Thursday, May 29, 2014

If I were 22 …

College graduation season is here so I thought I would reflect on my past to see what I would recommend to my 22 year old self.

1.      Build relationships and network your ass off.  Join key organizations in your area/profession and build relationships with influential people.   --- it took me ~6 years to realize I needed to build “My Brand” to get noticed by others (and building a brand doesn’t happen overnight and you need to continue to do it your entire career).

2.      It is okay to fail --- when you fail and it will happen, re-group and move on.  Reliving the failure over and over in your head will just stress you out.

3.      Create a repository of your learnings as you move forward.  --- as the years pass you will attend conferences, classes, learn things from others and  you need a place to save those learning like a blog, a folder on your desktop or in the cloud.

4.      If you see an issue, make it your problem --- doing this will get you noticed in your organization.

5.      Losing your job is not the end of the world --- when that company you work for is sold and you and the rest of your co-workers are out of a job … enjoy life!  Spend some me time because you have built your brand and you have a great network.

6.      Determine what it will really take to retire --- you can create a spreadsheet right?  The earlier you realize you need to save more than 5% of your salary to better off you will be.

7.      Know your profession --- if your profession is moving towards having a certain type of certification, go out and get it!

8.      Treat your job as a vocation not an occupation --- it is a learning process … your job is really a class room to learn and teach.

9.      Knowing when to sever all ties --- know when the ship is sinking and be ready to jump!
1  Exercise! --- you thought the freshmen 15 was bad … just wait … join some sport teams … play … have fun … and network your ass off!


Monday, March 03, 2014

Creating WOW moments and building HEROes

Many years ago (back in the 90’s) my boss taught me about WOWing your project teams, staff and clients.  What is a WOW?  A WOW moment is an unexpected act of courtesy and kindness.  Most often, they happen with spur of the moment ideas.   These can be as simple as a hand written note, helping a teammate move into their new house, seeing someone is having a hard day and picking them up a starbucks coffee or even seeing a newspaper or magazine article your teammate was featured in and getting it laminated.

A personal one that I had happen to me was the CEO of my organization took me out on the track and let me drive his Austin Martin (this still makes me smile, since I’m a car guy).

A recent WOW I gave to a person on my staff was tickets to a Badger’s Men Basketball game.  A few weeks before this the person mentioned to me that they graduated from UW Madison but had never been to a Men’s basketball game (and they had been putting in a ton of extra time at work too).  A few weeks later a friend called and told me he was dropping off some tickets for a game and I knew the perfect person to pass them on to.  I wrote a card up and drop it at their desk.  The feedback from the rest of my staff was that they opened the card, saw the tickets and just stared at them with an open mouth for 2 minutes.  I think I got my WOW!

What is a HEROes?

Another element that I like to use on my teams is a bottom up flow of ideas.  Some people really embrace these and I call them HEROes (Highly Empowered Resourceful Operatives; I read about this in the book titled "Empowered" by authors Josh Bernoff and Ted Shadler).  The HEROes are driven by a desire to create improvements on their own initiative rather than living with the status quo.  Once you identify a person as a HEROes you need to embrace them and make sure they are leading your key organizational changes and your key clients.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Top Trends in Project Management for 2014

A new year is here and I'm shaking my magic 8 ball to see where Project Management is headed in 2014 ...

5. More teams will be virtual.  As the workforce ages it will become harder and harder to find the right employee locally.  As PMs we will need to leverage tools to help bring together our teams to build relationships.

4. Documentation will move to the cloud making it easier for our clients and teams to access their project information. Project files flying around via email will start to decrease.

3. We will increase our connections with our clients and team members via Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter.  Again this will help build critical relationships with our team members.

2. We will start to use more online tools to manage our portfolio so we will have an easier way to forecast resource needs.

1. We will continue to see more organizations trying out Agile.  Some will adopt and will see quick wins and a boost in morale, and others will fail.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Multitasking Now Everybody’s Cup Of Tea

 Multitasking is not an unfamiliar term for many of us. It has happened so many times in our lives that we had to juggle between our professional, personal and other type of tasks. The pressure to execute important tasks intrudes into our mind and we cannot relax till we have finished them.

But we also have been through moments when we forgot to remember important tasks just because we had so many tasks at hand or we simply forgot them to perform them at a right time. Such human forgetfulness can land us in awkward situations. For example we have to face the ire of our seniors/bosses on account of forgetting to do an important task entrusted to us or lose trust and goodwill of our friends and acquaintances when we forget to extend them favors which we promised at some point of time. At such moments, we definitely feel the need of some assistance which would have made us remember that we had an important tasks at hand to perform.

We need to reorient ourselves and set true priorities for our tasks, so that we can give them due focus and perform them until their appointed time. We ought to know clearly which are our most important tasks that we need to perform urgently and which are our lower priority tasks which we can do later, so no ambiguities remain. But merely setting the priorities would not help much. We still need help to know when we need to do a particular task, otherwise it will slip off our memory.

Writing down our tasks on a piece of paper, setting up alarms in our mobile may help us at a personal level, but such tactics would not be very effective at the organizational level where so many workers are working in an organization and are entrusted with a variety of tasks. Here also the tasks that need to be performed vary in importance. Some are truly important tasks with higher priorities set for them and other tasks that are associated with a lower priority. In such situations missing tasks can also create problems or even catastrophes may result if the higher priority tasks are not performed at the right time.

But as is the case with humans, they fail to perform important tasks at the right time due to their forgetfulness, negligence or on account of being too busy and an organization cannot afford such an erroneous conduct and has to pay for such blunders right through its nose.

Let us take the example of a surgeon failing to bring out the needle from the abdomen of patient after an operation and the patient thereafter is complaining of constant pain. And for this reason, he has to be operated again. If the surgeon had cared to make a checklist of the instruments used in the operation and had simply counted the number of instruments both before and after the procedure and found them to be equal in number, such a situation might have never arisen. Sometimes a small wise effort saves us from enormous suffering later.

Choose Mediums That Organize Tasks

Such ugly situations can be effectively avoided if they we choose some mediums that help us in proper and accurate documentation of tasks and help us in their timely and planned execution through proper tracking. These aids should be easy to access and use.

In the organizational context, one important thing that needs to be kept in mind is that nowadays workforce in many organizations around the world comprises of employees who are based in different locations in the world and are from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. So such mediums should be easily accessible to all such men and facilitate their working as a team and abridge their cultural and geographical differences.

Our search for such effective mediums for task documentation, execution and tracking ends at task management tools though there are other applications around like spreadsheets, etc, but which help up to a limited level. These web-based applications enable proper classification, description, documentation, allocation, execution, tracking and controlling of tasks. By using these tools, an organization can streamline its functioning and perform its tasks in an organized and planned manner. By adopting these, an organization can work more efficiently and save costs and time and boost its profitability. As these are online tools, they remain within the easy reach of various employees based in different locations and they can easily connect with their organization through these.

Challenges In Choosing The Best Task Management Tool

Those organizations who have come to know about the efficacy of these tools for better management of their tasks and those who have never used these tools ever before, have a new challenge at their hand; how to choose the best tool for their needs. As there are so many task management tools out in the market who are shouting at the top of their voice that they are the best, is confusing the prospective users even more. These organizations are not sure where to start and whom to give the favour. So where lies the remedy?

Suggested Remedies

The easiest thing for them would be to go with the reviews of a particular tool and spend time reading and analyzing them. These reviews have been written by some great technology enthusiasts who love to test new applications and give their input on these. So this at least can give them some idea over how a particular tool is faring. But in some cases different technology experts may rate the same tool differently. So the same application being ranked differently by different people will not always provide clarity over such matters. But this idea does hold some merit.

Another thing that may enthuse the prospective users, is the free trials offered by some of these application providers. An organization can choose to go with a free trial being offered by a particular task management tool. Usually these trials span a fixed number of days and in most cases these are a month long. During this time, an organization can use the application and have a feel of it and see how it benefits their work. Thus an organization tends to know how a particular application works and can accordingly make up its mind for upgrading to its paid version, if it is satisfied with the results.

Different task management tools have different set of features and cater to different types of organizations. Some cater for freelancers, while others are designed for small sized, medium and large sized organizations and some of these are scalable for all sizes and flexible for all types of organizations. So an organization before choosing to go with a particular tool, should know pretty clearly what its needs and requirements are and whether a particular tool can do justice to these and whether it would be suitable for its size.

More Clarity on How These Tools Work

There are numerous videos on display in famous video viewing sites which gives a fair idea on how various task management tools function, so that is going to help the users know how to proceed while working with a particular application.

Users can also approach support staff of various task management service providers and inquire should they have any queries or confusion about their use, so that would also help.

Multitasking Can Indeed Be Achieved

The availability of such tools gives us a hope that we too can perform our multiple tasks with precision and focus without ever forgetting them if we choose to prioritize them in the right manner through such aids. Using these tools would incur costs, but such costs are negligible considering the benefits these would bring. Organizations using these would be saving their time, costs, improving efficiency, pushing their sales up and will be able to provide timely and quality services to their clients and customers. These tools provide immense scope for organizations to grow and prosper. Forgetting tasks will become a thing a past as humans can easily forget these, but these tools never will.

Author Bio:

Sharon is a Business manager of ProofHub, a web based project management software that facilitates management of projects and helps in their faster and accurate accomplishment as per schedule. It enables the team members who are spread out in different locations in the world to collaborate over project matters. They can define, document, discuss, organize, coordinate, review and control different project matters efficiently which results in their quick resolution. With its use, organizational objectives can be achieved effectively along with the generation of intended gains and assets.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Keeping your Project on The Road!

This past week I gave a presentation to a group of Project Managers at Promega (in Madison, WI).  They wanted me to talk at a lunch learn session on WBS, Risk planning, Communication Plans and what does done look like (I threw this last one in).

The group was very engaged and asked many great questions throughout my presentation.  I always enjoy the opportunity to  talk about project management.

Here are my slides:

Keeping your project on the road ...

More PowerPoint presentations from Ryan Endres

Slide 2: I just gave an overview of my career and places I've worked at (if you are interested here is a link to a podcast I recent did on the same topic audio play button at the bottom of the page)

Slide 3: Many times as PM we are given projects that we not doe similar ones before or we are given a project that has died and now it is your job to jump start it.

Slide 4: To do this you need to gather some information.  Talk with so of the senior PMs in your organization to try to see if a similar project has been done in the past and if you are lucky a WBS was created for that old project.  Talk with the project sponsor and read the scope of work.  Get a full understanding of why we are doing this.  Then you can sit down with  your team one on one or in a group to start to create the WBS.

Slide 5: For super small projects I like to create the whole WBS myself and then I will ask my Team Members for input.  For larger projects I will create the first 2 levels and then will work with my team to create the rest.  Remember we are indicating the large work packages for the project, not what we are creating.  No verbs, just nouns.  We will break it down to the task level when we create the timeline.  There are various applications you create WBSs in including Word, the example on the slide was created in Word using the work chart feature.

Slide 6: Are we done with the WBS at this point?  NO!

Slide 7: Next we create the WBS dictionary.  The WBS dictionary will help you (the PM) and your team better understand what you are trying to create within that box in the WBS.  This will help your team members as they come and go on your project and it helps you so you know what your team is suppose to be working on.  Another reason to do this is that is stops the Yup'er Project Managers, who think their project is on track, but have no clue as what is going on within their own project.

Slide 8:  We can use the WBS for status updates (visual aid as to where we are now). You can use it to control scope, and you always use it to develop your timeline.

Slide 9-11: basic PMP type of questions on WBS's.

Slide 12: What is a Risk?  Keep in mind that a risk can also be positive; an opportunity.

Slide 13:  You should always first document your risks in the charter.  That what they way your team see the first few risks at the start of the project.  Risks should then be captured within a risk register.  Excel is typically the most common place to capture risks.  The PMBOK indicates that you will create the charter, WBS, WBS dictionary, timeline and then you will first start to talk about risks ...  seems a bit late to me.

Slide 14: a little risk planning saves a lot of fan cleaning.

Slide 15: Risk planning needs to happen throughout the entire life cycle of a project.  You need to have key timepoints to review your risk log to keep it up to date and you need to get your team thinking about potential risks throughout the life of your project.

Slide 16: the risk management process.

Slide 17:  Typical items you would capture when documenting risks.

Slide 18-19: Risk questions

Slide 20: Typical PMP question on channels of communication within a project.

Slide 21:  Information on when to use a formal communication plan.  We create lots of documents when we manage a project and man PMs think we create it and then file it.  Which is wrong.  If you have a new team member come on your team you need to sit down with them to review the Charter, WBS, WBS dictionary, risk log and the timeline so they understand what the project is about.

Slide 22:  This is my standard status update form that I've been using for over 15 years; I create it in Word and then copy and paste it into the body of an email.  It should give your team a simple snap shot of where we are in the project at this moment.

Slide 23:  You need to define what done is upfront or you may never get out of a project.

Slide 24:  The 4 area's we covered today are key to keeping your project on the road!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Step 1 to building a PMO…

Recently I attended a talk by Dr. James Brown titled: Three Overlooked Strategies of a Successful PMO and there was one item that really hit home for me.

Dr. Brown indicated that the first thing you need to have in a successful PMO is a standard one page status report that is sent out at the same time as all other projects.  In it, it will have 4 basic sections: Where are we now, where have we been, where are we going and new issues and risks.

This was great to hear, because I have used this same concept at each of the organizations I have worked at.  The key to this one page document is that it is short, concise and in many cases it includes colors or charts.  I always encourage PMs to insert these updates into the body of an email instead of attaching a word document (save the word document to your project site).  Next it is key within  your communication plan to indicate when the status report will be sent out (I personally like Thursdays by 5PM); and be ready for the folks that actually read it to send you questions on it.

The next step is to have a portfolio view of all of your organization’s projects.  I personally like SharePoint, because it is very easy to create a mini database within it.

If you are in a PMO or are the sometime PM, do you have a clear easy to understand status report that is sent out at defined intervals?  If not here is your chance to truly help your project get back on track!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

In the Trenches with Ryan Endres

Recently I sat down with Andy Kaufman to talk about how I got to where I am today in my career.

Andy caught on early in our talk that my mentor has played a huge part in my career.

Head to Andy's site and give it a listen (scroll to the bottom):

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Top Ten Project Management Trends for 2013

Well here we are 2013!  What will 2013 bring to Project Management?  I personally think we will see more companies looking to hire their first project manager, more companies, looking to move to a more agile environment and more companies that are looking for a project management system so they can see what is happening in their organization.

The good news overall – demand for PM skills hit a four-year high in 2012 (despite the general economic decline over those years).
The five sectors are:

2013 for sure will be an exciting year for project management!

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Enterprise Project Management

Guest Blogger: Ryan Sauer

Many executives today face the frustration of failed projects. Unfortunately, significant money can be lost as well as other detrimental factors such as loss of employee morale. Often, the combination of internal and external influences can lead to this unanticipated and disappointing conclusion.  One way to rise above the inherent problems of individual project management is to adopt enterprise project management.

What is Enterprise Project Management?

While typical project management focuses on one project at a time, enterprise project management focuses on all projects, a grouping of projects or a large, company-wide project. Some of the benefits are these:
·         though enterprise project management looks at the big picture, the principles can be applied to smaller projects as well resources used for enterprise projects can be re-used for individual projects
·         enterprise project management can lead to better prioritizing of projects for the company as a whole

Basically, you could benefit from enterprise project management if you have observed a need for more cohesive organization of projects in your company as a whole.

Realize How to Control the Chaos
Large organizations must deal with highly complex business situations such as mergers, acquisitions, new enterprise technology and government regulation requirements. As an example, imagine that your company is upgrading all routers. To enhance your technology company-wide with this initiative, departments for procurement, technology, business intelligence and security may become involved. Appreciating the interdependencies between departments can be essential. Issues in resource conflict may arise during the process of the upgrade. Confusion and misalignment within the company can lead to missed deadlines, excessive costs and complications within other projects. In order to avoid these damaging outcomes, it is best to successfully manage all departments with coordinated effort.

The Basic Structure of EPM
Most organizations set up an office for project management (PM) or enterprise project management (EPM). The EPM committee includes a lead executive who would assign a team of project managers chosen according to the basic project management methodology selected by the EPM. The executive would create a portfolio of all company projects. This portfolio includes the budget-size of each project per calendar year and also the projects that can be in demand for launch when resources permit. The EPM office also oversees the projects of the company, and reports on whether or not projects are meeting deadlines and budget requirements. Those involved in the EPM are sometimes called a governance committee, and they are available to resolve conflicts that may arise due to interdepency between departments on particular projects. This team also ensures a stream-lined approach for projects on a company-wide basis which creates more consistent workflow and employee expectations.

The Benefits of Enterprise Project Management
If your company suffers from repeated project failures, enterprise project management could help your organization regain control. Due to the numerous variables in play within large business systems, facilitation of project management is not easy. By creating a separate team of enterprise project managers, you can ensure that project management methodology and implementation are streamlined. This will assist all participants in initiating, sustaining and completing successful projects. 

Ryan Sauer is a writer and editor for Bisk Education in association with University Alliance. He actively writes about project management in different industries and strives to help professionals succeed in getting their project management certification. Through the University Alliance, Ryan writes to help enable professionals obtain their PMP certification online.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Task List with Asana ...

Recently I had the opportunity to try out the online task tracker from Asana.  There is a sea of task tracker applications out there, and this one was pretty simple to use.

It allows up to 30 members to be added to your "company" for free and then they have monthly pricing plans if you need more.  Adding a project and tasks to your project is a snap. 

With each task you can add comments, files, and indicate when you are going to work on it.  

It is set up, so each day when you come in you would indicate what you are going to work on and then it is visible to everyone so they are aware what you are working on. 

I like the idea of creating a task, and adding a due date and then assigning it to a resource manager (assuming that a person is not assigned to your project).  The resource manager then would assign it to a person in their resource pool and it would then show up in their work cue. 

It also has a Facebook like newsfeed so you can see what is happening on your project as tasks are updated.

Overall I like the application, and I think it would work well for small projects and smaller organizations.  It is, after all, just a task tracker, not a tool like Microsoft Project.  If you need to track things like hours, dollars, how tasks relate to one another (task 1 needs to be completed before we start task 2), or easily shifting out multiple tasks deadlines out due to a shift in the project end date, then this may not be the application for you.

That being said, I really do think we are going to see the shift to products like this that show transparency of what is happening at any one moment at the project level and at the individual resource level.

Create an account (it is free) and check it out ...  

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

PDU Tip: 6 Categories - 2 Divisions

Guest Post from

As a PMP certified project manager you have to earn 60 PDUs every three years to recertify your credential. Each PDU will “cost” you 1 hour of your time.

It may sound daunting to think of spending 60 hours on earning PDUs over the next three years but it’s actually very easy. It’s just 20 hours per year, less than 2 hours a month. Plan on spending those hours learning something that will improve your job performance or by doing something that helps others in your profession. Either way, it’s a rewarding experience that takes very little time if you do it regularly. 

The six PDU Categories come in two PDU Divisions: Education and  Giving Back to the Profession.

The Education Division allows you to earn PDUs while learning new and valuable PM concepts through a variety of media. You can take a classroom course, attend a lecture or seminar or participate in and event or a conference. You can choose self-study rather than a more formal activity, too.

The Giving Back to the Profession Division contains three categories with a big variety of activities. You can be a speaker or instructor, moderate a discussion, volunteer on a project for a charitable group or other non-profit. You can coach or mentor someone on project management topics. As you can see, this category allows you many fulfilling opportunities to serve the PMP community as well as the community you live in.

For you as a PMP certified project manager it’s important to understand the rules that PMI has laid out in regards to earning your PDUs. So in our next several PDU tips we are going to go through each of the 6 PDU Categories in detail. In that way you will know the rules before you start playing the game.