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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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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Chilean Mining Rescue Miracle—A Program Success

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.
“Viva Chile!” We watched with awe, soaring hearts, and huge appreciation for the rescuers when the first miners emerged from their rescue capsule. We held off posting or celebrating project 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 This 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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The Work To the Left of Proposal, part 1

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.
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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A Rainbow of Different Purposes for Your PMO

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.
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?

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.
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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The Elephant in the Room

PM Commentary, by Stacy Goff.
In the World of Project Management, any discussion about PM Societies must consider what we call The Other Organization. That’s tthe 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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