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
Mario Trentim
Jen Skrabak
David Wakeman
Roberto Toledo
Vivek Prakash
Cyndee Miller
Shobhna Raghupathy
Wanda Curlee
Rex Holmlin
Christian Bisson
Taralyn Frasqueri-Molina
Jess Tayel
Ramiro Rodrigues
Linda Agyapong
Joanna Newman
Soma Bhattacharya

Past Contributers:

Jorge Vald├ęs 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

3 Reasons Project Managers Are Like Jugglers

PMI + TED: Possibility Speaks

Adventures in Leadership

Disruption? No Prob for a Rogue Monkey Like You

Separating Standards and Knowledge Management

3 Reasons Project Managers Are Like Jugglers

Categories: Best Practices

By David Wakeman

I’ve got a hypothesis I want to drop on you: Being a project manager is a lot like being a juggler. 

Many of you may be scratching your heads, asking the question: “What is Dave thinking?” 

Hear me out. I’ve got three examples to support my hypothesis. 

1. Project managers, like jugglers, are required to keep a lot of balls in the air. You have to manage your team, communicate to your stakeholders, run changes and a whole host of other things. 

A great juggler, or a crazy one, might be juggling a chainsaw or a dozen balls. Although I never learned to be a good juggler, I do know that the key skill is focusing on one ball at a time.

The same can be said for a project manager. You may have 20 things on your to-do list, but you can’t do all 20 things at once. You can only do one thing at a time. 

This is important because if you’re trying to send an email to a stakeholder at the same time you’re having an in-person conversation with another stakeholder, you probably aren’t giving either of them your full attention. And you could miss the opportunity to make a point, get information or create change. 

Need I say what happens if you take your attention off a chainsaw? 

2. Project managers, like jugglers, are manipulators. I don’t mean this in a negative way, but instead in that they change people’s perceptions of what is happening in front of them. 

Yo-yo-ing is considered a form of juggling with tricks like “sleeping,” “looping” and “walking the dog.” All of these are ways to get the yo-yo to do what the juggler wants it to do. 

How is that different than what project managers do?

As a project manager, your job is to get your team to do what you need them to do to bring your projects in on time, on schedule and within scope. 

You achieve this by using the tools at your disposal to motivate, encourage and guide your stakeholders and team toward your goal. That’s juggling. 

3. It all comes down to results. Finally, a bad juggler gives a bad performance, and a good juggler gives a good performance … and no one knows whether they are just having a bad or good day. Ultimately, the same applies to projects and their leaders. In the end, we are judged on performance.

Did our project meet specifications? Did it come through on schedule? Were we able to get the results we needed out of our team?

For a juggler, if they aren’t entertaining, they are failing. Which I guess means that project managers actually have an easier job than jugglers because we don’t always have to entertain, but we do have to produce results. 

What do you think? Are project managers like jugglers—or have I gone crazy with this metaphor? Let me know below in the comments. 

 

Posted by David Wakeman on: May 21, 2019 10:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (11)

PMI + TED: Possibility Speaks

by Cyndee Miller

There’s something about TED Talks that suck you in. Those big red letters on a stage signal this isn’t just another presentation. And TED’s 18-minute rule is genius. The videos are long enough to provide real substance—while feeling zero guilt about forwarding them on and building a veritable viral sensation—and short enough to keep you from checking your social feed. So I was wildly curious about what to expect walking into the closing session of this year’s EMEA Congress: As part of PMI joining forces with TED, attendees got a specially curated series of five live talks around the power of possibility.

“What’s possible in the world is really bound by two things if you think about it,” said Sally Kohh, a political pundit and TED speaker who hosted the event. “There’s what’s literally possible—what we can actually, tangibly, scientifically, physically do—and then there’s what we think is possible. And often we don’t try things—we don’t even think things—not because we can’t do them, but because we don’t think we can. We circumscribe our own aspirations and sense of the possible, and therefore actually constrict what’s possible before we even start.”

That all sounds lovely. But it also conjures up images of sunshine, kittens and unicorns. Then in walks Mona Chalabi, data editor at The Guardian, with her take on the possibility of information. Aside from my own personal addiction to news and numbers, I spend a lot of time wading through research reports. So I was instantly intrigued by what Ms. Chalabi had to say: “When it comes to numbers, especially now, you should be skeptical.”

Instead of blindly accepting (or rejecting) data, she challenged attendees to ask three questions—our very own sniff test of sorts:

  1. Can you see uncertainty?  
  2. Can you see yourself in the data?
  3. How was the data collected?

Data can be powerful, but it can also be used to drive division. Boston Consulting Group’s Julia Dhar discussed ways to find common ground by reshaping the way we talk to each other. It starts by separating a person’s identity from the idea—letting us ”open up to the idea that we might be wrong.” One tip from Ms. Dhar that project and program managers can immediately put to use: Devote 10 minutes of your meeting to real debate.

Anab Jain tackled another topic familiar to almost anyone in business, including most project professionals: trying to predict the future. Her advice? Stop being so passive.

“Today it can feel like things are happening too fast—so fast that it becomes really difficult to form an understanding of our place in history,” said Ms. Jain, co-founder of design and innovation studio Superflux. It can be so overwhelming that “we let the future just happen to us,” she adds. “We think of our future selves as strangers and the future as a foreign land.”

As you might suspect based on the sunshine, kittens and unicorns comment, I don’t exactly ooze optimism. So my ears perked up once again when human rights lawyer Simone George and Mark Pollock spoke about the dance between optimism and realism—or something else. “The realists have managed to resolve the tension between acceptance and hope by running them in parallel,” he said. Mr. Pollock had lost his vision at age 22, but was still running marathons around the world when he met Ms. George. After an accident left him paralyzed, the now-married couple went on a new quest, exploring the outer edges of spinal cord injury recovery with exoskeletons.

The final talk came from Ingrid Fetell Lee, who dug into the science behind joy. Sure, sometimes it’s just a superfluous extra driven by the inconsequential—ice cream cones, fireworks, bubbles—but Ms. Lee argues it helps create lifetime of happiness. “What we should be doing is embracing joy, and finding ways to put ourselves in the path of it more often.”

Check out more insights and info at PMI @ TEDSummit 2019 on 21-35 July in Edinburgh, Scotland and at the big PMI Global Conference on 5-7 October in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.

And see you at next year’s EMEA Congress, happening 4-6 May in Prague, Czech Republic. Brzy se uvidíme

Posted by Cyndee Miller on: May 16, 2019 09:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Adventures in Leadership

By Cyndee Miller

Going to PMI EMEA Congress is a little bit like going back to school. You pick your sessions, learn a ton and (hopefully) come out with some new ideas on how you want to do things. But sometimes it’s good to be in on the action, too.

I personally was ready to bust out for some real-world adventure, so I headed over to One Microsoft Place. Part of Dublin’s burgeoning tech scene, Microsoft’s European HQ in Leopardstown, Dublin is still relatively new—it only made its grand debut last year. Home to some 2,000 staff members of roughly 70 nationalities, it was specifically designed to be a physical manifestation of the company’s digital transformation. So along with a rooftop garden with some pretty sweet views, the 34,000 square-meter (365,973 square-foot) digs include a “digital lake” comprised of 125,000 LEDs, a DreamSpace for teaching school kids all about tech—and plenty of collaborative spaces aimed at uniting the company under a common vision.

I wasn’t the only one checking out Dublin’s project scene. Some other adventurers headed over to the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. That one had to be interesting. I was there last summer to film a video case study about how the 235-year-old school revolutionized its training program—winning a 2018 PMI Award for Project Excellence along the way. Yet another group of congress attendees ventured over to Teeling Distillery to get all the technical details on how the upstart makes a whiskey good enough to take on local stalwarts like Jameson. (Probably best I left that one to others.)

Back at the convention center, my fellow attendees engaged in some more immersive sessions.

Opening keynoter Jamil Qureshi kicked off his interactive workshop with quite the question: If everyone in the world were to suddenly change genders, how would that transform how we act? How we lead? The decisions we make? Would there be more parity for women? Would there be less war? The workshop put into practice one of the key concepts from his Monday presentation: To act differently, you must first think differently.

Mr. Qureshi wasn’t the only one pushing attendees to change the way they think. Karin Hurt and David Dye of Let’s Grow Leaders challenged attendees to root out what incites a fear of speaking up at their organizations. Project managers drew those fears on index cards, then looked for commonalities among their fellow attendees. One thing that doesn’t work? An open-door policy, said Mr. Dye. Instead, leaders should get out there and ask questions—not wait for answers to come to them.

In another workshop, attendees faced a whole other kind of adventure with Mission Possible: Escape from Earth—Agile Edition. Santi Alcaide, PMP, of Play To Growth, and Alfred Maeso Aztarain, PMI-ACP, PMI-PBA, PMP, of Netmind, used the game to spark new ways of leading virtual teams.

And Maria Fafard, PMP, of Capital One introduced role-playing scenarios to teach project professionals how to be better facilitators, especially when conflict or tensions arise. “Before you facilitate any meeting, consider and mitigate any risks that may take your discussion off track,” she said.

The common denominator in all this immersion therapy? Project leaders are faced with a barrage of change, forcing fundamental shifts in how we think, work, play—and lead. How have you changed your leadership style?

Posted by Cyndee Miller on: May 15, 2019 07:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Disruption? No Prob for a Rogue Monkey Like You

by Cyndee Miller

The rogue monkey gets the banana. Researchers first made the discovery in the late 1970s, but the lesson remains for project leaders looking to keep pace with disruption.

Let’s peel this one back: In Jamil Qureshi’s opening keynote at PMI EMEA Congress in Dublin, Ireland, he told the tale of one monkey that chose not to believe the evidence put forth by its monkey colleagues that came before. It questioned the bias of its environment, adjusted its mindset—and was rewarded for its defiance. Seeing any parallels?

“I cannot tell you the value of a rogue monkey in your organization,” said Mr. Qureshi, a psychologist and performance coach. “Every single thing worth having on this earth has come from rogue monkey thinking.”

The greatest inhibitor to human performance, Mr. Qureshi said, is a steadfast adherence to our belief systems. (We all have them. Trust me, you’re no magical exception.) “We prove ourselves right even when we’re wrong, and that’s the problem.”

We must be willing to change the way we think. It’s the foundation of our decision-making process. “We think, we feel and then we act,” he said.

Hold off on the grand gestures, though.

“Proving ourselves as leaders is not about doing something dramatic. It’s about doing something a little bit more, more consistently,” said Mr. Qureshi. True leaders look inward, find what they already do well—and do more of it.

None of this will go very far without proper motivation, however. We’re drawn toward our most dominant thoughts, he says. And if those thoughts sound like “don’t fail” …? Um, we’re in trouble—our subconscious will only hear “fail.”

“People who are truly disruptive are motivated by what they seek to achieve, not by what they seek to avoid,” he said.

That’s how you move teams “from transactional to transformational.” The really bold ideas come from making the connection between two previously unconnected things. Look at PayPal, Spotify or Skype. “It took someone outside the sectors to give us what we wanted,” said Mr. Qureshi. Too often, companies and project teams are bad at being different—but the future demands it. “The only way to stay future relevant and future literate is to think about what the customer is valuing all the time, not what we wish to sell.”

So, are you ready to go rogue?

Posted by Cyndee Miller on: May 14, 2019 03:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Separating Standards and Knowledge Management

by Lynda Bourne

In my last post—It’s Time for a Long, Hard Look at Processes—I questioned if A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) should be updated every four years, or if it should become a dynamic knowledge management system similar to Wikipedia. The post generated a number of comments, which I’m going to try to address now.

The fundamental purpose of a standard is to offer standardized advice organizations can rely on. Standards are frequently referenced in contracts and other formal documentation, and they form the basis for certifications. The PMBOK® Guide fulfills all of these purposes. In this situation, stability is essential. Globally, standards are reviewed and updated every four to five years to balance the need for currency against the need for consistency. 

The PMI Registered Education Provider (R.E.P.) community has a busy few months each time the PMBOK® Guide is updated, requiring them to go through their training materials to bring them all up to date. This is magnified many times over as organizations around the world update their documentation to align with the new standard.

But the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard is only one part of the PMBOK® Guide. The guidance part is the larger aspect of the book and also, in my opinion, the most useful. This element is a knowledge repository and if access to validated information is readily available, knowledge management systems should seek to be as up to date as possible. To achieve this, most knowledge management systems are web-based and assume that once information is printed, it is no longer current. Managing a knowledge management system needs skill and knowledge but should be a real-time, full-time function.

Given this, I suggest that PMI separate the standard part of the document from the knowledge element. The standard section would consist of the ANSI Standard (part two of the current PMBOK® Guide) and the supporting core knowledge that does not change much. This standard and supporting information would remain on the four- to five-year update cycle. The resulting document would be much thinner than the current PMBOK® Guide.

The knowledge element builds onto this as a cloud-based resource and should be the subject of continual improvement and updating. Allowing PMI members to contribute their knowledge on a continuous basis, subject to review and edit, would allow the body of knowledge to grow and adapt as project management grows and adapts.

A careful design of the knowledge structure based on the PMBOK® Guide—augmented with information from the other standards published by PMI and enhanced with current developments from industry—would create a very useful and dynamic source of knowledge for the global project management community.

If access to this project management knowledge bank is free to members and available for a fee to commercial users and non-members, the value of membership would be enhanced and PMI would be positioned to maintain its position as a global leader in the development of project management.

It’s an interesting challenge. What do you think?

Posted by Lynda Bourne on: April 25, 2019 07:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)
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