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Comments Off on Clarity can be Simple

Clarity can be Simple

Communicating an idea does not require a massive, complex communication.

Recently I saw this great example of such a thing:


Comments Off on In 10 Minutes the CIO Will Decide Whether to Fire the PMO!

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With the appropriate array of skills and techniques, you can impact the decision and avoid irrelevance!


Communication – Make sure your communications are always…

  • Complete
  • Accurate
  • Clear

Transparency – Never hide a dead fish in your desk…they do not age well.  The same goes for project problems!

  • Red Is Real.  Report reality, not a forecast that can only come to pass if the stars and moon align and Sean Connery joins the team…
  • Never Let the Boss Be Surprised – Executives *hate* when problems are beyond their ability to impact outcomes before they learn about them.
  • Know Who You Are Talking To!  Talking to Executives = stay out of the weeds.  You have ten seconds to get an executive’s attention.  Fail, and you are now irrelevant.

Calm Demeanor – Never let them see you sweat!

  • Problem – Problems happen.  Deal with them calmly.
  • Rational Approach – Over-reactions are *always* a bad idea.
  • Positive Outcome – Work towards the most positive outcome possible.

Think It Forward with effect Risk Management!

  • Lessons Learned
  • Research
  • Mitigation
  • Don’t know the answer?  –  It’s called Google….look it up

Be a Good Planner!  –  See the plan…the WHOLE plan!

  • Facilitate discussions that uncover all the work
  • Educate the team on how to plan and track and report
  • Integrate with other plans that have interdependencies with yours!
  • No Plan survives contact with reality…keep up with the changes!

Problems?   Act Responsibly!   –   How you react to a problem is more important than whether a problem occurs!

  • Assess
  • Cause
  • Impact
  • Severity
  • Resolve both Cause and Symptom
  • Track until Complete
  • Improve via Root Cause Analysis

Be On Purpose – Happen to Projects, do not let them happen to you!

  • Act with Clarity
  • Service with Integrity
  • Live with Intention
Comments Off on Project Management Lessons of Hurricane Sandy

Project Management Lessons of Hurricane Sandy

Project Management Lessons of Hurricane Sandy

No question, the loss of life and destruction wrought by Hurricane Sandy in October is catastrophic.  Many of the shore areas of New Jersey that I enjoyed in my early years were damaged beyond recognition.  This storm is one I’ve watched closely as my entire family is in the affected areas.  While all are safe, more than a week after the storm, one family member is still without power.

In the aftermath of this storm, life is slowly returning to normal and the activities of day-to-day life are resuming.  Some of these activities can offer us lessons in project management.

Risk Mitigation:  Within two days of the storm clearing the New York Metropolitan area, airports were cleaning up and working feverishly to restore normal operations. No major facility damage was reported, power had not been interrupted, and aircraft were ready to begin flying again.  Meanwhile, nearby municipalities struggled to clear downed trees, remove debris, and restore power. How were the airlines able to rebound so quickly?

Having had the benefit of early forecasts and warnings, the airlines took a few pre-emptive actions to mitigate typical risks associated with service disruption:

  • Flights into the affected areas were cancelled in advance of the storm.  While inconvenient to some travelers, the net effects were that there were fewer aircraft in harm’s way, and fewer stranded passengers sleeping in airports.
  • Aircraft were relocated from the area to airports outside of the storm’s range.  This not only minimized the risk of damage, but was also critical to minimize disruption to flights in other parts of the country.  Aircraft are reutilized between markets and having them on the ground on the east cost could delay the ability to resume flights from other markets.

In the end, airlines were able to resume flights slowly and gradually, but much more quickly than if the aircraft had been left in hangars or on the ground when Sandy struck.

Lesson:  Risk mitigation is critical to reduce negative impact.  Take the input of your project experts and assess the best strategies to keep your risks to a minimum.  Have a plan and don’t wait until it’s too late to execute it.

Validate Assumptions:  Another Sandy story comes out of Queens, New York.  The storm hit just over a week ahead of Election Day.  Ensuring residents had accessible polling sites became an urgent focus for some.  As Election Day arrived, a particular site prepped for opening at 6:00 am.  The site consisted of a tent, voting machines, and all the peripheral equipment necessary for the day.  A generator had been brought in to provide the power as the area had not yet been put back on the power grid.  The site operators attempted to start up the generator—and were disappointed to find that the fuel tanks were empty.  Voting proceeded on schedule—in a darkened tent with no heat and no electricity.  Ballots were collected and stored until fuel was brought in and the generator started.

Lesson:  Advanced planning and risk mitigation is important.  Equally important is to know the project’s key assumptions—and to validate them.  In this case, planners knew they needed a generator and most likely thought it was a great idea to order one in advance.  Where they failed was in validating that the delivery also included delivery of fuel.  Of course, had that assumption been validated, voters would have had a much more comfortable experience on Tuesday morning.  And had the system actually been tested in advance, the assumption would have been validated out of necessity.

By D Robert Dunn, MBA, PMP, is a decorated Air Force veteran.  Robert began managing projects in 1995 shortly after leaving the military; He originally joined BCforward in September 2008.  Robert has lived in Indianapolis for the past 11 years along with his wife, Stephanie, and their five children.  In addition to blogging, Robert enjoys genealogy.

Comments Off on Project Managers Likely to Survive Zombie Apocalypse

Project managers vs zombiesAs Project Managers using Critical Chain, we may find ourselves focusing on what’s eating our buffer.  We know that there’s a task out there nibbling away at this contingency timeline and we want to find it, address it, and move forward with confidence.  And the question of buffer consumption is something that can eat us until we figure it out.

So what’s eating you?  Reading recent headlines, one can truly hope that the answer to that question is something project-related and not a zombie!

If you’re old enough or just have an appreciation for 60’s music, you would know “The Zombies” for their hit songs “Time of the Season” or “She’s Not There”.  Or perhaps you recall the 1968 movie “Night of the Living Dead” and how it captured the imagination of the day.  But in recent years, zombies increasingly have lurched their way into pop culture through movies, video games, and cable TV.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen horrifying headlines and videos about face, heart, and brain-eating “zombies” in our midst.  While these actual events are tragic for their own reasons, maybe there are some things we can take from these stories.

In a move to stress preparedness and capitalize on the interest in zombies, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted a blog entry, “Preparedness 101:  Zombie Apocalypse” (May 2011).  It’s a serious article, although a bit tongue-in-decaying-cheek, written by the Assistant Surgeon General, Dr Ali Khan.  It addresses how citizens can prepare for a Zombie Apocalypse—should one actually occur.  The point of the post is that many of the preparations and precautions you might take against a Zombie Apocalypse would serve you well in the event of other more natural phenomenon such as earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, etc.

The CDC article parallels three phases of Project Management as defined by the Project Management Institute (PMI):  (1) Planning and Design, (2) Executing, and (3) Monitoring and Controlling.

project managers vs zombiesLet’s suspend disbelief for a moment and suppose that zombies are real.  You wake on Monday morning and switch on the local TV broadcast only to find that a zombie army has taken over major portions of the community in which you live.  Roads are blocked and the situation is worsening.  Your survival will depend, in part, on how well you have planned for this situation and how solid your design is.  You will need to recognize the issues and risks that the primary and potential secondary threats pose.  But planning and designing alone are not enough.  Imagine an archaeologist finding a set of blue prints in the Egyptian desert where there should be pyramids.  Sand is all there is for miles around because the plans were never executed.

And so executing the plan becomes the next key to survival.  You have your emergency food and supplies, extra fuel, money, important documents—and your pet chocolate Lab—loaded up in the back of your Kia Soul.  You back out of the driveway and know exactly which route you will take to escape the carnage.  You have your maps and GPS and are ready to go.  You head out of town, turn on your XM satellite radio, and listen for important news and updates as the local authorities work to monitor and control the situation.  And so you continue to monitor the situation as well.

Back to the real world:  Whether the recent spate of “zombie” attacks continues is anyone’s guess.  As for Critical Chain, we know that “eating buffer” is not necessarily a negative.  On the other hand, letting a project risk or issue eat you can be.  Plan.  Design.  Execute.  Then monitor and control.

In the end, don’t worry about what you cannot control—worrying changes nothing.  Don’t let it eat you.  And don’t worry about what you can control—control it.  The project’s survival may depend on it.

By D Robert Dunn, MBA, PMP, is a decorated Air Force veteran.  Robert began managing projects in 1995 shortly after leaving the military; He originally joined BCforward in September 2008.  Robert has lived in Indianapolis for the past 11 years along with his wife, Stephanie, and their five children.  In addition to blogging, Robert enjoys genealogy.

Comments Off on Managing People is Key to Effective Project Execution

Leading peopleIdentify groups of people resources to effect this goal.

A key skill for PMs is managing the key delivery resource – the people. Although highly obvious, this skill is often downplayed as regressive politics or burdensome bureaucracy, more lovingly known as the sentient art of cat herding, and as such it is repressively limited to the subconscious and not allowed to develop and permeate into the active consciousness of most PMs.

With 17 years in the process-intensive world of consultancy in the portfolio, program, process, PMO and projects realms as well as two years as a contractor-consultant, I have had the honor of meeting and working with highly experienced and senior PMs that are far smarter than me and better at leveraging their experiences. However, I couldn’t help but notice the general lack of acceptance of this key skill – managing people – by most PMs.

  • Fact: Undoubtedly, people resource management is the key constraint and a critical success factor of all projects. PMs in all industries are well aware that project management has been/is/will be interpreted as people management. However, for most PMs, the people management skill is undeveloped, crude or simply defined negatively as manipulation.


  • Fact: A PM has to manage, communicate with and connect with project resources during the entire project duration and get them involved completing project activities and moving the project forward. The project’s success lies in the hands of these valued resources and on how responsibly and effectively they execute tasks/project activities they are assigned to, as well as how well they interact with each other.


  • Key: To ensure the project’s success, the PM’s strongest leverage is to ensure effective collaboration, rapport and good will with all individuals on the project and ensure they are working effectively and efficiently to deliver on their assigned tasks.


  • Key: An effective PM should be clear and thorough on his project sciences of methodologies, processes, metrics and tools, as well as the project art of a people manager, mitigator, resolution expert, trusted advisor, motivator and importantly an influencing leader. In a nutshell: a very wary king-maker but nary ever a king.


The resources necessary to accomplish this skill can be identified into several categories:

  • The Relationship Builders: They understand that relationships are needed to get things done within the organization. They know that you can’t influence others and get others to support your ideas unless you have first built relationships with them.


  • The Organizational Savvy: These are the veritably astute bureaucrats. They know how the organization works – why things happen and how decisions and work gets done. They know the ins and outs of the organization – the formal and informal processes as well as who the true decision makers are that are getting things done.


  • The Team Players: These are risk averse, dependent, collaborative types that work well within a team environment to be successful and get things done.


  • The Creative and Innovative: These are the out of the box thinkers, cowboys, cowgirls and idea people. They will also work with others on their ideas. They care about ideas in general that enable the organization to be successful and stay ahead of the competition.


  • The Calculated Risk-Takers: The deliberate thinkers and risk hedgers are calculated in taking and transferring risks. They carefully plan what they are going to do and are very cognizant of what can go wrong.

Effective PMs are acutely aware that the project resources look at them as a soft leader, the get it done guy or gal, and the key person to always stand up for them, win their hearts and guide their minds. And to be successful in the proverbial real world, which could arguably be a matter of perspectives, the more a PM can own and satisfy the aforementioned core sentiments of the project resources, both up and down-stream, the higher his/her chances of long-term successes are to have the cherished repute of an effective PM.

By Armann Ardaini, SSBB, PgMP, PMP, CQA. Ardaini is a PMO Management consultant for program, process and projects management. He is currently a Sr. Program/Project Management consultant managing a HR Process and Vendor Management Outsourcing Program.


Comments Off on When In Doubt, Communicate!

When In Doubt, Communicate!

The stakes are high: according to a 2007 PMI study, 28% of projects fail due to poor communication—the single most common cause. Data hoarding, ill-defined communication expectations, and sheer inertia all conspire against open communication channels. But if you hammer the communication basics, you’re contributing a vital ingredient to project success.

If you want to encourage communication, practice it yourself.

Lay out realistic channels, with your audience in mind . How well have you communicated with your team today/this week/month? Right-size your communications: don’t use the communications structure required for a shuttle mission for your migration to SharePoint 2010. Keep your stakeholders’ risk tolerance levels in mind. Lack of communication almost always aggravates risk.

Focus on available tools.

There’s a reason that Microsoft Excel is the world’s most popular software for documenting and managing project plans: it’s everywhere, and most everyone knows how to use it. Check your organization first for communication standards, and then broaden your search for communication formats and procedures that make sense for your project. Why reinvent the wheel? And, PMBOK provides a complete (at times excruciatingly so) roadmap for effective communications.

Find an appropriate cadence for communicating project information.

When do the c-level offices prefer their briefings? How much hand-tooling, and how much broadcasting, does your corporate culture want in its messaging? Build team consensus on how much documentation of communication is required.

Establish who communicates which information, and to whom.

Better internal communication propagates beyond your project, first to sponsors and external stakeholders, and then throughout your organization. A Role Report Matrix is a handy way to define responsibilities for communication to project stakeholders and media outlets.

Imposed solutions are often ignored/rebelled against.

Be willing to change communication methods midstream as your team gains traction, and management articulates or changes preferences. You could try inferring the right amount of touch for each audience. Better yet, ask.

Adherence to PMBOK principles adds to project clarity.

Staples like the project Org Chart, Risk Register, and Gantt should be public touchstones. And, don’t forget Lessons Learned as a function of effective communication. Both you and your organization will be smarter for future projects.

Lee J. Tarricone, PMP

Lee J. Tarricone, PMP, is a project management consultant with BCforward. He currently manages projects for business process enhancement and web search optimization.

Contact us to learn how PMforward Project Management Solutions can assist your organization.

Comments Off on Should We Outsource Our Project Management Work?

Should We Outsource Our Project Management Work?

Magic 8 Ball: Should we outsource our Project Management work?

“Yes.” “No.” “It is decidedly so.”

If only obtaining answers to our questions were that simple.

In today’s world, it seems that transformation is happening all around us. From the simple changing of the seasons, to the complex world of technology, one thing is for certain: change is constant. Even in corporate work environments, change is occurring in how staffing models are implemented. Considering the economic conditions, many companies are focused on ways to minimize costs without sacrificing quality of services or products they provide. How is this accomplished varies from company to company but considerations may be made to outsource certain resources based upon the specific needs of an organization. One example could be to outsource project management resources.

When is outsourcing project management work appropriate? Instead of shaking the “Magic 8 Ball” for the answer, there are a few signs which may help when considering this option:

  1. So many projects, so little time. Many times organizations have prioritized projects which must be completed within a given timeline and to meet the needs for delivering a product or service. In a lean workforce environment, internal resources are easily over-allocated which can impact project delivery dates. Outsourcing the project management component can supplement the shortage of resources while bringing rapid organization and oversight for effectively streamlining resource tasks and activities.
  2. Cannot see the forest for the trees. How project expectations are identified, outlined and communicated are key to delivering successful outcomes. Because of competing priorities which may be occurring between stakeholders it is imperative that projects have clearly communicated goals and objectives. On-boarding outside project management resources can bring an unbiased perspective to ensure focus is maintained on understanding the broader vision instead of “getting lost in the details.”
  3. Continuously reinventing the wheel. Though organizations may accomplish project success, many may find themselves managing projects with no formal/informal methodology or processes. Without this, projects may find themselves in disarray and resources continuously developing tools to help maintain project stabilization. External project management resources can bring expertise to assist in creating tools and techniques which provide structure and capabilities for reuse on future projects.

Though the “Magic 8 Ball” can give us answers to our questions, the real answer of whether or not to outsource project management work lies within each organization and the importance they place on project management.

Jamie McKinney
Jamie McKinney is a Project Manager with BCforward. Jamie’s primary responsibilities include working to identify and overcome business needs and challenges in order to improve efficiency and business strategies.

Contact us to learn how PMforward Project Management Solutions can assist your organization.

Comments Off on Does Your Project Need To Be Rescued? Three Warning Signs

One of the many issues that IT leadership or the senior management team may deal with is a project that is not delivering results.

Whether it’s missed milestones, unplanned expenses, or scope creep, a project in distress can be very costly to an organization. It not only can burn money, it can also delay the implementation of other project/product launches and negatively affect the morale of the project team.

Here are three ways that a company can tell that a project needs to be rescued:

  1. Project Schedule Health is Consistently “RED”—If the project milestones are consistently being missed and it is impacting the overall progress of the project, the schedule needs to be reassessed. This could occur because key tasks were either missed or the time allotted to complete the tasks was underestimated. This could also occur because resources are over allocated and cannot complete the tasks or do not have the expertise needed to complete the tasks correctly and on time.
  2. Project is Over Budget—This can be caused by unrealistic goals made for the project’s budget during the planning stage. This can also happen if there are additional costs occurring due to a lack of a complete scope definition during the planning phase.
  3. Project Status is Unknown—Lack of communication to key stakeholders, project sponsors and team members is a definite indication of a project that needs intervention. Regular communication of status is critical to the success of the project. Jeopardies can be missed and risks can remain unaddressed if the project status is not being communicated reguarly.

Andrea Gaddie
Andrea Gaddie is a Global IT Portfolio Manager with over 10 years experience providing strategic direction to various industries such as telecommunications, finance, retail and real estate on best uses of emerging technologies.

Contact us to learn how PMforward Project Management Solutions can assist your organization.

Comments Off on Is Agile Right For Your Project?

Is Agile Right For Your Project?

The definition of Agile is: “quick and well-coordinated in movement.”

Your company is launching a new project and your boss asks you if you think the new project would be a good candidate to work as an Agile project. Your company is rather traditional, branching out occasionally to try new things, but you are not sure if this project is appropriate for an Agile approach. You definitely want the project to be successful. What do you need to consider when making a decision of this type for your new project?

Here are some major factors to look at when considering an agile project approach.

  • Is this project similar to other projects that your company has done, or is it a completely new type of project? Projects that are pioneering efforts are typically better candidates for Agile projects primarily because there is a great deal of uncertainty about the end product, and the Agile model is designed to address these shifting priorities.
  • Is this project a large, medium or small project? Does it have an extensive number of elements that interact with other systems? Medium to small system projects that are relatively independent of other systems are easier to leverage with an Agile approach.
  • Are your project requirements completely nailed down, or are they just defined at a high level? Agile typically is better at leveraging high level requirements.
  • Is the management team at your company willing to let this project launch without imposing a project completion date immediately? One of the keys to an Agile project is that the first couple of sprints help to identify how much work is getting done during each sprint; this also helps to plan out the remaining backlog of work, and feeds an estimate for a completion date built upon a foundation of performance, not guesswork.
  • Access to the right personnel is also critical. A product owner is a keystone element for an Agile project; as are the ability to put together a small co-located team of folks (8-12) that are experienced, self-reliant, and cross-trained.
  • Can the product roll-out in increments to show progress, or must it all launch at one time? Likewise is continuous improvement feasible? If it can roll out incrementally, and continuous improvement is feasible, then it is absolutely a good candidate. If not, but all of the other elements meet the Agile criteria, then this can be worked out.

If you can answer “Yes” to all of these questions then by all means your project is a candidate to use an Agile Project Methodology. If you can answer “Yes” to half, or less of these questions then I would advise you to stay with your current project management methodology. Staying true to the process, at least initially, will give you a much better idea if it can really add value to your organization.

Mark Timmis


Mark W. Timmis is a Certified Scrum Master and practicing IT Project Manager with 10+ years experience in project management. His experience in project management spans across: Pharma, Medical Device, State and Local Government, Healthcare, and Insurance. 

Contact us to learn how PMforward Project Management Solutions can assist your organization.

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