Monthly Archives: October 2014


Is your team having a hard time agreeing on the project or work status?

Are you discovering workflow problems late in the game?

Finding it difficult to identify what are the most important issues to focus on?

What about communication among team members?

This video explains why and how visualizing your project or workflow helps your team see quickly where things are and what they need to do, solving the most basic problem of working together – agreement on the problem.

The Power of Visualization from Pinnacle Strategies

Learn more about how to improve project execution by reading some of our eBooks or watching more of our videos. Particularly, our Visualizing Projects eBook includes some very practical information you can use right now to improve your project performance.

Great organizations are great at executing. Pinnacle Strategies designs and delivers innovative strategies to help organizations execute well. If you are looking to transform your business, let’s talk.

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I recently gave an introduction to the Execution Maturity Model in this blog post. This week, I will introduce the first principle of the basic level of the Execution Maturity, Collaborative Execution.

Basic Collaboration

The objective of the Basic Collaboration level of the project execution maturity model is to increase task velocity. In order to achieve this level of maturity, it emphasizes transparency, communication, and collaboration. It strives to kill the biggest source of capacity loss and delay, multitasking.

With achievement of Basic Collaboration, all of the work in the system is firmly in hand. Project teams have a clear view of the project or portfolio work, its status, and the most important issues to address immediately. Local teams have the same view of status and action requirements. They know what they need to do and no one can hide. The right problem solvers are promptly deployed to the right problems.

In order to achieve foundation level of competence the team is focused on:
– Improving collaboration skills and activities to improve problem solving and task synchronization
– Ensuring everyone on the project team is working towards the same goal
– Ensuring everyone receives the same priority signals
– Identifying and controlling all the work in the system

Achieving maturity in basic collaboration produces:
– Greater accountability for results
– Significant increases in task completion velocity
– Shorter project durations
– Productivity improvement of >10%
– Improved visibility into project status and risk

This level of the Execution Maturity Model is employs four processes or principles of execution:
1. Collaborative Execution
2. Functional Goals Alignment
3. Priority Control
4. Control Work in Progress

Collaborative Execution

When your project contributors lift their heads from their work and trade individual cubicles for the conference table, what gets accomplished? Are your team’s meetings a constructive part of advancing your project, or a discouraging exercise in placing blame? Simply put: is the team focused on the past or the future?

We know that in projects lacking visibility, issues are identified very late, and communication is delayed. The right problem solvers are brought in too late to prevent the problems, and additional work — putting out fires — is then added into the workflow. Capacity becomes short, the project is delayed, and costs go up.

Superior execution requires informed collaboration, where both managers and team members can see beyond the limits of their individual tasks into the overall direction of the project. There can’t be any disagreement about the status of the project, or its priorities. The roles and accountability of each team member have to be clear — and everyone needs to know what has to get done now, rather than dissecting what happened (or didn’t happen) in the past.

Collaborative Execution kills much of the multitasking by addressing its most fundamental cause: lack of visibility. That lack of visibility prevents the team from forming a clear direction and establishing accountability for action. As we know, this makes project progress painfully slow.

The Collaborative Execution process answers the most basic questions about your project:
– What is the status of the work?
– Are we making progress?
– What do we need to do to move forward?
– Who is going to do it?

Successful collaboration is not an accident; you must establish a structure that facilitates the best kind of teamwork. The rewards are great. You’ll find that:
– People communicate regularly, as a routine part of their work process. They won’t just talk over coffee, but communicate deliberately around the work to be accomplished.
– Teams are focusing on what needs to get done for the project to move forward, instead of harping on the past.
– The team is engaged in everything, including problem solving. When challenges are encountered, the entire team pitches in to overcome them. Team members recognize that their individual roles and goals may need to take a backseat to ensure the success of the team.
– There are no “heroes,” and you don’t need them.

Collaborative execution is not an accident. By setting up the collaboration structure with simple rules, you can synchronize work, identify problems early, improve team communications and make your work go faster — with far less drama.

(For an excellent example of Basic Collaboration implementation, read this case study here.)

In the next few blog posts, I continue to identify the elements that drive effective project execution excellence, giving you a measurable means to assess your status, to target areas of improvement, and to make meaningful progress in the way you deliver projects. Get a preview and learn more by reading our free eBook “Why Do Projects Succeed or Fail? Discover What Really Makes a Difference.”

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Project success: everyone wants it, yet completely successful projects are rare. Why? Everyone has an opinion, but what if that opinion is baseless? Organizations will spend millions on improving processes that will make no difference, or worse, harm the performance.

My firm commissioned an independent research study to identify what is really making a difference in project performance, including:

-What are the most common PM practices used?
-Which are producing the best results?
-What practices are not?
-Do managers know the difference?

The findings were eye-opening.

Many organizations have made (and continue to make) large investments in improving project performance over the last decade.

-Providing training for project managers and teams following the rigor of PMI’s PMBOK® to build maturity and capability
-Establishing PMOs to build project management skills
-Aligning projects to business strategy, putting a business focus on projects at high levels

Investments in discipline, control, and planning have made a positive difference in many organizations’ ability to satisfy scope, customer, and business requirements. However, these improvements have been offset by widespread failures in budget and schedule. For example, a 2012 Accenture survey found that more than 30 percent of capital projects are completed over budget, and more than 35 percent are finished late.

Project Management Training and PMOs
When analyzing the results of investments specific to project management skills training and PMO establishment, the situation is no better.

In the last 20 years, there has been a 1,350 percent increase in the number of Project Management Professionals. During that time, organizations report improvements only in scope, quality, and business benefits. Surprisingly, more training correlates to a decline in schedule and budget performance.

PMOs fare even worse. Even though 70 percent of organizations surveyed have invested in a PMO, a 2014 PMI survey found that the overall difference in performance between organizations with and without a PMO is only 1 percent. Further, a 2012 PwC survey found that organizations implementing a PMO show declines in all five key project success factors: scope, quality, business benefits, budget, and schedule.

The Missing Emphasis on Project Execution
Our analysis shows the main cause of these results is the reliance on the PMBOK®, which emphasizes specification and control; it offers almost no guidance for executing projects. Less than 10 of the over 450 pages in the PMBOK® guide reference project execution, leaving it fully to the expertise and experience of each project manager.

Not everyone is missing this link. Organizations that are successful in project execution are reaping huge rewards, both in financial performance and success of their strategic initiatives. The “best executors” have financial performance well above average: a striking 65 percent better than others.


I’m neither suggesting that training should not be delivered, nor that PMOs or centers of process excellence are bad ideas. Instead, we need to take a look at the content and methodology.

To deliver the results in budget and schedule, executives must build a culture of delivery excellence that aligns projects to strategic objectives, makes on-time delivery a primary objective, and emphasizes both planning and execution results. To do this, organizations must develop the processes to execute well and establish appropriate governance to reinforce behaviors that drive results.

For More Information. To access the full research findings (free!), which were compiled from surveys of over 4,000 professionals in over 40 industries and countries, as well as interviews with C-level executives in 22 countries, download your project management research report here.

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