The 1 “Killer” Mistake That Project Managers Make…and Why They Keep Making It!

VERY TRUE … I have been in this situation, the GM of the company committed to a deadline to deliver a project and I was the project manager and I did the mistake of not having the courage to stop him. The result was agony. We took double the time to deliver the project because the deadline he committed to was extremely not realistic given the requirements. It was a nightmare and the customer was furious and by the time I finally delivered and the project worked successfully the whole team was worn out and under stress for too long!
Ever since this experience I learnt the lesson and I never allowed it to happen again!

Dale Myers' Blog: Think. Plan. Act. Repeat.

Business Man on phone in distressBeing a project manager is hard work. You have to deal with team members, sponsors, stakeholders, subject matter experts, and other nosey types that all have opinions. Some of these folks love to sit around and dissect every action and decision that a project manager makes. Often they are just looking for something to criticize. When they find a perceived mistake, they have the nerve to call it “educational,” or worse, a “learning moment.”

Who needs this crap, right?

As I’ve written in the past, mistakes happen (see my post, When Bad Things Happen to Good Leaders”, December 2012). It’s how you deal with mistakes, and how you learn from them that matters.

“There are no failures – just experiences and your  reactions to them.”  ~ Tom Krause

There’s one mistake that I often see Project Managers make from which it’s hard to recover. It sits at…

View original post 563 more words

Steve Jobs Inspirational Quotes

I was lucky enough to be contacted by Agate Publishing to tell me a about a book titled “I, Steve” – Edited by George Beahm.  It is all about listing Steve Jobs own words in different occasions.  They compiled his quotations on Branding, Recruiting, Being The Best, Focus, Decision making, Death, Employee Potential, Excellence, Focus, Grace Under Pressure, Inspiration, Strategy, Success,…..and many other topics on different events. There is also a section at the end stating all milestones in his life from the year he was born 1955 until 2011.

I think it is a good idea to compile Steve’s words to keep remembering and learning from them.

 

The book is due to be released by November 21 and I was lucky to receive an advance reader copy.  I will list here a couple of Steve Jobs’ great quotations as mentioned in the book.

Everything he says shows how a great leader he was, if he really practiced what he preached.

Reprinted with permission from the forthcoming I, Steve: Steve Jobs In His Own Words, edited by George Beahm, Agate B2, November 2011.

 

 

 

1- About Employees:

All we are is our ideas, or people. That’s what keeps us going to work in the morning, to hang around these great bright people. I’ve always thought that recruiting is the heart and soul of what we do.

2- Being The Best

We’re not going to be the first to this party, but we’re going to be the best.

3- Beyond Recruiting:

It’s not just recruiting. After recruiting, it’s building an environment that makes people feel they are surrounded by equally talented people and their work is bigger than they are. The feeling that the work will have tremendous influence and is part of a strong, clear vision—all those things. Recruiting usually requires more than you alone can do, so I’ve found that collaborative recruiting and having a culture that recruits the “A” players is the best way. Any interviewee will speak with at least a dozen people in several areas of this
company, not just those in the area that he would work in. That way a lot of your “A” employees get broad exposure to the company, and—by having a company culture that supports them if they feel strongly enough—the current employees can veto a candidate.

4- Inspiration

As you’ve pointed out I’ve helped with more computers in more schools than anybody else in the world and I’m absolutely convinced that is by no means the most important thing. The most important thing is a person. A person who incites and feeds your curiosity; and machines cannot do that in the same way that people can.

5- Teamwork

In our business, one person can’t do anything anymore. You create a team of people around you. You have a responsibility of integrity of work to that team. Everybody does try to turn out the best work that they can.

6- Dent in the Universe

Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me.… Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful—that’s what matters to me

——–

You’ll enjoy reading Steve’s so many quotes on different occasions but most importantly we have to learn from them.  A true leader creates leaders and it is obvious from his beliefs in recruitment, inspiration and motivation that he was keen on creating leaders and that he never did anything to be one of the crowd but rather to be the best.

I hope CEOs, HR managers, Chiefs and all decision makers realize the importance of “People”.  If you read Steve’s different quotes you’ll find him always stressing on the “People” factor.  Choose the right people and then inspire and motivate and you’ll get the best out of them and hence achieve your goals.

Unfortunately a lot of managers still believe that bossing around is the right way to get things done.  Some people take the recruitment process lightly or hire only by credentials.  Those forget that you have to choose the person who can culturally fit in your organization if you want to excel.

Now it is clearer why Apple Excelled!

The Egyptian Revolution … A True Leadership example

Today Egypt lives a great moment.  Today we start a new life.  Today we are about to build a better future.  For those who didn’t know, the Egyptians started a revolution on Jan the 25th.  We went out against our dictator and his corrupt regime.  The Egyptian people said “We want the entire regime out”. A lot of things happened since then.  The government started by using the police force to suppress the revolution.  They shoot the protesters using tear gas bombs , rubber bullets and gun shots.  Some died and some were injured but amazingly no one stopped and no one left the streets. Every day the number of people protesting in the streets increased. Suddenly the police force withdrew completely from the streets, they opened prisons and let the prisoners out.  They even sent thugs out to rob and terrorize people in their homes to force them to stay at home to defend themselves instead of protesting. Later on thugs even attacked the protesters and threw molotov bombs on them.  A lot of the protesters died in the attack and the government thought they succeeded in making the revolution fail.  But amazingly people became more insistent to get their freedom and the number of people kept increasing every day until they became all over Egypt and not only in the capital.  The protesters insisted that the president has to step down after all what he has done and they kept living day and night in a very famous square in Cairo called El Tahrir Square.  They slept there and said they will never leave until he leaves.  And we kept like that days and days and the president and his government kept trying to suppress the move.   Until today we achieved our goal, he was forced to step down.

This is a true example of Leadership.  The revolution started by a group of young people who gathered each other through facebook and twitter.  They even called it the facebook revolution.   And day after day it became the Peoples revolution.  This is a revolution without one leader, all the millions of people contributing and protesting were leaders.  They showed insistence and persistence and patience, they showed extreme organization and determination.  They knew exactly what they wanted and worked hard to get it and they did.  It was amazing how young men went down the streets and kept awake all night to protect their homes and their neighbors’ homes against the thugs they sent on us.  It was amazing how people went out to collect garbage from the streets to keep our country clean because we had a curfew so the garbage collectors didn’t come.

Anyone who wants to learn how to become a true leader has to look at the Egyptian people experience.  We made history today and we showed the world that the Egyptian people are all leaders and they can achieve.

All my respect to us Egyptians and all my respect to the people who stayed in Tahrir Square until they forced the Tyrant out and all my respect to the martyrs who paid their lives a price for Egypt to get its freedom.

What do Customers Want?

Many people complain all the time that their customers are never satisfied no matter how hard they try.  You hear stories saying that customers expect too much and hence are always disappointed by what they get.  

I think that we (and by we I mean companies, suppliers, service providers,….) are responsible for this dilemma.  We never work hard enough to manage customer expectations.  Every company has to know exactly what they can offer and what they can not offer and manage their customer expectations to make sure no misunderstandings take place.

For example, you might find a small company that offers a low quality product that is selling and making profits and all its customers are happy.  On the other hand you can find a huge organization that offers the same product but at an un-beatable quality having difficulty pleasing its customers and facing problems all the time.  It is a simple equation! the small company managed their customers’ expectations.  They sent the message that they offer a low quality product for people who can’t pay more and that they can’t offer support after sales and….they simply made it clear.  This is why customers buy their products and never complain because they know they got what is worth their money.

On the other hand the other company either promised their customers too much or sent an open message that every customer interpreted it his own way.  So customers, because their expectations were not managed, expect a lot and keep demanding.

Make sure that your company is delivering the right message.  Don’t leave it open for your customers to expect whatever they want and then blame them for not being happy.

It is exactly the same as in project management.  There is a section in each offer that explains the project scope and you write clearly what is inside the scope and what is outside the scope of the project.  This is exactly how each company has to deal with its customers.  Do not promise what you can’t deliver and do not send messages that can be interpreted in different ways.  Be clear and direct and make sure your customers understand exactly what to expect.

If you do that, it is guaranteed that your customers will always be happy.

Why most Projects Fail

Statistics show that a lot of projects fail one way or another. If  you read this article, you will know that a huge percentage of attempted projects do fail for one reason or another :

http://www.it-cortex.com/Stat_Failure_Cause.htm

From my point of view, the most critical phase of all projects is the Analysis phase. This is the phase in which the project scope should be defined.  All needed details should be 100% clear and understood.  This is the phase that most people miss or underestimate.  Projects fail because project managers don’t give this phase enough care and attention.

Mostly you find people rushing into commiting to deadlines and delivery dates and even deliverables that they discover later on that they were not studied enough.  And this is why they miss their dates and discover that they can’t deliver what they promised.

Amazing enough I met some managers who even committed to delivery dates with their customers before they studied their needs at all.  I had a manager once who promised to deliver an application to a customer and signed a contract and then passed the customer on to me to start the project.  After doing the analysis phase I found out a lot of details and complex requirements that proved that the project needs double the agreed upon time frame.  Of course there was no way to convince the customer after the hasty manager committed and the project became problematic from day one.  The customer was not satisfied although we delivered a great application, but he considered it late delivery.  So rushing into committing to dates without really knowing the scope causes the project to be a failure even before it starts, whatever you do after that the customer will never be happy.

Often miss-communication during this phase also causes a lot of problems.  Customers claim you promised something and you claim you meant something else.  This is why everything has to be written crystal clear and explained in detail in several meetings to make sure all parties are speaking the same language. Managing customer expectations is the keyword!  make sure the customer knows exactly what to expect from you to avoid conflicts.

This is why analysis phase has to be the longest phase of the project lifetime, not the shortest as most managers do!

Analysis phase is the building block for any project.  Know every single detail, define the scope clearly, manage your customer expectations very well during this phase and make all agreements written to avoid surprises later on and be sure your project will be a success.

Are Women Reluctant to Assume Power?

Can women succeed as leaders? Can we reach powerful positions? Yes I do believe we can.  It is not a gender specific issue from my point of view.  It is about certain skills, personal traits and qualifications.  If you have them whether man or woman you will be able to assume power and succeed as a leader.
I read this article “Women and the Uneasy Embrace of Power” by Jeffrey Pfeffer on Harvard Business review.  He claims that women do not occupy powerful positions in organizations because:
  1. They are reluctant to embrace power.
  2. They need to become tougher.
  3. They depend too much on likeability i.e. It is important for women to be liked by everyone so they avoid exercising power in order not to lose anyone.
  4. They need to sacrifice family life to be able to reach powerful positions or choose a strategic marriage that would help them in their quest.
I disagree with the article.  I think women are not afraid of being powerful at all. We are not reluctant to embrace power, on the contrary I think we are more willing than men to hold powerful positions and carry the burden of the position on our shoulders. For so many years there was a discrepancy against women that made us keen to hold powerful positions and make a difference to prove that we can do it.  Also the claim that we need to become tougher and that we care too much about being liked is not true.  Throughout my career I noticed exactly the opposite. From my own experience, I worked once as a Projects Manager at an IT company and they had a lot of problematic and overdue projects.  I had to be very tough and enforce a lot of working rules to the extent that two employees resigned and hated me a lot.  But after a while because I was fair and not at all a control freak, employees understood that I work for results and we became friends and I was able to turn the problematic projects to a success.  I have seen other women as well succeed in focusing on results without caring much for what would people think and whether they will be liked or not.
The last point is the only point I agree with.  Yes, to succeed and reach powerful positions it will have to come on the expense of family life.  But to what extent, is up to every woman to decide.  But surely the 100% balance between work and personal life does not exist.
I have to say also that we cannot generalize.  I write from my own point of view and my own experience and the author of the article writes from his own experience as well. I do believe that we cannot claim something that is true for all women.  Maybe some women underestimate themselves but others don’t.  Generalizing is always the worst thing anyone could do.
I didn’t want to express my point of view only, so I decided to interview a woman who succeeded to reach the top of the hierarchy and assume a powerful position in a huge organization.  I interviewed Mrs.Hanan Abd el Meguid – The CEO of OTVentures, a subsidiary of Orascom telecom and includes a number of companies. In the few lines below I will list the questions I asked Mrs. Hanan and her answers as is:

  • Do you agree with the article that women are reluctant to embrace power and that they don’t like to pursue positions of influence in organizations?
From the experience that I witnessed including with myself, Women are not reluctant to embrace power – they are reluctant to apply the mechanics to embrace power that demands aggressive actions and firm conflict management with heavy confrontation. I am a bit against women and men generalization so I prefer to refer to my own experience with myself. As any ambitious career oriented human, and as a woman I am no different, I wanted to clearly pursue positions of influence in my organization – To reach my target, I had to control a lot of emotional urge that would prevent me from being firm on my position and specially in conflicts. I developed my own techniques to overcome my fears of being aggressive- I just decided this is no popularity contest that I am in, it is work and the target is the result and this sometimes can cause conflict which I should manage with firm stands.

  • Do you think that women need to become tougher to be able to assume strategic positions?
Again, whether men or woman, you need to be tougher and sharper to assume strategic position. In younger age, we always believe in black and white of situations, but as you grow older you learn that fuzziness and complexity in any situation gives space for a lot of discussions and no action driven activities; so to ensure you become successful you need to have clear strong stands to which you ensure your team and other relevant stakeholders are aligned with; in short, i agree I personally needed to be tougher to qualify for assuming strategic positions. tougher does not mean you shout, scream and act aggressive – just be firm with clarity and dare to go through needed confrontations to resolve conflict…Use a smile, it sometimes help soften the impact…no guarantee though!:) But again, this is no popularity contest, this is business and results are what counts, usually fairness and decent communication ensures that you do that without loosing relations with people.

  • Do you agree that women put a lot of emphasis on being liked and this is what affects their exercise of power?
Cannot speak of all women! I can only speak on myself and yes It was earlier at my career difficult to take on conflicts as I do not like to work in an environment where team members do not like me or…hate me. it affected for a while my ability to reach my targets as I give it longer shot by being nice and always saying to myself that i can do this in a peaceful non conflict generating manner…yet reality is, conflicts are a fact of life the higher you go as the issues are more complex and as I said right and wrong become a point of view. so ever since I acknowledged the need to conflict to push execution forward, life was easier and I focused my energy to sharpen my conflict management techniques and really push for higher communication to ensure that maybe…I will be liked:)

  • What helped you reach your status? Is it personal traits or more of working in an environment that does not differentiate based on gender? Or …..
That is a tough question as i am not going to share that I am the best! I just know that when you are passionate, you work hard, focus on execution and results – you can reach any status you aim at. Sounds idealistic, but this is what happened to me.
For the gender differentiation part – I just want to say that throughout my career in LINK, I never felt it as the environment is really healthy – I guess in the IT sector in general this is the case, again my experience, others can have a different point of view. I just want to comment from what i see around me that women that treat themselves differently, they get the gender differentiation; yes we are emotionally more intense than men who tend to be more practical – it is important to use this as a strength point and avoid to overflow emotions that would affect work progress or introduce unnecessary anxiety to the work environment. Yes, women have dual responsibilities, we have to acknowledge this and encapsulate it by planning without abusing it as an excuse so you immediately become a person with a special status (I have seen men also use a lot of personal excuses to justify lower productivity at some moments). Work needs to get done, isolate this from emotions, understand your priorities at different stages of your life so that you plan and manage expectations accordingly – this is the technique I applied and it worked for me.

  • Did you have to sacrifice your personal and family life to be able to succeed in your career or were you able to balance and how?
This is always a tricky question – as the definition of balance and also personal life is tricky. I am married and I have two beautiful kids, and it is a tough responsibility along with heavy responsibility of work – To be clear, you first have to acknowledge it is tough and it is a choice, so that you stop chasing when it will become easy! So I acknowledge it is tough and i decided that this is what i love and this is why i need to make it work.
Second, you have to define your personal life as circle, there is your husband, your kids, your close family and your extended family and friends and…oh first and foremost there is you, as you should understand that as a leader maintaining yourself is key to success. I have to admit that I made some choices, and I know that i focus on very close circles and clearly set my expectations and others that i cannot maintain all my social requirements, I set my priorities and stick to them to avoid wasting time and energy feeling bad that I am not doing what i should be doing…and this is part of managing your own expectations, as self torture is an easy trap you can fall into.
Third, planning and discipline becomes not an option – it is mandatory tool for you to be able to fulfill your dual duties with no drops. I personally found it difficult to admit and practice this fact as I like to be very relaxed and at ease with a floating mind…Well, now I do it but it is always with a preset time bound:)
so in short, sacrifice…no i did not in my opinion sacrifice, rather I made clear and sometimes tough choices on what i can and what cannot do based on my priorities.

  • From your point of view is it true that women underestimate themselves and feel that they deserve less salaries than men with the same qualifications and in the same position?
No, I do not think this is a true statement. Women do not underestimate themselves. The true portion that i tend to agree with is that men are more aggressive in their demands in salaries, maybe this is because of their clear financial accountabilities in Egypt that are set on men when it comes to family. I can only assume, i am not a man:)

  • How about Egyptian women in particular, do you think they have what it takes to be leaders? From your point of view what is it that we as Egyptian women have as a plus that makes us good leaders and what is it that we lack and need to work on to be able to better succeed as leaders?
Of course Egyptian women qualify as leaders, and you can look around and see a lot of examples. From my point of view both women and men should work on separating accountabilities from their emotional state, I think this is a common issue in work discipline that in Egypt we suffer from. The professional pride that dictates that you do your best to achieve with the highest quality irrespective of your emotional state, if you are accountable then this is your responsibility to plan and ensure the best outcome, managing the risks like your personal conditions, your mood, your opinion in your boss, is a personal responsibility as at the end your result is what counts and with time all conditions are forgotten and the only solid fact is your result and outcome, and trust me it pays off when you are keen on every step in the way…My mail is hmeguid@mail.link.net and my twittername is @hmeguid  – i would love to see how can we boost professional pride in our work discipline, it will help us build solid industries and enjoy brighter future.

How to create a Project Financial Program

Today I am hosting a post written by Mr. Jason Westland, the CEO of www.projectmanager.com , who has 15 years experience in the project management industry.
T
They were generous enough as well to offer 3 free licenses of their project management software to my interested readers (worth 495 USD each).  Whoever is interested, please send me your email and full name and I will conduct a draw.  Three lucky winners will win a free license of their software

I was so happy when he contacted me and asked to publish articles in my blog, so here is the article as written by him:
T
If you need to deliver projects on time and under budget, then you have to have a Project Financial Program to made you do it.  Producing this programme is not a simple task, but by learning this article you can learn out how to execute it in four simple steps.
T

How to create a Project Financial Program

Step 1: Number the Financial Expenses

The best measure needed when specifying a Financial Design and placing a project budget, is to identify all of the varieties of expenses that are probably to be obtained throughout the Project Lifecycle.
Typically, most projects drop the majority of their budget on purchasing, leasing, renting or contracting the resources to the design (e.g. labor, equipment and materials). Yet other sorts of expenses found may take those associated to the:
  • Procurement of resources from providers
  • Formation of a Project Place
  • Governance of the project

Step 2: Quantify the Financial Expenses

Once you have placed a particular list of expenses to be acquired throughout the project, the next way is to calculate the unit cost of every expense type listed. The unit price is merely the price of a single unit of a certain expense particulars. For instance, the total cost for:
  • labor may be figured as the value every 60 minutes supplied
  • equipment may be guessed as the lease value per day
  • materials might be figured as the purchase cost per quantity
After numbering the unit value, you should estimate the complete sum of every expense item needed to undertake the project. For instance:
  • Identify the number of uses necessary
  • Quantify the items of equipment required
  • Discover the sum of materials required
  • Quantify the procurance particulars to be sourced from suppliers
  • Figure out the organization value the project

Step 3: Make an Expense Schedule

You have nowadays collated each of the info involved to form a particular expense agenda. This schedule enables the Project Manager to estimate the complete price of undertaking the project on  a daily, weekly or monthly ground.
To create an Expense Schedule, form a board which numbers all of the expense types down the left hand side of page, and all of the weeks in the yr across the page. Then distinguish for each week and for each expense sort, the total of financial expenditure to budget. Once finish, you can add up all of the expenses for whatever certain week to increase a weekly budget for the total project.
Of course you may want to estimate a daily, monthly or yearly prospect, depends upon your particular project need. Likewise don’t forget to number some presumptions taken during the creation of this Financial Plan. For example, it may be assumed that:
  • “The project delivery dates will not change during this project.”
  • “The unit value calculated are exact to within 5%.”
  • “The funds listed by this programme will be accessib as needed.”
And lastly, list whatever constraints identified during this financial planning operation. For example:
  • “Limited data was accessible when recognizing costs”
  • “A marketplace shortage has resulted in a higher labor amount”

Step 4: Specify the Financial Operation

Now that you have created your Expense Agenda, you have to determine the procedure for monitoring and controlling expenses (i.e. costs) all over the Project Lifecycle. Set the Cost Management Form for your project by documenting the:
  • Function of the process
  • Steps taken in undertaking the operation
  • Uses and duties involved in undertaking the operation
  • Guides utilized to backup the process
And there you made it! By finishing these measures, you can make a particular Financial Plan to assist you deliver on time and reasonable budget..
T
They were generous enough as well to offer 3 free licenses of their project management software to my interested readers.  A single license costs 495 USD. Whoever is interested, please send me your email and full name and I will conduct a draw.  Three lucky winners will win a free license of their software

——————————————————————
Jason Westland has 15 years experience in the project management industry. From his experience he has created software to help speed up the management process. If you would like to find out more information about Jason’s online project management software “http://www.projectmanager.com