Get the Right Answers to Make the Right Decisions

PM Articles by Project Times. 

“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on it, I would use the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.” – Albert Einstein

Decisions solve problems and are the forerunners of action. According to Oxford Language a decision is “a conclusion or resolution reached after consideration.” Decision making is “the action or process of deciding something or of resolving a question.”

Decision making is at the heart of effective performance. It is a complex process that relies on a combination of both external, interpersonal, and intrapersonal factors.

Stepping Back to Consider

Einstein’s estimate of how long it would take to solve the problem may be optimistic for those of us lacking the genius’ intellect, but the ability to step back and ask the right questions is critical to being an effective decision maker. The principle is true for individuals and teams alike.

The primary definition of decision says one is made after consideration of questions to uncover and narrow down alternatives, make sure that there is understanding of the problem, and to focus attention on critical issues.

“The affect of asking the right question is statistically profound. … we saw that asking the right question increased the odds of someone’s work having a positive affect on others by 4.1 times. It made the outcome 3.1 times more likely to be deemed important, 2.8 times more likely to create passion in the doer, and perhaps most significant to company leaders, 2.7 times more likely to make a positive impact on the organization’s bottom line.”

What to Consider?

What are the proper questions? For example the question “Why is it that when we want to call and talk to a person, we have to call a place?” asked by a Motorola project manager charged with creating the next generation of car radiotelephone led ultimately to the personal mobile phone rather than to a solution that focused on a location, whether at home, in office, or in a car.

Why

There are seven questions that are widely accepted as the basics for getting the right information for making a decision – who, what, when, where, why, how, and how much. Of these, the why question, is the most controversial and often the most difficult to ask.

A brief internet search uncovers articles that insist on asking why and those that say not to ask why because it is too confrontative and often comes from being judgmental as opposed to being curious. Of course, it depends on the context and the reason for the question.

In the context of project management, “why?” is a critical question that helps to make effective decisions.

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Do or Die

Imagine being a project manager who has been assigned a project that must deliver a specified result in six weeks. You ask, “Why that result and in that time frame?”  If the response is “Because the client wants it?” do you push back?

Or do you walk away ready to give your team the same answer you got from your boss or the customer contact person? Telling them “Ours is not to wonder why. Ours is just to do or die.”

Would the client be averse to the “why” question? If so, “Why? How about if the question were rephrased as, “We often find that there are several ways to achieve your business goals and some are often better than the solution we first think of. Can we explore the reason for your objective so that we might be able to better serve you?”

Note the possibilities here. The client might be completely closed to any other solutions and require that you “do or die.” Or, the client might be interested and open minded enough to identify the reasons for the objectives and be open to alternative solutions that would be less costly and more effective at achieving business objectives.

That is why wise project managers insist upon getting answers to the proper questions. Failure to do so not only makes for suboptimal solutions, but putsd the manager and team in a position to take the blame for it.

 

The Right/Proper Questions

Detectives ask questions to uncover means, motive and opportunity. Project managers may ask questions that take them “out of the box of conventional thinking, but they must ask questions that consider the situation at hand:

  • Are expectations rational?
  • What will happen if we don’t ask the right questions?
  • What are the business goals and project objectives?
  • Why are they the objectives?
  • Are there alternative objectives that would achieve the goals?
  • What are the criteria for success? Why? Who established them? Who will determine if they have been met?
  • What are the consequences of failure? Of success?
  • What are the risks  that might get in the way of success?  What are their likelihood and impact?
  • When will the project be performed and when is it expected to be completed?
  • What human and material resources are needed? Why? What quality characteristics must they have? Are there alternatives?
  • Are the resources available? When will they be needed? Why? How could they be made available?
  • What is the project environment like? Can it be made more “friendly” to project performance?
  • Who are the stakeholders and what are their roles and responsibilities?
  • Who will be impacted by the project’s performance and its results? How will they be impacted? How can impact be influenced to make it more positive?
  • What is the project history – e.g., was this or a similar project performed in the past? How can lessons learned be used to inform the current team?
  • What procedures and tools will be used? Why? Are there alternatives?

Courage and Patience

Often, everyone wants to just get on with the work, to “just do it.” It takes courage and patience to take the time and effort to step back and ask the proper questions, even in the face of resistance by key stakeholders to explore reasons and alternatives.

Why Does a Project Need a Product Development Roadmap?

PM Articles by Project Times. 

Many teams work on software development projects: developers, testers, designers, and so on. Specialists have their own tasks, which they must complete by a certain date. How do you coordinate the actions of all teams? How to make sure that the design work goes according to plan and the product will achieve its goal? A product development roadmap helps to solve these issues. We will tell you why it is needed for a project.

What is a product roadmap?

A product roadmap is an important document, it is as necessary as Vision&Scope, SRS, Backlog and User Story Mapping.

A product development roadmap is a visual communication tool for a project team that is used when outsourcing project management services. This document describes the vision of the product and records the current working progress and long-term project goals.

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Source: venngage.com

The main stages of work on the product are included in this plan, without dividing them into separate tasks. There, the names of performers and deadlines are indicated. Information is drawn up in tables, presentations or special programs. The picture must make it clear who is working on this or that task at a certain time.

The purpose of a roadmap is not to describe each project task but to give a visual representation of the global stages of work. It explains to the team why they need to implement certain functionality by a specified time. It illustrates what goals the product will achieve in the future. If specialists understand how the product will develop, it is easier for them to set up work on individual tasks.

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Source: habr.com

In other words, a roadmap is a product guideline for project teams, the marketing department, and customers. Project managers can change the roadmap when:

  • the client modifies the requirements.
  • it is necessary to enable a new feature at the request of users.
  • there are internal problems.
  • the market is changing.

The product development roadmap informs the project team and external interested parties (shareholders, customers, partners) about the main ideas and work progress.

Who needs a product development roadmap?

The product roadmap is used by internal development teams and external interested parties. Each professional benefits from this document and applies it differently:

The roadmap clearly illustrates to the project team how the product will develop. Engineers plan sprints and follow the progress of the project and the performance of the team. They see when additional specialists need to be involved in the project and rely on the document to bring the product to its final goal.

The marketing department relies on the product development roadmap when developing an advertising strategy and building a pricing policy.

The customer support department is using the product roadmap to answer user questions for future updates.

Project managers use a roadmap (product development roadmap) to report on the work done to the customers, investors, and partners. They see how the team is working on the product and how it will be developed in the future.

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Why a product roadmap is important for a project?

A roadmap helps project team members to understand the essence of a product. It also gives several benefits:

  • It helps to define the product strategy.

Experts see what kind of work needs to be done right now and in the future. Project managers and customers see the full picture of what is happening on the project as part of the strategy.

  • It is a good means of communication.

Usually, reviewing projects with each of the leaders takes hours of calls and discussions. The roadmap clarifies all the issues of software development. It is easy to create and update and takes less time to learn than during online discussion.

The map can be shared with everyone associated with the project (colleagues, management, and so on). With the help of this document, it is easier to convince investors of the prospects of the product and get funding.

  • It helps to “navigate the terrain”.

When a team works on a new project, they face three obstacles:

  • it is easy for them to “get lost” because they don’t know how to get to their destination.
  • team members may be late because they don’t know how quickly they need to complete tasks.
  • the team may run out of specialists when they are not aware of what work they have to cope with.

The product development roadmap addresses all these issues. Project participants see the current state of affairs and prospects. They know that this month they need to create an admin panel, and next month they need to do a third-party integration. They understand that a mobile version is being designed alongside the web application.

The roadmap proves that the custom software development company’s team is moving in the right direction at every stage of development.

How to create a product roadmap

For a separate project, a unique product roadmap is built. But there are general principles that should be considered when building. It is necessary to:

  1. Define the project strategy.

For a roadmap to be useful, the following issues need to be considered:

  • It is important to focus on the results of product development. Detailed tasks with estimation are not included in the map. They will simply confuse the workers of project management outsourcing companies, external departments, and investors. This information is recorded in other documents.
  • You should create a document for all project participants. Each specialist (manager, marketer, or customer support employee) looks at the roadmap differently. Some are interested in business goals, others focus on product areas, prioritization and timing, and so on. So as not to create a separate roadmap for different departments, it is worth considering one that will be useful for everybody.
  • You should communicate the vision of the product. The map illustrates the history of product development. The team members see this and take steps in the same direction.
  • The product roadmap must be regularly updated. Changes often occur in projects: the customer changes requirements, asks to implement a new function, and so on. These changes must be included in the product roadmap, otherwise, it will become useless, and the team will go astray.
  1. Gather product requirements.

To determine the stages of work on the product, you need to know what functionality needs to be created. To do this, a business analyst collects product requirements, which are then documented (Vision & Scope, SRS, Backlog and User Story Mapping). This data can be used to point out top features, prioritize them, and build a product development roadmap.

  1. Select the roadmap format.

A product development roadmap can be drawn up in Excel, PowerPoint, or special tools. However, whichever program the project manager uses, they will choose one of the three traditional types of the roadmap:

  • Product roadmap without dates. It is used on agile projects where priorities change quickly.
  • Hybrid product roadmap. Such a map has approximate dates (by months) and stages of work sorted into current, upcoming, and future periods.
  • Product roadmap with dates. Stages of work are planned with an accuracy of days in a month. This is especially convenient on projects where several departments are involved, and their tasks are related.

If the PM does not need strict deadlines, they choose the first and second options. Usually, this means planning works for a month or a quarter.

  1. Adapt the roadmap for all participants.

The product development roadmap is a guideline for internal and external teams:

  • The management wants to see in it a product strategy and information about the current state of the market.
  • Marketers are interested in seeing the product in comparison with competitors and its potential.
  • The sales department is more concerned about the time of the release of the product and its competitive advantages.
  • For developers and other IT professionals, requirements, deadlines, and sprints are more important.

Therefore, it is worth considering how to include this information in one document.

  1. Share the product roadmap.

The roadmap illustrates the team’s work progress and future goals. If the project manager shares the map with everyone, the participants will always be aware of the current state of the product and possible changes. Therefore, specialists will not spend hours clarifying the details of the project and other issues.

Customers value transparency in the work of their IT partners. Constant feedback, honesty and openness are big advantages for custom software development companies.

Which projects need a product roadmap?

Roadmaps can be used on traditional (Waterfall, Spiral) and flexible (Agile, Scrum) projects. This document focuses on the strategy of the product, not on the methods of its implementation.

For classic projects, a product development roadmap with dates will do. Flexible projects are limited to monthly and quarterly scheduling without clear dates.

The main difference is in the following:

  • Waterfall projects are usually business-oriented and based on financial metrics. Agile teams are focused on customers and customer satisfaction.
  • Waterfall roadmaps are usually scheduled for a year. An Agile map illustrates quarterly work.
  • Waterfall teams communicate sequentially as new specialists join the project. Agile project participants work in a cross-functional environment and are simultaneously involved in the project.
  • Roadmaps for Waterfall projects are more static. Maps for Agile projects are as flexible as the methodology itself.

Either way, both classic and agile teams will benefit from a product roadmap. They will be able to follow the strategy, meet deadlines and lead the product in the right direction.

Conclusion

A product development roadmap is created to make life easier for all project participants. It is a tool that developers, testers, designers, sales teams and businessmen are guided by. It ensures that the product develops according to plan and reaches the market on time. With a roadmap, the product is not a mere abstraction. It is a completely tangible solution with short-term and long-term goals and a visible result.

RIP – Rest In Place Projects

PM Articles by Project Times. 

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With 2 plus decades experience in the project management and organizational development world, I am incessantly amazed on how a project is so closely linked the Project Sponsor, instead of the organization and the business goals it is set to achieve or influence.

When the “why”, purpose of a project has been well documented and approved by the necessary resource, a Project or Program Manager is assigned to lead and support the planning, implementation and sometimes kick off the sustainment of the product from the project. The project manager (PM) with help from other resources is tasked with creating engagement protocols and tactics to ensure every stakeholder buys into the vision of the project.

A few years ago, while studying for a master’s in project management, one of my professors asked a question, at what point are you successful as a project manager? The class gave a quintessential response, “when the triple constraints, time, cost and scope are managed effectively”, we all echoed in our responses. To which she responded, you are all wrong, you are successful when you close a project and months later, the output of the project is being used/accessed.

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I share this story to provide some context around the role of the PM and how that does not impact the project when a PM is replaced. Why you ask? The PM has a set of guidelines to run the project and regardless of who is the sponsor, the pm ensures the project is implemented in line with the framework. However, when there is a change of sponsor, there is a shift that could lead to a complete halt of the project, or the cancellation of the project. This decision could be based on the personal preference, and at other times imply because the sponsor sees or believes the project does not align to his/her value or focus. The PM does not have the same power or influence.

If you are a PM and are wandering how to deal with a change in sponsor, and the new sponsor is about to shut down your project. Take heart, recognize that the decision is not your fault. It is beyond your influence. Take time to process the emotions you are experiencing, thereafter start working to close the project with exceptional expertise, from documentation to engagement tactics. I have seen a project that was completely shut down resuscitated years later. What helped to make the kickoff run smoothly is what the prior pm did to close the project.

Projects rest in place when they are closed properly by the PM.


Evelyn Brisibe

Dr. Evelyn Brisibe is a certified project manager with several years of experience in project management, business analysis, change management and organizational development. She has a PhD in leadership and organizational change. She can be reached by email – [email protected]


Streamline Your Social Media Project Management With These 4 Tips

PM Articles by Project Times. 

Like most busy companies, you struggle to manage your social media campaigns efficiently on top of handling other projects and your daily to-dos.

If you don’t plan, organize, and strategize, you’re not likely to run your campaigns effectively or get your expected results and returns.

This is where social media project management comes in.

Essentially, social media project management takes the basic principles of ecommerce project management and applies them to social media projects.

It involves the skills, knowledge, techniques, and tools used in a structured approach to help you and your team meet your social media project requirements and goals seamlessly.

Learn more about managing your social media projects as efficiently as possible with these four tips.

What is social media project management?

Social media project management refers to managing campaigns across social media marketing channels.

Social media marketing is often complex. It involves doing tons of research, planning campaigns, creating content, scheduling posts, photography, graphic design, monitoring analytics, and other tasks.

Running social media campaigns can also involve multiple departments and team members who need to manage tasks efficiently and collaborate effectively.

Social media project management can address and streamline these through reliable tools, processes, systems, and workflows. It can help everyone stay on the same page and keep the projects on schedule.

4 Tips to manage your social media projects efficiently

Getting an overall view of the many aspects of your social media campaigns and projects is critical to your marketing efforts’ success.

After all, having visibility into every process makes it easier to track and check your campaigns’ progress and performance.

You’ll also know whether your team is staying on track and make the right adjustments promptly.

Below are some strategic ways to streamline your social media project management process.

1. Leverage the right tools

Using reliable tools is crucial to running your social media marketing campaigns and managing your projects effectively.

Some of these platforms and apps include:

  • Lead capture tools
  • Reliable task management software
  • Asset repositories
  • Social media content calendars
  • Analytics platforms
  • Social media listening and monitoring software
  • User-Generated Content (UGC) tools
  • Contest and promotional management apps

Some tools cover most, if not all, of these features.

For instance, Vista Social offers an all-in-one social media marketing platform with modern, sophisticated features—from post scheduling to robust TikTok tools for marketing.

Use the platform to plan, create, organize, and schedule your social media content to auto-publish across your connected social networks easily.

Image source: vistasocial.com.

You can manage and track your engagement through Smart Inbox and Review Management features and monitor mentions of your brand in your network.

You can also plan your social media activities and posts through a content calendar and auto-generate your analytics reports with ease.

Image source: vistasocial.com.

Additionally, opt for tools that integrate seamlessly with your existing toolset.

You’ll save time and energy replicating information and processes across platforms while managing your social media marketing tasks and projects efficiently.

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2. Perform regular social media audits

Your team is more likely to run social media project management processes effectively when informed by data.

The key is to regularly conduct a social media audit (monthly, quarterly, bi-annually, or annually) to gain valuable insights into what’s working (and what’s not).

You’ll also get a good idea about the platforms your audience spends the most time in and the content types that drive the most engagement.

Leverage handy social media audit tools to perform your assessments easily.

Depending on your in-house expertise and resources, you can integrate data flows between popular big data analytics tools and your social media audit tool for more comprehensive analysis and insights.

Perform periodic social media audits to eliminate guesswork and refine your current strategy. It helps ensure you don’t run your projects and campaigns blindly.

Create and deploy campaigns tailored to your target audiences’ needs and interests and focus your efforts on what resonates most with your potential customers.

You’ll avoid wasting resources and optimize your social media project management process to drive meaningful results.

3. Create platform specific audience personas

Maintain a consistent brand voice and image across your social media marketing channels is crucial.

However, you’ll need to tailor your campaigns based on the specific platform and audience groups.

After all, your LinkedIn audience, consisting mostly of professionals, likely has different interests than your Instagram followers, who are focused more on entertainment, shopping, and aesthetics.

The solution? Create personas for your target audiences on specific social media platforms.

Doing so allows you to create social media campaigns, content, messaging, etc., tailored to the audience groups’ unique preferences and needs.

Create or refine your social media audience personas using tools such as MakeMyPersona from HubSpot.

Generate your audience persona templates based on the demographic traits, job, social media consumption habits, preferred communication channels, and more.

Image source: hubspot.com.

Creating personas helps you know your audience better, informing and shaping your strategies.

It allows you to target your social media audience with specific campaigns designed for certain platforms and like-minded personas or audiences.

Essentially, creating personas helps you create and deliver campaigns and content to the right social media audience groups through the best-fitting channels at the best time.

You’ll have a higher chance of engaging your audience and achieving social media marketing success.

Remember to keep your audience personas updated and readily accessible to your social media marketing team.

4. Provide clear responsibilities and workflows

Some common roadblocks that keep you from achieving seamless social media project management are unclear roles, responsibilities, and workflows.

Ensure your team members know who should handle specific tasks to avoid confusion and potential delays that cause bottlenecks in your workflows.

Provide written or documented workflows and processes to outline the steps required in each promotion or campaign.

Include the stages of getting the manager’s approval before posting new creatives and guidelines on where to find and use UGCs properly.

Also, provide directions on tagging products appropriately for your social selling efforts, such as creating Instagram shoppable posts.

Image source: instagram.com.

Providing clear roles, responsibilities, and workflows helps ensure your team members know the tasks they’re supposed to handle. It allows for a more seamless and, in turn, effective social media project management process.

Optimize managing your social media projects

While social media project management can be complex, it doesn’t have to be rocket science.

Take inspiration from the tips in this guide.

Establish clear workflows, leverage the best-fitting tools, automate when you can, know whether your efforts are succeeding or failing, and ultimately supercharge your social media project management process.

You’re likely to drive meaningful results and get excellent returns to achieve social media marketing success.

Developing a PMBOK Inspired Career Plan

PM Articles by Project Times. 

Running Projects is Like Raising Kids – They Need Your Full Attention

So, we project managers move heaven and earth, ensuring project success happens.

By nature, we are happiest when projects are on track and green.

And as a fellow project manager, I know this work can be challenging with:

  • Constant organizational changes
  • Budget cuts fear or reality
  • Project team turnover
  • PMO demands for data or compliance
  • Seemingly aloof decision-makers (not purposely, just busy with their day jobs)
  • Technology issues

And, “We’re going Agile – eventually.”

So, you apply Agile tools and techniques for a lift on your waterfall project to manage current and future states of work.

Often, we work so hard on our jobs that we neglect our personal and professional selves.

The Best Time to Be a Project/Product Manager is NOW!

Let’s focus on ourselves and our careers for a moment.

Because our work is transformative and impactful, the demand for project managers is through the roof with no signs of stopping (Ex. Salaries, Challenges, Growth Opportunities, etc. – all rising).

FACT: PMI estimated project-oriented work may top $20 trillion by 2027 and put 88 million people to work (HBR.org Article Written by Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez)

However, it would help if you STILL asked yourself these critical questions about your work:

  • Do I feel like the work gives me Purpose?
  • Is this work fulfilling?
  • Do you love problem-solving?
  • Is organizing things in your DNA?
  • Do you look forward to aligning people’s strengths to do great things?
  • Are you excited to learn new technologies and concepts to get more out of your day?

Can you answer each question with an emphatic “Yes?”

If so, you are operating in or near your life’s big “Why” or Purpose.

Check out this video for more on finding your life’s big “Why.”

As project managers, the work we do should be an extension of our reason for existence, in service to others, at this moment in time.

If not, revisit your career path because there may be a far more lucrative and fulfilling path than project management.

Beyond Market Demand, Does Project Management Help You Fulfill Your Purpose?

Not sure?

STOP – Read John Coleman’s Article: To Find Meaning in Your Work, Change How You Think About It.

John’s article appeared on HBR.org, and it’s legit!

Here’s a key point John makes that will help you frame up your WHY:

Remember why you work. Please identify the person or group of people in your personal [and professional] life that your work is in service for, and keep them in mind when you work through even the most tedious of tasks. A purpose isn’t magic — it’s something we must consciously pursue and create. With the right approach, almost any job can be meaningful.

Yes – You CAN find Purpose in any work, but it does not guarantee fulfillment.

CAVEAT: However, the most fulfilling work emerges from a clear sense of service that transcends self and targets impacts for you and those you serve with what you do best.

Bonus: the most fulfilled, financially free, and divine aligned beings on the planet figure out their “Why” and then strike out to touch the sky!

Is Project Management an extension of your why?

Well, it should be!

Is Project Management Your Jam?

If you are still reading, you must love what you do, so here’s a question for you:

How would your career change if you applied Project Management rigor to transform your career?

Listen, Jim Rohn – motivational speaker and businessman, once said:

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Credit: Google Images

Do You Have a Job Or A Career?

Working on yourself means your life purpose gets integrated with your career.

A purposed career takes reflection, decision-making, and work creation that ensures work is more fun and lucrative than you could imagine.

Now ask yourself: Do you work harder on your job than you do on your career?

Wait – What’s the difference between a job and a career?

Simple: Careers are fulfilling because they work on you. Jobs are not fulfilling because you work on them.

You’ve heard of the great resignation.

The great resignation is partly fueled by retirement.

And, many post-pandemic workers slowed down long enough and realized their life and life’s Purpose was more doable with a flexible, remote environment where their best and most fulfilling work could be done.

And an unfulfilling job is like getting a root canal without anesthesia – it hurts too much and should never be done.

You need work that fills your heart, wallet, and purpose-driven needs for being alive at this point in time.

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Take a Page Out of PMBOK (Career Style)

Remember, we use PMBOK to transform our work.

Why not use the same rigor to transform our careers, too?

Let’s discuss the triple constraints as they apply to your career’s development.

You will focus on developing your first career phase, which takes approximately 6 – 12 months.

After that, you will revisit your plans, reassess them, and schedule another 6-12 month sprint until you reach career nirvana or something close to it.

Triple Constraints Blended with Project Phases

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Credit: Projectmanager.com

As with any project, the goal is to add value.

Your career project is no different. Your career project is about adding fulfillment and value-adding capability to your career.

Let’s start with your scope, which breathes life into your life’s big “Why” with “What and How.”

INITIATE AND PLAN

Scope: Start with a career project charter and plan to initiate/solidify your career project:

First, suspend all logic and hold nothing back, so you won’t get in the way of getting what you deserve!

  • BUSINESS CASE/OBJECTIVES:
    1. What project work, people, places, and things give you the greatest fulfillment?
    2. What would doing this work look like each day?
    3. What short- and long-term benefits could you realize if bullets 1 and 2 came true?
      • Please be detailed with your descriptions.
    4. Finally, write a DESIRED STATE narrative summing up bullets 1-3 or create bullet points using the same rigor and diligence you give at work.
  • CONSTRAINTS: How does your CURRENT STATE differ from your DESIRED STATE?
    • Make a few notes about the key differences, then burn them! Acknowledging the old will help you move forward toward the new. Its history and focusing on it will keep you stuck.
  • RISKS: What things must change about YOU AND THE WORK YOU DO to achieve YOUR DESIRED STATE career?
    • What must you change personally and professionally to reach your DESIRED STATE career?
    • Create bullet points using the same rigor and diligence you give at work.
  • STAKEHOLDER ANALYSIS: What stakeholders must you assemble to gain clarity on your best way forward?
    • List your stakeholders, the input you seek, and the input you receive. These stakeholders can be just about anyone you trust, like a:
      • Career coach
      • Mentor (video)
      • Someone further along in the career journey than you
      • A trusted advisor and Truth Teller
      • Spiritual wisdom from your Source

EXECUTE, MONITOR, AND CONTROL

Time: Develop your career project plan and time box your steps:

  • What three steps or tasks must you first execute, monitor, and control, to deliver on your 6 to 12-month career development project:
    • Think Start, Stop, and Continuing certain behaviors related to:
      • Professional Development (Ex. Continuous Learning)
      • Personal Development (Ex. Mindset Management)
      • Networking (Ex. Real relationships with other doers – not just LinkedIn connections, meaningful conversations with people behind, beside, or ahead of you in their career journey).
    • Distill your “Start, Stop, and Continue” into tangible steps:
      • Take a certification or online/live training course
      • Do volunteer work for experience
      • Watch personal development videos, so you are not the barrier to your success
    • Add some details and time boxes.

Remember, the three steps or big things you must do will encompass no less than six months but no greater than 12 months.

As the phrase goes, “You must count the cost.”

Cost: Pencils down. It is time to revisit your scope activities and consider what it will cost you to deliver on this 6 to 12-month career project.

For example:

  • Have you determined how you fund your personal or professional development where needed?
  • Are you fully committed to making this project move forward regardless of the obstacles?
  • Have you accurately estimated how much time and effort you will expend each month reaching project completion?
  • How will you socialize your plan, gain support, and keep your career project on track?
  • Have you considered most likely project disruptions and accounted for contingencies to them?

You are compelled and equipped to navigate this massive career lift and shift ahead if you do your homework.

You’ve successfully counted the cost and dove into your career project.

And you remain on track to complete your three initial steps.

You must properly close out those steps that transitioned from DOING to DONE.

 

 

CLOSEOUT

After completing all three steps, you ensure they delivered on your expectations or receive sufficient evidence to do something different next time.

Here are a few examples:

  1. Did steps add work/life fulfillment? If not, what should have happened or been done differently?
  2. Did steps add value? If not, what should have happened or been done differently?
  3. What were your personal and professional lessons learned?
  4. In what ways did the project grow you personally and professionally? If not, what should have happened or been done differently?
  5. Did you connect and benefit/serve someone behind, beside, or ahead of you on the same/similar career journey? If not, what should have happened or been done differently?

If everything went according to plan, you close out your final step before moving on to the next step(s) in your 6 – 12 month career project.

Remember, project management isn’t for everyone, no matter how well you do the work. The work must be fulfilling, tie into your big “Why,” and help you thrive, not just survive!

After noodling your big “Why” and choosing a project management career desired state or path to begin leveraging the Career “Triple Constraints” concepts, develop your unique journey, and decidedly fulfilling career path.

Call to Action

The world needs us – get equipped for a world of projects producing exponential value! Finally, Global demand for Agile/Scrum/Product Management expertise is heating up for PMs with this experience and may be the key to you prospering in the new remote economy.

It’s only a matter of time before it intersects with your work or influences your opportunities.

About PMI Central Illinois Chapter

Visit PMI Central Illinois Chapter to Learn More. And check out a few more articles by other PMI CIC contributors.

Visual Project Management: Everything You Need to Know

PM Articles by Project Times. 

Visual project management has been creating a buzz in the project management arena, and it’s not difficult to see why. Visuals are captivating, and now that most companies have adopted a lean culture, project managers no longer have the time to go through multiple reports. Regular status briefings are also not enough to gain a complete picture of the project’s status, which is where visual task management comes into play.

It allows you to plan, execute and monitor the progress of your project quickly, without having to read multiple reports. Visuals also bring ideas to life and make complex ideas easier to understand, saving valuable time. Simply put, visual project management allows you to track your project in an easy and fun way. In this guide, we’ll highlight why you should embrace this method of task management.

What Is Visual Project Management?

Visual project management effectively plans and manages projects using tools and techniques such as calendars, Kanban boards, and timelines. These layouts allow you to visualize the progress of your project and give you quick insights into the key deliverables at a glance or in a digestible format.

Regardless of the projects you are managing, you need to find an effective way of planning and tracking the milestones. For instance, you need to know who’s responsible for what, key pieces essential to the project’s success, and any areas that are delaying project progress.

While traditional project management tools get the job done, they are ineffective. For example, spreadsheets and lists may contain all the important information, but it can take time to determine the true progress of your projects. This is because they are text-based, and let’s face it: the business environment is now so fast-paced that document-heavy processes just don’t cut it anymore.

How Do You Visualize a Project?

Research shows that your brain can process images in about 13 milliseconds, which is why visuals are an effective project management tool. They also allow you to capture and retain information easily.

IG Content:

6 Steps to Visualize a Project

  1. Plan your entire project schedule, including the important milestones and deadlines.
  2. Use a chart to organize your team while showing the relationship between all the key stakeholders.
  3. Present the data visually using maps, charts, infographics, and other images that allow for at-a-glance comprehension.
  4. Create a risk breakdown structure to assess the tentative project risks.
  5. Use a status report to track the project’s progress. Ensure everyone involved is updated periodically.
  6. Use color coding for effective communication. All project materials should be available for all stakeholders so everyone can see project progress in real time.

Here’s a step-by-step guide into how you can visualize your projects:

  1. Plan your entire project schedule, including the important milestones and deadlines.
  2. Use a chart to structure your team while showing the relationship between all the key stakeholders.
  3. Present the data visually using maps, charts, infographics, etc.
  4. Create a risk breakdown structure to assess the tentative project risks.
  5. Use a status report to track the project’s progress.
  6. Use color coding for effective communication.

The whole idea is to make sure that all the project’s key moving parts are organized & easy to identify and that everyone is kept in the loop.

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What Are the Benefits of Visual Task Management?

Here’s why you should adopt visual project management:

  • It enhances communication across all project levels.
  • It saves you time as you’re able to monitor the project’s progress at a glance.
  • It gives you clarity on the entire project and makes it easy to identify roadblocks slowing you down.
  • It allows you to make data-driven decisions.

Most importantly, visual task management helps you understand the true impact of making changes to a project in real-time.

What Are the Main Methods of Visual Representation of Projects?

There are 5 main tools you can use to make a visual project;

    I.         Calendars

Project calendars are straightforward, and they come in handy when there are multiple tasks to manage, all with varying due dates. They help you keep track of key deliverables and milestones as well as plan ahead for successful execution. You can use them on your social media calendars, editorial calendars, or other projects that require earlier preparation.

 II.         Kanban Boards

Kanban boards are essential for projects with distinct stages such as website development, sprint planning, bug tracking, and word results. They are visual tools that use cards to represent projects. These cards are then arranged in columns highlighting the project milestones, task priorities, and responsible personnel. When the project is completed, the cards are moved to the next stage, allowing you to identify the task progress at a glance.

III.         Timelines and Charts

Project timeline or Gantt charts come in handy for projects with definite start and end dates. They help you organize your entire project schedule so that everyone involved in the task is aware of the deadlines and the time each task should take. Some of the perfect tasks for timelines and charts include product launches, campaign management, and event planning.

IV.         Dashboards

Dashboards treat your project as a car and use intuitive tools such as charts and graphs to help you track the task progress. They highlight all the important project information on one page, showing you the overall progress. You can use this visual tool to check the status of tasks, track KPIs and manage the key resources. The dashboards you use should be intuitive and easy to navigate for maximum efficiency.

  V.         Mind Maps

We’ve all been in a situation where we know what we’d like to achieve but have a hard time organizing our ideas. Well, mind maps can come in handy during brainstorming sessions. They allow you to highlight your main ideas and then create sub-ideas below them until you have everything figured out. You can also use them when collaborating with the team to create a project plan.

Statistics reveal that around 48% of all organizational projects aren’t completed on time. This is shocking. By using the above visualization tools, you’ll be able to see the bigger picture without missing the key details.

FAQs

  1. What Are the Four Types of Project Management?
  2. Waterfall: This technique involves working on your project in waves, such that each project stage is dependent on the previous one.
  3. Agile: This method involves working on projects quickly, mostly by breaking them down into smaller projects that several teams can handle.
  4. Scrum: This technique uses sprints to complete projects.
  5. Lean: This project management method is all about achieving maximum project efficiency while putting the customer’s needs first.
  6. How Do You Visually Track a Project?

The best way to visualize a project is by first breaking it down into several phases and then creating timelines, defining KPIs, and highlighting important milestones. You should then communicate this plan to your team for maximum efficiency.

  1. What Are the Five Elements of Project Management?
  2. Conception and initiation: This is the beginning of the project, and the task details are usually broad.
  3. Project planning: At this stage, you should set goals and create a roadmap of how and when your project should be completed.
  4. Project execution: This is where you develop deliverables and complete them. You can also make modifications when needed.
  5. Project monitoring: At this stage, you keep track of the performance and progress of the tasks.
  6. Project completion.

Streamline Your Project Management Today!

There are many frameworks and methodologies you can combine with visual project management to help better streamline your achievement and success.

Combining project management with a robust performance management program, for example, can help hold your team accountable for their deliverables, as well as offer them continuous feedback so they can constantly improve their performance on a certain project. Give your team an opportunity to evaluate themselves, and show them self-evaluation examples so they know exactly what information they should share with you. This will help you gain a better understanding of how they see themselves and their contributions in the organization.

Bridge’s Transition Model: Change and the Human Side of Project Management

PM Articles by Project Times. 

Why are projects initiated? What is their purpose? The answer is simple – to introduce change. Projects are all about change, either introducing new products and/or services or changing the way is which existing products and/or services are delivered. Otherwise, without initiating projects to introduce change, organizations continue to deliver existing products, services, policies, and procedures (i.e., continue with business as usual).

Whenever change is introduced, what happens? It meets resistance. That resistance may be the result of any number of reasons – some valid and some not so valid – and will certainly be the cause of many problems for the project delivery team. Misery and woe very often await the poor project team that invests too little or no time at all in appreciating the fact that they are introducing change(s) and therefore need to develop strategies to deal with the inevitable resistance they will encounter from those who perceive, rightly or wrongly, that they will be negatively impacted by the change(s) the project is introducing. Many project teams have been surprised to find that their project had been torpedoed by someone (or someone’s) to whom they never gave any thought and for whom they did not develop a strategy to support the introduction of the change(s) their project would enable and to overcome resistance to it. Resistance was not only not futile; it was deadly.

So how does change successfully get introduced? How can the project team ensure that they deliver a product or service that will enable the change which justified the project and the investment of organizational resources in the first place? This demands that project teams recognize and internalize the simple truth that organizations do not change, people change. If the people in the organization do not embrace and support the change(s) that the project is introducing, the project is unlikely to succeed.

And getting the people in the organization to embrace the change is all about leadership. Based on Bridge’s Transition Model, this article will suggest best practices for introducing change and building a successful strategy for engaging the organization’s most powerful resources – its people – in bringing about the desired change and making the project a success.

Bridge’s Transition Model: An Overview

Bridge’s Transition Model[1], in its simplest form, suggests that projects introducing change(s) will pass through three stages:

  • The Current State (Preparing: Ending, Losing, and Letting Go) – When people are first introduced to change, they may enter this first stage. It is characterized by resistance and emotional discomfort. The introduction of change also introduces uncertainty and anxiety. Some of the emotions experienced at this stage include fear, resentment, anger, denial, sadness, frustration and, very often, disorientation. People begin to accept that they have to let go of the old so as to accept new beginnings. This stage includes identifying the need for change and developing the change management plan with strategies such as assigning roles and responsibilities and assessing tools and tasks needed to implement it
  • The Transition State (The Neutral Zone)– This is the stage of stress, impatience, and confusion. This stage can be considered as the bridge between the old and the new when people retain some attachment to the old but are trying to adapt to the new. This stage is often associated with low morale and reduced productivity, and people may experience stress, disillusionment, and skepticism as well when going through this stage. But despite this, the neutral/transition stage may also include innovation, renewal and a burst of energy. This stage requires nurturing and supporting newly assigned roles and tasks, providing training and coaching, and a clear communication and stakeholder engagement strategy.
  • The Future State (New Beginnings)– When the neutral/transition stage is passed through with support and guidance, the stage of acceptance and creativity is reached. At this level, people embrace the change and understand its importance. They have built or are building the skills needed to reach the new goals and may already start to experience benefits of the change. It is associated with high levels of energy, initiative, new commitment and a zest to learn. The focus becomes one of institutionalizing, sustaining, incorporating, and integrating the outcomes and benefits into the new organizational or corporate culture and acknowledging individual and team success.

The Current State: Preparing

Organizations start up projects for many different reasons, for example:

  • because someone has an idea for a new product line or service, or
  • to introduce a new delivery method, or
  • to respond to new legislative or regulatory requirements, or
  • to protect market share by matching or bettering competitors’ initiatives and/or product innovations, or
  • to improve upon existing products, or
  • to take advantage of new technology or technological developments, or
  • to exploit opportunities and develop new products or services to meet them.

There are other reasons for initiating project as well. One thing they all have in common is that any project initiated for any of these reasons introduces changes to the ways things are currently being done.

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Investment Decision-Making

Projects aren’t free. They consume organizational resources – money, time, material, equipment, facilities and, yes, people (i.e., their time and effort). Before committing organizational resources, an analysis of the benefits that will be realized and the value to the organization if it initiates the project needs to be undertaken to justify the investment. These analyses generally take the form of alternatives analyses and cost-benefit analyses, including NPV, ROI, etc., that are pulled together into a business case. Since projects introduce change, however, the impact of the projects on the people involved in their delivery and on the people affected by any given project’s outcomes also needs to be considered before the decision to invest resources and commit to the project is made.

Project Leadership and Change

Change can be traumatizing. Projects often incur resistance simply because they are introducing change. Project team members similarly often run up against resistance in their role as change agents. The mental health of project team members who are struggling to introduce change(s) as well those affected by the change(s) requires leadership that is compassionate and understanding and that communicates openly and well.

We are all human. Many of us are reluctant to bring up in conversation that we may be struggling with something because we have been conditioned to believe that to struggle is to have a weakness that needs improving and that means talking about our own issues. People are trapped by the idea that being tough, resilient, and impenetrable is a requirement for climbing the ladder of success. They are slow to realize that trying to live up to this myth indirectly trains people to treat each other like a terminator who will slap them down and take advantage of their perceived weakness rather than a person who will encourage them and help them grow.  Good leaders commit themselves to breaking the stigma and becoming more open and honest in their communications with others.

Leadership among project team members is shared according to circumstances – the nature of the issue requiring attention, the skill sets and competencies of the team members, their experience, technical and/or technological knowledge, etc. Honesty, trust and transparency are essential leadership skills demonstrated by good leaders throughout a project’s life cycle. By acknowledging that we are all human and being open about their own experiences, effective leaders have an opportunity to address the mental health of team members in a non-threatening way that puts employees at ease and creates a starting point for better communication. Using such techniques as emotional intelligence – the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges and defuse conflict – can be very helpful and effective in building and maintaining motivated and successful project teams.

Communicating the Project’s Vision and Purpose

One of the most effective leadership skills is communicating. Getting everyone on board and supporting the project (aka change initiative) is imperative. This can be achieved by clearly communicating the project’s vision and purpose. In one study, Gartner[2] found that 50% of change initiatives are a clear failure, only 34% are a clear success, and 16% achieve mixed results. For the project to succeed, Gartner recommended that an organization needs to:

  • clearly establish the need for the change,
  • identify specifically what needs to be changed (as well as what doesn’t need to change),
  • involve employees in the project and in planning how to execute the change initiative,
  • develop a specific communications plan,
  • create a road map for change,
  • produce a stakeholder engagement strategy,
  • design integrated training programs,
  • develop a strategy for dealing with resistance, and
  • devise and implement a strategy for monitoring results and sustaining the “new normal”, i.e., maintaining the desired outcomes of the project and realizing the benefits and value to the organization.

Encountering Resistance

Projects introduce change and change introduces uncertainty. Resistance to change is a common risk factor encountered by project team members. People are often reluctant to accept new procedures or ways of doing things. In addition, they may remember similar previous failed projects. There is also the fear of losing jobs, especially if the project involves technological innovation, process automation, and information systems. Change is always inevitable but so is resistance to change. Resistance is the action taken by individuals and groups when they perceive that the change that the project is introducing is a threat to them, to what they know and are comfortable with, and to their work relationships.  It is basic human nature for people to try and keep their methods and customs constant.

Projects introducing change(s) introduce uncertainty and uncertainty is often viewed as a threat.  People may have trouble developing a vision of what life will look like on the other side of a change, so they tend to cling to the known rather than embrace the unknown. People don’t fear change per se, they fear the unknown. They fear being changed. Your employees represent your organization’s talent. They are the people on the ground day-to-day. No one understands your business or your clients and customers better than they do. Yet, operational changes are often dictated to them rather than created with them. Not only is this a waste of the talent and insights your employees possess, it accentuates resistance to change. Preparing a project requires recognition that the project will encounter resistance to the change initiative it is introducing and the resulting need to develop strategies for coping with and overcoming resistance.

These are several effective means for dealing with resistance[3]:

  • Empower Team Members and Involve Them in Decision-Making – When people have a say in the solutions they implement, they feel more accountable for them and do what’s needed to ensure success.
    • Reduce Uncertainty – While identifying what needs to be changed and why the change is necessary must be communicated, it is also critically important to identify what will not change to provide an anchor or island of stability for employees in the waters of uncertainty being introduced by the change initiative.
    • Allow People to Speak – Jerry Seinfeld pointed out “When you interrupt, you’ve stopped listening. People need to be heard.” Focus your attention on the welfare, interests, and needs of others. If you’re the one who is talking, you’re not listening to others. Engage and connect, reflect and provide feedback.
    • Educate and Communicate the Benefits of Change for the Individual and for the Organization – People grow and learn new things every time something changes. They discover new insights about different aspects of their life, skill sets and experience. They learn lessons even from changes that did not lead them to where they wanted to be. Projects drive change and change triggers progress and present new opportunities for individuals to learn and grow (e.g., develop new skill sets and competencies, develop stronger interpersonal skills, etc.) and for organizations to develop and evolve (e.g., introduce new products or services, achieve operating efficiencies, open new markets, etc.). Things move forward and develop because of change.
    • Accommodate If Possible – Focus as much as possible on preserving relationships with other project team members and those affected by the change(s) the project is introducing rather than on achieving a personal goal or result.
    • Isolate and Contain When Necessary and Appropriate – Handling the Competitors – the people who just won’t let go until they have won and others have lost – try to get them to focus on the big picture, a long-term goal where they’re not in direct competition with anyone in the team. Or dealing with the Drama Queens and Drama Kings – who whine and complain about everything, turning everything into drama and drawing energy from the drama while all the while draining the energy of others, and/or the Volcano – who explodes whenever things don’t turn out the way she or he thinks it should – seek to establish clear boundaries so that everyone is aware of what is and is not acceptable as professional office behaviour and that it is important that everyone treats each other with respect. Ensure that it is clearly understood that unprofessional behaviour is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
    • Counter At Level – Resistance happens when two or more individuals (or groups) have different objectives, attitudes or opinions about the project and the change(s) it is introducing. When the resistor is a member of senior management, things can get sticky. To counter the resistor, someone at his/her level in the organizational hierarchy needs to assume the role of change champion and must openly confront the resistor every time he/she voices a negative opinion about the project.  The confrontation must be honest, factual and focussed on the benefits and the value that the project will enable for the organization. As Project Manager, you need to ensure that your change champion (i.e., project sponsor, project director) has every iota of information about the project that he/she may require to effectively counter the resistor.
    • WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) – Targeting the project’s stakeholder engagement strategy and communication plan to specific stakeholder needs, concerns and expectations is a move in the right direction. Gaining the support of key individuals who are influential in the business, or “allies”, will help support your arguments and help you to gain traction. Be as specific as you can about the individual benefits that the project will enable. Personalize them as much as possible. For example, when Apple introduced the iPod, it wasn’t marketed as “2GB of mobile storage”, which would have done little to make the benefits clear to individuals; rather, it was marketed as “1,000 songs in your pocket”, a far clearer and readily understandable statement of its benefits on a personal level for individuals.

Navigating the Transition State

At the end of the day, every project, regardless of its size, needs to begin with an intended outcome – one that is understood and meaningful to the people involved and affected.  It is important to communicate the vision of the desired future state and the reasons why the project is being undertaken. Ensuring the buy-in of project team members and key stakeholders by engaging them and sharing the value to the organization that will result from the benefits achieved through the project’s outcomes is critical to project success. Equally, seek to obtain the buy-in and support of your front-line employees, who must implement the change while maintaining current production of outputs or provision of services, by highlighting the benefits to them personally (e.g., continued organizational viability could mean increased job security for employees as well as opportunities to develop new knowledge, competencies, and skill sets, etc.). Your employees are your organization’s strength – its talent – and are the foundation upon which your organization will evolve and build its future.

Respect your talent. Seek to understand and empathize with what they are going through. As much as possible, limit work-in-progress, especially during the transition. Overloading project team members with too much change too fast is a common and destructive problem.  The first action to rectify the problem is to make the current work-in-progress visible to all stakeholders, i.e., provide everyone with the “big picture”.  A simple Kanban board could suffice. Consider breaking down the project into smaller parts or smaller batches with short-term goals.  While maintaining the overall vision of the desired future or end state, create many short-term targets that are achievable and less expensive and have lesser possibility of failure than one big long-term goal. Smaller batches build momentum and help the team learn faster too.

During the project’s lifecycle, recognize that changes to the project and its outputs will inevitably occur. These changes differ from the change/future state that the project is introducing and either directly affect the outputs of the project or affect agreed project delivery baselines (e.g., schedule, cost, quality). Try to keep your projects ‘change friendly’ so as to effectively manage significant changes while empowering team members to handle responsive change at the detail level. Exploit the opportunities created by change requests for your team to learn and grow to enable them to deliver a better product to the customer.  Establish metrics/KPIs as an integral part of any change request and use them as a basis for gathering feedback from the customer/user as quickly as possible to inform further decisions and deliveries. The ‘feedback loop’ (e.g., something is delivered, it gets used, feedback is captured) should be as short as possible and ideally involve the end customer/user in order to become more responsive to customer/user priorities and needs.

Discard, as well, the notion that heroic leaders are needed to deliver successful projects and make sustained and significant changes.  Again, respect your talent. Your employees are experts on their job so involve them in the process.  Recognize that different team members may assume different leadership roles during the project life cycle. Expand the level of active involvement of team members and stakeholders through the areas and levels affected by the project.

Empowering and involving team members helps them to take ownership and accept accountability for achieving the project’s goals. The project may introduce significant workplace change(s) that may require people to undertake new roles and responsibilities to increase the odds of a smooth transition. Evenly distribute roles and responsibilities across the team, and publicly announce these project-related roles. This will give team members a personal investment in making the project a success.

Involving The Team

When you initiate a project to change how you do business, the products you’re offering, or the services you provide, what you’re really doing is asking people to change how they do their jobs. And if they aren’t set up to make that transition successfully, your initiative is guaranteed to fail. Before you start making functional changes, start with mindset changes.

Identify the people or teams who will be impacted by the change that your project is introducing. Then define exactly how their role or a function will change and create a plan
outlining what impacted employees will need to transition successfully. This could include education, leadership, new roles or a new departmental structure, coaching/training, etc. But plans, while important, do not capture value; value is realized through the sustained collective actions of the people who ultimately must embrace, execute and live with the new changed workplace. Involve your talent and leverage their knowledge, skills and abilities.

Projects must include plans for identifying leaders throughout the organization who will support the change(s) that the project is introducing and should push responsibility for design and implementation down, so that change “cascades” through the organization. People impacted by the project will naturally look to their leadership for answers when change is introduced. They will question the extent to which change is needed, whether the organization is headed in the right direction, and whether they want to commit personally to making the change happen and, therefore, make the project a success. You need to embrace transparency and communicate openly and honestly about the change(s) the project is introducing to enable managers and leaders at all levels in the organization to be ready for the inevitable questions that will be directed towards them and to provide clear, consistent and honest responses. Training, coaching and mentoring of managers, leaders and talent influencers throughout the organization may be required.

The Future State: New Beginnings

Beginnings involve new understandings, values and attitudes. Beginnings are marked by a release of energy in a new direction – they are an expression of a fresh identity. Well-managed transitions allow people to establish new roles and responsibilities with an understanding of their purpose, the part they play, and how to contribute and participate most effectively. As a result, they feel reoriented and renewed.[4]

Empowering team members and creating a philosophy of continuous improvement, involving them and encouraging them to suggest change, builds a climate of respect and of open and collaborative communication and commitment. Ensure that your organization updates organizational policies and procedures to reflect the changes realized, institutionalizes, integrates and embeds new practices, and updates training programs for new and current employees to reflect and instill the “new normal”.

Conclusion

Your people – your talent – are by far the most important asset your organization has. Improving your operations and planning for what the future decides to throw at you next first requires understanding what your talent is capable of and what they need from you to be successful.

Most projects are about introducing change(s) of some sort – changing systems, behaviours, activities, products, services and even organizational cultures. If the people in the organization do not embrace and support the change that your project is introducing, the project is unlikely to succeed. Successful project leadership requires involving those who must live with the change “on the factory floor” or “on the front line”, communicating with and engaging them, capturing their interest and enthusiasm, listening to their ideas, concerns and suggestions, empowering them to bring about the change, supporting them as they work through the change, celebrating progress, and embracing and internalizing the outcomes. For the project to be successful in enabling the change, the people in the organization must make it happen. This means leadership must be shared among project team members and they must engage, involve, empower and support each other and the people in the organization while ensuring open and honest two-way communications.

Leadership is often equated with making decisions. But in reality, it’s about creating an environment where your talent – your employees – can make better decisions, grow in their roles, promote high productivity, morale and satisfaction, and provide the best possible experiences for your customers. For projects to be successful, leadership needs to have a good understanding and appreciation of the importance of the human side of change management to achieve the desired results.

[1] Bridges, William. Managing Transitions: Making The Most Of Change, Perseus Books, Reading, Mass. 1991.

[2] Gartner (2018). Change Management. https://gartner.com/en/insights/change-management

[3] Daniel Lock, Fundamentals of Change Management, eBook,  www.daniellock.com; Kealy Spring, 2021, Overcoming Resistance to Change Within Your Organization, https://www.betterup.com/blog/resistance-to-change; Susan M. Heathfield, 2021, What Is Resistance To Change?, https://www.thebalancecareers.com/what-is-resistance-to-change-1918240; Paycor, 2019. Overcoming Employee Resistance to Change in the Workplace, https://www.paycor.com/resource-center/articles/overcoming-employee-resistance-to-change-in-the-workplace/

[4] William Bridges Associates, 1988, Bridges Transition Model, https://wmbridges.com/about/what-is-transition/

Nearly 60% of Project Professionals Rely on In-person or Virtual Meetings for Collaboration

 PM News by ProjectManagerNews.com. 

AUSTIN, Texas – May 3, 2022 — Nearly 60% of project management professionals rely on in-person or virtual meetings as their primary means for collaboration, with only 9.4% using project management software, 6.7% task management software and 2.2% PPM solutions, according to a new survey conducted by ProjectManager—a leading project and work management solution for hybrid teams. Additionally, the survey findings show that the biggest challenge for project management professionals is poor cross-team collaboration (28.6%), followed by outdated or ill-suited processes (15.9%).

The findings of the survey show that relying on meetings for collaboration is a clear contributor to these common challenges, as today’s companies are hybrid and often need to collaborate across multiple locations, functions and time zones.

“It’s no surprise that cross-team collaboration remains the top challenge project professionals face when nearly two-thirds of those professionals—and the leaders and executives they work with—rely on in-person or virtual meetings to communicate,” said Ryan Buma, CEO of ProjectManager. “When you have team members spending an inordinate amount of time simply trying to schedule meetings in order to stay on top of project progress and other pressing issues, current solutions are as unrealistic as they are ineffective.  It’s clear that a collaborative work management solution that offers an approach optimized for today’s hybrid teams is the key to success.”

He added, “As a flexible SaaS application that connects team communication, files, and assignments with the work to be done, ProjectManager is uniquely capable of solving the collaboration challenges faced by cross-functional teams.”

The report findings were based on a survey of more than 2,600 project management professionals conducted in April 2022.

For more information about ProjectManager, or to begin a 30-day trial, visit www.projectmanager.com/pricing.

About ProjectManager

ProjectManager is designing software for today’s hybrid teams. Our award-winning collaborative work management solution empowers companies to succeed in this new world of work, with tools to help teams organize, collaborate and accelerate their time to delivery whether they are co-located or remote, working asynchronously or together, agile or waterfall, from team member to executive. With advanced portfolio management to simple task tracking, ProjectManager offers the flexibility, automations, collaborative power and data insights businesses need to succeed. Gain total visibility, boost productivity and improve resource management with your teams, wherever they are located. Find out why more than 3,000 companies—including Nestle, Siemens and Lubrizol—have chosen ProjectManager as their hybrid work management software solution. Collaborative work management, reimagined for hybrid teams. Start a free 30-day trial today at www.projectmanager.com/pricing.

Know When to Give Up: Apply Objective Positivity, Patience, and Persistence

PM Articles by Project Times. 

Knowing when to and when not to give up on a project is a sign of clear thinking and effective management and leadership.

Positivity, patience, and persistence are needed when you are working to achieve a challenging objective. Yet even these qualities can be overdone and become toxic. Without objectivity they can lead to frustration and wasted efforts.

Toxic positivity is over-optimism that avoids reality by denying the negative. Positivity is healthy, but too much of anything can be toxic.

Toxic patience and persistence is stubbornness – persistence without a realistic sense of the likelihood of success. It leads to wasted efforts, frustration, and damaging behavior. It is driven by a fear of failure or biased thinking.

With mindful objectivity, you can recognize when persistence and patience are futile. Then with a positive attitude, learning from the experience, you go on to the next challenge with a greater probability of success.

Pessimism

Struggling with a puzzle, my friend said “I just can’t do this. I’m quitting these puzzles.” Some hours later, she solved it.

Impatience had driven pessimism – “a tendency to see the worst aspect of things or believe that the worst will happen; a lack of hope or confidence in the future” according to  Oxford Languages.

Maybe the experience triggered deep seated self-doubt or maybe past experiences programmed a sense of failure when obstacles were encountered. Pessimism was overcome by patient persistence. Something kept my friend working at it. Possibly, it was the need to overcome the feelings that drove her pessimism.

Pessimism makes persistence more difficult.  Negative thinking sets up self-fulfilling prophesy – “I can’t do it so I won’t do it. … See, it’s not done. I told you I couldn’t do it.”  Pessimism in organizations saps motivation and leads to poor performance.

But remember the difference between realistic assessment and pessimism. Thinking that the worst can happen can be quite useful.

It is the part of risk management when we try to predict the conditions that will get in the way of achieving our objectives. Edward de Bono in his Six Hats Thinking method includes a Black Hat. In this part of the process planners and decision makers purposefully set their minds to identify risks, difficulties and problems with the intent to either overcome them or decide that the likelihood of occurrence and impact are strong enough to cause decision makers to abandon their plan.

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Honest assessment

In project work we often find that assessments are influenced by bias. Thoughts like “Never give up” or “Good vibes only” seem helpful but can reinforce the ‘Sunk Cost Fallacy‘ — the bias that leads people to carry on with efforts that will never pay-off. This bias fuels toxic persistence based on thinking that since so much has already been spent we must push on.

Fear comes into the picture as well. Project managers may feel that admitting failure can mean career set back. As a result, they may play down risks and over optimistically misstate the probability of success. Others may fear being labeled as a pessimist or trouble maker if they bring up problems and difficulties.

Making an honest assessment requires managing the decision-making process so that decision makers take multiple perspectives. They look at the facts, take positive and “pessimistic” views, use intuition, and creativity. When any one of these views are over or under used, decision quality will suffer.

Know When to Give Up and When to Keep on Keeping on

Often, the decision to pull the plug on a project is a subjective one. But with objective criteria, the facts, creative thinking, and effective risk management, consensus can be attained.

When you apply objectivity, you realistically recognize when patient persistence is futile. Then, with a positive attitude, learning from the experience, you go on to the next challenge. You don’t “through good money after bad.”

Know when to give up. Remember that failure is OK, particularly if you learn from it. Letting go and admitting failure frees you up to greater success.

Being able to objectively recognize the subtle signs of toxic positivity and stubborn clinging to lost causes is a success factor. At the same time, knowing when to keep going is one too. What if Thomas Edison gave up after 999 attempts at inventing the light bulb? It took 1,000.

Intuition

As with so many important issues, there is no clear, by the numbers, formulaic way of knowing when to give up or when to keep on keeping on.

Intuition comes into play as the inner sense of knowing that success is just around the corner overcomes negative thinking and the insistence of others that there is no sense in continuing. Intuition also can tell us that it is time to give up.

With mindful self-awareness you can become comfortable with paradox and with the difference between the felt sense of being driven by self-confidence and the sense of being irrationally stubborn. Add to that the power of candid and collaborative assessment and you will make the right decision.

Making the Right Decision

When ending a project before its objectives have been met, the right decision is the one that “seems” to be in the best interest of the organization.

The decision point may be at a preplanned checkpoint or at a time when senior stakeholders get so fed up with budget overruns or delays that they take up the question of cancelling the project.

At that point the need is to step back and decide based on the perceived value of the outcome, the realistic probability of success, and the expected cost and schedule to completion. It is as if you were starting the project from that point. Do not fall into the sunk coast bias, make an honest assessment, and avoid fear and blame.

Perhaps it goes without saying that once a decision to abort a project is made, be sure to hold an effective performance review to learn from the experience. Remember that failure is OK if you learn from it and avoid repeating it in the future.

Managing a Project with a Volunteer Team

PM Articles by Project Times. 

You’re a project manager, right? So, when you’re at home, you take the project management hat off, right? Wrong! You apply similar principles that you use in your organization to getting projects done at home. Case in point: I recently reorganized/refurbished my home office. I had a small idea of what this project would entail, but, as with any project, there were uncertainties and risks. One of the uncertainties was dealing with a volunteer team that helped to clear out the old furnishings and streamline what was kept as well as a volunteer decor team. No, it’s not as complex as some of the projects that we manage in IT, but it was still important to apply some of the key tools and techniques of project management to this home project.

Stakeholders: The primary stakeholder of this project was me, the homeowner. My main concern for the project was that the available resources were utilized efficiently and that the final product would provide maximum utilitarian use. The ancillary stakeholders would be those who participated in the project, where their reputations became the currency.

Communication: The exchange of information that primarily occurred on this project was internal communication — that is between me, as the project manager, and the volunteer team members who were part of the project. The method of communication occurred mostly via text messages and phone calls. Those messages were conveyed on a semiweekly basis with the participants that were necessary for the next particular phase of the project.

Schedule, Cost, Quality: This was a 4-month project utilizing the following duration timeline:

The cost (budget) for the project was $2000, which mainly included purchasing the furnishings, paintings, and lighting. A small percentage of the budget was allocated for appreciation gifts, beverages and refreshments.

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Quality for the project meant understanding how the project would meet the needs for which it was created. The project was created to refurbish and revitalize my home office so that it was a calm and effective workspace. This was accomplished by determining my requirements for the end product and acquiring the best services and products at a reasonable cost that met my standards. Items purchased should be durable and match the new color scheme for the office. Quality also entails trusting that everyone on the project team understands what is expected of him or her as well as their willingness to meet those expectations. This aspect of quality was communicated to each project participant prior to their commitment to work on the project. I served as the final authority to make the necessary decisions when corrective actions were warranted.

Scope: The scope of the project included removing 90% of the old decor in the office, removing clutter and unused items such as old paperwork, files, books, etc., items that no longer brought me joy, organizing and storing the remaining books, purchasing new furnishings, and creating an open floor plan. The scope did not include removing any walls or doors, painting the walls or replacing the flooring.

Multi-generational Team Management and Coordination: The project team was strictly voluntary team consisting of the decoration lead, clearing lead, cleanup crew (3), organizing/decor team (3). The team members had varying levels of experience; this helped in many ways to streamline the process and also, for those team members with minimal experience, to slow down the process as well. The availability of this volunteer team was an issue since several had other projects going on and were unavailable during parts of the project. The team members were present and working for a minimum of 6 hours on the days they were scheduled; breaks and refreshments were served. Team members generally worked every other weekend with one team member on site either on a Saturday or a Sunday; during the clearing and cleaning phase, a couple of team members were present for one Saturday. Working with Gen Xers and Millennials was an interesting experience as far as the levels of commitment and the differences in communication styles. While most participants understood the vision that I had for the final product, Gen Xers stayed on task with getting the work done whereas Millennials tended to need more guidance on the task at hand in order to complete the work

Success/Customer Satisfaction: Overall, the project was a success. The main criteria that were used to determine whether the project was a success or not comprised: (1) staying on budget; (2) the overall aesthetics and energy of the office; (3) ease of use for accessing various items in the office; (4) furnishings that conveyed calm/openness and provided ample storage; (5) sufficient natural light; and (6) the incorporation of greenery. Using various light sources including the natural light that streams through the patio window as well as multiple artificial light sources was an important element as for as creating a diverse ambience for completing various tasks/work. Everyone was thanked for their work and participation on the project; the team leads were provided with appreciation gifts.

Lessons Learned: The lessons learned on this project are things to keep in mind for any future home projects. These particular lessons were:

  • Ensure the availability of resources that are scheduled to complete tasks by certain days (and making sure that all affected parties are aware of that availability).
  • Have more oversight over the demolition crew (who ended up throwing away a couple of binders that were important).
  • Make sure that the communication channels are clear and that updates are provided in a timely manner to all concerned (there were a couple of times when I expected the team member to be present and their absence was communicated to someone else on the team but not to me).

Kim Fields

Kim Fields, Ed. D., CHEP, CBAP, PMP is an experienced Project Manager with over 25 years of IT experience in several industries, including automotive, business services, and healthcare. She has presented at conferences on requirements gathering and testing validation, and has taught IT courses and project management courses as an adjunct professor for over 15 years. She is also a coach and educational researcher. Contact her at www.kimjfields.com for further information.