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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Kimberly Whitby

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Antonio Nieto
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Te Wu
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Fabiola Maisonnier
Erik Agudelo
Paul Capello
Kiron Bondale
Jamie Champagne
Esra Tepeli
Renaldi Gondosubroto
Mel Ross
Laura Lazzerini
Kim Essendrup
Geetha Gopal
David Summers
Carol Martinez
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
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Quincy Wright
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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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The Benefits of Collaboration

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

Posted by Karen Chovan on: October 25, 2017 12:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

Who, and What, Can YOU Learn from?

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:

  1. facilitation,
  2. collaboration, and
  3. continuous learning.

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!

Posted by Karen Chovan on: September 11, 2017 02:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)
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