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Akapalah Pyramids

Created on 04 August 2008 Written by Rich Maltzman
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twopry.jpgThat's Akapalah as in "a couple of" with a New England accent. OK. It's a stretch. But I like Egyptology, so any excuse to get a picture of a pyramid or a Pharaoh on the site is good enough. The subject today is the role the Project Manager plays in getting all of the data that flows around in different directions in gargantuan quantities to be as meaningful as possible to the stakeholders. Which brings me to something called the Knowledge Pyramid. Which of course allowed me the play of words in today's title, and the picture of "a couple of" pyramids that I've placed to the right and above.


This is one of the cases in which PM is a microcosm of 'general management', but the environment of a project makes us as PMs even more responsible than in a general management situation. Here's the scenario: your project is big. It has many stakeholders. It may be a clinical pharma trial, a new release of software, a telecom network upgrade, a research effort, whatever. If it's sized like any of those projects, you are dealing with tons of data. Data from instruments, surveys, management, customers. Data from schedules, budgets, requirements lists. Enough data to make the hieroglyphs (to keep our analogy going) blush with the shame of inadequacy.


Your job as a PM - realize it or not - is to upgrade this data into wisdom. Yes, you read that correctly. Wisdom. You can do something with wisdom. You can avoid previous mistakes. You can create new ways of doing things. And in the case of customers, wisdom pleases customers.


The thing to realize is that you cannot move directly from data to wisdom. there is a step-by-step approach, and this is where the DIKW, or Knowledge Pyramid comes in. This theory, which I have seen used by excellent PMs in practice many times, involves moving from data (D) to information (I), to knowledge (K), to wisdom (W). You can find an expanded explanation of this subject by clicking here. But here is my take on it from a PM perspective.


Data would represent bits of project information not organized in any particular way. I picture a phone number, a test measurement, a temperature and a website address thrown haphazardly in a jar as data. Keeping the Ancient Egypt analogy, this is like the canopic jars in which the Egyptians preserved the organs of the deceased. Actually, I'm sure it was quite orderly to them, but to us it's a jar full of random guts. Sorry for the visual, but I'm making a point over here!


Information is a state in which there is order to that madness. Now I picture a stakeholder contact list, organized and sorted by those who are inside and outside the organization, those with high and low risk tolerance, those in favor of and those opposed to the project, associated with all of their contact numbers. You sense an upgrade from the jar above, right?


Knowledge is that information leveraged to convey some important meaning. So we may have the information on our stakeholders organized so that we know not only phone numbers and emails but also key behaviors of stakeholders so that we know that when Seth (get the Egyptian connection again?) calls us, we are dealing with someone whose birthday is tomorrow. Shallow example, but it gives you the idea.


Wisdom could be defined as the applying intelligence (data, information and knowledge) and experience toward the attainment of a common good. Seeing the project manager, as would be natural for me, as the coordinator of the common good (the product of the project), I see the PM as gathering all of the intelligence possible, combining it with experience, to get to this stage (at the top of the knowledge pyramid) of wisdom.

 The otha pyramid of akapalah pyramids

The other pyramid I cover briefly is one I tell my students is called Mount Fact. And the job of PMs is to climb that mount with your project teams. Mount Fact is a pyramid based on misunderstandings.


Belief-based misunderstandings. At the base of Mount Fact is a layer of belief-based misunderstandings. These are complicated, difficult to resolve, and can get heated at times. To answer the question, "who is your favorite Pharaoh?" one needs to go to their set of values, opinions and even arbitrary or quirky things to make that decision. And if I pick Khufu and you pick Amenhotep, we could both stand by our decisions and both be absolutely right.


Interpretation-based misunderstandings. One layer up, we find misunderstandings based on disagreements even if the parties agree on the facts. For example, even with all of the facts in hand, I could argue that Amenhotep was the most successful Pharaoh. And you could argue that Khufu was. But maybe I am measuring success by the number of years ruled and you are measuring by territory conquered. The key word is successful. We need to get agreement on what that means. As a project manager this is critical when you are defining what success means in terms of project closure. Or, your project may have eternal life, something the Ancient Egyptians wanted, but not something you want for your project which is supposed to end on 6-July-2008 (for example).


At the peak of Mount Fact, you will find factual misunderstandings. These are the easiest to resolve. If you can point to reliable sources that both parties acknowledge, there can be little debate. So if I tell you that Amenhotep was Nineteenth Dynasty and you say he was Eighteenth Dynasty, we could check that against sources from universities and museums to resolve the issue. (You are right - he's 18th). This is where you want to head as a PM (not universities and museums, necessarily, although that may work). You want to climb to this peak at which point you eliminate the misunderstandings based on belief and interpretation and rely purely on fact.


So I hope you enjoyed this brief tour of Ancient Egypt. Let me know if you enjoyed it. Write back, I can take criticism - just don't be a pain in the asp.”  

About the author:


Rich Maltzman, PMP, has been an engineer since 1978 and a Project Management supervisor since 1988, including a recent 2-year assignment in The Netherlands in which he built a team of PMs overseeing deployments of telecom networks in Europe and the Middle East. His project work has been diverse, including projects such as the successful deployment of the entire video and telecom infrastructure for the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, to the 2006 integration of the PMOs of two large merging corporations. Currently, Rich is Senior Manager, Learning and Professional Advancement, at the Global Program Management Office of a major telecom concern.

Rich is currently co-authoring a book with Ranjit Biswas, PMP, entitled "The Fiddler on the Project", a portion of which is being collaboratively written on the web via a wiki, and posts regularly on his blog, Scope Crêpe.

See his full profile on LinkedIn and invite him to join your network. 

Last Updated on 31 July 2012

Going Global #4 and #5: Communicate and Educate

Created on 04 June 2008 Written by Karina Jensen
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All aboard? It’s the last day of the worldwide tour and you’re ready to put your passport to use. Yes, it’s time to launch your global project and head for the airport. In order to ensure a smooth launch, you will need to maximize awareness, interest, and participation from your team members around the world. Since communication and education are both important in this process, here’s a double dose of global readiness to help you wrap up this international voyage.

When communicating around the world, you’ll need to ensure that you can align teams and manage time zones effectively. In order to maximize awareness, interest, and participation in the global launch, it’s important to develop a communication strategy that will engage team members in the Americas, EMEA, and APAC. The strategy needs to address when communication takes place, to whom it should be communicated, and what will be communicated during the launch process.

Aside from managing time zones and meeting schedules, the greater challenges of cross-cultural communication involve understanding and support of the global strategy and team roles. Due to cultural perspectives, there may be a different understanding of the global plan, its criteria, and its outcome. Different communication styles can also cause misunderstanding and disruptions during the project management lifecycle. Awareness and knowledge of cultural differences and business norms are important in developing and motivating international team members.

A successful internal communication strategy should engage cross-functional and cross-regional team members through the use of regular and consistent communications. In addition to weekly launch meetings, consider additional vehicles such as regional launch calls, email updates, and online meetings.

The opportunity to transfer knowledge and empower teams with new information is a common training driver for any location around the globe. The Global Minds Network Global Launch Report showed that training content is often US centric and offers a primary emphasis on product, marketing, and sales skills training. All of the participants offered product training, while 38% offered cross-cultural training. Timing can also be a problem as international locations are often second in line for training, especially in Asia-Pacific and Latin America. While online training and simulation tools offer some insight, live training with product experts is important to sales teams worldwide.

When ensuring sales readiness globally, it’s important to create content integration, management commitment, and enforcement of local sales training objectives. When targeting local training needs and resources, make sure to secure commitment from product, marketing, and sales teams for content creation and delivery. A consistent program addressing user population, application, and measurement makes a world of difference.

Well, it’s time to conclude the worldwide tour. Wishing you a bon voyage and much global launch success!


About the author:


Karina Jensen is an international management consultant, instructor and facilitator with nearly 20 years of experience in launching business and education initiatives across cultures. She is the founder and principal of Global Minds Network, a consulting firm that facilitates global market success through effective planning and execution solutions. Click here to see her full profile in LinkedIn.

Last Updated on 31 July 2012

After initiation: Global communication techniques

Created on 08 July 2007 Written by Jean Binder
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Image © Breezeart  | Dreamstime.comAs seen in other parts of the framework (see Global Stakeholders and Global rules and templates), project managers must prepare the communication during project initiation and kick-off. Two examples are the set-up of tools and templates to streamline communication on global projects, and the definition of the communication guidelines during project initiation and planning


The main project management references (PM-BOK®, the ICB, and PRINCE2) assume that good practices are used for the collection, distribution and exchange of information. These communication practices are mandatory during the project execution, monitoring and controlling activities.



Collecting information from the global team members

The different locations and organisations participating in a global project can have diverse methods and tools to gather information about time, cost and project performance. The program or project office may need to define manual or automated processes to combine the information available in different formats, to produce consolidated reports and performance summaries.



Distributing information to the global stakeholders

Project managers or project office administrators can use software packages to structure and summarise the project performance data, in formats that include spreadsheets, graphics and colour-coded presentations. The information can be presented during project status meetings, but also be available on the project website. The web format can provide the information to a larger audience, and use hyperlinks to structure the information according to the requirements of different stakeholders.



Exchanging project information

Good checkpoint meetings use video or web conferencing technologies to validate understanding, as described in the sections Collaborative tools and Collaborative techniques. These review meetings will be fundamental during critical periods, usually in the weeks or months leading up to the completion of major deliverables. However, these periods will be very busy for most team members, who will appreciate spending most of their time concentrating on their jobs, and not wasting time on meetings. In the chapter 9 of the book, I suggest some guidelines and the basic agenda that can improve productivity during online meetings.




IPMA – International Project Management Association (2006) ‘ICB – IPMA Competence Baseline, version 3.0’ (IPMA, The Netherlands)

OGC – Office of Government Commerce (2006) ‘Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2 Manual 2005’ (TSO, UK)

PMI (2004) ‘A guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK® guide) third edition’ (PMI, USA) 

 Image © Breezeart  | 


Last Updated on 31 July 2012

A mindmap on global communication techniques

Created on 07 December 2007 Written by Jean Binder
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Download a mindmap that can help you to brainstorm on different techniques that can improve the communication on your global projects.

Click here to download a mindmap on global communication techniques

Last Updated on 31 July 2012
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