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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View Posts By:

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

Past Contributers:

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

Recent Posts

Harnessing Bathroom Brilliance

Can Frogs Be Stakeholders?

The Importance of Changing Perspectives

It’s a Robot Revolution: Time to Embrace Your Humanity

Project Management to the Rescue

Harnessing Bathroom Brilliance

by Lynda Bourne

Do really good ideas pop into your mind at the most inconvenient moments, like when you’re in the middle of taking a shower? This flash of bathroom brilliance presents two problems:

  • There’s no one to share it with (at least in our home).
  • There’s no practical way to record it (unless you take a wax crayon into the shower every day).

And typically, that flash of brilliance fades quickly and can be very difficult to reconstruct even a few minutes later. That may explain why Archimedes went running naked down the street shouting “Eureka!” following his flash of bathroom brilliance. This occurred when he discovered the relationship between volume and mass (density/buoyancy) by observing the change in water level as he entered his bath.

How can we unleash this kind of innate creativity on a regular basis and not just in the bathroom?

While everyone is different, there seems to be three key elements to being creative:

  1. Make sure you understand what needs to be solved. Most people jump straight into solution mode. Creative people spend the time needed to define and understand the problem without trying to impose a solution.
     
  2. Sleep on it. Allow time for your subconscious to work on the problem. It may take one or two weeks. This does not mean forgetting it, however. Set up reminders to keep prodding your creative ideas toward a resolution, whether they are notes you look at a couple of times a day, or a whiteboard with the issue drawn or sketched out. Adding notes and possible concepts keeps your subconscious focused. Remember: You need to stay relaxed and open during this period — stress kills creativity.

 

  1. Make room for quiet time in your day. This allows flashes of brilliance to move from the subconscious into your conscious mind. The key seems to be doing some enjoyable function such as showering or walking, where 90 percent of what you’re doing is automatic and run by your subconscious brain. At the same time, stop worrying about other things, so your conscious mind is just being present.

    Then you have the real problem: finding a way to capture the ideas before they fade back into your subconscious. Carrying around a notebook or downloading a recording function on your smartphone can work if you are enjoying a pleasant stroll through a park.

Now, think about your teams and how you work with them to develop creative solutions. Do you call them into a room, dump the problem on them, demand a brainstorming session right there and then wonder why it doesn’t work? Or, do you socialize the problem first, ask people to think about it and discuss it with each other offline, and then call the meeting to see what’s been developed? 

Creativity needs space, time and freedom from pressure. This is the antithesis of most modern work environments where people work in a high-pressure job and are constantly inundated with a stream of “stuff” via technology.

How can you make the time to be relaxed, creative and successful? 

Posted by Lynda Bourne on: June 07, 2018 05:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (17)

Can Frogs Be Stakeholders?

by Linda Agyapong

"Who" really is a stakeholder?

I enjoy breaking down some of the buzzwords in project management.

In my previous post, we looked at “project success” vs. “project management success.”

Today I’d like to focus on “stakeholder”—one of the most buzzworthy terms.

For this discussion, let’s check in with our three favorite project managers: Jim, Mary and Alex. They have been tasked with a major construction project in Europe. On the first day of their kickoff meeting, as they were documenting their project charter, they got stuck because the three of them could not agree on identifying all the stakeholders for the project.

Turns out the targeted site for the construction project had a natural habitat for a specific kind of protected species—the moor frog.

Jim and Mary jointly agreed that moor frogs should never be considered as stakeholders of the project—after all, they were not humans. But Alex maintained that they should be considered as stakeholders because the frogs would either be significantly affected by the project, or they would significantly affect the project.

Alex then explained that the classic definition of a stakeholder—from the legendary business theorist R. Edward Freeman—did not segregate animals from humans, nor living things from non-living things. In his award-winning book, Strategic Management: A Stakeholder Approach, Mr. Freeman defined a stakeholder as “any group or individual who can affect, or is affected by the achievement of the organization's objectives.” He subsequently clarified that this definition can be expanded further to cover anything that the organization significantly affects, or is significantly affected by it.

Alex added that the very issue had been argued in the journal article Project Temporalities: How Frogs Can Become Stakeholders by Kjell Tryggestad, Lise Justesen and Jan Mouritsen. These authors took the stance that the natural habitat of the frogs provided some benefits to people in the community, such as via food, recreation or entertainment. Because of that value, the moor frogs should be classified as stakeholders.

Robert A. Phillips and Joel Reichart argued the opposite in their article, The Environment as a Stakeholder? A Fairness-Based Approach. They said that this natural habitat cannot be classified as a stakeholder because, “only humans are capable of generating the necessary obligations for generating stakeholder status.” Their basis was that stakeholders can only impact a project when they “make themselves known as part of the empirical process to develop the project.”

Tryggestad, Justesen and Mouritsen, however, advised that non-living things could be actors of the project if they make a visible difference within the project, such as significantly impacting any of the triple constraints of the project (namely time, cost and scope). Their rationale was that “an actor does not act alone. It acts in relation to other actors, linked up with them.” The frogs were then considered to be “an entity entangled in a larger assemblage consisting of both humans and non-humans.” At the end of their research, the frogs were classified as actors or stakeholders of the construction project.

To bring it home, Alex calmly advised his colleagues that the frogs have peacefully lived in that part of the community for several years. To avoid incurring the residents’ wrath, they should classify frogs as stakeholders and subsequently make the necessary arrangements to appease the community accordingly.

In the end, Jim and Mary unanimously agreed to this great suggestion.

I encourage you to think outside the box to identify all the potential stakeholders for your upcoming projects. Good luck!

Posted by Linda Agyapong on: May 23, 2018 05:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (19)

The Importance of Changing Perspectives

by Wanda Curlee

Not long ago, neuroscience was considered something akin to science fiction. In recent years, however, it has crawled out of that genre and into practical reality. By identifying ways people can reason, it’s even making major contributions to the project management profession.

Take the functional MRI (fMRI).

The fMRI creates an image of what a person’s brain is doing when they’re working. If you’re doing math, let’s say, the fMRI shows what areas of the brain are functioning.

Through these studies, neuroscientists have said that there are three ways a person can reason:

1. The detailed-oriented person. This is someone comfortable with schedule management, risk management, budget management, issues tracking, etc. Normally, this would be someone from the project management office (PMO) or a junior project manager.

2. The person who can see the forest for the trees. This is the seasoned project manager or a junior program manager. They are savvy with integration and can see the strategy that is needed for decision making.

3. The strategic-minded individual. Think senior program managers and portfolio managers. These individuals are focused on delivering the organization’s strategic objectives. They can see what the landscape needs to be into the future.

So how does this help you as a project leader? Studies show that if you provide the opportunity for a detailed-oriented person to work in the role of seeing the forest for the trees or putting a strategic person into a detail-oriented role, these individuals become more creative and innovative.

Think about it: By putting individuals in radically different positions—with some guidance and mentorship, of course—you are forcing that person to see problems from different perspectives.

When CEOs claim they do not have creative and innovative people in their organization, I would contend that the CEO is wrong. The CEO just doesn’t nurture the creativity and innovation.

Imagine a brainstorming session where you have individuals who have switched roles. These employees can take an idea presented at the brainstorm and now see it from different perspectives. You no longer have people trapped in thinking from only their own worlds.  

Are you as a project leader willing to push your team to experience the world from a different perspective? Are you willing to take a detail-oriented person and cajole him or her into seeing the forest for the trees? Will you mentor and guide the person? You will need to help with the anxiety of doing something totally foreign.

If you are willing, then you have created a more innovative and creative team!

 

Posted by Wanda Curlee on: May 17, 2018 03:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (26)

It’s a Robot Revolution: Time to Embrace Your Humanity

By Cyndee Miller

Like most people, I am equally super excited and super terrified by technology. I do enjoy the idea of some adorable robotic creature handling all my mundane tasks. Yet I really don’t care for the idea of Alexa tracking my moves and monitoring my conversations.

But between chatbots and self-driving cars, this is the year where there’s no turning back on tech disruption. Why?

“Everything is data, data is everywhere,” said tech pioneer Inma Martinez, the closing keynoter at EMEA Global Congress.

And that comes alongside the rise of deep learning, the terrifying tech that aims to mimic the human brain. Again, equal parts super exciting, super terrifying.

So will project and program managers be replaced by a supercomputer? Will the machines eventually turn against us?

Fear not.

Machines will never be able to beat humans at understanding right from wrong.

“This is where deep learning fails and fails and fails,” Ms. Martinez said. “It goes into bias and bias and bias. And this is why people in the scientific community like myself are willing to say please stop doing this. You still want the humans to use their wonderful brain to make that decision.”

Instead, we should use data to tackle the big issues, like mental health and the mass migration to cities. “We’re all going to end up living in massive urban centers,” says Ms. Martinez, and data can transform them into truly smart cities.

Ms. Martinez called out Boston, Massachusetts, USA as a prime example. Why? Because the mayor decided a few years ago to make city data accessible to all—allowing any user to check out how services in Boston are faring.

“Because the data is shared across the board, citizens are engaged,” Ms. Martinez said. And armed with that data, the mayor could force companies like Uber to treat all the city’s denizens equally.

“They started to analyze how long you have to wait in a low-income area—and sometimes it’s like 20 to 25 minutes,” Ms. Martinez said. “So the mayor said, ‘You want to operate in Boston? You need to send Ubers to the people, all types of people.’ This is data in service of the people.”

That change will also drive a shift to humans acting, like, well, humans.

“Human life will seek sensorial stimuli, information disclosure and self-empowerment.”

Hmmm. Maybe I need to rethink—that doesn’t sound even vaguely terrifying.

It's auf wiedersehen for now. This human is off to explore more of the city's projects (and sneak in a David Bowie walking tour). But then I suppose I'll have my voice assistant friend book time for next year's congress in Dublin on 13 to 15 May.

What about you? How are you feeling about the robot revolution?

Posted by Cyndee Miller on: May 10, 2018 06:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (11)

Project Management to the Rescue

By Cyndee Miller

I write about project management—a lot. But there’s a certain adrenaline rush that comes when you actually get to check out a project and get the scoop from people in the know.

I was feeling mighty pleased that I scored a backstage pass to the Berlin Brandenburg Airport project—two years before it’s slated to make its long-awaited debut. So this intrepid reporter put on a super-chic red construction helmet (and complementary work vest) to get the low-down on one of the most notorious projects in recent history—as well as the strategy to get this baby open by 2020.

The team is refreshingly honest about the issues it’s faced since the project first launched in 2006: a “constant” increase in complexity, a spike in passenger volume that far exceeded expectations and a “difficult political environment”—which meant fielding requests and often brutal criticism from airlines, governments, the press and a slew of other stakeholders.

But the team has a blueprint and seems resolute it will deliver on its Master Plan 2040 that promises to deliver capacity to handle 55 million passengers. So what makes the team think it will actually be able to pull this off? The will to get things done—from the very top.

Sounds promising, but can they do it? Only time will tell. But there is a rather promising precedent, as my fellow reporter Matt Schur learned when he headed out on PMI’s other off-site excursion. The Hauptbahnhof train station, with rail lines extending in every direction, wasn’t built in a day—or 100 years for that matter. The project had been floated since the turn of the 20th century. But two world wars and a divided Germany stood in the way before the project started in earnest in the 1990s. Even then, complexity reigned.

Location is everything, I’ve been told. And while Hauptbahnhof’s spot in the center of the action is a major asset today, the location created one of its greatest challenges. Water and sandy ground surround the area, forcing the team to dig huge excavation pits, ultimately removing 1.5 million cubic meters of earth.

And despite being a century in the making, the team ran up against massive schedule compression: The German government wanted the train station done in time for the 2006 World Cup. With a slight shift in scope, the project closed a month ahead of the big deadline.

Getting that insider scoop was a boost for project managers, too.

"The visit was beneficial to me to see that complexity is everywhere—not just on my project," says Tamy Baddour, PMP, IT project manager at Bankmed, Beirut, Lebanon, who toured the rail station. "It's great to know that there's light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how long it takes. It was an eye opener for me."

For those project and program managers who didn't make the sojourn to the airport or the train station, experiences were front and center in some new-fangled immersive sessions. Attendees worked in groups and partnered up with colleagues to brainstorm potential breakthrough innovations, debate the differences between good project managers and great ones, and test out their strategic leadership skills.

Fellow reporter Kelley Hunsberger checked it all out and declared her favorite immersive experience to be Escape from Earth! A Project Management Board Game. Attendees were broken up into different teams and left to figure out how to save humanity from certain extinction after the planet had become hostile to human life. Teams completed a bevy of challenges through a series of sprints to rescue the human race

Saving a world, now that would be an adrenaline rush.

Posted by Cyndee Miller on: May 09, 2018 01:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (17)
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