Horse Racing and Project Team Parallels

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.
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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What Got You Here is Wrong for Performing Here!

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.
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.

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?

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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A More PROfessional Way to Assess and Maximize PM Performance, part 1

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.
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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