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

Portfolio Governance—Ensuring Alignment to Strategy (Part 2: Definitions)

Why Certifications Matter (to Me)

Managing for an Uncertain Future

How to Motivate Your Team (Part 2)

How to Motivate Your Team

Why Certifications Matter (to Me)

By Conrado Morlan

The number of credentials offered by professional associations, hardware and software vendors and other organizations has grown sharply in the last decade. So have the number of credential holders.

There’s much to be said for certifications. Many companies require a certification to advance along their career path. In addition, salary surveys show that, overall, credential holders earn more.

On the other hand, some professionals and employers are not fans of certifications. They argue that many people have forged a career and reputation without them, that accelerated changes in science, technology and government regulations makes certifications hard to maintain, and that the cost and time of pursuing credentials are too high.

I see the value of certifications from two perspectives: the value given by the credential itself, and the value of my contributions to the credential.

The value given by the certification is the importance of the knowledge gained through earning it, the reputation of the institution or professional association that awards it, and the certification’s years on the market.

The value of my contributions to the credential has to do with how it engages me to actively research trends within my profession. This process can help experienced practitioners turn into thought leaders who share their experiences leading and managing projects across the globe. In other words, the value of a certification can cascade beyond the credential holder. Knowledge is shared with other practitioners, helping them to advance in the profession.

Yes, it’s true that some credential holders fall behind and don’t keep up with the latest knowledge and/or renew their credential. Other credential holders don’t follow the established code of ethics, which harms the reputation and value of the credential. But such misbehavior or lack of up-to-date knowledge isn’t the fault of the credential or the credential-awarding organization.

PMI, for example, has a strict renewal process for the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification that requires certification holders to earn a specific number of credits per cycle to keep the credential current.  And over the 30+ years since the PMP was created, those requirements have been updated to cover market and industry demands.

You may be wondering why I didn’t mention the cost of certifications, and whether they’re worth paying. To me, it’s a no-brainer. I take my professional development personally and always recall former Harvard University President Derek Bok’s quote, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”

If you’re a certification holder, how do you measure its value?

Posted by Conrado Morlan on: April 26, 2016 08:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Are You an Imposter or a Crackerjack?

By Conrado Morlan

Do you know an experienced project manager assigned to a high-visibility project who keeps asking himself and others why he was selected? Colleagues and managers believe this individual is the ideal candidate. He brings strong industry knowledge, leadership skills and relationships across the organization that will lead to a successful project.

Yet he still doubts himself. In fact, it’s estimated that 70 percent of people feel they don’t deserve their station in life.

In the late 1970s, psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes coined the term “Imposter Syndrome” to refer to the idea that capable individuals find it hard to believe in their own capabilities or internalize their own accomplishments. These people see evidence of their competence as mere luck and sometimes feel they are not actually qualified for the position they hold.

For a while, I suffered from the Impostor Syndrome. Then I had two wake-up calls. The first came at the PMI Global Congress 2008—Latin America in São Paulo, Brazil. I met two members of the PMI Mexico Chapter who found out that I had recently achieved the Program Management Professional (PgMP) credential. They were more excited than I was about the achievement. I didn’t realize that I had not made the PgMP credential an important part of me.

The second wake-up call was at the workplace. I was part of a 360-degree evaluation process, and I discovered that the scores I provided to describe my performance were quite a bit lower than the feedback provided by my peers.

In my mind for many years, I was an imposter. In the eyes of others, I was crackerjack.

Have you suffered from the Imposter Syndrome? What was your wake-up call?

Posted by Conrado Morlan on: April 14, 2016 07:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

Why I’m Glad I Got My PMP

By Conrado Morlan

Over the years, I’ve had many discussions about whether project managers should pursue the Project Management Professional (PMP)® credential. Some people argue that extensive experience is much better than the knowledge they can acquire through the PMP credential.

I appreciate the value of my counterparts’ experience and respect their opinions. Before I earned my PMP certification, I shared their views. But while studying the PMBOK® Guide—my employer required all project managers to be certified within six months of hiring—I found that my experiential knowledge was enhanced by the new tools and techniques I learned about. I wished I had known about them during previous projects.

My eyes were also opened by a quote from Lewis E. Platt: “The danger of success is to think what made you successful in the past will make you successful in the future.

The project management profession, like many others, evolves constantly. As a responsible practitioner, I need to keep my skills and knowledge current by reading the latest PMBOK® Guide edition, as well as being familiar with evolving methodologies and standards in project management.

Here’s an example of why not keeping up with the latest publications and standards can be problematic. I often hear people talk about the “triple constraint.” But that concept is not in the latest edition of the PMBOK®. Nowadays, project management is a strategic competency for organizations. It enables them to tie project results to business goals—and thus, better compete in their markets.

Finishing a project on time, on budget and within scope doesn’t necessarily help an organization meet its business goals. Today, organizations need to respond quickly to internal and external influences, which may lead to sudden changes in scope, budget, and schedule.

The need for competent project managers will persist—PMI projects  that between 2010-2020, 15.7 million new project management jobs will be created in just seven project-intensive industries.

Organizations no longer look for project managers with technical skills only. They’re looking for people whose technical skills are complemented by business, strategic management, and leadership skills.

The project management profession is changing, and pursuing a certification makes it more likely that you’ll stay up to date with the times.

What’s your view on the value (or lack thereof) of the PMP certification? Share your thoughts below.

Posted by Conrado Morlan on: March 30, 2016 08:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

Project Leaders as Ethical Role Models

 

By Peter Tarhanidis            

This month’s theme at projectmanagement.com is ethics.  Project leaders are in a great position to be role models of ethical behavior. They can apply a system of values to drive the whole team’s ethical behavior.

First: What is ethics, exactly? It’s a branch of knowledge exploring the tension between the values one holds and how one acts in terms of right or wrong. This tension creates a complex system of moral principles that a particular group follows, which defines its culture. The complexity stems from how much value each person places on his or her principles, which can lead to conflict with other individuals.

Professional ethics can come from three sources:

  1. Your organization. It can share its values and conduct compliance training on acceptable company policy.
  2. Regulated industries. These have defined ethical standards to certify organizations.
  3. Certifying organizations. These expect certified individuals to comply with the certifying group’s ethical standards.

In project management, project leaders have a great opportunity to be seen as setting ethical leadership in an organization. Those project leaders who can align an organization’s values and integrate PMI’s ethics into each project will increase the team’s ethical behavior. 

PMI defines ethics as the moral principles that govern a person’s or group’s behavior. The values include honesty, responsibility, respect and fairness.

For example, a project leader who uses the PMI® Code of Ethics to increase a team’s ethical behavior might:

  • Create an environment that reviews ethical standards with the project team
  • Consider that some individuals bring different systems of moral values that project leaders may need to navigate if they conflict with their own ethics. Conflicting values can include professional organizations’ values as well as financial, legislative, religious, cultural and other values.
  • Communicate to the team the approach to be taken to resolve ethical dilemmas.

Please share any other ideas for elevating the ethical standards of project leaders and teams, and/or your own experiences!

Posted by Peter Tarhanidis on: February 22, 2016 09:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (19)

How to Spot a Top-Shelf Project Manager

By Christian Bisson

The number of years a project manager has been working certainly gives you a clue about his or her ability. But this isn’t (and shouldn’t be) the only information you can use to spot a project manager who is a cut above the rest.

Below are a few tips to help you assess if someone really knows their stuff. Just as you’d adapt your expectations of junior project managers to their experience, use these tips to get a sense of how “experienced” or “senior” someone really is. I’ve recently put them to good use when a project manager was temporarily hired to take my place while I was out on paternity leave.

Ready to Ask Questions

The first sign is simple. A project manager who aims to do the job correctly will proactively ask questions when planning a project, instead of delivering an asset that is incorrect. Or, the project manager will deliver the assets but will clearly state he or she was missing some information and did what he or she could as best as possible.

If you receive an asset that is supposed to be ready and yet you need to revise multiple times, you’re probably working with an inexperienced project manager.

Organized and Responsive

Being organized is a typical quality used to describe a project manager, and it’s something that should also develop throughout the years. Assuming the project manager’s workload is reasonable, here are a few clues to help spot if the person really is organized:

  • If he or she is managing multiple projects, are projects being prioritized properly?
  • Are emails sent to the project manager acted on in a timely manner, or do you have to follow up on most of them?
  • If simple, straightforward information is discussed, has it been noted or used properly, or has it been forgotten (for instance, a delivery date discussed that should be added to a schedule)?

Can Cope With Change

Change is part of project management, whether because of client requests or other issues that arise. An experienced project manager is able to adapt accordingly and drive the project forward. Ask yourself these questions about your project manager:

  • Is the team properly made aware of the changes?
  • Does the project manager remain calm at the prospect of change?
  • Are issues met with a solution-oriented approach?

Past Jobs

This is the only tip that could help assess a project manager’s experience prior to working with him or her. Although it’s a vague indication, spotting the extremes can help.

  • If project mangers worked at only one place all their career, it might indicate that they are used to the routine of that place and are inexperienced in anything else.
  • On the other hand, project managers who seem to change jobs every few months might not be well-suited for this line of work.
  • Also note that where someone worked means little; what really matters is what he or she did.

Have additional tips for judging a project manager’s abilities? Please don’t hesitate to share.

Posted by Christian Bisson on: January 26, 2016 08:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (15)
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