Category Archives: Leadership

How Checklist Project Management Can Make Your Project Fail

Checklist Project Management
Checklist Project Management

I managed a project once where we were implementing a system for several clients. We visited one of the clients where I met with their team, including my counterpart project manager.

He seemed like a nice enough guy and we agreed that we would do our best to communicate and work together. Once the meetings started, we began delving into the client’s business requirements.

The client’s project manager had a list of questions he wanted to get through and seemed intent on getting through the list swiftly. He would ask a question. Someone would give an answer. He would begin typing the information into his laptop.

Invariably, someone would either add to the answer, contradict it, or ask a question, indicating they weren’t sure the answer was correct. In some cases, this would result in some fairly extensive discussion.

I could read the expression on the project manager’s face. He just wanted to get through the list. Ask a question and answer it. All this discussion was just slowing down his process.
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The Secret Behind Why Your Genius Idea Isn’t Adopted

Your Genius Idea
Why Your Genius Idea isn’t Implemented

I once knew an executive to which many people attributed the “genius” title. She was very smart. She had come up with an excellent approach to solving a problem. It was simple. It was inexpensive to implement. Most of all, it was very effective. When people adopted the approach, it worked with unbelievable success.

She took her idea and tried to implement it at a new company. But she was very inflexible about it. It had to be done exactly the way she had defined it. On top of that, if someone’s approach varied outside of her parameters, she would publicly berate them for it.

Before long, no one wanted anything to do with her or her approach. When she wasn’t around, they would ridicule her approach and do things their own way. As time went on, she couldn’t figure out why people hadn’t adopted her genius idea. Why was it such a fight to get them to do something that was so obviously a great approach?

Perhaps you’ve experienced this with some variation. You come up with a great idea, you propose it to the powers that be, and it is canned before you get back to your desk.

You’re certain that if someone else came up with the same idea that it would have been adopted.
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5 Myths of Project Management

Myths of project management
5 Myths of Project Management

The project manager’s role is often misunderstood. They do a lot of heads-down paperwork. When they do talk, they are asking questions rather than adding valuable information to the discussion.

Some people think it is an easy profession. This is based on many myths of project management. Here, I will discuss five of the most common ones.
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10 Ways to Establish a Successful PMO

establish a successful PMO
How to establish a successful PMO

I once worked for an organization with a project management office that was a textbook example of how not to run a PMO.  They lacked serious credibility with the organization’s project managers and throughout the organization. It gave me a sour taste for the concept of PMOs. I assumed they were all just as worthless as the one I had worked with.

But I’ve learned over the years that some PMOs are better than others. A PMO must be developed strategically to fit in with the organization to increase its chances of success. The following ten tips can help to insure that success.

Start with a purpose and an objective

There are many reasons to establish a PMO. Some organizations want a PMO to help them decide upon the right projects to execute. Some want a more standardized approach to project management. Others may want to help mentor the on-staff project managers to become better project managers.

The organization should determine why they are establishing the PMO in order to know how to establish the PMO. Different objectives mean different approaches for implementation. If they simply take a textbook approach and implement it blindly, they significantly reduce their chances of success.

Related post: How Focusing on the Wrong Things Causes You to Fail

Empower rather than impair

Regardless of the objective, the PMO should help project managers implement projects better. With that objective in mind, the PMO should work to empower the project managers to do their job. Too often, PMOs create so much bureaucracy that it hinders project managers from getting the job done instead of providing them tools to do a better job.

Balance flexibility with standardization

When you go out for a drive you drive on the right side of the road (at least here in the United States) and expect the same of other motorists. Most of us stop at stop signs and obey traffic laws within reason.

When you drive on the interstate system, you can change lanes when you want or need to and take whatever exit you wish. The system is standardized to avoid chaos, but there is a lot of flexibility to allow you to get where you want to go.

Many PMOs want to standardize the project management process. Some tend to over-standardize, not giving the project manager the ability to think. PMs that end up working under such stringent parameters, find that they aren’t allowed to do their job.

For more information, check out The Importance of Leadership in Project Management

Be collaborative

I published a blog titled Do You Manage Like a Coach or a Referee. It compared management styles of those who collaboratively help their employees with those that simply point out everything the employee does wrong like a referee.

PMOs can have the same approaches. They can work like a coach to answer questions and provide advice to help project managers develop stronger skills. Or, they can act as the referee blowing the whistle every time the PM steps outside of the acceptable behaviors of project management.

Taking a collaborative approach will help the PMO develop credibility while helping project managers become better at their job, providing a better solution to the entire enterprise.

Be driven by business strategy

Projects are run to help the business do their business. When a PMO is placed in the role of gatekeeper, deciding which projects are prioritized, they may lose sight of the fact that the project decisions should be driven by the business strategy.

In my experience in information technology, IT sometimes forgets that they are a support function for the business. If the PMO remembers who funds the projects and the purpose of the projects, they will keep the business strategy in mind when making their decisions

Establish credibility

At one place I worked, the PMO had established a project initiation process that included meeting with several stakeholders. I was new to the company and followed the process as they had prescribed. It made sense in theory, but when I started to put it into practice, some of the stakeholders seemed surprised that I was approaching them.

I met with someone from the PMO and told her about getting pushback from some stakeholders. When she just shrugged it off, I asked her how the other project managers were doing this process.

“You’re the only one that’s doing it to my knowledge,” she answered.

I suddenly realized that the PMO had very little credibility with the existing PMs. They simply blew off the processes the PMO had established and did their own thing anyway.

If the PMO doesn’t establish credibility with the project managers within the company, they are wasting everyone’s time.

Make on-time, on-budget the 2nd priority

I’ve read hundreds of resumes for project manager positions. They invariably demonstrate all of the projects the PM has completed “on time and on budget.” Rarely do I see one that talks about completing a project with 100% customer satisfaction.

That’s the true measure of a successful project. The PMO should ensure that, while meeting time and budgetary commitments is important, it’s the second banana to client satisfaction when it comes to measuring project success.

If the PMO instills a customer satisfaction attitude in the project management team, successful projects may be seen as a success by the business community as well as by IT.

Instill purpose-driven discipline

When a PMO is established with the purpose of standardizing the processes, a warning flag goes up in the head of every project manager. They immediately want to know why. Why are we adding all of these procedures? Why is this necessary?

Those are valid questions. Everything we do or say should have a purpose. When the PMO implements new procedures, they should provide each one with a valid purpose that is driving it. Project managers may disagree and still push back. But they are more likely to follow a procedure whose purpose has been explained with solid logic.

Let the company’s culture drive involvement

If the company is very entrepreneurial, establishing a strict set of procedures that every PM is expected to follow will go against the cultural grain. Conversely, if the company’s culture is more paternal, with procedures defined for every possibility, offering a buffet of suggested procedures depending on the situation may simply never get used.

When establishing a PMO, the organization should consider what type of culture they are dealing with and plan accordingly. The culture will be a big driver for participation by the project managers and other stakeholders. If the PMO aligns well with the company’s culture, it stands a better chance of success.

Measure, improve, repeat

Whether the objective of the PMO is lower cost, faster implementations, greater customer satisfaction, or more reuse of deliverables across all projects, they should always keep a close watch on whether the objectives are being met.

With every project, the PMO should develop tools to measure how well they met their overriding objectives. A lessons learned session with all stakeholders can provide valuable input. Questionnaires can also contribute great feedback assuming the correct questions are asked and stakeholder participation is high.

With each piece of feedback, the PMO should determine what procedures worked and encourage repeating those procedures. On the other side of the coin, they should take any negative feedback and try to determine what improvement procedures can be implemented. Constant improvement should be the focus.


If some strategic foresight is put into the development of a project management office, success is a much more likely scenario. A PMO should be designed to dovetail with an organization’s strategy and culture. When it is, it increases its chances for success.

What traits have you seen used to establish a successful PMO?

If you would like to learn more about a career in Project Management, get Lew’s book Project Management 101: 101 Tips for Success in Project Management on Amazon.

Please feel free to provide feedback in the comments section below.

7 Tips For Successfully Managing Your 1st Project

managing your 1st project
What to do when managing your 1st project

So you’ve made it. After months or maybe years, you have been assigned to manage your first project. You might have some help. You may have a mentor or two. But like any self-respecting project manager managing your 1st project, you want to be independent.

Here are some tips to keep in mind while managing your 1st project.

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The 2 Error Types That Destroy Your Management Credibility

error types
Statistics, project management and error types

I can’t think of a college class that I disliked as much as statistics. It was one of those classes where it made a lot of sense when the professor explained it on the board.

Put a test in front of me though, and I was lost. I would understand it when it was explained, but I couldn’t seem to comprehend it well enough to explain it.

Error Types: Type I and Type II

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Do You Manage Like a Coach or a Referee?

do you manage like a coach
Do you manage like a coach or a referee

I was watching my daughter’s soccer game a few days ago and made an observation. I saw her coach standing on the sidelines doing his job. And I saw the referee out in the middle of the field doing his.

I’ve never confused the two roles. They each have a different job to do and they do it. Some are better than others.

Manage like a coach

A coach – at least a good one – works with the individuals on the team to help them improve as individuals and as a team. When a player on his team makes a mistake, the coach provides feedback on how to improve.

A coach sets goals for the team and each of its individuals to achieve in order to succeed. Success is well defined. Everyone knows what they need to do and how to achieve success.
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How Not Trusting Your Team Kills Productivity

not trusting your team
Not trusting your team to do the job.

Have you ever played volleyball when one person tries to play every position? He runs all over your team’s half of the court hitting volleys that should rightfully be hit by other teammates. Because he is running to other positions, his hits are bad. He plays his own position badly too, because he’s running around playing all six positions.

Most of us know people in the business world like this too. She has her own job to do, but still gets involved with the jobs of others. This is common with newly promoted managers. Managing his new team is well outside of his comfort zone, so he reverts back to his worker-bee days. He gets involved in the details and does the work of others.
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How Making Noise Hurts Your Team’s Productivity

making noise hurts your team
How making noise hurts hyour team

It can be a difficult transition when someone makes the move from worker bee to management. You find yourself going from someone who had lots of tasks and was always busy, to being in an oversight position.

Certainly a manager keeps busy. There are plenty of things to do. But when a deadline approaches and the team has a ton of work to do in a short time, managers often find themselves in a situation where they watch people working, waiting for the rest of the team to get it all done.

Meaningless activity

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How Focusing on the Wrong Things Causes You to Fail

focusing on the wrong things
Are you Focusing on the Wrong Things?

Office coffee politics

Once early in my career I worked on a project in which I attended weekly client meetings where we reported our status to one of the executives. This particular executive had an agenda for the meeting each week. He would list the projects from which he wanted updates, and listed specific issues when he wanted specifics.

The department I worked for had a coffee pot out in the open. People who drank coffee were expected to pay on the honor system for each cup. The accumulated money was used to purchase more coffee and filters.
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