Strategic Planning in an Agile World

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I've often written about the importance of continuous planning at multiple levels, while also emphasizing the urgency of fostering business agility to meet dynamically changing needs.

I came across an HBR article by Alessandro Di Fiore, founder and CEO of the European Centre for Strategic Innovation (ECSI), titled "Planning Doesn't Have to Be the Enemy of Agile" that, to me, captures the essence of the tension between strategic planning and team-based agility. More importantly, it offers examples of how to make the two seemingly opposite concepts work well together.

As Di Fiore says, "The logic of centralized long-term strategic planning (done once a year at a fixed time) is the antithesis of an organization redesigned around teams who define their own priorities and resources allocation on a weekly basis."

To resolve this tension, he proposes that a new form of "Agile Planning" is needed that aligns top down strategic planning, bottom-up team-based decision-making, prioritization, and execution, and a mid-level process that helps bridge the two.

In effect, this blends the best of both worlds -- where agile teams leverage qualitative data and judgement to aid in prioritization and resource allocation, while big data continues to flow in through the strategic planning process and Information Technology. The sweet spot is the right combination of human judgement and hard data.

Put another way, I think it's safe to say that team judgment without data is blind, and relying on data alone is deaf. The corporate graveyards are full of companies that have done either or both.

When Corporate Strategy Meets Team Execution

The idea of blending top-down and bottom-up planning is consistent with other successful examples I've seen. The great author and cultural expert, Fons Trompenaars (Did the Pedestrian Die, 21 Leaders for the 21st Century, and others), once shared how Heineken learned this lesson the hard way.

As Trompenaars explains, Heineken released a TV ad where a woman was frantically rooting through her closet trying to find something to wear for a date. Then the doorbell rings. It's her date, who throws her a leather jacket. The next scene shows them in a bar drinking Heineken with the slogan: "Beer as beer is meant to be."

Well, in some countries, sales went down, not up. Upon research, Heineken learned why. Apparently, in those particular cultures, the message received was: "Only slobs drink Heineken."

Oops!

After than, Heineken changed their approach. The provided a top-down theme and general priorities (e.g., In the European region, portray Heineken as a casual, relaxing beer) and left it up to the local advertising departments within that region to come up with an ad that would work in their country. It worked like a charm.

They chose another theme for the Caribbean region (Portray Heineken as a metropolitan beer), with each island creating their own ads. Again, it work so well, that Heineken began winning all sorts of advertising awards. To this day, they continue to win advertising awards, with what I might call a hub-and-spoke planning model. 

It's a similar concept to Agile Planning: Remain agile in terms of priorities, methods, and execution while providing corporate themes and strategies from the top. What Di Fiore details is the bridge between corporate planning and individual teams. I highly recommend reading his article.

Bottom line: When it comes to strategy execution, resource planning, and business agility, you CAN have your cake and eat it too.


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Jerry Manas is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Registration Now Open for the Resource Planning Summit 2019!

We’re happy to announce that Registration is now open for the 8th Annual Resource Planning Summit, February 11-13 at the beautiful Hutton Hotel in Nashville, TN.

The Resource Planning Summit is the premier event for promoting best practices in Resource Management, Demand Management, Capacity Planning, and how all these disciplines apply to Projects, Sprints, and Strategy Execution.

The two and a half day conference is a meeting of the minds to learn, share and network with like-minded professionals on how to best utilize and optimize enterprise resource planning techniques and software across various industries and businesses.

  • Interact with managers, executives, PMOs, EPPMOs, PPM industry experts and companies

  • Participate in interactive sessions, and panel discussions

  • Learn from industry leaders, top notch speakers and keynotes 

  • Earn PDUs over 2+ Content Filled Days

  • Experience Nashville, TN with a purpose

Be sure to register early, as this year's venue is in high demand. We look forward to seeing you in Nashville!

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

Sponsorships Still Available

Sponsorships are still available. Sponsorship includes an optional vendor booth at the conference, promotion in conference materials and marketing, special mention at the conference, and more. For info, please call Judy: (203) 894 5666; or email us at info@resourceplanningsummit.com.


JB Manas - website photo.jpg

Jerry Manas is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn.

7 Practices of Resource-Savvy Organizations

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Maximizing your organization's human capacity to get things done doesn't have to be complicated. It fact, it's pretty much common sense.

Note that I'm NOT talking about increasing capacity. That's easy. Just hire more people or pay for contractors. I'm talking about maximizing the resources you already have.

To start, there are two fundamental principles at play for maximizing your resources:

  1. Increase value focus

  2. Increase performance

In other words, if your resources are working on the right stuff at peak performance, you're operating at optimal capacity. It's as simple as that.

Now the trick is how to achieve that.

For guidance, it pays to look at high-performing, resource-savvy organizations. From studies I've been involved with, I've found that such organizations tend to observe seven distinct practices that increase both value-focus and performance. 

Specifically, they:

  1. Prioritize all work - All work should be categorized and prioritized in the context of overall value to the organization. Otherwise, precious time could be spent on lower value activities. Also note that priority is methodology agnostic. 

  2. Eliminate waste -This includes excess approvals when checklists would suffice; redundant process steps; extraneous data on forms; excessive documentation that nobody will read; capturing data that nobody is using; and more.

  3. Clarify goals - If people aren't clear on the organization's goals and priorities, then their interests may not be aligned with value. Always reinforce goals as opposed to "tasks." Better yet, engage them in strategizing on how to achieve the goals.

  4. Align people with their strengths - People perform best when they're able to leverage their primary strengths toward an interesting challenge. A strength mismatch will create frustration, while a lack of challenge will create apathy. This is the concept behind the Flow principle.

  5. Reduce multitasking - It's been proven that multitasking decreases productivity. Encourage people to schedule "downtime" to focus, and avoid diluting productivity with multiple concurrent initiatives.

  6. Enable with tools and training - Even the most talented, motivated people will struggle without the proper tools and training to do their job effectively. Skimping here is like burdening your people with a heavy backpack and expecting them to run at peak performance. 

  7. Institute continuous resource planning - Resource planning looks at work in the context of three variables: supply, demand, and priority. The goal is to meet demand with supply in priority order, so that if any work gets bumped, it'll be the lower priority activities. Regular, ongoing resource planning ensures that people are always aligned with value, and that they aren't overloaded beyond their capacity. 

Collectively, these practices can drive value-focused performance, while also fostering a positive, inspiring culture. Resource-savvy organizations that have adopted them have seen a boost in productivity, employee retention, and customer satisfaction. Best of all, they've gone from reactive to proactive.

I’d venture to say they've also taken to heart the wise words of Albert Einstein:

Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.


JB Manas - website photo.jpg

Jerry Manas is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn.

When Execution Problems Foil Good Resource Plans

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In the campy, fun, 1966 Batman film, Batman (played by Adam West) was running all over a waterfront marketplace trying to dispose of an active bomb (the round, black kind, like in the Bugs Bunny cartoons). To his dismay, everywhere he wanted to dump the bomb, people kept showing up, from marching bands to conversing nuns to mothers with baby carriages. Even a family of ducks got in the way, swimming by just as he was about to finally toss the bomb in the water. Frustrated, he looked at the camera and uttered the now iconic line:

"Some days, you just can't get rid of a bomb."

When it comes to the workplace, sometimes, things happen that are indeed out of anyone's control, despite the best of plans. Other times, people simply don't perform, for various reasons. You've planned to get the right people on the right projects and the right time, but they simply aren't executing.

The good news is that this latter situation is fixable. 

In his book, Fixing Performance Problems, executive coach Bud Bilanich suggests that there are 11 reasons why employees don’t do what they’re supposed to, and most of the reasons are not the fault of the employee (the list was influenced by the writings of training and education guru Robert Mager). Bilanich, also known as “The Common Sense Guy,” proposes that we rule out all 11 reasons and their solutions in sequence. They are as follows (the comments in parenthesis are my own):

1.     People don’t know what they’re supposed to do.

2.    People don’t know why they should do what they are supposed to do.

3.    People don’t know how to do what they’re supposed to do.

4.    People think the prescribed methods will not, or do not work, or believe that their way is better. (Hint: They may be right! Only through open dialogue will you know. For more on this, see my earlier post, Strategy Execution is Driven by Conversations)

5.    People think other things are more important. (Again, they may be right! And again, this is where open and candid communication comes in, which requires a culture of trust and respect.)

6.    People think they are performing in an acceptable manner. (Maybe they are! Or Maybe expectations weren't clear.)

7.    Non-performance is rewarded. (by giving them less work. Instead, focus on figuring out the cause and helping them be a valuable contributor.) 

8.   Good performance feels like punishment. (by piling even more work on them!)

9.   There are obstacles to performing that the individual cannot control. (i.e., the Batman situation)

10.  There are no positive consequences for good performance.

11.  There are no negative consequences for poor performance.

Note that negative consequences aren’t addressed until point 11. That’s because flawed systems, mismanagement, and poor communication are frequently the root cause of the supposed inferior performance. Indeed, before assuming poor performance is the fault of the employee, we owe it to the employee---and to ourselves as leaders---to rule out the first 10 points.

Speaking of negative consequences, Bilanich reminds us that a simple reminder may be adequate.

He tells the story of the final moments of the 1968 NBA Eastern Division basketball playoffs, where the Boston Celtics were facing the Philadelphia 76ers. Bill Russell missed a crucial foul shot, and his teammate Sam Jones called him aside and whispered some words in his ear. Russell nodded, then made the next foul shot to win the game.

The big news story that followed was, “What were the magic words that Sam Jones uttered to Bill Russell?” For a while, the players were silent on the topic. Eventually, it came out. The magic words were:

Flex your knees, Bill.

Often, that’s all it takes.


JB Manas - website photo.jpg

Jerry Manas is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Is Your Organization Value-Focused?

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Professor and author Morten Hansen wrote an excellent article on the American Management Association Playbook site titled "One Big Mistake Managers Must Avoid (It's About Your Time)". 

In the article, he shares a key finding from his study of more than 5,000 managers and employees: namely that they tend to focus more on internal goals and metrics than on the value being delivered.

To remedy this, he suggests first identifying what's valuable, then assessing your calendar and reducing non-value items, and finally, reallocating your time, shifting from goals to value activities.

While the article is directed at helping managers and their employees shift to higher value activities, I'd add that the same principles should be applied at a macro level organizationally. 

To start with, it's important to define a strategic hierarchy of organizational missions, objectives, strategies, and programs/projects that support those strategies. This can help ensure that program and project work is tied to value from the beginning. 

What about non-project activities? Some organizations consider all work to be "project" work. After all, even operational and sustaining work can be tied to an annual or quarterly bucket project, which itself is tied to the objective of "keeping the lights on". Percentage-based or effort-based resource allocations can be applied to that work.

In essence, the goal is to see the big picture of demand for people's time for the entire spectrum of activities. From there you can get a better sense about whether you're distributing that time wisely at an organizational level.

This is where resource planning and continuous reallocation based on priorities come in, always striving for greatest value (which we know can change over time). The result is greater business agility, less waste, and happier customers.

So, at a macro level, the same three principles outlined in the article apply:

  • Identify what's valuable (by setting a strategic hierarchy and tying programs and projects to it)
  • Aim to reduce non-value work (by assessing your funding and resource allocations by strategy)
  • Shift to high value work -- (by continuously reallocating based on priorities and value)

If this is combined with Hansen's article's recommendations for managers and employees to focus on value, then you can truly say you have a value-focused organization from the top-down and bottom-up.


JB Manas - website photo.jpg

Jerry Manas is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn.

How to Include People AND Make Expedient Decisions

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In his insightful article on PM Times titled The Power of Team Belonging, author George Pitagorsky (The Zen Approach to Project Management) raises the importance of inclusiveness, along with some interesting predicaments. For instance, what if a team is under pressure and in the interest of making expedient decisions, excludes one or more members? 

There's something to be said for avoiding time-consuming debate, but there are always methods for including and considering alternate ideas, and informing people why certain approaches are being taken. It also avoids active sabotage. There are even ways of reframing the "outsiders" as external contributors or advisors, whether or not they're part of the core team. Pitagorsky talks about this in the context of defining formal role definitions for stakeholders.

In my book, Managing the Gray Areas, I talk about seven common leadership dilemmas, one being how to balance the needs of individuals with the needs of the organization. Pitagorsky deftly addresses this issue head on, suggesting ways to make people feel included, even when ruling against their ideas or keeping them external to the core team. 

In essence, an ounce of inclusion is worth a pound of disenchantment. Plus you may get some good, alternate ideas or issues to consider.

Pitagorsy sums it up best:

The trade-offs between the perceived burden of communicating, managing relationships and doing due diligence in decision making, and the benefits of healthy long-term relationships, problem avoidance and optimal product quality should drive the decision makers.
— George Pitagorsky

I highly recommend reading the full article, and considering the impact of belonging whenever making team decisions.


JB Manas - website photo.jpg

Jerry Manas is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Save the Date! The Resource Planning Summit 2019 will be in Nashville, TN

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If you're looking to improve your organization's resource management and capacity planning capability, the premier event for this subject is returning early next year. 

The 8th Annual Resource Planning Summit will be held in Nashville, TN on February 10-13, 2019. Details will be announced shortly, but early reports on the venue and speakers have the 2019 Summit shaping up to be one of the best ever!

A key theme, among others, will be resource planning in an Agile and Waterfall world, something many organizations are challenged with. 

Meanwhile, check out the Resource Planning Summit website to view the details from last year's event, which was held in Austin, TX.  Registration for the new event will be announced soon. 


JB Manas - website photo.jpg

Jerry Manas is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn.

10 Productivity and Morale Killers That Are Crippling Your Teams

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With all the talk about resource capacity planning, it's easy to forget that productivity and morale play a huge role in your organization's capacity to get work done.

As Napoleon said, "The moral is to the physical as two is to one." 

Here are 10 common productivity and morale killers to watch out for:

  1. Departmental silos / competing objectives - People aren't sure who the internal customer is, which internal customer needs have highest priority, or how to satisfy conflicting needs among multiple internal customers. Also, other needed resources are unavailable or focused on other things in their own area.
     
  2. Inadequate knowledge sharing - Cross-talk is discouraged and facilities for sharing knowledge in real-time is lacking. Thus, people are working without a full set of up-to-date information.
     
  3. Lack of collaboration technology - People don't have an easy way to collaborate on work on a daily basis. This is especially critical for distributed teams.
     
  4. Culture and policy issues that inhibit teamwork - Archaic organizational policies, HR incentives that send the wrong messages, and accepted values and norms are all factors that influence a company's culture, and thus its productivity.
     
  5. Overly complex approval/checkpoint processes where checklists might be sufficient - Nothing slows a project down more that waiting for multiple approvals. If hospitals and airlines can reduce bureaucratic approvals with simple checklists, so can you. Keep approvals to a bare minimum.
     
  6. Redundant process steps - If multiple departments are involved in the chain of processes required for implementation, make sure there are no redundant steps. After all, each group only sees things through their own lens. A good solution is to have a process walk-through with all parties to ensure all steps are indeed necessary, and clarify each steps purpose to the team. Including the customer is even better.
     
  7. Poor leadership/management - Most people who leave a company do so because of their relationship with their direct supervisor (the reverse is also true). Be sure middle management is executing company values and priorities, and that they understand people, can communicate well, and are adept at situational leadership. Otherwise, they'll cripple your productivity as people flounder through their roles with unclear objectives and unsupportive managers.
     
  8. High levels of multitasking/Interruptions - As multiple studies have shown, multitasking decreases productivity. This is especially true for project managers, who, suffer a significant degradation in performance for each additional project they're asked to manage. Limit multitasking and encourage people to block off "downtime" hours during the day to focus.
     
  9. Inadequate tools, software, or training - Broadly speaking, if people don't have the tools, software, or training they need to do their jobs effectively, productivity will suffer. Investing in tools and training is always wise.
     
  10. Little or no intake filters to vet incoming demand vs. capacity - When the flood gates are open to any and all requested projects, your people will be quickly overloaded. Then everything takes longer, mistakes happen, and management wonders why projects slip. The root cause is usually a lack of prioritization or demand intake filters, along with a lack of a capacity assessment to see when the incoming work can be feasibly taken on. 

These ten items were just a sample of the most common factors that inhibit productivity. What factors limit productivity in your organization?


JB Manas - website photo.jpg

Jerry Manas is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn.

How Your PMO Can Support Agile AND Waterfall: Tips for Adaptive PMOs

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So much has been written on the Agile PMO, the Adaptive PMO, and how the PMO needs to evolve from being the methodology police to an enabler of business agility and a leader of change.

Related to this is the ability to support the ever-growing need to incorporate Agile, Waterfall, and Hybrid approaches in their mix as PMOs become more adaptive. As such, I found this article by Susanne Madsen, Agile or Waterfall: 8 Tips to Help You Decide, very fair-minded and informative. 

While iterative approaches can still be used to provide rapid feedback even on projects with the most stringent of requirements, a pure Agile approach can be challenging for a huge projects with distributed teams and little access to customers. Deciding on the best approach is more an art than a science. Fortunately, the article offers a good set of considerations to help the project manager and/or team decide, ranging from project size and team distribution to user access and solution clarity. 

Keep in mind, the PMO's role shouldn't be to dictate methodology; it should be to offer guidance (such as the above) around approaches and execution, fostering good practices while keeping its focus on more strategic things. After all, the PMO has a crucial role to play in helping the organization bridge strategy and execution, drive portfolio and program benefits, and maximize its resources toward the most valuable work. 

This 2011 article from PMI on Reinventing the PMO hits the nail on the head, and is still relevant and fresh today. Fortunately, PMO leaders are finally starting to catch on. Better late than never, as they say!


JB Manas - website photo.jpg

Jerry Manas is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn

Resource Planning Recognized Among Key Strategy Execution Principles

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Brightline has published an excellent set of 10 guiding principles to bridge the ubiquitous gap between strategy design and delivery, and I think it should be required reading for all leaders. 

The Brightline Initiative™ is a coalition of leading global organizations assembled by the Project Management Institute (PMI), dedicated to, in their words, "helping executives bridge the expensive and unproductive gap between strategy design and delivery." 

I'm particularly pleased that that they recognized the importance of resource planning in their list of 10 key guiding principles, particularly on points 3 and 8.

In point 3 (Dedicate and mobilize the right resources), they say:

Actively balance “running the business” and “changing the business” by selecting and securing the right resources for each — they often have different needs. Recognize that team leadership skills are at a premium, and assign the best leaders with sufficient capacity to tackle head-on the most challenging programs and those essential for successful strategy implementation.

To build on this, part of resource planning is determining and prioritizing the various aspects of the business and aligning the right resources accordingly. A general rule of thumb is to give "running the business" the minimum effective amount of resources it needs (not shortchanging it, however, lest it become a critical issue) and giving the "change the business" initiatives the maximum effective resources, even applying a concentration of force where appropriate to strategic programs (to use an age-old military principle). Again, these are general guidelines, not unilateral rules. 

In point 8 (Check ongoing initiatives before committing to new ones), they state:

Add new initiatives in response to new opportunities, but first be sure you understand both the existing portfolio and your organization’s capacity to deliver change. Actively address any issues you discover.

This gets to the heart of resource planning: assessing capacity and keeping the existing portfolio in mind whenever considering new initiatives. It's possible that shifting resources, shifting projects, or seeking alternate sourcing may be required. In any case, potential capacity issues shouldn't be ignored, as many companies are prone to do.

It's great to see these oft-forgotten principles recognized as key elements of the strategy execution process. They also promote other principles I've always touted, including simplicity, engagement, and cross-business cooperation, I highly encourage reading the full list and sharing it with others in your organization.


JB Manas - website photo.jpg

Jerry Manas is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn

Resource Management Success Factors: Benchmarks Are Consistent

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I recently rediscovered this insightful paper from noted consultant and trainer Kent Crawford on PMOs and Resource Management. Titled "Mastering Resource Management: The PMO's Role", the paper was originally presented at the PMI Global Congress in Orlando, Florida in 2009.

I found it remarkable how consistent the findings were with two benchmark studies I provided analysis on back in 2014 and 2016, both conducted by Appleseed Partners.

Three major findings fuel the paper:

  • A strong correlation between resource management maturity and organizational performance
  • A strong correlation between an effective PMO and resource management maturity
  • A strong correlation between project portfolio management maturity and resource management maturity

None of this is surprising, but it's helpful to see it validated.

Despite, the encouraging news, according to a 2009 Center for Business Practices benchmark study on Resource Management Challenges, resource management maturity was deemed low in nearly three-quarters of organizations studied. Resource planning and estimating were particular challenges. Crawford also reported "a significant disconnect between decision makers" regarding whether there were enough resources for all projects. Usually, there weren't.

However, the paper also has good news. For the organizations who improved their resource management practices, overall organizational performance also improved. So there's a light at the end of the tunnel.

Regarding Project Portfolio Management (PPM), a key enabler, Crawford states, "When used effectively, PPM ensures that projects are aligned with corporate priorities and optimizes resource allocation." With that foundation, Crawford says, business assumptions about people, costs, and time can be validated, and cross-functional resource conflicts or synergies can be highlighted and addressed. And who better to drive all this than the PMO?

As for a strong PMO, Crawford highlights three particular PMO roles as being beneficial to resource management: that of a resource evaluator, a competency center, and a project management consulting center. Regarding the latter, Crawford states, "Establishing the PMO as an organizational home for project management expertise helps to surface existing skills in project management and related specialties that are presently diffused across the organization."

In its closing summary, the paper offers a set of resource management best practices, compiled by project management leaders from dozens of Fortune 1000 companies who gathered in 2009 to benchmark their resource management practices.

For anyone implementing resource management, the paper is definitely worth a read.


JB Manas - website photo.jpg

Jerry Manas is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn 

3 Drivers of Successful Strategy Execution

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In this informative 7-minute video from Harvard Business Review titled "Why Strategy Execution Unravels--And What To Do About It," three cornerstones of successful execution are discussed, as well as five common myths. 

Specifically, the cornerstones are:

1) Coordination - Coordinating across business units, keeping key information clear and simple (and make sure your systems support cross-business unit management as well). The video offers a smart reminder that execution should not be top down, but should be driven from middle managers closest to the action, with general guidance from the top. This is where the crisp, simple messaging is vital.

2) Agility - Rapidly adapting to change in line with strategy, even if it means shifting people across business units (but beware of chasing every opportunity; strategic focus is key)

3) Reallocation - Constantly reallocating resources and funds based on current strategy and priorities (allocation isn't a one-time decision)

I couldn't agree more regarding all of this. Having a clearly communicated set of strategies and business priorities that are coordinated across the business; being adaptive to change through regular portfolio reviews and adaptive delivery methods; and regularly reallocating resources and funds based on priorities are all crucial to successful strategy execution.

These principles are what we've been preaching at PDWare for some time now and what I've been writing about for ages, so it's great to see it so well articulated in this insightful video. As HBR reports, 75% of organizations struggle to implement strategy. I'd venture to say it's because they're not paying attention to cross-business coordination, execution agility, and regular reallocation. 

One telling statistic highlighted is that only 16% of team leaders and frontline supervisors feel they have a good grasp of how priorities fit together. This is because communication is often focused on quantity over quality and dilutes the message with too many elements.

An example in the video depicted a company trying to communicate a message with dozens of objectives, values, priorities, competencies, and new terms. Who's going to remember all that let alone care about it? Another mistake is an over-focus on hitting the numbers vs. compelling messages and rewards that actually drive behavior.  Sadly, I've seen all of this in far too many organizations.

For those seeking to better execute on strategy, viewing the video will be 7 minutes well spent.


JB Manas - website photo.jpg

Jerry Manas is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn 

Agile and Waterfall: Dispelling the Myths about Bimodal IT

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In today's world of digital transformation and the Internet of Things, among other advances in technology and logistics, business agility is not just an advantage, it's a necessity.

Several years ago, Garter introduced the Bimodal IT framework to address this. The idea was to allow for two modes of operations: one for areas that are more understood, and another for areas that require rapid iterations of discovery. 

Misinterpretations also ran rampant, leading to debates, especially among the Agile community, who felt Agile was being misunderstood to be about sacrificing quality and stability for speed.

This 2016 article from Gartner, Busting Bimodal Myths, served to clarify many of the key misconceptions, though to this day, people are misinterpreting the intent. 

From the article, it's clear that Bimodal is:

NOT the slow lane vs. fast lane. 

NOT the quality lane vs. speed lane.  

NOT the planning lane vs. wing-it lane. 

NOT the stability lane vs. innovation lane. 

NOT the sustaining lane vs. the development lane. 

NOT the old lane vs. the new lane.

Nor is it necessarily about Agile vs. Waterfall. 

Both modes can have quality and speed. Both involve planning and accuracy. Both can be stable and innovative. Both can be used for development or change. And both are very much relevant today.

In a nutshell, Bimodal IT is about increasing enterprise agility, enabling a variety of tools in meeting two kinds of needs: initiatives that benefit from heavier up-front planning and phased approval gates, and those that benefit from rapid iterations of product. Agile approaches can be applied to either, but a Waterfall approach is not conducive to the latter.

The principles of Agile lend themselves to rapid iterations with the customer, where change is expected. The principles of Waterfall lend themselves to longer efforts that must be well defined, and where change is to be avoided unless carefully vetted. Waterfall does tend to move slower by design.

So yes, this is where the general interpretation comes in that Mode 1 is for Waterfall and Mode 2 is for Agile, and it isn't entirely wrong. Like any framework, there needs to be flexibility and common sense in using the right tool for the right job.

Stay tuned for an upcoming article on resource planning in a bimodal world.


JB Manas - website photo.jpg

Jerry Manas is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn 

Are You Leveraging Your Team's Strengths?

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Robert Heinlein said, "Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig."

It's wise advise. So why do so many organizations keep trying to do this to their teams? 

How many of you have seen this: Accidental project managers who are great subject matter experts, but don't know a thing about influencing people or bringing a project home; Excellent technicians who can't relate to human beings but yet are thrown in customer relationship-heavy positions; Leaders who don't in any way, shape, or form belong leading people, but who were put there because they were good "doers" (aka the Peter Principle).

How much time is wasted coaching and training in attempts to fix people's weaknesses instead of amplifying their strengths? I was once asked by a client to help their best technical person, a real workhorse, become more customer-friendly. It was apparently causing him and the team frustration when customers complained. I said, "Why on earth would you want to do that? He is who he is, which happens to be a superstar technician. Better to pair him with someone who IS customer-friendly." Fortunately, they had someone in mind (once they freed her up from some activities that weren't in her area of expertise) and it worked wonders.

Having team members work against their strengths creates what I'd call "negative flow," counteracting any resource productivity improvements.  If Flow (as its conceptual creator Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi defines it) is about finding the optimal balance of applied skill and challenge, having people work against their strengths (negative flow) creates friction and resistance, slowing team progress along the way. This is very much a resource planning and productivity issue, yet is often overlooked as such. 

One colleague in the positive psychology movement compared it to bringing in a pitching coach to strengthen the left arm of a right-handed baseball pitcher. It's fruitless. Likewise, Tom Peters once lamented that you don't take a first violinist in an orchestra and automatically say, "He's so good, let's make him conductor!" yet companies do the equivalent all the time.

You can learn "stuff." Attitude and natural strengths, not so much. Fortunately, there are tools for assessing your natural strengths. Perhaps the best known is the CliftonStrengths Assessment (formerly called Strengthsfinder) from Gallup, made popular in Marcus Buckingham's books, which I highly recommend.

Perhaps Peter Drucker said it best when he said, "The task of leadership is to create an alignment of strengths in ways that make weaknesses irrelevant."

Knowing this, think about your teams. What are some ways you can pair or augment strengths that can make their weaknesses irrelevant? It can be a tricky puzzle, but it beats the alternative.


WEBINAR ANNOUNCEMENT: Join me and PDWare CTO Paul Samarel this Thursday, June 28 at 11am EST for a one hour FREE Webinar on Strategy Execution. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER.


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Jerry Manas is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn 

Distributed Versus Co-Located Teams: Which is Best?

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The title to this post is a bit of a trick question. When it comes to building camaraderie, boosting productivity, and gaining clarity, there's nothing like being in the same location and having face-to-face communication. However, there's more to team effectiveness, such as work style flexibility, autonomy, and cost efficiency.

Moreover, working virtually, at least part of the time, is increasingly an expectation in today's digital world, so employee satisfaction and retention is a consideration.

The question of which is best, therefore, is misleading and falls short. Both have advantages and disadvantages. The best solution is usually to combine both, having periodic face-to-face meetings, especially at the beginning of major initiatives or at crucial points, and at least yearly. There are exceptions of course, depending on your industry and culture, but it's worth considering the advantages of a combined approach.

I recall being on the leadership team for the Project Management Institute's standards for program and portfolio management (First Editions) a number of years ago. We had to lead over two hundred volunteers in a multi-year program. The leadership team and several sub-teams met face-to-face a couple times during that period. With each face-to-face meeting, we noticed a marked improvement in clarity and productivity, and the first one alone boosted camaraderie immensely. Yet, working virtually most of the time was quite effective and productive.

This article in Harvard Business Review on Combining Virtual and Face-to-Face Work offers a concise overview of the benefits of working virtually and face-to-face, and provides sound approaches for combining the two. It's not a bad guide to follow.

For more on virtual teams, see my post from a few weeks ago on Finding a Balance with Virtual Teams.


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Jerry Manas is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn 

Strategy Execution is Driven by Conversations

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Whether it's conversations about strategy and priority, conversations about staffing and resource planning, or conversations about project needs, the greatest enabler of getting things done is... you guessed it... conversations.

The best systems in the world won't make up for a lack of communication. But, as George Bernard Shaw said, "The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place."

The right kind of communication requires what my good friend and leadership guru Judith E. Glaser calls Conversational Intellience, or C-IQ, which is the subject of her landmark book, Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results.

In the book, Glaser talks about three levels of conversation, each with its own purpose:

  1. Transactional Conversation -- in which the goal is to INFORM, and at best seek give and take.
  2. Positional Conversation -- in which the goal is to PERSUADE, and at best seek a win-win.
  3. Transformational Conversation -- in which the goal is to CO-CREATE, engaging in a mutual exchange of ideas.

It is the third type that is often most elusive, and where real change happens. In this article from the Korn Ferry Institute titled "What is Conversational Intelligence?", Glaser also talks about five mistakes that lower Conversational Intelligence, including:

  1. Ignoring other perspectives
  2. Fixation on being "right"
  3. Tell-Sell-Yell
  4. Allowing emotions to affect listening
  5. Disengaged listeners

The article offers tips for dealing with each. I highly recommend reading it, and the book, which offers, among other things, the following words of wisdom:

To get to the next level of greatness depends on the quality of our culture, which depends on the quality of our relationships, which depends on the quality of our conversations. Everything happens through conversation.
— Judith E. Glaser
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Jerry Manas is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn 

Simplicity Gets Things Done. Plain and Simple.

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Artist Hans Hofmann said, "The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak."  I've always found that to be such a profound and brilliant statement that applies across a plethora of areas. 

Certainly it applies to portfolio management, where a focus on key priorities will drive greater results.

It also applies to process, where 20% of the standards will usually bring about 80% of the improvements.

Without a doubt, it applies to communication, where saying many things communicates nothing. 

And I suppose it applies to art as well, in all its forms.

Simplicity happened to be one of Napoleon Bonaparte's "six winning principles" that I highlighted in Napoleon on Project Management. In fact, management guru Tom Peters ("In Search of Excellence") picked up on it and often shares the below quote from Napoleon in his presentations, along with one or two others. 

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I think Napoleon and Hans Hofmann would've gotten along  quite well.

Bottom Line: Simplicity and focus go hand in hand, and whether you're implementing a process, configuring a system, or communicating a change, remember to K.I.S.S ("Keep it Simple Stupid").


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Jerry Manas is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn 

Project Priorities Are the Foundation of Effective Resource Allocation

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When staffing an onslaught of incoming and active projects, it's tempting to try to "fill in the gaps," assigning resources to meet the stated skill needs. But if multiple projects are clamoring for the same resources (and let's face it, they usually are), which projects take precedent?

This is where priorities come in. Resources (or teams) should be allocated to projects in priority order (and ideally, your software will accommodate this automatically). This way, if a lower priority project needs certain resources and they've already been assigned to a higher priority project, well, that's exactly as it should be. Conflicts can then be discussed if need be, and priorities can be reexamined. 

But it's more than just that. Priorities should determine the incoming projects to begin with. All planned strategic and business initiatives should be in support of defined and prioritized strategies and goals, and should be submitted with a relative priority (this is where portfolio review meetings come in handy).

Ensuring projects are prioritized also avoids the case where individuals find themselves overloaded and begin to prioritize their workload.

Stephen Covey said, "The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities." There's a subtle difference, and it's all about whether you want to be in reactive mode or proactive mode.

In other words, rather than operating in reactive mode by prioritizing an incoming list of initiatives (many of which are often submitted based on the idea du jour or the "squeaky wheel" syndrome) or a schedule of activities, focus first on your  organizational priorities and then proactively schedule activities to deliver them (taking into consideration your finite resource capacity of course). Then, resources can be allocated in accordance with each initiative's relative priority. 

In essence, the time to think about priorities is when the projects get submitted, not after you have your daily to-do list. The project priorities should determine individual and team priorities.


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Jerry Manas is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn 

Team Culture Boosts Resource Productivity

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More and more, organizations are planning and working in teams. That's an important fact to remember when talking about resource productivity and planning. Yes, heroes can and do save the day (and that's just fine. As Michael Jordan said, "There's no 'I' in team but there is in win."). And yes, the "I"s in the team are just as important to nurture as the "We." But there's no doubt that having a great team culture can boost individual productivity and happiness, and improve the overall culture of the organization. 

This article in Forbes by Molly Nuhring on Five Questions to Help You Guide Your Team's Culture is a great place to start. Specifically, Nuhring points out five areas to consider. I've paraphrased below:

  1. Team escalations - The more the team escalates issues, the less effectively they're operating as an empowered, decision-making team.
     
  2. Finding the influencers - The influencers in an organization aren't necessarily in management positions. Identify them and make sure there's vision alignment. Get their input in shaping the culture.
     
  3. Rewarding the right behaviors - Be careful what attributes you may be subconsciously (or consciously) rewarding. Note: I'd add that it's a good idea to use team rewards to build a shared sense of commitment, while rewarding and encouraging individual behaviors as well.  Just be careful to craft individual incentives that are counterproductive to team performance. It's often more an art than a science, so it's important to look at things in the context of both the team and the individuals.
     
  4. Watch Your language - Using the right vocabulary can make all the difference in a team's culture. Using words like "compliance," "mandatory," "headcount," etc., can set a certain tone, and it's not a good one. So can phrases like, "No, that'll never work" or "We've always done it this way." Likewise, Nuhring points out that it's not just language, but interaction and demeanor that you need to observe. Is there a sense of empathy on your team? Are people having fun? Do they feel comfortable sharing ideas? I'd add that language can often influence this.
     
  5. Fix One Thing at a Time - Find out what the one thing is that's holding your team back culture-wise and focus on that. Then you can move on to the next thing.

This is just a summary, so I encourage you to check out the full article. Your teams will thank you, and so will your bottom line. For now, remember this:

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Jerry Manas is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn 

Focus Matters on Agile Projects, Too: Oscillation versus Iteration

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In my last post, I talked about the importance of focus. Nowhere is focus more needed than on Agile projects, where change is king. I particularly recall an excellent article by one of the Agile founders, Jim Highsmith, where he talked about Oscillation vs. Iteration

As Highsmith pointed out, with short iterations and close customer interaction, it can be tempting to switch gears more than once. In fact, in some Agile projects, the gears are switching constantly. The customer keeps changing their mind. Multiple customers chime in with different needs. An emerging business imperative forces a change in tactics. Or worst of all, you didn't quite understand the need to begin with (or it wasn't articulated well enough).

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This is where I always point out the need to be an "anthropologist." Using the Toyota's lean manufacturing principle of Genchi Genbutsu (go and see for yourself) or Honda's Sangen Shugi ("three actuals," representing the actual place, actual product, and actual situation), you shouldn't just assume that what a customer asks for is what they need or want. Go and see for yourself what the situation is. At the very least, you'll have a better understanding of what they're asking for.

Likewise, just because you have an iterative, Agile project doesn't mean you shouldn't have design guidelines or requirements, or even an understanding of scope. Agile doesn't mean no planning or scope. It simply fixes the time and cost, and estimates the features and scope (as opposed to Waterfall, which does the opposite, estimating time and cost to deliver a fixed scope of work). With Agile, you're estimating what can and should be delivered to meet a certain objective, both in terms of defined iterations and for the ultimate project (typically a targeted release).

But back to our oscillation discussion, Highsmith cautions that it's not always easy to tell when you're oscillating vs. iterating. For instance, if government regulations keep changing or there are legitimate learnings that dictate a new course, then it's a normal part of Agile iteration.

In any case, the point is to be aware of when you may be oscillating, and if so, take corrective action before it gets out of hand.  And to avoid unnecessary oscillation to begin with, be sure to gain an understanding of the goals and objectives of your initiative (seeing the situation for yourself where possible).


JB Manas - website photo.jpg

Jerry Manas is the bestselling author of The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook, Napoleon on Project Management, and more. At PDWare, Jerry helps clients improve strategy execution through tools and processes that align people and work with organizational priorities. Connect with Jerry on Twitter and LinkedIn