Author Archives: Lisa Drake Schober

About Lisa Drake Schober

I am a 4th generation Nevadan that works at a large gaming company in Reno managing special projects related to IT, Pricing, and Promotions. Outside of work and school, I am an active member in several Masonic Organizations: Order of the Eastern Star, Daughters of the Nile, and Job’s Daughters, where have gotten the opportunity to lead two of the organizations, plan and organize events, and build lasting relationships. I also enjoy baking and surrounding myself around family and friends.

The Target’s on the Project Manager

As a project manager, you often feel like you have a target on your back when something does not go well, you hit a roadblock, overlooked something or maybe your project results in failure.  Yes, these each are not fun memories to have and share with others, but most of these challenges you face provide you with a great learning opportunity.  Yes, is is difficult to foresee all challenges that you may encounter in a project, but one thing that you can control is how you handle, face, and resolve these challenges after they occur.

When you hit a roadblock or mistake or failure, I make time to fully understand what caused me to get to that state in a project to learn from it.  Below are the steps I follow to help me further investigate the issue:

  • Set up a meet with all of the stakeholders to fully understand the mistake or challenge
  • Lay down the foundation/guidelines of the meeting by saying we are not here to point fingers at everyone for an hour, but rather understand the issue
  • Walk through each step of the process to identify all trigger points that caused the issue
  • Document the issues, so you can learn from it
  • Discuss how to proceed, how to fix it, & move on
  • Take time to reflect upon the issue for yourself

I have faced several successes in life, but also my fair share of failures.  I would not be where I am or who I am today without these experiences that I have faced, learned from, and moved forward with.   We have all have our up days and down days, but the best thing we can all do is keep our head up, admit to our mistakes & apologize when needed, and simply never give up, but rather just keep learning & growing as a person!

What challenges or mistakes did you learn the most from?

The image I used in this post is a picture my dad had posted on his wall at work and is definitely one visual that comes to mind when life brings me challenges.  

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New Year, New Project Manager Attitude

This past year, 2011, my workplace decided to close our global organization down for 10 days total between Christmas and New Years for cost efficiencies (power, building maintenance, limited staff) and required us to use our discretionary time off (DTO).  At first, I actually bummed, as normally that 1 week is really quiet with so many out of the office, so you can get caught up with a lot of work before the new year begins.  I will say though, as the time came closer and closer to the break and during my time away, my thought process changed.   Take a moment and imagine yourself taking off time from work for longer than a week, where all of your other co-workers have the time off too and will not be sending you e-mails, calling you or even missing meetings.   This option provided all of us a way to all disconnect ourselves from work and enjoy spending time with our family & friends and making time for ourselves to relaxing at bit and recharge our batteries.

During my time off, I got to spend time with several of my family members and friends over coffee, dinner, movies, taking walking, and simply just talking to others.  I also took time to reflect upon 2011 and thought about what I want to accomplish next in 2012 and in the next 5 years, such as:

  • Where I what to be/go on a professional level
  • Time allocated to spend time with family & friends
  • Places to travel
  • Activities/Hobbies I want to do for myself
  • Classes I want to take
  • Organizations I want to join/support
  • Books I want to read
  • Make time for me for my own physical & mental health

Of course, it is not my intention to come across as bragging about my time off at all, as not everyone got to experience a break like I was grateful for.  My intention is to ask each of you to take a moment to reflect on yourself and found out what is important to you or what makes you happy and make time for it–DO IT!  Take a few days off or week, even if everyone else is still working for you to recharge once in awhile.   The last time I took that much time off work was back in high school, let alone taking a day or two off in the past years, so taking that time off allowed me to see what is important in life through a different lens.  You only live life once, so live it to the fullest!  I hope all of you had a fantastic holiday season!

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How Do You Gauge Success in a Project?

Success can mean different things to everyone.  For example, if you completed the tasks you set out for your day, then that most likely means a success to you.  So what makes a project successful?  Is a project successful by answering yes to any of the below questions?

  • Does the project meet the established time and budget criteria?
  • What beneficial impact does this project have on the customer?
  • Has the project meet its return on investment?
  • Has the project altered the infrastructure of the organization to increase future business success and customer impact?
  • Is it simply enough just to the complete the project?

Main Four Items that are Success Measures with the Ability to Complete the Project:

  1. According to the desired specifications outlined in the project plan
  2. Within the specified budget
  3. Within the promised time frame
  4. Maintain keeping the customer and stakeholders happy

Importance to Measuring Success

  • If you cannot measure the SMART goal, you cannot control it, but which if you can’t control it, you cannot manage it.
  • Ability to assess the current performance to monitor and control the project to make sure the project object is met on time, within budget, and to the satisfaction of stakeholders
  • Adjust any project initiatives during the project to take action sooner, rather than later
  • Set goals to achieve an objective
  • Ability to anticipate any potential deviation that needs to be corrected
  • Is the quality of the product the project is delivery up to expectations
  • Improved quality of communication by keeping everyone informed, on track, and involved in the project

Tools to Help You Measure Project Success:

  • Give a survey to the stakeholders in a project to see what feedback you receive
  • Have a lessons learned session
  • Complete a SWOT analysis on each element of the project (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats)
  • Project Budget Comparison between the beginning and the end of the project
  • Project Schedule:  Was the project completed on time?
  • Project Scope Outcome how the stakeholders expected?
  • End-user opinions of the project

What other tools do you use to measure a successful project?

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Project MBA

As some of you may know, I have been working on my Master’s in Business Administration Degree at our local University for the past 2 years.  After several group projects, homework, presentations, and exams, this rewarding project came to an end last Saturday, December 10th, by walking across stage at graduation and enjoying a graduation party with family and friends.

Over the course of my time in school, I have met some neat life-long friends and mentors, experienced some interesting project groups & discussions, enjoyed some insightful lectures, developed a great learning toolbox full of helpful techniques and tips, and several great memories.  Since this project’s closure, I have been asked by several individuals, “What’s your next set of goals?”

  • Are you going to get your PhD?
  • Start your own business or become a manager?
  • Travel the world?
  • Teach a college course?
  • Start a family of your own?

Honestly, it is an interesting question to reflect upon before answering, especially when you have completed one project in your live, such as school, for which you have done for a very long time.  Yes, in this case, learning never stops, but maybe sitting in a formal education setting may.

So, what’s next?  Most importantly, I am excited to spend more time with my family and friends and thank them for all of their love and support they have given me, as I could not have completed this accomplishment without them.  I plan to enjoy cooking, baking, go on vacations, relax (if I know what that word means J), but I look forward to what is about to come and is written down in my next chapter in my book of life.  Life is a journey and you don’t know what path you’ll head down, but it’s nice to have an open door of several opportunities before me. 

What is your next project or goals you are reaching for this upcoming New Year?


Project Portfolio Management

Project Portfolio Management (PPM) is more than running several projects under one umbrella, as each portfolio needs to be assessed in terms of business value and strategy of the organization.

Video: Develop an Effective PPM Strategy, Featuring: Barry Cousins, Info Tech RG

What is Project Portfolio Management (PPM):

Organizing and managing projects and programs as a portfolio of investments that contributes to the entire organization’s success.  Portfolio management focuses on meeting strategic goals, while project management emphasizes on tactical goals.

Success from Project Portfolio Management:

  • Better project planning
  • Varies projects in the organization (project size/goals)
  • Balance risks
  • Helps to align resources with business requirements
  • Less failed projects
  • Align projects with your organization’s goals
  • Helps to marry up the cost and resource effort with the project schedule
  • Decreased chance of missing out on business opportunities (Delays in time-to-market for new products, applications, services or IT initiatives)
  • Better investment decisions by helping to select & analyze projects from a strategic perspective

Steps to Develop a PPM Strategy:

  1. Clarify Goals
  2. Align Processes with Goals
  3. Select tools based on organization’s processes
  4. PPM Strategy Development Tool

Skills for PPM Organizer:

  • Strong financial and analytical skills
  • Experienced project management skills
  • Good business background
  • Ability to understand how projects and programs can contribute to meting an organization’s strategic goals

PPM Features To Consider in Your PPM Software Selection:

  • Project Evaluation Process
  • Cost/Benefit Measurement & Tracking
  • Schedule/Progress Reporting (Real-time enterprise reporting and support for ad-hoc queries)
  • Dashboards Used for Communication to enhance visibility & maintain compliance (Top-down portfolio planning that interfaces with bottom-up project plans)
  • Resource & Capacity Planning

PPM Example Software Solution:

What PPM Software or Tools do you use to increase your Project Portfolio success in your organization?


Project Turkey Management

While preparing a traditional Thanksgiving meal can be a daunting task for any individual, I thought to myself, what better way to look at this most anticipated meal that comes once a year, in terms of project management!  First, we’ll look at the 5 Phases of Project Turkey Management.

5 Phases of Project Turkey Management:

  1. Initiate: Come up with the idea of Thanksgiving Dinner plans with family and friends
  2. Plan: Gather recipes, make a shopping list, make a WBS, make sure you communicate plans to family/friends
  3. Execute: Cook the dinner
  4. Monitor/Control: Make sure the food is ready to enjoy by all
  5. Closing: Meal ends and ask your guests to provide feedback on the meal

Create a WBS for the Thanksgiving Meal: 

  • Outline the highest level of the courses of the meal: Appetizers, Salad, Main Course, Dessert, and Drinks
  • Under each course, add the individual dishes you wish to serve
  • Further sub-divide the individual dishes by adding the major & minor ingredients, which helps you to prepare the shopping list or “project bill of materials”

How can Project Management Skills help with the Thanksgiving Meal?

  • Help plan your holiday dinner with all the dishes ready to serve at the desired time
  • Planning ahead helps to ensure you have the sufficient time and room to bring it all together at the desired target for a large crowd.
  • Help reduce the number of trips and time spent in the grocery store
  • Help organize and determine which dishes you should prepare first & cook to optimize on your oven/microwave/stove time
  • Increase efficiencies in the cooking process
  • Reduce the number of surprises

Have you ever planned your special Thanksgiving meal using tools from your Project Management toolbox?

I am very thankful for my family, friends, and tangible things, such as a home and food, but also for my followers of my blog.  I started this project management blog earlier this year and I have been absolutely blessed with the opportunity to meet so many project managers from around the world and learn from you!  I hope each of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family friends and enjoyed some yummy turkey with all of the fixing! 🙂

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Project Procurement Management

Procurement is used in project management to acquire goods and/or services from outside sources for several different reasons in a project, such as:

  1. Reducing both fixed and recurrent costs
  2. Extra help during peak performance periods
  3. Access to specific skills and technologies
  4. Allow your organization to focus on their core competencies

Problems with Outsourcing:

  • Less control over the aspects of projects that suppliers carry out
  • Organization becomes too dependent on certain suppliers, which leads to a high risk if they go out of business or lose key personnel
  • Security issues due to intellectual property, integrity of data and reliability of infrastructure of offshore locations

Procurement Process:

  • Plan: Determine what you want to procure (make-buy decision, contract to use, statement of work definition), when, and how (source selection criteria)
  • Execute: Research potential sellers, conduct interviews, award contracts.  Review: resource calendars, change request, project plan updates, and project documents
  • Monitor & Controlling: Administer procurement, managing relationships with sellers, performance evaluation, manage change requests and project plan updates
  • Closing: Close procurements, settlement of contract, resolution of open items, and asses procurement process “lessons learned”

Develop a Procurement Management Plan that includes:

  • Contract to be used
  • Procurement document/template
  • WBS & Statement of Work (SOW)
  • Roles & Responsibilities
  • Evaluation Matrix
  • Constraints & Assumptions
  • Process for coordinating procurement decisions & change requests
What tips do you have in regards to procuring outside resources?

 Project Management Plan Example

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