Creating an environment where projects thrive

Project Ecology Online (PEO) is a website with an a la carte menu of content that gives individuals and companies the tools and know-how to combine Project Management, Facilitation and Organizational Change Management in order to create an environment where projects can thrive – in other words a full methodology translating business strategy into results.

After 20+ years in Project Management as a practitioner and a coach, I have decided to collect the wealth of templates and processes I have developed, successfully applied on projects and used in educational settings and share them; not just with my immediate clients, but with other professionals who are looking to add useful tools to their repertoire and with companies that are developing a Project Management function in their organization.

What makes PEO different from so many of the other Project Management tools out there?

Several years ago I attended a speech by Professor Ryan Nelson of the University of Virginia (UVA) and it changed my professional life and the way I viewed projects, project success and my own skills as a project manager.

For over 7 years Professor Nelson conducted retrospectives of projects with graduate students of the Management of IT program at UVA’s McIntire School of Commerce. The retrospectives involved a total of 74 organizations and concluded that project success measured by the Triple Constraint of Scope, Schedule and Resources is insufficient in predicting whether an organization actually reaps the benefits of their investment into a project. Researchers submitted that success should be augmented by what they called “outcome criteria”, such as the Use of the project deliverables by the appropriate stakeholders, growth and Learning of the organization as a direct result of the project and demonstrable Value to the organization in the form of improved efficiency or effectiveness.

During the retrospectives, project managers, executives, users and project sponsors (i.e. all stakeholder groups) were asked to rank the 6 criteria – Scope, Schedule, Resources, Value, Use and Learning – by level of importance. It became clear that Value and Use (i.e. two of the outcome criteria) were the clear favorites with all groups, EXCEPT for the project managers.

Because most of a project manager’s training addresses performance goals tied to the Triple Constraint, it would explain why out of the interviewed groups of the UVA study, only project managers assigned them primary importance. Almost all of the typical project management techniques, such as planning and project control, are geared to keeping Scope, Schedule and Resources in line. I started to ask myself what I could do in order to provide my customers with the “Outcome Criteria” which they valued so much more.

I realized that if I focused on Value, I needed to be involved in the early stages of project definition as soon as possible, preferably during the discussions customer stakeholders have when they try and determine if they should even undertake the project. The all too common practice is to assign a project manager when a project is already scoped and to give them just about enough time to throw together a quick plan without understanding the business context of the project; a practice that handicaps the outcome of any project. I also found that a lot of the skills needed for providing value on a project are tied to people skills and emotional intelligence, such as expectation management, mediating between conflicting stakeholder groups and establishing consensus about success criteria.

With regards to Use and Learning I understood that adoption of the project outcomes by the organization was key. In order achieve this, the stakeholder community needed to be involved early in the process to ensure the project deliverables were not just tolerated, but welcomed. In other words, people need to embrace and actively use the products and services provided by the project. To achieve this, a greater effort needed to be put on scoping, planning and delivery of the project, because I needed to allocate more time and resources to prepare my stakeholders, especially the user communities.

Over the years I have worked hard to augment my traditional project manager skills with the knowledge of two additional professionals: those of an Organizational Change Manager and those of a trained Facilitator. An Organizational Change Manager knows how to prepare a stakeholder community for the adoption of the changes that project delivery entails, thereby ensuring Use and Learning. A Facilitator is skilled in obtaining information, assisting in the collaboration of diverse roles and teams, and mediating between conflicting interests and can therefore help an organization to understand and articulate the anticipated Value of a project.

PEO is the culmination of this professional journey. I have put together a turnkey solution that works with any project management style from Waterfall to Agile, augmented with tools and processes that integrate Organizational Change Management and Facilitation into the project lifecyle.

If you are interested in learning more come visit My tools can help you enhance your project management skills and your project success!

As a thank you for your interest I would like to give out the discount code LAUNCH4, which you can apply to any purchase for a 25% discount for the next 7 days.

I also invite you to join our Project Ecology Online LinkedIn Group for discussions and to post your own questions and feedback.