Buy Lunch for Your Project Team

There are a lot of food related phrases that can be thrown around over here that say exactly how important food is to the soul; basically our mental and physical well-being depends on it. But even more than food itself, it’s the act of sharing it with others that makes it such a pleasant experience. Food brings people together, and there’s nothing like sharing some laughter over a nice meal. So for a Project Manager, it’s a no-brainer to treat their team to a lunch from time to time, as the essence of the job is team work. Here’s why you should buy your project team a lunch one of these days:

Get to know your people

As a project leader, you need to get to know the people working for you, and while there is lots of chances of doing that during work hours, the sad truth is that it’s really difficult to open up to your boss in a strict work environment. In a more casual setting, with some good food and drinks, you can get to know the real person within, their likes and dislikes. What makes them tick and what motivates them, how important is their family to them, all of this you cannot find out in the office, and are things that can really help you manage your team effectively.

Create a Bond

Sharing meals with your underlings outside the confines of the office will not only help you create a bond with them but will also create one in between co-workers, especially if the team has just been put together for a specific project. For a project team that needs to work together hand in hand, this can be a great asset. They are more likely to see eye-to-eye and work with each other in harmony, solving problems and helping each other out in hours of need. They will go above and beyond for each other, and will go above and beyond for you.

Develop loyalty

When you get to know your team on a personal level, listen to their problems and share stories and laughter with them in a casual setting, they get to know you as more than just a project director; they get to know you as a person. This can go a long way in fostering loyalty in them towards you. They will be more willing to listen to you and trust you to guide them, and will take the project at hand more seriously. As a Project Manager, you will be able to delegate and count on your workforce a lot more.

Boost Morale and Performance

Everybody loves a party; it gives a good respite from work, you can get together with people and have some fun, and you can meet new people and create new friendships. All of this directly affects work performance, and especially in project management where deadlines are short and stress levels are high, it is good to unwind from time to time and give your mind a rest. It lets you take a step back from work and enjoy a change of scenery to put things in perspective. It helps your mind work better. Plus, team members will be working together, and the overall work environment will be more friendly, which will keep everyone motivated and will improve performance, allowing you to lead best project team and meet challenges head on.

Impact of Physical Exercise on Daily Project Management Activities

It doesn’t take rocket science to know that incorporating physical exercise into your daily routine has immense benefits that pervade every aspect of life. A Job like Project Management, however, with the daily expectations, risks and responsibilities culminating into an overload of stress, can reduce the best of us to a pile of hyperventilating nerves. For such demanding jobs it is especially a great idea to take out time for a workout before you breakdown and compromise the entire project and possibly your career.

Daily physical activity can discretely help you carry out your daily project management duties with more ease and stay on top of things, and here’s how:

·        Reduces Stress

Probably the worst thing about the job is the immense amount of ongoing mental pressure that comes with it. Meeting deadlines, dealing with crisis, quality, budget, and safety regulations and expectations, and communicating with sponsors and suppliers are just a few of the things you’re probably worrying about as you’re reading this. The thought of being accountable and responsible for it all can make anyone go into a fetal position in the corner of their office.

Daily physical exercise will give you a chance to blow off some steam in a healthy way, clear your mind and re-align your focus so you can keep giving a 110% to your projects. It can help lift your mood, and improve your confidence so you can face daily challenges head on.

·        Improves Strength and Endurance

Most projects require a lot of physical running around on the manager’s part, so that inspections can be made and on-site analysis can be carried out. Physical exercise helps you stay in shape and improves your muscle strength and endurance, which means you do not get tired easily and can fit in a lot of tasks into your daily routine. You can also count on fewer sick days, so you can keep performing at your best to meet deadlines.

·        Boosts Energy

Physical activities, while burning calories, can provide you with high levels of energy by delivering oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and improving the efficiency of your cardiovascular system. This translates into a healthier heart and lungs, so you can handle daily tasks with more agility, not get over-worked or over-whelmed easily, and end your day feeling great about yourself.

·        Improves Quality of Sleep and Mental Function

Daily sport relaxes you, and so your everyday stresses don’t keep you awake all night. You can fall asleep easier, and deepen your sleep to wake up fresh next morning. Exercise and better sleep also improve your mental function and health, which in turn helps you solve daily problems and deal with issues through creative thinking and innovative ideas and methods. You can think more clearly and with focus, and come up with new ways of doing things to improve work flow and quality.

Daily physical exercise can improve your physical and mental strength to new levels, which can help you deal with your daily demanding project management tasks with more efficiency, garnering high quality results without turning your brain into mush. With a happier healthier you, a stress-free work environment can be built and your team members can stay motivated. So have a run and release all your tension to improve your Project Management skills even further.

 

Taking Minutes Of Meetings Can Save Your Project

For a Project Management Professional, any day usually starts and ends with tireless meetings, especially for those who work on more than one project at a time. This can get all jumbled up into mush, and information can always slip into oblivion; people could die. Ok, maybe not, but the consequences are still dire. If important jobs are not followed through, it could cost you your project. Here’s how minutes of meetings can save it:

Makes it official

Taking down the minutes makes decisions taken official. It is in writing, and can actually be used as a legal document in any number of scenarios. Since it contains all the decisions made and actions taken, any action that is not mentioned is thought to have never taken place, and can help get rid of law suits and internal disputes.

Gives structure

Meetings are way more important than they are given credit for. Certain details such as time, place, company name, board member, managers and employees who were present and all matters discussed, decisions taken, problems solved and motions passed will all be on record.

Establishes accountability

In case you have a team member with the habit of forgetting to do things and then deciding he was never told to, taking minutes can really help you out. When employees know all decisions and tasks to be done are being recorded, they will feel more accountable. Plus, all parties involved will know exactly who gave the orders, and to whom and why, so that the employees know who they should answer to and you as a project manager can keep track of who is responsible.

Drives action

This kind of accountability drives your team members to action. Randomly telling your people to complete a job is not enough. When they know it is being recorded on an official legal document they are more likely to grasp the seriousness of a task. This will ensure your project runs smoothly, your employees remain productive and efficient, and meetings remain on track.

Evaluation tool

When certain actions to be carried out are set out in the minutes, a project manager can always go back and refer to this list at the end of the day to check off all the items and see which ones have not been done. This will help you in keeping the project organized, set future goals, and do any necessary damage control.

A record for absentees

Sometimes team members or managers might not be able to attend a meeting. The minutes help keep a record of each meeting, so this can be referred to later if need be, by those who were not there. Even the ones that are there tend to zone out or flat out fall asleep at times, and while this isn’t the best attitude these people should still get to know what went on, for the sake of the project, if nothing else.

At most times it might seem easier to talk through a meeting and concentrate on reaching important decisions instead of recording them. However, the minutes of a meeting will certainly prove their worth a ways down the road when they remind you of an important task, or save your neck when you haven’t done a job you were never told to do in the first place.

Minimizing the Impact of Vacations on Your Projects

As appealing as it sounds, here is a perfect-world scenario for business owners and project managers: employees never getting sick, or taking personal days off or even vacations; not a very realistic thought. Most project managers fail to consider and take into account the possibility of employee vacations or think about their own time off and the subsequent impact it can have on your project.

The truth is that there will be times when employees will need to take an unplanned day off, a religious based absence, dealing with family emergencies or even want to go for a planned vacation. Not only employees though, being a project manager in no way means that you aren’t entitled to plan some time off.  There will however, be leave and vacation scheduling conflicts, two or more employees asking for the same time off, and client and project deadlines to be met and dealt with. So how does one in the midst of all this chaos successfully manage time off, arrange and cover for employee absences, and at the same time minimize the impact of any of this on the project itself?

The answer, as always, is preparation.

  • Employee Vacation Policy – clearly outline a written vacation policy for any and all employees during hiring and orientation processes. If all employees adhere to pre-set terms and conditions, this minimizes chances of conflict. Highlight peak working time-periods during which vacation requests may not be entertained, mention deadlines for vacation requests. Allow workers in identical positions to trade off on vacation time and dates amongst themselves as long as it does not jeopardize quality of work.
  • Absenteeism Monitoring – Too many employee absences can prove to be bad for business. To avoid them, implement strict absence policies throughout the organization that effectively record time and attendance. Enforce probabilities of consequences of disciplinary action to ensure compliance. Offer incentives and bonuses for employees to minimize unwarranted absences.
  • Risk Management and Back-up Plans – Devise and design a system of distributing work and assigned tasks amongst other members of the team to compensate for any contingencies. Actively create back-ups by identifying and developing leaders within the team that enables them to stand-in and take over to efficiently manage the team in the off-chance of your absence, the project manager.
  • Accurate Time Estimation and Appropriate Leeway – There are a number of project managers out there that fail to accurately estimate the time needed and required to finish a project without taking into consideration and giving appropriate leeway for the unforeseen. Choosing to micro-manage and disregarding the need for flexibility and latitude in a working environment only ends up generating unnecessary stresses for themselves and their team. Provide a certain breathing space to make up for any muck-ups, glitches and delays in the working process.

Absences, be they your own or the employees, have profound and measureable negative impacts on the ability of the team to make good on their services in a cost-effective and timely manner. They can create an unnecessary burden on present working employees, decrease morale, and add delays and business risks. Hence worrying about projects suffering in your or employee absence is only natural, but implementation of clear policies and risk management programs, some thorough advance planning and organizing is all it takes to ensure smooth running of the project like a well-oiled machine.

How to Organize Yourself For ‘All Meetings’ Days at Work

A meeting can be of many different kinds, to plan an action, a one-off event, to discuss day-to-day business, deal with a conflict or discuss the start of a new project.

Unfortunately even the best of corporations can have the most ill-planned and disorganized meetings that completely beat the purpose, fail to accomplish any of the set-out tasks and end up wasting valuable time.

All these practices have, rightly so, given meetings in general a bad reputation and name. So much so that managers, employees, CEO’s all dread the meeting before it’s even begun and tend to walk-in with a negative mind-set.

One single meeting can be stressful and throw you off-course, but a full day of meetings can be downright traumatizing. To make any meeting a success, excessive management needs to be done, before, during and after said meeting.

Here are a few tips to effectively organize yourself and successfully manage your meetings to make the most out of them.

  1. Lay the Groundwork – The most essential thing in ensuring you have a productive day of meetings is to be prepared. Without an effective day plan, your results will disappoint you. Write it down and list it out. You should always start with a clear and thoroughly prepared agenda of what you are looking to accomplish from your day.
  2.  Prioritize and Complete Tasks – From your list of tasks for the day, prioritize the most important and begin with that. If the meetings are pre-planned then strive to stay ahead of schedule on your regular work so as to not lag behind and lose precious time because you’re caught up in a conference room all day long.
  3. Plan, Objectify and Document – Before going into a meeting, have an outline of all the things you need to address, all the points you need to make and the issues you need to raise clearly documented. Files, folders, papers, notes all should be neatly organized to and visibly labeled to facilitate you in the meeting itself.
  4. Stay On time and On Task – Avoid procrastination during the meeting and give time its due respect. Be punctual, and demand punctuality from the attendees. Begin with a carefully devised agenda and do not deviate. State the desired outcome and purpose of the meeting, and designate someone to have summarized meeting objectives that need to be addressed and resolved. Tackle the most pressing matter at the beginning and table inconclusive arguments for further review.  Document the meeting with action items, accomplishments and written minutes to ensure maximum productivity.
  5. Focus and Re-fuel – In any all meeting day, any sane individual is bound to lose focus, and become saturated. A good organizational skill to ensure productivity is to make allowances for sustenance, re-fueling and re-grouping. A break between meetings is needed for all the attendees to freshen their minds to avoid them becoming dull and unproductive.

The meeting leader or the facilitator is often the person responsible for setting the tone of the meeting, making sure everyone is heard, all issues and problems are dealt with and also keeping the discussion on track and preventing it from going astray.  Transform the traditional business meeting by precise organization, keeping timely and concise.

What are some of your key organizational tips and tricks that allow you to stay on top of your game? Share with us in the comments below!

Reading Your Project’s Contract and Technical Specs

A necessary tool for specifying the characteristics of a project, a contract is a written document that defines in great detail what the project is ultimately supposed to be about. A contract may include price, performance, and any other objectives deemed important by the two parties between whom a transaction is taking place.

A technical specification on the other hand, is discussion of a particular point or issue that includes information to guide the team on how something is done and accomplished, a blueprint if you will.

While contracts and technical specifications are important and essential, they are rarely comprehensible. Innocuous at best, and a downright horrifying labyrinth of jargon at worse, contracts and technical specifications are paragraph upon paragraph of legal mumbo jumbo. They can be incomplete, unclear and sometimes even completely contradictory. Well written or not, it is imperative to glean the necessary information that ensures both parties are in clear agreement.

Here are a few tips on how to read and decipher your project contracts and technical specifications so as to not miss any piece of vital information.

1. Agree on the Terms before the Contract is Drawn

Keeping in mind that all individual projects are different, and have different requirements and technicalities involved, it is necessary to determine just how important this particular project is to you. Agree on and clearly outline the terms of the agreement that you are about to commit to. Precisely define what each term indicates and then have the contract drawn up.

2. Read Thoroughly & Take Notes

Once the contract is drawn up, do not be hasty in signing on the dotted line. Remember the contract is legally binding. Request time to review the paperwork without distractions and interruptions. Read the contract cover to cover. After you have read it once, read again and this time underline important points and take notes. Understand the common terms and prepare questions if there are any ambiguities. When you are going over technical specifications, ask yourself what you are expecting to learn from it. Your reading should be analytical at this point in time so that you are able to understand in detail what it is that is required of you.

3. Never Assume Anything

The most difficult part of the any contract or document are assumptions. All contracts can be re-written. Keep that in mind and do not be afraid to ask questions, simplifications, and clarifications. Even if you do have a general understanding of what any particular point could mean, ask just to be clear anyway. It is better to appear a little slow or dumb than to be stuck in a legal contract with ramifications. Be vigilant for any external references or sources.

4. Do a “Page Turn” with Key Stakeholders

Discuss the contract and the technical specifications provided by the client with key members of the project handling team. It is a precautionary step for them to pick out any point that may have been overlooked in the initial review. If the team members feel that there is lack of sufficient safeguard of interests, additional revisions can be requested by the client. This can be accomplished through several sessions of reading the contract and technical specs by projecting it on a screen (called a “Page Turn”). Participation by all stakeholders should be mandatory during the kickoff period of the contract.

5. Get Second Opinions

No layperson is expected to completely comprehend the complex wordings of a legal contract, thus it is always a sensible decision to get a second or even third opinion. Hire a lawyer to go over the contracts and technicalities with a fine toothcomb until you are in complete accord with what has been stated and only then sign on that paper.

Do you have any tips to share with our readers? Do you have an interesting story to share about a contract you signed? Feel free to leave a comment, we can’t wait to hear from you.

How to Deal with an Aggressive Client for Project Managers

Having regular interactions with the client are a part of the day-to-day business of a Project Manager. Occasionally, a client’s behavior may fall short of what are considered to be standard norms, be downright aggressive, and the person dealing with the client, in this case the manager has to bear the brunt of that less than cordial attitude.  A major part of the challenge that a project manager faces is catering to the very many different kinds of people that he may deal with and yet not being pulled in opposite directions.

It can be increasingly frustrating having to deal with someone who is overbearing, unsure yet opinionated, so set in their ways that they are entirely unwilling to negotiate. To tackle situations as such, the manager needs to take control and do something. One thing you can be absolutely sure of is, is if the client is allowed to steamroll, badger and bully you into something and you don’t do anything to put an end to it, it will continue on endlessly.

Time for a Change!

No matter how difficult, you need to know how to effectively deal with aggressive and assertiveness of the client to prevent the situation from escalating, and getting completely out of hand. Here’s how:

  • Maintain Composure –

The first rule in facing an unreasonable client and dealing with anyone’s hostile behavior is to keep absolutely calm. The better your control on your emotions and the less reactive you are, the better judgment you can use in handling the client. Maintain an open and relaxed posture to appear less confrontational, keep your voice calm and low and empathize.

  • Listen Carefully –

The next step, when you feel that the client may have settled enough to rationally talk, is to listen carefully. Never blame the client outright even if he is responsible for the circumstances. Never dismiss, instead always try to validate the client’s feelings. Do get as much specific information that you possibly can. The client may not be very clear in what the problem is so you have to be careful in understanding what the client means. If you cut of the client in between or point out their wrong-doings, you not only will not be able to get to a rational solution but will also inspire more anger and defensiveness.

  • Diffuse the Situation

To appear sympathetic to the client and quickly diffuse the hostility of the situation and prevent it from escalating to a verbal bloodbath, apologize and agree where you can to acknowledge they’re ideas. It will immediately make the client feel like you are considerate and understand their position. Follow this by reassurance. Be precise and clear in what it is that you can do to help the client.

  • Reason and Resolve

Although there is no real defense against irrationality, negotiate where you can, with persuasive arguments that cement your standing. Respectfully share your position while offering some flexibility. Use phrases that soften your approach such as ‘the way I see it… ’, ‘the company’s position on this is.’ However, avoid agreeing to something that you cannot deliver or if it’s not an obligation contractually. Be specific, direct and confident in your ability to communicate. Offer something for the future. Agree on improvements, to accommodate and reach a compromise.

Often the best way to deal with aggressive clients who want to push you beyond your contractual boundaries is to be assertive. Deal with aggressive and antagonistic people, stand your ground, say what you have to say and don’t avoid conflict. Pretending a problem isn’t there to evade confrontation will only end in a clients walking all over you with unreasonable demands. Don’t let that happen.

 

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

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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.

 

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.

 

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:

 

 

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.

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

 

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

 

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