January 19, 2018

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

10 Tips for Validating your Project Schedule

By Linky van der Merwe

Whether you’re a new or an existing Project Manager, it’s always a good idea to validate your project schedule. This is especially useful if you use a scheduling tool like MS Project, or similar to plan your projects and then to execute against the plan.

Watch the short video below to help you to validate that the project schedule contains all the necessary Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) elements to complete a project successfully.

Click here to download your own validation template that supports the schedule validation steps.

Top 10 Qualities of a Great Project Manager

When taking stock of 2017 and setting your goals for 2018, it’s a good opportunity to remind yourself of the top 10 qualities that will help to make you a great project manager, according to Brandeis University.

In the Infographic below, you will also find tips from experienced project managers. For more articles on project management skills and best practices, click here.

What makes a great project manager?

Brandeis University M.S. in Project and Program Management Online

A Guide to Understanding RACI for Project Management

By Jane Sandwood

RACI ModelEnsuring the success of a project is vital for all project managers and their teams. The project manager is held accountable for the overall project but requires a team to complete the work.

No matter how detailed the project plan may be, even the slightest confusion about the roles and responsibilities of team members will cause major problems. Whether it is a 4-person, 10-person or an international team with virtual team members, they need to understand their roles and responsibilities on the project.

The best way to define each member’s role is to use a RACI matrix model also known as a Responsibility Assignment Matrix. This model is an essential project management tool that provides the project manager and team members with key information that clarifies the roles of the group.

What is the RACI Model?

RACI stands for:

  • Responsible,
  • Accountable,
  • Consulted,
  • Informed

The RACI Model helps you to identify who is responsible, accountable, consulted, or informed, for every task which needs to be done on a project.

RACI will structure and organize the roles of each team member or group within the project. Therefore, understanding how to use a RACI matrix model will be helpful in a project manager’s toolbox.

How to use RACI

You can apply the RACI model to your project by listing every task, strategy, key decision, and milestone. Here’s a break-down of what each component of the RACI model means:

  • Responsibility – Assigned to members who will be doing the work.
  • Accountability – Given to the person who needs to ensure that the task is done in a satisfactory manner. Typically, this person will sign-off on the task once completed. There should only be one accountable person per task.
  • Consult – For members who provide input before the task is complete. These people are highly active in the project.
  • Informed – This is for people who need to be informed about the status of a task, progress, and decisions. However, they do not need to be consulted directly or contribute to the task.

RACI Matrix

Good Practices with RACI

To follow the RACI model, project managers must identify the functions within the department and describe the key milestones needed to be completed to deliver the full scope of the project.

To be most productive keep activities and decisions short and specific.  This will apply to a need or role, rather than the person carrying out the task.

When you create the model, follow the matrix by creating structure roles down the left side in separate tables and enter the RACI codes accordingly.

When the RACI model is complete, review it with team members to give them the chance to resolve any conflicts or confusion. The model will settle any questions and document the responsibilities of an entire team. The best way to do this is to balance the roles and keep each task simple, yet meaningful.

Social Media for a Future Fit Project Management Practice

In November I presented at the Project Management South Africa Regional Conference in Cape Town on the topic of strategic integration of social media into the project management practice.

It covers the social media landscape in order to give you a better understanding as a project professional.
You will learn about different social media functionality as well as use cases for the use of social media on projects.
You’ll get insights into the benefits of using social media on projects as well as the barriers you can expect and how to overcome them.
In addition a study is shared about the Smartphone apps for projects and what should be considered when selecting an app for your organisation.

Most information is sourced from the book published by Prof Gilbert Silvius:

Strategic Integration of Social Media into the Project Management Practice Click to find out more.

 

 

Virtual Project Teams – How to Establish Trust

By Howard B. Esbin

Successful virtual project management depends on superior teamwork. Positive interpersonal relations are a must. This is an essential precondition for trust to develop. Trust joins people together virtually by bridging time, geography, and culture. However, according to a large, growing body of research, establishing trust on a virtual project team is highly challenging. There’s little time or incentive for acclimatizing. There’s also almost immediate pressure to produce results. During the storming phase, unresolved interpersonal challenges cause significant disruption. Deadlines are missed and budgets run over. Without trust, too often team members disband remaining “virtual strangers”.

Virtual teams need special leadership … trust is essential … teambuilding exercises pay off, and …  unless a combination of high-tech and high-touch is maintained, performance peaks are often followed by declines in the productivity.”  (Creativity in Virtual Work: Effects of Demographic Differences: L.L. Martins, C.E. Shalley, 2009)

Problematically, 80% of distributed or virtual teams receive little or no training. Research shows a direct link between the “soft” qualities of a team, it’s “team-ness”, and the quality of software produced. Only 39% of software projects are completed successfully. 43% result in late delivery, cost overruns, and/or reduced features and functions. 18% fail. In one global survey, 75% of developers believed their own projects would fail.

Case Study of a Virtual Software Development Team

Here’s the story of how one distributed Agile software development team proactively addressed the classic challenge of establishing trust at the start of their project during the forming stage.

The Prelude SuiteTeam Profile

The software development team, consisting of 9 team members, is cross-functional and cross-cultural in composition. The team lead, Dr. Faisal Nasser Shehab, is an Enterprise Architect and Associate Professor as well author of Emergent Leader Detection and Identification in A Virtual Team Environment: A Grounded Theory Study  The team is building a “Virtual Team Business Management System” based on Dr. Shehab’s research. Their mission is to provide organizations with “the knowledge, the framework, and services required to implement a robust and a mature virtual team management capability”.

Context

Last Spring, Dr. Shehab learned about a resource called the Prelude Suite that supposedly helps accelerate virtual team trust during formation. Aware of how disruptive and costly interpersonal challenges can be on distributed teams, he wanted his new team to start on the best possible note. After seeing the online demo and meeting the prospective resource facilitator, Dr. Shehab scheduled the Prelude Suite™ for the team.

Process

The team met together online for three sessions of about 90 minutes each. This process was guided by a trained facilitator. With each step, the team moved from a “me” to a “we” orientation. Throughout they used Self-Assessment, Self-Expression, Co-Creation, and Dialogue.

Each step features a set of exercises, team-based and synchronous as well as individual and asynchronous. Everyone meets together virtually in a private online platform called a Sandbox using rich media (Video, VOIP, Chat, Interactive Whiteboard). The following outline the team’s step by step experience.

Session 1: Tune Up

Exercise: iStar Self-Assessment™

Prior to their first session, teammates completed an online self-assessment called iStar™. Their resulting iStar Badges are automatically uploaded to the Team Constellation page. During this session, everyone produced their individual iStar Story™. This is brief, holistic positive thumbnail quickly written and easily shared round robin. This is a rapid yet meaningful way to build new awareness and understanding of team diversity and shared strengths.

They also reviewed their unique Elemental Table. This reflects the team’s overall make-up in terms of a range of soft skills. Teams are able to quickly, easily understand where change may be needed. Teamnates also receive an individual digital StarSmart Journal™, which allows for ongoing personal and professional reflection, goal setting, and measuring progress.

Exercise: Team Elemental Table™

Session 2: Practice

In their second online session, teammates practiced key soft skills together synchronously through a co-creation challenge using an online interactive whiteboard. First, they each create a personal iTag™ to symbolize their unique quintessential qualities and strengths. Everyone then shares their tags with each other. In the second exercise the team as a whole is then given a challenge to co-create a powerful digital symbol of their team spirit and excellence called a weTag.

Exercise 1: iTag™

Exercise 2: weTag™

Session 3: Bridge

In their third and final session, teammates went through two exercises. The Team Alignment Plan™ enabled them to quickly, easily bridge their shared soft skill inventory with project work goals, tasks, and deliverables. This is final check for the team to assess if they have what they need to move back into operating mode. Their final team exercise produced a robust Team Charter reflecting the insights gained and lessons learned about themselves as a team.

Team Alignment

Exercise 1: Team Alignment Plan (T.A.P.)

Team Member Feedback

“As a team leader, the Prelude Suite™ provided me with valuable insights into our team’s diverse strengths. This helped us to properly align team members with the tasks at hand. It also helped us to clarify our focus while affirming we’re on the right track. It was wonderful seeing how everyone came together online as a team. The weTag we co-created was a dynamic, truly creative way to spark team spirit and identity.  I really enjoyed the simplicity of the interface and the process.” Dr. Faisal Shehab 

“The Prelude Suite™ is the most unique team facilitation approach that I have encountered as a student and co-worker through my life time experience. This resource provides the most important thing for successful team formation – transparency. Moreover, it shows your own weaknesses as well as areas of strength. I highly suggest the Prelude Suite to any team that wants go through a proper facilitation and build transparent relationships in fast and smooth manner.” Georgy, Khetsuriani

“The Prelude Suite™ user experience model is fun and simple yet innovative and challenging.  I rediscovered a great deal about myself and others in the team. The most important feature is not the technology we don’t see or the user interface but the ability of the program to create a shared sense of community.” Ferrel Son

“The ITag™ exercise was illuminating. It helped boost my confidence and belief in myself. Team exercise: helped with team bonding and awareness of traits of team members. Overall: first time with kind of experience. The collaborative approach makes it authentic and I will recommend the Prelude Suite™ to others.”  Ifeoma Okafo-Eke

Outcomes and Benefits

These outcomes and benefits may be achieved by any virtual project team committed to a truly successful delivery. This simply requires three 2-hour online sessions, high-speed Internet connection, video, headphones and mike. Pricing, available upon request, is competitive and flexible.

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Prelude SuiteAbout the Author: Howard B. Esbin PhD is the creator of the Prelude Suite™, training and certification that is offered via an online interactive course involving theory and practice. The unique learning design is informed by Howard’s academic graduate research and extensive management experience in international development, philanthropy, and the private sector.

The International Labour Organization, Education Canada, and UNESCO have published his writing. Click here for his chapter on virtual team creativity in Strategic Management & Leadership for Systems Development in Virtual Spaces.

Growth Program for New Project Managers to Help Close the Talent Gap

By Linky van der Merwe

Growth Program for new Project ManagersImagine living in a world where there are 66 million jobs with a growing demand of 2.2 million per year that have to be filled? These jobs require people to implement strategic initiatives, drive change and deliver innovation. Unfortunately, there’s a huge shortage, or talent gap as it’s called, to fill these roles which could result in in a potential loss of some US $207.9 billion in GDP through 2027 for 11 countries that were analyzed.

This is according to the “Job growth and talent gap 2017 – 2027” Report from the Project Management Institute (PMI) published in 2017, based on an assessment of project management employment and industry activity by the Anderson Economic Group (AEG).

Basically it states that there’s a widening gap between employers’ need for skilled project management workers and the availability of professionals to fill those roles.

Talent Gap

These are huge numbers caused by different factors like:

  • A dramatic increase in the number of jobs requiring project-oriented skills.
  • Attrition rates, including professionals retiring from the workforce.
  • A significant uptick in demand for project talent, especially in rapidly developing economies such as China and India.

This has resulted in an imperative to encourage more talent to enter the profession and narrow the talent gap.

With this motivation in mind, I want to introduce you to the Fast-track Growth Program for new Project Managers. It’s an online training program that will help transform an inexperienced project manager who really wants to do well on projects or your typical “Accidental Project Manager”, into a competent, confident and credible Project Manager.

We all know that project managers will face many challenges. That includes handling difficult team members, satisfying demanding customers and working towards impossible deadlines. We want more project managers to succeed and fewer projects to fail. To address the huge demand for skilled talent, we need motivated, independent and professional project managers who are willing to make mistakes, learn from them and still continue to deliver successful projects to the best of their abilities.

To assist new project managers on their journey, the Growth Program will fast-track and ease that transition into project management.

Here’s feedback from a few students who have completed the Growth Program.

Case Study 1

Mark works in the Retail Sector and was assigned to me for mentoring. After years of working as a Systems Manager, he was asked to manage a big project due to his experience and background knowledge of the product. The only problem was that he lacked project management experience and he had no prior training.

He was very motivated to learn fast and I invited him to join the Growth Program for new project managers. This was his feedback:

The Growth Program taught me about soft skills and what my individual strengths are. The biggest benefit for me was that the Program really embodies the framework of project management and gave me valuable insight and a plan for future growth as a professional PM”

Since completing the Growth Program, he has become clear about the responsibilities of his new role, he knows where to start, what his next steps are, what additional training he requires and most importantly, how to plan his PM career. He gained much confidence and like other new PM’s I mentored, he has become very independent and mature in managing projects.

Case Study 2

Harshiela comes from a Change Management background and having worked on many projects before, she wanted to transition into the project management role.

She completed the Growth Program and had the following results.

“The Growth Program gave me confidence that I have the core knowledge and skills and ways of working that is required in a PM role. The training program highlighted my technical gaps which are development areas that I can fast track while making the transition from a Change Manager to a Project Manager.

I recommend the Growth Program based on the holistic approach looking at the technical skills, soft skills and competencies required. It also provided me with further learning and career options – it really gives the whole picture for someone starting out in the PM profession.”

Case Study 3

Roelof, a senior professional with a MBA degree, was new to project management and needed coaching. He worked through the Growth Program Training Modules and asked me questions during coaching calls.

It taught him the essential technical project management skills needed, the soft skills required, the importance of Governance to be an effective project manager, as well as the main pitfalls to avoid as a new PM. He walked away with a customised Personal Growth and Development Plan that he could execute in his own time with the confidence of having a clear direction and enough reference material to use daily in his role as a PM or Programme Manager.

Virtual Project Consulting

As the founder of Virtual Project Consulting, it has always been part of my mission to help aspiring and existing project managers. One of the responsibilities I was given in a new Programme Manager role in 2014, was to mentor and coach the organisation’s new project managers.

Fast-track growth programFrom working with many new and accidental project managers, I understand their needs, the challenges they face and their desire to become effective in their new roles quickly. Hence the birth of the “Fast-track Growth Program for New Project Managers.

It’s a self-paced online training program, or with the option of Small Group Coaching Support that will help students grow critical project management competencies, teach them how to overcome their biggest challenges on projects and increase their confidence and impact in the workplace.

If you fall into the category of an ‘Accidental Project Manager’ or you know some-one who does, please refer them and enroll today as the next Growth Program with Group Support will start in October 2017!

7 Must-Have Tools For Agile Management

7 tools for Agile managementBy KnowledgeHut

While it may sound simple, in reality, the tasks of an Agile Scrum Master cover a very broad spectrum. When managing and implementing the project is the need of the hour, the Agile Scrum Master must be equipped with good training and certain tools in their toolbox, so that they can accomplish and interact with their stakeholders, as and when required.

Proper Training

With the ongoing demand of Agile training, there are so many institutes on the rise that are offering courses like Certified Scrum Master Training and giving you a professional approach. The courses are designed in various stages and based on your skills, expertise, and levels; one can choose the desired course.

The biggest advantage is that the courses are available online, making it convenient for you to do from any part of the world. You only need to register for the course and you can study even in the comfort of your house or while traveling.

Benefits

On completion of the course, you will be awarded a certificate. With this certificate in hand, you are eligible to apply for a position in any organizations. In the initial level of the course program, agile management training will help you to grow the following skills.

  • It will give you a thorough knowledge and the key concepts of developing various forms of strategy
  • You will be capable of solving the issues as well as various risks that are part of agile management
  • Will be able to understand what type of software is required to manage properly
  • Test, analyze and validate various scenarios and implement working methodologies
  • Research the budget and make plans to finish the project within time
  • Motivate and influence the working team

Top 7 Agile Tools

7 must have toolsWithout the use of certain tools, the work of an Agile manager can be really tough. Keeping this in mind, there are so many tools available, that have been designed to provide all the essential features.

Some of the recommended tools have been mentioned below, which can be considered.

  1. Active Collab: If you are managing a small business, this can be the tool of your choice. With the ease of use, it can be used very effectively as and when required. The key features of this tool include management of documents, communicating via email, prioritize and control tasks accordingly, and even working on the budget part. This tool comes in a package and makes it very easy to manage every single thing.
  2. Agilo for Scrum: If communication is what you are looking for, this can be the perfect tool for you. Based on the progress of the project, it is designed to get automatically updated. This powerful tool can also be used to connect all the members at the same time. In case of any changes made, a notification is sent, thereby alerting every member. Even you can download charts and track your progress.
  3. Atlassian Jira + Agile: This tool even allows you to customize the projects as and when required, while the communication part is also not compromised at the same time. Even for self-hosted projects or in the clouds, this tool can be used everywhere. Even, this has a special feature called ‘Release Hub,’ that checks your project before delivering to the customer.
  4. ITM Platform: Comprehensive online project management software that is great for Agile projects with Task Management, Kanban Board and full Resource and Demand capabilities. Also mobile friendly, runs on all devices and can be integrated through API with other tools.
  5. Pivotal Tracker: This is a great source for mobile users as well. With the capacity of tracking multiple projects at the same time, it also has other features like: communicating between members, updating the work completed so far and tracking the progress of the project. The easy-to-use features makes it a great choice.
  6. Targetprocess: So, when you are loaded with data and charts, this can come to your relief. This is just not an available solution for scrum masters, but can even help an IT manager as well. With various customizable features, and loaded with suggestions and solutions, this is definitely a worthy consideration.
  7. VersionOne: You need to report frequently? This is the tool for you then. Answering is very easy with the drag-drop feature. The dashboard has been designed in a way to give you easy access. With all these features, the ease factor is also taken care of, and you can communicate very easily with your team members or assign any work, and can even track the progress of the project.

 

The task of an Agile Manager is going to be much simpler if you have done training to equip you with the right skills and if you have supporting tools in the workplace.

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KnowledgeHut offers over 120+ professional certification courses across industries to helps professionals get an competitive edge and boost productivity. KnowledgeHut is an industry-leading knowledge training company for individuals and corporate offices, operating across 70 countries and 6 continents.

Click here for what is on offer for project management training.

A Guide to Conducting Project Closure Surveys

By Jane Sandwood

After wrapping up a project, it’s important to gain feedback from workers and stakeholders in order to improve business practices and help future projects to run smoothly.

survey as a PM toolSurveys are a valuable tool that project managers can use to collect feedback from team members who might otherwise not give their input. In addition to comments and ideas, surveys allow you to easily capture project closure metrics such as stakeholder satisfaction and employee engagement.

At the end of a big project, a closure survey can help companies to learn how all parties involved feel about the success of the plan and offer suggestions on how to improve. When conducting a project closure survey, it’s important to keep in mind both your audience and your end goal.

Who to Target

A project closure survey should gather information from all parties involved to gain the most valuable insight into the minds of employees and stakeholders alike. Managers should ensure that the survey reaches not only their team members but also anyone involved with the project and those who were impacted by the project, such as investors and key end-users.

With a large sample pool, it can sometimes be difficult to analyze and interpret the vast amounts of survey data collected. By breaking information into demographic categories, such as management versus team members, companies can address interdepartmental differences in opinion.

What to Include

Surveys make it easy for employees to express themselves by giving structure and organization to their feedback. Questions can pinpoint common themes and ideas regarding a recent project, and data can be easily be organized by using a five-star rating system. A good survey should include space for comments after each question as well so that people can expound upon their answers if they want to, or provide additional feedback.

In order to find out if the results of a project have met everyone’s expectations, there are several important topics a survey should cover. A project closure survey should generate information by asking questions about issues such as:

  • Has the project met the expected results?
  • Did team members feel that the parameters of the project were well defined?
  • Did the project team communicate effectively?
  • Were the right tools and processes used to complete the project?
  • Why or why didn’t everything go according to plan?
  • How successful was the project overall?

 

Every employee’s time is valuable, so a good survey shouldn’t be too long or complicated. There should be a limited number of questions, and the wording should be kept relatively simple. The language of a question can influence results, so to get accurate data, companies should be careful about how each question in a survey is asked. Businesses can customize existing online surveys, or hire an expert to help them create the ideal project closure survey for their team.

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