Projects are the tool businesses use to take a strategy and turn it into reality. So your project better be aligned with your long term business plan. All of them!
This interview about strategic alignment with Jay Payette was recorded at the Project Management Institute (PMI)® Global Congress 2016 in San Diego, California. We discuss his presentation and white paper Making it Happen - How Project Managers Can Drive Strategic Alignment and Strategy Execution. Here is the abstract:
Good strategy can be critical to organizational success, however in order for strategy to transform from ideas into results it must be successfully executed. In order for organizations to successfully formulate and execute strategy they must achieve sufficient strategic alignment.
Project managers and project team members can make a critical contribution to their organization’s strategic alignment. This paper examines strategic alignment through the frame of three strategic functions: formulate, align, and execute and how they interact with each other.
Additionally, three strategic alignment frameworks are presented and recommendations are made as to how they may be used by project managers to contribute to organizational strategic alignment at the project-level.
Without priorities, only the urgent work gets done and one may never get around to any activities that are merely considered important. Effective managers have always known that priorities help them to focus on tasks that make a difference. They provide purpose, direct energy, and drive action. They also encourage leaders to set their own agendas.
Successful businesses, corporations and other organizations spend considerable time developing a mission statement and defining goals because these activities are priorities. They identify what's valued, define what the organization is all about, and underscore where it is going. They minimize confusion and maximize consistency.
Setting priorities is not guesswork or magic. It's mostly a matter of common sense. Avoid identifying inappropriate priorities by never prioritizing something just because:
- It's what you like to do most.
- It's fun.
- It's the easiest and quickest thing to do.
- It's just always been a priority.
- It just happens to be at the top of your to-do list.
- It promises an immediate pay-off.
True priorities are those jobs, tasks, responsibilities or functions that keep people on track and guide everyday actions toward desired ends. A true priority can be identified when:
- It's a key part of your job description.
- It closely matches the mission of the organization.
- It moves you toward individual and organizational goals.
- It yields the biggest payoff.
- The boss says so.
- Only you can do it.
- It's what you do best.
One of the philosophies of Agile projects is to “build for today.” In other words, you should design, build and test only what is necessary to meet the needs of the user stories that are selected in the current iteration.
In some respects this goes against the intuition of many team members that feel it is more efficient in the long-term if they take into account potential future requirements. The thought is that you should build to support this future functionality “while you are there” and then later when the requirement is actually selected you can finalize the work with much less effort.
In the Agile model this is generally seen as a false tradeoff for four reasons.
- First, the time it takes to design, build and test to support future features will mean that you cannot get as much done in the current cycle. You are supporting fewer current, concrete, high-priority requirements in exchange for vague, distant potential future requirements. This is not seen as a good trade-off.
- Second, it is possible that this extra, future functionality will never be needed or requested. The customer may have requested this future functionality in a traditional project, but in an Agile project, the difference between “wants” and “needs” is much more focused. Who knows if the extra functionality will make it into a future sprint? The world is full of systems functionality that is written into programs but never utilized.
- Third , it is very possible that you may not implement the future requirement correctly anyway. The product owner will not discuss it or test for this future condition. Even if a future requirement seems simple and fully understood, it is possible for misunderstandings and errors to occur. Then you are out-of-synch trying to test and debug problems that should not even be a part of this iteration. Each cycle will also have its own challenges. You don’t need to compound things by introducing problems that are not a part of this release.
- Fourth , if the extra functionality is needed in the future, it will have its turn in a future cycle. When the functionality is chosen, the work will be constructed and tested. In an Agile project, you will likely visit the same sections of the solution multiple times. You don’t have to worry about building extra functionality “while you are there” because it is very likely you will “be there” many more times before the project is completed.
This philosophy should be applied for process functionality, performance, security, etc. The “build for today” approach is also an example of “minimally sufficient,” which is another Agile philosophy. You want to make sure that you do everything required to support the customer needs, but no more.
Cost engineers understand the value of effective project cost estimation and analysis more than anyone. In today's competitive environment, every dollar counts and organizations cannot afford to remain ignorant about true project costs. Fortunately, there are a few formulas that help cost engineers to track and analyze project cost and to estimate projects with increasing accuracy in the future.
What should a PMs Theme Tune be? Through many LinkedIn discussions I raised the hugely important question - what should the theme tune be for all project managers? PMs responded with 187 suggestions for this and, through assessing the most common suggestions together with ones that I just liked or made me laugh we now have a short list with 55 tunes. You can see the full list at www.thelazyprojectmanager.com if you wish.
So now it is time for the vote off - you can select the 5 tunes that you think should be the PMs theme tune at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/pmsthemetune
Please help to spread the word to all of your PM contacts and let’s get them voting in their hundreds. Survey closes 23rd December.
Let’s face it; virtual teams (where we work with colleagues in remote locations, be they close by or in different countries) are now a reality in the workplace. If this trend in the workplace environment continues, virtual working will increasingly influence the way we operate, and the ‘effective virtual team worker’ will be a valued asset. A key benefit to forming virtual teams is the ability to cost-effectively tap into a wide pool of talent from various locations. There are several definitions of the virtual team worker, but within the context of this article, we are talking about people who work on project teams and who display the following attributes:
- They work primarily from a particular office (maybe a home office, or maybe a fixed work location), and they are not expected to travel each week as a part of their job (i.e. road warrior) or be physically in the office on a daily basis.
- They likely work from home one or more days per week.
Most project managers with a few years experience or more are likely to have managed a project where some or even all of the project members were remotely located. How different is managing a virtual project team from a co-located team? Are there additional considerations or risks involved in managing a virtual team? Before we answer these questions, one must first understand the dynamics of the virtual team worker.
Accurate Project Costs -- How to obtain them, improve estimates with them and dramatically increase your effectiveness by knowing them.
Critical Business Issue (CBI) – Something that might get me fired or put in jail if I screw it up again.
For most IT managers, inaccurate estimates constitute a CBI. Why are accurate estimates so important?
- Inaccurate estimates cause over-commitment. Have you ever worked in a place where ten percent of ten projects got done instead of 100 percent of one project? Ultimately, nothing is accomplished and everyone is totally stressed out. Inaccurate estimates cause over-commitment of time, yet not much gets done.
- Inaccurate estimates cause bad decisions. “Inaccurate” usually means “too low.” When this happens, the return on investment (ROI) calculation shows the project as ‘worth it’ when it is not.
Many of my colleagues, not all, were basically aiming for a certificate. This in my view is not sufficient to demonstrate one's ability in project management.
It is very important that we consider the PMP as a step forward, and not an end in itself. For indeed with the skills proven by the attainment of such a reputable certification, one can improve project performance by applying the principles of project management on the ground.