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

Recent Posts

Do You Understand the Critical Path Method?

Find Purpose to Unlock Exceptional Performance

What is project success?

Predicting Performance: There Must Be a Better Way

Driving Diversity of Perspective

The Advantages of the Hybrid Project Manager

By Conrado Morlan

“Hybrid” is commonly used in biology to designate the offspring of two plants or animals of different species or varieties. For example, a mule is the hybrid of a donkey and a horse.

But the word has also been adopted in different contexts. Perhaps when you hear “hybrid,” the first thought that comes to your mind is a hybrid vehicle, which relies on two or more distinct types of power to stay in motion.

The world of project management has its own hybrids. New delivery approaches, frameworks and skills can come together in a hybrid form to create something different and valuable.

In different project management forums, I’ve recently participated in discussions about the hybrid project manager. Some proponents were concerned with the technical side of project management, focusing on which method or approach—such as waterfall (predictive) or agile—is better. Others interpreted hybrid as bringing together the best of two worlds to provide results for the organization.

Here are my takeaways from those discussions.

Technical Approach

Some project management practitioners think about the profession in purely technical terms. They have devoted themselves to learning new methods, best practices and frameworks that they consider innovative, trendy and useful to support the needs of the projects in their organization.

But some project managers who approach their work in this way tend to think that the method, best practice or framework they most recently mastered is a "silver bullet," pushing previous knowledge they acquired into obsolescence.

Holistic Approach

Just like any other profession, project management is evolving. There is no escaping the fact that today, many organizations see portfolio, program and project management as the way to link projects with their overall strategy.

Therefore, project practitioners need to consider the heterogeneous elements from the business side of the house to better understand the inextricable link between strategy and execution—regardless of the method, practice or framework. This is how they will deliver unparalleled value to the organization.

This type of practitioner is paying more attention to the PMI Talent Triangle® to identify the skills they will need to be a successful hybrid project manager.

The Hybrid Advantage

Organizations with the right mix of hybrid project managers will:

  • Deliver dramatically higher efficiency in project execution
  • Identify candidates who can be assigned to temporary assignments that will support the achievements of strategic goals
  • Establish a better competitive advantage when the outcome of projects positively impacts the achievement of strategic goals

Do you consider yourself a hybrid project manager? If not, would you accept the challenge of becoming one?

Posted by Conrado Morlan on: August 21, 2018 04:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (21)

The Benefits of Sprint 0

Categories: Agile, Project Planning

By Christian Bisson, PMP

As most of you know, scrum works in iterations called “sprints” that can vary in duration depending on the product. However, there is some debate about what people call a “Sprint 0”: a sprint used for planning or prework deliverables that will help launch Sprint 1.

There are no one-size-fits-all ways to work, but personally I believe Sprint 0 is necessary in many cases. Here’s why:

A Minimum of Planning

One big difference between waterfall and agile is how planning works. Waterfall tends to focus a lot (sometimes too much) on planning, while agile tends to be the opposite. For most projects with lots of unknowns, planning too much will be a waste of time because the project will evolve and most of the work done in advance will be wasted. That’s why you plan as you go in agile.

However, when you start a product from scratch (e.g., a website, software, etc.), there are many decisions that will affect the entire product development — some of which can block developers from coding on day one. For example, what is the best programming language/framework to use? Teams need development environments amongst several other tools. This setup can use up a lot of time and prevents work from gettting done if nothing is available. Sprint 0 becomes crucial to give the team time to prepare so they can code properly from the start.

Sprint 0 helps with that by providing a first iteration that allows the team to plan enough for Sprint 1, whether with analysis, wireframes, designs, etc.

Team Orientation 

Chances are, the team has never worked together before. The Sprint 0 approach can help the team set up and get to know each other, which will help them at the sprint planning of Sprint 1.

Other factors to consider are estimating tasks, timing of ceremonies, understanding everyone’s role and so on — all important elements that make or break a team’s efficiency.

It’s also a perfect opportunity for the scrum master to get the lay of the land and identify where to focus first to help the team.

Many would argue that value should be delivered at the end of a sprint.  And Sprint 0 does not offer that to the stakeholders, which is true. However, not much real value will be delivered from a Sprint 1 that is wasted by the complete lack of preparation!

 

What are your thoughts on Sprint 0?

Posted by Christian Bisson on: April 13, 2018 02:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

Project Leaders Are at the Forefront of Today’s Operating Models

By Peter Tarhanidis, M.B.A, Ph.D.

Many organizations are shifting their traditional operating models to include new innovative collaborations and social networks to sustain economic growth. These new operating models, however, challenge the future of leadership.

Most operating models used today were designed in the industrial age. In these models, the division of labor is by specialization, which is hierarchical in nature. This approach has been analyzed and debated by philosophers including Plato and economists such as Adam Smith, whose analysis is incorporated in current organizational designs defining a company’s value chain. The advantage of this approach is that it drives increases in productivity and efficiency by allocating teams by their skillset.

Yet companies are boxed in today. They have become efficient and productive, but are at a disadvantage in sustaining innovation.

Companies are challenged to design and integrate innovative operating models to continue to drive economic growth. Some ways companies are leveraging new operating models to drive innovation include creating internal groups to access and fund startups and sharing resources with external research centers to drive external collaborations that drive new product pipelines.

These innovative operating models challenge leaders to work collaboratively across value chains and external business partners. To meet that challenge, there must be a shift in a leader and team skill sets.

The organizational design shifts from a division of labor and specialization to one that taps into knowledge workers and social networks. This shift—to forge new innovations and operating models—challenges leaders to define new behaviors, styles, skills and professional networks to sustain economic growth.

Project leaders and their teams have been at the forefront of working across these emerging models, navigating both internally as productivity experts, externally as innovation collaborators, and professionally to develop social networks to foster and sustain economic growth.

One’s future as a leader comes down to navigating your development against these current organizational trends. One approach I find helpful is to define personal 360-degree feedbacks. Start with three simple questions to determine where you need to develop and build from, such as:

  1. What do senior leaders want from their leaders to sustain the company?
  2. What do clients and customers want from their partners to build strategic and trusted relationships?
  3. What do teams expect from their leaders to meet strategic initiatives and how can leaders help them succeed professionally?

Having used this personal approach, I learned the following three themes to form my development opportunities:

  1. Senior leaders are expected to communicate in a variety of forums and formats. Leaders should have the courage to ask for help. One should be very knowledgeable about the business and build the professional relationships required to be successful.
  2. Clients and customers expect great experiences with a company’s product and services. They expect leaders to learn their business, marketplace, and challenges. Build trusting relationships and strategic alliances through a successful track record.
  3. Teams want better leaders to sponsor the initiative and provide clear guidance. Align teams to a common shared purpose. Influence members to share in the success of the initiative by linking the initiative to the strategy. Demonstrate how the strategy aligns to the business and how the individual team members help the business meet its goals. Advocate for professional development and provide a mentoring opportunity to advance one’s professional goals.

One must then consider what actions they should commit to developing — whether it is leadership behaviors and styles, business relationships or knowledge — to lead today’s organizations and sustain economic growth and relevance.  

Posted by Peter Tarhanidis on: February 08, 2018 11:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (13)

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)

The Importance of Iteration

by Christian Bisson, PMP

We’ve all encountered them on a project or two: stakeholders that want everything right away.

The result of this rush is often lots of money invested, a tight schedule, negative impact on the quality and frustrated people. But, carefully planned iterations of a project can help avoid the negativities of rushed efforts.

Here’s why:

Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

A well thought out MVP is the first iteration of your project. It means planning for the smallest scope possible, keeping in mind that it still needs to bring business value.

Let’s say you’re building a website. In this scenario, you’d identify the main features your website should have — based on goals — and focus on those instead of spreading the effort on all the features that might seem great to have.

There are many advantages to the MVP approach:

  • It can be deployed much faster compared to the complete scope.
  • You can monitor your project in action (ex. Google Analytics).
  • You can gather valuable feedback from people who use it.

Room to Adjust

Since you haven’t spent all the budget on the entire scope — and you now have precious data gathered from various sources — you can plan based on facts rather than hypotheses.

For example, after the MVP is deployed, you might have planned to work on a new feature. However, if new data suggests that the main feature of your project is not quite user friendly and needs adjustments, you can prioritize the adjustment and quickly add more value to your project compared to adding a new feature that might be less important.

Deploy When Ready

The MVP is only the first of many iterations. Do not fall back into the trap of building everything before you deploy your first update. Using the example above, if the first feature is actively affecting the quality of your project, adjust it and deploy right away. That way you will gain the added value of your improvement right away.

Some might argue that deployments cost money so you shouldn’t deploy all the time, and it’s a fair point. But keep in mind that the cost of those well-planned deployments are negligible compared to all the budget you can waste on a misfocused effort or a wrong hypothesis.

Taking a step-by-step approach to project management is crucial to the long-term success of projects. How do you manage the iterative or MVP approach? 

Posted by Christian Bisson on: November 04, 2017 01:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)
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