Posted by: kerrywills | December 12, 2014

Annual Review Time

Since it is the end of the year, it is time for those of us who are managers to document the annual reviews with our employees. This is the time when we get to compare an individual’s self assessment of their year to what managers and peers think. Hopefully, the two sides are similar in perception because if there is disparity then that makes for a very interesting conversation since there are usually financial implications (bonuses/raises) tied to the reviews.

What I always tell people is that their rankings on their reviews are really based on three things…
1. How well the person did in their role
2. The impact of what they did on the company/program
3. #1 and #2 as compared to their peers

1I find that most times people only focus on #1 (which is really all they can influence anyway) and this is what sometimes causes problems. Many large companies look for distributions across their population, which is why #2 and #3 are important. I have had scenarios where I have had really good PMs do everything we ask them to do (which, by definition is ‘meeting expectations’) but have peers who were managing programs 2x and 3x the size and therefore the relative impact of work became relevant.

So the few tips that I have around reviews are..

  • Make sure to always manage expectations throughout the year through constant feedback and explanation of the 3 points above (this will make the conversations much easier later in the year)
  • Look for ways of helping your team members to improve their performance and impact to the organization
  • Keep a running log of examples and feedback – I have a Word document which tracks these things which makes writing reviews much easier than trying to remember it all
  • Focus on facts and examples so the review is not viewed as personal so much as a balanced and fair aggregation of examples and feedback from others

Do people have any other thoughts or tips?

Posted by: kerrywills | December 5, 2014

5 Years Old

In looking at the blog I realized that it recently had its 5th birthday! The blog was originally created as a means of promoting my first book but it has evolved into many other things…

  • A cathartic way for me to vent on activities
  • A fun means of documenting work shenanigans such as people who “reply to all” of conference call fun
  • A means of espousing PM best practices
  • Promotions for upcoming webinars and conferences
  • Something to do on Thursday nights


The blog has now reached almost 300 subscribers and over 41,000 hits. Thanks to all who follow and contribute.

Posted by: kerrywills | November 28, 2014


I am a fan of Covey’s classic book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” I read it when I graduated college 20 years ago and the principles are still very relevant today. I am especially fond of the fifth habit which states “seek first to understand, then to be understood.” I find it interesting when people join projects, teams or organizations and immediately start jumping in with opinions and criticism. I understand that they are probably trying to make a name for themselves, but this is a risk proposition since there are most likely reasons that things are the way that they are. The most effective people are those that come in and just observe – that is they seek to understand the culture, norms, politics and people that they are working with before passing judgment.



People who immediately jump in with opinions run the risk of alienating themselves, ruining relationships and not being seen as a team player. I especially enjoy the “this is how we did it at XYZ company” comments which always leads me to say in my head “then why didn’t you stay at XYZ company?” The golden rule with joining a new team should be to Seek First to Understand (SFTU) or to Shut the “F” Up (STFU).  This isn’t as eloquent as Covey but probably just as easy to remember.



Posted by: kerrywills | November 21, 2014

Scouts would make great Project Managers

My son is 9 and is in Cub Scouts. The Scout motto is “Be Prepared” which I think is also relevant to the Project Management community. Our job requires always being prepared; which includes such activities as…

  • Planning for meetings beforehand to make sure they are successful
  • Having a detailed plan and preparing in advance for upcoming activities; including lining up resources
  • Risk planning to think through possible risks and mitigations
  • Understanding financial and schedule variances
  • Preparing for stakeholder meetings and communications
  • Thinking about activities well before they are coming up to ensure they get completed on time

Be Prepared for Anything

So the above examples are only a subset of our jobs but make the point that being prepared is core to our profession. Now maybe we should start selling popcorn and cookies too to help pay for PMI dues…

Posted by: kerrywills | November 14, 2014

Picking my Fantasy Team

It’s basketball season again and time to get my fantasy basketball team. In Fantasy Basketball, you win by having the team who does the best across ten categories (points, steals, blocks, rebounds, etc). The best strategy is to find players who can excel in many of these statistics at once and not just one specialized skill. For example, Chris Paul does well with points, shooting %, assists and steals.

Select the right players

Select the right players

I think that this should be the same strategy for picking our team members.For example, there may be a team member who is an expert in one area (say, one part of the business or a particular tool) but they can not do much more for the team. Instead, I look for more ‘utility’ team members who can manage plans, create presentations, present to management AND negotiate with the business.  I find that these people can be dropped into any role and will figure out how to structure it, derive a plan, execute that plan and communicate to various stakeholders.

So, when picking team members, don’t just look for the specific skills associated to the role – look for people who can play many roles. They will help you to create the right ‘fantasy project team’.


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