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
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3 Agile Disconnects We Need to Address

What to Expect: Anticipating and Adapting to Dynamic Economic Trends

Governance Models: The Secret to Successful Agile Projects

3 Valuable PM Lessons I Learned in 2023

The 4 P’s of Successful Modern PMs

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What to Expect: Anticipating and Adapting to Dynamic Economic Trends

By Peter Tarhanidis, Ph.D.

In the ever-evolving landscape of corporate strategic planning, organizations face the perpetual dilemma of choosing between capital spending for growth—and optimizing operations for efficiency. Striking the right balance amidst economic trends and leveraging organizational strengths becomes paramount when navigating through strategic projects. Meeting shareholder and stakeholder needs, while aligning with the organization's mission, presents a constant challenge.

To anticipate potential initiatives, project managers must consider global macroeconomic conditions and CEO outlooks. A preliminary assessment based on the United Nations World Economic Situation and Prospects and OECD Economic Outlook reports for 2024 reveals a projected global economic growth slowdown from 2.7% to 2.4%. This trend suggests a delicate balance between slow growth and regional divergences. Key considerations include:

  • Global inflation showing signs of easing from 5.7% to a projected 3.9%
  • Slowed global investment trends due to uncertainties, debt burdens and interest rates
  • Fading global trade growth attributed to shifting consumer expenditure, geopolitical tensions, supply chain troubles, pandemic effects and protectionist policies
  • Notable regional examples include the United States expecting a GDP drop from 2.5% to 1.4%, China experiencing a modest slowdown from 5.3% to 4.7%, Europe and Japan projecting growth rates of 1.2%, and Africa's growth expected to slightly increase from 3.3% to 3.5%

Examining the corporate landscape, a survey of 167 CEOs in December 2023 indicated a confidence index of 6.3 out of 10 for the 2024 economy—the highest of the year. The CEO upsurge assumes inflation is under control, the Fed may not raise interest rates and instead reverse rates, setting up a new cycle of growth. Furthering the CEO agenda, McKinsey & Co. identified eight CEO 2024 priorities:

  • Innovating with GEN AI to dominate the future
  • Outcompeting with technology to drive value
  • Driving energy transition for net zero, decarbonization, and scaling green businesses
  • Cultivating institutional capability for competitive advantage
  • Building out middle managers
  • Positioning for success amidst geopolitical risks
  • Developing growth strategies for continued outperformance
  • Considering the broader macroeconomic wealth picture for identifying growth

As project managers, navigating the uncertainty of economic shifts necessitates staying vigilant. The year may bring variables and predictions that impact the execution probability of strategic projects. Shifting between growth plans and efficiency drivers demands different preparation. To stay prepared, consider the following:

  • Regularly monitor global economic indicators and CEO outlooks
  • Foster agility within the team to adapt to changing priorities
  • Develop scenario plans that account for potential economic shifts
  • Collaborate with key stakeholders to gather real-time insights
  • Continuously reassess project priorities based on evolving economic conditions

In an environment of perpetual change, proactive monitoring, adaptability and strategic collaboration will be key to successfully steering projects through the dynamic economic landscape.

How else can you stay prepared as the demands shift on you and your team?

References

  1. JP Morgan: Economic Trends
  2. Economic outlook: A mild slowdown in 2024 and slightly improved growth in 2025
  3. UN: World Economic Situation and Prospects 2024
  4. McKinsey: What matters most? Eight CEO priorities for 2024
  5. CEOs Gain Confidence About 2024 On Hopes Of Lower Rates
Posted by Peter Tarhanidis on: January 26, 2024 12:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Do You Ask Too Many Questions to Your Team as a Project Manager?

 

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

Questions can help move your project forward and solve issues. Sometimes, questions allow you to discover common ground or interest that will strengthen work relationships. But we need to be mindful with them.

I’ve recently thought about some of my experiences as a project manager. I’ve contributed to different teams, and I’ve led other teams. In both instances, I have the same doubt: Do I ask too many questions of them? I want to share some things I’ve learned about this over the years. If you’ve ever faced the same concern, keep these tips in mind.

1. Explain what motivates you to ask questions. You need to understand what motivates you to ask questions. Is it out of curiosity? Is it a way to build rapport with your teams? Is it because you anticipate questions other stakeholders will ask you? Is it part of your routine to check in with the team? Is it to solve a problem?

  • If you are intellectually curious about their work, clearly state that. Then you can decide if you need training that can bring you more answers.
  • If you want to build rapport, some team members expect you to ask questions not only about work, but also about family and important personal events (birthdays, weddings, etc.). For some colleagues, it is essential to know people personally to work with them—but others want to refrain from talking about these things.
  • If it is your routine to check in, discuss that with the team.
  • If you want to solve a problem, ask questions until you get to the root of the issue.
  • Questioning is also a way to help people. Perhaps a colleague cannot verbalize issues that he or she faced, and by asking questions, you may understand that they need help.

Each of these reasons is valid, but you need to explain it to the team.

2. Keep the answers. In the rush, you may ask a question and get the needed answer—and then not document it. Then, one week later, you ask the same question. That can be interpreted as a lack of interest. If you have the answers, document them.

In uncertain environments, the same question can result in a different answer because some elements have changed. So you can say something like this: “I remember you told me that feature was going to be delivered Week X. Is that still the case?” You will show that you listened properly to the answer. If you don’t remember it, be honest about that.

And even if you explain your reasons for asking questions to your team members, don’t expect everyone to react similarly.

3. Observe behaviors and tailor your reaction. There are many reasons you might face difficulty with a line of questioning:

  • Some people will be reluctant to answer some questions if they sense you want to micromanage them or control their actions.
  • They may think it is a waste of time because the questions are outside your remit.
  • Others may think you are intrusive and wonder why you need to know these answers.
  • Some will interpret it as a lack of trust. It will also depend on whether you ask only some people rather than others.

On the other spectrum, some team members will view it as a lack of interest if you don’t ask them questions about their work. Don’t neglect the intercultural aspect, and the power dynamic you are in.

Responses will also depend on the number of questions you ask. Do you ask open or closed-ended questions? If each meeting comes across like a police interrogation, it will be unpleasant for team members.

And if you ask questions, do you allow people to ask them in return? You should allow some time for this, as they may be curious about what you’re doing. I once contributed to a project where I had many questions. I would have loved to ask the project manager, but I didn’t dare. To help make them feel more at ease, you can end your questions with an invitation: “Do you have any questions you’d like to ask me?”

And be careful that no question you ask comes across as hurtful. Even if a question is asked with good intent, it can still come across the wrong way (“That was with good intent” isn’t an excuse). Be careful with your words and tone.

What kind of experiences have you had with questions (on both sides)?

 

Posted by Yasmina Khelifi on: November 15, 2023 11:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (14)

3 Tips to Take the Next Step in Your Project Leader Career

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

Since the start of the pandemic, changes in our ways of working, our ways of interacting, and with new technologies have accelerated. It's hard to keep up, and sometimes you plan to upskill—but you can’t find the time. Keep these three things in mind as you navigate our new normal:

1. Talk with people
Since 2020, I've been more engaged in communities: a marketing community, a project management community, and a coaching community. Each has its own rules of engagement. Some encourage one-to-one video calls—and that's the best way to push yourself to talk with people who may be of different academic backgrounds, work experiences and industries from yourself. Communities or professional associations (like PMI and its local chapters) can help you expand your network.

In addition, you can expand your network easily by reaching out and connecting with people after you take part in webinars or face-to-face events, or when you listen to a podcast you liked.

I also like to schedule informational interviews with people. The aim is to gather information about an industry, a role, and how people have gotten there. The aim is not to ask for a job or to send your CV. The interviewee must be open and share as much as they can. If you are the interviewee, don't expect the interviewer to ask you questions about what they don't know. Describe what you do, the diplomas or certifications in the field, and remove the local jargon.

You may think "people are too busy" to do this, but you'd be surprised by the number of helpful responses you get. After each informational interview, write down what you learned, and where you need to learn more; along with what you did and didn’t like about what you heard.

2. Be kind to yourself
It’s easy to blame yourself with negative thoughts like "I'm too slow" or "I don't know what I want." But for some people, it takes time to know what they do and don’t like, along with their strengths and how they want to have an impact. There are also personal and family constraints to consider.

So be kind to yourself and find a supportive network of friends so you can formulate the different steps and what you learned in the process.

I remember a colleague I talked with many years ago who wanted to change jobs. I met him a few months ago, and he told me with a shameful face, "After all of that, I didn't change." And that is okay. If the end result is no change, there is no shame because at least you took the time to explore new paths. You learned about yourself during the process, and you met new people.

Don’t compare yourself with others. That’s easier said than done, but remember that we all have different paths.

3. Go to a professional for help
As a project manager, you can work in different roles in the same industry or even transition to a new industry. Project management has transferable skills, but changing your industry may not be so easy. You may need to pave the path with certifications, diplomas, or online courses. Some options are risky for valid reasons. For example, I will not take the risk of managing a nuclear project (and would an employer trust me to do so when I’ve had no experience in that field?).

If you’re becoming too anxious or overwhelmed, or if you feel lost, seek professional help to get guidance to make sense of what you feel and want.

What other things do you recommend to help define your next career step as a project leader?

Posted by Yasmina Khelifi on: September 21, 2023 09:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (13)

5 Tips to Onboard New Team Members

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

A few years ago, I replaced a contractor who was an expert in his field. We met once a week, and he answered my questions. But the domain was new to me. He was an expert, and I was not—so I thought it was normal that I didn't understand it.

He didn't write documents for me. So when he left, I spent difficult months catching up on things. Fortunately, I worked with a helpful technical expert. Then I wrote the necessary documents. We also developed a short training course. Since then, I have had to onboard colleagues, and I could use this documentation.

I belong to many teams at work (and in the volunteering setting), and I’d like to share some thoughts on how this kind of transition can be better handled. Let's call Moa, your new team member.

1. Think of the needs of the newbie. When you onboard someone new, you first need to understand what they need. This is not about you; this is about Moa. You need to take into consideration some questions:

a. Big picture vs. task only: Some people need to have the big picture to understand. Others need to understand only their sandbox.

b. Learning methods: How does Moa learn and memorize?

  • Does he need to get documentation?
  • Does he need to observe people at work?
  • Does he need to talk with you regularly, in addition to documentation?

c. Learning rhythm: What is Moa’s rhythm to learn? I am a bit impatient and need to know what is expected from me from the outset. If I don’t know it, I become anxious. Sometimes I get feedback like “Relax! You have time.” It doesn’t reassure me. On the contrary, it makes me nervous and a bit upset because by these words, I feel like people are not listening to my needs.

d. Face-to-face meetings: If Moa is a remote team member, you’ll have to talk with his manager to plan a face-to-face meeting quickly after he joins. Perhaps a longer visit will be advantageous (and a great opportunity to gather the whole team together).

2. Define the best approach. Once you have had these first conversations, you can tailor an onboarding plan. Onboarding doesn’t stop the first week—it is a journey that can take several months and can take different forms:

  • You can have weekly meetings
  • You can invite Moa to your conference calls even if it isn’t directly linked to Moa’s role (and you can catch up afterward)
  • You can send documents/information
  • You can add Moa in the email loops and explain things

3. Demystify languages. You will also be Moa’s “translator.” The language of your team includes:

  • Acronyms and vocabulary of the domain and organization
  • Business language (for example, French business language is a mix between English and French)

These are the kinds of things you cannot get from training. Perhaps you have a glossary, or you can create one.

4. Uncover the unspoken rituals. When it comes to rituals, people often think of coffee breaks or after-work social gatherings. But rituals also encompass practical things about ways of working.

Perhaps Moa is more interested in those items than the coffee breaks. You can anticipate answering the following questions:

  • What types of meetings do we have on the team?
  • During the meetings, can questions be asked?
  • Are the meetings recorded if I can’t attend?
  • Are there minutes?
  • How do we communicate?
  • How are new ideas proposed?

5. Start early…and include everyone. With the overload at work and deadlines to catch up, your team member sometimes isn't in a hurry to train Moa. That doesn’t mean they don’t want to help him. But onboarding someone takes more time than expected.

We all manage things without writing them down. Or a process is written, but after a while, we adapt it without updating the written process. Because of that, a 30-minute conversation can last longer than expected. Moa may ask many questions, like me.

Welcoming a new member is not only the responsibility of the manager. It is even more important if Moa already works in the company. The onboarding process can start before with a handover period. Moa can begin to meet his colleagues and exchange with them.

Onboarding new members is a key process in the life of a team. It is an opportunity to strengthen ties, and also a learning opportunity for everyone.

What other things do you plan to onboard new team members?

 

Posted by Yasmina Khelifi on: July 25, 2023 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (20)

Uncover Your Working Identities as a Project Manager

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

What’s the next step in your project management career? For some people, it’s hard to know what your mission is. For others, they like their jobs and also have side projects. And for some, their side projects become their day jobs.

I’m reading Working Identity, a very insightful book by Dr. Herminia Ibarra, an organizational psychologist. The book is about career transitions and how to find the next step in your career.

The author describes a career transition framework in three steps, based on her research and in-depth interviews:

  • Crafting experiments
  • Shifting connections
  • Making sense

Reading this book, I wanted to share some thoughts about working identities as a project manager. Why is this important? According to me, it helps you build your career in the project management world and develop your elevator pitch. It also helps you to be more self-aware and self-confident in your abilities.

Possible selves as a project manager
My journey as a project manager began with my first role. I became a PM thanks to the sponsorship of a manager, so I thought it was luck—and I experienced impostor syndrome.

I observed how other PMs behaved and what was valued by the organization. There were project manager role models in the organization. I remember I tried to be stricter than I wanted to sometimes because I observed other people behave that way, so and I thought it was the right way to act. But were they the role models I wanted to identify with?

I wanted to take more time to onboard people. I developed documents, a glossary and an annex. No one asked me to do so, but for me it was the right approach. But I was not sure if it was the best path to follow.

So my formative years were full of questions, wrong assumptions and hesitations. I did not have a mentor in project manager, but I got feedback from my managers, my peers and my colleagues. I got more negative feedback than positive—or at least I listened more to the negative feedback:

  • “You are not strategic.”
  • “You do not communicate well.”
  • “You should not have sent this email.”

These first working experiences contributed to the perception I had of myself, the labels and competences I thought I had—or needed to work on.

As years passed, I gained more self-confidence and developed different selves. I was initially a technical project manager, and I was proud of being technical and keeping up with the team. I’m now more of a leader project manager—facilitating solutions, creating collaborations across the globe.

If people tell me, “You’re not technical,” I reply: “I have a technical background, but don’t expect to become a technical expert.” And I’m comfortable with that answer.

Let us apply the framework described in the book to help inform how you move forward in your project management career:

1. Crafting experiments
This is what I discovered in 2018 by volunteering. I could experiment with new activities. I discovered I liked presenting webinars; I liked using visuals in presentations.

Do you want to work in a new industry? Perhaps you can volunteer in an organization there?

By exploring new paths, you’ll better define what you enjoy (and don’t). Sometimes, we have long dreamt of ideal roles and work. But in reality, they are not always the right fit.

2. Shifting connections
Be part of project management communities in your workplace. This is also a way to build bridges in the company and learn new working opportunities. Also be part of communities outside of your organization. You can also earn a certification.

Don’t limit yourself to just project management communities. I’m part of a coaching community and a marketing one. Are you afraid of not fitting in? Don’t worry—you’ll learn step by step.

Exchange ideas and experiences with people by chatting (online or in person).

3. Making sense
By experimenting, talking with people, asking questions and asking for feedback, you’ll pave the path for your PM career. Each experience will enrich your project manager identities. It takes time and courage.

We are all comprised of multiple traits, and we run multiple projects at work and in life. We have to acknowledge our diversity.

What working identities do you have as a project manager?

 

Posted by Yasmina Khelifi on: June 03, 2023 01:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)
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