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A Christmas break – see you in 2015

Season's Greetings from A Girl's Guide to PM

We’re taking a break for Christmas and the end of year festivities. Normal service returns on 5 January.

Best wishes to you over the holiday season and see you in 2015!


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Giveaway winner: Supercommunicator

Congratulations to Sarah, from East Sussex (UK), who wins the Supercommunicator book giveaway. The book highlights how you can communicate even difficult subjects so that your audience can understand and is perfect for project managers trying to communicate more effectively with stakeholders.

Read my review of the book here.

Sarah, your book is in the post so you should have it in time for post-Christmas dinner reading!


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9 Project communications you should have sent this year

9 project communications you should have sent this yearA few weeks after I started back at work, one of my long time stakeholders sent a message to someone pretty high up the hierarchy saying ‘project communication was so much better when Elizabeth was around’. It’s nice to hear people say I was doing something right, although it was a bit of a shame that she hadn’t realised I was already back at my desk. I guess I didn’t do much communicating during those first few weeks.

Good communication on projects is so important, and something that it is useful to reflect on at this time of year as we establish areas for improvement in the coming 12 months. Did you send any of these project communications during 2014? You should have done.

1. We have uncovered an issue but…

When something goes wrong you should ‘fess up as soon as possible. However, senior stakeholders like it when you can tell them what you are doing about the problem.

If you faced a problem this year you should have presented the issue along with your solution or recommendation.

2. We’re on track for…

You should have kept stakeholders informed at all stages along the way. Letting them know that things are on track helps them feel confident that the work is progressing as planned.

This is different to the ‘reporting by exception’ model. In my experience, that only works for a short time. When people stop hearing positive noises after any length of time they attend to assume the worst, even if you’ve told them that you will report by exception.

3. I’m sorry…

How many times did you apologise this year? Lots, I hope. (OK, not that many.) You can cut through a lot of conflict and office politics with a well-placed, sincere apology.

4. The current status is…

I hope you used regular project status reports this year. You should have used them as a tool to communicate status on your project, at least once a month, at least to the project sponsor. Preferably more.

Need some help improving your project reports for 2015? Take my online project reporting course and get people to actually do something as a result of reading your status updates.

5. I saw this and thought of you…

Make connections. As a project manager you are well placed to see what is going on in various areas of the business. Link people together, make introductions, pass on information that you think others would find useful.

If you didn’t do this during 2014, read these 6 reasons why networking is important and see if I can change your mind for next year.

6. Thank you for…

For coming to my meeting, for giving up your resources to help with testing, for passing me that great contact, for being such a great project team member.

There are dozens of reasons why you should have said thank you to the people you worked with this year. I hope you took every opportunity.

7. That didn’t meet my expectations of…

Sometimes we have to communicate the bad news, and if you don’t speak up you won’t ever seem improvements. When a team member doesn’t perform as expected, talk to them about it (and not via email). It’s not personal. You had expectations, they didn’t meet them. Discuss how you can both get a better result next time.

You should have done this with suppliers as well. Don’t put up with bad service because you are too worried to say something.

8. I need…

Did you get the resources you needed to complete your project tasks successfully? No? Did you ask for them?

Don’t expect your project sponsor to be a mind-reader. If you want more people, more money or more time, ask for it. You might not get it but at least you have tried!

9. If…then…

You would have made a lot of decisions this year. Did you always take the time to explain why you put forward that particular recommendation? You should have explained the consequences of your decisions in business terms, so that stakeholders and project team members understand why you’ve opted for that route forward.

Which of these phrases will you aim to use more frequently in 2015? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


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UK Project Management: The Year in Review

Review of UK Project Management 2014Last week I looked forward at the hot project management trends for 2015. This week I want to look back.

The last 12 months have been a busy time for the UK project management scene, and that was just the bits I was able to take part in. I had 7 months off on maternity leave and it feels as if there has been a step change forward in the way that project management is regarded. Here’s my review of the year for project management in the UK in 2014.

Project roundup

There were some humongous projects undertaken in the UK this year.

The Glasgow Commonwealth Games came to fruition after years of planning.

Care.data, the project to create electronic patient medical records, was in the news a lot, not least because of a small clause in the documentation that seemed to imply that the NHS could share your confidential medical history with commercial organisations. I’m not still not 100% sure who will have access to this huge database.

Crossrail, Europe’s largest construction project, plodded on, delivering small wins in anticipation of the first services through central London in 2018. This is a project where delicate stakeholder management is needed, and it’s doing its part for getting girls into STEM subjects too by partnering with local schools and offering apprenticeships.

Awards roundup

The big project management awards in the UK are awarded at the APM’s glitzy November event. The winners this year were:

Dawlish - the original breach

Dawlish – the original sea wall breach, February 2014

Project of the Year: Dawlish Sea Wall Emergency Works to reopen the railway line that links Exeter with the rest of the South West. I remember seeing this on TV after the devastating bad weather left tracks suspended in mid-air with no ground underneath them. Excellent communication on this project too, with a webcam reporting live from the site, daily updates on the website and photos updated every 6 hours.

Programme of the Year: Wylfa Extended Generation Programme to extend the life of the only operational Magnox power station in the world.

Project Management Company of the Year: Shell Projects & Technology

Project Professional of the Year: Steve Walters from Magnox

Young Project Professional of the Year: Luke Streeter from Atkins

Social Project of the Year: Anderston Phase 3 Regeneration, which regenerated an area close to Glasgow city centre to provide community housing and a shop and involved relocating residents while this work was undertaken.

Mike Nichols, APM

© APM, no modifications made https://www.flickr.com/photos/apmevents/11288350475/

Women in Project Management

Women in project management did not go unrecognised this year either. Dr Lynn Crawford took the APM’s coveted Sir Monty Finniston award for ‘remarkable dedication to the profession’.

The Women in Project Management Special Interest Group celebrated their 21st anniversary in London in October as well. Watch my video of the event here.

In memoriam

In January I reported that former APM Chair Mike Nichols had passed away. Mike takes the credit for moving the APM towards Chartered status and for creating a huge learning legacy as part of the Olympic Games, ensuring that what was learnt through the Games’ project delivery was not lost to new projects. He’ll be sadly missed by the UK project management community.


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Jeff FurmanThe PMBOK® Guide v5 refresh introduced new topics for students taking the PMP exam. Jeff Furman, author of The Project Management Answer Book, has just released a second edition of his book, covering all that and more. It’s a weighty book to support students preparing for the PMP exam and also more generally in their working lives as project managers, but it’s not your typical test prep guide.

I caught up with him to find out more.

Jeff, why did you do another edition?

I realized that a second edition would be a great help to my readers and PMP students, especially because:

  • I wanted to update the entire 1st Edition to V5, covering every change to all affected processes, to best help my readers toward the PMP and CAPM exams.
  • Since the book first came out in 2011, I’ve taught more than 50 project management classes using my book as a text. So I’ve come up with a lot of new PMP test tips. And to and to make them easy-to-find, I put them all in “call-out boxes” throughout the book. It feels great adding all these tips into the second edition!
  • Scrum has been catching fire the last few years, so to help my readers, I’ve added a robust new “Intro To Scrum” chapter. This will give readers an exposure to Agile, and also will help them on job interviews (where hiring managers are NOT bound to ask “Waterfall only” questions!). My chapter also provides info about Agile certifications that project managers might want to pursue to boost their resume.

Great. So let’s pick up on your first point? What’s changed in the PMBOK Guide since your first edition?

One big change is that many process names have been improved for clarity. And some new processes have been added which finally “give a home” to several project artifacts where it had been a bit of a mystery where they were supposed to be created.

But the most significant change is that after many years of the famous nine PMI Knowledge Areas, PMI has now added a tenth knowledge area: Project Stakeholder Management.

Why did they do that? Tell me why you think stakeholder management so important.

Everyone agrees that customer satisfaction is key to project success. But many project managers and teams treat customer satisfaction kind of passively, e.g. “They’ll see what a good job we did for them, and they’ll appreciate it.”

The new Stakeholder Management knowledge area helps project managers shoot for customer satisfaction proactively, just like going for high quality, or fast delivery. And also, with an emphasis on strategizing and planning for stakeholder engagement (beyond just stakeholder management).

To that end, I provide templates in my book for two new PMI-recommended tools: the Power and Interest Grid, and the Stakeholder Engagement Assessment Matrix.

What did you learn as an author from preparing the second edition?

Writing a second edition was like being in “Groundhog Day Heaven!” From the vantage point of learning a lot of new best practices over the past few years, it was very satisfying to take each chapter from the first edition and “spike it up,” while also adding three new chapters.

But while adding in the new material, I also had the challenge of trying to keep the length close to that of the first edition. So I learned the discipline of going through my first book and cutting every three paragraphs down to two wherever possible, without losing any key content (not easy!).

Project Management Answer Book 2nd EdThat sounds like a challenge. On my books, I’ve always found it useful to have the extended team around me as it’s a collaborative effort. Did you find that too?

Yes. For example, two students in my recent PMP Prep classes (Beth Horrigan, PMP®, and Corey Wilson, PMP®) both came up with very clever “mnemonics” which they shared with their classmates. Beth’s was to help her learn the five PMI Process Groups, and Corey’s was to help him learn the 10 Knowledge Areas. It was a great pleasure to be able to include both mnemonics (along with both Beth and Corey’s names) in the book.

Thanks again to both for granting permission.

Some of your students are in the Army, aren’t they? What is it like working with them?

When I teach Army project managers, they often are exceptionally eager to learn. And so what often happens when I present a concept is it triggers one of the soldiers to share a related idea from their military training.

I then wind up using these pairs of similar (PMI vs. Army) terms in my next Army classes, because they help me get the points across faster. And I even use them sometimes in all-civilian classes, because civilians appreciate the analogies also. A couple of quick examples would be:

PMI Term Army Term
Scope Creep “Mission Creep”
Lessons Learned AAR (After-Action Review)


Thanks, Jeff. How can we get hold of a copy of The Project Management Answer Book?

You can get it from Amazon (paperback and Kindle). Or direct from the publisher, Management Concepts Press.

If you are in New York, pop into the NYU Bookstore in Manhattan, 726 Broadway, in Greenwich Village, near the corner of Broadway & Waverly Place.

Well, if I’m ever passing, I’ll go in and see it on the shelf! Thanks very much Jeff.

About Jeff: Jeff Furman, PMP® has 15 years experience managing IT projects for Fortune 100 companies in the NYC area. He currently teaches six different courses in PM for NYU’s School of Professional Studies, and also an Advanced Project Management / PMP Prep class for the US Army on bases in Texas, Georgia, and Kentucky.

This post contains affiliate links which may generate a small commission for me. Thanks!

Photo credit: Michelle Wild.

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Project Management: Hot Trends for 2015

2015 project management trendsI had another baby this year. I returned to work properly and saw a project go live (yep, just the one). I’ve drunk more tea than in previous years put together, often three or four cups by 8am. I have scrubbed poo off the bedroom carpet and worked late into the evenings in bed, often with a baby snoring in my ear.

In many ways, this year has been unremarkable. I imagine many project managers with young families did exactly the same.

But next year? For my family, who knows what it will bring (birthdays, potty training and more snot, I expect). For project management, I’d like to hazard a guess. These are my predictions for the future of project management in 2015.

We will cut across silos

Cross-team communication is the best way to get projects fully integrated with the rest of the business. We’ll find ways of embedding projects into business teams and we’ll rely more heavily on cross-functional teams to get things done. That’s because we don’t have the money to have people seconded on to teams: business experts with knowledge of how projects work will be required to support several projects at once and none of them full-time.

Enterprise PMOs will help with this: we’ve already seen a rise in PMOs (although the state of the PMO tends to be cyclical – I wouldn’t be surprised if it wanes again before taking permanent hold).

We’ll invest more in change

Gartner reports that organisational change is the biggest risk for businesses. That isn’t doing it – it’s doing it well. One of the speakers at the PMI UK Synergy event last month said that typically 8% of a project budget is allocated for business change.

That’s ridiculous.

Project management needs to grow up and become more rounded when it comes to change. Who has the luxury of a dedicated change manager? If you do, that’s great. If you don’t – no one is doing it for you. Change management is now part of the project manager’s job.

We’ll recognise that we provide a service

Project management is one of the many back office functions that keep an organisation working. We provide a service to those people who use the deliverables to make the company money. Our project stakeholders are the customers of the project management process, just like I’m the customer of the coffee-making process when I order a skinny decaf pumpkin spice latte.

With the shift to cloud computing taking a serious hold we’ll stop thinking about software and tools and start thinking about services.

I hope more project managers get the customer service mindset in 2015.

[Read more about customer-centric project management here.]

Our professional groups will work together

I have been at conferences where a member of one professional body raises an eyebrow when you mention the other. I hope that will stop. I think we’ll see a less antagonistic relationship between the professional bodies in the UK. Since APM won the right to pursue chartered status earlier this year it opens up the ground for a positive working relationship between that body and PMI.

This is already happening: Ricardo Triana, Chair of the PMI Board of Directors, gave a well-received presentation about supporting project managers whatever their affiliation at Synergy this year. He explicitly said that the moves that PMI are making aren’t about gaining membership share but about providing the tools and industry awareness to help project managers achieve greater success.

Total harmony in the next 12 months? A girl can dream – but at least we are moving in the right direction.

Online tools will amalgamate

Projectplace was bought by Planview this year in a move that illustrates the consolidation that needs to happen in the online project management space. The Deloitte Shift Index reports that social media use at work is decreasing, and I think that’s because project-based teams are finding it hard to adopt online ways of working due to security and governance concerns.

Consolidation in the marketplace, interoperability and open standards and more structured support for governance in virtual teams will help address this decline.

That’s what I think. What are you forecasting for project management in 2015? Please share your thoughts in the comments.


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Day of Gratitude 2014

We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in the UK but somehow we’ve managed to adopt the Black Friday sales madness and the shops were full of deals and people. Still, I can’t quite bring myself to post this on Thanksgiving, even though this show of appreciation has become a bit of an annual thing on A Girl’s… Continue Reading->

Get Your Projects Fit with The Lazy Project Manager

I am not fit. Since having my two boys I am heavier than I have ever been, except while pregnant. My only exercise is balancing in small spaces while standing on the train to work. I fuel getting up for the night feeds with cereal bars and chocolate croissants. Luckily, my projects are healthier than… Continue Reading->

Managing change on projects: James T. Brown at Synergy 2014

“We have to get them to want what we have to deliver,” said Dr. James T. Brown at the PMI UK Chapter event Synergy earlier this month. “We have to go through this process to prove you are a good person and to make them anticipate the deliverable.” He was talking about wooing. It’s what… Continue Reading->

Project Managing the Freezer [The Parent Project Month 21]

The house is in crisis. The middle pages of Percy And The Kite have fallen out. Without the mid-section, you have no way of knowing how Percy fares in the kite contest although he does look (spoiler alert) very pleased on the final page. The final page is sticky-taped to the back cover. That one… Continue Reading->

Synergy 2014: Conference Highlights

“When what you do is not unique, the way that you do it makes the difference.” That’s how Ricardo Triana, Chair of the 2014 PMI Board of Directors opened Synergy last Thursday. Synergy, organised by PMI’s UK Chapter, was attended by around 600 project managers from around Europe. “Project management,” Ricardo went on to say… Continue Reading->

Why Project Management Is Like Surviving The Hunger Games

**Spoiler alerts** Don’t read this if you haven’t read the first book of The Hunger Games series. It’s the UK general release of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 this week. Selecting the team for the District, planning for the Games, sharing a clear objective. Sounds like project management, doesn’t it? Here’s why project management… Continue Reading->