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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Recent Posts

Fair's Fair

Give Your Project a Home

A Hollywood-Style Move From PM to Scrum Master

To Have and To Hold

Leading With Integrity

Smart Organizations Sync Talent With Strategy

For all the talk of an economic recovery, many organizations continue to obsess over headcount. But a smaller (and smarter) group is focusing on getting the right people on the right projects -- positioning those people and the organization itself to grow. 

The payoff can be huge, according to PMI's Pulse of the Professionâ„¢ In-Depth Report: Talent Management. On average, 72 percent of projects meet their original goals and business intent at organizations with significant or good alignment between their talent management and organizational strategies. Now put that up against the 58 percent rate at organizations with moderate or weak alignment. 

Despite the potential ROI, only 10 percent of organizations report significant alignment. That stat takes on added significance when you consider what's shaping up as a true talent crisis. 

Pulse data revealed four in five organizations report difficulty in finding qualified project management candidates to fill open positions. Some organizations are resorting to some serious poaching -- check the battle for project talent between Silicon Valley tech titans Apple, Google, Yahoo! and Facebook. China Road and Bridge Corporation is adopting a more long-term approach, according to China Daily. Looking to build talent in a strategic market for its projects, the company is sponsoring a group of Congolese students to study engineering and project management in Xi'an, China. 

In this case, organizations that align talent management and strategy have an edge, reporting less difficulty in filling open positions. 

Organizations that align talent management to organizational strategy are also more effective at implementing formalized career paths, with 83 percent moving new hires to advanced project management positions. Among organizations with weak alignment, that number drops to 62 percent. 

The MD Anderson Cancer Center, for example, clearly outlines the path up. It requires 10 years of experience (including five years of project management) and a Project Management Professional (PMP)® credential for senior project managers who manage highly complex strategic projects that span three or more organizational boundaries. Establishing a career path not only makes employees feel like the organization has a vested interest in them, it also helps the organization spot -- and close -- any skills gaps that might prevent it from delivering on its business goals.

Recruiting and retaining top talent will only get organizations so far. They need to measure results, too. Across the board, organizations with strong alignment are more likely to measure outcomes such as staff turnover, learning development, and employee engagement, retention and productivity. 

U.S. space agency NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), for example, tracks the effectiveness of its professional development courses by assessing enrollment numbers and feedback from senior leadership. Armed with that information, the PMI Global Executive Council member knows what's working -- and what's not. 

No doubt, creating a talent management program comes with a hefty price tag. But consider the danger of skimping: On a US$1 billion project, organizations with significant or good alignment of talent management programs to organizational strategy put US$50 million fewer dollars at risk than organizations with moderate or weak alignment.  

With those kinds of numbers on the line, the bigger question is: Can an organization afford not to make the investment? 

Posted by cyndee miller on: April 08, 2013 10:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Manage The Knowledge Gaps

To be great in project management, we can't only be familiar with our role as the project manager. We must be educated about other roles in the profession, as well as most, if not all, knowledge areas.

But project managers often do the work they like and are familiar with, rather than work that needs to be done. Even if it's work that contributes to a project's overall success, I find that many of us focus on tasks that we're familiar with or that we already know we're good at.

Regardless of how great I am with some tasks, I know that I must fill in my own knowledge gaps with team members' expertise. Because in addition to being a good project manager, the real trick to getting things done is surrounding myself with a capable, well-trained project team.

Instead of trying to learn everything and being everything to everyone, I accept that I won't always know it all. I ask for input from the team on a regular basis. This makes the team feel needed and appreciated for their contributions and makes the project execution more efficient.

Do you tackle the tasks you're good at rather than those that need to get done? How do you balance your own expertise with that of your team members?

Posted by Dmitri Ivanenko PMP ITIL on: October 17, 2011 11:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Start With Acknowledging Yourself

Categories: Talent Management

After my last post, I received a thoughtful e-mail from a project manager in Barcelona, Spain. Because she was constantly criticized growing up, she said she had difficulty acknowledging others.

One's ability to acknowledge is an interesting and important topic. Although it focuses on our personal issues regarding whether or not we were acknowledged in our families, our schools and in our early jobs, we are all people first and project managers second. Therefore I would like to address the heartfelt question that was raised, as it has importance for all of us.

A person's ability to acknowledge others freely, generously and sincerely is linked to the way we're raised. If we were encouraged and praised as children, we're likely to grow up with a deep sense of self-worth and confidence. If we were constantly criticized, we have more work to do to gain a sense of self-worth.

We have to become our own support system, which can be hard. And it's even harder to acknowledge others when we've feel like we have not been acknowledged for who we are and the contributions we make. If that's true for you, then you will have to push yourself more to deliver acknowledgments that may come to mind but that you may have trouble carrying out.

We as human beings crave acknowledgment. Receiving acknowledgements releases a chemical called dopamine in our brains that makes us feel good, perform better and work harder to get more of what's called "the dopamine drench," per an article titled "In Praise of Praising Your Employees" published in the Gallup Management Journal.

So here's my advice if you were underacknowledged in your earlier life: Start by taking stock of who you are and what your contribution is to your workplace, your family and to the world. Then you can exercise the muscle on the underside of your right arm, as you reach up and over to give yourself a pat on the back!

In my courses, we always start by telling each other something special and unique about ourselves. I invite all of you to do just that--share something special about yourself with a friend or coworker--and send me an e-mail telling me about it. With your permission, I might even post it.
Posted by Judy Umlas on: September 14, 2009 12:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Show Your Appreciation

Acknowledging people for the contribution they make to a project team or to their organization is such a simple matter. It's something I say repeatedly wherever I can get on my "soapbox": We can acknowledge people at any time, at no cost, without having to buy anything, install software or study an instruction manual.

Last night my soapbox was a live webinar attended primarily by project managers from all over the world, including Hong Kong, China, India, Brazil and the United States.

During the seminar I asked participants, "How do you feel when you complete a project that you put your whole heart, soul, body, mind and spirit into for the past several months, the users love the end result and your manager gives you nothing more than a quick 'thank you?"

This was the response via text chat:

Thomas: discouraged
Tanya: feel used
Srikrithiga: not interested to work
James: discouraged
Suganthi: Discouraged
James: feel indifferent
Sanjib: feeling of being empty--what was I doing all the time?
Ravindra: No motivation
Tanya: I won't give my best effort
Linda: lack of loyalty
Linda: feeling insecure, not as interested in working so hard
Fabricio: lack of motivation
Jade: feel not being valued, lack of respect

Then I asked, "How do you feel if your manager tells you what a difference your work made to the project team, how your contribution made the project a success, how much the users loved it, that she was getting wonderful feedback on it, and that the next time you would get more resources so you didn't have to work so many nights and weekends?"

And they answered:
James: I would feel appreciated; that motivates me
Shelley: Motivated...willing to give an even greater effort
Linda: enthusiastic
Ravindra: I would make extra efforts
Mariano: I would feel like a giant
Jade: more loyalty
Linda Benedict: my confidence would be boosted by the acknowledgement
Srikrithiga: I would give 200% for work

Performance, loyalty, engagement, confidence, motivation, self-worth are all functions of acknowledgment rather than compensation.

Especially during these challenging economic times--when everyone is working harder and having to do more--let's do our best to create a culture of appreciation in which people know their value and their worth.

There could be nothing simpler and more satisfying and with greater results.
Posted by Judy Umlas on: August 03, 2009 02:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

Skills Shortage in South Africa

Categories: Talent Management

Talent management is a big issue for organizations around the world--especially when it comes to the project management profession. While companies in some parts of the world are dealing with budget cuts that lead to people cuts, others are dealing with a shortage of the right people.
    South Africa is one country experiencing major problems from the latter. An article on AllAfrica.com declares:
    "Project Management is now regarded as the fastest-growing form of management worldwide, with its multidisciplinary skills in particular demand in [South Africa], which is in the throes of the biggest infrastructure development programme in its history. ...   
    In the current South African climate, critical skills shortages are being experienced both in the public and private sectors. A recent study showed that the crisis is compromising competitiveness and spurring poorer service, inhibiting [South Africa] from responding positively to changing market conditions both locally and abroad.
    Many of the infrastructure developments are a direct result of the country being named as host of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Earlier last week, the South African government allotted another $140 billion for the event preparations--pushing the budget even further past original estimates made in 2004.
    But with skilled project managers being lured to other locales with the promise of better pay, are there any positive signs for project management in the country? According to that AllAfrica.com article, colleges are seeing an upswing in the number of students going through the project management program.     
Posted by Kelley Hunsberger on: November 24, 2008 11:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

"Man will occasionally stumble over the truth, but most times he will pick himself up and carry on."

- Winston Churchill