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Celebrating 50 Years of PMI: Event for Volunteers and New Members

Subtle Influence

Everything is linked

Passing PSM I

Human Touch

Celebrating 50 Years of PMI: Event for Volunteers and New Members

Categories: Chapter, PMI, Volunteering

See below the article I wrote for December PMI Netherlands Chapter Newsletter issue, to be published in the coming days

Project Managers strive to meet and exceed expectations of all stakeholders. Coinciding with the 50th Anniversary of the PMI, the 2019 PMI NL Volunteers & New Members event held in The Hague on the 23rd of November definitely did that. With more than sixty enthusiastic participants, the pictures depict the wonderful enthusiasm and gezelligheid that imbued the event.

Shortly after midday, attendants started flowing into Restaurant Milu, where a wonderful private room was dedicated to the PMI. After catching up with some familiar faces and getting acquainted with new folks, lunch time came around. Everyone agreed: the food was truly amazing!

Following lunch the main event took place. The PMI NL Board held a ceremony to welcome New Members and recognise the 10+ Volunteer Teams including over 54 individual Volunteers that fuel the events, services, products, and support to all our membership.

Brim full of excitement, the attendees were ushered out to the front of the Restaurant where two vintage trams awaited to take all on an exclusive private tram tour of The Hague. The Hague is the Netherlands seat of government & monarchy and also known as the global city of peace & justice. With this in mind there was a visit to the Binnenhof of course. It houses the meeting place of both houses of the Dutch parliament and the office of the Prime Minister of the Netherlands. In fact, the Binnenhof is amongst the oldest Parliament buildings in the world still in use! 

Before returning back to Restaurant Milu, a short visit to De Passage (a grand, glass-roofed shopping arcade dating from 1885) was in order. Drinks and canapes awaited the crowd at Milu, which provided yet another excellent opportunity to celebrate PMIs 50th year and the great 2019 had in the PMI NL Chapter.

Our President who opened the event, then closed the event by giving out PMI 50th themed cake to all and thanking everyone for making the chapter what it is today! His final words included kudos to the Team involved organising this amazing event.

In summary, a wonderful event that sets the bar high for 2020’s event. Challenge is on!

Posted on: December 09, 2019 09:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Subtle Influence

Categories: Project Management

The smallest actions can alter people’s behaviors in a predictable way without limiting their ability to make decisions. Want to spend less money on groceries? Pick a basket over a shopping cart. Trying to control how much you eat? Use a smaller plate. Project managers can take a similar approach to positively influence customers, sponsors and project team members. When you lack formal authority over stakeholders, sometimes a simple nudge can help you steer them away from trouble.


Correct Change

Stakeholders often agree to change requests without having enough information about their consequences. One way to combat this is by prominently highlighting how long the change will take to implement and how much it will cost. Another way is to highlight your recommendation on the change request as “the most chosen” or “best option” to guide someone into choosing it.

Push Progress

Updating the project completion percentage in your project management tool is a good practice, but a simple tweak can provide a gentle push toward project completion. Print out a large, creative image that represents the project, display it in the project room and illustrate the completion percentage during team meetings. Creating a more dramatic way for stakeholders to see the progress rate slow or stop can inspire team members to redouble their efforts with more urgency.

Agile Actions

Agile approaches are, in effect, a continuous nudging mechanism. The questions usually asked during the daily standup (What did I do yesterday? What am I going to do today?) force a development team to focus on continuous progress. In addition, moving items to the sprint serves as a natural impetus for team members to prioritize those tasks.

Stakeholders are complex, and nudging will not always motivate them to make better choices. But with practice and deliberate application, your ability to apply subtle influence becomes sharper and more effective, helping you lead all stakeholders toward actions and decisions that drive better outcomes.

The article was published in PM Network December 2019 issue

Posted on: December 02, 2019 09:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Everything is linked

Disclaimer: this blog entry does not have a direct relationship with Project Management but is intended to share some thoughts after finishing the lecture of Total Recall : My Unbelievably True Life Story, by Arnold Schwarzenegger. I highly recommend its lecture, specially to those that have interest in bodybuilding, movies or politics, or that just wish to enjoy a few hours of plesant light reading.

When Arnold was 15, he had set very clear plans for himself; he wanted to conquer Mister Olympia and move to the US. To gain motivation, he covered the walls of his small room – located in a remote tiny village outside Graz, Austria – with pictures of famous bodybuilders at that time. He trained several hours a day, always with a wonderful smile on his face. People would ask him why he looked always happy, especially after a five hour intensive training. He would then say “Every repetition I do takes me one step closer to my goal”. Fast forwarding a few years, he ended up moving to the United States and winning Mr. Olympia seven times. He then became a successful real estate entrepreneur, one of the highest paid Hollywood actors and a republican governor in otherwise usually democrat state of California. Not only did he become an invincible champion, but he also  transformed bodybuilding from a sport practiced by a few people in knocked out gyms to a worldwide recognized discipline with milions of followers. The key to his accomplishments can be summarized in the following three points:

Extreme hard work. A day has 24 hours. Do not expect to accomplish the extraordinary by doing the ordinary – 8 hour work, 8 hour sleep, 8 hours leisure.

Having a vision. Without it, one just wanders without any set direction. For one of his earlier movies, he had to drop about 30 pounds. He had to change the vision he had for himself, from muscular Mr. Olympia to a ripped athlete. Although he had a limited time to do so, having a vision allowed him to timely achieve the goal.

Setting clear goals. These goals will allow the realization of the vision stated above. By not having clear and defined goals, risk of wandering in the land of nowehere is very high. And time is scarce (and precious).

This is where Project Management comes in. At the end, the three points above can also be applied, with some customization, to projects and their succes. Eveything is linked.

Posted on: October 07, 2019 10:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Passing PSM I

Categories: Agile, PSM I, Scrum, test

Yesterday I cleared the PSM I (Professional Scrum Master I) exam, with a score of 96.3%; thus, I failed 3 out of the 80 questions. Passing the exam requires a minimum of 85%, or getting right at least 68 out of 80 questions.

The list below randomly captures recommendations and observations about achieving PSM I.

  • Bottom line. It is not a difficult test. One can already figure this out if a minimum score of 85% is required.
  • However, preparation is required. In my case, the company organized an external trainer. The course took about 10 hours, including the practice of "live" exercises.
  • Reading "The Scrum Guide" is a must. It is only 19 pages long, but it is important to read it carefully, and more than once.
  • Answers to some of the questions can be easily found on the guide. However, the majority of questions are situational, which require a full understanding of the Scrum framework to get them right.
  • Any answer that contains "Project Manager" term is wrong. As a Project Manager I was not keen on ruling myself out, but needs to be done to get the points.
  • The exam takes a maximum of 60 minutes. I cleared it in 35. On paper, every question would take not more than 45 seconds. But some of the questions can be answered in 10 seconds, allowing over a minute for the questions that require further thinking or checking materials (it is an open book exam).
  • Needless to say, do not take the exam before taking at least three practicing tests that can be found online. Score at least 90% before taking the real test.

Good luck to all future PSM I holders. Never stop learning.

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing (Albert Einstein)

Posted on: August 23, 2019 03:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (13)

Human Touch

Last week it was my birthday. It was a fantastic day surrounded by family and friends (and maybe even some fools, to complete the three Fs). I received countless messages via various channels; Facebook, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, phone calls and emails. Birthday wishes that came from Facebook and LinkedIn contacts often opted for predefined messages. With this choice, the sender spends typically less than 5 seconds in expressing the good wishes. Although I did reply to all messages one by one, I used the effort principle; someone that clicked on a predefined option got a dry and short "thanks!" back. And those that spent a bit more time by customizing the message, also got a more elaborated text back. In regards to emails, they mostly came from companies that have my birth date information in their data bases and used it to send me good wishes, and – why not – take the opportunity to offer a new product at a discounted price. These emails went, unopened, straight to the trash bin.

A couple days before my birthday I received a letter in my mailbox. An actual letter. With a stamp. With a beautiful hand scripted address, with my name perfectly spelled out. I thought it was from my wife, coming up with a new and original way to give a birthday card, like we always do. So I waited until the actual birthday came around and opened the letter. It was not from my wife. It was from a recruiting agency from whom I have never worked but with whom I interviewed a while ago. The letter was signed by hand by the agency's staff. I was taken aback, did not expect this. And really liked it.

Where do I want to get with this story? What does it have to do with project management? It actually does intersect. As project managers, we must provide support, empathy and care to our teams. We are dealing with humans, not numbers. Let’s assume that you already have a log with the birth dates of your team members. When the day comes around, don't just send an email with a succinct message. Don't send a predefined LinkedIn message. Instead, write something on a card, it doesn’t need to be a novel, rather something that gives the reader an overall good feeling. Put it in an envelope, stamp it, send it, or walk to the team's office and hand it over in person, depending on the case. This small gesture will have a tremendous impact on the mood of this team member and will surely be greatly appreciated by everyone else in the team. At the end, it is about adding a human touch to all facets of life, also to project (and team) management. Bring out the best version of yourself to get the best version of the people you manage. 

Posted on: August 19, 2019 04:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

"He felt that his whole life was some kind of dream, and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it."

- Douglas Adams