Posted by: kerrywills | October 21, 2016

Laws of Physics

When I was in college I considered majoring in Physics; I really liked how the laws of the Univ erse worked, were logical and explained our realities. There are similar  unbreakable “laws” when it comes to Project Management. I often get into discussions with people who want to bend these laws because they don’t like the results. This includes the classic conversation during planning where our customers do not want to change scope but either want cost to come down or schedule to be brought in (or both). While there are some ‘levers’ which can be pulled generally the laws hold true – in that if you add scope then generally cost or schedule increase.


The approach I try to take is to focus on the facts and to provide options. If the fact is that the current scope yields a cost or schedule that is not acceptable, then we need to show options with a reduced scope to bring these in. Or in the case where cost is primary, show an option where schedule moves to bring in the cost.

In any case, we need to help explain the “Laws of Physics” as it comes to our planning and expectations with our stakeholders.Although with some stakeholders I don’t think that even Johan Kepler or Einstein would be successful at convincing them of the truths.

Posted by: kerrywills | October 14, 2016

Basketball Leadership

My 11 year old son loves playing basketball. He is the Point Guard for his team and that means he controls the pace and approach for the plays. Sometimes he dribbles the ball in if he thinks he can score and sometimes he passes it to his teammates if he thinks they have a better chance to score.

Deciding when to score vs pass is something that I have struggled with as I have moved up in my career. I have always been an effective “do-er” who scores baskets for the team but in order to win the game I have learned that you need to pass more to involve your team members. To continue with the metaphor I am now in management so I guess that makes me a coach and not even on the court playing (although I do sneak on often and try to play).


I believe that the approach is situational – in a case where you have impending deadlines and you are the best qualified to do the work then maybe you just do it (take the shot with the clock winding down). If there is more time or other people who are better qualified then pass the ball to them and let them make a play.

So like leadership on the court the Leader (who is the Point Guard) needs to read the game and make a decision as to the best course of action to optimize the results (and number of baskets).

Posted by: kerrywills | October 7, 2016

Having the right structure

My experience has shown that successful programs have a few critical things that need to be in place. These include the right people, well defined scope and having the right structure. For this posting I will focus on structure since I believe that it is foundational for success…

  • Structure defines roles, boundaries, expectations and accountabilities
  • Structure allows for work to be managed across teams and organizations
  • Structure sets the model for the way that work, teams, plans and reporting are organized
  • Structure allows the teams to scale and evolve as work changes


Without having a solid structure programs quickly fall apart, have quality issues, have increased cost and rework and have a very hard time meeting their goals. Recently, I published a new Book which focuses on setting up programs for longstanding success with “structure” as the foundation for the other critical components. Think of this like a big game of Jenga in that without a strong foundation, all of the blocks will fall down…..and you will lose the game.


Posted by: kerrywills | September 30, 2016

Volatility disrupts productivity

In my experience one of the biggest drivers of project instability and risk is volatility.  I want to distinguish a difference, though, between normal project evolution and volatility. There will always be issues that come up, discoveries along the way and unanticipated items which are all part of the natural evolution of a project.  When I say volatility, I mean constantly changing goals and scope, option analysis, replanning the project, assessments and changes in direction.

These types of items are extremely disruptive to the projects and take away time and focus from running the project. I have been on many projects where there is a change in direction or sponsorship questioning the estimates which results in replanning and analysis. Usually the people required to do the analysis are also the key people needed to keep the project running.  This ultimately causes the project to spin.

“If we’re all in here replanning, who is working on the project?”

The key to mitigating volatility is through diligence. By staying diligent with documenting assumptions, updating plans, staying on top of changes, etc a Project Manager has a good pulse on the project and the associated details. This allows them to have the data needed when the “side project” comes up as well as the data to articulate the impact on the project for doing the additional work. That being said, projects that are diligent probably dont get as many requests for assessments, replanning, or analysis. So I suppose the best way to mitigate volatility and plan for it at the same time is to remain diligent with the project operations and management.


Posted by: kerrywills | September 23, 2016

Organizational Short Term Memory Loss

gyhIn my career I have worked for three companies for more than six years each and what I have found is that strategies and initiatives tend to be cyclical. By this I mean that organizations may have a strategy (centralize a function, deploy a new process, change an organization) and then a few years later change it and then even more years later bring back something that looks like the original thing. I call this “organizational short term memory loss” in that organizations forget their history and then repeat it.


I think somehow there is a belief that changing something is always “better” than what is currently in place. This may be true, but we need to understand the causes of problems and seek to address those as opposed to just making changes. We also need to understand the history and why something may not have been successful.

We should always be seeking to ‘evolve’ and not just change but we need remember. Maybe organizations should hand out strings to tie around people’s fingers.


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