Learning the lessons of past projects is important if you want to improve as a project manager. Understanding what worked and what didn’t is essential for your professional development when managing projects and for getting better outcomes each time.
This article contains everything you need to know about lessons learned management techniques to help achieve exactly that. Lessons learned management techniques for project management professionals are the knowledge and skills that a project manager needs to be able to use lessons learned to improve their projects.
They are different from the lessons learned about passing your Project Management Professional (PMP)® Exam. Those lessons are about exam practice and how other people prepared for and passed the PMP Exam. If you are in fact looking for lessons learned on how to pass the PMP Exam then you’ll find lots of tips and advice at https://www.project-management-prepcast.com/ll.
Back to lessons learned management techniques: they form part of your PMP Exam so this article will both help you prepare for questions on the topic and give you the tools you need to learn from your experiences on projects.
PMP Lessons Learned Management Techniques: 3 Things To Know For Your Exam
‘Management techniques’ are just effective ways of working. They are how we capture, record, analyze and use lessons learned for continuous improvement in our projects. Now we’ve got that cleared up, here are three essential things to know about them for your PMP® Exam.
First, the PMP Exam Content Outline specifically mentions lessons learned management techniques as an area of cross-cutting knowledge and skill. You should expect to get asked about them.
Second, lessons learned processes are useful across the whole project management life cycle from Initiating to Closing. However, lessons learned management techniques relate specifically to how you manage the process of gathering and sharing lessons learned on your project. This is more relevant to the Monitoring & Controlling and Closing stages of your project.
Third, while you probably haven’t given much thought to how you manage lessons learned, the good news is that you most likely have all the skills you need. You simply need to know how to explain them and respond to questions about them in the PMP Exam.
The Lessons Learned Project Management Process
We project managers are always fond of processes and procedures! The generally accepted process for projects is that you collect the lessons, prioritize and validate them, and then store them somewhere while making them available to other teams. The process doesn’t end there. The final step in the lessons learned process is that you reuse what you have learned. They feed into continuous improvement.
There is a fundamental difference between how lessons learned are often managed on projects that use a waterfall-based methodology compared to those projects that have chosen an Agile approach.
At a high level, Agile teams tend to be a lot more focused on continuous improvement and will review performance more regularly. Agile team retrospectives can focus on the team’s working practices – how they work together, celebrating a job well done, bettering the relationships in the team, and often a more traditional approach focuses on the project tasks and deliverables and not how the team’ performed together. This is an area that a waterfall lessons learned review could and should cover but is often forgotten.
Agile teams will also have release or sprint retrospectives where the focus is on the product or service covered in that release. On Agile projects you’ll also have project retrospectives where you look at the whole project.
Waterfall project management approaches typically review project lessons learned towards the end of the project.
How to Run a Lessons Learned Project Management Meeting
Should your meeting be formal or informal? Both can work but you certainly need a formal outcome. The more formal structures work best when you think the discussion is going to be difficult because something went wrong or you worry that there might be blame apportioned to someone in the team.
Sometimes you’ll only get the right people to attend if they feel it will be a formal event. If formality helps you get the right level of attention and commitment to the meeting, then go for that!
It’s a good idea to use a facilitator if you can. They can help keep you, and everyone else, on track. Lessons learned sessions don’t deliver any value when the discussion only focuses on what went wrong. A facilitator can help the group turn that into positives by eliciting what could be done differently next time and creating concrete actions to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Use an agenda, stick to time and follow all the other good meeting management techniques that you can.
Lessons Learned Project Management Questions
The best lessons learned project meetings are those that have been well-prepared. Create a list of questions in advance and send them to the attendees. This gives them the chance to prepare. It’s hard to remember everything when you are put on the spot, even if your lessons learned meeting only covers the past phase or few months. Give people the chance to go through their records and remember what happened by letting them know the topics that are going to come up.
Here are some lessons learned project meeting questions to get you started:
If you need more questions the best starting point is to go back to your business case and objectives or project goals. Build your questions from there.
Lessons Learned: Project Management Challenges
Even though we have great lessons learned project management process and the resulting outcomes of our lessons learned meeting, we are faced with the fact that companies still don’t actually learn from them.
We need to convert lessons learned, which are usually backwards looking, into a tool that is forward looking and helps us to avoid past mistakes in the future. Convert the lessons from your project review meeting into actions.
For example, if one lesson pointed out that you didn’t spend enough time in project planning, update your project management plan templates to add in more time so that on the next project you’re prompted to allow adequate time for the work.
Making the same mistakes over and over again costs money and impacts on productivity, so learn from other project managers and their project as well. Ask your project team what they learned about doing similar things in the past and what you should be looking out for. Review whatever databases or documents exist before you start, including your own file of notes if you have one.
Next Steps For Learning About Lessons Learned
There’s of course a lot more to learn about lessons learned than we have space to discuss in this article. Make sure that your PMP training course covers what you need to know. The PM PrepCast contains everything you need to know about lessons learned management techniques, and everything else required to get you through the PMP Exam. Find out more at http://www.pm-prepcast.com/pmprepcast
Conflict in project management is inevitable. In fact they say that the only way to not have a project management conflict is to have a one-person project. And even then, some people have a tendency to argue with themselves.
Karin Brünnemann (https://www.linkedin.com/in/karinbrunnemann) recently gave a presentation on the topic of Managing Conflict in Projects to the Project Management Institute (PMI)® Slovakia Chapter. And because it was such a success she suggested that we bring it to you as well!
Karin’s presentation and our interview is full of solid advice and best practices you can apply to the conflicts you will inevitably encounter. We will discuss: Definition & Characteristics of Conflict
A big part of the interview is actually focused on that last part -- the actual project management conflict resolution. We are, however, not going to talk about conflict resolution on multicultural projects. That’s reserved for next week.
Today’s workforce is made up of more generations than ever before. You might find yourself working with five generations on your project team. So on today’s modern it’s imperative for you to apply generational sensitivity and diversity-awareness to your project teams.
In this article I’ll show you what that means and how it affects your projects. We’ll also look at how cultural sensitivity has an impact on Human Resource Management, Communications Management and Stakeholder Management on your projects: Three large areas of content in A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide).
This article is based on an interview that I recorded with Margaret Meloni, PMP. We did the interview because “Generational Sensitivity and Diversity” was recently added to the Project Management Professional (PMP)® Exam Content Outline and she is a respected expert on soft skills. Also, those currently studying for their exam have to expect questions around this topic not only in their PMP Exam Prep but even on the actual exam.
WHAT IS GENERATIONAL SENSITIVITY AND DIVERSITY?
Let’s break down our topic and define it.
‘Generational’ means coming from different generations; born during different eras. This could be marked by the time periods in which team members were born or by the significant events that have shaped their thoughts and opinions.
Sensitivity is awareness combined with respect.
Diversity is ‘lack of sameness’ -- different people coming together in the same place.
GENERATIONAL DIVERSITY IN THE WORKPLACE
So why is any of this relevant to how you manage your projects?
Due to the fact that people are getting older and staying active longer, they are also staying in the workforce longer. It’s more and more common for different generations to be working side by side.
In addition, our ideas about aging have changed. There are financial reasons to stay working longer, and many people choose to continue working for the social networking it offers them, as well as being personally rewarding. The retirement age is moving steadily upwards and some people are even coming out of retirement to move back into project work – often at their company’s request!
CULTURAL SENSITIVITY: THE WIDER DIVERSITY PICTURE
The concept of generational sensitivity and diversity is part of the wider picture of cultural sensitivity. If you look at our cultural history, you’ll see there was a time when diversity was about women. Then there was a time when it was about race, or religion, and those cultural paradigms still exist today. But the noticeable difference today is that the workforce is now also made up of people from different age groups.
Cultural sensitivity in the wider sense is essential in the workplace because it’s always important to treat each other with respect and not to treat somebody differently or to make them feel uncomfortable because they are of a different age, race, or gender preference.
GENERATIONAL DYNAMICS AND PROJECT RESOURCE MANAGEMENT
Let’s get practical. How do generational dynamics come into play when we are putting together project teams? Project Resource Management is a crucial skill for a project manager and a significant part of the PMBOK® Guide, so it’s important to be informed and to make the right choices.
Think about fairness in hiring and the assumptions you might make when you’re on boarding new project team members. You want to hire the best resource for the job. Sometimes, as a project manager, you don’t get to do the hiring but you do have a say in who’s on your team.
Build a team that represents different perspectives. You don’t want to build a team strictly based on the fact that they are in the same age group. Practice fairness and equality when hiring new personnel by choosing the person who is right for the position, no matter what their age.
Put aside thoughts of, “I don’t want to give that person an important role on the project because they are older and they’re going to retire soon.” Maybe somebody you know who’s 35 is going to win the lottery and retire! That’s not the right way to make smart decisions about the people on your project team.
PROJECT COMMUNICATIONS MANAGEMENT AND THE MULTI-GENERATIONAL WORKPLACE
Project Communications Management is another area of the PMBOK® Guide where it benefits you to consider a multi-generational workplace.
Be flexible in your communications and try not to judge. Others on the team, both older and younger than you, may have different communications preferences, and as the project manager you should do what you can to accommodate these preferences. For example, some people on the team might prefer a text message to get their attention prior to a long conversation or phone call. Others might prefer instant messaging. Others might prefer you to book a meeting. And yes, generational experiences and what people are used to can often guide communications preferences.
Consider the methods of receiving and sending formal and informal communications on your projects. You might even be prepared to adjust your style for individual team members. For example, it may be okay for a person who communicates well and efficiently to send you formal communications by text. If that doesn’t work on your project, you should outline and present your approach to formal communication and make it clear to all what is acceptable – and what is not.
All of these should be built into your Project Management Communications Plan.
GENERATIONAL SENSITIVITY AND STAKEHOLDER MANAGEMENT
Two common tools and techniques for Stakeholder Management are expert judgment and meetings. They are both areas where you can use generational sensitivity to plan your stakeholder engagement activities.
First, use your expert judgment to sit down and develop approaches based on knowing who your project stakeholders are. Someone’s age is just a small part of who they are and their age may or may not actually dictate how they behave. Bring your expert judgment to understand the situation, and to help make effective decisions with the group based on your expert judgment.
Second, think about how you are going to get the best out of the meetings you run, and consider meetings as a method of keeping people engaged. How can you do this with some creativity? Does it have to be that everybody must show up in a conference room with chairs at a certain time? Can it be virtual? Can it be something where you all get together and it’s team building – you can have some fun and talk business? And if so, think carefully about what “fun” means to different people on your team.
HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR CULTURAL DIVERSITY AWARENESS
Awareness can be built and improved upon over time. Pay attention to your thoughts. When you look at someone, listen to your internal monologue and be aware of what you’re saying to yourself. Listen for that internal voice that says “Oh, look at that gray hair, I can’t have them work on this new technology project,” or “When I was that age, tattoos weren’t a thing.” If you are younger do you look at somebody older and think, “Wow, they’re just set in their ways, they don’t get it.”
Your thoughts influence how you treat someone, so start with those. Try to pick out your own limiting beliefs and challenge your own preconceptions. Aim to look at each person on your project team as a unique individual with something valuable to contribute to the project.
Use The PM PrepCast as a springboard for challenging your perceptions about project management and project teams. By covering everything you need to know about Human Resource Management, Communications Management and Stakeholder Engagement on your projects, plus detailed coverage of ethics and team leadership, you will become a culturally sensitive and generationally aware project manager. And it will help you pass the PMP Exam at the same time!
The one thing that I really like about project management is how unpredictable my days can sometimes be. I come to the office in the morning with a clear plan of what I’m going to do and then something happens. I love this challenge because as a project manager, I now have to re-evaluate the situation and change my plans accordingly.
But there is more to it than just responding with a knee-jerk reaction. These times demand situational awareness, and you need skill and finesse to handle changing demands effectively. Situational awareness is an important skill to build as a project manager and in this article we’ll look at what it is and how you can use it on your projects.
This article is based on an interview that I recorded with Oliver Lehmann, MSc., PMP. We did the interview because “Situational Project Management” was recently added to the Project Management Professional (PMP)® Exam Content Outline, and Oliver has published a book on the topic (see link at end). So if you are currently in the middle of your PMP exam prep, then you can expect to see questions about situational project management on your exam. Therefore the article is not intended as a book review but as an introduction to the topic.
What is Situational Awareness?
Situational awareness builds on a very simple observation: the tools, practices, behaviors, and approaches that are successful in one situation may fail in another. Simple best practices may sometimes match the situation you find yourself in and create a great outcome, and other times sometimes they might lead to disaster.
You should always ask yourself: Am I doing the right thing for the situation, the moment and the environmental context that I am in now?
Situational project management begins with the same observation. One behavior, tool or technique may lead to success on a project in a specific situation and fail on a different one. The best project managers can analyze the situations and make adjustments as needed.
What is Situational Leadership?
Situational leadership is also something you’ll use on your projects. It refers to applying your leadership skills in a way that is relevant to the situation. Use the situational awareness principle of the right tool for the right situation and make your leadership calls appropriately.
You might have to do that because it’s impossible to plan ‘right now’ on your project. Maybe you are taking things step by step and making decisions as you go, based on the results of your actions.
Some leadership situations are the opposite, where you can see far into the future and perform considerable a long-term project planning. Essentially, you have to flex your style to suit the project and the moment.
How To Apply Situational Awareness
What this really means in practice is that slavishly following a methodology isn’t the most effective route to success. You are applying your professional judgment to every project decision, ensuring that you’re making the best choices at that time, given the circumstances.
You probably do this already, perhaps not methodologically but by instinct, or based on your ‘gut feelings’. In order to do this you have to be aware of the context of your project and the situation you are working in.
Let’s look at an example. Two recent rail projects in Germany involved building two new mainline stations: one in Berlin and one in Stuttgart. One project was a huge success; the other ran into deep difficulties. The projects were run by the same organization, Deutsche Bahn (German Railway). They used the same methodologies and approaches and even the same project manager. So why was the work successful in one city and unsuccessful in another?
The Berlin main station was a green field project using open space that used to signify the gap between East and West Berlin. It was possible to build there without having to take local stakeholders into much consideration. Stuttgart station was built in the middle of a city, where it was necessary to heavily involve local stakeholders, especially as people became afraid for their homes when the tunneling started. The project manager was not prepared to engage with local stakeholders and essentially that is what caused the crisis for that project. A lack of situational awareness and situational leadership led to local disruption that cost the project significantly.
How to Make A Situational Assessment
If you find yourself in a situation that is changing on your project, take a moment to ground yourself and reflect. Ask yourself: What is the situation that I’m currently in? Think about the project, the problem you are facing and the wider project environment. Consider the requirements of the situation on you as the project manager, on the project sponsor and on other important stakeholders.
Can you explain your behavior? Make sure that if someone asked you to write down why you made those choices and used that behavior that you could justify it. It’s especially important to check that you aren’t emotional and to consider the causes and purposes of your behavior.
Are these choices compliant with the needs of the project? Finally, check that you are making decisions in this situation that are allowed within the context of your work. Consider regulation, the requirements of your customer and manager, and the normal practices that would be expected in this situation.
Situational Leadership: Team Development
Situational leadership is a great way to develop your team as well. Think about how you are going to support the learning needs of your project team members, the ones that make up your core team. Like any other team manager, these people are your leadership team.
Leadership team development is about giving your core project team the skills they need to perform their assigned activities on the project, and you as a situational leader will be able to judge what is required at any given moment in time.
One of the primary things to focus on is helping to reduce complacency across the team. When they have done something before and have been successful, a situational leader will challenge them by asking if it be successful this time. Don’t let your team fail because they fail to be situationally aware.
Making An Ethical Situational Assessment
Assessing the situation on a project means being aware of shades of gray, which you have probably experienced on your own projects.
There’s one moment where you have to be very firm in your beliefs and that’s when the situation is about your professional integrity. When it comes to questions of bribery, corruption, or discrimination based on gender, on skin color, religion, or whatever it is, you should be “unsituational”.
Use your knowledge of the Project Management Institute (PMI)® Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct to help guide you in making the right decision, or talk to your mentor or another professional associate you trust for advice.
Developing Your Situational Awareness
The more experience you have as a project manager, the easier it will be for you to make appropriate judgments when dealing with changing situations on your projects. However, solid training is a good shortcut for this when you don’t have time to wait until you’ve gained 30 years of practical experience.
The Book Situational Project Management: The Dynamics of Success and Failure written by Oliver Lehmann is available at Amazon.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to monitor your emotions or the emotions of others and use this to guide your actions. A shorter way to say this is to recognize or regulate emotions in ourselves and others.
As project managers, we deal with people all day, every day, and we rely on them to get the job done. In this article, I’ll show you how you can use your emotional intelligence in the different project management knowledge areas and how you can improve your skills. But first, let’s take a look at how this branch of management thinking first started.
The History of Emotional Intelligence
Research into emotional intelligence can be traced back to about 1964 when Michael Beldoch first wrote a paper on the subject. In 1989 Stanley Greenspan created a model to help describe what emotional intelligence was, which was then expounded on by Peter Salovey and John Mayer.
Then we get to Daniel Goleman, who you will probably see more of in search results about Emotional Intelligence than any of the other authors. He’s often the go-to resource for emotional intelligence in the business world because he writes articles for Harvard Business Review, Forbes, and other periodicals on a regular basis.
“EQ”, “Emotional Intelligence”: Which Is Right?
You might hear emotional intelligence called EQ, which stands for emotional quotient. Generally, they are used to mean the same thing, so you can use either one. However, my reading has found that one researcher has used them to mean slightly different things. He used EI to discuss the potential that we are born with and EQ to talk about our actual practical application of these skills. The difference is very slight so feel free to use either of these terms and you will never be incorrect. In this article, we’ll use EQ (emotional quotient) and EI (emotional intelligence) interchangeably.
Emotional Intelligence and Project Management
Why is emotional intelligence important to us as project managers? It’s important because it is a significant differentiator in our success. Travis Bradberry, who is also a researcher in this area, says that 58% of our success ties to our ability to be emotionally intelligent. If you look at people who are top performers, 90% of them rate high in EQ or higher than their colleagues. Having said that, being highly emotionally intelligent as a project manager doesn’t negate the need for you to have excellent technical skills.
EQ is the ultimate integration of soft skills and technical skills. You can use your emotional intelligence to make the best judgment calls for the team and to communicate effectively about what you’ve used your technical skills to calculate, such as earned value and schedule dates.
Emotional Quotient and the Project Management Knowledge Areas
My primary goal in writing this article is to give students who are preparing for their Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification a basic understanding of how EQ plays into the exam. But even if you are not currently in the middle of your PMP Exam Prep, this should still be a helpful guide.
So how do the components of emotional intelligence relate to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) project management knowledge areas? Well, we don’t have space here to go through them all in detail but here are some high-level examples of how you can apply emotional intelligence to your daily project management activities.
Scope Management: Oftentimes people feel pressured to sign off on project scope that isn’t exactly what they want because they don’t want to hold up the process. EI can help you notice this and do something about it. An emotionally intelligent project manager will follow up afterwards because they’ll recognize that this will cause a problem later on.
Time Management: When your team faces time pressures, knowing how they think and how to get the best out of them can help you work out a solution to help them deliver more. Being emotionally intelligent can help you frame a request to a sponsor in a way that gets you more time or more money to pay for extra resources.
Cost Management: Incorrect estimates can cause headaches on projects and emotional intelligence gives you the tools to deal with them. Do you just not use the incorrect estimates and hope the estimator doesn’t notice? Do you sit down with them privately? Do you need to bring another estimator into the conversation or is that going to embarrass the original expert? EI gives you an insight into what is going to work best.
Quality Management: Working with auditors can involve difficult negotiations. EI can help you balance the needs of the team and the auditor and get the audit completed successfully.
Human Resource Management: This is perhaps the most obvious area to apply EI. You can use it for conflict resolution, negotiations and building good working relationships with your colleagues and peers.
Communications Management: You should always adjust your communication method to what the recipient needs, not what you need. EI helps you identify what they need and therefore makes your communications more successful.
Risk Management: EI is a tool to assist in risk brainstorming and is especially useful when you have to prioritize risks and the team cannot come to a consensus on the highest priorities.
Procurement Management: If you haven’t had much experience negotiating contracts or facilitating the process, your own self-awareness will come into play here. Being aware of deadlines and the role of others on the team will help you navigate the procurement timelines.
Stakeholder Management: EI lets you work through challenges with stakeholders. Think office politics!
Integration Management: EI is the thread that ties together all of your working relationships. It’s the basis behind how you present information, how you work with someone who’s experiencing challenges, and how you choose to communicate. It’s at the core of everything we do because I don’t see a world where we can truly separate our soft skills from our technical skills. We use them to support one another.
Improving Emotional Intelligence
Improving emotional intelligence is possible. Here are 4 things you can do to improve your emotional intelligence.
First, observe those who you see being successful. Note how they behave, and understand what it is they do. Then find your own way to do the same thing: Imitation will come across as insincere.
Second, be self-aware. Talk to others about how you come across. Take an emotional intelligence assessment. This can highlight areas where you can improve.
Third, keep a journal. I don’t mean that you have to keep a personal diary, but keeping track of conversations can be incredibly useful. If you know that on this date, during this conversation, this occurred, you can then go back and see if you can find a pattern of where sometimes things don’t go as smoothly as you may have thought. That might let you trace it to a specific behavior or trigger.
Finally, develop a broad range of project management skills. It’s often easier to be confident at using your EI if you are already confident with the technical skills of project management, because you can use those and your facts to support difficult conversations.