Project and Portfolio Management Experts

Jamal Moustafaev.jpg

Jamal is the author of three books and two online courses dedicated to project, portfolio and scope management:

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Phone: +1 778 995 4396

E-Mail: jamal@thinktankconsulting.ca

Links:

@ThinktankConsul on Twitter Thinktank Consulting on Facebook Thinktank Consulting on Google+ Thinktank Consulting on Linkedin Thinktank Consulting RSS Feed Thinktank Consulting on YouTube sudemylogo.jpg

Before you go any further, let us conduct a quick survey. Below you will find ten symptoms of a company that is in dire need of project management and/or project portfolio management. Go ahead, read through the list and count how many of these characteristics can be attributed to your organization:

  1. Unexpected issues and problems arise in the middle of projects
  2. Communications seem to be ad-hoc; too often important stakeholders are not informed about key decisions
  3. Project's requirements are never clearly defined
  4. Project managers and functional managers (department directors and managers) constantly fight over resources.
  5. Priorities of the projects initiated by the executives constantly change, resulting in quick resource reassignments.
  6. There is a chronic shortage of resources at the organization. Employees are constantly complaining about being overworked, while the managers insist that they must roll up their sleeves and work harder
  7. Projects are frequently late and/or over budget and/or do not deliver the full scope promised and the quality of the project product is low
  8. Even if the strategic idea is implemented, the company sometimes fails to achieve the expected improvement or fails to receive any value from the said project at all
  9. The strategic plan – even if the company has one - is presented as a list of projects, but the cause-effect logic tying those initiatives to the company’s mission, goals and the strategy is absent
  10. The list of company projects is not prioritized. Therefore it is assumed that all of these initiatives must be started and implemented more or less simultaneously

Did you count more than five symptoms present at your company? We can help! We offer project management, project portfolio management consulting and training services to help get your business back on track.

Please contact me directly via email at jamal@thinktankconsulting.ca or by phone +1-778-995-4396.

I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Jamal Moustafaev, MBA, PMP

President & CEO

Thinktank Consulting, Inc.

project-portfolio-management-book.jpgProject Management Fundamentals for Professionals.jpgProject-Management-Fundamentals-for-Executives.jpgAdvanced Project Management (1/4): Project Initiation

News - FREE “Advanced Project Management (1/4) – Intro to Project Management and Project Initiation”

 

Friends and colleagues!

After spending long hours in a small and stuffy studio, I was finally able to post my third workshop on Udemy. This one is called “Advanced Project Management (1/4) – Intro to Project Management and Project Initiation”. This is the first part of my new four-part course series titled “Advanced Project Management”.

I have created a coupon that allows my connections to watch this workshop for free (regular price $180). All you need to do is comment something along the lines of “Interested” or “Yes” and I will PM you the link. My only request is that you leave your review on Udemy. You will be prompted automatically by the website as early as 5-10 min into the course.

Also, please:

1) Share it 
2) Like it 
3) Tag your friends or managers who may benefit from it 
4) Leave a review

Thanks in advance! 
Jamal

About the Author

Jamal Moustafaev, MBA, PMP – president and founder of Thinktank Consulting is an internationally acclaimed expert and speaker in the areas of project/portfolio management, scope definition, process improvement and corporate training. Jamal Moustafaev has done work for private-sector companies and government organizations in Canada, US, Asia, Europe and Middle East.  Read Jamal’s Blog @ www.thinktankconsulting.ca

Jamal is an author of three very popular books: 

Article - Why Should You Try to Generate as Many Project Proposals as Possible

 

A great American scientist and a 1954 Nobel Prize in Chemistry winner Linus Pauling once said, "If you want to have good ideas you must have many ideas. Most of them will be wrong, and what you have to learn is which ones to throw away."

One of the key principles of project portfolio management is to generate as many project proposals as possible in order to improve the portfolio selection. The idea here is that the more proposals one has in front of her, the easier it would be to build a higher quality portfolio of projects. Let us try to illustrate that point with a couple of examples (see Figures 1 and 2).

Figure 1 shows the bubble chart diagram of several project proposals imposed on the risk-reward diagram. let us assume that we need to select six projects out of all the proposals in front of us. In this particular example once we eliminate the always unwanted "white elephants", i.e. the low reward and high-risk projects, we have exhausted our choices. In other words, we must add all of the remaining ventures to our portfolio including two "pearls", two bread and butter" and two "oysters".

Figure 1

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Let us compare this situation above with the portfolio shown in Figure 2. Instead of having only eight candidates we now have twenty: four "pearls", five "bread and butter", five "oysters" and six "white elephants".

Figure 2

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After getting rid of all the low reward, high risk projects and an addition of four low-risk, high reward ones, we are now free to mix and match the "oysters" and the bread and butters" to our liking. For example, we may decide to select two highest return and lowest risk projects from the "bread and butter" and "oyster" quadrants respectively.

Comparison of these two charts clearly demonstrates that having more project ideas to start with we were able to select a more attractive portfolio overall.

Article - How to Measure Projects Success: Successful vs. Troubled vs. Failed Projects

 

Traditional Models

There are a lot of rating models out there that attempt to define project success or failure. There is the traditional one:

  • Success: Finished (more or less) on time, within budget and met all requirements
  • Challenged:  Reaches conclusion, but with cost overruns and schedule slippages; possibly not all specifications are met
  • Failure: Project was abandoned or cancelled due to project management failure

I can’t say that I am a big fan of it, because it fails to incorporate the value (i.e. the project portfolio management) perspective into the model. Recently I came across the one I really liked – a model that considers both project management (PM) and project portfolio management (PPM) sides proposed by Harold Kerzner:

  • Complete Success: Project met success criteria, value was created and all constraints were adhered to
  • Partial Success: Project met the success criteria, the client accepted the deliverables, value was created, not all of the constraints were met
  • Partial Failure: Project was cancelled. But some IP was created that can be used on other projects
  • Complete Failure: The project was abandoned and nothing was learned

Proposed Model

My view of a successful project is slightly different. I basically like to (1) add word “reasonably” to the “adhering to constraints” sentence and (2) include the recoverability variable into the equation:

  • Project success is a function of:
    • Business value is realized
    • Project is delivered reasonably on-budget
    • Project is delivered reasonably on time
    • Project scope is delivered within reasonable limits
    • NOTE: “reasonable” = “does not negate the business value”
  • Projects should also be differentiated by their recoverability

Regarding the first point, let us examine the following famous examples:

Article - Don’t Worry! We Will Break the News Gradually to Him!

 

This true gem of a story happened much earlier in my career when I was working for one of the largest international banks. Basically, it explains how NOT to conduct estimates-related negotiations on your projects!

Director: Hey, I am going to assign you to this new regulatory project. Keep in mind, this is a high-profile endeavour; our main client is the Senior VP of our company. Keep in mind, he hates us, the IT guys. His nickname here is “El Diablo”!

Me: Yes, I have heard about this project. I have spoken to some of our technical people and they have estimated that it would take about nine months to deliver the final product...

Director: Yup, that is another problem. I have personally promised that we would deliver the product in three months

Me: (incredulously) What?! Three months? But now that he finds out the truth he will be mad!

Director: Don’t worry about that. I have a plan. We will proceed by breaking the news to him gradually!

Me: (sarcastically) Do you really think that he got to the position of Senior Vice President of one of the largest financial institutions in the world by being an utter idiot?

Director: (slightly offended) No!!! Why?

Me: How can a normal person NOT notice the difference between a three-month project and a nine-month project?

Director: (somewhat disappointed) I see… Yes, that is a bit of a problem, isn’t it?

 

Have you ever been forced into similar situations by your bosses? How did you handle them?

Article - How to Explain the Value of Project Management in One Simple Example

 

Unfortunately, even today I frequently come across the situations when a (typically) gray-haired executive asks me the following question:

CEO: Yes, Jamal, I have heard about project management and all that. But I am still not sold on it. Can you explain to me – and I only have a couple of minutes - the value someone like you brings to the organization?

Me: (unexpectedly) Ever cooked a meal?

CEO: (very surprised) Yes… But what does that have to…

Me: Imagine that you need to fry a couple of eggs. Would you use a shopping list and step-by-step cooking instructions to accomplish this task?

CEO: No, of course not. That is a very simple process.

Me: Exactly! Get a couple of eggs, some butter, salt, pepper and a frying pan. Easy, right?

CEO: Yes!

Me: Now imagine you need to cook a fancy five-course meal for ten of your friends. Do you think you will benefit from a detailed shopping list and comprehensive cooking instructions?

CEO: Yes! Probably…

Me: Since you only have one stove and a pair of hands, do you think you will need to plan all of your cooking tasks in such a way that you don’t end up with a cold steak and undercooked potatoes by the time your guests arrive?

CEO: I guess so…

Me: (loudly) That is exactly what we do. We define the scope in detail, confirm that you have all the ingredients and time your tasks in such a way that you get the entire product at the deadline (inaudibly) I guess, we will chat about risks, costs, quality and other project management knowledge areas some other time.

Do you still have to justify the existence of project management to your stakeholders? What tricks/examples do you use? Please leave your comments below.

Article - What are the Key Documents on a Project?

Almost every time I start a project at a new company I have to answer the following question:

So, Jamal, what are your deliverables as a Project Manager? What should we expect from you and when?

And every damn time I go to the nearest white board and draw the following diagram (see Figure 1).

Figure 1

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Here are the definitions and useful links:

Case Study – What Happens When Corruption Meets Incompetence - Krestovsky Stadium

 

Some time in 2005 as part of preparations for a (highly controversial but nevertheless successful) bid for the 2018 FIFA World Cup the government of Russia decided to build a brand-new soccer stadium in Saint Petersburg. The building phase started in 2007 with the government allocating US$268 million for the construction of the stadium.

Interestingly enough the construction that was initially supposed to end in March of 2009 continues until now, with “some cosmetic changes to be finished soon”. As of right now the stadium is astonishing 518% late and 548% over budget (see Tables 1 and 2).

Table 1 - Timeline

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Table 2 – Budget

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Unfortunately there are no official reliable sources of information regarding the root causes of these failures. However, based on the reports of various newspapers there were two major causes of delays, cost overruns and quality issues: poor planning and rampant corruption.

Some of the issues encountered during the construction of the Krestovsky Stadium.

Article - How to Explain Quality to Your Project Stakeholders?

 

There comes a time in a life of a project manager when he (or she) has to sit down with his stakeholders – who are not necessarily well-versed in the art of project management – and discuss the touchy subject of the future product’s quality.

 

Correct me if I am wrong, but usually they happen in the following fashion:

PM: (sighing heavily) OK, we have discussed the budget and the duration of the project. Let us now talk about your expectations about the quality …

S: Oh, only the best of the best would work for us!

PM: (sighing even more heavily) But you see, we have a fairly moderate budget and an aggressive timeline. Some flexibility with quality would most definitely be welcome …

S: You don’t understand! At this company we don’t just settle for mediocre products or services. Look! It is in our mission statement!

In my humble opinion the root cause of this problem is that in the untrained minds of the stakeholders there are only two options for quality: good and bad (e.g. fixed or broken, working or not working, etc.). In reality, however quality can be described as:

  • Basic - Something simple and cheap that will do the job required
  • Premium - Something a bit more sophisticated that will do the job, but will also provide additional attributes.
  • Luxury - Something very sophisticated that will not only do the job required, but will also provide a multitude of additional options.

If this description seems vague or ambiguous, let us use another example:

  • Honda Civic – Basic, but very reliable car that is guaranteed to get you from point A to point B. Cheaper and requires only basic maintenance.
  • Lexus – Also a very reliable car. Also will get you from point A to point B. Has some cool gadgets and widgets that will make any owner happy.
  • Ferrari – Very expensive vehicle. Looks amazing and costs a lot of money. Has a plethora of cool features. Maintenance will cost you an arm and a leg.

What is the conclusion of this story? When talking to customers, don’t ask them whether Feature A should be of “low” or “high” quality. Instead ask them:

If this feature was a car, what model would you pick: a Honda Civic, a Lexus or a Ferrari?

 

Infographic - Top 10 Amazing Facts about Megaprojects

 

Fact #8 just blew me away!

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About the Author

Jamal Moustafaev, MBA, PMP – president and founder of Thinktank Consulting is an internationally acclaimed expert and speaker in the areas of project/portfolio management, scope definition, process improvement and corporate training. Jamal Moustafaev has done work for private-sector companies and government organizations in Canada, US, Asia, Europe and Middle East.  Read Jamal’s Blog @ www.thinktankconsulting.ca

Jamal is an author of three very popular books: