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
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Lung-Hung Chou
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Peter Tarhanidis
Vivek Prakash
Conrado Morlan
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Jen Skrabak
Kevin Korterud
Mario Trentim
Roberto Toledo
Joanna Newman
Christian Bisson
Linda Agyapong
Cyndee Miller
Jess Tayel
Shobhna Raghupathy
Rex Holmlin
Ramiro Rodrigues
Taralyn Frasqueri-Molina
Wanda Curlee

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Look Out! What’s Ahead for Project Management in 2018

Categories: PM & the Economy

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?

Posted by Cyndee Miller on: January 22, 2018 09:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (12)

In the Rearview Mirror: The Year in Project Management

By Cyndee Miller

It’s time to hit the rewind button on 2017 and look back on the year that was in project management.

And dang, it was a big year — full of ambitious projects that packed a punch. I’m still processing the €700,000 Museo Atlántico, an eerily beautiful underwater collection of 300 sculptures off the coast of Lanzarote, one of the Canary Islands — only possible with the project team navigating complex requirements and skeptical stakeholders. And though not without its challenges, the first phase of the Hyderabad Metro Rail — a massive public-private partnership project — pulled in more than 200,000 passengers on its first day alone.

That wow factor sometimes extends to what some might view as more mundane matters like the schedule. Elon Musk’s latest project adventure, for example, called for installing the world’s largest lithium-ion battery within 100 days — or it was free. Somehow scheduling matters don’t seem so pedestrian when there’s US$50 million riding on the project’s outcome. For the record, Mr. Musk and his team pulled it off.

The project is part of a plan to make Adelaide, Australia the world’s first carbon-neutral city. That push to sustainability is nothing new, of course. But it got real in 2017. Sustainability is no longer swathed in gauzy green layers. It has real strategic objectives — and is held to real metrics and governance.

The U.K.’s Crossrail team, for example, recently released a treasure trove of documentation highlighting its efforts to minimize disruption and pollution on the £14.8 billion rail project, which is expected to be completed next year. The results are impressive and could serve as a blueprint for embedding sustainability in other megaprojects. “Crossrail not only set a new precedent for delivery of a truly ambitious 21

st century infrastructure project, the strategic approach they took in managing the many environment and sustainability challenges was exceptional,” Martin Baxter, chief policy adviser for the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment, told Railway Technology.

Even as the United States pulled out of the Paris Agreement, dozens of the country’s mayors signed their own accord on climate change. And U.S. business leaders — at companies across all sectors and sizes — didn’t miss a beat, launching their own projects to address the issue.

Yet such political disruptions — along with the Brexit bombshell — are clearly rattling the business world: More than half the CEOs in a KPMG survey said the uncertainty of the current political landscape is having a greater impact on their business than they’ve seen for many years. And those same business leaders know they must adjust their strategies. “All of these political events can have consequences on project planning,” John Greenwood, PMP, founder of Grand Unified Consulting, told PM Network.

There’s a reason disruption is such a buzzword: It’s everywhere. Today’s project environment demands an extra dose of innovation and agility (and probably a few extra shots of espresso). Just look at how many retailers and restaurants are experimenting with pop-ups — and relying on project management to tame the chaos. To achieve that so-in-demand-yet-so-elusive agility, you may want to check out the latest PMI Thought Leadership Series.

This is the stuff of Silicon Valley — and it’s fast becoming business as usual. Take cloud computing. Born in the valley, it’s now infiltrating every sector and forcing old-school businesses like telecoms to respond. Next-gen tech is being woven into the DNA of once-Luddite sectors, like agriculture and construction. Even the ultra-staid financial services sector is realizing full-on digitization is the only way to survive. Indeed, that push has spawned the fintech industry that extends to even emerging markets like Nigeria and India. The latter recently launched a project that saw 86 percent of the country’s cash go out of circulation overnight to be replaced by digital payment systems. Demonetization is the wave of the future, Gilles Ubaghs, principal analyst at Ovum, told PM Network. “It is already changing India, and it will change the world.”

That’s the truly spectacular thing about project management. It really does have the power to transform. No big shocker then that organizations are looking for the talent that can deliver those results.

A study by Anderson Economic Group and PMI found the project-management-oriented labor force is expected to grow by 33 percent in 11 countries through 2027. That’s 22 million new jobs. Whoa.

And as the first members of Gen Z are hitting the workplace, they’re already scoping out project management. They appreciate what they see: “I like the way you have to incorporate organizational skills along with people skills,” Myles Wilson, a junior project manager at Virtual1, told PM Network. “The idea that I could interact with many different people on a daily basis to achieve the same goal is something that inspired me to pursue project management.”

So at least one thing didn’t change in 2017: Project management still rocks.

Posted by Cyndee Miller on: December 15, 2017 10:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (16)

Specialist or Generalist: The Great Career Conundrum

Categories: Agile

by Cyndee Miller

It’s the era of the ultra-specialized niche expert.

Companies don’t just make beer. They brew limited batches of Belgian sour ale with tones of organic blueberry and almond.

Companies don’t just crank out mattresses. They create customized sleeping experiences. Yes, there’s the traditional innerspring model available in countless iterations of firmness. But perhaps you’d prefer a foam number neatly packed up in a box? No prob.

So it stands to reason the trend would follow through to careers. In theory, organizations would seek out project and program managers with super-specialized skills, someone steeped in agile or someone with a complete mastery of waterfall.

But organizations are realizing projects don’t fall neatly into one category in the real world. One project may demand waterfall in the upfront stages then switch into agile or hybrid.

“Organizations are facing complex challenges and competing priorities,” Marivi Briz, PMI-ACP, PMP, global internet of things business development manager at Telefónica Chile, Santiago, Chile, told PMI’s Career Central. “They want project managers who aren’t just applying the same methodology to every project, but are able to build consensus around a particular approach and share a larger vision.”

Agile may get the buzz, but smart organizations know it all comes down to using what works.

“Executives care less about a pure agile or waterfall approach than they do about achieving results,” said Manuel Salero Coca, PMP, program manager director—Latin America, Huawei Technologies Co., Mexico City, Mexico. (Check out Mr. Coca’s comments in the 2018 Jobs Report in the January PM Network.)

In today’s project landscape, Rhonda V. Evans, PMP, envisions a project management office (PMO) that has “all methodologies in play.”

“You are no longer an agile shop or a waterfall-based PMO, you are a methodology- agnostic PMO,” she wrote on LinkedIn last year. “A business case or need is defined and approved. It then goes to the PMO or portfolio management team for review with the executive sponsor or product owner. … The right-fit methodology is then chosen based on several predefined factors. Each inherent framework/methodology will come with its own rules for flexing and growing and changing with the business.”

For project and program managers looking to get ahead in their career (i.e., pretty much everyone), it just doesn’t pay to slavishly follow one approach. They must sharpen their skills across the entire delivery spectrum.

“We’re in a continuously changing world, and project managers don’t want to limit an organization to only one method or the other,” said Jordi Teixido, PMP, chief operating officer at fintech company Strands and project management consultant, KION, Barcelona, Spain. “Project managers should be well-versed in standups and sprints, but also critical path and critical chain.”

And that applies to your professional brand, too. This is probably not the time to proclaim yourself a hardcore agile evangelist or a do-or-die authority on predictive.

“I’ve probably interviewed hundreds of project managers, and those who present themselves as experts in only one methodology seem destined to have limited opportunities,” said Mike O’Brochta, PMI-ACP, PMP, president of Zozer, a project management firm in Roanoke, Virginia, USA.

It pays to position yourself as fluent in all approaches — and build a social media profile that reflects your skills and strengths in each one. Alongside project details like scope, budget and schedule, professional profiles and portfolios should spell out details on the approach used to execute the project, said Wafi Mohtaseb, PMI-ACP, PMP, head of applications support, Kuwait Finance House, Kuwait City, Kuwait.

What are you seeing in your career path?

Posted by Cyndee Miller on: December 01, 2017 11:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (23)

Bring on the Praise

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.

Posted by Cyndee Miller on: November 13, 2017 10:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (9)

Credit Where Credit Is Due

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.

Look for in-depth features of the three PMOs in upcoming issues of PM Network and check out video case studies on PMI’s YouTube channel: CAMH, HMG and MetLife.

Want your PMO’s accomplishments recognized? Learn how to apply for the PMO of the Year Award here.

Posted by Cyndee Miller on: November 10, 2017 11:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

"I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming I am a man."

- Chuang Tzu