September 19, 2017

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

10 Leadership Lessons from Extreme Environments

10 Leadership LessonsBy Linky van der Merwe

Do you know some-one who climbed the Seven Summits (highest peak on each continent) and skied to both the North and South Poles?  Meet Alison Levine, a small person with a big heart for adventure. And not just any adventure, but extreme adventure that earned her the title of achieving the “Adventure Grand Slam”.

After listening to Alison Levine as keynote speaker at the PMXPO2017 I bought her book: “On the edge: Leadership lessons from Mount Everest and other extreme environments.  

Here are 10 leadership lessons from her book that can be applied to projects.

#1 Approach to leadership

Alison starts off by saying that the development of yourself as a leader should be a deliberate, conscious process. People are not born leaders. It’s a ‘muscle that needs to be built.

Leadership is an attitude. Alison believes that we all need to be better leaders. If we put effort into that, we can have much positive influence on the people around us. I think this is especially true on projects. Empower the team to think and act like a leader. This means that we need to help them hone their skills, their knowledge and encourage them to think for themselves and to make critical decisions without always requiring input. Team members need to be able to carry on with the work, even if the leader becomes ill or is on leave.

One way to help develop leadership skills in others is to give them greater responsibility to grow themselves as leaders. This will make the whole team more effective. Developing your own skills and the skill of others should be a never-ending process.

#2 Mentors

Engage with others who are more skilled than you are and learn from the best. Find mentors in your organization, people with experience and people you look up to.

#3 Go backward to go forward

Everest climbThe way Mount Everest is climbed is that climbers start at base camp and go up to Camp 1, then come back. Next they go up to Camp 1 and the following day to Camp 2. Then they go back to basecamp. Then they go up to Camp 3 only to come back down again. Then they go all the way up to Camp 4, sleep over and when the weather allows, they ascend to the top.

Her lesson from this is that there’s real value in going back to your starting point to regroup, to reposition yourself to be stronger before you can ascend to the next level. Even great athletes and sport stars focus on the fundamentals over and over again, by doing the same drills, not because they haven’t mastered it, but because repetition builds strength and enhances agility.

Therefore, reward and encourage progress in all forms, not just the obvious ones.

#4 Conflict management

On every project there will be conflict at some point making it a predictable component of group dynamics. It can be healthy to as it brings different perspectives. Conflict only becomes dangerous when it is unresolved.

It’s important to bring conflict out into the open. This is where communication is key. It’s essential to make team members feel valued and that his or her opinion matters.

#5 High Performance Teams

All women team to Everest

Source: Road & Travel Magazine

Alison shares an important insight on putting together a high-performing team. You want people who are good at what they do and who know that they’re good as that gives them confidence. This is called performance ego.

Another type of ego you want is team ego. A group is only a team when every member of the group cares as much about helping the other members as they care about helping themselves.

I have seen this on multiple projects before where a high-performing team contributes to hugely successful projects. When you put a team together, you need to look for:

  • Experience
  • Expertise
  • Ego

#6 Relationships and Networking

Developing strong relationships is critical to success. As a project leader you need to take the time and effort to connect with people at every stage of your career. Find people who will rally around you, encourage you and support. Attend those conferences and networking events; you never know which connections will lead to more success in future.

#7 Weak links

South Pole skiThe way you deal with the weak link on your team often means the difference between success and failure. When you have to work with people who are as good as you are, those who can’t perform as well, or who don’t match your skills.

To compensate for a weakness is about leveraging hidden attributes in innovative ways that can move you and your team forward. As a leader you need to help every team member to become productive so that everyone on the team benefits.

#8 Build Trust and Loyalty

Never underestimate the importance of treating other with respect and kindness. Also take the time to get to know the people on your team as individuals. Get to know them on a deeper level. That will form strong bonds and people will know they matter.

Each person needs a different approach when it comes to helping them perform at their best. The more information you uncover, the more influence you can have as a leader. You need to adjust your coaching style based on the needs of your team.

The more dedicated you are to your team, the harder they will work for you and for one another.

#9 Complacency

Following the status quo, could be a mistake that businesses, teams fall prey to. Different situations call for different actions. As a leader you need to evaluate all the circumstances in order to know what you best move is.

Complacency can be characterized by not preparing, not making a move, not moving fast enough or not being agile enough.

If you’re busy with your 10th or 50th project, you still need to be alert, prepared and agile.

#10 Embrace your Failures

As leaders we need to own our failures. It’s important to learn from them as that is what really makes us grow as leaders. When we achieve something that we have worked hard for, we need to take a moment to reflect on it.

For many people it’s easier to avoid the risks of failure, unless we have failed before. Something about surviving past setbacks that increases our willingness to risk again.

If you’d like to read a book filled with adventure stories and lessons, don’t miss out on this exciting book:
On the Edge: Leadership Lessons from Mount Everest and Other Extreme Environments

The Benefit of Resource Driven Updates on Projects

By Biraj Borah

Project planning and monitoring may be quite simple on average projects, but for larger projects it is a complex set of tasks and activities. During Planning, once the scope is defined, firstly the high-level activities are listed as Level 1 (L1). A rough time estimate is given and only the major milestones are defined. With respect to the Level 1 milestones, further levels are then defined. And the number of levels depends on the size and complexity of the project.

In Planning, this process of defining all task levels to be done on a project, helps to create the work breakdown structure, also called WBS. And the final level of the WBS is the activity. Completion of all the defined activities under the WBS, will lead to completion of all the in scope deliverables.

Traditional Method to Update Progress

According to the traditional method, we update by dragging the Gantt chart or edit in % completion field. Using this approach, there is no relation to the resource assigned to the task and is mostly manually driven by the user. This seems simple enough. But on a complex project, there is no validation of how that percentage is arrived? Large projects require project task against certain validation. Without any tools, the project manager has to rely on other details and supporting documents which makes the project much more complex to monitor.

traditional progress update

Modern Approach – Driven by Resources (Human, Capital & Material)

TIEMCHART project management software provides the modern approach to monitoring task progress based on resource update assigned to that task. Each task or WBS may be driven by various resources – human, machinery and material resources.

An individual WBS may involve completion of multiple sets of resources. If you are talking about a consulting business, a task may involve assigning the consultant a set number of hours or it may involve delivering a set number of design documents or other reports. Now such tasks can be monitored based on either the number of hours completed or number of design documents submitted against the plan.

Similarly for a procurement task, it may involve delivering a set quantity of cement bags, steel pipes etc. Likewise such deliverables can be assigned against the task or WBS. Progress of the task can be automated based on actual number of cement bags or steel pipes delivered.

Set Resource Planning & Requirement

Once the resources are identified against the task, you can plan the quantity / hours deliverables against the task. Based on such assignments, project progress can be monitored.

  • Single resource – if a task involves using single resource. Deliverables such as number of hours or quantity can be specified against the task
  • Multiple resource – Tasks that involves multiple resources can have a bearing based on number of items delivered against such multiple resources

Resource planning

Monitor Task Progress Based On Resource Assignment

Depending on task planning and resource assignment, task progress can be monitored based on actual delivery of such resources. Be it human or machinery engagement in number of hours, material resources in quantity, task progress can be measured and monitored in real time based on such deliveries.

Tiemchart resource driven updates

Benefits of Resource Driven Updates

TIEMCHART is the first Project Management Software to bring the solution of automated project progress based on resources. This helps businesses to cut down project delays and finishing more projects on time. Being a cloud-based solution, it also simplifies implementation and reduce expensive installation costs.

Visit Tiemchart and request a free demo.

Hack Yourself Smarter: Good Study Tips for Project Managers

By Jane Sandwood

Study tips for PM'sIt is half-way through 2017 and here are unbeatable tips for studying towards project management certification, whether it’s PMP, CAMP, ACP or PgMP. Let’s face it, studying for your certification exam is no mean feat. No matter how hard-working or motivated you are, it’s easy to get bogged down and confused by the sheer volume of new information that you have to recall and deploy effectively.

Study Tips

These accessible hacks will really kick your studies into a higher gear.

  • The Pomodoro technique. The Pomodoro technique is a simple yet devastatingly effective technique to retain focus and mental freshness. It’s easy – just set a timer for 25 minutes and start work. At the end of each 25-minute study session, you take a five-minute break to walk around, rest your eyes, stretch etc. Then it’s back to work for another 25 minutes. You can find plenty of Pomodoro-style timer apps for desktops and mobile devices. Alternatively, you can use a simple kitchen timer.
  • Handwrite your notes. Writing your notes out by hand is a tried-and-tested method for retaining more information. For best results, paraphrase the text instead of copying it verbatim. This will keep your mind engaged.
  • Get physical. Taking regular exercise isn’t just good for your body, it keeps your mind sharp as well. Even a 20-minute walk around your building will help you retain more from your PM studies.
  • Eat smart. While it’s tempting to reach for instant gratification in the form of snack foods, a healthy diet will help keep your mind clear. Supplements such as B vitamins and magnesium can also improve mental acuity.
  • Sleep on it. Cramming into the small hours might be counterproductive. Getting a good night’s sleep is indispensable for cementing what you’ve learned during the day.
  • Mix it up. Try a variety of study techniques and find out what works for you.
  • Team up. Get together with fellow PM students to talk over problems and quiz each other on course material. Explaining key concepts to each other can really help you get to grips with new ideas. If you’re studying alone, look for ways to collaborate online.
  • ‘Supplement’ your study. While you can’t replace effective study habits with a pill, safe so-called ‘smart drugs’ and some supplements can improve your academic performance. 
  • There’s an app for that. Study apps are a great way to revise. They range from customisable flash card utilities like Anki and premade spaced-repetition courses like the ones available on Memrise, to dedicated ACP and PMP study apps like PMStudy.

No single technique is right for everyone, and there are really no substitutes for hard work and application. But with these study hacks, you can make earning your project management certification much easier.

Let us know in the Comments section which exams you are studying for!

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Project Managers – Find a Beginners Guide to Scrum

Agile management frameworks are growing in popularity across many industries. Scrum is an agile framework that helps teams manage product development. The core principle behind Scrum is the understanding that customers can often change their mind about what they want at any stage of a project. For some teams, this can generate a lot of rework particularly in the later stages of development, which wastes time and money. Scrum manages this by delivering quickly in increments, gaining feedback early and adapting the product as necessary.

As with all agile frameworks, Scrum encourages team collaboration, frequent communication and continuous improvement. You can download an A0 size poster version of the graphic to print and display in your office!

If you’re interested to learn how Scrum typically works, take a look at the graphic below designed by Knowledge Train.

 

The Scrum methodology: a visual guideINFOGRAPHIC

Project Managers – Find a Beginners Guide to Kanban

By Alison Wood

It is no surprise that many organizations are adopting agile methods to manage their workflow. Kanban is one of the methods under the agile umbrella. Once understood, embraced and adopted successfully, you can expect significant improvements to your workflow and team collaboration.

The principle behind the Kanban method is to decrease and manage blockages in workflow, which can disrupt the entire team. It is a beneficial choice for teams that deliver frequently and for software development teams, even allowing teams to deliver daily if required. It is a very visual management method which usually revolves around the use of a whiteboard, coloured sticky notes and markers. Working like this allows the entire team to view the work progress and easily spot problems if they arise.

If you’re interested to learn about how Kanban works, take a look at the graphic below designed by Knowledge Train.

The 4 principles of Kanban: A visual guide

How Project Managers Manage Virtual Teams

With more companies expanding globally, the trend to work on projects with virtual team members who are remote workers, is growing. I have now worked on a project spanning three countries across three different time-zones. Despite having cloud-based tools for project plan sharing and logging test defects, the latest communication technology like Skype for Business in addition to everyday emails, it has been severely challenging.

Challenges in handling virtual teams

Project managers face a variety of challenges when handling virtual team members who work from different locations, who are permanent or freelance workers, who come from different backgrounds and cultures. It can be difficult to schedule a meeting with all members at a fixed time, especially with a 8 hour time-zone difference as was the case with my project. It impacts the decision-making process negatively.

It can be difficult to communicate a message correctly to remote workers. They may fail to understand the context or cannot grasp specific issues related to a project. They don’t always appreciate the consequences if they fail to have a same-day turnaround, that it can cause 2-3 days delays.

A risk I had to manage through-out was to keep team members aligned in terms of the project schedule, the latest decisions, new project baselines etc. Due to the fact that one team worked during another team’s night time and visa versa, it meant that any requests sent via email had to be very clear in terms of context and what was expected. If the receiver of the email had a question, they usually had to wait another day to receive an answer. This caused repeated delays in getting multiple requests fulfilled. As the project progressed, and especially during testing when team members in different time zones had to work together, we had to resort to different work hours to create more of an overlap between team members and to enhance the communication process and response times to issues and defects.

How to manage remote teams effectively

It’s important for project managers to effectively manage both remote and on-site team members to achieve project success. Have a look at the infographic below created by Brandeis University’s Online Project Management Masters Degree program. It addresses the typical challenges and obstacles faced when managing virtual teams, strategies to effectively manage them and technologies to overcome issues.

Managing Virtual Teams

Please share in the comments the challenges you faced when working with virtual teams and how you overcame them.

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PMO are you Looking for PPM Software with a Difference?

Today I would like to introduce an interesting concept, the democratization of project management. What this means, is to ensure that professionalized project management is no longer a privilege available to only a few.

It’s based on providing access to all organizations – regardless of size – to professional, organized and simple project management. It must be equally accessible to a certified specialist as it is to someone who has never heard of PMI, for example. This is according to ITM Platform, providers of a Project and Portfolio Management (PPM) Software with a difference.

The democratization of project management consists of bringing to everyone what was previously only accessible to the largest players. How has this philosophy made ITM Platform different from other PPM software?

ITM Platform PPM software

How ITM Platform differentiates itself

  1. We facilitate use of the system by everyone involved in the projects.Clarity and ease-of-use are not incompatible with a system that offers comprehensive features. Our efforts are focused on offering a complete and user-friendly system that adapts to your company and product. The market contains some very simple and visual tools, but they fall short in terms of functional characteristics. Others are highly comprehensive but entirely unusable.
  2. We offer deployment periods for our solutions that range from five minutes to four days.Other solutions with comparable feature sets range from six months to one year. We achieve this with a native cloud-based model, a series of predetermined configurations that facilitate start-up and user-friendly and easy-to-understand training materials.
  3. We provide the complete freedom to complete a deployment without the need for consultants.Having to contract another organization to launch a tool at your own imposes limitations. Consultants should only be necessary when they are going to provide methodological value, when they are going to help transform the organization or transfer knowledge.
  4. We offer all the features you could wish for, but delivered in an intelligent fashion without requiring clients to follow steps that are not natural for their organization and without restrictions that add nothing to the project.
  5. And, above all, we are accessible in terms of price.We have made great efforts to create a “fat-free” company with only what is absolutely essential for delivering what our clients need.

This is how to make project management accessible to all. The concept of project management democratization goes beyond the tool itself. PM knowledge is shared also via regular publications and webinars.

PPM Tool Selection

When selecting a tool, go for an option that offers value to both project managers, program managers, and the portfolio team. While many PPM tools offer a great value for the latter, they may be difficult to adopt for the basic project planning needs of ‘accidental’ project managers, and perhaps add even less value to team members.

The less attractive a tool is for project teams, the worse the quality of project data. This means that you should look for a tool that allows for easy project planning and execution: not just portfolio management and Business intelligence.

If you would like to try ITM Platform for yourself, please visit PPM Software here.

PrimaveraReader – Simple to use viewer for XER schedules

By Joel Roberts

If you manage your construction & engineering projects with Oracle® Primavera P6, you may want to know about a software that goes hand in hand with P6, and how you can benefit by utilizing the features this software provides.

I’m writing about PrimaveraReader, which is a .xer viewer in its nature, able to perform a wide variety of project scheduling functions, beneficial your team and organization.

PrimaveraReader enables users to view Oracle® Primavera P6 Schedules in .xer or xls. format.

View schedules

Project stakeholders like project managers, contractors, and subcontractors can take advantage of the software and gain greater visibility over the project progress by utilizing the following views:

  • Activities
  • WBS – Work Breakdown Structure
  • Projects which represents the Enterprise Project Structure (EPS)
  • Resource assignments
  • Detail view of selected item in current view
  • OBS – Organizational Breakdown Structure
  • Roles view

Why reader for .xer files instead of sharing .pdf files?

PrimaveraReader as .xer file reader provides an interactive overview of the project with personalized view. Moreover, users can use custom and auto filters with flexibility when viewing a file as well as navigate through predecessors and successors with complete overview.

With .xer reader, you can also work with custom layouts imported from .plf files, and take advantage of visual baselines comparison on the activity updates from previous .xer file versions.

Cutting costs on software licensing

Nowadays, as a consequence of the global economic crisis and slow recovery from it, companies are trying to tighten up their spending and budgets on costly software technologies and services.

Moreover, if we consider a project where most of the people work on their assignments, while only project managers, executives, and coordinators make changes on the schedule, then a lightweight application to display project views could dramatically reduce costs for software licensing.

Reduce license costsОne of the most eminent attributes of PrimaveraReader is its speed. Anyone having issues with importing large .xer files knows how important is the speed. It takes minutes, and some managers even reported hours to open a large .xer files in P6.

But that’s not the case with PrimaveraReader, as it will open .xer files in a matter of seconds.

Progress Update

The Progress Update functionality at PrimaveraReader allows team members to propose assignment progress and activity status in their respective views. The Project Scheduler then decides whether to accept or reject the updates proposed by the team members.

progress updates

Project Baselines

Baselines functionality allows comparison of up to four updated versions of a project schedule. Users can view precise graphical presentation of what has been changed from the original schedule in the Gantt preview. It’s an easy visual comparison utility, helping you to keep track on the project progress.

project baselines

Filters and Search

With the latest release of PrimaveraReader, users can filter project data that meets certain criteria, such as milestones, completed activities, in progress or critical activities. User can pick between User Defined and Default Filters to be applied to the current view.

Searching within the project data is also a feature to be highlighted and useful when you need to find a specific item from the current view.

Mobile Support is expanding

Not all people from the team might work on a PC. That’s why the vendors developed iOS application to support users with iPhone and iPad devices.

The iOS app supports reading files hosted in iCloud or One Drive for business. There are plans to extend with an Android version in the following period.

Benefits of PrimaveraReader

The benefits of using PrimaveraReader are huge for project teams of any size. I’ll highlight some of the most important:

  • Save time and share plans in XER format without exporting to PDF.
  • Greater control over team members and reduce the risk of having unclear tasks.
  • Reduce manual workload and avoid mistakes when receiving progress updates.
  • Worry-free sharing of the project details without the risk of unwanted changes.

Thanks to this powerful reader for Oracle® Primavera P6 files, you have an affordable, user friendly, and comprehensive addition to Primavera P6. If you want a tool that you can use to view .xer files, you’re very well advised to get PrimaveraReader.

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