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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Cameron McGaughy
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
cyndee miller

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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

Recent Posts

5 Ways to Up Your Mentorship Game

Lessons Learned on Digital Transformation

Murphy's Law: It’s a Call to Action, Not an Excuse

Emergent Strategy: How To Lead Now

7 Ways to Influence without Authority

Viewing Posts by Yasmina Khelifi

5 Ways to Up Your Mentorship Game

 

By Yasmina Khelifi, PMP, PMI-ACP, PMI-PBA

Whether it’s for a volunteer association or a corporate organization, mentorship can help you learn and grow as a leader. The topic comes up a lot as I speak to different professionals and here are some of the lessons learned I’ve gained on the subject—both as a mentor and as a mentee:

1. Don’t rely only on corporate programs.

A few years ago, I began taking part in a corporate mentoring program. I’d been waiting for it and saw it as a silver bullet—giving me all the answers to my career questions. Going into it with so many expectations, it’s not surprising that I was disappointed. Still, it’s still worth inquiring if corporate programs exist in your firm and exploring how to benefit from them—plus, you can become a mentor yourself. Just don’t make it the only avenue you pursue.

2. Be open to mentorship from unexpected places.

When I first began leading projects, a colleague gave me some advice during the meeting: "Perhaps you should have said that instead of this.” At the time, I didn’t understand he was acting as a mentor to me. And in hindsight, I wish I’d been more grateful to him for his advice and that I’d spoken with him more regularly. It was a missed opportunity and a lesson on being open to taking direction.

3. Set the ground rules.

This is particularly important if the mentors are in your work environment. Some areas to explore are:

  • Expectations
  • Confidentiality
  • Duration and frequency of meetings
  • Constraints: In the corporate program I mentioned, the mentee was supposed to organize the meeting, but my mentor was very busy and had to cancel sometimes.

4. Keep your word.

At the beginning of this year, a young colleague asked me if I wanted to be her mentor. I admired her courage to ask and I wish I’d done the same at the beginning of my career. So I accepted without hesitation.

We talked once a month on the phone and I tried to answer her questions as best I could. I was consistent—and that’s important. As a mentor—and a mentee—you must be reliable: When a meeting is planned, stick to it, remain present and don’t multitask throughout.

5. Don’t give up.

In one of my work projects, I talked with a top manager with global experience. When I dared to ask him to become my mentor, I didn’t receive an answer. But that doesn’t mean you should just surrender: You can knock on other doors that will open. And eventually you’ll be part of a community where you can exchange ideas and build bridges to knowledge sharing.

How do you encourage mentorship within your project teams?

 

Posted by Yasmina Khelifi on: June 01, 2021 08:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (10)

Let Team Preferences Guide Knowledge Sharing Practices

 

By Yasmina Khelifi, PMP, PMI-ACP, PMI-PBA

In my last post, I wrote about the benefits of sharing knowledge. Now it’s time to talk about how you’ll document and maintain that information. And this is where project leaders should turn to their teams for ideas.

A few years ago, I belonged to a very efficient and collaborative project team. We were all responsible for a service deployed across different manufacturers’ models, hence the importance of having up-to-date information. We maintained a spreadsheet file shared on a cloud service and we updated it regularly, as agreed on by the team. Then a new manager decided to implement a different system. The team was told to send all information to two administrators who would handle updates.

You can imagine what happened.

Almost no one sent the information and the system was decommissioned after two years. As a result, all the knowledge our team had built over the years was lost. What was deemed a more professional or advanced tool ended up crippling the knowledge base.

As a project leader, we need to trust our teams and let them define the best ways to share and store information. We’re not talking here about an encyclopedia of knowledge. It’s really just enough documentation to help handover and onboarding.

One of the best ways to ensure knowledge sharing is to record presentations and conference calls. You can also take detailed notes to share with other project team members.

Another major part of closing the information loop within teams is to solicit and give constructive criticism and feedback. Postmortems, retrospectives or lessons learned are an invaluable opportunity to share knowledge and ultimately document it.

How do you let team preferences shape your approach to sharing knowledge?

Posted by Yasmina Khelifi on: May 02, 2021 02:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

Are You Doing Enough to Encourage Knowledge Sharing?

By Yasmina Khelifi, PMP, PMI-ACP, PMI-PBA

Sharing knowledge has so many benefits: It’s at the heart of business continuity. It boosts team morale. It creates a culture of continued learning. It connects remote employees to crucial information. It encourages the flow of ideas and can even challenge the status quo.

From my point of view, it’s part of being a project professional. As a leader, you can set the right example and get team members in the mindset of knowledge sharing. If it’s presented as a norm, the team follow your lead and carry this behavior to other projects and teams within and outside of the organization.

So why isn’t it always practiced? Because it’s difficult.

A few years ago, I joined a new technical team, replacing a contractor. During our handover period, we met regularly to discuss the transition, but he didn’t keep much documentation and his explanations weren’t clear to me. I had difficulties grasping the big picture. At the same time, I met the new manager regularly. But he was a true servant leader—trusting his team members—and so he didn’t have the details I needed. And the rest of the team seemed preoccupied by their headphones. (I’ve gained a reputation for asking many questions, so I thought they were afraid of investing too much time in sharing information with me.)

Throughout my 20-year career, I experienced some reluctant behaviors. People don’t directly say “no,” but they demur through:

  • Unavailability
  • Answers given only to what’s asked—they don’t go beyond the questions or raise warnings
  • Rushed explanations

What’s crucial is to get team members to officially agree that they will contribute to sharing/explaining knowledge. But how do you secure that buy-in?

I’ve found one-on-one meetings are the best strategy for reluctant colleagues. Being visual and sharing information live—away from the computer screen—also helps people focus.

A few years ago, I needed an expert’s help on a new service set to launch. As I knew he balked at sharing knowledge, I organized a face-to-face meeting with him. I arrived one hour before the meeting and wrote the different topics and the questions on a big whiteboard to ensure we stayed on task and maintained clarity.

Another thing to keep in mind: Subject matter experts often have scarce availability, so be sure to clarify your intention from the outset of the conversation and highlight the benefits of knowledge sharing.

Your goal isn’t to step on anyone’s toes, rather to get information for a given purpose. And you have to create a safe environment to foster that type of collaboration. As a project professional, you’re responsible for devising strategies to get the information and keep it flowing across silos. There’s no silver bullet, but efforts pay off in the long term.

How do you foster knowledge sharing within your project team?

 

Posted by Yasmina Khelifi on: April 02, 2021 12:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (18)

Are You Stifling Your Team’s Creativity?

by Yasmina Khelifi, PMI-ACP, PMI-PBA, PMP

Having an innovative mindset isn’t as simple as having good ideas. It takes strong project leaders who create an empathic culture in which people can share their ideas and feel empowered to challenge the status quo. According to PMI research, 3 in 4 project professionals say their organization has sponsored or invested in innovative ideas brought forward by teams or individuals.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. Here are three ways project leaders stifle the creativity of their teams—and why you should avoid them at all costs.

1. Sticking to the same old routine

Teams should always be looking critically at how they’re navigating project challenges. Sure, some techniques and ideas stand the test of time, but the team should feel supported to bring fresh perspectives and experiences to the table.

When I joined a new team many years ago, I ferreted out some process inefficiencies and some requirements that weren’t tracked properly and alerted the project managers. They had their reservations but remained open to my input. We delivered the projects successfully and the team as a whole gained valuable lessons.

To keep you and your team receptive to new ideas and new ways of working, ask yourself:

  • How can I amplify voices that foster change?
  • How can I move forward with trying out new things?
  • How can I capitalize on knowledge sharing within the team?

2. Deprioritizing new ideas

When I joined a team as a new volunteer, the team was encouraged to generate new ideas, but then leadership ignored them. This crushed team morale and held me back from making any proposals.

        Remember: A motivated project team is an effective project team. To keep the ideas flowing, take team suggestions, challenges and recommendations seriously and prioritize them as part of your project strategy. Ask yourself:

  • How free are my team members to experiment with a new idea?
  • How often do I really follow up?

3. Failing to secure team buy-in

A few years ago, my team wanted to consolidate different trips to Africa among multiple departments. I proposed that we use a shared digital spreadsheet to keep track of these trips, while a senior manager, instead, proposed a new tool not yet adopted by most team members. The goal was to push the new tool, but the team wasn’t open to it at that time. As a result, we had this shiny, new resource that cost money and that few knew how to use.

        Getting feedback and buy-in from the team is integral in creating meaningful change. Here are a few suggestions for securing that support:

  • Let the team discuss how to reach a goal.
  • Let them decide the tools they’re most comfortable using.
  • Factor in a learning curve and evaluate the cost-benefit of this learning curve against outcomes.

The possibilities to spur positive change should not be squandered. Project professionals must kindle the spark of curiosity and embrace new perspectives, even if they’re disruptive.

How do you keep your team inspired to remain creative and innovative? Share your comments below.

Posted by Yasmina Khelifi on: January 22, 2021 02:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

3 Ways COVID Changed My Leadership Style

by Yasmina Khelifi, PMI-ACP, PMI-PBA, PMP

The unforeseen chaos of COVID-19 has changed the way we work, the way we live—and the way we lead. Here are three ways I’ve reinvented my leadership style in such uncertainty:

1. Increased empathy

I’ve worked in a virtual global environment for the past 20 years. Still, this crisis helped me sharpen my skills and I’ve also become a more empathetic leader. 

I’m more understanding as project delays arise. I’m more accepting of small mistakes made by my team in haste. And I’m conditioned to push through work challenges that are outside of my control, like the internet connectivity issues of teammates abroad. I’ve also noticed I’m more sensitive to my tone of voice when I communicate information to remote team members.

2. More thoughtful self-discovery

The external crisis forced me to focus on some questions that may sound philosophical, but chart a path forward:

  • What is essential?
  • What is meaningful?
  • What impact do you want to leave?

It takes time and courage to begin the journey of self-introspection but it’s rewarding. Have you made your leadership self-diagnosis? Try repurposing an agile retrospective tool:

It’s time to take stock. Unlearning habits isn’t so easy, but taking actions now will impact tomorrow.

3. An expanded professional network

The instability of the existing job market reinforces the need to expand your network. For instance, I enrolled in an international professional community to develop marketing skills. I have the opportunity to meet coaches, HR managers, speakers and writers I’m not usually exposed to. I’m optimistic that it will open my eyes to a new learning world.

In what ways have you changed as a leader this year?

Posted by Yasmina Khelifi on: December 11, 2020 05:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (12)
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