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

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Don’t Forget About Human Resources

By Taralyn Frasqueri-Molina

Because human resources is so process-oriented, it’s easy to overlook its need for project and program management.

The human resources department’s projects may not be customer-facing and highly visible, but it is very likely that they will make your work life easier! They might be focused on integrating or retrofitting an HR information system, changing an organization-wide benefits provider, developing a new employee handbook or designing and releasing an employee satisfaction survey.

I’ve had the pleasure of working on several HR projects. Though they weren’t product launches delivering external customer value, they were critical to internal business operations. Because they are so essential to internal success, if you’re the person responsible for enterprise roadmapping, you must ensure HR projects are part of the way forward.

One human resources area that benefits exceptionally well from stellar project management is organizational design. Don’t pass up the chance to work on an organization redesign project—you’ll be teaming up with not only human resources, but also with service designers, team managers and executive leadership.

There are many stages to an organizational design project. Organizational design projects have a lot of moving parts. Early on, it can be easy to get stuck in the research and design parts, constantly reviewing and revising. Later, ensuring companywide adoption can seem like a never-ending slog. A project manager can be a boon during these critical phases by keeping the focus on smaller, incremental milestones, and communicating when that milestone progress is made. This keeps the project moving forward, the momentum continuing even though the results of the final goal may be nebulous and still too far away.

In the end, you’ll deliver a model that will become the operating structure for the entire organization—helping all of its employees navigate through a changing business environment. And maybe even disruptive changes that pose grave threats to the organization.

What types of human resources projects have you led? Where else do you thinking project management could be beneficial for human resources?

Posted by Taralyn Frasqueri-Molina on: January 05, 2017 04:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

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)

3 Steps to Outsourcing Success

By Peter Tarhanidis

When leaders use outsourcing it is often in an effort to enhance the organization’s value proposition to its stakeholders.

Outsourcing allows leaders to focus on and invest in the firm’s core services while using cost effective alternative sources of expertise for support services.

When services are outsourced, management and employees need to prepare for a transformation in organizational operations—and project managers must establish a strategy to guide that change.

 

Creating an Outsourcing Strategy

Project managers can help to create an effective outsourcing strategy based on a three-part structure:

1. Assess the current state

This assessment should define the firm’s:

  • Labor expertise and associated labor costs
  • Value versus non-value support services
  • Baseline of operational measures and service levels

 

2. Consider the “to-be” state

The to-be state should be designed based on a comprehensive evaluation and request for proposal, including a good list of best alternatives to negotiated agreement items.

The to-be state must consider:

  • Access to low cost, high expertise labor and the marketplace arbitrage. This may evaluate onshore, right-shore, offshore and hybrid labor models.
  • Whether the firm should invest to “fix and ship” its processes or to “ship and fix” and adopt the providers processes.
  • Productivity gains that may be measured via the labor arbitrage, process capability improvements, speed to software application and deployment, automation of processes and IT management services, robotics, etc.

 

3. Consider the governance required to sustain the future state

A new internal operating model needs to be formed. This includes establishing teams to manage the contract, such as senior sponsorship, an operational management team or a vendor management team.

Then the outsourcer and the outsourcing organization should focus on continuous improvements that can be made to the process.

 

Avoiding Outsourcing Pitfalls

Project managers can avoid a few common pitfalls in their outsourcing projects:

  1. Add procurement and legal outsourcing experts on the project team to construct the agreement.
  2. Engage senior leaders to steer the initiative and align it to the business mission.
  3. Garner senior leadership support with change management actions to help guide the organization across this journey.

Overall, if done with a defined end in mind, leaders can capitalize on outsourcing by reducing operational costs, reinvesting those savings in core services, and providing access to expertise and IT systems that would normally not have been funded via capital appropriation.

Have you been a part of any outsourcing efforts? What advice would you offer to project managers involved in similar projects?

Posted by Peter Tarhanidis on: August 26, 2016 11:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: The Stereotyped Project Manager

By Conrado Morlan

If you’ve been a project practitioner for a long time, you’ve probably heard a variety of opinions about you and your colleagues. Many of those opinions may have reflected an oversimplified image of the project management profession. In other words, you and your colleagues were stereotyped.

The project management profession has given me the opportunity to travel across three continents and to work with people from different cultures and generations. I lost count of all the different stereotypes I was associated with, which involved my country of origin (Mexico), the country I lived in (the United States) and people’s previous experience with IT project managers, But many of the stereotypes were common despite the different situations where I worked.

Being stereotyped gave me the opportunity to change people’s oversimplified idea of me and my profession. On top of my daily duties, I had to transform that bad and/or ugly perception into a good one. Even when my title was IT project manager, my role was not purely technical—in many projects, the business function was also part of the project team.

Working with business and technical functions put me between a sword and a wall. On the business function side, people stereotyped me as too technical, while on the IT side, co-workers assumed I was not technical at all and too structured. In many meetings with business functions and IT team members, I had to show that the “real me” did not fit the stereotype they had in mind.

My credentials exacerbated the situation a couple of times. When team members learned I had several certifications, they feared I was going to “play by the book” and make them change the way they had been working.

Instead, I merely promoted discussions in which the team realized there were areas of opportunity in their way of working that could be improved.     

The “manager” stereotype popped up quite often. Team members openly told me I was not their direct-line manager and did not have authority over them. I had to address this stereotype and help people understand I was not there to manage but to lead.

So I held meetings with team members and their managers, in which roles were defined, the importance of the project was communicated and lines of communication were established.

At the end of the day, it’s incumbent on projects managers to face the stereotypes that are out there and work to change negative perceptions. As a project manager, how do you react to stereotypes? What are you doing to erase the stereotype you have been associated with?

Posted by Conrado Morlan on: June 18, 2016 09:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Are You an Imposter or a Crackerjack?

By Conrado Morlan

Do you know an experienced project manager assigned to a high-visibility project who keeps asking himself and others why he was selected? Colleagues and managers believe this individual is the ideal candidate. He brings strong industry knowledge, leadership skills and relationships across the organization that will lead to a successful project.

Yet he still doubts himself. In fact, it’s estimated that 70 percent of people feel they don’t deserve their station in life.

In the late 1970s, psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes coined the term “Imposter Syndrome” to refer to the idea that capable individuals find it hard to believe in their own capabilities or internalize their own accomplishments. These people see evidence of their competence as mere luck and sometimes feel they are not actually qualified for the position they hold.

For a while, I suffered from the Impostor Syndrome. Then I had two wake-up calls. The first came at the PMI Global Congress 2008—Latin America in São Paulo, Brazil. I met two members of the PMI Mexico Chapter who found out that I had recently achieved the Program Management Professional (PgMP) credential. They were more excited than I was about the achievement. I didn’t realize that I had not made the PgMP credential an important part of me.

The second wake-up call was at the workplace. I was part of a 360-degree evaluation process, and I discovered that the scores I provided to describe my performance were quite a bit lower than the feedback provided by my peers.

In my mind for many years, I was an imposter. In the eyes of others, I was crackerjack.

Have you suffered from the Imposter Syndrome? What was your wake-up call?

Posted by Conrado Morlan on: April 14, 2016 07:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)
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