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April 14, 2011, Sponsored by RMC Project Management, Inc.

From the Editor

50 years ago, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin orbited Earth. It was an awe-inspiring milestone in a decade of space missions that amazed and inspired the world. The level of vision and achievement that sent men to space -- and later, the Moon -- has rarely been matched in the years since. Today's astronauts shuttle back and forth to low Earth orbit in missions so "routine" that they rarely rate YouTube, let alone the evening news, unless something awful happens. Maybe we were disillusioned by the lack of monoliths and flying cars. Or maybe it's just that the sense of purpose -- the compelling mission -- has flagged.

Whether your project is shooting for the moon or just sending you into orbit daily, your team's motivation springs from a sense of mission and purpose. "Just another software project?" Perhaps, but someone somewhere can't wait for it. Your customers aren't just the stakeholders bidding for fast, cheap, and bug-free, or the shareholders demanding ROI. They're the family who will move into the home you're designing, the cash-strapped commuter who will drive the car, the patients whose lives will be improved or even saved. They're the children reading your textbooks, who dream that someday they will be the ones to go back to the Moon, or beyond. Find your project's sense of purpose -- its mission -- and give your team a lift.

Also: Thanks, Yuri.

Featured Article

Project Leadership Lessons from a Heart-wrenching Tragedy
by Kimberly Wiefling

Kimberly Wiefling Pardon me if I'm not my normally humorous self. I'm obsessing on disaster these days after the recent quake, tsunami, and nuclear power plant tragedies in Japan. While there have been plenty of tragedies in the past that could have consumed my emotional bandwidth, this is much more personal. Just about every month for the last five years I've flown to Japan to work for a couple of weeks. From my home in the Silicon Valley, Japan seemed a long way off. Until now, that is.

As the disaster unfolded before my eyes, I watched a tsunami wash away an entire village. At that moment, any illusion of separateness I may have felt was washed away with that village and those lives. This was not an event that I perceived as happening to "strangers," people distant from me. No, at that moment, with so many ties to people living in Japan, I strongly felt that this was happening to "us."

In the aftermath of tragedy, Kimberly searches for lessons we can apply to future projects, in work and in life. Read the rest »

Site Highlights

What Is This About, Anyway? - Project Scope Definition: Mission StatementSPECIAL
This Premium resource is free to registered Members until April 28!
Your project has a goal … doesn't it? There's a huge difference between "finishing" and "building the next generation widget that will double our share in the widget marketplace." (And even more if you can tie that widget to a seriously motivating user benefit.) Sadly, most project teams don't even have a project mission statement, let alone know what it is. This guideline explains how to create one, and what should be in it, and provides pages of examples from real world projects.

I Can See Our Future from Here - Powerful Project VisionsMEMBER
How can you devise a sense of mission and purpose from an ordinary project? This paper describes the "miracle" of one project's vision and the powerful motivating effects it had, and outlines key steps (and pitfalls) in the vision creation process. Find out how to create a vision that moves your project forward.

Start with an Energy Plan - Project Kickoff Meeting Agenda and GuidelinesPREMIUM
One of the best ways to charge up your team is to meet together and get everyone oriented to the project goals. A great kickoff meeting will help your team members understand how their work impacts everyone else's, and creates a sense of drive or energy that can't be replicated when a project simply sputters to life. Start your team off with a bang -- or reboot a struggling project -- using the techniques and agenda outlined in this guideline.

Comes with Complimentary Magic Wand! - Plan Development 5: Project Schedule and Critical PathPREMIUM
Wouldn't that be nice? Unfortunately, the real world is a bit less cooperative, and schedules don't just spring into being overnight. It's hard work. This template -- 5th in a series on developing a comprehensive project plan -- illustrates the ins and outs of creating a unified schedule from all the inputs that you've been collecting. Work breakdowns, dependencies, and estimates all come together here. (This isn't the last step in the planning process though. There's more to come!)

Let's Reason This Out Together - Collaborative Milestone-Driven Planning ProcessPREMIUM
Buying into a project or schedule someone else imposes on you is hard. Buying into one you helped create is much easier. That's the theory behind this guideline, which explains how to handle project planning as a collaborative process among groups by aiming at business milestones everyone can agree to and get behind (like that trade show deadline, or the new customer launch). Especially when you have a group that's resistant to planning and scheduling in general, this approach can be exceptionally productive.

NEW - They Won't Let Me Do Requirements. Now What?PREMIUM
Q: I've been told that since this IT project won't actually change any functionality, we should go do this without customer or business involvement, and they'll just test it at acceptance. How can I manage our project successfully when they won't let us do requirements?
A: When the conversation with Management is "we don't need to do requirements," we have to start by looking at how Management seems to be thinking of requirements:
  1. "We don't need to do requirements work because the functionality isn't changing."
  2. "Requirements gathering just gives them an opening to change something." Sometimes this will manifest as time pressure instead: "Requirements gathering always takes a big chunk of the schedule, and we need this done FAST."
One plan of attack, no matter what type of project you're leading, is to get them to move away from this negative viewpoint to a more positive connotation of "requirements work." But to do this, we need to be able to talk about the benefits of doing at least some requirements work in this situation, not just "Well, you're supposed to do requirements, so it's wrong to skip it." We like to bring this distinction out because sometimes we as PMs don't get all the way through to execs. Our language is not their language, so they don't automatically see the same needs we do. If we can express what's needed in a way they'll hear, perhaps we can get what we want from them! So here's how to explain these situations in a way that resonates on an executive's level. Read the rest of this problem solver »

New Premium How-To Course

NEW - Tracking and Managing the Performance of Virtual TeamsPREMIUM
Cinda Voegtli, of founder and CEO of
MP3 Download
30mb zip
1 Category A PDU

Cinda Voegtli Whether you're coordinating far-flung core team members or semi-independent contractors and vendors, you're still working with team members you may never actually see. This course from Cinda Voegtli addresses the unique challenges of tracking and managing distributed team members. No matter where your team members are located or who they report to, there are several easy forms of tracking and communication you can use ensure that the right work is getting done at the right time. With the techniques and examples discussed in this session, you can be confident of where your project really stands, and find out early if someone's project work is slipping off track. 1 Category A PDU

Live Webinar

Is Good Risk Management Good Enough?
The First Five Traits of Risk Management Excellence, with Carl Pritchard
April 21, 10:00 a.m. Pacific
Take the next step toward Risk Management excellence! Join risk management expert Carl Pritchard for a compelling and practical session exploring what it takes to take your organization's risk management practice to the next level. Carl walks participants through the critical traits of risk management excellence, and explains how to cultivate them in your organization. 1.5 Category A PDUs. Find out more »

Project Practitioner Blogs

They Won't Always Like You, by Sinikka Waugh

Dear new and emerging project leaders,
I have some very important news for you. I need you to stop for a moment and consider what I am about to say.

Many of you have been very well trained through formal classes and study, and access to tools and techniques. Several of you have been taught by experience in other disciplines or other fields. A handful of you are lucky enough to have a mentor to help you on your way. … You know all about schedules and work breakdown structures. You've learned about roles and responsibilities, budgets, and risks. You understand how procurement impacts a project, and you know how to manage quality. You've studied up on communication, and you're ready to lead your team.

But are you ready for the fact that they won't always like you? Read the rest »

Also in the blogs this week:

"There are an infinite number of ways to improve project performance, theoretically speaking. Unfortunately most are too risky, costly, complex or creative to be accepted by executives who are focused on this quarter's results. There is one tool in your tool kit that can get you the resources, funding and executive support to pull it off." Jeff Richardson advocates Networking for Risk Mitigation

How are your project handoffs going? Mike Aucoin wants to help you avoid fumbles.

Odd projects never die, they just go to Steering Committee meetings. Margaret de Haan urges us to Manage That Pipeline, starting with that unorganized, cluttered data clogging things up.

When Are We a Team? As Ed Reynolds points out, it takes more than a common reporting structure.

Where's ProjectConnections?

Kent McDonald will be in Cincinnati April 29 for the Southwest Ohio Business Analysis Development Conference, where he will present Strategically Speaking: Why Are We Doing This Again?. He will also appear at I-BADD in Des Moines, Iowa May 13, for a session on Becoming a Business Advisor.

Randy Englund and Alfonso Bucero will be in Dublin, Ireland to introduce their new seminar on "The Complete Project Manager: Integrating Technical, People and Behavioral Skills" at the PMI Global Congress EMEA May 12-13, 2011. This seminar tracks with their new book of the same title which just went to the publisher. You can also find Randy in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania May 2-3 to introduce a new computer simulation for PMI's SeminarsWorld on "Managing People in Projects." This exciting people-oriented simulation will also be offered in Orlando, Florida on June 2-3.

Morley Selver will present the Fundamentals of Project Management May 4-6 in Calgary, Canada. For more information and to register, see

Carl Pritchard is heading to sea again for PDUs@Sea 2011. "Risk Management Excellence: Taking YOUR Risk Experience to the Next Level" sails from Baltimore on August 20 for a 6-day cruise to Bermuda and back, racking up PDUs the whole way. Registrations are due by June 15. For more details, check out the cruise website at

Corporate Subscriptions and Licensing

Want your team members to have their own access to templates and how-to resources for their project work? Need to share documents and deliverables beyond your project team? We make it easier with affordable corporate subscriptions and licensing. Detailed information regarding corporate options is available online. Give your whole team, or even the entire organization, cost-effective access to our comprehensive online library of resources. You already know how helpful it's been for you. Now it's time to share with everyone else. Find out more »

Not sure if corporate terms apply to you? Check out our licensing terms at the top of our Terms of Service page, in refreshingly ordinary, everyday English.

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