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5 Steps to Build Confidence in Your Team Members

In a previous post, 5 Tips to Build Confidence in Yourself As a Project Manager, we looked at how to build confidence in ourselves. In this post we change the focus and look at how to build confidence in others.

confidence

As project management professionals, one of our most important roles is to bring out the best in our team. This includes not just building a great team, but encouraging collaboration and empowering people around us. We achieve this success by helping individuals improve their confidence and make them see that their contributions and talents matter. The rewards are big—from improved employee engagement and performance to increased productivity. Here are five ways to instill confidence in your team members:

1. Help people learn and develop. Confidence and competence are closely related. If team members feel that they’re not developing professionally and that their skills are being under-utilized, they’ll quickly begin to doubt their abilities. To increase your team members’ confidence, you have to help them improve and learn new skills so they can play a stronger role in contributing to the project.

One way of doing this is to give your team access to courses, training and conferences. Another way is to give them time to study or to run a pet project they’re passionate about. You can also set up knowledge-sharing sessions to the benefit of the entire team, or even the entire department.

2. Delegate step-by-step. A great way to build up your team members’ competence—and thereby their confidence—is to delegate specific tasks that will help them grow in an area they’re interested in. Just be careful that you don’t delegate too soon or too quickly; and don’t leave people to their own devices when they’re in new territory. When someone lacks confidence and competence it’s far better to gradually give them more responsibility and to stick close by them until they no longer need you. Your job is to help you team members set reachable goals and to break difficult tasks into smaller steps. In that way people slowly but surely gain confidence as they start to master each step of the assignment.

building confidence

3. Focus on people’s strengths. As a project manager or team leader you’re likely to have a fair bit of influence over who does what. You can use that to actively build up someone’s confidence by giving them work that they’re genuinely good at and interested in. People’s confidence (and motivation) will generally grow when they’re given the chance to put their skills into practice and show mastery. The question you need to ask is: How well do you know each of your team member’s strengths. To learn more, check out Tom Rath’s best-selling book, Strengths Finder.

 

4. Be supportive. One of the most fundamental ways to boost people’s confidence is to actively support them and build them up emotionally. And one of the best ways to create a strong supportive foundation is to connect with individuals one-on-one. When you do, make space to sincerely listen to their concerns and help them realize how much they have to contribute. When you get to know the members of your team at a more personal level (e.g., what motivates them; what really matters to them) you’ll intuitively know how to best support them.

Another way to demonstrate your support is to actively praise a team member and provide positive feedback when someone does something well. We all like to feelappreciated and it takes so little to say “Thanks, that was a superb job you did.”

confidence in your plan

5. Embrace failureAnother great way to build people up is to let them know that it’s OK to make mistakes—as long as they don’t keep making the same ones. When you remove the fear of failure you make people feel safe. As a result, team members open up and are more willing to contribute and experiment. Knowing that they have the space to learn from their mistakes rather than being penalized for them builds their confidence and takes away an enormous chunk of negative energy and worry. Essentially, you free people up to pursue that which is truly important: The successful delivery of the project.

Can you add a No. 6 tip? Drop yours into Comments, we want to hear from you!

 

Related stories:
5 Tips to Build Confidence in Yourself As a Project Manager
11 Ways to Build the Strength of Your Team Members
5 Ways to Appreciate Your Team Members – and Why Acknowledgment Matters

Source: Project Management Articles

7 Steps to Improve Collaboration on Your Team

Effective collaboration achieves what no single team member can on her own. As business magnate Richard Branson said, “A business has to be involving, it has to be fun, and it has to exercise your creative instincts.”  The best collaborations do this—optimize each person’s skills by utilizing suggestions from around the table, inspiring cooperation and creative buy-in from all involved.

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Here are seven effective ways to create stronger team collaboration.

  1. Aggregate and adapt:  Any good project manager will bring ideas and plans to the table.  The most collaborative will be highly skilled at weaving in the suggestions, ideas and goals of their team for a best-of fusion. Complex, multidisciplinary projects need to employ agile methodologies, involving innovation from all stakeholders and parties to succeed. The use of real-time data to help participants understand what is and isn’t working allows adjustments to be made on the fly. Successful collaboration is an aggregate of the best ideas while remaining adaptive and flexible.
  2. Listen first:  An effective collaborator knows how to bridge differing ideas into workable solutions. Getting to the root of any new concept or suggestion involves active listening, and listening actively to everyone with a stake in the outcome before mapping a course.  Active listening includes giving feedback to confirm and clarify the information that was shared, and having a discussion in real time. A great collaborator will be able to respond most effectively once all parties have been heard. Team members want to feel valued, and being heard is where being valued begins.

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  1. Energize: The best collaborators assume that others are working smart and working hard. An effective and collaborative leader can bring inspiration and energy into a meeting room or conversation by helping team members feel valued. They sincerely express appreciation for a job well done.  When criticism is offered thoughtfully and in the spirit of “your work is important to this project’s success,” effective collaboration becomes second nature. Talking about issues that need to be addressed can be done in a way that gets the team motivated about what’s possible.  A motivated, energized team is a project’s strongest asset.
  2. Remain open: Great collaborators always keep an open mind and know that brilliant ideas come from the unexpected. Openness is also crucial in building an atmosphere of trust. Workplace relationships are successful when employees are comfortable enough to voice concerns and make suggestions.  Satisfied employees comfortably voice concerns and ask questions, and they know where to find the answers. Remaining open to new ideas, accomplishments and thoughtful critique empowers the entire team. The result: Faster problem-solving, healthier teamwork, greater trust and ultimately improved performance.
  3. Be transparent: The most effective collaborators are less concerned with titles and roles than they are with solutions. If a fantastic suggestion is made they give credit where credit is due, regardless of source. Furthermore, effective collaborators clearly define expectations and share information across the board. Clear and inclusive communication allows team members to know that they matter enough to be told the truth. Sharing details with the team increases a sense of workplace community, and adds to the spirit of collaboration. Teams thrive in environments that encourage trial and error and encourage participation project tracker.

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  1. Have fun! Plato is credited with saying that you can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. An organization or project is more successful when morale, motivation and trust are high. Having fun together—from Tuesday lunches to a bowling night to meetings where humor and optimism have their place—make a positive difference in helping team members from different parts of any project feel connected. Healthy environments incorporate appropriate camaraderie-building events and attitudes, fostering a sense of connectedness and accountability that goes beyond schedules and deadlines.
  2. Transcend insularity: The most effective collaborators will know that the strongest parts make up the strongest whole. Workgroups have a tendency to silo.  But the workplace of today is best served by operating without boundaries. So instead, make collaboration the goal and hold each member of the team accountable for their participation.

Sustained dialogue, frequent opportunities to connect through technology and a mutual sense of purpose will help collaboration become second nature. Look for common ground and emerging issues of mutual interest, and encourage team members to connect and discuss.

What would be your #8 collaboration tip? Tell us in Comments.

Related stories:
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How Divergent Thinking Can Advance Your Career
The 7 Personality Types that Make a Well-Rounded Team

Source: Project Management Articles

SMAC technologies in 2014 and beyond

The increasing pace of change is rapidly driving customer, businesses and technology firms in a tight embrace, with the convergence of disruptive technologies eroding the boundaries separating them. Businesses are becoming more and more agile, and technologies such as social media, mobility, analytics and cloud computing are coming together to unleash unlimited opportunities for everyone involved. This convergence – also known as SMAC – will be the leading disruptor to the business-technology ecosystem over the next few years. 

SMAC


Social media

A social media strategy has become a must for all enterprises, be it banks, retailers or the government. With over one billion individuals logged on to various social networks, people are now using social media for advice on what products to buy, where to shop and even regarding what firms they want to work with. While most enterprises use social media for their customer service function only, many firms have now started using social media in tandem with their sales and marketing functions. This in turn enables firms to use data generated by the customers effectively to service their larger pools of customers.


Mobility

Mobile devices have changed the way people access digital content. Smartphones and tablets have brought rich, digital content to the fingertips of consumers. Mobile banking has emerged as one of the most innovative products in the financial services industry. Shoppers are increasingly using their mobile devices for everything from browsing to comparing to buying products. Governments are also reaching out to their citizens, using mobile devices as an efficient channel. Enterprises must also jump on to the mobility bandwagon, and ensure that their applications are mobile ready.


Analytics

Every year, companies and individuals generate billions of gigabytes of data. Data, which properly analyzed and used in time, can emerge as an unbeatable competitive advantage. Enterprises need to recognize the prospect analytics represents and should adapt their IT strategy to capture such opportunities’. Analytics can help retailers predict buying decisions of shoppers; it can help banks weed out fraudulent transactions; while governments can use analytics to provide services directly to their citizens. Predictive analytics has also been adopted across industries in various scenario building activities.


Cloud computing

The undeniable power of cloud computing to foster innovations and imprve productivity is now accepted by both IT vendors and their customers. While the financial services and government sectors are mostly moving to a private cloud model due to information security concerns, other industries like healthcare and retail have adopted public cloud. Moreover, their existing infrastructure has helped telecom players to emerge as providers of cloud computing, leading to erosion in boundaries between IT and telecom vendors.

 

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Experts predict that the confluence of SMAC — social media, mobility, analytics, and cloud computing — will be a potent and leading business-technology enabler of the next decade. They agree that the SMAC ecosystem will have a huge rub-off on IT services. Gartner estimates that India-centric IT services vendors will witness an 8-10% annual revenue growth from SMAC. 


SMAC may provide the much-needed boost for India’s $108-billion IT sector, which has had a jagged growth in the last couple of years on account of global economic challenges, falling consumer spending, and a Eurozone crisis in their main markets. Industry body Nasscom foresees a 12-14% revenue growth in the ongoing fiscal year. The adoption of disruptive technologies could further impel client spending. 


Typical SMAC Stack

Source: Project Management Articles

Risks don’t add up

The way PMI deals with risk in the PMBOK® Guide is simplistic. Calculating the effect of one risk using the suggested probability x severity calculation provides one value.  For example, if there is an 20% probability an estimate is under valued by $50,000 the Expected Monetary Value (EMV) for this event will be:
  -$50,000 x 0.2 = -$10,000   it is simple but its not a lot of use in the real world.

The first problem is the under-estimated value is not known and would be better represented by a range statement but as the values in the range alter so does the probability of and value occurring.  Thinking of your car for a moment:

  • There is a fairly high probability of an accident causing a minor scratch or dent occurring in any given year (particularly in shopping centre car parks) say a 20% probability of an accident occurring with the damage costing $500 or less to repair. 
  • There is a very low probability of an accident causing the car to be written off; say a less then 1% chance of an accident costing $50,000 or more.

Whilst there is only one car and it may have more then one accident in a year these parameters do not mean there will ever actually be an accident!  Even the 20% probability of a $500 accident occurring in any given year, does not mean there will be at least one accident every 5 years.  The maths are much more complicated.

The next issue is correlation – returning to the under estimate…… was the under-estimate a one-off factor (caused by a single unrelated external supplier) or is it a systemic estimating error affecting a number of related estimates (possibly caused by changes in the exchange rate).  This needs modelling to determine the overall effect.

Then we come to the purpose of this article – do risks add together or discount each other?  It depends on the situation.

 

Situation 1 looks at the probability of starting on time.

Consider three schedule activities each of 10 days duration, all of which need to be complete before their outputs can be integrated.

Activity 1 & 2 both have a 90% probability of achieving the estimated duration of 10 days.

Activity 3 has an 80% probability of achieving the 10 days.

The overall chance of starting the ‘Integration’ activity on schedule needs an understanding of how these three activities affect its start. Based on the percentages above:

  • Activity 1 has a 1 in 10 chance of causing a delay
  • Activity 2 has a 1 in 10 chance of causing a delay
  • Activity 3 has a 1 in 5 chance of causing a delay

 

There are 10 x 10 x 5 = 500 possible outcomes within the model and within this
9 x 9 x 4 = 324 ways of not being late (it does not matter how early any of the projects finish as long as they are not late).

Take the number of ‘not late’ outcomes from the possible range of outcomes;  500 – 324 leaves 176 ways of being late.

176/500 = 0.352 or a 35.2% probability of not making the start date.

Or a 100 – 35.2 = 64.8% probability of being on time.

The quicker way to calculate this is simply to multiply the probabilities together:

0.9 x 0.9 x 0.8 = 64.8%

For a more complete explanation see: http://mosaicprojects.wordpress.com/2013/01/18/whats-the-probability/

 

 

Situation 2 looks at the probability of finishing on or under budget.

In this scenario, money saved on one part of the project can be used to offset overspending on another. Assume you have 10 teams working on your project and they all estimate completing their section of the work for between $8,000 and $12,000; with the expected average of $10,000 per team. As the PM, you can aggregate these estimates to arrive at a project budget of $100,000.

However, your team leaders are unlikely to submit an estimate which has only got a 50% chance of being achieved, let’s assume they use the 90% probability benchmark common in oil and gas projects…

To achieve a 90% probability of the estimate being achieved, each of the individual team estimates will need to be increased to around $11,300 (assuming a normal distribution); which pushes the overall project budget up to $113,000 if you simply add up the risk adjusted estimates.

If you accept this approach, how much safety does this give the project manager?? The answer is a surprising 99.998% probability of not exceeding the overall project budget!

The effect of combining uncertainties into a ‘portfolio’ is to reduce the overall level of uncertainty in the portfolio; basically wins on the ‘swings’ can be used to offset losses on the ‘roundabouts’ generating an increase in the overall probability of achieving any given target for the portfolio.

So if your project needs to achieve a 90% certainty overall and there are 10 separate teams, the correct budget is around $104,000, not the $113,000 calculated by summing each of the teams ‘90% estimates’ (or the $113,000 required if the project is a single holistic entity).  For more on this see Averaging the Power of Portfolios: http://mosaicprojects.wordpress.com/2012/07/08/averaging-the-power-of-portfolios/

 

Confused or worried????

Hopefully this short article has made you think about getting serious help when you start looking beyond developing a simple risk register. This is not my core skill but I do know enough about risk to understand that the difference between an individual project risks, the overall risk of a project and the risks associated with a portfolio of projects are complicated. 

Source: Project Management Articles

Breakdown Structures Revisited

Breakdown structures are central to the practice of project management and have their origins in the industrial revolution.  In the ‘Wealth of Nations’ Smith advocated breaking the production of goods into tiny tasks that can be undertaken by people following simple instructions. ‘Why hire a talented pin maker when ten factory workers using machines and working together can produce a thousand times more pins than the artisan working alone?’  Similar ideas underpinned Newtonian physics. Newton saw the world as a harmonious mechanism controlled by a universal law. Applying scientific observations to parts of the whole would allow understanding and insights to occur and eventually a complete understanding of the ‘clockwork universe’.

These ideas fed into scientific management.  Scientific management focuses on worker and machine relationships and assumes productivity can be increased by increasing the efficiency of production processes. In 1911, Frederick Taylor, known as the Father of Scientific Management, published Principles of Scientific Management in which he proposed work methods designed to increase worker productivity.

This ‘reductionist’ approach to complex endeavours, supported by the division of labour is central scientific management as well as to many modern project management processes built around ‘breakdown structures’[1].

Some of the types of Breakdown Structure in use today include:

  • WBS (Work Breakdown Structure)
  • OBS (Organizational Breakdown Structure)
  • CBS (Cost Breakdown Structure
  • RBS (Resource Breakdown Structure
  • PBS (Product Breakdown Structure)
  • BoM (Bill of Materials)
  • RBS (Risk Breakdown Structure)
  • CBS (Contract Breakdown Structure)

Their functions can be briefly defined as follows:

 

Work Breakdown Structure[2] (WBS)

A work breakdown structure (WBS) is a tool used to define and group a project’s discrete work elements (or tasks) in a way that helps organise and define the total work scope of the project It provides the framework for detailed cost estimating and control along with providing guidance for schedule development and control.

Organisation Breakdown Structure (OBS)

The organisation(al) breakdown structure (OBS) defines the organisational relationships and is used as the framework for assigning work responsibilities. The intersection of the OBS and WBS defines points of management accountability for the work called Control (or Cost) Accounts.

Cost Breakdown Structure (CBS)

The cost breakdown structure (CBS) classifies the costs within project into cost units/cost centres and cost elements/cost types. The establishment of a cost structure aids efficient cost planning, controlling, and the introduction of measures to reduce costs. The CBS and Control Accounts are frequently aligned (see section below)

Resource Breakdown Structure

The resource breakdown structure (RBS) is a standardised list of personnel resources related by function and arranged in a hierarchical structure to facilitate planning and controlling of project work.       

Product Breakdown Structure  (PBS)

A product breakdown structure (PBS) is an exhaustive, hierarchical tree structure of components that make up an item, arranged in whole-part relationship. The PRINCE2 project management method mandates the use of product based planning, part of which is developing a product breakdown structure.  In practice there is very little difference between a PBS and a WBS, both systems define the full extent of the work required to complete the project.

Bill of Materials (BoM)

Decomposes each tangible element of the project deliverables into its component parts and is often used for purchasing components.

Risk Break Down Structure  (RBS)

The risk breakdown structure (RBS) is a hierarchically organised depiction of the identified project risks arranged by risk category. The risks are placed into the hierarchical structure as they are identified, and the structure is organized by source so that the total risk exposure of the project can be more easily understood, and planning for the risk more easily accomplished.

Contract Breakdown Structure (CBS)

A hierarchal arrangement of head contractors, subcontractors, suppliers etc., to show the overall supply chain feeding goods and services into the project. The efficient functioning of the overall supply chain is critical for project success.

 

Aligning Cost Breakdown Structures and control Accounts 

As projects get larger it helps to have the overall budget broken down into smaller allocations. Cost accounts can be used to allocate the budget at a lower level and provide integration between the WBS and the cost control system. The budget is allocated to each cost account and the actual project expenses are reported at that same level.

Cost accounts can be established in different ways (not all of which tie into the WBS).

  • By WBS work package. Theoretically you could set up a separate cost account for each WBS element, but that does not make practical sense. Usually a number of work packages are assigned to a Control Account and cost management is undertaken at this level.
  • By resource type. In this approach, you may have a cost accounts for: internal labour, external labour, equipment, training, travel, etc.
  • By WBS by resource type. If you set up cost accounts for work packages on the WBS, you can also track the resource types within each work package. Each resource types can be tracked with sub-account numbers within the overall cost account (and consolidated separately is the code structure is consistent).

The more detailed your cost accounts are, the more work you will have setting up, allocating and tracking the cost account budgets, but the greater the potential for insight and control. For example, one area of the project could be over budget, but masked by another area that is under budget.

Probably the most significant element in applying Earned Value Management (EVM)[3] to a project is deciding the number and location of control accounts. How many? How large (budget)? Who will be the CAMs?

There is no clear cut process or algorithm. It depends on the work, the organization, the culture, the finance system, subcontract relationships, the scheduling system, the degree of risk in any one part of the project, the design for the WBS and OBS, and the project manager’s style and preference.

More Control Accounts means more EVM cost, more time collecting data, more detail, and maybe more accuracy. More Control Accounts also can mean more time spent in authoring, reviewing, approving, recording, and filing in forms.  Less Control Accounts means less EVM cost, less time collecting data, less detail, maybe more accuracy, fewer forms and less time processing those that remain.

So what is the right number of Control Accounts? It is a complicated and multidimensional problem with no ‘right answer’.  The only certainty is one size does not ‘fit all’ – pragmatic common sense is preferable to arbitrary rules.

 

Do all of these breakdowns really help? 

Traditional project management is based on these concepts.  However emerging disciplines, particularly complexity theory suggest that self organising systems such as a project team cannot be understood by studying the individual parts of the team[4]

As the late Douglas Adam once said “I can imagine Newton sitting down and working out his laws of motion and figuring out the way the Universe works and with him, a cat wandering around. The reason we had no idea how cats worked was because, since Newton, we had proceeded by the very simple principle that essentially, to see how things work, we took them apart. If you try and take a cat apart to see how it works, the first thing you have in your hands is a non-working cat.” 

The way complex entities work cannot be understood by breaking them down into parts. Even at the simplest level, studying a fish cannot explain how a shoal of fish work; at a complex level understanding a project task in isolation will not explain the dynamics of a major project and its team of resources.

My personal view is the ‘breakdowns’ are still helpful ways to develop insights – but they no longer offer viable answers (if they ever did).  The path to increasing project success lays in the way the insights are interpreted and used within the complexity of a dynamic project delivery system.


[1] For a more detailed discussion see, The Origins of Modern Project Management:
   http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/Resources_Papers_050.html#Top

[3] For more on Earned Value Management see:

[4] For a brief overview of complexity see:
   http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/Resources_Papers_070.html  

Source: Project Management Articles

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.

Do-managers-need-technical-background

Photo image credit: elandcables.com

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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.

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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