Webinar Wrap-up

The second round of webinars were much more engaging than the first. They are listed below in order of preference.

RiskReadyCreating “Risk-Ready” Project Schedules

  • Wesley Gillette
  • Rated: 5.77/7
  • Duration: 56:03

Gillette focused on how constraints, lags, and schedule logic can be hidden in the project plan and cause false results in your risk analysis. He explained that we need to challenge the way our schedules. We need clear assumptions and risks should be called out properly. This was the best webinar that I’ve seen on the Project Management site. There was an excellent balance between explaining new concepts and examples.

5 Essential Insights for Maximizing your Limited Resources

  • Jerry Manas & Maureen Carlson
  • Rated: 5.43/7
  • Duration: 61:10

I am a fan of big data and this presentation was centered on the 2014 State of Resource Management and Capacity Planning Report conducted by Appleseed Partners. They honed in on the idea that top performing companies had a holistic view of their demand pipeline and resource capacity by utilizing Project Portfolio Management software. Manas and Carlson did a great job co-presenting and it was obvious they had practiced.

RookiePMMistakes4 Common Rookie PM Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

  • Dana Brownlee
  • Rated: 6.34/7
  • Duration: 59:22

She spent a lot of time on anecdotes, but it was an interesting and engaging presentation. Her tips to address the “slacker” on the team were practical. Those interaction are never easy so I appreciated her insights on creating a culture of accountability. Brownlee’s 3 magic questions for clarifying task assignments are:

  1. What is your understanding of the task?
  2. What will the deliverable look like?
  3. What are the 1st 3 steps you’ll take to begin working on this?

I would highly recommend this presentation to any PM or manager.

Avoid the Three Major Mistakes of Organization Wide Change

  • Barbara Trautlein
  • Rated: 6.18/7
  • Duration: 45:46

This was a great topic for change management. My primary project is going to have a significant amount of process changes. Knowing that we have a blend of heart and hand change leadership styles will help me to leverage our strengths and avoid common pitfalls. I found Trautlein engaging, but this presentation was repetitive and oddly paced.

This was four hours well spent. I’ve come away with a wealth of resources and some great tips for keeping my projects on track.

Do you have a favorite webinar or instructional video? Please share the link in the comments.

Crash Course on the PMP Application

The PMI-MN dinner this month offered a PMP Application Writing workshop. Excellent timing since I just signed up for an exam prep course. This my take on the evening.

PMP Application Writing

I’ve been told that the PMP application process is difficult. This workshop was helpful because the presentation was short and practical which left plenty of time for questions and specific scenarios. These were my key takeaways:

  • “There is no cum laude on the PMP exam”
  • Professional Development Units (PDUs) and PM Education are not always the same thing
  • Only enter the number of hours they request under experience, there is no extra credit for more experience
  • List projects in order of size, not by date
  • The more detail you provide on your application the better and you’ll be less likely to get audited
  • Study to get 80% on the exam

Three Critical Success Factors for Project Managers

The main presentation wasn’t bad, but I was not a huge fan of Bill Johnson’s style. He told us early on that he ascribes to the “Socratean style of teaching”, and I should have left then. I spent most of my time taking notes on his style and the other people in the room than I did on his content. It was fun to practice Gutkind’s immersion technique.

His presentation revolved around the idea that if we took the time to align our projects to the company/leadership’s strategic vision; understood our own leadership style better; and increased our knowledge in the project management methodology we would have more successful projects. A good message, but one that could have been much more direct. I heard one person in the audience speak almost as much as Bill.

Overall, I would say this was an evening well spent. I got exactly what I was hoping for out of the workshop, more confidence in pursuing my PMP!

PM Movies in SPACE!

NASA was an early adopter of modern project management methodologies, so it stands to reason that movies based on their organization would illustrate key principles of the discipline. Watching The Martian I had a lot of empathy for Teddy. He’s the director of NASA and pseudo project manager of the effort to bring Mark home. This thought prompted me to analyze other NASA movies that also demonstrate the fundamental aspects of project management.

SPOILER ALERT: I will not tell you who lives or dies, but I will be reviewing critical plot points of recent blockbuster films.

Image Source: IMDB
Image Source: IMDB

“…get a viable amount of human life off the planet.”
Interstellar

• Scope: Fixed
• Schedule: Variable
• Cost: Variable

Interstellar is the convoluted tale of saving the human race from an inhospitable earth. The schedule is variable because there isn’t a specific time table, and we’re just told at some point in the future the blight will destroy all the crops. The cost is never discussed in the movie. NASA has become a sort of shadow agency and appears to have unlimited resources. This leaves the scope of perpetuating the human race as the fixed constraint. They have multiple plans to achieve this goal, but never stray from that objective.

Image Source: IMDB
Image Source: IMDB

“I’ll start starving on SOL 584.”
The Martian

• Scope: Variable
• Schedule: Fixed
• Cost: Variable

In the Martian, NASA’s objective is to help Mark stay alive until he can be rescued. The schedule is fixed because Mark’s rations will last for a limited amount of time and there is an optimum launch window to send him more supplies. The schedule is so critical that they cut every ancillary step in the plan and add more people to the team to ensure they launch the resupply on time. There is an excellent scene on their risk analysis of shortening the timeline that I am sure left every Quality Assurance Analyst in the audience cringing.

Scope is a variable constraint because it changes throughout the movie. The initial scope is to get Mark a new supply of rations and equipment to keep him alive until the next planned mission to Mars. Eventually it changes all together as they analyze contingency plans. Cost is also variable because it is of no concern in the movie. Because the entire world is captivated by Mark’s struggle they have global resources available to them.

Image Source: IMDB
Image Source: IMDB

“Houston, in the blind…”
Gravity

• Scope: Variable
• Schedule: Variable
• Cost: Fixed

Gravity starts with 5 astronauts upgrading the Hubble Space Telescope. Implementation of the project work was originally scheduled to take a week, but minutes into the movie the mission is aborted and the new objective is survival. Mission Specialist Dr. Ryan Stone’s objectives change a number of times as she is reacting to a series unplanned issues which is why the scope as variable.

The movie covers approximately 3.5 hours of Ryan’s life, and while there are 2 very specific milestones the schedule is variable in relation to the objective of survival. That leaves cost as the fixed constraint. Once communication is lost with Houston and her crew Ryan’s resources are limited to her own capacity and the resources within her reach.

The projects I work on do not have life and death consequences, but these extreme examples show how even when everything seems critical it is essential to identify and manage the primary constraint. This will help to focus and prioritize your work efforts and ensure you meet your objective. It also makes for a compelling story!

What other professions crop up in certain movie genres? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

WBS Webinars

The first set of PMI webinars I watched were related to creating a work breakdown structure (WBS). As I am spinning up a new project I thought this would be an excellent place to start.

Tips for Creating the WBS and Gathering Better Estimates 

  • Vincent McGevna, PMP
  • Rated: 5.13/7
  • Duration: 70:35

This presentation was a good starting point. McGevna explained that a WBS needs to be deliverable oriented, hierarchical, and define 100% of the work to be delivered. He detailed how to start with a product breakdown structure and expand it into a work breakdown structure. I also liked that he reviewed different tools that could help you accomplish this task like WBS Chart Pro that integrates with Microsoft Project.

Industrial Strength Work Breakdown Structures 

  • Dale Boeckman
  • Rated: 4.29/7
  • Duration: 61:39

The second webinar I watch was not nearly as good as the first. Boeckman’s slides we’re overloaded with information and did not sync up with his talking points. It also appeared that he was reading directly from a page in some areas and had long pauses not caused by technical issues.

I wished he had gone into more detail around the WBS dictionary, because I thought his list of required and optional definition was very helpful.

The quality of these webinars is not very good. The audio cuts out in certain places, and they don’t really seem to have any standardization on the slides. I will try a couple more sessions based on rating instead of by topic and see if those are any better.

Do you have any suggestions for project management webinars? Please share your recommendations in the comments.

Crash Course on PMI-MN

Tonight I attended my first Project Management Institute – Minneapolis Chapter event. Their February dinner included a number of short presentations prior to the main event. Want to know what you can get out of a 4 hour PMI-MN event?

Career Networking

The first hour was a networking presentation provided by a recruiter who gave us some great tips on growing your network through references from existing contacts. The best advice he gave was to try and make yourself useful to the people you want to connect with. That might sound counter-intuitive, but you are trying to build a communication path, and it has to be a 2-way street.

Practitioner Communities (PrCs)

There were different options for next 45 minutes and I choose to attend the PrCs presentation called “Can SCRUM Flip a House?” It was a great talk about how to apply SCRUM principles outside of IT. I’m excited to apply the agile principles to a non-work project.

New Member Orientation

Next they offered a 30 minute new member orientation. There was a short overview of what PMI-MN provides its members but most of the time was spent with the n00bz discussing their goals. It was a great lead into the dinner.

How to be a Chameleon: A Key to Enterprise Project Success

source: http://www.sideshowtoy.com/mas_assets/jpg/901290_press01-001.jpg
source: http://www.sideshowtoy.com

The main presentation was 50 minutes, and focused on the soft skills of project management. By this point I was getting pretty tired, and it wasn’t the most riveting presentation. I did take away a tip on making sure that not only do you identify all your key stakeholders, but know everyone that will have an impact on your project. Never forget the admins! I also loved that he described himself as a gun-slinging chameleon (he used a different picture).

That was $32 well spent. I made two networking connections and got some great practical tips on pursuing my PMP certification. The dinner was pretty good too, and fit my 8WW diet! I look forward to attending future events.

How do you make the most of these professional events? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

 

Inspiration & Implementation: Project Management

Last week we were on vacation so it took a little longer than normal to get my inspiration board in place. These are the top resources I have pinned so far.

IIPM

  1. PMI website

The PMI website is full of excellent resources. As a member I have access to the PMBOK, webinars, and tools and templates. Professional organizations are always a great starting point when trying to grow your knowledge base and skill set.

2. Mountain Goat Software blog

Mike Cohn is a major contributor of the Scrum methodology. His blog is one of the few that I always read thoroughly. I find his thoughts on agile inspire me to keep striving for improvement with my team.

3. 15 Project Management Quotes to Live By

This infographic is wonderful. My favorite quote is “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

4. One Hundred Rules for NASA Project Managers

NASA is a proponent of modern project management, and I’ve pinned a couple of resources from their site. This list is a wealth of information. My favorite quote, “Rule 76: Know the resources of your center and, if possible, other centers. Other centers, if they have the resources, are normally happy to help. It is always surprising how much good help one can get by just asking.”

5. The lazy project manager

Clayton bought me this book when I first took on the PM role, and it is a terrific read. There are a number of great tips. I even printed out the “even quicker tips for the really lazy” and posted them at my desk! I would highly recommend this book.

Please share your best project management resource with me in the comments!

Project Management Monday – The Start

I have been wearing dual hats over the last 3 years as a business analyst and project manager. Recently I committed to the project management career path, and want to grow my knowledge base in this area. My next habit will focus on reading A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge: PMBOK(R) Guide. It’s a daunting tasks, but I am hoping that making it a daily habit will help me break it into manageable chunks.

Habit: Read 8 pages in the PMBOK everyday for 66 days

Start Date: Sunday, 01/31/2016

Projected End Date: Wednesday, 04/06/2016

Action Plan:

  • Read the PMBOK!
  • Start a study group at work with others interested in getting their PMP
  • Watch 6 PMI webinars
  • Attend a PMI-Minnesota Chapter meeting
  • Post weekly on Mondays about my progress in improving my PM skills

Incentive: Attend the Agile PMP seminar!

Lofty Goal: Finding my passion!

I would like to get the most out of the Agile PMP seminar and I think reading the PMBOK will be excellent prep work. I am also hoping I can build on this habit to get my Project Management Professional certification in the near future.

What types of personal development do you do for your career? Please share your strategies in the comments!

Writing Wednesday – The End

BlogTargetReached

Yesterday was day 66! I am excited to review my progress, so let’s start with the stats!

Action Plan Recap:

  • DONE – 66 consecutive days of working on my blog for at least 1 hour.
  • DONE – 2 books on writing read.
  • DONE – 2 people interviewed about blogging.
  • DONE – completed the Journalism Skills for Engaged Citizens Coursera course.
  • DONE – 10 weekly blog posts on developing my blogging habit completed.

Grade: A

Blogging Stats:

  • 22 posts
  • 16 followers
  • 126 visitors
  • 249 views
  • 72 likes
  • 12 comments

Incentive: This afternoon I upgraded from a Free to a Premium account!

Lessons Learned:

I am proud of myself for sticking with this habit for 66 consecutive days. There were definitely some days it was hard to put in the time. One day I didn’t start working on the blog until 11 pm. My action plan helped me the most over the last few months, especially on the days where my motivation was lacking. It was good to have a reference list of ideas that all kept pushing closer to achieving my goal.

Making this blog public and sharing my goals with friends and family has also helped me to reach this milestone. Having people around me ask about my progress, and sharing excited conversations about the blog kept me inspired.

I am not going to track daily progress anymore, but I would like to implement some maintenance goals to stay on track with my newly formed habit.

6 Month Goals:

  • Improve my blogging stats
  • Blog about 4 new habits
  • Read 1 new book on writing

I am excited to carry this momentum forward in maintaining this habit and creating new ones! Do you have any new habits you’d like to build? Please share your goals in the comments.

Crash Course on Journalism

Journalism Skills for Engaged Citizens is a University of Melbourne course taught by Dr. Denis Muller and Dr. Margaret Simons offered through Coursera. The 8 week course is geared toward the new media publishers and teaches the basics of journalism, interviewing, gathering information, and the ethical and legal implications of practicing journalism.

I thought this class would help me develop my blogging and writing skills because blogs are a part of this new media landscape and some of the highlighted topics were on my action plan.

Each week they posted video lectures, quizzes, and follow ups on the assignments.  I really enjoyed the video lectures and found the lessons on the principles of good writing, attribution, and finding things out particularly helpful. The quizzes helped to reinforce the material in the videos, and you could take them as many times as you wanted to ensure understanding.

The assignments were related to a mock investigation into the local government of a fake town. At first I tried to keep up with the assignments, but it seemed like wasted effort. While I love getting grades, I took this course to help improve the quality of this blog. I chose to focus my efforts here rather than spend hours writing fake reports that were only going to get more involved.

Overall I found Muller and Simons engaging and knowledgeable. I have already incorporated some of the things I learned from them into my blog, like writing in a clear and simple manner and focusing on word choice. They also covered topics that aren’t useful for the blog like managing confidential sources and the ethics of interviewing traumatized people, but it was intriguing material nonetheless.

This is a well structured course lead by excellent professors. I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to improve their writing skills or dabble in journalism. This course also offers a Course Certificate – Statement of Accomplishment, if you’re into that sort of thing. There are no future sessions currently listed, but based on the feedback I have seen in forums I am sure they will be back.

Do you think bloggers and journalists have overlapping skill sets? Let’s discuss further in the comments.

Asked & Answered: On Books and Blogging

Ana Spoke  is a blogger and self-published author. I have been following her blog for over a month now, and have learned some great tips and tricks about blogging. The newest idea she shared was a blog tour.

Ana is promoting her new book Shizzle, Inc (Isa Maxwell escapades Book 1), and in an effort spread the good word she is doing interviews and guest posting on her follower’s blogs. Needless to say I jumped at the chance to interview her! Since Ana is in Australia and I am in the US we did the interview over email, which was another first for me.

“You Go, Girl!”

According to Ana, Shizzle, Inc (Isa Maxwell escapades Book 1). was born when she wrote a spoof scene of Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades, Book 1). The scene was about Isa, a young and dumb girl, meeting  an eccentric billionaire. She emailed that scene to her sister who found it hilarious and demanded more. At her sister’s urging she continued writing bits and pieces of Isa’s story.

“This time it had to be different.”

Ana has shared on her blog that she has started multiple writing projects, but none of them really went anywhere. When Ana had a raw draft of Shizzle, Inc (Isa Maxwell escapades Book 1) she made the decision to turn these scenes into a book and finish it! Ana’s read a number of books and articles on plotting, character development, and creating drama, but needed some additional motivation to complete the book. She started her blog to give her public accountability in working toward her goal. The blog narrates her journey from draft to publication and beyond. Since deciding to publish the book herself the blog has also become a marketing platform. To expand her reach and promote her brand Ana has started posting helpful articles on a regular basis and engaging other bloggers.

“I love data…”

To meet her goal of finishing the book Ana needed structure to stay on track. She created a spreadsheet to track her daily word count. Ana also shared some of her blog stats with me that show the snowball effect of her recent marketing efforts.

  • 1,863 blog followers
  • The week of 09/06 – 2,092 views from 923 unique visitors
  • 21,477 Twitter followers

Ana assured me this was a big jump from the approximately 20 followers the blog had in the first year. Having these data points to track progress have been very motivating for Ana, and have helped her achieve her goal of becoming a published author!

Pro-Tips

  • Consistency – blog once a week and have a daily word goal.
  • Try to learn something new every day.
  • Have fun!

Thank you, Ana for the wonderful insight into the world of blogging and writing. I am going to start tracking my daily word count so I can review my own trend lines, and hopefully see some improvement! I also can’t wait to jump into Shizzle, Inc (Isa Maxwell escapades Book 1). I’m through chapter 2, and am looking forward to really getting into the book over the weekend.

If you’d like to see what all of the fuss is about grab a copy of Shizzle, Inc (Isa Maxwell escapades Book 1) and head on over to Ana’s blog!