PM Nerd

Sharing ideas and stories about learning and professional development. The more we learn, the more we share, the more we grow.

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Identifying the True Need or Opportunity

My PMI Learning Community

Life & Learning Are Fickle

Chapter 2 - A PMI Certification Learning Guide

Closing a Chapter

Identifying the True Need or Opportunity

Hello, good day, and welcome back to my adventure in studying for the PMI-PBA certification. So far, I have made it through chapter 3 of the  Business Analysis for Practitioners: A Practice Guide. So I want to share with you what I have learned and where I am headed for next week.

Also, it amazes me how optimistic my planning has been. I thought I would have made it through this entire book which is 206 pages after two weeks but I am way behind that goal. I need to speed up my reading but also set more realistic expectations for the next task. That sounds like a good topic for a future blog post.

Now, back to the topic at hand, business analysis. The guide summarizes business analysis as the activities necessary to identify business needs and recommend relevant solutions. It also focuses on eliciting, documenting, and managing requirements. The business analyst focuses on the product requirements while the project manager focuses on the project requirements. I found this very interesting because as a project manager, I rarely find myself leading a team where I have a business analyst to lean on. So I have to act as both a business analyst and project manager. The guide reminded me of my responsibilities when wearing my business analysis hat and when wearing my project manager hat. This is an important distinction and there are explicit processes and activities for each situation. 

Now let us dive into each chapter a bit. Chapter 2 focused on needs assessment while chapter 3 focused on business analysis planning.

Needs assessment consists of:

  1. Identifying the problem or opportunity
  2. Assessing the current state of the organization
  3. Recommending actions required to address the business needs
  4. Developing the business case.

Business analysis planning consists of:

  1. Conducting or refining stakeholder analysis
  2. Creating a business analysis plan
  3. Planning business analysis work

What I loved after reading these chapters was the focus on a patient and methodical process. Too often we start running down the street without putting on our pants. In projects, we are so eager to solve the problem we forget what problem we are trying to solve. Understanding customer needs, solution scope, and stakeholder expectations are so important. So often I am reminded that to move fast you have to slow down and take a deep breath.

The goal for next week is to read chapters 4 and 5. They focus on requirements elicitation & analysis and traceability & monitoring. If I am lucky I will finish the book but as I mentioned, I need to learn how to be realistic, not optimistic.

Also, I have started a basic learning plan documenting the tasks as I complete them and any costs I accrue. For the tasks, I am capturing start and finish dates, duration and the amount of time it takes to read each book. I am hoping this will help me plan for the next certification I study for. Please check it out at the link below and let me know what you think:

PMI-PBA Learning Plan

Posted on: July 12, 2018 06:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (15)

My PMI Learning Community

Hello again, it has been a while and I want to sincerely apologize for the gap. After my last post, I didn't think I was adding a lot of value to this community but after re-visiting the site and looking through the comments, I realized I should have never taken that break. It also pointed out an important lesson I learned. 

Professional development is an interesting concept and seems to have a lot of different definitions depending on who you talk to. Some say the intent of professional development is to accumulate the necessary skills to earn a promotion or land that new job they have been interviewing for. What I struggled with after my last post was learning more project management skills after a long day of serving as a program manager at my job. It didn't sound too exciting. What I failed to notice though was that for me, and this, of course, may be different for you, was that learning provides a community where I can share ideas and stories with my colleagues and friends. What I realized was that the joy of learning, again for me, was not only learning something new but the simple act of sharing what I have learned is where the excitement comes from. 

So I decided to start a YouTube channel and share my project management professional development learning journey. I have been lucky to earn four certifications from PMI and now that I am over halfway there, I decided why not go for all seven and see what lessons I learn. So I have decided to study for the PMI-PBA certification and then move onto the PfMP and PgMP certifications. For the PMI-PBA certification, I don't have enough money saved up to pay for a course to earn the required 35 hours of business analysis education but I can start reading the books in the PMI reference list and start learning the old-fashioned way. Plus, my team at work has stood up a PMO and is working hard to create processes and templates to improve our scope management capabilities because like most companies, scope and requirements continue to be a struggle and if you don't get that under control, you are going to have a long day at the office. So not only am I hoping to share what I learn with you but also share what I learn with my team at work. 

I cannot say thank you enough to PMI and the community it has provided me to share and I hope this blog and the videos resonate with you. If you like or dislike what you watch or read, please let me know. 

Thank you again. 

Posted on: July 07, 2018 12:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (9)

Learn How Insincerity Can Help You Grow

Do you mind if I share some of my current struggles and tribulations? Growing up, one of my dreams was to attend a liberal arts university, walk to class in my Birkenstock sandals with my canvas messenger bag, and study the great physicists and philosophers who walked the Earth before me. Instead I attended a military academy and became a project manager floating from one cubicle to the next. I am proud of my service in the military and I have enjoyed working for some amazing clients but there is a part of me that still wonders what would have happen if I had traded in my uniform for shorts and sandals.

Besides dreaming about the grass beneath the trees on the Oxford campus, my long-term professional goal has always been to become a teacher. On the surface a project manager is not usually described as a teacher but when you sit back and think about it, teachers and project managers have a lot in common. What drew me to the career was the simple idea of getting the job done. Both my parents were teachers and the joy I saw in their faces when they shared a story about one of their students connecting the dots and taking a huge step forward was the same joy I feel when I help a colleague or client experience that breakthrough moment and deliver a solution they are proud of.

Nowadays though, a project manager can be synonymous with producers, product managers, designers, and developers. More and more jobs require the skills of a project manager to be successful. So just studying the PMBoK is not going to guarantee success. We also must understand the language of every industry and market we work in which of course is why PMI is asking their members to categorize our professional development into the buckets of leadership, strategic business, and technical project management. PMI is asking project managers to stretch ourselves and go beyond conventional thinking.

At the moment my interests are philosophy, literature, design, and computer programming. I feel in order to succeed and grow, I have to become what I am describing as a “full stack project manager.” Just like a computer programmer, if I can understand the entire landscape from the backend database to the front end user experience, I will be better for it. Building upon a base of project management, I also must possess a technical trade like computer programming coupled with a more artistic thought process based in design principles. All of these are expanded throughout the philosophy and literature I am trying to read which I hope will help build my confidence and cultural awareness.

I believe it was Friday when I came across a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article, The College of Chinese Wisdom, written by Michael Puett and Christine Gross-Loh. In it they try to apply the teachings of Confucius and other Chinese thinkers who lived over 2,000 years ago to the modern struggles of college students struggling with their own self-discovery. Some of the quotes I thought applied quite well to my struggles and perhaps others of us who are on their own learning journey. Here are a few to give you an idea of what I am talking about.

“Concrete, defined plans for life are abstract because they are made for a self who is abstract: a future self that you imagine based on a snapshot of yourself now. You are confined to what is in the best interests of the person you happen to be right now—not of the person you will become.”

“Train your mind to be open”

“Zhuangzi embraced “trained spontaneity.” When you train yourself to play the piano or learn tennis, trying to reach a joyful place where you can play a Mozart sonata or gracefully arc a lob, you are following his advice. You are putting effort into reaching a moment when your mind does not get in the way. You are training yourself not to fall into the trap of seeing yourself through one fixed perspective. You are training yourself to spot the shifts that make for an expansive life.”

“Xunzi argues that we should not think of the self as something to be accepted—gifts, flaws and all. He would argue instead that we should think of the self as a project. Through experiences, we can train ourselves to construct a self utterly different from—and better than—whatever self we thought we were.”

“The only thing you really need to be good at is the ability to train yourself to get better.”

“…the goal is simply to break from what they think they know about themselves.”

“So if you want not only to be successful but also to live a good life, consider these subversive lessons of Chinese philosophy: Don’t try to discover your authentic self; don’t be confined by what you are good at or what you love. And do a lot of pretending. We could all benefit from a little more insincerity.”

I read through this article while flying back home from a long week of working with my client and a calmness started to comfort me. The concept of application and measurement of my learning constantly occupies my thinking but last week I wrote about embracing the process and not worrying about the outcome, so perhaps I should borrow some of that advice.

Please read through this WSJ article and let me know what you think. Too often, I believe we as project managers become consumed with the outcome and how to measure the results that we don’t even try out new ideas because we train ourselves to be scared of risks and new ideas. I like the quote where it is recommended to think of ourselves as a project and through experiences we train ourselves to train a new self that yields new possibilities.

So taking a step back, instead of being frustrated by the struggles and tribulations I am going through with my own learning, perhaps I should focus on the excitement and joy brought on by a new MOOC I try out or a new book I read. Perhaps the application of learning is measured in the intangibles created from a new idea or concept.

Isn’t a wonderful feeling when you complete a new book or when you crack the code on why math tells you one thing but your instincts expected a different outcome? Perhaps at this stage, my struggles are a sign I am on the right track and I need to find a place to rest, warm up a pot of tea, enjoy the sunset, and look forward to another day of discovery and wonder.

Thank you for helping me and sharing another moment.

Posted on: April 03, 2016 01:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (15)

Love the Process, Not the Outcome

Hello, I would like to re-introduce myself. My name is Kevin and it has been almost one month since my last post. The reason for my absence has been my struggle with the scope of this blog. Since the Open Learning Workshop I lead with the fantastic folks at the PMI Mike Hi Chapter, I have struggled with where I want to take this blog and I am asking for your help.

The original goal was to share learning resources and tools that I think would help project managers expand their professional development. After the workshop, I began to wonder if I should create a learning guide project managers could use to help them but if you spend a couple minutes online, you realize there are a bunch of different learning guides and resources. So I don’t want to re-invent the wheel again. If you ask me, my favorite learning management tool is still Degreed. Yesterday though, I was listening to the Tim Ferris Podcast and enjoyed a fantastic conversation between Mr. Ferris and Josh Waitzkin, who was the inspiration for the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer. He has written a book, The Art of Learning, which has moved to the top of my reading list backlog. Josh made me realize there are a lot of smart people, much smarter than me, who are in the middle of this learning conversation, so why not use their ideas to help us expand our professional development.

Instead of worrying about how I can help you learn, what I can promise is to share with you my learning story. In the podcast conversation, Mr. Waitzkin reminds us to focus on the process, not the outcome. As project managers, that is very difficult. We constantly are questioning how we are going to apply what we learn and how we want to measure our progress. Metrics are important because they help us visualize our progress. For this blog, I have been worrying about what value I am delivering you and the project management community.

My interests and goals have always been most comfortable in the world of learning and education. As a project manager, it is my job to create a space where my team and clients are able to explore the possibilities and design their own unique outcomes and solutions. So how can I do that with this blog?

Perhaps it is really that simple. Everyone possesses unique qualities that make us who we are. Mr. Waitzkin shared a great phrase he uses quite often. I don’t remember it exactly but the essence is, we have to fall in love with our funk. We have to fall in love with who we are and embrace our uniqueness, even if it doesn’t fall in line with everyone else.

So my funk is I am a project manager who was raised in the beautiful horse country of Wyoming thanks to my beautiful parents who taught elementary and high school students for over 80 years combined. So I am a project manager who loves to learn, there you have it.

My goal from the very beginning with this blog has been to share with you what I find and hope that it helps you in your professional development journey. How you apply your learning is entirely up to you, I just hope it is accompanied with a smile :)

Thank you as always for sharing this moment.

Posted on: March 25, 2016 03:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)

Apply Your Learning in Smiles and Laughter

A couple weeks ago at an Open Learning workshop I facilitated for the PMI Mile Hi Chapter, we discussed how to apply all of the knowledge and skills learned from open learning resources. Most of what I have been preaching is about learning and sharing but application, especially for project managers, is hugely important.

So I went home to try and brainstorm how to apply what we learn. While looking through my PMI-ACP study materials, I began to wonder if we could apply the concept of user stories and personas to our learning goals. Would those answer the application question?

In software development projects, the team defines user requirements in the form of personas and user stories. Personas capture the traits and personality of each unique user who will enjoy the solution. The user stories are short simple descriptions of features told from the perspective of the users who will enjoy the solution. A simple format for user stories is, as a (user title), I want to (goal of feature)  so that (benefit and value of feature).

What if we flipped it around for our own learning and place ourselves in the shoes of the teams or organizations who will benefit from our newfound knowledge and skills? For our learning goals, what if we write them in the form of personas that we want to inhabit once we have reached a level of competency and mastery where we feel comfortable describing ourselves as that new persona. This could be validated by demonstrating our new skills to our teams or organizations or by the fact we are hired for that new job we have been dreaming about.

We can then take it a little further and describe the experience or feelings we create for others in the form of a story. It could take the same shape as a user story and be adapted to our situation: As a (persona title), I will provide (experience enjoyed by the team or organization) so that (benefit and value of the experience).

This conversation reminds me of Maya Angelou’s quote, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

If we want to apply our learning and make it matter, we have to begin by visualizing how we want to make people feel. A recent article I came across on LinkedIn pointed out that people judge you on 2 basic criteria, warmth and confidence. So that should be the measurement of your learning. If you are able to prove your competency and project an aura of warmth because of your learning, then you are applying your newfound knowledge and skills and making this world a better place.

Writing your goals in terms of personas and user stories can help you create a good “definition of done.” This provides you a better idea of how to apply your learning and figure out when you have mastered a skill and are ready to move on to the next learning goal.

The ultimate expression of a successful student is when she can walk out the front the door and bring a smile to someone’s face walking down the street. So when you are writing about the new persona you want to become and what kind of experience you want to create for your team or organization, measure your success and “definition of done”  in the numbers of smiles you create and laughter you generate.

Thank you for sharing this moment.

Posted on: March 02, 2016 06:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

"I never resist temptation, because I have found that things that are bad for me do not tempt me."

- George Bernard Shaw