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Project Failure Is Always Your Fault—or Is It? By Harry Mingail As

a PMP and CBAP with thirty years of project experience, mostly turning around troubled projects, I'm here to tell you that it's not just you. It's the organizational "us." I've learned and succeeded in my career because there's a better way! I want to share with you my experience and tangible takeaways for your success. Discover them in two distinctive yet frequently overlooked "secret" locations... your organization's Enterprise Environmental Factors and its Organizational Process Assets. They dramatically affect your project, positively as well as negatively. chapter228 The Keys to Our Success Enterprise Environmental Factors (EEF) EEFs are internal and external factors that surround your project. Just like cold, damp, and blustery weather environmental conditions, you need to preserve, protect, and adapt to your project's EEFs. EEF Key #1—Organizational Culture Accepted and shared organizational values, behaviors, attitudes, beliefs, and customs define company and departmental cultures. If one or more of your answers to the following questions is choice "a," your organization leans toward being an entrepreneurial culture. Under these circumstances, I have success being a project management minimalist... just key practices. Conversely, if you have more "b" answers, as I have experienced in large insurance companies, make contingencies for the reality of red tape in your bureaucratic culture. 1. Is your organization focused on a) results or b) rigid processes? 2. Does your organization a) empower decision-making or b) stifle personal expression? 3. Does your business a) encourage cost-justified continuous innovation and improvement or b) frown on change? 4. Are a) office politics and conflict or b) collaboration and cooperation the way people work? EEF Key #2—Your Company's Strategic Plan I was shocked to discover, as I was leading a corporate IT strategic planning project, that the organization had no written Business Strategic Plan. My encounter represents the nasty extreme of the challenges you have if your project attempts to deliver results in a loose, misunderstood, or nonexisting big-picture company strategic plan. Without a strategy, your project will be frustrated and buffeted by the 18 - Harry Mingail 229 interests of torturous decision-making from departmental silos less concerned about what's best for the entire corporation... the overarching strategy. Problem-solve these symptoms, for example, as I did, by setting aside contingency time buffers. Document key elements of the undocumented strategy in the Project Charter as assumptions. And, if feasible, "put the monkey on executives' backs" by making the development of crucial strategic elements external dependencies to your critical path. EEF Key #3—Regulatory Issues Sarbanes-Oxley, ISO 9000, and Food and Drug Administration rulings are a few such examples. Regulatory bodies and their demands can radically affect your organization's business flows and, thus, your project. If you don't have good answers to these four key questions, I recommend that you get them so they won't ambush your project. 1. Do you know which business processes currently affected by regulatory challenges affect your project? 2. Is there a reliable audit trail of processes that have been changed—when and by which projects? 3. Does your project plan run contrary to regulatory or legal issues? 4. Are there pending potential rule interpretations that might affect your project? While I managed a Basel 2 critical regulatory banking project, I unceasingly focused my stakeholders on tackling existing as well as anticipated regulatory interpretations. If I didn't, the bank's board of directors would have had to be fitted soon for striped suits and 8x10-foot prison cells.230 The Keys to Our Success EEF Key #4—Human Resources Behind all challenges are people. People, as individuals and in groups, are always the key to victory. Human resources matter very much! My projects walk the walk of my book The Extraordinary Power of Project Relationships, in which I underscore and expand the importance of interpersonal skills for any organization in Appendix G of PMBOK. The Appendix G list includes communication, cultural awareness, decision-making, influencing, leadership, motivation, negotiation, political awareness, and teambuilding. Managing your boss and discovering organizational staff stars and group creativity skills are among the other skills I encourage. Reach for the low-hanging fruit first. Deal with what you can control—yourself. Be hard on yourself. Rate yourself in relation to the skills listed in Appendix G. Upgrade yourself where there are gaps. As I did for a vital master scheduling manufacturing system project, strive to acquire them for the people you were allocated by the human resources department. If doable, get all these people in the same training session to be on the "same collective page." If you can't, play the role I tend to like—a "developmental manager" who nurtures by teaching, coaching, and mentoring. EEF Key #5—External Industry Drivers In each industry, manufacturing, banking, media, transportation, and mining are a few examples, your project operates within myriad external business drivers and conditions. Put on your "business hat." Competitive forces, trends, and currency fluctuations are some of the many to consider. 18 - Harry Mingail 231 For instance, you'll steer your project better if you understand your industry's manifestation of the acronym Political Economic Social and Technological (P.E.S.T.) trends. Analyze corporate trends and their effect on you. Because trends, like risks, unfold in the future, I recommend you manage them as such. Apply avoid, mitigate, transfer, and accept responses to negative trends. Exploit, share, enhance, accept to the positive (yes, risks can be positive) ones. • During a multinational insurance company project, my team addressed the perilous political ups and downs of the European Union. • While managing a series of projects in a banking risk department, we dealt with economic trends of interest and inflation rates. • During a project to merge three small media companies, we addressed social and demographic audience and readership trends. • While managing a strategic product-sales scorecard project for a large fast-food multinational, we anticipated the evolving technological trends of hand-held devices used by distributors in trucks. Organizational Process Assets (OPA) Several prominent industry best practice areas, such as the following, emphasize the value of Organizational Process Assets: • PMI's A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide®) • International Institute of Business Analyst's (IIBA's) A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK Guide®) • PMI's The Standard for Program Management232 The Keys to Our Success As per their definition of OPAs, PMI explicitly advises project managers to exploit them to "influence the project's success." Your organization maintains OPAs as policies, procedures, and guidelines that facilitate dependable performance. Project approval gates, performance review processes, and approaches to funding are some of the many OPAs I recommend you recognize and leverage to succeed. Overlook them at your peril. Key OPA #1—OPM3® When I take on a project, I immediately consider PMI's Organizational Project Management Maturity Model (OPM3®). Since OPM3® presents an organization-wide framework and rating system of portfolio management, program management, and project management, it helps me recognize the reality of what can enable or, conversely, devastate my project. Lucky you, if your organization is at level five. Your organization has maximized the prospects for your success. At this level, measurable practices and sustained lessons learned continuously improve existing standards, methods, procedures, and staff. When you find, through your PMO, this to be the case, I recommend that you use it or lose it! In contrast, at lower levels, particularly level one, practices constrict and confine rather than nourish and sustain your achievements. Level one tells me that I must be willing to be heroic like James Bond or Rambo to make things happen. Don't just throw up your hands in despair. Fill the gaps with best practices and templates you know. Borrow from knowledgeable friends. Surf for templates on the Internet. When the going gets tough, good PMs step up to the plate and do the best they can with the reality they've inherited. Need more information? Check out http://en.wikipedia. org/wiki/OPM318 - Harry Mingail 233 Key OPA #2—Project Portfolio Management (PPM) PMI's The Standard for Portfolio Management defines a portfolio as "The centralized management of one or more portfolios, which embraces identifying, prioritizing, authorizing, managing, and controlling projects, programs and other related work to achieve specific strategic business objectives." As a project manager, here's why I care. Like you, my projects are buffeted by competition for funding, people, and material and equipment resources. I know that PPM makes it more possible for executives to make timelier, fact-based, and rational decisionmaking for all projects in the best interests of the entire organization rather than silos. Frustrations and complaints increase, and morale dramatically diminishes, when your stakeholders understand that, for example, the project will be delayed because you lost valuable Jennifer and Jason for six months to a rationally determined higher priority project. Unfortunately, PPM without supporting software is futile, which is why, when I learned that the government department that engaged me operated the PPM software package Clarity, I was relieved. Your takeaway is that when your organization's priorities change, PPM is your best friend. When PPM doesn't exist, your organizational landscape hampers executive just-in-time, fact-based executive support relative to typically hundreds of competing priorities. You'll need to rely more on your sponsor to escalate effectively and powersell issues resolution. 234 The Keys to Our Success Key OPA #3—Program Management When I was in charge of a corporate merger undertaking, I reached for PMI's The Standard for Program Management, not just the PMBOK Guide. You wouldn't use a hammer to cut wood! Don't use only the PMBOK Guide to try to succeed with what you think is a large project but really is a program. A program is a group of interrelated project and nonproject components better managed together to obtain benefits and controls that would not occur if they were managed individually. My advice to you is to exploit a practical subset of the detailed practices associated with the following PMI program management themes, each of which go radically beyond their project counterparts: (1) Governance, (2) Stakeholder Management, and (3) Benefits Management. Key OPA #4—COBIT These days, nearly every project engages small, medium, and frequently large portions of IT. To the rescue comes Control Objectives for Information and Related Technologies (COBIT). Created by the prestigious Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA), COBIT provides a maturity-level measurement rating and framework for IT, with emphasis on good IT governance. It strengthens IT alignments and execution toward realizing business, not just "techie" goals, objectives, realities, drivers, and demands. Has anyone pointed the finger of blame only at the IT department lately? Here's your takeaway. If your CIO does not already have them, check out http://www.isaca. org/COBIT/Pages/default.aspx for assessment tools and methods to understand how your entire organization rates. You'll be rewarded with corporate-wide causes of IT project maladies, which in turn put you on the right problemsolving path. 18 - Harry Mingail 235 Key OPA #5—Lifecycle Models Engineering, IT, building construction, and other product life cycle models characterize stages, activities, roles, responsibilities, tools, and techniques. Understanding and then ensuring that all stakeholders appreciate their life cycle role is one of the fi rst things I do when turning around troubled projects. That's because, in the absence of an accepted life cycle methodology, expectations differ about work sequences—who does what, how, and when. Dysfunctional chaos, rather than harmonious and productive teamwork, jams the vacuum when life cycle methods go missing. Next Steps Beware the state of these key OPAs and EEFs. Help to change them if needed, and you can. Advancing by even baby steps enables your success. Sometimes, you can't change them in time for you to benefi t. Under these circumstances, identify, problem-solve, and adapt to them. Treat each day as a blank page in your project's diary of accomplishments. Problem-solve external factors to turn your diary into your best possible project performance record.




1. What is the key lesson that this author is sharing?
2. Why is it such an important lesson? (aka "benefits")
3. What are tangible steps you can take to incorporate this into your own practice?

Answer & Explanation
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