The rock n’ roll of project management: don’t build castles made of sand

Slalom Consultant Carl Manello

Carl Manello

I’ve had enough of the way things have been done
Every man on a razors edge
Someone has used us to kill with the same gun
Killing each other by driving a wedge.
  – Pete Townshend

I’ve long been a fan of Pete Townshend—from his days with Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band The Who, through his solo career and even his time as an author. While I’m sure he never formally managed a project, his lyrics resonate for me on effective delivery and the need for change. Read more of this post

The Art of Project Management: Scale

Slalom Consultant Carl Manello

Carl Manello

The control of a large force is the same principle as the control of a few men: it is merely a question of dividing up their numbers.Sun Tzu, military strategist

Creating principles

The basic principles of project management are fully extensible from the smallest initiative to the largest program. The key is that the project management practices should be understood as principles: accepted or professed rules of action or conduct. It is based on this belief that I encourage my clients to establish project manager guiding principles and to construct project management frameworks (not detailed, step-by-step methodologies). By maintaining the governance rules at the highest level (at first definition), the organization maintains the flexibility to scale the implementation of principles based on specific needs. Read more of this post

Churchill on Portfolio Management

English: Sir Winston Churchill.

English: Sir Winston Churchill. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Want of foresight, unwillingness to act when action would be simple and effective, lack of clear thinking, confusion of counsel until the emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong these are the features which constitute the endless repetition of history.

Sir Winston Churchill

Is it the same in your organization too? Getting out of the rut of inefficiencies is challenging, time consuming, and never quite at the top of the list. Do you find that there are more projects in the pipeline than in the original approved budget? Is performance less than adequate on some key initiatives? Do you find that projects which are going sideways don’t seem to have a steering mechanism or brake to help with correction? Do you find that you are surprised that this is the same environment you were unhappy with last year?

This becomes the embodiment of the oft-cited saying “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Breaking the cycle takes action. Action takes a plan. Action requires taking risks. Action can improve performance and effectiveness, but it requires concentrated effort and some investment.

Unfortunately, many clients dismiss the required focused effort on internal improvements thinking that things are ‘good enough’ at the moment. And, with corporate budgets being squeezed, it is no wonder that poorly articulated improvements don’t receive appropriate attention or funding. How can improvement opportunities be tightened-up and how can leaders change the future? Read more of this post

Managing a “Real” Review Process

Slalom Consultant Carl Manello

Carl Manello is a Solution Lead for Program & Project Management based in Chicago who enjoys exploring how to tightly couple the art and science of project delivery with business operations.

Unless a reviewer has the courage to give you unqualified praise, I say ignore the bastard.”
–John Steinbeck

I have seen the program review process in many companies reduced to no more than a “dog and pony show.” These so-called Gate Reviews are nothing more than the equivalent of Mr. Steinbeck’s unqualified praise. With little substance offered–such as true metrics that help to predict delivery–the reviews are reduced to nothing more than a chance for management to attend another meeting.

The intent of a program process life cycle is to ensure quality and cost effective delivery by flexibly applying a rigorous process for major business initiatives. The process consists of sequential milestone gates configured around standard program life cycle phases. Reviews should be used at each quality gate to gauge the progress and direction of the initiative (not just to supply unqualified praise!).  In addition, the gates may be tightly coupled to a financial approval or appropriation process. Additional interim quality gates may also be added within a phase to enhance program success and minimize risk, but the key gates can be viewed as a minimum set for effective governance. Read more of this post

The Crude Use of Clever Tools

Slalom Consultant Carl Manello

Carl Manello is a Solution Lead for Program & Project Management based in Chicago who enjoys exploring how to tightly couple the art and science of project delivery with business operations.

“The Stone Age was marked by man’s clever use of crude tools; the information age, to date, has been marked by man’s crude use of clever tools.”
–Source Unknown

As part of Slalom’s operational delivery solution, I hold that project selection and the management of the project portfolio are paramount functions for delivering success. However, organizations are continually bemused by the question, “How does one choose the right projects?” The answer is: it is very difficult. And the larger the organization, the more difficult the decisions, trade-offs, and rationalizations. For with a larger organization, there are a greater number of managers, teams, departments, and business units competing for the same scarce resources.

With many inputs and potential outcomes, business initiatives may be under consideration from all areas of the company (i.e., marketing, research & development, production, and support organizations). Is it unfair to compare such proverbial apples and oranges? Can one equate the product R&D project with the project to renew and upgrade technical infrastructure? Certainly there must be some way to compare these. How else will management be able to choose? All efforts cannot be graded as #1’s. Read more of this post

Tablets, Tablets Everywhere: Enterprise Adoption and Applications

Slalom Consultant Jeff Barber

Jeff Barber is a Seattle-based leader in Slalom Consulting’s mobility solutions practice. He's a mobile technology expert with deep experience helping clients “operationalize” mobile technologies.

Recently published statistics indicate that tablet adoption is taking off. Here are a few examples.

The Consumerization of IT

These statistics reflect a growing trend known as the consumerization of IT. According to ComputerWorld, “Gartner estimates that 69.8 million media tablets will be shipped in 2011, and analysts and forward-thinking tech managers say it’s time for IT to do more than simply take note of that surge.”

This trend has been challenging companies to Read more of this post

Proven Practices

Slalom Consultant Carl Manello

Carl Manello is a Solution Lead for Program & Project Management based in Chicago who enjoys exploring how to tightly couple the art and science of project delivery with business operations.

“The nice thing about standards is that there are so many of them to choose from.”
– Prof. Andrew Tanenbaum

While I’m relatively confident that I’m about to take Professor Tanenbaum out of context, I think that the statement perfectly captures my angst with companies who ask for “Best Practices.”  My general frustration is around the idea that there are in fact scores, if not hundreds of best practices.  Can they all really be “best?”

Has your organization ever begun the conversation on best practices?  Do you ask what other companies are doing?  Is your organization overly concerned about following a practice that others have adopted (even if that practice may not be well suited to your own culture or environment)?  At Slalom Consulting, we work with our clients to help them understand that within the Program and Project Management space there may be few – if any – true absolute standards or best practices.

Read more of this post

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