Project Management

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The Nice Project Manager

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

Subtle Influence

Everything is linked

Passing PSM I

The Nice Project Manager

Categories: Team management

A lot has been written about leadership, emotional intelligence, empathy and a long list of traits related to a successful project delivery. Most likely, you have seen the image below several times on your LinkedIn feed. The message is clear: a leader is someone that pulls together a team and walks alongside to reach project’s goals. A boss, however, “bosses” people around  while sitting in his ivory tower.

Project Managers have the challenging task of commanding a Team which members typically report to a Line or Department Manager – this is, within a matrix organization. What are the three traits that will allow finding the sweet balance between being a genuinely nice leader and yet get stuff done?

A. Be assertive

Being the face of the Project to the Team and to all other stakeholders, a PM needs to develop the right set of skills to show that is in control. For example, it is frequent that rumors arise at some point during project’s life cycle – e.g. “I’ve heard that the project will be cancelled!”. A PM must be able to send a clear and assertive message to stakeholders to terminate the rumor. The same principle can be applied to team meetings. The Team expects the PM to guide and drive the project forward. This message can be delivered efficiently only from the assertiveness.






B. Be in control

Domain in Monitoring and Controlling process group is essential for a successful project delivery. A PM must make sure that he remains an effective leader throughout project’s lifecycle. Checking on status of work is an art on its own. Some people sends off e-mails containing a dry “Hi Jan, what’s the status?”, others elaborate further and add a greeting line. Whichever option chosen, show that you are in control. Avoiding micromanagement is a must for any PM and for any sort of leader. Actually, micromanagers are frequently poor and insecure “leaders”.

C. Be Human

This come without a saying and yet important to emphasize. Do you recall the typical saying attributed to Richard Branson “If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients”? Replace the term “employees” by “team members” and “clients” by “Project”. Proficient leaders are aware that they are leading a group of humans and their circumstances, not soul-less machines.

Posted on: January 21, 2020 03:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

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 (4)

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)

"If you must play, decide on three things at the start: the rules of the game, the stakes and the quitting time."

- Chinese Proverb