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
Rex Holmlin
Christian Bisson
Taralyn Frasqueri-Molina

Recent Posts

If You Want to Disrupt, It’s Going to Take Some Work

The Case for Grassroots Communities of Practice

Empowering Your Team Members

How to Influence Others

The Importance of Situational Awareness

If You Want to Disrupt, It’s Going to Take Some Work

Steve Dierker accepts the PMI Project of the Year award on 24 September.

 

By Cyndee Miller

When people talk innovation, they typically throw around a lot of fancy management terms: paradigm shift, game-changer, disruptive.

What’s often left out is the blood, sweat and tears part.

So it was positively refreshing to hear Steve Dierker credit the hard work and sacrifices of the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS‐II) team as he accepted this year’s PMI Project of the Year award. “It was a long journey with many challenges along the way.”

I’m not even going to pretend I truly grasp the science behind this project. Let’s just say, this was a tough one. The team at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York, USA, was charged with creating a powerful photon microscope that would help scientists conduct research at the atomic level. The final design incorporated 900 custom-built giant magnets that created a concentrated beam of electrons thinner than a human hair—moving at 99 percent of the speed of light.

Completing that kind of paradigm-shifting, game-changing, mind-blowingly disruptive project took some serious project management.

“A disciplined approach to project management was part of the vision we shared with [project sponsor], the U.S. Department of Energy,” Mr. Dierker said at PMI’s Professional Awards Gala in San Diego, California, USA.

The payoff for all that hard work and discipline? The team closed the US$912 million project ahead of schedule and under budget—and delivered an additional US$68 million in scope enhancements not included in the baseline. (Get a look inside the project with this video and the cover story of PM Network® in October.)

Still, winning this award was no cakewalk. The Brookhaven team had some worthy competitors—with their own disruptive projects:

Guaíba 2 Pulp Mill Project, Guaíba, Brazil: A US$2.4 billion project nearly quadrupled the production capacity of the Celulose Riograndense pulp mill—while leading the way on social and environmental responsibility.

To make the factory energy self-sufficient, the company designed a system that would generate all required electricity through its own production processes. Celulose Riograndense also spent US$50 million on local roads and infrastructure, created more than 9,429 jobs and offered more than 230,000 hours of training courses that allowed locals to develop specialized skills. Check out the video to learn more about the project.

Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital, Brisbane, Australia:

When public enquiries found the local pediatric healthcare system was putting children with complicated medical problems at risk, the government of Queensland, Australia took action. To reduce mortality rates—and make it easier for patients to meet with the state’s limited number of specialists—Queensland Health launched a project to consolidate and centralize pediatric services.

Putting the focus squarely on sick kids, the Aurecon project team created a collaborating project environment and followed a formal benefits management process. Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital now provides an integrated facility that puts families at the center of its operations, while also reducing redundancy across the healthcare system. Check out the project video to learn more.

For more on finalists, look for in-depth feature stories in upcoming issues of PM Network®.

Posted by Cyndee Miller on: September 25, 2016 04:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Case for Grassroots Communities of Practice

By Peter Tarhanidis

These days there is such a high influx of projects and such a demand for project managers, but such a limited supply of practitioners. How can companies help their project professionals improve their skills and knowledge so that they can work to meet that need?

Leaders deliver more results by sponsoring grassroots project management learning and development programs. Common approaches and best practices are shared across all levels of project managers—ranging from novices to practitioners. Therefore, if an organization has more employees who can learn to leverage project management disciplines, then the organization can meet the increasing demand, and are more likely to develop mature practices that achieve better results.

One type of grassroots effort is to establish a project management community of practice (CoP). CoPs are groups of people who share a craft or a profession. Members operationalize the processes and strategies they learn in an instructional setting. The group evolves based on common interests or missions with the goal of gaining knowledge related to their field.

For project managers, there is a specific added benefit of CoPs. They bring together a group who are traditionally part of separately managed units within an organization focused on strategic portfolios and programs.

CoP members develop by sharing information and experiences, which in turn develops professional competence and personal leadership. CoPs are interactive places to meet online, discuss ideas and build the profession’s body of knowledge. Knowledge is developed that is both explicit (concepts, principles, procedures) and implicit (knowledge that we cannot articulate).

In my experience, I have seen CoP utilized in lieu of project management offices. The members define a common set of tools, process and methodology. The CoP distributed work across more participants, increased their productivity to deliver hundreds of projects, improved the visibility of the members with management and positioned members for functional rotations throughout the business.

Which do you think drive better performance outcomes—establishing hierarchal project management organizations or mature project management disciplines through CoPs?

Posted by Peter Tarhanidis on: September 21, 2016 07:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Empowering Your Team Members

by Dave Wakeman

Has your leadership style evolved to reflect the modern business environment?

Old leadership styles put a premium on command and control, which made sense when there weren’t so many specializations.

Now, our culture, and the way many of our projects are organized, requires that we are more collaborative and more focused on enabling our teams. Let’s call this “leadership by empowerment.”

Having fully engaged and empowered teams is now a key to project success.

If you are struggling with adopting this new leadership style, here are a few tips to help you build empowerment in your teams:

1. Focus on communication: With all of the tools at our disposal, you would think communication and information sharing would be easier than ever.

But it isn’t.

In most cases, it feels like our communications are hampered more than ever by all of the noise and demands from technology. But knowledge is empowerment and if you want to empower your team to maximize its impact, you need to renew your focus on communications and getting people the right information at the right time. You can do this by clearly spelling out the way that you will communicate with your team and how they should communicate back with you. You can create areas, tools and methods for accessing the most important information. A tool like Slack may be a way that you can better organize your information.

2. Allow your subject matter experts to be experts: In projects it is easy to lose focus on the fact that as the leader, you can’t know everything. This can cause project managers to want to dictate every action and every possible scenario to your team members, but that is a clear path to friction, delay and failure.

As the project manager, your job is to put your team of experts in a position to succeed. One way I do this is by setting outcome-based goals for my teams with clear check-in points so that I can understand the status of tasks and activities , but give my team members the power to do the work in a manner that they feel is best.

3. Provide continuous opportunities to learn and grow: We talk a lot about constant learning and development, but how much of that is just lip service? To help empower your teams, spend some time developing the skills that are truly going to help deliver better results for your organization (not just the ones that are going to help your team members learn something new).

You can do this by creating a training calendar or schedule that focuses on mission critical tasks, sharing best practices or interesting new ideas, or inviting in guest speakers.

Remember, your job is to use the tools you have at your disposal to make sure your leadership empowers your team to do the best work they can for you.

How do you empower your team members? 

If you enjoyed this piece, you will really enjoy the weekly newsletter. It is my most personal and strategic content delivered each Sunday morning to your inbox. Make sure you never miss it! Sign up here or send me an email at dave@davewakeman.com! 

Posted by David Wakeman on: September 21, 2016 12:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

How to Influence Others

Categories: Stakeholder

by Lynda Bourne

I recently wrote a post about influencing without authority, which looked at building credibility and “currency” to trade for the support you need. Those ideas buy you a seat at the table. This post looks at ways you can influence situations to move everyone to a satisfactory outcome once you’re at that table.

Smart influencers recognise it is often futile to work against powerful resistance. Rather than fighting the situation (and making it worse) they look for subtle ways to influence the outcome. Key methods of smart influencers include:

  • Being open and aware. In stressful situations, effective influencers slow down, take a breath and observe before taking action. When we focus on our breathing we relax, which increases our perception, can provide a new perspective and heightens empathy.
  • Using movement to trigger an attitude change. Suggest, for example, going downstairs for a coffee. It may open up other ways of “moving together.”
  • Using the space around you to influence attitudes—both in formal meetings and in your own office. Creating the right ambience will help you influence others. Things to consider include:
    • A meeting table is divided into personal zones. These zones are maintained zealously. Make sure you don’t inadvertently cross the lines.
    • Be aware of personal space and seating hierarchies. Rather than confronting the “opposition” across a rectangular meeting table, consider setting up a round table where everyone can work together.
  • Using collective language. “We” is almost always better than “you.”
  • Avoiding closed questions. It is easier to avoid getting a “no” in the first place than to change a “no” into a “yes” later. Consider these three examples:
    • “Do you like my suggestion?” This is a closed question and if the answer is “no” you have nowhere to go.
    • “You do not appear to like my suggestion, why?” This is better. You now have a conversation starter but the ‘why’ has negative implications. It may seem as though you are blaming the other person for disagreeing with you.
    • “How could my suggestion be improved to make it acceptable to you?” This opens up a whole new paradigm. If the person makes some suggestions that are incorporated into the overall proposal, the proposal becomes “our suggestion.”
  • Focusing on what you want to achieve. By openly stating what you want to achieve, you lead by example and create an opportunity for others to do the same.
  • Keeping body language in mind. For most people, the reaction to body language is subconscious. It can help or hinder your attempts to influence. Focus on:
    • Paying attention. This makes the other person feel valued and is likely to enhance your ability to influence the situation.
    • Your hands. Gestures can have very different interpretations in different cultures.
    • Not overreacting to body language. It is a complex language and generally reacting to superficial signs can cause more harm than good. But paradoxically, your subconscious reading of the whole situation will often be accurate.
    • Not faking body language (unless you are a professional actor). To get yours right you need to have the right attitude first and then let nature do its bit. For more information on this, read Influence: Body Language Silent Influencing by Michael Nir.

The ability to influence people is a key leadership skill. One way to acquire the skill is to watch others in a group situation and see how the people who are influencing attitudes and actions are behaving. Then try emulating their behaviours in your next meeting.

How effective are you at influencing others?

Posted by Lynda Bourne on: September 13, 2016 08:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (11)

The Importance of Situational Awareness

Categories: IOT, Portfolio

by Wanda Curlee

I recently came across an article by consultant Melanie Nelson about project management and situational awareness. In the article, Nelson argues that project managers need to be more than just technically savvy.

They must also be able to see the bigger picture and understand the context they are working in—including industry culture, employee pain points and the other projects and business goals competing for attention in the company. They must hone their situational awareness.

Situational awareness is the ability to understand what is happening around you, why it is happening and what you need to do or not do in reaction. Some call this a soft skill, but I believe it goes further than that.

As rookie project managers, we learn about which processes and procedures are done in what order. However, project managers with situational awareness may question, for example, whether or not all steps in the process need to be completed, what processes must be changed to accommodate the needs of the organization or even if the correct methodology is being used.

For a software project, that could mean questioning if agile or waterfall is the best approach or if lean should be used instead. To paraphrase Nelson, she loves Kanban but she knows that it is not appropriate for all projects.

Situational awareness is a skill beyond understanding earned value management, creating status reports, or managing conference calls and client meetings.

It is about asking, for example, in those client meetings questions such as:

Do you have the attention of the client? Are the right people in the conference room? If not, why not? What will you do about it?

It is not easy and takes a lot of practice.

Do you have the situational awareness needed for your project?

Posted by Wanda Curlee on: September 08, 2016 09:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (13)
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