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Under Arrest: Project Prioritization

Written by Stuart Easton

Project Line up

Many executives are comfortable with their current project prioritization process, one based on a “beauty parade” or a “police line-up” of projects.

Well, I recently came across some research that shows that even the traditional police line-ups can be improved. And guess what; they do it using the same approach that leading PMOs use to prioritize projects. That approach is called the analytic hierarchy process (AHP).

 So, if your prioritization process still involves a “line up” - presenting a list of projects (or pitches) to executives and letting them choose – it’s time to move on.

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PMOs don't actually do anything!

Written by Stuart Easton

sketch1493041672126.pngLet’s be honest. PMOs don’t really do very much, do they?

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You should never, ever run out of project resources

Written by Stuart Easton

bridge.png

 

John McGrath, speaking  at the Pharma PPM Toolbox in London, said that there is simply no excuse for not having enough resources on a project.

Now I know many of you will be disturbed by this statement, but I think he's more-or-less correct.

It's like when a bridge collapses. Bridges don't just collapse, you see (not that I'm a bridge expert, but work with me here.) There is always a reason for the collapse; you designed it wrong, you used the wrong material, you allowed too many trucks on at once, etc.

It’s the same way with projects. There's always a reason when you run out of resources and it's almost always avoidable. Let's look at some of those reasons and work out what can be done about them.

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Is it risky being PMO leader?

Written by Stuart Easton

Risk sharing PMO

There’s an old joke about CIO standing for “Career Is Over”. This joke was doubtless crafted in the forge of poisoned-projects, blown budgets and detonating deadlines.

Just like in the TV show, the Apprentice, project failure can end the CIO’s tenure (there certainly are cases where that’s happened). Imagine what it will do to a PMO leader... Perhaps the PMO might, one day, become a joke of its own...  an acronym for someone likely to be Pre-Maturely Ousted, perhaps?


So, in an environment where 72% of PMOs are being called into question, it seems appropriate to ask, "What can be done to reduce the risk?"

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How many PMOs does it take to reinvent the wheel?

Written by Stuart Easton

don't reinvent the wheel

As a teenager, I was addicted to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Douglas Adams’ masterpiece was filled with wry observations about human nature and one scene in particular has been coming back to me recently. In it, the Golgafrinchams are trying to invent the wheel. They make a total hash of it, but the only thing they worry about is what colour it should be. Classic!

Nobody has really reinvented the wheel for a few thousand years now, so why, oh why, do so many PMOs try to reinvent the wheel when it comes to prioritizing projects?

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The “62% challenge” for PMOs

Written by Stuart Easton

borrow your watch.jpg

 

Nearly two thirds of PMOs identify resourcing or prioritization as their top challenge.

But these are topics that are not massively difficult to address. In fact our consulting partners deal with these topics time and again with their customers.

And yet one of those partners, Greg Gomel, during a recent podcast on this exact topic  mentioned  that he often feels like the stereotypical consultant borrowing his customers watch and then telling them the time when he talks about this stuff. Why?

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Project managers are a waste of space.  So are PMOs.

Written by Stuart Easton

eliminate conductor.pngHow often have you heard the cry, “If we just did without a project manager we could save a load of money!”

Of course it's nonsense. For any project worthy of the name,  a professional project manager will reduce the risk and overall cost of implementation. No "serious" professional would really strip out all the PMs.

Yet “Why are we spending all this money on a PMO?“ is a common cry, one that poses a real threat both to the PMO and the success of the portfolio. Only half of PMOs survive the first few years (APM). In fact, according to ESI research, 72% of PMOs are called into question by the executive team.

Look at it this way; without a conductor, an orchestra would produce a terrible cacophony. (Disclosure: my brother plays in one of the world's top orchestras). It's the same for a project portfolio… only the costs of a weak portfolio can be much worse than the noise of bunch of unsupervised musicians.

In short, the business case for the PMO is every bit as strong as the business case for the project manager.

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Setting up a PMO: The Grand Design?

Written by Stuart Easton

pmo house falling down.pngHalf of new PMOs are shut down within 3 years1. Scary… and it reminds me a bit of a TV program we have in the UK.

Grand Designs follows a member of the public who has taken on a massive project: building a new home. The homes are usually rather grand (hence the title) or unusual (one guy built a house out of straw, another built a cave-house).

Most of the “victims” have chosen to act as project manager themselves. Why do they make that decision? Well, they believe it will save money and, really, how hard can it be? Yet this one decision – to take on the project management themselves - is often the root cause of many of massive cost over-runs, delays and sleepless nights.

Setting up a PMO is a little bit like building a house, only worse. So, what’s to be done?

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How many “points” does your PMO score?

Written by Stuart Easton

get points for finishing projects not starting them

On a recent webinar with Johanna Rothman (author of loads of books on project management, program management, portfolio management  and, I suspect, other things beginning with “P” that need managing!), she made the point that it’s not important how many projects you start. What’s important is how many you finish and that they deliver business value.

If you only score points for finished projects, let’s figure out how to get more points on the board!

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The holiday gift every PMO wants: unlimited upside!

Written by Stuart Easton

gift of unlimited upside.pngBeing a PMO leader is an honour and a responsibility. But it’s also one of those roles where there’s not often a lot of up-side. When things go well… well, that’s what people expect and nobody notices. When they go badly…

Enough said.

So, this Holiday season, we’re teaming up with Mike Hannan of Fortezza Consulting to bring you, the esteemed PMO leader, a Holiday gift. The gift to end all gifts?

The gift of unlimited upside!

Mike is one of those people who is not only immensely wise and talented, but he is also generous. In this webinar, he shares some of the core capabilities that, time-and-again, he has used to unlock unlimited upside for the PMOs he works with.

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5 tools that are changing the PMO landscape

Written by Stuart Easton

Kaboom - PMO head explodes.png

You. Me. Anyone with a management job-title. We all have the same role – to manage change.

We are here to improve things. But innovation in the PMO can be difficult and there’s one huge barrier that stops many in their tracks. I think this barrier is captured best in this quote:

The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.
- John Maynard Keynes

This blog will highlight a few innovative “tools” that are changing the PMO world.

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Cheese, latex gloves and continuous planning. The PMO’s dream come true?

Written by Stuart Easton

prioritization .png

People of a certain age, like me, will eventually be invited to visit the doctor for a health check-up, an invitation which usually strikes fear into the intended victim. Or is that just me?

Oddly, its 5 years since my last confrontation with the latex gloves with no other invitations on the horizon, which seems odd. A health exam gives a snapshot at a point in time, but things change… cheese gets eaten, runs get missed, you go up a clothes size. Or is that just me again?

This got me wondering about events vs processes in the areas of project, program and portfolio management.

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Really quick wins for PMOs - please contribute

Written by Stuart Easton

do not disturb.png

According to Geneca, 75% of execs believe their project is doomed from the start. This got me wondering…

  • How can we become more effective today, right now?
  • Where can you find a quick win, something that will stop you wasting resources? 
  • Where can we have more impact with less effort?

I have compiled a set of five tricks to get you started… I’m sure you will come up with more.

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3 Tips to Help PM Deliver More Business Value

Written by Stuart Easton

"Project managers like their methodologies, but that won't help if they' re doing the wrong project. But all PMs seem to care about is delivering the project on time. Delivering business value is someone else's problem."

I was at London's Project Challenge Expo the other week, and this quote was taken from one of the presenters in a quiet off-stage moment. If true, I find this comment very, very depressing. I have a picture in my head of a group of mindless zombies marching slowly, inexorably, relentlessly on with no real goal in sight other than getting the project out on time.

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Are you a homeopathic PMO?

Written by Stuart Easton

Homeopathic_Project_Selection.png

Many people believe in homeopathy. It’s been used for thousands of years and is deeply rooted in certain parts of society. However, the unequivocal research by modern science practitioners proves that homeopathy doesn’t work –it’s just a placebo.

In much the same way there are methods for prioritizing projects that have been used for decades. At some point they were probably even deemed to be best practice, but like homeopathy they don't really work very well.

In this blog we will try to work out which methods are homeopathy and which are real science.

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