Category Archives: PMChat Blog

Strategies for Project Sponsorship

Critical to any projects success is having a good project manager we all know but after that then it is pretty important to have a good project sponsor, in fact it can be argued that the project sponsor is the more critical role; but, like the saying goes, ‘you can pick your friends but you can’t pick your relatives’ and the same is true of project sponsors.

There are many ‘types’ of project sponsor and some are really good at what they do but most can, at best, be described as the ‘accidental project sponsor’ – never having been trained, supported, or advised as to what is expected of them. This was confirmed in some startling figures uncovered during the research for our book ‘Strategies for Project Sponsorship’ (Management Concepts Press) – remember these numbers, 85, 83 and 100. We found that 85 % of people who responded to our survey declared that their organizations had ‘project sponsorship in place’, a good number, not perfect of course, but not bad. But then 83% of the same organizations did absolutely nothing to help, aid, guide, support, train the sponsors in place, they just assumed that they could ‘learn on the job’ or naturally had all the skills necessary. And finally, to cap it all off, 100% of people said that ‘project sponsorship was critical to project success’. Well these are pretty a scary numbers, and we are not alone in focusing on this key issue, The Standish Group in its report Chaos Manifesto 2012: The Year of The Executive Sponsor, stated: ‘We believe improvement in the skills of the executive sponsor is the single most important factor that will increase project success’.

If you are a project manager then ‘Strategies for Project Sponsorship’ offers advice on many types of sponsor with suggestions for ways to work with them, or compensate for their ‘skills’ or ‘interest’ gaps. They also speak of the concept of a ‘balanced sponsor’ – being involved in the project, being objective about the project, being supportive of the project, and being reactive to project needs.

The authors then turn their attention to the project sponsors themselves with a definition of what makes for a good sponsor and how to develop these skills.

And finally a challenge is laid down to the organizations themselves to take project sponsorship seriously and invest in their sponsors (and therefore in their project portfolio).

Remember, 85, 83 and 100 and join us in the Campaign for Real Project Sponsors.

It has been said that ‘A project is one small step for the project sponsor, one giant leap for the project manager’ – but wouldn’t we all be that much happier if that ‘giant leap’ was supported by a really focused and competent project sponsor?



Vicki James, PMP, CBAP (Seattle, WA, USA)    Vicki is passionate about learning and sharing best practices in project management and business analysis. Certified in both project management (Project Management Professional certification from the Project Management Institute since 2005) and business analysis (Certified Business Analysis Professional from the International Institute of Business Analysis in since 2010) provides a broad view to support project governance and processes. Vicki spent 11-years in the public sector successfully delivering projects to support governmental operations. Today she provides private consulting to government and private industry clients in addition to writing and presenting on all things project. Vicki is a contributor to The Complete Project Manager (2012) by Randall Englund and Alfonso Bucero as well as a popular blogger and Tweeter.

Peter Taylor, PMP (Coventry UK)   Peter Taylor is the author of two best-selling books on ‘Productive Laziness’ – ‘The Lazy Winner’ and ‘The Lazy Project Manager’. In the last 4 years he has focused on writing and lecturing with over 200 presentations around the world in over 20 countries and with new books out including ‘The Lazy Project Manager and the Project from Hell’, ‘Strategies for Project Sponsorship’, ‘Leading Successful PMOs’, and ‘The Project Manager Who Smiled’. He has been described as ‘perhaps the most entertaining and inspiring speaker in the project management world today’ and he also acts as an independent consultant working with some of the major organizations in the world coaching executive sponsors, PMO leaders and project managers.  His mission is to teach as many people as possible that it is achievable to ‘work smarter and not harder’ and to still gain success in the battle of the work/life balance.

Ron Rosenhead (London, UK)  Ron Rosenhead is known for his highly practical approach to life alongside project management. Over 25 years as a trainer and consultant with the last 17 years specializing in helping organisations to increase the probability of project success. He has personally trained, coached over 10,000 people in the project management world; some project managers, others project sponsors. He has worked across sectors: financial services, public sector, engineering, pharmaceuticals, universities, car retailing, It etc. He is a professional speaker and author of Deliver that Project (an e-book), is a regular blogger and tweeter. Ron regularly writes practical project management training materials which are in use all over the world.


To order the book and for more information go to and also join our LinkedIn group ‘Project Sponsors’.

Putting the User First in Project Management

Do you remember Schoolhouse Rock’s I’m Just a Bill? I loved this song growing up. In it, the bill starts as an idea and by going through a defined process becomes a real bill and eventually a law! To me, this ties in closely with the job of a PM. As the project manager for some unique and very fun clients, I get to take projects from an idea to a real bill!. Or PPC campaign. Or nonprofit website promoting animal welfare. Or any number of exciting outcomes.


I may be completely biased, but I think project managers are amazing. I mean, think about it. Project managers take a thought in someone’s head, plan out all the details, work to make sure there aren’t any major roadblocks in the way, motivate their team to complete the work, and then present a fully finished project at the end to their clients or stakeholders. Just like the bill from Schoolhouse Rock.


THAT’s amazing.


At a lot of places, though, PMs can be a bit undervalued. On the surface, our job is easy. Some might think that all PMs do is assign deliverables for other team members to complete or nag people about when they’re going to be finished. When you think of it that way, are Project Managers really necessary?


The answer is yes… of course! But it’s not because you need someone to define scope, assess potential risks, and manage timelines for deliverables. Good PMs do those things and do them well. However, it’s the PMs that go beyond just getting the project completed and out the door that make themselves indispensable to their teams. To become a Great PM, you have to learn to put the end user first.


Building a House versus a Home


Project managers can often be seen as the Masters of Calendars. They set timelines and deliverable due dates. They work to understand potential risks for a project and how to minimize those risks. They assign tasks. They work with stakeholders to manage expectations.


In doing all of this, the Master of Calendars plans and executes a project from the very beginning stages to completion. Metaphorically and sometimes literally, they take the project from blueprints to completion. The “house” they build has walls, doors, windows, plain white ceramic tile in the bathroom, and unfortunate linoleum in the kitchen (since looking at fancier flooring options wasn’t within the original scope, and in an effort to minimize scope creep and project delay, the floor ended up being the cheapest and easiest to obtain material possible).  


It’s easy to fall into this trap. It’s what Good PMs do, and there’s nothing really wrong with it. They build these houses with efficiency — on time and on budget. But Great PMs realize that the end user isn’t looking for a house. They’re looking for a home.



Amazing Acronyms: Combining UX with PM


User Experience is a big buzzword in the digital community. Many designers and online strategists specialize in the “user experience” or “UX” of a site or online project. Essentially, a project with good UX will put the end user and his or her needs and goals first. For example, a website with well-thought-out UX is one that allows the people actually using the site to easily find what they are looking for, and it also affords them the opportunity to easily complete whatever actions will help them achieve their goal. The key here is that the user’s needs are considered first.


When I look at any project, I feel like I have a great opportunity to think about things from a different angle than the specialists on the team. I’m not a designer or SEO or PPC specialist. My allegiances don’t lie with one team or the other. I’m able to look at the project from a more holistic and outside perspective, which can give some interesting insights. Yes, I am still a PM, so I want to complete the project on time and make sure risks are mitigated and whatnot, but honestly, if I had the choice between delivering a safe project quickly that was just “good” or a risky project that may be a bit late but was going to make a huge impact for the end user, I would always choose the latter. It seems that PMs rarely stop and think about their client’s customer. Ultimately, isn’t that the person paying my salary? Shouldn’t we be putting their needs first?


At Nebo, I work with a certain group of clients on all of their projects, so I know their specific needs, the needs of their customers, and what problems they’re trying to solve. When I’m looking at a project for them, my goal isn’t simply building the house. I understand that having that foundation is important to project success, but I also look at whether or not that project is actually going to make a real impact on my client and solve their customer’s problems because that is how my team and I are going to be judged. If my project does that, then that’s where the real reward comes.


I’ve not just built a simple house with walls and windows and doors. I’ve given my client the keys to a place where their users will feel taken care of. I’ve given them the keys to a home.


Stepping Up Your Game Is Harder than You Think


So, being a Great PM sounds amazing, right?! Let’s do it every time! Wouldn’t you love to be able to make every single project you touch that impactful?


Unfortunately, it’s never easy being a Great PM, and sometimes it’s flat out impossible. There are definite challenges and risks that go along with it.


  • ·         Potential for late delivery on projects
  • ·         Potential to go over budget
  • ·         Possibility of conflict with your client
  • ·         Possibility of being wrong!


During every stage of a project, it’s important to stay grounded and think about the end goal. At certain points, you need to stop and re-analyze whether your project is really going to be as powerful as you had planned and if not, adjust. Even if adjusting mid-project means pushing back the timeline, going over budget, or potentially upsetting your boss or client, it is something to seriously consider. If you don’t push the envelope, all you will ever get is mediocre work.


It’s not easy or something to take lightly, but to me, if a project is a bit late or over budget but will really make an impact at the end of the day, then I push for it. However, it’s important to tread carefully and use your judgment. Some things just have to get done while other things can be pushed. The tough part is knowing which of those things you’re considering, and the only advice I can give you here is know your client, know the end goal, and follow your gut.


The Great PM Checklist


To determine if a project is successful, I don’t run through the typical “good” PM checklist. I don’t just ask whether all the necessary paperwork got signed or if the project was on time or if I was able to stay within my allotted hours cap. Instead, I run through this checklist of questions that are much more difficult to answer:


  • ·         Did this project solve a problem?
  • ·         Did it have an impact?
  • ·         Did it solve my client’s needs?
  • ·         Is my team proud of it?
  • ·         Am I proud of it?
  • ·         Most importantly, did it meet the end user’s needs?


To me, a project is good if it’s completed on time with properly managed risk and a pleased client; however, that project could still be a complete failure. A project is great when you are able to provide something really valuable to the end user that solves his or her problems.


The way I see it, you have two choices. You can be the kind of PM who stops at managing budgets, calendars, and deliverables; or you can be the kind of PM who fights for the decisions along the course of a project that will help it make a positive impact.


Which do you want to be?


This post was created by Abigail McCauley, a Digital Project Manager at Nebo Agency.  Connect with her on Twitter

What Hat Are YOU Wearing Today?

This week’s post is provided by Naomi Caiettii, PMP.  You can learn more about Naomi here and the original post here


Today, I ‘ve stepped up to  the challenge to participate in the first ever #PMFlashBlog created by Shim Marom with over eighty (80)+ bloggers from around the globe.  Shim, my hats off to you for the inspiration of this big idea!  It has mobilized our global community to wear different hats to tell our stories, created a writing storm of grand proportion and allowed us to shine as a collective of PM experts.  

Our objective today is to respond to the question “What Project Management Means to Me?” Today, my story is both personal and academic. Over  a year ago, my personal coach recommended I watch Simon Sineks’ Ted Talk  titled “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” based on his book “Start with Why”.  Simon contends that “people don’t buy what you do; people buy why you do it.”  It was this inspiration that lead me on a year long journey of introspection of my vision and values.  It was the hard work I focused on this past year for my passion in the field of personal growth and leadership in project management that allowed me to tell my story by re-launching my blog and sharing this post with you today. 


Why is Six Hat Thinking Important to Project Management?  

Early in my career as a project manager I learned how to use the Six Hat Thinking® method in a facilitated critical thinking class. Edward de Bono created this tool in his book called “Six Thinking Hats”.  Six Hat Thinking is a core skills tool used to develop an atmosphere of creativity, improved communication and allow your team to focus on clearer thinking.  Research by The de Bono Group has identified that traditional Western thinking methods of analysis and argument needs to get flipped on its head to deal with the rapidly changing business challenges in the global economy.    In the spirit of the inspiration of Six Hat Thinking I, like many other project managers around the globe, wear different hats to make decisions every day that affect our teams, our projects and our organizations.  Personally, I focus on wearing the multiple thinking hats below each day to LEAD ~ Listen, Engage, Adapt, Dream:  

Yellow Hat:  Stay active within the global PM community as a thought leader, speaker, published author and blogger.  Engage and share with my community of project managers to advance the profession one project manager at a time.    

Multiple Hats: (Blue, Green, Yellow, Red, White, Black ) As a credentialed Manager and Enterprise Architect working in the field of Information Technology in the public sector in California I practice leadership daily to pay it forward.

Green Hat:  Launch a startup as Founder of a women’s network called “The Glass Breakers” with a vision to inspire women to lead and promote excellence in projects, leadership and management. 

Who Can Use this Tool: Project, Program and Agile Managers can use this powerful tool.  You can use this tool in a small or larger group setting to facilitate a discussion to solve problems.  

How/When to Use: Small, core or focus group team meetings are the best way to facilitate these discussions.  

Method:  This tool uses a parallel thinking process for you to gain different perspectives while you collaborate on problems, issues and risks on you project with your team, stakeholders and sponsors.  

What Are the Six Thinking  Hats:











Examples of How to  Use:

Single Hat Thinking:  Use a single hat to facilitate and direct discussion around this type of thinking.    

Sequenced Based Thinking: You can facilitate a sequence of hats one after another during the discussion.  Sequence of hats may be one or more hats of your choice. You may facilitate the discussion and use one particular hat often.  

Time based Thinking: Brief discussions of one hat per minute per person.  

Summary: Six Hat Thinking is simple yet powerful way to focus on problems and solutions quickly by viewing different perspectives.   

    • Employ parallel thinking – look at fresh ideas and solutions from all angles
    • Unbundle ideas; look at  information and formulate thinking with the same hat
    • Cut discussion time in half by simplifying thinking by focusing and filtering
    • Focus on solution based discussions and allow for creative stream of thinking as opposed to focusing on only obstacles and criticism
    • Make meetings fun!  Illustrate a way to share ideas in a nonthreatening manner; positive and creative thinking will fuel innovative ideas
    • Focus on thinking; not power, position or ego
    • Eliminate judgment of ideas; creativity will flourish and aide in decision making
    • Achieve meaningful results quicker

Leadership Challenge: What action will you take for your personal development after reading this post? How can Six Hat Thinking improve your approach to working with your teams, stakeholders and sponsors? Mentor a project manager; share this post with someone who wants to improve their personal development and leadership as a project manager. 


Read more about the Six Hat Thinking method by clicking here

“Creativity is a great motivator because it makes people interested in what they are doing. Creativity gives hope that there can be a worthwhile idea. Creativity gives the possibility of some sort of achievement to everyone. Creativity makes life more fun and more interesting.” ― Edward De  Bono


Top 5 Rules for More Efficient and Successful Projects

Projects are a way of life in business. All companies, no matter their size, have them. But why do the majority of projects go over budget, exceed timelines and have scope creep? Based on my experience as a Project Management Professional (PMP), it’s because the people in charge are not following the top five rules for project success. Read on to discover how you too can tame your out-of-control projects with these five simple rules of thumb!


Rule #1 – Dedicate an employee to be the project manager on a full-time basis. For large scale projects, it is critical that you have a full-time resource dedicated to managing your project. There are so many details, big and small, that take up time. A full-time manager will be able to dedicate their time and energy to ensuring your project stays on budget, on time and on scope, instead of being distracted, delayed and derailed by daily demands.


Rule #2 – Be prepared. Preparation is a huge factor in the success of your project. It’s similar to painting a room. First, you need to empty the room, prep the walls, and pick the paint, all before you can even start to apply that first coat. It’s the same thing with project management. Having your charter, timeline, action plan, resource matrix, and other critical documents on paper will ensure everything runs smoothly once you execute the plan. Like a good Cub Scout or Girl Guide, “be prepared” is the motto.


Rule #3 -Eliminate scope creep. What is scope creep? Scope creep occurs when your manager asks you, in the middle of your project, to add just one small item, promising that it won’t impact anything. The problem with this is that every single time a project leader accepts a scope addition, a reasonable and manageable assignment quickly gets out of hand. A clear scope statement will ensure that everyone knows what the deliverable is, and how to ensure success.


Rule #4 – Foster teamwork. All projects are executed by members of a team, and a team that “gels” and understands each other will be invaluable to the project. A successful project results from the hard work of many, not just that of the project manager. If everyone feels they are Page 2 of 2


empowered and part of a team, they will be more emotionally committed to the project, and will want to do all they can to see the project succeed. People will go the extra mile when they feel included. Test it out today: take your team out to lunch or buy them all a coffee; get to know them and find out what roadblocks they’ve hit, and share this info with the team to find out how everyone can be part of the solution. If you do this, you will see an improvement in your overall project deliverables.


Rule #5-See the project through to the end. Way too often, I’ve seen projects dismantled as soon as the deliverable was handed over to the business unit. Projects do not end once equipment or services are submitted. You need to build in time to monitor the results, and tweak them to ensure a quality handover and client satisfaction.

These five simple rules are the key to project management success. Follow them, and you will see a positive impact on your projects – and ultimately your bottom line – through time, scope and budget monitoring.


Adriana Girdler is the President of CornerStone Dynamics Inc., Project Management Professional (PMP) and an expert in business efficiency, helping leading corporations streamline internal processes to work smarter and improve productivity. For more information, please visit


© 2013 CornerStone Dynamics Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced without the prior written consent of the author.


9 Easy Steps to Create a Top-Notch Project Communications Plan

The Communications plan describes who needs what information, when they will need it, where to deliver it, how to deliver it, who is responsible for delivering it, and the need for it.

Create the Communications plan at the beginning of the project and fully expand its use as the project ramps-up. Update the plan throughout the life of the project.

The Communications plan, created by the project manager, addresses the entire project organization. The planning framework identifies the communication goals, strategy and overall information requirements and distribution structure based on the project organization.


The Communications plan is formal or informal, highly detailed or broadly framed.


Development Approach

Step 1: Determine meeting and reporting requirements.

Review memos from the sponsor, the Contracts, the Project definition, the Project governance structure, Supplier Agreements, and the Organizational breakdown structure (OBS).

Step 2: Identify reporting and meeting policies and rules.

Review the Project documents to understand the specific project policies and rules for status reporting and status meetings. Policies and rules of the delivery organization often define the format and ways for status meeting and reporting.

Step 3: Establish information needs for all stakeholders.

Document communications aims for the stakeholders in the Communications plan and find the information needs of the stakeholders involved in the project. Analyze stakeholder needs and name the information provided and their sources.

Step 4: Determine if there are external media communication requirements.

Step 5: Determine stakeholder information needs and how to satisfy them.

Review the technical environment to find technology channels available within the project infrastructure. Map available communication technology channels to stakeholder information requirements and document in the Communications plan.

Step 6: Define formal reports to produce.

Define formal reports to produce to satisfy stakeholder requirements. Define the levels for which to produce the reports. Define the types of reports to produce for various levels and project organizational units and document in the Communications management plan.

Step 7: Define the project meetings.

Define the project meetings that will occur to satisfy stakeholder requirements and document them in the Communications plan: meetings are with the entire project team, one-on-one, or group, and face-face or electronic.

Step 8: Define how to share information.

Define the information retrieval and distribution strategy used to share information among team members and with the sponsor, including work products within and across the organization and document them in the Communications plan.

Step 9: Publish the Communications management plan

Review the plan with the sponsor. Ensure that the Communications plan is approved as required.


– See more at:


Michael Kaplan is Founder and CEO of SoftPMO™, a New York-based consulting firm that specializes in improving execution and resource management. He is a recognized leader in program management and serves as an advisor and mentor to senior executives. He founded MAK CON LLC, a consulting firm specializing in large-scale program management, in 2002. In 2009, he re-launched the company as SoftPMO, incorporating MAK CON LLC’s tools and methodologies into a larger enterprise program management framework.


In more than 20 years of practice, Michael has worked with several of the most successful organizations in the world, including Fortune 500 companies and government agencies, to help them achieve the full intent of their most urgent and critically important initiatives.


Michael is a PMI-certified Project Management Professional (PMP). His work is built on a solid foundation of research and extensive consulting experience. He loves to develop products and is quite good at UX/UI design. Michael authored one book—SoftPMO Project Execution Guide—and more than 70 blog posts, and created several popular commercial products. His most recent innovations are the SoftPMO Project Management Toolkit and—a new kind of social media solution.