Voices on Project Management

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Voices on Project Management offers insights, tips, advice and personal stories from project managers in different regions and industries. The goal is to get you thinking, and spark a discussion. So, if you read something that you agree with--or even disagree with--leave a comment.

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Cameron McGaughy
Marian Haus
Lynda Bourne
Lung-Hung Chou
Bernadine Douglas
Kevin Korterud
Conrado Morlan
Peter Tarhanidis
Mario Trentim
Jen Skrabak
David Wakeman
Roberto Toledo
Vivek Prakash
Cyndee Miller
Shobhna Raghupathy
Wanda Curlee
Rebecca Braglio
Rex Holmlin
Christian Bisson
Taralyn Frasqueri-Molina

Recent Posts

What Do Next-Gen Project Leaders Look Like?

How to Avoid Useless Meetings

Future-Proof Projects — and Careers — With a Little Engineered Serendipity

I, Project: A Peek Into a Machine-Powered Future

Think Like a Gladiator—and a Transformer

What Do Next-Gen Project Leaders Look Like?

by Dave Wakeman

Care to do a little thought experiment with me? Let’s imagine what the new and improved next-gen project leader should look like. And let’s come up with a few key attributes that would make this new and improved project leader successful.

Here are a few of my ideas about how to achieve success in the future of project management:

1. Emphasize strategic ownership of your projects and your role in the organization.

I know that I’ve been hitting a constant drumbeat over the last few months about the need for project managers to become more strategic in their thinking and their actions. For good reason: As our businesses and organizations become more project-focused, the need to think and act strategically becomes a key factor in our success or failure.

One way you can jump on this before everyone else does is by always taking the initiative to frame your projects in a strategic manner when dealing with your sponsors and key stakeholders. Work with sponsors on ways that you can manipulate and focus your projects strategically.

2. Less domain knowledge and more business acumen.

The project management role in an organization has changed. Even in industries that have long embraced project management principles and the job title (e.g., IT), technical knowledge aspects have become less important because of specialization.

What has replaced the emphasis on specialization in the project manager’s role? An emphasis on strategic thinking and business acumen. This is likely to accelerate to become the new normal.

You can take advantage of this trend by working to think about your projects as tools to increase the value of your company and its products and services to your customers and prospects.

3. Communicate or die.

This last point shouldn’t be a surprise. Being a good communicator has been the differentiator between successful and unsuccessful project managers as long as project management has been a thing.

But as our world becomes more interconnected through technology, with teams dispersed across continents instead of floors, the ability to effectively communicate is going to be more and more important. And the ability to be that communicator is going to have a bigger and more meaningful impact on your career and your success in your organization.

What qualities do you think next-gen project leaders require? Please post your comments below! 

By the way, I write a weekly newsletter that focuses on strategy, value, and performance. If you enjoyed this piece, you will really enjoy the weekly newsletter. Make sure you never miss it! Sign up here or send me an email at dave@davewakeman.com! 

Posted by David Wakeman on: May 23, 2016 10:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

How to Avoid Useless Meetings

By Christian Bisson, PMP

Whether for workshops, stakeholder interviews, a requirements gathering session or some other activity, sometimes you have to plan a full day of meetings (or multiple days). These meetings might be with various people throughout the day or with the same stakeholders throughout. Regardless, it’s important to plan them appropriately to get the most out of everyone’s time.

Here are a few steps to ensure meeting attendees don’t head out of the office feeling like they wasted a day.

1) Have a detailed agenda

Although this applies to every meeting, it’s especially important when planning a whole day (or days). This means breaking the days into the different relevant sessions, specifying who will attend and when, and detailing the purpose of each session.

2) Plan enough time

Just like with a project schedule, if the duration only looks good on paper, you will regret it later. Make sure to have enough time for each session. Don’t think “we’ll have to make it fit”—it most likely will not. Then you’ll have to cut short a session at the last minute to accommodate.

3) Don’t skimp on breaks

If you don’t include time for any breaks, thinking this will allow more to get done, you‘ll be wrong. People will likely take breaks anyway because they are tired, thirsty or need to go to the bathroom. If they don’t take breaks, attendees will be severely tired or uncomfortable. As the day progresses, sessions will become less and less efficient. Plan either five minutes of break per hour or 10 minutes per two hours.

4) Plan a meet-and-greet or introduction

Always plan 15 minutes at the beginning of the day for various ad hoc elements, including: people presenting themselves, introducing the day’s agenda or a session starting a few minutes late. If everyone is on time, and everyone knows each other, you might need just five minutes.

5) Limit the number of attendees

The more attendees in a meeting, the more chance the agenda goes off track. Obviously it’s important to try to avoid this, but if 20 people are attending the meeting, that can be a seriously tall order. Short of being very strict (which you might not want to be with a client), the meeting will most run over its allotted time.

So scheduler beware: some, if not most, meetings with too many attendees will bring no added value and will be wasting people’s time (and money!). Ideally, a meeting should be limited to about six people.

Have any more tips to share?

Posted by Christian Bisson on: May 17, 2016 08:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (13)

Future-Proof Projects — and Careers — With a Little Engineered Serendipity

Keynoter Mark Stevenson closed PMI® Global Congress—EMEA on Wednesday.

By Cyndee Miller

Everyone says they won’t get old and stuck in their ways. And then it happens. Habits and assumptions calcify until all change seems either utterly pointless or just stupid. To battle that instinct for the status quo so deeply embedded in my DNA, I must fight the good fight. Yup, I literally force myself to try new music even when I’m absolutely convinced I’ll hate it. And so it came to be that Beyoncé now lives happily next to Nick Cave and Junior Kimbrough in my iTunes.

Author and futurist Mark Stevenson has a fancy term for it: engineered serendipity. The idea is to smash your mind into new shapes and truly embrace divergent thinking, aka new ideas.

That means tossing out cynicism. “You think it’s wisdom — actually, it’s laziness,” he said in his closing congress keynote. “Because if the person with the new idea is right, you’re going to have to change the way you think.”

Given Mr. Stevenson’s whirlwind-but-vivid tour of the future — 3D printing! blockchains! solar-powered smartphones! — we’re all in for some serious change.

“If you thought the digital revolution was a big deal, well, strap yourself in.”

For those of us who have trouble with straps, Mr. Stevenson helpfully offered up some tips. There was the idea of valuing evidence over ideology, or as he so eloquently put it: “Think like an engineer, not a politician.”

He also suggested actually doing what you think about. Stop procrastinating, no more excuses: “You are what you do—not what you intend to do,” he said. So, um, I guess I’ll have to book that safari in Namibia, hit the gym more than twice a month and master Snapchat like all the cool kids.

Living at the border of strategy and results, project managers have loads to look forward to, Mr. Stevenson said. “You’re the people who take us from the world we’ve got, to the world we want.” He pushed attendees to “engage in projects bigger than you.” 

Not a bad thought to close out my congress coverage. Adios, Barcelona — and ciao Roma. Ci vediamo là for next year’s congress on 1-3 May.

Posted by Cyndee Miller on: May 11, 2016 05:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

I, Project: A Peek Into a Machine-Powered Future

Simon Moores hosts the salon Tuesday in Barcelona, Spain.

By Cyndee Miller

Had I been around in 17th century France, I would’ve been a big fan of the salon. Hanging out in ultra-posh dresses, talking about politics and books — it sounds lovely. (And I’m thinking there was champagne and macaroons involved?)

On Tuesday at congress, PMI put a 21st century spin on the notion with a salon dedicated to “game changers for the project, program and portfolio management professional.” With the audience firing off questions via Twitter, it was a free-ranging discussion on artificial intelligence (AI), big data, machine learning and all sorts of tech buzzwords that could define the future of business.

Some big questions come to mind — like will the machines take over? Or, on a more optimistic note, can technology actually improve our lives?

The project, program and portfolio community has plenty to gain, said salon panelist Luis Miguel Munoz of Thomson Reuters in Madrid, Spain. “In project management, I see AI helping us in activities with planning—predictions and forecasts.”

Fellow salon participant Joanna Newman of Vodafone in Swindon, England, has a dream that all project managers can get behind. She imagined a world where teams could plug in a deliverable and a few key criteria, and software would spit out cost and schedule details. Sighs were heard around the conference hall.

It’s not about replacing people with machines—it’s about allowing project managers to focus on higher-value work, she said.

“We need to move away from a focus on the how—work breakdown structures and project plans—and move to leading and delivering solutions, which is what each and every one of us does, every day,” said Ms. Newman.

Think of it as a symbiotic relationship. “It’s all about collaboration between what machines can do and humans can do,” said salonnier Anael Ndosa, with PwC in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. But fear not, my project management friends: “Projects are always going to be about people.” 

And people are always going to be, well, people. That, in part, means inevitable conflict. Everyone on stage seemed to agree that big data can support decision-making and AI could help automate mundane tasks. But when it comes to problems with stakeholders, sponsors or team members, there’s no substitute for humanity.

Take that, Siri.

Still, a machine-powered future is on the horizon, and “we have to be imaginative and forward-thinking in the way that we deal with technologies,” said tech futurist and salon host Simon Moores.

And with that, the salon broke up — and I went off to discuss AI over a nice glass of cava. But the conversation will continue on 8 June in a webinar with Mr. Moores.

Unless the machines take over …

Posted by Cyndee Miller on: May 11, 2016 02:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Think Like a Gladiator—and a Transformer

Isabel Aguilera kicks off PMI® Global Congress 2016—EMEA in Barcelona, Spain on Monday.

By Cyndee Miller

I’ve seen my fair share of temples and churches. And truth be told, I thought I was pretty cathedraled-out — until I saw Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia as part of my pre-congress adventures. I’m not even going to try to capture its spectacular glory in words. (I’m just not that good.) But as I went wandering the streets after my visit, I kept thinking about it in terms of the project management involved—the budget, the schedule, the risk management.

And then, what should appear on the first morning of PMI® Global Congress—EMEA but a PMI Barcelona Chapter video highlighting the Sagrada Familia, along with five other iconic efforts in the “city of projects.” (And that doesn’t even count the magnificent Camp Nou.)

Of course, times are changing for project managers in Spain and around the world. And with business in so much flux, there’s huge opportunity for innovation—powered by what keynoter Isabel Aguilera dubbed “disruptive creativity.”

Darwin’s Law—adapt to change—is so 2015. The winners don’t just follow change, they make it, said the former Google and GE exec.

So what’s the upshot?

First, project managers should view themselves as “transformers”—the people on the frontlines of rapid change creating not just new products and services but new platforms. “You, the project managers, are the transformers are our economies, of our business models” she said.

Second, don’t be afraid to get obsessed with the Next Big Thing. The companies that win the future will think like a startup, even if they’re already global giants. “A startup mindset is like a headache—it’s a way of thinking, you can’t let go of a idea,” Ms. Aguilera said. “Think like a gladiator.”

And think like the customer. Don’t let your organization assume it understands the customers it wants to win. Watch closely to learn what they need, and what they may not realize they need.

“We all need to talk with our customers to discover their needs,” she said. “Sometimes it’s also good to see, to watch, how customers are doing their daily tasks.” 

In the end, though, Ms. Aguilera said project managers have a simple, but noble quest: “The goal is always to make life better for human beings.”

Posted by Cyndee Miller on: May 10, 2016 08:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
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