I remember my father telling me years ago an important lesson in managing people in operations - the lowest performing 20% of your staff are where you, as a manager, are going to see your best results.
Focusing your time on high performing staff is often a tendency as these are your ‘go-to’ people who get things done. However, your job as a manager is to get the best results from your team. Your entire team. If at the end of the year you have given a lot of your attention to high performing staff you may have only taken someone who is a 9 out of 10 to a 9.5 out of 10 in terms of productivity, sales, or whatever it is you are managing. Conversely, if you spent more time (a lot more time!) managing your lower performing employees, you could have turned a 5 out of 10 employee into an 8 out of 10. Makes sense, right?
My question for the site is, does this operations management logic also apply to project management? Compared to an operational management role, a project manager has goals to accomplish in shorter time frames and through relationships with team members that are less permanent. Under these conditions on a project, then, what do you do with your lower 20%?
The other day I read an interesting blog post by Todd Williams titled "We Need Project Leadership, Not Management". I started reading the article because at first, based on the litle intro on Linkedin, I thought it dealt with the difference between a line/functional manager and a project manager. At first it did but then it slowly moved towards stakeholder management and how project managers need to actively work with supervisors and it ended with a cry for brave project leadership. All in all quite a journey!
One of the key points I would like to highlight, not that the other points Todd makes are not important (I will address those later), is indeed the fact that we all have dealt with senior executives, project sponsors and functional managers in organizations who have no or a limited clue about the management of projects and the role they (need to) play in it.
I have been saying for many years now that we train the wrong people. Individual project managers or soontobe (as opposed to wannabe!) project managers put a lot of effort, (time and money) into being great project managers by improving their skills, knowledge and attitudes. A lot of organziations put a lot of time into developing these project managers and creating excellent project management practices. The problem is, and this is one of the reasons why indeed quite a few projects fall behind and in a lot of cases fail, that projects and the management of these projects gets viewed in a too narrow view/perspective.
Projects and project managers do not exist in a vacuum!
We know that one of the key success factors for project (management) success is senior management support. My experience is that this support can and will only be effective when and if senior management understands what a project is, what a project manager is (supposed to do) and how they need to direct/support that project.
2013-07-25 14-56-36-1
In other words, we need to train senior management. There is a reason why in Prince2 there is an all encompassing project process called Directing a Project. Obvious question that follows is how do you get these busy bees to understand they need training.
In his article Todd gives, although not directly an important clue.
Do not be afraid as a project manager to approach those managers and point out what in your professional opinion they need to do to make THEIR (not your) project a success.
I guess it starts by indeed pointing out it is THEIR and not your project.
I would like to end with a positive experience I had many years ago.
An organization I worked for had just finished supporting a very large organization with the implementation of Prince2 and the related training of all project managers. My role, as part of post training and implementation quality assurance, was to support one of the project sponsors on one of the first projects that was going to be run conform Prince2. This turned out to be very valuable for the organization. Although the executive had participated in one introduction session on Prince2 and project management in general, there was a lot he did not realize he was supposed to do. Sure, he had lots of experience with previous projects and that was beneficial but this one-on-one support helped him to better understand his role in the overall picture and how he could support the project manager and his team.
In other words, when developing training for organizations, training individual project managers or being trained as a project manager, do not be afraid to ask about senior management training!

"PM-Tools: Does Project Management Certifications like PMP/PRINCE2 help you in your job?"

Was a question we recently saw on LinkedIn.

As with all jobs there are two sides to it.

  • Getting it
  • Keeping it

A certification can certainly help in getting a job. in North-America the PMP certification is the most sought after by both PM's and HR managers alike.
In Europe Prince2 is well known and sought after.

Keeping a job has all to do with how well you perform. End this is where a certification alone will not be enough. It will certainly (but on a limited basis) help you to understand what is required to do a job. Being able to do the job is something completely different. That's where competence is required. Competence is a combination of skills, knowledge, expertiece, experience and attitude.

None of the certifciations mentioned provide that. Currently the only certification that is competency based is the IPMA certification (see ASAPM in the USA and PMAC-AMPC in Canada for IPMA based certifcations)

Although PMI has begun to increase the experience requirements to become a PMP certified PM one can still get that designation without ever having managed a full project from start to end. Makes you wonder, doesn't it?

Prince2 is a very solid project management methodlogy that can certainly help in managing projects. I got my first practioner certification in 1997 and haved used (elements of) Prince2 in a lot of my projects. But Prince2 is just that, a best practice (now in a new refreshed 2009 version) methodolgy that does not tell you how to act as a PM, or how to apply certain PM techniques, or how to communicate, or how to deal with difficult situations.

As I always say: "A fool with a tool is still a tool, worse, a dangerous fool"

See also PMP Certification is irrelevant!, Which Project Management Diploma have you chosen ? (PRINCE2 ? IPMA ? CAPM ? PMP ? and Why) and So you want to become a real Project Manager?

That is a the question Harold Kerzner asks and answers in the video below.
So what do we make of that? The Iridium failure is very well documented business failure of epic proportions.
An 11 year "project" that resulted in a chapter 11 bankruptcy.
It is very simple. He is wrong.
The argument Kerzner uses is that the project was managed well and was delivered on time and on budget. There you have it, a project management success. An 1996 Article in CIO Magazine called "Ground Control" by Peter Fabris has a great description of all the wonderful things the project team is doing.2013-01-07 11-19-32
The problem with this argument of course is that Kerzner applies a very narrow and in our opinion wrong definition of project management. Project management in the classical term as managing the iron triangle or better devil's-triangle of time-cost-quality. From that perspective there seems to be no arguing, the project was on time and on budget. However this narrow view of project management is the problem. Kerzner does identify as his tip-of-the-day the need to review the business case on a regular basis. His failure is that he seems to see that as outside the work scope of the Project Manager
If from day one the Project/Program Manager(s) would have (been allowed?) to consider and question the validity of the business case this might not have happened.
In Prince2 the review of the Business Case is a mandatory and recurring component!
An excellent article to read on the failure of the Iridium Project is "Learning from Corporate Mistakes: The Rise and fall of Iridium" by Finkelstein and Sanford, Organizational Dynamics, 29 (2):138-148

Over the last few weeks, an intense debate is ragging on the Project Manager Network, initiated by Miles Jennings. (Great discussion Miles!). The debate is about the question whether PMP certification is becoming more or less valuable.

I would like to take a different perspective and approach on this. Let us approach this from an evolutionary perspective. We should not argue whether there should be PM certification or not, just as we should not argue the value of wings or feet for that matter.  Certification is here and here to stay (for a while)

The question to ask, from an evolutionary perspective, is: "Qui Bono?” or "Who benefits?"

The simple fact there is PM certification implies something/someone benefits. Moreover, as long someone/something benefits it will be there. Simple as that.

So, who are they?

1) Certification Standard Setting organizations that charge for membership and certification related products.
2) Certification education organizations that charge for training and education related products
3) Certification evaluation and granting organizations
4) Certification consultants
5) Certificate holders (higher pay, increased likelihood of job)

What do you think?