Hello and Welcome

I'm an ex-Project Manager who currently moved on to Agile Consulting and this blog is my sounding board. This blog was started in 2008 journal-ling through my project management journey, today it combines both- my passion for all things project management as well as looking into the agile way of transformation and undergoing changes.

Here I write about my experiences, struggles, failures and joys. I also interview, do book reviews and keep you updated.

I usually post twice a week: Monday and Thursday unless I am too caught up which is often these days

If I'm not working; I can be found reading with a cup of tea. I love to read, push the envelope one step further, work on new ideas, experiment, travel and explore life.

Did you know you can now buy Stepping into Project Management at Amazon Kindle.

You can reach me at steppingintopm@gmail.com

Interview with Mark Woeppel

We are glad to bring you an insightful interview with Mark Woeppel , founder and president of Pinnacle Strategies, an international management consulting firm working to improve operations performance in project management and processes. He frequently writes on the subject of execution performance, having written three books and many other publications. With extensive experience in oil & gas, consumer products, IT, many manufacturing industries, Mark is a highly sought after subject matter expert in project management, operations management, performance management, and continuous improvement.

His latest book Visual Project Management brings out interesting concepts that definitely encourages you to think differently. Here's his interview:

The book brings out the realistic problems that everyone encounters like visibility issues in managing a project/portfolio, end goal for team members, lack of communication etc is all related to the way project management used to work. If you look at the problem statements, most of them can be covered if you implement Agile. What do you think?

Indeed, the Agile method can be used to achieve the Basic Collaboration level of execution maturity, and it can do it well. This is just the beginning. There are other problems. For many projects, with longer wavelengths, hitting delivery dates reliably is a problem. Synchronizing remote teams is a challenge. Integration of subcontractors’ projects into the main project is always problematic. Managing capacity, probabilistic planning and systematically breaking bottlenecks are not part of the typical tools set for Agile. And that’s what I see in Agile. Tools. Rules. Plenty of “what” to do, but not much on “why” should we do that. Visual Project Management goes beyond Agile.

What I’ve laid out in the book is a methodology and set of principles that support any project environment. The examples that I’ve used and proposed have has several things in common with Agile, but those are just the means to the end. I’m not in love with the tool, but I am serious about achieving the outcomes: increased velocity, improved productivity, delivering projects on time. Visual Project Management builds on those best practices and integrates the best practices so that any team can understand the cause and effect of project team behaviors to results and pick the methodology that supports them.

Where did the concept of the book come from?

Visual Project Management is the distillation of best practice in project management, employing Lean principles, the Theory of Constraints, and putting the project management body of knowledge to work.

We started with the most difficult activity of creating probabilistic project plans for some very large projects, then putting them into execution. We had mixed results in adoption, even though the projects we used them on were successful. As agents of transformation, we were frustrated, looking for a better way. In the meantime, we were using visual workflows in some of our other Theory of Constraints/Lean process improvement projects and having good success. So we thought we would try them on a sophisticated project. The results were spectacular. We were able, with some very simple tools, to engage all of our stakeholders, from senior managers, to resource managers, to subcontractors to drive better results in the entire portfolio.

We wanted to understand “why” it worked, so over the course of the next 4 years and many different kinds of projects, we developed and tested the principles and tactics to take the execution process from ad-hoc to fully integrated. We now know the specific behaviors that precede project success. Some of them are well known, some are not.

Please tell us what is Viewpoint framework?

ViewPoint is what we have named the visual project management process using the Project Execution Maturity Model (PEMM). It uses the visualization of the project delivery process as a springboard to drive team behaviors: to collaborate and effectively manage projects to deliver on time. ViewPoint treats project execution as a process, with principles and practices to create repeatable, scalable results.

Typically, project management process improvements are built around the sequence of how projects are accomplished: get an idea, form a team, make a plan, execute the project, and then execute the project manager.

ViewPoint reverses that - focusing on project execution first.

ViewPoint emphasizes global results over the entire portfolio or business to makes all projects (although it has been used to manage a single project) under management visible, allowing for strategic management of the bottlenecks that block project process.

Rather than taking the team away from their work to do planning activity, ViewPoint focuses on getting the work done – emphasizing project execution processes and behavior and improving the team’s effectiveness. This then allows the team to engage more with the tasks to be accomplished (rather than sit in meetings to talk about the work that hasn’t been done).

You talk about a lot of Models in the book that you believe will help the projects be delivered the way they should be- what according to you is the main focus that every project manager should look into?

Well, “should” is a bit strong. What I’m looking for is “effectively”. On time, on budget, within scope. Everyone’s good at the latter, the former, not so much.

Most managers believe the planning phase is the most important part of the project, so they invest a great deal in the skills, processes and practices around project planning. There’s an entire industry devoted to helping you plan better. We’ve done quite a bit of research into what works and what doesn’t work in project management, and despite millions in investments, projects are consistently late and over budget. You can see the report here.

I have personally gone the plan-execute-success route; it’s long, arduous and delivers mixed results. Emphasizing the PEMM and the principles embodied in them, has given our team and our clients excellent results time and again. You must have a model for execution – a framework. Without it, a plan has limited value; improving the plan is a waste of time. Besides, what plan is ever perfect? None of them. Who can stop in the middle of a project to do a re-plan? Almost no one. You have be able to live with “good enough”, because we live in an imperfect world.

What managers should be looking at is establishing the behaviors and feedback mechanisms that will allow them to respond to reality – Murphy lives! - while still delivering what’s required. This is the beauty of the PEMM. It lives in the real world.

What difference according to you visualizing project management will achieve?

What it does is make a big difference in how projects are delivered and how the team experiences the project process. At the business end of things, projects are delivered in a LOT less time and at lower costs.

For the project team, there is a greater sense of accomplishment and enjoyment of the process. It’s not frustrating. There are no more “battles” to fight, even though there are still problems to solve. They feel like they are making a real difference, because ViewPoint Visual Project Management removes the obstacles to getting the work done so they can make a difference.

For the leaders and owners of the projects, they have greater understanding of where they are during the life of the project. They can rapidly understand the risks and obstacles so they can engage the right people and resources to meet their projects’ objectives. Their job is easier, too.

To summarize, the difference is in the people: customers, team members, owners all get what they want. Without a fight.

Thank you Mark.

You can find more in his website by clicking here.

Is Holacracy the new Agile?

Zappos adopted Holacracy and things almost went viral.

"Research shows that every time the size of a city doubles, innovation or productivity per resident increases by 15 percent. But when companies get bigger, innovation or productivity per employee generally goes down. So we're trying to figure out how to structure Zappos more like a city, and less like a bureaucratic corporation.” – Tony Hsieh

Holacracy is a new way of working and this is how it works.

It’s about clarity and stripping of power and creating a system that enables and distributes the power of decision making. Self-management in one word. While I read the book that I bought last week and then come up with the review; I thought it’s only fair that I at least share it with you guys.

Some interesting reads related to it:          

An evening in Mumbai

I almost fell asleep at 6.30pm on the couch.

I am back from work and today like all Monday’s I have had a morning flight to Mumbai, went to work and back at the temporary accommodation here.

So, just doing random things and thought will share it with you.

Here are the books/magazines I have been recently reading:
  • The Willpower Instinct – Kelly McGonigal
  • Scrum- The Art of doing Twice the Work in Half the Time – Jeff Sutherland
  • Holacracy- The Revolution Management System that Abolishes Hierarchy-Brian J. Robertson
  • Visual Project Management –Mark J. Woeppel
  • The EQ Edge -Emotional Intelligence and Your Success by Steven J Stein and Howard E Book
  • Vogue (magazine)
  • The Project Managers Guide to Mastering Agile- Charles G. Cobb
Sites I am browsing right now:
3 links I read today (about Agile Governance):
I also started an Instagram account recently to randomly click and keep what I am doing throughout the day. From airport clicks to the book I am reading to a peek inside my handbag. To follow me, click here .

(Pic Courtesy- Soma B Instagram)

Free Cultural Intelligence Training by Participating in Research Study

My friend Samad needs your help and participation for his project. It would be great if you have some time to partcipate, you can also send it along to your friends and colleagues. The deadline is till end of this month.
Research Overview:
  • Researcher: Samad Aidane
  • University: Middlesex University (U.K)
  • Degree: Master of Science in Neuroscience of Leadership
  • Research Topic: Investigate the effectiveness of intercultural competence training  
What is the context for this study?
This research study is the final deliverable for completing my Master of Science degree in Neuroscience of Leadership through Middlesex University (U.K).
The study will explore a practical issue that many organizations are facing today: how to help their employees be effective in intercultural collaboration. Through a training intervention, the study will investigate the effectiveness of an intercultural competence training program aimed at enhancing cultural intelligence among IT professionals.
What is the aim of this study?
Integrating insights from multidisciplinary research, the workshop will provide participants with an understanding of how culture shapes the way we make decisions, solve problems, and collaborate with others in a multicultural teams.
The findings from this study will contribute to the existing body of research on best practices for how organizations plan, design, and implement effective intercultural competence training for IT professionals.
Who will participate in the study?
The target audiences of this study are organizations who are interested in improving collaboration in the context of multicultural teams involved in IT projects. Participants are Information Technology Professionals (project managers, business analysts, software developers and testers, as well as other IT roles) or other Subject Matter experts who work over 50% of their time on IT projects and are currently working on projects or teams that include members from multiple cultures.
What commitments are expected from participants?
Participants will be expected to perform 4 main activities:
  1. Read and sign a Research Study Consent Form (5 Minutes)
  2. Complete a pre-assessment questionnaire (10 Minutes)
  3. Attend a live online training workshop (4 hours)
  4. Complete post-assessment questionnaire four weeks after the training workshop (10 minutes)
The study will require no more than 4.5 hours of participant’s time, over a period of four weeks.
When will the training workshop take place?
The training workshop will take place the week of July 6th. Other workshop dates in July may be added if needed. The exact date and time of the workshop will be coordinated with participants. The study will end four weeks after the training workshop, with participants completing the post-assessment questionnaire.
What is the benefit to your organization?
The benefit to your organization is that participants will:
  • Learn to recognize cultural barriers to making decisions, solving problems, and collaborating with others in a multicultural teams.
  • Gain a better understanding of the essential skills for leading and working in multicultural teams.
  • Gain practical tips, techniques, and strategies on how to develop a culturally intelligent communication style to effectively lead and work in multicultural projects and teams.
A whitepaper summarizing the findings and recommendation from the study will be provided to each participant and their organization.
Are there any costs involved for participants?
All training in this study will be provided to participant at no cost to your organization
What about confidentiality?
All data collected in the research will be made anonymous and held confidentially. Only summary results will be presented in the final report.
When is the deadline to sign up to participate in the study? 
The deadline to sign up to participate in the study is June 15, 2015.
How many participants from my organization can take part in the study?
As many as 50 participants can join the study.
I am interested. What’s the next step?
Send an email to samadaidane@gmail.com and the researcher will be in touch about the next step.