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Posts Tagged ‘project success’

Are you Asking the Right Questions?

Posted by Ammar Mango on September 19, 2016

Image result for asking the right questions

Did you know that the most effective risk management takes place before the project is even started?  Here is why and how:

One of the most misunderstood knowledge areas of Project Management is risk.  At the theory level, there is a lot of literature talking about risk.  But mostly theoretical.  According to PMI’s PMBOK Fifth Edition, Project Risk Management: “includes the processes of conducting risk management planning, identification,
analysis, response planning, and controlling risk on a project.”

All true, but so theoretical.  I consider it theoretical because it leaves you with principles but no actions to take, beyond generic, mechanical steps of going through the motions of project management without really getting most of the intended benefits.

After 25 years of experience working on a few high stakes projects, I only wish that businesses focus more on practical risk management before and during project initiation; when risk is highest, and businesses have the best chance to influence risks.

Risk is about uncertainty, and uncertainty is best defined through questions.  Ask questions that encourage discussion of risk.

Do not ask stakeholders: “What could go wrong?”  or “What are the opportunities?”  Then you will get generic answers like: “We might be late” or “We might be over budget,” etc.

Instead, ask questions like: “If this project was a huge success, what would be the reason?” or “if it was a huge failure what would be the reason?” Another area to explore is “how have previous projects succeeded / failed?” Also”In our industry, how have previous companies messed up or did well on such a project?” and continue with the question: ” What can I do to make my project more like the successful ones, and unlike the failures?”  Finally, ask:” How can stakeholders help me in this endeavor of dealing with risk? The owners, clients, department managers, team, PM, etc.”

With such questions you will have much better chances of identifying real risks and dealing with them effectively.

Project Risk Management is where the project succeeds or fails.  Everything else in project management is there to serve risk management.




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1+2=Business Success: An Empirical Business Success Formula – If there ever could be one!

Posted by Ammar Mango on October 16, 2014

Have you been to a crowded restaurant and noticed the place next door completely empty? When I see this, I try to guess what is the difference between the two; why is one seemingly successful but not the other?
I have had my share of successful and not so successful ventures, and as a consultant, I have also consulted to both types. It seems like there is an empirical formula of some sort at play when it comes to which businesses make it and which ones do not. I call it the 1+2=Business Success formula. It goes like this:
There are three key elements to business success. “1” of the elements is not like the other 2 this is why it is called the “1+2” formula.

The element that is different and held separate is God’s guidance. Some call it God’s will. Just to make sure I am clear: Yes, I am calling on a mystical element in a world that insists on materialistic business science. I know this is so against everything we learn in business. But experience shows us that it is true. Look at all business majors out there. They are experts in their fields. With their prestigious MBA’s. You find as many of them as there are non experts on the successful side of business. Also, business experts are not immune to business failure either. So, the first element has to account for this uncertainty, and it has to be placed first and foremost.
If this is out of control then why talk about it? For two reasons: One it teaches us to stay humble; no matter how successful or knowledgeable we think we are, we have to submit to the fact that the first and foremost factor in our success might be out of our control. This is by no means a call for complacency, but more of a sobering reminder to stay humble and anticipating. After all it is more fun that way. The second reason this is a blessing: imagine if there were a couple of people who could not go wrong. Everybody else will have no chance, and everybody in the world will end up working for these business geniuses. I mean would you risk putting your money anywhere else in the stock market? When you can partner with the best? Even worse: imagine what would happen to their ego, and would they even want to partner with others? They will rule the world, indefinitely, and worse yet: no one else would have a chance. Some might say that this is already happening and they will mention a few entrepreneurs who seem to always be successful. However, history shows us these business geniuses are not perfect after all. All it takes is a change in market, politics, people attitudes, or even temperature, and failure can be imminent.

We covered element “1” so far. Let us move to the other “2” elements: “Perceived Value” and “Reach.”

Perceived value is key. Because it is what customers buy. Value from their perspective. You can have the best product in the world, but if they do not see its value to them then they are not interested. Perceived value is usually on the emotional side, not objective side. It has to touch a nerve. A pain area. The ego if you like. There is more that one can find on this subject of value. I really like the Six Sigma perspective on value and customer satisfaction. There is lots of literature on this subject and no place to go through it here.
The third element is “Reach,” which means you need to let your target audience know about your product. So you can have the best product in the world, but if they do not know about it, they cannot buy. I read about a real estate expert who gave his students this question: “ If I were to tell you that I have a buyer who is looking at a house very similar to the one you are selling, in the same neighborhood and budget, would you be interested in showing him or her your property?” any real estate agent in his right mind would say yes. To that he answers “ well, I can assure you that this buyer exists out there, now you need to go find him.”

The formula might seem simple but it is not. It is easy to say you need a product with a Perceived Value. But to design the product and show its Perceived Value is a very difficult matter. Same goes for the Reach element. To know how to Reach your audience is not necessarily straight forward.
the formula serves to remind us of these important elements. If at least to ask the right questions when designing new products, services, or start up companies. However, finding the right answers is up to you, after God’s blessings of course.

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Thirty-ingredient recipe for successful projects

Posted by Ammar Mango on March 20, 2013

Projects require certain ingredients for success.  They do not guarantee success, but the more you have of these ingredients the better are the project success chances.  Here are the top 30 ingredients I see in successful projects.  All of them are important, but the lower the number the higher the importance.  How many of these does your project and its environment have?

30 User Friendly Collaborative Web Based Software
29 Document Management
28 Issues & Risk Management
27 Control, Progress Analysis &Reporting
26 Project Baseline (especially WBS, WBS dictionary, and Schedule)
25 Project Charter
24 Project Management Training (Preferably on Custom Methodology)
23 Project Methodology
22 Team Buy-in
21 Project Management Awareness
20 Communication Planning and Management
19 Big Picture view of project
18 Project Awareness & Marketing
17 Engaged Subject Matter Experts
16 Skilled Project Manager
15 Capable PMO
14 Engaged Client
13 Engaged Project Sponsor
12 Cross Organizational Project Steering Committee
11 Upper Management Support
10 Clear Project Objectives
9 Good business case
8 Positive Attitude
7 Trust
6 Fairness
5 Clarity
4 Honesty
3 Integrity
2 Competence
1 Good Intentions

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How executives can bring project failure upon their projects

Posted by Ammar Mango on October 12, 2012

One of the privileges of being a project management consultant is getting a chance to help on, support, and assess more projects than the average person.  What does not cease to amaze many consultants is how surprised stakeholders are when projects fail, even though failure signs almost hit them in the face.

Project success cannot be guaranteed.  To the contrary: a key characteristic of project work is uncertainty and how elusive success can be.  Nonetheless, in many of the failure projects, failure is not only imminent, but could have been seen coming from a mile away.

Project failure is predictable, and when brought up to stakeholders’ attention many still do not take warnings seriously.  Not because warnings do not make sense, but more because what is being asked to prevent failure is tough for managers.  Just like when a dietitian warns someone to lose weight.  It is not that his warnings do not make sense, but dieting for many people is hard.

It is so ironic that the main reason for project failure is the project stakeholders themselves who are careful not to fail the project: Executives and upper management.  There are so many examples out there of how this happens in so many organizations wordwide.

One of the common ways some executives mess up their projects is when zealous executives do not trust their team members to get the job done.  They do not believe that the team wants success enough or as much as they do, so they get involved in micro details that they have no business getting into.  This frustrates team members and they start getting disengaged from the project and become just hands following directions from the executives on sensitive technical details.  This is a sure recipe for project failure, still so many do it, so many do not notice themselves doing it, and when projects fail, they will still blame it on the team and never see the problem as theirs, and off they go again to ruin the next project.

Another common way is when some executives assume they can just “buy” the talent they need, put them all in a room, and they will “cook” up a successful product and hence project success.  What executives miss is the need for team synergy and level of orchestration required from a skillful project manager to attain value sought from the project. So, they try to manage the team themselves, or ignore managing the team altogether, or bring in a weak project manager.  The result is a bunch of estranged experts who know they are capable of excellence, but still unable to see it collectively achieved by the team.

Some executives speak from both sides of their mouth.  They assure the project manager that they will stop at no cost to ensure project success, especially strategically critical projects.   Yet they do not put their actions and money where their mouths are.  So, they start trying to save money in the wrong places and start cutting into the “lean meat” of the project instead of cutting the fat.  So, they would cut on important preparation and planning to “save” time and money.  Unfortunately by doing so, they are throwing the baby with the bath water, so to speak.

One can go on, but one more example might suffice.  It is in a way funny but sad in so many ways. Some executives assume that instilling fear, pressure, and even panic into the hearts of their teams will result in the team members becoming more careful and putting more effort into getting the job done.  What happens in reality is that people get detached, scared, and prefer to do as little as possible so they do not make mistakes.  Then everyone becomes a political person instead of a technical expert and tries to throw the work and blame on others because they are so scared to be blamed for project failure.  It is like breathing down the neck of a surgeon taking on a heart surgery, threatening him with consequences if the surgery is not successful.

Keys to project success include trust in your team, respect and win-win attitude, a professional project manager, rigorous and iterative planning, clarity, and integrity.  Executives are in best position to assure such an environment.

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