After earning the PSM I certification last year, I then decided to pursue the PSPO I. I took and passed the exam, obtaining 73 out of 80 points (minimum to pass is set at 68). I would like to share with you my experience in this short journey hoping that it can be of use for future aspirants.
It was short since I basically prepared two weeks prior the test. I practiced scrum quizes from M. Lapshin (https://mlapshin.com/) and from the scrum.org website until I got a consistent >95% in both. Every simulation was useful in further retaining and understanding concepts and their situational applicability. At the end of the day, it is not only about passing the exam, it is mainly about acquiring new knowledge. It is relevant to note that even though some questions in the real test ressembled the ones displayed in the simulators, some of them (around 25%) were completely new. Before I sat for the exam I was confident I knew everything inside out, but these new questions challenged my self-confidence. Thus, do not get misdirected by very high scores in the simulators because the real test will pose some questions with which you will not be familiar. Therefore, it is a good practice to be prompt answering questions that you know by heart and spend more time to think the answers of the more challenging questions. Bear in mind that you have 60 minutes to answer 80 questions, or 45 seconds per question. In 45 seconds one must read the question, the answers, and think and pick the best answer(s). If you are able to answer an " easy" question in 20 seconds, you then accumulate an extra 25 seconds to answer a more ellaborated and/or unfamilar question.
Even though the test was about the PO, it included several questions about the SM role. Therefore, I would recommend to do a few simulators of PSM I as part of the preparation of PSPO I exam.
In addition, it is important to read well the questions and the answers. Sometimes it is tempting to go fast through questions that we have seen before and are positive we know the answer. This holds true in the majority of cases, but a couple times it happened that I rushed and picked the wrong answer (and of course changed it after a second thorough reading).
Finally, take the test when you are relaxed and not during peak work hours. In my case, Friday afternoon fits very wel. Set your phones on airplane mode, get a glass of water, take a deep breath and start. Hopefully one hour later (or less) you will receive an email saying " Congratulations on passing the PSPO I assessment".
Gallons of virtual ink have been poured in debating whether predictive lifecycle project management is outdated or not. It is also frequent to be confused about terms that are used interchangeably. In the projectmanagement.com forum is recurrent to find questions like "Is agile booming in detriment of waterfall?" without realizing that waterfall is a lifecycle management and agile is a mindset, an approach, and not a methodology. Both can live together – and they do – in complete harmony.
Simplifying, there are two parameters that must be taken into consideration prior to assessing the lifecycle management that best fits the project needs.
The Pharmaceutical industry: a changing paradigm?
When someone thinks of projects in the pharmaceutical industry tends to consider projects in R&D and in the development of new molecules in particular. In short, about 5 to 10 thousand molecules are kicked off in the drug discovery phase. Around 250 will make it to the preclinical phase and clinical trials will start with only 5 of those. Finally, 1 out of these 5 molecules will obtain approval for commercialization from the regulatory agencies. The whole process takes a minimum of 10 years, and can easily go up to 15. One can conclude that these projects are long, complex and extremely expensive.
The search for a vaccine against SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes Covid-19, has shaken up the playing board. Timelines are being very significantly shortened and certain constraints have been loosen up in order to allow creative approaches. For example, drugs against malaria have been tested against the virus. Or timelines to start clinical trials have been very notoriously slimmed down. The need for speed is paramount given the death toll that this pandemic is causing. The commitment at a global scale to resolve this situation as quick as possible has caused fundamental changes not only in our personal life but also in the approach to manage R&D projects in the pharmaceutical industry. Time will tell if these changes have come to stay.
Our iceberg is melting is not a new release – in fact its first edition dates back from 2005. Nevertheless, the content of this wonderful fable about change management is still valid today. Organizations are constantly evolving in order to adapt to a changing environment. The authors of the book, John Kotter and Holger Rathgeber, describe the change that a penguin colony must undertake in order to adjust to a changing reality and save their lives.
The reader shall not get fooled by the numerous illustrations that populate the pages of this book. This is not a children’s book. And this is precisely what makes it so valuable. In a world with abundance of academic materials about change management, using penguins instead of complex flowcharts increases the reader engagement – and makes the key concepts stick.
The reader will surely recognize the characters of the book. For instance, Fred, an observant penguin who identifies and reports the worrying issue to Alice. She is the go getter penguin that puts the valuable information in the agenda of colony’s counsel. Or Louis, the head penguin, wise and respected by all except the naysayers (sure we can all think of naysayers in our organizations!). And Buddy, a not so wise but charismatic penguin whose main role is to provide assurance and confidence in times of distrust. Finally, don’t forget the Professor, who will make use of scientific evidence to back up the need for change throughout the arduous journey. The change team is ready, and they will be covering all required stages; creating and communicating a vision of the new reality, circumventing all obstacles, getting the colony onboard by empowering it and recognizing the efforts carried out by all colony members. These are, in a nutshell, the stages that the reader is navigated through since the need for change is detected until it is successfully implemented (apologies for the spoiler, but when has a fable end up badly?).
I read this book during the lockdown caused by coronavirus, which made its lecture very special. At the end of the day, this pandemic will lead the whole world to live in a different way, what has been coined as “new normality”. What a better example of change management than this? One can mull over the reasons that have caused a poor management of the pandemic, specially during the initial stage. A scientific article published in 2007 (Clin. Microbiol Rev 20(4)) took the role of Fred and warned about it: “The presence of a large reservoir of SARS-CoV-like viruses in horseshoe bats, together with the culture of eating exotic mammals in southern China, is a time bomb. The possibility of the reemergence of SARS and other novel viruses from animals or laboratories and therefore the need for preparedness should not be ignored.” Was there an Alice to put this item in the agenda of all world leaders? Were there too many Louis’ leading the efforts to fight the battle against the virus? Did the community trust its leaders? The lecture of this book brings an opportunity to reflect about these aspects and change management in general.
The tune that Bob Dylan released in the sixties, “The times they are a-changing” holds true after 50 years. And like Professor Leon C. Meeginson said “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change”.
Read my article below to find out more about the adaptation of project management to the current society and economy.
I have recently read a non-fictional book entitled “The Invested Investor”, written by the successful UK-based investor Peter Cowley. I strongly recommend the book to anyone that wishes to learn the basics of angel investing. The author covers the life cycle of an investment, from the first round of investment (seeding) until the startup closes shop (most frequent case), is turned into an operational medium-sized business (sometimes) or is acquired by a big player (rarely).
Most of concepts explained throughout the book are related to the art of investing: funding, valuation, venture capital, options, shares, CLV/CCA ratio, etc. However, some other concepts are also applied in the project management arena. In fact, the author claimed that an invested investor must have good project management skills in order to succeed. I selected and described below the top three concepts that are shared in both disciplines.
Everything starts with the Team. Without a team, there is no startup and there is no project. But not any team will do the job. The features that a project manager or an investor look in their teams are actually the same: passion, drive, knowledge, willingness to learn and listen, transparency, honesty and ability to inspire. In other words, whether is developing a new phone app in a startup that has not reached breakeven or carrying out multimillion dollar projects to transform a city landscape, goals will not be met unless there is a strong and committed team behind them.
Pivot is when a company changes direction and its fundamental offering because the original business model is not working. Pivots are expensive and difficult because they usually carry along more investments and a modified vision. It is important to note than pivoting is not a sign of failure. In fact, most businesses pivot on their way to optimizing the model. Pivoting can also occur – and actually quite often – during a project’s life cycle. At the end of the day, project management enables the translation of a company’s vision into reality. A change in environmental factors or regulations, a shift in consumers’ habits, the release of a novel competing technology… all of these are factors that could pivot the project. Pivoting is carried out by modifying project’s triple constraint – more funding, extended/modified scope, additional resources and/or time – or by killing it straight up. The same concept could be extrapolated to program and portfolio levels, where pivoting the company strategy will inevitably pivot the value stream represented by its portfolio of projects.
Writing cheques is not something that can be done lightly. Funds are transferred from the angel’s account to another account without the certainty that it will ever produce a return. Before the money is kissed goodbye, two documents are set in place; the term sheet which is a mostly non-binding document that sets out the deal to be completed between investors and founders. And the shareholders’ agreement, which is a legally binding document signed by the investors and founders defining how ownership of the company is distributed between the parties. This gated approach resembles the two gates typically found in the initiation and planning phases of a given project. In this manner, the term sheet is equivalent to the project charter – with the difference that the latter is binding – and the shareholders’ agreement is comparable to the project plan.