Tag Archives: Executives

The Importance of Writing Well

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.

For years I’ve used an introductory dialogue for classroom Communication topics. It involves a tee-up, “Based on research done by the US Navy years ago, different people have different preferences in the way they receive information.” And then I write on a flipchart the following, while saying most of these words:

  • 45% Readers
  • 45% Listeners
  • 5% Both
  • 5% Fool

The key is this: While I’d write Fool, I’d say Neither. Typical of American humor.

In a room of 20-25 people, around half would laugh, the others would wonder why they are laughing. It is because some were listening, and others were reading.

Improving Communication Effectiveness
But this little vignette brings up a very important point: Statistically, about half of all people prefer to listen to get their information, and about half prefer to read it. Which are you? While the cited statistics say that about 5% do both equally well, the majority of all participants usually think they are part of that 5%. And the majority think their husband/wife/manager/co-worker/customer (pick one) is the last on the list above.

Great communicators seem to intuitively understand the preferences of their audiences. Meanwhile, I resort to using simple models and observation to approximate a similar result. At least, I do when I focus on Conscious Communication, rather than just using my own preferences, and expect that everyone else understands perfectly. Is this Reader/Listener preference why many of us only communicate effectively with half our audiences? And then we wonder what’s wrong with them? Perhaps we can all benefit from a bit more Conscious Communication. Continue reading

Project Management: Delivering The Promise

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff

This posting is inspired by the theme of IPMA’s 25th World Congress, Brisbane, Australia, October 10-12 2011. Thanks to the insight and graciousness of the Australians, we are again using the theme one more time at the IPMA-USA Congress scheduled for 5 March, 2012, in Washington DC. Nothing like taking a good idea and re-using it multiple times!

First, thank you to IPMA Member Association AIPM (Australian Institute of Project Management) for a great 2011 IPMA World Congress, and for the inspired theme of the Congress: Project Management—Delivering the Promise.

The promise of project and program management is efficient, effective and beneficial change. We as a profession make that promise to four types of audiences:

  • Individual PM Practitioners;
  • Project Teams and Stakeholders;
  • Enterprise Managers and Executives; and to
  • Nations and Society.

Each of these audiences has different needs and different expectations. Let’s explore them.

Our First Audience, Individual PM Practitioners,
expects to improve their project performance, while increasing their job satisfaction and career progression opportunities. To accomplish that, we must move beyond classroom knowledge and testing that brings only short-term results. Why is this important? Based on recent research the half-life of knowledge acquired but not applied is only two weeks. We must follow classroom training with on-the-job application of that knowledge, with four goals: Develop needed skills, improve behavioral competences, gain end-to-end project experience, and achieve measurable project performance results. Continue reading

Exposing the Myth of “Doing More With Less”

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff

We first heard it in the early 00s–Executives and Managers saying, “We’ll just have to do more with less.” Well-intentioned at first, for some it soon became a mostly-poor alternative to managing effectively. While in specific situations the statement can be temporarily true, in most cases, we believe that those who proclaim and perpetuate the myth that this is an appropriate way to manage a workgroup, department or enterprise, are demonstrating their failure to manage.

What triggers this commentary is a recent workshop I performed for a customer I have worked with for over 22 years. I have seen them flex, grow, improve, and cut back, all in response to market conditions, the shape of their business, and their sense of coming business pressures. I did discuss the dangers of the “more with less” message with Executives and Managers 8 years ago, and with just a few exceptions, they have fortunately not fallen into that trap during this latest downturn. But in my recent sessions in this industry-leading business, I detected something sinister and terrifying.

While employees I encountered demonstrate strong loyalty to the organization, and show a sense of strong rapport up and down the chain of command, I detected individual contributors, project managers and managers alike who are overwhelmed and exhausted. People who have prided themselves on the quality and efficiency of their work in the past, are now deciding which essential project results will be eliminated or reduced; which project double-checks to push into post-project support; which internal customers to choose to fail to respond to. I have seen this death spiral before.

Jobless Recovery
I think many organizations are facing this dilemma, in part because of the uncertainty in the US, between politics, consumer spending, the high unemployment rate, the threat of possible hyperinflation, and the unknowns in the next set of policy decisions that will affect business. These concerns are the root cause of this Jobless Recovery, as businesses are afraid to add staff to meet current demands, so they continue to manage increasing business with existing, or remaining staff. And even when they are not using the tired “more with less” mantra, that is what it looks like to their employees. And, if you think this only affects project success, this affects the operations side even more than the projects side of the business.

How To Honestly Do More With Less Continue reading

Working Towards PM Perfect, Now and Free

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff

We participated in a Decision Sciences Institute conference in Toledo in April, and it was a very interesting event. A combination of practitioners and educators with a learning focus, the variety of papers presented was impressive. We presented on the educational outreach opportunities of PRO, the Performance Rated Organization standard. Drs. Gary Klein and Neeraj Parolia presented our unique SCiPM program–which generated great interest among the participants.

Exploring Perfect, Now and Free
But the purpose of this posting is to acknowledge the paper of one of the participants, who appears to have a clear grasp of what project stakeholders really want. Ms. Pushpa Agrawal, from the MBA Program Office, University of Nebraska at Kearney, is the presenter who impressed us with her insights. She spoke of the “voice of the customer”, in acknowledging that while Perfect, Now and Free is (currently) unachievable, that is what every project customer (and manager) desires.

Of course, popular project management practice continues to obsess about the “triple constraints”, “golden triangle, or “iron triangle”. Meanwhile, others, such as Duncan, continue to distinguish between project success measures and business success measures. And from our own part, we have for years treated them as part of the Vital Signs of project success, and published range of articles (available here on the IPMA-USA website) covering related topics: Continue reading

Overcome the Double-Whammy of Executive Grief Over IT and PM

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff

An intriguing article in the 1st Quarter, 2010 CIO Insight magazine summarized the results of some (in our opinion) major research by Valuedance and Harvard Business Review. The article, Not So IT Smart, was filled with (appropriate for the magazine) insights, including a significant perception gap about performance on a range of key factors, as perceived by Business and IT Leaders. We urge you to read that well-researched and well-written article—after, of course, reading this posting.

The Executive’s Grief over IT
I recall the challenges of 30-35 years ago, when it appeared that Executive Managers just didn’t get it, about the proper use of what we then called DP (Data Processing). Then we changed the name of the practice to Management Information Systems (MIS), perhaps thinking that relabeling the same behaviors would change things. Of course, there were, even then, stellar examples of savvy Executives who knew how to make DP the centerpiece of competitive advantage; but those appeared to be in the minority.

Most of us either assumed or hoped that those Execs who refused to even use a keyboard would soon retire, and their successor would eventually become the visionary strategic leader, who would bring us out of our wilderness. But for most, it never happened. In fact, the criteria listed as differing perceptions in the above-referenced article are much the same as they were over 30 years ago.

Which could lead one to a conclusion that it is not those Executives at all, but a young and immature practice, that still focuses too much on the latest technologies and the detailed part of the life cycle. Continue reading

Who Really Manages Your Projects?

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff

In many organizations today, competent and experienced Project Managers, Senior Project Managers and Program Managers (all referred to as PM or PMs in this article) have the responsibility and authority to deliver the organizational changes and benefits expected by Senior Managers, Executives, and internal and external customers. Those PMs are a credit to their organizations, those Managers and Executives are incredibly effective, and those organizations (Government and Enterprises) thrive as a result. We shall call this phenomenon Exhibit A.

The IPMA-USA Advanced PM certification program, based on IPMA’s* World-recognized offering, is perfect for those competent and performing practitioners. And our PRO program, IPMA-USA Performance Rated Organization, is a perfect match for the Exhibit A organizations.

And then we have the other organizations, that we shall call Exhibit B. In the Exhibit B organizations, it is usually several layers of Managers, rather than the nominal Project Managers, who are directing Time, Cost, Scope and Talent, leaving the PM to be a mere controller; despite his or her best efforts. The result: Poor PM Performance, and Executive Managers who blame the practice of PM, rather than the misplaced authority.

Who Sets Time, Budget, Scope and Talent?
Some of those Exhibit B organizations depend more on team heroics than deft management; project managers are identified after timelines and budgets are set; scope is never quite “nailed down”, and promised talent never appears, while cherished talent disappears. Much to the chagrin of PMs, requests for some flexibility somewhere are met with the classic excuse “we just have to do more with less” which almost always results in delivering far less with less. Continue reading