Thursday, May 25, 2006

Thoughts about the week...

The end has come of another working week.

This week has been quite ok due to the fact that the infrastructure-project is running ok. In the 3rd party project we have all kinds of problems, from performance-problems to problems in our processes. As an internal IT-department our only “customer” is our business organisation and the objective of the IT-organisation is to provide excellent service to the business-organisation. Well…we have a long way to go before we can deliver a good enough service regarding the 3rd party project. One of the main issues to be able to deliver a high quality service to the business is that we have a project as well as a line organisation (maintenance) that need to co-operate towards the business as well as the supplier. The system is in production in ten countries in Europe which means that the project is delivering new countries in the same time that when have countries in production, with major problems. The project and the line organisation are not always agreeing on what is most important and that makes the life a bit difficult. We had a crises-meeting about these issues during the week and it is clear that we have a hard time to deliver as ONE IT-company. The project had one view, the maintenance another, it-operations had a third. I had not called the meeting but it ended with me at the whiteboard calling the shots anyhow. I got so irritated with some of the people in the room when they not managed to see the full picture. The meeting ended anyhow with some sort of consensus about the way forward…now we just need to explain to the business why we are not able to implement any change requests or fix any incidents (except prio 1) during the next 4 weeks. It will be an interesting steering committee meeting next Wednesday.

The story will continue…

Regards ThePM

Sunday, May 21, 2006

More about planning

One of the cornerstones in good project management is to get the team to strive together towards a well define goal which everybody in the team understands. All activities are of course divided between the members of the project and all individuals need to be aware about which responsibilities he or she has. This is only possible via thorough planning.

For, personal- as well as a project manager-reasons, it always feel better to have solid plan to follow instead of wondering around in the darkness trying to find your way forward. With a proper planning you are able to always be one step ahead of the project team and in that we manage and lead them in a better way.

The project team and my self sat down and tried to figure out what we should do when we initiated the infrastructure-project. These meetings resulted in three important artefacts;

1. WBS-chart. Work Breakdown Structure-chart which is a chart that shows the breakdown of the activities.

2. Networkdiagrams, which are diagrams that shows the relative flow of the activities. You are also possible to easily identify the critical line.

3. An excelsheet in which I can track the progress of each activity and also see how much time that remains for each activity.

These three artifacts together with the Project Definition have proven to be the most important documents for me when it comes to steering and follow up in the project. I would also like to advice you to involve the project team, or at least key-resources, in the planning. You will then get the buy-in from them and they will feel more committed to deliver according to the project-plan and time-plan. Due to the fact that we took the time in the beginning of the project to do the planning in a good way we also have the project under control, we minimize the risk of misunderstandings, and I’m possible to be proactive in my management.

How you choose to structure your project and the work conducted inside the project is dependent on which kind of project you run and what you intend to deliver. It is a difference if you intend to build a house or if you are developing a software.

Some of you might think that you don’t need to secure a thorough planning…and maybe you are right and maybe, just maybe, you will come out on top with a successful project.
But…dear friends…in many of the cases will you not manage to deliver on time, with correct budget, with the scope and quality that your steering committee require of you.

The other project (3rd Party Project)that I’m involved in is a sad story in many ways. When myself and my colleague took over the project in February 2006 we only received a high level plan in a powerpoint-slide. A that point we had no choice but to deliver a part of the project due to legal issues in one European-country, but when that was done we froze the project to be able to lay the foundations once again. We are currently sorting out many issue in the project and we are securing a solid plan, which feel promising. One of the reasons that the 3rd-party product-project is in a bad shape is due to lack of plan and planning.

Please, do not step into that trap…SECURE A GOOD PLAN!

Please let me know if I can help you in any way.

Regards, ThePM

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Need of planning

My life at the office is currently divided in to two parts. One part is the planned and structured day in which most of the things run fairly smoothly. The other part is chaos. The Infrastructure-project is running very good and is on track. The 3rd Party-project is just a mess. (see the introduction for a presentation of the two

My self and a collegue of mine took over the 3rd party-project in Februry 2006 and it has been a constant battle ever since. The 3rd party-project started in 2003 and, as far as I know, it has been badly managed from day one. The project and all we who are working in it are currently paying the price for the bad project management up until February 2006.
Myself and the other project manager in the 3rd party-project are now working as firefighters, politicians and a bit as project managers. We as project managers are constantly putting out fires and are way too deep into operational questions.

My dear friends, it all comes down to Planning, planning, planning and more planning. The plan is nothing, the planning is everything. I think it was Winston Churchill who said it and it is so dead on correct when it comes to project management. The big difference (at least one of them) between my two projects is that in the infrastructure-project I had the possibility to make the planning in the beginning of the project in a good way. We have ever since the start had a good and structured project. All the resources know what they should do, when, how, what to deliver, etc... With a good planning you will also be able to do solid forecasts and keep the critical line in the project under close control. Without proper planning you will need to relay un luck...and that never works!

This is not rocket sience in any way...

But you will need a lot of hard work to "save" a badly managed project that has been wrongly executed from day one.

My advice for the day is to take the time in the beginning of your projects to do it right from the start! usual, please let me know if I can do anything for you.


Monday, May 15, 2006

The SC-meeting

Monday and back at work after a nice and relaxing weekend. This week is interesting in more than one way. In the infrastructure-project we have fairly extensive performance-test and the steering committee meeting. In the other project (The “3rd party packaged”-project) we will send out a RFI (Request For Information) to a number of companies in the North America.

I had the Steering Committee meeting today Monday and I’m satisfied with the meeting and also with outcome of the meeting. I were in no need of any major decision from the meeting today so the character of the meeting was more of reporting-character. The progress in the Infrastructure-project is good and according to plan so there where no major issues to resolve either.

There are also a couple of things that You as a Pm needs to think about when it comes to SC-meetings.

Most important are;
* Come prepared to the meetings.
What do you need from the SC-meeting? Think about that and prepare accordingly. Have backup slides ready. It is always impressive to say be able to answer a unprepared question with a prepared slide.

* Always tell the truth
Do NOT, and I repeat, Do Not lie in the SC-meeting. The truth will always catch up with you. And, that my dear friends, will not be pleasant.

* Give the decision-makers options
The people who should take the decisions need alternatives. Try to present at least two alternatives for each needed decision, 3 is even better…if possible.

* Remember the saying: “money talk, bullshit walks…”
Money is in 9/10 times a great argument that in most cases will back your case up if you present it in a good way. “I would like to do like this because we save $ x, etc…”

Another advice is to use the same structure in the presentation every time. That will make the audience to recognize the format and the will more comfortable. A good structure that almost always work is;
- Current situation
Describe the current situation in the project.
- Complications
What kind of problems do we have…with alternatives and suggested solutions.
- Way forward
Present how the project will continue and what the next steps are until the next SC-meeting.

Please let me know if you have any comments or let me know if I can help you in any way.


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Thoughts about a steering committee

Back from a great long weekend and ready to get up in the saddle again. I only had 34 unread mails which needs to be concidered as good after two days vacation.

I have a steering committee meeting on Monday next week which means that much of my time this week will be spend on preparations for the steering committee (SC) for the “Infrastructure-project”. We have SC-meeting approximately every second month in this project. The project is not in need of any major decision from the SC this time so it will hopefully be a short meeting to report progress and brief them about the way forward. To be honest I must say that the SC for the “Infrastructure-project” is pretty weak. The SC should be steering me but it is more or less the other way… They have the correct roles in the line-organization and are actually the correct SC but…yeah…they are bit weak.

There are a number of things that I think is important for a SC;

* They must be decisive and have the mandate to make decisions.
If not, you will have an interesting time ahead of you. The decision-making progress in the project will be painstaking slow and should be treated as a risk.

* They must follow up on the project manager.
The SC needs to follow up the work of the project manager to be able to take the responsibility for the project. Remember that it is often experienced coworkers, linemanagers or other important stakeholders that is members of a SC. Use their vast amount of experience.

* They must be interested in the project and have time to spend in the project.
How should the otherwise know what is happening in the project…

* They must come prepared to all meetings.
Do not be afraid of postponing a SC-meeting if they not have prepared them selves. Little or no use will come out of such meeting.

* The must support the project manager and the project
They should always work a ambassadors for the project and secure that the project has the correct preconditions.

Try always to work closely together with the chairman of the steering committee. He or she should always send out the invitations and the minutes for the meetings. Try also not get trapped in the “dear-pm-please-check-with-the-other-in-the-sc”-trap. If you need input from the SC you should put the question to the chairman and he or she will then contact the other members of the SC. This could otherwise be very time-consuming. An exception that confirms the rule is if you need to do some lobbying on the members in the SC…but that is a total different ballgame.

Remember that it is your responsibility and obligation to address issues with the SC to the “customer” of the project if you don’t think that that the SC is working properly.

There are also a couple of things that You as a Pm needs to think about when it comes to SC-meetings.

Please let me know your thoughts about project management or let me know if I can help you in any way...


Tuesday, May 02, 2006



I’m currently working as a Project Manager in an internal IT-department for the Global Company. The Global Company has approximately 100 000 employees around the world and has it HeadQuarters in Europe. I’m based at the HQ. The IT-department has around 1200 employees around the world on 10 different sites and if you include the consultants the figure would be around 1700. We are approximately 800 employees (incl consultants) at the HQ and the IT organisation is working fairly well with a newly implemented product-oriented organisation. It’s actually a terrific company to work in and I’m enjoying every day…more or less…
I’m just above 30 and started in the Global Company 2000 as a Project Manager and been working with different types of project but my focus has been on implementing 3rd party packages and vendor management. These two areas have become my speciality and my main focus of interest together with leadership in the scope of project management. I’ve run project from 5000 man hours up to 48000 man hours with a total budget of 28 million USD.

I’m currently involved in two different projects;

The first project- The Infrastructure project- has the objective to upgrade the hardware and software of the most critical system for the Global Company. Without this system the Global Company will not make any earnings. I’m responsible for this project and I must say that it is running very smoothly. In the time of writing we are just finalising the test-phase. It is a fairly small project with a budget of 13000 man hours. The scope of the project is to perform one pilot and plan for the rollout on ~300 sites globally. The Global Company will do this together with one of biggest consultancy firms.
Although we have our challenges (what would life be without them?) the project is in a good shape, on time and on budget.

The second project –The 3rd party project- is more of a challenge. The Global Company implementing a 3rd party product and the project is in a total mess. I could write endless lines of the bad management of the project but I will most likely come back to that in future postings. I’m not responsible of this project but supporting the responsible PM with issues regarding vendor management and the implementation of the system in North America. The responsible PM could be more experienced but is under the difficult circumstances performing well. Myself and the project manager took over the project in February 2006 and understood quickly that the project was (and still is) in a very bad condition. We are starting to get the pre-conditions in place but it is long and painstaking road ahead of us.

I will in this Blog tell You about the progress, difficulties, challenges that I have in these two project related to project management and leadership.

I’m looking forward to your feedback and will do my best to answer any mails…

By the way, this is a good week, because myself and my fiancée will travel to one of the major capitals in Europe for a long weekend without the kids…;-)
So, more about the projects and my weekend will come in the beginning of week 19.

All the best,
The PM