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"welcome to my personal blog," Ammar W Mango

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    Organizational Project Management Consultant, using profession as a platform for learning beyond just work. My passion is learning more about self, people, universe, and God.
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Posts Tagged ‘Ammar W Mango’

Project Management with Ten Elephants in the room

Posted by Ammar Mango on August 18, 2014

download“So should we start with a meeting to review project charter, or shall we wait until the scope statement is more clearly defined?” asks the Project Manager in a typical give and take that takes place at the beginning of a project.  Realty is that, most probably, it does not matter.  Or at least it does not matter as much as other so important issues that need to be addressed, but are ignored.  These are the elephants in the room that get ignored at the beginning of every project.  These issues are so big and obvious, but maybe because of their sheer size, project managers, clients, and suppliers,  prefer to ignore them as if they do not exist.  Guess what: They do exist and they are the biggest challenges facing the project, and lead often to project failure.

The elephants in the room are all man-made.  They are all about people.  This is another reason why they get ignored.  Most of them are caused by project influencers that no one wants to alienate.  This results in sacrificing project value to address other factors like “looking good,”
preserving status, gaining favors, or being comfortable in complacency.  Here are the top ten elephants that are places in the room on new projects, and get ignored by project stakeholders:

Elephant #10-Pick a big name: A project supplier is chosen because they have a good name, regardless of whether another supplier has more relevant experience.

Elephant #9- Cutting Corners: Trying to avoid risk, by taking shortcuts and downplaying key parts of the work, just to finish work on time and get payments

Elephant #8- Bureaucracy First: Worrying about deliverables and documentation, instead of results and value.

Elephant #7- Dangerous Leverage:  Assigning juniors the work of seniors to save on project cost, then use politics and sales savvy to get acceptance

Elephant #6- Fancy software and shiny hardware: More attention is given to purchasing brand name software and hardware instead of focusing on improving performance, change management, and learning.

Elephant #5- To Accept or Reject is merely a question:  Trying to control project when no one internally has the ability to review completed work.  Sometimes external consultants are hired to review the work but they also do not have as deep knowledge as the supplier, and they end up limiting the supplier’s ability to deliver value, instead of assuring quality.

Elephant #4- Spending the Budget: Clients who are not sure what they want but have a budget that they must spend, and need to show quick wins for spending the budget.  This results on tactical improvements being worked on instead of strategic improvements.

Elephant #3- The Hat does not fit: Roles and responsibilities on the project are distributed politically instead of technically.

Elephant #2- “Whatever”: Lack of interest in the project, especially when undertaken due to an external mandate.

Elephant #1- The Political Game: Project is lost in internal struggles where its value is judged based on who sponsored the project, not the actual value it delivers.




Posted in The PMO, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The PMO and the business model: A continuous interactive loop

Posted by Ammar Mango on June 19, 2014

PMOs are responsible to execute strategy.  But what if the business model is flawed? Most organizations are not ready to deal with this risk.  They always assume the business model is fine, when in many cases it is not.  So what is the role of the PMO in validating the business model assumptions? And how can an organization ensure they are functioning based on value-adding business model that works.  

Strategies are put based on where the organizations want to be in the future and what they want to offer.  However, some strategies prove not feasible, even if executed perfectly.  To demonstrate here are a couple of high level quick examples:

– Company A had a business model that would work perfectly well today, but they had one problem: they implemented the model 20 years ago.  So what they offered 20 years ago would have been perfect today, but not when they offered it back then.  They went bankrupt.  Do not get me wrong; they had a perfect PMO setup.  Their PMO sat on board meetings, ensured projects are proposed evaluated, and selected in alignment with strategy.  Then the PMO ensured the projects were successfully executed.  Unfortunately the whole model was flawed.  It took a marketing executive to come in and give them the bad news.  And by the time they got it, it was too late.

– Company B developed an ingenious software application in the 1980’s.  It was perfect for the mid 90s market.  He was ahead of the market.  

– Some are late for the market.  Company C came in with a different twist on the services it wants to offer.  It looked good on paper, but the customer did not feel their product wad different enough to leave their existing suppliers and work with them.  

All these are examples of flaws in the business model.  Usually, it takes a special kind of expertise to catch such flaws.  It usually is a mix of experience, understanding of the market, and partly luck.  Most of the time, such expertise and capability is not in the PMO.  So, how can a PMO help in ensuring the company has the right business model?  Another pressing issue is how do we ensure our model will work?  The problem is that you cannot be 100% sure.

I have rarely seen a PMO capable of contributing effectively on this issue.  I think the main problem is that most PMOs see themselves as executors, not strategists.  Even when hiring PMOs most companies do not look for a strategist.  They want a doer.  At one point the market will start realizing that we need a doer yes, but we cannot do much without a good business model.

There is good news and bad news in this.  The good news is that in a dynamic environment, a business model can be flawed and then refined.   The important thing is to setup the organization where continuous short loops of feedback are available so we do not invest too much too soon in a wrong business model.  So, organizations need to setup in a way that ensures the business model is always challenged and refined, then reflected in execution. This requires high level of maturity and willingness to change on the part of the executives first as well as the whole organization.  

Even if a company had a good business model for a while, things do change fast in today’s environments.  So, we need a continuous challenge of the way we do business and for that challenge to be encouraged across the organization.  

Setting up such an environment requires executives who have enough confidence and conviction in the importance of change, to allow such changes to take place.  


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Can You Stop Thinking about that Project?

Posted by Ammar Mango on June 7, 2014

The controller project manager needs everything in order.  And since nothing is in order almost ever, the project manager’s mind is always working to find ways to put things in order.  The result is a mind that is always trying to change things, never happy with things as they are.  This mind is a tired mind.  Stressed.  Unable to take a break.

If this describes you sometimes, then that is OK.  This is part of urban life as designed for us modern urban-ites (is there such a word?) But when this becomes “you” most of the time, then it might be time for some changes.

The human mind needs to rest the same way the body needs to rest.  Sometimes people neglect this fact, as the toils of the brains are not accompanied by sweat and physical movement.  So we do not feel the need to rest.  However, a preoccupied brain causes tensed muscles, irregular breathing, and the feeling of being flat out beat.  This is more stressful than physical work.  So how do we put our minds to rest?

Ahhh, the million dollar question.  I personally have not figured out a cure-for-all on this issue, but if you have, please do share.  Luckily there are a few things that can be done, so if one does not work the other might, and each person is different so do not dispair.  Here are a few proven methods that worked for some.  Which one is for you? it is up to you to try:

Some swear by prayer.  Personally, I believe nothing can be as calming as asking God for help in complete surrender.  Now, if you have tried this and did not work immediately, remember that the problem might be in your approach not the prayer itself.  Prayer works.  However, sometimes we are too hasty, or do the physical moves, but the brain refuses to succumb.  Then prayer might not be as effective.  However practice makes perfect.  One thing I learned form a colleague is to speak to God in my own language.  Tell him what is bothering me, and asking him for guidance.  Try that after formal prayer see if that works for you.

For some, intense cardio exercise gets their mind off work.  When the body tires, it requires full attention from the brain.  A friend of mine runs, not jogs.  When he is “tired” from work, he runs as soon as he gets home.  Before anything.  It helps him remove the clutter from the mind.  Another friend took more extreme measures.  He loves boxing.  He says “nothing will keep your mind focused and clear like someone trying to punch you square in the face.”  He also loves his punching bag.  Before starting, he remembers the most annoying thing on his mind that day, then punches away until he can go on no more.

Then there are the yoga types.  Some say that 20 minutes a day of yoga can help you reorder the “top shelves” (i.e. the brain) and feel in sync with surroundings, no matter how stressful the day is.  Some practice “moving” yoga in the form of Tai Chi.  Some practice yoga by watching their breath.  There are numerous ways of doing this and any might do the trick.  Try breathing deeply and slowly, allowing more time to exhale than inhale.  after doing this for a couple of minutes, try to pause for a few seconds after the exhale.  How did that feel.  Some swear by it.  You judge what is right for you.

Another thing to consider, is that you might have a personality that is prone to over thinking.  This is very common in today’s day and age.  Some (OK many) have obsessive compulsive tendencies, so they repeat the same thought over and over again in their mind, ruthlessly over heating their systems, so to speak.  Someone once described it as “a car being stuck in first gear.” To get out of that gear, you need to be consciously aware of the problem you have to agree with self to move on to another subject, or get off thinking altogether.  Obsessive compulsive behavior can be mild but also can be a mental illness that requires medication to control.

Not only obsessive compulsives overthink, but also regular personalities that are more on the “sensitive” side, like empaths.  Empaths will scrutinize their behavior in fear of being wrong, or in having to defend themselves from verbal abuse.  Some people do not care how they come across to others, or what others say to them or about them.  These are rare.  Most do care.  However, some care too much, and as a result overthink ways to protect themselves from these “attacks” by others.  Empaths need to be aware of their tendencies to be sensitive, and accordingly deal with their, sometimes overwhelming, emotions.  Deal does not mean suppress, or reject, or demean.  To the contrary; it means accepting and respecting self for what it feels and how it feels.   Then letting go.

It is amazing how we evolve and “grow” as human beings, and with that comes changes in our personalities and the ways we deal with work related stress. We need to be in tune with these changes and be accepting of ourselves and emotions.  To some, this might be the hardest thing to do, and the biggest hurdle on their road to cope with stress at work.

In the end, please remember that most projects fail, most stakeholders are dissatisfied, and when projects succeed, you might be the last to be recognized.  So, where does that leave us? Have a good day!

Posted in Uncategorized, Understanding SELF | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Operations and Projects; back together again…

Posted by Ammar Mango on February 9, 2014

…And that is OK.

Many project management practitioners always complained in the past of the lack of distinction between project work and operations work of an organization.  A case in point is the hand over phase agony of turning the completed deliverables to its owners to become the responsibility of operations team, vs project team.  This was a big problem and caused many project failures, and it still would be a problem if it is still handled the same way today.  Luckily, we are seeing organizations avoiding this pitfall, and becoming more mature in their ability to organize project work into projects, and to recognize when other work has to be left for operations.  However, this is not the end of the story.

Today, the line between operations and projects is becoming blurry again, but in other, more positive ways.  For example, the PMO is becoming more interfaced with other operational departments of the organization, like finance, HR, procurement, etc.  Also, the PMO, even though it is handling projects, it is being recognized more and more as the operational function that it is.  While some PMO’s are temporary, serving a project or a program, most organizational PMOs are permanent, serving the organization on an ongoing basis. So, this makes it more an operational function.

With that recognition by the organization, the PMO is becoming more accepted among departmental managers as a function of the organization like other functions.  Of course I am talking about organizations who were able to successfully implement their PMO and sustain it.  Because those who are still struggling are another story altogether, and there are still quite a few out there.

Back to our sustained, value adding PMO.  There is a trend today for PMOs to step outside the “projects management” into two important areas: The first is portfolio management.  While it is theoretically one of the key functions of a PMO, in real practice, most PMOs do not handle most of the defined portfolio management functions.  The second area is operations.  Many PMOs will have to step up and handle procurement, financial, and HR issues, in cooperation with the respective responsible departments.  The standard way that these departments handle these functions are more geared to operations, and in many cases are not sufficient from a projects portfolio perspective.  This is why it will become essential for the PMO to step out of its traditional boundaries into operational areas.

For this to happen, more leeway should be given tot he PMO to get involved in operational issues, outside the PMO jurisdiction, and to be empowered to interface with other functions and seek solutions to common cross functional issues.  Moreover, the PMO can play a leading role in such improvement initiatives as it has a unique cross functional perspective of the organization and its “value chain” if you will, that other functions might not have.

Also, the character and capabilities of the PMO head will play a big role in the realization of benefits from such PMO involvement.  The PMO manager  needs to be a veteran with the conviction and capabilities to make such interfaces a reality, rally the organization towards improvements, and sustain these improvements.

This is a tough quest for the PMO and might prove more challenging than it seems.  The executives see the PMO as primarily tasked with handling the project portfolio (usually billable work) and keep that as focus, over any internal improvement initiative.  So, the PMO manager  must strike a balance and address change in perception and behavior required to sync operations and projects in the overall corporate scheme.

Posted in The PMO, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Get your Project Dynamics in order

Posted by Ammar Mango on December 28, 2013

tempballs“Managing projects is about managing the competing demands.” is a statement to be expected in any project management course.  Unfortunately this statement is not completely accurate and can be greatly misleading.

Competing demands are defined as: Time, Cost, Scope, Quality, and Human resources.  They represent most of what we call the “Project Management Knowledge Areas” as defined in the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK).  The PMBOK is the defacto standard for project management published by the Project Management Institute (PMI).

Managing projects is no longer about Time, Scope, and Budget.  Neither is it about the competing demands or any of the PMBOK knowledge areas.  It is more about using these tools to create and preserve the right “Project Dynamics” to ensure a successful project.

“Project Dynamics” is a term that you will not find in theory books, and used here for the lack of any other term.  Project Dynamics is a group of forces affecting a project.  So, they vary from one project to the other.  While most projects share similar project dynamics, their effect, importance, and extent vary widely by project.  Project Dynamics in sync result in project success.

Project Dynamics are: Sought value, history, driving forces, circumstances, and emotions.  All of them are perceived through human eye.  So, human perception is the key for project success.  It is through perception that we judge success after all.  This perception is affected greatly by these dynamics, and more importantly their interactions.

Let us look at some of these dynamics and what they mean:

Sought Value is the answer to the question: “Why are we doing this project?” Remember that the true answer to this question will vary from one stakeholder to the other.  So we need to know and understand the answer from all the key stakedholers.  We need to also know that the first answer we get from the stakeholders is the wrong one.  For example: “We want to upgrade our financial system.” This is not a real value of the project.  The real value is the answer to the question “Why do we want to upgrade?”

Driving Forces is another of the project dynamics.  Driving Forces are the fuel that make the project move, so to speak.  This includes people who want this project to happen, it includes a strategic theme, any legal requirements, cash, resources, technology.  It includes anything that is pushing (like resources and cash) or pulling (like strategic goals) the project forward)

Circumstances include the company, culture, market situation, and the surrounding effects that can hinder or support the project along its way.  For example, I know a friend who created a great business solution about three years before the market demanded it.  His company went bankrupt.  Not because what he sold was not value, but because it was not there at the right time.  In this case it was there too early.

Another important Project Dynamic is Emotions.  Emotions are a big driving force for us humans, and since projects are about people, you can be assured that the emotions of the stakeholders involved in the project play a big part in meeting its objectives.  A team that lost its morale, or does not have faith will fail even the best ideas.  Also, if the project does not arise an emotion in stakeholders, it will be hard to push them to pay for it, or spend time on it, or support it.

There are other project dynamics but I tried to mention here some of the common ones.

Now, let us see how project dynamics, not competing demands (time, scope, budget, etc) affect project success:

So, to say Cost is a key determinant of project success would be a bit unrealistic.  In reality, it is the perception that the value received is well worth the cost paid, and that the perception that the cost paid was justified.  So, even if project cost goes over budget, stakeholders will deem the project successful if the value is well worth the cost paid, and if stakeholders believe that the overrun in cost was justified.  It is Project Dynamics that deemed the project successful.

Same thing applies to scope.  So what if you do not perform the scope defined in the original plan? The plan keeps getting modified anyways.  And we know that after starting the project, we might find that what we really need is totally different than what we originally scoped.  Again, Project Dynamics determine how the story of the project will go; is it a success or a failure.   In this case, if stakeholders see they are getting more of the value they seek from the new scope, and that the change in scope is justified, and the Driving Forces (another dynamic) behind the project (like capital, sponsorship, strategic direction, etc) allow such change, then the project can and probably will succeed.

Most practitioners with a a healthy dose of real project management have already figured this much out, that the project dynamics, and understanding how they interact, trumps the old and generic “time- cost- scope” triangle of competing demands, any day and any time, as determinants of project success.

So what is the role of Project Management processes in this complex project environment? The Project Management Processes are a tool to help us manage these project dynamics.  They are not a goal in themselves.  So, creating a project schedule is not a goal of the project.  It might be a requirement from the PMO, but only because experience shows that having a  schedule baseline improve our chances of finishing on time.  Not because we must have a schedule as an output of the project.  We need to have a schedule, to help us succeed in our project.

Consider the project management processes as tools in the warrior’s (Project Manager’s) armor.  Which tool to use, when and in what combination can only be effective after understanding the dynamics of the project, and accordingly manage.

Many companies are building their own Project Management Methodologies based on international standards.  These companies should understand the project dynamics around their projects and organization, and accordingly build their methodology around these dynamics, not around generic processes.  This is a true measure of organizational project management maturity, more than any generic processes or methodologies.

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How do I prepare a fifteen minute presentation of a project business case?

Posted by Ammar Mango on November 25, 2013

This is a good question I got and thought to share the answer with everyone, as I get asked this question often.

The most important thing is to start with “drawing a big picture:” so, before you start working on content so diligently, stop and ask your self the following questions.  Take your time answering them and do not rush them so to get to the “important stuff” which is preparing the presentation.  This IS the most important thing in a presentation, not the content.  So here are the questions:

1. What is the context? 

– What is the purpose of the presentation?

– Who is attending?  their background, ages,interests, influence?

– What are your goals from the presentation?

– What are the goals of those attending?

– What does an “excellent presentation” look like?

– What is the ideal outcome your and your audience and stakeholders want from the presentation?

– Are you presenting alone, or is your presentation part of a bigger longer presentation?  what you say it will be different based on this.

2. find a theme for your presentation.  To do that here are some tips:

– What is it you want to tell these people?

– What do you want them to do?

– Can you state the above in a simple few words sentence?  can you present it early, and reiterate it so it sticks?

– how hard is it to convince? are you driving a tough bargain?  or is it an “easy sell”?

– What are the main objections and questions your audience will have to prevent them from “buying” your proposal?  do you have convincing answers for them (if you are not convinced chances are they will not be convinced)?

3. Time to develop an outline

– Go now to Powerpoint

– Start creating an outline (table of content) for your presentation.  do not be traditional.  focus on what they want to hear, do not put “filler” information, like formalities, useless info, etc.  When  you put the outline, consider that each slide answers an important question, concern, or interest for you audience to accept your proposal.  otherwise, it is a waste of time.

– A good generic outline for a business case, brief one, is:

  • Title,
  • Introduce yourself (if you are good, you can do this in a creative way that relates to your project and get people attention),
  • Goal from presentation,
  • Agenda (with minutes for each item), here you should tell your audience if you want them to wait until you finish or to ask you as you go.  it depends on how good they and you are in managing the time.
  • General info about the project, who what where why when (very briefly)
  • Draw a picture of what life will be like when the project will be completed (value from the project)
  • Why it is the best alternative (you can either focus on your project, or on subliminally and tactfully show how other alternatives do not work as well.)
  • Challenges expected (HERE BE CAREFUL, you can use this to show them thatyou know their concerns and that they will be addressed properly).  Be brief unless it is a tough sell and they are really concerned.
  • Reiterate value briefly but convincingly
  • Tell them how they can continue the discussion or get more info
  • Ask them for action.  This can be titled NEXT STEPS, WHAT IS NEEDED, etc.
  • Q and A

4.  Now get the “beef” for your presentation.  the less words the better, the more graphs and pictures the better


– Do not apologize for  anything while presenting.  you look weak.  never apologize for not being prepared, for not having info, nothing what soever

– Be confident. breathe and smile.  it helps

– Do not read the slides.  put a word on the slide or a picture that is inviting, then talk about it

That s it .  Good luck

Posted in The PMO | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Because the contract is not enough

Posted by Ammar Mango on November 10, 2013

I always get asked this question from trainees in my project management courses: “Why do we need a project charter or a project plan if we have a contract?”

There are many, not one reason.

First, the Need for Clarity. Contracts are made as legal binding documents for legal purposes.  The project charter and plan are not developed for legal purposes, but to ensure delivery.  While the two parties of the contract are set in the contract as adversaries (almost), the plan is more of a collaboration between both parties to get the work completed successfully, as a team, not adversaries.

Second, the contract might not have the necessary details to clarify the scope and other plan elements.  It is an agreement between two business parties to get the project completed, but the technical people and the project manager who lead this effort need now to meet to get the work relationship defined from a work perspective, not just business perspective.  While I am a big proponent of project managers and team being business savvy, but business savvy alone does not get the job done.

Third, the plan in the contract usually has key elements of the plan at a high level but not a workable plan.  To organize work , the project needs a workable plan that everyone can follow.  Organization and structure is needed to get the job done and what is in the contract of the plan is not enough to do that.

Fourth, the client needs to be involved in this plan and not just be a referee or a judge.  Unfortunately, many clients assume that they have now a constitution (the contract) and it is time to lay judgment on the supplier based on the constitution, so to speak.  In reality the worst thing the client can do to lose value from the work is become a judge.  A client is a partner, who treats a supplier as a partner, to ensure mutual benefit and win-win relationship.  A client is usually afraid that being a partner will make him vulnerable if the supplier does not perform.  With this kind of attitude, the project cannot be heading towards creating value, even if it formally gets completed.

That’s it for now.  What do you think?

Posted in The PMO | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

A Narcissist Manager’s Guide to the Workplace

Posted by Ammar Mango on October 6, 2013

A Narcissist Manager is someone who believes in nothing but self promotion.  Work comes close second, and people are the lowest on the priority list.  People are almost machines, or better work like machines, as emotions, personal preferences, ambitions, and all such “mushy” stuff are a waste of time, according to the narcissist Manager: “Get the job done, or else.”

The narcissist manager mentality is on the rise.  Yes, it is sad indeed.  However, one can easily be amused by the way of thinking of these managers, as it is amazingly simplified into its core beliefs: No one to be trusted, everyone is selfish, people should be intimidated into work, and yes the most important of all: your employees must fear you so they work properly.

I have met a few of these managers throughout my career.   They are so similar to an astonishing point.   If I was to put their behavior in a user manual, this is what it would look like.  Please note that I do NOT condone this behavior and I definitely discourage it and do not appreciate it.  However, just for fun and also learning what NOT to do, here is the quick guide:

1. Fire anyone you do not like, as soon as they cannot hurt you.  If they cannot be replaced, be nice to them until you can ditch them.

2. How to deal with those who say no, disagree with you, or hint at mistakes you made or are making? Preferably fire them.  If you cannot, then scare them and intimidate them into submission, if you cannot, or they are too strong, be nice to them, make them think you like them, then when the moment is right, make your move and fire them.

3. Sick people, or those you expect to be sick for a while: You guessed it; Fire them, but cover yourself legally, so you do not get sued.  Make up some accusations about their incompetence, mistakes, or anything else so no one knows the real reason you fired them.

4. Family members, friends, friends of friends, or people you need to kiss up to: Hire them.  You cannot have enough of these people.  Actually hire those who talk like you, dress like you, or say they like you.  Why not even hire those who look like you.  That is even better.  Nothing better than seeing good looking people to make one feel good about self.

5. Gossip, lying, manipulating, backstabbing, and hypocrisy, are the tools of the trade, when it comes to business. Encourage them among employees (as long as they are not directed at you) and learn to use them wisely.

6. Truth, honesty, loyalty, friendship, are all words used to manipulate others to believe you and do as you wish.  All are safe tools to use as long as you never really believe or “fall” for them.

7.  Never admit a mistake.  Blame it on someone else, or pretend it was not a mistake to start with.

8. Put down others’ work, then at the right moment put it in a different format and claim it is yours.

9.  When in a team, do the least work, and most of the talking.  Feel free to claim team victory as yours.  It is yours after all: you are the inspired boss.

10.  Attack competitors, peers, and everyone else in your business network, but in a subtle way.  This will keep you shining and above everybody else.

11. When everything fails, blame someone, the weather, the whole team, government, economic conditions, but never assume you had anything to do with it.

12. Emotions, empathy, and feeling for others are for the weak.  This is why you win, and you are superior, because you do not let such foolishness get in your way.

13. If you end up alone and hated, it is only because you are so successful, and beautiful too.  This has got to raise the level of envy of others.  So, consider it a compliment that you have no friends.

14. Some people in your organization stay for a very long time.  These are the keepers.  They figured out how to work with you.  They never leave, they have no ambition, they are willing to keep doing what they are doing for you.  These are the kind of people you need around you.  Welcome hem, keep them, and reward them.

15.  Some people, troublemakers, want to do things differently, have their own ideas, and other blasphemous behavior.  These leave your organization quickly, either fired or run away.  The sooner the better.  Good riddance.

Posted in Understanding OTHERS | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Organize Projects into Programs and Reap the Rewards of Change

Posted by Ammar Mango on September 5, 2013

The area of Program Management is still widely misunderstood.  Ironically, it is as old if not older than Project Management.  When the 1950’s pioneers started building Project Management models like the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), Critical Path Methods (CPM), and Program Evaluation and Review Technique, a program was almost always in mind before the project.

A program aims at achieving a benefit.  So, when a governmental agency undertakes a project to encourage a paperless environment, even if the project is completed successfully, it does not mean that it was able to bring the institution closer to paperless environment.  A project is always about specific deliverables, and by definition is completed when its required deliverables are complete.  So, who will ensure that these deliverables are used, and that they fulfilled the business need for which it was undertaken?  The project is complete, and the Project Manager is on another project.  So who is doing this?

To solve the above problem, some companies are requesting a “support” period during which suppliers are operating the deliverables (whether software, processes, or resources) and ensuring they are bringing in benefits.  This will help, but it is not enough.  Sometimes one project is not enough to achieve benefits.  You need more projects that together will help achieve the goal.  Who will manage and take care of this link?

Another reason to consider a program is that an organization by design is operational, and wants to go back to its day-to-day activities.  This is why many projects fail to change the organization.  They do not take into account getting the organization out of its norms and stability, into embracing the change.  So, when an organizational unit, or executive believes that we need to go paperless, for example, they immediately think of a project to achieve that.  Change usually requires multiple related projects and someone to be accountable to for achieving the benefit, not just delivering a project.  This is why even “successful” projects fail to prove value on the ground.

The answer to this is for executives and organizations to start considering programs and Program Managers to lead the benefit realization, and to spearhead such programs.

I think soon,  the market will be asking for these, and the Program Manager skill will be hot in the market, and many project managers will feel the pressure of having to go beyond their ability to deliver to build a capacity to think strategically and deliver benefits just like a Program Manager would.  These Program Managers will be a potent hybrid of an Executive and a Project Manager, in one person.  I believe this is the Era of the Program Manager.  It should be exciting.



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The Project Stakeholders; The role vs The Person

Posted by Ammar Mango on August 30, 2013


Some prefer to look “objectively” at projects that they focus on the roles people play rather than the persons behind the role.  The rationale is that by focusing on the role, they stay objective and do not let personal matters play a role in their judgment or interactions.  While on the surface this looks great, based on what we were taught about not to take business personally.  In reality, there are aspects of business that require a “look” at the personal aspect of the people we are dealing with, and for others to also see us personally.  While objectivity is needed and role accountability is key, it is naive and harmful to blind ourselves from the persons we are working with, as persons.

There is confusion out there between how “not to take things personally,” versus understanding and employing the personal elements to improve chances of project success.  In reality, both are needed and both can be applied on a project, and neither is in conflict with the other.

Being objective means that I have to hold people accountable for their roles, regardless of personal preferences or prejudice.  If a friend on my project team messes up, he is as accountable and a non friend or someone I might personally not like.  This is always true and holds as a rule, and as an example of how not to take things personally.   Another example is when dealing with project problems and taking responsibility for our “role” in the conflict or in the problems or mistakes occurring in the project.

Addressing personal aspects come into play still, without having to compromise on the objectivity factor.  For example, for the under performer in the above example, his personal preferences and our personal understandings might be a motivation for him or her to get over the challenges.  For example, his communication preference, his attitude, his likes and dislikes, his background, his culture, all these factors create the person, and I can use all or any of these to get what is needed from this person, whether better performance or just better understanding or empathy.  I remember once I worked with a perfectionist architect who used to accept or reject project work on the most minuscule ( and some might say ridiculous) things.  I remember during walk-throughs on construction projects, he used to look at the natural wood grain in closet doors, to ensure that both sides of closet doors have patterns that, when the doors are closed, the seem in between does not show.  I mean talk about anal.  However, Respecting, instead of fighting this difficult personal attitude resulted in a mutual respect relationship between the architect and the project manager, that helped the architect see how the project manager is trying hard to accommodate the sometimes difficult requests of the architect, and be tolerant when the requests cannot be met, or when the project manager objects to the tough requirements.  this is personal relationships working for mutual benefit and project success.  this did not negate objectivity, it supplemented it with the reality of, let’s face it, we are after all humans.

As far as the picture, it is just a play on words.  Just for fun “Steak” Holders 🙂 me and my sense of humour

Posted in Uncategorized, Understanding OTHERS | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

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