In This Issue:
From the Editor
Cinda Voegtli: Executive Views on Great PMs
Kent McDonald: A Fool With a Tool
This month, Seattle, Walnut Creek and Palo Alto.
When you care enough to share the very best
February 6, 2008, sponsored by Global Knowledge
From the EditorYou know how to do status reports. You're confident about your scheduling and work breakdown skills. You have the methodology binder memorized. You know what you're doing, and you're pretty good at doing it. Would it surprise you if your executive "customers" aren't really all that concerned about it?
This week, our founder, Cinda Voegtli, addresses the disconnect she sees between our emphasis on the mechanics of project management and what executives really value in a good project manager. Tackling a slightly different problem from a very different angle, columnist Kent McDonald points out that good tools in unprepared hands can cause really bad problems (and suggests how to keep things under control).
Executive Views on Great PMs, by Cinda Voegtli
So what DO executives think of us as project managers and what do they value? I know from conferences and other interaction with project managers that being valued by their executives is something of a holy grail—and seemingly not nearly common enough. Thinking back, I realize that I was about 7 years into my career as an engineer and manager before I got even a first inkling from an exec of how they personally thought about project management. And I was 12 years in overall and about 6 years into project management work before I got really good role-modeling of true project leadership behavior—what upper-level courageous and business-focused PM role looks like—and direct messages from executives that "this is what I'm looking for." (Gad! How can we do these jobs for so long without better clues from the ultimate customer of our work?)
Well, perhaps controversially to some, I'd maintain it's at least partly due to the fact that as we are introduced to our PM role, we are taught some about philosophy and a LOT about the mechanics.
Gotta learn it all—scheduling, estimating, communicating, detailed techniques for doing so. We're sent to class to get some starting foundation; we are handed the methodology binder of "how we do things" if our company has one; we hear the emphasis on professional certification around the right way to do things, and we see our company's emphasis on corporate compliance through processes and documentation. Overall, we learn what we're "supposed to do" as PMs. And a lot of what we're evidently supposed to do is, in my opinion, focused on those mechanics of project management. Or if our company is new to project management, and everyone is sufficiently busy, we may get none of the above inputs to start, and fly by the seat of our pants WONDERING what we're "supposed to do" and always being on the lookout for clues.
What I've learned from dealing with executives is that their higher-level view of the world comes in really handy for helping project managers focus on what's most needed and what is therefore most valuable. And it may not be exactly what we feel all those other sources are telling us we're "supposed to do" as PMs! Click to continue »
Related Items:Project and Pipeline Status Report - PREMIUM
A simple project update that even an exec can love.
Simple Portfolio Status Report - PREMIUM
Another approach to status that makes sense.
Executive Summary of Project Status and Risks - PREMIUM
Enough detail, at a high enough level.
Ways to Gain PM Skills - PREMIUM
Learn to be a great PM on the job.
Adapting Processes for Different Projects - PREMIUM
Give your teams permission to bend the rules.
A Fool With a Tool, by Kent McDonald
You can see it coming a mile away. A project team runs into a problem managing requirements, keeping track of their project schedule, tracing their tests back to their requirements, or some other activity crucial to the success of a project. They get together (good sign) to discuss what they should do to improve their situation and inevitably the suggestion comes up, "if only we had a tool to do that..." And so it begins.
Teams often look at tools as the silver bullet to slay all of their problems; and when used correctly, they can keep most werewolves at bay. Thing is, tools can also cause more problems than they solve, especially in the hands of those not completely prepared to use them. Click to continue »
Related Items:Tools for Teams: Beyond the Email Bottleneck - GUEST
A slightly different take on the tools conversation—how do you know when you need one, and how should you implement it?
Agile Technique Guideline: Information Radiator - PREMIUM
Kent explains a simple technique for addressing an often complicated problem. Sticky notes are used in abundance.
Agile Technique Guideline: Stand-up Meetings - PREMIUM
Another example of elegance through simplicity. (And more sticky notes.)
Project Management Software Tools Evaluation - PREMIUM
Determined to have a tool? Make sure it's got the right features.
Resource Leveling Using MS Project - PREMIUM
Dead set on using resource leveling in spite of Kent's advice? Here's how.
Want to see Kent in person? He'll be at the APLN Leadership Summit in Dallas, Texas, February 21-22. He'll also be at Agile Users Group of New Jersey earlier in the month (February 13), and at the Better Software Conference in Las Vegas June 9-12. (It's never too early to plan a trip to Vegas, right?)See other ProjectConnections contributors at the events listed below.
When they're not writing for ProjectConnections, our expert contributors and columnists keep a pretty busy calendar. We thought it was high time you all knew what they're up to, so you can have the opportunity to see them in person. The following appearances are not associated with ProjectConnections, but we think you ought to know about them anyway. These folks are worth hearing.
There's still time to see Carl Pritchard at the PMI Puget Sound Chapter Dinner on February 11. He'll be presenting a dinner meeting on "21 Ways to Influence Effectively," and a keynote speech on "How to Become a Great Consultant (While You Still Have a Job)." If that weren't enough, he's conducting a Risk Management workshop that day too. Member and non-member pricing available.
Randy Englund will be in Walnut Creek, California on February 21 to run a presentation on Managing Project Sponsorship with the PMI San Francisco Chapter. The discussion, which includes case studies, addresses how project managers manage their sponsors as well as how sponsors do their jobs to optimize project success.
Kimberly Wiefling will be back from her Tokyo-based Global Leadership Workshop with ALC later this month, appearing at the Palo Alto Association for Women in Science chapter meeting on February 21 to explain How to Get Out of Your Own Way. The fee is extremely reasonable, so if you're in the area it's a great opportunity to hear her in person.
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