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Project Management as Professional Discipline and Life Skill

Greta, considering you are an expert consultant
and have a significant background in the IT industry and the field of project management,
with the short time we have today, we will attempt to graze the surface of your achievements,
ask about your experiences and then lead the conversation toward you providing the readers
of PMTips with your expert advice. But, first of all, I would like to welcome
you and thank you for doing this interview. We are honored to have you with us today. Thank you. Having three decades of experience in the
field of project management, can you tell us what your view of the profession is? What do you think are the greatest benefits
of being a project manager? The profession is continually changing to
adapt to the environments in which projects are delivered. As the environment changes, so do the tools
and techniques available to those of us as a project manager. The increased emphasis on providing value
to the organization through projects help ensure that the work that we do actually gets
implemented by the organization. The greatest benefit to me of being a project
manager is being able to work directly with key stakeholders in an organization to support
their strategic objectives. The project management discipline is applicable
to all types of organizations and project efforts. But, remember, every project is unique. Your experience as a trainer in project management
and as an IT consultant for a large number of companies is quite extensive. In 2004 you founded Facilitated Methods, a
company that provides exam preparatory courses and project management consulting services. What led you to open your own consultancy? In addition, can you tell us about the benefits
that your training offers? After having done consulting through other
organizations, we started to get requests to do these efforts on our own, so we established
our own consulting and training company in 2004. We go back and forth between consulting and
training to make sure that we stay current with the project and organization environments. We also have a chance to continually try new
approaches while adapting to a variety of situations. Our training is based not only on our extensive
experience with the topics that we teach, but also the result of participating in the
development and review of many of the PMI standards and publications. Not only do we teach the theoretical basis
of project management, but we are able to provide real-life examples from our years
of experience. How important is it for professionals that
aspire to become project managers to acquire any of the PMI’s certifications and what
are the benefits for project management professionals to keep earning PDUs after obtaining such
certifications? Personally, I don’t think the actual certifications
are as important as the knowledge gained by studying and preparing for the certification
exams. Unfortunately, many organizations believe
the certification is more important than years of experience. That experience requirement that goes along
with the exam is important. It shows a potential employer that the candidate
not only knows the theory but has experience applying that knowledge. I have chosen to obtain certain certifications
in order to be able to teach those areas – even though I have taught the entire PMI’s GAC-approved
program of Masters of Project Management at DeVry/Keller. Regardless whether you have a certification
or not – it is of utmost importance to keep current with the trends in the discipline. I am continually attending webinars and presentations
even though I have accumulated more than enough credits for recertification. Benjamin Franklin said “An investment in
knowledge always pays the best interest.” What I do think is even more critical is for
people who have been certified under previous editions of the standard (and especially the
PMBOK Guide), to at a minimum, study the latest edition to understand the changes and trends
that have taken place since they received their certification. You have been establishing PMO practices for
multiple clients and their IT organizations. Is the utilization of PMO a complex process? Are the benefits it brings greater than the
challenges in setting it up? There is not a single “flavor” of a PMO
that will fit in every organization. Most PMOs mature as the project management
culture matures in an organization. Regardless – the PMO should be a service
organization and supportive of the work being done rather than the governance body for their
methodology. This is especially true as different approaches
are utilized to deliver projects. It is also important to ensure that the individuals
and the PMO are well versed in the various approaches that projects utilize today. Setting up a PMO is actually no different
from establishing a new function within an organization. I managed a project a few years ago to establish
a customer call center. We had to spend as much time on change management
activities as we did on the actual center implementation. It was a major change to the current culture
of that organization. The same is true for a PMO. Establishing one involves not just the function
but understanding the current project management environment and what changes will be required
for this organization to provide value. You have been involved in the implementation
of an initial PMO, but also a Change Control Board for a number of companies. How important is the establishment of a CCB
when the implementation of changes is considered? What is the role of the committee in the change
control process? Establishing a CCB is one portion of an organizational
governance function. More important than just establishing a CCB
is developing a well-defined change control process, with not just the forms and activities,
but also a determination of what levels of requested changes can be approved by the project
manager or key project leads. Not every change has to be elevated to the
CCB for a decision. The role, and the members of the CCB must
be established for each individual project or program. The changes that the CCB must review vary
greatly from organization to organization and project to project. The most recent CCB that I established was
to help review changes proposed from individual functions and projects, and the impact that
they would have on other functions and projects – not the typical review of changes within
a project itself. When a more adaptive approach to projects
is used, the control and management of changes in the scope of the project is handled by
key stakeholders or the product owner through the continual prioritization of requirements. With these new approaches, changes are not
just accepted, but encouraged, up until the actual time the development begins. During the actual increment using a time-boxed
approach, requested changes are prioritized and incorporated into the next iteration – which
is usually only meaning a delay of a couple of weeks. During the change control process how do you
ensure that no unnecessary changes are made, that there is no disruption of services and
that all resources are used efficiently? One of the steps of the change control process
that consumes an enormous amount of time and can disrupt the planned project activities
is that of analyzing the impact of the request. Using a predictive approach where the scope
for the project has been baselined, when a change request is received at least one team
resource has to be diverted from the scheduled activities to evaluate the request. Using an adaptive approach, the request is
added to the backlog and evaluated and prioritized by the product owner or key stakeholder to
determine the importance and whether it should be incorporated into the next iteration. That continual prioritization and incorporation
of changes is done external to the team and therefore does not cause a disruption to the
project team delivery efforts. While working as an IT consultant for IBM
Global Business Services, one of your responsibilities was to offer recovery support for troubled
projects. In your experience, what kind of support should
project managers be given when faced with a troubled project? Is there something that the organization can
do, particularly in terms of applying appropriate methodologies, that can get the project back
on track? The first step that a project manager who
is assigned to support a troubled project must do is to determine the root cause of
the problem. Once the situation has been assessed, then
a plan can be established to get the project back on track. The main thing is to refrain from pointing
fingers or trying to find someone to blame. Instead it is critical to re-establish the
vision and objective for the project and then determine what resources are needed to meet
those expectations. Unfortunately, no single methodology or procedures
can be applied to every situation. Often applying the wrong approach, rather
than understanding the situation and applying the appropriate methods and resources, make
the problem even worse. The recommendation I would have for helping
in situations like this is to include more experienced resources in the early stages
who can understand the true requirements and what will be required to meet those expectations. Most troubled projects are the result of poor
needs assessment and misunderstanding of vision, objectives and expectations. These are the skills that business analysts
have and can apply to most situations. You are the author of Basics of Good Project
Management, a book that describes fundamental project concepts applicable to projects of
all sizes and complexities. What advice do you offer in this book in terms
of successfully managing a project and achieving project success? This book was written to help understand the
general concepts that are basic to any project – without using specific project management
terminology. The most important thing is to understand
why a project is being done, what the visions and expectations are for the final result
– and then determining what it will take to reach that goal. That includes understanding any constraints
and dependencies that impact what can be accomplished, given limited resources. What advice would you give to all the young
people and professionals that wish to advance in their career and become successful project
managers? I look at project management as a life skill
rather than just a professional discipline. Regardless of the education or training you
have; you will at some time be assigned to a project and need to understand what that
includes. Actually, we start teaching project management
to a limited degree in elementary school. Projects are assigned and require understanding
of what is to be done, and then putting together an idea of the steps that will be required
to complete the assignment. PMI’s Educational Foundation (PMIEF) has
created extensive aids for K-12 to help teach the basics of project management. I started in IT as a programmer, data base
designer and systems analyst before becoming a project manager. I think having a little better idea of the
various project roles helps when you are in the role of the project manager. I like the analogy of the conductor to a project
manager as has been described in the 6th edition. A project manager doesn’t have to be an
expert in all the project roles – but sometimes having been a project team member prior to
becoming the manager makes a whole lot of sense. Greta, thank you for joining us today, for
providing advice, and for sharing your professional experiences with our readers and listeners.

Reynold King

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