August 19, 2017

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

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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Best Practice: Project Governance Framework

By Linky van der Merwe

This article will focus specifically on Project Governance that determines the effectiveness of the project manager (PM). You will find an explanation of what Project Governance is, why you need it, who is responsible for it and how to use it, with principles and examples to make it clear.

Project Governance Framework

Source: princetonprinciples.org

What is Project Governance?

Project Governance is an oversight function that is aligned with an organisation’s governance model and that encompasses the project life cycle.

The Project Management Body of Knowledge Guide (PMBOK) definition is:

“The alignment of project objectives with the strategy of the larger organisation by the project sponsor and project team. A project’s governance is defined by and required to fit within the larger context of the program or organisation sponsoring it, but is separate from organisational governance.”

Click here for PMI’s Practice Guide on Governance of Portfolios, Programs and Projects.

Projects are undertaken to achieve strategic business outcomes. Many organisations adopt formal organisational governance processes and procedures. Organisational governance criteria can impose constraints on projects especially if projects are for new products or services.

A project manager needs to be knowledgeable about corporate governance policies and procedures pertaining to the product/services in question; this tends to be very industry related.

Why Project Governance?

A project governance framework provides the project manager and team with structured processes, decision-making models and tools for managing the project while supporting and controlling the project for successful delivery. Governance is critical for any project, especially on complex and risky projects.

The governance framework provides a comprehensive, consistent method of controlling the projects. Governance will ensure success by defining, documenting and communicating reliable and repeatable project practices.

Governance provides important deliverable acceptance criteria and success measures to measure the benefits and success of your projects.

Who is responsible for Project Governance?

In many organisations a Project Management Office (PMO) exists. The PMO is responsible for  defining and owning the project governance framework.

The PMO also plays a decisive role for project governance that involves:

  • Documented policies, procedures and standards
  • Health Checks – Are we doing right things? Are we using right process? Do we conform to standards?
  • Stakeholders

Where to document Project Governance

The project governance approach should be described in the project management plan, which is the planning document compiled by the PM to describe how a project will be executed, monitored and controlled.

The PM is responsible and accountable for setting realistic and achievable boundaries for the project and to accomplish the project within the approved baselines.

How to use Project Governance

Use project governance to ensure that Project Portfolios are aligned to corporate goals. It will then form the basis to see that projects are delivered efficiently and that the interests of project staff and other stakeholders are aligned.

Governance will also ensure that the Project Board/Steering Committee and major stakeholders are provided with timely, relevant, and accurate information.

Principles of Project Governance

Here are a few key principles for project governance:

  • Projects should be clearly linked to key business objectives.
  • There should be clear senior management ownership of projects.
  • There should be effective engagement with Stakeholders.
  • Projects should be driven by long-term value, rather than short-term costs.
  • Projects should be broken down into manageable steps.

Examples of Project Governance Framework elements

Here are examples of elements included in a project governance framework:

  • Guidelines for aligning project governance and organisational strategy
  • A process to identify, escalate, resolve issues that arise during the project
  • Relationship among project teams, organisational groups and external stakeholders
  • Project organisational chart that identifies project roles
  • Processes and procedures for communication of information
  • Project decision-making processes
  • Project life-cycle approach including the transfer to Operations and readiness of business
  • Process for stage gate or phase reviews – Authorise to proceed. Approval of process/documents.
  • Process for review and approval for changes to budget, scope, quality, schedule which are beyond the authority of the PM

Operate within the Project Governance Framework

You can see that Project Governance is an oversight function that is applicable throughout the life cycle of a project.

Project governance determines the effectiveness of the project manager, because governance gives a framework for making project decisions, defines roles, responsibilities and accountabilities for the success of the project.

It’s important that you as project managers, understand project governance, that you document it on your projects, that you apply it as a consistent method of controlling your projects, and by doing this you will hugely improve your chances for successful project delivery.

Every successful project you complete, will bring you closer to being recognised as a competent, efficient and professional project manager who can be followed as a leader and entrusted with strategic projects and programmes.

How can I use this information as a Project Manager or PMO?

I’ve created a free Project Governance Framework Reference Guide to remind you of the What, Why, Who, When and How of Project Governance.

Click below to download the Free Reference Guide today!
Download a free Project Governance Framework Reference Guide

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Governance is one of the 6 pillars of the Growth Framework that I have developed to help you remember the essential elements of running projects successfully. Visit Project Manager Growth to subscribe for more information and a free Growth Framework Infographic.

PMI Survey – Pulse of the Profession 2016

By Linky van der Merwe

PMI Survey - Pulse of the ProfessionRecently PMI has conducted their 8th global project management survey and published the results in the PMI’s Pulse of the Profession 2016 Report, called: “The High Cost of Low Performance”.

While expecting to see improvement from previous years, the results showed a decline in projects meeting their goals. The aim of this research is to strengthen conversations about the benefits project management delivers to organisations.

Here are a few highlights of the report, and click here for Pulse of the Profession 2016.

In line with the PMI Talent Triangle that embodies a skill set combination of technical, leadership, and strategic and business management expertise, 40% more projects will meet their goals and original intent if they are managed by PM’s with these skills.

Organisations that align their EPMO with strategy report 27% more projects deliver successfully, and 42% fewer projects with scope creep.

When more than 80 percent of projects have an actively engaged executive sponsor, 65 percent more projects are successful. Yet, on average, only three in five projects have engaged executive sponsors.

Many challenges remain, like the fact that only 6 out of 10 organisations use standardised project management practices and benefits realisation remains low on 17%.

The demand for skilled and experienced project/program managers are on the rise.

Recommendations are made to address the situation including the following:

  1. Invest in ongoing project manager training
  2. Offer defined career path to those engaged in project or programme management
  3. Establish formal processes to develop project management competencies
  4. Transfer knowledge

Many benefits of formal project management are given, but the most important message is to keep spreading discussion around the strategic value of project management by following proven practices like aligning the PMO with organisational strategy, and more as explained in the Report.

In response to the challenges that exist and following recommendations made by the PMI, I have developed a Fast-track Growth Program to assist business professionals who are new to the project manager role, to help them become competent, confident and efficient. The online education teaches critical project management competencies like technical skills you need for the role, soft skills you use daily, the importance of governance, how to overcome common challenges and avoid typical pitfalls. It also addresses career options and helps to define a career path.  Project managers will walk away with a personalised growth and development plan to take action immediately.

Fast-track Growth ProgramThis accelerated Growth Program is available to all new or accidental project managers, as well as PMO Managers who want to improve skills of new project managers at their organisations. Please visit today and help to improve the project management maturity that will lead to more success!

How Project Management Professionals help overcome problems on projects

We all know the challenges that projects face on a daily basis. They present themselves as problems that cause projects to fail,  or go over budget, over time or fail to achieve benefits.

This Infographic, kindly provided by Villanova University, looks at how Project Management Professionals (PMP) can help address the typical problems on projects and how to enhance their chances to be a success.

Looking to become a PMP, please visit the Resources Page for many products and training to help you with your preparations for the PMP exam.

Looking to employ new project managers, look at the advantages of using certified project professionals.

Why do projects fail and how PMPs can help
Infographic by Villanova University Online, your source for PMP certification resources.

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