As VP of Professional
Development and Training, I spend most days during my real
life, teaching project management. I love teaching
in general, and project management specifically, because
of the immediate applicability of the tools and
techniques, as well as the insight into visible
improvements in project results. Students who are
currently working as project managers but are looking to
broaden their skill set often pose interesting questions
regarding real project experiences, the successes and
pitfalls of PMBOK application or non-application as the
case may be. Of course there are always the expected
questions about concepts like earned value and critical
path. But whether I’m teaching students in the
software, pharmaceutical, automotive or financial
industries, as we go through the various PMBOK processes
there is one type of comment that is repeated fairly
consistently: “Are all these processes necessary?”
“Can’t we just do some of them?” And my favorite, “My boss will never give us the time or money to carry out all these processes!” All are very valid concerns. As we anticipate a new PMBOK version next year, there will most likely be additional or revised processes as well. So what is the answer? PMI clearly states, right in the PMBOK, that processes are meant to be tailored, or customized, for size and complexity of the project. However, the questions still persist. “Our projects are small,small; these processes are simply not applicable for us. Why do I even have to know them except to pass the PMP exam?”
Probably my favorite modern composer is Claude Bolling, who creates incredible music that blends genres in unusual ways. (While it seems as if I’ve switched subjects abruptly, bear with me, I’ll tie them together!) The most amazing piece he composed is called “Bach to Swing” which starts out as pure Bach, and slowly throughout the piece, gradually morphs into a swing tempo where by the end of the number you would swear you are listening to something by Count Basie. The point is that in order to “customize” something you have to first know the basics. You cannot improvise music until you understand the foundation from which you are improvising. Every serious musician first studies his scales and chords before attempting improvisation. And so it is the same with project management processes.
Without first knowing the basic processes, you cannot customize or improvise in the most effective way, as you may be missing key elements that you thought were unimportant but may be the key to project success. In addition, even very experienced musicians know that in order to keep playing flawlessly they must continually “go back to basics” and practice the scales. Likewise, without reviewing those basic project management building blocks, in the midst of the pressures of project demands it is easy to lose sight of some key concepts that may make your project more efficient. So it behooves all of us in the project management profession, whether you are looking forward to tailoring the processes for your project or are already using a standardized process, to take the time to review the basics. I encourage everyone to set aside time to review the processes, tools and techniques, described in the current PMBOK as well as making sure to read the December 2012 forthcoming 5th edition of the PMBOK…or perhaps it should be called PMBach?
The annual Student Paper of
the Year Award has been a tradition of PMI New Jersey
Chapter for nearly fifteen years, and recognizes
outstanding work in a project management course by
students enrolled in a Master’s Program in Project
Management. This year we were very pleased to confer
two awards, one for a paper written by a team, and another
for a paper written by a single individual. Although
submissions from two universities were considered, both
award recipients this year were from Stevens Institute of
Technology in Hoboken.
The review team who evaluated the submissions consisted of 6 PMPS who are members of PMI NJ: Marge Dukes, Ava Heuer, Bill Sasso, Paul Travers, John Tse, and Louis Vazquez. The recipients of the awards were recognized at our June monthly meeting where they presented their papers.
The recipients of the team award were Bhavin Shukla, Craig Edwards, and Manoj Rana from their Project Management and Leadership class, taught by Paul Stevens. Their paper, “Radiation Oncology at XYZ Medical Group” examined a real-world project to determine the feasibility of expanding the reach of a large private medical group to include radiation therapies for cancer patients. The added capability was analyzed from a number of different perspectives for both the medical practice and the patients in terms of costs, benefits, risks, and competitors. A “surprise” ending to the presentation was that the project was cancelled at the end of the feasibility phase due to the inability to obtain the required approvals from the township and the state necessary for the expansion. There was an audible gasp from the audience when that was stated; but it was a real-life example of the risks inherent in any project where government approvals are required.
The recipient of the individual award was Julia Steponanko for her work in the Advanced Project Management Class, taught by Dr. Michael Poli. Julia presented her paper, “Intersection Improvements at Road A and Road B,” where the traffic patterns at a particularly troublesome intersection were examined, and a contract specification was prepared for re-routing the roads to ease the bottlenecks. PMBOK processes were followed and the project was declared a mixed success, as it was completed 12 months late, but experience was gained and subsequently 3 new projects were awarded to the company. Lively discussion followed Julia’s presentation.
PMI New Jersey Chapter once again extends their thanks to all participants in the competition, and offers our sincere congratulations to the recipients of the awards. We encourage other students to speak with their professors about submitting papers for next year. Volunteers interested in participating on the student paper review team should send an email to .
Suzanne brings more than 20
years of experience in Healthcare Information Technology
to her PMINJ chapter volunteering. She also brings a
detailed oriented and pleasant personality that is needed
for the Symposium Registration Team. Suzanne has been the
Team Co-Lead for symposium Registration Team for the past
5 years and has worked tirelessly during the year to
organize and stream line the annual event registration
process. Suzanne and her team are instrumental for the
on-line registration, confirmations, badges and gifts for
attendees for the May Symposiums as well Nov IPM Day
events. Before becoming registration team lead, Suzanne
served as a volunteer on the Registration Team.
The first step for a successful Symposium is to have smooth registration process. Every year over 600 members register for the May Symposium and over 500 members register for IPM Day Seminar, both online. There are significant efforts involved for planning, setting up team and assign responsibilities, setting up dates, setting up online registration with web master, continually monitor registration, answering phone calls related to registration and resolve any issues members might have registering for the events. On the day of the event, Suzanne and her team arrives at the facility very early in the morning to set up registration tables with gifts and name tags. Due to hard work and dedication of volunteers like Suzanne, the chapter is able to provide quality events like symposiums to the members.
Suzanne’s thoughts on her PMINJ volunteering experience:
“Initially when I joined PMINJ I thought that I would be able to attend some interesting seminars on Project Management and keep my PMP certification current. After attending a few Chapter Events and seeing the quality of the programs as well as the knowledgeable membership, I knew I had to be part of the organization and help make things happen. I am proud and excited to be an active member of the PMINJ Chapter and encourage everyone to Volunteer as you not only help the organization, you help yourself and make many new friends and acquaintances”.
PMINJ is a volunteer organization and chapter’s success is attributed to volunteers like Suzanne who works tirelessly to provide quality service for chapter membership and we thank her for that.
Speaker Helen Hogan – Financial Consultant – Sunset
The PMINJ Career Networking Local Community of Interest (CNL) January meeting was very informative. Helen Hogan, Financial Consultant with Sunset Financial Services discussed how Wealth Accumulation strategies can secure your financial future. Helen, who is a PMP since 1996, explained how we can apply PMBOK® principles to this real life project.
To achieve your financial security:
Evaluate your present financial situation
Perform an analysis of your financial health by considering the following areas:
Identify your goals and objectives
Define your financial future:
Develop a project plan to achieve those goals and
Based on your goals and objectives you've identified, sort them by time period and prioritize competing goals. Identify the risk and risk response for every goal. Take the following points into account when you create the plan:
Execute the plan
Implement the plan by leveraging the following financial vehicles:
Review plan annually and manage risk
Unintended life changing events like health issues, layoffs, divorce, relocation and death of provider in family can happen. The right risk and change management plan can help protect against market fluctuations and undesirable life events and may result in greater wealth over the long term. There are things you can control (like minimizing costs, minimizing taxes, making better decisions on how you should spend your money over time) and things you cannot control (rising interest rates, inflation). Revisit and restructure your investment portfolio periodically. Diversify!
We thank Helen for this enlightening seminar. Helen Hogan was nominated by NJ monthly magazine as one of the top 100 Wealth Managers in NJ. Helen was also recently quoted in an article “Shifting into retirement gear” on Fidelity.com. Helen can be reached at or Cell: 908-385-5534.
Speaker Helen Hogan – Financial Consultant – Sunset Financial Services
Here’s a question for you to quickly consider: effective
risk management underpins a successful project – true or
Was “true” your first reaction? We believe that you’re right. All three of us are strong believers in the positive value of a well-managed and controlled approach to project risks. An Internet search for “images of risk management” will return many illustrations of dice being rolled. If it is done well, risk management measures the uncertainty involved when you “roll the dice” during your project, and allows the Project Manager to obtain a consensus how to best handle risks and unexpected events on the project.
This article does not cover in detail the processes necessary for effective project risk management. A large amount of material and advice exists on the subject. Rather, we put forward just a few “pointers to consider” for your project – whether it is already underway or getting ready to start.
Take-Away points to consider
We put forward the following considerations for risk management (this list is not exhaustive or prioritised):
The essentials of project risk management
A project risk can be defined as an uncertain event or condition that, if it occurs, will have a positive or a negative effect on a project’s objectives. Some very comprehensive guidelines and procedures for managing risk are available from many sources. For example, the Project Management Institute describes the following summary process to managing project risks:
You may come across other models. Your means of
conducting risk management and the behaviours you and your
team display in “making it real” make all the difference.
We have mentioned “behaviours” a few times in this
article. We are referring to the communication (in all its
shapes and forms) that you use, the importance with which
you treat risks, and the willingness and drive to see
actions through to completion and closure.
Here are a few questions for you to ask yourself:
Remember: risk management is your friend and ally
As per the title of this article, risk management is the project manager’s friend. Done well, it helps you ensure that the “appetite for risk” is appropriately understood at the start; that all risks are agreed upon, prioritized, assessed, communicated and understood in alignment with this “risk appetite;” and that you have a solid platform to track agreed actions, including escalation up the management chain if necessary. The key is to demonstrate positive behaviours in a way that ensures risk management is kept at the forefront of all your project activities. There is always the potential of “unknown unknowns” impacting your project, but the more you can assess reasonable risks from the start of the project and actively manage them throughout, the better you will be as a team to realise a positive outcome for your project.
If you have an opinion on this article, we would really like to hear from you. Please email us at with your point of view.
In May of 2011 The Project Management Podcast launched
its Project Leadership Series at www.pm-podcast.com. The
series started with interviews with Thomas Juli, author of
Leadership Principles for Project Success, and Rick
Valerga, author of The Cure for the Common Project: Five
Core Themes that Transform Project Managers into Leaders.
More interviews and discussions on project leadership are
planned throughout the year. To kick us off let’s begin
with an explanation about what project leadership is and
how project managers can start out on the path of becoming
true project leaders.
Defining project leadership
“There are so many definitions of leadership out there,” said Thomas. “Leadership has to do with the right attitude and understanding the core principles of building an overall vision, knowing about the power of collaboration, knowing how to promote performance in the team he or she is leading, and then still having the maturity to reflect on their own activities and creating a culture of learning. And last but not least, a leader ensures results because this is the bottom line.”
Rick agrees. “I define leadership as the ability to influence others to deliver results,” he said. “Project leadership exists at the nexus of project management and general leadership.”
Project leadership doesn’t mean being a strategic visionary sitting at the very top of your organization. It’s about leading the project team to achieve their objectives and producing a successful result.
Getting to success
“If you run a project, you have to be knowledgeable and experienced in project management,” said Thomas. “Project management is basically structuring chaos and without the structure, you cannot really be creative. That means without project management, there cannot be project success.”
However, Thomas doesn’t believe that project management skills are the only thing necessary to deliver a successful project.“Leadership gives the project a direction, the right direction,” he said. “If you talk about sufficient conditions of project success, we’re talking about leadership.”
Without someone providing this overall direction, the project team members run the risk of going off in several directions, or nowhere at all. It’s difficult to achieve results in that situation. Thomas believes that to get to success projects need both management and leadership. Fortunately, one person can fill both functions.
“Integrity is the absolute foundation for project leadership,” said Rick. “Integrity means never letting your project live a lie. So if your project plan is a house of cards, or your schedule will be indisputably delayed, or if you discover that your product will fall flat in the market, you need to have the courage to bring these issues to light.”
Rick said that managing expectations is key to building integrity. “When we’re doing this, we’re making responsible commitments even under duress,” he explained. “That’s integrity.” He also explained that integrity comes from solving the projects’ toughest problems without destroying our team members or their families, and providing frequent up-to-date, consistent messages that are agreed across all the project stakeholders.
Teams are at the heart of projects, and project leaders can’t lead if they don’t have people to lead. “Let’s face it, projects are at their best when people are at their best,” said Rick. “I’m not just talking about taking care of the troops and then getting out of the way which many project managers do. Projects are at their best when all the people are at their best including the sponsor, customers, suppliers, adjacent functional organizations.”
Thomas agrees. “As a leader, it is your responsibility to create an environment that promotes performance on both the individual and the team level,” he said. “First of all, you want to be a role model. You have to walk the talk. Demonstrate authentic leadership.” By that, he means making sure that your words and actions align. Don’t set rules for the team and then break them yourself.
“You really want to empower your team,” Thomas added. “That means you have to give the team the information it needs and you have to share the power so that the team can actually get the opportunity to excel and have an active hand in project success.”
When the team feels empowered, there is no need to micromanage them. Thomas believes that it is important to want them to feel empowered, and not just pay lip service to the team. You have to be able to trust the team members. “You have to let it happen,” he said. “You have to give the team the opportunity to show how it can perform. That’s very important.”
If becoming a project leader sounds difficult, Rick had some simple advice about how to get started. “One way to start is by simply listening,” he said. “We have a vast amount of knowledge available to us through our stakeholders. We need to make sure that we are regularly tapping into it.”
Another easy step towards becoming a leader is to celebrate performance. “You want to look for behaviors that reflect the purpose and values, skill development and team work and reward, reward, reward those behaviors,” said Thomas. “Don’t wait until the very end of the project to celebrate the same results. Celebrate performance.”
The great thing about leadership is that we’ll instinctively know what it feels like to be doing it right. The people around us will let us know that we’re doing a good job. “In the end,” Rick said, “our projects are judged by people, the customers, the sponsor, and the team members. Most of these people are not imbued with project management theory. They only judge whether the project lived up to its billing as interpreted by them. It’s a subjective process and above all, these people hate to be surprised. So the best way to address this is by making expectation management a daily mantra.” That’s good advice for any leader.
Listen to the complete interviews on project leadership with Rick Valerga and Thomas Juli on The Project Management Podcast for free at www.pm-podcast.com.
About the author: Cornelius Fichtner, PMP is a noted project management expert. Since 2005 he has interviewed over 100 project managers from around the world on The Project Management Podcast at www.pm-podcast.com. The interviews are available for free. Topics cover all areas of project management like methodologies, PMOs, earned value, project leadership and many more.
NJ now has its own Agile user group! Come meet your
Agile NJ brethren in Morristown for our premiere meeting
on Monday, September 12th at 6PM. Join us for a
presentation by Agilist Geoffrey Bourne, refreshments and
some great giveaways.
Location: 10 North Park Place, Morristown, NJ, 07960
For more information and to register, email Jardena DiGiorgio at .
This is a really interesting question that you can ask
regularly. It is not asking if you are physically
there; or if you are there and engaged with the people you
are around at the time. Presence is a vital part of
Leadership. Individuals who are with you should feel
like you are 110% focused on what they are saying and on
the tasks and actions that you are engaged in at that
I had the honor of meeting a gentleman by the name of Brendan Bechard, who I believe is one of the masters of presence. Brendan has the unique ability to make you feel like you are the only person in the room when he is talking to you. I met him as he was getting ready to speak to 300 entrepreneurs. Understand that this was a huge organization in a huge room. There were people wandering around laughing and chatting before the presentation started. I went over to Brendan to introduce myself. He shook my hand and looked me in the eye which was quite unnerving I must admit. On the other hand, it felt like I was the only person in the room and he and I were having the only conversation that mattered, while hundreds of others revolved around and spoke because they too were trying to get his attention.
Developing a habit of presence is a powerful tool for a Leader. Being fully present and listening to someone that people recognize and respond to makes him or her feel more energized, more interested, and more creative in the process. They feel like not only are you concerned with them, you are willing to help and willing to listen not distracted by anything else making them feel like they are the most important person at this moment. Great leaders are great politicians. They understand the in Port’simportance of presence: some people call it charisma but it truly is the ability to connect and fully focus on the task individual and conversation at hand without being distracted by either things internally or externally to the person.
Imagine if you will being able to be so present with each one of your team members that they look forward to talking to you and giving you updates. They so look forward to it that they actually clamored to do the process and always want to give you good news because you are so focused on them. At this point that they can really feel like they are the only ones in the room. We all like to feel special – and the ability to develop presence not only allows people to feel special but also allows us to focus on the importance of each individual and let them know how important they are to the team and/or the project.
Presence is not something that we do easily or readily. It is something that needs to be routinely practiced. We are so used to multitasking or thinking about what our next answer to the question is going to be, or what we think it is going to be done that we lose presence. It is rare to find someone who can create that kind of presence on a regular basis, to the point that they become the superstars. Presence is cultivated every minute of every day. Every time you sit and talk to someone you should be practicing being very present with them by focusing on exactly what they are saying, what they are doing, and how they are interacting. Being so with them and into with them that they can continue to give you information, continue to have conversations with you, and know that you are the one who is interested in the process and in them.
Presence is not something that is easily done. One must sit and make sure that they become present every time they sit down; and as their mind wanders, they re-focus on the individual. Interestingly enough when you are that focused, new things will come into your mind. You will become more creative or innovative and more interested. The person you are talking to; or the team you are talking to will also feel that energy and become more interested, more dynamic and more boisterous. Your job and presence is to help them keep that focus. This is not easy and requires practice – but the interesting thing here is that the more you practice it, the easier it becomes. The more people that want to talk to you and interact with you, the more people that will want to be on your team because they feel listened to – they feel cared about and important.
Cultivating just one technique can change the way your team and your people work together. It is difficult and distracting and in the beginning, your team will not understand what you are doing. They may actually feel uncomfortable the first time you start creating that presence. During my few moments with Brendan, I must admit that the first time was an incredibly disconcerting. His being so present with me in this massive room actually made me feel uncomfortable. Once I recognized that it was not a challenge or a competition, but that it was him actually trying to make a moment and recognize how important I was to him, I became comfortable and now recognized just what a gift it was.
The best place to practice presence is in our home life, with the people we love and spend the most time with because these are the people who not only need our presence the most. They may not get it because they are always around. With my daughter and my wife, when they are talking to me to be I try to be completely present with them. This is difficult because there are many things going on. If you can do that for just one minute a day, it will change your relationship drastically and help teach you the power and the pleasure of presence. So, I would encourage you to pick one person to start being completely present with and listen to absolutely every word they say – hanging onto every word, and being completely with them. While you are talking, and once you get comfortable with the process, start expanding. You will be amazed at how easy it becomes. It will become effortless for you to deliver that kind of presence to your team or organization.
Presence is not something that we are used to. If there is one secret to effortless leadership it is to be present as much of the time as you can – no other technique will give you more success for the effort.
Project management technology has been around for years
now, so the problem of project execution must be basically
solved, right? Wrong. The Standish Group has
found that 68% of technology projects failed in
2009. Does this mean that project management
solutions are just a waste of time?
The truth is that project management technology is only as good as the processes that support it. The only way to improve project execution rates is to look at the root causes of project failure and implement the necessary changes that will allow the technology to work. Here are a few of the top ways to accomplish this in your organization.
Problem #1 – Ignorance of True Per-Project Cost
We all know that people hate to track their time for a variety of reasons. Most find it to be a tedious exercise and believe that it takes time away from more important work. Others might feel suspicious that management wants to keep an eye on them. One of the biggest reasons is often that employees simply do not know what the time data will be used for or why they are tracking it in the first place, so why bother? This is a problem because time data can provide cost insight that you cannot obtain any other way.
If you do not know how much time your team members are spending on various projects, you do not really know how much the projects cost. A project that is a large resource drain can be much more expensive than the numbers in the budget indicate. Not only that, but when the boss tells you to cut 10% somewhere, how will you know where to cut if you do not know where your profit lies? Having employees track their time by project – and more specifically, by task – gives you the knowledge necessary to make the right decisions. In this case, it is not enough to have a time tracking software solution. You must also obtain widespread employee adoption, because the system is only as good as the data entered into it. Usually this can be achieved with an explanation of how the data will benefit the organization or some kind of rewards system. It is also essential to integrate this data with project status and cost reports for analysis purposes.
Problem #2 – Poor Resource Management
Most automated systems fail because they try to get people to track time only for payroll, DCAA compliance, billing or project accounting. This forces managers to use a variety of systems, resulting in employees tracking their time in multiple places and not being too happy about it. Not to mention the fact that these disconnected islands of data are not very useful for analysis or planning.
If, however, you have all of the time, project and billing data in the same system, you can understand who is over- and under-allocated, who is behind on their work, and who is available to work on your project next month - all important issues for a project manager to know.
Not only that, but a technology solution that incorporates resource schedules and allows you to conduct “what-if analysis” before assigning work provides project managers with a huge advantage. They will be able to see the impact of their projects before scheduling them, allowing them to avoid unnecessary risk and only implement plans that are feasible. For example, if a project manager puts a potential project plan into the system and finds that with the current timeline, resources will be too constrained, he or she can adjust it accordingly before actually scheduling the work.
Problem #3 – No Estimate Feedback Loop
Whenever you ask someone how far along they are on a project task, the answer is always the same: 90%. Rather, the right question to ask is, "How many actual hours of work remain to complete this task?" Once you have this data, it should go back into your project plan. The more you reinforce estimates with actual data, the better your estimation will be for future projects.
I recently spoke with a project manager at a well-known beverage corporation who told me that though his company had purchased a large PPM solution, people were still entering their time in multiple systems. This leaves them unable to feed actuals from different departments and groups back into the central project plan for up-to-date status and improved estimation. After spending so much time and money on a PPM solution, they are not getting any of the promised benefits. This is just another example of how technology will not magically fix project issues without the right processes in place to support it.
Problem #4 – Communication and Collaboration Issues
Microsoft SharePoint sales have been exploding lately, and the simple reason for this is that managing multiple people and projects across departments, companies and even time zones is extremely difficult. Everyone has their own PM methodology, technology system, culture and habits, and you, the project manager, have to accommodate for all of it. SharePoint and other tools like it can be extremely helpful, but ultimately, communication can still fail across the board. This is a human problem, not a technology problem, and the project manager must address it as such.
Problem #5 – Balancing Quality, Schedule and Cost
Have you ever heard the question, "Do you want it good, fast or cheap?" You might add value delivery to this equation as well. For example, if a wedding cake shows up seven hours late, it is worthless. At every step of the way, project managers have to ensure that they are still going to be able to deliver something useful in the end.
These days, the world is moving so fast that you have to constantly check to see if you are still on target for delivering value, even if quality, schedule and cost constraints are met. Technology cannot do this for you; it is a subtle, complicated process that requires market research and an understanding of your customers, for starters.
The Power of Project Management Technology
Project management technology is at the most advanced that it has ever been, providing all kinds of functionality and benefits to the project manager. Yet it takes a bit more than a software solution to solve the project execution problem - it takes a quality project manager who can implement the correct processes and manage people effectively. The right project management solution can be a powerful tool, but only in the hands of someone qualified to wield it.
About the Author: Curt Finch is the CEO of Journyx.
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