Posts Tagged ‘managing teams’

Vacation Makeover: Teach yourself Project Management with these (mostly) free materials!

Thumbnail-Vacation-Makeover-Post-6-28-2016

Loads of links & plenty of great free resources to help you retool! Check out the full article here.

Edited: June 28th, 2016

How to Get Your First Job in Project Management (PM)

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!)

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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:

  1. Become a valuable and trusted contributor on project teams.
  2. “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: 

  1. 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,
  2. 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)

Edited: May 28th, 2014

The Project Manager as Plate-Spinning Juggler

Plate-spinner-generic

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:

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Edited: January 16th, 2014

My 10 Favorite PM Articles, Posts, or Videos from 2013

Photo: M.GreerBelow are my “top 10” favorite items drawn from all the PM articles, blog posts, and videos that I published on this website during 2013.  

Some of these are important and worth a second look. Others were merely fun or gratifying to create and I want to share them again before they disappear beneath 2014’s articles.

I hope you like these or find something here that is thought-provoking.  Enjoy!”   — Mike G. 

Help with Your PM Challenges

Books & Book-Related Posts

Bonus: 

Edited: December 26th, 2013

Formal, Written Sign Off: A Simple & Powerful PM Tool

Image: Someone Signing a DocumentA few years ago I was contracted to build a two-week long technical course for a major high-tech client. A fairly large effort, our project’s finished deliverables included self-study materials, job aids, studio-produced video case study scenarios and instructor guides — in short, we were building a complete, integrated training system with a lot of moving parts. My team of independent contractors consisted of five training developers (instructional designers), a print production coordinator and a video production subcontractor.*

After several difficult weeks of interviewing the client’s in-house SMEs, gathering information, brainstorming and welding together a cohesive course design, we rolled out our first major deliverable, our Blueprint (an integrated training design plan).  My contract stipulated that our Blueprint would be formally approved by the client, in writing, before we moved on to the next phase, which would be developing our fully fleshed-out first drafts of all materials and video scripts.

Love Is In The Air! … Maybe … 

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Edited: November 20th, 2013

PM Minimalist & Mentor Coaching Guide: Buy the Paperback, Get the Kindle for $2.99!

Kindle-Matchbook-Announcement

My two most recent books, The Project Management Minimalist (paperback edition) and The PM Minimalist Mentor: Scripted Coaching Tools (paperback edition), are now enrolled in Amazon’s MatchBook program. So if you buy either of these books in paperback form, you’ll be able to get the matching Kindle edition for just $2.99!

For more information, check these links:

Edited: October 30th, 2013

Top 10 Most Downloaded Project Management Resources

Since I launched my first iteration of this PM (project management) Resources website in 1999 (over 14 years ago!),  I’ve been happily sharing free tools, articles, and more to help new project managers become more effective.  Recently I examined the statistics and compiled this list of those most frequently downloaded or read. Thanks to all of you who’ve used these and shared them with your colleagues!  And if you’re new to this site or new to PM you might want to check these out for yourself.  Enjoy!

Download PDF: 10 Steps to Project Success________________________________

1.   Ten Steps to Project Success.  This is Project Management Minimalism in a one-page PDF nutshell!

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2. Project “Post Mortem” Review Questions.  This tool includes 35 starter questions (customizable) and instructions for conducting your own Post Mortem.  It’s useful for evaluating a single project or as the starting point for an organization-wide discussion of this question: “How can we manage our projects more effectively?”

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 3. Worksheet: Sample Project Sign-Off Form.  Projects are, by definition, finite. And sign-offs provide tangible proof that some portion of your finite project is (finally!) completed, thus helping to mitigate rework. This sample can be used as a model for developing your own sign-off form for your project phases, deliverables, 0r project completion.

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Get info: PM Minimalist Quick Start Guide

4. The PM Minimalist Quick Start Guide is designed to help you plan and manage your first project using the PM Minimalist approach.  

This 38 page e-book is available in Kindle, NOOK, and PDF formats.

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5. Free E-Book: One Simple Thing to Improve Projects or PM (An Anthology) — In this e-book anthology, many working project managers & PM experts share their “one simple thing…” that could improve projects and/or project management (PM).  Available in Kindle, NOOK, and PDF formats.

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6. Do-It-Yourself PM Certification: How to Document Your Skills & Get the Credibility You’ve Earned without Jumping Through Someone Else’s Hoops – This extended article (PDF) explores the distinction between competence and certification. It then provides a professionally valid, step-by-step process for documenting your own PM skills and self-certifying.  –

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7.  Video Series: Become a Project Management Minimalist – This series of 8 free online videos is designed to help you apply “just enough” project management (PM) to manage your projects effectively.

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8. What’s Project Portfolio Management (PPM) & Why Should Project Managers Care About It? – The title says it all!

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9. Too Many Projects? Prioritize Them! — A practical guide and sample worksheet to help you prioritize that overloaded list of projects.  (See also the related item 8, above.)

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10. (Video) The Project Management Change Agent: How to Lead Your PM Revolution (55 minute video includes links to 25-page PDF.) – Are you ready to be the change agent who brings about a PM revolution in your organization. This video can show you how to conduct some “below the radar” guerrilla PM warfare.

 

Edited: July 3rd, 2013

5 Actions That Will Help You Sell That Complicated Project

Let’s face it. You wouldn’t be a project manager if you fancied yourself a sales person. Indeed most project managers — particularly those who came up through the ranks of top project contributors and technical experts — hate all the “dog and pony show” stuff that’s involved in selling their projects.

But the truth is there is simply no one who is in a better position to draw clear connecting lines between your team’s amazing technical abilities and the value these bring to your organization through your project. What’s more, as your project unfolds, you are going to need the enthusiastic support of senior management to help you get the money, people, facilities, equipment, and engaged participation of SMEs that will bring success. So it’s up to you and the specific actions you take to build the sale and generate that much-needed senior management enthusiasm.

So where do you begin? Here are 5 actions that can help you sell your project to senior management:

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Edited: January 29th, 2013

My Teaching Assignment: Franklin University’s “IDPT 715: Managing Learning Projects & Relationships”

It’s official!  Starting January 7, I’ll be serving as an adjunct instructor for Franklin University‘s IDPT 715: Managing Learning Projects & Relationships. Franklin University Here’s the course overview from Franklin’s website:

“This course covers the elements that are essential to assuring the success of learning and performance projects including principles for managing relationships as well as project management tools and techniques. Students will study the principles of managing complex projects and teams to achieve results within project parameters in various organizational settings.”

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Edited: December 15th, 2012

Are You Causing Suffering for Your Project Team?

[Link image: This is a sample from PM Minimalist]

[book excerpt…]

Best Practice: Consciously choose your attitude.

“We cannot choose our external circumstances, but we can always choose how we respond to them.”  — Epictetus in The Enchiridion

“From the most simple task to the most complex, if you are not in a state of either acceptance, enjoyment, or enthusiasm, look closely and you will find that you are creating suffering for yourself and others.”   — Eckhart Tolle in A New Earth

Take another look at the Tolle quote above. The selection in bold tells the whole story. The graphic below illustrates how one man’s thrashing against reality – his self-chosen misery – is creating suffering for himself and others!

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Edited: February 15th, 2012