Exceeding expectations for successful delivery
Over the past decade, IBM has successfully transformed itself into a project based enterprise. This transformation was planned with the ultimate goal of driving more successful outcomes to client projects, internal IT programs, and internal product development projects. Beginning in 2006, IBM’s Global Business Services unit began a specific client focused initiative that grew out of this overall enterprise transformation, and concentrated on ensuring Excellence in Delivery for client based projects.
Editor's Note: The following paper is an actual project record presented here as a case study intended for use as a general project management class exercise. For this reason, specific names of companies or individuals have been carefully omitted. However, anyone wishing further information may contact the author through the contact information provided on this web site.
Wikipedia writes about work life balance: “The work-leisure dichotomy was invented in the mid-1800s. In anthropology, a definition of happiness is to have as little separation as possible ‘between your work and your play.’ The expression ‘Work–life balance’ was first used in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s to describe the balance between an individual's work and personal life. In the United States, this phrase was first used in 1986.” Cambrige Advancer Learner’s Dictionary defines work-life balance as ‘the amount of time you spend doing your job compared with the amount of time you spend with your family and doing things you enjoy’. (Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)
This article is based on the International Project Management Presentation delivered by Judy Umlas in November, 2011.
Welcome to the Project Kick-Off Meeting of ONE of the – if not THE - most important project of your personal and professional life. –We call it Project Work Life Balance! And today we are going to initiate this project and make sure that you can achieve project success! To make the most of this presentation, it would be useful to have the printed two last slides/tables of this article in front of you, as well as something to write with.
In David Whyte’s “The Three Marriages,” he proposes that we change every day and to really have “life balance”, we must focus on three important relationships at the time when each needs our focus. He said a lasting, steady balance in life is nothing more than an illusion. He supports and I agree that, at different times, in your projects, different areas take priority and require your complete attention. Similarly, Whyte’s book proposes that, in life, different demands on you force you to consider a focus on one of three important relationships at a time. For example, his three marriages are: to someone/family that you love, to your career, and to yourself. The most important of those marriages is the one with yourself since he proposes that if you don’t have that working optimally, the others will soon suffer. Even though “life balance” might be an illusion or marketing concept, I thought about what my life would look like if I planned it as a project and here’s a tool to help you think deeply about your own life project:
Have you ever noticed an energy surge at the beginning of a new year? It’s not necessarily an individual energy surge, but a collective one. Experts have speculated that this energy surge is generated out of an emotional state called hope. Perhaps we are hoping to leave the things that didn’t work for us in 2011, in the rear view mirror. Perhaps we are hoping for something brand new to materialize. Many of us turn our hopes into what is commonly called a New Year’s resolution. At the turn of the 19th century, it was projected that 10% of the population made these resolutions. After the Great Depression, that number jumped to 25%. This year, it is projected that a whopping 55% of us are expressing some sort of a resolution as we jump in to 2012. I could theorize as to why that number is growing but it would just be a guess. What I am more interested in sharing is how we can succeed in making the improvements at the root of our hope.
Kathy is a senior project manager in the New York City metro area. She has worked in the financial industry for the last 7 years and has moved up in her responsibilities and career path. Recently, Kathy faced a challenge to make some adjustments in order to avoid reaching the burnout stage and other potential negative consequences on the family front.
Project Management & Six Sigma: Use Six Sigma Methods for Better Project Results By Harry Rever - ASQ Certified Six Sigma Black Belt and Quality Manager
Let me ask you a question right from the start. What is the ultimate purpose of a project? Think about it for a minute. Why does some business leader, some organization, want you to work on a project? It's simple really. Your efforts on any project you are managing should result in some kind of improvement for the business: reduced costs, increased sales, better productivity, less errors, reduced cycle time. The list goes on and on. You and your teams are doing a lot of work so an important aspect of the business gets better. Yet, so often, teams fail to realize improvement is their purpose. They get lost in the minutia and documentation of project management: scope documents, meeting minutes, action item lists, jeopardy logs, and meeting due dates. Or worse, teams often boast of tremendous improvement through such flimsy analysis that they risk losing total credibility with their clients, thus jeopardizing the hard work of the team. People simply miss the big picture: add value. The point is, if you, as a project manager, cannot effectively relate how what your team is doing results in some kind of business improvement, well, you are not doing a complete job as a project manager. More importantly, you could easily be viewed as not adding value to the organization. Is the perception of not adding value a risk you are willing to take in this time of uncertainty?
Q. - Harry, how can I communicate the status and direction of my project more effectively and persuasively?
Are you one of the lucky ones that has worked on a really well run project before? A project that was smooth, made sense, and just seemed easy, most likely because the team leader or project manager was competent, perhaps even excellent. He or she knew what he was doing; he was calm, cool and collective. The guy probably had it together and instilled confidence in everyone associated with the project. On the other hand, who hasn’t had the misfortune of being associated with one of those projects that, in a word, was nothing less than “brutal?” The kind of project you knew was doomed from the very start. Many times it boils down to an ineffective or incompetent team lead. We’ve all been there. It’s fairly simple really. A good project manager can make even the most difficult project seem easy while a horrible project manager does more damage than good on even the simplest project. We all know the “Project Damager” type and we avoid him or her at all costs. No one wants to work with a project damager and no project manager wants that label. So what can help a project manager become more effective? What specific tool or technique can help a project manager continue his or her rise to a confident, experienced and “in control” team leader? There are obvious criteria to project management greatness: knowledge and expertise in the field of project management, an innate ability to motivate, inspire, and lead people, and having the confidence and unique ability to facilitate a group of stakeholders to a common objective. Perhaps the most important characteristic of any successful project manager is his or her ability to communicate effectively, to persuade others. Effective communication requires a clear and logical message that is believable and easy for the recipient to follow. Communicating effectively with data strengthens a project manager’s position, takes the emotion out of decision making, and helps move a project forward quickly and efficiently. I recommend a simple, yet surprisingly effective approach of communicating with data; the “triple threat” approach to status updates. In the game of basketball, when a player has the ball and is in athletic position (legs bent, ball off to one side) he or she is a “triple threat”. They can either shoot, dribble, or pass. This is a great position to be in and gives the offensive player the advantage. In much the same way, the triple threat approach to communicating gives the project manager the advantage of delivering a clear, fact based message.
Q. - Harry, do you have any suggestions to help the project manager with scoping a project and getting the team working together right from the start of a project?
Project managers obviously face many issues when starting a project. Gaining appropriate sponsorship, acquiring necessary resources, and determining correct customer requirements are the kinds of issues that if not handled correctly can easily result in eventual project failure. Additionally, two important issues project managers face on just about every project have to do with determining the correct project scope and quickly getting the project team working together. Fortunately, there is an effective and often used Six Sigma tool which addresses those two very issues. Project managers can greatly benefit from using the “SIPOC” diagram at the start of every project
As mentioned in the “Ask Harry” column in the May, 2007 allPM.com newsletter, Six Sigma and Project Management are similar in that both disciplines utilize projects to manage and improve results. A Six Sigma practitioner generally works on projects which focus on improving processes; therefore, an understanding of the vital aspects or components of a process is essential for a process improvement project to be successful. A tool which helps the Six Sigma Manager better understand the process, thus helping him or her with project scoping, is the SIPOC diagram. SIPOC stands for Suppliers, Input, Process, Output, and Customer. SIPOC is an easy to use tool which not only helps a team focus but as an added benefit, gets team members working together as a team from the very beginning of a project.
The SIPOC diagram helps a team visualize the five key components of a process which, hopefully, will give them a more comprehensive appreciation for various areas that could very well impact the project if left unaddressed. A picture of a typical process SIPOC diagram is below.
- Quality in Project Management - A Practical Look at Chapter 8 of the PMBOK® Guide By Harry Rever - Director of Six Sigma, International Institute for Learning
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- Ask Harry! What's the Difference between a Six Sigma Green Belt and a Six Sigma Black Belt? By Harry Rever, MBA, CSSBB, CQM, CQC, PMP - Director of Six Sigma, IIL