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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What's the Story Behind Your PMP Certification?

Long-time Voices on Project Management blogger Conrado Morlan, PMP, PgMP shares how attaining a PMP certification helped his career.

Project management practitioners like me, with more than 20 years of experience, learned about PMI and the PMP® certification in ways much different from today. 

My first exposure to PMI, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) and PMP certification was in the late 1990s. It was during a training program to attain PMP certification -- and in Spanish, no less -- at the company I worked for in Puebla, Mexico. 

My colleagues and I questioned the benefits of this certification, which at the time was not well known in Mexico. In addition, the written exam was in English. That did not make the PMP more attractive. 

I left the company before taking the exam. Yet in my new job, I discovered that the knowledge I acquired in the training program was very helpful. Without prompting, I used some of the best practices in the PMBOK® Guide, especially those related to risk and project integration.

As I progressed professionally, I moved to the United States and learned more about PMI chapters and global congresses. I became a member and a regular at chapter meetings. 

By this point -- even with eight years of practical experience in project management and applying best practices in my work -- I realized I needed to take it to the next level: earning PMP certification. Sure, professional experience and on-the-job-training are important -- but I was only recognized for that at my company. Attaining the PMP meant that the world's largest association for the profession would validate my professional experience. 

In the lead-up to my exam, I was traveling intensively for my job, and the PMBOK® Guide became my travel companion. While abroad, I visited local PMI chapters and learned about running projects in different settings. The interaction with members of PMI chapters in other countries helped me tweak my project plan. The combination of studying and exchanging ideas with practitioners internationally were fundamental for my PMP exam preparation.

In December 2005, I attained my PMP -- and I have never regretted it. Achieving the certification brought me immediate benefits. After I notified my manager, he awarded me an incentive bonus. A week later, I was selected to lead one of the most challenging projects of the portfolio. 

Over the years, I also became more involved in my community, volunteering at events such as PMI item-writing sessions. In 2011, I was honored with the 2011 PMI Distinguished Contribution Award. I'm not saying that getting my PMP awarded me recognition and experience overnight, but I needed it to get to the next stage in my career.

I still find project professionals who think the same as my colleagues and I did in the late 1990s. The most frequent questions I hear are: Why should I earn a certification or a credential, if I am a senior project manager with many years of experience? How does a certification or credential make me different? 

To these, I respond with a question (Why not step out of your comfort zone?) and a thought (What made you successful in the past will not make you successful today).

The truth is that, just like doctors, project professionals need to update their knowledge to face the challenges in today's project world. PMP certification and PMI membership give you access to share and acquire project management knowledge, stay up to speed on new trends, and join a group of global volunteers contributing toward the advancement of the profession. Most importantly, certification helps you reach the next step in your professional life. At least that is what it has done for me.

How did getting a PMP help your career? Are you still considering getting one, and why?

Posted by Conrado Morlan on: January 15, 2013 10:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Foster Growth for Junior Project Managers

How can you still use the people you currently have on your team rather than replace them?

One suggestion is to look to your junior project managers, provided that they are sufficiently skilled, to complete the work that needs to be done.

But how do you train the junior project manager quickly and sufficiently?

As project managers, we, especially those with credentials, have a strong belief in this profession and the desire to advance our knowledge and practice. Those of us who are already senior project managers have the responsibility to work with our junior project managers or team members and support them in their growth.  

As a project or program manager, you have the power to give them the tools they need to unleash their power as coordinators and junior project managers. As a project manager, you already know how to manage the project. It's up to you to help the less experienced know what they should be doing, what they shouldn't be doing and what tools they should or shouldn't be using.

For example, I worked with one junior project manager who lacked experience in working with those who were directly involved in the business operation. The solution we found was to involve her directly with the business analyst. The business analyst could help the project manager communicate her needs into "business speak." This allowed the project manager to learn, and adjust her management and communication styles.

Knowledge sharing gives junior project managers more confidence. By providing them with an experience working with you on a project, you are creating an environment that fosters growth and development and is fun and rewarding.

Are you a senior or junior project manager? What has your experience been like? How do you foster growth for junior project managers?

Posted by Dmitri Ivanenko PMP ITIL on: September 20, 2012 01:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Managing Multicultural Teams

In my first post ever, I talked about how the "multi" factor plays an important role in projects and how project managers must be prepared to address team issues related to this phenomenon.

As project managers in a global environment, we are now more often expected to lead multi-regional projects. This adds the element of different cultures -- both national and organizational -- that adds can add complexity to projects.

Perhaps your experience is similar to mine when working with project teams in a global environment. My multicultural project team consists of senior stakeholders, a deployment team and a technical support team. All team members have varying experience in the organization, but also can come from very different cultural backgrounds.

There can be a struggle when starting a project in a culture that you are not familiar with. How do you bring everyone together to share a common vision and commitment on the project delivery? I have learned that I need to develop strong cultural competencies to manage a multicultural project team effectively and to establish connections with the team members.

I like to use three tactics when on-boarding a new team member from a different culture:

1. Explain the purpose and benefits of the project to help establish the bond between the team member and the project objectives. Stress the importance of his or her role and how his or her local experience and knowledge will benefit the project.  

2. Discuss any concerns that the team member may have, such as with language or customs. This can also help break the ice and show that you understand how difficult cross-cultural relationships can be.  

3. Emphasize what is important to you, whether it's work ethic or communication methods, and why it's important. Don't assume that all of your expectations are globally understood.

When I manage a project abroad, one of my preferred ways to build cultural awareness is by spending time visiting popular spots where the locals meet. For example, at restaurants, coffee shops, sporting events and shopping centers, you can observe customs, traditions and behaviors.

Your observations in those settings can help to answer your questions about the culture. But it's just not observation that will help you.  People are very proud of their cultures and customs and are often keen to help you understand them. This supports the need to build a rapport with your team, whilst also building your awareness.

It's also important to understand your own culture's norms and behaviors. That knowledge helps guard against interpreting another culture's behaviors in terms of your own unexamined expectations.

As a global project manager, how do you manage a multicultural team?  

Posted by Conrado Morlan on: August 20, 2012 02:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

Selecting a Protégé From Your Project Team

It is always good to groom talent internally to fill vacant positions in the company. It saves cost, effort and time -- all the important aspects of a successful project. 

I like to think of grooming a project team member as another project.

To ensure that 'project' is successful, a project manager should look for possible candidates that match certain characteristics. In my opinion, the following are among the characteristics a manager should look for in potential project managers (in no particular order):

1. Friendliness

A project manager must be able to communicate effectively. Friendliness is a good trait to have because more often than not, a friendly person is able to get information from the least communicative person.

2. Willingness to learn

Learning happens all the time in managing projects. Even the most seasoned project managers still learn something new from each new project.

3. Vision

A project manager must be focused in seeing a project through until it is completed -- or halted. He or she must have a clear vision to be able to steer the project team to fulfill the project goals.

4. Organized 

And this doesn't mean the project manager's workstation. The information that the project manager shares must be organized and structured to ensure clarity and understanding to the recipients.

5. Diplomatic

In a project, conflicts will arise -- even from something as minor as a missing network cable, for example. A project manager must be able to act objectively, as a mediator and be able see the whole picture.

6. Firm

When making decisions or providing direction, a project manager needs to be firm. Not every decision will be popular. Resistance may occur, but the project manager must stick to her or his ground.

This, by no means, is an exhaustive list of characteristics that a project management protégé must have. But I do believe these are the fundamental criteria that a project manager should possess to be effective and successful.

What criteria do you look for in a project team member when grooming him or her to be a project manager? What other characteristics do you feel are important for someone who wants to be a project manager? 


Posted by Hajar Hamid on: August 10, 2012 10:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Project Skills Improvement Through Formal Plans

It is very likely that you have some members on your project team who are more talented or experienced than others. As project managers, we tend to utilize their skills as much as possible because we know that more often than not, they will be able to produce excellent results and meet expectations. 

Nevertheless, this group of people still needs the opportunity to improve their skills and knowledge. This is especially true when an organization needs to stay relevant in the current economic conditions. 

According to PMI's 2012 Pulse of the Profession report, a critical success factor of projects was staffing the team with the appropriately skilled people. Organizations that had a formal process for developing project/program competency saw a 70 percent success rate on projects, versus a 64 percent overall average. 

Unfortunately, Pulse of the Profession also showed that in 2011, only 47 percent of organizations had a formal "talent management" process, down from 52 percent in 2010.

But we must have formal talent management processes to develop project managers and team members, and you must tailor it to the people involved. An effective project manager is only as good as the information that he or she has.

An "accidental project manager," for example, might not have attended formal project management training courses. But fundamental knowledge helps project managers achieve effective and high-quality deliverables. For this group, it would be good to start them off with proper training on the core skills they'll need to grow and succeed as project managers.

Team members who are familiar with project management fundamentals might need help developing in other areas, such as soft skills. Since 90 percent of a project manager's job is communication, maybe you will help them improve in that area. 

Have the team member sign up for a communication course, for example. Choose topics such as influencing skills, which is important in convincing clients and partners. Or, suggest courses on negotiating skills, which is helpful in negotiating a more achievable schedule.

Refresher courses could be helpful for everyone on the team. Look for training that zooms into specific project management areas, such as effective cost and scheduling control, risk management or quality control management. Aim for at least one training session every quarter. 

Do you have a formal talent management system? How do you develop your project managers?

To discuss Pulse of the Profession on Twitter, please use #pmipulse.

See more on the Pulse of the Profession. 

Posted by Hajar Hamid on: July 11, 2012 12:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
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