Straight talk with Sunil – Certification (Part 1)

The following video presents the first part of a discussion between Sunil Prashara (PMI’s President & CEO) and Sierra Hapton-Simmons (Portfolio Leader/Head of Certification). The subject of their discussion was the upcoming changes to the PMP exam and the associated R.E.P. program training.
Continue reading

Hiring a Project Manager!

Hello Project Management community! I am looking for a PM, with Supply Chain experience, to join us at Kroger in the Logistics Engineering team. Our team is known for finding solutions to solve challenges at our conventional and automated warehouses.

 

If you have any questions, please reach out to me at florin.stanescu-bellu@kroger.com

Please share this link:

https://performancemanager.successfactors.com/sfcareer/jobreqcareer?jobId=1451322&company=Kroger&username=

Thank you,

Florin

PMP / CAPM prep class in Cincinnati OH

“The PMI Southwest Ohio PMP®/CAPM® Certification Exam Preparation class covers the process and knowledge areas of the PMBOK6®, provides sample exam questions, tips for passing the exam and answers questions on how to complete the test application.

The class is instructed by experienced Project Management Professionals in the industry. Learn information from the PMBOK® Guide and discuss exam taking procedures. All this and much more is provided to help you to succeed in your certification.

The fall classes begin Monday, September 16th through Thursday, October 17th, from 6:00 pm – 10:00 pm. Dinner will be served from 6:00 – 7:00 pm and class begins at 6:30 pm. An orientation session will be held on Thursday, September 5th from 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm.” See the link below:

https://pmiswohio.org/meetinginfo.php?id=129&ts=1555177940

Time versus Schedule Management

One of the changes in the current PMBOK Guide 6th Edition compared with the previous PMBOK Guide 5th Edition is the renaming of Time Management as Schedule Management. The change came unexpected for members like me and got me thinking. The first time when someone argued the “time management” expression was during the leadership course I took in May 2018. The article about it is published HERE During the course our instructor mentioned that we cannot manage time and the chapter in the course dealing with this subject should actually be renamed to something more appropriate. I remember telling her that PMI would not agree with that too much. Fast forward to August 2018 and the change our instructor was talking about appeared in PMBOK Guide 6th Edition. It was an interesting coincidence for sure.

I am not too sure what to think of if. Both sides of the argument make a case for it: one cannot manage time versus plan and control of the time spent. It feels like a case of semantics to a certain degree; however we live in a day and age when words have become really powerful. People are sensitive and that creates all sort of delicate situations where both sides of the argument seem to have a valid point. My intention here is not to convince you one side is better than the other. What I want to do is present a few points of view supporting both. It is up to you to form an opinion after reading my selection.

PMBOK Guide 5th Edition
“Time management includes the processes required to manage timely completion of the project
A powerful opinion in favor has been posted by Matt Mayberry, CEO of Matt Mayberry Enterprises in his article called “Time Management Is Really Life Management” I think the title says it all. Please take the time to read it.

The next one has been posted by Niclas Marie, CEO of TimeCenter Online Scheduling. His article is called “Benefits of Time Management” He focuses on what needs to be done to get more out of the day. He talks about scheduling and how it could help with stress relief, more time for fun and more opportunities. It is worth a few minutes of your time; please read it.

A third one has been posted by John Rampton, Entrepreneur and its title is “Manipulate Time With These Powerful 20 Time Management Tips” Please read the article for the explanation of the following tips; who knows, maybe today you will start focusing on one or more. Their number is a bit overwhelming I agree.

  1. Create a time audit
  2. Set a time limit to each task
  3. Use a to-do-list, but don’t abandon tasks
  4. Plan ahead
  5. Spend your mornings on Most Important Tasks (MIT) of the day
  6. Learn to delegate/ outsource
  7. Eliminate half-work
  8. Change your schedule
  9. Leave a buffer-time between tasks and meetings
  10. Get organized and single-task
  11. Follow the 80-20 rule
  12. Use an online calendar
  13. Stop being perfect
  14. Just say “No”
  15. Instill keystone habits
  16. Don’t waste time waiting
  17. Telecommute
  18. Find inspiration
  19. Batch similar tasks together
  20. Do less

PMBOK Guide 6th Edition
Project Schedule Management includes the processes required to manage the timely completion of the project
Celestine Chua, Writer and Founder of PersonalExcellence.co wrote “Become the Master of Your Time” She made a very good point in the second paragraph:
“… Time is not a limited commodity because it is always there, unfolding every second before you. There is no time to manage. Time is just what it is…”
It is an interesting reading for sure, presenting in detail the two pillars of Time Management: “Effectiveness” and “Efficiency”.

The second article is “Can Time Really Be Managed?” by Phil Cicio. He makes the point what we need to do is managed our activities and he proposes to filter all possible activities you are contemplating by answering 3 questions:

  • Is this really important to me?
  • Can someone else do this for me?
  • Will this move me closer to what I want?

There are countless more articles and opinions on the subject out there. Hope my selection has given you something to think about and possibly opened your appetite to read more before you decide which alternative you agree with. “There is still time” sounds better than “There is still schedule” doesn’t it?

50 years of advancing Project Management

Project Management Institute (PMI) was founded back in 1969 as a nonprofit organization. A lot can be said about the amount of work done and milestones reached since that humble beginning. The most important highlights Worldwide include:

  • Serving more than 2.9 million professionals
  • Counting over 500,000 members in 208 countries and territories
  • Being organized in 300 chapters and 10,000 volunteers serving local members in over 80 countries
  • Having the PMBOK Guide recognized by ISO (2012, 4th edition at the time) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI)

It is an amazing accomplishment to be able to celebrate together 50 years of advancing Project Management as a profession and PMI invites us all to join the celebration on Oct 3rd, 2019. Hope many will do. Until then PMI shares in below video real life inspiring moments by its members.

Develop team

For project managers a collaborative environment is inherit to the job, and there is perhaps no resource more important for achieving results than your team. As such, a crucial project management skill is the ability to develop your team. To put things in perspective, imagine a conductor directing an orchestra – each musical instrument plays their specific part, knowing when to contribute and not to contribute to the melody, all while being in harmony with the other instruments. Achieving this harmony as a project manager takes time and a passion of working with people.

This passion of working with people is sustained by the diverse contribution each team member brings to the team environment; everyone is different, and working with people from a wide variety of backgrounds on a new project can help project managers and their team members sharpen their personal skills in the quest for a harmonious work setting.

I manage projects that want to engage local resources as much as possible, but sometimes, the projects are much larger and more complex than is the norm for the local professional community.  In these situations, the options are as follow: engage non-local resources with the appropriate expertise but at a higher cost, or work with local professionals, building on their current expertise, helping them grow professionally with the new project.

As a project manager I work to provide consistency with my projects, because while there may be circumstances outside of my control, the project management concepts are the same and I want to make projects predictable in this regard. Part of this consistency and predictability is to go over the rules for communication and set expectations up front with every new project team member I onboard. Working in a different country, one would think that as long as we speak same language and communicate clearly, there is no reason to get an unforeseen outcome.

Germans say “Ein Mann ein Wort” which means quite literally, “a man / person keeps his commitments” but can also be read to say, “I mean what I say”. In other cultures, people may verbally confirm what you want to hear but in fact, they meant something else.

One of the project team members I worked with is a very good professional whom I would go to anytime I would need his type of expertise; however, what I didn’t see up front were the differences in how he understood the project expectations, especially the ones related to schedule constraints. In some cultures, tasks are expected to be performed at each individual’s own pace, and more so, tasks can take even longer to reach completion if the local authorities with jurisdiction are a very deep bureaucracy. Evidently this is not an ideal working situation.

I am used to working at a pace driven by project constraints and supported by the project team’s dynamic. This particular project made me reconsider the tools I needed to achieve the same goals in this different environment. In the end, we agreed to use more written communication and I asked the team member to provide written updates for major milestones, while allowing status of small tasks to be communicated verbally. This resulted in more interaction between both sides, albeit by email, and I learned that it helped develop the project team members, while also getting us closer to the harmony needed for a successful project.

Project managers document and review the lessons they learn from each of their projects. In this case, the lesson I learned was to open my eyes see more than just the professional I’m working with –it’s important to understand body language and local customs, and to hear more than what you want to hear.

Front Line Leadership Course

During the month of May I attended a course on leadership. It is a course with a good reputation in our neck of the woods, plus a number of coworkers have also attended it and gave it rave reviews. The course is scheduled during 4 sessions (1 per week), 4 hours a session; if you choose the morning schedule like me, after 4 hours you still need to drive to work and spend the other half of the day there. In a way this setup works nicely: you can immediately start applying in real life concepts discussed and analysed in class. The areas covered in those sessions were:

  • What it means to be a leader and goal setting for success
  • Conflict management: dealing with both success and failure
  • Time management, communication
  • Team building

During the entire course the discussions moved loosely in and out of these areas.

The emphasis is on participation: each one must contribute throughout the course with their own daily experience. It is interesting to note by the second session all participants started to open up and shared their own real challenges with the class. They also brought back feedback on how they applied suggestions picked in class and the results they saw.
Example: one team leader used to do most of the work the other team members had difficulties with. Her challenge was that over a period of time, the team would simply expect her to do it. She began to step back and slowly coach them how to do it (regular or new situations). It worked!
The above example fit very well with part of the course: each one of us got a monkey toy as a reminder not to pick up other peoples’ challenges and/ or work; ever since I have one on my desk as a reminder.

The workbook we got was mostly used as a reference and for writing down important concepts, impressions or for analyzing our own current situation. Homework was required between sessions and it involved working on our own areas of weakness.
Example: show up first and sit in a different place at any regular meeting, forcing the team to change their regular seating. That would disturb their stereotype and make them more alert as participants.

Many tidbits were shared by the instructor and all of us during the entire duration. The ones I liked the most were:

  • Embrace any questions
  • Do not interrupt deep thinking
  • Rule #1 of feedback: it is a gift

Conclusion: it is a good course to take, especially for those with no previous training. For those with project management expertise the course adds different angles to the areas of time management (the new schedule management as per PMBOK Guide 6th Edition) and communication management. That goes well with the hands-on, real life approach; sometimes we take things too academically in project management. The course also exposed each participant to different industries and leadership challenges of the others based on their teams and company cultures. Last but not least it opens the door to different aspects one might be interested to pursue and explore in more detail. One colleague shared with me a couple of worthwhile sources to explore as we were chatting about the course:
5 Levels Of Leadership
Get Things Done
You might want to check them out as well.

Procurement Challenge

I faced an interesting case of procurement challenge as lead design engineer in one of my current projects. The bill of materials (BOM) of a few hundred of items was sent to our preferred overseas supplier and over a week period they sent back an original quote and a revised version of it. The items included assemblies, subassemblies and parts that were grouped in a few categories. The PM asked me to review both quotes and confirm we could cut the PO and move on to the next stage.

I am not sure what the conversation was between parties to generate the second quote; all I know is the second one was quite different, result of a possible communication problem. We all know written communication has its severe limitations and when you include different cultures, the potential for misunderstanding is quite high. The original quote was decent with a few expected mistakes in need of fixing. The second quote however was broken down in a very weird way. Putting them side by side you could tell the supplier was trying to achieve something he was told to, just to offer a completely mangled result in exchange. Items were mixed randomly between lines, descriptions were changed around between subassemblies and their components, plus some dollar figures were simply wrong. I did a review and provided feedback to the PM and supplier.

The third quote came back and at first glance it looked much better. The mixed items were fixed, descriptions corrected and a number of dollar figures were back where they were supposed to be. The amounts looked right as well. Do you know what detail caught my attention and made me examine the quote with care? The total amount quoted was identical (to the last cent) with the second quote. How could this be when the second quote had so many errors in it? Whoever did the quoting, also did a bit of Houdini work. You could see a funny rule developing: there were items in the original quote and the second one with different prices; in the third quote the higher price per item from previous quotes was used without exceptions. Given this detail it is indeed Houdini work to land on the same dollar figure.

Anyway the project is moving forward. Small details like including bolts in the quote but excluding the matching washers and nuts are still puzzling, but this is easy fixing. Since the project is for a product new to me, I am happy to be in the position to solve such challenges and learn the nuts and bolts of it. I can say “more news is good news” in this case!

Lessons Learned from a PMP bootcamp

At the end of September 2017 I was presented with an unexpected opportunity to teach my first PMP bootcamp. I could not refuse it. It was something I was curious about ever since I attended one as a PMP aspirant back in the summer of 2014. Back then I was not ready to attend a bootcamp first and foremost because I knew so little about the exam; also I was not even sure if I wanted to take it. There is an ocean of information out there plus a lot of misinformation on the grapevine. One needs to be committed to take on this project seriously and go over it step by step to stand a chance at successfully passing it. Life has a way of teaching each one of us the lessons we need to learn and it did not spare me on this one.

The opportunity came out of the blue after a networking evening at our local PMI-CWCC chapter. A friend had it scheduled for the following week and could not do it anymore; still he did not want to cancel it. I said “Yes, of course” and started to prepare for it. It proved to be a challenging project to say the least. The venue was a new one and I decided to go there on the Saturday morning prior to make sure all details were in place. The hotel staff was very accomodating, I could see the room (looked a bit small) and spent about 45 minutes trying to locate the parcels with all books; good thing I did not postpone this task for the Monday morning, right? I found out there were going to be 16 adult students in attendance instead of the original number of 4 when we first discussed it. I guess the changes for the exam coming March 2018 are forcing fellow project managers to strongly consider taking it ASAP. Anyway the sheer number was a bit intimidating and overwhelming. I teach chess to kids between 6 to 18 years of age for a number of years now; still teaching adults is different.

During the weekend I looked in the book and over the presentation materials, made a plan of how much we were going to cover daily and added some contingency time to it just in case. Went on the Prometric website to see the availability dates for our Vancouver location and was surprised to see the first available date to take the exam was in 2 months time (end of November) for those wishing to register at the time. That was another indication of the higher than usual demand for it. By the time I finished the article, I found out more dates were made available in October and November. That was invaluable feedback from one of the students who passed the exam. I guess the lesson here is to check their calendar often when planning for the date to take it; websites can be prone to glitches.

I will not do a day by day recap. Like in any project things went more or less according to the plan. We had unexpected situations to deal with and of course we had to adjust with one another in order to finish the bootcamp. What feels more important today and will still be important as time goes by are the highlights and lessons learned for me as an instructor. Here they are in no particular order:

Expectations
I stated my expectations in the morning of the first day; still I could see how the students had different ones and it took a while to bring them to a common ground as much as possible. Some of the students were very early in the process of considering the PMP exam and because of that they could not see how the focused information and tips about it could be helpful. I was in their shoes during my bootcamp in 2014 so I could relate. Other students were very focused, with one of them having the exam scheduled for the following week. They were the quiet ones, doing the tasks assigned and participating with the exam in mind.

Exam prep, dealing with time pressure
One of the regular activities we did was to solve exam questions under time duress (1 minute or so per question). My suggested approach for them was to do as many questions as possible, starting with the easier ones provided in the book. I had at least one student who chose to leave those questions for later on when she would be better prepared. In my view they should all have done the questions like an initiation if you want. One could always find more questions online.

Exam prep, PM Process Group and Knowledge Area Mapping table
Each day we did a simple exercise of doing a memory dump of it in time pressure and progressively adding the Knowledge Areas and processes covered up to that point. The exam does not allow anymore this memory dump before the time starts ticking; however I believe doing it at the beginning for no more than 15 minutes (including a number of important formulas) pays off big time for the duration of the exam. Before Dec 2016 one could do the memory dump before the exam, during those 15 minutes of familiarizing oneself with the computer software. Here I also had a number of students not doing that anymore by the forth day. I guess they will remember this as they will become more serious about preparing for the exam.

Exam prep, mnemonic preparation
This was by far the most appreciated component. There are several ways of doing it and several sources of inspiration. I am hoping all saw the benefit of using it and will look for more mnemonic tips working for them when time comes. Example: what does the following stand for?
I Scoped Time, Cost and Quality with HR to Communicate Risks on Procurement with Stakeholders

Exam prep, exam related details
It is important one gathers the latest official information and does not rely on the grapevine or superficial reading. One powerful example from this bootcamp was the one of a very experienced PM who discovered he did not have to take the bootcamp afterall, as he could have used previously taken PM courses to count for the 35 hours of education needed. He simply did not pay enough attention to the posted requirements and that cost him time and money.

Venue challenges
The room proved to be too small for 17 people. This being a new venue, a detail like this should have been a very high impact/ probability risk to account for, especially when those doing the renting (headquarters in UK) did it without seeing it. I talked with the manager during the first morning day coffee break and she offered us a bigger room for the third and forth days. Ironically we experienced an AC leak in the morning of the second day, as it sometimes happens… We were lucky our caterer for the day was already preparing our new room and as a result we were able to switch rooms on the spot with minimum interuption. Of course kudos go to the hotel staff for being accommodating and quick to respond.

The materials provided, content
It should be tailored with the exam in mind and have as many references to the PMBOK Guide as possible. One of the slides made a point of saying:
“The exam is not a test of the PMBOK Guide”
However the PMBOK Guide must be used when preparing for it and the PMP aspirants must know it fairly well to answer the questions as PMI expects us to. The exam is testing that and not how each one of us would judge and react based on our own experience. One of the good aspects of the content consisted of sample exam questions for each Knowledge Area, as well as a full 200 sample exam questions chapter with detailed answers simulating a full exam.

The materials provided, correct information
It is important to ensure all material (with a focus on the sample exam questions and answers) is correct or everyone gets frustrated. We encountered mistakes along the way, some more frustrating than others because of either being silly or hard to explain. A number of exam questions as well as the sample ones are based on word play and different interpretations of the meaning of phrases used. I always found those dubious to say the least. Are we better project managers answering those correctly or are we worst when answering them wrong? In real life when something is open to interpretation we seek clarification and by doing so we put ourselves in a better position to judge the situation in front of us. There is no such luck during the exam, so having to deal with them is debatable in my opinion. Last but not least the most valuable sample exam questions are the ones clearly referencing the PMBOK Guide while explaining the answers provided.

Hope these lessons learned will be of value to our PM community.

PMI reaches 500,000 members milestone

We are happy to share this exciting milestone with everyone! 500,000 members strong worldwide, spanning 200 countries and territories and forming 288 local chapters are impressive numbers.