The tension between the inherent uniqueness of projects, and the need to formulate policy that applies to all projects, makes governance of project-oriented organizations challenging. For every policy proposed, it's easy to construct rare but potentially expensive scenarios in which compliance with policy leads to consequences that conflict with policy objectives. Here are four such scenarios, actually captured in the wild.
- A fast-moving desktop application software company with a fairly formal software development process acquires a smaller, entrepreneurial company with a hot product for mobile devices and a very informal development process. The acquired product team is directed to follow the acquiring company's formal process. It must develop a test plan, but it lacks the staff to do the work, and its request to hire three additional testing professionals has been rejected. To ensure compliance with the mandate, the acquiring company then assigns someone who knows little about testing mobile device software to write the test plan. The result is as horrendous as it is predictable.
- The project hasFor every policy proposed, it's
easy to construct rare but
potentially expensive scenarios
in which compliance with policy
leads to consequences that
conflict with policy objectives been slipping, and another slip seems likely, but not inevitable. To avoid being forced to announce another slip, on Wednesday afternoon Management orders an emergency project status review (EPSR) to be held at an all-day Saturday meeting. All work halts immediately, as everyone fires up PowerPoint to prepare slides for the EPSR. The loss of three days of work makes another project slip inevitable.
- To monitor project health, bi-weekly status reports are required for all projects that are approved for spending against a budget. This includes some projects in which little activity occurs because they're waiting for some other effort's deliverables to arrive. In fact, the only activity that occurs in these projects is writing the bi-weekly status reports, which only adds to the data blizzard that buries the people who must review the reports, making it more difficult for them to monitor the health of projects.
- To reduce expenses, the company decides to run "lean and mean." It tracks skills utilization data to ensure that people with skills that are in high demand — and who are therefore compensated at rates above market — are actually using those skills in the projects to which they're assigned. Consequently, people with high-value skills are usually allocated to several projects. Those project managers must then coordinate schedules to avoid over-allocating people with high-value skills. But projects rarely keep to schedule, because, um, they're projects. When schedules change abruptly, the people with high-value skills become bottlenecks, and project schedule chaos ripples through the organization. These delays can cause significant lost revenue opportunities, vastly larger than the savings that were supposed to come from running "lean and mean."
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
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Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming September 18: The Planning Fallacy and Self-Interest
- A well-known cognitive bias, the planning fallacy, accounts for many unrealistic estimates of project cost and schedule. Overruns are common. But another cognitive bias, and organizational politics, combine with the planning fallacy to make a bad situation even worse. Available here and by RSS on September 18.
- And on September 25: Planning Disappointments
- When we plan projects, we make estimates of total costs and expected delivery dates. Often these estimates are so wrong — in the wrong direction — that we might as well be planning disappointments. Why is this? Available here and by RSS on September 25.
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- The Race to the South Pole: Lessons in Leadership
On 14 December 1911, four men led by Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen had won the race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished. As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough. But to organizational leaders, business analysts, project sponsors, and project managers, the story is fascinating. We'll use the history of this event to explore lessons in leadership and its application to organizational efforts. A fascinating and refreshing look at leadership from the vantage point of history. Read more about this program.
Here's a date for this program:
- Baldwin-Wallace University, 275 Eastland Road, Berea, Ohio
44017: November 7,
Kerzner Lecture Series/International Project Management Day, sponsored by Baldwin Wallace University and the Northeast Ohio Chapter of the Project Management Institute.
- Baldwin-Wallace University, 275 Eastland Road, Berea, Ohio 44017: November 7, Kerzner Lecture Series/International Project Management Day, sponsored by Baldwin Wallace University and the Northeast Ohio Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.
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Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.