Project Practitioners > Kent McDonald

Kent McDonald

Kent McDonald

Kent J. McDonald specializes in successfully applying pragmatic approaches to strategic planning and coaching business analysts and project managers. His more than 15 years of experience include work in business analysis and planning, project management, and product development in a variety of industries including financial services, health insurance, performance marketing, human services, non profit, and automotive. Kent writes a column for about value based leadership and delivers Business Analysis training for B2T Training.

His work in the non-profit community includes serving as the Chair of 2 Central Iowa JDRF Hope Galas, Vice President of Strategic Planning, and President for the Greater Iowa chapter of Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. He co-founded the Agile Project Leadership Network (APLN) and chaired the Central Iowa Business Analyst Development Day 2009. Kent has a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering from Iowa State University and an MBA from Kent State University.

He is co-author of Stand Back and Deliver: Accelerating Business Agility, a book that brings together immediately usable frameworks and step-by-step processes that help organizations deliver business value and build competitive advantage.

He welcomes questions about project leadership with a focus on value at

Planning Gone Wrong: Operation Sea Lion
By Kent McDonald
I listen to audio books while I am driving (as long as I am the only one in the car) and when I am working outside. The book I am listening to now, admittedly for the third time, is The Second World War by Winston Churchill. The narrator of the series is a dead ringer from Winston Churchill, so it brings an additional amount of reality to the account. The part I was listening to a couple of days ago made me think about the importance of collaboration in endeavors when there are multiple organizations involved. In this particular case,... Read More»

What do those stoplights really mean?
By Kent McDonald
Within the last year, I have worked in two separate organizations where the expectations for status reporting were revised and I was involved in developing tools to support or communicate the different expectations. What I found in both cases, with fairly different organizational cultures, was a hang up amongst many project managers about the criteria used for identifying a project, or some aspect of a project as green, yellow, or red. My initial thought on that question, and the seemingly endless discussions that followed, was that people should just trust their gut and not get hung up on exact definitions... Read More»

The Elegance of Simplicity
By Kent McDonald
During the 1960's when NASA was working feverishly to land a man on the moon before the Soviets; one of the challenges they had to overcome was what the astronauts would write with in the weightlessness of space. In order to resolve that problem, the story goes, NASA spent a couple million dollars to develop a pen that would write in zero gravity, only to learn that the Soviets had solved the problem by using pencils. As it turns out, NASA initially used wood pencils as well, but soon discovered that graphite dust and electronics don't mesh well and they... Read More»

You Play To Win The Game
By Kent McDonald
I just got back home from the Nebraska vs Iowa State Football game. Seventh ranked Nebraska won the game 31-30 in Overtime as Iowa State's 2 point conversion attempt was intercepted. So why should readers of a blog about project management care about a college football game in the Midwest United States? Because that 2 point conversion is actually a good example of a calculated risk. I see several discussions about managing risks, and mitigating risks on pm blogs, but I don't see enough discussion about taking calculated risks. I'll agree that there are some risks you should mitigate, but... Read More»

Mapping Your Project Message
By Kent McDonald
One of the really enjoyable aspects of project work is the opportunity to apply tools and techniques from other fields to leading projects. The other day I found out about a technique, used frequently in crisis management, known as message mapping. Whether or not your project is in a crisis (or even perceived to be), message mapping provides a helpful way of organizing your communication about a potentially controversial change introduced by your project. One way to describe a message map is targeted Frequently Asked Questions (that's my simplistic view). Another way to describe message maps is “a roadmap for... Read More»

Don't Fumble That Handoff
By Kent McDonald
In honor of the impending (and long overdue) start of the college football season, I wanted to talk a little bit about project handoffs, specifically changing project managers in the midst of a project. Hopefully project handoffs of this sort do not happen as frequently as the handoff between a quarterback and running back occurs in football, but in the past six months I have experienced more project handoffs than expected. Through these experiences, I have discovered a couple of techniques that decrease the chances of dropping the project, just like grabbing the ball with both hands is very crucial... Read More»

From Zero to SME in a few weeks
By Kent McDonald
In a previous blog post, I mentioned the question of whether business analysts should be subject matter experts in the domain of the project. I personally don't think that BA's needs to be SME's as long as they have the ability to quickly pick up domain knowledge. This outlook was formed based on my background because every time I changed jobs, I entered a new domain and was still able to be effective. So instead of entering a discussion that rivals “BCS vs College Football Playoffs” and “expanding the field for the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament” for having a life... Read More»

Testing Balance
By Kent McDonald
I think Sting best characterized a situation I find myself in on a current project: "Caught between the Scylla and Charybdis". We're having to choose between how much testing we to do on a development software upgrade, weighing the time and cost involved in hunting issues that may or may not exist with identifying issues before they could impact Pre-Production processes. It seemed like a straight forward effort (they always do, don't they). The purpose of the project is to update the version of software we use for developing our data warehouse processes. Everything we had read about the upgrade... Read More»

Business Analysis Is All In the Questions
By Kent McDonald
A question that often comes up when hiring business analysts or assigning them to specific projects is whether a business analyst has to be a subject matter expert in the domain of the project. I won't get get into that discussion (good topic for a future post) except to say that question implies that a Business Analysts responsibility is to provide the right answers. I'd like to suggest that a business analyst is really responsible for asking the right questions. The real subject matter experts (stakeholders, customers, and users) will then provide the answers that will lead to the appropriate... Read More»

Presidential Legacy and Projects
By Kent McDonald
I have always been a big believer that the best time to do lessons learned is when you can act on the lessons learned to make your future efforts most effective. As a result, I tend to do frequent retrospectives during a project and down play the value of post project retrospectives. Some recent experiences have led me to draw a correlation between projects and Presidential legacy, and change my philosophy on noting lessons learned after the end of a project. Yes, you read that right, I am now going to walk that thin line between scholarly historical analysis and... Read More»

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