Improving Your Concentration for Your PMP Exam Prep

Staying focused and directing your concentration during your PMP Certification Exam preparation can be extremely challenging, even for the most organized.  It is hard to always maintain the level of dedication that is required to get the most out of your training.  Your time is extremely valuable; not only your personal time but also your professional.  Between work commitments, family time, chores, social aspects and personal time, it is extremely hard to find the time to devote to studying.  Then, when you do sit down to study, not getting sidetracked or interrupted is another set of challenges.

To help assist you in this concentration challenge, below are few tips to help keep you focused.

1. Planning:

Establish good study habits and put into practice. Make a study strategy and plan for how you are going to attack the material, determine how much time you estimate you need to devote to each section and the amount of time you have to devote to it.  Also, build in the objectives you want to achieve for each section.  This will not only help you plan but also help keep you motivated and on track.  This is the key to good time management.  Sticking to a set routine and taking breaks will help not only keep you organized, but will allow you important mental breaks as well, which are necessary so you don’t get too drained and to keep you energized.

2. Location:

Finding the best location that works for you is key.  Everyone is different and different surroundings or set-ups might not work for others but it works for you, and vice versa.  Some like white noise distractions and some don’t.  Some like to work at home, some need to totally escape to a library or setting outside the home.  Others like to study in a group, and some find that they prefer to go it alone.  Find what works for you and stick to it. Regardless of the location you choose, make sure you have a dedicated space to store your material, a comfortable chair, and table, and bright lighting.  Remove any distractions, especially electronics – such as a television, and turn off the smartphone.  Placing a sign up as a reminder to not disturb you can also be a good reminder to others to avoid unnecessary interruptions.

3. Incentive:

If you are having a rough patch and are finding it really hard to get through it, create some incentives that will help keep you focused and motivated to continue.  Build in some personal rewards for achieving a certain level of accomplishment or completing a certain particular task.  Incentives can be anything small such as 30 minute TV break, having a special snack, or checking your messages, etc.

4. Variety:

Make sure you add variety to your studying.  Vary the subject you are focusing on every hour or so.  This will create boredom, which you want to avoid.  Try different activities or exercises with each section you cover.  Create study questions or sets of reviews are great for personally testing yourself.  They can really help you gauge how you are processing and retaining the information.

5. Attitude:

When you undertake the practice exams and simulations and don’t do as well as you thought you would, avoid discouragement by focusing on the positive.  Take this disappointment and view it as a learning experience.  Find out what areas you were weak in and try to determine why that is.  Are you having trouble understanding the material, did you not cover the material in your preparation, did you lose focus?  Carefully examine the situation and your study habits.  Find any holes and determine ways to make changes to improve the outcome on the next simulation.

6. Practice:

This is the whole point of taking several practice exams.  They help you in your preparation.  Going through the process helps you ‘iron out the kinks’ so to say.  They are great opportunities to monitor how successful your studying is going and how prepared you actually are.  Definitely take advantage of as many as possible as you proceed through your preparation.

 

 

PMP Exam Day… Five Pointers Before You Write !

cbt-exam

PMP exam time is always stressful and never much fun, even for the most keen.  But it is important to stay positive and put your best foot forward.  You have dedicated a lot of time and hard work into it and you don’t want to waste the opportunity and be ill-prepared.  You want to get as much out of it as possible and achieve the highest score possible (by the way,  Is there a Passing Score on the PMP Exam ?)

No sense putting everything into it and then failing to do these last few key items and causing you setbacks or put yourself in jeopardy of passing. Below are a few pointers to remember as you prepare for the exam, so you come fully prepared and totally on top of your game and surroundings!

1. Advance Surveillance:

Get the address of the exam location and check it out prior to your exam date.  Make sure you know exactly where you need to go and how to get there.  Determine how long it will take to get to the exam location, factoring in traffic, parking and any other foreseen delays.

2. Know What Is Allowed:


You will not be able to bring in any materials with you.  You will be provided with scrap paper to use if necessary.  Be sure to ask for more if you need it. A calculator will be provided to you – either on the computer or a separate device. Don’t wear a watch or other accessories.  You will be instructed to remove them and also to empty your pockets.

3. Be Prepared For The Surroundings:

You will be monitored via video camera during the exam.  Try to ignore the cameras and stay focused on your exam.  In regards to the room temperature, it could vary depending on the time of year and conditions.  Dress in layers so you will have flexibility in removing clothing if necessary.

4. Arrive Early:

It is best to aim to be at the exam location approximately 15 to 30 minutes prior to the start of your exam time period.  This will give you a bit of a buffer if you encounter any delays travelling and will also allow you some time to relax before starting.  You don’t want to be rushed, as it will increase your stress which is counterproductive.

5. Take Care Of Yourself:

Treat your body well.  Eat wisely and be well rested.  Depending on the time of your test, eat a small meal prior.  Fuel the brain!  You don’t want to be hungry during the text, nor do you want to be too full and drowsy from a large meal.  Being well rested will help your brain function better.

You’ve have invested so much into it so far, it would be silly not to go the little bit extra to ensure your success!  Keep these pointers handy, and good luck on exam day!

One last thing: Please check out and share our new partner website elearningchampion.com and take advantage of a vast range of business and management courses online.

 

Your New Year Resolution: Passing the PMP Certification Exam

New-Year-Resolution-PMP-Exam

As this year comes to a close and a new one begins, it’s a time of reflection on what we have accomplished and not accomplished, and a time to set goals and plans for the year ahead.

According to a recent study by Statistic Brain, the Top 10 most popular New Year’s resolutions were:

  1. Lose weight
  2. Get organized
  3. Spend less and save more
  4. Enjoy life to the fullest
  5. Stay fit and healthy
  6. Learn something new
  7. Quit smoking
  8. Help others
  9. Fall in love
  10. Spend more time with family

A study conducted from The University of Scranton also found some interesting statistics on popular resolutions and success levels:

  • 45% of people make resolutions but only 8% are successful in achieving them
  • 47% of the resolutions are related to self improvement or education.

Like people, resolutions come in all shapes and sizes.  Some are big, some small, some fun and some not so fun.  Stop smoking and dieting are usually the big and not so fun goals.  Other typical ones include being happier, getting less frustrated with your spouse or children, or spending less money.  Some fun ones include renovating that room you never get around to, adding more creativity into your life, upgrading a skill or travelling more.

  • If you are an aspiring Project Manager, passing your PMP Certification Exam should be your big resolution to keep this year.
  • If you already have your PMP Certification, then catching up on those Professional Development Units (PDUs) to maintain your status would be a good resolution to consider.

In order to help keep you focused and successful here are a few key suggestions to keep in mind:

  1. Be Proactive: Outline your daily and weekly obligations and make a study schedule.  Establishing a routine and sticking to it will help reduce distractions and allow you to get everything you need accomplished.
  2. Deal With Interruptions: Let’s face it, there will be lots of interruptions on your way to becoming a PMP. What would you do if the house is too noisy and prevents you from studying? Plan to go to the local Library or use a Conference Room at work. Imagine a few common scenarios and write down your “Risk Mitigation” strategy before the risk become a reality! After all you plan to become a PM, so start acting like one!
  3. Keep Yourself Motivated: Remind yourself every so often of why you are doing it.  Keep a list of these reasons close by so you can read them and keep your motivation charged.
  4. Surround Yourself with Support: Build a positive network of help from family, friends, coworkers and classmates.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
  5. Register With an Online PMP Training: Chose an online training that provides a complete study package and keeps you focused on your objective. The best ones would allow you to download the trainings to your mobile tablet or laptop so you can carry it with you wherever you go, even if you don’t have access to WiFi or internet.

Regardless of the resolution, the key to sticking with it is to take small steps and making a plan.  Like any project, you need to break it down into small manageable parts and milestones first before tackling it head on.  Little accomplishments help build energy and motivation leading to bigger success rates.

To learn more visit http://www.pmchampion.com

 resolutions-2014

 

Stress Management: Tips for De-stressing

The key to any good strategy is to have a solid understanding of the causes of a problem.  Once you have a solid understanding of the sources, you can then work to find solutions and determine the best route to attack it.

This approach shouldn’t just be left for tackling business.  This can be applied to any situation, including your stress level and those around you.

In a perfect world, employers should provide a stress-free work environment, recognize where stress is becoming a problem for staff, and take action to reduce stress.  However, this isn’t always possible, even with the best employers.  Stress is inevitable, but how you deal with it and manage it is key.

It has been found that stress in the workplace reduces productivity and makes people ill in many ways. Workplace stress affects the performance of the brain, including memory, concentration and learning.  Stress and stress management are directly related to both your workplace and personal well-being.

Before implementing any strategy to cope with stress, it is imperative to understand your stressors.  Where are they coming from, work or personal?  They could also be a combination of, and range from work, financial, medical, emotional, marital, or social sources. Even watching TV for events like a typhoon on the other side of the planet can cause stress and anxiety in your daily life without you even knowing it.

Tips For De-Stressing Yourself:

1. Take A Break From Your Electronics

Turn off your cell phone, laptop, iPad and any other device that you are tied to.  You don’t need to be constantly checking your device and be connected 24/7. Same thing about TV if you tend to always watch stressful news and programs.

2. Change The Scenery

Take a break. Get out of the office.  Take a walk.  Enjoy the fresh air.  Eat your lunch under a tree instead of at your desk next to the piles of work you have yet to complete that is vying for your attention.  Other activities could include listening to music, reading, taking a smooth drive in the country side, or a therapeutic massage.

3. Make A Stress Journal

Keeping a journal and jotting down your thoughts and feelings can be a release.  Many find that once ideas are down on paper and out of your head, there is a release of tension and a freeing of the mind.  Or, use the journal to jot down tips and reminders on how to de-stress.  It can be a great resource to refer to and to track what caused your stress, how you felt, what you did to deal with it and what made you feel better.

4. Plan & Prioritize Your Day

When you have a documented plan either on paper or mentally in your head, you have a better chance of feeling in control and less stressed.  On your way to work, think about the top 3 items that you need to tackle and how when you get in the office.  Or, better yet, spend the last 10 minutes in the office the night before, making a to-do list for the following day.  This will not only free your mind, but allow you to manage your time wisely.

5. Exercise

Physical exercise not only is a healthy choice, but it also helps relieve stress, tension and clears your mind.  Take a walk at lunch to break up your day, or find time to fit it in in the mornings or after work.  It doesn’t have to be a serious 2 hour workout, just keep it simple and relaxing.  Stretching is a great way to easily incorporate into your day.  Take a few moments to roll your head and shoulders, stretch your neck muscles

6. Sleep

Getting a good night rest not only makes you feel better and less tired, but it helps your body rejuvenate and deal with stress and combat the negative aspects that stress can cause allowing you to be better equipped to tackle another day .  Try to eliminate other distractions in your bedroom, like TV and other electronic devices.  They can impede upon your sleep cycle and keep you from shutting your mind and body down.  Teach your body that when you enter bed, it is time to sleep.

 

Leading By Example for Project Managers

“What you are speaks so loudly, I can’t hear what you are saying”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

This quote really can get you thinking about how other’s perceive you by your actions, and you might start asking yourself a number of questions, such as “am I a very good example, not only to those at work but by my family and friends?”  “What sets me apart from others as a Project Manager?”  “Am I the example I want to be and think that I am?”  “Do I follow through enough on tasks?”  “Do I do what I say I am going to do?” “Do I represent the goals of my organization and my department?”

It also provokes the question of what motivates some to excel at taking the initiative and getting things done long before deadline, and the others that tend to lag behind and get the job done only after a few reminders.

Great leaders are those that not only take the initiative but also help set the direction of others by inspiring and influencing their behaviors, attitudes and thoughts.  They see the potential and foster positivity.  They challenge themselves as well as others.  Most importantly though, they not only just talk the talk, but they walk the walk.  They follow through and effectively demonstrate in their actions.  Without this, a leader loses credibility and trust; and no longer can lead by example.

Here are 5 ways to effectively lead by example:

1. Take on added responsibility.  Own up to mistakes and be the first to help out and fix problems.  As a Project Management Professional (PMP) you have to be open and accountable for your actions and those of your team.  Show that honesty really is the best policy.  If people feel that they can trust you, they will be more willing to work with you.  You become a valuable asset and this lays a solid foundation for influencing and leading others.

2. Be persistent and positive.  Don’t hesitate to try again if it doesn’t quite work out the first time.  Don’t hold back or back down.  Don’t let obstacles define your project. Communicate the obstacles that your team overcame in order to motivate the same attitude for any new challenges.

3. Create solutions.  Be the first on your project team to offer suggestions and provide assistance.  As a Project Manager you can not dwell on the negative or let problems interfere and be roadblocks.  Foster ideas.  And work to generate more from others to form solid plans to more forward.

4. Yearn for continuous improvement and learn from past experiences.  Be open to new ideas, seek input, and ask questions.  As a PM you have to set the tone and atmosphere for open communication and foster positive and valuable dialogue in all your working groups.

5. Promote a healthy lifestyle.  Be healthy, both physically and mentally, and also maintain a balanced work and personal life.  Plus, encourage everyone to do so and fully support it.  Don’t work yourself to death and expect others to as well.  Encourage everyone to work hard, but to also make time for their lives outside of work.

 

How to Get Better in Leadership on your Projects

To help you manage your team members and at the same time earn some PDUs, we are providing a few online courses below:

 

 

 

Net Present Value (NPV) Made Simple

Net Present Value (NPV) concept just means that money now is more valuable than money later on. Why? Simply because you can use money to make more money! You can either start a business with money, or simply put it in the bank to earn interest !

Imagine that your parents just won the lottery and offered you the choice of receiving $10,000 now or next year. Which one would you chose?

If you place the $10,000 in your bank account today and assuming you can earn 4% interest, your money could earn $10,000 x 4% = $400 in a year. In other words your $10,000 now would become $10,400 in a year’s time.

In other words, $10,000 now is more valuable than $10,000 next year. $10,000 now is actually the same as $10,400 next year (at 4% interest).

There are many different ways that people use these terms in the industry.

  • We can say that the Present Value (PV) of $10,400 next year is $10,000.
  • We can also say that the Future Value (FV) of $10,000 invested today is $10,400 in one year.

Using the same logic applied to multiple years (n) and a given interest rate (r) we can link Present Value (PV) and Future Value (FV) to each other by a formula:

PV = FV / (1+r)n

  • PV is Present Value
  • FV is Future Value
  • r is the interest rate (as a decimal, so 0.04, not 4%)
  • n is the number of years

Let’s use this formula to calculate Present Value of $900 in 3 years with 10% interest rate:

PV = FV / (1+r)n

PV = $900 / (1 + 0.10)3 = $900 / 1.103 = $676.18

In some finance books, you see a formula PV(r,n) showing a function of r and n:

PV(10%, 3) = 1 / (1 + 0.10)3

so for the above example you can write PV = PV(10%,3) X $900 = $676.18

NPV and Project Selection

The concept of NPV is often used for selecting projects that are worth doing. You subtract the initial investment on the project from the total Present Values of inflows to arrive at Net Present Value (NPV). You proceed with the project only if NPV is positive.

There are two main formulas for the calculation of NPV:

 

When cash inflows are even:

NPV = C × 1 − (1 + r)-n − Initial Investment
r

In the above formula:

C is the net cash inflow expected to be received each period
r is the required rate of return per period (or interest rate over the period)
n are the number of periods during which the project is expected to operate and generate cash inflows

 

When cash inflows are uneven:

NPV = C1 + C2 + C3 + … − Initial Investment
(1 + r)1 (1 + r)2 (1 + r)3

where:

r is the target rate of return per period (or interest rate per period);
C1 is the net cash inflow during the first period;
C2 is the net cash inflow during the second period;
C3 is the net cash inflow during the third period, and so on …

In some books Initial Investment is also presented as Cbut with a negative value when you add it in the equation:

NPV = Co  + C1 + C2 + C3 + …
(1 + r)1 (1 + r)2 (1 + r)3

Now time for a Quiz:

Critical Thinking in Project Management

Whether you passed your Project Management Professional (PMP) certification exam or not, as a project manager you are constantly making decisions and probably face an onslaught of demands in all directions. Not everyone excels in critical thinking.  It can be tricky and it is definitely a skill that is developed and honed by practice, not through exams.

Critical thinking is used to anticipate problems, plan, resolve issues, assess new situations and to ensure that your project team members know what to do. Being able to focus and logically sort through the clutter and make quick, well-thought out decisions is the key to your success and that of your projects.

With time, insight and lots of practice critical thinking starts to become second nature.  With that comes increased speed, as well as confidence. If you feel you are lacking and could use some assistance in this area here are five quick tips on some key areas that you should focus on for improving your daily routine:

1. Have an Open Perspective

Take the time to reflect on the situation and analyze all sides carefully.  Don’t jump to conclusions too quickly or make rash decisions.  Be impartial and remove any existing biases that you many have.  These can easily hamper critical thinking by altering your perspective in the wrong direction.  Keep an open perspective but don’t be too easily swayed either.

2. Keep Focused and Avoid Getting Distracted

You can not avoid distractions, but you can avoid getting distracted by them.  Keep focused on the task at hand, and the bigger picture.  Don’t get caught up in the little details and putting out fires.  This can easily lead you down the path of fire fighting and therefore taking your eyes off the future.

3. Ask Questions and Provoke Debate

It isn’t easy to be the one always asking the questions.  However, sometimes others don’t realize they aren’t providing the critical information that you need.  Communication isn’t always forthcoming.  It is your job to probe and get the answers you need.  The key to critical thinking is to be able to gather all the relevant information and data in order to properly analyze a situation.  Without information, critical thinking isn’t successful.

4. Learn to Multi-Task

In order to control your situation and be able to maintain focus, you need to be able to juggle multiple demands with ease.  You must learn how to pay attention to tasks, deal with problems and opportunities as they arise, and know how to prioritize. Some situations are  unpredictable to some degree, so last minute changes can’t be avoided.  When you have excellent multi-tasking skills, you can easily switch from one task to another that requires your immediate attention, and back and forth again.

5.  Control Your Stress

If you are one to be easily stressed in certain situations, you really need to learn how to manage your anxiety level.  Remaining calm and coping with a level head and keeping your mind on task allows for maximum critical thinking.  Panicking and worry will clog your thoughts and aren’t conducive to your productivity, nor your health!

Meetings, Meetings and More Meetings…

Over-scheduling of meetings is an extremely common complaint these days.  It seems like meetings can be on a continuous loop with no end in sight some days.  You go from meeting to meeting with no time to do your actual work.

If your team members complain that they spend too much time in meetings, it’s probably time for you as the Project Manager to take a good look at how you schedule your meetings and what changes could be made to incorporate more efficiencies to free up your time and the rest of your team’s time.

Below are a few suggestions on how to effectively schedule and plan meetings:

1. Schedule mandatory weekly or bi-weekly team meetings.

All team members should be involved in the meetings and attendance be made non-negotiable.  Any absent members should delegate others to attend the meeting during their absence and notify the organizer ahead of time.  Making the meetings mandatory and taken seriously, helps build respect and compliance in everyone’s involvement.  It reemphasizes the importance of the meetings and improves the effectiveness of the meetings as everyone is there to benefit from the information being shared.  When only half the team is missing, your effectiveness is really limited.

2. Emphasize brevity.

Meetings should be as short as possible.  Cut out any unnecessary time delays or content that can be better shared one-on-one or at other times.  Remove the fluff and off-topic chatter.  Use an agenda format and distribute this prior to the meeting.  This will help everyone know what the meeting is about, what will be covered, and any areas they are responsible for.  Sticking to this format and only what is on the agenda will help reduce getting sidetracked and lengthening the meetings further.

3. Set ground rules.

To help keep the meetings on track and on time, establish ground rules and a protocol for the meetings and communicate this with your team so everyone understands why and is clear on what is to be expected and allowed.  This will help keep everyone focused and your meetings running efficiently.  Establish a stated end time as well, and stick to it.  The meeting minutes should clearly document the outcome of the meeting and provide clear action items.  This will help create continuity for the next meeting and keep everyone on task and make the meetings purposeful.

4. Avoid one-on-one discussions within meetings.

If you find you are having one-on-one, individual discussions with team members within your meetings and others are sitting there wasting time, stop the conversations and save it for after the meeting.  Group meetings are not the time for this.  They take the focus away from the task at hand and waste everyone’s time.  They are a quick way to kill a meeting and everyone’s motivation and concentration regarding the meeting.

5. Establish Special-Purpose meetings.

If you need to hold a meeting with all or just a select part of your team for dealing with particular issue or matter, creating “special-purpose” meetings can help create a call to action of sorts.  As the name suggests, the meeting has a special purpose and it implies that if you are going to the meeting for a reason.  For some this can have a positive motivational and psychological influence, thus creating more work efficiency and preparedness.

Re-evaluating how you handle meetings and making a few changes here and there will really go a long way in helping minimize the number and length of meetings.  This time savings will not only allow you and your team to focus efforts on the projects but it will also help to alleviate the meeting malaise we sometimes get trapped in.

 

How To Manage Meetings Effectively

To help you improve the way you manage your meetings and at the same time earn some PDUs, we are providing a few recommended online courses:

 

 

 

 

Opening Lines of Communication for Project Managers

If you are new in project management or if you’ve had some bad experiences communicating with colleagues, suppliers or clients, spend some time (and take an online training) about effective communication skills. It can greatly enhance your skills, and it will definitely pay off in the long run.

Communication, rather effective communication, involves a lot more than just talk. What makes a good communicator? Regardless of your position, whether it is the Project Manager, the Janitor, or the CEO, effective communication is an important aspect in our lives.

A good communicator isn’t simply the person that is outgoing and likes to be social and can talk to any one about anything.  A lot of the time these individuals aren’t actually good communicators.  They are so busy talking they don’t take the time to actively listen and observe the situation.

Good communication is all about Skills & Methods:

Skills

A good communicator can provide the right information, at the right time, to the right people, and with the right tone.  In order to deliver, a good communicator is an attentive listener and places careful consideration to the situation.  Good communicators are proactive and are constantly thinking of the bigger picture and how their actions, the actions of others, or an event will impact a project, and will require informing others of the change, etc.

Whether in person, on paper, or electronically … always be clear and concise.  Say what you mean, and mean what you say.  Understand who your audience is and think about how they will perceive the information, and how they will benefit from it.  Another aspect to consider is cultural differences.  Be cognizant of who you are dealing with and the cultural and language barriers that you might incur.

Your ideas and messages should be delivered clearly, and you should also understand the information that is being conveyed to you by those you interact with.  When you function in this type of environment, projects run much smoother, as creative ideas are easily expressed.

Don’t forget that communication is a two-way street.  By understanding and learning the skills you need to communicate effectively, you can better manage your projects and team.

Methods

The method of communication selected plays an important part as well.  If it is complex or personal in nature, it is probably better delivered verbally.  Other general information might be better left for a group email or via memo.

When you write letters or send emails, be sure to provide all the background information the receiver requires.  Don’t make assumptions and take short cuts.  Don’t just make a brief reference to another email or trail of emails, and make the receiver dig through them all.  For one, they might not bother.  And, if they do take the time, you are losing the effectiveness of your message and making it difficult.  Also, they might not locate or get all the information you intended them to find, which is a great way to create confusion.

Also, avoid long-winded messages and poorly typed messages with typos and grammatical and punctuation errors.  It really lessens the readability of your document and portrays your message in poor light.  You will gleam more respect out of being known for providing well-crafted, concise documentation.

 

How to Improve Your Communication Skills

To help you improve your communication skills and at the same time earn some PDUs, we are providing a few recommended online courses:

 

 

 

 

PMP Exam Stress And How To Deal With It

Just thinking about exams is stressful, but undergoing all the preparation leading up to the PMP Exam takes it to a whole new anxiety level.  Dealing with this stress and turning it into a positive and not a negative is tricky.  But being able to do that will not only allow you to reduce your anxiety and make the process enjoyable (as much it can be) but it will also enable you to concentrate on the learning aspects, on your long-term career, and on  excelling in your daily work.

 

Below are some key pointers on what you should do and what you should avoid doing to proactively manage your PMP exam stress. 

 

What To Do:

 

1. Get organized and make a plan.

As you prepare and study for the PMP certification exam, make sure you have everything you need and understand what is required.  This will eliminate the added stress of any last minute rushing and showing up unprepared.  Put together a game plan on how you are going to tackle the exam.  Consider a 3-month study plan instead of a 3-week one. This will reduce your stress drastically. Also Devise what approach you are going to take when answering the questions. the amount of time you will spend on each section or answer, and what you do when you encounter a question you don’t know the answer to.

2. Relax and stay focused.

Find ways to mentally relax and take a break from the studying.  Don’t put too much pressure on yourself.  Keep a positive frame of mind and de-stress occasionaly.

3. Nourish your body.

It is important to keep yourself healthy, well nourished and well rested during this process.  This will help keep your body in prime condition and mentally strong.  Pushing yourself, lack of sleep and relying on too much caffeine or other stimulants isn’t a good practice.  You will crash, burn out and likely underperform.  Setting aside some time to exercise will help clear your mind and is a great stress reliever.

4. Have a positive support system.

Surround yourself with positive influences, both personally and professionally. If you find you are struggling, ask for help or guidance.  There are lots of sources.  Utilize your instructors or on-line blogs and social networks.  Join a study group or form your own.  Professional mentors, if available within your organization can also be valuable.

5. Stick to your goals and objectives.

It is easy to get caught up in excelling to the next level.  But, it is important to just keep yourself focused on just this task.  Don’t gear yourself up and put added pressure on what you need or want to accomplish after the exam.  Think about that after, not before.  If you do, you are wasting your valuable time and you might not do as well, which will just lead to disappointment.

 

What Not To Do:

 

1. Procrastination.

Many people deal with stress by avoiding the situation until the very last minute.  In regards to preparing for the PMP exam, this is not a great way to deal with the stress.  Don’t ignore it by avoiding it and procrastinating.  Face it head on and start preparing.

2. Negative self doubts.

Don’t be too hard on yourself when you hit a rough patch.  This is just going to increase your stress level and lower your motivation.  Get back on track, refocus, and stay positive.

3. Total seclusion.

In an effort to keep focused, many will force themselves to lock themselves away and be in total seclusion from their normal daily life.  Don’t do this.  This will lead to burn-out.  It is better to find a balance.  It is important to take breaks to mentally rejuvenate yourself and allow your brain to digest all the information.

4. Competition.

Don’t get caught up in a competition with your other colleagues, classmates or others that you know who have taken the exam before.  Focus on doing your best, not in doing better than them.  It is good to be motivated, but not so much that it puts additional unnecessary stress on yourself.

5. Comply with others’ expectations.

Don’t listen to unfounded rumors and don’t let others’ expectations put additional pressure on you.  The situation is stressful enough without adding additional layers of others influences cloud your mind.  Accomplish what you want to accomplish. If you are happy with what you’re doing, those around you who are important to you will also be happy for you.

 

How to Form A Successful PMP Study Group

When preparing for the PMP certification exam, many candidates create PMP study groups. Depending on the members and atmosphere, study groups can either help you grow or pull you down. Before you go and create (or join) a PMP study group, remember that all groups are not created equal. Choose your companions carefully, or study by yourself. To guarantee a successful experience, keep these key pointers in mind when sourcing a group to join, or starting up your own group.

1. Determine Your Expectations

It is best if you have a game plan before you venture too far into the process.  Figure out what do you want to get out of the study group?  What are your expectations?  Calculate how much time do you have to devote to meeting each week?  How often?  Once you have determined what you want, then you can proceed with finding potential candidates.

2. Do Your Research

It is important to understand who you are interacting with before committing yourself to a group.  Talk to your fellow classmate before or after class, and observe them in class.  Find out their motivation level, study habits, personality and schedules.  Are they bossy? Do they work full time, attend classes regularly and participate actively?  Do you think you will get along with them? If you don’t match up, then you are probably going to clash and encounter problems.

3. Establish Group Size, Location and Times

Group sizes of 4 or 5 members tend to work best.  Larger groups than that tend to be too big to manage and be effective.  As for good locations, a meeting place should be selected that is neutral to everyone, convenient, available, quiet, and free of distractions. Libraries, empty classrooms, or boardrooms work well. Having a set, regular meeting time is always beneficial as well.  It is easy to remember and becomes routine.

4. Establish Ground Rules

Once a group is formed, a clear set of rules should be outlined and enforced so that everyone understands what is expected, reducing the chance of misunderstandings and time wasting.  Establishing goals and how the material for each session will be covered will help keep everyone organized and prepared.  A great way to handle this is follow an agenda and to elect a leader, either the same person for each session or on a rotating basis, allowing each member a chance.

5. Avoid Socializing Instead of Studying

The study group sessions should be focused on studying, not socializing.  Keep the socializing and non-PMP material chatter to before or after your sessions.  It is important to also show respect for each other and work together collaboratively.  Discussions should have a positive tone.  Avoid negativity.  Any criticisms or differences in opinion should be constructive and stay focused on the material being covered.

6. Plan Ahead

Before the completion of each session, an agenda or game plan should be stated for the next meeting so everyone knows what will be covered and who’s responsible for what. This will help keep everyone on the same page and come prepared for the next session.

Good luck in your search for a PMP study group, and on your PMP studies!

 

Taking Advantage of PMP Study Groups

Now that you have made the decision to take the PMP certification exam, the next step is to prepare. Some people really enjoy additional companionship, support, and competitiveness that PMP study groups can provide.  Others though, prefer the solitude and individual focus that an independent study provides. If you are one of those who enjoy groups and are looking to find help in your PMP Exam studies, keep reading to learn how beneficial PMP Study Groups can be.

1. Giving Broader Perspective

Like they say “two heads are better than one”.  This can definitely be the case many times over with PMP study groups. Since you are interacting with a group, there are always going to be a few different views and ideas presented on every topic you cover.  Not everyone is going to look at the material in the same way you do.  This will help you understand the material better and further develop your critical skills in explaining your point of view and debating with each other over the various concepts and best solutions.

2. Limiting Procrastination

It is hard to procrastinate when you have others depending on you.  With set meeting times and material to cover, PMP study groups help to keep you motivated and focused on the end goal of passing the PMP Exam. If you are studying on your own, it is easy to skip a night or close the books early.  With a study group, it is a little harder to cancel, as you will get questioned and you will have to explain yourself!

3. Covering PMBOK Material Faster

As stated earlier, “two heads are better than one”. Having multiple individuals working with you that all have differing expertise, it is easy to find someone who can help you out in any problem areas that you encounter. For instance, if one of your group members has experience with a specific topic in their organization (such as Earned Value Analysis) the rest of the group can take advantage. If you have any questions or are confused about any part of the PMBOK Guide, it is easy to ask your study partners for assistance.  This saves you a lot of extra time and aggravation trying to figure it out on your own.

4. Reducing Boredom

Having others around you with the same interests and desires in regards to their PMP Exam studies helps keep you focused and reduces the chance of you getting bored and unmotivated.  Studying on your own requires self-regulation and determination.  Having a few others to bounce ideas off to or to talk about the PMP Exam experience can really keep the juices flowing.

5. Give Positive Influence

If you have a good group of individuals in your group, they can provide you with many benefits in addition to assisting you with the knowledge and content retention that you gain while studying.  They can be a positive influence in further developing your study habits, organizational and time management skills.  You can observe how they do things and then incorporate their successful techniques with yours.

6. Get Group Discounts

Another additional benefit of forming a study group is that you can save money.  Many online training providers offer Group Discounts on their packages and programs. We offer 3 levels, ranging from 5% to 15%, depending on the size of your group.  To start saving, just click on the link below and download the Excel form and complete it.

http://www.pmchampion.com/pmp-group-discounts.shtml

Study groups can be a valuable asset in your PMP Exam preparation.  They offer many benefits, but the key though is to find the right mix of individuals to form your study group.  Choose wisely.  The last thing you need when studying is to have negative influences hindering your efforts.

 

Work – Life Balance in Project Management

As a Project Management Professional (PMP) are you feeling the grind of your work and personal life commitments?  Trying to get everything done within a 24 hour day, 7 days a week, week after week, can be challenging and tiring.  Contending with multiple projects, criss-crossing the globe with travel, stressful meetings and negotiations, plus adding in all your personal life commitments, it sometimes feels like it is an insurmountable feat.

It’s important to not only have a balanced business life, but also not be so over scheduled within your personal life.  Are you the type to be racing off to a soccer practice for one child, then to a Piano lesson for another, while getting groceries, looking after your sick parent, trying to get that report for work done, in addition to all the fundraising bake sale you committed to, while noticing that the grass in the backyard is approaching knee high and hasn’t been cut in over a week? If so, keep reading…

The best way to cope is to pare down your commitments and prioritize.  If you need to, make a list.  Write down what is important to you.  What you must do, what you like to do and those that aren’t so important.  It is hard to say “no”, but sometimes you need to.  It is better to be upfront in the beginning than to get overwhelmed, burnt out and resentful, at the end.

What time of day are you most productive? Are you a morning person, or do you get motivated and inspired in the evenings?  Many find that maximizing your time during your personal peak times, is time well spent.  For example, many morning people will get up an extra hour or so and go for a jog before heading to work, or they will do a load of laundry.  Some will head into work and get caught up on paperwork while it is quiet.  However, don’t get into the trap of spending too many hours at work.  If you go in early, make sure you leave early as well.  It isn’t good to burn both ends of the candle.

After working hours, try to turn off all your electronic gadgets and social media.  Focus on your family.  It is amazing how much time checking your email, texting or getting updates consumes on a daily basis.  Don’t waste the quality time with your family.  They learn from your behaviour so be a good influence and stop the cycle.

For your mental health, make sure you make some time for yourself.  Not for your spouse, not for your children, but for yourself.  Find a few hours every week to unwind and do something you can enjoy and relax with.

As for your physical health, exercise is another key element that you must make time for.  Not everyone enjoys exercise, and it doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming. Keep it simple and fun.  Also, if you are smart, get your family or friends involved and combine the activities.  This way you are not only burning calories and clearing your head, you are also saving time by spending time with your loved ones.

Making the most of your time and keeping it simple is the key.  Life should be lived fully and enjoyed.  Being too busy and pulled in too many directions isn’t good for anyone.  Take stock and get balanced.  It will not only benefit you personally, but will also help you keep your batteries charged to successfully tackle all those taxing demand of a Project Management job when you get back in the office.

 

Choosing the Right Training After PMP Certification

You have successfully completed your PMP Certification.  Congratulations!  That is quite a feat.  All your hard work and determination have paid off.  After a bit of time to catch your breath, you may feel the need to continue your studies and yearn for continuous learning.  Many do.  Some high achievers will still crave the intense focus and miss the purpose and direction the Certification process provided. You may also feel the complete opposite, in that you are burnt out of studying and looking forward to taking a break and getting back to just focusing on your job and personal life.  That is okay too.

For those of you looking for the next challenge, below are 3 possible options for you to consider as your next steps. The beauty of these optional areas of focus is that they not only provide you with additional credentials on top the PMP certification, but you also earn Professional Development Units (PDUs) for your PMP renewal. A definite win-win situation!  So, when you are ready to get back on the educational track, carefully consider the options discussed below and find what really interests you, and from there determine the direction you want to head in your career:


Option #1 – Additional PM Training

If you enjoyed the PMP certification and want to continue to focus solely on project management, the Program Management Professional (PgMP) certification or an “Advanced Project Management” course might be a good fit for you.  These programs build on the PMP certification program and follow a similar approach to the PMBOK Guide framework and format.  A number of these courses focus on developing stakeholder relationships, lifecycle and project estimating techniques, managing accelerated projects and portfolio management.  Effective project managers must be mindful of how different industries can impact program life cycles and the benefits they can bring to the organization.

Option #2 – Side Skills Training

There are a wide variety of programs that specialize in overall organizational efficiency, as well as management best practices.  Obtaining additional business knowledge and expertise in this area can be a real asset in today’s economy.  These courses would include Process Improvement and Six Sigma. Indeed, today a lot of emphasis is on service. Insurance agencies, consultants, investment brokers, and accountants sell services rather than products. All companies are forced to focus on how customer-driven process improvement will improve the bottom line.

If you enjoy the finance and accounting aspects of your projects, additional courses such as Managerial Accounting, Corporate Finance, and International Finance would be excellent areas to focus your attention.  There are many programs available to choose from.

Option #3 – IT Training

The field of IT (Information Technology) involves a lot of project management.  Many PMPs have an IT background and hold IT positions.  If you do, the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) certification may be of interest. This program offers an exceptional level of expertise, specifically designed for IT, and focuses heavily on strategies and techniques for dealing with the fast pace of the evolution of technology and managing for the future.

If find yourself spending a lot of time fine tuning the design of your IT project to accommodate changing requirements, you may want to consider a PMI-ACP Agile certification, including the core values and principles outlined by the Agile Manifesto. Agile projects are characterized by the use of short work iterations and incremental development of products, made possible by focusing on business priorities and customer value.

Another option would be a “Project Management for IT Professionals” course, where you will gain valuable insight into project management with a special focus on managing IT projects. You will also acquire an understanding of how creating strategies and designing plans to deliver IT projects can provide consistent value and increased profits for the organization.

Whatever your taste or preference, checkout the online courses offered at http://www.pdu-courses.com and start planning for your next challenge.

Getting Status Updates on Your Projects

Receiving regular and reliable status updates from team members and sub-suppliers is critical for a Project Manager.  It allows you to strategically plan, identify any possible risks or delays early on, and to proactively make changes or mitigate potential problems before it becomes too late.

However, establishing a framework to deliver clear, concise and a consistent flow of information is easier said than done.  It is no easy feat, even for the most organized and experienced Project Manager.  Getting everyone on board, on task, and able to understand the importance of providing timely and effective progress reports is critical to the success of your project. Below are a few key tips to assist you to lead a more effective status reporting process:

1. Set Ground Rules

It is important to establish a firm foundation and example for your team to follow.  Set the ground rules for “Status Reporting” as early as possible on the project, and get clear commitment from team members (and their managers), and your sub-suppliers. Remember and remind everyone often, that without regular and reliable status reports from team members and sub-suppliers you as the Project Manager can not do your job properly.

2. Define Status Updates Regularly, and at Specific Project Milestones.

With a clear and established timeframe, your team will understand and learn to expect to receive and also provide the required information.  Once it becomes established, it will become more of a habit and routine and easily incorporated.  Like with anything, the more practice and the more it is done, the easier it gets and the more routine it becomes.  Providing updates at project milestones will help the project continue and proceed with direction and keeping the team on task and on focus.

3. Send Reminders & Get in Sync.

When the project starts, set up automatic reminders on your electronic calendar, and have your team members do the same.  This will help to ensure everyone sends you a monthly status update at specific times, and the deadlines aren’t forgotten or missed.

4. Use Templates.

To save time and streamline the process, use existing templates for the status updates and reports.  There are many available or you can customize your own.  Providing a standard, easy to use template will help your team provide you with the information you want and in the format you want.  The easier you can make a task, the greater the chance everyone will conform to your demands and it will minimize confusion or non-compliance issues.

5. Deal With Slackers Early On

It is best to deal with any issues or cooperation problems with team members not pulling their weight as soon as delays in status reporting arise.  Don’t wait too long.  It is important to address the issue directly with the individual. It is important that they understand the importance of the process and how their cooperation is vital to the success of the overall project.  If the issue continues to arise, you should take it to the next level and address the problem with their managers to avoid setting a trend for the future and to get to the root of the problem.  A lack of cooperation in status reporting can sometimes be a symptom of more complex issues within the corresponding department and continue to hamper the project if it is not properly handled and resolved.

Following these 5 key pointers will greatly assist you as Project Manager in establishing an effective communication framework for your team members to function within, and provide a free flow of information with you, to you, and with each other as a cohesive and collaborative effort.  Mastering this process will guarantee successful projects throughout your career.

How to Improve Your Communication Skills

To help you improve your communication skills and at the same time earn some PDUs, we are providing a few recommended online courses:

 

 

PMP Exam Scheduling: Just Pick A Date & Move On

Picking a date and committing yourself for the PMP Exam isn’t an easy step to make.  However, it is just as important as studying and preparing for the exam.  Outlined below are some key pointers to help you make sure you’re following the correct path and procedures.

When To Schedule Your PMP Exam

You can not schedule your exam until you have submitted your PMP application and PMI has received and approved your credential fee.  Once you have submitted your application and are deemed eligible by PMI, you will be contacted via email with your examination scheduling instructions and your Eligibility ID.  You will need this code when scheduling your exam.

It is important to note that you have a one-year period in which you are eligible to take the exam.  The deadline starts ticking as soon as your payment has been received and approved.  Many applicants schedule their exams at least three months before their eligibility period expires, to avoid running out of time.  If you do not pass the exam on your first try, you are allowed to take the PMP exam up to three times over the course of the year. Refer to the PMP Handbook for more.

How To Schedule Your PMP Exam

PMI utilizes the services of Prometric for handling the administration of the scheduling process.  There are two ways to schedule your exam, online or by phone:

  • Scheduling Online

Visit the Prometric web site – www.prometric.com/pmi and follow the instructions  to complete the following steps:

    • Select your location (Country, State)
    • Select “Schedule an Appointment”
    • Enter your Eligibility ID (which you received in your confirmation email from PMI)
    • Select a test site in your area
    • Choose your examination date and time
  • Scheduling by Phone

Call 1-800-268-2802 during business hours, and an Interactive Voice Response System will guide you through the steps to schedule your exam. It will also provide you with other additional steps to make changes to your exam schedule if required. If you register by phone, you will need to print a copy of your confirmation information.  This can be accessed using the Prometric website. Refer to PMP Handbook for more.

The Costs of PMP Exam

The current exam fees are broken down into two categories based on whether the applicant’s status is a PMI member or non-member.

  • PMI Member = $405.00
  • PMI Non-Member = $555.00

Canceling or Rescheduling Your PMP Exam

If necessary, you can reschedule or cancel your exam.  A $70 fee will be charged if you reschedule or cancel your exam within 30 calendar days of the scheduled date.  If you cancel your exam within 2 days of your scheduled date, you will not receive a refund and will forfeit the full amount of the exam fee.  In order to reschedule a cancelled exam, you will be required to pay an additional re-exam fee and it must also be within your one-year eligibility period.

 

New PMP Training Packages Released (PMBOK 5th Edition)

The Project Management Institute (PMI)® recently released the official dates for when the Project Management Professional (PMP)® and some other of its exams will be updated to the latest standards. Here is what we have learned and our recommendations for studying:
Credential Exam Updated If you take your Exam
BEFORE this date
If you take your Exam
ON or AFTER this date
PMP® 31 July 2013 Use PMBOK® Guide 4th Edition Use PMBOK® Guide 5th Edition
CAPM® 1 July 2013 Use PMBOK® Guide 4th Edition Use PMBOK® Guide 5th Edition
PMI-SP® 31 August 2013 Use PMBOK® Guide 4th Edition Use PMBOK® Guide 5th Edition
PMI-RMP® 31 August 2013 Use PMBOK® Guide 4th Edition Use PMBOK® Guide 5th Edition
PgMP® 31 July 2013 Use PMBOK® Guide 4th Edition Use PMBOK® Guide 5th Edition

A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide) is a book published by the Project Management Institute (PMI), outlining a set of standard terminology and guidelines for Project Management. The PMBOK Guide was first published by the PMI as a white paper in 1983 in an attempt to document and standardize generally accepted project management information and practices. The first edition was published in 1996 followed by the second edition in 2000. In 2004, the third Edition was published with major changes from the previous editions. The fourth Edition was released on December 31, 2008.

PMBOK 4th Edition

Work on the fifth edition was completed in 2012 and you can now order the PMBOK® Guide 5th Edition on the PMI Marketplace website.

 

PMBOK 5th Edition

Does this mean that I will have and “old” PMP certificate after the “cut-off” date?

No. The current version of the PMBOK Guide has no influence over your PMP status. You can compare this to your high-school diploma. Even if you received your high-school diploma years back and the school curriculum has changed many times since then, your diploma and your status are just as valid today as they were when you finished high school.

What revision of PMBOK Guide is your Study Material based on?

The new video trainings (for PMBOK® Guide 5th Edition) were launched on July 7th, 2013. This is also the day on which our new PMP® Exam Simulator with 1,800 updated questions, and the new PMP® Formulas Guides became available.

We are excited about this update because this new version marks a major step up in quality for our trainings. To name just two improvements:

  • The visual experience for the students is much more pleasant because the presentation template was redesigned and now also includes professionally shot images
  • The main modules will include a series of self-assessment questions (PDF format) allowing the students to test their understanding of each Knowledge Area.
  • Development and production of lessons will continue until July 31, 2013. Students can begin using the course immediately, watch the lessons that are already available, and will continue to receive additional lessons about twice weekly. Completion is expected by end end of July.

What if I purchased your old study materials (based on PMBOK 4th edition) but could not take the PMP Exam until after July 31, 2013? Do I have to re-purchase again at full price, or is there a discount for PMC members?

Here’s the Good News: If you don’t take the exam by July 31, 2013 and you have to switch to the 5th Edition Exam we will upgrade your training package with the 5th Edition Material following this scheme:

  • If you purchased after May 1, 2013 we will upgrade your materials for FREE.
  • If you purchased between Jan 1, 2013 and April 30, 2013 we will upgrade you for just $40.
  • If you purchased before Jan 1, 2013 you have to pay the full price again.
  • The above offer is valid until Sept 15. After this deadline you will have to pay full price.

What changes have been made on the PMBOK 5th Edition?

Without going into details, here’s a list of the major changes:

  • Addition of a new knowledge area called ‘Stakeholder Management’ (going from 9 to 10 Knowledge areas)
PMBOK 4th Edition PMBOK 5th Edition
Knowledge Area Nb of Processes Knowledge Area Nb of Processes
Integration 6 Integration 6
Scope 5 Scope 6
Time Cost 6 Time Cost 7
Cost 3 Cost 4
Quality 3 Quality 3
Human Resources 4 Human Resources 4
Communication 5 Communication 3
Risk 6 Risk 6
Procurement 4 Procurement 4
Stakeholders 4
TOTAL 42 TOTAL 47
Knowledge Areas 9 Knowledge Areas 10
Process Groups 5 Process Groups 5
Processes 42 Processes 47
  • 5 new processes have been added (going from 42 to 47 Processes)
  • Definition of a Project Management Office (PMO) expanded.
  • Project life cycles expanded.
  • Direct and Manage Project Execution’ changed to ‘Direct and Manage Project Work’
  • Addition of ‘Plan Scope Management process’
  • ‘Verify Scope’ changed to ‘Validate Scope’
  • Addition of ‘Plan Schedule Management’
  • Addition of ‘Plan Cost Management’
  • ‘Plan Quality’ changed to ‘Plan Quality Management’
  • ‘Perform Quality Control’ changed to ‘Control Quality’
  • ‘Develop Human Resource Plan’ changed to ‘Plan Human Resource Management’
  • ‘Monitor and Control Risks’ changed to ‘Control Risks’
  • ‘Plan Procurements’ changed to ‘Plan Procurement Management’
  • ‘Administer Procurements’ changed to ‘Control Procurements’
  • Addition of ‘Plan Stakeholder Management’
  • ‘Manage Stakeholder Expectations’ changed to ‘Manage Stakeholder Engagement’
  • Addition of ‘Control Stakeholders Engagement’
  • ‘Work performance measurement’ changed to ‘Work performance data’
  • ‘Positive Risks’ changed to ‘opportunity’
  • PMBOK 5th Edition has now 248 pages minus the glossary.
  • For the detailed list of changes go to PMI Media website.

Seven Tips for Effective Crisis Management

A crisis can happen at any time, in any situation.  Even if you think you have all your bases covered, guess again. Crises can come in all shapes, sizes, degrees and from many angles – from natural disasters, technical problems, internal corporate issues and  bankruptcies.  They can happen at the drop of a dime and be very devastating to those in its path.

Regardless of the type or size, it is important to effectively plan and manage for them in the event of one happening and also for during one.  To minimize the shock and awe, and effectively manage your project, utilize and implement these top 7 tips into your project management planning.

1. Be proactive and aware of looming problem areas.  Don’t ignore complaints or issues.  Address them head on and help minimize their impact on your projects before it gets to the crisis stage.

2. Plan ahead with crisis contingency plans and strategies.  Devise a detailed plan and series of steps to follow when a crisis happens.  Ensure these plans are well thought out and documented.  Include everyone on your team or within your group.  Make sure everyone understands their role and what to do, so when the crisis hits, everyone can act accordingly and effectively.

3. Avoid speculation. When a crisis happens everyone wants to know the root cause immediately.  Most crisis situations are very complex and it is rare to be able to pinpoint one root cause. Many times it is a series of events or actions that have lead to the crisis erupting. Jumping to conclusions too fast and speculating is dangerous. It can lead to more problems and hamper determining the cause and finding solutions. It is best to refer everyone to the Root Cause Analysis (RCA) that is in progress, and provide target dates instead of speculative causes.

4. Maintain good communication with all stakeholders during a crisis.  Clearly articulate the facts and keep all parties informed of the ongoing progress and what plans are being made, etc.

5. Remain focused on the big picture.  As the project manager, it is up to you to not get bogged down in the zillion little details and lose your focus in the middle of a crisis. Utilize your project management skills of implementing new processes, strategies and creative ways to resolve the issues and get out of the crisis, minimizing the damage.

6. Demonstrate your leadership abilities and get everyone working and back on track, with goals and tasks.  Provide clear direction and stay positive and optimistic.  It is easy to get overwhelmed and have your team or group feeling lost and defeated.  Be sure to pump them up and avoid negative conversation or placing the blame.

7. Know when to ask for help and where to find the resources you need to assist you.  You aren’t expected to have all the answers, but knowing where to find them is what makes you a great project manager.  Be resourceful and confident enough to know when to ask for help.

Being fully prepared and getting everyone on board with clear communication and detailed contingency plans is your best way to being an effective project manager and successfully leading your projects through to completion avoiding the pitfalls crises can cause.

How to Get Better in Managing a Crisis:

To help you improve your crisis management skills and at the same time earn some PDUs, we are providing a recommended online course (and some others):

 

Passing Score for the PMP Exam… Is There One?

Is there a passing score for the PMP Exam? The simple answer is no. There is no set official percentage that you have to obtain in order to pass the PMP Exam. In the early years of the PMP Exam, 61% was the stated threshold, but several years ago the PMI changed that requirement and that is no longer the case. Since then, the PMP Exam is differently structured and the scores are strategically calculated.

To explain this further, here is a passage taken straight from the PMI’s PMP Handbook:

The passing score for all PMI credential examinations is determined by sound psychometric analysis. PMI uses subject matter experts from across the globe to help establish a point at which each candidate should pass the examination(s) and the examination point of difficulty. Data that shows how candidates actually performed is cross referenced with the subject matter experts to ensure that the point of difficulty on each examination is healthy.

So, basically this means that there is no set percentage to pass or fail the PMP Exam. This level varies for each exam and is reflective of the exam’s overall difficulty and how well all the student’s taking the exam score. As well, each question is given an individual rating and weight depending on its level of difficulty.

As for the structure of the PMP Exam, it is comprised of 200 multiple choice questions. There are 25 questions that are considered pretest and are randomly and strategically placed throughout the exam. They do not affect the final score and are used to test the validity of future exams. So, it is only the other 175 questions that will be counted in the final score. These questions cover the 5 Process Groups (Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring & Controlling, and Closing). It is worth noting that the PMI does not specify a passing score for these areas either. On your PMP Exam scorecard each area is broken down and given a rating of Proficient, Moderately Proficient, or Below Proficient.

As for the PMP Exam Simulators that you use for your training, most (including ours) do have a passing score, with the score of each area of expertise broken down further. A score of 75% is generally what everyone aims for. When practicing, aim for this score and you should be well prepared for the Exam and up for the challenge.

The PMP Exam is tough, but understanding how the exam questions and scoring are structured should help in preparation and your overall success. Good Luck!

 

Project Management Applications For Small Businesses

If you manage a small business or project, using email communications, Excel spreadsheets and company hard drives for managing and storing project information might be okay on a temporary basis, but as the number of your projects grow (and your number of collaborators grow with it) you’ll need to consider a more sophisticated system to incorporate in your business processes.

In fact, it has been proven that for small businesses having a collaborative tool providing multiple features including task assignment, time tracking, CRM, document management, mobile connectivity and third party invoicing can make a huge difference in company’s bottom line.

For large organizations, systems like Primavera, MS Project or SharePoint are the most popular software programs for project planning, reporting, document sharing, progress updating and tracking. They are used worldwide and have their own benefits and disadvantages.

On the other hand, for small businesses or small projects (such as creating new websites, new software programs, new mobile apps or even a minor manufacturing projects) Primavera and MS Project might not be the best solutions, the most important disadvantages being higher costs, heavy platform environment, learning curve, the need for sophisticated support team and unavoidable staff training.

Deciding which project management application or software to incorporate into your small business processes can be a daunting task as there is quite a wide selection to choose from and they are all continually evolving and advancing. To make matters more difficult, each software creator provides different packages to choose from, depending on the number of projects, the number of users (collaborators) and the storage space offered.

On the lower end, developers seem to categorize their packages based on one of these two choices:

  • Unlimited collaborators, but limited number of projects
  • Unlimited projects, but limited number of collaborators

But, they also offer unlimited projects/collaborators packages at much higher monthly rates.

Even if you select a low-end package to start with, as a growing business the high-end packages should be an important criteria for your selection because in a few years when your number of projects/users grow you would want to be able to keep the same platform, and avoid having to transfer all your files to a less costly solution.

Storage is also another differentiator for choosing your package. Depending on the type of projects your organization is managing, and the size of files your team members share on a daily basis, this could become a make-or-break factor in your selection.

The ability to use the software on your mobile smartphone or tablet is another factor to take into consideration, if that is indeed important to you or your organization. Some applications are just web-based, others use HTML5 code that fits and adapts to any screen size, and others provide their own iOS, Android or Windows Phone apps for the most popular devices such as iPhone or iPad.

Another factor to consider is whether you want (or need) to work with Gantt charts that are simpler versions of MS Project and Primavera. Some project management apps offer visual Gantt-based (rather than a task-assignment based) software.

To make your selection a little bit easier, outlined below are some project management apps we briefly examined for small businesses (in no particular order):

Basecamp
  • http://www.basecamphq.com
  • Web-based + Mobile apps
  • Lower End Package: 10 Projects, Unlimited Users, 3 GB Storage, $20 / month
  • Higher End Package: Unlimited Projects, Unlimited Users, 100 GB Storage, $150 / month

Basecamp keeps all your project documents and communications in one place. You can control who sees what on the projects and who can communicate with whom. The user interface is quite user-friendly and provides quick access to the latest project progress, communications, To-Do lists, etc. Basecamp also provides iOS and Android apps for mobile phones and tablets.

Projecturf
  • http://www.projecturf.com
  • Web-based only
  • Lower End Package: 20 Projects, Unlimited Users, Unlimited Storage, $40 / month
  • Higher End Package: Unlimited Projects, Unlimited Users, Unlimited Storage, $120 / month

Projecturf provides a user-friendly web environment giving instant access to various projects using tabs. It allows you to grant and change access permissions in every section, and even remove some section if they don’t apply to a project.

Project Bubble
  • http://www.projectbubble.com
  • Web-based only
  • Lower End Package: 10 Projects, Unlimited Users, 5 GB Storage, $24 / month
  • Higher End Package: Unlimited Projects, Unlimited Users, 100 GB Storage, $99 / month

Project Bubble allows you to assign tasks and sub-tasks to team members, as well as define user permissions. It also allows you to enter the amount of hours you expect a given task should take (planned) and compare with the amount of hours is actually took (actual) to compare your actual costs with your planned budget. A timesheet feature is also offered for team members to help track the hours.

Mavenlink
  • http://www.mavenlink.com
  • Web-based + HTML5-based Mobile Apps
  • Lower End Package: Unlimited Projects, Unlimited Users, 20 GB Storage, $25 / user / month
  • Higher End Package: Unlimited Projects, Unlimited Users, 100 GB Storage

Mavenlink is fully integrated with Google Docs, Tasks and Contacts. It allows you to centralize your project information, files and communications in a shared environment. Real-time messaging ensures your team members stay on the same page. You can also stay connected using your mobile smartphone as the software offers an HTML5 mobile version as well.

Apollo
  • http://www.apollohq.com
  • Web-based + Mobile Apps
  • Lower End Package: 18 Projects, Unlimited Users, 5 GB Storage, $23 / month
  • Higher End Package: Unlimited Projects, Unlimited Users, 75 GB Storage, $148 / month

Apollo helps you keep track of what’s happening on your project, tasks, and calendar using interactive timers. In the activity screen you can see who did what, and even communicate with other people. Files can also be kept within the platform. Mobile versions of the software for iOS and Android are also offered.

Asana
  • http://www.asana.com
  • Web-based + Mobile Apps
  • Lower End Package: 15 Members. $50 / month
  • Higher End Package: 100 Members, $800 / month

Asana allows you to create, assign, follow and comment on tasks. The notification by inbox or mobile app provides what matters to you. You can keep all conversations and historical information in one place for future reference.

Wrike
  • http://www.wrike.com
  • Web-based + Mobile Apps
  • Lower End Package: 5 Users, Unlimited Collaborators, Unlimited Projects, 5 GB Storage,  $49 / month
  • Higher End Package: : 50 Users, Unlimited Collaborators, Unlimited Projects,100 GB Storage, $199 / month

Wrike is another project management software providing task management, time tracking, document sharing, and real-time news-feed. It also provides Gantt-chart integration as well as Outlook and email integration to facilitate communications.

TeamGantt
  • http://www.teamgantt.com
  • Web-based only
  • Lower End Package: 5 Projects, 5 Users, 1 GB Storage, $10 / month
  • Higher End Package: Unlimited Projects, Unlimited Users, 20 GB Storage, $79 / month

If you like using simplified Gantt charts, then TeamGantt might be the solution for you. The software also incorporates simple task commenting (by team members) directly in the Gantt chart. You can still take advantage of sharing documents and many other resources, and even view multiple projects’ Gantt charts in one screen to help with your resource planning.

Trello

Trello is a Checklist-based system to keep you on top of your team members To-Do lists. You can also attach files, images, and due dates to each task. Tasks can be categorized and you can filter by keywords or person. The software is designed to automatically scale to fit any screen size, including phone and tablets.

Freedcamp

Freedcamp is fully customizable for user permissions, allowing you to select what co-workers and clients can see. You can also receive instant notifications by email or SMS about everything happening on your project. Freedcamp also provides the possibility of using project templates saving you the time for entering redundant information everytime you start a new project.

In a nutshell, if the essence of project management is the breaking down of multi-faceted projects into smaller tasks and milestones assigned to various collaborators, then project management applications and software should assist you in organizing and breaking those complex operations and individual tasks down into specific data available at your fingertips; thus, providing more efficiency into the process than contemporary paper documents and spreadsheets offer. Therefore, your decision to purchase a project management software for your small business should be a long-term strategy for your organization:

  • Make a list of features you need today (and maybe in the future)
  • Assign weights to each feature based on its importance to your business
  • Review each software platform (start on their website)
  • Use a simplified QFD chart to compare various programs and narrow down your choice to just a few
  • Test the waters by emailing/calling each software provider to evaluate their customer support and agility to respond to your requests in a timely manner.

A final note of caution: Not all these project management software programs will survive today’s competitive marketplace, and one can easily predict that only a few will remain in a few years. So make sure your selection is not just based on price and short-term advantages, but also looks further on the horizon.

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Managing Procurement and Suppliers for Project Managers

Properly managing the procurement process and your supply chain is extremely important for Project Managers. A lot of factors can go wrong with time delays, poor quality products, mishandled or lost shipments. Delays and inferior products can be costly and potentially hamper your project and negatively impact your contract, as well as your reputation with your clients. Below are 10 key points to implement with all your projects to minimize procurement problems.

1. When sourcing suppliers and materials, carefully include all the technical requirements outlined in the main contract with your client. This will ensure that you are procuring the correct materials and the project will satisfy your client’s needs.

2. Transfer the risks for delays and for missing performance to suppliers, especially if they are part of your main contract with your client. It is important that they are held responsible for their part in the process and will work to guarantee you the service and performance you require.

3. Define an escalation process with the supplier’s management (and stipulated within the Purchase Order) in case the supplier’s staff does not follow the original plan. This will help to mitigate any problems quickly and get the results you demand.

4. Request a time schedule from the suppliers and do a sanity check on how they will be achieving your project goals and objectives. Proactively keeping everything on schedule and on task will guarantee minimal problems and alert you to any potential setbacks.

5. Define precise delivery dates for components as well as document submittals, and identify them on the supplier Gantt chart. Clearly establishing defined dates will help to keep everyone working on a schedule and reduce the chance of conflicts or mix-ups.

6. Define a detailed closure process within the Statement of Work (SOW) including the document submittals, user manuals, as-built drawings, etc. Clear instructions and documentation will increase the overall communication process minimizing potential errors or omissions.

7. Use Project Management applications and set up weekly or bi-weekly calls with the suppliers to monitor the progress. Today, there are numerous computer software and mobile apps connecting project stakeholders. Keeping close and consistent communication channels open help to establish excellent working relationships and allows to be easily aware of the ongoing status of the orders and quickly remedy any issues before they become a problem or impact the project.

8. Request monthly progress reports from suppliers and compare with the time schedule that they provided at the beginning. This will guarantee that the suppliers continue to meet your requirements and are being held accountable.

9. Do not hesitate to escalate the issues if you start to see any delays. It is best to be proactive and nip it in the bud, so to speak. A project becomes one year late one day at a time!

10. Make sure your suppliers keep track of their “Lessons Learned” in order to take advantage of the learning curve savings on multi-unit projects or on your future contracts.  Continuous improvement is important to everyone within the process. If the suppliers want to be included for future projects, it is to their benefit and yours to be cognizant of all the components learned within the project and incorporating them again for you.

Following these guidelines will assist you as the Project Manager in achieving the most out of your supplier relationships. Often, the performance of your supplier will reflect on the performance of your project. Therefore, it is critical that you manage your supplier’s performance carefully, to ensure that they produce deliverables which meet your expectations, and that you get the maximum value from them.

How to Improve Communications With Your Suppliers

To help you improve your communications with your suppliers and at the same time earn some PDUs, we are providing a few recommended online courses:

Cultivating Productive Working Relationships For Project Managers

No two people are alike and nor do people do things exactly like.  Their needs, motivators, understandings and perspectives are as diverse as the world around us.  Sometimes this gets easily forgotten when you’re managing others and busy juggling multiple demands.  As well, it is easy to place your expectations and way of doing things onto others without fully understanding how you are perceived.

It is important to cultivate a productive working relationship.  And, as a Project Manager you will be working with many team members who don’t necessarily report to you directly. So it’s imperative to establish a productive relationship with everyone in order to gain focus on your projects.

To do this you need to build trust, create a respectful environment, be sensitive to others, as well as establish the right tone and atmosphere within your area or team.  This will also help reduce personality clashes, and in the end lead to higher productivity and satisfaction for everyone. Here are a few key suggestions to put to use:

  • Get to know everyone you work with on more of a personal level, especially the team members working on your projects.  Find out what motivates them, what they like or dislike in their daily jobs.  Different people are motivated by different aspects of the daily work.  For example, if a team member wants to participate in certain meetings or project activities in order to be more aware of the progress, try to accommodate that person.  Or, if another team member has to start her day early but leave at 3 PM to take care of her kids, it’s important to be understanding and flexible, and both of you find ways to work around the challenge on your project as much as possible.
  • Clearly review the roles and responsibilities with each team member.  If you work for an established and reputable organization, which has been managing projects for many years, chances are that roles and responsibilities have already been defined within company processes.  Review them with the team and make sure each team member knows what they are responsible for and understands how their part impacts the project or the organization as a whole.
  • Set up quarterly one-on-one sessions with each team member in order to hear their concerns and suggestions.  If you don’t, they will be talking about their concerns with others including their immediate supervisors, who might then be contacting yours.  So be proactive and address any issues head-on before they get escalated.  Each team member should understand that you are open to suggestions, and they can come directly to you if they have any issues or concerns.
  • Be respectful of others differences.  As our society becomes culturally diverse and our interactions with others around the world become easier and closer due to technological advances, it is vital we learn to cultivate productive working relationships with everyone.  Celebrate the differences and be open to learning something different.
  • Set the right tone and atmosphere. Be positive and lead by example. This helps to promote a comfortable and respectful environment, in which others feel free to openly communicate and share ideas, knowing they will be valued and seriously taken into consideration.

In a nutshell, being cognizant of everyone you are managing or working with allows you to better manage them and the project as a whole.  When you have control of the situation, you can better use your time to focus on the goals of your project and increase your overall productivity.

How to Get Better in Managing Your Projects

To help you manage your team members and at the same time earn some PDUs, we are providing a few online courses below:

 

 

 

Five Steps To Tell Your Boss That Your Workload Is Too High

Approaching and communicating issues with your boss or supervisor can always be challenging for even the most experienced Project Manager.  Finding the right time, the right words and the right solutions so they understand your perspective can be extremely daunting. With regards to the topic of workload, it can be a very loaded subject to address.  You don’t want to give the impression of not being hard working.  You also don’t want to be viewed as a complainer or incompetent, and risk the chance of missing out on any potential job advancement opportunities.  However, to effectively manage your job, you need to find the right balance and get help to successfully manage the demands.

For a Project Manager, a heavy workload can involve overseeing too many projects at one time; having too many close deadlines together; having too many stakeholders to take care of; or having too many issues that require constant fire fighting or demand too much of your attention. Below are a few top ideas to work on to help assist you the next time you have to encounter this situation:

  1. Make a list of all your projects and how much time each one takes (per week), demonstrating that the total amount reasonably goes above a normal workload of 40-45 hours per week, or whatever “normal” is in your organization.  From this, identify a priority list and develop a few suggestions or solutions to reduce the number of emergencies on your plate. Not all projects have the same priority for your management, and they know it ! You just have to figure out “their” priority list so you can remove the other projects (at least temporarily) from your workload.
  2. Schedule a private meeting with your boss to specifically address your concerns.  This isn’t the time to discuss this critical topic casually in the corridors while he or she is passing by.  You require his or her full attention and the time to carefully explain your situation and how to resolve it.  If you take it seriously, your boss is more likely to as well.
  3. Carefully chose your words.  Be careful about the tone of the conversation and how you explain the challenges.  You do not want to come off sounding like you are complaining.  Instead, be prepared to propose concrete solutions such as changing deadlines, delegating certain tasks to others, etc.  This also forces your boss to propose other solutions (which could be better because he or she obviously has more power and resources in the organization than you).  As well, putting a positive spin on it and providing creative and constructive solutions will help elevate your position in the eyes of your boss and also demonstrates your ability to proactively address and assess problem areas and effectively mitigate them.
  4. Make sure the topics and solutions you discuss are reflected on your yearly MBO and performance objectives so that you are not penalized if your performance deteriorates due to higher than normal workload.
  5. Schedule follow-up sessions with your boss to monitor the situation. Taking the time to evaluate the situation from time to time will help you determine if the changes made have improved the circumstances, or if additional changes are necessary.

Being open, honest, and addressing your concerns head-on before they can get the better of you, will set you apart.  Good managers do understand that workloads need to be effectively managed and adjustments made from time to time.  Without you speaking up and clearly identifying problem areas (and offering solutions) how is your boss going to understand your situation?

 

Training vs. Mentoring in Project Management

While learning a new skill whether it be a new fitness workout routine or for a new job or career change, it is important to be properly trained and mentored. Enrolling in a training program or mentorship can be an extremely valuable means to increase your knowledge and excel in your project management career. It is important to decide which avenue is the best fit for you.

What is the difference between Training and Mentoring?

Training is usually provided to individuals one-on-one or in groups. These individuals can be willing participants or not. Training tends to be impersonal and hierarchical, with the flow of information and content downward one-way from the trainer to the trainee. There is usually a formal plan or schedule to cover. Training teaches you the following aspects of the job:

  • Processes
  • Regulations
  • Standards
  • Methodology
  • Skillset
  • Reporting
  • Accounting

Mentoring differs in that it is extremely personal with one-on-one attention between the mentor (seasoned, mature individual/advisor) and the mentee (inexperienced novice/junior) usually within the same profession or organization. Along with being very personal, it can be an extremely supportive arrangement where both sides are accountable, as well as confidential. The objective is for the mentor to provide information, advice, counsel, encouragement, support and feedback to the mentee, and the mentee to utilize this wealth of knowledge and resources as needed to improve and grow in their position. Mentorship teaches you the following aspects of the job:

  • Interpersonal Skills
  • Attitude
  • Leadership
  • Responsiveness
  • Acumen
  • Organizational Politics

Training can provide you with learning the basics of the job, product knowledge and rules, regulations and procedures, but it doesn’t provide that personal attention and close rapport that mentoring can offer (if you find the right match). Having that Go-To person that you can rely on and feel comfortable and safe to ask questions you might not feel comfortable asking a room full of people, is invaluable. Also, sometimes those training you can’t always provide you with cultural insight that a mentor can provide.

On an individual level:

Incorporating a well-thought out plan with both training and mentoring elements is going to provide you with a solid foundation from which to reach your project management career goals. Finding the right training courses along with matching up with a mentor is a great start. Don’t forget to ask your mentor about the training courses they took. They are a great resource to supplement your formal training.

On an organizational level:

Finally, if you run a Project Management Office (PMO) developing close-knit mentoring relationships between more experienced “wise” employees with newer staff, helps not only the flow of years of experience on the job, but also helps to carry on and pass along your corporate culture and traditions. There are also many studies that have found mentoring to be extremely valuable to not only the mentee and mentor, but the organization as a whole.

 

Methodology vs. Standard in Project Management

Like any profession, Project Management involves a variety of integral standards, processes and practices. The study of Project Management involves learning and understanding both the standards and the methodologies. Many question and debate what the difference is between standards and methodology in regards to the PMBOK Guide. Is it a standard or is it a methodology? In order to provide you with a solid answer, let’s clearly define each of them first:

What is a Standard?

A standard can be defined as a set or collection of rules or guidelines in accordance to best practices regarded within a specific industry. Standards are established, highly regarded and well-known. They have been thoroughly tested and implemented.

What is a Methodology?

A methodology is a set of ideas or processes or procedures followed over and over to provide or deliver a known result, such as completing a specific project. Methodologies outline the path and provide the required steps, design, order and timeframe of tasks to undertake to complete the project. In theory, the benefit and goal of following specified methodologies is that you will improve and maximize overall efficiencies.

Which one is the PMBOK Guide?

With that being said, the PMBOK Guide is clearly considered a standard, not a methodology. because it outlines specific rules and guidelines to follow during the course of undertaking and managing projects. It is in fact an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard, and as its full name suggests (Body of Knowledge) it is a collection of best practices from which to provide you with a solid understanding of project management.

So how do we go from a Standard to a Methodology?

First, let’s define what should be included in a Methodology: A Project Management Methodology should include an outline of the core processes or procedures to follow to effectively deliver completed projects. Within these processes, templates, guidelines and case studies should be provided and utilized to assist in guiding the project through its many phases of completion. In addition, it is also critical that they should allow for optional customization to fit into or with existing processes operating within the organization.

Conclusion?

Together Standard and Methodology should work in conjunction and mesh together to form a solid project management platform, allowing the organization staff to effectively manage all aspects of their projects and maximize efficiencies in regards to time, costs, quality, risk, etc. Thus, this formula sums up the point just made:

PMBOK Guide (Standard) + Adaptation for your Organization = PM Methodology for your Organization

If your organization has a Project Management Office (PMO), then their objective should NOT be to implement the PMBOK Guide, but to create a Project Management Methodology specific to your organization based on the PMBOK Guide standard.

 

How Many Hours of Study Are Required to Prepare for the PMP Certification Exam?

Setting aside the proper amount of time for studying for the PMP Certification Exam is extremely important.  Knowing how many hours you should be devoting to your studies will allow you to better focus your efforts and to be less likely to waste your valuable time. If you work full-time and have family obligations you have a limited number of hours, so maximize the most out of them. Keeping that in mind, let’s tackle the first question everybody asks when they start thinking about a PMP Certification: How many hours are required for preparing for the PMP Exam?

With a project management mindset, let’s start by identifying the minimum content that you have to cover during your study. We will base this on the training packages offered at PMCHAMPION.COM but the same can be applied to other online PMP Prep programs.

As a minimum, your prep time needs to cover the following:

  • PMP Video Trainings (review of the PMBOK Guide concepts)
  • Chapter Tests (12 Chapters + Code of Ethics)
  • Formula-Based Questions (at least do 200 tests)
  • Exam Simulations (do a minimum of 5 complete exam simulations)
  • Final Review before your PMP Exam

Based on this breakdown, we can then estimate how many hours each section would take:

PMP Video Trainings = 38 hours

The videos cover the various concepts, tools and techniques taken from material in the latest PMBOK Guide as well as some models, theories and formulas that are not covered in enough detail in the guide.  You will find these videos to be quite interesting and engaging. They are specifically designed to help you understand the concepts; not to just memorize them.  Each lesson averages 26 minutes and focuses on one PMP concept or process. You can watch them as often as you like to enhance your understanding. Each episode has a number that allows for easy sorting on your laptop or tablet, and the episodes in which the PMBOK Knowledge Areas are discussed are numbered following the PMBOK Guide’s chapter numbers, making your interaction with the PMBOK Guide a lot easier.

Chapter Tests = 8 hours

After watching the video trainings related to each chapter of the PMBOK Guide, a selection of 20-35 multiple-choice questions are provided along with detailed explanations and references, to help test your understanding and comprehension of the material covered in the chapter.  As a result, you will spend several hours answering more than 300 questions before moving on to the complete PMP Exam simulations.

PMP Formulas & Formula-Based Questions = 6 hours

Unless you have an engineering education and know your way around formulas and calculations, this is not something you can forfeit. This section will provide you with a deeper understanding of the mathematical concepts and formulas of the PMP Exam.  There are several formula guides to review and over 200 questions covering the 47 formulas, 19 numerical values and 27 important acronyms to know on the exam day.

PMP Exam Simulations = 24 hours

You need to take at least 5 exam simulations (4h exam duration plus some review time after each exam) designed to help you prepare and practice in a very realistic test environment prior to the big exam day.  These simulations not only help in testing the material but also assisting in learning to apply and develop effective test taking strategies.

Final Review = 4 hours

It is important to spend this amount of time after completing all the videos, chapter tests and exam simulations and review your weak areas thoroughly making sure you understand the concepts and highlight any trouble areas that require extra focus prior to the exam.

Total Required = 80 hours

These 80 hours are the minimum amount of time we recommend you spend to ensure a passing score on your first trial. Strategically focusing your efforts and following this format will not only help you to study and cover the material more effectively but also will help maximize your time wisely with regards to your other daily obligations.

Remember, this is for a self-paced study program. Most people cover the 80 hours in about 3 months (much like a 3-credit college course) but depending on how many hours you study every week you can do the same in 2 months, or in 4 months,… it’s really up to you !

And remember one thing: all the hard work and time you put into the PMP Exam will pay off for you in the end.

 

Liquidated Damages: Quick Tips For Project Managers

In a perfect world, projects are completed on time and exactly according to specification.  However, we don’t live in a perfect world and not everything works out according to plan. To effectively manage this risk, sometimes within the contract a set amount (called “Liquidated Damages”) is agreed upon to be paid for each day that the project is late or under-performing.

What are Liquidated Damages?

Liquidated Damages (LD) contractual clauses are beneficial in mitigating the uncertainty of damages incurred due to supplier’s breach of the contract, such as the failure to meet the completion date or failure to reach a certain performance threshold. To demonstrate how LDs are calculated, let’s outline this construction example:

ABC Rentals decides to build a 7-storey building containing 40 apartments for rental.  ABC Rentals estimates that after completion this project could generate revenue of $42,000 per month (which works out to $10,500 per week or $1,500 per day).

ABC Rentals signs a contract with XYZ Construction to build the complex and deliver it on June 30, 2014.  As the owner, ABC Rentals ideally wants the project completed on time and according to specification, however, in case it isn’t ABC has calculated and set in the contract an amount of $1,500 per day as “Liquidated Damages” as a genuine pre-estimate of likely loss of revenue. In other words, if XYZ Construction delivers the building 10 days late, they will have to pay 10 X $1500 = $15,000 of LDs to ABC Rentals.

Further, XYZ Construction in turn can decide to place a Purchase Order to PQR Electrics for completing the electrical wiring of the building. XYZ might decide to include LDs of $300 per day in the PO to PQR to reduce any risk of delays from PQR. The LD amounts in that PO can be proportional to the ratio of the main contract (between ABC and XYZ) and the value of the PO (between XYZ and PQR).

The LD amount in the contract is to be a genuine pre-estimate of the actual damage or loss likely to be caused or incurred to the owner.  It is intended to be a fair and reasonable compensation.  It is not to act as a penalty fee or a fine charged to the contractor, nor a disproportionately excessive compensation.

Liquidated Damages are not just for delivery delays. They could also be assigned to specific “performance” related issues. For example ABC Rentals could include another clause in the contract imposing that the Solar Heating System for the outdoor swimming pool should be able to increase the average temperature of the pool by 5 degrees within 60 minutes. If during the final tests the 10-degree increase in temperature is achieved in more than 60 minutes, then XYZ Construction should pay to ABC Rentals one-time liquidated damages of $1000 for every additional 15 minutes. This will ensure that the XYZ Construction will not install a low efficiency heating system just to save money.

Quick Tips for Project Managers:

  • Understand how the LD values have been calculated by your client (they don’t usually come out of a hat). When placing LD figures into a contract, it is prudent on the client side to prepare a brief summary supporting the estimated values.  This must be based on the estimated losses that will be triggered from contractor’s breach of contract, and cannot be extravagant or unfounded.
  • Review the LD clauses in detail.  Some LD clauses are very complex especially if your project delivers several components to the client and each component has a different amount of LD attached to it. In some cases LD could even exclude each other so it’s important that you (and your team) have a good understanding of the contract clauses. Breakdown the timeframes and expectations for each and every component clearly in Excel tables and worksheets, and calculate estimates for the LDs risks as your project progresses (based on delivery dates or any other criteria that is used for imposing the LDs).  This will allow you to keep up-to-date assessments of where you stand and the risks involved as each component of the project becomes completed.
  • Include LD Clauses in your contract to your suppliers to protect yourself against their delays.  That’s called “Risk Transfer” (refer to the PMBOK Guide in Chapter 11). This will assist you in mitigating any unforeseen setbacks and delays that are forced on you by your suppliers, thus making it difficult for you to deliver and meet your contractual obligations to your clients.
  • Document and communicate.  Make sure you have clear, concise and regular communication with your client about the estimated LDs.  You should also closely document and maintain careful records of the events and situations that caused your organization to be in breach of the contract specially if some events were not under your control (such as Force Majeure events, delays due to your client or your client’s other sub-contractors). Good communication during the project is essential for minimizing Liquidated Damages at the end.
  • Negotiate and settle your LDs as part of a global negotiation with your client towards the end of the project. This is the best way to minimize the due amounts. In calculating a reasonable sum for the damages associated with the delays, all the facets of the project affected should be carefully assessed and determined by differentiating the apportioned stages of work completed.
  • Finally, a couple of suggestions that you can convey to your sales teams:
    • Before signing the contract do try to include Bonus clauses in there, specially if you realize that early delivery or higher than expected performance means savings or additional revenue for your client. Many large energy projects include such Bonus clauses (mirroring the LDs) because if the unit is delivered earlier than expected or if the generating unit is more efficient than model test predictions, well.. it would mean more revenue for the owner in the long run!
    • LDs should be capped within the contract, for example to maximum 10% of the contract value.

How to Improve Communications on Your Projects 

To help you improve your communication skills and at the same time earn some PDUs, we are providing a few recommended online courses:

 

 

Five Tips to Successfully Pass the PMP Certification Exam

If you plan to take the PMP Exam in 2013 and you’ve made it part of your New Year Resolutions, properly preparing provides the best foundation. Remember these 5 key points when planning for your PMP Certification Exam:

1. Make A Study Plan.

  • Outline your daily and weekly obligations and make a schedule. Aim for 60-120 minutes of daily study time. Establishing a routine and sticking to it will help reduce distractions and allow you to get everything you need done.
  • Assign time limits and allow for breaks. Establishing time limits will prevent your brain from tiring and maximize your valuable time. Taking mini-breaks, and a full day away per week, will allow your brain to mentally recharge, help your focus and increase your knowledge retention.
  • Find out about the latest changes to the PMBOK Guide by reading our blog, specially if you plan to take the PMP exam after July 31, 2013 .

2. Understand the PMBOK Guide.

  • The PMBOK and PMP exam are based on the “ideal” project organization. Understand this and everything else will make sense over time.
  • Don’t just memorize. You need to understand the topics and be able to explain the interaction of the PMBOK processes.
  • Know the type of questions that will appear on the exam. Just reading the PMBOK Guide will not prepare you enough. There are several high quality PMP training packages that you can use as your resource base.
  • Use your Exam Simulations wisely. Many students find it useful to take 2 exam simulations toward the end of their preparation. This is a great way to determine if you are ready for the exam or if you should postpone the date.

3. Use the Right Study Material.

  • If you can make the time, use other resources in addition to the PMBOK. We recommend Rita Mulcahy’s book, “PMP Exam Prep 7th Edition”. It is the best selling (and most popular) book on the market to help you prepare for the PMP exam. Check these PMP books on our website.
  • Use the practice tests provided in your PMP training packages as benchmarks, not as the primary material for your preparation. You should use video-based and static material to study from. Space the tests out at regular intervals. Don’t be tempted to take another test right away if you did poorly on the last test.
  • Read the PMBOK in its entirety, at least once. Use it to validate your answers and to fill in any knowledge gaps after taking practice tests.
  • Buying second hand books is not necessarily a bad thing, but be careful. Use the most up-to-date materials. The PMP Exam content changes every 4 years.

4. Study in a Place Where You Can Concentrate.

  • Depending on your home situation, it might not be the best place to study due to continuous interruptions:
      • Conference Rooms at work after regular business hours
      • Local Library
      • Quiet Coffee Shops

5. Use the Right Test Taking Strategies

  • The correct answer is what PMI says it is, not necessarily what happened on your projects or in your organization. The PMBOK Guide is the reference for the correct answer. Even if you are an experienced project manager but you never read the PMBOK Guide, all answers in any given question might sound acceptable, but by exam time you need to be able to recognize the correct one.
  • Many exam questions include scenarios that involve the project being late or over-budget, or the project manager receiving bad news or being at the crossroad of decisions. Be prepared for answering that kind of question.
  • Many questions are asked in a very difficult manner, purposely to trip and confuse you. The key is to understand what they are REALLY asking and ignore the extraneous information provided. In some cases, the “REAL” question is contained in the very last sentence.
  • Answer the easy questions first. For example, answer all the theory questions first and MARK and SKIP the questions that require calculations and do them after.
  • Before you begin working on your calculations, write down and circle the question number associated with that calculation beside it. This will allow you to easily locate it on your worksheet when you go back to double check your work.
  • There will be times where several questions pass by and you feel that you did not quite know the answer to any of them. Don’t panic … this happens to everybody! Just relax, mark them for review and move on. If this happens too often, take a 5 minute break and come back.
  • Do a time check after completing a small subset of 20 questions to see if you are on pace. If you are planning on 10 minutes for breaks and 30 minutes for review, you will need to complete approximately 1 question per minute.
  • Never leave a question unanswered. The PMP exam does not penalize you with negative scores for giving wrong answers.

Some Other Quick Tips:

  • Plan to start studying at least 4 months out to avoid having to cram all of your preparation into a few weeks. However, don’t despair if you don’t have 4 months. Most preparations take 2 to 3 months.
  • Get to know the 47 PMP formulas, 19 numerical values and 27 acronyms that you are expected to know. Do a brain dump of the important formulas before every full length simulation exam.
  • There are a number of websites devoted to statistics, quality tools, net present value, time value of money, critical path and earned value management. Do a search in Google and utilize them early on in your PMP prep.
  • Set a higher goal to focus on and attain. This could be career related and it will keep you motivated.
  • For more tips visit http://www.pmchampion.com or download our app at http://www.pmchampion.mobi

 

Venturing Out On Your Own in Project Management Consulting

You have been working your way up the project management ladder, have many years of valuable experience, gotten your PMP Certification and now feel it is perhaps the right time to strike out on your own.  It is a very exciting time, but also one filled with anxiety and uncertainty.

Becoming a consultant has many risks that one needs to understand fully before making the first steps.  It requires a financial safety net, a wealth of networking contacts to draw from and a lot of time and hard work.  When running your own consulting business, you are not just providing consulting services but operating a business.  You need strong salesmanship, financial, human resource, and organizational skills to effectively manage a successful business long-term.

You need to ask yourself if you have what it takes to not only manage yourself as a consultant, but also manage all aspects of the business.  When you were working for a company, you had one focus: your projects.  Now you are going to be The Boss and everything is on your plate.  There are many advantages, such as a larger variety of work, flexible hours and independence; however, there are many things to consider before taking the entrepreneurial leap!

As you’re thinking about and preparing to take this next step, make sure you carefully consider the following points to ensure you are fully prepared.

  • What is your financial situation?  If finances aren’t your strong point, be sure to hire a financial advisor or accountant.  If you can’t afford it, then try to take some online courses that would allow you to have a firm grasp of how to handle small business finances, maximize your wealth, manage your assets and grow your business.  You do not want to risk getting in over your head.
  •  Establish a professional image and brand.  Clearly lay out your credentials (including your hard earned PMP Certification) and accomplishments, craft a business name, build an appropriate home office space that matches your image and requirements, and produce and design quality promotional collateral and sales materials.  Don’t forget to create a list of references, as your potential clients will ask for it.
  • Devise a comprehensive business plan.  Clearly define your vision, mission and what path you want to take the consulting business for not only to start, but for the first year, fifth year and beyond.  What are your staffing requirements?  Will you be working alone or hiring other consultants?
  •  Determine what your core market is and how you are going to attract that market and what your competitive advantage and strategies are.  Are you going to specialize in a niche market like IT or taking a broader approach?
  •  Utilize your existing network of contacts within the industry and continue to grow and cultivate your base through a vast array of social media networking venues, meetings, associations and trade advertising, and the old fashion standby of cold calling.
  • Once you have carefully considered all above factors, it is important to secure your first client before venturing out on your own and quitting your secure full-time job.  Doing so will help ease the uncertainty.

If you have that “Good Salesman”’s attitude of believing in what you are offering, and feel like you have no option but to step outside your comfort zone of corporate environment, then you don’t have to worry about putting your money where your mouth is.

How to Get Better in Managing A Small Consulting Business

To help you manage your small business and at the same time earn some PDUs, we are providing a few online courses below:

 

 

So you received your PMP Certification… Now what?

Congratulations!  All the hours of dedication and studying you put into your certification have finally paid off.  Celebrate and enjoy the moment…  You deserve it!

But, remember this is not the end of the road.  It’s important for you to continue your hard work and maintain your PMI credential.  You have come this far, you don’t want to lose your status.

After passing the PMP Exam, certified Project Managers must demonstrate their commitment to the profession and continuous learning by accumulating 60 PDUs (Professional Development Units) over a 3-year period within PMI’s Continuing Certification Requirements (CCR) program.  One PDU is equal one hour of “Learning” activity.  The purpose of PDUs is to keep you engaged, focused and growing professionally.

 

What are the different PDU categories?

There are 6 categories of courses and options that you can take to earn your PDUs, depending on your PMI credentials (PMP, PgMP, PMI-SP, PMI-RMP).  Below is a breakdown of the categories:

  • Category A: Courses offered by a Registered Education Providers (REP) of the PMI
  • Category B: Continuing Education or Online courses
  • Category C: Self Directed Learning
  • Category D: Creating new project management knowledge
  • Category E: Volunteer service
  • Category F: Working as a Professional in Project Management

For more detailed information on each of the particular categories, check out www.pducategories.com or  www.pdu-courses.com to determine your specific requirements.

 

How to plan earning PDUs online?

Breaking down the PDUs equally into 20 per year will help to eliminate any last minute cramming and rushing in the final months of the third year.  For long-term success, it is critical to undertake the time-management skills you studied for during the exam prep, keeping in mind that it is important to lead a balanced life with your personal and professional aspirations.

While considering how to tackle the PDUs, it is important that you devise and map out a thorough plan on how you are going to manage the commitment.  Many successful Project Managers utilize this opportunity to strategically incorporate the PDUs as objectives within their professional career path.  Determine which particular categories work in your situation and match your interests and specific goals.

Note: Don’t forget that you can claim 15 PDUs if your title remained “Project Manager” during the 3-year cycle after your PMP exam (check under Category F).

 

Where to take your online PDU courses?

There are many benefits to taking your courses via http://www.pdu-courses.com.  The average market price per PDU for good quality courses can range from $20 to $80.  With pdu-courses.com, you get online trainings that not only exceed your quality expectations, but cost an average of $10 per PDU.  You also get 1 free bonus PDU for every 10 PDU that you purchase. All that can translate into substantial savings when you add up all the courses you need over a 3-year cycle.  As well, you will be guided on how to claim your PDUs by using your PMI username and password.

 

Force Majeure: When The Unforeseen Happens On The Project!

As the world gets smaller with our global interactions and networking, our projects are more and more impacted by natural disasters, civil unrest and even terrorist acts throughout the world.  Projects could be placed at a standstill, or even cancelled or ruined.  As project managers, it’s our job to plan for and manage these occurrences.  They unfortunately aren’t as unforeseen as they used to be in past years or decades.

Most contracts include specific clauses called Force Majeure (a French expression which can be translated into “Superior Force”). These are contractual clauses designed to minimize the liability and risk to the contractors in such situations as natural catastrophes or unavoidable circumstances, which interfere with the planned course of events that make it difficult for stakeholders to fulfill their obligations.

An example of a recent tragic event that would be considered a Force Majeure is the  terrorist hostage situation at an international gas plant in Algeria in January 2013, where unfortunately over 30 workers were killed. You can be sure that the project managers and legal teams in the companies involved seeped through their Force Majeure clauses.

There are also many other situations where damage is done to property, quite unforeseen and unfortunate, but the situation cannot be considered as a Force Majeure. One such situation is when the transportation company that you hired has an accident, due to driver’s DUI, while shipping your products from one location to another.

If you encounter a Force Majeure event, here are 7 key tips on how to deal with it and effectively manage your project for the future:

  1. READ: Read and understand your contract clauses on Force Majeure. It is important to understand how it is defined and treated in your contract. Consult and involve your legal team as early as possible.
  2. NOTIFY: Send an official notification to your client ASAP.  Reassure your client about your full ongoing investigation of the event and your risk-mitigation efforts to minimize impacts on their project. It is a good idea to notify your insurance company as well.
  3. GATHER: Gather as much information and documentation about what happened as possible. Get news reports, police reports, photos and videos, as much info as you can get your hands on.  Keep this information on file for future reference.
  4. RE-PLAN: Come up with a new plan to minimize any impacts on the project in the future.  Be sure to include risk mitigation strategies, and a new schedule.
  5. RE-NOTIFY: Notify your client about your actions, and ask for an extension of time if you need one, referring to your contract (when applicable).
  6. REPORT: Keep your client (and your insurance company) in the loop during the entire repair process.  Be sure to send them regular progress reports on any changes you have made. Documentation is key in being able to get an extension of time from your client.
  7. AGREE: Meet with your client to discuss the new plan, agree on the corrective actions, and any time extensions.  Do not leave this agreement up in the air. Avoid ambiguity.

Experience the Connection … It Will Benefit You!

In addition to all the resources available for your PMP Exam Training, an online PMP Forum is a great place to seek additional support from those who are in the process of preparing for their PMP certification. Is there a question you have that you just can’t find the answer to?  Or, are you interested in meeting another person in your geographic area who is currently preparing for the exam and interested in studying together?  Or, are you just interested in feeling more connected and a feel part of the process. PMP forums have been set up to address these issues as well as many more. They are extremely easy to use and navigate.  Outlined below are 5 reasons you need to log on to one today.

Five Benefits of On-line PMP Forums


  1. Allows you to share experiences and gain sage advice.  Learn from others mistakes, their insights, or get tips on studying, and what to look out for and keep in mind when preparing for the exam.  Find answers to any lingering questions or doubts; or provide suggestions and assistance to others.
  2. Keeps you focused and a great source of emotional support and guidance.  Many users find the forum to offer reassurance, feedback and inspiration from others’ postings.  If you are having trouble focussing or are feeling lost, utilizing the forum can help get you back on track and ready to learn.
  3. Valuable informational resource.  The forum contains a search engine to make it easy to look for additional information and research materials.  PMP trainers are also available to assist with finding answers and solutions to your questions or problems.
  4. Excellent networking tool – providing a great foundation to participate and engage with others within the project management industry and create your own community.  It is a great resource for finding others located near you to set up convenient study group sessions.
  5. Assists you in the learning process.  When you share your knowledge and opinions with others and create a dialogue, you are becoming immersed with the material and your familiarity with the concepts and terminology increases.  Thus, helping you better retain the material and improve your understanding, which should help lead to greater success preparing and passing the PMP Exam!

As part of our PMP training packages, we offer access to an on-line PMP Forum that we encourage you to utilize.  Check it out.  Many find it extremely useful when preparing for the PMP Exam.  Experience the connection, it will benefit you!

Proper Documentation protects the Project…. and the Project Manager!

Other than planning the project, documentation is probably the most important single part of managing a project. Proper documentation protects the interests of the project’s stakeholders, ensuring that the project scope is completed and that everyone is kept properly appraised of all phases of the project’s progress.

Protecting Your Project

Managing a project requires extensive communication. The project manager is the communications nexus for everyone involved in the project. Not only do the stakeholders need to be kept informed of the project status, but information needs to flow through the project management office to reach all affected team members. The only way to ensure that this information reaches the necessary team members and that there is a record of it is through timely, accurate and complete documentation.

More than anything, project documentation needs to keep track of changes. Every project has changes along the way, things which are not included in the original plans and scope, but have to be done in order for the project to be successful. Some of these changes are requested by stakeholders, but the majority of them are originated by contractors or project team members, adding elements to the project which were not foreseen.

People tend to rely on their memories for what was said and what happened on the project; unfortunately, we can’t even depend on two people’s memory to remember the same thing the same way. Documentation eliminates the dependence on faulty human memories, committing things to paper, so that we can have a record that everyone can agree on.

Protecting Yourself

One thing that isn’t usually mentioned about the importance of project documentation is the idea of protecting yourself as the project manager. Many people working on the project try to avoid taking responsibility for their own actions, especially their own failures. The tendency is to shift the blame to the highest target of opportunity… and that’s usually the project manager. Proper documentation not only protects the project’s stakeholders, but it also protects you as the project manager from false accusations.

Unfortunately, many times this results in internal complaints or even external lawsuits to settle the matter. The courts always want to see documentation. People’s personal testimonies are universally recognized by the courts as being fallible, whereas documents are trusted. In such cases, a simple email, letter or Minutes Of Meetings carry much more weight than anything said as testimony. Having a weight of documentation on your side, such as schedules, emails, letters, MOMs, advisory bulletins, blueprints, photographs and checklists makes your case secure. In a civil case (rather than a criminal case) your documents are not “discoverable” by the opposing party until you are actually in court. That prevents the opposing party from preparing documentation to counter yours. Unless the opposing party can overcome your documentation with documentation of their own, there is no way that they can beat your case.

When accusations are made, it is only your documentation that protects you. Without it, everything boils down to your word against somebody else’s. With it, it’s their word against your documentation. Whether in the eyes of a manager or the eyes of a court, your documentation gives you the advantage you need in order to win your case. As a Project Management Professional you should place proper emphasis on documenting your projects.

 

Using iPad or iPhone for Your PMP Exam Prep

There are many ways to prepare for the PMP Exam. Mobile devices such as iPad have a number of unique features that provide for interesting possibilities in eLearning. As a completely portable learning tool, the iPad can be your best companion to keep you focused on your certification objectives anywhere you go.

A new study by a USC professor attempted to figure out the actual effectiveness of iPad apps in learning. About 122 fifth-graders from two schools and four math classes were used to assess the effectiveness of an iPad app for improving students’ fractions knowledge and attitudes. The study was the first to document learning and motivation gains achieved using iPad.  Even without data of this nature, more than 600 school districts nationwide have already integrated iPads into their curriculum. Here are some of the study’s key findings:

  • Fifth graders fractions test scores improved 15% after playing the math game for 20 minutes over 5 days. This was a significant increase compared to the control group.
  • Students’ confidence towards fractions improved an average of 10%.
  • Virtually all students rated the game as fun and said it helped them learn.

So why not apply the same for your PMP Exam Prep?

PM Champion’s team of project management experts and mobile app designers have spent months rethinking their App Store strategy in order to make it as easy to use as possible. The result is the new PM Champion app for iPad & iPhone: http://www.pmchampion.mobi

It has a beautiful interface and a completely re-imagined experience that puts your PMP Exam Prep just a few taps away. It provides more than 650 multiple-choice PMP® questions. These are not simple questions that you find on some cheap apps. These tests have been meticulously selected to increase your likelihood of success on your first attempt:

  • Chapter Tests for each chapter of the PMBOK Guide (250+ Questions)
  • 100 Questions covering PMP Formulas and Mathematical Concepts
  • 100 Questions covering the Processes outlined in the PMBOK Guide
  • One Complete Exam Simulation (200 Questions)
  • 100 Study Tips for your PMP Exam Prep
  • Discount Coupon

PM Champion for iPad and iPhone will give you a clear advantage for your Project Management Professional (PMP®) Certification Exam Preparation.

But Relax! The new app is not all that serious!

After all, Project Managers should have a sense of humor too. Through this app you also get more than 100 funny quotations about the topic of “Project Management”. You may even recognize some of them on you own projects!

The PMP® Exam is known to be a tough one. You will be presented with 200 multiple-choice questions to complete within 4 hours. Often times the questions are scenario-based and the answers look very much the same.  So you need to be well prepared, and preparation takes time, careful planning and the right tools. If you love managing projects, want to excel in your field, increase your marketability and up your income, now is the time for that “New Year Resolution” and for making the leap towards PMP® status. Our next Blog posting will show you how to set “PMP Certification” as part of your “New Year Resolutions”. Stay Tuned!

To learn more about PM Champion’s new app visit http://www.pmchampion.mobi

 

 

Top 5 Benefits of Getting A Project Management Certification

Professional certification has a significant importance in the project management (PM) industry, especially for projects where large amounts of cash (or risks) are involved. Certification refers to the recognition of the skills, knowledge, and/or competence of a practitioner working in the field.

Project management certifications come in a variety of flavours. Three of the most internationally recognized are:

  • Project Management Professional (PMP): is a credential offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI). Starting to be popular in North-America, it is gaining more and more recognition around the globe. Site: www.pmi.org
  • PRINCE2: stands for PRojects IN Controlled Environments, and is extensively used by the UK Government. It is also widely recognized and used in the private sector, both in the UK and internationally. The PRINCE2 method is in the public domain, and offers non-proprietorial best practice guidance on project management. Site: www.prince2.com
  • IPMA : stands for the International Project Management Association, a leading not-for-profit project management association based in Europe, and is one of the thought leaders in project, program, and portfolio performance competence. The IPMA certification system offers benefits both for the organization and the individual project manager. Site: www.ipma.ch

Here are the Top 5 benefits of obtaining a Project Management Certification:

1- Competitive Advantage

Having the certification is a great asset to your resume. It sets you apart and differentiates you from others in your field and other job applicants when competing for a promotion or new position. This competitive advantage is especially beneficial in today’s extremely competitive and tough economic marketplace. According to the PMI, project management jobs have also proven to be more resistant to the up & downs of the global economy.

2- Expertise

Certifications provide a solid foundation. The information and knowledge gained from the  coursework and case studies provides you with the most up-to-date industry knowledge and technical strategies from which to help guide and support you in your projects and allow you manage all aspects and risks more effectively.

3- Increased Earning

The time and energy you invest in becoming certified will financially pay you back many times over with higher paychecks. According to PMI’s Project Management annual salary surveys, project managers with certification tend to earn thousands of dollars per year more than their project manager counterparts who have not obtained their certification.*

4- Correcting Bad Habits

Learning updated Knowledge Areas and techniques will help correct any bad habits you may have picked up over the years working in a non-structured environment and increase your competencies, especially for those working in organizations which have not focused their efforts on having a PMO in the past. You will become a more valuable employee and be seen as a leader within your organization. It will also allow you a great opportunity to establish the groundwork to implement a more sophisticated project management working environment within your organization.

5- Credibility

There are more and more government organizations around the world expecting their projects to be managed by professional project managers who have a certification from a recognized institution. Certification demonstrates your commitment to a high level of professionalism, your dedication to quality project management standards, and a commitment to continued learning. These outstanding merits aid in boosting your credibility and prestige within your organization, with existing clients, and become great assets when bidding on new prospective projects.

In conclusion, regardless of where you live and which certification you chose, obtaining your Project Management Certification is a worthwhile investment. There are many advantages that certification can provide you throughout your career. Acting on it earlier in your career can provide you with major benefits right from the start. The time is now to get started.

To learn more visit http://www.pmchampion.com

 

Effective Email Communications for Project Managers

Email is an extremely efficient written communication tool. It has many advantages, which explains why everyone’s inbox seems to be constantly overflowing and inundated daily with large volumes of emails. As a project manager, email is a great vehicle to keep the communication flow organized. It keeps you in touch and on task for projects with co-workers and clients. However, with all the benefits come some negative consequences to watch out for. These can easily arise if you aren’t careful and mindful in your use. Mishaps can hamper the effectiveness of your emails and be quite detrimental. Outlined below are 10 key rules to keep in mind when you send your next email:

1. Keep your emotions out of it. Think first, then react. Never send an email when you’re angry. It’s easy to get upset and vent your frustration, but that could easily turn against you in the future. You don’t want to regret your impulsiveness later on. It is a good idea to assume that your boss, his boss, and your company lawyers will all read your emails one day!

2. If you get a bad or unpleasant email, and you absolutely have to write something down, write it down but have the discipline not to press ‘Send’ for at least 6 hours. It is better to cool down and take stock of the situation before firing off your reply. With a fresh perspective, re-read your email and make the necessary changes so it is a more diplomatic version. Remember that your facial expression, vocal inflection or body language can’t be conveyed in an email, so messages can be easily misconstrued as too harsh or critical. It’s important your email contains a neutral, business-like tone.

 3. Do not copy people that are not absolutely needed on the email. Most co-workers (especially managers and executives) hate it when you copy them without a valid reason that would require some ‘Action’ on their part.  It also reduces your leverage when you really need it.

 4. Be careful of its content. Once a dispute reaches the courts of law, all email correspondence can be accessible by opposing parties. Email communications carry the same weight as other written letters and documents.  You could be held accountable for what you said or forwarded on.

 5. Stick to the facts, and keep guesstimates out of it. If you have to provide an estimate based on incomplete data, mention it clearly in the email. Or, provide your contact with the information you have and tell them that you are working on the other data and will follow-up with it as soon as it is available.  Being clear and honest is the best policy and it goes a long way in building trust.

 6. Even if you mark an email ‘Confidential’ or ‘Privileged’ it will not necessarily protect you against other parties accessing the information. Use phone calls and face-to-face meetings as much as possible, especially for sensitive or private information that you don’t want leaked or have a paper trail of. Even when an email is deleted, it can still be accessed and retrieved from the hard drive or server.

7. Don’t overuse the ‘Urgent’ or ‘High Priority’ feature too often. Use it sparingly and only for those very important emails that require urgent or immediate attention. Using it too often will decrease its effectiveness when the time comes that it really is crucial and of high priority.

 8. Keep the subject to the point and straightforward.  Longwinded responses and discussions are better for meetings than emails. Most people will not take the time to read the entire email. They will quickly skim through it. It is best to be concise, to the point and on topic. Quickly summarize and highlight your key points, then suggest a meeting or phone call to further discuss.

 9. Carefully reread and proof your emails before clicking the ‘Send’ button.  Be sure to use spell check.  Avoid costly mistakes and improper grammar and punctuation. Make the emails professional looking and ensure they contain what you really want them to say. You want to make a good impression and not come across as too casual or unprofessional.

 10. Avoid using legal terms in your emails to your client or suppliers as such terms might automatically initiate certain reactions on the part of the receiving party or create certain obligations for your own organization. Terms like ‘Force Majeure’, ‘contractual’, ‘breach of contract’, ‘violation’ or ‘damages’ are typical terms used by legal personnel and should be avoided in regular project communications unless absolutely necessary. Talk to a lawyer to learn more.

By following these 10 tips you can start building the baseline for effective email communications and avoid costly mistakes, unwanted hassles and misunderstandings moving forward!

 

How to Improve Your Communication Skills

To help you improve your communication skills and at the same time earn some PDUs, we are providing a few recommended online courses:

 

Managing International Projects? Communicate Virtually But Effectively!

In today’s increasingly global society, more companies are discovering the need to conduct business with customers, clients, and vendors from around the world.  However, the expensive business travel – combined with the time and effort involved – can be a burden for even larger companies to bear.  That’s why more businesses around the world are discovering new ways to manage international projects that center on virtual communication.

If you’re a project manager managing a global project, it’s vital for you to be able to connect with team members who might live in different countries or in different time zones.  Luckily, a host of virtual communications tools have made it easier than ever for PMs to arrange meetings, communicate with team members, and make important decisions with teams from around the world – without even having to step in an airport. In this article, we’ll discuss the most powerful virtual tools you can use to manage international projects, including tips and techniques for optimizing your virtual communication:

  • Conference Call Numbers:  Placing international calls can be expensive.  Having local numbers throughout the world can be even more expensive, as you’ll have to pay for each individual number.  However, toll-free or paid conference call numbers easily eliminate these obstacles by giving a general number that can be accessed in any international location.  What’s more, many of these conference call numbers are capable of hosting multiple calls, which means you can conduct your meetings with more international clients, employees, and vendors. Numerous vendors offer high-quality conference calls that can be utilized by organizations of all sizes and types.
  • Video Conferencing Software:  Video conferencing software allows multiple users to attend a virtual meeting using nothing more than a web cam and an Internet connection.  Video conferencing software gives you the face-to-face interactions you need without resorting to the expense of business travel.  You only need to send an email invite to your meeting attendees and designate a time to meet – it’s that simple. One of the most popular video conferencing software is Skype, a free service that allows you to host web meetings with anyone in the world.  Companies that can afford to spend a little more money can invest in a more sophisticated brand like Microsoft Lync.
  • Web-Enabled Computer Display Sharing: Many online services now allow for computer display sharing, which means you can hold a virtual meeting and share the information that’s on your computer.  Web-enabled computer display sharing is usually performed in conjunction with video conferencing software, so be sure to find a service that offers these advantages.  A web-enabled computer display sharing service is perfect to avoid any miscommunications that could arise as a result of attempting to disseminate complicated information. Free and subscription-fee computer display sharing services range from Join.me, WebEx.com, and TeamViewer.com (all are compatible with PC and Mac). Some even have mobile apps for iPad or other tablets.
  • Social Media:  Social media represents an excellent way to connect with friends and family.  However, sites like Facebook and Twitter come with serious challenges for conducting business communications with clients or suppliers. 

Some Warnings & Tips:

Now that we’ve explored the best virtual communication tools on the market, let’s take a look at some quick-fire tips you should remember when using any of these tools and software: 

  1. Make sure that you keep minutes during any phone conversations and virtual meetings.  Distribute these minutes of meetings (MOM) to attendees to ensure that no miscommunications have occurred.
  2. Always keep records of your phone calls and video meetings, especially if you’re conducting business with a new client or vendor.  After all, a verbal contract is only worth the paper it was written on.
  3. Don’t use social media to communicate important project messages.  Sending a message via Twitter or Facebook looks unprofessional, especially with other virtual communication tools available to you.
  4. Be sure to check your Internet access and response time before any virtual meeting.  You don’t want your Internet to drop out right in the middle of an important conversation.
  5. Place links to your tools on your shared server so that team members can access them.  Provide authorization codes and passwords to employees who require them, and set up a “test” session for all before the real thing.

The 21st century technology has revolutionized the way individuals communicate with each other – and this applies to the business world as well.  Now business leaders can manage international projects, meet with clients in different time zones, and even make international sales without leaving the comfort of the office. Of course, effectively managing international projects is only possible with the aid of the best virtual communication tools. By using the tips in this article you’ll quickly discover that it’s simple and efficient to talk to clients, team members, and vendors from around the world.

 

How to Improve Your Communication Skills

To help you improve your communication skills and at the same time earn some PDUs, we are providing a few recommended online courses:

 

 

Getting Results Without Authority

Many times there will be projects you are responsible for managing that involve co-workers that you have no real direct authority over.  They do not report to you but to a different functional manager within the organization.  However, you are responsible and accountable for the work they are doing on this particular project.

As a project manager, it is up to you to provide the groundwork, set the tone and establish the framework and timelines on which the project is based.  This involves providing boundaries, setting priorities, and cultivating a creative and productive atmosphere.  It is important for everyone to understand their role, how it impacts the other members, and the steps that need to be accomplished for the project to be a success.

Outlined below are a few key components to getting results without having the full authority:

Win The Team’s Trust

  • With Team Members: Open and honest communications provide more positive results than does having an authoritative attitude.  No one wants to feel like they are getting pushed or demanded to do their job.  If you present yourself as understanding and instill an open, two-way communication channel within the group, you are much more likely to get everyone on board. Establish and maintain trusting relationships with team members. They will have more confidence in the project.  Not only will they feel they can come to you if there is a problem, but you will be able to do the same.
  • With Functional Managers: Establish good trusting relationships and communication with the functional managers.  Keeping in close and regular contact with the managers that your team members report to is critical.  It is a great idea to schedule regular face-to-face meetings with them to report on the project’s progress, and how each team member is doing.  It is important to keep your comments positive and not overly critical of their staff.  Remember, you will need to enlist the support of these powerful stakeholders to ensure you continue to get the resources that you need.  If you are too critical, the next time you ask for their assistance or a particular staff member, you might not get it.

Understand Roles & Responsibilities

  • Get to know the ‘Roles & Responsibilities’ that are defined by your organization.  Unless you are managing the first project in the history of your organization, these roles and responsibilities must have been established by your executive management in the past.  The sooner you know them in detail, the better you can clearly understand where one team member’s responsibility stops and the other team member’s starts.  If your organization has not defined or established clear roles and responsibilities for their staff, you might have a bigger problem on your hand.  If this is the case, you should do one of two things – i) outline and present recommendations to your executive managers explaining why it is important to implement; or ii) get busy and update your resume because obviously your  management have no idea where they are heading, and so is your project and reputation.
  • Share this list of ‘Roles & Responsibilities’ with your team.  Make sure they clearly understand what the organization expects and what is required of them.  It is a great idea to review them in your team meetings at least once a quarter, or whenever communication problems arise.

Understand Organizational Processes

  • Firmly understand the different processes that have been established within your organization to allow for a seamless flow of information.  Review these processes with team members and collect buy-in from everyone at the early stages of the project.  Identify any weaknesses or problem areas and make changes required for your project to run effectively.  You might need to involve functional managers as well.

Manage Conflicts

  • If a conflict arises, always refer to your organizational processes and the ‘Roles & Responsibilities’ before taking a side in the conflict.  The issue should be fully addressed and discussed openly with the team members.  If it can’t be resolved and all options have been exhausted, only then should it be taken to the functional managers.  Escalation should only be used a last resort.   As an effective project manager, you want to be seen by your team as a competent problem solver.  If you can’t do this then you will definitely not command respect or be able to exert any authority.

Having the ability to win respect, influence people and foster cooperation is absolutely critical to project management success.  How you get everyone to work together to achieve the desired results is paramount.

How to Get Better in Managing Without Authority

To help you manage your team members without having direct authority and at the same time earn some PDUs, we are providing a few online courses below:

 

 

How to Avoid and Deal with Turnover on your Project Team

Turnover.  The mere mention of just this single word can conjure up images of chaos, confusion, stressed out coworkers, and project tasks that simply slip within the cracks.  Employee turnover can make it almost impossible for project teams to produce high-quality work products that meet the needs of both customers and the organization.  What’s more, turnover in your project team can cause a myriad of financial and schedule risks, including strained budgets and missed deadlines.

As a Project Manager, you know you should avoid and deal with turnover in your project team – the problem is, sometimes it isn’t always so clear-cut how to do that.  That’s where this article comes into play.  We’ll discuss some of the top techniques you can implement within your project team to avoid and deal with turnover.

Is History Repeating Itself?

Let’s begin by examining the first step: comparing the project context with similar previous projects. Before getting your project into gear, take a close look at the project scope and compare it to other projects in your organization that were similar in background and duration.  If this project is unique to your company, consider taking a look at case studies of organizations that are similar to your own.  Determine if these projects encountered high turnover rates of critical staff members such as engineers, project accountants, programmers, etc.  If the turnover rate was high in the previous project, chances are that history may repeat itself in your current one.

Establish Trusting Relationships

High turnover rates in project teams are often reflective of the relationship between employees and their job satisfaction on the project.  Be sure to establish trusting relationships with your employees.  This not only encourages open communications about motivations and aspirations, but it also makes your employees feel that they can be honest about their anxieties and frustrations.

 Keep An Eye Out For The Signs

 Project leaders will want to keep an eye out for the signs that employee turnover is about to become a problem.  These signs may include a lack of motivation, unexplained absences, job hunting signs such as resume updates, delays in responsiveness, and poor performance.  If these signs materialize within your project team, be sure to take the team member(s) aside to discuss their behavior.  You may often discover that these efforts at honest and productive communication can be enough to dissuade employees from leaving the project team.

Prepare Yourself For The Turnover

Of course, there are some instances where turnover within your project team may be inevitable.  If an employee is determined to leave, you should prepare yourself by creating a “transition” strategy.  You may want to consider having the employee give you more than two weeks’ notice if they plan on leaving the company.  Oftentimes, two weeks is not enough notification to train new employees and gain access to necessary files and documents. Speaking of which, it’s vital for you and the employee’s manager to identify all the critical documents that the team member has on his or her work computer.  This is an especially vital step to take if the employee hasn’t given you enough notification regarding his or her leaving date.  By gathering these critical documents, you can maintain the integrity and security of critical organizational processes and projects.

 Smooth Over The Transition

 Throughout the transition period, you’ll want to maintain a positive relationship with the employee who’s leaving.  This can help ensure that the new employee has access to the training and materials he or she needs to integrate into the project team.  The replacement will need time to absorb everything and ask the right questions, so find out if you can motivate the leaving employee (using an incentive) to stay a bit late during the next few weeks or even come back for a day or two after leaving the organization. This can make the transition much smoother for the replacement, which can minimize or even eliminate project disruption altogether.

 Track The Transition To Closure

 After the employee leaves the organization, you want to track the transition to closure. This means paying attention to how the replacement is handling his or her new role on the project team.  Be sure to pay extra attention to the new employee and ask questions about how he or she feels about the project.  Encourage other employees to mentor the replacement.  By fostering a positive and productive project team, you can ensure that the replacement becomes a successful fit, as well as minimize any future employee turnover.

In conclusion, by developing a turnover strategy before the beginning of major projects, you can help ensure that employee turnovers don’t prevent you from achieving major project milestones.

How to Get Better in Managing Team Members

To help you manage your team members and at the same time earn some PDUs, we are providing a few online courses below:

 

 

 

How to Avoid the Pitfalls of International Holidays on your Projects

 

It’s that time of year again… holiday season and end of the year are approaching! Time to gear up and get your schedules all organized for 2013. It might sound pretty simple, but it takes some planning and forethought to keep it all straight and to make sure you aren’t leaving anyone out or forgetting about anyone’s specific cultural holiday observances.

As we become more culturally diverse and grow with more global affiliates and international projects to manage, it is critical to understand and recognize all the various holidays. In doing so, we can minimize downtime and unplanned delays in our projects due to meeting cancellations, absences and no-shows. With close to 200 countries world-wide, each with their own religious, cultural and national government holidays, we can face  a lot of downtime in our schedules. And, this isn’t even including vacation time ! Factor that into the equation and there are a lot of days in a year to account for and keep track of.

Here’s a list of 10 key ideas to help you and your team avoid suffering from these oversights.

  • Be mindful and respectful. Other team members in other locations have the same rights to take their holidays as you do, so don’t be surprised if they tell you about it one week before. It is your responsibility as the Project Manager to account for these dates in your plans.
  • Be cognizant and identify your global team members. For example, if you have important team members in India or China, avoid planning an important customer meeting during India’s Diwali holidays or the Chinese New Year.
  • Get organized. Create an “Online Project Absence Calendar” or OPAC to include all the important dates, and set it up on-line for easy access:
    • Google Calendar is a good tool. It is free, convenient and extremely easy to use. Check out http://bitly.com/Uu527J.
    • For Apple users, check out http://bitly.com/UANW2j on how to use various iCloud apps.
    • Online calendars can be set as private-view or shared, with either read-only or with full-edit control allowing all or certain team members to access them. Once installed, all your team members can immediately see when others in the team are absent and for how long. See more links below.
  • Get input from everyone and encourage on-going, open communication. Ask all your team members to provide their local and national holiday schedules plus vacation time and any personal planned absences well in advance, and add it to your OPAC.
  • Keep your records up-to-date. Make sure the information remains current and accurate. Review it in your team meetings on a monthly or bi-monthly basis.
  • As new team members come on-board or others leave, it is important to update the OPAC with any new dates so it remains precise and reliable. If your project OPAC contains irrelevant information, it won’t be of much value and your team will be less likely to use it.
  •  Include other important dates: important company events, annual social corporate events, product launches, quarterly or year-end financial deadlines are great to include as reminders.
  • Don’t forget to include local holidays in your production or manufacturing schedules and adjust task durations as necessary.
  • Expect the unexpected. Regardless of how thorough you plan, your project will probably face unexpected absences due to illness, emergencies, natural events, or even things that team members forgot to tell you about. So be prepared and understanding!
  • Avoid conflicts and misunderstandings. From a human relations standpoint, it is important to respect others’ differences. Effectively working with others requires mutual understanding. And, it is crucial for good project management. It helps foster a friendlier and productive working atmosphere. If your team members feel that they are being respected and understood, they will be more willing to work with you and get the project completed satisfactorily.

With it being so easy to sync everyone’s holidays and schedules together in one easily accessible online location, there is no reason not to get started and be organized. Improve your project management and make 2013 the year to proactively harmonize your calendars!

How to Get Better in Managing Your Project Schedule

To help you improve your capacity in managing your project’s schedule and at the same time earn some PDUs, we are providing some suggestions below:

A few more links for Google Calendar fans:

http://labnol.blogspot.ca/2006/04/add-national-religious-holidays-to.html

http://www.askdavetaylor.com/add_public_holidays_to_google_calendar.html

http://support.google.com/calendar/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=37098

A few more links for Apple iCal fans:

http://icalshare.com

http://www.icalworld.com/holidays.html

 

PMP Application Audit – Quick Tips

PMI Audit Tip # 1

1- If your Application is audited by the PMI

By applying to take the Project Management Professional (PMP) exam you also automatically agree to comply with the Project Management Institute’s (PMI) audit terms. The PMI clearly writes about this in the PMP Credentials Handbook.

  •  If you get audited you will be notified by Email: If your application does get pulled for an audit (after you make the payment) you will not be given a candidate ID to schedule the exam.
  • Information about the audit: PMI will give you information on how to proceed. Throughout the audit process you will be asked to send in hard copies of important information including your education and training. It must be sent to the Project Management Institute through express courier service or regular mail. Your documents will be verified once received.
  • If your audit goes well: You will be given your candidate ID through e-mail, so you can schedule your exam.
  • Audit duration: The entire audit process usually lasts around 10 days depending on how long it takes for information to be received. You can learn more about real-life situations from people who have been audited, in our PMP Forums accessed through our Members Area.
PMI Audit Tip # 2

2- Three ways to fail the audit

According to PMI there are three ways that you can fail an audit:

  • No Fault: Avoid this by making sure you have all your documentation before you submit your PMP Exam application. However, if for some reason, your education or experience cannot be confirmed, through no fault of your own, then PMI will still let you fail the audit. You may reapply as soon as you have your experience hours documented or confirmation of your degree.
  • Non-Compliance: If you are audited and you simply have too much going on in your life to participate in the audit, then you can choose not to give any audit responses. Similar to pleading “no contest,” the candidate is subject to a one year suspension period before he/she can apply for the PMP Exam again.
  • Fraud: It’s not worth it to lie on your application! If you provide false information on your PMP application and you fail an audit because of it, you will be permanently suspended from sitting for any PMI exams. And they truly do mean forever.
PMI Audit Tip # 3

3- Time of Audit Notification

The audits are completely random and you will be informed via email that you have been selected. This email is usually sent to you very shortly after you submit your application.

  • The Clock Stops Here: At this point, it is important to realize that once you are being audited the “clock stops”. By this we mean that normally you have 1 year following the submission of your application to take the PMP exam. But during the audit, this “clock stops” and does not continue until after your audit has been processed. So if your audit takes 6 weeks, then you have 1 year and 6 weeks to take the exam from the moment that you submitted the application.
  • Audit Package: After informing you that you are audited, the PMI will prepare the “audit package” for you. Log on to your account at PMI to find it.
PMI Audit Tip # 4

4- Audit Package tips

The audit package contains the details that you have submitted for each of your projects on your application. It also contains further instructions. You will now have to do the following:

  • Your Reference Contacts: In your application you named a primary contact person for each of the projects that you had worked on. Forward the appropriate section of the package to each of your primary contacts. They now have to verify that the information listed is correct, print and sign the document, put it into a sealed envelope and then put another signature across the sealed flap of the envelope. And yes, the PMI is very serious about this last one.
  • Copy of your 35 Contact Hours Certificate: Just print the certificate that we provide after you pass our Final Test to show that you have received 35 Contact Hours of training related to the 9 PMBOK Guide Knowledge Areas.
  • Copies of your degrees: You might also be asked to provide copies of your degrees.
PMI Audit Tip # 5

5- Submit your Audit Package soon

The sooner you submit your audit package, the sooner you’ll get your candidate ID. PMI is usually rather quick in processing your audit documents after you send them in. It can take as little as 4-10 days.

  • Wait for the confirmation email from PMI: After you send your audit package, you’ll receive an email of acceptance from the PMI and it will give you instructions on how to schedule an exam appointment.
  • Know the Prometric Centers near you: You will take the exam in one of the many Prometric test centers worldwide, and the Prometric website is also the place where you schedule the exam online.
  • Mark your Exam Day: There is usually no problem scheduling your exam on Prometric web site unless you want a Saturday appointment. Many people who have taken the exam recommend taking it on a Monday or Tuesday; you’ve had the weekend to rest up, and the day prior to testing to take care of loose study ends and be absolutely certain of your knowledge.
  • You have a year to fix your exam date: The year allotted between acceptance and actually taking the test is to allow for rescheduling should a complication arise. Once you are accepted, it really is best to go online and set your exam date right away. If you schedule it for about 2-4 months after you receive your acceptance, you’ll have time to study without having to cram.
  • Check your other obligations! Make sure your family obligations, birthday parties, business trips and your other obligations are taken into account before you fix the exam date.
PMI Audit Quick Tips

Quick Tips


Quick Tip 1

Our recommendation is that once you are ready to submit your application to PMI, submit it first to your primary contacts. Ask for their comments and if they don’t agree then you can make changes before you send it off.

Quick Tip 2

Start out by reading the PMP Credentials Handbook to gain a basic understanding of the audit process. Interested in learning more? Go to PMI website in the Career Development section.

Quick Tip 3

PMI audit selection process is completely random, so don’t waste your time listening to and worrying about the rumors of profiling or trigger conditions.

Quick Tip 4

PMI will inform you about their audit decision via email as soon as you make your payment. Should you fail the audit, PMI will refund the money that you paid for the PMP Exam minus an administrative fee of $100.

 

 

PMP Exam Application – Quick Tips

PMP Exam Tip # 1

1- If you know little about the PMP Exam

If you just heard about the PMP Certification Exam, we strongly recommend that you watch our Slideshow and take your time to read it over until you feel comfortable about the basics: Go to PMP Basics Slideshow »

  • Learn about the eligibility requirements to apply for the PMP exam
  • Make sure your Work Experience and Education makes you eligible for applying
  • Still hesitating between an Online PMP Course, a Classroom PMP Course and a PMP Bootcamp? Check one of our other blog articles on this topic.

PMP Exam Tip # 2

2- PMI takes the PMP Application process very seriously

One of PMI ways to ensure the integrity of PMP certification is by auditing applicants throughout their programs.

  • Make sure you read the questions carefully and do whatever is required when you fill out your application.
  • PMI takes its Code of Ethics very seriously and so should you. The more time you take to make sure your application is aligned with your experience, the better it will withstand an audit.
  • Take the time to document your experience clearly. Make sure you know where you stored your degree, training certificates, dates, documentation, contact names, addresses and phone numbers from your projects. Better yet, create a new folder on your computer with all background information that supports your application.

PMP Exam Tip # 3

3- Do not lie on your application !

If you provide false information on your PMP application and you fail an audit because of it, you will be permanently suspended from sitting for any PMI exams. And they truly do mean forever.

  • PM Experience Hours: You should use an Excel sheet to calculate your work experience hours. You can also save yourself lots of time, and purchase our PM Experience calculator for just $10. Check the link on this page.
  • Work Experience Description: When you submit your application you will be asked to provide contact persons for each and every project. Be sure to confirm their current email address and phone numbers. These contact persons could be your managers, co-workers, vendors, clients and any other applicable stakeholders from your past projects. Let them know you’re applying to take the PMP Exam. Refresh their memory about your projects by sharing with them what you’re submitting and ask them if they agree with what you’ve written. Make corrections if they disagree.
  • Education: Do not mention any degrees for which you can not provide a solid proof. A bachelor degree you started for 4 months but did not finish is not a degree you can brag about on the PMI application.
  • 35 Contact Hours: If you take any of our PMP courses (Gold, Platinum, Diamond) we will provide you with an official certificate of 35 Contact Hours that is approved by the PMI. On that certificate we indicate all the information you need for filling out this section of your PMI application. Just copy the exact information from the certificate and keep it in case of audit. Do not fill out this section of your application until you finish your training and pass our Final Test.

PMP Exam Tip # 4

4- Set aside 8 hours for filling out the PMI Application

Most candidates are amazed at the amount of time they spend filling out the PMI application. So be prepared: Mark down a Saturday or Sunday on your calendar to fill out the application.

  • You can fill out the PMI Application in steps: This approach works better for most candidates. Fill out the “Education” section and save your application. Then come back and continue the “Work Experience” section.
  • Printout out your application as you fill it out to make sure the content is accurate.
  • Finish the Education and Experience sections while you study. This way you can finish your application as soon as you pass our Final Test and download the 35 Contact Hours Certificate.

PMP Exam Tip # 5

5- Submit your PMI application after finishing your training

The sooner you submit your application, the sooner you’ll know if you are getting audited or not. The audit process takes time so start acting like a real project manager, and plan for it in your forecasts.

  • Wait for the confirmation email from PMI: After you apply for the exam, you’ll receive an email of acceptance from the PMI and it will give you instructions on how to schedule an exam appointment. You will know if you are getting audited as soon as you make the payment.
  • Know the Prometric Centers near you: You will take the exam in one of the many Prometric test centers worldwide, and the Prometric website is also the place where you schedule the exam online.
  • Mark your Exam Day: There is usually no problem scheduling your exam on Prometric web site unless you want a Saturday appointment. Many people who have taken the exam recommend taking it on a Monday or Tuesday; you’ve had the weekend to rest up, and the day prior to testing to take care of loose study ends and be absolutely certain of your knowledge.
  • You have a year to fix your exam date: The year allotted between acceptance and actually taking the test is to allow for rescheduling should a complication arise. Once you are accepted, it really is best to go online and set your exam date right away. If you schedule it for about 3-4 months after you receive your acceptance, you’ll have time to study without having to cram.
  • Check your other obligations! Make sure your family obligations, birthday ceremonies, business trips and your other obligations are taken into account before you fix the exam date.

PMP Exam Quick Tips

Quick Tips


Quick Tip 1

If you don’t have the necessary Work Experience to apply for the PMP exam, you might fulfill the requirements for the CAPM certification in Project Management. Interested in learning more about CAPM Exam? Check PMI web site for more: CAPM Exam »

Quick Tip 2

Our online PMP courses have a Final Test. This test has 25 multiple-choice questions, and you have to answer a minimum of 17 correctly to pass. You can take the Final Test as many times as you want, at no extra charge.

Quick Tip 3

Interested in getting a “PM Experience Calculator”? Check this link on our site: PM Experience Calculator »

Quick Tip 4

During the application process your chances of being audited are low but real (10% to 15%). They drop dramatically after certification. From the start focus on making sure your information and actions are aligned with passing an audit.

Quick Tip 5

Since the PMP Exam audit selection process is completely random, you shouldn’t waste your time listening to and worrying about the rumors of profiling or trigger conditions.

 

How to Beat Holiday Boredom and Earn Your PDUs?

If you are one of those Project Managers who are really hard to keep entertained, or if you constantly need to learn something new even during your vacations, make sure you plan ahead so you won’t have to deal with holiday boredom.

Holidays or vacations can be depressing at times if you have not planned for some fun learning activity. When you feel bored at the end of a fun day at the beach, and you need something to fill your spare time with, you need to think about bringing along a small laptop with internet or WiFi connection, and you need to think about earning your PDUs

(*) The Professional Development Unit (PDU) is the measuring unit used by the Project Management Institute (PMI) to quantify approved learning activities for PMI Credential holders such as Project Management Professionals (PMP®). Typically, one PDU is earned for every one hour spent in a planned, structured learning experience.

With the growth of wireless technologies, laptop wireless Internet access is becoming readily available in many locations. The good news is that all major cell phone carriers in the US/Canada/Europe make it relatively easy to connect, and regardless of which carrier you use, the connection process is very similar. Connection speeds will be fastest in areas where digital coverage is available. When WiFi is available, it is definitely one of the best and fastest ways to connect to the Internet while on vacation. Some carriers also offer mobile WiFi HotSpots which you can use for sharing internet connection between several computers and other devices. Any connected device can enjoy 3G connectivity at just the touch of a button. These mobile hotspots fit in the palm of your hand and wirelessly connect up to 5 devices including laptops. They are ideal for temporary work sites or standalone kiosks where Internet service is needed and a power outlet is not available. Some features include:

  • Connect up to 5 Wi-Fi enabled devices including laptops, tablets, wireless projectors and more simultaneously
  • Share files easily with on-device expandable memory storage
  • Safeguard your privacy with customizable password protection and wireless encryption
  • Rechargeable battery up to 4 hours battery life on a single charge
  • No software installation required – just press the power button to create your Wi-Fi hotspot
  • Carry anywhere – barely larger than a deck of cards
  • Enjoy download speeds of up to 7.2 Mbps

Most Project Management Professionals (PMP®) or other PMI Credential holders (PgMP®, PMI-RMP®, PMI-SP®) find it a real challenge to earn their Professional Development Units (PDUs) required every few years. In fact, a large majority falls further and further behind obtaining their required Professional Development Units (PDUs) for maintaining their hard-earned certifications. Lack of time is the biggest culprit, lack of planning and discipline another. But the biggest issue is that most people have no idea about the available options at reasonable prices. Most professionals don’t know that earning PDUs can be accomplished after the business hours, from the comfort of their home over the Internet, and at a reasonable cost, sometimes even during your holidays!

Earning PDUs is not necessarily as challenging or daunting as many might think. It is actually quite easy, and it can fit into the regular routine of the career goals that most professionals have. The purpose of PDUs is to keep PMPs engaged and growing professionally.  Think about your goals for earning PDUs: If you are a Project Manager you have many responsibilities that require varied skills, much similar to the skills of a Business Manager or a General Manager. In fact, many project managers aspire to become Business Managers or General Managers some day. So, the first step toward incorporating PDUs into the normal course of business is to determine your personal and professional objectives. What is missing from your knowledge base? Are you as comfortable with Accounting, Finance and Six Sigma aspects of your work as you are with the routine Project Management processes? Are you able to follow a high-level conversation with your company’s executives during your quarterly Project Reviews?

Having a good plan and buying an online video-based training before departure is sure to keep you busy at times, and avoid those ridiculous situations where you get bored on holidays.

Our Suggestion: at www.pdu-courses.com the objective of online courses offered is to help Project Managers prepare for the set of skills that they will need during their career. The only call for action for you is to assess your needs and map them to your personal and career goals, while earning the required PDUs. The online training courses offer great quality at reasonable prices. The average market price per PDU for good quality courses ranges between $20-$80. At www.pdu-courses.com the online courses not only exceed highest quality expectations using interactive video content, but cost an average of $10-$12 per PDU.

 

Managing Multiple Projects in 10 Easy Steps

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In today’s hectic workplace, where “lean” is the buzzword of the day, it’s rare for a Project Management Professional (PMP) to be able to concentrate on only one project at a time. In most companies, project managers are expected to juggle between multiple projects, without letting anything fall through the cracks. While this can be challenging, it’s not impossible.

Managing multiple projects can be what separates the men from the boys in today’s workplace. As companies strive to keep costs in check, the manpower to fully and comfortably staff projects may not exist. At the same time, new projects are constantly being added to company’s backlog in order to reduce costs and increase efficiency. The combination of these factors increases the focus on project managers, and their ability to get things done in an effective, efficient and timely manner.

When new projects are dumped on your shoulders, you need to know how to deal with them, and how to make them fit in with everything else you’re doing. You’re the PM, and the company isn’t going to be interested in hearing excuses. So, to help you out, here are our 10 Commandments on how to manage multiple projects:

Priority List

1. Establish priorities

It often seems as if every project is the highest priority for your company’s executives. Everything has to be done right now, and below budget. Nevertheless, some projects have a greater potential for benefit than others. Those should be the highest priority ones. While it might seem that all projects are important for executives, the reality is something else… and you have to find out which ones are more important than others.

When you haven’t been given clear priorities, establish them yourself. If you look at the various projects from the viewpoint of potential benefit to the company, it would make it clear which ones are the most important ones. Don’t make the mistake of only thinking about financial benefit when you do this though, as other benefits can ultimately accrue to a greater overall advantage to the company. Having open communications with company executives will help you establish priorities.

Once you’ve established priorities, get someone with the appropriate authority to sign off on them. Be clear when you speak to them, letting them know that you’re not trying to shelve any projects, but rather that you want to establish which project gets precedence, if and when there is a conflict. You’re only planning ahead.

Parallel Schedule

2. Develop your schedules in parallel, not in a vacuum

All of your projects’ schedules have to mesh together in some way. If you have several critical items, from several different projects, that are all due at the same time, you’re going to find yourself stretched awfully thin. It’s best to create one master plan, with all the critical milestones on all your projects on it. That way, you can fit the various schedules together and look for conflicts earlier.

Planning this way helps ensure that you aren’t overburdening any of your resources, including yourself. You need to ensure that each department, work center or individual that is involved in any of those projects is scheduled in such a way that they can get everything done. This is actually an advantage that you have, when managing multiple projects, instead of having each project managed by a separate project manager.

One Schedule

3. Schedule your work as ONE project

When it comes to your own personal work schedule, and the work schedules of your team members, schedule your time as if it was all one big project. Don’t try to think in terms of spending X percentage of your time on project A and Y percentage of your time on project B. Look at what tasks need to be done and when they need to be done by. Then, schedule yourself accordingly. You’ll find that this causes you to spend more time on one project one day and more on another on a different day. That’s okay, just as long as it balances out in such a way as to get everything done. Ultimately, that’s your goal.

Delegate

4. Focus on what you are best at, let others do the rest

When you don’t have enough staff, it’s easy to try and do everything yourself. But, you need to remember, you’re the project manager, not a worker bee. While that doesn’t mean that you can’t get your hands dirty, you need to be sure that you have the time to do so, before committing yourself to anything.

It’s good for the team’s morale when they see you working alongside them. But, do so wisely. Make sure that the areas you choose to work on are areas where you are strong. Learn to delegate the rest to others to make your time have the greatest possible impact (even if it means keeping your hands off of something that you enjoy).

Memory

5. Don’t depend on your memory

As much as they keep upgrading memory on computers, nobody has come up with a memory upgrade for the one between your ears.

This is even more important when managing multiple projects. The more areas you are working on, the more details to keep track of. If you depend on your memory, you might remember it eventually; but eventually might be too late.

A good rule of thumb is “If it isn’t written down, it didn’t happen.” Force yourself to develop the habit of writing everything down. That way, when you need it, you can find it. Today, there are online tools and even mobile apps that can help you keep things organized and up-to-date. We recommend Trello.com which is also supported by mobile apps. You can use it as an Action Items List for yourself, or even give access to others for review and upgrade.

Checklist

6. Make good use of checklists

Checklists are a great way to make sure that everything gets done. Every task that gets assigned and every detail that needs to be completed should appear somewhere on a checklist. That way, you don’t have to remember them.

You can use checklists as a reminder to get status reports from team members. When those team members tell you it’s done, ask to see it. Until you see the work completed, it stays on that checklist. Again simple tools like Trello.com can be used to keep things organized and check-marked.

Communication

7. Keep communications open

Make sure that you communicate with every team, every day, even if it’s just for a moment. That moment you spend shows that you’re still interested, still involved and think that the team members are important. At the same time, it gives the team members an opportunity to identify risks early and tell you about any problems they are having.

If you want something done, you need to check on it. People will do what is expected and inspected. It’s not enough just to expect it. That moment of time taken to inspect it, is what makes sure that it’s really done and done correctly.

Manage Your Time

8. Manage your time

Time invested in managing your time is the best time spent. You need to go into every day with a plan. Granted, things will happen to try and destroy that plan, but having that plan puts you a leg up on that day. When you don’t have a plan, the day manages you, taking you where it will, which probably isn’t where you want to go.

Don’t let yourself get bogged down in any one thing. Everything seems to take longer than you expect. That’s okay, just because it’s trying to take longer, doesn’t mean that you have to give it that extra time. If a meeting is scheduled to last an hour, and the hour is up, end the meeting. Everything else can wait until next time.

A very important part of managing time and delegating properly is to realize the importance of any one activity or problem. There are those who will bring every decision to you, expecting you to make it for them. Empower people to make their own decisions; then you don’t have to.

Often, we can get caught up in things that are urgent, but not really important. How did those things become urgent? Many times, it’s because somebody didn’t do what they should have, when they should have. If that’s the case, put it back on them and let them run around in circles taking care of it; don’t let it become your problem.

Secretary

9. Don’t become project secretary

The amount of paperwork that is associated with some projects can be daunting. Just trying to keep everyone informed can be a task to challenge Hercules. You aren’t the file clerk or the secretary for every project team member. As much as possible, delegate those clerical tasks to others, so that you can concentrate on managing the project. A good secretary makes your life easier, not harder.

Management

 10. Don’t let others manage you

There are always those who have their own agenda. These people don’t see you as a manager who is getting projects done for the company; they see you as a resource for their agenda. Watch out for them. They’ll try and piggyback their pet project onto one of yours. You have enough work to do without taking care of them. Another way that people try to manage you is by telling you what to do and when to do it. Granted, your boss has this right, but he and his bosses are the only ones who do, especially if they have already established your priorities. If you are the project manager, then you need to manage the project. That starts with managing your own workload.

There you have it. Ten steps to successfully managing multiple projects. Granted, there’s a lot of effort to do all that, but it’s much more work if you don’t do it. To be successful in managing multiple projects and multiple priorities requires staying on top of your game. Success in project management is a combination of factors. However, more than anything, it requires keeping yourself focused on managing and not on doing the work yourself. No matter how much of a temptation there might be to get down and dirty with the troops, keep it under control. Yes, it’s good to rub elbows with them, but whatever you do, don’t let that keep you from doing your primary job; that of managing.

Online Training

How to Get Better in Managing Multiple Projects

To help you improve your capacity in managing multiple projects and at the same time earn some PDUs, we are providing some suggestions below:

 

Working with Difficult People for Project Managers

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Let’s face it, conflict is a fact of life. Unfortunately, it’s also a fact of working with many people when you are a Project Manager in a medium or large size organization.

Avoiding people who cause conflict only works where you don’t have to work with them in the future. For the rest, it’s necessary to find a way to deal with them, preferably while keeping the conflict to a minimum.

So, who are these difficult people? They can be people from any department, any profession or any company that you work with. Some might have years of experience in the organization and specialize in a very specific field – which makes them indispensable for your project – but they thrive on conflict, and no matter what you do, they’ll be difficult.

They’re not all the same, nor are they difficult in the same ways. Some are always confrontational and argumentative, others interrupt you all the time, and there are those who criticize everything, regardless of the source. You can add to the list the ones who won’t make any compromises, don’t listen and don’t deliver their part of the scope as per expectations.

One thing these people all have in common is that they don’t communicate well with others. Nevertheless, being aware of who they are and how to deal with them can reduce the level of conflict and make your daily life easier.

Get Ready to Deal with Difficult People

The number one thing that you have to do when dealing with difficult people is to try and understand them as much as possible. Often, the difficult behaviour they are manifesting is only a symptom of a deeper underlying problem. They are taking their personal problems out on others, often without even realizing it. It doesn’t matter if those problems are temporary or long-term; they affect the person’s attitudes and actions. Ultimately, as a Project Manager you might not be able to change the root cause of the problem, so you need to figure out how to work with them the way they are. There are some key things you need to keep in mind when trying to deal with difficult people:

  • Remember that even difficult people have the right to their opinion, even if you think they’re wrong. If they are criticizing, that’s their opinion, nothing more.
  •  Don’t make it personal. It doesn’t matter how personal it may seem, it isn’t.
  • Don’t let their problems become yours. Even if you try and help them through it, it’s their problem, not yours.
  • Remember that you don’t have to respond. Often, any response will just escalate the situation. In those cases, your best response is to walk away.
  • It’s very easy to strike back at these people, reacting instead of acting. This will only escalate the problem. Watch out for your own ego.
  • Don’t forget that they aren’t necessarily right. People who are negative are wrong more than they are right. You don’t have to accept their negativity and criticism as true.
  • When you have to deal with difficult people, make sure that you keep yourself above the problem. Don’t allow yourself to get down to their level; keep yourself aloof, like the eagle, flying above it. This will help you to keep from getting emotional and keep the situation from escalating.
  • It always helps to go into sessions well prepared. Know what goals you want to accomplish in your session with them, and how you are going to deal with any problems that they cause. By being mentally prepared for their problems, with pre-planned reactions, you are much less likely to be drawn into their behavior. Rather, you can keep the moral high ground, controlling the situation and removing the problem they are causing.

Dealing with the Stress and Negativity

You want to be careful with how you handle the stress and any negative feelings that crop up from dealing with difficult people. We’ve already mentioned not reacting to them in the same manner in which they are acting, but what do you do with all that negativity and stress? It’s important to dissipate it in some way, so that it doesn’t become a cancer within you.

Burying the problem is not dealing with it; it’s just hiding it from yourself and everyone around you. Unfortunately, even though it’s hidden, it’s still there, eating away at you. It’s essential that you are proactive in dealing with this, not just passive. You need a methodology for elimination, such as:

  • Forgive them quickly – This is probably the most effective thing you can do. When you forgive them, it releases all the negativity and stress. You don’t have to do this to their face, just do it in private.
  • Don’t accept what they say – If you don’t accept it, it shouldn’t be able to affect you. On the other hand, if it is affecting you, don’t try and tell yourself that you haven’t accepted it.
  • Don’t rehearse it in your mind – This is very common, especially when we are offended. The mind wants to “replay the video” so that we can see it over and over again. All this does is to increase the offense.
  • Find a way to dissipate the stress – You need some activity to help get rid of stress. For some people, exercise does this. For others, some sort of recreational activity or personal hobby gets their mind off the problem and reduces the stress.
  • Put yourself in their shoes – It’s always easier to accept someone’s actions when we can see it form their point of view, through the lens of their problems.

Failure to properly deal with the stress that difficult people bring into your life can cause serious problems like high blood pressure, digestive problems or even heart attacks. When you eliminate the stress, you’re helping yourself overcome the problem; protecting your health and preparing yourself for the next day’s issues.

Keep Your Relationships Positive Even with Difficult People

You want to keep your relationship as positive as you can. While you can’t change their attitude, you can change yours. Even if they are negative, keep your responses positive. Ultimately, that can do more to change their attitude than anything else you can do. While they may still be negative with everyone else around them, they will respond to your  attitude by being more positive with you. This really works, and the effort you put into it will pay off !

One way that you can maintain a positive relationship is to make a point of thanking them for their collaboration if and when they deliver results. Do so in public if you can. Everyone likes to be thanked, even difficult people. It shows that you aren’t against them, even though you might have to be firm at times.

Have a Last Resort Plan B (and Make Sure They Know About It Too)

As a last resort, you can always calmly let them know that you know the escalation process within your organization (all organizations should have one). Be careful how you do this though, as you don’t want to make it sound like a “threat”. Instead, be positive, by saying that you don’t want to go that route, but would rather find a way to work together for everyone’s benefit.

Make the Most of the Situation

Finally, always take these challenges as opportunities to improve your people skills. What can you learn from dealing with that difficult situation? How can you better deal with it in the future? What can you change, to prevent escalation in other confrontations? Make the most of the situation and it will help you in the long run.

As you learn to deal with difficult people, it will actually make you a better leader. Great leaders are forged in the furnace of affliction, not born with natural leadership abilities. As you work with difficult people, you are honing your leadership skills, preparing yourself for bigger challenges and greater responsibilities.

How to Get Better in Dealing with Difficult People

To help you deal with difficult people, improve your interpersonal skills and at the same time earn some PDUs, we are providing a few online courses below:

 

Everybody Hates Meetings, But…

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Countless people have made the observation than nobody likes meetings. While that’s probably a bit of an exaggeration, and there are a few people out there who enjoy going to meetings, there can’t be many. Nevertheless, meetings are an important part of managing any project effectively.

Meetings are Important to a Project Manager’s Credibility

Many of the stakeholders a Project Manager deals with will judge his/her credibility based on how well he/she manages a meeting. While this is an unfair judgment purely based on perception, it is still a reality which project managers face each and every day. Indeed, for some stakeholders the only contact with the Project Manager may be during those team meetings; so they have nothing else to base their perception on. A well-organized, well-run meeting gives stakeholders the impression that the Project Manager is on top of things, keeping everything under control, and that nothing is falling through the cracks. So as a Project Management Professional (PMP) you should not miss this great opportunity.

Managing a meeting well is also one of the biggest tests of PM’s ability. You are bringing together a group of people with different responsibilities and focus, for the purpose of working together on the same project. The divergent interests of attendees may cause friction and create the possibility of the conversation taking unexpected detours. In some cases, those who show up at the meeting come with their own agenda. Regardless of what that agenda might be, the Project Manager needs to maintain control, ensuring that the meeting stays on track and accomplishes what it is intended to.

Limiting The Number of Attendees

The number of people you invite to the meeting can have a major impact on the effectiveness of the meeting as well. In the case of informative meetings, where information is being disseminated or instruction is being given, a large group setting can work. On the other hand, when you are running meetings to discuss issues, arrive at decisions or deal with problems, you need to keep the number low. The maximum number of people you want in these types of meetings is seven.

Generally speaking, small meetings accomplish more. When you go beyond that limit, one or two people or groups end up dominating the discussion, leaving everyone else out. That leaves the rest of the people feeling as if you’re wasting their time. Guess what’s going to happen when you send your next meeting invitation?

There is no faster way to keep people out of your meeting than to leave them feeling like you are wasting their time. Each attendee needs to be able to leave the meeting feeling as if they’ve accomplished something by attending. That helps to ensure their continual support, both for future meetings and for other project related activities.

Don’t forget about the details. Your best meetings will happen when you are the most prepared. Even the little things like coffee and having enough copies will help keep your meeting flowing well. When people see that you are ready, organized and in control, it will be easier to get their active participation in accomplishing your objective for the meeting.

Dealing with “difficult” attendees

One of the ways in which people take control of a meeting is by turning it into a complaint session. There are employees in any organization whose greatest skill is nagging. They come to the meeting with the idea of pointing the finger at some other person (sometimes even the PM) or some other team, trying to ensure that the meeting focuses on discrediting that other person or group.

It is usually easy to identify these people, simply by how they react in meetings. However, it can be extremely hard to deal effectively with them. As these participants might have their own hidden agenda  the key is to have a well-planned, well-organized meeting and not allow anyone to change the direction of the conversation. If they attempt to change it to their own nagging agenda, simply stop them and say, “That isn’t on the agenda, if we have time at the end, maybe we can deal with it then.” Of course, you don’t have time for it at the end. Granted, that complainer will then complain about your not paying attention to their issue. Nevertheless, you need to keep in mind that it’s your meeting, so you control what happens. If they want a meeting to complain about things, they can call their own.

To keep people interested in the meeting, you want to keep it upbeat; complaints go against that. Once you identify those complainers, it can be very useful to take them aside and talk to them outside of a meeting environment. Sometimes, all it takes to get that person’s complaining under control is to give them another time, outside the meeting, in which they will be heard. That can give them the opportunity to let off steam, keep them motivated and prevent them from robbing everyone else’s motivation.

Organizing for The Meeting

1 – Objectives

Organization is a key to maintaining this control. You need an objective for the meeting. Why are you calling these people together? Is it to share information or make decisions? Whatever your objective, you need to know it ahead of time, and make sure that the meeting attendees are informed of it as well. Not only should you inform them of it in the meeting invitation, but you should restate it at the beginning of the meeting, as there are always those who don’t read the whole invitation and may not know what you are planning.

2 – Agenda

The second step in being organized is to prepare an agenda. What is it that you want discussed in the meeting and in what order? Put a time limit on each item as well, as this can help you to keep the meeting under control. If you have allocated three minutes for each person to give an update on their part of the project, let them know ahead of time that they only have three minutes. When their three minutes are up, stop them.

By putting a time limit on agenda items and making people stick to that time limit, you avoid wasting your time and other people’s time. While some may resent this the first time, they’ll quickly adapt to your “style” of running a meeting and come more prepared. At the same time, you’re sending a message to everyone in attendance that their time is valuable and you don’t want to waste it with a lengthy meeting.

3 – Informing

As part of your planning, make sure that everyone who needs to present something in the meeting knows what it is that they need to present. This will help prevent another common time waster, that of people coming unprepared. You won’t have everyone sitting in the conference room, waiting for that person to run to their office for some data that they need.

How to Get Better in Managing Meetings

To help you improve your meetings and at the same time earn some PDUs, we are providing a recommended online course (and some others):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Construction Companies Can Benefit from Certified Project Managers?

The PMP certification is for project managers with extensive experience. Qualifications and testing criteria are rigorous, making it a widely respected certification.

Generally speaking, construction projects are run by contractors, not by certified Project Management Professionals (PMPs). The contractors would say that they’re the only ones who truly understand construction, because they’ve been there and done that; but, is that viewpoint valid? Where does the need for hands-on experience end, and the need for rigorous and structured project management ability begin?

Most contractors, whether general contractors or specialists (plumbers, electricians, etc.), worked their way up in the construction business. That means they started out as an apprentice, became a journeyman, possibly were promoted to being a crew chief or jobsite superintendent by the company owner, then eventually stepped out on their own to start their own company and be a contractor.

While that journey teaches the individual a lot about construction, it really doesn’t teach them about project management. That’s one of the reasons why 80% of the construction companies out there fail within the first two years of opening, with another 18% joining their ranks in another three years.

It’s not the lack of ability to build things that makes all these companies fail. We can probably take it for granted that anyone who decides to bite the bullet and start their own company already knows how to do their trade. In fact, they probably know it well enough that they were chafing at the bit working for somebody else.

So, if it’s not that, it must be the lack of knowledge in how to manage their companies; most specifically, how to manage their projects.

Here are 5 basic areas in which these contractors and Professional Project Managers think differently. These areas can make or break a project, especially when it comes to maintaining the project on schedule and on budget:

1 – Bidding Strategies and Change Orders

The world of construction is highly competitive, especially in today’s economy. Each job out there has a number of contractors bidding on it, driving prices down and all but eliminating profit margins. A common strategy which many contractors are using today is to bid the job with minimal overhead and negligible profits, depending on “Change Orders” to make their profits.

While this strategy works, it may not be working quite as well as many contractors would like. The very fact of bidding a job in that manner means that there is little room for error. Even a slight error in scope management, cost estimating or scheduling can take a project from profitable to being a loss.

If the project is being provided under a contract, then some advance thinking has to go into how to deal with “Change Orders” when they occur. Project Management Professionals approach Change Orders with a different mindset, since they see this as a change to the original “Plan” and seek to integrate the change into the overall plan instead of “tacking it on top of” work that is already being done.

Approved change orders can require revised cost estimates, new schedule updates, revised activity sequencing, additional risk analysis and even calculation of cumulative impacts. Therefore setting up a “Configuration Management” process with integrated change control provides an effective way to centrally manage and document change orders, while providing opportunities for increased profit margin.

2 – Claim Management

Although this may seem the same as the change orders (mentioned above), it is actually a separate area. “Change Orders” deal with changes for which both the owner and contractor are in agreement. “Claims” deal with areas where there is disagreement. These are extra charges due to unforeseen problems on the project, which the contractor wishes to recoup from the owner at the time of project closing. What makes these claims challenging is the difference in interpretation of the project scope. The owner may feel that these unforeseen situations are part of the scope of the contractor, while the contractor may see them as extra costs he incurred, for things outside of his control.

Effective claim management requires thoroughly documenting the problem, sending on-time notifications to the owner, including estimates of cost and schedule impacts, along with creating a convincing justification for the charges. This is one of the most challenging communication problems on a construction project. Project Management Professionals are trained in dealing with claims, whereas the typical contractor is usually at the mercy of the owner.

3 – Thinking “Tasks” instead of “Processes”

A contractor or construction superintendent usually becomes such because they know how to do the job. But, that isn’t the same thing as knowing how to manage the job. They see the project as a series of separate tasks; get all the tasks right and the project will come together.

However, Project Management Professionals (PMPs) are trained to think in terms of “processes.” Thinking this way creates a more global approach to the project, seeing the individual tasks as only part of the processes. This drastically changes their approach to managing a project, seeing how things fit together not so much by a “gut feeling,” but as a continuing path, filled with measurable risks and challenges, towards a specific goal. There are parts of this PMP mindset, such as Communication Management, Risk Management and Time Management which are not directly related to the ability to swing a hammer:

  • Not knowing how to set up a “Communication Plan” to clearly define how to communicate the right information to the right stakeholder at the right time can cost a company that just got off the ground heavily.
  • Not knowing how to create a “Risk Management Plan” or “Risk Register” for the project, including how to deal with those risks, whether by mitigating them, eliminating them or transferring them, could become fatal.
  • Not knowing which tasks on your project are on the “Critical Path” could extend your schedule (hence costs) by enough to make your profits marginal or non-existent.

4 – Managing Technical Changes

Integrating, communicating and managing technical changes, such as changes to a building’s blueprints or equipment drawings requires thorough action, which is properly documented to ensure that everyone is made aware of the change. These technical changes can be as minor as a change in paint color to something major enough to cause a skyscraper to fall down in high winds. Regardless of the size of the change, each one is important to the owner, requiring proper integration and implementation.

As part of their training, Project Management Professionals learn that change requests should be subject to a thorough process that may require analyzing estimated impacts on cost, quality or schedule before the change is approved. Coordinating changes across the entire project, and documenting the complete impact or technical change should be a second nature to any project manager who seeks a successful and profitable project outcome.

5 – Managing Suppliers and Subcontractors

A major part of managing a construction project is ensuring that the work crews and supplies are on the job site when they are needed. A typical contractor deals with their suppliers at the last minute, calling in their orders and expecting delivery the same day. Their way of dealing with subcontractors bears a closer resemblance to browbeating than any accepted management philosophy.

When a construction project is properly managed, a project schedule is created before the first person shows up at the job site. This schedule is maintained and adjusted as needed, be it due to adverse weather, construction delays or other problems on the job. With an accurate project schedule, there is no reason to deal with suppliers and subcontractors on a last minute basis. Everything can be pre-planned and communicated to the proper people well in advance.

Another problem with managing sub-contractors is that when problems occur, the buyer (contractor) has little leverage for claiming the incurred costs due to seller’s (sub-contractor’s) fault. A procurement contract should include terms and conditions that contractor specifies to establish what the sub-contractor is to provide. By including the right terms and conditions into the sub-contracts, many typical problems can be avoided.

As part of the Project Management Professional training, “Procurement Management” is discussed within the perspective of buyer-seller relationship. This relationship exists at many levels, including sub-contractors performance evaluations. These processes indicate if the sub is performing the work according to plans, rate how well the work is being performed, create the basis for early termination of the sub’s contract, and application of penalties, fees or incentives.

Summary

There are various reasons that lead to a construction company going in trouble, including general economic conditions, not being competitive, heavy operating expenses, poor accounting system or even high employee turnover, but none impact a construction business as significantly as lack of project managerial expertise. Without strong project management processes a construction business will find itself in a crisis that can lead to failure.

The recipe for success in this industry is managing costs, schedule and risks through strong project management processes, good communication plans and a stable and skilled workforce. A construction business survives because its individual projects are profitable and because the quality of its work is reputable. Companies are encouraged to spend some quiet time reviewing their project management processes before they plan for the harvest.

 

 

How to Apply for Project Manager Job Offers

In case you hadn’t noticed it, the jobs market is in free fall. Somehow, that outrageous situation has come to pass. It’s also true that those of us who’ve been fortunate (or diligent enough) to have acquired professional qualifications have felt the soul-chilling blast of the threat of unemployment much less harshly than others… but we’ve still felt it.

There aren’t that many Project Manager job offers out there. And when there is one, it’s either not a perfect “fit” or there’s far too much competition. Here are a few suggestions to help you apply for those few PM jobs you might come across .

1- Use the sharp-shooter’s approach

Once upon a time, as the story goes, it was perfectly possible to say “I’ve been managing projects” and for the most part, when we were looking for a new position, we could find plenty of job vacancies which more or less fitted our criteria. Nowadays we have to “cut our coat” according to the job description. Putting it bluntly, while you’re waiting for a “perfect fit” for your career plans, more bread won’t be appearing on your table.

This means you need to use your ability to think analytically and laterally to:

  • Determine the specific skillset required by each job vacancy
  • Focus on the part of your experience that demonstrates you’ve ‘been there and done that’

For example, if you have experience in both Production and Supply Chain Management and the job description predominantly looks like outsourcing procurements, then it is worth the effort spent rewriting your resume to focus on the Supply Chain Management and outsourcing aspects (rather than Production) in your skill summary section and your recent job ‘responsibilities’.

When looking for a new job focusing is essential and sending out resumes en masse à la mail-merge style will not be successful. Far better is the sharpshooter’s approach: Identify Target – Take Aim – Fire When Ready

In other words, find the job ad, figure out why you are the best person for it, and then focus on putting that case to the employer in a clear and concise resume. To be taken seriously, it needs to be totally devoid of hyperbole or spurious claims.

For more tips about how to write your resume or to find resume writing professional help visit www.visualresumeonline.com or download their app VRO from the App Store.

2- Don’t wait… get your PMP

Being PMP-Certified is a fantastic boon which should put you head and shoulders above 96% of the other applicants (only 4% of project managers in the US/Canada hold the PMP certification). Consequently you should make clear mention of it in your resume and also dedicate a sentence in your cover letter to emphasize the fact.

Furthermore, you should draw the employer’s attention to how, in achieving your PMP status, you acquired a broad-based ability which transformed you into a highly versatile person. On your resume, ensure your skill summary section describes and illustrates how you can:

  • Initiate and plan projects
  • Develop schedules, calculate cost estimates, and set budgets
  • Control and monitor project quality, staffing, and communications
  • Analyze risks and determine risk response
  • Plan and organize project procurement
  • Execute project work
  • Close the project

Give examples of how you’ve put what you’ve learned into practice since you became a PMP: For employers knowing the theory of Earned Value and Critical Path is one thing, controlling a project and ensuring that its deadline is met and that quality and costs have been fully controlled is quite another.

For more tips about the PMP certification exam and online training courses, visit www.pmchampion.com or download their app PM Certification 2012 from the App Store.

3- Focus on all dimensions of the PM job

You will be aware that the majority of Project Management job vacancies or ads have requirements for technical and social skills. Accordingly you should identify and address these two dimensions even if they are not clearly separated in the ad.

Below is a recent job offer for a PM position in an IT company (company name and references have been changed). Read the ad first:

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 Project Manager

XYZ has been delivering IT solutions to private and public sector organizations of every size for more than 25 years. With a team of more than 500 associates, operations throughout US and Canada, and access to a network of 1000 certified technical resources from coast to coast; XYZ is one of the leading information technology solution providers. XYZ designs, supplies, installs and supports IT infrastructure solutions that contribute to improved productivity, operational efficiency, and overall business performance. For more information, please visit our web site.

Description

The Project Manager is responsible for managing the budget, resources, materials and timelines of complex information technology projects involving multiple systems, business units and stakeholders, through all stages of the project’s life cycle including, initiation, planning, control, execution, implementation and closure.

Responsibilities

  • Negotiating the project plan with clients’ senior staff to establish project parameters and obtain approval for the people, budget, materials and time required;
  • Working with vendors and suppliers to negotiate products, services and costs to execute the projects. Ensuring that all legal and regulatory requirements are adhered to and that the project is completed and implemented on time and within budget;
  • Leading a team of multi-disciplinary information technology and business specialists, established to address clients’ business requirements and resolve system problems. Planning, scheduling and coordinating their work and providing advice, guidance and direction to maintain quality. Establishing performance measures for project members and providing meaningful and timely feedback;
  • Communicating with all stakeholders in the project to ensure information and resources are provided on schedule and to ensure commitments are maintained. Providing sufficient lead-time to external consultants, vendors and service providers to ensure they meet their commitments;
  • Ensure attainment of customer satisfaction and quality metric objectives;
  • Contribute to responses to RFQ’s, validate pricing and estimates created by pre sales teams, act as the single point of contact from the company for clients during projects;
  • Providing regular updates and reports on the progress of the project to clients’ senior staff and all stakeholders.

Qualifications and Requirements

  • University Degree in information technology, business or finance
  • PMP certification
  • At least 3 years of demonstrated success in managing projects and across multiple areas in Application Management and IT Infrastructure Management
  • Requires excellent project management and communications skills
  • Management and leadership skills and experience
  • Multi-vendor experience
  • Portfolio knowledge and skills
  • Proficient communication and organizational skills
  • Effective prioritization
  • Ability to motivate
  • Technology experience
  • Budget and financial management experience
  • Demonstrated success at building team relationships and partnerships across organizational lines
  • Change Management experience

XYZ is an equal opportunity employer. 

If you are looking for an opportunity to be part of a well-established, dynamic, and growth-oriented technology organization that is committed to delighting each and every customer, continuously improving its business performance, and that values its people above all other resources, we invite you to submit your resume in confidence. We would like to thank you for your interest. Please note that all submissions will be assessed, however only suitable candidates will be contacted regarding this opportunity.

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The simplest way to do apply for this job is to make up a table in an Excel spreadsheet and list all specific requirements of the job in two distinct worksheets.

For example under Technical Skills include:

  • University Degree in information technology, business or finance
  • PMP certification
  • Technology experience
  • Budget and financial management experience
  • Change Management experience
  • etc..

And under Social Skills, include:

  • Management and leadership skills and experience
  • Ability to motivate
  • Demonstrated success at building team relationships and partnerships across organizational lines
  • Requires excellent project management and communications skills
  • etc..

Then in a separate column, for each of these lines write down your own abilities and how they relate your past experience to this job.

This approach will:

1- help you prepare a more targeted resume and cover letter for this job offer

2- force you to think hard about your “elevator pitch” during the interview where you have to demonstrate that you are a perfect match for this position.

Yes, all this would involve some effort on your part, but one or two applications done in this way are more likely to result in success than hundreds submitted ‘en masse’.

The whole time you’re preparing your resume and cover letter, you should be thinking about the interview and the questions you’re likely to get asked. It’s a fact that through carefully aiming an application, the candidate can largely control the interview questions.

 4 – Research, Research, Research

If you’re going to avoid creating a cookie cutter resume, you need to know something about the company you are applying for. Your resume shouldn’t just be focused on the job they’re advertising, but the company itself. Each company has their own corporate culture. You need to show that you fit into theirs.

An engineering firm and a consulting firm aren’t going to ask you the same types of questions. Their needs are different and their questions will reflect those needs. As much as possible, you want to answer those questions before they ask them; so that they say to themselves, “This sounds like the kind of person we’ve been looking for.”

So, what do you need to know about the company? Basically, everything you can find out. Use these questions as a checklist for your scavenger hunt:

  • What is their main product or service?
  • Who is the end-user of their products or services?
  • Have they received any new contracts recently (check the press releases on their web site)?
  • What type of organizational structure are they using for managing projects (functional, matrix based, projectized)? This can greatly impact the limits of your authority and responsibility as a Project Manager.
  • Do they have an active PMO (Project Management Office)?
  • Whom will you be reporting to and what is their Project Management background?
  • Who are the main stakeholders in your project (government, private industry, environmental groups, etc.)?
  • Is the Project Manager expected to have a strong technical knowledge about their product, or would there be support staff (engineers and technicians) working on the project team? What type of industry specific training do they provide?
  • What Project Management tools does the company regularly use (MS Project, Primavera, SAP)? Is the PM expected to maintain and update these tools, or is it done by others?
  • What IT platform they use?

Many of these questions can be answered by a thorough review of the information that’s on the company’s web site or through search engines. The time you spend researching these answers will help you to develop your resume in a way that is much more focused on meeting their needs. Some of the questions can become topics of discussion during your interview and for showing more interest in the company.

5 – Gather information about your past projects

The ammunition you’re going to use to make an explosive resume and cover letter are the projects you’ve managed or coordinated before. What you are selling is your experience and your ability to get things done. So, dig up every bit of information you can about your past projects and review it; looking for successes and accomplishments that you can use to impress the hiring manager.

While your experience might be product specific or even industry specific, you don’t want to leave the hiring manager with that idea. Project management is project management, whether for aerospace or the medical field. While you may not have specific knowledge about aerospace, your Project Management experience still carries over.

As much as possible, avoid being product or industry specific, unless the product or industry that you’ve worked in before aligns well with the position you’re applying for. Whether in your resume or in the interview, steer away from being specific and direct yourself towards being more general; showing how your accomplishments and experience can provide a benefit towards their company and the project that they need managed.

6 – Create a “WOW” factor

For every position that you apply for, you must assume that 100 other qualified people out there are seeking that same position. With this overwhelming deluge of applications to sift through, the average resume may only receive a minute or less. Your resume and cover letter has to catch the attention of that hiring manager in that little time, or it just ends up in the scrap pile.

Companies that are hiring want to know what you can do for them. They’re assuming you meet the basic qualifications, or you wouldn’t have bothered sending your resume in. A lengthy work history and education only shows that you’re qualified, it doesn’t have any “Wow factor.” You want them to look at your resume and say, “Wow, look what they’ve done. I want to talk to them.”

How do you wow a hiring manager? By showing off your accomplishments. Have you saved $200,000 on a project? Then you’d better let them know that. Did you negotiate a claim that brought back $150,000 to the project? How about finishing projects before the scheduled due date? Make sure you tell them. What huge hurdles have you had to overcome in a project, yet still completed it? Make sure you brag about those too.

When you tell a prospective employer about what you’ve accomplished in your previous jobs, they start thinking about what you can do for them. That’s what you want. Remember, your resume and cover letter are sales documents. Their job is to get you an interview. To do that, you need them to go “Wow.”

 

 

Moving From a Technical Position To Project Management In 10 Easy Steps

Getting pigeonholed is a killer when it comes to career advancement – especially if you’ve spent the last 5 to 10 years progressing through the ranks in a technical position. Moving into a managerial position seems an unattainable dream, particularly when you consider that only about 20% of major organizations actually operate leadership development programs and a mere 5% concentrate on bringing out the managerial talents of their technical staff.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

If you can learn to:

  • Spot gaps in the market
  • Apply creative strategies
  • Boost your knowledge

… then you can make that move and become a top project manager, irrespective of your particular line of business, background, skill-set or location. Here are the promised Ten Commandments for facilitating the transition.

PMP Certification for Moving to Project Management Role

 1. Apply for a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification

PMP certification is the industry standard for aspiring managers as it demonstrates to employers that the holder has attained a high level of relevant education, competency, and experience. During the PMP course, you would be taught how to:

  • Manage a project from inception to completion
  • Conduct internal interviews and extract key information
  • Plan projects in detail and establish the optimum solution
  • Allocate your resources in the most efficient and cost-effective way
  • Understand contractual and managerial terms and apply them in the proper manner
  • Motivate and run your team of staff to achieve their maximum potential

Seeing your PMP certification, potential employers will know that you have been instructed in the correct way to perform managerial tasks and have not picked up the bad habits which are common among self-taught managers. This makes you a much more employable proposition. There’s a good slide show about the basic process of PMP certification at http://www.pmchampion.com/pmp-basics.shtml and it’s well worth watching.

Even experienced project managers who want to make their resumes stand out to employers and boost their salaries are also good candidates for a PMP certification. Many project managers have found that the PMP certification not only demonstrates their project management expertise, but also helps correct many of the bad habits they’ve picked up over the years, making them more valuable employees in their present position, and more tempting job candidates in the future.

Emotional Intelligence for Project Managers

2. Think EI, not IQ

Your Intelligence Quotient (IQ) has got you where you are today but now you need to acquire something called Emotional Intelligence (EI) as well.

Extroverted social skills are often mislabeled as Emotional Intelligence. However, EI refers to your ability to manage, monitor and regulate your emotions in a balanced and healthy manner in order to achieve your personal and business objectives. EI encompasses the ability to:

  • Understand emotions – discover the interrelationships between emotions and gauge how they develop and mutate with time
  • Perceive emotions – translate the body language of both real people and image representations
  • Use emotions – learn problem-solving techniques and channel your moods and emotions to the needs of your work
  • Manage emotions – take charge of both your positive and negative emotions

You were not expected to become the DaVinci of Intelligence Quotient (IQ) in your technical position, nor would you be expected to become the Obama of Emotional Intelligence (IE) in your new job, but you need to acquire the skills to influence  stakeholders in order to achieve your project objectives.

As a project manager you will have to rely 10% on your IQ and 90% on your EI. With an appreciation of EI you will be in harmony with your team and thus able to construct highly successful working relationships with them. According to research, unlike IQ, EI can be gained through conscious efforts in interaction with others, through training and sometimes through peak experiences.

Interpersonal Skills for Project Managers

3. Interpersonal skills matter

Nobody fancies a project manager who makes a habit of sitting at his/her desk all day, avoiding any interaction with other humans. No man is an island and it’s no good just knowing the theory of how to be a project manager unless you can put it into practice. That means getting others to take instructions and carry them out for your project to the best of their ability, all without any authority or micro-management. Developing good interpersonal skills will not only aid your relationships with those below you, it will also profit your dealings with senior management and help to convince them that you really do have ‘what it takes’.

Thick Skin for Project Managers

4. Grow a thick skin

As a project manager, there will be tough times that will truly test you to the limits of your tolerance. However, you must learn to focus on achieving the goal of your project while, at the same time, not letting others undermine your confidence.

Only by keeping the big picture in the forefront of your mind will your project succeed, therefore letting others ‘get to you’ and thereby damaging your self-belief is an absolute no-no.

If you’ve been working in a rather technical position, this is almost certainly a significant departure from your normal routines with their typically finite tasks and their predetermined standards. The role of project manager requires a thick skin and the supreme determination needed to batter through to victory.

Negotiation Skills for Project Managers

5. Improve your negotiation skills

Managers are required to negotiate on a daily basis. These negotiations can relate to anything from agreeing minor personal matters with juniors, to negotiating a major contract or a financial package for the company. Such skills take time and practice to learn, and there are online courses which offer intensive training in this area. Signing up for one, you can expect to acquire knowledge of:

  • Collaborative and competitive strategies
  • Maintaining objectivity by not ‘making it personal’
  • Reviving a stalled deal
  • Finding the Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA)
  • Coping in a hostile environment
  • Search for alternatives and win-win solutions

Good negotiators possess a talent that is guaranteed to prove an asset when promotion is being considered. They are always in demand.

Leadership Skills for Project Managers

6. Lead from the front

If you lead, others will follow – as long as you motivate them, that is.

The goal of your project may be all that matters to you, but your workforce will probably have other primary considerations and, as a project manager, you will need to encourage them to brush those aside for the moment in order to seize the day. The analogy with the role of a king before a battle is apt, and while a saber-rattling Shakespearean-type speech might be a bit over the top in an office environment, there still needs to be iron in your words if you want to inspire your troops.

The ability to motivate is essential for any manager and is a skill which must be acquired. There are a variety of online courses available to teach you how to:

  • Become an effective leader
  • Run effective meetings
  • Provide stability in times of crisis
  • Work with difficult people

A good leader will always attract followers. As a result, it’s well worth investing the time and effort to become one. Learning to develop a positive attitude that can be maintained even in difficult circumstances is also one of the keys to successful leadership. Failure to do so can raise the level of uncertainty among team members and other stakeholders. The effects of increased uncertainty on people’s performance will always be negative, but keeping an upbeat attitude is the best way to avoid these problems. During difficult times, the most successful project managers are able to offer an extra dose of stability, direction and hope for their project team by projecting a hopeful and positive attitude. This approach will build team morale rather than tear it down. Project managers who embody a positive attitude in the face of adversity set an important example for others to follow.

Mentor Project Manager

7. Don’t try to do it all alone – get a mentor

There’s no reason why you should reinvent the wheel. There are people out there – you probably know some already – who possess the skills that you are striving to acquire. Why not approach one of them with a view to tapping in to their acquired knowledge and experience?

While there are recognized qualifications in mentoring, in reality a mentor can be any person whom you trust and who will guide you and challenge you in your personal development.

The choice of a specific mentor is a very personal matter as what works for one person will not work for another. That said, there are some attributes which should be taken into account when seeking one, and these include the mentor’s ability to:

  • Encourage
  • Inspire
  • Teach
  • Interpret body language
  • Maintain high standards
  • Set goals for you

At the beginning, you may even attend some of your mentor’s project team meetings or even project reviews sessions with company executives to learn the kind of presentation skills that are expected of you when it’s your turn to be in the hot seat.

Mentors are usually in the fortunate position of being able to offer their services for free however this is naturally a matter to discuss and negotiate before the first session. Meeting once or twice a week is usually sufficient but, as you progress, you may decide to reduce this frequency to the level of an ad-hoc arrangement.

Since you never know when you’ll need your mentor again, you should continue to update them on your progress, even when you have finished regular sessions.

New Knowledge for Project Managers

8. Be willing, ready and able of learning beyond your area of expertise

As a project manager, you must possess an understanding of the work of your organization’s other departments, their functions, and their specific requirements. This ‘all-round’ knowledge is the foundation for making balanced and informed decisions and, without it, no project manager can hope to operate effectively.

Learning this experience and knowledge is a part of the PMP course in which you cover a variety of major disciplines such as:

  • Finance and accounting
  • Information Technology
  • Human resources
  • Quality management
  • Risk analysis
  • Procurement & Logistics

Standing still is never an option and a sincere belief that ‘there’s always something new to learn’ is a very sound one. Times change – you need to move with them.

Gain Experience in Different Phases of Project Management

9. Gain experience of projects at all different stages

Projects are typically split into 5 different phases, each of which presents its own specific challenges. Consequently, if you are looking to progress from technician to manager, you will eventually need to be able to handle all 5 of these stages. This means that you must be able to demonstrate a proven track record of having been involved in each of them.

You should always be pro-active in seeking out new projects at any stage of their existence and keep a daily log of:

  • Process Groups your were involved in (Initiation, Planning, Executing, Monitoring & Controlling, or Closing)
  • What the project was trying to achieve
  • Challenges and risks faced by the team and solutions found
  • Your particular involvement – what you have done, learned, or suggested

This log, which can contain anything you’ve done that has any project management implications, will prove essential when the time comes for you to make the transition. It is an ideal companion for interviews and exactly what your new employers will want to see. It will also allow you to talk with complete confidence about real-life situations and the solutions that you helped implement.

Learn Project Management Tools

10. Learn how project management tools are used

While your experience and knowledge of your industry will be essential in helping you make the right decisions as a manager, you will also be expected to utilize the many tools that are available to project managers. To give you a better idea, some of the more common ones are:

  • Gantt Charts & Critical Path Analysis
  • Earned Value Analysis
  • Financial Reporting & Bank Transactions

Look out for these tools and make the effort to learn how they are created and the diverse ways in which they are used. Don’t be afraid to ask for explanations and guidance about them from your colleagues, mentor, or other contacts.

Summary of Article on Moving from Technical to Project Management

Summary

Without a doubt, the most secure way of progressing from a technical role to project management is via the PMP certification route. During your training, you will learn the technical skills necessary to get you to the top and keep you there. Possessing the PMP certificate is a clear statement to both employers and your colleagues that you have attained a high standard in management and that you are theoretically capable of putting what you know into practice.

However, a PMP certificate is only theoretical because being a good project manager is not just about knowing what to do, it’s also about being able to communicate, motivate and delegate. Consequently, working hard on raising the bar on your interpersonal skills and your emotional intelligence will give you the practical ability to convey your PMP instructions effectively and instill in you the ability to be a true leader on your project.

Recommended Trainings for Moving from Technical to Project Management

Recommended Trainings

To help you take the first steps, we are providing below a list of recommended online courses that will help you prepare for your move into project management.

Project Management Professional (PMP) Certification Courses:

PM Champion: http://www.pmchampion.com

PM-Skillet.com: http://www.pm-skillset.com

General Management Courses:

PDU-Courses.com: http://www.pdu-courses.com

Interpersonal Relationship Courses:

Emotional Intelligence at Work: http://www.pdu-courses.com/Emotional-Intelligence-at-Work.shtml

Advanced Interpersonal Skills: http://www.pdu-courses.com/Advanced-Interpersonal-Skills.shtml

Effective Leadership Skills: http://www.pdu-courses.com/Effective-Leadership-Skills.shtml

Obtaining Results Without Authority: http://www.pdu-courses.com/Obtaining-Results-without-Authority.shtml

Managing Effective Meetings: http://www.pdu-courses.com/Managing-Effective-Meetings.shtml

Project Management for IT Projects: http://www.pdu-courses.com/Project-Management-for-IT-Professionals.shtml

Moving from Technical to Management Role: http://www.pdu-courses.com/Moving-from-Technical-to-Management.shtml

Effective Delegation: http://www.pdu-courses.com/Effective-Delegation.shtml

 

Can I take the PMP® Exam even if my title is not “Project Manager”?

Are you wondering if you can take the Project Management Professional (PMP) ® exam or not?

You might have various concerns regarding the PMP exam such as your designation, size of the organization and benefits of PMP certification in career development. Well, then here I am to address some of your concerns and help you develop an in-depth understanding about how the PMP certification can be beneficial for you.

YES! You can take the PMP exam even if your title is not project manager. To take the exam you need to have the appropriate authority and responsibility rather than the designation: The PMP certification is a credential for those who lead and direct project teams.

A professional with a PMP certification is recognized worldwide to handle projects with diligence and constructive approach. It certifies your expertise in project understanding, time management, risk management, quality control, leadership, budgeting, communication, documentation and integration. All of these skills add value to the organization.

If your role in the current organization involves project management and you have proficiency in handling projects and team related issues then you should definitely go for the PMP certification. It provides you with a strong foundation to effectively manage projects. The idea is not to concentrate on the title but on your responsibilities.

Even if your title is not anything close to a project manager, as long as your role involves handling different processes of a project you can go ahead with the PMP certification to be a an even more successful project manager.

According to Foote Partners LLC, an IT workforce research company, projects managed by people who are not PMP certified project managers have only 25% success rate in contrast to 75% success rate of projects handled by PMP certified managers.

The PMP certification offers immense benefits for you as well as your employer. As a general rule, holders of the PMP certificate have higher salaries, receive more job promotions and better job prospects. A PMP credential gives you the most sought after appreciation and visibility within your organization. Hence, your prospects of growth in your current job and getting a new job increase manifold after being a certified PMP.

Employers who hire PMPs are much more confident about the core competencies of their employees in project management. As a PMP you will be responsible for all aspects of a project such as demonstrating knowledge, understanding and leadership to deliver the project within time constraints, resources, scope and budget. Your role will not only be to lead and direct the project but also oversee project team members.

Here is another area where you can see the importance of role over title: On your application for the PMP certification you need to select one of the following roles:

  • Project Contributor
  • Supervisor
  • Manager
  • Project Leader
  • Project Manager
  • Educator
  • Consultant
  • Administrator
  • Other

So, you are not really asked for the TITLE, you are actually asked for your ROLE. If your role is not included among the options provided, then select ‘Other’.

Here are some more eligibility criteria for the PMP certification:

If you have a bachelor’s degree you must show a minimum of 4500 hours of project management experience or a minimum of 7500 years of experience otherwise. The experience should span across all the five process groups of initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling as well as closing. However, you do not need to have experience in every process group in every project that you have worked on.

You might have joined some projects midway or left some in the middle. All of those projects can be taken into account. However, some experience in all the process groups on any of your projects is required.

You also need to complete at least 35 hours of project management education. This is officially called “35 contact hours”. You will be required to put in the start date, end date, name of the course provider as well as name of the training course when filling in the application form. Pretty much any training that relates to the 9 knowledge areas of the PMBOK® Guide qualifies.

So does your role meet these criteria? Then go ahead and become a certified PMP! It is a step ahead towards enhancing your career and increasing your professional growth. Put yourself in the limelight, and maximize your earning potential without any further delay!

 

PMP Bootcamps vs. PMP Online Trainings

Every once in a while people ask us if taking a PMP Exam Bootcamp is a good option to prepare for the PMP Exam. While boot camps are designed to deliver noticeable results with a high-output of effort in a short period of time, the drawbacks of choosing this path often outweigh the benefits. That’s why most professionals do not recommend a Bootcamp for several reasons:

Reason #1: Boot camps are expensive.

Designed to be the ideal all-in-one exam preparation experience, thesheer cost of boot camps make them less-than-ideal for those of us on a budget. An intensive 4-day course can cost you several thousand dollars, depending on your location, time of year, and the included amenities. Essentially a pay-to-pass program, boot camps pump a large amount of students through a short-term, high-yield course. Boot camps may only be a viable option if time is more valuable to you than money. Otherwise you can find other ways to enjoy spending your cash. For example, if your PMP Boot camp is going to cost you $2700, here’s what you can get with the same amount of money (including an Online Training for the PMP exam):

Online PMP Course $300
iPad 2 $500
iPad Apps $100
Mini Laptop $700
HD TV 50″ $1100
Total $2700

Reason #2: Boot camps are inconvenient.

Unless you live in a large urban area where a course is offered, the 4-day boot camp will usually require travel and hotel accommodations. For most project managers with jobs and families, dropping their responsibilities for four days is not only inconvenient, it’s impossible. Work and life does not stand still (or even slow down!) just because you have an important exam to pass. Most project managers require – and work best with – a study schedule that fits with their lifestyle instead of interrupting it.

Reason #3: Boot camps focus on memorization.

As you are already aware, the PMP Exam is based on concepts from the PMBOK® Guide. Specific principles include communication, cost management, human resources, integration, procurement, quality, risk, scope, and time management. The material is broad and the data is often in-depth. So, how do boot camps ensure you thoroughly internalize and understand these concepts in just 4 days? Well, they just don’t

Reason #4: Boot camps have limited schedules and openings.

Most boot camps have limited space and are only able to offer sessions at certain times of the year. If you thought taking time off from work and your family would be difficult, try doing it around their schedule instead of your own. The only available times may be during a busy work crunch or stressful family situation. At best, this may be inconvenient, often it is impossible. Project managers with home and work commitments will usually have better success with an online study schedule that still allows them to fulfill their home and work responsibilities.

Reason #5: Boot camps focus on passing the exam rather than teaching concepts.

One of the secret ingredients to doing well on the PMP exam is understanding of project management principles, both individually and how they work together. While bootcamps may result in good pass rates, they do not ensure that project managers have gained any new skills that will help their career beyond exam day. Boot camps do not offer an education that will guide or assist you through your career. There is absolutely not enough time in 4 days to extensively cover in-depth concepts. Boot camps cannot offer an “Education” that will help you with project management beyond the exam.

Conclusion:

If your goal is to simply pass the PMP exam without learning new project management techniques to improve your skills, then a boot camp may be just what you’re looking for. However beware that companies hire you for a set of skills in managing projects effectively, not because you passed the exam. If you are genuinely interested in becoming a better project manager on the road to passing the PMP exam, then a more in-depth study approach is what you want. Successfully passing the PMP Exam and achieving lasting and positive effects on your project management skills involves regular study time for 8 to 16 weeks. If you still prefer the structure of a classroom schedule, try to select a training class that spans over several weeks (not just 4 consecutive days). These classes are also expensive but at least your self-study at home will complement the in-class lectures and further solidify the information. At the end, if you are unemployed, if you are single with no family obligations, and if you or your company have more money than you know what to do with, then a 4-day PMP boot camp will probably serve you well.