The Project Management Podcast

Project Management for Beginners and Experts. Are you looking to improve your Project Management Skills? Then listen to The Project Management Podcast™, a weekly program that delivers best practices and new developments in the field of project management. The more companies understand the importance of sound Project Management, the more will your skills be in demand. Project Management is the means used by companies today to turn their vision and mission into reality. It is also the driver behind transforming a business need into a business process. The Project Management Podcast™ looks at how project management shapes the business world of today and tomorrow. Find us on the web at or send your emails to The Project Management Podcast™ is a trademark of OSP International LLC. All other trademarks mentioned are the property of their respective owners. Copyright © 2005 - 2017 OSP International LLC. All rights reserved.

05/13/2018 02:00 AM
Episode 413: When the Organization thinks they don't need Project Management (Free) #PMOT

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Jen and Cornelius
Jen Pfaff and Cornelius Fichtner

When an organization has a structured PMO, using your project management skills can be easy.

But, what if your organization doesn’t have a PMO or doesn’t even like the rigor of project management? What should an experienced project manager do?

This interview with Jen Pfaff (LinkedIn Profile) was recorded at the dazzling Project Management Institute (PMI)® Global Conference 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Trust me... it was 2017 even though I say "2018" in the opening...)

We’ll talk about how to execute your projects and grow your project management skills all while setting your business and IT customers up for success. We'll see how organizations without a PMO can be effective by tracking basic metrics, and how key templates in your project management toolbox will help your project managers be effective.

Episode Transcript

Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

Podcast Introduction

Coming Soon

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.

05/06/2018 02:00 AM
Episode 412: How to Integrate Risk Management into Agile Projects (Free)

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Laszlo and Cornelius
Laszlo Retfalvi and Cornelius Fichtner

Agile has gained popularity in part due to its ability to effectively respond to issues as they arise, improve stakeholder satisfaction, and increase focus on value-driven delivery. A major challenge for many project managers is knowing how to effectively plan, identify, and manage risks when using agile approaches. This discussion addresses how to integrate proven risk management techniques with agile approaches to increase the probability of project and organizational success.

This interview with Laszlo Retfalvi (LinkedIn Profile) was recorded at the exciting Project Management Institute (PMI)® Global Conference 2017 in Chicago, Illinois.

We look at how to develop proper project risk management statements required to support agile approaches to project management and learn to apply proven risk management techniques, which every project manager should consider as part of any agile approach.

Episode Transcript

Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

Podcast Introduction

Laszlo Retfalvi:   In this episode of the Project Management Podcast™, we discover proven risk management techniques which every project manager should address as part of any Agile approach.

Podcast Interview

Cornelius Fichtner:   Hello and welcome to the Project Management Podcast™ at I am Cornelius Fichtner. We are coming to you live from the exciting 2017 PMI® Global Conference in Chicago and with me right now is Laszlo Retfalvi, Good morning!

Laszlo Retfalvi:   Good morning, Cornelius. How are you? Thank you for having me here today.   

Cornelius Fichtner:   Yeah. Thank you for being here. It is very early. The congress has not even kicked off really. The first presentations are starting, I think, in a few minutes. So, you have not yet presented, right?

Laszlo Retfalvi:   No, I haven’t. I’m up this afternoon and just to point to the listeners—I’m looking around, there’s a lot of people walking around, looking at us—a lot of interest.  

Cornelius Fichtner:   [laughs]  

Laszlo Retfalvi:   This is true. I think it’s going to be a good conference.

Cornelius Fichtner:   Wonderful. That’s the one thing that I always enjoy being here. There are so many of us project managers here you can feel the energy. I’m so sorry that the people listening to this at home can’t be here and experience this. It’s always a great event.

Laszlo Retfalvi:   I agree. I agree.

Cornelius Fichtner:   Yeah. You will be talking about proven techniques to—and this is underlined and italicized—successfully integrate risk management into Agile projects. What prompted you to write about this?

Laszlo Retfalvi:   Well, that’s a very good question. So for those of you who know me in the industry, I’m passionate about risk. I think risk is an excellent tool that program managers should—all program managers—he or she should have in her toolbox as something to help them succeed. And one of the things that I found here is with the role of Agile and the Agile approach—I think we’re forgetting this whole thing about risk.

That’s of concern to me, so what I’m doing here is showing tips and techniques and some very pointed pointers based from my experience on how we can take risk management which we cannot ignore and integrate it into Agile projects where it’s actually really needed more than traditional projects. That’s really the background to the whole presentation.

Cornelius Fichtner:   You and I met for the first time, I think, one or two years ago. We sat at the same breakfast table at the last conference that we were at. You told me about your book, “The Power of Project Management Leadership”. I bought it immediately at the PMI bookstore—paid an arm and a leg for it—[laughs] 

Laszlo Retfalvi:   I’m glad you bought it. I’m glad you bought it.

Cornelius Fichtner:   That paid for your breakfast there. How did you go from “The Power of Project Management Leadership” to “Proven Techniques to Successfully Integrate Risk Management into Agile Projects”? It doesn’t seem a natural progression.

Laszlo Retfalvi:   Actually, it is if you review what really the book stands for. The book stands for components that project managers need to have in order to succeed in their profession. There are four of them and we can review that perhaps later on but one of them is having a risk-smart attitude. It’s being able to what I refer to is—it’s going to have street smarts when it comes to risk.

So, if you embrace that, you underline and you review what is required to do that, and Agile actually complement each other and that’s really how we came to here. It’s the application of knowledge from the book that applies very easily to Agile framework.

Cornelius Fichtner:   So, let’s jump into the presentation—what is the background that you started off with? What is the background challenges for risk management on an Agile project?

Laszlo Retfalvi:   Well, if you take a look at this, the nature and pace of changing today’s project is constant. As a matter of fact, if you and I go back in our lives five, ten years ago, Project Management was not as changeful as it is today. Change is just part of it. And there’s this grass root issue that –how do we deal with change? Agile—

Cornelius FIchtner:   We reject it.  Five years ago at least.

Laszlo Retfalvi:   We did. Or very formalized the path. Like if you want change, talk to me, we’ll raise a scope change

Cornelius Fichtner:   Yeah.  And you’ll have to give—increase the budget; you have to remove staff,

Laszlo Retfalvi:   And part of that still applies. Agile doesn’t replace corporate contractual framework and those types of things but with the onset of Agile, now we’re faced with “How do you execute efficiently while you bring in the principles of Agile?” So, the background to that is, a lot of people struggle with it. Even though there’s a lot of knowledge, there’s a lot of materials that’s available now in Agile, between you and I, how do we bring it into our fold into the projects that we manage in the organization that we manage and more importantly, with the leadership that we deal with and the culture that we are in? Agile is a technique but there’s so many different things that make it successful.

So that’s the challenge. The background is how do we address that and that’s really the elephant in the room is how do we do this better?

Cornelius Fichtner:   Is the fact that many of us are not using pure Agile or pure Waterfall –is using a hybrid approach—is that increasing the challenge?

Laszlo Retfalvi:   I think it is. I think it is. And the thing that. I think, confuses everything—from my position—is, what do we mean by Agile?

Cornelius Fichtner:   [laughs]

Laszlo Retfalvi:   No, no.  It’s a good question. Because when you say Agile, Agile is an overarching technique when it comes to Project Management. But the reality is, are we using Scrum? Are we using different types of techniques? This reminds me of ten, fifteen years ago when the discipline of risk was emerging.

For example, the UK had their way of doing it, the US had their way of doing it. Australia had their own way of doing it. As Canadians, we had our own way of doing it. And where I’m really pleased is it took four, five maybe ten years for industry to converge.

I think the same thing used to happen with Agile. We have a great word, we have a great way of going ahead but how do we pull all this together to help project managers execute? So we automatically think of software. Well, if you and I are in construction, how do we apply Agile? That doesn’t apply. Yet we use the word. And this is where I believe leadership and culture play a key role because those things need to be Agile in order for programs under those umbrellas to be Agile. So, that’s a problem that we have in front of us is, quite frankly, what do we mean when we say Agile?

And to me, Agile is not just applying techniques and work flows. It’s a state of mind, it’s a culture change and it’s something that can bring big benefit but if it’s not introduced properly, my experience is, you go backwards. You go backwards, you try to get caught up and as a result of that, you actually mess with deadlines as you introduce Agile. It has to be done very, very carefully.

So this is not an easy topic but I’m very pleased to be here with you in PMI this afternoon I’ll be speaking where—I’m just going to bring in my experiences in all of this and give some very good tips and techniques that people can be able to use.

Cornelius Fichtner:   OK. So, on top of that, we’re now adding risk management. Why is risk management overlooked in Agile Project Management?   

Laszlo Retfalvi:   Quite simply, people think it brings bad news.     

Cornelius Fichtner:   [laughs]

Laszlo Retfalvi:   Seriously, it always has a negative connotation. We talk about risks, therefore we’re going to get ourselves into trouble. I’m going to get in trouble with my boss. I don’t want to rock the boat, so as a result of that, we think that somehow, Agile fixes risk, replaces or somehow integrates this approach immediately and it doesn’t.

As a result of what I just said about it being bad news and you combining this with Agile where people think, “Hey, this is a new way of doing things so therefore I don’t have to worry about risk”—now you’re playing double jeopardy, right? You’re missing it the first time because of the fact that you think it’s something that we shouldn’t do. We assume that an Agile approach automatically integrates it and what happens at the end is, you totally missed it. That’s something that we have to address.

Cornelius Fichtner:   One of the slides that you have in your presentation is called Guidance and Frameworks and when I first looked at this, I’m like, “Oh my God, this is such a bad slide. Nobody will be able to read anything on this”. And then I realized what you were doing. This is a list of all the various frameworks you could be using to add risk management on to Agile. Why can’t we just use one of these—what is it—forty or something like that? Why can’t we just take one of those and add it on top of our Agile work?


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.

04/22/2018 02:00 AM
Episode 411: The Future of Project Management (Free)

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S. Maye
Stephen Maye, Projectified host

The Project Mangement Institute (PMI)® launched their new podcast "Projectified with PMI®" at their thought-provoking Global Conference 2017 in Chicago, Illinois.

And during the conference I had the opportunity to sit down with Stephen W. Maye (LinkedIn Profile) who is the Projectified host.

We begin by looking at PMI's new podcast itself, but then quickly move on to a number of "futuristic" topics. Stephen has had the opportunity to interview some of the brightest project management thinkers from around the world. Anand Swaminathan, Dr. Michael Chui, and Jacqueline Van Pelt to name just a few. Stephen summarizes their thoughts and ideas for us.

We also discuss what Stephen sees as the number one trend in project management, what this trend means for us project managers, and how digitalization, artificial intelligence and the internet of things will influence the way we manage projects going forward.

You can find Projectified with PMI by visiting

Episode Transcript

Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

Podcast Introduction

Stephen Maye: In this episode of The Project Management Podcast™, we look into a crystal ball to see how project management is changing and how modern tools and emerging technologies impact the way you will manage your projects in the future.

Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome to The Project Management Podcast™ at I am Cornelius Fichtner.

We are coming to you live from the thought-provoking 2018 PMI Global Conference in Chicago.

Podcast Interview

Cornelius Fichtner: And I have moved on to Room 474-B and I am sitting here opposite Stephen Maye from the Projectified with PMI podcast. Hello Stephen!

Stephen Maye: Hello, Cornelius! Thanks for having me!

Cornelius Fichtner: Yeah, welcome to the program. Thank you so much for being here! Absolutely great! So you are the Host of Projectified with PMI, a new podcast that PMI is launching here at the Congress. Why has PMI finally, only after 12 years of me doing it, decided to start their own podcast?

Stephen Maye: Well, it was important to make sure you had a large bank of material that we could rip off and republish. No, you know I think it was just time. When you look at what PMI’s mission is in the world and kind of where it fits and PMI paying in particular attention to responding to where the market is going, where people get their information, not only the current community of not just people who call themselves project managers. But people who get up every day and go to work and do something that’s significant in a project or multiple projects. Not just once a day but those coming up.

And I think it became clear, and again I of course wasn’t in those conversations initially but I think it became clear that this was an important way to make information available to people on the go, on their schedule where they happen to be. Personally, I like to consume podcast when I run. So that’s the kind of thing that doesn’t work for a lot of formats but works well with this. I think it was about meeting people where they are.

Cornelius Fichtner: What’s the focus of your podcast?

Stephen Maye: It’s really around what’s next. It’s really focused on being forward looking on those subjects, those concepts, those ideas, those insights that are relevant to people doing important project work. So if you can imagine this kind of core space of what we think of as project management knowledge and skill and technique. And even if you were to take for example, the PMBOK® Guide, and the Agile Practice Guide, and if you were to say, well that’s a pretty good way of describing what’s in that core specs.

Well around that, there are all these other disciplines and all these other ways of thinking and skills and techniques that make the person practicing those processes effective. So this could range from: Do I understand what’s coming in artificial intelligence? Do I understand the difference in leading or managing or structuring a digital transformation project? Even, do I understand the science and art of influence? So those are the kinds of topics where we go find people that have done deep research or are deep practitioners or have really studied these topics and are able to communicate here’s what’s coming and here’s how you as a project professional need to be prepared to deal with it.

Cornelius Fichtner: And since PMI has chosen you to be the host of this forward-looking podcast, there has to be a story behind this. What is your personal interest in regards to where project management is heading?

Stephen Maye: Yeah, so outside of the podcast and other media-related work that I do, I’m also a consultant. So my consulting firm is in the area of business transformation, of disruptive transformation, of strategic change. And in that space, you have to execute. So no matter how brilliant the insight, no matter how major or minor the change, no matter how important to the organization or the company, it all comes down to whether or not you’ll effectively execute. And you execute in the context of projects. So to me there is no execution without effective project management whether you call it that or something else.

And when I look at that, I take kind of a broad view of: Okay, I include in there how do we identify risk? How do we track and manage risk? How do we escalate decisions? How do we structure governance in every site? How do we build portfolios of projects that can effectively move a change forward and then how do we manage them? So for me, that’s a critical component that relates not only to some of my own history around project management but in the consulting work that I do today.

Cornelius Fichtner: When I look at my phone, I see that it has downloaded three episodes of Projectified with PMI, at least this morning unless you published one throughout the day. I’d like to take a look at what your guests had to say so far on your program.

Please tell us, what do you think is the most surprising, interesting, stimulating prediction that you have taken away from the interviews beginning with Episode 1 of your podcast with Anand Swaminathan?

Stephen Maye: Yeah, that is a brilliant guy! We talked with Anand Swaminathan about digital transformation and we covered a lot of ground. There’s no way of course we can include everything that was there but some of the things that really stood up to me was one of the facts that he brought. He said: You know 90% of the world’s data has been created in the last 2 years. And so when you start thinking about the implications of digital transformation and why the digital transformation space has been accelerating the way that it has. He said: “This is crazy. Is it possible that 90% of the world’s data has been created in the last 2 years?” So that for me just in itself was kind of eye opening.

Well he kind of booked into that later in the interview. He also said: “Look digital transformation is relevant to every industry.” He may even said, I have to go back, he may have even said: “…every organization”. So you could stand here today and say: Oh wait a second, I can see this in some specific industries particularly those that are traditionally very data-driven but he would use examples from industries that you would think, there’s no way that’s a digital transformation play. You know, heavy equipment, this kind of thing. So that to me was fascinating, this idea of this massive acceleration of data creation and then the idea that this is relevant to everybody. Now, you can debate it one way or the other, but he made a pretty compelling case.

Cornelius Fichtner: Episode 2 was with Dr. Michael Chui. What did you takeaway from that?

Stephen Maye: Yeah, you know, this is a guy not only is he brilliant but you kind of like him right away. So I really enjoyed talking to him. I have not met him before we talked in advance in the podcast when we did the recording.

We talked with him about kind of broad area of automation, digitization, artificial intelligence. And one of the things that he brought forward was, he said: “Look in the research that we did…” He was involved in real research and he said: “In the research that we did,” he said “50 percent of the task being done today, we looked across a huge range of industries, a huge range of job types, a huge range of task being done, 50 percent of the task being done today can be automated by simply adapting currently available technology.” 50 percent, 50 percent! Now he doesn’t mean that that is already happening. But he is saying 50 percent can be automated with currently available technology.

Well I thought that in itself is fantastic. Well that kind of moved in to this conversation around, so what does that mean? Is it one of those and you could decide, is it utopia and a dystopia and depending on which author you are reading, what is this, a vision of a place where everybody lays around on lounge chairs because all the work has been automated. But again he makes a fantastic case. No, it’s not that at all.

He said: “Not only do we need robots working as hard as they can.” He said: “We need everybody working next to them.” And he went on to describe the simple change in global demographics has created a scenario where we absolutely not only have the opportunity for everyone to do many of the work. We really need for everybody to be working. So whether that’s good news to some or bad news to some, he paints this picture of rapidly accelerating automation and digitization but it doesn’t do away with the need for all of us to stay busy at work. Again, it was fascinating to me.

Cornelius Fichtner: And then in Episode 3, you interviewed Jacqueline Van Pelt. What did she have to say?

Stephen Maye: Yeah, so Jacqueline Van Pelt not to make this about age, but Jacqueline Van Pelt was one of the younger interviewees and one of the reasons that we wanted younger guests and one of the reasons we wanted to talk to her, we wanted to get a perspective from someone who is earlier in her career compared to many that we talked to and yet has done great things in the project and program space already.

You know one of the things that was interesting coming from Jacque, Jacqueline Van Pelt, was this idea that as you are coming up, as a young person coming up companies full of smart people and she has worked in engineering-heavy environment, a lot of well–educated, really smart people, she said: “You have to got to first believe that you deserve a seat at the table. You’ve got to believe that. Before you expect someone else to listen to you, before you expect someone else to offer that invitation, you have to believe that you deserve a seat at the table.” Well she kind of doubled down on that and went on to talk about the fact that not only do you have to believe you deserve a seat at the table, you’ve got to be willing to bring the courage to say the awkward thing. You got to be willing to bring the awkward feedback to make the awkward observation, to say that this isn’t going to work out when the popular word is that this is going to be fine.

And coming from someone, again, not to make so much about age but someone who is still earlier in her career and still younger person but has already gained these kinds of insights. Now when I pushed on her a bit, yes, it was impressive actually, the sort of depth of what she was bringing. One of the things that became clear was she lives in the space of an incredible gratitude toward people that have mentored her. She repeatedly would talk about those that have been able to guide her, to mentor her, to coach her, to set positive examples for her and I thought this is sort of very powerful story that came through. Someone that had done hard work of preparing; she had great education. She had taken great position. She had worked hard and the people that came around her and coached her and prepared her, mentored her and she is already showing a level of maturity and insight that’s just beyond what you would expect in just years of experience.

Cornelius Fichtner: At this point, many of our listeners are probably going: Oh my God! This sounds great! Where on earth can I subscribe to this podcast?

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.

04/06/2018 02:00 AM
Episode 410: How NASA Manages its Annual Plan and Portfolio (Free)

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Darryl Hahn, Cornelius Fichtner
Darryl Hahn and Cornelius Fichtner

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has worked with PMOs around the United States to define a "best practice" for creating and delivering an annual plan.

This interview with Darryl Hahn (LinkedIn Profile) was recorded at the stimulating Project Management Institute (PMI)® Global Conference 2017 in Chicago, Illinois.

Our interview presents both strategic and tactical approaches for uncovering your organizations' goals and objectives and for creating the prioritized list of achievable projects. We also examine ways of categorizing and classifying types of work, identifying and weighting priorities and adjusting the completed plan for when it collides with real life.

Episode Transcript

Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

Podcast Introduction

Male Voice:   In this episode of the Project Management Podcast™, we discuss how NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and other top federally-funded research and development centers prioritize and monitor annual plan and portfolios.

Podcast Interview

Cornelius Fichtner:   Hello and welcome to the Project Management Podcast™ at I am Cornelius Fichtner. We are coming to you live from the stimulating 2017 PMI® Global Conference in Chicago where I am currently sitting in a completely empty presentation room—it’s Room W180 and the presenter who will be speaking here in about nineteen minutes is Darryl Hahn, sitting with me here. Hello Darryl.

Darryl Hahn:   To a completely empty room.   

Cornelius Fichtner:   We don’t know that. Oh, somebody just walked in the door so we have at least one person who will be listening to you, Darryl. How are you enjoying the conference so far?

Darryl Hahn:   Oh, pretty well. We didn’t get a chance to see a whole lot of presentations yet. We flew in from California last night. We’re actually flying out tonight right after this one. It’s Halloween weekend so I got to get back to the kids so we can go trick or treating.

Cornelius Fichtner:   Yeah, that’s also important. Is this your first conference?

Darryl Hahn:   No, no. I’ve been to a couple of these. Went to the Gartner ones. I’ve been to a bunch of the other different conferences as well. We went to the PMI® one last year.

Cornelius Fichtner:   And when you compare the PMI® to the others—this is specifically for project managers. Do you feel more at home here as a project manager, program manager than you feel at the others?

Darryl Hahn:   I think that’s –that maybe a safe bet to say. It’s certainly more specialized to specifically project management stuff that people are interested in in that expertise so there’s usually a bit more specifics to do here than there are in some of the other ones maybe.

Cornelius Fichtner:   Yeah, What prompted you to talk about and to speak about the topic of the methods and madness to strategic planning—it doesn’t sound like the sexiest of topics.

Darryl Hahn:   No. One of the things that we do at JPL is we chair the Project Management working groups session of all the FFRDCs. FFRDCs are federally-funded research and development facility. We are a full NASA center. There are a bunch of other NASA centers—Ames, Kennedy, a bunch of other ones but we sit down with those folks on a continuing basis and for lack of a better phrase, we share our pain. “Hey what are the other issues that you guys are having today? How do you guys figure out how to attract resources better than anybody else? What are you guys doing when your annual planning blows up and what are the sort of methods that you guys employ to get back on track”—those types of things.

We found a lot of value in collaborating with some of the other FFRDCs  and we decided that each of the FFRDCs do things a little bit differently but they all—since they’re all FFRDCs, they do  things kind of the same way as well. So we decided to sit down and work with some of the other guys and other teams and come up with basically consolidated version of how everybody does that and then be able to share that with everybody else.

One of the key things that we do as an FFRDC is Education Outreach—it’s very important to NASA and all the other NASA centers so we want to make sure that we’re trying to push out as much information as we can.       

Cornelius Fichtner:   Let’s take a step back. Everybody has heard about NASA and the JPL but not everybody may be completely familiar with what you’re doing. Give us sort of a 10,000 ft. overview. What does JPL do?

Darryl Hahn:   JPL’s primary focus is unmanned deep space. So, satellites, rovers—those types of things. We don’t put a person on it—it’s you put your project together –for lack of a better phrase and you send it away realistically forever. Once it physically leaves the planet, you can’t get to it anymore and do stuff with it.  So, a lot of the Project Management sort of characteristics that people are really relying on need to be super fine-tuned because it’s not like we can just go re-do something after our product hits the market—for lack of a better phrase. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.

So we have to really refine a bunch of those things. And you know, like I said, unmanned deep space so all the Mars Rovers, the Mars Exploration—not Mars Exploration Rover, not this one. It’s the Rover, the MSL, the Mars Science Lab, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. We have a couple of earth-orbiting satellites as well –the two other and those kinds of things, but for the most part, it’s unmanned deep space..

Cornelius Fichtner:   OK. You are in the PMO at JPL, right? What is your role in the PMO?

Darryl Hahn:   I run the Project Management Office for the office of the CIO so it’s really the IT-PMO. The flight project side has another sort of PMO; it’s called the Project Support Office. The Project Support Office ones, basically PMO type stuff for the flight projects. They handle the reviews, you get called in front of Congress—that’s what those guys did to help you get through that sort of thing. I need to justify another $200M on my project—that’s those guys. I get the IT stuff. JPL is basically a line organization—excuse me—it’s a matrix organization where there’s flight projects and then there’s a line organization. The only reason JPL is there is for the missions—the flight side. All the line organizations support the flight side. My PMO does everything for the line organizations specifically in the IT area.

Cornelius Fichtner:   OK. And you mentioned that you work with other PMOs from other federal agencies, right? How do you work together with them?

Darryl Hahn:   We have at least quarterly either virtual sessions or we actually get together all. All the FFRDCs have a quarterly CIO gathering. So all of the CIOs tend to gather at one of the different centers whether it’s APL, Applied Physics Lab or MIT or Aerospace RAND, any of those other places.

At the CIO’s gathering, we try and piggyback on to that because we know the relevant people are going to be available or at those sessions so we either try or visit at the same time. And either do a day before or a day after or just a virtual session. And that happens at least once every quarter. Every month we try and get together for calls just to share the pain –“What are you guys doing? You learned anything new? Anybody seeing presentations that they’re enjoying? What did you learn from that?” –those kinds of things.

Cornelius Fichtner:   What is on your annual plan?

Darryl Hahn:   We’ve got all kinds of stuff on our annual plan. Specifically I want to talk about today is the IT annual plan obviously so it’s things like networking, it’s things like cyber security enhancements. It’s things like that the business needs that IT can help with so we need to improve our hiring process. What does that mean? Once we define that, we extract the IT components out of that and we decide whether or not they are valuable IT projects that we can put on our annual plan that will help support the business’ needs.

Cornelius Fichtner:   That actually brings out a very good point. We’re not just talking about space projects here that are on your annual plan. We’re talking about everything, right? Everything and anything that you may need to do as an organization is on your annual plan?

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.

03/16/2018 02:00 AM
Episode 409: CCRS and PDUs (Free)

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The Agile PrepCast for the PMI-ACP Exam

John Kleine
John Kleine, Global Manager, Product Strategy & Delivery

The Project Management Institute (PMI)® has made a number of changes to the Continuing Certification Requirements (CCR) in the past 18 months. These requirements define the policies and guidelines that certified project managers must follow in order to earn PDUs and renew their certification.

In this interview we speak with John Kleine (LinkedIn Profile) who is the Global Manager, Product Strategy & Delivery, at Project Management Institute. One of John's responsibilities is overseeing the CCR and any changes made to it.

We begin by discussing the recertification requirements for a certified Project Management Professional (PMP)® and walk you through many of the updated rules. Of course, the interview is also full with good ideas and suggestions on how to earn PDUs. For example, what would you expect are the most frequently used, and the most under-used PDUs earning activities?

Episode Transcript

Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

Podcast Introduction

Male Voice:   In this episode of the Project Management Podcast™, we talk about what’s new and coming regarding PDUs for all those who hold a PMI® certification.

Podcast Interview

Cornelius Fichtner:   Hello and welcome to the Project Management Podcast™ at I am Cornelius Fichtner. We are coming to you live from the thrilling 2017 PMI Global Conference in Chicago. With me right now, sitting on the other side of the table is John Kleine who is the Global Managers Certifications at PMI. Good afternoon, John.

John Kleine:   Good afternoon, Cornelius.  

Cornelius:   We’ve had you on before and every time we talk about the same thing—PDUs, CCRS [laughs]

John:   Oh, well it’s a very important topic.

Cornelius:   I was just going to say it’s an important topic and a lot of people need to know about it and want to know about it. Yeah. So, the CCR, the Continuing Certification Requirements Program has seen some major changes over the past 18 months. They have been widely publicized and every PMP should know about them by now yet I’m still being asked to explain the new guidelines again and again.

So, to get us started, would you please give us a quick overview of what the requirements are for someone who has just passed their PMP exam maybe yesterday. What do they need to know in regards to PDUs?

John:   Right. I can tell you somewhere in the world yesterday, someone did pass the PMP. Well, the first thing I would tell you if we were in a hotel lobby or something and we’re limited on time, would be go to, click on “Certifications” and then click on “Maintenance of Certifications” and that’ll have a much deeper dive than what I’m currently going to give you but I would tell that individual that within a three-year cycle to maintain this PMP certification that they’ve worked so hard for and had earned that over three years, they’re going have to earn 60 PDUs—60 Professional Development Units and those are broken out into two categories.

We have Education and we have Giving Back to the Profession. Now within Education, PMI in the new changes stated that you have to have a minimum of 35 PDUs but you could have up to 60—which means in Giving Back to the Profession, you don’t have to have any but you can’t have more than 25 because the whole program’s emphasis is on professional development. And then within the Education, based on research and feedback from organizations, what we’ve done is we’ve now directed the learning into three areas—technical skills, the leadership skills and the business and strategic skills.

So, skills and knowledge in all those areas are what we’ve learned from employers that they really want to see development within the project managers and their organizations. And so, from that, that’s the basic. The thing is getting them done within three years.                                                            

Cornelius:   That seems to be the problem for some people.

John:   Yes.

Cornelius:   The new rules for the PDUs, they have been in effect for quite some time now—I’d like to hear what kind of feedback you have received from the three main stakeholder groups—yourself, first of all, then PMP certificate holders, as well as education providers. So, how does PMI feel that these rules are working out?  

John:   Alright. First of all, the rules are working out great from PMI from doing this and this is going to sound a little conceited or whatever, coming back but I’m not surprised because of it because when we did this, we didn’t go into a conference room and go “Hey, this will be a cool idea. Let’s change it and do it”.

There was a lot of research, resources and effort put into this so that when we roiled it out, we knew we were meeting what the market wanted to happen. And I think as we get into the other two groups, you can do it but from what I’ve seen so far, as we progress into this, it’s been very well received and it’s going—I have nothing but the highest regard for our certification holders on how they received it and how they are working through it.

Cornelius:    OK. Well, let’s move on to the certification holders—what are they telling you? 

John:   Again, based on the earlier question, I wouldn’t have said “great” if I did not think this but honestly, we’re hearing great feedback from them as well and this always takes me back to when we were researching this and the reason that I started having confidence we were doing the right thing and that it was the right thing to do for the profession was in the focus groups, I started seeing around the world, started seeing a common thing coming out of this—the practitioners we were interviewing—I was literally behind the glass looking and they were all talking about how much PMI did to create the PMP and what they had, you had to go through to attain the PMP but then all of a sudden, once it was bestowed, they kind of felt that we just left them alone.

We didn’t provide them any more kind of direction of what was happening, what was in demand within the profession and it really fell upon them to try to learn what they didn’t know. So, once we rolled it out, the feedback has been very positive and when we do get a criticism, usually isn’t about the program—it maybe someone would go:” I think it should have been seven PDUs required in technical versus eight PDUs so the content is always not what this discussed but maybe a little bit of the process. So, it’s been well-received and it’s kudos to our—as I said, to our practitioners.  

Cornelius:   What about the training companies—what do they tell you?

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.

12/21/2017 02:00 AM
Episode 408: How to Write Excellent User Stories (Free)

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Betsy and Cornelius
Betsy Stockdale and Cornelius Fichtner

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.

Episode Transcript

Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

Podcast Introduction

Female Voice:   In this episode of the Project Management Podcast™, we will look at the life cycle of Agile requirements and how to use visual models to identify epics and user stories.

Podcast Interview

Cornelius Fichtner:   Hello and welcome to the Project Management Podcast™ at I am Cornelius Fichtner. We are coming to you live from the inspiring 2017 PMI Global Conference in Chicago. And with me right now is Betsy Stockdale. Good afternoon.

Betsy Stockdale:   Good afternoon.  

Cornelius:   How has your conference been so far? You look very chipper.

Betsy:   Oh well. Of course. Because it’s really great to be here and it’s really fun to listen to a number of these different sessions and just get inspired on things that I might be able to take back to the office with me.

Cornelius:   Wow and I used the word “inspire” just a moment ago.

Betsy:   Yes, you did and that was not planned [laughs]

Cornelius:   Completely not. So, what have you seen so far?     

Betsy:   Oh well, the keynote was awesome, obviously and then there was a couple of others especially around Agile and I’m definitely working in an Agile world these days. So, just you know, attending some of the sessions with regards to Agile and really trying to pick up some tips and tricks that I can take back to my organization and my team.

Cornelius:   The energy is really fantastic this year. I’m really excited to be here, yeah. Let’s move on to your presentation. Have you already presented?

Betsy:   No, I’ll actually present tomorrow afternoon.

Cornelius:   OK. Your presentation is about “Not Your Mama’s Acceptance Criteria: A Guide to Writing Excellent User Stories”. Now at this point, we have to make one thing clear—you’re not a project manager. You’re a business analyst?  

Betsy:   I am.  

Cornelius:   Yes, you are our backbone. You’re the person we can’t live without.

Betsy:   I like to think so.   

Cornelius:   Yes, absolutely. [laughs] 

Betsy:   [laughs].   

Cornelius: “Not your Mama’s Acceptance Criteria—two words—acceptance criteria: A Guide to Writing Excellent User Stories”—how do these four words—acceptance criteria and user stories—how do they match together?

Betsy:   Well, it’s –in this Agile world, we really are looking at writing our requirements in a different format so instead of the system shell statements, over and over and a thousand times over, we’re really using much more of a natural language to write our requirements and that’s the user story part. So that’s very helpful in terms of understanding what it is that –who our user is and what are they trying to accomplish but the meat of the material is really in the acceptance criteria.

That’s what really helps us understand what is it that our folks are trying to accomplish and it really helps our developers understand what it is the software needs to do and the testers, they understand what to test.

Cornelius:   So, in other words, the acceptance criteria are part of the user story.

Betsy:   They are. They are.

Cornelius:   OK, good. What is your interest in this topic?  

Betsy:   Well, as a business analyst, this is like essentially my core and this is what I do all the time. I’m writing user stories and I’m writing the acceptance criteria to go along with them but I also want to really make sure that I completely understand what my stakeholders are looking to accomplish and what their objectives are because I want to make sure that whatever—the requirements that I’m writing reflect that to make sure that they get software that is valuable, and beneficial for them.

Cornelius:   And how important are user stories with good acceptance criteria in your day to day work?

Betsy:   They’re indispensable. Without it, then who knows what our developers would come up with? [laughs] They get creative if you don’t give them an idea of what it is you’re looking for and that may not be a good thing.   

Cornelius:   Your presentation centers around a process—Identify-Elaborate-Refine-Ready—in order to get to a good, well-written user story that includes those fabulous acceptance criteria. Is this a standard process? Where does this come from?

Betsy:   It is, in my mind anyway and my co-workers at C-Level and it really is helping us understand that just because we’re Agile doesn’t mean that we just start writing requirements. There’s a whole process to understand and figure out what it is that we do and I think a lot of times especially in the Agile space, people forget that. It’s not we just start developing whether for Sprint, you have to have that product backlog and that product backlog has to come from somewhere.

So, this process is really about understanding what is it that needs to be in that product backlog in getting to that point, so that way we have the backlog ready for our first Sprint.    

Cornelius:   OK. So, we have Identify, Elaborate, Refine and Ready. Identify has four sub steps, Elaborate, two, three rather, Refine has three, Ready has two –how much time do you invest in the user story in order to get it to Ready?

Betsy:   [laughs] Oh it kind of depends. But you know I think on average, you can probably look at it and say that every user story probably takes three to five minutes each if you are looking at it from beginning to end. Now obviously it’s a very iterative process. We’re going to do a little bit and then we’re going to do a little bit something else and then we’re going to do a little bit more before it’s actually all ready to go and there’s always more than one.

So, if you probably look at it from that beginning to end, three to five minutes per story is about right.

Cornelius:   3 to 5 minutes!

Betsy:   Uhm.

Cornelius:   You are very quick. It takes me days to write user stories. Alright. Let’s begin with the beginning. Identify. What do we do in the Identify?

Betsy:   Identifying is really getting down to understanding what it is that the business wants to accomplish. All of our projects that we’re working on, we’re trying to either take advantage of an opportunity or solve a problem. And so, I need to understand what that opportunity or that problem is in order for me to be able to move forward or actually the whole team to move forward.

So that whole Identify section is really getting a good understanding of that because without it then we may build something that doesn’t meet the needs of our business.

Cornelius:   At that point if I identify, I’m probably at a pretty high level –that means we’re writing epics at that moment.    

Betsy:   Absolutely. Yes. And we could even be higher than epics. It could be an initiative or—pick your word but yes, it’s extremely high level. Let’s start figuring out what is it that we actually need to build.  

Cornelius:   OK. Process flows are also part of this.

Betsy:   Absolutely. Because we’re going to be using the software as part of their business processes so if I don’t understand even at that high level with that business processes, then I don’t understand how they’re going to use this software or how they are going to use it to take advantage of that opportunity or solve that problem.     

Cornelius:   And how about business objectives?

Betsy:   That’s all part of it. That’s actually at the very beginning so we like to create something called the business objectives model which really helps us understand what the problem is and how we think we would solve that problem or what the solution will actually look like.

Cornelius:   Is all of this happening before the official and I’m making air quotes here –the “official” project has started? When do we get into this?

Betsy:   It really depends on how you define the start of the project. So, in the purest business or like a Project Management world, this is probably all part of the project charter and really have an understanding, again, what is it that we’re attempting to accomplish here?

Many times, I don’t see so many charters anymore and so if I don’t have this information available for me when I show up on a project, then I feel it’s incumbent upon myself to go back and take those few steps back to say, “No, I need to understand this” because otherwise, I’m not driving towards the solution and I’m wasting everybody’s time and money and I don’t want to do that either.

Cornelius:   And how do people react when you do that?

Betsy:   It depends on who they are. Senior managers, actually are pretty good about it. Especially if I told them that a lot of times I’m doing this to make sure that I can control our scope and not worry about the extra stuff that people all get excited about or that they may want us to build and that we’re going to focus on really making sure that we build a solution for them. They’re very, very welcoming.

Middle managers, especially people who think. “No, we just need to get going”—maybe not so much [chuckles] but most of them understand. So, it’s usually pretty well-taken.

Cornelius:   OK. So, in the Identify process that we have –the four sub processes ---understand the objectives, identify and prioritize features and then create the process flows and the last one seems easier said than done, I say, it’s identify user stories—how do you identify the user stories because at that point, you have such a big thing in your head. How do you now go from all of this? How do you break it down?

Betsy:   Well that’s where actually a lot of just the objectives and even the user stories help us understand well what is it that these—what are these high-level things? We also create something called the Feature Tree which kind of helps us start to think of what those high-level features are and break it down into smaller bits.

All of this actually helps us create the user stories and even like a story map. Here is like our high-level process, here’s the features and functions which turn into our epics and break down further into stories –here’s what we need to have in order to create the software for this particular process.   

Cornelius:   So, it’s basically just a matter of starting somewhere and just breaking it down, breaking it down and continuing and not stopping until you’re done. How do you know you’re done?

Betsy:   Well, you’re done when everybody says, “Yes, this is good enough”.

Cornelius:   We’ve run out of bagels we have to…

Betsy:  [laughs] We’ve run out of bagels, we’ve run out of time or everybody gets dispersed to another project because it’s good enough. We’re never actually fully done but as long as we feel like we’re good enough. That’s when we’re done.

Cornelius:   And I think “we’re never fully done” is underlined by the fact that the next step—big step is elaborate.    

Betsy:   Yes

Cornelius:   What do we do now? Now that we have this initial list of the user stories?

Betsy:   Right, so elaborate really kind of goes into understanding it even a bit more and we even start going in and having some design sessions. Because I know especially with our stakeholders, they have a vision in their head on what this thing looks like and what it’s going to do. The sooner I pull that out of them and understand where they’re coming from, the better.

So, it’s really going through and saying, “Alright, well let’s talk about this process. Let’s dive a little bit deeper. Let’s go into the next layer and understand it a little bit more. What do you think this users’ screen might look like? Let’s talk about the different ways that we might be able to solve this problem”.

And it may not always be software related. It could be a process thing that we just need to change. And so –that’s even better that we don’t have to build with anything if we make some tweaks in our processes, let’s do it that way. So, it’s really kind of going through and really peeling that onion –it’s that next layer.

Cornelius:   OK. So, in the last 5-6 minutes, we’ve talked about writing user stories but your presentation title: “Not your Mama’s Acceptance Criteria”—when do the acceptance criteria start coming to play?

Betsy:   That’s in the Refine phase.    

Cornelius:   Ahh. We’re not there yet.

Betsy:   Not quite.

Cornelius:   OK, so we’re still developing these user stories. Under Elaborate you also have create mock-ups.

Betsy:   Yes. That’s the what the whole system might look like—the screen mock-ups. So, let’s start putting different options out there and so it’s really kind of thinking through – “Well gosh, do we need to have this all on one screen or is this a flow and a work-flow that we need to have here?”

So, you know there’s different ways that we can always solve things. It’s looking at the various options that are available and then choosing one direction that we think is going to be best for that user community.           

Cornelius:   OK. And then lastly under Elaborate, elicit story point estimates. How do you like to elicit them?

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.

12/10/2017 02:00 AM
Episode 407: The Agile Practice Guide (Free)

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Mike G, Jesse F, Cornelius F
Jesse Fewell, Mike Griffiths and Cornelius Fichtner

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.

This interview with Mike Griffiths (LinkedIn Profile) and Jesse Fewell (LinkedIn Profile) was recorded at the splendid Project Management Institute (PMI)® Global Conference 2017 in Chicago, Illinois.

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.

Episode Transcript

Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

Podcast Introduction

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 I am Cornelius Fichtner.

We are coming to you live from the splendid 2017 PMI Global Conference in Chicago.

Podcast Interview

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.

12/02/2017 02:00 AM
Episode 406: Leading Projects Without Authority (Free)

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Jeff and Cornelius
Jeff Kissinger and Cornelius Fichtner

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

Episode Transcript

Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

Podcast Introduction

Male Voice:   In this episode of the Project Management Podcast™, we discover how to lead project teams successfully without direct authority.

Podcast Interview

Cornelius Fichtner:   Hello and welcome to the Project Management Podcast™ at I am Cornelius Fichtner. We are coming to you live from the superb 2017 PMI Global Conference in Chicago. And with me right now is Jeff Kissinger. Good afternoon, I think it is. Hello Jeff!

Jeff Kissinger:   Good afternoon. Just turned afternoon. How are you today?

Cornelius:   I am doing very well. How is everything going for you, so far? I understand this is what—your eighth day in Chicago?

Jeff:   Yes, it is. I’ve been here since Monday. I was here for the PMI Master Class and I graduated with 34 wonderful people that I can see again soon.

Cornelius:   Congratulations!

Jeff:   They’re all over the world. I hope to see them again, if not next year, sooner.

Cornelius:   Yeah. The Master’s Class is a PMI-sponsored program. I think it takes four years in total, right?     

Jeff:   Well, it’s one year—they take you, they start you at the LIM. Others at class 2018 started at this LIM that we had—that Leadership Institute Meeting and they had their classes before the LIM and then they have group projects they do and they meet again next year, March or April and then they’ll meet at the next one in Los Angeles for the final classes but they work throughout the year. They’re constantly doing work challenging each other, connecting with each other, learning –it’s intensive. And I really feel grateful I got to go through it.

I put my information against all these other people who applied for it and I feel fortunate to have been chosen and I can’t stress enough to anybody who’s a PMI chapter leader just volunteering for the first time if they have an opportunity to apply for the Master Class to go for it.

Cornelius:   How are you enjoying the conference?

Jeff:   I’m enjoying it. I met a lot of people here that are just very kind, interesting, willing to talk about what they do. That’s amazing when you put a bunch of people who have a lot in common together how much—whether it be commiserating together about things about projects or sharing ideas that I’ve never heard of before but doing this for a while but I can always learn something. It’s wonderful to meet these people and talk about it whether it be at the conference or the LIM or the Master Class.

Cornelius:   So, the people who are listening to this, they are sitting at home and weren’t here—they’re missing out?  

Jeff:   Yes, they are.

Cornelius:   Hear this, listeners—you’re missing out.

Jeff:   [laughs]  

Cornelius:   I sincerely hope that many of our listeners are going to consider to come next year. Los Angeles, I believe. 

Jeff:   Yes, it is.   

Cornelius:   And it’s going to be just another great conference that we’re going to have there.

Jeff:   Absolutely.

Cornelius:   The topic of your presentation is “Leading with Authority: --Without—Oh my God, I can’t even read. It is “Leading Without Authority: The Project Manager’s Dilemma”. There’s always a story behind the title. What’s the story behind this presentation?

Jeff:   Well, I’ve been involved in Project Management for many years. As a volunteer, I’ve led projects for over 25 years and as an employee whether it be in a commercial or an academic setting, I’ve done it for 17 and in almost every case, I have not had authority—direct authority, but I’ve also worked for people who had authority that had misused it, abused it or they used it well. But knowing that I have to go out there and do—sometimes it seems like the impossible without authority, I know I had to develop influence and I have to drill up skills that I had to learn from people.

So, it goes back for me 20 years ago. That was 20 years ago this month that my wife broke her foot. She was cleaning something and she fell off the couch and she broke her foot. Now, that may not seem like a big deal or how this even relates but she was earning most of the money in the house and I just graduated from college back in December 1996. I was 28 years old and I never had a real job that didn’t fold the nametag or something like that and I was going up there applying for jobs and trying to get something going on and I finally got a little contracting gig that I was doing.

It was working out pretty good but it wasn’t making the kind of money she was making because she’s a hair stylist and we’re living in Las Vegas, which is vanity capital of the world. And when you’re a hair stylist, you make decent money. When she broke her foot, she had her foot up for four weeks, she couldn’t work. And we had to depend on my income which really wasn’t enough. Two days later, I got a contract. A pretty big contract because I was doing technical writing, consulting services with another person.

I went into that project ready. No one to help you —I’m going to make some money but this thing doesn’t come right away, it was just contract money, not 30 net 60 whatever they tried to throw at me. I decided that I’m going to do whatever it takes. I’m going to get this done. And the project manager for this was somebody who was given quite a bit of authority and there was about eight of us on this team. Real smart people, real good people. And we were subcontracted as part of the contractor who was working for Hewlett-Packard. It was during the net server days.

We went at it but I was given—"Here, take these Lotus notes slides and convert them to PowerPoint slides”. And it wasn’t really easy because they all just disintegrated and I had to reintegrate them together and I did all this and the project manager said, “Ok, we’re getting ready to put our output for the training together. So, he prints off a few of these slides I did—I did 2000 of them. He prints off maybe 20 and he faxes them up to Hewlett-Packard and we all just looked at each other and went: “Oh my God! We’re going to die. This is awful. This isn’t an output. This isn’t what I signed up for!”

But I had to keep working because I needed to make money. I didn’t feel I wanted to be a part of this at all. This thing had no vision, does have no direction, doesn’t have nothing and we’re going to get beat up. And then this guy, who I’ve known for a while now, brises up out of it and says: “Look, we have a deadline. We got to get this done by January. We have these things I got to get done. Let’s forget about him. Let’s get to work”. So, he gave me very clear direction what he wanted me to do, what he wanted me to write, some website, stuff he wanted me to develop. Other people working on their parts. He organized it all, he did his part and we came in, we delivered on time and got it done.

He had vision, he had clarity, he had reason, he defined what needed to be done, he got us to agree on what we’re doing, he got us flowing in the right direction and we executed it and we stayed together as a team for a while on other projects. He was really good and that taught me that he didn’t even have any authority. He had no authority on this thing but he was a leader and it taught me that I need to be a leader. I don’t need authority to be a leader and that’s the whole point of the whole talk that I did.

Cornelius:   So, let’s take a step back. How do you define authority?  

Jeff:   Authority is having the jurisdiction, the power, the ability to control the granted as managers typically have over reports and to make decisions and to say this is what I get to do and we’re doing it this way. And some people that have authority, when put in the wrong hands, is like a nuclear weapon. They can go out and just ruin people with it. “I told you to do that because that’s the way it’s got to get done. Now go do it”. Micromanagement –an authority like that. Or somebody who has authority but doesn’t use it properly in the sense that they’re too afraid to use it.

But somebody who is balanced, somebody who is humble, somebody who’s principled, having authority, they use it judiciously, they’re very careful about it, they don’t try to tell people what to do but to show people what to do. They have a clear vision of what it is they need to do. They break things down into small batches and they allow people to have the autonomy to do it as they need to get it done and they lead them through it. They listen to the ideas of others. They tell people that I can’t do this without you. We can’t do this without each other and they bring them in as a team. They create which is essentially a clear flow of information, a clear flow of ability and a clear flow of productivity.

Cornelius:   You sent me your presentation before the conference here and I printed it out and I looked at the first page and the one thing I was immediately thinking was “Leading Without Authority: The Project Manager’s Dilemma” but wait a minute, purely theoretically, the project manager’s name should be mentioned in the charter so the project manager has the authority—the formal authority.   

Jeff:   Yes. Well, they do and they don’t. Depending on the organization. I’ll give you an example. I always put the project charter out front. I talk about that right in the beginning of the presentation. One of the ways that I can try to gain authority is by including it in the project charter and also having a sponsor that I work with who trusts me and the people that report on the team also are connected to that sponsor—that makes it easier. But the person who gives me that authority, so to speak, in the project charter, I had them take it back, whether they write it down or not, it depends on what kind of leader they are and the charter, again, it’s provisional, at best.

It’s not something that I get to take with me. I don’t have direct reports. This person, yeah, they are my team and I’m given this provisional authority but that person reports to somebody else and they’ll do what that other person tells them. But when I can work with somebody and do the things that I talked about in this discussion, they commit to it. Their enthusiasm, what they want to do is attached to the reason why they were doing this. It’s attached to the vision of a project which is attached to the vision of the organization.

Cornelius:   What are some authority issues that we should look into at the beginning of the project?

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.

11/24/2017 02:00 AM
Episode 405.2: The PMI-ACP Exam is Changing in 2018 (Free)

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PMI Agile Cerfified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® Training on your mobile device:
The Agile PrepCast for the PMI-ACP Exam

Alicia Burke
Alicia Burke, Global Product Manager PMI-ACP

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.

Episode Transcript

Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

Podcast Introduction

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 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.

Podcast Interview

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 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?

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.

11/18/2017 02:00 AM
Episode 405.1: The PMP Exam is Changing in 2018 (Free)

Play Now:

Project Management Professional (PMP)® Training on your mobile device:
The PM PrepCast for the PMP Exam

Simona and Cornelius
Simona Fallavollita and Cornelius Fichtner

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.

Episode Transcript

Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

Coming soon...

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.

11/10/2017 02:00 AM
Episode 404: Building Trust Using Virtual Communication (Free)

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Project Management Professional (PMP)® Training on your mobile device:
The PM PrepCast for the PMP Exam

Sara and Cornelius
Sara Gallagher and Cornelius Fichtner

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.

Episode Transcript

Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

Podcast Introduction

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 I am Cornelius Fichtner. We are coming to you live from the inspiring 2017 PMI Global Conference in Chicago.

Podcast Interview

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?


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.

11/06/2017 02:00 AM
Episode 403: Advanced Product Quality Planning (APQP) (Free)

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For your Project Management Professional (PMP)® exam get PMP Training on your phone from The PM PrepCast:
The PM PrepCast for the PMP Exam

M Ericson
Marygracesoleil Ericson

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.

Episode Transcript

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 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 . 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.

Marygracesoleil:   Yeah.

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:   Exactly.

Marygracesoleil:   Yeah.

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.

Marygracesoleil:   Yes.

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.

Cornelius:   OK.

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.

Cornelius:   Why?

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.

Marygracesoleil:   Right.

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]

Cornelius:   [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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10/31/2017 02:00 AM
Episode 402: Generational Sensitivity and Diversity for Project Leaders (Free)

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Margaret Meloni
Margaret Meloni, MBA, PMP

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 ( 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...

Episode Transcript

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Podcast Introduction

Transcript coming soon!

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10/20/2017 02:00 AM
Episode 401: Emotional Intelligence for Project Leaders (Premium)

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Margaret Meloni
Margaret Meloni, MBA, PMP

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 ( 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.

Episode Transcript

Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

Podcast Introduction

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 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.

Podcast Interview

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?

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10/08/2017 02:00 AM
Episode 400: Mindfulness for Project Managers (Free)

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Margaret Meloni
Margaret Meloni, MBA, PMP

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 ( 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.

Episode Transcript

Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

Podcast Introduction

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 . 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.

Podcast Interview

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?”  

Cornelius:   Never.

Margaret:   OK, well, you’re perfect. But—I have.

Cornelius: [laughs]

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?

Cornelius:   Yeah.

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.

Cornelius:   Yeah

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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