The Project Management PodcastAuthor: OSP International LLC
30 Mar 2017

The Project Management Podcast

Download, listen or watch all podcasts

Project Management for Beginners and Experts. Are you looking to improve your Project Management Skills? Then listen to The Project Management Podcast™, a weekly program that delivers best practices and new developments in the field of project management. The more companies understand the importance of sound Project Management, the more will your skills be in demand. Project Management is the means used by companies today to turn their vision and mission into reality. It is also the driver behind transforming a business need into a business process. The Project Management Podcast™ looks at how project management shapes the business world of today and tomorrow. Find us on the web at http://www.pm-podcast.com or send your emails to info@pm-podcast.com. The Project Management Podcast™ is a trademark of OSP International LLC. All other trademarks mentioned are the property of their respective owners. Copyright © 2005 - 2017 OSP International LLC. All rights reserved.

  • Listen

    Episode 388: Implementing Project Portfolio Management (Premium) #PMOT #PM

    This episode is reserved for subscribers of the Premium Podcast. Learn how to subscribe to the Premium Podcast to access this interview and transcript...

    For your Project Management Professional (PMP)® exam use PMP certification training on your phone with The PM PrepCast:
    The PM PrepCast for the PMP Exam

    Jamal Moustafaev
    Jamal Moustafaev, MBA, PMP

    In this second interview with Jamal Moustafaev (https://ca.linkedin.com/in/jmoustafaev we take what we learned about the project portfolio management process and discuss how to implement it in our organizations.

    We look at PPM reviews, internal resource cost, the importance of our mission and strategy, how involved c-level executives need to be, a charter for portfolio management, how the halo effect can skew your project selection methods, and how to improve the quality of project proposals.

    All of these ideas are of course taken from his book Project Portfolio Management in Theory and Practice: Thirty Case Studies from around the World (Best Practices and Advances in Program Management) with the intent of giving you practical tips on how to implement project portfolio management in your own organization.

    Episode Transcript

    Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

    Coming Soon...

    Above are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only. Please subscribe to our Premium Podcast to receive a PDF transcript.


  • Posted on 26 Mar 2017

    download
  • Listen

    Episode 387: Project Portfolio Management (Free)

    Play Now:

    For your smart phone: Project Management Professional (PMP)® Training:
    PM PrepCast for PMP Exam Prep

    Jamal Moustafaev
    Jamal Moustafaev, MBA, PMP

    Project Portfolio Management and the realization that strategic alignment of all projects within an organization is crucial are both gaining ground. And this realization also emphasizes the need for having solid project selection methods.

    But how exactly do you do all of this? The number of books that focus on practical advice for implementing a strategic project portfolio management process is quite small. Lucky for us that a new one with exactly that focus has just been published

    The new book is titled Project Portfolio Management in Theory and Practice: Thirty Case Studies from around the World (Best Practices and Advances in Program Management) written by Jamal Moustafaev (https://ca.linkedin.com/in/jmoustafaev. In our discussion, we answer these questions:

    • What is project portfolio management?
    • What are the three pillars of strategic PPM?
    • What are some project selection models that support a company's strategy?
    • How do we achieve strategic alignment?

    Episode Transcript

    Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

    Podcast Introduction

    Cornelius Fichtner:  Hello and welcome to Episode #387. This is the Project Management Podcast at www.pm-podcast.com and I’m Cornelius Fichtner. Project Portfolio Management and the realization that strategic alignment of all projects within an organization is crucial are both gaining ground and this realization also emphasizes the need for having solid project selection methods. But how exactly do you do all of this? The number of books that focus on practical advice for implementing a project portfolio management process is quite small. Lucky for us that a new book with exactly that focus has just been published. If you are a project manager who wants to become PMP or PMI ACP certified, then the easiest way to do so is with our sister Podcast, the Project Management PrepCast or the Agile PrepCast and study for the exam by watching the in-depth exam prep video training from www.pm-prepcast.com . The new book is titled, “Project Portfolio Management in Theory and Practice: 30 Case Studies from Around the World” written by Jamal Moustafaev. In our discussion, we answered questions like: What is Project Portfolio Management? What are the three pillars of portfolio management? What are some project selection models and how do we achieve strategic alignment? And of course we have two copies of Jamal’s book to give away. One copy is reserved for our Premium subscribers and the other one is up for grabs. If you want to participate in this give-away, then please go to www.facebook.com/pmpodcast and look for the book give away announcement. And now, add this to the portfolio of your skills and enjoy the interview.  

    Female Voice: Project Management Podcast feature interview. Today with Jamal Moustafaev, President and CEO of Think Tank Consulting, a consulting company specializing in product and portfolio management services.

    Podcast Interview

    Cornelius Fichtner:   Hello, Jamal. Welcome back to the podcast.

    Jamal Moustafaev:   Hi, Cornelius. Always great to be on your program.    

    Cornelius:   Hey, in 2010, you wrote the book, “Delivering Exceptional Project Results: A Practical Guide to Project Selection Scoping Estimation and Management”. Then in 2014 came “Project Scope Management: A Practical Guide to Requirements Engineering Product Construction, IT and Enterprise Project, Best Practices and Advances in Program Management” and then last year, you published your third book titled, “Project Portfolio Management in Theory and Practice: 30 Case Studies from Around the World, Best Practices and Advances in Program Management”. What prompted you to write this new book?

    Jamal:   Well, if you remember our interview back from 2011 when we were discussing my first book, “Delivering Exceptional Project Results”, what I did in Exceptional Project Results is that I argued, I believed for the first time in the Project Management field that you need to have a good grasp on both Project Management and Project Portfolio Management if you want to deliver exceptional results because Project Portfolio Management is responsible for selecting the best ideas for your company for implementation and then project management is responsible for the discipline to deliver these great ideas through planning, monitoring and control. So, I kind of got attached upon—because the book is limited in size, I got attached upon a little bit about project management, a little bit about Project Portfolio Management but since then I have been invited to a lot of places around the world where companies would call me and say, “Ok, we would like to do Project Portfolio Management implementation. We now understand what it is and we want to do it.” I’ve had the chance of doing a lot of courses, workshops and Project Portfolio Management implementations. Several things, actually two things happened: I gathered a lot of materials, case studies, actual Project Portfolio Management implementations and I’ve encountered in this engagements a lot of questions that I felt were left unanswered in the first book just because of the size limitations. Third reason is that again, I went through a lot of computing books that are available in the market and I’ve discovered that while they were excellent, good, great, they were more academic in nature rather than practical and if you’re approaching an average CEO of a given company, you better have a practical book in your hand rather than an academic. Again, just to reiterate, three things: a lot of materials gathered, actual case studies that I wanted to share with people, a lot of questions that weren’t answered in the first book were answered in this—these processes and again, trying to bring something practical into the market

    Cornelius:   Who is the book actually for? Is it more for project managers, for program managers, portfolio managers?

    Jamal:   I would say, if you go like from the bottom up, definitely program managers, definitely anyone whose job title is PMO manager, project management director, etc. etc., portfolio manager, all the way up to C-Level people. I mean it’s a great book to read for project managers as well if you want—they want to upgrade their skills but the target market, like the people who I expect to read this book and do something about it, probably C-Level down to people who manage other project managers.

    Cornelius:   Ok. Final question about your books: Why are your book titles so incredibly long? I mean halfway through I have to take a breath.

    Jamal:   No, no, no. OK. Here is the deal. Trust me a lot of thought went through that. As far as I’m concerned, the first book in my mind is called Delivering Exceptional Project Results, second book is called Project Scope Management and third book is called Project Portfolio Management Practice. What I try to do with the subtitle, I’ll try to explain it a little, if you go to the market and say, “Hey, Delivering Exceptional Project Results”, people are still not very clear about what the book is about. When you say it’s about project selection scoping estimation and management, they’re going to go, “Ok”. Project Scope Management very frequently gets confused with managing project scope. People kind of think Jamal wrote a book about scope (management) and change requests rather than project scope management as the entire domain and 30 case studies around the world as subtitle for the first book was kind of wild, guys. They’re actually real case studies that you can look at; it’s not just all talking. So that’s for me, maybe I don’t know it’s a professional disease [laughs]. I’m a business analyst as well as a project manager so I tend to become very, very detailed about it.

    Cornelius:   The longer, the better.

    Jamal:   Yeah.

    Cornelius:     Ok. So we want to jump into the third book and learn a little bit more about project portfolio management. Let’s start with the absolute basic question. What is project portfolio management?

    Jamal:   Actually it’s a very good question because I am still encountering a lot of project managers—certified project managers like PMPs, etc. who are confused about this topic. Project Portfolio Management, my favorite definition is it is the science and the art of selecting the best projects for the organization and maintenance of the project pipelines subject to internal and external constraints. So the stress is being made on selection.

    Cornelius:   How does this differ from Program Management?

    Jamal:   Program Management starts, if you are a project manager or a program manager, someone from the C-Level. Someone’s in to your office and says, “Cornelius, you’re my program manager, here’s a program for you to do. A program consisting of several probably interrelated projects. And you assume at that point of time that the decision about the initiation of this program has already been made and you just take on and manage that program. As I’ve just mentioned a couple of minutes earlier, project portfolio management is about deciding which projects to run, which projects are going to go on the to-do list and which projects are going to be killed off that list. Focus is on selection.     

    Cornelius:   Who is usually responsible for Project Portfolio Management, PPM in a company?

    Jamal: Don’t even get me started on that!

    Cornelius:   [laughs] Who should be?

    Jamal: Who should be? Senior executives. Basically whoever—who can walk into the conference room and say, “Wouldn’t it be really cool if we could do this project?” should be on the Project Portfolio Management committee. The reason I kind of reacted in this manner to your question is because very frequently, especially for some reason when I go to London, UK and I go there twice a year and I get to teach my Project Portfolio Management workshop, I really think that in the beginning of the course I say, “Ok guys, why are you here?” What do you want to learn? What is your goal? What is your target? Nine out of ten people—fairly high-ranking people in the company—Portfolio Management, directors of PMO school, “Well, my executives send me here to learn about Project Portfolio Management, come back home, develop a Project Portfolio Management model and implement it at the company”. And I go, “Are they going to be participating in deciding what should go into that model?” They go, “No, they’re too busy”. And I go, “Well, imagine the following situation: you develop a model, it’s great, it’s the best model in the world and it fits your company perfectly. Your CEO walks into your office and go, “OK, Bob, here’s a project that I want you to do”. You run that project through your model and you suddenly discovered that that project gets only five points out of a possible hundred. You go back to your CEO and say, “Sorry, I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to go ahead with that project”. “”Why is that?” “Well, it got only five out of a hundred.” What’s the reaction of the CEO? Well, he’s probably going to say, “Based on what?” “Based on the model I’ve developed.” “How come I didn’t participate?” “Well, you were too busy”.  You see how this becomes ridiculous very quickly.    

    Cornelius:  Absolutely. Yeah.

    Jamal:   So that’s why –but it’s definitely—it should be senior people in the room. Whenever I get a call or email from a company saying, “We’re interested in Project Portfolio Management. Actually I got a very similar call recently from one of the universities in Canada. I tell them right away, “Guys, you got to have your C-Level people on board. And here is why: if they’re not ready, don’t do that.

    Cornelius:   When we talk about Project Portfolio Management, we also have to talk about strategy. What is the connection between the two? What is the connection between strategy and Project Portfolio Management and I think we probably also have to talk about the three pillars of Portfolio Management as part of this. I’ll give this whole bunch of things here to you to elaborate on.

    Jamal:   To put it in a (short) sentence, one very short sentence, if you have no clear strategy there’s no way you’re going to have Project Portfolio Management in place because Project Portfolio Management rests on three pillars: 1. Project must deliver value to the company and it’s a very fashionable word to use especially recently –what is valuable be determined when you go into more detail scoring model, etc. but let’s just agree that we understand what value is. It sits on the third and the second pillar is balancing your portfolio in a most simplistic way. How many high-risk, high-reward projects you have versus low-risk, low-reward projects. And it has something called strategic alignment. For example, what percentage of your project will go into new product families, which percentage of your project will be allocated to improvements to existing products and what percentage of your projects will go into maintenance? Guess what—of value, I would say at the top of my head, 90 to 95% of the companies I have worked with, they had selected strategic fit as one of their selection scoring criteria. So there is a direct connection to the value. This is usually (a “kill”) category. So for example if I’m offering a project—proposing a project that has no impact on the strategic fit, that project should get killed right away irrelevant of other benefits it brings. Balance, again. What is your company’s strategy? Are you embracing risks? Are you more risk-averse? We’re talking about software developers versus a bank. Which one of them, do you think will be more a risk-taker and which one of them would be more risk-averse? So it is all three pillars directly or indirectly they tie to strategy. Another thing that I want to kind of give a heads up to you or your listeners is that, remember I said at the very beginning, it has to be a clear and simple strategy. So for example, saying something like company X will become an innovative leader in the world –that doesn’t work. Because as soon as you get into the Portfolio Management…  

    Cornelius:    You have no idea which projects meet that.

    Jamal:   If you just say Company X will increase its market share to 45% in markets A, B and C, then time that to—strategy becomes very easy. So that’s my take on strategy and Project Portfolio Management.

    Cornelius:   OK. Just to reiterate the three pillars for our listeners here. The first one is: project selectively must maximize the value of the company. The second pillar was: they must constitute a balanced portfolio and lastly, they must be strategically aligned with the company’s overall business strategy and that’s how everything sort of fits into everything else.

    Jamal:   And you usually have strategy present in all three of them.

    Cornelius:    You mentioned scoring models. What role does strategy play in scoring models?

    Jamal:   Scoring models is basically—and by the way I shared some –probably four or five examples of full portfolio models of the companies I worked with and I think you will share them on your website.

    Cornelius:  Yeah, you have the info graphics, right?

    Above are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only. Please subscribe to our Premium Podcast to receive a PDF transcript.


  • Posted on 10 Mar 2017

    download
  • Listen

    Special: Scope of Success

    Play Now:

    SOS Podcast
    Scope of Success Podcast with Brian K. Wagner, MBA, PMP and James Kittle, PMP

    Welcome to another "special" episode from The PM Podcast, in which we introduce you to new podcasts that are created and produced for/by project managers. Today we feature 'Scope of Success'.

    Launched in 2016, Scope of Success brings you Business Life Lessons to help you advance your career one interview at a time. Hosted by Brian K. Wagner, MBA, PMP and James Kittle, PMP, advocates for business issues at hand. Sponsored by Project Management Institute (PMI)® Long Island Chapter.

    So please enjoy Ep1- Mastering the Job Interview - Guest/Steve Potter. Here is what Brian and James write about it in their show notes:

    In this episode we speak with one of PMI® Long Island chapter's founders and current member of the board of directors. Steve Potter talks to us about interviewing questions and styles that lead to success.

    Episode Transcript

    Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

    Coming Soon...

    Above are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only. Please subscribe to our Premium Podcast to receive a PDF transcript.


  • Posted on 04 Mar 2017

    download
  • Listen

    Episode 386: Interpersonal Skills for Project Success (Free)

    Play Now:

    For your smart phone: Project Management Professional (PMP)® Certification Training:
    PM PrepCast for PMP Exam Prep

    Presenters Collage
    Congress presenters reveal their most important interpersonal skill

    Last year at the Project Management Institute (PMI)® Global Congress 2016 in San Diego, California I recorded an all time high of 14 interviews. They have all been published over the past few months and you’ve probably heard some or all of them. But what you don’t know is what happened once each interview was complete.

    I pressed the recording button one more time and asked each of my guests the following question: Which is the interpersonal skill that you attribute the most of our success in your career to? In other words, what skill has helped you most on your projects when you interact with others?

    And today you are going to get all the answers. In one nice mashup. Here are all the presenters in the order you will hear their answers

    • Jay Payette
    • Kristy Tan Neckowicz
    • Nk Shrivastava
    • David Hillson
    • Denise McRoberts
    • Joy Beatty
    • Kristine Hayes Munson
    • Andrew Burns
    • Kim Wasson
    • Wanda Curlee
    • Beth Spriggs
    • Cyndi Snyder Dionisio
    • Connie Inman

    Oh, and spoiler alert... the answer that I received most often was "Relationships".

    Episode Transcript

    Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

    Podcast Introduction

    Cornelius Fichtner:  Hello and welcome to Episode #386. This is the Project Management Podcast at www.pm-podcast.com and I’m Cornelius Fichtner. Last year at the PMI Global Congress 2016 in San Diego, California, I recorded an all-time high of 14 interviews. They have all been published over the past few months here on the program and you’ve probably heard some or all of them but what you don’t know is what happened once each interview was complete because I pressed the recording button one more time and I asked each of my interview guests the following question: What interpersonal skill do you attribute the most to your success in Project Management to? In other words, what skill has helped you most on your projects when you interact with others? And today, you are going to get all the answers in one nice, big mash-up. We begin with Jay Payette who attributes his success to what I have to do a lot here on the Project Management Podcast and that’s talking.    

    Podcast Interview

    Cornelius Fichtner:   Jay, please tell me which is the interpersonal skill that you attribute the most of your success in Project Management to?

    Jay Payette:   It’s an excellent question and it’s a difficult question because there are so many interpersonal skills I know that being able to be empathetic is important and understand different people’s perspectives but for me actually, if I have to attribute success in Project Management, it would be in simply, communication—being able to stand up in a room and present and speak with confidence and win people over with my ideas. Being able to speak confidently, being able to speak what I would hope to be charismatically to me has been the one skill that has allowed me to win confidence in my clients but also drive success in delivering projects.  

    Cornelius:   Now that we know that talking is important, how about listening? Here are Kristy Tan Neckowicz and NK Shrivastava

    Kristy:   I would say that one key skill that I attribute my success to is active listening. I feel like the fact that people that I communicate with recognize that I’m listening, that I actually do care about what they are going to say and I’m actually going to take action as a result of what they say. That has given me a lot of leeway in building relationships with them and also getting the results that we both want. So I say active listening is key.

    NK:   If I were to put the interpersonal skills I will say listening is the most critical skill because that tells me to understand the customer and it goes with one of the seven habits of highly effective people: seek to understand first than to be understood. I don’t know which habit number is that, probably #2, I think, or whatever. But I think that’s the most important thing—listening. Listening doesn’t mean hearing. Listening means really, really understanding what somebody sitting in front of you is talking or wanting to communicate. That’s the most important thing and sometime I have sit in user sessions where I have not talked for one hour, two hours. Just listening. And I remember in one of the sessions where I was one of the project managers and I went with the sales team and it was a big insurance company in the world, very senior leaders. It was a one day session where the sales guys were trying to know what they are looking for and they took me as a key sales support project manager and I was sitting there and for first half day, I did not speak anything. I was just listening, listening, listening, listening. Then during lunchtime, I asked them, the sales guys 2 or 3 questions. And they said, “Oh, we did not think about that”. I said, “Yeah, because you were talking, you were not listening”. So then in the afternoon when we went and talked about those 2 or 3 questions that I raised, even the customers sitting there were, “Oh we did not think about that!”. So then they started talking and we came to know about the requirements for that project that were not on the table for any time in the past. That project became 3 or 4 times the scope of the project and the customer was very happy with that of course they did not have that much money so we went and prioritized what is most important for you. Then we had a project that we did for that customer and it was a very good project. So I still was not talking for half day and just listening. Just listening—I feel that’s the most important interpersonal skill and it also helps in personal relationships. So for example if you know your son or daughter is talking and you are not listening, they may not talk to you anymore after some time. It’s important in any relationship is to listen. That’s why I listen.

    Cornelius:   So I asked a total of 13 interview guests: Which interpersonal skill helped them the most? Four of them shows the same skill and here is the big winner of this informal survey. It is “relationships” but each of my guests has a different take on it. First here are David Hillson and Denise McRoberts.

    David Hillson:   I’ve learned a lot in terms of interpersonal skills from the idea of transactional analysis. We call it TA, for short and the idea that you can take the approach of people being OK or not OK. So I’m OK, you’re OK or I’m not OK and you’re OK, or I’m OK and you’re not OK. Those kinds of things I think are quite important to think about in terms of our relationships with each other and in TA, transactional analysis they talk about the parent-child relationship where the child-parents talk about the adult-adult relationship and then the others are sort of combination between parent, adult and child. I think clearly what we should be looking for most of the time is adult to adult relationships but very often we treat people as if I’m the parent and you’re the child. In other words, I’m OK and you’re not OK and I need to teach you how to do the right thing and to get your life sorted out and to perform effectively and you just do what I tell you. Sometimes we’re in the reverse where I’m the child and you’re the parent and I’m needy and I’m dependent on you and then I’m a kind of my drawing my authenticity, drawing my direction from you and that’s not healthy either. And so that idea of transactional analysis where you consciously become aware of those different levels of relationship and actively choose to treat the other person like an adult is important. I found that’s been a real challenge to me as a technical expert, I mean I’m a risk management expert, but also a person in Project Management, I’m a fellow of PMI, I’ve been managing projects for 30 years. Actually I feel like the parent and very often my starting position is you’re not OK, you need to listen to me and that’s very arrogant. I don’t know everything and so I do need to just correct myself quite often and say, “You know what, your position has value, I can learn from you. Let me just adjust my positioning and treat each other as equals and not be dependent on you but not trying to put myself above you”. We’re all trying to do the same thing together here and that is really helpful to me. That adult to adult relationship has a choice to do it intentionally has been I think the thing that has helped me the most.

    Denise:   I would have to say most of my success is attributed to connecting with people. As a project manager I get to work with all different levels from C Level executives to all various resources on a one-on-one level and it’s fun and challenging to work at those different levels, figure out how to best communicate, how to most effectively communicate and how to connect so that people feel inspired to work on projects and to collaborate and as a team environment and really impart change.  I think connecting to those people is the most fun and I think it’s one of my strongest skills that I think has really helped me out in my project and portfolio management career.

    Cornelius:   So that was David Hillson and Denise McRoberts. By the way, if you want to hear me stumbling over my own tongue when I asked David the question, you’re going to have to listen all the way to the end. We’re going to be adding that blooper right off to the ending music here in this episode. Moving on to Joy Beatty and Kristine Hayes Munson who agree with the previous two guests. The interpersonal skill that is most important for them as project managers is relationships but not all of us are in fact project managers. 

    Above are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only. Please subscribe to our Premium Podcast to receive a PDF transcript.


  • Posted on 18 Feb 2017

    download
  • Listen

    Episode 385: Aligning Projects with Organizational Strategy (Free)

    Play Now:

    Our recommended Project Management Professional (PMP)® Exam Prep:
    PM PrepCast for PMP Exam Prep

    Jay Payette
    Jay Payette, PMP

    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.

    PDU Tip

    This interview is 29 minutes and 30 seconds long. This means that it is 30 seconds too short and you can "legally" only claim 0.25 PDUs for listening to it. However... if you first listen to the interview and then also read the white paper on which it is based, then you can go ahead and claim 0.50 PMP PDUs!

    Click to download the white paper

    Episode Transcript

    Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

    Podcast Introduction

    Cornelius Fichtner:  Welcome everyone. You are listening to the Project Management Podcast at www.pm-podcast.com . We are coming to you once again live from the 2016 PMI Global Congress in now not-so-sunny San Diego in Southern California and with me standing here in the hallway is Jay Payette.

    Podcast Interview

    Cornelius Fichtner:   Hello, Jay.

    Jay Payette:   Hello, good day!

    Cornelius:  So, the Congress has just ended. We have heard the final keynote with Wesmore. How was the Congress for you?

    Jay:  Oh, it was a phenomenal Congress. I felt –unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend last year in Orlando but I was able to attend in New Orleans the year before and I find every year, participants become even more engaged with the speakers. They tend to ask even more and more questions and the participation level, it just continues to go up. So, I’m really excited to see that kind of enthusiasm amongst practitioners to pick your brains and learn new things.

    Cornelius:   Excellent. The title of your presentation is: Making It Happen: How Project Managers Can Drive Strategic Alignment and Strategy Execution. How was the presentation for you here?

    Jay:   The presentation was wonderful.

    Cornelius:   Well-attended?

    Jay:   Very well-attended. It was a full room, Standing Room Only in the back. I did have the benefit of presenting on the first day so sometimes when you’re the last group in the last day you’ll get people flying home but I did have that kind of first mover’s advantage so the attendance was fantastic.

    Cornelius:   Alright. The subtitle of your presentation is How Project Managers Can Drive Strategic Alignment and Strategy Execution. Allow me to begin with a somewhat critical question because many of us project managers feel that we are not necessarily in a position where we are asked or even considered when strategic alignment and strategy execution is being discussed. We’re kind of left out of this discussion. People don’t come to us, the C Level, they don’t think that we are the right people to talk to. How do we overcome that?

    Jay:   This is a massive challenge, I think for PMs and what you just described, the mindset that most project managers have that we’re more or less, order-takers. Once strategic decisions are made at the portfolio level, once they are made at the program level, we just have to implement something and therefore we don’t necessarily have a strategic organization. I really think that that is completely false, quite the contrary, I think that project managers have a critical role to play in strategy execution and even in strategy formulation. That was the impetus to having this paper written and to do this talk. Now to directly answer your question, there’s really no magic bullet about how to raise the profiles of PMs. I had this exact question in the session and when I came back with it and said the first thing you need to do is really educate yourself about the strategic environment that you’re operating in. Understand how strategies are formulated, understand who the players are, understand the strategy inside and out. That will allow you to identify strategically critical pieces of information, there might be issues, there might be risks, there might be opportunities, and there might be a solution component that your project team develops. So, once you’ve educated yourself, you’ll be able to ask those key critical questions because even though as project managers were not behind closed doors developing strategy or we may not be directly participating in the formulation of strategy, we are operating at the level of the organization where the strategy becomes reality and the rubber hits the road. We are the ones who tend to discover strategic misalignment in the organization and identifying something as misalignment of strategy implementation is a critical problem not just for the project but for the whole organization. By discovering that problem we need to make sure that we have effectively communicated upwards. I feel that project managers do that more and more than our profile across the organization will change and people will start to think of us more into that strategic frame.

    Cornelius:   And I think the sentence “Our profile throughout the organization will change” is important. Today we are not looked at as being part of this and we have to change first ourselves and then our profession to be looked at as “let’s go to the project managers and let’s ask them because they know our organization and they can tell us what goes on, what goes right and what goes wrong.”

    Jay:   Exactly. As you said, the first step is convincing ourselves of that as a profession and with that will come further down the road our external profile amongst our colleagues, our employers, our clients, etc.

    Cornelius:   Right. Let’s open up your presentation. Let’s go into your paper. Let me begin with the basic—how do you define strategic alignment?  

    Jay:   This is something that I’ve struggled with. Once you get into a topic and dive deep, you start to reveal the different opinions that people have and there really is no universal definition of strategic alignment. Some people will say that it is a byproduct of execution. Some people will say that strategic executions are byproduct of strategic alignment. The way that I see it, very simply is that you have you strategy formulation or strategic planning although I’m not a fan of that term, on one side and then you have the actual execution on the other side. You can have successful strategy formulation and failed strategy execution. You can also have successful execution of that strategy but in order for both of those to really be successful, they have to consider each other, they have to maintain a constant dialogue with each other so that your strategy formulation is based on the truths, the facts of your business operations which you can only pull up from the operation level and likewise, your organization has to be able to deliver it on that strategy. So the organization needs to be aligned, the culture needs to be aligned, the resources needs to be aligned and individual actions need to be aligned. To me the simplest definition is having your formulation and your execution constantly in dialogue with each other and considering each other.

    Cornelius:   And that dialogue, of course, is helped by having a strategic alignment framework.

    Jay:   Yes.

    Cornelius:   Can you develop that a little bit for us?

    Jay:   Yes. There’s a number of approaches organizations can take to ensure that their organization is strategically aligned. There are a number of noteworthy or well-known frameworks. One of the oldest is the Seven S Framework which was created by two partners out of the San Francisco office of Mackenzie in a paper published in 1980. They initially approached the problem of saying, “Why are organizations not able to execute strategy?” And they had thought, as was popular at the time and management to say there must be some kind of organizational design, organizational structural solution to this problem. What they realized was that, “No, that isn’t the case”. The problem is that organizations were making decisions in one area and not considering the other area of the organization. They essentially split the organization up into seven areas. As good consultants, they alliterated their framework, so that it can be well-marketed and remembered. They named all of these area with an S so they have Strategy, Structure, Systems, which could be business processes or information systems, Staff, Style, which really means culture, Skills and then one of my favorite terms, is Superordinate goals. I’ve never heard the term superordinate before…

    Cornelius: They have to make it work with the S, of course.

    Jay:   Yes, of course, it has to be alliterates. Until I read this paper by Waterman, I’ve never heard of that and really that just means high-level goals, raison d'être  of the firm. If you change one part of the organization, you’re going to have to consider making changes and aligning those other six parts of the organization. I think it’s really not necessarily robust framework per se but as I mentioned in my talk, it’s an excellent visual to put up and start the conversation about “Do we really understand what the implications of one strategic decision might be?”

    Cornelius:   Taking this from the high strategic level all the way down to a project implementation and what you have just said starts the conversation. What I always tell junior project managers and when you take an empty template for say a project charter, and you go to your sponsor, you’re not supposed to fill in the template, you’re supposed to take the template with you as a means of starting a conversation with your sponsors. I think this conversation at the very bottom with let’s fill in the project charter taking it all the way up to the strategy and working from there with this framework, I think that fits on to any level –top, bottom and in-between.   

    Jay:   Yes, I think it helps to have that conversation. To a degree it helps its scope to make sure that—are you actually considering everything? It really drives the conversation on business value. “Ok, we’re doing this project to improve this part of the organization, why are we doing that?” and “How can we align other work to support that business objective. So really and I totally agree with what you’re talking about with the templates is it’s not just ticking boxes, you have to understand what the business value is and how that business value is created if you’re going to be contributing to it. If the project is worthwhile, you have to understand what the strategic implications of the project are if you’re going to be able to deliver it successfully. And by successful I don’t mean on time or on schedule, which is a traditional project management metric. By successful I mean, why are we doing in the first place?

    Cornelius:   Delivering the benefits you’re originally set out to do.

    Jay:   Exactly.

    Cornelius:  Ok. Now let me be very stupid and ask a rather simple question that may be difficult to answer: How exactly does the Seven S Framework help me to ensure strategic alignment? You mentioned you have to have strategy on one side, execution on the other side, how does it help to ensure that?

    Above are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only. Please subscribe to our Premium Podcast to receive a PDF transcript.


  • Posted on 10 Feb 2017

    download

Follow Playlisto