WHEN ESTIMATING GOES WRONG

Even the most seasoned project management professionals can draft estimates that miss the mark. When they occur they’re usually off by just a little, though occasionally they’re off by miles. But because so much of the project management process relies on these estimates, even a minor flaw can have large impacts on the team’s ability to achieve success.

Dealing with estimating errors is often difficult. With everything the PMO has on its plate, taking time out to do a thorough investigation into the causes behind an inaccurate estimate is often a low priority. Egos can also sometimes be a barrier, as people might be hesitant to admit when they’ve made a mistake or concerned their coworkers may be unhappy with them.

Unfortunately, allowing these factors to stand in the way of finding and resolving estimating mistakes means they’re likely to happen again. Tackling the issue doesn’t need to be a daunting or uncomfortable endeavor. A handful of straightforward actions will help project teams overcome their worries and manage errors in a productive way.

Project management with gantt chart

Acknowledge the mistake. No good will come from either ignoring or stubbornly refuting that errors have occurred and the estimate is or was inaccurate. It isn’t necessary to grovel, but letting anyone affected by the mistake—stakeholders, others in the PMO, the organization’s leadership team, end users, vendors, consultants, etc.—know about the flaw is prudent, as they may need to modify their own activities as a result. Be mindful to avoid turning the issue into a round of finger pointing, as that environment benefits no one. Mistakes happen.

Identify where the error entered into the equation. The first step in avoiding similar mistakes in the future is to figure out how it happened in the first place. Any number of causes have been known to inject incorrect data into an estimate, from simple calculation errors to miscommunications about information received from external partners. It’s also not uncommon for estimates to require tweaking as material availability or other factors change. Timeliness of the data may be the crux of the problem.

Determine what effect the error had on the estimate. Understanding the mistake’s impact on the final estimate is important because it may be helpful in spotting similar errors in future estimates. It’s also useful when the team begins working to undo any downstream errors that may now exist, or as support groups or outside vendors review their own data to see if changes will be necessary on their end of things.

Distribute a revised estimate if it’s still possible to do so. If an error is discovered early enough in the process, it may still be feasible to fix the mistake and redo the estimate. The important part of this step is distributing the revision to others who may have used the original information as a basis for their own activities. They may now need to update data or actions within their areas of responsibility. Be clear about which data the revised estimate replaces and let others know who to contact if they need additional details. This is not the time for haphazard communication.

Examine the PMO’s processes and update them to avoid repeating the same mistake on subsequent projects. In the interest of continuously improving the team’s performance and ensuring repeatable success, any practices or processes that contributed to the error occurring in the first place (or being incorporated into the final estimate, depending on where the mistake originated) should be reviewed and revised. It may also be prudent to create a process for double checking estimates if the team is concerned about similar errors occurring again.

6 THINGS TO DO WHEN A COWORKER LEAVES

In addition to the standard exit interviews most organizations carry out, there are also a handful of additional items the project team should close the loop on whenever a project management professional or other key PMO member leaves. By working through the following 6 items, the project office will be ready to continue moving forward after a valued coworker departs.

project management decisions

1 – Identify delegated activities. Project team members delegate any number of items, from routine tasks to approval powers. Before the PMP leaves, talk with them about what’s been delegated and to whom. Specific items to consider include technology-related delegates, such as an administrative assistant or other team member who has the ability to access calendars or e-mail accounts. Look also at delegated capabilities within any document management or project tracking systems to ensure workflows won’t be interrupted.

Not only may the exiting team member have delegated tasks to others, they may have had activities or authorization powers delegated to them. If possible, discuss the status of these relationships before the coworker leaves. This allows the team time to transfer responsibility to another person in the group or notify the delegator that the task is being returned to them for action.

2 – Understand system usage. It’s prudent to confirm which systems the team member used on a regular basis, both internally as well as outside the company (perhaps via a consultant or vendor). Something as simple as knowing the worker routinely used a material supplier’s online portal to confirm parts availability could be tremendously helpful to any team member who will be taking on some or all of the exiting employee’s responsibilities.

3 – Be aware of upcoming activities. Most of the team member’s tasks should already be captured somewhere in the project timeline, but other activities may not be included on the list of critical path items. Were they scheduled for training? Did they have any upcoming presentations on their calendar? Were they part of a mentor program? The PMO may not decide to continue with all of these pre-planned activities, but knowing they’re on the radar will be useful in assigning tasks and fine-tuning workloads once the worker leaves.

4 – Look at credentialing. If the exiting group member held certifications necessary for project execution—credentials that facilitated regulated activities, for example—the team will need to make arrangements to either have someone else certified or to contract with an outside partner who holds the required certifications. It’s not uncommon for only one team member to hold niche credentials, so be sure you do your due diligence and set the PMO up for continued success down the road.

5 – Ask about memberships. PMPs frequently belong to any number of professional, industry, and networking groups. Find out if the individual was a member of any associations or other organizations, and determine if their membership will transfer with them (some do) or if the PMO now has an opportunity to place another worker into their spot.

6 – See if there’s a prodigy waiting in the wings. Inquire about any fellow team members the worker may have been grooming for bigger things. Is someone particularly qualified to move into the exiting person’s role? Senior-level PMPs often know not only which PMO members are interested in opportunities for advancement, they’re also keenly aware of who’s motivated enough to step up when a position becomes available. If the exiting individual knows of anyone internally who has either expressed an interest in the job or who has received specialized mentoring or education to cover some of the duties, now is the time to gather that information.

 

MAINTAINING TRANSPARENCY DURING DIFFICULT PROJECTS

Project management teams work hard to be transparent in their actions. They’re well aware that stakeholders and the executive team are watching each project, and sometimes outside partners and even the public may also be observing. This transparency occasionally encounters challenges but there are sure fire strategies PMOs can use to stay on track and maintain clarity in every task, recommendation and decision they undertake.

Year-End Tasks Pmo Overlook

Communication. This is by far the most powerful tool the PMO has at its disposal when it comes to maintaining transparency. Communicating with stakeholders is crucial, whether it’s disseminating the schedule for work disruptions or providing an update on material availability. But communications need to be a two-way street. Stakeholders must have a way to ask questions, express concerns, and request additional information.

To streamline communications coming into the PMO, it’s often a good idea to provide a clear mechanism for submitting inquiries. In addition, the team must respond to questions as quickly as is feasible. If the information stakeholders want isn’t available or can’t be released due to confidentiality concerns, say so. It’s better to divulge what you can than to plant suspicion or mistrust in stakeholders’ minds.

Consistency. Assuring stakeholders that your team is transparent in its actions becomes nearly impossible if your team isn’t consistent in its communications and other messaging. Though this may happen innocently enough, such as when updated information hasn’t yet been relayed to all members of the team, the damage it’s likely to inflict on the group will be difficult to repair.

One good strategy to avoid inadvertent inconsistencies or miscommunications is to designate a few key team members to handle distributing information and routing any questions that come through to others in the group. It may also be prudent to have someone in this capacity review materials—graphics, charts, drawings, etc.—prior to release outside the PMO. This helps to bring the entire range of communications under the same messaging umbrella and also adds another layer of scrutiny for any dates, budget numbers, or other data that may still be tentative or in flux.

Data. In many instances, the data your team uses to make strategic decisions and guide its planning efforts will be key in allaying stakeholders’ doubts and concerns. Everyone from the leadership group to end users wants to know that actions (especially those they may not agree with) are based on sense and reason.

The solution is to make as much information available for review as possible, so others outside the project management team are able to scrutinize—and hopefully understand—why the datasets support the PMO’s conclusions and recommendations. Remember to provide sources for your information, too. If data is coming from outside the organization, denote this for context.

Determination. No, this isn’t resistance to change or a hesitancy to allow those outside the PMO to participate as true partners. Instead, it refers to the need for the PMO to push back against the external pressure that may be aimed at influencing how decisions are made, schedules developed, budgets created, or priorities set. There are often stakeholders—some who hold authorization power over resources the project team requires—who would like to see their needs at the top of the priority list.

Adherence to best practices and a proven planning and control methodology is the best way to resist this kind of potentially destructive pressure. Good project management protocols will keep the team from compromising its efforts or agreeing to compress or skip critical steps. They’re also instrumental in guiding the team on decisions related to where activities can reasonably be compressed or modified.

Project management training tips provided by PMAlliance Inc.

12 PMO ACTIONS THAT GIVE BIG RESULTS

If your PMO is looking for ways to improve efficiency or reduce overhead (or maybe the team just needs a general refresh), consider any of these 12 actions as a launch pad.

Project management with gantt chart

1 – Make end user communications a priority. So many aspects of successful project management hinge on end user interactions, including advocacy efforts, stakeholder satisfaction, and even avoiding scope creep. When end user communications are a top priority for the entire team, every one of these activities benefits.

2 – Centralize documentation and other project information. Managing data in multiple locations is, with few exceptions, less efficient and more error-prone than bringing everything together in one place. Software platforms are now available to maintain strong data security while still allowing team members the access they need.

3 – Make status updates available on demand. With the number of project management team members and stakeholders working offsite or independently, sending regular status updates isn’t always enough. By making updates available on demand, everyone has the information they need to make the best strategic decisions.

4 – Boost productivity with online solutions. Web-based platforms—from video conferencing to document sharing—can dramatically improve the productivity of project teams. These are especially useful for PMOs with mobile workers or executives, or who often partner with remote stakeholders.

5 – Renew your PMO’s commitment to training. Even if budgets are lean, every team member should have the opportunity to participate in regular training sessions. Project management training expands the PMO’s knowledge and capabilities while increasing team members’ job satisfaction.

6 – Encourage networking. Robust connections with other professionals are crucial for short- and long-term career success. Well-connected PMPs have access to a wider base of knowledge, are able to tap into better information on market pressures, and can use their networks to identify helpful industry partners.

7 – Support mentoring. Your PMO doesn’t need to create or manage its own mentoring program. Instead, it may be sufficient to make it known throughout the team that mentoring relationships are encouraged. Team members will often develop mentor/mentee partnerships on their own if they know it’s something the management group supports.

8 – Engage the entire team in strategic discussions. When PMPs at every level are involved in developing strategy and linking project achievables to the organization’s mission, their engagement throughout the project’s entire lifecycle is typically greater.

9 – Develop a true culture of advocacy. Talk is cheap when it comes to being good project advocates. PMO leaders should work to make advocacy efforts part of every team member’s role while also doing their own part to be good advocates.

10 – Partner with a data expert if you don’t have on in-house. Benchmarking is an important tool, but only if your team knows how to properly gather and interpret information. If that isn’t a skill your PMO possesses, partner with an outside expert who can ensure your data measurement efforts are on track and effective.

11 – Be consistent with project post-mortems. A thorough post-mortem analysis of every project is important to a team’s ongoing success. Unfortunately, each analysis takes time, something that’s often in short supply. PMOs should make a concerted effort to consistently carry out post-project evaluations as a way to improve stakeholder satisfaction, eliminate waste, reduce costs, and boost efficiency.

12 – Use technology to streamline operations. Tasks such as deep-level data analysis and knowledge base management may be better accomplished with one of the new breed of technology tools now available. Include the upfront purchase cost and training time in your ROI considerations and see if one of these platforms might increase your team’s productivity.

THE GOOD AND THE BAD OF PMO MATURITY

Many PMOs strive to mature. The project management professionals within these groups don’t just want to become better at what they do, they often see tangible benefits in acquiring or developing the skills, expertise, and resources necessary to take on more complex project tasks. Expanding capabilities and mastering competencies is well and good, but PMO maturity sometimes brings unexpected challenges. Below we look at the good and the bad that comes with developing a mature project office.

project-management-graph

The good

Availability of metrics. One benefit of a mature PMO is that gathering and analyzing detailed metrics is typically part of the team’s established practices. For organizations where cost containment efforts are a priority or where datasets are important tools in developing strategy, such as for setting manufacturing  levels, a mature PMO offers an increased ability to assemble large, very specific data points and conduct targeted benchmarking.

Standardized methodologies. Organizations that must follow precise practices—most commonly found in regulated industries but also occurring when a particular project falls under one or more compliance mandates—often find the capabilities of a mature PMO to be a significant benefit. Projects across the company can be handled in accordance with a single methodology for managing controls, expenditures, documentation, and contracts.

Centralized management. Many organizations tackle only a few projects at a time, making oversight relatively straightforward. But for those companies with multiple projects happening at once, and often with differing durations, having a mature PMO capable of handling everything in one centralized place can be a huge positive. This typically allows for better purchasing power and leaner resource management, both benefits for those organizations that have experienced overruns or inefficiencies on past projects.

Internal expertise. If the culture of the organization eschews the use of external resources, then a mature PMO—with its broad knowledge base and skills—is often the answer. A wider variety of projects can be successfully executed without a heavy reliance on outside expertise, and juggling workloads across multiple projects is less complicated than when coordinating external labor.

The bad

Hurry up! Moving a PMO along the maturity spectrum is, by its very nature, a slow process. Competencies must expand, expertise typically broadens through experience (rather than new talent acquisitions), and best practices must filter across the wide range of activities the team oversees. That sometimes plodding pace can create an enormous amount of frustration among team members, who are often high-achieving, results-driven individuals. But try to hurry the process and you’ll probably progress even more slowly, as changes no longer have time to permeate throughout the project lifecycle and support teams flounder in their attempts to assimilate new practices and protocols.

Beware complacency. Mature PMOs can rest easy in the knowledge they’re adhering to best practices and achieving consistent success. The problem? Resting easy is exactly what project teams can’t do when it comes to implementing improved processes and incorporating new thought leadership into existing practices. Sometimes it’s a fine line between maturity and entrenchment, so keep an eye out for complacency.

Disconnect between the PMO and parent organization. Different companies have different needs, and not every organization wants or requires a PMO with a high level of maturity. The corporate culture may lean toward departmental independence, where each group is encouraged to oversee its own projects and initiatives. If the PMO interjects itself into this process uninvited, it could put the project team at odds with stakeholders as well as the organization’s leadership. This type of situation also has the potential to negatively impact the level of resources the PMO is able to procure, making project success far more difficult.

Project management training tips provided by PMAlliance inc.

WHAT CAN YOU ACCOMPLISH IN TWENTY MINUTES?

Setting aside small amounts of time every day to accomplish big things is a popular strategy. With the hectic schedules that are typical for most project management professionals, it can be tremendously effective. The tasks PMPs can tackle with this simple approach are as diverse as they are impressive. If you’re looking for a way to fit in a personal objective or a side project, consider these ideas for making your twenty minutes as productive as possible.

time for project management

Project management training doesn’t just happen in a classroom. PMPs can expand their skills wherever they happen to be—at their desks or on the road—without setting aside huge chunks of time. Newly learned skills can be sharpened by running through real-world scenarios. It’s also possible to learn a new language in twenty minutes a day, either with online tutorials or audio-based instruction.

Expand your business knowledge. Understanding trends, from leadership techniques to evolving market pressures, can be instructive on many levels. Consider taking time each day to read the latest business books, including biographies of key thought leaders and industry innovators. Reviewing leading blogs can also be a good way to remain up-to-date on what’s happening. You may choose to either stick to project-related resources or branch out to other areas to broaden your knowledge.

Churn through support tasks. PMPs frequently help other internal groups—accounting, purchasing, IT, etc. If you’ve agreed to provide assistance such as being a beta tester for a new piece of software or reviewing updated contract boilerplates, it’s often difficult to fit those tasks into an already busy schedule. By committing just twenty minutes each day, you can more quickly complete what you set out to do.

Ongoing responsibilities can also be managed effectively by carving out time every day. Rather than addressing tasks reactively, convert your energy into a more proactive approach. Consider using the time to maintain a clean filing system. Something as simple as clearing out the inbox each day can help keep busy PMPs efficient. It’s also a good opportunity to delegate tasks that would be better done by another team member. Wrap up notes from recent meetings, add information to the PMO’s intranet, and assign permissions to any data you’ve entered into the team’s document management system.

Nurture your mentoring relationships. Regular communication is crucial to both mentors and mentees. If you’re a mentor, consider devoting time to reviewing questions or problems posed by your mentee. If you have a mentor, take this time to digest the knowledge and information they’ve passed along to you and pull your thoughts together for your next conversation.

Brainstorm. Creativity is a muscle that works best when it’s exercised regularly, so set aside time on an ongoing basis for brainstorming. Clearly define the problem or issue you want to address, eliminate distractions (send phone calls to voicemail, set message notifications to mute, close your door if you can), and jot down your thoughts as you go along. You may find this is difficult to do every day—creativity can be mentally draining—and some PMPs choose to alternate which days they spend brainstorming.

Prepare for tomorrow. Each PMP has their own method for getting ready for the next day. Some work better by tying up today’s tasks, others prefer to focus on what needs to be done tomorrow. Either way, each day can be much more effective when there’s a plan for tackling time-sensitive tasks and critical-path activities. This is also the time to review task lists to be sure important items haven’t been overlooked and that every task on the list is a step toward your broader objectives.

GET YOUR PMO READY FOR THE FALL SWING

Autumn often brings the image of people getting back into the swing of things and activities ramping up after the long days of summer. Every season brings its own challenges, though, and fall is no exception. PMOs need to understand where potential pitfalls may lurk while the leaves are turning, so they can be ready to avoid interruptions and keep their projects moving forward.

Changing Market

Know the vacation schedule for all team members. Summer is usually seen as vacation season, but some people prefer to enjoy their time off after the kids have gone back to school. Be sure the entire team is aware of any scheduled vacations or other absences. Look at key milestone dates to see if there are potential conflicts and work with the group now to determine how best to address them. Discuss the coverage plans for ongoing tasks so everyone is aware of how workloads are likely to be affected.

Remember to coordinate with consultants, key vendors, and stakeholders, too, as their absences also typically have the potential to impact resource management and other activities. While you’re planning for out-of-office coverage, be sure to discuss communication plans with those who will be gone. If they won’t be available by phone or e-mail, it’s best to know that ahead of time. This allows team members the leeway to proceed without waiting to hear back from vacationers, or to know they can pursue approvals through other channels if no response is received within a set amount of time.

Evaluate how the weather might impact your projects. In some areas of the country, fall means inclement weather. For projects happening in those regions, that could translate into schedule impacts. Even if your project is occurring in an area not normally affected by declining weather conditions, it may still play havoc with resources or vendors. This could mean a shortage of supplies coming from regions experiencing bad weather (manufacturing operations are often at the mercy of raw material availability) or simply higher prices for those items. Bad weather also frequently affects shipping schedules, since delivery trucks and rail cars are also at the mercy of Mother Nature. Everything from catering a large meeting to obtaining construction materials could be affected, and planning for potential impacts is prudent.

Travel, too, could be affected in terms of delayed or canceled flights and blocked roads. If members of the project management team plan to attend meetings or other events out of town, be sure there are contingency plans in place should their return schedule be affected. For vendors visiting from outside the area, have an alternate plan ready if a delay in their arrival might trigger problems downstream.

Ensure funding availability. For many organizations, fall is dangerously close to the end of the year, when funding levels are reset and the current approved budgets everyone is working with cease to exist. Before your PMO gets caught up in a money crunch, talk with the accounting team about what your needs are and how you can work together to establish a stream of funding that will continue from one calendar year to the next. It may also be wise to discuss your options with the purchasing group, who may suggest accelerating buying schedules to ensure expenditures are spent and captured within the current budget cycle.

Because it’s also common for the budget process to consume a significant amount of effort, this is the time to start working on the PMO’s needs for next year. Approvals and other activities may take a while, so get going now to be sure the team is ahead of the game.

Project management training tips provided by PMAlliance Inc.

DON’T PANIC! STEPS TO STEM THE TIDE OF WORRY

Panic in a PMO is a terrible thing. It crushes productivity and saps morale. Helping project team members confront and deal with frightening situations can be difficult, particularly if the senior leadership group is facing the same concerns. Fortunately, a set of baseline steps can bring the team together to address the anxiety in front of them and help get everyone back on track.

Get informed. Panic is often driven by one of two things: Misinformation or no information. If you have a feeling of dread when it comes to a project (or perhaps a particular task or issue), take it as a cue that you probably need better information. If possible, go straight to the source. A trusted vendor may be able to answer your questions, as might another internal team member with direct knowledge of the situation. Avoid simply asking around inside the PMO, as you’re likely to receive details of the same dubious origin you have now. Gathering the facts allows you to tackle the problem from a real-world perspective.

Communicate. If you suspect others in the PMO are shifting into panic mode, consider what information you may have that would be useful in helping them better understand the current lay of the land. Even if you don’t hold the key to quelling the team’s concerns, bringing everyone together to discuss the project’s status and provide a progress review can be immensely helpful. It encourages other PMPs to ask questions in a safe environment (sometimes team members don’t know who to ask or feel it’s inappropriate to dig for details) and also shows those who are worried that they probably aren’t alone. Camaraderie can be a powerful tool in times like these.

Look for solutions. Continuing to sit around and worry is rarely an effective way to address panic. Instead, pull the team together and begin brainstorming. Talk about potential fixes and evaluate if additional help—either assistance from another department or perhaps an experienced outside consultant—might be needed. Openly discuss the triggers behind the team’s concerns. These conversations may be uncomfortable (fear of failure usually is), but reassure team members that they should speak candidly and without fear of reprisal. Finger pointing solves nothing, and you’ll need to be ready to shut it down if it occurs. Keep the focus on finding workable solutions.

Focus on avoiding panic next time. Falling into panic mode is nearly guaranteed if the PMO repeats the same steps that led team members to become concerned in the first place. Improve communication channels within the team as well as with stakeholder and external partners. Maintain tighter focus on milestones, resource management, and activity planning. Employing a proven project control methodology is a wise approach. Not only will it keep the current can’t-fail project on track, it also allows the team to carefully manage their time and resources, ensuring that future projects don’t stumble and push the team into panic mode again.

Admit you may not be able to address every worry immediately. There are times when panic descends for reasons that simply can’t be fixed right away, even by seasons PMPs. Rumors of staffing cuts or lost contracts, for example, can easily spread terror through the team. Rather than searching for solutions (which the PMO may not be in a position to provide) instead bring the group together to evaluate existing workloads and discuss how best to deal with potential impacts. You might not be able to formulate a solid plan to deal with every issue on the horizon, but the PMO will be prepared to tackle unpleasant realities if necessary.

Pitfalls o fBig Projects

Project management training tips provided by PMAlliance Inc.

TECHNOLOGY CAN INCREASE PMO PRODUCTIVITY AND IMPROVE PROJECT RESULTS

Technology has done wonders for the field of project management. From enabling our penchant for anytime, anywhere communications to the need to track burgeoning sets of detailed benchmarking data, technology tools help teams boost productivity and improve results. But there are still areas where technology isn’t always used to its maximum potential. See if your PMO is getting everything it can out of technology in these five key areas.

project management technology

Communication. Using smartphones and tablets for phone calls and e-mails is a no-brainer in today’s hyper-connected world, but that’s just the beginning when it comes to capitalizing on how robust the current crop of communication platforms has become.

Video conferencing, for example, has improved tremendously in recent years. Picture quality is better, increased frame refresh rates have all but eliminated herky-jerky feeds, and in-room hardware is less obtrusive and also lower in price than it used to be. In addition, many video platforms now support mobile devices, meaning workers can fully participate in video-based team meetings no matter where their projects take them.

Another communication platform that’s showing its worth in the project management arena is social media. Teams are using it to stay connected with each other as well as stakeholders and collaborators. Project photos and infographics can be quickly posted and distributed across the entire PMO without filling everyone’s inbox.

Data storage. Sure, project teams already know they can save documents and other project information electronically. Now it’s time to make storage even more efficient. A number of platforms are available that enable file sharing across the entire team (and all of their devices, too). This can help to eliminate the multitudes of duplicate copies floating around while also ensuring everyone is using the most up-to-date version.

Some storage solutions even offer per-file access privileges, automated destruction schedules that follow the team’s retention policies, and powerful versioning options. For PMOs working under regulatory oversight, these technology platforms may help with compliance and other issues.

Knowledge transfer. Expanding the knowledge and skill base within a PMO may be a mostly face-to-face effort, but technology can give it a measurable leg up. Intranets are just one example. They allow project teams to establish wiki-like repositories for information specific to the group, where anyone on the team can search for and locate exactly what they need.

Project management training, too, can be made more effective through technology. Video feeds of educational sessions can be stored for later viewing and training modules can be offered online to remote workers. New hire orientation and similar recurring presentations are also excellent candidates for digital archival and playback.

Brainstorming. Technology sits nicely alongside the conventional big piece of paper and felt pen when it comes to brainstorming. Platforms are available that facilitate mind mapping, task dependency planning, organizing thoughts into logical structures, determining actionable items, and sorting follow-up activities.

Most of these software suites save brainstorming sessions for later review and further updating, while also providing access to multiple team members across a variety of devices. With the PMO’s brainstorming data stored electronically, it can more easily be filtered out to other programs, such as task management and resource allocation platforms.

Mobility. Many of the technology platforms project teams rely on now have a mobile component. Resource allocation, budget forecasting, timeline development, and even status updates can now be done through a mobile application, often with the data pulled from and stored back into the same shared storage location the team uses when at their desks. Some platforms also allow for offline storage, so your team’s mobile devices remain an effective tool if they’re out of wireless range.

6 Signs Your Advocacy Program Needs a Boost

A strong culture of project advocacy contributes significantly to repeatable success. But sometimes even savvy PMOs discover their advocacy efforts are falling short. See if any of these 6 warning signs sound familiar. They may signal it’s time for your project management team to double down on developing better project advocacy habits.

1 – Stakeholders express surprise as the project’s approved objectives. It’s common for a project’s objectives to evolve as planning gets underway, and some may be trimmed or eliminated once budget and other operational discussions begin. However, if team members are actively engaged in their role as advocates, stakeholders won’t be surprised by these events. User input and concerns should be solicited throughout the process, with strong two-way communication channels keeping everyone in the loop on what’s expected, what’s possible, and why particular requests have been pulled from consideration.

2 – End users aren’t interested in attending project meetings or presentations. These groups should be eager to know what’s happening, so if they’re dismissive of invitations your team should take notice. They may feel they’re too disconnected from the process or that the project’s objectives don’t match what they were hoping for. End user participation should normally be robust, and it’s something your PMO can encourage at all stages in the project. If this stakeholder group disengages at any point, it may indicate a failure in your team’s advocacy efforts.

3 – Few in the PMO interact with end users. Communication channels are often necessarily constricted—to maintain consistency of information, to streamline operations, to ensure necessary approvals are given before news is released, etc.—but day-to-day interactions should still be the norm, not the exception. Good advocates get out from behind their desks and make a point to reach out to end users and other stakeholders regularly. Even if your PMO has identified one or two point people to act as primary project advocates, everyone on the team should work to engage stakeholders and ensure the project is successful.

4 – Stakeholders are unwilling to accommodate work disruptions. Anytime operations are disturbed or impacted it’s an inconvenience for users. But if your PMO has been doing a good job of cultivating an environment of advocacy, stakeholders should not only be in the know about planned disruptions but should also be supportive of accommodating them. The reason? When the culture nurtures project advocacy, stakeholders are full partners, and are eager to see the project’s benefits come to fruition.

5 – The leadership team micromanages the PMO’s inner workings. Worries may crop up when executives aren’t well informed about the project team’s operations, or if they see different protocols applied to different projects. No matter where concerns originate, it’s crucial the PMO boosts its advocacy role and views the leadership team as another stakeholder group (though one with slightly different needs and expectations). Better communication will provide a starting point, followed by interactive discussions about the concerns, education on how operations are carried out, and ongoing engagement to ensure that any worries have been addressed.

6 – Budget or contract processes are slow-moving or filled with glitches. While this may point to other concerns—lack of project support from the executive team, for example—there’s also a strong possibility that poor advocacy efforts are playing a role. Project advocates should be proactively working with internal partners to ensure all necessary hand offs of go smoothly, that questions are answered early in the process, and that any requests for additional information are addressed as quickly as possible. This keeps administrative issues moving forward and prevents them from interfering with the project’s progress.

project advocacy

FIXING A BROKEN PROCESS – PART 1: IDENTIFY THE PROBLEM, CREATE THE SOLUTION

Organizations often have entrenched and possibly outdated processes that aren’t as efficient or effective as they could be. For PMOs interested in improving project performance, these flawed processes may be holding them back or limiting how tightly operations can be streamlined. But changing established processes is sometimes an uphill battle. We’ve provided some pointers on implementing changes to those processes in a way that offers solid benefits and maintains stakeholder support.

Identify where the problems exist

It’s a fundamental step but it bears repeating—you can’t truly correct a problem until you know what it is you’re trying to fix. Effectively addressing any problem requires the team to dig down to the root cause and solve the issue at its core. This is where team involvement is crucial, since the organization’s leadership may not see the problem’s origins the same way the employees who deal with the problem every day do.

Gather the details on the problem and its effect on the PMO by pulling the group together and discussing the issue, from its core all the way downstream through the impacts it has on the rest of the team’s operations. Be careful to separate root causes from additional problems that may be caused further down the line, so you aren’t implementing a solution that falls short of success. This will also be useful when setting expectations with stakeholders, since the new process may need to be implemented in phases with follow-on improvements kicking in later.

Create a better solution

Using that same team platform, it’s time to begin brainstorming ways to address the issue(s) you’ve identified. Look first to answers to the immediate problem, taking in suggestions from the group on what a better solution might look like. After one or two preferred plans have been developed and vetted, shift to examining how the new process proposals are likely to impact downstream activities.

With the baseline evaluation is done, project management professionals should next look for changes that may be needed in adjacent areas. A comprehensive solution may involve more than just the project team. Your PMO will probably need to work with other groups—usually internal support teams but sometimes external vendors or other partners—on ways potential improvements within their operations can support the updates you’ve planned. Will purchasing or contract negotiation strategies be affected? Does the current staffing plan need to be revisited? Is this change going to affect how accounting manages capital expenditures or operational budget approvals?

Gain support from all stakeholders

For the new process to be as effective as possible, it’s crucial to get all stakeholders impacted by the change on board with the proposed revisions before the plan is rolled out. If their input was solicited during the initial solution development phase, then the PMO is already moving in the right direction. If not, be sure to discuss the various proposals (emphasizing their pros and cons) with stakeholders before a final plan is chosen.

Communication is key, even if particular stakeholder groups weren’t asked to participate in developing the solution. At the very least, project teams should begin by acknowledging there is a problem. This is good PR for the PMO, and it lays the groundwork for setting stakeholder expectations on what sort of impacts and improvements the new process will bring.

If the revised process is controversial or likely to face stakeholder pushback for any reason, be prepared with solid information on why the change is a good idea. For example, benchmarking data showing existing inefficiencies can be contrasted with projections about the improved performance metrics the new process is expected to offer.

ChangeAgent

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

ELEVATE YOUR PMO’S RISK MANAGEMENT PROFILE

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

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

PMAlliance project management consulting.

More posts on Project Management Training:

6 SNEAKY WAYS TO GET MORE PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING

SKILLS YOUR PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING PROGRAM IS MISSING – RISK MANAGEMENT

SKILLS YOUR PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING PROGRAM IS MISSING – COMMUNICATION

GROUP FACILITATION – SKILLS YOUR PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING PROGRAM IS MISSING

WHEN TO TAKE PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING TO THE NEXT LEVEL

DO YOU NEED PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING? INFOGRAPHIC

4 BENEFITS OF PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING

PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING INFOGRAPHIC

IDEAS INTO ACTION: WHAT HAPPENS AFTER BRAINSTORMING?

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

 

PROJECT MANAGEMENT TIPS : 4 SIGNS IT’S TIME TO STOP

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

GROUP FACILITATION – SKILLS YOUR PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING PROGRAM IS MISSING

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.

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

More posts on Project Management Training:

6 SNEAKY WAYS TO GET MORE PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING

SKILLS YOUR PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING PROGRAM IS MISSING – RISK MANAGEMENT

SKILLS YOUR PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING PROGRAM IS MISSING – COMMUNICATION

GROUP FACILITATION – SKILLS YOUR PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING PROGRAM IS MISSING

WHEN TO TAKE PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING TO THE NEXT LEVEL

DO YOU NEED PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING? INFOGRAPHIC

4 BENEFITS OF PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING

PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING INFOGRAPHIC

 

GETTING OTHERS ON THE PROJECT ADVOCACY TRAIN

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.

project management consulting PMAlliance

Check Out These Other Blog Posts on Advocacy:

3 WAYS PROJECT MANAGEMENT ADVOCATES MISS THE MARK

ARE YOU REALLY A PROJECT MANAGEMENT ADVOCATE?

GETTING OTHERS ON THE PROJECT ADVOCACY TRAIN

SKILLS YOUR PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING PROGRAM IS MISSING – COMMUNICATION

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.

Also check out “BE A BETTER COMMUNICATOR” and “COMMUNICATION STRATEGIES AND PUMPKIN PIE

project management training

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

 

More posts on Project Management Training:

6 SNEAKY WAYS TO GET MORE PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING

SKILLS YOUR PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING PROGRAM IS MISSING – RISK MANAGEMENT

SKILLS YOUR PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING PROGRAM IS MISSING – COMMUNICATION

GROUP FACILITATION – SKILLS YOUR PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING PROGRAM IS MISSING

WHEN TO TAKE PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING TO THE NEXT LEVEL

DO YOU NEED PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING? INFOGRAPHIC

4 BENEFITS OF PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING

MAKING PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES A PRIORITY AGAIN

We recently talked about some reasons your PMO’s best practices might not be what they once were, (WHY YOUR BEST PROJECT MANAGEMENT PRACTICES MIGHT SUCK) but how do you overcome the roadblocks to better performance? There are several ways to attack the problem, and the right approach will depend on the problems, your project management team, and your organization.

 

If you haven’t focused on best practices in a while. It falls to the team’s leadership to reinvigorate widespread engagement with the latest industry thinking. Senior project professionals or even an experienced project management consultants should be recruited to establish a plan to get the entire team to bring its current methodologies up to date. To avoid an initial eager pushed followed by waning enthusiasm (it’s human nature, after all), these same top-level folks will need to devote themselves to setting a good long-term example.

 

If you haven’t fine tuned current best practices to fit your organization. Overcoming what may seem like a monumental (and monumentally frustrating) endeavor will require everyone’s support. Gather the team and candidly evaluate the resources available to you. Identify where you can incorporate best practices and where you may need to be satisfied with doing your best with what you have. Consider determining where the team can set some stretch goals to improve those areas that are a bit behind the times.

 

If your team is well-versed in best practices but has chosen to ignore them. A strong push by leadership will be required to either overcome the team’s apathy or to rectify what may be a top-down lack of commitment. Examine where best practices have historically fallen by the wayside and develop a strategy to modify the behavior that allowed the lapse to happen. Be sure to build in check points to ensure the plan is working and the team hasn’t slipped back into its old ways.

WHEN TO TAKE PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING TO THE NEXT LEVEL

Project management training isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it type of undertaking. It’s something that should always be evolving to address changing needs, new views on best practices, and ever-advancing technology tools. With that in mind, we put together a few scenarios to look for that signal it’s time to take Project Management training—either for individuals within your group or for the PMO as a whole—to the next level.

 

When the skills you want to develop are highly specific or uncommon. Generic training typically won’t suffice when targeted disciplines are involved. Whether it’s industry-specific (such as a competency related to regulatory compliance) or a niche job skill (software platforms that require detailed knowledge, for instance), sessions that are narrowly focused will typically give your team the best bang for their training buck. For results that maximize investments of both money and time, look for a consultant who specializes in the areas or competencies you want to address, and who can tailor training to your organization’s specific needs.

 

When you want to train the trainer. Most standard training opportunities are great for the majority of project professionals, but if you want to create an in-house expert, it’s time to move things up a notch. Look for elevated training that not only includes deeper insight into project management competencies, but also has a curriculum that deals with the skills needed to successfully transfer knowledge to others. Remember—teaching is a skill of its own!

 

When an individual has trouble picking up new skills during standard training courses. Some folks just learn in different ways, so take the time to look for different, possibly unconventional types of training opportunities. Sessions that focus on increased participation, or perhaps even a short-term internship, may offer individual team members the kind of educational experience that suits their style.

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

 

More posts on Project Management Training:

6 SNEAKY WAYS TO GET MORE PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING

SKILLS YOUR PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING PROGRAM IS MISSING – RISK MANAGEMENT

SKILLS YOUR PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING PROGRAM IS MISSING – COMMUNICATION

GROUP FACILITATION – SKILLS YOUR PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING PROGRAM IS MISSING

WHEN TO TAKE PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING TO THE NEXT LEVEL

DO YOU NEED PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING? INFOGRAPHIC

4 BENEFITS OF PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING