Posts Tagged Manage Things

Leadership – Piloting the Motorcycle in a Specific Direction: Part 3

Leadership – Piloting the Motorcycle in a Specific Direction:  Part 3

First, leadership is about “leading people, not managing things”.

In previous posts/discussions, I introduced this thought – ALL successful leaders, or leadership teams, provide the same four “leadership whats” for their organization(s) – just like riding a motorcycle.  The “whats” are as or ,more important than a leaders traits, “leadership hows”.  The four “leadership whats” include:  (1) pilot the organization in specific direction(s); (2) provide thrust/power to move the organization in the desired direction; (3) manage/mitigate risks of piloting the organization; and (4) make changes in the organization’s direction, thrust and risk based on current and anticipated situations/changes. 

Each of these four “whats” can be broken down into finer and finer specifics. The last post, Part 2, discussed the initial three “whats” in ‘piloting the motorcycle in a specific direction’.  Arguably, piloting the organization(s) in the proper direction(s) is the most important “whats” a leader, or leadership team, provides.  If an organization does not have direction, or is being piloted in the wrong direction, then success will be fleeting.  But what are some specifics that leaders provide to establish the proper direction(s) of an organization?

Leadership Cycle

Leadership Cycle

 

 

This post/discussion focuses on the last two “whats” – Strategy and Operational Plans

You might think that organization/business strategy is easily defined and well understood, but even a cursory look on the internet will prove you wrong.  Definitions are abundant, not always similar and sometimes vary vague.  So for purposes of this post/discussion, let’s define strategy as:

‘The art and science of determining or planning an organization’s overall (1) scope, road map, and goals, (2) branding, business and organization models,  (3) effective use of limited resources, and (4) performance measures to achieve its vision, mission and strategic goals.’

First and most important, an organization cannot be all things to all people.  So setting a strategy chooses the organization’s scope – focusing ‘where it will play and where it will not play’. This is a further refinement of the organization’s vision and mission to the point that the organization can produce strategic plans (road map) and goals.  Second, as a result of setting its scope, road map, and goals, strategy defines its business model (how it operates), organization model (how it is structured), branding (how it will be known).  Third, strategy provides direction, with some specificity, in how its limited resources will be acquired, retained and used.  And the last part of setting an organization’s strategy is determining the diverse measurements to use in evaluating its strategic performance.  This process of setting strategy is repeated by each business unit and major department to define and align their strategy with the organization.

The last set of “whats” that provide direction are operational plans (OP), also called annual plans, that are completed by every business unit and department.  Operational planning is the process of defining tactical plans and goals, objectives and performance measurements, and aligning them with strategic goals, objectives and performance measurements. OP describes operations, operation initiatives, capital projects, milestones, performance, and resource requirements during a given operational period, a calendar or fiscal year. An OP also includes a business unit’s and department’s annual operating budget and capital budget. The OP must be a collaborative effort between the business units and departments to insure the plans and budgets are in alignment with each other.

In the next post/discussion, we will introduce the second major “leadership whats” – the thrust/power to move the organization in the desired direction.

 



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The Elephant in YOUR Project – Part 3 Risks

Project Risks

Project Risks

 

 

The Elephant in YOUR Project – Part 3 Risks

Many project managers use complexity and risk synonymously.  They are related, but not the same. Project risks are qualitative and quantitative issues or events which could lead to negative consequences.  Risks can be prevented, mitigated, or repaired if they become an issue. Increased project complexity does not create risks, but increases the severity and impacts of each risk on the project efforts.

Your project risks can be weighted and objectively measured.  A project’s risk and be grouped into five categories:

  1. People/Team Risks – morale, skills and experience, staffing, contractor capability, etc.
  2. Process Risks – scope creep, project management, project planning, project controls, scheduling, etc.
  3. Technology Risks – technology quality, technology newness, expectations versus requirements, etc.
  4. Finance/Budget Risks – budget approval, budget adequacy, scope changes, reporting, etc.
  5. Legal Risks – contract negotiations, contract management, terms and conditions, etc.

Once identified, risks management and reporting is the responsibility of the project sponsor and project manager(s).  Risk prevention, mitigation and repair are the responsibility of all project team members as assigned by the project manager(s).  Each significant risk should be formally reported and tracked in every project status report, and discussed effectively with the project steering committee.

So is your project a House of Cards, or are you managing project risks effectively?

 

For a free example of a Project Complexity Assessment and Project Risks Management Tool, download at:

Palomino Free Downloads

 



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The Elephant in YOUR Project-Part 2 Complexity

Complexity

Complexity

 

The Elephant in YOUR Project – Part 2 Complexity

In Part 1, we discussed the research and statistics of project success or lack thereof.  For decades projects or change have repeatedly been challenged and over half do not meet all of their expectations or are failures.  My experience indicates one of the primary reasons, or The Elephant in Your Project, for these continued poor results is the lack of formal project complexity assessment and aggressive project risk management – the responsibility of the project sponsor and project manager(s).

In Part 2, we expand on a project’s complexity and how it affects the ultimate outcome of your projects.  In review, a project is a process or series of processes.  A process’s complexity – defines, qualitatively and quantitatively, the relative difficulty, time consumption, resource requirements and skill requirements necessary to successfully complete.  The more complex the process or project – the more difficult, time consuming, resources intensive and more experienced skills are required.  Complex projects are rarely successful and many times are failures.  Of course, the lower the complexity, the greater chance a project meets all of its expectations.

Three major components determine a project’s complexity and can be objectively weighted and measured – (1) Operational/Technical complexity; (2) Business complexity; and (3) Organization complexity.  Within these components, complexity is primarily the result of the “4-S’s”: structure, size, scope and skills. Criteria examples include:

  1. Operational/Technical – Technology requirements, technology distribution, operations impacted
  2. Business/Process – Business units impacted, business process maturity, number of people/users impacted
  3. Organization – Project manager’s skills/experience, project duration, project team size/location, project team skills/experience

Project complexity must be assessed up front during overall project planning. Complexity components must be addressed and reduced at that time before being locked in after the project(s) begins.  Some obvious ways to reduce complexity are:

  1. Break project into smaller, more manageable efforts which reduces project team size.
  2. Reduce each project effort scope and duration, and thus people/users impacted.
  3. Staff each project effort with more highly skilled project team members and/or provide training.
  4. Staff project with highly experienced project manager(s) and team leader(s).

Increased project complexity does not create risks, but increases the severity and impacts of each risk on the project efforts.  We will further discuss project risks and risk management in Part 3.

 



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The Elephant in Your Project – Part 1

The Elephant In Your Project

The Elephant In Your Project

 

The Elephant in Your Project – Part 1

The high ‘failure’ rates of IT and business projects have been documented for over four decades by numerous studies and publications.  The Standish Group International reported in 2001 that around 23% of projects are failures, and 49% are ‘challenged’.  Doing the math indicates that only around 28% of projects meet their expectations.  A more recent IBM study in 2008, Making Change Work, indicated that on average 41% met all expectations and 59% missed one or more expectations, or failed completely.  Even worst news from IBM was that companies that were ‘novices at projects for change” had only 8% of projects that met all expectations.  Houston we have a problem!

My experience indicates one of the primary reasons, or the Elephant in Your Project, for these continued poor results is the lack of formal project complexity assessment and aggressive risk management – a responsibility of the project sponsor and project manager.  The IBM study, only one of a few, also indicated that the lack of recognizing the project’s complexity was a major factor in a project’s success or failure.  Yet only 18% indicated their efforts fully addressed project complexity and risk.

Every project, IT or business, is a process – a process with varying degrees of complexity.  A process’s complexity: defines, qualitatively and quantitatively, the relative difficulty, time consumption, resource requirements and skill requirements necessary to successfully complete.  The more complex the process or project – the more difficult, time consuming, resources intensive and more experienced skills are required.

Many project managers use complexity and risk synonymously – but they are not.  A project risks:  are qualitative and quantitative issues or events which could lead to negative consequences.  Increased project complexity increases a risk’s possible impact.  Risks can be prevented, repaired if they become an issue or mitigated.  Complexity is not an event and is harder or impossible to prevent, repair or mitigate once the project begins.

So why do most project sponsors and managers do a lousy job of complexity assessment and risk management?  A few reasons are:

Lack of awareness, skills, training and/or experience

Internal politics

Lack of formal assessment/ management process that is consistent and repeatable

Lack of assessment/management reporting and tools

 

Part 2 will discuss more on assessing complexity and Part 3 will discuss risk management.

 



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Habits for a Successful Career – Habit #7

Develop Your People Skills

Develop Your People Skills

 

Habits For a Successful Career

Habit #7 – Develop Your People Skills

Is one of your top career goals to become an executive, owner or partner in a business venture, or a university president?  Then Habit #7 is a primary concern.  Is one of your near term career goals to become a team leader, project leader, supervisor or manager?  Then Habit #7 is a primary concern.  Whether your career goals shoot for the stars or are more modest, people with successful careers have people skills that are above expectations because 60%+ of their role and responsibility involves People, not human assets or resources, PEOPLE.  You lead people, and manage things.  Habit #7 has seven people skills to be developed, improved, and possibly mastered including:

Order of Importance

  1. Listening to Understand (Covey)This is the most important people skill because it sets up success for the other six skills.  Most people, like many politicians, listen to ‘respond’, not understand.  True listening means asking clarifying questions, restating what you heard and empathizing with others to really understand what they are communicating.
  2. Communicating: Speaking, Writing, Presenting – Once you have mastered listening, then improve your communication skills in conversations, writing for business and making small and large group      presentations.
  3. Selling – Many people do not think selling is an important people or career skill unless they are in ‘sales’,      but people sell ideas and actions every day with colleagues at work, and with family and friends outside of work.
  4. Negotiating – Negotiating skills are the flip side of selling skills, and are very important if you aspire to be in a leadership position in any capacity.  In addition, improving your selling and negotiation skills are prerequisites to the next skill – resolving conflicts.
  5. Resolving Conflicts – All organizations, i.e. people, have conflicts – some small and some large.  The worse thing a successful person or a person in a leadership position can do is ignore or hide from      conflicts.  Improving your skills in this area will help remediate larger conflicts and resolve other without  destroying relationships.  In fact, it can help build trust and credibility.
  6. Motivating/Energizing – As hard as some people try to improve their people skills, many of us cannot ‘master’ all seven skills.  But they cannot be ignored!  For example, as an executive, I never ‘mastered’ the art of motivating and energizing people via public speaking.  To compensate, I brought in speakers that had a great motivating and energizing presence and then I would reiterate their points and lead by example to energize people in my organization.
  7. Mentoring/Coaching – Mentoring is a skill and quality seen in the most successful people and careers.  It is not only valuable to the person being mentored, but in many ways is as valuable to the mentor.  Put some gratitude in your attitude and help others develop their skills by mentoring and coaching them.

How many people skills are you proficient or a ‘master’?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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IT Organization Success

Keys to IT Success

 

 

 Keys to IT Organization Success

No secret, for decades many IT organizations have struggled to be successful – probably more so than any other.  When is the last time you saw a dozen articles on the struggling accounting, marketing or human resources organizations?

Martha Heller in a 2010 CIO Magazine article discusses IT struggles and suggests a few ‘paradoxes’ in IT organizations that may be barriers to a successful IT organization.

  • The Business wants IT to be strategic, but force them to spend most of their time on operational issues.
  • IT needs to be stewards of risk mitigation and cost containment, yet expected to innovate.
  • IT is seen as that of an enabler, yet is also expected to be a business driver.
  • IT can make or break a company, but its leaders are infrequently members of C-level executive groups.
  • IT is one of the most pervasive, critical functions, yet must prove its value constantly.
  • Many IT successes are invisible, yet its few mistakes are highly visible.
  • IT project teams are accountable for project success, even if the Business has ownership.
  • IT staff loves new technology, but must embrace/understand the Business to be successful.
  • Many IT teams/people are uncomfortable dealing with people, but to succeed must build relationships, influence others, and resolve conflicts.
  • IT infrastructure is a consistent, long-term investment, but the Business thinks in quarters.

And here are a few more paradoxes I have experienced:

  • The Business wholly adopted  ‘BPI’, but IT has poor processes and rarely has budget for improvement.
  • C-level executives believe IT costs too much and fails to provide comparable value, but have limited knowledge of IT project or operational successes.
  • C-level executives expect IT to deliver new, strategic capabilities to their Business unit, yet most of the project identification, priorities and governance is driven by Business users and managers.
  • IT needs/must align its goals/objectives to the Business, yet the Business units goals/objectives are not always aligned with each other.

Any of these barriers hinder IT leaders and organizations from being valued and successful.  They can be mitigated and/or knocked down, but requires a relevant, achievable Strategy, competent People, and consistent, repeatable Processes.  In addition it also takes the IT leaders and staff to embrace/develop these 7 Habits of Excellence.

  • Build  Trust and Credibility
  • Develop  a Proactive Culture
  • Understand  the Company, Business Model, and Industry
  • Align  with Company’s Goals and Objectives
  • Lead  People  -  Manage Things
  • Adapt  to Change
  • Embrace  a Passion for Learning and Improvement

 

Developing these 7 Habits of Excellence will mitigate or eliminate barriers and result in these IT organization benefits:

  • Faster Throughput (projects and processes)
  • Less Costly (unit costs)
  • Better  Quality (products, software, systems and processes)
  • More Agility  (change)
  • More Capacity  (w/o more resources)
  • Better Risk Management
  • Better Place to Work

What IT paradoxes is your group facing??



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Danger – Thin Ice

Risk

Risk

The high ‘failure’ rates of IT projects have been documented for over four decades by numerous studies and publications.  The Standish Group International reported in 2001 that around 23% of projects are failures, and 49% are ‘challenged’.  Doing the math indicates that only around 28% of IT projects meet their expectations.  My experience suggests one of the primary reasons for these continued poor results is the lack of formal, aggressive IT project complexity and risk assessment and management – a responsibility of the IT project sponsor and project manager.

Software development is a process – a process with varying degrees of complexity.  A process’s complexity, therefore, defines, qualitatively and quantitatively, the relative difficulty, time consumption, resource requirements and skill requirements necessary to successfully complete.  The more complex the process – the more difficult, time consuming, resources intensive and more experienced skills are required.  Many project managers use complexity and risk synonymously – but they are not.  Project risks are qualitative and quantitative issues or events which could lead to negative consequences.  Risks can be prevented, repaired if they become an issue or mitigated.  Complexity is not an event and is harder or impossible to prevent, repair or mitigate once the IT project begins.

So why do most IT sponsors and project managers do a lousy job of complexity and risk assessment and management?  A few reasons are:

  1. Lack of skills – training and/or experience
  2. Internal politics
  3. Lack of formal assessment and management process that is consistent and repeatable
  4. Lack of assessment, management and reporting tools
  5. Lack of emphasis in CMM, ITIL and other methodologies

 

What is the complexity of your current project?  What are the five major risk areas?



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