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Some tips and tricks to help get certified

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.

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Best Project Manager Interview Questions

Best Project Manager Interview Questions

Before you can plan, execute and successfully complete a project, you must hire a project manager to manage it. A project manager is a difficult position to fill. As they need a wide range of skills, knowledge of methodologies and mastery of communication? Whether you’re interviewing candidates, or you’re the one seeking a new job, you need to see our Top 21 Project Manager Interview Questions.

You’ll need behavioral- and scenario-based questions and interview techniques such as the star method to gather information about the candidates’ leadership skills, management style, soft and hard skills.

It’s hard to find a person who is both comfortable with the project management processes and adept at motivating team members to do their best. It feels as if you might have to employ a squad of workers to handle every aspect of project management, such as planning, scheduling, monitoring, tracking and more.

But, there are individuals who have the breadth of knowledge and experience necessary using project management methods to successfully lead projects. They’re experts in many things, such as using project management tools but not arrogantly so, in that they know the power of collaboration and can have the communication skills to delegate work to focus on where their attention is needed most.

So, how do you find a project manager who fits both the criteria of the job and the culture of your organization? Hiring a project manager, it’s more than just finding candidates that match the job description. To gather all the information needed from them, HR professionals use different interviewing techniques. Here are some of the best project manager interview questions that will help you find the best talent for your projects. They’re also helpful if you want to learn how to prepare for a project manager interview.

Behavioral Interview Questions

This type of interview question asks for events that happened in the past. The purpose of these project manager interview questions is to get an idea of how the project manager has acted in the past, and how it was applied in their project management knowledge and skills to solve real-life problems.

Star Method

The star method is an interviewing technique that consists in making behavioral interview questions and answering them in a structured manner. STAR stands for (situation, task, action, result). So when you ask a project manager a behavioral question, they’ll tell you about the situation or task they had to solve, the actions taken and the results obtained. The purpose of the star method is to provide the whole picture of events from the project management experience of candidates. It helps gather all the information possible and capture details that could be missed otherwise.

Scenario-Based Interview Questions

The purpose of scenario-based interview questions is to ask project manager candidates how they would respond to hypothetical project management scenarios. Here you can understand the thinking process of your project managers and look into their problem-solving skills, management style, knowledge of project management methods and tools, etc.

Hard Skills

Hard skills are those skills that can be taught to an individual and are specific and measurable. They’re often described in the job description and are an important part of the hiring process. Hard skills are what make someone capable of executing a job. Some examples of hard skills to look for in the project management interview process are:

  • Working knowledge of project management tools
  • Working knowledge of project management software
  • Working knowledge of project management processes
  • Project planning
  • Budget management
  • Risk management
  • Time management
  • Task management

Soft Skills

Soft skills are those that are inherent to an individual. They’re all the traits and interpersonal skills that make a project manager unique. These skills describe the personality of the project manager. Some examples include:

  • Leadership skills
  • Communication skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Conflict resolution skills
  • Work ethic

Project Management Experience

As in any hiring process, you need to ensure that the project manager candidates have the experience you’re looking for. It’s important to dig into their project management experience by asking behavioral project manager interview questions. Here you’ll want to ask if they have worked in your industry before, what has been their most successful project, among other things.

Project Management Experience Questions

1. What’s your background, personally and professionally?

It’s important to get a snapshot of the applicant to bring their project manager resume into sharper focus. Knowing a bit about their life story can inform about their soft skills and how they might respond to issues at work, and whether they will fit into the corporate culture. The same goes for their project management experience. Staying at a single job for a long time can be either bad or good for project managers, but you won’t know until you put their choice into context.

2. Have you worked in this industry before?

Does the candidate have project management experience in your industry? That’s important because they might excel at the project management methods your company uses, or may have the right risk management skills to manage your projects. If they don’t, it’s not a game-closer. Much of project management is the same from industry to industry. Perhaps they have strong project management skills that relate to your industry, such as project management software skills even if they don’t have direct experience. However, if they do have experience in your field, that’s a plus, so ask how those relevant projects panned out. Note how confidently they answer behavioral interview questions. You want an authentic person who is comfortable in the position.

3. Do you have budget management experience?

It helps to drill down into specific aspects of the project management experience of your candidates. Naturally, if the candidate has specific skills they’ll be briefly sketched in the resume, but here’s your opportunity to get a deeper sense of where they stand in terms of their experience with project management processes such as budget management. Project managers are known as planners. They create a project schedule and lead teams to success. But there’s often money involved, so they better know how to handle a project budget.

4. Have you managed remote teams?

Not all projects are executed under one roof and remote teams are very common. With more dynamic project management tools and a global workforce to choose from, many project managers might never meet the members of their team, at least in person, but they’ll be able to work together using project management software. Then there are the necessary resources that will be outsourced, which involves a different resource management technique than when working with employees. Knowing how they have managed people and resources can help you get an overview of their leadership skills and be a crucial point in your decision to hire or not to hire.

5. How did your last project end?

This question is about discovering any lessons they learned from that project. Everything about project management is a learning experience, and each project offers lessons from which a good project manager grows.

6. How do you prioritize tasks on a project?

Task management is important. There’s going to be more work in a day than can be accomplished, so any good project manager is going to have to determine what is crucial and what could be left undone if necessary. It will prove interesting and informative to see how the candidate makes these time management and task management decisions.

7. How do you seek help outside of the project team?

This project manager interview question gives you information about the leadership and communication skills of your project manager candidate. Some project managers are going to think you want a person who is wholly independent and pulls from an inner reservoir. Fair enough. But more resourceful is the project manager who knows when they’re over their head and asks for help from a mentor or a network of professionals.

8. Do you delegate?

They are better! The last thing you want is a project manager who carries everything on their shoulders. That’s nuts. But this is a bit of a trick question or at least one that has an implicit question embedded in it. What you really want to know is not whether they delegate, but how they delegate work to their team members. This is a great way to weed out the micromanagers. That doesn’t mean a project manager is absent from the process. Project management software has features to keep them aware of what their team is doing but not in the way.

Behavioural Interview Questions

1. What was a challenging project, and how did you manage it?

This behavioral question takes the conversation from the theoretical to the practical. You can see how the project managers responded to real-life problems, which helps you determine how they would manage projects at your organization. This question also provides a sense of the person’s project management experience, such as how they lead teams and deal with conflicts. By asking about a challenging project, you can see how they apply their hard and soft skills when pushed to their limits and beyond.

2. How do you manage team members that are not working to their full potential?

Sometimes, no matter how much due diligence you put into assembling a skilled and experienced project team, someone under performs or creates conflicts. While the project is rolling, you don’t have time to stop and tweak your team. Rather, the project manager must use problem-solving techniques and communication skills to deal with the problem. This comes up with even the best project team, so any capable project manager would know how to nip under performance in the bud.

3. How do you deal when you’re overwhelmed or under performing?

It’s easy to forget that project managers are people, too. They are hired to perform project management processes and lead a project to success, but they can suffer the same setbacks as anyone on the team over the course of the project life cycle. The difference between a good and great project manager is the ability to monitor oneself and respond proactively to any drop-offs in performance.

4. How do you work with customers, sponsors and stakeholders?

Even project managers have to answer to someone. Responding to executives, project sponsors and stakeholders requires a different approach than the one they would use with teams and vendors. Part of their duties includes managing stakeholders who hold a position of authority over the project manager. That takes a subtle touch.

5. What’s your leadership style?

Talking about managing a project will inevitably lead to a discussion of leadership style. There are many ways to lead, and all have their pluses and minuses. Depending on the project, a project manager might have to pick and choose how they lead, ranging from a top-down approach to servant leadership. See how well-versed they are on leadership techniques and how they apply them to project management.

6. What’s your communication style?

This is another classic project management interview question that directly stems from asking about managing projects and leadership. A project manager is nothing if they have poor communication skills. They need to be able to speak to team members, stakeholders, vendors, etc. Each group will need a slightly different approach. Stakeholders want the broad strokes about the project management plan, while team members will need more detail. If a project manager can’t clearly communicate, the project is doomed before it has begun. Being a good communicator is only the start. Project management software helps you better target that communication with your team and stakeholders.

7. How do you know the project is off-track?

Every project hits a snag along the way, but not every project manager is aware of that delay until the project budget or project schedule is affected. The ability to monitor and track the progress of a project and tell immediately when it’s not meeting the benchmarks you set in the project planning phase is perhaps the most important duty of a project manager. Then it’s also important to see if the project manager candidates have experience implementing a risk management plan to mitigate risks and keep projects on budget and schedule.

8. What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made on a project?

Everyone makes mistakes; character is defined by how you deal with them. This project management interview question will allow you to first gauge the candidate’s honesty. If they say that they’ve never made a mistake, you can rest assured that they’re not being truthful and their resume can go into the circular file. However, when they tell you about the mistake they’ve made, note if they take responsibility for it (that will reveal their level of maturity) and, of course, how they resolved it.

9. How do you gain agreement with teams?

Where there are people, there are conflicts, and even the best projects have people problems. Good teams collaborate and trust one another. If there’s a problem between two or more project team members, it must be resolved quickly. But this can also apply to stakeholders, vendors, etc. A project manager is a bit of a psychologist who must know how to resolve conflicts quickly.

Scenario-Based Interview Questions

1. If the project is not adhering to schedule, how do you get it back on track?

Knowing that a project is not keeping to its schedule is only as important as being able to get the project back on track. Once a project manager is aware of the discrepancy between the actual project schedule and the schedule baseline estimated in the project plan, they need to take action, such as project crashing or fast tracking. Any project manager worth hiring will be able to answer this with practical specifics. On these types of questions, it’s best to answer with the STAR method.

2. What’s your ideal project?

Try to get them to answer honestly. It will let you know what sort of projects they prefer to work on. In doing so you’ll get a better feel for what kind of project management methodology excites them and maybe even what they excel at. This can help you place the project manager with the right project, or help them adapt to the project team you’re hiring them to manage.

Hard Skills Interview Questions

1. What project management software do you prefer?

A project manager needs project management tools to plan, monitor and report on the project. There are many, from simple to more complex. This question reveals first how up-to-date the candidate is regarding software and project management tools. Additionally, it provides a picture of what tools and processes they use to manage a project. Most project managers heavily rely on Gantt charts when it comes to project planning and scheduling. Managers can create dependencies, add milestones, assign tasks, and manage workload and more— all from one screen. Any project manager you hire would appreciate the power of our planning tools.

2. What’s your preferred project management methodology?

There are almost as many ways to manage a project as there are projects. From traditional methods like waterfall to hybrid methodologies, you want a project manager who understands the many ways to work. And more importantly, can they use the project management methodology that best suits the work at hand?

It’s no secret how important a job interview is. Companies, lives and projects are forever shaped by how a job interview goes. Stakeholders usually ask for broad strokes to make sure the project is going well, but sometimes they want more detail. Teams are a project’s most valuable resource. Let us know how you prepare for interviews. All the best on your project management journey.

Business Trends to Watch in 2022

Business trends in 2022

Understanding upcoming trends in 2022 help with refocus personal development. Some trends have been identified and there is an expectation organizations will continue to  experience growth in Project Management, Business Analysis, Agile, Data Science, and Leadership in the year ahead. Overall, the theme of working remotely comes through loud and clear and is expected to impact almost every area.

Project Managers as Project Leaders, The recognition that project managers are both leaders and managers is not new, but the need for the leadership aspect of the role has intensified in the last couple of years and will continue to do so in 2022. In fact, more organizations are using the title project leader as opposed to project manager.

The technical aspects of the job such as scheduling, budgeting, and tracking haven’t been eliminated, but the need for skills like influencing, facilitating, communicating and other “soft” skills associated with the PM as leader has become paramount. Project managers as leaders are going to continue to be challenged in 2022 with distributed teams and all the distractions of ever-changing global and work environments. Leading the team and engaging stakeholders to sustain buy-in is going to continue to be job one for effective PMs in 2022.

Expect to see a continued increase in the use of project management tools beyond the standard Microsoft Office suite. Whether because people are working remotely, tools have become more cost effective, or tools have become more accessible and easier to use, more organizations using PM-specific tools with a wider variety of tools, as well.

At first this may seem contradictory to the previous trend of project leadership getting emphasized over project management; tools are not generally used for the leadership aspects of the PM role. Whatever the reason, 2022 will be a robust year for PM tool implementation.

There should be stronger facilitation and communication skills for remote business analysts. This means getting better at communicating and facilitating in a virtual environment. Learn how to build trust when unable to directly “see” stakeholders daily. The ability to virtually facilitate, elicit inclusive requirements and not just those from a few vocal stakeholders. Learn to creatively collaborate with team members, colleagues, and key stakeholders to ensure their buy-in.

BAs need to think about communicating and facilitating with more intention. This calls for mindful facilitation as opposed to simply the ability to use Microsoft Teams, Slack, or other communication platforms. More BAs should focus on learning how to create safe, trust-laden, and collaborative environments within which stakeholders readily share information in a world that has been changed forever.

Digital transformation has been a trend for some years, and it is still going full steam ahead however has tended to fail because;

  • NOT understanding the business problem.
  • NOT determining success criteria so organizations have no way of knowing if the initiative has been successful because there was not a shared understanding of what success looked like.
  • NOT realizing that digital transformation introduces cultural changes in the organization.

Because of these failures, organizations moving toward digital transformation will rely more on business analysis capabilities to effectively address root causes. BAs will be used on digital transformation initiatives to ensure the business problem or opportunity has been fully analysed and understood, to verify that the organization is ready to adopt the new culture, and to identify overall success measures as well as identifying smaller, incremental success measures that can be measured throughout the project.

These efforts will also require a business analyst’s in-depth knowledge of agile business analysis approaches, tools, and techniques that will be critical as organizations strive to become more agile in their ability to respond to customers and competitors.

It can be argued that the COVID 19 pandemic did more to transform the world of work than any document, framework, certification approach or technology. One of the lasting impacts of the pandemic is that distributed teams are here to stay. Product development team members and their leaders will need to permanently adjust to working in a distributed fashion.

While many still share the perception that all Agile frameworks require co-located teams, technology has advanced to the point where a team adopting a framework doesn’t need to all be in the same location. Continued discipline, particularly in the area of communication and team working together agreements, will be required as teams shift from distributed work by necessity to distributed work by choice.

The marketplace continues to see the emergence and growth of a number of Agile scaling frameworks. The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), Large Scale Scrum (LeSS), Scrum at Scale (S@S) and Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD) are just a few of the prominent entries in this space. Next year will see organizations continue to adopt these frameworks as they seek to realize the benefits of being more responsive to change at a global level.

Increasing application of artificial intelligence and reinforcement learning is one of the trends that will change the world. This past year certainly validates that sentiment, and 2022 will continue to see evidence of this powerful trend. The application of AI and reinforcement learning will definitely be a trend to keep an eye on, as the progress has increased exponentially, especially with the huge strides made in Natural Language Processing.

These are just a few business trends identified and we are sure there are more on the horizon. Let us know what you think the business trends will be in 2022, what will influence the organisational landscape in the year to come. Let us know your thoughts we would like to hear from you, all the best on your project management journey.

Project Management and performance, attention and focus

Project Management and performance, attention and focus

The way you and your team pay attention and focus is crucial to achieving sustained optimal performance, especially when delivering projects. Optimal performance is sustainably achieving goals efficiently and effectively, to the best of your ability within current conditions. 

To perform, individuals, teams, and organizations manage and apply situation specific technical and administrative skills, project, program, and process management, supported by relationship capabilities like communications, conflict management, decision making, and expectations management.

These capabilities rely on attention and a realistic perspective informed by positive values like objectivity and servant leadership. A realistic perspective realizes that change is inevitable and that there is uncertainty because we live and work in a complex system.

In particular the attention to detail, which is needed when running projects and teams. There are of course other aspects such as perspective and values which are equally important; however this article is dealing with attention to detail

There are three finds of attention, there is;

  • Focused attention – directed to a specific object. It is concentration like shining a flashlight on an object, for example, a person in a conversation or work on a task. On an organizational level, focused attention directs resources to a specific project or process.
  • Open attention – seeing or being objectively aware of what is occurring in a broad expanse, mindful awareness. Open attention enables a stepping back from focus to be in touch with what is occurring in and around the object of focus.
  • Executive attention – deciding what within the field of open attention to attend to and what to do about it, regulating responses with awareness and discernment.

There are objects of attention, which are;

  • A project, an organization, a task, presentation, thought, sound, physical sensation, or any observable phenomena.
  • There are three modes, being: awareness of self, others, and the wider world. 
  • With self-focus, the primary objects are thoughts, physical sensations, and feelings. With other-focus, the principal objects are other people and things and their behavior.  Focus outward is diffuse open awareness without focusing on any particular object. It is seeing the big picture and disengaging from routine attentiveness to allow for creativity and exploration.

In respect to running projects the following are referenced as objects, a project is an object. It focuses an organization’s attention by dedicating human effort and other resources to create or change a product, put on an event or make a change of any kind. Effective project stakeholders are aware of the impact their actions have on their environment and the way the environment impacts the project. Executives govern to manage a portfolio of projects, avoid distractions, and choose the most effective places to focus attention.

Projects, tasks, or activities, whether performed by teams or individuals, are objects of attention. A project team focuses on the project. Teams and individuals focus on performing, attentive to the way they perform and interact, aware of what impact they are having on their environment and how their environment is affecting them, their tasks, and projects.

Focus is paramount when running projects because to lose focus, then performance suffers. Fail to be attentive to what’s going on in and around the project team and performance suffers. Other aspects are;

  • Concentration and skillful attention elicit a flow experience, being in the zone, a state of optimal performance and deep relaxation.
  • Consider what happens when sponsors or clients lose interest in a project, they once considered important. Other “interesting” things crop up to grab their attention. Resources start getting pulled away. The project manager is less able to influence some stakeholders to fulfill commitments. Performance suffers.

There will be times, depending on the complexity of the project for fatigue and distractions to get in the way.Attention is a natural capacity that varies in strength depending on one’s energy level and powers of concentration. The tired mind easily slips away from objects of focus and lacks the strength to bring focus back to the object. 

Open attention and executive function suffer because the mind is too easily drawn to the many distractions that call to it and it is too weak to return to awareness. It may seem relaxing to just go with the mental stream of thoughts, feelings, and external distractions. However, when you regularly allow yourself to flit from one thing to another as they randomly appear, you weaken your powers of concentration.

There are three things which enhance all the aspects of attention – focus, open awareness, and executive function:

  1. Strong concentration, mindfulness, and objectivity aided by minimizing distractions and managing the ones that cannot be avoided
  2. A process and systems view that recognizes the realities of interdependence, cause and effect relationships, and continuous change
  3. Values upon which to base skillful decision making.

Let the practice of consciously managing distractions seep into day to day, moment to moment experience. When you notice that your focus has slipped away, make the effort to bring it back. The more you bring your mind back to a chosen object of focus, the more you strengthen your power of concentration.

There are many exercises to strengthen your power of concentration. One is to take a few minutes a day to sit quietly and count your out-breaths from one to ten. If you lose count, start from one again. 

Cultivate relaxed concentration. Distractions will come. Congratulate yourself for noticing and going back to the counting or whatever your object of focus is. No need to strain or over think it. Your open attention notices distraction and your executive function brings you back or lets the mind wander. Let us know how you deal with attention when running projects; it would be great to hear from you. All the best on your project management journey.

Project Success needs critical skills

Project Success needs critical skills

There are critical skills needed by project managers which lead to project success. Regardless on the project being delivered or the industry, the technology used, or the methodology followed. Each of these skills requires a combination of what are commonly called hard skills with those needed to work effectively with others. These skills complement project manager’s soft skills.

A key soft skill is elicitation, the ability to ask questions which actually get the information required. Although elicitation is far more than the questions asked, it’s all about learning. Used to learn what stakeholders want, what they need, and what they expect by asking really good questions and listening.

There are several pitfalls which can make the elicitation process a challenge.

#1 – Missed Expectations

Expectations are requirements, so it is best to ask what the stakeholder’s expectation is of the final product.

#2 – People Fear The Future State.

This major pitfall is hard to overcome for many reasons. Some stakeholders are comfortable with their current state and don’t want to learn or train on the new processes and automation. Others are concerned for their jobs. Still others have a stake in the existing ways – perhaps they were part of its development or a known expert on its use. Whatever the reasons, the fear of the future state can make elicitation difficult.

#3 – The Time Trap

Due to perceived time constraints at times only high-level requirements are gathered, but we don’t have time to uncover the expectations. After the initial set of sessions, interest can wane as the difficult detailed meetings drag on.

There are some approaches which can assist with successful elicitation

Use a variety Of Elicitation Techniques

  • Process modelling. It documents how people get their jobs done. But as with all elicitation, it’s not easy. For example, one of the most difficult aspects about process requirements is that stakeholders argue over where to begin and where to end and how the processes fit together. Using different process models helps avoid this contention. Help narrow the scope of each model with the use of swim lane diagrams which help visualize how the processes fit together.
  • Data modelling. Process modelling is great, but people need information to get their work done. Data modelling helps figure out what information supports each process step. It also provides business rules and is invaluable on AI initiatives.
  • Use cases. These models help understand how stakeholders want to use the final product. They provide not only the scope, but all the functionality of the solution. And use cases, if completed thoroughly, turn into test cases.
  • Prototypes show what the final solution will look like.
  • Brainstorming yields the power of the group, while one-on-ones often reveal what stakeholders really think.

Ask Context Questions

A context question is one that surrounds the solution that is being built. This can be achieved by grouping questions into four categories;

  1. These questions relate to what’s happening outside the organization and include questions like demographics, language, weather, technology, and compliance/regulatory. These may or may not apply to the project.
  2. These pertain to how ready the organization is to accept the final product. The bigger the change, the more issues there usually are. For example, which stakeholders will be on board, which will resist the change, and what needs to be done to prepare the organization for the change?
  3. Ensure that the business problem being solved and the proposed solution align with the organization’s goals and objectives.
  4. These context questions are usually those about the current state.

Know When To Use Open-Ended, Close-Ended, And Leading Questions

Open-ended questions allow the respondents to expand their thoughts. Ask open-ended questions any time more needs to be learnt. For example, these questions are asked when beginning brainstorming an effort and when issues need to be identified.

Closed-ended questions are forced-choice questions. They have the answers embedded in the question itself, sometimes explicitly as in a survey question, or implicitly. It is best to ask closed-ended questions when stakeholders are all over the board real focus is required. For example, given all these issues identified, if there is a choice of 10, which would they be?

It is best to avoid Leading questions as they are really the opinion of the person asking the question when the aim is to obtain the stakeholders thoughts, requirements and learn what is needed.  

Effective elicitation is critical to the development of a final product to the stakeholder’s satisfaction. Elicitation is not easy. There are several pitfalls which are difficult to overcome and deliver a product those stakeholders actually like and want to use. It would be great to understand your approach to questioning and deriving information from stakeholders as we all have different approaches. All the very best on your project management journey.

How Social Media benefits Project Management

Social Media and Project Management

The advent of social media platforms has had an impact on society as a whole and organisations in general. Just a few years ago using social media for project management might not have seemed effective for the delivery of projects, recently this has changed. As the use of social media has opened possibilities for businesses of all sizes and types to enhance communication and collaboration, which are two of the most crucial drivers in project management.

Communication is the core of project management; it should flow quickly to the right people at the right time. Increasing number of team members, clients, and stakeholders are working from different geographical locations and different time zones. Therefore, project managers have to look for ways to maintain seamless communication among all those who are involved in a project.

In this context, social media can prove to be a great binding force that enables people to share ideas, information, feedback, videos, personal messages, etc. All social media platforms provide a quick and reliable platform for users to be on the same page and collaborate to achieve set targets.

There are undeniable benefits in using social media for project management with its ability to connect seamlessly. Social media has brought the world closer together through its range of features that can help to simplify complex project management.

Those benefits to project management can be used in multiple ways, such as; 

1. Communication Management

Popular social media platforms such as YouTube, LinkedIn, Quora, and even WhatsApp are today widely accessed by professionals and public alike. These platforms are easy to use and available 24 by 7, which enables users to communicate without any time restrictions.

A project manager and their staff can leverage one or more social media platforms to support such a high level of communication. Social media apps have inbuilt features like audio calling, video calling, and text-based secure messaging. These communication modes can be used by team members for sharing and updating project-related information.

2. Project Updates

Social media has a huge and diverse user base and its agility of information can play a determining role in the management of project updates. Large and complex projects, especially, call for updating the right people at the right time, which is not a straightforward task.

Social media platforms can empower project managers and their teams to add efficiency to their updates management. These updates can be about tasks and project progress, issues faced, potential resolutions, team building activities, milestones, decision-making meetings, etc.

3. Training and Learning Management

One of the key areas where social media could be of great use in the project management is the management of training and learning given to team members during the project. Lessons learned during the project can often get buried under paperwork, and most people do not take much interest in retrieving them.

Social media enables project managers and organizations to collect and store this vital piece of information through the active involvement of all participants. This information can be easily accessed, shared, and used by people for improving the quality of next projects by reducing risks.

4. Issues Management

Issues management often involves several team members and speedy actions. Therefore, involving the right people in time becomes crucial to mitigate the negative effects of issues arising within the project. Social media is an ideal tool to distribute information to selected people that are involved in a particular issue(s) management.

The information distribution could be for many purposes, which depend on the level of involvement, like:

  • Keeping informed and involved considering seniority and managerial position
  • People who are responsible for troubleshooting the issue
  • Experts whose inputs are sought on managing the arising issues
  • For capturing the learned lessons as a result of emerging issues
  • For updating the risk management and project plans.

5. Financial Savings

For SMEs, financial savings are of paramount importance. Social media can help small and medium-sized businesses in saving money by minimizing the costs of traveling, communication (phone bills), and even accommodation.

Video conferencing systems allow team members working from different locations to be on a common platform and exchange information and ideas without having to travel to attend group meetings.

Social media has evolved from merely being a social interaction tool to a comprehensive and collaborative platform. It’s amazing how various social media platforms can help project management teams to be on the same page through swift and efficient communication, file sharing, collaboration, and much more. Let us know how or if you use social media as a tool to delivery projects, we would like to hear from you, all the best on your project management journey.

Project Timelines, a step in the right direction

Project Timeline

A project timeline is a visual list of tasks or activities placed in chronological order, which lets project managers view the entirety of the project in one place. Building timelines allows the project manager to visualize and collaborate on projects. Typically taking the form of a horizontal bar chart, where each task is given a name and a corresponding start and end date. It also provides an in-depth overview of the entire project from start to finish.

A project timeline can be priceless for a project team, but they can be challenging to make by hand or even in Excel. Fortunately, project timeline software can create an interactive timeline in just a few clicks.

Project timelines provide an opportunity to:

  • Organize their tasks
  • Show when in the project the tasks start
  • View task deadlines
  • Link dependent tasks
  • Break the project into phases
  • Identify team members assigned to a task

Project timelines are very important for the successful delivery of a project; the following are steps for a thorough project timeline,

  • Write a project scope statement: A scope statement outlines the tasks, milestones and deliverables for the project. It’s an essential part of the project management plan and it has all the information needed for a project plan timeline.
  • Make a work breakdown structure (WBS): Use this graphic tool to break down the project scope into smaller work packages. The WBS provides a visual and organizes the project’s tasks, milestones and deliverables by hierarchy to establish a chronological order
  • Identify task dependencies: Once tasks are identified, determine which of those activities are dependent on other tasks to start or end
  • Estimate task duration: Make a reasonable time estimate for each task. This is a critical step to create the project management timeline, and determine the time required to complete the project
  • Define deadlines: Determine how much time the team can spend on each task
  • Set milestones: Milestones are important dates that mark the end of one phase and the beginning of the next, which makes them an important component of a project management timeline. Milestones are reached by completing task sequences and deliverables

Project management timelines can take many different forms with varying levels of efficacy. They can be drawn by hand, or on a whiteboard, but this method is inflexible and large changes to the project might require scrapping the entire timeline.

Using a spreadsheet loaded up with macros can make for very capable, if time consuming to create, timeline. A project timeline excel template can save the effort and time it takes to create the spreadsheet. However, such macro-heavy Excel sheets can prove difficult to maintain for larger projects.

To run projects effectively and efficiently, project managers prefer project timeline software that integrates their tasks with an interactive, feature-rich Gantt chart that can schedule, assign tasks, monitor progress and report on performance. Project timeline software is more versatile than project timeline templates because it allows project managers to easily update the timeline and keep track of tasks with dashboards and reports.

As stated, software is commonly used by project managers to create their project plan timelines. Project timeline software is an integral part of the planning process and often includes additional features that help to monitor progress when executing the project.

Using project timeline software is generally regarded as a necessity for keeping a modern project on schedule. It allows managers and teams to see the status of their tasks; that is, whether they’re in progress, overdue or done.

At its most basic, project timeline software creates a graphic representation of the project on a timeline with tasks and milestones plotted across. Tasks can be assigned start and end dates, and display a duration bar that indicates the planned amount of time to complete the tasks. More powerful software offerings can also include further options to manage tasks. There are many applications to choose from so select one that works best for you and the team.

Online project timeline software offers a centralized data repository in which everyone involved in the project can access the project timeline and other critical project documents and data. This means that managers and teams can access the project timeline when they need to, even if they’re working different shifts and located in different time zones.

Every project is impacted by the triple constraint of time, cost and scope. To start controlling the time and scope part of that important triangle, create a project timeline during the planning stage.

The project timeline helps everyone on the project team by giving them a roadmap of where they are, and where they should be, at every point in the project. Timelines and schedules are essential to execute the project plan.

Tasks are given start and end dates and show on the timeline as a line connecting two points in time. If some of those tasks are dependent on another to start or finish, these task dependencies can be indicated on the project timeline as well.

This assists a manager by keeping those dependencies visible and preventing possible bottlenecks that could block the time during the execution of the tasks.

Milestone feature is used to break up a larger project management timeline into more manageable phases. Milestones mark the end of one phase and the beginning of a new stage of the project. They can also be used to indicate any important dates or deadlines in the project.

Communication is the common thread that ties together all aspects of managing a project, and it is a core pillar in maintaining a project timeline. A timeline is only as good as the schedule it reflects. As that schedule changes, and it will, the timeline must change with it.

Project changes can come from various places via external issues, such as whether there is a disruption in supply chain, which causes delays. If and when this happens, keep the timeline current.

Communication can help changes are updated by staying in touch with suppliers, for example. Other changes can come from stakeholders whose expectations alter. To manage project timeline more effectively, schedule presentations with stakeholders to keep them updated on progress and to field any questions or requests they might have about the project.

In order to facilitate communication, project timeline has to be shareable. The team needs a copy to know when the tasks they’re assigned to execute must be completed within the project timeframe.

Stakeholders also need to have the project timeline. They are invested in the success of the project and want to know the big picture as it moves from stage to stage. To keep them updated, you’ll need to have them shared on current copies of the project timeline.

How to share the project timeline depends on the tool you’re using. If you use a project timeline template it can be printed and distributed. Obviously, this isn’t ideal. As noted, projects change and the last thing you want is to have multiple copies of various iterations floating around.

If a digital tool is used, then export the project management timeline and save it as a PDF. This can then be printed out or emailed to whoever needs it. The timeline is still a static document, but can be named by date and avoid confusing it with an older version.

Project timelines allow for organization of all activities that make up a project, in order. Create milestones, set deadlines, and manage tasks and more— all in one easy to view location. Share your thoughts with us, we would like to hear your timeline approach.  All the very best on your project management journey.

The Art of Project Management, a discipline for initiating, planning, executing, controlling, and closing the work of a team to achieve a specific goal. A project is a temporary endeavour designed to produce a unique product, service or outcome. The end to end delivery of the project, known as the project lifecycle is affected by resource, time management and a fixed budget. The purpose of project management is to enhance a particular situation through the avenue of delivery and change. The primary challenge of project management is to achieve all the project goals within the given constraints, normally defined in a user or project manual, created at the beginning of the development process. The primary constraints are scope, time, quality and budget. The secondary and more ambitious challenge is to optimize the allocation of necessary inputs and integrate them to meet a pre-defined objective.