4 Ways to Solve 6 Uncertainties in Project Management



Seemingly negative surprises have often been perceived as insurmountable, but that’s not always the situation in project management.

By innovatively spotting opportunities in uncertainties, the results often exceed initial expectations in budgeting, quality and scheduling.

That’s the lesson according to an academic report published in 2013.

“Challenging Classic Project Management: Turning Project Uncertainties into Business Opportunities” was authored by Thomas G. Lechler, Stevens Institute of Technology; Barbara H. Edington, St. Francis College; and Ting Gao, Stevens Institute of Technology.

The publisher is the Project Management Journal, vol. 43, no. 6. It was summarized by Booz & Company at strategy-business.com.

The researchers delved into 20 major projects that encountered at least three negative surprises.

They ranged in duration from eight months to three years with budgets between $500,000 and $69 million.

More than 50 percent focused on IT or product development.

Others included:

— Business realignment projects

— Clinical trials

— Construction

— Feasibility studies

–Market prediction models

— R&D

Researchers concluded there are six types of surprises to confront:

1. Contextual turbulence: external changes set off by shifts in the markets, for example, or new legal or regulatory rules

2. Stakeholder fluctuations: shifts in the fortunes of customers, vendors, investors, and others

3. Technological uncertainty: factors that can affect the functionality of products in different markets, among other challenges

4. Project uncertainty: unrecognized complexities that crop up after a project has started

5. Organizational uncertainty: ripple effects from unexpected corporate mergers or spin-offs, for example

6. Malpractice: significant deviations from accepted project management standards

According to the authors, project managers evaluated the surprises in these ways: Were they used as positive developments or not? What were the unexploited opportunities?

Sixty percent of the project managers dealt effectively with 75 percent of the surprises for strong results. They “led to a redefinition of a project’s initial baseline,” wrote the researchers. Fifty-eight percent identified positive financial returns.

The benefits included: Spotting new initiatives, developing new process and applying new technologies.

Four types of opportunities

For a “broader range of potential opportunities,” the researches recommend focusing on four groups:

1. Technical innovation. When negative surprises rear their ugly heads, don’t give up. Look for new testing solutions to save money that will also serve as an inexpensive model for future initiatives.

2. Implementation processes. In the event of a surprise, don’t panic. Develop a less-complex method to save money and time. Research showed post-implementation problems decreased by 75 percent.

3. New business. In one case study, a sponsor retired which led to lack of interest in the project. So, the project managers rolled up their sleeves and networked their way to a new sponsor. The new backer facilitated an opening to a larger audience, which meant new business opportunities.

4. Future projects. Once you solve a problem in a department, look for ways to apply the solution in different departments. One of the businesses solved a challenge in implementing software, and used the process for other successes.

Again, the project managers weren’t successful in all cases. For example, one situation lacked a tracking system. A second case led to an unfortunate conclusion because of a surprise merger that resulted in staff duplication of effort.

Senior management’s role

For success, the authors said “exceptional and innovative decisions” necessitate involvement of all stakeholders, especially senior executives.

“In these situations,” wrote the authors, “project managers should take the role of champions and use their communication skills to bring these opportunities to the decision-making level.”

Agreed. It’s important for project managers to manage the boss for better performance.

The researchers also discouraged traditional risk-management thinking by senior managers.

“In situations of uncertainty,” concluded the authors, “the adherence to a baseline that was defined without the knowledge of uncertainty could lead to neglected opportunities, forsaken value opportunities, and consequently the potential for project failure.”

True, there are eight best practices in setting goals to alleviate uncertainty.

Things aren’t always as they seem, so look for ways to benefit from adversity – even the apparent obstacles to success in project management.

From the Coach’s Corner, recommended reading:

Leadership and Planning Tips for Successful Project Management –In truth, projects fail because they’re not managed. Yes, there are varying degrees, but in reality they’re either managed or they’re not. The project manager must possess 11 leadership attributes to manage the team, stay on track and keep within budget.

18 Valuable Tips to Win in Office Politics — Most people troubled by office politics are too focused on the behavior of their adversaries. Stop giving away your personal power. Don’t think or act like a victim. Here are 18 valuable tips to win in office politics.

How to Eliminate Destructive Conflict for Better Teamwork — There are two types of conflict. For better teamwork and higher performance, it’s true that constructive conflict works. Usually, the best ideas evolve when ideas are discussed and debated. But when employees fail to exercise self control and their egos get in the way, emotions flare and cliques are formed in the workplace. That’s destructive conflict.

“We will either find a way, or make one.”

-Hannibal


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.




7 Tips to Tweet Your Way to a Great New Job – Seriously!



Surprise! If you play it smart, you can take advantage of the 500-million Twitter account-holders to get a new job or career. Sure, it’s a daunting task, but the potential for success is terrific.

You can tweet to link up with the right people — just as well, if not better, than LinkedIn. But that’s not to say that you shouldn’t use LinkedIn and other social media. You have to make an investment in your time and energy – some research and careful thought.

For the sake of explanation, let’s consider a job search in “advertising,” but you can apply the following principles to your situation. These strategies will work in most professions. Coordinate your footwork with a blog, but more on that later.

Here’s how to tweet your way to a new job in seven ways:

1. Social analytics with Topsy

Geared for marketers and journalists, Topsy can also help professionals develop information to benefit their careers. Topsy Pro Analytics provides data of billions upon billions of tweets and other social posts.

Also, it will help users obtain multi-year posts as well as real-time tweet activity.

You can take productive action in your job search – examining hashtags, images, links, subjects, terms, trends and videos.

Access to trends is especially beneficial, especially because the information is current and topical. On a daily basis, Topsy indexes geographic locales, influence, language and social sentiment. This means users can target top influencers and learn the pros and cons about topics, and their impacts.

2. A good job search is all about relevance with relevant people

Firstly, you have to find them after you know what subject matter is relevant for your career goal. For example, advertising professionals should search topics related to advertising and marketing, and then click on “people” in the module on the left side.

In this way, you’ll discover a lot of people who are in your profession. If you know which companies for which you want to work, you can search for them, too. You’ll come across the companies’ decision-makers. Follow them and retweet their posts.

3. The value of hashtags

Businesses often use hashtags to categorize their tweets by keywords, e.g. “advertising job” or “job available.” You can, too. (See Twitter’s hashtag explanation.)

4. Twitter lists

To stay organized in your job search, create Twitter lists. So people know you’re not just a spammer, create a list in the hypothetical example, “advertising professional.” Then, tweet in this list the tweets of advertising or marketing professionals. In this way, you’re likely to attract followers.

5. Using Twitter chats

In real-time, you can tweet about your preferred topics. Use this as an opportunity to start a dialogue by asking questions. To save time and effort by not having to constantly refresh your page, you can solve this by entering the hashtag into TweetChat. You’ll get an automatic refresh.

6. Naturally, only tweet pertinent topics

OK, by now you’ve got access to the right people. So only tweet links for your particular profession. If you have enough space, include your opinion to enhance your reputation.

7. Launch an appropriate blog

On your blog, insert links to your tweets. So when prospective bosses search for your name, you’ll create a favorable impression by demonstrating relevant insights that will be appealing.

From the Coach’s Corner, see these related tips:

Best 11 Tips for a Super Elevator Pitch — Whatever you’re trying to sell – one skill you definitely need is a super elevator pitch. You need to prepare for any opportunities. Don’t be caught off guard.

Stand Out: Get a Job Interview with a Great Resume –More and more job seekers complain they don’t get acknowledgment when they apply for positions with prospective employers. It’s disappointing, especially if you’ve done your best to stand out in a crowd when jobs are scarce. Yes, it takes energy and resources for a company to respond to applicants.

Job Hunting? Tips to Land Your Dream Job with Style, Substance — Yes, the competition for jobs is ferocious. Here are proven tips to be hired for your dream job.

Discouraged in Job Hunting? Powerful Tips for the Best Job — Whether unemployed or under-employed, a person needs two things: A sense of hope and the right tools to negotiate a job. Here are both.

Need a Career Change? 10 Steps for a Career Makeover — So you think you want to change careers. Or perhaps you need a career makeover. You’re not alone. Professionals of all stripes have found they need to retool their careers or re-engineer themselves. There’s a myriad of reasons. It’s usually related to technology and a changing marketplace.

5 Tips to Shine in Your Online Job Application — To sail through the human resources filtering system, here are five online-application tips: 1. Put social media to work for you. Make certain your social media – Google+, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter – are current, professional and show maturity. Be careful what you publish – always keep in mind your career goals.

“Commitment leads to action. Action brings your dream closer.”

-Marcia Wieder


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.




Washington: A Balanced Budget Is No Longer Enough

Updated Jan. 11, 2012

A Seattle Times headline is perplexing. True, the headline –“Lawmakers open session, try to close $1B gap” – is a fairly accurate assessment of Washington state’s budget. Not to be laboriously repetitive, but the headline is worrisome. Once again the Legislature faces a budget crisis.

“The economy is the focal point of this year’s legislature as state lawmakers attempt to close a $1.5 billion shortfall in a $34 billion budget at the state capitol in Olympia,” blogged Don Brunell, president of the Association of Washington Business (AWB).

Mr. Brunell is known for his pragmatic reasoning.

“As they deliberate, they must be mindful that Washington is in the midst of an anemic economic recovery which is very fragile,” the AWB president added. “New costs to employers, especially those along Main Street, have a dampening effect on our ability to increase consumer confidence and bring people back to work.”

That’s my sense, too. But the Legislature routinely fails to prioritize first things first. The short-term priority is to balance the 2011-2013 budget. But as a priority, it’s secondary to a bigger quandary – government and budgeting reform, which are needed immediately, as well.

Instead, all budget discussions are about the short-term and relatively insignificant issues grab a disproportionate amount of attention.

Gov. Gregoire wants to focus on a new $3.6 billion transportation package, gay marriage, shorten the school year, abolish social services, release some prisoners before the sentences expire, and increase the state’s sales tax. House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, also says same-sex marriage is a top priority.

A significant number of citizens wants to legalize marijuana. Some lawmakers want a statewide ban on plastic grocery bags.

Most of us in business agree education is a priority. But increasing taxes even for education isn’t productive as long as government/budgeting reform is ignored as a priority.

In addition to Mr. Brunell, another thoughtful pragmatist is Jason Mercier. Mr. Mercier is director of the Center for Government Reform of the Washington Policy Center.

Worth consideration is Mr. Mercier’s list of recommended reforms:

  • Enact a constitutional tax and spending limit (with two-thirds requirement to raise taxes) modeled after the original 1993 I-601 formula.
  • Remove as many of the restrictions on lawmakers’ ability to set spending priorities as possible (collective bargaining restrictions on compensation, federal mandates, assumption of auto-pilot budgeting on programs).
  • Reform competitive contracting. Allow agencies to make performance-based contracting more proactive (create a Competitive Contracting Council).
  • Provide the governor discretionary authority to cut spending.
  • Repeal unaffordable programs instead of suspending them.
  • Require at least a 5 percent reserve when adopting the next biennial budget.
  • Require updated four-year budget outlooks to be published after each state revenue forecast or budget adoption.
  • Require completed fiscal notes before bills can be acted on.
  • Phase in a defined-contribution retirement plan that gives state workers benefits that can never be taken away.

Amen. Yes, the Legislature should soberly balance the budget. However, unless the Legislature concomitantly reforms government and the budgeting process, uncertainty will never be alleviated for the state’s businesses and consumers.

From the Coach’s Corner, you might want to consider other public policy columns.

“There is an important sense in which government is distinctive from administration. One is perpetual, the other is temporary and changeable. A man may be loyal to his government and yet oppose the particular principles and methods of administration.”

-Abraham Lincoln

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Columnist Terry Corbell is also a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services (many are available online). For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule Terry Corbell as a speaker, why don’t you contact him today?

Seattle business consultant Terry Corbell provides high-performance management services and strategies.