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With a degree in Mathematics and Computer Science, Val began working in the Aerospace and Defense, Telecommunications, and Electronics industries doing Predictive performance modeling, simulation, and animation. Later he would gain experience in Project, Product, Program and Portfolio Management. He leveraged this experience as Director of Global Marketing at Telelogic and while serving as Fellow at Ryma Technologies. He worked as a consultant in Enterprise Work Management for Workfront. He is the father of six kids and has been in Boy Scouting for 20 years. He has been an active evangelist for Integrated PM since 2009.

The Project Charter’s Value Proposition

"If I identify the value proposition for the project, then I provide direction for downstream decisions, but I don’t have any standard way to clearly state it accurately."

The content of some of the boxes change depending on the project, but the placement of the 9 boxes of the Business Model Canvas is the same. I suppose just how you place these boxes isn’t as important as deciding and then sticking to it. A common look between projects helps identify patterns and facilitates comparisons. The critical thing is to address these characteristics about your projects, and provide a quick summary for comparisons.

The first step in the project charter based on the Business Model Canvas is getting to the value proposition. Your project may have other documents like the governance plan, communication plan, and vision scope document; all part of the larger Project Charter. In that case, this might become the summary of the business section of the assembled Project Charter. Depending on your needs this can be stand alone, or a section of a larger document.

Completion of these boxes may be the result of an extensive strategic planning effort, or a 30-minute interview. Get what you can, and then focus efforts on finding the answers you’re not feeling comfortable with.

Within the Value Proposition box, there is the optimal type of proposition to identify and the CORE proposition. Our first step is to decide what type of offering this project will be delivering. Granted, most projects have more than one deliverable. If this is you case, then think of the aggregate of all the deliverables. What is it that you will truly be delivering? Why are the clients coming to you for that deliverable? You want to simplify the answer down to one of three types of value proposition; Unique, Intimacy of familiarity, and cost.

UNIQUE: This is when your project team can deliver a product or service that cannot be acquired anywhere else. An example might be found in an IT organization that provides security credentials that can’t be gotten from anywhere else. You must go to the IT Department for the credentials. Another example could be a sales person’s rolodex full of past clients that can be called on. The company can’t get that unique set of names that can be called on from anywhere else. I’m not convinced of this value, but it is unique. However, typically, the Unique type of proposition yields the premium price. As a project manager and sponsor, you try to create a unique type of deliverable to increase the perceived value of the project.

INTIMATE: This type of proposition states that your project team has intimate experience with creating the desired deliverable. Due to your familiarity of the problem/solution space, your can deliver a product or service better than anyone, or can do it with less errors.

Maybe your intimate understanding will enable you to be more innovative. This type of proposition is a little more flexible than the UNIQUE proposition, and is slightly less competitive. Let’s face it, its hard to prove your better when there are three other teams both internal and external that have an “Intimate” knowledge of the problem/solution space.

Typically, your price point is lower than the UNIQUE type. Understand that price is the total “cost” of ownership. How much pain is the client willing to go through to acquire and own the deliverable. The lower the price you can ask, the better the deliverable must be. The INTIMATE value proposition must be better packaged, better supported, and easier to acquire than the UNIQUE deliverable. Client involvement is normally less, and mostly oversight in nature. After all, you know what they want, even better than they do.

COST: Think ‘Economy of Scale’. You can offer this deliverable faster, cheaper, and at higher quality than your competitors because you do this more often. You do this all the time, and one more just doesn’t impact the cost that much. An example would be a brochure printing. The artwork and design has already been completed. If your already set up, an additional printing just isn’t that much more cost. It’s easy. I call Frank and ask him for 100 more of the brochure. We don’t discuss the layout, the paper size, where to send it- nope its all done. It’s that easy. You just say, “Give me more!”

The ‘Economy of Scale’ deliverable is very desirable, and has the most demand. If using this type of value proposition, you expect to do it a lot, where as the UNIQUE type, you expect to do it less often, and so must charge more, in all aspects of cost.

Now once you have characterized the deliverable, hence the project, as to deliverable type, we want to take a look at the proposition itself. There are five types of valid propositions, you must select one.

MORE VALUE AT LESS COST: This is the easiest proposition to accept, and easiest to prove. You show what new value they will receive, and how this cost less than it did before. I this case, people like to know what has changed. They want to believe you wouldn’t just charge more than you had to. They are looking for a new competency, new technology, or even a reorganization. You need to point to something, and say because of this we can now do that, in order to maintain credibility.

MORE VALUE AT THE SAME COST: This is an easy proposition to accept. It feels like your giving me something for free. Of course, if I value the new free offering, then I will like it. Normally, this can be explained with process efficiencies, so it’s less important to point to the change enabler.

MORE VALUE AT MORE COST: This is a difficult proposition to accept. From the project team’s point of view, it makes the most sense. If you are going to deliver more value, then of course you will need to charge more. Well, you clients don’t see thing this way.

First you will have to prove that there is more value. More value in past offerings may not be so hard, but more value than delivered from a competitor may be difficult to demonstrate, and this proposition becomes expensive fast. Remember, you must justify more cost, and that seldom works out well.

SAME VALUE AT LESS COST: This is an easy proposition to accept. Demonstrate that the change caused by the project does create the same value. Next, demonstrate how it costs less, or is easier to get, or easier to own, or easier to use. Take away the change risk and bam, you got it.

LESS VALUE AT LESS COST: This is a difficult proposition to accept. Know one wants less value, but the real challenge is to demonstrate that the less value isn’t as much as the less cost. You must show that even though you client will lose a little, the reduction in cost is worth it. Prepare for a long adoption process with this proposition.

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The Project Charter of Integrated PM

“If I use a project charter, then common comparisons, strategic alignment, and other guidelines and constraints can be stated, but what should a project charter contain for Integrated PM projects?”

There are many different thoughts about what a project charter is, and is not. Organizations using the Project Charter have found what works for them, and culture certainly plays a role in determining the characteristics of a successful or non-successful project charter. Much like purchasing a car, the sticker might not be the biggest consideration when looking at a project.

The type of project also must impact what must ultimately be included, highlighted, and stressed in the project charter. You should be able to anticipate there would be differences in a Cosmetic R&D project charter compered to project charters for new products, a newly commissioned hospital, and a new marketing brochure.

However, in all the discussions, there are some charter objectives held in common, with some objectives holding more priority and weight than in others. Common characteristics include:

  • Transition from strategic intent to project tasks
  • Transfer of specific decision-making authority from the sponsor (sometimes the product manager, or product owner) to the Project Manager including guidelines, and constraints.
  • Identification of client, targeted consumer, customers, or market.
  • Key Strategic Areas in which the project must be successful in.
  • Budget governance
  • Key resources, roles & responsibilities
  • Project milestones
  • Value proposition to stakeholders, to organization and/or sponsor, and project clients

In each case, the project charter will differ in focus, sometimes highlighting one set of characteristics, while other times barely providing any information on it. This charter variance also depends on what other project documentation is completed. The Project communication plan, Project budget, Risk Plan, Vision Scope Document, Governance Plan, and even WBS may function as part of the charter.

So, within this quagmire of supporting documents, what is the general best-practice for the project charter in Integrated PM; where a holistic, systems view is used? My findings might surprise you, but I don’t think the reasoning will. Let me ease you into the best-practice.

What I find is that across the board, the typical charter is too light on the business focus. Much like the car sticker, project charters don’t tell you the business part of your purchase. Now consider this, all projects are about change. The question about “Why change?” has got to come up. If the business vision is unclear, what makes anyone think that the business objectives will be reached. In reality, most business objectives of projects are left unachieved, even when the tactical tasks and deliverables are completed.

Due to this issue, a shifting-trend in the project charter is taking place in Integrated PM, and it is becoming much more business oriented. Another issue with project charters, is that when they are completed, they sit on a shelf and never again looked at. A new trend in Integrated PM is to look for ways that the charter information can be baked into the project structure. In this way, you don’t go back to the charter, but look forward in the project plan for business purpose.

Another issue with project charters, is that they need to be standardized, for meaningful approval comparisons and project rankings, portfolio monitoring and program governance, and capacity planning. This standardization is required in Integrated PM as things need to work more like a unified system.

With these considerations, I’ve found that the Business Model Canvas works well for the Integrated PM project charter. I will explain this at a high level here, then go into more detail with future posts.

The Business Model Canvas is a graphical representation of the project’s business model. It can be quickly reviewed and compared with other existing projects, and with past successful projects, to identify business structures that work as a system within your organization; independent of who is running the project.

The Business Model Canvas captures the strategic intent of the sponsor, and captures marketing and communication information developed upstream, and projects it through the lens of the project. This transition from the World of Strategy into the World of Projects is a critical objective of all project charters.

The Key Strategic Areas of the Business Model Canvas are used by the portfolio manager to place the project into sub portfolios and provide reporting on portfolio strategic alignment, project deliverable focus, product features, requirements, and value realization. The point here is that the information is used to further derive guidelines and constraints of the project, and do not become stale information placed on a shelf.

A review of the other Business Model Canvas blogs will make this point clear, and how to modify the Business Model Canvas for use in Integrated PM projects.

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What it Takes to be a Community Coach?

"If decide to be a community coach, then I want to do a good job, but I will need some help and support as I learn."


  1. Join the ‘Community Coaches’ group within the community
  2. Read 1-8 blogs on mentoring PMs (Click Here)
  3. Practice annotation demonstration and goal setting techniques with other coaches
  4. Practice milestone roadmapping methods
  5. Work with other coaches for community best-practices using community features to accomplish user milestones.
  6. Ask a coach you’ve worked with to sponsor you. They will contact pmNERDS through email to put you on a mentoring list. Wait to be contacted with you first new member.

Remember, if you ever have questions or doubts you can always reach out to your group for support.

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Requesting a Community Coach

"If I participate in the coaching program, then I will get more value from the community, but I am afraid, don’t have time, lack the commitment, don’t have the energy, …, there is no real issue, just do it!"

It shouldn’t be a surprise that very few things in the community are activities for the individual. PM is a team sport, and shouldn’t be attempted alone.

The pmNERDS website contains a lot of PM information, but this is not just another content marketing scheme to sell products and services. The web site itself is a feature rich, software application with a web interface, designed to support the promotion of Integrated PM through a community, and much more.

What this means, is that it would take you a lot of time to discover all the functionality that is meaningful to you. By the time you do, we’ll be releasing more functionality. In addition to the technology being developed, the members themselves are developing a unique culture that also increases process innovation and the effectiveness of this Community of Practice in teaching, developing, researching and promoting Integrated PM. Unfortunately, this culture also needs to be learned.

We address these issues with a volunteer coaching program. There are many reasons that members volunteer coaching services. One reason held in common, is that we believe in each other, and realize that the faster you come up to speed, the sooner you can share ideas without being disruptive, and the sooner all of us can benefit from your experiences. The more we as coaches help others, the more we benefit personally. We can never do enough. Each time we do, we benefit more.

So please let us help you. How? Well, first accept the offer for coaching when you join. If you didn’t and now have second thoughts, no problem just send an email message by clicking on the email icon at the top of the page. Indicate you’d like to join the coaching program.

As they say, the rest is history!

You will be introduced through email to your newly assigned coach. Together you will schedule meetings to help you accomplish your goal. Of course, you can quite the program whenever you’d like. Or, you may decide to request a different coach, it’s all up to you. What we find is, that once the relationship is kicked off, it lasts. It lasts for a long time, and enriches the lives of both parties.

Don’t delay, begin today, it costs only your time; and returns continue to pay for years to come.

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Coaching Others in the Community

“If I coach new members, then I will develop friendships, but I need to know the best way to quickly create a focus on change and goal accomplishment.”

Short-term coaching is particularly useful in certain PM situations: The learner is a temporary assignment to your PM team. The learner is someone that has been outsourced, and will be providing a temporary service. The coaching goal is sufficiently precise and narrow in scope that it can be achieved in a short time period; or the learner has a limited window of opportunity in which to develop in the agreed-upon coaching area. Short-term coaching will not be useful if the coaching goal is beyond the scope of what can be achieved in a short time frame, or if the learner is either too low in self-mastery or has insufficient skills and/or on-the-job experience to achieve the coaching goal within the allotted period.

Although there are a variety of excellent short-term coaching meth¬ods, the Strategy below is straightforward, logical, and highly flexible. Focus first on the change the learner most desires; i.e., and have the learner define a clear goal for the coaching, one that is precise, measurable, and stated in positive terms rather than negative language. For example, "“I want to be less intimidated while participating in the community.” is imprecise, difficult to measure, and negatively phrased and should be rephrased as, for example, "To feel consistently confident when participating in the community.” During this discussion and all others, make sure to document every comment.

Next, proceed to the desire and demand for the change; dissatisfaction with status quo, followed by the learner’s vision for change and their plan and process for achieving the change. For each of these elements, have the learner assign a numerical score from O to 5 (0 = low; S = high), then have him or her explain exactly why this score was given. Let the learner assign the score, they need to own it. It is their assessment, not the coaches.

When the learner explains the score for their desire or demand for change, ask probing questions to elicit the learner's depth of desire, the external demands for this change, and the dissatisfaction the learner or others feel about the situation as it is.

For the vision of change, determine whether the learner can articulate the vision fully and imagine him- or herself completely engaged in this new behavior.

For their plan and process for achieving the change, verify that the learner has a concrete and viable plan and process already in place in order to achieve the vision and accomplish the change. Your milestone roadmap is only the beginning of your plan. However, as project managers, the tendency is to go into much detail. The coach needs to help the learner find a healthy compromise.

Third, proceed to the resistance to change; have the learner give it a numerical score from O to 5 and explain the reasons behind the score. Many learners are surprised to find that they themselves have resistance to the change they say they want, or that some people around them may not support them in their desire to grow.

Fourth, complete the calculation with the learner. Notice that multiplying the desire score, the vision score, and the plan and process score means that if any of these three factors is 0, the entire left side of the equation is 0. When this is the case, no change will occur. However, if the left side of the equation is greater than the resistance to change score, change is likely; the greater the score on the left side relative to the resistance score, the greater the speed and magnitude of the change. Of course, in short-term coaching, this is critical. Work with the learner, and see if it’s possible to address factors if they are preventing change. In longer-term engagements, the coach can help address these hurdles. In short-term relationships there isn’t time, either they are ready for change or they are not.

Longer term engagements may follow these short-term relationships, but it’s important to deliver value quickly.

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A Risk Boundary Problem

“If I concern my project with risk assessment, then my project targets such as Budget, Schedule, and quality become more reliable, but this will require me to define better project boundaries between strategy, program mandates, and project requirements.”

What is risk? The answer to this question depends on who answers it and the boundaries the individual establishes around themselves. If the answer comes from someone who is responsible for all processes within the Integrated PM system boundary, a clear answer can be expected. Risk is obvious when people own their processes. The owner is anxious about resources being well spent and not wasted, and that the results are acceptable. They want to maximize the chance of success and looks for clues to act upon. In other words, the owner deliberately sees risks and responds to them. If they grow nonchalant and detached, they don’t see many risks or don’t feel like acting upon them. When nonowners see risks, and communicate them to those who run the process, the result is conflict.

Risk arises from factors beyond our control. A designer may consider requirement analysis as a source of risk because it is external to him and he is not sure whether the analysis results will be communicated completely and correctly. This is a "dependency risk." A boundary is drawn around the process, and risks that threaten the process from across the boundary are seen. Risk perception has a built-in boundary perception. Risk definition has meaning only with reference to this boundary.

Within the process owner's boundary, a problem is not immediately seen as a risk, even if it happens to be vague and uncertain. The propensity is to assign the problem to process control and process management.

Across the boundary, the propensities change. A process owner has no influence beyond her boundary. Neighboring processes are alien and appear to be sources of risk. Problems tend to get labeled as risks.

When the boss of the SBU (strategic business unit) looks at the same risk from a larger perspective, the risk looks smaller and local. The risk appears to have occurred due to lack of cooperation between two process owners. She does not want to think of this local issue as a major risk, as things can improve through better management. If provoked, she may term this an internal risk that can be solved by taking internal measures. The SEU boss realizes that the better the management, the fewer the internal risks.

There are some sensitive internal conditions, such as when a PM chooses to run a project without adequate resources and authority. The processes have weaknesses that are well known to the stakeholders. Process weaknesses are potential breeding grounds for risks. But the PM may not have the resources, power, and influence to improve process capabilities. All the PM can do is mitigate the harmful effects, promote awareness of the risks, and prepare contingency plans. Risks have a different connotation in this case.

It is important to define internal risks, because they contribute to more than 65 percent of risks in a typical business environment.

Internal risks are solved by internal response plans. Most internal risks evoke short-term plans that operate within the life of the project. These are dependency risks that are solved by better coordination and risk communication. Some internal risks arise because of lack of process capability. There is no quick solution to such problems. This calls for a well-designed process improvement plan. The nature of improvement can be a series of continual improvements or kaizens, or a major breakthrough improvement of the Six Sigma style. Such improvements require more resources and time.

Yet another type of internal risk is seen on comparing growth objectives with current performance levels. Today is fine, but tomorrow may bring hurdles. Perception of such risks comes from long-term vision. If growth goals are taken seriously, one finds more risks. If growth goals are taken as secondary concerns, one does not see risks. I find that architects of the organization will detect growth-related risks, while most PMs don’t. When an organization is divided, more boundaries appear and employees see more internal risks. When the organization is integrated, such as in Integrated PM, internal risks are called process management issues. In an integrated organization with boundaries, collaborative efforts make up for weaknesses and create an organizational capability that is greater than the sum of individual process capabilities. This is the Integrated PM system with sub-components. In fragmented organizations, risks multiply.

Internal risk is the probability of suffering losses while pursuing performance and growth goals because of inadequacies in process capability (including core and support processes) and organizational structure.

Beyond the organizational boundary, however, things are different.

External conditions are beyond our control. There are risk factors beyond our sphere of influence. Competitors cut prices and marketing times almost ruthlessly. Social forces may erode staff loyalty. The PM sees external risks as threats and develops strategies to deal with them.

External risk is the probability of suffering loss while pursuing performance and growth goals because of uncer-tainties in external conditions.

There cannot be a better example of external risk than requirements.

The requirements keep changing; they "creep." The volatility of requirements is a perennial source of uncertainty and, hence, risk. Requirements go through a metamorphosis, becoming bigger and clearer in each phase of their evolution. Requirement evolution is a subject for continuous observation and modeling. Requirement volatility is beyond our control and is uncertain. Change is inevitable and is beyond prediction. When the requirement risk occurs, it can cause numerous problems for the project. Managers are aware of this. They cannot avoid it, but are prepared. Those who have mastered this risk, experience fewer surprises when requirements change.

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The Volunteer Coaching Program

"If I join the pmNERDS’ Community, then I can share information assets, learn, and collaborate on real Integrated PM issues to improve performance, but it’s difficult and time consuming to learn how to do everything."

It’s true, our community website is a complicated web application with many features designed to make our community more effective.

There is a world class Learning Management System (LMS) that allows members to create and market e-learning courses to help other members of all ages learn Integrated PM principles using project-based and scenario-based teaching techniques. There is a feature rich e-pub that helps colligate information in community blogs, forums, and public messages to facilitate reading information. Reader annotations used for study are extended to all web content on this site, and with browser plug-ins, can be used across the entire web.

The forum lets members post questions, issues, and ideas benefiting all members and community visitors. The forum also acts as a book review on Integrated PM topics.

Our community application offers many features to facilitate on-line collaboration, networking, asset sharing, and coaching. When Grandview is launched in 2018, there will be even more to master.

This web application requires coaching right now, and as more features and capabilities are deployed; process training, skills mentoring, and performance coaching will be used.

The volunteer coaching program is an integral feature of the community, and is part process and part technology. The technology portion supporting coaching is taught by the coach, a high-level review of the process is shown in the diagram above.

Step 1.0 begins when someone becomes a new member of the community, normally within a few days. If you haven’t been invited to join the Coaching Program, then request a coach today, HERE.

In Step 2.0 a community manager will find an available coach, and through community messages, (and email) will introduce the new member to the coach. It will be between the new member and coach to find a time that they can have a conversation and begin the coaching process.

During Step 3.0 the coach will work with the new member to establish goals, and define milestones within a milestone roadmap that the new member can then work towards. The role of the coach is to provide guidance through this process, and identify resources when available to help the new member.

Step 4.0 is a continuous process of accomplishing milestone objectives, and following the roadmap until completion. Even the best plans have issues, and the coach helps find solutions to the issues, and keeps the learning process moving. The coach may not be the smartest person on the planet, but they can help you find what you need, or get you in touch of the person who can.

Step 5.0 is the recognition of accomplishment. It’s a celebration that should be shared with the community whenever possible. Now that you have completed this process, you might elect to help others. This helps you keep sharp, make new friends, promote Integrated PM, and is just good to do.

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Take the Portfolio Management Leap

“If I wait to deploy portfolio management practices until the organization is using more mature Program and Project practices, then it will be easier to adopt portfolio management, but we won’t be able to leverage the capability of portfolio management to help mature other PM practices as well.”

Following Project Portfolio principles within your organization, regardless of your job title enables and strengthens many of today’s best-practices. Typically, before focusing on Project Portfolio practices, a higher level of Project and Program maturity must be achieved. Within Integrated PM, these practices are integrated, and seen as a single system happening simultaneously.

Given this system, the following capabilities are developed using Integrated PM. An iterative spiral of increased process maturity develops, due to the reinforcing feedback loop of your portfolios, that you may or may not even be aware of. This structure increases PM process maturity, which then increases portfolio management capabilities, which then enables better practices, which increases process maturity.

The message here is DON’T WAIT, start now, and your process will begin to mature, slowly at first, and more rapidly as capabilities grow. Focus your efforts in the following areas for the biggest initial benefit.

Organizational Change Management

Rapid changes in the economy, markets, technology, and regulations are forcing organizations to formulate new strategies or fine-tune the current ones more frequently than ever. As these strategies are translated into new initiatives supported by new programs and projects, portfolio management offers a framework to manage the change effectively. It helps you make the right investment decisions to generate value for stakeholders. It provides you with the right tools to rapidly alter the course of action in response to fast changes in the environment. As Portfolio Management policies and practices are used, opportunities to strengthen change management practices will increase.

Clear Alignment

A well-designed and managed formal portfolio management process ensures that projects are aligned with the organizational strategy and goals at all times. New project ideas are evaluated for their alignment with the strategy and goals, and no projects are funded unless there is clear alignment. In addition, the degree of alignment is continuously monitored as the selected projects go through their individual life cycles. If an ongoing project no longer shows strong alignment, it may be terminated and the resources allocated to other higher priority projects. As Portfolio Management policies and practices are used, opportunities to strengthen strategic alignment practices will increase.

Value Creation

Portfolio management helps you deliver value to your stakeholders by managing project investments through a structured and disciplined process. The justification for the projects is clearly identified by quantifying the expected benefits (both tangible and intangible) and costs. Only those projects that promise high-value and rank high against the competing ones throughout their life cycles are funded. Portfolio management gives you a bigger bang for your investment buck in the long run because you are managing the investments in a systematic fashion. As Portfolio Management policies and practices are used, opportunities to strengthen value creation practices will increase.

Value Balancing

For a profit-driven company, the organizational goal may be to generate the maximum financial returns possible for the owners or shareholders. But if the projects selected for investment are based solely on financial value generation potential, interests of other key stakeholders may be compromised. PPM will help you create a balance among the projects to deliver not only financial value but other value forms as well. As Portfolio Management policies and practices are used, opportunities to strengthen value balancing practices will increase.

Long-Term Risk Management

When projects are initiated and implemented without the portfolio framework, project sponsors and managers typically focus on the short-term risks related to the completion of the project and do not pay enough attention to the long-term risks and rewards. Furthermore, they are oblivious to the collective risk profile of the project investments. Under a portfolio structure, the risk-reward equation is examined for projects individually as well as collectively in the context of the overall business. By diversifying the investments and balancing the portfolio, you are able to create a proper mix of projects of different risk profiles and manage the risks more effectively. As Portfolio Management policies and practices are used, opportunities to strengthen long-term risk management practices will increase.

Termination of Projects

Just because a project initially shows a strong business case does not nec-essarily mean it should continue to receive funding through its completion. Projects that no longer hold a strong business case as they go through their life cycles should be terminated. This helps you focus on those projects that will generate value and kill others, thereby maximizing the value of the portfolio as a whole. In most organizations, once a project receives authorization and enters into the implementation phase, it will most likely continue to receive funding until its completion. Terminating projects is a taboo in most organizations. It is a highly political and emotional issue for many decision makers and executives. Portfolio management helps make the project termination decisions more objective and less political or emotional. As Portfolio Management policies and practices are used, opportunities to strengthen project end-of-life practices will increase.

Better and Faster Decision Making

Portfolio management brings more focus to the decision-making process, making it faster and more effective. An integral part of PPM, portfolio and project governance provides a formal structure and process for making go/ no-go project investment decisions. It places the responsibility of decision making in the hands of independent parties-rather than the project sponsors with possible self-interest that can evaluate competing projects more objectively using the same measurements, metrics, and standards. As Portfolio Management policies and practices are used, opportunities to strengthen decision making practices will increase.

Reducing Redundancies

It is not uncommon in relatively large organizations to face a situation where the "left hand doesn't know what the right is doing." Organizational resources are sometimes wasted on different projects trying to produce the same output. The PPM process helps you eliminate or reduce redundancy yielding significant savings to the organization. When the portfolio management process is standardized across the whole enterprise, projects become more transparent and adequate checks and balances can help you detect redundancies early. As Portfolio Management policies and practices are used, opportunities to strengthen redundancy-identification practices will increase.

Better Communications and Roadmapping

Many organizations have "silos" around each function that block effective communication, a critical ingredient of success for cross-functional projects. PPM is a mechanism that opens the channels of communication for people from various business and technical functions. Silos also undermine innovation that is critical to organizational success in today's hypercompetitive environment. PPM breaks the silo barriers creating opportunities for people to learn new insights from each other and become more innovative. As Portfolio Management policies and practices are used, opportunities to strengthen communications and roadmapping practices will increase.

Efficient Resource Allocation

One of the biggest challenges for any organization is the efficient allocation of resources-both monetary and human. While every manager claims that she would like to see the biggest bang for her buck, only a few organizations have proper systems in place to prioritize her projects based on their return on investment. Allocation of the right people to the right projects at the right time is an even bigger challenge. You can rarely find a detailed inventory of the human resources vs. the project needs, that is, supply vs. demand. The situation becomes even worse when the project resources also have ad-ministrative and other operational responsibilities. One of the advantages of portfolio management is that it provides the structure and tools for efficient advance planning, needs prioritization, and resource allocation. As Portfolio Management policies and practices are used, opportunities to strengthen resource allocation practices will increase.

Consistent Performance and Growth over Time

One of the key portfolio management processes is the evaluation of projects for their financial value-generating merit. This involves forecasting the future cash flows of every project and its outputs over its life cycle. Cash flow analysis for the entire portfolio over future time increments enables you to estimate any investment gaps and corresponding projects to match the growth targets of the organization. The portfolio thus can offer consistent long-term growth and performance for the organization. As Portfolio Management policies and practices are used, opportunities to strengthen performance and growth practices will increase. .

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Project Portfolios and the GOSPEL of Integrated PM.

"If I use the principles of project portfolio management, then I can drive increased value through projects, but our project management and program management practices aren’t mature enough for portfolio management."

The Project Portfolio G.O.S.P.E.L.

I tell my clients that I have one of the best jobs in the World; I go all over the world teaching the GOSPEL. That is, the GOSPEL of Integrated PM. This is a common acronym used to teach project strategic planning, and project portfolio management. These two disciplines are tightly coordinated within Integrated PM. Below I’ll quickly explain the acronym. They represent the fundamental capabilities required for a successful portfolio management process.


This represents the long-term purpose of your organization. A change here would require major structural reorganization, and seldom happens. Your goal in the GOSPEL, represents your organization’s mission. Many times, the goal of the organization isn’t even measured. Of course, this needs to change, as the Goal drives all other activity within the organization, and the activities of Integrated PM. Every system must have a single purpose, each sub-system within the system must also have a single purpose or ‘Goal. Every portfolio (or sub-portfolio) requires a goal.


During strategic planning the Goal is segmented into the Key Strategic Areas which your organization must be successful in for the Goal to be achieved. Normally there are three to six Key Strategic Areas. If you can’t identify enough Key Strategic Ares, go down a level in abstraction. If you identify too many Key Strategic Areas, the combine some and go up a level in abstraction. Success in these Key Strategic Areas is not an option, failure in one is failure in the organization as a system. They therefore, all have the same priority. These Key Strategic Areas are called objectives for ease.

In Integrated PM, Objectives join to achieve the organizational goal. Think of them as separate components within the same system. Objective measures are critical to portfolio value decisions, and balancing.


Because each of the organization’s objectives are so critical to your organizational success, you typically want to develop multiple strategies for accomplishing each objective which reduces the risk of failure. The strategy defines the operational concept, or technical approach to the objective. Strategies are typically controlled with guidelines, constraints, capabilities, and practical limitations.


Our project plans should be linked to one strategy. Of course, typically multiple projects and programs are normally linked to a single strategy, but where it makes sense, a single project might support multiple strategies. This is referred to as a many-to-many relationship. The best-practice here is to focus more on authority and responsibility than on links. The links are used for reporting, alignment scoring models, finance and resource balancing, and shouldn’t become structural constraints.


This is where the ‘rubber hits the road’ so to say. Your projects should cause strategic change when done right, but nothing can happen if resources aren’t available. Project ranking and prioritization enables limited resources to be applied where the most value can be produced. Once the portfolio management question can be answered, “Out of all the things that could be done, what should be done, given the limited resources?”, execution becomes paramount. The capacity plan kicks in at this point, and optimally places the right resources, at the right project, at the right time.


Now remember this, the entire purpose of this activity to drive change in the value indicators. There are six ways that projects can impact organizational value. Some of these value drivers cause change to the organization’s perceived value. While other drivers cause change to operational cost. At the end of the day, they all drive changes which increase the organization’s competitive advantage.

The question is, “How well did the project meet expectations?” Can we learn from the past, by measuring the present, to improve the future? This is the challenge of every Integrated PM team. To address this challenge, we use systems thinking and a measure framework that helps improve project portfolio decisions, resulting in improved project performance.

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Facilitating Integrated PM Projects (1 out of 11)

“If as a project manager I try to facilitate decisions, then the project team will feel more impowered, but they see me as always biased to my own desired outcome.”


In this opening blog post, I briefly illustrate the need for facilitation within the project management effort, define group facilitation, and give an overview of the Skilled Facilitator approach. We also see the key elements and how they fit together to form a values based systemic approach to facilitation and the larger Integrated PM effort.

There is a gap in the literature around what is needed from the portfolio, program, or project sponsor. Oh yes, a great deal has been said about the need of the Sponsor. But the literature is sparse on how to be a good sponsor.


Groups are becoming the basic work unit of organizations, as opposed to the individual. Increasingly, we turn to groups to bring together differing views, produce quality products and services, and coordinate complex world of projects. In doing so, we expect groups to work effectively so that the product of their efforts is greater than the sum of the parts. Yet our experience with groups often leaves us feeling disappointed or frustrated.

Project teams, or groups do not have to function in ways that lead to ineffective performance, make it difficult for members to work together, and frustrate members. Project teams can improve how they work. This blog post series is about helping project teams improve their effectiveness by using the facilitative skills of each other, the project manager and project sponsor. It is about helping all types of work groups: top management teams, boards, committees, work teams, cross-functional teams, interorganizational groups, quality groups, task forces, and employee-management or union -management groups. Anyone who works with others needs facilitative skills, not just the sponsor.

Organizational consultants, internal and external, need facilitative skills when they contract with clients, diagnose problems, and recommend solutions. Leaders and managers need facilitative skills to explore stakeholders' interests and to craft solutions based on sound data that generate commitment.

Because organizations change constantly, the need for facilitative skills to support change is always increasing. This applies to a merger or acquisition, or downsizing, and to efforts to improve the quality of products and services, empower employees, develop a shared vision, develop a self-managing work team, or develop an organizational culture that makes these changes possible.

Organizations typically use project teams to plan and implement change, and project teams typically need some form of facilitation. In addition, facilitative skills have become more important as organizations try to openly and constructively manage conflict arising from the change they try to create.

At the heart of improving project the team’s effectiveness lies the ability of project team members to reflect on what they are doing, to create the conditions necessary to achieve their goals. Project teams find it difficult to openly examine behavior on their own; they often need the help of a facilitator.


Group facilitation is a process in which a person whose selection is acceptable to all the members of the group, who is substantively neutral, and who has no substantive decision-making authority diagnoses and intervenes to help a group improve how it identifies and solves problems and makes decisions, to increase the group's effectiveness. In many cases, the PM is within the project team, and require someone outside of the team, such as the sponsor to facilitate project team performance.

The facilitator's main task is to help the group increase effectiveness by improving its process and structure.

Process refers to how a group works together. It includes how members talk to each other, how they identify and solve problems, how they make decisions, and how they handle conflict. Structure refers to stable recurring group process, examples being group membership or project team roles. In contrast, content refers to what a group is working on. The content of a group discussion might be whether to enter a new market, how to provide high-quality service to customers, or what each project team member's responsibilities should be.

Whenever a group meets, it is possible to observe both content and process. For example, in a discussion of how to provide high-quality service, suggestions about installing a customer hotline or giving more authority to those with customer contact reflect content. However, members responding to only certain colleagues' ideas or failing to identify their assumptions are facets of the group's process. Underlying the facilitator's main task is the fundamental assumption that ineffective group process and structure reduces a group's ability to solve problems and make decisions. Although research findings on the relationship between process and group effectiveness are mixed, the premise of this blog series is that by increasing the effectiveness of the group's process and structure the facilitator helps the group improve its performance and overall effectiveness.

The facilitator does not intervene directly in the content of the group's discussions; to do so would require the facilitator to abandon neutrality and reduce the group's responsibility for solving its problems. To ensure that the facilitator is trusted by all project team members and that the group's autonomy is maintained, the facilitator should be acceptable to all members of the group; this person needs to be substantively neutral- that is, display no preference for any of the solutions the group considers- and not have substantive decision-making authority.

In practice, the facilitator can meet these three criteria only if he or she is not a project team member. A group member may be acceptable to other members and may not have substantive decision making authority yet have a substantive interest in the group's issues. By definition, a group member cannot formally fill the role of facilitator. Still, a group leader or member can use the principles and techniques I describe in this blog series to help a project team. Effective leaders regularly facilitate their project teams as part of their leadership role.

To intervene means "to enter into an ongoing system" for the purpose of helping those in the system. The definition implies that the system, or group, functions autonomously- that is, the project team is complete without a facilitator. Yet the group depends on a facilitator for help. Consequently, to maintain the group's autonomy and to develop its long-term effectiveness, the facilitator's interventions should decrease the group's dependence on the facilitator. Ideally, the facilitator accomplishes this by intervening in a way that teaches group members the skills of facilitation.

The Approaches to Facilitation

This blog series will consist of the following posts covering the various approaches to facilitation, ending with the systems approach used within Integrated PM.

  1. The group effectiveness model
  2. A clearly defined facilitative role
  3. Useful in a range of roles
  4. Explicit core values
  5. Ground rules for effective groups
  6. The diagnosis-intervention cycle
  7. Low-level inferences
  8. Exploring and changing how we think
  9. A process for agreeing on how to work together
  10. A systems approach
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Mentoring New PMs (Part 8 of 8)

“If I help other PMs, then they will expect me to continue, but how do I sustain a coaching effort?”

Part 8: Accelerate and sustain the learner’s transformation

Ultimately, developers want learners to grow. However, some learners show little real growth from coaching because they have no real desire to change, although they may use coaching to get advice or to express and release pent-up frustration. Other learners make incremental changes- for example, learning new approaches for dealing with conflict, being able to lead with greater clarity and conviction, and being able to make important and wise decisions in a timely way. While these are valuable outcomes of the coaching process, the greatest value of the coaching experience is in the learner's making transformational change.

Transformational change requires learners to examine their fundamental patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving. They need to assess what they truly want, realize that the fundamental obstacles to achieving these desires are often rooted in their own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and recognize that they have real choices that are within their control. In addition, learners who make transformational changes continue to grow and develop throughout their lives.

The role of a PM plays an important part of the success of projects, but regardless of how proficient the PM is, organizational structure, technology, information flows, and process all play their part. The coach can often help the learner recognize those things that are out of their control, and those things that can be and should be changed.

REMINDER The learner may appear committed to change, but it is important to clarify whether the intended change is incremental or transformational. Always make sure the learner has a plan for change, or the growth will be difficult to sustain.


The following summary can serve as a coaching template and may be used for short-term, crisis, or long-term coaching.

-Determine Coaching Goals and Learner Motivation Make sure the goals can be accomplished in the time available and are linked to one or more of the learner's key motivators. -Assess the Learner's Level and Range of Self-Mastery, Then Use Level-Appropriate Coaching Approaches

  • Determine the learner's normal (average) level and range of self-mastery.
  • Select the development approach(es)that would be most effective with the learner, and experiment with these.

Use Coaching Techniques That Challenge Growth

Plan how you will use each of the four coaching techniques from this section, and use them at appropriate moments during the coaching process.

Head Center Challenge: "What if?"

What have you heard the learner say or imply that reflects a mental model or assumption you can challenge? How will you phrase this "What if?" challenge to the learner?

Heart Center Challenge: Recognizing and Leveraging Defense Mechanisms

When have you observed the learner use a particular defense mechanism? Would a direct or an indirect challenge be more effective? How would you phrase this defense mechanism challenge to the learner?

Body Center Challenge: "Why would you want to do that?"

What behavior has the learner stated that he or she plans to do? Do you think this is a wise course of action? How would you phrase this "Why would you want to do that?" challenge to the learner?

Transformative Paradoxical Challenge

What paradoxes have you observed in the learner? Select the most significant one. How would you phrase this paradoxical challenge to the learner? REMINDER Using an effective coaching challenge at an opportune moment stimulates the learner to grow at an accelerated pace. However, using too many techniques can interfere with excellent coaching, which is essentially an interaction between two human beings. Listening attentively, conveying respect for the learner, and being committed to the learner's growth are far more important than any technique.

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Mentoring New PMs (Part 7 of 8)

“If I want to coach other PMs, then we can have a more competitive organization, but I will have to deal with difficult personalities.”

Part 7: Use coaching techniques that challenge growth

Coaching is essentially a human experience. If developers forget this and either employ too many techniques or use techniques at the wrong time, they become more coaching technicians than developers who can make a difference in the lives of learners. The most important thing a developer can do for a learner is to listen in an active way. This includes hearing not only what is said, but also how it is said and what it means; recognizing, then encouraging or challenging, the learner's patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving, particularly those that support or detract from the learner's goals and ultimate growth; and having the experience, intuition, and wisdom to know when to just listen and when to say or do something.

In addition, there are four coaching techniques that, when used at the right time, can make a big difference in the pace and depth of the learner's development. These techniques, described below, are actually supportive challenges and target the three Centers of Intelligence: the Head Center (mental), Heart Center (emotional), and Body Center (action).

Head Center Challenges: "What if?" Questions

"What if?" questions work well in situations in which the learner makes assumptions that something is absolutely true and inviolable. These assumptions are part of the learner's mental models; unexamined mental models limit a learner's understanding of what is truly possible and therefore reinforce current behavior.

After hearing the learner express an assumption, the developer poses a relevant "What if?" question.

During a coaching meeting, Hannah tells her manager that she is completely frustrated working with a specific client, whom she perceives as being overly opinionated and having poor listening skills and a belligerent attitude. Hannah says, "I'll never find a way to work well with this person."


"What if you could find a way to work effectively with this person, even if you still don't like the interactions?"

Before Hannah can develop a way to work effectively with this individual, she has to first believe that this is both possible and she is capable of doing so.

After Hannah responds to the "What if?" challenge with a statement that implies she recognizes that working effectively with someone like this is possible, the developer can then work with her on alternative tactics.

Heart Center Challenges: Recognizing and Leveraging Defense Mechanisms

Defense mechanisms are unconscious psychological strategies used by indi-viduals to deal with uncomfortable and difficult situations. These mechanisms work to reduce a person's anxiety, sadness, and/ or anger and to maintain his or her self-image.

Developers need to recognize and learn to leverage the learner's defense mechanisms for two important reasons. First, the learner's defense mechanisms appear primarily when the learner is avoiding something. Thus, uncovering what lies beneath a defense mechanism is almost always a key to unlocking what the learner most needs to examine.

Second, the defense mechanism is often the most obvious manifestation of a learner's resistance to growth. When resistance is left unchecked, the progress of coaching will be severely compromised. Once a learner exhibits a defense mechanism, the developer can use either an indirect or a direct challenge, both of which are designed to highlight the defense mechanism and to explore the learner's avoidance or resistance. Indirect challenges are more subtle and less intrusive, but they may have less impact; direct challenges get the learner's attention faster, but they can heighten resistance and may be too strong for some learners.

Defense Mechanism- Distortion is a clearly incorrect and flagrant reshaping of external reality to meet a person's internal needs.

When Nathan spoke with his coach about his failure to garner approval for the new website vendor he had been asked to recommend, he was full of fury. Blaming his boss for not supporting his choice of vendor-claiming the boss had given him the authority to make this decision-Nathan also blamed the team he had created for refusing to advocate on his behalf. After listen-ing to Nathan for half an hour, his developer, Erin, became concerned. Nathan's furor and explanations were in direct conflict with prior information he had given her about how supportive his boss had been and how well the team had functioned. Because she perceived that Nathan was distorting what had really occurred, Erin decided to challenge Nathan's defense mechanism.


"To help me understand better, can you remind me of the original agreement you had with your manager about this, conversations you've had since then, the role of the committee you created, how often they've met, and how they have functioned? My memory of this doesn't match exactly what you're telling me now."


"I know you are very, very upset by this, and this may be causing you to distort some of what actually occurred. Let's talk about your feelings, then what actu-ally transpired."

Individuals of the community use a variety of defense mechanisms at different times; however, specific defense mechanisms are strongly associated with personality types, and these particular coping strategies are most obvious when the learner is dealing with difficult issues.

Body Center Challenges: "Why would you want to do that?"


Although learners may say they both want and plan to change something, they may possess neither a deep desire to make the change nor the necessary will and endurance. Learners usually expect the developer to respond by saying, "That's great. How will you go about doing it?" Consequently, a "Why would you want to do that?" question, stated in a neutral voice, constructively challenges learners to reflect more deeply on their wishes and intentions. As a result of the "Why would you want to do that?" question, the learner either changes his or her course of action or becomes more deeply committed to the original plan.

In a coaching meeting with his mentor, Michael says, "I've decided what to do about the promotion I want. I'm going to get a degree-one that is not required but is suggested for the job."


CHALLENGE "Why would you want to go back to school for a degree?"

The "Why would you want to do that?" challenge is also useful when learners articulate a plan of behavior that could be counterproductive to their goals or best interests. For example, if the learner says to the developer, 'I’m going to walk into my coworker's office and tell this person that the work he/ she produces is the lowest quality I have ever received;' the developer would say, "Why would you want to do that?" After listening to the response, the developer can help the learner explore his or her anger and realize that there are alternative ways to communicate with the coworker about the issue.

Transformative Challenges: Paradoxes

Paradoxes, or apparent contradictions, pose frustrating yet motivating dilemmas for learners. The learner's paradox is this: The learner truly wants something and believes that his or her behavior is designed to achieve that result. However, more often than not, the learner's own behavior is the primary impediment to the achievement of the desired goal. After developers issue a paradoxical challenge, they need to remain silent so that learners feel compelled to resolve the paradox themselves. Developers who are learning the paradoxical challenge technique can use the following structure: "Although you say you want X, your behavior actually creates Y."

The following example illustrates how to use the paradox technique to stimulate learners to change.

Jake desperately wanted recognition and influence in his firm. However, he was regularly late for staff meetings, and he often had not read the premeeting materials that had been assigned as preparation. As a result, he often asked questions during the meetings on topics that had already been covered in the premeeting materials or discussed at the meeting prior to his arrival.

Jake deeply desires recognition and influence; however, his lateness and lack of preparation create the impression that he does not take the work seriously, thus undermining both the recognition he receives and the amount of influence he wields in the firm


"Jake, let's examine your behavior both before and during staff meetings, and then let's analyze how this behavior may actually be affecting your degree of influence and the extent to which you get recognition."

The paradoxical challenges are deep-level paradoxes that should be used only with moderate or high self-mastery learners. Low self-mastery learners are not in a psychological state to handle the complexity and ambiguity inherent in the resolution of this level of paradox, and deep-level or complex paradoxes can increase their anxiety. While less powerful paradoxes can be used with these learners, developers should do so with caution.

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Mentoring New PMs (Part 6 of 8)

“If I begin coaching, then the learners will be successful in PM, but I may not succeed with some people.”

Part 6: Asses the learner’s level and range of self-mastery, then use level-appropriate coaching approaches

Once the coaching role has been clarified, the appropriate coaching methodology has been selected (short-term, crisis, or long-term coaching), and viable coaching goals have been defined and connected to the learner's key motivators, developers (Coaches) can tailor their coaching approach to the learner's self-mastery level to maximize results.

The Self-Mastery Model above illustrates the various components that comprise an individual's self-mastery.

  • Self-awareness Conscious of own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors; realistic about strengths and weaknesses; understands impact on others
  • Responsive to feedback Receptive to feedback and has the clarity to choose what is useful and actionable and what is not
  • Self-responsible and self-motivating Fully responsible for self and has a problem-solving rather than blaming orientation
  • Self-managing and emotionally mature Makes balanced and wise choices; receptive and flexible; encourages honest, respectful dialogue
  • Personal vision with integrity Consistently trustworthy with constructive values and congruent behavior
  • Personality integration through lifelong learning Dedicated to ongoing self-development with the ability to take effective, integrated action

The following chart describes how individuals behave at low, moderate, and high levels of self-mastery for each component. There is also wide variation within each self-mastery level. This is particularly true for the largest group, moderate self-mastery learners. Individuals at the high self-mastery level are the easiest to coach, while those who consistently function at low self-mastery can challenge even the best developers and cause serious problems within the organization, particularly if they are in leadership roles or other high-impact positions. In fact, chronically low self-mastery individuals are not good candidates for coaching and may need to be referred to outside specialists.

Different coaching approaches work best with different learners, depending on the learner's self-mastery level. For this reason, it is important for the developer to assess the learner's normal (or average) self-mastery level. The learner's range of self-mastery-that is, his or her highest and lowest levels-also provides important information. If the learner has a wide range of self-mastery, the developer can predict that this individual may have dramatic behavior swings during the course of coaching. If the learner's self-mastery range is limited, his or her behavior is likely to be very consistent, but the learner may also have more difficulty moving into a higher level of self-mastery.

Coaching Approaches to Enhance Self-Mastery

  • High Self-Mastery Learners

Coaching approach- Encourage the continuation of what they are doing; provide additional ideas and methods for enhancing their self-mastery.

Explanation- Self-motivating and committed to lifelong learning, these individuals are self-aware, take responsibility for their own behavior, and are easy to work with as long as developers are also at the high self-mastery level. If not, developers feel anxious and learners question the developer's guidance.

  • Moderate Self-Mastery Learners (Most learners are at this level.)

Coaching approach- Stimulate their internal motivation and provide them with concrete development suggestions and activities.

Explanation- Because they are generally comfortable, most moderate self-mastery learners are not motivated to grow unless they are under pressure. Learners at the high-end of this level grow at a faster pace than those at the low-end, but developers need to challenge all to grow by stimulating desire and providing interesting activities with a great deal of follow-up.

  • Low Self-Mastery Learners

Coaching approach- Provide support, guidance, and clear boundaries.

Explanation- These learners are struggling and need support, guidance, and clear boundary setting so that they know what is acceptable and what is not. Because they are more defensive and fragile than other learners, coaching must proceed carefully and takes longer.

REMINDER Knowing the learner's self-mastery level is important to be an effective developer because the coaching approach differs fundamentally from each level. As a developer, make your best guess and then revise your assessment as new data and patterns emerge during the coaching process.

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Mentoring New PMs (Part 5 of 8)

“If I engage in a coaching experience, then I’ll help other people while growing as an individual myself, but how do I keep everyone’s interest?”

Part 5: Determine coaching goals and learner motivation

After the appropriate methodology has been selected, developers (Coaches) need to help learners define concrete coaching goals that the learner is highly motivated to achieve. In fact, all effective coaching starts with one or more coaching goals that the developer and learner agree are the desired outcomes of the coaching experience.

Not only do these provide direction and focus for the entire coaching experience, goals provide measures to determine whether the coaching has been successful. Without clear goals, the coaching discussion easily meanders on to a new topic every session, the developer and learner can lose interest in the coaching experience, and there is limited accountability for results. A simple question elicits a learner's coaching goals: "What do you most want to achieve as a result of coaching?"

Coaching goals must have a clear connection to the learner's most important motivations; people don't change and grow unless they have sufficient motivation to do so.

Even when the link between goals and motivations seems obvious, it is important to make sure this is the case by asking the learner a simple question: "Why does this goal matter to you?"

Coaching involves challenging and supporting people to be extraordinary community members and leaders, as well as to achieve extraordinary levels of performance. It starts with becoming clear on the goals and aspirations people passionately care about and offering them a powerful assist in calling forth who they need to be in the matter. It requires building new skills and capabilities so as to bring out the best in those around them. It means fostering not just individual excellence, but also creative collaboration.

Coaching is based on being completely committed to the learners and engaging with them in conversations (or a network of conversations) that leave them inspired, empowered, and enabled with respect to their concerns. The acid test is that when you leave the meeting with a Coach, you have "freedom to be" and you have new openings for possibility and action in areas where you were stuck and ineffective.

Coaching is a journey, not just a destination. Whether or not you will embark on the journey depends not on whether you are a leader, project manager, or individual contributor; it depends on whether you dare to see and meet the calling to make a difference, whether in the life of one person, a group, or an institution. We admire others who make a difference, who have an impact, who are effective.

Perhaps our inspiration to take the journey to Coaching comes from these people. Each of us can remember a handful, but only a handful, of coaches, teachers, and mentors who touched our lives with new possibilities we didn't see before, who enabled us to achieve results that we never dreamed of or dared to imagine. They were people who held up an honest mirror, one that led to a revelation of our own foolishness. They had conversations with us about the lessons we needed to learn about life, laced with a sense of humor.

The journey is driven by passion, commitment, and zeal. It calls for a hungry spirit, a person who not only has the desire to be a success but also to be a contribution; It calls for those who know that the true joy in life is to bring people together to create and invent the future, rather than just trying to predict it. It entices those who have achieved something splendid at some point only because they dared to believe that there was something inside them that was superior to circumstance and now they want to pass that on.

It calls for leaders who recognize that the highest leverage in the adventure of business (and living) is elevating their concerns to making an Impossible Future. This can only happen if people let go of being the hero and being in the center of the action and focus on developing the next generation of leaders in the process of getting the job done.

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Mentoring New PMs (Part 1 of 8)

“If we increase the number of PMs we have, then we can do a better job on more projects, but then we will need to train and mentor our new staff.”

Part 1: Assess and enhance your coaching competence

In our profession, we are sometimes called upon to mentor others in some practice or another. Maybe even mentoring new community members. I’ve put together a check-list intended to start discussions and future blogs. Please contribute with your experiences. By all means, disagree with me, and fix it where I’ve got it wrong. The goal is to have something that will help us all, not for me to prove how right I am.

It has been said in many ways, all the way back to the I Ching. If you want to help others, start by qualifying yourself. By no means must you know everything about PM, or even more than those you desire to help. However, you must know how to help.

List the concepts that must be developed, find ways to provide access to the new information, define some boundaries and focus on what is being mentored. If you don’t know the material, know how to get it. Understand what resources are available, and use them.

It says a lot about a person when they ask with a smile, “How may I help you?” Most likely they can’t. And why not? Because they haven’t developed any coaching competence.

As a coach, you need to know “How you can help.” Focusing on the development of these six coaching areas should provide some direction.

  1. Being an excellent developer of people. Developers need to have a clear coaching role, honor their coaching agreements, have personal and professional credibility, possess a deep desire to develop others, have excellent coaching skills, and ultimately hold learners accountable for their own development.
  2. Knowing how to accelerate the learner's growth. Developers need to focus learners on specific coaching goals that they are highly motivated to achieve, create a coaching environment that encourages learner receptivity, and accurately assess learner capability, including cognitive ability, emotional maturity, and work-related skills.
  3. Being able to create a productive relationship with the learner. Developers need to create trusting and respectful relationships with learners that focus on individual development needs, are flexible and honest, and support the growth of both the learner and developer.
  4. Knowing how to implement an effective coaching process. Developers need to use a systematic coaching methodology tailored to the learner's needs that includes an effective development process, a concrete development plan, and an ongoing feedback mechanism.
  5. Being able to align the coaching efforts with organizational requirements. Developers need to make certain that the coaching goals and methodologies are aligned with the organization's needs, and that the organization's culture and political dynamics are factored into coaching conversations and recommendations.
  6. Being able to achieve lasting results. Developers need to make sure that the coaching achieves effective results that can be sustained over the long run.

REMINDER: It is essential that you continuously enhance your coaching skills through increased knowledge, constant practice, and a commitment to your own self-development.

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Mentoring New PMs (Part 2 of 8)

“If I accept the challenge of volunteer mentoring, then I will also grow, but I might not get along with the person I’m supposed to mentor.”

Part 2: Optimize the developer-learner match

A good match between a developer (Coach) and a learner is just as important as the developer's coaching skills. The following information provides important guidelines when pairing developers and learners.

What developers should look for in a learner

  • Honesty
  • Willingness to learn
  • A moderate to high degree of self-awareness
  • Commitment to attend coaching meetings
  • The learner should be someone the developer doesn't dislike.

What learners should look for in a developer

  • Prior success as a coach
  • Availability
  • Credibility
  • Good judgment
  • Organizational savvy
  • Excellent listening skills
  • The developer should be someone the learner respects.

You might have noticed that liking the developer is not included on the learner's list of what to look for in a developer. While liking the developer can be beneficial, it is far more important than the learner respect the developer.

With regard to what developers should look for in a learner, the phrase "someone the developer doesn't dislike" has been purposely chosen; the developer does not need to like the learner, only to have no adverse reaction to him or her. If the developer dislikes the learner, that individual would most likely since the developer's negativity even if the developer tried to hide it.

When the learner respects the developer, the developer doesn't dislike the learner, and the coaching achieves tangible results, mutual positive regard and respect usually develop as the coaching progresses. Because most managers do not get to choose their learners- since coaching is often part of the manager's job- the coaching relationship can be severely compromised if unresolved tension exists between the two. Managers in this situation should try to repair the relationship before the coaching begins. If that is not possible, it is advisable to find an alternative developer for the learner.

The question is often asked whether learners and developers should be paired on the basis of a shared characteristic, such as gender, race, age, and/or personality. Individuals who are similar may understand each other better, and the developer may serve as a more viable role model, but these developers can also unintentionally reinforce the learner in ways that do not support growth.

When paired with someone who is dissimilar to them, learners often benefit because the developer brings in a different perspective. With respect to personality types, when the developer and learner are not the same personality type, there are definite advantages; for example, the developer brings a different set of mental models, emotional responses, and behavior patterns from which to challenge the learner.

If the developer and learner have the same personality type, the match can still be beneficial, but only if the developer possesses a much higher level of self-mastery than the learner. When this is the case, the developer can do the following to optimize the process and results: fully understand the learner, serve as an excellent role model, challenge and inspire the learner to grow at an accelerated pace, and offer development activities that the developer knows will work from direct experience.

REMINDER: Make the best match possible, and plan in advance how to compensate for a less than the optimal one.

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Mentoring New PMs (Part 3 of 8)

“If I decide to be a community coach, then I can help others contribute, and we all benefit, but I don’t know how to do it right.”

Part 3: Clarify your coaching role

Even when developers (Coaches) have excellent coaching skills and the match between the developer and learner is a good one, problems can arise during coaching if either is unclear about the developer's role. At the very beginning of the coaching relationship, it is essential that both the developer and the learner understand whether the development interactions will be based on your being the learner's manager, mentor, or coach.

Although managers, mentors, and coaches perform many of the same coaching functions, their roles in relation to the learner are different. The specific role you have directly affects the coaching expectations, subsequent relationship, and eventual success of the coaching. The above graphic shows the similarities and differences among and between the three roles.

As a community coach, you want to master the center (intersection) activities, and maybe grow your relationship into one of the other capacities when it makes sense.

Manager- If the learner reports to you, you are coaching as a manager. The manager has the most firsthand information about the learner, as well as the most authority with which to influence the learner's growth and development. At the same time, because the manager directly affects the learner's income, current work responsibilities, and future promotions and is not bound by an agreement of confidentiality, learners may be more reluctant to share relevant information during the coaching process.

Mentor- You are coaching as a mentor if the following apply: The learner does not work for you and you are not responsible for his or her performance evaluation, you are not specifically paid to coach others or trained as a professional coach, and you have voluntarily agreed to coach the learner. Learners often perceive mentors as having the most organizational expertise and political savvy. However, because mentoring is usually voluntary and not part of the mentor's paid work, fewer mentors are available that are either managers or coaches. Also, while some mentors work in a strictly confidential manner, others do not.

Coach- If you are hired and trained to coach individuals and the learner does not work for you, you are a coach. Coaches usually have the most time and training for coaching and normally work under a complete confidentiality agreement with the learner. As a result, learners confide more in coaches than in managers or mentors. At the same time, coaches rarely have the same level of management experience as managers and mentors, and they often do not possess the same degree of organizational knowledge. However, because coaches are not directly involved in the organization's business, they are often perceived as the most objective or neutral type of developer.

NOTE: Human resource professionals who work inside an organization and coach others as a part of their job responsibilities normally function in the role of "coach" described above. However, some internal HR professionals function more as mentors than coaches and should use the mentoring role descriptions as their guide.

Although coaching arrangements can vary widely, all effective developers must perform specific functions. For example, coaching can be done in person or by phone; developers and learners may have meetings as often as several times per week, as infrequently as once a month, or even on an as-needed basis; and coaching conversations can be as short as IS-minute emergency conversations or as long as several days.

All Community developers or coaches need to fulfill the following CORE functions for learners:

  • Offer a different perspective
  • Serve as a sounding board so that learners can share and then reflect on their own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors
  • Tell "teaching" stories that communicate important messages
  • Share relevant firsthand experiences
  • Give honest feedback
  • Suggest development activities and provide other resources as needed

REMINDER: Before you begin the development process, it is important that both you and the learner understand your role- including its strengths and limitations- and confidentiality boundaries.

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Mentoring New PMs (Part 4 of 8)

“If I become a community mentor then I will increase the value of the community for everyone, but what commitment am I making?”

Part 4: Select the appropriate coaching methodology:

Short-term, Crisis, or Long-term Coaching

In addition to having a good match with the learner and a clear coaching role, the developer needs to reach agreements with the learner about the type of coaching that will best suit the learner's needs-

  • short-term,
  • crisis, or
  • long-term coaching.

This is important because each type of coaching requires a different coaching methodology, as described in more detail below.

Short-term coaching occurs over a short period of time-typically two to eight sessions, with the coaching process lasting anywhere from one to four months-and focuses on specific and limited topic areas that can be effectively addressed in a brief period of time. I find that this is the typical type of coaching found within the pmNERDS’ community. However, the other type is also valid and depends on both the developer and learner preferences and needs.

Crisis coaching is needed when a learner is experiencing an acute crisis and is under severe duress as the result of a work or home problem or an external event.

Long-term coaching can be as short as four months or can extend over several years; this allows for outcomes that are larger in scale and deeper in impact than what can normally be achieved with short-term coaching.

Short-Term Coaching, sometimes referred to as "problem-solving coaching" or "solution-focused coaching;' focuses on a specific problem or issue that can be quickly resolved. It is a particularly effective methodology to use when the coaching goal is sufficiently precise and narrow in scope and/or when the learner has a limited window of opportunity in which to achieve a result. However, short-term coaching is not effective when the learner is low in self-mastery or has insufficient skills and on-the-job experience to achieve the coaching goal within a limited time period.

Crisis Coaching- A learner who needs crisis coaching can best be described as

  1. less stable than normal;
  2. feeling highly threatened and anxious;
  3. at a major life crossroads and experiencing a myriad of emotions;
  4. having to examine newly revealed and disturbing feelings, relationships, and information;
  5. finding that his or her normal functioning and primary defense mechanisms no longer work effectively; and
  6. being uncertain about the outcome of the crisis but imagining that the worst may occur.

Because of these factors, crisis coaching requires a different approach than short-term or long-term coaching, as seen in the box on the following page.

Long-Term Coaching- occurs over several months or years and requires an extended commitment from both the developer and learner. The developer must be able and willing to engage in coaching of this magnitude, and the learner must have a desire to learn, grow, and take advantage of the coaching experience. The best candidates for long-term coaching are learners with one or more of the following characteristics:

  1. have serious performance issues that require more coaching than can be provided in short-term coaching;
  2. have multiple coaching goals that require more extended coaching;
  3. have a demonstrated commitment to and excitement about ongoing personal and professional development;
  4. are high-potential candidates for future leadership jobs or high-impact professional positions;
  5. are in highly stressful, high-pressure jobs for which having a coach as a sounding board and advisor can be extremely beneficial; or
  6. are senior executives who need someone whom they trust to confide in.

Long-term coaching always involves unpredictable events and new opportunities- for example, the learner receives a promotion or gets fired, a new issue arises that provides a coaching opportunity, or an organizational change alters the coaching requirements. Because of these factors, effective long-term coaching must not only be emergent and spontaneous but must also be predictable. A coherent coaching methodology, combined with enough flexibility to respond to emergent issues, dramatically increases the success of long-term coaching.

REMINDER It is essential to use a coaching methodology-short-term, crisis, or long-term- that best suits the developer's available time and skill set and the learner's specific coaching needs and goals. On occasion, developers may need to meet with learners before the methodology is selected, but developers and learners often know beforehand which approach will work best.

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What is Project Risk?

“If I perform risk management for a project, we might be more successful, but I’m not sure what risk really is.”

The original meaning of risk is associated with gambling- to risk is to gamble. When we take risks, there is a chance of gaining and perhaps an equal chance of losing. Project risk has evolved to mean more.

Uncertainty in business ventures has come to be known as risk. Every business venture is basically risky. In new business ventures, project initiatives, and new product development, there are unknown factors and their impacts on the venture are equally unknown. The unknown factors could be favorable or unfavorable. There is a probability that one may either gain or lose business value. However, a loss may hurt the venture. Most business ventures like to assess the probability of loss and compare it with the probability of gain. The decision to go ahead depends on whether the odds are favorable or unfavorable. Risk is the probability of suffering loss. Using this approach, the PMO or Project Steering Committee will not pursue a venture that has a risk probability greater than 49 percent. The odds must be in favor of winning the gamble, even though the tilt is marginal.

Definition 1.1: Risk is the probability of suffering loss.

A refinement of this definition is to include goals, gains, or opportunities in the statement. Perhaps it is implied and obvious that risks relate to gains. Nevertheless, if risks are divorced from the associated goals, then one sees just a set of problems. A risk list should not be reduced to a problem list. Risks have a much broader role to play. We should always include the expected and potential gains that a project offers in the risk assessment.

Definition 1.2: Risk is the probability of suffering loss while pursuing goals

Then there is the consideration of the magnitude of harm from the risk. What will its impact be? The consequence of the risk is evaluated. If the harm is tolerable but the gains are attractive, new decision rules can emerge. One may even take a risk where the occurrence probability is greater than 50 percent. The threshold is not 49 percent. Risk is seen as a weighed parameter and can fluctuate. The weight is based on the magnitude of loss due to risk, if the risk ever occurs.

Risk magnitude is measured using many different estimation methods. When the estimations form a range; such as a minimum of 12 and a maximum of 20, for a measure you want to maximize. You would compute half the distance between the max and min which is 4. Your estimate magnitude is 16 (the mean of the two numbers) with a risk of 4. 4 is 25% of 16, so you might report a risk magnitude of 25%. My point here is magnitude is dealt with in multiple ways.

Risk is defined as the combination of probability of occurrence and the magnitude of loss it causes. This combination is also known as risk exposure. The new definition below takes this into consideration.

Definition 1.3: Risk is the combination of probability and magnitude of loss.

Typically, project risk is defined and measured using Definition 1.3. Measure-ment of risk is often a subjective process. Both the probability and loss are measured using linguistic measures such as "high," "medium," and "low" which are nominal metrics. What matters is not just the risk, but its intensity, measured as risk exposure. Will the risk occur? What will the harm be? These are more significant questions than, "What is the risk?"

A clarification is due at this juncture. If loss occurs because of factors within our control, it is not considered as a risk. Only factors beyond our control give rise to risk. This is the general perception that makes risk management simple. Internal factors are within our control. Hence, only external factors that contribute to loss, which are not under the project manager’s direct control, qualify as risk factors. When this notion prevailed, people believed that they had not caused the risks.

Sometimes, processes are not in control and results are not predictable or what were intended. Such losses become risks. In this case, the origin is not the criterion - predictability and control are important factors. Hence, a complete risk definition would be:

Definition 1.4: Risk is the probability of suffering loss while pursuing goals due to factors that are unpredictable or beyond the PM’s control.

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Action Research

“If I look for better ways to manage projects, then I can increase competitive advantage for our entire organization, but it’s hard for organizations to learn from their activities.”

Whatever way you look at Action Research, you’ll find it the favorite of project managers, and by the way, the most valuable part of being in a community. The purpose of action research is to develop new skills or new approaches and to solve problems with direct application to your project, Integrated PM methods, or within the working PM setting.


  • An Integrated PM training program to help train PMs to work more effectively with project team members; to develop an exploratory program leveraging less approval points for efficiency; to solve the problem of apathy in chartering meeting with the project sponsor; to test a fresh approach to interesting more clients in project progress prior to project completion.
  • A community initiative to get more community members contributing their thoughts and solutions in the community forum called Straight Talk.
  • Teaching site visitors how to use the pmNERDS’ website annotation features to further their Integrated PM studies Characteristics:
  • Practical and directly relevant to an actual situation in the working Integrated PM world. The subjects are the project managers, the sponsors, community members, or others with whom you are primarily involved. Provides an orderly framework for problem-solving and new developments that are superior to the impressionistic, fragmentary approach that otherwise typifies develop¬ments in project management. It also is empirical in the sense that it relies on actual observations and behavioral data, and does not fall back on subjective committee "studies" or opinions of people based on their past experience.
  • Flexible and adaptive, allowing changes during the trial period and sacrificing control in favor of responsiveness and on-the-spot experimentation and innovation.
  • While attempting to be systematic, action research lacks scientific rigor because its internal and external validity are weak. Its objective is situational, its sample is restricted and unrepresentative, and it has little control over independent variables. Hence, its findings, while useful within the practical dimensions of the situation, do not directly contribute to the general body of Integrated PM knowledge.


  1. Define the problem or set the goal. What is it that needs improvement or that might be developed as a new skill or solution?
  2. Review the literature to learn whether others have met similar problems or achieved related objectives.
  3. Formulate testable hypotheses or strategies of approach, stating them in clear, specific, pragmatic language.
  4. Arrange the research setting and spell out the procedures and conditions. What are the tasks you will perform in an attempt to meet your objectives?
  5. Establish evaluation criteria, measurement techniques, and other means of acquiring useful feedback.
  6. Analyze the data and evaluate the outcomes.
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