Project Management

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Whether it’s in-person or virtual, PMI events give you the right skills to complete amazing projects. In this blog, whether it be our Virtual Experience Series, PMI Training (formerly Seminars World) or PMI® Global Summit, experienced event presenters past, present and future from the entire PMI event family share their knowledge on a wide range of issues important to project managers.

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Cameron McGaughy
Julie Ho
Heather McLarnon
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Johanna Rusly
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Nicholas Sonnenberg
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Antonio Nieto
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Te Wu
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Kim Essendrup
Geetha Gopal
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Tai Cochran
Fabio Rigamonti
Archana Shetty
Geneviève Bouchard
Teresa Lawrence, PhD, PMP, CSM
Randall Englund
Kristy Tan Neckowicz
Moritz Sprenger
Mike Frenette
O. Chima Okereke
David Maynard
Nancie Celini
Brantlee Underhill
Claudia Alcelay
Sandra MacGillivray
Vibha Tripathi
Sharmila Das
Gina Abudi
Greg Githens
Joy Beatty
Sarah Mersereau
Lawrence Cooper
Donna Gregorio
Seth Greenwald
Bruce Gay
Wael Ramadan
Fiona Lin
Somnath Ghosh
Yasmina Khelifi
Erik Rueter
Joe Shi
Michel Thiry
Heather van Wyk
Jennifer Donahue
Barbara Trautlein
Steve Salisbury
Jill Diffendal
Yves Cavarec
Drew Craig
Stephanie Jaeger
Diana Robertson
Zahid Khan
Benjamin C. Anyacho
Nadia Vincent
Carlos Javier Pampliega García
Norma Lynch
Emily Luijbregts
Susan Coleman
Michelle Stronach
Sydni Neptune
Louise Fournier
Quincy Wright
Nesrin Aykac
Laura Samsó
Lily Woi
Jill Almaguer
Mayte Mata-Sivera
Marcos Arias
Karthik Ramamurthy
Michelle Venezia
Yoram Solomon
Cheryl Lee
Kelly George
Dan Furlong
Kristin Jones
Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin
Olivia Montgomery
Carlene Szostak
Hilary Kinney
Annmarie Curley
David Davis

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From Pre-mortems to PM Tools, Follow These Tips for Better Project Management

By: Nick Sonnenberg
Founder, Leverage

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? 
The project I'm most passionate about is actually my book that just came out. We've been working on it for the last four years, and there's been so many moving parts. If we didn't have a work management tool to track all the different milestones and tasks, and collaborate with all the different people involved, this book wouldn't have happened.

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?
So many obstacles. I would say time was the biggest obstacle. I'm the CEO of Leverage full-time, and working on a book is a full-time initiative in itself. So finding the time to be writing a book and working with the team on the book, as well as running a company, I think was the biggest challenge.

3. How did you overcome those challenges?
I would say one, we're all very efficient—we're not wasting time going on a scavenger hunt for information. By keeping things organized and not wasting time looking for something (”What's Aiden supposed to work on today?”), that saved a lot of time. 

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?
I would say the way that a project is kicked off is critical. So many people don't spend the time to kick it off properly. It could be over a text message or an email, or even in a work management tool, but it's not properly kicked off—meaning you don't establish clear owners or worlds and responsibilities. You don't spend the time to explain: Why are you doing this project? What does success look like? 

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?
A project manager needs to be organized. I think that you need to be technical, too. In this day and age—look, you could project manage off a piece of paper and a pen. But the future of project management is really about knowing how to use these more modern tools like Asana or ClickUp or Monday, because even if you are really well-organized and you have good follow-through and all of that, if you're not taking advantage of some of these really powerful tools—sure the project still might move forward and things will get done and you'll be on top of it, but these tools are built for a reason. They have functionality to make your life easier. They will allow you to move faster, not have to work as hard, maybe you can manage more projects. 

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?
Read my book, Come Up for Air! Not to plug my book, but I wrote it because you need to know how to use the functionality of these tools. You could also go on YouTube to learn about how you do various things for whatever tool you need to use. What I found missing—and why I wrote the book—was there's not really best practices. Like, what's the purpose of the tool? When should you use one tool versus another? 

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?
Hmm, that's a great question. So this stuff that we do at Leverage, we do operational efficiency training and consulting. So regardless of whether you're a financial advisory firm or not—we've worked with companies that do poop spray, we've worked with some of the largest tech companies—everyone has very similar issues. And what we've established are best practices of when and how to use all these tools. 

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.

Posted by Nicholas Sonnenberg on: August 16, 2023 11:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Presentation Recap: PMXPO Book club

By: Nick Sonnenberg
Founder, Leverage

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, 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:

  • Email should be used for external communication only (with people outside of your organization—partners, vendors, customers, etc.)
  • Your internal communication tool should be used for internal communication only (with your team and people in your organization)
  • Your work management tool should hold all action items and any communication related to work being done now or in the future
  • Your knowledge base should store static information and FAQs (think: Who? What? Where? When? Why?)
  • Your process management tool should hold all the repeatable processes that keep the business running.

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.

  • R: If an email warrants a reply, reply to it (then archive).
  • A: If an email is irrelevant or doesn't necessitate a reply, archive it.
  • D: If an email is not relevant now but will be later, defer it.

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.

Posted by Nicholas Sonnenberg on: May 03, 2023 06:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Presentation Recap: Gender, Collaboration, and the Future of Work

By: Susan Coleman, J.D., M.P.A.
Author, Speaker, Workshop Facilitator

Hello to all. I had the honor of presenting at the PMI Virtual Experience Series 2023 on March 23, 2023, a global event attracting more than 70,000 attendees on Gender, Collaboration and The Future of Work. Thank you for attending my session. I had a great time and hope you did too. You were a wonderful audience and your feedback is inspiring. Please stay in touch at the links above.

Here are responses to some of the Q’s I heard from you in the chat.

Question 1: Is Collaboration really needed in the GPT4 world?

What a great question!

My gut response -- not that I claim to have any real handle on what’s happening with AI -- is YES. ABSOLUTELY.

Theory is clear -- competition leads to competition and collaboration leads to collaboration. It’s the way it works. I see it all the time in my work (and life).

From what I understand about the GPT4 world, AI picks up the themes that we put into the digital universe. If we are putting in collaboration, that’s what it will give us back – and probably better than we could do it. If we are giving it competition – and by ‘competition’ I mean here of more of the toxic, dominating variety, that’s what AI will reflect back. And, again, my guess is AI will play this game better than we ever could. It gives me the creeps when I visualize this at its logical end – violence, combat, war -- frightening, Terminator type imagery. This inevitably ends in a lose-lose for all of us.

Black and white thinking about ‘free market’ v ‘socialism’ dumbs us down, just like extreme polarization does in all conflict. AI could be amazing – we just need to make sure, through our collective guiderails (i.e. government oversight) that it is serving the collective good as well as individual creators and operators. This, of course, is a more collaborative sentiment.

Question 2:  How do we handle the toxic individual in a negotiation?

Let’s start with ‘What is toxic’?

We hear more often ‘toxic masculinity’, but I think the masculine and feminine can be toxic at either end of the spectrum.

At the masculine end it is the hyper-masculine – all combat, war, domination.

At the feminine end of toxicity, it is codependency, accommodation, submissive.

Patriarchy – which is still the largest superpower on the planet, divides humans in half, with the feminine on one side of the equation and the masculine on the other. It reveres the feminine in principle but disparages it in fact (from family therapist, Terry Real.) Both men and women, in our culture, can often disparage the feminine and support the masculine. Especially in organizational life.

The problem with this is that humans need wholeness, and the world today, with an intense climate crisis bearing down on us, needs to embrace more of the feminine (caring, emotional intelligence, relationality.) And we need to do this with negotiation and conflict.

Good negotiation is about getting good results on the substance of what you want and preserving or maybe even enhancing the relationship with the other side in the process. Traditional gender roles (patriarchy) have given us some outdated ideas about who negotiates, what style is ‘good’ negotiation (its usefully pretty combat driven and patriarchal) The stereotype of the negotiator that is ‘all substance’ is more masculine (not necessary male) and ‘all relationship more feminine (not necessarily female). We all need both and we need to be able to balance these.

I hear sometimes ‘the future is female’. Well maybe, but in negotiation and conflict, I think it is fluid – the ability to know the range and use the range as is needed on your team or at your workplace. Having said that, I think we are done with the toxic ends of these ranges/spectrums – both the toxic masculine (patriarchal) and the toxic feminine (codependent.) It’s time to move beyond to a place where we can all be whole human beings.

I know many of you are interested in a more inclusive, diverse workplace. So am I. I believe it’s how you get the most innovation, creativity and fun for that matter.

As I mentioned in my talk, I have the privilege of being the steward of a beautiful piece of land. One of the things I have learned in caring for it is that I need to get rid of the invasive species. It turns out, the natural world is a great teacher. What happens with the invasives is that they come barreling in and take over the light, water and other nutrients and create monocultures. When you get rid of them a much more diverse community of native plants starts re-appearing. Miraculous, beautiful and metaphoric to human systems.

If you care about diversity, you need to care about collaboration. Collaboration is not easy. And it is NOT lose-win, (we women have been acculturated to this in many parts of the globe – makes us better servants v. leaders). It is win-win. That can be challenging sometimes. It’s easier, if you think you have the power, to simply dominate (more toxic). And that creates identity group polarization – and whichever group is dominant in that system (men v women, white v black, etc.) will prevail.

So, if we want a more collaborative, creative, diverse world, (and less toxic) we need to understand collaboration in all its complexity. It’s not easy!! It requires being firm, fair, not shying away from conflict and functioning with integrity.

Question 3:  How does one get to the heart of the underlying interests when the other party is not open /willing to share?

There is a saying – I’m not sure who said it first – Epictetus, a Greek philosopher, Jesus, Diogenes. In the past, I attributed it to British writer Oscar Wilde, but google shows how far it goes back and that, perhaps, there ain’t nothing new under the sun. Anyway, the saying is ‘there is a reason we are born with two ears and one, mouth’ so we listen more than we speak.

First, let’s be clear that negotiation is any time you are trying to influence a situation through communication. It’s not just the formal process of sitting down at a table to hash out a salary or a deal – though it is that too.

As I said above, there are some people who think of negotiation like a war. It’s combat time.

There are others who understand that you get a lot more with honey than with vinegar.

To negotiate collaboratively, you need to know your underlying needs and interests and those of the other side. Remember the orange? A lot of you liked that story – I know – it’s simple and makes the point well.

But if someone’s paradigm for conflict and negotiation is combat, whether or not they have more or less power than you, they will ‘hold their cards close to their chest’ and it may be difficult to know what they are really after. They also often throw out a lot of ‘fake news’ to confuse things – which is not helpful.

How do you proceed? You need to be a great listener, and sometimes a great investigator. What is making them tick? Can you reflect it back to them? Can you help them find a different way that will allow both of you to find a creative solution for you both.

Ladies, we have some real skill here in being able to intuit what’s really going on. We need to not be shy about using it and having confidence in our often very well-honed EQ (emotional intelligence).

Question 4 – Can we apply parenting skills to PM?


It seemed a lot of you resonated with my comments about parenting.

I remember asking my great gestalt organizational systems mentor/teacher, John Carter – “doesn’t it seem like a lot of organizational issues are Mommy and Daddy issues?” He said, ‘yup, they most definitely are, you just can’t talk about them that way.”

Collaborative systems start in the home and ripple up through the workplace and into the world.

I would dare say that if you are a great parent, you are a great manager and vice versa.


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.

Posted by Susan Coleman on: April 19, 2023 01:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Presentation Recap: The story of NEC´s leap towards agile. Achieving organizational transformation through management by harmonizing team autonomy and organizational discipline

By: Claudia Alcelay
PMI Staff

I had the honor to co-present at the PMI Virtual Series 2023 together with Ohuchi Takaaki, a transformation team member at NEC. Over 60000 project managers, team leaders, innovators, and professionals from all over the world had the chance to discover the main challenges that this Japanese multinational had to overcome to shift from waterfall to agility.

In this presentation, we went through interesting aspects of an agile transformation. The adaptative approach proved to be a must in a fast-changing market, where there is a rapid integration of digital technologies in all aspects of life. We also learned about the importance of team alignment with the overall organization to gain agility and deliver value faster to the market.

NEC presented us with three main challenges in their transformational process: the first one related to sharing the vision, how a company has to share the why with their teams and leave them to choose how to proceed. This approach reinforces team autonomy and helps a company gain the right balance between teams' guidance and their freedom. The second challenge has to do with the importance of the contexts and how it conditions a team's way of working. Presenting flexible options for diversity in the way teams work helped NEC respond to diverse environments. The third challenge has to do with the realization of customer centricity and ensuring maximum performance by teams by putting customer needs first but also developing a flexible system to deal with their diversity.

Ohuchi also stressed some of the most needed skills in NEC´s journey: communication, team building, adaptation, teams help, guidance, problem-solving… We must be aware of these concepts which help us better understand NEC´s success and by extension any organizational transformation process.

We received many interesting questions during the presentation. Since not all of them could be answered live we have selected some of them for you to enjoy reading about agility:

  • Question 1. (Ohuchi) Would love to know the recommendation on fitting in QA. Our sprints are delivered by the devs and many points aren't released until the last day leaving no time for testing. So technically our sprint isn't done but we declare it done.
    • Answer. (Ohuchi) I recommend that developers and QA work together as one team. In addition, I recommend defining a Done definition and including test completion in it.
  • Question 2. (Ohuchi). What are the limiting factors contributing to the length of time required to transform?
    • Answer. (Ohuchi) Misunderstandings between the parties involved can easily become a problem. I believe that it is important for both the organization and the teams to have the same awareness that the organization's business strategy needs to change.
  • Question 3. (Ohuchi) How do you control the costs and the time development of the projects?
    • Answer. (Ohuchi) I think that it is better to decide the cost and development period of the project by referring to past similar cases before starting development. I also think that cost and development time should be spent on some high-priority product backlogs.
  • Question 4. (Ohuchi) Why did it take 20 years for NEC to change to agile?
    • Answer. (Ohuchi) This is because we have maximized our contribution to society by responding to changes in the Japanese market environment.
  • Question 5. (Claudia) What’s the most important success factor when implementing agile methodology?
    • Answer. (Claudia) Although the context counts and scenarios can be very diverse, in my experience, the companies that have succeeded in an agile transformation process have combined at least these three variables: 1/ an agile-approach awareness, knowledge, and understanding before any transformational process started or was even designed; 2/ teams buy-in, they have to acknowledge the value of a new way of working; and 3/ agile has to be linked with the organization not just with teams, which implies a commitment of the board, long term high investment levels, agile strategic thinking, training…

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.

Posted by Claudia Alcelay on: April 18, 2023 12:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Presentation Recap: Power Skills and Project Success – Pulse of the Profession 2023

By: Jill Diffendal
PMI Staff

Recently, I presented on Power Skills at PMXPO. Power skills are a critical skill set for project managers and the focus of PMI’s Pulse of the Profession 2023 report: Power Skills, Redefining Project Success. I shared PMI research on the topic and offered recommendations on how and why project professionals should spend time building their power skills.

Power skills are abilities and behaviors that facilitate effective and efficient working with others. They anchor one leg of PMI’s Talent Triangle, alongside Ways of Working and Business Acumen, as a critical component of the ideal skill set for project professionals.

They’re also critical for organizations. Power skills have the potential to boost benefits realization management maturity, organizational agility and project management maturity – all key drivers of project success, as per our research for Pulse of the Profession 2023. Power skills also make organizations significantly better at completing projects that meet business goals, reducing the amount of scope creep, and shrinking budget loss in case the project fails.

During my presentation, I received a lot of great questions that we didn’t get a chance to cover, and my responses are below.


Are there objective KPIs for assessing power skills?

Since power skills are personal attributes, they are difficult to measure. However, 91% of organizations that prioritize power skills are known to evaluate them in individuals, and 86% in teams. The most common ways to evaluate them are formal performance assessments, supervisor/manager assessments, customer feedback, 360-degree surveys, and standardized testing.

Quantitative evaluations are more difficult due to the nature of these attributes. Power skills such as “motivation, communication, critical thinking, problem-solving, and conflict resolution don’t have direct cause-and-effect outcomes and are intangible and unquantifiable,” as noted by Emeritus Institute of Management in a recent article. Hence, the best key performance indicator for them is anecdotal evidence, accumulated and evaluated over time.


How should I evaluate power skills in my teams?

Determine which power skills your company values the most. Next, map these out to each role. Then use a combination of self-assessment, 360-degree feedback and team assessment to measure your employee performance. Do this every quarter, over a year or more. 
You can also create a customized rubric to define exceptional, acceptable, and unacceptable demonstration of power skills. This can make the assessment more quantifiable and provide clear examples of mastery of these skills.

One measurement and expectations for power skills have been set, that while assessments are periodic, power skills are everyday. It is critical for project managers and senior project leaders to role model your organization’s critical power skills, to demonstrate clear expectations across the hierarchy.


Where can I get training on these power skills?

Training on power skills, regardless of your years of experience or place in the organizational hierarchy, is a never-ending process. Project professionals wanting to seek power skills training can take this power skill self-assessment PMI offers at no cost to better understand your strengths and areas of improvement.

You can then explore the courses available across most e-learning platforms, including LinkedIn Learning, Udemy and Coursera, to find one that suits your immediate needs. You can also explore training options with PMI for some of the power skills such as communication and strategic planning via our training hub.

Some other ways to upskill your power skills include:

  • Read books that help you build power skills. Here’s a short list to start with.
  • Shadow strong leadership. Whether it’s a dedicated mentor within your organization or someone from your professional network, find people whose power skills you respect, and use them as a model to emulate. However, make sure you choose someone whose responsibilities align with the type of roles you aspire to in the years to come.
  • Step up to take on more responsibility. Volunteer for challenging assignments or offer to fill in for a project leader on their time off, to better understand where in the learning curve you are, and what power skills you need to focus more on developing.


What’s a good way to improve strategic thinking?

Strategic thinking, one of the four top power skills for project managers according to PMI research, is not a stand-alone skill that can be developed in isolation. It requires you to understand the complexity of the organization, gain exposure to strategic roles and responsibility, apply a learner’s approach, and identify invisible patterns. Below are some ways you can improve your strategic thinking capabilities:

  • Seek cross-functional exposure. Strategic thinking is hardly something that can be developed in a silo. Seek opportunities that offer you cross-functional exposure, enabling you to learn how your organization functions beyond just your role or team. This will help you understand facets of projects that you might have been blind to otherwise.
  • Observe and seek trends. Gain a solid understanding of the context of your work, such as industry trends and business drivers, by exploring and synthesizing internal and external data and information. Then connect with peers to soundboard your observations of the marketplace and gain a broader perspective.
  • Make time for thinking. Meetings and busy-ness are an everyday reality for most project professionals. In the midst of full calendars, consciously create regular time for thinking and absorbing new information.
  • Ask strategic questions. Whether it is about a challenge, an opportunity or an ambiguity you face in your current role, ask strategic questions to your leaders and follow up on answers consistently.


I am grateful to the PMI team for inviting me to speak on power skills at PMXPO. If you’d like to watch the presentation, it is available on demand through 31 January at no cost. Visit the PMI Virtual Experience Series for more details.

Posted by Jill Diffendal on: April 14, 2023 01:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There's no use being a damned fool about it."

- W. C. Fields