Week of Oct. 28, 2019
Zombie projects, tortured deadlines, and more project management horror stories
How to spot a zombie project. Projects are finite—they have a definite start and end. Zombie projects, however, never end, continuing on past when they should have been lain to rest. According to Elizabeth Harrin, outbreaks can be traced back to ineffective leadership (i.e., executive sponsors failing to align stakeholders on objectives, managers not pushing back on scope creep, etc.). Kill the zombie projects, or risk becoming a zombie project manager.
Horror movies: not just for scares. In this LinkedIn piece, Kiron Bondale shows that while films such as “Friday the 13th” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street” may seem unlikely sources of project management inspiration, there are lessons we can learn. For example, don’t assume it’s dead, because issues can recur. Additionally, never say, “I’ll be right back!” There’s strength in numbers, so don’t try to tackle a problem on your own.
Deadline abuse: the project management horror story. In this Medium article, Chris the Brain claims that the term “deadline” has fallen into hyperbolic disrepute. He urges leaders to distinguish between real deadlines (which are critical) and fake deadlines (which are dangerous distractions), noting that when leaders focus on and try to control schedules, it creates pressure, not productivity.
The zombie project management office (PMO). According to Gartner, Zombie PMOs are the undead, functionally no longer serving a purpose but continuing to go through the motions they knew in life. The outbreak that caused the zombie PMO? The pace of change brought on by digital disruption and a failure to adapt. Gartner notes that leaders must “slay the zombio PMO” and become change enablers focused on investment management, resource management, and dependency management.
Week of Oct. 21, 2019
How to make the most of the 4th industrial revolution, the secret to improving your team’s performance, and more project management news
Your role in the 4th industrial revolution (4IR). The 4IR is defined by tech such as the internet of things and artificial intelligence. Debbie Dore notes that project professionals are in a unique position to survive and thrive in the 4IR, as jobs that require management, planning, and advisory skills are among those least at risk of disruption. She highlights three ways to leverage your skills in these areas so you can help facilitate and benefit from “project management 4.0.”
6 steps to help product managers invest in the right tools. A recent Gartner survey found that 80% of product managers use basic office software, while few use commercial software specific to their role. “Making do” with the wrong tools results in delayed product time to market, lower product quality, and ineffective processes. Take corrective action now by following Gartner’s six steps for assessing the current state of your processes and tools and evaluating solutions accordingly.
The secret to improving your team’s performance. In this LinkedIn article, Steve Gutzler (motivational speaker and leadership expert) remembers an influential teacher from his childhood and shares the lessons he learned from them about emotional intelligence (EQ) and leadership. He notes that true leaders understand that people are drawn to, inspired by, and do their best work for leaders who connect with them. So if you’re trying to improve your team’s performance, you should start by improving your own EQ.
3 questions to ask yourself when you receive negative feedback. Marcel Schwantes prompts leaders to ask themselves whether they’re doing enough to nurture a culture of feedback, noting that while criticism can be hard to hear, it’s necessary for growth and long-term success. He states that leaders with high emotional intelligence make room for and encourage questions and doubts. He offers tips for creating this type of culture and strategies for how to receive negative feedback.
Tips and tricks to help you stay organized. Mona Mortazavi offers several tips for staying organized and on top of tasks and projects. These include: (1) Create a project charter for every initiative, big or small, formal or informal. This ensures that all stakeholders are aligned on goals, scope, and timeline before starting work; and (2) maintain a weekly status report, but update it every day. This ensures nothing is forgotten and you won’t be scrambling to put it together before your meeting.
Week of Oct. 14, 2019
PMI acquires FLEX, successful outcomes require buy-in from stakeholders, and more project management news
The Project Management Institute (PMI) acquires FLEX from Net Objectives. According to PMI’s press release, this acquisition aims to expand its Agile offerings for project professionals by complementing and building on the groundwork laid by its August acquisition of Disciplined Agile (DA). The FLEX approach helps businesses understand systems and processes that aren’t optimal and identify and eliminate bottlenecks, so they can deliver better business outcomes more quickly.
People buy in to what they help create. Gerald Leonard encourages leaders to build win-win agreements with their teams by allowing them to question and even bargain before accepting responsibility. He says when teams help develop the policies and processes for which they’ll be held accountable, they’ll be more engaged and effective in executing them. After all, “No championship team has ever won the big game without everyone on the team having bought into the vision of going all the way.”
‘By your powers combined…’ Experts from Forbes’ technology council highlight some of the critical elements that must be in play for projects and teams to be successful. These include: (1) A carefully constructed [team] culture, (2) well-defined requirements at the beginning of an initiative, and (3) a living requirements document to keep track of changes throughout the project and the communication/reasoning surrounding them.
Breaking down communication issues. Tammy Graves notes that there is near universal confusion about the difference between strategic communication (i.e., stories), project management communication (status), and change management (transformation). She encourages leaders to distinguish between each function’s roles and responsibilities to maximize effectiveness.
The top 50 most influential projects. Projects are the tools we use to create our present and change our future. To recognize and celebrate the role that project management has played in changing the world, PMI has curated a list of the top 50 notable and impactful projects of the past 50 years. Honorees include the Human Genome Project, Google search, and the Star Wars films.
Week of Oct. 7, 2019
Choosing between effectiveness or efficiency, how to use pairing as a team-building exercise, and more project management news
Is your goal effectiveness or efficiency? You can’t have both. Ben Linders highlights this critical point from Tony O’Halloran’s talk at Agile Business Day 2019: “If you’re only focused on going fast, you prioritize efficiency, but if you’re trying to focus on innovation, creativity, and making sure you’re working on the right thing, you need to focus on effectiveness, often at the cost of efficiency.” What follows is a Q&A with O’Halloran on how change agents can focus their efforts and successfully achieve the outcome they’re looking for.
Conducting project reviews is key to improving performance. George Pitagorsky confronts the issue of why post-project reviews often aren’t held even though it’s universally accepted as a primary way to improve future performance. Hint: A fear-based culture and/or fixed mindset held by leaders is often at the center of why these reviews don’t take place. Pitagorsky outlines how to address these roadblocks as well as best practices for conducting reviews.
Looking for a team-building exercise? Try pairing. Pairing is a collaborative exercise in which two people share one workstation. There’s a “driver” in charge of the keyboard and a “navigator” in charge of the overall direction of the task at hand. Then they switch roles after a certain amount of time. The goal is that both people talk through each idea and action and learn from each other’s knowledge and skill set.
How healthy is your team? Atlassian’s Health Monitor exercise is designed to assess your team’s health against eight criteria. The goal is to identify strengths, but more importantly to find areas in which you need to grow. For each of the eight attributes, they provide next steps you can take should your team need to improve in that area. There’s an assessment for leadership teams, project teams, and service teams. For best results, conduct these assessments on a recurring basis.
Email—the productivity killer. DYK that reading and responding to email takes up around 30% of your work week? While it’s unrealistic to think we can get rid of email altogether, we can improve how we use it. In this piece, Daniella Balarezo shares tips from Victoria Turk’s TED Talk on how to use email more effectively, from how to construct the greeting and the body, as well as how to structure your subject line.
Week of Sept. 30, 2019
Why you should cancel all your meetings, what a workweek looks like as a project leader, and more project management news.
If it doesn’t spark joy, get rid of it—including meetings. OK, maybe Atlassian’s Dominic Price wasn’t following Marie Kondo’s advice, but his refocusing ritual for work has a similar ethos. He canceled all of his meetings with a note to organizers to clarify the purpose of the meeting and what his role should be. Essential meetings were re-added, and over a third of the meetings never resurfaced, allowing him to reclaim several hours each week. Think your boss would go for it?
Fear is the mind killer. Dana Pylayeva explores how cultures of fear where team members are afraid or unwilling to ask questions or share a different opinion from leadership can have disastrous consequences, citing the Volkswagen emissions and Wells Fargo account fraud scandals as examples. She advises leaders to ask tough questions to ensure they’re doing enough to create an environment of psychological safety for their teams, and offers four suggestions on how to start that conversation.
These four obstacles are killing your team’s productivity. Mavenlink’s e-book (free download) outlines four business problems that detract from your team’s ability to get their work done and shares how leaders can solve these issues. Two significant hurdles include a work culture that celebrates multitasking and an “always on” mentality, as well as employees being inundated with alerts/notifications from various apps and email.
People, processes, and projects: A breakdown of project manager responsibilities. In this infographic, Bruce Gay highlights the many duties of a project manager and shows what occupies his time over the course of one week. He also draws attention to how his focus has shifted from his early career to now (as a senior program manager), which is helpful if you’re a project leader looking to transition in your role.
Week of Sept. 23, 2019
The inside scoop on the new PMP exam coming this summer, how changing your mind makes you seem more intelligent, and more project management news.
Want the inside scoop on the changes coming to the PMP exam this summer? The Project Management Podcast recently interviewed Sierra Hampton-Simmons of the Project Management Institute on all of the most important changes coming to the Project Management Professional exam this July. Here’s a taste: There will be less of a focus on technical minutiae and more of a focus on people, process, and business environment.
Almost 75% of organizational transformations fail. Greg Satell of Digital Tonto looks at why organizations resist change so fiercely, and how successful change management needs to anticipate and account for that resistance before initiating the change in the first place.
How changing your mind actually makes you seem smarter. No one wants a wishy-washy, flip-flopping manager, but changing your mind mindfully actually makes you a better leader, according to this new research reported by the Harvard Business Review. This article will give you insight into when it’s more important to backtrack than to appear confident and will help you create an environment in which your people can feel safe changing their minds without losing credibility.
Looking for the most simple and easy-to-use project management software? Tap into the hive mind. We mined hundreds of real user reviews to come up with a Sentiment Score for ease of use for project management software, and these are the three products that came out on top.
Week of Sept. 16, 2019
The top AI tech to boost productivity, Slack adds dark mode, and more project management news.
To turn AI strategy into reality, you’ll need to turn up your PMTQ (i.e., your ability to “adapt, manage, and integrate technology based on the needs of the organization or the project at hand”). According to PMI’s new study on AI in project management, you should match your AI tech to a specific business need (e.g., to enhance productivity, leverage robotic process automation). Meanwhile, to increase quality, leverage anti-bias solutions.
“Anything short of complete transparency is likely to only cause problems,” writes Brad Egeland. He asserts that transparency is critical to project success, particularly in preserving the client relationship when relaying bad news. His advice for dealing with this situation? Fully identify the problem, ideate a few resolution scenarios, and then contact the customer. However, the timeline is key—this must all happen within just a few hours of problem discovery.
45% of product launches are delayed by at least one month, according to a Gartner survey. And a delayed launch increases the likelihood that products will fail to meet their internal targets. Collaboration may be the key to improving product success; 78% of product managers who view “improving collaboration internally” as one of their key roles reported low product failure rates.
Slack adds dark mode to its desktop apps (allowing users to set their display to lighter text against a dark background). The company’s press release states that while dark mode on mobile was already available, users can now access this setting on their desktop app as well. Dark mode is an increasingly popular demand across tools, not only due to aesthetic preference but for accessibility and health reasons, too (dark mode can help with visual impairments, migraines, eye fatigue, and more).
Clubhouse now offers a free version for teams of up to 10. TechCrunch reports that Clubhouse—a PM solution designed for software teams—released a free version that provides small teams (up to 10 users) with full access to its features and integrations. This is great news for interested users as vendors often restrict free plans with basic capabilities or limited functionality. (Clubhouse has over 130 reviews and a 4.5-star rating on Capterra).
Week of Sept. 9, 2019
The high cost of avoiding tough workplace conversations, how to motivate overworked teams, and more project management news.
Conversation failures cost ~$7,500 per conversation in lost time and resources. According to data from New York Times bestseller “Crucial Conversations,” avoiding conversations or not adequately addressing issues results in significant losses for an organization (e.g., decreased productivity and engagement, longer timelines, etc.). The most common types of conversations people avoid? Prickly peers, abusive bosses, and management chaos.
Four pitfalls to avoid during code reviews. Finding bugs early saves hours of work down the line; however, developers can easily fall into ruts that make the process less effective, according to TechRepublic. This piece highlights four common issues and solutions to overcome them. The issues? Trying to review too much code at once, getting opinion-based feedback, giving harsh feedback, and lecturing.
Speaking of code reviews—here’s how to use Git for version control. In this piece, Patrick Williams offers a guide for development teams on how to use Git for version control. This includes steps on creating a basic workflow, tools you can use to interact with Git, and how to move changes from your local machine to a remote repository. It’s even got an example workflow to get you started. (Git has over 190 reviews and 5 out of 5 stars on Capterra).
Your team is already overworked,” writes Ben Aston of Digital Project Manager. So, when you come to them with a last minute change or request, how should you approach the situation so they remain motivated? First, de-prioritize other work; don’t pile on top of their already full queue. Next, if you have people working late, get in the trenches with them. The last tip involves anticipating these issues and leaving slack in your resource planning. Check out their video for the details(8:11 minute runtime).
Whatever happened to Six Sigma?(Save this one for the end of the day, it’s a long read). Oliver Staley (with Quartz) takes an in-depth look at the rise and fall of Six Sigma’s popularity. Points of note include: Six Sigma owes much of its prominence and subsequent decline to General Electric (GE); LinkedIn data shows that as the number of users adding Six Sigma as a skill has fallen, the number referencing Agile has increased; and—thanks to 30 Rock’s parody—Six Sigma will live on in infamy if nothing else.
Week of Sept. 2, 2019
Why “Priority” is not the same as “importance,” how to explain DevOps to non-techies, and more project management news.
There can only be one. For PMWorld360, Jan Schiller notes that the distinction between what’s a priority and what’s important is often misunderstood by business leaders. Simply stated: You can’t have more than one priority. The more you try to do, the less you’ll actually accomplish. If you asked each of your project leaders to identify your organization’s top priority, would their answer be the same as yours?
These three action items foster better collaboration on cross-functional teams. Chad Dyer highlights three areas that leaders should focus on to lead more effective cross-functional teams: (1) Persuade using common pain points, (2) negotiate resources fairly, and (3) find common ground.
Your DevOps primer: 10 key terms you need to know. Carla Rudder sheds light on several key terms and concepts in the DevOps lexicon, including continuous delivery and continuous deployment (both shorted to CD), DevSecOps, and shift left. If you’re still not clear on exactly what DevOps is, check outher other post where experts explain the movement in the shortest, simplest words possible.
Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Less than 50% of organizations consistently conduct project reviews (i.e., retrospectives, lessons learned, etc.), while 24% rarely or never do, according to Axelos’ 2019 PPM benchmarking report. Project reviews are a chance to learn what to do better next time. Without them, you’re doomed to repeat the same mistakes.
The Glass Cliff. “Once high-performing women in project management are introduced to the glass ceiling, they are likely to meet the glass cliff. They break through the glass ceiling and get the job [yey!], only to end up hanging from their fingertips off the edge of a cliff [boo].” Over at A Girl’s Guide to Project Management, Elizabeth Harrin explains what the glass cliff is (a phenomenon where female executives are appointed during times of company turmoil when the risk of failure is greatest), and offers seven ways to help women navigate this tricky situation.
Week of Aug. 26, 2019
Is ‘fake Agile’ creating high-end sweatshops, project managers may be going the way of switchboard operators, and more project management news.
Fake Agile is ruining the workplace. Management consultant and Forbes contributor Steve Dennings suggests that “fake Agile” is creating “high-end sweatshops” similar to the way industrialization created actual sweatshops in the early 20th-century. Read the full article to make sure you’re not part of the problem.So what is genuine Agile?
Were pneumatic tubes a better project communication tool than email? In the 1960s, the CIA used a system of pneumatic tubes for asynchronous communication. It was eventually replaced by email, which turned the five-minute conversation into “15 back-and-forth email messages throughout the day.” Read or listen to the full piece to learn how you can relieve some of those email communication woes.
Everything you wanted to know about project risk owners but were too afraid to ask. Project risk owners: no-fun Chicken Littles, or integral disaster prevention artists? PMP Harry Hall paints a flattering portrait of the underappreciated project risk owner—or “the person responsible for monitoring the risks and for selecting and implementing an appropriate risk response strategy”—in this project manager’s guide to risk owners.
Are project managers going the way of switchboard operators? We’ve all heard the statistics on how AI will eventually phase out traditional project management tasks such as scheduling and budgeting. But is that transition already happening? Arras People’s Chris Taylor analyzes the data and points out that almost 50% of project managers are aged 50 and older, while less than 10% are younger than 34.
You might be all wrong about the critical path. Critical path is one of those terms that makes a project manager’s ears perk up when they hear it uttered at a social gathering, but are you sure you really know what it means? PMI’s Ronald Smith looks at four common misconceptions about the term, including the idea that each part of the critical path is critical.
When proactivity can be counterproductive. The early bird gets the worm, carpe diem, and all that jazz, but there are times when taking action can be detrimental to your career and the success of your business, even when best intentions are in place. Sharon K. Parker and Ying (Lena) Wang look at the proactivity paradox for Harvard Business Review.
Week of Aug. 19, 2019
Say hello to fantasy football and kiss your team’s productivity goodbye, dark mode comes to PM software, and more project management news.
Fantasy football costs U.S. employers $9 billion—at least. Research from Challenger Grey (a global outplacement and business coaching firm) found that productivity loss during the 17-week fantasy football league costs U.S. employers roughly $9 billion—and that’s conservative. Challenger Grey estimated that players spend just 2.5 hours each week on their league; other data says it’s closer to seven hours per week, which would put the loss at nearly $25 billion.
The Project Management Institute (PMI) acquires Disciplined Agile (DA). According to PMI’s press release, this acquisition brings together two leading membership organizations for project management professionals, PMI owning the traditional PM book of knowledge (PMBOK) and DA owning the Agile BOK. This move reflects a larger industry shift toward and growing demand for more agile ways of working.
Dark mode comes to project management (PM) software. GlobeNewswire reports that Clubhouse, a PM solution designed for software teams, released a new dark mode interface, allowing users to set their display to lighter text against a dark background. Dark mode is increasingly appearing in mobile and web apps, reduces eye fatigue, and improves readability.(Clubhousehas over 130 reviews and 4.5 out of 5 stars on Capterra).
Future-proof your business with PM software. Vadim Katcherovski, CEO of Easy Projects, writes in CEOWORLD Magazine how PM software does more than help businesses improve their project success rates. The right tools can help businesses run their organization more efficiently, and better position themselves to achieve strategic goals (namely, growth and revenue). Key capabilities to look for include risk management, resource management, and demand management.
Knowing the stages of team development will make you a better project leader. Tatiana Shulgina explores how psychologist Bruce Tuckman’s team development model can help project managers evolve into project leaders. The five stages in this model reflect the path that teams follow on the way to high performance. Shulgina goes through each stage and highlights the role a leader should play in helping teams realize their potential.
Week of Aug. 12, 2019
Will you choose agility or irrelevance, why project leaders should be servant leaders, and more project management news.
You have a choice: agility or irrelevance. KPMG’s 2019 U.S. CEO Outlook report highlights data on the increasing importance of resilience in the face of disruption. Nearly 70% of CEOs believe that agility is crucial to achieve resilience, and 63% agree that they need to improve innovation processes and execution over the next three years. Key takeaways: PMP Bruce Gay has summarized the key findings from KPMG’s report in this infographic on his blog.
The seat belt sign is on. PMP Omar Ordonez lists five things project leaders should do when dealing with project turbulence. This includes: Be transparent, eliminate ambiguity, and find the silver lining. Additionally, he reminds leaders not to forget about interdependent teams and projects, noting the importance of engaging stakeholders at the first signs of trouble to avoid project delays spilling over into other work efforts.
Why project leaders should be servant leaders. In this Project Management Review Q&A, project leadership coach Susanne Madsen explains what servant leadership is, how the performance of team members improves under servant leaders, and why this approach is increasingly popular and necessary in the current era of knowledge workers and the VUCA environment brought on by digitalization.
5 strategies for getting more done in less time. Time management coach Elizabeth Saunders highlights five ways workers can be more efficient, including reusing previous material, developing templates and checklists, and time-boxing your work.
Business Agility webinar series. If you’re anything like the CEOs surveyed as part of KPMG’s survey in the first article, you also believe that Agility is a do-or-die for your business. AgileAlliance.org has produced this webinar series to help leaders learn about the Agile mindset, frameworks, and practices so they can apply these things to their business at large, ultimately helping them improve innovation processes and execution.
Week of Aug. 5, 2019
3 ways investing in AI can benefit your business, 10 productivity experts to follow on social, and more project management news.
How will AI benefit me? Last week we told you that by 2021, organizations expect to have 20 AI projects in place, up from four projects this year. If you’re on the fence about investing in AI, here are three ways that AI deployments have benefited your peers, according to research by Gartner: Reduced risk, increased speed/efficiency, and better customer experience.
Project management isn’t just for project managers. At Forbes, Dana Brownlee highlights four project management skills that every person should look to develop, including using project charters, conducting risk analysis, and performing project retrospectives. We couldn’t agree more. Cultivating these skills in yourself will only help you in your current role, whether you’re an official “project manager” or not.
Some productivity boosts come by way of a caffnap, others require the work of an expert. Here are 10 productivity coaches and leaders you should follow on social media, according to Inc. (which curated this list from a larger roundup by productivity vendor, IDoneThis). Each expert is profiled with a short bio, example of their work, and their Twitter handle for easy following.
What’s your adaptability quotient (AQ)? Adaptability is how well a person reacts to change. For Natalie Fratto, venture capitalist and tech investor, this is a bigger indicator of success than IQ or EQ. As change becomes the norm in most organizations, look to improve your AQ by following Fratto’s three tips: Asking “what if” questions, actively unlearning, and prioritizing exploration over exploitation. (TED talk, 6.32 minute runtime)
♪ “And it was all yellow” ♫ Most of us belt out this Coldplay lyric without knowing what yellow means. And while ambiguity can make songs more compelling, it makes project status reports less so. Software Advice’s Olivia Montgomery lists several best practices for reporting on project health, the first being to align with stakeholders on what green, red, and yellow statuses mean. Check out her other tips and the free project health calculator (it’s downloadable)!
Week of July 29, 2019
Project managers: the unsung heroes of the moon landing, get more done by doing less, and more project management news.
For the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, remember to thank your project managers. PCMag’s Michael Miller writes that NASA project manager, George Low, is to thank for this historic event, stating: “Without Low’s ability as a project manager—not only the boldness of his choices but his skills at getting the Apollo program back on track after the disastrous fire—Apollo 8 would never have happened in 1968, and we wouldn’t be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the moon landing this week.”
Today, organizations have four AI projects in place (on average). In two years, it’ll be 20. According to a recent Gartner survey, organizations are primed for massive AI adoption, with customer experience and task automation being key motivators. As a best practice, Gartner advocates establishing an AI center of excellence to oversee these initiatives and ensure projects are properly staffed and funded.
Projects, projects everywhere, but no results to speak of. Optimal resource utilization is tricky and often misunderstood by business leaders, but Mike Cohn offers sage advice: If you want to complete more projects, work on fewer at once. The rule he encourages leaders to abide by is to finish two for every one that you start. (For more on resource utilization, go here.)
16 questions to ask (and have answered) BEFORE starting a project. Elizabeth Harrin outlines 16 questions project managers should ask during a project initiation meeting. These include: How does this project tie back to company strategy? What are the project’s success criteria? and What’s most important: time, cost, or quality? If no one in the room can answer these questions, the project isn’t ready to move forward.
Are you an inclusive project leader? (Podcast; 17:45 minute runtime). Cornelius Fichtner interviews Agata Czopek (speaker at PMI’s 2018 Global Conference) on the attributes of an inclusive leader and how to improve team performance by addressing unconscious bias. Her recommended actions include: (1) Recognize diversity of thinking, (2) Ensure inclusion, not just diversity, (3) Build inclusive leadership capabilities, and (4) Ensure leaders at every level are practicing inclusion.
Week of July 22, 2019
5 pitfalls change leaders should avoid, how to help new teams build a rapport, and more project management news.
It’s not me, it’s you. Gartner identified five common errors leaders make when rolling out change initiatives that directly result in employee change fatigue and failed change efforts. These include inconsistent messaging, possessing a “one-size-fits-all” mentality (i.e., expecting everyone will embrace change at the same speed), and confusing challenges with resistance (i.e., viewing questions and challenges as threats). Check out these strategies to avoid such pitfalls.
“I don’t believe in measuring people—period,” writes Aaron Skonnard for Inc. Instead, Pluralsight’s CEO measures the systems that people are a part of (e.g., judging output, quality, and engagement of a team rather than an individual). In doing so, he’s found productivity and engagement have increased as people have stopped working with their heads down to hit individual performance goals and instead are keeping their heads up, seeing opportunities for process improvements that benefit the team and the company at large.
Are you delivering on your leadership responsibilities? Mike Cohn highlights six things teams need from their Scrum master, but the list really applies to every project leader, Scrum master or otherwise. Leadership responsibilities include setting boundaries and helping teams understand what they have authority over, creating an environment in which teams feel safe to fail/learn, and supporting teams by proactively identifying and removing issues before they become impediments.
Team-building tips for new teams. First impressions matter, notes Kent McDonald, and it’s important that project leaders help teams start off on the right foot. He offers several tips to facilitate team bonding, including setting aside time to get to know each other as people (e.g., eating lunch together, grabbing coffee) and establishing your team’s methodology (e.g., defining working agreements, creating a glossary of common terms).
Meetings: the productivity killer. Productivity specialist Adriana Girdler offers several tips on how to run more effective meetings, categorized into what you should do before, during, and after a meeting. These include prepping documentation in advance, using tools/rules so participants know what’s expected (e.g, timeouts, parking lots), and sending a meeting summary (including action items) within 24 hours.
Week of July 15, 2019
Agile project management can prevent burnout, big changes coming to the PMP exam, and more project management news.
Agility done right actually prevents burnout. If your so-called “Agile” project management style is causing burnout on your team, you’re doing it wrong. PMP Kiron Bondale writes on LinkedIn about how authentic Agility should actually reduce burnout by promoting sustainable development with no weekend or overtime work.
“IT crowding” is a real problem. Here’s how major companies are dealing. Fortune looks at how corporations such as Walmart use Agile project management techniques to keep their tech support teams afloat amid ever-increasing demands.
Big changes are coming to the PMP exam. The Project Management Institute recently announced that changes are coming to its Project Management Professional exam. The exam will now focus on three key domains: people (42% of questions), process (50%), and business environment (8%), so study up! Also, if you’ve been preparing for the current exam, make sure to take it by Dec. 15, which is the last day before it is phased out.
Capterra research uncovers new trends in PM software adoption. Capterra senior project management analyst Eileen O’Loughlin published the results of her survey of almost 200 project managers. A few key findings:
- Functionality is still the most important factor in PM software-buying decisions, though price has now surpassed ease-of-use as buyers’ second-biggest concern.
- Almost 70% of project managers spend less than six months selecting their new PM software, and more than half also implement it within that same time frame.
- Task boards are the most sought after feature for PM software buyers, while Gantt charts are the least important.
Week of July 8, 2019
100+ project management influencers you should follow, curiosity is the key to better estimates, and more project management news.
Follow the leader. Looking to expand your professional network? Digital Project Manager has a list of 130 project management influencers for you. You’re likely following some of these folks already on Twitter and LinkedIn, but it’s worth checking the social buttons in the article to see if there are any you’re missing. (FYI, it took me 30 minutes to work my way through the entire list. That’s a lot of quality PM influencer content.)
“So often ‘urgent’ is a euphemism for ‘poorly planned,'” Adrian Reed writes. If your organization is perpetually in crisis mode and projects often require all hands on deck, you might be suffering from what Reed calls a “heroic doom loop.” This is where team members take on more work—which shields the real issue—and nobody addresses the root causes of perceived emergencies. Break the cycle by calling out systemic problems and putting accountability in place of blame.
Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back. In PMWorld 360, Jan Schiller writes that curiosity is the key to good estimates. She advises project leaders to challenge their teams to provide meaningful estimates (based on both effort and duration) and ask questions until everyone’s curiosity is satisfied. She also includes a list of what leaders and teams should be curious about, including “assumptions” and “constraints.”
Don’t underestimate small projects. Project risk coach Harry Hall outlines 12 pitfalls of small projects that many organizations fall victim to, including assuming that small projects are simple and leaders failing to follow project management best practices. He also offers recommendations on how to avoid these issues on your next small project.
Quick refresher of project management best practices. PMP Bruce Gay put together an infographic with tips for new project managers, including “take time for planning—don’t rush into doing” and “end meetings with action items and clear owners.” Nontechnical business professionals (or “accidental project managers” as they’re often dubbed) charged with leading project activities should bookmark this list as a helpful reminder of industry best practices to adhere to.
Week of July 1, 2019
High-performing teams often include more women, meetings are detrimental to developers, and more project management news.
DYK, high-performing teams consistently have more women on them? In her TED Talk, business leader Margaret Heffernan references an MIT study on productivity. Researchers found that high-achieving groups have three things in common: Team members score high for social sensitivity and empathy, team members contribute equally to discussions, and teams with more women outperform teams with more men.
Find key takeaways from every project. PMAlliance offers a good reminder for project leaders that teams should learn something constructive from every project. They highlight 10 questions leaders and teams should ask themselves with each project close, including “Where can the communication flow be improved?” and “Which junior-level team members showed the most potential?”
Meetings may be killing your developers’ productivity. The results of Stack Overflow’s 2019 developer survey are clear: For developers in the U.S., meetings are the number one drain on productivity (41%), followed by a distracting work environment (40%). If your company suffers from tech debt (and most do), aggressively cutting down on meetings could help turn it around.
Microsoft’s new AI tool for PowerPoint is designed to help hone presentation skills. Who doesn’t want help nailing the delivery of their next presentation? Enter Presenter Coach for PowerPoint, Microsoft’s new AI tool that acts as a coach, giving you real-time feedback on things such as pacing, use of fillers or qualifiers, and whether you’re using inclusive language. It even warns you if you’re reading verbatim what’s on your slides.
“How do I say ‘no’ to projects without damaging relationships?” Gartner analyst Tina Nunno offers advice to leaders on how to say “no” assertively, not aggressively, to minimize collateral damage. Tips include having a clearly articulated reason for saying “no,” keeping it brief, and (perhaps most importantly) stating empathy adapted to the requester and the situation.
Week of June 24, 2019
Microsoft’s To-Do finally comes to Mac, PMI identifies 6 AI technologies impacting project managers, and more project management news
Microsoft’s To-Do app finally comes to Mac. TechCrunch reports that Microsoft To-Do made its long-awaited debut on the Mac App Store on June 17. Microsoft purchased Wunderlist all the way back in 2015 with the intention of eventually rolling it into their own To-Do app, which launched for Windows, iOS, Android, and web in 2018. Mac users had to wait until last Monday to finally get their hands on To-Do.
PMI identifies six AI technologies impacting project professionals. Business Wire reports that the Project Management Institute (PMI) identified six AI technologies that will impact project managers now (knowledge-based systems, machine learning, and decision management) and in the near future (expert systems, deep learning, and robotic process automation).
How to use the SCARF Framework to manage change on projects. Over at the Girl’s Guide to PM blog, Elizabeth Harrin shared a complete guide to David Rock’s SCARF (Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, Fairness) framework for managing change in difficult situations, featuring tips from Carole Osterweil.
Separating your work role from your self is vital to success and happiness. We’ve all heard that bringing your work home with you is bad for your mental health. Harvard Business Review’s Timothy O’Brien takes it a step further, showing how identifying less with work roles can allow us to live and work those roles more successfully and happily.
How should managers approach massive layoffs? Against the backdrop of Ford finalizing the last of its 7,000 layoffs over the past two years, Forbes contributor and Columbia University professor Jason Wingard looks at how project managers should approach periods of downsizing with compassion and an eye toward a brighter future.
Week of June 17, 2019
Dropbox repositions itself as a shared workspace for teams, the CCPA goes into effect January 2020, and more project management news
Connect tools, teams, and content in the new Dropbox. Dropbox launched its redesign and has repositioned itself as a collaborative work management solution. Key features include: the ability to create, organize, and share files from G Suite and Microsoft Office; create to-do lists (assign tasks to other users via @mentions); track team activity via a shared feed; and collaborate with teammates via pre-built integrations with Slack, Zoom, and Atlassian.
DYK that during the summer, productivity goes down by 20%? And decreased productivity coupled with fewer bodies in the office results in a 13% increase in project turnaround times. John Hall cites these findings by Captivate and offers six ideas for fighting summer’s drain on productivity, including embracing the slowdown and using the time for brainstorming instead of running projects; offering Fridays off—offset by longer hours on Monday; and hosting walking meetings outside.
“When you call a meeting, you are a steward of others’ time.” So says Steven Rogelberg, who studies the science, management, and psychology of meetings. Rogelberg shares the negative effects of bad meetings and offers several strategies for making meetings more effective, including: Keep participant numbers to a minimum, don’t schedule one-hour meetings unless absolutely necessary, and switch up meeting formats (e.g., host walking meetings).
The CCPA takes effect January 1, 2020—are you ready to comply? The CCPA (California Consumer Protection Act) mirrors GDPR, enhancing privacy rights and consumer protections for California residents. Every business that has customers that are residents of California will have to comply. Forbes lays out five steps to help businesses prepare for the act. Businesses should entrust project managers to lead efforts via a formal project to achieve compliance before the deadline.
Slack expected to be valued at $17 billion. Bloomberg covers the details of this valuation, including: This is more than double what it was valued last fall ($7.1 billion); Slack said it expects at least $590 million in revenue in its 2020 fiscal year (a growth rate of 50% over the previous year); and, the vendor is going public through an unusual direct listing on June 20, 2019.
Week of June 10, 2019
Why Agile teams fail, how temperature might affect your team’s productivity, and more project management news
“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” Markanthony Akem for PM Times highlights five key reasons why Agile initiatives fail, including: leaders not understanding the difference between “doing” Agile and actually “being” Agile, having the wrong people in charge of driving change, and not having proper “ecosystem readiness,” which he likens to inviting people over for a holiday celebration, but doing zero prep work for the occasion.
Is your team padding their estimates because they don’t feel safe failing? According to Kiron Bondale at ProjectManagement.com, if your team regularly completes more work than was forecast, it’s often because management hasn’t made it clear that it’s OK and expected that they’ll occasionally miss a forecast. He advises leaders to let their teams know it’s OK to fail and create an environment where they feel safe doing so.
Some like it hot, some like it cold. According to research cited by NPR, temperature plays a major role in people’s cognitive performance—specifically, women’s. The higher the temp, the better women perform on math and verbal tasks, while men perform worse. Although, “the increase for women in math and verbal tasks was much larger and more pronounced than the decrease in performance of men.”
Do you measure productivity by results or effort? Tim Williams shared a thought-provoking piece on the difference between being “busy” and being “productive,” arguing that the true measure of a professional is the value of their outputs, not the sum of their inputs. Key points: Time-tracking simply to count hours worked isn’t an accurate measure of productivity; and, multitasking creates the illusion of being busy, while actually making people less efficient.
How to implement effective stand-up meetings. Whether you conduct them daily, weekly, or bi-weekly, stand-ups can have a profound impact on team productivity and morale. Alan Zucker in PMEssentials outlines the basics for these meetings (who, what, when, and where) and includes helpful ground rules you should establish to ensure meetings encourage constructive engagement.
Week of June 3, 2019
Qualifiers contribute to ineffective communication, AI-enabled tools are predicted to eliminate up to 80% of PM tasks by 2030, and more top project management news
How to email like a boss. Dani Donovan, designer and illustrator of ADHD webcomics, created a graphic with tips on removing commonly-used qualifiers from email to make messages more direct and effective—it received over 4,500 retweets and 11,000 likes in less than a week. As ineffective communication is a leading cause of project failure, team leads and project managers should bookmark this graphic for their next project.
Why documentation is a project management best practice. Who approved this purchase? Why did this task take longer than expected? According to Christopher Cook, if you’re not documenting project decisions and activities as they occur, you’ll be hard-pressed to defend delays or overages when it’s time to close out a project. As a best practice, he recommends project leaders make documentation a priority, accessible/centralized to all, and standardized.
Artificial intelligence (AI) will reinvent project management. Data collection, analysis, and reporting make up a significant part of today’s project management discipline. According to Gartner, AI-enabled tools will take on up to 80% of current work efforts in these areas and yield massive benefits, including analyzing data faster than humans and reducing unforeseen project issues and risks associated with human error.
Why good leaders fail at project management. Simply stated: The skills and experience business leaders possess don’t always align with those required to drive projects to successful completion, particularly controlling scope, engaging stakeholders, and managing change/risk. According to PMAlliance, organizations often move leaders into a project management role without training them, and then express surprise when they don’t deliver value.
The task management software market is expected to reach $4.33 billion by 2023. Task management is but one component of project management (albeit central to the discipline), so the growth of this particular market segment, as predicted by MarketsandMarkets, is telling. It mirrors a larger industry trend away from project-manager-centric tools toward tools designed for teams and non-technical business users, to promote collaboration and improve workforce utilization.
Week of May 28, 2019
The PMP exam isn’t actually based on the PMBOK, Asana CEO talks about how to focus on work that matters, and more top project management news
It turns out that the latest Project Management Professional (PMP) exam isn’t actually based on the most recent Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK). Many in the project management community incorrectly assumed that the PMP exam was based on the sixth edition of the PMBOK, released in 2017. Michelle LaBrosse of Cheetah Learning recently reached out to the Project Management Institute and learned that wasn’t the case.
Six things your team needs from you as their Scrum Master. Agile and Scrum Alliance founding member Mike Cohn of Mountain Goat Software looks at six things every Scrum Master must do for their team, from clearly laying out boundaries to deciding when it’s OK to break the rules.
Project management lessons from Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. From the Association of Project Management, editor Richard Young mines the Amazon founder’s letters to shareholders to glean these six bits of insight for project managers.
Asana CEO talks task prioritization with NPR. Dustin Moskovitz, who co-founded Facebook before launching Asana, sat down with NPR’s CJ Jackson to talk about how to focus on the work that matters, and cut down on “work about work” in this bite-size (two minute) interview for the Business Review podcast.
What happens when managers take their stress out on their employees? Over at the Harvard Business Review, Sabina Nawaz looks at the damage that an unpleasant, overbearing, domineering manager can wreak on a company, and how to start healing and turn your company around if you’re one of those horrible bosses.
A farewell to estimates? Hiten Shah, co-founder of KISSMetrics and Crazy Egg (among other startups), digs into the #noestimates movement from a unique perspective and shares the lessons he’s learned.
Are remote workers more productive than in-house teams? Forbes contributor Abdullahi Muhammed checks in with this stat-heavy article arguing that 2/3 of workers are more productive when they’re working remotely.
Week of May 13, 2019
The future of work is grounded in your PMTQ, psychology is the key to stakeholder management, and more top project management news
PMI releases its 2019 Pulse of the Profession report and champions a new acronym: PMTQ, or project management technology quotient. This is your ability to “adapt, manage, and integrate technology based on the needs of the organization or the project at hand,” in order to achieve digital sustainability. This finding was particularly eye-opening: “One of the reasons so few companies achieve digital sustainability is the current disconnect between what leaders say they want—more agile and adaptable talent and technology—and what they’re willing to do to get it. Companies keep pouring money into the latest bleeding-edge technologies, but Accenture reports only 3% of business leaders said they would invest significantly in training and reskilling programs through 2020.”
APM blogger Richard Young shares tips on using psychology to motivate and engage stakeholders, gleaned from a recent corporate leadership development workshop. The workshop focused on reframing how we think about project stakeholders, drawing heavily on David Kantor’s four-player model. Effective communication, and in this case stakeholder engagement, is achieved by recognizing the role that stakeholders naturally fall into and tailoring your own communication accordingly. For example, when communicating with movers—people that want to share ideas and contribute to the discussion—don’t say “We’re doing this,” and instead frame it as, “We need to decide.”
“Project Management: The Problem with Pleasers”—Holy headline, Batman! My social styles assessment essentially has me falling off the chart into the amiable abyss, so reading this article by PMAlliance was like looking in a mirror. It boils down to this: Sometimes the desire to please the people around you and exceed expectations leads individuals to compromise good project management practices and instead do things like:
- Take on enormous workloads
- Agree to unrealistic schedules and budgets
- Downplay the severity of an issue to avoid giving bad news
Recognizing these behaviors in your team (or as the case may be, in yourself) can help you catch problems early before they derail a project.
Why working from home is good for business. If you haven’t binged the TED video series, “The Way We Work,” do so immediately. There are nine episodes (each around five minutes or less) that offer practical advice for leaders on, you guessed it, the way we work. Topics include what makes employees happy, how to build a company people enjoy working for, and why a distributed workforce is the most effective way to build a company. The latter, covered by Matt Mullenweg (co-founder of WordPress, which has a 100% distributed workforce), outlines several steps you can take to build a distributed capability, including: Document everything, move communication online, find the right tools, create productive face-to-face time, and help people create their ideal space.
Smartsheet Acquires 10,000ft. Smartsheet is a cloud-based work management solution that helps facilitate collaboration and streamline operations. 10,000ft is a cloud-based resource management solution that helps plan and allocate resources to projects.Not only will this integration benefit customers tremendously—we feel strongly that effective resource utilization is key to improving team effectiveness—but it shows that the vendor is listening to customer feedback and incorporating that feedback into their product road map.
Mark your calendars for the 2019 Gartner Program and Portfolio Management Summit, June 17-19, Washington, D.C. Gartner’s annual project management conference will address how the “project management discipline” is changing as a result of digitization. Different skill sets, competencies, and tools are required to stay relevant and effective, and this shift is impacting businesses small and large. In addition to meeting with analysts, attendees can participate in workshops, network with peers, and connect with software vendors on the exhibition floor. Hope to see you there! And for those who can’t attend, we’ll highlight data from several sessions in our upcoming content, so stay tuned.
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