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
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Lung-Hung Chou
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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

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3 Project Management Resolutions For 2017

 

by Dave Wakeman

As we prepare to head into a new year, I’m getting on board with the host of resolution posts that are sure to inundate social media over the coming weeks.

I have two reasons for wanting to tackle this post. First, resolutions are fun! And second, I think we can use the turn of the year to challenge ourselves as leaders and professionals.

In that spirit, I offer up these three resolutions that I hope all project managers can make for 2017.

Resolution #1: Act more strategically

I’ve touched on this topic over and over in the last year, but I think it should be at the top of every project manager’s list of resolutions. It can be a huge accelerant to your career.

Why?

Because strategic thinking is the secret sauce of any organization—and too often it’s in short supply.

As a strategic project manager, you can help shape the direction of your organization and influence which projects are taken on. That should be good for you and your organization.

Resolution #2: Up your communications game

I had lunch with a project manager working in construction today and we talked about the biggest challenge he was dealing with.

You want to take a guess at what it was? You got it! Communication.

We can never be good enough at communicating up and down in our project teams. To drive your communication skills to the next level, focus more on consistency. Commit to setting schedules for when and how you will communicate. And don’t hesitate to reach out first when you think something needs to be said.

Let’s face it, the old saying that 90 percent of being a project manager is communication is still true—and that’s not likely to change any time soon.

Resolution #3: Build new skills

As our workplace becomes more diverse and remote, as project requirements change in the face of everything from disruptive technology to a shifting political climate, the challenges we face will require us to learn new skills in order to be effective.

Therefore, self-improvement and professional development should be an on-going and natural resolution.

What are your resolutions for becoming a better project manager in 2017? Let me know in the comments below!

Good luck out there and Happy New Year!  

Posted by David Wakeman on: December 23, 2016 09:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

Customizing Your Leadership Style

 

by Peter Tarhanidis

I’ve served in various leadership roles throughout my career. In one role, I worked with engineers to build and deliver a technical roadmap of solutions. In another, I was charged with coordinating team efforts to ensure a post-merger integration would be successful.

All of my leadership roles ultimately taught me there’s no-one-size-fits-all style for how to head up a team. Instead, the situation and structure of the team determines the right approach.

Traditional teams are comprised of a sole leader in charge of several team members with set job descriptions and specialized skills, each with individual tasks and accountability. The leader in this environment serves as the chief motivator, the coach and mentor, and the culture enforcer. He or she is also the primary role model—and therefore expected to set a strong example.

But, this traditional team setup is not always the norm.

Take self-managed teams, for example. On these teams, the roles are interchangeable, the team is accountable as one unit, the work is interdependent, the job roles are flexible and the team is multi-skilled, according to Leadership: Theory, Application, & Skill Development, written by Robert M. Lussier, a professor of business management at Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts, USA.

On a self-managed team, each person’s capabilities support the team’s overall effectiveness. While these teams do need to have their efforts coordinated, they spread leadership accountability across the group.

Members each initiate and coordinate team efforts without relying on an individual leader’s direction, according to Expertise Coordination over Distance: Shared Leadership in Dispersed New Product Development Teams by Miriam Muethel and Martin Hoegl.

Effective leaders adjust their style to the needs of varied situations and the capability of their followers. Their styles are not automatic. Instead, they get to know their team members and ensure their teams are set up to succeed.

How do you pick the right leadership style to use with your teams?

Posted by Peter Tarhanidis on: December 22, 2016 03:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

The Case for Grassroots Communities of Practice

By Peter Tarhanidis

These days there is such a high influx of projects and such a demand for project managers, but such a limited supply of practitioners. How can companies help their project professionals improve their skills and knowledge so that they can work to meet that need?

Leaders deliver more results by sponsoring grassroots project management learning and development programs. Common approaches and best practices are shared across all levels of project managers—ranging from novices to practitioners. Therefore, if an organization has more employees who can learn to leverage project management disciplines, then the organization can meet the increasing demand, and are more likely to develop mature practices that achieve better results.

One type of grassroots effort is to establish a project management community of practice (CoP). CoPs are groups of people who share a craft or a profession. Members operationalize the processes and strategies they learn in an instructional setting. The group evolves based on common interests or missions with the goal of gaining knowledge related to their field.

For project managers, there is a specific added benefit of CoPs. They bring together a group who are traditionally part of separately managed units within an organization focused on strategic portfolios and programs.

CoP members develop by sharing information and experiences, which in turn develops professional competence and personal leadership. CoPs are interactive places to meet online, discuss ideas and build the profession’s body of knowledge. Knowledge is developed that is both explicit (concepts, principles, procedures) and implicit (knowledge that we cannot articulate).

In my experience, I have seen CoP utilized in lieu of project management offices. The members define a common set of tools, process and methodology. The CoP distributed work across more participants, increased their productivity to deliver hundreds of projects, improved the visibility of the members with management and positioned members for functional rotations throughout the business.

Which do you think drive better performance outcomes—establishing hierarchal project management organizations or mature project management disciplines through CoPs?

Posted by Peter Tarhanidis on: September 21, 2016 07:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

Project Leaders as Ethical Role Models

 

By Peter Tarhanidis            

This month’s theme at projectmanagement.com is ethics.  Project leaders are in a great position to be role models of ethical behavior. They can apply a system of values to drive the whole team’s ethical behavior.

First: What is ethics, exactly? It’s a branch of knowledge exploring the tension between the values one holds and how one acts in terms of right or wrong. This tension creates a complex system of moral principles that a particular group follows, which defines its culture. The complexity stems from how much value each person places on his or her principles, which can lead to conflict with other individuals.

Professional ethics can come from three sources:

  1. Your organization. It can share its values and conduct compliance training on acceptable company policy.
  2. Regulated industries. These have defined ethical standards to certify organizations.
  3. Certifying organizations. These expect certified individuals to comply with the certifying group’s ethical standards.

In project management, project leaders have a great opportunity to be seen as setting ethical leadership in an organization. Those project leaders who can align an organization’s values and integrate PMI’s ethics into each project will increase the team’s ethical behavior. 

PMI defines ethics as the moral principles that govern a person’s or group’s behavior. The values include honesty, responsibility, respect and fairness.

For example, a project leader who uses the PMI® Code of Ethics to increase a team’s ethical behavior might:

  • Create an environment that reviews ethical standards with the project team
  • Consider that some individuals bring different systems of moral values that project leaders may need to navigate if they conflict with their own ethics. Conflicting values can include professional organizations’ values as well as financial, legislative, religious, cultural and other values.
  • Communicate to the team the approach to be taken to resolve ethical dilemmas.

Please share any other ideas for elevating the ethical standards of project leaders and teams, and/or your own experiences!

Posted by Peter Tarhanidis on: February 22, 2016 09:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (19)

Want to Be Ethical? Follow Principles, Not Rules

By Mario Trentim

Daniel Kahneman, Nobel laureate in behavioral economics and author of Thinking, Fast and Slow, has written about how people tend to make decisions based on the potential value of losses and gains rather than the final outcome. Considering our common cognitive and emotional biases, how can we cope with daily ethics challenges with integrity?

We humans are in some ways predictably irrational. “Common sense” doesn’t mean best practices. Some people might have totally appropriate but opposite stances on the same topic.

Does that mean ethical practices are a matter of choice? Of course not—ethics are a matter of common good: In his book Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do, Michael Sandel explores timeless philosophical and theoretical questions with real-world examples. He does the same in this video:

My conclusion is that the more we abide by a code of ethics based on strict rules and procedures, the more people tend to display unethical behaviors when faced with gray areas and edge cases.

So what’s the solution?

In How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life, Russ Roberts provides extremely valuable insights to the question above. In summary, we are much better off by teaching and praising Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments than by creating new regulations and sanctions to prevent unethical behavior.

What All This Means for Project Managers

What’s the upshot of all this for project management professionals? We must abide by the PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct, but it’s even more important that we adhere to ethics focused on the common good.

Project managers face extreme pressure. Shortcuts are tempting—but in the long run they seldom pay off. Here are two examples of unethical temptations that put our work into the broader moral perspective that I think is so valuable.

  1. Imagine you hire a stockbroker. You ask his unbiased opinion on the best investment, and he provides you information about assets he already manages without mentioning others that might better suit your needs. Is that ethical behavior? What if you, as a project manager, offer a solution to your client that you know isn’t the best one because it’s the easiest for you?
  2. Suppose you visit a doctor. He’s in a hurry, so he doesn’t perform the necessary diagnostic steps. He prescribes a general drug that might help you—or might not. And he asks you to come back in two months. Is that ethical behavior? What if you, as a project manager, don’t take the time to gather requirements and instead try to force a one-size-fits-all solution on your client?

It’s easy to point fingers at doctors and lawyers—their work dramatically impacts people’s lives. A mistake made by a prosecutor may imprison an innocent. A doctor’s mistake may kill or handicap a patient.

How about project managers’ mistakes? You may put your project in jeopardy, of course. But that’s not all: You may put your team members, client and other stakeholders at risk. You may even bankrupt your organization.

The bottom line: The most surefire way to maintain high ethical standards is to think frequently about the far-reaching impacts of your work—on worker safety, the environment and social well-being, for example. Our choices matter—in ways we can’t necessarily anticipate.

How do you respond to everyday ethical challenges in your project management practice? Share your thoughts below.

Posted by Mario Trentim on: February 10, 2016 11:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (15)
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