The Critical Path

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Welcome to The Critical Path--the home for community happenings and events on ProjectManagement.com! This is where you'll find community news, updates, upcoming events, featured member posts and more. We'll also be showcasing hot topics in the project management arena and bringing you interviews with industry experts. The Critical Path is our primary way of getting news out to members, so be sure to check back for updates!

About this Blog

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View Posts By:

Marjorie Anderson
Kimberly Whitby
Laura Schofield

Past Contributers:

Carrie Dunn
Danielle Ritter
Kenneth A. Asbury
Craig Dalrymple
Rebecca Braglio
Kristin Jones

Recent Posts

Stakeholder Engagement

Speakers Announced for PMI® Business Analysis Virtual Conference 2019!

Change is a Given. How we Respond is the Issue.

To Tailor or Not to Tailor: A Foregone Conclusion?

September Community News You Can Use

Adaptation and Value Creation for All Projects: An Exploration of Principles

Categories: PMI, standards

By: Nader K. Rad, PMBOK® Guide-Seventh Edition Development Team member

Once Upon a Time!

There was a policy in one of the companies I used to work for about 20 years ago: “Every procurement activity should be done in the headquarters, rather than in projects’ construction sites”. They believed it was more cost-effective.

One day, I realized that in one of the attempts at cost-effectively purchasing material for covering the joints of concrete sections, the process was so prolonged that the critical concrete work was paused in one of the sites for four days. I was the project planner at that time and I immediately went to the project manager, who simply told me that organizational processes should be respected! I went to the procurement department and realized that we just didn’t speak the same language. So I went back to my desk, called the project site, and asked the technician responsible for that section whether they could buy the material locally. He said they could do it in one hour. The cost? Only about €250 for two weeks’ supply!

I sent them €250 from my own pocket to buy the material and resume work. The company reimbursed me but asked me not to do something like that again, and of course, I kept doing that.

Diagnosis

I’m sure you’re thinking about many problems  in this scenario: They needed a more proactive  project manager, they needed to use “manage  by exception”, etc.

One aspect of the problem was that they cared  about money (which is fine), but not in the  correct way. It’s not only about the money we  spend, but also about the money we [can] gain.  What we want to optimize is not the cost, but the “benefits ÷ cost” ratio – given that we consider all types of benefits, short-term and long-term, and direct and indirect (e.g., reputation, market reach, and knowledge).

Value

This relatively subjective “benefits ÷ cost” ratio is what we usually call business value, or value for short. We can always ask ourselves whether our selected choice is the one that contributes most to the value of the project/product.

Do you consider value in your decisions?

Adaptation

The other problem is that they were not adaptive enough.

When we talk about adaptation, it’s usually about adapting the product of the project to the environment, which is what happens in adaptive (Agile) projects and is very important and interesting. However, that’s not the only type of adaptation; there’s another one that applies to every type of project: adaptation of our delivery and management approach to their environment.

In my example, those problems could have been prevented if proper planning and risk management were in place. However, for some reason, that level didn’t exist. In such a case, when we see that we can’t fix our planning and risk-management system in order to have the ideal procurement method, we need to change our procurement method to adapt to this situation and prevent bigger problems.

Do you stick to your ideal methods or adapt to the environment?

Outcome

Another issue with concrete work in that project was that the concrete was going to be exposed in the final product, and therefore, we needed to do some extra work to make sure the surface was clean enough. One day, someone suggested a simpler way of doing that; according to experienced engineers, the quality was much lower, but it was a lot faster and less expensive. So we decided to experiment with something!

The project was for building a central library in a university, and we had access to thousands of end-users! We offered €30 to any student who wanted to join our experiment, and we picked the first 100 volunteers. We had two walls finished, one with each of the two methods, and we asked the students to tell us which one was better. In the end, we found no significant difference in the number of votes for the two methods, and we concluded that the new method was as good as the old one for our end-users, and so we decided to proceed with it.

It happens a lot: Either we spend too much money on an element of the product that doesn’t make any difference for the end-users, or we make it in a way that doesn’t satisfy them.

Isn’t it a good idea to focus on outcomes before outputs and activities?

Conclusion

It doesn’t matter what type of project we have; it seems like we can always ask these three questions in our activities and decision-making process:

  • How does it impact the value of the project/product?
  • What impact does it have on the outcomes?
  • Am I adapting to my environment, or just trying to force my ideals?

If these have the potential to help us in all or most projects, then maybe we’re talking about principles for running projects! Perhaps those principles could be summarized as:

  • Continually evaluate project alignment to business objectives and intended value
  • Utilize capabilities and learning throughout the life cycle to change, recover, and advance
Posted by Marjorie Anderson on: September 24, 2019 10:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (11)

NEW Discussion Thread for Financial Services Sector Posted!

                

In addition to IT, Construction and Government sectors, we selected two pieces of content from the Financial Services sector to help launch the first discussion thread posted within the following links located in Project Management Central:

Blockchain Projects
Blockchain projects present new challenges for organizations. There are talent gaps, risk-filled platform decisions and hesitant stakeholders. Here's a deep, project-focused dive into the world of blockchain: https://www.projectmanagement.com/articles...kchain-Projects

Greek Revival: Managing Expectations on the Road to Economic Recovery
The project economy is at the forefront of the Greece's economic recovery, with heightened attention to benefits realization, talent development and resource optimization. Read more here: https://www.projectmanagement.com/articles...onomic-Recovery

We welcome you to engage in these discussions! Enjoy!

Posted by Kimberly Whitby on: September 19, 2019 05:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

The First Step: Understanding the Why

Categories: PMI, standards

By Vanina Mangano, Standards Member Advisory Group

Back in January 2017, I attended an annual event hosted by PMI for its group of volunteers serving in a leadership capacity. On the very first day of that conference, PMI made an exciting announcement: it was transforming. I remember feeling excitement and curiosity buzzing through the large room of volunteers – no naysayers could be heard, just intent and curious listeners who wondered what changes would follow suit. Even before PMI kicked off its transformational efforts, some critical conversations were taking place behind the scenes that would drive some of the changes unfolding within the Standards community. These conversations would influence the move from process- to principle-based standards. Brian Grafsgaard and Mike Frenette blogged about these changes back in August, and I thought I would follow their posts with some additional commentary and insight regarding why these changes are taking place.

First, did you know that there are various types of standards? Mike already provided a fantastic summary of what a principle-based standard is in his August 28th post. If you missed it, I highly encourage you to read it – not only is it informative, but it was a fun and interesting read! There are three general approaches used to document standards:

  • A principle-based standard is built around a set of principle statements.  Those principle statements capture and summarize accepted objectives for the practice and its core functions.
  • A narrative-based standard derives meaning through storytelling and description.
  • A process-based standard aligns the management discipline and function around a collection of business processes managed to achieve a desired result. 

Skimming through the three definitions above, mapping the PMBOK® Guide–Sixth Edition to the approach used is not that difficult: it follows the process-based approach. Brian noted in an August 2nd blog post that the standard in the Seventh Edition of the PMBOK® Guide will evolve from a process-based to principle-based standard. The Standard for Program Management first shifted in this direction in its Third Edition and the Standard for Portfolio Management recently followed in its latest Edition. PMI is not unique in going this route; the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has long used this less prescriptive approach.

Those “behind the scenes” conversations I referred to at the start of this post have been occurring among Standards leadership over the past few years, largely driven by practitioner feedback – arguably the biggest driver for the changes.  Specifically, practitioner feedback stressed that the standards must address the full value delivery landscape. The standard in the Seventh Edition of the PMBOK® Guide will aim to do this very thing – document the stable project management concepts that lead to successful outcomes across the full value delivery landscape. This will be achieved through a set of guiding principles that apply across the value delivery spectrum, including predictive, adaptive, and hybrid delivery approaches.

Shifting this direction doesn’t imply that the elements of the “how” fully go away. In reality, more tools, techniques, and approaches exist than can be incorporated in one book. These resources are better collected and delivered through an online tool, which I hear is also in development. PMI will shed more light on that later this year.

Personally, I’m thrilled at this new direction, and I can see alignment with PMI’s 2017 Strategic Plan that was first introduced in the 2017 January leadership conference. I’ve seen my fair share of practitioners misinterpret how to apply the project management processes, viewing the processes as Waterfall-based, to be applied in a literal and / or sequential fashion (to be fair, the concept of “tailoring” can sometimes be difficult to understand when digesting a process-based approach). Pivoting to a broader set of parameters within which we operate as project management practitioners will enable us to better leverage the knowledge and core practices that have made PMI effective for decades.

I hope the larger community of practitioners feels that their voices have been heard through the coming changes. As Brian noted earlier, the profession is evolving. The set of tools we need to be effective leaders must also evolve and transform.

Respectfully,

Vanina Mangano, PMP

Posted by Marjorie Anderson on: September 18, 2019 01:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (13)

Ask the Expert is Returning to PMI Global Conference in Philadelphia!

Categories: conference

Ask the Expert is back by popular demand at PMI® Global Conference 2019! These one-on-one sessions allow you to discuss your project question or problem, get advice about navigating the project management career path, or talk through issues currently facing the profession from a trusted and established ProjectManagement.com expert.

Over the course of our annual three-day event, you'll have the opportunity to meet with experts from various industries representing a wide variety of areas of expertise to discuss all things project management. Learn more about our 2019 experts below and through their blog, PMI Global Insights.

Community experts will be available during the following times:

Saturday, 5 October
10:30AM – 11:30AM
3:00PM – 4:00PM

Sunday, 6 October
10:00AM – 10:30AM
2:30PM – 3:00PM

Monday, 7 October
10:00AM – 10:30AM
12:00PM – 1:00PM

 

NEW THIS YEAR! Join us for lunch time round-tables on Saturday and Sunday for group discussions about topics that affect your project management world every day. No sign up required. Just grab your lunch and come on over!

Saturday, 5 October, 12:45PM – 1:45PM EDT:
Project Recovery – Tips for Turning Around a Troubled/Failing Project!

Sunday, 6 October, 12:00PM – 1:00PM EDT:
Influencing Stakeholders in the Absence of Authority  

 

Meet our Experts!

              Andrew Craig             

             Dave Maynard        

David Davis


Kiron Bondale

 
Lorelie Kaid


Lori Wilson

Are you unsure about signing up for an Ask the Expert session at PMI® Global Conference 2019? Don't quite understand how to use the 20 minute session? Review our FAQs below to learn how you can make the most of this opportunity!

1. Why should I sign up?

Meeting one-on-one with one of our experts can help you refine your project or program implementation to better meet your requirements, serve your organization’s goals, and ultimately, make you more successful and your job easier. You may also receive advice from a peer that can help guide you as you continue on your project management career path.

2. What type of questions can I ask the experts?

Pretty much anything about planning, executing or closing your current projects is fair game. Experts are also open to discussing their experiences with career growth.

3. What questions aren’t appropriate for Ask the Expert?

Where to find your favorite restaurant in Philadelphia – While this may be a valid question, expert time is better spent discussing real project management problems and challenges.

4. What if I can’t think of a question for Ask the Expert?

You don’t want to miss this opportunity, so find a question! Open your project list for inspiration. If it helps, last year’s popular topics were starting a PMO, Agile transformations, scaling process in regulated environments, and tracking risks on active projects.

5. Who are the experts that I’d be meeting with?

It depends on your question! We have several experts lined up with expertise in nearly every area of project management. Simply click on their names above and learn more about their areas of focus.

6. What should I do to prepare?

You’ll have dedicated time with your expert focused entirely on your specific problem or question. Consider writing down the details of what you’re trying to accomplish, what you’ve tried, and prioritize your questions beforehand to be sure that you are making the most of your session.

7. How do I request an Ask the Expert session?

To start, you must attend PMI Global Conference on 5-7 October, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA to have an Ask the Expert session. If you’re not registered, what are you waiting for? Having an Ask the Expert session to discuss your business needs will help justify your attendance! Go.

Simply request an Ask the Expert session, either online using the link below or at the Ask the Experts - Community at PMI Exhibit booth in the Exhibit Hall. Provide some specifics on your question, because we’ll use those details to help prepare your expert for your session.

8. What can I expect onsite for my Ask the Expert session?

The Ask the Expert area is located at the Ask the Experts - Community at PMI Exhibit booth in the Exhibit Hall. You will meet one-on-one with your expert in a semi-private setting.

  • If you already have a session scheduled: Come to Ask the Experts - Community at PMI Exhibit booth in the Exhibit Hall and we’ll guide you to your assigned table to meet with your expert.
  • If you need to schedule an Ask the Expert session onsite: Stop by Ask the Experts - Community at PMI Exhibit booth and we’ll help you to fill out the request form, assign an appropriate expert, and schedule your session.

Sign up before you join us in Philadelphia to secure your spot! Onsite sign-up is also available, space permitting.

Reserve your Ask the Expert session today!

Posted by Kimberly Whitby on: September 12, 2019 04:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (14)

Development of the PMBOK® Guide–Seventh Edition Underway

Categories: PMI, standards

Written by Mike Griffiths

I have just returned from the first face-to-face meeting for volunteers working on the PMBOK® Guide–Seventh Edition development team. This is a personal reflection of the meeting, not an official account of what happened or planned next steps.

We met at the PMI headquarters in Philadelphia. I have visited the office before and was initially disappointed it did not look like Hogwarts or some ancient repository/font of knowledge. Instead it’s a normal, pleasant, but mostly non-descript, three-story building in a tree lined industrial estate.

The development team volunteers came from Latin America, North America, Europe, Asia, and Pacific regions. We had a mix of industries including construction, government, IT, materials science, and education. We also had a diverse mix of roles including practitioners, consultants, PMO staff, and academia.

Goal

The goal for our three days together was to identify and begin to define the principles and domains that will make up the Seventh Edition. Everyone had been tasked with homework to research and consider in advance what they believed these universal project principles should be and what common domains/elements/aspects are involved in the delivery of results.

Preparation

While this was our first meeting, it is important to explain that research for the Seventh edition has been underway for over a year. PMI regularly surveys its members and partner organizations to determine how they work and what real-world guidance would be of most use to them. There have been several workshops at PMI conferences worldwide to gather information and ideas about what to include in the next edition of the guide.

The team reviewed other project management guides, standards, and frameworks to determine what principles might be inferred and commonalities across various publications. It is probably fair to say every popular, publicly available project management framework was examined and I was surprised at how just many there were – certainly more than I previously thought existed.

Outcomes

During our time together we distilled, combined and generally whittled down over 100 suggested principles to around a dozen. We likewise suggested, debated and wrestled with domain suggestions. Despite our diversity we were able to land on an initial set of principles and domains for further development. Once refined, these will go out to a similarly diverse Review team of almost 70 people.

What’s Next

If you have read this far you are probably interested enough to want to know what the new principles and domains will be. Those are still in development, but several team members will be sharing their thoughts on specific principle concepts over the next couple of months. What I can share now is that the next edition of the PMBOK® Guide will cover the entire delivery spectrum. It will be relevant for traditional, linear lifecycles and applicable to non-linear, incremental lifecycles such as Design Thinking, Lean Startup, agile, and Kanban.

I left Philadelphia excited and a little daunted by the work ahead of us all. Yet inspired by the new direction and confident in the strength of our team. The next edition will be quite different, and I am glad to see it evolve.

The profession of project management is changing quickly. All of PMI’s research and surveys have indicated people have great ideas for changes they would like to see incorporated. I am looking forward to working with the Development team, Review team, and wider project management community to help develop the next edition of the PMBOK® Guide. For updates, discussions and accounts of the journey going forward please check back.

Note: For those planning to attend PMI Global Conference in Philadelphia 5-7 October, I will be assisting with two workshops that will further explore principles of project delivery: PMBOK® Guide – The Next Generation: An Innovation Working Session (Saturday, 5 October) and Project Delivery: Evolution and Revolution (Sunday, 6 October). I hope to see you there.

Posted by Marjorie Anderson on: September 12, 2019 08:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (16)
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