Understanding people- 7 rules you should know

Mar 29, 2010 | | 2 comments |
If you are a project manager thats because you understand people well. If you are not one and would like to be on, follow the rules taken from here.

Rule One: Never blame malice for what can easily be explained by conceit.
Rule Two: Few Social Behaviors are Explicit
Rule Three: Behavior is Largely Dictated by Selfish Altruism
Rule Four: People Have Poor Memories
Rule Five: Everyone is Emotional
Rule Six: People are Lonely
Rule Seven: Did I Mention People Are Self-Absorbed?

You can read the details here, the source for the article.

New certification for Project Managers working with NGO

If you are a project manager who likes to help and build something for humanity, be there and work within the system- I have news for you.

There's a new certification in town for project managers- check it out here.

"The idea behind the qualification is to help project managers and teams use their resources effectively. A working group to establish the new certification, comprising twelve international NGOs, found that between them, just a 1% improvement in effectiveness would yield an additional $47m to spend on projects! APMG has been working with pm4ngos on this exciting project and will launch the qualification in April"- Kate Winter, PR Manager, APM group.

Get ready now, another certification to add in your resume.

Need a new job? Keep reading

Mar 22, 2010 | | 1 comments |
If you like your job or think its boring, here are some amazing reads that will at least get you thinking.

If you think after you read these articles, chances are you will try to evaluate them and perhaps even implement at work or home. If you are looking for a change, you want to keep these handy and may be even pass it on.

Now, that you are listening here's the list:

Project Management implemented

Project Management mostly is seen as such a closed circle that it amazes me. It is one thing that can be implemented in lots of ways and in various situations.

So, when Keller School of Management started a discussion around entrepreneurship and project management, it had to be known.

PMIEF has been doing a lot to spread it among students to develop leadership and communication.

When put to use with right mind set, this is one thing that with proper planning and understanding, most of the impossible can be done.

Project Management Toolkit for Youth

What are you doing to spread the word?

Interview with Geoff Crane

Geoff is fun personified.

Project Managers are stressed, looking for the next problem and it shows. It different with Geoff, he seems relaxed, having fun and can make you smile.

He had his share of stress and decided to take it easy and have fun. He talks about his journey and what a great person to talk to.

How did you get into project management?
It happened sort of by accident. I had been managing projects in a small way for some time, although I hadn’t really considered myself a project manager. I wouldn’t actually hear that term for a few years yet. I was just a kid working for a global bank that closed its Toronto office (where I’d been working). In recompense, they offered me a job in the Far East, to build a trading floor. I had no idea what to do, but I figured, well, if it’s a total disaster, at least I got to go Asia.

I hit the ground running and just started “dealing”. People threw problems at me that I had no skill in managing, so I did the only thing I knew how to do. I started making connections: “this person over here should do that, do you know so-and-so? That person over there is the right guy to get that job done”. I adopted a strategy of keeping the communication flowing and never fully letting go of any pieces. And I worked hard.

The bank was happy with my work and offered for me to stay for “a year”. Right, so ten years later, I finally left. By that time I’d taken hundreds of projects on, so I guess somewhere in there was where it happened.

Any incident you might want to share from your very first day in your role as the project manager?
I’m not really sure exactly where I became “the project manager”. It happened by degrees. But I’ll tell you of an early project where I agreed to build a trading portal for high net worth clients in Asia. From scratch. In three months. Sheesh.

My plane touched down, and I showed up for the first meeting. Senior executives started lambasting me with questions…right there…on the first day. “What’s the plan for security?” “Who is the customer base?” “What’s the marketing plan?” “Why don’t you know?” They all just bombarded me. Some of the questions I didn’t even have the base vocabulary to understand, and my legs weren’t firmly under me yet. After a few moments of this, I stared back at them and said the first thing I could think of. It was something like, “you’re asking me all these questions about what I want, but have you decided what you want yet?”

That sparked a crazy debate where they all stopped looking at me and gave me a chance for my armpits to stop sweating from the scrutiny. I learned a ton of important lessons on that particular project; but on that day, I learned to deflect pressure away from myself so I could give myself space to think clearly.

What, according to you, are the pre-requisites to become a project manager?
If you’re asking me if there’s a silver bullet credential out there for a project manager to get and be successful, I don’t believe there is. There’s the PMP and other similar types of certifications you can get, but all they do is teach project theory. Don’t get me wrong; theory has its place, but it can’t prepare you for the realities waiting for you on the ground.

From my perspective, a project manager needs a big set of ears, resilience and a ton of guts. If he or she comes to a project with those three things, they have what it takes in my opinion.

Sadly I’ve watched a lot of project managers with a lot of letters after their names flounder over the years. It’s easy for new project managers to get overwhelmed by all the moving parts, the irate stakeholders, and the fact that once a project gets underway, it becomes an unstoppable whirlwind that’s very easy to lose control of.

Active listening, fast and direct communication, and the ability to both roll with the punches and stand up for what they believe in are tools every project manager must possess.

Your persona over twitter seems very fun and yet at the same time you mention you are stressed managing projects and want to spend more time with family. So talk to me more about how stressful it really gets.
I think I said, “I’m tired of the stress” of big projects. And yes, it does wear on you after awhile. Age does some great things for you in terms of putting things in perspective, and helping you find paths of least resistance. You need that because age also sometimes makes you fall asleep after lunch drooling at your desk (with the younger office staff pointing and giggling at you through the glass). When a project gets particularly hairy, it can be tough finding the energy to keep things moving if you’re not super efficient.

In my later career, I had the pleasure (?) of managing a portion of a spectacularly complex program. This beast ate people up and spat them out. It was a joke that a senior partner at the firm I was working for started to include “not for the faint of heart” on resource requisitions.

I was responsible for nine parallel software releases on antiquated hardware from the 1960s and 1970s, each of which interfaced with every major national bank. Each bank had no less than 50 separate interfaces, and a dearth of testing environments. The program included resources from competing vendors all of whom were jockeying to be “the vendor who really knew how to do things properly,” and so would regularly put people down in very public daily status meetings with dozens of people. Add to that: mechanical failures, regression, a ridiculous number of development environments, and layer upon layer of management to plug holes, and you can kiss your budget goodbye. I would dream at night about huge columns of red numbers toppling over and burying me.

In a case like this, you can do a very thorough job of planning everything out, but the plan becomes something reviewed each and every day. You look at the issues du jour and reprioritize on the fly, throwing process out the window in favour of just making a tiny bit of progress before a week is through. The important thing to remember is to just keep going. No matter what happens, don’t stop. If you make progress, celebrate it for what it is, even if, in the grand scheme of things, the progress seems infinitesimal.

Don’t be shy about raising issues either. Be loud and be heard above everyone else. Stakeholders and executive management may not like what you have to say, but they can’t fault you for withholding information.

So, what are you focusing more on now? Tell us about your website.

At this point I guess I’ve tried to reinvent myself a little to change with the times. These are much leaner years and I want to position myself to continue doing what I always loved as part of my job as project manager, which is guiding people. I’ve hung up my hat as a PM, and am now taking up the mantle of project coach.

Papercut is about making sure project managers have the right resources at their disposal to enable them to do their jobs. I provide free collaboration tools for clients to manage their engagements, and an expert eye to watch out for the constant pitfalls that plague all project managers. When my clients run into problems, I pull from my own library of tools I’ve built over the years and teach them how to use them. This way I can provide client organizations with my expertise, at a fraction of the cost had they hired me outright. And when I’m done, the organization has a project manager who’s learned on the job without as much pain.

What’s the secret of being a sane project manager? :)
It’s very easy to let a project consume you. You can create vicious little circles where you spend so much time on the project that your non-work life suffers. That creates more stress in the long run, which then spills over into the workday, causing you to work even harder on the project to compensate for your reduced attention.

At the end of the day, a burned-out project manager is a wasted resource. Know your limits going into the project and plan it out such that your limits don’t have to be tested. The project needs you to see it all the way through to the end.

If it all goes south despite your best efforts, remember, it’s just another project. A comet is not about to come crashing into the earth because it didn’t go well, and the seas are not going to rise up and swallow you whole. The project will get corrected or cancelled, and another one will take its place.

Care about your project; just don’t care so much you become a liability.

The most difficult thing of being a project manager that no one really talks about.
There’s loads of literature on analytics and best practices and the like but what I don’t hear enough about managing expectations. When you say you’re going to do something, no matter how flip, no matter in what context, it’s absolutely vital that you follow through. Basically, if you say you’re going to do something, do it.

Maybe because that’s such a simple concept to grasp, people think it’s easy. Let me tell you that follow-through is one of the most difficult parts of managing any project. With all the stakeholders, vendors and team members you have to work with, from one meeting to the next, you find yourself making more and more promises—even small ones that seem easy. It doesn’t take long before you find yourself overwhelmed with promises you have to make good on. The people you’ve made them to won’t care that you inadvertently bit off more than you could chew and forgot about what you said—a promise is a promise.

It only takes one broken promise made to the wrong person. As soon as that happens you start a domino effect through the people on your project because, of course, they talk amongst themselves. You don’t get a chance to defend yourself against gossip. It’s very easy to damage your reputation on a project given the breadth of communications you’re responsible for as a project manager.

So take great pains to manage yourself and your capacity before you blurt out a promise to someone you don’t actually know that you can handle.

I have really enjoyed this interview and to know more or connect with him, click here.

Letter from Chennai

Mar 14, 2010 | | 0 comments |
I have been getting lots of emails like most bloggers do that request me to write about their product, website etc. Most of the time, I am either running late in responding or have to deny. I only write about products or websites related to project management, if it gets my attention and I like it.

It was a surprise when I got this email in my inbox and thought it was really interesting. Mr.Subramanium started this academy "to train PM and people skills to budding managers in and around Chennai".

Project Management in India is not as popular as in some countries and is primarily considered only in IT. So, the fact that he was spreading the word out is a good thing.

Congratulations on the effort and to see his list of workshops click here.

Deming's 14 points

I have read Deming's 14 points more than once, but every time I read I think it's so important to know that I wanted to include it right in the blog.

So, the 14 points you should know:
  • Create constancy of purpose towards improvement
  • Adopt the new philosophy
  • Cease dependency on inspection
  • End the practice of awarding business on the basis of price tags
  • Improve constantly and forever
  • Institute training on the job
  • Institute leadership
  • Drive out fear
  • Break down barriers between staff areas
  • Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the work force
  • Eliminate management by objectives
  • Remove barriers to pride of workmanship
  • Institute education and self-improvement
  • The transformation is everyone’s job
To get into the details and know it better, read here.

Stress Management - how are you dealing with it?

Mar 5, 2010 | | 0 comments |
If you are a Project Manager, chances are you are stressed most of the time or have had situations which are very stressful.

If you haven't had one, you are lucky, however taking some of the precautions can ensure that you will stay healthy always.

Interview with Pawel Brodzinski

Mar 1, 2010 | | 0 comments |
Pawel Brodzinski is a seasoned manager working in software industry whom most us know because we read his blog about software project management at Software Project Management more then often. With more than 1693 readers subscribing to his post (wow!), this is one site you should visit and bookmark.

While Pawel is passionate about building great teams, fixing broken projects and building quality software he seems grounded and ready to help- read the interview and you will know what I mean. To know more follow him on Twitter

• How did you get into to project management?
I went through a number of different roles in software projects and entering project management was a natural consequence for me. Having experience is software development and design, quality assurance, customer support and team management leading projects was just another step and not the last one as it appeared. I would say I try to focus on people (teams) and software respectively; project management is just a part of my story.

A funny thing is I had ‘project manager’ printed on my business card for a few months only, even though I keep leading different projects all the time. But that’s exactly how I look at the subject – it is very broad.

• Any incident you can share with us.
I guess I could tell tons of success stories and at least as many failure stories. I could mention a few projects which taught me the most. But the thing which completely changed the way I look at project management and software development was me changing a job for the first time. I had a very good track record at my first job where I got invaluable experience and I decided to move on. I joined the company where my goal was to clean up technical department (software development, quality assurance and project management) with a head full of recipes ready to apply. After all I knew it how it should work from my previous job.

None of these recipes were right. The company I joined was completely different. It was smaller: we were counted in tens, not in thousands. There were few big customers instead of thousands small and medium ones. And it was other industry than before. We worked on custom projects mainly, not on from-the-shelf products. Company’s financial situation was significantly worse. Top management had different priorities. Virtually every single thing was different. Why recipes should be the same then?

The thing I learned is there’s no silver bullet, especially when it comes to such a broad subject as project management. Every situation is different and the best solution will vary depending on your specific situation. It is impossible to find a cure until you exactly know what disease you fight with.

• Beyond the urge to learn what do you think is crucial quality to become a project manager?
Being a good organizer, especially in terms of self-organization. Good communication and interpersonal skills. High determination to make things done. That’s shortened version of the list of qualities a good project manager should possess I wrote some time ago.

Don’t treat it as the only way to become a project manager. Actually a lot of people choosing this role don’t suit it very much and that’s fine. Depending on a workplace a different character would work better.

• Tell us something about your blog, why did you start blogging?
Starting Software Project Management was a bit of an experiment for me. I generally like to write and I believed I have some valuable insight to share but at the same time I wasn't sure whether anyone would follow or how long I’d enjoy running the blog. I guess I can call it a success since the blog will soon be 4 year old, I earned decent readership and still have a lot of fun with it.

Subjects I write about aren't limited to project management since, as I've mentioned before, project management is only a part of what I do. I’m always open for a good discussion and I wish there were more comments on Software Project Management. I guess I should become more controversial but unfortunately that’s not my style.

• You talk about helping people often– how do you plan to do it?
Well, I write a blog, isn't that enough? OK, just kidding. I try to be active on a couple of forums, AskAboutProjects being my favorite recently. By the way I recommend it for everyone trying to find answer for project management related question. I always help people who contact me via email, Twitter or blog which sometimes results in pretty interesting discussions. I speak on relevant events from time to time, Agile Central Europe being the nearest one. I have a couple other ideas focused mainly on region where I live but at the moment they are still under development.

I believe help starts with small things. If you write a post which is liked or triggers hot discussion it helps. If you answer a question on forum which solves someone’s problem it helps too. If it is followed up with email discussion you help even more. If you answer some questions from students of local university it helps. If you draw audience attention with your presentation during an event it sure helps. Even if none of these things cost you much, and good presentation cost heck lot of work, they stack up. That’s how I look at it.

• Tell us something about you that we don’t know
I am a naive person. I wish people were more honest in business and much more often than not my straightforward approach ends up with worse deals than I could have got. It is also easy to impress me when I meet new people. I could tell a lot of stories about people who I thought were great when we met for the first time but later I completely changed my opinion about them and usually regretted I hadn't been more careful in the first place. I guess I just gave you a recipe to milk me in business.

Thank you Pawel for taking the time to do this.

Coffee Break Series 1

I did it finally.

As you can see the Coffee Break Series is in a functional mode, though I admit it could have been done better.

I hope this video (actually audio file) explains why you should have a mentor (yes, I have one!).

Direct link to YouTube here

To know more about why I decided to start the series, click here

If you are curious, I finally found this software for free that allows me to record the audio and I do the rest through Windows Movie Maker and upload in YouTube.