Wednesday, November 19, 2014

2014 PMI Research Conference

PMI 2014 Research and Education Conference; 27 – 29 July 2014, Portland, OR, Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

I was able to attend the 2014 PMI Research and Education Conference this year. This is a much better conference when compared to the Global Conference. The research conference keynote speakers are project management professions with interesting, project oriented presentations and instead the management gurus of the speaking circuit at the typical Global Conference. The presentations do not have the glitz that can compare with the consultants of the Global conference but the presentations typically have more project management substance.

The GAC (PMI College Accreditation) invited Universities with Project Management degrees to discuss issues related to accreditation. The new PMI Vice President for Education and Research kicked of the meeting. As a new hire, he said he had no expertise in project management and then gave a speech proving him his point. Overall, a good session.  

There were a couple of things that struck me at the conference. I listened to several conversations on the need for a theory of project management. Interesting discussion but it did not resonant to me as a need for our profession. I asks at a panel discussion on something else “do we ned a theory of project management” and the consensus of this panel was no. I will be interested to see if this discussion develops traction.

Jack Meredith, author of lots of project management books, was the headliner on an unusual session Standing on the Shoulders of Giant”. Jack deserves recognition for his contribution and Erik Larson, another prolific author, interviewed Jack in a setting that gave the impression of a discussion in your living room. Jack met expectations. He reminded me of my grandfather, he had no political agenda and just said what he thought, so of it very interesting. If you can find a transcript, it would be worth listening to.

During the session I asked; “what were the two or three research finding of the past 20 years (this was a research conference) that would impact project management”? Jack thought a minute and then said; “I will pass on that question.” I wonder if he was avoiding the question because he didn’t want to hurt anyone feelings. That had not been the case so far. A small group discussion at our table concluded that Dr. Meredith did not believe that there was any significant research finding in the past 20 years that significantly impacted the management of projects. Think about the implications of that thought.

Here is a list of research projects recently funded by PMI:

  • Establishing a Theoretically Sound Baseline for Expert Judgment in Project Management
    Paul Szwed
  • Translational Science and Its Effects on Organizational Structure and Program Management
    Dorothy Kirkman, Kevin Wooten, Alix Valenti
  • High-performance capital project front-end: a design commons approach
    Nuno Gil, Rehema Msulwa
  • Scaling Agility: Adapting Agile Principles to Large Projects in Large Organizations
    Yvan Petit, Brian Hobbs
  • Project Management as a Dynamic Collaborative Social Practice: Collaborative Innovation Revisited
    Roula Michaelides, Jeanne Dorle, Elena Antonacopoulou
  • Community engagement strategies during the construction phase of controversial projects
    Melissa Teo

I also had a hallway discuss with Hans Georg Gemunden, editor of the Project Management Journal. PMI has struggled to increase the quality of the Project Management Journal. I mentioned that I often blogged a translation of articles from the PMJ for the typical project manager. (most articles are unreadable and only a few are worth going through the pain)
I was surprised to find that they understood the quality of articles did not meet their own standards. They were working hard to increase the quality. I look forward to seeing their new approach.

All in all, it was a good conference.

Next blog: I will presenting at the PMI Chapter in Charlotte in January and will provide a summary here.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

I,m Back

I’m Back

I took a six month hiatus from my blog. Working on a grant proposal, developing a new course for the University and supporting the University in developing and deploying a new Competency Based Learning (CBL). This left little time for the writing I enjoy.

It has been an interesting six months. I continued to read articles in the Project Management Journal (PMJ). Some would make interesting blogs. I attended the Project Management Institute Research Conference, in Portland, OR, which deserves a couple of full blogs. So, I hope to have some interesting blogs in the next few weeks.

 I also developed a research grant proposal for PMI. I proposed exploring the efficacy of a tool process introduced by PMI this year.  Published by PMI in 2014, the Navigating Complexity: A Practice Guide provides an approach for assessing the complexity of a project, conducting a resource gap analysis, and developing an action plan that is fully integrated into the project management plan. The process is complex and PMI is now Beta testing the tools/ processes. I was hoping that PMI would be interested in an independent researcher evaluating the effectiveness of the tool. The grant proposal was accepted for round two but was not accepted in the final round. I was both disappointed and relieved. I was disappointed because I am very interested in the topic and wanted to continue explore project complexity and tool for better understanding our projects. I was relived because the research would consume lots of time and energy.

I suspect PMI was not ready for an independent researcher to evaluate their tool. I asked for feedback on the grant (always looking for improvement ideas) but sadly, PMI said they did not have the resources to provide feedback to people who submitted grants.

So, I am back and will share some ideas about project management. Next week, the 2014 PMI Research Conference, “leading edge or treading water”?


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Changing Careers

I had an email exchange with one of my students in the Master’s Degree Program and though it may be of interest to those think of changing careers. This was a student changing careers and looking forward to a project management future.

Changing careers! I think it keeps life exciting. I started as a medical social worker, then ran the Children's Home for the Cherokee Tribe, went back to school and earned my Masters in Project Management, Worked for a engineering and construction firm and now I am teaching. The skills and experiences I gained were always useful in my next career.

I do not have a technical/ engineering background and I worked for a engineering and construction company. I would not have been good at smaller, highly technical projects but on more complex projects with technical complexity that needed corporation between teams and stakeholders with different agendas, I excelled. I think my social work/ psychology background became an asset. I was also very curious and asked lots of questions.

You have started off right. Ask lots of questions.

1. Should I start building a portfolio now with small to big projects?

Yes, label everything you do that involves working with people/ team and meets our definition of project (temporary/ with defined scope) a project. Keep a list, because you will forget. Start using your project management learning. If you get assigned a project, develop a project charter, budget, schedule, risk plan etc. Even for small projects use all your tools. get use to using your tools, learn and demonstrate to others how it is done.

Volunteer: For example, the boss might ask: “will someone be responsible for managing the company picnic?" You might respond "I will take that PROJECT. Then develop your project charter for your boss to sign off. Develop the budget, schedule, risk plan, HR plan etc. and show the company how it is done. Volunteer at church or local club, get a reputation as the "project manager".

Keep GOOD RECORDS. Every time you do an activity that is done on projects capture what you did, who you did it for and the time spent. You will need this for when you go after your PMP.

Keep your best work, both class work and work on projects, as examples you can share with potential employers.

2.  Are there PM firms that are recommended that may allow for internships?

Most project management jobs are in organizations whose primary function is not project management. I noticed an increase in demand for project managers within the banking industry, within the pharmaceutical industry, etc.

Some organizations are almost your project management organizations. For example when I work for floor which is a engineering and construction company almost all the work was done in projects. There are companies that provide consulting services and training services to organizations attempting to implement project management. These organizations operate like a consulting firm, usually taking in highly skilled and very knowledgeable people farming them out to organizations. These organizations also will provide experience project managers for short duration projects. These type organizations would be ideal for an internship type of experience.

One of the growing trends in industry today is the development of PMO's within the organization. If you can find an organization with an established for developing PMO this is also a great place to get some initial experience.

I do not have connections to organizations that would help me make recommendations to you for internship possibilities. My recommendation is network.

3.  What are some ways I can start now to ensure a solid career in this field?

Good question. think about taking a topic within project management that you find interesting and develop some expertise in this particular topic. For example, project start up. What are the different ways to start up project? What are the tools and techniques a project manager needs at the beginning of the project? Develop a deep expertise in one aspect of project management and publishing articles.

Develop a good project management vocabulary and use of vocabulary often. When I hear people discussing what it is we should be doing,, I ask what our scope of work is?  My wife often frowns at me and then would explain to people that I was a project manager as if she were apologizing, but I wear it as a badge of honor. Develop a project management vocabulary and use it everywhere.

Always act ethically. Project managers are typically given the tremendous threat responsibility and require the trust of their bosses and organization. Build a reputation that you are a person who could be trusted. Stand up for what's right and the people know that you have a very high standard for your expectations of yourself and your team.

Manage your reputation. Develop four or five principles that you will live by that represent you as a project manager. I am always on time. I do what's necessary to make sure that I deliver time. I developed a reputation in my workplace and unprotected that reputation.

Develop trusting relationship with your clients. always be honest with your client, include your client in critical project decisions, at the end of the project you want your client to say if I have another project I want Anita to be the project manager.

4.  I am interesting in becoming a member of PMI, what would I need to do as a student and what should I prepare for now so that I can get my certificate down the road?

You are eligible to become the PMI member now knows you have to do is go on the website plus for membership as a student and you won't have any trouble. If you do let me know.

If you are thinking about the PMP certification, then you will need to be eligible and completing the master's program will take you a long way towards that eligibility. I go back to the first part of this discussion right talk about recording every project activity you do. You will need this list of activities to document your project management experiences to meet the experience qualifications for the PMP.

Let me know if I didn't answer your questions or if there's something else I can do..

Good luck with the program.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Project Management Research Journal Article on Project Sponsors

Project Management Journal/ Research Articles:

When the research journals from Project Management Institute comes in I tried to explore the different research articles and see if I can pull out some nuggets for use of project managers.

I’ve been reading the February/March edition of the Project Management Journal. The first article discussed executive sponsor behaviors, Project Success and Executive Sponsor Behaviors: Empirical Life Cycle Stage Investigations by Kleppenborg, T., Tesch, D. & Manolis, C.

Essentially, the research involved re-looking at data from four previous studies them but one of the authors to discover the answer to what was labeled as two important questions. Over the duration of a project, does relative importance of compulsory executive behavior vary significantly at stages of completion? If you’re wondering what this means you’re in good company. After reading the entire article, I believe the authors want to know if and executive sponsor makes a contribution by doing something at various stages of the project. Second question asks over the duration of the project, does relative importance of the project success done mentions very significantly within and across different stages of completion? The author spent quite a bit of time discussing project success dimensions. At one stage it seems that they are indicating that success of the project means meeting cost, schedule, quality, and customer satisfaction goals of the project. They labeled this success dimensions. Later in the article they used different terminology to discuss success to missions and labeled these; the firm’s future, meeting agreements, and customer success. My understanding is they took the normal nomenclature of cost, schedule, quality, and customer satisfaction and develop their own terminology. They never explained why.

They justified the research in one instance I discussing the Standish group research that I’ve discussed a number of times and pointed out some obvious flaws in this research. I think the reason researchers continue to use this research is because the Standish group concluded that most projects fail. This is a great beginning for any research paper but the research is so flawed I believe it detracts from any conclusions that the authors may develop.

The authors included charts and tables with lots of percentages and data but there’s no real discussion with the charger cables being. There was neither a conclusion section nor a summary of findings section. There was in one paragraph summary of research contributions. In one example of findings in this section was “finding suggest, for example, that during the executing stage, project sponsor should focus on ensuring communications as a top priority and that such a focus will in turn enhance the most important element of success during this particular phrase the project- the extent to which a customer satisfied with the project deliverables.” Understand this to me the project sponsor to communicate a lot during the execution phase of the project.

I often wonder what we would want researchers to focus on as project management professionals. Until we can answer that question, I suspect researchers will continue to be defined terms and write articles that will be read by only a few people will probably writing their own articles on executive sponsorship of projects.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

“Any fool can know. The point is to understand.” Albert Einstein

 “Any fool can know. The point is to understand.”

Understanding a project is absolutely critical to developing and executing an appropriate project plan. Project Managers spend significant time in defining client’s expectations, defining deliverables for the project and developing the data that we need to be able to develop a project charter in a project scope. We have developed tools and processes for gathering this information in articulating the information in different documents that become the foundation for developing a project plan. From these tools we gather a great deal of knowledge.
Sometimes knowledge is not enough. Developing an understanding of our project requires more than just gathering the data and collating the data into meaningful documents. Understanding requires seeing the interplay between the different components of our project and developing an understanding of how these different aspects come together to form a picture of a project. To understand our projects we need to think about the about the interplay between the different parts of the project, to process our knowledge of the project and develop a holistic view of our project.
The more complex[1] our project, the more difficult the task of understanding and developing this larger or more holistic view. The more complex our project, the greater the difficulty in developing a good understanding of our project. PMI has recently developed a tool for better understand the complexity of our project. In March of this year, PMI published Navigating Complexity: A Practice Guide online, hard copy is now available. Worth taking a look at.

[1]   Complexity can be understood as the number of parts and their degree of differentiation
                                                                Dan McShea,
                             Santa Fe Institute for the Study of Complexity