Viewing Posts by Wanda Curlee
by Wanda L. Curlee, PMP, PgMP, PfMP, PMI-RMP
As artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IoT) and other new diruptive technologies enter the business mainstream, how will this impact project management? And how will it affect your job?
In any business, understanding data is essential. However, there’s so much of it that no one human being can review it all and truly understand the trends and what’s relevant to the project at hand. That means those project managers who embrace these technologies will be lightyears ahead of their peers. And those who do not use these tools will struggle to be of value to the organization.
Back to School
First and foremost, you need to understand these emerging technologies and how they can help you lead and deliver a successful project.
While the project management profession is lagging behind in adopting AI, IoT and other vital technologies, there are myriad ways to increase your knowledge.
Take all the classes your organization offers and find out who knows or leads the areas you want to learn about. Come prepared with questions and suggestions on how AI and other technologies could help projects for the company. Why is this important?
Sell It Through
Even after you become an expert on technologies the company has to help further the success rate of projects, your work isn’t done. This is now your project to move forward. You’ll need to share your learnings and new ideas with trusted individuals because their feedback is essential. At the appropriate time, create an executive white paper and present it to your supervisor and a project management office lead or project portfolio office lead.
Remember, you’re looking for sponsors. If you’re not good at selling your ideas, get help. Ask other leads who don’t have a stake in what you want to sell to help you understand the hot buttons for the various ideas involved with your potential project. If those issues are covered, then your idea becomes easier to follow.
Whether or not your organization buys into your idea, you are now a valued asset. If the idea was rejected, make sure you receive feedback as to why and update your proposal. Then present it again.
Will AI replace you? No. It will be an adjunct. It will help you with decision-making and doing mundane things like chasing individuals to enter their time for the project, updating the schedule, suggesting the best what-if scenario or doing your first draft of a presentation, among other things.
How have you leveraged the benefits of AI?
By Wanda Curlee
Spikes in cases. The new normal. Limited opening. Social distancing.
These are all new taglines that we’re hearing as we slowly move back to the office. Granted, some of us were already remote workers and in that case, the change will be minimal. But those returning to the office will experience a radically different environment.
What does this have to do with project management? Well, project managers play an integral part in the transition, and it started sometime back.
When the pandemic first hit and lockdown started, project managers were needed. Companies could not just send their employees home with their laptops and hope that work would continue as usual. Project managers had to put in extra work to ensure employees and resources were prepared for the transition. And there was minimal time to prepare.
I am sure that many companies did not expect to be on lockdown for months. For many, it has been devastating. But now it is time for project managers to help transition employees back to the office.
Compared to going remote at the beginning of the pandemic, project managers now have more time to plan and execute the project to transition work back to the brick-and-mortar office. But a project to transition work back to the office is also quite different from transitioning to a totally remote environment. Transitioning back to the company’s physical location requires setting up the office to meet social distancing requirements and other regulations established by the state and the federal government, making sure IT is in place to handle the transitioned workforce, instituting updated processes for the new environment, ensuring contractors are hired to maintain new cleanliness procedures, helping the workforce learn the new cleanliness policy and what to do if an employee is sick, and so forth.
Or will it be a different type of project? Companies’ leadership may have considered how well the remote workforce did. Recently, I read that some companies located in Manhattan may not return to their office spaces at all. The leadership saw that working remotely was much cheaper and resulted in a happier workforce, with more or at least the same amount of work accomplished. Sure, we heard about parents who had to work while also looking after or homeschooling their children. But for many, this is a temporary phenomenon.
If the leadership decides to keep the workforce remote, the tasks will be different. The project manager may have to look at helping all employees move their offices back to their homes, make the IT system more robust, develop procedures to support the workforce with upgrades, create processes to help employees with broken laptops and keep them working while the computer is fixed, develop new processes for hiring and assisting new employees in understanding daily expectations, and assess whether new tools are needed, such as online signatures and secure conference systems, among other tasks.
Project managers will need to think outside of the traditional ideas of a virtual environment or a brick- and-mortar office. These project managers will be establishing the new normal for their companies.
How are you helping your team transition?
By Wanda Curlee
Coronavirus (COVID-19) is bringing international markets to their knees and threatens to cripple project progress at every turn. Each of us has a different response. Some are afraid, some are wondering what all the fuss is about, many are devastated due to loss or quarantine, while others are on the front lines. And I am sure there are many other reactions. How we as individuals—and a global community—react to coronavirus has implications that ripple beyond our physical well-being and mental health. And its impact on projects cannot be underestimated.
For all project professionals, the coronavirus is now a project within your project or program. Based on what your country or business decides to do, a response is inevitable. The response might be shutting down the project (permanently or temporarily), requiring personnel to work from home, ensuring staff has proper safety equipment, reviewing processes that may need to be changed or relaying the latest information from credible sources, among other actions. In the face of coronavirus, project leaders must step up to manage expectations and guide their teams across finish lines that may be shifting. It’s a tall order—but it’s not impossible.
Empower Your Team
As a leader, you must set an example. Setting an example means that you need to acknowledge the situation and demonstrate urgency, while maintaining control over deadlines and team morale. Inside you might be overwhelmed—and that is alright. But be careful not to project those uncertainties.
Lean on the team to determine what needs to be done. Empowering team members will help them to feel like they have some control. Are there individuals who may need to go remote before others? Do they have what is required to go remote? You, the leader, need to make sure that your team is taken care of.
Make a Plan (and Stick to It)
Does your company have a business continuity plan? Do they have a crisis plan? If not, do you have one? Look at the business continuity plan and the crisis plan. Did you overlook anything? We are all human and there is a lot that can be forgotten. Make a plan and follow through.
Once the initial response is made, and the team is working again, make sure that the team has what it needs. Focus on running the project or program, but also put plans in place in case the unfathomable happens: Members of your team contract coronavirus. Maybe you will be fortunate. But you can’t rely on luck. What happens if you get coronavirus? What if other team leads end up with the virus? Have you thought of contingencies? What happens if you have to shut down the project or program? Who in the company needs to know? What will be the plan of attack to try to bring the project or program back to life?
Anticipate Next Steps
Finally, how will the project or program team transition back to the work environment? Will everyone, one day in the near future, show back up in the office? Will it be done in a staggered fashion? How will you handle those employees who still may be sick? How about those who still have kids out of school? Will processes need to be updated based on the lessons learned?
Remember, while this may never happen again, another crisis that may be localized, national or worldwide could arrive sooner than you’d expect. Don’t be caught off guard!
How is your project team navigating the challenges that come with coronavirus? Share in the comments below.
By Wanda Curlee
Some believe that project management needs a complete overhaul. Whether you agree or not, there’s no doubt that technology is driving radical change. As I have mentioned in different blogs and presentations, I believe that artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) will have a large impact on the next generation of project managers. Thanks to this new tech, project managers will be adding more value, versus completing mundane tasks.
Technology will do the mundane for the project, program or portfolio manager. So, what will be left for the practitioner to do? For starters, the project manager will be able to focus on the many things put to the side because they’re doing their best to keep stakeholders informed and complete routine tasks, as well as trying to maintain their sanity.
Targeting the Mundane
The good news is, AI and IoT will take on these mundane tasks. Technologies will be able to review a schedule and track down those who haven’t inputted their time. The schedule options, along with recommendations, will be provided to the project manager.
And that’s not all: Tech can also assist with drafting presentations and status reports. The project manager can then add the final touches. Potential risks can be assessed and the probability and cost to the project can be determined.
Impact on the Project Manager
They’ll also have to deal with problem resources already on the project. This may mean less qualified individuals who aren’t able to do the work (through no fault of their own), those who are unhappy on the project and are projecting the feeling throughout the project, and those who are lazy, among other things. The project manager may need to counsel these individuals or may even have to fire them, which, of course, creates risk for the project.
In addition, the project manager may have to deal with subcontractors and vendors. More attention can be paid to higher-level risks and preventing or minimizing their occurrence.
Integration management is also an area of focus. There are project managers who put this aside because they feel if the schedule is all right, the project integration is handled. This is not true. There may be individuals who are not sharing their information promptly, or those who are producing a major milestone but have a family emergency. Without them, no one else can finish a milestone that’s critical to the remainder of the project.
Predicting the future is hard. Time will tell how technology will be used in project, program and portfolio management. Technology should not be considered a silver bullet, but a means to provide help with everyday tasks, allowing leaders to devote time to value-added work.
What do you think: How will future technology change the way we manage projects?
By Wanda Curlee
PMI is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, an occasion that has led me to reflect on projects from my past. While I don’t have 50 years of experience, I do have 30.
Over those years, I have been a project manager or project team member across many industries. But by far, I’ve learned the most on Department of Defense (DoD) projects. In fact, my very first project was a DoD project. I’ve found that in this industry, the project manager is responsible for all aspects of a project. And when I say all, I mean all.
The project manager needs to understand the contract from beginning to end. From my first federal project to the most recent one, the contract was well worn, as I would look at it many times a day.
On a federal project, there are various sections of the contract. For example, Section B describes how the supplies or products are to be formatted and supplied. Section C is always the statement of work (SOW). Other sections provide the names of administrative and technical contacts, how invoices should be formatted, when the invoices need to be submitted and what supporting information is needed.
There is a section that lists all the rules, regulations and laws that the contractor must follow and obey. This list usually runs more than five pages, printed on both sides and single-spaced.
The statement of work is also always very detailed. Think about a contract for a nuclear submarine, an aircraft or some other vessel—the SOW would be tens of thousands of pages. While I never managed those types of contracts, I did oversee some pretty intense technology programs, where the SOWs were thousands of pages.
I learned that having a team I could trust was instrumental in delivering a complex project. Trust meant that the team understood the needs of the project. They knew when deliverables were due and what the client expected, and they kept everyone informed if there were issues or delays. The team also kept detailed records and updates. This meant the project manager should never be blindsided, and with that, neither should the client.
Of course, I did not learn all this on my own. I had a wonderful boss/coach who saw my potential. He took the time to explain why things were happening the way they were. I was allowed to work in different departments to learn how each area affected the project. To this day, I am very thankful, and I pay it forward. I have always taken the time to mentor and coach those on my project teams or in organizations I ran. The greatest reward was to see those I mentored surpass me in rank within the organization.
When I think back to the moment where I earned my chops, it was a U.S. Air Force project to design a paperless office and non-hackable email system. Don’t laugh! As you may have guessed, the initiative was not successful. Within two years, the government canceled the project. But one thing I’ve learned over the years is this: Unsuccessful projects provide a wealth of learning, maybe even more than successful projects.
What have been the most influential projects you’ve worked on throughout your career?