Project Management

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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cyndee miller
Lynda Bourne
Kevin Korterud
Conrado Morlan
Peter Tarhanidis
Mario Trentim
Jen Skrabak
David Wakeman
Wanda Curlee
Christian Bisson
Ramiro Rodrigues
Soma Bhattacharya
Emily Luijbregts
Sree Rao
Yasmina Khelifi
Marat Oyvetsky
Lenka Pincot
Jorge Martin Valdes Garciatorres

Past Contributors:

Rex Holmlin
Vivek Prakash
Dan Goldfischer
Linda Agyapong
Jim De Piante
Siti Hajar Abdul Hamid
Bernadine Douglas
Michael Hatfield
Deanna Landers
Kelley Hunsberger
Taralyn Frasqueri-Molina
Alfonso Bucero Torres
Marian Haus
Shobhna Raghupathy
Peter Taylor
Joanna Newman
Saira Karim
Jess Tayel
Lung-Hung Chou
Rebecca Braglio
Roberto Toledo
Geoff Mattie

Recent Posts

Let Team Preferences Guide Knowledge Sharing Practices

Earth Day: Urgency Meets Action with Projects to Heal the Planet

4 Essentials for Leading Remote and Hybrid Teams

What Does It Take to Build a Successful Project Team?

3 Backlog Pitfalls to Avoid

Let Team Preferences Guide Knowledge Sharing Practices

 

By Yasmina Khelifi, PMP, PMI-ACP, PMI-PBA

In my last post, I wrote about the benefits of sharing knowledge. Now it’s time to talk about how you’ll document and maintain that information. And this is where project leaders should turn to their teams for ideas.

A few years ago, I belonged to a very efficient and collaborative project team. We were all responsible for a service deployed across different manufacturers’ models, hence the importance of having up-to-date information. We maintained a spreadsheet file shared on a cloud service and we updated it regularly, as agreed on by the team. Then a new manager decided to implement a different system. The team was told to send all information to two administrators who would handle updates.

You can imagine what happened.

Almost no one sent the information and the system was decommissioned after two years. As a result, all the knowledge our team had built over the years was lost. What was deemed a more professional or advanced tool ended up crippling the knowledge base.

As a project leader, we need to trust our teams and let them define the best ways to share and store information. We’re not talking here about an encyclopedia of knowledge. It’s really just enough documentation to help handover and onboarding.

One of the best ways to ensure knowledge sharing is to record presentations and conference calls. You can also take detailed notes to share with other project team members.

Another major part of closing the information loop within teams is to solicit and give constructive criticism and feedback. Postmortems, retrospectives or lessons learned are an invaluable opportunity to share knowledge and ultimately document it.

How do you let team preferences shape your approach to sharing knowledge?

Posted by Yasmina Khelifi on: May 02, 2021 02:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Earth Day: Urgency Meets Action with Projects to Heal the Planet

By Cyndee Miller

It’s Earth Day and this year’s event comes with an even greater level of urgency—and action. Two-thirds of people say climate change is a “global emergency,” per a survey by United Nations. And some high-profile government and business leaders are stepping up. The United States rejoined the Paris climate agreement, and after unveiling its bold Green Deal in 2019, the European Union announced yesterday it’s increasing the number of companies required to publish environmental and social data. On the business side, General Motors proclaimed it plans an all-electric vehicle future by 2035 and BASF is sharing its map to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. While acknowledging Asian companies have lagged on investing in environment, social and governance efforts, Loh Boon Chye, chief executive of the Singapore Exchange, called 2020 an “inflection point.”

Of course, turning that sort of big thinking into reality requires an exceptional mix of capital, commitment, creativity—and projects.

Consider this your whirlwind tour:

As you might expect, there’s been serious action on the renewable energy front. Some are small-but-smart efforts, like the Spanish city of Seville launching a biogas pilot, turning its abundance of oranges into the power ingredient for clean energy at one of its wastewater treatment plants. And some are larger. Campos del Sol, number 43 on PMI’s Most Influential Projects 2020 list, is a US$320 million solar plant under construction in Chile. At full capacity, the 382-megawatt installation will generate enough energy per year to help slash annual carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 900,000 metric tons. That’s the same as taking nearly 200,000 cars off the road for a year—and could put the country a whole lot closer to meeting its goal to be carbon neutral by 2050.

Project leaders are also mobilizing to reimagine urban development in more eco-friendly ways. Danish design studio C.F. Møller Architects is working on Storkeengen. What’s especially interesting about this project is that it balances needs on three fronts: urban planning to satisfy the city’s expansion needs, climate-change adaptation to help mitigate the impact of flooding and nature conservation to stabilize the local ecosystem.

Another approach that’s gaining traction is nature-based solutions, which promote climate resilience in urban areas by tapping into nature itself. One example is CityAdapt, a project by the United Nations Environment Programme. In El Salvador, the group reduced surface runoff from a coffee plantation, which can cause erosion and flooding in the ecosystem. Here, too, the project wasn’t just a good move for the local environment, it also improved coffee productivity, meeting local business needs. (For more on that one, check out the Projectified interview with Leyla Zelaya, the national coordinator for the CityAdapt project in San Salvador, El Salvador.)

A core piece of any urban development is mobility, and project leaders are making big, bold moves here as well. One of the biggest changes: bike and pedestrian paths—and lots of them.

Even fashion, not exactly known for its high sustainability cred, is coming around. Ecoluxe designer Stella McCartney is working with Google on a pilot project using data analytics and machine learning to give brands a more comprehensive view of their supply chain, with the goal to better measure the impacts of its raw material sourcing on air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, land use and water scarcity. It’s not just the posh designers, either. Fast-fashion giant H&M launched Looop, billed as the world’s first in-store garment-to-garment recycling system. And footwear giant Nike is embedding sustainability into its product development projects. Look no further than Space Hippie, a line of eco-friendly sneakers made from yarns containing at least 85 percent rPoly made of recycled plastic water bottles, T-shirts and yarn scraps.

We can’t talk about Earth Day without mentioning some of the amazing projects to protect and preserve the plants and animals that we share our planet with. (They also happen to be some of my very favorite projects to follow.)

Case in point: Elephant World Cultural Courtyard, a sanctuary designed to bring the Kui people and their elephants back to their homeland in northeast Thailand. Launched in collaboration between the Surin Provincial Administrative Organization and architecture firm Bangkok Project Studio, the space spans 8,130 square meters (87,510 square feet) and includes a programming space, elephant hospital, temple, graveyard for elephants and museum dedicated to showcasing the Kui culture.

The need for these kinds of projects has only been accelerated by the climate crisis. When wildfires consumed half of Kangaroo Island, they decimated one of the world’s most iconic biodiversity hubs. Tens of thousands of creatures—from kangaroos to cockatoos—were left stranded in a barren wasteland without food, water or shelter. As the smoke cleared, rescue teams raced in to launch the Kangaroo Island Recovery, number 11 on our list of Most Influential Projects of 2020. Now the team is out to minimize the impact of future bushfires by planning buffer zones, fire breaks and small-scale ecological burnoffs. “If we can protect lots of small patches, it gives these threatened species a greater chance to survive a bushfire in the future,” says Pat Hodgens, a fauna ecologist at Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife.

Last year around this time, I wrote about prospects for a green economic recovery: With the right investments in the right projects led by the right people, we can conquer the coronavirus, rebuild our fragile economy and protect our planet—all at once. Now I had no idea we’d still be in that same situation, but I still believe that’s the path forward.

And on Earth Day this year, it’s worth considering how project leaders can step up and take responsibility for delivering a more sustainable future.

Posted by cyndee miller on: April 22, 2021 12:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

4 Essentials for Leading Remote and Hybrid Teams

By Emily Luijbregts

During my presentation at this year’s PMXPO, I received a lot of questions about the skills needed to adapt to and excel in leading virtual teams. It seems to be something that a lot of project managers are struggling with at the moment, but it’s something that can be easily learned.

It all begins with building a strong foundation. First, make sure you understand each team member’s motivations and ambitions. If you do this, you’ll be able to better predict or know when there’s something wrong. If someone on your team is focused on receiving positive feedback, for example, that person may get demotivated or stressed when they don’t receive praise or are criticized. But if you don’t understand the root cause of this issue, you only see the person struggling.

You might be aware of Bruce Tuckman’s theory on team development in which teams move through five stages: forming, storming, norming, performing, adjourning. Do you know where your team members are right now? Where they’re struggling? What are their weaknesses? If you can look at this, you will be able to see the best way of managing them successfully.

Some teams won’t follow a linear pattern: They may regress during times of stress, the duration of the phases will not be identical and there may be times when it feels like they’re going through several phases in one day.

Once you’ve built your foundation, here are four more tips for managing remote or hybrid teams:

  1. Set team communication expectations early.

You need to define how the team will communicate and establish why it’s important to follow the protocols but also understand any restrictions. Someone might not have access to a webcam or have bandwidth issues due to unstable internet connection, for example. I recommend creating a team charter so everyone buys into the rules being agreed upon.

  1. Find ways to build team bonds.

One of the most important skills right now is being able to build a team even as people are working remotely or in a hybrid environment. How can you do that? Icebreakers allow team members to open up about themselves and share common interests. Or you can try to gamify project activities. If you use agile, for example, ask team members to estimate how many tasks they think they can complete by the end of the sprint.

  1. Practice active listening.

This is a really difficult skill to master, especially with remote team members as it’s even easier to get distracted. But try to take copious notes, ask follow-up questions and make sure the team has the opportunity to speak. If someone doesn’t have anything to say, try asking a future-looking question like: What are you aiming to complete in the next week? Where do you need support in the next period? In remote settings

  1. Check your own progress.

What are you communicating? How are you communicating it? Is it the best way? Most importantly, how can these messages be sent with clarity through the remote-work ecosystem? You can monitor how well you’re doing through daily check-ins with your team, stand-ups or individual calls. But be sure to be patient with your team—and yourself—as you navigate virtual communication.

What are your lessons learned for leading remote/hybrid teams?

Posted by Emily Luijbregts on: April 20, 2021 04:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

What Does It Take to Build a Successful Project Team?

Categories: Teams

By Lynda Bourne

I was recently involved in a discussion about why some projects fail and others succeed, even when they’re completed in similar circumstances. The most common determinant of project outcomes—both positive and negative—boiled down to the way the people delivering the project work together. A cooperative and committed team underpins success.

This led me to think about the key requirements for creating a committed and cooperative team. And while the concepts below aren’t  new, consistently creating the environment to allow them to flourish can prove challenging.  

In my opinion, the three most important factors are:

1) An agreed-upon objective: Defining the project objective in a way people understand is the starting point. For one person, a “great website” may mean a technical marvel with all the bells and whistles. But for someone else, it may mean a simple, easy-to-use presence. It’s up to project leaders to get the team aligned—committing to an objective that’s not going to be delivered creates disenchantment.

2) An efficient team organization. Options can range from self-organizing teams to traditional leader-follower models. What really matters is that the team works in a coordinated and organized way, and this requires good, multidirectional communication to work.

3) Trust between team members. This last element is probably the most important—and least understood. You don’t need to like someone to trust them. In fact, you don’t even need to know someone to trust them.  In an emergency, for example, it’s common to see a group of strangers form into a self-organized team and work together—often in quite dangerous situations—so things are stabilized. This is often referred to as “swift trust.” More traditional trust builds on reputation and observed experiences. Either type works, but you need trust. Without that, you’re not going to rely on the other people in the group to do the right thing to help you and the rest of the group achieve your shared objective.

 

In the modern world, people work on projects in all sorts of ways: virtually, in agile scrums, in traditional hierarchical teams and in myriad groupings. The people may come from one organization or many. Regardless of the group structure, one thing remains true: Project success comes down to effective teamwork. 

 

What are your tips on creating an environment that allows project teams to flourish?

Posted by Lynda Bourne on: April 13, 2021 07:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

3 Backlog Pitfalls to Avoid

Categories: Agile, Backlog, Priorities, Value

By Christian Bisson

A key artifact for any successful team is a healthy backlog: a list of what’s needed to bring value to the project—written in a way the team can understand and ordered so the team is always focused on what brings the most value.

Yet between all the user stories, enabler stories, technical stories, bugs, defects and so on, it can be quite challenging for a product owner to order all of this properly. 

Here are a few (ineffective) ways I’ve seen it done:

Pitfall 1: Prioritizing what’s understood

Product owners tend to be less technical, and not everyone can properly explain something technical in a way that conveys its value. The result is that items the product owner understands well are prioritized, leaving the other items on the side, which comes with a great long-term cost.

Pitfall 2: Going with instinct

I once heard the following about an item: Its value depends on how we feel that day. When people rely on pure gut feeling, the value of an item will vary depending on their emotions at the time. That means the decision of what will bring value to the product is more or less random, often resulting in leading the team to work on items that end up being pure waste.

Pitfall 3: Leaning into the noise

Some people even order their backlogs based on who complains the most! This merely encourages a culture in which whoever screams the loudest gets what they want.

So what works? There are many ways to take a more mathematical approach to giving value to items. What’s critical is to have an approach that allows the team to properly calculate the value of each item, regardless of what type of item it is. With clear guidelines, all three pitfalls can be avoided—and the decisions can be based on something more reliable.

How do you define the value of your backlog items?

Posted by Christian Bisson on: April 12, 2021 08:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
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