Do managers need technical background?

Couple of years ago I wrote a post on whether managers needed technical background to be successful. That article had a specific focus on project management. I have recently been thinking about the same topic on a slightly different context.

Re-published from my blog Project Management in Practice.

I recently embarked on an Executive MBA. The first paper I’m taking for the course is Accounting. The aim of the paper is not to turn managers into accountants, but to enable them to make sense of accounts, the information these give and what can be used to make management decisions. My study group contains an executive from local government, a consultant that works with ministers and mayors, a statistical analyst from a government department. I manage part of an IT professional services consultancy. We all seem to have forged successful careers which require interpretation and forecasting of financial information without being accountants. So I wondered important is domain knowledge really?

You can argue that we have taken up MBA precisely because we may have realised there is a gap in our expertise. There is an element of truth to that. Let’s explore this further. Most professional careers will require you to have some sort of qualification. Whoever is the team leader in that setting is one that is appointed on the basis of their experience and/or expertise in that area. It can be helpful in the next step up to managing business units as well. Once you get to group / divisional level usually domain knowledge is less helpful. You require expertise in other areas of business to be successful. Executives in your business may have little or no knowledge of the particular domain area, but they will usually bring significant strategy and business knowledge.

There are different skills required in different areas of management. Can you effectively devise strategy if you had no domain knowledge of the business. The answer is no. This is where senior managers use domain expertise to bounce ideas off, find what is feasible and risks and rewards of various approaches. Senior managers are judged by their ability to understand the totality of a business and impact of choices that get best outcome for the enterprise.

This need to get away from the details at certain levels is why many brilliant technical staff do not necessarily make great managers. Those that wish to move up the chain will at some point have to give up their control of specific areas they look after (be it engineering, software development, teaching) and trust others to provide the expertise and spend the time understanding the business as a whole. This is not an easy thing to let go of.

So my conclusion today is slightly modified from the one I had made a couple of years ago. Managers with domain knowledge is only useful up to a certain level in the organisation.

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Source: Project Management Articles

In the Future Everyone Will Be a Project Manager

Charles Seybold is a bit of a trend-setter in our book. When he makes statements like, “You are a project manager!” to someone who’s a marketing writer, we like to sit down and get the full story. As our Chief Product Officer, Charles co-founded and designed LiquidPlanner with a vision to transform how projects were managed among teams. We asked him about what the future of project management will look like – and how far we’ve come already.

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LiquidPlanner: What makes you think that everyone will be a project manager?

Charles: Let’s start with a definition. Techopedia.com defines “Project Manager” as “the person responsible for leading a project from its inception to execution.” My definition is: “The art and science of delivering results.” Pretty much all of us are trying to do the latter. And technology is making it possible for everyone to achieve great results without having extensive project management training.

LP: How is project management changing?

Charles: Classic project management is essentially about trained project managers gaining control. For most projects, this model is inferior to using collaboration tools that live in the cloud. Empowering people on the front lines to make decisions and to take responsibility is more efficient, more engaging and produces fewer mistakes. When you have many minds aligned and they’re using better tools, this allows management to stop worrying about controlling projects and start focusing on optimizing projects.

LP: How do these changes affect teams and organizations?

Charles: Dramatically. It’s a big change, but it takes a big change to deliver dramatically different results. We all know that laptops work better with multiple cores, specifically; there are actually multiple computers inside your laptop working together to get more stuff done. Collaborative planning software affords organizations the ability to truly process multiple projects simultaneously without crashing the organization or grinding it to a halt. That’s exciting stuff. We routinely have customers tell us that switching to LiquidPlanner felt like boosting the team’s productivity by 30%-40%.

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LP: How is the business mindset changing to accommodate this democratization of PMs?

Charles: We’ve become an input society. The old school mindset was that one’s influence was determined by the size of his or her paycheck. With the democratization of data and access to business information, that model is really being flipped on its head. Cloud-based software provides a way for organizations to communicate with each other and for natural business experts to participate equally. Social business collaboration provides a place for orders of magnitude and more ideas to live and breed.

LP: Do credentials matter in the new world?

Charles: There was a period of time where the concept of Six Sigma was all the rage and people would strive to become a Six Sigma black belt. Nowadays with highly collaborative and transparent tools for managing projects and other work, you don’t need to take courses to prove that. People just see that you know what you’re doing. There’s a clear incentive to do a good job because it’s visible to your organization. Social tools are rapidly increasing transparency and the secret society of governance is melting away in favor of the transparent community. This transparency helps align everyone’s interests around the organizations goals.

LP: How do we combine traditional PM with today’s collaborative PM style?

Charles:
 What we learn from formal project management is that you want to have a plan. It’s good to think up front; it’s good to understand the requirements and have clear objectives; it’s good to identify risks; it’s good to communicate.

The most effective managers using LiquidPlanner are the ones that took the good parts of traditional project management (communication, risk evaluation) and threw away the bad parts (single point estimates, infrequent updates, rigid control). LiquidPlanner is an environment that captures and reflects the reality of projects so they can be managed, not some idealized yardstick used to beat up team members that run into unexpected headwinds.

LP: How is technology affecting this change?

Charles: Simple answer here: Cloud-based technology means that we can create large-scale, living project environments that are continuously updated and always reflect the latest, best picture of what the team has (or hasn’t) accomplished. The real trick is that 90% of project success is about execution – not planning. LiquidPlanner is focused on helping teams master this massive 90% opportunity. This is where the real productivity game is won or lost.

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LP: How do the new project management tools affect productivity?

Charles: I can speak best to how LiquidPlanner approaches productivity. We created LiquidPlanner to tackle the longstanding problems with traditional project management tools. To do this we needed to break the old rules and make some new ones.

  • LP rule #1: Priority is the most important input to the project management process, so we built the system around that concept.
  • LP rule #2: Uncertainty cannot be ignored if you want a realistic schedule, so we built the system around ranged estimates (best/worst case scenarios) and a probability-based scheduling engine.
  • LP rule #3: Collaboration and status are inseparable from planning so we have tightly integrated the features of scheduling, tracking, collaboration, analytics and reporting into one environment that supports large portfolios of hundreds of projects and thousands of tasks.

LP: How is productivity affected when everyone is a PM of their own work?

Productivity is a hugely misunderstood concept. When it works right, the result is a productive culture across the organization. It simply becomes a habit to run projects well.

One might be surprised to learn that we have nobody with the title of “Project Manager” at LiquidPlanner, yet we’re very productive and manage dozens of major projects each year. We use LP to run most of the business and we have little rework, few false starts, and essentially no idle time. There’s no sweeping things under the carpet and we’re doing the right work efficiently. It’s just not that hard with a good system. Any team can get these results if they can adapt to the LiquidPlanner methodology.

Related stories:

Are you ready to call yourself a Project Manager now? Tell us what you think in Comments.

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Source: Project Management Articles

17 Reasons Why Time Tracking Makes You a Better Project Manager

The idea of time tracking hurts more than the reality of it. The initial resistance to tracking time is normal – you’re changing habits which takes some getting used to. But in reality, can you and your team (and organization) afford not to know where the precious resource of your time goes – and how it affects the business?

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The good news is there are a lot of great time tracking apps on the market to choose from; and for our customers, LiquidPlanner has a robust time tracking feature. To get you motivated, here are 17 reasons why tracking your time improves your project management skills.

  1. It’s the ultimate truth teller. You’ll soon learn how long that “two-minute task” really takes and plan accordingly.
  2. You’ll become a better project estimator – a key skill for project managers. A key skill for anyone who works on projects.
  3. The only way to improve a process is to measure it.
  4. Time is money. If you’ve going to be scrupulous about your budget, be scrupulous about your hours.
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  5. Time tracking sets clear objectives. If you know how you should be allocating your time, you’ll increase productivity.
  6. You can see the scope creep coming, and take appropriate action.
  7. You can anticipate project changes.
  8. You’ll never be caught complaining, “Where does the time go?”
  9. You’ll be more successful at completing one task at a time, rather than jumping all over the place. Using timers helps.
  10. You’ll always know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, which provides a sense of purpose. Purpose increases engagement. Engagement increases performance.  
  11. Speaking of performance: If you want to ask for a raise, a promotion or you want to hire another team member, your time sheet could be your best ally.
  12. When someone makes unreasonable demands on your time, you have proof of why the project/team/organization will suffer if you take on any more work.
  13. Tracking time naturally forces you to prioritize tasks.
  14. You’ll know when it’s time to delegate.
  15. Tracking time keeps procrastination to a minimum.
  16. You can analyze results and make important decisions based on the information you’ve gathered in your time sheets.
  17. If you do monthly reviews, your time sheet can help you remember what you forgot.

Give us #18 in Comments!

Related stories:

How to Track Time and Log Progress Using LiquidPlanner
What’s Time Management Really About? (Hint: Focus)
15 Reasons Why You and Your Team Should Be Tracking Time

Source: Project Management Articles

How To Become PMI-ACP Certified Even After A Disappointing Class

Even if your classroom experience is disappointing, you can still go on to pass your PMI exam. Felix Rodgers, PMI-ACP, is one successful candidate who had a less than good experience of his training course.“It was really interesting stuff,” he said, in an interview with Cornelius Fichtner, PMP, CSM, host of The Project Management Podcast. “Even though the actual study guide we used in class wasn’t up to par.”

Luckily, Felix had a good trainer who helped to address some of the problems with the course materials. “He jumped in with stories of some of his work experience in large companies and explained some of the projects he worked on. I also learned that my trainer was later hired to update the study guide for the training company and it’s much improved now.” Despite the poor experience of the course, Felix felt ready to take the exam straight afterwards. However, he ended up waiting about a year due to work and personal commitments, although he would recommend others to take the exam as soon as they can.

“I also wish I’d have given myself a little more time to go over all of the different concepts that maybe on the test,” Felix said. “The totality of my experience had been with Scrum, one of the frameworks for Agile that’s part of the test. I felt very comfortable with that, but I was very weak with Lean and XP and they were the things that going in, I knew I didn’t have a lot of experience with.”

Felix bought some books and did some reading, and sure enough, the first few practice exam questions that he took were about Lean. “As you look at those questions, you start to worry: Am I going to have issues with this?” But as his studies progressed, Felix felt more confident. “I can’t stress that enough to people that you have to take practice exams,” he said.“The more testing that you do, the more prepared you’ll be.”

After the classroom course, and his break from studying, Felix spent two or three months reviewing for the exam. Everything in his study plan led towards his scheduled exam date. He studied for a couple of hours on weekdays and longer at the weekends, which is when he took his practice exams. He even considered taking another classroom course, but due to the investment, decided to give self-directed study a chance first.

He used Andy Crowe’s study book, The PMI-ACP Exam: How To Pass On Your First Try. “It’s a really good book,” he said. “I went through it about three times and it has really good test exams in the back. What was interesting about these questions is that when I actually took the test, I wasn’t too far off as far as what I saw in the actual exam.” The realistic questions helped Felix prepare. “It’ll ask a question but it’ll just twist just a little bit,” he said. “It kind of makes you take a second, a third and a fourth look at that question.”

Felix also found the focus on the 12 principles in the Agile Manifesto and the Scrum guide very useful. “If you’resolid with your principles, you always refer back to that,” he said. “If you’re in doubt when answering a question, always rely on what the actual Agile principles say. I did that for more than a few questions.”

On the exam day, Felix was a little late to the test center as he hadn’t worked out exactly where it was. He was able to enter the room without problems and noticed that there were cameras taping the exam and the candidates. “I went through the tutorial just to understand the system,” he said. This was valuable as the majority of Felix’s test questions had been in books. “They walk you through the process of how to mark things, how to go back and once you’re done with everything, you can click to finish. It’s a quick tutorial.”

During the exam, Felix found that his practical experience of managing projects using Scrum for 8 years was valuable, and he was confident with those questions. However, the majority of questions he marked for review were about Lean or XP. He finished in about 2 hours, but thought that was too quick. “Am I going out at a good pace? Am I too slow? Am I too fast? You’ve got to try to pace yourself to make sure that you get everything answered and also that you provide yourself with enough time to go back and review the ones that you had some questions about.”

The bulk of the questions were somewhere between the hard and medium category,” Felix said. Once he had finished the exam, Felix completed the feedback survey and received his results. He had passed! He received his score report, which was stamped in the bottom corner and then he was able to use PMI-ACP after his name.

As soon as he got in the car he posted his results in Facebook, and then started thinking about the next credential he could take, the Risk Management Professional exam. He sees instant applicable value for these courses in the real world. “In the work that I do now for a defense contractor, we’re trying to include Agile into the military and government culture,” he said. “They’re willing to try these types of techniques. I love the challenge of trying to apply things that I know work very well in the commercial world to a world that’s, let’s be honest, is not usually known for quick iterative releases.”

Overall, Felix felt that his study plan combined with practice exams and real world experience helped him prepare, despite his poor classroom course. “It is really important to get a good teacher along with good content,” he said. The Agile PrepCast would have been great for him. “For me it meant a lot of studying but I am so excited to have it and be able to use these kinds of skills and techniques in my current job and in the other future endeavours.”

Source: Project Management Articles

Are numbers real?

As project managers we use numbers every day of the week but how real are they?

In the western world, numbers in the form we know and use today appeared in the 13th century when Leonardo Pisano Bigollo (c. 1170 – c. 1250), known as Fibonacci an Italian mathematician, published the Liber Abaci (1202). In the book, Fibonacci advocated numeration with the digits 0–9 and place value, and showed the practical importance of the new numeral system by applying it to commercial bookkeeping, and other applications.

This book also introduced the Fibonacci sequence which as many applications (the sequence is created by adding the previous 2 numbers 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, etc.) 

The book was well received throughout educated Europe and had a profound impact on European thought task manager app.

Fibonacci was born around 1170 to Guglielmo Bonacci, a wealthy Italian merchant. Guglielmo directed a trading post in Bugia, a port east of Algiers in the Almohad dynasty’s sultanate in North Africa (now Béjaïa, Algeria). As a young boy, Fibonacci travelled with him to help; it was there he learned about the Hindu-Arabic numeral system described in his book.

Our modern numbers are descended from the Hindu-Arabic numeral system developed by ancient Indian mathematicians, in which a sequence of digits such as ‘975’ is read as a single number. These Indian numerals are traditionally thought to have been adopted by the Muslim Persian and Arab mathematicians in India, and passed on to the Arabs further west with the current form of the numerals developing in North Africa and studied by Fibonacci.

This numbering system is easy to use and widespread but it was not the first or last.  Romans and earlier Mediterranean civilisations had their systems and most of the modern world relies on binary mathematics. Duodecimals were used in the UK prior to metrication (based on 12 to deal with measurements in feet and inches) etc.

Some numbers are ‘irrational’ such as the ‘square root of 2’ and π (Pi) – there is no complete answer.  Others are imaginary such as the square root of minus 1.

And then there are strange sequences that build fascinating patterns:

 
1 x 8 + 1 = 9
12 x 8 + 2 = 98
123 x 8 + 3 = 987
1234 x 8 + 4 = 9876
12345 x 8 + 5 = 98765
123456 x 8 + 6 = 987654
1234567 x 8 + 7 = 9876543
12345678 x 8 + 8 = 98765432
123456789 x 8 + 9 = 987654321

1 x 9 + 2 = 11
12 x 9 + 3 = 111
123 x 9 + 4 = 1111
1234 x 9 + 5 = 11111
12345 x 9 + 6 = 111111
123456 x 9 + 7 = 1111111
1234567 x 9 + 8 = 11111111
12345678 x 9 + 9 = 111111111
123456789 x 9 +10= 1111111111

Give our reliance on mathematics for virtually everything how ‘real’ is a system that cannot define the ratio between the diameter and circumference of a circle but can generate fascinating sequences like those above?

There’s no answer to this post other then to suggest there are 10 types of people in the world – those who understand binary mathematics and those that don’t.

Source: Project Management Articles

Free Sample PMP Exam Questions for Free. No need for sign-up

Test your PMP knowledge right now with this 8th Set of 15 free PMP Exam sample questions in an online exam:

http://free.pm-exam-simulator.com/index.php/free-eight

This exam is just one of a series of 8 exams. To sign up for all our free exams please visit http://www.free-pm-exam-questions.com/

Don’t let this chance pass by. Practice always makes perfect!

Until Next Time,
Cornelius Fichtner, PMP
President, OSP International LLC

Source: Project Management Articles

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