Parallel Project Training have successfully delivered a number of bespoke virtual courses for corporate clients and have now launched their first open virtual PMP Certification course to be held in November 2014. Registration for the course is now open and will continue until 23 October 2014.
The course will be conducted over a full week (24th – 28th November incl.) with the examination held at the end of the week. Adobe Connect is used to facilitate the virtual classroom sessions as a live event from anywhere in the world with the trainer visible on video to all participants. It also has a whiteboard facility and real-time questioning opportunities either via voice (for which a microphone and headset are required) or via a keyboard with the interactive Chat facility which shows all questions on-screen to all participants.
Our experience shows that the level of interaction between delegates in a virtual classroom situation is very high, which is a huge advantage of these virtual courses over more traditional distance learning. Combined with our printed study material this approach has proved to be highly successful, allowing delegates to work in a way that fits more readily around their on-going work commitments, whilst still gaining the opportunity to interact with project managers from different companies and locations.
We record the virtual classroom sessions so that participants have the opportunity to re-visit particular sessions at any time. They are also able to access presentations and training documents through Adobe Connect.
Distance learning of this type offers professional PMP qualifications in a productive and cost-effective manner. It has all the benefits of distance learning, such as reducing the time away from the office, but it also has the advantages of the interaction found in traditional classroom courses through the virtual element.
The PMP® credential from the Project Management institute is the most widely recognised global project management qualification demonstrating that you have the experience, education and competency to successfully lead and direct projects. It not only evaluates your knowledge of the PMI® Body of Knowledge but also your broader knowledge of project management and your ability to take critical decisions in difficult situations.
The 5-day certification course is designed to give you a full and deep understanding to the PMI® approach to project management and also ensure you are fully prepared to undertake the PMP® exam. The training course employs active learning techniques such as process mapping and buzz groups and uses realistic case studies as well as offering plenty of opportunities to practice the format and style of typical questions which appear in the PMP® exam.
The PMP® credential is designed for experienced project managers who are looking for recognition of their competence to deliver projects. The PMI have specific pre-requisites based on your level of academic qualification and experience in project management. View PMI pre-requisites.
To participate in the virtual classroom you will need a high speed internet connection, a PC with Adobe Flash installed, a USB Headset and webcam. Learn more about this virtual PMP training course.
In the project management world we all like to talk about, and aim for, a successful project. We expend much of our time, effort and energy trying to manage risks, control change and monitor our schedule and budget. We deal with long lists of tasks with complex inter-dependencies trying to make everything perfect. But, perhaps, we should just accept that all projects are imperfect.
As a somewhat leftfield example, take a school production that I attended last night. My son, being in his final year of primary school was involved, with the rest of his class, in a comedy show that this bunch of 11 year olds had put together themselves. As parents we had instructions to just laugh (sometimes hard when it’s 11 year-olds doing the comedy sketches). It was actually a great night and very funny, particularly when a couple of boys dressed up as ballerinas complete with pink tutus.
But on the way home my own son was very glum even though the night had been a great success. The reason? For one sketch he and 3 classmates had forgotten to wear their hats on stage – the hats had been ready in the wings but everyone had forgotten about them. None of the people in the audience knew about the hats so they just enjoyed the funny sketch. We all thought the sketch and the whole show was a “success”. My son thought it was not – simply because of forgetting to put a hat on. If he had accepted that you prepare as best you can and provided the “stakeholders” are happy then treat it as a success he would have enjoyed it more.
And so it is with projects – we specify, we plan, we monitor and control but if some elements of the project are not perfect we need to remind ourselves that very little in life is 100% successful. Project management is not about achieving perfection it is about achieving success and the two are not always the same. If your clients are happy then you should be too because the reality of a project very rarely matches exactly with the plans and schedules.
Projects are run by people, for people; they are often complex and require unique problem solving. We rarely just repeat something we have done before so cannot always learn from experience because many projects are breaking new ground. So instead of dwelling on the imperfections, instead just accept that there will be imperfections, but that does not make a project less than 100% successful. If fact we shouldn’t be surprised when problems occur, the surprise is that some people still expect perfection.
Of course, expecting projects to be imperfect does not mean that we don’t have to manage them carefully because usually some elements of a project can be estimated, predicted and controlled precisely. So plan and manage well but accept that the reality will be different from the plan – be well prepared but also be flexible and believe that the project is successful if the stakeholders are satisfied; don’t beat yourself up about the few tasks that were not completed.
Delegation is a key skill for a project manager but it is often very difficult to execute efficiently.
Here are 5 ways to improve your delegation skills:
You should never make assumptions with project management, ever. Your team members should be well organised and committed to achieving their objectives on time. If you throw a task at a team member last-minute they will more than likely struggle to complete it efficiently, or other tasks they have may suffer as a result.
Ensure you clearly explain their task to them, giving them as much notice as possible so that they have ample time to complete it. They should clearly understand what the task is and when it needs to be completed. Of course there will always be times you have to delegate at short notice, but the more you can keep this to a minimum the better.
Be the boss without being bossy
Your job role as project manager is to delegate and provide guidance, it is not to boss your team around with no regard for their feelings. Project management training courses teach us effective communication skills, and this is one area those skills need to be put into practice. The simple act of ‘asking’ rather than ‘telling’ will benefit your entire team’s morale levels. By approaching people nicely and directly, rather than in an irritated and bossy way, you encourage a positive team atmosphere. You’re also much more likely to receive the work you ask for on time.
Give Reasons and Explanations
Your job as project manager is to help your team see the bigger picture. You are there to keep them focused on the common goal. Your team members will be demotivated if they do not understand why they are completing a task. The best way to approach this is to make the request, explain why the task needs to be done and ask if the person has any questions. Remember this is all part of steering your team towards a success outcome and team members will benefit from understanding why they are being asked to do something.
Let your team know what is expected of them
If you’re not clear on your expectations, you will lose an element of control over your team and your project. If you want to increase the chances of receiving exactly what you asked for, you have to be clear on your expectations from the outset. Leave no room for guessing and ensure your team member feels confident asking you about anything they do not understand about the task.
Provide measurable time
Rather than saying ‘as soon as possible’ give a person an actual date or time. Many people make the mistake of thinking that because they have prioritised a task and said it needs doing ASAP, that the person receiving it will also conceive it to be just as important as they do. Give a measurable time to the person you are delegating a task to, allowing them room to manoeuvre by discussing how that timescale works for them, that way a clear timescale can be agreed between you both, rather than leaving anything to assumptions.
If you’ve considered the possibility of becoming a project manager within your current organisation but have not found any opportunities available, you may now be looking at other avenues that will lead you to your chosen career. But first ask yourself why there are no opportunities with your current employer:
- Is it the wrong type of business (i.e. not project focused)?
- Does the company only want to hire already experienced project managers?
- Are there simply no current openings for a PM?
If there are no openings presently but the business is the right type of business then you could gain some more experience and knowledge about the business while staying in your present job. Or why not ask if any training is available; gaining a recognised project management qualification will give you a better chance when a PM position does become available. This may also be a good approach if the company ideally want an experienced PM – remember that many project managers first move into that role because they already understand the business, know the people and are simply in the right place at the right time.
If the company does not employ project managers (maybe they use external consultancies) then you will need to seek a new job. But be prepared to take on a related or supporting role first (maybe in the PMO) until you gain more business knowledge.
You will need to remember to remain focused, self disciplined and motivated throughout your career development so that you keep exploring all avenues and don’t become demotivated. It can be more difficult getting into project management with a new company if you lack experience, particularly if you’ve been in another job role for a long time.
Here are some tips to help you move into project management:
Look into similar companies to the one you work for
Think about businesses that do the same thing your company does or similar. This means you’ll already know that industry and you will understand how the business works. Do your homework before you apply and search for information on how the business is run and if they have a project focused approach. Applying for a job in a company that doesn’t have opportunities for internal project managers will only leave you in the same position you are with your current employer.
It is often assumed volunteering is only when you give your time up to help charity – this is not always the case. You’ll need to be confident and strong enough to approach companies that can provide you with the skills and experience you need, and, obviously be able to manage without a regular income for a while. Whatever the organisation is, if they have someone who works within that company who performs the job role you want to do, you should apply. Just think about how many different types of organisations use project management on a day to day basis and you’ll realise just how broad your horizons are. Think about applying creatively using social networking, blogging, vlogging, emails, phone calls, anything you can to get noticed. Remember you’re offering your time for free and you will be an asset to any business you volunteer for. You need to explain to them what their gains will be before explaining your own.
Does your CV highlight project management skills within previous job roles that might not have been in the PM field? Consider using a professional service to enable your CV to become more project management orientated and see if companies will give you feedback if you’re struggling to receive a response.
Remember that the skills involved in successful project management: good communication, good organisational skills, self-motivation etc. can be gained in many different roles and will lead you to successful job applications if you remain open to opportunity.
Scholarships for Aspiring Project Managers
The Project Management Institute Educational Foundation™ (PMIEF) offers academic scholarships and professional development scholarships to provide students, teachers, professionals and charities the opportunity to develop their project management capabilities.
The cost of gaining formal project management qualifications can be prohibitive for those who are not funded by their employers so these scholarships should remove that financial obstacle for those who are eligible.
Whilst many are only available in the USA there are at least a dozen scholarships available globally. Find out more about the project management scholarships provided through PMIEF on their website.
10 Killer Interview Questions for Hiring Project Managers
Interviewing for project management jobs is something I have had to do but I don’t find it easy. How do you know what to ask? And how do you use what is normally a really short period of time to let the candidate show themselves in the best possible light?
Added to that is the fact that it’s easy for candidates to come up with answers to many of the standard questions because there are so many books about recruiting and interviewing. They have plenty of time to rehearse their answers, so the whole thing can feel like a box ticking exercise.
I’ve put together my 10 killer interview questions for hiring a project manager. Next time you have to recruit someone for your project team, why not try some of these?
Read the full post on Elizabeth Harrin’s Blog
Project management ‘failure’ behind lack of Apple Maps updates
A number of improvements to Apple’s mapping service that were slated to hit the stage at last week’s Worldwide Developers Conference did not appear after poor planning and “internal politics” caused deadlines to be missed, a new report alleges.
Much of the blame for the absence of long-rumoured features — such as public transportation integration and a new, more reliable data backend — during the WWDC keynote address was heaped at the feet of project managers, according to unnamed sources who spoke with TechCrunch. Combined with a loss of engineering talent, these problems were said to have overloaded the development team.
Ed’s Note: Of course if it had been a success it would have been a joint effort…
Project Management: Strategic Pluses
Most of us know – especially those of us in the project management world – that a solid PM practice that is truly running smoothly in an organization can bring great benefits to the company, the employees and, of course, the project customers. However, not everyone sees it and sometimes executives want to deny that this is the case…choosing to fund different areas of the organization with the limited budget available because they just don’t see the benefit.
In these cases, what the PM practices are left with is struggle to survive, a lack of ability to show a consistent “face” of PM to the organization and the clients they serve on projects, and the reliance on more luck than best practices to bring ongoing success to the projects they manage. Not good. So what we always need to do is tout the pluses of project management and why the funding of a solid PM infrastructure is a good thing…not a frivolous endeavour.
London Olympics 2012 guru Andy Hunt on how to win business goals
If they were handing out medals for project management on an unprecedented international scale, Andy Hunt should have a solid gold one and be allowed to wear it with pride.
Cheltenham resident Mr Hunt was for five years, until February 2013, the CEO of the British Olympic Association, the national Olympic committee for Great Britain and Northern Island, and ran the team that brought us the glittering success that was London 2012.
As unfeasibly enormous as the project was, the detail is rarely mentioned, only the good times and the successes – and in particular Team GB’s medal haul. For Mr Hunt, you imagine this is the litmus test that gives him greatest reassurance he and his vast team did their job pretty damn well.
A project management framework is a consistent approach to the delivery of projects in an organisation. It normally consists of a common project lifecycle, defined roles and responsibilities, key documents and a set of governance rules. The advantage of a framework is that is encourages
- Continuity because that project teams and members have a shared understanding of what is required at each stage.
- Communications because defined stages and documents help people understand what stage to project is at and what needs to be done next.
- Consistency of delivery because projects are guided to follow the principles of project management.
- Improved governance because the framework defines the rules for the initiation and control of projects.
Clarity over the delivery of the project roles, responsibilities and processes.
The challenge with a project management framework is to design in flexibility to accommodate the wide range of projects experienced in many organisations, from the smallest to the most complex.
In our last post we described what is a project management framework. In this post we describe twelve steps to creating and employing a project management framework. So what are the stages to go through when designing a project management framework?
- Create an owner for the framework and empower them
- Understand the current level of maturity and range of projects in the organisation
- Define the levels of governance for different projects
- Design a simple lifecycle with stages and gates
- Define project roles and responsibilities
- Define key gate documents and templates
- Define a simple but effective reporting process
- Walk through the framework with a project or two with key stakeholders
- Check integration with other processes such as business planning, finance and procurement
- Create a brand for the project management framework
- Conduct a road show and listen to the feedback and organise training in the framework and supporting competences
- Monitor and review
Twelve Steps to a project management framework
Step 1 Create an owner for the framework and empower them.
The implementation of a project management framework (PMF) is just like any other project, and should be run just like any other project. It can however be useful to establish a project management office to own the PMF long term, to share lessons learned and support the reporting and governance arrangements.
Step 2 Understand the current level of maturity and range of projects in the organisation
Before starting to design a PMF it is useful to understand the range of projects that will be supported by the framework, from the largest to the smallest, from the most successful to the biggest failures. Any framework should be designed to accommodate all these projects. Assuming the PMF is successful the organisation will want to use it on all projects, so it is best to design this in from the start.
Step 3 Define the levels of governance for different projects
Not every project needs the same levels of governance. Some smaller project can get benefit from simplified documentation or stage gates. Different levels of project will need different levels of authorisation. A key output from a framework is guidance on how to apply the PMF to different types of project. This is normally done on on either level of finical authority or complexity.
Step 4 Design a simple lifecycle with stages and gates
A gate is a point at which the project has to seek authority to proceed to the next state. These are based linked to approval of funding. The stages define what is done between the stages. You can have several stages between each gate, but normally a stage produced a document that is approved at the next gate, such as a business case or a design. It is best to use stages that have meaning and resonance in the organisation.
Step 5 Define project roles and responsibilities
A project needs defined roles and responsibilities. These need simple but clearly defined responsibilities. As a minimum these include, Project Board, Project Executive (or sponsor). Project Manager and User, but for small project this may be too complex. In larger organisations it may be necessary to think about the links to Programme Managers and Portfolio Managers.
Step 6 Define key gate documents and templates
The next step is to define the key documents and templates needed at each stage. People love forms for here. A long hand document can be great but they are more difficult to complete. Some may already exist in the organisation so it can be a matter of culling the existing templates.
Step 7 Walk through the framework with a project or two with key stakeholders
We would recommend completing the templates for a range of projects from the smallest to the largest projects and publishing these as model documents. Doing this as a walk through with stakeholders is a good way of getting key players involved. Once published the completed templates act as effective guidance for those who are using the framework.
Step 8 Define a simple but effective reporting process
Most PMFs have a highlight report. Often this is collated by the PMO into a monthly report to the team executives. Try to keep this simple and think about the frequency of reporting, maybe not every project needs a report every month. Maybe a rolling 3-month programme will do.
Step 9 Check integration with other processes such as business planning, finance and procurement
Often a PMF has integration with other core processes in the organisation such as business planning or procurement. Make sure the PMF aligns with these processes. Are the authorisation levels consistent with procurement? Are the gates aligned with any tendering process? Is the information in the business plan carried over into the project brief and business case?
Step 10 Create a brand for the project management framework
By now you will have a collection of flow charts, PowerPoint slides, templates and excel sheets. It can be very helpful to summarise these as a PMF documents and employ a graphic designer to help present this in an appealing way to your PM community. This should he simple to understand and follow the core messages you which to communicate. You can always provide the detail on an intranet website.
Step 11 Conduct a road show and listen to the feedback and organise training in the framework and supporting competences
You are now ready to go, after all this work then it is worth getting some senior stakeholders to present it to the project managers and sponsors so they understand the benefits and importance to the organisation. This does not need to cover the detail, just the why and what I have to do. Quite often the implementation of a PMF will require new skills and competence in the project management community. This is where training can help people get up to speed with the new skills to support the framework. It can also help people consider the benefits of a project management framework and how it can be applied to their project.
Step 12 Monitor and review
As a project management framework beds into the organisation then the user community will see significant areas for improvement and it is worth listening to these an updating he PMF say one a year.
Parallel Project Training has helped many organisations, large and small, to develop and deploy effective project management framework. Don’t start this project on your own, get in touch and we can point you in the right direction.
Every project manager should have both hands full plus an extra hand ready to catch any issue that comes up unexpectedly during the management of a project. A busy PM can fall into the trap of continually striving to excel with projects, whilst falling behind on new skills that are important for continuous professional development and career advancement. Podcasts are an innovative, useful way for a manager to learn while they are managing without really losing out on precious time that could otherwise contribute towards the success of the project.
Why are podcasts so useful?
Podcasts are useful for the majority of people because they don’t require an internet connection in order for you to take advantage of them. You simply download and enjoy the podcast anywhere, anytime on a mp3 player, phone or other mobile device.
Why are podcasts so useful for project managers?
Because project managers work hard juggling lots of balls, taking on lots of pressure and being available for everything and anything the project may throw at them. A project manager seeks control but also understands his project management framework enough to remain a little flexible in order to allow for any unplanned occurrences. Learning how to learn in a less conventional way is the way a successful manager can keep their skills and knowledge of current PM trends up to date. Taking the time to combine informative podcasts with your lunch break or time at the gym isn’t particularly ground breaking, but it’s important to point out the benefits of this type of learning to those who may feel they have little or no time to take on any more information.
Podcasts also open up a learning partnership opportunity because those leading the podcasts are often in the same profession as those listening and so, an intimate conversation and communication occurs. This means that the project manager has the opportunity to learn from the podcast content but also from the individual delivering it.
Are they free?
Most podcasts are free so you can enjoy as many as you want without any financial input.
Can they contribute to any learning activities?
Some podcasts will help you understand your project management training course better as some learners benefit from audio explanations more than visual or physical. If there is a part of the course you are struggling with, a podcast may be an easy way to understand it.
How do I find the right podcasts?
Speak to colleagues about the podcasts they listen to and combine this with a little research to enable yourself to find a stream of podcasts that you feel could really benefit you. You can find podcasts pretty much anywhere and you can usually stream them without downloading them to see if it’s something you want to invest your time in.
Can podcasts benefit my team?
Podcasts can benefit anyone as long as the correct podcast is sourced for the individual’s own objectives. Parallel Project Training have a range of project management podcasts on topics such as Scheduling, Budgeting, Resource Management, Communication and the informal style in which they are delivered really can make learning fun. They are freely available to listen to from the Parallel Project Training website to see if this style of learning suits you.
The first thing a client says he or she wants is never really what they want
An article by Jerry Bauers caught my eye today in which he states that his long experience in project management (via his consulting engineering business ) has taught him many things, a couple of which stand out:
- The first thing a client says he or she wants is never really what they want
- Manage your clients so that your firm is selected for their next project
The first of these points is all too often true in other project management spheres and yet there is still a tendency to try and minimise change once the project has started. Of course, that is an attempt to control change so that we don’t veer too far from the original objective but what if the original objective is wrong.
Read more about Jerry’s project management philosophy here
An article by the Intuate Group around stakeholder commitment highlights the fact that some stakeholders may not be directly involved in a project but their interests may be affected and divides stakeholders into 3 groups:
- Those within the project i.e. the project team
- Those outside the project, but within the organisation such as the project sponsor, portfolio and programme managers, organisational managers and groups.
- Those outside the organisation such as business partners, customers, regulators.
Handling Under-Performing Project Team Members
A useful discussion on how project managers can confront under-performing individuals in their team on a one-on-one basis to find out the underlying problem. And some examples of how such a situation can be turned around and produce a successful projects. It recognises that reasons for underperformance can be varied: a lack of time management, an excessive number of requirements, work-related distractions, problem in an individual’s personal life, or that someone simply might not have the right skills for the job.
PM Solutions Research produced their first report about Project Management Office (PMO) practices back in 2000. Since then they have been actively gathering data on PMO trends and have recently produced their latest State of the PMO 2014 report, which notes a steady climb in the prevalence and influence of the PMO during that time. In their 2000 report only 47% of companies had a PMO. By 2014 that percentage has grown substantially, to 80% (90% in large firms), with a small dip from 2012, caused mainly by a drop in the percentage of PMOs in small organizations. It’s clear that PMOs at the top of their game not only impact project management performance, but boost organizational performance as a whole.
The report’s main finding are:
- The majority of firms surveyed (80%) have a PMO in place.
- PMOs are a strategic resource. Most report to a VP or higher.
- There is a strong, direct correlation between the age of the PMO and its capability.
- PMOs in high-performing companies have significantly more project managers reporting to them than in low performing companies.
- PMOs are performing portfolio management functions as well as project management functions.
- More than half of PMOs use contracted resources to manage projects.
- PMOs in high-performing companies are far more likely to have a PM training program in place.
- PMO staff are highly experienced (10 years) and almost half (49%) have PMPs.
No More Mandatory Fun!
Project managers, it’s time to stop forcing your team to have fun. That is not to say you need to pull a serious face every time someone cracks a joke, you simply need to reconsider your organisation’s idea of fun.
A key difference between large corporations and small businesses is their idea of ‘fun’. Most of us enjoy a night out paid for by our company and being sociable with your work colleagues is an important foundation for success. You have to trust your colleagues, particularly when you are part of a close knit team working hard to reach targets and achieve challenging goals.
However, mandatory corporate days out are something many of us dread, hoping somehow the outdoor ‘team building’ activities get rained off, or thinking of excuses to avoid embarrassing ‘throw the beanbag’ games and ‘bridge building’ exercises or endure various other activities our bosses thinks will improve our productivity.
These activities do have some benefits and some people enjoy them but they really do not guarantee that you will get the best from everyone. Some people come away feeling invigorated and closer to their colleagues; others feel vulnerable, embarrassed or just bored. A company cricket match won’t appeal to the un-sporty types and, believe it or not, not everyone relishes the idea of racing a car around a track at high speed. Something I have done, along with a golf day and salmon fishing in Scotland – all in the name of motivation. In fact, some activities can have the potential to destroy your team because of the simple fact that they are not suited to all personalities.
We’ve all heard the story of the company that lost their best salesman because he was obliged to take part in some sort of team-building day that he hated.
So if you want to benefit from some form of motivational team building how can you get it right?
- When it comes to motivation, keep an open mind and remember that everyone needs encouraging differently, although do be prepared to push people a little outside their comfort zone.
- Talk to team members individually and try to establish just what they enjoy, perhaps something they have always wanted to try and never have; then you will start to get an idea of what motivates them.
- Allow your team to vote on their own ‘reward’ by letting them know their budget and deciding how they want to use it themselves. That way you’ll know they are happy with the activity. Make sure the options do not include anything that any team members are particularly averse to, for instance, gliding is great fun but not if you have a fear of heights.
- Encourage your team to mingle and bond without feeling forced to take part in an activity. Perhaps allow team members to choose a charity with which you can all help out for an afternoon and contribute to a good cause.
- Don’t try and draw an introvert out – allow them to be who they want to be, remind yourself of the skills they do have and how much value they add to your team.
- Ensure that work is up to date so that team members are not worried about missed deadlines or incomplete work while taking part in whatever activity they, or you, have chosen. It is difficult to enjoy a day away from the office if faced with double the workload the next day.
Remember a business benefits from all types of people and, therefore, different types of motivation are required. You cannot force people to bond and have fun, any more than you can force people to be motivated.