Business Acumen for Project Managers

Projects are tactical in nature, because it has a “defined beginning and end” (Project Management Institute, 2013).  This implies that the “what” and “why” of starting a project has already been discussed and aligned on a more strategic level.  Traditionally, when a project manager is assigned to start a project, their role is to ensure the project team is completing the project on time, in scope and within budget.  This methodology works well in a linear/highly structural environment such as construction and IT.  However, I would argue that this methodology might not be the best tool to use in a dynamic environment where frequent changes are expected to occur.  In order to deliver project successfully in today’s environment, project managers need to take a more strategic view.  Hence, PMI introduced the new PMI talent triangle® in 2015.

This change in skillset brings a positive change to project management professionals.  A quick google search reveals that a new term, “strategic project manager”, is on the horizon.  A strategic project manager goes beyond corporate fire fighting to deliver their projects, instead they utilize a strategic approach to understand and seek alignment between where the organization is going and how the project can deliver the benefits to enhance the advancement of that strategy.

In this post, I would like to talk about what does business acumen means for project manager as well as what can we do to develop our strategic and business management skills as project managers.

Continue reading “Business Acumen for Project Managers”

PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition – Summary of changes and timeline

Since my last post on “how and why do people become project managers?”, I have been brought to the attention that there will be a new edition of PMBOK® guide releasing this year.  As some of you might know, the PMBOK® guide is recognized as a standard by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), thus this standard must be updated about every four years to reflect the latest in industry best practices.

This revision seems to be getting quite a positive review with the PMI stakeholder community, it has been described as “one of the best things that PMI® has done to make the PMBOK® guide a better tool for PM practitioners and those studying to become a PMP” (Dye, 2016).  In this post, I would like to highlight the proposed changes that will be coming in the 6th edition and what does that mean if you are planning to take the PMP exam soon.

Continue reading “PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition – Summary of changes and timeline”

How and why do people become project managers?

Last month, I had the opportunity to share my experience of project management with a group of college students.  And I remember saying: “Project management is not about what you study and what you know.  To become a project manager, you must learn by doing.”  My initial intent of this opening remarks was to introduce a hands-on exercise that I’ve planned to do with the group.  However, now reflecting on this experience, I got curious about if this statement is valid.  I wonder how and why other project managers choose this field as their career.  So, I started looking on the internet and stumble across a research sponsored by the PMI, titled “Project Manager Development Paths” (Havermans, et al., 2015).

Continue reading “How and why do people become project managers?”

Maintaining Sanity as a Project Manager – Resilience

According to a study conducted by the German Project Management Association in 2014, project managers were found to have higher chance to experience burn out than other occupations (Koether, 2016).  This survey indicated that a total of 35% of people surveyed reached the cut-off score for burnout, 40% felt burned out by their jobs and more than 50% feel exhausted from their work at least once a month (Koether, 2016).

Projects are stressful because it comprises of risks, uncertainties, unforeseen influences, complexity and dynamic changes.   As our world is moving faster with technology, the projects we manage are exponentially growing more complex.  As project managers, we are committed to delivering project on time, on budget and in scope.  To achieve this work commitment, we must learn how to take care of ourselves first.  Specifically, we need to commit to building a resilience self.

Continue reading “Maintaining Sanity as a Project Manager – Resilience”

Change management: The undercover role of Project Manager

Consider the case of introducing a swipe card system for British Airways employees to clock in and out of work (Tran, 2003).  From the organizational view, the introduction of a swipe card system was one of the strategy to modernize its internal technology and aid more robust planning.  This project was implemented as a technology improvement project with the focus on choosing the right system, making sure it has the necessary functionalities and reporting required and implementing it at all offices and locations for its team.

The result?   

On the launch date of this project, British Airways experience an unplanned and unexpected wildcard strike that costed the cancellation of over 400 flights with an impact to revenue ranging from £30M to £50M (Tran, 2003).  This case study points out the importance of change management when implementing projects.

Inevitably each project is introducing a new way of doing things, rather that is new process, a new product or service or changing the organizational structure.  Whenever there is a change, there will be fear and resistance.  Change is not easy!  Think of a time when you have to change your own behaviour (ie your new years’ resolution) – quite smoking, stick with a diet, exercise more – how many of your resolutions was successful?  Did that change stick?  For how long?

Continue reading “Change management: The undercover role of Project Manager”

10 critical questions to be answered during a project chartering session

At the beginning of each project, one of the first job for the project manager is to define the scope of the project.  For some projects, there might be a business case that the PM can use to understand what the project is about.   However, in real life, project management is still a relatively new concept and many organizations are still developing and refining their project management framework.  This means most projects do not have all the paperwork ready to start the project.  Since, the job of the PM is to ensure the project completes on time, in scope and within budget, therefore It is critical to define these three items as the first step of the project.  In this week’s post, I would like to walk through the format that I use to run project chartering session.

The purpose of the project chartering session is to gain a high-level understanding of what the project is trying to achieve, who needs to get involves as well as a board estimation of project milestones.  To find this information out, I like to use the following 10 questions to facilitate my project chartering session.

Continue reading “10 critical questions to be answered during a project chartering session”

PM Competency – Emotional Intelligence

A few years back, I had the privilege of attending a conference on the international project management day.  As you can guess from the date that this conference was held, this event was popularly attended by many project managers and related professions.  One session of this conference made a strong impression on me, to the point that I still have a clear memory of the scene and would like to share it with you today.

After hearing many good speakers throughout the event, the MC of the conference presented a slide that showed a list of 25 – 30 skills; he then asked the audience to vote on the top 3 competencies that project managers should have.  This list consisted of a wide array of skills ranging from technical skills on managing projects, interpersonal skills as well as leadership skills.  Project management has a relatively young history in Canada; the PMBOK became a standard with PMI in the year of 1998.  Starting with just 10,000 PMPs in 1998, the total number of certified PMs had exploded to 741,000 by end of 2016 (PMI Today, 2016).  This represents a 7,310% increase in less than 20 years.  So, based on this rapid growth, I would assume that there will be a small handful of key competencies that is required of project managers.  The voting results surprised me!

Continue reading “PM Competency – Emotional Intelligence”

Assessing competitive landscape – Porter’s Five Forces Model

According to PMI’s definition, a project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result.  However, with so many projects going on within an organization at the same time, how do we as PMs know where does our project fit in?  And what impact will our projects bring to the organization?

Although projects are tactical in nature, I am in the view that the more working knowledge a PM has regarding the company’s business model and its competitive landscape, will enhance the PM’s ability to plan and execute their project more successfully.  In this post, I would like to highlight a strategic analytical tool that PMs can use to assess the competitive landscape of their company.  The name of this model is Porter’s five forces model.

Continue reading “Assessing competitive landscape – Porter’s Five Forces Model”

A Simple Model for Facilitating Lessons Learned Session

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to facilitate a lessons learned session at the end of a major milestone of a multi-year project.  Although the project delivered a product that met the business goals and sponsor’s expectations, there were a number of major changes occurred during the project; particularly the project went through a lot of starts and stops that potentially can be avoided if the lessons are captured and share with future similar projects.

This project had a large group of stakeholders who have tight schedules, so I want to ensure this meeting is structured in a way that can get the most value of their time.  I chose to structure my meeting into 3 parts.  The first two parts involve facilitating conversations around the project and its delivery (what went well and what can we do differently?).  After gathering all the inputs, I then proceed to the third components where each participant gets three votes to help prioritize the top lessons learned that they think will help future similar projects.  This meeting took us approximately 1.5 hours, and each participant walked away feeling they have contributed something together!  So, I strongly encourage you to give this model a try when you run your next lessons learned.

Continue reading “A Simple Model for Facilitating Lessons Learned Session”

7 Archetypes of Leadership Styles

As project managers, one of our job function is to lead our project teams.  What values and traits does a great project leader have?  And how does our leadership style changes when we are working under stress or uncertainty?

During the 2016 PMI Talent Management Conference, Lolly Daskal, revealed the 7 archetypes of leadership styles that highly driven and successful leaders adopts.  More importantly, she speaks about the leadership “gap” that each archetype will become and negatively impact the effectiveness of the leader when he/she is under stress.  Leaders who are not tune into these “gaps” have a high chance of allowing the values and traits that made them successful into something that will work against them.

One powerful quote that I took away from her keynote presentation is:

WHO you are while you are leading

is more important than

WHAT you are doing while you are leading.”

Lolly Daskal (2016)

Continue reading “7 Archetypes of Leadership Styles”