Voices on Project Management

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Voices on Project Management offers insights, tips, advice and personal stories from project managers in different regions and industries. The goal is to get you thinking, and spark a discussion. So, if you read something that you agree with--or even disagree with--leave a comment.

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Cameron McGaughy
Marian Haus
Lynda Bourne
Lung-Hung Chou
Bernadine Douglas
Kevin Korterud
Conrado Morlan
Peter Tarhanidis
Vivek Prakash
Christian Bisson
Cyndee Miller
David Wakeman
Jen Skrabak
Mario Trentim
Shobhna Raghupathy
Rex Holmlin
Roberto Toledo
Taralyn Frasqueri-Molina
Wanda Curlee
Joanna Newman
Linda Agyapong
Jess Tayel
Ramiro Rodrigues

Past Contributers:

Jorge Valdés Garciatorres
Hajar Hamid
Dan Goldfischer
Saira Karim
Jim De Piante
sanjay saini
Judy Umlas
Abdiel Ledesma
Michael Hatfield
Deanna Landers
Alfonso Bucero
Kelley Hunsberger
William Krebs
Peter Taylor
Rebecca Braglio
Geoff Mattie
Dmitri Ivanenko PMP ITIL

Recent Posts

Are We Done Disrupting Yet?

Go Ahead and Fail—It Could Be the Way to Succeed

3 Tips for Building a Strong Project Team

3 Skills Project Managers Will Need In The Future

Creativity Is for Project Managers, Too

Are We Done Disrupting Yet?

 

by Cyndee Miller

That digital disruption all the experts and thought leaders have been hyping for what seems like decades? It’s here.

For real.

I know, I know, dear readers. You’ve heard it before. From me. And I’m sure many of you would be content to never hear the D word again.

And yet…

There’s simply no disputing that disruptive technologies—the internet of things, 3D printing, robotics, artificial intelligence—are infiltrating our lives. And that means every project leader at every organization in every sector better brace themselves for some serious change. Attendees at PMO symposium seem quite aware of the situation.

JPMorgan Chase’s Noel Smyth said big data, cloud, blockchain and mobile technology are all changing project management at the financial services giant—all while it’s contending with a slew of fintech upstarts.

Even government agencies (not exactly known for their bleeding-edge habits) are no longer watching from the sidelines.

People demand the corporate crowd keep up with the latest social media platforms or cashless payment options—and expect the same from the public sector, said Joanie Newhart of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. And all too often, they’re disappointed.

One prime indicator project leaders are out to change their modus operandi comes from the U.S. Census Bureau. For the first time ever, the 2020 count will be conducted over the internet. Now that’s saying something, given the inaugural census was taken in 1790.

But the agency isn’t just tapping into digital delivery.

It’s digging deep into the data it collects about the country’s 300-million-plus residents. With that analysis, the Census Bureau can learn more about the people it serves, from their commuting patterns to the best ways to evacuate during an emergency, said the bureau’s Laura Furgione, PMP, during the PMO Symposium executive fireside chat.

To not just survive, but thrive, project leaders must have a curious mind—and be willing to think across projects and programs, said Linda Ott, PMP, of the U.S. Department of Energy. The public-sector project leaders of tomorrow need to stay wide open to what’s happening, even as they focus in on their particular mission.

Even with the best of efforts, though, some organizations are falling behind. And across various sessions, a consensus was building that PMO leaders should be the ones helping their organizations embrace the changes brought on by disruptive technology.

“[Organizations] are really not adapting and changing fast enough,” Melissa Eckers of Accenture Technology said in a panel discussion of the PMI 2018 Thought Leadership Series released at symposium. “There’s an issue with how effective we’re being with managing change.”

What’s the problem? Attiya Salik of Capgemini Government Solutions sees a trust gap between stakeholders and PMOs when it comes to change management. “Stakeholders see it as waste of time,” she said. “[We] have to educate stakeholders on what change management really is, what its impact is going to be and how it will facilitate the implementation process.”

PMOs themselves must also contend with their own change patterns: Sixty-six percent of the 529 PMO directors surveyed say disruptive technologies are affecting their PMO, according to Capgemini’s The Next Generation PMO, one of three reports in the series.

“The PMO of yesterday isn’t the PMO of today,” said Rebecca Sanchez of Accenture Technology during a panel dicsussion.

Has the disruptive revolution really begun? And how is all this cutting-edge technology changing how you manage your projects or your PMO?

Posted by Cyndee Miller on: November 14, 2018 11:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Go Ahead and Fail—It Could Be the Way to Succeed

by Cyndee Miller

Talk all you want about the “critical elements to business success.” What people—including me—really want to hear about is failure. We want the spectacular flameout. And we want all the gory details. Some of this is just human nature. But it’s more than that. Tales of failure are also wildly educational. Would the story of Steve Jobs be nearly as compelling—or informative—if he wasn’t fired from his own company? I think not.

Yet as a reporter, I know most people don’t like to discuss their mistakes. So imagine my delight when former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo told attendees at PMO Symposium® that failure isn’t just an option—it’s an option that should be exercised frequently.

As one must suspect, that shift has to start at the top. “By getting in front of your team and pointing out when you make a mistake, they start to get it and will start taking more courageous risks,” he said.

That will most likely lead to some dissent, which Mr. Costolo also said it’s perfectly acceptable.

“The goal isn’t social cohesion, it’s to get to the right answer,” he said. “Open debate toward the right answer is a good thing.”

But once a decision is made, Mr. Costolo expects the full team to fall in line.

The contrarian in me loves to see common business wisdom upended. But his advice also just seems inevitable in today’s fast-paced, disruption-happy environment.

Slow and steady doesn’t win the race. There’s a fresh urgency to execution and that means leaders need to be willing to try new things.

“In any organization as it grows, the default answer to any question increasingly becomes no,” he says. “What we developed inside Twitter was a common saying: bias to yes. There have to be many paths to yes inside the company for any idea. Any function is not allowed to tell a different function, ‘You’re not allowed to do that.’”

Taking Mr. Costolo’s lead, Twitter slashed the time it took to get new ideas in front of users from months to days.

At that pace, mistakes happen. But what we’re hearing over and over again at symposium is that that’s okay. In the very first session, self-proclaimed project management nerd Jonathan Gilbert, PMP, challenged project leaders to think fast, learn fast, fail fast.

Jan Musil, chief product owner at SAP America, took it one step further, saying project leaders shouldn’t even think of a project misstep as a failure. It’s continuous improvement.

How are you helping your teams fail, er, I mean, “continually improve”?

Posted by Cyndee Miller on: November 13, 2018 09:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (10)

3 Tips for Building a Strong Project Team

A great emphasis is often placed on the selection of a project manager. Much has been written about the need for training, credentials, experience and ability to engage with stakeholders as the keys to a successful project.

 

But, I have not seen a similar level of attention paid to the selection of project team members. In fact, I believe many project stakeholders think there are only two roles on a project: project manager and everyone else. It’s often thought that project managers can surmount every difficulty a project may encounter—and that other team members are less of a consideration.

 

In reality, the selection of team members is as important as the selection of a project manager.

 

Here are some techniques I use to make good choices as I put together a project team:  

  1. Match Personalities to the Urgency of Project Completion   

Every project has a dynamic driven by the urgency of completion. This dynamic varies by the rigidity of the finish date, required project duration and the number of outside dependencies. Examples of projects with high levels of urgency include regulatory compliance, merger and acquisition and internal corporate mandate projects. Projects with lower completion urgency tend to be longer in duration, but also often are quite complex in nature—think transformations, large system integrations, etc.

The dynamics around urgency of completion help shape the selection criteria for project team members. For higher urgency completion projects, I tend to go with people who exhibit high creativity and the ability to deal with high uncertainty. For lower urgency completion projects, I typically select people who are more measured in their actions and show consistent execution over long periods of time.

I also try to select one person for the team who has the opposite social style as others to serve as a counterpoint, which can be very healthy for a project. This ensures that a balanced perspective is being employed by the project team to resolve issues.

 

2. Look for Learning Experiences

When selecting team members, I ask them to share the greatest learning experiences they’ve had on past projects. These learning experiences can take the form of working on troubled projects, handling issues with project team members or managing adversity in their personal lives.

These learning experiences build confidence and character that is desired not only for the person being selected for the project, but also for mutual growth with other people on the project. Effective project resources tend to exhibit strong performance in the face of adversity. Project team members with these skills are essential to building a strong, synergistic project team.   

A lack of learning experiences tends to indicate a more narrow range of capabilities, which would not contribute to building a strong project team.  

 

  1. Identify a Second-in-Command   

Project managers are often pulled in many different directions, which can slow a project’s progress.

To remedy this situation, make one of your team members your second-in-command on the project. They can backfill in times of high engagement to help resolve issues and keep the project team going.

The other benefit to having a second-in-command is the valuable development opportunities the role provides. He or she gets to experience active project management while having the safety of the project manager for guidance. I have found over the years that people who perform well in second-in-command roles perform extremely well when they become full-fledged project managers.

 

I once had a senior project manager tell me, “Your team is only as strong as your weakest link.” Picking the right team is as important as selecting the project to manage. A rush to staff team members quite often leads to a re-staffing exercise that consumes precious time and energy, not to mention being disruptive to the team. Considerable care and patience are required to build an effective project team.

 

What good and bad choices have you made when selecting team members for a project? I’d like to hear about them.

Posted by Kevin Korterud on: November 10, 2018 06:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (12)

3 Skills Project Managers Will Need In The Future

Categories: Career Help

By Dave Wakeman

As we head into the fourth quarter, our minds are likely focusing on finishing the year strong, hitting our goals and, maybe, thinking about what 2019 will bring. 

For many, that line of thinking includes how we can better develop ourselves, make ourselves more valuable to our organization and make sure that we are always on the cutting edge with our skills. 

Based on the business and project management landscape, I think the skills project managers will need are going to be different and faster changing than ever before. To me, these are the three key skills we all need to make sure we maintain our future relevance.

1. Strategy: More project managers are being asked to help set the strategic direction for their organization. This means they have to have an understanding of the organization’s big-picture goals and how the projects they are leading fit into those goals. 

Project managers must be willing to make the tough decisions to halt projects or advocate for projects that will move the organization toward their goals. 

You can develop a better strategic mindset by making certain you understand your organization’s core goals and asking yourself how the projects you are working on fit into those goals. And, when they don’t fit, you can train yourself to evaluate the action needed to rectify that. 

2. Communications: I’ve spent a lot of time writing about the need to do a better job communicating with your team. And that need is only increasing.

You need to constantly work on improving your communications skills to keep up with the continuing demand of an always-on world. 

This means you will need to understand how to communicate in-person and online, up and down the organizational chart, and inside and outside of your organization. The best communicators are always listening and processing information. The goal is that they are able to understand, translate and share that information with all their key stakeholders in a way that has the maximum impact. 

3. Sales skills: In the future, selling is going to be a key part of the project manager’s toolkit. 

Why?

Because we are going to have to get better at advocating for the resources we need, the tools we have access to and getting our ideas acted on. And that’s sales. 

Getting project managers signed up for cold calling might seem like a stretch. But when you think about selling as the art of persuasion, it’s a much easier idea to get behind.  

The days of command-and-control are over, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It just means that we have to change. 

What do you think project managers are going to need to know in the future? 

 

Posted by David Wakeman on: October 26, 2018 10:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (34)

Creativity Is for Project Managers, Too

by Cyndee Miller

“We are all inherently creative,” proclaimed Google’s Abigail Posner at PMI Global Conference.

And yes, that includes project and program managers.

Every year, Fast Companythat arbiter of all things cool and cutting edge— releases its 50 most creative people in business. It’s (justifiably) filled with big names like cosmetics guru Pat McGrath and Netflix VP of innovation Chris Jaffe. And while there aren’t a whole lot of project and program managers who make the cut—there is a whole lot of talk about how all those brilliant ideas got executed.

It’s a different kind of creativity, which doesn’t often get the spotlight. But Ms. Posner knows the score. “Some of my favorite partners are project managers.”

As head of strategic planning for Google, she’s constantly on the hunt for that next big idea. For her, it starts with one fundamental question: why? “[By] understanding what makes [people] tick, you’ll develop a foundation for so many ideas,” she said.

From there, look for the links. Creativity is making connections that others haven’t, Ms. Posner said. “Ideas don’t come out of nowhere. They don’t fall from the sky. There is no eureka moment.”

That means project and program managers must be open to lots of stimuli from a range of collaborators.

“The more you can ideate with people—especially people who think differently than you—the more creative you will be,” she said. “Do not try to be creative on your own.”

And although teams must resist the temptation to overanalyze, don’t throw too wide of a net. Even creativity can benefit from some constraints—something project leaders are probably very familiar with.

A quick survey of attendees revealed not all project managers consider themselves to be creative, but Ms. Posner sees it as part of everyone’s DNA.

“Being creative is what defines us as human beings,” she said. “We just don’t realize we have the tools inside of us or how to harness them.”

That’s it from this year’s conference, but I’ll have plenty more to report on from this year’s PMO Symposium on 11-14 November. And mark your calendars for the 2019 Global Conference on 5-7 October in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.

In the meantime, what’s your creative strategy? How do you and your team get past any innovation slumps?

Posted by Cyndee Miller on: October 10, 2018 12:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (20)
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