Thursday, September 21, 2017

Surviving as a New Project Manager - managing upwards

Managing upward relationships and expectations

The manager or senior stakeholder to whom you report have some expectations regarding how you manage the relationship you have with them. However hey may not necessarily have made each of these expectations explicit  to you as the project manager.... But never-the-less your performance will be judged partly by whether the relationship needs are met - together of course with how well you eventually deliver on project outcomes. 

There are three main expectations -
  1. They want to be kept informed. How much communication and the level of detail they require in the reporting you do with them should be established up-front. Whether it is weekly, fortnightly or milestone-driven reporting depends upon their needs - and to some extent, the level of trust they might have in you. It's likely, because you are a new project  manager then they will want more regular reporting from you. They definitely don't want to be blind-sighted if there are any issues that arise - so don't try and hide if there's anything that has emerged that can risk impacting on meeting project outcomes. Naturally, always ensure you are very well-prepared for any meetings you have and as far as possible, keep them brief.
  2. Don't dump problems on them. If problems arise, don't just bring them to your senior manager - also bring the suggestions and recommendations for dealing with any problems. Of course there are sometimes organisational barriers that are encountered during a project that perhaps require a higher level of authority to resolve. However in bringing these to your manager you need to describe the issue, the risk it presents, why you are unable to deal with it yourself - and what approval you are asking of your manager. In other words, it's not requiring much further thought or analysis by your manager.
  3. You recognise when to say say no. It's not uncommon for senior stakeholders or your manager to attempt to add further dimensions to the scope of your project. They would like to get a bit more work completed, of course with you still using the same resources (time, people, budgets). It's up to you to protect your team and yourself from unrealistic expectations. If your manager wants it delivered in a shorter timeline, then you need to negotiate for extra resources - whether this means another team-member or some extra funds to outsource some of the coding requirement for example. But the main point here is that you don't agree to something that you end up failing to deliver. Even though your manager might not be happy when you push back on him or her seeking to add something to the scope of the project - it's better in the long run to risk some displeasure at this stage compared to much greater dissatisfaction later because you have failed to deliver. When you fail to deliver on your agreements, you lose trust. Period. So don't be tempted to agree to something you feel is unrealistic in the interests of appeasement or avoiding conflict. Face up to the issue. If you feel you would benefit from some training, then check out Negotiation Course Canberra
Managing relationships and expectations is all an essential part of project management. Yes these will present some challenges to you at times. But in learning how to deal effectively with more senior people, your influencing and negotiating skills will certainly improve and develop through the experience.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

New Project Manager - Take some time to reflect….

Learn to look at things differently
new project manager

A common problem for new project managers when they are first given responsibility for managing people is that they do not actually think about people management issues, simply because they do not initially recognise them as having a priority.

They typically focus upon the need to plan, organise and co-ordinate the allocation of tasks to their staff - and monitor that all work is being completed on a timely basis, with quality standards being met. However, quite often not as much thought is given to how to motivate and effectively handle their people. Software and hardware in many ways will be far more predictable than the behaviour, performance and moods of some people in the workplace

Conflicts, personality clashes, rivalries, un-cooperative behaviour, lack of information sharing, apathy, inattention to detail, failure to follow protocols, inconsistency, unwillingness to show initiative - these are just a few of the difficulties that can arise in a project team if people are not receiving the leadership that is needed.

Put simply, things can go wrong not because you are stupid, but more because you have never thought about it from the perspective of having leadership responsibility. Improving yourself as a team leader is about pausing to ask yourself the right questions, and then taking time to reflect upon things from the different perspective of your new role as a coach, mentor and guide.

    New project manager - leadership of people
  • People have high expectations of those in leadership roles
When some people first gain responsibility for managing others, they adopt a reactive approach of learning from their mistakes – but too often this can prove to be a slow and painful process. These new project managers tend to think that if any little "people" problems do arise, then it will just take a bit of common sense to deal with them.

Unfortunately it often takes them a long time to appreciate that, rightly or wrongly, staff have high expectations of those in leadership positions - and that success in people management requires a different set of skills than just technical capabilities.

Patience, tact, approachability, composure and enthusiasm are just some of the qualities that people look for in their leaders. Remember, when your staff have true respect for you as their project leader, then they will not want to let you down.

If you are new to project management and looking for a short course, visit Project Management course Melbourne

  • A proactive approach to improving your people management skills
By committing yourself to learning as much as you can about what it means to be in a leadership role, and by working at developing both your interpersonal skills as well as your judgement – you will end up preventing many of the problems that can otherwise arise.

You might pick up ideas and tips about leadership through reading management books, or participating in online forums with other new managers, or perhaps finding a mentor whom you respect, and building your own personal support network for support and guidance…….

Whatever you choose, the key is to keep on learning, thinking and reflecting…. And remember not to be too harsh on yourself – we all make mistakes. Just try not to make the same one twice.

By the way, a great resource site with plenty of people management articles is Management Skills Development

Sunday, April 8, 2012

New Project Manager - Tips for building effective project teams

So, you're bringing a group of people together to work on your project. And now perhaps you're wondering how do you go about building them into a co-operative and cohesive team?

The following short video clip offers some important points for you to consider. And the first one is the need for you to set the right example to the team. As their leader, your project team needs to see that you display the same energy, enthusiasm and positive demeanour that you expect of them.

If you've taken the time to select the right people for your project team, then you need to be able to trust them to make some decisions themselves. If they are capable with the tasks that have been allocated to them, and they have a clear understanding of what is expected of them and the wider context within which their work must fit, then provide them with the freedom and empowerment to get on with their job. In other words, don't be always breathing over their shoulder to check on where they are up to.

By all means, yes you are required to monitor the progress of their work and review that quality standards are being maintained  - but let go of the details so your team can get on with it. And try to find some fun ways to celebrate when your team has successfully met project milestones.

If your company is considering offering in-house project management training then have a look at Project Management Course Melbourne for an overview of both introductory and advanced level short courses

In the following short video clip, there are some good ideas offered around building effective project teams ....... See what you think

Some other great ideas can be found at Team Building Tips 

New Project Manager Tips - Effective communication skills

As a new project manager you will be continuously communicating with your team, your project sponsor or client, and other stakeholder groups.

You will be running project meetings and writing up project status reports, perhaps delivering presentations to sell and market benefits of the project. The quality of your communication skills will be a crucial ingredient that underpins the success of your project.

The following short video clip offers some great tips around how to get our message across effectively - both through the spoken and written word. Don't kid yourself - yes, you've been communicating all your life, but that doesn't mean you can't do it better.

So have a look at the video, and see what ideas might help you improve your communication skills for more effective project management

You can find some other good tips for those who are new to project management at New Project Manager Tips  And if your company is looking at a short in-house course to help people understand how projects work, then take a look at Project Management Course Melbourne

People Management Tips for the New Project Manager

If you haven’t had much experience in people management, then here’s a few people management tips to keep in mind …..

1.   You don’t need to know everything – that’s why you have a project team. So don’t be afraid to ask your project team members for their ideas if problems arise.

2.   Not everyone has to do things exactly the way you do it. So, give your team members some latitude in how they complete their allocated tasks. Yes, there are procedures and protocols that must be followed, but there is often also some discretion in the approach that different people may take to completing their work

3.   Ensure your project team meetings are run efficiently. Meetings can be a huge time-waster and source of frustration unless they are well structured, so make sure that the members of your team have an agenda to follow and understand when a meeting is just for status reporting as opposed to some planning or problem solving for example

4.   People like to get feedback. So remember to give credit to your project team members when they are doing good work – never take it for granted. And raise any concerns with people at an early stage – otherwise issues can accumulate and become a source of disruption to the project. Nip performance issues in-the-bud.

5.   Learn as much as you can as quickly as you can about the skills, strengths and limitations of each of your project team members. You may have two staff with similar technical skills – but one of them is more innovative and ideas oriented, whilst the other is careful and precise, with great attention to detail. Learn to harness their different strengths to the benefit of the project.

6.   As a new project manager, chances are at some point you’ll make a few mistakes – don’t be too tough on yourself when you do. Even experienced project managers still make mistakes – just don’t make the same mistake twice. Respect and patience with both yourself and others is essential if you are to succeed in project management. Achieving good quality outcomes is a by-product of building good positive relationships with the people in your team.
For many more great tips on people management, have a look at Management Skills Development Another great article that clearly explains your your role as a project manager with some useful tips on managing the different stages of the project is New Project Manager Tips
And finally, consider if your organisation might benefit from some in house MS Project Training 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Accredited courses in project management

Are you looking to gain a nationally recognised qualification in project management? Here are some training providers that you might consider, if you want to attend an accredited project management course .....
Certificate IV in Project Management     BSB41507
Offer both part time and full time study - as well as on-line study  Units of study for the certificate include ....

BSBPMG401A Apply project scope management techniques
BSBPMG402A Apply time management techniques
BSBPMG403A Apply cost management techniques
BSBPMG404A Apply quality management techniques
BSBPMG405A Apply human resources management approaches
BSBPMG406A Apply communications management techniques
BSBPMG407A Apply risk management techniques
BSBPMG408A Apply contract and procurement procedures
The Victorian government list a range of TAFE Colleges that offer project management courses at Diploma and Certificate IV level

The Australian Institute of Project Management are a professional body, that offer membership and certification for people working in the field of project management

This is one of the best resource sites you will find for locating training providers of accredited courses. Remember, the training provider must be an RTO (registered training organisation) if you are going to gain a project management qualification that is genuinely nationally recognised.

The list of RTO providers, including tertiary, private and TAFE, throughout Australia for the Diploma in Project Management can be found through this link ...

Carefully consider the cost of the course, your preferred mode of delivery (on-line or training room) and of course the convenience factor.

The units for the Diploma of Project Management, together with the national unit codes are listed beow

BSBPMG501A - Manage application of project integrative processes
BSBPMG502A - Manage project scope
BSBPMG503A - Manage project time
BSBPMG504A - Manage project costs
BSBPMG505A - Manage project quality
BSBPMG506A - Manage project human resources
BSBPMG507A - Manage project communications
BSBPMG508A - Manage project risk
BSBPMG509A - Manage project procurement

  • In-House MS Project Course for Project Managers
By the way, if your organisation is looking to improve project managers capabilities with MS Project, then have a look at MS Project Training

More Tips on Selecting Your Project Team

If you can get the selection of your project team right, then your role as project manager will be more about planning, coordinating, guiding and encouraging – and less about directing, training, instructing, cajoling, correcting and mediating.  

So invest the time up-front in a strong selection process and you will reap the rewards later on of a smooth-running and successful project. Here are some more tips for the new project manager to help you select your project team ....
1.   Think about having the right balance of experience in your project team. The young tech genius fresh out of university with their Masters degree may bring capability with the latest technology but lack the “real world” application in the commercial business environment.
2.   Consider the genuine level of desire that staff possess for joining your project. You will likely need to “sell” the project to good candidates within your organisation who have the skill mix you require. But at the end of the day, if there is a choice between a reluctant project member with all the required skills and a keen project member with not-quite all of the required skills – often that extra motivation will more than compensate for the skills gap.
3.   As far as possible, seek out some people who have worked on similar projects – even if their role on that project was somewhat different to the one they will be performing with you. They may be able to suggest processes, procedures or methodologies that could be transferable to your project.
4.   When all is said and done, one of the most important qualities to assess in a prospective project team member is whether you trust that the person will see the project through to the end with you. The person with a great skill set but who has a history of leaving mid-way during projects because something “better” came along, will probably not be someone that you can rely upon.

By the way, if you want some ideas to help you with the effective leadership of your project team, have a look at Leadership Qualities It can be very helpful to understand what people look for in their leaders.

Tips on Selecting Your Project Team

For major and complex projects that you may be called upon to manage, you will likely be required to select staff to be part of your project team. This is one of the most important decisions you will make as a new project manager, and you would be wise to avoid under-estimating its significance.

Your project team members may be selected from a pool of existing staff from within your organisation who you may seek to have seconded to your project on a full time basis. Or there may be internal staff who will allocate an agreed portion of their time to your project whilst still having other responsibilities. There may even be occasions where you need to source external talent to work on a contract basis for the duration of your project.

So, as a new project manager, what should you consider when selecting your project team? …. If you don’t have much experience with this, then here are some tips to help you with the selection process

1.  Complete your task breakdown, and from this list identify the skills and experience that will be required to perform these tasks. But do not limit your “selection criteria” for members of your project team to purely a technical skill set. Equally consider the necessity of personal attributes such as reliability, co-operative team skills and initiative
2.  Try to ensure that your expectations are realistic, or you can end up wasting too much time seeking the “perfect” person to meet all of your skill requirements. There is likely a budget for your project that will place some limits upon who you can actually afford to pay.
3.  Recognise the balance of risks in selecting people who are either under-qualified or over-qualified. On the one hand, those people lacking the requisite experience  will need more direction and guidance from you. And on the other hand, those with extremely high credentials may possibly lose interest if they are not feeling sufficiently challenged.

A great resource article that offers examples of questions you might ask to assess candidates for various attributes such as initiative and personal organisational skills is Interview Questions To Ask  And if you are wanting to attend some training to improve your skills - Selection Interview course Canberra

Friday, April 6, 2012

Agreeing project outcomes

The most essential requirement in project management is reaching a clear agreement with your client about the outcomes your project will deliver.

This is based upon first understanding the expectations of your client and what they are hoping the project will deliver. However these expectations may be unrealistic - they do not become the project outcomes until you agree with them.

In what way might your client's expectations be unrealistic? ......

Sometimes, they want things done quicker than what is possible, given the resources at your disposal. Other times, they don't have the budget to accompany their high expectations.

So as a project manager you need to be able to manage client expectations - and this means you must be assertive. In a pure environment, the project timeline, resources and budget are determined by the goals of the client. But often in the workplace, there are constraints which influence the ultimate scope of the project.

Invest the time up-front in understanding what the client wants to achieve with the project - but make equally sure that you discuss any possible constraints (for example, the number of staff that can be released and for how long, and with what skills)  before you commit to an agreement on project outcomes. 

Your reputation and future credibility will only become tarnished if you over-promise and under-deliver! And also ensure that once the project outcomes are agreed together with the associated budget, resources and timeline - that this is properly documented and signed off with your client.

You have a record of the project scope that will help prevent later misunderstandings. This is now the foundation on which the project will be constructed.

In closing, if you are seeking some training in project management, have a look at Project Management Courses Melbourne - short one and two day in-company courses that offer tips and tools for the new project manager. Another useful course that is delivered in-house is MS Project Training, in case you are not completely confident with this software

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Common Project Management Mistakes

New managers can make these six mistakes

Project management requires you to juggle many balls at once - project scope, timelines, budgets, stakeholder communication and team performance for example. And sometimes things can go wrong. 

So, what are the most common mistakes to watch out for if you are a new project manager?
  1. Failing to commence the project on time ...... Sometimes this is simply because of delays in other work in which you are involved. However, the risk is that your completion deadline won't be adjusted accordingly 
  2. Underestimating the time and resources required to complete the project. Many experienced project managers compensate by adding a 20% contingency factor to their initial estimates. Few things are worse for a project manager than gaining a reputation for time or cost over-runs
  3. Embarking on a project that fails to have a clearly defined scope to it - particularly if you remain uncertain about any aspect of the outcomes that your stakeholder requires and how success will be measured
  4. Projects being put forward for approval without a sound business case having been prepared to substantiate it. Or it's a poor business case with a cost-benefit analysis that is based upon flawed assumptions and projections. Or whose business case fails to show the proper strategic alignment with business goals
  5. Communication breakdown with project stakeholders. Too often project managers neglect to include in their project status reporting the type of information that is actually required by their different stakeholders. By the way, we offer a short course for project managers that provides templates to help you clearly identify stakeholder needs and communication requirements - Project Management courses Melbourne
  6. The project team has not been comprised with the proper mix of skills or experience required for the project. It's worth pushing hard at project initiation stage to ensure you will get the right people on your project team. 
A great article that clearly explains your role as a project manager and what you should focus upon in different stages of the project, so as to avoid the above mistakes, is New Manager Tips

    Saturday, March 31, 2012

    The secret to managing project scope creep

    Why do you as a new project manager need to be very wary of "project scope creep"?

    Well, firstly let's go back to some basics. The scope of your project refers to what you have agreed with your client will be the outcomes to be delivered, together with a defined standard of quality.

    However, the project scope will always be inter-connected to the time and cost necessary for project completion.

    Scope creep refers to the client's attempt to increase, change or add to the project specifications (eg. with systems projects, adding an extra functionality to the software)

    Your client may attempt to make other changes to the initial project agreement, such as bringing forward the timeline for project completion - or reducing your budget or the available resources for your project

    Dealing with a client who is engaging in scope creep requires good negotiating skills on your part as a project manager. Because if your original agreement in defining the scope of your project was based on realistic estimates all around - then if you simply concede to their request then you may risk creating stress and strain for yourself and your project team.
    So an important tip for the new project manager is to look for "quid pro quo" if your client seeks to change any key element of the project scope. Project outcomes, timelines and budget (or available resources) are all inter-dependent - to change one parameter will likely have an impact upon other project parameters.

    In other words, if the client seeks to bring the timeline forward for example, then this needs to be matched by a commensurate increase in resources (eg. people) required to achieve the earlier deadline Similarly, increasing the size of the project must lead to either an.associated  extension to the schedule or an increase in resources required.

    And speaking of negotiating skills, if your company is looking for some in-house training then have a look at Negotiation Training Melbourne

    Once the project scope has been agreed with your client, let's acknowledge that circumstances can sometimes change within a business, particularly within a fluid environment. And yes, you must be responsive to your client's needs.

    But don't simply roll over and accomodate changes to your project scope without carefully thinking through what the implications will be for the project cost or schedule. Remember that your initial estimate of the time and cost needed to complete the project outcomes will be affected if the scope is changed. One small change to the project scope may initially seem manageable - but it is the cumulative effect of several of these minor changes during the project that will create strain.

    So make sure that you speak up and calmly explain the impact to your client, if they seek a change to the project scope.

    Project Management Training in Australia

    Are you a new project manager?  Are you looking for some project management training that will provide you with ....
    1. Understanding of the project manager's role
    2. Techniques to help you more clearly scope out project outcomes with stakeholders
    3. Proven tools to help you with project scheduling
    4. An ability to develop project milestones for tracking purposes
    5. A clear understanding of how to generate a task list with estimated time-lines
    One such short training program that is available for in-company delivery is Project Management Course Melbourne The course offers the fundamental tools, models and concepts needed by anyone who may be new to project management
    • MS Project 2010 Training
    If you're looking for a one or two day training course that will show you how to use Microsoft Project, then then have a look at MS Project Training   This short course can be conducted in-house for your organisation throughout Australia - in Melbourne, Sydnet, Canberra, Adelaide or Brisbane

    If you are looking for an accredited project management course at either Certificate IV or Diploma level, have a look at our post Accredited Project Management courses