Monthly Archives: February 2011

CPO – Chief Project Officer

CPOs should become CP3Os – Chief Project, Program and Portfolio Officers! It is impossible to deliver value to an organisation if any of the layers of project governance are ineffective. Like C-3PO in Star Wars, the CP3O needs to be an expert in communication and understand the right language and protocols to use at different levels of the organisation to tie the project, program and portfolio management processes directly to the creation of value.

The original C-3PO

At the portfolio management level, selecting the ‘right’ projects and programs to continue, cancel or start is vital to the future success of the organisation. The CP3O should be a key advisor to the executive team responsible for the strategic plan and selecting the on-going mix of work for the organisation; balancing high-risk, high-reward projects that may define the future of the organisation with ‘safer’ projects that help keep the lights on and grow today’s business. The capacity and capability of the organisation’s program and project delivery systems is a key enabler and the primary constraint on this process. The CP3O should be the person with the knowledge to facilitate effective decision making.

Program management focuses on the efficient coordination of multiple projects to deliver benefits. Each program is focused on delivering key elements of the organisation’s overall strategy and consequently has a significant contribution to make to the organisation’s ability to deliver value to its stakeholders. The CP3O should be actively engaged in ensuring the programs meet their businesses objectives. The program sponsor and other managers may have line responsibility for the initiative, the CP3O focuses on skills and support.

Project management is focused on the efficient creation of the deliverables defined in the Project Charter. Projects are most effective when their objectives are clearly defined and unnecessary change is minimised. Whilst Project Managers may report to a variety of managers, the CP3O should focus on skills development and performance.

Most organisations have developed PMOs to support the delivery of Projects and Programs and to provide the data needed for both governance and Portfolio Management decisions. The development and operation of the organisation’s PMO structure should be a core responsibility of the CP3O.

The role of a Project Director (at least in Australia) is as the manger of project managers. The difference between Project Directors and Program Managers is the Program is created to deliver a defined benefit (the responsibility of the Program Manager) and projects are created to deliver the outputs required to enable the benefit. The Program Manager has overall responsibility for both the performance of the projects within the program and enabling the benefit; whereas Project Directors tend to be responsible for oversighting the performance of the projects within their area of responsibility. The Project Director is typically discipline and location based; eg, the Director for IT projects in Sydney. The project deliverables may contribute to a range of initiatives within the organisation. Project Directors should be direct reports of the CP3O.

The CP3O (or CPO) role is becoming more common. Defining the value proposition for this executive will be critically important to the improvement in delivering value through projects and programs. One of the key initiatives a CP3O can use to drive continuing improvements within the organisation is to develop a focus on process improvement using an effective maturity model. PMI’s OPM3 is probably the best tool from the perspectives of rigour and its focus on projects, programs and portfolio management.

This post has covered a lot of ground. For more information on specific topics see:
Portfolio Management: See White Paper1017
Types of Program: See White Paper1022
Programs -v- Projects: See White Paper1002
PMOs: See White Paper1034

Project Industry Trends

A presentation by Jim Harrison of Itcom Australia Pty Ltd to the PMI Melbourne Chapter this week, focusing on project management trends primarily in the ICT and Finance sectors of the Victorian and Australian Eastern Seaboard economy. The presentation highlighted some interesting trends that would appear to have a wider implication and correlate with our experience and other sources of information.

The first key finding is that project management maturity is starting to develop. 80% of the organisations surveyed by Itcom had some form of PMO and most had a defined PM methodology; 30% based on the PMBOK® Guide, 30% on PRINCE2 and 20% an in house methodology. The trend over the next few years is likely to be focused on enhancing existing PMOs capability and value rather then creating new PMOs.

The second key finding was the increasing trend towards people seeing project management as a career. Over 70% of the people surveyed expected to stay in project and program management moving to larger projects or program manager/project director roles as their career develops. At the junior end of the spectrum, the emergence of PMOs provides an employment opportunity for project support staff to begin their working life as project admin staff, schedulers, etc., and then progress into project management.

The strategic importance of project management capability is also being increasingly recognised by senior management with a significant trend towards making project managers permanent staff roles rather than contract roles. The weak spot in this finding was that over 60% of organisations did not appear to have a project management career path defined to help develop their staff. Staff development will become increasingly important as 85% of organisation expect to increase their project spend this year and the job market is already starting to see shortages of appropriately qualified applicants.

The resources needed to develop a career framework are freely available, the PMI PathPro™ Career Framework can be used free of charge by any organisation to develop a customised framework and is also free to any PMI member to plan their own career development. Organisations that back the framework with effective training and mentoring to help employees grow their careers can offer a clear point of delineation in an increasingly competitive market for skilled employees. For more on PathPro™ and the various PM certification frameworks see: or download our report on the certification frameworks used in the Australian project management arena.

Biased Book Reviews

I sometimes wonder if the total freedom of the internet is an asset. Over the last several years I’ve been working with a tem of international experts to develop the CIOB Guide to Good Practice in the Management of Time in Complex Projects. We are now developing a certification framework to help support the development of a proper career framework for schedulers (for more on this see:

The Guide was developed for a specific purpose that is clearly enunciated in the marketing materials. The description is: The first stage, this [book], sets down the process and standards to be achieved in preparing and managing the time model. As a handbook for practitioners it uses logical step by step procedures and examples from inception and risk appraisal, through design and construction to testing and commissioning, to show how an effective and dynamic time model can be used to manage the risk of delay to completion of construction projects.

As a guide for practitioners the book has limitations, in particular it is not intended to be an academic text. Then you read the review on Amazon UK from an anonymous ‘Richard and his cat’ and he complains the book:

  • is written in bad english – very insightful as good English requires correct capitalisation as a minimum. The language in the book is not complex academic English primarily because its audience is world wide.
  • is full of unsubstantiated opinion and without any academic referencing to evidence – absolutely correct! This is a guide for practitioners.
  • appears to be written from the slanted viewpoint of an employers delay analysis consultant who wants an easy life by having the contractor do his work for him – I have no idea what ‘Richard’ does for a living but I always thought the job of the contractors scheduler was to make the employers consultants life as easy as possible by developing fully substantiated claims that can be approved un-amended. The Guide does strongly advocate keeping good records; these are needed for legitimate claims.
  • if a MSc Thesis then it would be a failure – completely agree! A MSc Thesis requires a very structured format and generally prohibits new ideas and thinking – the thesis has to be built on established writings. The Guide takes a radically new look at how to implement effective time management in complex projects and is written to be read and used.

Fortunately some newer reviews are appearing. The Guide will undoubtedly improve when the second edition is developed in a couple of years. For now I think it has a lot to offer practical project managers, schedulers and planners, but then I’m biased, I know the calibre of the people involved in developing The Guide.

CAPM Exam Application Enhancements

PMI has made it easier for candidates to prepare and schedule their CAPM examination.

The network of test centres available for the CAPM exam has been expanded to approximately 5000 world-wide. This will make accessing a centre much easier; in Australia the available centres have increased from 2 (Sydney and Melbourne) to over 30 including all capital cities and many regional centres. The complete world-wide list can be found at

Also, instead of having to have completed the 23 hours of project management education at the time of application submission, candidates now have the option of submitting their application in advance. Upon submission of the CAPM application all candidates must agree to the PMI Code of Professional Conduct and agree that all 23 contact hours of education will be completed prior to their scheduled examination date. This will allow candidates to complete their booking before starting an intensive classroom course.

The number of CAPM credential holders world-wide is increasing rapidly, these changes will make booking and sitting for the exam much easier.  For more on the CAMP examination and Mosaic’s courses click here.

Unfortunately these enhancements in the CAPM processes do not flow through to any of the other PMI credentials.

Engagement – learning from Games

The developers of computer games are focused on creating and maintaining engagement. The longer players play, the better the game! Some of the ideas that can be used to help build team engagement in the workplace include:

  • Recognising individual engagement is easier if there is a sense of collective engagement.
  • Appealing to the emotions of both individuals and the group, encourage collaboration.
  • Clearly show a players progress through ‘experience bars’ and similar.
  • Provide multiple long and short term aims.
  • Reward effort; provide graduated and scaled rewards.
  • Provide rapid, frequent and clear feedback with windows of enhanced learning.
  • Create an element of uncertainty, the occasional exceptional reward.

Use these elements wisely and engagement in you team may become almost addictive – games are!! For more on this topic see Tom Chatfield’s talk on TED

Motivation, Happiness and Engagement

This is the first of a series of posts looking at the interlinked but independent elements of satisfaction, happiness, engagement and motivation. Ideally the members of your team will enjoy all four feelings but this is not always possible or even necessary. A soldier engaged in a pitch battle is unlikely to be ‘happy’ but would certainly be engaged and should be motivated.

Research suggests people have a deep need for Autonomy (the desire to direct our own lives), Mastery (the urge to get better and better at something), and Purpose (the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves). If your team provides these elements, you are lily to have satisfied and motivated people.

Happiness is different. It would seem happiness is internal, created by the person within themselves. The human mind can synthesize happiness. Shakespeare said it best, of course (Hamlet Act 2, scene 2, 239–251):
Why, then ’tis none to you; for there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.

On the engagement front, in November 2010 the Australian Institute of Management (AIM) found in a member’s survey that ‘that negativity, apathy and disillusionment are present in the executive ranks of too many Australian organisations.’ A few of the findings included:

  • 40 per cent of respondents surveyed do not feel appreciated by their employer
  • 20 per cent of participants expressed negative sentiments about working at their current organisation
  • Almost one in three of those surveyed criticised the workplace culture of their organisation
  • 34 per cent of respondents admitted they could be putting more effort into their current role.
  • 33 per cent of those we surveyed said they are considering leaving their employer.

The last piece of the framework is a series of studies in the UK focused on ‘civil servants’ (public servants), the ‘Whitehall Studies’. One key finding is the inverse relationship between coronary heart disease (CHD) and the level of job control. People in highly demanding jobs they could control had half the rate of CHD experienced by people with less control over their work.

Creating an environment where people are engaged motivated and happy has a direct link to their wellbeing as well as delivering your requirements. My next few posts will focus on how to create this win-win situation.

Black Swan Risks

A black swan???

Black swans are becoming popular in far too many places! Not too many people would confuse Daffy Duck with a black swan but when it comes to risks, it seems too many people are prepared to accept anything with black feathers is a black swan….

I have just finished a really interesting discussion with Bob Prieto on the subject. Bob’s article in January’s PM World Today discussing ‘black swan risks’ and my letter to the editor in the February edition set the framework (the PMWT website has closed).

The key definition of a ‘black swan’ proposed by N.N. Taleb is that the ‘black swan’ was unpredicted and unpredictable, but in hindsight it appears that it should have been foreseeable. Birds have a range of different plumages, there is no reason not to presume swans could not have other colours but equally, but in the 18th century, there was no reasonable basis to assume swans would be anything but ‘white’ (view links to further discussion).

Another black swan...???

Following on from the debate, the challenge I see facing management is in two parts firstly providing sufficient rigour in the assessment of risks to encapsulate most of the reasonably foreseeable risks and making appropriate decisions based on a proper understanding of the issues. The key issue in the 2000 Ericsson semiconductor factory fire highlighted in Bob’s article was not the fire, it was the single source of supply, creating a critical single point of failure. Many events: fire, earthquake, industrial, environmental and dozens of other causes could have shut down the factory. Add all of the individual low risk occurrences together and the likelihood of the factory being out of business starts to increase. This seems to be exactly the same scenario that played out in the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster. The compounding effect of multiple individual decisions caused the disaster. Any one decision on its own was probably OK, the combination was not. Understanding the whole cannot be based on rigid rules the interactions are far too complex, Practical Wisdom  is needed.

The second is building adequate resilience into an organisation to cope with both the accepted high impact low probability risks and the unknowable unknowns that are genuine ‘black swans’. This involves having some spare capacity and some rehearsed disaster management processes. This may not be 100% cost effective but the damage caused by having no capacity to deal with major problems is far worse.

Real black swans

The final thought is ensuring you have an effective system for watching the environment to identify as early as possible the emerging problems. As Josh Billings said “It ain’t so much the things we don’t know that get us into trouble. It’s the things we know that just ain’t so!”  The idea of Black Swans is a valuable concept that warns us to expect the unexpected even after we have implemented effective risk management! The only certainty is uncertainty, and we need to remember that we will continue to be surprised even if we have implemented the most effective risk management strategies. For more ideas and resources, visit our Practical Risk Management page.