Tools - PM breeds life-long learners

Project Management breeds life-long learners. You always can learn from managing projects and being in a lead role within a project, no matter what industry or what level you are at.  

That is the exciting yet scary thing about projects, you must be open to new approaches and adding new tools on your belt to always strive to "increase the probability of success".  

Some example areas or subjects that a PM can focus on when planning their professional development (in no order of priority) include:
1)      Integration Management – properly coordinate project work.
2)      Scope management – ensure it is clearly identified what work will be done and what are the boundaries.
3)      Change control - enable new changes to be integrated into the plans effectively and efficiently.
4)      Time management – organize tasks to be executed in a sequential, efficient schedule.
5)      Financials management – plan, track and budget project costs and expenses.
6)      Estimation management – ability to leverage tools and techniques to attain accurate project estimates (e.g. costs, resources).
7)      Quality Management – ensure metrics and requirements are met.
8)      Resource Management – effectively utilize the resources.
9)      Information management – efficiently and effectively manage information that is collected throughout the project life cycle.
10)   Risk management – identify, assess and manage risks and other influencers.
11)   Procurement (contractor) management – ensure productive environment and relationships external to your organization.
12)   Issue management – manage issues, effectively make decisions and rapidly act.
13)   Best Practices – knowledge and understanding of global best practices in project management, tools, templates, techniques and methodologies.
14)   Technologies – ability to leverage technology and software to improve efficiency and effectiveness and process automation.
15)   Organizational design and planning– understand how businesses are structured and how plans are set for the current timeframe and well into the future.
16)   Operational Environments – what will the project work be handed off to and how will they manage and maximize it.
17)   Business acumen – professional understanding of business success factors, entrepreneurial spirit.
18)   Legal and contract Management – for the region business is undertaken.
19)   Sales Management – ability to sell another on an idea
20)   Drama/Acting – ability to alter oneself to communicate to others

The list can go on and on, a few more ones that are worth mentioning....
21)   Document control
22)   Graphing and Analysis
23)   Business Intelligence and data analytics
24)   Business Administration
25)   Marketing
26)   Safety
27)   Accounting and finance
28)   Environment
29)   Mathematics
30)   Engineering 

REMINDER:  your professional development plan is not maximized unless it is documented.  You must be responsible for your career plan of professional development and document it and keep it updated over the many years that you work.

PMTip - Leveraging EQ over IQ

EQ is becoming mainstream.  In this information age, with endless information available at our finger tips, how things get done has changed. 

Today it is much easier to know what has to happen in order to get projects done (what is the scope and what is the plan).  The main challenge today is to get people together and know how to carry out the plan (effectively/efficiently) and be able to adapt to sudden changes and risks.

Thus EQ has become more important than IQ since EQ is key to being able to lead and manage people.  Also, studies are more and more common that scientifically back this.

A challenge is to find a simple definition and framework to understand what is EQ. A good company to follow Learning in action technologies defines the core elements of EQ as:
1) aware of, then able to name and manage one's own emotions,
2) aware of, then able to name and understand others' emotions, and
3) able to relate to others in effective ways, both personally and professionally in a wide range of contexts and roles.

We all possess emotional capacity and it can be traced to the root of almost everything we do.  Similar to how we have physical limitations and capabilities, we also have the same for EQ.  With a plan and practice, we have the ability to improve on our EQ capacities

Three main emotional capacities include:
  • Self Reflection,
  • Self Soothing and
  • Empathy

These capacities provide the abilities to adjust to change, maintain commitments to people, find satisfaction in relationships, and create balance in our emotional lives. The presence or absence of these capacities can have a profound affect on the workplace.

Goleman's initial published research stated that 67% of all competencies deemed essential for high performance were related to EQ, that EQ mattered twice as much as IQ and technical knowledge to high performance, and EQ was the only "advantage" at the highest levels of leadership (Daniel Goleman, 1998)

More recently, Gary Cherniss, Ph.D., also summarized a host of published studies. The following highlights included in Cherniss’ work (Cherniss, 2002) provide empirical evidence to support the link between EQ and successful financial performance.
  • Experienced partners in a multinational consulting firm were assessed on EI competencies. Partners who scored above the median on 9 or more of the 20 competencies assessed delivered $1.2 million more profit from their accounts than did other partners, a 139% incremental gain.
  • An analysis of more than 300 top-level executives from fifteen global companies showed that six emotional competencies distinguished stars from the average: Influence, Team Leadership, Organizational Awareness, Self-confidence, Achievement Drive, and Leadership.
  • In jobs of medium complexity (sales clerks, mechanics), a top performer is 12 times more productive than those at the bottom and 85% more productive than an average performer. In the most complex jobs (insurance salespeople, account managers), a top performer is 127% more productive than an average performer.
  • Competency research in over 200 companies and organizations worldwide suggests that about one-third of this difference is due to technical skill and cognitive ability, while two-thirds is due to emotional competence. In top leadership positions, over four-fifths of the difference is due to emotional competence.
  • In a large beverage firm executives,who were selected based on emotional competence, were far more likely to perform in the top third of all executives. 87% of these leaders were in the top third for performance bonus awards.
  • For 515 senior executives analyzed by the search firm Egon Zehnder International, those who were primarily strong in emotional intelligence were more likely to succeed than those who were strongest in either relevant previous experience or IQ. Executives high in emotional intelligence led 74% of successful operations and 24% of the failures. 

PMTip - Auditors as a Coach - Not a Referee

Both Auditors & people being audited need to support a relationship that is closer to a coaching style vs punitive (don't get caught up in the "us against them").

Old ways of thinking are that the Auditor is like a referee and will blow the whistle, give you a penalty, and then lets you continue to play the game without much feedback - except pointing out what was wrong.

Advanced, modern-day Auditors are like coaches. They realize you are in the middle of a game and will identify opportunities to improve, help breakdown (from a neutral and fresh perspective) what things did not go according to plan/system - or where a plan/system was lacking.  Advanced auditors also get more involved and help identify new ways to support you to win the game. 

Help your team and any Auditors understand this concept and the differences between old and new ways of thinking.  Ensure everyone knows they are all on the same team and want the same goals. Ensure it is clear by everyone why the audit is occurring and the value. It is often a specially trained perspective meant to help the project, so ensure the team embraces it as such.

Supporting Details RE: types of Auditors and results:
Internal audits generally verify the accuracy of a team or departments work and check for mismanagement, waste, or fraud. Internal auditors examine and evaluate financial and information systems, management processes, general controls, records, inputs, outputs, tools and techniques. They also can focus on the extent of compliance with internal and external policies, standards, regulations, laws, and commitments.
There are many types of highly specialized auditors, such as environmental, safety, health, engineering, design, technology, systems, management, legal and financial auditors. Audits can help management base their decisions on actual data, rather than personal observation (leads to more objective and accurate results).

Auditors must always recognize limitations that may affect the results (e.g. their personal lack of subject matter expertise in an area, lack of access to a subject matter expert, etc.).  This must be compensated by strong teamwork and participation with the project team being audited.  Once the audit is complete, the finishing touch is the detailed, simple, clear presentation of the findings in a formalized report.  Items included in a report include:
  • project status;
  • project findings;
  • project gaps;
  • project risk;
  • assumptions made;
  • constraints and dependencies found;
  • recommendations. 

Tools - Decision Making Tools

Our decisions impact us every day, how do we know we make the right ones.  In a PM environment, the decision is often needed ASAP and will generally have indirect influences that we won't even know about until later (unless you have an Amazing Project System in place ;-)

Making a decision is like throwing a rock in a pond, watch the ripples and eventually they will go throughout the entire pond.  The bigger the rock, the bigger the ripples.

Tough decisions often involve a degree of uncertainty.  The key is to follow a process and incorporate a structured approach when making these types of decisions.  

First of all:  make sure you understand how "big" the decision is, and define big.  E.g. how much will it impact your project based on a scale, also how is the probability of it to occur.   

Second: don't beat yourself up later down the road if you find out the decision you made was not the "Perfect One". When we make decisions, we always make the best one we can based on the information available at the time.  It is sooooo easy to critique after-the-fact, which is a good thing but it must be under the correct context, after-the-fact review is called a Lessons Learned.  So ensure you are following a process when completing lessons learned (e.g. not about pointing fingers but about reviewing the process that was used to make the decision and seeing what could have been done to improve it for the next one).

Third:  develop decision process workflows, checklists and templates.
Examples of decision processes at a higher level include: 

  • who makes the decision (the right person)
  • who is guiding or providing insight to the decision (committee, advisors, etc)
  • what information is available at hand
  • how accurate (quality) is the information
  • how well informed will the decision maker be (before making the decision)
  • what is the priority of the decision (how fast, how much resources can be expended to making the decision)

Additional decision processes in more detail include:

  • Identify - did a proper identification occur to clarify exactly what decision must be made
  • Analyze - how much effort was put into the analysis of the decision process
  • Decide - is a clear statement made so the decision is easily understood
  • Communicate - is the decision communicated properly
  • Act - is the decision carried out, then integrated into a system that tracks it

Fourth - ensure the priority is constantly re-visited and understood by all involved
Example: determine priority (how fast and which decision needs to be made).  An example is to differentiate between urgency and importance.  Some great definitions include:
  • An urgent task requires immediate attention and is often performed in a hurried, reactive mode. An example of an urgent task is calming the baby or attending a meeting. 
  • An important task contributes to long-term values and goals and is performed in a responsive mode that leads to new opportunities. An example of an important task is planning the company’s next relationship-building mixer. Important tasks can sometimes also be urgent, but often are not.

For more details about the above, a great link is:

Author Stephen Covey popularized Decision Principles in his book (a very good read) called: 

Tools - Why learn MORE Professional Project Management

Why learn about formal Project Management - Because your business depends on it.  When do you stop learning - Never. 

Example Scenario:  If you are asking a person (employee, manager, PM, executive or whoever) if they would like to attend a Project Management conference, seminar, training course, luncheon, etc. Experienced PMs would often ask questions on the event or reply based on their priorities, constraints or alignment. 

You need to be cautious and suspect if they do not ask anything about the event and they state something like “I have done project management a lot so don’t need to learn anything like that”. 

Believe it or not, there are still many, many people that think project management is a book that you read it once, then you are done.  Or because you have managed projects for years, then you know how. 

When I personally have attended courses, seminars or conferences, often I have heard the same topic many times, but presented by a different person.  AND I always take away new learnings, tools or techniques to better prepare me for the next project. 

Why should you be a life-long learner in Project Management? 

To understand business, you must understand projects.  Then you understand that there is never an exact answer, there is never an accurate budget, scope or schedule.  Projects are temporary and unique. We constantly work to provide estimates, until we formally close the project. 

Our biggest goal is to try to increase the probability of success using the tools at hand. The world of PM changes as the world of business changes.  Change is drastically impacted by technology, global markets, governments, regulators, customers, resource prices (remember, resources means money, people, material, equipment, commodities, and now with the fast moving world we live in - time), etc. This is why Project Management has become a profession and the value it brings to business is irreplaceable.  This is also why the profession is and will continually evolve, advance, improve and gain momentum, similar to what accountants and engineers had to face in order to be an established profession in society. 

Examples of why one needs to learn new things in Project Management and what it results include:

  • customer satisfaction
  • employee satisfaction
  • loyalty
  • increased productivity
  • increased efficiency and effectiveness
  • decreased expenses
  • continuous improvement
  • improved quality
  • increased financial gain

Listed above are some broader, intangible statements, BUT, you also need to know examples of hard costs so you can talk to positions like the CFO.  Be ready at any time to talk about concrete, tangible examples why the world values project management. Some examples that project management helps eliminate include:

  • rework and repair
  • scrap and rejects
  • design flaws
  • additional inventory management
  • extended waiting
  • inappropriate role alignment
  • defects
  • customer complaints
  • service disagreements
  • product disagreements
  • product returns
  • maintenance costs
  • loss of contract
  • loss of future contracts
  • brand and image deterioration
  • legal
  • customer loyalty
  • employee loyalty
  • employee pride
  • employee selection opportunity
  • opportunity costs

Spread the word, professional project management takes life-long learning and is one of the most exciting and challenging professions there is and the value align with fundamentals of business.