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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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

Project Management Lessons From Soccer Teams

Plan for the Velocity of Change to Keep Increasing!

A Lesson About Communication in Times of Chaos

Innovation and Design Thinking, Part One

The Misunderstood Scrum Master

Project Management Lessons From Soccer Teams

Categories: Leadership

By Dave Wakeman

I’m heading to London in a few weeks and while I’m there, I’m going to catch a bunch of Premier League matches. My team, Tottenham Hotspur, has had an up-and-down season—changing coaches in November, and then getting a new manager, José Mourinho. 

As I was thinking about my travel plans, I also started thinking about how managing a soccer team is a lot like managing a project. And, to take it even further, I started asking myself what we can learn from some of soccer’s best managers. 

Flexibility Counts 

As I mentioned, Tottenham had to change managers this season. In switching from Mauricio Pochettino to José Mourinho, the team found itself working under an entirely new system. Pochettino was known for speed, pressing and intensity. Mourinho was known for being more tactical, controlling and playing a style of soccer that many don’t feel is pretty.     

The challenge for Mourinho is that he came into the team in the middle of the season, so he needed to adapt to the team he had—not build the one he wanted. That meant his Tottenham team has been a lot less defensive oriented, and a bit higher scoring than a typical Mourinho-coached team. 

This reminds me of projects where we don’t always have the time, resources or skills that we would hope to have. In these cases, we need to be flexible. Is there a way to shift the timing of certain parts of the project to fit your schedule? Can you manage all the different stakeholders with their different styles of communication and their different goals? 

In soccer, you deal with complex situations that don’t lend themselves to simple or rigid solutions. When managing a project, we see the same situation occur. This means that we have to understand where we are going and be able to adjust on the fly when the situation changes, so we can get to our destination. 

Communication Matters

I think communication is one of the key skills that coaches and project managers share. I’ve always said 90 percent of a project manager’s job is communication and 10 percent is everything else. 

In watching soccer managers, I have a sneaking suspicion that the same ratio applies. Like project managers, they have to have a great deal of technical skill, but they also have to be willing and able to delegate and let other folks deliver their vision. 

In other words, it is difficult to do everything yourself. And being the public face of the project or team requires the leader to deal with key stakeholders like the media, the sponsor and the team. 

In both scenarios, communication is more than just answering questions or giving orders. Both managers spend lots of time listening to other people so that they can make decisions or adjustments, and so they have a finger on the pulse of the teams they are leading. 

Success Isn’t Guaranteed

This should seem obvious, but every project comes with a bit of risk. The same goes with managing a soccer team. Just saying that success isn’t guaranteed isn’t nearly enough. But knowing that failure is a possibility impacts the way that we all approach our jobs. 

Project leaders spend a lot of time thinking through risk management, risk mitigation and change management. Similarly, soccer managers are thinking about how their formations will impact the game, gaps in talent and a multitude of other factors that could be the difference between success and failure. 

To me, this concept gets interesting when you think about success. It requires us to do all of the same things, like understanding risk, being flexible and willing to change and communicate effectively. 

These are only my top three ways that a soccer manager is like a project manager. What would you add? Let me know below! 

 

Posted by David Wakeman on: February 17, 2020 10:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Plan for the Velocity of Change to Keep Increasing!

Plan for the velocity of change to keep increasing

By Peter Tarhanidis, Ph.D., M.B.A.

Today, developments in emerging technology, business processes and digital experiences are accelerating larger transformation initiatives. Moore’s Law means that we have access to exponentially better computing capabilities. Growth is further fueled by technologies such as supercomputers, artificial intelligence, natural language processing, Internet of Things (IoT) and more across industries.

Emerging Tech
The global IT industry is valued at $5.3 trillion in 2020 and is poised to grow 6.2 percent by 2021, according to tech market research firm IDC. Emerging technology like augmented reality and robotics will make up an increasing share of that growth.

Business Process Maturity
Organizations are improving the maturity of their business processes. They’re doing this by automating tasks, eliminating them, improving performance or finding the lowest-cost way to perform a task. Organizations are connecting with experts to collaborate across a wider network of colleagues. This enables strategies to be integrated across the value chain to quickly drive business outcomes.

According to market research group IMARC, automation and the IoT are driving growth in business process management (BPM); the BPM market is expected to grow at a 10 percent compound annual growth rate between 2020 and 2025.

Customer Experience
In addition, having a formidable customer experience strategy can make the difference between customers choosing your brand or your competitors in 2020. That’s according to Core dna, a digital experience platform vendor.

Customer experience is redefining business processes and digitizing the consumption model to increase brand equity. Gartner reports that among marketing leaders who are responsible for customer experience, 81 percent say their companies will largely compete on customer experience in two years. However, only 22 percent have developed experiences that exceed customer expectations.

Economic Forces
Lastly, the potential for cash flow growth remains high in 2020, despite economic risks, according to the U.S. Corporate Credit Outlook 2020. This will likely lead to capital investments and a fair portion of companies funding transformational projects.

The Way Forward
While transformations have evolved, they encapsulate the way we think and operate. Old methods may seem encumbering and administratively difficult, creating bureaucracy and delays in decision making. The challenge is the velocity of change, which is very disruptive to organizations.

I’ve developed a few guidelines to help navigate this change:

  • Work with an agile mindset.
  • Fail often and fast to ultimately filter out winning initiatives.
  • Define the cultural attributes that propel staff and colleagues to succeed on their endeavors.

Change is now inherent and pervasive in the annual planning process for organizations. Given that, I like to ask: What is the plan to prepare staff and colleagues to compete in this hyper-transformation age?

What observations have you made to keep up with this new era’s velocity of change?

Posted by Peter Tarhanidis on: February 13, 2020 04:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

A Lesson About Communication in Times of Chaos

By Conrado Morlan

Project management practitioners know the importance of communication during the project execution, hand-off and operations stages. For each of these, the communication plan should cover all the different forms of communication and the target stakeholders.

The frequency of communication during project execution often has a defined cadence and uses different artifacts to deliver the message to stakeholders, who usually are internal.

During the operations stage, the project is usually in production and practitioners are communicating directly with customers, either internal or external. While the specifics depend on the situation, communication with customers must be regular, concise and delivered in a timely manner through the proper channels.

How Not to Communicate
As you may know from my past posts, I have been running for several years and have often thought about connections to project management. One of my running goals for 2020 is to run the Popular Brooklyn Half, the largest half marathon in the United States.

As I did not meet the pre-registration requirements, the open registration was my only option. On registration day I was ready: My account was available, all my personal information was filled out, and I had my credit card on hand. At the designated time I visited the registration website to compete for a spot with thousands of runners from across the world.

I thought I would be directed to start the registration process, but instead, I was directed to an electronic queue page. After a few minutes, my expected waiting time was listed as 25 minutes. I got a little anxious thinking that the limited number of entries would sell out in less than that time. A few minutes later, the waiting time changed to 40 minutes, then to more than an hour; all of a sudden a message about “experiencing technical difficulties” was displayed.

In the meantime, upset runners from across the world took to social media to vent their frustration and dissatisfaction. But the organizers did not acknowledge the blast of posts until three hours after the designated registration time. That’s when they posted a message stating that they were trying to figure out the problem, and if they were not able to resolve it soon, a new registration date would be announced.

That message ignited the runners, who inundated social media with posts venting their resentment.

By this time, the organizer’s website was down, and the homepage showed the “experiencing technical difficulties” message. I stayed away from the postings on social media and kept refreshing the website persistently.

Finally, five hours after registration began, the website came alive and the new registration time was posted. I checked social media for postings from the organizer but found nothing. Right at the new posted time, I started my registration process while thousands of runners kept venting their frustration. This time it only took me 20 minutes to complete my registration for the Popular Brooklyn Half.

The Project Management Takeaway
As project management professionals, we can face similar situations in the course of a project and need to be prepared with mitigation plans. In the case described above, communication with customers was not regular and sufficient, perhaps because the project team was too focused on solving the problem. This affected the customer experience.

In general, production problems have a resolution time window, which may vary depending on the seriousness of the issue. This is usually unknown for customers, but that does not hinder the communication process. We as project management practitioners need to consider that we are living in times dominated by instant gratification; customers expect that issues will be resolved immediately. At the same time, they expect frequent progress status reports.

As a project management practitioner, have you experienced a similar situation? If so, what did you do to keep your stakeholders/customers informed? What channels of communications did you use? How effective were they? Share your experiences with the community.

Posted by Conrado Morlan on: February 07, 2020 08:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

Innovation and Design Thinking, Part One

Categories: Innovation

By Lynda Bourne

Everyone is talking about innovation! But to innovate requires two things. The first is an innovative idea, and the second is a process to turn that idea into something valuable. In this post, I will look at what’s needed to create innovative ideas; my next post will look at one of the ways to transform the idea into something useful, even valuable, through design thinking.

The challenge of developing an innovative idea is part personal and part cultural.

The Personal Part of Innovation

Every innovation starts with an idea. So if you want ideas that may turn into useful innovations, you need to allow people time to develop the idea. This may occur in a number of ways:

  • The idea may arise as a result of an unexpected outcome from something you are doing. Many of the major innovations, from penicillin to Post-it notes, started with something going wrong. What sparked the innovation was people taking the time to consider the situation and look for opportunities.
  • The idea may come from a structured process deliberately set up to generate innovative ideas, such as a brainstorming session or hackathon. What sparks innovation is in part group dynamics and in part the challenge posed to the group. Careful planning and skillful facilitation are needed to get the best out of the group.
  • The idea may come from quiet reflection over time. A powerful way to solve problems or exploit a possible opportunity is to have the question or challenge written on something you interact with from time to time, such as a white board or a note pad on your desk. Take the time to look at the question and then allow your subconscious to work on it. The problem with this approach is the ideas usually pop up into your conscious mind at highly inconvenient moments. Thought processing benefits from quiet time, ideally doing something that requires little or no conscious thought, such as walking. One of the problems in the modern, 24x7 world is most people are too busy being busy to have time to think reflectively. 

 

The Cultural Part of Innovation

If an organization wants its people to be innovative, it needs to create a culture that allows innovative thinking. There are many ways this can be encouraged, so getting the mix right is key. Some of the options include:

  • Provide quiet spaces and quiet time to allow reflective thinking. If everyone is working hard, over extended hours, there’s no time for creative thinking. And when they stop working, they are too tired to think.
  • Encourage innovative conversations. There are many opportunities that can be used, including various review meetings, quality circles and other, less formal interactions. The key is to encourage discussion around how things could be improved. Everyone looks at what went wrong, but innovative organizations also play to their strengths: “We did that well, but could we do it better?”
  • Try occasionally doing something more dynamic, focused on a known opportunity or problem. Done properly, events such as hackathons not only generate ideas in the moment, they also empower ongoing conversations and reflective thinking.
  • Allow people to be wrong. Every idea is a good idea; some may be useful.
  • Have systems to collect the ideas and allow the people who originated them to be involved in moving the useful ideas forward if they choose.

Recognition and rewards can help, but they are far less useful than most managers think. The driver for innovative thought tends to be introspective, and when a person has a good idea, self-fulfilling. The real challenge is having an open culture that allows new ideas to come to the fore and be considered on their merits. Systems can help—the old “ideas box” needs to be brought into the 21st century if you want an innovative culture. 

Last, having identified an innovative idea, the organization needs to do something with them! More on this next time.

Please share your experiences: How have you sparked innovation within your organization?

Posted by Lynda Bourne on: January 27, 2020 03:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

The Misunderstood Scrum Master

Categories: Agile

By Christian Bisson

Inspired by The 8 Stances of a Scrum Master (a great read if you haven’t done so already), I want to focus this article on a few of the “misunderstood” stances of the scrum master.

Recently, I asked colleagues to share what they think a scrum master does, and the answers revolved around organizing scrum events (secretary) or note taking (scribe). It’s even expected that they make sure the office has coffee (coffee clerk).

Although there is nothing wrong in helping the team with any of the above—especially when it’s a brand-new team figuring out everything from setting up their work station to getting to know each other—there is a line between helping and not fulfilling your potential as a scrum master. This is important for you as an individual, but also for the team in the long term (even if they don’t know it).

So how can we fix this?

Stop Doing It

As a scrum master, you have to factor in everything when making a decision about whether or not to do something for your team. So, if the team is used to you doing a task and all of a sudden you stop, this might have a negative impact.

On the other hand, it might be what they need to break bad habits. If you do stop doing it, the team will have no choice but to do it themselves. However, in this case, you should warn the team or give them a heads up that you will stop by the next sprint, for example.

Never Start Doing It

If you are new to the team, or the whole team is new, you might have the opportunity to simply never start doing a given task in the first place. Although it seems counterintuitive to “not help” the team, you’ll avoid creating any habit that will affect them in the long term—and will be challenging to break.

In this case, you should explain to the team that it’s everyone’s responsibility to handle these tasks and to build good habits from day one.

I personally did this with note taking a few years ago. It was challenging at first, but now I go to meetings without any apparent ways of taking notes, making it obvious that I won’t be doing it. (I do have my phone in case something important comes up that I need to note for myself, of course). Now in meetings, I’ve gone from the note taker to being able to focus on facilitating the meeting and help the team get the best out of the conversation.

In Conclusion

It’s quite challenging to avoid all the “misunderstood” stances of the scrum master, but we have to do our best to be true to the real value scrum masters can bring to teams.

What misunderstood stances have you fought against? How have you tried to combat them?

Posted by Christian Bisson on: January 21, 2020 11:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)
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