In agile, technically anyone can write user stories. Sounds easy, right?
However, many people really do not have a good understanding of how to write high-quality stories or effectively manage the product backlog. In this interview you will learn about the full life cycle of agile requirements, including how to use visual models at each step of the iterative process.
This interview with Betsy Stockdale (LinkedIn Profile) was recorded at the inspiring Project Management Institute (PMI)® Global Conference 2017 in Chicago, Illinois.
We explain the life cycle of agile requirements and how to use visual models to identify epics and user stories, and how to write testable acceptance criteria using a variety of techniques. Those currently working on their PMI-ACP training will find this interview valuable for their general understanding of Agile approaches.
Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.
Above are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only. Please subscribe to our Premium Podcast to receive a PDF transcript.
Work is changing from industrial, routine work to knowledge-oriented work that requires more of an ongoing collaborative endeavor to manage change, complexity, and uncertainty. Learn how project management has evolved to reflect these changes with the publication of the new “Agile Practice Guide,” developed in collaboration with the Agile Alliance.
We not only discuss the implications that The Agile Practice guide has on the PMI-ACP exam and your PMI-ACP exam prep, we also examine the core chapters of the new guide and discuss application and adaptation implications. We explore many elements of the guide and learn more about its content and use in a variety of domains.
Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.
Cornelius Fichtner: In this episode of The Project Management Podcast™, we talk about the Agile Practice Guide that was released earlier this year.
Hello and welcome to The Project Management Podcast™ at www.pm-podcast.com. I am Cornelius Fichtner.
We are coming to you live from the splendid 2017 PMI Global Conference in Chicago.
Cornelius Fichtner: And sitting with me here at the PMI Bookstore are Jesse Fewell and Mike Griffiths. Hello Mike!
Mike Griffiths: Hi, hi everyone!
Cornelius Fichtner: And Jesse!
Jesse Fewell: Hey, good to be here!
Cornelius Fichtner: And listeners of the Podcast, you already noticed this sounds a bit different than normal interviews do. Yes, we are using the handheld mic today because there are three of us. And since I started out with mic, let’s continue with Mike.
Mike, question for you. The people, listeners, they have been introduced to PMI before. However, the Agile Alliance was part of the development of The Agile Practice Guide. Who is the Agile Alliance?
Mike Griffiths: Sure! So the Agile Alliance is a not-for-profit group that exists to promote and educate people about Agile methods. So Agile is a broad umbrella of methods. People are very familiar with Scrum but it includes other approaches such as XP and Feature-Driven Development and another type there.
The Agile Alliance is like I say is not-for-profit group that creates their own conferences and promotes Agile and Agile practices in organizations. So there are resource center. You can go there to learn more about Agile and techniques.
Cornelius Fichtner: What was the vision for developing the Agile Practice Guide?
Mike Griffiths: So it was really to provide guidance for project practitioners that are frequently in the space of having Agile teams or being asked to spin up Agile teams quite often in less than Agile environments. So we described the hybrid environment being where we have some Agile elements in play but parts of the organization are still traditionally predictive or plan-driver.\
And so the Agile Practice Guide was really the basic steps for project practitioners who are in that space, who would like to become more Agile and perhaps not sure how to do that or what steps to follow. And we wanted to provide a methodology agnostic independent way of providing that guidance.
Cornelius Fichtner: And Jesse, even though it’s methodology agnostic, what methodology or framework did you actually follow as you prepared and developed the guide? What is more a plan-driven or was it more an Agile approach?
Jesse Fewell: Well Mike would say was a hybrid approach. We had a very firm fixed deadline for the perspective publication. I mean this is a publication project and so there is a fixed deadline that had to synchronize with the publication of PMBOK® Guide Sixth Edition. Because we needed to align with that from a content perspective and from a product delivery perspective. But within those firm fixed kind of constraints before which a lot of things happen and after which a lot of things happened, we were very organic and very fluid and very iterative in the creation of the draft, the manuscript itself.
So we started first maybe with weekly iterations and that kind of evolved later down the road to more ad hoc iterations once we were getting crunched, crunch time. So we didn’t actually follow any formal methodology per se as much as we were trying to be as flexible and adaptive and iterative within fixed schedule.
Cornelius Fichtner: Who is the intended audience of the guide?
Jesse Fewell: It’s really for project managers who are starting on their Agile journey. There’s just so much this conversation that one of the explicit things that Mike is mentioning is we had to choose an audience. We had to choose a firm what is in-scope and what is out of scope definition.
And so, we really wanted to center it towards project managers who are kind of beginning in their guide. So for those of you who are listening that are little bit more experienced with Agile method, you will find the guide to be filled with very familiar content. So that’s what we targeted.
Cornelius Fichtner: Let’s talk about your roles on the guide as you were developing it. Mike, what was your role?
Mike Griffiths: So I was representing the PMI. I was the Chairperson for the Core Writing Team. As Jesse said it was very organic so I don’t really think my role was very different from everybody else in that I was part of the team that did the pair writing and the pair reviewing of chapters. I had a little bit more coordination I guess to do so I help with the kickoff like prepared some slides or ironed what we hope to achieve, what some of our inputs and some of our constraints are likely to be. It was really down to me when we were missing deadlines or up against a gun in terms of having to deliver.
Our sponsors of PMI and Agile Alliance would approach me and say: “Hey Mike, where are you at? When do you guys are going to be done? We need to see a new draft.” Or whatever. So my role was fairly light from the coordination perspective because I basically just pushed everything to the team and said: “Hey, here’s where we are at. They are looking for a new draft. What can we cut by the date?”
Cornelius Fichtner: And Jesse, where were you involved?
Jesse Fewell: I was one of the other I think there were a total of 7 core team members and my experience was very similar to Mike’s. Mike’s had a lot of that public facing responsibilities. Some of the more administrative things but all of us work in pairs and each pair was responsible for a chapter and then after we finish the chapter, we would rotate where there would be another pair that would review it and then offer feedback and then we would synthesize those different parts of it.
We also had a couple of face-to-face meetings in person and that’s where everybody had a responsibility to contribute as a group. And then it was fortunate that at our last face-to-face, we had the full team together where we could actually finalize everyone’s opinion. So each person had to write a certain chapter but it was done as a pair. And so each pair will self-organize. Well who would get one part and who would get another part and then another pair would review it afterwards. So that’s what kind of like a day in the life of Agile Practice Guide team member would look like.
Cornelius Fichtner: How long did it take from start to finish in the project when you first got on board to okay it is now September 6 and it’s out?
Mike Griffiths: So we started I think in August of 2016 with our kickoff meeting. We basically only had from then until the end of the year to do our writing. So we had from August through December to get the first draft written and then it went out for pair review. So we had 30 Agile practitioners and 30 PMI sort of more traditional project managers review it and provide feedback.
We expected to get about 1000 comments on it. That’s typical for guide of this length. We get over 3000 comments back so we really scramble to try and sort our way through all of those comments. So the writing period was compressed into a few months. We then had this period of review because that takes awhile and then figuring out what to do with the comments. Because this is a PMI standard, each comment has to be reviewed by at least two people and then we got to either accept it, defer it, or reject it or accept with modification. So we had this to do for over 3000 of these items that came back.
So a good chunk of our time in the new year before it went for final publication which I think was around April or May time was working our way through those comments. How many of these things can we incorporate? How many of these things should we defer until iteration two and how many of these are just plain perhaps wrong and we should politely say: “Thank you for your comment but we won’t be undertaking this at this time.”
Cornelius Fichtner: Personal interest last year at the conference in San Diego I believe we were, you had a workshop where people could come in and also provide input. How was that input used in order to develop the guide?
Above are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only. Please subscribe to our Premium Podcast to receive a PDF transcript.
Download Project Management Professional (PMP)® training to your pocket:
You've been there, right? You've managed a project where nobody on the team reported to you. But what can a project manager do to succeed other than beg borrow or steal in this situation?
This interview with Jeff Kissinger (LinkedIn Profile) was recorded at the superb Project Management Institute (PMI)® Global Conference 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. It is based on his presentation "Leading Without Authority: The Project Manager's Dilemma" and looks at what project managers can do to successfully deliver their projects even in situations where they have little or no authority at all over the people on their project. Here is what Jeff wrote about his presentation:
Leading project teams without direct authority is a dilemma that many project leaders face. Doing this well is an art. And, like art, it’s often practiced using a mixture of skills, techniques, and tools. Attendees will learn how to identify and resolve authority issues quickly that adversely affect their projects and learn how to lead their project teams successfully without direct authority.
You can find the Unified Vision Framework discussed in the interview by visiting http://www.pmobrothers.com/.
Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.
Above are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only. Please subscribe to our Premium Podcast to receive a PDF transcript.
The Agile Practice Guide was released together with A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Sixth Edition in September 2017. As a result the Project Management Institute (PMI)® wil implement a "lexicon update" to the PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® exam om 26 March 2018. This is to ensure that exam lexicon is consistent with the new guide.
This interview with Alicia Burke (LinkedIn Profile) was not recorded at the grand PMI Global Conference 2017 in Chicago, Illinois because we had scheduling conflicts. So we recorded it via Skype after the Conference. We discuss the how, what, why and when of the changes that are coming to the PMI-ACP exam.
Although the PMI-ACP is not a test of the Agile Practice Guide, it will become one of the references for the exam. This means that students preparing to take the exam after the change can expect to see lexicon changes and terminology used within the exam to be consistent with the guide. Students planning to take the exam after the change are advised to use PMI-ACP exam prep materials that are updated to the new guide.
Female Voice: In this episode of the Project Management Podcast, you will learn when, how and why the PMI-ACP® Exam is changing in 2018.
Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome to The Project Management Podcast™ at www.pm-podcast.com. I am Cornelius Fichtner. And I wish that I could say that we are coming to you live from the Grand 2017 PMI Global Conference in Chicago but schedules change and we could not do it there so Alicia and I are doing this interview over Skype.
Cornelius Fichtner: So with me on the line right now is Alicia Burke from PMI! Hello and welcome!
Alicia Burke: Hello! Thank you so much for having me.
Cornelius Fichtner: Yes, we are very glad to have you. We want to talk about the changing PMI-ACP® Exam but let’s first of all turn to you. What is your role within PMI?
Alicia Burke: Okay! Well I’m a Global Product Manager for our certification team. I work of with three of our certifications so I work with PMI-ACP of course. Also with the Program Management Professional (PgMP)® for Program Managers and PMI Professional in Business Analysis (PMI-PBA)® which is for business analysis.
I’m really overseeing the strategy of those products making sure that we continue to meet the needs of the practitioners, making sure that we are evolving overtime as the profession evolves and I work closely with our exam development team on the actual, you could say manufacturing of the products as we create the examination.
Cornelius Fichtner: So the actual question development and the way it will look in the exam room to the people taking the exam?
Alicia Burke: Yeah, a little bit of all of that. So it’s a really interesting opportunity. I love having so many different aspects of the process and the products that I get to work with.
Cornelius Fichtner: Alright! Well then, let’s jump into the PMI-ACP® Exam. On what date is the PMI-ACP® Exam changing?
Alicia Burke: It will be the 26th of March, 2018.
Cornelius Fichtner: Okay.
Alicia Burke: So coming up with the end of the first quarter next year.
Cornelius Fichtner: Yeah and before we go any further, I think it’s good to take a step back to understand PMI processes and publications and how they affect the changing PMI-ACP® Exam. First of all, we have to talk about the PMI-ACP Role Delineation Study.
Alicia Burke: Yeah, this is something that all of our certification products go through every few years. So for PMI-ACP, we did a Role Delineation Study when the certification leading up into 2011 and we also did another study 2014 and to 2015 where we worked with a task force of Agile experts from different industries and different countries.
We talked about how has the role of the Agile team evolved. What should be expected to know when they are taking the PMI-ACP® Exam and based on that study and bringing in a lot of independent people to review it and make sure that we are in agreement, we then create a document called the Exam Content Outline and that’s free to the public. It’s on our website www.pmi.org so you can see the content that’s going to be tested on each exam and for PMI-ACP, the one out there is dated December 2014. That one is going to continue to be used in March and next year. So we are not changing the actual content and the concepts that are being tested. Just some terminology and I’m sure we’ll talk a little bit more about that with your next few questions.
Cornelius Fichtner: Yes, exactly! Well let’s jump right into that. Since you mentioned it, but just one quick note that I think is important: The PMI-ACP Role Delineation Study that’s an internal document. So people don’t have to go looking for that. That’s PMI internal only. Whereas the Exam Content Outline, that’s external and in fact if you are taking the PMI-ACP® Exam, it is from my perspective mandatory reading.
Alicia Burke: Yes!
Cornelius Fichtner: Taking the PMI-ACP® Exam without reading this document is like, I don’t know, trying to play pool without understanding the rules of playing pool.
Alicia Burke: Yes exactly!
Cornelius Fichtner: Or going into yeah, or entering in American football field with a cricket outfit. It’s not going to work.
Alicia Burke: Yeah, you’d make it a lot harder for yourself if you aren’t aware of what’s supposed to be covered on the test. So I definitely recommend looking at that as you are studying.
Cornelius Fichtner: So let’s look at what will change in March. So will any of the prerequisites to become PMI-ACP® certified change?
Alicia Burke: No! Those will remain the same.
Cornelius Fichtner: Okay. Will the number of the questions on the exam or the three-hour duration change?
Alicia Burke: No, no changes there either.
Cornelius Fichtner: Is the Exam Content Outline changing?
Alicia Burke: No, definitely not!
Cornelius Fichtner: So since the Exam Content Outline isn’t changing that also means you are not actually adding or removing any topics to or from the exam right, because the Exam Content Outline says this is what’s going to be on the exam?
Alicia Burke: Yup, that is correct! So…
Cornelius Fichtner: Okay so then what exactly is changing that will go into effect in March?
Alicia Burke: Yeah, this is what we call a lexicon update at PMI. So you’ll see this happen with other certifications as well. But if PMI releases a new standard or practice guide or a new addition of an existing one, we just want to make sure that the terminology we use is harmonized between that new publication and the exam questions. We don’t want to confuse people by referring to the same concept with different terms. So we’re really just having subject matter experts who are PMI-ACP® credential holders who have read the Agile Practice Guide and they are taking a look at all the exam questions and just making tweaks to vocabulary if they need to do that.
Cornelius Fichtner: Yes and just to know, make it absolutely clear the reason why you are doing that lexicon update is in September, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK)® Guide Sixth Edition was published together with the new Agile Practice Guide and the terminology used in the Agile Practice Guide is now going to be applied to the PMI-ACP® Exam.
Alicia Burke: Exactly! Exactly right, yeah!
Cornelius Fichtner: Okay. So while we’re talking about the Agile Practice Guide, let’s look at reference materials. I recently spoke to your colleagues, Simona Fallavollita about the changes that are coming to the Project Management Professional (PMP)® Exam and specifically, we discussed that the PMBOK® Guide Sixth Edition is the primary reference for the future that Project Management Professional (PMP)® Exam candidates have to know. So they have to read the PMBOK® Guide because the PMP® Exam references the PMBOK® Guide, let’s review some possible PMI-ACP reference here. There is a list on the PMI website with 12 reference books. Is that list still valid?
Alicia Burke: Yes! That list is still valid but starting in March, we will add the Agile Practice Guide to the list. We’ll have 13 on the list for you.
Cornelius Fichtner: Good number!
Alicia Burke: Yes!
Cornelius Fichtner: Good, lucky number! There exactly! So how then would you say, what is a student to do: Read everything? Read parts of everything? With the PMBOK® Guide it’s relatively easy. You can pick up one book and study that. For the PMI-ACP® Exam, how does that work?
The exam for the Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification is driven by current practices in the profession. Because project management is evolving, so is the PMP exam. As a result of the release of the A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Sixth Edition in September 2017, the PMP exam will change on 26 March 2018. This is to ensure that exam content is consistent with the guide.
This interview with Simona Fallavollita (LinkedIn Profile) was recorded at the magnificient Project Management Institute (PMI)® Global Conference 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. We discuss the how, what, why and when of the changes that are coming to the PMP exam.
Although the PMP is not a test of the PMBOK® Guide, it is one of the primary references for the exam. This means that students preparing to take the exam after the change can expect to see lexicon changes and terminology used within the exam as well as harmonization of process groups, tools, and techniques. Students planning to take the exam after the change are advised to use PMP Training materials that are updated to the new guide.
Project Management Professional (PMP)® Training on your mobile device:
A large number of projects these days rely on virtual teams. This means that we project managers must master how we communicate in a virtual setting in order to properly lead our teams. But how do you build trust as a leader if nobody can actually see you?
This interview with Sara Gallagher (LinkedIn Profile) was recorded at the awe-inspiring Project Management Institute (PMI)® Global Conference 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. It is based on her presentation "You Can Trust Me: Communicating When Nobody Can See Your Face" and explores tools and techniques project leaders can apply to improve communication and convey trust even in digital and virtual settings. Here is what Sara wrote about her presentation:
Trust is essential to effective communication across your team and your stakeholders - but how can you communicate trust when no one can see your face? This engaging session will examine how the four cores of trust are impacted in a digital, global communication environment. Participants will be given the opportunity to immediately apply what they've learned to improve communication across their teams.
Female Voice: In this episode of the Project Management Podcast, we learned to apply specific tools and techniques to improve communication and convey trust even in digital and virtual settings.
Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome to The Project Management Podcast™ at www.pm-podcast.com. I am Cornelius Fichtner. We are coming to you live from the inspiring 2017 PMI Global Conference in Chicago.
Cornelius Fichtner: And with me right now is Sara Gallagher. Good morning!
Sara Gallagher: Hello, good morning!
Cornelius Fichtner: How are you today?
Sara Gallagher: I’m doing great! This has been a fantastic conference!
Cornelius Fichtner: You are smiling from ear to ear. You have already presented and they invited you back!
Sara Gallagher: They do!
Cornelius Fichtner: You’re going to have to give an encore presentation.
Sara Gallagher: Yes, I’ll be speaking again at 1 o’clock today.
Cornelius Fichtner: Yeah! So you must be ecstatic.
Sara Gallagher: Well sort of. It’s funny right after you present, you’re like: "Ah, finally I can relax.” And then you get the call that you are doing it again. And it all starts again and all the prep work and everything. But it’ll be fun. I’m really excited.
Cornelius Fichtner: How do you like the energy at this conference?
Sara Gallagher: Energy has been amazing! So I’ll tell you, this has been a different conference for me in that I came alone and I don’t always do that. But I haven’t felt alone. Everywhere I’ve walked, everywhere I’ve gone, people have smiled, introduced themselves, taken me to dinner. So I found friends everywhere and in every industry, every state and many different countries. It’s been amazing.
Cornelius Fichtner: So to the people at home who are kind of on the edge: “Should I go to a conference? Should I not go to a conference?” What is your recommendation?
Sara Gallagher: Oh absolutely do it. Absolutely do it. My first conference was 2015 and I went in both feet in. I came and I also spoke at two presentations. So it’s a first-time conference experience and a first time speaking-at-a-conference experience, and it was fabulous! I get so many great little nuggets of inspiration and ideas I can take back with me, and a great network I come back with. So definitely do it.
Cornelius Fichtner: Your presentation is titled: “You can trust me. Communication when no one can see your face.” Which is something that we are doing right now!
Sara Gallagher: It is true! It’s true!
Cornelius Fichtner: Nobody can see our faces.
Sara Gallagher: Yes.
Cornelius Fichtner: What’s the story behind this particular presentation? What got you interested in this?
Sara Gallagher: Well I think some of the best topics come from personal struggle. In my line of work, I work with high-stakes projects. So these are projects that have a lot of potential business reward but if they’re executed poorly can cause pretty disastrous disruption. In that line of work, I vastly prefer to do it face to face because often there’s a lot of political agendas, complex stakeholder issues and so fewer misunderstandings occur when you can just look someone in the face and really have conversations.
And so, I struggle with this for a long time and I kind of made it my mission for a couple of years to just experiment, read, research and get better at it. So, I don’t have all the answers. I certainly don’t have a silver bullet solution but my goal with this talk was to just present some of those ah-ha moments that I’ve had, those insights and get people rolling towards a better to work online.
Cornelius Fichtner: What tools do you use to connect to people online where this has grown out of and you learn from?
Sara Gallagher: So I’ve done a couple of things. I do a lot of video conferencing and I’m a big believer in that. I think it has limitations still that people need to acknowledge. It is not the same as face to face. We’ll talk about why in a moment. But I do a lot of that both with a fully blown technology solution where you walk into a conference room and there are cameras everywhere and that type of thing. But also just Skype on my laptop which most people now have access to Skype for business or something similar. So in my mind there’s really no excuse, right, not to let people see your face when possible.
Cornelius Fichtner: Well sometimes in the morning, 7:30 no, no, no.
Sara Gallagher: Oh well that’s true. That’s true. I know.
Cornelius Fichtner: I always say, I have a face for radio.
Sara Gallagher: So I have been on video conferences with Germany, which is a 7-hour time difference and I’m full hair and makeup at like 5 in the morning at the office ready to do this. So I know all about that.
And then of course you know telephone, instant messaging, email, all of those things that people use, I’ve done that as well.
Cornelius Fichtner: Let’s take a step back and think about more the not the digital communication but the personal communication. Once you meet somebody if you’re in a meeting room together with them, what are some of the clues that we look for to determine if someone is trustworthy that we talk to?
Sara Gallagher: Well you know it’s really interesting and we have an excellent keynote yesterday that talked about this very issue. The fact of the matter is what we do look for and what we should be looking for are usually separate things.
What we do look for is body language. What are they telling us with their eyes? Where are they looking, and what are they paying attention to? And the keynote, we learned that’s not always the best clue as to what they are actually thinking. But what’s really interesting about in-person communication is you think about people you work with physically in an office, right?
All week long you have all of these micro-interactions with them. You pass them on the way to the bathroom. You tell them a joke. You tell them a story, pass along an idea that you had. And you have accumulated all of this data about this person and what motivates them and what drives them. So when you get into a conference room and you have to argue about something or you have to push your way towards a solution, all of a sudden that person is a human. They are not just a voice or an obstacle on the other end of the phone or on the other end of an email. So in a virtual environment, our goal has to be to replicate the humanity that we have with in person interactions.
Cornelius Fichtner: I had an experience once where we have an offshore team and they were just words on the other side of an email chain and one day we managed to finally be able to get them on a video conference. And just that 30‑minute conversation changed everything.
Sara Gallagher: It did?
Cornelius Fichtner: It brought us closer together. We knew them. We saw them. They were actually human beings over there, right? And they took the time. It was late for them in the evening to come and meet with us and that just personal interaction that we had there, that helped.
Sara Gallagher: It absolutely does and that’s one of the first ah-ha moments that I had is number one: The more that can you meet face to face in the beginning of a project, the better. If you can afford it, do it. But as you go along, have those touch points where they can see your face or at least hear your voice, relying more on phone than email. But help them experience that warmth.
And another thing that I’ve done is you can actually get in their physical space by simply using the postal system. So I had a stakeholder in a different state who was just notoriously difficult. I mean every interaction with this guy was just horrendous. And finally, I reached across on a video chat and I asked him to stay after a meeting and I said: “Jeff, I get the sense that you are really stressed about this project. Can you walk me through some of the things you’re thinking about with this?” I swear to God this is what he says to me: “Alright, I’ll come clean. I hate project managers.” I was like: “Okay!”
Cornelius Fichtner: One way to kill a conversation!
Sara Gallagher: Exactly! But actually it opened a conversation because I could see his face and I could see he was kind of half-joking. But we were able to have really honest conversations about his experiences in the past, what I was going to do to be different. I followed that conversation up. I learned that he was a big Reese’s Pieces fan. So I hear you’re a Gummy Bear fan.
Cornelius Fichtner: Yeah!
Sara Gallagher: Yeah, yeah! So he was a Reese’s Pieces guy. So I mailed him a bag of Reese’s Pieces and a neck pillow with a note that said: “Use this every time I’m a pain in your neck.” And just that act that warmth of him getting something from me in the mail that sat on his desk that he could tap into when he was frustrated was great. And so that’s one the techniques that I’ve kind of found along the way as well.
Cornelius Fichtner: And for our international listeners, Reese’s Pieces is a chocolate, right?
Sara Gallagher: It’s a peanut butter chocolate. Think about M and M’s that little chocolate round, yeah! It’s like that.
Cornelius Fichtner: And isn’t it in ET the movie? Isn’t that what Eliot uses to lure ET out of the shed there?
Sara Gallagher: Yeah, it is. If you have a peanut allergy, I would not recommend them, but yeah!
Cornelius Fichtner: Ah yes, okay! One of your slides in the presentation that caught my eyes, I go: “Oh, what is this, uncertainty tax?” What is the uncertainty tax?
For your Project Management Professional (PMP)® exam get PMP Training on your phone from The PM PrepCast:
Advanced product quality planning (or APQP) is a framework of procedures and techniques used to develop products in industry, particularly the automotive industry.
This interview about APQP with Marygracesoleil Ericson (LinkedIn Profile) was recorded one day before the excellent Project Management Institute (PMI)® Global Conference 2017 in Chicago, Illinois.
Marygracesoleil was an attendee of the congress (not a speaker) who contacted me and suggested that we do an interview on a topic relevant to her industry. She is the PMO manager of a car audio equipment manufacturer, leading a team of program managers who build designs and coponents for the audio divisions in the automotive industry. If you have a premium sound system in your car then you might be using their speakers.
For more information about APQP please visit the APQP Wikipedia Page.
Cornelius Fichtner: In this episode of the Project Management Podcast™ we look at APQP which stands for Advanced Product Quality Planning. A framework of procedures and techniques used to develop product particularly in the automotive industry.
Hello and welcome to the Project Management Podcast™ at www.pm-podcast.com . We are coming to you live and one day before the excellent 2017 PMI Global Conference in Chicago. I am Cornelius Fichtner and with me right now is Marygracesoleil Ericson. Hello, Marygrace.
Marygracesoleil Ericson: Hi, how are you?
Cornelius: I’m doing very well, thank you. And thank you so much for stopping by a day before the conference.
Marygracesoleil: That’s right.
Cornelius: And doing this interview.
Marygracesoleil: I’m very excited.
Cornelius: So, you are the director of Program Management for a car audio manufacturing.
Marygracesoleil: That’s right.
Cornelius: That’s as much as we can say.
Marygracesoleil: Yeah. I lead a team of program managers that builds designs and builds component on the audio division for the automotive industry.
Cornelius: So, anybody listening to this podcast right now, driving somewhere on the freeway, listening it through their car speakers, there is a chance that it comes from your company.
Marygracesoleil: That’s right. Only the good speakers.
Cornelius: [laughs] Right. We wanted to talk today about APQP—the Advanced Product Quality Planning. Ooh, that’s a mouthful. What is it?
Marygracesoleil: APQP is basically the disciplined approach to develop PM launching new products. So, it’s the process that we follow from cradle to grave. How do we build components from when we receive the scope from the customer, how we design it, what deliverables we have up until we launch it into mass production. So that’s what we follow.
Cornelius: And when you say the process that we follow, who is “we”?
Marygracesoleil: All automotive industries follow this. All components that deliver to the automotive OEMs need to follow the APQP process.
Cornelius: OK. So, we’re talking Ford, Chrysler, Toyota—whatever car you’re driving.
Cornelius: If you are somebody who delivers components for those cars, that’s the process you follow.
Marygracesoleil: Right. And in some of the Fareast customers—they might not call it the APQP but the deliverables are the same.
Cornelius: OK. And my understanding is that APQP came into being because there are so many suppliers who not only supply to one car manufacturer but to multiple car manufacturers and they did not want to have to follow through your four different set of processes and so the car manufacturers actually got together and said, “OK, we may be competitors but we better come up with something to help our suppliers here”.
Marygracesoleil: Right. It’s more standardized.
Cornelius: OK. The process that we have and that we can hopefully place on the website has a number of steps in it. It begins with a planning cycle then a product design and development stage, a process design and development stage. After that we have the product and process validation from where it goes into production. This all looks very much plan-driven, a lot of thinking is done upfront before anything happens. Is that the case? Is that what the idea is?
Marygracesoleil: Yes, we have to plan how we design, validate and manufacture the components that get delivered to the customer. And this is what we use as the APQP. So, for my program managers, we make sure that 1). we understand the scope of what the customer wants to produce and then we make sure that we plan, we design to the requirements of each of the customers. So, each of the OEMs have different requirements in terms of how they want it to function, what type of temperature does it need to not fail—to still function and also what type of manufacturing they want or capacity they want to produce our component. So, yes, there is a lot of planning involved.
Cornelius: Remember we’re only talking about the car audio here. We’re talking about the stereo, the amplifiers, the speakers and you are delivering to that but then there are other suppliers who have similar specifications and follow the same process but they deliver the tires or whatever their particular specialty may be.
Cornelius: In your business, when I look at this cycle here, I can’t really tell how long it takes but at the end, production begins and the planning is on the far left—how long does it take from the initial planning to the production?
Marygracesoleil: In a perfect world, this sometimes could take up until three years.
Marygracesoleil: So that’s in a perfect world. We can build head units, or speakers and amplifiers for about three years but that’s in a perfect world. In reality, the timing is shorter. There’s a few reasons for that. One is, maybe the customer is not ready to give the award of business. It could potentially be because the technology changes and they want to catch up on that technology so the scope of the component changes or it could be packaging issues. Maybe they want to prioritize on one technology but they can’t package it in the car so they’re still working on it and so that makes a delay also for when we have the final scope of the components we need to deliver.
Cornelius: But if it takes normally three years, and suddenly they’re squeezing it into—what—two years, one year, shorter even?
Marygracesoleil: Yes. So, there are projects that I’ve worked on where it takes two years. There actually is one particular project that was actually condensed from a three-year project to a seven months project.
Marygracesoleil: Yes. [laughs] you know, there’s a lot of things to be done and we only have seven months and tooling alone is sixteen weeks and I’m sure that some of your listeners understand that. So, we have to plan and work with even our suppliers to make it happen.
Cornelius: Does this basically mean that you have to get started with all the other processes even though you don’t have the award of business yet? Basically, you say, “You know what, we’re probably going to get this but we can’t wait any longer. If we want to, we have to start now”.
Marygracesoleil: Right. There are core designs so whether or not some of the key elements are not finalized, there’s always that core design that we can start with but again there’s a risk of changing that core design, right? Or did we use the correct IC to have enough memory for what they’re asking for—something like that. So, that changes. But again, the core designs are already there, there are some validation that we do during the engineering design phase, which is earlier on to the development but again it doesn’t change the fact that we are pushing our sub-suppliers as well to make sure that we can deliver on time—on target for our customers.
Cornelius: Interesting because one thing that I read here is on the history of APQP, it says that this has an emphasis on upfront planning.
Cornelius: Meaning—there’s a lot of planning that happens upfront yet I hear you talk about changes and things that—and when I then look again at the various steps, planning kind of stops at some point. Physically, that arrow for planning stops and says, “After this, there’s no more planning”. At least here in the drawing but that’s obviously not the case.
Marygracesoleil: Right. So, we can only plan so much, I guess. [laughs]
Marygracesoleil: …for the scope of the project but we also need to move forward. Right. We need to move forward so that we can direct or lead our suppliers into making sure that they can build their tools so that we can deliver an actual part to the customer. So, yes, the planning in a perfect world is in the beginning but there is also a lot of recovery plan—is what we call it—where we’ve planned one thing, there’s some changes, it could be driven by the customer, it could be also driven by us as well and then we have our recovery plan. How do we make sure that the end-goal, which is the part that we deliver to the customer, they still receive at the time when they’re expecting it?
Cornelius: OK. Interesting side note here: Each of these phases has inputs and outputs—so very PMBOK Guide-like—and one thing that I was wondering here at the end of the plan and define phase, it says one of the outputs, design goals, the quality goals, special characteristics, timing—who signs off on these at this point?
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Here are some buzzwords for you:
Multi-generational teams. Generational shifts. Inter- and intra-generational communication. Multi-generational workplace. Millennials vs baby boomers. I think you get the idea... right? We’re here today to talk about how old I am... :-) Just kidding... we’re here to talk about generational sensitivity and diversity and how to make the best of it in project management.
And in order to explore this generational topic we turn to our "soft side expert" Margaret Meloni (www.margaretmeloni.com). She has been an IT and project manager for some time and has had the pleasure to work with people from many generations. And I’m not saying she’s old either...
Transcript coming soon!
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Those of you who have, will or are preparing for your PMP exam, inevitably come across the term “Interpersonal Skills”. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, (PMBOK® Guide) mentions them, your prep books talk about them, and you find me talking about them in my PMP exam prep training lessons as well.
Leadership, team building, motivation, negotiation or trust building are some of the terms you’ll find. But there is another dimension to these soft skills that we project managers need. And that is “Emotional Intelligence”.
Margaret Meloni (www.margaretmeloni.com) has been coaching and training on the “softer side” of project management for a long time and so I’m very happy to welcome her as our expert today.
Cornelius Fichtner: In this episode of the Project Management Podcast, we get emotional and discover how the soft skill of emotional intelligence helps us be better at the hard skills.
Hello and welcome to The Project Management Podcast™ at www.pm-podcast.com. This is Episode 401 and I am Cornelius Fichtner. Thank you for listening in.
Those of you who have, will or are preparing for your Project Management Professional (PMP®) Exam inevitably come across the term interpersonal skills. The PMBOK® Guide mentions them. Your prep books talk about them and you find me talking about them in my PMP® Exam Prep training lessons as well.
Leadership, team building, motivation, negotiation or trust building are some of the terms that you’ll find. But there is another dimension to the soft skills that we project managers need and that is emotional intelligence.
Margaret Meloni has been coaching and training on the softer side of project management for a long time. And so, I’m very happy to welcome her as our expert today.
Cornelius Fichtner: Hello, Margaret!
Margaret Meloni: Hi! Good to be here! Thank you! Hi, everybody.
Cornelius Fichtner: Good morning, good morning! So to begin, let’s once again do a definition here. Let’s define emotional intelligence. What does emotional intelligence mean to you?
Margaret Meloni: The ability to monitor your emotions or the emotions of others and use this to guide your actions. A shorter way perhaps for me to say this is to recognize and regulate emotions in ourselves and others.
Cornelius Fichtner: Where does it come from? Who first brought up the term, wrote about it?
Margaret Meloni: Well I’ve traced this back to about 1964 and it probably even goes back beyond that. But to somebody named Michael Beldoch who did a paper on it. I’m just going to quickly go through some of the parties involved. Then in 1989, there was somebody named Stanly Greenspan who created a model to help describe what emotional intelligence was. This was picked up and used by Peter Salovey and John Mayer, not the singer.
And then we get to Daniel Goldman. If you use your favorite search engine and look up emotional intelligence, you’ll probably see a lot more about Daniel Goldman than any of these other parties. Although some of them are still actively involved in this field but you are going to see Daniel Goldman as he is very smart and he named one of his first book: EQ Emotional Intelligence. For those of us in the business world, he might be a little bit more of our go-to resource because he writes articles for Harvard Business Review and Forbes and others on a regular basis.
Cornelius Fichtner: And what is the correct abbreviation please? Is the correct abbreviation, EI or is it EQ or does it even matter?
Margaret Meloni: Well, I might get in trouble here with someone. That’s the risk I take when I say these things. I say tomato, to-mah-to.
Cornelius Fichtner: Right!
Margaret Meloni: But I will tell you is that I did run across one researcher who did use them differently and when he did, he used EI to discuss what we are born with, a potential that we are born with and he used EQ to talk about later our actual practical application of these skills. That being said, 99.9% of the time, I say EQ.
Cornelius Fichtner: Okay so whether you say EQ or EI, you mean emotional intelligence. I prefer EQ myself but that’s just because that’s the one I have grown up with.
Margaret Meloni: Exactly, exactly.
Cornelius Fichtner: Why is emotional intelligence important to us project managers?
Margaret Meloni: It is a significant differentiator in our success and I’m going to just bounce some statistics off of you and I borrowed these statistics from a man named Travis Bradberry who also does some work in this area. Basically, there is some finding that 58% of our success ties to our ability to be emotionally intelligent and that’s pretty high.
In addition, if you look at people who are talk performers, who are considered to be successful that 90% of them rate high in EQ or higher than their colleagues. And this one, I’m going to bring this one up. I’m not sure that I am completely bought into this but I want to bring it up because I find it to be very interesting that there is an indicator that goes so far as to say that for each point that we increase our EQ, we might be paid $1300 more in our salary.
Now, I didn’t go peel back the layers of that research so I don’t know if we could really make a case for that. But I think these statistics together what they are illustrating is that there is a theme and that we are going to experience more success when we are able to control our emotions and recognize what’s going on with others so that we can behave accordingly.
Cornelius Fichtner: Okay. Those are impressive numbers. But I have some other numbers for you here and those are numbers that are of interest to the project manager and the project sponsor. And that those are earned value numbers. That’s the budget. That’s the date on which I have to deliver. Those are key performance indicators. It’s the scope. Do I really need emotional intelligence to be more successful on that?
Margaret Meloni: This is the ultimate soft skills versus hard skills conversation I think or question. So if I’m just really high with my EQ, can I just forget about my earned value? No! Because there’s an expectation that I may be able to use my emotional intelligence to guide the team, to hit the goals that we have agreed upon. And so if I’m just like really fun to be around and I get along well with people but my team isn’t performing, that is going to come back to haunt me most likely.
Conversely, if I’m all about the numbers and I am a misery to work with in many fields, that is also going to come back to haunt me. So I think EQ is like the ultimate integration of our soft skills and our technical skills.
You know, so for example let’s say you are my sponsor and I do need to come into a status meeting and give you an update and tell you that we missed something in estimating and we’re going to be over budget. If I happen to know if I’ve done my work and I’ve had a chance to get to know you, and I happen to understand that budget is a hot button for you, I hope that I’m going to drop on my emotional intelligence to find the best way to present this information to you. I need to tell you, I need to tell you the truth it’s not okay for me to hide this but perhaps I can do it in a different way rather than blurting out to you: “You know, Cornelius, we’re absolutely wrong and we are $50,000 off and that’s just how it is.”
Cornelius Fichtner: Alright! With all of that out of the way, we now want to turn our attention to the PMBOK® Guide. It has a long list of knowledge areas that it covers and what we want to do is go through them. Maybe we’ll touch upon all of them. Maybe we’ll skip one or two here or there and you have prepared an example for us on how we project managers use emotional intelligence in these knowledge areas. We’ve already heard one from cost.
So let’s not start with project integration management, that definitely we want to do last because we first want to learn about all the others and then integrate it. So let’s turn our attention to scope, project scope management. How do we use emotional intelligence in scope management?
Margaret Meloni: Well and you know in scope management, when it’s that time when we are preparing the scope and we’re trying to get the definition clear and people are beginning to get antsy: “When are you going to get this nailed down? Common! Hurry up!” And people are feeling pressured to agree to the scope and move on. Maybe it doesn’t happen to all of you but I’ve certainly seen that plenty of times. And you see a stakeholder who appears to be unhappy but doesn’t want to stand up to the momentum and wants to go along and sign it. But you can see that they are unhappy and they are signing off grudgingly, what do you do? Do you just say: “Ah well, they signed it. So too bad about them!” Or do you follow up with them to find out: “You seemed unhappy with the scope. I just want to come back to you and no matter what if there’s an issues, let’s work through it now because it’s going to haunt us later.” So you see that’s a way of sensing in the scope process that you think you really have it nailed but you really don’t because somebody is really not happy.
Cornelius Fichtner: What about project time management?
Margaret Meloni: You know you are still my sponsor because I’m not going to let you get away from me. But now that important constraint is time. It’s the deadline and I can see a forecast that we’re going to be over by 4 days. I can see that my time is working overtime, my team excuse me, is already working overtime. They are dog-tired, if you’ll pardon the expression, and I don’t know how I can get more out of them and yet I know that the business need is really needed this and we can’t be late.
I’m not going really need to drop on my emotional intelligence to work with all of you to help come up with a solution. It’s likely the solution may still involve asking the team to give more. It may involve asking you to maybe to concede to two days late. I may need to ask you: “Can we bring in some temp labor and increase the budgets?” But in order to help with the team, and I may have to remind everyone that a team who is really pushed in overtired is likely to have some quality issues and some illness issues. And so, I really going to need to pull on what I’m feeling by the way at that time, which is I’m freaking out and pull on all of that so we can all sit down and come up with a solution.
Cornelius Fichtner: Earlier on, you’ve already given us an example for cost management. Do you have a second example for us?
Margaret Meloni: Well let’s say, so you as my sponsor, let’s say you are super helpful and one of the ways in which you are so helpful is you give us some estimates, more in the middle of estimating. You used to work in a certain area and you used to purchase a certain kind of material. And so you say: “You know I want to help you out and you don’t need to go research these estimates because I know this is how much these materials cost.”
And my subject matter expert looks at your estimates and it came down immediately to the supplier that we used for those materials and prove that your estimates are wrong because that’s not in any way awkward because you are the sponsor and you’re trying to help us and you used to work in this area, and you’re wrong and my subject matter expert can prove that you’re wrong. And I don’t want to move forward with your estimates because I’m going to be off in the budget and sooner or later, I’m going to have to say ‘why’ and so you can see where I might have to draw on my emotional intelligence to: “How do I do this? Do I just not use your estimates and hope you don’t notice? Do I sit down with you privately? Do I bring he subject matter expert into it or does that going to embarrass you or do I just bring you a print out to say, look what has happened, or we’re obligated to use this specific vendor and that’s how much these materials cost at this vendor?” I got to pick the best way to handle this.
Cornelius Fichtner: How do we use emotional intelligence in the area of quality management?
Margaret Meloni: Let’s say that I am at a CMMI level IV or V where we use auditors and we have an auditor assigned to me as a project manager and the QA Auditor, I worked some place we call them QA Reviewers. Their job is to review how I’m running the project, to make sure that I’m following the processes that we say we’re going to use to run a project and my QA Auditor or reviewer finds a problem in my project management plan.
My project management plan has already been signed. My sponsor and stakeholders are happy and we moved on. But in the eyes of the QA Auditor, this is not okay. And the conflict is that their job is to make sure that I’m doing things and following the process and I want to try to follow the process and I didn’t make a mistake on purpose. But now we’ve moved on and I don’t see the value in following back and spending time and updating a plan that everybody seems to be fine with and they are using.
Now this auditor and I and perhaps others, we need to sit down and discuss what is really the best thing for the project without it being about missing: “That silly, we’ve moved on. Get over it.” Without the auditor saying: “This is how it is. You must stick to it.” So we’re going to have to find a way to be able to sit down and talk about this.
Cornelius Fichtner: Then we have human resources management and this is probably the area where everybody can see: “Oh yeah, emotional intelligence, human resources. They probably go hand in hand.” How do we as project managers though apply emotional intelligence here? What example do you have for us?
Becoming better at project management and by extension also becoming a better project manager does not necessarily mean learning about and then also implementing the latest tools, techniques or methodologies. Instead, it can simply mean that you start paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment and nonjudgmentally. That’s mindfulness.
Mindfulness as a business practice and leadership tool has seen a significant increase in press coverage lately. It originally started out as a means for improving yourself and your interactions with others but you will find that many leadership articles in the large business journals will make reference to it.
And so we are very glad to welcome Margaret Meloni (www.margaretmeloni.com) to look at Mindfulness for Project Managers with us today. We will give you a definition, discuss the benefits, but most importantly we go through a number of familiar project management situations to see how mindfulness will help us improve and become better leaders.
Cornelius Fichtner: In this episode of the Project Management Podcast™, we look at how mindfulness will not only help you to be more in the moment but deliver better projects as a result.
Hello and welcome to the Project Management Podcast™ at www.pm-podcast.com . This is Episode #400 and I am Cornelius Fichtner. Thank you for joining us. If you listen to the podcast regularly, then you will probably already have noticed that this didn’t sound like it used to and you would be right. We have decided to make a few minor adjustments here and there in the show’s structure. But of course, we are going to continue to bring you expert guests and quality interviews. The topic today is Mindfulness and our guest is Margaret Meloni. Becoming better at Project Management and by extension also becoming a better project manager does not necessarily mean learning about it and also implementing the latest tools, techniques or methodologies. Instead, it can simply mean that you start paying attention in a particular way on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally. That’s mindfulness. Mindfulness as a business practice has seen a significant increase in press coverage lately. It originally started out as a means for improving yourself and your interactions with others but you will find that many leadership articles in the large business journals will make reference to it. And so, we are very glad to welcome Margaret Meloni to look at Mindfulness for project managers with us today. We will give you a definition, discuss the benefits but most importantly we will go through a number of familiar Project Management situations to see how Mindfulness will help us improve.
Cornelius Fichtner: Hello Margaret and welcome to the 400th podcast episode.
Margaret Meloni: Wow! Cornelius, thank you!
Cornelius Fichtner: Mindfulness. What exactly is mindfulness? How do you define it?
Margaret: Simply, and yet it’s not simple. It’s pure awareness. When you first become aware of something, there’s this moment of pure awareness. Before you start hanging all your thoughts and stuff on it, before you start conceptualizing it and framing it. For example, when an idea pops in your head and it feels like it came from nowhere, the moment before you start putting all kinds of mental parameters around it, that’s mindfulness. When out of nowhere you realize why you [audio glitch] the budget presentation, that’s a form of mindfulness. It’s present-time awareness, it’s non-judgmental observation, it’s non-egoistic. So, if you’re aware of something and not putting in the context about how it’s about you and your world and this is an odd one for those of us who are project managers, it’s actually goal-less. It’s actually goal-less but it can actually help us meet our goals and we’ll talk about that later. It’s awareness of change and all of the above is essentially with some form of meditation or practice of quieting the mind. See, it’s simple but not simple.
Cornelius: What can our Project Management Podcast™ listeners expect to learn from this discussion here today?
Margaret: Well, a better understanding of what mindfulness is –why mindfulness can make you a better project manager, why mindfulness is more than just a buzz word, how to practice mindfulness on your own and also with your team.
Cornelius: And what are some of the specific benefits of being more mindful?
Margaret: Mindfulness actually reminds us of what we’re supposed to be doing. When we have these moments of pure awareness, they help to re-focus us. For example, if you became aware that the communication you just sent did not have any intended result, your next thought is about focusing on what to do about it. So it helps with focus and concentration. It’s not concentration, by the way, but it leads to concentration so that a flash of where to place your attention which then helps you develop your concentration skills. Flashes of pure awareness drive creativity and problem solving. It helps you self-regulate and we’ve had conversations in the past about emotional intelligence or self-control or self-regulation as a key part of emotional intelligence. It reduces stress and anxiety. It reduces bias, because remember we said it’s non-judgmental observation so when you can foster this non-judgmental observation, this attitude carries into your everyday thoughts and interactions. And when you have more non-judgmental moments and less bias, you have stronger professional and personal relationships. So while we’re discussing soft skills, [audio glitch] fit to the bottom line. When you have it in place, you’re healthier, form stronger teams and have reduced anxiety, you have a competitive advantage.
Cornelius: In preparation of this interview, I went ahead and I purchased a magazine –it’s called the Mindfulness Magazine. What I noticed is the fact that the articles in the magazine, they’re all aimed at you and me as individuals, helping us with mindfulness in our private life. But then I saw that all the advertising in the magazine was for Mindfulness Training aimed at businesses. So, bring us in as consultants, we’ll help you become more mindful in your business. How big is mindfulness in corporations for business use?
Margaret: It’s big and growing. A lot of corporations are eager to find the next tool or technique to help them advance. I’ll say that’s the buzz word aspect of all these. Remember there was a time when authenticity was the buzz word? Authenticity is important but sometimes it’s over-used. Accountability was an over-used buzz word. It’s important to be accountable but –there’s some aspect of mindfulness where it’s becoming this popular buzz word, the next big thing BUT there’s a value here that we want to hang on to. I just want to give you some backgrounds here. In 2015, Harvard Business Review in one of their articles said this: Mindfulness should no longer be considered a “nice-to-have” for executives. It’s a “must-have”, a way to keep our brains healthy to support self-regulative, affective decision-making capabilities and to protect ourselves from toxic stress.
When Harvard Business Review says something is a “nice-to-have”, that’s certainly a call—a call to arms –if I would say that mindfulness is peaceful but that’s the saying that came to mind and to come to this year, 2017 in Inc., mindfulness-based businesses are listed as one of the best industries for starting a business. So you can expect more, and that’s get to some of the meat here. Right now, it’s estimated to be a $1.1B industry in the United States.
Cornelius: Wow! I’m going to start the Mindfulness podcast pretty soon if you continue to market it to me like this. [laughs]
Margaret: Yup. And also, there’s a lot of good there and then like anything else where something becomes popular and everyone charges over to it, we want to be mindful in our selections of our sources to help us with these, right? —which we’ll talk a little bit more about that later.
Cornelius: Yeah. So, let’s start bringing this all together for project managers. We, project managers, we often lead projects that innovate our business. Maybe we have to define new processes for our organization or develop new products. Is there a link between mindfulness and the innovation-type work that we do?
Margaret: Absolutely! Now mindfulness helps to quiet the mind. It helps us when we say—we talk how mindfulness leads to focus and concentration. What we mean is because it reduces all that chatter that’s going on, the “Oh my gosh I have to go to the grocery store”, “Oh, by the way, did I close that door and should I close the windows before I go out?” and “Oh, this person needs me to send this budget report”. All of that. Mindfulness helps to quiet that chatter and when our chatter is quiet or—let’s say it another way, when we have silenced the cognitive control network, we are more capable of divergent thinking and why do we care about divergent thinking? So those of you who have studied problem solving—team problem solving or even individual problem solving but I’m thinking of the team problem solving model, we want to lead our team members through divergent thinking. That’s the—pardon the cliché—thinking outside of the box, coming up with all kinds of great creative ideas and so that type of thinking again it requires that silencing of the cognitive control network—that constant chatter that goes on in our minds, and also that voice that judges ideas, so that unfortunately sometimes in a brainstorming or divergent thinking session, somebody will think of something and then they’ll stop themselves, they’ll judge themselves and they won’t let the idea come out. And we want those ideas to come out so we want to silence that chatter so that we can allow those brainstorming ideas to come out.
Cornelius: Mindfulness is a soft skill but managing the budget, schedule, scope and risks on our projects, they’re more leaning towards the hardest side of the things that we have to do. Can we use mindfulness in those areas and how do we do that?
Margaret: Sure. You know, again, mindfulness is not concentration but it leads to concentration. When I can spend some time daily just quieting my mind and allowing myself to have some of these flashes of pure awareness, later I am able to have more concentration and letting me know where I should place my attention. So a question for you and everyone listening: “Have you ever messed up a schedule or budget because you’re so overwhelmed by everything else?”
Margaret: OK, well, you’re perfect. But—I have.
Margaret: You can’t see me because we’re in a podcast but I’m over here raising my hands. I have. Have you ever made a mistake due to stress?
Margaret: Have you ever had to work with a team to come up with a creative response to a risk?
Cornelius: Almost daily.
Margaret: And remember mindfulness helps us to be able to have more of that creative thinking. Have you ever realized that your presentation about the facts of a project was falling flat—that you’re losing your audience and your support?
Cornelius: [laughs] Yeah, yeah.
Margaret: I mean, maybe not you, but certainly—oh my gosh—when I was new, some of my beginning presentations, so many people I should call and apologize to.
Margaret: As you have more mindful moments, and as your cognition improves, your ability to handle distractions improves and distractions take away from our ability to do a good job with the schedule and the budgets and the risks because if I’m a distracted thinker, then no matter what the task at hand is, I can’t do as good a job. So when we can handle distraction, we can be good at the hard skills.
Cornelius: Yeah, I agree, yes. Sometimes you’re just in the zone and you just hear and everything seems to click and then you’re just moving forward so much better. Is the zone part of mindfulness?
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The one thing I really like about project management is how unpredictable my days can sometimes be. I come to the office in the morning with a clear plan of what we are going to do today, and then something happens.
Maybe something breaks, a critical resource is unexpectedly not available today, or -- even more normal -- the customer wants a change and he wants it now. I love this challenge, because as a project manager I now have to re-evaluate the situation and change my plans accordingly. That is situational project management.
However, there's more to situational project management than just responding with a knee-jerk reaction. These times demand situational awareness, skill and finesse from us project managers.
And so I’m very happy to welcome Oliver Lehmann (www.oliverlehmann.com -- www.linkedin.com/in/oliverlehmann/) who literally wrote the book on this topic. The book is called Situational Project Management the dynamics of success and failure.
Most of this interview is on technical aspects, but a little over 15 minutes are on leadership topics. That is why you can claim 0.50 'technical' and 0.25 'leadership' PDUs.
Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome to Episode #399. This is The Project Management Podcast™ at www.pm-podcast.com and I am Cornelius Fichtner.
The one thing I really like about project management is how unpredictable my days can sometimes be. I come to the office in the morning with a clear plan of what we are going to do today and then something happens. Maybe something breaks, critical resources, unexpectedly not available today, or even more normal, the custom of once a change and of course he wants it today. I love this challenge because as a project manager, I now have to reevaluate the situation and change my plans accordingly. That is situational project management.
If you are a project manager who wants to become PMP or PMI-ACP Certified then the easiest way to do so is with our sister Podcast --- The PM PrepCast or The Agile PrepCast and study for the exam by watching the in-depth exam prep video training from www.pm-prepcast.com.
However, there is more to situational project management than just responding with a knee jerk reaction. These times demand situational awareness skill and finesse from us project managers.
So I’m very happy to welcome Oliver Lehmann who literally wrote the book on this topic. The book is called “Situational Project Management – The Dynamics of Success and Failure”.
And now, please get situated. Enjoy the interview!
Female Voice: The Project Management Podcast's feature interview: Today with Oliver Lehmann, Project Management Trainer, Speaker, Coach and Author.
Cornelius Fichtner: Hallo, Oliver! [Ich heiße sie willkommen]
Oliver Lehmann: Hallo, Cornelius! [Schön dich zu sehen].
Cornelius Fichtner: So to begin, let’s define what we are going to be discussing in this interview. What is your definition of situational awareness?
Oliver Lehmann: Situational awareness builds on a very simple observation, the same tools, the same practices, the same behaviors, the same approaches that are successful. And when project situation may fail in another one. So we rely on simple best practices. They may sometimes match the situation and be the right thing to do and sometimes they lead into disaster. So we should always ask ourselves: Am I doing the right thing for the right situation, the right moment, the right environment, context in which we are, and so on…
Cornelius Fichtner: And then what do we mean by situational project management?
Oliver Lehmann: Situational project management begins with the same observation. The same thing that can lead to success. One project in a specific situation in a project may fail in another one but we want to a bit more than that. We want to understand what are the practices. What are the specific tools maybe? What are approaches that match a given situation?
If we understand the situation, we can select the right practices to manage this situation and my book tries to give some help in that. It has still some open questions there because I think we haven’t fully understood how situational project management in old situations works, but I think I can give help for many situations already based on some research together with group of experts based on my experience with over 20 years in project management training and before that over 12 years in practicing project management.
Cornelius Fichtner: And let me guess, if I’m not planning my project and I’m just improvising from moment to moment, that has nothing to do with situational project management, right?
Oliver Lehmann: It may have to do with that sometimes because you have situations where planning is impossible. Too much planning may be detrimental for your project because sometimes the way is made by walking. There are project situations where you cannot do a lot of planning. You just have to do the projects step by step and with each step, you make a new decision where to go to. You develop something and you invest development. You have some results and then you make new decisions based on these results and so on.
There are project situations where this is the right approach like driving in the fog with a car for instance. It’s a very similar situation. But then you have situations where you can look far into the future of your project like on the road where you can see a long distance ahead of you and you can do a lot of long-term plans and they can just come together. Sometimes it has to do with situational project management.
Cornelius Fichtner: Alright! So that’s situational awareness and situational project management. Are there any other related terms that we should be aware of before we get started?
Oliver Lehmann: Yeah! There is one term that I found very helpful here and I call it navigating between two monsters. I think project management in many dimensions is a process where we have something extreme on the right and something extreme on the left.
When you look into the future just the topic we just had, can I do a long term predictions or do I need to go for more Agile methods which work with the short-term decisions and sprints and these things. Navigating between two monsters means we start somewhere in the middle and from time to time we have to move more to the left, maybe to the Agile side. Another times more to the predictor side. So we should be able to adjust our behavior to that.
There are many other questions like: Do we need to make a strong stance in a given situation or is it better to be more soft and more acceptable what other people want from us? Do we need to be heroes and single fighters or are we more collaborative or more integrated in a group? And there are many other questions like navigating between two monsters means, rarely the good way to go is rarely the extreme way. We have to find a way somewhere in the middle between these extremes and sometimes more turn to one side or to the other side but balancing things out, that’s a big part in project management. And that’s something project managers should be able to do.
Cornelius Fichtner: Okay and you’ve pretty much also answered my next question because I was going to ask you: Can you give me a few more examples of situations where we need awareness and situational project manager like I gave in the introduction. Do you have anything more for us? When do we really need it?
Oliver Lehmann: We need it all the time, first of all! I think project managements are situational. Most of us do this somehow. They are not doing this methodologically. They do it by inspiration and by emotions and by feelings and by experience and all those things, by instinct maybe, all the things that drive project managers and they know they have to adjust to given situations. But I have a very specific example just here in Germany, we had 2 major station projects, main station projects here in the last couple of years. One of those two was a great, great success. This was the Berlin Main Station.
And there was a second one some years later running into a deep trouble, deep crisis, which was the Stuttgart Main Station. And the interesting thing is, it was run by the same organization, the Deutsche Bahn German Railway. It was run by using the same approaches, the same method. It is the same deliverable more or less that it brings out. It even was the same project manager, a guy from Egypt. One project, he was extremely successful and then the other one, he ran the project into crisis. At one point in time, he had to leave the project, had to give up his position there. Another interesting question is what is different between those two projects which make one project successful and the other one a failure with the same approaches, with the same tools, the same methods and so on. So that is my favorite example.
To give you the answer for those two projects: The Berlin Main Station was a Greenfield project. It was the old death strip between East and West Berlin where they had a lot open space and just could build a station there without having to take too much care of stakeholders, of people living around.
Stuttgart was in the middle of a city. People living around, people afraid of their houses. This was where it started because they had to drill ton loads under occupied neighborhoods. In difficult geological areas and people are afraid of their houses on top. They wanted to talk with the project manager and he was not prepared to talk with them about their fears and the problem is always when you have a lot of stakeholders and you just ignore them, they will come back and they will bring their friends with them and they will bring loyals with them and this is exactly what happened there.
So the question is first of all: How can we understand the situational requirements on project managers which may be very different even if it seemingly all looks the same. And the other thing we need to understand is how do we need to adjust our approaches and our behaviors and the Stuttgart project and the crisis project, intensive stakeholder management would have been extremely important. It was not that important in Berlin.
Cornelius Fichtner: My next question is going into exactly the opposite side from situational awareness and situational project management. Do you have an example for us when we cannot be situational, where things are black and white and you just have to go one way or the other even as a very experienced project manager, situational project management does not apply in this situation?
Oliver Lehmann: There is one moment I think when you have to be very strict, very strong when we have no gray shade or something like that and that’s when it is about your professional integrity when it comes to questions of bribery of corruption, of discrimination of people based on gender, on skin color, religion or whatever it is. I think we have to be unsituational. I don’t know if such a word exist.
Cornelius Fichtner: No, sure, it does exist here.
Oliver Lehmann: We have to be very clear and very strict and very straight in these situations.
Cornelius Fichtner: Okay! The companies that I worked for, they always had a clearly defined project management methodology and that methodology told me what to do and when to do it. What considerations do we project managers have to make before we deviate from the prescribed methodology?
Oliver Lehmann: First of all, I was a trainer for this kind of methodologies for many years. Before I started as a PMP trainer with PMP preparation as a main business, I helped companies as an external trainer to teach their new methodologies to their teams. I know these methodologies quite well. I know their strengths and I know their weaknesses.
There is one thing project managers have to take care of. These methodologies, if they are good methodologies, they provide a lot of support and a lot of help and make lives to some degree easier. But sometimes, they don’t really put the needs of the project.
I remember one case, there was a methodology in an organization which was developed for a project of a certain size, a typical size that they had in this organization and a project manager approached me and asked me: “Oliver, I can’t use this methodology that you trained to us. I cannot use it in a given project. Can you just come over and have a look at that?” And they picked me a day just to have a look at their project and it took me not even 5 minutes to agree with him because this project was far too big for the methodology. It was not scalable enough for such a project. And I told him: “Make a note, put it in your project documentation why you have to deviate from this methodology. You can say that you talked with me and that I agreed to you. At this very moment, you have a good explanation for that.”
Two days later, I got a very angry phone call from the PMO Manager of this organization: “How can you do that? We hired you. We pay you that you will help people use it or that you make people use the methodology but you cannot tell people to deviate from that.” We then had 10 minutes discussion on the details and the PMO had to agree: “Yeah, it’s okay. It’s right.” So you have to have a good explanation if you deviate from a methodology. But if you have that, as a project manager, your business and your profession is not to follow methodologies. It’s to deliver successful projects without destroying the organization.
Cornelius Fichtner: What about if we work in a controlled environment. For example, in healthcare business or in a bank or insurance where we have to follow externally-imposed regulations.
Oliver Lehmann: A, I don’t believe that outside of laboratories, there is such a thing as a controlled environment. Controlled environment is a glass tube. It’s in Chemistry or somewhere else.
The other thing is of course, you have to meet requirements and if you have legal requirements, if you have requirements from government agencies. Maybe also internal organizational requirements to meet then you have to meet them, that’s very simple.
If you have a deadline, you have to meet the deadline. If you have to have funding available then you at least have to try to do the project with the funding available and if you have to meet leader requirements, you cannot have a project against the law.
Cornelius Fichtner: Alright! You already mentioned best practices earlier on. Best practices many times, they are common sense recommendations that have helped many others before us to be successful in the past. When do we accept and when do we reject best practices for our project?
For your Project Management Professional (PMP)® Exam Training
Every project that you and I have ever and will ever manage depends on people’s skills.
The sponsor relies on you as the project manager to successfully lead the team, you rely on the team to have what it takes to create all the deliverables at the required quality, and the end user -- the recipient of what you and the team deliver -- must have the skills to use the product you finally give them.
But what if the skills don’t match up to the tasks at hand? What if a team member is lacking a skill? What if the technology is so new and different that your users will have a hard time with it? The answer is of course coaching, mentoring and training.
And there is no one better than Susanne Madsen (www.susannemadsen.com -- www.linkedin.com/in/susanne-madsen-1134312) who coaches and mentors project managers into project leaders to come on the program and help us understand these three similar yet different activities.
This interview is 42:34 minutes long. This means that you can "legally" only claim 0.50 PDUs for listening to it, because in order to claim 0.75 PDUs the interview must be 45 minutes long. However... if you first listen to the interview and then also read the following article from Susanne about coaching and project management, then you can go ahead and claim 0.75 PDUs!Click to read the article
Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome to Episode # 398. This is the Project Management Podcast™ at www.pm-podcast.com and I am Cornelius Fichtner. Every project that you and I have ever and will ever manage depends on people’s skills. The sponsor relies on you as the project manager to successfully lead the team. You rely on the team to have all it takes to create all the deliverables at the required quality and the end-user, the recipient of what you and the team will deliver, well, they must have the skills to use that product that you’re finally going to give to them. If you are a project manager who wants to become PMP or PMI ACP-certified, then the easiest way to do so is with our sister podcast, the www.PMPrepCast.com or the www.AgilePrepCast.com and study for the exam by watching the in-depth Exam Prep video training from www.PMPrepCast.com, But what if the skills don’t match up to the task at hand? What if a team member is lacking a skill? What if the technology is so new and different that your end-users will have a hard time with it? The answer is of course Coaching, Mentoring and Training and there is no one better than Susanne Madsen who coaches and mentors project managers into project leaders to come on the program and help us understand these three similar yet different activities. And so, let us get going with our training on Coaching, Mentoring and Training. Enjoy the interview.
Female Voice: Project Management Podcast™ Feature Interview. Today with Susanne Madsen, Project Leadership coach, author and speaker.
Cornelius Fichtner: Hello, Susanne, good afternoon.
Susanne Madsen: Hello, Cornelius, good morning.
Cornelius: Yes, we have just determined we really seem to be living in an alternate universe while it’s 9 degrees Centigrade here in California, it’s like 13 degrees in London. I’m moving. It’s warmer where you are.
Susanne: Yes. It’s really good because this doesn’t happen that often for us. [laughs]
Cornelius: Yeah. To begin, let’s review each of the terms—a quick definition as it relates to projects. So, what is coaching?
Susanne: Coaching—there are many different ways of describing it but I think for the listeners, it’s useful to think of it as a technique that we can use outside the project or inside the project to facilitate learning and reflection through questions. That sentence is really important –facilitate learning and reflection through questions. So, it means that we do that—we answer those questions in a way that empowers a team member to find his or her analysis. Again, that’s very, very important because coaching is not about giving advice and it doesn’t involve the coach telling people what to do or how to do it. That’s a big misconception. When we coach someone, we really assume that they have the answers to the problems themselves. We as coaches just really need to empower them and help them to find those answers so I think that really in a nutshell is what it is.
Cornelius: And then what is mentoring?
Susanne: Mentoring is again a technique which allows the team member to learn from a master so someone who has more experience than themselves. In mentoring, we receive guidance and support and advice from a senior expert. And notice here the difference—the word advice comes in—so in mentoring, we do give advice because it’s from someone who’s been there, had done it and who can assist team members and junior project managers and show them how to do it. So, it’s more hands-on than coaching.
Cornelius: And of course then also how does training differ from both of these?
Susanne: Yes, of course there are overlaps between all of these terms and there is quite a lot of overlap between mentoring and coaching but I think training is a little bit different again because training really is more based on a standard curriculum. So, I would say that training is a technique that allows a team member to acquire knowledge, skills and theory from more of a standard curriculum where coaching and mentoring is more tailored so that means a training is more skills-based—it’s more like we transfer skills. It’s more theoretical and less tailored to the individual than coaching and mentoring is.
Cornelius: Yeah. It’s pretty much what we’re doing with this interview here, right?
Susanne: Which one of them?
Cornelius: This one right now. The training.
Susanne: Yes. So, we are giving knowledge but we’re not telling people how to implement it longer-term, that’s right.
Cornelius: OK. And where do motivational techniques fit in to all of these?
Susanne: Yeah, I was thinking about that because it’s a little bit of a parallel track really but it is related, I would say, as a parallel track because you can use mentoring, coaching and training, as a way to motivate someone. In that sense, all of these coaching, mentoring and training could be used as a motivational technique. For instance, if we allow a team member to train in PMP –that could be very, very motivating if that’s what they really want to do or it could be demotivating for instance if you ask people on your team to go to a sales training course. They’ll go “Well, why do I want that?” So, in that sense, it definitely has the power to motivate but there are also another angle because there are lots of motivation techniques that sit outside of training, mentoring and coaching. For instance, we might say, “What is a motivational technique in the first place?” I’d say that is when we use a technique that helps a person to unlock their passion and enthusiasm for that job. So, when we do something that allows people to increase their enthusiasm—that’s really motivating. Other techniques than coaching, mentoring and training could be praising someone. When you praise someone for a job well done, it means that they feel good about their job and they feel that they’re needed for the job or if I give someone an exciting new task to do that really develops them and stretches them and place their strengths, again those actions will help the person to deepen the passion and enthusiasm for the work. In summary, motivation techniques can be training, coaching and mentoring in itself or it can be additional techniques as long as they help us to increase a person’s passion and enthusiasm for their job.
Cornelius: Excellent, Thank you. So, what we want to do now is we want to look at coaching, mentoring and training in more detail especially how it relates to Project Management and to do that, I have prepared a series of questions for you for each of these—it’s actually the same set of questions, we’re going to run through them for coaching, mentoring and training. Here we go with coaching. So, what are the three things that a project manager must know about coaching?
Susanne: Firstly, I would say that coaching is not about giving advice and I think that’s a big misconception. Mentoring is more about that but not coaching. It is really about asking questions and helping a person to find their own answers. Because that’s much more empowering. Secondly, coaching can be formal, or it can be informal. I’m a qualified coach and that means that I oftentimes coach people in a very formal way. We set an hour aside, where I help someone with a particular aspect of their job and on a project, we can do the same thing. We can coach formally, set an hour aside, go into a meeting room with someone on your team and help them –for a situation for instance where they would like to get better interfacing with a client. That’s very formal. Or we can coach informally which means that we coach on the fly. As we’re having conversations with team members, instead of giving advice, we ask insight for questions and get them to think for themselves. For instance, if someone comes up to you and asked you, “How do you want me to do this? How do you think I should do that?” It is so easy for us just to tell them what to do but instead we turn it around and we say “Well, you know, what would you like to achieve?” or “What might happen if you do so and so?” You know, we ask questions instead of just giving advice. And number 3—I’ll really say that to call ourselves a coach and to say that we’re coaching, I would really say that we need some kind of a qualification. We can’t qualify—I don’t know of any qualifications in mentoring but there are qualifications in training because there is a method. There is a coaching method and I’d actually encourage the listeners here to why not go and get a coaching qualification. It doesn’t have to be six months, you have actually also short courses on it. If we engage in such learning about being a coach, we are likely to develop our listening skills and our poor building skills which either way are great assets when we are project managers.
Cornelius: When is it appropriate to use coaching on our projects?
Susanne: Well, it is very appropriate to use when we are in front of a person on a team who is very capable of finding the answers for him or herself but we just need to help them uncover it. So, for instance, in situations where the team member is quite skilled, they have the knowledge but maybe the need to strengthen the level of motivation. Maybe they’re not so driven at the moment or they need to find clarity in a certain situation so it’s not about the skill, it’s not about the knowledge. It’s about clarity. Or if you want to help someone to step up and strengthen their leadership skills—interpersonal skills, because these are situations where it’s not just about knowledge. It’s more about how we look at it and as a coach you can help someone to gain insight into those situations so they’re that great situations for coaching.
Cornelius: Do you have an example for us regarding when and how to best use coaching in a project setting?
Susanne: Let’s take an example—let’s say a technically competent team member who knows their stuff really well, they know the technicalities and they come up to you and they are preparing for a meeting with a client and this person’s asking you, “How should I do this presentation? How should I do this client presentation?” And it’ll be so easy for us to just go and say, “You know what, I would do XYZ, why don’t you do that?” But instead in this example, in a coaching mode, we would go, OK. What would you like to achieve with the presentation? Who’s the audience? What would you like them to do as a result of having listened to your presentation? How much interaction do you think is important to have with your audience? And so, we guide them through asking a number of questions here, we guide them to find the answers because this is not about actually having the technical understanding. It’s really about making them think about what they’re trying to achieve with the presentation.
Cornelius: And when should we not use coaching on a project?
Susanne: So, we should be cautious about using coaching when we are in front of a more junior person, someone who’s new in a role who doesn’t really have the knowledge. So, you’ve got someone who is new, and just imagine it would be very frustrating for them if you go up and ask them, “What are you trying to achieve? How do you think the client would react to this?” They don’t know because they’re new so it would be inappropriate to ask them too many questions.
Cornelius: And what’s the No.1 mistake that we project managers make when it comes to coaching?
Susanne: I think that the No.1 mistake is to be trying to solve a problem. We all love to be problem solvers because it makes us feel good, it makes us feel wanted and needed but solving the problem and giving someone the answer just isn’t always the right thing to do because it doesn’t make people think for themselves, it is less empowering and if I may, I would add a second mistake –and the second mistake is that we just don’t listen enough. We think that we’re coaching someone, we think we’re there trying to help someone else out but what’s happening is we’re listening to our own internal dialogue. Listening is super important for coaching.
Cornelius: How have you personally used coaching in a project setting?
Susanne: Because Cornelius I’m a qualified coach, I’ve actually used coaching quite formally—also informally but I think it’s worthwhile mentioning here how we can use formal coaching. So, I have set on my projects, I’ve set time aside for coaching sessions with different types of people on my projects and in these situations, there had been people who knew that they were getting coached by me and they wanted it. So, for instance I’ve been coaching some very high potential people who really wanted to progress and who are ready to learn and we met and we set aside between one and one and a half hours every 3-4 weeks. We’d book a meeting room and I would coach her through where she wanted to go on the project and in her role, etc. but I’ve also coached formally underperformers –actually people who have been put on an improvement plan by Human Resources. This was a question of someone who had a track record of underperformance and the same way we were scheduling regular meetings and I was helping this person, guiding this person through, what their strengths were, how we could really grow them in the project context.
Cornelius: What motivational techniques go alongside with coaching?
Susanne: We’ve mentioned a couple here. The first one I would mention is goal-setting. When we coach someone it’s very important that we look at the goals. What is it that we’re trying to achieve or what’s the problem we’re trying to solve—we need to understand what we’re moving towards. That’s actually very motivating. It’s a motivation technique to understand where we’re going and it’s positive for someone that’s motivated to work something new. We all have that intrinsic need to grow and to develop. So that is definitely appropriate and in many corporate environments, we also have personal development plans, if not the more frequently we do them once a year, what are we going to do next year to develop this person. Goal setting is also a part of that. We do a gap analysis. Where are you today? Where do you want to go? An action plan for moving a person forward—that is very closely linked with coaching. What I would also highlight is that allowing someone to work autonomously is also a motivational technique that kind of goes alongside coaching because it’s very empowering and motivating for a person. If they are able to work without too much supervision, that of course, again assumes that they are relatively capable and skilled at what they’re doing which is what we assume when we’re coaching someone in the first place. Helping someone to work autonomously, helping break down their work so that they can get on with it without too much supervision and work autonomously is definitely an important motivation technique.
Cornelius: Excellent! That’s it for coaching, we’re now going to do exactly the same thing for mentoring. So, my first question for you—what are the three things that a project manager must know about mentoring?
Susanne: When we move on to mentoring and I’ve just been going on about how important it is not to get too much advice in coaching but in mentoring, I’d say the first item is: as a mentor, we do give advice and we do give advice based on our own experiences and that also means that we need to choose our mentors very well because they’re basically looking in their own experience—everything they’ve learned over their career and that talking to you on that basis. Secondly, I’d say that we need to know and understand that a mentor is often someone more senior from within the same organization. It could be from another team or could be from within the same team—that doesn’t really matter but it is someone who has been there done that and who has more experience and who’s happy to share that. Thirdly, this is something that maybe we haven’t thought about but being a mentor can be very, very motivating because it’s a great way to help a person to actually step up and take on more responsibility because when we mentor someone else, we almost go in and help to take responsibility for someone else’s development. We’re not fully responsible if the person we’re mentoring is responsible but we’re still having that kind of a –we’re guiding someone else and that means that we step up and we think about—how am I coming across as a role model so it can be very, very motivating for the person who is a mentor.
Cornelius: When is it appropriate to use mentoring on a project?
Susanne: I would say that if we have a team member who would like to learn about some insider secrets from someone in a similar job role, then it can be great to pair that person up with a mentor from the same team or from another team who can get them those insider secrets. Or, if someone on the team would like to get inspired by someone more senior—maybe they’re getting a bit stuck in their role but they like it but they need some new inspiration—it could be great to pair them up with a mentor from a different part of the business so that they can see a different point of view, learn from someone more experienced. Yeah, that can be very, very motivating and I’m also thinking oftentimes on projects, we do Lessons Learned at the end of a project but those Lessons Learned sometimes end up in a report and they’re not really disseminated and no one really looks at them. If we have a lot of mentors across the organization, it can be a great way to actually share our knowledge and break down silos in a different way so there are all situations that are great in which we can use mentoring with great advantage.
Cornelius: Do you have an example for us regarding when and how to best use mentoring on a project?
There is no doubt in my mind that you have heard the term lessons learned before.
It is mentioned extensively throughout A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, (PMBOK® Guide), I teach it as part of my PMP training lessons and my favorite search engine gives me over 51,000 results for the search term “lessons learned in project management”. In fact, as an experienced project manager you have probably participated or even chaired one or two lessons learned meetings yourself on your own projects.
But let’s consider the bigger picture around lessons learned. What process do we follow? What management techniques are there for lessons learned? Are all documented lessons learned equally valuable?
Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome to Episode # 397. This is the Project Management Podcast™ at www.pm-podcast.com and I am Cornelius Fichtner. There is no doubt in my mind that you have heard the term “Lessons Learned” before. It is mentioned extensively throughout the PMBOK Guide. I teach it as part of my PMP Training Lessons and my favorite search engine gives me over 51,000 results for the search term, “Lessons Learned in Project Management”. In fact, as an experienced project manager, you have probably participated or even chaired one or two lessons learned meeting yourself on your own projects. If you are preparing for your PMP Exam, then the best way to calm the butterflies in your stomach is to take a Practice Exam. Our PMP Exam Simulator offers you nine such exams. To see how it works and take a free test drive, please go to www.freeexamsimulator.com . But let’s consider the bigger picture around lessons learned here. What processes do we follow? What management techniques are there for lessons learned? And are all documented lessons learned equally valuable? These questions need answers and so I’m happy to welcome Elizabeth Harrin who has the answers for us. And now, please pay attention. We’ll be doing a Lessons Learned at the end. Enjoy the interview.
Female Voice: Project Management Podcast™ Feature Interview. Today with Elizabeth Harrin, author, blogger and speaker.
Cornelius Fichtner: Hello, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth Harrin: Hello, Cornelius. I’ll certainly do my best.
Cornelius: [laughs] Oh well, let’s find out because we’re going to be defining our topic first. From your perspective, what are lessons learned?
Elizabeth: They are the bits of organizational knowledge that we pick up as we go through our projects and you’ll typically find them split into things that went well—so all the things that we patted ourselves on the back about— “Yes, we did a great job on that!”—and then the things that didn’t go so well where we have issues and things. The main thing I would say when we’re defining “lessons learned” is that we need to make the distinction between “lessons captured” and “lessons learned” because often on projects and I know we’re going to talk more about the process of capturing output at the end of the project and later on in our discussion today, we often write things down and capture them without actually learning or doing anything with them. So, I suppose the key point for me as we’re starting this discussion is to think we really need to make sure that whatever comes out of our –whatever organizational knowledge we learn as we go, we actually do something with it and it becomes learned.
Cornelius: And what do we mean by “management techniques” for lessons learned?
Elizabeth: Management techniques are just effective ways of working and lessons learned are very important for our projects because they let us do things better. Management techniques help us get facts and results which is delivering better outcomes and learning and improving on how we run our projects in our companies. So, there are things like how we can capture, record, analyze and use lessons learned for continuous improvement. Generally, the management techniques that we can use fall into three categories: things that relate to people, so staffing, training and that kind of stuff; techniques that relate to processes so that might be the templates or the agenda that you use for your lessons learned sessions and then tools and technology which might be how you then store and recover those lessons learned once you’ve done—finished capturing them.
Cornelius: And before we do anything else right now, you’ve already put a big elephant into the room here. So, let’s look at that elephant. How do we avoid that our captured, documented, lessons learned are simply filed away and never looked at again so they become documented lessons but they don’t become lessons learned? What do we need to do to actually learn something?
Elizabeth: I think the organizational co-chair has a huge part to play here because you need to create a culture of continuous improvement where people want to seek help. What was learned from other initiatives so they don’t make the same mistakes? And if you need to talk to –if you don’t think that exists in your organization and you’re talking to people about it, it’s a good idea to frame it in a way of making sure you want to learn lessons because it may seem faster and cheaper. But you’re not reinventing the wheel every time and you’re not making the same mistakes but somebody made our project two years ago but to answer your question, I think we struggled because it’s hard, and if we don’t have enough time and at the end of the project, you’re normally rushing to wrap up the last few things and then move straight into the next thing. So, it’s partly to do with facts and partly to do with just not enough general call for understanding of the cost of reinventing the wheel because it’s quite hard to manage and measure the impact on productivity. It’s quite hard to sell the benefits, if you like, of putting the effort in to getting a good strong culture of lessons learned because it’s quite hard to quantify what the benefit is. I think it all just boils down to a lack of understanding of those benefits. Am I allowed to say that it’s because of the fact that people are lazy?
Elizabeth: [laughs] Maybe we should say they are under a lot of pressure to move on to the next thing and it’s not the most glamorous or exciting area of Project Management, is it?
Cornelius: Yeah. I have to admit in many of my projects, when the end came, lessons learned was just not something that was on anyone’s mind. What was on their mind was: “Ahh, there’s a new project over there. Bye!”
Elizabeth: “I’ve waited for this for months and months I just wanted to give up now. I’m done.”
Cornelius: There you go. Yeah. We, project managers, we’re always fond of processes, procedures, is there a particular lessons learned process to be followed?
Elizabeth: Yes, I think there is. A generally accepted process for projects is that you will collect the lessons, then you’ll apply some kind of prioritization or validation to them and then store them somewhere while making them available to other teams. And then the final step in the process is that you re-use them so that’s where the learning part comes in.
Cornelius: Or, if we talk reality, the final step is you forget about them.
Elizabeth: Yes, you’re following the drill. But if you don’t use them, then what’s the point of gathering them? The idea there is that they should feed into continuous improvement. And while doing some of the bigger improvements it might be a lot of effort and might put people off. There’s normally one or two small things that come out of a project that you can easily change for the next project to make it better.
Cornelius: We also have to talk about the difference in how lessons learned are managed and approached on a traditional, multiple-based project versus the Agile world and how they do their lessons learned which they call retrospective meeting. Can you tell us what is the difference here at a high level?
Elizabeth: Agile teams tend to be a lot more focused on continuous review and improvement and they review performance more regularly. They also do different types of reviews. An Agile team retrospective will focus on the team’s working practices to have it work together, celebrating things that they’ve achieved together, bettering the relationships in the team. A more traditional multiple approach in my experience, focuses more on tasks and deliverables and not how the team perform together. And that’s an area for multiple lessons learned that we should cover but is often forgotten. Agile also has released sprint retrospectives where the lessons learned focused on the product or the service that was looked at and built and not released, and you’ve also got a project retrospective where you look at a whole project and not if probably the one most similar to the traditional word for a lessons learned meeting.
Cornelius: So, the big difference I can see immediately is, in Agile, the retrospective meetings happen a lot more often.
Cornelius: Your sprints are two to four weeks long and at the end of the sprint, you have your retrospective meeting, you take what you’ve learned and you apply it immediately on the next sprint. So, there is really continuous and on-going learning.
Elizabeth: I think so, definitely. And the co-chair for retrospective is so embedded in Agile. It’s embedded far more efficiently than it is in a multiple context, it might be. So, I think multiple teams might have to work harder to get value out of the meeting. It’s also a risk that lessons learned meetings in a multiple environment on the risk of just turning into a meeting with a lot of finger-pointing and blame. I don’t think that would happen as often in an Agile team. Perhaps because they are much more used to giving feedback and they’re much more used to working on retrospectives more regularly.
Cornelius: Is one approach better than the other?
Elizabeth: I suppose the right answer for that is: No, both have their merits, but my personal view would be, I prefer the idea of continuous review on a large project that stretches over more than six months. I mean, how can you remember what happens in project initiation if it is not for until a long time that you then sit down and try and review it? And I think that’s the advantage of the Agile approach for me, it’s easy enough to replicate on a multiple project team because you can schedule mini lessons learned reviews whenever you want—at the end of major stages or even once a month as part of your normal project team meeting. I suppose it’s about finding a right balance, isn’t it really?
Cornelius: Yeah. I remember an IT project that I was leading some years back and at the end of the project, we had a lessons learned meeting and one of the lessons that we’ve had was the product owner on the other side of the fence, we should have handled her completely differently. We should have approached her completely differently and done work with her completely differently. We figured that out at the end of the project. So, if we had continuously thought about these things and tried to learn from our mistakes in the past, how wonderful this could have been if after two to three months versus fifteen months, we would have realized we have to work with her differently.
Cornelius: So, yeah that is a completely different approach there. Let’s move on and review some types of lessons learned meetings and the high-level concepts behind them. We’ve done some research prior to this interview and we found a few and we’re going to review them here, so generally speaking we talked about that the overall lessons learned meetings—that’s just the general term. We’ve already reviewed that, we’ve talked about it but now let’s take a more closer look at them. We’ve also talked about the Agile retrospective so those were the first two names that we found, Lessons Learned meetings and Agile retrospectives but then we also came up with after-action reviews. What are those, Elizabeth?
Elizabeth: That’s the term that’s come from the US military. But it means the same thing. It’s a way of taking a course of action and establishing what went well, what didn’t go well and what you’re going to do differently next time. I think whether you call it—because some of the other names that you might hear is described as post-project evaluation meeting, post-mortem, post-implementation review, they all broadly do the same thing which is exactly that—look at what works, what didn’t work and try to put in place an action plan and to capture those lessons learned so no one makes the same mistakes in the future. I think the vocabulary is really important though—which one you’d decide to use on your projects. For me a post-mortem conjures up the idea that it’s the end, something went wrong, you’re actually having problems with your project. It’s dead. [laughs] An off-direction review will go instant when it comes from a military background. It also sounds as if after the action, you missed the opportunity to put something right so I would caution the listeners to choose a phrase that is very positive and that has positive continuous improvement connotations.
Cornelius: Right. So, depending on what you’re doing and how you’re doing it, the term “post-mortem” maybe right to you?
Are you using an adaptive life cycle to manage your projects? You know, something that falls under the general umbrella of Agile like Scrum, XP, Kanban or DSDM?
And if your answer to this question is yes, then think about when exactly you started using these approaches, because that date says a lot about you and your organization. If you started 20 or more years ago then you can consider yourself to be an innovator, but if you started just recently you are a laggard. (And just in case you are wondering, I would put myself in the middle with what is called the "early majority".)
But no matter when you started your journey into Agile it might be interesting to know how many of us out there are actually using Agile on our projects. And according to Joseph Flahiff (www.whitewaterprojects.com -- www.linkedin.com/in/josephflahiff) there are more than you would think.
How many more? He doesn’t have an exact number, but then again nobody knows how many waterfall-based projects there are either. However, studies done on this subject and a number of other indicators lead him to believe that Agile is now the new normal. The number of Agile projects is massive, which is just one more reason to also get started with your PMI-ACP Exam Prep
This interview is 28:59 minutes long. This means that you can "legally" only claim 0.25 PDUs for listening to it, because in order to claim 0.50 PDUs the interview must be 30 minutes long. However... if you first listen to the interview and then also read the article on which it is based, then you can go ahead and claim 0.50 PDUs!Click to read the article
Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome to Episode #396. This is the Project Management Podcast™ at www.pm-podcast.com and I’m Cornelius Fichtner. Are you using an adaptive life cycle to manage your projects? You know, something that falls under the general umbrella of Agile like Scrum, XP, Kanban or DSDM and if your answer to this question is yes, then think about when exactly you started using these approaches because that date says a lot about you and your organization. If you started 20 or more years ago, then you can consider yourself to be an innovator, but if you started just recently, you are a laggard and just in case you’re wondering, I would put myself somewhere in the middle with the early majority. If you are a project manager who wants to become PMI ACP certified, then the easiest way to do so is with our sister podcast, the Agile PrepCast and get your certification training for the exam by watching the in-depth Exam Prep Video Training from www.AgilePrepCast.com . But no matter when you started your journey into Agile, it might be interesting to know how many of us out there are actually using Agile on their projects and according to Joseph Flahiff, there are more than you would think. How many more? He doesn’t have an exact number but then again nobody really knows how many Waterfall-based projects there are either. However, studies done on this subject and the number of other indicators lead him to believe that Agile is now the new normal. The number of Agile projects is massive. Enjoy the interview.
Female Voice: Project Management Podcast™ Feature Interview.
Cornelius Fichtner: Today with Joseph Flahiff, Project Management Author, Consultant and Organizational Alchemist
Cornelius: Hello, Joseph and welcome back to the podcast.
Joseph Flahiff: Hey Cornelius. Thank you and it’s great to be here again. I love [talked over]
Cornelius: Wonderful. We’re happy to have you.
Joseph: Thank you.
Cornelius: So why were you interested in writing an article about how well Agile is implemented around the world?
Joseph: You know I was thinking about it. I was actually looking forward at what’s coming next. Agile’s been around for about thirty years depending on where you measure it from twenty to thirty years. People would not think of it as being that old but it really is and I was thinking about what’s next? The world’s changed a lot since then. The people that were innovating those things are now not innovating those things. That’s a sweeping judgment and I don’t mean to make it sound that way but there’s not a ton of innovation happening on the Agile front—at least not as it was in the original time frame and so my thinking was: “Hmm, who are the innovators today and what are they innovating?” so that’s what’s going on in my mind and it led me to think about where Agile is in its adoption and is anybody doing innovation yet or—those kinds of things.
Cornelius: What is the 10,000-foot summary of your findings?
Joseph: From about 10,000 feet you could see that it’s pretty clear that at least 50% of IT organizations out there have adopted some form or semblance of Agile practices or are being Agile. They self-proclaim that.
Cornelius: Alright, and just for our metric users, 10,000 feet is about 3,048 meters. [chuckles]. Why is this finding important for our listeners for our Project Management Podcast™ listeners?
Joseph: Well it’s important because 50% is half of the people out there in the world. That means that a lot of folks are already using Agile practices and just about anywhere. You know—flip a coin—if you take a new job, 50-50 chance that those people at the new place have adopted some form of Agile or are going to soon.
Cornelius: Yeah. Strange coincidence—this morning—and I’m not making this one up, I received an email from a friend/colleague of mine from Orange County who said that he is actually having trouble finding a Project Management job because he does not yet have Agile training. There seems to be adoption in progress here. But before we move any further, let’s talk a little bit about the word “adoption” and particularly adoption levels and what all of this means and please tell us what is the diffusion innovation curve that you mentioned in your article?
Joseph: Yeah, the diffusion of innovations curve—that was developed by Everett Rogers back in 1962 and he was doing a study interested in how new innovations get distributed or diffused into society. He did research into about 508 different studies and he took their data and pulled it apart. These studies were in anthropology, in sociology, education and industrial and medical sociology. All of these studies he compiled together and out of that, he drew his conclusions, right? And he created this, essentially a bell curve, so he found that the distribution was essentially a bell curve and it followed a pretty predictable pattern. There were these early people who actually created the innovation. So, they are the people that went out and tried something new and failed that and tried again and failed and suddenly created something new. This would be—in the Agile context—would be the people who founded the Agile movement. At that time, it was really the late 80’s early 90’s, they were actually calling it lightweight development practices when they actually had a name for it. So, those are the innovators, then the next group of –that’s about 2.5% of the entire population anytime you’re talking about an innovation. 2.5%. So, then there’s this next group of people that are the early adaptors. They are the folks that have a Tesla or are looking at getting solar panels for their roof. They’re the people who had the first iPhone, those people who are willing to put up with some stress and some failures because they like the new shiny thing, the new fancy thing. They like to be out in front. That’s about 13.5% of the population. The next group is the early majority group—they are about 34% of the population. That’s when you start seeing mass adoptions of something. If we started seeing everyone’s driving a Tesla or right now you see everybody’s got an iPhone or something like an iPhone, right? The early majority is when you start seeing that about half the time, people have those things because at that point you’re at 50%. The next group of people, the next 34% is the late majority—those are the folks that are a little bit behind that curve but still adopting. As mass adoption starts to happen, they’re “on-board”. That’s 34% and the last little group are the laggards and they’re the people who will adopt something kicking and screaming, right?
Cornelius: Right. That’s my brother who finally got a smartphone last year.
Joseph: Yes. Yes. [laughs] There you go. That’s the laggards. They’re a small percentage of the population. They believe life was better before sliced bread.
Cornelius: So, where is Agile in this model? Where is Agile adoption here?
Joseph: Yeah, it’s an interesting question because it’s hard to just put a pinpoint on it and say, “This is exactly where it is”—because nobody has pure data. There was a recent study by HP and in their study, they showed that about 16% of the population said they’re using pure Agile and then another 24% said they’re using some hybrid form of Agile so that’s 40% of the population so if you just look at that and people who are saying they’re doing something Agile is 40%. In that same study, another 51% said they were leaning toward Agile. So, if you take all of that together, that’s 91%. That leaves you 9% leftover who are—there’s 2% that’s pure waterfall and 17% that are leaning more toward Waterfall.
Cornelius: Yeah OK, so this study has just one data point that we’ve got, right? In your article, you list a few more so let’s take a look at those. You grouped them under nice headings. Let’s take a look at these headings. The first heading is “Agile Adoption curve, underdogs no more”. What do you mean by that?
Joseph: For most of the past 30 years, the Agile community has kind of fought an underdog fight. They have been—we have been—I’ve been one of us—have taken the approach that we have something really good and we want to share it with you. Please listen to us. We know that most of the people use a sequential or Waterfall model but there’s this other thing that we could do and it’s better. It can get you more speed and greater predictability and adaptability as your deploying things like software, right? It’s been an underdog fight. We’ve been the one that no one expected really to win. I remember back in the day—back in the early 90’s—early 2000’s going to Global Congress and things like that or people would still say, “Oh, Agile’s a fad, it’s not going to stick around. It’s just a fluke” and then after a while it got, “Well, you know what? Maybe it’s sticking around”. Well, now we’re seeing that it’s starting to be the tidal wave. It’s being the majority, not the minority.
Cornelius: So, from that perspective, when should a company think about adopting Agile?
This is another episode where I’m asking: Are you currently studying or thinking about studying for your PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® Exam? Wonderful. That’s what we are going to be talking about.
In this interview you are going to meet Yazmine Darcy (https://www.linkedin.com/in/yazminedarcy). Yazmine is not only one of my students and coworkers, she is also the project manager in charge of developing the sample exam questions that we use in our PMI-ACP Simulator. And so, if you not only want to know how to prepare for your own PMI-ACP Exam but also want to hear about all the work that goes into creating one of the training tools you could be using, then you have come to the right place.
As you know, the rules of all Project Management Institute (PMI)® exams are such that we are not allowed to discuss specific questions from the exam. But we can discuss her overall experience, general thoughts on the process and her recommendations to you. So you can look forward to an experience and tip filled interview on how to prepare for and pass your PMI-ACP Exam.
Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome to Episode #395. This is the Project Management Podcast™ at www.pm-podcast.com and I’m Cornelius Fichtner. This is another episode where I’m asking: “Are you currently studying or thinking about studying for your PMI ACP Exam?” Wonderful! Because that’s what we are going to be talking about. This is the third and final interview in which we learn from one of my work colleagues, how they passed their PMI ACP Exam. And of course, that brings me to this: If you are a project manager who wants to become PMI ACP certified, then the easiest way to do so is with our sister podcast, the Agile PrepCast and get your certification training for the exam by watching the in-depth Exam Prep Video Training from www.AgilePrepCast.com . In this interview, we are going to meet Yazmine Darcy. Yazmine is not only one of my students and co-workers, she is also the project manager in charge of developing the sample exam questions that we use in our PMI ACP Exam Simulator. So, if you not only want to know how to prepare for your PMI ACP Exam but also want to hear about all the work that goes into actually creating one of the training tools that you could be using, then you have come to the right place. As you know, the rules of all PMI Exams are such that we are not allowed to discuss specific questions from the exam but we can discuss Yazmine’s overall experience, general thoughts on the process and her recommendations to you so you can look forward to an experience and tip-filled interview on how to prepare for and pass your PMI ACP Exam. And now does a podcast interview qualify as an information radiator? Enjoy the interview.
Female Voice: Project Management Podcast™ Feature Interview. Today with Yazmine Darcy, Senior Project Manager for OSP International.
Cornelius: Hello, Yazmine and thank you very much for stopping by.
Yazmine: Hello Cornelius. Thanks for having me over.
Cornelius: Sure. Well, first of all, congratulations on passing the PMI ACP Exam.
Yazmine: Thank you [laughs] I am glad that it worked out.
Cornelius: [laughs] When exactly did you pass?
Yazmine: I passed in November. I recall it was a holiday weekend, so I studied and prepared on a Friday and I went in and took my exam bright and early on a Monday.
Cornelius: OK. The PMI ACP is not your first exam, right? You’ve already taken the PMP before that.
Yazmine: That’s right I took my PMP a few years back.
Cornelius: Right. And then you also have an MBA on top of that.
Yazmine: That is true. [laughs]
Cornelius: [laughs] OK. What we also have to do at this point is we have to insert a disclaimer because you and I are colleagues. We both work for OSP International. We are a training company and we do offer PMP Exam Training and PMI ACP Training and I believe you used both our Agile PrepCast and our Exam Simulator, right?
Yazmine: That is true.
Cornelius: That is true and you are also in charge of making sure that our Agile sample questions in the simulator get updated to the latest exam specification. We’ll get to that later on but just to get this disclaimer out at the very beginning. So, my first question is always very similar. Now that you have passed the exam what is your No.1 recommendation to the listeners who are currently preparing for the exam?
Yazmine: I think my No. 1 recommendation is for people to understand what their goal is when taking this exam. For myself, I wanted not only to pass but also to have good understanding of all the material. So, in retrospect, unlike many other students who may not have read through most of the books. I opted to try to at least read through, not thoroughly, skimmed through in some cases, but for purposes of the work that we do and in order to prepare for the exam, I thought it important to go through and spend the time and read those 12 references. Probably not what everybody wants to do but in my case, I did.
Cornelius: OK, let me just jump into this one here because currently, the PMI ACP Exam has a recommended reading list of about 12 books or so. We can see at the horizon that this is going to change—that PMI is working on the Agile Practitioner’s Guide and very likely at some point in the future, the Agile Practitioner’s Guide is going to be the thing to read as you’re preparing for this exam. So, let me ask you this: Even though the exam is currently based and the one you took based on those 12 books—you read those 12 books—is the way you studied still going to be applicable in say, five years, ten years down the road when someone’s listening to this interview?
Yazmine: I think with the advent of the Ag Book, that’s probably less likely to be the case. I think that 12 references will always be useful but it is a very specialized knowledge, very deep knowledge that is useful for a practitioner to have and own these references and that’s what they are—they’re references. If you needed to learn more deeply about a particular topic, it’s nice to have it on hand, you can read about the specifics of Scrum or Kanban, but likely for preparation for the exam, the Ag Book ten years from now will be very well-used and developed. So that will be sufficient to use to prepare for the exam.
Cornelius: Right. So just like people studied the PMBOK Guide today as they are preparing for the PMP Exam, in the future, they may be studying the—well, we call it sort of Ag Book jokingly—the Agile Body of Knowledge. I think the working title is the Agile Practitioner’s Guide. Whatever it will be called in the future more focus on this but the other study materials that you used I believe you read—correct me if I’m wrong—you did read an Exam Prep Book. You did go to our Agile PrepCast and you did use the questions in our Exam Simulator, right? That would still be something that you’d recommend?
Yazmine: Yes, definitely. I probably watched through the Agile PrepCast twice over the course of two years and more thoroughly in preparation for the exam and in particular, I found the lessons on the Agile Manifesto and Values and Principles and Different Methodologies quite useful. But I also used another Exam Prep Book, again, good understanding of all the seven domains at a high level and where I was like, “Oh I don’t understand more of this than I have the 12 references that I could refer to” and all that was very useful in preparing for the exam.
Cornelius: I’m very glad that you said that because when I did the interview with Stas Podoxin and people who already have listened to this one and Stas said that because he took a course at the University of British Columbia, that course really overlapped about 80% so he did not find the Agile PrepCast all too helpful in addition to this but you’re saying that there was value in you watching and listening to the Agile PrepCast. Is that right?
Yazmine: Yes and I found that, again, when you can listen to it, that’s one mode and I think that’s what I did maybe a couple of years prior to actually taking the exam then it’s useful because there’s so many topics. You can use it and you don’t have to navigate from the very beginning all the way to the very end but you can select based on your own knowledge. I already know about this topic. I think there’s no need to listen to this for myself. I think that I’m adequately prepared. But no, when I wanted to refresh—a total refresh on Scrum ceremonies and make sure that I understand the specifics in great detail, that I didn’t forget something or I misunderstood something, then I can sit down and set aside half hour whatever I needed to complete that lesson and listen to that lesson more attentively. So that’s how I used it. I didn’t probably use it in the start here and listen to every lesson a little bit a day, I didn’t use it in that straightforward fashion. I tried to use it as I needed it in a very Agile fashion, I would say.
Cornelius: Right, yeah. The intent is actually to do—start here and go all the way through—the more important lesson at the beginning, some of the less important ones are at the end but you are an unusual student from that perspective because we worked together, you had access to this for years. But let’s talk about the Exam Prep Book that you used. What book did you use and what did you enjoy most about it?
Yazmine: Yeah. I used Mike Griffiths book.
Cornelius: What a surprise. It seems like that’s the answer that I get from everybody these days.
Yazmine: I think again because it is organized by the domains and for example in the first few pages they have a table and it’s divided by tools and techniques and knowledge and skills. So, at the high level, he has lists of different topics, so it helps guide you through the different topics. He gets through the topics in a relatively small amount of number of pages compared to the 12 references. So you know you have covered the breadth that you need to cover for purposes of preparing for one’s exam. And it’s easy reading—it’s not very difficult –on the lighter side, compared to other references.
Cornelius: You have the MBA, then you took the PMP and then you decided to go for the PMI ACP. Why did you select the PMI ACP over, I don’t know, maybe a CSM or other Agile certifications?
Yazmine: That’s a good question. In part, it is related to the work that we do and definitely taking the exam helps in preparing others to prepare for the exam but in general, I just think that the way that we worked has evolved quite a bit especially since the time that I took my MBA. I have been on many traditional projects in the past and the idea that things changed and to embrace that—what a concept. In fact, you try to fix everything so that you can predict it and you probably spend so much effort trying to make sure that you’ve planned everything upfront but you end up having to change things in between. So, I think that the need for an Agile approach—this is how the world operates now. Things move very quickly. I didn’t explore the CSM—oh I do have a CSM, sorry! [laughs]
Cornelius: [laughs] There’s so many letters after you and you keep forgetting.
Yazmine: Sorry. We use it almost every day, you almost forget that you have it and it’s not like you go around and sign your name and put all the letters behind it. I think you gain knowledge as you go and it just becomes sort of part of your repertoire, so to speak. And yes, I do have my Scrum certification and we do use Scrum on our own projects. So, yes.
Cornelius: Yeah. This is maybe an interesting history for the listeners. When we originally developed our PMP Exam Prep Course, that was done fully in a traditional Waterfall-based project management approach. Then we started with the Agile PrepCast—helping people prepare for the ACP and also the simulator and again that was based on traditional best practices. We were only starting out on Agile back then. Later on, when PMI changed the ACP Exam, we had already started out on the Agile path and we did the updates using Agile practices and right now, pretty much as we are recording this interview, we are in the process of updating our PMP Training, the Waterfall-based certification and we’re actually using Agile practices to update a training course that is focused on traditional Waterfall-based. So, things are certainly evolving and changing over the years.
Yazmine: It’s a bit ironic, I guess, if you think of it that way. [laughs]
Cornelius: Yeah [laughs]
Yazmine: Even as we approach something, the material and the content itself might be based on something very traditional. The way in which we operate is Agile because things changed within our team. Maybe the methodology itself is more stable and certainly from PMBOK 5 to 6 there are changes and its similar ideas, it’s ever evolving but in our team definitely, things happen and we need to be able to adjust ourselves to the changes.
Cornelius: Alright, back to you and your PMI ACP experience. You mentioned that you have a lot of experience on traditional Waterfall-based project. How then did you determine that you were in fact eligible to take the PMI ACP Exam with all the Agile experience you needed?