Throughout my Project Management career and my preparation for the PMP® exam, my respect for lessons learnt kept on increasing incrementally. As soon as I passed the exam, I shared my lessons learnt from my journey towards passing the PMP® exam with fellow aspirants on the LinkedIn group.
While I was updating my resume, as you do when you achieve a new skill or qualification , I looked at my role descriptions for the various projects and noted words like "Work with the project team, customer and management to implement product features in the XYZ software". I instantly realized that I was under-selling myself by not using the appropriate level of PMSpeak. I don't know if this term even exists but that's the best I could come up with to explain how a PM would describe what they do to gain more respect from others in interviews or professional circles.
When I thought how PMBOK would describe what I do, it dawned on me that I was adding a lot more value on my projects than I was expressing in words.
I am delighted to say that my several months' worth of hard work in not just preparing for the exam, but understanding the PMI way of running projects, has certainly taught me a more effective and a more efficient way of presenting my work and packaging my skills.
I then presented the same information as :-
"Work with the Project Management team and key business stakeholders to define and refine project and product scope, highlight risks, define project and product quality expectations and build the Software solution to customer satisfaction"
In the above sentence I have just made use of the objectives of the following processes from the PMBOK
I then looked at another sentence in my position description that read "Signed SOW and contracts with external vendors to deliver solution".
Yes, we did agree on the SOW and sign a contract with the external vendors, But I did not do it alone and I had not expressed my function as an "integrator" and a "facilitator" in the above sentence. Nor did I establish that I successfully engaged and collaborated with other teams to achieve project objectives and how I held the vendor accountable for delivery.
I them repackaged the same sentence as:-
"Worked with the Procurement management and Legal Teams to establish and negotiate contracts and payment milestones with the vendor and continuously monitored vendor performance to deliver to the agreed Statement of Works"
I have thus, made a better use of the "Conduct Procurement" and "Control Procurement" processes in the above sentence and indicated how I have engaged successfully with other teams in the matrix organization and conducted performance assessments in order to complete my project deliverable.
These valuable lessons learnt are no doubt, going to stand me in good stead for the rest of my working life and my project management career.
As a Graduate Electronics Engineer, fresh out of university in 1999, the very first job I landed was a Sales Engineer to sell Non-Destructive Testing(NDT) Equipment. The basics of NDT is sending Ultrasonic Waves through Materials to detect internal cracks and imminent failure. For example at an Oil Refinery, If pieces of metals used to build pipelines had cracks beyond limits set by the Quality control departments, those pieces of metals will need to be either discarded or repaired.
Having equipped me with the training and the technical knowledge of NDT through various training courses and product demonstrations , My Team Leader decided that I was ready to start my foray into selling my very first Ultrasonic Flaw Detector.
For my very first field trip, He came along with me to meet the Quality Assurance Manager at a refinery with the agreement that he will be a silent spectator while I will be required to do the sales pitch.
Walking into the refinery towards the QA Manager's office, I noticed the following:-
I then met the QA Manager , introduced ourselves and this is what I did:-
We shook hands and took leave of our prospective client and I was replete with excitement. My team leader noticed my beaming face and said "good job" and decided to be quiet about it.
Back at the office , he called a private meeting with me and told me that I was trying to "Sell Ice to an Eskimo". When I looked puzzled , he asked me the following questions:-
Long story short, My brilliant sales pitch was unlikely to get us the sale .
And when he saw me totally frozen from head to toe and feeling like an amoeba he said with a smile "Welcome to the world of sales my friend, Now that you know that you almost always deal with Eskimos in the sales world, let me teach you how to sell Ice to them."
(image courtesy :- rgva.co.uk)
(image courtesy :- www.linkedin.com )
The importance of a morning pick-me-up cannot be understated. Even after I shower and get ready for work , I am not really awake until that shot of Java hits my veins.
Lately I have been reading a lot of books on Emotional Intelligence and Conversational Intelligence on the tram on the way to work. Before I reach work, four days out of five, I do not have my caffeine fix.
While I am reading , the words seem like worms wriggling on the page and I tend to see myself reading the same paragraphs over and over again. Some of the examples and stories presented in the books are easy to understand, yet for the larger part of what I read, My pre-frontal cortex or the "sensible" part of my brain tells me that none of these messages about improving Self Awareness, Self Management, Social Awareness and Relationship Management are making sense. Still I persist with the book as I persisted with some of my course notes at University.
I get to my favorite coffee shop and I am greeted warmly by the same friendly barista. "Warm" ? where did I see that word last? Oh Yes, I was just reading "Conversational Intelligence" by Judith Glasser on the tram. What was the reference to warm? Ah ! yes, something about you feeling warm towards the other person when you have a warm drink in your hand ? Bang !!! there it is ! All makes sense.
And all of a sudden, I am talking to the barista about the weather, whether I will be having a busy day, did I do something exciting over the weekend . I have established trust with this person. What was that acronym again? Ah ! FORCES are at play ! Fairness Ownership Reciprocity Cooperation Expression Status . I see Fairness in the conversation, I can take ownership of this communication, I can reciprocate the other person's feelings, I can Cooperate with them, Express myself and feel high self esteem.I have ended up implementing some thoughts presented in this book.
At the same time , subconsciously I have found myself becoming more self aware of my inner thoughts . I have started deciding what I should or shouldn't feel .I am self managing myself by coming out of my shell and thinking about what I should and shouldn't say. I have started observing the body language of the barista and tailoring my relationship management skills to converse with them. Bang ! I have now also used tips from the book Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves. If I can do this with the barista, who is pretty genial and jovial nine times out of ten, why can't I use the same with any person I interact with? " Is this a coffee or an elixir of life ? " I ask myself.
I then reach work and give a big broad smile to the first workmate I find either in the lift, in the corridor or in the office. I even greet everyone "warmly" in the office. In the few minutes between getting out of the tram and having a few sips of coffee, I have applied the principles of Conversational Intelligence and Emotional Intelligence and the local coffee shop has just become my conversation catalyst.
My colleagues in Quality Management or Project Management would know very well what a Fishbone Diagram is . Also known as the cause and effect diagram, It's one of the Quality Management tools to help map the various causes that lead to an effect or a problem.
Put simply, the effect or the problem is the head of a fish and the branches or the bones are the possible causes. Once you have put down all the causes, much like a mind map, you can more likely, find the critical causes, which you can eliminate to ultimately fix the problem.
At the gym, My personal trainer and I started noticing that my exercise form was deteriorating , especially at dead lifts and any exercise like squat which uses a bend-to-extend pattern. I used to frequently complain of back pain. It certainly did not mean that I was getting any weaker.
According to my trainer , my back was arching more and I was over-compensating and using my back to lift the weights more instead of the muscles that are supposed to aid in deadlifts , which are my glutes and my hamstrings.
He showed me the mirror , and pointed to an arch in my lumbar spine. It was an anterior pelvic tilt. It meant that I had tight Hip Flexors due to overuse. When I bend in a squat or a deadlift, the hip flexors resist because they are tight and do not allow me to maintain the good form. This consequently puts pressure on my back which tries to over-compensate , resulting in the back pain.
My exercise "Project" now had a few defects. I needed to zero down on the various causes through a Quality Management tool on my "Exercise" Project . What better tool to use than the Fishbone ? Going through the exercise of categorizing the causes and elaborating, I indeed came upon some causes.
One of them was sitting at an office desk for 8 hours. I have since shifted to a standing desk at work. My trainer and I have begun work on the tight hip flexors and have started releasing them using foam rollers and other techniques.
The biggest achievement - I have learnt to use a Quality Management tool on any Project !!
Learning Fitness at the fitness academy has taught me that repeating the same exercises over and over again with the same weights and the same number of repetitions, every session for months together is not going to yield noticeable improvements in hypertrophy or endurance . If anything, over-time your performance is going to plateau.
Yes , any exercise is good for the health after about 2 - 3 months you will notice that the monotony becomes boring and exhausting . Good Personal trainers, including the one I train with , understand this very well and incorporate techniques to avoid this monotony, into their training schedules.
Thus, I look forward to every single training session with great enthusiasm because, I am faced with the challenge and excitement to provide the muscles of my body with an unknown stimulus . I can almost always expect that one of the following will happen:-
I know that the possibilities for stimulating the muscles for the rest of my body are endless. But I also recognize the fact, that the all important muscle that drives my career and my life , the Brain, also needs strength training .
I have found it very easy to get anxious, bored and frustrated if I try to do the same things, the same way, every single day at work and at life. Although I should not be making drastic changes to my life style, incremental changes, as I have found have done me a world of good. These changes might have been including a new hobby or changing my ways of doing certain things.
The brain needs exercise as much as any muscle of your body . Time for cliche No. 1 :- "You use it , or you lose it ". It needs stimulus, strength and conditioning . It needs the influx of innovative ideas, new challenges , new knowledge , new training and new skills.
Perhaps we all can do some of the following to keep this fine workhorse in top shape:-
I wish I could do all of the above , but doing a lot of it has helped me immensely at work and in life.
In closing Time for cliche N0. 2 . "I will pass this way but once, let me make the most of it ...."