I have noticed recently, in the Discussion sections of LinkedIn’s Project Managers, PMO, and PMO Bloggers Groups, that aspiring young project managers have been requesting advice from more experienced project managers and PMO leaders as to what steps they can take to enhance their ability to move forward in the “project community” and to advance their project management skills.
From my point of view, having worked in several PMOs and IT Project Offices, as well as having assisted in the setup of several PMOs, I would like to offer the following advice, which follows from something I read by Jillian Michaels, the very successful coach of the hit TV show “The Biggest Loser“.
Jillian once said that individuals and organizations can accomplish anything they want to accomplish as long as they are sufficiently motivated and have the “capability” to succeed.
My advice is focused on the aspect of “capability” because there is much that aspiring project managers can do to enhance their “capability.” Capability means educating oneself and understanding the business context within which they are operating.
By aspiring young project managers, I actually mean project team members who are qualified to move up to managing projects but who haven’t found that right project to manage yet OR project managers who have just assumed a new project management assignment for which they must prepare themselves to fully succeed.
Here are five areas in which aspiring young project managers can enhance their “capabilities.” These five areas will leverage your understanding of the project process, as well as increase your stature among other project managers in the “project community.”
First, volunteer to record the minutes at an important project status meeting. Be sure to find or create a template that captures the participants, the date and time of the meeting, the agenda, the actions agreed to, the assignments for each participant as well as any completion dates, any issues that were not resolved, and the date and time of the next meeting. Too many project teams lapse into keeping very poor documentation of their meetings and therefore, accountability for completing assignments is lost. By volunteering for this assignment, you will provide a key document to the project team from which they can build on throughout the project.
Second, at the conclusion and documentation of the project requirements, survey the sponsor and the stakeholders to understand that they really know what requirements they have signed up for and the “commitment” that is required to carry out the project. By doing so, you will have input into any “Scope Change” that may arise ahead of the actual requirements modification. This will increase your understanding of the project process and your stature among other project managers.
Third, at the conclusion of the first major phase of the project, insist that the project team hold a “lessons learned” session. They will thank you later even though you may have to drag them to the table kicking and screaming to participate in the first session. So many things get uncovered when you “shine a little light on something” or “focus” on the actions and results at this point. Famed UCLA basketball coach John Wooden once said “It is what you learn after you know it all that counts.” This has terrific application in project lessons learned.
Fourth, find a key “issue” that seems to divide the project team members or the stakeholders and follow that issue by recording key actions and decisions made by the team and the stakeholders. At an appropriate point in the project, when it appears that the project team or the stakeholders or both have reached an impasse or a stumbling point, pull out your summary of the actions and decisions and review it with the combined project group. Some may not appreciate being confronted with the facts, others may disagree with your “facts” or your interpretation–but no one can disagree with the harmony that will result down the road when they begin to see each others different perspectives and viewpoints, and the fact that a “rational, realistic” observer brought these viewpoints to their attention. You may have won yourself a job!!!!
Your facilitation of a bumpy issue by offering extraordinary insight and “analysis” is the key. “Analysis is the essence.”
Fifth, practice the four communications mechanisms that I discussed in one of my previous blogs:
I use the word “practice” here because it will take the aspiring new project manager some time to understand the situations in which these four communications mechanisms will be most effective. But they all have a place at some point in a project. By using these communication tools, your “effectiveness” as a project communicator will be enhanced many fold.
By the way, you won’t find this advice anywhere else–it is unique to taking a “holistic” view as to what a project is all about and to understanding how stakeholders impact projects.
Good luck to you “aspiring project leaders.” Yes, you are and will be leaders if you follow this advice.
The Best in all that you pursue…….