Tag Archives: project management tools

Project Metrics: The Double-Edged Sword

Metrics can swing both ways

Metrics can slice both ways!

We all know that metrics are critical to running a business. We need those leading and lagging indicators of performance, so we can change course where needed and keep doing what works.

Metrics, however, are a slippery beast. In addition to measuring the results of actions, they also motivate action. And this is where things can go either fabulously right, or terribly wrong. What’s worse is that we may not realize what outcome we are promoting until it is too late.

Here’s an example from early in my career. This experience seared onto my brain the awesome power of metrics to influence behavior. And with that power comes great responsibility to ensure that the outcome we motivate is the one that we want.

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Dashboards and Pumpkin Muffins: A Confession

Meaningful dashboard metrics

Wake Up And Smell The Metrics!

I have a confession to make.  It’s from the days when I was still working for a large corporation and leading part of an enterprise-wide strategic IT change initiative. It was huge and encompassed dozens of programs and sub-projects, all aimed at transforming the global IT organization. It was driven top-down and had strict reporting requirements including a mega-metric that tracked who didn’t submit their weekly report. That particular metric got a lot of attention from the Steering Committee of VPs, who were being held accountable by the CIO to submit a consolidated dashboard.

Every week, I dutifully, painfully, and manually composed the required PowerPoint dashboard slide, doing my best to force-fit my program status into the pre-ordained format—which didn’t really work. I had to choose one color—Red, Yellow, or Green, to characterize the current status of my entire program, which was global and massive in itself. I had already been warned by my leadership that there were no “Reds” allowed, and no getting creative with “Oranges” as some do… so my choices were Green or Yellow. There was a tiny box for a 6 pt. font paragraph commentary on that status, which made me feel a bit better, since I could at least qualify the color rating.

Well, feeling rushed and cranky one November Friday, I decided to try a little experiment. Continue reading

Projects Are About People: Using Your Emotional Intelligence

Managing emotions is key to managing projects

You are a Project Manager. You may not realize it, and you may have some other title engraved on your business card, but believe me—you are. Envision a Saturday morning. Paint brush in hand, in-laws arriving tomorrow, and you angry at the realization that there’s not enough paint to finish the guest room. Your spouse is standing by, volunteering well-intentioned guidance “Don’t fall off that ladder!”

At this very moment, you are a Project Manager, trust me.
What’s more, I can predict the outcome of this project based in large part on the very next thing you do. It’s not whether you actually fall off that ladder, or whether you’re able to get more of the custom-colored paint. Sure, you’ll need to address those things… but the real predictor of how your day’s going to unfold is what you say next to your spouse:

(read the rest of my guest post at Tom’s Planner.com)

PMP Certification: Project Management’s “Family Feud”

Family FeudThe value and importance of the PMP certification is a hotly debated topic within the project management community.  One end of the spectrum vigorously defends the credential as the defining standard for competence, whereas the other end views it as a meaningless exercise signifying nothing more than rote memorization. Many fall somewhere in the middle, seeing it as a necessary evil that hopefully yields some advantage to their marketability.

Adding fuel to the debate are the results of a research study published in the Project Management Journal, February 2011. “PMP Certification as a Core Competency:  Necessary But Not Sufficient” reports the results of a study conducted by Jo Ann Starkweather and Deborah H. Stevenson of Northwestern University’s Department of Information Systems & Technology. Continue reading

PMI Certification: Is it Worth It?

Is Certification Worth It?

As I speak to audiences about the importance of soft skills and emotional intelligence in project management, inevitably I’m asked my opinion on the value of a  certification from the PMI (Project Management Institute) such as the PMP (Project Management Professional.) This topic is very polarizing in our professional community.  The camps generally divide into :  1) Those who sought the PMP on their own and found it to be an excellent training opportunity; 2) Those who were required by their employer or felt pressured by the job market to obtain it; and, 3) Those who are active resisters or were just never required to get one.

First off, let me state clearly that I do not have a PMI certification. Heresy, you say? Well, the reality is that the PMP certification gained prominence at a time when I was already firmly established in my career. My employers, knowing my skills and track record, never pushed for me to obtain it.

So is there a value in having the PMI certification? My strong answer is… it depends. Let’s look at the requirements and costs, and then I’ll tell you what I really think. Continue reading

Q&A with The Project Whisperer, part one

What a thrill and honor it was on December 14th to present a Project Whisperer webinar to 660 attendees! Many thanks to the wonderful team at The Project Management Bookstore for sponsoring this great event.

We spent about 15 minutes on Q&A, and some good questions were emailed afterward. In this Q&A series, I’ll recap questions that were asked during and after the webinar.  My grateful thanks to all who attended and sent in rave reviews. It was truly my pleasure! Stay tuned for announcements of future webinars, which are eligible for PDU credit to maintain PMI certifications.

Q: How do you change the Firefighter approach people take to projects?

A: As with most behavior of teams or individuals, I look for the underlying cause or driver. I define “firefighters” as those types who thrive in situations of great urgency and visibility requiring quick thinking and sometimes heroics. With that said, firefighting is an extremely useful quality when the circumstances truly call for it. Continue reading