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Applying The 80/20 Principle To Portfolio Management

The 80/20 principle posits that 80% of organizational value comes from 20% of your projects. The 80/20 allocation seems to hold true for a lot of things: I know I wear 20% of my clothing 80% of the time, and I use my pots and pans the same way. Nevertheless, the 80/20 principle is a particularly handy concept when thinking about managing the projects in your portfolio.

First, using the 80/20 principle, think about which projects are critical, must-haves, and core to your mission (about 20% of the whole array), and set aside those that are discretionary or not vital. During this exercise, projects that should be eliminated altogether should be obvious. (Be ruthless.) Of the mission-critical projects, decide which should proceed and which should be deferred based on urgency and capacity. Considerations during your deliberations should include:

Second, having decided which projects should proceed, it is time to collaborate with the entire range of managers, from line managers to senior managers, to prioritize them. Each will contribute something to the debate, and it is better to debate now than waste valuable resources (time, money, and people) later. Line managers will have first-hand knowledge of processes and capacity; middle management will have a better view of the interplay and inter-relationships between departments and activities, and top management will possess the long view that encompasses the overall organization direction and strategy. And obviously, inviting greater participation overall means greater cooperation and commitment.

Third, once your projects have been prioritized, it is time to figure out who will be doing what. Streamlining your projects down to the vital few has the added benefit of not stretching the capacity you have, but concentrating it where it is needed most. Here I
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Now, Take The Apple, Dearie, And Make A Wish

By |December 5th, 2013|Categories: time|Tags: , , , , , |0 Comments

In 1934 southern California, a successful animator of cartoon shorts embarked on a project to make, for the first time, a feature-length cartoon. The cost to create it was estimated to be $250,000 over two years. But when the story line kept changing, the budget skyrocketed to $1.4 million, and the project timeline nearly doubled.

If you haven’t already guessed it, the animator was Walt Disney and the film was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It earned over $7 million in its first run, paving the way for Walt Disney Company to deliver other astonishing firsts.

In terms of project success measures, the project was abysmal. Disney blew the schedule, budget and scope, but for understandable reasons:

Nevertheless, in terms of sponsorship, the project was wildly successful. Here’s why:

This imbalance of strong sponsorship on the one hand, and an insufficient project management process on the other, is fairly common for companies at the 1.2 to 1.7 maturity level. This is a people-centric model centered on passionate individuals, but it doesn’t scale when four or five projects are being pursued in tandem. Assuming everyone at a company doesn’t have the passion or vision to drive his project à la Mr. Disney, it becomes essential to install and implement process, which moves you closer  to crossing over the level 2 maturity hurdle.

Disney did just that. Over time, he learned from his project management mistakes, leveraged this learning to build a repeatable process, and further developed his visionary sponsorship to give his customers something new and extraordinary time and time again.  For Walt Disney, it wasn’t all just wishing on a star—he is one of the greatest American innovators because of his mastery of realization.

If you’ve worked on a
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With A Little Help From My Friends

By |September 30th, 2013|Categories: time|Tags: , , , , , |0 Comments

In my travels, I try to pick up tidbits to help me be more effective at managing projects. We’ve all seen the various tools, techniques, methodologies, etc. to help us deliver against The Big Three: cost, scope and time—but is that really all there is? The funny thing about projects is that success is declared despite most of the project participants knowing that the outcome was somewhat less than successful. Why is that? You hear things like, “It came in on time, under budget and was executed exactly as documented in the requirements.” So it must have been a success, right? And yet there is an unspoken disappointment because it’s not really entirely what was envisioned.

The other day, I ran across a great piece by Gartner about improving project success. Its premise was that if you focus on three things—Partnership, Requirements and Resources—you can really increase the probability of a successful project outcome. Wow! . . .something different from The Big Three!! I was easily able to relate requirements and resources back to the big three, but what about partnership? The formal definition of “partnership” (courtesy of my dictionary) was of little use, but when I looked at its synonyms, I found words like alliance, collaboration, connection, relation, and union. And that’s when it hit me. Partnership doesn’t relate to the big three but rather comprises the foundation that enables us to deliver on them. Without true partnership, project realization or the ability to deliver the expected value from the project is unlikely.

This should have been obvious considering the successful projects I’ve participated in and led. It was partnership at all levels that helped drive realization. From various IT organizations to external partners to
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Terminate the time guzzler: Inefficient meetings

By |November 15th, 2011|Categories: time|Tags: , , , , , |0 Comments

Are you a big fan of impromptu meetings via Skype, Instant Messaging or other technology? These meetings seem to be laser focused because the meeting originator contacts you for a specific reason and has some targeted questions already at hand. Therefore, your ad hoc meeting has a clear-cut purpose, and resolution and closure is fast and painless.

So, how do you take this paradigm and apply it to the biggest time guzzler in most people’s day—the inefficient meeting?

Here’s how. Every meeting should have an agenda and specific objectives. This information should be communicated to participants well in advance so they arrive prepared. Your meeting should also be run by a facilitator who brings well-formed questions to the table; these are considered time-management “gold.” Every item on your agenda should have specific, corresponding questions that are used to elicit information and move you on to the next item. For example, if your project has the agenda item Risk Planning, some questions might include:

An interesting thing occurs when the objectives and agenda are clear, the participants come prepared, and the facilitator keeps the discussion reined-in through the use of thoughtful questions: meeting objectives are met and meetings are adjourned on-time or early. Participants think, Wow! We finished everything on the agenda and I’ve even got some spare time to put back into my day…I love it. As the meeting owner or facilitator, you might even find participants actually look forward to your meetings as the most productive time of their workday. How cool is that?

– See more at: http://www.transaccelgroup.com/blog/2011/11/15/terminate-the-time-guzzler-inefficient-meetings-2/#sthash.A0bkSWDv.dpuf