ChangeAgent Blog Posts

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.
stacyProject Managers are the Change Agents who build tomorrow. Why do we say this? Because we can, and we do! This page introduces 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: 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. Then, we 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 shows a list, in newest-first sequence, of our ChangeAgent Blog Posts since 2009. Enjoy!

The trademarks noted on this ChangeAgents Blog Posts page are the property of their registered owners.

Introducing A Very Interesting New Book!

I 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?

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff
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

PM ChangeAgent Commentary by Stacy Goff.
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?

PM ChangeAgent Commentary by Stacy Goff.
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--Goff

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

PM ChangeAgent Commentary by Stacy Goff.

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

PM ChangeAgent Commentary by Stacy Goff.
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.

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?

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.
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?

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.

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You Might Be a Project Manager If…

PM ChangeAgent Commentary by Stacy Goff.
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!

This 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

PM ChangeAgent Commentary by Stacy Goff.

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?

PM ChangeAgent Commentary by Stacy Goff.
Prototyping 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

PM ChangeAgent Commentary by Stacy Goff.
Exploding 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

PM ChangeAgent Commentary by Stacy Goff.
Many years ago (1973), 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.

We addressed this challenge by prototyping a solution: Keeping track of our “backlog” in (of all things) a box of punched cards. That was the 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.

Lakein’s Inspiration

And then, several new books on Time Management emerged. We especially liked Alan Lakein’s How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life. His insights, including better methods of prioritization, were inspiring. 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. Note that Alan Lakein used A, B and C for the three choices, we used 1, 2 and 3, because they could be more 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

PM ChangeAgent Commentary by Stacy Goff.
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!

A 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

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.
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.

From iStock

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!

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.
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.

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!

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?

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.
The 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, and download the freely available standard on the IPMA-USA website.

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Mission Possible!

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.
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 made sure I was able 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!”

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.
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

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.
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?

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.
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

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.
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

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

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.
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 like 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

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.
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

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.
Dinner Speech at PMAF Congress: 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

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.
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

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.
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

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.
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?

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.
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

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.
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 the Term Stakeholder Come From?

Guest Post by IPMA-USA Co-Founder Robert Youker
Where Did the Term 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

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.
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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Experiencing Newvember

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.
Experiencing Newvember: Typically, and especially in the USA, November is a slow month. It is the calm before the storm of December, with its end-of-year project deadlines, and fiscal-year close-out, for some. It is a bit of a relief from the intensity of September and October.

But not this year.

I traveled more this month (on behalf of professional organizations) than any period since May-June, with:

  • A keynote for a major University, with a discussion about establishing a truly relevant PM curriculum;
  • Participating in an excellent PMO Symposium in Orlando; and (finally) meeting Cornelius Fitchner;
  • Speaking of which, contributing to The PM Podcast’s celebratory event, celebrating Cornelius’ 200th offering;
  • Participating in an IPMA Executive Board meeting in Sarajevo. This was a very informative Government/Business Roundtable for the Bosnia-Herzegovina IPMA Member Association;
  • A keynote at the incredibly successful 2nd Annual Symposium for AMIP, IPMA-Mexico, in Saltillo, Mexico.

Whew! Wore me out just reading it!

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Project Management: Delivering The Promise

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.
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

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.
Five Foundations for Advancement: On July 4, 2011 we noted 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. or as we named them Five Foundations for Advancement. 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;
  • Training and learning funds appeared to be shifting from project and program performance improvement to test memorization;
  • Association governance moved from member-driven to organization-CEO controlled;
  • Emphasis shifted from all pm sectors to favor Information Technology;
  • Levels of engagement shifted from advanced interaction of long-time practitioners to mass-training of simple subjects to newcomers.

Our Founders

Five Foundations for Advancement: A group of long-time pm practitioners founded IPMA-USA. We 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 the 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

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.
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.

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

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.
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

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.
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 …

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.

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

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.
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

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.
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 months’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

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.
If you have not reviewed parts 1-3, 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

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.
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.

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

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.
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.

Early Ingredients for Success

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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