Friday, November 23, 2007

Collaboration & Research Tools

I was asked by a few people recently as to how I find stuff and what tools do I use (I'm a bit of a researchaphile).

So I through together a quick lunch & learn session today, got some great feedback, so I thought I would share it that little bit further.

Here is a list and some brief descriptions of the tools.

Collaboration Tools

Research Tools


If you know of any others you have found useful, let me know.



Thursday, November 22, 2007

Doing the Do

To finish off this trifecta I'll share my thoughts on the third piece of feedback I provided to Project Managers of our Enterprise PMO after analysing their Post Implementation Reviews.

Along with Blind Optimism and not identifying True Learnings, I provided feedback related to a Focus on Doing.

This is based around the Deming Cycle of continuous improvement where you cycle through the stages of Plan, Do, Study, Act (AKA: PDSA, PDCA).

What we noticed was PMs were given a small amount of lead time for Projects ("You have funding, now start delivering.") and quickly moved through Planning to actually Doing.

Unfortunately instead of taking time to Study the outcomes and performance of the Project and then take steps to Act on identified improvements, The PM was usually quickly given another assignment ("bench time costs money" chargeback mentality) and asked to deliver in line with some phantom deadline arrived at to fit in some schedule somewhere.

So a majority of time was spent in doing with very little planning and virtually no study and action.

'True' Learnings

Following on from last post I will continue on with the second point I made in presenting feedback to a number of Project Managers in an Enterprise PMO upon studying a number of their post implementation reviews.

Last post we talked about Blind Optimism and how despite PMs having the worst project in the world, they tend to be blindly optimistic about the outcome of the next.

This time I want to talk about the identification of 'true' learnings.

what I had discovered from studying a number of Post Implementation Review reports is that where challenges were faced during the delivery of a project, the workaround that got them over the line was highlighted.

Now this knowledge has value and can provide someone who finds themselves in a similar situation, a description of the experience and decision to hopefully improve their chances of success.

What was glaringly omitted is what I termed the True Learning. I described the true learning being the actual root cause of the challenge faced. By describing this you can give the gift of foresight to a PM by allowing them to be aware of the root cause and pre-cursors to the challenge in order to mitigate the risk of it occurring.

We have introduced After Action Review (AAR) questions and the 5 Whys technique to help people identify these root causes. But it is not just enough to identify them. We need to ensure they are shared and available for people who are no longer Blindly Optimistic.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Blind Optimism

After running a final After Action Review (AAR) for a project today the Project Manager (PM)approached me and asked me what are some of the key learnings that I see in common with other projects I have facilitated reviews for.

Over the past two years at Suncorp I have facilitated workshops (what used to be Post Implementation Review (PIR) and the smaller more frequent AARs we are now moving towards) on over 60 projects.

I told the PM of a presentation I made to a forum for our Enterprise Program Management Office (EPMO) a couple of months ago after being asked by my Manager to share our most common lessons learned to the group of PMs and other project staff.

This responses to the presentation I made were diverse. From some I got denial "You don't know what you are about." from others a "I'm not sure about that." as well as "I hadn't really thougth about that." to people congratulating me on speaking out about systemic issues in our processes, capability and culture.

There were three key trends I identified are listed below. You will notice these trends do not relate to process but instead are more cultural and behavioural traits. In this post I will look at one specifically and then discuss the others in future.

  • > Blind Optimism
  • > Not identifying 'true' learnings
  • > Focus on 'doing'

Blind Optimism

In most cases I discovered that despite the fact that the last project the PM ran went pear shaped, having various challenges that caused time, cost, resource and scope blowouts, they tended to take an optimistic approach to the new project citing that they "didn't think it would happen again" or "assumed the problems had been fixed" or took a 'she'll be right mate' attitude to the next project.

Now don't get me wrong. We are talking about medium to high complexity projects of a medium to large scale and cost, so the likelihood of coming across the exact same situation where you could apply the exact same solution and end up with the exact same outcome will not happen that often. I am not saying we needed to be pessimistic and intentionally plan for a worst case scenario. All I am asking for is a realistic outlook.

Consider there is a risk that the same troubles may occur and mitigate/treat the risk. Find out what other people had experienced and learn from that experience. Don't go in blind. Undertake some Knowledge Exploration.