Project Management Articles > Doug DeCarlo

Doug DeCarlo

Doug DeCarloDoug DeCarlo, Principal, The Doug DeCarlo Group

For the past 15 years—from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to Beijing, China Doug DeCarlo has lived in the trenches with Project Management Organizations and project teams. As principal of The Doug DeCarlo Group, he devotes his expertise to project management organizations, teams and managers working in extreme environments: settings characterized by high speed, high change, and high uncertainty, where the rules of traditional project management no longer apply.

Doug's work has earned him international recognition as a consultant, keynote speaker, trainer, facilitator and columnist. His approach to self-mastery for today's project manager is featured as Chapter 7 in The World Class Project Manager: A professional development guide. He also is noted for his innovative, motivational and humorous keynote speeches in which he plays live percussion instruments to illustrate the dynamics of working in cross-functional teams.

In addition to his own practice, Doug is a Senior Consultant on Agile Project Management for the Cutter Consortium where he has been named consultant of the month. He is an advisory board member of ProjectConnections and has served on the project management advisory boards of ProjectWorld and George Washington University as well as on the project management committee of the Drug Information Association.

His book—eXtreme Project Management: Using Leadership, Principles and Tools to Deliver Value in the Face of Volatility (Jossey-Bass, 2004)—is based on his highly successful workshop entitled "eXtreme Project Management: Getting a Grip on Chaos."

Archived articles -- Accessible to All

Winning at Project Management: Lessons Learned Over the Last 5 Years
In his final column, Doug recaps many of the lessons he's learned about the courage, determination, and focus required to be a successful PM.
It's been about 5 years since I've been writing a column for ProjectConnections. I now feel it's time for me to step aside and make room for another columnist. ... But before going off the air, I'd like to pass on some key lessons I've learned from observing and working with project managers since I joined ProjectConnections back in 2001. Read more ...

Programming Your Success in 2006: Affirmations for the eXtreme Project Manager
Affirmations to help you create a mindset of successful eXtreme project management.
I much prefer the idea of "affirmations" over "resolutions." There's an important difference between the two: a resolution is something you commit to do in the future, even if the future you are committing to is just 15 minutes away. Read more ...

Hiring an eXtreme Project Manager: Testing for Courage
How much down in the trenches, extreme project experience does your potential hire really have? Here's one way to test for it.
In witnessing eXtreme projects over the last seven years, I have come to the conclusion that the lack of courage is the greatest single point of failure for the project manager/leader. Read more ...

Katrina: A Lesson in eXtreme Project Management
In the aftermath of the storm, an examination of how eXtreme PM might address emergency response.
To help channel my anger and frustration, and to at least begin to feel less than helpless, I asked myself, "Given the apparent need to effectively mobilize and respond to the plight of those in the Superdome and Convention Center, how could eXtreme Project Management have helped, if at all?" Read more ...

Competing for Resources: How to Engage the Heart
How to get over committed, over burdened team members to actually want to work with you on your project, even if it's about as exciting as a wilted salad.
People are so over committed these days that it can be difficult to get the time and energy you need to succeed. How do you get others who are already over burdened to actually want to be on your project, or to extend themselves over and above what one would normally expect? Read more ...

How Do You Migrate to eXtreme Project Management?
One project at a time. Doug DeCarlo presents an eight-step process for changing the way you manage projects, as well as some questions to ask yourself in order to be sure you're doing it at the right time, and for the right reasons.
The typical, knee jerk approach to introducing new project management processes (eXtreme or traditional) is usually to send everyone off to classroom training and/or attempt to sell management on the idea that they should support project management and roll it out across the department, business unit or entire organization. Read more ...

Getting a Grip on the Anti-Project Team
Extreme project management means managing people -- which includes a potentially large and often uncooperative stakeholder community.
Unless you are in project La La Land, you may have noticed that not everybody is sympathetic with the needs of your project. In fact, my experience has shown that for every eXtreme project team, there is an equal and opposite project team hard at work. I call this the anti-project team. Read more ...

What To Do When Uncertainty Is For Sure
How risky is your project? Complete this Project Uncertainty Profile before estimating, and give your stakeholders a dose of project risk reality.
In stable project environments, the operating assumption is that the plan is correct. And the role of the Project Manager is to be true to the script by minimizing variance, often through elaborate control measures. And this is where TPM and eXtreme project management part company. Read more ...

How to Interview the Project Sponsor
Never, ever accept someone else's interpretation of what the sponsor is looking for. Get it straight from the horse's mouth. Here's how.
As the saying goes, "Projects don't fail at the end. They fail at the beginning." That's why it's important to get the venture off to a solid start by interviewing the project sponsor, the individual who will ultimately declare victory (or failure). Read more ...

Are You Myth Informed? Part II
Why sign-off isn't the end, it's okay not to get it right the first time, and someone has to hold the baseball bat.
To be perfectly honest with you, I had not planned to write a sequel to last month's article, "Are You Myth Informed?" That is, not until I realized that I myself for a long time had been dozing under the spell of at least three more project management myths. Read more ...

Are You Myth Informed?
Popular project management myths could be sabotaging your project efforts. Do any of these sound familiar?
For nearly 30 years I was under the spell of three popular project management myths. You might say I was myth-guided. I eventually came to my senses, but not until my head had been flattened by trying to buck up against reality. Read more ...

The Flexible Project Model: The Speculate Cycle
Doug DeCarlo summarizes the elements that comprise the Speculate cycle and then highlight the essence of the remaining components: Innovate, Re-evaluate and Disseminate in this final article of a 13-part series.
The Speculate cycle takes the work products from Visionate and turns them into a plan of action. That is, in Visionate we determined the "What" of the project, in Speculate we focus on the "How." Read more ...

The Flexible Project Model: The Visionate Cycle
"Who needs what and why?" The answer to this Business Question will drive answers to the other three, and you'll need the both sponsor's vision and the collective vision to get at it.
People often have the mistaken notion that the difference between traditional and eXtreme project management is an argument about planning versus not planning. That's far from the truth. Both involve planning. And in both arenas, the goal is to keep the project under control. The discussion really needs to center around which approach will afford you the most control given the nature of the project. Read more ...

eXtreme Project Management™: For the eXtreme Project Manager, it's the ConteXt. Not the Content.
Are you tending the flowers or tilling the soil? You may be doing someone else's job and not even realize it.
The difference between the word conteXt and content is just one letter of the alphabet. Yet, for the eXtreme project manager, it can spell the difference between success or failure. Read more ...

eXtreme Project Management™: COMMUNICATE, communicate, Communicate, Part 2 of 2
These four principles of effective communication can make all the difference in dealing with your projects and team members.
In Part 1 of this two-part article, I pointed out that eXtreme project management recognizes that projects are people and not Gantt charts and templates (although these have their place.) Read more ...

eXtreme Project Management™: COMMUNICATE, communicate, Communicate, Part 1 of 2
Projects are people, which means communications skills should be at the top of your must-have list. Here are two of the most powerful communications principles and practices you can master.
eXtreme project management recognizes that projects are people, and not Gantt charts and templates (although these have their place). That's why "People First" is one of the ten Shared Values of eXtreme project management. Read more ...

eXtreme Project Management™: Getting Beyond Emotional Ignorance
Is your project in a bad mood? Don't hide behind the facts; feelings come first.
eXtreme projects are emotionally charged ventures: The combination of high speed, high uncertainty and constant change causes stress and conflict as stakeholders with different viewpoints and temperaments continually vie to steer the project towards its desirable outcome. Read more ...

eXtreme Project Management™: Six Essential Facilitation Techniques for the Extreme Project Manager
You're brainstorming, but are you doing it right? Doug DeCarlo overviews proper methods for his favorite facilitation techniques.
The good news for the eXtreme project manager is that you don't have to be a born leader of people. No rah-rah speeches are required. What is necessary, though, is that the eXtreme project manager be a good process leader. It turns out that when you lead the process you lead the people anyway ... Read more ...

eXtreme Project Management™: Finding the WOW! Factor for Your Project
The project brought down the house, now you need to bring them back up again! Here are some ideas on how to WOW your project.
Most project managers I know don't get out of bed in the morning, and exclaim, "Yes! I can't wait to get back to the office and continue to have fun doing project management." Just the thought of having to manage a project or be part of a project team can lower the energy level and mood of even the most gung ho. Read more ...

eXtreme Project Management™: Beyond Begging: Sources of Power for the eXtreme Project Manager
As a project manager, you have more power to affect your projects than you think you do. The question is, what kind(s) of power do you have, and what kind(s) can you create for yourself?
Most project managers I run into are beggars sitting on a throne of gold. They bemoan the fact that they have a lot of responsibility and little, if any, authority over people and resources. You can always tell the ones who've forgotten about their real sources of power: their knees are scruffy. Read more ...

eXtreme Project Management™: 9 Reasons eXtreme Project Managers Fail
As an eXtreme project manager, are you focusing on project content or context? Columnist Doug DeCarlo outlines the project pitfalls that can result from focusing inward (on technical issues) instead of outward (on the project environment).
Unlike traditional project management where the project manager focuses her energies inward on the product or service to be delivered, the most important job of the of the extreme project manager is to gain and sustain the commitment of the project's crucial stakeholders, including the project team. Read more ...

eXtreme Project Management™: Self-Mastery or Self-Misery: It's Your Choice
Whether we are leaders by design or default, leadership of others begins with leadership of oneself.
Extreme projects are stressful under any circumstances. That may explain why extreme project managers tend to live lives that vacillate between frantic and quiet desperation. Read more ...

eXtreme Project Management™: The Essential Elements
eXtreme PM&trade is a radical shift in thinking about projects and how to succeed. This article (2nd in a series) summarizes each of the essential elements that make up the extreme project management model.
eXtreme project management is not your father's project management. It's a radical shift in thinking about projects and how to succeed. eXtreme project management is change tolerant and customer focused. It's reality-based and people centric. It involves planning, deplaning and replanning. It involves getting a grip on yourself as well as your project. Read more ...

eXtreme Project Management™: The What & Why
eXtreme project management is not your father's project management. It's a radical shift in thinking about projects and how to succeed. First in a series.
eXtreme project management is not your father's project management. It's a radical shift in thinking about projects and how to succeed. Read more ...

Is Your Heart In Your Job?
Is your heart in your job, or are you letting it grind you into the ground? Three steps finding out if you're in the right profession and, if not, what you should do about it.
Valentines day has just passed. But it's still a good time to fling a few arrows and ask some heart-hitting questions like these: Do you hate to get up in the morning and go to work? Are you letting it grind you into the ground? Is your job heart healthy? Read more ...

Mega Trends in Project Management
Is your organization positioned for success? Here are 14 "Ions" to keep your eye on.
At the dawn of the New Year I like to look a head... to open my eyes and open my mouth (in that order). As the year 2003 yawns its way in, here are the Mega Trends I see: a set of 14 "Ions" in Project Management. ("Ions" because these Mega Trends all just happen to end in "ion.") Read more ...

Saddled With An Unrealistic Deadline?
Saddled with an unrealistic deadline? Here's some good horse sense.
How do you respond when your project sponsor gives you a deadline that you feel is unrealistic? This was the topic of a panel discussion I participated in several weeks ago at the Project Management Institute's NYC Chapter meeting. Here's a rundown of what the panel and audience members had to say. Read more ...

Good Soldier Syndrome
A can-do attitude on your projects can do you in.
Rarely a week goes by on most projects where our ability to act assertively is not challenged. This is especially true when it comes to handling change requests that impact the project schedule, resources and/or scope. Read more ...

The Long and Short of Project Mission Statements
Do you have a 3-sentence project, or a project that's a life sentence?
I'm a big fan of the short and sweet 3 Sentence Project Mission Statement. I've used it successfully with well over 100 project teams and am yet to find a project of any type or size that cannot be summarized in this way. Read more ...

Eating the Elephant One (Dynamic) Bite at a Time
Are you managing your projects according to tasks or deliverables? Depending on your answer, your project plans may be works of complete fiction.
Would you rather manage an extreme project at the level of 43 deliverables? Or, would you be more comfortable managing the same project at the task level consisting of 1833 activities? If you answered 1833 activities, congratulations. You just discovered you are in the wrong job. Read more ...

Why the Blind End Up Following the Insane (& Vice Versa)
Why do business owners set budgets and deadlines while PMs set goals and objectives? Why it doesn't make sense (and how to stop the madness).
eXtreme project management recognizes that every project is first and foremost a business venture and must demonstrate an acceptable ROI. The successful eXtreme Project Manager will relentlessly update the answers to xPM's 4 Business Questions throughout the life of the project. Read more ...

Guerilla Project Management: Give your banana to a friend
It's a PM jungle out there! Toss your peers a Banana of Knowledge and help create the GPM BOK.
I'm convinced that it is getting harder and harder these days to practice any semblance of what might be labeled "traditional project management." Even the so-called light or extreme project management methods are falling apart in most organizations I go into. Read more ...

Exact Estimates: Oxymorons, Insights and Tips for eXtreme Projects
Clients want estimates they can use; you want estimates they can believe. Somewhere in the middle is reality.
You're damned if you do and damned if you don't. Estimates are one of those project rituals you can't get away from. When it comes to eXtreme projects - those high-speed ventures characterized by high uncertainty and high change - estimating can be a health hazard if you mismanage expectations. Read more ...

Making Time for a DUL Moment
Doug DeCarlo explains how DUL moments now can keep you (and your customer) sane later.
If there were ever a DUL moment on an extreme project, the best time to have one is very early on, during the Initiate Cycle. In this case, DUL stands for "Deliverable Useful Life," and responds to the question, "How much post-implementation support will be required once the deliverable is in the hands of the user population?" Read more ...

An Idea Whose Timebox Has Come
Once upon a time in La La Land, there was a project with no problems...
Once upon a time in La La Land there was a project team that did everything right. They had a wonderful kickoff meeting with the business owner and other stakeholders. They even achieved consensus on the top priority requirements. Read more ...

Traditional Project Management vs. Extreme Project Management
Are you trying to grow apples in a cumquat orchard?
As with anything new, there are a lot of mythconceptions out there as to just what the new thing is. Extreme project management is no exception. Some people "get it" while others mythconstrue it. Read more ...

Are You Dressing The Monkey In Silk? Look Into The Mirror
Are your projects living rent-free inside your head? Have you lost your personal identity to your job? Try assessing yourself and your career and see if your project management job is fulfilling or subsuming you.
Let's face it. It's not getting easier, especially for those of us who are working on extreme projects... those complex, high-speed, change-driven adventures that like to defy the rules of traditional project management. Read more ...

Pardon me for asking, but are you a winner? A whiner? Or a whener?
Winner? Whiner? or Whener? Pardon me for asking, but which one are you? Here's how to tell.
For the first 25 years I worked in the business world, I subscribed to The Big Lie. Namely, that my ability to be a successful manager was determined by the corporate culture and the extent to which management made sufficient resources available to me. Read more ...

A Project Is Only As Sick As Its Secrets
Project success depends on knowing the truth. Avoid keeping secrets and shooting the messenger of bad news.
It was Dr. Mignon Lawless, a psychotherapist friend of mine, who first introduced me to the concept expressed in the title of this article. Actually, I've taken a little creative license. Read more ...

Announcing the Dumbbell Prize In Project Management
Are you depending on your tools to manage your projects? Stamp out totoolitarianism!
Dan was pleased with himself. I could see it from the expression on his face as soon as I walked into his office. It was Monday morning and my man Dan had spent most of his weekend putting together the timeline for his project. Read more ...

A Flexible Project Model - Part II
Learn the mindset and process needed for projects that have high speed, uncertainty and change.
In part one of this article, I highlighted the first 2 elements of the five-part Flexible Model. These were Initiate and Speculate. Now for the next three elements. Read more ...

A Flexible Project Model - Part I
Learn the mindset and process needed for projects that have high speed, uncertainty and change.
Take a moment and take the extreme test: Which of the following describes the project you are currently managing? Check all that apply, if you have time. Read more ...

Is There A Madness to Your Method?
Conventional management techniques don't work for high speed, high change and high uncertainty projects. Learn the mindset needed for success on eXtreme projects.
While having lunch in the serene and sylvan setting of the Sterling Farms Golf and Country Club in Stamford, Connecticut, my stomach started to knot up. My chicken Caesar salad ended up mostly untouched. It wasn't the creamy dressing that was getting to me. It was the scenario being described by Tammy my luncheon guest. Read more ...

If These Walls Could Talk: Ignoring Project Influencers Is Not Bliss
Include project influencers in your project communications, particularly the naysayers.
Within days after we were married, my wife gave me my first project - paint the living room. In sizing up the job, I figured it would take me a half-day - max. It actually took two and a half days of work: Read more ...

Dispelling Fear: Something to Get Exorcised About
Qualification vs. Quantification in Project Risk Management.
Is your project spooked? Halloween is long gone, but that doesn't mean that the ghosts and goblins are not still lurking around your project, striking fear into the hearts of team members. Read more ...

reSoLvING coNfliCT bEFORe IT dISOlvES yOUr tEaM
Taking an assertive stance on resolving conflict
Does the above headline (written in tOggGLe CaSE) annoy you? Anger you? If so, you and I are now in conflict. Read more ...




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