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

How to Avoid Dysfunctional Project Team Setups

When Project Benefits Erode

What Do Next-Gen Project Leaders Look Like?

How to Avoid Useless Meetings

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

How to Think Big While Managing Small Projects (Part 2)

 

 

By Kevin Korterud

 

My last posthttp://www.projectmanagement.com/blog/Voices-on-Project-Management/20344/ offered two tips for project managers who want to develop a big-project mindset while executing small projects: leverage support resources and implement quality assurance practices. But why stop there? Here are two more.

 

1. Understand Change Management     

It’s easy to think small projects don’t require many business change management activities. But even a project that has a modest projected budget could face unforeseen change management activities.

 

For example, I worked on a project several years back that was straightforward to implement but required specialized support for remote locations. The original project budget estimate had not considered this.

 

Even for projects of modest size, project managers should examine the need for business change management activities such as business process transitions, different types and levels of training materials, and measuring the timely adoption of the functionality the project creates.

 

2. Validate the Project’s Complexity and Forecasting    

Project managers running small projects are often handed a budget and schedule that allow for neither timely nor successful implementation. This usually comes about from poor estimation processes that don’t take into consideration the necessary complexity analysis typically found on big projects.

 

This in turn can create budget and schedule errors of a much larger percentage than the small project can absorb. In addition, small project schedules can be affected by adjustments of large projects if they share a project or technical dependency, which creates unanticipated impacts to schedule and budget.  

 

Project managers can save themselves a lot of future pain by initially confirming the complexity assumptions for the project before proceeding. In addition, project managers running small projects still need to undertake the same level of forecasting rigor found on large projects: resource availability, work planning, milestone progress, cross-project and technical dependencies, business outage windows and other considerations that can more greatly impact a small project.    

 

When project managers “think big” on small projects, it allows them to be successful no matter the size of the project. Do you have any advice for project managers running small projects on how to think big?

 

Posted by Kevin Korterud on: May 06, 2016 05:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

How to Think Big While Managing Small Projects

 

By Kevin Korterud

 

It’s typical for new project managers to be assigned to a small project to build their skills. Why? Small projects have a limited value at risk, a modest budget, a shorter schedule and a smaller team. But project managers early in their career who have successfully led small projects often ask me how they can move on to leading big projects.

 

Small projects, to some degree, can be more difficult to lead than larger ones. You are given much less in the way of reserve budget, schedule and resources. However, big projects are not just smaller projects with larger budgets and longer schedules. They have inherent complexities relative to stakeholders, scheduling, resources and deliverables not found on small projects.

 

My recommendation to project managers wanting to move to larger projects is to “think big” while running smaller projects. Thinking big involves adopting, where possible, practices required for large projects.

 

Here are two ways project managers can think big on projects. My next post will offer two more tips.

 

1. Leverage Support Resources  

Many times, project managers running small projects attempt to perform all of the project operations activities themselves. This can include creating new work plans, calculating progress metrics, scheduling status meetings, and performing a host of supporting activities for the project.

 

While it may be a source of great pride to a project manager to perform these activities, they represent an opportunity cost. In other words, the project manager could instead be working on higher-value activities like stakeholder management or risk management.

 

Employing support resources even on small projects can save valuable time and costs. It also means the project manager doesn’t have to spend time becoming an expert in the tools and internal project operations processes. By having other people assist with the mechanics of building project plans and producing metrics, the project manager will have additional capacity for running the project.

 

 

2. Implement Quality Assurance Processes   

Project managers on small projects tend to become immersed in a level of detail not possible on large projects. The small project also allows for deep interaction with team members that may not be effective on large projects.

 

In addition, a project manager on a small project may be tempted to start serving in roles akin to a business analyst or technology designer. This can distract the project manager from actually running the project.

 

To keep focused on project management activities, quality assurance processes should be implemented. Phase gate reviews, deliverable peer reviews, change control processes, quality performance metrics and the definition of project acceptance criteria are all good examples of quality processes. With the implementation of these processes, project managers can focus on deliverables and outcomes without getting too deeply immersed in the details of the project.

 

Check back for my next post on more ways project managers can develop a big-project mindset while executing small projects.

 

Posted by Kevin Korterud on: May 05, 2016 10:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

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 (8)

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)
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