A frequent concern among project management team leaders is how best to manage strong performers. How can their potential be maximized? Where can their strengths take them? Is it possible to get their talents to rub off on others?

The flip side to this concern is managing those team members whose performance isn’t quite up to par. It’s an issue that’s less common, thankfully, but it’s much more pressing when it does occur. Poor performers have the potential to spark significant havoc within even the highest-functioning PMOs and to create a measurable drag on progress.

It’s important to understand how much damage a poor performer can inflict, and what that damage typically looks like. Being able to quickly spot and address lackluster performance is crucial to keeping the rest of the group on track.

poor project performance

The leadership team must remember that early intervention is key. At the first sign of sagging performance, the employee involved (or employees, if it appears the problem may include more than one individual) should be contacted. Immediately work to identify any downstream effects, such as impacts to timing or resource allocations, that may be caused by reduced performance. Devise a strategy to bring progress back on track as quickly as possible, either by resolving the existing performance issue or by adjusting how the rest of the team supports the current project plan. This will not only help in the short term by providing poor performers with a path back to a normal working level, it will also ensure the PMO isn’t hampered in the long run by trying to fix a problem that’s already snowballed.

Initial discussions with anyone whose efforts aren’t up to par should focus on determining the facts. Has performance really dropped? Something as innocuous as a change in how metrics are gathered or measured can give the appearance of waning performance, even if that isn’t what’s actually happening. Are the employee’s efforts being stymied by new processes within the organization? Is the team member simply dealing with the ripple effects of another person’s drooping performance? Are external factors causing internal performance to fall? Have a candid conversation so everyone is aware of the causes. This will also help to determine if there are effects that haven’t yet been spotted.

It’s vital to protect other team members from being affected by the issues. Poor performers can be toxic to the rest of the project office. They have the potential to sap morale, derail progress in other areas, even disrupt the sense of team the PMO has worked so hard to achieve. While personnel issues should remain absolutely private, it may be prudent to bring the team together to work through any effects that are impacting overall progress. This will help speed the recovery process if the problem has trickled into other areas. Another strategy to consider is an increase in team-building activities designed to reinforce the good working relationships and mutual respect the team has already built.

Sticking to conventional approaches may leave the individual without a truly effective solution, so be creative when looking for ways to fix the problem. Poor performance can have its roots in any number of factors (and often a combination of several factors), many of which have little to do with the employee’s desire to do well. Training may be one option if the individual is being asked to take on tasks outside their area of expertise. Mentoring can also be helpful if a good understanding of the organization’s culture and philosophy—and being better able to navigate its processes and political nuances—is part of what’s missing.


On the surface, a soapbox derby seems to have little in common with project management. But project management professionals can actually learn quite a bit by observing how soapbox teams achieve project success.

Corporate management and consulting concept

Some projects are huge. Scale doesn’t have to be about complexity or duration. Sometimes projects are simply so monumental—in a career, in an organization—that they fill your entire windshield. A few high-profile soapbox races happen each year that are truly grand. As in the corporate project management realm, teams need to make peace with the enormity of these projects so they can tackle them without feeling overwhelmed.

Don’t let past failures get you down. When race day arrives, every soapbox team knows there can only be one winner. They also know that, even if they didn’t win last year, their efforts this time around might still be enough to get them over the finish line in first place. Project teams should learn from their past mistakes, but they need to be able to meet new challenges head on and without trepidation.

Past success is no guarantee of future results. The defending champion from last year’s derby walks into each new event with something to prove. Rather than sitting back riding on the wins from previous years, these racers know their past successes mean they need to work even harder with each successive race if they want to win. PMPs should be careful they don’t become complacent with their skills, since every new project brings the potential for new challenges.

Stakeholder engagement counts for a lot. Fan support doesn’t win a soapbox derby, but every good racer makes it a priority to entertain the crowd. The energy given off by fans—and stakeholders—helps to keep everyone engaged.

Be mindful of potential dangers, even when things are going well. A soapbox racer setting a blistering pace is always aware the next corner could bring a problem. Will they be going too fast to negotiate a tight turn? Is there gravel on the road? Like PMPs, soapbox drivers have learned to maximize their productivity now without losing sight of where challenges are likely to lurk.

Planning and execution are equally important. Showing up at a derby without a good car is a recipe for failure, but so is tackling a course with a driver who isn’t capable of getting the best performance out of their machine. Savvy soapbox racers scout out the course and fine tune their car’s handling setup before every event. When race time comes, they put all their energy into performing well right here, right now. PMOs should also be mindful of this balance between good planning and competent execution.

Teamwork should be fun. Watch the soapbox cars carrying multiple people and you’ll quickly see that teamwork isn’t all about work. PMPs may not always enjoy their working relationships as much as the soapbox teams do, but engaging is some lighthearted activities or putting together an occasional social function can really improve morale.

Learn to recover quickly. Many soapbox racers stumble—they hit a hay bale, they lose speed in a turn, a wheel comes off—but they know that persistence can save the day. Every project is sure to have its own set of glitches, even if they’re only minor. Project teams need to have good momentum if they want to overcome these obstacles and achieve consistent success.

Enjoy the journey. Win or lose, crash or conquer, every soapbox racer has a good time. If they’ve given their best effort, PMPs will also be able to look back on every project with pride and satisfaction.


Project management training tips provided by PMAlliance Inc.


Checklists are fantastic tools for project management professionals. They’re useful for everything from ensuring the right people are included on important e-mails to closing out contract negotiations. But there are some areas where checklists leave something to be desired. Below we’ve pulled together a few common places where checklists fail, and what PMPs can do to fill in the gaps and keep their projects running smoothly.

The problem: The myriad hand offs that occur throughout a project are among the most glaring potential checklist failure points. No matter if the project is large or small, there are sure to be lots of transitions. Tasks are handed off from one individual on the team to another, and sometimes they’re also sent outside the PMO for further action. Information is also frequently handed off, shifting from team to team as the project moves forward and data is updated or expanded. Even labor resources may be passed from one area of responsibility to another as different phases of the project ramp up and wind down. Checklists, however, are often less transitory. This opens the door to potential disconnects.

The fix: Consistent follow up is key when it comes to hand offs. The simplest solution is to add a post-transition follow up. This gives team members the opportunity to ensure that the completion of any additional actions impacting their areas are confirmed. It’s also a good spot for a double check, since the individual receiving the hand off may not have good visibility on any outstanding activities.

The problem: Isolated changes to a project’s checklists provide the perfect breeding ground for failures. That’s because, with the hectic pace of activities during the project, it can be difficult to let those managing dependent areas know about each and every change. But it’s also tough to recall minor changes once the project winds down. Checklist changes then fall into no-man’s land—updated in one area but not revised in others. This has the potential to put activities out of sync or leave important information undistributed when the next project begins.

The fix: Without adding too much to the team’s workload, consider maintaining a list of all changes made to every checklist used within the PMO. Changes should be added to the list as they happen, with the entire list being reviewed during the post-mortem phase to ensure that any updates in one area are disseminated to other portions of the team as appropriate. It’s likely many changes won’t have wide-reaching effects, but it’s better to capture the information and not need it than to run into difficulties later.

The problem: There is no “typical” project. This leaves a lot of checklists—many geared toward the type of project the PMO handles most often—inherently incomplete. Every project will have its nuances, from the use of a niche vendor to the inclusion of new internal stakeholders. If there is no provision for these sorts of changes to be made within the checklist structure, something is almost certain to be overlooked. Compounding the issue is that non-standard items from previous checklists are often removed as soon as the project is complete, leaving the potential for omissions when a similar project again comes through the PMO.

The fix: The post-mortem analysis and pre-launch activities are key opportunities to round out any tasks or other data that may be missing from the PMO’s master checklist templates. It’s preferable that boilerplate checklists have items that can be crossed off before the project even begins rather than be missing checklist components when the team is in the throes of a complex and time-consuming project.

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Project management training blog & tips provided by PMAlliance

The Benefits of Including Project Sponsors in Your Training Program

Corporate America invests millions of dollars each year in project management – offices, technology, project management training, and project management consulting support. Conversely, data reflects that even with project management being a relatively common process used at most companies; project success rates do not reflect the investment. Studies show that project management success rates range between 35 to 45% – far from a sensational benchmark to brag about. Bottom line, despite many companies investing in project management infrastructure most projects are not delivered successfully (on-time, within budget and to desired quality). Though the root causes for project failures are many, one glaring deficiency becoming clearer is the lack of project management training at the sponsor level. Project managers usually garner most of the attention for project management training initiatives, followed by team members and software experts. However, project sponsors – those individuals who fill the role of resource provider, key decision maker and remover of obstacles -tend to slip through the training cracks. Including project sponsors (and executive stakeholders) in project management methodology training will help three key areas project sponsors training: (1) better project direction, (2) better project data utilization, and (3) improved cultural adoption of project management.

Common Characteristics of Productive Sponsors

  • Understands the Planning Methodology
  • Provides Active Direction During Planning Sessions
  • Stays Current on the Latest Project Status Report
  • Uses the Project Information Provided to Challenge Teams
  • Commits to Instilling PM in the Corporate Culture
  • Is Present and Engaged During Control Meetings

Better direction

The project sponsor plays a key role in defining the strategic direction of the project and communicating management’s expectations for the project. This information is often times captured in the form of a project charter. If a project sponsor has not been involved in the basic building blocks of project charter development, they often times struggle to provide
clear direction to the project manager. The result is the project manager may drive the team to successfully completing the wrong project! The project sponsor is the conduit between the executive stakeholders and the project manager. Without a clear understanding of how to communicate the objectives of the project, how the objectives of the project determine the key deliverables, and how the project manager can best deliver the project with specified deadlines; the sponsor is ultimately helping to facilitate a failed project. By ensuring your project sponsors are grounded in the same project management methodology as the project manager, you are providing your project manager and team the best opportunity to launching a successful project.

Better Project Data Utilization

Project management information is not very valuable if it is not being utilized effectively. Even the most detailed report package or visually stimulating powerpoint presentation will fall on deaf ears if the recipients do not know what they are supposed to do with the information provided. To this point, the sponsor’s key role throughout the course of the project is to allocate and redirect resources as needed, remove obstacles preventing the project from moving forward, and providing strategic direction to the project manager, among others. Without the sponsor understanding the same planning methodology as the project manager, discussions on concepts of critical/controlling path, compression techniques, and resource management alternatives, will often get confused. In the end, the sponsor and project manager may either get misaligned or the sponsor gradually becomes disengaged. By including the project sponsor in the project management training, they are able to internalize the data being presented to them, understand strategic options and provide more sound direction to the project manager.

Cultural Adoption

Successful project management initiatives are not rolled out without some discomfort involved. Project management is a process that involves the team’s time, focus and commitment to success. Without these elements, everyone is simply going through the motions and not viewing project management as a value added management tool. When utilized to its fullest, project management can be an early warning system that helps reduce organizational stress and assists the project team with prioritizing their time.  A strong sponsor that is well trained in the planning methodology and bought into its success can act as a “lightening rod” in channeling project success into a cultural game changer. By driving the team to become engaged in the planning and control process and utilizing the techniques they have been trained in, they can quickly generate momentum that illustrates their investment (time and budgetary) are worthwhile.

The project sponsor fills a critical role in the success of a project and thus should be grounded in the same planning and control concepts as the project manager and team. By not including the sponsors in the training, the message received from the project manager and team is “do as I say, not as I do” – a recipe for failure. By speaking the same project management language the sponsors are able to take a more active role in setting the direction of the project, ask the right questions when the project management data is presented, help the project manager navigate potential obstacles during the project execution and ultimately motivate the overall corporate culture to adopt project management as a value added process.

project sponsors training



Project management professionals often find it difficult to gain good visibility for the risk management work they do. Unfortunately, executive-level stakeholders don’t always understand the importance of the project office’s risk management function. This makes it tough to garner support when it’s needed and also increases the difficulty of championing the team’s ability to effectively manage project risk.

There are some strategies PMPs can use to help boost their PMO’s risk management profile and the image project risk management has among stakeholders. We’ve put together a few tips designed to make the leadership team aware of the need for strong risk management competencies, and to highlight your team’s prowess in this advanced discipline.

Provide project risk management trainingFollowing the thinking that “informal” could possibly equal “less important” in the mind of someone not attuned to the disciplines involved in project management, creating structure—and potentially requirements—around risk management training will help change the attitude about the competencies involved. It’s also an excellent way to ensure everyone in the PMO is using the same methodologies and best practices, and has received project management training from an experienced instructor. As the team increases its mastery of risk management, the value of their skills will also increase outside the project office.

Formalize the risk management function within the project office. This shift in thinking actually produces several benefits. First, it means that risk management is no longer just an accepted part of everyone’s job—it should now be viewed as a competency of its own and hold a place of importance within the project management responsibility list. It’s a strategy that often raises team members’ awareness of the importance of risk management, which in turn enables them to more clearly articulate the critical role it plays when talking with those on the leadership team.

In addition, formalizing risk management activities allows PMOs to more deliberately employ proven risk management methodologies. Actions such as analyzing and monitoring risks becomes an expected part of the planning function, and it’s more likely that the resources necessary to manage project risk will be properly allocated.

Include data about risk management findings and strategies when presenting project information to stakeholders. Much of the problem with a lack of visibility can be traced back to the simple fact that, if you don’t tell people what’s going on, they probably won’t find out about it on their own. Making risk management updates a normal part of your communication strategy can go a long way in keeping the executive team aware of the function and your PMO’s skillful handling of it.

Explain the benefits of risk management as it relates to the project. Again, the leadership team may not have a good understanding of the upside to strong project risk management. Provide them with details—industry-level benchmarking or even statistics from your team’s past projects—on how properly identifying and analyzing risk allows the PMO to have consistent, repeatable success. Share with stakeholders the basics of your risk management approach and why you believe it’s the best strategy for the projects managed by the team.

Remind stakeholders that risk management competencies aren’t reserved for large, complex, or high-visibility projects. This wouldn’t be a completely unrealistic thing for those outside the project team to assume, so it’s important to help them understand that risk management is something that’s ongoing no matter the type or size of project. Show the executive staff that identifying risks and planning for (or avoiding) any potential impacts that may result from them is an instrumental function regardless of a project’s budget, duration, or the number of users it affects.

risk project management

Motion Graphic – The Control Process

The foundation for successful projects is the use of a formal, proactive control process continuously over the life of the project.  Though most studies agree on its importance, the control process tends to be the single most common element that project teams underemphasize. PMAlliance can help implement a best in class, proven control process that does not create an undue burden on the team.

By using our formal approach your teams and executive sponsors will realize a number of advantages:

  1. They will have an early warning system that alerts them to project problems while there is still time to take corrective action

  2. They will have a neutral, non-subjective assessment of the status of the project on a regular basis

  3. They will have a mechanism that will allow project managers to keep the team focused on the project especially when team members are assigned to multiple projects

  4. They will have a process that ensures their project plans are continually updated

In addition to being formal, an effective project control process must also be proactive.  We believe that the emphasis in project control should be placed on resolving future problems rather than “fire fighting” problems that have already occurred.  PMAlliance incorporates a number of important techniques into our Duration-Driven control process that make it proactive:

  1. We require all team members to reconfirm near-term commitments on a weekly basis,

  2. We create a completion-oriented atmosphere where the emphasis is placed on problem solving and achieving results rather than assigning blame,

  3. We work with project managers to create a team environment where it is “safe to tell the truth”

  4. We work to ensure that any deviations or slippage in the plan are dealt-with and resolved quickly.

But how do we do it?  First we start with a good quality, network-based project plan that was developed using our Duration-Driven techniques.

Then on a weekly basis, PMAlliance consultants facilitate a structured, disciplined control process that incorporates the latest technologies for collection, analysis, and reporting of project information.

For project teams to be successful they need to have an accurate and reliable project plan not only in the beginning, but also throughout the duration of the project.  The PMAlliance Control Process ensures on an on-going basis that project teams have an up-to-date project plan they can use to identify problems and make smart decisions that drive the success of their projects.

For more about our project planning approach, check out our video on: Duration-Driven Methodology.

control process by PMAlliance

PMAlliance provides project management consultingproject management training and project office development services.

Project Management Training Courses Are Coming to a City Near You

PMAlliance‘s national open enrollment project management training schedule has been posted. The initial calendar consists of an eight city event beginning in Nashville, this April. Followed monthly by Indianapolis, Houston, Seattle, San Jose, Washington DC, San Diego, and Atlanta. For the full schedule and to register click HERE. Continue reading Project Management Training Courses Are Coming to a City Near You

Speak Your Mind and Overcome That Less-Than-Ideal Training Session

Project management training should be a high priority for every project management consulting professional. But occasionally you may attend training that isn’t quite what you hoped for. Fortunately, there are some tricks you can use to improve the experience. If you’re willing to speak your mind and go after the information you want, chances are good that you can overcome a less-than-ideal project management training session.

The material isn’t what you were looking for. Maybe it’s geared toward a different industry or there aren’t enough real-world examples to develop a thorough understanding of the principles. If that’s the case, start by asking open-ended questions that will lead the conversation toward the information you hope to learn. When the workgroup sessions begin, pick the brains of those on your team to see if they can add useful knowledge to what the presenter has already offered.

The content is too remedial. You’ve paid for the class and taken time to attend, so get the most out of it. Pay attention to what sort of questions the other participants—who may be digesting exactly the kind of information they need—are asking. These are the likely the same things the more junior members of your own PMO are keen to learn. Gather as much insight as you can into the skills and scenarios the other attendees are interested in and carry that knowledge back so you can boost the competencies of your own team.

The presenter isn’t great. Many factors can dampen an otherwise great class—a flaky sound system; a presenter who talks too fast; slides with a tiny or unreadable font. The key is to say something to the organizer as soon as you discover there’s a problem. The instructor likely doesn’t realize you can’t hear them, or that they need to zoom in on key graphics.

project management Brainstorming

PMAlliance has a national open enrollment training schedule
For more information on the event locations and schedules click HERE





Most project management professionals have their own project portfolios—they come in handy during job interviews, performance reviews, etc. But your PMO should also have a portfolio. It’s a great PR tool when your team hosts networking events, and it’s also helpful when introducing your team to a new executive or key stakeholder. We’ve put together a quick guide to get your PMO’s portfolio started.


Select a handful of projects to include. You can’t include everything, but look for a variety of projects that showcase your team’s versatility. Include at least one very large project, one high-visibility project, and one project that directly affected the company’s bottom line. Projects with particular significance (improvements to a manufacturing facility, for example) or that demonstrate your team’s expertise in niche areas (perhaps a project completed under regulatory oversight) would also be good additions.


Create a project summary for each project. Viewers of your PMO’s portfolio will want to quickly understand the basic objectives and parameters of the various projects your team has executed, so give them the basics at a glance: a short list of key deliverables, information on the project’s duration or timetable, cost data that includes budgeted and actual figures for expense and capital line items, a list of key project team members and their areas of responsibility, and other notable resource allocations or project details. Keep each project summary to just a single page for easy viewing.


Pull some photos together. Few things can help viewers understand the scope and impact of your projects like pictures. But you don’t need many—select one or two large photos that best describe the project’s challenges and final outcome, along with a few smaller pictures that highlight particularly interesting aspects of the project. Any more than that, and your viewers will likely lose interest.

PMAlliance uses a team of highly experienced and certified professionals to provide project management consulting and project management training services.


Project Management Training Infographic by PMAlliance

Check out our latest infographic to find out why Project Management Training should matter to your team and organization.

Also check out our other Training Infographic for more great stats: DO YOU NEED PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING? project management training infographic pmalliance

PMAlliance has a national open enrollment training schedule
For more information on the event locations and schedules click HERE

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Communication strategies and pumpkin pie

Turkey, stuffing, and pie are Thanksgiving staples, but communication? It turns out that good communication channels are crucial to putting on a first-rate holiday event. Here we’ll look at the strategies Thanksgiving planners use and how they jive with good project management.

Continue reading Communication strategies and pumpkin pie


Earlier we talked about the hallmarks of leaderless projects and some of the issues they bring. It’s crucial to reignite stakeholder engagement, hold one champion accountable for supporting the project, and sidestep a leadership-by-committee structure if you see one looming on the horizon. If you suddenly find yourself knee deep in a project without a champion, what can you do?

1 – Reconnect with your champion. If you suspect your primary stakeholder has (or is planning to) jump ship, don’t hesitate to re-engage them. You may be tempted to start the courtship by e-mail, but savvy Project Managers will opt for a more direct route. Schedule a brief meeting with the stakeholder to bring them up to speed on the project and the challenges their absence may have created.

2 – Know what you need from your champion. As you bring your champion back into the loop, be prepared with timelines and budgets that highlight any problem areas. Also explain issues you anticipate to encounter should the team continue without the stakeholder’s support. Provide the champion with a list of immediate needs, if any—resource authorizations, approvals for action, etc. Even if you don’t get their full attention, you may at least receive the support the project needs to succeed.

3 – Put the leadership back on one champion. If you suspect your project is leaning toward leadership-by-committee, it’s crucial that you place one stakeholder at the top of the organizational chart, and fast. Try to identify a stakeholder with the highest approval authority as well as influence. Have a candid conversation with your champion to ensure everyone is on the same page regarding existing problems, support needs going forward, and expectations on both sides. Close the loop with your team and others impacted by the project by announcing the champion’s formal leadership position.


Many project management teams are good at brainstorming new ways to make their processes more efficient and to devise strategies that allow them to have repeatable successes. But sometimes moving those innovations into practice is harder than coming up with the ideas in the first place. How good is your PMO at turning all those good intentions into action? Below we’ve put together 3 steps to help you make sure the seeds sown during brainstorming sessions have the opportunity to grow into real fruit.

1 – Keep track of ideas. Your team is too busy to remember all the great suggestions that come up in brainstorming meetings, so make a record of everything—notes, screenshots, whiteboard postulating, etc. Don’t sell the process short by editing the list too early or too much. And remember that an idea may be introduced before its time, so a periodic review of the list is helpful in keeping things from slipping off the radar.

2 – Assign every good idea to one person for further review. Too many promising concepts fade into obscurity because no one shepherds them along. Rather than allowing useful ideas to fall through the cracks, give them a home by assigning each one to a member of the project team. That person can then evaluate the idea’s real-world viability and identify potential issues that could affect implementation.

3 – Follow up. Project Managers are busy, and the best way to keep good ideas on the front burner is to create a schedule for routine follow ups. These will allow the group to get together for updates on pending ideas. They can then continue vetting the ideas, offer potential solutions to any problems that have been identified, or come to a consensus that an idea isn’t feasible or doesn’t return enough benefit to continue exploring it.

Project Management professional



A popular tactic of stakeholders who don’t really want to commit, “leaderless” projects are those that end up being turned over to entire groups of end users to babysit, and often result in nightmares for Project Managers. Below are a handful of scenarios that could tell you you’re facing a leaderless project.

Approval authority has been delegated to more than one person. On the surface this looks like empowerment, but deep down you may discover the project’s primary champion has simply eliminated their role and effectively left a host of others in charge without giving them the true authority to keep the project moving forward. Leadership-by-committee works for a while, but if difficult decisions must be made it’s likely no one will feel they are in a position to have the final word.

No one seems to have approval authority. A number of individuals may have been tasked with acting in the primary champion’s stead, even though none has been given the power to make project-impacting decisions. Trying to pry approvals or firm direction from the chief stakeholder is likely to be difficult, and the project ends up languishing in a mess of internal red tape while purchase requests and pending contracts sit in limbo.

The primary stakeholder rarely attends high-level project meetings. Often a co-symptom of leaderless projects, along with either delegating approval authority to several others or delegating approval to no one. An absent champion isn’t a concern if they continue to be accessible in other ways (via e-mail or phone, or through regular drop-in visits to their office). The bigger issue is the champion who is absent because they’re getting pushback on the project from other sectors (budget, corporate objectives, etc.), or has lost their zeal for the project and no longer gives it the support it needs.

Project Management Tips


PMAlliance uses a team of highly experienced and certified professionals to provide project management consulting, project management training and project office development services.


Sometimes, in their zest to achieve a project’s objectives, Project Managers go a little too far. They push too much, talk too much, or ask too much. But there are usually flags warning you’re in danger of overplaying things. From body language to other subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) cues, below are 4 signs it may be time to say “when.”

1 – Crossed arms. A classic indication folks have stopped listening, a wall of crossed arms across the conference table should tell you it’s time to adjourn the meeting and take a breather. You may be facing tough opposition, so consider if your approach is too heavy handed or if you should instead try talking to folks one on one before addressing them as a group.

2 – “I don’t understand.” This is a clear warning flag your message isn’t hitting home. Occasionally used by stubborn people as a way to avoid capitulating to an idea they don’t completely embrace, but more frequently it’s an honest response to a situation that just isn’t coming together for a particular individual. Rather than repeating the same message, step back and see if there’s a different way of explaining it.

3 – Excessive doodling. Many people find it’s helpful—when listening to detailed information, brainstorming, or simply pulling their thoughts together—to scribble pictures or notes. However, if your audience seems more involved in their artwork than your presentation, they’re probably ready for a time out. Sometimes a short break is all that’s needed to bring everyone back on task.

4 – Lack of interaction. If others who should be involved in your discussion seem to be on automatic nod or simply aren’t participating, it’s likely you’ve lost their attention. Think about ways to spice up your presentation or consider developing a more interactive format for the discussion.

PMAlliance uses a team of highly experienced and certified professionals to provide project management consulting, project management training and project office development services


Project management doesn’t happen in a vacuum. A huge portion of the discipline revolves around people and the dynamics at work when they get together—conducting needs assessments, justifying objectives and costs to leadership teams, coordinating with end users to mitigate project impacts, communicating with stakeholders, and devising practical solutions to potential problems. Unfortunately, many project management training programs skip over group facilitation skills.

The what:  Project management is one long list of opportunities for group facilitation expertise, from the creation of project charters to performing the post-project wrap up. Strong facilitation skills enable almost anyone in the PMO to lead others through the project’s complex stages without losing focus, to maximize the effectiveness of group work sessions, and to deal with difficult personalities in a group setting.

The why:  Getting groups of people to effectively work together is at the heart of successful project execution. Without a good facilitator, the various groups involved in the project become much more vulnerable to inefficiency, ineffectiveness, in-fighting, and poor communication. Any one of these factors has the potential to put the project’s success in jeopardy. Meaningful progress—especially when facing difficult time or budget limitations—often hinges on good group facilitation. If all that sounds extreme, remember that simply running productive meetings (especially when teams are particularly diverse or include a number of competing priorities) may require better-than-average facilitation skills.

The how:  By its very nature, facilitation training should be highly interactive. If your PMO already has someone in-house with top notch facilitation skills, they may be able to offer others on the team solid and very focused instruction. Otherwise, look for an experienced outside consultant so you know your organization will receive quality training. Group facilitation skills are so important that cultivating bad habits is sometimes worse than having no habits at all.

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Engagement is an important aspect in many projects—whether it’s with other project management team members, stakeholders, end users, or external business partners—but sparking real interest in people outside the project team can sometimes be difficult. There are a number of approaches a good project advocate can take to make their efforts really count, but how can they get others thinking (and acting) along the same lines? Below are a handful of simple strategies to get you started.


Encourage team members to interact with end users. Open lines of communication are the best way to ensure all needs, requests, and concerns are brought to the PMP team’s attention early. Rather than creating unnecessary bottlenecks, a commitment to project advocacy should be driving PMOs to solicit end user input through as many channels as possible. Conversations don’t have to be formal, but they do need to go both ways. When project updates are released, make sure end users know that team members are available to answer any questions. As project milestones are achieved, even minor ones, empower team members to ask end users how things are going from their perspective.


Invite stakeholders into the trenches. Project champions, especially high-level ones, don’t need to be part of the day-to-day operations. But it can be useful if they understand a project’s impacts on end users at a granular level. Make the majority of project meetings open to stakeholders, and try to get them to attend at least occasionally. Partner them with team members during informal discussions with end users. Encourage them to learn about the project’s challenges, and ensure they know which end user groups are likely to be affected by them. By bringing stakeholders closer to the project’s inner workings, they’ll be better equipped to understand the genesis of end user requests and concerns.

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Many PMOs have internal project management training programs, some of which focus tightly on filling in the blanks most relevant to a particular organization. We’ve already covered where training programs often overlook important communication skills, but the majority of in-house training programs also skip over the more advanced disciplines associated with risk management. Project Managers may find that a more thorough understanding of risk management is not only useful, it’s actually a key factor in achieving repeatable project success.

The what:  Comprehensive risk management skills cover the entire project lifecycle. PMs must be able to understand and articulate which risk factors are present, what sort of impact they may have on the project, how best to mitigate them, and how applied risk management strategies are functioning as a project moves through to completion.

The why:  Competency in risk management principles allows PMs to pinpoint  and mitigate potential areas of risk. If a team has less-than-excellent risk management skills, the downstream effects may be numerous, including an inefficient use of resources, missed milestones, and failure to fully achieve deliverables. But with many PMs focusing their risk management skills on the narrow swath of projects most frequently managed within their organization, it’s easy to sidestep the more complex aspects of the discipline. By rounding out the team’s expertise with additional training on risk management best practices, a PMO will be better able to effectively gauge and manage risks on a day-to-day basis.

The how:  Targeted instruction from a trainer experienced in project risk management can provide PMs with valuable skills without spending a lot of time or money. Modules on identifying risk (and risk types) should be combined with sessions devoted to in-depth risk analysis, both qualitative and quantitative. Developing the right approach to address each project’s unique risk profile is also a critical skill.

PMAlliance has a national open enrollment training schedule
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Because every project inherently changes the status quo, much of project management revolves around change—planning for it, explaining it, mitigating its negative impacts, and convincing stakeholders that it will all be worth it. Even if change management isn’t part of your official job description, you will inevitably be dealing with change and its impact on not just stakeholders, but also on partners and collaborators, as well as the other members of your project team. Unfortunately, many project managers who say they’re great change agents really aren’t. In fact, there are 2 mistakes project management professionals make that can undermine their ability to achieve project success.


You compare a project’s progress against how things are today instead of against the deliverables set with stakeholders. Project Managers who use the current landscape as their benchmark are missing much of what goes into good project management. Projects are nearly always about improving upon what’s in use today, whether it’s a piece of software or a new office building. But viewing milestones against the backdrop of the existing environment isn’t the best way to move forward. Instead, work toward the end result picture you’ve painted with your stakeholders to achieve success.


You invest too much time focusing on where the project might go wrong. Of course it’s important to look for potential problem areas ahead of time, but simply worrying about challenges isn’t a constructive way to move ahead. This approach often breeds negativity, which can be such a morale killer that it can actually threaten your project’s ultimate success. PMs who have truly embraced change instead put their energy into finding solutions to those potential trouble spots. Creative problem-solving sessions with the rest of the team are the best cure—you’ll overcome the project’s challenges and have a more positive outlook to share with stakeholders.



As PMOs develop and tweak their project management training programs, there are often a handful of core areas that are overlooked. Whether it’s because many project managers have already received foundational instruction in these areas or because most project management training is focused on other competencies, these baseline skills are crucial to project management success. One of these areas is communication, a vital skill for any team but one that is frequently discounted or ignored.

The what: Too often, communication training focuses on negotiation tactics and presentation skills. For truly effective team communication, project managers must be able to develop and employ solid listening techniques. They also need to understand how their communication skills contribute to the team’s accomplishments, as well as how to use appropriate communication strategies to successfully resolve conflicts (both within the group and with external partners).

The why: A deep understanding—of user needs, of stakeholder and coworker concerns, of potential project limitations—are all necessary for repeated project success. Project managers with sagging proficiency in the communication arena will often create the same obstacles for the group—such as the prolonged needs assessments that may result from poor listening skills—over and over again. But with all the other areas project managers must master, it’s easy to overlook communication skills as being less important than they really are. By regularly nurturing and expanding this fundamental area of expertise, project teams have more tools available to them in overcoming challenges and working together to solve problems.

The how: Continuous development of good communication skills is crucial for project success. Along with targeted communication courses, consider adding components of communication training to other educational offerings. Planning and risk management modules, with their strong attention to communicating well and accurately, may be good opportunities to provide team members with additional coaching in communication best practices.


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PMAlliance has a national open enrollment training schedule
For more information on the event locations and schedules click HERE


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