Meet Your Project Management Conflicts Head-on (Without Cracking Skulls)

Now despite the premise of this post, not all conflict in a technical project is bad. Healthy teams resolve their conflicts through respectful discussion of the technical, practical, or organizational impact of each competing option. However, the emotional investment team members commit to their argument can appear to be based on personal prejudices. To keep the debate constructive, negotiations like this should be structured more formally. By employing a principled negotiation process, the team identifies the differing professional backgrounds and acknowledges the merits of each. By separating the people and their biases from the problem, the cloak of technical superiority within which each contender seeks to wrap itself would be rendered useless. So how do they get to this stage of maturity? Read more ›

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Posted in Technology Management

Strategic Management Missing in Tech

Imagine and ImplementStrategic management boils down to imagination and adaptation. Leadership forms a strategy using an imagined change they must believe will benefit the long-term viability of their firm. Guided by this vision, the thought leaders and subject matter experts combine their knowledge, motivation, and ingenuity to adapt their functional spaces to realize this plan. This guidance, once implemented, drives the entire organization as it navigates the expected obstacles it will encounter and mitigates the impact of the inevitable future unknowns. Read more ›

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The Best Kind of Project Team for Your Organization

A project team coalesces into one of four common forms. The most effective form within an the organization depends on the culture and interpersonal dynamics accepted and practiced across bounds of responsibility.

Where team dynamics are the exception and not the rule, problem-solving teams are the most effective form. Members have a specific problem for which they formulate a solution. Their lifetimes are short and their authority limited.

Self-managed work teams have dramatically different characteristics than work groups. Management positions are eliminated or reformed to deal with management of the team within the firm’s organizational structure. They are authorized to solve and implement the solutions with great latitude. This form would be most appropriate in smaller firms where hierarchical positions of leadership are not highly politicized or valued.

Mixed mode teamA mixed form of the problem-solving team and self-managed work team, cross-functional teams form from within a single level of hierarchy but many functional areas. Due to the nature of their split responsibilities fulfilling their functional and team duties, they are harder to manage but appropriate for complex tasks. Such teams are appropriate within traditional corporate environments.

Virtual teams are a distributed form of one of the preceding. The essential difference is the physically separate location of individual contributors and the normal modes of collaboration being highly dependent on virtual environments. This variation is useful when no physical location houses all of the individuals required to accomplish the task.

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Posted in Innovation Management

What Do Project Controls Really Tell Us To Do?

Control Data Analytics
Collect the data, chart the data, summarize the findings, repeat…

The treadmill of technical project control is tedious and mind numbing. Nonetheless, it’s those precious insights into the status of progression that management must have to make intelligent decisions during the project life-cycle. Knowing the value of control tools is great, but exactly how do you use the resulting analytics to guide future action? In the following, I describe three commonly used control tools and how those tools are used to inform and improve management of the project. Read more ›

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Posted in Technology Management

Where is the Control Data in Agile Projects?

Traditional project control requires the collection of different types of data. These types include frequency counts, raw numbers, subject numeric ratings, and indicator and surrogate measures. But where do we find these in Agile managed projects? Read more ›

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Analyzing Uncertainty Inherent in New Projects

Money + Time = Uncertain Results
To evaluate the uncertainty of adding a project to the firm’s portfolio, project managers conduct risk analysis activities such as simulation. Crystal Ball is a tool for conducting simulations quickly and with an appropriate level of frequency. Since comparable information is most useful when evaluating various investment options but many projects perform over varying durations, financial information used to quantify the return should incorporate the time value of money. Net present value is the most qualified measure. Read more ›

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Risk Management Techniques for Complex Projects

The WBS is a Risk Analysis Tool

A work breakdown structure (WBS) is a coded and categorized view of the project as a group of well-understood deliverables. The WBS forms a concrete path toward meeting the high-level product requirements from the project charter. In its simplest form, one team member or a small group of close collaborators will accomplish the work items at the lowest level of abstraction.

Since the WBS forms the basis for scheduling activities required to produce project deliverables, project managers require them to be complete and exhaustive. Due to the complex nature of some projects, work packages that remain composed of multiple deliverables indicate areas of risk. So in addition to isolating potential WBS shortcomings, a seemingly incomplete WBS helps identify potential areas of scope creep. Without being well-defined, others may freely interpret the deliverable as they see fit creating scope creep or scope gap during execution.

Once the project manager verifies that the WBS fully describes the scope of the project end result, the WBS becomes a useful tool for identifying potential risks. The risk-oriented analogue to the WBS is the risk breakdown structure (RBS). Risk breakdown structures mirror the categorizations in the WBS and describe potential risks when creating the work products. If the size of the WBS exceeds the management skills of the project manager, the probability of planning and execution deficiencies and inefficiencies rises. The scope of such a project requires too much attention to control creep risks or to identify gap risks.

The Risk Breakdown Structure

A risk breakdown structure (RBS) forms a charted layout of risks in a more structured way. Rather than discover the categories of risk and drill down each one separately, risk managers construct categories of risk at subsequently lower levels of abstraction. This chart produces groupings and clusters of risks. Greater numbers of risks in various categories help risk managers focus their planning on those areas first.

Probability and Impact

Risk planners enrich an RBS by adding an indication of probability and impact to the lowest subcategories of risk. To determine probability and severity of risk events within a subcategory, planners rely on their experience or corporate tools. Should that be insufficient to address the particular risks of the project, an industry tool such as the Project Experience Risk Information Library (PERIL) provides a basis for analysis.

With sufficient information to form estimates of probability and impact, the planners create a risk matrix. Probability of occurrence and severity of impact form the axes. The risk planners slot the lowest subcategories of risk from the RBS into the appropriate positions along with their codes. What forms is a guide for how the project manager should address the risk. For instance, high probability and catastrophic impact for a risk subcategory would best be avoided altogether.

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Posted in Technology Management

Quality Management Across Profit Models: From Big Splash to Long Tails

Conditions for business success changed from the industrial shops to the manufacturing organizations operating today. One particularly important condition for success is quality management in the creation and production of new products. There exist numerous scarcity factors that impact quality in the production process of slow time-to-market eras. These quality process enabling conditions do not exist in the new long tail profit models of abundance. The article examines a case for accelerated product process and concludes with recommendations. These recommendations may form the basis for accelerated quality management systems minimally impacting the vital importance speed at which products are developed, produced, and distributed.

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How to Make the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For: Hitachi Data Systems and Hasbro Compared

Two relative newcomers to the Fortune® 100 Best Companies to Work For, Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) and Hasbro were ranked 63 and 92 respectively in 2013. Compiled by the Great Place to Work® Institute, the list consists of those companies whose policies, leadership, culture, and benefits represent concrete realizations of the institute’s five Dimensions of the Great Place to Work Model: credibility, respect, fairness, pride, and camaraderie. “In the best companies, leaders at all levels have a strong commitment to creating strong ties between the employee and the organization. Indeed, enhancing trust, pride, and camaraderie in the workplace is the central task of effective leadership in today’s organization” (Burchell & Robin, 2011, p. 7).
Figure 1: The Great Place to Work Model from Burchell, M. and Robin, J. (2011, p. 4). Copyright 2011 by The Great Place to Work® Institute.

The Great Place to Work Institute claims that companies realizing its definition of a trusting relationship between leadership and employees earned twice the market returns of workplaces that did not meet it’s criteria. In addition, the workplaces identified by the institute Read more ›

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To Comply or Compete with Emerging Standards

Open Standards word cloud Word cloud created at

Be they in the cloud, on your mobile device, or embedded in your networking infrastructure, standards bodies are working feverishly to set the context for competition. But to decide whether your organization should try to ‘beat em’ or ‘join em’ will require deep understanding of your technological strength and risk tolerance.

Firms considering entry into an established standards-based market will often rely on deep technical experience within their engineering ranks.  Having such expertise readily available Read more ›

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