Thursday, April 24, 2014

Stress and Project Management

Stress and Project Management

Stress is a natural biological response to perceived danger or threat. Our biological response is typically fight or flight. This makes sense because to understand that you are threatened and to take steps to reduce this threat is basic to survival.

What does this mean to your execution of a project? One of the things that we know is that increase stress reduces creativity. When we feel threatened, blood flows from the creative parts of our brain to the parts of our brain that focus on our physical survival. The adrenaline increases, blood flows from our stomach in our brain to our muscles. This is one of the reasons that we need to go for a run or ride our bikes after a stressful day. This exercise tends to neutralize the effects of the adrenaline and stress of the day. So stress has the impact of reducing our ability to respond creatively to problem.

As a project manager seeks to understand his project during the initiation phase, one of the things to explore is the stress level on the project. So how do we evaluate the stress level of a project? One of the ways to look at project stress is to understand the comfort zone. The comfort zone represents the area where we have the knowledge, skills and abilities to meet the requirements.

For example, if the project schedule indicates the project needs to be complete within two years and the preliminary estimate to complete the project is two and half years, then we created stress. If the project team truly perceives that they have insufficient time to complete all the necessary activities, then there will be a degree of stress. The level of stress will depend on the perceived consequences of not meeting the schedule and the perceived ability to develop an approach to either change the schedule requirements or accelerate the pace of the project to meet the requirements.

In a similar example, the project team does not believe they can perform the project within the allocated cost, then the team stress will increase. This can have a cumulative effect. The combined effect of an unrealistic schedule and budget will be greater than either one by itself. There are number of different aspects of your project making stress. There can be organizational issues, cultural issues, technological issues, clarity scope among their number of different issues that can impact the stress level in the project.

We have a number of methods for reducing stress in a project management tool box. For example, as we explore options for reducing the time it takes to complete the project we can the crashing the project schedule, executed activities in parallel other than sequence and decelerating procurement activities as if you the tools available. This is also true for many of the areas that carry stress on the project.

This project manager’s protest is to first understand the stress on your project and then develop an appropriate execution approach that will address the stress and maximize project performance. Sounds simple? Probably not, but this is what makes our job so interesting.


Friday, April 18, 2014

PMI Meeteing, Networking and Trust

PMI Meeting in Ashville

I attended the PMI chapter meeting in Asheville last night for a presentation by Teddy Burress. Teddy made a presentation on networking and focused on how to build a social network. The basic premise was networking was built on the foundation of relationships. Relationships begin with people you know and expand outward as the people you know help you find others with common interest and common concerns. The basis of this relationship focused on not how you can use the relationship to further your goals but how can use relationships to support people in achieving their goals. This foundational belief will lead to times when people see the opportunity to help you.
This presentation was not overtly related to project management but themes are consistent in building relationships with your clients, your team members and your project stakeholders. Relationships are also built on trust. Not in the sense of unconditional trust that you may share with people that you have a more intimate relationship but trust in the sense that you have shared goals and shared understanding and beliefs on how to achieve these goals.
Establishing trust with your client as well as your team and stakeholders is one of the critical skills they project manager. Without this trust communication suffers. Without this trust commitment to a common goal suffers. Without this trust is difficult to have fun on your project.
Trust comes from respect. It comes from shared values and it comes from a belief in a shared future. You developed this trust respecting your client, your team and your stakeholders. You developed this trust by sharing your values and living your values daily. And you develop a belief in a shared future through developing a common vision of success.
One of the critical aspects of the teambuilding meetings that occurred during project initiation is the development of trust. Depending on the project profile, the processes and the investment in developing this team will influence your ability as project manager to develop an appropriate project execution approach and address the various issues that arise during the life cycles of the project.

Friday, March 21, 2014

What is your organizational personality?

What is your organizational personality?

I attended the Asheville PMI Chapter meeting last night and found a new way of looking at how I organize my work.

Paula McGarrell, Chief Visionary Officer of You Time Solutions, made a very entertaining and informative presentation to the Chapter. I was expecting another presentation on understanding or developing your organization’s culture, instead I ended up taking an assessment of my organizational preferences. It turns out I am visual, process at the general level, like things on paper and I am inner motivated.

I was not overly surprised by the results but now I had permission have sticky notes all over my office, draw figures on a whiteboard when I am thinking and print out documents so I can read them. The idea is NOT to organize to be more efficient but to organize in a way that makes me more efficient.

I tend to feel guilty when I print out stuff I need to read and wonder what people would think if they saw my desk. If I try to adopt someone else idea of how things need to be organized I will likely lose things and will not integrate information in a way that will be useful for me.

Something to think about when you are setting up a project. How do you organize work space to maximize the teams work efficiency, given that everyone will need work organized in a way that facilitates efficiency? For me this means I need someone on the team that organizes in more detail than is comfortable for me.

For more information check out


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Navigating Complexity: A Practice Guide

Navigating Complexity: A Practice Guide

The Project Management Institute published the electronic version of Navigating Complexity: A Practice Guide.  The print version is available from PMI, $27.95 Member, $34.95 Nonmember .

The practice guide provides an approach for better understanding complexity on a project. Much of the guide provides a foundation in complexity and presents three categories of complexity: human behavior, system behavior and ambiguity. An assessment questionnaire is the center piece of the approach with  47 questions that can be answered yes/ no.

The strength of the approach is the ease of use. I believe any project team can study the Guide and use the assessment questionnaire to develop a better understanding and therefore a better project management plan. The guide is being currently being tested by PMI with four PMOs.

I believe this is a good foundational approach and as PMI beta tests and as researchers begin to build on this work, the professional will develop better tools for assessing and profiling projects.


Navigating Complexity: A Practice Guide

Section 1          Introduction
Section 2          Organizational Considerations
Section 3          Encountering Complexity
Section 4          PMI Foundational Standards and Useful Practices
Section 5          The Assessment Questionnaire
Section 6          Complexity Scenarios and Possible Actions
Section 7          Developing an Action Plan

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Match Made in Heaven, An artilce in PM Network

        An article in the latest PMnetwork , March 2014, caught my attention with  a title: A Match made in Heaven. The focus of the article centered on three factors; the project requirements, the project managers’ skills and the organizations workload. The author suggested understanding the attributes of the project and listed the following attributes;

  • ·         Budget
  • ·         Schedule
  • ·         Scope
  • ·         Team building
  • ·         Clients facing skills
  • ·         Risk
Then reflect on these questions.

  1.  Will the project require a lot of client interaction?
  2. Will the team be virtual?
  3. Is this an ambiguous project?

           One company was described as maintaining a database of project management skills and experiences. Then using a team based approach to looking at the characteristics of the project and matching the rights skills and experience. The team also considered the organizations workload and admitted that the right skills were often added to the project late.
           The construction industry did a study a number of years ago and concluded the number one consideration in matching of project manager with projects was availability. Fluor attempted to develop a data of project management skills when I worked there and for a number of reasons the effort was scrapped after a couple of years. One reason was the priority of availability when a project manager was needed.
           There was a process for matching project managers and projects but it was a very informal process. In this case, the informality of the process worked well because it depended on a very strong and informal communication network.
            In a project organization where projects ended and the project team needed to find another project to maintain employment, the informal communication was necessary and very strong. This process also worked very well. If I needed a scheduler with international experience, who understood the chemical industry and had experience on project larger than $500 million, I might go to Ron, who would ask Tom who knew that Larry was soon coming off a project and had the skills and experience I needed.
            It would seem that a combination of these two systems might be the best way to approach the matching of project needs with project management talent.