Posted by: kerrywills | September 8, 2017

What does your desk say?

I was recently waiting in someone’s office to have a meeting with them and when I got there I immediately noticed that there were papers piled everywhere and the white board was covered with words, notes and diagrams. My OCD started to kick in and I was getting anxiety just sitting there. I have an innate need to organize, structure and have order which I believe benefits my professional life as a portfolio/program manager.

This got me to thinking about if there is a relationship between how our desks look and how we think and operate. For example, my desk is clean and organized with a few items placed out in an organized manner and my work style is to be organized and structured as well. I suspect that people who have papers and piles everywhere are more “unstructured” in their thinking and approach and maybe like to see details and all information before acting. I am not suggesting that one way is better but it would be interesting to study desk organization and professional competencies as I do believe that there is probably a correlation.

What do others think?

Posted by: kerrywills | September 1, 2017

Dental and security monitors

One of my favorite recent commercials is for a security product where they have a security guard who tells people when there is a robbery but doesn’t help them during one since he claims he is only a “security monitor.” ¬†They have another one with a dentist who tells the person they have a bad cavity but won’t fix it since he is only a “dental monitor.” Sometimes in large companies I feel that we have a lot of security and dental monitors – they monitor things and tell people about them but don’t help to do anything with that information.

In a model that focuses on value and agility, companies can not afford to have many of these monitors and yet every organization I have worked for is filled with them. If our programs manage with diligence and transparency then information is available to be pushed out which means we do not need external monitors. This allows the organization and the program to focus on delivery and addressing any risks or actions related to meeting commitments. Programs that struggle to react to these requests likely need to focus on how the operate yet many times companies will just add more monitors rather than addressing the actual problems.

So let’s hire more competent dentists and security guards and less “monitors.” I wonder if we now need someone to monitor that hiring approach to report on it.

Posted by: kerrywills | August 25, 2017

Making points with facts

In my book on delivering successful programs, I identify eight guiding principles. One of them is to focus on the facts. I think that it is ¬†important to use facts and metrics when making points to people. For example, this week I was explaining to someone how complex one of the programs in my portfolio is. I could have just said “it is complex” but instead I noted that the technical solution touched 149 applications and spanned 28 organizations. Using metrics demonstrates the points better than just stating them.

To this end, I keep a document with key statistics and measures that I can use during updates or executive conversations. These include…

  • Percentage of test execution
  • Key milestones and deliverables
  • Key business metrics such as progress towards goals
  • Program financials such as cost, breakdown and variances

By using metrics, they effectively demonstrate points and establish credibility so keep counting! BTW this blog has over 65,000 hits, more than 300 subscribers. and 422 posts.

Posted by: kerrywills | August 18, 2017

Preparing for fire drills

On any given week there can be 1-3 fire drills at work. This includes requests from organizations for information, data, presentations or meetings and generally with a very fast turnaround. Since many of these can not be avoided, my strategy is to make sure that my portfolio is prepared to respond to them. This means having diligence and transparency in our portfolio information. Here are some examples where we have “living” information that can be used when a fire drill arises..

  • Status – Having multiple layers of current status and risks with actions allows me to give a timely snapshot when asked by any stakeholder
  • Financials – Financial reports with proper details on variances allows me to respond to any financial question with real-time information
  • Historical Information – Many of my portfolios are multi-year and I am asked every few weeks for some aggregation of historical information and having a clean folder structure and information allows for this
  • Milestones – Keeping key milestones and critical path information current allows me to answer any schedule questions

So keeping information updated and “clean” is not just good program/portfolio management but it helps when these urgent requests come in so they don’t become large fire drills that distract the team. In fact, by having the information available, many times my program managers are not even aware that a request came in because we already took care of it…which means they can focus on delivering on the commitments.

Posted by: kerrywills | August 11, 2017

Do titles matter?

I work with some people who believe in announcing their organizational titles: they introduce themselves on calls with them and have them displayed on their e-mail signatures. Sometimes they even list out every area of responsibility and start to sound like Daenerys Targaryenfrom from Game of Thrones.

I have mixed feelings about communicating titles. On one hand it allows people to understand who they are talking to, what level in the organization they are and their area of responsibility. In fact, in many interactions with new people, one of the first things that I do is look up their name in the company directory to get a sense of their areas of responsibility.

On the other hand, I do not believe that people should treat me a certain way based on my title but rather my experience, insight and contributions. Because of this I do not state my title or have it in my e-mail signature. Now, if I was the king of dragons that may be worth stating because that is just awesome…


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