Taking exams can be nerve racking at the best of times, regardless if you are looking at obtaining project management certifications such as PMP, Prince2 etc., or furthering your education in any field. The one aspect which cannot be denied is being prepared and that goes for most things in life. There can be other factors which can assist with being prepared to take that exam and the following are some tips and tricks which you may consider using before taking that test.
Reading through some of the tips and tricks may seem like common sense, and you will work out that most things normally relate to what is common sense, but we are all different and there could be some elements which may have not been considered as an opportunity to remember an answer to a possible question. To that end, the following are a few tricks which have been of assistance to people I have spoken to over the years, and you may find them useful, and possibly apply to certification exams.
Attempt the easy questions first, don’t spend too much time working out the answer to the complex question first, save the time. No matter the question, there are always some clues and sections that are easier than others. Possibly use those to help answer harder ones and to build confidence. Leave answers blank when unsure, and only lightly pencil in those partly known.
So when applying this method during a certification exam, skip hard questions and leave them blank the first or second time through your exam. Exam creators like to put hard questions near the beginning to test understanding. It is easy to spend 10 or more minutes on early difficult questions, which leaves precious little time for the remainder. Skip them! As, difficult questions are easier the second or third time through.
When an answer is not evident, then rely on patterns to figure out the answer. So applying this in exam conditions, look for distracters (e.g., oxymoron like “assumption constraint”) to spot incorrect answers. Look for answers that have 3 commonalities between them and one that does not (odds are good that is the correct answer, but not always.) Wording from one question can help you with others.
Ensure that the question has been comprehended correctly, so interpretation is extremely important. Exam writers want more than someone who can recall the answer, but think of it instead. For instance, suppose a question is encountered that makes common sense but contradicts your understanding. An example of this can be, and this during preparation to take the PMP exam, a question regarding paying bribes to get a project approved in a foreign country where the practice is common was asked. That option would not be the correct answer because it violates the PM Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide®).
Consider using multiple iterations to complete answers, unless you love doing tests, and it is a common occurrence for you, this is not the case for the rest of us. Prepare by doing two or three iterations of reading through and answering questions on the exam. Follow rule number one that is leave blank every hard answer encountered on the first read-through. Flag any questions partly sure, as mentioned in rule number 2. Doing practice exams also enables discussions, and it is during these discussions that you work out that changing an answer or two can lead to discovery that the first answer was correct after all. Ensure this does not happen to you during the exam. Leave answers blank until you are sure of them.
The best guess, not very scientific, but at times a fall back, especially when time is almost up and there are still unanswered questions. There is no penalty for guessing, only for not answering a question. Try to pace yourself, so time management is a must so you don’t have make an educated guess on too many questions. If you are seriously close to the end, put down any answer. When in serious doubt, and this may be a myth, but the answer “b” occurs most often in exams. Not entirely sure if this is true but putting answer “b” on say five blank answers probably ensures you get one or two of them correct.
It is understood, that one common denominator among virtually all students is exam anxiety. It is very common, and if nothing else this was to provide you with more than one approach in combating it. It would be great to hear from you and please share your own tips and tricks that have worked.
There is an element of fear in all of us, for project managers it could relate to interaction with a new sponsor, stakeholder or presentations. Whatever it maybe, fear manifests itself from butterflies in the stomach to outright palm sweating, heart thumping fear. The fear of the unknown affects projects, project managers and their team. While it takes effort, ‘a hard time’, it is possible to overcome the fear of the unknown and by doing so alleviate the suffering caused by dysfunctional performance.
The unknown, uncertainty, is at the root of worry, anxiety, and fear. Since what will happen in the future is unknowable, Project managers, executives, and all the other stakeholders face uncertainty. Sure, we can make plans and analyze trends and past performance, but no one knows the future with 100% accuracy.
Many attempt denial – “We have a plan and it says that the work WILL be done by the target date for the budgeted cost.” Others realize that change and uncertainty are natural and inevitable but are fearful, worrying about what might happen if the project slips and spending goes through the roof. Some will experience fear but won’t be fearful.
To be fearful (full of fear) means to be driven by fear. Courage is about using the energy of emotion to remain calm enough to think, act, and communicate clearly and effectively. It is what makes the difference between highly successful project managers and others.
To be responsive, to think clearly, and make effective decisions, requires cognitive readiness or VUCA tolerance. VUCA is volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. The higher your tolerance for VUCA, the more likely you will be able to handle stressful situations.
VUCA tolerance requires that you confront your inner workings. These are beliefs, biases, denial, clinging to impossible goals, emotions such as anger, fear, frustration, greed, and jealousy, and their causes. Confronting these put one face to face with the unknown.
Facing these natural inner dynamics is to be self-aware. Self-awareness enables self-management and self-management is the key to VUCA tolerance. Self-management is the part of emotional intelligence that allows fear or any other emotion to be fully felt and then choosing what to do be responsiveness.
Until you make the connection between performance and self-awareness, you are likely to be reactive, driven by emotions, beliefs, and biases. And that is true for individuals, teams, and organizations.
Self-awareness implies objectivity, looking at yourself and your performance as if you were looking at anyone else. It is taking a step back to see yourself as others see you and to see what is going on “under the hood”, internally. To be self-aware combine the following:
- Use mindfulness meditation to cultivate the ability to objectively observe whatever is happening within and around you
- Identify your goals, priorities, values, beliefs, biases, and intentions and track your performance with them as a benchmark
- Inventory your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats
- Get feedback as individuals by taking character/personality assessment tests to better understand your character
- Get a team and organizational feedback using assessment tools and open dialog
- Get feedback from those you live and work with
- Create a relationship with a coach or mentor.
Teams and organizations are subject to the same dynamics as the individuals that make them up. The “self-aware” team or organization will explore its character and environment to identify the things that get in the way of optimal performance.
Based on objective criteria there will be conscious effort to improve by eliminating what gets in the way and making maximum use of the strengths of its members to overcome weaknesses and avoid or manage risks.
But not all teams and organizations are self-aware. They do not shed the light of performance analysis on themselves for reasons such as lack of time, insufficient assessment skills, and fear of exposing their weaknesses.
Many pay lip service to objective performance assessment and continuous improvement. They may collect performance data and have reviews, but they don’t use the results. Some hide results that are too embarrassing. Some never act upon identified opportunities for improvement.
We are living in a time of transformation. Transformational change is frame-breaking. It completely changes the way you think and work. It alters relationships and changes values and policies. With transformational change, there is no going back, and the way forward is unknowable.
Digital transformation brings technologies like artificial intelligence, process automation, robotics, and data analytics into play. Their application breaks new ground and significantly impacts people’s roles and responsibilities.
Transformation to Agile and Lean approaches from more highly structured ways to manage and perform projects change relationships, roles, and responsibilities. It changes the techniques used in planning. It changes project managers’ and other stakeholders’ skill set requirements with a greater reliance on collaboration and communication. It opens teams and the organization to greater transparency.
Moving forward into the unknown is scary. Self-awareness is possible but cultivating it is not necessarily easy. It requires that you objectively assess your inner workings and the way they influence personal and group performance and use the insights you get to improve.
The decision to implement a new technology solution is a significant one and, in many cases, a project that typically an organization is unlikely to undertake often. It is a project that requires a significant investment of money, time, and effort and so, return on investment (ROI) represents an important set of metrics that an organization should keep at the forefront of their minds. In almost all cases, the primary ROI metric is associated with how we get our people to embrace this change.
This subtle nuance is so frequently missed or undervalued, which is understandable as so much focus is applied to the traditional method of running technology projects; the priority is delivery and subsequently, user adoption does not get the attention it requires.
As project and change managers there should be a consideration to everyone’s uniqueness when delivering a project. When reverting back to previous changes experienced in our professional lives, almost always the same combination of positive and negative questions and remarks are made. Such examples include:
- “Great! It’s about time we improved that.”
- “Not for me. The current solution works just fine.”
- “The last project was a nightmare.”
- “Wow! This might actually make my life a lot easier.”
It is natural to respond negatively to change.
Embracing change starts at the onset of a project and continues throughout the weeks and months ahead until ‘go-live’ has been reached and beyond.
It is important to start communicating with the user community as soon as possible. This is a vital step- addressing the common complaints raised by users that they were unaware of and/or not consulted about the new product.
Below are some ways to get started on communicating and igniting interest:
- Announce during any regular “Town Hall” style company-wide meetings
- Send an email to announce and sell the benefits
- If appropriate, force-out intranet, screensaver or desktop wallpaper announcements
- Print free-standing banners and place in communal areas of the office
- If information screens exist in communal areas, display messages of the new project
The key to these activities is to build interest, not provide copious amounts of information. View this as a method of igniting some excitement so focus on the key selling points of the product.
It is now time to build upon the initial interest that has been generated in the project. Once at a point where the majority of organization is aware of the incoming product; this initial interest needs to be developed. Remain mindful that one of the most common complaints following a project’s implementation is that the end-users have not been consulted or felt involved. If someone feels negatively towards an incoming change, it is often because they feel that change has been forced upon them. Here are some recommended activities to undertake at this stage of the process:
- Run demonstration Workshops of the product
- Establish user groups from each business area and run “interview” sessions to develop an understanding of how they work and how the product will need to be optimized for them
- Set up a small number of work spaces for people to use the product
- Provide regular project updates – most people don’t want huge amounts of detail; they just want to feel included and updated so share timelines and high-level updates
Training users on the new product is not a new concept but it is vital. The training delivery method is of particular importance and tailoring the training to specific departments is something that is highly recommended. Armed with this knowledge develop tailored training sessions. Training can of course be delivered in many forms:
- Face to face, classroom sessions
- Training videos/ eLearning
- Quick Reference Guides (one-page graphical guides)
- Remote, web-based training sessions
To reach this point of the project, a significant level of investment and effort will have been expressed by all parties involved. Users have been trained, informed, and updated, but now they need to use the software. The risk here is that if there is one small gap in a user’s knowledge, then that can spark negativity that spreads throughout their user experience and transfer to their colleagues rapidly.
Change- specifically managing and embracing change, is a perpetual concept. Be sure to give people the opportunity of their experience via a survey for example. The good thing about metrics is that they are typically easy to generate and simple to communicate. Consider options such as:
- Usage stats – share how many people are using the product and when
- Tangible benefits – where possible, calculate the direct or indirect cost benefits that have been realized vs the cost of the solution
- Speak to your user community – remember, most products are to benefit the people so be open to their feedback and share it
- Usage stats – share how many people are using the software and when
- Tangible benefits – where possible, calculate the direct or indirect cost benefits that have been realized vs the cost of the solution
- Speak to your user community – remember, most software solutions are to benefit the users so be open to their feedback and share it
Don’t underestimate the value of change management in any project, as people a normally adverse to change, then taking them along on the journey with you is one way to get the majority on side. Let us know your thoughts regarding change and how to handle it with your projects; we would like to hear from you. All the very best on your project management journey.
eCommerce project management is the application of knowledge skills, tools, and techniques in a structured manner to reach eCommerce project goals and requirements. Proper project management can improve a business’s efficiency, foster collaboration between teammates, boost a team’s performance, and improve customer satisfaction. eCommerce project management differs from traditional project management because online businesses function differently at a fundamental level. For example, the storefront management component of a traditional business isn’t relevant to completely digital companies.
There are different methods which can be used for an eCommerce focused project. As project managers we can use any one of the methodologies, from Lean, Agile, Waterfall, Scrum or Kanban. Once you have chosen the method to use, and this can normally happen during a PACT session, commence planning for the eCommerce project.
The planning process of your eCommerce project will vary depending on the style of project management you have implemented, but there are a few crucial aspects that are present in any eCommerce planning process.
The eCommerce market is growing rapidly and has a fierce amount of competition. Competitor analysis will give you valuable insights into the competition’s strengths and weaknesses, which can benefit you in a few different ways. Firstly, these insights will allow your business to adapt. You’ll be able to avoid the mistakes that other companies have made and implement strategies that have worked. Secondly, competitor analysis will show you what makes your business unique compared to other companies. This will enable your business to focus on a niche in the market that you can better serve.
Having a fast, intuitive website that is easy to use is incredibly important to eCommerce businesses. If your website doesn’t offer customers a good user experience, then it is unlikely that they’ll return to make another purchase. Creating a memorable website goes beyond the design and structure of your website, it should also have modern functionality such as responsive windows and automation. Many online shoppers today make purchases through mobile devices so your eCommerce business’s website should be capable of responding to different screen sizes. Websites that function well on multiple devices generally outperform optimized websites. Many consumers also expect websites to have automated functions. Automation can also streamline certain business operations. For example, shipping APIs can streamline warehouse processes and allow more orders to be fulfilled.
Advertising is important for businesses of all sizes in any industry. There are several channels that can be used for advertising. These include physical advertisements, influence campaigns, social media profiles, and digital advertisements. Social media is arguably the most important advertising channel for eCommerce businesses because it offers them a means of two-way engagement with potential customers.
eCommerce projects are more common these days than ever before, if you have completed an eCommerce project tell us about your approach and the results, we would like to hear from you. All the very best on your project management journey.
Project are affected when there is no continuity of resources, so after hiring candidates, companies often ignore the importance of their employees’ well-being. If you’re wondering why some companies can have a high turnover rate, regardless of how popular they are among giant names, the percentage of employee engagement is one of those contributing factors to this situation.
While managers can set up a fun activity to keep their employees engaged at the office, they can’t really do the same now due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This dreadful situation has forced many to put employees’ safety first. Hence, working from home isn’t that odd anymore.
That doesn’t mean managers can’t initiate an employee engagement program on remote terms. Employees are companies’ biggest assets. Keeping them happy at your workplace will greatly benefit your business. After all, happy employees will do their best at work, resulting in better outcomes.
Turnover is often one of the manager’s biggest enemies when it comes to ensuring a running project. Sometimes employees can quit at a time when companies need them the most, and that’s something managers can’t avoid or hold them to stay longer. This is where employee engagement plays a big part in avoiding this situation.
When companies pay attention to employees’ difficulties at work and provide them with a solution that helps overcome the situation, employees can put more trust in the organization. More trust means higher loyalty, which decreases their consideration to move out.
This can be done if the company provides a number of on boarding processes via training videos to help employees get the experience of what they can expect from the company. The on boarding also improves the communication between the company and employees so that they get engaged from the get-go.
Productivity has been linked to employees’ ability to finish a task and handle a situation in a timely manner. But when said employees are unable to concentrate at work, whether it’s from internal or external problems, they may lose their performance. If companies have engaged with employees well, things that may potentially reduce productivity can be identified and avoided quickly.
Enthusiastic employees at work bring such a positive vibe around them. This can often be seen in the way employees treat and communicate with customers. Highly engaged employees don’t see work as an inevitable responsibility as an adult. They consider getting up every day to work to ensure they provide solutions to customers they are communicating with while also benefiting from working.
1. Encourage Two-Way Communications
Communication is a big part of everyday life, including the workplace. Make sure to always have clear communication with employees, so you can get rid of misunderstandings at work. After all, the workplace is one of the common areas where people get misunderstood easily. If you can’t initiate direct, two-way communication with people working in your organization, they may feel left out and consider you don’t provide the solution they are facing at the moment.
2. Listen To Them
Make sure your employees don’t get left out even though they are working on a remote term. While they don’t often show any difficulties because of the distance, managers should ensure if they are doing okay in the first place. Many won’t initiate a conversation due to location and time differences. That’s why employees keep almost everything about work themselves—asking if they face a certain problem while remote working can improve their connection with you and possibly open up for more conversation in the future.
3. Recognize Their Efforts
Companies often don’t see what their employees have done in maintaining their performance at work. Managers only see the result without considering how much effort one has put into gaining such an outcome. Make sure to recognize your employees’ efforts and appreciate them for what they do. After all, everyone’s hard work has made it possible for the company to thrive in this difficult time. So, show them that you acknowledge their work.
4. Reward Your Employees
The act of acknowledging someone’s work may come in many forms, including giving a simple ‘thanks’ and round applause. Knowing how companies take little things, such as small wins matter, will improve how employees see their workplace. This convinces them more that they are working in the right place.
5. Create Fun Activities Together
Sometimes working from the home policy can greatly impact employees in terms of getting burnout quickly. Compared when working in the office, employees could say hi to each other and wind down a little bit when the tension was too serious or when the workload was so heavy. Remote working means the ability to communicate with other teammates is limited, which often causes more stress to employees. In order to avoid a quick burnout, managers can provide fun activities or games virtually. Getting into games can reduce stress and boost the employee’s motivation to work after it’s done.
Remote teams are prone to having burnout because they are limited to doing certain activities like they used to. When employees are easily stressed out without a quick handle from the company, they will feel excluded from the entire organization. In the long term, such condition may reduce their performance and ownership as they don’t feel connected at all. Managers can handle this situation by taking into consideration what makes these employees engaged again.
It’s crucial to introduce exciting activities to boost up their mood. Make sure to listen to their voices and create a safe space for a private conversation. These will help remote employees engage in the company they are working. Let us know your thoughts on this subject and how you engage your resources to get the best from them. All the very best on your project management journey.
The charter, the schedule, and the project management plan get all the glory, but the stakeholder register is key to understanding the others. After all, a project takes people not just to perform the work but also to benefit from the product. Without understanding the stakeholders’ needs, a project will likely miss the mark. This translates not just to a lost opportunity for the organization but also wasted time, money, and goodwill.
The stakeholder management plan also helps keep track of triple constraint impact. We often focus on the project’s priorities, but constraints also exist at the stakeholder and requirement levels. Understanding what makes each stakeholder tick is integral to successfully managing those needs.
Project managers often fall into the trap of believing stakeholder management is logical and thus can be done on the fly. Others may think their interpersonal skills enable stakeholder management to flow naturally. Seasoned project managers know better, aware of the manners in which stakeholder attitudes may change throughout the project. Being aware of the stakeholder’s desires and personalities can help the PM prepare for, and avoid issues.
Some projects run into difficulties due to the stakeholder management plan not being written down, but this often stems not from laziness but rather a mistaken belief that the PM “knows all about the stakeholders.” Project managers, no matter their tenure in the organization, should not fall into this trap. Crafting the stakeholder management plan:
- Helps other team members, whose tenure and experience may be limited and not have relationships with the stakeholders. Think about when you first started working for your company, or when you first took on your current role. Your network was likely limited both in terms of knowledge depth and breadth. A well-curated list of stakeholders can save your team from spinning around in circles to find out who is affected by the project and to what degree.
- Can assist when a stakeholder leaves the organization and a new one comes into the vacated role. It would be ideal to have a project where the stakeholders do not change…but that seldom happens. People retire, take new jobs, are moved to new roles; while some may adequately train their replacements and help them understand their role in the project; PMs should not assume this would always happen. The stakeholder register can help identify gaps and prepare for such personnel transitions.
- Can help clear misunderstandings. Conflict is unavoidable in projects, but the team should be well-versed on how to solve it. Confusion, on the other hand, can often fester if not clarified. The stakeholder register, when easily accessible by the team, can clarify roles, responsibilities, and areas of interest. Note the stakeholder interest and influence matrix will expand on the topic, so don’t rely on the register by itself.
- Can facilitate conversations on Roles & Responsibilities. The stakeholder register can help guide such conversations, proactively prompting the team to analyze who is best suited to tackle individual tasks and oversee specific areas. Vetting these duties against the involved stakeholder areas ensures no affected department is forgotten.
- Can help craft the change management plan. A successful change management plan covers the what, how, why, when, where and how of the current state: future state transition. You can get a head start by ensuring your stakeholder register is complete and thorough.
As with other project management artifacts, it’s key to remember the stakeholder management plan should be revised as needs arise. However, it should always be connected to the underlying stakeholder list. Always ask, after every conversation“, is there someone else you’d recommend I talk to?” This can help not just unlock doors, but also discover doors you didn’t know existed!
It is a good idea for the Project manager to associate themselves with Organizational Change Manager or better still have one on the team as their service is invaluable especially on complex projects, don’t ever underestimate the benefits a change manager can bring to a project team and dealing with stakeholders. Tell us your thoughts and if you create a stakeholder management plan for your projects, all the very best on your project management journey.
There are six elements to project reporting, as the execution phase progresses. It’s important to report on project progress so the schedule doesn’t go astray. Comprehensive project reports include six elements:
Start with the basics. What is the project’s name? Who will be managing the project? What are the available resources? Effective time, cost and task tracking requires detailed information. It’s an unsafe bet to assume stakeholders share your familiarity with the project. Instead, provide information you know they will need, even if it seems like overkill. This helps things run smoothly, and also sets groundwork for the project to be referenced as a precedent when future projects are being planned.
Report dates are the most important project status information, and should always be front-and-centre. Also, data separating status reports from other reports crossing stakeholders’ desks should be visible to grab attention.
Milestones are major touch points for your project. They play an essential role when it comes to time tracking because they serve as a guidepost for remaining work, and the timeline for it to get done. Conducting a milestone review lets stakeholders see actual progress versus what was estimated in the project proposal.
The project summary includes a projected completion date, as well as resources and costs expended. Inclusion of issues causing delays is an important summary component. There should be a clear explanation of how these issues could affect budget and timeline, and work being done to ensure things are corrected to get the project back on track.
This section is straightforward. List issues and risks you have encountered. Note how these are being resolved. Finally, outline how resolutions are positively impacting project execution. Risk assessment and risk management processes must be implemented throughout the project life cycle.
Back up statements with hard numbers and data points. Project planning details should have outlined these metrics. Show how data illustrates the success of your project to date, or, highlight needs for immediate improvement. Determining metrics to measure project progress is essential for tracking tasks, time, costs and managing teams.
With these elements in mind, there are some project reporting best practices to consider:
• Communication is the cornerstone: Status reports are a key element of your communications plan. However, these reports don’t have to cover everything, and be all things to all people. Writing reports in a way that delivers the right information to the right people, at the right time, should be the overarching goal. Weekly status reports are the most common to keep track of project progress.
• Be consistent: Consistency is key, find a format and distribution method that works for your stakeholders, and stick with it. They’ll appreciate the predictability of the information they receive.
• Set targets and measure against them: Establishing metrics is an important part of project reporting and monitoring. Accordingly, these metrics should be how your project progress is measured against goals throughout its life-cycle.
• Keep things simple: Keep reports simple to ensure effectiveness. Don’t pull in details unrelated to the issue on which you’re reporting.
• Always verify what you’re reporting: It’s a bad idea to assume information is correct without doing due diligence to ensure it is.
• Have some standards: Reporting simplification is made easier through creation of standards defining report structure, and how information is presented. Given this, building templates to make the work easier is a great first step.
Throughout any project, it’s important to evaluate reporting to avoid scope creep. As project teams start to work, and silos of activity develop, it’s vital to keep everyone aligned. This ensures project scope doesn’t creep.
Defining the project scope and keeping track of it must be a priority for every project manager. There are five ways to avoid scope creep:
1. Document all project requirements.
2. Establish change control processes: If scope creep happens, it’s important to have change control processes in place to bring things back on track.
3. Create a clear project schedule: A thorough project schedule outlines project goals. It outlines tasks to be done to reach those goals. This schedule is referenced against the project plan’s requirements document to make sure everything is moving forward. If not, the schedule sets the course for tweaks or changes.
4. Verify scope with stakeholders: It’s worthwhile during a project’s lifecycle to review scope with all stakeholders. Reviewing the schedule together and making sure all tasks stakeholders are expecting to be done on a given timeline is also a good idea.
5. Engage the project team: Make sure your project team is happy with how things are going throughout the project. As the change control process starts to take hold, let the team know how it will affect them. Weekly 1:1 meetings or team meetings to review tasks, and also overall project progress is a great way to keep your team engaged.
Project reporting can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Taking things step-by-step can help ease anxieties among everyone involved, and ensure a winning result. Make sure you use project management software, or at least a project tracking template, to facilitate the creation of reports. Let us know which tools you use when reporting on your projects, we would like to hear from you. All the very best on your project management journey.