By Jim Benvie, PMI® Houston Chapter VP of Programs
Our Platinum sponsor LitheSpeedwill be sponsoring an Executive Breakfast with PMI® Houston in the fall. (The provisional date is October 26th).
If you are a Program Manager, PMO Manager, or executive who would like to understand how Agile and Lean methods could benefit your company, you should plan to attend. Alternatively, if you feel your manager would benefit from attending please recommend this event to him or her. This event is in line with LitheSpeed’s mission to make people’s work more productive,valued, and fulfilling.
The Key Takeaway: Some people think Agile and Lean methods are fads. LitheSpeedbelieves they’re the key to a cultural shift and a transformative way of getting things done.
Meet Our Leadership!
Esther Lu, PMP
Vice President of Membership
How long have you been working in Project Management and what's your current professional position?
Over the last ten years of my career, I have been in many lead technical role positions with facets of project management. It's only within the last year that I have held the formal title as a project manager focused on software implementations.
How long have you been involved with the Houston PMI Chapter and in what capacities?
I started volunteering for the Chapter two years ago in the summer of 2015 by managing volunteer data records to ensure we could communicate and recognize our volunteers. This was my stepping stone volunteer role that opened my eyes to the world of PMI and its practitioner network.
Describe the most interesting/challenging/exciting project you've ever been involved with.
I struggle to name a single project from my experience as being the most interesting, challenging, or exciting. For many PM practitioners, we can all attest each project has its own unique project DNA sequence. From that perspective it is hard for me to quantify which of my projects has been the most exciting, interesting, or challenging.
Which part(s) of the Chapters Strategic Plan really resonate with you and why?
Stakeholder management resonates the most with me. PMI is a volunteer-driven organization, meaning we have limited resources and time to achieve our targeted services for our membership community. Without proper understanding of our stakeholders (members and volunteers alike) how do we know where to focus our limited resources and time to maximize our service deliverables?
Truly understanding our stakeholders allows the Houston PMI Board of Directors to understand the services that are valued by our membership community. The services we offer should be based on specific indicators and survey poll results to derive the value proposition within our membership community.
If you could change something about the Project Management field, what would it be and why?
I recently had a very interesting conversation with other members from our PM community. They highlighted the perception that it is difficult for many project managers to cross over into other industries as a PM. For example, it is difficult for an oil and gas PM to cross over to a healthcare setting as a PM. Thus, the perception is that PMs are limited to their functional industry field.
They agreed that this is not an accurate perception. The core of what we do in project management is the same across all industries. Of course with enough training in a specific industry, plus our core PM skills, we should be able to adapt ourselves into other industries and apply our core PM skill sets there. The perception that PMs can only be applicable to their functional field is a perception that I want to tackle. As PMs, we are adaptable and can learn a new functional industry and contribute in that arena as a practitioner.
By Keith Willeford, PMI Houston Chapter Volunteer Content Writer
When I think of project management, the first thing that comes to mind is usually “project management plan.” If you are like me, then as a newly-minted PMP your first order of business was to get back to your company and start drafting that perfect project management plan to solve all your organizational woes. After all, the PMBOK Guide essentially equates developing a project management plan with the planning process itself. And, if you are like me, you were quickly frustrated in this quest for the project grail. That is because the “how” of the planning process is left open to interpretation – defined as employing the tools “expert judgment” and “facilitation techniques.” (PMBOK, 72)
Fortunately, we can look to other organizations for ways to approach this problem. The Armed Forces, in particular, constantly carry out operations (large and small) that fit the PMI “project” definition. The military has its own project management plan format. (This is referred to as an “order.” More about orders in a later article.) And, relevant to our current discussion, the Armed Forces have a defined planning process.
The first thing you may also notice is: there are a lot of arrows on this diagram! The underlying philosophy is that planning is an iterative process. This is best spelled out by Marine Corps doctrine itself:The phases roughly follow this sequence. However, it is important to remember that planning is not…a simple sequence of steps. It is a complex process of
interacting activities. The phases often occur in parallel rather than in series… Furthermore, any phase in the process may feed back to a previous one. Finally, this model is not meant to suggest that a single planner or planning group necessarily performs the entire process from beginning to end. It is likely that different echelons may contribute to the same planning process… This complex interaction is one of the reasons that effective planning cannot be reduced to a linear sequence of steps. (MCDP 5, 33)
No wonder I felt frustrated trying to draft the Best Project Management Plan Ever! I was doing it all wrong (i.e. – alone). As a project manager, my primary planning role is to provide higher-level conceptual planning. Detailed planning, however, is best left to those who will conduct the actual work. Thus, the larger your project, the more you will delegate planning to others. On very large projects, the role of the project manager is to facilitate and guide the planning process, not necessarily write every word of the project management plan.
You might also notice that the military planning process includes what we consider the Initiating Process Group, as well as the Planning Process Group. Assessing the Situation and Establishing Goals & Objectives are activities we would see when defining our Statement of Work and Business Case.
Finally, the military planning process revolves around “courses of action.” There are times when the course of action may be obvious; for example, when a particular task has been performed many times and institutional knowledge gained about the most efficient way to proceed. However, taking the time to examine different options before deciding on a project management path forward might hold value for the organization. After all, situations are fluid and circumstances evolve.
Are there stakeholders that you could involve in the planning phase of your next project? Before committing a plan to paper, can you consider multiple ways of attacking the problem?The military planning process is not perfect. Sometimes it can feel
cumbersome or burdensome. At times the path forward may seem obvious, yet military planners are compelled to consider various alternatives and thoroughly vet each one before coming to consensus (although it could be countered that, given the serious nature of the military profession, it is only prudent to consider multiple alternatives before committing resources).
The great thing about the military planning process is that it is collaborative. Even at the lowest level, a lieutenant with 30 or 40 troops will have an enlisted advisor, likely with 10 years of experience, by his or her side during the planning process. (Whether the young lieutenants listens to their sergeant is another story; but, if they don’t they are unlikely to retain command of their platoon for long.) When you get a couple of levels up, for example to a 500 strong battalion, the commanding officer (project manager) is not writing the project management plan (operations order) any longer. The battalion commander has no less than 5 staff officers (and their enlisted advisors) crafting his or her plan, and an executive officer (the right-hand person) to guide the process and crack the whip. The wisdom of this approach is that it frees the manager up for strategic thinking (and the necessary politicking with even higher levels of command).Despite my experiences, I have failed to a certain extent when it comes to project management planning. PMI does not talk much about planning methodology; and, as I framed my brand-new PMP certificate, I presumed I was ready to spit out finished project management plans without any additional help. Obviously, this was false. Thus, my recommendation is twofold: First, find a planning process you like (it doesn’t have to be the one described in this article), and commit to it while planning your next project. Second, involve as many people as you can when making your plan. This could save you work, and you will likely end up with a better plan than you could have written on your own.