From Traditional to Non-Traditional Projects

By Harold Kerzner, Ph.D. | Senior Executive Director for Project Management, IIL

Background

For almost four decades, companies on a worldwide basis struggled with the creation of a singular methodology that could be used to manage all their projects. The singular methodology was a necessity for senior management that was reluctant to surrender their “command and control” posture over the project management community. The methodologies were designed so that senior management could retain some degree of standardization and control from the top down through the hierarchy and that project teams would not be allowed to make decisions that were reserved for the senior levels of management. Executives, marketing and sales personnel were fearful of what power and authority project managers might obtain.

Today’s project managers do not realize the degrees of mistrust that some of us had to endure as project managers years ago. At that time, if the choice were up to executives in the contractors’ organizations, project managers would not exist, and all projects would be managed by functional management, marketing or sales personnel. But the clients and stakeholders preferred to talk directly to the project managers (rather than communications with just sales and marketing personnel) and encouraged the contractors to recognize the need for creating project management positions.

The Growth of Nontraditional Projects

Singular methodologies provided the executives with the command and control they desired but there were some risks. Executives tried to enforce the belief that the singular methodology was the solution to their project management concerns and that one-size-fits-all, which meant that every project in the company would be required to use the same, singular approach. Unfortunately, executive soon began to realize that not all projects can use the one-size-fits-all methodology. Operational or traditional projects may be able to follow a singular methodology, but strategic and other forms of nontraditional projects may have to be managed differently.

The approach that companies then undertook was to have strategic and nontraditional projects managed by functional managers that were then allowed a great deal of freedom in how they chose to manage the projects. Executives trusted functional managers more so than project managers and were not perceived as a threat to senior management.

By the turn of the century, the number of nontraditional projects was growing. More trust was being placed in the hands of the project managers and companies began recognizing that the one-size-fits-all approach needed to be modified or replaced with flexible methodologies or frameworks, such as agile or Scrum, which provided more freedom and authority to the project managers.

The Impact of the Growth in Nontraditional Projects

In some companies, the number of nontraditional projects was perhaps 200% more than traditional projects as seen in the center of Exhibit 1 below. As the need for more flexibility in project management took hold, changes began to appear in the way that some of the traditional processes were being used.

 

Exhibit 1. Changes in Our View of Project Management Processes

 

The Hexagon of Excellence

The hexagon of excellence identifies some of the changes that companies made as they began to use project management on the nontraditional projects:

  • Integrated processes: Project managers were now expected to make business-based decisions as well as the traditional technical or project-based decisions. As such, business processes were now integrated with project management processes in flexible project management approaches.
  • Culture: Project management was now recognized as processes that can and will affect the entire company rather than just specific functional areas. As such, a project management culture that supports company-wide cooperation must be developed and enforced by senior management.
  • Management Support: Management support is essential. Senior management must realize that they must actively function as project sponsors and serve on governance committees. They must also realize project governance is NOT the same as functional governance and must be willing to understand and accept new levels of authority, responsibility and decision making.
  • Training and Education: Providing training to just the project managers no longer works. If a corporate-wide project management culture is to be created, then it is possible that the entire organization may need to undergo some training.
  • Informal Project Management: Part of the training must promote informal project management practices that are predicated upon people working together and without being forced to rely upon the use of superior-subordinate relationships. Titles and levels of authority should not be critical when working on project teams.
  • Behavioral Excellence: Human resource management courses will grow. Rather than emphasize the traditional behavioral theories, the focus will be on communication, cooperation, teamwork, and trust, with trust perhaps being the most important item.

Capturing Best Practices

For decades, we relied entirely upon capturing best practices, but just those related to project management. Today, we believe that, if you are managing a project, you are managing part of a business and are expected to make business decisions as well as project decisions. Therefore, we are now capturing best practices in all parts of the business rather than in just project management. What we discover as part of our findings are now part of an information warehouse rather than just a best practices library. As seen in Exhibit 1, we are now developing a structured process by which all forms of best practices can be discovered.

Project Management Maturity Models

Typical project management maturity models, as shown in Exhibit 1 still apply, but more models are entering the marketplace. In Exhibit 1, Level 3 may be replaced with flexible methodologies rather than a singular approach. Level 4 is expected to grow significantly as companies realize that benchmarking against companies that are world class leaders in project management may give better results than just benchmarking against companies in their own industry. In Level 5, companies are demonstrating a greater willingness to implement changes in the best interest of the company rather than worrying about their own power base and authority.

Networked PMOs

Companies have recognized the need for PMOs for more than three decades. However, there were significant power struggles for which executive would maintain control of the PMO. There was a belief that “information is power” and whichever executive would control the PMO would become more powerful than his/her contemporaries.

As nontraditional projects grew, there was an apparent need for multiple PMOs. The situation becomes more complex as companies began expanding globally and recognized the need for geographically dispersed PMOs. But some executive still felt threatened by the PMO concept and opted for the creation of “master” and “subordinate” PMOs. Today, this concept seems to have diminished as companies have recognized the importance of networking their PMOs as shown in Exhibit 1.

Conclusion

There is significantly more information we could have discussed related to each component in Exhibit 1 resulting from the growth of nontraditional projects. But what appears obvious is that change is happening and appears to be for the betterment of the project management community. Where project management will take us, we do not know. But what is certain is that there is a growth in the use of nontraditional projects and the accompanying project management processes.

Have a question for Dr. Kerzner? Leave your comment below.

 

About the Author
Harold Kerzner (M.S., Ph.D., Engineering, and M.B.A) is IIL’s Senior Executive Director for Project Management. He is a globally recognized expert on project management and strategic planning, and the author of many best-selling textbooks including Project Management: A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling and Project Management 2.0. Dr. Kerzner has previously taught project management and business administration at Baldwin-Wallace University, engineering at the University of Illinois and business administration at Utah State University. He obtained his industrial experience at Thiokol Corporation where he held both program management and project engineering responsibilities on a variety of NASA, Air Force, Army, Navy, and internal R&D programs.

PMBOK and PMI are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.


Can the Words "Innovation" and "Project Management" Be Used In The Same Sentence?

By Harold Kerzner, Ph.D. | Senior Executive Director for Project Management, IIL

INTRODUCTION

Companies need growth for survival.

Companies cannot grow simply through cost reduction and reengineering efforts.

Companies are recognizing that brand loyalty accompanied by a higher level of quality does not always equate to customer retention unless supported by some innovations.

According to management guru Peter Drucker, there are only two sources for growth: marketing and innovation [Drucker, 2008]. Innovation is often viewed as the Holy Grail of business and the primary driver for growth. Innovation forces companies to adapt to an ever-changing environment and to be able to take advantage of opportunities as they arise.

Companies are also aware that their competitors will eventually come to market with new products and services that will make some existing products and services obsolete, causing the competitive environment to change. Continuous innovation is needed, regardless of current economic conditions, to provide a firm with a sustainable competitive advantage and to differentiate themselves from their competitors. The question, of course, is “How do we manage innovation needs?”

INNOVATION AND PROJECT MANAGEMENT

For years, there has been a debate as to whether the words “innovation” and “project management” should be used in the same sentence. Some researchers argue that project management and innovation management should be treated as separate disciplines.

Innovation requires:

  • An acceptance of significant risk, more so than in traditional project management
  • A great deal of uncertainty
  • A focus on strategic goals and possibly no business case exists
  • Unknown constraints and assumptions that continuously change
  • Decision making in an unfamiliar landscape
  • A creative mindset
  • Collaboration across all enterprise organizational boundaries
  • Significant interfacing with customers in every market segment
  • A different leadership style than with traditional project management
  • A set of tools different than what is being taught in traditional project management courses

Some tools typically used when managing innovation include:

  • Design thinking
  • Storytelling
  • Decision-making flow charts
  • Value proposition
  • Business model thinking
  • Wall of ideas with post-it notes
  • Ideation
  • Prototyping, perhaps continuously

Innovation management, in its purest form, is a combination of the management of innovation processes and change management. It refers to products, services, business processes, and accompanying transformational needs, whereby the organization must change the way they conduct their business. The change can be incremental or radical.

Project management practices generally follow the processes and domain areas identified in the Project Management Institute (PMI)® A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide). Strategic innovation follows other processes such as strategizing, entrepreneurship, changing and investing [de Witt & Meyer, 2014].

But now, companies are realizing that innovation strategy is implemented through projects. Simply stated, we are managing our business as though it is a series of projects. Project management has become the delivery system for innovation activities, but the integration is complex and varies with the type of innovation project.

PROJECT MANAGEMENT IS A BUSINESS DELIVERY SYSTEM

Today’s project managers are seen more so as managing part of a business than managing just a project. Project managers are now treated as market problem-solvers and expected to be involved in business decisions as well as project decisions. End-to-end project management is now coming of age. In the past, project managers were actively involved mainly in just project execution with the responsibility of providing a deliverable or an outcome. Today, with end-to-end project management, the project manager is actively involved in all life-cycle phases including idea generation and product commercialization.

For decades, most project managers were trained in traditional project management practices and were ill-equipped to manage innovation projects. Today, attempts are being made to integrate all of this into a single profession, namely innovation project management (IPM).

PROJECT MANAGEMENT LITERATURE

There exists a plethora of literature on project management. Unfortunately, most of the literature focuses on linear project management models with the assumption that “one size fits all.” While this may hold true in some industries and for some projects, the concept of “one size fits all” does not apply to projects involving innovation. Innovation varies from industry to industry, and even companies within the same industry cannot come to an agreement on how innovation management should work.

The situation gets even worse when companies try to use traditional project management for business processes such as business model innovation, where you have the greatest degree of risk and uncertainty, where traditional risk management planning will not work, and where a great deal of flexibility is needed for decision making. Different project management approaches, many requiring a higher level of flexibility, will be dictated by the level of technology, the amount of product versus product changes, and whether the impact is expected to disrupt the markets.

Project managers need flexibility in their ability to select the appropriate tools for their projects and customize the processes to fit the needs of the projects. This holds true even for those projects that do not require innovation. The future will be flexible project management models such as those used in Agile and Scrum projects.

“Managers need to recognize the type of project at the start, resist institutional pressure to adapt traditional ‘rational’ approaches to all projects and apply an appropriate approach – one tailored for the type of project” [Lenfle & Loch, 2010]. Traditional project management does not distinguish between types of projects. Articles are appearing in literature that propose a methodology to classify projects to guide the design of a suitable project management model [Geraldi et al., 2011].

We have learned from Agile and Scrum that flexible project management approaches are necessary for many projects. This same thinking will be required for innovation projects. We will need different tools and different skill sets than most project managers currently use. 

Have a question for Dr. Kerzner? Leave your comment below.


About the Author
Harold Kerzner (M.S., Ph.D., Engineering, and M.B.A) is IIL’s Senior Executive Director for Project Management. He is a globally recognized expert on project management and strategic planning, and the author of many best-selling textbooks including Project Management: A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling and Project Management 2.0. Dr. Kerzner has previously taught project management and business administration at Baldwin-Wallace University, engineering at the University of Illinois and business administration at Utah State University. He obtained his industrial experience at Thiokol Corporation where he held both program management and project engineering responsibilities on a variety of NASA, Air Force, Army, Navy and internal R&D programs.

REFERENCES

Drucker, P. F. (2008). The Essential Drucker. Reissue Edition, Harper Business, New York.

Witt, B. de, & Meyer, R. (2014). Strategy: An international perspective, Cengage Learning EMEA, Andover.

Lenfle, M. & Loch, C. (2010). Lost roots: How project management came to emphasize control over flexibility novelty, California Management Review, 53 (1), 32 – 55.

Geraldi, J. G., Maylor, H. & Williams, T. (2011). Now, let’s make it really complex (complicated): A systematic review of the complexities of projects. International

Journal of Operations & Production Management, 31 (9), 966 – 990.

PMBOK and PMI are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.


Project Managers Need to Focus on the User Experience – Their Own!

By J. LeRoy Ward,  PMP, PgMP, PfMP, CSM, CSPO   |   Executive Vice President – Enterprise Solutions, IIL

Odd title, I know. What does it really mean? Let me phrase it as a question:

What’s it like to work with, or for, you? In other words, what’s the “experience” you provide to “users” when they engage with you?

Today, UX, or user experience, is of paramount concern among product manufacturers and service providers. Take Amazon, for example. As a Prime User, the UX of logging on, ordering, and receiving products within two business days (here in the U.S.) is almost “frictionless” as they like to say. It’s quick, easy, and accurate.

Returns? Not a problem. Tracking an order? Piece of cake. Delivery to my mailbox (or door if the package is too big)? The United States Postal Service has it down pat, and they even deliver on Sundays! That’s the UX that Amazon provides its customers.

But UX is also key in service delivery as well. Checked into a hotel recently, or rented a car, or went to the grocery store, or went to the bank? What was that like? What technologies have these industries instituted that made your experience better, faster, or more convenient? Okay, you get the point. Now, let’s turn to you.

What type of UX do you provide to your client? Is it frictionless?

For example, do you:

Respond quickly to questions or issues?
Always have the latest progress information on hand?
Anticipate their needs and reach out when required?
Share the bad news along with the good so they always know where they stand?
Show up on time, prepared for whatever meeting or event is scheduled?
Have a positive attitude?
Show creativity and flexibility in handling project matters?
Conduct your affairs with a high level of integrity and honor?
Place the client’s needs above yours or your company’s?
Do what you say you’re going to do, and in a timely manner?

On the Net Promoter Score survey, when asked “Would you recommend [your name here] to a family member, friend, or business colleague?” would your client answer “yes”?

If you can answer yes to all the questions above, including the Net Promoter Score, then your personal UX is at a very high level and you’re doing well. If not, you might want to start thinking about another approach.

What about your team? How would they evaluate your UX as it relates to your relationship with them?

In almost every Project Management 101 course and text where we, as project managers, are advised, if not admonished, to negotiate for the best team members we can find in our organizations, it’s as if there are folks out there who would jump at the chance of being on our team. Just like when you were a kid and you were waiting to be selected for the best baseball team in your local sandlot games.

But are your work colleagues really “hoppin’ from one foot to the other” waiting for you to negotiate hard to get them on your team? It depends. It depends on how you treated them the last time they were on your team.

I have always counseled project managers to ask themselves one key question regarding team members. “Why would anyone want to be on your team?” One thing I always did on projects was to meet with each team member individually and ask them what they wanted to get out of working on this project. If I could help them meet their goals I did; if not, I’d let them know.

At least they knew I was making an attempt to help them grow professionally. But that’s not all of course. Treating people with respect is just table stakes in this era. People want to have fun, be creative, and come to work excited about making a difference. If you can provide that type of environment, your UX will be off the charts.

How do you know what your UX is? Start by asking your sponsor and manager. Then have some “crucial conversations,” as some pundit once wrote, with those closest to you whom you know will be honest. If you don’t like what you hear, you can start working on those soft skills that really make a difference.

Hitting project “home runs” is not just about meeting deadlines and budgets; it even goes beyond bringing benefits to fruition. It’s making people feel great about their experience working with, or for, you. 

In the end, as another maxim puts it, “people may never remember what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.”

That’s your personal UX. Make it the best it can be.

Ready to improve your personal UX? IIL can help. Take a look at our Business Skills courses, or request a free consultation.


J. LeRoy Ward is a highly respected consultant and adviser to Global Fortune 500 Corporations and government agencies in the areas of project, program, and portfolio management. With more than 38 years of government and private sector experience, LeRoy specializes in working with senior executives to understand their role in project and program sponsorship, governance, portfolio management and the strategic execution of projects and programs.


What is Project Management?

By J. LeRoy Ward,  PMP, PgMP, PfMP, CSM, GWCPM, SCPM   |   Executive Vice President – Enterprise Solutions, IIL 

What do the Panama Canal and the development of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner have in common?

At first glance, you might say “absolutely nothing.” But, they have a lot in common. Both were the outcomes of projects. And although vastly different in every respect, the Panama Canal, and the Boeing 787 share two characteristics:

  1. Each is unique. There’s only one Boeing 787 Dreamliner and there’s only one Panama Canal.
  2. Each is the result of a temporary endeavor. In short, each had a definite beginning and an end.

Once completed, of course, the Panama Canal became operational, and once developed, the Boeing 787 went into service with many more being manufactured as I write this. In short, the design and construction of the Panama Canal, and the design and manufacture of the Boeing 787 were projects.

And these projects were led by competent and highly trained individuals, appropriately named Project Managers, who applied knowledge, skills, techniques, and tools, to all the project activities to produce the end result that met the requirements. That’s called Project Management.

Let’s get a bit more formal. According to the Project Management Institute’s (PMI)® A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide), project management is defined as “the application of knowledge skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements.

Projects have been around for thousands of years. Ever see a picture of the Pyramids of Giza? That’s a project. How about the Great Wall of China? Yup, another project. What about the International Space Station? You guessed it…another project.

Projects come in all shapes and sizes. Have you planned a summer vacation lately? Well, that’s a project. And, how about all those home “projects” that take up our evenings and weekends? The name says it all, doesn’t it?

What are you doing at work these days? Are you working with a group of folks to get a particular product to market, developing a new app, or launching a marketing campaign? If you are, you’re working on a project. Projects are everywhere.

As projects become larger and more complex we break them down into various phases such as Initiating, Planning, Executing and so forth. Every industry has their project “life cycle” as it’s called. We do so because it’s a lot easier to estimate and control our work when we break it down into pieces, rather than trying to grapple with the whole thing at once.

We might even use certain sophisticated tools to help us schedule our project, or analyze risk to avoid trouble. All these activities are part of project management.

If the work you’re doing conforms to the two characteristics above, guess what, you’re working on a project, whether you call it that or not. And, the activities you’re engaged in to get the job done successfully is called project management. Finally, if you’re “leading the charge,” you’re the Project Manager.

So, welcome to the wonderful world of projects and project management. You’re in good company because there are millions more just like you – people who are working on projects every day, and may not have knowledge of formal project management methods. Take the next step by exploring our other blog posts on Project Management, and enrolling in introductory Project Management course from IIL.

New to Project Management? Start with a Project Management Fundamentals course from IIL

J. LeRoy Ward is a highly respected consultant and adviser to Global Fortune 500 Corporations and government agencies in the areas of project, program and portfolio management. With more than 38 years of government and private sector experience, LeRoy specializes in working with senior executives to understand their role in project and program sponsorship, governance, portfolio management and the strategic execution of projects and programs.


A New Way to Recognize the Achievements of Project Managers

By Harold Kerzner, Ph.D.
Senior Executive Director for Project Management, IIL

Introduction:

The 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang are well underway, with athletes from all over the world being awarded medals for their achievements. Military personnel, police departments, and other professional organizations also recognize the achievements of their labor force through medals and ribbons. So, why shouldn’t we do the same thing for project managers? This could be significantly more important to a worker or project manager than a simple handshake.

We begin our projects with the greatest of intentions. Some people view project management as a series of contests or challenges beginning with a well thought out plan that everyone agrees with. When projects do not necessarily go according to plan, we may end up with rigorous confrontations that can lead to skirmishes and even battles with stakeholders. Some battles on projects are so intense that we consider them as all-out wars.

Years ago, many aerospace and defense industry projects were managed using war rooms. There was a reason why we called them war rooms. These were rooms with one door and no windows. On the walls were scope, scheduling, and financial information as well as other key metrics. It was called a war room because this is where the battles between project teams, executives, stakeholders, clients, and contractors took place. The concept of project war rooms still exists today.

If we look at the literal definition of war, we can see the comparison to the project management environment. This appears in Exhibit 1.

Dictionary Definition of War Project Management Interpretation
An often prolonged conflict carried on between nations, states, or parties Disagreements between the project manager, client, contractors, stakeholders and governance groups, lasting possibly for the duration of the project
A concerted effort or campaign to combat or put an end to something considered injurious Each of the disagreements can be viewed as injurious as seen through the eyes of each involved party; interpretation of changes in the enterprise environmental factors is an example
An intentional and widespread armed conflict between political communities, and therefore is defined as a form of political violence or intervention Everyone has personal and/or political values which can be the source of the war; the personal values can become more important that the project’s values
An armed conflict or a state of armed hostility Weapons of war are more than words; they include schedules, budgets, specifications, requirements and other competing constraints as well as the organizational process assets
A condition of active antagonism or contention A war of words, a war of how to interpret the requirements or a contract price war

Exhibit 1 A Project Management Interpretation of War

Both victors and losers in war are often given ribbons and medals to commemorate their heroism in the face of adversity or simply to show their participation in a military campaign. This should be done for project managers and team members. The PM’s battles can exist on several fronts: battles with the client, the stakeholders, the project team, the governance group, and even with your own senior management. Each battle can be a different type of combat and they can all be taking place concurrently. This is one of the reasons why most PMs have good health insurance plans.

If each project is viewed as a military campaign or even a war, then what would life be like if we were to award ribbons and medals to project managers the same way we do it for military personnel? There are numerous challenges in project management and people should be recognized for overcoming these challenges. Of course, this will probably never happen, but it is still something worth considering.

The Competing Constraints Ribbon:

For more than 40 years we defined project success using the triple constraints of time, cost, and scope. But today, we have competing constraints which go well beyond just time, cost and scope. Other constraints, which are often not listed in the project’s requirements, but may be important include:

  • Using the client’s name as a reference after project completion
  • Probability of obtaining follow-on work
  • Financial success (i.e. profit maximization)
  • Achieving technical superiority (i.e. competitive advantage)
  • Aesthetic value and usability
  • Alignment with strategic planning objectives
  • Meeting regulatory agency relationships
  • Abiding by health and safety laws
  • Maintaining environmental protection standards
  • Enhancing the corporate reputation and image
  • Meeting the personal needs of the employees (opportunities for advancement)
  • Supporting and maintaining ethical conduct (Sarbanes-Oxley Law)
  • Hoping for a better assignment on the next project

Today, our projects are becoming more complex. We realize that meeting all of the constraints may be too challenging and even impossible on some projects. The solution may be to prioritize the constraints and hope that we can perform at a minimum within all of the high priority constraints. It is entirely possible that performance within all of the constraints may be more wishful thinking than reality.

For those project managers that perform within all of the competing constraints, they may receive the Competing Constraints Ribbon shown in Exhibit 2. Since the color green is often used to portray success, it is only fitting that the colors on the ribbon be various shades of green. The star in the ribbon can be a variety of colors signifying the number of projects that were successfully managed within all of the competing constraints.

Exhibit 2: Recognition for Meeting All of the Competing Constraints

The Pain and Suffering Endurance Ribbon:

When projects get out of control, whether it is the result of changes in the enterprise environmental factors or the personal whims of stakeholders, project managers end up taking the brunt of all of the pain. The pain can come from physical, verbal or emotional abuse. Some projects are completed without pain and suffering, but these are usually in the minority. Unfortunately, projects will get into trouble. When this happens, not all project managers know how to perform under this type of pressure or stress.

The criteria for this award is based upon:

  • Number of trips to the emergency room over the duration of the project
  • Number of bones broken or mutilated over the life of the project
  • Number of stitches received within a given time frame
  • Criteria does NOT include issues at home (although maybe it should)

Exhibit 3 shows the Pain and Suffering Endurance Ribbon. Since the color blue seems to be the most commonly used color in the medical profession, it is only fitting that the award be various shades of blue. The symbol in the medal is a common symbol used in the medical profession. The alternate choice for colors in this ribbon would be black and blue, and I am sure we all know why, and no further explanation is necessary.

Exhibit 3: The Pain and Suffering Endurance Ribbon

The Project Recovery Ribbon:

We know that projects have a tendency to get into trouble, yet not all project managers possess the necessary skills to recover a failing project. Sometimes people with special expertise are brought in to take over the possibly failing projects. These people may have the title of recovery project managers and wear armor and a bullet-proof vest.

Exhibit 4: The Project Recovery Ribbon

The ribbon for successfully recovering a failing project is shown in Exhibit 4.  The colors in the ribbon identify the direction in which the project must go, namely red (in trouble), yellow (there’s hope) and green (out of trouble). Recovery project managers may also be awarded the Pain and Suffering Endurance Ribbon.

The Global Project Manager Ribbon:

Some project managers become very good at managing internal projects and may receive numerous Competing Constraints Ribbons. Yet the same project managers may become failures at managing global projects because of their inability to deal with cultural differences, politics, power struggles, and rapidly changing enterprise environmental factors based upon who is in power in the host government at that time.

Exhibit 5: The Global Project Manager Ribbon

Exhibit 5 shows the ribbon awarded for successfully managing global projects. The seven colors in the ribbon represent the seven continents. People that are awarded the Global Project Manager Ribbon may also be awarded the Pain and Suffering Endurance Ribbon. It is unlikely that they will also receive the Competing Constraints Ribbon.

The Professional Responsibility Ribbon:

The project management environment offers numerous ways for project managers to get into trouble. Typical ways include:

  • Inappropriately giving or receiving gifts
  • Failing to report violations
  • Getting involved in bribes for giving or receiving contracts
  • Insider trading due to privileged information
  • Untruthful reporting of information

The Project Management Institute (PMI)® Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct should be adhered to and people that abide by the code should be identified and rewarded. Exhibit 6 shows a typical ribbon and/or medal for such people. People that fail to abide by the PMI® Code of Ethics Professional Conduct could end up with prison sentences and voluntary admission to the witness protection program.

Exhibit 6: The Professional Responsibility Ribbon

The Say “NO” Ribbon: 

Perhaps the most important and rarely used word in the project manager’s vocabulary is the word “NO.” No matter how well the project’s requirements are thought out and the fact that everyone initially agrees on the project’s requirements, changes seem to occur. While some changes are necessary, many changes are requested because of the personal whims of individuals, including senior managers and executives, and these requests may not be in the best interest of the project.

The ultimate purpose of a change control system is to prevent unnecessary changes from entering the project. Scope changes result in baseline changes with the ultimate effect of elongating the schedule and driving up the cost. Project managers must be prepared to say no. Project managers should be rewarded rather than punished when correctly saying no to the clients and stakeholders. The ribbon for this is shown in Exhibit 7 below.

Exhibit 7: The Say “NO” Ribbon

 The Innovation Ribbon: 

Innovation is generally regarded as a new way of doing something. The new way of doing something should be substantially different from the way it was done before rather than a small incremental change such as with continuous improvement activities. The ultimate goal of innovation is to create hopefully long-lasting additional value for the company, the users, and the deliverable itself.  Innovation can be viewed as the conversion of an idea into cash or a cash equivalent.

While the goal of successful innovation is to add value, the outcome can be negative or even destructive if it results in poor team morale, an unfavorable cultural change or a radical departure from existing ways of doing work. The failure of an innovation project can lead to demoralizing the organization and causing talented people to be risk-avoiders in the future rather than risk-takers.

Not all project managers are given the opportunity to manage projects that require true innovation. The criteria for the Innovation Ribbon in Exhibit 8 should be not only the creation of a unique product or service, but one that creates long-lasting value and possibly profits for the company.

Exhibit 8: The innovation Ribbon

The Profitability Ribbon: 

Not all project managers have the opportunity to manage projects designed to create immediate profits. Some project managers do not have profit and loss (P&L) responsibility and end up managing internal projects where the measurement of actual profits may be difficult and may not occur until well into the future.

But those project managers whose efforts directly contribute to the profitability of the firm should be recognized perhaps with the ribbon shown in Exhibit 9. There’s no apparent need to explain why the color green is used in the ribbon. However, there must be reasonable criteria established for what constitutes significant profitability. Also, the criteria should indicate that this is done without any sacrifice to quality.

Exhibit 9: Corporate Profitability Ribbon

The Power of Acknowledgment Ribbon: 

Today, we are asking project team members at the end of a project to evaluate the performance of the project manager and whether or not they would like to work for this project manager on future projects. If the project team members feel that they were personally challenged and motivated by the project manager to the point where they ended up performing to the best of their ability, they will most certainly want to work for this project manager again.

One of the secrets to effectively motivating the team, without incurring any detrimental results, is by using the power of acknowledgment. Exhibit 10 shows the Power of Acknowledgment Ribbon. Effective acknowledgment goes from your heart to the heart of the team members. Using the proper words when acknowledging the efforts of the team will unlock their hearts and motivate them to higher levels of performance. That’s why the heart appears in the medal and, of course, I assume we all understand why various shades of red are used as the colors.

Exhibit 10: The Power of Acknowledgment Ribbon

The Quality of Life Ribbon: 

Having the first nine ribbons and medals pinned to your chest may have no meaning unless you have a family to share the recognitions with. All too often, project managers become so in love with their job that they forget about their family and the community.

The Quality of Life Ribbon appears in Exhibit 11. The criteria for the award should be established by the spouses of the project managers based upon criteria that might include:

  • How much time does the PM spend at work as compared to the time spent with the family?
  • Does the PM remember the names of his or her children?
  • How much company work is done at home?
  • Does the PM attend and support community events?
  • If you have a dog at home, does the dog recognize the PM or bark as though the PM is a stranger in the house?
  • If applicable, how much time does the PM spend with the children?
  • How much travel is required in the PM’s job?

This award, in my opinion, should be presented at a public ceremony for all PMs to see. Maintaining a stream of successfully managed projects is a nice accomplishment as long as it is not done at the expense of your family.

Exhibit 11: The Quality of Life Ribbon

Conclusion:

There are numerous battles that project managers must participate in to be effective. These battles can occur at any time and last for the duration of the project. In this paper, I have identified just 10 possible battles and project managers should be somehow recognized for their ability to have won these battles. We all know that there are other battles that project managers must endure, and perhaps the list may be as many as 30 to 40 battles. But at least we see the need to recognize some of the critical accomplishments made by project managers.

About the Author

Harold Kerzner, Ph.D. is IIL’s Senior Executive Director for Project Management. He is a globally recognized expert on project management and strategic planning, and the author of many best-selling textbooks, most recently Project Management 2.0.


Capturing Project Knowledge

By: Greg Bailey

As the saying goes, “failure teaches us more than success”. But when we consider the number of projects that fail, and project managers’ struggles to capture learning as they implement projects, it seems project management may be an exception.

A 2013 survey found that 50 percent of businesses had an IT project fail during the previous year. What’s more worrying, however, is that not much changed in the following three years. A 2016 survey by the same company found that the statistics have in fact gotten worse: with 55 percent of businesses reporting they had worked on a project that had failed. While project managers are clearly working hard, there appear to be systemic problems in how common issues are being resolved across the industry.

The key differentiator is that learning from failure implies learning from our mistakes. To do that, we must identify and acknowledge challenges, obstacles and human mistakes during the project lifecycle. And to do that, we must consistently capture project knowledge. Without capturing the mistakes (as well as everything else) we encounter along the way, how can we as project management professionals learn from them?

Failure is a result of mistakes 

It is highly valuable to understand how mistakes arise, so you can then do something about them. Common issues that arise include:

  • Adding more people to a late project. When a project is behind, it’s tempting to add more people to the project to speed up completion. But filling new additions in on the situation will likely take more productivity away from existing team members than will be added by new ones.
  • Overestimating savings from new tools or methods. Productivity is rarely improved in giant leaps, no matter how many new tools or methods are adopted. It is a gradual process, yet the project aims do not reflect this.
  • Insufficient risk management. Failure to proactively assess and control the things that might go wrong with a project can cause projects to fall behind and go over budget.
  • ‘Silver-bullet syndrome’. After finding initial success, project teams latch onto a single practice or new technology and expect it to solve all their problems from there on out.
  • Switching tools mid-project. Often a result of making snap decisions, the learning curve and inevitable mistakes that accompany implementation of a new tool can void any benefits when in the middle of a project.

The power of hindsight is a wonderful thing. For many project managers, they will address any problems they encountered after the project’s completion—usually by way of a project summary. The following are the most common activities and approaches Project Management organizations use to capturing project knowledge, per the Project Management Institute (PMI)® study on Capturing the Value of Project Management through Knowledge Transfer:

  • Lessons learned/post-mortem debriefings (81%)
  • Subject matter experts (77%)
  • Copying documents to a centralized repository (72%)
  • Company Intranet (68%)

Post-project debriefings are the most common form of capturing knowledge. But the reality is, by waiting until after the dust has settled to address these problems, you risk forgetting the problems themselves or how you solved them. If project knowledge is not captured or shared, you risk ‘reinventing the wheel’ and failing to learn from (and therefore repeating) your mistakes.

Capturing project knowledge through developing a culture of continuous improvement should be the ideal goal for a project manager—where your team members will proactively decide to immediately record the lessons they’ve learned or directly mention them to you. But it will take a lot of time and dedication before this becomes a reality. So how do you get started?

Capture project knowledge at all times

  • Constant improvement

In other words don’t wait until your next project to do things differently, but act immediately and plan ahead. It requires learning lessons as you encounter them. This is difficult, especially when your focus is on the project at hand. But it can be done.

  • Documenting both the positives and negatives you and your team members experience

It is the individual responsibility of every project team member to take the opportunity to learn—documenting this as soon as possible. Project Managers and team members should participate together in sessions—both during and after projects—where these experiences are reviewed to make decisions on how to improve on future and current projects.

  • Reporting and analyzing the lessons you have learned

From your failures and your successes, are the next steps you should take to implement a culture of continuous improvement. By analyzing lessons in full, you can develop practices to improve on future projects and ensure you don’t become another failed project statistic.


Greg Bailey is Vice President WorldWide Sales at ProSymmetry, the company behind the state-of-the-art resource management tool, Tempus Resource