Thursday, September 22, 2016

Neuroscience and Teams

On September 21, 2016, I had the privilege to present at the Human Capital Institute’s Conference in Boston, Mass.  My topic was on neuroscience and enhancing team performance through change. This is quite relevant to the project management community. The study of the brain is still in its infancy but the strides that have been done in understanding how we are wired is amazing.

For example, researchers have found that new neural pathways continue throughout a person’s life. However, it does not occur just by doing your normal routine. You need to learn something new and become proficient in the new skill. Last year, I decided to do a triathlon. I had not done one in over 25 years. This was a goal but it was also learning new skills. Sure I knew how to swim, cycle, and run. However, I needed to learn to swim in open water, not a pool, shift gears appropriately on my bike, and pace myself to have enough energy to do the run. I succeeded in the meantime created new neural avenues in my brain.

This year, I plan to learn drawing techniques. You need to understand, I can barely draw a stick figure. What made me think to do this new skill? I recently went to an establishment called Painting with a Twist. A group of six strangers or a group of friends are led by a skilled painter. I was convinced I would paint the Eiffel tower in a starry, starry night motif, in a Picasso cubism rendition. Much to my surprise, the painting was half way decent.

So why am I advocating to learn something new? As we build these new pathways our minds become more innovative and creative. This is what a project, program or portfolio team needs! Creative, inspired and innovative individuals will develop creative solutions to problems, issues, and designs. Think about the Post-It note. The product was a failure. The Post-It note was not created to be a little note that you could stick almost anywhere as a reminder. However, a creative and innovative person on the team was able to look outside of the constraints of the project and see a valuable use.

As neuroscience continues to grow and we further understand how the brain is wired for motivation, for work, and for creativity, there will be great potential for the project management industry to flourish. Let’s face we are all about people!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Standards and Portfollo

I have always been one that takes the best aspects and novel ideas (that I later test) to develop portfolios for clients or ones that I have created and led. I was quite interested when I read a blog from MrPortfolio. He aptly pointed out that there are two standards that drive portfolios today. There is PMI's Standard for portfolios and then there is the Management of Portfolios (MOP). He aptly points out the differences and similarities between the two tomes.

He also touches on the certifications for portfolio. There is the PMI certification and one for the MOP. He suggests both or if you can only afford one then the MOP. He also states he is biased toward MOP. As an individual that has the PMI portfolio certification (PfMP) and intimately familiar with MOP but does not have the certification, I respectfully disagree.

I would contend it depends where you practice. If you do business in both the US and Europe, then I would suggest that you find the funds to have both certifications. If you practice mainly in the US, then stick with PMI's certification. PMI is quite well known in the US. However, if you practice mainly in Europe then the MOP should be the certification. You must cater to your clients and audience.

I wholeheartedly agree with MrPortfolio, that as a practitioner in the portfolio arena you NEED to know both documents. Each has its strengths and weaknesses. I will not bore you with those because MrPortfolio did a fine job of outlining them. Again, do what is right for your client or your company. Understand both, and you will in all likelihood develop a project portfolio that will help the organization meet its strategic objectives.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Situational Awareness


I recently came across an article by consultant Melanie Nelson about project management and situational awareness. In the article, Nelson argues that project managers need to be more than just technically savvy.

They must also be able to see the bigger picture and understand the context they are working in—including industry culture, employee pain points and the other projects and business goals competing for attention in the company. They must hone their situational awareness.
Situational awareness is the ability to understand what is happening around you, why it is happening and what you need to do or not do in reaction. Some call this a soft skill, but I believe it goes further than that.

As rookie project managers, we learn about which processes and procedures are done in what order. However, project managers with situational awareness may question, for example, whether or not all steps in the process need to be completed, what processes must be changed to accommodate the needs of the organization or even if the correct methodology is being used.
For a software project, that could mean questioning if agile or waterfall is the best approach or if lean should be used instead. To paraphrase Nelson, she loves Kanban but she knows that it is not appropriate for all projects.

Situational awareness is a skill beyond understanding earned value management, creating status reports, or managing conference calls and client meetings.

It is about asking, for example, in those client meetings questions such as:

Do you have the attention of the client? Are the right people in the conference room? If not, why not? What will you do about it?

It is not easy and takes a lot of practice.

Do you have the situational awareness needed for your project?

Originally published on by PMI

Thursday, September 8, 2016

People Count

Mr. Dehaze, CEO Adecco Group, recently posted an article on LinkedIn discussing why companies need to move beyond Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). He advocates investing in people and reporting on this investment as pre-financial Key Performance Indicators (KPI). As a portfolio manager, you can be the key to drive these KPIs and show the value of people within the company.

You may wonder how? You, the portfolio manager have a unique view of the resources available within the company and/or organizations. You understand the capabilities and skills of the employees working on projects and programs. This understanding includes where there is a gap in needed resources or a gap in skill set. However, it goes farther.

There needs to be a sustainable model for those entering the job market and those already employed. When reviewing Adecco’s CSR report it is centered on people, within the company and outside the company. There are metrics on helping athletes, metrics on helping the new generation to become marketable, and many other people oriented metrics. Granted Adecco is a staffing agency, so its focus is people. But when you think about it, all companies are about people.

Portfolio management’s major task is resources and the major part of resources is people. The resources drive the value of the portfolio. By increasing the sustainability of the company through the promotion of people will increase the viability of the company. This, in turn, helps future generations.

You can help this pursuit by advocating the need to sustain people for now and the future. Are you a portfolio manager that will sustain the most valuable asset of a company?