Friday, January 31, 2014

The Traveling PM: Conducting Multiple Projects on the Road

When a project manager (PM) is part of a Professional Services Organization (PSO) or a Project Management Office (PMO), there may be a project(s) where the PM needs to travel out of town or even out of the country. When that happens, the busy PM may have that gripping feeling of fear of what to do with all of the other projects the PM is responsible for.  Now, a good PM, when given this project, begins to plan immediately on how to provide the other projects with leadership in the PMs absence.

Your associates and peers should step up
It usually is no secret that you will be out of the office on business. You should be putting together a list of current projects that need support in your absence. Most likely, your associates know all the hot items on your projects since they have probably heard your updates at meetings. In the group meetings that follow, you have to begin laying the ground work and getting volunteers to manage your projects in your absence. Now, there may be one or two projects that in the launch stage. In that specific case, the Business Analyst (BA) or Subject Matter Expert (SME) may be the lead for that project. However, a  you as the PM may be needed to manage the process. So you will have to request help from other PMs who may not have a lot of time on their hands.

I would strongly suggest that the  you first discuss this with the PM’s immediate manager. You need the manager’s support on the plan you have come up with. The manager may know who is busy and who has the bandwidth to support you. With that information, and before the next group meeting, you should speak to the PMs that the you believe can best support your ongoing projects.

You must leave clear instructions in your absence
You must put all of the projects in flight in order of importance and execution. What I mean by that is you must communicate which project is of higher priority and why. Is one project close to signing off on their user acceptance test? Is one project in the beginning phases of execution? Is another project close to finalizing their training sessions? All of this must be documented with the BA and other project team members must be made aware that you are traveling. Also, you must identify the key stakeholders for the client/end-user.

With this documented, and with clear instructions, you can now petition the other PMs with the request of back up and support.

Ensure that you are kept informed
Before leaving for the business trip, leave clear instructions on how to contact you if there is an emergency. After the back-up PMs are identified, you must then communicate the plan to the in-flight project team members with documented communication plans that include contact information. Most likely, you will have contact via email during non-business hours and/or a smart phone. You must note that communication will not be immediate and will be only if necessary.
Once this are all established, then and only then is the PM ready to travel.

I am open to discussion at any time on these blogs or anything else related to project management you would like to explore. If you would like to comment about this blog, please do so by posting on this blog or by responding in an email at Benny A. Recine. You may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

What is Important Outside of the PM Profession?

I am often asked, “What is important to the project manager (PM) outside the PM profession?” There can be multiple answers to this question and all of them would be correct. It depends on what a PM wants to accomplish professionally and personally. Do the two have to be perfectly in synch? The answer is no, but they should be somewhat complementary. So what is the balance for a PM? I can’t answer that question for you, but I can tell you how I do this myself.
Be Charitable with Your Time and Expertise
In this time of tight budgets, both organizationally and personally, be charitable with your time. You see the term “time is money” doesn’t end just with your profession. I belong to several networking groups, some of which are email only, some of which have monthly meetings. I do my best to attend at least six monthly meeting a year for each of the latter groups. I also am open to meeting with anyone one-on-one to network. This networking session can be done via a telephone call or at a coffee shop and the meeting can last from 15 minutes to an hour. It depends (there’s that term again) on the person requesting to network with me. We can share any number of things, from tips to contacts to a good job lead. I always consider the meetings to be two way. Just because I happen to be employed at the time does not mean that I don’t think the person I am networking with is without contacts that would be valuable to me.
Donate Your Time but Don’t Overextend Yourself
As PMs, we must be judicious with our free time. We not only have work to consider, but also our home lives that may include significant others and children. So we cannot overextend ourselves, or to put this in PM terms, allow scope creep in our personal lives where we are so busy we don’t focus on our own needs first. So pick one to three charities to commit your valuable time to. How much time really depends on how much time you have to commit. Considering that this would likely be during the evenings or weekends, once again, you must be judicious with your time.
Once a year I attend, along with some of my fellow Princeton Toastmasters, a session with the Special Olympics of NJ (SONJ) where we give athletes pointers on being better public speakers. This is usually a one-day session where we work with the athletes and then they give a short presentation. I can’t tell you how rewarding this is to me and my fellow Princeton Toastmasters. It really is a fulfilling day that leaves each and every one of us feeling as if we have just conquered Mt. Everest. I look forward to being part of this day every year, not because of what I can give in terms of communication skills, but in terms of what I can learn from the athletes and about myself.
My son Robert is an Eagle Scout, a laudable achievement of Boy Scouts. When he was starting out as a Cub Scout, I was his Cub Scout leader, as well leader for the other eight boys in his den. Now I make a monetary contribution to the local Boy Scout council. Contributing funds to worthy causes is important, however, contributing time is more valuable, in my humble opinion.
Additionally, I also participate in the National Multiple Sclerosis Society MS walk every year. That takes about four hours one day a year, where I raise money for a worthy cause. Also, on my blog, you will see the website for another worthy cause, Pennies in Action ( My wife Marie recently conquered breast cancer using a vaccine in combination with standard treatment and she is now involved with this charity to help bring the solution to all women. We recently attended a fundraising dinner for this cause.
Now, among these charities, I devote all of about three days of my time, which does not include my network groups. Considering what I get out of this it is without a doubt, a valuable investment of my time. You have to consider which charitable events you would like to contribute your time to and how much.
Be Consistent
Lastly, be consistent. When you commit, do so wholeheartedly. There has been one year each where I could not make the SONJ event or be in the MS Walk, but those were anomalies due to my work schedule. I have been consistent regarding whom I work with and which charities I contribute to. No matter which cause you support, be consistent with your time. And by all means, be judicious.
I am open to discussion at any time on these blogs or anything else related to project management you would like to explore. If you would like to comment about this blog, please do so by posting on this blog or by responding in an email at Benny A. Recine. You may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.