Project Management Operational Problem Solving Implementation & Change Management Strategy & Alignment

Frank Patrick's Focused Performance Business Blog
This Focused Performance Weblog started life as a "business management blog" containing links and commentary related primarily to organizational effectiveness with a "Theory of Constraints" perspective, but is in the process of evolving towards primary content on interactive and mobile marketing. Think of it as about Focusing marketing messages for enhanced Performance. If you are on an archive page, current postings are found here.

Thursday, July 31, 2003

Quote of the Day --
"A little inaccuracy sometimes saves tons of explanation."
-- Saki (1870 - 1916), 'The Square Egg', 1924
That's exactly what range estimates and buffers are all about.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2003

An Important Question -- Applicable to those of us associated with delivering projects by a certain date, Craig Pfeifer asks "How is it that project deadlines coincide with vacations?"

It probably has something to do with the corollary to Murphy's Law that says the odds of the toast falling jelly side down is proportional to the value of the carpet.

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Time and Choice -- Interesting. Right after I finish a piece triggered by one "incipient thought," another one that ties right in with the question of priority pops up from Laurent Bossavit...
"It is tempting to consider that 'I have no time for X' always means 'I prefer to do Y rather than X in the relevant time period', suggesting that the person in question does not in fact expect that X is more worthwhile than Y, or for some reasons feels bad about doing X. Even when they say they would do X if they had the time."
It's not only something to consider. It's the way it is. Unless an organization is working with good information to guide choices or preferences on what to do with one's time -- a clear sense of priority -- those choices will be made on the ground, and might not be in alignment with what is important for the larger system or organization. Management and leadership is all about assuring that alignment.

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Project Portfolio Management -- Over at Incipient(thoughts), Laurent recently started a piece with the following...
"I occasionally come across the phrase 'project portfolio management', or sometimes just 'project portfolio', but so far it has failed to convey much concrete meaning to me. Perhaps because it is often found in the company of ethereal buzzwords like 'enterprise architecture', or perhaps because it is difficult enough to survive single projects, the agile crowd seems to be likewise unconcerned with the topic."
...and goes on with an insightful discussion of the commonly faced issue of whether to "redesign our product or rewrite it from scratch." He is quite correct that this is a portfolio management issue -- a product portfolio management issue. And it is one that needs to be driven from a strategic viewpoint. The process for upgrading and/or replacing product offerings must be tied -- through a clear strategic roadmap -- to the organizational goals, and communicated clearly to those doing the work.

That said, what got my attention was his comment that "...because it is difficult enough to survive single projects, the agile crowd seems to be likewise unconcerned with the topic." On one hand, this rings true with me, and makes sense in the context of my view of agile processes being most concerned with what I view as task-level practices, less so with project-level interdependencies typical of more complex projects, and somewhat oblivious of bigger picture issues of strategic import like portfolios and pipelines. But on the other hand, those very agile processes are also a not-unreasonable response to living in an ineffectively managed multi-project environment. The short-term planning horizon and the closely operating teams focused on moving from point to point in the effort is not unlike what we in the Critical Chain Project Management community refer to as "relay race behavior" -- the minimization of intra-, cross-, or extra-project multitasking in an effort to accelerate completion of handoffs through the projects. The focus that both agile and "relay race" brings to an organization's culture is a significant contributor of the benefits derived from both agile and CCPM, which, by the way, can work together nicely.

To a large degree, the pressures for agility come from the lack of project portfolio and pipeline management. When there are no clear priorities driven down from strategic plans, through product portfolios, to project portfolios and pipeline management, then individual project managers, resource managers, and resources are left to fend for themselves to answer the question "What should I be working on?" And if project management is the answer to anything, it is the answer to that question.

A picture that should be familiar to readers of this weblog...

Project Portfolio Management is the process of turning a (hopefully related) list of initiatives that come from a strategy into a prioritized collection of projects and programs that are funneled through a pipeline. The result of doing it right is a process that both maximizes benefit for the organization and minimizes undo pressures on the resources expected to deliver them. Too many organizations fail to recognize the major reason that it is "difficult enough to survive single projects" is that those single projects and the people that are working on them are buffeted by the needs of other projects, planned and otherwise. Unless and until shared-resource, multi-project shops, like R&D, Engineering, IT, and Product Development understand the impacts of living in such a system, they will continue to struggle with their individual projects.

For such organizations, getting particular single projects done quickly and reliably is good, but not enough. What is important is to synchronize the organization for delivery of an accelerating flow of valuable projects through the pipeline and to the bottom line.

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Monday, July 28, 2003

Inner Peace From Finishing What You Start -- A major theme of this blog -- and of my project management work -- is related to finishing what you start. Phil Wolff has found another who has given him inspiration in this subject...
"I've discovered my new guru, Deepak Gupta, on Ryze:
"I think I have found inner peace. I read an article that said the way to achieve inner peace is to finish things I had started. Today I finished 2 bags of potato chips, one black forest pastry, a fifth of Absolut Vodka and a small box of chocolates. I feel better already. Pass along to those who need it."

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Sunday, July 27, 2003

Then - Y2K, Now - Sarbanes-Oxley -- This CNET article sees a "silver lining [for tech spending] in compliance" as companies paranoidly turn to technology to help them deal with the redundant requirements of Sarbanes-Oxley. I hope they learned the lesson of the last tech bubble associated with Y2K...that technology is, as Goldratt has eloquently written, "necessary but not sufficient." I think the article suggests it's a possibility for some firms...
"With multiple deadlines looming, many companies are getting out their checkbooks in search of a "silver bullet" solution. They want something they can implement quickly and inexpensively to restore confidence and ensure compliance with Section 404 and other mandates around real-time reporting and disclosure.

"However, the savviest companies are looking for the silver lining in compliance, not the silver bullet. They view Sarbanes-Oxley as the catalyst for systemic change and financial transformation, and are using the legislation as the lever to invest in new technologies that will strengthen their ability to execute on corporate goals as the economy recovers."
It's the processes, not the tools.

If there is a silver lining, it might at least partially be in the form of promulgation of effective, reliable project management that allows corporations to make promises they can keep.

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Zen and the Art of Corporate Productivity -- In my regular rants regarding the wasteful practice of multi-tasking, I often find myself suggesting that people "Don't just do something. Sit there!" so that they don't waste time, energy and effort on make-work activity or allow themselves to be bounced from task to task willy-nilly. This article (might require free registration) suggests what one might do while sitting there. For another view of the subject, try this.

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Virtual Projects: New Location -- One weblog that I've got in my RSS subscription set for regular follow-up is Rainer Volz's Virtual Projects, which stays on top of technology and processes that support dispersed project teams. Rainer has recently moved his site. You'll find it at either of the two links in this posting.

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The Rest of the User Stories Book -- A few days ago, I linked to a pdf of a chapter of a book that talked about critical chain scheduling, claiming I couldn't find the rest of the book. I didn't look hard enough. The full collection of chapters of Mike Cohn's User Stories Applied for Agile Software Development, for pre-publication review, are here.

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Saturday, July 26, 2003

Strategic Navigation: A Systems Approach to Business Strategy -- by Bill Dettmer, author of a number of recommended books on the Theory of Constraints and its applications, is a new book I've been watching for, and I'm sure others in the TOC community have as well. It's now available through Amazon.
- Traditional Strategic Planning
- The Hoshin Strategic Model
- The Military Strategic Planning Model
- The Constraint Management Model
(maybe this, maybe something like this -- we'll see...)
- Defining the Paradigm
- Knowledge, Creativity, Idea Generation
- Analyzing the Mismatches
- Creating a Transformation
- Sun Tzu and the Art of Modern Combat
- Designing the Future
- Planning the Execution
- Putting it All Together
Mine is on the way to me, and a review will follow in this weblog once it arrives.

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Friday, July 25, 2003

User Stories and Buffered Schedules -- Clarke Ching, a regular participant on the APICS Constraint Management discussion group, points to a chapter of a new book (in progress?) -- User Stories Applied for Agile Software Development. The chapter (direct pdf download - 108kb) is titled Why Plans Go Wrong, and includes a nice, clear description of the rationale for buffered critical chain schedules...
"A Buffer Isn't Padding -- A buffer isn't padding. Padding is extra time added to a schedule that you don't really think you need but that you add just to feel confident in the estimate. Padding is when I take a conventional approach to building a Gantt chart, come up with three months, but tell my boss four months.

A buffer, on the other hand, represents a legitimate expectation of time we expect the project to consume. While I can, if all the stars align, make it to the airport in 63 minutes it would not be prudent for me to plan on that. I should perhaps plan on 90 minutes. If I arrive in 85 minutes I will have consumed 22 of my allocated 27 minute buffer. If I take 95 minutes I will have overconsumed my buffer and will miss my flight. The size of the buffer should be sized based on the duration of the items being buffered and on the consequences of over-consuming the buffer."
I like it. Like I said -- a nice clear explanation -- one that can be used with those that confuse buffers with padding and say "Buffers? We don't need no stinking buffers!"

I'm not sure how Clark found the chapter download, since I can't seem to find the rest of the book. Apparently, I'll just have to wait for Mike Cohn to finish the book in January.

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Monthly Link-O-Rama -- As usual, my web wanderings result in more links of possible interest to my readers than I can do justice to with my own commentary, but which deserve to be shared before they age too much. For your weekend reading, I offer a handful from my "To-Blog" list...
From Feedback, at Incipient(thoughts)...
"Just because you call something feedback doesn't make it feedback; it's only so if you take the information collected and feed it back into whatever you're using to control the system on which you collect information. You have to be prepared to take action: velocity went down and we weren't expecting that, so we have to do something about how we work."
From Retiring Lifecycle Dinosaurs, by Jim Highsmith at (free registration might be required)...
"...set the timebox for the entire project. This timebox should be based on the scope, feature set requirements, estimates, and resources that result from project initiation work. Speculating doesn’t abandon estimating; it just means accepting that any estimates are tenuous."
From ROI: Really Outdated Index (link to a PDF), by Dennis Smith at CompanySmith...
"To the business leaders that use ROI or its variants of NPV, DCF, or other alphabet soup, as the pillar of their business investment process, I say you are surely missing some of your best opportunities. Your conventional processes yield conventional results. And the opportunities you are missing probably include the really big ones that could propel your company to the top of your industry."
From Gantt Charts Fail to Impress?, by Jason Charvat...
"Simply put….project managers sometimes don't update their Gantt charts when business needs change. There are too many excuses. Project managers create elaborate 1000 line Gantt charts to capture the initial project, but don't accommodate changing business needs at short notice(s). The Gantt charts then becomes outdated and does not reflect the true nature of the project."
From The Value Question, by Dale Emery...
"One of the ways I help people solve problems is to ask a seemingly simple question: If you had that, what would that do for you?"
From Reflections of a Recovering Management Accountant, by H. Thomas Johnson, co-author of the highly recommended Profit beyond Measure...
"All these encounters with people who worked outside accounting and outside economics was opening a whole new perspective to me.  It was opening my mind to a whole new way of thinking about why we are in business and what we are doing, and about how we think about these problems that I had always studied through the medium of accounting numbers.  In particular, I was beginning to be more convinced of the idea that if you do the right things--listen to the customers, listen to the voice of the process--then costs will take care of themselves.  You didn't have to worry about having a cost system to tell you how things are going.  although at first I couldn't articulate the basis for this belief, I began to be convinced of it the more I thought about it."
From TOC and Lean, by Tim Sullivan of CIRAS...
"Your focus determines your reality! Focus, is what TOC is all about. To focus everywhere is to truly focus nowhere. To focus on your true organizational constraint is to have real leverage on attainment of the goal! ...Those who say, “if we could increase sales we would have already done so", are really saying the constraint is visible as a market constraint. Focus your scarce resources there!"
These should keep you busy for now. For a little non-business diversion, there's always the Unfocused alternative.

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Thursday, July 24, 2003

Almost Let This One Slip By -- From A Year Ago (plus a week) -- A link to a paper on the past and future of project management, from Martin Barnes. When I heard him give this paper in a Hong Kong conference, I had to smile, since the paper that I presented there included a sentiment that he mentions...
Risk management is not part of project management. Rather, project management is part of risk management.

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Build It And They Will Come -- Regarding difficult, and therefore, significant change...
"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete."
-- R. Buckminster Fuller
But don't forget that the model/plan/strategy is also subject to change along the way. (With a tip o' the hat to Dave Pollard.)

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Wednesday, July 23, 2003

"Trust. You can take it to the bank." -- That's what Britt had to say regarding another example of caveat venditor relationships. The one to which he's referring is from Jason Kottke about a very trusting coffee and donut guy.

Going beyond the issue of trust, and slipping into a "systems management" vein, the coffee guy in the piece understands the importance of subordinating details (even relatively non-trivial details like getting paid per transaction) to the maximization of throughput. And he understands this probably because he's so close to the full system of his business -- not insulated from what's really important by distractions of artificial departmental, or functional, or process borders and measures. He knows that the more people he serves, even with an accepted cost risk of getting stiffed by the occasional cheapskate, the better off his top line, and therefore his bottom line, will be.

In TOC terms, he has identified the constraint as his ability to serve more people. He's exploiting and elevating that constraint by removing himself from the process of making change and instead focusing more of his time on serving. He's subordinating assurance of a per-transaction profit to the strategy of speed and throughput, that in the end will result in higher total system profits. A beautiful, intuitive application of constraint management, as introduced in Goldratt's classic book, The Goal.

This idea of maximizing throughput of the appropriate system is central to all applications of effective constraint management. Take project management for an example. If one is managing a project, and if that project is worth doing (a big assumption, by the way, in many situations), the benefit at its completion and its expeditious attainment should far outweigh concerns about cost along the way, unless, of course that cost is the lost benefits from impacts on other projects. Then the throughput of the larger system -- the portfolio pipeline -- is the right place to judge actions.

But that's another story. Trust me.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2003

I'm baaaack... -- OK, now. I don't know how it was for you, but my forced withdrawal from blogging the past few days was frustrating for me. It's one thing when I don't have anything to say, but it's another when I'm muzzled by a technological snafu. Plus, the difficulties interfered with the posting of a longer piece I consider important.
(It turns out that my ISP moved my site on their server. I think I owe the Blogger folks an apology. If you ever are moved to start a weblog, check them out.)
But enough about my little "troubles." I've got a backlog of stuff that will probably constitute a generous "link-o-rama" in a day or two. But before then, let me just drop a new little one liner of my own on yawl for now.
A strategy, and its execution, are little more than a project, writ large.
Pithy, eh? As I like to close my Unconstrained Thinking columns...

Think about it...

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Saturday, July 19, 2003

Working with Small Businesses -- Caveat Venditor -- Over in the Ryze Business Network Small Business Owner's forum, one Daniel Bennett wrote:
"I am curious to know if any of you small business owners would actually use an advisor to help raise growth or acquisition financing?"
I realize that Daniel's question was about advice on financing, however, in my recent experience, I've discovered that small ($2-10 million) businesses can be surprisingly willing to pay for advice/consulting in the realm of operational improvement and strategic planning that goes beyond the current "executive coaching" paradigm.

I'd like to say it's simply a matter of presenting them with a dose of common sense in the early contact, but they tend to still have non-trivial obstacles to taking on significant improvement efforts with what they would normally perceive as a "high priced consultant." On the other hand, the small business owner might also fear a "you get what you pay for" situation if the consultant is too willing to come in on the cheap. These, plus the stage set and supported by common and traditional "caveat emptor" (Let the buyer beware) relationships in this realm don't really help in cracking the small biz market.

Recognizing these obstacles (the lack of cash flow and time available to devote to improvement over day-to-day stuff, exacerbated by the perceptions of consulting services as being for the big boys), I've been successful getting the attention of such small businesses with what I call a "caveat venditor" approach. This is a "partnership" of sorts, based on what some might consider "gain-sharing."
(Actually, the "caveat venditor" concept jelled for me after absorbing the writings of Mitch Ratcliffe, Britt Blaser, and Flemming Funch and exposure to the development of Xpertweb as well as a growing appreciation for The Cluetrain Manifesto -- by Doc Searls', David Weinberger, and Chris Locke -- and its unique approach to markets.)
It involves a surprisingly small (but non-trivial -- so the client has some "skin in the game") up-front investment, and ongoing small quarterly payments that "coaches" should be familiar with -- but quarterly payments based on a small percentage of the business' revenue.
(The focus of my work is not on cost cutting, but rather, on addressing constraints that unnecessarily limit business growth at the top line. If you can grow the top line while growing expenses slower, the bottom line will take care of itself. Hence, my compensation is tied to a now mutual goal of growth.)
My side of the win-win is that while the bulk of the "extra hands, fresh eyes, and open mind" work that I do with them is in the first few months (work that I believe differentiates me from the typical pure "coaching" arrangement), the bulk of their payments to me are based on improved business results over the next two years (unless they want me to hang around longer), and add up to appropriate value for my services and a nice flow of revenue for me from several sources. The client's side of the win-win is that they are able (even happy, later on) to pay those small percentages of significantly higher -- and growing -- revenues. Essentially, I get paid out of the improvements that I help put into place in the early part of the engagement. It's your basic "reap what you sow" approach.

But the clincher for hard-headed, feet-on-the-ground small business owners who are dealing with their own money -- not merely managing the money of a big corporation -- is the "caveat venditor" (seller beware) aspect of the relationship that allows the client to pull out at any point that they lose faith in the direction of the solutions or in their implementations. This usually boggles their mind when first presented, as they suspect there must be some catch. The only catch is that I have enough faith in the performance of the TOC-based solutions and tools that I bring to the table, and in my willingness to do whatever is necessary to help the client. As a result, I'm willing to put my potential money where my mouth is. I'm not fooling myself -- I suspect I'll run into the occasional situation in which I'll be taken advantage of, but I prefer to have faith in the integrity of my fellow man or woman.

I've only recently developed this offer, as I've been shifting my practice from serving partial components of larger firms to smaller firms that want to be bigger, but the experience and interest so far has been heartening, and looks like it's going to be profitable for both myself and my clients. It's all a matter of understanding the real issues and concerns of the small business person -- issues and concerns that usually revolve around three things...
1. Cash flow,
2. Cash flow, and
3. Cash flow.
Admittedly this approach might take some rethinking and restructuring for one-time services such as financial match-making that Daniel might be talking about, but it's offered as food for thought. Perhaps a little help in developing a market offer would be called for -- offered, of course, in a caveat venditor manner...


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Thursday, July 17, 2003

The Idea Algorithm -- From Erik Benson...
Here are some pretend numbers that I've written down on a piece of paper and plan on turning into an equation sometime today:

I = The Idea

A = Peer Pressure to do the Idea
B = Passion (your own) to do the Idea

C = Your Perceived Value of the Idea
D = Your Perceived Cost of the Idea
E = Your Perceived Chance of Succeeding at the Idea (1-100)

F = The Group's Perceived Value of the Idea
G = The Group's Perceived Cost of the Idea
H = The Group's Perceived Chance of Succeeding at the Idea (1-100)

T = Threshold over which you will actually do the Idea

Actually, I already have my answer. It looks something like this
Erik has some other very interesting pieces as well, including one on the non-self-evidence of good ideas. I've got to spend some more time reading him.

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Monday, July 14, 2003

TOC Making Inroads -- On the TOCExperts Yahoo Discussion Group, John Caspari (one of the key thinkers in the subject of Throughput Accounting, and whose website is apparently mucked up by the current ATT-Comcast transition) points to a Strategic Finance article (direct pdf download) regarding a joint IMA/Ernst and Young survey that mentions the Theory of Constraints as an approach to management followed by over 20% of respondents and among a list of approaches being considered by 40%.

If we're not careful, TOC is in danger of losing it's "cult status."


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Sunday, July 13, 2003

Reframing Obstacles -- One of the core TOC Thinking Processes is the PreRequisite Tree (PRT), for which the starting point is a collection of obstacles. Too often, as is observed in this link by Esther Derby, those obstacles are in the simplistic terms of "we lack..." or "we don't know..." that are difficult to replace with anything other than "we have..." and "we know..." Esther offers a list of trigger words to help people reframe such obstacles. As she summarizes...
"Lack of funds" might become "Unrealistic funding for the current project." "Lack of organizational support" might become "Conflicting priorities," or "Overlapping sphere of control."

Working through unrealistic funding for the current project, conflicting priorities and overlapping spheres of control aren't a piece of cake to deal with. But it's easier than trying to get some funding or whip up some organizational support.
So it is. Check out her list of reframing words.

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Thursday, July 10, 2003

Cost and Schedule -- Glen Alleman recently wrote about cost and schedule growth in the Newgrange discussion list, referring to an...
...article in the current The Journal of the Defense Acquisition University, titled "The Relationship Between Cost Growth and Schedule Growth." The analysis of data shows there is no correlation between schedule growth and cost growth! "Knowing the length of the program is of no added value in predicting the cost, and knowing the cost is of no added value in predicting the length."
While this might be counterintuitive to some, I can see several rationales for a lack of linkage between cost and schedule, beyond the almost obvious one of projects that are material cost intensive...

First, "variable" people-oriented cost is related to the amount of work being performed. If resource constrained, the project might be required to do work in serial. I not, more opportunities for doing work in parallel might appear, thereby reducing project lead time without significant (or even any) increases in total project cost. There might be brief periods of higher cost in shorter time, but they are only the result of shifting cost and not adding it in significant amounts.

Second, in most project environments I have seen, there is also the noise of Parkinson's Law and similar "use it or lose it" budget pressures, that separate work (cost) time from schedule time. The noise that comes from such effects of management/cultural practice makes most data collection for such analyses suspect.

Third, and most important to such an analysis of cost, is the effect of multi-tasking within and across projects that is way too common in way too many project shops. In such environments, task and project duration has far more to do with how many times tasks are interrupted for other tasks than the actual work associated with the task at hand. This results in the need for careful reporting practices that divvy up the cost-hours but fail to clearly portray time-hours. (One reason for the use, in such environments, of something like EVM as an attempt to rationalize the two, although the noise factor of my second point can muddy those waters as well.)

However, without reading the piece that Glen points to, I'm going to assume that the focus on cost was the usual limited, shortsighted, navel-staring focus on delivery cost of projects and not the real, overwhelmingly significant cost associated with project duration -- the opportunity cost of delayed value associated with the cash register that rings with benefits at the end of the project. Since, if the project is worth doing, this lost value cost probably dwarfs the delivery cost in a dollar per day context, I would suspect that if it were taken into consideration, the results of any analysis that says cost is not related to duration would be different.

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Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Round Up That Information and Shut the Gate -- From Mitch Ratcliffe...
"A George Mason University graduate student's geomapping dissertation that analyzes infrastructure weaknesses in the United States is a threat to national security, says Richard Clarke, who was George Bush's cybersecurity pointman. "Classify my dissertation? Crap. Does this mean I have to redo my PhD?" the grad student said. "They're worried about national security. I'm worried about getting my degree."

"Don't classify, publicize, so that business and government have to address the weaknesses. Open source systems are debugged faster than proprietary ones."
Sounds a lot like Mitch has identified an example of the "head in the sand" style of risk management described here earlier this week -- and has good advice for dealing with it. Air it and address it.

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Monday, July 07, 2003

A LEAN Mean Chillin' Machine -- Another illustrious member of my blogroll -- Joe Ely -- suggests an automatic ice maker as an excellent example of leanness and matching flow to demand (and nothing more)...
"The icemaker sits idle for much of it's life. It does not maximize efficiency. If the container is full, it simply sits. Isn't this a waste? Isn't this inefficient? Didn't I pay for that ice maker? Don't I want it to keep going, flat out?

"No. What I want is ice. I don't want an efficient ice maker. All I want is ice. In the amount that I normally use, whenever I want it. And if it sits idle through most of the cold Indiana winter time, what do I care? I already paid for it. The incremental use of water and electricity is not important. I just want ice.

"The icemaker is correctly sized. It does just what I want. When I want it. And sitting idle is just fine.

"It is a great example of what a lean machine looks like."
Yep, a lean mean chillin' machine.

Just what the doctor ordered for a hot and humid summer's day.

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Risk Management (XP Style) -- From Laurent Bossavit, we get a nice summary of project risk management. It is putatively from an XP perspective, but it feels kind of universal to me, especially when he warns that...
"Risk management is like feedback. If you're not going to pay attention to it, you're wasting your time. More than once I've tried to adopt a risk-oriented approach to projects, only to have management react something like, "Oh, you think that's a risk. Well, thank you for telling us. We're happy to have had that risk reduced. Now proceed as before."
I've been know to say that risk management is not part of project management, but rather the other way around. Any effective approach to delivering on promises, be it based in XP for simple efforts or in Critical Chain for more complex, will be an exercise in risk management.

Laurent also had another piece recently, with the fancy name of "Expatation" and focused on the issue of "scope creep." Actually, what he was talking about there was also in the realm of project risk management, as many in that field like to try to convince us is that risks can be positive. However, I prefer to think of the question as one of "risk" and "opportunity" management. As Laurent points out, unmanaged opportunities can easily become "traps" -- risks that threaten the viability of project promises to customers and sponsors.

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More on Idea Killers -- Expanding on a recent posting, here's some more on idea killers, from the PDMA (Product Development and Management Association) and from BMW.

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A Couple Almost Irrelevant Items -- The first is that my ego has been heartily stroked by crossing the 100 subscriber milestone in email subscriptions, almost doubling since April. Thanks for your interest, and I promise to keep these irrelevancies to a minimum.

Second, my personal weblog (for links and comments not quite appropriate for this business audience -- humor, art, culture, food, sports, politics, and, in general, life on and off the web), has been getting a bit more attention recently (from me and others), and has a recently added commenting capability.

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Friday, July 04, 2003

"What are the best resources for learning TOC?" -- asks Steve Pilgrim in his rat race -- I mean Rodent Regatta -- weblog, as he's started to re-read The Goal. Funny he should ask...

Other than perhaps hiring me to teach him TOC while using it to solve a significant problem...or maybe bringing me in to provide facilitation for constraint based strategic planning...or even getting his multi-project-based shop whipped into shape...there are always other books that go beyond Goldratt's seminal "business novel." Recent years have seen a small explosion in that part of the library, thanks in no small part to a series from APICS.

That said, the coincidence of Steve's request is that I have recently -- just this week, as a matter of fact -- updated and expanded the reference list on my website. It can be found, with recommending commentary for TOC books (as well as with links to acquire them from on my virtual bookshelf.

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Thursday, July 03, 2003

Questions on Strategic Enterprise-wide Project Management -- David Whelbourn poses some questions in the comment section related to last month's diagram...

This is a nice graphical representation showing the inter-relationships. I have two questions/comments.

1. I just wondered where Programmes and Programme Management fitted also there is a large emphasis in the UK on Benefit Delivery and Benefit Realisation as part of the responsibilities of Programmes.
Programs can either be considered sub-portfolios or meta-projects in the diagram, depending on the size, complexity, and dedication of resources. Regarding benefits, I take a broad holistic view of what should constitute a project or program. In the best of all possible worlds, benefit delivery and realization would be included within project plans themselves, i.e., the objectives, deliverables, and success criteria should be directly related to actual "bottom line" benefits, and thereby go beyond the usual function silo borders, thereby making the process true enterprise-wide project management.

It's not enough to manage the development of a piece of software or a new product and toss it over the wall. Managing the realization of benefit involves the implementation of the new business process the software supports or the marketing, manufacturing and pipeline filling of the new product. The reason we do projects in a for-profit environment is to ring some sort of cash register. Project Management should be used to do so.

The classic case of Harris/Intersil/Fairchild Semiconductor's construction of their Mountaintop, PA production facility is an example of this, building and managing a plan not to just open the doors of the new plant and turn on the equipment, but rather to achieve ramp-up to 90% of the designed production rate. This changed the whole nature of the project, shifting emphasis from the technology and construction to a critical path/chain that included a large component related to acquisition and training of staff, so they would be ready to go when the doors opened and the machines were turned on.
2. How would you see a PMO overlaying this diagram?
The way I see it, a PMO would be intimately involved in the pieces that are on the borders of the three major management processes (strategic, resource, and project). The PMO role would include facilitating leadership in the development of the Portfolio and Priorities, translating them into the Pipeline (perhaps even providing pipeline and cross-project management), and providing facilitation, analysis, and feedback on the Capacity aspect of resource. In addition, I would expect a PMO to provide guidance for consistent enterprise-wide methodolgy or methodologies at the Project level.

posted by Frank - Permanent Link - |

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Why You Need a PMO -- (Like I said, it's today's theme.) This highly recommended piece, from, discusses the critical linking role of the PMO in the effort to assure both efficient and effective project management.

On the efficient side, it offers...
Top ways that PMOs make a financial impact
- Provide standard methodology for managing projects
- Have responsibility for process and project reporting and tracking
- Ensure that similar projects are executed in a similar way
- Have the information needed to speed up or slow down a process
- Provide a process for resource allocation and capacity management
- Ensure that projects have direct links to company's strategic and operating plans
And for effectivity...
Top ways that PMOs make a strategic impact
- Link projects directly to company's strategic and operating plans
- Provide standard methodology for managing projects
- Have sponsorship/support from senior management
- Ensure that projects support a business goal or strategy
- Align groups on project process, selection, priority and execution
- Ensure that similar projects are executed in a similar way
The only hesitation I have about the article -- which has nothing to do with the content -- is that it should be in a site or magazine devoted to CEOs as well as, if not instead of, CIOs. Projects -- especially strategic projects -- are more than IT, even in today's techno-centric world. Product development, process improvement, basic research, engineering/plant projects, and tactical restructurings all involve project efforts. They are all linked to the larger strategies of the organization and all require effective and efficient project management to coordinate the diverse sets of customers and resources and customer resources necessary to make them happen. (For that matter, most meaningful IT projects are more than just IT.)

A PMO should not be positioned as an upward extension of a particular functional silo like IT or Engineering which will tend to parochialize and sub-optimize its effect. Rather, a PMO should be a downward extension of top management's Strategic function, integrating (and requiring) leadership from above so that the supporting resources can be given clear priorities in support of where the organization wants to go.

posted by Frank - Permanent Link - |

Advanced Project Portfolio Management and the PMO -- New on my bookshelf, this book is highly recommended to those interested in strategic alignment of projects and programs. It's also related to today's theme to boot.
(By the way, if readers find value in this weblog, they can express it in three ways...participate via comments, hire me for workshops or implementations of the concepts discussed here, or, if the books I read and recommend are of interest to you, pick them up from via the aforementioned bookshelf. I've noticed that recently, a lot of the TOC-related books are pretty well discounted.)
We now return to our semi-regularly scheduled blog.

posted by Frank - Permanent Link - |

Alignment and PM equals Effective IT -- Today's theme is related to my upcoming series on strategic/enterprise project/portfolio management.
(It's interesting, my graphic outline is so good, in my eyes at least, that I'm having a hard time adding value by adding text. But it's coming. Trust me.)
The short article associated with this link talks about a study that...
"...blames failures at average companies on a lack of alignment and project management. World class companies, having solved their alignment problems, are more likely to treat IT as a business tool, not a cost center. "
In my world, alignment is all about the coordinated management of strategy, portfolio, and priority, which then trickles down to effective pipeline and project management. (The linked Darwin article was recommended by Jack Vinson, whose blog on KM and PM, if you will look to the right, has been added to my blogroll of regularly read resources.)

posted by Frank - Permanent Link - |

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