Studying for the Project Management Professional (PMP)® Exam may feel like a long and daunting process. There are many study aids available for use that can help make the studying process feel a little less overwhelming. One such study aid is a Flashcard. A Flashcard is defined by macmillandictionary.com as “a small card printed with words, pictures, or numbers that helps someone learn something.” In this article, we discuss how Flashcards can make your PMP® Exam studying a lot easier, along with how developing a 40 flashcards a cards a day habit can help you pass the PMP Exam.
The use of flashcards is a form of distributed practice. Distributed practice means spreading study sessions and self-testing out over time. Distributed practice is a proven method for enhancing student performance, so use flashcards to actively test yourself on concepts one at a time. Flashcards can be used to spread your studying out over time when you are in the process of studying for the PMP Exam. You can use then use your stack of Flashcards to quiz yourself again on the PMP material closer to your PMP Exam date. Flashcards are light, portable, and typically small enough so they can be used to study anywhere and anytime. If you are not interested in carrying around hard copy flashcards, there are even electronic versions you can download for your phone or tablet.
Make it a habit to use Flashcards
Spreading out studying for the PMP Exam is a great way to ensure you learn, not just memorize the PMP related concepts, but as with many things in life, you need to find the right balance between too little and too many flashcards in one day. For example, PMP Flashcards provides you with a ready-made set of 1500 flashcards. If you plan to take the PMP Exam in 90 days you might feel you can review 17 flashcards a day (1500/90 = 17) but you should review at least 40 a day to allow you to review each card at least once and to review again any flashcards that you could not answer correctly. There is no need to review all 40 in one sitting, break it up into two, three, or even four sessions. Remember you can review flashcards just about anywhere since they are portable. Setting a goal of reviewing 40 flashcards a day allows you to take a break in between flashcards to allow for the concepts to “sink in” and to avoid “cramming”.
Making a habit of using flashcards as part of your study process can help ensure your success with passing the PMP Exam. A habit is defined by macmillandictionary.com as “something that you often do without intending to or without realizing that you are doing it”. The first step in creating a 40 flashcard a day habit is to create a study planner. The study planner will help you distribute your learning of the PMP concepts and avoid cramming. Before you know it, picking up a flashcard to review when you have a few free moments to spare will be something you do without thinking about it. It will become a habit.
Flashcards help you pass your PMP Exam
Aiming for 40 flashcards per day is simply a guideline. You may want to review more flashcards early in your PMP Exam process, so you can gauge how much you know at that point, then figure out how quickly you want to pace yourself prior to your exam date. You may find that 30 or 50 a day fits your schedule and life a little better. Many students keep a separate pile of those flashcards which they found difficult to answer or answered incorrectly. You may want to schedule a day or two a week to go into greater depth and research topics from this pile of cards. Also, don’t forget to schedule a day every once in a while to take some time off for unrelated activities to allow for the concepts to “sink” in. The key is to set a daily goal (to develop a habit), track your progress, and determine if you should aim to review more, or maybe even fewer, flashcards a day depending on how you are doing.
Using flashcards is an example of distributed practice where learning is spread out over time in order to truly learn PMP concepts as opposed to simply memorizing words. You can use flashcards to review or self-test. Developing a 40 flashcard a day habit is an excellent way spread out learning of the PMP concepts. It is also an excellent way for you identify what topics you need to spend more time on. And once those concepts are truly sinking in, then don’t forget to immediately begin applying them on your own projects at work. There is no better way to learn than to apply what you studied. So you can see that flashcards can not only help you stay on track in order to pass the PMP Exam but also help improve your project management skills.
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
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!
If you are just beginning or are in the middle of studying for the Project Management Professional (PMP®) Exam, you probably already know that in order to pass, you need to fully understand both A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Fifth Edition, Project Management Institute, Inc. and the Project Management Institute (PMI) Code of Ethics. You have probably spent some time thinking about the many study techniques available to you. In this article, I examine four PMP Exam study techniques, their effectiveness, and some possible alternatives, you may not have considered.
Technique 1 – Reading and Highlighting / Underlining the PMBOK Guide and PMI Code of Ethics
Technique 2 – Using Flashcards
Technique 3 – Taking Notes on the PMBOK Guide and PMI Code of Ethics
Technique 4 – Taking Practice Tests
A successful project manager must have many different types of skills. Those that come to mind immediately are the technical skills that we need to put together a project plan, schedule, budget and all of the necessary documentation. It is also important for us to have the conceptual skills needed to “see” the project as it is being developed.
However, those skills won’t ensure a successful project unless the project manager is able to complement his / her technical skills with many different types of interpersonal skills.
These essential skills include the following:
Being able to call upon and apply these skills at the right moment in your project can help ensure success. We will review each of these skills in our upcoming weekly exam tips.
Leadership is one of the important skills that a good project manager must possess. The reason for this is that in many cases, the project manager doesn’t have any authority over the team members for a project. This means he or she must manage the project through leadership.
Although it can be more difficult to manage through leadership rather than authority, it is usually more effective because it is built on trust and respect.
A leader is especially important at the beginning of a project to define the vision of the project and communicate this vision to the team. This helps all of the team members to get on board with the goals of the project. Good leadership skills will also keep the members inspired and motivated to do their best work.
Unfortunately, leadership is difficult to teach from books (or tips like this one). You can learn the basics from the written word, but then you need to show that you “have it” by applying it on the job. For the PMP exam it is important that you recognize situations that require leadership and that you are able to select the appropriate action.
2. Team Building
Team building is another essential skill for a good project manager to possess. The nature of a project is that there are people from various different departments involved. In most cases, these people have not had the opportunity to work together and they may not even be familiar with each other’s departments. If the project manager isn’t able to turn these individuals into a team that is focused on the same goal, the project may not reach it’s potential.
Although some of the individuals or sub-teams involved in the project will complete their tasks independently, they will need to feel as part of the team. When a decision needs to be made related to their part of the project, their focus must be on what is best for the project, not just what is best for them and their departmental problem. A feeling of belonging to a team that solves a problem for the whole company (and doesn’t play departmental favorites) goes a long way.
Also, building a team where each member is comfortable in reaching out to the others will ensure small details don’t turn into larger issues later in the project.
It is therefore essential, that project managers not only know the tasks and processes that are involved in building a team, but that they have the skill and finesse to apply them appropriately.
If you want to ensure the success of your project, you should work on developing your motivation skills. Having these skills will help that your project team members stay interested in the project, want to their best, and work toward the common goal.
Good skills as a motivator will allow you to create an environment that allows team members to meet the objectives of the project while simultaneously being satisfied with the work they are accomplishing.
Usually, being a good motivator and PMP is all about knowing how each individual member can be motivated. Some will do better work if they are challenged while others need to be reassured that they are doing good work. Other ways to provide motivation is through public praise or financial compensation.
Everyone is motivated differently. Your project will be much more successful if you can determine what motivates your team and act on it.
Good communication skills are important in most careers. If you are working as a project manager that is even more true, since we communicate about 90% of the time. Some project managers go as far as considering the communication aspect of managing a project as their main job responsibility.
Great communication skills are key to not only improving the relationships among all project team members, but also to establish trust and keep everyone motivated and on schedule.
Usually there are many stakeholders involved in a project and they must all be kept up to date on the status, timelines, progress, risks and issues associated with the project. A good project manager and PMP must communicate all of these details to project stakeholders in a timely fashion and in the format that they expect to receive it in. Project managers must also be able to properly communicate with senior management in their organization.
As you develop your communication skills, it is important to include all of its facets. This includes both written and verbal. Another important part of developing good communication skills is learning what information needs to be communicated and who needs to receive the information. Providing too much information or not enough to the interested parties can hamper the project from fulfilling its potential.
If you want to become a successful project manager, it is important to be able to influence people. Just as critical is understanding when and how to use those skills and to ensure that you don’t become a manipulator. There is a fine line.
The role of a project manager is to bring together people from various departments and getting everyone to work together toward a common goal. Sometimes it can be difficult to get all of these different people to understand and agree on the details of reaching that goal. A good project manager will use her skills to influence people and help them to come to an agreement.
As you consider the influencing skills you need, remember your goal as a PMP should be long term collaboration. So consider your relationship and influence over others not only for the duration of the project but also how things will go long after the project has long finished. After the project is when the products, deliverables and results created by your project is going to be utilized by customers and end-users. A strong and positive influence fosters an environment of trust among all the team members both during and after the project completion.
6. Decision Making
There are many skills that a successful project manager mare develop and among them is good decision making abilities. There are four basic styles used to reach a decision. Project managers should be familiar with all four because at some point, decisions will have to be made from each style. The styles are consultation, consensus, command and random styles.
Clearly, it is always good to have effective skills in this area, but it becomes more important for a PMP because quite often other team members have to be involved in the decision making process.
Having a decision making model will facilitate this process. Since there are so many people involved in the project who may not agree on a decision, having a process to follow can be very helpful to gain consensus with the group.
7. Political and Cultural Awareness
In today’s world, project managers operate in an environment that is more globally focused than in the past. This makes cultural diversity another important component of successfully navigating the corporate environment as a project manager. A good project manager must have the skills necessary to recognize and understand those cultural differences as well as the ability to factor them into the project plan.
Cultural differences can influence the decision making process or the speed in which the work is completed. It can also cause members to act without proper planning. Not recognizing cultural differences can then result in conflict and stress within the project which will further delay it. Understanding these cultural differences in a scenario context will also be tested on your PMP exam.
Furthermore, it is important to recognize the politics involved in the project environment. Using political skills can help a project manager be very successful. However, more importantly, not recognizing the politics involved can create significant problems and roadblocks that could delay or completely derail a project.
The nature of the role of a project manager makes it essential for them to have good negotiation skills. There are usually many stakeholders involved in the project and most projects have team members from different departments. This usually results in several different points of view which can sometimes make it difficult to keep the project on track and within the original scope.
Negotiation skills help a project manager by reaching an agreement or a compromise of some kind on the issue that may be causing a problem or delay.
There are many negotiation skills that you should be able to use related to negotiation. These include being able to analyze each situation, being an active listener and clearly communicating throughout the discussion. It can be useful to identify the differences between the wants vs the needs of those involved. Another important focus is to realize the difference between the positions people have vs. the interests and issues directly related to the project.
Above all, skilled negotiators have the ability to manage the situation so that all parties involved feel as though they had a say that was taken into consideration.
9. Trust Building
Trust is a precious thing to have when you are working on a project. Having an atmosphere of trust allows for good relationship and communication among team members and various stakeholders. A project manager wants to promote climate of mutual trust. This helps to keep morale up, conflict low and everyone working well together.
If you were on a project, you want everyone engaged and working diligently to perform well. If you work hard, you want to be able to trust that others are also trying their best to meet project objectives. When a team member says they can perform a task well and by a certain time, you want to be able to take their word for it. If anyone in the team needs help, you want a team that will be supportive of one another and collaborate in order to get the job done. You don't want to waste time second guessing if someone is not honest or has ill-intentions.
As a project manager, there are many ways you can build trust. You have to be an excellent and open communicator so you minimize misunderstanding and foster trust amongst team members. You have to set a good example. Many times, you may have to set aside your own self-interests for the good of the team. You have to model and demonstrate the behavior you are expecting of others.
10. Conflict Management
Conflict is almost inevitable on a project. Project team members and stakeholders may have different opinions, areas of expertise, interests, personalities, work styles and the list goes on. Add other elements often a given on a project to the mix, such as tight deadlines, resource constraints, communication issues, you can see that conflict is rather likely to occur.
Many times, conflict allows for a better solution to a problem. If a team member would rather agree or go with status quo than cause potential conflict by pointing out a flaw, asking a question, or making a suggest an improvement, then it’s easier to be satisfied with a suboptimal solution. However, more often than not, conflict prevents the team from working well together and distracts those involved from the tasks at hand.
The key is being able to prevent conflict or its escalation or if you are not able to circumvent it then, you must know how to control or minimize it when it arises. There are many styles or behaviors that a project manager can choose to adopt when managing conflict. You can be assertive, accommodate, avoid or compromise. Some styles work better than others in certain situations.
How effective it might be depends on the project manager and the people involved in the conflict. A project manager also is not limited to applying just one style, if one approach does not work, he may have to try another to see if that is more effective.
If you look up what it means to “coach” in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it lists
: to teach and train (an athlete or performer)
: to teach, train, and direct (a sports team)
So, there is a bit of a sports analogy here, but being a coach is one of the hats that a project manager has to be able to wear for his or her team. Your goal as a project manager when coaching is for the team member as an individual and for your project team as a collective to be at their highest level of competency and performance. You want to enable them to do the work.
Coaching may involve teaching and training or providing them a way to gain or increase their skills. This might be formal or informal training. You may have to find ways to develop their confidence and motivation. It may require you to increase team building and collaboration.