Results Oriented Project Management

The traditional project term hierarchy as defined by the Project Management Institute is this:

(Program)
    Project
        Phase
            Activity
                (Task)

They are defined thusly:

  • (Program) – a group of related projects
  • Project – a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result
  • Phase – a collection of logically related project activities, usually culminating in the completion of a major deliverable
  • Activity – an element of work performed during a project which has an expected duration and assigned responsible person
  • (Task) – an element of work performed in the completion of an activity which has an estimated level of effort and assigned responsible resource

The use of parentheses in the above indicates that programs and tasks are optional in project management. The remaining three (project, phase, and activity), however, are required elements of any properly constructed project.

In my work with Sage implementation partners over the past nine years, I have become more and more convinced that this structure is lacking in heavily knowledge-based projects such as software implementation. Furthermore, I think it pertains to all fields of knowledge work, such as: an accountant conducting an audit or a completing a tax return; a lawyer trying a case or processing a matter; and even a architect designing a building.

To correct this, I have been tossing an idea around in my head for over a year now and I think it is ready to be presented and criticisms levied. I call it results-based project management.

In short, it replaces the above mentioned hierarchy of terms with this one:

(Program)
    Project
        Objective
            Result

The definitions of program and project remain the same, but in place of phases, I substitute objective and in place of activity, result. Here are my definitions:

  • Objective – a collection of logically related results summed to explain  exactly what outcomes (not goals) of project will be
  • Result – a discrete element of output that has an assigned responsible party and an estimated completion date

A result can optionally have a resource assigned if it differs from the responsible party and an estimated amount of effort. Please note that the estimation of effort is for resource planning purposes only and it not intended to be used in conjunction with a timekeeping system.

Please note the shift from words used to describe actions (activity and task) to words that descript outputs (objective and results). This can be thought of as a shift from efforts (verbs) to tangible results (nouns). This is in keeping with the reality that customers by results not efforts and certainly not hours.

Reversing the flow of the hierarchy leads to an easy-to-understand definition for project completion. The sum of a group of related results can be thought of as an objective. The sum of all the objectives can be thought of as the project. It is when all results have be completed and all objectives have been met that the project is considered completed.

The challenge is, of course, defining all the results. This is what scope is all about and that is the subject of another post.

That is the idea in brief. I await your critiques.

N.B. – Two other definitions are helpful in understanding this post.

  • Responsible party – the person who is responsible for making sure the work is completed by the estimated completion date.
  • Resource – the person who does the actual work.

Often times these two are the same person, but that is not always the case.

Rethinking Unlimited Access Level Agreements

While watching Rory Sutherland’s Zeitgeist presentation for the 20th time, I was struck (finally or again) by his story about Spotify and how they have not gotten much traction with their offer of unlimited downloads per month. He suggests that they change it to some absurdly high number like 180 songs a month.

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Sutherland reasons that unlimited provides no context to the offering. As he put it, “Nobody knows what unlimited music is worth. It is a bit like asking, ‘Would you like to buy my unicorn?’”

The 180 song per month limit would give the price context in that it could be compared to iTunes at $0.99 per song. So for $9.99 a month you could enjoy $180 worth of music.

This got me to thinking.

Perhaps access level agreements should have a similar notion. Instead of saying unlimited access, perhaps it should be changed to 30 contacts (phone calls or emails) per month. Now, this would be more than anyone could possible need, and would therefore it would not be a barrier to any customer in terms of being worried about wasting a call on their particular issue. It would, however, allow them to compare it to other plans where there is a per call fee, thereby increase the perceived value of your offering.

What are your thoughts?

ET HORA LIBELLUM DELENDA EST

There is no such thing as losing to “No Decision”

While teaching Sage Consulting Academy last week, I had what my mentor would call a BFO – blinding flash of the obvious – a sale is never really lost to “No decision.”

artworks-000012084925-nwyyay-originalFirst, “No” is a decision and therefore, by definition is a …

Second, while a prospect may not select either you or a competitor, the prospect’s money is going to be spent on something. This could either be continuing to pay another third party to manually do what your system does, or they might simply be buying a new boat for themselves instead.

In either case the message to you (and your competitors for that matter) – You have done a lousy job communicating and convincing the customer that you and your potential solution create value for their organization.

Think about it, if you were the CEO of a small company and had the choice between a new ERP system and a boat, which would you choose? This is yet another reason why your value proposition must be a strong one.

The next time you think you have lost to “No decision",” I suggest you pause and reflect rather than just caulk it up to a confused potential buyer.

New Edition of Flawless Consulting

51Ma9ZgVyHL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_Those of you who follow this blog regularly will no doubt recall that I am an ardent adherent of Peter Block and his works. If you are also, I have some terrific news.

Peter has recently published a new (third) edition of his seminal work Flawless Consulting. I am thrilled to add it to my bookshelf next to the first and second editions. They are both terrific!

I am looking forward to reading and comparing this new edition to the first. It is fascinating to see how his thinking has evolved over the past three decades.

In addition, Peter has posted a video explaining the term – flawless consulting.

Too Many Notes

VeraSage Founder, Ron Baker has often used Snow White and Seven Dwarfs to illustrate the problem of applying efficiency to knowledge work.

“A LEAN six sigma guru would have advised Walt Disney to make Snow White and the Three Dwarfs as it would have improved efficiency by over 50 percent,” he intones.

Recently I was reminded of a scene from the Academy Award winning film Amadeus where the Holy Roman Emperor Jozef Franz (or was it Franz Jozef) criticizes Mozart’s opera for having, “Too many notes.”

 

Unfortunately, the clip cuts off before Mozart’s brilliant response, “Which few did you have in mind, Majesty?”

Knowledge work cannot be LEAN six sigma-ed. Once again, effectiveness trumps efficiency!

On Paid Search vs Social Media Spending

Fellow Sage team member Greg Tirico posted an interesting link to an article which suggests that small and medium businesses are beginning to favor social media spending over paid search.

I have always thought of paid search (and even SEO) as a mistake in the consulting profession because it tends to lead to poor customer acquistion. In other words, it produces more D and F customers than A or B customers.

By their very nature web search prospects are in the gather information step in the buying process. They tend to be tire kickers who are generally looking at buying more on (pun intended) low price rather than a long-term relationship.

I think social media has the potential to change this because it turns search on it head. Instead of looking for people who already have their hand in the air (an intercept lead), social media allows the providers to look for people who have unrecognized need.

In my opinion, it is a much better place to spending marketing dollars.

ET HORA LIBELLUM DELENDA EST

New Addition to Ed’s List

In December, I created Ed’s List – a a list of IT (information technology) whom I consider to be true professional knowledge firms.

Today, I am pleased to add another name to the List – Plus Computer Solutions in Burnaby, BC, Canada. As of January 1, 2012, they are no longer keeping timesheets! Said Wendy Gorrie, one of the principals:

For some time now we have been offering fixed fee, money back guarantees for our engagements, it is only now we are taking the final step in the value pricing journey by eliminating time sheets from our organization. Our customers, our team the reputation of our organization and the products we represent will ultimately benefit from our divorce from the timesheet.

I am thrilled to have been some part of their transition and wish them every success in 2012 and beyond!

ET HORA LIBELLUM DELENDA EST

Hey, I’ll Take It (a victory for on premises)

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In July, I wrote a post for this blog decrying the use of the phrase “on premise” to describe traditional software that is deployed at the customer’s location. I posited that this should rightly be referred to as “on premises” with the final s in tact.

Late yesterday, there is news of a victory of sorts. I received an email from my Sage colleague Tammy Mathews in which she informed me that the new Sage writing standards will include the correct usage for on premises!

I consider this one small step for a man. One giant leap for correct usage!

My Interview of Peter Wolf of Azamba

I am pleased to present the second (of what I hope will be many) interviews with professionals who are on Ed’s List. Once again, these are firms that offer only fixed price agreements, have eliminated timesheets for all professionals, and offer a service guarantee.

This interview is with Peter Wolf of Azamba Consulting whose purpose is to help customers gather and organize all of their business information and turn it into knowledge.