Viewing Posts by Karen Chovan
Now that I've had a couple of days at home after the close of PMI Global, I wanted to reflect on the positive things I observed, heard and otherwise inferred about PMI, based on the actions of the organization. Of course, this is my own opinion, but I'm hoping many of you will also agree with me!
Overall I feel that PMI has finally, officially, opened the door on true agility and applying flexible, adaptable project management processes, in our ever-increasing world of ongoing change.
I believe this is a very positive shift, and not only validates the many methodologies that exist, but also allows project managers to be at peace with the methodologies they choose to apply to their unique situations.
I have to admit that, in previous years, it seemed there was a bit of resistance to change in methodologies by PMI - something I disagreed with. There seemed to be a hold out, to hang on to the remnants of a waterfall-driven approach to projects.
As a change agent, I find this understandable, given the heavy focus of past issues of PMI's PMBOK and standard practices that have given steady direction to many a project manager over the years. In their defence, why change a good thing, right?
But, as I always encourage, change is here, and change is good! It is our only way to continue to succeed in our changing world!
I believe these shifts started a while ago, with the exploration of Agile, and then the introduction of the Agile Certified Practitioner, alongside the other certification options. I would say, however, that the application of Agile methodologies had still been referred to as something practiced primarily in the IT sectors. As if agility is not relevant for everyone - but this, too, I see continuing to shift, as all agile things should.
With the inclusion of some language around agility in the newest PMBOK edition, there seems to be more acceptance that agility is more of a way to work through any type of project - with collaboration, flexibility, and iteration - so that we can simply achieve the best solutions, and deliver those valued benefits each of our customers want and need. With this, I can agree - and it doesn't stop with Agile.
Upon being asked to partake in the Expert series, and with the acceptance of my presentation abstract (focused on Lean approaches), it became even more apparent that PMI is moving to a world of supporting Change in the project management world.
The entire conference was framed around "Difference Makers, Change Makers" - asking all of us how we will forge new paths moving forward. The lineup of presentations included highlights about many different approaches, including various combinations of hybrid agile, lean, and waterfall.
There was also plenty of focus on the softer side of things, including engagement, collaboration, communication, emotional intelligence, and other leadership skills - to help facilitate the creation of positive team environments and applying various strategies successfully.
In all of this, I have a much stronger appreciation for PMI and it's open-mindedness to embrace such change. In its ambitions to be able to both continue to support its membership with change, and to help lead it too.
I look forward to continuing my support for the membership - whether it be through strategizing and implementing ongoing changes, by way of blogging, hosting webinars, or otherwise training and coaching folks who just might get a little lost along the way with all of these shifts.
If you want a little help, you have a way to reach me...simply connect and send me an email!
Change and collaboration are my forte, and in my opinion, the only perspectives to start with.
I urge you to open your minds, and engage with your peers - what is your opinion? And what is theirs? What is the best strategy to deliver the greatest value from the unique project that you've taken on?
And how can you work together to make your project sing?
Collaboration seems to be a word thrown around quite a bit. But what does it really mean and why do it? How successful is the practice being implemented? And what avenues are there to do so?
Business has been, always, a form of competition - who can make the most, who can do it first, the fastest, who will own the market?
Often big business drives out the small players, seemingly having lower operational costs by pooling corporate resources, moving to more online, complex data management systems and other such strategies. But is it really a better way to do things?
It's definitely not the only way.
One great strategy is to maintain a specialized focus in business, and then pool small complementary companies to work together to accomplish a larger set of goals. Utilize primary project managers to engage the respective teams in the coordination and collaboration efforts, for all activities required to achieve the goal.
When smaller distinct companies collaborate together on a project, they are forced to engage a lot, to understand the big picture, to be clear about each other's roles and responsibilities, and to understand how each groups' work impacts the others.
There is a greater driver for the lead to have done more research at the front end, to really find and approach the most applicable service or technology providers to work together - those who might bring forward the best potential solutions and flexibility to adapt and integrate to meet the needs of others too.
Such teams work together to assess the whole scope of the project together, to identify the best options and approaches to move forward, to challenge each other and identify improvement and optimization opportunities, and to refine the scope and the objectives or targets of a project collectively.
Perhaps because they don't know each other as well, because the lines of accountability need to be more defined, because each groups' distinct approaches need to be fully understood in order to define all of the relevant risks for that project. Or maybe its because, in order to compete with larger firms, these companies are determined to show great value to their clients.
Whatever the reasons, these projects typically have great outcomes - innovative and unique solutions, better performance and reduced costs for the client.
In the realm of practicing collaboration, we have been shifting ever-more into the use of technology - chat tools, databases and common-use spreadsheets of project information, and project management software platforms of various sorts - where everything can be compiled in one space, including emails, chats, reports, gantt charts, and more.
But is the use of technology helping us to collaborate, or just to consolidate information in one place?
In many cases, our reliance on technology is diminishing our abilities, or willingness, to just get in the same room and talk. Over and over again, PM performance reports surface indicating that we still struggle with:
- visibility of what people are working on, and how far along they are in their assigned work,
- finding information within the system, when we need it most, and
- actual communications, whether that be between teams, or within!
At PMI Global, I'll be presenting about several strategies and tools that can be utilized to get back to basics - true, live, communications and collaboration - in the sense of healthy conflict, co-creation and building on each others' knowledge and experiences, to put the best solutions forward. And to reduce the amount of rework that might otherwise need to be done when we haven't worked in this way!
My talk is titled "The Necessary Culture for Soaring Performance" and I am happy to be sharing these strategies with you, to help improve the performance of your own projects!
If you can't make it to my talk, or if you just have some questions about this that you would like to chat about, I'll also be available at the "Ask the Experts" booth - you can book a 1:1 time with me (or others!) to gain some valuable insights!
Happy travels to all that are coming to Chicago, and can't wait to see you all there!
Regarding a question asked about collaboration strategies and agreements to help make it happen, I noted I would attach a picture to indicate the span of options... not an easy question to answer, but it does occur, so have faith that it can be done!
image produced by Canada Mining Innovation Council
I thought I would add to David's post "I've Learned..." because I feel it's always nice to have some key takeaways from peoples' experiences to, shall we say, leap-frog past those things ourselves? We don't want to learn EVERYTHING from our own mis-steps along the way...
So what can I share that might help a few souls out?
- that you can ALWAYS learn something new from another person, no matter their age, education, background, or experiences.
- that diversity matters - diversity in all ways - when it comes to assessing challenges and finding their solutions.
- that in times of change and uncertainty, the best thing you can do for the people around you is to be open, honest, and to help them see why and how they still matter - how they've contributed to what once was, how they can help shift through the change, and how they will continue to provide value moving forward.
- that if you trust and give people the opportunity to step up to higher expectations, and provide them the necessary support they need (tools, training, moral support, backing, or other), they will rise to the challenge.
- that it's okay to be wrong, and
- that it's better to say no when your plate is full, than to think you can do it all, AND that people will understand, especially if you open up and choose to tell them why.
For this last point, I find it can be one of the most difficult ones to stick with.
I am passionate about so many things, and I love to see positive change, in our working environments, and in the world too. So, when people ask me if I can volunteer to help them do something, my heart and mind are often quick to say "YES"...
Not only is this not healthy, it is not a reality when we have family, when we would like to care for ourselves, and when we still need to pay the bills. So, be careful with what you say yes to, and balance that volunteer time with everything in your life.
I've deliberately said no to many things of late, and a few more where I said, maybe - in a few months...when (and if) the waters calm!
I'll be sharing other lessons around engaging your teams, collaboration and lean processes that will increase the performance within your organization, when I present on Sunday, Oct. 29, 4:45...you can find more details about my session here.
What have you learned that you might share?
If you'd like to discuss anything in particular with me, please book an appointment with me at the Ask the Expert booth during the following times. (And if you miss this chance, or won't be there? Book a time with me anyways...)
Saturday, Oct 28th: 3:00 to 4:30
Sunday, Oct 29th: 10:00 to 12:00
Monday, Oct 30th: 9:00 to 12:00
Looking forward to meeting you there!
I noticed that there is a bit of a theme happening in these blogs posted by my fellow expert cohort. And that is, "What makes an Expert" and "How Meeting with Experts might Help You Learn!" And so I thought I'd contribute to this chain of thought.
I liked some of the qualifiers my friend Dave had, particularly when he mentioned PM's should have "survived failures" and be "observational." Dave also demonstrated the power of collaboration when it comes to problem solving, from his own experiences at NASA.
Larry wrote a couple of excellent articles both discussing the need to gain an ability to learn, as well as leading us through the way he learned...and learned...and learned -always on the job. I couldn't agree more with continuous learning, and so, if I were to choose qualifiers on becoming an expert PM, I would add having experiences with:
For me, all three of these are complementary, particularly when it comes to problem solving - which is essentially what we PM's tend to lead, on every project - hence their importance.
However, when it comes to the last qualifier, I believe that, essential to growth, we should look for every opportunity to learn - and that doesn't always need to come from someone with years of experience in the field you are aiming to grow in.
No, instead, it means learning from multiple perspectives, from every stakeholder who might be involved with your project, or similar projects, during its extended lifecycle - especially from those end-users and operators.
THEY will tell you what went wrong with past systems designs.
THEY will tell you what field conditions are going to kick your project in the behind, and throw it off course.
THEY will tell you when your estimates on time and cost are completely unachievable.
Throughout my career, I have survived many failures. And I have avoided many failures too - because I learned early, and quickly, that I can learn many things from listening to others - other people who are not experts in my field, but experienced in what they do. Maybe they were considered experts by their juniors too, or maybe not.
The point is - they knew a LOT more about that particular aspect of a proposed project than I did. (And sometimes they only knew just a little bit more, or had different views on things - and that all helped too!)
Talk to many different people with that sort of knowledge, and you can quickly see why engaging your stakeholders, and better yet, bringing them together, can bring huge advantages to your projects!
After his first article, Larry asked me to share who I am, and what knowledge I can bring for you. And so I will try to summarize 20 years of varied experiences into a few distinct insights I might offer to support your growth.
My expert profile indicates: risk management, sustainability, program and portfolio management, change management, stakeholder management and talent management. It seems a lot, but honestly it could have included a lot more!
But, really, what is behind all of these knowledge areas of mine, and what particular aspects might be most important?
Let's start with risk and sustainability.
You might say that these two things are ingrained into my psyche. Why?
Because I am a geological engineer who has spent the past 20 years working in the mining sector.
If you haven't been exposed to either, let me tell you that risk awareness and risk avoidance are drilled into you from day one - on both fronts. As a geological engineer, we are taught about every type of risk that the environment might pose on any construction or development type of project.
It is our JOB to identify these risks and find solutions to prevent the impacts to and/or failure of infrastructure at its foundational level - topography, subsurface rock and soil conditions, influences of water, and any sort of impact that climatic elements might have on any of these are all part of our body of knowledge.
Ever find something buried in the ground that you weren't expecting? Soft or loose soils? Water flowing into your excavations? A geo should have, and still can, help you out. The earlier you engage one, the better off you are!
In mining, we are constantly on the look out for how the ground and environment around it, might impact our projects. AND we are also looking at how our projects might impact said environment! Because there are just so many ways that mining can be detrimental to the environment - a view I'm sure no one would disagree with.
So on this front, being a geo also provides plenty of insight on how projects can be improved on the sustainability front - prevention of impacts, correction of impacts, and ways to go above and beyond "simple" compliance requirements and make things most resource-efficient and safe. And I have plenty of stories to back this up.
Now, I will say that not all geo's are created equal and toot my own horn too - to add to the training and experience that I have in these realms, I have a preferential characteristic of being a holistic, big picture thinker and observer.
For whatever reason, my brain developed with the capacity to be able to rapidly see the interconnections between many different requirements and potential influences as I learn more from different stakeholders, and I will often spot holistic risks and opportunities long before others do. It truly was something that completely frustrated one of my first bosses and mentors - I'd jump to issues that he was not yet thinking about all the time, but that in the long run, he learned to trust and let me go with it.
On the flip side, while I have the knowledge, and can do the detailed process-oriented analyses, it drains my energy and nearly kills me to do so. Blessed? Cursed? I'll let you be the judge, but it forced me to learn how to rapidly develop trust with those who LOVE to deal with this level of detail, and work with them to accomplish those things.
At any rate, I love the ways in which I can help teams out to spot the potential challenges and guide the development of plans to work through solutions to maximize success!
Next, let's explore program, portfolio and change management.
About 9-10 years ago, I began to be recognized for my strategic, holistic thinking and capabilities for spotting risks and opportunities, let alone the internal drive I had for making positive change.
For a company that was kicking off an organizational change initiative focused on sustainability and becoming recognized as a leader in environmental performance, I was selected to join the change management team.
Now, I will say that the role I was offered was not posed in this frame. I joined the team as a specialist to look for opportunities to improve waste management within the organization - to start. This role took me completely out of my geo-box to explore many more challenges than I'd ever been exposed to, as well as the potential technologies and practices that might resolve them. It was an exciting time of learning, diving into the details and performing all kinds of data analyses, field investigations, feasibility studies and more.
As I mentioned already, I quickly realized how much faster it was to get through the front end of projects such as these, if I just engaged the stakeholders involved with those processes I was investigating. My joy of learning flourished - from both the technical exploration I was able to do, as well as through the engagement with so many diverse people.
Over and over again, people would bring up their headaches, and make suggestions of alternatives - sometimes things they'd already investigated - but hadn't the authority or language to show its business case and strategy for implementation. I was happy to be the one to facilitate moving some things along, as well as to find even better solutions addressing multiple challenges in one go, using their combined input.
Within this team, I gradually advanced from specialist to senior specialist, and to manager, assisting the director with strategic process changes, and then taking over when organizational restructuring eliminated his role - I had to train a new director on all of our existing processes and future plans.
You can come and hear more about the transitions I helped teams moved through over the years that I was in this team at my talk on October 29th. What I won't be covering, however, is the fact that I engaged and coached teams, and facilitated the integration of sustainability measures and the requirements of environmental assessment and community engagement processes into organizational and departmental strategic planning, as well as the PMO planning, stage-gate and decision-making processes.
To give a gauge on time and effort, I spent nearly 6 years with this team before all these changes were implemented and I decided to move on. These weren't quick initiatives, and they required ongoing and extended stakeholder engagement of internal personnel at many different levels of the organization. They required learning how best to connect with people, and with trialling and testing what might work for gaining buy-in to change, for rapid implementation - without authority.
Which leads into my ties with stakeholder management and talent management.
I hope that you can already and clearly see why stakeholder engagement is on my list. What I will add is that I have played the role of nearly every type of stakeholder throughout my career, at least for the types of things I was influencing.
I've been the field tech, the engineer, the environmental specialist and performance monitor, and the liaison with the environmental regulators (and regulatory report author). I've been the quality control and construction manager for large-scale earthen construction projects, the project manager, and the business analyst collecting all the requirements, and justifying the business case for organizational change projects. And I've been the formal manager and coach of technical teams, and informal leader of change with absolutely no formal authority to make things happen.
Oh, and did I mention that much of this engagement had to be done remotely? I'll remind that mining operations tend NOT to be located anywhere near the head-quartering corporate teams.
I've been on both sides of the fence - in the field with not even access to a cell phone or the ability to "send" pictures of critical, impossible situations we were dealing with (aka, before that time...), AND working from those cushy HQ offices hoping to relate to those in the field who think corporate folks have no idea of what they are dealing with... ; )
So, aside from my engagement with people at all levels and disciplines within the organization to facilitate change, I also have my own perspectives gained through these varied experiences. All of these things guide me when it comes to reviewing projects, processes and just general issues presented to me.
They guide me to ask a lot of questions, to help people such as yourselves, think about what you might not yet have thought of. To point you towards asking your own questions, and to engaging the right people to make your own initiatives stronger. To help you find the right solutions.
Not on your own, but with the help and through collaboration with others.
If you can't yet tell, I'm all about engagement and collaboration. And bringing silo'd people together to realize the best outcomes for ANY type of project or initiative we might be working on.
If you think that any of this might help you along your journey, please come find me at the conference. Book a time to begin to work through your challenges, or to just connect with me to investigate more in-depth options for later.
I believe you can book your time along with your conference registration, actually. And I recommend booking early - to make sure you get a spot that works for you! (And if you miss this chance, or won't be there? Book a time with me anyways...)
The times I will be formally available at PMI Global, are:
Saturday, Oct 28th: 3:00 to 4:30
Sunday, Oct 29th: 10:00 to 12:00
Monday, Oct 30th: 9:00 to 12:00
Looking forward to meeting you there!
As PMI Global creeps up on us, there is much on the go in preparation behind the scenes - are you ready to attend?
You may have already seen some promotion of the conference - this year is all about Making a Difference...Are you a #DifferenceMaker? Who do you want to be?
You may not be aware, but PMI has a pretty rigorous process to make sure that you will have the best experience when you come on out for their conferences. And PMI Global, aka #PMIcon17, will be no exception.
The organizers have stepped up their game on developing plenty of personalized learning opportunities for you. If you haven't explored it already, I highly recommend you check out their conference Career Series - this year they will have on offer:
These are among just a few things under development, aside from the fabulous keynote speakers we'll hear, and the coaching that each of the speakers are getting to make sure that each and every presentation will be worth YOUR while to go and attend.
So, with all of this, I hope you have registered, have your travel plans finalized, and have begun to determine the presentations you want to hear - the lineup can be found here to start marking the calendar in your PMI Mobile app!
Here's to hoping you have picked my all-new and updated presentation on October 29th, to learn about the "Necessary Culture for Soaring Performance" and I hope to meet you there!