Five Foundations for the Advancement of Project Management

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.

On July 4, 2011 we celebrate IPMA-USA’s ten-year anniversary. We reflect on our intentions, progress, and achievements in our first ten years—and then, look ahead at the next ten years. This article focuses on our intentions; but we cannot help but mention our progress. Not only have we helped to advance the practice of project and program management (an ongoing goal), we have inspired others to follow our lead: They are now also promoting (their own interpretation of) most of our Five Foundations, and many of our innovations.

We founded IPMA-USA after having been among the key drivers of success of other professional organizations, including Project Management Institute (Institute in the rest of this article). Many of us remained members of that great organization, and still do to this day. But we felt it was time for change. And what are project managers, if not change agents?

The Need For Change
Factors in 2000-2001 contributing to the need for change were many, and a handful of them became our rallying points; they were also ingredients for our business case analysis in deciding whether to found a new organization, or to continue working to improve existing ones.

  • PM advancements, innovations and their sharing had significantly slowed;
  • Intellectual Property Ownership issues discouraged involvement of the most-talented practitioners;
  • Training and learning funds appeared to be shifting from project and program performance improvement to test memorization;
  • Association governance moved from member-driven to organization-CEO controlled;
  • Emphasis shifted from all pm sectors to favor Information Technology;
  • Levels of engagement shifted from advanced interaction of long-time practitioners to mass-training of simple subjects to newcomers.

IPMA-USA Founders
IPMA-USA was founded by a group of long-time pm practitioners with a variety of backgrounds: Practicing project managers; Managers of project managers; pm consultants and trainers; educators and authors. Founders of chapters and officers of other organizations, the average pm industry experience of the founding group in 2001 was around 20 years, with some going back 35 years and more.

Most had earned the PM Institute’s certification (Lew Ireland wrote its first exam). And we realized that there was a lot more needed than an exam to accelerate needed organizational benefits from our discipline. Many of us worked internationally, so we had a grasp of the status of pm practice in many other nations of the World. Thus, a dedicated group set out to advance the practice of project and program management in America.

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Four Forces Converge To Accelerate PM Competence

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.

For over 25 years, this writer has campaigned for improved project and program results, through increased PM competence, better processes, and smarter upper management practices. Our audience has not been limited to pm practitioners, but includes every project and program stakeholder, from team members, to resource managers and sponsors, functional managers, executives, and beneficiaries of projects. And we have seen massive success in those organizations that respond to the clarion call for increased role-competence, and PM performance. Or, as we call it, PM Performance (including Project, Program, and Portfolio Performance).

Now, converging forces suggest that the era for PM competence is approaching. Four recent events are a “heads up” for all PM practitioners in the USA, and around the world:

  1. IPMA-USA Publishes a Research Report on FAC-P/PM Competency
  2. Two Papers Identify What Executives Really Want in IT PMs
  3. PMI® Updates the PMP® Exam, Moving Toward Competence
  4. IPMA-USA Completes Our Suite of Role-based, Advanced PM Certs

In this posting, we briefly explore these four converging forces.

1. IPMA-USA Publishes a Research Report on FAC-P/PM Competency
Over the last year and a half, an IPMA-USA team has worked with USA Federal government officials across multiple agencies, to explore the strengths and opportunities in one federal certification for Program and Project Management, FAC-P/PM. Among the purposes of the FAC-P/PM program is to overcome a common situation, faced by many organizations in the USA today. Peter R. Orszag, in an OMB Memorandum for Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies, said on June 28, 2010: “Federal Information Technology (IT) projects too often cost more than they should, take longer than necessary to deploy, and deliver solutions that do not meet our business needs.”

The IPMA-USA report, researched and written by Dr. Brent Hansen, Dr. Morgan Henrie, Timothy Jaques, and Michael O’Brochta, offers US Government Officials a roadmap to improve this situation. We think the US Government is already far ahead of many other organizations, including many enterprises: With this program they have embraced a competence-based approach, that goes beyond exam-based testing of pm knowledge. Further, the FAC-P/PM program targets levels of competence to roles, as has IPMA and IPMA-USA (IPMA-USA). The Moving Government Forward report is available for download at the IPMA-USA website.

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Chilean Mining Rescue Miracle—A Program Success

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff

“Viva Chile!” Our World watched with awe, soaring hearts, and huge appreciation for the rescuers when the first two miners emerged from their Phoenix rescue capsule. We held off posting or celebrating project success until all the miners—and their rescuers—were safely above ground. And now, in addition to the backstories about the after-effects of 69 days underground, we can reflect on the magnificent Project Management performances of each participant in this most-watched rescue.

Just look at the many heroes, talented team members, inspiring leaders and willing families and pride-full citizens, all focused on one objective: Get our miners out safely. And it appears our entire World is the stakeholder group, as reports surface that this is one of the most-watched web events in history. This is such a lesson about not just passing an exam, but leaders and team members working in synch to successfully manage one of the most-important projects in recent history. With IPMA’s recent activities to certify competent Project Managers and Senior Project Managers in Chile, here is a great opportunity to identify clearly competent and performing end-to-end project managers; most might qualify for Senior Project Manager certification, demonstrating mastery in complex projects.

But was this a project? Two answers: Yes, of course it was, because any time mankind changes the path of fate, inertia, and the status quo, that is what the practice of competent project management brings to society. And no, not just a project, it was an entire complex program, consisting of many projects, some relatively simple (such as providing sufficient electrical power at this remote site), and some very complex, and all working together to achieve the objective: Get our miners out safely.

Repeatedly, the media has mentioned the flawless planning, the contingency actions, the attention to crucial details, the exquisite performance of the plan, and the individual heroics that accentuate success. Note that both the success and the tributes note the combination of technical aspects of project and program management with the contextual and behavioral aspects. This program of related projects will serve case studies for years after our starring miners have recovered from their ordeal. And what shall be the highlights of those case studies?

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The Work To the Left of Proposal, part 1

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff

What is the work to the left of Proposal? The answer depends on your role, your program or project, and your perspective. For example, although many programs involve proposals, many projects do not. In engagements that involve proposals, the majority of success often depends on the work that occurs before the Proposal is ever signed. What is that work, who performs it, and why is it so essential to both Proposal and engagement success? Let us begin by clarifying the actions that occur early in a successful engagements that do not involve contracts, then expand to the more-complex engagements that do involve contracts. Note that this complexity of multiple organizations in contracts is a key distinction between two Advanced Performance-Competence-based certifications, certified Project Manager (IPMA-USA’s IPMA-C) and certified Senior Project Manager (IPMA-USA’s IPMA-B).

Engagements Not Involving Contracts
Many engagements are intended for internal implementation, and do not significantly rely on proposals and contracts. In these projects, the actions that take place in the window of opportunity between inspiration and the beginning of Requirements elicitation are primary factors of success. For example, we’ve shown for years that the first 10% of any project or program’s effort is responsible for 90% of its success.

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Designing a Certification Program: How to Certify (2)

PM Certification commentary by William Duncan, IPMA-USA Certification Director. Recapping from “How to Certify (1)” … certification is about assessing competence. Competence is intangible so it must be inferred from some kind of evidence. That evidence can be input-oriented or output-oriented. At IPMA-USA, we have decided to focus on outputs or results. Why? Simple logic. If … Read moreDesigning a Certification Program: How to Certify (2)

Implications of Role and Rigor in PM Certifications

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff

We have received some interesting reactions to our recent posting about Role and Rigor in PM Certifications. Some assert that we place the IPMA-D certification too low on the Rigor scale. Others are concerned about whether the average reader can decipher which “Other PM Certifications” are reflected by that basketball. Still others are shocked, shocked, SHOCKED, that their popular certification might be labeled an Entry-level certification, or that they are not really certified Project Managers, but instead, certified in project management.

Who is perpetuating this confusion? One answer: Some PM providers, especially those engaged in Entry-level certification preparation, continue the myth. Read through ads in magazines, on websites, or even in blog and social network postings. In marketing, they might guarantee that you will pass an exam in a week or refund your fees; then, some indicate that you are being certified as a Project Manager. These providers have clearly not yet joined the ranks of IPMA-USA PM Competence Enablers, because they do not understand the difference between exam-cram methods and improved PM Performance! After all, certifications in project management and Advanced certification as a Project Manager are two different markets.

The myth is propagated by some practitioners, who, having earned their knowledge-based certification, mistakenly believe that they truly are Certified as a Project Manager. In fact, there are LinkedIn groups filled with those misled and mistaken souls.

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Evaluating Role and Rigor in PM Certifications

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff

We have seen a wide range of opinions, analyses, and presentations that fail to clearly show the differences between the Project Management certifications in the USA, and around the World. Certifications from IPMA-USA and IPMA (International Project Management Association) are particularly misunderstood, because they address specific roles and competence-oriented factors that other PM certifications do not. The purpose of this post is to clear up misunderstandings about the IPMA-USA/IPMA PM Certifications, and to clarify how they differ from other PM certifications that are available.

Role of Certificant
When we speak of Role, we are discussing the primary Role of the certification candidate. Entry-level PM certifications use knowledge-based exams about project management, and do not depend on the PM’s Role. Advanced certifications engage professional assessors in interviews to assess performance competence in a targeted Role. Some people fill multiple roles; in that case, the Role is the one selected as the basis for certification. This is only important in the case of Advanced (higher-Rigor) certifications.

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Building the Future of PM

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff

This week (October 12, 2009) marks the introduction of a new book, PM Circa 2025, published by Project Management Institute. Dr. David Cleland (author with Dr. Lew Ireland of some of the most useful books in the discipline) worked with Dr. Bopaya Bidanda to recruit Chapter authors and to edit this major achievement.

They asked 28+ PM practitioners to expound (in 20 page chapters or less) on a variety of intriguing aspects of PM practice for the next 16+ years. Chapter topics include National, International, sector-specific, and Government.

Many of the chapter authors are from IPMA-USA; we have been preparing our readers, fellow-members and customers for the future for many years. Chapter authors whose names you may recognize include Lew Ireland, David Pells (twice!), Tim Jaques, Jonathan Weinstein, Stacy Goff, and others.

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A Rainbow of Different Purposes for Your PMO

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff

In the previous post about PMOs, Program or Project Management Offices, we discussed the different flavors of PMOs, and made an assertion that everyone has one, but some are informal, rather than formal. And, the informal ones can be at least as effective as the formal ones. In this post, we discuss the different purposes of your PMO. Once again, as a reminder: what brings this topic to our blog was the IPMA-USA-supported November 8-10 PMO Symposium, in Atlanta Georgia. We hope you attended!

PMO Purposes
This summary list of purposes, functions and services for your Program or Project Management Office (PMO) is from ProjectExperts’ Modular Project Management® series. I usually offer it as a coaching session for organizations that wish to establish or extend the effectiveness of their PMO.

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Designing a Certification Program: How to Certify (1)

PM Certification commentary by William Duncan, IPMA-USA Certification Director. I’ve left this for last since it is the hardest issue to address. In fact, I have several books on my shelves that cover how to assess competence, so trying to answer that question in a few hundred words does seem more than a bit presumptuous. … Read moreDesigning a Certification Program: How to Certify (1)