EPC companies admit they didn’t invent project management and seek professional help.

There’s a revolution going on, and it’s going on in the EPC industry: Engineering, Procurement and Construction. These are the companies that work on the “megaprojects,” the projects that run into the hundreds of millions, and yes, billions of dollars. Think, The Chunnel, the Big Dig, and bullet train systems in China and Japan as examples of such large, complex, and extremely costly projects.

For many years EPC companies did project management their own way. In fact, they thought they invented project management (engineers and constructors have been long time users of the Critical Path Method.) These folks believed they knew it all and no one could possibly teach them anything new.

But the EPC world has changed. Don’t take my word for it. Pick up an excellent book entitled Industrial Megaprojects: Concepts, Strategies and Practices for Success, by Edward Merrow, a guy who’s been in that business for more than 30 years. Mr. Merrow writes about Project Owners (the people that pay for these gargantuan projects) that have lost many of their in-house engineers and other professionals who they relied on for critical expertise in a wave of outsourcing, cost-cutting, and down-sizing.

The impact? Owners now have contractors managing contractors managing subcontractors without oversight from the owner himself. As honest as some folks are, others aren’t, and are taking advantage of the situation. And, you might have thought that was just a “Government” problem! Not so.

Many of these megaprojects have run into serious problems and enlightened industry executives in the EPC industry recognize this and realize they need to fix it. They know they have become too insular through the years and have relied on themselves for their own project advice and project management professional development. In many respects, it’s like the lawyer who represents himself in court. Do you know what he has? A fool for a client.

ESI’s EPC clients have remarked that they have opened the doors to the outside. They’re bringing in organizations such as ESI to help with their professional development, to teach their staffs global best practices in their industry. They have abandoned having their own engineers and project managers teach their own people. Why? Because they have learned that simply because someone is a competent engineer or project manager does not make them the best PM instructor. Additionally, EPC firms struggle to maintain the type of up-to-date content that provides a fresh perspective on such complex engagements.

This more enlightened development approach, characterized by highly customized programs with serious and in-depth internal case studies, will yield improved project outcomes over the long run. The old guard is changing, and there’s a new way of doing things. And, to many of these executives, it’s about time.


The above post is an expanded version of one of ESI’s Top Ten Trends for 2014. See all the PM Top Trends here.

The views expressed in this post are the author’s. They have neither been reviewed or approved by ESI International.

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Portfolio Management takes center stage with PMI’s new PfMP credential

In a credential crazed world look out because here comes another one. The Project Management Institute (PMI) recently announced its new Portfolio Management Professional (PfMP) credential. And, in my view, it’s about time.

In an age where Baby Boomers like myself are looking to retire (we’re looking to retire, it might not be there yet!), balance sheets of corporations are flush with cash, yet spending on professional development is very tight, and certainly there’s as lot more work to do than people to do it, the ability to select the most high-valued projects in an organization has never been more important.

But managing a portfolio of projects and programs is much different than managing a financial portfolio (even though it really is a financial portfolio). In financial portfolio management (e.g., stocks, bonds, CDs, alternative investments) a reasonable investor, such as myself, expects that at any given point in time there will be certain components of that portfolio that will be doing very well, while other parts of that portfolio will be lagging.

In fact, professional money managers strongly suggest that an investor select investments that are not correlated with one another. So, while stocks may be doing well (the S&P 500 was up 30% in 2013), bonds will lag (which happened in 2013).

That’s not the case in project portfolio management. Why not? Because organizations today expect that all of their investments are going to do well, all of those investments will reach their ROI and beyond. Unrealistic? Of course it is. But that’s the new reality in portfolio management.

Now, whether this new credential takes off is anyone’s guess, and I’m not a bettin’ man so I’m not going to put any money on it. But I can say this, if we in organizations are not spending enough time  thinking about the right projects and programs to work on we have very little hope that we are going to meet our strategic goals. And, in the end isn’t that what we’re paid to do?


The above post is an expanded version of one of ESI’s Top Ten Trends for 2014. See all the PM Top Trends here.

The views expressed in this post are the author’s. They have neither been reviewed or approved by ESI International.


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Think implementing one PPM tool was hard? Companies now need two!

PPM tools: you can’t live with them, and you can’t live without them. In 2012 Gartner estimated the value of the PPM tool market at $1.65 billion up 11% from the year before and it is projected to climb even higher. That’s a lot of tools, a lot of money, and, a lot of investment.

And just when many organizations thought they were in good shape after spending years refining and perfecting their PPM usage, along comes Agile and turns everything on its head. Why? Because the traditional PPM tool is based on the waterfall approach to managing projects, one that has been around a long time and comes with a standard set of processes, terms and vocabulary.  Agile has changed all of that with its different approach and with an entirely new set of terms and definitions.

Current PPM vendors are scrambling right now to meet the needs of the Agile tool users. But there are many nimble competitors that have developed their Agile tools specifically for the Agile tool user from the ground up that, by most accounts, are doing extremely well (e.g., Rally and VersionOne).

What does this mean? An organization that is doing both traditional projects as well as Agile projects now need two sets of PPM tools. Implementing Agile is a hard hill to climb, but that hill just got steeper because now organizations are now org trying to implement agile as well as an Agile PPM tool.

I have some advice for those doing this. Just make sure your implementation schedule realistically reflects all the hard work it’s going to take to get that Agile PPM tool as finely tuned as your current one. 


The above post is an expanded version of one of ESI’s Top Ten Trends for 2014. See all the PM Top Trends here. 

Check out ESI’s new, and very cool, website here.


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Ready or not change is coming…better be ready..here’s how

You’d better be ready for stakeholders who think like this!

As project mangers we deliver change. Our project deliverables may change the way people work, with whom they work, and how they work. In order for our projects to really be successful, the organization needs to adopt the change we deliver. It’s our job to make sure the organization is ready.

But how do we know if the organization is “ready” for the change that’s coming directly at it? Following is a Change Readiness Checklist I developed a few years ago based on my experience as well as some great references.  Hope it helps you understand just “how ready”  your stakeholders are to accept the change you’re bringing to them.

Change Readiness Checklist

Sizing up the effort
• Is the project part of a larger change effort of what is this project supposed to change?
• Does client team know the context of the project?
• Do you and your team know the context of the project?
• What has been done prior to HP’s arrival to promote the project within the organization?
• List the steps you see that the client has taken to prepare the organization for the project
• What communications have occurred within the client organization promoting the project?
• Who is the key sponsor?
• Who are the key stakeholders?
• Who would like to see the project fail?
• Does the project appear to have broad-based support?

Sense of Urgency
• What’s the case for the project or change effort?
• Has the client created a sense of urgency?
• How have they made the case for change? For example:
     • Return on investment
     • Customer satisfaction
     • Reduce costs
     • New products to market faster
     • Increased competition
     • Higher profits
     • Survivability
• Do you sense this “urgency” when dealing with the client?
• Does the client’s clients sense urgency?

Who’s Running the Show—A Guiding Coalition
• Who’s behind the project?
• Is there a guiding team of individuals, with the appropriate level of authority directing the
• effort?
• Can this group “make things happen”?
• How involved are they?
• How involved do they need to be?
• Is it a single individual promoting the effort? A weak task force?
• Do the members of the coalition show up for the meetings?

• Is there a clear sense of direction of the project?
• What is being changed?
• What is the vision of the changed workplace?
• Can people articulate the vision in conversation?
• Can it be described in a 30 second elevator encounter?
• Does the client team speak in terms of the vision, or of the technology?

Has the client identified all the people who will be affected by the change?
What has the client done to tell and “sell” people affected about the change. For example, has the client
     • Communicated why the changes are being made?
     • Communicated more than once, using multiple mediums?
     • Established regular communications with employees/users/stakeholders?
     • Identified the barriers to change, especially vocal critics and developed a plan to address these?

Has the client developed a communications management plan?
     • Does it identify who should receive what information when, how often, and in what format?
     • Have the information needs for the different levels of stakeholders been identified within the communications plan?

Has the client developed a transition plan including a careful analysis of all impacts on employees (pay, benefits, etc.)?

Has that plan been distributed to all who need to know its contents?
     • Ask for a copy of the plan and distribute to all the HP Services project team.
     • Review the plan looking for statements that indicate change readiness.

What is the nature of the communications on the project/program?
     • Are they all about project status?
     • Do they include opportunities to “sell” the project?

Create short-term wins
Has the client thought of “chunking” the project for short-term wins?
Have specific metrics been developed to suggest incremental progress? For example:
     • 50% of users on line by X date
     • 80% of transactions handled by X date
     • All users trained by X date
     • 25% of components installed and operational by X date
Have the metrics been quantified or qualified in terms of benefits realization?


John Kotter, Leading Change, Harvard Business School Press, 1996
John Kotter, Change from the Heart, Harvard Business School Press, 2002
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, On Death and Dying, Touchstone, 1969


The opinions expressed in this post are Mr. PM’s. They have not been reviewed or approved by ESI Intl.

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The 6 Sins of Project Leadership

In October, my article, the title of this post, was published by Projects At Work. The other day it was included in the enewsletter’s roundup of the publication’s best content of 2013. Just thought I’d share it with you (read it here). Let me know what you think.

Oh, you’ll have to login to Projects At Work website and if you’re not a member you’ll have to join I think. It’s a great resource and you can set preferences so you only receive the newsletter and no other emails.


The opinions expressed in this post are Mr. PM’s. They have not been reviewed or approved by ESI International.


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Here’s what that open plan office is doing to your project team members…and it’s not good

Read this article entitled The Open-Office Trap published in the The New Yorker. You’ll think twice about putting your colleagues in an open plan office. However, like most people, you’re probably completely powerless to do anything about it.

Well, maybe not. What kind of accommodations could you make to help your colleagues lower their stress level and improve their productivity? Can you let them work from home a few days a week? Is their a quiet place like a library in your building? Are their conference rooms you can reserve frequently to let people get away from the “factory floor” of the typical open plan business office?

Think hard. Plenty of research shows there are real benefits to be gained by doing so.


The opinions expressed in this post are the author’s. They have neither been reviewed or approved by ESI International.

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ESI Intl Releases Top Ten Trends in Project Management for 2014

Close to the end of every year, my colleagues and I get together and look out into the coming year to see what trends might be important for organizations and practitioners alike. Believe me, we’re not soothsayers, seers, fortune tellers, oracles, sages, clairvoyants or psychics. But, we are professionals who are actively involved with clients doing the hard work of improving their project management practices. And, we observe things along the way that we think might be catching on, so to speak.

This year’s trends highlight the growing unease with the status quo of current project management practices. Past failures to improve project efficiencies force the need to ‘pull out all of the stops’ to deal with project complexity, implement new project management approaches, and adopt alternative leadership styles to improve project success for greater competitive advantage. In-demand project managers and leaders seem ready to face the challenge.

With that as an introduction, here are the Top Ten Trends in Project Management for 2014 in summary form.

1. Agile expands in Singapore, Japan and Hong Kong.
2. Portfolio management continues to take center stage with PMI’s new credential.
3. Whether they like it or not, project managers are learning to learn through virtual learning.
4. EPC companies admit they didn’t invent project management and seek professional help.
5. Think implementing one PPM tool was hard? Companies now need two!
6. Servant leadership makes a comeback, and not just in Agile.
7. Benchmarking takes on greater urgency as competition heats up.
8. Organizations, dissatisfied with their project management performance, will radically change their approaches to get back on track.
9. Even with high unemployment globally, key project management jobs will remain hard to fill.
10. Project and program managers will be asked to spend more time “leading” rather than “managing” their teams. 

If you’d like to see our full press release here it is: http://www.esi-intl.com/corporate-links/newsroom/news-releases-2014/esi-international-releases-top-10-trends-in-project-management 

The trends white paper which goes into more detail can be found here: http://www.esi-intl.com/resources/industry-research/viewpoints/2014-pm-trends

Also, in conjunction with the release of the trends paper, I recorded a video discussing the trends. A link to the video can be found within the press release and on the trends paper page. You can link directly to it here: http://www.esi-intl.com/resources/podcasts-and-videos/top-10-pm-trends-2014

What trends are you seeing?




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In 2014 we’ll all need to be better, a lot better!

The project success numbers as reported by PMI in its Pulse of the Profession reports are sinking around the world and in every industry. If you’re organization is doing fine, hit escape, and go back to reading your PMBOK. But, if your company, like a lot of companies, is still struggling with improving project success rates, please read on.

We all need to raise our games for the coming year. But how much better can we really be? Well, let me give you an analogy.

I love cashews (lightly salted thank you). When I upgrade to First Class, I’m often given a beverage along with a small dish of mixed nuts. I don’t like mixed nuts. I like cashews, so that’s all I eat in that little bowl. When the flight attendant returns with a big boll of the mixed nuts with a soup ladel and asks “Would you like some more nuts?” I remark: “I just want the cashews please.”

At first, they don’t know what to say, then they break out laughing, thinking I’m just kidding. After all, what a ridiculous thing to ask. As if they’re going to stand there sifting through all those nuts to just get me what I want. Imagine.

I was on a business trip to Japan a few years back to visit our partner of more than 10 years, the Fuji Xerox Learning Institute (FXLI). I landed around dinner time and I was “parched” and hungry So, my colleague and friend, Raed Haddad, our Managing Director in Singapore, and I went out for dinner. (By the way, Raed is one of the best speakers on the global PM circuit. Don’t ever miss an opportunity to hear him present.) We first visited the bar to quench our thirst with an Asahi or two.

To my pleasant surprise, a young Japanese woman delivered our beer AND a bowl of mixed nuts. When she came back to ask if we wanted more nuts, I said what I usually said “We’ll just have the cashews please.” She said “Hai” (yes in Japanese), immediately took the bowl and ran to the back of the bar. I looked over my shoulder and do you know what I saw? There she was separating out the cashews from the other varieties in a huge jar of mixed nuts to give us what we had requested.

To her, this wasn’t a ridiculous request. It is what the customer wanted. She didn’t laugh, she didn’t say “you’re only kidding right?” or tell me to “Fuhgeddaboudit” (cool video on New York City accents) as they would in some bars here in New York City. Nope, she didn’t do any of that. She gave us what we wanted no questions asked.

Much to our surprise, and delight, she returned to our table with these!

That’s how much “better” we all need to be for 2014.


The views expressed in this post are my own. They have not been reviewed or approved by ESI International.

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The perfect holiday gift for that very special Project Manager

With Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, and New Years all around us, it’s time to think about that perfect gift for our favorite Project Manager. Here are some selections I think would be quite useful.

I can hardly wait to see what’s under the Christmas Tree for me!


PMWired is on vacation and will return with a new post on January 6, 2014.

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Why PMO Directors and Executives Don’t see Eye-to-Eye; It has to do with metrics

PMO Heads often ask me the question “What metrics should I use to measure project and project management performance to help make the case for my PMO?” This is an important, and fair, question. Every PMO Head needs to be thinking about this.

At ESI, our two global surveys of the Global State of the PMO show that PMO heads generally use two sets of metrics which I call Level 1 and Level 2.  They are shown in the slides below which was part of a presentation I developed entitled “The Value of Project Management–It’s all about ROI” which I delivered in India to several audiences a while ago.


Executives, on the other hand, don’t measure their business using the above Level 1 metrics, and many rarely use any of the Level 2 metrics. Instead, they use what I call Level 3 metrics as shown here.

Is it no wonder that so many PMOs go out of existence? When we have a PMO Head bragging about how many project managers are using a PM methodology when an executive is looking for some level of financial return on the investment, we have people talking passed each other. The loser in that game is going to be the PMO Head EVERY TIME.

Start thinking like an Executive and you’ll be around for the long haul (No guarantees of course. After all, it is 2013 rolling into 2014!).

Enjoy the holidays.

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