Monday, May 20, 2019

A PMs Guide to calming oneself

I have wanted to write this article for some time because I know how important this is to project managers. In IT, the days are long but fast and there is no time to relax. One topic that comes up very often is the question of whether you run a project in the waterfall method or run an agile project. With things moving so fast, ALL projects are agile projects. You meet every day, sometimes several times a day. You discuss tasks, risks, issues and constraints constantly. And you speak on every project with every project member of every project, ensuring that there are no fires to put out. PMs are so stressed these days that taking Valium may be on the daily menu (joking of course).

So how does a PM stay or get calm? I have found the older methods of counting to ten or conduction breathing exercises works. But there are better reasons why a PM should stay or become calm. Your project team looks to you as their leader and if their leader is panicked, they become panicked. This is not what any PM wants.

Cooler heads make better decisions

When we are not focused on the exact issue and upset or angry about an issue or situation, we often make bad choices. This is common knowledge, but not common practice. One of the best methods I have learned to do is to take a step back and breathe, then after about 15 minutes or so then respond. Now this works great in theory, but in practice there are times you are expected to respond immediately. You should do so, but read your response back aloud and think how the recipient will respond when reading your email.
During a meeting, it is best to just listen, breathe and then calmly respond to an individual. If you are perceived as the calm and level headed person, your advice will be taken more seriously.

You don’t want to look like you don’t have the patience to make level -headed decisions. You want to come across as thoughtful and introspective about decision making.

The project team likes to see calm and control, even if you’re screaming inside

The most important aspect of calming yourself is how you are viewed by colleagues and project team members. People want to follow a leader that actual knows how to lead even in difficult situations. This is again common knowledge but not common practice.

I have seen PMs do remarkable things in very challenging situations. I have also seen PMs make horrible mistakes when rushing. I know that there are some projects that demand quick decisions. In these cases, the PM has to make the best choice at the time with the information given at that time. You will be second-guessed and you will come under scrutiny. Stay calm and make the best decision you can make with the information you have at that time. Document that decision and present it calmly. You will come under fire by individuals who think that a better decision could have been made. This is usually claimed by individuals who were no where near the scene when the decision had to be made. Stay calm anyway. Leaders don’t seek revenge or to disparage those that try to disparage you. If you can prove that you made a decision with the availbale data at that time and document it, you can withstand any criticism.

Make this the norm

I cannot stress this enough – MAKE THIS THE NORM!! Yes, I just screamed. No, it was not out of angst. Time and time again, I see PMs make the same error when responding to critical issues that need responses immediately. This does not reflect well on our profession and the PMs that continue this must be counseled.  Now, I know that there are times that decisions must be made quckly and sometimes without very much data. However, that is becoming the exception not the norm. So, the PM has to collect all the available data and review the decision, preferably with the project team.
 Remember to breathe, remember that many look to you to lead and remember that you can make a documented decision with the data at the time. Do this, and you will be seen as the PM with the calm to lead in a storm. 

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@bennythepm.comYou may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Project Management in the Digital sector

In the past, I have written about how a Project Manager (PM) has to become more than just IT PMs. As PMs, we have to be knowledgeable about the products we are implementing. They have to be aware of the products benefits to the organization and why the product is being implemented. Especially as a strategic PM, we have to know the benefits, the cost savings, what problem the product solves, etc. What I see more often are digital projects that PMs are being tasked to implement. Once again, the PM has to be aware of this growing space and acquire new skills or bring to the project skills that the PM once had and has to “dust off.” In digital projects, I have seen many additional skills that a PM has to be familiar with. For this blog, I will address a few. Not that these skills are the most important, but they are something a PM needs to be good at for the project.

Analytics and Reporting

Similar to what is important in real-estate, for digital projects it is data, data, data. The PM has to be familiar with the data mining process. How to collect data, decipher it and provide meaningful reports to the organization and especially to executive management. Obviously Google Analytics is a good first place to begin, but the PM should be working with the Subject Matter Expert (SME) on the project and Business Analyst (BA) to understand the deliverables for the project and what the benefits are when the product is implemented. As with IT projects, Digital projects are usually costly and have a long execution phase and monitor and control phase. Keeping the project team focused and on track will be the PMs hardest job. Second will be the communication and reporting progress to management. Also, the PM has to provide management with samples of what the analytics will be like during these phases so that the project team receives valuable feedback from executive management. 

Information Architecture

Classifying and auditing information will be paramount to the digital project. So the PM has to have the correct team members that have experience in these tasks on the project. If there is a lack of this experience in the organization, it is critical that the PM communicates this to management so as to be able to acquire this in a vendor or consultant organization. Yes, a team member can get trained on this and it may not be a stretch for a team member who has had similar tasks in auditing to be trained in the digital product. However, the PM has to be able to assess the competency of the team member and report their findings to management. If the team member needs a lot of training, this may be a risk to the project since these are critical path tasks. The PM must be able to show management that these tasks need more experience for the implementation and that hiring a third party is money well spent.

Social Media

In these days of Face book, Twitter and LinkedIn, the PM has to knowledgeable how the organization will be leveraging these sites for the digital project implementation. The organization has to have a strategic purpose on these sites. Just being on them is not good enough. The organization must have a direct connection between how to leverage these sites to the organizations strategic vision. In other words, the PM should demand for their project that the organization provide the strategic objectives in using these sites and how they benefit the organization. Which tool is better suited for the organization and why? Are there resources in the marketing department that are dedicated to the messaging on these sites? These resources should be on the project and provide insight on the product implementation mainly because these resources should see the benefits of implementing the product.

The PM will be tasked with a successful implementation of the product and the measuring stick for the success will be the usage of the product after the implementation. Executive management will need to know that the budget, which includes the time of the project resources, was time and money well spent. If that can be proven, the PM will have delivered a successful project. 

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@bennythepm.comYou may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Project Management in the non-profit sector

Most of my career, I have worked in the for-profit sector of the economy and is mainly the reason I believe in capitalism. Even in a capitalistic system, you have non-profit organizations that are in need of project managers, maybe not so much in IT, but definitely in the business side of an organization. Which brings up the question; is project management (PM) so different in the non-profit sector?

Budget, Schedule and Scope

The triple constraint is still a for PM, even in the non-profit sector. And if the non-profit is a charitable organization, maybe more of a constraint on the budget. But let’s speak about government as a non-profit organization. Even state or local governments have strict contract restrictions, for the most part, for any project work. They may not have a full Project Management Office (PMO) and contract the PM work out, but even government agencies have strict budgetary constraints. I know on the federal level, especially for defense work, their contracts are under great restrictions. I live not so far from a military base, and have spoken to many government contractors and the $500 hammer in the budget is a myth. So if budget is strictly reviewed, so is schedule and scope. This is not to say that changes don’t occur in government projects. As in the for-profit sector, regulations or even something as un-thought of as weather can change a project.

More Political?

Sure, in any political election season things may be more political, but office politics are basically the same in non-profit as they are in for-profit. And you have to navigate these waters as close as you do in the for-profit sector. For example, in the educational sector, individuals are very concerned about being tenured. So a project cannot disrupt that career path, especially an over budget project. In state government offices, schedule is strictly followed and reviewed as is scope. That’s because it ties into the budget. You have longer projects, so change happens more easily and must be strictly regulated. However, that is the same for for-profit in many ways. When was the last time you as a PM were given a blank check? Correct, never. So it is with non-profits.

Difference in Managing?

You must manage your project reports, peers and managers in the same fashion in the non-profit sector as you would for the for-profit sector. The only difference I have seen as the layers of management. Where for-profit concerns are becoming flatter in organizational areas, the non-profit is still hung on titles and levels of management. That may mean more management for the PM, but the PM has to navigate these waters in the same manner as the PM would in the for-profit sector.

I am interested in hearing from PMs in the non-profit sectors. Please connect with me and weigh in on the discussion. 

 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@bennythepm.comYou may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Should you be formal or casual during meetings with management?

There is a PM I know called Bob. Bob has a great Project Manager’s position (PM) as the lead PM in his organization. He is the go-to PM on any critical or strategic project and is directly called upon by executive management. As a matter of fact, Bob is stopped in the hallway and called directly by executive management for needed information.
This poses only one dilemma for Bob, he is not entirely sure how to act. He is known to be a formal person during working hours and he feels comfortable doing that. However, some of the executives have spoken casually with him about sports, children and other non-work topics. So this has thrown Bob off a bit. But Bob has come up with his ideas of how to act at work.
For non-work topics, be casual

All work and no play makes for a dull place! Bob understands this and for those executive managers that have approached him on topics we’ll call casual, Bob engages in discussions other than business. Topics like sports, household repairs like painting a room, colleges children are applying to. These are acceptable topics to be casual on as long as the executive managers have begun the casual conversations. Bob also understands the “bartender” rule or topics NEVER to discuss; politics, religion or sex. These topics can lead to heated discussions and Bob does NOT want to be on the wrong end of these types of discussions. For example Bob is an avid football fan and follows a certain team. Bob is often approached by a certain C-level executive about the same team and they have a casual discussion about how well or how poorly that team played on Sunday. This is an acceptable and suitable casual discussion.

For work topics, be formal

Bob also reports to an executive manager that reports to that same C-level executive. While in a project meeting, Bob knows that he is reporting on business of the organization and keeps it formal. Sure, they can laugh about how someone got in a task early when that person suggested more days, but that is an exception, not the rule. When reporting on a project that the C-level executive is interested in, the football chatter does not enter the conversation. Sure, that C-level executive may speak to Bob AFTER the meeting about the performance of their team, but it is after the meeting, not during the meeting. Bob understands that the C-level executive has very limited time and is going from one meeting to another and must focus on topics of the meeting he/she is in at the time. Idle chatter is not the order of business at this meeting time.
As a matter of fact, that goes for any project member on Bob’s project, not just the C-level executive. During the project team meeting, Bob keeps it formal even if one of his team members starts to chatter about something else, bringing that member back to the order of business.
Do not mix these up

What Bob does as well is no to mix the two. He doesn’t want any executive or team member to think that Bob is not serious about his project work or PM responsibilities. That would be professional disaster for Bob’s career and could dampen any opportunity for advancement. Some of the other PMs and Bob meet outside the office and yes, sometimes they discuss business. But Bob knows to keep discussions in confidence and so do the other PMs Bob confides in. If Bob finds out that one PM does not keep discussions in confidence, Bob will no longer discuss business with that PM outside the office and depending on the circumstance, possibly at all. Bob has learned how to navigate the waters of formal and casual discussions with office workers, even at the C-level. Bob is a trusted PM and intends to keep it that way. 

      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.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Project Management in a Digital World

In the past, I have written about how an IT Project Manager (PM) has to do more than just manage IT projects. As PMs, we have to be knowledgeable about all the products we are implementing. We have to be aware of the product’s benefits to the organization and why the product is being implemented. As strategic PMs, we have to know the benefits, the cost savings, what problem the product solves, and more.
More and more, PMs are being tasked to implement digital projects. Once again, the PM has to be aware of this growing space and acquire new skills or “dust off”project skills they have not used in some time. For digital projects, there are many additional skills that a PM has to be familiar with. For this blog, I will address a few. These skills may not be the most important in managing the digital project, but they are critical skills a PM needs to be proficient at.

Analytics and Reporting

Similar to location, location, location being key in real-estate, data, data, data are important in digital projects. The PM has to be familiar with the data mining process: how to collect data, decipher it, and then provide meaningful reports to the organization, especially executive management. Obviously Google Analytics is a good first place to begin, but the PM should be working with the Subject Matter Expert (SME) and Business Analyst (BA) on the project to understand the deliverables and the benefits of implementing the product.  As with IT projects, digital projects are usually costly and have long execution phases and monitor and control phases.  Keeping the project team focused and on track will be the PM’s hardest job. Communicating and reporting progress to management will be next.  Also, the PM has to provide executive management with samples of what the analytics will be like during these phases so that the project team receives their valuable feedback. 

Information Architecture

Classifying and auditing information will be paramount to the digital project.  As such, the PM must have team members who are experienced in performing these tasks for the project.  If there is a lack of this experience in the organization, it is critical that the PM communicates this to management so as to be able to acquire this expertisefrom a vendor or consultant organization.  Also, it may be possible for a team member who has performed similar tasks in auditing to be trained in the digital product.  However, the PM has to be able to assess the competency of the team member and report their findings to management. If the team member needs a lot of training, this may be a risk to the project since these are critical path tasks. The PM must be able to show management that these tasks need more experience for the implementation and that hiring a third party is money well spent.

Social Media

In these days of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, the PM has to know how the organization will be leveraging these sites for the digital project implementation.  The organization has to have a strategic purpose on these sites--just being on them is not good enough. The organization must have a direct connection between their strategic vision and how they are leveraging these sites.  In other words, the PM must insist that the organization provide the strategic objectives in using these sites and how they may benefit the organization. Which tool is better suited for the organization and why? Are there resources in the marketing department that are dedicated to the messaging on these sites? These resources should be on the project and provide insight on the product implementation mainly because these resources need to see the benefits of the product.

The PM will be tasked with a successful implementation of the product and the measuring stick for success will be the usage of the product after the implementation. Executive management will need to know that the budget, which includes the time of the project resources, was time and money well spent. If that can be proven, the PM will have delivered a successful project. 

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.