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

Past Contributers:

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

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Viewing Posts by David Wakeman

Lead With Value

Categories: Strategy

by Dave Wakeman

Where do you stand on the value vs. benefits debate? 

As someone who spends most of my time managing projects in marketing and revenue-generating roles, I likely see the idea in a much different way. 

To me, value is the most important thing that you can sell to your sponsors, stakeholders and your team.

Why? 

I think it’s pretty simple: If you are selling benefits, you have allowed yourself to slip into the world of commodity. 

As the need increases for project managers to advocate for resources and execution in projects, it’s important that we don’t give weight to commodity thinking. If we allow ourselves to become a commodity, it becomes much easier to ignore our project, cancel the project or not give the project the resources it needs to be successful. 

Value, on the other hand, allows you to explain your project in terms of impact. And if your stakeholders, sponsors and team see the impact and the improvement of what your project will mean to the organization, community or stakeholders, it becomes much easier to sell the importance of the project, the need for resources and the benefits. 

Here are a couple ideas on how you can prioritize value in your projects.

Lead with impact. Think about how the work you are doing is going to improve people’s lives, the success of an organization or some other high impact measure that will get people excited. 

Here’s an example: In working on the New Year’s Eve ball drop in New York’s Times Square for several years, I could have easily said my main job was to make sure that I expedited people’s access to the restricted areas, hastened the process of getting people in and out of Times Square and ensured that the primary entertainment events went off in a timely manner. 

That would be missing the point. The impact that I created was that I ensured that the logistics of the ball drop didn’t stand in the way of people having a safe, enjoyable New Year’s Eve experience. 

In the first example, those are just commodity activities. 

But if I do the job of selling the value the right way, it’s much more likely that the project is going to go through in a way that I hope for. 

Don’t just think of the tangible benefits; think of the intangible benefits too. The core of the benefits argument is that tasks are the only thing people value in business or project management. 

As someone that started out my career working in entertainment exclusively, I recognized pretty early on that what people view as a benefit often is independent of what they are actually getting from physical goods. 

For all of you thinking about value over benefits, this boils down to tangible versus intangible value.

If you are selling the value of your projects, and you want to increase the impact of your conversation, focus on impact. Think about it from both the tangible and intangible angles. 

The tangible value in your project might be how much more money they are going to earn, how much money they are going to save or how much more efficient something will be. 
Intangible values shouldn’t be discounted — they often carry a higher impact than tangible values. And the fulfillment of intangible needs often is the reason that people buy into the tangible values as goals. 

Your sponsor or stakeholders might really be much more excited by less stress from commuting, in the case of a mass transit or road project. They might find that the reduction in time allows them to spend more time at home with their family. 

Or, the intangible might be something else entirely. 

The key is to not allow your project to just become a checklist of activities. If you do, you are likely dealing with commodity status and no project team does their best work in that situation. 

 

 

 

Posted by David Wakeman on: April 19, 2018 09:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (21)

Standing Out as a Project Manager

by Dave Wakeman

Not all project managers are created equal.

The challenge for many of us is how to stand out in a marketplace where people are constantly talking about being a brand. Also, how do you stand out in culture where selling your importance to the project is often more important than actually getting things accomplished on the project? 

Here are a few ideas that can help you build your presence as a key part of your organization’s success and put you in line to be rewarded for the contributions you make.

Make sure you communicate up and down the organization.

Communication plans are a key part of what you do as a project manager. But have you ever thought about making sure that you communicate your teams’ accomplishments up and down the organization?

If you are anything like me, you’re likely falling into the trap that your work should speak for itself.

This isn’t always true.

In far too many instances, the person with the best results isn’t the one that is rewarded. That’s why it is essential that you communicate successes up and down the line on your projects.

This will not only help you stand out as a project manager, it will also give you a chance to show off the successes of your team and reward those efforts.

To more regularly celebrate results, you can build acknowledgement into the communications that are already scheduled. For example, you might start your next meeting off with “three things we did that really moved the project forward” or something along those lines.

Share your ideas inside the organization and with the project management community.

It’s easy for me to say this because I’ve been writing about project management for years, but one of the key ways that you can make sure you’re respected as a project manager is to share your ideas —inside and outside the organization.

One thing that is great about having a PMI Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification is that you’re rewarded for continuous learning and teaching with PDUs. Sharing also enables you to stand out because you’re the one offering up new approaches and ideas about what is challenging project managers and their organizations.

You can easily do that by starting a blog here. This website offers all of us in the project management community the chance to share our ideas.

Plus, blogging is a low barrier to entry.

On top of that, most local PMI chapters are always looking for speakers.

Push yourself to continually grow.

I mean this in a business sense as much as for project management.

Project managers really stand out when they go beyond technical proficiency. They should spend time learning about the larger environment that their organization is competing in and how that will impact what goes into the strategic decision-making process.

If you’re constantly working on improving your business acumen, you will set yourself apart from other project managers and become a go-to resource in your organization much more easily.

You can do this by reading the news a little bit every day. I use Flipboard to learn about new ideas and stories in the business world. The key isn’t to try and do everything. Instead, it’s to have an understanding of the business market that your organization is competing in.

The big key to standing out as a project manager is to never stand still. There isn’t one magic idea that will make you a world-famous project manager. But if you are constantly learning, communicating and sharing, you have a good chance at being a leader in your organization and in the project management field as well.

How do you stand out as a project manager in your organization?

By the way, I write a weekly newsletter that focuses on strategy, value, and performance. If you enjoyed this piece, you will really enjoy the weekly newsletter. Make sure you never miss it! Sign up here or send me an email at dave@davewakeman.com! 

 

Posted by David Wakeman on: February 22, 2018 08:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (22)

My 2018 Goals For All Project Managers

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?

If you like this kind of post, I write a weekly email about value, strategy, and opportunity. You can receive it by sending me an email at

dave @davewakeman.com 

 

 

Posted by David Wakeman on: January 16, 2018 12:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (21)

Project Management Is For Everyone

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:

  • A holiday mixer where we can’t get away from a colleague we don’t like.
  • A dinner party where the conversation was stagnant.
  • An awkward moment at the family gathering where someone said something inappropriate.

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

 

Posted by David Wakeman on: November 28, 2017 10:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (16)

3 Tips For Simplifying Complexity

By Dave Wakeman

Project managers have an essential—but sometimes thankless—job. They stand at the intersection of complex projects filled with countless stakeholders that don’t always see eye to eye.

This can lead to a great deal of frustration—but great communication skills can make the job easier.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about being a better listener. But over the last few weeks, I’ve come around to an even better goal for all of us: making things as simple as possible, even when the answer is complex.

Great communicators make the complex simple—and for project managers that can be the difference between success and failure.

The good news: With practice, we can all get better. Here are three ideas for turning the complex into something much simpler.

Focus on logical steps: When you’re working on a complex project, it can be easy to focus only on the finish line while all of the steps in between become weights hanging around your neck. This can lead to decision fatigue or analysis paralysis.

But, if you can train yourself to think about the project and how to simplify it for your teams, you can usually look to your milestones and see how the project might breakdown into micro-projects.

Within each micro-project there are likely a number of logical steps. Your job as a project manager is to make sure that your team sees those steps so that they can take action on them ASAP.

Thus, you’ve removed the roadblock of prioritization and simplified implementation.

Emphasize clear communication: Many of us communicate unintentionally. We don’t think about how we are saying things or that each audience might have a different understanding of our common language.

I tell my clients that it often helps to communicate like you are talking with a novice. That may be extreme, but you have to make sure that your communication is getting across clearly.

Over the years that I have been writing for PMI, I’ve written almost exclusively about the importance of soft skills. Communication is probably the most essential of these soft skills. And the most important rule of communication is that if someone doesn’t understand what you have instructed them to do or what you have shared with them, it’s your fault, not theirs.

To simplify your projects, I want you to think about how you can make communication clear to someone who may not be as deeply entrenched in the acronyms and jargon as you are.

And, if you aren’t sure that you are being clear, you can always ask: “Did that make sense, or did I make it sound like a foreign language?”

Always work to improve your processes: Logical steps and communication should teach you a lot about your project and your team. Over time, this should help you and your teams develop a high level of expertise and a number of best practices.

One great thing about best practices is that they can help simplify hard projects, communication and the amount of setup that goes into any project. The down side is that if you aren’t careful about capturing those best practices over time and working to spread these ideas across your organizations and teams, they become useless.

After all, without implementation, you have nothing but more knowledge. And knowledge without action is just noise.

As a leader, you must work to continuously improve the delivery processes that you and your teams use. The ultimate simplification is developed over time by improving processes, focuses and actions.

While improvement in this area isn’t necessarily a given, if you have been focusing on next logical steps and great, simple communications, it is likely that your processes will improve because the complex projects are likely to be slightly simpler.

With simplicity comes a greater awareness of what’s working and what isn’t. With that, you can be efficient. Something we should all hope to achieve.

How do you strive to simplify things for your teams?

 

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

 

Posted by David Wakeman on: September 25, 2017 09:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (13)
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