Project Management

Voices on Project Management

by , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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.

About this Blog

RSS

View Posts By:

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

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

Recent Posts

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

Categories

2020, Adult Development, Agile, Agile, Agile, agile, Agile management, Agile management, Agile;Community;Talent management, Artificial Intelligence, Backlog, Basics, Benefits Realization, Best Practices, BIM, Business Analysis, Business Analysis, Business Case, Business Transformation, Calculating Project Value, Canvas, Career Development, Career Development, Categories: Career Help, Change Management, Cloud Computing, Collaboration, Communication, Complexity, Conflict, Conflict Management, Consulting, Continuous Learning, Cost, COVID-19, Crises, Crisis Management, critical success factors, Cultural Awareness, Culture, Decision Making, Design Thinking, Digital Transformation, digital transformation, Digitalisation, Disruption, Diversity, Documentation, Earned Value Management, Education, EEWH, Enterprise Risk Management, Escalation management, Estimating, Ethics, execution, Expectations Management, Facilitation, feasibility studies, Future, Future of Project Management, Generational PM, Governance, Government, green building, Growth, Horizontal Development, Human Aspects of PM, Human Resources, Inclusion, Innovation, Intelligent Building, International, Internet of Things (IOT), Internet of Things (IoT), IOT, IT Project Management, IT Strategy, Knowledge, Leadership, lean construction, LEED, Lessons Learned, Lessons learned;Retrospective, Managing for Stakeholders, managing stakeholders as clients, Mentoring, Methodology, Metrics, Micromanagement, Microsoft Project PPM, Motivation, Negotiation, Neuroscience, neuroscience, New Practitioners, Nontraditional Project Management, OKR, Online Learning, opportunity, Organizational Project Management, Pandemic, People, People management, Planing, planning, PM & the Economy, PM History, PM Think About It, PMBOK Guide, PMI, PMI EMEA 2018, PMI EMEA Congress 2017, PMI EMEA Congress 2019, PMI Global Conference 2017, PMI Global Conference 2018, PMI Global Conference 2019, PMI Global Congress 2010 - North America, PMI Global Congress 2011 - EMEA, PMI Global Congress 2011 - North America, PMI Global Congress 2012 - EMEA, PMI Global Congress 2012 - North America, PMI Global Congress 2013 - EMEA, PMI Global Congress 2013 - North America, PMI Global Congress 2014 - EMEA, PMI Global Congress 2014 - North America, PMI GLobal Congress EMEA 2018, PMI PMO Symposium 2012, PMI PMO Symposium 2013, PMI PMO Symposium 2015, PMI PMO Symposium 2016, PMI PMO Symposium 2017, PMI PMO Symposium 2018, PMI Pulse of the Profession, PMO, pmo, PMO Project Management Office, portfolio, Portfolio Management, portfolio management, Portfolios (PPM), presentations, Priorities, Probability, Problem Structuring Methods, Process, Procurement, profess, Program Management, Programs (PMO), project, Project Delivery, Project Dependencies, Project Failure, project failure, Project Leadership, Project Management, project management, project management office, Project Planning, project planning, Project Requirements, Project Success, Ransomware, Reflections on the PM Life, Remote, Remote Work, Requirements Management, Research Conference 2010, Researching the Value of Project Management, Resiliency, Risk, Risk Management, Risk management, risk management, ROI, Roundtable, Salary Survey, Scheduling, Scope, Scrum, search, SelfLeadership, Servant Leadership, Sharing Knowledge, Social Responsibility, Sponsorship, Stakeholder, Stakeholder Management, stakeholder management, Strategy, swot, Talent Management, Talent Management Leadership SelfLeadership Collaboration Communication, Taskforce, Team Building, Teams, Teams in Agile, Teams in Agile, teamwork, Tech, Technical Debt, Technology, TED Talks, The Project Economy, Time, Timeline, Tools, tools, Transformation, transformation, Transition, Trust, Value, Vertical Development, Volunteering, Volunteering #Leadership #SelfLeadership, Volunteering Sharing Knowledge Leadership SelfLeadership Collaboration Trust, VUCA, Women in PM, Women in Project Management

Date

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)

Who Is Your Backup PM?

 

Kevin Korterud

Life is full of surprises…they always seem to show up unexpectedly. As project managers, we rely on our PMI certification training—as well as our experiences—to both detect and mitigate the effects from surprises, such as missed milestones, new regulatory requirements and quality issues.

But what happens when the surprise turns out to be a short-term outage of the project manager? This can come about for a variety of reasons, including family, health and other personal matters. A recent health issue that took me away from a project for a few weeks got me thinking about how to address this special type of surprise.

In my early career days on projects, the short-term loss of a project manager meant the project was typically put on hold until the PM returned. In today’s complex, high-speed technology delivery environment, stopping a project is less viable due to market needs, dependencies, specialized domain knowledge, engaged suppliers and many other factors.

So, in addition to all of the usual risk factors, one has to consider a risk mitigation plan for the project manager should a surprise occur (this plan also applies to other key roles such as the delivery, test and PMO leads).

Let’s look at a few questions to help you prepare for surprises when they occur to the PM role:

                                                       

1. Who could be a backup PM? The process of finding a backup project manager usually falls into two categories: easy…and not so easy. If there are project track leads with prior PM experience, rank order them as to the size and complexity of the prior projects they have managed. Discuss the project(s) with them and create a plan for the areas that you look to build out as part of their duties in being a backup.

If nobody on your project has any prior PM experience, another option could be to consider an existing program management office lead. With today’s complex program office operations, it’s common to have program management office leaders with prior project management experience. They could assist as a backup PM.

 

2. When should you have a backup PM? As one never knows when surprises will occur, the best time to identify a backup project manager is during mobilization of the project. By having a person identified early in the project life cycle, it better positions the backup PM to be successful should a surprise occur.

If it’s not possible to identify and develop a backup at the start of a project, consider an approach that takes advantage of the upcoming or current phase of the project. For example, if the project is headed into the design phase, consider your functional lead as a potential backup. Just be cognizant of the additional burden the backup PM role places on an existing team member; consider additional program office resources to help with the execution of project operational processes.

 

3. How do you make someone a backup PM? After selecting a backup, create a list of topics to educate them in the many facets of the project. This can start with operational topics such as risk/issue reporting, status report and work planning, and cross-training. From there, they can start to be immersed in domain-related topics with the project (e.g., how does a month-end financial close work?). The domain-related topics may require some specialized training if they have not been exposed to them before.

Keep in mind that the backup PM still has their core project duties to execute, so they should not be overburdened with immersion activities. Keep the window for these activities to a few hours each week, and continue them through the life of the project. It is also helpful to bring the backup PM along to attend key project meetings to make them aware—as well as to make other project team members aware of their provisional role in the event of the unexpected.  

 

The days of having a project being placed on hold due to the short-term loss of a project manager are long behind us. In particular, with the highly integrated technology project ecosystem that exists today, the stoppage of one project can impact several others—thus affecting the overall progress of a company portfolio.

Knowing who your backup project manager is offers a mitigation path when surprises occur. In addition, it’s also an essential form of career building by exposing the backup PM to the next level of delivery stewardship.

How have you selected and groomed a backup project manager for your delivery efforts?

Posted by Kevin Korterud on: October 26, 2023 08:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

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)

Supercharging an Organization’s Performance to Achieve its Mission

By Peter Tarhanidis, Ph.D.

There is a dramatic increase in the strategies corporations implement to meet the needs of their stakeholders. Driving value from all parts of an organization and its functions may seem like repetitive exercises—and even feel more like a medieval gauntlet with only a few successful programs. HBR (2021) wrote that by 2027, about 88 million people will be working in project management—with economic activity reaching $20 trillion USD. Also noted: Only 35% of projects are successful, leaving immense waste of resources.

There are many reasons projects fail. HBR (2021) states of the 70% of failed projects, and after exhaustive root-cause analysis across all industries, one can identify common themes such as undervaluing project management skills and methods, and poor performance. Yet organizations that apply project management methods recognized their performance had a 2.5 more times chance to be successful, and organizations can waste 28 times less resources. As such, when applied, the implementation of PM methods works.

Yet in a world filled with a variety of project taxonomies, many organizational boards are now contemplating the need to implement environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) and corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs. Forbes states the benefits of ESG and CSR initiatives include:

  1. Advancing organizational culture, empowering staff to do social good, and welcoming diversity.
  2. Encouraging partners and investors who are interested in long-run strategy to manage risks and opportunities by emphasizing the organization’s ethics.
  3. Raising an organization’s staff confidence and productivity, creating a workplace that achieves the business mission.

Therefore, to ensure success for ESG and CSR programs, an organization’s top leaders need to prioritize and align across all the organization’s businesses. Leaders can use the balanced scorecard to achieve this alignment, and can extend its use across the entire project portfolio.

This theory was developed by Kaplan and Norton, which state the balanced scorecard method converts the organization’s strategy into performance objectives, measures, targets and initiatives. Linking the concept of cause and effect, the balanced scorecard covers four perspectives:

  1. Customer: How do customers see us?
  2. Internal: What must we excel at?
  3. Innovation and learning: Can we continue to improve and create value?
  4. Financial: How do we look to shareholders?

Marr (N.B.) reported over 50% of companies have used this approach in the United States, the United Kingdom, Northern Europe and Japan. One clear benefit has been to align the organization’s structure to achieve its strategic goals.

In conclusion, applying project management methods and aligning an organization’s performance through the balanced scorecard can unlock ESG and CSR benefits that can supercharge a company’s efforts to achieve its mission.

References

  1. HBR: The Project Economy Has Arrived
  2. HBR: The Balanced Scorecard—Measures that Drive Performance
  3. Project Management Statistics: Trends and Common Mistakes in 2023
  4. Forbes: Three Reasons Why CSR And ESG Matter to Businesses
  5. Balanced Scorecard: How Many Companies Use This To
Posted by Peter Tarhanidis on: June 14, 2023 04:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)
ADVERTISEMENTS

"Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example."

- Mark Twain

ADVERTISEMENT

Sponsors