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.


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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

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.


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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 

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.


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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 

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.


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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 

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).


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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 is the Key to Strategy Execution

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When companies point to their struggle with executing on their strategies, the first thing I often look for is where their focus lies. Often, the culprit is lack of a demand prioritization process, a disconnect from strategy, or both.

It's with that in mind that this article from Oliver Emberton caught my eye: If You Want to Follow Your Dreams, You Have to Say No to All the Alternatives. I think this works on both an individual level and an organizational level.

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In my book Napoleon on Project Management, I highlighted a few examples of this from 200 years ago (Nothing is new under the sun).

First, aside from his many military campaigns (mostly defensive in nature), Napoleon accomplished an incredible amount of administrative reforms in the areas of finance; education; healthcare; civil rights; and more. But he didn't do it all at once. Generally, these reforms were introduced piecemeal, focusing on one area at a time.

Likewise, when his 250,000-strong army was poised to cross the English Channel to preempt a pending British attack, he received news that the Austrians were coming from the east to invade France. Did he split his forces and send half to England and half to face the Austrians? No.

Instead, he turned his entire army around and marched across France at unprecedented speed. That was the more immediate threat. His well-coordinated army marched in seven columns across a hundred-mile front and looped around the Austrians, attacking them from behind. The battle was over before it had begun. 

Whether on the battlefield or in the boardroom, to try to take on too many battles is to dilute your efforts on all fronts. Yet organizations do this all the time, trying to take on every new idea that comes their way. I'll share a relevant quote from Emberton's article:

"Monomaniacal focus on a single goal is perhaps the ultimate success stratagem."

(Or as John Lennon sang, "How can I go forward when I don't know which way I'm facing?")

Emberton's statement of course is in the context of individual endeavors, but in an organization there's no doubt that a heavy focus on demand prioritization and alignment with strategy (in combination with reducing or eliminating lower value work) can exponentially increase the value you get from your most precious asset---your people. Allowing them to focus individually is equally important, which means avoiding multitasking like the plague, and encouraging them to have "downtime hours" where they can focus uninterrupted on what matters.

If there's one takeaway, pay heed to Star Wars creator George Lucas's advice: "Always remember, your focus determines your reality." 


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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 

Finding a Balance with Virtual Teams: Don't Let Them Get Lost in Space

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Maximizing resources isn't just about putting the right people on the right work at the right time. It's about harnessing the collective strength of your people. And in today's world, that means leveraging virtual and remote teams effectively.

In the recent CIO article "How to Lead a Virtual Team: 5 Keys for Success," author Josh Fruhlinger points out the need to boost communication with remote teams; document team agreements and action items; balance autonomy and connectedness; break into small teams where possible; and last, but not least, to never let "out of sight" be "out of mind."

This is sound advice for sure. Finding the right balance in making sure remote team members feel included but not micromanaged is vital to success. Likewise, in the sea of new collaboration technology, it's all too easy for decisions and information to get "lost in space" -- along with the remote workers themselves.  

Fans of the Lost in Space sci-fi series will no doubt be familiar with the robot's battle cry, "Danger, Will Robinson!" That's also what you should be thinking if your remote team members aren't being kept in the loop, or worse, are feeling micromanaged. 

Side Note: As a sci-fi author (in my other life), I'm a guest and speaker at lots of pop culture conventions. It just so happens I spent the weekend with a couple of wonderful Lost in Space actors, Marta Kristen (Judy) and Mark Goddard (Don West) at a show in Delaware. You never know where inspiration can come from!

But I digress.

Anyway, here's the thing. In today's world, millennials and other employees expect to work remotely, at least part of the time. Mergers, acquisitions, offshoring, and global expansion mean teams may be scattered all over. Even Agile teams, for which co-location is a founding principle, are now adapting to using technology for boosting virtual collaboration where necessary. 

In all, there are three areas to explore when leading virtual teams, along with certain dynamic tensions to consider for each:

  • Engagement -- How can remote people remain engaged while also being trusted to operated freely and independently?
     
  • Governance -- How can guiding themes and principles ensure consistency, while allowing for local needs and personal creativity?
     
  • Technology -- How can collaboration technology serve as an enabler without overloading people with too many tools to use or making them feel micromanaged? 

Mastering these areas is more of an art than a science, and what works for one team member may not work for another. Preferences could be location or culture-dependent as well. That's where good old candid communication comes in handy, talking to people about their desires and needs. 

Similarly, you don't want to burden remote team members with constant standard recurring meetings. I see this all the time as a weak substitute for good team collaboration. Again, some team members might prefer it. Some will see it as an annoyance.

Meanwhile, I'd challenge leaders to find ways to keep people in the loop and engaged while minimizing recurring meetings, though some may be needed for specific projects. Or make the meetings monthly, with ongoing collaboration in between. Again, this is more an art than a science, and can vary with each team member.

One last bit of advice. Always try to plan a face-to-face gathering, ideally at least quarterly, but no less frequently than yearly. Every virtual team I've come across touted huge boosts in belonging and engagement after each face-to-face meeting. A face-to-face meeting can go a long way.

Whichever approaches you settle on, just remember author Mark Sanborn's words, "In teamwork, silence isn't golden, it's deadly," That's when it's time to say, "Danger, Will Robinson!"


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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 

Goal Setting Key to Project Success and Resource Planning

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Albert Einstein said, "Confusion of goals and perfection of means seems, in my opinion, to characterize our age."

In my opinion, it also characterizes most project and resource planning efforts. So much attention is spent on improving project mechanics (e.g., critical path scheduling, task estimating, financial planning, resource assignment, baselines, change approvals, running meetings, etc.), but precious little is spent on understanding the goals of the project, and of the portfolio.

Understanding and articulating the goals leads to more informed decision-making, better-aligned resources, and greater customer and employee engagement. Often, there are conflicting goals among stakeholders, and this needs to be rectified as well. It's why Napoleon said, "It's better to have one bad general than two good ones."

Unfortunately, many leaders are overly focused on mechanics and tactics, especially newer project managers. I often compare it to someone just learning to dance; They're so busy watching their feet and counting steps that they forget to just listen to the music.

There's no doubt, when goals are clear, the organization operates like a well-tuned orchestra. Otherwise, you can have the best systems and processes in the world and you'll still come out sounding like a grade school band (no offense to parents of grade schoolers out there).

Bottom Line: Next time you're leading a program, implementing a system, or attempting to allocate resources, make sure the goals of the endeavor are understood and widely agreed upon. Fix that, and everything else will fall into place. Put another way, Focus + Purpose = Productivity. Now that's an equation even Einstein would like!


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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 

Do You Have a Group or a Team?

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Much has been written about effective teams. But some people get confused as to what a team really is, let alone how to make it effective. As this Forbes article by Jeff Boss points out, titled "What You Don't Know About Teams May Be Hurting You", teams and groups are not the same thing.

In a true team, the people are joined in a mutual endeavor and will share the same fate. If someone doesn't do their part, the whole team can fail in the mission.

In contrast, with a group, the individuals can succeed or fail on their own merit without impacting the others in their group. In fact, with some groups, there's built-in competition, with individual incentives for those who achieve certain goals.

A department full of salespeople or business analysts, for example, is a group. Each person is likely working on something that bears no impact on the others in the slightest. However, one of the business analysts could also be serving on a project team.

Boss rightly points out that, for teams to be effective, there should be team-based (not individual) incentives, a team decision-making process, and shared goals. He also suggests building connection through better conversations. My dear friend and fellow author Judith E. Glaser wrote an excellent book on this topic alone, Conversational Intelligence, which I highly recommend. Stay tuned for a post with more on what Glaser calls C-IQ (Conversational IQ).

(Note: I was a founding member of Glaser's Creating WE Institute, an organization dedicated to helping organizations progress from a group of "I"s to a sense of "We," through research rooted in the crossroads of leadership and neuroscience.)

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In addition to team-based goals and incentives, team decision processes, and better conversations, I would cite complementary skills as a key component of effective teams as well. Think Star Trek's Enterprise crew, with Captain Kirk's boldness synergizing perfectly with Mr. Spock's logic. Or any other great team (fictional and otherwise), for that matter.

Noted author Patricia Fripp cites complementary talents as well in her article "A Team is More Than a Group of People".  (Side note: Fripp's brother Robert is the founder and lead guitarist for one of my favorite bands, King Crimson). 

What DOESN'T work is sending everyone to a single teambuilding workshop and expecting all the lessons to magically turn them into an elite team. However, soft skills training does help. So does making transformational changes toward a better team culture. Having the right mix of people doesn't hurt either.

As Robert Redford said, "Problems can become opportunities when the right people come together."


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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 

Process and Productivity: Finding the Right Balance

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Many organizations struggle with how much process to put into place versus "letting people do their thing." There are a number of perspectives to consider.

Quality legend W. Edwards Deming said, “If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you are doing.” My wife used to manage Deming's events, so I had the pleasure of meeting him a number of times and took a tour of his TQM principles in action on the USS John F. Kennedy. A consistent theme of his is that people don't fail, systems do.

Before improving a process, you have to have a defined process to begin with. Thus, key business functions need to be defined in terms of functional processes along with inputs and outputs of each. Then improvements can be made, either using Deming's "Plan-Do-Check-Act" method, Six Sigma, or other process improvement approaches.

But where do we draw the line between having defined and measured processes and creating an environment where people can flourish in an empowered fashion? After all, as highlighted in this Fast Company article on 5 Ways Process is Killing Your Productivity, managers can take it a bit too far, for example:

  • Damaging trust and bogging down progress with approval steps
  • Focusing on process over people
  • Excessive meetings (especially recurring ones) to "keep things on track"
  • Empty jargon-filled slogans and mission statements
  • Micromanaging and filtering new idea

One way to help ensure the right level of process and standardization is to engage people in creating it. Even the late Peter Scholtes, author of The Team Building Handbook and standardization proponent advised, "By involving people in the standardization of work, we can remove some of the oppressiveness of it. People are less likely to balk at standards they have devised." He went on to say, "We need not standardize everything."

As for process vs. productivity, Fons Trompenaars, my favorite author on cross-cultural communication (his book, "Did the Pedestrian Die" is a landmark achievement in that area), advises taking a "through/through" approach when trying to balance two seemingly opposite agendas. Instead of focusing on one or the other, think how you can improve productivity "through" process improvements, and how you can improve processes "through" a greater focus on productivity. it's not "either/or" and it's not even "and/and." It's "through/through."

In other words, always consider the people perspective when defining processes, and find ways to improve processes to boost productivity and reduce barriers.  For more on this, I expand on this and other common leadership dilemmas in my book, Managing the Grey Areas.

Meanwhile, whether you're instituting processes for resource management, project management, portfolio management, or anything, for that matter, consider the following points:

  • Before you improve a process, you need to define one
  • Keep it simple, and consider the people aspect
  • Engage people in defining the process and identifying two or three key measures of success
  • Use checklists instead of approvals where possible
  • When balancing two seemingly opposite perspectives (e.g., process vs. productivity), try a "through/through" approach to incorporate both perspectives
  • Once a process is defined, use Plan-Do-Check-Act or Six Sigma's DMAIC model to improve specific areas as needed

Author Subhir Chowdhhury summed it up nicely when he said, "Quality combines people power and process power."


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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 Estimation and Resource Planning Go Hand in Hand

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Effective project estimates and resource planning are indelibly linked. After all, if the estimates are wrong, it'll skew your resource plans. And if resource planning isn't done, it'll skew your estimates because people may be overloaded, causing everything to take longer.

In this PM Times article on improving project estimates, author Rich Butkevic points out common estimating fallacies, such as assuming nothing will go wrong, attempting to estimate tasks in a vacuum, and underestimating due to faulty assumptions based on prior projects. 

Butkevic also highlights a number of factors when making estimates, including project dependencies; past performance of similar projects (with proper cautions about assumptions of course); necessary buffers and contingencies; third party availability; consulting the team on resource availability; and more. Of course resource planning can also help from the availability perspective.

Bottom line: Next time you're thinking about resource planning processes, don't forget that sound estimating practices are a key success factor. And beware of Dilbert's boss.

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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 

Visibility of Resource Capacity and Demand Drives Decision-Making

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Visibility of resource capacity and demand isn't just important. It can be the difference between good decisions and bad ones.

To use an analogy, assume you need to buy a car. You have your checkbook in hand, but you have no idea what's in your checking account.

There are two kinds of people in this situation:

 

  1. The optimist, who takes a chances and hopes the check won't bounce.
  2. The pessimist (or perhaps realist), who doesn't want to take a chance and forgoes buying the car.

Both of these people can end up with bad outcomes. One may overextend their resources and the other may miss out on a car they very much need.

It's the same with organizational resource capacity. If you don't have a good picture of the complete set of demand that your people are faced with, how can you really know which projects you can afford to take on? 

Maybe you'll take on too many projects, overloading your staff and causing excessive delays. It's been known to happen. Or maybe you'll decline a potentially valuable project that you just might have been able to staff using untapped skills in your organization.

It all boils down to a simple question.

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Do you feel lucky? Or would you rather know for sure?

To avoid the Dirty Harry "Do you feel lucky" approach to project intake, be sure to have a prioritized inventory of your projects, an inventory of your people resources and their capacity, and at least a high level effort forecast of who's scheduled to work on which projects and when.

Equipped with better information, you'll find yourself getting luckier by the day.


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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 

Are You Sabotaging Your Resource Planning Efforts with Poor Talent Management?

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You can have the best resource planning processes and systems in the world, but if you have the wrong people in the wrong roles, you're sabotaging yourself.

Likewise, you need to be staffed with the future in mind to remain agile and adaptive. This is especially true in management and leadership positions.

This Forbes article on solving the big talent problem gets it right. Hire for soft skills, particularly curiosity. People who are eager learners and socially adept will shine regardless of how much technology and skill needs change in the not-so-distant future.

"Stuff" can usually be taught. Behavioral traits, not so much. There are of course exceptions for specialized knowledge workers, but that in itself doesn't qualify them to manage people. 

As management guru Tom Peters likes to point out, an orchestra doesn't say, "Hey, he's so great as first violinist, let's make him conductor!" In baseball, having been a great third baseman doesn't qualify you to be a great manager. So why do we do this all the time in business? The Peter Principle is alive and well as we regularly promote people to their highest level of incompetence. 

Bottom line. If you want to really maximize your resources, you have to get the "people" part right.

#WednesdayWisdom


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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 

Are You Using Your Resource Planning and Portfolio Data to Drive Decisions?

A piece of spaghetti or a military unit can only be led from the front end.
— George S. Patton
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Patton was speaking to his young lieutenants about how they should lead their platoons, but this maxim is equally true in business. If you want people to adopt a new process or system, you need to actively use the data to make decisions, even if it's half-baked to start with. 

It's one of the first things I tell organizations implementing resource planning and portfolio management. Start using the data to make decisions. Pull the organization along. Then they'll follow suit. The data will improve over time.

Another phrase I've heard to describe this is: "Use it or lose it."  

#MondayMotivation


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