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Sunday, 17 April 2011

14 Key Principles for Project Management Success






14 Key Principles for Project Management (PM) Success:
  1. Project managers must focus on three dimensions of project success.Simply put, project success means completing all project deliverables on time,within budget, and to a level of quality that is acceptable to sponsors and stakeholders. The project manager must keep the team’s attention focused on achieving these broad goals.
  2. Planning is everything — and ongoing. On one thing all PM texts and authorities agree: The single most important activity that project managers engage in is planning — detailed, systematic, team-involved plans are the only foundation for project success. And when real-world events conspire to change the plan, project managers must make a new one to reflect the changes. So planning and replanning must be a way of life for project managers.
  3. Project managers must feel, and transmit to their team members, a sense of urgency. Because projects are finite endeavors with limited time, money, and other resources available, they must be kept moving toward completion. Since most team members have lots of other priorities, it’s up to the project manager to keep their attention on project deliverables and deadlines. Regular status checks, meetings, and reminders are essential.
  4. Successful projects use a time-tested, proven project life cycle. We know what works. Models such as the standard ISD model and others described in this text can help ensure that professional standards and best practices are built into our project plans. Not only do these models typically support quality, they help to minimize rework. So when time or budget pressures seem to encourage taking short cuts, it’s up to the project manager to identify and defend the best project life cycle for the job.
  5. All project deliverables and all project activities must be visualized and communicated in vivid detail. In short, the project manager and project team must early on create a tangible picture of the finished deliverables in the minds of everyone involved so that all effort is focused in the same direction. Avoid vague descriptions at all costs; spell it out, picture it, prototype it, and make sure everyone agrees to it.
  6. Deliverables must evolve gradually, in successive approximations. It simply costs too much and risks too much time spent in rework to jump in with both feet and begin building all project deliverables. Build a little at a time, obtain incremental reviews and approvals, and maintain a controlled evolution.
  7. Projects require clear approvals and sign-off by sponsors. Clear approval points, accompanied by formal sign-off by sponsors, SMEs, and other key stakeholders, should be demarcation points in the evolution of project deliverables. It’s this simple: anyone who has the power to reject or to demand revision of deliverables after they are complete must be required to examine and approve them as they are being built.
  8. Project success is correlated with thorough analyses of the need for project deliverables. Our research has shown that when a project results in deliverables that are designed to meet a thoroughly documented need, then there is a greater likelihood of project success. So managers should insist that there is a documented business need for the project before they agree to consume organizational resources in completing it.
  9. Project managers must fight for time to do things right. In our work with project managers we often hear this complaint: “We always seem to have time to do the project over; I just wish we had taken the time to do it right in the first place!” Projects must have available enough time to “do it right the first time.” And project managers must fight for this time by demonstrating to sponsors and top managers why it’s necessary and how time spent will result in quality deliverables.
  10. Project manager responsibility must be matched by equivalent authority. It’s not enough to be held responsible for project outcomes; project managers must ask for and obtain enough authority to execute their responsibilities. Specifically, managers must have the authority to acquire and coordinate resources, request and receive SME cooperation, and make appropriate, binding decisions which have an impact on the success of the project.
  11. Project sponsors and stakeholders must be active participants, not passive customers. Most project sponsors and stakeholders rightfully demand the authority to approve project deliverables, either wholly or in part. Along with this authority comes the responsibility to be an active participant in the early stages of the project (helping to define deliverables), to complete reviews of interim deliverables in a timely fashion (keeping the project moving), and to help expedite the project manager’s access to SMEs, members of the target audience, and essential documentation.
  12. Projects typically must be sold, and resold. There are times when the project manager must function as salesperson to maintain the commitment of stakeholders and sponsors. With project plans in hand, project managers may need to periodically remind people about the business need that is being met and that their contributions are essential to help meet this need.
  13. Project managers should acquire the best people they can and then do whatever it takes to keep the garbage out of their way. By acquiring the best people — the most skilled, the most experienced, the best qualified — the project manager can often compensate for too little time or money or other project constraints. Project managers should serve as an advocate for these valuable team members, helping to protect them from outside interruptions and helping them acquire the tools and working conditions necessary to apply their talents.
  14. Top management must actively set priorities. In today’s leaner, self-managing organizations, it is not uncommon for project team members to be expected to play active roles on many project teams at the same time. Ultimately, there comes a time when resources are stretched to their limits and there are simply too many projects to be completed successfully. In response, some organizations have established a Project Office comprised of top managers from all departments to act as a clearinghouse for projects and project requests. The Project Office reviews the organization’s overall mission and strategies, establishes criteria for project selection and funding, monitors resource workloads, and determines which projects are of high enough priority to be approved. In this way top management provides the leadership necessary to prevent multi-project log jams. 
This web-published article by Michael Greer is an excerpt from “Chapter 6: Planning and Managing Human Performance Technology Projects,” Handbook of Human Performance Technology, San Francisco, Jossey-Bass, 1999

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Global takaful on course to reach US$12b this year



Global takaful or Shari'a compliant cooperative insurance contributions are well on course to touch US$12 billion this year, after hitting US$9.15 billion in 2010. 

According to Ernst & Young's latest World Takaful Report, contributions grew globally by 31 percent in 2009 to reach $6.9 billion US dollars. 

The takaful industry is concentrated mainly in the Middle East, North Africa and South East Asia regions. 

The report found that Saudi Arabia was the biggest market with US$3.86 billion in contributions in 2009. 

Malaysia was second with US$1.15 billion while the United Arab Emirates ranked third with US$640 million. 

In terms of regions, takaful contributions in the Indian Subcontinent grew by 85 per cent, making it the world's fastest growing takaful market. 

In terms of countries, Indonesia topped the takaful market with a growth rate of 67 per cent, followed by Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia.

Going forward, the report found that competition, shortage of expertise and socio-political uncertainty are key business risks for takaful this year. 

Other challenges include evolving regulations, misaligned cost base and achieving an underwriting profit.

- CNA/12Apr2011



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Islamic Funds – Sharia Law and Investment Structures

Modern Islamic banking is just 35 years old, increasing from US$10 million in 1975 to now over US$250 billion under management with dedicated Islamic banks, together with another US$200 billion with units of conventional financial institutions. This rapid expansion in just three decades has not only attracted the interest of conventional bankers and borrowers, but also increasingly of investment fund structurers and promoters. Western financial institutions are working closely with their Islamic counterparts to develop this sector and meet the needs of a huge customer base worldwide.
It is worthwhile noting that Islamic finance is not confined to Muslim countries but is spread over Europe, the United States and the Far East; nor is it limited to Islamic borrowers, but is also used by many companies as an alternative source of funds. The principles of Islamic banking are similar in many respects to conventional banking, asset financing and project financing principles commonly used and applied under English law worldwide.
Islamic Finance
Islamic finance is the application of the Sharia to the finance sector. Although it is most well known for its prohibition of interest, Sharia is, in fact, a wholly different “philosophy” from the conventional western outlook of finance. The Sharia explains in detail the Islamic concepts of money and capital, the relationship between risk and profit, and the social responsibilities of financial institutions and individuals. Based on this philosophy, Sharia-compliant instruments and techniques have been developed and successfully used by Islamic finance units and customers worldwide in the funding of items such as property, ships, hotels and power plants.
The payment or receipt of all forms of usury (Riba) is strictly forbidden by the Quran, as well as gambling and uncertainty. Therefore, all sorts of interest payments common in conventional banking fall under the category of Riba, whether disguised as “commission,” a fixed or variable add-on or a discount.
The purpose of this prohibition is to prevent exploitation from the use of money and to share profit and loss. Money should be used for a proper economic purpose and not treated as a commodity on which a return can be made by reference to time. Islamic scholars agree money is simply a means of exchange and not an asset, and should therefore not grow over time. However, capital can earn the returns derived from the productive use of capital.
It is also forbidden for any Islamic institution or investment fund to deal in the following goods:
(a) alcoholic drinks;

(b) pork, ham, bacon and related by-products;
(c) dead animals (i.e., those not slaughtered according to the rules of the Sharia);
(d) gambling machines;
(e) anti-social and immoral goods such as tobacco, pornography, drugs, etc.;
(f) gold and silver, except for spotcash; and
(g) armaments and destructive weapons.

Since almost all of today’s companies deal with some form of interest or otherwise prohibited activity, some Sharia advisory boards have determined an upper limit to what percentage of a company’s income can be earned through interest and/or such activities. It would be unacceptable to invest in a firm that exceeds this limit.
Islamic Investment Funds Structures
As shown above, Islamic instruments can be used in many types of fund structures. Sharia-compliant property funds, in particular, are increasingly being used in the U.K. and are promoted by many institutions. Investors from the Middle East have long regarded commercial real estate as a favorite form of investment, with an emphasis on certain commercial property sectors and geographic regions.
Islamic investment funds operate by investors contributing money that is then invested so that profit can be earned in a manner compliant with Sharia. The validity of the units, shares or certificates issued in the fund is subject to two conditions.
First, they must carry a pro rata profit actually earned by the fund, instead of a fixed return being tied up with their face value. As stated earlier, neither principal nor profit can be guaranteed and profit/loss must be in proportion to how successful the fund is. If the fund earns large profits, the return on the investor’s subscription will increase to that proportion. However, if the fund suffers a loss, the investor will also have to share in the loss.
Second, the amounts pooled must be invested in Sharia-compliant trading activity companies. If, for example, the fund invests in the hotel or leisure sector, the Sharia board must be satisfied that the income that will be used to repay the investors, in the form of rental or return on investment, is not made up of income from the sale of prohibited items such as alcohol. If it is, then such income must be below certain thresholds (as agreed by the Sharia board); otherwise, the proportion of income derived from interest or alcohol that exceeds such thresholds must be given to charity.
In Ijara funds, the amount subscribed is used to purchase real estate (via a special purpose vehicle) for the purpose of leasing out the real estate and charging rental, which then forms the income of the fund that is distributed pro rata to subscribers, who hold certificates of proportional entitlement that represent pro rata ownership of their holdings in the tangible assets of the funds (also known as sukuk). These funds are normally marketed to high-net-worth individuals or banks. The life of the fund is usually fixed.
A sukuk is fully negotiable and can be bought and sold on the secondary market. New purchasers of sukuk “step into the shoes” of the original holder, taking the certificate (ownership) and hence, all the profit, but also the rights, obligations and liabilities that accompany it. Requirements for validity include that leased assets must have some usufruct, assets must be Sharia compliant in their nature and the lessor must abide by any ownership responsibilities imposed by Sharia. In addition, rental must be fixed and known by the parties (or ascertainable by means of a formula) at the beginning of a contract.
Sharia Advisory Boards
All financial institutions that offer Sharia-based services or products (such as investment funds) will have a Sharia committee or board. These boards are comprised of Islamic scholars and practitioners who provide the Islamic financial institutions with guidance and supervision. The Sharia board members are independent of the Islamic finance institution and are not employees. Like an audit by an accounting firm, these boards often submit a Sharia audit for the annual report of the Islamic institution they represent and issue Sharia compliance certificates.
The Sharia advisory board works closely with the bankers and lawyers to structure instruments so that they meet Sharia and commercial requirements. Standard documentation has been developed by the financial institutions covering their main areas of activities. However, they will need to refer back to the board whenever there is a deviation to ensure that no inadvertent breach of Sharia or the compliance certificate has occurred.


(Forbes/5 April 2011)

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Summary of Process Oriented Approach: A competitive Advantage according to Quranic Philosophy


Study of Quran clearly indicates that Islam demands us to act, perform and do our best. Results are from Allah SWT, the emphasis is on our actions, this fact becomes very much evident when we see Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) being informed multiple times in The Holy Quran that his duty is to warn and inform the people only: Say: "Obey Allah, and obey the messenger", but if ye turn away, he is only responsible for the duty placed on him and ye for that placed on you. If ye obey him, ye shall be on right guidance. The messenger's duty is only to preach the clear (Message) (Surah Al-Nour, verse 54). Furthermore it's also evident that our actions will decide our eternal fate: "… in his favour shall be whatever good he does, and against him whatever evil he does …" Surah Al baqarah, verse 286.


These verses (and many others) lay down ample emphasis on Muslims to keep their focus on their actions, paradoxically guarantying success; and describing inaction to be the determinant of failure, worldly and eternal: "By (the Token of) Time (through the ages). Verily Man is in loss. Except such as have Faith, and do righteous deeds, and (join together) in the mutual teaching of Truth, and of Patience and Constancy" (Surah Al Asa). Such a stress on action eventually develops a mindset which perceives results or success as natural outcome of actions i.e. you reap what you sow, actions bring results and right actions bring right results. It would be safe to assume that such a mindset ultimately cultivates qualities like persistence, determination, proactive attitude, thirst to improve, doing what's right, i.e. shifting our orientation toward process or the work content.


In business context, process oriented approach is paradoxical as it delivers results without allowing the individual to worry about them. The goal remains their but only to show the direction, only to judge that the path being followed is correct. The culture developed around such a concept is secure, people are candid, happy, and they get the job done on time and the exhibits other good things. The reason being, people here have no fear of any loss, what so ever, as their gains cannot be stolen, or lost, or depreciates with time. In fact their most valued achievable (knowledge, creativity, satisfaction to conscience) grows further when shared with others. People in process oriented culture remain at peace and tranquility, and on the path of continuous growth. The results keeps on flowing in, always reinforcing the fabric of the culture. Goal achievement and growth is always a natural outcome of a process oriented culture.


Please note that the fundamental root cause of all inefficiencies, wastages, procrastinations, organizational resistance to change, politics, etc is Fear! This is an inherent part of goal oriented approach. Lack of knowledge, skill, and experience also cause mistakes but it's only once. If mistakes are repeated then its fear, that is blocking the learning process. Fear of not reaching sales targets, fear of facing an embarrassing situation, fear of not reaching any personal goals (monetary or egoistic) etc. As natural instinct fear boost ego defensiveness, Fear creates a tunnel vision, it blocks thinking, it reduces empathy, it reduces synergy, and it increases selfishness. Fear can be a motivator, when the task involves only a single individual, but that's seldom in an organization. Interaction and team work is the name of the game, and fear alone makes it difficult or even impossible for the team to get synergize.


Realistically organizations are a blend of people who are 'goal oriented' and those who are 'process oriented'. Those organizations cultures where people are inclined more towards Goal Oriented approach has a propensity to die off in a shorter period of time as they are developed around tangible concepts like profit, brand image, market share, performance in stock market etc. since tangibles has perishable nature thus the organizations build around the same, behave like the same as well. Dramatically it can be said "since the 'ends sought' are perishable in nature, thus these ends itself takes the organization toward its 'end' ".


On the contrary those organizations which inclined more towards process oriented approach has a history of lasting multiple generations, for the simple reason they don't run after these tangibles rather treat them as a natural outcome of their actions, they in fact strive for things which are eternal in nature, thus bringing similar qualities within their culture as well. People comes, people go, the process oriented organizations remains intact for generation as shown by Jim Collins in his books 'Good to Great' and 'Built to Last'.


In such companies, the culture is not developed around the personality of the entrepreneur (for his pocket or profit) rather upon certain ideals, and universally accepted principles and a vision greater than the organization itself. This happens when it's about achieving something more important than the survival of the organization itself. Generically speaking the constituents of this vision should be the benefit and contribution to the humanity, the nation, or the community, the profit is indeed a byproduct and only treated as a need for survival, a means to achieve the vision.


Such visions are global; they cannot be achieved in totality, though paradoxically inspiring unbeatable and untiring action. They provide direction for the processes and an everlasting inspiration and energy for execution. The motivating energy felt by the individuals is the feature of their work, their activities (as Jim Collins proclaims in his book "Good to Great"), tasks or standard operating procedures designed around the organizational vision, naturally shifting their inclination toward process end of the spectrum.


Bringing oneself toward process orientation is more a matter of choice. Our inclinations are not hardwired rather they are a product of our choices based on our perception of externalities i.e. events which have been delightful, unusual or even painful in nature. The greatest misconception or misperception most people have that their fate is predetermined, i.e. they cannot choose to be in any different state of existence. If that would have been the case then why Allah SWT would have held us accountable for our actions? The concept of accountability in the hereafter is the greatest proof that our actions are our choice. And the result follows; right choice of action delivers favorable and flourishing results and wrong choice of actions: vice versa. That's the law of nature as designed by the Great Architect of the universe. The results are always promised as proclaimed many times in the Holy Quran.


"Not equal are those believers who sit (at home) and receive no hurt, and those who strive and fight in the cause of Allah with their goods and their persons. Allah hath granted a grade higher to those who strive and fight with their goods and persons than to those who sit (at home). Unto all (in Faith) Hath Allah promised good: But those who strive and fight Hath He distinguished above those who sit (at home) by a special reward," (Surah Nisa, verse 95)


In order to be process oriented we have to get our focus on the real satisfying and motivating factors which are learning, creativity and satisfaction of our conscience. In other words we must be very clear about the factual equation of causality between persistence and success. Furthermore we have to understand what is meant by success? Is it more wealth, more respect, a high profile job, sky rocketing standard of living? And if this is what we called success then would we be able really persist in our work if we focus on money and the so called respect and esteem or status attached to it?


The so called famous quote 'money can't buy happiness' (Washington Post, Monday, July 3, 2006; Page A02; Science Confirms: You Really Can't Buy Happiness) disagree just this. And it's obvious, and widely accepted concept, but seldom practically applied. Furthermore being a Muslim it's also imperative for us to understand the true source of satisfaction i.e. mentioned in The Holy Quran in Surah Ra'd verse 28 and 29: "Those who believe, and whose hearts find satisfaction in the remembrance of Allah. For without doubt in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find satisfaction. For those who believe and work righteousness, is (every) blessedness, and a beautiful place of (final) return." And when we do, the following eventually implies as well: "And whoever places his trust in Allah, He is sufficient for him." (Surah At-Talaq: verse 3), "And whoever fears Allah, for him Allah brings forth a way out, and gives him provision (rizq) from where he does not even imagine…" (Surah At-Talaq: verse 2~3).


"Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race." - Calvin Coolidge


If that's how our believes are aligned, then it's obvious to conclude in the context of the discussion that the focus should eventually be diverted away from the tangible goals and toward the process, actions, deeds, tasks, efforts, struggle, performance and persistence of course when inspired with the ultimate Vision of life; as that's where true happiness and satisfaction resides. And when we don't persists, disaster strikes, as warned in Surah Al Asar: By (the Token of) Time (through the ages). Verily Man is in loss. Except such as have Faith, and do righteous deeds, and (join together) in the mutual teaching of Truth, and of Patience and Constancy. Further to keep us on track, we have been foretold that our acts, deeds, behavior, conduct and struggle will be questioned in the final examination, not the so called ingredient of success such as wealth, respect and esteem.


Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, "Man's feet will not move on the Day of Resurrection before he replies to 5 questions, he will be asked about his life, how did he consume it, his knowledge, what did he do with it, his wealth, how did he earn it and how did he spend or dispose it , and about his body, how did he wear it out.' (At- Tirmidhi)


The choice is ultimately ours …


(by Omar Javaid )

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Malaysia Plans 30 Billion Ringgit (USD10 billion) Rail Sukuk




Malaysia plans to sell as much as 30 billion ringgit ($10 billion) of local-currency Islamic bonds under a program to help finance a mass-transit railway in Kuala Lumpur, a government official said.

A special financing vehicle will be formed by the government to raise the funds which will be used for the country’s biggest infrastructure project to date, said the official, who couldn’t be named as details of the sale have yet to be finalized. Domestic sources, including the Employees Provident Fund, could subscribe to the sukuk issuance, which would be at least 20 billion ringgit, he said.

“Demand from local investors would be high,” Elsie Tham, a senior manager at Manulife Asset Management Bhd. in Kuala Lumpur, who helps oversee more than $1 billion of fixed-income assets, said in an interview today. “We do have a substantial amount of insurance and pension funds that would require long- dated paper. These infrastructure bonds would be the type of bonds these funds would be looking at.”

The government estimates the network and rolling stock will cost 48 billion ringgit, with the first line scheduled for completion in five years. The railway is part of a $444 billion private sector-led investment program being championed by Prime Minister Najib Razak’s government for the current decade.

“Eagerly Waiting”

Malaysia is revamping its public transportation system amid increasing traffic congestion in the capital. The planned railway will cover a 20-kilometer (12-mile) radius around Kuala Lumpur’s city center and carry 2 million passengers a day, the government said in a report last year.

A final decision on the financing for the railway project will be made in the second half of this year, Najib said in an interview on March 29.

“Everyone is eagerly awaiting details for the issuance,” Tham said. “The bond will probably have a tenor of at least ten years. There’s still scarcity in long-dated paper.”

Sales of ringgit-denominated sukuk, bonds that pay returns on asset to comply with Islam’s ban on interest, total 9.5 billion ringgit so far this year, from 4.9 billion ringgit in the same period in 2010. Malaysia is the world’s largest sukuk market. Global issuance for the securities increased to $4.5 billion in 2011, from $2 billion in the same period last year. 


(Bloomberg/12Apr2011)



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