Blog: Fixing Problem and High-Risk Projects

image of decision makerHave you ever had a boss that simply wants to stand in your way? They avoid making even the smallest decision, never providing enough information to understand their objections. It is more common than most of us would imagine. In fact, this behavior is the central to every sales interaction. Even though you may be repulsed at thinking of yourself as "selling" to your boss, that is exactly what is required with any idea you are pushing. Therefore, it makes perfect sense to employ the same techniques used to sell large systems. If you think this is rubbish, as one of my esteemed readers once eloquently said, I will posit that you are already using sales techniques, just the wrong ones—the ones car dealers use. Changing this approach will subdue your unruly boss

The steps I think would be best are:

  1. Apply to PMI and start the application process. This provides you with a tool to track your hours, much like the spreadsheet I have, which should be considered a good starting point. I mailed this to each person that might end up being questioned on it so that it would minimize the chance of problems.
  2. When you think you have your hours, take a class. PSU has great PMP prep classes. I took a set of online courses from a reseller. The big thing to look for is the sample tests.  I think they are critical and the I bought had two sets of test. They other offerings too.
  3. From the PMBOK and the classes I made flash cards to help me memorize certain material. I did them by hand, since I learn better that way, but you can probably find them for sale somewhere.
  4. After you get your 35 contact hours, then determine how long it will take you to nail the tests and apply for a test with enough time to study the sample tests. I would lot a few weeks for that.
  5. Watch the timing. The PMBOK's Fifth Edition in in progress and I am not sure when it will kick in.  Do not study the fourth edition and find out you need the fifth. It is best to check with PMI on the timing.

I, also, borrowed the textbook Project Management: A system approach to planning, scheduling and controlling, by Harold Kerzner, and found it very good. I am thinking about getting it for my library. It is not something you need for the PMP, it is a good PM reference textbook.

The total cost for the PMP in 2009 was $997.00. Now it is about $50 more.

Image PMO not equal to LeadershipLet me be perfectly clear, I hate PMOs. It matters not if you call them project management offices, program management offices, or portfolio management offices, they only spell one thing—poor leadership. Now those of you that know me, have heard this enough times that your eyes are rolling back as you mumble, "Here he goes again. Who set the bait in front of him this time?" However, I have confused people with a couple of PMO articles that might seem contrary.

People. Process, then Technology

From her corner office, the new executive decried, "Decentralize the PMO. Let each department be responsible for their own projects." Maybe she had made a pact with another executive for some other bit of power, or it could be she lost a power struggle and the PMO had to go, or possibly she has little regards for project management thinking it is a mechanical, blue collar discipline that methodically follows a recipe to execute each project. Bottom line, she is missing the point of the Project Management Office (PMO)—it is all about business goals. Unfortunately, for the company, decentralized PMOs provide little if any value. They are similar to distributed teamwork—an oxymoron. The concept is illogical.

Again, I was chided for saying there are no Information Technology projects. This time, the excuse was that the company built software. I countered my antagonist by asking if the same group that built their software also maintained the account system, workstations, email, and network. "No, that is a separate group." He was missing that his company's production group was not IT. Information Technology is the support group... and yes, they should not be doing anything that fails to directly affect getting product out the door or reducing costs. Every project's goal must be to deliver to the operational needs of the company—selling product—not to the whims and desires of the IT group. If a project fails to address the needs of the customer (directly or indirectly), then it should never see a penny of funding. This seems such an elementary concept, but it is routinely violated by techno-bigots trying to implement the latest toy or tool.

Yesterday, I received an email from a Dad promoting a fundraiser his adult son is conducting—a Wounded Warrior Project. His Marine son escaped being on the receiving end of the project, but he is surely haunted by memories and guilt. I do not know this young man; I can only imagine his pain. Any of us trying to live through the loss of a son, daughter, or buddy who is only starting their life intimately knows this expansive, indescribable void. This young man is trying to bring good from the nonsensical events around him—he is growing into a leader.

Image on ethics

Are there any ethics in business today? Time and again, headlines proclaim where companies and leaders have gone astray. You cannot help but wonder what our fellow humans will do next. Men and women in search of money, power, fame, or all three, decide they are exempt from the rules and social norms the rest of us struggle to follow. It boggles the mind. Unethical, however, is just a waypoint in the spectrum from truth to criminal. Face it, we are all liars. It may be telling our children about Santa Claus, portraying our speed to the policeman, covering up a politician's extramarital affair, or promising fortunes through investments in Ponzi products. Deceit is everywhere.

Image of cheerleader

"Networking? I am just not good at that." I hear this time and again. With the recent financial issues in Europe, the line is repeated with a frequency reminiscent of 2009. So, it is time to pull out the pom-poms, put on the short skirt, and be the cheerleader chanting its virtues. For those of you that know me, the visual may be a little disturbing, but I conjure it up with your best interest in mind. The fact is, most of us dislike networking. After all, "work" is its middle name. It is, however, how people do business and find jobs. No argument, it is difficult to approach total strangers, publish an essay for the world to critique, or launch a tweet into the ether's unknown, being fully aware there is no way to delete a disgruntled individual's flame-o-gram on your dissertation. It takes guts to air ideas for others to appraise, "like," deride, or amplify. The best way to start, however, is to jump in and immerse yourself. An acquired talent, networking takes practice and it is more than face-to-face interactions.

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"Project management is easy. We have been managing people for hundreds of years. Just take any manager, give them a project, and tell them to get it done." Experienced project managers will accurately predict the end of this story—there is a disproportionate chance this project will fail. Rather than "manager" being the key noun, a leader is required to deliver project value on time and within budget. To distinguish the project manager further—functional managers need only manage subordinates, while successful project managers lead extended project teams. This fundamental difference drastically increases the project manager's scope of the responsibility, since the project team includes an entire flock of stakeholders.

Image of Assuming Positive Intent

The west coast of the United States is where I call home. Many refer to us as "left coaster" because... well... that is how it looks on a map and many of us are politically a little further to the left than others. Around here, common thought is that everyone should be open-minded. A sentiment that I proudly subscribe to as I lack most prejudices. You can imagine my shock when I found out that my unbiased presumptions are not only undesirable, but also undeniably wrong.

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