You might be a naughty Project Manager!

NaughtyIn celebration of Canadian Thanksgiving, last week’s article provided a list of what a project manager might wish to count among their blessings.

With Christmas just over two months away, I’d like to know what you might expect to receive from your project team members for the holidays.

Have you been naughty or nice to them?

With apologies to Jeff Foxworthy , here are fifteen simple tests to help you decide!

  1. If Marvel Comics wants you to audition for the role of the Hulk in their next movie, you might be a naughty PM!
  2. If you consume more of your team’s time in updating you on the status of their work instead of completing their work, you might be a naughty PM!
  3. If team members bring issues and decisions to your attention and you ignore them, you might be a naughty PM!
  4. If you frequently quote Jack Nicholson from A Few Good Men (“You can’t handle the truth!“) to your team members, you might be a naughty PM!
  5. If you never ask “Why?”, you might be a naughty PM!
  6. If your main inspiration for team building was the movie Saw, you might be a naughty PM!
  7. If you never say “No”, you might be a naughty PM!
  8. If you make schedule commitments without the involvement or support of your team members, you might be a naughty PM!
  9. If you never recognize your team members’ effort and achievements, you might be a naughty PM!
  10. If you take a one-size fits all approach to project management, you might be a naughty PM!
  11. If your sponsor has started referring to you as a sycophantic remora, you might be a naughty PM!
  12. If your doctor has prescribed a pain killer for chronic finger pointing, you might be a naughty PM!
  13. If your response to team conflict is to emulate an ostrich, you might be a naughty PM!
  14. If you don’t let their people managers know when you’ll be using more of your team members’ time, you might be a naughty PM!
  15. If you created a schedule when planning the project but never shared it or updated it afterwards, you might be a naughty PM!

On a positive note, if you happen to commit most of these sins, you probably won’t need to worry about keeping warm this winter as you could just burn the large volume of coal that will likely be placed in your Christmas stocking!


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Thanksgiving blessings for Project Managers

turkeyIt’s Canadian Thanksgiving – a tradition which started as an occasion to celebrate the seasonal harvest but can also be extended to honor the bounty of the full year.  While it is a dark day for many a turkey, for the rest of us, it’s a time to enjoy some quality time with friends and family.

We project managers spend so much of our time preparing for the future and living in the moment that we can sometimes forget the blessings of the past.

Here is a list of just a few of the (project-related) blessings we should be thankful for.

A meaningful project: It might seem odd to start the list of with this, but without a project to manage which adds measurable value to our businesses while simultaneously richening our portfolio and experience, why’d we get into this profession to begin with?

A committed sponsor: A good sponsor can make a successful project as surely as a bad one can sink it.  If you are lucky enough to have a good sponsor for your project, rejoice and thank them – they have likely kept all manner of distractions from hitting you while simultaneously shouting the praises of you & your team to all who will listen.  If you don’t, ask yourself, have you done everything within your power to get them to effectively commit?

Vocal stakeholders: Yes, they can be frustrating, and yes, they can be misaligned, but give me a stakeholder who openly resists instead of the one who smiles to my face but stabs me in the back.  If nothing else, challenging stakeholders provide us with excellent practice for crucial soft skills such as expectation management, negotiation, influence and persuasion.

A self-managing team: John “Hannibal” Smith frequently said “I love it when a plan comes together!“, but I’d prefer to say “I love it when a team comes together!“.  If you have a team which produces more than just the sum of its parts, recognize their efforts and accomplishments frequently, but most important, stay out of their way!

Supportive resource managers: With the exception of project managers working for projectized organizations, the rest of us need to forge productive partnerships with the resource managers who own the direct reporting relationships with our team members.  These positive relationship need to work both ways.  A resource manager proactively lets us know if a higher priority initiative is coming along which might require them to pull one of our team members but will also go to bat for us to get us the best possible resources for our work.  On the flip side, we’ll keep the resource manager in the loop if we are forecasting a lesser or greater draw on their team members.

Our peers: Whether you work within a PMO or have a loosely established community of practice, the support and knowledge provided by fellow project managers is critical to our success.  Applying lessons found out the hard way by them, getting the inside track on how to work with certain stakeholders or team members and learning exactly how to fill out that cryptic project artifact are just a few examples of how our peers support us daily.

The profession: I’ll close out my list with the project management profession itself.  While it can generate a lot of frustration to work in a profession which focuses on unique endeavors possessing high degrees of uncertainty, most of us got into this gig for the challenge.  Yes, you could have joined any one of a number of other jobs which would have provided you with more predictable and positive daily feedback, but you can’t complain about the lack of variety when it comes to ours!

So take a moment to reflect over the past year and raise a glass to all which we project managers have to be thankful for!

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Does project management competency come with experience? It depends!

swissarmy2It depends” is the common answer to most general questions posed on LinkedIn project management discussion groups.  This is a valid response since projects are unique endeavours and what might work well within one situation may be the worst possible recommendation for another.

It is for this reason that Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours rule from Outliers might not always result in success in the project management field.  Gladwell is not alone in using number of hours worked to try to quantify competency.  PMI requires a minimum number of both education hours and experiential hours as eligibility criteria for candidates who wish to achieve one of their certification credentials.

Let’s consider the example of a project manager who has worked for the same department in the same company operating in the same industry managing projects of an extremely narrow range of variation.  After 10,000 hours of experience have been gained, you could reasonably expect that this project manager would be quite capable at managing the same type of project, but lift and shift them from their comfort zone by asking them to manage a completely different type of project within the same department and organization and their success rate is likely to drop.

While this is an extreme example, a slightly more common one is the case of a project manager who works within a single organization managing different types of projects.  Their versatility is certainly broader than the previous case, but even the act of moving them to a different organization in the same industry managing the same types of projects could impact their success rate.  While they can manage a wider range of projects, they’ve still only been exposed to the culture, power structures and nuances of one organization.

I wrote a few weeks back about the benefits of leveraging a diverse group of team members when confronting uncertainty – the same is true about the range of one’s own experience.

These dimensions are just a few of the ones which should be considered:

  • Type of projects – e.g. pure technology, business, construction
  • Primary constraint – e.g. cost, schedule or scope
  • Scale or size of projects
  • Location of team members, sponsor & key stakeholders – e.g. co-located, locally dispersed, global
  • Industries
  • Companies
  • Power structures – e.g. functional, matrix or projectized

Picking the dimensions which are the most applicable to your organization could enable you to develop a formula to quantify a project manager’s flexibility and adaptability.

Is a project manager with 10,000 hours of experience competent?  It depends!



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