Spring is coming

Toronto is forecast to get “walloped” by a snow storm tomorrow.

No-one in asking for more Winter. We are all done. Ready for the next season. Spring is coming and Summer is on the way too.

For a few weeks at the end of Spring every year there are beautiful flowers that blossom on our walkway. I look forward to seeing them. However, I rarely stop and slow down to examine them. This past June I did slow down and attempted to capture their beauty with some photographs.

Spring Flowers 1

Spring Flowers 1


Spring Flowers 2

Spring Flowers 2

Spring Flowers 3

Spring Flowers 3

Stephen Wise






7 things to carry in your Project kit

Here are 7 things to keep on your person or nearby that will help you excel as a Project Manager.

1. White Board markers
A magic device that propels a conversation and creates a record.

2. Wristwatch
Place a wristwatch in front of you so you can keep your eye on the time so that the important items get covered and you end meetings on schedule.

Integration Professionals Project Kit

Integration Professionals Project Kit

3. 2 kinds of Pain reliever – ASA and Ibuprofin
Make a drawer in your desk available for your project team with necessities. Learned this one from a wedding planner. Could also include stain remover, candies, taxi chits.

4. Project contact list with email, phone, and mobile contacts
Missing a team member?, late for a meeting?, need urgent help from an executive? – always carry a printout of your contact list with email and phone info.

5. Project Issue / Risk log , Schedule, Change Log, and Budget Summary
Some people like to carry around a complete Project binder. I’ve boiled it down to a few key items that I update periodically – the purpose to have written notes to be able to give unplanned “hallway” updates if you bump into an important stakeholder.

6. Post-it notes and Black Sharpie markers
See number one above and add steroids. Get all meeting participants working on a plan, issue, or risk concurrently, if appropriate. Keep one idea per note. Print in large block letters. Post on wall and re-arrange to suit. Use a camera phone to snap the results.

7. Coffee-cards for instant recognition
Giving out $5 coffee cards just to recognize folks for attending a meeting smacks of desperation – but it is still appreciated.

What items should be added to the list? Add your ideas by replying below.


Stephen Wise


The most powerful leadership skill an expert Project Manager needs for success

No one can be an expert in all fields. A Project Manager is a skilled expert on leading teams to initiate, plan, execute and close projects. These are among the most important skills, but not the most powerful.

If you aren’t feeling well you go to see your General Practitioner (GP). Your GP understands the big picture and upon identifying a specific issue or risk with your health may refer you to a specialist. In this analogy the GP is like a Project Manager – they do not need to be an expert in every field and one difference between okay GP’s and excellent GP’s is the speed and quality and follow-up related to the referral.

All Project Managers will tell you that the most commonly used skill on a project is communication. However, neither communication nor planning are the most powerful skills in the arsenal. The true multiplier, the most powerful skill, is the ability to learn from others.

The ability to learn from others enables the PM to absorb the nuances of the culture, mitigate the hidden risks of the processes, and allow for the complexity of the technology. When a diverse project team gets together it doesn’t matter who is the smartest or most senior in the room. What matters is learning from everyone’s skills and experience and channeling that back to the team so the whole is greater than the sum. The most powerful leadership skill is the ability to apply the greater whole in order to reach the objectives of the project quicker and with less risk of failure.

Re-Frame Project Success for the Strategic Business

Project success is most often measured by answering two questions. (A) Did we meet the schedule goal? And (B) Did we meet the budget goal? A good indicator project success will improve over time is periodic review of the Time and Budget Dashboard by management. This approach is valid but not sufficient for framing project success over the long-term.

Time and Budget Dashboard Integration Professionals Stephen Wise

Time and Budget Dashboard

It is very common that once a project is closed, it falls off management reporting dashboards. This is a serious mistake! Strategic success is dependent on the outputs of the project, not the inputs of Time and Budget.

The outputs / benefits of the project are measured after project close and take the dimensions of customer satisfaction and business success. It will take several months or quarters after the project is finished until customer satisfaction can be measured. It will take even longer until business success can be measured.

By re-framing the measurement time-horizons for projects and their outputs, we can provide more effective visibility and accountability at the management level for the strategic success of projects. The re-frame is to include medium-term and long-term results as part of project tracking and reporting.

Team success can be measured in the Short-term. That is Time, Budget and other metrics such as scope, quality, stakeholder engagement, and others.

Customer success can be measured in the Medium-term. Customer success is the metrics that indicate how well the product is meeting actual needs and how well the product is providing customer net benefits.

Business/Strategy success can be measured in the long-term. Business success is the metrics that indicate how well the overall strategy is benefiting the enterprise, such as market development and risk profile.

Measurement Time Horizons Integration Professionals Stephen Wise

Measurement Time Horizons

Organizations have made great strides implementing project methodology and management reporting on time and budget. However a systemic flaw is introduced by reporting only short-term project success measures. There is correlation between success in short-term and success in the long-term but there is more to the picture.

We need to re-frame and extend the time horizon for tracking project success to include medium and long-term measures. By linking Customer (medium-term) and Business (long-term) actual measures to project reporting we will gain improved insights on the projects that have either advanced or held-back the realization of strategic objectives.

Stephen Wise

5 Secrets of Successfully Implementing Strategy

It is common to find a cultural divide between the strategy folks and the implementation folks inside an organization.

As comparison, Strategy thinking is intellectual. Strategy development is sophisticated and often done off-site by executives. A completed Strategy is polished and presented by the top executives. The Strategy is locked for the year.

And, Implementation thinking is practical. Plan development messy and done by managers. Planning assumes that all the tasks and dependencies can be identified and solved. The plan will change every day based on progress and issues that occur.

Strategy Execution Success


How can the organization ensure the outcomes from the implementation meet the needs of the strategy?

  1. The Strategists include the implementers in the strategy development process.
  2. One of the strategists assumes accountability for the successful initiation, planning, execution, and closure of each of the plans as well as active involvement in selected risk mitigation and issue resolution.
  3. The implementers ensure that a business case is provided that links the forecast benefits and risks of the strategy to the forecast resources and constraints. Viability of the business case should be validated periodically during and after implementation.
  4. The implementers select appropriate tools and methodology to plan and execute the detailed tasks necessary to achieve the plan.
  5. The implementers ensure the accountable strategist is aware of progress and risks and engaged for collaboration and assistance on all unresolved issues.

Increased collaboration between Strategists and Implementers is low-hanging fruit for improving outcomes. Leaders among the strategists and leaders among the implementers who reach across to each other and increase their mutual overlap will see desired outcomes increase significantly.


Team Building – Environmental Factors

Fourth in a series on Team Building.

Along with personnel factors, there are also a number of business environment factors affecting firms’ ability to hire and develop quality team members. Just as the world population is evolving, so too is the world work environment, and the speed of change is leaving many firms breathless.

Businesses must increasingly compete on a global scale and deal with staff just as mobile as their corporate leaders. Virtual teams are rising, freeing workers from the confines of the office, which in turn makes it more difficult to control and train talent pools. With lower loyalty levels to organizational leaders, the global, mobile, and virtual workplace can mean a staff free-for-all when competing for talent.


 The blending of talent pools from around the world brings diversity of ideas, cultures, and practices to the business environment. For some firms, this is a wholly positive experience. For other firms, this is disruptive and difficult to adapt to in daily practice. Yet the shifting demographics of the world mean that globalization forces are more likely to increase than decrease, requiring staffing managers and business planners to adapt or lose at the global talent game.


In the United States, 58 percent of companies consider themselves to be virtual workspaces, according to the Insight Research Corporation.[1] This rise of virtual work and virtual office environments presents a challenge to hiring and developing quality team members.

Culture and fit to culture is a prime driver of employee success, but how can this be assessed if the employee will never spend time in the office? What is the role of workplace learning culture over Twitter or via Skype conferencing? How can team member development be instigated and monitored remotely to ensure training and development investments are paying off? These questions and many more are becoming larger and larger issues for recruiters and managers worldwide.


 Adding to the challenge of managing virtual work teams is the challenge of managing less loyal and more mobile workforces. While previous generations of workers were bound to one company for the effective duration of their careers, some 80 percent of modern workers are ready to go work for another firm if it appears more attractive according to research firm Right Management.[2]

Over the course of their working lives, the average American worker will have 8 – 11 jobs, and up to five different careers. While this represents greater mobility than other parts of the world, it is not unusual for top talent in developing nations to switch jobs annually in pursuit of pay increases or promotions. Brazil, facing a 7.5 percent annual growth rate, can’t keep up talent wise, while India and China face broad-based skill shortages as workers routinely jump ship to pick up the double-digit wage increases that are expected even in a down market.[3]

Firms can no longer expect that workers will stay with them throughout their working life. On one hand, this makes organizations reluctant to invest in talent that may head for the door at the first opportunity. Yet on the other hand, firms who can grow talent become less dependent on individual workers and better able to pass knowledge between team members to reduce the impact of a highly mobile workforce. Adapting rather than complaining about the turnover rates is going to provide smart firms with real talent advantages.


[1]  Insight Research Corporation.  “The Mobile Workforce and Enterprise Applications 2007-2012.”  Retrieved August 5th, 2011 from:  http://www.insight-corp.com/reports/mwf.asp

[2]  Harnish, Tom.  “Be Flexible To Modern Staffing Challenges.”  Open Forum March 25th, 2011.  Retrieved August 4th, 2011 from:  http://www.openforum.com/idea-hub/topics/managing/article/be-flexible-to-modern-staffing-challenges-1

[3]  Kazmin, Amy, Robinson, Gwen, and Weitzman, Hal.  “Talent Shortage Adds To Growth Strains.”  Financial Times, published May 19th, 2011.  Retrieved August 4th, 2011 from:  http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/5d288c4-816a-11e0-9c83-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1UNIic5IA

Team Building – The Education and Training disconnect

Third in a series on Team Building.

In light of the time spent in educational environments, it is surprising that 73 percent of firms cited a lack of knowledge, skills, and experience as the deciding factor against candidates, according to ManpowerGroup International.[1] While workers are pursuing vast quantities of education, they are not receiving the education they need to be ready for the modern workforce in the eyes of hiring managers.

This is clearly a major disconnect between the world’s educational systems and its business sectors. The problem is pronounced in highly developed and emerging economies alike,[2] sending millions of fresh graduates unequipped into the markets each year. Many expect that they will receive training on the job, or that their school certificates will be enough to qualify them for well-paid positions.


[1] ManpowerGroup International. “2011 Talent Shortage Survey.” Released in May, 2011. Retrieved August 4th, 2011 from: http://files.shareholder.com/downloads/MAN/1349301451x0x469531/7f71c882-c104-449b-9642-af56b66c1e6d/2011_Talent_Shortage_Survey_US.pdf

[2] Kazmin, Amy, Robinson, Gwen, and Weitzman, Hal. “Talent Shortage Adds To Growth Strains.” Financial Times, published May 19th, 2011. Retrieved August 4th, 2011 from:http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/5d2888c4-816a-11e0-9c83-00144feabdc0.html#

Team Building – Modern Staffing Challenges

Second in a series on Team Building.

Modern staffing challenges cross industries and international borders. More than 34 percent of nearly 40,000 companies in a 39 nation survey of hiring practices reported being unable to fill positions due to a lack of quality talent, according to ManpowerGroup International’s 2011 Talent Shortage Survey. The reasons given for the talent gap included a lack of hard or technical knowledge, a lack of experience, and a lack of proper qualification or certification to do the desired work.[1]

Instead of tangible goods, many firms are now in the business of intelligence and services. What drives the bottom line is no longer manual labor – it’s mental power that is the engine of growth. Firms depend on analysis, innovation, and creativity to move the bar, and this requires a dramatically different talent force than what was required in previous generations.[2]

Pure genius, however, is not necessarily the answer. Firms have to hire intelligent, adaptable workers who can not only keep current with a changing economic climate but also work well with each other in the realities of the present. Soft skills such as communication and sales are in high demand, as are advanced technical competencies and analytical abilities. Without sufficiently adept workers to fill these gaps, businesses struggle to thrive and expand in the knowledge economy.


[1] ManpowerGroup International. “2011 Talent Shortage Survey.” Released in May, 2011. Retrieved August 4th, 2011 from: http://files.shareholder.com/downloads/MAN/1349301451x0x469531/7f71c882-c104-449b-9642-af56b66c1e6d/2011_Talent_Shortage_Survey_US.pdf

[2] Harnish, Tom. “Be Flexible To Modern Staffing Challenges.” Open Forum March 25th, 2011. Retrieved August 4th, 2011 from: http://www.openforum.com/idea-hub/topics/managing/article/be-flexible-to-modern-staffing-challenges-1

Team Building – Plea of the Project Manager

The top global business challenge is hiring and developing the right team members to continue positive business growth, according to the 2011 edition of the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Private Business Barometer.[1] This report marked the second year that staffing dominated the barometer of business challenges, but it is merely the ongoing documentation of a problem businesses of all sizes face in the present talent market environment.

Despite historically elevated global unemployment levels, businesses worldwide face a significant shortage of competent staff members. Firms that are unable to find the talent they need go to the market at a disadvantage. Firms with the right talent can secure additional market share, meet customer needs, and innovate for the future. How then can firms ensure that they are not left behind in the global talent race?

It is not hopeless. There are a number of specific solutions employers can pursue to make themselves hiring leaders in their target talent markets. These solutions are not merely to throw money and perks at the problem. Instead, through the strategic implementation of hiring and competency development standards, organizations can set themselves apart as the discoverers and creators of an elite pool of loyal talent.

This post is first in a series on Team Building for the enterprise.


[1] The PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Private Business Barometer. Human Capital Magazine, May 5th, 2011. Retrieved August 1st, 2011 from: www.hrleader.net.au/articles/B5/0C0705B5.asp

How confident are you with the project forecast?

As every project progresses through it’s lifecycle, the team’s forecast will evolve. The forecast value may move up or down, however, the accuracy of the forecast should always increase. The basis for increasing accuracy is that all estimates are forecasts with some level of uncertainty and as the project progresses the unknowns/uncertainty will decrease. This holds for forecasting any of duration, work effort, or cost.

There are two important concepts in the below figure:

 1)      We see the team’s forecast (solid middle line) moves up and down as time progresses; and,

 2)      the range in value between the High and Low Estimate decreases in steps at each phase.

A key action for the Project Manager is to communicate to all stakeholders that early estimates have higher uncertainty. As part of communication with management and finance stakeholders, I usually ask for a reserve to be added onto my estimates based on the higher uncertainty of estimates and potential negative impact of risks. This amount can be progressively reduced and “given back” as the project progresses over time.

Some types of projects inherently have high uncertainty during initiation and planning. For example, integration of custom software. When faced with projects involving high level of unknown, the Project Manger should use “Three-Point Estimating”. This technique will include the full range of possible values of the estimate and reduces bias that can lead to a highly optimistic or pessimistic estimate.

I usually create custom fields within Microsoft Project 2010 to capture and calculate the three point estimates. The approach is also called PERT. The formula is PERT Estimate = (Optimistic Estimate + 4 X Most Likely Estimate + Pessimistic Estimate) / 6.

 Other project teams that work on a high number of similar projects will develop good enterprise knowledge for making estimates. An example would be an energy and gas company that knows 2 resources can lay pipe at 20 metres per hour and the material cost is $150 dollars per foot. Estimates in these situations can be very accurate, from an early stage.

A Project Manager may have little control of the level of uncertainty or risk when handed a new assignment. However, appropriate application of the concepts above will lead to successfully managing and quantifying estimates of duration, effort, and cost.