Hello and Welcome

I'm an ex-Project Manager who currently moved on to Agile Consulting and this blog is my sounding board. This blog was started in 2008 journal-ling through my project management journey, today it combines both- my passion for all things project management as well as looking into the agile way of transformation and undergoing changes.

Here I write about my experiences, struggles, failures and joys. I also interview, do book reviews and keep you updated.

I usually post twice a week: Monday and Thursday unless I am too caught up which is often these days

If I'm not working; I can be found reading with a cup of tea. I love to read, push the envelope one step further, work on new ideas, experiment, travel and explore life.

Did you know you can now buy Stepping into Project Management at Amazon Kindle.

You can reach me at steppingintopm@gmail.com

Life- as it is

Most days are a mix of good and bad, some make you happy and content and confident and some are just bad decisions, moments that make you doubt your confidence.

My effort to re-organize my life- personal and professional often turn out futile. I plan and re-plan and then suddenly something needs my attention and the plans out of the window.

The buzz has rekindled itself. Suddenly there has been activities mostly positive round me. I am not sure if I have anything to do with them, may be I am just trying to be me again and trying to organize better and that’s probably the way to know that I am on the right direction.

So, in trying to juggle my role of professional who is trying for the next jump, a blogger who wants to get back to the regular routine, a community member who wants the connect site to connect more people and bring help to their careers and a mom who tries to spend some quality time with her 6 month son- organization is the key.

So, here are some tips to bring them in your life no matter how complex your life has become:

  • Prioritize your list- I use Trello and I timebox it. It’s usually open in a tab in front of me while I work, so I know the goals if I want to just check on them once in a while. Oh and I have the app downloaded as well.
  • Visualize- every morning I start my work life with somnote. I simply click on it and list down to-dos for the day.  And then work around it for the rest of the day.
  • Focus- its difficult midst meetings, calls, emails and lots more happening. So sometimes I will simply use coffitivity or noisli with a headphone. I work better with a noise and rhythm in background. 
  • Efficiency- time is sparse and I try to make the most of it. When I have difficulty focusing, I will use the pomodoro app and try to get something done. It works great for me.
  • Remember and refer - I use Evernote to remember things I read and categorize them. I also try to maintain a physical diary where I will jot down points or theories or new concepts that I liked or am thinking about, so I can refer to them quickly.
  • Connect- I barely get time to have a day out with friends, so I keep in touch mostly with whatsapp, viber and skype. 
  • Relax- I panic with so much going on or loose my cool. So sometimes at night, I will unwind by listening to some good music with tea and reading a good book or carelessly browse through pinterest even if its for a few minutes.
  • I forgive- I try not to be too strict on myself when I know there’s a lot happening. I try to be grateful for what I have. Close my eyes and hear me breathe. 

That pretty much sums my life right now.

(Pic courtesy: Soma Bhattacharya)

New Resources Pt 3- Interview with Samad Aidane

Samad Aidane is a cross-cultural leadership and Project Management Consultant and Coach with over two decades of experience in information technology change initiatives. He is also a featured speaker at Project Management Institute Congresses, local PMI Chapters, and at organizations such as J.P Morgan, HP, and T-Mobile.

Please tell us about your website which is a great resource for the upcoming project managers and why understanding the co-relation between neuro-science and project management/leadership style could be the key to being successful in this profession.

Although we tend to think of project work in terms of tasks, resources, and milestones, the brain experiences projects first and foremost as social systems. The latest research on how the brain works is bringing a fresh perspective on how the brain responds during times of change, uncertainty, and ambiguity and the drivers that create an environment that fosters engagement, collaboration, and commitment.
Neuroscience is the interdisciplinary science of the nervous system that collaborates with other fields such as chemistry, computer science, engineering, linguistics, mathematics, medicine, philosophy, physics, and psychology. The field has seen significant advances in recent years which can be largely attributed to very recent scientific and technological advances, particularly functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, which allows researchers to literally watch the brain in action.

Guerrilla Project Management and Neuro Frontier reflect my interest in this field. The blogs explore core neuroscience of leadership principles that form the foundation for making decisions, solving problems, collaborating with others, and facilitating change. Understanding these core neuroscience principles and drivers of human behavior will help us understand individual capacity to cope with ambiguity, deal with conflict, and find innovative solutions to complex problems.

Why do you think this is a must read for new project managers?Wwhat are the 3 main takeaways from the site?

Through Guerrilla Project Management and Neuro Frontier, new project managers will be able to:

  • Understand the neuroscience of leadership, its latest research findings, and its implications for project managers
  • Gain insights into the effectiveness and benefits of brain-based leadership for Project Managers
  • Learn how to apply these insights in our projects to make effective decisions and solve complex problems, stay cool under pressure, and facilitate lasting change.

One piece of advice that you think is an absolute must for new project managers?

Project are a series of moments of dull but important work interspersed with moments of pure joy and often even euphoria. To sustain ourselves, every project must contribute a body of knowledge to our journey of mastery. This starts with not letting projects happen to us. This means we must get to the point in our career where we get to select the type of projects we work on, the way film directors choose their next film or musicians select their next album project. This power of choice is the secret to making sure every project we touch tells a story about our journey to mastery and contributes to our masterpiece.

Samad Aidane holds a Post Graduate Degree in the Neuroscience of Leadership from Middlesex University, U.K. His research connects the latest findings in brain science research to leadership development and informs the ways leaders can improve their capacity to make effective decisions, solve complex problems, and facilitate lasting change. Samad is certified by the Project Management Institute and a member of the Social & Affective Neuroscience Society.

(Pic courtesy: Samad Aidane)

You can also read Pt 1- Interview with Jeff Furman  and Pt 2- Interview with Elizabeth Harrin.

New Resources Pt 2- Interview with Elizabeth Harrin

Happy New Year to all of you! 

We start this year with another great resource that is sure to bring a  smile. Elizabeth Harrin who also writes the award-winning blog, A Girl’s Guide to Project Management has a newly launched
e-coaching services. She talks about how it can help so many project managers and definitely something that's much easier to access than formal coaching sessions.

So, please tell us about your newly launched course which is a great resource for the upcoming project managers and where can we find it.

I realized that lots of people wanted access to a coach but in a more informal way than scheduled Skype calls or face-to-face meetings. So I thought offering bespoke coaching for particular issues over email would fill the gap. You don't have to have a massive career problem to work out over several months. It's just about tapping an expert for advice, for example when you've got questions about a difficult project and you can't discuss them with someone at work (or you want an external view).

E-coaching is an easy way for you to get access to support and career resources whenever you need it. You don’t have to be tied to a particular time for a phone call and you don’t have to wait until the next session to get some advice. It’s also affordable and manageable, so if you thought you’d never be able to engage the services of a coach, think again!

I don't actually have anything on my website about it yet. You can read about it in one of my newsletters here

Why do you think this is a must have for new project managers? what are the main takeaways from the mentoring sessions that newbies can directly have with you.

I was lucky enough to have a senior project manager assigned to me as a mentor when I started out but that isn't the case for everyone, and even with her help I still had to learn a lot of things the hard way. I wrote Project Management in the Real World because I was frustrated at having to learn everything about project management from scratch. It was the book I wished for when I became a project manager.

A coach can help you unpick problems faster. They can help you work out your own style and help you develop. My style of e-coaching is based on questions and answers over email and clients get a very detailed response, action steps and additional resources for their queries in a reflective style which they can then decide if they apply to their situation. I think this is particularly good for new project managers who don't necessarily have the experience to work out exactly what they need to do by themselves and need a helping hand to offer a few alternative directions.

If you are working in project management or would like to work in projects and need some help sorting out some of the daily problems you face, putting together a career plan for your next job, improving project communications, getting to grips with virtual teams or practically any other project-related problem, then you should consider a coach (whether that's me or someone else).

One piece of advise that you think is an absolute must for new project managers?

Being gracious and appreciative has always worked well for me. When you are a new in post, everyone else knows more than you so it's not easy to assert your authority in a traditional way. A facilitative style actually works better anyway. Take the time to thank the people on the project team for their contributions and make them feel that their work has meaning. You can be very effective while knowing very little if you keep in mind that your job is to make their jobs easier. What do they need to get their tasks done? That's what you have to provide. That and a little structure in the form of a plan and you are well on your way to completing your project successfully with a happy team.

Elizabeth Harrin, MA, FAPM, MBCS is Director of The Otobos Group, a project communications consultancy specialising in copywriting for project management firms. She has a decade of experience in projects. Elizabeth has led a variety of IT and process improvement projects including ERP and communications developments. She is also experienced in managing business change, having spent eight years working in financial services (including two based in Paris, France). Elizabeth is the author of Shortcuts to Success: Project Management in the Real World, Social Media for Project Managers and Customer-Centric Project Management.  You can find Elizabeth online at www.otobosgroup.com or on Twitter @pm4girls.

(Pic Courtesy: Elizabeth Harrin)

You can Read Part 1- Interview with Jeff Furman here.

Wrapping up 2014

It’s been a wonderful year for me personally. Like all others it had its ups and downs, life became more complex, sometimes fun, sometimes tiring and most of all just another day I had to go through.
There have been some major changes though in addition of having my son.

In the last 365 days I have realized that in just going through the days and checklists and meetings and the stress, I was sometimes missing out on the fun.
Now I am just running after tomorrow instead of enjoying the today I have.
I made a couple of small changes in my life experimenting with my own self to see if I could change. Sometimes these smaller tiny changes made a huge impact, there weren't small change anymore.

If there’s one book you would like to read next year or may be today- pick up the Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. It’s not just helpful in your professional life, it’s also a major help in your personal as well. Have time for a second read try, the Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Want a book that helps you professionally, read Jurgen Appelo’s Management 3.0   

Want to start your new year with difference, you can try out simple ways to organize your life, declutter  and may be thinking about Mindfulness .

I thought this video (60 minutes with Anderson Cooper)  will allow us to rethink our lives and start living!

Before the final wrap up, here's my article on Scrum Alliance  and you can read by clicking here 

A very Happy New Year to you and thank you for all your support, encouragement and inspiration. 

New Resources Pt 1- Interview with Jeff Furman

This is a special short and crisp series of posts that promise to help you get prepped up for 2015. And we start with some new available resources that help you get to your goal faster.

We start with Jeff Furman and his second edition of the book "The Project Management Answer Book" (second edition) which is a great resource for anyone getting into project management as well as considering about getting the certification. 

You can read his interview with me when the first edition was out by clicking here.

Please tell us about your book which is a great resource for the upcoming project managers.     
PMP Certification –Getting certified is very important for anyone who wants a career
in project management.  And my book is packed with PMP tips in every chapter, based on my having taught more than 100 PMP Prep classes over the past eight years, as well as teaching many other Basic and Advanced PM classes. So many of these tips are NOT in other books. And I share these throughout my book in very easy-to-find “sidebars.”

Easy-to-Read Q&A Format - My book is the only current PMP book in Q&A format, making it easy-to-read and navigate through. But it’s also highly-detailed – I provide very thorough explanations on difficult topics such as Earned Value and Critical Path, but broken up into short, “bite-size” Q&As. For this reason, many PMs from around the world have “Liked” my book’s Facebook Fan Page – (“Likes” currently from 25 different countries!)

NOT Just PMP! – Most PMP books are mainly “for the test.” My book has a very strong PMP test focus, but also contains a great many templates, figures, diagrams, examples, and case-studies to help PMs with practical, hands-on advice for managing projects efficiently and effectively.

NOT Just Waterfall (Hello, Scrum Agile!)  For the 2nd Edition, I’ve added a robust new chapter on Scrum Agile. Waterfall PM has been the industry standard for many years. But Agile is catching on rapidly, with Scrum by far the most popular type. My book provides 54 new Q&As on Scrum (also making comparisons to Waterfall where helpful). My chapter also provides info on Agile certifications, networking groups and resources for Agilists, and more.

 And where can we find it?
 My 2nd Edition just came out in November, 2014.  It's available in paperbacks and in several

  • Paperback: Amazon.com
  • Paperback from the publisher: Management Concepts Press
  • eBook: from the publisher: Management Concepts Press
  • Paperback: at the NYU Bookstore in Manhattan     

Also coming soon in:

  • Kindle: Amazon.com
  • Google Books

Why do you think this is a must have for new project managers? 
New PMs, as well as job candidates, have a need to quickly be able to show potential customers, stakeholders, and employers that they understand the latest techniques and terminology. My book takes  hundreds of technical terms from the PMI PMBOK Guide and other sources and provides very easy-to-follow explanations, examples, and templates to help PMs very quickly get up-to-speed.

My book also provides a great deal of help toward the certification process. In addition to many PMP test tips, I provide unique content such as a template on how to complete the PMP exam application, a list of “language aids” supported by PMI (Turkish just added!), tips on creating the PMP exam brain dump, and a study sheet / practice grid I created for my PMP students on how to learn the ITTOs (Inputs, Tools, Techniques, and Outputs) PMs need to know for their exams.

 What are the 3 main takeaways from the book?
Top 10 Pitfall Lists – My book offers “Top 10 Pitfalls” on the PMI Knowledge Areas, based on my many years experience managing I.T. projects, as well as many shared by my students in my PM classes.  Looking at pitfalls to watch out (a.k.a. “other people’s mistakes”) is a fun way to learn the PMBOK.

The Triple Constraint –  Many PMs have heard about the classic “Triple Constraint.”
But many don’t know that there are actually several useful variations out in the world of PM. My book provides:

My book provides diagrams of three popular models plus three advanced models:
  • The Talent Management Triple Constraint 
  • The Value Triple Constraint 
  • The Triple Constraint For Ethics. 

Mini Waterfall –  Scrum Agile is an important new area of PM to learn, in addition to Waterfall PM (which is the discipline tested for on the PMP). Good news is that if you have already studied Waterfall, there are some key concepts common to both, so much so that some actually call Scrum “mini-waterfall.”

So my Chapter 14, “Scrum Agile: The New Wave In PM” is designed to help you quickly learn many of the key concepts of Scrum. And to make it fun, my chapter answers questions for you such as: “What are misconceptions Waterfall people have about Agile?” and the other way around:“What are misconceptions agilists have about Waterfall?”

One piece of advice that you think is an absolute must for new project managers?
One word: Ethics!
Don’t let the customer (or your management) push you into an unethical decision. There is always the pressure: “The customer is always right,” and to do whatever they ask. But if you say yes to something you shouldn’t, such as cutting corners, or skipping an important test, your project’s quality will suffer. And if your reputation becomes compromised, it will be very difficult to get it back.

My Chapter 10: Ethical Considerations PMs Face On The Job takes you through the PMI Code of Ethics®, as well as PMI’s EDMF® (Ethical Decision-Making Framework), and provides Q&As on many real-world issues around ethics that can help you set a leadership example on your projects.

To know more about the book, you can see the reviews and read another great interview by Elizabeth Harrin  

The series continues in 2015.

(Pic courtesy: MWild Photography)