December 14, 2017

New Ways for Canadian Government Projects

If you're interested in agile, change and projects, the CBC has an excellent article on these topics: Canadian Digital Service takes startup approach to building better IT for government.

If you have two minutes to spare, take a look at the video "Shopify's lessons for the public service" in the article. Hint: failure is not a bad word.

November 22, 2017

Statistics on Project Failure

Most Common Causes of Project Failure:

  • Changing priorities within organization – 40%
  • Inaccurate requirements – 38%
  • Change in project objectives – 35%
  • Undefined risks/opportunities – 30%
  • Poor communication – 30%
  • Undefined project goals – 30%
  • Inadequate sponsor support – 29%
  • Inadequate cost estimates – 29%
  • Inaccurate task time estimate – 27%
  • Resource dependency – 25%
  • Poor change management – 25%
  • Inadequate resource forecasting – 23%
  • Inexperienced project manager – 20%
  • Limited resources – 20%
  • Procrastination within team – 13%
  • Task dependency – 11%
  • Other – 9%

source: Project Management Institute: Pulse of the Profession 2015: Capturing the Value of Project Management 2015

November 16, 2017

Controlling Project Stakeholders

Can we? Probably not.

As PMI says in its latest edition of the PMBOK:

"Because project managers rarely, if ever, have the ability to control stakeholders, Control Stakeholder Engagement was renamed to Monitor Stakeholder Engagement." (page 650, PMBOK)

November 09, 2017

What We Focus On

The other day I found myself focusing on some negative events in the news. Looking for inspiration, I stared at my library of books. One book jumped out to me (felt like it literally did!)

"QBQ!", by John G. Miller, is a great book of not-so-common sense. (The full title is Practicing Personal Accountability at Work and Life - QBQ! The Question Behind the Question®, What to Really Ask Yourself to Eliminate Blame, Complaining, and Procrastination.)

Mr. Miller talks about making better choices through changing the questions we ask ourselves and others. His three simple guidelines for creating a QBQ are:

1. Begin with "What" or "How" (not "Why," "When," or "Who").
2. Contain an "I" (not "they," "them," "we," or "you").
3. Focus on action.

As he says, "What can I do?" fits the guidelines perfectly.

So, instead of thinking, "Why are they acting like that?" I started re-focusing on where I was and what I could do.

Hey, sounds like some good things are happening in the world now. Funny how that happens!

October 13, 2017

Will Working on Projects Help You Be Less Stressed?

I was talking with a business manager the other day about organizing a presentation for her group. She said, "It's always so hectic around here, people aren't so organized. Let's see if they have time to attend the session."

I replied, "Well, there you go. Project management can help with that!"

How can working with a project mindset help with organization?

First, there's the defining of the project itself and its scope. What are we doing and not doing? Clarifying that will help keep focus and eliminate unnecessary efforts.

Then there's the schedule. What has to be done next? Can someone else do part of the work concurrently to save time? Knowing what is to be done when can help reduce the running-around-with-the-head-cut-off routine.

And there's risk analysis. What should we take care of now and what money can we put aside for in case uncertain events occur? Then we can rest assured we have taken care of the what-if's and what-may-happen and get on with the job.

These are just a few examples of how organizing work into projects can reduce stress. But let's not forget communications – lack of proper communications can cause many headaches in a project. That's why identifying who is interested in the project, who can affect it positively and negatively, and how the stakeholders want to be communicated with, is so important.

If we can define these things at the beginning of the project and keep an eye on them as we go along, we will have a stronger project.

September 21, 2017

Where's the Wizard?

The movie, The Wizard of Oz, tells the story of a girl and her dog who were picked up by a cyclone and transplanted to the Land of Oz. There she met a scarecrow who wanted a brain, a tin man who wanted a heart, and a lion who wanted courage. The girl, Dorothy, wanted to get home.

Then they hear there's a wizard who can give them these things.

When they get to the wizard, they discover he is a small man behind a curtain. But, along the way, they have found what they were looking for: they had it inside themselves all along.

Training is like that. You know you want to know something and you seek out how to learn it. But, you wouldn't have even known to look if you hadn't had the inkling of the concepts within you.

Training helps you discover what you already know. Things are unveiled to you.

BrenDaniel provides individualized PMP training, as well as classroom training. Ask us for an assessment of your own or your organization's project management capabilities and needs.

September 13, 2017

Want to Write Your PMP Exam Before the Test Changes?

The sixth edition of the PMBOK is now out. This means the Project Management Professional (PMP) exam will change soon. The Project Management Institute (PMI) has said that will happen in the first quarter of 2018.

What does this mean to PMP aspirants? If you have studied using the fifth edition, you will likely want to get your exam written before the test changes.

If you are in this situation, and are looking for a refresher course or individualized training for the PMP, we have what you are looking for: classroom training, online learning, and one-to-one study sessions. Get in touch!

August 29, 2017

Have You Got Plans?

Last week my daughter and I were sitting down to breakfast. I asked Shannon what her plans were for the day and she told me. Then she asked me the same thing.

I said, "I plan to have x results."

Shannon retorted, "That's not a plan!"

"What?" I asked.

She reminded me that a plan has to do with what you are going to do, not the results you want. Touche, Shannon! (I should know better. 😉)

June 28, 2017

The Emperor's New Clothes

My friend Amy was telling me about a project she was on. Being new to the industry, she had asked her project manager (PM) for more information on a term. The PM blustered through an explanation. My friend left the conversation, still not understanding.

The next day, Amy decided she would go back to the PM and ask some more questions. Amy told the PM she just didn’t get what the term meant. With that, her PM admitted she didn’t really know either. They decided to look into it together.

When Amy told me about this situation, I thought of the story of The Emperor’s New Clothes. Sometimes we are afraid to admit we don’t know something because we are supposed to be the expert. (In the story, everyone can see the Emperor has no clothes but the only one who will say this is a young child.) However, admitting to not knowing something is really a sign of strength. After all, who knows everything?

Probably even more importantly, the manager admitting her lack of knowledge built more trust with Amy. Only by admitting we don’t know can we grow, both personally and professionally.

June 26, 2017

Grow Halifax with Project Management Skills

We are very pleased to be partnering with the Halifax Chamber of Commerce to promote the value of project management in Nova Scotia through the Grow Halifax initiative.

To support you, we are offering these different project management programs in Halifax.
(dates updated June 26, 2017)

Project Management Professional (PMP) Certification
This course is 10 half days and designed specifically for people who intend to obtain their PMP certification.
  • September 21 - November 23 (8:30 AM to Noon each Thursday)

The Project Management Fundamentals
This course is for people interested in applying project management concepts immediately to their work. It is recommended that participants interested in taking the PMP Certification course take this course first.
  • July 24-26, 2017
  • September 25-27, 2017
  • November 20-22, 2017

Navigating Project Success: Applying Project Management
This program is for business owners and those who work for them on projects. It is especially useful for those who have the responsibility to ensure their projects are completed on time and on budget.
  • December 4-8, 2017

Please express your interest at

May 25, 2017

Who Needs to Know?

Have you ever had someone say, "You don’t need to know that; leave that part to me," when working on a project?

After your first reaction ("Huh?"), if you are like me, you would be thinking, "Hmm, I asked because I needed to know."

What happened here? It seems as though clear roles and responsibilities have not been defined. One person thought it was their responsibility to do that part of the work and didn’t realize another person also needed to know.

What could have helped? A RACI chart would have been useful. RACI stands for responsible, accountable, consulted and informed. It would show who is:

  • (R)esponsible for the work (to get the job done)
  • (A)ccountable for the work (to report on it)
  • Needs to be (C)onsulted on the work (their input gotten)
  • Needs to be (I)nformed about the work (perhaps their part of the project depends on it)

Typically, a RACI chart is drawn with activities down the left-hand column, and roles or people’s names along the top row.

Here is an example of a RACI chart from

It's a very handy tool indeed to prevent some conflicts from occurring.

April 06, 2017

Root Cause Analysis Reveals Options

This past week I have witnessed two miracles.

For the past four months, my son Zachary has been unable to walk on his right foot and since February he could not talk due to a violent cough.

After taking him to many doctors and health professionals of all types (24 altogether!), no cure was found. Until we came upon Dr. MacAdam, a chiropractor who corrected the problem in two visits. With some manipulations of the spine and neck, Zachary was walking and talking again. (Thanks Dr. MacAdam - and to all who helped along the way.)

It would be good to know for sure why the problems occurred, though we may never know with certainty. In the meantime, we can look at possible causes, and possibly rule some out. Below is my simple root cause analysis diagram (also called a fishbone or Ishikawa diagram) pertaining to the situation.

Such a flexible tool that can help in many cases.

March 29, 2017

Do All Project Managers Follow the Same Process?

In May, I am giving a talk at PDSummit 2017 in Halifax, comparing the project management processes used in the television and construction industries. Having taught project managers from many different industries, I have seen that the process is generally the same for all projects. The terms used may be different but, going from one industry to another, the five process groups (Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring and Controlling, and Closing) seem to be followed by project managers everywhere. But is this really true?

To test my theory I am conducting research, gathering input from project managers in the television and construction industries on their project management processes.

I have a request for you: if you work, or have worked, in either the TV or construction industry, would you please have a look at the questions and send me your input?

Individual replies will be kept confidential but I will be sharing a summary and highlights of my research. (If you really want your name stated, though, I will make sure to do so!)

Click here to answer this brief survey.

If you would like to give any other information on your projects, I would be glad to receive it - email me. Thank you very much!

March 22, 2017

Why Record Lessons Learned?

In projects, it is a good practice to document 'lessons learned'. These are things we have discovered to do - or not do - to make our projects stronger. For example, we may have learned to order supplies earlier, to have team meetings in the mornings, or to print reports to give to the sponsor.

According to the PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge), lessons learned are: "The knowledge gained during a project which shows how project events were addressed or should be addressed in the future with the purpose of improving future performance."

Documenting lessons learned benefits our current project, and ours and other's future projects.

Lessons learned are often gathered by teams in end-of-phase or project closing meetings. Like any facilitated meeting, it is useful to have a meeting leader and someone who records the discussion for these meetings.

Another way to gather these lessons is through a shared document, for example, a Google document. Using such a document allows team members to input the lessons learned as they occur. I can say this is one lesson I have learned: to not leave documentation to the end of the week or the month, but to record things as closely to their occurrence as possible.

It’s not just the fact of having the lessons learned for later use that makes them so important; it’s not even just the getting together of the team to record them, or the ability of team members to provide input to project processes. It is the positive outlook generated in the team by knowing the project is continuously looking for improvements - looking 'on the bright side', you might say.

After all, projects are for learning.

March 15, 2017

Deficiencies: The Achilles’ Heel of Construction Projects

This week, please welcome Paul Behner, an accomplished project manager in the construction industry, as my guest writer.

Deficiencies are a standard line item on most, if not all, construction projects.

Construction project deficiency is defined as a characteristic or condition that fails to meet a standard, or is not in compliance with a requirement or specification, and is sometimes referred to as defective work.

Frequently, the term deficiency is confused or misinterpreted as incomplete work and, more times than not, it's used under lien act legislation to delay substantial completion milestones which trigger holdback releases. In reality, a deficiency is not the same as incomplete work. From a legal perspective, only incomplete work affecting the beneficial use of the facility or asset intended from the project performance determines substantial completion.

Without evaluating the global issues surrounding the interpretation of substantial completion, it is fair to say that both deficiencies and incomplete work are routinely misunderstood.

There is inherent ongoing risk to the general contractor who is responsible for contract performance of all trade subcontractors and suppliers. This includes all work until project close-out, with the exception of warranty work. The ongoing issue of ineffective deficiency management cannot be improved without first breaking down the problem. Until then never-ending deficiencies will inevitably remain the Achilles' heel of successful project delivery and, in turn, erode profitability and customer satisfaction.

Deficiencies are commonly cited as the barrier to successful project completion. To get to the core issue, it is more effective to consider a deeper understanding of project management which goes beyond the deficiency issue. The General Contracting business is as much about time sensitive delivery of a specified product or facility, as it is about operating a business. The business strategy ought to be focused on exceptional project delivery, therefore requiring exceptional project management proficiency.

Without question, deficiencies are an anticipated task and risk of every project and should be managed holistically within the project management plan. Whether deficiencies are the catch-all reference for incomplete or defective work being a chronic issue plaguing success, a project management plan that includes the five phases will greatly improve project close-out and overall performance. There is only one solution to effectively manage construction deficiencies and that is by way of a project management plan with improved guidelines on project close-out.

Paul Behner has spent 30 years in the construction sector. He provides strategic consulting on the full-cycle management of a project from planning to execution to close out. Visit his website at

February 09, 2017

Projects: Helping Others Become Successful

I just read an article by Ross Simmonds on creating blogs. Most of it was about technical aspects of blogging - distribution and the like. But the last point struck me. It was general good advice for anyone at any time, and especially for project teams. He said:
"I’ve noticed something in the last few years that I wish I knew when I was 19:
It’s easier to become successful when you’re committed to helping others be successful.
When you make a commitment to helping the people around you achieve their dreams, the people around you tend to help you back."
I believe humanity is getting better and better at helping others become successful. The marches worldwide show how people from all over the word are attempting to help others achieve their dreams.

Nurses, healers and teachers often show a commitment to helping others. Project managers do, too, after all, that's what we do: help our customers achieve their goals (dreams) - big or small. We help our customers figure out what they really want when we clarify their requirements - defining the dream. While we are ensuring the project stays on track, we are helping customers in goal realization. Incorporating changes along the way is important, too - the refinements in the dream need to be made as the picture becomes more clear.

So, congratulations to project managers and those working on projects for making dreams come true!

January 17, 2017

What is the PMBOK?

The articles I write have to do with project management. The document upon which I base much of my viewpoint is the Guide to Project Management Body of Knowledge, or PMBOK (pim-bok) for short. This article gives a short overview of the PMBOK. I hope you find it useful if you are preparing for your PMP exam, and maybe you will find it informative if you are not!

The PMBOK is a document that basically describes how to manage projects well. This book has an appendix (annex) that describes the order of managing a project. However, the main part of the PMBOK is organized by knowledge areas and their related processes.

You could think of a knowledge area as a topic. There are ten such topics that the PMBOK consists of: integration (putting it all together), scope, time, cost, quality, human resources, communications, risk, procurement and stakeholders. These are the areas we need to consider when managing a project.

There is a chapter for each knowledge area.

There are also forty-seven processes, with each process belonging to a process group. There are five process groups: initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing. The process groups and processes represent what we, as project managers, do in a project. Each chapter lays out the processes that relate to the knowledge area, in order of process group. The processes discuss inputs, tools and techniques, and outputs.

Examples of processes are: Develop Project Charter, Manage Project Team, and Identify Risks.

I hope this description has been of use to you. For more information, you can purchase the PMBOK online (Amazon works well, or through You can also find the PMBOK in many bookstores.