Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Recap #PWWCBA - Measuring Learning, Not Activities - An Orthogonal View of PM

Next up, Dr. Terence M. Barnhart, R&D from Pfizer - or, Dr. Terry as we came to call him. He sure called it right when he identified at the start of his talk that "projects are complex problems - alot of people are moving in the same direction" so that to make this happen, "you've gotta write 'it' down" - and, to make this work "you've gotta find a method to get it done --- project management". Boy, is he singing my song - Project management is not about document management, but it is about people management. Finding out what our stakeholders need and managing a group of individuals to make all of that happen. Talking to the right people to get the information and decisions necessary - and, then writing it down so that we don't forget (because it is complex). It is the conversations that add value; following the process so that we get it done in an efficient and proficient way.

Key points - as project managers, a structure needs to be created so that people can do the work. Dr. Terry challenged us NOT to identify the activities first and shared three flaws in activity based planning:
  1. The future is unknown (work can be defined and the project still fails)
  2. Activities are defined (plan flex is gained through contingencies)
  3. Activities are statements that lock orientation (so that when failure occurs, it is hard to think up alternate paths to success)
His fix to us is to approach the plan by asking questions vs. identifying activities. This opens up our orientation to different things and ways of thinking.

Okay, let me try this - or, rather he had us try this by having us (individually) write down some steps of a project we are working on. I am creating a new PM workshop for a client, so I wrote down:

  1. Identify need
  2. Identify what exists
  3. Collect requirements
  4. Create course map
  5. Build content
  6. Build exercises/case studies
  7. Run pilot
  8. Revamp

(Okay, not a great list, but we only had a few minutes.....)

Now to the new paradigm - write down the questions that each step answers:

  1. Why are we doing this training? What problem are we trying to solve?
  2. What do people already know? What other training/tools/processes exist to support the problem
  3. What do people need to know/do different/not do as a result of this training?
  4. How are we going to meet the need?
  5. What information to people need to know to meet the need?
  6. How can we ensure people can apply the knowledge?
  7. How well does our solution meet the need?
  8. How can it be even more effective?
Insight (and highlight too!) - By identifying activities first, it seems analogous to building a solution before requirements. We need to start with the "What?" (Questions 1 - 8) vs. the "How?" (Steps 1 - 8). This ensures that we are focusing on the real work that needs to be done - that if we first list our questions (what the intent of the project is about) and then take any template WBS (or start from scratch) to develop how we answer those questions, then we can arrive at a task list geared to the real need of the project. The What, not the How. Ask questions, then convert into activities.

Answered questions are yet another way to communicate status - in a way that our stakeholders can connect. Unanswered questions represent clear gaps in the project. And, these questions, like any template, are durable and reusable. Risk management is integrated in how the question is answered - low risk way to do it by thinking through question, alternatively, the medium and high risk approaches. Each question can also be analyzed for the level of risk it introduces to the project - perhaps breaking a question into more detail can help us better manage the risk!

My takeaway - Dr. Terry's "Critical Question Mapping & 'Organic PM'"

  1. Identify a Strategic problem/opportunity
  2. Brainstorm questions that need to be answered to solve problem or create opportunity
  3. Arrange in Categories (Project Phases!)
  4. Order/sequence with arrows
  5. Answer questions (by breaking into activities, doing work)
  6. Project complete!
My highlight - the quote he shared (source unknown) - "As I get older, passes me by." The < >; could be replaced with many other facets of our lives - don't let Project Management pass you by - integrating both Chuck and Dr. Terry's presentations - professional development is key - step back from how PM is being done and look at what questions you should be asking....or answering.

A Recap - #PWWCBA - Congrats You're Certified - Now What!

Chuck Millhollan, Director of Program Management for Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby, known worldwide as the "Greatest Two Minutes in Sports"(!!!) and a self-professed PM Geek started the morning off - It was good to start the day with Chuck - not only because his energy was contagious - but, his message reminded us why it is so important to continue our journey of professional development. Bottom line, having a PMP or CBAP designation is now a baseline - not a differentiator. There are a whole host of skills and competencies leaders seek - when asked "I just wish my PM/ BA could __________", the fill in the blank is never completed with "get their PM/ CBAP" certification.

Chuck offered the "Chuck's PM/BA Taxonomy" - a focused offshoot of Bloom's Taxonomy. At Level 1, the foundation, is Knowledge and Comprehension. Can you list and explain? Level 2 is Application - Can you Apply and Act? Moving to Level 3 - Arrange & Prioritize and finally at Level 4 - Synthesis and Evaluation - to adapt and defend. Certification is used as a filtering process; the value to organizations is one's proficiency.

The PMP/CBAP exams fit into Level 1. At Level 4 are skills and competencies like Critical Thinking, ones that take more time to acquire and integrate into how you carry out your day to day work. His challenge to us as PM's and BA's is to develop a tailored professional growth plan based on our current knowledge, skills and behaviors. Certification validates our foundation knowledge; it is not the end but the beginning of our journey to develop into experts in our fields. My question to you - what are you doing to move through Levels 2 - 4 (I, for one, am attending PWWCBA to further develop my professional abilities)?

As a Project Management Consultant, I always get asked "Do you have a template for that?" When Chuck remarked that the real question is "How did that template help? What challenges did you face in implementing this?", I realized that getting the template is only Level 1 - the real result, using it effectively to move the project forward successfully, requires focusing that template for use (Levels 2 and 3) and then applying Level 4 to actually make it stick. Key point!

Highlights? Sitting with a like-minded group of folks, engaged in a discussion about how we best continue our professional journey. What is really expected of us. How we become most proficient in our professional journey. Chuck said it best - let me close with 2 quotes:

"The measure of professionalism is that you do the things you don't like to do with the same level of passion of things you like to do."

"Knowledge is only potential. Proficiency is power!"

Connie Emerson
Principal, ProjectMAPS

Monday, November 21, 2011

#PWWCBA: The 2011 event in photos

From day one at our Agile Summit to the 2011 Your Space activity, PW&WCBA 2011 was a truly interactive event.

Check out some photos from our time in Orlando here:

The learning doesn't end with the live event: make sure you are opted-in to our email list for event updates, exclusive content and more. Plus, join our LinkedIn community to stay in touch with industry experts from around the world. If you attended the event, you can find documentation and information about claiming PDUs on crowdvine. Lastly, stay turned right here and on twitter for a year round source for Project Management and Business Analysis news.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Live from #PWWCBA: Shift Happens

Carlos Dominguez started off the final day of the 2011 ProjectWorld® & World Congress for Business Analysts® talking about everything from RFID tracking trash:

To a generation that doesn't understand magazines:

So what does new technology and the new generation of workers mean for business? We're leaning to a point where "everything is being rebooted." Where once it was the music industry being dismantled by new technology, now the change has spread to newspapers, finance, education and more. In 10 years, it is estimated that over 40% of the fortune 500 will no longer exist.

Characteristics of a successful company in this environment are:
Ability to embrace change
Leveraging new technology (such as video)

Michelle LeBlanc is a Social Media Strategist at IIR USA and the voice behind the @Project_World twitter. She may be reached at

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Live at #PWWCBA: Metrics Magic and Social Currency

"Metrics Magic: Stop Guessing and Start Measuring your Requirements Practices" with Bradford J. Sandler PMP, Executive Project Manager, IBM Software Group Rational started off the afternoon in The New Era of Social Communication, Leadership & Collaboration track.

Sandler works with the Jazz team at IBM. According to the Jazz site, "Jazz is an initiative to transform software and systems delivery by making it more collaborative, productive and transparent, through integration of information and tasks across the phases of the lifecycle."

One interesting aspect Sandler mentioned briefly was the idea of  social currency being built up as users of a collaborative product digitally compliment their coworkers for providing useful information. In addition to actually allowing employees to easily access the assets (such as educational materials, documentation or presentations) they need more easily and conveniently  to accomplish a task, this social level of feedback provides both positive reinforcement and a metric for evaluation. Would you consider implementing a system like that at your company? Are there any disadvantages to a "reward" system like this?

Live from #PWWCBA: An Activity for Changing Your Mindset

During our next session "Measuring Product Knowledge Not Project Tasks" with Dr. Terry Barnhart, Senior Director Global R&D, Pfizer, Barnhart shared an activity that could be a good exercise for anyone wishing to think their way around project roadblocks.

Step 1. Write down a multi-step task (say, 5 steps) in a project you are working on
Step 2. Write down two entirely different sets of steps that could give you the same output value
Step 3. For each step of the process, write down the questions that each step answers
(For example, if your step is "Walk to the store to get food" the question might be "How am I going to feed myself?")
By replacing activities with questions you open yourself up to different possibilities. Answered your questions become a proxy for progress on your project, unanswered they can show you clearly where your project gaps are.

Live from #PWWCBA: Chuck Millhollan, GEEK

Our first main conference day at the 2011 ProjectWorld® & World Congress for Business Analysts® kicked off with Chuck Millhollan identifying himself with one word (Geek, rather than the string of letters that follow his name MBA, MPM, PMP, PgMP, CBAP) and then identifying some of the characteristics that make a good Project Manager.

What does leadership seek when hiring a Project Manager:
Problem solving skills
- writing skills
- presentation skills
Interpersonal Skills
Team Building Skills
Professional Discipline

Many of these terms are only glancingly mentioned in the PMBoK ad BABoK, yet these are the soft skills that hiring managers are looking for most. Hard skills (or certification for that matter) are implied or expected, but soft skills will set you apart. According to Millhollan, the continued value of a project manager is more about critical judgement then simply maturing processes and technologies.

Key takeaway: don't learn the body of knowledge to make yourself more marketable, learn the foundations to make yourself a great PM or BA. 

Soft skills, professional acumen and then lastly business acumen mare the recipe for a great PM or BA.

The most memorable quote for me from this session was the following: "Knowledge is not power, knowledge is potential, how you apply the knowledge is power"

Michelle LeBlanc is a Social Media Strategist at IIR USA and the voice behind the @Project_World twitter. She may be reached at

Monday, November 14, 2011

Live from #PWWCBA: Structured Conversations to Deliver Value

It was fortuitous for me that I chose to attend Ellen Gottesdiener's final session of the day "Powerful Planning, Agile Analysis: Structured Conversations to Deliver Value" as it involved an in-depth use of the Project World website as an example of finding value for customers/users.

We identified many different possible users for the site:

(Ellen's tip: give each user type a name that describes what they do, not a job title, things ending in "er")

Each of these users has different requirements priorities such as: register securely, ease of use, find out attendee numbers, see a business case showing ROI of attending the event. You can perform discovery to find out what your users need through steps such as interviews.

These requirements can then be a means to the end of finding value.

So, what would your requirements be for the 2012 ProjectWorld® & World Congress for Business Analysts® website?

Live at #PWWCBA: The Corporate Agile Transformation: Yes, It Can Happen

Jennifer Brownson of BMC Software kicked off the after lunch sessions at the Agile summit discussing the fact that everything at BMC is run using Agile practices, from software development to accounting.

Starting with a core agile cross functional team in 2004, Jennifer was part of a group that made the original switch to Agile. Originally one large product line of about 350 people worked on intentionality, trust of the team, and risk taking. By summer of 2008, those practicing Scrum within the company numbered close to 1,000 and eventually the momentum built to where it is today.

Some growing pains are to be expected during a transformation like this, but with internal buy-in, a certain amount of peer-pressure and a dedicated evangelist team that eventually won over agile champions within the PMO, the battle wasn't entirely uphill. The tipping point: management support of agile, building a symbiotic IT/product team relationship and a structured training program that is readily available.

General Organizational Impacts of the transformation:
Everyone becomes agile
Cross functional teams
No organizational silos
Time management
Measurement driven culture

Make sure to login to crowdvine if you're attending the conference to download Jennifer's presentation for more resources.

Live from #PWWCBA: All Analysts are Bilingual

In Linda Cook's session "Kanban – Limit Work In Progress and Go Faster" we started speaking the language of Kanban. Literally meaning "Card Signal," Kanban has some manufacturing roots as cards directed employees which task to start when.

Linda made one fun observation during the session: that business analysts are key to Kanban as they have a unique skill: they are "bilingual," translating information into stories. So, let's start deciphering Kanban and translate what it is and is not:
- Kanban is not just a software development methodology, not just an approach to project management, and much more than just a card wall

- Kanban is used to control Work In Progress, it promotes incremental change and  it requires some existing process to already be in place

The core elements of Kanban are:
- Visualize workflow
- Limit work in progress
- Measure and manage flow
- Make process policies explicit
- And use models to recognize improvement opportunities

Next Linda introduced the idea of creating "Slack":
Slack can reduce variability and thus improve quality and smooth out the flow to achieve an even cadence, or rhythm of events.

Kanban methods:
Help visualize the process with workflow models
Help to identify bottlenecks when the steps of the process are drawn on a model
Encourage continuous improvement
Minimize the initial impact of changes
May help reduce the resistance to change

We then wrapped up the session by making sample Kanban walls. Look for pictures of our work here soon.

Live from #PWWCBA: Agile Summit Beginnings

Project World 039The 2011 PW&WCBA kicked off just now and I'm writing live from the Agile Summit. We got our minds flowing first thing with a "human histogram" - breaking out the group to see years worked in agile, types of products worked on, and more.

Ellen Gottesdiener
, our Agile Summit Chair asked participants to start the day by grouping around Agile terms from our pre-conference glossary: Retrospectives, Backlogs, Velocity and more. Participants then wrote down what question, puzzle or issue they would need addressed today to feel that the summit was a good value. Over the course of the day, they'll be checking in on these issues. What is yours? Share with us in the comments.

Next we went through our "Petcha Kutcha" - an exercise where each speaker of the day presented their session through 20 slides with 20 seconds per slide. This exercise is a great preview of what we have in store for the day - not to mention a good way to decide which session to attend during our breakout tracks.

So far we're off to an exciting, interactive start of day one at PW&WCBA. Keep watching this space for more conference coverage.

Michelle LeBlanc is a Social Media Strategist at IIR USA and the voice behind the @Project_World twitter. She may be reached at

Friday, November 11, 2011

Connie Emerson on PW & WBCA

In this new series of posts, we are joined by guest blogger Connie Emerson, Principal, ProjectMAPS, Stratham, NH.
Connie is a project management practitioner, providing training and consulting services to support an organization’s project management implementation. Insights are based on her own project management experience along with 28 years of implementing project management within client organizations. She is also an adjunct faculty member at several universities, teaching in their Masters in Project Management programs. Connie received her B.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Delaware and her MBA from the Krannert School of Business, Purdue University. She is a member of PMI and a registered PMP.
Hi! I’m Connie Emerson and welcome to my first blog, in anticipation of the Project World and & World Congress for Business Analysts. I am counting down the hours until I get on the plane (up here in chilly NH) and arrive in Orlando – to spend several days with like-minded project management and business analysis folks!
Why am I doing this blog? Well, my friends call me, with all love and affection, a Project Management Geek. I love all things project management – and, I know that an “old project manager” CAN learn new tricks. I have had the opportunity to attend several PW & WBCA events in the past. I take away much from each session – and from the informal conversations I am able to have with other attendees in the hallway and during networking breaks. But, it seems that the conference comes to an end too soon - and, I only wish that there were more hours in the day to find out how others implement the art of project management to best serve their organization – and, how we can apply the best practices share in the conference sessions.
Over my blogs, I will be sharing with you my key takeaways and insights from the event – and how I hope to put them to use. I hope that I do meet up with you in the networking sessions so that we can chat informally about project management, business analysis and the tips and tricks we pick up from the session presenters. And, if we don’t –well, I am excited about this blog because it will give me more of a chance to share my insights and learn from yours! Join me on this community –share your session highlights and what new or revised tips you can implement to make your PM/BA life just a little richer – and less crazy.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Project World Preview: 2010 in Pictures

Wondering what your 2011 Project World experience will be like? Take a look back at these on site photos from our event in 2010:

Be it networking, enjoying engaging speakers or sharing thoughts and insights during the annual "Your Space" exercise, the three days of Project World are a jam-packed experience. Interested? Register now and join us at Disney's Contemporary Resort in Orlando, FL next week.

Can't make it this year? Follow along in this space, and on twitter at #PWWCBA for live coverage and make sure to Opt In to get updates on future events!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Two Whitepapers on Requirements from Blueprint

In anticipation of our 2011 ProjectWorld® & World Congress for Business Analysts® event next week, our partner Blueprint is offering our readers exclusive access to two whitepapers on requirements management.

Download the papers: "Microsoft Office: The Wrong Tool for Software Requirements" and "Better Requirements through Better Validation." 

Blueprint is the world leader in requirements management solutions for enterprise application development. Its patented requirements definition and management software improves the expressiveness and quality of requirements, dramatically reducing the miscommunication that leads to rework, delays, and budget overruns. With Blueprint’s solution, business analysts clearly express requirements using a range of visual formats that are integrated to enforce consistency and remove conflicts, stakeholders understand and efficiently validate the requirements, and the team effectively leverages them throughout the entire lifecycle. Blueprint dramatically improves the software development lifecycle, accelerating delivery times and reducing costs for hundreds of major corporations. Headquartered in Toronto, Blueprint has sales offices throughout North America.

Want to learn more? Meet with Blueprint at this year's ProjectWorld® & World Congress for Business Analysts®. Readers of our blog receive an exclusive 15% discount off the standard registration rate with code PW11BLOG. Register today.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Flashback Friday Flicks: Janet Bartz and Jane Shellum Video Interview

In the weeks leading up to the 2011 ProjectWorld® & World Congress for Business Analysts® Conference, we're looking back at some of our top content from 2010.

In the video below, Agile Scout's Peter Saddington interviewed PWWCBA speakers Janet Bartz and Jane Shellum on implementing Agile techniques at the Mayo Clinic.

Perhaps the biggest take-away from this interview: "Create an environment where it is ok to try something and fail."

Learn more about the Mayo Clinic session from 2010 by reading the full recap here.

Time is running out to join us at PWWCBA! Don't forget that readers of our blog receive an exclusive 15% discount off the standard registration rate with code PW11BLOG. Register today.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Are you a "#PMOT"?

In honor of this year's International Project Management Day the team at Apptivo put together a list of the best Project Management resources on twitter and we were ecstatic to find our @Project_world twitter amongst those mentioned!

Check out the full list here:
Top 20 Project Management Experts On Twitter
View more presentations from Puneet Yamparala

Are you on twitter, or do you look to twitter for Project Management information? Who are your "must follow" #PMOTs or BAOTs (Project Manager on Twitter or Business Analyst on Twitter in case you were wondering).

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Everything is Being Rebooted

Leading up to the Project World event later this month, we're taking a look at some of our most exciting sessions. Today we wanted to highlight our keynote by Carlos Dominguez, Senior Vice-President, Office of the Chairman and CEO, Cisco which will take place on Wednesday, November 16 at 8:30 am.

This session will be entitled "Everything is Being Rebooted: New World, New Rules - Surviving, Leading & Thriving in Our New World."

Technology is changing our new world at an unprecedented pace: we are always connected, consuming and contributing. This in turn is disrupting existing business models and creating new market opportunities. How do you leverage the present while preparing for the future? What do you need to know as leaders? Explore with Carlos “the tech nowist” how to leverage our changing world and win the hearts and minds of customers.

To learn more, download the brochure or join us from November 14th to 16th, 2011 at Disney's Contemporary  Resort in Orlando, FL for the 2011 ProjectWorld® & World Congress for Business Analysts®.