Vicki James, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, CSM

formerly of Professional Project Services, LCC

Tag Archives: project management

Book Review: The Project Management Minimalist: Just Enough PM to Rock Your Projects! (2nd Edition)

I recommend Project Management Minimalist: Just Enough PM to Rock Your Projects for all seasoned and up and coming project managers. Michael Greer takes a different pm_mininmalistapproach by focusing on the core best practices that are critical to project success, in some cases combining two or more PMBOK tasks into a cohesive step for managing the project. The PM Minimalist is a great reference for project managers that will specifically help in cases where…

  1. Someone assigned project manager who has not had significant experience and exposure to best practices. They will get great insight to some of the more critical project management best practices that will help make sure project success without having to become an expert on all PMBOK processes.
  2. The seasoned project manager who needs to streamline project management practices that are not adding value to the overall success of the project.  This book will offer insights to help prioritize and effectively streamline these practices when appropriate.

Each steps includes an overview, expected results, process, and practical tools, guidelines, and examples.  The one item I would add to the core list is some level of risk management. I do see an opportunity to apply the minimalist approach to this work, but do not recommend it be left out of the mix altogether. Risk management does land in the author’s previous top 20 of project activities, The Project Manager’s Partner, Second Edition so I know we are not far apart in our thinking.

Each project has its own personality and level of complexity.  Project managers will need to use their expertise and common sense to decide where the minimalist approach is best for their project and where formal processes are required. Giving processes the “minimalist squeeze” will help project managers make sure they are spending the team’s time, as well as their own, in the most productive way.

The second part of this book is especially helpful to project managers and developing their own leadership abilities. These lessons really apply to all in many situations. I think of it as a mini self-help that all project managers will benefit from broken into two main sections; the people stuff (working with team), and taking care of yourself. Quotes, examples, and stories help project managers in the softer skills required by project managers.  Additional references are provided for those who wish to explore further the idea.

More information on publication is available through the author’s website.

Observations of Great Teamwork from Cirque Du Soleil

ImageLast weekend I attended the Cirque Du Soleil show, Amaluna. While most of the audience was mesmerized by the beauty and awesomeness of the feats, I was mesmerized by the demonstration of what great teamwork can accomplish. Here is a quick run-down of my observations on the benefits of great teamwork.

Trust in Others

The troupe is truly putting their lives in each other’s hands. With high-flying acrobatics and water stunts, the impact of something going wrong can truly be life threatening. It takes a huge amount of confidence to entrust your life into your co-workers hands, but the results are astounding.  When thinking of who needs to trust whom, it goes beyond other performers who are putting their safety at risk, but also the engineers and riggers.

What could you accomplish in your current project if you had that much faith and trust in your teammates? Would the project have better flow and less resistance? Do you give your teammates the trust they deserve? We are each experts in our own rights of our own domain. Trust in that and keep conversations on using the various areas of expertise to achieving the goals of the project. Identify underlying issues to deal with the root cause to address team members you believe not to be trustworthy.

Slips happen…recovery gracefully!

Don’t think for a second that every show goes off without a hitch. I saw a couple of “slips” (some obvious, others not) and am sure I missed many more. What keeps the show amazing is the graceful recovery. The most obvious slip I noticed, the performer just kept going and tried again. She succeeded and the audience was amazed. Other slips were covered by their team performers adjusting their movements to minimize the impact on the show, the performers, and keep the show entertaining for the crowd.

We often experience slips in projects. Maybe there is a slip in schedule, defects in code, or risks that turn into issues. It is okay. Our project plans help us decide the graceful recovery in advance. There may be an unforeseen issue that affects the project. The issue is what is it is. Focus on the graceful recovery in support of the project. Refer to point number one and trust that your teammates will contribute to the graceful recovery.

Here is a quick side note. The music in Amaluna was live. It would be very difficult to recovery gracefully if reliant on a soundtrack that prevented needed corrections.

Be Trustworthy

Bad things happen when you are not trustworthy. A performer in Amaluna would not feel safe to give a 100% on feat where their safety was in my hands and I’m not trustworthy. I may lose opportunities to perform. The show would lose a great deal of awesomeness with the troupe not trusting in each other to give 100%. Signing up to perform a feat that one is not ready for, performing when physically compromised, or not being reliable in showing up for rehearsal could destroy valuable trust and compromise the show.

Are you trustworthy when it comes to your projects? Do you make meetings on time, participate fairly, complete assignments as agreed? Do you refrain from gossip, always give honest status on the project, and help your teammate recover from their slips? The person who can do this with integrity, consistently will be a very important contributor to the project. Only when all teammates, including yourself, are trustworthy will you have the level of trust needed to pull off amazing acts. It is the rare project that is delivered on time, on budget, and with promised scope that brings value to the business…a truly amazing feat.

Here is a short promo video of Amaluna to amaze you. A fourth secret follows.

Amaluna Promo Video

A fourth observation? Yes, risk management. Telling you this is admitting to what a nerd I truly am.  The video shows the scene with the contortionist in the water splashing all around. My mind realized that water on stage could be deadly to those that follow her act. Brilliant risk management is at work here.

  1. Large cloths blanked the stage around the bowl.
  2. After they moved the bowl and blankets, they had performers performing wiping the stage down with towels
  3. The next act was the high wire, not conducted directly on stage but the high wire with cushions below
  4. Then intermission

Four strategies to mitigate the risk of water on the stage endangering the performers.

Please share your stories and thoughts on what makes for amazing teamwork.

Photo by Cirque du Soleil at http://www.cirquedusoleil.com/en/shows/amaluna/default.aspx

Happy International Project Management Day 2012!

It’s that time of year again. The first Thursday of November is International Project Management Day. Frank Saladis of the International Institute of Learning founded the day to promote project management as a professional and show appreciation for those who have chosen it.

This year I am very pleased to announce Women in Project Management: Leaders in Charge. It was an honor to take part in this pre-recorded panel discussion with Naomi Caietti, Deanne Earle, and myself, moderated by Martin Chernenkoff. This 1 1/2 hour webinar is good for 1.5 PDUs  in Category C. Visit www.pduotd.com to qualify for Category B.

Please watch, listen, enjoy, share, and comment.

http://internationalpmday.org/ipm-day-women-in-project-management/

Number One Benefit of Achieving the PMP

I taught my first week long PMP Exam prep class last week. I recall when I first learned of these boot-camp style classes and my original thought. “Great, you learn how to pass a test. Did you learn anything about project management?” I often comment on my study experience that I learned more in studying for the PMP then I did in a 9-month university certification course and prior experience. The challenge for this course became to incorporate true learning into the crash course – to motivate the students to see how the processes, inputs, tools and techniques, and outputs would make their projects more successful.

I scheduled one-on-one briefings on the last day of class. One student, Marcus, talked of his father who had recently passed the PMP while in a long career in project management. We also had a few “seasoned” project managers in the class. Marcus questioned the value of the PMP for these folks with the reasoning that they had been successful project managers in their careers without the PMP. “Have they been successful with a reported project failure and challenged rate of 65%?” The bottom line is that even a successful project manager can learn new ways of doing things based on industry best practice and increase the chance of project success. There is no room for complacency in managing projects with millions of dollars at stake and an unstable economic market. Learning is the number one benefit of achieving the PMP.

Marcus went on to asked about case studies to support the benefit of PMP. I suggested that PMI would have plenty of information published through pmi.org and offered up the two following books for further exploration.

Remember this next time a non-certified project managers claims that a PMP is not beneficial –

Never become so much of an expert that you stop gaining expertise. View life as a continuous learning experience. Denis Waitley

Disclaimer: I do not profess that someone who has a PMP is superior to someone who does not. Only that one will have learned and demonstrated more knowledge than before attaining the PMP. See The  Chef or the Cook: Choosing the Right Candidate

Additional Resources

Related articles by me

Achieving Success through Business Value

I am thrilled to announce ModernAnalyst has published my article on Achieving Business Value – check it out and pass it on. I look forward to your comments on the ModernAnalyst site or here.

Business value is a new indicator for project success. Huh? You may be wondering what ever happened to the good ole scope, schedule, and budget. They are still there and measured, but what the 2012 trends have been pointing to is that a project completed within scope, schedule, and budget and not be successful. The opposite is also true. Read complete article

I just ran across this excellent supporting video on Twitter.

Tim Banfield, APM, Project Managers should define project success “in their own terms”

Full article

 

 

The Project Manager vs. the Business Analyst

I have a hard time deciding whether “versus” is a good word to compare the two roles. On one hand, the project manager and business analyst should be working collaboratively. On the other hand, the two roles do offer a healthy contest in project related decisions. The issue at hand is that there is a lot of uncertainty about the difference in these roles. The result of this uncertainty is cases where one person plays both roles without enough skills for each, and other cases where the team members do not know who is responsible for what. Hopefully, we can clear this up.

The core of the difference is in the title.

  • The Project Manager manages the project – “The application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to provide activities to meet the project requirements.”
  • The Business Analyst conducts business analysis – “The set of tasks and techniques used to work as a liaison among stakeholders to understand the structure, policies, and operations of an organization, and to recommend solutions that enable the organization to meet its goals.

One source of confusion is the activities in both sets of tasks according to the relevant Body of Knowledge[i]. The intent is that planning and monitoring tasks within the BABOK® are limited to business analysis activities as indicated by the task title.

PMBOK® Task BABOK® Task
  • 4.2 Develop Project Management Plan
  • 2.3 Plan Business Analysis Activities
  • 2.5 Plan Requirements Management
  • 2.6 Manage Business Analysis Performance
  • 4.4 Monitor and Control Project Work
  • 2.6 Manage Business Analysis Performance
  • 5.1 Collect Requirements
  • 2.5 Plan Requirements Management Process
  • 3.1-4 Elicitation: Prepare, Conduct, Document, Confirm
  • 4.2 Manage Requirements Traceability
  • 4.4.5.1 Requirements Documentation
  • 5.2 Define Scope
  • 5.4 Define Solution Scope
  • 5.3 Create WBS
  • 4.1 Manage Solution Scope
  • 5.4 Define Solution Scope
  • 5.4 Verify Scope
  • 7.5 Validate Solution
  • 8.3 Perform Quality Control (Testing-monitoring and recording results)
  • 7.6 Evaluate Solution Performance(Results analysis and recommendation)
  • 10.1 Identify Stakeholders
  • 2.2 Conduct Stakeholder Analysis
  • 10.2 Plan Communications
  • 2.4 Plan Business Analysis Communication
  • 10.3 Distribute Information
  • 4.5 Communicate Requirements
  • 10.5 Report Performance
  • 2.6 Manage Business Analysis Performance

* Thank you to Elizabeth Larson for review and advice to the PMBOK® / BABOK® process mapping.

Stakeholder analysis is one good example of collaboration between project manager and business analyst. The business analyst focuses on stakeholders specific to the requirements and scope of the project. The project manager is looking beyond this to stakeholders whose interest is outside of the project scope. Perhaps the project manager is recording a competitor as a stakeholder to aid in the identification and tracking of potential project risk. The stakeholder analysis is a joint effort. Assign items resulting from the stakeholder analysis to either the project manager or business analyst based on stakeholder interest and influence.

Another point of confusion is in the PMBOK® task of Collecting Requirements. It looks as though the project manager is responsible for collecting requirements. When you look further at the PMBOK® tasks you also find Perform Quality Control, yet we know the project team has members responsible for product quality. The intent of the PMBOK© is that project managers take responsibility to ensure activities for collecting requirements are covered in the project management plan and monitored along with the project. Not the project manager collects the requirements.

Section 5.1 of the CBAP® Handbook does a great job of differentiating “analysis” activities from other activities. Download the CBAP ® handbook from the Certified Business Analysis Professional™ (CBAP®) website for detailed examples of these activities.

Volunteers from both the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA®) and Project Management Institute (PMI©) joined in a collaborative project to “facilitate a shared understanding of the roles.” You can read more on this effort and results at http://pmchat.net/2012/06/the-bapm-partnership/.  The conclusion –

Both the PM and BA play leadership roles—the PM for leading the team and delivering the solution and the BA for ensuring that the solution meets the business need and aligns with business and project objectives. And both roles, equally, are required for project success.

You will get decisions based on full information of the impacts to the project and the benefit of the solution when you have both a strong PM and BA playing leadership roles on your projects. The result is a project that brings greatest business value to the organization.

I had the distinct pleasure of joining Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, CSM, as guest experts on PMChat (a weekly Internet radio show/Twitter web chat) to discuss the BA and PM roles on June 1, 2012. Listen here to catch our interview hosted by Robert Kelly and Rob Prinzo for more on this subject.

September 2015 Update: Please check out my book, Leveraging Business Analysis for Project Success Book Cover Image (Business Expert Press 2015), for more on the role of the business analysis and discussion of the Power Project Team.


[i] Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) 4th Edition

A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge® (BABOK® Guide) Version 2.0

References

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/btrplayer.swf

Listen to internet radio with KellyProjectSolutions on Blog Talk Radio

Project Management Communication Posts: Best of the Best

I often think back to three specific posts when talking to project managers about the role of communication in successful projects. In fact, I have taken concepts of each of these to create my Unlock Your Project’s Potential with Great Communication presentation. This presentation was a great success and I look forward to additional presentations.

Now available – 1-Day workshop based on this collection of articles

Communication Secrets for Project Success

Here are my “best of the best” from PPS for project communication.

Image

  1. Do you have the Key to Success for Your Projects?
  2. A Case for Communicating Project Challenges
  3. What Makes for Good Communication?
  4. (Oops – let’s make that 4) It Starts with You: Explore Team Communication Breakdown

Enjoy and share!

IIBA and PMI Chapters, I will speak at your chapter for only the cost of travel plus a $25 honorarium. This offer is available first come, first serve at two presentations per month. Only one presentation per chapter please. The honorarium helps  me to qualify as a professional member of the National Speakers Association.

Join the Campaign for Project Sponsorship

I am thrilled to announce that I, along with Peter Taylor and Ron Rosenhead, have signed on with Management Concepts Press to embark on a new research and writing project, Strategies for Project Sponsorship. The book is at least a year out as we gather our research, write the text, and then work through the publication process.

We are asking for you assistance. Visit the book page at http://www.strategies4sponsors.com to respond to our survey, share your sponsor story, or both. More information on the project and my fellow authors is also available. Please use the link on the right to join the Campaign for Project Sponsorship to get the latest news and opportunities on the project.

Secrets of the PMP Exam

This was my submission for the The PMCAMPUS 60 PDU Online Giveway contest. The tips here apply to the CBAP examination as well. I hope you will find some valuable tips that work for you as your pursue your chosen credential.


Congratulations on your decision to pursue your PMP. What an exhilarating adventure. Stressful, yet exhilarating. I will offer you some practical tips to help you pass this strenuous exam. Following the advice here will reduce your stress for the exam itself. I’m not going to focus in PMBOK’isms, models, or formulas, but rather stress the importance of the questions themselves.

You are likely to hear about the difficulty in understanding and answering the questions. I cannot stress enough how true this is. Using the strategies I describe here you will be in a better position to understand the questions and possible answers, and select the “right” answer.

Practice Tests

Take many, many practice tests. The goal here is not to memorize potential questions and answers. Questions you find on a practice exam are not going to appear on the real test. Actual test questions are carefully guarded. Instead, you are going to focus in getting familiar with the question format and gain practice in analyzing the question and possible answers.

There is also benefit in getting a baseline on where you stand using the practice exams. Don’t put too much stake in the results you get. Many practice tests are actually harder than the real exam, and some are easier. What they will point out is in what areas you are weak. Use this information to prioritize your study.

Analyze the Question

Read each question multiple times. I recommend not looking at the possible answers yet. They may sway your understanding. Read the question as if they are trying to trick you (maybe they are) – don’t let them get away with it. Can the question be rearranged for a different interpretation? What information is extraneous to the core question? Consider these questions and use your best judgment to reframe the question in a way that makes sense to you. Review the question after you have reframed it to check that you haven’t read too much into it, or let wishful thinking lead you somewhere else.

Scrutinize the Possible Answers

You will find that three of the questions seem correct 50% of the time and two of the answers appear correct 75% of the time (my guess). You need a strategy to help weed out the wrong answers and find the right answer.

Questions will commonly be stated as “what is the next best step?” Here is the trick. Put the possible answers in activity sequence. Go back to read the question, and then check the sequence. What is the next best step? Now you are ready to answer the question. Use a similar strategy to organize possible answers by Knowledge Area and Process Group where needed.

Use Your Tools

There will be time when a scenario that ties into the next several questions. You won’t know this is the case until you move on. Often times in these cases the questions relate to a PMBOK tool. For example, one scenario may call for the need to draw a network diagram. The first question related to the scenario might be straightforward. You might be tempted to shortcut and just answer it. I recommend you do the full exercise and draw the network diagram. It may help point to a less obvious answer that is correct. It may also help you answer the next few questions. It will help you confirm the answer, much like checking an algebra equation.

Take many, many practice tests. It is worth stating again.

Additional Quick Tips

  • Understand and believe in PMBOK processes and how they will improve your projects
  • Do not go hungry
  • Review all your notes and formulas in the car prior to going into the exam
  • Use the scratch paper provided in the test cubicle to brain dump all those notes and formulas in your head
  • Flag and skip questions you are not sure about to go back after your first run through

Please save this article to review the day of the exam. I hope you will email to let me know how the exam goes and more tips you would like to pass on to future test takers once the ordeal is over.

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Related Articles

PMP “Marathon” Completed by David J. Kearney, PMP – describes time and costs pursuing certification.

Check out these Professional Project Services recommended PMP Prep books

Image: Keerati / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Project Management Marvels in Engineering

I currently work in IT project management in a public organization. The industry of IT is relatively new, and the maturity of the IT industry in public organizations is in its infancy. The barriers and struggles in getting projects proposed, approved, executed, and controlled range from bureaucracy, new and emerging technologies, and lack of resource availability. Try to explain project management best practices and processes to your typical agency director or rule making body and you are likely to be met with blank stares. Say, “cone of uncertainty”. We are only now beginning to see some exploration on the value of project management offices, professional project managers, and PMP certification. It is the reality of living in this world that makes me marvel at the barriers that are overcome by many large engineering projects.

I base this statement on a number of presentations I have attended at PMI events; Tacoma Narrows Bridge replacement, rehabilitation of the Washington State Capital building, Boeing 787 development, and most recently replacement of the Hood Canal Bridge. I first got sucked in to the marvel of project management in engineering projects when catching part of a documentary on the building of an aerial tramway. Marvel may seem like an extreme word, but it best describes my emotion in seeing these recaps. I marvel at successful communication with hundreds of vendors across the globe, setbacks due to archeological and geological finds after construction begins that are overcome, the risk and uncertainty in geology, weather, and the economy, and the massive amount of constraints and coordination. Most of the projects I’ve seen presented included schedule and budget adjustments; yet they are not viewed as failures.

So here is my hypothesis. The long history of experience and best practices of engineering create a culture where project management is embraced and honored. Project managers are trusted as industry experts; teams follow and stakeholders trust. Inquiry into processes and results are made by comparable industry experts and therefore not given the same scrutiny and distrust from stakeholders that I have observed. Communication across multi-disciplined, geographically dispersed team is a practiced, fine art. Project planning, risk management, and schedule development as known as essential and not perceived a delay to the project. Then again, as I think about this last sentence, given the newness of the discipline to IT in government, I must acknowledge that perceptions likely begin at the source here.

Bottom line, the experience of those overseeing, participating in, and funding projects leads to a better understanding of all that is involved to accept the fact the good project management is able to respond to the changes that happen, rather than expect the initial plans to hold true throughout the life of the project.

Update 10/31/2011 – Just ran across A Brief Pictorial History of Project Management. Check it out.

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