March 26, 2017

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

Project Managers Discover Top Time Management Tips and Techniques

An important responsibility of a project manager is to manage time as a constraint which involves keeping an eye on the project schedule, ensuring team members are delivering on milestones, while having to keep track of your own time spent as well.

While your role is varied since you need to cater for every aspect of the project from cost management to human resource management, you are accountable for the overall delivery including all tasks tied to the project. This does not mean that the project manager must micro-manage everyone on the team as individuals are primarily responsible for various aspects of the project.

However, we find that a number of project managers spend time doing too much management and fire-fighting and then they are left with little or no time to work on strategy, leading the team and focusing on tasks that only they can perform.  An efficient project manager, therefore, should be able to effectively develop strategies for his/her team and perform oversight functions effectively all while being on schedule.

To support you to be more professional as a project manager, here is an infographic with very helpful time management tips with complements from Nutcache.

Time Management – A Prerequisite for Great Project Managers [Infographic]

Soft Skills for Project Managers

By Linky van der Merwe

Often in Project Management courses there is a big emphasis on the technical skills, also called ‘hard skills’ which are the occupational requirements that project managers need to do their jobs effectively. This would include the creation of tangible deliverables like a project schedule, project budget, status reports etc.

Soft skills for PM'sSoft skills complement hard skills.  Soft skills are the important interpersonal skills you need as a project manager to accomplish work through other people.  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.

Developing your soft skills is equally important, but is often left to project managers to find suitable courses that would equip them with adequate soft skills like Leadership, Conflict Management and Emotional Intelligence.

Soft skills development

Why would you ask, are soft skills that important? Soft skills refer to behavioural skills – a sociological term relating to the cluster of personality traits and behavioural competencies that characterize relationships with other people.

Since projects are delivered or executed through people, your soft skills are like the glue that will hold the project team together when the going gets tough, for example when projects fall behind, or immovable deadlines are looming, or the normal stress coming from project delivery and dealing with issues.

At the end of the day a project manager wants a balance of hard and soft skills. Hard skills are more technical in nature where as soft skills are intangible and less visible. Soft skills are typically employed without the use of tools and templates. Soft skills can be taught, but they are typically honed by years of experience.

How to improve soft skills

When you set out to improve your soft skills as a project manager, there are 3 key things you need to remember.

  1. Make the commitment to learn and improve
  2. Put yourself in situations where you can practice various soft skills
  3. Evaluate your progress and adjust as needed

At this point you may be wondering if there is a finite list of soft skills to focus on as a project manager. According to my research there are at least 11 soft skills that should be part of your make-up as a professional project manager. They are:

  1. Leadership
  2. Team building
  3. Motivation
  4. Communication including active listening
  5. Influencing
  6. Decision making
  7. Political and cultural awareness
  8. Negotiation
  9. Conflict management
  10. Emotional intelligence
  11. Problem solving

Over the years I’ve published many articles on various soft skills. For more interesting articles with practical advice on developing your soft skills, continue reading about Leadership, Team build, Communication, Decision making and Emotional Intelligence.

If you are new to project management and you are serious about developing yourself as a professional project manager, please look at the Fast-track Growth Program which was especially developed for people like you in mind. It’s an online, self-paced training program for busy professionals which will give you the essential elements for project delivery. It’s the fastest way to grow critical Project Management competencies like technical and interpersonal skills, and becoming a confident project manager!

Is Project Management Success on the Rise?

The more mature companies are with project management, the more likely they are to achieve their goals of adding value, advancing strategies and to increase competitive advantage.

PMI Pulse of the Profession 2017This is according to the PMI Pulse of the Profession Report for 2017, a global survey of project management practitioners that charts the major trends for project management now and in the future.

The results in the Pulse of the Profession indicates that more organizations recognize the strategic value of projects and programs. There’s a growing focus on talent management, executive sponsorship, and benefits realization management. At the same time, organizations are searching for ways to be more agile, customer focused, and competitive and this is a big driver for executive leaders, PMO directors and project teams.

There’s a growing need for a culture of engagement, learning, and innovation. To make progress the focus should remain on developing project management talent, managing project benefits, establishing PMO’s, driving executive sponsorship and by addressing agile approaches.

To read the full Report Pulse of the Profession 2017: Success rates rise, visit PMI.org.

Project Success Story – Tension between Business and IT

Project Success StoryThis is the story about a project manager, Gren Gale, who was working for a large insurance company in the UK who wanted to update their CRM system to provide a much smoother experience for call centre operators and allow better integration of customer information between call centre and back office.

Politics

While the business area was very anxious to get on with the change, there was friction between business change and IT over the choice of system and the degree of involvement of IT in the implementation.  This particular area of business change had suffered from previous poor experience with the IT department and wanted to bypass them.  With IT having strict rules for the compliance of any new system to its technology standards, there were political issues to handle as well as a complex implementation to manage.

Outsource

Tension between IT and BusinessA tender was issued by IT to six vendors, using requirements put together by business change.  As seemed almost inevitable in the situation, business change preferred the system that was the least compliant with IT standards, while IT preferred another system.

Negotiations between the IT project manager and IT’s preferred vendor resulted in a big reduction in up-front costs by the vendor who were keen to get a foothold in the Insurance sector.  Despite luke-warm support from business change, the recommendation to go with this vendor was presented to the director of the business area and approved.

This left IT satisfied, but business change feeling not entirely happy about the choice.

Analysis and Design

Meetings were arranged to agree a final design between the business area and the vendor.

These went well, but hit a couple of issues:

Project Management: How to foster creativity in your team

By Linky van der Merwe

Advances in technologyWhen we look at the new all electric cars that are storming the market today, we see amazing speed (0-100km in 3 seconds), top speed of 250km per hour and a range of 250km – 295km. Clearly innovation is evolutionary, brought about by many incremental advances in technology and revolutionary because it’s often disruptive and new, like the electric cars.

This is according to James Hebbard, a Snaptech Trainer and consultant who presented at the Project Management South Africa Conference in November 2016. He said the death of innovation is BFH, an abbreviation for Big, Fat and Happy! Below are his recommendations to foster innovation think.

6 ways to foster creativity

#1 Inside Game

Although ideas, inspiration and innovation seem to come from outside you, they don’t – it always comes from inside, sometimes within small intimate teams.

#2 Obsession and Focus

Innovative thinkers were all obsessed and extremely focused.  Albert Einstein was obsessed with light, Steve Jobs was obsessed with design and product perfection and Elon Musk is obsessed with space flight and electric cars.

#3 Perseverence and Patience

Keep yourself in your chair and the break-through will come as this picture illustrates.

perseverence

#4 Creating a culture of innovation

Culture is a mindset that is shared by a team. There are ways to create such a culture. People are afraid to make mistakes so you can start by creating an environment where it’s safe to fail. Create learning experiences, do brainstorming and problem solving facilitation, root cause analysis. Create space like 15% paid time to work on own creative projects. Look at the work environment.

#5 High performing teams

Know the strengths of team members, the level of the team maturity and their personalities as explained below.

  • Thinking styles: Ideation, Strategic, Learner, Input, Intellection, Analytical
  • Executing styles: Achiever, Arranger, Focus, Restorative, Responsibility
  • Relational styles: Achiever, Arranger, Focus, Restorative, Responsibility
  • Influencing styles: Activator, Communication, Maximizer, Significance, Self Assurance

This is what you need to know how to get the best out of your team.

#6 Identifying problems

Innovation is born from necessity. Without a pressing problem there is no need for a solution. Identify the problems around you because finding problems will help you solve them. How do you as a team identify problems?

Conclusion

innovation1 A few points to remember.

  • Innovation is often born out of necessity (AKA Problems).  Get to the root cause and see innovative ideas being born.
  • Humans are a product of their environment.
  • Teams are made of Individuals.

As a project manager, you need to know what their strengths are in order to get the best out of your team.

Here is an interesting article about virtual team management by Rob Rawson, co-founder and CEO of Time Doctor.

 

Virtual Project ConsultingPlease subscribe to Virtual Project Consulting not to miss future articles, tips and success stories!

8 Lessons in Innovation

By Linky van der Merwe

Power of innovationRecently I attended a Project Management Conference with the theme: “Harnessing the Power of Innovation”. As project managers we are in the position to create environments where people are creative and more innovative.

One of the speakers, Nneile Nkholise, the co-founder of Likoebe Group; a medical innovation company, spoke on the topic of moving away from an efficiency-driven economy to an innovation-driven economy, through innovation. The role of innovation has become explicitly important for any organisation with a vision to make an impact in the global market.

Nneile is one of 100 entrepreneurs out of the US who were selected to represent their countries at the Global Entrepreneurship summit, 2016. She shared 8 lessons to explain what innovation is.

Lesson 1: Journey

Learn about Jay Samit, an American digital media innovator, who pioneered advancements in music and video distribution, social media, and ecommerce. He is the author of the bestselling book, “Disrupt You! Master Personal Transformation, Seize Opportunity, and Thrive in the Era of Endless Innovation”. It is a fascinating story on the journey of innovation. You need to work on innovation every day and re-invent.

Lesson 2: Purpose

At Adidas they have the credo of “Impossible is nothing”. They believe you need to explore the power you have to change the world. Impossible is just temporary and it is potential.

Create purpose and find your passion, that is a sure path to innovation.

Lesson 3: Solve problems

By just focusing on everyday real-life problems, it will lead to much innovation and innovative products that provide solutions to difficult problems.

Think of Google Translate that provided a translator to 100 different languages.

Lesson 4: Bring new possibilities

Like the oldest television that came out, it brought about new possibilities. People were able to see news from all over the world and enjoy the creativity of entertainment at home.

Lesson 5: Learning opportunities

Things will change, but don’t let that scare you. Learn to learn and learn to learn fast. In today’s world there are many opportunities with technology and children learn to code from a very young age.

Lesson 6: Build Human networks

Innovation happens through Innovation Hubs. Innovation hubs are social communities, work spaces or research centers that provide subject-matter expertise on technology trends, knowledge and strategic innovation management, and industry-specific insights.

If there are three types of people: 1) Those who talk about it …. 2) Those who want it … 3) Those who make it happen ….  We need to decide who we want to be. As project managers we are in a position to be the type of people who make it happen.

Lesson 7: Global responsibility

Global goals for sustainable developmentIn September 2015, 193 world leaders agreed to 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development. If these Goals are completed, it would mean an end to extreme poverty, inequality and climate change by 2030. Click here to find out more and to help share the Global Goals.

We need to keep the global goals for sustainable development in mind on all the projects we undertake.

Lesson 8: Embrace it

There is evidence of innovation in the products all around us. Support your local entrepreneurs and use their innovative products.

A few examples of innovative products are:

  • SaferMom is a social enterprise that addresses the high maternal and infant mortality crises in Nigeria. SaferMom delivers vital health information to new and expectant mothers using interactive, personalized low cost mobile technologies, including SMS and voice calls. The purpose is to help mothers have access to quick, affordable and hassle-free healthcare.
  • Mellowcabz – Mellowcabs manufactures, and operates new electric mini-cabs that provide an on-demand, flexible and affordable taxi/transport service in cities. These services can be provided through our mobile app, call-center or website. It has dual income sources, passenger fares and selling advertising space on, and in the vehicles. They are equipped with on-board tablet computers, which offer an interactive experience to the passenger.
  • PAN Test Kit for precision testing Malaria PAN/PF rapid test diagnostic test kit with a shelf life of 24 months.

Virtual Project ConsultingPlease subscribe to Virtual Project Consulting not to miss future articles, tips and success stories!

Innovation in Project Management

By Linky van der Merwe

Innovation in project managementAccording to Forbes.com innovation needs to be seen as a discipline of learning to use the right methods, tools and approaches at the right times, in other words: “learning to harness innovation”.

Harnessing the Power of Innovation was the theme of the latest Project Management South Africa (PMSA) National Conference that was held from 9-11 November in Johannesburg. The call is often for creativity and a shift in culture which will enable leaders and employees to optimize change. The question on how to achieve this was answered by a number of excellent speakers on the topic of Innovation!

PMSA Conference Nov 2016Project management often provides the ideal environment in which to harness innovation. It requires project managers’ skills sets to include the ability to encourage and develop creative thinking to achieve results.

The keynote speaker, Vasitha Pather, set out to demystify innovation by presenting a view of the bigger picture thinking required to integrate innovation into our projects. She helped project managers to think how we create an environment for innovation to take root and flourish.

Listening

According to Vasitha listening creates a safe space and increases trust. In the context of listening we enter in a psychological state where we are more receptive to be creative. A key ingredient of innovation is to slow down in order to move fast.

Find your flow

In sport they talk about getting into the zone, where they describe an altered state of consciousness, an increased mental state and even a heightened state of enjoyment.

We need to be in environments that are fun and innovative. As project managers and change managers we need to enable that through conversation, having fun and giving meaning to work. Let people engage all their senses, because we think with our whole body.  We’ll immerse ourselves in a state of productivity that can increase our productivity by up to 60%.

Social sensitivity

Diversity is a core aspect of innovation. It helps to have different perspectives, to care about each other and to have authentic leaders.

Vasitha also referred to the work of Peter Block, called Social Fabric which is centered around the need to belong. He believes in building a community that gives a sense of connectedness, where collaboration is a choice and people realise that they can create more together than on their own.

For project managers who value high-performing teams it’s good to encourage a culture of appreciation. Reward and acknowledge people by their name, give empathy that will increase the feeling of connectedness and will contribute to people feeling safe and connected.

Where projects often consist of self-organising teams, project managers need to build resilience in the system to handle the uncertainty. It’s important to remember that you cannot innovate without disruption. Where people play, insights and knowledge come out, because you give people a higher experience, while staying productive.
Virtual Project Consulting Please subscribe to Virtual Project Consulting not to miss future articles, tips and success stories!

 

Is your project team familiar with the Agile Manifesto?

Today you can download and print an A0 size poster on the Manifesto for Agile software development.

Put it on the wall in your workplace to help your team learn the four key values in the Manifesto for Agile Software Development.
Agile Manifesto

A credit to Knowledge Train, the designer of this Agile manifesto infographic.

Find an Infographic on the 12 Agile Principles here.

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