act in accordance with the “truth” as they perceive it to be.

 

Visualization is exactly the method that got you where you are today.  What you have achieved, what you currently believe, what aspirations you currently have were all conceived as you “thought” about and planned a path for your future.  It is true that many people take paths in their lifetime that change directions or that were influenced by factors that they reacted to.  But ultimately you are where you are today because you “visualized” what you wanted.

 

Lou Tice often pointed out that the amateur leaves to chance what the professional controls in this arena.  In other words, the professional uses clear visualization and affirmations to stir their subconscious to create a future that they envision.

 

One of the distinguishing features of Lou Tice’s treatment of visualization and affirmation was his explanation of the “states” of being.  Fore very aspect of life for which an individual sets a goal or objective, such as business, social, spiritual, intellectual, professional, etc., there are any number of states of likely possibility for that aspect of life.  For example, suppose a person sees that his current situation is such that he cannot provide some of the finer things in life like vacations and special gifts to his family but his desire is to financially be able to do so, he can set objectives and goals for achieving that situation or “state” and then write affirmations and visualize so that the subconscious will create that new “state.”  There are of course many possible “states” along the way between the current situation or “state” and the end objective “state.” 

 

But often its the case that a person will look at his checkbook or bank account and realize that this current “state” is far from adequate to do the things he desires to do.  The mistake is to focus on the current state because the subconscious will create that “state” continually by recognizing that it is the one being focused.  The key is to affirm and visualize movement to a higher level “state’” in which the objectives and goals are reached.  If this is the case, the person will create a subconscious energy to find the resources and the knowledge to reach that end “state.”

 

What does this have to do with project management?  If you are a project manager who continually sees that your progress toward your professional or personal goals is not being met, you can adopt the visualization and affirmations methods of Lou Tice.  I highly recommend that you spend a good amount of time assessing your goals and objectives in every major aspect of your life before you proceed with this course however. 

 

Controlling your self talk is very important in the affirmation and visualization process.  Self talk is that three dimensional form of words, thoughts, and actions that goes along with your daily activity.  In the normal course of interacting with others, we talk and then tell ourselves a story about how are feeling about the activity we are engaged in.  Or we react to the input of others and we tell ourselves a story about the activity.  Self talk is very important in the development of the right self esteem that really controls our achievement of goals and objectives.

“Our present thoughts determine our future.  So, if you want a better future, begin today.  Use the power of your mind to first see the change, then live it.  There is great power in purpose.”  Louis Tice

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