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
Vivek Prakash
Christian Bisson
Cyndee Miller
David Wakeman
Jen Skrabak
Mario Trentim
Shobhna Raghupathy
Rex Holmlin
Roberto Toledo
Taralyn Frasqueri-Molina
Wanda Curlee
Joanna Newman
Linda Agyapong
Jess Tayel
Ramiro Rodrigues

Past Contributers:

Jorge Valdés Garciatorres
Hajar Hamid
Dan Goldfischer
Saira Karim
Jim De Piante
sanjay saini
Judy Umlas
Abdiel Ledesma
Michael Hatfield
Deanna Landers
Alfonso Bucero
Kelley Hunsberger
William Krebs
Peter Taylor
Rebecca Braglio
Geoff Mattie
Dmitri Ivanenko PMP ITIL

Recent Posts

Are We Done Disrupting Yet?

Go Ahead and Fail—It Could Be the Way to Succeed

3 Tips for Building a Strong Project Team

3 Skills Project Managers Will Need In The Future

Creativity Is for Project Managers, Too

Viewing Posts by Cyndee Miller

Are We Done Disrupting Yet?

 

by Cyndee Miller

That digital disruption all the experts and thought leaders have been hyping for what seems like decades? It’s here.

For real.

I know, I know, dear readers. You’ve heard it before. From me. And I’m sure many of you would be content to never hear the D word again.

And yet…

There’s simply no disputing that disruptive technologies—the internet of things, 3D printing, robotics, artificial intelligence—are infiltrating our lives. And that means every project leader at every organization in every sector better brace themselves for some serious change. Attendees at PMO symposium seem quite aware of the situation.

JPMorgan Chase’s Noel Smyth said big data, cloud, blockchain and mobile technology are all changing project management at the financial services giant—all while it’s contending with a slew of fintech upstarts.

Even government agencies (not exactly known for their bleeding-edge habits) are no longer watching from the sidelines.

People demand the corporate crowd keep up with the latest social media platforms or cashless payment options—and expect the same from the public sector, said Joanie Newhart of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. And all too often, they’re disappointed.

One prime indicator project leaders are out to change their modus operandi comes from the U.S. Census Bureau. For the first time ever, the 2020 count will be conducted over the internet. Now that’s saying something, given the inaugural census was taken in 1790.

But the agency isn’t just tapping into digital delivery.

It’s digging deep into the data it collects about the country’s 300-million-plus residents. With that analysis, the Census Bureau can learn more about the people it serves, from their commuting patterns to the best ways to evacuate during an emergency, said the bureau’s Laura Furgione, PMP, during the PMO Symposium executive fireside chat.

To not just survive, but thrive, project leaders must have a curious mind—and be willing to think across projects and programs, said Linda Ott, PMP, of the U.S. Department of Energy. The public-sector project leaders of tomorrow need to stay wide open to what’s happening, even as they focus in on their particular mission.

Even with the best of efforts, though, some organizations are falling behind. And across various sessions, a consensus was building that PMO leaders should be the ones helping their organizations embrace the changes brought on by disruptive technology.

“[Organizations] are really not adapting and changing fast enough,” Melissa Eckers of Accenture Technology said in a panel discussion of the PMI 2018 Thought Leadership Series released at symposium. “There’s an issue with how effective we’re being with managing change.”

What’s the problem? Attiya Salik of Capgemini Government Solutions sees a trust gap between stakeholders and PMOs when it comes to change management. “Stakeholders see it as waste of time,” she said. “[We] have to educate stakeholders on what change management really is, what its impact is going to be and how it will facilitate the implementation process.”

PMOs themselves must also contend with their own change patterns: Sixty-six percent of the 529 PMO directors surveyed say disruptive technologies are affecting their PMO, according to Capgemini’s The Next Generation PMO, one of three reports in the series.

“The PMO of yesterday isn’t the PMO of today,” said Rebecca Sanchez of Accenture Technology during a panel dicsussion.

Has the disruptive revolution really begun? And how is all this cutting-edge technology changing how you manage your projects or your PMO?

Posted by Cyndee Miller on: November 14, 2018 11:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Go Ahead and Fail—It Could Be the Way to Succeed

by Cyndee Miller

Talk all you want about the “critical elements to business success.” What people—including me—really want to hear about is failure. We want the spectacular flameout. And we want all the gory details. Some of this is just human nature. But it’s more than that. Tales of failure are also wildly educational. Would the story of Steve Jobs be nearly as compelling—or informative—if he wasn’t fired from his own company? I think not.

Yet as a reporter, I know most people don’t like to discuss their mistakes. So imagine my delight when former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo told attendees at PMO Symposium® that failure isn’t just an option—it’s an option that should be exercised frequently.

As one must suspect, that shift has to start at the top. “By getting in front of your team and pointing out when you make a mistake, they start to get it and will start taking more courageous risks,” he said.

That will most likely lead to some dissent, which Mr. Costolo also said it’s perfectly acceptable.

“The goal isn’t social cohesion, it’s to get to the right answer,” he said. “Open debate toward the right answer is a good thing.”

But once a decision is made, Mr. Costolo expects the full team to fall in line.

The contrarian in me loves to see common business wisdom upended. But his advice also just seems inevitable in today’s fast-paced, disruption-happy environment.

Slow and steady doesn’t win the race. There’s a fresh urgency to execution and that means leaders need to be willing to try new things.

“In any organization as it grows, the default answer to any question increasingly becomes no,” he says. “What we developed inside Twitter was a common saying: bias to yes. There have to be many paths to yes inside the company for any idea. Any function is not allowed to tell a different function, ‘You’re not allowed to do that.’”

Taking Mr. Costolo’s lead, Twitter slashed the time it took to get new ideas in front of users from months to days.

At that pace, mistakes happen. But what we’re hearing over and over again at symposium is that that’s okay. In the very first session, self-proclaimed project management nerd Jonathan Gilbert, PMP, challenged project leaders to think fast, learn fast, fail fast.

Jan Musil, chief product owner at SAP America, took it one step further, saying project leaders shouldn’t even think of a project misstep as a failure. It’s continuous improvement.

How are you helping your teams fail, er, I mean, “continually improve”?

Posted by Cyndee Miller on: November 13, 2018 09:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (10)

Creativity Is for Project Managers, Too

by Cyndee Miller

“We are all inherently creative,” proclaimed Google’s Abigail Posner at PMI Global Conference.

And yes, that includes project and program managers.

Every year, Fast Companythat arbiter of all things cool and cutting edge— releases its 50 most creative people in business. It’s (justifiably) filled with big names like cosmetics guru Pat McGrath and Netflix VP of innovation Chris Jaffe. And while there aren’t a whole lot of project and program managers who make the cut—there is a whole lot of talk about how all those brilliant ideas got executed.

It’s a different kind of creativity, which doesn’t often get the spotlight. But Ms. Posner knows the score. “Some of my favorite partners are project managers.”

As head of strategic planning for Google, she’s constantly on the hunt for that next big idea. For her, it starts with one fundamental question: why? “[By] understanding what makes [people] tick, you’ll develop a foundation for so many ideas,” she said.

From there, look for the links. Creativity is making connections that others haven’t, Ms. Posner said. “Ideas don’t come out of nowhere. They don’t fall from the sky. There is no eureka moment.”

That means project and program managers must be open to lots of stimuli from a range of collaborators.

“The more you can ideate with people—especially people who think differently than you—the more creative you will be,” she said. “Do not try to be creative on your own.”

And although teams must resist the temptation to overanalyze, don’t throw too wide of a net. Even creativity can benefit from some constraints—something project leaders are probably very familiar with.

A quick survey of attendees revealed not all project managers consider themselves to be creative, but Ms. Posner sees it as part of everyone’s DNA.

“Being creative is what defines us as human beings,” she said. “We just don’t realize we have the tools inside of us or how to harness them.”

That’s it from this year’s conference, but I’ll have plenty more to report on from this year’s PMO Symposium on 11-14 November. And mark your calendars for the 2019 Global Conference on 5-7 October in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.

In the meantime, what’s your creative strategy? How do you and your team get past any innovation slumps?

Posted by Cyndee Miller on: October 10, 2018 12:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (20)

Kids These Days

by Cyndee Miller

Every generation is doomed to a stereotype.

Millennials will not survive without a non-stop stream of validation. They’re special—why can’t you see that?

Generation Xers are loners who would rather take a sick day than participate in some team-building exercise.

Baby boomers can’t text so they insist on scheduling epic face-to-face meetings.

Author Cam Marston offered a different take. Stop thinking of them as stereotypes. They’re preferences. And in a workforce that spans five generations, project and program managers better get a handle on the roots and repercussions of those preferences, said Mr. Marston in his Day 2 keynote at conference. It’s the only way they’re going to make the most of their teams.

“You will become infinitely more powerful if you can understand your preferences and set them aside and let your colleagues’ preferences shine through,” he said.

As pretty much anyone who has a job will tell you, that’s not quite the reality. Gen Xers and baby boomers expect millennials to come into the workplace and behave just like them. But it turns out younger project team members have their own ideas, Mr. Marston said.

Project leaders could stand to be a little more self-aware. Be conscious of what they ask people to do and how they ask them to do it, he said.

As if all that wasn’t complicated enough, I hit another session on the multigenerational workplace from Sarah Leslie, PMP. A senior project manager at Teague, she’s also a self-proclaimed Xennial. Yup, it’s a thing: Born between 1977 and 1983, they have the cynicism of a Gen Xer and the optimism and drive of #millennials. Think Beyoncé. Since few of us have had the pleasure of working with Queen Bey, you may want to simply seek out one of these creatures on your team.

Like Mr. Marston, Ms. Leslie advocated for project managers learning to make the most of the each group’s strengths. Baby boomers, for example, are a generation of storytellers, making them a natural for project retrospectives.

Now, as an Xer, I’m tempted to tell you to figure it out yourself. But in the spirit of embracing preferences, I’ll pose the big question: How are you faring in the new multigenerational workplace? Any tips you want to share? And does anyone else think these complement sandwiches are ridiculous?

Posted by Cyndee Miller on: October 08, 2018 04:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

When Passion Meets Project Management

by Cyndee Miller

After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, many—including me—wondered if the storied city would ever be the same. Slowly but surely, citizens, companies and non-profits began to rebuild.

One of the most ambitious efforts was Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System’s Project Legacy. The decade-long, US$1 billion project resulted in a state-of-the-art healthcare center serving some 40,000 veterans.

That fighting spirit was honored last night when it was named Project of the Year.

“New Orleans is a beautiful city full of culture and this hurricane devastated it. But it did not destroy its soul,” said Fernando Rivera as he accepted the award at the PMI 2018 Professional Awards Gala.

Yet passion alone didn’t get this project across the finish line. “We couldn’t have done it without the principles and skills of project management,” he said.

Mr. Rivera didn’t leave the stage without acknowledging the outstanding work of the other two finalists:

Poor roads, impassable bridges, a site located 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) from the nearest port and the worst economic recession in Brazil’s history. Let’s just says Fibria faced its fair share of hurdles as it expanded its hardwood pulp production facility in Três Lagoas, Brazil.

The project to deliver the industry’s first forest-to-port pulp operation wrapped two months early, nearly US$500 million under budget and with no serious accidents among workers. It also provided a huge economic boost to the community, creating more than 40,000 temporary gigs and 3,000 long-term jobs. And by incorporating big data, machine learning and automation, the project gives Fibria an edge on the innovation front, too.

The other finalist was McDonald’s Digital Acceleration project, an aggressive tech play—especially for such an established player—that put customers in charge of how they wanted to order and pay. It all started in March 2017, when the fast food behemoth’s president and CEO vowed to company shareholders that the chain would deploy mobile order and pay in 20,000 restaurants by the end of the year.

The team not only beat the deadline by a month, but it delivered the project nearly US$10 million under budget. And the response was massive. Within months of the project’s launch, the app had racked up 30 million downloads and 110 million redeemed offers in the U.S. alone.

It wasn’t just the big-budget projects racking up kudos. Attendees also got a look at this year’s PMI Award for Project Excellence winners (which all had budgets less than US$100 million):

University Health Network created standardized, timely and meaningful electronic discharge summaries for its 35,000 annual patients across a Canadian healthcare system.

Savannah River Nuclear Solutions excavated, consolidated and covered massive amounts of ash and contaminated soil alongside a closed coal-fired power plant in the U.S.

The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland rolled out a new online platform to replace its paper-based system used to track physicians’ progress across 36 medical competencies.

Want more? PM Network will take a deeper dive into all the project action over the next few months. Plus, you can check out video case studies on PMI’s YouTube channel.

Posted by Cyndee Miller on: October 07, 2018 09:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (13)
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