Project management advice, tips, tools and recommend resources for existing and aspiring project managers.
By Michael O’Brochta
When are you a project manager? A simple question; yet it’s being asked and answered by an increasingly large number of people. Indeed, project management was ranked in 2009 by U.S. News and World Report as the third-most valued skill by employers, behind only leadership/negotiation skills and business analysis.
More than 600,000 people from 184 countries are members and/or credential holders in the world’s largest project management professional association, the Project Management Institute. It is a question being asked increasingly by individuals striving to adopt the practices in the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) and the International Project Management Association (IPMA) certification.
So, how do you know when you are a project manager?
The questions about being a project manager speak to core qualities associated with project management and project managers. These core qualities are far more significant than certification, or title, or position, or job classification. Indeed, it’s these core qualities that distinguish the great project managers from the remainder of the pack.
A survey of over 5,000 project managers and stakeholders conducted by Andy Crow and documented in his book ‘Alpha Project Managers: What the Top 2% Know that Everyone Else Does Not’ has provided an extraordinary insight into what the top project managers know and do that everyone else does not.
This study focused on identifying the best project managers (referred to as “Alpha project managers”) and then on determining what they did that made them the best. Opinions about these project managers were obtained from their team members, their customers, and their management. The results were quite pronounced. Although both the Alphas and Non-Alphas had similar beliefs, both believed in the value of planning and communication; the Alphas actually dedicated double the amount of time to do planning and double the time for communication. Alphas also acted as if they had authority, even when it was not officially bestowed on them.
Other characteristics have been identified for “real” project managers as well. Jeff Pinto in his research-based book titled: ‘Successful Project Managers: Leading Your Team to Success’ distinguishes between incidental project managers who hope to return to their technical fields and career project managers who which to remain in project management as a career. He reports that the career project manager will more likely have, or seek, a formal project management education, and have, or seek, experience in management and organizational skills. Attitude seems to be a distinguishing characteristic as well. Both Crow and Pinto found that career project managers actually enjoy their work more than their counterparts and that they make decisions to increase their opportunities to advance as project managers. They think and act as goal oriented, not only for the project tasks, but for their careers as well.
Knowing what to do is not the same as doing it. All project managers know about the value of planning, yet according to the Alpha study, only 2% do enough of it. Why? I think the answer has something to do with discipline and willpower.
It is interesting to note that recently published research by Kelly McGonigal in her book titled: ‘The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It’ supports the view that discipline and willpower can be learned and strengthened, much the same way a muscle can. This is great news for project managers who believe, as I do, that “project management is about applying common sense with uncommon discipline.”
For more about the essence of being a project manager, please read a fully referenced 6-page paper at: http://www.zozerinc.com/Zozer/Information.html
About the author:
Michael O’Brochta, ACP, PMP has managed hundreds of projects during the past thirty years. Also an experienced line manager, author, lecturer, trainer and consultant and he holds a master’s degree in project management. As Zozer Inc. President, he is helping organizations raise their level of project management performance. As senior project manager at the Central Intelligence Agency, he led the project management and systems engineering training and certification program to mature practices agency-wide. Recently he led the development of standards and courses for the new U.S. Federal Acquisition Certification for Program and Project Managers. He also serves at the PMI corporate level on the Ethics Member Advisory Group where he led the development of an ethical decision-making framework.
By Rene Williams
If you are a non-traditional student, which is someone who has returned to college over the age of 25, it can be difficult trying to organize your life. Attending college/university for an education in project management means you will have a variety of career options to choose from, but it is important that you find a way to do an internship before graduation. Whether you complete paid or non-paid internships, the position will not only provide you with valuable experience, but an internship will help you decide if this is the career for you.
If you are considering a career in project management, the following tips will help you find an internship, what to do during and after the internship.
The first step is to decide what type of internship you are interested in.
If your goal is to turn your internship into a position with the company, here are a few things you can do to improve your chances. The first rule for turning an internship into a full time job is to be remembered for your professionalism and impressive work skills.
Once your internship has ended, send an email to each person in the department in which you worked thanking them for the experience. It is also beneficial to alert the team you have been working with on when your last day will be and offer to help tie up any loose ends with projects they have before leaving. Regardless of how you felt about your boss during the internship, it is vital that you personally thank them for the opportunity. Schedule an appointment to meet with your supervisor and not only thank them, but to let them know what you have learned and how valuable it will be for your career. Remember to mention that you would like to keep in touch.
Absorb any information presented to you throughout the internship and learn from it. Interning is a great opportunity to make sure you have chosen the right field or not. If during the internship you learn that a particular company is not the type of work you want to do, try a different company next year, but do not give up on your goal of being a project manager, just keep trying and you will eventually find the best company for you.
About the Author: Rene Williams is a freelance writer who regularly contributes to DegreeJungle, an online resource for prospective college students and their parents. She suggests you visit their website to learn more information about the best online colleges.
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When a project manager starts a new project, it is important to do a check-point of both the Project Management Methodology and templates that will be used, but also the soft skills that will be required. This article highlights some essential soft skills to ensure that a Project Management Professional can effectively manage, collaborate, and influence as needed to drive a project to successful completion.
According to Joanna Durand, Managing Director of the Citigroup, effective leadership consists of a balance between both “hard skills” and “soft skills” that act as the conduits for success.
Soft skills, also called behavioral skills, is a sociological term relating to the cluster of personality traits and behavioral competencies that characterize relationships with other people. Soft skills complement hard skills, also called technical skills, which are the occupational requirements of a job and many other activities.
Soft skills are essentially people skills – the non-technical, intangible, personality-specific skills that determine your strengths as a leader, listener, negotiator, and conflict mediator.
Hard skills, on the other hand, are more along the lines of what might appear on your resume – your education, experience and level of expertise.
Effective communication serves as the foundation by which all other soft skills are derived. Mastery of communication skills will ensure broader success with rounding out your soft skills.
Communication skills include Oral, written and non-verbal communication.
For communication to be effective remember the five “C’s”:
Project success is often determined by the ability to successfully manage stakeholder expectations. These interactions all begin with the basic communication process and an understanding of stakeholder objectives.
Some recommended best practices to communicate effectively with project stakeholders are:
It is important to understand how the basic communication process works and to appreciate the communication styles of different personality types. To grow as a project manager you need to consistently try to close the gap between “hard” and “soft” skills.
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For a better understanding of PRINCE2 in the Project Management context, please refer to this article:
For more information about PRINCE2 and how to implement it in your organisation, please refer to:
Today I would like to share an Infograpic from Knowledge Train, a PRINCE2 training provider. It is about the popularity of PRINCE2 as the preferred project management qualification of choice.
The most recent annual figures released by APMG-International for 2012, show the number of PRINCE2 examinations taken globally rose 5% compared with 2011. The figures show more than 144,000 people sat PRINCE2 examinations in 2012 compared with 136,000 the previous year. By the end of 2012, more than 1 million candidates had taken PRINCE2 exams since 1996.
PRINCE2 exam popularity statistics – An infographic by the team at Knowledge Train PRINCE2 training
All project managers use the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) Guide to prepare for the certification exams in order to become a Project Management Professional (PMP). This book presents a set of standard terminology and guidelines for project management.
It was first published by the Project Management Institute (PMI) as a white paper in 1983 in an attempt to document and standardize generally accepted project management information and practices. The first edition was published in 1996.
The PMBOK Guide is process-based, meaning it describes work as being accomplished by processes. This approach is consistent with other management standards such as ISO 9000 and the Software Engineering Institute‘s CMMI. At the beginning of 2013 the Fifth Edition was published as the latest release.
This article will give a summary of the changes made in the latest edition. At the end you will also find a link to a video from IIL explaining what to expect in the newest edition.
As an overview the following changes were made:
The biggest change is to split Project Communications Management into two parts, namely Project Communication Management and Project Stakeholder Management.
There is an increased discussion of Project Management Offices or PMO’s, as well as project life cycles and phases. The Chapter 3 Project Management Processes has been moved to Annexure A1.
For a complete overview of all the changes made to the PMBOK, please view the following video:
Many project managers prefer to use Agile project management for software development projects or on projects that are too complex for the customer to understand and specify before testing prototypes. This article will explore Agile Project Management to understand what it is, how to receive training and how to become certified.
According to Mark C. Layton in Agile Project Management for Dummies, Agile focuses on continuous improvement, scope flexibility, team input, and delivering essential quality products. Agile project management methodologies include scrum, extreme programming (XP), and lean.
According to Wikipedia:
Agile is an iterative method of determining requirements for engineering and information technology development projects in a highly flexible and interactive manner. During Agile development deliverables are submitted in stages. One difference between agile and iterative development is that the delivery time in agile is in weeks rather than months.
The 12 Agile Principles are a set of guiding concepts that support project teams in implementing agile projects. Please have a look at the Agile Project Management Cheat Sheet for the details of the 12 Agile principles.
A typical Agile project will consist of 7 stages:
An Agile project also consists of specific roles, namely:
There are several representative organisations for Agile practitioners. Agile Alliance, the original global agile community, with a mission to help advance agile principles and practices.
Scrum Alliance is a nonprofit professional membership organization that promotes understanding and usage of scrum. The following professional certifications are offered by them:
The Project Management Institute (PMI) is the largest nonprofit project management membership association in the world. The agile section of PMI’s website provides access to papers, books, and seminars about agile project management. PMI supports an agile community of practice and a certification, the PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP).
For project managers who want to become PMI-ACP certified, there is a good product from Cornelius Fichtner, the President of OSP International. It is called the Agile PrepCast.
The Agile PrepCast™ is a Video Workshop that you download to your smart phone, table or laptop and watch whenever and wherever you want. It’s a podcast/videocast with in-depth video lessons for your PMI-ACP exam prep.
After completing The Agile PrepCast™ and passing the Final Exam you will be able to print a 21 Contact Hours Certificate and use it to apply for your PMI-ACP® exam. OSP International is a PMI® Registered Education Provider. If you order the Agile PrepCast in the next 3 weeks, a discount is offered. Just use the Gift Certificate “agile” when you place your order.
The demand for skilled project managers is at an all-time high as organisations continue to focus on higher productivity and greater customer satisfaction with minimum resources. Project management is a booming profession that is only going to get bigger in the years ahead.
Click here if you are considering project management as a career and you want more information.
Once you decide that you want to become a professional project manager, or you’re already doing the work and you want to formalise your credentials in order to be acknowledged as a project manager, you have a few choices. You can pursue a degree or diploma in project management, offered at multiple universities and institutions, and/or you can become certified by becoming a Project Management Professional (PMP), a title awarded by the Project Management Institute (PMI).
In order to obtain the certification, you need to complete a log book as evidence of your experience and you need to pass an exam. To study for an exam while working full-time can be a challenge.
Here are three excellent resources from Cornelius Fichtner to help you prepare and pass the PMP exam the first time (there are people who have to sit more than once before they pass).
The PM StudyCoach™ is a 10-week long self-study coaching course in which you will receive and learn what it is exactly that you have to study week after week.
The benefits of this course are that it helps you to stay focused, to apply best practices, to make studying a routine. It also keeps up your study morale and it guides you to a proven plan. The coaching sessions are in MP3 format and it provides activity checklists.
Now that people can surf the net with the use of their phones, laptops, androids and other gadgets that fit their lifestyle, you no longer require thick sets of paper for flashcards. With eFlashCards™ you can do reviews while in the elevator, during your break time, or waiting for the bus. They run on your iPod®, BlackBerry® and most other smartphones.
The benefits of the FlashCards are that they make repetitive learning fun and fast. More of your senses are engaged in the learning process. You can study anytime and anywhere .The digital flashcards can be downloaded for your iPod, Blackberry, Windows mobile device or smartphone and they include all the chapters of the PMBOK® Guide 4th Edition.
This offers you the opportunity to take 9 computer-based sample PMP® Exams before heading out for the real thing.
The benefits are that you practice under test conditions, learn to manage your exam time effectively, to gain confidence and most importantly that you are ready to take the exam. With 1800 realistic PMP exam questions and detailed explanations for all answers, you can make certain that you pass the exam!
If you have more questions about following a career in project management, you are welcome to email me at:
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Recently I attended a Virtual Conference hosted by the International Institute of Learning (IIL). A presentation by James C. Brown about how a PMO can make a difference was very insightful. Today I want to share some of what I have learned from him about Project Offices and the value that they bring.
Often there are many perceptions about Project Management Offices (PMO’s) in organisations. They are considered to be ‘Report Generators’, ‘Process Creators’, ‘Infastructure builders – building and maintaining costing, time-keeping and scheduling tools etc’, ‘Dashboard/Scorecard experts’, ‘Organisational home of Project/Program managers’, ‘process police’ and so on.
In reality a PMO is and should be much more than any of the above. Let’s take a closer look at what the goal of the PMO should be.
According to James Brown and the research that he has done, the goal of a PMO is the following:
“The right information at the right time in the right hands.”
For a PMO the commodity is information. How a PMO manages and communicates that information to others so that they know where it is, have it at the right time, and it’s pertinent to them to use it, interact with it, and make decisions with it, is the key to success.
When you want your PMO to deliver real value, you need to make Portfolio Management your goal. This would include:
And how all of the above relate to one another.
James Brown states that for a PMO to be successful, the PMO needs to make life easier for the stakeholders by providing data that they need for decision making and making visible what projects have done for the organisation at any given time.
Traditionally there are 3 types of PMO’s:
The ultimate vision, according to Brown, is to be a bit of all these types, but being flexible depending on the needs of the organisation. For a PMO to survive it should become agile, which means it must learn to adapt and overcome challenges.
Some critical success factors for successful PMO’s are:
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Please share in the comments section if your organisation has a PMO and what your perception is of the value that your PMO delivers.
Where aspiring and existing project managers find Project Management Resources relating to training, software, products and services.
For practical advice on project management processes, templates and tools based on best practices to deliver your business and IT projects on time, to budget and with quality as well as satisfying your stakeholders!
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