Saturday, November 2, 2019

Making Your Brand

Photo Brand Word Cloud Concept @ mybaitshop

Photo Brand Word Cloud Concept @ mybaitshop

Making Your Brand

You want to know how to “build your brand”? Show up, work hard, don’t be a jerk and solve people’s problems for them. It’s that simple. No matter what it is you do for a living.
I realized that Robert had succinctly summed up the core of a brand. A personal brand is all about exactly three things:
  1. Your work ethic.
  2. How you treat others.
  3. The value you deliver.

Everything else is marketing. And, if your delivery doesn't meet or exceed the hype of your marketing then your brand will, deservedly, be tarnished.
Lots of folks on LinkedIn, myself and others, will talk about how to identify, define, and promote your brand. Many will offer to coach you through the creation of your brand. Whatever they offer, if it doesn't speak to these three things first, then the offer is probably all hype and no meat.
When I think about my brand through the lenses above, it helps me makes more sense of some decisions I have made in the past. There have been engagements I turned down, even when the money was good, because I needed to protect my brand.
For example, I had a boss who wanted me to run a program for him and to manage the projects within the program. I told him that I was not willing to do that because it would result in significant failure. He was puzzled at why I would suggest that a successful project manager such as I would predict my own failure.
I told him that while the skills of both the project and program manager are alike, the key difference is their focus. While the project manager needs to be laser focused on their project, understanding the details, the interdependencies, and the players involved, this nearly mono-maniacal obsession over the details which helps the project manager succeed will cause the program manager to fail.
In contrast with the project manager, a program manager needs to be able to look at the larger picture. Seeing how the various projects fit together. Watching for emerging risks and trends in the company or marketplace which could derail some or all of the projects in the program, or devalue their results.
I told my boss that I could either manage the program, or the projects. To do both at the same time would dramatically increase the probability that I would be looking the wrong way at a critical juncture. Either I would be too focused on the details of a project to see a larger, external threat, or I would be focused on managing the bigger issues and key details would slip past me, resulting in unexpected impacts to project deliverables.
A key part of my brand is being able to successfully deliver the results my client wants. I knew that if I accepted the engagement as presented, one way or another, my reputation would likely be tarnished by missing something I should have caught. Something I would have caught if my focus were in the right place.
How has your brand management affected your willingness to take on certain engagements or clients?

Tom Sheppard is The Skillfull PM (TM) & the author of "The Art of Project Management."  He specializes in leading large ($10mm+) projects for US financial services companies. More than 20 years experience in project management in banking and financial services with a PMP and MPM. More than 25 years experience in systems design, development, and management with a BSCS/MIS. Former US Marine and a former missionary. Fluent in English and Spanish. Experienced instructor. Successful business owner, international author and public speaker. 

 His LinkedIn Profile is: http://linkedin.com/in/tsheppard 

Specialties: Program management, project management, change management, process design, business case development, negotiation, multi-tier system architecture, real-time parallel distributed databases, private placements and creative finance. 

 (c) Copyright 2019 A+ Results LLC. All Rights Reserved. 

 Your comments are welcome... Please observe some ground rules. No profanity, vulgarity, or personal attacks. Profanity, vulgarity and personal attacks not only betray a lack of vocabulary and imagination, they also are the hallmarks of bigotry, and bigotry is the hallmark of someone who is fundamentally insecure in their views. Facts are always welcome.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Strategic Failure

Choosing the Right Way (C) Ivelin Radkov used with permission through DepositPhotos.com
The article "7 Spectacular Business Strategy Failures" by the Neil Parker of the Bridgepoint Group (Parker, 2018) list, among others, the failure of Kodak. The author notes that in 1975 Kodak invented the digital camera and "they produced a report on predicted future trends in the market." In spite of being on the very leading edge of digital photography, and predicting the upcoming trends that direction, Kodak management "decided that the technology wouldn’t disrupt the market." They decided not to change their strategy and so decided to fail. "The company lost 75% of its value before filing for bankruptcy in 2012."

Of the seven listed failures, to my view, this is among the most well-informed failures. Or, to the point of this article, it is an instance where strategic information analysis tools may have been used to make a bad decision.  The only other one of the seven in this article that comes close is Enron. But, before moving on to Enron I would like to point out how Kodak fits this bill of using good information to make a bad decision.

Recent history shows that the digital camera has utterly vanquished traditional cameras nearly as thoroughly as those cameras supplanted the daguerreotype process which preceded modern cameras. Although you can still buy film for 35mm and larger cameras as well as cameras and related equipment, it is increasingly becoming very specialized and difficult to find. Although many photo shops will still develop negatives and print pictures, their equipment is rapidly being replaced with 100% digital operations. Even the movie industry is moving away from shooting movies on film and instead going all digital from the cameras filming a movie (Ferrrari, 2017) to the movie theaters showing the completed films (Garlock, 2013).

Based on the report that Kodak not only invented the digital camera but wrote a report on the trend, it would seem that they had all the information in their hands to make a decision that might have let Kodak rides this new trend into a whole new era. Instead, they created the means and identified the trend and decided that the trend was no threat to their existing business model.

In sharp contrast with the demise of Kodak, Polaroid, which was always an ugly step-sister competitor to Kodak, is still alive and kicking (Evans, 2014). I visited Polaroid.com as I wrote this. What I found is a company that is touting digital photography and working hard to stay alive and relevant. They deal in "instant and digital still cameras, high-definition and mountable sports action video cameras, tablets, high-definition TVs, mobile apps and apparel." And, they seem to be guided by a vision to, "deliver on the promise of simplicity and gratification for all." (Polaroid.com, as viewed 5/28/19).

Evans (Evans, 2014) points out that to survive the digital photography trend, Polaroid had to totally reinvent itself and transform from being a primary provider of instant photography equipment to form strategic partnerships and license its brand name to other manufacturers.

Comparing and contrasting Kodak and Polaroid, for me, is an excellent illustration of two companies which experienced the same devastating trend. They both had essentially the same information at hand, yet in spite of having the technological advantage Kodak chose to buck the trend and died. Polaroid chose to find a way to ride the trend, and lives on.

The point of this is that even if we have good information at our fingertips, if we cannot read the trends right, we will suffer the merciless buffetings of the marketplace. On a personal level, consider the US steel workers in the late 1970's and 1980's. They were earning great wages and, in spite of seeing the dramatic rise of much cheaper steel from the Asian Tigers of Japan, Korea, and company, they saw no need to change.

From my personal contact with some of those displaced steel workers, I know how much pain they went through as their employers closed plants and they hung on, hoping for a reopening that would never come. Finally, as their benefits ran out and they faced default on their mortgages, they began to retrain to take jobs in other industries, at considerably lower pay.

If they had managed their careers strategically, they might have dramatically reduced all the economic damage they suffered when the US steel industry collapsed and made a smoother, and more profitable transition into their next career.

Tom Sheppard specializes in managing large ($10mm+) projects for the US financial services industry. He is the author of Strategic Career Management, available in paperback and ebook through Amazon.com. Read a preview of Strategic Career Management.

References

Evans, Lisa, 5/15/2014 , How Polaroid Saved Itself From Certain Death, Fast Company, https://www.fastcompany.com/3030562/how-polaroid-saved-itself-from-certain-death (Links to an external site.) as viewed 5/28/19.

Ferrari, Alex, January 17, 2017, Film vs Digital Shootout: Can You See the Difference?, Indie Film Hustle, https://indiefilmhustle.com/film-vs-digital/ (Links to an external site.)

Garlock, Stephanie, AUG 28, 2013, Why the Switch to Digital Projectors Means the End of the Small-Town Movie Theater, CityLab.com, https://www.citylab.com/design/2013/08/why-switch-digital-projectors-means-end-small-town-movie-theater/6625/ (Links to an external site.) as viewed 5/28/19.

Parker, N., 30 Sept 2018, 7 Spectacular Business Strategy Failures, as viewed 5/28/19 http://www.bridgepointgroup.com.au/7-spectacular-business-strategy-failures/ (Links to an external site.)

Polaroid.com, as viewed 5/28/19, https://polaroid.com/about-us



Tom Sheppard specializes in managing large ($10mm+), high-risk, high-profile projects in the US Financial Services market. Author of "The Art of Project Management." More than 20 years experience in project management in banking and financial services with a PMP and MPM. More than 25 years experience in systems design, development, and management with a BSCS/MIS. Former US Marine and a former missionary. Fluent in English and Spanish. Experienced instructor. Successful business owner, international author and public speaker. 

 His LinkedIn Profile is: http://linkedin.com/in/tsheppard 

 Specialties: Program management, project management, change management, process design, business case development, negotiation, multi-tier system architecture, real-time parallel distributed databases, private placements and creative finance.

(c) Copyright 2019 A+ Results LLC. All Rights Reserved. 

 Your comments are welcome... Please observe some ground rules. No profanity, vulgarity, or personal attacks. Profanity, vulgarity and personal attacks not only betray a lack of vocabulary and imagination, they also are the hallmarks of bigotry, and bigotry is the hallmark of someone who is fundamentally insecure in their views. Facts are always welcome.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Seeing the Big Picture


Recently, in my career management efforts to retool myself to remain relevant in the current marketplace, I have embarked on a Graduate Certificate with DeVry University in Big Data and Analytics.  As any good college course should do, from time to time, it provokes some introspection and deep thought.  In this post, I discuss the need for the Skillful PM to be able to see the big picture and being able to "see the forest for the trees."
    I wanted to share something which I hope may help some of my readers in this area.  Although it is a story about failure, I hope the reader will be able to grasp the points which will help them succeed.
    Some time ago I had a project administrator working for me who was very good at her job.  She gathered updates and kept project plans up to date and generally helped the work stay on track.  She was good to escalate issues and to help people figure out what dates they could actually commit to and attain.  In her role, she was a top performer.
   She came to me and expressed her desire to advance in her career into the role of being a full-blown project manager.  For both of us, this seemed both logical and very attainable.  I asked her a few key questions to see if she had some experience in areas where I felt it required skills needed by a project manager, which her current role didn't require.  Specifically, I found out that she had an affinity for math, for logic, and she enjoyed playing chess.
   You may ask why those three things were on my list as potential qualifiers for a project manager (PM)?  The skillful PM (Sheppard, 2017) (Sheppard, 2019, TheSkillfulPM.com) has to do a lot of math.
   Math. Sometimes it is estimating the time needed for deliverables based upon how much work it takes (how many people and how much time) to deliver one completed product, and then dividing that into the whole volume of work required to ensure that we have sufficient time and resources to achieve the project objectives.  At other times, it is creating weighted averages or performing Monte Carlo Simulations to determine a probable completion date when many factors are still not fully clear.
   Logic. The skillful PM has to be able to take big problems and break them down into many smaller problems, order those smaller problems based on both logical and resource-driven inter dependencies and guide the team to create a project plan that will deliver the project objectives within the "triple-threat" of project constraints of quality, time, and resources. The skillful PM also needs to be able use both deductive and inductive reasoning (Wikipedia, 2019).  S/he must be able to draw conclusions about where facts are leading, and where those facts came from.  Or, to be a bit more scholarly, the skillful PM needs to be able to reason from the specific to the general and from the general to the specific.
   Chess. The skillful PM has to be able to both look ahead and plan ahead, considering contingencies and alternate courses of action, but also has to be able to consider the motives and potential actions of ALL the people impacted by the project (stakeholders).  Failure to anticipate both good and bad things can result in both minor and major setbacks or even complete failure of a project.  All of these skills are things that competent chess players do as they play.  It is said that ordinary chess players play 3 moves ahead.  Really good chess players are playing 8 moves ahead.  Master chess players are playing 12 to 20 moves ahead.  If you don't believe that, consider that The Queens Gambit, also known as The Fools Mate, can produce checkmate, ending the game, just four moves into the start of the game.
   Having determined that she seemed to have the requisite inclinations and abilities, I agreed to help her become a project manager.  I gave her a project to manage, working under my supervision.
Contrary to many popular views of project management, PM work does not begin with the plan.  PM work begins with determining the root cause(s) of the problem(s) to be solved with the project.  Failure to execute this step properly means that even a successful project can be a failure, because it treats the symptom, not the problem.  Knowing this, I set her to her tasks to gather information on the team, the work, and the problem(s) the project was intended to fix.
   She did a great job of gathering information.  She conducted interviews, captured responses, assessed resources, quantified work, and documented processes.  She brought all her findings to me and I helped her organize them into a coherent presentation so that all the facts could be easily seen.  Then, I looked at her findings with her and asked her, "Ok, so what does all this mean?"
   She looked at me for a moment and then began to repeat the facts she had shown me.  I stopped her.  Again I asked, "So what?"  She stared at me blankly.  I then asked her, "Do you want to know what these facts tell me?"  She did.
   I proceeded to tell her the conclusions I could draw from the facts she had gathered.  Conclusions which pointed to the root causes of the problems and thereby also suggested the probable cures for those problems.
   She said, "Now that you say it, I can grasp that they your conclusions are totally connected to these findings.  But, I cannot understand, at all, how you got from these facts to those conclusions."  She was unable to use inductive reasoning and move from the facts to the conclusions.  Likewise, she was unable to see certain facts and deduce their roots.
   Unfortunately, this lack of logical reasoning ability meant that she was also unable to draw conclusions from her findings about what objectives needed to be achieved to meet the larger project objective, and what tasks needed to be done, in what order, to meet the subordinate objectives.  In short, she could run a project plan, but she couldn't build a good project plan.
Unfortunately, she failed as a project manager.  I had to step in with the client she had been working with and redo the engagement.
   I hope, by now, you are seeing some of my point.  Her ability to see the big picture (the forest) and break that down into the individual trees, and her ability to see the trees and extrapolate the forest from them was what she needed to succeed.
   There will always be need for data scientists who are wizards with data.  They know their tools and their data so well that they can answer any question about the data that you care to ask.  However, if they don't know the questions to ask, because they don't understand the big picture of how the data relates to the business of the business, then they will forever be no more than a technician.  They will end up working for someone who may not be able to spell SQL but who knows how to ask the right questions and relate the answers to the real needs of the business.

Respectfully submitted,
Tom S.

References



Tom Sheppard specializes in managing large ($10mm+), high-risk, high-profile projects in the US Financial Services market.

Author of "The Art of Project Management." More than 20 years experience in project management in banking and financial services with a PMP and MPM. More than 25 years experience in systems design, development, and management with a BSCS/MIS. Former US Marine and a former missionary. Fluent in English and Spanish. Experienced instructor. Successful business owner, international author and public speaker.

His LinkedIn Profile is: http://linkedin.com/in/tsheppard

Specialties: Program management, project management, change management, process design, business case development, negotiation, multi-tier system architecture, real-time parallel distributed databases, private placements and creative finance.

(c) Copyright 2019 A+ Results LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Your comments are welcome... Please observe some ground rules.  No profanity, vulgarity, or personal attacks.  Profanity, vulgarity and personal attacks not only betray a lack of vocabulary and imagination, they also are the hallmarks of bigotry, and bigotry is the hallmark of someone who is fundamentally insecure in their views.  Facts are always welcome.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Gambling on Projects


Originally Published May 14, 2018 on LinkedIn
When most people hear the name Monte Carlo, they think of casinos, gambling, secret agents (James Bond), and royalty. For project managers, however, Monte Carlo is all about a mathematical simulation used to to get estimates for the completion of project tasks, and estimate probabilities in the face of uncertainty.
Monte Carlo simulation leverages principle of the law of large numbers to improve the strength of what amounts to a guess. Applying known constraints, or limits, and averaging results across many scenarios allows a project manager to use a Monte Carlo simulation to get numbers which are very likely to be close to what will actually happen.
TechTarget.com defines the law of large numbers as, "given enough trials or instances. As the number of experiments increases, the actual ratio of outcomes will converge on the theoretical, or expected, ratio of outcomes."
So, a lot of runs gets us closer to the most probable actual results. 
In project management, the Monte Carlo simulation is one way a PM can use to predict the probable duration of a given task, when the actual time (or effort) needed is not known.  
For most projects, using this sophisticated approach is overkill. Most often using a weighted average of estimates provided by experts is a very fast, practical and accurate means.  
The weighted average is based on the best-case, (Be) worst-case (We), and probable-case (Pe) estimates provided directly from subject matter experts (SMEs) who will be actually performing the work and who have performed similar work in the past. This produces a task duration (or effort) (D or E), which, I have found, is highly likely to be meet or exceed the actual duration.
D=(Be+4∗Pe+We)÷6
This approach works because the uncertainty is reduced dramatically by the experience of the SMEs. If they have not actually performed the same sort of work, then you may be better off using their Be and We as upper and lower bounds for a Monte Carlo analysis because, in that case, the experts and the computer both have the same amount of actual experience, but the computer can run many iterations and give you a more statistically probable answer.
About the Author: Tom Sheppard specializes in managing large ($10mm+), high-risk, high-profile projects for the US financial services sector. He is the author of The Art of Project Management, available in hardback from Barnes and Noble, or in paperback and ebook format from Amazon
(c) Copyright 2018 Thomas K Sheppard. May be used with attribution.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Project Management Art versus Science

When a potential employer goes looking to hire a project manager, they understandably go looking for someone with a professional certification or degree in the subject.  Usually they also have some stated number of years of experience they are also requiring.  These are the beginnings of problems when hiring a project manager.

When a would-be project manager earns a professional certificate or degree in project management, they go after their project management job feeling fully qualified and ready to take on all challenges.  Unfortunately, the science of project management is the foundation for becoming a skillful project manager.  It is not the whole building.

When a potential employer sees a professional certificate or degree, they assume a certain level of knowledge and ability is present.  My experience is that the assumed knowledge and ability is usually far more than what is actually conferred with a professional certificate or degree.

The world of instruction and education for project managers focuses almost exclusively on the sciences of project management.  While that is necessary and good, it is also misleading.

Having earned both a certificate as a "Project Management Professional" and a Masters of Science in Project Management, as well as having a couple of decades of experience as a professional in this field, I can speak to this with first-hand experience.

Degree and certification programs do a pretty good job of teaching the mechanics, the sciences of project management.  This includes some of the more difficult topics such as estimating, contracting, critical path management, evaluation, key metrics, scheduling, resource loading, documenting, gating from one project phase to another, etc.  In addition, they often dive deep into specific project management approaches such as Agile, Six-Sigma, Lean and others.

If the pupil learns well and applies what they have been taught in these programs s/he can become a very good project technician.  They can use those skills and knowledge to make the paper side of the project move smoothly.  However, when it comes to dealing with the people who make a project move (or not), science no longer holds sway.  Now comes the project management artist.

Influencing, negotiating, communicating effectively, managing expectations, building high-performing teams, overcoming objections, managing change and motivating others are skills which are not easily measured in the classroom or on written tests.  The principles can be taught and communicated, but the effective application of these principles, in the right doses and timing depends upon both the situation, the good judgment and skill of the skillful project manager.

Most project managers don't manage projects with multi-million dollar budgets.  Because of that, they seldom encounter the situations where they must perform skillfully and effectively at this higher level or find themselves on the street.  This lack of challenge means that most project managers are utterly unprepared to perform at that level.  When they find themselves in that situation, the majority of them go down in flames, and the project along with them.

I have succeeded at that level as a project manager and I have a proven track record of hiring project managers who succeed at that level.

If you want to learn the Art of Project Management, you can learn from me.  I am not offering a coaching or mentoring program.  I have distilled my learning into a book, which will be available soon.  Until then, you will search in vain to find it anywhere else.  I know, I searched for books on the art of project management and came up empty.  Even the ones that claimed to be on the art of being a PM were actually focused on the science.

About the Author

Tom Sheppard specializes in managing large ($10mm+), high risk, high profile financial services projects.  He has more than 20 years of project management experience, most of it with the top banks in the United States.  He is the author of The Art of Project Management.

He holds a Masters of Science in Project Management from Western Carolina University, a Masters of Science in Management Human Resources from National-Louis University, a Bachelors of Science in Computer Science and Management Information Systems from Park University, and for six years held a PMP certification with the Project Management Institute.

He has been a computer programmer, systems analyst, manager, and project manager.  In addition he has run his own business and is the author of several books and blogs.

You can see Tom's LinkedIn profile here: http://www.linkedin.com/in/tsheppard

Making Your Brand

Photo Brand Word Cloud Concept @ mybaitshop Making Your Brand Recently, I saw this LinkedIn post by   Robert Ritchie . You w...