Economies of Resource Over Allocation

Co-written by Dan Ahern

Slalom Consultant Carl Manello

Carl Manello is the Practice Director for Slalom’s Delivery Effectiveness solutions. He is based in Chicago and enjoys bringing actionable, tactical solutions to his clients to help them improve their delivery.

“I am not worried about the deficit. It is big enough to take care of itself.”
–Ronald Reagan

What the former President expressed in jest brings attention to a long-standing issue. We are decades past Regan’s time and you still cannot listen to news for long without hearing a story about the national deficit, the growing deficit, or reducing the deficit. You do not need an economics degree to understand that a deficit means that spending is in excess of what one has. In other words, the government is committing to do and spend more than it has the capacity to do. And no matter what side of the political spectrum you sit on, all can agree that a large deficit is a bad thing. Read more of this post

Scope Changes are not Unthinkable

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.

“We must dare to think ‘unthinkable’ thoughts. We must learn to explore all the options and possibilities that confront us in a complex and rapidly changing world. … We must dare to think about ‘unthinkable things’ because when things become unthinkable, thinking stops and action becomes mindless.”  
 – J. William Fulbright (April 9, 1905 – February 9, 1995)

While most project managers try to limit the number of scope changes within their project, changes should not be “unthinkable.” Changes are inevitable. It is one’s ability to manage those scope changes that delineates the successful project managers from their peers. So how does one effectively manage scope?

We have found that to become a master of scope management means one must understand the need to revisit scope definitions repeatedly.  For example, throughout the project management life cycle, there are a number of points that are opportune for reviewing scope (e.g., project approval, phase gate check points, financial oversight committees).  It is the constant reassessment of scope that helps manage expectations and provide assurance.  However, one should not assume that changes Read more of this post

Portfolio Management – Its the 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.

“Sin has many tools, but a lie is the handle which fits them all….” Oliver Wendell Holmes.

I have developed a reputation within Slalom as a “tool bigot.”  My skepticism is well known across the gamut of portfolio management tools, program/project management tools or any other garden variety of project management panacea.  For those of you who don’t know me, let me explain.  Over the last twenty years I have seen too many corporations make the same mistake: investing heavily in a software tool they believe will auto-magically solve all problems.  And, much like Mr. Holmes, I recognize that project management has many tools, but a bad process fits them all.

I advocate a strong process–not a strong tool–as the indispensable prerequisite for managing project portfolios. Typically our clients don’t need to invest in expensive and sophisticated tools to develop a strong portfolio management process.  They absolutely need to develop a process that allows the right initiatives to be nurtured, developed, executed or shut down. Then, as the process matures, tools can be added to improve efficiency and effectiveness. The odds for success increase significantly when well thought out process precedes tool selection and implementation.

One of the keys to a strong portfolio management process is the development of detailed business cases.  Pro’s and Con’s of projects must be weighed in a standardized, repeatable, scalable fashion.  Costs and benefits must be assessed (and “hard” benefits separated from “soft” ones).  Timelines, resource capacity, priorities…all must be brought into the mix. And while some of the best tools on the market (e.g., Microsoft’s SharePoint) can make a contribution to information gathering, the tools themselves are less effective without a strong process.

Another key to a mature portfolio management practice is the ability of the governance process to initiate the shut-down of a project.  This enables the team to get past sunk costs, strategic drift compensation and overly optimistic project teams who are trying their best to succeed (but who cannot).  According to Sarah Fister Gale, in the February PMI Network magazine, “In today’s economy, it’s even more imperative that poorly aligned projects not be allowed to move forward.”

So as you look around your company, be like that other Mr. Holmes (yes, Sherlock!) and ask: Are your teams over reliant on a sophisticated tool that is barely useful as a time tracking application?  Is there a lack of process to enable good decision making?  Is there even a decision making framework for standardized, repeatable and scalable decision making in support of the portfolio?  Or, are there just the sunk costs, annual licensing and on-going support fees for a big tool?  While we won’t be able to vanquish all of the tool-dominated project management processes (a.k.a. “sins), we can equip our clients with a better way to “handle” their project portfolios through improved processes.

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