The Art of Project Management: the Seige of Portfolio Management

Carl Manello

The general, unable to control his irritation, will launch his men to the assault like swarming ants, with the result that one-third of his men are slain, while the town still remains untaken. Such are the disastrous effects of a siege. Sun Tzu

Our executives are not irritated generals. Our delivery teams are not swarming ants. However, Sun-Tzu’s metaphor can be overlaid on the concept of portfolio management quite easily. A company that cannot manage the demand funnel and does not align its projects to strategies or corporate goals may end up driving its leadership to “irritation.” If the irritated company then launches projects—which are not aligned and not prioritized—the project portfolio may seem like a swarm response: trying to fulfill everyone’s request for everything wanted all at once. To this end, the project delivery engine of the company will seize up. Projects will fail and team members will pay the price (though hopefully, none will be slain). Read more of this post

Why Projects Succeed: Take Corrective Action

Slalom Consulting Roger Kastner

A Consultant Manager with Slalom Consulting, Roger works with clients and other consultants in the delivery of Organizational Effectiveness and Project Leadership services and helps practitioners achieve greater success than previously possible.

Everyone has a plan, until they get punched in the mouth.” —Mike Tyson

Maybe you’ve heard the project manager axiom “plan the work, work the plan,” which suggests there’s value in both creating a plan and then closely managing that plan. But to Mike Tyson’s point, shouldn’t you also have a plan for when the original plan unexpectedly doesn’t work?

I’ve had the privilege to speak to over 1,000 practitioners over the years at project management presentations and classes, and in almost every instance I ask each audience to, “raise your hand if you’ve ever been on a project that did not have some unforeseen problem knock the project sideways to the point of putting the objectives at significant risk?” How many hands do you think I’ve seen over the years?

(Well, OK, there was one, but the person was referring to a two-week “project.” So I’ve learned to phrase the question differently.) Read more of this post

The Power of Personality Management

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.

Co-written by Stacey Campbell

[Genius] is personality with a penny’s worth of talent. Error which chances to rise above the commonplace
–Pablo Picasso

While we may not all be geniuses, whether in the arts or sciences, we can understand that personality is key to making things happen. Personality impacts the management of people. People management is one of the under-rated but often most needed skills for delivery effectiveness. It is critical to understand that without the participation of other people, a project manager (for example) is incapable of doing anything! And yet, without the backing of an education in psychology, what is an average PM to do? With so many different behaviors, expectations, and perspectives, a PM may be lost trying to navigate the world of…people. Read more of this post

Effective Methods of Risk Identification

Co-written with Brian McHugh

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.

“There are risks and costs to a program of action. But they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.”
–President John Fitzgerald Kennedy

There are risks everywhere, whether they are called out and addressed or whether they are ignored. It is our job as consultants to make sure that we are mitigating risks, in Kennedy’s words, through action. We have found that the most critical and most difficult action in Risk Management is the cataloguing of risks. The challenge is to find effective ways to elicit risks from stakeholders. After all, you can’t manage risks if you don’t know what they are.  And while it may seem that the identification of risk should be the easiest part of the process, we find that stakeholders and project teams do not always understand the concept of “risk.” Sure, now you are thinking, “what are some effective ways of identifying risks?”  There are many methods for Risk Identification; here are some of the most effective. Read more of this post

Weighing the Risks

Co-written with Brian McHugh

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.

“First weigh the considerations, then take the risks.”
–Helmuth von Moltke (1800-1891), regarded as one of the great strategists of the latter 19th century

Most projects don’t require the great mind of a military strategist. However, they do require a strategy for approaching, defining, and managing risks. This begs the question “is risk planning really worth it?”

Clients often want PM’s to focus on tasks perceived to have more tangible results and more definite outcomes than risk planning. Leaders sometimes think they already know the project risks and that any risk planning done by PM’s simply restates what is already known. Collectively, stakeholders may know all the risks. The problem is that not all the stakeholders know all the risks. Therefore, the challenge for PM’s is to get risks out of stakeholders’ minds, to get them documented and to manage them effectively. Some clients fear risk planning as a long and involved process that may not yield much benefit to the project. At Slalom, we have found the opposite to be the truth. Like all aspects of Project Management, a tailored approach to risk planning yields the best results and will help to put your leaders at ease. There are three main steps to risk planning and each can be tailored to fit your project: Read more of this post

Avoiding Blustery Project Management Days

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.

“One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries.”
– A. A. Milne (1882 – 1956)

Project Management is typically nothing like The Tales of Winnie the Pooh. However, like the whirlwind adventure of The Blustery Day, it is far more exciting to manage-by-the-seat-of-one’s-pants, than to layout articulated plans, processes and frameworks that support delivery. I’m a seasoned PM, and I too get tired of the rigor of project plans that are hundreds or thousands of lines long. Yet, to fundamentally improve the way companies operate, PMs need to apply some order to the chaos.

The proactive approach treats project management as more than the sum of project plans, methodologies and the certification of project managers. It is a process for moving from reactive project management techniques to proactive value management. The value is realized through acknowledgement of and effective development of project management competencies, the recognition of the value contribution of project management centers of excellence (aka: PMO’s), and the implementation of Read more of this post

Why Projects Succeed: Risk Identification

Why Projects Succeed is a blog series in which Slalom Business Architect Roger Kastner sheds light on key factors behind the art and science of successful project management and invites readers to discuss how they apply across different environments.

Slalom Consultant Roger Kastner

Roger Kastner is a Business Architect with Slalom Consulting who is passionate about raising the caliber of project leadership within organizations to maximize the value of projects

Recently I wrote that the value of Proactive Risk Management is in the ability to identify and plan for all the issues that may knock the project sideways. The purpose of this is specifically so you have the bandwidth to deal with those unforeseen elements that are going knock you sideways no matter what you do to prepare.

This time I want to focus on the inputs of Risk Management, the Risk Identification process, and a specific way to identify risks early in the process that also measures how the project team feels about the feasibility of the project.

Why would a Project Manager want to know how the team is feeling about the likelihood of success? Shouldn’t the team members just put their heads down and get work done? Well, no. Perception is reality, and likely if your team members feel headed for failure, those feelings will manifest themselves into the quality of work and result in a lack of calories burned.

If the team does not feel like the project goals are attainable, then that might be the biggest risk to success the project may face. Regardless if their perceptions are unfounded, the successful Project Manager will Read more of this post

First Things First

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.

“Set priorities for your goals. A major part of successful living lies in the ability to put first things first. Indeed, the reason most major goals are not achieved is that we spend our time doing second things first.”
– Robert J. McKain

Issue management is one of my favorite focus areas for improvement when I look to help clients improve their program or project management capabilities.  Over the last twenty-plus years I have seen scores of initiatives, including large-scale enterprise-wide strategic programs, focus on the basic task of creating list of issues.  Of course, in most cases they utilize a smart looking spreadsheet or even a database to record information.  While these initiatives have done a fair job of capturing some standardized information to populate in the de rigueur fields of the typical tool suites, they have been ineffective at managing the issues.

Data capture is not what issue management is all about.  Issues and action items need to be worked and resolved!

When working with large-scale and troubled projects in one of my earlier lives, I was assigned to a financial systems replacement program for a Fortune 250 company.  The program team had smiles on their faces, when asked about their issue management process, and Read more of this post

Why Projects Succeed: The Movie

Why Projects Succeed is a blog series in which Slalom Business Architect Roger Kastner sheds light on key factors behind the art and science of successful project management and invites readers to discuss how they apply across different environments.

Slalom Consultant Roger Kastner

Roger Kastner is a Business Architect with Slalom Consulting who is passionate about raising the caliber of project leadership within organizations to maximize the value of projects

You’ve read the blog. Now you can watch the movie: Why Projects Succeed, A Checklist of Project Success Factors.

On January 21st of this year, I had the pleasure of giving my “Why Projects Succeed” presentation at the Puget Sound PMI Chapter breakfast meeting.

We videotaped the presentation, and have made it available here.

Please take a look and let me know what you think.

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