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
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Alfonso Bucero Torres
Marian Haus
Shobhna Raghupathy
Peter Taylor
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Roberto Toledo
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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)

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)
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