As a project manager, trust your team

A bad project management shirtThe other day I was shown some targeted marketing for a T-shirt on my Facebook feed. The T-shirt was geared toward senior project managers (which is something I’d listed in my work experience). This is what it said:

Senior Project Manager: We do precision guess work based on unreliable data provided by those of questionable knowledge

I see where the T-shirt maker was going with this, but it frustrated me to think there are project managers out there who might share this attitude. In my opinion, it is a poor project manager that questions the knowledge of the people on his or her team. That’s because as a project manager, you aren’t outputting a whole bunch of project deliverables on your own. It is your team that is doing the majority of the work on project deliverables. If you don’t trust the knowledge of your team members, and if you can’t find ways to work with them to provide reliable project data, then you’re going to be a pretty poor project manager.

It’s crucial as a project manager to get to know and appreciate your team’s strengths and weaknesses and to learn to work with your team members to create a schedule for deliverables that your team is realistically able to accomplish. If the data that you are receiving from your team members is unreliable, then it’s up to you to find ways to help your team members provide reliable data. The same principle applies when it comes to working with customers or clients. If your clients are providing you with unreliable data, then you should work with them to provide realistic data that will allow you and your project team to get the expected work done in a predictable and efficient manner. This will make everybody happy…. except for maybe the T-shirt makers.

PMP Certification Project Management

PMP Certification salaries: men vs women

PMP salaries men vs womenChetan Ramesh from Bangalore, India sent me a tweet to let me know that he’d included a quote from this web site in an infographic he had created for Simplilearn. His infographic shows a global comparison between the experiences and salaries of men and women, based on data, where PMP certification is concerned. He also shows which industries employ the most male and female project management professionals.

I think it is important that Chetan has highlighted the fact that on average, men earn more money with their PMP certifications than do women. He does indicate that the pay for women project managers is catching up to those of men, which is a good thing. Hopefully it will not be too long before both men and women earn salaries based on their skills, not their genders.

If you’re a project professional working in the field of Information Technology, this is something that you should take note of. In interviews and when hiring or promoting your employees, make an effort to judge the people you are hiring based on their skills, work experience, education, and certifications, and not based on factors such as race, gender, or religion.

Marketing Product Design

Respect your product or service’s core function

Sonic toothbrushI have a Panasonic sonic toothbrush that I bought for a decent price a few months ago from Groupon. It is a pretty good toothbrush – for proper oral hygiene I recommend using a sonic toothbrush in general (and flossing regularly, of course).

One feature that this particular sonic toothbrush has goes as follows: every 30 seconds, the toothbrush stops operating for a split second so that you will know that it is a good time to switch “zones” in your mouth (front right quadrant, back left quadrant, and so on). They do this to encourage users to brush for a good two minutes, allotting 30 seconds per zone.

This particular feature of the toothbrush really bothers me. For a while I couldn’t figure out why that was. After all, it only shuts off for a split second, and then continues brushing as normal – until 30 seconds later, that is, when it will shut off again to let you know that another 30 seconds have gone by.

This morning while brushing my teeth I finally realized why this feature really bothers me. I bought this toothbrush for one reason, and one reason only – to brush my teeth. Shutting off that function, for no matter how short a time, goes directly against the core function of this product. I didn’t buy the toothbrush as a toothbrushing timer, I bought it so that I could clean my teeth. You can add extra features, sure, but don’t do so at the expense of the core function of the product.

My toothbrush shutting off for a split second every 30 seconds is akin to having a car that stops moving every 30 miles to let you know you’ve driven for 30 minutes, or a phone that mutes every 30 minutes to let you know you’ve been talking for 30 minutes. Maybe you care about knowing how far you’ve driven or how long you’ve talked on the phone for, but if you do, you probably have another way of tracking that. You don’t need your car or phone to do it for you at the expense of your driving or communication.

Although my toothbrush is a pretty good one, when it comes time to replace it I won’t be getting another one like it. I’ll get one that does what it’s designed for and lets me worry about the rest.

PMO Project Management

The Virtual Project Management Office (PMO)

PMO FrameworkMy dad, Tony Crawford, is an accomplished fellow. He’s been working in the field of Information Technology since his graduation from King’s College in London over 45 years ago. Many of those working years have been spent managing projects, programs, people, and data. He’s worked as a high-level executive for the Canadian government, as an executive at a large consulting firm in New York City, and he spent several years living overseas in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, consulting for Bell Canada and Saudi Telecom. I myself have some very interesting memories from these times!

For many years, my father has been interested in project management. He’s PMP certified and has dedicated a great deal of time to project management consulting for a variety of different organizations. He also regularly conducts a series of webinars to help people understand the ins and outs of proper project management.

Tony CrawfordOne of the more interesting ideas my dad has come up with is the idea of the Virtual Project Management Office (PMO). An effective PMO is important to successful project management within an organization, but many companies are of smaller size or do not have the funds required to maintain a proper PMO. The Virtual PMO is a way to have a PMO without a PMO; all of the various PMO operations within the organization are organized in a virtual manner.

My father has created a webinar to explain the Virtual PMO, how it works, and some valuable information about managing PMOs in general. It’s free on YouTube, and in my opinion it’s definitely worth watching. You can find it here:

Please check it out and let us know what you think!

Project Management

A project manager’s responsibility

A desk in a home officeNobody’s ever asked me what I think is the most important function of the project manager. There are many potential answers to this question. However, I would say that the project manager’s most important function is responsibility.

I’ve met many project managers in my career, who manage their projects using different styles and abilities. Some of these project managers were not, in my opinion, responsible project managers. If a member of their project team were to do something wrong, or cause the project to be delayed in some way, these project managers were quick to “throw them under the bus”.

This is not a helpful practice. For one thing, if you constantly throw your project team members under the bus, they’re going to lose trust in you. And if the project team doesn’t have faith in their project manager, you’re not going to have a cohesive team, and you’re not going to be able to work together to accomplish important goals. For another thing, blaming your project team for the problems with your project is not going to look good for your clients or stakeholders, even if it happens to be true.

In one of my jobs, I worked as a project manager for a large, very important project with project team members located all over the world – Europe, North America, and Asia. We had some consultants working for our team from a big name consulting company. We had an important goal coming up, and during our daily project team meetings I would ask them how the project is going, and whether or not we’re on track. The answer would always be “yes, we’re on schedule.”

… right until the day before the due date of the work. That was when these contractors suddenly realized that they would need at least another week to get their work done.

This, of course, is not acceptable. It also taught me a thing or two about how to track the progress of my project team members… “are you on schedule” is not enough; you need more detail to ensure that you can make the call whether or not the work is properly on track each day. But lessons learned aside, I had a big problem on my hands… the client was expecting work to be done tomorrow, I had told them the day before that the work would be done tomorrow, and then all of a sudden it is a week late.

You might think this would be a good time to explain to the client the problem I had encountered with our contractors. But that would have several negative consequences:

  • It would make it look like my company didn’t make good choices with hiring contractors
  • It would make it look like I was pointing fingers (with good reason)
  • It would make it look like I didn’t have good control or insight over my project team’s work (in this case, this was at least partially true)
  • Most importantly, it would not solve the problem.

So I accepted responsibility for what had happened, and immediately offered potential solutions to resolve the problem. I left the project team out of it. Of course, internally we dealt with the problem with our contractors, and they ended up leaving the project. But that was something that did not involve the client or the stakeholders.

It wasn’t easy. Accepting responsibility for something you do not feel is entirely your fault is difficult. But as the project manager, you are responsible. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you are at fault for all of your project’s ills, but at the end of the day, you are the person who is responsible over the project, problems and all. And as a project manager, you willingly accept that responsibility and all of the joys and pains that come with it.

If you remember this, it will make you a better project manager. You’ll have the trust of your project team, and the respect of your clients, stakeholders, and managers.

PMI PMP Certification Project Management

Do I have enough work experience to take the PMP exam?

Calculating PMP work experienceI get asked a lot of questions on this site (which I am always happy to answer)! By far the most common question I am asked is:

Do I have enough work experience to take the PMP exam?

In order to apply to take the PMP examination, applicants need to have acquired 4,500 hours of professional work experience leading and directing projects. This doesn’t necessarily mean “work as a project manager”, but the Project Management Institute (PMI) wants their PMP-certified project managers to at least have experience working in all five PMI process groups before applying to take the PMP examination.

When I am asked the question, it is usually accompanied by an amount of time someone has worked at a position – three years experience, for example. Many times the person is not technically a “project manager”, but does fulfill some of the project management roles in his or her organization. A lot of times the person has no project management experience at all.

The thing is, it’s pretty much impossible for me to say “yes, you have enough experience,” or “no, you don’t”. I don’t know what aspiring PMP applicants do during their day to day jobs, or how many hours per day they spend doing it. It’s up to the person who is applying to the exam to figure out for his or herself whether or not he or she has met the work experience requirements to apply to take the PMP examination.

So here is what I recommend doing:

Entering PMP work experience

  1. Make an educated guess whether or not you realistically have enough project management work experience to meet the 4,500 hour requirement. If you are pretty sure you don’t, there’s no use going through the next steps. If you do, you’ll have to do the next steps anyway to report your work experience to PMI. If you think you might be pretty close, go ahead and take the next steps.
  2. Fill out a spreadsheet with your professional work experience leading and directing projects. You will notice I’ve linked to a spreadsheet that I have included for download on this site that you can use to accomplish this.
  3. Figure out whether or not you have the required work experience to sit for the PMP exam. If you do, you’re good to go! You can apply to take the exam, and file your work experience as required on PMI’s PMP application form. If not, you can look for ways to get project management work experience without having PMP certification.

It makes me happy to receive questions on this site, and I try to be as helpful as I can, but I just can’t see into anyone’s day to day work life to figure out whether or not they’ve got the proper work experience to get PMP certified. So if you’re wondering whether or not you do, go ahead and find out! Just remember that the work experience has to be 4,500 hours of professional work experience leading and directing projects – simply “working on projects” that are managed by other people won’t do.

Good luck!

PMI Project Management

PMI’s new PDU requirements

PDU requirement changesFor the fall of 2015, The Project Management Institute (PMI) has changed their Professional Development Unit (PDU) requirements for PMP certified project managers interested in renewing their credential. This is according to PMI’s Continuing Certification Requirements (CCR) program. The various PDU categories from before have remained the same; however, the maximum and minimum quantities of the number of PDUs that you can earn in each category has changed.

With this change, PMI has increased emphasis on PDUs in the category of Education in response to employers demanding up-to-date project management skills from their PMP-certified project managers. 60% of PDUs are now required for this category. In addition, there is now a minimum number of PDUs required in the Technical Project Management, Leadership, and Strategic and Business Management categories.

Meanwhile, the maximum number of PDUs that you may earn in the Giving Back to the Profession category has been decreased. The activities in this category have not changed; they are: Volunteering, Creating Knowledge, and Working as a Professional.

PMI has supplied a useful infographic that gives a rundown of the various maximum and minimum number of PDUs that you need to earn in order to renew your PMP credential. It is worth reviewing. This graphic also applies to PMI’s PgMP, PfMP, and PMI–PBA credentials.

PMI’s new PDU requirements

Here is a quick rundown of the new system:

  • A total of 60 PDUs must be earned each three-year cycle
  • A total of 35 PDUs must be earned in Education
    • A minimum of 8 PDUs must be earned in Technical
    • A total of 8 PDUs must be earned in Leadership
    • A total of 8 PDUs must be earned in Strategic & Business Management
  • A maximum of 25 PDUs can be earned in Giving Back
    • No more than 8 PDUs may be earned in Working as a Professional

As mentioned, the various PDU categories and the items within them have not changed since the previous iteration was introduced.

PMI’s new PDU requirements effective change date

According to an email I received from PMI, it appears that any PDUs filed before December 1, 2015 may be filed under the old system. Any PDUs filed after that date need to be filed according to the PMI Talent Triangle skill areas—technical, leadership, strategic and business management.

If you’re a PMP-certified project manager, best of luck with earning and filing your PDUs!

PMI PMP Certification Project Management

Project manager salary update

PMP certificateThe Project Management Institute (PMI) released its 2015 Global Job Report at the beginning of this year. Inside, they listed updates to the economic outlook for different countries around the world, and how project managers and other project professionals are faring in the job market in terms of salaries and job opportunities.

It turns out that project management professionals are doing well in 2015. Economic growth around the world is up, and project professionals are commanding competitive salaries in specific sectors in each country.

Project manager salary highlights

Here are the median project manager salaries earned in different countries around the world, in United States dollars:

  • Australia: $134,658
  • Brazil: $58,963
  • China: $27,156
  • India: $27,052
  • Mexico: $44,763
  • Nigeria: $35,707
  • United Kingdom: $90,666
  • United States: $108,000

Do you like charts? Of course you do. Here’s that information in chart form:

2015 global project manager salaries

Maybe we should all consider moving to Australia…?

One quick note – while Canada was not featured on this list, I was interested in finding out how much money Canadian project managers have been making. On December 19th, 2014, PMI posted that Canadian project managers made about $98,517. At that time, United States project managers were making $105,000, so you might assume that Canadian project managers are making over $100k USD in 2015.

PMP project manager salaries

While the article doesn’t specifically mention how much PMP certified project managers are making in comparison to non-certified project managers, the 2014 article referenced above indicated that in the United States, project managers with PMPs made about $14,500 more than their non-certified peers. That’s no small chunk of change!

Project Management

Continuous improvement means more than just improvement

A salt mine in Salzburg, AustriaWhenever I read about continuous improvement, I’m always a little surprised that the improvement part is only a small part of the equation.

After all, if you are simply “improving”, you may think you’re doing a great service to your organization, but in fact, you may simply be spinning your wheels!

In order to really and truly improve, you need to know a few things:

  • What needs to be improved
  • What you are actually improving compared to what needs to be improved; whether or not you are improving the right things
  • The impact of your improvements; whether or not your improvements are doing any good
  • The cost of your improvements in time, budget, and resources; whether or not it’s worth doing the things you’re doing, and what the opportunity costs of improvements are in terms of projects or other improvements

Looked at it this way, actually improving things in your company is a very small step, and depending on what you’re improving, it may actually be the wrong step! Continuous improvement requires a great deal of commitment in both planning, execution, and monitoring and controlling.

PMP Certification Project Management

The human side of project management

The human side of project managementProject management hiring managers tend to place a lot of emphasis on two things: experience managing multi-million dollar projects, and PMP (Project Management Professional) certification. Both great line items to list on a resume.

But if you’re an experienced project manager, then you are well aware that someone who has experience managing projects and who has earned their PMP certification might very well not be an effective project manager. Even someone without the skills required to lead and direct projects can coast along as a project manager for a few years, and eventually have the required education and work experience to sit for the PMP exam.

One skill that project managers need to have to be an experienced project manager is the human touch. Project managers who sit behind their data and make calls based on project statistics are not going to be effective when it comes to managing projects. Project managers need to have a handle on the human relationships involved with bringing different people with different skill sets together to achieve the remarkable.

Project managers need to:

  • Be able to handle drama. Often difficulties will arise – conflicts, often of the human variety – that project managers will need to understand and, if not help to resolve, work around. Issues like these are hard to label as risks, and if you try to indicate these risks in a risk register, people may be offended. But they are certainly risks. Only by managing the people involved with the project can you move forward in this situation.
  • Understand the strengths and weaknesses of each individual team member. I often see people named as “resources”, and treated as interchangeable.
    • We’ve got a consultant coming in, so he can simply take over your lead developer’s role, and you can get the job done.”
    • “If you take this software developer off of this project and stick him on this other one, you can simply transfer his 8 story points’ worth of work from this project to that project.”

    If you’re an experienced project manager, you know that this is simply not the case. People have different skills and, quite honestly, some people are simply more skilled than others at certain jobs. If you know your resources well, you can better predict the outcome of projects and better manage budgets and timelines.

There are plenty of other examples of ways that knowing the human side of project management is of crucial importance. If you can think of any others that you have experienced in your own project management career, please be sure to let me know!