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But what if the skills don’t match up to the tasks at hand? What if a team member is lacking a skill? What if the technology is so new and different that your users will have a hard time with it? The answer is of course coaching, mentoring and training.
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This interview is 42:34 minutes long. This means that you can "legally" only claim 0.50 PDUs for listening to it, because in order to claim 0.75 PDUs the interview must be 45 minutes long. However... if you first listen to the interview and then also read the following article from Susanne about coaching and project management, then you can go ahead and claim 0.75 PDUs!Click to read the article
Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.
Transcript 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.
There is no doubt in my mind that you have heard the term lessons learned before.
It is mentioned extensively throughout A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, (PMBOK® Guide), I teach it as part of my PMP training lessons and my favorite search engine gives me over 51,000 results for the search term “lessons learned in project management”. In fact, as an experienced project manager you have probably participated or even chaired one or two lessons learned meetings yourself on your own projects.
But let’s consider the bigger picture around lessons learned. What process do we follow? What management techniques are there for lessons learned? Are all documented lessons learned equally valuable?
Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.
Transcript 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.
Are you using an adaptive life cycle to manage your projects? You know, something that falls under the general umbrella of Agile like Scrum, XP, Kanban or DSDM?
And if your answer to this question is yes, then think about when exactly you started using these approaches, because that date says a lot about you and your organization. If you started 20 or more years ago then you can consider yourself to be an innovator, but if you started just recently you are a laggard. (And just in case you are wondering, I would put myself in the middle with what is called the "early majority".)
But no matter when you started your journey into Agile it might be interesting to know how many of us out there are actually using Agile on our projects. And according to Joseph Flahiff (www.whitewaterprojects.com -- www.linkedin.com/in/josephflahiff) there are more than you would think.
How many more? He doesn’t have an exact number, but then again nobody knows how many waterfall-based projects there are either. However, studies done on this subject and a number of other indicators lead him to believe that Agile is now the new normal. The number of Agile projects is massive, which is just one more reason to also get started with your PMI-ACP Exam Prep
This interview is 28:59 minutes long. This means that you can "legally" only claim 0.25 PDUs for listening to it, because in order to claim 0.50 PDUs the interview must be 30 minutes long. However... if you first listen to the interview and then also read the article on which it is based, then you can go ahead and claim 0.50 PDUs!Click to read the article
Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.
Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome to Episode #396. This is the Project Management Podcast™ at www.pm-podcast.com and I’m Cornelius Fichtner. Are you using an adaptive life cycle to manage your projects? You know, something that falls under the general umbrella of Agile like Scrum, XP, Kanban or DSDM and if your answer to this question is yes, then think about when exactly you started using these approaches because that date says a lot about you and your organization. If you started 20 or more years ago, then you can consider yourself to be an innovator, but if you started just recently, you are a laggard and just in case you’re wondering, I would put myself somewhere in the middle with the early majority. If you are a project manager who wants to become PMI ACP certified, then the easiest way to do so is with our sister podcast, the Agile PrepCast and get your certification training for the exam by watching the in-depth Exam Prep Video Training from www.AgilePrepCast.com . But no matter when you started your journey into Agile, it might be interesting to know how many of us out there are actually using Agile on their projects and according to Joseph Flahiff, there are more than you would think. How many more? He doesn’t have an exact number but then again nobody really knows how many Waterfall-based projects there are either. However, studies done on this subject and the number of other indicators lead him to believe that Agile is now the new normal. The number of Agile projects is massive. Enjoy the interview.
Female Voice: Project Management Podcast™ Feature Interview.
Cornelius Fichtner: Today with Joseph Flahiff, Project Management Author, Consultant and Organizational Alchemist
Cornelius: Hello, Joseph and welcome back to the podcast.
Joseph Flahiff: Hey Cornelius. Thank you and it’s great to be here again. I love [talked over]
Cornelius: Wonderful. We’re happy to have you.
Joseph: Thank you.
Cornelius: So why were you interested in writing an article about how well Agile is implemented around the world?
Joseph: You know I was thinking about it. I was actually looking forward at what’s coming next. Agile’s been around for about thirty years depending on where you measure it from twenty to thirty years. People would not think of it as being that old but it really is and I was thinking about what’s next? The world’s changed a lot since then. The people that were innovating those things are now not innovating those things. That’s a sweeping judgment and I don’t mean to make it sound that way but there’s not a ton of innovation happening on the Agile front—at least not as it was in the original time frame and so my thinking was: “Hmm, who are the innovators today and what are they innovating?” so that’s what’s going on in my mind and it led me to think about where Agile is in its adoption and is anybody doing innovation yet or—those kinds of things.
Cornelius: What is the 10,000-foot summary of your findings?
Joseph: From about 10,000 feet you could see that it’s pretty clear that at least 50% of IT organizations out there have adopted some form or semblance of Agile practices or are being Agile. They self-proclaim that.
Cornelius: Alright, and just for our metric users, 10,000 feet is about 3,048 meters. [chuckles]. Why is this finding important for our listeners for our Project Management Podcast™ listeners?
Joseph: Well it’s important because 50% is half of the people out there in the world. That means that a lot of folks are already using Agile practices and just about anywhere. You know—flip a coin—if you take a new job, 50-50 chance that those people at the new place have adopted some form of Agile or are going to soon.
Cornelius: Yeah. Strange coincidence—this morning—and I’m not making this one up, I received an email from a friend/colleague of mine from Orange County who said that he is actually having trouble finding a Project Management job because he does not yet have Agile training. There seems to be adoption in progress here. But before we move any further, let’s talk a little bit about the word “adoption” and particularly adoption levels and what all of this means and please tell us what is the diffusion innovation curve that you mentioned in your article?
Joseph: Yeah, the diffusion of innovations curve—that was developed by Everett Rogers back in 1962 and he was doing a study interested in how new innovations get distributed or diffused into society. He did research into about 508 different studies and he took their data and pulled it apart. These studies were in anthropology, in sociology, education and industrial and medical sociology. All of these studies he compiled together and out of that, he drew his conclusions, right? And he created this, essentially a bell curve, so he found that the distribution was essentially a bell curve and it followed a pretty predictable pattern. There were these early people who actually created the innovation. So, they are the people that went out and tried something new and failed that and tried again and failed and suddenly created something new. This would be—in the Agile context—would be the people who founded the Agile movement. At that time, it was really the late 80’s early 90’s, they were actually calling it lightweight development practices when they actually had a name for it. So, those are the innovators, then the next group of –that’s about 2.5% of the entire population anytime you’re talking about an innovation. 2.5%. So, then there’s this next group of people that are the early adaptors. They are the folks that have a Tesla or are looking at getting solar panels for their roof. They’re the people who had the first iPhone, those people who are willing to put up with some stress and some failures because they like the new shiny thing, the new fancy thing. They like to be out in front. That’s about 13.5% of the population. The next group is the early majority group—they are about 34% of the population. That’s when you start seeing mass adoptions of something. If we started seeing everyone’s driving a Tesla or right now you see everybody’s got an iPhone or something like an iPhone, right? The early majority is when you start seeing that about half the time, people have those things because at that point you’re at 50%. The next group of people, the next 34% is the late majority—those are the folks that are a little bit behind that curve but still adopting. As mass adoption starts to happen, they’re “on-board”. That’s 34% and the last little group are the laggards and they’re the people who will adopt something kicking and screaming, right?
Cornelius: Right. That’s my brother who finally got a smartphone last year.
Joseph: Yes. Yes. [laughs] There you go. That’s the laggards. They’re a small percentage of the population. They believe life was better before sliced bread.
Cornelius: So, where is Agile in this model? Where is Agile adoption here?
Joseph: Yeah, it’s an interesting question because it’s hard to just put a pinpoint on it and say, “This is exactly where it is”—because nobody has pure data. There was a recent study by HP and in their study, they showed that about 16% of the population said they’re using pure Agile and then another 24% said they’re using some hybrid form of Agile so that’s 40% of the population so if you just look at that and people who are saying they’re doing something Agile is 40%. In that same study, another 51% said they were leaning toward Agile. So, if you take all of that together, that’s 91%. That leaves you 9% leftover who are—there’s 2% that’s pure waterfall and 17% that are leaning more toward Waterfall.
Cornelius: Yeah OK, so this study has just one data point that we’ve got, right? In your article, you list a few more so let’s take a look at those. You grouped them under nice headings. Let’s take a look at these headings. The first heading is “Agile Adoption curve, underdogs no more”. What do you mean by that?
Joseph: For most of the past 30 years, the Agile community has kind of fought an underdog fight. They have been—we have been—I’ve been one of us—have taken the approach that we have something really good and we want to share it with you. Please listen to us. We know that most of the people use a sequential or Waterfall model but there’s this other thing that we could do and it’s better. It can get you more speed and greater predictability and adaptability as your deploying things like software, right? It’s been an underdog fight. We’ve been the one that no one expected really to win. I remember back in the day—back in the early 90’s—early 2000’s going to Global Congress and things like that or people would still say, “Oh, Agile’s a fad, it’s not going to stick around. It’s just a fluke” and then after a while it got, “Well, you know what? Maybe it’s sticking around”. Well, now we’re seeing that it’s starting to be the tidal wave. It’s being the majority, not the minority.
Cornelius: So, from that perspective, when should a company think about adopting Agile?
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.
This is another episode where I’m asking: Are you currently studying or thinking about studying for your PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® Exam? Wonderful. That’s what we are going to be talking about.
In this interview you are going to meet Yazmine Darcy (https://www.linkedin.com/in/yazminedarcy). Yazmine is not only one of my students and coworkers, she is also the project manager in charge of developing the sample exam questions that we use in our PMI-ACP Simulator. And so, if you not only want to know how to prepare for your own PMI-ACP Exam but also want to hear about all the work that goes into creating one of the training tools you could be using, then you have come to the right place.
As you know, the rules of all Project Management Institute (PMI)® exams are such that we are not allowed to discuss specific questions from the exam. But we can discuss her overall experience, general thoughts on the process and her recommendations to you. So you can look forward to an experience and tip filled interview on how to prepare for and pass your PMI-ACP Exam.
Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome to Episode #395. This is the Project Management Podcast™ at www.pm-podcast.com and I’m Cornelius Fichtner. This is another episode where I’m asking: “Are you currently studying or thinking about studying for your PMI ACP Exam?” Wonderful! Because that’s what we are going to be talking about. This is the third and final interview in which we learn from one of my work colleagues, how they passed their PMI ACP Exam. And of course, that brings me to this: If you are a project manager who wants to become PMI ACP certified, then the easiest way to do so is with our sister podcast, the Agile PrepCast and get your certification training for the exam by watching the in-depth Exam Prep Video Training from www.AgilePrepCast.com . In this interview, we are going to meet Yazmine Darcy. Yazmine is not only one of my students and co-workers, she is also the project manager in charge of developing the sample exam questions that we use in our PMI ACP Exam Simulator. So, if you not only want to know how to prepare for your PMI ACP Exam but also want to hear about all the work that goes into actually creating one of the training tools that you could be using, then you have come to the right place. As you know, the rules of all PMI Exams are such that we are not allowed to discuss specific questions from the exam but we can discuss Yazmine’s overall experience, general thoughts on the process and her recommendations to you so you can look forward to an experience and tip-filled interview on how to prepare for and pass your PMI ACP Exam. And now does a podcast interview qualify as an information radiator? Enjoy the interview.
Female Voice: Project Management Podcast™ Feature Interview. Today with Yazmine Darcy, Senior Project Manager for OSP International.
Cornelius: Hello, Yazmine and thank you very much for stopping by.
Yazmine: Hello Cornelius. Thanks for having me over.
Cornelius: Sure. Well, first of all, congratulations on passing the PMI ACP Exam.
Yazmine: Thank you [laughs] I am glad that it worked out.
Cornelius: [laughs] When exactly did you pass?
Yazmine: I passed in November. I recall it was a holiday weekend, so I studied and prepared on a Friday and I went in and took my exam bright and early on a Monday.
Cornelius: OK. The PMI ACP is not your first exam, right? You’ve already taken the PMP before that.
Yazmine: That’s right I took my PMP a few years back.
Cornelius: Right. And then you also have an MBA on top of that.
Yazmine: That is true. [laughs]
Cornelius: [laughs] OK. What we also have to do at this point is we have to insert a disclaimer because you and I are colleagues. We both work for OSP International. We are a training company and we do offer PMP Exam Training and PMI ACP Training and I believe you used both our Agile PrepCast and our Exam Simulator, right?
Yazmine: That is true.
Cornelius: That is true and you are also in charge of making sure that our Agile sample questions in the simulator get updated to the latest exam specification. We’ll get to that later on but just to get this disclaimer out at the very beginning. So, my first question is always very similar. Now that you have passed the exam what is your No.1 recommendation to the listeners who are currently preparing for the exam?
Yazmine: I think my No. 1 recommendation is for people to understand what their goal is when taking this exam. For myself, I wanted not only to pass but also to have good understanding of all the material. So, in retrospect, unlike many other students who may not have read through most of the books. I opted to try to at least read through, not thoroughly, skimmed through in some cases, but for purposes of the work that we do and in order to prepare for the exam, I thought it important to go through and spend the time and read those 12 references. Probably not what everybody wants to do but in my case, I did.
Cornelius: OK, let me just jump into this one here because currently, the PMI ACP Exam has a recommended reading list of about 12 books or so. We can see at the horizon that this is going to change—that PMI is working on the Agile Practitioner’s Guide and very likely at some point in the future, the Agile Practitioner’s Guide is going to be the thing to read as you’re preparing for this exam. So, let me ask you this: Even though the exam is currently based and the one you took based on those 12 books—you read those 12 books—is the way you studied still going to be applicable in say, five years, ten years down the road when someone’s listening to this interview?
Yazmine: I think with the advent of the Ag Book, that’s probably less likely to be the case. I think that 12 references will always be useful but it is a very specialized knowledge, very deep knowledge that is useful for a practitioner to have and own these references and that’s what they are—they’re references. If you needed to learn more deeply about a particular topic, it’s nice to have it on hand, you can read about the specifics of Scrum or Kanban, but likely for preparation for the exam, the Ag Book ten years from now will be very well-used and developed. So that will be sufficient to use to prepare for the exam.
Cornelius: Right. So just like people studied the PMBOK Guide today as they are preparing for the PMP Exam, in the future, they may be studying the—well, we call it sort of Ag Book jokingly—the Agile Body of Knowledge. I think the working title is the Agile Practitioner’s Guide. Whatever it will be called in the future more focus on this but the other study materials that you used I believe you read—correct me if I’m wrong—you did read an Exam Prep Book. You did go to our Agile PrepCast and you did use the questions in our Exam Simulator, right? That would still be something that you’d recommend?
Yazmine: Yes, definitely. I probably watched through the Agile PrepCast twice over the course of two years and more thoroughly in preparation for the exam and in particular, I found the lessons on the Agile Manifesto and Values and Principles and Different Methodologies quite useful. But I also used another Exam Prep Book, again, good understanding of all the seven domains at a high level and where I was like, “Oh I don’t understand more of this than I have the 12 references that I could refer to” and all that was very useful in preparing for the exam.
Cornelius: I’m very glad that you said that because when I did the interview with Stas Podoxin and people who already have listened to this one and Stas said that because he took a course at the University of British Columbia, that course really overlapped about 80% so he did not find the Agile PrepCast all too helpful in addition to this but you’re saying that there was value in you watching and listening to the Agile PrepCast. Is that right?
Yazmine: Yes and I found that, again, when you can listen to it, that’s one mode and I think that’s what I did maybe a couple of years prior to actually taking the exam then it’s useful because there’s so many topics. You can use it and you don’t have to navigate from the very beginning all the way to the very end but you can select based on your own knowledge. I already know about this topic. I think there’s no need to listen to this for myself. I think that I’m adequately prepared. But no, when I wanted to refresh—a total refresh on Scrum ceremonies and make sure that I understand the specifics in great detail, that I didn’t forget something or I misunderstood something, then I can sit down and set aside half hour whatever I needed to complete that lesson and listen to that lesson more attentively. So that’s how I used it. I didn’t probably use it in the start here and listen to every lesson a little bit a day, I didn’t use it in that straightforward fashion. I tried to use it as I needed it in a very Agile fashion, I would say.
Cornelius: Right, yeah. The intent is actually to do—start here and go all the way through—the more important lesson at the beginning, some of the less important ones are at the end but you are an unusual student from that perspective because we worked together, you had access to this for years. But let’s talk about the Exam Prep Book that you used. What book did you use and what did you enjoy most about it?
Yazmine: Yeah. I used Mike Griffiths book.
Cornelius: What a surprise. It seems like that’s the answer that I get from everybody these days.
Yazmine: I think again because it is organized by the domains and for example in the first few pages they have a table and it’s divided by tools and techniques and knowledge and skills. So, at the high level, he has lists of different topics, so it helps guide you through the different topics. He gets through the topics in a relatively small amount of number of pages compared to the 12 references. So you know you have covered the breadth that you need to cover for purposes of preparing for one’s exam. And it’s easy reading—it’s not very difficult –on the lighter side, compared to other references.
Cornelius: You have the MBA, then you took the PMP and then you decided to go for the PMI ACP. Why did you select the PMI ACP over, I don’t know, maybe a CSM or other Agile certifications?
Yazmine: That’s a good question. In part, it is related to the work that we do and definitely taking the exam helps in preparing others to prepare for the exam but in general, I just think that the way that we worked has evolved quite a bit especially since the time that I took my MBA. I have been on many traditional projects in the past and the idea that things changed and to embrace that—what a concept. In fact, you try to fix everything so that you can predict it and you probably spend so much effort trying to make sure that you’ve planned everything upfront but you end up having to change things in between. So, I think that the need for an Agile approach—this is how the world operates now. Things move very quickly. I didn’t explore the CSM—oh I do have a CSM, sorry! [laughs]
Cornelius: [laughs] There’s so many letters after you and you keep forgetting.
Yazmine: Sorry. We use it almost every day, you almost forget that you have it and it’s not like you go around and sign your name and put all the letters behind it. I think you gain knowledge as you go and it just becomes sort of part of your repertoire, so to speak. And yes, I do have my Scrum certification and we do use Scrum on our own projects. So, yes.
Cornelius: Yeah. This is maybe an interesting history for the listeners. When we originally developed our PMP Exam Prep Course, that was done fully in a traditional Waterfall-based project management approach. Then we started with the Agile PrepCast—helping people prepare for the ACP and also the simulator and again that was based on traditional best practices. We were only starting out on Agile back then. Later on, when PMI changed the ACP Exam, we had already started out on the Agile path and we did the updates using Agile practices and right now, pretty much as we are recording this interview, we are in the process of updating our PMP Training, the Waterfall-based certification and we’re actually using Agile practices to update a training course that is focused on traditional Waterfall-based. So, things are certainly evolving and changing over the years.
Yazmine: It’s a bit ironic, I guess, if you think of it that way. [laughs]
Cornelius: Yeah [laughs]
Yazmine: Even as we approach something, the material and the content itself might be based on something very traditional. The way in which we operate is Agile because things changed within our team. Maybe the methodology itself is more stable and certainly from PMBOK 5 to 6 there are changes and its similar ideas, it’s ever evolving but in our team definitely, things happen and we need to be able to adjust ourselves to the changes.
Cornelius: Alright, back to you and your PMI ACP experience. You mentioned that you have a lot of experience on traditional Waterfall-based project. How then did you determine that you were in fact eligible to take the PMI ACP Exam with all the Agile experience you needed?
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One thing that every project manager notices over the course of her or his career is this: We begin with managing relatively simple projects. Here we learn about the theory of project management, its good practices and how to apply them. And as we get better we are assigned to bigger and more important projects.
But in recent years you may have begun to notice that even though your projects may not have become any bigger their complexity has never the less steadily been increasing. In other words, if you took a project you managed 5 years ago and repeated it today in exactly the same way then the one thing that would definitely change is the complexity caused by an increase in interdependencies.
And that’s where Jordan Kyriakidis (https://www.linkedin.com/in/jordankyriakidis/) and I are starting this interview. We are exploring why complexity is increasing, whether it is actually real or just a perceived problem, and what you can do about it.
This interview is 29 minutes long. This means that you can "legally" only claim 0.25 PDUs for listening to it, because in order to claim 0.50 PDUs the interview must be 30 minutes long. However... if you first listen to the interview and then also read Jordan's related white paper, then you can go ahead and claim 0.50 PMP PDUs!Click to download the white paper
Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome to this Premium Episode #394. I’m Cornelius Fichtner. As always, Premium means that this interview is reserved for you, our Premium subscribers. Thank you very much for your financial support of the Project Management Podcast™ One thing that every project manager notices over the course of her or his career is this: We begin with managing relatively simple projects. Here we learn about the theory of Project Management, its best practices and how to apply them and as we get better we are assigned to bigger and more important projects. But in recent years, you may have begun to notice that even though your projects may not have become any bigger, their complexity has nevertheless steadily been increasing. In other words, if you took a project that you managed five years ago and repeated it today in exactly the same way then the one thing that would definitely change is the complexity caused by an increase in interdependencies and that’s where Jordan Kyriakidis and I are starting this interview. We are exploring why complexity is increasing, whether it is actually real or just perceived and what you can do about it. Enjoy the interview.
Female Voice: Project Management Podcast Feature Interview. Today with Jordan Kyriakidis, CEO and co-founder of QRA Corporation.
Cornelius: Hello, Jordan. Welcome back to the Project Management Podcast™
Jordan: Thank you. Thank you for having me back. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Cornelius: In our first interview we talked about Natural Language Processing, the word complexity came up a couple of times so we decided to follow it up with an interview on the increasing project complexity and how it’s impacting us project managers. How do you define complexity yourself in the context of Project Management?
Jordan: Well, that’s like a four-month long course (laughs). Can I go just on complexity?
Cornelius: OK. We have thirty minutes (laughs).
Jordan: I’ll give a closed notes version. There’s many measures of complexity. Some simple measures which I think are not very good is the budget, the length of the project, whether you’ve done it before and I’ve heard some companies say: “If we’ve done a project before then it’s easy, if we’ve never done it before then it’s hard”. I think a kind of measure that I use and I may be betraying my own background here is a good measure of complexity is not how long and what break down structure is or anything simple like that. It is really the interdependencies of all the different components of the project and if everything depends on many other things, then it is an example of a very complex project. I can give you maybe more visual image that maybe helpful. If you think of say—let’s say for example—of all the tasks you need to do just look at the word breakdown structure and you draw that as like a graph. You have a little circle that represents each task you want to complete and then you draw a line between tasks that are related or interdependent as we have all these circles with the lines connected to them, does that make sense so far?
Cornelius: It does.
Jordan: Now if you look at that and what you’ll see for a very complex project, you’ll see a lot of closed loops, a lot of circles and a lot of ways you can start at one note and traverse around and come back to where you started from and the more of those you have, the more complex your project is. You can imagine a simple project that is very long—say your project takes—ok, you say this project can take like eight years to complete but you can do everything in a very clear, linear fashion that the next task cannot begin until the previous one finishes and there’s one straight—like a one-dimensional path to completion. That—and it could be a very expensive project, it could be a very –but that is a very simple project, the structure of it is very clear. A complicated network diagram this is called, will not look like they will have like loops and hoop backs and they’ll just look like they’re very, very complicated.
Cornelius: So, is this interdependency the main reason why project complexity is increasing or is this something else?
Jordan: Yes, there’s interdependency or an interaction between different components and that is one of the primary reasons why projects fail or go far over budget or the time just gets blown out of the water. It’s because of this—because then what happens –you may have heard this refrain that it’s possible to make no mistakes and still fail. What that means is that if you have a lot of interaction between various components of a project, what happens is that you can have something go wrong and the error is not associated with any one particular task. The error is associated with how this task depend on each other and it’s the interaction where you have these problems arising.
Cornelius: How can our listeners recognize this increasing complexity. You gave us the visual of draw out the WBS and start creating almost like a neural network to see what connects to what. Is that the only way? Are there any other ways?
Jordan: I think that is a very good way to do it. I told you right away whether you have something complex or not. Another thing you can recognize complexity is if you’re doing—say in the planning phase and you start realizing that there’s actually many different ways you can like plan out this project into a safe schedule—let’s talk about scheduling, for example. You realize that there’s many ways you can schedule a project and you can’t really say one is better than the other, they are just different ways of doing it. That’s one little clue you can have that you are dealing with something that’s very complex. When you have to make choices, project managers are always making choices and your choices are between things that is not very clear—which one is better overall than another choice, right? It depends—one choice maybe better for certain things, not better in other things and so that is almost definition of a difficult choice. That would be another sign that you’re dealing with an increasing complexity in your project. Yet another one is if you start doing a sensitivity analysis and you find that small changes can have a big impact. Especially a big impact on something that seems very unrelated to what you changed. I see like there shouldn’t be any connection there but somehow there is. So, these are all the things that are signs that you’re dealing with a complex project and my feeling is that the project manager listening now who have experienced all of these with increased frequency as we move into the future in the recent task.
Cornelius: We’re all living in a more and more interconnected world—does this mean then that complexity is increasing on all projects or can you think of any areas where no, it’s not really increasing?
Jordan: I would say it’s not increasing on all projects but generally speaking, the larger project is—these days the more complex it is particularly there are some kind of –I would say—some projects that are almost always becoming more and more complex. And that is if your project involves a lot of technology, if it involves a lot of software and if it involves especially software or hardware integrated together into one unit. These are areas where I would say, are ripe with complexity.
Cornelius: Is the increasing complexity actually a problem? Is this not simply a challenge that we, project managers have to rise up to and meet?
Jordan: Well, it is certainly the latter—it certainly is a challenge a project managers absolutely have to rise up and meet. There’s no question of that. Whether it’s a problem or not I guess that maybe a bit a symmetric question. I think that it’s a problem in the sense that it makes the job of managing the project more difficult. However, it is not a problem in the sense that complexity is bad and we should not have it. And so, if you look at, for example—maybe I can argue by example and if you look at cars. Cars now are far more complex than they were say, a generation ago. There’s far more computer processing going on in there but generally speaking, this is a good thing. Cars are actually much safer now. Cars are more reliable now. Cars in almost any measure are much better and some of them are really getting less expensive too even though they’re becoming more complex. In that sense complexity is a very good thing but the poor project manager who has to manage the new technology in these cars for them there’s new challenges involved with it.
Cornelius: I read an article of yours about this complexity and one topic you talked about was the status quo. A two-part question here: maybe you can tell us a little bit about what you mean by the status quo of handling project complexity and also give us an example from a project that you experienced where the rise in project complexity meant that the status quo was no longer an option.
Jordan: Well, you can see the status quo varies from industry to industry and the status quo for example if we pick aerospace, the status quo for handling project complexity is you have all these –you generally have a review. You start off with a systems requirement review, you go on to preliminary design reviews, design reviews and then you go into actual implementation. Various industries have variations of the theme. You have these milestones that you have to meet and they are requirements and designs before you go to the actual implementation. The status quo, typically if we take, say, let’s dive in the middle of processing and doing a design review, if it is for big project this will involve people getting together in a big room and they’ll spend three or four days, all getting in the room and you’ll have project managers, you’ll have budget people, you’ll have engineers in there and they’ll put up—they’ll present the requirements and they’ll present the designs and they’ll discuss how these designs actually meet the requirements. They’ll go back and forth and discuss various scenarios and they’ll move on that way and at the end of the meeting, they’ll have a list of things that are things that need to be addressed, some action items that before the project can move on, all these open loops have to be resolved and then they can move on. When I say status quo, that’s what I have in the back of my mind. I’m not sure if that’s been your experience as well for typically how this is done? [talked ove]
Cornelius: Yeah. Pretty much.
Jordan: So the reason why I think the status quo is no longer an option is because –when will that work well? That works well if you have very highly qualified people in the room who are doing it for a while or experienced, they know what they’re doing and they’re working on a project that they have seen before, they know how it works out, they have made mistakes in the past, they know not to make mistakes again and if you have that situation they’ll say the status quo actually works pretty well. However when you have this complexity at a level not seen before, when every phase depends on every other phase, and every task within a phase depends on many other tasks within that phase and you’re dealing with new technology that has not been introduced before and you’re dealing with software infused throughout the whole system that you haven’t had before. Now people are less certain of where the risk lies and where the danger lies especially if the danger really lies in not just one error happened but a series of anomalies can happen in a certain order and then that’ll cause problems. It’s very difficult to actually rule out for humans and so in these cases you really cannot capture all the errors that are inherent in a document and what you find is that you have the design reviews and what will happen is there is going to be dangers lurking—dragons lurking in your project that you don’t even know about and so you don’t have any mitigation plans for them until you start building something and you’re deep into the implementation and you start seeing that things are not working the way it ought to be working and you wonder why. Why? Because you didn’t uncover it way back in the design stage. I think that was rather a long-winded answer to your question.
Cornelius: No, it gets the picture across quite well. So, how do you propose then that project managers handle or even thrive amidst this increase of complexity?
Are you currently studying or thinking about studying for your PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® Exam? Wonderful. That’s what we are going to be talking about.
In this interview you are going to meet Stas Podoxin (https://www.linkedin.com/in/staspodoxin). Stas is not only one of my students but also one of my coworkers. And one of the interesting differences in how he prepared for the PMI-ACP exam is the fact that he took an Agile course at a university that helped him get a better understanding of the Agile mindset. And so by the time he got around to using our own online training course he was already quite far ahead on the curve.
As you know, the rules of all Project Management Institute (PMI)® exams are such that we are not allowed to discuss specific questions from the exam. But we can discuss Stas's overall experience, how he did his PMI-ACP Exam Prep, his general thoughts on the process and his recommendations to you. So you can look forward to an experience and tip filled interview on how to prepare for and pass your PMI-ACP Exam.
Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome to Episode #393. This is the Project Management Podcast™ at www.pm-podcast.com and I’m Cornelius Fichtner. Thank you very much for joining us today. Are you currently studying or maybe thinking about studying for your PMI Agile Certified Practitioner Exam? That’s the PMI ACP Exam—well, wonderful because that’s what we are going to be talking about, which brings me to this little announcement. If you are a Project Manager who wants to become PMI ACP certified, then the easiest way to do so is with our sister podcast, The Agile PrepCast and get your certification training for the exam by watching the in-depth Exam Prep video training from www.AgilePrepCast.com. In this interview, you are going to meet Stas Podoxin. Stas is not only one of my students but also one of my co-workers and one of the interesting differences in how he prepared for his PMI ACP Exam is the fact that he took an Agile course at a university that helped him get a better understanding of the Agile mindset. And so, by the time he got around to using actually our own training course, he was already quite ahead of the curve. As you know, the rules of all PMI exams are such that we are not allowed to discuss specific questions from the exam but we can discuss his overall experience, general thoughts on the process and his recommendations to you so you can look forward to an experience and tip-filled interview and how to prepare for and pass your PMI ACP Exam. And now, let’s timebox this for 45 minutes. Enjoy the interview.
Female Voice: Project Management Podcast Feature Interview. Today with Stas Podoxin, senior Project Manager for OSP International.
Cornelius: Hello, Stas. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Stas Podoxin: Hello Cornelius, thank you for having me.
Cornelius: Absolutely! And of course, congratulations to you on passing your PMI ACP Exam.
Stas: Thank you very much.
Cornelius: Yeah. When exactly did you pass? How long ago was that from today?
Stas: From today it was about – just over half a year ago in October.
Cornelius: OK. At this point I think it is also important that you and I mentioned that we are colleagues. We work for the same company. We both work for OSP International and we are a training company—we train people to prepare for their PMP CAPM and also the PMI ACP Exam and as part of this, you have used both our training products, right? You’ve used The Agile PrepCast and our ACP Exam Simulator, right?
Stas: Yes, that’s right.
Cornelius: OK. Good. We just want to make absolutely clear that we put this disclaimer upfront here so that everybody is aware of our situation. My usual question when we start one of these Lessons Learned Interviews, what’s your most important lessons learned here for our listeners?
Stas: I think when you prepare for your PMI ACP Exam, you need to take it seriously because sometimes I heard when I started to prepare for the PMI ACP Exam, it’s easier than PMP and then you can pass it quite quickly without too much effort but at least for me, it was not true and it was a really serious preparation. You should dedicate your time, you should make your family ready for this because you are going to be missing for a couple of months so take it seriously and probably the most important thing, don’t try to memorize anything. Just try to get into what’s called an Agile mindset when you’re preparing especially when you take your exam so that you will select the correct answer.
Cornelius: Let me also ask you this: When you took the PMP and then the PMI ACP, how much time was there between those two exams?
Stas: I think it was about a year and a half.
Cornelius: Yeah, I think you did it relatively quickly following each other. Why did you choose to become PMI ACP certified on top of the PMP?
Stas: Well, the PMP was sort of very important for me to set up my professional career and to formalize the knowledge and the experience that I had. PMI ACP on the other hand, because most of my professional career I was in the IT industry and we extensively used Agile but we never called it Agile. Looking back, I see that we have been using Agile process, and tools and techniques but we never called it --oh we are using Agile here and we’re using traditional Project Management methods here. I just wanted, first of all, to organize my knowledge in a methodical way and the IT industry is also a very competitive industry so I wanted to have a competitive advantage.
Cornelius: Talking about competitive advantage, did you look at any other certifications in terms of Agile or did you just say, “I’m PMP, I’m going to go for the ACP” or did you look at any other organizations that offer Agile certifications?
Stas: No, actually I just went right away to the PMI.
Cornelius: OK. What you have said here is actually my experience as well. In my previous job, we did use Agile practices—shorter durations, a lot of customer involvement, all that was there but we never called that Agile, it’s just something that we did and I have to admit that ten years ago I was unaware at the time of Agile principles and all that so it never occurred to me that we were doing Agile at all. What value do you see in having the certification now?
Stas: The value for me and I believe for my colleagues is that now when we’re all certified, we can use the same terminology while managing our projects, we can approach our planning and execution of our projects more intelligently and this provides a value for us and the organization so that we perform better.
Cornelius: Let me get back to something that you said early on. You said you have to take this seriously, this exam. It’s not just something that you can do on the side. You also mentioned a duration of about two months. So, you took the PMP Exam and you said it took you about one and a half years later, the ACP exam, when did you start to look at this and then seriously began to study?
Stas: It’s an interesting point because like I said, I felt for some reason I was under the impression that PMI ACP Certification is much easier and you can just apply and take your exam and pass very quickly. When I actually started to fill my application in the PMI website, I realized that it has a lot of requirements like the PMP. You need to have your experience, you need to have your contact hours, you actually have to be prepared properly in terms of the application together with old information from your managers, stakeholders who can prove your experience and at that time I was also working full-time job on a previous employer and we had pretty much of a workload so, I didn’t realize that I had to dedicate my time and I should have done more research on what this PMI ACP certification is about. This is why I believe that in the beginning, I didn’t start to prepare for this exam—a hundred percent dedication.
Cornelius: So in terms of duration, how long did you study?
Stas: From the moment I realized that I need to be prepared properly, it took me about three months.
Cornelius: Three months. And how much did you study every day?
Stas: I would say, on the average, between one to two hours maybe. Of course, more on the weekends less in the weekdays.
Cornelius: You mentioned the applications—let’s talk about that a little bit. Many people often say for the PMP Exam, the application is a little mini project in itself because they want to know so much. Was it the same for you for the ACP Exam then?
Stas: Yeah. I would say both applications and most processes for PMP and PMI ACP are pretty similar. The only difference is just that your project description and the terminology that you are using for the PMI ACP should be in Agile terms rather than in traditional terms but the rest is pretty much the same.
Cornelius: Were you eligible to take the exam right away or was there anything that was missing? You mentioned the experience, you mentioned the contact hours…
Stas: Yeah, I was – I had everything that I needed for the eligibility but again I just started it too early and I didn’t collect all the information that I needed so it took me –the interesting thing is that my first application expired. I didn’t have enough time to complete it and then after 90 days, from the moment I applied…
Cornelius: Oh, really?
Cornelius: Let’s talk about this a little bit. So, PMI gives you 90 days. If you start today with any PMI application, you have 90 days to complete it and submit it and you passed that deadline. So, did PMI basically delete your application and you had to start from fresh and put everything in again?
Cornelius: Oh, wow! [laughs] That’s harsh.
Stas: Yeah and I was a little bit afraid. I thought, “Oh they rejected my application so I cannot apply again”. But then I realized it’s just its duration.
Cornelius: OK. That’s very interesting and once you’ve submitted your second application, how long did it take for PMI to process it, go through it and then give you the green light?
Stas: That was pretty quick, I think. In less than a week they sent me approval and eligibility for the exam.
Cornelius: And you did not have to go through an audit like our colleague Jonathan had, right?
Stas: Yeah. Fortunately, I didn’t have to.
Cornelius: Alright. Once you got the approval from PMI, did you go ahead and schedule your exam right away or how long did you wait for that?
Stas: Yeah. I scheduled it right away because the second time when I started to fill my application I was already in the full gust over the preparations so I scheduled it right away.
Cornelius: Ok. Well, let’s talk about right then. Since you were in full study mode then how did you study for the exam exactly? What study tools did you use? What books did you read? Did you read any of the recommended books that PMI has?
For your Project Management Professional (PMP)® exam use PMP exam prep on your phone with The PM PrepCast:
My goal of having these show notes on the website is to give a quick and concise introduction of the podcast topic and to tell you what you can expect to learn from it. Sometimes I am right on point and sometimes I’m a little more vague.
And tomorrow, when you are back at the office working on your project requirements your goal will be to correctly and succinctly describe the requirements for that project your company is going to launch. The big difference here is that your descriptions have to be 100% on point. You cannot afford to be vague, because requirements that can be misinterpreted is a sure-fire way to doom your project. So what can you do to improve your requirements?
The problem of poorly written, ambiguous, and inconsistent requirements is something that Jordan Kyriakidis (https://www.linkedin.com/in/jordankyriakidis/) has thought about a lot. And his answer to this problem is not only a list of “21 Top Tips for Writing an Exceptionally Clear Requirements Document” (https://qracorp.com/write-clear-requirements-document/) but also to use computing power. Yes, there is actually a software that will scan your requirements document and tell you what's wrong with it.
But we’re not going to talk about the software much, because that would be pretty boring here on an audio podcast. Instead, Jordan and I look at the root causes of poorly written requirements and then we introduce you to the most important 6 out his 21 tips. In that way you can start using your brain power to write better requirements.
Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome to Episode #392. This is the Project Management Podcast™ at www.pm-podcast.com and I’m Cornelius Fichtner. My goal here during the first ninety seconds of every podcast episode is to give you a quick and concise introduction of the podcast topic and to tell you what you can expect to learn from it. Sometimes I am right on point and sometimes I’m a little bit more vague. And tomorrow when you are back at the office working on your project requirements, your goal will be to correctly and succinctly describe the requirements for that project your company is going to launch. The big difference here is that your descriptions have to be 100% on point. You cannot afford to be vague because requirements that can be misinterpreted, well they are a sure fire way to doom your project. So what can you do to improve your project requirements? Are you PMP certified and want to earn 37 PDUs quickly and for less than $6 per hour? That’s no problem with the Agile PrepCast. It not only prepares you for your PMI-ACP Exam but also qualifies for a ton of PMP PDUs. Log on at www.AgilePrepCast.com/pdu for the details.
The problem of poorly written, ambiguous and inconsistent requirements is something that Jordan Kyriakidis has thought about a lot and his answer to this problem is not only a list of the 21 top tips for writing an exceptionally clear requirements document but also to use computing power. Yes there is actually a software that would scan your requirements document and tell you what’s wrong with it but we’re not going to talk about the software all that much because that would be pretty boring here on an audio-only podcast. Instead, Jordan and I looked at the root causes of poorly written requirements and then we introduced you to the most important six out of his 21 tips. That way, you can then start using your brain power to write better requirements. And now, following this very badly written introduction, please enjoy the interview.
Female Voice: Project Management Podcast Feature Interview. Today with Jordan Kyriakidis, CEO and co-founder of QRA Corporation.
Cornelius: Hello, Jordan and welcome to the Project Management Podcast™
Jordan: Hello, Cornelius. It’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you.
Cornelius: So we want to talk about natural language processing today but before we get into this, what is it? What is natural language processing—NLP?
Jordan: Well, it’s a very good description. You can take a very literal description. It’s any kind of processing you do with natural language and processing is the same—maybe we can work by analogy and look at financial processing. You go to a bank machine, you type in some information, you give us some data and you give us some instructions and that data is processed whether you’re paying a bill or taking money out or buying stocks. There’s lots of financial processing and of course there’s many different kinds of processing as well. Natural Language Processing is doing the thing with natural language. So is having a machine, a computer, usually but a machine in general that is fed natural language and to some extent, understands what the language is and it processes it according to instructions, either innate instructions, like what the computer is programmed to do or instructions that you also give it yourself. That would be the 10,000th foot level we can go as deep as you want.
Cornelius: [laughs] Let me just first ask one follow-up question here.
Cornelius: There are thousands of listeners listening to this interview right now. Is the fact that they are listening to us talking Natural Language Processing?
Jordan: Sure, in a sense your brain is listening to natural language and it is processing it, right? Now they’re saying that “Boy, that Jordan really does know what he’s talking about” or “He’s a really sharp fellow”, right?
Cornelius: OK. OK. Let’s stick with our listeners here because it sounds like an off-topic for the Project Management Podcast™. What can they expect to learn from our conversation about NLP that is going to be valuable and important for the projects that they manage?
Jordan: Well, for one thing that I am sure your listeners already realize is that many projects are described by natural language. We have all these processes and data and algorithms but really a lot is done just by the written word. As projects start becoming more complex, it’s important to realize as early as possible when your projects have some ambiguities or you start inserting the seeds of future problems and you ought to deal with it as quickly as possible and as early in the development cycle as possible. That usually means that you do it with natural text—that’s usually one of the early stages of a project and so it’s important to really understand any risks associated with the written documentation you have for the project.
Cornelius: One area that you have specifically identified as being able to benefit from Natural Language Processing is the requirements analysis and the requirements documentation. Why specifically this area?
Jordan: We chose this area because we started looking at big complicated projects and we started asking the question of why are these projects always so out of budget and so past their schedule of completion dates. It’s very common for that to happen. And we guess some kind of general statements of all complex projects in general that people have looked at it and it turns out that about 80%--slightly over this study by Carnegie Mellon University that over 80% of all areas in a project come in the early phases and that’s either the requirements phase or the design phase. If you look at the requirements, it’s about 60-70% come actually in the requirements phase. And so if that’s where you inject the errors into the system, it seemed reasonable for us to look at the tool that can actually uncover these at the point of introduction into your system—and that is the requirements phase.
Cornelius: You have written an article, it’s titled “Twenty One Top Tips for Writing an Exceptionally Clear Requirements Document” and we now want to go through some of these—not all 21—we’d be here tomorrow still and learn how a Natural Language Process thing works here and we’re starting out with No. 6 in your article. Making sure that each requirement is testable. How do we approach this from Natural Language Processing perspectives?
Jordan: So, typically, if you’re going to write a requirement, first let me back up a little bit and talk a bit about why each requirement should be testable. It should be fairly self-evident if you’re building a –it would have to be building a machine or building a system, whatever projects you’re doing, you have to know if you are done and so the requirement has to be testable because if it’s not testable, how will successful implementation of the requirement be verified? How can you say that, “Yes, we’ve tested this requirement, or we verified that it actually works”. In Natural Language Processing, the way we look at that would be to look at how specific the requirement is and there are typically a set of words that when they’re present in the requirement, is a signal that someone has taken the easy way out and has not really thought of what they mean.
Cornelius: Example of such a word?
Jordan: Sure. A typical word is “efficiently”. This thing should happen efficiently. So what does that actually mean, efficiently? Usually you want to be able to quantify it whenever possible because after all, something could be efficient to one person but horribly inefficient to another person. That’s an example of the kinds of Natural Language requirements can catch.
Cornelius: OK. Tip #7 that you have, Writing functional requirements to be implementation-neutral. How do you approach this one?
Jordan: It’s important for a requirement in particular, a functional requirement to be implementation-neutral because a requirements document is not a design document. A requirements document should be outcome-specific so what I mean by implementation-neutral, what I mean is that, a functional requirement, it really should not restrict the design engineer to any particular implementation. It should be free of the design details. You want this system to work—not work in a particular way—but it should accomplish a particular task. In other words, you should state what the system must do and not how it must do it.
Cornelius: And so from a Natural Language Processing perspective, we would look at this and make sure that we’re only talking about the what and not the how then. Is that correct?
Are you by any chance thinking of getting your certification as a PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)®? Great. Because that certification is our topic.
Today you are going to meet Jonathan Hebert (https://www.linkedin.com/in/jonathan-hebert-pmp-csm-pmi-acp-0712471) who not only passed his PMI-ACP® Exam, but he also got audited in the process. So he has a story to tell!
As you know, the rules of all Project Management Institute (PMI)® exams are such that we are not allowed to discuss specific questions from the exam. But we can discuss Jonathan's overall experience, how he got his PMI-ACP Exam Prep, his general thoughts on the process and his recommendations to you. So you can look forward to an experience and tip filled interview on how to prepare for and pass your PMI-ACP Exam.
Are you by any chance thinking of getting your certification as a PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)®? Great! Because today, that certification is our topic—which brings me to this: If you are a Project Manager who wants to become PMI-ACP® certified, then the easiest way to do so is with our sister podcast, the Agile PrepCast™ and get your certification training for the exam by watching the in-depth exam prep video training from www.AgilePrepCast.com.
Today you are going to meet Jonathan Hebert, who not only passed his PMI‑ACP® Exam but he also got audited in the process so he has quite a story to tell. As you know, the rules of all PMI exams are such that we are not allowed to discuss specific questions from the exam but we can discuss Jonathan’s overall experience, general thoughts on the process and his recommendations to you. So you can look forward to an experience and tip-filled interview on how to prepare for and pass your PMI-ACP® Exam. And now, remember, in Agile, we don’t call these lessons learned, it’s a retrospective. Enjoy the interview.
Female Voice: Project Management Podcast™ Feature Interview. Today with Jonathan Hebert, Senior Project Manager for OSP International and a very good friend of mine.
Cornelius Fichtner: Hello Jonathan. Thank you very much for joining us today.
Jonathan Hebert: Hello Cornelius, thanks for interviewing me.
Cornelius Fichtner: Hey, first of all, congratulations on passing the PMI-ACP® Exam.
Jonathan Hebert: Thank you very much.
Cornelius Fichtner: When exactly did you pass? It was just a little while ago, right?
Jonathan Hebert: It was. It was on March 13th of this year.
Cornelius Fichtner: Excellent. Excellent. Before we move on, at this point we have to include a disclaimer and that disclaimer is all about the fact that both you and I, we work for OSP International and among other things, our company offers PMI‑ACP® Exam training and also a simulator and you’ve used both in your exam preparation and will probably mention these two products during the interview as well. We just wanted to make everybody aware of this situation that we are actually colleagues here. So first things first, if you have to do this again, what would you do differently?
Jonathan Hebert: I would set aside more time for preparation and I would probably time it or not so much was going on in my life. I was renovating our kitchen, I had plenty of work to do, there were many things that were in play and looking back, I probably could have scheduled things more beneficial for me. [laughs]
Cornelius Fichtner: And when you said you would schedule more time, you mean longer duration or instead of an hour a day, two hours a day, how do you mean?
Jonathan Hebert: Instead of how I did it, I would actually choose a different time when I have less competing things going on in my life that didn’t allow me to focus as much as I feel is necessary to prepare and pass in the exam.
Cornelius Fichtner: OK. The exam that you took is the current exam. Over the years exams change, right now PMI has the exam based on a recommended reading list of about 12 books and we expect this will change sometime in the future and they will move over to an Agile practice guide. However, do you feel that the way you studied is still valid? Even if those listening to this interview in the future, they maybe using different books and maybe even that PMI Agile Practice Guide, a completely different exam content outline, is it still valid in the future, what you’ve done?
Jonathan Hebert: I think it is. There are 12 references as you said and I read every one of them back to front. No, that’s ridiculous [laughs]. That’s 4000 pages of text that is over-preparing at the very least. What I did was I was able to find the PMP® Exam prep books that summarized well all 12 books and excerpted the topics from those books that are most important in the exam. So I do feel like the way that I prepared is very applicable in the future and I believe as you do, that there will be some sort of a reference that is very similar to the PMBOK® Guide for PMP for Agile because to read 12 books to cover that amount of material is a little bit much to ask.
Cornelius Fichtner: Why exactly did you choose to become PMI-ACP® certified? What was your driver other than me constantly saying, “Hey Jonathan, you’re going to get certified.” [laughs]
Jonathan Hebert: There were those reasons. Two reasons: because I needed to get certified in order to fully understand Agile Project Management, practices, as well as be qualified to author questions and review content and that’s from the job perspective but I personally believe and I think most people that do become Agile certified and do study the methodologies, they believe that this is the best approach for knowledge-based work, work that’s complex, it’s fast-moving, it’s volatile, and the kind of work that really dominates our age now which is the information age. I think Agile offers superior Project Management approaches to do that type of work.
Cornelius Fichtner: Of course because our work here at the company is Agile-focused for the Agile training, the Agile Simulator that was a clear reason why you did this but you’re also CSM certified, right?
Jonathan Hebert: I am CSM certified.
Cornelius Fichtner: Yeah, Certified Scrum Master, yup!
Jonathan Hebert: I suggest that for others as well. It does focusing on one of the methodologies, Scrum—and it’s probably one of the more popular methodologies that is used in Agile.
Cornelius Fichtner: Did you look at any of the other certifications that are out there—the IPMA offers something, universities…
Jonathan Hebert: I didn’t. Actually I pretty much knew that I needed to become Agile PMI-ACP® certified and that was my primary goal, I didn’t look at the other certifications.
Cornelius Fichtner: OK. How long did it take you from start to finish? So start being me going for the first time, “Hey Jonathan, you need the certification until you’ve actually passed”.
Jonathan Hebert: It took eight months which is relatively short compared to my PMP journey.
Cornelius Fichtner: OK. How long was the PMP journey then in comparison?
Jonathan Hebert: That was a couple of years actually from knowing I wanted to do it and committing to do it to actually putting the time off aside and accomplishing that goal.
Cornelius Fichtner: In other words, your PMI-ACP was a lot more Agile than the PMP?
Jonathan Hebert: It was definitely more Agile and in the spirit of Agile, I took a look and there was a retrospective and I improved my approach—one of the tenants of Agile Project Management.
Cornelius Fichtner: You started out as a traditional Project Manager and this is also how you and I got to know each other because my wife happened to work at the same company that you worked at and we’re on the same project so we got to know each other back then. How—because you came from the traditional side, how did you then determine that you were actually eligible to take this Agile certification—coming from the traditional side and doing multiple projects?
Jonathan Hebert: Fortunately, OSP primarily uses Agile methodologies to manage their projects. Being a Project Manager at OSP, I was using Agile methodologies. I was using the practices, the tools, the techniques and therefore I was qualified based on those Agile projects that I participated in and that I ran in various roles.
Cornelius Fichtner: Yeah and that’s actually an important distinction here. This is the Agile certified practitioner, this is not a Project Management certification so you weren’t necessarily labeled as the Project Manager of the project you worked on for us, right?
Jonathan Hebert: That’s correct. I played I think three roles. Two primarily—Scrum master and Agile team member on Agile projects where someone else was a Scrum master or product owner and then I stepped in for a product owner occasionally when we didn’t have the product owner but I understood the product owner’s use and is –the acceptance and command of what the customer was looking for and so therefore I played two primary roles—Scrum master and Agile team member and product owner occasionally.
Cornelius Fichtner: What was the process like for your application for the ACP exam because I remember vividly when I applied for the PMP that was a project on its own and the same probably for you, if you compare this to the PMI-ACP® application.
Jonathan Hebert: It’s very similar. So you have to establish a certain period of time managing Agile projects when you put together your application, you are asked to provide details about each project, what role you played, what activities were taken part, what activities were important and necessary for you to complete your Agile projects and therefore you should be using terminology that is of Agile Project Management. I see them as very similar. Of course it’s easier to do it the second time. So if you’ve done it for the PMP, you sort of know what to expect and I have a little bit of help because I have a couple of colleagues that already applied and shared their applications with me so I have pretty much a template.
Cornelius Fichtner: Yeah and I’m actually going to interview both of those colleagues as well so the listeners can look forward to hearing Yasmin and Starz as well about what they have to say about this. Something absolutely fantastic for my perspective at least for this interview happened to you once you hit submit. You got audited.
Jonathan Hebert: Yes, I did. It’s funny. What is fantastic for someone else is not so fantastic for another person. So, like the PMP I thought I would say, I’ll ride through and the audits are a lottery and I didn’t think I’d win the lottery but I won the lottery.
Cornelius Fichtner: This time you did and it didn’t go as smoothly as we had hoped actually, right? So, I was the contact person that you have put down on your projects because they were done within our company and so you sent me the package, I did what I had to. I printed everything out, I read it, I verified that all the information was correct then I signed where PMI had me sign and I put all these documents into a sealed envelope and then I mailed that sealed envelope to you overnight so that you could then create a complete package and send that to PMI. What did you do on your side after you gave me the documents that I had to sign for you?
Jonathan Hebert: So what I had to do was take the documents myself and actually send them to PMI to be evaluated and to go through the audit process and the audit process took about five days. I was of course expecting that I would pass the audit. Everything that I had put forward was factual and I had a verification from my employer and I provided them all the information that they asked for but what I got back was that my audit information was incomplete and that they needed, in addition to what I provided, they needed again, they needed proof of my education. Part of being able to apply for the exam is that you have obtained a Bachelor’s Degree and a certain number of hours and if you haven’t it’s more hours similar to the PMP and they needed that additional information but it wasn’t made very clear I found out in one of their FAQs. So they asked me for some additional information which I provided but I did not also provide a copy of my degree or a copy of my transcripts initially and that held up the process.
Cornelius Fichtner: Alright. Did you have to submit that along with this? Is this normal that you have to send a copy of your degree or was it just in your case that they wanted to see this?
Jonathan Hebert: It is normal but isn’t as clear as it could be. In the information that they needed from me I provided all the information that was listed in that section out of the explanation for the audit but it was not obvious to me that I had to again show my degree and I had assumed I wouldn’t have to look in the FAQs to find that out and that they already have that proof since I was
Cornelius Fichtner: FTP-certified, right?
Jonathan Hebert: Yeah, exactly. So…
Cornelius Fichtner: It was the subject back then
Jonathan Hebert: Right. So this was a little bit of something that threw me off and then in getting in touch with PMI, there were a couple of hiccups where kind of one hand didn’t know what the other hand…
Cornelius Fichtner: On the PMI side?
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Are you currently managing a multicultural project?
Well, no matter if you answered “yes” or “no” to this, today’s interview with Karin Brünnemann (https://www.linkedin.com/in/karinbrunnemann) is for you. We will look at what culture is, how cultural differences can lead to conflict, and how culture affects the various dimension of conflict on projects that we learned about when we last spoke to Karin. Most importantly, we will of course also discuss approaches for conflict resolution.
So… if you answered “Yes” to my questions “Are you currently managing a multicultural project?”, then you are going to learn a lot about culture, conflict and what to do about it.
And if you answered “No”, then you will learn that your answer was in fact wrong and that you should have answered “Yes” in the first place. You are in fact managing a multi-cultural project even if you don't think you are.
Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome to this Premium Episode #390. I’m Cornelius Fichtner. As always, Premium means that this is an interview that is reserved for you, our Premium subscribers so thank you for your financial support of the Project Management Podcast™.
Are you currently managing a multicultural project? Well, no matter, if you answer yes or no to this, today’s interview with Karin Brunneman is for you. We will look at what culture is, how cultural differences can lead to conflict and how culture affects the various dimensions of conflict on projects that we learned about when we last spoke to Karin.
Most importantly, we will, of course also discuss approaches for conflict resolution. So, if you answered yes to my question, “Are you currently managing a multicultural project?” then you are going to learn a lot about culture, conflict and what to do about it. And if you answered No, then you will learn that your answer was in fact wrong and that you should have answered ‘yes,’ you are managing a multicultural project.
And so, put on your national costume and enjoy the interview.
Female Voice: Project Management Podcast Feature Interview. Today with Karin Brunnemann, PMP, Intercultural expert.
Cornelius Fichtner: Hallo Karin. Willkommen zurück!
Karin Brunnemann: Dobrý večer, Cornelius, ako sa maš?
Cornelius Fichtner: OK, now you have surprised me [laughs] That was Slovakian?
Karin Brunnemann: It was Slovakian, yes
Cornelius Fichtner: OK. Wonderful and I think that’s very good beginning of this discussion because we want to talk about conflict in multicultural projects and to get us started with this, when I read your bio, I saw that you have lived in nine countries and you worked in 26 countries. What is your personal take away when it comes to culture and conflict?
Karin Brunnemann: Yes. Thank you, that has been my career, so far but I’m still adding to both lists. I’m not finished with moving and travelling yet.
First of all, of course projects are handled differently across different cultures. Living in Slovakia, I call Bratislava my hometown although I was not born here, I’m a member and founding member of Project Management Institute (PMI)® Slovakia Chapter and yes, there are differences in terms of working in projects here in Slovakia. I have been living and working in projects in Colombia, in Guatemala, in Scandinavian countries, in Spain, in Portugal, in Turkey, et cetera.
So definitely, project management as such and conflict management in projects is handled differently in different parts of the world. However, you asked me for my take on culture and one of my lessons learned from my worldwide travel that culture is so much more than just nationality and in project teams, this holds especially true because we work with different departments and sales people people are totally different than accountants, and again totally different than warehouse managers.
We’re also having a professional culture. But we’re also having organizational culture so the organizational, where I do the project, if this organization cooperates with suppliers, with customers, they’re working in different companies some of them are small, some of them are big, they might work with official organization or government and institutions who again have different organizational culture. There are industry sector cultures so automotive companies might work in general differently from an education company for example. So my take from my travels is, yes they’re all different but it’s not just nationality. It’s so much more. So a multicultural project management does not mean only multinational project management.
Cornelius Fichtner: How far do I have to travel before differences in culture begin to matter?
Karin Brunnemann: Oh I have to go upstairs to my neighbors.
Cornelius Fichtner: [laughs] So this close, huh?
Karin Brunnemann: Well actually I don’t think I have to go upstairs, I can stay on the same floor. [laughs]
Yes. It’s sometimes amazing how similar people are if you travel far away. For example, the organization I worked for. They have a large work force in Sri Lanka. People there, they work according to A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) standards so we have an immediate understanding. However, if I might work with another company in Slovakia, they might work according to a different standard and we have a different understanding. Since our overall topic is “Conflict”, such differences in understanding can of course lead to conflict. So, it’s not just managing project in China or India or South Africa, Uzbekistan, Honduras that leads to potential conflict in project, we have to really be very observant that other cultural aspects can actually, even at home cause cultural conflict.
Cornelius Fichtner: Since you are living in Slovakia right now and you’ve been all around the world, is Project Management done differently in Slovakia from a cultural perspective than elsewhere?
Karin Brunnemann: Yes, it is. It’s not so much about the standard. I mean, we have, as I said before, the PMI® Slovakia Chapter, all the members they work according to the PMBOK® Guide standard but the understanding, the interpretation of such standard can be different and we have to consider that it’s always people working with those standards. The standards have to be filled and yes there are quite big differences between Slovakia and the US and between other countries and regions all over the world as well.
Cornelius Fichtner: Alright, let’s bring it back to the central topic of our discussion. I think we’ve outlined the topic of culture quite well and our primary discussion really is conflict in multicultural projects. Let’s take a look at the culture and conflict in which aspects of conflict can I find cultural differences?
Karin Brunnemann: Basically in all aspects, you can find differences starting with the understanding of conflict. It can happen that I have a heated, animated discussion with a fellow team member in a project and that for me and for the other party is just a normal discussion but somebody from a different culture might already perceive this as a conflict. So we don’t all have the same understanding of what conflict is which is very basic thing than of course the emergence of conflict. Why does conflict come into being and there we have some additional risks of conflict is bringing up. If we’re working in a multicultural environment and these risks can for example be in communication. There can be misunderstandings, misinterpretations –we have to be careful that even if English is the project language, there are hundreds of different Englishes around the world. Australian English is different from Canadian English is different from US English is different from UK English. And now imagine you have a multinational project where 80% of your team members don’t even have English as their first language or the native language so there might be a lot of misunderstandings.
You can have different assumptions. It’s very, very difficult to know your wrong assumptions and if you want to be culturally competent, you need to learn how to elicit your own assumptions. I’ll give you a very easy example. When I go to restaurant and I order some food, I assume that it will be served on a plate and I get a knife and fork with it. I don’t tell the waiter to please bring me a steak and serve it on a plate and bring me a fork and a knife—this I assume this. Now, I travel to China and I go to a restaurant, I order food, I might be very surprised because I don’t get a plate, I get a bowl and I don’t get knife and fork, I get chopsticks instead. Only then when my assumptions don’t work anymore I realize that I have this assumption so it’s very difficult for us also. This is so deep inside us. We don’t think about it. We don’t think that we need to say that food has to come on a plate. Another thing is unclear intentions. We don’t know what people are aiming at and that can lead to us misinterpreting what people really want. We think they want something bad but they really want to help us. Then of course we have all different values. We have talked a bit about this in the last session of this podcast. Can women be Project Managers everywhere in the world? I think they cannot. Also lack of trust. The more different people are from us, the less we usually trust them. We’re always looking for things we have in common and if we can’t really find anything in common, we don’t really trust and all this can lead to or enhance conflict. Then of course the conflict itself, the process of the conflict, the course the conflict takes can be different in terms of how fast does it escalate, does it escalate at all? How easy it is to deescalate, etc. Last but not the least, the way we manage conflict can be very different starting from the question, “Who has the authority to manage the conflict?” Is it usual that the conflicting parties solve it themselves? Is it okay to tell the Project Manager to ask for help or is it not okay? So you see there is a lot of a cultural differences involved in conflict management in projects.
Cornelius Fichtner: In the first interview that you and I did, we learned a lot about the theory of hot-cold, constructive - destructive then also how to handle it to avoid compromise, collaborate —all of these –let’s maybe walk a little bit through these here. You already mentioned that culture influences, our understanding of conflict. What you consider to be a conflict, I don’t, it’s just a normal discussion. Is there any other way how culture influences the understanding of our conflict?
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Conflict in project management is inevitable. In fact they say that the only way to not have a project management conflict is to have a one-person project. And even then, some people have a tendency to argue with themselves.
Karin Brünnemann (https://www.linkedin.com/in/karinbrunnemann) recently gave a presentation on the topic of Managing Conflict in Projects to the Project Management Institute (PMI)® Slovakia Chapter. And because it was such a success she suggested that we bring it to you as well!
Karin’s presentation and our interview is full of solid advice and best practices you can apply to the conflicts you will inevitably encounter. We will discuss: Definition & Characteristics of Conflict
A big part of the interview is actually focused on that last part -- the actual project management conflict resolution. We are, however, not going to talk about conflict resolution on multicultural projects. That’s reserved for next week.
Presentation Slide Deck
Karin has made her presentation slides available for listeners of The PM Podcast. Download the file here:Click to download the presentation...
Conflict in Project Management is inevitable. In fact, they say that the only way to not have a project management conflict is to have a one-person project and even then some people have a tendency to argue with themselves.
Karin Brunnemann recently gave a presentation on the topic of Managing Conflicts to the PMI Slovakia Chapter and because it was such a success, she suggested that we bring it to you as well. If you are a project manager who wants to become PMP or PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® certified, then the easiest way to do so is with our sister podcast, the PM PrepCast™ or the Agile PrepCast™ and get your certification training for the exam by watching the in-depth exam prep video training from www.pm-prepcast.com
Karin’s presentation and our interview is full of solid advice and best practices that you can apply to the conflicts you will inevitably encounter. We’ll discuss the definition and characteristics of conflict in the context of Project Management, how to analyze a conflict and of course how to manage a conflict. A big part of the interview is actually focused on that last part, the actual Project Management conflict resolution. We are however not going to talk about conflict resolution on multi-cultural projects—that is reserved for next week.
And now, are you looking at me? Enjoy the interview.
Female Voice: Project Management Podcast Feature Interview. Today with Karin Brunnemann, PMP, Intra-cultural expert.
Cornelius Fichtner: Hello Karin. [Und dir ich wilkommen zurück] The Project Management Podcast™.
Karin Brunnemann: Hi, Cornelius!
Cornelius Fichtner: [laughs] Yes it always confuses people when I start the interview in German or another language. Welcome back, Karin. It’s been quite a while.
Karin Brunnemann: Thank you, Cornelius. I’m happy to be a guest speaker on the PM Podcast once again.
Cornelius Fichtner: Yes. So, we want to talk about conflict in projects and the reason for this is really the new PMI Talent Triangle, right?
Karin Brunnemann: Yes. If you look at the Talent Triangle under the leadership heading, Conflict Management is actually explicitly mentioned as a leadership skill for Project Management. So, this is quite an important topic.
Cornelius Fichtner: Yeah absolutely. Just as an aside for our listeners, because you are listening to this podcast interview, you can claim PDUs for listening to the podcast in the leadership category. Hop over to the website, take a look and we’ll explain how it is done. Also, for our listeners, Karin, what can they expect to learn from the interview right now?
Karin Brunnemann: What we have prepared is based on the definition and characteristics of conflict in the specific context of Project Management and how project managers can analyze and successfully manage conflict.
Cornelius Fichtner: Excellent. Let me begin with the very basic question like I always love to do. What is Conflict?
Karin Brunnemann: Conflict in principle has three basic characteristics. Every conflict has a specific cause that can be rooted in people’s motivation, like they have incompatible goals; they want different things that collide or it can be rooted in shared resources as I think all of the project managers know, we have to sometimes struggle to get finances allocated; we have to struggle to get some people allocated, etc. But it can also come from interdependent activities. For example, if you have one activity that depends on another activity to be finished first and that first activity doesn’t get finished, you can easily come into conflict with the person or the team responsible for that predecessor activity. The second characteristic is that a conflict is not anything static. It has an active element—it is a PROCESS. The third and last basic characteristic is that a conflict involves a minimum of two social actors. Social actors can either be individuals, they can be teams, they can be departments, they can be organizational units, they can also be different organizations. For example, you can have conflict in the project between the company doing the project and the supplier.
Cornelius Fichtner: Understood. And I think the joke goes: there is only one kind of project that does not have conflict and that is when you are the only person on that project and nobody else is participating at all.
Karin Brunnemann: That’s right.
Cornelius Fichtner: Yes. And I can argue with myself so maybe not even that is right. Alright, so they have a cause, they have a course, there are two actors. Where does conflict fit in to the PMBOK Guide? Let’s maybe also talk about that quickly.
Karin Brunnemann: Yes, in the latest edition of the PMBOK Guide, Conflict Management is part of the Managed Project Team Process and there is part of the tools and techniques to manage the project team and the PMBOK has quite some statements to make, also how conflicts should be handled and how they should manage which we will go through during this interview.
Cornelius Fichtner: Alright then, why do we experience more conflict on projects than in business as usual?
Karin Brunnemann: That’s a very good question. I usually ask my audience at this stage: Has anyone ever been on a project without any conflicts? People start laughing.
Cornelius Fichtner: Yeah. Laughter ensues. Exactly.
Karin Brunnemann: Yeah. There is multi-coded three Ps setting projects apart from business as usual when it comes to conflict. The first P lies in the project itself. By definition, a project is unique. It’s something that has never been done before. That causes insecurity, it causes a lot of learning processes that might not go so smoothly, etc. and a project always causes a change and as all of us probably know, a change is not the easiest to implement in a company. People don’t want to let go of what they have, they’re afraid of the new and they get stressed. Another aspect of the project side is the organization itself. Very often we have a matrix organization in the project meaning that a project team member is reporting to two bosses and that in itself can cause conflict. Now the second P is actually People. Because projects are unique, new teams are formed and people don’t know each other, they have not developed trust and not defined the rules of cooperation. Then of course, because the project is unique, there are new tasks. People have to learn how to handle tasks, it’s sometimes not clear what exactly tasks are and there is a lot of insecurity involved on the People side. The third and last P is the Product. Each project produces a unique result that has not been there before. That can be a physical product or a service and this is an unknown and again this adds to stress and if people are stressed and if processes and outcomes are not known, conflict is much more likely than if we complete in our routine task every day.
Cornelius Fichtner: So we have Project, People and the Product which are the reason for why we have conflict on projects and before we can really delve into the resolution here, we also have to talk about the categories and the types of conflict. Tell us about the two conflict categories.
Karin Brunnemann: Yes there are two basic categories that are called hot conflict and cold conflict. Now, a hot conflict is usually very visible. People are sometimes shouting at each other or at least arguing. Parties are usually very passionate about their interests and their goals. It can look very, very dramatic. I’ve been in a couple of projects where people have really been shouting and screaming at each other but the good news is that a hot conflict is often looks a lot worse than it really is. On the other hand, a cold conflict is a conflict that is latent and it’s below the surface and such conflict, they are more dangerous in terms that they can—they’re smoldering, they can last very long and the parties involved they can actually get very disappointed, demotivated even cynical and for third party—for onlookers, these conflicts are not always recognizable. If you’re a project manager and you have a team with a cold, smoldering conflict, the danger is that as a project manager, you don’t recognize that there is a conflict therefore you will not resolve it and the conflict can go on for a long time and it can also, at some stage, become hot when people say,”OK, we’ve had enough” and then it really explodes like a volcano.
Cornelius Fichtner: Yeah. Next to the hot and cold conflicts we also have the destructive and constructive conflicts. Tell us about those.
Karin Brunnemann: Yes. This is a very, very important distinction. In a destructive conflict, this conflict usually can lead to a slowdown or standstill of the project work. They can involve personal attacks, not physical attacks but verbal attacks, hopefully only verbal attacks between the conflict parties and they actually destruct the team and the individuals working on the project from achieving the goal of completing the task. Destructive conflicts tend to be very emotional because of that personal involvement. Constructive conflict on the other hand usually needs a lot deeper understanding and root cause identification. It leads to high-quality decisions and also commitment of the parties involved. We see a lot of win-win outcomes of constructive conflict and in the end, it motivates the team rather than demotivating it.
Cornelius Fichtner: So, quick question for you: I’m oftentimes “passionate” on our projects and we have adopted an Agile methodology here internally and all of our conflicts, they are constructive. We try to build and do something and create something new but I’m really passionate. I can get loud and I argue and so—is that a hot or a cold conflict?
Karin Brunnemann: Yeah. It’s a hot conflict but the way you described it, it’s still very constructive.
Cornelius Fichtner: Right.
Karin Brunnemann: You bring your ideas on the table. You really want to find a solution that’s why you’re so passionate.
Cornelius Fichtner: Yes. So one does not exclude the other then? You can have a cold, destructive conflict, you can have a cold constructive conflict—so these are sort of a little bit combinable?
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In this second interview with Jamal Moustafaev (https://ca.linkedin.com/in/jmoustafaev we take what we learned about the project portfolio management process and discuss how to implement it in our organizations.
We look at PPM reviews, internal resource cost, the importance of our mission and strategy, how involved c-level executives need to be, a charter for portfolio management, how the halo effect can skew your project selection methods, and how to improve the quality of project proposals.
All of these ideas are of course taken from his book Project Portfolio Management in Theory and Practice: Thirty Case Studies from around the World (Best Practices and Advances in Program Management) with the intent of giving you practical tips on how to implement project portfolio management in your own organization.
Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome to this Premium episode #388. I’m Cornelius Fichtner. Premium means that this interview is reserved for you, our Premium subscribers. Thank you very much for joining us today and for supporting the podcast with your paid subscription and don’t forget that you’ll get PDUs just for listening. Please visit www.pm-podcast.com/pdu for the details and then tell all your friends about the free PDUs you’re getting. In this second interview with Jamal Moustafaev, we take what we learned about the Project Portfolio Management process and discuss how to implement it in our organizations. We look at PPM reviews, internal resource cost, the importance of our mission and strategy, how involved C-Level executives need to be, a charter for portfolio management, how the halo effect can skew your project selection methods and how to improve the quality of project proposals. All of these ideas are of course taken from his book, Project Portfolio Management in Theory and Practice: Thirty Case Studies from Around the World with the intent of giving you practical tips on how to implement Project Portfolio Management in your own organization. And so, let’s get practical. Enjoy the interview.
Female Voice: Project Management Podcast feature interview. Today with Jamal Moustafaev, President and CEO of Think Tank Consulting, a consulting company specializing in product and portfolio management services.
Cornelius Fichtner: Hello, Jamal. Welcome back to the Project Management Podcast.
Jamal Moustafaev: Hi, Cornelius. Always great to be back.
Cornelius: OK, so we want to talk about implementing Project Portfolio Management and then how we link it to the strategy but first, please remind us, what is Project Portfolio Management?
Jamal: Well, my favorite definition of Project Portfolio Management and probably the reason I like it so much is because I was the one who created it. Project Portfolio Management is the science and the art of selecting the best projects of the organization and maintenance of the project pipelines subject to internal and external constraints. Stress—I always make that stress is on “selecting the best projects”.
Cornelius: Alright. In order for us to get started with the discussion on implementing PPM and linking it to strategy, you suggested that we start talking first about PPM reviews. What are PPM reviews?
Jamal: Well, you have to have—before even going to the PPM reviews—you have to have your scoring model developed.
Cornelius: We talked about those in the last interview. Excellent, yeah.
Jamal: Yup and I still believe you will share some of the examples that I sent you on this subject as well, so the listeners can go and examine them. You have to have your strategic alignment model developed and you have to have your portfolio balance model developed. Once you have them in hand, then whoever—actually the info graphics that I believe you will share with the readers—I always encourage at the end of the workshops with companies where I did Project Portfolio Management implementations, I encourage them to print these models on very large sheets of paper and putting them on the wall of every decision maker in the company. The reason for that being—you might be sitting in the office and suddenly you have an idea and you say, ‘Wouldn’t it be really cool if we could do this?” Well the standard operating procedure will require you to write a business case and in that business case, you would have to put your project through the scoring model that has been developed and approved by a Project Portfolio Management committee consisting of senior executives. The idea here being is that—if your project gets 3 points out of 100, probably you shouldn’t even be bothering the Project Portfolio Management committee with that project proposal unless it is mission-critical, stay-in-business kind of thing. You write your business case. You say, “You know what? As a part of the business case, my project got 67 out of 100 and I believe that’s high enough score for it to be considered”. This is all Phase 1, you evaluate project values and benefits, you look at risks, determine what kind of resources you will need at high level. This is all coming from the person who is proposing that project. And then you go in front of the committee with that business case. You probably put that business case through the PMO, where the PMO says, “OK, yeah that information is correct, yes you supply this” or “No, we will need a bit more information about the resources” and you go in front of the Project Portfolio Management committee and you go, “Ok, my name is Jamal and I think all companies should include this project into our pipeline for the next year”. And then they go, “OK, Jamal, you said 67 out of a 100, that’s a fairly high score, where did you get that?” “Well, I assume that strategic fit, it fits 3 out of 5 strategies that we have”. And then you get engaged into the discussion. Then you look at the—this is a bit more technical, I’m not going to get this in this interview—you look whether this is a good fit with balancing. Then you look at strategic alignment and if the project makes it through all of these three gates, then that project gets added to the project pipeline. This is Phase 1 review. This is at the very beginning before the initiative becomes a project or before the idea officially becomes a project in the organization. Phase 2 reviews, they happen multiple times. Again in the previous interview I mentioned as frequently as monthly or once every quarter depending on the project size—typical project size for organizations—and you keep asking the same questions again, “Well, we said it was 67 out of 100, is it still 67 out of 100 or has some things changed? Is this project one-time? Is this project on-budget? We said we will need ten resources for this project, is that still the case? Do we see any risks, kind of rearing their heads that will affect the value of this project to the organization? Have there been any external changes? And this is again, this is the borderline—the science and the art. As long as you’re in how many points out of 100, you’re in science. But when you have to assess external changes, for example, you’re getting into art. So again, Phase 1 review—is this project a go or no go? Phase 2—reviews, multiple, they happen at regular intervals to see whether we’re still on track. The project hasn’t become the runaway train, so to speak.
Cornelius: Right. And just to be absolutely clear, Phase 2 reviews—that’s after the project has started.
Jamal: You can do it at the end of initiation, you can do it at the end of planning, you can do it at the end of execution or you can do it on a monthly basis.
Cornelius: Who’s responsible for these reviews, Phase 1 and Phase 2?
Jamal: Responsible for organizing them—someone whose title is Project Portfolio Manager, Project Portfolio Director, PMO Manager, PMO Director, Director of Projects, I mean, titles vary from company to company. He is responsible for gathering all that information and present. But the people who are responsible for making the decision is the Project Portfolio management committee which consists of all the C-Level people at the company.
Cornelius: OK. For my next question, we have to get back to your book and just as a reminder, the book is called Project Portfolio Management in Theory and Practice: Thirty Case Studies from Around the World with Best Practices and Advances in Program Management and in the book, you mentioned “internal resource costs”—what do you mean?
Jamal: Well, here’s the thing that happens at many companies. When you sit and talk to the C-Level people and you go, “Are your internal resources free?” They go, “No, no, no. They are not free. We pay them salary and benefits, and rent for the office and the equipment”. Then go, “OK, do you consider the internal costs when you assess the projects?” And they go, “What do you mean?” Well, ten years ago and I’m sure that number has increased but it was a significant number even at the time, the organization I was working for calculated that the blended rate for the employees is about $10,000 per man-month or person-month. So the cost of keeping Jamal, average cost of keeping Jamal on the job at the organization was about $10,000. Salary plus benefits plus taxes plus rent plus infrastructure costs, etc. etc. etc. Is $10,000 a large amount of money? What happens if you have 200 man-month or person-month allocated to a project? Do you know what 200 man-month translate into? $1.8Million if you go with $9,000 per month per man-month. Those figures can severely affect the financial assessment of the project. For example, Project A that has very little external cost—consulting or hardware/software and a lot of internal costs, compare that to Project B that has some external costs but a lot of internal ones, which project do you think will be favored? If you don’t and usually they don’t count that, they favor the projects with very little external costs. We have to buy server for $200,000 and ignoring to assess the internal resource cost can lead to significant changes—proper changes to how the projects are assessed. That’s why one of the things—the very first things that I do with my Project Portfolio Management implementation, I say, “OK. Let me sit down with your CFO or senior accountant. We don’t need an exact number but let’s calculate a blended rate for your employees”. It can be just as one rate. I mean, starting from the janitor all the way to the CEO. What is the cost of average man-month/person-month of your company? And then when you come in with the project proposal, if your project has very little external costs but it requires 1,000 person-month of work of your internal people, you better incorporate that into the financial assessment of the project. I will share the link with you. I compared couple of projects side by side, and what happens when you do consider internal resources and what happens when you don’t consider it. I will send you with the link, it’s called –
Cornelius: Absolutely! We’ll include it in the show notes, yeah.
Jamal: I have an article called, Do you Consider Companies Internal Resource Costs when Prioritizing Projects?
Cornelius: You know, it’s very interesting because the PMBOK Guide 6th edition currently pre-releases out later this year, it will be released—my company, we are a PMP training company, so we have to upgrade all our training products to PMBOK 6 and we are currently going through exactly those kinds of discussions. How are we going to track our projects? What exactly do we want to calculate? How do we measure in the end how much it actually cost us to do all of these updates and just to figure out, is this worth our time in the future when PMBOK 7 comes out, do we really want to continue and do we want to keep doing that? So, very interesting because I’m exactly in that mind-set of how do we get the internal resource cost properly assigned to the project and leading me right into the next question that I had for you and that has to do with the company mission and strategy. What role, because we’ve just gone through a complete revamp of our company strategy, our mission, our core values—we completely redefined that—what role does that play in PPM, Project Portfolio Management implementation?
Jamal: As I’ve mentioned in my previous interview, if you don’t have strategy, you will not have PPM because Project Portfolio Management it has three pillars—project value, portfolio balance and portfolio strategic alignment or project strategic alignment and each one of them, literally each one of them has a direct relationship with company strategy. And again, strategy that is clear and simple. For example, strategy that says, “We will be innovative and creative leaders in the world of technology”—doesn’t work because it’s very difficult to align project proposals with that strategy communicated in that way. If your strategy says something to the effect of, “We want to increase our market share by 10% in Markets A and B”, that’s very measureable. Having said that, about 90-95% of companies I worked with that is supported by other studies as well, more academic studies, they have strategic alignment or strategic fit as one of the variables in their scoring models, and again I invite all your listeners to go and check out some of the samples that I sent to you, the info graphics that I’ve created based on my interactions with my clients. So, it is very difficult to see/discover a scoring model that does not have a strategic fit variable and very frequently, that’s a kill category. I’ll explain what that means if I propose a project that scores ten out of ten in all of the variables but receives zero in the strategic fit, that project is killed. That’s how extreme that approach is. Balance against strategy and other possible strategy, how risk-tolerant are you? Are you risk-averse or are you a risk-taker? Compare on one hand bank or insurance company versus software company that makes apps—gaming apps, for example. Banks naturally and insurance companies will be risk-averse, hence that would directly impact their portfolio projects. They will say, “You know what, we want 90% of our portfolio to be low-risk, low-reward zone whereas aggressive smaller software product companies for example they will say, “No, we want the bulk of our portfolio in the R&D”. And R&D means high-risk, high-reward. Strategic alignment, a very powerful tool. You basically go in front of the executives and you say, “What percentage of your projects do you think should be in aggressive buckets?” Aggressive bucket meaning development of new product families or development of new products. What percentage of your products do you want to be in the average risk, average reward meaning improvements to the existing products and what percentage of your projects do you want to be maintenance, stay-in-business kinds of things?
Cornelius: In our first interview, you already talked about this. We were talking about this small company who wanted to take on Microsoft, with only 5% of their projects being assigned to R&D. What other problems do you see in this regard that companies have?
Jamal: Well, what the companies don’t get—they don’t understand Project Portfolio Management is that they make very bold statements regarding where they are going and what are they planning to do but when you start examining—kind of reverse engineering their portfolio management, they consult, “Ok, what are the top 20 projects that you’re doing? What kind of project is that?” And you’d soon discover that 19 out of 20 projects they’re doing have to do with mundane improvements to current products they have that are not really in demand in the market and only one project under resourced and under staffed is working on something that market really needs, like, what’s going to be on the market tomorrow? You kind of question their commitment to being the innovative and creative leader on the market. I can give you a very long list on the opposite side where companies that are very risk-averse and conservative by nature invested 95% of their project portfolio into something high-risk and high-reward or in extreme cases, high-risk and low-reward. Meaning, they are going to lose money on that, they’re just not entirely sure how much money they are going to lose.
Jamal: Either a large amount of money or a smaller amount of money
Cornelius: Alright. If something like this happens—in your book, and in our previous discussions, you stressed the importance of the executive involvement in project portfolio deployment. If something like this happens, a complete misalignment from strategy to what you have, like you’re risk-averse that all your projects are high-risk. It means that there is a disconnect between the people who make the decisions—yes, we’re doing these projects—versus their understanding of what they’re really doing here. In the first interview, you said, nowadays Project Management is understood, we do know, at least in North America, Europe that’s why I can attest to that. So we have these two areas outside of that I don’t consider myself a specialist on it, but—
Jamal: I go there all the time. You have to convince people.
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Project Portfolio Management and the realization that strategic alignment of all projects within an organization is crucial are both gaining ground. And this realization also emphasizes the need for having solid project selection methods.
But how exactly do you do all of this? The number of books that focus on practical advice for implementing a strategic project portfolio management process is quite small. Lucky for us that a new one with exactly that focus has just been published
The new book is titled Project Portfolio Management in Theory and Practice: Thirty Case Studies from around the World (Best Practices and Advances in Program Management) written by Jamal Moustafaev (https://ca.linkedin.com/in/jmoustafaev. In our discussion, we answer these questions:
Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome to Episode #387. This is the Project Management Podcast™ at www.pm-podcast.com and I’m Cornelius Fichtner. Project Portfolio Management and the realization that strategic alignment of all projects within an organization is crucial are both gaining ground and this realization also emphasizes the need for having solid project selection methods. But how exactly do you do all of this? The number of books that focus on practical advice for implementing a project portfolio management process is quite small. Lucky for us that a new book with exactly that focus has just been published. If you are a project manager who wants to become PMP or PMI ACP certified, then the easiest way to do so is with our sister Podcast, the Project Management PrepCast or the Agile PrepCast and study for the exam by watching the in-depth exam prep video training from www.pm-prepcast.com . The new book is titled, “Project Portfolio Management in Theory and Practice: 30 Case Studies from Around the World” written by Jamal Moustafaev. In our discussion, we answered questions like: What is Project Portfolio Management? What are the three pillars of portfolio management? What are some project selection models and how do we achieve strategic alignment? And of course we have two copies of Jamal’s book to give away. One copy is reserved for our Premium subscribers and the other one is up for grabs. If you want to participate in this give-away, then please go to www.facebook.com/pmpodcast and look for the book give away announcement. And now, add this to the portfolio of your skills and enjoy the interview.
Female Voice: Project Management Podcast feature interview. Today with Jamal Moustafaev, President and CEO of Think Tank Consulting, a consulting company specializing in product and portfolio management services.
Cornelius Fichtner: Hello, Jamal. Welcome back to the podcast.
Jamal Moustafaev: Hi, Cornelius. Always great to be on your program.
Cornelius: Hey, in 2010, you wrote the book, “Delivering Exceptional Project Results: A Practical Guide to Project Selection Scoping Estimation and Management”. Then in 2014 came “Project Scope Management: A Practical Guide to Requirements Engineering Product Construction, IT and Enterprise Project, Best Practices and Advances in Program Management” and then last year, you published your third book titled, “Project Portfolio Management in Theory and Practice: 30 Case Studies from Around the World, Best Practices and Advances in Program Management”. What prompted you to write this new book?
Jamal: Well, if you remember our interview back from 2011 when we were discussing my first book, “Delivering Exceptional Project Results”, what I did in Exceptional Project Results is that I argued, I believed for the first time in the Project Management field that you need to have a good grasp on both Project Management and Project Portfolio Management if you want to deliver exceptional results because Project Portfolio Management is responsible for selecting the best ideas for your company for implementation and then project management is responsible for the discipline to deliver these great ideas through planning, monitoring and control. So, I kind of got attached upon—because the book is limited in size, I got attached upon a little bit about project management, a little bit about Project Portfolio Management but since then I have been invited to a lot of places around the world where companies would call me and say, “Ok, we would like to do Project Portfolio Management implementation. We now understand what it is and we want to do it.” I’ve had the chance of doing a lot of courses, workshops and Project Portfolio Management implementations. Several things, actually two things happened: I gathered a lot of materials, case studies, actual Project Portfolio Management implementations and I’ve encountered in this engagements a lot of questions that I felt were left unanswered in the first book just because of the size limitations. Third reason is that again, I went through a lot of computing books that are available in the market and I’ve discovered that while they were excellent, good, great, they were more academic in nature rather than practical and if you’re approaching an average CEO of a given company, you better have a practical book in your hand rather than an academic. Again, just to reiterate, three things: a lot of materials gathered, actual case studies that I wanted to share with people, a lot of questions that weren’t answered in the first book were answered in this—these processes and again, trying to bring something practical into the market
Cornelius: Who is the book actually for? Is it more for project managers, for program managers, portfolio managers?
Jamal: I would say, if you go like from the bottom up, definitely program managers, definitely anyone whose job title is PMO manager, project management director, etc. etc., portfolio manager, all the way up to C-Level people. I mean it’s a great book to read for project managers as well if you want—they want to upgrade their skills but the target market, like the people who I expect to read this book and do something about it, probably C-Level down to people who manage other project managers.
Cornelius: Ok. Final question about your books: Why are your book titles so incredibly long? I mean halfway through I have to take a breath.
Jamal: No, no, no. OK. Here is the deal. Trust me a lot of thought went through that. As far as I’m concerned, the first book in my mind is called Delivering Exceptional Project Results, second book is called Project Scope Management and third book is called Project Portfolio Management Practice. What I try to do with the subtitle, I’ll try to explain it a little, if you go to the market and say, “Hey, Delivering Exceptional Project Results”, people are still not very clear about what the book is about. When you say it’s about project selection scoping estimation and management, they’re going to go, “Ok”. Project Scope Management very frequently gets confused with managing project scope. People kind of think Jamal wrote a book about scope (management) and change requests rather than project scope management as the entire domain and 30 case studies around the world as subtitle for the first book was kind of wild, guys. They’re actually real case studies that you can look at; it’s not just all talking. So that’s for me, maybe I don’t know it’s a professional disease [laughs]. I’m a business analyst as well as a project manager so I tend to become very, very detailed about it.
Cornelius: The longer, the better.
Cornelius: Ok. So we want to jump into the third book and learn a little bit more about project portfolio management. Let’s start with the absolute basic question. What is project portfolio management?
Jamal: Actually it’s a very good question because I am still encountering a lot of project managers—certified project managers like PMPs, etc. who are confused about this topic. Project Portfolio Management, my favorite definition is it is the science and the art of selecting the best projects for the organization and maintenance of the project pipelines subject to internal and external constraints. So the stress is being made on selection.
Cornelius: How does this differ from Program Management?
Jamal: Program Management starts, if you are a project manager or a program manager, someone from the C-Level. Someone’s in to your office and says, “Cornelius, you’re my program manager, here’s a program for you to do. A program consisting of several probably interrelated projects. And you assume at that point of time that the decision about the initiation of this program has already been made and you just take on and manage that program. As I’ve just mentioned a couple of minutes earlier, project portfolio management is about deciding which projects to run, which projects are going to go on the to-do list and which projects are going to be killed off that list. Focus is on selection.
Cornelius: Who is usually responsible for Project Portfolio Management, PPM in a company?
Jamal: Don’t even get me started on that!
Cornelius: [laughs] Who should be?
Jamal: Who should be? Senior executives. Basically whoever—who can walk into the conference room and say, “Wouldn’t it be really cool if we could do this project?” should be on the Project Portfolio Management committee. The reason I kind of reacted in this manner to your question is because very frequently, especially for some reason when I go to London, UK and I go there twice a year and I get to teach my Project Portfolio Management workshop, I really think that in the beginning of the course I say, “Ok guys, why are you here?” What do you want to learn? What is your goal? What is your target? Nine out of ten people—fairly high-ranking people in the company—Portfolio Management, directors of PMO school, “Well, my executives send me here to learn about Project Portfolio Management, come back home, develop a Project Portfolio Management model and implement it at the company”. And I go, “Are they going to be participating in deciding what should go into that model?” They go, “No, they’re too busy”. And I go, “Well, imagine the following situation: you develop a model, it’s great, it’s the best model in the world and it fits your company perfectly. Your CEO walks into your office and go, “OK, Bob, here’s a project that I want you to do”. You run that project through your model and you suddenly discovered that that project gets only five points out of a possible hundred. You go back to your CEO and say, “Sorry, I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to go ahead with that project”. “”Why is that?” “Well, it got only five out of a hundred.” What’s the reaction of the CEO? Well, he’s probably going to say, “Based on what?” “Based on the model I’ve developed.” “How come I didn’t participate?” “Well, you were too busy”. You see how this becomes ridiculous very quickly.
Cornelius: Absolutely. Yeah.
Jamal: So that’s why –but it’s definitely—it should be senior people in the room. Whenever I get a call or email from a company saying, “We’re interested in Project Portfolio Management. Actually I got a very similar call recently from one of the universities in Canada. I tell them right away, “Guys, you got to have your C-Level people on board. And here is why: if they’re not ready, don’t do that.
Cornelius: When we talk about Project Portfolio Management, we also have to talk about strategy. What is the connection between the two? What is the connection between strategy and Project Portfolio Management and I think we probably also have to talk about the three pillars of Portfolio Management as part of this. I’ll give this whole bunch of things here to you to elaborate on.
Jamal: To put it in a (short) sentence, one very short sentence, if you have no clear strategy there’s no way you’re going to have Project Portfolio Management in place because Project Portfolio Management rests on three pillars: 1. Project must deliver value to the company and it’s a very fashionable word to use especially recently –what is valuable be determined when you go into more detail scoring model, etc. but let’s just agree that we understand what value is. It sits on the third and the second pillar is balancing your portfolio in a most simplistic way. How many high-risk, high-reward projects you have versus low-risk, low-reward projects. And it has something called strategic alignment. For example, what percentage of your project will go into new product families, which percentage of your project will be allocated to improvements to existing products and what percentage of your projects will go into maintenance? Guess what—of value, I would say at the top of my head, 90 to 95% of the companies I have worked with, they had selected strategic fit as one of their selection scoring criteria. So there is a direct connection to the value. This is usually (a “kill”) category. So for example if I’m offering a project—proposing a project that has no impact on the strategic fit, that project should get killed right away irrelevant of other benefits it brings. Balance, again. What is your company’s strategy? Are you embracing risks? Are you more risk-averse? We’re talking about software developers versus a bank. Which one of them, do you think will be more a risk-taker and which one of them would be more risk-averse? So it is all three pillars directly or indirectly they tie to strategy. Another thing that I want to kind of give a heads up to you or your listeners is that, remember I said at the very beginning, it has to be a clear and simple strategy. So for example, saying something like company X will become an innovative leader in the world –that doesn’t work. Because as soon as you get into the Portfolio Management…
Cornelius: You have no idea which projects meet that.
Jamal: If you just say Company X will increase its market share to 45% in markets A, B and C, then time that to—strategy becomes very easy. So that’s my take on strategy and Project Portfolio Management.
Cornelius: OK. Just to reiterate the three pillars for our listeners here. The first one is: project selectively must maximize the value of the company. The second pillar was: they must constitute a balanced portfolio and lastly, they must be strategically aligned with the company’s overall business strategy and that’s how everything sort of fits into everything else.
Jamal: And you usually have strategy present in all three of them.
Cornelius: You mentioned scoring models. What role does strategy play in scoring models?
Jamal: Scoring models is basically—and by the way I shared some –probably four or five examples of full portfolio models of the companies I worked with and I think you will share them on your website.
Cornelius: Yeah, you have the info graphics, right?
Welcome to another "special" episode from The PM Podcast, in which we introduce you to new podcasts that are created and produced for/by project managers. Today we feature 'Scope of Success'.
Launched in 2016, Scope of Success brings you Business Life Lessons to help you advance your career one interview at a time. Hosted by Brian K. Wagner, MBA, PMP and James Kittle, PMP, advocates for business issues at hand. Sponsored by Project Management Institute (PMI)® Long Island Chapter.
So please enjoy Ep1- Mastering the Job Interview - Guest/Steve Potter. Here is what Brian and James write about it in their show notes:
In this episode we speak with one of PMI® Long Island chapter's founders and current member of the board of directors. Steve Potter talks to us about interviewing questions and styles that lead to success.
Brian: Welcome to the Special Edition of the Project Management Podcast. I’m Brian.
James: I’m James
Brian: We’re the hosts of Scope of Success, the podcast where we bring you business life lessons, one interview at a time. In this episode, we speak to the founder of PMI Long Island, it’s an amazing episode…
James: Totally tubular.DONE
Brian: We learned a lot from it. Thank you Cornelius for this tremendous opportunity. We hope you enjoy the episode and remember to follow us on Twitter and Facebook and subscribe to us on iTunes.
Male Voice: This is Scope of Success, where we bring you business life lessons and throw a lifeline to your career. And now, Brian and James.
Brian: Yeah, Welcome to Scope of Success where we’re helping you advance your career one interview at a time but of course we need you to help us so please email us with your show ideas, questions, comments, feedback. You can email us at scopeofsuccess@PMILIC.org and follow us on Twitter @scopeofsuccess, we’ll try to read as many responses on air as we can. I’m your host Brian, along with my co-host James. We’ll be your advocates for issues at hand. Hey James!
James: Hello, Brian. We have a fantastic show today. We’ll be speaking with Steve Potter, he is one of the founders and on the Board of Directors of PMI Long Island, which is Project Management Institute, Long Island Chapter and they’re also our sponsor.
James: Yeah. I think he’s probably the first genuine celebrity that we’ve had on the podcast.
Brian: He is a celebrity. Absolutely.
James: Not quite at the Clooney level but probably somewhere just below that.
Brian: Yeah. I would say. Absolutely. A well-respected guy. Fantastic to have him on the show. We’re going to be talking about interviews, we’re going to get interview tips from him, ideas, have to answer certain questions. I have a joke—an interview joke.
James: A joke that you tell when you’re interviewing people that you’re hiring or…a joke that you tell when you’re on an interview?
Brian: No, a joke when I tell when I just stand up.
James: Oh ok.
Brian: [laughs] A couple of weeks ago, I had a job interview.
James: Is this the joke?
Brian: This is the joke. It’s starting now.
James: Ok [laughs] Just so we’re all ready.
Brian: So, a couple of weeks ago I had a job interview. I spoke with the HR Manager.
Brian: And she asked me if I had any weaknesses.
Brian: So I said—I’m too honest.
Brian: And she goes, really, that doesn’t sound like a weakness. Yeah, like I give a damn what you think.
Brian: So I haven’t heard back yet, but I got my fingers crossed on that one.
James: That’s a great joke.
Brian: Thank you.
James: I really do like that one.
Brian: What’s the worst interview you’ve ever had?
James: The worst interview I ever had…I can think of…a couple of things, there’s an interview story that I tell that’s funny where I was interviewing for a major bank and they brought me into this gigantic Romanesque city. It was enormous. Thousands and thousands—fifty thousand square feet of cubicles.
Brian: Oh wow.
James: Yeah. And they walk me in to this maze…
Brian: Like a whole depot of cubicles.
James: Yeah. Right. So they walked me in through this maze of cubicles and a woman sits me down and you know, it was a long walk to get in there and I’m thinking, Oh OK, this is it. This is the bank and she sits me down and she says, “So, can you tell me why do you want to work here at Mega Bank?” And I said, “You know, I have to be honest with you. I have absolutely no interest whatsoever in working here.” And she didn’t miss a beat. She said, “Well, thank you so much for coming by. Let me show you out”.
Brian: [laughs] Nice.
James: I don’t know if that’s the worst thing.
Brian: That’s a good one.
James: I’ve been on a number of interviews but that was…
Brian: I like it.
James: Yeah, right.
Brian: Mine was I went to a company that was so structured it was ridiculous. One of the phrases this woman—the woman I interviewed with—that kept saying she was, “You need to be flexible in being inflexible”
Brian: Which I was like, WOW! And she said it a few times.
Brian: So it was such a structured environment and she goes, “You know, if you even want to get anything done, it’s all done by committee and …it’s kind of like, “All right”, I mean I never heard anybody unsell me on a job before.
Brian: It came to the point where she even came out and said, “Do you want to continue with this process?” It wasn’t any vibe I was thrown off because I go all in when I’m in an interview
Brian: She goes, “I’ve asked this question before and a couple of people had said they want to take themselves out of running.
Brian: I was like, “I don’t think it was a strange type…
James: Did you hang in there?
Brian: I did. Of course.
James: Did you get the job? Is that where you’re working now?
James: OK [laughs]
Brian: I need to be flexible in being creative in my flexibility.
Brian: So, it was so interesting—I don’t think it was a tactic that she was using and it turns out I think I do believe I saw her job being listed a couple of months afterwards, so I don’t think…
James: OK, so no surprise.
Brian: I even think that maybe she was unhappy
James: I think, you know the interview process in some ways is very flawed. I find as a candidate that I’m so desperate to get the job. It doesn’t even matter if you want the job. Once you engaged in the process of “Oh wow, they want to interview me. I want this job” and it’s like –so I feel it’s very one way as a candidate I’m saying everything that I can to sell you on the concept of hiring me for this job. And really it should be a good interview really should be a lot more back and forth. Do you want to work here? Do we want you to work here?
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Last year at the Project Management Institute (PMI)® Global Congress 2016 in San Diego, California I recorded an all time high of 14 interviews. They have all been published over the past few months and you’ve probably heard some or all of them. But what you don’t know is what happened once each interview was complete.
I pressed the recording button one more time and asked each of my guests the following question: Which is the interpersonal skill that you attribute the most of our success in your career to? In other words, what skill has helped you most on your projects when you interact with others?
And today you are going to get all the answers. In one nice mashup. Here are all the presenters in the order you will hear their answers
Oh, and spoiler alert... the answer that I received most often was "Relationships".
Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome to Episode #386. This is the Project Management Podcast™ at www.pm-podcast.com and I’m Cornelius Fichtner. Last year at the PMI Global Congress 2016 in San Diego, California, I recorded an all-time high of 14 interviews. They have all been published over the past few months here on the program and you’ve probably heard some or all of them but what you don’t know is what happened once each interview was complete because I pressed the recording button one more time and I asked each of my interview guests the following question: What interpersonal skill do you attribute the most to your success in Project Management to? In other words, what skill has helped you most on your projects when you interact with others? And today, you are going to get all the answers in one nice, big mash-up. We begin with Jay Payette who attributes his success to what I have to do a lot here on the Project Management Podcast and that’s talking.
Cornelius Fichtner: Jay, please tell me which is the interpersonal skill that you attribute the most of your success in Project Management to?
Jay Payette: It’s an excellent question and it’s a difficult question because there are so many interpersonal skills I know that being able to be empathetic is important and understand different people’s perspectives but for me actually, if I have to attribute success in Project Management, it would be in simply, communication—being able to stand up in a room and present and speak with confidence and win people over with my ideas. Being able to speak confidently, being able to speak what I would hope to be charismatically to me has been the one skill that has allowed me to win confidence in my clients but also drive success in delivering projects.
Cornelius: Now that we know that talking is important, how about listening? Here are Kristy Tan Neckowicz and NK Shrivastava
Kristy: I would say that one key skill that I attribute my success to is active listening. I feel like the fact that people that I communicate with recognize that I’m listening, that I actually do care about what they are going to say and I’m actually going to take action as a result of what they say. That has given me a lot of leeway in building relationships with them and also getting the results that we both want. So I say active listening is key.
NK: If I were to put the interpersonal skills I will say listening is the most critical skill because that tells me to understand the customer and it goes with one of the seven habits of highly effective people: seek to understand first than to be understood. I don’t know which habit number is that, probably #2, I think, or whatever. But I think that’s the most important thing—listening. Listening doesn’t mean hearing. Listening means really, really understanding what somebody sitting in front of you is talking or wanting to communicate. That’s the most important thing and sometime I have sit in user sessions where I have not talked for one hour, two hours. Just listening. And I remember in one of the sessions where I was one of the project managers and I went with the sales team and it was a big insurance company in the world, very senior leaders. It was a one day session where the sales guys were trying to know what they are looking for and they took me as a key sales support project manager and I was sitting there and for first half day, I did not speak anything. I was just listening, listening, listening, listening. Then during lunchtime, I asked them, the sales guys 2 or 3 questions. And they said, “Oh, we did not think about that”. I said, “Yeah, because you were talking, you were not listening”. So then in the afternoon when we went and talked about those 2 or 3 questions that I raised, even the customers sitting there were, “Oh we did not think about that!”. So then they started talking and we came to know about the requirements for that project that were not on the table for any time in the past. That project became 3 or 4 times the scope of the project and the customer was very happy with that of course they did not have that much money so we went and prioritized what is most important for you. Then we had a project that we did for that customer and it was a very good project. So I still was not talking for half day and just listening. Just listening—I feel that’s the most important interpersonal skill and it also helps in personal relationships. So for example if you know your son or daughter is talking and you are not listening, they may not talk to you anymore after some time. It’s important in any relationship is to listen. That’s why I listen.
Cornelius: So I asked a total of 13 interview guests: Which interpersonal skill helped them the most? Four of them shows the same skill and here is the big winner of this informal survey. It is “relationships” but each of my guests has a different take on it. First here are David Hillson and Denise McRoberts.
David Hillson: I’ve learned a lot in terms of interpersonal skills from the idea of transactional analysis. We call it TA, for short and the idea that you can take the approach of people being OK or not OK. So I’m OK, you’re OK or I’m not OK and you’re OK, or I’m OK and you’re not OK. Those kinds of things I think are quite important to think about in terms of our relationships with each other and in TA, transactional analysis they talk about the parent-child relationship where the child-parents talk about the adult-adult relationship and then the others are sort of combination between parent, adult and child. I think clearly what we should be looking for most of the time is adult to adult relationships but very often we treat people as if I’m the parent and you’re the child. In other words, I’m OK and you’re not OK and I need to teach you how to do the right thing and to get your life sorted out and to perform effectively and you just do what I tell you. Sometimes we’re in the reverse where I’m the child and you’re the parent and I’m needy and I’m dependent on you and then I’m a kind of my drawing my authenticity, drawing my direction from you and that’s not healthy either. And so that idea of transactional analysis where you consciously become aware of those different levels of relationship and actively choose to treat the other person like an adult is important. I found that’s been a real challenge to me as a technical expert, I mean I’m a risk management expert, but also a person in Project Management, I’m a fellow of PMI, I’ve been managing projects for 30 years. Actually I feel like the parent and very often my starting position is you’re not OK, you need to listen to me and that’s very arrogant. I don’t know everything and so I do need to just correct myself quite often and say, “You know what, your position has value, I can learn from you. Let me just adjust my positioning and treat each other as equals and not be dependent on you but not trying to put myself above you”. We’re all trying to do the same thing together here and that is really helpful to me. That adult to adult relationship has a choice to do it intentionally has been I think the thing that has helped me the most.
Denise: I would have to say most of my success is attributed to connecting with people. As a project manager I get to work with all different levels from C Level executives to all various resources on a one-on-one level and it’s fun and challenging to work at those different levels, figure out how to best communicate, how to most effectively communicate and how to connect so that people feel inspired to work on projects and to collaborate and as a team environment and really impart change. I think connecting to those people is the most fun and I think it’s one of my strongest skills that I think has really helped me out in my project and portfolio management career.
Cornelius: So that was David Hillson and Denise McRoberts. By the way, if you want to hear me stumbling over my own tongue when I asked David the question, you’re going to have to listen all the way to the end. We’re going to be adding that blooper right off to the ending music here in this episode. Moving on to Joy Beatty and Kristine Hayes Munson who agree with the previous two guests. The interpersonal skill that is most important for them as project managers is relationships but not all of us are in fact project managers.