By Dave Wakeman
The holiday season has arrived—meaning a lot of socializing with family and friends. We’ll be asked about our lives, families and work. Yet, many of us project professionals have a hard time explaining project management and its value.
That’s partly because project management principles and skills have been so heavily tied to IT projects for so long. But in truth, project management is for everyone.
For many of us that have formal project management training, explaining the value of project management to every business or industry can sometimes feel complicated. It shouldn’t be–these principles are just wise business.
So here’s a cheat sheet to help explain the profession to anyone you encounter this holiday season.
Projects are built on the backs of planning and outcomes. Any successful holiday requires careful planning and preparation.
The same is true for any project.
While the project planning stage can be something that all of us wish went more quickly, the truth is that careful planning and attention to outcomes is wise in every organization.
Every organization could do a better job of spending time clearly defining a project or initiative around the outcomes they want to achieve, the resources they have, how much time they want to invest and the people that will be impacted.
If you don’t communicate, you don’t succeed. On the U.S. sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live, there was once a character called “Drunk Uncle” who represented all the relatives you sought to avoid during the holidays.
We’ve probably all been there in some form:
What gets us through these moments? Our communication skills, that’s what.
To be a successful project manager, you need to be a great communicator. I’ve always fallen back on the old saying that I heard when I started out: Project management is 90 percent communication. I still think that’s the truth.
You can show this skill off during the holidays. During an awkward conversation, redirect the topic or reframe the controversial subject matter to something better. Bonus points if you are in a big crowd.
Being adaptable is key to long-term success. No matter the industry or sector, we hear a lot about the need to adapt to the market around us.
The funny thing is, as people with project management backgrounds, change is nothing new to us. In truth, managing change and keeping change in some semblance of order is almost as much of a key skill as communicating effectively. As change is inevitable and occurs more quickly, this skill isn’t just nice to have—it’s a necessity.
To put it in terms your family can understand, think about when you are trying to buy a gift that’s sold out. You don’t have long enough to order it online, and stores are closing in a few moments. All of a sudden Plan B and C start looking pretty good. It’s difficult, but necessary.
Or, illustrate the point with an example of how weather can impact holiday travel plans or how a delay in a work deadline can have you working through the holiday.
All of it takes flexibility.
The truth is that project management is life and as we head into the holidays, all the keys that you use as a project manager can help you get through the season too.
BTW, if you like this stuff and the stuff I usually post, I do a Sunday email that talks all about value, connection, and humans. You can get that for free by sending me an email at dave @ davewakeman.com
By Conrado Morlan
“If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” - Abraham Maslow
Over the last two decades, the project management profession has rapidly evolved. The number of professionals has grown worldwide, organizations have adopted, adapted or created frameworks and methodologies to support their projects, and technology has flooded the market with a plethora of mobile, desktop, server and cloud tools.
These tools are big players in establishing the ideal project management environment for organizations that want to track project metrics, performance, pipeline optimization, resource management, time, cost and budget—and the list can go on and on. These versatile apps also support an endless range of frameworks and approaches, from waterfall to agile to Kanban.
Organizations may go thru a selection process to choose the right tool for their environment. Many support their decision-making process with external sources from consulting companies that had reviewed several tools and classified them based on different criteria.
Once a tool is selected, the next step is to put together the various pieces of the puzzle—the project, practitioners and tool. They don’t always naturally match up—and that’s to be expected. That means training.
However, I’ve recently noticed a disturbing trend. I’ve seen several job postings in which the most important trait is the years of experience using a particular project management tool. Some of the job seekers told me that they did not get the job because of their lack of experience in a particular tool.
It makes me wonder: Are organizations “toolizing” project management? Are they boxing themselves into a tool environment? Why is a tool more important than a discipline?
Experienced project professionals exposed to different frameworks or project management methodologies may apply their knowledge to the tool and manage the portfolio, program or project. A tool expert does not make a project management professional.
Remember, at the end of the day, a fool with a tool is still a fool.
Do you think organizations are becoming “tool-centric”? If so, what’s driving this trend?
By Cyndee Miller
People like praise — and it’s not just millennials (despite what you read lately). For leaders, the point of providing positive feedback isn’t to make everyone feel warm and fuzzy. It’s to build the wildly brilliant team you need to get the job done.
“This is what builds great cultures: reinforcement,” Adrian Gostick told symposium attendees in the closing keynote. “On great teams, members root for each other — praise doesn’t just come from the top.”
This isn’t about spraying good vibes everywhere, however. That can backfire. Engage team members in one-on-one feedback sessions, and be specific and sincere, he said. And don’t wait until a holiday party or some off-site retreat to toast your team.
There’s a straight line between positive reinforcement and two of the three “Es” — engaged and energized — that Mr. Gostick highlighted as hallmarks of high-performance cultures.
The third E, enabled, is about creating a place where people believe they can make a difference. It’s bigger than autonomy. People should feel empowered to challenge the status quo if they see better ways of doing things, and to fix a problem on their own if they spot it.
Building a culture that drives results is way more squishy than say, mapping stakeholders or aligning budget numbers — and can often prove more challenging. “The soft stuff is the hard stuff,” Mr. Gostick said.
How do you handle the soft stuff?
That’s it for this year’s coverage. Fear not, we’ll be headed back for more PMO Symposium action 11-14 November 2018 in Washington, D.C., USA.
By Cyndee Miller
It’s the not-so-secret secret: Project management doesn’t always get the credit it deserves. So it’s nice to see the best of the best get their due with the PMO of the Year award. They not only get the rock star treatment — they take that acknowledgment back to the office.
“This award is going to make us more recognized in our organization,” said Carrie Fletcher, PMP, in accepting the PMO of the Year for the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).
The PMO has already built up quite the track record helping provide staff members with the tools they need to deliver better patient care at Canada’s largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital,
Bringing together clinical and technical teams, the PMO helps assess what projects will best address hospital bottlenecks and pain points — and maintain buy-in once the work is underway. One of the PMO’s first projects, for example, consolidated 30 different forms into a single access point for the more than 20,000 annual external referrals CAMH receives each year. That one initiative cut patient wait times in the child, youth and family service by three months.
The other finalists had impressive results of their own:
Engineering and construction powerhouse Henkels & McCoy (HMG) has seen its annual revenue more than triple since 2005. To keep every project in its US$3 billion portfolio on track, the company’s PMO relies on project controls, with regular risk reviews and clear documentation. By delivering reliable results for HMG customers, the PMO has also helped boost profitability, which has grown 110 percent since 2008.
The PMO at MetLife has helped bring strategic order to the insurance giant’s US$500 million global IT portfolio. Rigorously vetting the business case for every project — and following up after completion to make sure the intended results were delivered — has helped the PMO maximize the portfolio's ROI. Since 2014, Metlife has seen a 22 percent increase in programs that closed on time and on budget, and a 35 percent increase in overall customer satisfaction.
Want your PMO’s accomplishments recognized? Learn how to apply for the PMO of the Year Award here.
by Cyndee Miller
The “T” word is getting thrown around a lot. So I might have been skeptical walking into Anthony Gayter’s symposium keynote on a “real-world transformation.”
Once he started laying out the details, it was clear this was the real deal.
It all started when HP went on an acquisition extravaganza, gobbling up 60 companies from 2002 to 2015. All that wheeling and dealing made HP one of the biggest conglomerates in the world.
“Then reality hit,” said Anthony Gayter, vice president, enterprise services, global transformation service, DXC Technology, a division of HP. “We were behind the times.”
In 2015, HP made the strategic decision to split the company in two —and then eight months into the split, they decided to cut the company into several more parts. “We had three splits and two mergers going on top of normal day-to-day work.”
The transformation was not just complex, it was happening on an epic scale: The team had 4,300 project milestones — and only 10 months to complete the initiative. “We were putting everything on the line,” said Mr. Gayter.
Where did the organization turn
Throughout it all, the meetings and endless milestone mapping, the project management team led the charge. And execs took notice, maybe not in overt proclamations, but in one very powerful way.
“Any companies that are merging, one reason is to cut costs,” Mr. Gayter said. “Project management has been kept whole.
While more than 40 percent of vice presidents have exited — no project managers have been fired. Instead, the organization hired more and continues to invest in project management training, certifications and development. “It was a recognition of their skillset and capability,” Mr. Gayter said.
But after playing such a powerful part in the transformation, the pressure is on. “It’s a double-edge sword. The expectation is that perfection is the standard now.”
Is project management an “unsung hero” at your company? Or does it get the credit it deserves?