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
Christian Bisson
Yasmina Khelifi
Sree Rao
Soma Bhattacharya
Emily Luijbregts
David Wakeman
Jen Skrabak
Marat Oyvetsky
Ramiro Rodrigues
Wanda Curlee
Lenka Pincot
cyndee miller
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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Debunking 6 Myths About Volunteering

By Yasmina Khelifi, PMP

Are you passionate about a cause? Do you want to lend a hand? Whether you’re interested in volunteering in the project management community or using your project skills to help a non-profit, you may be unsure where to start.

As a newcomer to the volunteer world myself, I had no idea what questions to ask or what to expect. So, to help other project managers, I’m sharing six of the biggest myths and misconceptions about volunteering I’ve encountered—and the key questions to ask to make the most of your experience. 

Myth #1: Volunteering is easy. 

Volunteering often means learning new skills and delivering projects alongside people you’ve never met before. That’s why building trusting relationships is key to successful engagement in volunteer opportunities—and it’s not as simple as it may sound.

As a volunteer, you’ll likely be entering into an organization with people who have already made connections and collaborated. You’ll have to prove your worth as a member of the team. Depending on the organization and your role, some specific skills are needed. As you pursue volunteer opportunities, take the time to understand the position by asking these questions:

  • Will the volunteering be in person? Or is it virtual?
  • How many hours per week, on average, does this role require?
  • How does the team communicate? How often?
  • How is information shared among team members?
  • Who will my other teammates be?

Myth #2: Volunteering requires minimal time.

Many organizations run on volunteer work, which sometimes means a lot will be asked of you. You may even end up spending your weekends or evenings working for the organization, even if at the beginning you promised yourself you’d only work a few hours a week. Set boundaries early on to ensure that both you and the organization are getting your needs met. And ask yourself these questions first:

  • What are the actual hours and commitment required? Remember, this is volunteer work—not a second unpaid job.
  • Does this opportunity fit with your personal, professional and family life? Will it generate unwarranted frustration or stress?
  • When will meetings generally take place, on the weekends or weekday evenings?

Myth #3: Commitment is flexible.

Even if it is a volunteer opportunity, you need to commit to deliver or not. Otherwise, your colleagues will be overloaded if you jump ship with short or no notice. For example, I volunteered as a community manager for the LinkedIn group of a local community and when I replaced the former admin, 500 member requests were pending! Not fulfilling your responsibilities as a volunteer damages the association’s reputation and creates added work for other parties involved. Step up or step back!

Myth #4: Communication is simple.

In many work environments, communication isn’t always valued. Volunteering adds another layer of complexity. Volunteers often communicate with teams via emails and instant messenger. Moreover, volunteers don’t always have access to the same team members that full-time staffers enjoy. This can create misunderstandings. Communication—verbal or virtual—must be clear to cut through the static. Ask yourself these questions first:

  • What are your preferred means of communication?
  • When and how can you be contacted?
  • Is there information that you, as a volunteer, will not be privy to?

Myth #5: Only the organization will benefit.

When done well, volunteering should benefit both the organization and the volunteer. Before committing to a role, clarify your goals and how they align with the organization:

  • What can you bring to the organization?
  • What can you learn?
  • Do you want to volunteer for your ego, or to help the organization and its members? Or both?
  • What are the values of the organization? Do they align with your values? 
  • How does this activity reinforce your professional goals and values, without damaging them?

Myth #6: There’s no way out.

Life can change in an instant. Your motivation also evolves. Moving on is not a mark of shame, provided you plan your exit properly. Therefore, from the outset, you should enquire:

  • Is it a flexible position? 
  • How long should I engage?
  • What is the process to stop?

What are some lessons learned from your own volunteer experiences?

Posted by Yasmina Khelifi on: June 01, 2020 05:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (37)

Confessions of a First-Time Project Management Volunteer

By Yasmina Khelifi, PMP

Are you considering volunteering for a professional association or within your corporate organization? Almost two years ago, I did for the first time by joining the PMI France and PMI United Arab Emirates (UAE) Chapters—and I haven’t looked back since. What a transformational journey! Volunteering has helped me sharpen my leadership skills, unleash my creativity and broaden my professional network.

Whether you’re thinking about becoming a first-time volunteer or hoping to start volunteering again, here are some great benefits of giving your time to a larger project:

1. Volunteer to hone your project leadership skills

In November 2018, I joined the PMI France Chapter’s marketing communications team to contribute to an internal newsletter. Volunteering allowed me to interact with people from different cultures, countries, backgrounds, education levels, ages and professional experiences. I was able to collaborate with a diverse group of people, which is essential for any project leader.

Volunteering has opened many new doors:

  • I have discovered new ways of working.
  • I have found new energy and passion for projects.
  • I have learned how to better communicate with people from different backgrounds.
  • I have sharpened my writing skills in French and English, and learned how to be more concise in my communications.
  • I have strengthened my skills in virtual project management, a key pillar in our globalized world.

2. Volunteer to experiment in a safe environment

Volunteering has pushed me outside of my comfort zone and given me the confidence to experiment in new areas:

  • For the first time, I presented a webinar about leadership skills for the PMI UAE Chapter in collaboration with a friend there. Despite the bad sound during the presentation, I enjoyed the great learning experience, especially in preparing the slides, revising and rehearsing.
  • For the first time, I managed social network posts and created accompanying visuals.

3. Volunteer to expand your professional network

Volunteering has helped me to broaden my perspectives and network outside of my enterprise. Having worked almost exclusively in an international environment, I wanted to expand my network more in France. Surprisingly, thanks to the PMI volunteers’ network, I ended up meeting new people within my own company! I now belong to a worldwide and strong project management community: We support each other during this tough time.

Looking back on this incredible journey, I cherish the gifts I’ve received. Volunteering provides an invaluable source of learning and growth.

Leave a comment below sharing how volunteering has benefited your project teams or your project leadership abilities.

Posted by Yasmina Khelifi on: April 17, 2020 01:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (27)

What I’ve Gained as a PMI Volunteer

By Conrado Morlan

Did you know PMI is supported by volunteers from around the world? I had no idea when I first joined PMI in 2005.

That changed in October 2007 when I joined the ranks of PMI volunteers, a community of practitioners who give their time to work on activities that make a difference around the world. I learned about the many services undertaken by volunteers, including writing PMI standards, preparing questions for certification exams, organizing global conferences and presenting at PMI events. And the list goes on and on.

My first opportunity as a PMI volunteer came three or four months after I registered as a volunteer: participating in an item-writing session for the Project Management Professional (PMP®) exam in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. At first, I had too many questions and felt daunted. Would I be able to deliver? Am I experienced enough? Would I be called again after this session?

When I arrived in Philadelphia, I put that feeling away and got ready to spend three days with a selected group of experienced project management practitioners from the United States and Canada. The session was quite productive; we shared our personal experiences and produced great material for the next version of the PMI certification exam. The experience was one of a kind; I could not believe everything I learned in three days, and for free.

I went on to participate in sessions in São Paulo, Brazil; Mexico City, Mexico; Washington, D.C., USA; Macao, China; Amsterdam, the Netherlands; and more. I had the fortune to write items for the PMP, Program Management Professional (PgMP)® and Portfolio Management Professional (PfMP)® certification exams.

But that was just the beginning. I kept looking for volunteering opportunities and, on several occasions, submitted papers for PMI congresses in North America and Latin America. Many of my papers were accepted and well received by audiences across the globe.

Through the years, I also have supported local chapters as a keynote speaker or guest speaker in Dallas, Texas, USA; Mexico City, Mexico; Costa Rica; and Nuevo León, Mexico. This has enabled me to share my experiences working with multicultural project teams and meet practitioners from different latitudes.

In 2009, at the congress in Orlando, Florida, USA, I tried something new: writing columns for a special edition of PMI Today. I then co-authored articles for PMI Community Post, have been quoted in several PM Network articles and, as you know, am a frequent contributor to Voices on Project Management.

My proudest moments as a volunteer were when I was selected as a core team member to develop the Implementing Organizational Project Management: A Practice Guide and The Standard for Organizational Project Management in 2013 and 2016, respectively. The opportunity to interact with other project leaders from around the world and contribute to the profession was extraordinary.

If you’re still wondering why I am grateful to be a PMI volunteer, try it for yourself. Take the opportunity to live your profession with passion. See what you can gain by sharing experiences with other colleagues while developing and mastering your skills in a friendly environment.

What are you waiting for? Make your mark and join the local or global volunteer team to grow and advance the project management profession.

 

Posted by Conrado Morlan on: December 19, 2019 06:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

The Project Initiatives That Influenced My Career

By Peter Tarhanidis, PhD

I’ve been fortunate to have a career that constantly challenges me and my team to apply new approaches to achieve an organization’s mission. I believe that adapting these contemporary management practices and innovative operating models has helped me become the project leader I am today. 

Below are select project initiatives that have helped me develop my skills:

  1. I integrated process and technology to drive staff productivity. Customer centricity is at the heart of the experience. While working in a call center, my team and I initiated a training process improvement for onboarding new hires. I drafted process steps and key instructions for each one, and then connected the technology opportunities to automate non-value steps. This resulted in reduced training cycles and onboarding staff time from eight weeks to two weeks. It also increased customer satisfaction.
  1. I quantified assumptions with data and facts. I remember one instance where senior leaders did not have the data to explain consumer behavior and decided to stick with the status quo of the same services at the same rate—not realizing consumer segments had changed. By applying statistical analysis and regression theories, I was able to identify pricing elasticity levels that formed a new strategy to increase revenues and attract new consumers.
  1. I leveraged standards-based solutions to scale growth and introduce emerging technologies. Prior to standards adoption, I relied on international standards bodies to align on the highest operating performance of disparate systems. This helped to standardize new telecommunication technologies that architected new building designs with IT infrastructure to integrate disparate HVAC, security, green services, data centers, retail systems and real estate development opportunities across the U.S. This led to increased revenue and operating efficiencies by creating an online retail catalogue and also reduced the cost of managing business services.
  1. I extended expertise across the globe by managing vendor partnerships. I established a vendor management practice to oversee strategic partnerships, outsourcing and offshoring to improve from hybrid technical data centers to Global Business Shared Services across non-core services in organizations. This extended needed services in local countries in their time, language and at lower costs—and also enabled increased market share for commercial operations.
  1. I designed business operating models to align strategy across an organization. This included key projects to benchmark customer market space, work with senior leaders and define a gap analysis to address via business cases. This allowed me to transform departments, business units and re-engineer organizations.
  1. I worked across diverse geographies and industries. For example, I drove cultural and change management in R&D, operations and supply chain. This exposed me to business development and mergers and acquisitions, and allowed me to learn the latest in designing user experiences, advanced robotic automation and AI technologies to connect to deeper business insights.
     
  2. I led a nonprofit organization of volunteers to develop my leadership skills. When individuals give their time, it is important to be clear and align the volunteers to action. These interactions and relationships are truly based on a work-at-will agreement. If you treat everyone with dignity and a set of behaviors that empower purposeful action, you will achieve a great leadership style that supports many environments and solves social and business needs.

What themes have you identified in your career? How have you broadened your range?

Posted by Peter Tarhanidis on: November 13, 2019 10:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Are You Neglecting Your Professional Development?

By Conrado Morlan

“An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” ―Benjamin Franklin

I’ve heard from colleagues in project management that they don’t have access to professional development opportunities to help them improve and increase their capabilities. That led me to do some research. I found Training magazine's Training Industry Report, which is recognized as the training industry’s most trusted source of data on budgets, staffing and programs in the United States. It found that U.S. companies spent over US$90 billion on training and development activities in 2017, which represents a year-over-year increase of 32.5 percent. 

With that information on hand, I took the opportunity to ask my colleagues if the companies they work for are among the organizations spending money on training and professional development.

Some of them were fortunate to work for companies with professional development budgets, but they didn’t take the training due to their workload or personal reasons. In other words, the opportunity was there but it was neglected.

For those who worked for companies without professional development dollars, their main complaint was that the company did not appreciate them and the opportunities to develop more capabilities were so limited.

I asked them: Who takes charge of your professional development? You, or the company you work for? Many of them responded that the responsibility fell to the company they work for, because training would help create a more competitive workforce, increased employee retention and higher employee engagement. I agree on all the benefits the company would get, but ultimately the individual is responsible for their professional development.

I have worked for both types of companies. In the ones with development budgets, I saw former colleagues neglecting opportunities because “they did not have time,” they did not like to travel or simply because they felt it was not needed. In the ones without budgets, I heard the same claims mentioned above.

While working for the latter type of company, I took ownership of my professional development. Instead of seeing roadblocks, I saw opportunities, which led me to do the following:

  • Attend conferences. When I found out the company wouldn’t pay for the conferences I wanted to attend, I explored three options:
  1. Submit a paper. In many cases guest speakers do not have to pay the registration fee, or the fee might be reduced. This has to be done ahead of time during the call-for-papers period
  2. Volunteer to support the event. Volunteers are assigned to different tasks before, during or after the event, but they are allowed to attend the conference while they are not on duty.
  3. Find other ways to save. If options one and two did not work and I saw the value of attending the conference, I looked for early-bird registration or contacted sponsors to see if they would share a discount code to avoid paying the full registration fee.
  • Get stretch assignments. I was looking to learn more about the company and expand my knowledge outside project management, so I looked for an assignment on the business side that would challenge me.
  • Be a volunteer. This gave me the opportunity to give back to my community and support local chapters of professional organizations like PMI. I was able to attend chapter events, such as professional development days or chapter dinners, free of charge, and they helped me discover how to improve my project management capabilities. 

So do not solely hold the company you work for responsible for your growth. Take charge of your professional development. After all, if you do not invest in yourself, nobody will.

How do you take charge of your own professional development?

Posted by Conrado Morlan on: February 20, 2019 09:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (15)
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