Project Management Education

Project Managers – What You Need To Succeed

Written by Michelle Symonds on . Posted in Project Management Articles

It may not be ‘Dry January’ anymore and we’re definitely way past New Year’s Resolutions being fresh, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to stop striving for improvement. The best project managers are continually looking to improve and don’t need the New Year as a reason to push themselves forward. However, with the New Year does come a new PM landscape, which means that new opportunities, technology and industry advances could arise which, in turn, means more opportunity to learn.

 

Here are some tips on what you need to help you succeed in your project management career:

 

You Need To Embrace Numbers

If you’re not keen on budgeting, brace yourself because you must have at least a few basic budgeting skills to be a great project manager. Why? Because every single business has its eye on the bottom line, there’s no getting around it – budgets are as tight as they get. You need to be able to manage the budget just as effectively as managing tasks and schedules, and if you don’t know how to do that you need to get yourself up to speed.

 

You Need To Keep Calm And Carry On

If you are a negative complainer who turns every issue into a drama and never comes up with solutions, you will never be a successful project manager. The best project managers think critically all the time, which means they are constantly growing their skill set to deal with potential issues and obstacles. Your need to be able to keep calm and carry on when serious issues arise; critical thinking is intelligent, logical, sensible and essential.

 

You Need To Be Inspiring

If you can’t lead your team to victory, you’re in the wrong profession. You need to be an excellent leader to be a project manager. It is your job to make your team see the bigger picture and to inspire your team and help them feel a real sense of purpose towards the tasks they are completing. It is essential to develop leadership qualities or know how to recognise them and improve them.

 

You Need To Be Communicative

There is more emphasis than ever before on effective communication which means you need to consider all the technology available that can help you communicate better. Intranet, social media, emails, IM, video calls, texts – the list goes on. So not only are we more able than ever to communicate, we are expected to. The downside of using technological aids to communication is that we need to be able to translate our message into something meaningful without the usual visual or aural clues, which can be difficult for some people.

 

These are just some of the skills you need to be an excellent PM this year. However, if you always seek to improve and advance your skill set, you won’t go far wrong. Excellent project managers recognise both their skills and their weaknesses and seek to perfect and improve them respectively.

 

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Studying the APMP Project Management Qualifications Outside the UK

Written by Paul Naybour on . Posted in Default

We get asked quite often about taking the APMP distance learning course exam from outside the UK. This is perfectly possible. Working with the APM we can arrange exams in many cities around the world. To date we have arranged exams in Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Singapore, Beijing, Dohar, Dubai, Qatar, Jeda, Abu Dhabi. The exams are held at the offices of the British Council. We can arrange an APM exam at any location that has a British Council office at a date to suit your study plan. You can check which cities are covers by visiting the British Council website at http://www.britishcouncil.org/.

How to study for the APMP

There are three options if you want the study for the APMP from outside the UK. These include:

Option 1 Distance Learning

The first option is to study for the APMP qualification using Parallel Project Training’s APMP distance learning package. This package is based on the APMP study guide which was published by the Association of Project management in partnership with Parallel Project Training. This is the definitive text book for the APMP qualification and this study guide acts as a foundation for the whole programme which also includes online e-learning, podcasts and an online study group. If you are based overseas we will enable the virtual part of this course as soon as you purchase the package and we will ship study guide to you by direct carrier. This normally takes 2 to 3 days. Using the distance learning material it typically takes 60 to 70 hours of study to prepare for the APMP exam. The online study group is there to provide you with coaching on exam technique as you exam date approaches. As the day approaches when you with to take the exam you need to contact us to make the necessary arrangements with the APM and the British Council. These can take 4 to 5 weeks so you need to plan your exam date ahead. More about this later.

Option 2 Distance Learning plus Virtual Coaching

In addition to the distance learning package we can also provide virtual coaching using Adobe connect. This is a highly interactive environment in which we can take you through the course material and practice exam questions using a virtual classroom. Adobe Connect enables us to share presentations documents exam questions and exam answers in real-time. This can be offered as a final exam prep or a structured programme of short sessions spread over several weeks. The online exam prep is perfect for individuals who are preparing for the APMP exam, a structured programme is more suitable if you have a group of people who wish to study for the APMP exam. Typical structured programme will consist of six weekly sessions. The first five cover the contents of the course whilst six is preserved for exam prep. We found the pass rates for this type of program are generally as good if not better than a traditional classroom-based course. We believe this is partly because you have more time to absorb and consolidate the material before taking the exam.

Option 3 Face to Face Training

Final option which suits corporate organisations with groups of 5-6 to train is to range trainer to visit from the UK and deliver the course face-to-face over five day period. The trainer will bring the exam papers with them and also acts as invigilator for the exam on the last day of the course. This is the most expensive option but it does provide the benefit of full-time face-to-face input from experienced trainer.

How to book the exam

The exam procedure is quite simple

1)    You contact us and tell us when you want to take the exam, 5-6 weeks in advance.

2)    We pass this information on the APM who make the arrangement with the British Council.

3)    The APM ship the papers to the British Council.

4)    You go to the British Council office on the day you selected take the exam, pay the local fee. The local fees in the local currency  including courier shipping are published on the British Council website. Look for the the take exam / Professional and university exams part of the British Council website for the country you want to take the exam.

5)    The British Council ship the papers back to the APM for marking.

6)    The results take 10-12 weeks and you are informed of the result by the APM by e-mail.

So you can see, it is perfectly practical to complete the APMP training and qualification outside the UK. Parallel Project Training have significant experience providing distance learning and virtual learning to support the APMP qualification outside the UK. So if you need further information please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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Project Progress Graph

Projects Fail Because of Poor Estimates in the Planning Phase

Written by Michelle Symonds on . Posted in Project Management Articles

If you are looking for some light bedtime reading then I’d recommend the latest 2015 PwC report on Insights and Trends: Current Portfolio, Programme, and Project Management Practices.

 

One of the report’s most significant, and yet not surprising, findings is that poor estimation during the planning phase continues to be the largest contributor to project failures.

 

The PwC study looks at the most common reasons why projects do not achieve the desired results. It is based on survey results from organisations across 38 countries with approximately two-thirds of those organisations in the private sector and a third in the public sector. Those organisations represented a wide range of industries including IT, Consulting, Banking, Energy, Telecommunications, Health Care, Manufacturing and Construction.

 

The 10 factors that contribute most to under-performing projects

 

  1. Poor estimates/missed deadlines
  2. Lack of executive sponsorship
  3. Poorly defined goals/objectives
  4. Changes in scope mid-project
  5. Insufficient resources
  6. Poor communication
  7. Lack of stakeholder involvement
  8. Change in environment
  9. Change in strategy
  10. Inadequate risk planning

 

Inadequate estimates are the single largest cause of projects that don’t deliver on their promises and it is a worsening trend, and has been for over a decade. These top 3 factors alone contributed to 53% of poor project performance. The top six factors contributed to 78% of poor project performance.

 

Anyone who has worked in a project management environment for any length of time will probably not be surprised by those findings, but what is surprising is that organisations continue to make the same mistakes. However, there is some good news: the survey also found that organisations at a high level of “project maturity” i.e with well-defined project management processes consistently deliver better project results than those without well-defined PM processes.

 

Improvements in any of the 10 major contributing factors in project failure will, of course, have a positive effect on the project outcome but hopefully the trend for poor estimating will soon reverse as the report also notes that it is now common to use an established project management methodology and to ensure staff have training and certification in the preferred approach. Using a proven Project Management approach is seen to improve the

success of projects across the key performance indicators:

  1. Quality
  2. Scope
  3. Budget
  4. Time

 

Project managers with experience managing projects of similar size and complexity, and within the same industry, are a major component in meeting these 5 key performance indicators. There is a direct correlation between trained, skilled project managers and successful project outcomes, according to the PwC report, suggesting that an organisation could avoid project failures by training staff and/or employing staff with the right experience and accreditation.

There could of course be other reasons related to the relationships and dynamic between project managers and senior executives, which I explore in a little more detail over on a Community Discussion Why Projects Fail

 

What About Agile Project Management?

 

The use of Agile project management methods continues to grow, sometimes combined with more traditional, well-established methods. It is still predominantly used in the IT industry (over 70% of those taking part in the study who use Agile do so in an IT environment), where the benefits of short cycles to deliver working products is often a better solution to clarify requirements and continually develop improvements. Nearly two-thirds of those using Agile say their projects are successful because of the Agile method, although organisations using Agile have not typically reached the same level of project management maturity as those using more traditional methods.

 

Free coaching or training

Written by Paul Naybour on . Posted in News

As part of the Growth Accelerator service, Participating companies are automatically entitled to a Government Matched-funding grant worth £2,000 per manager towards training related to Leadership or Management.

This “Leadership & Management” grant is available to businesses with an annual turnover of up to £40m p.a. with up to 250 Full-Time employees.

For information on this service, please refer to the “ Leadership Management” document.

The department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) are also currently asking The Association for Project Management to run a pilot scheme to test how well small businesses respond to coaching vs. training. As a result businesses turning over between £250,000 p.a. and £2,000,000 p.a. can access the aforementioned grants at no cost. The ‘catch’ in this pilot is that, if the company is selected (at random) to receive coaching as well, they must pay £700 VAT (which is reclaimable in the usual manner) and must have that coaching. This pilot scheme has a limit of just 600 places, which are filling up quickly. Businesses in this size bracket looking for training in the new year can sign up to this scheme now, with a view to securing the funding for training in the new year.

For information on this pilot, please refer to the “ Growth Impact Pilot” document.

For information on the service as a whole, please refer to the “ About GrowthAccelerator” document.

Sam Landsberg is the contact at the Growth Accelerator; please contact him directly for more information or to refer potential clients for the grant.

He can be contacted directly via sam.jl.landsberg@uk.gt.com or via his direct dial, 0207 728 3223.

Roundup of recent PM Articles and Videos

Written by Michelle Symonds on . Posted in Default, News

Stop That Project!

There are some projects that once they begin continue on like a snowball rolling down a hill. The project builds momentum, increasing in terms of the time, effort and money that are continuously absorbed by it. The greater the spend; the harder it is for the project to stop or change direction.

This may be fine if the project is of value and if the work is being done effectively so as to achieve the desired value. But if the project is not adding value, or it is headed in a wrong direction, or it does not comply with regulations and best practices then the project should be stopped.

The question is who can, or should, stop the project?

Read more in this article by George Pitagorsky

5 Tips for Managing Project Communications in a Crisis

A new video from Elizabeth Harrin of A Girl’s Guide to Project Management

There are always things that go wrong on projects – sometimes those issues are small; sometimes they are significant. In this video Elizabeth offers 5 tips to help you deal with project communications during a crisis.

 

Top 5 open source project management tools for 2015

Robin Muilwijk has recently printed his Top 5 open source project management tools for 2015 based on the following criteria:

  • Is the software provided under an open source license?
  • Does it have an active community?
  • Does it have up-to-date documentation available?
  • Is the source code available?
  • Are there new or recent releases?

The tools he reviews are:

  1. Tuleap Open ALM
  2. OrangeScrum
  3. Taiga
  4. Odoo
  5. MyCollab

He also gives updates on several of the tools he reviewed last year.

See the full article here.

 

How to Prevent Scope Creep: A Business Analyst Perspective

Written by Kiranmayi Satnarayan

Many years ago a few of my colleagues started working on a project, which was not so complex. It went well for the first few months. The problem started when the team travelled to the client location to give a demo on a module and seek the client’s feedback. The client suggested certain changes that were accepted by the team. The team built the module with the new suggestions incorporated, however, the client suggested a few more changes. After a couple of similar back and forth interactions, the project was ultimately shelved as it was no longer delivering a good ROI.

 

Project Management Career Q&A – Stress!

Work and life are two of the things that many practitioners working in the field of project management struggle to get into a happy balance. With increased pressures to deliver, expectations of doing more with less, project managers are no strangers to feeling overworked and at the point of burn out.

Lyndsay Scott of Arras People suggests four initial areas in your approach to work to start thinking about changing.

Read more here

 

 

IT project management

Project Burnout – How to Spot it and How to Stop it

Written by Michelle Symonds on . Posted in Project Management Articles

IT project managementEven if you are using a controlled approach to managing your projects and consider yourself to be a highly effective project manager with good experience and a proven track-record of successful projects, it is always possible that external factors beyond your control could contribute to a project that will cause burnout for you or your team members.

 

What is Burnout?

 

Burnout occurs in a project where the pressure, stresses and other factors have reached such a level that the project team can no longer work effectively. They cannot complete the tasks they have been assigned to the required standard or in the expected time-frame. They cannot solve problems easily because the pressure they are under is so great they do not have the luxury of thinking time. They are exhausted, de-motivated, pessimistic and no longer think they can achieve their project goals.

 

And the problem with burnout is that it can creep up on you; it is often an accumulation of factors, sometimes unrelated to the current project, that on their own may not be too much cause for concern.

 

For instance, if the previous project was high profile and required maximum effort the team may have embarked on a new project with no time to recharge their batteries, and this type of high-intensity working environment, far from delivering more projects in as short a space of time as possible destroys creativity, energy and enthusiasm.

 

It can be hard to convince senior executives that quiet periods are not wasted time. They can be time to re-think strategies and review approaches to projects, maybe embark on some training. If there is no time to review the last project and learn from it then future projects will simply continue in the same way, making the same mistakes, putting teams under the same pressures until they reach breaking point.

 

 

 

Spotting Burnout

 

As a project manager you should take responsibility for detecting the signs of burnout. You may not be able to change the current project but you might (should) be able to influence future projects to ensure better future outcomes for your organisation and your people. The loss of creativity and enthusiasm that comes with fatigue will not, ultimately, benefit your organisation.

 

There are lots of little signs that individual team members may be starting to reach breaking point:

 

  • Excessive sick days
  • Silly mistakes
  • Increasingly argumentative behaviour
  • Lost sense of humour
  • Cancelling planned days off
  • Poor team relations
  • Excessive over-time
  • Working only minimal hours

 

If you start to see some or all of these signs then take the time to talk honestly and openly to the team, both individually and as a group, to get to the bottom of the real issues.

 

Stopping Burnout

 

A project manager is in a position of influence (or should be) so use that power to the advantage of your projects, team and business. Don’t sit back and let a situation escalate; speak out but make sure you know how to influence those with the power to makes changes to actually make those changes. Constantly moaning about the pressures of work just becomes background noise that nobody will take any notice of.

 

 

Instead make a plan for how you can improve the situation; explain the downsides of not changing attitudes to how projects are run and perceived by senior management. This takes courage, persuasive skills, leadership and vision but these are all characteristics of a project manager’s personality that you should have or, at the very least be cultivating.

 

On a more practical and pragmatic note, make sure your factor in some slack time in all your project schedules.

 

Let us know if you have any other ideas for preventing burnout in project teams or influencing strategies that have worked for you.

Which Project Management Qualification is the Best?

Written by Paul Naybour on . Posted in Default

Hello my name is Paul Naybour from Parallel Project Training. Quite often people ask me which is the best project management qualification for me to take? It really depends on your experience and where you want to go.


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So in this video were briefly going at the main options and help you decide which might be right for you. So you’ve got three streams really, PRINCE2, PMI and APM. And we are going the choose the main qualifications from those main streams, so PRINCE2 Practitioner, PMP certification, the APM introductory certificate or foundation qualification and the APM project management qualification (APMP). And we are going to rank each using our a simple star rating.

How much to you have to learn.

So first thing how much do you have to learn? Well the APM foundation qualification quite easy to pick up and the study guide is on 153 pages long and you can read in a weekend really and in a two day course most people get hang of that and do really well in the exam, so that is quite easy one. PRINCE2 practitioner was that a bit more heavyweight with 343 pages, that you really need to know quite well. So we have given that two stars. PMP is fairly similar weighing in at 344 pages in the study guide, which you then have to know quite well also and finally the PMP ( the PM Bok) weighs in at 415 pages but the not all the content is in the Body of Knowledge, you are probably going to have to refer to a study guide for some extra things are outside those process groups. So that’s got our three star ratings for the amount you have to learn.

How easy is it to pass the exam

How easy is it to pass the exam? Well the APM foundation is a one hour multiple choice and its pretty easy most people do really, really well, so we have given that one star. PRINCE2 practitioners to a half hours, its eight as scenario-based multiple choice questions and the pass rates are really quite high and most people get on with it, but you do have to know the of the book quite well. So we have given that two stars. The APM project management qualification is a three hour written paper, ten short essays from 16. A little bit more challenging, as you have to explain yourself in a short essay. So we have given that three stars. And then the PMP is a four hour, 200 questions multiple choice, which mixes the scenario type questions you see on PRINCE2 with the principles and theories. So most people find that reasonably challenging so that’s are three star rating also.

Prerequisites so what you need before the course.

Looking at prerequisites? So what do you need before you come on the course? Well the APM foundation qualification is designed the new project managers and new team members and so there are no prerequisites. PRINCE2 you need to get foundation qualification first but that’s usually included in the course. So you do that as part of a five day course and most people can manage the PRINCE2 practitioner without too much pre-experienced. For the APM project management qualification, it is good if you have one or two years’ experience, is not mandated but is good if you have one year or two years of project manager first. So we have given that two stars and then the PMP requires that you have 3 to 5 years’ experience depending qualification and 35 hours of training that that’s are four star rating. It’s more rigorous than the others.

Value in the job market?

Okay looking at value in the job market. The APM foundation that one star because it’s a good introduction to project management but it’s mostly the new team members and a new project managers, so doesn’t carry that much weight in the market place. PRINCE2 practitioner is the most widely recognised project management qualification in the market place. The problem is it’s a bit overexposed. It’s very good if you work in the public sector, or are working for PRINCE2 organisation. APMP is slightly more difficult and has got traction but it does depend on the sector working in and whether you’re in construction or defence or some parts of local government. So different sectors, the rail sector for instance, tends to favour APMP. PMP and with the highest rating four stars because it’s recognised around the world, specify the large multinational organisation, especially those based in the US and with a global footprint and PMP’s is probably the one that has the most value.

The best indicators of competence

So which is the best indicator of competence? Arras people did a benchmark report with lots of project managers. Which these qualifications indicate a competent project manager? 36% thought that the APM project manager’s qualification was that the one was the best indicator. 24% went for PRINCE2. 21% went for PMP and 19% went with none. Which is quite interesting give what we just said about the difficulty of the exam. I think it’s because it is UK-based survey and there’s less PMP people in the UK.

Summary scores

So our summary scores. Well the APM foundation qualification gave it two stars. It’s a good easy way to learn how to get going in project management. With lots of practical hints and tips. PRINCE2 practitioner really good if your organisation follows a PRINCE2 methodology or one based on PRINCE2 methodology and but in terms of the job market, everybody has it so it doesn’t really differentiate very much. So we gave that two stars also. APM project management qualifications. A good challenging project management qualification, recognised quite widely in the UK and so we gave that three star, considering it is more difficult than PRINCE2. Then PMP, if you want to have that global recognition and a recognition that you have experience and not just knowledge, we gave that four start.

So that is our overall summary of which are the best project management qualifications for you but really depends what where you are and what you want. So you would like some personal advice and guidance and please do give us a call and we will talk through the options with you. So thank you very much your time and speak to you soon.

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Paul Naybour

Which is your prefered project management qualification?

Which do you think is the best project management qualification?

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  1. 1  PMI PMP Certification

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    PMP Certification from the Project Management Institiute

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Project Management Book

Using the Logical Framework for Project Management Training

Written by Paul Naybour on . Posted in Default, News

Logical framework is specifically designed for development projects. It’s a structured way of linking the overall objective for the project the desired benefits, the overall purpose the results and activities. The aim is to ensure that activities completed as part of the project are clearly linked back to the overall objective of the project and the benefits that the project seeks to achieve. It provides a structured process to think through the objectives of the project based on the needs and strengths and weaknesses of the various stakeholders and parties involved in the project. It provides a step-by-step approach to working with stakeholders to understand their needs wants and ambitions and then identifying strategies which provide real benefit to the intended beneficiaries.

A step by step approach.

Logical framework provides a step-by-step approach to the planning of projects with some easily adapted tools to use at each stage. However it’s not just about the tools the application of the logical framework is about understanding the user requirements in a detailed way and working through the different options to meet those requirements using a structured decision taking process.

Analysis

Analysis of the current situation

The first step is analysis of the current situation. This analysis looks looks at the problem or opportunity from four different perspectives. First is a detailed analysis of the stakeholders using a stakeholder analysis template, SWOT analysis or Venn diagram showing the interaction between the different stakeholders involved in the project. For complex project this stakeholder analysis is not trivial and need to be taken seriously if the root causes of the problems (or opportunity) are to be properly identified. As with everything the logical framework is working through the process that matters and not the final output.

The next step is to understand the problem or opportunity using the root cause analysis. In this way we can identify the actionable root causes which the project could address and the consequences of the problem they were trying to fix. Again working through this problem analysis improve the understanding of the project and project team and ensures buy in of the stakeholders to the final result. Once you have full understanding the problems to be overcome this problem tree, easily translated into an objective analysis which focuses on the actions that can be taken to improve the situation.

Problem Analysis

Once have a clear understanding of the different objectives this will help us to clarify appropriate strategies for the project we can use some simple but effective tools to prioritise and rank feasibility and effectiveness of these competing strategies. From there we can then identify which are the most appropriate strategies for the project to implement.

Planning

Having defined the purpose the project and selected preferred strategy the next is to ensure that the planned activities have clear linkage back to the overall benefit that we hope to deliver. This is done by using the log frame structure the log frame structure shown below links the overall objective of the project to the activities being undertaken. The overall objective of the project is often a strategic development goal linked often to national or international standards. This is supported by the project purpose which is often more local and defines the tangible or intangible benefits to be delivered by the project. The next level down the results or the outcome of the project seeks to achieve finally the lowest level we have activities that produce deliverables as part of the project plan. The logical framework uses a clear the main clincher to make sure that if the activities are completed results are achieved if the results are achieved the purpose is achieved if the purpose is achieved in the overall outcome. This clear thinking is so often missing from projects and products are produced but no benefits are derived.

Logframe Matrix

Assumptions

Key to the logical framework is the use of assumptions. It clearly identifies the assumptions that we make at each level in the objective structure. What we need to assume to be sure that they activities will produce the results that we require? What are the assumptions necessary to ensure that the results produce a purpose expected. The logical framework clearly identifies how the assumptions each level link the activities to the results of the results to the purpose and the purpose to the overall objective.

assumptions

 

Planning

The next step is production of a project Gantt chart. This defines what activities will be done by whom and for what cost. It can also helps identify the resources and the cost the project in detail. They were back in classical project management world and you find many posts on this website about the use of effective planning.

Evaluation and monitoring

There’s an old saying that what gets measured is what gets done. To each level in logical framework we define performance measures and a mechanism to collate those performance measures. So for example we define how we going to measure the results are being achieved and that the purpose is being delivered. In this way logical framework links the activities back up to the overall objective with a clear understanding what the assumptions we make it each level and the measures that are going to be used to evaluate the project.

Delivery Monitoring and control

As with any project monitoring control is really really important. A logical framework as such doesn’t address monitoring control as it primarily focus on planning. However it is important to recognise their plan is only as good as the people who follow it. And so is important as part of a logical framework training to also address how the plan will be monitored and controlled during execution phase of the project.

Parallel Project Training courses using logical framework

As a highly experienced project management training provider ala budget training has been asked by one of his clients to integrate the logical framework into some of its courses. This is proved highly successful in helping teams understand how to apply the logical framework as part of an overall project management approach. This 2-day project management using logical framework course is now available for corporate clients from Parallel Project Training. Full details this course of our own website.

LFA Course Outline

 

Gordon MacKay

Project Management and the ‘Fundamental Attribution Error’

Written by Gordon MacKay on . Posted in Project Management Articles

Q: What stands between a Project Manager and established project objectives?

A: People.

 

It stands to reason, then: findings in the disciplines of Psychology and Social Psychology are as relevant to Project Management as any endeavour necessitating the management, leadership, and coordination, of objective-focussed teams and individuals.

 

Arguably, one of the most significant findings informing these disciplines and, therefore, project management, highlights the prevalence of a phenomenon known as the ‘Fundamental Attribution Error’, and our susceptibility to it.

 

All too often, it reveals, we wrongly attribute behaviours to individuals: we put it down to their ‘disposition’, as opposed to acknowledging the influence of the ‘situation’ in which the behaviours occur. In this, it seems, we may be very much mistaken and may, in fact, be subject to a ‘fundamental attribution error’.

 

In 1961 Stanley Milgram demonstrated the capacity of ordinary citizens to inflict what they were led to believe were potentially lethal electric shocks on helpless victims; led on by the presumed authority and assurances of being held blameless by, literally, a man in a white lab coat…

 

A short foray on YouTube quickly returns both original footage and more recent emulations of this scenario. These experiments exposed the uncomfortable degree to which ‘situational factors’ trigger behaviours starkly at odds with an individual’s apparent ‘disposition’.

 

In 1971 Philip Zimbardo at Stanford University set up an experiment where volunteers were arbitrarily assigned roles as ‘prisoners’ or ‘warders’. The former were ‘arrested’ and handcuffed at home without warning then ‘incarcerated’, and found themselves, astoundingly, within the span of just one week, being systematically humiliated and terrorised, such that the experiment had to be terminated after just one week. Parallels to what occurred at Abu Ghraib abound.

 

Zimbardo’s subsequent book ‘The Lucifer Effect’ (2007), expands upon the power of a situation to trigger behaviours subjects subsequently struggle to explain. The situation, then, may have a lot to answer for. But if the situation can ‘turn the best to the worst’, the question is begged: can it not also ‘turn the worst to the best’?

 

In fact, we may of course turn this phenomenon on it’s head, and do! When coach, mentor, manager, leader, or indeed project manager, draw out brilliant ‘winning’ behaviours and performance, managing the situation or context for this to occur, is crucial!

 

I began this piece highlighting how, as projects managers, we rely on our teams: they are the interface between us and the ‘coalface’; the agents through which our projects objectives are realised, or lost.

 

In turn, wittingly or not, they depend on us; we fail in our responsibility if we do not conscientiously attend to these contextual factors, but it is a domain over which we can exert control.

 

Like landmarks in this domain, the APM BoK v6 ‘Definitions’, Section 2: ‘People’, spans the division between what is designed, and how it is implemented by people, because it is people that make all the difference between success and failure.

 

For example, simply asking how interpersonal skills, communication, and conflict are managed, exposes fundamentally empowering or disabling ‘situational’ factors for the people involved in a project. As project managers, we effectively empower or disable team members’ ability to perform to their full potential. Transactional leadership is by its nature more directive, and while this may at times be necessary, it carries a cost.

 

As Milgram and Zimbardo showed, when authority demands, and gets, mere obedience, the loss of resilience and agility attending autonomy may be too high a price to pay.

 

These insights encourage us to engineer a project environment or culture, where our people are nurtured to thrive – not as automata, inflexibly carrying out our will, but as engaged, resilient, agile and autonomous individuals: committed, mentored and empowered in their pursuit of project objectives.

 

 

About the Author

Gordon MacKay MAPM, MInstLM, holds MBA, BSc(Hons), and BA(Hons), degrees, and has been involved in both strategic consultancy and, as he now practises; in multi-disciplinary project management. For over twenty years, the author has developed and continues to refine his leadership competencies. He has also developed significant skills as Assessor / Verifier and Mentor for the National Vocational Qualifications Programme for Senior Management.

 
He is the author of “Practical Leadership” a book written as a result of his first-hand experiences and aimed at all who aspire to successful Leadership.

 

Project Management Book

Interesting PM Reads

Written by Michelle Symonds on . Posted in News

3 Steps For Harnessing Failure The Right Way

A new book published this month, Fail Better: Design Smart Mistakes and Succeed Sooner by Anjali Sastry and Kara Penn aims to help you create better project deliverables with more lasting and further-reaching impact. By learning from what worked well, and what did not, on a project you can improve your own practice, the habits of your team, and the capabilities of your organisation.

 

Agile improves but does not replace project management as we know it

 

A LinkedIn discussion on The Project Manager Network by Jim Milliken argues that the acceptance of Agile is endangered by the hype from some of its enthusiasts. Agile cannot, all by itself, do what project management does. It isn’t meant to. It is an excellent execution form when a project calls for creative invention amid great complexity and uncertainty – and the situation is suitable for frequent small-scale deliverables. It fits very usefully into the implementation phase of certain kinds of innovation projects, especially in the information technology field. It significantly improves, but does not replace, the essential core practices of project management.

 

Influence without Authority

Another insightful post “Influence Without Authority” by Lynda Bourne on the PMI’s Voices on Project Management blog.  Following PMI’s purchase of projectmanagement.com (previously gantthead.com), the PMI blog has been moved over to that site.

 

When the Solution to Bad Management is a Bad Solution

An interesting read from Glen Alleman’s Herding Cats blog about how the “solution” to bad project management may not actually fix the problem because it will not have treated the root cause of the problem, just addressed the symptoms.

 

Why Project Management Is Like Surviving The Hunger Games

 

For those hooked on the Suzanne Collins Hunger Games trilogy (and who isn’t) Elizabeth Harrin compares writes on her Girl’s Guide to Project Management blog about why project management is like surviving the Hunger Games; the need for a sponsor, a flexible plan, a creative team, a mentor and the need to be resourceful – sounds familiar.