Tag: Project Management

Projects and Change Management

Projects and Change Management
Projects and Change Management

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.

Remote Teams Engagement

Remote Teams Engagement
Remote Teams Engagement
Remote Teams Engagement

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.

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.