Focus on Outcomes

Traction Tips

A weekly action idea to improve traction on your important initiatives by Stephen Wise.


The new and wonderful musical, An American in Paris, is doing the rounds. It weaves multiple love stories with a Jazz and Ballet fusion leading to true love outcomes.

Milo falls for Jerry, who’s in love with Lise, who is engaged to Henri. Lise shares mutual affection with Henri but falls in love with Jerry. Jerry’s friend Adam is also falling for Lise. Lise the ballerina, is oblivious she is the focal point of all the story lines. Despite the complications, true love wins out in the end.

In the opening scenes of the musical Jerry sets his strategy to find and win Lise. However he gets lost, becomes indecisive, and is distracted by other interests.

Has this ever happened to you in business? Getting lost in the details, uncertainty over the correct next step, or being distracted by new opportunities

Unfortunately, I see it every day.

So, here is my guaranteed formula for success.

1. Focus on driving the outcomes
2. Accept Uncertainty
3. Agile Mindset

Focus on outcomes

Craft a hi-level plan. List the activities required to achieve the desired outcomes.

Accept Uncertainty

Accept uncertainty. Our ability to achieve goals proscribed in the plan can vary significantly.

Agile Mindset

Re-work your plan frequently.  Consider changes in the environment and your leanings along the way. Switch around your priorities. re-evaluate desired outcomes to reflect new realities.

Weekly Traction Action

Fuse the improvisation of Jazz with the perfection of Ballet to manage your corporate outcomes.

Your weekly action:

1. Ensure all your desired outcomes have an accessible, hi-level, end to end plan.
2. Schedule regular times to evaluate whether you are on track and make course corrections to get back on track.

I recommend or implement these actions all the time on client initiatives. Hopefully, it will work to improve outcomes for you too.

I love Email

Please send me an email and tell me about if you have success or trouble with this action. I’m always interested to see what can happen out in the wild.


Stephen Wise

Integration Professionals

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 acheter viagra en ligne.

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

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

Earned Value Management – turning on the headlights

Earned Value – Why do I need it?

To paraphrase the words of the Project Management Institute’s standard, when I rely only on a project schedule of tasks, finish dates, and % complete, I will not know where the project is or where it is going. I will simply know where the project was supposed to be and where it is supposed to be going.

What is Earned Value?

Earned Value Management (EVM) is a technique that looks at the relationship between a) actual cost expended, and b) actual work completed, and compares this to c) original budget and work timeline.

More formally, the three data points you must understand and memorize are:

a)      Actual Cost (AC) – What amount of resources have been expended to complete the work at a given point in time.

b)      Earned Value (EV) – Snapshot of work completed at a given point in time.

c)       Planned Value (PV) – The Baseline – How far along the project work is supposed to be at any given point in the project schedule

How do I implement Earned Value? (My cheat sheet below)


Step 1 (Planning)

  1. Create a Work Breakdown Structure.
  2. Ensure all tasks on the schedule are assigned.
  3. Estimate time to complete each task.
  4. Determine how you will determine that tasks are complete as the project progresses.


Step 2 Periodic monitoring

  1. Obtain cost and / or hours expended.
  2. Obtain status on task completion.
  3. Forecast Cost and Schedule performance.

My usual workflow is to enter the planned and actual data into MS Project and then export the time-scaled data to an excel chart. An excel chart (example below)  isn’t required, but I highly recommend it as a support to your table of data – a picture is worth a thousand words.



Combine the data into actionable forecasts

By using Earned Value techniques, you use Project Management discipline to provide key feedback and forecasting to the project team and executives. See four sample questions and formulae below.

EVM formula table


Earned Value is not sensitive to the quality of the deliverables. You can be near the end of the project and forecast on budget and on schedule even if the deliverables are poor and the customer will not accept the final product. The expectation is that the PM is using other tools and techniques to manage and control quality.

Stephen Wise

Six things I must do to bring value. Part 2 of 2.

4. Use Earned value to track schedule and budget progress against plan.

Consider that the “Must finish on time” 6 month project you are leading has burned up 80% (5 months) of the calendar.  You request an update to senior executives where you report that the team has determined that they need an extra month added to the schedule to finish the project. Some time later, the project finishes after a total of 10 months.

Did something unexpected cause extra delay?
Could you have provided a more accurate forecast during your executive update cialis preise deutschland?
Consider that:

  1. Team members, usually under subtle and not-so subtle pressure, consistently underestimate how long it takes to get things done. As an aside, in my experience, the most common source of the underestimate is changing requirements, unexpected complications, and lack of available folks to do the additional work.
  2. Given the chance to re-plan the project, the team looks only at the amount of work remaining, ignores the leanings from the start of the project, and bakes in the exact same underestimates in the re-plan.

Earned Value is the single most powerful Project Management principle in the entire PMBOK; it provides unbiased status of current state and forecast of future impact to schedule and cost. It is also the most underused key concept by Project Managers. In a nutshell, Earned Value provides an independent Project Management perspective to the following questions:

  • Are we ahead or behind schedule?
  • When is the Project likely to be completed?
  • What is the remaining work likely to cost?

It isn’t unusual, that it is not appropriate to report and discuss Earned Value metrics to management. That’s not a showstopper, because the information is still highly valuable and actionable by the person most accountable to take the required day-day actions to ensure project success – the Project Manager.

5. Hold regular status meetings.

  • Hold Weekly Status Meetings: Less frequent, for example, every two weeks, is too long because if key people miss one it is a month until you are together again. More frequent and not enough will have changed resulting in meeting churn.
  • Standard Agenda and Meeting materials: That is, status late and upcoming activities, review new Issues, Risk Log updates, and potential Change Requests. Ensure that all “Work breakdown Structure” stakeholders are represented at the meetings.
  • Issue Agenda/Pre-Mail / Minutes: – That is, issue the agenda and meeting materials at least 24hr prior to the meeting.

 6. Escalate unresolved Issues and significant Change Requests to the management team. 

  • “Unresolved” – Don’t escalate until the Project Team has reviewed the issue without success.
  • “Issue” –  Ensure the item being discussed is within scope of the project and is impacting success, if not, note it for later discussion.
  • “Significant Change” – a) Establish risk and impact thresholds, below which, the project team will “adjudicate” change requests internally without escalating, and above which, will always use the agreed change management process.
  • “Escalate” – Advise the appropriate stakeholders quickly as a courtesy and to ask for help.

There you have it. I support and subscribe to PMBOK, ITIL, Agile et cetera, and the more I learn about each one, the more similar and complementary they seem to me. However, as a Project Manager working with diverse clients and changing needs, the above six are my must-haves in order to provide value-add as a Project Manager.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave comments if you feel strongly about anything.

Stephen D Wise


Look for a future drill-down on Earned Value.

Get me a good Project Manager

We all hear it.

“We need someone who gets it.”

What is it? How do I get some?

Do I read and follow the  Project Management Institute’s recently published fourth update to the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK)?

What about Agile, ITIL (Information Technology Information Library), PRINCE2 (PRojects IN Controlled Environments) and all the other approaches to managing change?

For what it’s worth, I think they all work. And I don’t have any concerns that someone from PMI headquarters is going to trot out and rescind my PMP designation if I make that claim. In fact, as a Project Manager, I learn from PMBOK that it is my responsibility to apply the appropriate methodology and tools given the needs of the project. Let’s face it – greater folks than I have observed “there is nothing new under the sun”. All methodologies are trying to facilitate a change from current state to future state. If we choose our tools and methodologies appropriately and according to the circumstances, it is really much more important that we agree on the approach, rather then which model we have chosen.

So what are the non-negotiables for a Project Manager to be considered succesful and prove that they get it? I have five must-haves that I just can’t live without. Will review them next post.