By: Vibha Tripathi
I presented at the PMI’s Virtual Experience Series 2023: 15 June. This was a great event with featured speakers, exhibits and networking activities.
My presentation, “Value of Technical Program Management vs. Program Management without Technical Understanding” focused on:
During my presentation, I received a lot of great questions that we didn’t get a chance to cover, and my responses are below.
In conclusion, I had a great time presenting, and the full presentation will be on demand through 31 January 2024. Visit PMI‘s Virtual Experience Series 2023: 15 June for more details.
By: Nick Sonnenberg
In March, I had the honor of joining Kara Austin at the PMXPO Virtual Experience Series for the Book Club presentation (which you can still see on demand through January 31, 2024). I spoke about my book Come Up for Air, and continued the conversation in this blog in May when I answered some questions about changing “free for all” meeting attendance, work management tech systems, and getting your inbox to zero. Now it’s time for another round of Q&As that came from my session, where I address passion projects, overcoming obstacles, skill development and more!
1. What project have you worked on that you were most passionate about?
We had projects for marketing, and then within that we had all the different marketing activities and initiatives like blogs and podcasts and ink articles; and then for actually writing the book, that was a separate project. So all of these various projects had all these milestones and tasks in there, which is where we collaborated.
All those ultimately lived in a Come Up for Air portfolio, which housed all the projects. So in one place, we could see everything that needed to happen, all the milestones that we were going to hit. And yeah, it took a village to get this done, but if we didn't have it organized, it probably wouldn't have gotten done.
2. What obstacles did you need to overcome for this project to be a success?
3. How did you overcome those challenges?
I also have a fantastic team. I probably spent over 1,000 hours on this book, but if it weren't for having a full-time head of content on my team that wrote a lot of the book…I might have been able to still write a book, but it definitely wouldn't have been to the quality that you see it today. So I would say have a great team, have great systems. Ultimately, I think it's that simple—but it's not easy all the time to execute on.
4. What advice do you have, or what key lessons have you learned that have helped you manage projects better?
You know, a lot of people do post-mortems after projects where you reflect on what went well, what didn't go well, what was learned for the next time. But you might even want to consider a pre-mortem, where you sit down and say, “Okay, we got a book coming out February 2023. The goal is to hit the bestseller list. Now let's imagine that we don't.” And we start analyzing why we don't. You start having that conversation on the front end.
Across companies that we've seen, some teams do this—thinking through what the risks and challenges are, why we might not succeed. And having that conversation up front is so valuable. And having a project manager on the project, or someone that's responsible for making sure that the project's hygienic and that there's not a bunch of things past due, I think is critical as well.
So in summary: Have you established roles and responsibilities to really kick it off properly with why are you doing this? What's the success criteria? In general, I like to think through the milestones that we need to be hitting before starting to think about all the minutiae, all the tasks. So on that kickoff call, we'll go through the high-level stuff, and then we'll start going from like 30,000 feet to 20,000 feet to 10,000 feet. Meaning, what are the milestones that we need to start hitting and laying out in order to achieve that bigger goal of completing the project? Once you get that, then we start thinking about what tasks we need to hit those milestones.
5. What skills do you think are most important for project management?
So you need those qualities of follow-through in an organization, but in the future it's gonna be more and more critical that you know how to use these more modern tools.
6. How would you recommend acquiring skills that someone might not have yet?
But there's a lot of free stuff online that people could just start Googling, honestly—Google is your friend. There are books out there. There's my book. PMI has some fantastic books, too. So, you know, there's some cheap solutions out there to really get started and inexpensively accelerate your learning.
7. What is your moonshot idea that you would love to assemble a team around and make reality?
And so in the future, what I envision Leverage doing is building technology. So imagine a bot that's living in your Slack or your Microsoft Teams or whatever your internal communication tool is, and that tool is connected to all of these other core tools that you use to collaborate—all these modern tools that kind of fit into my CPR framework that I talk about. Well, there's some common best practices that we teach that we could code and have a bot ping you and say, “Hey Kara, we notice that you have this many past-due tasks…”; or, “We notice that you haven't been getting to inbox zero in your email”; or, “Here’s a little video to remind you of what we've talked about before. And if you need some help, you could read this article or watch this video.”
So I think building some SaaS component to how we're training and consulting that connects to all these tools and tells you exactly where you’re missing the opportunity to be more efficient is the direction that we're going in.
By: Dr. Jennifer Donahue Ph.D.
Last month, I had the pleasure of presenting at the PMI Virtual Experience Series 2023: 15 June. This was a great event with featured speakers, exhibits and networking activities. My presentation was “Becoming the Warrior: Strategies to Break Through and Achieve Your Goals and Dreams”. During this talk, I focused on the fact that we all have passion-fueled dreams that may seem too bold or too risky. We are continually challenged to meet goals, either the goals of our organization, or the goals we set in our personal life. However, we often feel that our goals and dreams are out of reach, that we are not ready, we don’t have the time, or maybe we’re just not good enough.
During my 45-minute session, I exposed the reasons why many of you are not moving forward. We struggle with imposter syndrome, self-doubt, the fear of failing, and roadblocks.
I received a lot of great questions that I didn’t get a chance to cover, and my responses are below.
Question 1: The challenge is knowing when your fear is serving you well or hindering you.
I think of fear as both rational and irrational. Rational fears might be those times when you're walking at night or in an unknown area and your “Spidey senses” start to tingle. It's good to listen to this type of fear.
Then there are irrational fears. I spoke about my fear of hummingbirds. I know that this is absolutely, completely irrational in every single way. Hummingbirds do not attack people (according to Google).
The key is to try to find the difference between the two types of fears. If you were embarking on a new journey, you may have a fear that you will not succeed. Use this type of fear to understand exactly where it originates from. Develop safeguards you can put in place to ensure that you succeed.
Being afraid is OK, but not going after your goals and dreams because of that fear, is not OK.
Question 2: I’m curious how much toxic culture plays into this.
When we combine these imposter syndrome and toxic environments, it becomes easier to reinforce those negative beliefs we have about ourselves. Toxic work cultures are often epitomized by unhealthy competitions, lack of support, bullying, harassment, and devaluing other people's accomplishments. Working in a toxic work culture creates an even larger uphill battle to overcome our own imposter syndromes and self-doubt.
Question 3: We need to remember our TEAMS experience these emotions too so we must remember, speak life, and build people up... not validate the lies/fear people are struggling with internally.
I often discuss that good leadership starts with you and I know this may sound absolutely selfish. As leaders we are told, “it's not about you, it's about your team.” And while this is true, we must have ourselves “sorted out” before we go and effectively lead others.
Once done, that is when it's imperative to make sure that we are observing our personnel and assisting them with their goals and aspirations. We are all human. We all have issues that might not be readily apparent on the surface. Understand that others may be struggling and engage with your team to see where you can assist. Many times, just offering positive reinforcement may help others in ways that you might not understand.
I had a great time presenting, and the full presentation will be on demand through 31 January 2024. Visit PMI Virtual Experience Series 2023 for more details.
By: Carlos J. Pampliega
In our fast-paced, digital-driven world, a key issue has surfaced for businesses: How can we effectively utilize the power of digital technologies to revolutionize our project management practices and nurture new, dynamic business models?
This question is at the heart of a digital transformation that impacts not only how we interact with stakeholders but also how we view the world of project management.
Join me for an enlightening presentation at PMI’s Virtual Experience Series 2023: 15 June, where we'll dig deep into this subject and explore the potential that awaits us in digital project management.
Digital Project Management
The frequency of digitalization and digital technologies in scientific literature serves as a clear indicator of the crucial role they play in our increasingly interconnected world. When combined with the power of cloud computing and AI, these digital tools have the potential to significantly streamline project management processes, boosting productivity and efficiency along the way.
However, the transformation we're discussing here isn't simply about transferring existing processes into a digital format. It's about harnessing the power of digital technologies to fundamentally change the very essence of project management and the business models that it supports.
Several real-world examples highlight the potential of digital project management in fostering new and innovative business models. The increasing ubiquity of digital technologies, paired with the massive amounts of data gathered by various devices and applications, is driving a need to rethink their business practices through a digital project management lens.
In essence, the secret to successful digital transformation lies in pinpointing the best opportunities to implement digital tools and understanding how they can dramatically alter our business models. However, even as we dive headfirst into the digital age, we must remember the importance of maintaining the foundational principles of project management, such as collaboration.
Interested in Learning More?
As we continue to explore and adapt to this digital landscape, it's important to remember that digital project management can have a profound effect on our project management processes. By effectively leveraging digital tools, we have the power to optimize our work, enrich the customer experience, streamline operations, and even devise new business models, leading to enhanced outcomes.
Finally, we'll examine the evolving role of project managers in this digital age. With digital technologies altering the landscape of business models, we'll understand how project managers can effectively navigate this change and lead their teams toward successful digital transformation.
I promise you; it will be an enlightening session that will leave you with actionable insights you can directly apply in your professional life.
Are you intrigued?
Want to delve deeper into the exciting realm of digital project management?
I would love you to join me on 15 June at the PMI Virtual Experience Series event for this presentation and participate in the question and answers with me and the rest of the PM community. We'll engage in meaningful dialogue about the future of digital project management and explore ways to drive transformation within our organizations.
I can't wait to see you there!
By: Nick Sonnenberg
Last month, I had the honor of joining Kara Austin for the PMXPO Book club at the PMXPO Virtual Experience Series on March 23rd. I spoke about my book, Come Up for Air, and answered some questions around how teams can work together more efficiently. Here are a few questions posed during my presentation, with my best answers.
Question 1: I'm part of an organization that is very "meetings heavy" where meetings are often a free-for-all of people who don't need to be there. Do you have any advice as to how to gently influence change without people feeling resentful for being excluded?
This is a very common problem, and the solution is more of a mindset shift than anything—but I do have a few tactical suggestions as well. My first piece of advice is to simply educate your team on the value of their time and the cost of meetings.
Regardless of whether they're a salaried employee or paid by the hour, everyone has an effective hourly rate. So if you take the average hourly rate of people in a meeting and multiply it by the length, you can actually calculate the cost of a meeting. I'd suggest doing this as an exercise with your team to show them how much a typical meeting costs. It can be pretty eye-opening, as most people don't think this way and will be shocked by the cost of seemingly innocuous meetings.
Now, there are ultimately four ways to reduce the cost of a meeting. You can eliminate it, shorten it, reduce the number of people, or reduce its frequency (if it's a recurring meeting). Reducing the number of people is a very easy and impactful lever. Cutting out one person from an hour-long meeting, for example, could save you $50 to $100 depending on their rate. If that's a weekly meeting, you're looking at anywhere from $2500 to $5000 saved per year. And not only is it saving the company money, but it's giving that person more time to focus on important work.
So the first step is to just reinforce this concept and explain why limiting the number of people in a meeting is important. When you schedule a meeting, you should be thinking carefully about who actually needs to be there—especially for recurring meetings.
And then I have three other, more tactical suggestions. The first is that if someone is only relevant for a portion of the meeting, you can prioritize working through that part of the agenda first. They can then leave early and get back to their work.
The second is that anyone should feel comfortable leaving a meeting if they aren't contributing or feel they don't need to be there. This is a rule at my company and Elon Musk even has a similar rule in his companies. Sometimes people feel they'll get in trouble if they leave a meeting early, but it should really be the opposite.
And finally, remember that recordings and notes can be shared afterward. If someone doesn't have anything to contribute but should be kept in the loop, you can leave them off the calendar invite and send the notes or a recording afterward. Then, they can review that information and get up to speed at a time that's convenient for them. You can even sometimes use this strategy to eliminate meetings entirely.
Ultimately, this is all about protecting peoples' time. When you're in meetings all day, you don't have time for your most important work, and you're then forced to work late in order to get everything done. So I would make it clear that when you're limiting the number of people in a meeting, you're doing it to protect their time and ensure they don't get overloaded—not to exclude anyone.
Question 2: What tech systems are you all using for work management, comms, and SOPs?
Each of these categories you mention are part of the CPR Framework discussed in Come Up for Air, so I'll briefly go through each one and include the tools we use for each, along with some alternatives.
The "C" in CPR is for Communication, which is broken down into internal communication tools and email. The two primary internal communication tools on the market today are Slack and Microsoft Teams. Similarly, the two primary email tools are Gmail and Outlook. At my company Leverage, we use Slack and Gmail.These two software choices will depend largely on whether you're on the Microsoft Suite or not as they're very similar in functionality.
The "P" in CPR is for Planning, which involves work management tools. There are a lot of different work management tools out there nowadays, and at Leverage, use Asana. Some other options are Clickup, Jira, and Monday.com, just to name a few. These tools hold tasks and projects, with deadlines, assignees, statuses, and more—basically everything you need to get work done and monitor progress.
The "R" in CPR is all about documenting knowledge, and I recommend doing that through two types of tools—a knowledge base and a process management tool. Knowledge bases are for storing static knowledge like SOPs, policies, assets, and general information that doesn't change all that much. Process management tools are used to document how repeatable processes get done. At Leverage, we use Coda for our knowledge base and Process Street for our process management tool. Other options for knowledge bases are Notion, Guru, Confluence, Sharepoint, etc. And for process management tools, there's Pipefy, Trainual, Sweetprocess, and more.
The main lesson, however, is that individual software choices aren't the most critical part of the equation. I always say "it's not the tool, it's how you use it." It's about aligning as a team on when and how to use each of these tools together.
So, at a high level, here's how to think about using each of these tools within the CPR Framework:
Question 3: Suggestions for how to get to inbox zero?
Getting to Inbox Zero is a real game changer—we're typically able to save our clients an average of 5 hours per person per week just by getting everyone to Inbox Zero. And if you're thinking this won't work for you because you have 10,000 or more emails in your inbox, think again.
The first step is to limit the number of emails coming into your inbox in the first place. I won't get into all the specifics here, but there are a number of settings in both Gmail and Outlook to move promotional emails to other inboxes, filter spam messages, and prioritize emails from real people. If you're really serious, you can even set up a rule to filter out any email that has the word "unsubscribe" in it so you don't get any marketing emails.
Next is what we call "ripping the band-aid off." Most people have thousands of read and unread emails in their inbox, so the idea of getting to zero seems pretty far-fetched. Well, the reality is that most of those emails are probably old and irrelevant anyway. So I recommend just archiving all emails older than 30 days. This lets you wipe the slate clean so you can make some real progress, but you'll still be able to access those emails at any time in your archive.
And finally, you can use what I call the R.A.D. System to work through each email. R.A.D. stands for reply, archive, and defer. These are the three (and only three) actions you can take with an email in your inbox.
Deferring is a very important yet underutilized method. Most email tools have some method of "snoozing" an email, where it will disappear from your inbox and reappear at a specified date. This is wildly helpful. If you're busy one day and would rather get to an email later in the week, you can simply snooze it to that day and it will reappear. Similarly, if you send an email and want to be reminded to follow up if they don't respond, you can snooze it to the exact date you'd like to be notified.
If you use the R.A.D. System, you can efficiently work through every email in your inbox until there's nothing left. Although, I always say that maintaining zero emails is a bit unrealistic. Really, if you're keeping it under 20 you should feel good—it doesn't make sense to ruthlessly adhere to a clean inbox, since your time and attention are surely needed elsewhere!
If you’d like to watch the presentation, it is available on demand through 31 January 2024 at no cost. Visit the PMI Virtual Experience Series for more details.