Things I have learnt along the way...
By Chizzy Menkiti, PMI Houston Newsletter Editor
Here are some things I have learnt along the way.
Communication is key. This is how the rest of the organization gets to know about how your project is faring - whether it is your stakeholders, your team, your sponsors, your line managers.
Tailor your communication method to the situation - and decide if it should be in-person, phone-call, text, email, meeting, presentation, formal report. The more complex it is, you might need to combine any of the options above - to make sure the message is delivered.
Having a plan is critical, but remain flexible and ‘fluid’ - as plans change ever so often and most times, for the slightest of reasons(!).
Budgets are not cast in stone. Like plans, business priorities change and this can affect the project budget causing it to shrink, grow (rarely!) or completely disappear.
Study people. We are all wired differently and react differently to specific situations.
Take breaks. Sometimes, we can get so wrapped up in our projects that we become isolated from others. Make yourself some coffee or have a cup of water. Those conversations around the coffee machine or the water cooler are great for networking with your colleagues and finding out more about what else is going on around you.
‘Sweeping it under the carpet’ doesn’t work. If there’s an issue, bring it to the forefront, so that it can be addressed immediately.
Feedback is invaluable. Be bold, brace yourself, ask for feedback and accept the comments - without being defensive. Get multiple opinions.
Be organized. As the Project Manager, you are the ‘face’ for all the project work going on behind the scenes. Presenting a chaotic disorganized front suggests the project is in turmoil. Would you buy something from a shop when the storefront looks untidy and in disarray?
Finally, relationships matter. Be approachable, be transparent and most importantly be truthful.
What’s on your list? Feel free to send them to me at [email protected] and we will compile them and publish at a later date.
Tom Goebel, PMI Houston Director of Communications
A question many Project Managers ask is “How do I get my Project Management career started?”
Although not quite a chicken-and-egg question, the answer isn’t cut-and-dried. It is indisputable that some experience with projects is a prerequisite for becoming a CAPM or PMP. After all, the applicant has to show 4500 hours of experience just to qualify (less for CAPM) to take the exam!
But having worked on projects for that many hours doesn’t mean that the candidate has project management experience. The requirement, I suspect, merely affirms that you’ve been around projects and are familiar with expectations regarding controls and risk, time, and cost management etc.
As we know, Project Management is a discipline that combines these skills with many others to bring about a successful project conclusion. It is not easy, and it is not always intuitive.
Looked at another way, many test-takers find after they’ve passed the PMP exam, that they are still at the beginning of a long uphill learning curve. It’s a learning curve that will require practical experience to complement the knowledge they gained while studying for the test. It is simply impossible to be able to apply the principles of Project Management immediately without gaining some context through experience.
In the Precedence Diagramming Method used by project managers to lay out the timing framework of projects, there is a logical relationship called Start-to-Start. Start-to-Start describes a situation where Activity B is dependent on and cannot start until Activity A has begun.
For example, writing of a user manual (Activity A) must have started before editing of the manual (Activity B) can begin.
A similar approach can be taken with respect to setting a project management career in motion. Acquisition of experience using established PMI standards and principles (i.e., from PMBOK), or Activity B, depends on the acquisition of knowledge (Activity A) as the candidate starts to prepare for the CAPM or PMP exam. Experience in this sense doesn’t refer to previous experience with projects. Instead, it is experience related to project management as charted by PMBOK and PMI. When you start studying for the exam, your education in the discipline of project management – through study and experience – is just beginning.
In the long run, it isn’t necessary to operate sequentially. If you do, you may not be optimizing the knowledge you’re gaining from PMI. As you start preparing for the exam, it’s important to absorb and begin applying PMBOK standards and best practices, even to small “projects” in your personal life, and to think about their purpose and effect. In other words, implement Start-to-Start.
Remembering Our Good Times
By Jeff Meyer
When I look back across my life, I usually see milestones for memories. I like to think that the ones I predominately see are of the good kind.
Maybe I am blessed, or perhaps I am just a glass half full kind of guy, because we all know that it’s the turmoil that really makes the world go around. They say when you have a good customer service experience you tell four to six people, when it’s bad you tell more than 20. If you watch the news, they blow past every happy-go-lucky story and race to the death and destruction.
However, as project managers, we need to take a lesson from Facebook and document all the good times we had in a project. Documenting lessons learning is a vital step in our project life cycle, however we are often better at documenting problems and not items that are strictly successful right off the bat.
Have you ever been able to achieve something difficult and then not remember how you did it? Well, good documentation can help you get past that. As project managers we need to be able to identify useful information that has helped us along the way even things that might be considered luck.
Below are a few points to help you document your successes:
- Identify complex issues and record step by step how you solved them.
- Keep an ongoing record of events from the start till the end of the project
- Discuss with all team members if they have any highlights that need to be recorded for future processes
- Make note of anything that seems like a “lucky” resolution or happened too “easy”
- Create accurate descriptions of anything that is not normal
- Use videos and/or pictures to clearly document the path followed
- Do a daily download of the events of the day to identify recordable items
- Keep a documented list of who was on your project - in case you need to reach back out to them, be sure to include contact information.
We simply cannot rely on our memories to help us remember successes - we also need to record them.
Project managers have a highly complex role and if we can learn from our past, our future will be much brighter. So join me in my optimism and write down not only what you did wrong, but also everything that you did right. Besides, when you share all those lessons learned, you will have key points to brag about your success.