2015 ProjectWorld East Update

As promised in my previous post about attending Project World East at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida from March 23rd-24th, I have received a 20% speaker discount code for those interested in attending.


Please make sure you use the discount code: PWEASTPW when completing your registration to capture the 20% discount.

Looks like a GREAT agenda again this year, and I’d love to meet followers of this blog during the conference!

Hope to see you in Orlando in March!

2015 Project Management Online Resource Awards!

Since Hollywood’s award season is now fully underway, I thought I’d have a little fun and share my favorite project management bloggers and “tweeters” for 2015.  In all seriousness though, one of the things that always impresses me is the eager desire that project management practitioners have toward life-long learning, fulfilling professional development obligations, and volunteering their services, along with mentoring, knowledge sharing and collaborating with others in the project management profession.  So, in that spirit, I would like to announce this year’s award winners!


2015 PM Blogger Award Badge


  1. PM Huthttp://www.pmhut.com/
  2. Herding Catshttp://herdingcats.typepad.com
  3. Girls Guide to Project Managementhttp://pm4girls.elizabeth-harrin.com/
  4. PMI Voiceshttp://www.projectmanagement.com/blog/Voices-on-Project-Management/
  5. PM-Podcast.com (Cornelius Fichtner) – http://www.pm-podcast.com/
  6. Susanne Madsonhttp://www.susannemadsen.com/
  7. Ron Rosenhead – http:// ronrosenhead.co.uk/
  8. ProjectManagement.comhttp://www.projectmanagement.com
  9. Agile Scouthttp://agilescout.com
  10. Scrum Alliancehttp://www.scrumalliance.org/community


2015 PMOT Award Badge


  1. @rkelly976 (Robert Kelly – Host of the weekly #PMChat on Twitter)
  2. @mkaplanPMP (Michael Kaplan)
  3. @ThePMCoach (Thomas Kennedy)
  4. @PMVoices (The PMI Blog Team)
  5. @corneliusficht (Cornelius Fichtner)
  6. @ronrosenhead (Ron Rosenhead)
  7. @galleman (Glen Alleman – Herding Cats)
  8. @PMArticles (Project-Management.com)
  9. @pm4girls (Elizabeth Herrin)
  10. @agilescout (Peter Saddington)
  11. @Project_World (Project World & World Congress for Business Analysts Conference)
  12. @PMIcongress (PMI Global Congress)
  13. @ProjManagers (Projectmanagers.org)
  14. @jerryihejirika (Jerry Ihejirika)
  15. @ProjConnections (Projectconnections.com)



Visual Project Management – Dashboards

A dashboard is a collection of performance data, represented in graphical format, to provide an “at-a-glance,” real-time snapshot of the health of a project, process or work unit.  Dashboards are typically designed as a display of multiple data points such as text boxes, charts and other pictographic information, presented on a single page or electronic portal.  They depict current status and historical trending of individual key performance indicators, along with other pertinent material that is used to support informed decision making.

Portfolio Metric Tracking Dashboard

Dashboards are referred to as such because they are modeled after automobile dashboards that contain gauges providing real-time information and feedback.  Just as the displays on an automobile dashboard summarize the performance of hundreds of individual components and interconnections under the hood, business dashboards do the same for the dozens of individual business processes and performance metrics in the back offices of many organizations.

Innovation Scorecard-Dashboard Template


Most dashboards employ in their design a graphical device known as a “Stop Light” to communicate status and health at a glance.  Green indicates all is well and proceeding as planned, yellow is used to trigger additional attention, indicate negative trending or solicit an action step, while red indicates the item being measured is in trouble, has stopped and/or requires immediate attention.  Typically, these color-based states have pre-determined variance thresholds that indicate when a key performance metric moves through the color scheme.

Project Health Check Template

The use of dashboards in project management practice is a natural fit.  Sharing vital project performance metrics in a concise and consistent manner is a key communication responsibility of all project managers.  While not appropriate for all project reporting needs, a dashboard is ideal for communicating at a higher, summary level.


Inside Visual Project Management


As promised last week, here’s a listing of the major sections and chapters of Visual Project Management.

  1. Visual Thinking Overview
    1. Visual Project Management
    2. Introduction to Visual Management Concepts
      1. The Data Visualization Concept
      2. The Visual Thinking Concept
  2. Visual Thinking Tools that Support Project Management
    1. Mind Mapping
    2. Process Mapping
    3. Storyboarding
    4. Root Cause Analysis
    5. Charting, Diagramming and Graphing
    6. Drawing and Sketching
    7. Wireframes and Use Cases
  3. Visual Project Reporting Tools
    1. Earned Value Analysis
      1. Traditional EVA Diagramming
      2. Tolerance Limited EVA Diagramming
    2. Dashboards
    3. Road Maps
    4. Lean Concepts – Kanban Boards
    5. Agile Concepts
      1. Scrum Overview
      2. Scrum Boards
      3. Sprint Burn-Down Charts
    6. Infographics
  4. Visual Project Collaboration Tools
    1. Project War Room
    2. Project “Science Fair”
    3. Visual Project Displays
      1. Project Display Walls
      2. Project Collaboration Wall
      3. Project Showcase or Exhibition
      4. Project Flight Planning and Status Board
      5. 3D Project Environments
    4. Project Social Media
    5. Gamification in Project Management

Visual Project Management also contains over 75 data visualization examples to better understand the concepts explored in the book.  Additionally, a lengthy bibliography of both print-based and web-based resources is also provided.

As far as the release date is concerned, it appears that March 1st will be the “official” date, but some copies will be available sooner than that.  More to come!

Visual Project Management

VPM Banner

It’s official!  My new book, Visual Project Management, will be headed to the publisher next week for final edits, formatting and cover design!  In celebration, and to give my loyal blog followers an advance preview, I am including an excerpt from the book with this post.  Enjoy!

In today’s time-compressed and lean business culture, busy executive sponsors and key project stakeholders simply do not have the luxury of time to digest a verbose, three page project status report on a weekly basis. Likewise, their double-booked calendars can no longer support attending status briefing meetings that simply regurgitate information that is otherwise available in alternative forms.  Conscious decisions must constantly be made by project decision-makers regarding when to be engaged and when to simply monitor progress.  Based on this new reality, managing project-based work in a “business as usual” fashion is no longer a feasible option.

Time-honored, structured processes and document-laden approaches to managing projects are rapidly being left behind in favor of more agile-based methods. Lengthy, paper-based project artifacts take significant time and effort to both generate and consume.  Established waterfall and command-and-control structures no longer address the new, innovative manner in which work is now being conducted and managed.

Taking cues from the productivity gains experienced using lean manufacturing approaches in the 1980s and the re-birth of incremental software development methods in the 1990s led to the 2001 formation of the Manifesto for Agile Software Development[i], better known simply as the Agile Manifesto.  This movement wasn’t created to eliminate software development and project management methodology, but to make it more balanced, less rigid, lighter in documentation and fluid in planning.

Agile-based methods of managing projects have started to become entrenched in even the most conservative industries like financial services, insurance and healthcare. Self-managed teams are beginning to replace top-down structures.  Time-boxed “chunks” of work, rather than start-to-finish individual task sequencing, has allowed for increased velocity of completing deliverables.  Focusing on the most important work versus the work that is simply next in line has produced more functional products.

Make no mistake, however, that traditional project management methodologies still play an important and valuable role in executing upon the strategic visions of many organizations and their products/services. The focus shift on ‘doing the right thing’ as compared to ‘doing the thing right’ has pushed both traditional and agile methods forward in a positive way.  Cross-pollination from a number of different methodologies has led to an impressive diversity of custom approaches dedicated to finding the most efficient and effective way getting the work done.

One of many new customized approaches gaining traction in project management circles today is a concept that presents project-related information in a visual, often graphical, form to improve clarity, visibility and understanding of the scope and operation of the effort. This “Visual Project Management” approach, serves as an additional tool for project management professionals to provide:

  • At-a-glance views of project status
  • Real-time project status tracking
  • Real-time issue management and resolution status
  • Data rich environments for better decision making

The key benefit of this new approach is speed. Critical project information can be produced, replicated and digested in more effective and efficient ways.  Another advantage visual project management provides is that the information is delivered in such a way that anyone can consume it at a time, place and manner that is convenient to them.

Traditionally, project information distribution has been based on “push” methods of communication. In push-based communication, the sender, or project manager, decides the “who, how, what and when” regarding project information flow.  This information is typically delivered in the form of e-mails, status reports, project status meetings, conference calls and in some cases, instant or text-based messaging.  The recipient doesn’t really get a choice regarding whether they receive the communication or not.  Nor do they have a say in what format it is delivered.

Alternatively, more and more information is being made available electronically, meant to be digested when the recipient has the time to review it. In this “pull-based” form of communication, information is simply posted to a common location, akin to a bulletin board or document library.  The recipient chooses what information they want to receive and when they want to access it.  Most importantly, it allows for the opportunity for the project manager and the project stakeholders to have a conversation about what information and specific data points are most important to them.  Then, leveraging any number of visual thinking tools, the project manager can design the format that most clearly and efficiently serves the stakeholders needs.

[i] Beck, Kent; et al. (2001). “Manifesto for Agile Software Development“. Agile Alliance. Retrieved 14 June 2010.


Next week, I will post the actual table of contents for Visual Project Management, which includes a listing of the actual data visualization tools explored in the book.  In the coming weeks, I’ll be providing updates on the publication process and more information on where the book can be found for purchase.

You’re Invited to ProjectWorld East!

After receiving some fantastic feedback regarding my presentation on “Visual Thinking Concepts for Project Management” at the ProjectWorld/World Congress of Business Analysts Conference in Seattle last September, the conference event team has invited me to give an encore presentation at the 2015 PW/WCBA East event at Walt Disney World in March 2015!

ProjectWorld/WCBA East will be held at the beautiful Grand Floridian Resort at Walt Disney World from March 23-24th, 2015.  More information including pricing, venue and the agenda can be found HERE at the PW/WCBA East website.  Early-bird discounts are already available for early registrants.  I should also be getting a special “speaker discount” soon, which I will be sure to provide here in the near future so you can use that to lock in a great low rate!

Don’t miss this great opportunity, if anything to just experience the venue!  This is a amazing chance to get actively engaged in your profession, earn a bunch of PDU hours on career-enhancing topics and network with your peers from across the United States (and the World!) on project and portfolio management, business analysis and leadership discussions.  For those of you who were unable to travel to the ProjectWorld event in Seattle last September, consider this is to be your second chance to experience the highlights of that great event, along with some new workshops and interactive sessions.

You can also follow Project World on social media:

And…while this will be announced with greater fanfare soon, I can finally share that I am putting the finishing touches on a book that goes far more in-depth into the visual project management concepts that will be shared during my presentation.  In fact, it should be through final edits and ready for publication just in time to make available for conference attendees, especially those who attend my session!

Hope to see you in Orlando in March 2015!

Reflection…A Powerful Leadership Tool


Walt Disney wrote in the December 1941 issue of Readers Digest that,

“One reason the Christmas season appeals to me is that it makes us suspend business-as-usual routines and lets our mind soar for a while.  It is a time when the imagination is more sprightly than at other periods of the year; Christmas seems to release even the most solemn of us from the Scrooge realism that occasionally besets all of us.  It is natural, of course, that I should think of Christmas in terms of imagination, for imagination is my business.”

Walt’s quote reminds us that we must all find some quiet moments from time to time for reflection.  Individually, these quiet moments allow our subconscious to catch up with our insanely busy conscious self.  Problem solving doesn’t work if you don’t take the time to review the ideas that the mind has had a chance to work on for a while.  From a group perspective, reflection takes the form of lessons learned workshops, after-action reviews, project post-mortem and, in the agile vernacular, retrospective meetings.  As a project management professional, you are expected to facilitiate these team-based evaluations.

So how do we take advantage of the power of individual reflection?

The first, and by far the most important, step is to set aside time for it!  This is often an insurmountable barrier to many busy professionals.  But if you don’t carve out time for reflection and make it a priority, it’ll never happen.  With the holiday season upon us, many will be taking some time away from work.  Use that precious opportunity to work in some time for deep thought.  For those who still struggle, here are some tips on how to “create” time in your day:

  • Get up one hour early
  • Go to bed one hour late
  • Go to the park for lunch
  • Listen to music instead of watching the news
  • Take a long shower or bath
  • Take the dog for a walk
  • Keep a journal to record your thoughts

Next, you need to expand your thinking.  By forcing yourself to think at an exaggerated scale, you’ll bring new ideas and concepts to the results of your reflection.  Look for patterns where you don’t expect them, observe how nature solves “problems,” try to disrupt your daily routine or ask yourself what’s the worst thing you could possibly do to address the problem.  This kind of thinking liberates the brain from its process-based business world shackles.

Does this concept carry over to group reflection?  Absolutely!  Encourage your project team members to block off calendar time for problem solving and reflective thinking.  Ensure that your project teams openly and honestly reflect back on things that went well and things that need improvement.  In far too many organizational cultures, retrospectives or lessons learned have a negative stigma associated with them.  Its not about affixing blame for misteps along the way, its about not repeating them in the future!  It not about criticism, its about highlighting behaviors and decisions that made the project better!

In today’s hectic rat-race, it can be very difficult to find time for reflective thought and getting in touch with our best ideas.  In order to truly tap into your, and your team’s, great ideas, take some time away, think deeply and reflect on your problems, potential solutions and other great thoughts.  Be a “reflective” project manager, who’s ability to adjust on the fly versus blindly following the plan will make for a very valuable commodity.


Hey…Where Did The Project Sponsor Go?


Early on in just about every project, the project sponsor is actively engaged and working hands-on with the project team as the initiative is scoped and planned.  Quite frankly, they should be!  The project usually represents an idea or concept that the sponsor has been looking to execute upon for some time.  Ostensibly, that’s why they are the sponsor.  To get to this point of project initiation, the sponsor has likely had to steer his or her idea through round after round of strategic alignment workshops, budget negotiations and portfolio prioritization reviews.  He/She has a vested interested in the successful execution of the project, and are going to be actively involved to make sure it gets off on the right foot.  In fact, as a Project Manager, you’ll likely be sick of the sponsor before you get to the Planning Phase because they won’t leave you alone to get the work done!

Before we move on, let’s ground ourselves in what a “Project Sponsor” actually is…or should be.  From the Project Management Institute’s Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), 5th Edition, 2013,

A sponsor is the person or group who provides resources and support for the project and is accountable for enabling success.  The sponsor may be external or internal to the project manager’s organization.  From initial conception through project closure, the sponsor promotes the project.  This includes serving as a spokesperson to higher levels of management to gather support thorughout the organization and promoting the benefits the project brings.  The sponsor leads the project through the initiating processes until formally authorized, and plays a significant role in the development of the initial scope and charter.  For issues that are beyond the control of the Project Manager, the sponsor serves as an escalation path.  The sponsor may also be involved in other important issues such as authorizing changes in scope, phase-end reviews, and go/no go decisions when risks are particularly high.  The sponsor also ensures a smooth transfer of the project’s deliverables into the business of the requesting organization after project closure.

But at some point during the project, and it happens in more projects than most are willing to admit, the sponsor seems to disappear.  Sometimes it’s because the project is running so smoothly, the sponsor feels like there’s nothing to do.  Other times, it’s because the project is running so poorly, the sponsor wants to distance him/herself from becoming part of the collateral damage.  Most of time, however, it’s just “out of sight, out of mind.”  Once the sponsor goes through all of the hard work needed to get the project approved and launched, there is a natural tendency to lose intensity of interest.  Most Project Managers, happy to be free of the daily oversight (maybe perceived as micromanagement), willingly allow the sponsor to drift away from being so hands-on in the project as the planning and execution activities get underway.  But this is very dangerous!

What happens if you lose a key resource?  What happens when the vendor that was selected doesn’t deliver as planned?  What happens when executive leadership starts trimming away at the project budget at each phase gate?  What happens when questions come up on how to integrate the project’s deliverables into the line of business?  That’s right, the Project Manager is on his/her own and no matter where they look, there is no ownership for the effort.  So what are your options if this happens to you?

First, contact the sponsor and share your concerns about their lack of engagement.  We all get overloaded sometimes, and that may just be the case with your project.  Or, the sponsor may have such a comfort level on the project that they don’t want to get in your way.  In any event, talk it over and decide how to move forward.

Second, if you can’t get the sponsor to re-engage through direct conversation, they you need to call out the situation as an issue and risk.  Log the details of your attempts to resolve and list the risks associated with a lack of direct sponsor support and engagement.  Alert your leadership team that you are working on the issue.

Third, advise the project leadership team and approval/governance bodies that you may need to stop the project until the issue of sponsorship is resolved.  Many times, the threat to go “Full Stop” on a project or to have the issue escalated up the chain of command will jolt the sponsor back into conversation.

Fourth, and really your last line of defense, is to request that the project be cancelled.  Projects that do not have sponsorship should not proceed.  If no one is willing to own the effort, accept the deliverables at the end, secure funding and key team members, assist with problems and issues or support the Project Manager, the project is on a one-way path to failure and should be killed before it can consume additional resources.

If you are lucky enough to have an actively engaged sponsor, who wants to directly participate in each step of the project, be thankful!  Take extra care of that sponsor.  Overcommunicate.  Form a true partnership.  Become a tight-knit team.  You may still have issues, problems and challenges on the project, but at least you’ll have an active partner and champion for resolving them and exponentially increase the odds of eventually achieving a successful project delivery!

Life-long Learners Make Great Project Leaders


There is no shortage of available project management training and continuing education opportunities.  Good thing for those of us with certifications like the Project Management Professional (PMP), which requires 60 hours of “professional development units (PDU)” during the three-year PMP certification cycle.    Most of us will satisfy our professional development needs by showing up at a few chapter meetings, listening in on some webinars and, if we’re really lucky, attending a conference to really rack up the PDUs.

Sadly, much of what’s available for project management education is pretty standard fare.  It’s basically refresher training on the fundamentals of project management using the old, “tried and true” instructor/student format.  Very few opportunities exist that focus on cutting edge project, program or portfolio management concepts.  Nor is it delivered in unconventional ways that help the learner actively participate in the educational experience.

So what kind of alternatives are available?  Did you know that you can earn PDUs* and, more importantly, gain valuable experience and education outside of traditional “classroom” training?  Here are but a few examples:

  1. Project Management Simulation-Based Exercises
    • Project management simulation is an interactive learning activity, frequently practiced as a group exercise. It presents participants with situations and problems that arise in real world projects. The participants can then see the consequences of the decisions they make and can explore alternative courses of action.  Simulation provides an opportunity for learners to leverage existing knowledge, solve typical project problems, make mistakes and analyze the results.
    • Simulations can be conducted on both real projects (to explore various decision options) or hypothetical projects (to practice a certain process or methodology).
  2. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)
    • Online courses aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web. In addition to traditional course materials such as videos, readings and problem sets, MOOCs provide interactive user forums that help build a community for the students, professors, and teaching assistants (TAs).
      • MITx, Harvard edX, etc.
    • Badge-Based Learning:  Earn virtual “badges” by completing online coursework, exams and other self-study requirements.
  3. General Business Education
    • Executive leaders are constantly clamoring for employees who possess general business acumen.  You don’t have to become an accountant or tax analyst, but having a basic understanding of business models and financial performance gives you a distinct advantage.
    • Learn more about the unique products, services and line of business outputs for your organization or industry vertical.
    • Improve your financial literacy regarding financial management concepts, general economics, financial metrics and reporting.
  4. Soft-Skill Development
    • Project management is blend of science and art.  And lets face it, the “art” is far more important for success.  Anything you can do to build your skills in leadership, communication, leading without authority, negotiation, problem solving or team-building is crucial to your overall professional development.
  5. Agile, SCRUM and Lean Training
    • The latest craze in managing work effort, especially software development initiatives, make use of agile-based methodologies.  Whether its Lean, SixSigma, Kanban or SCRUM, the overall concept is the same, remove the unnecessary overhead, be responsive to frequent change, reduce work into shorter “sprints” and focus on the end result.
  6. Volunteering
    • Leverage your experience and expertise by volunteering your professional services to an organization or group outside of your employer.
    • Serve in an elected officer capacity for a project management organization.
    • The Project Management Institute (PMI) also has many volunteer opportunities.
  7. Teaching/Training
    • Creating a course or developing course content for project management related courses
    • Serving as an instructor for project management related courses
    • Serving as a moderator or subject matter expert of a relevant panel discussion
    • Design and presenting a podcast or webinar
  8. Writing
    • Write project management-related books and articles for professional print or electronic publications.
    • Write a blog for your company or organization

So the next time you are tempted to just half-listen and multitask through a webinar, think about how much of the material you are actually absorbing.  Was it worth it?  Did you learn anything?  Sure, you may get PDU credit, but you’ve cheated yourself out of a valuable opportunity to improve yourself both personally and professionally.  Challenge yourself to learn something new in your field this year or to get engaged as a teacher or volunteer in project management.  Take the initiative to conduct research on developing new, or improving upon existing, project management processes, tools or techniques.  As one of America’s greatest business philosophers, Jim Rohn once stated, “Learners are Leaders.”  Break out of the traditional seminar-based setting and instead, get involved and engaged in your educational experiences.

* Please note that not all of these alternative educational opportunities may qualify for PDU credit with the Project Management Institute or other certificate-issuing organizations.  Please consult directly with the organization holding your certificate for continuing education requirements

The Importance of the Project Hand-Off


So you’ve reached the end of the project.  The highlighted date on your calendar that you’ve been anticipating for the past year is finally here.  You’ve herded the cats into the last corral, you’ve wrestled with the scope and pinned it to the ground and you’ve managed to deliver exactly what was promised.  Congratulations!  So now what?  Plenty!

I am not going to mention the lessons learned that you’re supposed to document, but probably won’t.  Nor will I mention the mountain of paperwork you need to complete, file and store.  Instead, I want to focus on the one thing that, if done correctly, will leave the most positive memory in the minds of stakeholders and project teams…the transition from project to daily operations.

There are really three stages (and considerations) for a successful project hand-off:

  1. Project Execution
    • Make certain that all stakeholders are cognizant of the planned completion date so they can adequately prepare for hand-off activities
    • Develop clear and comprehensive documentation of the project deliverables, especially training and/or user manuals such as job aids, quick reference sheets, FAQs, etc.
    • Ensure that the end users of the deliverable(s) of your project actively participate in testing or mock-ups and provide continuous feedback
    • Request a special “hand-off” liaison from the sponsor’s team or the team that will be utilizing the project’s deliverable(s) to serve as a the main transition coordinator and provide input on transition planning
      • Ideally, this resource should be a member of the project team from inception
  2. Project Closure
    • Facilitate a Project Closure Review meeting with key stakeholders to demonstrate the deliverables against the scope and requirements of the project
    • Facilitate a formal Project Closure Sign-Off ceremony to publicly reinforce the transition from project activities to business operations
    • Communicate where the documentation will be located (physically and/or electronically) for future reference
    • Celebrate and recognize individual and team contributions!
    • Draft and distribute a Project Closure Report with all pertinent tracking information displayed as complete
  3. Project Warranty Period
    • Document the rules of engagement for making a warranty (support) claim
    • Make key project resources available for follow-up, Q&A and training as needed per the warranty agreement
    • Hold at least one post-project follow-up meeting with the key stakeholder team to gather comments, suggestions, resolution of punchlist items, etc.

Project Managers who excel at formally wrapping up a project will leave behind satisfied sponsors, confident stakeholders and resources who can look back and be proud to have been a part of the team and have a sense of closure for the effort.  Get this right, and you’ll be a Project Manager that is sought after, appreciated and considered a key member of the organization’s strategic execution team.