by Conrado Morlan
When I started working for a leading global logistics company, I had to wait about three months to get my first regional program assigned. The program, which is still in the works, includes the deployment of a new centralized billing system — including changes to processes and reporting — across 50 countries and territories.
I did not dread the wait. Instead, I made the most of my time and began networking. I started to meet — in person or via teleconference — with people across the regions in which the system would be deployed.
This helped me build a strong foundation with cross-functional stakeholders across the region. I also got information in advance that helped me to draft my stakeholder engagement plan.
When the billing system inevitably changed, I had to perform support for each individual country’s CEO, CFO, CIO and human resources team to help them understand the new features, the improved processes, the consolidated reports and ultimately the benefits.
The program plans and benefits were discussed and approved during an annual strategy meeting with all of the individual country CEOs, CFOs, CIOs and human resources teams in attendance. However, I still faced difficulties with the deployment in those first few countries.
In the pre-implementation meetings, I had to reiterate the benefits of the program and why it was needed. I had to answer questions and provide solid arguments to justify the tradeoffs between the new and old billing system.
But I used these difficulties to refine my stakeholder engagement plan as I moved to the next country. Understanding the source of change and the stakeholders’ motivations helped me become a better change agent and provide better support during the program implementation.
For the early adopters, it took about three to four months to mature their operation and fully adopt the new system. It was a rough start. But after two months of having the new billing system running, country executives have started to accept the new way of operating.
To build credibility and engage executives from the remaining countries, I asked early adopting executives to share their story and the benefits of the new system.
With this program, I learned how important it is to be an influencer and to build strong arguments that will convince stakeholders to accept projects and programs that change their business-as-usual practices.
What difficulties have you faced when implementing significant change? How did you get buy-in?
by Jen Skrabak, PfMP, PMP
Happy 2018! Make this year your best yet!
I know we’ve been hearing these phrases for several weeks now, but one thing still rings particularly true: There’s no denying the fresh-start effect of the new year.
And with another new year comes new resolutions.
Instead of resolution, I like goals better. Goals are things that we should strive toward — not just at the beginning of the year, but throughout.
Here are the career development goals I would challenge you to strive for this year:
1. As you progress through your career, it’s less about collecting a paycheck and more about making choices as to where you’ll do your best work. Don’t oversell yourself. Instead, spend time to really understand the company, roles/responsibilities, team(s) you’ll be working with and how you’ll fit.
Over the past year, I’ve interviewed a lot of people for senior level program and portfolio positions. I’ve noticed that many are focused on selling themselves for the job instead of thoughtfully understanding the role, assessing how their skills/experiences match up with the expectations and how they will be contributing. If it’s the right fit, then you should articulate why. If it’s not the right fit, acknowledge that as well. Not every role or company is right for every person.
2. We all know that your direct manager has a lot to do with your career success. As they say, people leave their managers, not the company. Although you may not have the ability to change your managers, there are some things you can do to develop your career even when you work with a less-than-ideal manager:
a. Instead of worrying about what you can’t control, focus on what you can control. Don’t try to change people (such as your manager or team members). Instead, focus on roles and responsibilities. Most companies encourage candid conversations with your manager — be clear about what you would like to see differently about your role. For example, would you like to stretch yourself and have the opportunity to develop your skills in managing programs? Negotiation and influence are key leadership traits, and negotiating your role is a key component of career development.
b. There is a common saying, “Dress for the job you want.” I say, “Manage yourself and your job for the next role.” When promotions happen, it typically means that you’ve already been doing the job for that next role. So, look at the job descriptions for the ideal role that you want (inside or outside of the company), and do an honest assessment of your gaps. Now that you know where you want to go (your ideal job), you need to know where you currently are (your current knowledge, skills and abilities). Then map out an action plan to get there.
3. Do some new year’s decluttering and cleaning. Over time, I’m sure you have accumulated a lot of files, activities, commitments and even habits that you’ve been carrying around. Rather than assuming those are still needed, scrutinize what you actually need going forward, and be a bit relentless in simplifying and focusing on what you actually need.
Do you remember Thomas Guides? These were the definitive maps, especially for a car culture like Southern California where I’m based. It was a big event when the new year arrived, a time that also ushered in the new edition of the Thomas Guides. Now, our phones and Google Maps have made those guides obsolete. How many of the Thomas Guides (metaphorically speaking) do you still have around? Take a good look and do some ruthless cleaning.
What goals would you add to this list?
by Christian Bisson, PMP
Several years ago, I decided to put my web developer hat behind me and become a project manager (and eventually product owner). At first I wasn’t sure if I would be up to the challenge given that most project managers have different backgrounds.
But several years later, I don’t regret my decision.
Technical project managers are more present — and required — in the digital world, and I have no doubt that will keep rising. Here’s why.
The Rising Digital World
The digital world is taking up more space in our lives. And it doesn’t stop at what people see, there is also a vast world of data happening behind the scenes.
A project manager that can’t comprehend the technical relationship between every piece of a client’s ecosystem will fail to manage it properly. As ecosystems grow, it will become more of a challenge to ensure teams have the right people at the right time so that everything comes together as planned.
Still, many project managers are not even aware of what a development environment (development, staging, user acceptance testing, production) or even deployments are. Project managers today should know about synchronizing websites, apps and other tools together. If one can’t deploy a site, then there is simply no hope.
A website used to consist of images and text, so not understanding how it worked didn’t matter much if you had the team to compensate.
Today, however, a lot of websites use advanced technologies to provide users with what they want, like powerful search engines or features using machine learning.
Machine learning in particular is becoming the toy every kid wants. It’s also within everyone’s grasp—whether it’s with advanced machine learning expertise or with tools made available by Google, for example. Project managers need to understand this technology in order to bring out its full potential within the projects they manage, otherwise it becomes a trend word that brings nothing to the table.
Everyone knows that communication is key to running any team smoothly. If a project manager can’t understand what the team is communicating, then he or she can’t properly manage the project.
Furthermore, clients are becoming more techy and often have a better understanding of how things work. So if project managers don’t understand the tech behind the project, they can’t have proper conversations with the client. It helps in key project decisions to actually understand what is going on.
What are your thoughts on technical project managers? As the world becomes more digital, are they becoming essential?
By Cyndee Miller
It’s the fundamental quandary facing anyone looking to futureproof: How does one separate a serious business trend from a fleeting flight of fancy? Matters get even murkier considering it’s the nascent ideas living on the edges that intrigue the most — those things just starting to bubble up that threaten (or promise) to change everything. Predicting how all of it will play out requires an almost surreal level of intuition tempered with down-the-rabbit-hole research.
Just a few weeks into the new year, we’re already seeing some interesting stats. The World Economic Forum is predicting a “critical period of intensified risks in 2018,” with respondents pointing to extreme weather events, natural disasters and cyberattacks as the most likely culprits. But the group also pointed to the prospect of strong economic growth that presents leaders with a “golden opportunity to address signs of severe weakness in many of the complex systems that underpin our world.” Quick translation? Projects — lots and lots of super-cool projects, like Saudi Arabia’s US$500 billion new Neom mega smart city. This, in turn, will mean even greater demand for project management expertise.
Now much of that expertise belongs to women. So if we’re looking at trends, there’s no ignoring this one. Women in the workplace — their roles, their compensation, their career paths — has been a conversation for decades. Yet even the most forward-looking pundits couldn’t have predicted how the issue would explode late last year — and continue to reverberate in 2018. The project management profession is no exception. “No matter how hard you work, as a woman, you will always be expected to work harder to prove yourself,” Paige Barnes, PMP, senior IT project manager at the American Medical Association, says in an upcoming issue of PM Network. And even with that added work, most women will make less. In Brazil, for example, the average salary for male project managers is BRL157,073 versus BRL141,601 for women, according to PMI’s 2017 Project Management Salary Survey. Australia follows a similar pattern: AU$149,698 versus AU$137,756 for females.
Smart organizations know the payoff for closing the gender gap is real: A recent paper in Financial Management posits fostering diversity makes a company more innovative, a necessity in the current disrupt- or-die business environment. Machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI) and all sorts of things that once seemed strictly for sci-fi flicks are fast becoming de rigueur in project portfolios. Just look at Adidas’ robot-powered factory that lets the sneaker giant unleash a whole new generation of mass personalization projects. It’s sexy stuff, but those projects must also be aligned with a strong strategy.
No doubt, some of the more bleeding-edge projects are the province of early adopters. Yet Deloitte found only 9 percent of respondents believe cognitive development and AI is overhyped. Indeed, those “who had implemented more projects, invested more and employed more sophisticated technologies” showed the highest satisfaction rates.
The shifting landscape means new challenges — and opportunities — for project and program managers. Theories abound on what it will take to get ahead in 2018. Some, like the growing mainstream appeal of agile, are essentially a continuation from 2017. But there are also some wild cards, like Amy Hamilton, PMP, on The Girl’s Guide to Project Management, declaring civility as the new must-have.
This year’s PM Network Jobs Report not only looks at skills, but dives into the hot (and some not-so-hot) sectors and geographic regions for both full-timers and those who want to try their hand at the gig economy. Overall, though, it looks pretty darn promising: PMI’s research predicts employers will need 87.7 million people working in project management-oriented roles by 2027.
The profession itself is also gaining more serious credit. On the very first day of the new year, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, for example, added “project management specialist” to its Standard Occupation Classification system. Sounds pretty wonky, but it’s a powerful testament to the value project managers deliver to the overall economy.
Don’t make me futureproof on my own. What are your predictions for project management in 2018?
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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