News for the ‘Project Management’ Category
On Friday, October 10 at 12 noon Eastern USA time (UTC-05:00) I will be guest host for the live weekly #PMChat session on Twitter. The topic will be “The Non-Negotiables: Your ‘Must Do’ and ‘Must Have’ PM Prerequisites.”
Edited: October 8th, 2014
This new post at my WORTH SHARING website introduces a powerful (and free!) app that you’re going to want to use with your project teams. Check it out:
So why visit my WORTH SHARING website? See:
Edited: September 28th, 2014
Check out this new post at my WORTH SHARING website:
So why visit my WORTH SHARING website? See:
Edited: August 30th, 2014
In case you missed it I hereby alert you to the following blog post on my WORTH SHARING website:
(Spoiler alert –They liked it!)
So why visit my WORTH SHARING website? See:
Edited: August 29th, 2014
Check out this new review at my WORTH SHARING website:
- Free Management eBooks: A Comprehensive Collection of References and Tools for Managers (includes a Video Tour!)
So why visit my WORTH SHARING website? See:
Edited: July 30th, 2014
I was recently corresponding with Geoff Crane, the creative force behind The Papercut Project Manager website, about how people can get started in Project Management (PM). After some thought-provoking back and forth with him on the topic, I was inspired to create the following article. (Thanks, Geoff!)
In more than three decades of working with PM newbies in my classes, I’ve heard a lot of great stories about how people became project managers. Based on what I’ve heard, I have two broad suggestions for anyone who would like to get that first job as a project manager:
- Become a valuable and trusted contributor on project teams.
- “Act as if” you are in charge of (or at least responsible for) one or more projects.
Here’s a closer look each of these.
Become a Valuable and Trusted Project Contributor
Something every would-be project manager ought to consider: PM is an activity that is often regarded as “overhead.” That means that the time project managers spend on their PM chores is budgeted under “administrative costs” or a similar heading. In contrast, the primary work of creating project deliverables is typically done by specialists in a given field. The scriptwriters, computer programmers, researchers, systems analysts, plumbers and electricians, etc. – all these folks make unique contributions that are based on their mastering a chosen specialty. Over time, if they do good work, they come to be regarded as valuable and trusted project contributors. They are the “go to” people who get things done, know how to deal with obstacles and can creatively invent short-cuts that can be implemented without sacrificing quality.
Now if you are going to manage a project in a given field, you need to have developed a substantial working knowledge of that field for two primary reasons:
- Your detailed plans, inspections, reviews and client/stakeholder outreach efforts need to make sense within the context of that field and its professional “best practices” and,
- You need to have the respect of those key project contributors so that when you ask them to do something they trust that you know what you’re talking about and will comply. And the best way to get their respect is if you, yourself, have spent some time working shoulder-to-shoulder with them, getting good results.
So whether you’re trying to create an accurate task list and matching project schedule, trying to sell the project to stakeholders whose support you need or trying to nudge project team members to take a specific course of action, it really helps to have spent some time yourself as a project team member, making valuable contributions and earning the trust of your peers, SMEs and other stakeholders. (And it also helps if you love this field, can empathize with the passions of its practitioners and truly enjoy working with them!)
“Act as If” You Are Responsible
In his book The Power of Intention, Wayne Dyer suggests that we: “Act as if everything you desire is already here… treat yourself as if you already are what you’d like to become.” And in his book,Get Out of Your Own Way, Robert K. Cooper writes: “Brain scans show that simply imagining a complex and compelling goal will actually fire the same neurons that will be required to actually achieve the goal… In order to sense a new idea or shape a better future, we must first create it in the brain as a possibility…”
Translating these high-sounding suggestions to our topic of getting a foothold in PM (and getting a bit more specific) here is a list of things I’ve observed that “ordinary” project team members were doing just before they broke into their official role of project manager:
- Anticipating problems that the team might face, then helping to prevent them
- Going beyond simply enduring or complaining about obstacles or roadblocks to taking the actions that were necessary to help remove them
- Filling in the gaps by doing the dirty, thankless jobs when no one else was available in order to keep the project moving
- Stepping up and acting on behalf of — or, more specifically, acting as if they “owned”:
- The schedule
- The budget
- The resource work load that may have needed balancing
- The quality of the finished product
- Advocating on behalf of team members who wouldn’t (or couldn’t) speak up for themselves
- Serving as a bridge between stakeholders and the professionals on the project team by helping translate technical jargon, explain field-specific best practices or generally selling the project and its value
- Leading, in critical moments when there was no one else around to serve as leader
In short, when a member of the project team starts doing the kinds of things listed above, the senior managers and stakeholders who are orbiting the project begin to listen more carefully when this person speaks. And eventually this person acquires the personal gravitas to be asked to serve, officially, as a project manager.
Like a Glacier
If you practice the two broad collections of behaviors discussed above, it is almost inevitable that you acquire the job title of project manager. And this job title will be deserved because you have authentically:
- Mastered a profession and earned the respect of your peers through a track record of competence
- Become a de facto project manager by “acting as if” you own and take responsibility for the projects on which you work
Do these things and slowly but surely, with the inevitability of a glacier moving inexorably down a mountain, you will become a project manager.
Suggested Links (Further Study)
- Project Management is a Broad Human Practice, not Merely a Profession (See also several links at the end of this article.)
- Podcast: Act As If
- Podcast: Trust Your Judgment
- Podcast: Just Do It!
Edited: May 28th, 2014
This brief video uses simple, real-world examples to distinguish between authority & responsibility. And it makes the argument that by finding the balance between the two, we can improve the quality of life in our projects and project teams, in our personal relationships and in the world at large.
“It’s the fair and decent thing to do!”
For my extended essay on this topic, as well as some practical “Challenge” questions that can help you put these concepts to work, see this blog post:
Edited: April 24th, 2014
As regular readers of this blog know, I don’t exactly push PM newbies toward PMP (or any other commercially available) certification. In fact, in several extended essays and PDFs, I’ve tried mightily to make the case for local, do-it-yourself PM certification while providing specific, step-by-step instructions in how to do so:
- Do-It-Yourself PM Certification: How to Document Your Skills & Get the Credibility You’ve Earned without Jumping Through Someone Else’s Hoops
- Seven Benefits of Local PM Certification: Why Pursuing Locally-Relevant PM Skills Makes More Sense Than Buying Generic, External PM Certifications
- Beyond PM Certification: Achieving PM Performance Improvement
- How to Create a Locally-Relevant Set of PM Job Tasks & Competencies Based on Job Level
- Project Management is a Broad Human Practice, not Merely a Profession
Still, if your employer or clients have drunk the PMI Kool-Aid and are absolutely, positively convinced that you need their PMP stamp of approval to do your job, then you should know about Firebrand’s amazing collection of powerful, “accelerated” PMP study tools, exercises and answers. The Firebrand collection can do two important things for you:
- If you are undecided about pursuing PMP certification, it can help you take a very fast, efficient “deep dive” into the conceptual database that makes up the PMP certification body of content. This way you can quickly decide for yourself whether this stuff is going to be helpful to your unique PM career.
- If you are committed to the PMP certification path, it can serve as a well-designed set of “crib notes,” reference tools and practice exercises to speed you on your way to the certification exam.
Video Tour: Firebrand’s Free PMP Training
Below is my quick video tour of the free online training materials available at the Firebrand website to help you qualify for your PMP certification. Enjoy!
======= Related Articles =========
- The Origins of My PM Minimalism: It’s Not Merely Simple-Minded… It’s About PM Essences
- My Incredible Shrinking PM Recommendations
- My 10 Favorite PM Articles, Posts, or Videos from 2013
- Free e-Book “What Project Management Means to Me” from #PMFlashBlog Authors
- (Video) The Project Management Change Agent: How to Lead Your PM Revolution (55 minute video includes links to 25-page PDF.)
Edited: March 21st, 2014
A couple of weeks ago I tried to watch the Opening Ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Sochi. I say tried because I eventually became so frustrated by Matt Lauer’s and Meredith Vieira’s endless stream of intrusive babble that I switched the whole thing off. From what I saw, the ceremony had been painstakingly designed by its Olympic hosts to tell a story. The producers of the event had obviously worked hard to weave together a collection of objects, images, performers and music to create a spectacular narrative that highlighted Russia’s history.
Was it mere propaganda? Was it an idealized rewriting of history? Frankly, I can’t say because every time I started to become absorbed by the narrative and allow its images and music to carry me along with it, Lauer or Vieira would yank me out of the story line with their own narrative. And since theirs consisted mostly of arcane trivia, details of the mechanics of the production, or political editorializing, I found it impossible to sustain the sense of wonder that the grand production had been designed to stimulate. Unfortunately, turning off the sound to shut off their prattling also muted the beautiful music and sound effects. So I finally just gave up in disgust and switched the whole thing off.
A Colossal Waste!
As the room became silent, I found myself wondering about — and feeling sympathy for — the producers of the event. They clearly had undertaken months of preparation. They constructed a logical “through line” that told their story, then they rehearsed and coordinated hundreds of moving parts. In short, they had attempted to deliver a powerfully moving and cohesive viewer experience. Yet here sat these American TV talking heads intruding themselves at random throughout the event, dragging viewers on endless, mood-destroying side trips and distracting us from absorbing any coherent message or from being swept away in the spectacle. What a colossal waste!
Like Your Last Business Presentation?
The more I thought about it, however, the more I realized that this NBC-broadcast of the Sochi Olympic Opening Ceremony was an apt metaphor for many business meetings I’ve attended. The same elements are present:
- Someone works hard to prepare a logical narrative, often supported with multi-media components.
- This person rehearses, then delivers the presentation.
- Members of the audience ostensibly attend to the presentation.
- Members of the audience are ceaselessly, often pointlessly, interrupted by their own, personal talking heads in the form of the ever-present “second screen” of a smartphone or tablet.
- These interrupted members of the audience, in turn, become someone else’s “second screen” interruptions as their fingers tap out terse little messages that intrude into another presenter’s carefully-crafted presentation.
The result of all this fracturing of a presenter’s logical, cohesive message is that attendees acquire an understanding of it that is incomplete or badly distorted.
Half-Baked Comprehension = Half-Baked Decisions!
Now here’s the big deal: What distinguishes these business presentations from the Olympics Opening Ceremony is that those attending are frequently called upon to take an action or make a decision at the conclusion. But if your recall of the presenter’s message is sketchy or skewed, your comprehension is… well… half-baked! And half-baked comprehension can only lead to half-baked decisions!
So here’s your challenge: The next time you attend a meeting, try to fully “attend” to the presentation. Put yourself in the shoes of the presenter. Try to imagine the effort she expended to accumulate information, sift it down to its essences and build a presentation that would be engaging and informative. Then ask yourself if it makes good business sense to allow your own jabbering little device (your pocket-sized network talking head) to ceaselessly interrupt and water down your engagement.
(NOTE: For more on the phenomenon of scrambled consciousness & the illusion of competence held by “multi-taskers,” see Managing People with Self-Induced ADHD (er… Chronic Multitaskers)
Edited: February 27th, 2014
If you’re a project manager then you know what it’s like to feel frazzled, distracted and jerked in a thousand different directions. And you also know what it’s like to watch other people doing the work of your project (creating the code, writing the scripts, building the prototypes, etc.) while you bounce back and forth among these folks looking for problems and figuring out how to remove obstacles. And you might be thinking that such a thankless existence is a bad thing that should be remedied.
But before you spend a lot of time searching for the latest “5-Step Plan for Controlling Chaos” let me suggest this alternative: Simply relax into the blur that is your PM existence. Embrace it. After all, it’s completely normal… necessary… even desirable that someone with your judgment and experience play this part. This story from my first book, ID Project Management, explains:
Edited: January 16th, 2014