Project Management

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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cyndee miller
Lynda Bourne
Kevin Korterud
Conrado Morlan
Peter Tarhanidis
Mario Trentim
Jen Skrabak
David Wakeman
Wanda Curlee
Christian Bisson
Ramiro Rodrigues
Soma Bhattacharya
Emily Luijbregts
Sree Rao
Yasmina Khelifi
Marat Oyvetsky
Lenka Pincot
Jorge Martin Valdes Garciatorres

Past Contributors:

Rex Holmlin
Vivek Prakash
Dan Goldfischer
Linda Agyapong
Jim De Piante
Siti Hajar Abdul Hamid
Bernadine Douglas
Michael Hatfield
Deanna Landers
Kelley Hunsberger
Taralyn Frasqueri-Molina
Alfonso Bucero Torres
Marian Haus
Shobhna Raghupathy
Peter Taylor
Joanna Newman
Saira Karim
Jess Tayel
Lung-Hung Chou
Rebecca Braglio
Roberto Toledo
Geoff Mattie

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Viewing Posts by Mario Trentim

Virtual Teamwork Makes the Virtual Dream Work

by Mario Trentim

 

My earliest experience with remote work came in around 2010. At the time, I believed it would enable me to connect with project teams from around the globe. What I considered a novelty has now become a new normal for myself and project professionals everywhere. With this shift comes the necessity to rethink leadership, collaboration and teams.

A high-performing team can be defined as a group of people with clearly defined roles and complementary talents and skills, aligned with and committed to a common goal to innovate and deliver results.

The importance of teams is not about to diminish as digital transformation reshapes the notion of the workplace and how work gets done. On the contrary, the (digital) leadership role becomes increasingly demanding as a diverse workforce, including freelancers and partners, works from home.

It’s time that we adapt the essential characteristics of high-performing teams in the digital age:

 

Open and clear communication

 Maintaining an open-door policy can be a challenge in the modern workplace. Multiple notifications and meetings take a toll on productivity. High-performing virtual teams define ground rules for productive communication without abandoning social interactions. It’s possible to create water-cooler sessions, happy hours and the like to engage people on a personal level, while also keeping formal meetings focused on getting work done.

 

Solid team infrastructure

Virtual spaces enable people to connect with other teams, yet it’s necessary to have clear roles and responsibilities just like those that existed in physical work spaces. Many-to-many interactions cause distraction and waste. Leaders must clearly define team topologies, boundaries and interfaces.

 

Positive atmosphere

Working from home isn’t easy—and some people don’t get used to it. Trust, motivation and well-being are all deeply affected by remote work. So be sure to give those issues your attention by establishing the right incentives and offering feedback.

 

In a way, digital transformation empowers people to do more, extending and expanding capabilities. But it means nothing without strong leadership and clear communication.

 

How have you adapted your leadership style to best manage your virtual teams? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Posted by Mario Trentim on: October 19, 2020 12:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Building Effective Team Habits in the New Work Ecosystem

by Mario Trentim

I’ve been familiar with remote work and virtual teams since 2010. I’ve also witnessed how digital transformation has enabled the adoption of new business models, flatter organizational structures and hybrid project management approaches since then.

In the wake of the global pandemic, I’ve received many questions about building high-performing virtual teams, and how to improve collaboration and productivity as a whole in the workforce.

Before I share some lessons learned with you, I’d like to remind you that we live in uncommon times. Predictions and models aren’t capable of guiding us as they were before the crisis. As quickly as teams have adapted to going virtual, there remains a great deal of uncertainty and a number of challenges that have yet to be overcome.

Going back to January 2020, you and your team likely were used to working together in a particular context. Maybe you had flexible working hours, and some team members worked remotely. Perhaps you were all working 9 to 5 in the same physical office space. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you had a routine.

When the world came to a full lockdown, the concept of remote work and the modern workplace shifted dramatically. We also saw the shuttering of schools and places of business. I told my employees and team members in March: We don’t expect you to be as productive as you were in the office. Take your time, take care of your family and health.

With time, people started adjusting and adapting to the so-called new normal—and forming new habits. There are many books and references about habit formation. I came across an insightful research article published by the European Journal of Social Psychology, which concludes that the repetition of behavior in a consistent context results in increasing automaticity and productivity.

As we made our way in the new work ecosystem, we thought we needed some structured guidance. We addressed that with open discussions, one-on-one meetings, and a shared space for ideas, emotions and lessons learned about working from home.

 

New Habits for the New Normal

Through a collaborative effort, my team built a work-from-home manual. It’s not mandatory, but it does provide some helpful advice:

  • Stay healthy. Suggestions relate to drinking water, eating healthy food, standing up every hour or so, working out from home and getting a good night of sleep.
  • Take care of yourself. This is about motivation—shaving and bathing 😉, feeling strong, meditating and emotional wellbeing.
  • Remain focused. It’s easy to get distracted with a bunch of emails and IMs, but we need to find ways to execute deep work.
  • Prepare and engage. We don’t need a lot of extra meetings just because we’re working from home. We have to be better prepared and more purpose-driven, set up better agendas and genuinely engage in discussions.

 

Now I’d like to leave you some food for thought:

  1. What are the most important skills required to be effective digital leaders?
  2. How do you structure communication to ensure clarity and to avoid overwhelming your virtual teams?
  3. How can you lead from a distance, while fostering collaboration and teamwork when people are working remotely?

 

Let me know in the comments below.

Posted by Mario Trentim on: September 15, 2020 05:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Defining a Standard Methodology and Project Management Metrics

By Mario Trentim

Defining standards and metrics is a key function for the Project Management Office (PMO). In many ways, a PMO is uniquely positioned to provide guidance and orientation in order to build consistency in the application of project management best practices among the projects within an organization.

As you can imagine, a standard methodology provides a basis for performance, and metrics provide a basis for the measurement of that performance against the standard. To that end, project management practices can benefit from metrics to establish the depth and extent of applying standards selected by the organization.

Here, I will outline the steps in developing good PM methodology for your organization and how to define metrics and key performance indicators.

Developing a Project Management Methodology

The first step in introducing formal project management processes and practices is the awareness of the starting point (AS IS - current situation). The PMO should scrutinize the organization’s capabilities in the project management environment as a prerequisite for designing the type, depth and comprehensiveness of project management methodology processes and tools. The PMO’s examination of current project management practices involves the following activities:

  1. Assessing current capability, using Maturity Models and other techniques
  2. Analyzing assessment findings (AS IS, TO BE and Gap Analysis)
  3. Comparing best practices (benchmark with other organizations)
  4. Developing project management methodology (identify common practices and describe processes and tools in detail)
  5. Defining metrics and KPIs (establish oversight and thresholds)
  6. Implementing the methodology (provide orientation and training)
  7. Making adaptations, if needed (get feedback and measure effectiveness)

Bear in mind that project management methodology development is not a simple task. This undertaking requires:

  • Patience in constructing detailed process steps
  • Business acumen in defining processes and practices that provide a functional fit
  • Product and service awareness to ensure alignment of technical processes and interests in project management performance
  • Advanced project management skills on the part of developers
  • Strong executive and senior management support for the development (and subsequent implementation) effort

 

Below you can find a simple structure to guide you in developing a detailed methodology to suit your organization’s needs.

Defining Project Management Metrics

The PMO will be involved in determining which metrics are used in the project management environment. Actually, most PMOs are responsible for metrics comprising the various sets of data that represent and quantify either its prescriptive practice guidance or results from its directed measurements.

A good set of metrics can be used to:

  • Facilitate decisions and ensure compliance
  • Provide a common understanding of project and activity status
  • Monitor and control project performance
  • Monitor consistency and improvement

Some metrics could be:

  • Estimate to project completion
  • Number of unresolved issues
  • Current resource allocation
  • Labor costs spent (per month)
  • Project schedule (Agile or Waterfall)
  • Issues found by QA
  • Issues found by customers

Defining a standard project management methodology is very important for consistency, helping to improve maturity and increase project success rates. This is a collaborative endeavor and should be led by the PMO, if there is one.

What are some of your biggest lessons learned from developing standard methodology or defining project metrics?

Posted by Mario Trentim on: August 26, 2020 01:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

What Is the Future of Project Management?

By Mario Trentim

Various organizations and individuals have made great contributions to advance the project management profession over the past few decades. And as standards and methodologies continue to evolve, new tools and techniques are used to plan and manage all kinds of initiatives.

However, myriad approaches can take a toll on productivity and collaboration, since it’s hard to maintain consistency and a common language across frameworks.

Is project management evolving too fast?

 

The Project Management Revolution

“One size fits all” does not apply to project management. It’s common sense. So why was project management standardized in the past? Taking into consideration that project management initially was applied to large technical projects in their early stages, a command and control approach was the norm. Planning and management were centralized. The management style favored hierarchy and disincentivized creativity. A waterfall approach made sense, as the context of project management existed outside of the uncertainty and volatility that many projects face today.

 

Figure 1: “Traditional” projects based on past versions of the PMBOK® Guide (Microsoft Project template)

 

Things shifted as enterprise environmental factors changed. Agile approaches were developed to allow for shorter execution cycles and more frequent feedback. Individuals and teams started voicing their opinions, discussing best practices with a lean mentality to improve their work and results.

 

Figure 2: Agile projects (Microsoft Project template)

 

The project management revolution spread like wildfire. Project management is currently used in education, marketing projects, event planning, human resources initiatives, infrastructure megaprojects, and much more. It is part of daily operations in various industries, private companies, nonprofits, and the governmental sector.

As a result, a variety of approaches and methodologies were created to keep projects on target. Consequently, it has become increasingly difficult to define project management today.

 

Embracing Modern Project Management

Digital transformation and technology are catalyzing changes in organizational structures and enabling new capabilities by empowering individuals and teams. 

To keep pace with the changes, modern project management evolved into a broad and general principle-based approach.

 

 

Figure 3: Disciplined Agile Principles

 

 

Principle-based approaches enable individuals and teams to choose what is best for their project according to its characteristics. From the perspective of processes, tools, and techniques, modern project management embraces hybrid combinations, which are powered by modern tools.

Modern project management must be supported by contemporary collaboration tools, intuitive and flexible task management, virtual workspaces, and more.

Figure 4: Collaboration hub and intuitive task management

Spurred by the global pandemic, organizations have recently taken remote work to another level. And individuals and teams must become more tech-savvy than ever to keep up.

 

How do you see project management evolving in the near future and how do you keep up with its changes?

 

Posted by Mario Trentim on: July 06, 2020 12:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)

Remote Work Burnout Is Real. Here’s How to Avoid It

By Mario Trentim

These days, many of us have traded in-person meetings for videoconference calls and business casual for sweatpants. We’re spending much more time working in front of our computer screens and in an astonishing number of new meetings.

The time spent on video chat apps has increased by 277 percent since March, according to research by RescueTime. As a long-time user of time-tracking software, I review my screen time weekly. Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve noticed a dramatic change in my activities. And it made me wonder about the remote work habits of my team members as a result of the new paradigm.

So, I decided to investigate further from two perspectives:

The Collateral Effect of Working From Home

Employee Engagement: Although some people enjoyed flexible work options prior to the pandemic, most project teams were not fully remote. My team, for example, had a chance to meet and greet at the office every day, building our unique culture through real-world interactions.

Shifting to remote work in the wake of the lockdown made people anxious. I believe that some of us felt a little disconnected. We lost our routines and rituals. Moreover, social and economic effects became a major concern for all of us.

During the first week of lockdown, we assured our team that no one would be laid off during the next three months. Multiple strategic changes and an enormous effort from all of us helped the company not only serve our customers better but improve efficiency, increase capacity and strengthen our relationships.

Despite the happy vibes described above, there was—and still remains—a lot of uncertainty. Another tipping point happened about 45 days into the lockdown. Confined to our homes, despite our new processes and best practices, we started to become disconnected again. We were struggling once again to find motivation and engagement.

Productivity: From the productivity perspective, it appears as if we are getting more done. There are several reasons for that. For one, cutting commute time down to zero gave people much more productive time.

Coordination and communication protocols were established around ground rules and organizational culture. Information technology helped a lot, improving productivity as manual and repetitive tasks were automated, processes were reviewed in search for operational excellence, dashboards and KPIs were made available to support decision-making and more.

In summary, the global pandemic forced all of us to ask time and time again what adds value and what is wasteful in every aspect of our projects.

 

5 Best Practices for Remote Work

As many of us adjust to the reality of our project teams working remotely well into the immediate future, there are some things we should all keep in mind to keep engagement and productivity up. Here are five ways to fight remote work fatigue and produce better results:

  1. Focus on what adds value for your customers. I know this seems like common sense, but there’s no room for misalignment in organizations working fully remote.
     
  2. Adopt a lean approach in the pursuit of operational excellence. Encourage employees to discuss processes and tools frequently. Get rid of what doesn’t work—or rethink it.
     
  3. Provide training. A lot of organizations were caught by surprise. They turned to any collaboration tool available and sent employees home. Unfortunately, not everyone is tech-savvy. Without the right training for digital tools, many people falter during remote work.
  1. Plan, execute and adapt. Digital transformation is a complex journey. Integrated platforms and architectural decisions must be carefully made. However, planning with no execution is of little use. Adapt as needed and manage changes.
  1. Promote a balanced life. There are various definitions of a balanced life. Promote whatever best suits your organization and culture. And leave room for some fun in the process.

How do you avoid remote work burnout?

 

Posted by Mario Trentim on: June 16, 2020 07:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)
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