Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Hone Skills in Communicating

It is well known that project managers spend most of their time communicating. We communicate to get things done, to resolve issues, negotiating for payment milestones, presenting the values behind a certain change, and so on. We communicate with different type of people too. Some are easy to deal with, whilst others are trickier. Some are even difficult people.

Understanding the importance of having good communication skills and taking every opportunity to improve in this area is a must for a project managers. Failure to do so might cause the project manager stress, headache, stomach ache and probably in worst case scenario a blue-black eye.

We must understand that we as project managers need to be versatile in communicating needs or instructions. Some people requires a little bit more persuasion than others. Some requires them see the values that they will get from performing the tasks required. Others expect a certain level of assurance. One or two might require to feel superior to be able to get things done; your way of course.

Knowing how to communicate effectively will get a project manager a long way. Great communication skills. Can built relationship with even the most difficult people around. At least others will think this set of people are difficult, but we, knowing the tricks to get to their hearts, feel at ease in communicating with them. It does not hurt to use visualisation on the outcome that you want from the communication. It works, believe me.

So, for today, try to engage someone that you think is a little difficult to approach. Have a positive persona, and see the different outcome from your test.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Certification is Irrelevant to Reality

The certification does not make you a better project manager.

But it provides you the base to become a better project manager.

And this can only happen if you use and tailor the knowledge you have collected properly to your own environment.


Different projects will have different approach although the basis will remain the same. It is up to the project manager to wisely identify the best way to manage, monitor and/or correct the project. As it is with people. Different people requires different communication style or intervention approach. A leader should be able to get close to the team he or she coaches with variety of styles and skills.

Any certifications or degrees provides us the knowledge.

It is up to us how we use the knowledge for our purposes and improvements.

You are only as good as the knowledge that you use correctly.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Have a Kit-Kat ;-)

Let’s take a break and enjoy few project management proverbs, humour, whatever you call them… ;-)


Nothing is impossible for the person who doesn't have to do it.


A user is somebody who tells you what they want the day you give them what they asked for.


What you don't know hurts you.


The conditions attached to a promise are forgotten, only the promise is remembered.


Estimators do it in groups - bottom up and top down.


Good estimators aren't modest: if it's huge they say so.


Difficult projects are easy, impossible projects are difficult, miracles are a little trickier.


If at first you don't succeed, remove all evidence you ever tried.


There are no good project managers - only lucky ones.


The more you plan the luckier you get.

Getting Started with Project Leadership

By Cornelius Fichtner, PMP

In May of 2011 The Project Management Podcast launched its Project Leadership Series at The series started with interviews with Thomas Juli, author of Leadership Principles for Project Success, and Rick Valerga, author of The Cure for the Common Project: Five Core Themes that Transform Project Managers into Leaders. More interviews and discussions on project leadership are planned throughout the year. To kick us off let’s begin with an explanation about what project leadership is and how project managers can start out on the path of becoming true project leaders.

Defining project leadership

“There are so many definitions of leadership out there,” said Thomas. “Leadership has to do with the right attitude and understanding the core principles of building an overall vision, knowing about the power of collaboration, knowing how to promote performance in the team he or she is leading, and then still having the maturity to reflect on their own activities and creating a culture of learning. And last but not least, a leader ensures results because this is the bottom line.”

Rick agrees. “I define leadership as the ability to influence others to deliver results,” he said. “Project leadership exists at the nexus of project management and general leadership.”

Project leadership doesn’t mean being a strategic visionary sitting at the very top of your organization. It’s about leading the project team to achieve their objectives and producing a successful result.

Getting to success

“If you run a project, you have to be knowledgeable and experienced in project management,” said Thomas. “Project management is basically structuring chaos and without the structure, you cannot really be creative. That means without project management, there cannot be project success.”

However, Thomas doesn’t believe that project management skills are the only thing necessary to deliver a successful project.“Leadership gives the project a direction, the right direction,” he said. “If you talk about sufficient conditions of project success, we’re talking about leadership.”

Without someone providing this overall direction, the project team members run the risk of going off in several directions, or nowhere at all. It’s difficult to achieve results in that situation. Thomas believes that to get to success projects need both management and leadership. Fortunately, one person can fill both functions.

Leadership basics

“Integrity is the absolute foundation for project leadership,” said Rick. “Integrity means never letting your project live a lie. So if your project plan is a house of cards, or your schedule will be indisputably delayed, or if you discover that your product will fall flat in the market, you need to have the courage to bring these issues to light.”

Rick said that managing expectations is key to building integrity. “When we’re doing this, we’re making responsible commitments even under duress,” he explained. “That’s integrity.” He also explained that integrity comes from solving the projects’ toughest problems without destroying our team members or their families, and providing frequent up-to-date, consistent messages that are agreed across all the project stakeholders.

Leading others

Teams are at the heart of projects, and project leaders can’t lead if they don’t have people to lead. “Let’s face it, projects are at their best when people are at their best,” said Rick. “I’m not just talking about taking care of the troops and then getting out of the way which many project managers do. Projects are at their best when all the people are at their best including the sponsor, customers, suppliers, adjacent functional organizations.”

Thomas agrees. “As a leader, it is your responsibility to create an environment that promotes performance on both the individual and the team level,” he said. “First of all, you want to be a role model. You have to walk the talk. Demonstrate authentic leadership.” By that, he means making sure that your words and actions align. Don’t set rules for the team and then break them yourself.

“You really want to empower your team,” Thomas added. “That means you have to give the team the information it needs and you have to share the power so that the team can actually get the opportunity to excel and have an active hand in project success.”

When the team feels empowered, there is no need to micromanage them. Thomas believes that it is important to want them to feel empowered, and not just pay lip service to the team. You have to be able to trust the team members. “You have to let it happen,” he said. “You have to give the team the opportunity to show how it can perform. That’s very important.”

Starting out

If becoming a project leader sounds difficult, Rick had some simple advice about how to get started. “One way to start is by simply listening,” he said. “We have a vast amount of knowledge available to us through our stakeholders. We need to make sure that we are regularly tapping into it.”

Another easy step towards becoming a leader is to celebrate performance. “You want to look for behaviors that reflect the purpose and values, skill development and team work and reward, reward, reward those behaviors,” said Thomas. “Don’t wait until the very end of the project to celebrate the same results. Celebrate performance.”

The great thing about leadership is that we’ll instinctively know what it feels like to be doing it right. The people around us will let us know that we’re doing a good job. “In the end,” Rick said, “our projects are judged by people, the customers, the sponsor, the team members. Most of these people are not imbued with project management theory. They only judge whether the project lived up to its billing as interpreted by them. It’s a subjective process and above all, these people hate to be surprised. So the best way to address this is by making expectation management a daily mantra.” That’s good advice for any leader.

Listen to the complete interviews on project leadership with Rick Valerga and Thomas Juli on The Project Management Podcast for free at


About the author: Cornelius Fichtner, PMP is a noted project management expert. Since 2005 he has interviewed over 100 project managers from around the world on The Project Management Podcast at The interviews are available for free. Topics cover all areas of project management like methodologies, PMOs, earned value, project leadership and many more.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Types of Estimating Techniques

estimate In project management, we will be doing estimates for time and cost. There are few techniques that can be used to perform estimating.

Estimate is a quantitative assessment of the likely amount or outcome. It should always include some indication of accuracy (e.g., plus/minus x percent).

This is an estimate done using the values of parameters from previous experiences with similar activities.

This estimating technique uses statistical relationship between historical data and other variables to calculate an estimate for activity parameters. For example, multiplying the planned work to be performed by the historical cost per unit to obtain an estimated value.

Three-point Estimates
This estimate is known as the PERT (Program Evaluation Review Technique) estimate. This technique uses weighted average of optimistic, pessimistic and most likely estimates.


Reserve Analysis
An analytical technique to determine the essential features and relationships of components in project management plan to establish a reserve for the schedule duration, budget, estimated cost or funds for a project.

Estimating is done on individual work package of the WBS and rolled-up to get the total estimate for the project. This estimate can be the most accurate because it is done by the subject matter expert themselves. However PM needs to be aware of padding.

Or, we could do it the Dilbert-way :-) :


Tips on Handling a Problem Team Member on your Project

By Margaret Meloni, MBA, PMP – /

Oh there is a problem alright. And it starts with the fact that you have a boss, peer or project team member who is completely in denial about the chaos that is all around them. If they do see any kind of issues, well those issues start with you. This is not meant to be spiteful. This is the behavior of someone who is completely oblivious to the fact that they cause problems. If they do have any inkling that there is an issue, then they have a perfect excuse. Do any of these sound familiar?

  • "I did not call you back because you never left me a message."
  • "I did not forget our meeting; my admin did not put it on my calendar."
  • "My office may look messy, but leave it alone. I have a system and I know where everything is located."

badapple What kinds of chaos surround this person? Their chaos can be lack of organization, time related or memory related. The chaos created by this person looks like chaos created by creative types or even by someone who deceives others into thinking they are organized. The key here is that they absolutely do not own their issue. They really do not see that there is a problem. If they miss a meeting, they can blame their assistant who did not remind them of it. They really think you didn’t leave them a message because their assistant gave it to them and it was buried under the piles of paper on their desk.

So what's a project manager to do? Well let's look at what not to do first - do not blame them. Do not put them on the defensive. Do not constantly harp on them about the problem. Do not argue with them about their excuses, just move on. Find a way to work around the problem because you’re not going to be able to change them.

Now step back and look at the big picture. What do you want from this working relationship? Where do they have problems and how can you help? Even if you don't feel like you want to help them, remember you are helping yourself too! With that in mind:

  • Be proactive. If you know their issue will cause a problem for others on the project team, step-in. This may mean you politely remind them of customer appointments or work package due dates. It may mean you hand deliver important memos to them and watch them read those memos. What you are doing (without them knowing it) is nipping a potential problem in the bud.
  • Create a simple process for organizing shared information. Stay away from their personal space, but be willing to be responsible for other areas. Enlist the help of others on the project, too. Your problem child may respond to the organization and join in because they want to be part of the group.
  • If they work for you as a full-time project resource, be the boss and give them direction. Advise them that missing meetings, deadlines and not returning phone calls is not acceptable. Mentor them away from the damaging behavior and toward a positive outcome.
  • Acknowledge that they have other skills. There are other areas where they are strong contributors, which is why they got selected to work on the project in the first place.

You may think that’s a lot of trouble to go to, but it will actually save you time and make your job less aggravating. Hand delivering memos might seem a bit extreme but you’ll know that they’ve been read. Another method that works is to deliver the memo and have them initial that they have read it. This also serves to create a paper trail that no one can argue with.

If you do have to call them on the carpet about their behavior, ask them how you can help them get control of their disorganization. Knowing that you’re willing to help them will make them much more willing to work on the behavior that is causing so much chaos for the project.

As for their other skills, take advantage of them. You may want to find what they are best at and exploit that. If your problem person excels at something that another project team member isn’t so good at, perhaps he or she could take the burden off their co-worker in exchange for that person handling their calendar.

And remember, their behavior is about them, it is not about you. Don't take it personally.


About the Author: Margaret Meloni, MBA, PMP, is an executive coaching consultant for IT professionals. She helps project managers and teams work together better by improving their soft skills. Learn how to successfully combine your technical and soft skills in her webinars from The PDU Podcast ( and from her website at

Getting to Know the Stakeholders

There are many reasons why you should Identify Stakeholder early in the project life cycle. Most important reason is that, your stakeholders can influence the direction of the project. Based on the information that they share with you or the things that they say to other people, your project is impacted by them.

Stakeholders can be anyone who is directly or indirectly involved in the project. They can be:

  • The sponsor
  • The customer
  • Senior management
  • Functional departments
  • The public
  • The project team
  • Alice in customer support team
  • The sundry shop 100m from your project site

The bigger your project, the more stakeholders are involved. And you need to figure out how to reach out to them and understand what are their needs. As the PM, you need to find out how your project will impact them during and after it is completed. We need to find out what is the extend of influence each of the stakeholder has and how their opinions or decision will impact the course of our project.

To begin with, when identifying a stakeholder, we need to know his role, department, interests, knowledge level, expectation and influence level. Find out as much as you can about each and everyone of your stakeholders. Also, we need to find out what type of information they require, how they like it to be presented as, how much they want or need to know, etc. Some people likes a lengthy, narrative, very detailed reports. Some prefer graphs and bullet points. Some just need a one-liner.

Next, identify the impact or support that you can get from the stakeholders. Each stakeholder will impact your project differently. Some will be supportive, others nonchalant. Some don’t event want to talk about the project. Check for:

  • Power/Interest
  • Power/Influence
  • Influence/Impact
  • Salient model – group by power, urgency, and legitimacy


Then, you need to assess their reactions and responds in differing situations. Observe your stakeholders during meeting or discussions or functions. How do they talk to people? How do they respond to questions? What type of questions that can make them open up to you? What type of questions that make them clam up? Are they a risk taker or a safe player? What is their corporate style? How do they negotiate or get things done? Try to learn as much as you can about your stakeholders, not only from other people who knows them, but also through your personal encounter and observations.

Last but not least, communicate with your stakeholders. When you have found out the frequency of reporting that they prefer, make sure you do it as you have agreed. Tell them what they want to know and always ask their opinion on the progress so far. However, be careful not to allow scope creep. The reason you continuously engage your stakeholder is to gauge the health of your project from their perspective. They will take the opportunity to ask you to include extra features or new functionalities, make no mistake. But use your charm and wisdom as a project manager to manage this. Remember, project managers spend most of their time communicating, so communicate effectively and wisely.