Project Practitioners

A practical view of common issues, and how to deal with them as well as tips and techniques from the field in the world of project, program, and portfolio management.
What does a war in Ukraine, and Chinese government policies, have to do with project success in the luxury goods business? Plenty!
By J LeRoy Ward
A recent New York Times article described how geopolitical events have impacted sales in the luxury goods market. Falling revenues at Gucci, one of the oldest and most famous designers in the world, has forced the ouster of two of its top executives: Frida Giannini, Gucci’s creative director, and Patrizio di Marco, it’s CEO. So, what really happened? Conceptualizing, designing, and producing a luxury good is a project, and more specifically, a new product development project. For years no one was better at developing and selling the type of luxury products than this famed Italian designer. But times have been... Read More»

4 Ways to Shorten a Project Schedule
By Alan Zucker
Every project manager can construct a good project schedule. Great project managers can take that same body of work and deliver it more quickly without reducing scope or compromising quality. The great PMs can cut 10%-25% from a schedule by understanding how teams work and where there are opportunities within the project plan itself. Parkinson's Law states, “Work expands to meet the time available for its completion." The project corollary is that tasks are not completed before their planned finish date. Project planning has deep roots in engineering principles. Henry Gantt (developer of the Gantt Chart) worked with Frederick Taylor... Read More»

Sanity check: What is MOST important for your time in the next week?
By Cinda Voegtli
Step back from the trees and bushes and weeds of each project -- and contemplate the overall forest. See the big picture, not just the details. The goals, not just the tasks. The results needed, not just efforts at hand. The risks, not just the work plan. Specifically, ask yourself this: For us to accomplish what ultimately matters, what is truly MOST important for me as the PM to do this week? Questions such as the following will help feret out places for high-leverage attention: Is there a particular upcoming critical target date, a major milestone? (Then who do I... Read More»

Project Delivery Systems - The Final Chapter
By Morley Selver, P.Eng IPMA B
Off Take Agreements I want to continue, and finish, the EPC project delivery system I started in the October newsletter. One part of the EPC project delivery system the Owner has to arrange are the off-take agreements. These off-take agreements apply to any industry, not just oil and gas. The off-take agreement governs the sale of the product from the project. These are agreements that have to be in place before funding can be obtained. Lenders will not provide financing unless they can recover their money which comes from the sale of the product. The off-take agreements spell out when... Read More»

Six Steps for Developing a Governance Model for Strategic Portfolio Management (Part 2)
By J LeRoy Ward
In Part 1 of this article (found here) I advanced the idea that the Governance Model is the “engine room” of strategic portfolio management and discussed the first 3 questions you need to ask, and answer, to develop one. In Part 2, I’ll walk through Questions 4-6 and end with what you, meaning your organization, needs to do make it all work. Questions Number 4: “How will we make decisions and resolve conflicts?” There’s no shortage of decisions, large and small, that need to be made in the portfolio process. But if we’re to make decisions quickly, we have to... Read More»

Six Steps for Developing a Governance Model for Strategic Portfolio Management (Part 1)
By J LeRoy Ward
I started thinking about what it takes to build a governance model for strategic portfolio management more than 15 years ago, and I still haven’t stopped thinking about it because a governance model is never done. Let me tell you how it all started. I was sitting in my office, minding my own business, when a colleague of mine walked in and said “LeRoy, we have a problem.” And by her tone, I knew she was serious. She said that our Vice President for Product Development, I’ll call her Finula, was struggling with the number of projects she was working... Read More»

A Confident and Prepared Experience
By Ann Drinkwater
A year ago I had a less than desirable personal service performed. What I was told was a very small, routine dental procedure, that according to the computer would take 18 minutes turned into a situation where I lost all confidence and trust in my dental provider. The issues presented and takeaways really apply to all types of projects and businesses. The first dental issue arose when my procedure started and I realized the dentist hadn’t provided adequate time for numbing or adequate medication before starting the procedure. The second issue came while I was in the dental chair with... Read More»

Stretch Your Team to Achieve More
By Jeff Richardson
A recently trending Harvard Business Review article talked about the challenges involved with setting 'stretch goals'. They claims that in environemnts with poor leadership, teams can often be demotivated fostering unethical behavior and increased risk taking On the upside, the study pointed out that challenging goals can also have the potential to stimulate innovative thinking, process improvements and added incentives that assist a team achieve what was "seemingly impossible". I see both of these patterns consistently emerge during experiential activities that I include in my leadership and team effectiveness workshops. Given a timed activity, teams routinely set very safe goals... Read More»

Project Delivery Systems Continued
By Morley Selver, P.Eng IPMA B
The last project delivery system we want to talk about is the EPC project delivery system. This is sometimes called a “Turnkey” contract. With this project delivery system, the Owner hires a contractor to engineer, procure, construct (EPC) a facility and once complete and operating, turns it over to the Owner. The facility has to operate to specified levels as outlined in the contract. Minimal Effort With an EPC project delivery system the owner puts in a minimal effort and so has less stress. The Owner works his way through the project life cycle and once he gets through the... Read More»

Owning the Issue—A Profile in Courage
By Alan Zucker
At the weekly executive operational review meeting, the atmosphere was tense. We were having issues with the order processing systems and the sales reps were unable to install and fulfill the orders for the new product line. A raspy voice from the row of people sitting behind the conference table said, “It’s all fouled up. We are working on the issue. I will have a an update later in the day.” I was stunned. Who said that? It was the technology VP, Mike Callahan. Mike was honest, direct, and was not afraid to be accountable. At the weekly executive review,... Read More»

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