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

A Story of Monks, Trees, and New Horizons for the Evolution of the PMBOK® Guide

Navigating Complexity in Project Management

Register for our next “Discover PMI - Ask Us Anything! Webinar

The Communication Net: Navigating Project Teams with an Active Listening Approach

Stakeholder Engagement

Speakers Announced for PMI® Business Analysis Virtual Conference 2019!

 
Are you still on the fence about registering for the PMI® Business Analysis Virtual Conference 2019 taking place on 13 November 2019? Well perhaps our final list of speakers will pique your interest in registering. This year we welcome the following presenters:

Bob Prentiss

Battle for the Planet of the Business Analysts: 5 Key Strategies to Prepare for Your Future 

Bob Prentiss is a keynote speaker, author, mentor, coach, and Business Analysis thought leader.  Bob is passionate about helping you think, learn & work differently so you can become the best version of yourself.  Bob is the CEO and founder of Bob the BA and The Uncommon League.  Bob helps organizations transform their requirements practices utilizing modern techniques, an agile mindset, and street-smart approaches to get the work done faster.  Bob has 30+ years of experience in corporate America; with a background in managing BA centers of excellence, assessing and managing BA maturity, quality, and competency. 

Anton Oosthuizen

Managing Requirement Risks – A Different Perspective

Anton is a PMP, PBA, ACP and CSPO with over 3 decades experience in delivering large complex projects all over the world. He started out his journey in the telecommunications industry working on microwave and radar systems before morphing into a project management and later a business analyst roles. Not only has this put him onto a career path where project management and business analysis is tightly linked but it also equipped him well to be hands on.

Joy Beatty

Curiosity Never Killed the Business Analyst

Joy Beatty is a Vice President at Seilevel, a professional services company whose mission is to define software that customers love to use. She helps customers be more effective by modifying their approach to software requirements and product management so IT projects deliver the intended business value. Joy has provided software requirements training to thousands and is PMI-PBA® and CBAP® certified. Additionally, she writes about requirements methodologies in books, journals, white papers, and blogs.

Frank Saladis

Managing Difficult Stakeholders

Frank P. Saladis, PMP, PMI Fellow is a Consultant, Instructor, a motivational speaker and an author within the discipline of project management.  He holds a Masters Certificate in Commercial Project Management from GWU and is a graduate of the Project Management Institute Leadership Masters Class. He has held several positions within PMI including President of the NYC Chapter, President of the Assembly of Chapter Presidents and Chair of the Education and Training SIG.  He is the author of 12 published books and is the originator of International Project Management Day. Mr. Saladis was recognized as PMI Person of the Year in 2006, PMI Fellow in 2013 and received the PMI Distinguished Contribution Award in October 2015.

Barbee Davis

What Should I be Doing as a BA in an Agile/Waterfall Hybrid World?

Barbee Davis, MA, PHR, PMP, PMI-ACP, PMI-PBA owns Davis Consulting and is a published author, speaker, writer of training materials and an innovator in presentation-skill workshops. Ms. Davis’ experience is in the government, education, healthcare, banking, IT, and construction, among others. She works as a consultant and R.E.P. Quality Reviewer for PMI. Don’t miss her twice a month feature, “Topic Teasers,” on ProjectManagement.com, a real-life like question and practical advice for a solution to day-to-day project management challenges.

Joyce Onore

Importance of Communication in a Business Analysis Role

Joyce Onore is a Senior Consultant at KPMG with more than 8 years of experience in Business Analysis and Project Management. She has planned and executed multiple projects using both agile and waterfall project methodologies across retail, financial services, and media and technology industries. Joyce has lead requirements gathering, business process design, and functional specification design sessions for large system implementation projects. Aside from her professional endeavors, Joyce is an active member of the National Black MBA Organization, the National Society of Black Engineers, and Toastmasters International.

Now are you convinced? We hope so! Please click here to register. We assure that you will not regret this wonderful opportunity, all the while, earning 6 PDUs!

Posted by Kimberly Whitby on: October 10, 2019 05:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (20)

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

Categories: content, PMI, standards

Nick Clemens, PMBOK® Guide–Seventh Edition Development Team member

As a project manager I find myself immersed in uncertainties and change. People roll on and off my program teams, my management chain changes frequently, and my customer base is in flux. I am a contractor for a larger US Federal Department and even within the US Federal bureaucracy change comes quick and often. I think for large bureaucracies the problem is not change, it’s here and must be dealt with. The problem is adaption and response

The same is true for projects. Project leaders must adapt and overcome. Our response as project leaders must insure the on-time delivery of our products and services within project constraints. This is how we deliver benefits that create value for our customers and companies alike. And for those who like to deliver incrementally, I’m also talking to you. Implicit in the idea of a Minimal Viable Product (MVP) is the delivery of a benefit that creates inherent value for both the user and the supplying enterprise. 

So how do we keep track of where we are going with everything changing around us? To paraphrase the Cheshire Cat in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, If you don't know where you're going, any road can take you there. The answer is to go back to basics. Basic project management principles provide us with a framework to guide us when our projects are troubled. The PMBOK® Guide–Seventh Edition development team is taking just that approach in updating The Standard for Project Management. We are looking at a better way to guide project leaders using a principles-based approach that will allow flexible responses to an environment fraught with change and uncertainty.

So, what’s a project management principle that could help us to navigate our complex environments and keep track of where we are going? It has to do with “systems thinking” and is related to a management principle from the risk area, “work to balance threats and opportunities.” The principle I am thinking of is around the idea of Think Holistically. 

Holistic thinking tells us to get out of the weeds, to see the forest for the trees. In other words, as a project leader have a vision for your project. That vision should include your project’s purpose, value to be delivered, impact to the business environment, and its effect on the people involved. Holistic thinking also includes understanding the trade-off space to ensure the team delivers outputs that will drive outcomes. It allows self-organization of work but keeps the pieces integrated. Holistic thinking challenges assumptions and mental models to broaden the possible solution space.

Whether managing a group of work packages to a project plan or integrating a couple of scrum teams to deliver a MVP according to a release plan, the challenge to the project leader is the same—keeping on track to meet our customer’s vision and expectations and delivering outcomes, even if the precise end goal is not fully defined at present. I didn’t say it would be easy. In most cases the days of the practically perfect project plans went out with the departure of Mary Poppins, not in the most recent Disney sequel, but in the original 1964 movie! To say the least, a principles-based approach to project management has been a long time coming. 

So, think holistically to keep the focus of your project 100% aligned with your customer’s vision and expectations. Remember as the project leader your job is to deliver and create value for your customers and company. Everything else is in the weeds. The key is to recognize, evaluate, and respond to the dynamic circumstances within and surrounding the project delivery systems as the systems interact and react with each other.

Posted by Marjorie Anderson on: October 08, 2019 11:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (10)

To Tailor or Not to Tailor: A Foregone Conclusion?

Categories: news, PMI, standards

by: Klaus Nielsen, PMBOK® Guide-Seventh Edition Development Team member

Did you know that many organizations have unsuccessfully tried to implement an off-the-shelf, or ready-made, project management methodology and found that it was unsuitable for their projects, their organization, and their level of organizational project management maturity?

This often results in a lot of money, time and effort spent with little return and a decrease in staff morale. The one-size-fits-all approach is not working, because no two projects are the same. Different people, clients, vendors, technologies, cultures, approaches, sizes and such require extensive tailoring.

Designing the delivery approach based on the context of the project, its objectives, stakeholders, and the environment is much more difficult than it may sound. Designing the delivery approach requires tailoring. We use tailoring to our project management methodology with the hope of buy-in from team members.  In some cases, a tailored approach produces a more customer-oriented focus, centers on best-for-project approach, and reflects a more efficient use of project resources.  It also helps to ensure that when the team agrees to use specific processes, tools, or ceremonies, everyone is aligned, and use is consistent.

But who has not experienced the damage from tailoring not done correctly? I have! It’s when project team members are not using the methodology, independently modifying the methodology, or following the process for the sake of the process.

When we tailor, we have a wide range of options. I tend to look at the processes and see whether it would work or not.  Often, I have been faced with too many processes of little value. In some cases, inputs, tools, and techniques may be omitted or changed to make them work within a specific context. Also, when tailoring I examine the level of documentation required, as it’s often a great chunk of work.  I want to make sure all project artefacts, documents, and plans provide value — not just documentation for the sake of documentation. Thinking back, if you had to apply everything the same way to all your projects for the last 20 years, that would be a nightmare. Firstly, I rarely do the same kind of projects the same way twice. Secondarily, if I had to do it all over, I would make a lot of changes (hopeful that I have learned something along the way). Think of tailoring as your opportunity to apply lessons learned.

I think it’s difficult to talk about tailoring without touching upon efficiency and effectiveness. Now it becomes slightly trickier. I don’t see one without the other. I know some of you may have concerns about the connotations of these terms, so let me try to explain my view.

Effectiveness talks to providing our customers with value through product delivery and producing the intended or expected result. It is also associated with the results from the actions of the team members and the project manager.

On the other hand, efficiency talks to how we are performing or functioning in the best possible manner with the least waste of time and effort. It is also associated with how things are done.

Who has not heard the following statement: “The fundamental reason why projects are late is because of inefficient use of resources. My job as a project leader is to move our expertise around to tackle as much work as possible, and to do so seamlessly?” In this case, efficiency means getting more work done with the least loss of time, which is done by maximizing utilization. In this case, efficient IS effective. In my native language of Danish, we use the same term for these two concepts.

For others, efficiency is a poison. For them it also means maximizing utilization, which requires that we overcommit and confuse our staff, leaving them no slack to breathe or innovate. To them, efficient is the OPPOSITE of effective. However, that was not the intention.

Just to wrap it up: Design the delivery approach based on the context of the project, its objectives, stakeholders, and the environment. Maximize value, manage costs, develop flow and enhance speed by utilizing just enough process. I think there might be a principle or two in there.

Posted by Marjorie Anderson on: October 01, 2019 02:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (13)

September Community News You Can Use

It’s the most wonderful time of the year at PMI! Global Conference is just around the corner, and with this year’s exciting 50th anniversary celebrations, we are certainly counting down the days! If you will be in Philadelphia for the conference, please stop by the ProjectManagement.com Community booth and say hello. We would love to meet you!

In this month’s look at what’s currently happening around the community, we’ll let you know how to keep up with all of the excitement at Global Conference – from near and far – as well as the other great community activities occurring in the final months of 2019!

Register for PMI® Business Analysis Virtual Conference 2019: Registration is open for the PMI® Business Analysis Virtual Conference 2019 which will be held on Wednesday, November 13th. This virtual event will explore the latest trends in business analysis and provide you with the insights, resources, and tools to advance your career and enhance project success. Register today! This year, we welcome:

  • Bob Prentiss – Battle for the Planet of the Business Analysts: 5 Key Strategies to Prepare for Your Future
  • Anton Oosthuizen – Managing Requirement Risks: A Different Perspective

  • Joy Beatty – Curiosity Never Killed the Business Analyst

  • Frank Saladis – Managing Difficult Stakeholders

  • Barbee Davis – What Should I be doing as a BA in an Agile/Waterfall Hybrid World?

  • Joyce Onore – Importance of Communication in a Business Analysis Role

PMI® Organizational Agility Conference Available On-Demand: If you were unable to attend the recent PMI® Organizational Agility Conference on Evolving Approaches to Resilient Value Delivery, you can view all of the sessions on-demand here.

Ask the Expert at PMI® Global 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. If you are attending Global Conference, sign-up for a session here.

For those who will not be in Philadelphia, you can follow our Experts at Conference through the PMI Global Insights blog where they will share their experiences and insights from the event.

Industry Discussion Threads: This year, PMI launched a new initiative focusing on four industry segments in the fields of IT, Finance, Government and Construction. As part of that focus, we have been highlighting some existing PM Network content on ProjectManagement.com in order to engage the community and learn more about specific industry needs. Check out the industry discussion threads in Project Management Central!

Discover PMI - Ask Us Anything! Series: Learn more about PMI’s Job Board by viewing the latest session on-demand - Powering Your Career with PMI: Explore the PMI Job Board to Power You Career - featuring Ansley Stauffer.

Project Health Framework: Join fellow community member, Uri Galimidi, as he discusses A Billion Dollar Project Health Framework in his eight part webinar series. You can now access Part 1 through Part 5 on-demand! Check the Live Webinars calendar for the remaining sessions.

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to a member of the Community Engagement team – we’re happy to help you. As always, stay tuned to the Critical Path for your community news!  

Posted by Laura Schofield on: September 25, 2019 10:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (10)

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)
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