I hope this new post finds everyone doing well!
Today I want to share with you some upcoming changes that will no doubt change how we communicate and act as project managers. The new version of PMBOK is being released later this year and as with previous versions, our vernacular, templates and even the certification exam will experience the necessary updates.
Here are some of the specific changes that should help you transition forms and templates in preparation for the official release date. Several processes will experience name changes to reflect the philosophical evolution of the Project Management Institute.
1- “Control Risk” changes to “Monitor Risk”
2- “Control Communications” changes to “Monitor Communications”
3- “Plan Stakeholder Mgmt.” changes to “Plan Stakeholder Engagement”
Other changes include:
1- A new chapter dedicated to the Talent Triangle
2- Iterative and Adaptive processes like Agile will be included in PMBOK 6 Ed.
3- ITTO’s will be deemphasized
4- Three processes will be added and two others deleted.
A few minutes of introspection should signal to anyone certified with the PMBOK 4th Edition or earlier, that a new PMP exam prep course is the perfect means to get professionally updated.
Anyway, it looks like 2017 will continue to be an exciting year for the project management profession and project managers everywhere.
The Easiest Way to Infuse Creativity & Innovation into Your Organization: Hire Veterans!
Over the last few years I have witnessed an increase in organizations dedicated to helping military veterans transition back to the civil workforce. Most of them are as committed to the former service members as to facilitating the process. Others, however, see it as one more opportunity to profit from yet another government program.
Veterans have a myriad of abilities and talents, just like their civilian counterparts. Many people have tried to facilitate veterans’ reintegration into the civilian workforce with programs that translate those talents in ways that are easier for civilian employers to understand. However, this approach is not enough to provide a full picture and continues to drive the perception that veterans cannot adapt to the “new reality”. The situation is made worse by former military (I’ve encountered several) who proclaim to help, but are content with the status quo.
How can any professional, regardless of industry, look at the current HR processes and procedures and believe they’re working? Almost daily we read articles about how important fit, culture, EQ, etc., are to identifying and hiring the right people. It seems like every other week we hear about “The Best 7 EQ Questions,” or “5 Perfect Culture Questions” needed to identify the perfect candidate.
Obviously, the system and processes are broken. Perhaps the worst part is the fact that a society that reportedly craves innovation, creativity and thinking “outside the box” will consistently overlook the very pool of talented people who excels at creativity and thinking outside the box. The very same group could reenergize our every industry because of their tenacity to work a challenge until a way to prevail is found.
WARNING: Seeking creativity and resourcefulness? A perspective adjustment is required!
I suggest a new approach to facilitate our veterans’ return to the civilian workforce. We often hear the word “translate” used to explain the process of relating military talents and skills to civilian skills & jobs; therefore I will use the same analogy to make my case.
I possess native level fluency in English and Spanish and I understand a little (“skoshi”) Japanese. Many would correctly consider that an asset, but I want you to look deeper. The greatest advantage is not in knowing the words, but rather in the desire and ability to understand how others communicate their thoughts and ideas to me. This point is central to my argument, “I understand others better when I learn their language and how they communicate.”
As a leader, instructor, and communicator I craft my messages in the “language” that my audiences use and understand. I would be totally ineffective if, at the end of a lecture or speech, I am the only one with a clear picture or understanding. Therefore, if we endeavor to find the best talent, it would be advantageous to know and understand the veteran’s language as well as our own. This is not a one-way street. Civilian employers and HR professionals need to put as much effort into understanding veterans as they expect these valuable candidates to do.
Implementation is easier than it might sound. You likely already have veterans working among your ranks that can bridge the veteran candidates “language” gap today, without need for additional training or tools. Just point the way; they will know what to do. If you don’t have a veteran on staff already, hire one – for this specific purpose – and they’ll help you.
The list of talents a veteran brings to an organization is so extensive I will not attempt to list them all here. However, I do wish to highlight a few of the most significant and in most needed by “corporate America” today:
Positive Attitude – Our veterans do not see situations in the same light as civilians do, where good situations are blessings and bad ones are curses. We see only challenges to be overcome. Oftentimes, veterans are experienced enough to offer several courses of action and potential or even likely outcomes for each.
Adaptability – Veterans are comfortable working in groups of every size and adjusting to different roles, according to situational need. They are as comfortable taking a leadership role as they are working in a supportive role.
Versatility – Because veterans possess such varied talents and skills they are often able to serve in multiple roles simultaneously in support of a project or business goal. You are not likely to hear a veteran say: “Sorry, that is not in my job description”. They are not above learning new things or going the extra mile for team success.
Professionalism – Veterans are always looking for opportunities to grow and further develop their skills. Officers and enlisted alike receive formal leadership training during their career. They also get management development training according to their specialty.
Resourceful – Veterans pride themselves on their ability to find a way to get the job done. This is our American heritage! When it has mattered most we have thrown away the rulebook and found a new or unconventional way to achieve our goals as a nation. Look at our 240-year history; maintaining the status quo is not how we changed the world. This same spirit is alive and well in our veterans. You can visit any U.S. military unit, anywhere in the world, and you can be sure to hear, “Improvise, Adapt, Overcome!” as the rallying cry to meet a challenge.
The bottom line is this: If you are in business, you owe it to yourself and to your organization to consider veterans as an untapped well of innovation and creativity. You will find more value in them as individuals than can be articulated and represented in a resume or an interview, because your organization is starving for the intangibles your automated HR system cannot measure.
Trust me; the way forward is best described by the closing lines in the movie Demolition Man:
[Rob Schneider] “What do we do now?
[Spartan to the Chief of Police] “Well you are going to get a little dirty…
[Spartan to criminal Eduard Friendly] … you are going to get a lot cleaner…
[Spartan to both] … and we’ll figure it out somewhere in the middle!”
Elevate Your Thinking & Improve Your Leadership
This morning as I scanned my Linkedin news feed, I came across a post from one of my favorite sources of business information, Stanford GSB. Pictured was Elizabeth Holmes, Founder & CEO of Theranos. The caption on the picture read, “The minute you have a back-up plan, you’ve admitted you’re not going to succeed.”
Unfortunately, there is no additional information to support her statement, and negative comments began flying in from all over the globe, literally! Not wanting to join in the crowd without considering the merits of her point of view, I began to search for a logical explanation that would help me understand this entrepreneur that drew the attention of one of the most prestigious universities and business schools in the world.
One possible explanation could be that having a back up plan may be perceived by some as the leader(s) having doubts that the plan is sound and its implementation will deliver the desired outcome. However, a leader who is a good communicator may explain that some uncertainty will remain, even when every attempt has been made to mitigate most of the risks associated with the plan. I believe that providing this explanation and emphasizing trust in the team’s aptitude to overcome the challenge would ease their minds and encourage them to succeed.
Another possible reason for making such a statement could be that having a back up plan may call into question a leader’s commitment to the plan. Perhaps, but in my personal experience a back up plan shows 100% commitment to achieving a goal. History and military strategy offer us many lessons that can be used to illustrate this point. For instance, Alexander the Great conquered most of the known world and remains without equal to this day. He would challenge his generals to develop a plan to win the battle and brief him the day before the engagement. The morning the battle was to begin, he would brief his generals a whole new plan. This proved to be successful time after time, even though it was unorthodox.
As an entrepreneur and former military officer, I see great value in developing a back up plan and seeing alternative courses of action that could help me reach my objectives. One reason is that rarely does a plan survive first contact, and it is our ability to respond to the reality of a dynamic environment that enables us to succeed.
When we move from concept to reality, all of our assumptions are challenged and some are inevitably proven wrong. If we wait until an assumption fails to come up with a back up plan, valuable time will be lost. And if this happens at a critical point in the project, it can have catastrophic consequences for the team, the project and organization.
I wish Ms. Holmes would expound on her statement, to allow us to better understand her point of view and learn from her experience. Until that time, I hope that we will all commit to listening with the intent to understand. This is not only a matter of enlightened behavior; it also is a necessary character trait of great Leaders!
“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” Aristotle
The Gap Between Leadership Seminars & Being a Leader
Have you noticed the proliferation of leadership training programs and seminars around the country? The Internet is full of ads with claims that this or that seminar can fix an organization’s leadership issues with a weekend retreat or online program. I am not faulting the businesses for seeking to correct a critical deficiency that is so important for their prosperity and survival. But, while seminars can teach us about leadership styles by providing examples to follow and traits we should develop, they cannot turn a manager into a leader overnight.
A colleague once cautioned me about emphasizing this point too much, saying that many project managers are sensitive about drawing a hard line between the two terms. Well thank you for the heads up, but here are the problems I see with that posture: First, if no one ever tells us that we are wrong, how can we ever hope to learn and improve? Second, as an avid reader of Harvard BR, Stanford GSB, MIT Sloan, and a Fellow of Heartbreak Ridge University (25 year Navy Veteran), I am personally compelled to set the record straight!
“Leader” and “manager” are not synonyms. Period. And although they are often used interchangeably, they actually have very different meanings, purposes, skill sets, and traits.
Let’s assume, for the sake of the argument, that managers and leaders were actually the same. How, then, would you explain that so many organizations struggle to develop great leaders? The proliferation of business schools has definitely made it possible for business minded people to obtain instruction and graduate degrees in a variety of management disciplines; and yet we are still challenged to find great leaders to emulate in every organization.
The reality is that “leader” and “manager” are very different terms. In truth, you can be a great manager and yet fail as a leader. One reason for this is that we can manage resources, but we must lead (guide) people. Professor John Kotter, (Ret., Harvard) would explain it this way: “leadership is about navigating change, while management is about control and standardization.”
This is a very important distinction for everyone to understand, because it succinctly explains what is wrong with so many organizations and their leadership programs. So many organizations struggle today because they expect managers to control change. They don’t want or don’t realize they need to invest in grooming leaders to guide them through change to a new reality.
Case in point: last week I received an email from a colleague (sent to multiple people.) In it he expressed his delight with an 8-hour leadership seminar he had attended and just completed. But as I continued to read, his praises for the course and instructor changed into sharp criticism of another colleague of ours, who was neither present nor copied in the email. Needless to say, I was very disappointed because he holds a leadership position in a professional organization.
I am certainly not opposed to giving feedback; it is an integral part of leadership. But leaders must praise in public and reprimand in private. When you conduct yourself like my friend did, you immediately lose credibility as a leader. The most valuable asset a leader can obtain is the trust of those around him/her. Never correct people in public. You lose their trust by humiliating them, you disrupt team dynamics, and you will end up with the reputation of being a bully.
How can you be an effective leader if your own people do not trust you? How can you expect to inspire a team that wishes you were someone or somewhere else? Dr. E. Deming stated that 85% of problems in organizations originate with management. This simple example shows how a small thing like a comment on an email can have unintended consequences that harm your professional reputation and your organization.
My colleague is a skilled manager. And I have no doubt he paid close attention and gained valuable information from attending that all-day leadership seminar. But here’s the bottom line – the critical key – the crux of the issue: he has not been mentored and groomed to lead people. A seminar – while helpful – is just not enough.
Leading people is a privilege and a heavy responsibility. It also requires a good bit of “getting over yourself.” If you truly want to be a good leader, find a great leader to mentor you. Invest the time and effort required to learn and grow. It will be worth it, I promise.
“Customer Service” doesn’t apply to Project Managers.
Or… does it??
Have you ever been in a situation where you are so excited about getting a new product that you choose to ignore subpar customer service to get the item?
Unfortunately, I think we have all been there more than once. Our desire to acquire the item is so intense that we are willing to overlook the momentary inconvenience of a distracted or rude sales person.
However, two things normally follow these experiences: first, once we have successfully procured the product we make a point to avoid returning to that business for future purchases, and second, we share our bad experience with family and friends.
I realize that this may not be new information to you, but the implications of this scenario affect us everyday in our personal and professional lives.
This dynamic manifests itself whenever we interact with other people, impacting that relationship beyond that moment. To prove the validity of this point, substitute from this scenario the product and replace it with a service or maybe the act of buying something for a conversation with a colleague at work or perhaps a stakeholder.
If the experience is less than optimal, chances are that either of you or both will have reservations about working or collaborating together in the future.
Some will read this and think that it is not a big deal, but I hope the next few lines will change that opinion. Although it is true that we do not have to attract every potential customer to be successful, why would anyone willingly work to counter his/her own efforts? The idea is to stack the deck in our favor, not against.
If you are a fan of military movies, perhaps you have heard the saying:
“High Speed – Low Drag”
Obviously popular among aviation enthusiasts, it identifies the dynamic that exists between the speed at which the aircraft travels and the resistance of the wind acting against it. Most people focus on the flashy part – the speed – but the drag is always present and must be considered.
Online marketing has increased the “speed” at which your customers procure your products and/or services. User experience can serve to increase customer loyalty or create an antagonistic relationship “drag”.
Millions of people today can and do share their opinion about everything they like or dislike with their friends and thousands of others in an instant. These expressed opinions can affect the opinions and actions of others towards a company, a product or service, or a person.
The truth is, everyone in the organization is or should be concerned with Customer Service and User Experience. This is because every interaction with another person creates an indelible user experience that fashions their opinions about us and it either increases satisfaction (speed) or dissatisfaction (drag.) This is especially true for project managers, because they have internal andexternal customers and stakeholders.
Project Managers always seek to craft the win-win scenario in every relationship and at every opportunity. The most effective way I have found for crafting the win-win scenario is by adopting a customer service approach, which I want to share with you.
I (PM) will help you (stakeholder, customer) get what you need (result) and then I will receive what I need (acceptance, success).