Strategy & Projects


In ever organization there is myth that comes after every 5 years and people call it strategy. It’s a myth for many people but at the top management is mostly clear about what they are going to do in next five years. The strategy  is derived from the vision and mission and it defines where the organization is and where organization wants to go and how to get there.

Understanding Strategy

Strategy is usually developed by consultants after talking to the organization and giving a book.  Mostly the consultant give the stuff that is never used. So the organization after the consultants are gone tries to read the book and try to distribute the puzzle of strategy by distributing it different departments in the organization.  Some departments try and initiate some projects , some departments try to understand and after six months as there is no follow-up on strategy ;the book is closed and every department goes into their routine operational stuff. The cycle is repeated after every two to three years without yielding any results and spending a lot of money on the consultants.  The result is people hate strategy and don’t like projects anymore as they consider it waste of time and useless effort where at the end no result is going to come out.

Now let’s talk about the simple project. Every organization and literally ever department is doing some projects. Some call even the operations as project. Some do the projects as unique tasks. Every department informs the management we are doing a lot of projects for improvement, and most of them are on papers , no proper reporting of the projects and no follow up some projects do complete but they complete when they are no more required or not relevant. As there is no coordination sometimes the same projects comes up from two different department resulting in wasting the organization resources. I will try to explain with this famous picture the concept of doing the projects.


In order to understand why projects fail lets discuss how the projects start and then how they complete towards the end. Project is usually an idea in the mind of customer, sponsor or someone in the department.  So they are not clear when they are initially thought. So the right way is to discuss the project with the right people. If it’s a small project the head of department might be the only person who can understand and approve it.

Let’s say that the project affects more than one projects or it is a crucial for the strategy so the project has to go through the strategy department and the rest of the departments that are involved. Now the question here is that when the project is really in the initial stages how the buy-in is possible for someone who has just thought of an idea.  So the picture defines how a customer or initiator can have the idea in initial stages where he knows the end result in his mind but cannot explain it well.

The other angel is how the people have perceived the project , If project initiator cannot explain the project well then everyone have a different shape of the end result of the project.

So the project has many ways to be looked at, it is really important that the project is clarified before it is initiated.

Lack of Communication :

Usually most of the projects fail due to lack of communication  between stakeholders sometimes the project is not communicated in the right way and it results in lack of understanding of the project from the other party and that leads to resistance.  Sometime even the project is not communicated well to project manager by the initiator or sponsor so if the project has not been explained well it is definitely not going to finish in the right way.

Lack of Standard

Each department executing the projects follows its own best approaches to complete the project so a standard approach is always missing. The projects executed in one department might follow different methods to complete than the other department so there is always lack of standard approach.

Lack of Planning

The projects start without any planning and having no plans means no project.  People come up with various arguments and reason not to plan such as

  1. Our project is too large to plan
  2. Our project is too small to plan
  3. Planning is waste of time and effort
  4. Planning commits me to something that I must stick to at all times, even when the world around me has changed.
  5. The project is evolving and the situation is changing on a daily basis
  6. We are too deep fire-fighting the project and have no time to plan at this point
  7. We believe in adaptive processes rather than a predictive planning
  8. The consultant is responsible for project plan
  9. Requirements are always changing
  10. Management has given us fixed end-date, so our plan doesn’t count

Lack of monitoring during execution

Lack of monitoring during the execution phase also is a major source for project failure.

The best solution  to these problem is the PMO which is created with the complete support from Management.

A PMO creates a level of coordination that is difficult to achieve on an ad hoc project management basis. There’s more clarity, there’s greater strategic focus, and there’s a greater ability to coordinate projects efficiently.”

In order to do things right the first time , the organizations should have a PMO which looks into each portfolio and then comes up with the right portfolio mix derived from strategy. This should be duly approved by the management and be tracked on regular basis by PMO. If your PMO  is doing things right and helping you resolve the issue there is a great chance of achieving the outcome.

Being a Good Project Manager

Being a Good Project Manager

Being a project manager is not an easy job. Now a days project management is really getting into all industries and there is greater demand of project managers. I will try to explain some traits a good project manager . All these traits can be developed with practice and hard work and there is no quality that you can say must have or you have to be born with specific talent. Let’s jump straight away into those qualities to analyze few of these

Understanding the project

A good project Manager takes his time really to understand the project. He takes his time to identify the stakeholders .He establishes good communication channels with the stakeholders. He takes his time before starting the project to get commitment from all the stakeholders and makes efforts to bring all stakeholders to the same level of expectations.

The idea is to think through the project with stakeholders and really understand why the project exist and what benefit it is going to provide ultimately to the organization. If you understand the project well and are able to take the commitment from stakeholders you have laid the foundation of success for your project.

Communicate with Honesty

The second quality is that the project manager should communicate with the stakeholders honestly. He should be very clear when setting the expectations for stakeholders. He should tell them what is possible and what is not doable. If the project managers communicates different versions of the project expectations to different stakeholders he already has invited the failure and has opened the doors for unhappy ending of the project.

Agreement on delivery

Project Manager should look for various business department that can be involved and should talk to them upfront to know what they need from project manager in order to complete their deliverables which are part of the project.
Project manager should get agreement of the deliverables and the time of the delivery. While getting the agreement make sure that you don’t push anyone to get a shorter duration as everyone is as busy as you are.

Listen Well

Listening is the quality of wise people. If you listen well as project manager the chances are that you will capture the right risks and issues and will be able to solve them in the right way. As a project manager, try to understand the point of view from the perspective of a user. Only then you will be able to understand why it’s important for the other party and can focus on the right things.

Build Team

Team building is very important part of the project manager job. Project manager should asses the team and know the skills of each person. He should know which team member can do a better job on which place. He should establish the training needs for each team members and if the trainings are not available at hand he should try to put a junior team member with a senior one so he can learn and grow.
The second part of the team building is the keeping the team motivated . If your team does not believe in you or the project then forget what you are doing as you won’t achieve anything. Keep the team motivated and charged with enthusiasm. It goes without saying that project manager has to be motivated in order to motivate others.

Plan well

Project Manager should thoroughly plan his project . He should keep all the resources, timesheets and workloads in balance. Try to plan as well as you can this will give you control during the execution of the project. This also gives a clear view to each team member that what is expected out of him. Usually the project fail because of bad plans and go beyond the schedules. Try to avoid this as much as possible this is vital for project success.

Be Accountable for the project

Project Manager is always accountable for the whatever happens to the project . So instead of closing your eyes not to see the danger, it is good to face the challenges. Tell yourself that I am responsible for the project. Whenever making decisions make use of the information available to you. Puts the project before any other allegiances. Make sincere effort . Let the organization know that you were the best person to do the job and they have made the right decision to put you in-charge.

Be a good negotiator

Negotiation is the key to convincing stakeholders. Your negotiation skills will be tested with some of the difficult stakeholders. If you are not good at it, try to develop it by reading books, watching lectures, asking and watching the seniors. This skill will help you resolve any conflicts within your team and with the other stakeholders. You should be able to negotiate outside of the circle.

Anticipate priorities and address Problems

As a project manager you should be able to anticipate priorities for the project. Make use of the commonsense. Use your analytical and reasoning skills to see what’s happening and make your decision based on the information available.
You should address the problems as they arise. Each problem can turn into an opportunity if you are positive and can think all sides of the problem to reach its solution.

Take calculated Risks

As a good project manager you should be able to take calculated risks in order to go forward. There is always a risk but you should be wise enough to avoid it or take the one that needs to be taken. Try to use the lesson learned see what others have done in this situation how they were able to resolve the issues and how much risk was involved. See the outcome if it happens and then make your decision again based on the information available to you.

The Lizard Brain & the Genius Fight

I got this concept from Seth Godin book linchpin. It described that we have two portion of our brain one is the called the lizard brain. this part of brain actually tells us to do things that are safe. It tells us to do things that are routine , every one is doing it with out any harm. If we are driving it will always tell us the road that we know.
On the other hand the second part of our brain is called the daemon. The demon is Greek work and it means genius . This part of brain brings the creativity. It always pushes you to go out of the way. Think out of the box. Do things that are different . It tries to make you different from the other people. If you are driving it will always tell you to follow a new route and explore new things.

When we are thinking to do something these two have a fight with each other and the lizard brain will always push you towards the routine tasks and the genius will push you to different. If things go well the genius is happy and it becomes more powerful. It comes out with more ideas. Abut the ideas Seth says that if someone tells me that he or she does not have any good ideas to do something you have to ask that do you have any bad ideas to do that things. The concept is that let the bad ideas come through and a good idea will slip through .
On the other hand if we thought something different followed our genius mind and something went wrong the lizard brain is in the powerful state. It tells you that I told you not to do anything new.

In order for us to grow we need to give more power to our genius to do new things. There is always resistance against the genius mind but we have to let it overcome.

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin

The writer starts the book by explaining how people make profit from business by making replace able parts next level is when human are replaced by machines to earn more profit. The write has explained that the only way to get what you’re worth is to stand out, to exert emotional labor, to be seen as indispensable, and to produce interactions that organizations and people care deeply about.

The emotional labor is when people are more interested in their jobs and they cannot be easily replaced by machines. Writer gives the example that if you are standing in the line of laborerslinchpin and a contractor comes he is going to pick only those who are willing to do the job in less price.

So the only way to survive is to become indispensable by doing the emotional labor which cannot be replaced by computer or any other machines. Do It with right intent and you will become indispensable. Once you become indispensable no one can replace you. If a restaurant has three waiters and all three are good in job but one has the ability to deal with difficult customer then if company is thinking to fire one of them who is going to survive ? of course the one who is doing the emotional labor.

Tomorrow I will write about the lizard brain and daemon explained in this book and explain why we become frustrated when we don’t get what we are looking for.

Outliers – The story of success by Melcom Gladwell

Last week I read the book Outliers by Malcolm Glad well. I liked this book  pretty much. It describes how the people become outliers in their field. It guides with examples and proves a point that how people shaped into an outlier when they got opportunities.

  • It starts with Bill Joy how he was able to get 10,000 hours of experience and became the best.
  • It talks about bill gates how he was lucky enough to spend this much time programming on computers and became an outlier.
  • It discusses  the research that was conducted on people with brilliant IQ kids but they could not perform as outliers .
  • It shows that right opportunities to the right people at right time made them as outlier.
  • The kids with IQ more than Ian Stein was not successful so its not what you are born with but when you have the guts and you get the right opportunities.

I came to understanding that you should develop the right attitude and then opportunities come your way and you recognize them and take advantage to become what you want to be.

The first thing is over coming your resistance that is inside you that tells don’t do this. you don’t have any good ideas to do it. Well the answer is then you don’t have any bad idea as well. if you let your bad ideas come out then you will see some good ideas will slip through as well.

Will try to post more often, does not matter if I am the only one reading it ).