LESSONS FROM FOOTBALL: REGAIN YOUR PMO’S WINNING FORM

Many PMOs have experienced it: they’ve been doing the same thing over and over, but suddenly their efforts don’t result in success. How did that happen? And how can your team fix it?

Football teams sometimes fall into the same conundrum. After winning against an opponent early in the season, they may lose to the same team during a later game. Identifying where their tactics went wrong typically takes more than simply pointing to any one error.

As project management teams look for ways to return to winning form, they should follow the lead of football clubs. These teams spread their investigation wide to determine how their strategies failed. When the simple answers don’t cut it, PMOs should look through their entire playbook to see where things when wrong.

pm football

Check your defenses

A football team’s defensive line keeps the other team from gaining the upper hand. Chief among a PMO’s defensive strategies are the project control tools and methodologies the team uses to ensure tasks are on track, milestones will be reached as planned, scope is being managed appropriately, and the project is generally moving forward the way it should. Stringent controls are crucial for spotting problems early and avoiding the small domino effects that can tumble into a huge disaster. They give the team an opportunity to correct problems before they inflict irreparable damage on the project’s chances of success.

Look at your offensive line

As your PMO is going for the end zone, a number of strategies are in play on the offensive side to help them reach their achievables. Of primary importance are planning and communication, which give the project its strong foundation and keep it moving forward throughout the entire lifecycle.

Planning. If your efforts during the planning phase fall short, everything else in the project could be handled according to protocol but the results may still be disappointing. Because of time constraints and internal pressures, project teams may feel the early planning stage is the most likely to be compressed or strained.

Communication. Maintaining the flow of information between team members as well as to and from collaborators outside the PMO is crucial to success. Evaluate if any roadblocks exist that may be hampering the team’s efforts or if communication is simply not happening at the right time.

 Examine recent successes

Football teams are legendary for carefully reviewing past games, looking for things they need to do better next time. If your project post-mortem analyses have been thorough, chances are good the PMO may have already identified harbingers of your current problem in earlier projects. Even when nothing stands out, go back through recent projects and look for telltale clues that a process or practice isn’t being carried out correctly or that concerns weren’t getting the follow through needed to fully resolve them. The team could be repeating these same mistakes (especially if they were able to succeed in spite of them previously), or it could be that a lack of discipline is now carrying over into other areas.

Evaluate your mentality

Professional sports teams know that mental toughness and attitude are crucial components of success. They’re also keenly aware that overconfidence and complacency are dangerous mindsets to have. Has your PMO grown so self-assured that they’re no longer concerned when warning signs pop up? Or have they essentially psyched themselves out because they had trouble with earlier projects that were large, complex, or otherwise similar to the project they’re facing now? The team’s attitude may not manifest itself in any one mistake, but it can surely contribute to any number of errors if left unchecked.

BUILDING YOUR PMO’S PROJECT PORTFOLIO

 

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.

 

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

 

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

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PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING INFOGRAPHIC

 

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

How Much Is Bad Project Management Costing You? Infographic

Bad Project Management can be an extremely large cost to your enterprise. We have discussed many of the pitfalls that can cause problems in past posts, but here are some scary statistics to ponder. Check out our latest infographic filled with stats on the costly expense of bad Project Management.

infographic Project Management

Do You Need Project Management Training? Infographic

Check out PMAlliance’s infographic on the importance of  Project Management Training. It has some great statistics on the benefits that proper PM Training can bring to your projects. Even if your organization’s processes have been refined over the years, it’s up to YOU to follow and further improve them.

Also check out our other Training Infographic for more great stats: PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING INFOGRAPHIC

 Project Management Training Infographic PMP

Maintain your project management training with PMAlliance and keep up to date with the latest project management techniques to have more successful projects.

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

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BULLYING IN THE WORKPLACE

The concept of bullying doesn’t just apply to kids. Bullying in the workplace is also getting more attention these days, and PMOs aren’t immune to the problem. Project management leaders often find themselves in a position of power, and some wield significant control over others in their group and beyond. Below we’ve outlined a few ways to spot a bullying problem within your project team.

Disconnected stakeholders. There are many reasons stakeholders may disengage from a particular project (or from your PMO in general), but it’s always worth considering if their sudden distance from the team is a result of bullying. Pressure exerted by a domineering PM could easily lead a valuable stakeholder to find other initiatives to throw their weight behind. If a former project champion’s reasons for their diminished enthusiasm don’t stand up to scrutiny, there’s a possibility they felt they were being pushed around.

Frustrated end users. It’s the rare project that doesn’t spark concerns or queries from end users, but a bulldozer of a PM could leave your team with a slew of unhappy customers. If they feel they’re being bullied in retaliation for pointing out problems or for asking for resolutions to something they aren’t content with, they’re likely to become increasingly frustrated to the point they no longer even try to raise issues in a constructive way.

Demoralized team members. If enthusiasm within your PMO has gone into a nosedive, something is clearly amiss. And unfortunately, whenever a person in a leadership position users their power to intimidate coworkers, morale will certain go down. Some previously happy team members may raise complaints, but others will simply leave for greener pastures.

Have you run across a bully on a project team? What sort of behavior did they display, and how did it affect those around them?

project management training tip

PMAlliance provides project management training services.

WHEN DYSFUNCTIONAL PMOs SUCCEED

Nearly every project management consulting professional has watched a completely dysfunctional PMO execute a project successfully. How do they do it? When the rest of us are carefully creating solid budgets and timelines, while we’re diligently minding our progress and watching for potential problem areas downstream, these broken teams manage to succeed in spite of themselves. Is it just luck? I don’t think so. In those cases where I’ve seen a heavily flawed project team achieve its objectives, there are usually some extraordinary circumstances that contribute to the project’s success.

A lot of problems can slip past disconnected stakeholders or an executive team that isn’t paying attention. Projects that are over budget or miss a deadline may never be questioned, and even failures on a critical deliverable could glide under the radar. If your performance is never truly subjected to scrutiny, what does it matter if you do a good job or not? But beware the downside: the long-term effectiveness of projects that don’t pass muster is diminished, meaning that stakeholders might not trust your PMO’s recommendations in the future, or other projects may need to be implemented to fix what went wrong the first time.

A project team comprised of high-performing individuals will often succeed, even if a subset of members aren’t pulling their weight. Self motivation and sheer determination can usually drive those who set high standards for themselves to cover a lot of faults if it means the project will succeed. Unfortunately, in my experience these situations ultimately put the organization in an even worse position when the stars of the PMO move on in search of a team that doesn’t take advantage of them.

Have any of you ever worked in a dysfunctional PMO? What were the underlying problems, and how did your team manage to find success?

project manager

 

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

MAKE YOUR PROJECT MANAGEMENT PHOTOS SING

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then it’s time your PMO made its project photos earn their keep. Stakeholders across the board rely on good pictures—to help them understand what your project will correct as well as to see all that you’ve accomplished so far. We’ve put together some guidelines to help you take great project management pictures that support your message.

Pay attention to quality. Grainy, dark, and out-of-focus pictures aren’t what you need. For photos to convey information and have impact, viewers must be able to see things clearly. And while some cell phones take great pictures, a quality point-and-shoot camera is often a worthwhile investment. Also, consider if you’re likely to enlarge pictures for display at open house events or to show greater detail. In those instances, it may be helpful to use a high-resolution camera.

Give some perspective. Photos that are too close-up or too far away may not give viewers the kind of understanding you want them to have. Be mindful to offer information on scale (a ruler often works for small items, a desk chair or even a car for larger objects, structures, etc.) and take the picture from an angle that makes it clear what you’re focusing on. Also, do your best to minimize the appearance of unimportant items or clutter, so the photo is easy to view and comprehend.

Offer additional information. Supplemental graphics and text will often help to explain the finer details of your photos. If someone in your PMO is skilled with PhotoShop or a similar software platform, you can add all kinds of extra information while also cropping, rotating, and shrinking or enlarging specific areas of a photo. Low-tech solutions, such as post-it notes and arrows drawn with a felt-tip marker, can also get the point across.

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

THE DANGERS OF OVERPLANNING

Can you really overplan a project? It turns out you can. When schedules are adjusted too frequently, or when task durations are forecast too optimistically, the project can quickly fall into the overplanning trap. Most people recognize and quell the occasional bout of overplanning when they see it in themselves, but what happens if that gene runs wild? There can actually be downsides to too much—or too frequent—planning.

The moving target syndrome. One pitfall of updating plans too frequently is that milestone dates can become too fluid. Unless you’re the only one involved in bringing the project to fruition, others will already have target dates in mind for items they’re managing. Manipulating those dates too often can make it difficult for others to achieve their milestone objectives.

Whittling down contingencies. It’s not uncommon for project management teams to build contingency time around key tasks, where variables make tight planning less precise. When a project timetable is managed too closely and updated too often, there’s a tendency to chip away at those contingency days. If everything doesn’t line up perfectly and that additional time is actually needed, the rest of the schedule may again need to change to accommodate the wiggle room that shouldn’t have ever been removed.

Unrealistic targets. This becomes a problem when one person updates the entire project schedule based on their own progress, rather than communicating with all stakeholders to ensure that time savings in one area actually affords the opportunity to adjust target dates in other areas. It’s particularly troublesome if equipment installation schedules or other dates along the project continuum are fixed, and changes create a milestone date that another team member can’t possibly meet. If changes aren’t communicated well, deadlines may be missed simply because someone didn’t know their target date had changed.

PMAlliance Project Management Training

4 WAYS TO SPICE UP YOUR PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING PROGRAM

Project Management Training is an ongoing activity for most PMOs, but participants can get burned out if the routine gets stale. We’ve rounded up some tips to keep students interested and enthusiastic.

1 – Offer one on one sessions

Training is typically more time- and cost-efficient when multiple students attend, but individual sessions can offer a helpful alternative. They’re especially useful for students who travel or work irregular shifts, and may have difficulty blending common class times into their schedules. If you have a mentor program, you already have a list of experts potentially willing to lead occasional sessions.

2 – Go offsite

Students who are too close to their desks might not give training their full attention— it’s too easy to run back for a quick e-mail or voicemail check, which is never actually quick. Traditional venues are fine, but if you’re looking for something more interesting (and perhaps less expensive), consider the picnic benches at a nearby park or even a coffee shop for events with only a handful of students.

3 – Go online

Computer-based training is a great way to offer sessions that are efficient and can accommodate the schedules of multiple students. It works particularly well for short classes, where participants can easily tune out distractions because they know they’ll be available again before long. Online presentations can also be used during traditional training sessions to offer students access to remote experts or additional accompanying material.

4 – Turn students into trainers

Interactive classes can help to keep things interesting, and tapping participants’ expertise to expand the group’s knowledge base is a fun way to maintain a high enthusiasm level. Be sure you don’t rely on any one person too much—instead, schedule several folks to present different material. This will ensure that everyone gets the chance to be a student.

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4 THINGS TO REMEMBER WHEN DEALING WITH STUBBORN PEOPLE

Much of project management consulting centers around negotiation—objectives, expectations, timeframe, and budget. There are occasions where negotiation may be impossible, such as when budget limitations simply won’t allow additional money to be approved, but sometimes plain human stubbornness keeps the team from making progress. When someone comes to the table refusing to negotiate on key points, project professionals should keep a few things in mind as they try to move the discussion forward.

1 – Even hard data might not sway them
Before you dedicate significant time or energy to gathering data that supports your viewpoint, remember that stubbornness is sometimes immune to empirical evidence. Facts won’t always unseat deeply held ideas, concerns, or opinions.

2 – Ask and listen
Because data might not be enough to change a stubborn person’s mind, see if you can get to the root of why they’re stuck on a particular point of view. Turn the tables and pull information from them by asking about their experiences and perspectives. They might divulge something that points you toward an acceptable compromise or workable solution.

3 – Public opinion could work in your favor
You alone may not be able to bring enough pressure to bear to convince a stubborn person to back down or to secure a compromise. In these cases, consider rallying others to support your cause. This could take the form of user surveys, or it might require getting the senior leadership on your side.

4 – They might not actually be stubborn
There’s a chance they’re stuck on a particular issue because their boss or other influencer has an agenda. As you discuss why they hold such a firm perspective, try to determine if someone else is at work behind the scenes. If so, you’ll likely need to address that person directly before progress can be made.

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