Archive | Project Management

100+ Tried & True Problem-Solving Tools

Sense making illustration by Kelvy Bird.

Too many leaders choose the wrong tool for the problem at hand. Our infographic, “What’s Your Problem,” explains the four different types of problems leaders face. Once you’ve read it, you may be left thinking: OK, I know what kind of problem I have. What tool do I use?

In this post, we share over 100 tried-and-true problem-solving tools. These are effective and elegant methods that you can use to address the four types of problems.

Simple Problem-Solving Tools

Simple problems have easily seen cause and effect relationships. Your job is to assess the facts, categorize the facts, and then apply the appropriate best practice.

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Are You Solving the Right Problem?

What's Your Problem - Top

Problems come in many shapes and sizes. Some are small (“I can’t find space for my 2pm meeting”). Others are large (“I can’t get forty coalition members to agree on goals”). All have the capacity to drive you nuts, especially if you’re not solving problems using the right tools.

If You Have a Hammer, Everything is a Nail

Once you find techniques that work, it’s tempting to use them over and over again. Maybe you’ve had great success using Gantt charts. You might like performance charting, root cause analysis, or group dialogue sessions. Perhaps business ecosystem maps rock your world.

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Free Tool: Project Execution Assessment

Balancing Rocks aeu04117 flickr

The best strategies are simply good ideas… until someone implements them. How well does your organization execute?

Our Execution Assessment measures performance along five critical dimensions:

  • Strategic Clarity – How well has the organization defined the strategy? How will you know you’re successful? How adept is the organization at understanding progress and adapting to changes that affect the strategy?
  • Right Resources – Does the implementation team have the skills, knowledge, and resources they need to succeed? How well have decision making parameters and performance expectations been clarified?
  • Good Data – How well does information about the strategy, progress, and changes affecting the strategy flow between the implementation team and other stakeholders?
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Every Exec Needs a RACI Model


“Even a thorough project plan can leave room for confusion about individual duties. A RACI model — or a visual map of everyone’s responsibilities — helps to prevent chaos from ensuing.” But how can leaders use RACI effectively? Partnering Resources founder Maya Townsend is featured in this Build magazine article on the ubiquitous RACI model.

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The Power Five: Better Decisions through Strategic Questions

strategic questions

People are always looking for their magic wand: a miraculous tool that will immediately and painlessly improve the problem at hand. I haven’t found a magic wand yet. But this tool is the closest I’ve found so far.

The Power Five are five strategic questions that uncover expectations, assumptions, inter-dependencies, and impacts. They’re five of the best questions to use in any situation and bringing them into any decision-making, strategy, or planning conversation will improve the likelihood of a positive outcome.

The five questions are:

  • What is the goal?
  • Where are we now?
  • How will we get where we want to go?
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    Cheryl Coonahan Presents on Value Network Analysis at PMI Boston

    PMI Mass Bay

    Business processes are more complex than ever before. Project Managers need to understand them well in order to write requirements, design solutions, and make improvements. Yet, rapidly changing, exception-based, complex processes stymie traditional process mapping efforts.

    The Value Network Analysis (VNA) methodology is well suited to showing how processes produce value. Sometimes considered the ideal process mapping tool for the complexity era, VNA excels at identifying and analyzing non-linear, dynamic processes. VNA also effectively maps business ecosystems: a dynamic structure of interconnected organizations that depend on each other for mutual survival.

    In this workshop, featured at the 2013 Professional Development Day sponsored by the Project Management Institute Massachusetts Bay Chapter, Cheryl Coonahan of Partnering Resources introduces participants to the VNA methodology.

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    An Open Letter to Project Managers, the New Rock Stars

    Project Managers are Rock Stars!

    First things first: Project managers rock. You grease the wheels, pacify the resisters, solve impossible problems, and keep things going when everyone else wants to quit. You save our butts every day, and I thank you for it.

    Here’s the thing, though. You’re shooting yourselves in the foot with the heroics. Yes, it’s fun to play Superman or Superwoman and fly in at the 11th hour to save the day. You get that adrenaline high, and you feel like the company couldn’t survive without you. Indeed, it can’t.

    That is, of course, why it’s time to change.

    There is simply too much at risk for companies to let so much depend on the project managers.

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    “Becoming a Change Leader (Yes, You!)” at PMI Mass Bay’s Professional Development Day

    Logo - PMI-MassBay

    PMs are on the front lines of organization change. Yet the statistics on change are dismal. McKinsey Quarterly reported that only 38% of leaders believed their recent transformation effort was better than somewhat successful. And the project success rates (coming in on time, within budget, and to scope) are lower than anyone would like. Clearly, there’s room for improvement. In this engaging, participatory session, participants learn what it takes to become successful change leaders. Specifically, we will discuss:

    • The one method that makes a change initiative 10 times more likely to succeed.
    • The six ways of creating change in organizations.
    • How PMs can use the six way to help provide effective change leadership.
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    The Hidden Web: Inside the Organizational Networks that Drive Project Performance

    No carrots, no sticks: Influencing without authority

    Influencing without authority is one of the hardest skills to acquire. Yet there is a powerful tool that can help PMs understand how to influence effectively. Underneath organization charts and process maps are hidden informal networks: the webs of relationships that underlie all organization activity. People activate these webs in order to solve problems, gain expertise, and innovate. For years, we have known that these networks exist, but haven’t had the tools to leverage them properly. Today, thanks to advances in mathematics and technology, we now have the ability to scientifically identify, map, and analyze networks.

    In this lively, interactive session, delivered in May 2010 to the Central Massachusetts Chapter of the PMI, PMs learned how to identify, nurture, and leverage these informal networks in order to boost project success rates.

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    PMI Mass Bay Event: Leveraging Informal Networks to Improve Project Success Rates

    The statistics about project success are daunting: too many fail to finish on time, within budget, and according to scope. Only 5% of change initiatives are completed on time and with minimal disruption to the organization, according to Gartner. Clearly, traditional tools are not enough.

    Every organization has hidden networks of relationships that employees use in order to get work done, make decisions, and solve problems. These networks have been largely ignored, but hold the keys to improving performance and accelerating change.

    On January 21, 2010, PMI Mass Bay Chapter members and guests will learn how PMs can use hidden networks to improve project performance.

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