Great Online Learning Opportunity from Udemy and Think For A Change, LLC

College Homework

The folks at Udemy, one of the largest online learning marketplaces in the world and a significant provider of project management professional development courses, have graciously offered fifty lucky visitors of Think For A Change with the opportunity to try one of their PM courses free of charge!  The course is titled “The Common Sense Approach to Learning PMP Project Management,” and includes 7 hours of content spread over 83 lectures!  This course is normally valued at $47, so this is indeed a generous offer from our friends at Udemy!

The course, developed by Marcos Garcia, PMP for Udemy, is a very comprehensive overview of the 5th Edition of the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) published by the Project Management Institute (PMI®), and would be extremely beneficial to anyone pursuing their PMP® certification.  Even if you’re not a certification candidate, the course is a great introduction to the core of project management discipline and would be a fantastic opportunity to forward onto project stakeholders or sponsors who might benefit from better understanding the fundamentals of project management.

This offering from Udemy is limited to the first fifty (50) people who use this link:

The Common Sense Approach to Learning PMP Project Management

When you land on the course site, click the ‘Redeem a Coupon’ link as shown here:

And enter the redemption code: thinkforachange

Again, this opportunity is only available to the first fifty (50) people who register on Udemy and use the coupon code.

As a disclaimer, Think For A Change, LLC is not directly affiliated with Udemy and does not receive any compensation as part of this offer. We are exploring ways to use Udemy to develop our own set of instructional materials and are vocal champions of project management professional development, so we appreciate Udemy offering this great learning opportunity to our readers and visitors!

“Practice Makes Perfect!” – Project Management Simulations

practice image

Practice, practice, practice…that’s the key to success!”  How many times have you heard that phrase?  I know a lot of people who think nothing of putting in hour after hour of practice to get better at their personal passions such as golf, horseback riding or tennis.  But when I ask them if they apply the same drive for improvement into their professional life via the concept of “practice,” they look dumbfounded!  Look, if you want to get better any anything, personally or professionally, you have to gain experience. Real improvement requires you to face a wide variety of scenarios and learn from making various decisions.  What better way to fast-track the acquisition of that experience than practice?  And for project management professionals specifically, “practice” typically involves a concept known as simulation.

Simulations involve putting people into a realistic, simulated environment that allows them to experience complex situations or best practices, while creating deeper understanding of available choices, analyzing potential risks and/or benefits, and learning from expected results versus (un)intended consequences. Simulation-based learning has shown to be the most effective, long-term method for learning any new skill.  Supporting this theory, the National Training Laboratory (NTL) Institute for Applied Behavioral Science published a study of their findings regarding learning retention rates. They found that students retain on average:


National Training Laboratories Institute for Applied Behavioral Sciences, “The Learning Triangle: Retention Rates from Different Ways of Learning,” Bethel, Maine, 2005.

The purpose of simulation-based learning for the project management professional is to impart to learners the necessary competencies (i.e. knowledge, skills, and attitudes) needed to improve their project management performance and delivery results.  It challenges participants with the types of situations and problems that arise in real world projects.  One of the primary advantages of this approach is that the simulation provides a safe environment for learners to confront typical project problems, select a solution, make mistakes and analyze results.  Additionally, they gain insight (in real time) into the longer-term consequences of decisions they make. Through the simulation, participants learn how to track the evolution of key project parameters: scope, costs, schedule and quality, as well as human dynamics that project managers must face in leading teams and managing the expectations of stakeholders.  Further learning opportunities exist via simulation for key skills such as:

  • Determining the scope, goal and objectives of a project
  • Estimating costs and the impact of change on budgets
  • Breaking down work, planning tasks and allocating resources
  • Hands-on usage of different project management tools and templates
  • Learning to monitor and control the pace and progress of a project
  • Helping project teams make decisions under stress
  • Reacting professionally and appropriately in typical project management “crisis” situations

However, possibly the largest benefit that simulations bring is that they promote close team collaboration and communication.  Simulations provide significant impact to all organizational teams whether they are project-based, process-based or technical.  They are typically conducted in a group setting via classroom-based scenario “games” which portray projects in various stages and facing specific issues, risks, challenges and/or barriers to successful project delivery.  The simulation allows participants to work together as a project team to practice collaboration, communication and problem solving around the various obstacles presented in the scenario.  Constructive feedback, self-awareness and group discussions then help the team discover how their decisions resulted in certain results, as well as learning about alternative options and approaches they may not have considered.

In some process improvement focused simulations, players are guided through the same situational scenario numerous times, but different approaches or methodologies are deployed in each successive round.  For example, current organizational processes are applied in the first simulation, then industry best practice processes are used and finally, innovative new approaches are tested.  These repetitive scenarios allow the teams to learn the pros and cons of each approach as they relate to common problem sets.  Simulations are essentially “live-fire” feedback sessions where the participants capture lessons learned as the impact and result of each potential decision is made.

“Amateurs practice until they get it right, professionals practice until they can’t get it wrong.” – Percy C. Buck

Beyond project management methodology or process training, the concept of simulation is completely applicable to scenarios generated from actual projects as well.  When projects encounter thorny issues or risks, simulations can be leveraged to test certain risk mitigation options or issue resolution approaches.  Simulations can also be used to provide the project team with better understanding of product usage or business process outcomes.

To help set up these practice sessions, a number of consultancy-based and online project simulations are now available in the marketplace that facilitate the design, execution and data gathering from project management-related simulation exercises.  These offerings range from project management skill building to realistic training environments for emergency scenarios.  Just conduct a web search for ‘project management simulation’ and you’ll receive a number of good options.

As project management practitioners, we all want to improve our skills and bring greater success to our projects.  While the concept of practice is nothing new to the sports world, it is still a relatively rare event in the business world.  The realities of the work day and schedule commitments often prevent taking time out to practice our professional skills.  But if we are to truly improve ourselves, our projects and our organizations, that is precisely what we need to do!  Simulations and other organizational practice-based activities provide just that opportunity.  Make the time for it today!

Upcoming Professional Development Opportunities with Think For A Change!


I wanted to take a quick moment to let my blog readers know about a couple of upcoming professional development opportunities involving Think For A Change, primarily for project management professionals, but also applicable to anyone in innovation management, strategic execution and leadership roles.

First, and one you’ve already heard much about here on the site:

2015 PMI Global Congress North America

Hopefully you are all aware by now that I’ll be presenting on one of my favorite topics, Visual Project Management, on Tuesday, October 13th at 10:45am.  Beyond that, there are 113 other presentations, workshops and panel discussions happening during the three-day Congress.  That’s a lot of PDU opportunities!  But there’s also great networking events, a chance to meet an impressive list of vendors who will be showcasing their products and services geared toward project management professionals, and the chance to simply unwind a bit and enjoy a world-class entertainment destination.  Finally, if that weren’t enough, if you register TODAY (08/04), you will save $300 off of the standard conference rate!

The second professional development opportunity involving Think For A Change is actually related to the first!

Webinar: Sneak Peek into PMI Global Congress 2015 – North America: Strategic Business Management Skills

I’ll be participating in a panel discussion with some great folks who are also presenting at this year’s Congress.  Our panel discussion shares the common theme of Strategic Business Management Skills, which is one of the core tenets of the new PMI Talent Triangle and will be actively promoted during the Congress.

Here are the webinar details:

SEPTEMBER 8, 2015 12:00 PM EDT (UTC-4)

Platform: Adobe Connect
Capacity: 1500
Duration: 60 min
Presenters: Colleen Braun, Cheryl Lee, Ori Schibi, Joanna Newman, Muhammad Abu Baker Ilyas, Mohamed Hassan,Paul Williams


An Inside Look at Strategic Business Management Skills Sessions at PMI® Global Congress 2015-North America

Join us for a panel discussion on Strategic Business Management Skills and get a glimpse into some of the key themes to be presented in this content area at PMI Global Congress 2015 –North America.  Various Congress presenters will discuss the following in this webinar:

  • Visual Project Management:  A new practice concept that integrates visual thinking tools and data visualization methodologies with more traditional project communication, reporting and collaboration practices.
    • Session Code and Title: NA15SBM12: Visual Project Management
    • Presenter: Paul R. Williams, PMP
  • Project Sponsorship: Senior Management’s Role in the Successful Outcome of Projects-How to become a more effective project sponsor and what project managers need to do to help sponsors perform their role more effectively.
    • Session Code and Title: NA15SBM08: Project Sponsorship: Senior Management’s Role in the Successful Outcome of Projects
    • Presenter(s): Presenter: Ori Schibi, MBA, PMP and Cheryl Lee, PMP, PMI-PBA, CBAP
  • Negotiate to Win Across Cultures-How to open negotiations, reach and maintain consensus, as well as handle changes or conflict.
    • Session Code and Title: NA15SBM06: Negotiate to Win Across CulturesPresenter(s): Mohamed Khalifa Hassan, PfMP, PgMP, PMP, PMI-SP, PMI-RMP, PMI-ACP, LIMC and Muhammad A. B. Ilyas, PMP, PgMP, PMI-SP, PMI-RMP, PMI-ACP

Moderator:  Joanna Newman, MBA, MCMI, PMP

If you are interested in attending the pre-conference webinar panel discussion, please REGISTER HERE.  Please note that the panel discussion and registration is hosted by and you may need a PMI, and/or Facebook account to register.


As we get closer to the conference date, I’ll be sharing additional details and opportunities to interact with me, including conference meet-ups, a book signing and even a post-conference webinar in November.  If you are attending this year’s Congress, PLEASE let me know via email so that we can meet, chat and share our networks!

Top Ten Executive Project Sponsorship Success Factors

Top Ten Executive Sponsorship Success Factors

Great New Visual Project Management Resource Now Available!

Good friend, mind mapping expert and owner of the Mind Mapping Software Blog, Chuck Frey has recently created and released a fantastic online learning course called, “Project Management With Mind Mapping Software.”



For those of you who have been following along with our Visual Project Management concept developments, you’ll know that mind mapping is an incredibly useful tool for project management professionals.  In fact, I dedicated an entire chapter of my new book, “Visual Project Management,” to this valuable technique.  As a refresher, mind maps can help project managers with:

  • Providing an ideal framework for documenting Work Breakdown Structure
  • Easily documenting in-scope and out-of-scope items
  • Organizing project resources, roles and responsibilities
  • Organizing project notes in a centralized location
  • Listing key project milestones, deliverables or other goals set by the project stakeholders
  • Serving as an “parking lot” for keeping meeting agenda topics, change requests, scope clarifications and other discussion points for future use or reference

In his new e-course, Chuck goes even deeper into this topic and provides additional benefits that project managers can use in their daily practice.  Any project manager would benefit, both from Chuck’s years of mind mapping experience and his unique view of applying these concepts to project management practice.

The course is quite comprehensive and covers the following concepts:

  • Why existing methods of project management aren’t as effective today
  • The benefits of using mind mapping software for project management
  • Which programs support project management functionality?
  • A glossary of relevant project management terms
  • A simple 9-step process for planning your projects – visually
  • Tips on how to be most effective when managing your projects with a mind map
  • The best resources on mind mapping software and project management, where you can continue to learn on your own

And, as an added bonus, he provides something few others can do, which is to provide truly expert analysis of the most popular software based mind mapping tools on the market today, including a bonus downloadable product comparison chart.

If you’re interested in taking your project management practice to the next level by using Visual Project Management, this e-course would be a great place to start learning more about one of the most popular and valuable visual thinking tools in use today, mind mapping!


DISCLOSURE: Chuck’s course does reference this blog and the book, Visual Project Management, in his course materials.  Chuck and I have known each other for a number of years as thought leaders in the innovation management space.  Even if this wasn’t the case, I’d still recommend this e-course as a very comprehensive and value-add educational resource for those wishing to learn more about this relatively new project management practice concept.

Visual Project Management – The Basics: Charting and Graphing

The bulk of all data visualization takes the form of a simple chart, diagram or graph.  In use across all varieties of business enterprise, a chart is simply is a graphical representation of data, in which “the data is represented by symbols, such as bars in a bar chart, lines in a line chart, or slices in a pie chart”.  Charts ease understanding of data and demonstrate various interrelationships that occur between data sets. Charts are typically read and understood more quickly than simple raw, numerical data since the human brain is generally able to infer meaning from pictures much quicker than from text or numbers alone.

The nomenclature used for a chart is typically interchangeable with the terms ‘diagram’ or ‘graph.’  Regardless, they all refer to a diagrammatical illustration of a set of data.  They are most often created by hand (sketch) or by computer using a charting application like Microsoft Excel®.

Rather than attempting to draw distinctions between a chart, diagram or graph, it is more valuable to understand which types of charts are more useful for presenting a given data set over another.  For example, data that is represented in percentages (fractional share, preference or departmental) is often displayed in a pie chart.  Comparing the sum totals of particular sets of data (number of instances), on the other hand, may be more easily understood when presented in a vertical bar chart. Or, data that represents numbers that change over a period of time (revenue, expenses or staffing) might be best shown as a line chart.

Common Types of General Charts, Diagrams & Graphs:

Bar Chart

Bar Chart: A chart with rectangular bars having lengths proportional to the values that they represent. The bars can be plotted vertically or horizontally. A vertical bar chart is sometimes called a column bar chart.

Line Chart

Line Chart: A type of chart which displays information as a series of data points called ‘markers’ which are connected by straight line segments. Information is most typically presented as a time series with the x-axis moving chronologically from left to right.  Earned value calculations on projects take the visual form of a line chart.

Pie Chart

Pie Chart: A circular statistical graphic, which is divided into sectors to illustrate numerical proportion, or percentage of the whole.  In project management, this is used frequently to display the breakdown of different resource or cost types.

Radar Diagram

Radar Chart: A graphical method of displaying data for two or more variables in the form of a two-dimensional chart of three or more quantitative variables represented on axes starting from the same point.  (also known as a Spider, Web or Star Chart).  Radar charts are popular for showing pre- and post-event changes, such as process improvement measurements.

Bubble Chart

Bubble Chart: A type of chart that displays three dimensions of data.  Bubble charts are frequently used to facilitate the understanding of social, economic, medical, and other scientific relationships. In project management discipline, it is very commonly used as a way to map out project portfolio investment balance and is typically presented to show strategic alignment (x-axis), impact (y-axis) and size of effort (data point size).


Waterfall Diagram

Waterfall Chart:  A type of chart used to depict the cumulative effect of sequentially introduced positive or negative values. Demonstrates how an initial value is affected by a series of intermediate positive or negative value-based events.  For project management applications, waterfall charts are used to show costs versus expected payback.

Shared Attributes of General Charts, Diagrams & Graphs:

Charts share a number of similar features that make it easier to understand what the data represents and serve as a frame of reference for viewer:


  • Bar, line and other similar charts often display data on a field of axes. Horizontal (x) and vertical (y) axis frame the field in which the data is analyzed. On some occasions where the data is presented in 3D format, the depth (z) axis is added.


  • Each axis must have a Scale provides the ratio of the size of a model or other representation to the actual size of the object represented.  Scale is frequently sub-divided by periodic graduation marks to aid the viewer in spatial reference.


  • Each axis will typically also have a label displayed outside or beside it, briefly describing the dimension represented.


  • Within the graph, a grid of lines may appear to aid in the visual alignment of data. Using the appropriate scale, major and minor grid lines can be set, with major grid lines typically being enhanced or emphasized to define the intervals.

Data Points

  • The data of a chart can be represented in any number of formats. For example, data may appear as dots, lines, symbols or shapes. The individual data points can be connected or unconnected, or they can take on any combination of colors and patterns.

Legend or Key

  • When the data appearing in a chart contains multiple variables, the chart may include a legend (also known as a key). A legend contains a list of the variables appearing in the chart and an example of their appearance. This information allows the data from each variable to be identified in the chart.

Common Types of Project Management Charts, Diagrams & Graphs:

Gantt Diagram

Gantt Chart:  A type of bar chart, developed by Henry Gantt in the 1910s, that illustrate a project schedule. Summary task, task level and milestone elements of the work breakdown structure of the project comprise what is typically represented on the Gantt chart.  Gantt charts can also show dependency (i.e., precedence network) relationships between activities and tasks. Gantt charts can also be used to show current schedule status using percent-complete shadings and a vertical marker line to represent the current date.

PERT Diagram

Project Network Diagram (PERT Charting):  A graphical flow chart that depicts the sequence of a project’s detailed task-level elements, including all pertinent dependencies. The project network diagram is drawn from left to right to reflect project chronology.  Modern day project network diagramming is a derivation of a more complex, but similar, past technique known as ‘PERT.’

PERT is the acronym for Program Evaluation and Review Technique, which is a method of analyzing all of the tasks involved in completing a given project, especially the time needed to complete each task, in order to identify the minimum time needed to complete the total project, also known as the ‘critical path.’  Developed primarily to simplify the planning and scheduling of large, complex and interdependent projects, it was developed for the U.S. Navy Special Projects Office in 1957 to support the U.S. Navy’s Polaris nuclear submarine project.

Many more charts, graphs and diagrams, including a number of additional project management specific tools, along with over twenty-five other visual project management communication concepts, are explored in greater detail within “Visual Project Management,” a recently released publication by Paul R. Williams, and now available to interested readers!


Visual Project Management Headed to the 2015 PMI Global Congress North America!

I was just informed that my presentation and white paper proposal submission regarding Visual Project Management was accepted by the selection committee for the 2015 PMI Global Congress 2015-North America!

Visual Project Management is a new practice concept that integrates visual thinking tools and data visualization methodologies with more traditional project communication, reporting and collaboration practices.  Attendees of this session during the Congress will gain an in-depth understanding of why these visual-based techniques work and where they are best applied, including live demonstrations of some of the most popular and effective visual thinking and data visualization tools.


As the world’s largest Project Management conference, with thousands of attendees from over sixty (60) countries, dozens of exhibitors and an impressive list of well-known sponsors, the PMI Global Congress 2015-North America encompasses three days of learning and networking aimed at building technical, leadership, and strategic and business management skills at the largest global gathering of project, program and portfolio management professionals.

This year the Congress will be held at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort in the heart of Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.  I am hoping that many of my blog readers will be able to attend the Congress, and my presentation, so we can meet face-to-face, share some war stories over a cocktail, expand our networks and just enjoy this great event at the world’s coolest venue!

Official details regarding the PMI Global Congress 2015-North America can be found at:

The Global Congress has its own Twitter Account (@PMICongress) and topical hashtag (#PMICongress).  You can also follow my Twitter account (@ThinkForAChange) and my topical hashtag (#VisualPM) for additional announcements and information.

I’ll have much more information to share as the details begin to emerge, especially following the announcement from PMI once the “Area of Focus” educational session schedule has been set.  The keynote speaker list was just announced last week, and judging from the selections, there are going to be some great learning opportunities and thought-provoking take-aways right out of the gate each day!

More to come…stay tuned!

Visual Project Management – Visual Project Displays

Visual displays of project-related data are quite familiar in project management practice.  Whether found in a common area, shared project team space or on a factory floor, these displays share information, encourage collaboration, increase project visibility, communicate status and make data easy to interpret and understand.  Four of the most commonly used visualization approaches for project management include project display walls, project showcases/exhibitions, project flight plans/checklists/status displays, and 3D virtual project environments.

Project Display Walls

For organizations that cannot accommodate or justify the corporate real estate commitment required by a dedicated war room, space can usually be found on a long wall or shared workspace area.  “Project walls” include much of the same data visualization artifacts used in project war rooms.  Many project walls are centralized project status boards with dashboard-like project status metrics posted and available for viewing by anyone in the organization.  Similar walls may be confined to the PMO or individual department that is sponsoring the project work.


Since the team is not co-located in a single room, status reviews and project meetings are typically conducted through what is known as a “wall walk.”  In a wall walk, the project team collectively reviews all new items posted to the wall, as well as any visual summaries of project status or performance metrics in order to determine next steps or actions to be taken in the next work cycle.

Project Showcase or Exhibition

Some projects have such an impact on the organization or society-at-large that they are deserving of special attention or recognition.    To facilitate this recognition, some organizations create an exhibition area to showcase these projects and their artifacts or deliverables.  Rather than being actively used for the day-to-day management of a project effort, the showcase or exhibition is typically used post-project to highlight awards the project may have won, display products and/or services that the project recently delivered, or to convey other information the project team or their sponsors/stakeholders wish to share with the entire organization or the general public.  These displays are usually either static, created as a stand-alone exhibit with a set duration, or event-based, created for a one-time publicity, marketing or celebratory event.


Project Flight Plans and Status Boards

The usage of aeronautical terminology and analogies are common in project management practice.  Perhaps it is because modern-day project management takes its historical roots from the early defense and space programs of the 1940s and 1950s.

Project flight plans are, in essence, a summary of the complete plan for the lifecycle of the project.  They are critical for ensuring that all of the pre-flight (execution) checks have been completed, the required waypoint (milestone or deliverable) plans have been documented, the necessary crew (team) are assembled and ready, and that all of the plans have been reviewed and approved by the control tower (PMO or Executive Team).


The project flight plan approach can also be extended to the concept of checklists.  Checklists are an invaluable time saving tool for project managers.  While typically not graphical in nature, when looking over a checklist, a user of the template can clearly see whether or not a task has been completed via “checked/not checked” visual capability.


Project status boards are simple, at-a-glance visual representations of real-time project status across a number of different projects or across multiple sub-teams/work streams on a single project.  Status boards range from the very simple to the very sophisticated.  Simple boards are often represented on a magnetic white board with project names written in and color-coded magnets utilized to signify status, or via a simple color printed spreadsheet.  Electronic project status boards have been developed in the last few years and are becoming more and more affordable as the technology costs decrease and product maturity increases.  While in use across multiple industry types, much of the development around electronic status boards are found in software development environments.

Panic Status Board

3D Project Environments

The utilization of 3D environments in project management practice is a very recent development and its usage is typically defined by the industry in which the projects are undertaken.  For example, new product development projects that rely on rapid prototyping are eagerly leveraging new developments in 3D printing technology.  Once limited only to concept modelers, artists and design teams, proposed product designs can be transformed from a 2D image on a computer monitor to a 3D physical object that can be “printed” in a matter of hours.  As 3D printers continue to become more and more mainstream (and affordable), usage of the technology for project tasks such as prototyping, modeling, testing and usability will become a reality within even the smallest product development shops.

For organizations that focus more on marketing, customer experience and product placement projects, complete 3D store layouts and virtual shopping aisles are being developed.  Product development and customer experience teams conduct focus group sessions and leverage high-tech eye tracking technology, testing various product placement strategies by soliciting direct feedback and recording the reactions and engagement of the “shopper.”


Finally, with an increasing number of project team members participating virtually from locations all across the globe, the creation of temporary virtual project “war rooms” have also been on the increase.  These electronic communities often include video conferencing technology, virtual white boards, screen sharing, access to a shared document repository, electronic “bulletin boards” for information sharing and other modules designed to allow a widely dispersed project team to communicate and collaborate “virtually.”

Use of visual project displays in project management, along with over twenty-five other visual project management communication concepts, is explored in much greater detail within Visual Project Management, a recently released publication by Paul R. Williams, and now available to interested readers!


As An Executive, How Can I Tell if My PMO is Effective?

"Outstanding" checked on evaluation form, with red pen.

In many organizations around the world, the Project Management Office (PMO) has become an integral strategic business partner for project execution, strategic alignment and business benefit delivery.  And, while the PMO is traditionally charged with the responsibility of devoting much of its attention, time, effort and resources into monitoring the performance of individual projects, not as much time is usually spent on the performance of the PMO itself.  This is a true leadership disconnect, as there is a direct correlation between the health of a PMO and the health of the portfolio of projects that it is responsible for managing.  Failing to pay attention to the effectiveness of the PMO can lead to a lack of executive confidence in the PMO, the risk of enduring painful re-organization or cost reduction exercises, or even shutting the PMO down completely.

Unfortunately, PMOs have had a less than stellar survival rate over the past few decades.  In fact, in 2010, Gartner presented a comprehensive PMO study at the ‘Symposium ITXPO’ which showed that over the previous seven years, nearly 50% of all PMO’s had failed or been otherwise disbanded or dissolved.  They cited the main cause of failure as, “sponsors and/or executive leaders perceived that their PMO did not provide sufficient value to the organization to justify the cost and org structure.”  Read that again…”did not provide sufficient value to the organization.”  

This is precisely why it is very important for PMOs to have a process and/or scorecard to measure their own success and worth to the organization.  During every economic downturn, corporate executives go searching for things to cut.  Anything that shows up on their radar as being inefficient, ineffective, redundant or too costly to justify is immediately a candidate for expulsion.  If the PMO had a process to track meaningful metrics, communicate project successes, demonstrate positive project benefit payback and keep executives informed of the direct strategic business benefit that the PMO brings, it’s chances for survival would be greatly increased.

As the role of the PMO becomes more entrenched within organizations, and as the services they provide become more crucial than ever in supporting the delivery of key strategic business priorities, PMO leaders need to ensure that their structure, processes, people and expectations become more effective, efficient, accountable and demonstrative of their value to the organization.  Executives have every right to expect PMOs to develop and report upon a minimum set of key metrics to track PMO performance and value.

One of the key service offerings we provide at Think For A Change is an external audit on the effectiveness and efficiency of organizational PMOs.  Sometimes our clients are PMO leaders themselves, looking for help on how to capture a baseline of current effectiveness so they can develop an improvement plan.  Other times, our clients are executive team members looking for an independent review of their PMO’s structure, operations and performance.

In either occasion, we leverage our PMO Target Assessment Model:

PMO Target Assessment Model

Each ring on the PMO Target Assessment Model represents one of the four core performance themes we would expect any effective and efficient PMO to deliver as part of the their foundational services.  Within each ring, we measure four specific key metrics associated with the core performance theme.

Starting on the outside ring, we assess the PMO on the most basic of expectations for any PMO, Strategic Alignment.  In this theme, we measure:

  1. Organizational Strategy Awareness & Comprehension
    • Awareness and comprehension of strategy by PMO team members.  Effectiveness of strategic communications both inside and outside of the PMO.  Refresh rate of strategic changes.
  2. Existence of a Strategic Portfolio Alignment Grid
    • Classification of projects and programs across a grid of organizational strategic goals/themes (ie. Risk/Reward, Cost/Benefit, etc.)
  3. Strategic Investment Alignment
    • Classification of projects and programs across a grid of organizational investment and risk categories (ie. Maintenance/Keep the Lights On, Small Projects, Major Projects, Innovation/R&D Projects, etc.) to
  4. Strategic Resource Allocation Alignment
    • Classification of projects and programs across a grid of organizational work types and resource classes (Process Improvement, Maintenance, Departmental, Cross-Functional, Organizational, etc.)

Second, we assess the basic Operational Efficiency of the PMO across the following measures:

  1. Financial Management Performance
    • Review of forecast to actual budget performance for the PMO organization itself, not the projects and programs they manage.  Includes personnel salary/benefits, office expenses, travel expenses, recognition expenses and other business unit financial metrics
  2. Resource Turnover Rate
    • Percentage of PMO resource turnover.  Used to identify causation trending and/or uncover departmental cultural or management issues
  3. Resource Utilization Rate
    • Percentage of PMO resource utilization.  Used to determine how much time that PMO resources are spending on actual project/program management vs. administrative functions
  4. Project Initiation Time
    • Elapsed time spent gathering, documenting and preparing new project proposals from intake to presentation at approval body.  Used to determine basic process efficiency.

Next, the PMO is assessed on its Execution Effectiveness:

  1. Budget Variance Average
    • The average of the Cost Performance Index (Budgeted Cost of Work Performed divided by the Actual Cost of Work Performed) of all active projects
  2. Schedule Variance Average
    • The average of the Schedule Performance Index (Budgeted Cost of Work Performed divided by the Actual Cost of Work Scheduled) of all active projects
  3. Projects Exceeding Control Limits
    • Using Earned Value Management (EVM) methodology, and following the establishment of the upper and lower control limits for variance, the number of projects with EVA scores falling outside of those control limits.
  4. Estimation Accuracy
    • The accuracy rate (%) of project team work effort and budget estimation to actual hours and/or costs

Finally, we assess the core purpose of any effective and efficient PMO, its ability to deliver actual business value via post-project Benefit Capture:

  1. Cost/Benefit Accuracy
    • Measurement of the accuracy of the actual delivery of benefits, return on investment, rate of return and/or payback period as compared to the project initiation cost/benefit analysis forecast or estimation
  2. Average Number of Scope Changes
    • Measurement of the amount and causation of project scope changes to assess whether project benefits/deliverables were “scope changed out” of the project to satisfy cost and/or schedule targets
  3. Customer Satisfaction Scoring
    • A subjective measurement of customer satisfaction scores and/or survey results from the intended key stakeholders, customers and/or consumers of the project’s deliverables and proposed benefits
  4. Strategic Intent Validation
    • Did the project have the intended impact on the strategic intent of the organization?

There are so many more variables that go into determining whether a Project Management Office is effective, efficient, and ultimately, worth the organizational investment in the structure.  Every organization and every PMO will vary in their intent, mission and purpose.  The key assessment metrics included in our PMO Target Assessment Model are designed to provide a snap-shot view of any PMO against current best practices.  Smart PMO leaders track the effectiveness and efficiency of their own practices, design strategies for continuous performance improvement, and regularly present this information to the executive leadership team, all as a means to demonstrate and communicate their contributing value to the organization regardless of the economic environment that may exist inside or outside its walls.


Visual Project Management Isn’t Just Limited to Agile

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Sadly, there is a mistaken belief in many project management print and web media outlets that the concept of visual project management is somehow limited to a common set of data visualization tools utilized by the Agile, Lean and DevOps communities, such as agile/kanban boards or burndown charts.  A simple Google search on the phrase “visual project management” results in page after page of software vendors pushing their own spin on software and cloud-based visual work flow solutions for agile, scrum, kanban or some unique combination of these methodologies.  You’ll also find discussions, documents and links to sites that focus primarily on visual-based task management topics.  In essence, almost everything you see today dealing with visual project management is only about planning and tracking the work.

Unfortunately, this narrow definition tends to limit the view for the project management practitioner of a much larger world of data visualization, visual thinking, visual collaboration and other visual-based concepts that can be very advantageous for project management responsibilities such as leading project teams, promoting team collaboration, communicating effectively and tracking metrics that key stakeholders care most about.  Looking beyond these common representations of visual workflow management, what other data visualization and/or visual tool, technique and/or approach options are available to the project management practitioner?  Here are but a few of the most popular:

  1. 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
  2. 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
      1. Kanban Boards
    5. Agile Concepts
      1. Scrum Boards
      2. Sprint Burn-Down Charts
    6. Infographics
  3. 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

Let’s face it, project management is an extremely “data rich” business process. At any given time, project management professionals are capturing, manipulating, transforming and communicating hundreds of individual data points. These data points include labor estimates, capital and operational expenses, task lists, performance metrics, calendars, cost-benefit analysis worksheets, risk profiles, trending data and a seemingly countless number of project documentation artifacts.

As the speed of business continues to increase, and as focus on an ever growing number of data points is needed to keep business and project execution in control, new and innovative tools and techniques are required to help busy executives make efficient and effective decisions on where to invest money and resources. Visualization of data and complex processes has proven valuable in serving those needs.

In reality, a project manager’s world is already full of data visualizations, designed to transform complex and voluminous data into simple, effective communication tools. Traditional visualizations such as Gantt charts, work breakdown structures, process flow diagrams, project team calendars, project stakeholder organization charts, network diagrams and the like are beneficial in their own way, but they don’t tell a collective story on overall project status and/or performance.

These facts have led to the creation of a new niche within the project management community known as “Visual Project Management.” And it goes way beyond just visualizing work flows.  When it comes to improving project communication and collaboration, as well as visualizing processes, scope concepts and risks, visual project management has emerged as one of the best new methods for leading and managing projects.

The key benefit of this new approach is speed, as critical project information can be produced, replicated and digested in more effective and efficient ways. Taking this new approach also provides additional distinct benefits to project managers, team members and, most importantly, key stakeholders:

  • The status of project planning, execution, monitoring and control activities are available in a single, at-a-glance and easy to understand view
  • Improves clarity, visibility and understanding of the scope and overall operational plan of the project effort
  • Resource allocations, or over-allocations, across the project, or multiple projects, are clearly visible
  • Impacts of changes to the scope, plan, priority or resource allocations are available in real-time
  • Information is delivered in such a way that anyone can consume it at a time, place and manner that is convenient to them

Today’s project manager has more to manage than just project scope, deliverables, communications and teams. They are also expected to manage large volumes of project-related data. And the expectation goes beyond just managing the data. It extends into creating great visualizations that allow stakeholders to fully digest that large volume of data in a manner that is quick, effective and clear. They are also expected to serve as facilitators in the use of visual thinking tools as a method for working through project issues, risks and problems. These new expectations require new skills. The era of multi-page, text-based project status reporting is over. The era of visual project management is here.

We have been recognized as the global leader of comprehensive visual project management concepts, tools and techniques.  If you would like to learn more about our approach to Visual Project Management, we invite you to obtain a copy of our book, Visual Project Management, or simply CONTACT US directly and we’d love to have a conversation, and perhaps even have the opportunity to engage more formally on how to bring effective and efficient visual project management to your organization!