New Mindset in Continuous Learning and Project Management

It does not take a lot of observation to know that life is dynamic, and so life is about change. Yet sometimes we resist and are not comfortable with change even though we know there is nothing constant in life except probably CHANGE, Taxes, and Death. Some say that under the sun there is nothing constant but Change; be it Change through Evolution, Revolution, and Big-bang!

CHANGE IS NOT AN OPTION. I am afraid we cannot shut ourselves from the world even if we choose to live in isolation in Timbuktu. As much as we refuse to change there, all things around us including ourselves will change over time. Besides, life is guaranteed boring without change. Change is continual, and this is a given.

I can also say this for sure: CHANGE TAKES PLACE FASTER OVER TIME – making shorter life cycles for a lot of things in life. Changes make things obsolete. I used to say that what is good now may not be good in a century to come. Now I find it is no longer applicable, instead WHAT IS GOOD NOW MAY NOT BE GOOD IN MONTHS TO COME.

 IT revolution and globalization and the changes they have brought about into our lives, be it in the way we live, how we do business, in information processing and dissemination, in the entertainment world, in the way we talk, call, and communicate to others, and many more.

 IT revolution and globalization has brought about massive changes in life, in how we work, or the work processes we use. This in turn creates KNOWLEDGE BASED SOCIETY & COMPANIES.

These changes bring about more and more competitive world. Companies are driven to change the way they operate to be more CUSTOMERS CENTRIC or to lose out in competition.

Professionals of today face multi challenges of staying current and up-to-date in their field and remaining competitive in the workplace. So do the project management professionals of today as well. The constantly emerging information technology, the era of globalization, the knowledge based society we are in, and the more and faster changes created make it imperative that all professionals, fresh graduates, new comers in the industry, as well as those more experienced practitioners to continually update their skill, expertise, and know-how both for themselves for their personal growths and for the performance of the organizations where they work. These conditions have compelled us to:

  • Accept changes with open mind
  • Be flexible to adopt, adjust, and adapt
  • Learn, Re-learn, and as required Unlearn those that have become irrelevant and obsolete over time
  • Be clear & fast, know what we want, how we want it, and take action
  • Embark on Continuous learning as CONTINUOUS LEARNING IS CONTINUOUS EARNING

Project management is the most critical business skill and competency of today that forms the basic building block of knowledge based company for businesses. As more and more companies and government agencies are adopting and making Project Management their strategic competency, experienced project management practitioners as well as newer comers in the industry are challenged to adopt the latest sound project management knowledge and the best practices in order to meet the demands of both the customer and their own organization in delivering projects on time, within budget and within scope. This need makes it imperative that all project management professionals, fresh graduates, new comers in the industry, as well as those more experienced practitioners to continually refresh and update their skill, expertise, and know-how both for themselves for their personal growths and for the performance of the organizations where they work. Continuous learning will go beyond the adage of continuous earning as the sound project management knowledge, skills, and the latest best practices will enable project managers to perform better in estimate, planning, implementation, and monitoring of the project.

Project Management Office Provides Better Marketing Results

Many people believe the rigor and discipline of project management mixes with the creative nature of marketing like oil and water. While it does takes some getting used to, once the routines are established, the relationship not only works, but the marketing effectiveness actually improves. The more marketing channels: TV, radio, print and digital media, and the greater the frequency of creative refresh, the larger the benefits become. In marketing, media, and advertising, a cookie-cutter approach to project management will not work. There has to be a better way!

Firms often implement a Program or Project Management Office (PMO) to manage the large, complex, or costly projects. The differences between a Project and Program Management Office will be left for another discussion. Marketing budgets in some cases represent a significant portion of a company’s overall operating budget. When viewed holistically, marketing projects potentially require complex coordination between multiple agencies and across channels. Therefore, marketing is a logical candidate for a PMO. Unfortunately, marketing departments often view the full rigor of the Project Management Institute (PMI) prescribed approach as too structured to support the creative process. Also, many marketing organizations believe the PMI process requires too much overhead for the required agility to quickly adapt to the marketplace. The solution is to use an approach that balances rigor and flexibility while still providing the necessary status visibility and control of marketing projects using only the highest value components of the PMI process.

The PMI is a large project management training and certification organization. The PMI’s Project Management Professional (PMP) is only one available certification for project managers and is a widely known and accepted form of accreditation. The quantity of PMI certified project managers influences most Program or Project Management Office s (PMO) to follow PMI established approaches. The commonality fostered by the PMI results in very similar documentation templates and processes regardless of department or industry. While this similarity simplifies staffing and training issues, perfect for information technology projects for example, it does not establish the flexibility marketing and advertising organizations require. The PMI certification is only one indicator of project management competence in an individual. The marketing project manager will require more than project management skills to successfully manage marketing projects or establish a marketing PM. The project manager will have to become agile in managing multiple work streams in a fast paced environment, where market forces can and often do dictate sudden changes in direction. The project management approach cannot slow down the marketing process.

Establishing a PMO in a marketing organization presents a special set of challenges that calls for creative approaches. Success of the PMO requires deep understanding of project management principals. The experience to strike a balance between the prescribed project management methods and avoiding interruption of the creative development is essential. The correct approach to establishing a marketing PMO adds value by:

· Providing just enough process to maintain financial and status visibility to organizational leadership through the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) and above

· Establishing a communications process to enhance coordination of on-brand messaging across marketing channels for consistent impactful marketing that motivates clients and consumers to purchase goods and services

· Flexibility to adapt to our clients’ specific goals and market needs, as well as consistently deliver outstanding service

I have found that the use of a PMO approach tailored to the special needs of the marketing department offers extended value beyond the points listed above. These will differ by organization but often include the following:

· Raising senior management’s confidence in the solution. Project sponsors and decision-makers must believe the creative direction is sound and well supported before they can accept it. Regardless of the specific creative approach, senior management will have higher confidence when the brand managers and other key stakeholders have all contributed to a comprehensive consideration of the issues involved in the selection process.

· Aligning Stakeholders. By establishing coordination of multiple activities and providing a forum for all stakeholders to contribute they will be informed of direction as ideas transform into on-brand, marketing content and effective in-market execution.

· Improving efficiency. Deploying marketing materials usually requires significant effort. There are planned events that need to be addressed like sales conferences, new product launches, sports events, concerts, etc. that require material be available at specific times. The PMO provides planning to enable the highest quality materials without the inefficiencies and lower quality of a last minute scramble. I have encountered situations where important opportunities to connect with the consumer were missed, or met with lackluster content – all due to lapses in the planning process.

· Enhancing Marketing performance. I have witnessed situations where after the PMO was established, the marketing team was able to reverse declining sales and generate significant growth by improving the cross channel communication and consistency of consumer oriented messaging.

When all of your departments within your brand’s marketing group are working toward shared goals with a coordinated timetable, you will know your PMO is working. You will be able to consistently present your brand across channels, and your marketing efforts will be increasing sales.

What to Look for When Hiring a Project Manager

Ever since my hair turned white, I’ve been having fun with jokes about how things were in the past. Since I was blond to start with, truth to tell, I’ve been doing those jokes since I was young. But one thing hasn’t changed much in the many years I’ve been a project manager.

I’m referring of course, to the quality of hiring for my specialty. Or perhaps I should say the lack of quality. Frankly, most job advertisements for this position are designed to attract the wrong person. Even worse than most job adverts, they are totally focused on the wrong things.

I’m convinced that this is the result of a lack of knowledge of what is really involved in the role.

I’m also convinced that the source of failure (and the high percentage of failure) is directly related to this lack of knowledge.

So what should project manager job ads actually be focused on?

One hint is that technical skill is not on the list! In fact, if we review the causes of project failure you’ll find that lack of technical skill is at the very bottom of the list. And it typically occurs only in projects which are high risk. This implies that they are bleeding edge projects attempting to exploit technologies which are not yet part of the mainstream.

Multiple studies have found that the top four reasons for project failure are:

1. Poor communications

2. Poor management of expectations

3. Poor management of requirements

4. Poor project planning & project management skills

Both the top issue and the second issue are communications issues. Even the third issue has a major communications element. Only the fourth issue in the list is a technical skill — and it’s not even one of the technical criteria we were referring to previously!

Part of the problem lies in the historical origins of the position. Traditionally, project manager was considered to be another word for technical lead. In other words, the most skilled technician on the project. The individual most able to supervise and mentor other technicians. However, most industries (such as construction) where project managers have a long history have broken with this progress. In these industries, a project manager may have a history in a technical job. However, the position and progression stream is unrelated to the technical work. Rather it is a managerial stream related to other project management tasks such as project estimation.

In fact, most project managers are actually functioning at a directorial level. A project team is normally made up of managers who are responsible for the work being done. While banks may refer to a manager of managers as a senior manager, most organizations refer to this level as a director. This undervaluing of the position continues throughout the management progression. A PMO director for example is typically equivalent in responsibility to a vice-president.

So what are the criteria that should be used for hiring a project manager?

A project manager should be hired on their knowledge of project management tools and techniques. After all, they are the specialist in applying these skills. Second, they need to be hired based on their management skills. This includes the ability to make trade-offs and to identify strategic priorities. Third is their communications skills. After all, this is what will cause them to succeed or fail.

Finally, when hiring someone for this role, you should look for experience dealing with similar teams. This includes both the number of people on the team, the number of levels involved and the relationships between the people. This is the true technical skill that is needed.