Interview With Project Portfolio Management Expert, Rick A. Morris

Project Management Certified Professional Rick A. Morris Interview with TaskQue

Rick A. Morris is an expert project management professional who has worked extensively in the field and has worn all types of hats be it a mentor, practitioner, consultant or an author of project management. He has done numerous certifications in project management which include CSAM, PMP, MPM, PMI-ACP, MCITP, Six Sigma Green Belt, MCTS, MCSE, ITIL, TQM, ATM-S, and ISO.

Apart from having numerous certifications Rick owns his own project management consultancy company with the name R2 Consulting, LLC and has served to numerous huge organizations such as Xerox and GE. He has worked as a project management professional in numerous industries including financial services, construction, non-profit, entertainment, hospitality, pharmaceutical, retail, and manufacturing.

He has written four previous books “The Everything Project Management Book”, “Project Management That Works”, “Stop Playing Games” and “No Day But Today”  He has also collaborated on the latest #1 Amazon best-selling book The Agile Almanac – Book 2. Rick A. Morris immense admiration and enthusiasm for his work has distinguished himself and has made him one of the most sought-after project management speakers worldwide. Now we would proceed to our interview with him for getting some more insights from his career and life.

TaskQue: You have worked extensively in project management, what in specific really inspires you the most about this field?

Rick A. Morris: I like to make people’s dreams come true.  That was my realization as a project manager.  When you ask a project manager what they do, it usually shuts down the conversation as they fumble through an answer about requirements, scope, budgets, etc. When I realized that there is not a product, building, company, or strategy that can come to fruition without a great project manager behind it, that is when it came to me a project manager does much more than manage.  They make dreams come true.  When you can inspire teams to the why of a project and the impact of their work, you can inspire the passion and ignite the spark.  That is what inspires me.

TaskQue: You have been an outstanding speaker at project management conferences and never shy away from getting an opportunity to share your experiences with crowds, how do you find this much enthusiasm and confidence in catering such huge audiences?

Rick A. Morris: I love sharing the love for this profession.  I think this is the most misunderstood profession on the planet.  It is the profession that for most organizations, they think anyone can do.  When companies are short project managers, they just pick someone with spare time and assign that person the project.  The company gives the title away without consequence.  How many CFO’s do you think walk around at the end of the fourth quarter saying, “I need help closing the books, you know math, come help us close the books!”  It just doesn’t happen.  Why?  Accounting is a certified profession that requires study and practice.  You just don’t hand that title out.  The same goes for project management.  I want to spread the word as much as possible to earn the respect that this profession demands.  If that takes the going city to city and speech by speech, then that’s what  I will do.

TaskQue: You have worn all types of hats in project management, be it a mentor, practitioner, consultant or an author, which role in you like playing the most?

Rick A. Morris: I love the mentor role the most.  Teaching and pouring into people has the greatest reward.  Experience is the greatest teacher and I have had the blessing of having some phenomenal mentors in my life.  The best way I know how to repay them is to pass what they have taught me to the next group of aspiring project managers to grow this profession in ways that we never have imagined.

TaskQue: You are an evangelist of project management who has been observing field for quite some time now, what mistakes in your view are common among project managers? And what advice would you suggest them in overcoming those mistakes?

Rick A. Morris: The greatest mistake is in not creating context or challenging the assumptions of a project that has been assigned, mainly around dates.  I call it the myth of the mandated date.  Depending on the study that you read, a large percentage of projects miss their targets based on the date or budget.  The question is, who set the date and budget?  Most of the time the budget was set during the capital planning cycle and the date was given to the project manager by an executive.  The mistake is that the project manager just accepts these as fact.  The greatest question that can be asked is, “Why that date?”  When you start to ask the reasoning behind the date or for flexibility in the budget, it is amazing what you will uncover.  Sometimes it is fixed or there is a hard date and now you understand the reasoning behind it.  However, most times you will be able to find out that there is not a hard date and begin to set the stage to be able to plan the project versus just accept and miss as studies have shown happen far too often.

TaskQue: Project management is evolving quite fast while it is getting harder for PM’s to keep up with the pace, what in your view can help new practitioners in order to acquire expertise quickly?

Rick A. Morris: Blogs and podcasts are the best learning ground to stay on top of the latest trends. Several of the people that you have interviewed including me maintain blogs or podcasts that are constantly staying on top of emerging trends directly from the source.  Learning something new every day and challenging the status quo is the only way to survive.

Related: How to determine the worth of a Project Manager

TaskQue: You have written two books on project management “The Everything Project Management Book” and “Project Management That Works”, what do you find as the best part about writing a book?

Rick A. Morris: It is a challenging process and definitely a labor of love.  To put ideas on paper that can then be judged and analyzed is a scary endeavor.  It is also exciting to be contributing thoughts and ideas to the profession.

TaskQue: In your entire career, what do you believe to be the game changer step which helped you in reaching this edge in project management?

Rick A. Morris: The game changer for me is reading a book by Rob Thomsett called “Radical Project Management” which is the first time that I heard two core concepts.  The first concept was that of Agile Project Management which in 2001, he was ahead of his time.  The second concept is the quote from Rob, “projects fail because of context, not content.”  This allowed me to focus on the reasons for failure, such as inadequate dates, budget, resources instead of the standard command and control of tasks, estimates, percentage complete, etc.  The more that I could focus on the executive branch and create the proper context, it would allow my team to focus on the content freely.  That was a true game changer that people are now subscribing to Agile Methodologies to try to solve.  It doesn’t matter the methodology, what matters is controlling the context of the decisions and creating a better covenant between you and the sponsors.

TaskQue: You have done a great number of certifications in project management, how helpful you find these certifications in enhancing your career as a project manager?

Rick A. Morris: Certifications are tricky.  Many people that I run into like to discount them because of a bad experience with someone else who was certified.  I think the quest for knowledge and validation that you have completed as such is important.  It is no different than most companies want to see that you have a college degree.  There is a large percentage of people that have finished degrees and then pursued careers that had little to do with what they learned in college.  However, companies find it valuable as an experienced radar.  I think certifications are the same.  It is good to be certified, but you have to bring the application of the knowledge behind you.

TaskQue: What hobbies and leisure activities you have adopted, to relax and maintaining work/life balanced?

Rick A. Morris: The main one is time for my family.  For those who haven’t seen or heard the story behind my logo, it has my whole family represented.  R Squared stands for my kids (Ramsey and Remo), the wolf is the mythical wolf that nursed Romulus and Remus back to health.  The logo has the wolf protecting my children, and my wife (who has green eyes) is looking out for us.  Whenever there is free time, I just want to be wrapped up in being a present father.  Otherwise, I am a sports fanatic who loves to attend games and events live.

TaskQue: TaskQue is a cloud-based team collaboration application which helps project managers in managing their teams and assigning tasks, how do you see such tools in being helpful for project managers?

Rick A. Morris: Automated processes are how we find efficiencies.  We must make sure with any application or automation that we are eliminating process and time and not adding to it. From a team member perspective, a tool like yours allows the consolidated work queue management versus receiving 10 e-mails and 12 flybys at your desk.  Procedural, the software must also automate reporting and repetitive tasks.  Project managers are often overloaded with projects and have little time to direct and spend most of their time reporting on what occurred last week.  Any system that can improve that metric is welcome.