Newsletter December 2018

Business Acumen

 

bmc dec newsEver wonder why your project managers (PMs) don’t seem to support your organization’s longer-term strategic objectives? Sure, they’re able to achieve project objectives, but do they have the business and strategic management skills that are so much in demand today, to drive your organization into the future?

According to the Project Management Institute (PMI®) today’s businesses must have project managers who are skilled in business intelligence if they expect their projects to increase revenue, save cost or seize opportunities to deliver better services.

This month’s topic is business acumen. It’s a handy way of summarizing a number of skills in the business-oriented competency cluster of PMI’s talent triangle.

Here are some tips for upskilling your PMs in business acumen.

 

 

Improve Financial Literacy.
If your PMs do not have business degrees, ensure they take at least one formal course in the business foundations of accounting, finance, marketing and management. Encourage them to read financial periodicals, books and annual reports. Give spot assignments that require them to attend strategic and business planning sessions. See if a senior manager in the finance department will mentor them.
Broaden your PMs’ perspective.

 

Upgrade Market Savvy.
Assign your PMs to undertake a market analysis project, conduct a customer satisfaction survey or monitor new trends in products or services similar to yours. Provide development opportunities on a joint venture or as a team member trying to solve problems in other functions in your company. Ask them to conduct lessons learned on projects that penetrated a new market.
Help your PMs make better contributions to the business.

 

Raise Competitor Awareness.
PMs who don’t scan the horizon for competitor threats or best practices may out of touch with the drivers of your company’s success. Provide opportunities for them to study and benchmark competitors. Model competitor networking. See if you can give them a rotation through a different product line that is getting ready to launch a new brand.
Challenge them to know your competitors and how the company plans to beat them.

 

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Newsletter November 2018

Utilizing the Organization

WBS newsletterHow often do you feel like a referee between projects competing for human resources? Do you get worn down by the constant tug-of-war?

Are you training your project managers to identify and use the resources of the organization to lead successful projects? Are you providing the processes and tools to get the right skills on the right projects? If not, your struggles will continue, and may even worsen.

Here are three tips for improving the way your organization allocates, supervises, and shares its human resources.

WBS — a time-tested technique for starting the project resource management process.

 

1. Right size and right skill your projects.
Coach your project managers in good practice techniques as they organize and staff their projects. Encourage them to use time-tested tools such as the work breakdown structure and the resource breakdown structure to align the statement of work, work packages, activities, and required skill sets. With these in hand, the PM can specify the skills, experience and time required for the project. It’s the organization’s responsibility to ensure the functional managers match resources to the requirements.

2. Hold the functional managers accountable.
Too often, resource commitments to the project manager are not honored. Sometimes, a resource reports to the project without the required skills and experience, or even worse, is overcommitted and can’t deliver on time. Another dropped commitment is in the area of performance management. Ensure the functional manager is responsible for how the resource is performing. Don’t allow your functional managers to do “drive by” allocating by dropping off the resource then driving away. Keep them engaged in assisting the PM in managing productivity.

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3. Prioritize your projects based on resource availability.
Help your PMs benefit from the concept of sharing resources without running into the downsides: lost productivity, frustration, low motivation, and constraints that can lead to schedule delays. Teach your PMs how to generate a resource plan that ensures no resource is underutilized or over committed. Have a system that makes resource availability visible across the organization.

 

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Newsletter October 2018

Benefits Realization Management

5b36c295-d5fc-4b5a-aa35-e7692f6adcceHow many of your project managers (PMs) have an “elevator speech” about how your business makes money? How many could then explain how their project adds true benefits to the money-making?
In today’s world, project managers should be able to explain to anyone and everyone how they are managing the benefits their project is bringing to the business. According to the PMBOK® Sixth Edition, there are several skills your project managers should have–or be acquiring–when it comes to strategic competence. One of them is benefits realization management.

If your organization has ignored this dimension of PM development, take a look at what can happen when the PM is skilled.

 

 

 

The PM has a powerful tool for aligning stakeholders.

What a way to get stakeholders excited about a project! Getting them involved in the identification and planning of project benefits could be the start of managing expectations and influencing behaviors that support progress. Teach PMs how to leverage this tool.

The project stays aligned with business strategy.

The literature is brimming with examples of projects that went off the rails and failed to deliver the expected benefits to the business. While there are many contributing factors to this type of outcome, PMs are in the best position to monitor alignment and raise an early warning when realizing the benefits is slipping away. A recent Pulse of the Profession® report by PMI® describes how organizations are better able to control cost and schedule when they master this skill. Create or adopt a methodology for checking alignment.

PMs benefit professionally.

Here are a couple of benefits. When PMs learn to manage benefits realization, they take decisions faster and with more accuracy because they are guided by how project strategy links to organizational strategy. They also benefit when the project has metrics related to delivering benefits to the organization. This could be part of your PM’s performance evaluation and total compensation. Train your PMs to do this.

 

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Newsletter September 2018

Stretch Assignments: Extend, but Don’t Break

What’s the secret to stretch assignments? How much elasticity should be built in? When it’s time to develop a project manager, many organizations make stretch assignments part of the plan. Is it more than assigning someone to a project with bigger scope or scale?

At GBMC, we say emphatically, yes—much more. It’s more than throwing a PM into the deep end of the pool without a flotation device. That’s risky for both the learner and the organization. When a stretch assignment is part of the plan, we recommend answering the following three questions.

sept graphic1. Why this assignment?

Organizations with mature talent pipelines have guidelines for developmental assignments. One of the first guidelines is to have the candidate’s career goals well defined and documented. Another is to ensure the manager has had an in-depth conversation with the candidate about how the assignment is an opportunity for growth. Sometimes, the candidates may have to be relieved of other duties so they can focus on this challenging development project. Another less tangible guideline is to instill in the PM a sense of courage. If it’s truly a stretch assignment, your PM has to have confidence going into this new challenge.

 

 

2. What outcomes are expected?

Without clear development objectives, there is a risk that an assignment results in your PMs being stressed out and fatigued. Lacking direction, PMs can be left confused about what was supposed to be learned. When developing your PMs, make sure the skill gaps you identified during skill assessments can be closed by this stretch assignment. Document what the learner will be able to do (or do much better) when the assignment is over.

3. How do we check on progress?

First, take a realistic look at the learning curve to see how many new skills the PM will be working on. Then, put supports (safety nets) in place if there are more than 3 skills with steep curves. Supports can include coaches, mentors, training, reading, etc. Finally, establish milestones during the assignment when the learner is given time to reflect and discuss what is being learned. Include milestones when the manager checks progress. These milestone check-ins should be distinct from other performance or skill assessment activities. They should be dedicated and focused times for the PM to get recognized for skill building or a time to ask for help before it gets too risky.

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Successful stretch assignments are planned and monitored.

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Newsletter August 2018

Think about the last time you assigned someone to manage a project.

Did you send them on their mission with your teeth clenched and fingers crossed? Or were you smiling and nodding because you were confident that person was the best prepared project manager for the job?

Wouldn’t you like to have the latter experience more often? You can, once your project management organization has mastered the art of PM development planning.

In recent newsletters, we’ve explored what it takes to document a PM skill set and to manage your talent pipeline. Let’s turn our attention to what happens inside the talent pipeline that turns potential into performance: Project Management Development.
Here are three tips, derived from GBMC’s years of experience:

1. Experience is the Best Teacher:

There is research that demonstrates learning on the job has the greatest impact. If you just plan to put your PMs in a classroom, hoping they’ll develop, both the organization and the PM will be disappointed. Stretch roles and develop-in-place assignments should be the major components of your PM’s development. While that sounds logical, it’s often difficult for the organization to gauge which assignments will grow talent, but it is possible to figure it out.

2. Build Individual Development Plans (IDPs):

Don’t succumb to the “one size fits all” myth. Your PMs have unique development needs, are in different stages of their learning curve, and have individual preferences for how they learn. Fill the gap between where they are today and where they need to be tomorrow with a variety of learning modes and checkpoints suited to their career trajectory, situation, and ambitions. And remember to include the learner in the planning!

3. Include Coaching In the Mix:

Organizations often overlook the power of learning from others. We learn from good bosses, bad bosses, other PMs, and subject matter experts. Coach your PMs to learn from observing others in the roles they aspire to and to seek out experts who have been trained to coach. There are all kinds of opinions on what good coaching looks like. Keep in mind the coach doesn’t do the work; they guide learners through dilemmas and tough experiences, and help them navigate the learning landscape that’s best for them.

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Newsletter – July 2018

Do you know what’s in your project management talent pipeline?

If you don’t, how can you put your best project managers on the projects that define the future of your business?

At GBMC, we’ve noticed that companies with a pipeline seem to know that their businesses depend on it. Businesses grow through projects that are aligned with their strategies, and project managers grow through being in your talent pipeline.
Last month, we discussed the importance of having a standard by which to measure acquisition of project management skills. This month, let’s cover how to feed and review the project manager talent pipeline.

There are three key concepts to remember:

1. Know your inputs.

Develop or use an existing method for testing potential. Many companies make the mistake of “doubling down” on the performance part of a project manager’s potential without realizing they should also look at an employee’s potential to lead, learn, and leverage company assets. You may have project managers who get results on their projects today, but may not be able to grow into projects with larger scope and scale. Assess everyone you’re considering promoting.

2. Review your pipeline periodically.

Depending on your business and the frequency with which you require more highly skilled project managers, gather top executives together to do a talent review. Your top executives should know your project managers and be engaged in seeking them out and paving the way for them to grow. If this is difficult to do, that should be your first clue that top leadership is not connecting project management talent with the success of the business. This is not a Human Resources activity nor is it a performance appraisal. It’s a business imperative.

3. Invest in the rising stars.

This is a hard one. In many companies, we want to be “fair.” We hope to give everyone an equal chance. But think of the way we might manage an investment portfolio. Many times, we have to set sentiment aside and bet on the winners. We advise you to invest heavily in those with the most potential to grow your business. If your method for assessing potential is research-based, reliable, and repeatable, you will see a return on the resources you spend to select and develop your future superstars. Spend with extreme prejudice.

Now you know how to feed and review your talent pipeline for improving your business,. You can see that there is a way to allocate precious development resources. One additional leadership responsibility is to calculate the throughput your business requires. Some companies know how many project managers they need to develop over how much time. In other words, how many project managers need to be in the pipeline – how many going in and coming out. It gives executives a line of sight into how many projects they could or should take on in their 3-5 year or 10 year strategic plans.

 

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Past newsletters are available here

Newsletter – June 2018

Developing PM Talent – The Importance of Project Management Skill Profiles

Project Manager. What does good look like? Can you point to one person in your organization who sets the standard for leadership, business acumen, and technical project skills?

Can you articulate what the standard is? Too many of us may shrug and say, “Well, not really, but I know it when I see it.”  This is a threat to the future of your business.

We’re all about improving performance through project management, but if you do projects and you don’t know your managers’ skill strengths and weaknesses, we see a significant risk to performance improvement. The skill profile is one of the most important levers toward clarity on what skills are required.

 

Last month we discussed the importance of having a skill profile and a systematic process for reviewing your talent and closing skill gaps. But you must have a standard against which to measure, so now, let’s dive deeper into skill profiles.

As with most successful performance improvement initiatives, it all boils down to good leadership. Here are four leadership development tips to consider:

1. Keep it Simple
When collecting and analyzing data related to poor project performance, ask yourself, “what are the underlying causes?” If it’s lack of competency, it can be fixed. Select the vital few competencies that are linked to your strategies for improving project performance. Arrange them in a weighted profile. Most organizations arrange competencies according to size and complexity of projects, then determine what skill level is required to succeed. In the spirit of simplicity, we suggest high, medium, and low for skill levels.

2. Make it Systematic
To get started, find a model and develop your own Approach. Use an established industry skill framework that is research-based, reliable, and repeatable. Then select only the vital few that will impact your business. Apply the approach to all members of the project management job family, then execute a Full Deployment. At designated intervals, audit the profiles and make adjustments to institute Continuous Improvement.

3. Monitor Performance
Establish an interval for reviewing performance of all members of the PM job family against the profile. It’s a good practice to have multi-rater reviews that build on the supervisor’s observations. It aids in objectivity. When project performance is of utmost importance, organizations ensure the executive team knows the skill level of its PMs and they set aggressive targets for development of skills.

4. Celebrate Results
Track results of assessments and progress on skill development plans, and most importantly, positive movement in project performance trends. Publicize improved outcomes.

 

Past GBMC newsletters are available here

 

New Project Management Professional (PMP®) Exam Preparation Programme to be held in Brussels in August and December!

Project Management Professional (PMP®) Exam Preparation Programme to be held in Brussels from 6-9 August and 17-20 December 2018

Our intensive 4-day PMP® Prep seminar is specifically designed to help experienced, knowledgeable project managers and team leaders master the “A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide)” content and pass the PMP®  exam.

To register for this event please click here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The program’s objectives are to provide:

  • A thorough understanding of the principles of the Project Management Institute’s Project Management Body of Knowledge Guide (PMBOK Guide® 6 th Edition, published in 2017).
  • Learn how the PMBOK Guide defines projects, programs, the portfolio and links it to an organization’s strategic objectives.
  • Learn how the structure and content of the PMBOK Guide’s 5 Process Groups and 49 processes related to the 10 Knowledge Areas are applied in projects.
  • Learn how to prepare for and pass the PMP® exam.

 

To register for this event please click here

More detailed information is available in our attached programme outline.