ChangeAgent Blog Posts

ChangeAgent Blog
Introducing Stacy Goff

Project Managers are the Change Agents who build tomorrow. Why do we say this? Because we can, and we do! This page introduces you to our ChangeAgents Blog Posts.

What qualifies me to offer these insights? In addition to my consulting firm, I have worked for over 40 years, with our industry’s professional organizations. My purpose for doing so: to create beneficial change–both for their members, and for society. Thus, the wide-ranging set of topics in this blog series.

Key to beneficial societal change are two professional organizations with whom I have engaged:

Beyond certifications, our thrust, for over 40 years, is to improve the Competence of Project Managers. This improves their initiatives, their results, their stakeholders’ satisfaction, and their organizations’ success.

Learn more about competence–beyond knowledge and exam cramming–by reading our wide-ranging blog posts and articles. We also suggest that you review the success stories here on our website. Meanwhile, if you have comments about our blog posts, I’d love to hear them! Please use our Contact Us page, to give us your feedback.

This page provides links, in newest-first sequence, to our ChangeAgent Blog Posts. Enjoy!

Click this link to see more ChangeAgent Blog Posts, from July 2009, to May 2011.

Introducing A Very Interesting New Book!

Cornelius' Book CoverI have the pleasure of introducing a very interesting new book, by Cornelius Fichtner: The 50 PMP® Exam Prep Questions Everyone Gets Wrong.

About Cornelius

Cornelius has served tens of thousands of managers and practitioners with his services. He explores, working with a wide range of industry experts, all facets of project management.

Cornelius has offered, for many years, his informative and entertaining, PM Podcast (

That service was so successful that several years later he formed a new company around the concept. This second initiative is The Project Management PrepCast. He followed that up with a third offering: The PrepCast PM Exam SimulatorTM.

And now, Cornelius has published his first book!

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Does Knowledge Want To Be Managed?

This topic was inspired during a trans-Atlantic air travel dialogue with a young lady seatmate whose job responsibilities included Knowledge Management in an alternative energy company. We explored, and brought together, a range of the relevant terms and disciplines involved with knowledge acquisition, assimilation, retention, and application. Upon my return, and reflecting on the unresolved parts of our discussion, I scheduled an interview with Knowledge. This was more difficult than I thought, even though I had long-ago attributed traits of anthropomorphism to her. Finding Knowledge was easy. Getting dedicated time to interview her was the difficult part. Her? Of course, Knowledge is feminine in gender. Some men don’t really understand more than Facts, the younger step-brother of Knowledge.

Our Interview with Knowledge

My first question was the title of this posting. She asserted that “No one ever asked me!”  Then, she explained that many of those purporting to “manage knowledge” do have some insights, but most do not understand the entire story. And she pointed out that Knowledge is only one member of her large family of Intelligence, and some of her senior siblings are even less-understood than she. For example, her Grandmother is Wisdom. Finally, she asserted her deep concern that there are whole industries, educational systems, software support, and even certifications based on just her part of her family.

While some, such as Peter Senge, come close to deep understanding, many of his followers only grasp the obvious parts. And, especially disconcerting to Knowledge was her belief that man has had few new insights about her for several thousand years, since the illuminations in China, India, Greece and Egypt. The interview, while wide-ranging and deep in content, was a firehose blast of perspective, all absorbed in a 15 second interview. Ms. Knowledge had other pressing commitments elsewhere.

The Taxonomy of Data

The interview led me to reflect on my own journey toward Knowledge and the rest of her family many years ago. In the 1970s I performed presentations to various professional groups. One of my favorite presentations, especially for groups involving data and information systems, was The Taxonomy of Data. I did not invent the concept; I had read something in 1974 that inspired me.

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PM in the Gig Economy Advantages and Risks

The first 20 years of the 21st century have seen increased interest in PM In The Gig Economy. This has been estimated to be in full force by 2020 or 2025. We are now less than a year away from the first of those targets. Let’s imagine we have perfected all the actions needed to make Project Managers successful in the Gig Economy! What is it like?

Status Check: We are in the Gig Economy when…
A. The most successful enterprises accomplish much of their project work through contracts.
B. A high percentage of the best Gig Project Managers successfully bid on well-planned contracts.
C. Project teams are staffed in the same way; they bid on projects as team members.
D. Most meetings are virtual, using three-dimensional augmented reality immersion.
E. Of course, all communication is supported by 5G (Fifth Generation) wireless systems.

What are the advantages of PM In The Gig Economy?

A. Enterprises that engage proven ‘Gig Project Managers’ consistently get superior results, faster, and at lower cost.
B. Those project professionals who have mastered all needed competences thrive.
C. Executives who contract with them trust them more than their internal staff, an unfortunate situation.
D. Gig Agents, operating like movie star agents, match professionals with open gigs—for a fee.
E. Enterprises can access ‘Gig Reviews,’ much like on Amazon, to see performance reviews of candidates.
F. The best contract Project Managers earn GIGantic fees, based in part on project performance rewards.

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What Is Project Management?

In project management workshops, I often kick off each class with questions for table-teams to answer as a group, then report to the class:

Definition of Project Management

1. What is your definition of a project?
2. How does a project differ from other work?
3. What is project management?

I began this practice long before Max Wideman’s PMBOK, and Duncan’s PMBOK® Guide. Despite efforts of practitioners and professional associations, there remains a wide variety of answers to my third question, What is project management?

After the teams report, I proclaim that each team’s answers were excellent. I also say, that, at the end of the class, I will share my answer to that third question, which is in the graphic at right.

I will parse this simple twelve-word sentence, and see if we can add any new insights for you, our reader. 

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PMR Interview: Small Projects

In July 2018, Project Management Review (PMR, in China) published an interview with me. The interview appeared in their online magazine, their paper magazine, and in PM World Journal. This PMR interview is about Small Projects.

An Interview

PMR: You’ve mentioned that the secret weapon of high-performing project teams is small projects. What is the logic behind this statement?

For many organizations, small projects are an invisible 20-35% of their entire annual expenses. Funding usually comes from an operations budget, and staffing is not based on prioritized portfolios. Instead, it is based on ‘who isn’t doing anything important right now?’ Most organizations don’t even have a definition of what constitutes a small project! And, they fail to apply a consistent approach for identifying, prioritizing, delivering, and evaluating their success.

I noted this in the early 1980s, as I was coaching my clients to develop portfolios of their projects. I saw, in the most-advanced organizations, an understanding that small projects needed different treatment than larger ones. For example, they often solved symptoms, rather than spending the time to understand underlying causes. Many times, the same symptoms occurred dozens of times. Eventually, someone would realize it was far too expensive to continue doing repetitive ‘quick fixes.’ Then, they would finally understand the root cause, and permanently cure the problem.

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Everything I Know About Project Time Management

Everything I Know About Project Time Management: During the 2000s, we published a series of articles on the “Vital Signs” of project management. We included insights on project time, cost, risk, quality, scope, talent, communication, and stakeholder engagement.

Our 2008 article, “Everything I Know About Project Time Management, I Learned In Sports Car Racing,” was one of the most popular of the bunch. It remains so today, ten years later. So on this tenth anniversary of its publishing, we highlight that article.

Stacy Driving his FIat 124 Spyder, At Seattle International Raceway

Since its  publishing, this article has been the basis for keynotes and webinars, and for chapter meetings and project team discussions.

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What Makes IPMA’s Certifications Stand Out?

What Makes IPMA’s Certifications Stand Out? To help you decide which project and program management certifications are best for you, and to show why ours stand out, we researched and published an article on the subject. This post is an introduction to the article; see the full article download link below.

This fresh new analysis helps to balance misinformed impressions seen elsewhere on the web. As credited in the article, we based the analysis on three independent studies and reports.

The full article, in Adobe Acrobat pdf format, is available here on our website: Comparing PM Certifications. Below are a few of the highlights from the article.

Everywhere you look, on the web, in magazine ads and articles, and in some training companies’ marketing materials, you see them. The wide range of assertions about the value of a variety of project and program management certifications. What is a decision-maker to think? Are there rational ways to evaluate and compare the myriad offerings?

Three factors show why IPMA's Certifications Stand Out

To explore the differences between the many PM certifications, we evaluated the factors that make a difference in their effectiveness. The result: our Certification Effectiveness Cube, a representation of three factors that are important in evaluating any certification:

A. Prerequisites
B. Breadth of Coverage
C. Rigor of Assessment

The full article (link below) explores those three factors, or criteria. It also acknowledges that popularity is also an important consideration. And, the article also reveals an interesting relationship between popularity and effectiveness.

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We Bring Back Our PM Pills!

We first offered our PM Pills in 1983, and they were a popular hit! They were merely candy in pill bottles, with tongue-in-cheek labels. Even six years after our first release, we occasionally saw the bottles on our clients’ office shelves. We also released a series for IPMA (the International Project Management Association), and they were very much in-demand.

The Talent Series

The latest release is based on our recent series of articles, webinars, and blog posts on Project Talent. You can see our latest article, Acquiring, Developing, and Retaining Project Talent, here on our website. Inspired by the four Talent Areas in our Talent Tetrahedron–in our chart, they looked like M&Ms–we ordered the right colors, printed labels, and filled the pill bottles.

We Bring Back Our PM Pills!

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You Might Be a Project Manager If…

You Might Be a Project Manager If… Several years ago, I had a bit of fun with the title of this posting. I suggested the usefulness of this Jeff Foxworthy take-off for project managers and business analysts to a good friend, Tom Hathaway. He followed through with it at his website, BA Experts. Click his link and see Tom’s results; I think he did a great job!

Graphic Results from IPMA-USA's PM-SATThis year, the “You might be …” set-up came to mind as I was putting the finishing touches on an update to IPMA-USA’s PM-SAT. PM-SAT is a self-assessment of knowledge. It is based on the new, 4th Edition of the IPMA Individual Competence Baseline. What makes this 4th Edition especially interesting is the inclusion of 2-5 Key Competence Indicators for each competence element.

But, before we get into that, and for those who are unfamiliar with the genre, let’s explore the Foxworthy theme. It started with a rather crude statement, then a series of ‘interesting’ indicators. For example, “You might be a Redneck if…”  This was followed by something like, “The taillight covers of your car are made of red tape.” Cute, and fun; and not too outrageous. It occurred to me that people who are friends of project managers probably have the same sayings about us. But are they are too polite to divulge them to our faces.

Re-purposed For Project Managers

You might be a project manager if …
a. You always show up for meetings, dates, or parties, on time. No matter what.
b. When driving, you always watch traffic 3-4 cars ahead.
c. You know how to develop the winning business case to get needed talent.
d. You are really good at creating a shopping list but expect your significant other to do the shopping.

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Imagine a World Where All Projects Succeed

Succeed, and you should win a Trophy!I have used this article’s title as my kick-off phrase at many project-related keynotes and presentations over the last few years. Most audiences immediately “lean into” the thought, and its ramifications. For example, in Moscow, Hong Kong, Beijing, Tianjin, Brussels, and in the USA, my audiences immediately took notice. They immediately became engaged, and were eager to hear more.

This August (2015) was the first exception I’ve had to that typical reaction: As I voiced the introductory statement, I immediately detected disbelief among many in my audience. This was at one of the USA’s best PM Symposiums. This is one of the best because of the high-level audiences, the speaker selection process, and excellent event organization.

My Reaction

When I sensed this audience’s disbelief, I immediately asked a question. “How many think this (for all projects to succeed) is even possible?” Less than a quarter raised their hands. So I launched into an extended introduction, pointing out that …

  • Project managers cannot improve project (and business) success just by working harder. Most of us are already working our hearts out.
  • Nor can we improve performance by sending people to still more training.
  • Our team members? They are not only committed to our projects—they are over-committed.
  • And our stakeholders? They are engaged, and expect us to continue to make miracles happen.

No, (I asserted) it is our layers of managers, from first-level to the executive suite, who hold the keys to higher levels of success. And (I said), the purpose of this presentation is to the key insights that help organizations improve PM performance—and business success. The paper that supports that presentation is available here on our website. It is also at PM World Journal. However, the purpose of this article is to further explore this question of disbelief.

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Prototyping and Agile: Twins, Separated at Birth?

Agile TightropePrototyping and Agile: Twins, Separated at Birth? We have written before about the intelligent application of Agile methods in Information Technology (IT) projects. See part 3 of our 4-part 2011 series, The First 10% of a Project: 90% of Success, here in our ChangeAgents articles. This article is a follow up with more insights. And, much has happened since our earlier article.

Agile is now maturing, and moving beyond the last-half-of-the-IT-life-cycle. For example, we have seen excellent discussions on the “hybrid” approach. This involves using Agile where it is most appropriate (and where the prerequisites are in place). It also involves using other insightful pm methods where they are more appropriate. That approach in IT, plus increasing use of Agile concepts in areas such as New Product Development, shows promise.

I do still have concerns about a few of the agile zealots who insist upon contrasting Agile to Waterfall. Competent PMs moved away from “pure” Waterfall in the early 1980s. We also disposed, for the most part, of years-long, hold-your-breath-and-wait-forever IT projects. And, we eliminated the reams of never-used unneeded documentation–retaining only the useful stuff. What did we replace these 1960s-era artifacts with? Three-to-six-month, intensive bursts (we called them iterations) that delivered prioritized useful business functions.

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Exploding the Myth of PM Best Practices

Everyone expects Best PracticesExploding the Myth of PM Best Practices: What are the Best Practices in the world of project and program management (PPM)? Are there a few immutable truths that are transferable across nations, organizations, industries, cultures, and project teams? I often see assertions promoting PM Best Practices. This despite my belief that the phrase is an oxymoron. That our discipline is not yet mature enough to have universal best practices. This article recaps discussions on best practices in my years as a PM practitioner, then as a consultant.

My opinions about PM Best Practices go back to the early 1980s. In that era, as a PPM consultant, I frequently encountered executives, line managers, project managers, and other consultants. They expected to hear my handful of easy-to-implement “PM Best Practices.” In that era, I often made recommendations for improved effectiveness, but I called them “Competitive Practices.” And I usually sought, uncovered, and identified those smartest practices from within their own organizations. I understood over thirty years ago that one organization’s best practices could be a scourge for others. Here’s why…

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My First Project Portfolio

Many years ago (1970), in a Data Processing group in a local government organization we had several large projects. And, we also had a huge backlog of maintenance, support, and “quick fix” projects. For this backlog of projects, the priorities continually changed. The changes were so frequent that we could plan our week’s work on Monday, but by Friday, little of that work was complete. Why? Because of many new, “even more urgent” projects, and because of priority changes in our backlog.My First Portfolio

We addressed this challenge by prototyping a solution: Keeping track of our “backlog” in (of all things) a box of punched cards. That was a primary input to many computer systems in those days. After we perfected the information we needed to track, we began to use an online version. In that era, online often meant a simple listing of card images on an 80-character screen. Unfortunately, our solution did little more than depress us—the backlog kept growing.

An Inspiration

And then, several new books on Time Management emerged. After reading a few, we added Urgency and Importance fields to our backlog list, with entries limited to 1, 2 and 3. 1 was most important or most urgent, and so on. We used 1, 2 and 3, because they could be easily averaged. And, we required that all the entries must average 2, to force a sense of high, medium and low Urgency and Importance. Otherwise, everything would soon become Priority 1, destroying the value of the system.

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Learning PM Success Secrets From Product Managers

Learning PM Success Secrets From Product Managers: In the early 1990s, a corporate executive and I were talking about the talent in his organization, and he asked me a question: “What’s the difference between a project manager and a product manager?” I knew he had his own answer already, so I asked him: “I can think of a dozen differences, but what do you think is the difference?”

He replied, “The Product Manager has a personality.”

I was shocked. As a practicing project manager and consultant, his reply stung. But then, this company was a major Aerospace/Defense contractor. And, despite the soft skill initiatives of the 1980s, some legacy Project Engineers were still not known for their interpersonal skills. But to make such a blanket statement? Even by 1990, I had had worked with thousands of project managers having great interpersonal skills—and personality galore!

Product Management Body of KnowledgeA Product BOK

I was reminded of this discussion several years ago, when PM Consultant Gary Heerkens contacted me. He suggested that I should assist in a new initiative, to develop a Product Management Body of Knowledge. Gary put me in touch with Greg Geracie, who had completed a useful and popular book, Take Charge Product Management). Now, Greg was working with a professional Product Management organization on a Body of Knowledge project.

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It’s More Than Project Take-off and Landing

It’s More Than Project Take-off and Landing: In a previous post, Let’s Start at the Start, and Finish at the Finish, we left a teaser at the end. It’s the paragraph about the parts of an airplane flight that requires the most pilot skill. We were “piloting” our parallel concepts for a paper we were writing for the August 14-15 UTD PM Symposium. This event, hosted by University of Texas at Dallas, the PMI Dallas Chapter, and PM World Journal, is always one of the best PM events each year. I have participated in each of the events since they began, and they are always outstanding. Now I offer the rest of the parallel concept.

Five Crucial Value-add Timings and Results

Managing a project is much like piloting an aircraft. There are several crucial timings where deft leadership, talent, quick reactions and redirection are essential for success. There are other timings when we can run on “cruise control” and perhaps, even take part in completing project work packages or other actions.

More than take-off and landing

And just when are those crucial timings?

Clearly, as illustrated in the photo at right, take-off (and landing) are among the crucial timings. And how does our piloting analogy relate to projects? Project take-off must begin with an effective Kick-off meeting—the first get-together of the team. And the landing? That has to be the Project Closure & Review, with review of results, then reallocation of the team to new projects. The results of these two crucial timings may be obvious, to some, In projects they include, for Kick-off, all stakeholders safely aboard the project, buckled in, and with a clear sense of direction, timing, commitment, and intended result. 

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Let’s Start at the Start, and Finish at the Finish!

Start at The Start, and Finish at the Finish! One of the greatest challenges in managing projects is engaging the full project life cycle. We too-often see practitioners who believe that the “real project” starts at execution of a preconceived solution. These folks seem to believe that the business case, stakeholder engagement, clear and measurable requirements, are a gift from above. Also often missing are solution delivery staging, alternative solutions and approaches, and other essential-to-success actions.

Similarly, many project teams escape to other projects late in the project, before success is even evident. Crucial actions remain, such as defect correction, warranty period adjustments, and follow-on change orders. These all increase the return on investment of successful projects, and proof that you met the business need, and supported your sponsor’s strategy.

starting and ending projects in the middleGiven this syndrome, these sadly misinformed project managers and teams should chart their projects’ more like the one at left. After all, they are starting and ending their part of the project in the middle!

Starting and ending projects correctly
Meanwhile the more-savvy project teams follow a more effective, more success-oriented approach. This starts at the start, and finishes at the finish. It is shown at the right.

Why do less-effective teams skip the most important parts?

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Are You a PRO or an Amateur?

Performance Rated OrganizationThe tongue-in-cheek title of this article, as many will recognize, refers to PRO, the Performance Rated Organization standard. This is one of the few organizational PM assessments that is not just another maturity model. Not that we dislike Maturity Models. We have used SEI CMM/CMMi for (gee, approaching 40) years.  And, we like it a lot for Information Technology organizations.

Our purpose with this article is to introduce a more effective model, to move organizations from amateurish results in project management. The target is a more performance-driven approach that delivers the intended business benefits—in all projects and programs.

We believe that organizational project management effectiveness is not an arena for maturity levels. It is more like a performance chain—one that is as strong as its weakest link. What brings this article to mind are several recent events. First, we have seen an increased interest in PRO. Next, and this is probably related, we broadened our intellectual property rights. Last December, we moved PRO to a more open license. Now, anyone can use Pro, and can build upon our efforts.

The PRO Standard now uses the Creative Commons License. You are free to:

  • Share — copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format.
  • Adapt — remix, transform, and build upon the material.
  • For any purpose, including commercial use.

See PRO, on the IPMA-USA website.

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You’ve Found Mission Possible!

Mission Possible! Two recent experiences resulted in the title of this article: First, we were recently in Russia to keynote a very successful Project Management conference. Second, we recently saw the latest updates in Project Management Institute’s “Are You Ready?” campaign. For the last few years, they have been pivoting to embrace a different foundation for learning and certification. These are the leadership/behavioral and context/strategic linkage aspects long-advocated by IPMA, International Project Management Association.

I especially appreciate this pivoting action because these were our PM consulting firm’s key differentiators from the early 1980s. Our clients’ success was based on their early embrace of the importance of these demonstrated competences. And, I have long-fought for the consistent application of these factors that make the greatest impact in project and organizational success. It’s about time all professional associations recognize the importance of these factors for success!

Project Management 2013: Mission Possible!

The conference, organized by infor-media Russia, and held in Moscow, was very well-managed, interesting, and informative. Among the most interesting parts was the level of experience of most participants. The were truly outstanding, compared to many events I have participated in. It is an audience similar to the high level of the UT Dallas PM Symposium, the PMO Symposium, and of course, our IPMA World Congress. As kick-off keynote speaker, my primary role was completed early in the event (except for a panel later in the morning). After my contributions, I had the opportunity to relax, observe and enjoy the other presentations.

Why was I in Russia, keynoting a major PM conference? Because this is a highly visible event, and SOVNET, IPMA-Russia, arranged for me to bring the IPMA global perspective, with one of my “Stacy speeches”. SOVNET President Alexey Polkovnikov and past IPMA Executive Board member Alexandr Tovb arranged for me to participate in the conference. They also assured that I could see some of the major attractions of Moscow.

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“It’s a lot more fun when you are up there!”

It’s a lot more fun! The title of this article comes from a comment by a young lady at the 2013 IPMA World Congress, held in Dubrovnik, Croatia. I spoke a number of times in the Congress in my role as IPMA Global VP of Marketing & Events. In most of those sessions, I co-hosted with Prof. Mladen Radujkovic, President of IPMA. Together, we make a very good presentation team. And, I agree with the young lady: It is a lot more fun for me too, when I am up there!

Four events in two months

This was a relatively slow year for my speaking activities—until July, when a series of invitations popped up. First was an opportunity to do a keynote presentation in Wuhan, China. Next, a long-planned presentation at the UTD PM Symposium, sponsored by University of Texas-Dallas, PMI®-Dallas, and PMWorld Journal. Then, webinar on Stakeholder Engagement for Project Management Institute’s IS Community of Practice. And of course, the IPMA World Congress.

The UTD PM Symposium continues as one of the best US regional PM events of the year. Last year I presented the IPMA Keynote; this year, we brought in Jesus Martinez Almeda (Spain). Jesus regaled the audience with his insights into global project management. My stream session covered Stakeholder Engagement, so I pointed out the differences between being engaged versus managed. I also regaled the audience with my racing days, showing how my team and sponsors are also stakeholders.

IPMA China Keynotes

Our keynote in China was for PMRC, IPMA-China. I performed the 2011 keynote for the PMRC Congress in Xi’an, China, and China is always a rewarding experience for a speaker. Because of the small pauses due to sequential translation, I could observe the roomful of participants, gauging the audience reaction. Of course, the choice of translator helps: PMRC Leader Xue Yan performed translation. She is a great friend and past IPMA Executive Board member; her translation was excellent. In Wuhan, my keynote followed Mladen’s keynote, and again we established a complementary sequence of similarities and contrasts.

PMI’s IS CoP webinar was a special challenge: Over three thousand hopeful participants signed up, with only a thousand seats available (first arrived, first served). And while I have spoken to well over a thousand people in one room, speaking online to that many people scattered all over the world is a bit different. How do you keep people engaged, excited, and benefiting from the session, rather than checking their email? I decided that the key is to establish key points in the session that involved participants in responding to questions.

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Efficiency and Effectiveness in PM

Efficiency and Effectiveness in PM, the theme of the PMRC, IPMA-China, Congress held August 24-25 2013, in Wuhan China, inspired this article. The full title was Efficiency and Effectiveness in Project Management, and both Mladen Radujkovik, IPMA President, and I presented keynotes. This article provides more details on the first half of my topic, Balance Efficiency and Effectiveness With Actionable Project Information.

Efficiency Awareness

The 1960s were the era of the Efficiency Expert. These were people with training or skills in process optimization, who then moved into productivity improvement, which became a buzzphrase of the 1970s. In the mid-1970s, practitioners merged productivity improvement with interpersonal skills. This became the foundation of the systems analyst or business analyst of the 1980s. Look how far we’ve come! Today we have certifications for people who demonstrate many of these skills—and more. Efficiency became part of an entire gamut of systems engineering disciplines. Efficiency is clearly important.

But, do we consistently apply Efficiency? Not really! In fact, the “re-engineering of the organization” in the 1980s and 1990s was not RE-engineering at all. It was the first-ever true engineering of poorly-designed processes, randomly piled on top of other processes during the ’70s and ’80s. The efficiency focus benefited projects, because many project managers brought efficiency and productivity into their projects. How do I know? I learned from some of the best during that time.

One problem with this emphasis on efficiency was evident in many organizations’ initiatives over the last 50 years. We can go overboard—sometimes focusing so much on efficiency that we forget about effectiveness. Part of this is because it is easier to look at efficiency; easy to identify it; to measure it. You see, efficiency by itself can be dangerous: If you look up Efficiency Expert on Wikipedia, one section notes: see also Layoffs.

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Do Project Managers Need Business Analysts?

Do Project Managers Need Business Analysts (BA)? Well, it depends! It depends on your application area—aerospace versus information technology versus construction, and so on. It depends on the size of the project—in smaller projects, the project manager must be a renaissance person. One person who is able to do almost everything else, in addition to managing the project.

What raises this question is a Business Analysis Skills Evaluation (BASE) self-assessment that our friends at BA Experts developed. First, a disclosure. I have known and worked with Tom Hathaway, principal at BA Experts, for over 30 years. Tom was an early adopter of the IIBA®, International Institute of Business Analysis body of knowledge and framework.

It is no wonder that he embraced the IIBA initiative: He’s done business systems analysis training, coaching, and consulting, since the early 1980s. And, as well, he continues his work in accelerated analysis facilitation, methodology development, and project management. But this is the back-story; let us tell a little bit more about our experience and discoveries when we took the BASE assessment.

Getting to First BASE

Tom knows of my interests in learning and development, and with self-assessment tools, and with their subject, business analysis. He notified me when their BASE self-assessment went live on their website. So I went to their website. See their introduction and link to BASE. I clicked that blue Get me to first BASE! button, registered (it requires your name and email address), and completed the self assessment.

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Horse Racing and Project Team Parallels

Horse racing parallels: Saturday’s (May 18, 2013) excitement in the USA’s Preakness horse race made me think of the project parallels. Those are the similarities between the players in the horse-racing “sport,” and in successful projects. Each player fills an essential role in both cases, but it is the integration of all the roles that makes for success. And still, unanticipated events can cause even a “sure thing” to fail. I am not a horse racing enthusiast. But, I will admit to being drawn in this year to the latest “Triple Crown” contender (a horse winning the big three racing events).

Horse Racing Roles

Horse RacingIt is the Horse that wins the race, right? Well, not so fast (so to speak). A fast horse, in most cases, is a key to success, but the Jockey has a key role as well. That role includes deep understanding and communication with the horse. It also includes the in-race tactics that require instantaneous judgements when situations change.

This weekend, Orb, the “sure bet,” Kentucky Derby-winning horse was hemmed in at the rail. Neither he nor his jockey could navigate to the outside, where he could regain his stride. Even the most talented jockey and a stellar horse cannot always assure success.

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Navigating the S’s in Our Projects

Navigating the S’s: I recall from my days of Sports Car racing in the 1970s the importance of aggressively, yet smoothly, navigating “the Esses.” These were the sections of the racetrack with a series of somewhat gentle left and right turns. If you looked at them from above, they looked likeRacing SSS's several repeated capital letter S’s, laid down. The other competences of racing included preparation, apexing correctly, mastering the braking and acceleration points. Of course, all while maintaining steely focus and concentration, and strategic competitiveness. But even with all that, one’s performances through the Esses often made the difference between winning and losing. The reason: This is where the most-competent drivers gain the most speed.

The analogy is similar in projects. In projects, the Esses, or S’s, as shown in the title, include: Stakeholders, Sponsors, Sustainability and Success. And just as in racing, these appear to be gentle curves that the project throws at you. But, competent and performing project managers know they are far more than that. They are the places where you can achieve the most project momentum.

Project Stakeholders

Everyone knows that Stakeholders are important in projects, yet too many project teams do a poor job of aligning with them. They fail to understand their needs, and fail to deliver to them. This is of interest for some, as the ISO Standard for project management adds Stakeholders as one of the key Subject Groups. And, the PMBOK® Guide’s 2013 release also now includes Stakeholder Management as a knowledge area. Of course, many of us have long recognized Stakeholder savvy as a key performance area. This insight has been key to project success for decades.

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Public Speaking — Without PowerPoint

Public Speaking – Without PowerPoint, is an observation I’ve made, about speakers and trainers who depend too much on PowerPoint slides. And, in my past, I am also an offender. For over 40 years, I have used slides in presentations, first using transparencies, with a light-box projector. Later, I used portable computers. Today, I can do so with an easy-to-carry tablet, connected to small projectors.

This article acknowledges the challenges involved in reducing OPD, Overwhelming PowerPoint Dependency, in public presentations. By the way, this is not a diatribe against PowerPoint. Used correctly, it remains a very useful tool. But this year I had three occasions where I could not use PowerPoint and its projected images. These are the times I had to Speak –Without PowerPoint. They are the occasions that include Lew Ireland’s funeral, the Helsinki PMAF Congress, and my own Father’s funeral. Below are my insights from each.

Public Speaking – Without PowerPoint: Lew Ireland’s Funeral

I participated in IPMA-USA co-founder and past President Lew Ireland’s funeral last Spring. John Colville and I attended. It was clear that Lew’s neighbors, friends had little idea of the massive contributions Lew made, over a 30+ year period. I believe that Lew’s greatest impact is in the improvements he made, to the practice of professional project management. So I included the testimonies of people from all over the world in Lew’s Eulogy.

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Dinner Speech at PMAF Congress, Helsinki, part 2

PMAF Congress Dinner Speech: We suggest that you begin with Part 1 of this post.  It includes a summary of points made at the Dinner meeting of the PMAF (Project Management Association Finland) national congress.

3. Highlights of IPMA Services and Product

The IPMA Competence Baseline, ICB, is the foundation for advanced application of the practice of project management. It is our profession’s key to moving beyond tested knowledge, to demonstrate competence and business results. And it uniquely focuses not just on technical aspects of project management, but the essential ingredients of success. Our followers know our position on this: the interpersonal skills and contextual savvy it takes to achieve project success.

That said, our 4-L-C, advanced Four-Level Certification system, assesses and recognizes demonstrated competences. And, not just for one role, but for increasingly higher levels or roles. Those include:

  • Certified Project Manager
  • Certified Senior Project Manager
  • Program Manager
  • Senior Program Manager and
  • Projects Director

While recognizing individuals who produce results is smart, we don’t stop there. Successful project teams are the most valuable talent in any project oriented organization. Our Project Excellence Awards program recognizes the world’s most effective project teams. We participate in a rigorous evaluation, where independent, professional assessors evaluate both PM processes and business results. Successful teams can benchmark their performance against other winners, and further improve their results.

Highlighting IPMA-Delta

At the organization level, IPMA Delta assesses the strengths and areas for improvement of the entire organization. This helps Member Associations to grow stronger relationships with their corporate members. It also helps them to attract new ones, as they see the value in smarter use of their performance improvement funds. And, IPMA Delta helps participating enterprises in their marketing, offering a unique certification of the enterprise’s level of project maturity.

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Dinner Speech at PMAF Congress, Helsinki, part 1

Dinner Speech at PMAF Congress: In November 2012, we traveled to Helsinki, Finland, to represent IPMA, International Project Management Association, to “wave our flag.” The occasion: the PMAF (Project Management Association Finland) national congress. Hosts Heikki Lonka, President, and Jouko Vaskimo, Certification Chair, leveraged our visit. They signed us up for meetings with their organizational and certification leadership teams, added two presentations, and two panel sessions. The most challenging addition: a dinner meeting presentation to address six areas of special interest to PMAF members.

Most dinner meeting participants are usually more interested in visiting with friends they have not seen for months or longer. They tend not to want to listen to some dignitary from afar, droning on about topics of little interest. But Heikki was adamant that it was important to “wave the IPMA flag,” so we accommodated him. PMAF expected around 250 people for this dinner meeting, and there was to be no projector, and no Powerpoint slides. Naked-mic speaking, as it were!

The Topics

The topics to address were:

  1. IPMA’s basic principles
  2. The role of IPMA in support of member associations such as PMAF
  3. Highlights of IPMA’s services and products
  4. The importance of international networks to PMAF and its members
  5. PMAF’s role in the IPMA Family network
  6. What IPMA would like to be in the future

An interesting list of topics, and when asked how much time to take, Heikki said, 15 minutes. A lot of ground to cover in a short time! To prepare, we used IPMA-USA co-founder Lew Ireland’s technique of posting the key thoughts on a series of note cards. Reviewing the notes afterwards, we realized that, while targeted for PMAF, most of the comments are universal. They are appropriate and useful for all our other Member Associations in the IPMA Family.

So you now have the benefit of the starter course for the November 2012 PMAF dinner presentation (an excellent meal, by the way).

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The Importance of Eye Contact In Web Meetings

The Importance of Eye Contact… This year I have done even more webinars and webconferences than in years past. And that is significant, because I have been using these web technologies since 1996. And, as others begin to use these technologies, I observe that some intuitively use them correctly, and some do not. One big example of correct is the challenge of keeping at least occasional eye contact with others.

This question of eye contact is a challenge, because our natural tendency in a web meeting is to watch the other participants on our monitor. But the larger your monitor (or the more monitors you use), the less likely it is that you are maintaining eye contact. We have participated in quite a few meetings where we saw more of the tops of peoples’ heads than their eyes. Why? Because they are looking primarily at the other participants on their monitors, and seldom at the camera.

Why Do We Care?

This sure seems like an obscure topic, doesn’t it? Dear reader must think this is a slow Summer day, with no inspiring Change Agent topics to discuss. Au Contraire! This is an essential topic if you wish to establish trust, communication and credibility in webconferences or webinars. This is especially important with the significant increase in virtual projects, webconferences, and live and prerecorded webinars, that are taking market share from in-person meetings and classes.

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Project Managers: Playing Nice With Others

Playing Nice With Others: Project managers operate in many different contexts, ranging from operational companies with few projects, to project oriented enterprises. Competent and performing project managers not only respect and serve our context, but also manage to get the context–including the permanent organization, to work for us.

One secret to accomplishing that feat–for the permanent organization to work for us—is to look at our efforts and relationships from Executives’ and Managers’ point of view, instead of just a project view. In this article, we will explore facets of those and other views.

The Executive View

Executives view projects and programs as part of their portfolio. Perhaps just a minor part, in some cases; major in others. And from an Executive viewpoint, there are many different disciplines involved with these initiatives. In addition to the Functional Managers, who own the business area, manage much of the talent, and measure the benefits, there are quite a few other players involved with our initiatives, including…

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Do You Manage the Leading or Lagging Factors?

Manage the Leading Factors: We have just returned from the outstanding-as-usual 2012 Resource Planning Summit, organized by the irrepressible Dick Rutledge. I view Dick to be the dean of the PM-related conference providers. Only a few others operate at the same level of excellence. One of the key differentiators of Rutledge’s events is his ruthless demands of his speakers. He insists that we provide clear and valuable audience take-aways, and truly new ideas, as opposed to retreads of tired themes. This time, I experienced those demands first-hand, as I was a presenter–my first opportunity in the four events I have supported.

I targeted my presentation, Tip of the Iceberg: Managing the Entire ‘berg Improves PM Performance, for his audience of key managers and enterprise leaders. It covered project decision-making from the perspective of top Executives–the tip of the iceberg. I identified key practices that Managers in the Middle follow when they add clear value for their executives, project teams and their organizations.

I asserted, as in our article, Project Levers and Gauges, that the most-effective project managers don’t just provide lagging data, they also provide leading information. And, we carried the theme further, pointing out that this leading information is a well-kept secret of the most effective managers of project managers.


But, let’s start with the background. Many are familiar with the old misconceptions of project management, illustrated by the Triple Constraint, or the Iron or Golden Triangle. It often includes Time, Cost and Scope. Sometimes Quality is there instead of Scope. Sometimes Performance is the third parameter, which might include Quality and Scope. So far, so good; but why do we call this a misconception in project management?

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The Importance of Effective Speaking

Last month we wrote about The Importance of Writing Well. This month, we gently approach the topic of Effective Speaking. This is not to be confused with dialogue between persons–that is yet another topic. Instead, this topic involves speaking in front of groups. Actually, that really makes this multiple topics, because different audience sizes require very different skills. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Effective Speaking has received a lot of recent attention. In part, this is because our current US President is perceived  to be an excellent orator. In addition to politics, many situations exist where the ability to speak in a clear and compelling way is a great asset.  Those situations include projects, programs, or any other Change Agent venues.

Great Writer = Great Speaker?

You’d think that great writers would find it easy to also be great speakers. After all, clearly explaining complex topics in ways that everyone understands, is a gift–that should easily transfer to speaking. But ‘taint necessarily so. I recall the excitement, when it first came out, around the book, In Search of Excellence. Tom Peters (and Robert Waterman, Jr.) wrote such a compelling book that everyone wanted him to speak to their company. As I recall, at that time, his speaking skills did not match his research and writing skills. Some people were disappointed.

But, Tom Peters understood: He worked on his Effective Speaking skills. Soon, he was such a great speaker that he had no need to write another book. His speaking, advisory services, and overall message were all so popular. But the question remains: Great Writer = Great Speaker? A web search turns up many interesting discussions, and the results are mixed. Some say “yes!” Some say, “not necessarily so.” 

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Where Did Stakeholder Come From?

Guest Post by IPMA-USA Co-Founder Robert Youker
Where Did Stakeholder Come From? In 2006, Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoelick used the word “stakeholder” when speaking about US/China relations. The Chinese language does not have a corollary word for “stakeholder” and the use of the word led to quite a fuss. The State Department suggested a Chinese phrase meaning “participants with related interests”.

The term stakeholder had come into common usage by the end of the last century, but where did the word come from? One possible source is the person who holds the money or stakes in a bet. Another possibility is in mining prospecting where you drive stakes into the fours corners of the property you want to claim.

Who Are Stakeholders?

Stakeholders are people inside and outside an organization who have a vested interest in a problem and its solution. They can be both positive and negative in their interests. Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, has a good section on the term. In all current project planning a stakeholder analysis is a vital step. But where did the common modern usage of people in “interest groups” come from?

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The Importance of Writing Well

The Importance of Writing Well: For years I’ve used an introductory dialogue for classroom Communication topics. It involves a tee-up: “Based on research done by the US Navy years ago, different people have different preferences in the way they receive information.” And then I write on a flipchart the following, while saying most of these words:

  • 45% Readers
  • 45% Listeners
  • 5% Both
  • 5% Fool

The key is this: While I’d write Fool, I’d say Neither. Typical of American humor.

In a room of 20-25 people, around half would laugh, the others would wonder why they are laughing. It is because some were listening, and others were reading.

Improving Communication Effectiveness

But this little vignette brings up a very important point: Statistically, about half of all people prefer to listen to get their information, and about half prefer to read it. Which are you? The cited statistics say that about 5% do both equally well. But the majority of all participants usually think they are part of that 5%. And too many think their husband/wife/manager/co-worker/customer (pick one) is the last on the list above.

Great communicators seem to intuitively understand the preferences of their audiences. Meanwhile, I resort to using simple models and observation to approximate a similar result. At least, I do when I focus on Conscious Communication, rather than just using my own preferences. In that case, I merely hope that everyone else understands perfectly. Is this Reader/Listener preference why many of us only communicate effectively with half our audiences? And then we wonder what’s wrong with them? Perhaps we can all benefit from a bit more Conscious Communication.

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Project Management: Delivering The Promise

Delivering The Promise: This posting is inspired by the theme of IPMA’s 25th World Congress, Brisbane, Australia, October 10-12 2011. Thanks to the insight and graciousness of the Australians, we are again using the theme one more time. This use, with Aussie permission, will be at the IPMA-USA Congress scheduled for 5 March, 2012, in Washington DC. Nothing like taking a good idea and re-using it multiple times!

First, our thanks to IPMA Member Association AIPM (Australian Institute of Project Management) for a great 2011 IPMA World Congress. And, thank you again for your inspired theme of the Congress: Project Management—Delivering the Promise.

The promise of project and program management is efficient, effective and beneficial change. We as a profession make that promise to four types of audiences:

  • Individual PM Practitioners;
  • Project Teams and Stakeholders;
  • Enterprise Managers and Executives; and to
  • Nations and Society.

Each of these audiences has different needs and different expectations. Let’s explore them.

Our First Audience, Individual PM Practitioners

This audience expects to improve their project performance, while increasing their job satisfaction and career opportunities. To accomplish that, we must move beyond classroom knowledge and testing that brings only short-term results. Why is this important? Based on recent research, the half-life of knowledge acquired but not applied is only two weeks. We must follow classroom training with on-the-job application of that knowledge, with four goals: Develop needed skills, improve behavioral competences, gain end-to-end project experience, and achieve measurable project performance results.

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Five Foundations for Advancement

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

We founded IPMA-USA after having been among the key drivers of success of other professional organizations. One example is 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. A handful of them became our rallying points for needed change. They were also ingredients for our 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;
  • Association governance moved from member-driven to organization-CEO controlled;
  • Emphasis shifted from all pm sectors to favor Information Technology;
  • Training and learning funds appeared to be shifting from project and program performance improvement to test memorization;
  • Levels of engagement shifted from advanced interaction of long-time practitioners to mass-training of simple subjects to newcomers.

Our Founders

Our founders were key to our Five Foundations for Advancement. They were a savvy group of long-time pm practitioners. They came from a variety of backgrounds: Practicing project managers; Managers of project managers; pm consultants and trainers; educators and authors. Some were founders of chapters and officers of other organizations. The average pm industry experience of our founding group in 2001 was around 20 years. Some had been involved for 35 years and more.

Most had earned the Institute’s certification (Lew Ireland wrote its first exam). And we realized that a lot more is needed than an exam to accelerate needed organizational results 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, this dedicated group set out to advance the practice of project and program management in America.

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Stakeholders Benefit From a PM Perspective

Stakeholders Benefit From a PM Perspective: Our recent series of IPMA (International Project Management Association) meetings and events in Asia was rich with opportunities. We met great people, enjoyed dialogue about the benefits of our chosen profession, and gained innumerable insights. Not to mention a wealth of topics for this often-longer-and-deeper-than-normal blog posting.

In this case, the setting was an early Sunday morning flight over the Himalaya mountains of Nepal. Sponsored by PMAN, Project Management Association of Nepal (thank you again!), it was a beautiful morning. On takeoff, we saw the city of Kathmandu waking up. Soaring, and rising above the clouds, we tracked each peak jutting above the clouds. Showing the benefit of a plan, we each had a map of the mountains we would see in our journey from North to South.Stakeholder View

The Stakeholder View

The first mountain we saw barely peeked through the clouds. The next several were progressively higher. From our window seat in the small plane, those on the left side of the plane had a decent view out of the tiny windows. Those on the right had a more obscured view. We all had other obstacles, such as the wing of the plane blocking a portion of the view.

Similarly, in many projects, our key Stakeholders don’t always have the same clear view of the project as does the team. Stakeholders are often part-time participants. They don’t have time to read all the documents, and may miss important meetings, “because of pressing priorities.” They do not have the clear project vision they deserve.

One quick discovery made a difference in our blocked view. If we looked out-and-back, rather than out-and-ahead, the wing was not in the way. This was difficult, because the plane’s route led to ever-increasingly tall mountains. So, we were still often looking, even straining, to see what was coming.

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The Wonders of Emperor Qin’s Project Portfolio

The Wonders of Emperor Qin’s Project Portfolio: This article continues impressions from our recent trip to China. This time, we were there to honor PMRC, the Project Management Research Committee, and to celebrate their 20th Anniversary. We earlier mentioned the TerraCotta Warriors, a must-see adventure for any visitor to this part of China. And, there is much more to know about the founder of Xi’an, the heart of China’s governance for 2000 years.

The Rise Of Emperor Qin

We did our research before our visit, not wanting to be ignorant about this important part of China. Books in English about Xi’an are not as common as those covering Beijing, Shanghai, and other parts of this fascinating nation. Among the books we read, we found a very useful book, Xi’an, Shaanxi and the Terracotta Army. Written by Mooney, Maudsley and Hatherly, it is published by Odyssey Books and Guides, 2009. We liked this book because of its great blend of geology, geography, art, history, politics, and intrigue. Its description was absolutely great, covering the culture, tourist attractions, foods, and other facets unique to the area.

But the most interesting part was the story of Ying Zheng’s ascendance to his father’s throne as King Qin Shi Huangdi. By the way, Qin is pronounced Chin. He came to the throne in the year 246 BCE, and created a portfolio of projects that set the stage for unifying China as a nation. He began this at the age of 13. At that age, he would not yet even qualify for IPMA Young Crew. Over the next 25 years, he brought together (in battle) the Seven Warring States, and became China’s first Emperor.

Before proceeding, let’s clear up a bit about Emperor Qin’s name. Ling was his family name. Qin was the name of the state. Huang came from legends of three saintly sovereigns; Di came from legends of five saintly emperors. Shi? That means, the first. Such branding! Emperor Qin’s lasting impact was only partly based on his strong military power. His Dynasty was relatively short in duration—it expired quickly after he did. It is his wondrous portfolio of project results that has endured–such that still today, over 2000 years later, China benefits from his peoples’ achievements.

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The Rise of Project Management

The Rise of Project Management: This article is about the second half of my recent Asia trip, which in this case features China.

Hong Kong Stopover

I used Hong Kong as my pivot point for multiple flights and connections; it had the best routing for my multiple flights. And, I had not been to Hong Kong since the late 1980s, so it was interesting to see the changes. Internet connections can be difficult in Hong Kong. And a tip: the best that I had in my time there was on airport bus A21, which offers free wireless internet connections!

Everything is far more expensive in Hong Kong than when I last visited. But it still has the same vibe, the same crush of people, and the same unlimited options for meals. As a wine enthusiast, I think I have found the world’s most expensive place to purchase wines–but the selection is grand.

Super Xi’an

I flew to Xi’an to keynote and participate in a conference celebrating 20 years of PMRC, IPMA-China. PMRC is the abbreviated name for Project Management Research Committee. The event was also the 10 year celebration of China’s use of IPMA’s advanced, Four Level PM Certification system. The Conference theme was The Rise of Project Management. IPMA was well-represented by Chair Brigitte Schaden, who spoke on PM Standards, and yours truly. I discussed the differences between organizations where PM rises slowly and those where it rises quickly. Brane Semolic, Research Management Board Chair, and Les Squires, our RMB social/business networking guru, were also at the Xi’an Conference. They organized and held a Festival of Knowledge event (mentioned below).

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Changing the Way Things Are …

Changing the Way Things Are: Two weeks in Asia changes one’s perspective about many things. And when it is as eventful and enlightening as my last two weeks, it can be soaring and exhausting, at the same time. This article is about the first half of my trip, which is in a literally soaring country, Nepal.

PMAN Conference

The occasion was the Project Management Association of Nepal (PMAN) conference, an IPMA member association. The IPMA Executive Board (ExBo) members participated, and spoke at the conference. As we often do, we attend to support and publicize our Member Associations. In this case, we also honored our 2010 Global IPMA Young Project Manager, Shailesh Nepal. Shailesh won this award at the 2010 IPMA World Congress, and it was a tough competition: All the three finalists were great! As an aside, the 2011 Young Project Manager award applications are due June 15. Have you submitted yours?

Each ExBo member who presented has a unique style. This is often the case with organizations that cover the globe. I chose not to use the microphone, and Bill Young, then President of IPMA-Australia, was in the front row. As I started up with my “Stacy voice,” Bill was blown into the 4th row. Taking the hint, I turned down the volume a bit. No one fell asleep during my presentation!

The PMAN leadership team did a great job, pulling together this, their first major conference, in less than 6 months. Congratulations to Saroj, Suraj and Tika, of PMAN, Project Management Association of Nepal!

Meeting Meg

One of our IPMA members, Meg, lives in Nepal with her husband. She is involved with the IPMA Awards program, and will be helping start it in Nepal and in the USA. Meg is also managing the production of new IPMA promotional materials for awards. I enjoyed meeting Meg, after months of emails, and a special pleasure to hear her speak at the conference. She did a great job of proclaiming the strengths of project management in non-technical terms. Her subject was a recent project, assisting Masters with their Masters Theses, She guides candidates in planning, researching, reviewing and on-time completion. Meg is a treasure for Nepal!

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Applying Our Six W’s For Managers In The Middle

About ‘Applying Our Six W’s For Managers In The Middle’, We’ve used the Journalist’s Six W’s for over 25 years now in project kick-off, to help business case analysis. They help to bring all the stakeholders onto the same page. Recently, we were working with a stellar group of Managers in the Middle, those who manage project teams. Wee came up with a new (for us) use of the Six W’s.

Background on the Six W’s

Originally established as part of our PM methodologies in the mid-80’s, we use the Six W’s to perform opportunity analysis. We’ve used our selection of the W’s, in the right sequence, with many, many groups over the years. Those include classes and coaching for project managers, customers, managers and team leads. The W’s we use, in the only correct sequence for project delegation, are: What, Why, Who, Where, When, and How. We admit to playing loose with the w’s. If people point out that How is an H, not a W. We assert that it has its W at the end because How is the last W to understand.

Some of the learning dialogue that accompanies the W’s is that there may be multiple Whens:

  • When does the organization need the result (the must)
  • When can the team deliver it? (the can)

We assert that the competent team can always show how they could beat the must (deliver faster) by 25%. In fact, if they cannot perform this simple analysis, we doubt if they understand enough about the project to manage it successfully: They are not yet competent. This is the type of learning, that causes Executives who see it to ask: “This is powerful stuff! Do our people know how to do this?” The answer is usually something like, yes, they do this in each project they begin. But, you have (for example) six layers of managers between your teams and you, And part of their job is to filter out the information they think you don’t need. But we may be getting ahead of ourselves. We’ll come back to that thread below.

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Knowledge, Performance and the Opposable Thumb

Knowledge and Performance: Last month’s article, where we interviewed Knowledge, and gained many new insights about her and her family, must have been an interesting one. It received even more “hits” than normal, and not just from spammers… The time viewers spent on the page was also higher than most, a good indicator of perceived value—or maybe they were trying to figure out that strange anthropomorphism of Knowledge. I’ll cover a few loose ends on the themes we covered, and finish with the importance of the Opposable Thumb.

Discoveries at the NASA Knowledge Forum

I took last month’s article with me to this year’s Knowledge Forum. I shared the article with Larry Prusak, one of the key people in Knowledge Management (KM) practice. After reading the article, he sent a polite email. He suggested that the data to information to knowledge relationships are more complex than my simple assertions. I agree, and will leave it at that. After all, that was a 30+ year-old story.

At the NASA event, I saw a difference between my naïve understanding, and these really bright people in KM practice. And, there were some striking parallels. For example:

  • My perspective about Knowledge is on the individual side: How individuals grow, develop, and improve their performance. I realized that KM is much more oriented to the organizational accumulation and sharing of knowledge.
  • They view Knowledge along the lines of a complete Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning. At the higher levels, you are dealing with synthesis. They are speaking of “Big K” Knowledge, not drill-and-test memorization—“little k” knowledge. That was a big aha for me.
  • My former KM biases were based on this: Much of my time spent in helping project teams (and organizations) succeed, I spend overcoming the flaws of “little k” knowledge. This is manifested by people who memorize enough to pass an exam, rather than to learn how to apply the topic in a project.
  • In the NASA event final exercise, participants worked in teams to identify ways to improve the success of organizational KM. During that session, I had another aha! moment. We were all identifying exactly the same actions, These are the ChangeAgent actions I have coached executives, project management offices and functional managers in for years. In what context? To help organizations adopt and adapt project management methodologies—to improve organizational PM performance.

The Take-away

The take-away: Project Management and Knowledge Management have many strong parallels. And, success in improving one in your area will also help in improving the other—for those who are so inclined. We saw exactly the same pattern with the successful Quality movements of the 1980s. Here is an example of the mutual reinforcement of KM and PM: Lessons Learned are one of the greatest opportunities for sharing knowledge in any organization. And yet, in many cases, they are merely recorded—then the same “learnings” are repeated in project after project, over again. That shows nobody learned anything. With a KM approach that actually institutionalizes applied prior knowledge, all projects will benefit, and performance will soar.

This is one reason why the best PM methodologies have a unique project kick-off action: Review the Lessons Learned from similar projects, including those with this team, this technology, and this customer. This might be a good KM policy for you to implement in your organization, if you do not already follow this savvy practice.

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The First 10% of a Project: 90% of Success, part 4

90% of Success90% of Success is starting your project right! If you have not reviewed parts 1-3 of this article series, we suggest that you go do that before continuing here. Some following this series are a bit incredulous. One week or less, huh? What a pipe-dream! Some teams spend an entire week and get 10% that much information, much less the needed levels of management commitment. We mentioned our Rapid Initial Planning processes. Many organizations perform this type of quick-start approach today, so our method is no longer anything new. The RIP is a way seek the prerequisites that smart project managers assure for every project.

Case Application: Product Data Management System

In the early 1990s, one of the few remaining US-based military shipbuilding companies had a mandate: Update to an end-to-end PDM (Product Data Management) System, or lose their ability to bid on new warfighter systems. A PDM supports the entire process, from concept, through Design Engineering, to Construction, Sea Trials and Validation, Delivery. Importantly, add Parts Inventory Management for the life of the resulting product; in this case, a warship. One could say that this was an Information Technology project, because IT was involved. We felt it was a business survival  project, because the future of the entire business was at stake. Besides, while their shipyards were vast, their IT staff numbered fewer than 20 people.

My business partner engaged the client for one week, meeting with Business Executives. They performed an intensive Data Requirements-gathering session, papering the walls with all aspects of their ship-building business. These busy Executives dedicated an entire week, full-time, to understand everything about the ingredients of success for their business.

The following week, we went in, and spent four days working with that same group. We used our Project Initiation Rapid Initial Planning session. In a totally non-technical way, we parsed the massive program into subprojects. We based the subprojects primarily on timing and sequence of information flow across the organization. Then, we identified and measured scope of each project in the program, and discussed strategies and approaches. We evaluated use of software packages, and contracting out to “Big Six” consultancies who had relevant experience. Next, we identified assumptions and estimated cost and duration of the project multiple ways. Last, we stepped back, identified risks and responses, and developed project plans for each phase of each project of the program. All in three and half days.

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The First 10% of a Project: 90% of Success, part 3

Success, Part 3: In the first two parts of this series, we discussed the timing and actions of the first portion of any successful project. We made assertions about a number of useful actions, that some people might find to be overwhelming. Is it really necessary to do “all that stuff?” Could some be skipped? Certainly, you could skip much of that, and “hero” your way through every project. Many organizations still operate that way, even after 25+ years of smarter approaches. Yet, there are exceptions, counterpoints and illustrations of the assertions we made in the first two parts of this subject.

Success, Part 3, With Agile PM

Agile PM is thought to be a “new thing,” often proclaimed as an alternative to BDUF, Big Definition Up Front mentality. Despite the claims of newcomers, Agile PM began, not in the mid-1990s, but in the early 1980s. We were early advocates of Ken Schwaber’s Scrum in the early 90s, and Kent Beck’s work with Extreme Programming. But way before those advancements, there were groups that were in favor of leaner PM methods:

  1. Development-oriented talent, who did not understand the importance of the fuzzy front end of a project. They disdained early estimating, funding and staffing actions, requirements definition and design alternatives. Often, their resistance to these actions was fierce, because they obviously didn’t generate code. Thus, delayed getting to the good part of the project. Indeed, many of the “new agile methods” of the mid-1990s repeated this theme. I recall heated disagreements about understanding the existing situation, the flow of data, and business processes. Why? Because “any adept developer can respond to those discoveries.”

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The First 10% of a Project: 90% of Success, part 2

Success, part 2: If you have not reviewed part 1, with the project scenario, go do that before continuing here. Hopefully, you analyzed the scenario and answered the question, at least for yourself, about the additional take-aways from the scenario. They include:

  • The importance of taking the latency out of the period from project inspiration to initiation.
  • The value of clearly defined preliminary scope and business benefits from prioritization forward.
  • Confidence that, when you identify the talent and their needed availability, that you actually get it.
  • The impact of Customer/Manager engagement early in the project.
  • Assuring that the project team hears the project owner’s statement of its importance.
  • Verbal reassurance by the Resource Managers of all team members, about the project’s priority.
  • A focus on achieving Benefit Realization.
  • Partnering with internal customers from project initiation to benefit realization—and the celebration for achieving those benefits.

And those are just the obvious ones, from our year-old scenario. There are many other things to assure that  you achieve in the first 10% of any project. Or, as we discussed in our corollary to Goff’s Law #1, that you should verify on the first day you are on any project. Let us take a look at those precious early ingredients of success.

Success, part 2: Early Ingredients

This list of early results is for a medium or larger project. It is in addition to the take-aways from the scenario discussed above. Project teams that assure that they complete these project ingredients consistently achieve project success:

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The First 10% of a Project: 90% of Success, part 1

Success, part 1: We have long asserted that “doing the right things” in the first 10% of any project is 90% responsible for project success. There are over 250 unpublished “Goff’s Laws,” that provide insights on key parts of this first 10%, and beyond. Those insights include:

“1. You can get away with anything, on the first day of your project.”

The dialogue around this law (just a common-sense observation) assures that you can move any deadline, and ask for any budget. And, you can obtain unobtainable talent, or anything you need, if you identify that need on the first day of the project. Especially if you have not yet said, “Yes! I will do this project!”

There is a corollary to the above Goff’s Law, that can be of some comfort to those who are assigned somewhat later in the project:

“1a. You can get away with almost anything, on the first day you are on the project.”

Of course, the next 10-15% of the project is important, too, because that is successful teams establish great business requirements. There is another Goff’s Law about this; this one has been borrowed from other, more-experienced folks:

“12. You will spend 25% of total project effort getting good business requirements. Competent project teams spend most of that 25% in the first part of the project.”

But when is this first part of a project? What is it, that great project teams should assure that they do, during this first part, to assure project success? And, why are these important actions and key results so often skipped? We will touch on these questions in this multi-part (it will require several sections, over time) Change Agent posting.

Success, part 1: When Does a Project Begin?

We have discussed this dilemma for years. Different people have different opinions, and the answer you select has significant bearing on what should be present. For example, look at Construction, or in most bidding projects–everything from a Defense initiative to an IT subcontract. For the Seller, the project essentially begins with a bid award sometime during the Buyer’s Design phase or stage. We’ll skirt that issue by focusing on an internal-to-your-organization project. To see our perspective, see the scenario we posted over a year ago. Go to When Does A Project Begin? and review that posting. Then, return here.

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A Brilliant IPMA Congress

A Brilliant IPMA Congress: (IPMA) x (Event Management) x (Great People) = A Brilliant IPMA 2010 Congress. A successful event requires all parts of that equation; especially when they are all multipliers. The 2010 IPMA World Congress certainly did have its challenges. The venue was moved from 2011 to 2010 at a late date. Speakers were surprised by changes. The final program took far too much time to go out. The Project Manager resigned. The Prime Minister’s schedule had a conflict.

On the other hand, the inspirations were numerous. The video trailer was outstanding. The theme was appropriate and relevant. The venue and setting was outstanding. The engagement of Turkey’s Prime Minister in the lead-off keynote was unprecedented.

Isn’t it something, how the vision, heroics, tenacity and everything else in-between, brings off yet another stellar IPMA World Congress? Certainly, there are things we can do better in our next Congresses. But let us focus for a bit on this just-completed event, in early November, in Istanbul, Turkey.

A Brilliant IPMA Congress: Analyzing The Formula

Look again at the formula at the start of this posting: IPMA always brings something very special and unique to the world of PM events. While we have used the word Congress for many years, others have adopted our word for their major events. They apparently hope to capture some of our magic. IPMA Congresses are unique in the World of PM for their breadth of coverage, and their blend of different cultures. They offer unique perspectives, and a wide variety of types of projects and programs. And, the evening events are unparalleled.

We are relative newcomers to IPMA Congresses, our first being Delhi and Shanghai in 2005 and 2006 respectively. After those first two IPMA events, we made it a point to participate in three more. Rome, Helsinki and Istanbul were our reward. These are now our most important event of the year. We can compare now the IPMA events to our several decades of USA PM-related conferences, held by Project Management Institute. The IPMA events are far more rewarding, interesting, and applicable to better PM Practice. By the way, we also love the events organized by Dick Rutledge, and ProjectWorld.

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Chilean Mining Rescue Miracle—A Program Success

“Viva Chile!” In the Chilean Mining Rescue, we watched with awe, and huge appreciation for the rescuers when the first miners emerged from their rescue capsule. We held off posting or celebrating success until all the miners—and their rescuers—were safely above ground. Now, we’ll study the backstories about the after-effects of 69 days underground. And, 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. They were all focused on one objective: Get our miners out safely. And it appears our entire World is the stakeholder group. Reports continue to surface that this is one of the most-watched web-broadcasted events in history. This showed leaders and team members working in synch to successfully manage one of the most-important projects in recent history. Ironically, IPMA has been working to certify competent Project Managers and Senior Project Managers in Chile. Here is a great opportunity to identify Chile’s own clearly competent and performing end-to-end project managers. Most of the rescue team leaders could probably qualify for Senior Project Manager certification, demonstrating mastery in complex projects.

Was The Chilean Mining Rescue A Project?

But was this a project? Two answers: Yes, of course it was, because the team changed the path of fate, inertia, and the status quo. That feat 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 of the projects were relatively simple, such as providing sufficient electrical power at this remote site. And some very complex. All the projects worked together to achieve the program goal: Get our miners out safely.

Repeatedly, the media has mentioned the flawless planning, the contingency actions, and the attention to crucial details. We have noted the exquisite performance of the plan, and the individual heroics that accentuate success. 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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Exposing the Myth of “Doing More With Less”

Doing More With Less: We first heard it in the early 00s—Executives and Managers saying, “We’ll just have to do more with less.” Well-intended at first, for some it became a poor alternative to managing effectively. In some situations the statement can be temporarily true. In most cases, those who proclaim and perpetuate this excuse are practicing malfeasance. This is not an appropriate way to manage a workgroup, department or enterprise; they are demonstrating their failure to manage.

What triggers this commentary is a recent workshop I performed for a customer I have worked with for over 29 years. I have seen them flex, grow, improve, and cut back, all in response to market conditions, and the shape of their business, They are astute in their sense of coming business pressures. I did discuss the dangers of the “more with less” message with Executives and Managers 8 years ago, in an Executive Overview. With just a few exceptions, they have fortunately not fallen into that “More With Less” trap during this latest downturn. But in my recent sessions in this industry-leading business, I detected something sinister and terrifying.

Employees I encountered demonstrate strong loyalty to the organization. They show a sense of strong rapport up and down the chain of command. But, I detected some individual contributors, project managers and managers alike who are overwhelmed and exhausted. Many have prided themselves on the quality and efficiency of their work. Some must now decide which essential project results they must eliminate or reduce. Or, which project double-checks to push into post-project support. For some, it is which internal customers to choose to fail to respond to. I have seen this death spiral before.

Doing More With Less: A Jobless Recovery

I think many organizations are facing this dilemma. This is, in part because of the uncertainty in the US, between politics, consumer spending, and a high unemployment rate. They see the threat of possible hyperinflation, and the unknowns in the next set of policy decisions that will affect their business. These concerns are a root cause of this Jobless Recovery, as businesses are afraid to add staff to meet current demands. So instead, they continue to manage increasing business with existing, or remaining staff. And even when they are not using the tired “more with less” mantra, that is what it looks like to their employees. If you think this only affects project success, this affects the operations side even more than the projects side of the business.

How To Honestly Do More With Less

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Change Management: Confusion or Success Factor?

Change Management: Many people we have spoken to have expressed concern over the increasing level of confusion around the term Change Management. The confusion goes back many years, but appears to be getting worse. As Change Agents, it is important for Project and Program Managers to understand the topic. We must know the relevant competences, and the different perceptions asserted by different interested parties.

Depending on your perspective, Change Management is one or more of the following:

  • The configuration management of developers’ code, and the operating environment in which it was validated.
  • Managing the impact of requested and approved project changes, during the project.
  • Managing the impact of needed changes, updates, and improvements on the project result after that result is in business use.
  • Managing the organizational changes needed to embrace and appropriately apply project results.
  • Figuring out how to get reassigned and work for a Manager or Project Manager who is more effective.

Well, we just made that last one up. We are not here to proclaim which is the right or wrong perception: However, in every project, you need to have a common understanding of what everyone means when speaking of Change Management.

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Exploring Success Factors and Measures; 2 of 2

Success Measures 2: This is part two of our two-part post on Success Factors and Measures. Two independent events last month (a magazine interview and a webinar) resonated around a frequently-discussed, but often disputed topic: What is project success, and how do you achieve it? The events covered two aspects of project success: the Success Factors (that lead to project success) and the Success Measures (used to evaluate success). This posting covers the Success Measures.

The Success Measures

Tim Jaques and Frank Salidis ran the latest webinar in the IPMA-USA 2010 Dialogue series the first week of July. The topic was Perspectives on Project Success: Excellence in Project Management. The well-presented and discussed Dialogue was excellent, but there is much more to the topic than an hour’s time. Some of the key points included the fact that the Triple Constraint is merely a project measure. It is certainly not as important to the end-user as such hard-to-measure items as business results and customer satisfaction.

Other points included discussions about tangible and intangible value, including Return On Investment, and Stakeholder satisfaction.  Perceived failures, at least according to project measures, may be successes by the time of product success measurement. A key example provided was the Sydney Opera House. The distinction made: Project outputs versus project outcomes.

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Exploring Success Factors and Measures; 1 of 2

Success Factors 1: The last month brought us two interesting media events, an interview for a CIO magazine article and a Dialogue webinar. Both covered key aspects of project success. Though independent events, both showed synchronicity around a frequently-discussed, but often disputed topic: What is success, and how do you achieve and measure it? The events covered two aspects of project success, the Success Factors (that lead to success) and the Success Measures (used to evaluate success). This first of two postings covers the Success Factors.

The Success Factors

Success Factors are the activities or factors in a project that are essential for it to meet its goals and expectations. They are enablers of success. We recently participated in an interview for the CIO magazine article, IT Project Management: 10 Less-Considered Keys to Success. The article explored comments in a discussion at the magazine’s CIO Forum LinkedIn group (the article link is now at ComputerWorld). The lively discussion revolved around the most important, but least-well-known Success Factors, for a successful IT project.

The first-mentioned Success Factor was (drumroll, please) A Clear Definition of Success. And, while the forum and article targeted CIOs and Information Technology projects, most of the comments apply to most project types. One participant commented that too often success is based merely on elements of the “triple constraint”. He commented that project teams need to understand the expected value proposition of the project—and then achieve it.

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Working Towards PM Perfect, Now and Free

PM Perfect: We participated in a Decision Sciences Institute conference in Toledo in April, and it was a very interesting event. A combination of practitioners and educators with a learning focus, the variety of papers presented was impressive. We presented on the educational outreach opportunities of PRO, the Performance Rated Organization standard. Drs. Gary Klein and Neeraj Parolia presented our unique SCiPM program–which generated great interest among the participants.

Exploring PM Perfect, Now and Free

But the purpose of this posting is to acknowledge the stellar paper of one of the participants. She appears to have a clear grasp of what project stakeholders really want. Ms. Pushpa Agrawal, from the MBA Program Office, University of Nebraska at Kearney, is the presenter who impressed us with her insights. She spoke of the “voice of the customer”. She acknowledged that projects that are Perfect, Now and Free are (currently) unachievable. And yet, she pointed out that this outcome is what every project customer (and manager) desires.

Of course, popular project management practice continues to obsess about the “triple constraints”, or “iron triangle”. Meanwhile, others, such as Duncan, continue to distinguish between project success measures and business success measures. And from our own part, we have for years treated them as part of the Vital Signs of project success.

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Is Yours a PM Certification or a Certificate?

Certification or a Certificate? We have noticed a significant recent increase in advertisements for “PM Certifications”, resulting in “Certified Project Managers”. Upon study, we see they are really Certificates in a pm-related training. It would seem that some fail to understand the difference.

The increase in “certification” promotions makes sense, in part, because, the competition in the training industry is stiff. And as we frequently note: Billions of $USD spent in project management-related training has led to little-to-no improvement in project results. Thus, organizations ranging from educational institutions to training companies are adding new certifications in project management. Or are they?

Most of these offerings are mere certificates, not certifications. And while I believe the offerers to be misguided, rather than misleading, these misstatements damage us all while they continue. Why? Because Executives funding these programs are expecting PM performance results they are not receiving.

An Early Certificate in PM

In 1985 I instituted a PM Certificate for learning participants in organizations that engaged key portions of my curriculum. A few Aerospace companies, Insurance companies, and Government Agencies embraced this approach. They valued some evidence of a grasp of the key practices in project management. The curriculum included:

  • Small Project Management, a 2-day workshop
  • Early Project Estimating, a 2-day workshop
  • Project Management Tools ‘N Techniques® a 3-day workshop
  • Leading and Managing a Project Team, a 2-day workshop

The Certificate program included a six-week post-course follow-up for each workshop. During that six weeks, Managers of the learners worked with them to assess their application of the workshop’s Learning Objectives. To earn the Certificate, participants were evaluated in two ways:

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Overcome Executive Grief Over IT and PM

Overcome Executive Grief Over IT and PM: An intriguing article in the 1st Quarter, 2010 CIO Insight magazine summarized the results of some major research. The research was completed by Valuedance and Harvard Business Review. The article, Not So IT Smart, was filled with (appropriate for the magazine) insights. What stood out was a significant perception gap about performance on a range of key factors, as perceived by Business and IT Leaders. We would urge you to read that well-researched and well-written article—unfortunately, the article is no longer available.

Overcome Executive Grief over IT

I recall the challenges of 35 years ago, when it appeared that Executive Managers just didn’t get it. Get what? The proper use of what we called Data Processing. Then we changed its name to Information Technology. Perhaps we thought that relabeling the same behaviors would change things. Of course, there were savvy, Executives who knew how to make DP the centerpiece of competitive advantage. But those appeared to be in the minority.

Most of us hoped that those Execs who refused to even use a keyboard would soon retire. Their successor would eventually become the visionary strategic leader, and bring us out of our wilderness. But for most, it never happened. The criteria listed as differing perceptions in the above-referenced article are much the same as they were over 30 years ago.

Which could lead one to a conclusion that it is not those Executives at all, but a young and immature practice. A practice that still focuses too much on the latest technologies and the detailed last half of the life cycle.

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How I Learned to Balance the Project Vital Signs

Project Vital Signs: I named the key project factors of Time, Cost, Scope, Talent, Risk and Quality the Project Vital Signs nearly thirty years ago. I named them to evoke the signs one measures in the Emergency Room at a hospital. In that setting, are not measured to see if the patient is dead yet, but to determine whether she or he was improving. My rationale: Effective project managers use those factors to manage for success, not just to identify when the project failed. But I did not originally learn the importance of balancing those Vital Signs in the project world. Instead, I learned it in a number of early formative experiences. This article is about one of those experiences.

Growing Up In the Cherry Capital of the World

I grew up in The Dalles, Oregon, the fresh dark red, ripe, sweet cherry-producing capital of the World (at that time). Other competitive regions included Italy, California, and Michigan, but our orchards produced the largest, richest-flavored cherries. They were so much in demand, that flights to Paris would next-day deliver our cherries to such noteworthy gourmet places as Fauchon.

One part of our packing process was to box the cherries in elegantly foiled and lined wooden boxes. This way, they showed a classy image in the shops. And one of the choicest jobs, once I turned 18 years of age, was to be one of the workers who made those boxes.

The box-making process involved standing at a large, noisy machine, and following these steps:

  1. Insert two ends (called heads) and one side into the machine, and push the nailing pedal. A large mechanical device containing the hammers would rapidly descend and nail the parts. Caaarrrunch!
  2. Flip the box over and place the lid on the assembly. Press the nailing pedal; caaarrunch, went the machine. Note that the boxes were filled from the bottom, with the top several rows carefully arranged by packers. The goal: when opened, the customer would see exquisitely-perfect rows of artfully placed cherries.
  3. Flip the mostly-assembled box to its final position, add the last side, and push the pedal; caaarrrunnch!
  4. Place the finished box on the slanted track behind me, where four people added the foil, cardboard, and poly liner. Meanwhile, I began to repeat the cycle.

Those four steps required 6-10 seconds for each box.

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Who Really Manages Your Projects?

Who really manages? In many organizations today, there exist competent and experienced Project Managers, Senior Project Managers and Program Managers. We refer to them all as PM or PMs in this article. And, they all have the responsibility and authority to deliver the organizational changes and benefits.  Senior Managers, Executives, and internal and external customers expect those actions of the PMs. They are a credit to their organizations. The Managers and Executives are incredibly effective, and their organizations (Government and Enterprises) thrive as a result. We shall call this phenomenon Exhibit A.

IPMA’s* Advanced Project and Program Manager certification program, is perfect for these competent and performing practitioners. And IPMA-USA’s PRO program, Performance Rated Organization, is a perfect match for the Exhibit A organizations.

And then we have the other organizations, that we shall call Exhibit B. In the Exhibit B organizations, project success usually depends on several layers of Managers, rather than the nominal Project Managers. These other layers are directing or controlling Time, Cost, Scope and Talent (and other factors). They leave the PM to be a mere implementer; despite his or her best efforts. The result: Poor PM Performance, and Executive Managers, who blame the practice of PM, rather than their misplaced authority.

Who really manages: Who Sets Time, Budget, Scope and Talent?

Some of those Exhibit B organizations depend more on team heroics than deft management. Too often, Project Managers are identified after timelines and budgets are set; scope is never quite “nailed down”. Not only that, promised talent never appears, while cherished talent disappears. Much to the chagrin of PMs, requests for some flexibility somewhere are met with the classic excuse: “we just have to do more with less”. This almost always results in delivering far less with less.

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What Got You Here is Wrong for Performing Here!

Wrong for Performing Here: This article is for those who are “moving up” in their project-oriented  organization, and for those who wish to. Not that everyone must do so. In fact, some of the most-competent, highest-performing contributors are those who are so good at what they do—and receive the recognition needed to sustain it. So good, that they have no desire to do anything different. For the rest of us, however, there can be both excitement and danger in “moving on up”. We explore some of those factors here.

Wrong for Performing Here: From Team Member to PM

Team Members who are high-performers sometimes have the opportunity to “move up” to Project Team Lead or Project Manager. The expectation is that your high performance will “rub off” on others. Sometimes that works, sometimes not, depending in part on your interpersonal skills. Or, or as the IPMA ICB (Individual Competence Baseline) terms them, your Behavioral Attributes.

The challenge for this high-performer: it is easier to do the toughest jobs yourself than to coach others through them. Not only that: high-performers can become addicted to the adrenalin rush of significant accomplishment. They may feel starved by the delayed trickle of appreciation they receive as a Project Manager. Why? Now, your organization just expects that level of accomplishment from you.

The actions that brought you notice and acclaim as an individual contributor? They are the wrong things for you to focus upon as a Project Manager. Instead of brilliantly achieving, you must now carefully delegate, coach and nurture. Not at all the same set of competences, are they?

Wrong for Performing Here: From Small, to Medium, to Large PM

Often, the progression as a Project Manager is to move from Small Projects, to Medium, and then to Large ones. And yet, the most-important competences that you demonstrate in Small Projects are the least important in Medium projects. Then in Large projects, they significantly change again.

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Is Project Management Strategic?

On the surface, this is one of those questions with an obvious answer: Of Course It Is! However, the question goes much deeper than that, and deserves more exploration. The topic came up in a discussion with a friend and associate, Alex Jalalian (hailing from Iran and Canada) at last Fall’s IPMA Council of Delegates meeting. Alex is studying for a Doctorate in Strategic Project Management. While I encouraged him in his pursuit, the question came up: What books, research, and indeed, published practices support such a discipline?

One source that came to mind was the Cleland/Ireland book, Project Management, Strategic Design and Implementation (Fifth Edition). We like this book because its topic spans from high-level strategic positioning to detailed steps and relationships in successful projects. But perhaps we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Are Project Managers Strategic?

That is a different question than the one above. Strategic vision and thinking must occur in the project environment for project performance to be maximized. But that thinking may not necessarily come from the Project Manager (PM). Sometimes it is best if it does not. Such as in cases of massive organizational transformation. In that case, a Sponsoring group should manage the Strategic Vision, and drive for change. They should reinforce the vision and sustain the change, once the PM goes off to another series of projects.

Some Project Managers are strategic, and some are not. This depends on their preferred style, the size of their projects, and the nature of the projects. It is also affected when others in the organization also participate in their role. It is affected by the training they receive, and the rewards given for applying needed traits. An essential factor: whether the PM is even capable of doing so. We believe the answer to this question is that some are, some are not. Perhaps a more important question is, can your Project Manager be strategic, when needed?

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Assess and Maximize PM Performance, part 2

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff

PM Performance 2: In Part 1 of this introduction, we discussed the differences between classic PM Maturity Models and IPMA-USA’s PRO. In this Part 2, we acknowledge the contributions of the PRO project team, and the insights we gained from other Models.

The PRO Team

Performance Rated OrganizationWhat is the source of all these insights, that produced such an innovative organizational project performance assessment? Our answer: It is our volunteer team of experienced PM consultants, savvy PM practitioners with vast experience in multiple organizations. They also have experience as organizational maturity model assessors, and Management Consultants. For example, our original model was the inspiration of the same William Duncan who changed PM around the World. He did so with his multi-year effort, leading the development of PMBOK® Guide, 1st edition. He now serves as architect for our tool and process that has the potential to do even more for organizations. A key point: One of our early research findings was that the best Organizational Assessment models are led by single-minded vision. That is as opposed to the compromises of a random committee.

Tim Jaques is a partner and consultant with Line of Sight, LLC, specializing in Government PM. Tim is the Project Manager for PRO. Tom Mochal, of the popular PM Consultancy TenStep, currently performs Assessments, and contributed greatly to PRO. He says he will be among the first to offer it to his customers. Brent Hansen, Scott Freauf and Nigel Blampied have “real jobs” With that experience, they gave us the perspective of corporations and government agencies that will benefit from PRO. These are all long-term, experienced Project Managers, and have served in many other notable PM Standards initiatives.

PM Performance 2: But Wait, There’s More!

But wait, there’s more, as they say. Dennis Milroy brought years of experience in the Military, another targeted beneficiary of improved PM Performance. Matt Piazza has a passion for the topic, but could not directly participate. So he built and managed the collaborative infrastructure we needed to get the project rolling. And, what if we offered a Standard, and no one showed up? Dino Eliadis, a Management Consultant with Marketing Expertise, has kept us focused on the business need. He helped us with our customer focus, and the marketability/manageability of our efforts.

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Assess and Maximize PM Performance, part 1

Performance Rated OrganizationAssess PM Performance: The publishing this month of the Exposure Draft for PRO, Performance Rated Organization, is a key event for IPMA-USA. It is also a step forward for projects for the USA, and for improved PM Performance. You can see the background, the link to the Exposure Draft, and the audiences for this tool at the PRO section of the IPMA-USA website. This posting shares more perspective about PRO, why we developed and introduced it, and to acknowledge our team members.

Many organizational assessments for project management already exist. We studied the strengths and weaknesses of the best of them as part of our initial research. We found many that were very useful, and some that could be useful, but were far too difficult to apply/ We saw quite a few that could produce great insights, but required too much effort, distracting key staff from their priorities. Most were proprietary, and few were based on any accepted standard. As usual, some appeared to be merely a way for consultants to find work in your organization.

Many of the Organizational PM Assessments are based on a Maturity Model approach, similar to the Capability Maturity Model. It was originally pioneered by the US Defense Department and Carnegie Mellon University. This approach is useful because it can offer a logical sequence of improvements. Otherwise, an organization desiring an assessment might be overwhelmed by dozens of expensive initiatives, with no way to evaluate them.

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The Work To the Left of Proposal, part 2

The Work To the Left of Proposal: In Part 1 of this 2-part series, we discussed the importance of the actions of the first 10% of any project. We also mentioned the Buyer/Seller relationship in any complex project, and the role of Business Development in assuring success. In this part, we disclose a bit more of the importance of Business Development. Then, we introduce another key role that every complex project requires.

The Attraction of Business Development

Why should Project Managers include and embrace the role of Business Development (BD) Managers in The Work To the Left of Proposal? Several reasons, from our perspective. First, many organizations too-often relegate PM from strategic to tactical. It was not always this way. In an earlier era, the PM was the “go-to person” who participated in the analysis of changes needed to establish competitive strategies. She or he also planned those actions needed to implement them.

Over the last 30 years we have lamented that we we must, as we say in our article, “Cure The Dumbing Down of Project Management”. While we came to PM from a Strategic Planning background, most others do not. And that is where BD comes in. Just as with Strategic Planning, BD is wide and thin. Project Management tends to be narrow and deep. A match made in heaven! Not only that, PMs could learn a thing or two about getting closer to customers. And we must assure that our efforts are in alignment to organization strategy, and assure business results. On the other hand, this divergence in perspectives helps explain why some PMs don’t get along well with BD Managers.

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The Work To the Left of Proposal, part 1

What is the work to the left of Proposal? The answer depends on your role, your 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 we will expand to the more-complex engagements that do involve contracts. This complexity of multiple organizations in contracts is a key distinction between two Advanced Competence-based certifications: certified Project Manager (IPMA Level-C) and certified Senior Project Manager (IPMA Level-B).

Engagements Not Involving Contracts

Many engagements are intended for internal implementation, and do not significantly rely on proposals and contracts. In these projects, actions that take place 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’s effort is responsible for 90% of its success.

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Role and Rigor in PM Certifications

Role and Rigor: We have received some interesting reactions to our recent posting about Role and Rigor in PM Certifications. Some assert that we place the IPMA Level-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 training providers, especially those engaged in Entry-level certification preparation. 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. Some lead you to believe that you are being certified as a Project Manager. These providers have clearly not yet joined the ranks of IPMA PM Competence Enablers. They do not understand the difference between exam-cram methods and improved PM Performance! After all, certifications in project management knowledge and Advanced certification as a Project Manager are two different markets.

The myth is propagated by some practitioners. Having earned their knowledge-based certification, they 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

Evaluating Role and Rigor: We see a wide range of opinions, analyses, and presentations that fail to clearly show the differences between PM certifications. This is true for Project Management certifications in the USA, and for those around the World. Certifications from IPMA (International Project Management Association) are particularly misunderstood. This may be because they address specific roles and competence-oriented factors that other PM certifications do not. The purpose of this post is to explain the IPMA PM Certifications, and to clarify how they differ from other PM certifications.

Evaluating Role and Rigor: 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 competence in a targeted Role. Some people fill multiple roles; in that case, the Role is the one selected by the candidate as their basis for certification. This is only important in the case of Advanced (higher-Rigor) certifications.

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Building the Future of Project Management

Today, we celebrate the introduction of our chapter, about building the future of project management, in a new book. The book is Project Management Circa 2025, published by PMI®. Dr. David Cleland worked with Dr. Bopaya Bidanda to recruit chapter authors and to edit this major achievement.

They asked 28+ PM practitioners to expound on intriguing aspects of PM practice for the next 16+ years. Chapter topics include national, international, sector-specific, and government entities.

Many of the chapter authors are from USA; we have been preparing our readers and customers for the future for many years. Authors whose names you’ll recognize include Lew Ireland, David Pells, Tim Jaques, Jonathan Weinstein, Stacy Goff, and others.

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A Rainbow of Different Purposes for Your PMO

Purposes for Your PMO: In our previous post about PMOs, Program or Project Management Offices, we discussed the different flavors of PMOs. We 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.

PMO Purposes

This summary list of purposes and services for your Program or Project Management Office (PMO) is from our customer services. 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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What Is a PMO, and What Flavor Is Yours?

What is a PMO?
A Project Management Office is a formal or informal group that accepts responsibility for governance of one or more Projects. Or, rather than governance, it may provide support and/or mentoring, with the purpose of improving PM Performance. Similar groups can perform these functions for Programs, although those are usually more formal, with more authority. 

What brings this topic to our blog at this time is the PMO Symposium 2009, November 8-10 in Atlanta, GA. It was produced by the PMI® Program Management Office Specific Interest Group. This event was one of your best opportunities this year to tap into the burgeoning world of effective PMOs.

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Revving Up the Competence Enablers

The Competence Enabler programIPMA-USA's Competence Enabler logodeveloped by members of IPMA-USA, has been a key tool for my consulting practice. We originally called it the Most Valued Provider program. Then, Donna Fitzgerald coined the more-likeable Competence Enabler name.

The Competence Enabler Program Purpose

Its purpose is several-fold:

  1. Develop a PM Vendor group that understands how to Demonstrate the Competence Difference. In turn, help match participants with PM practitioners who wish to explore and develop that difference.
  2. Identify those rare PM Vendors that have the competence, capacity and desire to actually improve PM Performance. They do so, not only in basic knowledge acquisition, but in competence and performance development.
  3. Establish a support system for PM Vendors that assess and help improve individual and organizational PM Competence. Based, of course, on IPMA’s competence standards.

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Managing Small Projects

Managing Small Projects: What is a Small Project? I ask this question every time I kick off one of my workshops, Small Project Management. The first time I asked the question in a class was at an Aerospace/Defense company, and a grizzled, experienced Aerospace Engineer replied, Sonny, a Small Project is anything less than a Billion Dollars”.

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Understanding Change: A Good First Step

Understanding Change: If we are to be successful as Change Agents, we need to understand Change. That understanding ranges from the dynamics of Change, to the disciplines involved, even to the terminology around Change. This posting deals with some of the terminology around Program or Project Change.

For example, many years ago, I wrote my first IT PM methodology. I labeled the processes around requesting, evaluating, approving and implementing needed project changes Change Management. In that era (pre-1985), it was more popular to call those actions Change Control.

My rationale was that we cannot control Change. In fact, we are foolish to attempt to do so. But we could manage the process, and manage the impact of the change on the product. Thus, Change Management. There was one concern. If PM is the discipline of Managing Change (as I claimed), then Change Management in Managing Change was too recursive.

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Report: 3rd Annual UT Dallas PM Symposium

IPMA was well-represented at the 3rd Annual UT Dallas PM Symposium, August 13-14. The theme was Managing in a Changing World. Organizers and sponsors are UT Dallas, the Dallas Chapter of PMI®, and PM World Journal. This was the most interesting US conference I have participated in this year. I presented twice, and IPMA Secretary General Veikko Välilä also presented twice. One of our presentations was in a PM Career Management track, and the other was with Veikko in a Panel discussion about The Future of PM.

In the PM Career Management track, our paper, Essential Insights in Meeting the Rising Demand for PM Performance, was embraced by the audience. They resonated with the theme of moving beyond PM knowledge, to actions needed to increase skills, improve behavioral attributes, and align with enterprise strategy. The intended result, increased PM competence and ultimately, measurably improved PM Performance. A now-familiar theme to most of our members and friends, this was new perspective for many in this audience, and as a credit to their experience, they were excited by the prospects.

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When Does A Project Begin?

One of the greatest challenges in managing a project is managing its duration. And yet, inconsistent standards about when a project actually begins makes everything from duration metrics to Customer expectations inconsistent.

Let’s look at a hypothetical example. The dates are arbitrary, just to show the progression of steps, and are related to the diagram you see below. Whenever we share this insight, it never fails to stir discussion.

January 2, Inspiration

Your best internal Customer, a Functional Manager, is riding or driving to work (there is lots of time to daydream in the morning journey). She gets an inspiration for a project that would significantly improve operations. Once in the office, events of the day cause the idea to be shoved aside.

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Understanding the Competence Difference

Understanding the Competence Difference: Some people don’t know what we mean when we say, in IPMA, “Discover the Competence Difference.” And yet, would you want incompetent performance in your organization, your government? Or, even in your yard service?

Understanding Competence

So while most people clearly understand incompetence, too many fail to understand competence when it comes to Project Management. From one of our presentations, and repeated in a June article, Closing the Gap, Competence is clear from the following scenarios:

  • Would you fly as a passenger in a plane piloted by two “Air Academy” graduates who passed their final exam, but have never taken off or landed a plane (not even in a simulator)?
  • Would you consider “going under the knife” for brain surgery by a Surgeon who has attended all the classes, read all the books, passed the exams, but has never wielded a scalpel?
  • Would you allow a Lawyer to represent you in a criminal case, who, while having passed the bar exam, has never practiced before a jury?

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The Elephant in the Room

In the World of Project Management, any discussion about PM Societies must consider what we call The Other Organization. That’s the elephant in the room. Many IPMA-USA members are also members of the other organization. In fact, a handful of our members can take credit for helping make it the success it is today.

Why Do We Need IPMA?

If it is a great, successful organization, why does the USA need IPMA? We are often asked that when we staff booths at major Conferences. There are several answers. First, any discipline that is dominated by just one strong provider is a discipline that is in decline. Part of the reason we started IPMA-USA was to increase the rate of advancements in Project Management that slowed during the 1990’s.

Second, we saw the need for Advanced PM certifications, that actually assess and certify Project and Program competences. This initiative has taken our volunteers three years to deliver. The good news: by the end of 2009, our suite of Advanced, Performance-Competence-based certifications will be complete. Certifications for Project Manager, Senior Project Manager and Program Manager will be available. There are more reasons why the USA needs IPMA. But they will be the subject for some later posting.

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We Build Change Agents

We Build Change Agents!We Build Change Agents: Project Managers are the Change Agents who build tomorrow. Why do we say this? Because we can, and we do! In addition to my consulting firm, I work with our industry’s professional organizations to create beneficial change. I do this both for their members, and for society; thus the wide-ranging set of topics in this blog.

The key to beneficial change are two professional organizations, IPMA and IPMA-USA. IPMA is the International Project Management Association, the world’s first professional association for project managers. It is a unique federation of national associations. IPMA-USA is the USA’s member association of IPMA. 

IPMA members range from young Project Managers to the experienced thought leaders of PM practice. We cover the gamut in experience. Our efforts improve the Competence, and therefore the results, of Program and Project Managers, and their initiatives, stakeholders, and organizations.

The IPMA Certification Program, based on IPMA’s 4-L-C, Four-Level Certification initiative, is the envy of those who desire PM success.  Our Certifications use advanced assessments, with professional assessors, to verify Competence as the centerpiece of your PM Practice.

We build change agents! Learn more about IPMA-USA at the organization’s website. And learn more about IPMA at its website. Meanwhile, if you have comments about our blog posts, I’d love to hear them! Please use our Contact Us page.