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)

The Importance of Strategic Management for Technical Program Managers

By Sree Rao, PMP, PgMP, PMI-ACP

During my initial phases as a technical program manager, I was heavily focused on the execution of programs and didn’t bother much with strategy. As I gained more experience, I realized the importance of understanding strategy and how it can uplevel us as program managers.

Based on my experience, there is a common misconception that TPMs only play a role in program execution once a strategy has been determined. Strategy plays a crucial role in determining the success of any program, so in this post I will discuss why being plugged into strategy is essential for TPMs.

Strategy vs Plan: Understanding the Differences
Before diving into the importance of strategic management, it's important to understand the difference between “strategy” and “plan.” Strategic management involves the formulation and implementation of long-term plans to achieve organizational goals. Simply put, strategy is the what and why, while a plan is the how.

What is Strategic Management?
Strategic management is a vast topic—there are even master’s programs that delve into it in detail (I will not be able to do that kind of justice to it in this post). A high-level summary is that it refers to the process of defining an organization's mission, vision and overall direction, as well as making decisions on how to allocate resources to achieve those goals. It involves analyzing the internal and external environment—identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT analysis), and developing strategies to address them.

One of the key benefits of strategic management is its ability to provide a clear roadmap for achieving project/program goals. Strategy involves conducting market research, analyzing competitive landscapes, identifying customer needs, and developing long-term plans that align with business objectives. By having a well-defined strategy in place, we can ensure that our projects are focused on delivering value to stakeholders—while also contributing toward the organization's overall success.

Product managers usually create the strategy, but TPMs play a significant part in putting it into action.

Why is Strategic Management Important for TPMs?

  1. It forces you to focus on the long term, not just the short term. I have worked with teams that did not have product managers. These teams were identifying and executing on features that would benefit in the short term, but were not necessarily thinking about the long term. This has served us well when the customer base was small, but was not sustainable when the customer base began to grow. This is where TPMs can be force multipliers—by understanding the fundamentals of strategic management, TPMs can help ensure the teams are set up for long-term success.
  2. You can track KPIs/benefits over time. As TPMs, we not only should be tracking program/project key performance indicators, but also track if we are achieving the benefits we set out to achieve with the program. This includes monitoring metrics/KPIs well after the programs have been implemented. This involves setting clear targets and KPIs, regularly monitoring progress toward these goals, and making adjustments as necessary based on the data we collect. By having a well-defined strategy in place that includes specific milestones and metrics, we can ensure that our projects are aligned with broader business objectives. This also provides us with valuable insights into how to improve performance over time.
  3. It aligns efforts with goals. As the saying goes, “Ideas are a dime a dozen.” In companies that foster a bottom-up culture, we often receive an abundance of project and feature ideas from team members. By understanding the organization's overall strategy, TPMs can help prioritize these ideas based on their alignment with the company's goals. This ensures that resources are used efficiently and avoids confusion about what to focus on.
  4. It provides a framework for decision-making. A well-defined strategy provides a framework for decision-making throughout the project/program lifecycle. This involves analyzing various options and their potential outcomes before making a decision, as well as regularly reviewing the strategy to ensure that it remains relevant in light of changing market conditions or customer needs. By taking a more deliberate approach toward decision-making, we can minimize the risk of costly mistakes while also ensuring that our projects are aligned with broader business objectives.
  5. It provides data-driven insights. As TPMs, we have access to a wealth of data about the project's progress. By providing data-driven insights into the program's performance—and how we are tracking toward achieving goals—we can help inform strategic decisions and ensure that resources are being used effectively.

Conclusion
Strategic management is a crucial aspect of any successful technical program management effort. By participating in strategy sessions and influencing decision-making throughout the program lifecycle, we can ensure that our efforts align with broader business objectives, minimize the risk of costly mistakes, and provide valuable insights for continuous improvement over time.

Disclaimer: My experience has been only in the tech industry, and I am not sure if this is prevalent in other industries. I would love to know if you have experienced something similar.

 

Posted by Sree Rao on: October 11, 2023 10:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

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)

AI Disruption to Transform Project Success Rates

By Peter Tarhanidis, Ph.D.

One of the impacts artificial intelligence has had is prompting a reconstitution of project management. Here I look to leading industry experts to explore the benefits to project management systems due to matured AI software; and the maturity of the project manager as a data- and fact-driven champion of business outcomes and innovation. This combination of advanced project systems performance and leadership competence will significantly transform project success rates.

As a background to the current state of project management, HBR states that $48 trillion is invested annually in projects. The Standish Group notes that only 35% of projects are successful, and 65% of projects waste resources and have unrealized benefits.

Additionally, Proofhub attributes project failure to firms that lack project management delivery systems; they are prone to miss targets and overspend. It noted that 67% of projects fail because project management is undervalued; 44% of all managers do not believe in the importance of project management software; and 46% of firms place a high priority on project management. Also noted: Utilizing a good software program reduces failure by 10%, and scope creep by 17%.

More specifically, a PMI Learning Library article noted some reasons for project failure:

  1. Unclear goals and objectives
  2. Lack of resource planning
  3. Poor communication across the organization
  4. Inadequate stakeholder management
  5. Poorly defined project scope
  6. Inaccurate cost and time estimates
  7. Inadequate risk management
  8. Inexperienced project managers
  9. Unrealistic expectations

Maturing Systems
An HBR article suggests that poor project success rates are due to a low level of available mature systems. Many firms continue to rely on spreadsheets, slides and other applications that haven’t matured current practices. While the current tools are adequate in measuring project performance, they do not allow for the development of intelligent automation and collaboration across the portfolio of projects. The opportunity to apply AI to project management could improve the success ratio by a quantifiable 25%, or trillions of dollars of newly realized benefits for firms and society.

Gartner Inc. analysts predict that by 2030, AI software—driven by conversational AI, machine learning and robotic process automation for gathering data, reporting and tracking—will eliminate 80% of all project management office tasks. Gartner identifies project management disruption in six aspects:

  1. Better selection and prioritization
  2. Support for the project management office
  3. Improved, faster project definition, planning and reporting
  4. Virtual project assistants
  5. Advanced testing systems and software
  6. A new role for the project manager

PwC envisions AI-enabled project management software will improve a project leader’s decision-making process across the following five key areas crucial to success:

  1. Business insights improvements by filtering better data for relevant knowledge
  2. Risk management assessing scenarios that offer mitigation strategies
  3. Human capital in allocating resources more appropriately to meet the business priorities
  4. Integrating various technologies and specialists to improve project outcomes
  5. Active assistance by enhancing administrative tasks and stakeholder progress communications

PwC posits the advancements in project management software are an opportunity for firms and leaders that are most ready to take advantage of this disruption and reap the rewards.

PM Competence
PMI’s Project Manager Competency Development (PMCD) Framework provides an assessment and development of a project manager’s competence. It is based on the premise that competencies have a direct effect on performance. A project manager’s competence can be categorized in terms of project management knowledge, project management performance and their accomplishments, and personal competency in performing the project activities and personality characteristics. This combination is the stated success criteria for a competent project manager.

AI’s capability to assess disparate sources of big data to obtain actionable insights arms project managers with improved decision-making competence throughout the project lifecycle. However, a challenge noted by PwC’s recent analysis of OECD data (covering 200,000 jobs in 29 countries) warns that AI’s job displacement effect will automate 30% of jobs involving administrative manual tasks by the mid-2030s. This indicates a clear need to upskill project manager competence in order to thrive in the future.

In order to succeed, a firm’s culture of adaptability and lifelong learning is a cornerstone for shifting today’s project management roles into the future. They will need to expand competence in soft skills, business and management skills, technical and digital skills—all working in concert with each other.

IAPM states project managers will face fundamental changes over the next 10 years with job descriptions and roles. It suggests AI will make logical analysis and decisions, allowing the PM to focus their main area of responsibility on creativity, resolving conflicts, and innovation.

Lastly, with any transformation or disruption, one must consider the actions and obstacles—whether financial, management support, or workforce ability—to embrace and enact change. Here are some key considerations to reflect on:

  1. Does your firm value project management?
  2. Is your firm a quick adopter of intelligence-based project software?
  3. Will your firm invest in your competence development?

Post your thoughts in the comments!

References

  1. PMI: Project Management Competency Development Framework—Second Edition
  2. PMI: Why do projects really fail?
  3. HBR: How AI Will Transform Project Management
  4. Gartner Says 80 Percent of Today’s Project Management Tasks Will Be Eliminated by 2030 as Artificial Intelligence Takes Over
  5. IPAM: Will project managers soon be replaced by AI?
  6. PWC: A Virtual Partnership? How Artificial Intelligence will disrupt Project Management and change the role of Project Managers
  7. Proofhub: Top 10 Reasons Why Projects Fail (And How to Solve Them)
Posted by Peter Tarhanidis on: August 22, 2023 10:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (14)
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