You are a PMP just hired to serve as the head of a project management office for a large, international corporation. The company is organized as a matrix organization and is in the planning phase of a large program consisting of multiple interrelated projects. The teams which are assigned to these projects are dispersed in offices in a dozen different offices in Asia, Europe, North and South America.
The program manager invites you to a breakfast meeting along with two of the senior business managers who are major stakeholders in the project.
“We would like to pick your brain,” says the program manager as you settle in at a vacant seat at the conference room table with a mug of coffee and a bagel. “The last time I led a program like this, I was extremely frustrated by the lack of effective communication within and across the project teams.”
“For that project, the company provided us with access to a full-featured intranet, access to Microsoft Project Enterprise Edition with licenses for everyone on the project, teleconference lines and WebEx accounts. The project managers worked up and implemented a complete communication plan using all of this technology and a detailed status reporting schedule. We held frequent meetings throughout the entire initiative”
The program manager ruefully shook his head. “Despite all of that, I found myself continually being surprised by bad news almost as soon as the project began.” He nods at the business managers sitting around the table. “We’ve decided we don’t want to go through that kind of experience again. We’ve brought in different project managers this time, and they have put together another, similar, project communications plan. We would also like to hear your own thoughts about how best to promote effective communication for a program like this. What should we be looking out for, and what other things should we be thinking about?
How would you respond?
You have just been hired as a project manager for a medium-sized company.
On your first day at the company, Rodrigo, a senior vice president, brings you into his office after introducing you to some of his other direct reports. After some friendly chatting about how your onboarding process is going, he asks you for advice about what he considers to be his biggest headache.
“Our company has grown dramatically over the past five years. We’re proud of our success, and it’s due in large part to the commitment of our people to delivering good work,” he begins, then pauses for a moment. “The problem is that as we’ve grown, we have to take on more and more projects to support that growth.”
He continues, “It was simple when we were a dozen people working together on everything, even though we all had to work extremely hard. In the beginning, we had to focus intensely on getting major initiatives completed in order to survive as a firm. We aren’t facing life-or-death situations anymore, but it seems every time I turn around, someone wants to get started on another project. Right now, anyone who has an idea for a project pitches it to me verbally, and I tell them whether they should get started on it or not.”
“Some of my decisions have paid off, but too many haven’t. Our company president told me we need to do a better job of deciding what we should and shouldn’t do. What would you suggest we do before approving a project, and how would it help us?
What would you recommend to Rodrigo?
You are a project manager who has been assigned to work on a software development project sponsored by Joanne, a senior director for a large non-profit organization.
Joanne told you she wants you to set up a project kickoff meeting and make all the necessary preparations. You put together a preliminary agenda based on what you know about the project and sit down with her to review it. During the conversation, she voices a concern of hers.
“While we are a pretty big non-profit organization, our approaches to managing projects like this have not always been successful. I’m almost dreading the kickoff meeting, because I’m concerned about a conflict between Steven and Elijah, two strong-minded, opinionated people involved in the project. Steven oversees the development team, and he always argues in favor of having his developers build all of the customized software needed for projects. Elijah works for our finance department, and he almost consistently disagrees with Steven about this. He feels we would be better off finding third-party vendors to handle a lot of the work. Elijah feels it will save time, be less expensive and make better use of our existing staff. Steve has never forgotten the time that he was forced to use an outside vendor for a project, with disastrous results.”
Joanne looks at you with an expression of desperation. “What should we be thinking about when deciding whether or not to use a vendor? If we do decide to go outside for help, how should we do that to prevent another disaster from happening?
How would you respond to Joanne?
You are working in a project management office for a Fortune 500 company. Your job is to provide advice to project teams which undertake a variety of large and small projects. One day, you are contacted by Neil, a novice project manager who is part of a team working on an extremely large and complex software project. The project is of such a great scale that the team expects to contract a lot of the work out to third party vendors.
“I could use some advice,” Neil sighs. “The lead project manager for the project has assigned me to handle procurement management planning for the project. As she suggested, I put together a team of people to work on developing our procurement approaches.”
“The team has been debating the kinds of contracts we should be putting together for the project. We are going to need to hire at least one vendor to handle some complex software development for some key subsystems. Joe, the representative from the finance department, is adamant that all of the procurement contracts we create will be what he called ‘firm fixed price’ contracts. He said the company has been burned too many times by cost overruns on vendor contracts, and the CFO has had enough.”
“Neither the lead project manager nor I have had much experience with procurement. We thought it would be best to talk with you before we discuss this with Joe again. How do you think we should respond?”
What advice would you give Neil?
You are a project manager in an information technology delivery unit of an organization which adopted highly detailed predictive project management processes several years ago. They are required for all projects, and while they are expected to be tailored for each project, their use is closely audited by members of the organization’s project management office (PMO). A strategic technology investment committee oversees all technology projects and approves the project management approaches used on them.
One afternoon, you are called into a conference room for a meeting with Ali, the head of the PMO and Gabriela, the new director of software development. You notice that many of the other project managers employed in the unit are also in attendance.
Ali calls the meeting to order and begins to talk. “Thanks to all of you for coming. As you may know, Gabriela joined our group recently and she is getting ready to kick off a new project which is intended to develop a next generation knowledge management portal for us. I’ve explained how we prefer to use our waterfall SDLC on all of our software projects. She’s told me she would like to use Scrum for this project. I’ll let her tell you more about it.”
Gabriela smiles and says, “That’s right, Ali! I earned my Certified Scrum Master credential three years ago, and led a number of Scrum teams at my old company. The knowledge management portal project is expected to involve a lot of innovation, so I think an agile approach would be best.”
Ali looks around the room at all of the project managers. “I’ve told Gabriela I’m willing to consider the use of Scrum,” he says, “but this is a large, highly visible project. I’ve expressed my concerns to her, but thought I should discuss this with all of you. Should we try Scrum on this project? What considerations should we take into account in making a recommendation to the strategic technology committee?”
What answer would you give to Ali and Gabriela?