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.
Risk is inherent in project management and so is the need to create a risk management plan to control it. That methodology is called risk management, which is as important as planning to making sure a project comes in on time, within budget and of quality.
The following some of the risk management tools which can be used during a project;
1. Root Cause Analysis
The root cause is another way to say the essence of something. Therefore, root cause analysis is a systematic process used to identify the fundamental risks that are embedded in the project. This is a tool that says good management is not only responsive but preventative.
Often root cause analysis is used after a problem has already come up. It seeks to address causes rather than symptoms. But it can be applied to assessing risk by going through the goals of any root cause analysis, which ask: What happened? How did it happen? Why did it happen? Once those questions are addressed, develop a plan of action to prevent it from happening again.
SWOT, short for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats, is another tool to help with identifying risks. To apply this tool, go through the acronym.
Begin with strengths and determine what those are as related to the project. Next, list the weaknesses or things that could be improved or are missing from the project. This is where the likelihood of negative risk will raise its head, while positive risk comes from the identification of strengths. Opportunities are another way of referring to positive risks and threats are negative risks.
When collecting SWOT, illustrate your findings in a four-square grid. The top of the square has strengths to the left and weaknesses to the right. Below that is opportunities to the left and threats to the right. The left-hand side is helpful to achieving the objective of the project and those on the right-hand side are harmful to achieving the objective of the project. This allows for analysis and cross-reference.
3. Risk Assessment Template for IT
While this tool was developed for IT projects, it can be expanded to speak to any project. What a IT risk assessment template offers is a numbered listing of the risks, to keep them in order. It provides a space in which to collect the risks of a project, which is also helpful when executing the project and tracking any risks that become reality.
One of the aspects of the risk assessment template for IT is that the spreadsheet has a built-in calculator that figures out the likelihood of a risk in fact occurring and then multiples that against the impact it would have on the project or the organization. This way, a project manager knows the potential harm of the risk and so can prioritize their response to it if or when the risk happens.
4. Risk Register
Similar to the risk assessment template for IT is a risk register. Basically, what a risk register does is identify and describe the list. It then will provide space to explain the potential impact on the project and what the planned response is for dealing with the risk, if it occurs. Furthermore, the risk register allows a project manager to prioritize the risk, assign an owner responsible for resolving it and gives a place to add notes as needed.
The risk register is a strategic tool to control risk in a project. It works to gather the data on what risks the team expects and then a way to respond proactively if they do show up in the project. It has already mapped out a path forward to keep the project from falling behind schedule or going over budget. Pick up a free risk register template here.
5. Probability and Impact Matrix
Another tool for project managers is the probability and impact matrix. It helps prioritize risk, which is important, as you don’t want to waste time chasing a small risk and exhaust your resources. This technique combines the probability and impact scores of individual risks and then ranks them in terms of their severity. This way each risk is understood in context to the larger project, so if one does occur, there’s a plan in place to respond or not.
6. Risk Data Quality Assessment
With a risk data quality assessment technique, project managers use data that has been collated for the risks they’ve identified. This is used to then find the level to which information about the risk is relevant to the project manager. It helps the project manager understand the accuracy, reliability, quality and integrity of the risk as related to the collected data about it.
For each risk listed, the risk data quality assessment requires that the project manager determine the extent of the understanding of the risk, collect what data is available, what the quality and reliability is for that data and its integrity. It is only by examining these parameters of the risk can an accurate assessment be reached.
To begin the brainstorming process, you must assess the risks that could impact your project. This starts with reviewing the project documentation, looking over historic data and lessons learned from similar projects, reading over articles and organizational process assets. Anything that can provide insight into issues that might occur during the execution of the project. Once you’ve done your research, start brainstorming with anyone who might have insight.
The better a project manager identifies and responds to risk, the better the outcome. That’s why there are never enough risk management tools and techniques to have at your disposal when planning for a project. Let us know your thoughts and which risk management tools you use when delivering your project, we would like to hear from you. All the best on your project management journey.
Whether trying for executive buy-in or conveying regular updates to stakeholders, managing teams, and communication plays a critical role in every facet of the business landscape. It helps convey the requisite information at the right time, facilitates the exchange of innovative ideas, strengthens team bonding and collaboration, and improves work efficiency.
However, ensuring effective communication becomes challenging when the team is dispersed across remote locations. When team members are working in varying time zones and locations, it creates silos, and thus, bringing them on the same page becomes cumbersome for a project manager.
These communication barriers can lead to loss of trust and transparency over time and negatively impact the project’s progress. Therefore, it is vital for a project manager to walk the extra mile and take suitable initiatives to enhance remote team communication.
This can be achieved by defining clear roles and responsibilities which help every remote team member understand what is expected of them and align their efforts with the project’s end goals. However, while conveying key responsibility areas (KRAs) in person is easy in a typical in-office work setup, remote work settings make it more arduous. Nevertheless, by using the right tools, the project manager can convey KRAs to remote teammates effectively.
For example, they can use a video conferencing tool for one-on-one meetings or send an email to explain the responsibilities to individuals. Moreover, an initiation meeting at the start of every project can also help the team members get to know each other better. Additionally, the project manager can elaborate on inter-dependencies. It will enable the team to comprehend each other’s responsibilities, communicate and collaborate effectively, and synchronize their efforts better to achieve milestones.
As communication is predominantly online, formulating new policies to streamline asynchronous and synchronous means is the need of the hour. Standardized rules help avoid communication gaps or discrepancies and facilitate fast information exchange. To begin with, the project manager can decide on the communication channels to use for various purposes. For instance, synchronous channels such as Zoom, Google Meet, etc., can be suitable for scrum meetings, brainstorming sessions, training, etc.
On the other hand, asynchronous channels like emails, Slack, etc., can be better for instant messaging, casual communication, file sharing, etc. Besides that, setting protocols for away messages, one-on-one meetings with teammates, breaks, etc., can also help save time and regulate communication.
One of the ways to combat this challenge is to organize daily stand-up meetings. Considering everyone’s schedule and availability, managers can fix a time to ensure no one is left out.
Along with updating the progress, team members can mention the roadblocks, if any, and brainstorm on viable solutions. If issues are significant, scheduling separate meetings can be a good option to discuss them. Further, urgent meetings to communicate unprecedented changes or risks can also boost communication and coordination.
Communication is not confined to messages or video calls but goes beyond that. Equipping virtual teams with the right tech inventory is essential for a remote team to enhance it further. So, besides providing a video conferencing tool or messaging app, a project manager can also leverage various project management, workflow automation, and visual collaboration apps. It not only helps convey and visualize the critical updates in real-time but also centralizes them, thereby minimizing any discrepancies.
A resource management tool can also prove beneficial as it provides enterprise-wide visibility of resources. They can view resources schedules, their utilization, productivity, and even project schedules on one platform. For example, they can see an individual’s forecast-vs-actual time report and note any variance in the time predicted to complete a task and the actual time ten. Further, they can conduct a one-on-one meeting and understand and resolve the cause accordingly.
Virtual team-building sessions play a pivotal role in strengthening communication and collaboration. They replicate those water-cooler conversations and casual cubicle meet-ups in the physical office settings and help get rid of the monotony and isolation that set in while working virtually. Further, as different team members participate and interact more, they get to know each other better, which breaks down the silos of communication. All this paves the way for stronger team bonding, transparent communication, and cohesive work.
To make every session more inclusive and productive, the organizer should consider every participant’s preference and customize activities accordingly. This will pique everyone’s interest and elevate engagement.
Effective communication is the bread and butter of remote team management. It facilitates team collaboration, ensures the alignment of efforts with final goals, and eventually boosts productivity.
The aforementioned tips will help you build a powerful communication strategy and build synergy between team members. Since remote work is the new normal, it is high time you took the right measures to improve communication within your dispersed team and seal every project’s success. Let us know how you manage communication between remote team. All the very best on your project management journey.
As the year comes to a close, so do many projects. Stakeholders may wonder if these projects were truly successful, and these five ways will help you provide a definitive answer. See some of the ways to measure project and understand how your project is really performing.
Project managers often wonder if they are measuring the right things on a project. It’s difficult to know how much time to spend evaluating past performance and how much time to spend on keeping the work moving forward.
At various points during the project, you want to evaluate the most important factors, such as schedule, quality, cost, stakeholder satisfaction and performance against the business case. You should be doing this informally anyway. A formal project evaluation is of use during the end of a phase or stage as it can give you a clear indication of how the project is performing against the original estimates. This information can then be used to grant approval from moving on with the next chunk of work.
Project management success is often determined by whether or not you kept to the original timeline. Experienced project managers know how hard that is, but it’s a little bit easier if you continually evaluate your progress as you go.
You’ll update your project schedule regularly; the schedule evaluation is something you can do more formally at the end of the stage or phase, or as part of a monthly report to your senior stakeholder group or Project Board. It’s easy to update your project schedule if you build it on an online Gantt chart, where tasks and deadlines are made into visual timelines.
Look at your major milestones and check if they still fall on the same dates as you originally agreed. Work out the slippage, if any, and how much of an impact this will have on your overall project timescales.
The end of a project phase is a good time for a quality review. You can check both the quality of your project management practices – are you following the change management process every time and so on – and also the deliverables.
A quality review can evaluate whether what you are doing meets the standards set out in your quality plans. Best find out now before the project goes too far, as it might be too late to do anything about it then.
Many executives would rate cost management as one of their highest priorities on a project, so evaluating how the project is performing financially is crucial. Compare your current actual spend to what you had budgeted at this point. If there are variances, look to explain them. You can use a project dashboard to check your actual spend in real time.
You’ll also want to look forward and re-forecast the budget to the end of the project. Compare that to your original estimate too and make sure it is close enough for your management team to feel that the work is on track. If your forecasts go up too much it is a sign that your spending will be out of control by the end of the project – again, something it is better to know about now.
Your wider team – your stakeholders – are essential in getting much of the work done, so it’s worth checking in with them. Find out how they are feeling about the project right now and what you could be doing differently.
This is a difficult measure to document statistically, although there’s nothing to stop you asking them for a rating out of 10. Even if you are evaluating their satisfaction subjectively, it is still a useful exercise. If you notice that stakeholders are not fully supportive, you can put plans in place to engage them thoroughly to try to influence their behavior.
Finally, you’ll want to go back to the business case and see what you originally agreed upon. How is your project shaping up? Check that the benefits are still realistic and that the business problem this project was designed to solve does still exist. It happens – project teams work on initiatives that sound great but by the time they are finished the business environment has moved on and the project is redundant. No one bothered to check the business case during the project’s life cycle and so no one realized that the work was no longer needed.
Don’t work on something that nobody wants! Check the business case regularly and evaluate it in light of the current business objectives.
You can add other items to this list. In fact, it should reflect what is important to you and your team – you should be evaluating things that matter, so feel free to add extra elements or ditch some of the ones that you are less worried about.
When your project is over you’ll want to carry out a full and final evaluation. This could be as part of a lessons learned review, but typically it is different. Lessons learned review is where all the project stakeholders’ comment on what worked and what didn’t. You take away key messages and tasks to improve how projects are delivered in the future. It’s an essential part of project closure, but it isn’t a formal evaluation. You get a lot of feedback, anecdotes and stories but even the most structured lessons learned workshop generally gives you narrative rather than statistics.
There are numerous project performance areas that need to be monitored, including the schedule, the cost, the quality and overall stakeholder satisfaction. Let us know your thoughts, we would like to hear from you, all the very best on your project management journey.
The one thing that has resonated during 2021 has been that the pandemic has changed project management subtly and significantly. Since the pandemic, change surrounds us and we just have to get used to it. As PMs, we’ve come to expect change and to shift our project management mindset accordingly by understanding what it takes to meet the needs of the project.
Managing a hybrid workforce represents one of the most significant changes ushered in by the pandemic. While we might have dabbled in it before, widespread adoption of hybrid is here to stay. Leading a dispersed workforce demands that project managers drill down to an individualized level. It requires looking at the work differently, identifying each employee’s strengths, weaknesses, and availability to determine how they can best contribute to the team.
Operationally, there are several aspects of project management to consider with a hybrid workforce, some being;
1. Realign the Hybrid Workforce With Project Needs
Working 9 to 5 in an office used to be the norm, with limited flexibility about where and when employees worked. The pandemic proved that many employees can be productive remotely and outside of core hours. PMs need to realign project tasks with new flexibility, mapping a new path to project milestones, by
- Work anywhere during set hours
- Work in the office during set hours
- Work in the office anytime
- Work anywhere, anytime.
By dissecting the elements of project work and identifying specifically which item falls into which quadrant of the model, we can manage all employees with predictability and stability. The goal is that each person on the team knows what they must accomplish and the deadline so they can schedule day-care, uninterrupted work time, collaboration, and a work-life balance.
2. Manage Individuals For Engagement And Productivity
Once we reassess the project needs, we also need to reassess the available resources – our employees. That starts with knowing each employee’s strengths and weaknesses. With metrics in hand, you can balance your teams in terms of strengths and hybrid availability, ensuring the right coverage and resources.
This individualized approach is time-consuming, but when correctly applied; this approach can save PM’s time over the lifecycle of the project. Consider sharing strength results with each employee within the context of how the strengths help the employee meet organizational goals, project goals, and personal goals. These insights often reveal what truly motivates each employee.
3. Policies and Governance for Hybrid Teams
With a hybrid workforce, your employee handbook and project guidelines need to become living documents. You’ll need policies designed for maximum flexibility. Rather than focusing on what employees can or cannot do, policies need to be written to ensure employees have all the tools they need.
Some policies might require trial and error to get things right. For example, when we have team meetings now, we ask everyone to dial in to the conference line individually to listen, regardless of where they are working, and to turn on their camera when they are talking. This saves bandwidth and makes “face time” equitable between those in the office and those working elsewhere.
- Developing A Dispersed Culture
Many PMs manage teams who are in multiple locations, and large organizations have shown us how culture and values can span the miles. The one thing that hasn’t changed is the value of communication, Weekly emails, quarterly leadership calls, daily check-ins all help to replace the face-to-face interaction of the past.
Establishing new routines, like having teams eat lunch together once a week via a video call, provide a casual ‘watercooler’ environment that helps employees get to know each other on a more personal level. We understand others better when we communicate face-to-face and can pick up on the nonverbal cues, whether in person or via video.
When the communication is two-way, and employees feel heard, hybrid culture really shines. Since everyone’s work preferences are being met through hybrid flexibility, you have an organization where everyone buys into the culture and people recognize that their behavior and their contribution matter.
5. Metrics for a Hybrid Workforce
PM has undergone a shift in metrics that highlights a hybrid workforce. The trend now is to focus on the outcome rather than output.
The outcome mindset measures value based on individual contributions to the end result. Were objectives met? Is the client satisfied? Are teammates satisfied with the balance of contribution across the team? These are metrics we need to measure for a hybrid workforce. The focus shifts to determining if teammates are contributing in substantial and meaningful ways. The team dynamic becomes so important that you may want to consider adding 360-degree feedback from peers as part of your PM processes.
Project management with a hybrid workforce comes down to three factors: flexibility, individuality, and communication. It’s a change brought on by the pandemic but exactly the shake up the working world needed.
The same flexibility that allows our teams to accomplish tasks at various times and places drives agility in other areas of the organization. The focus on individuals and their contributions to the collective outcome pushes us to take a deeper look at the human beings on our payroll and gain insights into what satisfies their personal and professional goals.
Communicating differently, and more purposefully, has helped with a greater understanding of the organization and project goals. And it gives a voice to each individual and drives a deeper level of team engagement.
So even though we may be dispersed, our teams are closer than ever before. What are your thoughts? We would like to know what you think. Have a wonderful and safe festive season and let’s see what the New Year brings. From the team at project management companion, thank you for sharing another eventful year with us.
A project list is the starting point for any project management process. They’re a great way to take what seems an insurmountable amount of disparate tasks and organize them. A project list can be as simple as a to-do list or a fence for projects. Learn how to make a project list and get all of your tasks, deliverables, resources and more organized on a single list.
Learn how to make a project list and get all of your tasks, deliverables, resources and more organized on a single list. Using a project list is so important it’s worth taking a moment to explore what it is, how to create one and how it fits into managing projects with project management software tools.
What Is a Project List?
The most straightforward answer is that a project list is a to-do list for a project. You could use a project list as you would any to-do list, creating a list of tasks you need to do today, this week or over the course of a month.
But it can be so much more than a to-do list, too. You can use it to collect the phases of your project, the teams, contractors and vendors you’ll need to complete it, the equipment, tools and more. Project lists can help you frame every part of the project work so it’s easier to manage.
The versatility of a project list can’t be overstated. If you’re managing a portfolio or program and have lots of projects to keep track of, a project list can serve as the structure that keeps your portfolio from devolving into a chaotic mess. It can remind you of important dates and deadlines, shared resources and other key elements.
Why Make a Project List?
A project list can serve as a checklist that makes sure you have all the important project information logged and accessible. You want to be thorough. It’s better to have too many than too few items—you can always edit it down later.
Another reason to be thorough is that project lists keep you organized. Especially in traditional projects, every activity is assigned a process and level of urgency. You can use a project list to detail those steps, including the priority, due date, who’s assigned, what resources are needed and more. Once you have this information, you’ll want to trim the fat. You want the list short, but substantial.
A project list is a living document: it should always be open to updates. Project information changes as you develop your project plan and schedule. Even once a project is being executed, there are likely internal and external forces that are going to force you to adapt or delete some parts of the project list.
How Do I Make a Project List?
Now that you’re ready to make a project list, where should you start? Most people begin with a pen and paper, or the notes app on their phone, and just jot things down. There’s nothing wrong with this static approach, but it doesn’t lend itself to collaboration, and you often need other people involved to get the full picture.
Another problem with just making a list is that all the work you do there will have to be transferred to whatever tool you’re using to manage the project. A piece of paper is great for going to shop at the store, but not as helpful if you’re managing architects, engineers and contractors when building a bridge.
Maintaining and Prioritizing a Project List can be achieved by using the following approaches, items such as project management software to build your project list. The priority tagging of each item of your project list is another step in organizing your work. Moving the project list into a timeline allows you to see all the items in one place on a chronological chart. If you’re using a Gantt chart, which is a spreadsheet and a timeline, then you get even more control over your project list.
Once you execute your project list there are other project management tools that will help you stay on track. For example, having resource management features can help you see the availability of your team and balance their workload to keep them more productive.
A project list is a great way to take what seems an insurmountable amount of disparate tasks and organize them. It can be as simple as a to-do list or a fence for many projects. Let us know your approach and if you use to-do-lists we would like to hear from you. All the best on your project management journey, please like share and subscribe to the project management channel. Thank you.
There are many techniques available for effective elicitation. The core to this is the human interaction skills needed to be successful. There are however five common human interaction pitfalls relating to elicitation and how to avoid them.
Being an active passive listener, a common misconception is that active listening means keeping our mouths shut and nodding our heads. However, that’s really a form of passive listening and it’s a common pitfall. We shouldn’t be afraid to interrupt otherwise we are relying entirely on those non-verbals to communicate.
Active listening, involves making sure we understand what’s being said. Active listening requires asking clarifying questions, paraphrasing what we think we’ve heard, and asking related questions. These techniques help ensure that we understand and that we’re interested. They also provide an opportunity for the stakeholders to expand and change their thoughts and opinions.
The pitfall of asking the right question in the wrong way, in a way that puts the person we’re talking to on the defensive. It’s difficult enough to elicit information when people trust us. If they don’t, it can be a very difficult process indeed. And there are many reasons why they might distrust us. When we sound like prosecuting attorneys, we risk having our stakeholders shut down or give us bad information or none at all.
Elicitation is where we learn, and one of the key ways we learn is by asking for the reasons behind statements. Most of us are taught to ask “why” to get at the true meaning, the cause of a problem, the steps in a process, or the usefulness of current information. However, asking why can be an easy way to bust trust, so we have to be careful how we ask it.
As PMs and BAs, it’s important for us to pick up on both verbal and nonverbal cues. This can be tricky. Sometimes non-verbals can be misleading. And different cultures have different non-verbal cues. So relying entirely on non-verbals is a pitfall we need to avoid.
It’s important not to make assumptions, but rather to ask for clarification. And don’t forget about the “pause/silence” technique. We ask a clarifying question and wait for a response. And wait some more if necessary, if the stakeholder doesn’t respond immediately.
It’s also important to show interest in what others are saying, and one way to do that is to share similar experiences. But when the discussion becomes a monolog instead of a conversation, it can build boredom and mistrust.
Before sharing our own experiences, ask questions about what stakeholders are telling us. Even one or two questions can indicate that we value their thoughts. And again, it allows them to expand their ideas.
It’s not uncommon for stakeholders to come to a meeting with something on their mind that they haven’t previously mentioned. There are many possible motivations, and we should not assume the worst. For example, perhaps an important new issue has just arisen and they haven’t had time to let us know. Perhaps it’s difficult to get stakeholders together and they don’t want to lose the opportunity to discuss a certain topic. Perhaps we’ve discouraged their ideas and they don’t trust us enough to notify us in advance. Perhaps they have gathered support from others prior to the meeting. Regardless, it is easy to feel that we have been blindsided. And let’s not forget that we may be the ones with the hidden agenda—for many of the same reasons. Even if our intentions are the best, our stakeholders might feel blindsided.
One-on-one pre-meetings with an objective but without an agenda seem to help. It is best to discuss issues individually and put people at ease. If needed, modify the agenda to accommodate additional needs.
Elicitation is one of those critical skills that are needed in order to be successful. It involves not only core elicitation techniques, but also human interaction skills, without which all the great interviewing, business modelling, and other important techniques won’t suffice. Let us know your thoughts on elicitation; it would be great to get your comments. All the best on your project management journey, please like share and subscribe to the project management companion channel.