About The Author

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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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November 20, 2008

Project Management and Construction Management

Construction Management is Project Management tailored to the specific needs of construction projects.
Project Management: Leadership + Scope, Schedule, Budget, QA/QC, HR, Reporting, Risk & Contracts.
Construction Management: Project Management AND extra consideration of Safety, Environment, Finance and Claims.


Project Management includes fully understanding and being responsible of and accountable for the below mentioned without having to do them personally. Integrating them into a project plan, manage its execution, control changes to it, and then closing the project:

1. Define scope, develop Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), and then verify and control this scope.
2. Do activity sequencing, activity resource and duration estimation, develop schedule, and then control it.
3. Estimate cost, determine budget, and then control costs.
4. Include steps for QA, and then assure quality by QC.
5. Determine and acquire HR requirements, and then manage teams.
6. Communicate information to people, and then develop performance reports.
7. Identify project risks, plan response to them, and then monitor and control them.
8. Plan purchases, select sellers, and then administer contracts & close them.

Construction Management ADDS, to the above listed, the following areas that apply specifically to construction industry:

9. Plan safety, and then assure and control safety.
10. Determine environmental requirements, and then perform and control them.
11. Determine project financial requirements, and then control financial aspects & records.
12. Identify and Quantify Claims, and then try to prevent claims from occurring or resolve occurring ones.

October 25, 2008

Organizational Strategy and Project Alignment


Strategy symbolizes the transfer of an organization from its current state to a desired new future one. This implies high uncertainty and risks in “how” to go there.
This paper aims to provide a road-map that decreases this uncertainty by a comprehensive set of tools to plan the strategy then select and maintain the right portfolio of projects that best aligns with this strategy.

The framework presented hereafter will ensure sound strategic planning, optimize organizational resources, and guarantee projects’ strategic alignment, at the outset and throughout their lifecycles. Benefits will extend into enhancing communication among organizational units, and supporting governance.

The three main components of this framework are:
• Strategic Planning and Mapping to develop and communicate strategy;
• Strategic Implementation by portfolio management;
• Tools and Techniques to assess strategic alignment at decision gate meetings.

1 Executive Summary
In many organizations, little emphasis has been given to strategic planning and strategic alignment of projects undertaken. In most cases, adopted strategies were ‘diversified’ and not developed in structured ways to accomplish preset main goals on one side and facilitate projects’ selection on the other. Projects were pipelined to accomplish certain objectives like increased profitability, competitive advantage etc. However, selecting the right projects and prioritizing them has been a big challenge.
We are going to show how strategic planning, that involves middle managers (expertise) and strategic planners (catalysts) can be the benchmark of strategic alignment.
Then a strategic map will visualize the desired strategy on a balanced scorecard, highlighting the cause-and-effect relation between projects and desired strategic objectives.
Once strategy is set and communicated, we recommend adopting the portfolio management process for selecting the right balance of projects and involving executives in the gating process which provides an objective mechanism to weigh, assess alignment, and then prioritize all projects for rigid GO-Kill decisions. Using this mechanism at a series of preset phases will enable innovation and growth while preventing resources from being wasted on projects that lack strategic alignment.
2 Strategic Planning
The target is to have strategically driven organization where all projects lie under the strategic umbrella. Though characterized by their individual goals, projects’ overall benefits exceed the sum of individual ones i.e. 1+1=3!
Sections below elaborate how to achieve this target.
2.1 Strategy Making
In this process, executives and middle managers use soft data (expertise) and hard data (numbers) to develop the vision of where the organization should go. The strategic planners support them by acting as catalysts that contribute to this process and enable strategy making (Mintzberg, 1994). We can identify two kinds of strategic planners:
• Right handed planners are analytics, they like tidiness and order.
• Left handed planners are creative, untraditional, and unpredictable.
Middle managers and executives will be more able to focus on analyzing data that was developed by planners, and on strategic decision making.
Planners’ major role is around the strategy making process not in it. They perform statistics, competitive analysis, researches, etc. and the overall responsibility should reside with business managers.
We can espouse the comprehensive framework presented in figure below then tailor it to our specific needs (Mintzberg H., 2004).

In the strategy making process, these two roles complement each other. Managers are too busy for reflection or documenting findings. This may lead to information loss. However, planners are there to capture this data.
Strategy can be deliberate or emergent. Deliberate strategy is made be senior management based on their intents, whereas emergent strategies are the “overall result” now of initiatives undertaken before. It is recommended to keep the deliberate strategic decisions “broad”; which allows for tuning and aligning by integrating emerging changes as we progress with the strategy making and implantation (Mintzberg, 1994).
Once the strategic plan is set and approved, we need to communicate the vision and strategy to have everyone in the organization looking in the same direction. How? By Drawing a Strategy map!

2.2 Strategy Mapping
Strategy Map is a tool to communicate strategy and a process to implement this strategy:
• It gives everyone in the organization a clear view of how this strategy leads to organizational objectives.
• Understanding how each person’s job links to the overall desired outcome.
• Represents a Cause-and-effect diagram between initiatives and the benefits to be realized.
The Balanced Scorecard shown below represents a strategy map. It looks at the organizational strategy from four perspectives: Financial, Customer, Internal Processes and Learning & Growth (Kaplan et al, 2000).

The balanced scorecard tells us what competencies our employees will need (Learning & Growth) to innovate and build the right organizational capabilities and efficiencies (our internal processes) that deliver specific value to the market (our customers) which eventually leads to higher revenues and shareholder value (Financials).
This strategy map will enable the organization to view its strategy in an integrated way. Consequently, gaps, miss-alignments, or conflict between strategic initiatives will surface. Solution… The feedback loops.

3 Portfolio Management
3.1 Why Portfolio Management?
Now we have a set of strategic and business initiatives that need to be managed successfully in a “collective manner” to realize the strategic objectives. Portfolio Management is the key tool (Gerrand, 2004).
Portfolio Management is a necessary core competence for medium and large organizations. It is seen as a dialogue between organizational units of different concentration, especially the business and implementation units.
How does Portfolio Management help achieving the strategic goals?
1. It provides an integrated view of all strategic objectives of business, implementation, and corporate groups.
2. And a mechanism for these objectives to be clarified and optimized before expensive implementation.
3. Select and approve objectives that best fit organizational strategy and
4. Ensure that the implementation projects remain aligned as we progress.
5. Allows for planning and optimizing all types of resources needed in advance.
3.2 Portfolio Management Principles
3.2.1 Single-Point Accountability for Portfolio Management with “one” business owner (probably business or corporate unit).
3.2.2 Establish a Portfolio Governance Group (PGG) composed of the heads of all divisions for collective portfolio decision-making (corporate, business, operations, technology, etc.) and driving the portfolio as shown in figure below (Gerrand, 2004).

3.2.3 Gates to Ensure Continuous Strategic Alignment of initiative. The PGG evaluates the initiatives at each stage gate through their lifecycle.
Figure below demonstrates the five main GO/NO-GO decision gates and where they occur in the strategic initiatives’ lifecycle (now becoming projects!).
It is vital to identify miss-aligned projects as early as possible and “kill them” when their cost is still low (Cooper et al, 2002).

3.2.4 Tools for Assessment and Prioritization, these tools are integral parts of sound project management methodology. Portfolio Management is thus using existing data to optimize organizational resources.
Figure below shows what tools can be useful at which stage of the initiative lifecycle (Gerrand, 2004). Organizations can select other tools according to their industry, business directions and working environment.

4 The Gate Meetings
Gate meetings keep executives engaged in the process on one hand and use objective assessment criteria at specific stages on the other. These meetings are conducted on a two-stage basis.
The first Stage is to assess each project and make a “GO-KILL” decision based on preset must meet and should meet criteria.
The second stage is to assess the impact of proceeding with this project on the overall portfolio. In this case, a decision to Go-Live/Hold is made.

5 Conclusion
Finally, it is worth mentioning that the framework presented above builds on and uses deliverables of sound project management methodology like feasibility studies, business cases, risk registers, progress reports, etc. Organizations are expected to have a mature project management methodology set in place and of more importance… to be actually implemented.


6 References

• Mintzberg H., (1994), “The Fall and Rise of Strategic Planning”, Harvard Business Review, Jan-Feb 2004, pp. 107-114.

• Kaplan R.S. & Norton D. P., (2000), “Having Trouble with Your Strategy? Then Map It”, Harvard Business Review, Sep-Oct 2000, pp. 167-176.

• Cooper R.G., Edgett S. J. and Kleinschmidt E. J., (2002), “Optimizing the Stage-Gate Process: What Best-Practice Companies DO-II”, Industrial Research Institute, Nov-Dec 2002, pp. 43-49.

• Gerrand J. (2004) “Portfolio and Programme Management”, PMGT6870, Project Management Graduate Programme, University of Sydney, pp. 4-20.

June 22, 2008

Vision Mission and Objectives What and Why!?

I would like to share my understanding about Vision Mission and Objectives by showing how they are linked together.
Vision: A High level description of the desired state. Brief, concise and realistic.
This comes from the Board of directors, Executives, Owners etc. (the top level)
For this vision to come true, many things need to be done, some are inter-related. So, we need to know what is the role of each sub-organization or division (the second level) to enable making this vision real, these are our missions.
Mission statements are developed by communications and discussions between the top level and the second level.
Once agreed upon, each Division will have its Mission which is aligned with and contributes to achieving the Organizational Vision.
Then what? These mission statements are broad high level statements… Here comes the need to breakdown each mission statement into a ‘specific set of objectives’:
• Objectives are precise, clear, and include all the work needed to achieve the mission statement.
• Each objective can be ‘owned’ by a middle manager within the division.
• Each objective has its quantitative measures of success (10% cost savings in operations; new software implemented; Establishing a local office for division X in country Y, Expand workforce to include Z qualified civil engineers etc.)
• The owner can determine how to achieve this objective (develop a plan and determine required resources)
• Division Manager approves the resources based on the plan.
• The owner of the objective is responsible for executing the plan and accountable for realizing the measures of success.
Division Managers can then ‘coach and monitor’ while middle managers ‘plan, execute and report’.
This method presents an example of a top-down approach of the Vision-Mission-Objectives chain; and we should be ready for changes in the working environment as follows:
• Tuning the mission statements and objectives as response to small changes
• Reviewing our vision periodically (annually maybe) and update all the above.
Looking forward to see other views and learn from other experiences.

How to Ensure Stratgic Alignment of Our Projects?

Below is a set of recommendations that can help Organizational executives ensure proper alignment between projects pipelined and their organizational strategy. As a bottom-line, projects and strategic development are inter-related as shown below.

Allow Middle Managers Onboard
Most executives are too busy to be involved in structured strategic planning, some got their positions because they are owners, shareholders or simply powerful; they may not have the practical experience needed for strategic planning. Strategic decisions that are based on top-down approach will be partially implemented especially when middle managers don’t feel that they are ‘right’.
Strategic decisions will have better chances of success if they involve managers from all organizational levels and not only executives (Mintzberg, 1994). This will enrich the strategic planning process and improve the feeling of strategic ownership among organizational levels.
I believe that a structured strategic planning framework should not only consider the above mentioned, but also consider roles for strategic planners as catalysts and feedback loops for optimization (March et al., 1976).

Enhance Alignment by Using Projects to Implement Strategy
Once strategy is planned, there should be a method for implementing it. Many studies have addressed the fact that change is a challenge in strategic implementation. However, projects characteristics can integrate both planned strategy and evolving strategy (Mintzberg, 1987). Strategic decisions can be broken down into smaller components and projects can be planned for these components. Senior management will then have measurable criteria to identify the extent of implementation of each strategic decision being made. So, we can see now how they are inter-related!

Understanding the Strategy-Culture-Project link
It is not only structure that counts, it is people that perform. Strategic decisions should consider the organizational culture. If there is a big gap between organizational culture and strategic decisions, these decisions will not survive. And projects planned to implement these strategic decisions will fail.
Strategy can be implemented by projects. To be successful; these projects should be – to a certain extent- aligned with organizational culture. Once completed, these projects themselves cause a small shift in the organizational culture.
In some cases, projects are pipelined mainly to cause incremental cultural change or overcome a cultural barrier that can enable implementing the desired strategy. Many organizations fail to point this link between culture, strategy and projects; and end up with a bigger misalignment.

Effectively Manage Project Portfolios
This is recommended by establishing a Programme/Portfolio Management Office. PMO benefits were thoroughly discussed in another Discussion Topic, although avoiding repetition, I find it important to mention that establishing a balanced scorecard of quantitative criteria for project selection along with rigid decision gates that periodically kill projects that should be killed and hold those waiting for resources are important PMO roles for aligning projects with strategy (Kaplan & Norton, 2000). .

Establish and Enforce Sound organizational Governance
This topic was also addressed in another topic, but I would like to add something here:
Not only should the organization establish a governance structure with clear Roles and Responsibilities, Authorities, Power… but measures should be set to ensure that this governance structure is actually being implemented.
Importance of governance increases at higher levels because that is where most of the influence resides and unfortunately, less monitoring and control. It is not easy to face ‘powerful executives’ with alternative strategies. Those that do so, according to Gordon Donaldson (1995), run the risk of finding themselves isolated, and in time, replaced.
The solution presented in this same article can help resolve the strategic alignment issue on the executive’s level by “strategic Audits”: A formal strategic review process, managed by a committee of independent directors supported with authority.

These strategies, among others, are essential to ensure proper alignment between projects and organization’s strategy. However, I see that the key challenge resides in ‘implementing’ them. Each organization has to integrate its specific conditions, type of business, the pace of strategic change, working environment, and other factors in order to select the right portfolio of practices that suit its needs.

• Donaldson G. (1995), ‘A new Tool for Boards: The Strategic Audit’, Harvard Business Review. pp: 99-107
• Kapalan R.S., Norton D.P. (2000), “Having Trouble With Your Strategy? Then Map it”, Harvard Business Review, September-October 2000, pp.167-176
• March J. and Olsen J. (1976), “Ambiguity and Choice in Organizations”, p.80, Universitetsforlaget, Bergen, Norway.

April 27, 2008

Successful Project Management Office (PMO)

Successful Project Management Office (PMO)
There was a global study conducted on 750 Project Management Offices (PMOs) which found that the most successful PMOs were centralized to service the entire organization and they provided added convenience to the project team at the same time (Stanleigh, 2006). To be successful, ten so called ‘secrets’ are recommended. These are:
1. Launch slowly and with careful project planning
2. Create scope statement and Project Plan to ensure a clear and successful, staged implementation.
3. Communicate regularly both internally and with the rest of the organization to garner on-going support from the senior management team.
4. Share and act upon lessons learned, providing regular feedback with/from stakeholders.
5. Effectively manage changes
6. Develop a “stage-gate” approval process for longer-term projects.
7. Simplify methodologies and implement them gradually.
8. Focus on training, mentoring and leading by example.
9. Implement scaleable processes and a simple reporting system to validate compliance with the project management process.
10. Establish project success measures to provide senior management with relevant information for decision-making affecting project completion.

Governance, consistency, quality and transparency are among the PMO benefits. These reflect on project outcomes and organizational revenue.

Another way to look at successful PMO as suggested by Wood (2008) is by identifying common weaknesses that PMO address in organizations, among those:

 limited capital and resources
 Lack of people dedicated to projects
 Lack of objective methods to accept/cancel/terminate projects
 Most project managers are really project administrators.
 Most project estimates are too optimistic

For a PMO to effectively close these gaps, and be successful, it should:
1. Provide project administration support to project managers.
2. Justify projects based on “worst-case scenarios” in terms to budget, effort levels and completion dates.
3. Deploy standardized techniques and tools for estimating, reporting and project conduct. 4. Streamline paperwork.
4. Make project owners accountable for success of the project.
5. Turn project managers into project execution logicians.
6. Develop a repository of project templates, checklists and expert resources.
7. Adopt a “Once Started-Never Stopped” policy on approved projects
8. Limit the number of tasks that can be active to a person at any given time.
9. Deploy a pragmatic methodology for evaluating, approving and prioritizing projects.
It is important to distinguish the roles of Project Managers from that of a PMO member. Especially when some project managers have dual responsibilities. Therefore, the same PM may have to play a PMO role in some places and PM roles in another. Key identification of each of these roles is shown below. The PMO and the project manager roles are obviously different, but both of them are necessary to ensure the success of the individual project and the success of the overall portfolio of projects.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that it is a challenge to establish and maintain PMO. There is a considerable expenditure expected here and high risks as well. Failing to realise PMO benefits may lead to a state which is worse than the initial one. In my opinion, the following factors should be thoroughly studied at the outset:
• Expected roles of PMO
• Level of formality, authority, and desired structure
• Should the PMO be temporary or permanent
• Should it be built in-house or should we call external consultants/expertise

April 14, 2008

Business Case and Quantitative Benefits

Should a business case be formal, justifiable, and in Dollar value/financial figures?
why do some organizations initiate projects without objective business cases?

Portfolio management and strategic planning are methods that lend the importance of a specific project business case towards the overall benefit of the portfolio or the programme of projects. In this aspect, a project with an ‘unjustified’ business case especially from the financial perspective can be accepted and implemented because it enables the realization of higher level organizational benefits.

This approach leads to less emphasis on formal business case development or using preset weighting systems for each project based on financial and objective criteria. Instead of objectively considering the dollar value and the grabbed opportunities (pros) along with the ‘opportunity cost’ of taking this project (cons), then making a conscious decision; I see that this approach would open a window for subjective decisions and executive powers to be the basis of decisions made to promote or exclude certain projects.

In some cases, the business case can be as big as a project by itself. It is sound practice to do so according to project size, complexity, etc. and of equal importance, when the project is to be managed in a stable surrounding. However, I believe that the importance of having a highly detailed business case in some competitive or rapidly changing environments can decrease significantly. This is due to having more qualitative factors that make it a challenge to have them ‘weighted’ quantitatively; and circumstances upon which a business case is based would change rapidly.
Agility, multi-phasing, decision gate review, flexible objectives and less formal business cases can be options to look at in this case.

In fact, this topic would promote the importance of establishing a PMO that should balance the formality and importance of business cases and ensure that only the right projects are accepted and pipelined. Furthermore, a key responsibility of PMO is to include the effect of ‘time’ and the rapidly changing environment and promote, terminate, or realign projects accordingly in order to stay in phase with the organizational strategic objectives. These strategic objectives would in-turn be changing!


April 7, 2008

Project Managers' Power

Once an organization structure is decided and established, the lines of authority can be drawn. But the interaction between organizational components, the shift in strategy along the way, and specific projects’ conditions would lead to continuous changes.
This is why two project managers, responsible for similar projects may have different authorities. And the same applies to functional divisions.

Estimating project managers may have more power, resources, and decision-making authority than some project managers these days… what? You may say… but yes, this is where a bottleneck may be today.

If we start with the organizational structure, matrix/functional etc…Having an established PMO or not, the culture of organizational members, their attitude towards power, and the complexity of projects, are all factors to consider when deciding on the level of authority ‘our project managers’ should be allowed to exercise.
Yes, I think that power should be ‘allowed’ and not given. We give an acceptable limit and different managers choose levels within these limits. PMO can close gaps by either supporting PMs or relocating them.

Our construction projects are huge. That is where other aspects of Project Manager’s power become of vital importance: Expert, Delegation, Referral, Coaching and the like. In our case, these sometimes prevail over the power ‘given’ by the PMO. Because, to manage complex projects, leadership becomes preferable over formal power. A ‘prisoner’s dilemma’ would cost a fortune.

Another aspect of looking into power is by looking at how much to “control”. I think that the PMO Heads/Strategic Decision makers /Executives can set high leverage points. Middle Management would draw more defined power control limits depending on specific situational conditions (as explained earlier). Their primary focus would be the strategic objectives and accordingly give more power in places that serve best. While on the lower level, Project Managers will be managing the implementation tools (Projects).

April 2, 2008

Portfolio and Programme Management

1. Introduction
In this posting, I would like to present a perspective for Programme and Portfolio Management and their integration. Additionally, different sights are presented on how Programme and Portfolio Management can be used to enable cultural change, strategic implementation, and maturity development.
To end with, a comment on other posting and some thoughts that are open for discussions.
2. Portfolio and Programme Management
Project Portfolio is when we have different projects for the whole organization belonging to different business units, departments, divisions that serve the overall organizational strategy.
Alternatively, when we have many projects for many clients managed as a portfolio of multi-projects that share a common resource pool but have independent outputs (Turner J.& Keegan A., 2001)
Programme is when we have very close projects like sub-projects or phases; many projects for one client are managed as a program of projects. They will contribute together towards the larger end and serve a main objective of satisfying the client. (Turner J.& Keegan A., 2001)
Integration, would we like to look at the bigger picture and integrate both, we can say that: “Portfolio Management is a set of whole-of-organization processes designed to give a complete, end-to-end view of all the programs and projects an organization is running or plans to run.”(Knapp & Moore, 2003)

3. To facilitate cultural change
Among the hardest to manage is the culture that resides within the organization. How about when it comes to planning and implementing cultural changes?
In fact, cultural change programmes should always be a corner block in the organizational portfolio of projects; especially since cultural change is a very slow and continuous process.

4. A wheel for strategic implementation
To make sure that the high level ‘mission statement’ is the umbrella that all projects reside under.
In order to overcome strategic implementation difficulties arising at corporate, business and operational levels, we use programme management as the strategic implementation “wheel” underpinned by relevant skills and established learning; not relying on projects with inappropriate systems/processes; which is a common mistake leading to diffused, diluted, compromised or postponed strategic implementation (Kippenberger, 2000)
An approach that I find really interesting and challenging is when a separate temporary structure can be created by developing integrated programmes of projects (Partington,2000) thus strategic change will be managed outside existing culture in a way to integrate projects and business as usual (Murray-Webster et al, 2000).
5. Portfolio for maturity development
Since closing many gaps in performance needs to be achieved before we can realize the maturity benefits, and since maturity gaps in specific areas would most probably affect outcomes from other areas that may be mature enough; Porgrammes of projects become effective means to ensure that the benefits realized exceed the sum of individual project benefits
6. Feedback on other Postings
I like the term presented that Portfolio Management is a ‘dialogue between business management of the organization and the implementation management …”. Although I would like to stop quoting here to maintain a loose end. Then think of how many dialogues can the organization have through portfolio management. Business? Strategic? Cultural development? Cultural alignment? Business and IT alignment? Competency development? Technical development? Alliance? Maturity development? Exploring new markets? Middle Managers’ Feedbacks?

I am not sure about the cost disadvantage of Portfolio and Programme Management. In this aspect, I would like to differentiate between performing the previously mentioned and establishing a PMO.
In matrix Organizations, Portfolio and Programme management provide high ROI once a PMO is established. PMOs will provide the infrastructure of centralized information (projects performance, future forecasts and strategic alignment, IT infrastructure and expertise ) that would enable easier and cost effective implementing of Portfolio/Programme Management…
If I was to look for some disadvantages of Portfolio/Programme Management, how about suggesting that they somehow promote the top-down approach, obstruct creativity among middle managers, and sometimes hinder organizational flexibility to explore and grab ‘opportunities’. However, these disadvantages can be minimized by feedback loops and by pushing strategic decision making lower into the hierarchy.


March 23, 2008

Maturity Models, The Pros and Cons

This discussion presents my viewpoint of when many organizations come to a position of assessing maturity improvements in Project management; along with pros and cons of adopting a PM Maturity Level and finally the challenge of 'guiding organizational change' to the desired higher level. (pros and cons of what and how)

Unfortunately, in many organizations, the choice of implementing a maturity model is reactively assessed after few cycles of undesired outcomes (handling bigger more complex projects with the same way we used to do for small sized ones, the gap in PM practice increases and thus money slips from cracks and we end up losing). I have witnessed that it’s at this stage that most organizations here in Saudi Arabia start looking at better practices.

Pros and cons of maturity models get their roots from those of PM methodologies. Since models are the framework upon which PM methodologies are planned to “ascend”, they share most of the pros and cons when it comes to implementations.
While on one hand, these models are seen as overhead, they are considered as complicating what can be done easier or simply an external pre-requisite (certification) to be able to bid for bigger projects.

On the other hand, they provide a comprehensive set of standards that close all gaps, standardize practices around the organization; MM are means for using previously tested blocks instead of reinventing the wheels.

By using these models, we can choose the framework that fits our business/industry (maturity model), know the PM practices that are adequate to our projects’ scale and complexity (maturity level); then develop our PM processes, procedures, practices, etc (PM methodology) that improves our PM capability to drive our projects to successful conclusions.

Maturity models encounter having to shift this methodology into higher more mature levels that generally develop standardization, structuring, formality, cultural aspects, and the like. Since implementation needs “change”, this is where new pros and cons emerge.

Managing resistance to change; shortening the ‘dark valley’ characterized by the learning period between implementing changes and realizing their benefits; Performing cultural alignment when the model encounters more emphasis on aspects that don’t align with the organizational culture. All these are big challenges that need to be addressed when we consider such a shift.

As for the benefits, how about a real life situation?
For a reputable structure organization, we are currently implementing an organization-wide ERP project to help automate practices and increase visibility. At the same time, there is a boom in the market and projects undertaken are scaling up by 300%. The designated new processes should be developed, with the help of an external consultant, to improve PM capabilities and enable ERP data to be captured. With no reference to a maturity model / maturity level, we are finding it very difficult to answer questions like:
• Did we capture the full picture of project management requirements that we should be benchmarking upon?
• Do we know the gaps in our project performance, and their extent?
• Shall we emphasize more on processes and procedures or cultural aspects?
• Are we in a good position to be involved in joint ventures, partnering or even strategic partnering? Shall we set a partnering framework and procedures to implement with our sister organizations?
• Can we agree to what degree should we formalize, standardize, measure, and structure our processes?
• How can we align the IT perspective of ERP implementation with the business perspective of finance and the project management perspective?
• And the list goes on.

I believe that if we adopted a maturity model like RMMM (Relationship Management Maturity Model) or OPM3; even a combination of maturity models that complement each others in a way to align with our organizational strategic decision, answering such questions would be less challenging.

February 21, 2008

The Partnering Change Process

Upon building trust, partnering uses group based processes focusing on Deming’s 80-20 rule to:
• Focus all stakeholders on shared values and objectives
• Focus on identifying the dominant problems and opportunities
• Establish benchmarks
• Develop action plans for problems and opportunities
• Develop performance feedback system to measure performance against objectives.
• Provide feedback to all and adjust accordingly.
Stakeholders gather and establish their vision of a perfect project; their objectives for the particular project, problems that will stop the project from achieving its goals, and finally develop their own processes to manage the project (as shown in figure below). All stakeholders are respected and it’s the project processes that hinder achieving the objectives.

Six-Phase Model for Partnering Integration
A six-phase model is used to integrate partnering as a strategy and implement it, these are:
Phase 1: Owner’s internal alignment
Phase 2: Partner Selection
Phase 3: Partnering relationship Alignment
Phase 4: Project Stakeholder Alignment
Phase 5: Transition
Phase 6: Development.
Symbols for Others to Follow
Adopting the above approach will enable using successful projects to create symbols for new values that afterwards form the new organizational cultural values. Culture is here used to drive organizational change until partnering values become at the deepest level of the organizational culture.
Cultural Change Process
Uses Propaganda and symbols that affects emotions rather than traditional training.
Organizational cultures are formed through four phases these are Vision, Proof, Confirmation and Internalization.
There are also four rules for adding to organizational existing culture(Gagliardi, 1986) which should be considered:
1. No conflict with old values
2. Organization experience success collectively
3. Leadership promotes success and symbolizes it
4. Structured hierarchy of values
Gagliardi’s Approach- Slow Incremental change to Organizational Culture
Addressing the cultural issues should start with the fact that culture is held behaviorally (not logically) in the primitive part of our brain and are exceptionally difficult to change. Gagliardi presents culture as consisting of two distinct levels (values upon which practices are based). As shown in fig. below, changes will be incremental; we slowly introduce new practices that can -after some time- shift the deeply values. A Directly proportional relation exists between change difficulty on one hand and culture strength, level of change and misalignment with existing values on the other.

Kotter and Heskett research suggested that culture’s resistance to change results from four characteristics of organizational culture:
1. Interdependencies between the two cultural levels;
2. The strong connection of values to human emotions (should feel the need for change);
3. Interdependence between culture and pluralism (powerful defend their power);
4. Normative actions based on past successes (lost cause and effect relationship).

Fasilitator in Partnering, A Coincise Shot

The Role of Facilitator in Partnering:
The process has to be owned by stakeholders; the facilitator should be neutral and mutually agreed upon. He/she manages the meeting process only not the content.
Facilitator needs to be:
• ethical
• respect individual
• believes in process consulting
• respects the personal aspect of stakeholders
• respects confidentiality.

There are three Facilitator roles:
• Internal Facilitator: To reduce cost; Only used if stakeholders have previous experience with partnering; should be a small stakeholder to be considered neutral; should work on establishing shared objectives, problem identification and develop action plans and NOT team building activities.
• External Facilitator-Single Project: when stakeholders are new to partnering, the emphasis is on establishing trust and team building, and the ongoing partnering process. When they become experienced, emphasis shifts to continuous improvement of both the project and partnering process.
• External Facilitator-Strategic Partnering: for organizational change projects and contracting out-performance measurement projects.

Key Skills Required:
Interpersonal skills
Cross-cultural skills
Team building
Organizational design and change management
Project management

February 19, 2008

Thinking about change needed? Maybe you should be more ‘worried’ about how to make it real!

Change in Chunks
Other postings in this website have presented strategies to “Change”. In this section we are going to explore how to overcome “Resistance to Change” that resides in mindsets of organizational members. Roger et al. (1994) offer six suggestions on how to avoid, and when necessary overcome resistance in order to realize lasting fundamental changes.
Previously, there were two choices for change: incremental (too minor to cope with environmental change- stable environments) or revolutionary processes (too devastating- crisis situations) (Roger, 1994). However, the optimal dominant solution is the “process tectonic to evoke a seismic metaphor” fig. below

Figure: Chunky changes' environmental impact adopted from Roger, 1994

The set of beliefs (mental models) members hold about the identity of the organization represent the “organizational identity”, a basic part of organizational culture. Organizational identity is considered as central, distinctive and enduring about the organization. It is embedded within members’ cultural values and limits organizational change (Albert et al, 1995).
Two specific Mental Barriers hinder fundamental change as shown in fig. below

Figure: mental barriers and handling strategies adopted from Port et al, 1991

Using ideal organizational identity to change current identity: Identify current identity: “Who we are” and Ideal identity: “Who we want to be” then identity the gap between them (Thomas et al, 1991)
The Earthquake Metaphor: change should be large enough to overcome the inertia that plagues large organizations while avoiding catastrophic side effects of massive revolution. As shown in fig. below.

Figure: the earthquake metaphor adopted from Albert et al, 1995

The Six steps for implementing change as described by Roger et al (1994) are as follows:

Best regards,

February 18, 2008

Organizational Advantages from Partnering

It is recommended to read the posting titled: "Why Partnering in Organizations" to get an overview about Partnering general benefits, then read onwards for a deeper analysis of specific "Organizational Advantages from Partnering":

First: Learning Flexible Organization:
The environmental changes of organizational environments have forced a shift in the high leverage points of high performance from Bureaucratic to Flexible organizations.

Bureaucratic organizations perform structural changes to adapt to the changing environment. If these changes don’t fit with the existing culture, they will not be successfully implemented. Emphasizing on the great influence that culture has on both short and long term organizational performance; Flexible Organizations ensure that CULTURAL change must precede STRUCTURAL change. Fig. below list changes according to their depth in the cultural hierarchy.

Figure: changes and their depth in hierarchy
On the long run, the organization will be able to learn from all stakeholders (involved in partnering process) and evolve into a Learning Organization (LO) Fig. below. Strategy developments / initiatives will then emerge at all organizational levels not only the highest levels.

Figure: partnering leading to Learning Organization

Second: Higher Empowerment Levels
When partnering calls all stakeholders to develop shared objectives, trust and open communication, this will encourage more involvement at all levels and among all stakeholders. The overall power of the organization (the sum of power of people within the organization) increases also due to the increased number of “active” powers compared to traditional bureaucratic organizations.
Third: The Target Model
Target Culture (‘Adaptive Culture’ characterized by the virtuous cycle in fig. below) will enable target “Organic Organization” That uses key competencies to bring together other organizations in temporary configurations for particular projects (Fit with the environment and make economic sense).

January 3, 2008

Why Partnering in Organizations?

We are looking for a simple cultural change process to bridge our present into the desired future; a method that can be “strategically staged” and easily implemented by our managers. Partnering provided answers to all these and more as explained hereafter.
Considering the Key elements of partnering as a start: commitment, equity, trust, development of mutual goals and objectives, implementation, continuous evaluation, timely responsiveness. These foster organizational development as shown in fig. below.

Figure: Partnering-adopted from Fisher, 1990

First: A Contract Friendly Process
Partnering uses a structured workshop process as a tool for building relationships and driving team performance. It presents a moral contract (charter) between project stakeholders committing to act with a “best for project” perspective.
Due to its moral nature, the partnering contract does not contradict with other contractual relationships but complements them to the best interest of all stakeholders (replace legalistic win-lose with a synergistic win-win culture). Statistics support this declaration since litigations decreased significantly when partnering was introduced.

Second: A Performance Driver
It is precarious to maintain high performance in our organization. There are some “momentary” performance boosts like technological advantages, great leaders, downsizing, and the like (Kotter and Haskett, 1992). However it is partnering that provides the two key aspects for “maintaining” high performance:
o Organizational Flexibility
o Motivating organizational people to maintain potential.

Third: National Cultures’ Integration
As stated earlier, partnering is based on some values like trust, open communications and shared objectives; different nations have these values at different levels of their cultural behaviors. Therefore, the depth of the Organizational cultural change process will vary according to the gap to be closed between Partnering and National values.
Partnering can extend either horizontally (across departments/equal stakeholders) or vertically (along the hierarchy). In both cases, we need to “accept” the existing national culture’s values and modify the partnering process to better fit with these values. The importance of this concept escalates when we work across different cultures (Hofstede, 1980)

with more to follow on this topic,


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