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Samer el Barakeh was born in Lebanon, 1973. He completed his Bachelor in Engineering-CCE at Beirut Arab University-Lebanon in 1996 with honours. Samer was granted Masters Degree in Project Management (MPM) from the University of Sydney-Australia with honours. He also gained the Project Management Professional (PMP) Credential from The Project Management Institute (PMI). Samer is a member of the Order of Architects and Engineers in Lebanon since 1996, The Project Management Institute (PMI), Arabian Gulf Chapter (AGC-PMI) and Lebanon Chapter-PMI. During his 13 years of professional experience in Lebanon, Australia and Saudi Arabia, Samer held many positions among them: Telecommunication Site Engineer, Site Manager, Low Current Service Head, and he is currently Senior Systems Analyst at the General Project Construction Division. Samer is a Project Management Consultant and Training Provider for universal organizations like Business Management Consultants (USA) and PMCTQuest (Canada) Samer is a Registered Training Provider for Project Management Professional (PMP), and he provides training in Program Management, Portfolio Management,PMO...
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May 30, 2007

The Upper Hand… Leadership skills or Processes?

Project success is more dependent on human factors (including Leadership) than technocratic processes (planning, procedures…)(Hauschildt, Keim and Medeof 2000). An assertion with many fans (Hull & Read, 2003; Lechler, 1988; Davies, 2002 to name but a few).

The Leadership-process-success link: "Leadership is influencing people to get things done to a standard and quality above their norm. And doing it willingly." (O'Neil, 2000) and “When it comes to project management, it’s the people that count” (Letchler T. 1998). Streaming down, numerous researches conducted since 1960’s, converged to 12 critical project success factors on which Davies declares “people perform every process; and its people who ultimately determine the adequacy. Thus the people side of the success factors is woven into their very fabric”. (Davies, IJoPM, 20 2002) (figure below)

From another perspective, whilst each process targets a specific project aspect as critical path competency gap would, at first glace, impacts project schedule/resources; whereas lack of Social Competency (EIC Standard) / Providing Leadership in the workplace (FMC Standard) would have a mega scale (multi-processes) impact on overall Project success.

I tend to vote for a complementary relationship। While methodologies and procedures form the 'framework'-hard dimension; Leadership symbolizes the 'art' (Dwight D. Eisenhower) that makes it perform optimally-soft dimension. (Figure below)



May 28, 2007

System Thinking: Archetypes at work!

This posting represents a hypothetical example occurring in a construction organization।It demonstrates how system thinking facilitates problem solving when they both integrate to augment organisational learning.
Problem Statement: loss of resources is encountered due to rework and lack of coordination with stakeholders। Impact on profitability and team morality is evident; projects encounter more scope creep and schedule slippage।
Organisational Response: based on discussions, formal meetings, analysis and the like, PMO recommended more communication and early involvement with stakeholders by establishing multi-organisational teams during the early project phases। Perform team building processes to augment rapport and improve productivity (PMGT6869, 2004; Padilla, 2005; Schwartz, 2003)। Teams to recommend alterations to designs and project plans during initiation, then review progress execution reports among all parties with ‘fresh eyes’ to proactively identify problems and recommend actions।
Outcome: problems are now early identified, reduced rework, stakeholders’ committed to solving problems, increased profitability and enhanced project teams’ morality।

Unanticipated feedback Loop: Unethical behavior of some members that were building relationships with stakeholders for personal benefits (Flynn, 2003; Brigley, 1995)। The archetype in figure below captures the problem situation (Wolstenholme, 2003)

Problem Archetype adopted from Wolstenholme, 2003

Solution to decrease impact of UC feedback loop: Applying system thinking approach to look at the big picture and problem context (PMGT6869, 2005)। A suggested solution archetype was developed to undermine the effect of Unintended Consequence feedback loop as shown below (Wolstenholme, 2003)

Solution Archetype adopted from Wolstenholme, 2003

Recommended Actions:

Learning from this experience: Future developments/proposals/solutions to proactively respond to prospective UC feedbacks.
In conclusion, the above mentioned actions were optimum। Applying them reduced the risks associated with this situation and enhanced desired results from multi-organisational teams’ establishment।


Project Managers relocated before Proper Project Closure and Learning Lessons

The project manager, as an organizational resource will not be assigned to another project unless authorized by the Steering Committee that integrate specific criteria in such decision, including proper closure of the current project and capturing Lessons Learned.
Portfolio and Programme management provide some guidelines to such decisions. If we consider, as examples, the need of a qualified experienced PM in an ongoing project or the call for a quick initiation of project recently won in a bid, we can conclude that it is a matter of strategic organizational priorities.

I believe that the Learning Process is of equal importance throughout the project lifecycle and not only at the end. Lessons captured as we go are fed back into the ongoing project to improve productivity and realign. An example to that is the estimation process
(Estimate >> perform >> assess >> learn >> update buffer >> to estimate again), (PMGT6869, 2004). Unfortunately, more pressure comes upon on the learning process during initiation, planning and execution where the team is overwhelmed with performing and maintaining project within boundaries (STCQ) in the changing environment.

Another consideration, to be factored in, is that benefit realization plans mainly focus on “external client-related” project deliverables as bounded in the Business Case with less weight on internal benefits associated with learning. I have experienced many such cases in my organization.

The solution to the above mentioned issues is Knowledge Management (establishment, explicit formalization, planning and integration into the organizational culture) where learning lessons won’t be an ad-hoc mannered activity that can simply be “missed” if the PM is released from the project.

Finally, and to avoid reinventing the wheels, organizations should use previously tested blocks and available frameworks that can be tailored to our needs. In this regards, incorporating processes and practices from the AS, PMBoK, or other AIPM models should be supportive to improve organizational maturity in “learning”.

May 27, 2007

Knowledge Management

Starting with the definition, Knowledge Management includes a variety of practices aiming to identify, establish, represent, store and distribute knowledge that will afterwards be used for performing, awareness and learning within one organization and among different organisations। In many organisations, KM is embedded in IT or HRM (Vail III, 1999)
Organisational maturity varies with different knowledge areas। This reflects on KM by forming a vicious cycle where less maturity means less formalized processes and less organisational learning which in turn decreases organisational ability to improve maturity in that knowledge area. Thus organisations can avoid this by emphasising on capturing knowledge and organisational learning as a baseline.
Of equal importance to capturing knowledge throughout project lifecycle is the knowledge transfer। This starts with on-the-job peer discussions, formal apprenticeship, corporate libraries, professional training and mentoring programs then extends to IT based knowledge bases, expert systems and knowledge repositories.
I see that organisational learning and knowledge management are closely related, where both encounter “using the past to help us predict the future”. However, knowledge management gows a further step ahead of organisational learning by greater focus on specific knowledge assets and the development and cultivation of the channels through which knowledge flows. To promote KM, different organizations have tried various knowledge capture incentives, including making content submission mandatory and incorporating rewards into performance measurement plan.
A strategy to apply KM is to develop processes that enable us to successfully shift from “Tacit” to “Explicit” knowledge. That is, from subconscious internalized knowledge to formal, explicit knowledge that can be stored as an organisational asset and communicated among departments, units and projects (Monaka et al, 1995).

Knowledge Management provides a significant role in assisting PM’s decisions throughout the project phases when mature organisations provide systems, repositories, and corporate processes to encourage and formalize knowledge activities। PM’s access and capture knowledge via the following triple stage process:
First: During initiation and planning, learn best practice and lessons learned from similar projects undertaken earlier
Second: During implementation, tracking and control, to seek advice on issues or roadblocks encountered and how to handle them
Third: During project Closure, to seek advice on post project reviews and activities.
What if there was no previous advice of similar cases in the organisational database? An alternative option PM’s can rely on in KM is to access experts on an ad hoc basis with their knowledge requests। Some advantageous benefits of this option are:
- Experts provide quick, relevant and precise advice,
- They factor in all aspects of the situation and respond accordingly

A comparison between PMBOK and Prince2 Methodologies and reflection on case study examples

The PMBOK Guide, “The Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge”, was published by The US Project Management Institute (PMI) while Prince2, “Project in Controlled Environment Version2”, was produced by the UK Office of Government Commerce’s (OGC) (Bentley C, 2006; Bailey, 2003). Due to their diversified nature, the comparison process is not fairly applicable: PMBOK is a descriptive knowledge base while Prince2 is a prescriptive methodology. However, they are the most popular alternatives for organisations to espouse; a choice to be based on “comparison” (Bentley, 2006).
A detailed comparison of the two methodologies covers most aspects: Lifecycle, stages, phases, governance, frameworks, Knowledge area based, planning and scheduling ।
These two methodologies are not alone! OPREP, Railcorp-PMM, MSF, Ad-PMM, SPS-PMM, are examples of other methodologies built by organisation according to their needs (PMGP6869, 2003; 4PM, 2006; SPS, 2006). Additionally, a “marriage” is being suggested between PMBOK and Prince2. I tend to agree with this trend basing on the above comparison that showed how knowledge based and comprehensive PMBoK processes complements with perspectives and pragmatic Prince2 nature (Yeong, 2006; Bailey, 2003; Bentley, 2006; Wideman, 2002). Getronics (Bailey, 2003) is an example of successful implementation of combined approach.
Reflecting on some case studies, I suggest adopting PMBoK methodology with four phases in Suncorp Stadium and Youth Club Redevelopment (in my PMGT5872 Final report) characterised by clear end-to-end requirements। However, for ‘A framework to Implementing Strategies’ (Okumus, 2003), I recommend a methodology with stage gate approach as it integrates with feedback loops and selected metrics “health of organisation and enterprise” (El Barakeh et al, 2006) and the “deliberate change iterations” discussed in Question 2A below. Furthermore, projects alignment with strategy can be assessed at these stages as shown in fig.1 below. Therefore, I believe that Prince2 or a combination of Prince2 and PMBoK can be implemented in these cases; otherwise the organisation can build or modify its own methodology (PMGT6869, 2003).

Figure: stage gates to assess alignment with business cases adopted from Seigelaub, 2006
The same applies for ‘Building the Olympic Dream’ (Pitsis et al, 2003) especially due to lack of upfront planning, high exploration, agility requirements, innovative nature, partnership, to name but a few; situations that are not in favour of PMBoK methodology alone.
Finally, it is worth noting that globalisation and acquisition make the combination of the two methodologies more favourable (Bailey, 2003).




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