Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Why Project Management Training and Coaching is More Important Now than Ever!

My last Blog talked about the need for Project Management training and coaching. We are surprised by the number of companies that have just contacted us because they may be laying off employees. Their current challenge - how to get their projects completed within budget and time. They no longer have any time or money left to allow these constraints not to be prudently managed.

Here are some of the benefits of professional project management for senior managers, functional managers, stakeholders, project managers and teams:

Senior Managers can benefit from better use of company resources, more attention to risk management, better project cost and schedule estimating and better project monitoring and control. Conducting Project Audits and Health Checks help senior managers pin-point the core reasons for lack of project success, enabling them to immediately put in place actions which will improve project performance.

I'll add more information on the others in subsequent Blogs.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Why Project Management Training and Coaching is More Important Than Ever

With economic pressures looming over the world, most executives are probably seriously pondering how to manage the impact of outside forces on their business results. Just as with individual consumers, who are “tightening their belts” right now, it isn’t surprising that many organizations, even those that may be economically healthy, are seriously considering whether or not to cut fixed spending with layoffs.

While the dictate from the top may be to reduce the workforce numbers, once the shake-out occurs, organizations will be facing a tough challenge to preserve output, deliver their strategic and operational plans and stay poised to meet increasing consumer demand once the economy turns up. That is why some of our clients are counting on Project Management to get them through this period of uncertainty and making an extra effort to invest in Project Management coaching, training and auditing to prepare for the future.

In my next blog I'll outline some of the benefits of professional project management for senior managers, functional managers, stakeholders, project managers and teams.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Gambling on the Economy

We have all been reading about the economic crisis. Governments trying to prop up failed financial institutions and auto manufacturing. I am dismayed to hear of organizations that receive our taxpayer dollars to keep them afloat. If my firm was on the verge of bankruptcy, would the government come to my aid? We all know the answer to that question. Yet I employ individuals who would lose their jobs. (fortunately we are doing quite well)

The organizations vying for our tax dollars haven't been innovative. Nor have they kept up with market trends. They have gambled their earnings, even though gambling for individuals is illegal. Some organizations who are not doing as well as they should gamble in hedging fuel prices. For example, Air Canada is locked into higher oil prices owing to their hedging (gambling) on what future oil prices will be. Others are hedging on how low the price will go. Again, gambling.

These organizations should be allowed to declare bankruptcy and seek protection accordingly. This will force them to re-invent themselves, to become more innovative and to identify market trends. If they cannot - then they should go under. In our history, large organizations have gone under and others have risen in their ashes, highering their employees, taking over their market share and bringing greater prosperity.

I am concerned that somehow this has changed and we will pay dearly for the mistakes of those with whom we have never had control and even now, giving them our tax dollars, will still have no control.

I have written about innovation. This is the new trend. Either become innovative or be replaced. It is that simple. Developing a culture of innovation is a journey. I'm surprised at how few organizations are embarking on it.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Improve Your Organizations Bottom-Line

We have been swamped with many requests over the past few weeks to help organizations get their projects on track. In these economic times they can no longer respond to requests for more money, more time and/or more resources. However, they do need these projects to be completed quickly. Most of them have a direct impact on the organization's bottom-line because they are introducing a new product or service that is desperately needed by their customers. If these are not quickly released, they will lose these customers to their competitors. This will have a devastating impact on their bottom-line (which is already hurting). Does this sound familiar?

We have begun working on a number of these projects. It is a dynamic process to undertake. We start by researching the project team structure, scope, plan, risk assessment, customer and business requirements, etc. We are finding that 60% of these projects are overdue by at least a year and are considerably over budget. The rest are not even close to meeting the customer and business requirements. (they're still arguing over the technology, the science, etc.) They need fast action. So we arrange to lock them into a room for an entire week (the project manager and all key resources on the project). During the week we re-examine the project's customer and business requirements, scope, team structure and project plan. We finish with a risk assessment. In all cases they have told us that they never thought we needed a week (and many fought not to spend this much time) but in the end couldn't believe the relief and clarity of direction they now have.

The greatest reward for us is to see the light bulbs in their heads go off (the room gets awfully bright by the time the week is finished). They always realize they never really understood the project, it's mandate, etc. Nor did they realize what a detailed project plan really meant (not 250 line items). The risk assessments helped identify what might prevent success and provided them the opportunity to put in contingencies to manage these.

You can improve your organization's financial situation by getting your projects on-track. They are a major source of revenue drain.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Changing Organizational Culture

I recently read an article that suggested organizational culture cannot be changed. I would rather not mention the author but did want to respond to this comment. It has been our experience that organizational culture can be changed. It is not quick and easy. However, it is a journey worth pursuing. There are many organizations that have a negative, even abusive culture. To suggest that this cannot be changed, rather, it can only be managed, as the author suggests, is a very sad comment. These cultures experience high employee turnover, top-down decision making and poor customer relationsh.

On the positive side, we know that these cultures can be changed and improved. We have taken organizations through this journey and seen their productivity and employee satisfaction increase. I agree that this is a difficult change to undertake but the rewards are clear. Engagement of all employees is crucial. We find that the change is achievable when the desire is there. It is often driven by a need for improved bottom-line results and/or customer relations and/or staff retention. As well, it sometimes advisable to start at a department level. This is often an easier place to start before moving into full-scale organizational implementation.

I'm interested in other's experiences. Let me know what yours have been.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Innovation - Creating the Strategic Opportunities

The teams had worked hard. They brainstormed the innovations, grouped them, formed their teams, identified the benefits and overcome the obstacles. Now they were ready for the last stage of the innovation process. This stage is where some understanding of project management helps. The teams prepared themselves to present their ideas and the process to successfully implement them, to the association's management. However, without some detail regarding how they should be implemented, by whom, with what resources, what budget requirements and within what time frame; it is unlikely the association will be able to take these innovations and move them into reality. This last stage is crucial and often overlooked. Great ideas but they don't go anywhere. Just like many strategic plans, they sit on someone's shelves - rarely to implemented. Some associations with whom I have worked successfully implemented many of the innovations. They have seen positive impacts on attendance, content, etc. Others are still sitting with them, wondering how to increase attendance at their conferences and other events. Not realizing they have the answers. Their members already provided it to them. Please don't let this happen to you. If you're going to use this process, let me know. I'd love to help ensure it has a tremendous, positive impact on you.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Innovation - Overcoming the Obstacles

The teams identified the benefits of moving forward with their innovations. Realistically, there are barriers or obstacles to implementing these, despite their benefits. These can be as fundamental as budget, history, culture, time, resources, etc. They may be more advanced such as technology, organizational structure, departmental layouts, etc. Regardless, the team brainstormed all of the obstacles and discussed how to overcome most of them. This did take some time. Research was required for some of them. Benchmarking against other organizations was also necessary. This helped to uncover what other organizations had done in similar situations. Once all obstacles were identified the teams discussed and recorded the strategies needed to overcome these barreirs. Now we were ready for the last stage of the innovation process.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Innovation - Beginning the Process

I've been on the road for awhile but it's time for me to continue my story. As you may recall, the teams labelled each group of ideas, for example, “registration process”, “speakers”, “social”, “receptions”, etc. Then they went to each group and began exploring them in more depth. It is critically important they no process of elimination of any ideas is permitted. Only exact duplicates can be removed.

The teams began to identify and list out the benefits of moving forward with each group of ideas. "What will be the benefit of using the ideas in under the registration process group?" What will be the benefits of the ideas, if implemented, under the speaker group?" etc. If you think for a moment of the greatest inventions of all time you'll probably think of the light bulb, electricity, the phone, the car, etc. Before moving forward with all of the ideas which led to these "group of thoughts", the inventors spent time thinking about the benefits before moving into the next stages of their innovation process.

My next blog will give you the next steps in the innovation process.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Innovation - The Next Steps to Improve Your Conferences

My last Blog introduced you to the concept of holding an Innovation session for conference attendees focussed on creating the “ideal” conference format. I started the session by asking everyone to brainstorm everything that would happen, that they would be engaged in, that they would experience, etc. that would make it an amazing conference. Each idea was written on post-it notes. One idea per post-it note. No discussion, this is done individually. Then I had them break into teams of 8. Each team posted their notes onto flip chart paper and began the process of combining similar ideas into groups. This process, known as the development of an Affinity Diagram, generated many different groups of ideas in each team. They labelled each group. For example, “registration process”, “speakers”, “social”, “receptions”, etc. My next Blog will discuss the next steps.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Innovation - How to Get it Going at Your Conference

My last Blog spoke about the need to be more innovative in how conferences are managed. It is very difficult for staff and volunteers to break the mould. It is always easier to introduce small, incremental change. The best place to start on the Innovation Journey is to engage the conference participants. At the American Society for Quality’s World Conference I held two back-to-back concurrent sessions focussed on how to create an “ideal” conference for them. I needed a full morning to do this, hence the need for back-to-back sessions. When published in the conference brochure, it was certainly a different type of session from all of the others. Nevertheless, 150 people showed up. Wow!!! My next Blog will explain how I managed the session.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Innovation at Conferences

I have spoken at many conferences this year across Canada, the United States, Europe and Asia. The one thing I have found in common in all of them is the “same as last year” formula. Every conference is structured the same. An opening reception, a morning keynote speaker (this is where I am usually positioned), concurrent sessions, lunch, banquet dinner, etc. It is boring. Not the content, the format. It is time for these organizations to think more innovatively about their conferences. I will explain how to do this in subsequent Blogs so stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Travelling and Auditing Projects

I know that this may seem a little unusual a combination for a blog title. I have been auditing projects for sometime now. I am always fascinated to identify the root causes of projects in crisis and then to provide the project manager and team with clear strategies on how to turn their projects around. Having created tremendous, measurable success on many construction, heavy industry and IT projects I was asked to develop a workshop on How to Audit Projects and Provide Risk Assurance. I hadn't really thought about educating others on my process but decided to take up this challenge and develop a workshop.

That was a couple of years ago and since then I have delivered it successfully in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. I'll be leaving in a few weeks to give this workshop in Jakarta on August 25 to 26, 2008. It is very practical. Participants keep telling me how much of an impact it has had on their projects. If you're interested in more information, drop me a line at It'd be great to meet you and see you there. I'd be happy to send you outlines and/or any other information you need.
All the best,

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Providing Project Risk Assurance

My customers have told me and given us testimonials about how our coaching and training has improved their operational effectiveness. They love our articles and have learned a great deal when hearing my keynote presentations at various industry conferences. They have also suggested that it is time I got going on a Blog so that they could hear, more often, about my insights into what helps organizations to improve their profits, customer experience and staff engagement. So I have listened and here is my first one.

One of our core practice areas at bia™ includes the coaching and training of project managers and their teams. Often, several months later, they bring us back to help manage a project in crisis and/or one that is in a constant state of fire-fighting. After all of the training and coaching, why are they caught in these costly and stressful situations? There are of course many factors but ultimately we find that two major reasons: not using a continuous risk management process and not conducting regular project health checks and audits.

The risk management process ensures that they proactively identify what might go wrong on their project and what they can do to reduce its likelihood or manage it, should it occur. On-going health checks and project audits (often by a 3rd party such as Business Improvement Architects) ensures that they understand the factors which might be preventing success and identifying the root causes so that the project can be brought back on track. It provides the project manager and team with a list of lessons learned to date.

Your call to action is simple: Understand and use a Risk Management Process and Conduct regular (every 6 months) project health checks. I have free, in-depth articles on these subjects at and