by Dave Wakeman
I’m sure this time of year has a lot of you thinking about what your goals are for the year.
I have a big one for all project managers to add to their list: Take the opportunity to be much more practical in your application of your project management principles.
What does that mean exactly?
Here are a few ideas:
Don’t get bogged down in arcane processes or needless activity.
It can be easy to get stuck in acronym hell. If we stick only to the book, we can lose all sense of forward motion because we allow our processes—and the arcane language that most of them are wrapped in—to steal away our impact.
Instead of getting sidetracked by these things, one of the ways that we can be really practical about our impact as project managers is to focus on the results we are trying to achieve.
Command and control project management doesn’t work often anymore because it is almost impossible for us to be experts in every activity.
Being practical doubles down on that idea because you have to allow your team members to do their best work. You do this by freeing them from micromanagement and the needless attachment to old processes and activities.
Make your role about impact, not activity.
I’ve come to the conclusion that we all would be best served by focusing on how we can add more value and less on how we can do more stuff.
I understand that many of us work in an environment defined by the old Peter Drucker maxim “what gets measured gets managed.” But in many instances, we’ve taken that principle to its ultimate conclusion where we don’t actually achieve anything. Instead, we do very well what need not be done.
In becoming a more practical project manager, a key idea would be to focus on your ability to make an impact. This likely entails having tougher conversations with stakeholders. It also likely means making tougher decisions. I never said being a project manager would be easy.
Rededicate yourself to communicating effectively.
The area we all have the greatest opportunity to create overwhelming impact is in our ability to communicate more effectively.
I’ve always lived by the idea that 90 percent of a project manager’s job is communicating. As digital tools have become more common and remote teams are a larger reality, it’s pretty easy to fall back on a crutch of allowing digital to do the work. But what I have found is that as we become more digital in our work, we need more humanity in our communication.
The high impact, practical project manager is going to be a great communicator. He or she will be able to juggle the different communication styles of key stakeholders and team members, and keep the project moving forward by having a grasp on all the project’s key ideas, timelines and potential sticking points.
After reviewing this list, perhaps a practical project manager means we need other people to help us achieve our success. Which isn’t really a new concept at all, is it?
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By Ramiro Rodrigues
I have heard arguments both for and against the effectiveness of corporations using standardized project management methodologies.
In general, a project management methodology should clarify which methods — steps, activities, gadgets and tools — can be used to reach a goal. And since a project is made up of a set of processes, each with their suggested methods or best practices, they are usually given the name of methodology.
The Arguments For
The fervent proponents of project management methodologies contend that there is a need for the implementing organization to establish an identity, which its clients will see. They believe that the methodology enhances the standardization of the particular strengths of the services offered.
According to them, a project originating from a corporation with a specific work methodology tends to have more predictable services and products, which decreases the interference of human factors associated with the individuals who lead the project. It also allows for greater clarity and understanding for the stakeholders with regard to what is to be expected at each moment.
Finally, they maintain, that a methodology enables a virtuous cycle of continuous improvement and development with regard to project management in an organization.
The Arguments Against
Opponents assert that methodologies often require disproportionate documentation efforts that do not add value. For them, methodologies are bureaucratic "machines" that increase their costs and stress levels, thus taking the focus away from the expected results.
There is no single solution to this issue. It is common knowledge that each organization must develop its own project management methodology in order to find the best set of methods.
Therefore, it is suggested that organizations wishing to improve should always consider whether the proposed methodology:
This latter issue, together with the need for resource optimization and a drop in the learning curve, has led corporations to search for alternatives — such as agile methods and using Canvas in project management.
However, this objectivity "line" should not be stretched too far. There’s a risk that while searching for leaner processes some aspects related to the optimal handling of a project may become too superficial. That could ultimately compromise the quality of project deliveries and the image of the implementing organization.
Therefore, there is no one perfect solution. Each market segment, project size and organizational culture should be carefully considered in order to find the best way to implement a project management methodology.
by Ramiro Rodrigues
Consider the following situation: You have worked a long time in your company and developed a certain level of expertise in their operations. You are familiar with the processes, tools and people.
One day, a consultant, hired by the board, arrives at your desk and lets you know that they are there to lead a review of the company's processes. As such, they will need some information about the way you work. It doesn't take long for you to realize that the consultant's job is to change your familiar operational format.
This scenario illustrates my main point: Every project is a change.
Organizations have an established understanding that standing still could be fatal to the survival of the business. They need to innovate and be faster than the competition. This is what motivates them to invest resources in pursuing these goals. Thus, the basis of every project is the facilitation of a change that will shift them from point "A" to point "B", which is, theoretically, more advantageous.
Everything would be perfect if our human reasoning didn't, for the most part, take us in the opposite direction. Instinctively, people do not like to mess with what they already know. (Unless, of course, they’re in situations that are uncomfortable. Even in these cases, they have their reservations.)
Our nature instinctively seeks out security and stability, which often is possible only through various mistakes and persistence. "Projects" are at odds with these principles because they are associated with the uncertainties and fears that the changes will bring.
Knowing this, if the individual in charge of a project wishes to succeed in their mission, they must develop interpersonal skills — the capacity to communicate, negotiate and intervene. These skills are part of the arsenal of resources that a good professional needs in order to persuade those involved to commit to change.
It is not easy. For this reason, professionals who are adept at these projects have gained increasing appreciation in the corporate market. This is because they take on the responsibility for ensuring that the investments made are not lost and the failure statistics are not intensified.
But human instinct will resist. In this scenario, one of the possible strategies is to adopt Charles Darwin's evolutionist principle, which is wholly befitting to today’s frenzied corporate world. It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one who can best adapt to change.
By Cyndee Miller
It’s time to hit the rewind button on 2017 and look back on the year that was in project management.
And dang, it was a big year — full of ambitious projects that packed a punch. I’m still processing the €700,000 Museo Atlántico, an eerily beautiful underwater collection of 300 sculptures off the coast of Lanzarote, one of the Canary Islands — only possible with the project team navigating complex requirements and skeptical stakeholders. And though not without its challenges, the first phase of the Hyderabad Metro Rail — a massive public-private partnership project — pulled in more than 200,000 passengers on its first day alone.
That wow factor sometimes extends to what some might view as more mundane matters like the schedule. Elon Musk’s latest project adventure, for example, called for installing the world’s largest lithium-ion battery within 100 days — or it was free. Somehow scheduling matters don’t seem so pedestrian when there’s US$50 million riding on the project’s outcome. For the record, Mr. Musk and his team pulled it off.
The project is part of a plan to make Adelaide, Australia the world’s first carbon-neutral city. That push to sustainability is nothing new, of course. But it got real in 2017. Sustainability is no longer swathed in gauzy green layers. It has real strategic objectives — and is held to real metrics and governance.
The U.K.’s Crossrail team, for example, recently released a treasure trove of documentation highlighting its efforts to minimize disruption and pollution on the £14.8 billion rail project, which is expected to be completed next year. The results are impressive and could serve as a blueprint for embedding sustainability in other megaprojects. “Crossrail not only set a new precedent for delivery of a truly ambitious 21
st century infrastructure project, the strategic approach they took in managing the many environment and sustainability challenges was exceptional,” Martin Baxter, chief policy adviser for the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment, told Railway Technology.
Even as the United States pulled out of the Paris Agreement, dozens of the country’s mayors signed their own accord on climate change. And U.S. business leaders — at companies across all sectors and sizes — didn’t miss a beat, launching their own projects to address the issue.
Yet such political disruptions — along with the Brexit bombshell — are clearly rattling the business world: More than half the CEOs in a KPMG survey said the uncertainty of the current political landscape is having a greater impact on their business than they’ve seen for many years. And those same business leaders know they must adjust their strategies. “All of these political events can have consequences on project planning,” John Greenwood, PMP, founder of Grand Unified Consulting, told PM Network.
There’s a reason disruption is such a buzzword: It’s everywhere. Today’s project environment demands an extra dose of innovation and agility (and probably a few extra shots of espresso). Just look at how many retailers and restaurants are experimenting with pop-ups — and relying on project management to tame the chaos. To achieve that so-in-demand-yet-so-elusive agility, you may want to check out the latest PMI Thought Leadership Series.
This is the stuff of Silicon Valley — and it’s fast becoming business as usual. Take cloud computing. Born in the valley, it’s now infiltrating every sector and forcing old-school businesses like telecoms to respond. Next-gen tech is being woven into the DNA of once-Luddite sectors, like agriculture and construction. Even the ultra-staid financial services sector is realizing full-on digitization is the only way to survive. Indeed, that push has spawned the fintech industry that extends to even emerging markets like Nigeria and India. The latter recently launched a project that saw 86 percent of the country’s cash go out of circulation overnight to be replaced by digital payment systems. Demonetization is the wave of the future, Gilles Ubaghs, principal analyst at Ovum, told PM Network. “It is already changing India, and it will change the world.”
That’s the truly spectacular thing about project management. It really does have the power to transform. No big shocker then that organizations are looking for the talent that can deliver those results.
A study by Anderson Economic Group and PMI found the project-management-oriented labor force is expected to grow by 33 percent in 11 countries through 2027. That’s 22 million new jobs. Whoa.
And as the first members of Gen Z are hitting the workplace, they’re already scoping out project management. They appreciate what they see: “I like the way you have to incorporate organizational skills along with people skills,” Myles Wilson, a junior project manager at Virtual1, told PM Network. “The idea that I could interact with many different people on a daily basis to achieve the same goal is something that inspired me to pursue project management.”
So at least one thing didn’t change in 2017: Project management still rocks.
We are well aware that good planning leads to smooth execution and early delivery. Most of us, however, still fast track the planning phase and jump into execution. The result is often a downward spiral of issues, defects and rework.
So why do we do this?
I have observed that most project managers are not clear on what exactly needs to be planned. At the same time, we often lose patience because planning takes time with no quick tangible results.
Here is my road map for a successful planning process.
Step 1: Write down the business case.
If we don’t know what the problem is, we can’t solve it. As project managers, we must understand the problem that’s going to be solved through the project and what the expected benefit to the organization will be. Until we understand it, we may not achieve the solution despite meeting all stated requirements. Writing a business case is the foundation of the planning.
Step 2: Establish objectives.
A lot has been written already on setting objectives, so I will limit myself. Objectives should be driven by the business case. We should set objectives that, if achieved, ensure the complete problem is resolved.
Objectives should be:
Step 3: Set expectations with stakeholders.
Identifying all stakeholders and understanding their requirements is important for project managers. However, this may not be enough. Stakeholders often have expectations that they may not explicitly lay out but use as part of their assessment process. My customer, for example, may set expectations based on his past experience with a previous vendor. He or she may not share it with me as these expectations are not firm and not backed by anything substantial. The best way to reset these expectations is to set new expectations with the stakeholder. By setting these new expectations, I nullify expectations coming from my customer’s previous experience and set a fresh ground for performance assessment.
Step 4: Kick off your project.
The main purpose of the kickoff is to let everyone know about the project, what support the project needs from them, and when we will need that support. It’s also important to present our strategy, high-level plan and project needs to all stakeholders and ask them what inputs they need from us to provide required support.
Step 5: Prepare a project management plan.
What planning documents like schedule, risk register, communications plan etc. do for project executing team, project management plan does for project management team. It creates a roadmap for the project management team and provides clear guidance to prepare planning documents. For example, a risk management plan—a component of project management plan—describes a methodology for identifying risk, a system for monitoring those risk, a format for the risk register, and tools and techniques to prepare the risk register and risk response plan.
Step 6: Prepare a meticulous work breakdown structure (WBS).
The WBS is the foundation of further project planning. And the better the WBS, the better the plan. All project team members must participate in developing a WBS with necessary and sufficient details.
Step 7: Prepare planning documents.
Now we have all the building blocks to prepare planning documents such as schedule, budget, resource plan, communication plan, procurement plan, quality plan, risk register etc. Planning documents will guide the project team throughout execution and, if meticulously prepared, guarantee project success.
Planning takes time, so consider a progressive approach. By planning the first phases and kicking it off, you may help your team produce early results and buy time for the meticulous planning required for subsequent phases.
What tips do you have for successful project planning? Please share your experience in the comments below. I look forward to reading about your experiences.