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.

About this Blog


View Posts By:

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

Recent Posts

The Team That Skipped the Storming Stage

Are You There in the Ways That Matter?

Why I Became A Project Manager

From Birth to Adulthood: How to Mature Portfolio Management Practices

Project Management Transforms Taiwan’s Uni Radio Station

The Team That Skipped the Storming Stage

PMBOK 5th Edition - Hindi Translation Team

The PMBOK 5th Edition Hindi Translation Team Gets Recognition

This piece continues my previous blog posts, “The Techniques That Don't Resolve Conflict” and “The Only Technique That Resolves Conflicts,” which looked at why no technique other than collaborate/problem-solve truly resolves a conflict.

Researcher Bruce Tuckman suggested that a project team generally goes through the forming, storming, norming and performing stages. In this post, I will discuss a team that skipped the storming stage—or, rather, they managed their conflicts so well that they spent most of their time in the performing stage. Fortunately, I was part of the team.

The Project

PMI India took up the task to provide the PMBOK Guide—Fifth Edition in Hindi to promote project management in Hindi-speaking regions. The project initiated in February 2013 and aimed to finish by August 2013 so the new Hindi version could launch at the PMI National Conference in Delhi in September 2013. We had only six months, and the team was yet to be recruited. We had to onboard a translator and form a Translation Verification Committee (TVC) of subject matter experts who were native Hindi speakers with sound knowledge of the PMBOK Guide—Fifth Edition.    

PMBOK 5th Edition Hindi VersionThe cover of the PMBOK 5th Edition Hindi version.

The Team

PMI India already had some volunteers for the TVC. We selected a few names and started interviewing. We also tried to persuade people who were part of the TVC for the Fourth Edition to participate. We intended to select eight people for the TVC, but we settled for seven.  


  1. The challenges were many, and the short timeframe was the first. We had to complete the project by 31 August.
  2. The translation had to be simple, easy to read and use the language of common people.
  3. Another big challenge was to find the equivalent word in Hindi. It is very common to find many Hindi equivalents for one English word, but none of them exactly matches the meaning. So you have as many opinions as people on the team. This was the most time-consuming challenge. If not addressed appropriately, it could cause serious delays.
  4. Committee members came from four different cities and could not meet frequently. All had full-time jobs and would verify the translation after work.
  5. One translator was the only team member hired professionally. His pace set the pace of the whole team.

Facing and Overcoming the Challenges

After finalizing the team, the kickoff meeting happened on 31 March, 2013. So we had only five months to complete the job. We met the first time to understand each other and set the agenda. We prepared a schedule with our best estimates. It turned out those estimates had us completing the project in October! That was not acceptable, but we decided to start work on the first three chapters and revisit the schedule later. We decided on one face-to-face meeting per month on a weekend and to connect via a conference call in between.

In the first call, we could see what we feared most. There was a lot of discussion to select the right word and sentences, and we couldn’t make much progress.

At the second meeting, the target was to finalize Chapter 1 on the first day, but again there was a lot of discussion about choosing the right word, and we could not complete the chapter. It was a matter of concern now.

We decided to set ground rules:

  1. Based on the skills demonstrated so far, we made two people the final word on Hindi and two others the final word on the PMBOK Guide. In the case of long debates about these two issues, the group would accept what these people decided.
  2. If we could not conclude a word debate in a specified time, we would have an online vote, with everyone voting within three days. The word that had the most votes would be selected with no further discussion.
  3. To maintain quality, we decided on two levels of review. Every team member would do a first-level of review and pass it on to a specified person for the second level of review.
  4. As the project was taking longer than expected, we decided to appoint one of the TVC members to help the translator fast-track the work.

At the third meeting, we lost one of the team members. Before the fourth meeting, another was transferred out of the country, reducing his availability significantly. Now the only way to complete the project before 31 August was to take less time in review. The only way to do that without losing quality was to keep our conflicts in control. Forming the above rules turned out to be the most critical factor. Obeying these rules reduced unnecessary discussion and considerably improved the pace. We completed all the activities by 27 August, leaving two weeks for printing and publishing.


Working on this project, I closely observed how a team can manage its conflicts and focus on delivering the work. The following five factors were most critical:

  1. Form ground rules based on the project’s objectives
  2. Identify skills in the team and assign responsibilities accordingly.
  3. Build a decision-making tool with consensus
  4. Build a process that can deliver quality
  5. Follow the rules with discipline

Do you have a similar experience or opposite to it? Please share your view.


Posted by Vivek Prakash on: October 03, 2015 01:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Are You There in the Ways That Matter?

Hello, project manager? You are needed in the meeting room; you are needed for an online chat; you are needed on the phone.

Typical, right? You may feel overwhelmed if you’re expected to be in all places at once. It can help to realize there are only three realms in which you’re truly needed: physical, mental and electronic. Here’s how to address each.

Physical: If possible, try to be physically present for your team. Walk around and talk to stakeholders, team members and others to gather details about your projects.

This provides you with the current status and tidbits that will allow you to be proactive on your projects. It also lets you build rapport with team members.

Mental: You don’t have to be an expert in a programming language or even in the company’s industry. It bodes well, though, when you have some idea of the jargon for conversations with your stakeholders. You’ll want to be aware of the environment—all the external and internal factors and their impact on your projects.

You’ll also need to stay abreast of the benefits your projects bring to the organization. Project managers have to stay mentally focused on their project’s objectives and bottom line.

Try thinking about lessons learned from previous projects to help you gain understanding of how to address potential problems. Investigate tools that allow you to present project results to all levels of management and team members, too.

A detailed report on planned versus actual data is a source that can be shared in various audience-specific formats. You may be called on at any moment for project results and can rely on these tools to support your efforts to be mentally there.

Electronic: Social media and mobile technology allow people to be reached easily. Apps let you track and stay in touch with others. You will want to take advantage of these programs to gain information and respond to concerns about your projects. In many cases, they allow us to address and resolve concerns more quickly.

No matter how you do it, being a project manager means you have to be accessible. We have to manage our projects, not let them manage us.

Posted by Bernadine Douglas on: October 01, 2015 08:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Project Management Transforms Taiwan’s Uni Radio Station

Categories: Communication, Stakeholder

Under the leadership of Chia-chun Hung, PMP, Uni radio station of Taiwan has transformed itself.

Hung, whose father owned the radio station, was thrust into management at a young age when his father became ill. After becoming the station’s vice president in 2007, Hung took over the business in 2011 when he was just 28.

He had been endeavoring to improve the operation structure of the station, but with little success. But after learning project management concepts—Hung is the first PMP in Taiwan with a background in radio broadcasting management—he has successfully transformed the fate of the radio station. It’s now the most popular station broadcasting in the central part of the country.

But back in the midst of the global recession, a sharp advertising downturn was crippling the station. To reposition, Hung gave Uni station a new mission: deliver positive messages that promote social change, like “home and family.” The business operation was also transformed from advertising-oriented to program sponsorship.

Hung then translated the station’s mission into a tangible objective—become an influential platform—and embedded this objective into every project’s scope.

“Knowing the objective of your project right at the beginning makes you more focused, more aware of any deviation,” Hung told me in an interview. “In the meantime, we spent a lot time communicating with our stakeholders the concept of our operation, trying to clarify ideas.”   

Uni station’s programs consist of two types: those initiated by the advertisers themselves and those initiated by the station. In the former, the station helps the advertisers produce the program and realize their beliefs and ideas. In the latter, programs are produced by the station on its own, and the staff finds the appropriate organizations to sponsor them.

No matter which type, the station takes the lead in the production and helps the advertisers establish their brand’s image. The audience does not hear any advertisements during the program; the name of the sponsor is only given at the end of the show.

Seven years after Hung began Uni’s transformation program, the practice has gained the station a good reputation. Today Uni even “jumps down from the air to the ground,” holding seminars, family activities and campaigns—all in an effort to fulfill its mission.

Posted by Lung-Hung Chou on: September 17, 2015 11:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

The 3 Things That Transcend All Project Approaches

by Dave Wakeman

Recently I had the chance to engage with Microsoft’s social media team about some of the issues I have been covering here. Their team brought up a question you may have asked as well: How do you differentiate between “digital” project management and project management?

It’s an interesting question, because I firmly believe all projects should be delivered within a very similar framework. The framework enables you to make wise decisions and understand the project’s goals and objectives.

I understand that there are many types of project management philosophies: waterfall, agile, etc. Each of these methods has pros and cons. Of course, you should use the method you are most comfortable with and that gives you the greatest likelihood of success.

But regardless of which project management approach you employ, there are three things all practitioners should remember at the outset of every project to move forward with confidence.

Every project needs a clear objective. Even if you aren’t 100-percent certain what the “completed” project is going to look like, you can still have an idea of what you want the project’s initial iteration to achieve. This allows you to begin work with a direction and not just a group of tasks.

So, even if you only have one potential outcome you want to achieve, starting there is better than just saying, “Let’s do these activities and hope something comes out of it.”

Frameworks enable valuable conversations. I love talking about decision-making frameworks for both organizations and teams. They’re valuable not because they limit thought processes, but because they enable you to make decisions based on what you’re attempting to achieve.

Instead of looking at the framework as a checklist, think of it as a conversation you’re having with your project and your team. This conversation enables you to keep moving your project toward its goal.

During the execution phase, it can give you the chance to check the deliverable against your original goals and the current state of the project within the organization. Just never allow the framework to put you in a position where you feel like you absolutely have to do something that doesn’t make sense.

Strong communication is the bedrock. To go back to the question from Microsoft’s social media team about digital vs. regular project management: the key concept isn’t the field or areas that a project takes place in.

No matter what kind of project you’re working on and in which sector you’re in, the critical skill for project success is your ability to communicate effectively with all the project stakeholders.

This skill transcends any specific industry. As many of us have learned, it may constitute about 90 percent of a project manager’s job. You can put this into practice in any project by taking a moment to write down your key stakeholders and the information you need to get across to them. Then put time in your calendar to help make sure you are effective in delivering your communications.

In the end, I don’t think there should be much differentiation between “digital” projects or any other kind of projects. All projects benefit from having a set of goals and ideas that guide them. By trying to distinguish between different project classifications, we lose sight of the real key to success in project management: teamwork and communication.

What do you think? 

By the way, I've started a brand new weekly newsletter that focuses on strategy, value, and performance. Make sure you never miss it! Sign up here or send me an email at dave@davewakeman.com! 

Posted by David Wakeman on: August 30, 2015 09:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

There Are No Free Steak Knives

Categories: Communication, Stakeholder

By Lynda Bourne

A conversation with a clerk in a HR department looking to procure a training program and the passing of English actor George Cole in early August made me start thinking about the art of the deal.

Cole’s defining role was “Arfur” Daley, the devious “spiv” on TV’s Minder. Arfur was always offering deals that were too good to refuse. The deals were rarely outright crooked, but Arfur regularly needed his minder’s help to get out of trouble.

My recent conversation with the HR clerk (and time spent watching TV shopping channels) suggests the Arfur Daley approach to creating a deal that is too good to refuse is still very much part of modern business.

The reason for this post is to help project team members tasked with purchasing goods or recommending the preferred supplier cut through the communication hype to see the real value in a proposition. There is no such thing as a free set of steak knives!

The first step in making the best buying decision is to remember that only two elements really matter: acquiring the goods or services you need and the price you pay.

The second step is to be really clear about what you need. Defining the appropriate quality and quantity for tangible goods is easy. It’s much more difficult to work out what represents a good training option or the best value consultancy service.

Then there’s the price! What’s the better deal: a $600 product with a special discount of 25 percent or its $500 competitor with a discount of only 10 percent?  

Then one of your colleagues suggests talking to a local business. Its rack price is $440, but they don’t offer discounts. Is this a better option? Assuming all other factors are equal, what matters is the final price you pay, not the discount. It’s fairly easy to work out once you ignore the spin.

$600 minus 25% = $450
$500 minus 10% = $450
$440 minus 0% = $440

Moving beyond price, the inducements to make you buy from a particular business are many. The challenge is applying discipline to your decision-making process. The problem with most of the “fantastic free offers” and “no-cost extras” is that they are only valuable if you actually need them and can use them.

Remember that all “free” offers are priced into the cost of the goods or services. Most organisations who run training courses (including us) advertise that every trainee receives free access to on-line revision tools or practice questions.

But when we are setting the price of the course, the $50 we pay for the on-line licence is included, along with the “free” coffee and all the other expenses we have to cover before we can start making a profit. The course price includes all our costs plus a profit margin. If it didn’t, we would quickly be bankrupt.

The challenge with the free extras and other inclusions is deciding if they are of any value to you, since you will be paying for them anyway. For example, one PMP training course costs $2,000. The other costs $3,000 but includes free access to online training in four Microsoft Office programs, each “valued at $500.” Superficially the $2,000 in free extras makes the more expensive course seem a better value. But is it? Ask yourself:

  1. Who can use the training—just the PMP candidate or anyone?
  2. Do the people who can access the free training actually need it? If the training was really needed, why have we not already organized it?
  3. What is the real value of the extra free courses? If you can buy a full set of Microsoft Office training courses for $800, that’s the value, not the 4 x $500 advertised by the seller.
  4. What discount will the vendor offer if you opt out of the free courses? This is usually much less than the nominal values.

The reason this type of free offer is so common is that it’s cheap to deliver and most people never use the free offer anyway, even if they intend to.

You also need to be aware of the anchoring effect. If at the start of your investigation, you were told the typical cost of a PMP course was between $4,000 and $5,000, this price anchors your expectations. The $3,000 price will seem like great value and the $2,000 price too cheap to be viable. The anchoring effect is an innate bias that changes our perceptions of value, and the Arfurs of this world know how to use it to their advantage!

All of these sales tactics can be used legitimately. From the seller’s perspective, the purpose of “free” extras is to offer things that are of genuine value to the buyer but cost very little to deliver. But as the buyer, you must learn to ignore the headline price of the free extras and consider what the final package is really worth to you. If you don’t need something, its real value to you is always $0.00!

The factors that make a real difference to most service deliveries are much harder to compare. You will generally pay more for a more experienced consultant or a better quality trainer. Buying this type of service on price alone is rarely the best approach—a basic rule of business is you tend to get what you pay for.

The challenge then is to set up a decision matrix that looks at the elements that really matter in your buying decisions and then make an informed decision. Some of these factors may be measureable. Others, such as cultural fit, are critically important but entirely subjective.

The bottom line here is that before you can get to the serious decision-making, you need to clear away the confusion of the special offers and discounts. The Arfurs of this world are always looking to make you an offer you can’t refuse.

How do you approach your buying decisions?

Posted by Lynda Bourne on: August 21, 2015 06:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)