Saturday, February 25, 2012

Project Management - Is Education More Valuable Than Experience?

In my more than 20 years of experience managing technical projects, most project managers move directly from engineering into project management - do not pass go, do not collect $200. Does this count as the experience necessary to manage a complex technical or non-technical project? Does his or her ranking as a subject matter expert qualify her for the position of manager? Are the skills necessary for each so different? It’s often been said that the best way to lose both a good engineer and a good manager is to move the engineer into management.

Far too many projects fail to achieve their purpose, or scope, within the established schedule and budget. If we assume that the schedule and budget are achievable and reasonable, then what causes these projects to fail? The possible causes are too numerous to list and each project would require a root cause analysis, but every “tiger team review” that I’ve attended have determined that the seeds of failure were planted in the early stages of the project, especially during the initiation and planning phases. So, what roles do education and experience play in preventing these project failures?

Starting with education, managing a project is much like managing a small or medium sized business with the exception that a project is time limited, whereas a business is expected to continue operating indefinitely. I use “business” rather than “department” because a department is most often organizationally and functionally limited, as opposed to a project that has elements of management, human resources, engineering, manufacturing, marketing, sales, and even government relations responsibilities. There are also a number of specialized processes associated with a project, each of which includes a set of specialized tasks. These high level processes are initiating, planning, executing, controlling and closing. Addressing just the initiating process, the project manager has to consider the initiator or sponsor of the project; the contract, if it’s an external project; the scope, or the final deliverables expected; organizational culture; project management tools available; standards, guidelines, defined processes; human resources availability; historical assets and lessons learned from previous similar projects. She must also identify all stakeholders, both positively and negatively affected individuals and organizations, to the project. Her experience as an engineer or subject matter expert is of minimal benefit as a manager of a project, but experience as an assistant project manager is of immeasurable value. Also, education in the form of an MBA or business degree, backed up by certification as a Project Management Professional (PMP®) from the Project Management Institute, provides an excellent background for the new project manager.

The question of whether experience or education is more important to the success of a project manager is that both education and experience are essential, but the experience must be in the field of project management as opposed to the field of the subject matter expert. Project management experience at some point will trump formal education, but that point is after many years of managing complex projects.

About the author:
Owen Murphy has more than 20 years experience managing successful projects in Europe and Asia as well as domestic projects in the USA. He has both the education and the experience to manage projects of all sizes. He holds the PMP certification as well as the Certified Management Consultant certification from the Institute of Management Consultants. See

Rediscover Project Management Knowledge

Do you ever notice how after learning a concept many years ago, when you come across it again, you understand it either differently or better?

As we experience "life" in project management -- managing various projects, working with new teams and wearing different hats on those teams -- we get to see various aspects of project management in action. We add to that knowledge from our own successes and failures.

We usually refer to those experiences as growth and development. The experience alters how we see things and how we communicate with people: our teammates, suppliers, third party partners, customers and clients. It also alters how we perform work because we gain a new point of view or change in our current point of view.

As such, it's valuable to review what you already know by reading through chapters of A Guide to Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) to focus on the key areas that you work in, be it in risk management, scope management or resource scheduling.

When you review the material after having had some experience, you not only remind yourself of what you learned initially, but you see it differently. You catch some elements that you didn't see how to implement before, or you recognize how to relate to something in a way that you didn't before. Having that "life" experience in project management alters how you see the material and how you apply it in everyday work.

This happened to me when I reviewed the PMBOK® Guide recently. After reviewing the chapter on risk management, I realized that my company needed to include additional steps for how we handle a backup or restore operation. While many companies have testing strategies, ours only documented this step conceptually. I may not have noticed this if I hadn't reread the PMBOK® Guide.

I challenge you to review the knowledge in the PMBOK® Guide and see how you can apply it to your active projects. Areas that you can improve on will turn up and will add value to your project management practice.

How do you rediscover your project management knowledge? Have you rediscovered practices from the PMBOK® Guide recently?

Article by Dmitri Ivanenko, PMP, for Voices on Project Management.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Silent Generation on Project Teams

As projects teams have become more dispersed around the world during the last two decades, the multigenerational project team inadvertently came into existence. Since then, I've dealt with diversity, virtual teams and multicultural issues.

As a project manager of multigenerational teams, my main objective is to figure out how to reconcile generational differences. These differences occur in everything from values and characteristics to priorities and motivation to feelings toward technology and management styles.

In order to more effectively manage multigenerational project teams, I not only need to focus on a team member's visible characteristic actions and behaviors, I have to find out more about his or her generation's beliefs and attitudes. From here, I can tailor my management style.

Take the Silent Generation, for example. Members of this generation were born pre-World War II. In the United States, this generation grew up in a time of economic turmoil and world conflicts. They set their values on discipline, respect and self-sacrifice.

For me, it's very important to understand that discipline, loyalty and working within the system are among the values that members of the Silent Generation will bring to my project team. I have to appreciate that those members have a vast knowledge to share and high standards on work ethic.

In communicating with members of the Silent Generation, I've found that face-to-face meetings are more effective than using e-mail or conference calls when discussing project matters.

Team members who belong to the Silent Generation have a clear understanding of authority, regardless of how old the project managers they work for are. This, along with respect for authority, was prevalent in their early years as they grew up in homes where the mother typically stayed at home and the father went to work.

Members of the Silent Generation bring experience and balance to the project team environment. Their views are based more on common sense than on technology -- as is the case with some in younger generations.

Article by Conrado Morlan, PMP, PgMP for Voices on Project Management.

Steve Jobs Was a Great Project Manager

Steve Jobs Was a Great Project Manager

Now let’s look at Apple – take 2. When Jobs came back to Apple in 1997, some important traits had changed for the better. And some had been good all along.


In general, Jobs was a decisive leader. There are examples when he wasn’t sure which direction to go in, but for the most part he always had a strong feeling about a particular direction he wanted the company to go.

When he made up his mind, that was all she wrote in most cases. Even better, in these years he showed signs of actually changing his mind. With the Apple stores he had been set to organize them by product, and Ron Johnson told him they should be organized around the different types of uses instead.. 6 months after he had been working on iterating a prototype store, all organized around products. Jobs was irate and going into a meeting told Johnson to shut his mouth and not mention it to anyone. Then in the meeting he surprised Ron by saying “Ron thinks we’ve got it all wrong. He thinks it should be organized not around products, but around what people do. And you know, he’s right.”

He didn’t waffle, he changed his mind decisively and immediately set the team out to execute on it. You’ll also notice Jobs giving more credit to people other than himself like this, starting in the late 90′s with his return to Apple. I like it.

Visionary and Charismatic

These traits are impossible for anyone to deny Jobs, throughout his career. He was able to imagine a radical new future state over and over. Even more important, he had the charisma and salesmanship to convince everyone else to follow his vision.

As project managers the better we are at this, the more effective we’ll be in leading our teams to success.


A common thread you’ll notice throughout Jobs’ career is focus, almost to a fault. Sometimes this resulted in micro-management on tiny aspects of a product most people consider trivial and unimportant. But every detail was important to Jobs.

His product launches were a result of meticulous attention to detail, ensuring everything was just right. Apple products were and are the same, setting the company and not just it’s products, but the ‘Apple Experience’ apart from the rest.

Collaborative, Integrated Process

Jobs looked at products as something to be developed in an integrated fashion. After he came back to Apple, he tried to eliminate the ‘throw it over the wall’ and ‘that other department’ mentality by including all groups in discussions around new products.

He also ensured that key new hires met with key players from all departments, not just those they would be working in. This further ensured new employees had a sense for the whole and not just their own little silo in the company.

Most of all, he understood that the full value stream of a product is what matters, not individual steps. From designing the optimal customer experience at Apple stores and the packaging of all Apple products to the inclusion of marketing, sales, manufacturing, hardware and software development people in every step of the product life cycle — he saw the importance of that full value stream.

See other related posts by Josh at:

Friday, February 17, 2012

5 Ways to Find the Perfect Candidate through Social Media

Many people have psychologically separated social networking sites such as, LinkedIn is for business, Facebook is for home, and Twitter is for Gen Y.

What people don't realize is that the separations of these sites are becoming blurred because hiring managers are looking at the entire candidate, and not just what's on a resume.

Here's a trend I'm seeing that can help hiring managers (and maybe jobseekers) to find the prefect candidates through social media.

1. Having a Profile Picture: One of the biggest mistakes people make is not having a professional profile picture on their social networking accounts. Most would argue, "why is that necessary when it's the experiences that matter?" Although that may be true, we are visual beings and unconsciously relate more to visuals than non-visuals.

2. 500+ Connections on LinkedIn: Having that amount of connections dilutes the purpose of a professional networking account like LinkedIn. It gives off the signal that you will connect with anyone that wants to connect with you. Many hiring manager use LinkedIn to find potential candidates and have a red flag when they see more connections than the person can possibly know.

3. Facebook FanPage: With unemployment still high in the U.S., more and more people are coming up with creative ways to professionally stand out. People have created very well thought out and nicely designed Facebook Fan Pages as marketing material to help sell their skillsets. If you do a search on Facebook, you'll find great examples of Fan Pages.

4. #HireFriday Twitter Thread: I came across Margo Rose, an HR consultant, about a year ago on twitter. She had organized a twitter thread called #HireFriday where jobseekers post their skillsets and recruiters or others would actively make introductions to hiring managers with open positions. It's grown from it's inception and you can find out more on her blog

5. Online Resumes on This site is slowly becoming a popular way to point people to an online profile that consolidates all your social networking sites. It's meant to brand all perspectives of a person into one place. It's mainly used as a virtual business card and in some cases, resumes.

About the author:

Bernardo Tirado is an industrial psychologist and project management executive with extensive experience in building global shared services and developing new business capabilities.

Does Social Media Work for Project Communication?

The use of social media in project management can bear fruits, if conversations are structured on the topic at hand. It may be good to establish an official response ethics on project management topics(eg. on facebook) between participating members. To stay on topic. Reading through many threads on a topic may seem like like a drag, but it can bring new members to a project up to speed. Of course social media cannot replace project document updates but can aid the process of communication and awareness.

Ty Kiisel takes on a very familiar subject of social media use in Project Management. Read the what Kiisel has to say on the topic:

Choosing your Project Sponsor

Ensuring you have an appropriate project sponsor is one of the best ways of getting some focus on a project and making sure the project gets delivered. It is often the mistake in many organisations to assume that the project manager is ultimately responsible for the success or failure of the project when this does in fact come down to the project sponsor. After all if a project manager has no authority to sign off on the costs and benefits of a project then how can they be expected to be ultimately responsible for it?

So what should you look for in a project sponsor, to make sure things go smoothly? Well first of all we should weigh up the different personalities who will naturally be involved in any project.
  • Users: on this side are the people who want everything and they want it now (incidentally there’s nothing wrong with this, but its why they’re balanced by…)
  • Suppliers: the suppliers want to be able to deliver a simple, focused solution that can be delivered easily, quickly and cheaply.
There two sides are generally represented in a project environment by two individuals called the “senior user” and “senior supplier” respectively. The job of the sponsor therefore is to arbitate between these two characters to ensure that a middle balance is struck which is in the best interests of the organisation involved (company, charity, programme, strategy, event etc dependant on the context of this project).

An effective project sponsor will therefore have the following traits;
  • Pragmatic: the sponsor should not be predisposed to either the user or suppliers arguments they should make pragmatic decisions based upon the needs of the organisation;
  • Natural communicator: the sponsor will need to be able to communicate and arbitrate between the opposing perspectives of the project, as such they will need to be comfortable listening to and weighing up arguments;
  • Organisational power: even with the two traits above without some organisational power your sponsor may fall down on two counts.
    • First they must be able to overrule the senior user and supplier, after all the sponsor has the final say on all project decisions;
    • Secondly your sponsor should have the power to drive things forward when the momentum begins to wane, they should be able to get people into rooms and they shouldn’t have to wait for decisions.
Article posted in PM Coup:

Contagious Enthusiasm in Public Speaking

A few years ago, I was at a PMI chapter professional development day to give a presentation and attend some sessions.

Between sessions, I saw a young man who worked for one of the conference sponsors reading something. I asked him what he was reading, and he said he was going over his notes for his upcoming presentation.

"Excellent," I commented. "What will you be talking about?"

Our product," he replied. Then he added, "I'm probably going to bore everyone."

"Why would it bore everyone?" I asked. "Well," he said, "because it's a boring presentation."

Now I was really intrigued. I asked again why it's boring and got a similar response: "It's just not very interesting."

I kind of felt sorry for the guy, but thought maybe I could help him out.

I continued, "Certainly, it's interesting to you. You must have some enthusiasm for the topic -- the product you are here to sell! How can you share that enthusiasm with the folks who will be listening?"

"No," he replied, "I don't really find the topic interesting at all. I don't have any enthusiasm for it."

You can't give what you haven't got -- and the most important thing you can have when speaking is your enthusiasm for your topic. But having enthusiasm isn't enough. You have to be enthusiastic, and you have to be able to share your enthusiasm with others. But the biggest inhibitor to sharing enthusiasm is self-consciousness.

Therein, I believe, lays the great secret to effective public speaking.

Public speaking is a giving act. You are giving of yourself - your insights, your experience, your enthusiasm, your knowledge, your stories, your being. The effective speaker is fully tuned in to the people he or she is speaking to - fully conscious of their presence, their reaction, their needs - fully other-conscious. This leaves no room for self. No room for self-consciousness.

Article by Jim De Piante for Voices on Project Management
See: More articles by Jim De Piante

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Dealing with Unethical Project Clients

There’s no question that we are in the IT consulting business to make money, right? We can’t feed our family on fun and professional growth. The dollars must keep coming in – otherwise we have to start looking for something else to do.

Given that, the thought of turning down business is a hard thing to fathom – especially in this economic climate. Recovery?? We’re truly not there yet. It could be years...who knows? So, in the mean time we all struggle to remain viable while trying to pick and choose our projects and our clients – if we have that luxury – to the best of our ability. We try to only take on customers who seem reasonable, ethical, and won’t drive us insane. Does this sound familiar to you?

Hooking up with the client

Through whatever process you choose, you’ve hooked up with a potential client. It may be a situation where they found you from a professional article or professional posting or possibly you found them when you contacted their organization offering your services. Or even better, maybe they found you through a referenceable customer of yours. However it happened, it happened. And now you’re face-to-face with this potential client discussing their needs, high-level requirements and business processes and trying to determine three things: 1) is this work I can do, 2) is this a project I want to take on, and 3) is this a client I want to work with. You may have even started to draft out a project plan with your online project management software tool at this point. #1 is should be fairly easy for you to answer after a brief discussion with the potential client. The harder questions to answer are #2 and #3. You don’t know much about their business and their employees yet and you don’t know much about your direct customer contact. You have no idea if they are going to be easy to work with or difficult to manage. And you can’t determine really at this point if they are ethical or unethical.

I will say this – if you have a gut feeling early on that they may be unethical or you feel uncomfortable with them…don’t move forward. I can attest to the fact that, without exception, every time I’ve had a discomfort level with a client or even a direct employer and then moved forward with them anyway, I’ve been sorry.

You’ve made the wrong choice

There will be times when you determine that you’ve made the wrong choice. You’ve decided to move forward with a client who is or is going to cause you lots of headaches. You’ve had to add so much planning and other extra time into your web-based project management software tool just to accommodate them and their headaches. They may be unethical. They may refuse to pay for services rendered even though you’ve delivered good work. They may continually try to push scope but balk at paying more. They may call you at all hours of the day and night. Whatever the problem or frustration, you’ve realized you made a poor decision to work with them.

I had one client who I had misgivings about early on. The reason why I decided to move forward with the work is mostly due to the fact that I had maintained a relationship with this potential customer for six months trying to get to the point where they needed my consulting. When it finally happened, I ignored all of my misgivings and moved ahead. Bad call. They brought in clients and lied to them. They took them out partying and then discussed the lurid details during face-to-face client sessions with them. Too much Las Vegas fun, not enough professional work – and that’s not my style. And in the end, they abruptly ended the consulting engagement owing me over $2,000 in consulting fees. Unethical? Yes. Stupid decision on my part? Yes….I take full responsibility.

The exit strategy

So, if you find yourself in a bad client situation, what do you do? My recommendation, in order to not start bad word of mouth about your services, is to not end anything abruptly. Look for an out – possibly a key deliverable coming up or the end of a phase or milestone in the project management software schedule. At that point, make sure you’re paid up to date, and then break it to the customer that you have another pressing engagement and you can’t move forward any further on the project.
Of course, you must first ensure that you’re not breaking something in the contract that may leave you facing legal action. If that’s the case you’ll have no choice but to continue with the project. But if you can find and out, take it. And to leave things on the best grounds possible, suggest another consulting contact as a possible replacement – even if they may be remotely located in another part of the country. At least you’ll go out offering a solution.

About the author:

Brad Egeland
Brad Egeland, IT/Project Management Consultant
Brad Egeland is an IT/Project Management consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. Brad is a married, Christian father of 7 living in Las Vegas, NV. Visit Brad's site at

Are You Sure Your Project Information is Secure?

Fellow blogger V. Srivinasa Rao recently wrote an interesting post about the Global Distribution Model 2.0 that is launching soon. The model holds a lot of promise and is a great framework for implementing mobile global communications tools.

Today, the fastest rising communications and computing technology is mobile. And while this development provides exciting possibilities for improved project efficiency, it does not come without risks. I'm focusing specifically on devices with a mobile operating system, such as iOS, Android, Windows Phone 7, Blackberry or Nokia.

The reason for my concern is the speed of adoption for the devices. They now play a role in every project I manage. It may be simple communications such as email between team members, text messaging and calendar functionality, or more sophisticated uses such as remote access to project data, project management software or even video conferencing. Yet 90 percent of the time, I find that no one is really thinking through the implications of using this technology.

Think about it: With this expanded communication comes an increased risk that your project's confidential or critical information could be exposed, intentionally or unintentionally.

This information can be controlled fairly easily by IT departments on laptops, but mobile operating systems don't allow for the same kind of security just yet. You must be wary of how information may be getting communicated over your mobile device.

Information "attacks" can come in several forms. At an event where "free wireless access" is offered, for example, someone who wants to gather data illegally can set up a US$50 wireless router, name it "[Event Name] Wireless" and watch as attendees innocently connect their devices to communicate with the rest of the team. Simply leaving your Bluetooth enabled in public locations can open you up to attacks.

It doesn't even need to be something that devious. All that needs to happen is for one of your team members to lose a device that has regulated data on it. In the United States, you'll have to officially report the incident to the Federal Government.

The key takeaway here is that as our world expands, we are being given exciting new ways to coordinate and communicate with our team members across the planet. We should take full advantage of this. But we should do it with our eyes open.

Article by Geoff Mattie for Voices on Project Management

6 Tips to Persuade Stakeholders to Say "Yes" to Your Project

Sourcing project acceptance and buy-in from stakeholders is a challenge. The article below by Jorge Valdes Gaciatorres hightlights useful hints to employ. I would add awareness of all the cultural elements when selling a project to stakeholders, is imperative. Getting to know the prospective stakeholders is very important. It will help to stay away from embarrassing comments that may fuel discomfort amongst stakeholders. On the other hand, it may yield immense goodwill from members that lacked certainty to become involved in your project.

Jorge Valdes Gaciatorres writes in Voices on Project Management:

Starting a project is not always easy. It requires resources and changes the status quo, so there can be a lot of obstacles until you hear "yes" to a project.

That's why you need to know how to effectively persuade your stakeholders to get on board with your project.

Dr. Alan H. Monroe's motivated sequence pattern, created in the 1930s, is useful for doing so:

1. Attention: Capture your stakeholders' attention with an interesting opening statement, or share a statistic related to your project.

2. Need: Identify the need that your project will address and share it with your stakeholders. The more information you have about the business needs, the better the chance your project is approved.

3. Satisfaction: Let stakeholders know how your project will satisfy the identified business needs. In detail, describe the approach you'll use in your project to address the needs.

4. Visualize: Explain the 'perfect world' that will exist after the project has finished. Make it as vivid as possible -- explain how it looks, sounds and smells. Be very energetic and enthusiastic when you explain.

5. Action: Tell them what you need them to do. Let them know specifically what steps you are taking to achieve the vision you've just shared.

The sixth element I would add is to tell a story to help you make your point. It could be real or it could be fictional, but remember that people are more likely persuaded when they hear or read a story that transports them. If a story is told well, we get swept up and are less likely to notice things that don't match up with our everyday experiences.

Use your creativity -- find your own way to mix all of these elements and you can build a powerful tool to persuade even the most demanding stakeholder.