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Wednesday, 01 November 2017 17:15

Goals, Strategies and Objectives Explained

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this content is from the TenStep weekly "tips" email dated 2017.01.11

Goals, Strategies and Objectives Explained

The definition of goals, strategies and objectives can vary from company to company. Here is the TenStep definition. I think it is a good one.  

Business Goals

TenStep does not use the term “project goals”. Goals are set at the organization level – not the project level. Objectives are at the project level.

Goals are high-level statements that describe what are organization is trying to focus on for the next three to five years. They are vague (on purpose) and they are direction-setting. Because the goal is at a high-level, it will take many projects over a long period of time to achieve the goal. The goal should reference the business benefit in terms of cost, speed and/or quality. (We call this "better, faster, cheaper".)

Goals are vague, but not too vague. If you can measure the achievement of your goal in one year (i.e. 25% revenue increase by the end of the year), it is written at too low a level and is more of an objective. If your goal is not achievable through any combination of projects, it is probably written at too high a level. Perhaps it is more of a vision.

Business Strategies

Business goals tell you what is important. Strategies tell you how you are going to achieve the goals. There may be many ways to achieve your business goals. Your organization’s strategies are a high-level set of directives that articulate how the organization will achieve the goals, and ultimately move toward its long-term vision. Strategies are more inwardly focused and usually try to leverage internal capabilities. For example, many organizations want to get better at project management. Getting better at project management will not directly align to a "better, faster, cheaper" goal. It is more of a "how" so it better aligns to strategy. Your organization could have a strategy to execute projects more effectively and a project management initiative can align to this strategy. 

(By the way, your company's Strategic Plan likely includes both goals and strategy statements.)

Project Objectives

Objectives are concrete statements that describe the things the project is trying to achieve. An objective should be written at level that it can be evaluated at the conclusion of a project to see whether it was achieved. A well-worded objective can be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound (SMART). SMART is a technique for wording the objective. An objective does not absolutely have to be SMART to be valid.

Objectives are important because they show an agreement between the project manager and the project sponsor on the main purpose of the project. The objectives should be written in a way that they are understandable by all of the project stakeholders. Objectives are also valuable since they provide alignment to organization goals and strategies. The project objectives should align to your organization goals or strategies. 


At TenStep we are dedicated to helping organizations achieve their goals and strategies through the successful execution of critical business projects. We provide training, consulting and products for organizations to help them set up an environment where projects are successful. This includes help with strategic planning, portfolio management, program / project management, Project Management Offices (PMOs) and project lifecycles. For more information, visit www.TenStep.com or contact us at admin@TenStep.com
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this content is from the TenStep weekly "tips" email dated 2017.25.10

Is Technology Changing the Nature of Project Management?

From time to time, I am asked about whether new technology is changing the nature of project management. It seems like technology is changing faster and faster all the time. But is technology changing project management to any degree?

This is an interesting question. Certainly, there are a couple aspects of projects where technology comes into play.

  • It is true that many projects are becoming more and more technically complex. This is true for many projects - IT, pharma, engineering, finance, etc. It seems like many projects have some tool or technology component. However, this is not a project management matter, but it is a characteristic of the products we are building and the project tools we are using. 

  • The tools we use for project management are changing. This includes tools for  scheduling, risk management, communications and more. Client-server tools replaced mainframe tools, which have all been replaced by web tools. Today, many of the project management tools run in the cloud. The tools have also become more complex to satisfy the needs of project managers today.

Of course, Agile processes allow us to deliver solutions more quickly through short iterations. Many of these Agile projects are technology projects, but the project management approach is driven more by philosophy rather than by technology.    

All that being said, in my opinion, the actual project management discipline has not changed that much based strictly on technology drivers. You still have to manage scope. You still have issues to resolve. You still have to manage risks, etc. The various aspects of planning and managing work as a project do not necessarily change based on the technology. For example, it is true that there are new technologies for helping you build and manage a schedule. But the basic mechanics of building and managing a schedule have not really changed.

There may be some aspects of communication that have been affected by technology. Technology has given us the ability to communicate faster and in more real-time. There are also better tools for collaboration and sharing. This may be an area where technology has affected to fundamentals of project management.

So, to answer the question from the beginning of the article - has technology changed project management? In my opinion - not so much. The nature of the projects themselves may be impacted by technology, but the fundamentals of planning, cost management, schedule management, risk management, scope management, etc. have not changed so much. Project management is process-driven. Although technology has impacted the automation and speed of these processes, I think the fundamental nature of project management has not been changed much by technology.

At TenStep we are dedicated to helping organizations achieve their goals and strategies through the successful execution of critical business projects. We provide training, consulting and products for organizations to help them set up an environment where projects are successful. This includes help with strategic planning, portfolio management, program / project management, Project Management Offices (PMOs) and project lifecycles. For more information, visit www.TenStep.com or contact us at admin@TenStep.com
Thursday, 19 October 2017 02:54

Seven Ways to Take Responsibility for Your Own Skills

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this content is from the TenStep weekly "tips" email dated 2017.18.10

Seven Ways to Take Responsibility for Your Own Skills

Many companies do not see the need to spend money on training. However, it is not just the responsibility of your company to train you. You need to take personal responsibility for keeping your knowledge and skills up-to-date. The high price of training classes can be a deterrent for people seeking to sharpen their skills. However, the good news is that there are many alternatives to traditional standup training classes. You should be creative in where you look for learning opportunities (or "learning events"). Some examples of non-classroom based training are as follows.

  1. The Internet. You should start any search on the internet. You might be surprised how many free resources are there. You will find free tutorials, discussion groups, training material, articles, expert columns, etc. If you want to be a better project manager, you will find hundreds of resources, templates and columns.

  2. Webinars. Many companies sponsor free seminars on the web – webinars. These are usually an hour or two in length, and include a live presentation and some opportunity for questions. In many cases they are sponsored by vendors, but the content is still very valuable in exchange for the short sales pitch you will receive. (TenStep has a large library of free webinars on our website.)

  3. e-Classes. This is a pre-recorded or pre-built class you take at your own pace. You may have to pay a fee for this more substantial learning event. However the price may be only a couple hundred dollars or less. These classes can vary in terms of value and quality, but your out-of-pocket investment is a lot lower as well.

  4. Books / e-books. This is learning the old fashioned way. Any subject worth learning is usually one that has a number of books available. The advantage of a book is that you get a vast amount of information for a relatively small price. Of course, you still have to invest the time to read the book once you buy it.

  5. Magazines. There are many project management and technical magazines available. In most cases they are available for free. These will provide articles and columns of interest. 

  6. Mentors. You may be able to locate a coach or mentor. These are people that will make some time available to discuss topics of interest. For instance, if you want to learn more about project management, you can discuss the profession and ask questions of an experienced project manager.

  7. Hands-on opportunities. The best way to learn new skills is to be able to apply them in the course of your job. You may be able to apply some creativity. If you are a team member, for instance, perhaps you can leverage your project management training into an opportunity to manage small projects. You may also be able to apply the new skills in your personal life through volunteer projects with your church or schools. The key is to be creative in looking for ways to convert “book skills” into on-the-job experience.

People need to take personal responsibility for their careers, including ensuring that they stay reasonably well versed in new skills. Training is a mind-set. You need to build learning events into your job on an ongoing basis. Be inquisitive and keep up on where your profession is going. There are no guarantees, but lifetime learners (employees and consultants) will always have an advantage in the job marketplace of the future. 


At TenStep we are dedicated to helping organizations achieve their goals and strategies through the successful execution of critical business projects. We provide training, consulting and products for organizations to help them set up an environment where projects are successful. This includes help with strategic planning, portfolio management, program / project management, Project Management Offices (PMOs) and project lifecycles. For more information, visit www.TenStep.com or contact us at admin@TenStep.com
Tuesday, 17 October 2017 00:11

Remind Yourself of the Value of Planning

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this content is from the TenStep weekly "tips" email dated 2017.11.10

Remind Yourself of the Value of Planning


How many times have you heard about or been involved in a project that struggled? Or perhaps it just was not as successful as it needed to be. Did you ever spend time looking back to see what caused the project to go wrong? If you did, chances are that you will have said, "You know, we should have spent more time planning."

Most projects have deadlines, and it seems they are getting shorter and shorter. Hitting aggressive deadlines puts pressure on the project manager to start the project as soon as possible. However, remember that urgent projects need to be finished sooner - not necessarily started sooner. The project will finish sooner if you do not have rework and chaos.

Before the project work begins, you need to spend time in up-front planning to make sure that the work is properly understood and agreed. This is not wasted time or 'overhead' time. This is the time the project manager spends ensuring that the project team and the sponsor have common perceptions of the project, when it will be complete, what it will cost, who will do the work and how the work will be done. Templates



 can help document the results of the planning process, but you still need to develop the content.At the end of a difficult project, the benefits of planning might be obvious. But the benefits are also known ahead of time as well. At a high-level, these benefits include:

  • Understanding and gaining agreement on project objectives, deliverables, scope, risk, cost, approach, etc. This ensures that the project team and sponsor agree on the work that is required.

  • Determining if the original business case is still valid. When the project was initially approved, the project cost and duration were probably estimated at a high-level – maybe up to ± 50%. Now that the project is starting, the estimates should be revalidated to get them closer to ± 15%. This additional refinement may result in the estimates ending up higher than before, and these higher numbers may make the business case unattractive. For instance, a project that requires 10,000 effort hours might make business sense. If the more detailed planning process results in a more refined estimate of 20,000 hours, the project may not make business sense anymore.

  • Making sure the resources you need are available when you need them. This is a result of creating the project schedule with resources assigned.

  • Providing a high-level baseline from which progress can be compared. This is a result of creating the milestone timeline based on the more detailed schedule.

  • Validating the processes used to manage the project ahead of time with the sponsor. The procedures that are used to manage the project should not be a surprise. They should be discussed and agreed to ahead of time. 

The effort required to define the work depends on the amount of information and the level of detail that need to be understood and documented. It should make sense that small projects need a shorter planning cycle and larger projects need a longer planning cycle. The duration required to plan the work depends on the length of time necessary to discover and document the information, as well as the time required to gain agreement and approval from the client.

At times, the project manager can get frustrated because of the difficulty in gaining agreement with the client on scope, schedule and cost. But that is exactly the reason this work is done ahead of time. Think of the problems you will encounter trying to gain agreement with the customer on scope, schedule or cost when the work has started and the deliverables are actually being produced.

The key is to plan the project well and finish it early - not plan poorly and finish late.



At TenStep we are dedicated to helping organizations achieve their goals and strategies through the successful execution of critical business projects. We provide training, consulting and products for organizations to help them set up an environment where projects are successful. This includes help with strategic planning, portfolio management, program / project management, Project Management Offices (PMOs) and project lifecycles. For more information, visit www.TenStep.com or contact us at admin@TenStep.com
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400Click Here to Listen to the Interview: http://bit.ly/PMPodcast-400
Read More: http://bit.ly/PMPodcast400

Becoming better at project management and by extension also becoming a better project manager does not necessarily mean learning about and then also implementing the latest tools, techniques or methodologies. Instead, it can simply mean that you start paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment and nonjudgmentally. That’s mindfulness.

Mindfulness as a business practice and leadership tool has seen a significant increase in press coverage lately. It originally started out as a means for improving yourself and your interactions with others but you will find that many leadership articles in the large business journals will make reference to it.

And so we are very glad to welcome Margaret Meloni (www.margaretmeloni.com) to look at Mindfulness for Project Managers with us today. We will give you a definition, discuss the benefits, but most importantly we go through a number of familiar project management situations to see how mindfulness will help us improve and become better leaders.

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