Why The PM Method Used is Less Important than Individual Competencies

Written by Michelle Symonds on . Posted in Project Management Articles

We all know that the business landscape is changing rapidly – it seems that no sooner have we got to grips with a new technology or product than it is being replaced with a newer, better version. So organisations have to be able to respond quickly to changing circumstances, expectations and needs.

And yet some projects continue to move so slowly that what they intend to deliver is out of date long before the due date. Projects can, and must, change as they proceed but perhaps the real issue is whether they embrace change and react to it positively. The attitude to change has as much to do with the nature of individuals as it has to do with the project management method(s) being employed.

Cost Drivers in Project Management

Some would argue that this is where agile project management comes in; agile proponents will also talk about the collaborative relationships developed in an agile environment but collaborative working is not the preserve of one method or another. No single project management method will ever be the panacea for all ills because all projects are different, corporations are different and people are different. Agile projects are no more likely to succeed than traditional projects if other influences are at play.

More important than debating the benefits of “traditional” or “agile” approaches, is to focus on the people involved.

A good project manager can lead a successful project regardless of the method used, especially when backed up by a good team, but what does this really mean? A “good” project manager or team? Of course they would be expected to have certain skills or experience – they may need quite specific technical skills for an IT or engineering project, for instance, but what else?

What will make a difference to the success of a project is people who can see, and do, what is required in any particular circumstance. This is not an easy attribute to learn if it is not an innate part of your personality. But behaviours can be changed and new skills can be learnt.

It is for good reason that traditional methods of managing projects have evolved so it is important to value their benefits while accepting that the sheer pace of business in the 21st century requires a more flexible approach to project delivery, but also one that focusses on competencies – the skills, behaviours, attitudes and knowledge – of the people involved.

When we talk about a project manager’s toolbox we should be thinking not just of methods and software but also personal skills, soft and otherwise. Perhaps we should expend less energy arguing our corner over methodologies and instead look at how we, as individuals, work and deal with typical project situations – not just our soft skills but our reaction to setbacks, conflict, criticism, etc. But maybe that’s easier said than done…

Tips for New Project Managers

Written by Michelle Symonds on . Posted in Project Management Articles

Are you fresh from a project management course? Are you feeling overwhelmed or excited about the huge range of skills you need to be good at your job? From anticipating problems, to excellent communication to controlling a budget and schedule and dealing with conflict.


If you’ve just begun your career as a project manager, you’re about to enjoy a varied, challenging and rewarding career. Here are some great tips to help you get started.


Don’t just hear, listen


You won’t learn anything by letting information go in one ear and out the other. Now is the time to take everything in. Consider all your different team members (their skillsets, personalities, weaknesses), research project clients and identify the key senior members of management you’ll have to present to. Listen and consider everything around you, then actively engage with team members and colleagues without reservation. The more you communicate effectively with those around you, the more successful you will be in your career.


Be proactive and anticipate problems


Don’t jump straight into a project without considering all the risks effectively. Project management training courses teach risk management skills and strategies, and now’s the time to utilise those skills. How many problems can you anticipate before the project starts? You will of course come across bumps in the road, but you must experience those bumps in order to learn.


Project Management Education

Be a real team player


As a project manager you have to work for your team’s best interests and recognise, understand and utilise their individual strengths and skills. You must communicate with your team, especially if you need help. This doesn’t mean complaining to your team that you don’t know what to do, but it does mean calling a brainstorming session to allow your team to pull together and suggest solutions.


Know which methodology you’re using and be flexible


One of the biggest downfalls of more experienced project managers is the fact that they can take a liking to a particular project management methodology, and then apply that to every project even when it doesn’t suit all the projects they work on. Be flexible with the tools and methodology you use, recognising and familiarising how they work and if they will actually work for the current project you’re overseeing. If the methodology or tool doesn’t suit the project, be flexible and change your approach.


Understand your clients and customers


Who is the project being completed for? What does your organisation stand for? Who are the customers of your organisation? One of the best things you can do is really dig deep to find out about your clients and customers. In particular, understanding the values of your organisation will serve you well when you’re motivating your team, as you can always create a common goal based on a much broader ideal.

Professional Project Manager


Body language counts


Emotional intelligence matters – it’s something that comes naturally to some people but has to be learnt by others. If you think it is something you are good at, develop that skill now. Having a great understanding of human behaviour will serve you well in this industry.


Consider finding a mentor


If there is a mentorship programme at your place of work, get on board. It’s an amazing way to gain support and to learn from someone who has already been there and bought the T-shirt.


Savour the fact you’re new to the job


One day you’ll be a well-respected project manager who is expected to get it right most of the time. Right now, you’re in a very forgiving environment where colleagues will understand that you’re new to the job. Of course you’re still responsible for your project, but you’re not expected to have full authority so embrace that fact.


Get used to things changing


Project management courses teach you to be OK with change. You must be flexible and adaptable no matter what the scenario is. Environments, colleagues and projects will change all the time, as long as you embrace that and become OK with improvising you’ll be ready for each and every day.



Treat others how you would like to be treated


Don’t think you need to charge in and lay down the law, asserting your authority to prove yourself. Be kind, be communicative and get to know the people you work with. A likeable project manager will always gain respect from colleagues quicker than someone who has no time to listen or care for how others feel.


Gain qualifications and certificates


In the past a project manager would have one or two qualifications under their belt and that would be perfectly acceptable. It is still acceptable but you will see more and more PM’s new to the industry coming to the table with several certificates and qualifications. Not all employers care about these qualifications, but many do and taking a few different project management courses to beef up your credentials won’t do you any harm.

Some Good Project Management News

Written by Michelle Symonds on . Posted in News

We often hear about major project disasters – projects that have over-run on budget or schedule, or both, with some, such as the Montreal Olympic Stadium, over budget by a staggering 1990% and the Sydney Opera House completed more than 9 years past it’s deadline.

Of course some of these project “disasters” turn out to be national or international achievements in the long term so it is not always easy to judge the success of a project immediately after it has been completed. The Hubble Space Telescope was 500% over-budget and nearly 9 years overdue but is still in use 14 years after it was first launched into orbit and it’s observations have led to many scientific breakthroughs.

Nevertheless, it is nice to hear some good news on the project management front when a project is still underway, especially when it is closer to home. Such is the case with the new Forth Crossing in Scotland, especially when Scotland has had its share of major project disasters, such as the Scottish Parliament Building (935% over budget) and the Edinburgh tram project management disaster, which was 167% over budget and doesn’t even serve many parts of the city.

Back in 2013, members of the Scottish Parliament passed a bill to establish a new operating company to manage the construction of the new crossing over the Firth of Forth (as well as managing the existing Forth Bridge), which began in June 2011. The old Forth Estuary Transport Authority (FETA) was dissolved and staff were transferred to the new company whilst functions and assets were transferred to the Scottish Parliament in order to enable the tender process to go ahead.

This turns out to have been a forward thinking step that led to a robust tendering process and improvement in services that has resulted in the Forth Bridge replacement crossing project expected to be £50 million under budget (yes under budget, as I said it was good news). The reduced budget is attributed to successful project management and good market conditions.

Following a public consultation to find a name for the new crossing it is now known as the Queensferry Crossing and is expected to be completed by the end of 2016.

So it’s not all bad news in the project management world, maybe we just tend to report the disasters and not focus on the successes as much as we should.

replication of project success

PM News Round-Up September 2014

Written by Michelle Symonds on . Posted in News

Project Risk Management – 10 Golden Rules

  1. Make risk management part of your project
  2. Identify risks early in your project
  3. Communicate about risks
  4. Consider both threats and opportunities
  5. Clarify ownership issues
  6. Prioritise risks
  7. Analyse risks
  8. Plan and implement risk responses
  9. Register project risks
  10. Track Risks and Associated Tasks


Thanks to the International Business Times for these rules but why not take a look at the blog post Viewing Risk from a Different Perspective for more about the opportunities presented by positive risks.


Project Management Webinar – Transforming Resistance Into Support

This advanced project management webinar, to be held on 24 September 2014 from 8.00am (Pacific Time,) is aimed at anyone seeking change within their company. Whether existing issues are poor communication, lack of employee concerns or even employee resistance, the goal is to expose the audience to more efficient methodologies, tools and/or techniques that are going to build leadership skills and define project management competency.

The webinar will cover advanced concepts and objectives such as:

  • Ways to avoid costly communication mistakes that alienate employees
  • Utilise best communication practices to prevent resistance and gain employee support
  • Deflect uncertainty and anxiety surrounding organisational change



The Top Project Managers – The Skills PM’s Need to Succeed


Some of the top project managers to follow on Twitter share their views on the skills that make project managers successful. Hear the thoughts of Cheri Essner, Michael Alan Kaplan, Steven Baker, Susanne Madsen, Thomas Cagley and Jerry Ihejirika, and if you are not already doing so, follow them on Twitter.


Why is project management so fragmented in companies?

It is always interesting to read what Ron Rosenhead has to say and this post is no exception. He relates how project management in some organisations is still fragmented and un-coordinated despite extensive training. But asks questions to try and determine whether there is anything unique about project management in an organisation or whether, in fact, some businesses are just fragmented and that is just as true for, say , accounting as for project management.

Why not join in the discussion.


Are your project managers working too hard to be effective?

According to Peter Taylor, it is the project manager who makes wise decisions about where and how they spend their time that are the ones who will be most successful in the long run. To achieve project success in the most efficient way you must think smarter and not harder and develop a ‘productively lazy’ approach in order to achieve both successful projects but also a better work/life balance. The smart ‘lazy’ person is less stressed, more alert and delivers more as a result.

project management essentials

Viewing Risk from a Different Perspective

Written by Michelle Symonds on . Posted in Project Management Articles

Risk management as part of the project management process focusses on identifying, mitigating and controlling risks that might negatively affect the outcome of the project. We inherently assume that risk is bad and if a risk occurs then the effect must be negative.

But if we look at occupations or activities that are inherently risky such as financial trading or climbing a mountain or brain surgery, people involved in those activities understand the risks (or at least we hope they do) but are prepared to take them because the upside far outweighs the risks. The profits, for instance, of a successful financial deal, removing a malignant brain tumour to enable a patient to live a normal life, or the sheer thrill of climbing a challenging peak. In these situations risk is not a negative connotation – it is, in fact, the very thing that makes the activity worth undertaking.

So why, in project management, do we attempt to avoid all risk and view the occurrence of a risk as something to obviate when, in fact, risks could open up opportunities that could make the project more successful. Complexity in projects can never be without some risk so why not broaden our view of risk and discuss what we might gain from it and what we can learn from it instead of trying to control it?

People who are willing to take risks are the entrepreneurs, the creators and inventors; and whilst some projects may necessarily have to play safe there are others that could benefit from some calculated risk-taking. For instance, risk-taking can lead to technological innovation and progress that benefit whole societies; where would we be now without the experimentation that led to the development of modern medicines, or even just the innovations that helped develop our smartphones. Progress in any field can rarely be achieved without taking a risk.

Many IT projects are pushing the boundaries of current technology so are, on the one hand, innovating and yet we expect to manage and control the risks in a way that can stifle innovative thinking.

By embracing (and taking) risks on projects there are two potential outcomes, both of which have benefits:

  1. You achieve something better than the client and stakeholders were expecting either in terms of what you deliver or the timescale in which you deliver it so this is a win situation.
  2. You gain truly useful knowledge from the experience that you can take to the next project, knowledge far more useful than the usual points to come out of a staid “lessons learned” process at the end of a safe project. The best lessons are the ones learned the hard way—by trying and failing.

Obviously, not all projects are suitable for taking a risk in the hope of achieving greater things or learning something genuinely useful, for instance avoiding risk is necessary if you are developing safety equipment, weapons or medicines. But some projects are suitable and you could be missing out on these benefits by assuming risk is always negative.

So instead of assuming all risks are bad take a different view: risks themselves are neither good nor bad but rather it is our personal appetite (or our company’s appetite) for risk that determines how we behave when faced with a risk. It is, perhaps, our behaviour when faced with risk that can be either negative or positive. But when evaluating risks don’t just look at the downside of the potential risk occurring also look at the downside of not taking the risk – not taking a risk could perversely be the negative influence in some situations. For example a deliberate decision to not proceed with a project exactly because it is a risky venture could deprive your organisation of being instrumental in important progress – a missed opportunity.

PMI Approved project management courses

PM News Roundup

Written by Michelle Symonds on . Posted in News

Government ministers need project management training

A critical Public Accounts Committee report published earlier this week on the work of the Major Projects Authority (MPA) says there are still deficiencies in the UK government’s ability to successful deliver major projects. The report notes that 2 MPs have attended half-day or full-day project management training courses but suggests this training should be extended more widely to the highest decision-making levels of the government.

The report also says that there needs to be better planning at the outset of projects and greater transparency in decision making.

Read more on the MPA Report.


New Project Fundamentals Event from APM

Earlier this week the APM launched a new one day interactive professional development event called APM Presents… Project Management in Practice covering delivery of real professional projects and aimed at mid-career PMs. It will offer insights into the challenges, techniques and keys to success of projects in the real world.

Practical advice will also be available on improving your employability as a project manager, including creating a CV and networking.

Sessions will be delivered by the 14 APM Specific Interest Groups:

  • Assurance
  • Benefits Management
  • Contracts and Procurement
  • Enabling Change
  • Governance
  • Knowledge
  • People
  • Planning, Monitoring and Control
  • PMO
  • Portfolio management
  • Programme Management
  • Risk Management
  • Value Management
  • Women in project management

Should Every Employee be a Project Manager?

According to the PwC 15th Annual Global CEO Survey, businesses need to be able to quickly create new products or services, that customers will buy, in order to survive. They can, therefore, no longer tolerate inefficient processes and need all employees, not just project managers, to behave like PMs.

The survey suggests that the traditional model of project management separate from the business environment could be limiting an organisation’s flexibility and ability to respond quickly to external market forces.


Why Agile Project Managers Need to Relinquish Control

An interesting discussion by Dan Wood about why project managers in an agile environment need to become more spectators than players when it comes to assigning, planning and scheduling individual tasks and why they shouldn’t be actively involved at the task level. Agile project managers should not directly control the project team and their assigned tasks but, instead, provide more of a supportive role. Dan suggests they should do this through a variety of ways, including monitoring and reporting on project health to stakeholders and resist the urge to assign and control at a low level.


Project Management Confidence Index

According to a recent report from Arras People only 28% of project managers are happy in their jobs with 67% of project managers actively looking for a new job. Low wage rises have contributed to this dissatisfaction as at least three-quarters of projects managers have not had a pay rise above the rate of inflation in 2014.

Conversely, a majority of organisations are actively recruiting project managers this year due to increased business demand although nearly a third of companies are recruiting project managers because employees have left.

So companies need project managers and project managers want new jobs but significant numbers of project managers looking for a new position report are finding a lack of openings relevant to their skills and experience but salaries on offer are also failing to meet their expectations.

The survey also reports that 40 per cent of practitioners who started a new job in 2014 have seen wage increases of over 8 per cent on their last salary.

Project Completion Estimates

You Too Could be a Project Manager

Written by Michelle Symonds on . Posted in Project Management Articles

One of my relations is taking early retirement after 35 years working for the same organisation. He has simply lost all enthusiasm for his job and missed the opportunities presented to him 10, 20, 30 years ago which could have changed the course of his career. You might think he had a boring dead-end job, but, in fact, he is a well-educated, professionally qualified man in an interesting career. Or at least one that seems that way from the outside. Unfortunately it wasn’t the lifelong career for him but he stuck with it because that was what he had qualified for (he is a chartered surveyor).

I know other people who, having lost their passion for their career, had the courage to re-train or just get out of the rat race. A physicist friend who re-trained as a vet when she realised she loved animals more than anything else and a lawyer who became an architect. I’ve heard numerous other stories of professionals who have given up a seemingly rewarding career to start over again doing something completely different.

I remember when, at the age of 28, I myself was told by a recruitment consultant that I was too old to change careers! Thankfully I didn’t listen to him.

But not everyone changes to something drastically different; sometimes opportunities present themselves that seem like a natural progression and project management is one of those roles that people tend to move into after some years in a business-oriented or technical role.

Of course, there are now degree courses in project management (especially prevalent in the States) but a large part of what makes a project manager successful at their career is the experience they bring with them from previous roles so I am not convinced that a PM degree fully equips a young graduate to take on a challenging project manager role (or even one that isn’t very challenging).

If you are a mid-career professional wondering where you go next remember that increasing numbers of people are now changing direction part way through their career; it may not be easy but it is perfectly possible. If the career you are in is not right for you it is better to take the leap now than wait until you are a few years off retirement; although even then it is not too late.

So if you feel stuck in the wrong job – if you are no longer enjoying it or finding it fulfilling and struggle to motivate yourself to get up in the morning to go to work, take a look at what project management opportunities there are in your current organisation. Project managers are needed in every organisation as business environments are increasingly project-based and your current skills could well equip you with the experience you need to get started in a PM role. You may already find that you know some project management fundamentals such as organising, planning, estimating and prioritising tasks.

Start by taking an introductory course and you could be well on your way to a fulfilling, new career – a project management qualification could help you get a better job. Project management is now a recognised profession and the Association for Project Management (APM) could soon have a Royal Charter* like more traditional professions such as Law and Accountancy.


*A Royal Charter for APM was recommended in early 2013 and unanimously agreed in July 2013 but that decision was subsequently challenged by the Project Management Institute (PMI) who sought a Judicial Review, which was held on 8 and 9 July 2014 at the High Court in London. The Judge dismissed the claim on all grounds and refused PMI’s request to appeal. However, PMI has now sought leave to appeal from the Court of Appeal and a decision on whether PMI has permission to proceed with its challenge is expected later this year.

Microsoft Project Training

Practical Microsoft Project Training from Parallel Project Training

Written by Paul Naybour on . Posted in Default

Parallel Project Training and Acuity Training are pleased to announce that they are joining forces to offer high quality Microsoft Project Training to the clients of Parallel Project Training.

What is Microsoft Project?

Microsoft project is one of the most widely used project scheduling tools. It significantly improves the management of project schedules, resources and costs and streamlines the production of project reports. It enables project managers and planners to produce high quality project schedules, reduce and cost plans.  Many project managers start by drawing a project schedule in PowerPoint or Excel, but they soon find that it is difficult to maintain and track progress without a properly constructed project schedule. Microsoft Project enables project managers to take their planning to the next level.

Why do Project Managers Need Training in Microsoft Project?

Microsoft Project is an extremely powerful and flexible project management package, with many options and features. These features make it capable of supporting a wide range of projects from the smallest to the most complex.   Initially this can seem daunting for the new user, with too many choices.  At the best this results in wasted time during project mobilisation, at the worst it leads to an unworkable or unachievable project plan. The latter could result is significant issues for the project team as the project progresses. Effective training can reduce this time wasted and improve the quality of the project schedule.

What is covered in the courses?

Working with Acuity, Parallel can offer a wide range of Microsoft Project Training includingMicrosoft Project Training


This Microsoft Project training course will teach you the essential skills of using Microsoft Project to plan and manage project schedules. This included developing the detail project tasks, identifying the critical path, planning project resources and costs. The course also covers network analysis, tracking progress against a baseline and reporting.

This practical course is bed by highly experienced Microsoft Project trainers with many years of experience our hands-on courses mean that you will leave with lots of MS Project experience as well as useful tips and tricks.


This Microsoft Project training course will teach you how to make the most of planning and managing projects using Microsoft Project, building on your existing skills and teaching you to make the most of this powerful project management software. Part of the second day of this course is a workshop session which allows delegates to work on their own projects.

Led by highly experienced Microsoft Project trainers with many years of experience our hands-on courses mean that you will leave with lots of practical Project experience as well as useful tips and tricks.

The introductory /intermediate course is available as part of an open training programme with dates available on the Parallel Website.

Microsoft Project Training Course Dates

The advanced course is available to corporate clients on request.

Working with Acuity Parallel can also offer enterprise courses including


These courses are available for corporate clients implementing enterprise systems.

 About Parallel Project Training

Parallel Project Training is a specialist project management training companies working with a diverse range of clients to improve project management capability. They range from the very large such as The National Trust and Network Rail, to very small organisations and charities. We focus on establishing effective processes and behaviours to deliver successful projects and are accredited by the Association for Project Management and the Project Management Institute.

About Acuity Training

Acuity Training is a specialist IT training business offering hands on training across the Microsoft suite of products, the Adobe Creative Cloud and other business applications. Focused on delivering high-quality, practical training to help people in their day-to-day jobs, its Microsoft Project training clients have included BP, Lockheed Martin and GE.

Virtual PMP Course

Virtual PMP Certification Course Launched

Written by Michelle Symonds on . Posted in News

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.