Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Top Six

What are your top 6-12 goals for next year? Have you thought them through? If you're like a lot of people, one goal is to lose weight. But is that it?

On my list is to get more speaking engagements. I'm going to do more active marketing, submit more proposals to big events such as PMI's global congresses, and then make sure I'm thoroughly prepared so I give good presentations and can get references. I have 1 confirmed even on my calendar and 3 tentative events. My target is 6 events for the year.

So having a set of goals is more than just a list of high level things. For each goal, you should plan out a set of actions to accomplish that goal, complete with dates. Then throughout the year, on a weekly and monthly basis, identify what actions you have to achieve your goals. Don't be one of the crowd that joins the health club in January and by the end of March is no longer going (but still paying the membership fees).

If you're interested in some of my other New Years Planning activities, refer back to last year's post here.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The World's Oldest Government

I had the opportunity to meet with the Minister of Administrative Development for Egypt while I was there delivering a project management conference this week. The minister has a clear vision of where he wants to take project management in order to improve his organization's performance. He's looking beyond just certification to mentoring/coaching and training to help build a project management competency.

Egypt is the site of the first big projects, they pyramids. Ironically, they built in an iterative fashion, starting with a smaller one, learning from their mistakes, and building bigger/better ones.

Egypt is also home to another important project management tool - beer! I know I've sat around with the team after a hard day to unwind and bond over a couple cold ones.

Monday, December 15, 2008


This is a phrase I've been hearing here in Egypt. It means "God willing." It's used when people make plans to say this is what we want to do, but it isn't completely up to us.

It's like project management. We can make all our plans but things can still go the wrong way. Those are the times we can take the Egyptian attitude and accept the situation and go from there.

I had a project one time where we were doing a data conversion. About a month out, we found out some hardware wasn't going to be ready in time. There wasn't anything we could do about the situation, so we ended up doing the conversion in 2 steps, the second step happening when our hardware got in place. It took a little while to get people past the issue and on the solution, but we did it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


I was working today with a client on estimating how many man-hours their project was going to take. It was a pretty straightforward exercise; estimate the number and complexity of all the components of the project and apply benchmark data we’ve collected and add it all up to come up with a total. At this early stage in the project, there is some margin of error in what we refer to as a budgetary estimate. It’s more refined than a level of effort but not a detailed estimate.

The resulting answer was pretty big and the client thought it was much bigger than the project would actually be, and he might be right. Under ideal conditions, the project may take much less time. However, having done projects before, I know this perfect state for project execution is rare. Things often come up. There’s some requirement that didn’t get identified but is a must-have. Problems creep up. People get pulled of the project for something else, or quite or get married. Some features take longer than the benchmark would indicate.

For now we’ll keep an eye on this estimate while we start our first iteration. After we complete that, we’ll see if our estimates for those features match reality. Then we can adjust the overall estimate as necessary.

Monday, December 08, 2008

When Six Sigma isn't enough

I had an interesting conversation with a client last week. They had a process that was a "burning issue." They threw a couple Six Sigma Black Belts at it to make process improvements.

Six months later, they approached Lombardi to ask if this process was a good one for Business Process Management (BPM), which is were I got involved.

So what does BPM provide that 6 sigma doesn't? In their case, they had a manual process for tracking metrics. Someone would go into a time tracking system, acknowledge that they were starting a task, go do the task, and go back to the time tracking system to say it was done. This is what is referred to as a "swivel chair" integration. The task execution and time tracking aren't truley integrated. This is one area that BPM can help, it tracks execution of the task because the task and tracking of the task are integrated in the same tool.

So BPM can improve capturing metrics, what else? In their case, the task itself was still being performed with emails and spreadsheets. Moving to BPM will eliminate these activities. All process data and communications happens via the BPM platform.

A BPM platform also lets you tweak the process easier. You identify a bottleneck through metrics captured automatically, figure out how to work around it, make a change to the process, and you're done. Kaizen at its finest.

So while 6 sigma gets you in the right direction, BPM will set the groundwork for continous improvement.

Thursday, December 04, 2008


How effective are you at networking? Do you even think about it much? Typically, if I'm in the middle of a big project, I'm not thinking about networking, but I know I should be.

First there's networking within your organization. This can help you with your project or career inside the company. If you build your network, you have people you can call on to help you out when you need it.

Then there's networking outside your company. Maybe you're in the perfect job and never plan on leaving, so you don't see the point. Networking is more than finding a job though. Through my networking, I've meet people that have helped me in the job I was at, learn new skills, and participate in interesting activities outside of work.

There are two important things about a network. First, don't wait until you need it to build it. The last time I was laid off, I had a strong network in place and quickly had a number of opportunities to explore.

The second thing is the network isn't a one-way street. You have to be willing to give to your network and help them out. Maybe it's saying yes when someone asks for a volunteer or helping someone with a problem. You have to pay into your network in order to be able to draw on it later. Karma works here; the person I help today may not be able to help me next week, but someone will as long as I'm paying into the network.