April 20, 2014

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Project management advice, tips, tools and recommended resources for existing and aspiring project managers.

Project Management and Soft Skills

project manager soft skillsWhen 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.

Hard Skills versus Soft Skills

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.

Essential Soft Skills

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.

  • Oral: presentation, audience awareness, listening, body language
  • Written: presentation of data, critical reading, revision and editing, writing
  • Non-verbal: personal style, tone, body language and audience awareness

For communication to be effective remember the five “C’s”:

  1. Clarity
  2. Completeness
  3. Conciseness
  4. Concreteness
  5. Correctness

Stakeholder Management

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:

  • To know your audience and to customize your message according to their needs
  • To have a professional presence
  • To summarise the top 3-5 key messages
  • To acknowledge personal communication styles

 How can a Project Manager’s soft skills be developed?

  • Set clear expectations – the team needs to be aligned as to what is being delivered. This will help with accountability and to manage changes to the scope.
  • Stage your delivery by creating interim deliverables.
  • Think ahead of what can go wrong. Anticipate problems (risks) and work with the client to find mitigation strategies.
  • Speak up and escalate when help is needed. This is a sign of confidence.
  • Skip the jargon and speak to clients in the same language they use.
  • Leverage the strengths of the team. Take time to know the team and their strengths as your project will run more effectively if the right people are working on the right things.
  • Don’t steal the limelight when things are going well and give credit to other people’s ideas.
  • Be realistic when setting deadlines. Promise what you know you can do and finish on time.

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.

For more articles about Project Management based on best practices, please subscribe to the Blog feed.

Project Management Standards Update for 2013

PMBOK

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.

Overview of changes in new editionIt 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.

 

Summary of Changes

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:

  • One new knowledge area (Project Stakeholder Management)
  • Seven new processes
  • Two moved processes (Distribute information, Report performance)
  • Nine process name changes
  • Eleven new process definitions
  • Many changes to the Glossary definitions
  • Chapters are now called sections

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:

A PMBOK Guide – Fifth Edition Overview

The Lighter Side of Project Management

Today I want to share a few proverbs on the lighter side of Project Management. Most project managers will enjoy the humour!

 
project management proverbs

Can Social Media Drive Project Success?

Can social media drive project success? Social media has become an integral part of our daily lives in South Africa. Recent studies have revealed that South African consumers have a very high motivation (70 percent versus, for example, 40 percent in the UK) to follow brands on social networks.  We use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and other social networking services to converse with friends and colleagues and to share photos, videos, and important moments in our lives.

Worldwide, Facebook enjoys 80 million unique visitors per month, YouTube 800 million and Twitter 160 million, according to DoubleClick Ad Planner.  In South Africa, users spend on average seven hours a week on social networking sites, with MXit and Facebook being the most popular sites.

Against the back-drop of these statistics Project Managers need to seriously consider the integration of social media with their project management tools. Let’s look at ways to do that and to evaluate if the use of social media tools can drive project success. Some aspects of security and confidentiality will also be covered.

In a previous article: “10 Ways to Integrate Social Media with Project Management” we referred to a number of different social media tools available to project managers which can be used for project delivery. Many social media tools are more widely adopted by project managers than we think.

Social Media adoption

Many social media tools like collaboration tools, instant messaging, podcasts, webinars and social networks are already used widely for project delivery.

Podcasts and webinars are especially used for further training of professional project managers, PMP’s, who gain professional development units (PDU’s) for attending. Project management training companies, like Roeder Consulting, hosts a webinar every month presenting project management topics, as well as inviting host speakers, with the audience being able to claim a PDU per session.  Attendees are also invited to become members of their LinkedIn group. This has grown them a large following and keeps them front of mind for training needs.

Social media tools which may be considered more during project delivery are blogs (project information distribution to virtual teams), Wiki’s and RSS, to subscribe to feeds relevant to your project or to information that will help develop project managers who are reporting into a Project Support Office (PMO).

Security and Confidentiality

By nature social media implies collaboration, mutual trust, and a strong sense of common purpose. With social media your company and project needs a policy the same way as you need a policy for the use of email or the internet. Ensure that employees and team members know about the policy and follow an education program to ensure compliance with regulatory and legal guidelines.

Security concerns around the open flow of communication using social media tools can be addressed by using access controls to manage the flow of data. Give usernames and passwords to only those people who need to log in. Access control administration can be delegated to a PMO or a project support officer. Have a process for requesting access to the tool. For third parties requests, access may be limited by assigning permissions to certain “views” only. Some social media tools have an audit trail facility with which you can track changes.

Include social media tools in the company backup processes and business continuity plans. Another consideration around authorized software is to allow only social media tools that are supported by your IT department in order to not make you vulnerable to viruses and other security threats.

With proper consideration, project managers and their teams could adopt appropriate social media tools and by following the proper channels to put approved social media tools in place, this will enhance successful project delivery.

BIO: Linky vd Merwe is a certified project management professional (PMP) and Founder of Virtual Project Consulting.  She has been a senior project manager at Microsoft Consulting Services South Africa for the past 4.5 years.  She likes to blog about project management and integrated online communication marketing. Her mission is to provide project management best practices advice and to recommend resources to aspiring and existing project managers.

Guide to Becoming a Project Management Professional (PMP)

Are you a project manager who plans to write the PMP exam in order to become a certified Project Management Professional, also called a PMP?

Today I want to recommend a really useful resource that would pave the way for you to prepare  and pass the PMP exam easily.  It is called: “Short Guide to Becoming a PMP“, by Cornelius Fichtner. If you want to take the PMP exam, but don’t know where to start, then this Guide is for you.

The first Guide will give you a high-level overview of the 8 steps involved with becoming a PMP.

The next Guide is about the 10 Secrets to make it easier to obtain your Project Management Professional (PMP) credential.

Short Guide to Becoming a PMP

Short Guide to becoming a PMP

10 Secrets to becoming a PMP

10 Secrets to becoming a PMP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Download your Guides today and start reaching for that planned goal of becoming a certified PMP!

For existing PMP’s there is also a step for you about Getting Re-certified, explaining what you need to do to earn your PDU’s as part of your continuing education requirements.

5 Reasons To Become a Certified Project Manager

You may be an aspiring or existing project manager. If you are new to this profession you are perhaps considering certification to become a professional project manager. If you are an existing Project Management Professional (PMP), you may be in doubt about your on-going training requirements. This article should give you clarity about the purpose and motivation for becoming a certified project manager and the benefits for staying certified. In this context certification refers to the Project Management Institute’s (PMI) Project Management Professional (PMP) certification.
Project Management Professional

To be Certified or not

Project management certifications matter. Especially given the current unpredictable market in which companies must operate and succeed.  Project management certification makes for better project managers and reduces risk of project failure in an organisation.

After the first best practice project management standard was founded, it became apparent that following best practice and hiring certified project managers are crucial to successful project management and, hence, business success.

5 Reasons to become a Certified Project Mangager

1.       Research is showing that today’s marketplace is demanding an increase in project management certification. Holding a certification and having the letters PMP, CAPM, PgMP, PMI-RMP or PMI-SP behind your name gives candidates access to greater job prospects and thereby places them in a higher salary bracket.

2.       Project management, however, still remains a business skill that is acquired through experience combined with an internationally recognised project management certification, such as Project Management Professional (PMP) from the Project Management Institute. (PMI). The PMI certification currently has the largest footprint and is represented in 238 countries.

3.       The Standish Group International, publisher of the CHAOS Report says that two-thirds of CIOs surveyed regard a PMI certification as valuable and the number of CIOs who require their project managers to be certified grew from 21% in 2005 to 31% by 2009.

4.       Certifications such as the PMP and Prince 2 help unify teams as each member speaks the same language and uses identical processes when executing projects.  This contributes to greater project performance.

5.       Project management certification is also important from a governance perspective as certified members sign a code of professional conduct.  This automatically provides the employer with confidence that the certified professional acts with integrity and executes tasks with soundness of judgment. This minimises risk within an organisation and enhances the chance of project success.

What comes after certification?

Project management certification is an on-going process and every three years certified professionals must recertify and maintain their professional status through on-going development and enhancing the project management profession by attending conferences, writing- and presenting papers, as well as transferring their skills. This on-going learning means that certified project managers stay informed about latest project, programme and portfolio management best practices earning professional development units (PDUs).

Project management professionals stay up-to-date, through the use of the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide), which assists project managers globally to apply certain standards in project management in order to meet business goals and business intent.

PMBOK

The PMBOK Guide presents a set of standard terminology, guidelines and tools and techniques for project management. It is non-industry specific and provides project managers with a basis from which to work and can be tweaked to suit each project manager’s project. Now in its fourth edition, it was first published by the PMI in 1987 as a white paper to document and standardise generally accepted project management information and practices.

Conclusion

It is important to remember that although a certified professional has dedicated thousands of hours and numerous years to pass the exam, exceptional project managers are those who combine that knowledge with passion and strong leadership abilities. The real test for being an excellent project manager, is in the constant application and enhancement of this knowledge.

Resources to consider for aspiring and existing project managers:
Want to do the PMP exam and become certified, I recommend the PM Prepcast:

For an existing PMP who need PDU’s, I recommend the PDU Podcast, an affordable and convenient subscription to earn PDU’s in your own time: