Ten symptoms that will tell you, your project is moving into trouble

  1. Your manager asks the status more frequently than ever
  2. Your manager asks others to verify what you are saying is true
  3. Your client speaks about the problem in status meeting than telling you separately
  4. Your client complains about insignificant things
  5. Your client does not respond to your email/message
  6. Your manager or client is trying to micro manage, asking about every minor things and giving directions.
  7. Your team members do not turn up for project meetings
  8. You need to remind your team members about deadlines and important dates
  9. Your team could not find any significant defects in the deliverables before delivering to client
  10. All is going absolutely well in the project for some time

If all are present, it is too late now

What all I need to pass PMP Exam?

After talking to many PMP Aspirants, I found this is the single most important question on the mind of every PMP aspirants. Below I try explaining few points where a PMP Aspirant often gets confused on what he/she really needs to become PMP and often takes decisions that are not best in his/her interest. Hope these points help taking well informed decision.

1.   You need an excellent trainer not a big institute

Ask any student or ask yourself, you would be student at some point of time. Who made the difference in your life? The answer would less likely be an institute. You probably remember a professor or an individual who provided guidance or made you think over and over that changed the way you were thinking and acting. Similarly it is the trainer who made all the difference in the classroom. He/she would make you to think, understand and grasp the underlying concepts.

Do not go on the name of the institute. A big institute does not ensure that you get a good trainer or many times it is other way round.  Either you enquire a small consulting firm or a big institute, always insist on who the trainer is, his/her credentials, experience and the most important is the feedback from previous participants which will tell you what exactly you are going to get in the training.

2.   You need excellent guidance not just Q/A

Due to getting advices from various people around, PMP Aspirants often focus on question and answer too much. Q/As are definitely important but what is more important is to understand why an answer is right or wrong and the principle behind it. You need a person as guide or coach who provides direction for study, what to prepare and what not, the perspective of PMI (say PMIsm), studies on related subjects and specially relate the study with practical real life examples. PMP Exam questions are getting more and more situational.

3.   Do you know, REP is not a must?

This is a big confusion not only among the PMP Aspirants but even among the people who are certified PMP. There are vested interests in keeping this confusion that the training from a REP is a must. However IT IS NOT. PMI in its PMP Handbook have given following option to get 35 hours of contact training program…

QUOTE

“You can satisfy the educational requirements by demonstrating the successful completion of courses, workshops and training sessions offered by one or more of the following types of education providers:

A. PMI Registered Education Providers (R.E.P.s)*

B. PMI Component organizations*

C. Employer/company-sponsored programs

D. Training companies or consultants

E. Distance-learning companies, including an end-of-course assessment

F. University/college academic and continuing education programs

UNQUOTE

REP is one option out of six. PMI is a global, wide and believe in openness. So widen your scope.

4.   Passing exam is a milestone, not ultimate goal

PMP Exam gives you PMP designation, it is not an endorsement that you are an excellent project manager and succeed as PMP. Doing 100 Q/As every day for a month, may make you pass the exam but will it also give you success as project manager? PMP designation will take you to interview board but you have to perform in interview to get the job. PMP designation will help you to become Project Manager of a complex project but will that project achieve its objective and make client happy?

PMP Exam is a milestone, the ultimate goal is to become an excellent project manager and succeed as PMP. This will happen if your foundation is strong. You have spent your time understanding the underlying principle while preparing for PMP Exam. Look for a training that encourage discussions in the class which helps imbibing the concepts and reaffirm your understanding. Look for a guide (Ideally your trainer) who helps clarifying doubt by providing practical scenarios.

5.   It’s not easy but it’s not too hard as well

Believe me it is not as hard as it is explained in many books or in many classes. While I know uncounted PMPs who passed in first try, I do not know even handful of people who passed in second or third attempt.

Some institutes provide you guarantee for passing the exam. Quite possible they may be right however we must understand that guarantee can only be provided of a mechanical system. If you select a system which provides guarantee, you probably be part of a mechanical system where learning opportunities will be minimal and milestone will become your ultimate goal.

Have confidence in yourself. Sincere efforts in right direction with focused mind and committed time are enough to guarantee your success in PMP exam.

Good Luck!!!

– x – x – x –

Get what you truly want and deserve

I got an email some time back from one of my friends Mr. Vikas Dikshit. As such he is much senior to me. He is a NLP Trainer and when writes, you can just feel the depth. The email goes like this…

Quote

This week, on Monday and Tuesday, I conducted a two day workshop for school teachers. In this workshop, as also in many other workshops that I have conducted, the participants become aware that using what they learn in these workshops, they can greatly improve their lives. When I ask them to describe their take home value, they speak about their desire to continue to use these techniques and enhance their lives. In reality only a few people continue to do that however, not only in my workshops but any other good workshop they may be doing such as Art of Living, SSY, Transcendental Meditation. This is also true about self- development and technical workshops in the corporate world. Why this is so?

What is happening here is there is no self-awareness. We are living smugly in our lives. One living within poverty learns to live with less money, rather than learning to make more money. One who has bad relationship with spouse and children, learns to live without love, rather than learning to improve relationships. One who has bad health, learns to somehow continue to live the same way, rather than learning how to have better health. One who discovers that he is a really unskilled parent, just imagines this is how the parenting is done and continues to behave in the same way, no matter how much damage that does to the future of their own children. And when there is an opportunity to learn better, all these people have a better (???) thing to do, may it be watching cricket match, may it be watching a movie, or it may be just taking a lazy afternoon nap. This way they are in a sort of comfort zone.”

Unquote

If I map this to corporate world, the situation is even worse. Too busy in executing, forget to learn new skills that can help executing the project better. For example one who has joined a project where work is not organized or processes are not followed, manage to live with such environment and adjust to the mess rather than learning how to do work better.

I have met people for whom going for a training is the least important item, their sole motto is execute, execute and execute…I say death by executing because if they do not take breaks, do not learn new skills and do not implement them in the work,  they will be dead very soon in their career. I found some companies, they just do not organize any trainings or facilitate learning for their people and expect more and more productivity day by day. Training means, they have got a project and they don’t have people on technology and hiring from outside is difficult and costly. Everything is running around saving cost or convenience. What about improving capability of people??? Most of these companies are in SME sector.  They often miss the fact that most of the projects fail not because of technical incapability but because of project manager’s incapability in planning & tracking, binding team members and motivating them.

Stephen Covey termed this as “Sharpen the saw”, the 7th habit in his book 7 habits of highly effective people. Too busy in cutting the wood, forget to sharpen the saw. What happen when you forget to sharpen the saw, your productivity of cutting wood goes down. Now putting more efforts and working hard will not improve your productivity. Even if it is, it will be incomparable to the productivity you will get by stopping the work, sharpening the saw once again and come back. One needs to do this at a regular interval. He specially emphasizes on reenergizing our own body.

This has come from a quote of Abraham Lincoln “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” When was the last time you sharpened your axe?

Once I was passing through Meerut Cantonment area where I believe Army has a training institute. I read a quote on the wall “ट्रेनिंग मैं पसीना बहाओ और लड़ाई मैं खून बचाओ” (Sweat in training and save blood in battle). In case of army, when the show is live, it is a matter of life and death. One has to go through regress training and has to be 100% sure before execution.

A sport person goes through regress training, coaching and practices endlessly for couple of days of match or few hours of game or in some cases just for couple of seconds of sprint. What happens when a team/player is failing, it is common sense for us to comment that team/players are not serious about their training, he/she has to correct his/her action etc. etc.. When it comes to our self, this common sense is not common.

In corporate world, it is execution most of the time. Some big organizations block some time for trainings but there also it normally does not go beyond 2 weeks. Comparing the time and efforts players and soldiers put in for their trainings, how precious every minute of a corporate training is? And you see all mobile phone, laptop on in the training room? Excellent multitasking!! What about people who think going to training to learn new skills is a toll on their execution. How much low priority, we have given to such important tasks without which all the paths of progress come to an end sooner or later. How long we will continue living in our comfort zone giving priority to least important tasks like watching Cricket, serials with no head and tale, aimless internet surfing or just gossiping.  Like axe or saw, skills and capabilities also get dulled over time and need to be sharpened.

We all know, we need to stop, re-establish our direction, re-organize our scheduled to accommodate time to learn new skills, build capabilities and implement them back at work until we get what we truly want and deserve.

Make a promise this New Year.

 

Wish you a happy new year!

God bless you what you truly want and deserve!!

Why is self learning MS Project not value for money?

When we do corporate trainings, some of the managers who were sent for training, invariably asked me this question. I am using MS Project for many years why you think I should attend this training.  My answer normally goes like this. We had several professionals in earlier classes who came with the same frame of mind and within couple of hours of training, you started hearing these voices….Oh! it is like that!!, It is so simple, Oh! I need not to enter any dates!!, Every time duration change was a big headache. Many of them shared that they had learned several things which they were not aware of and now the life would be much simpler.

Even in open house classes many people who were using MS Project for years joined us looking to learn advance features.  When they went back after the course they appreciated more the basic things they learned than advance.

I have seen many people telling me that they had stopped using MS Project because it was consuming lot of time, “my excel is ok”. The fact was that they did not use the MS Project properly.

Following are some common mistakes, most of the people do…

  1. Not setting up project options and continues working with default options. For example, efforts are estimated in person days but entered in hours by calculating every time.
  2. Not setting project calendar. Not defining holidays. This makes tasks to get scheduled on holidays when work cannot happen.
  3. Defining WBS incorrectly or on the run which keeps changing frequently.
  4. Estimating efforts in person days but entering in duration column which represent time span not efforts.
  5. Entering start and finish date for every task. That means using MS Project like excel, even worse.
  6. Using Must Finish On (MFO) constraint to track deadlines
  7. People are unaware but step 5 & 6 can generate enormous amount of work for project manager and take away flexibility of the schedule. If project is little big or complex, it may become unmanageable.
  8. Not scheduling ongoing or repetitive activities like status meetings, project tracking etc. Even if some people schedule these activities, they schedule them as normal project activities which are effort driven while such tasks are duration driven.
  9. Re-baseline the project on every change. It is like chasing a moving target.
  10. Not tracking cost of the project.
  11. Do not manage resources availability. Resources are scheduled even when they are on leave. This point and point no. 2 can give incorrect picture of project/activities finish dates.
  12. Only planning and not tracking the project as do not know how to track the project or it becomes very complex.
  13. Unawares of view customization and reporting features, prepare manual reports while MS Project can provide better presentable reports with minimal efforts.
  14.  Struggling with duration column, enter some value which gets changed as soon resources are assigned. Struggle to change this value every time, resources are changed.
  15. A task is to be stopped half done due to some temporary unavailability of resource but do not rescheduling uncompleted work when resource is available.

These are few of several mistakes project managers keep doing and make their life difficult. For project managers who are already overloaded in today’s world managing never decreasing large inventory of open tasks, these mistakes just make the situation worse.

Self learning is not as simple as it appears. It takes lot of time in doing R&D to learn new features. When a situation encountered of which PM does not have any clue, he/she takes help from peers who are as good as he/she is or use some books or MS Project help to come out with a workaround. These workarounds are normally not very efficient in managing the situation. There is no problem in using books or MS Project help but in absence of time, people do not read the full stuff.

Self learning does not come cheap. If we take average salary of a PM today as Rs.1,00,000/- per month in Indian scenario and standard working hours 160, per hour investment on PM is 100000/160 = Rs.625. If we say a PM spent 16 hours (2 days) over a period of time to self learn MS Project, total investment will be 625×16=Rs.10,000/-. More than the cost of 2 days training. And outcome is some workarounds and inefficient way of using MS Project. I have not included the cost of hours lost in making some of the mistakes listed above and struggling. Even in international scenarios considering $80,000 per annum as salary of a PM, cost of 2 days investment come out to be over $650. It is a good amount especially looking at the outcome.

This tool is there for Project Managers which must help saving their time and managing the project better but if tool is not used properly, it has an inverse impact, consumes time and mess up the things. MS Project is a rule based engine and before you use it, you must know how MS project functions, best practices, useful features and a systematic way to plan and track the project. This will help using the MS Project more effectively, saving precious time, better control on the project, better forecast and work as helping hand not as an overhead. A proper training needs some investment but it pays back much more than the investment.

 – X – X – X – X – X –