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
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Jorge Martin Valdes Garciatorres
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Recent Posts

Do You Foster Imposter Syndrome in Your Team?

3 Ways Project Managers Can Build a Competitive Advantage

Building Team Synergy and Resilience

The Entropy at the Heart of Project Management

5 Symptoms—and 5 Solutions—For Excessive Self-Confidence as a PM

Building Team Synergy and Resilience

By Peter Tarhanidis, PhD

As the pandemic stretches on, work-from-home programs continue to keep teams working virtually. During this time, we have performed courageously to deliver our strategic and business outcomes. Here I will share a select review of advice from industry experts as they explore how to build a post-pandemic response strategy.

According to McKinsey (2022), organizations have pivoted to deliver sustainable and inclusive growth toward building a better world. And Harvard Business Review (2020) notes that all types of companies have navigated the pandemic by pivoting their business models in the short term to survive—becoming more resilient in the long term.

Yet not all pivots generated an improved business outcome. Three trends in particular can help ensure a successful pivot:

  1. Align the pivot to a long-term trend driven by the pandemic
  2. Extend the firm’s existing capabilities, further solidifying the strategic plan
  3. Sustain profitability, which preserves and enhances the brand’s value to the customer

PWC’s Global Crisis Survey identified three key lessons that businesses can adopt for long-term resilience:

  1. Plan and prepare for inevitable disruption by establishing a crisis team
  2. Integrate teams and cross-company competencies to enable effective responses
  3. Build resilience governance into the organization’s culture

An opportunity, therefore, exists to consider how to prepare your team’s competence in driving synergy and resilience in order to lead post-pandemic growth strategies—and simultaneously pivot from those same strategies.

Here is a shortlist of what leaders can do to prepare for a post-pandemic recovery and support an organization:

  1. Develop mental agility to pivot among key strategies and deliver business outcomes as key shifts and business challenges arise
  2. Allow the process of learning to take effect across key leadership levels
  3. Integrate PMI and agile frameworks to ensure flexible planning activities
  4. Employ data analytics to support key insights in customer and marketplace forecasts
  5. Clarify the governance of key plans and what event would trigger a decisive strategic pivot
  6. Develop talent to migrate into new areas of company strategies and projects
  7. Gather teams in person in order to create synergy and move from “norm” to “perform”

In the end, the teams that are ready to execute and can pivot as necessary will be ready for the post-pandemic competitive environment.

Let me know if you have uncovered additional successful strategies—or any pitfalls to avoid—in building team synergy and resilience.

References

  1. https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/risk-and-resilience/our-insights/covid-19-implications-for-business
  2. https://hbr.org/2020/07/how-businesses-have-successfully-pivoted-during-the-pandemic
  3. https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/issues/crisis-solutions/covid-19.html
Posted by Peter Tarhanidis on: April 27, 2022 09:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

3 Atomic Habits for Program Managers

By Sree Rao, PMP, PgMP, PMI-ACP

Atomic Habits has been on Amazon’s top 20 most read books of the week for 167+ weeks. In his book, James Clear proposes a four-step model of habits and the four laws of behavior change:

  1. Cue – Make it obvious.
  2. Craving – Make it attractive.
  3. Response – Make it easy.
  4. Reward— Make it satisfying.

Here are a few book excerpts that form the foundation for this blog entry:

“What is rewarded is repeated. What is punished is avoided. The first three laws of behavior change—make it obvious, make it attractive, and make it easy—increase the odds that a behavior will be performed this time. The fourth law of behavior change—make it satisfying—increases the odds that a behavior will be repeated next time. It completes the habit loop.”

“Success is the product of daily habits—not once-in-a-lifetime transformations. Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. “

What can we take away from this? Here are three habits that I strongly recommend program managers implement. These are proven techniques that will help regardless of the type and size of the projects/programs:

Atomic Habit #1: Run regular retrospectives
Retrospectives are an excellent way to identify incremental improvements on a continual basis. Continuous improvement is also the foundational concept of Kaizen. Retrospectives are built into the Scrum methodology; however, you can use retrospectives irrespective of the methodology. Here are some steps to build this habit of running regular retrospectives:

  1. Make it obvious by scheduling a recurring retrospective on your team’s calendars (biweekly, monthly or whatever cadence works for your project team).
  2. Make it attractive by varying the format of the retrospectives regularly. Example: Use some fun templates for running retrospectives. There are several formats and templates that you can find on the internet.
  3. Make it easy by allocating 10 minutes at the start of the retrospective to add everyone’s thoughts into the retrospective template. Identify only one improvement that is easy to implement.
  4. Make it satisfying by starting off the retrospective by sharing the results of the improvement that you have implemented from the last session. Another way to make it rewarding is to add a “Thanks to…” section in the retrospective, where participants give thanks to the team members that helped them out

Atomic Habit #2: Templatize
“Templatize” as many artifacts like status reports, requirements documents, design documents and strategy documents as possible. While some leaders believe that templates limit creativity, I strongly believe that it is not the best use of our time to start everything from scratch when there are already well-established and researched templates. Creating an initial set of templates is a one-time cost with huge benefits in the long run. Get your project teams into the habit of using templates:

  1. Make it obvious by creating a shared repository of all the templates and publicize the location of the templates widely. Make it part of a new project team member onboarding guide, project information resources page, etc.
  2. Make it attractive by creating templates that are not only visually appealing, but also follow the accessibility guidelines. We don’t need to go overboard in terms of visual appeal, but ensure they meet the minimum standards for your team/company. Additionally, have an influential team member start using these templates. People form habits by imitating others, and having an influential team member using them would be a good way to get them motivated.
  3. Make it easy to create the artifacts from the templates by providing as few instructions as possible. Also give them the freedom to make changes to the artifact based on the specific need without any approval process.
  4. Make it satisfying by recognizing the team members that use the templates to create their artifacts. This is needed in the initial stages when the team members are getting into the habit of using the templates.

Another advice from the book is “standardize before you optimize” and this is perfectly applicable for templates. Standardize the use of templates first and based on the patterns that emerge, optimize the templates

Atomic Habit #3: Consolidate project tasks and action items
One of the challenges I have been facing has been that the action items from meetings are all over the place (Google docs, Words docs, Excel docs, etc.) and the project tasks are typically tracked in a tool (Jira, Asana, Monday.com, etc.).  Consolidating project tasks and action items would greatly simplify tracking both for the PM and the team. Here is a suggestion to get the team into the habit of adding action items to the task tracker:

  1. Make it obvious by creating a specific section in the task tracking tool for tracking meeting agendas and action items. I have added a section called “weekly stand ups” in our regular project tracker and started adding agenda topics and action items there. You would have to figure out the best way to do this with the specific task-tracking tool that you use.
  2. Make it attractive by using the features that the tracking tools already have for creating dashboards to show items in progress, completed, etc. Several contemporary task-tracking tools have the ability to create very attractive dashboards.
  3. Make it easy by using existing tools and creating a section in the same task tracker so that the team has one place to check all their tasks and action items.
  4. Make it satisfying by recognizing and acknowledging the completed action items and tasks. Send out weekly reports. Recognize team members that diligently use the tracker.

In summary, here are my top three atomic habits that you can cultivate amongst your project/program teams for success over the long term:

  1. Run regular retrospectives
  2. Templatize
  3. Consolidate project tasks and action items

I would love to hear the habits that have helped you as a program manager. Share them in the comments below!

Posted by Sree Rao on: March 09, 2022 03:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (14)

AI To Disrupt Project Management

By Peter Tarhanidis, PhD

Technology has demonstrated tremendous benefits and efficiencies (many of them unstated) over time. The technology lifecyle enhancements that started with our initial computers, software programs and the internet of the past have given way to the modern-day cloud, Big Data and artificial intelligence.

Throughout this maturing landscape, technology has affected all industries—especially how we collaborate. According to Peng (2021), here are some key impacts to consider:

  • Digital transformations spending will exceed an estimated $2.39 trillion by 2024.
  • Collaborative tools and technologies increased operational efficiency by 131%.
  • Technology will displace an estimated 85 million jobs globally by 2025.
  • AI augmentation will increase global worker productivity hours to an estimated 6.2 billion hours.

Project management has benefitted from the overall technology lifecycle, either by implementing aspects of it or by being a user of its collaboration outputs. Yet project managers are at the doorstep of being part of the next wave of AI disruption.

What a PM organization must consider is the methods and concepts used in managing past programs and become proactive in shifting to an AI-enabled PM organization. There is no doubt that the role of PMs and our methodology will be augmented with AI-enabled assistance.

PwC identified five areas of AI disruption and decision making in project management:

  1. Business insights: Filter data to gain actionable perceptions
  2. Risk management: Develop the ability to run multiple risk scenarios and outcomes
  3. Human capital: Optimize teams and leverage staff skills or new areas of training
  4. Action-taker: Provide analysis and optimization of schedules and staffing needs
  5. Active assistant: Augment the collection process of information to generate progress reports

To prepare for these changes, project managers should:

  • Invest in data sciences and digital skill sets
  • Create a culture that adopts digital disruption
  • Enable the use of digital tools and approaches to limit manual efforts and drive value-added work.

In order for these changes to emerge, there are a few considerations that may hold one back from the changes—such as organizational readiness, employee skills assessments, and the state of technical tools.

PwC outlines a change approach to assist in the transition that relies on updating project management strategy, leveraging technology investments, integrating digital and AI, and a comprehensive communication plan to generate awareness through adoption by the future project management workforce.

What other approaches have you used—or should be considered—to manage AI disruption in project management?

Reference:

  1. https://www.pwc.com/m1/en/publications/documents/virtual-partnership-artificial-ntelligence-disrupt-project-management-change-role-project-managers-final.pdf
  2. https://writersblocklive.com/blog/technology-in-the-workplace-statistics/
Posted by Peter Tarhanidis on: January 07, 2022 10:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (11)

Plan for the Velocity of Change to Keep Increasing!

Plan for the velocity of change to keep increasing

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

Today, developments in emerging technology, business processes and digital experiences are accelerating larger transformation initiatives. Moore’s Law means that we have access to exponentially better computing capabilities. Growth is further fueled by technologies such as supercomputers, artificial intelligence, natural language processing, Internet of Things (IoT) and more across industries.

Emerging Tech
The global IT industry is valued at $5.3 trillion in 2020 and is poised to grow 6.2 percent by 2021, according to tech market research firm IDC. Emerging technology like augmented reality and robotics will make up an increasing share of that growth.

Business Process Maturity
Organizations are improving the maturity of their business processes. They’re doing this by automating tasks, eliminating them, improving performance or finding the lowest-cost way to perform a task. Organizations are connecting with experts to collaborate across a wider network of colleagues. This enables strategies to be integrated across the value chain to quickly drive business outcomes.

According to market research group IMARC, automation and the IoT are driving growth in business process management (BPM); the BPM market is expected to grow at a 10 percent compound annual growth rate between 2020 and 2025.

Customer Experience
In addition, having a formidable customer experience strategy can make the difference between customers choosing your brand or your competitors in 2020. That’s according to Core dna, a digital experience platform vendor.

Customer experience is redefining business processes and digitizing the consumption model to increase brand equity. Gartner reports that among marketing leaders who are responsible for customer experience, 81 percent say their companies will largely compete on customer experience in two years. However, only 22 percent have developed experiences that exceed customer expectations.

Economic Forces
Lastly, the potential for cash flow growth remains high in 2020, despite economic risks, according to the U.S. Corporate Credit Outlook 2020. This will likely lead to capital investments and a fair portion of companies funding transformational projects.

The Way Forward
While transformations have evolved, they encapsulate the way we think and operate. Old methods may seem encumbering and administratively difficult, creating bureaucracy and delays in decision making. The challenge is the velocity of change, which is very disruptive to organizations.

I’ve developed a few guidelines to help navigate this change:

  • Work with an agile mindset.
  • Fail often and fast to ultimately filter out winning initiatives.
  • Define the cultural attributes that propel staff and colleagues to succeed on their endeavors.

Change is now inherent and pervasive in the annual planning process for organizations. Given that, I like to ask: What is the plan to prepare staff and colleagues to compete in this hyper-transformation age?

What observations have you made to keep up with this new era’s velocity of change?

Posted by Peter Tarhanidis on: February 13, 2020 04:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

What Does the Future Hold for Project Leaders?

By Wanda Curlee

Some believe that project management needs a complete overhaul. Whether you agree or not, there’s no doubt that technology is driving radical change. As I have mentioned in different blogs and presentations, I believe that artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) will have a large impact on the next generation of project managers. Thanks to this new tech, project managers will be adding more value, versus completing mundane tasks.

Technology will do the mundane for the project, program or portfolio manager. So, what will be left for the practitioner to do? For starters, the project manager will be able to focus on the many things put to the side because they’re doing their best to keep stakeholders informed and complete routine tasks, as well as trying to maintain their sanity.

Targeting the Mundane
So, what constitutes a mundane task? This includes creating schedules, communications, status reports and presentations, along with tracking down resources, reviewing issues, assessing problems and reviewing risks, among other jobs. These things need to be done and many times, the project manager needs help doing them. But leadership may not understand the need for this assistance, or the resources may not be available.

The good news is, AI and IoT will take on these mundane tasks. Technologies will be able to review a schedule and track down those who haven’t inputted their time. The schedule options, along with recommendations, will be provided to the project manager.

And that’s not all: Tech can also assist with drafting presentations and status reports. The project manager can then add the final touches. Potential risks can be assessed and the probability and cost to the project can be determined.

Impact on the Project Manager
What does this leave the project manager to do? Plenty, of course. They need to determine what resources are needed and negotiate with functional managers, human resources and the project management office if one exists. Human resources are one of the biggest headaches for a project manager.

They’ll also have to deal with problem resources already on the project. This may mean less qualified individuals who aren’t able to do the work (through no fault of their own), those who are unhappy on the project and are projecting the feeling throughout the project, and those who are lazy, among other things. The project manager may need to counsel these individuals or may even have to fire them, which, of course, creates risk for the project.

In addition, the project manager may have to deal with subcontractors and vendors. More attention can be paid to higher-level risks and preventing or minimizing their occurrence.

Integration management is also an area of focus. There are project managers who put this aside because they feel if the schedule is all right, the project integration is handled. This is not true. There may be individuals who are not sharing their information promptly, or those who are producing a major milestone but have a family emergency. Without them, no one else can finish a milestone that’s critical to the remainder of the project.

Predicting the future is hard. Time will tell how technology will be used in project, program and portfolio management. Technology should not be considered a silver bullet, but a means to provide help with everyday tasks, allowing leaders to devote time to value-added work.

What do you think: How will future technology change the way we manage projects?

Posted by Wanda Curlee on: January 17, 2020 04:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (18)
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