Project Management in Practice

Beyond the alphabet soup of PRINCE2, MSP, MoP, PMBOK, ITIL, Agile

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Can a Project Manager afford to go on vacation?

A True vacation spirit

Image by Kenzoka via Flickr

I recently went on a vacation after many months. I had almost forgotten what it had felt like to have some time off. As I returned I felt re-energised and about to recommend the same to others. Basking in that glory lasted until I sat in the first resource allocation meeting and I discovered to my horror that all the resources for my projects had been gobbled up and I was consoled … “you weren’t here, so we …”. Whatever the rest of the sentence was, didn’t make any difference to my situation.

I had made task allocations before I left and was expecting some clarifications from my clients on matters so I could make allocations on my return. Now I’m faced with a situation where I cannot assign what I had planned when I left for my vacation. I’m not one to let things rest as they are. I’m about to go negotiate with some of the other project managers regarding relative priority of tasks and make sure I get some compromise along the line, so none of the projects are compromised.

How on earth could this happen? In a services environment, it is not an uncommon scenario. It reminded me of something that I had taken for granted in my daily role – to be an champion for my projects within the enterprise, to prepare for possible resource contentions, following up on allocations and monitoring progress. For a while I was thinking if it was indeed wise to go for a vacation. Everything was going well before.

I had to pull myself back into reality. I had been feeling mentally exhausted and it would have led to something suffering – my health, family or projects. Working madder cannot be the solution. As I think about what could have been done to ensure I didn’t get the shock, I am convinced that each project needs a champion at all times to make sure its demands are appropriately represented within the enterprise. I can think of one particular person who may be having a heart attack as he reads this post. I can assure you that the resources are now in place :o)

Morale of the story … If you dare to go on leave, do leave a champion behind.

What is the difference between Project and Programme management?

I recently did my MSP certification, to gain better understanding of programme environments, compared to projects. One thing that came as a slight surprise to me was the difference in focus between projects and programmes. Projects are focused about providing fit for purpose products within a certain tolerances – time, cost, scope, quality, risk and benefits. Programmes are instead focused an realisation of benefits.

PRINCE2 does have a focus on benefits. However, it also acknowledges that in all likelihood the benefits from the project outputs are likely to be realised some time after the project is delivered and closed. In that scenario, how do you make sure that those benefits are indeed realised? This is where the programme comes into its elements. OGC explains programme as designed to bring in a transformational change in an organisation and providing a framework for achieving that. When you think about that, it does make sense. An organisation doesn’t go into a project becase it wants to do a project. The reason they do it is to achieve a change that meets their strategic objectives.

The  journey from inception of an idea to the actual realisation of benefits arising from that may not be a simple one. Ideas are inherently a vision from someone within the organisation that visualizes a future state of the organisation that is desirable. Ideas have to be tested for their merit, analysed against costs, implementation options considered. The end state can be a journey through fuzziness. This however, is not always the case. Sometimes the changes wanted are through known specifications, well understood and repeatable methods. In those circumstances, it is probably not worth running programmes. Projects are probably sufficient. However, fuzzier the journey is from vision to the future state, programmes are the way to go.

I thoroughly recommend the MSP approach to programme management.

Knowledge sharing

I came to project management from a software development background. Later, I took on responsibilities of leading teams and designing solutions and most recently managing entire projects. I started off by running projects based on my experiences in delivery teams and approaches that I saw worked and failed. After some time, I did the PRINCE2 certifications. Then what? I found PRINCE2 had validated many of my practices, and in some cases given me food for thought on how I could do things better. Unless you work in a PMO environment, where there are other Project Managers you can learn from first hand, implementing many of the principles become a much harder task. Read more of this post

How to handle resistance to change

If you have read any of my posts you will realize I am a fan of PRINCE2 as a project management methodology. In most cases I consult the manual regarding process and required content for the various management documents. The other day I struck a situation and realized a key limitation of PRINCE2.

Our organisation has grown significantly, twofold over the last few years. More recently our client profile has changed from a lot of small clients and projects to fewer larger clients with bigger projects. This shift has necessitated more emphasis on process and governance. Read more of this post

What happens when communication fails

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