Sunday, January 27, 2013

Seven Tips To Maximize The Performance And Effectiveness Of Your PMO

Here are seven tips for maximizing the performance and effectiveness of your PMO:

1.  Ensure all projects have a Project Dashboard, displaying a comprehensive and standard set of project metrics
-  This standard set should include at least Project Schedule Performance, Project Cost Performance, Client Satisfaction, Team Satisfaction and  Project Resourcing metrics.
-  These metrics should all be in the form of indices, to allow a better and more meaningful comparison between all projects.
-  Every Project Dashboard should be made visible to all (excluding any financial or other confidential information).

2.  Aggregate the above key Project Data and display as a PMO Dashboard
-  Each of the project metrics should be averaged across all projects and the results displayed on a monthly trending chart, to show improvement (or not) in the performance of projects in each area measured.
-  The PMO Dashboard should also be made visible to all.

3.  Ensure your projects are aligned with the strategic goals and objectives of your organization (and that of your clients, if in different organizations)

4.  Foster an organization culture that will facilitate the success of your PMO
-  Foster a supportive, collaborative and co-operative culture with project and PMO executive and client management, project managers and all other key stakeholders, to facilitate the successful achievement of project and PMO goals and objectives.

5.  Focus on project results, not project management methodologies and processes
-  With the project and PMO dashboards in place, and a focus on getting the best performance and results for each project, better decisions are going to be made regarding the appropriate project management methodologies, processes, tools and templates needed to achieve these results.  

6.  Facilitate the successful initiation and support of all projects.
-  Establish a core group of experienced project managers, made available as needed, to ensure the successful initiation of all projects.  (This group can be staffed within the PMO, or borrowed from project teams on a scheduled and prearranged basis, as appropriate).
-  Provide ongoing oversight and support through this group, as needed to maintain project success.

7.  Foster continuous improvement in project performance and results
-  Make the training and development of project managers and their project teams a committed and measurable objective.
-  Ensure skilled resources are provided as and when needed for each project.
-  Synthesize, disseminate and act on Lessons Learned from all projects.

Are there any other tips you would like to add?

If you would like to learn how these and many other useful tips and techniques can be applied to benefit your PMO, contact us to arrange a four hour PMO Workshop that can be held on-site or via our web conferencing facilities. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Is Your PMO As Great As It Can Be?

Here is one simple way to find out.

Ask all or a sampling of your PMO clients (your project managers,  client and project executive management) to rate how satisfied they are with your PMO, on a scale of 1 to 10.

If the average rating is not 9 or 10, then your PMO is not meeting your clients needs as effectively as it might.

We can help you in assessing and improving your PMO with a PMO Health Check assessment.

We work with you to assess the health of your PMO against over twenty seven PMO best practices covering the following seven key areas:
-  PMO Governance
-  Portfolio Management
-  Project Management Methodologies and Training
-  Project Performance Reporting
-  Project Initiation
-  Project Resourcing
-  Project Health Checks and Audits

For each best practice we can provide you, where needed, with the appropriate tools, templates and methodologies to raise the performance of your PMO and make it great.

And of course, if you do not yet have a PMO, we can help you build a great PMO, in as little as ten weeks.

Contact or call us at 352-321-7845 to arrange a PMO Health Check for your PMO.  We can conduct the PMO Health Check remotely via our web conferencing and collaboration software, or on-site, as you prefer.  An investment of only a few hours will pay very high dividends!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Conflict Resolution - Is There An App For That?

Conflict is a common and natural event in any project environment.  Conflict can even be healthy to a certain degree, if it is the result of creativity and a diversity of views, but soon becomes unhealthy if left unresolved to fester and breed animosity and distrust between project team members.

Conflict can occur between all project stakeholders and during all project phases.  Sources of conflict typically vary during the project life cycle but can be caused, for example, by disputes and disagreements over priorities, processes, schedules, roles, budgets, resources - to name just a few.

Of course, the best way to resolve conflict is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. 

Two good approaches for preventing or reducing conflict are:
Focus On Goals (Not Particular Solutions).
By making project goals the focus, conflicts can often be easily resolved or avoided by asking a simple question: Which solution is going to get us to meet our project goals more quickly and effectively?  Quite often conflicts tend to arise over trying to implement a particular "pet solution", but when examined in the light of what is most expedient and practical to meet the project goals, the pet solution may be deemed less practical and the resolution becomes very clear.

Foster Trust And Teamwork On Your Project
To do this, the project manager needs to lead by example:
-  Listen to and trust your team.
-  Be open to all ideas and suggestions.
-  Foster a fun and collaborative work environment for your project teams (and yourself).
-  Praise and encourage more, criticize less. 
-  Collaborate with your project team to develop a Team Operating Agreement, to include their  suggestions for team values and team operating principles - and adhere to it.

To resolve any conflicts that do occur, the following are some approaches you should consider:

This is the approach most often chosen by project managers, who feel they have no recourse but to jump in and make a judgement call to resolve the conflict, but it is my least recommended approach.  If the project manager happens to be not only the mediator, but also one of the parties involved in the conflict, then you can see how this might not be a satisfactory approach.  Even if the project manager is not one of the parties in the dispute, the "losing" party will inevitably feel that the project manager has unjustly favored the other party, and resentment (hidden or otherwise) will accrue. 
Depending on the type of conflict, external groups such as HR or external mediators and facilitators can be helpful in mediating and resolving some conflicts.

A project manager can never delegate too much, and delegation is particularly beneficial if one of the parties in the dispute owns the responsibility for the task or solution under dispute.  In this case, the owner of the task or solution should be given the authority to proceed with his/her recommended approach. 

Ignoring a conflict is a good approach if both the conflict and consequences are minor, or not directly related to the project.  In this situation, the project manager getting involved could only make the conflict bigger.   However, ignoring a serious conflict will also be more difficult to solve as positions get entrenched over time and project delays and impacts increase.  

Toss A Coin
Don't laugh.  Here's a true story:
Many years ago, I was Director of one of the two large Data Centers for my company in Toronto.  The company had an identical Data Center building in Montreal, but over the years differing computing facilities and operating procedures had been implemented.  My counterpart for the Montreal Data Center and I made the strategic decision that we would move towards achieving equivalent computing facilities and operating procedures, so that in the event of a disaster, one Data Center could serve as the backup for the other. 

Every now and then we would be approached by one of our managers, indicating that they wanted to use a particular solution or software tool, but that the other Data Center wanted to use something else, and they of course assumed we would side with them and try and convince the other Data Center to use our solution.  So the other Director and I agreed that when this situation arose we would "toss a coin" to pick the solution. The main point, of course, was that the particular solution was less important than the goal, and since both solutions would work, pick one and let's move on.

Well we only had to do this once, and were never approached again.  The managers realized that they could toss the coin themselves, or better still, make their case to each other, give and take appropriately and resolve it amicably.  A few years later, when we did have a major fire in one Data Center and had to recover our applications in the other, having a good working relationship and identical operating procedures was "priceless".

Is There An App For That?
Of course!  Tossing a coin is so last century.  And what do you do when you are confronted with three or more choices, all of which can work?  Just push the green button (or spin the wheel) and let the magic of technology decide.  Your managers will be impressed (or not), and will be less likely to come to you to make these decisions, when they can make the decisions themselves, using the same technology (or not).

There are a variety of "Decision Maker" apps that you can customize for yourself, but I used the Decide Now! app, available for the iPhone, iPad or iPod touch (sometimes free, but currently $0.99).

What techniques have you used to resolve conflicts on your project?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Upgrade Your Project Management Skills And Earn 17 PDUs

Our latest series of fourteen Project Management Webinars is scheduled to start at 12 noon EDT on Tuesday September 4, 2012, and will then be delivered every subsequent Tuesday. 

All webinars may be taken live and/or as recordings.

Over 85 people are taking advantage of our program and team low pricing and have already signed up for this series, but there are still some seats available.  (Maximum 100).

The program covers a wide range of important project management topics, and is suitable for all project managers and their teams who would like to learn easy and effective ways of applying project management best practices, tips and techniques and would like useful and practical tools and templates they can apply on their projects.



APM01 Project Management Lessons Learned From The Movies
APM02 How to Build A Great Project Plan

APM03 How To Keep Your Project On Schedule And Within Budget

APM04 Scope Management And Work Breakdown Structures Made Easy

APM05 Risk Management Made Easy

APM06 Earned Value Management Made Easy

APM07 Start Your Project On The Right Track With A Successful Kickoff Meeting

APM08 How To Build A Great Project Management Office

APM09 Project Health Check Workshop (four hours)
APM10 GO-PSAC Project Success Factors

APM11 Project Management Lessons Learned From Aviation

APM12 Quality Management Made Easy

APM13 Project Dashboards

APM14 Project Management Best Practices, Tips and Techniques

-  Total duration of all 14 webinars is 17 hours (17 PDUs).
-  The recorded webinars can be taken whenever you wish, and there is no time limit or restriction on the number of times you can access them
-  You can claim the same number of PDUs (1 PDU per webinar hour in Category B – Continuing Education) for the recordings as with the live sessions.  There is no limit on the number of PDUs that you can claim in this category
-  Presentation materials, a Certificate of Completion and relevant tools and templates are provided with each webinar
-  If you take a recording, you can still ask any questions or discuss any topic in the Webinar as you would at each live session - just call or email us as you prefer
-  All webinars are 1 hour in duration (1 PDU), except for APM09 which is 4 hours (with 4 PDUs) in duration.

There are three pricing options:
1.  Sign up for each webinar individually - $25 per webinar hour
2.  Sign up for the complete program - $200 (save over 50%)
3.  Sign up in a group of five or more - $100 each (save over 75% - less than $6 per webinar hour and PDU) 

We also offer three great Workshops that are ideally suited for your PMO or Project teams:
-  Project Health Check Workshop
-  PMO Health Check Workshop
-  Leadership and Team Building Workshop

To register or get more information on our webinars and workshops, please go to or contact

“Tony is a superb presenter with an engaging presentation style and his accompanying Webinar materials are excellent, containing materials that can be immediately applied. I highly recommend his Webinars for those seeking project management training.”  Brad Blunt, PMP

“Tony is an excellent instructor! Tony is highly enthusiastic and energetic in propagating Project Management principles and techniques.  He also brings many practical examples from real business case studies. That really helped me to understand how I could apply these principles in real business scenarios. The templates he provided us were extremely helpful. Most importantly he was always helping us to answer any project management related questions and provided me solutions from his long-term project management experience. I highly recommend his webinars to any project management professionals.”  Fumie Piontkowski, PMP, CSM

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Life And Death Leadership Lessons From Two Explorers

The Race to the South Pole
Following years of preparation and establishing supply depots en route, two teams of brave and hardy explorers from Norway and Britain set out within days of each other to race to become the first to travel the approximately 850 miles to reach the the south pole.  National pride and glory was at stake.

The Norwegian team of eight, led by Captain Roald Amundsen, left the Bay of Whales on September 8, 1911 with a caravan of sledges and ninety North Greenland sledge dogs, the best available.  However, within days, the temperature dropped to -57C(-70F) and the dogs and men were getting frostbitten.

Amundsen decided to return to base and left again for the pole on October 19, this time with only fifty-two dogs.   From the beginning, the Norwegian team paced themselves and their dogs, resting regularly each hour and only traveling five to six hours each day.

The British team of sixteen, led by Captain Robert Falcon Scott, left Ross Island in four parties of four each.  The first party of four left on October 24, 1911 with two motorized sledges full of supplies to be taken to the Beardmore Glacier, about 200 miles away.  The other three parties with the dogs and ponies left on November 1 and caught up to the motor party at the glacier on November 21.

Scott's Journey
Amongst the many challenges and problems Scott's team faced:
-  The motorized sledges broke down after only 50 miles of travel, so the 740 pounds of supplies had to be man-hauled the remaining 150 miles to the Glacier meeting point.
-  Scott realized only whilst on his journey that skis would have been a better option for his team, but blamed his team.  As he wrote in his journal:  "Skis are the thing, and here are my tiresome fellow countrymen too prejudiced to have prepared themselves for the event".
-  A blizzard forced them to camp for five days and break into rations intended for the next stage of their journey.
-  The ponies were soon frozen with ice and in an advanced stage of exhaustion and had to be shot.
-  Scott had brought only one thermometer needed for an altitude measurement device, and became enraged when it broke.
-  Scott only flagged the supply depots and left no other markings on his route, leaving himself vulnerable to missing the depots and not knowing more precisely how far away they were. 
-  At the last minute, Scott added one member to the final four man party going to the pole, which used up more of their rations than planned.
-  Scott had allowed no contingency in supplies, so missing even one supply depot would be disastrous.
Scott attributed most of the problems he encountered to "bad luck".

Amundsen's Journey
Amundsen and his team faced very similar problems and challenges, but he had prepared for them well:
- He had trained and planned extensively for polar expeditions, by bicycling two thousand miles from Noarway to Spain to build his endurance, eating raw dolphin meat to determine its usefulness as an energy supply and living with Eskimos to learn how they survived the snow, ice, winds and extreme cold.  He learned how they used dogs to pull sleds and wore skins and loose clothing and moved slowly to avoid sweating that can quickly turn to ice.
-  Even though Shackleton, another famous Arctic explorer had previously deemed the ice at the Bay of Whales unstable, Amundsen studied  Shackleton's records and concluded that the Barrier there could indeed safely support a site.  This gave Amundsen the valuable benefit of a 60 mile shorter journey than Scott.  
-  Amundsen used dogs, who don't sweat like ponies and were much more suited to the extreme conditions and snow than the ponies and motor sledges used by Scott.  The weaker dogs were also able to be killed and used as food for the remaining dogs, unlike the ponies who do not typically eat meat. 
-  Amundsen brought four thermometers to cover exactly the kind of accident that Scott had.
-  Amundsen flagged not only each supply depot, but placed 20 black pennants in precise increments for miles on each side, giving a wide target in case he was slighly off course on his return  journey.  To further mark his course, Amundsen left packing case remnants every quarter of a mile and a black flag hoisted high on a bamboo pole every eight miles.
-  Amundsen recruited a team of experienced skiers, including a champion skier as a front runner, who was also a skilled carpenter and ski maker.  Others chosen were veterans of previous expeditions, expert with dogs, and in at least one case an expert cook.
-  Amundsen provided for almost ten times the amount of supplies per person than Scott, and carried enough supplies so that his party could miss every single depot and still go another hundred miles.
-  Having been first mate on a failed voyage (on the Belgica) before, Amundsen learned many lessons there, including the importance of keeping up morale.  Accordingly, he planned for leisure time with a library of around 3,000 books, a gramophone and a large quantity of records and a range of musical instruments. 

The winner (and loser)
The Amundsen team reached the south pole on December 14, 1911 and made a successful journey home, with all men returning safely to home base on January 25, precisely as he had planned.

Scott's final party of five reached the South Pole on January 17, 1912 and were of course dismayed to find that they had been beaten to the pole by 33 days.  Due to extreme conditions and a lack of adequate supplies, they all perished on their journey home.  Scott and the remaining two survivors of his team were found dead in their tent, just ten miles from their next supply depot.

"Amundsen’s expedition benefited from careful preparation, good equipment, appropriate clothing, a simple primary task (Amundsen did no surveying on his route south and is known to have taken only two photographs), an understanding of dogs and their handling, and the effective use of skis. In contrast to the misfortunes of Scott’s team, Amundsen’s trek proved rather smooth and uneventful.

In Amundsen’s own words:
"I may say that this is the greatest factor—the way in which the expedition is equipped—the way in which every difficulty is foreseen, and precautions taken for meeting or avoiding it. Victory awaits him who has everything in order — luck, people call it. Defeat is certain for him who has neglected to take the necessary precautions in time; this is called bad luck."
— from The South Pole, by Captain Roald Amundsen."  Source:  Wikipedia
Leadership Lessons Learned
There are many useful leadership lessons that can be learned from these two brave explorers and their expeditions under very similar circumstances but with vastly different results, among them the importance and value of:
-  Focussing on the key goal and avoidance of distracting and less important goals
-  Thorough planning and preparation
-  Providing reserves for contingencies
-  Thoughtful and measured implementation
-  Selection of the most appropriate resources and team for the job
-  Detailed risk management (and not taking foolhardy risks)
-  Learning from your mistakes (and those of others)
-  Keeping up the morale of your team

And here is one final leadership lesson from Amundsen: Be flexible and adaptable.

When Amundsen started his journey in 1911 with his full crew on the ship Fram, he was not planning to go to the South Pole at all.  He had planned to go to the North Pole and received funding and access to the Fram for only this journey.  When he learned that Cook, then Peary had both just reached the North Pole he switched his goal to the South Pole, which he only announced to his crew when they reached port in Madeira, Portugal.  By staying flexible and adaptable, and re-planning thoroughly and executing diligently, he was able to replace the older and now worthless goal of reaching the North Pole and achieve the new renowned and even more worthwhile goal to be the first to reach the South Pole. 
What are some of the leadership lessons that you have learned from your own experience and that of others?
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The following books are good sources for information about the Amundsen and Scott south polar expeditions, providing an interesting variety of perspectives:
The Last Place On Earth by Roland Huntford
Race to the Pole by Sir Ranulph Fiennes
The South Pole by Captain Roald Amundsen
Journals: Scott's Last Expedition by Captain Robert Falcon Scott

If you are interested in developing leadership skills and building teamwork with your project team, contact to sign up for or learn more about our new AlphaPM Leadership and Teamwork Workshop. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

How Late Can Your Project Be Before You Push The Panic Button?

In my previous post, I discussed this formula for success:

Success = Motivation + Knowledge + Commitment + Perseverance * Action.

Let's assume we are strongly motivated to bring in our project within budget and on schedule. The easiest way to achieve both goals is to just focus on bringing the project in on schedule.  If we can do that, then we will also come in within budget.

Make the commitment with your project team that your project is going to finish on schedule and then take the actions that will facilitate achieving that goal.

This raises a question - how late can a project be before you need to push the "panic button" and take dramatic and remedial action?  Let's say your project is one year in duration, and after the first month the project is a few days behind schedule.  Surely you can catch up.

As we know from experience, work on projects (like climbing mountains) never gets easier with time, only harder.  If you are a few days behind early in the project, then you are going to be weeks or even months late by the end of the project.

So my answer to the question is that your project should be "Not A Day Late".  As the sun sets each day, your project should be on schedule.

How can we possibly achieve this?  Here's one way.

Set the goal with your project team that every activity on the critical path of your project has to come in on schedule and if they find that they are going to miss a target, they need to notify you as early as possible, but no later than 3 pm of the day that the activity will be late.

At that point, this is what I recommend you do.  Immediately call an emergency meeting of the whole team and work out an action plan using all the resources and experience of your team to get that activity back on schedule by the end of the next day.

This may sound dramatic, and it is, but you will only need to do this two or three times, before the objective and importance of coming in on schedule will be very clear to your team and you will find the occurrence of missed targets becomes few and far between.   No-one wants to stay behind, whether for their late activity or for others, so you will find more attention is paid to anticipating issues and addressing them earlier, before they cause activities to be late.

Try this approach out on your project, and let us know how well it worked towards bringing the project in on schedule.

If you are interested in learning some good project management best practices and techniques for keeping your project on schedule and within budget, sign up for our recorded APM03 webinar "How To Keep Your Project On Schedule And Within Budget" at  Our next AlphaPM Project Management Webinar Program starts Tuesday September 4, so this webinar will also be available live at 12 noon EST on Tuesday September 18, 2012.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Formula For Success Is Really Easy - Except For That Pesky Little Bit At The End

The formula for success is indeed really easy - at least easy to understand and remember:

          Success = Motivation + Knowledge + Commitment + Perseverance * Action.

Let's apply this formula in the context of the goal of getting our project in on schedule and within budget.

In my previous post, I discussed how success starts with motivation.  The probability of success is directly proportional to how badly we need or want to achieve a goal.  We must strongly want to bring in our project on schedule and be confident that we can and will achieve that goal.

The next ingredient in the formula is Knowledge.  What does it take to achieve the goal?  In our project environment, we usually know the processes and best practices that should be followed (e.g. Change Management, Risk Management, Quality Management etc.), even if we don't always follow them, so knowledge is not usually the factor that limits our success.

We now need to make a commitment with our team, that we will work together to achieve that goal.  Achieving the goal should be seen as a team responsibility and success will be a team success.

Perseverance * Action
Now this is the hard part - actually taking the actions necessary and persevering with or modifying those actions until the goal is achieved.

Here's an example of how difficult this is.  Many of us decide at the beginning of every year that we are going to lose weight, strongly motivated for reasons of health and/or appearance.  The knowledge of what we need to do is well known.  If we do even just one of three things (eat healthier foods, exercise more or eat less) and keep the others constant, we will lose weight.

We typically make our  commitment to lose weight through a documented New Years resolution, followed by signing up for health clubs or some daily regimen of exercise and dieting all supported by diaries and charts to track our expected progress.  But the follow up actions (persevering in actually eating less, eating healthier foods and/or exercising more) is where we tend to come apart.  It is easier to put off the actions for another day - what difference is one day going to make?

So if we are to be successful, we need to address and maximize every part of the formula, but particularly focus on persevering with the actions and project management best practices that will facilitate our success.

We usually know what these actions and best practices are, or can easily learn them.  We just have to do them.

What are some of the special things you do on your projects that help them to be successful?

If you are interested in learning about the project management best practices and techniques that will help you keep your project on track, sign up for our recorded webinar APM03  "How To Keep Your Project On Schedule And Within Budget" at  Our next AlphaPM Project Management Webinar Program starts Tuesday September 4, so this webinar will also be available live at 12 noon EST on Tuesday September 18, 2012.