My Professional Journey

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Sharing Insights from my Professional life , where I have been a Sales Engineer, A Health Professional and now , a Project Management Professional. These blogs encompass my observations or experiences. They may be regarding the Projects that I have led or been a part of or something close to our daily lives like Mindfulness and health which may affect our productivity as Project Managers.

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Define "Digital Project Manager" for me

The Pain of Legacy Systems

How a PMP® helped me improve my PMSpeak

Selling Ice to an Eskimo

The Local Coffee Shop - My Conversation Catalyst

How a PMP® helped me improve my PMSpeak

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

  1. Direct and Manage Project Work
  2. Define Scope
  3. Validate Scope
  4. Manage Stakeholder Engagement
  5. Identify risks
  6. Perform Qualitative Risk Assessment
  7. Plan Quality Management

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. 

 

Posted on: September 15, 2017 09:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

How I learnt about Project Quality Management from Exercise regime

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 !!

Posted on: May 10, 2017 01:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

The Dreaded Pyramid

Categories: Project Management

Picture a matrix based IT organization with a Project Management Team which relies on other functional teams to provide resources to work on Projects.

The functional teams are structured like a Pyramid and you find that the number of Levels of Management is much higher than the actual operational Staff.

You have worked with members of the bottom level of the pyramid and these are the staff that add most value to your projects. These are your Developers, your Business Analysts, your Architects and your Support Staff. 

These are sociable, talented and hard working people who know their subject matter.

You want them to work on your projects with closed eyes because you are well aware of their abilities and you get along well with them.

But you can't get access to them! 

You will have to go through four levels of Management to get access to them. That's just the beginning of the negotiation cycle.

You start at the Team Leader Level . Here , you can expect to get a variety of answers .- Resources are over-allocated, They are busy, They are starting on another project next week and are only available for a few hours.

When you look at the list of projects currently being performed by your IT Organization and perhaps, have enough insight into those projects or have been networking actively with other Project Managers to  analyse the resource usage on those projects , you find that the staff that you want on your project indeed has the capacity to do work on your project, but will just not be allocated to you for reasons that you cannot comprehend though you might have the budget to get them on your project.

You then move to the next level and try and acquire some resources and you may get a different response. Maybe they might encourage you to outsource that resource from your project budget. It's well and good. I can do that , but All I want to know that if there a capable internal resource who can provide immediate value on my project, why can't I pay for them instead?

Is the resource scheduling tool skewed? Do I need to hone my negotiation skills? Is there a magic trick that i need to conjure up?

As you move up the ladder and keep approaching higher levels of management, you reach a stage that there is almost always a project where everyone in the organization is busy working and you are left to hunt for external contractors who have no idea of how your organization works and are often not the best fit on your project.

You often wonder what value each level of Middle management does in their day to day work and how it justifies it's paycheck.

Posted on: April 21, 2017 01:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

Progress, not Perfection

People, myself included,  set themselves fairly ambitious goals like 

  • I wan't to be the"Perfect" Project Manager.
  • I wish to have the "Perfect" Physique
  • I wan't to have the "Perfect" Marriage
  • I wan't to have the "Perfect" Career

The Urban dictionary defines "Perfection" as an impossibility, something unattainable, something that cannot be reached. If ever something were "perfect", then that would mean that they were different from everyone else, thus making them "imperfect". 

One viewpoint says that Perfection cannot be defined by one person, perfection means something different to everyone. One person thinks perfection is when someone has no flaws. The Other person thinks,  perfection is when you love someone regardless of their flaws.

An examiner says you have to get 100 answers to 100 questions right to get a perfect score in a subject . If you achieve that Perfect score , It doesn't automatically equate to you knowing everything on that subject. It just means that the examiner has set a benchmark around what parts of the subject you must know and according to that benchmark , you think you have achieved perfection. So, this is another example of Perfection being defined by two people.

Coming back to my initial four examples , I think that when we say we wan't to achieve perfection in something , What we might be actually saying is :- 

  • "Perfect" Project Manager.  ( I wan't to run successful Projects, using my Project Management experience , tools and methodologies and complete them to the customer's satisfaction within time and within Budget)
  •  "Perfect" Physique (  I wan't a six pack with bulging biceps and chiseled jaws like that star , with 12% or less body fat and the rest being muscles or If I were a woman, I would want the body of that ramp model )
  •  "Perfect" Marriage (arguments resolved amicably, physical and romantic needs satisfactorily met, adorable kids, peaceful family life)
  •  "Perfect" Career (Successful, having quarter of a million dollars and occupying "x" position on the corporate ladder with work-life balance thrown in) 

The above examples can have as many combinations and definitions of perfection as there are human beings on this planet. 

Perhaps Perfection for us is what we have seen other people do successfully.  But our paths to success are going to be entirely different to theirs and so will the end results be. Hence, we really cannot follow their formula and achieve success in the same way as them.

Even if you don't follow others and set your own benchmarks for success or "Perfection", at what point will you know if you have achieved :-

  • That perfect physique?
  • That perfect marriage?
  • That perfect Career?
  • That perfection as a Project Manager?


You really won't know . Because ,

  • Once you have that six pack like Ryan Gosling , you may want the bulging biceps like Channing Tatum.
  • Once you become the perfect Project Manager, you may want to become The Perfect Program Manager.
  • Once you have done everything in your marriage that you possibly could to maintain peace, there will be an unforeseen incident which will completely change things.

 Your goal posts will change and lead to more anxiety , heart breaks and stress and maybe several other negatives .

And so two questions come to mind :- 

  1. Isn't it a lot easier for us to cut ourselves some slack and strive towards being  "good" or "better" at things rather than striving for Perfection?
  2. Isn't it a lot easier for us to think in terms of the " Progress" that we are making rather than putting unnecessary pressure on ourselves to be Perfect, when no such thing exists?

I saw three words, on the message board outside my gym this morning "Progress , Not Perfection"  , and It instantly drove home the message as to what I should really focus on , In my life. I should really strive for progress.

In the World of Project Management , PRINCE2™  says that the purpose of the "Progress" Theme, is to Establish mechanisms to:

  • monitor and compare actual achievements against those planned;
  • to provide a forecast for the project objectives and the project’s continued viability;
  • to control any unacceptable deviations.

We can apply the purpose of PRINCE2™ 's "Progress" theme to any of our life's projects , for example:-

  • Let's plan to get a good physique, a better physique, not a perfect physique and keep monitoring what we are achieving incrementally every week. Let's give ourselves a pat on the back for each milestone achieved with regards to our physique.
  • Let's keep working on our marriage and our objectives to make incremental adjustments in aspects of our relationships that will lead to our happiness. Let's try really hard to see if we are able to maintain the viability of this relationship .
  • Let's try to navigate through and control the unacceptable politics and risks in our Project Management career and ups and downs in our marriages to  see if we can achieve success .

We are making sure that by doing the above ,

  • Work continues and doesn't stagnate and we are gaining confidence day by day in our methods or changing them to suit circumstances.
  • We are moving closer to what we perceive as the end goal .
  • We are improving every single day. 
  • By patting ourselves on the back for incremental achievements, we are summoning our inner powers to keep working hard and keep giving ourselves tougher challenges to surmount.
  • We are keeping an eye on the "prize" but not beating ourselves if there are diversions along the way or there is temporary loss of focus because "life happens".

Once, we are good or better at doing one task, let's give ourselves a more challenging one, and work at  completing it slowly but steadily, learning and making mistakes along the way, yet improving at every step and let's keep progressing and strike off the word "Perfect" from our dictionaries.

(image courtesy : makingprogress.me)

Posted on: January 11, 2017 10:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Project Myopia - With a 6/6 Vision

Categories: Project Management

(image courtesy : abc.net.au )

Those who have just read the title of this post are no-doubt wondering about the Oxymoron in the title.  This post is not about correction of your vision using spectacles. It's more about lacking the "big picture" vision in the Project Management world.

On Projects, We tend to use jargon like "The Left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing, There is scope creep and no one knows why" intending that Project Teams are working in Silos and there is no traceability of what is happening end-to-end.

Perfectly valid statements. Everyone on the Project Team must know what is happening.

So How do we make that happen? Project Managers would argue that Communication Management Plan is paramount in their agenda and they would show reams of documentation that would demonstrate that they have covered absolutely all bases regarding communication in their Projects . Apart from the plans, they have Weekly project meetings, one-on-one catch-ups, communication through the intranet, Project Steering committee updates, newsletters every quarter especially if the project is big.

Therefore , should we blame the Project Manager entirely due to lack of communication? The answer is No. Each of us as Project Team members should have the onus on ourselves to understand what is happening on the Project and find opportunities to positively contribute in it. 

As an avid fan of meditation I would put the word "Mindfulness" in the mix. In simple terms, it's being aware of what is happening around you. so let's bring "Mindfulness" into Project Management. The next question is how?

We are all capable, intelligent individuals who have the gift of being able to use our brains and accomplish big things in life.  So if we don't have the grasp on what is happening and wish to break free of the Myopic vision , let's ask ourselves these Important questions:-

  1. Have I got access to the Project Business Case, Project Brief or Project Charter? If yes, have I read it and understood what it aims to achieve?
  2. Have I read the user requirements document? Have I understood the requirements even at a very high level? Or If I am on an Agile Project, do I know about the Release Plan?
  3. Do I know the Project Team Structure ? Do I clearly understand my role in it and my deliverable? Do I understand the relationships between myself and the Team that I work in ? Do I understand the management and reporting structure of the Project Team ?
  4. Do I understand the Key milestones and the critical path in the Project? are My deliverables contributing towards these?
  5. Do I understand if what I am delivering on the Project is affecting other teams on or off the Project?
  6. Can I contribute as a Stream Lead or a Subject Matter expert on the Project other than my realm of expertise?
  7. Could I Put myself in the shoes of the Developer,  Business Analyst, Project Manager, Tester and Resource Manager and understand how the Project Risks are affecting their area of work on the Project?
  8. Could I suggest an improvement in  efficiency , a missed requirement, a nice-to-have, a missed risk?

Projects are delivered as a collaborative effort and a good Project Manager will be receptive to any help they can get from the team.

Hence for anyone out there, working in the Project, get yourself a Project Management qualification. They may just be the prescription glasses for your myopic vision.

  • Have you experienced the same in your careers ? Your valuable insights would be quite helpful .
Posted on: January 11, 2017 10:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
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