Newsletter September 2020

Training PMs Virtually

What is the most frequent excuse given for NOT training your project managers (PMs) virtually? Here are a few:

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“Upskilling in turbulent times is too difficult. We’re too busy trying to stay afloat. We just don’t have the technology. We have to undertake reductions in force, so we really don’t know right now who should be trained.”

We will concede that if your organization hasn’t kept up with instructional technology, when turbulence hits, it may seem too difficult. Advancements in digital technology may be outpacing your ability to convert existing training programs to new platforms or your ability to design for the virtual world.

No matter if your organization is keeping up, or seems behind the digital curve, here are some tips for training project managers when face-to-face training is not feasible.

sept 1Use existing technology. Most organizations have some type of remote meeting technology. Find a tech savvy instructional designer and let them use some creativity to repurpose meeting technology for delivery of awareness and knowledge transfer training. Skill-building training may be difficult, unless the trainer/instructor can use video to observe a learner demonstrate the new skill. Alternatively, skills can be developed if the trainer can examine a deliverable the learner produces. Many polls and studies reveal that lack of training is a major reason for employee flight.  Show your PMs you care about keeping them up to date and are willing to invest, even though virtual training may have to start out on a shoestring budget.

Invest in instructional technology.  Upskilling your PMs is a bona fide way to improve project performance. Don’t let your PMs repeat the same mistakes on their projects because there’s nothing going on to advance their careers. Try some of these suggestions: 1) If you have a learning management system, seek out existing courses or catalogues that you can purchase and “push” to your PMs. 2) Consider using virtual reality as a training delivery mechanism. Virtual reality hardware is much more affordable and transportable these days. 3) Leverage features on existing platforms such as chat, virtual labs, screen sharing. 4) Consider using open source software to deliver training remotely. Investment can be minimal and incremental. If you don’t already have one, there’s no need to roll out an upscale, enterprise-wide technology suite. 

Leverage micro learning. Designing and developing a 5 to 7-minute mini tutorial is low effort and high return. PMs can access a relevant lesson on demand that is focused on one topic only, and available though a good search engine. For awareness training (you want the PMs to recall a few key concepts) podcasts are a good way to engage learners. Gather up a decent microphone and user-friendly recording hardware with audio editing software. Install them in a small room with some sound-proofing, add a knowledgeable expert willing to share, and you have a recipe for fast development of PM training. Be creative with the scope and scale of virtual training. 

 

We’re not recommending you interrupt what your business needs to be doing to weather turbulent times, but GBMC is suggesting that training your PMs virtually can be a modest sept2investment with a good return. You will see benefits in employee retention and satisfaction. Now, more than ever, employees need to know you value their skills and career advancement.

Our self paced online Project Management Tools and Techniques program is available now.  Please click here for more information.

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Newsletter August 2020

Leading Virtual Teams

Are your project managers (PMs) equipped to navigate and lead in these turbulent times? 

In times of uncertainty, when stress can be acute, the managers of the PM organization must ensure its PMs are skillful enough to lead their teams through trouble and setbacks.

This month, we continue our discussion on how to lead virtual project teams. GBMC has some tips about how to support your PMs in three areas:

 

Maintain Composure. If you see or hear your PMs losing their composure, they may be in the grips of extreme stress from the project, the challenges of leading virtually, or something in their personal life. This is the exact time their teams need to see their leader exhibiting a sense of calm. Set up or step up one-on-one check-ins with your PMs. Provide stress management coaching or training. Ask the PM for what would make a difference. Don’t impose your solution. You should not condone PMs losing their composure. Support and coach.

 

 

 

Be authentic – See the person. Encourage PMs to put more effort into informing others and revealing more about who they are. Suggest they simulate informal information transfers that used to take place in the hallways and coffee bars. Encourage them to use many different channels of communication, perhaps some never used before. Let them experiment with short virtual sessions that are fun—the teams can use their imaginations to organize pet happy hours, coffee chats, in other words—non project topics.  Ask your PMs to step up the coaching of individual team members. You may want to ensure your PMs have the skills to have challenging conversations with team members that may end up including very personal topics. Encourage more authenticity and a sense of caring for each other.

 

 

Flex on Project Requirements. Amid unusual times, your employees want to know what’s going to happen next, and that may not be clear. Your PMs are trained to know the “big picture” of their project and to communicate the plan. That may not always work to full effect when there is uncertainty and ambiguity about the future. Allow your PMs the freedom to be more agile with project constraints and requirements. Teams have to work harder these days to stay aligned. Give some thought to allowing PMs to eliminate or scale down some “nice-to-have” requirements if those particular requirements are becoming unmanageable constraints.

 

Trust your PMs to deliver on the “must-have” requirements and flex on the “nice-to-haves.”

 

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Newsletter July 2020

Leading Virtual Teams

The perils of overdue action items! They eat away at your budget and schedule.

Project managers who follow the good practice of tracking and closing action items may find this difficult to do remotely. It takes more effort and it’s harder to engender team-driven accountability without the peer pressure, normally associated with social interactions. It’s even harder if the PM doesn’t have a method for monitoring and controlling action items.

This month, we continue our exploration of virtual project leadership. Here are some tips for identifying, tracking and closing project action items in a virtual world, assuming PMs already use a tracking system for action items.

 

Closing action items begins with accountability.  Improve your PM’s leadership skills in the area of accountability. Very often, action items don’t get closed on time due to a lack of accountability in the team, and this can be traced to how the leader behaves. The team should hear and see the leader model accountability for him/herself and others. When leadership takes ownership for an action item, and admits (without blaming others or circumstances) that it didn’t get done, the PM sets an environment where it’s safe to be transparent about missing deadlines and asking for help. The PM needs to be explicit in holding team members accountable. Ask those who are tardy what support or resource is needed to get an action item closed. Give recognition to those who close on time. Set up an early warning system for those who know they may be late, so they can get help early.
Instil a sense of caring. Teach PMs to ask about team members’ well-being, and in particular, about their work/life experience working remotely. Coach them to ask about their plans, problems and aspirations. For some team members, virtual work is less stressful, less costly and provides more autonomy. For others, it may result in opposite outcomes. In the latter case, find out and help with a remedy if you can. Team members who are shown care, tend to work more effectively with and for their PMs. (Lominger, 2010)1. This can be a boost to closing action items. In most instances, when action items are closed on time—and meet the performance standard—the team is actively involved in project control. Encourage PMs to promote team-based project control through caring.

 

Teach PMs Effective Virtual Meeting skills.  In the virtual world, planning and conducting meetings can be challenging. Ensure your PMs have the basic skills to plan, facilitate and follow up meetings and provide tutorials or coaching on how to succeed leading online meetings. In virtual meetings, some good practices may need to be exaggerated slightly. For example, have all or part of the meeting standing up, use an online timer (visible to everyone) to monitor the agenda timing, or put a walk around break in the middle of the meeting. Consider having two or three short meetings rather than one long one. Keep the action item status visible and dynamic. Promote innovation in good meeting practices so action items are respected. 

Lominger (2010). For Your Improvement: A Guide for Development and Coaching. Minneapolis: Lominger International: A Korn/Ferry Company.

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GBMC helps SNCB-Belgian Train in PM² adoption

Global Business Management Consultants (GBMC) offers PM² consulting, training and certification services to SNCB and YPTO

GBMC Belgium has formed a consortium with CAPGEMINI Academy for the provision of Consultancy and Training Services to SNCB-BelgianTrain. Since 2010 the consortium partners have trained thousands of PM² certification candidates both within the European Institutions and in the private sector.

GBMC is PM² Alliance Affiliated Training Provider (ATP) and its trainers are PM² Certified Trainers by the PM² Alliance. GBMC has helped with great success in large organisations and public sector organisations to roll-out PM² in their organisations and projects.

CAPGEMINI trainers are also experienced in PM² and currently provide in-class and online training to the European Commission and other EU Institutions.

The objective of this collaboration is to deliver expert assistance to support the tailoring and implementation of the PM² Methodology (B-PM²) at BelgianTrain. The B-PM² aims at improving the collaboration and management of projects across SNCB departments aligned with a common PM² (and portfolio) approach, governance, best practices, tools and processes.

 

The consortium will support the SNCB Corporate PMO (cPMO) to:

  1. Tailor PM² and Agile PM² Methodology to the needs of SNCB
  2. Align existing business processes, including programme & portfolio processes
  3. Adapt B-PM² to current management tools
  4. Advise on organisation wide Business Implementation strategies and activities

Global Business Management Consultants have already delivered a large number of PM² trainings to YPTO – SNCB’s subsidiary that provides IT services to the rail operator. The trainings were successfully delivered in 2019 based on the European Commission’s PM² Methodology and on GBMCs experience in providing such trainings.

The PM² Alliance Trainer Programme has prepared all GBMC trainers to teach PM² and the highest level in accordance to the PM² Alliance standards so that in turn, they can also prepare SNCB staff in using PM² effectively in their projects and in achieving a PM² Certification.

https://www.pm2alliance.eu/our-news/gbmc-helps-sncb-in-pm2-adoption/

Newsletter May 2020

Iron Sharpens Iron during Virtual Interaction

Isolation has led many to muse that working remotely may become the norm rather than the exception for many organizations. With this comes continual virtual meetings. However, as weeks of isolation turn into months, we are seeing that effective team leadership via the screen is more complex than simply inviting everyone to a virtual meeting. So, what can we draw from our experiences thus far and what can we learn from others to optimize these “virtual interactions” (i.e. allowing others’ experiences to “sharpen us”)?

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A March 26 article in The Economist provided insight by interviewing two tech CEOs with long experiences leading distributed workforces. The results highlight changes in how we should interact virtually for maximum effect. Let’s put some of their insights into practice by looking at how good project management techniques lead to better operations management in these times of screen communication.

 

May 3Michael Pryor, co-founder of Trello (whose workforce is 80% remote) says that virtual communication must be more transparent and explicit than face-to-face interaction, and that documentation is key. Another Tech leader, Nat Friedman, CEO of the open source project company, GitHub, (which arguably is the world’s biggest distributed enterprise, managing millions of online projects) goes further. Friedman says distributed firms favor wordsmiths, not good speakers as traditional firms do, and good writing demands clear thinking and discipline.

Does it seem strange that virtual verbal com­munica­tion requires better written discipline? It shouldn’t. When interacting virtually, you can’t be an effective communicator with vague, rambling, ad hoc comments. Crisp written communication, like a succinct, well-conceived verbal message is the product of an organized thought process. Here are some tips you can draw from the field of project management to better manage all virtual interactions.

 

 

Agendas are golden. The strength of a written agenda, sent ahead of time, sets the scope of the discussion and limits rambling.

Lead with a consultative, coaching approach. Ask leading questions of participants. It sets a tone of openness. A good leader has the Situational Leadership technique of coaching (when appropriate) mastered.

May 4Break meeting issues down into explicit, bite-size chunks―what project managers call “creating a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS).” All participants will benefit from a leader who applies this technique to framing complex issues virtually.

Make action items SMART. After the team discussion, when conclusions and actions are drawn, the discipline of leaving the meeting with SMART tasks (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound) captured in written meeting notes makes expectations both transparent and explicit.

Motivate your team virtually. Finally, motivating your team to action online requires the leader to take a genuine interest in the career development of the participants. Explaining how a task assignment can help build a valuable skillset and passing along helpful topical articles you’ve read are two tips that can convey a sense that you care about people in a holistic way, not just as task machines.

How is this different from effective face-to-face interaction? It isn’t. It’s just that with virtual interaction, the bar has been raised. People listening via computer audio pay more attention to the leader’s content than when they relied on in-person visual cues. Transparency and explicitness are now at a premium. Writing things down before and after using techniques from the project management toolbox benefits any leader or manager who wants to optimize their virtual interactions.

If you want to explicitly learn how to sharpen the iron of your virtual leadership skills and those of your team on projects or in operations, GBMC offers proven results in project management training and coaching. One of our participants in a course last week said it all:

“Despite the virtual environment, the training is very interactive allowing participants to ask questions, debate, share experiences and contribute actively. The content is presented in an understandable manner with concrete examples. Great work….”
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Newsletter April 2020

The value of training in the midst of a downturn

You probably read the headline of this newsletter and shook your head. GBMC cannot really be recommending an investment in training when the economics for my organization are grim.

Yes. This is an unabashed attempt to convince our readers that investing in your workforce, even in an economic trough, is one of the best ways to prepare your organization for the future. And we always recommend that any investment in your people be aligned with business strategy.

Here are some tips for how to align training with three different strategies for weathering the downturn.

Reduction in Force – In addition to the toll it takes on those who leave, research has demonstrated that it also takes a huge toll on those who stay. Reassure those who remain that the organization has a plan, and their ability to take on additional duties, or switch duties, is being supported by training. This investment signals confidence which, in turn, can improve motivation, which leads to per­­­­form­­­­ance. Show your resources they are valued and worth the investment.

Change Over in Products or Services – If your strategy is to focus on markets
that have greater need or potential, you’ll need a capable and willing workforce to execute that strategy. Re-tooling takes care of the operational system, but our experience shows that if the human system is not re-tooled, most change strategies falter. Throwing your workforce “into the deep end” with no floaties is counter­­productive. Communicate and train for change.

Ride it Out – If your strategy is to hold tight and stay the course, you can still reap benefits from investing in training. Perhaps the downturn means a reduced workload. It’s a perfect time to have your workforce catch up on the training they’ve been putting off. Provide positive incentives, and push some personal and professional development training to their training plans. Deeds, not just words, communicate confidence in the future.

Now comes the harsh reality.

How do we pay for training when the organization’s economics are so poor? Money-saving solutions are readily available:  online, on demand, micro learning, royalty-free training, and so on. We all know the real cost is seat time. How do you fund your workforce on an already stressed overhead?

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Newsletter March 2020

Linking Training to Job Satisfaction: One way to reduce PM talent turnover

What’s most frequently on the short list of reasons why employees quit? Lack of opportunities to grow. No matter which study, which expert you consult, this one factor shows up somewhere on the list of reasons why employees abandon their employers.

March 2020 3Sadly, we know intuitively when a talented project manager (PM) leaves, there are direct impacts (productivity, cost and schedule) and indirect ones (reduction in morale, engagement and trust). But do we know the financial impact to the organization? At GBMC we believe that business performance depends on project performance and successful projects depend on talented PMs with high job satisfaction.

 

 

 

Know the reasons PMs are leaving. Along with that data, calculate the average cost of replacing a PM. And here’s the biggest “wake up” data set:  How much is at risk if you can only get a warm body as a replacement? This endeavor can be fraught with pitfalls. The data taken from exit interviews is rarely accurate. Find the metrics that matter to your organization and the best way to get actionable data.

 

Identify which PMs are flight risks.

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Someone in the project organization must be on top of which PMs are vulnerable to poaching and whose leaving will have the biggest negative impact on the organization. This is talent risk management.  Just like you do for your projects, the project organization should identify and qualify/quantify the risk and put in place your mitigations.  Know your high likelihood / high impact PMs and ensure they have career growth opportunities.

 

 

 

Ensure the career development path is established and communicated well. GBMC is betting that lack of career advancement will show up in your top ten reasons—perhaps even your top five. We’ve seen it before. Management claims to have a career path, but employees can’t see it, can’t own it, can’t do it. Word of caution:  Training should be treated as an important part of that path, but most definitely not the major portion of it.  Great PMs are made through job experience. It’s management’s responsibility to provide larger scope and scale projects that challenge the PM. Put in place (or upgrade) the organizational support structure that coaches and nurtures your talent.

 

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Newsletter February 2020

We need some project management training!”

Here at GBMC, we often get requests for training. We are known for project management consulting and training. When we ask the now famous, Simon Sinek Golden Circle question: Why? (do you want this course) the answer can be, “… the department manager requested a course, so I’m contacting you to deliver it for us.”

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While it is flattering to be the trusted provider of training services, the question of why we are doing the training is uppermost in our thinking—our motto is, “Improving performance through project management.” So, if we teach your employees how to manage projects, we believe it will have an impact on business performance.

We feel responsible to executives, boards of directors and shareholders of the organizations we work for. We think in terms of margins, return on capital employed, free cash flow and payback periods.

 

So the question is, “how do we best link what we do (i.e., training) to what matters most to executives (i.e., financials).” Perhaps you’re asking this question, too. If so, let us offer three thoughts.

 

Training requires a business case.  Ask yourself the why, what and how questions before you decide to train. For training to really make a difference ask, “why would a shareholder see this training as a good idea, what is the specific, measurable problem or opportunity, and how does this relate to financial news feb 4results of our organization? At GBMC, we call this the AIM of training. What business problem are we trying to solve, or what business opportunity are we attempting to exploit? Is it to improve service, increase revenue, or save/avoid cost? By starting with a quantified problem/opportunity, we will be able to design a training course that pays for itself in bottom line dollars and cents savingsThis is a win for everyone.

 

 

Training must close a skill or knowledge gap.  Require participants and their supervisors news feb 2to ask: “In six months, where do we need to be?” This requires an assessment of the “as-is” (i.e., current level of competence), and the “to-be”, which is the desired end state. At GBMC, we use the “Assessment Inventory of Project Management SkillsTM”, but you can design your own assessment. The important thing is to have a before and after measurement. This analysis should result in the objectives of the training.  What must the learner be able to think, say or do differently after the training? Have clear training objectives.

 

Training must be reinforced to be sustainable.  Ask yourself, “how will the training stick?news feb 3” We all know that training courses are good excuses for a free lunch or a break from the routine, but what happens after the training is done? Have we insisted on changed behaviors after the course? If so, are the behaviors linked to financially efficient and/or effective results? Accountability and reinforcement lead to changed behaviors and changed behaviors lead to lasting results.  At GBMC, we abhor “scrap learning.” It’s wasteful. We recommend rigorous follow up and purposeful reinforcement in the workplace. Sustain the gains.

 

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Newsletter January 2020

$37 billion per year is wasted on unproductive meetings in the U.S., according to the Small Business Newsroom.

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Are your project managers (PMs) good stewards of your meeting money? If not, GBMC recommends the following three tips.

1. Review and revise company guidance for project meetings.  Your PM organization should have established methods and tools for planning, conducting, and following up on project meetings. Give guidance about the type and frequency of meetings; whether a meeting is needed at all; the purpose of the meeting and how your PMs control the meeting.  Train them to be efficient and effective meeting leaders. 

2. Give PMs meeting tools.  Once your organization is up to date with meeting technology, ensure your PMs have templates, checklists and the means to issue minutes of meeting quickly. Go with the philosophy of “less is more.” When your PMs are still learning, support them in the planning phase. Have a template that helps them think through the purpose of the meeting.  Is it to pass along information? Is it for making a decision? Is it a bid review or clarification of a contract meeting? A kickoff meeting?  Each type of meeting should have a specific way to conduct it, but all should have a timed agenda. And here’s a curve ball…Let them know it’s OK to not invite or even uninvite participants if the person cannot contribute to the purpose of the meeting. Help them reduce waste by providing the right tools.

3. Reward good meeting behavior.  Here’s the tough part—the human factor. Many PMs struggle with controlling discussions, managing conflict and holding meeting participants accountable for actions. Even when your PMs master the planning skills, conducting the meeting requires additional skills in the leadership domain. Think through what should be on your PMs’ development plans:  facilitation, negotiation, listening, even writing and public speaking. Show them what “good” looks like, and maintain a high standard.

 

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Newsletter December 2019

Have you ever funded a successful project that had unintended and undesirable consequences on the organization? Launched a new product or service that didn’t land well with the customer? Or designed an improvement to an internal system that employees then resisted using? GBMC believes it’s critical to manage not only change to the project but also change caused by the project.
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Here are three tips for doing so:

Determine the breadth of organizational change – The business case, the project charter, and the project plan must all consider what is required to successfully deliver the expected project objectives and benefits. While it’s important that your projects have efficient processes for change, they also should recognize the need for change within the performing organization, within client or supplier organizations, or even within broader stakeholder groups. The change may be temporary, while the project is underway, or permanent as a result of the project.  Some projects, like organizational change projects, have as their primary objective implementing change into the organization. Others, like a software implementation, may have product installation as their primary objective. However, regardless of the main purpose of the project, be ready to manage organizational change as part of the project scope.

news dec 2Use established change models – Project teams should take advantage of established models to help guide them to identify, plan for, and manage change to the affected organization(s).  Many change models are available to help the project team identify organizational change requirements and navigate the change management process.  These include:

– Kurt Lewin’s Change Model (Unfreeze – Change – Refreeze)

– Proci’s ADKAR® Model (Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, Reinforcement)

– John Kotter’s Eight Stage Change Model

 

Select the model that ‘fits’ the project and makes sense to the team and other stakeholders.

Align project outcomes with the project executive’s expectations – We should consider the project from a business executive’s perspective because they are one of our most important stakeholders. At the end of the project, what does the executive want and expect to see? …usually a complete, successful change to the business. For example, the executive doesn’t look at a new product development project as just delivering a working product. They want to realize benefits from the working product.  For example, the executive probably wants to see:

  • happy customers buying, using and gaining benefit from the new product,
  • support by marketing, sales and advertising persons knowledgeable about the product,
  • development by persons who understand new processes and technologies required by the product,
  • use of new materials delivered on time and within budget by qualified and capable suppliers.

Looking at the whole value stream gives insight into the degree of change that is necessary if the project is to be successful and therefore helps identify the true scope of a successful project.  The example above could easily be rewritten for an internal software project, a bridge construction project, or a new school curriculum development project. But remember, all projects involve people, so all projects will require changes in what people do. Managing organizational change is not a luxury, it is a requirement for project success.

 

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