Author: Eric Verzuh

Eric Verzuh, PMP, earned his PMP in 1992. He is the author of the bestselling Fast Forward MBA in Project Management and the PMP® Deep Dive, a better, faster, and more fun exam prep program. You can contact Eric via email at EVerzuh@VersatileCompany.com.

A Book Review: The Culture Code Reveals the Power of Safety

A Book Review: The Culture Code Reveals the Power of Safety

“When we talk about courage, we think it’s going against an enemy with a machine gun. The real courage is seeing the truth and speaking the truth to each other.” –Dave Cooper, Retired, Commander Master Chief, SEAL Team Six (From The Culture Code, by Daniel Coyle) Why is it so hard to see the truth and speak the truth to each other? Why does that demand courage? And, can any team reach their potential without this ability?   Safety: The Foundation of High Performance Daniel Coyle, in his new book, The Culture Code, offers three necessary cultural elements of what he calls “highly successful groups.” These elements are safety, vulnerability, and purpose. After reading the first few chapters, I became convinced that safety should be the primary focus for every leader, especially project leaders. I’ve always thought of safety at the office and in my work group as physical safety. Coyle refocused my attention to emotional safety. Frankly, I am surprised I haven’t seen it before. I’ve been reading and writing about project team performance for about twenty years. I’ve always known trust was crucial to creativity and innovation, but Coyle’s angle brought a fresh light on the foundational role of safety. His point is that for teams to reach their potential, each member must feel safe enough emotionally to be vulnerable. Vulnerability is critical to giving and receiving authentic feedback, which is the only way a group will improve its performance. Purpose provides the North Star, and feedback within the group is directed toward serving the purpose. That logic is tough to dispute. Project teams are temporary and formed to accomplish something unique. Teams solve problems and make decisions every day. Versatile’s high-performance team checklist lists nine strengths that enable a team to survive the “give and take” of creativity and problem solving while maintaining trust and keeping relationships intact. But, I have to admit that emotional safety has always been assumed, rather than explicitly spelled out. Coyle’s logic, that safety precedes trust and trust precedes authentic feedback and team learning, lays bare the importance of establishing emotional safety within our teams. The quote earlier in this article comes from a key story in the SEAL Team Commander’s evolution as a leader. In Cooper’s early career, he advised a superior that a particular course of action was dangerous and should be avoided. That superior ignored Cooper’s advice, and the result was exactly what Cooper had feared. From that experience, Cooper determined to be the kind of leader that invited opposing points of view and encouraged criticism from every member of his team.   The Primary Focus of Every Project Leader Do you want your team to “see the truth and speak the truth to each other”? What could be more important? From creation of a business case and charter, through risk identification, scheduling, and daily problem-solving, your team is making decisions and working through conflicts.  Every day of every project is affected by team culture. Pick up Daniel Coyle’s Culture Code. He illustrates his theme with stories from a wide range of teams and follows up with specific actions for the reader. I predict his lessons will stick with you and reignite your focus on team culture.   Book Image Source: danielcoyle.com/the-culture-code

July 1, 2020’s PMP® Exam Changes

July 1, 2020’s PMP® Exam Changes

The Project Management Professional (PMP) Exam has changed several times in the past twenty-five years, and it is making another – far more dramatic – change soon. Anyone who has been thinking of taking the exam might want to act now, while the target is clear and exam prep resources are abundant. The new exam, which goes live on July 1, 2020, contains the biggest changes the exam has ever experienced. Traditionally, candidates for the exam could look to the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide, or PMBOK) as the primary source for topics that would appear on the exam. This is no longer the case. The revised exam, according to PMI, “is evolving, just like the profession.” The biggest change is a greater emphasis on Agile. In fact, approximately 50% of the exam content covers Agile topics. That’s a major reason why the current PMBOK is insufficient as the only source of study for the exam. What drives these changes? Before any exam change, PMI sponsors a role delineation study, an analysis of the typical responsibilities of a project manager. This is the method for keeping the PMP a relevant certification. In the most recent study, apparently, a large group of the project managers surveyed were using Agile principles and frameworks. Enough so, that the exam moved to cover Agile topics even more than it has in the past.   How should you respond to these changes? For current PMP’s, there are no announced changes. For project leaders with sufficient experience (4500 hours of project management responsibility over three years*), this might be the time to dig in, study, and pass the exam. Why? Every author and training firm that provides PMP® Exam Preparation resources is dialed in on the current exam. While many of these firms are using the new Exam Content Outline to update their resources, they are responding to the biggest change in the exam’s history, so it will be more difficult to get it right.   What if you wait? Eventually the exam preparation resources will catch up to the new exam. PMI has already listed some exam study resources that address the new exam content. Find out for yourself about the changes to the exam by referring to the PMI website. *Read about the requirements to apply to sit for the examination.  

Discovering a “Lighter” Microsoft Project

Discovering a “Lighter” Microsoft Project

“Light.” “Easier.” “Less clumsy.” “Lighter.” These are the words and phrases I hear most often from our customers when they talk about Microsoft Project. They want an easy-to-use scheduling tool, and Project just doesn’t seem easy. Of course, that’s why good training is valuable. It turns Project into an intuitive tool – right? Well, that’s what we patiently explain, “You just need to understand how Project works, and then it all makes sense.” Watch the demonstration. Do the lab. Put it to work on your project. You’ll get the hang of it. Recently, we took another approach. We realized that we had expert’s blindness. We knew what they should be doing and tried really hard to explain that, but it wasn’t working. We quit explaining and started listening. What is so frustrating? Why is that difficult to learn? Most importantly, “How do you want to use Project?” Microsoft Project is Powerful. And We Like That. To be clear, we also have clients that eat up all the features that Project has to offer. Reports. Budgeting. Resource leveling. They want it all and they learn to use it. Our Mastering Microsoft Project courseware is used by Microsoft Learning Solution Partners all over the world, demonstrating that Project has plenty of power users who appreciate its rich feature set. The problem is that for some users, Project is too powerful. There are too many features. What Does a Light Version Do? What does “light” mean to these Microsoft Project users? Why are they even using Project? Requirement #1: Our clients all want “schedules that show responsibility for tasks.” (That’s really two requirements, but I don’t tell them that.) They appreciate the visual schedule representation of a Gantt chart. Or their boss appreciates the Gantt, so they need to make one. They also want to assign clear responsibility to every task. Requirement #2: Show a critical path. Not everyone looking for a lighter version of Project even knows what Critical Path means, but quite a few do. They want a scheduling engine. How about project size? Does that make a difference? Not really. Their projects can be fifty lines or over one thousand. Excel just doesn’t get their job done. (Really, when does Excel provide a decent alternative to Project?) Requirement #3: Use a baseline to show schedule variance. Actually, this is my requirement, not theirs, but this is a key reason that we recommend Project over all other web-based “easy” project scheduling tools. If you don’t have a baseline, your schedule loses half of its value as a management tool. When I demonstrate a Tracking Gantt, everyone understands it, and they all want it. What else? Nothing. Nothing else. That is all they want. Just a scheduling tool that shows task responsibility. Give Them What They Want With a clear understanding of the users, and how they want to use Project, our team created a combination of a Project template, a custom Project ribbon, a simple step-by-step method for planning and updating a schedule, and training that takes a fraction of the time of our usual classes. We call it Tame Microsoft Project! Tame Microsoft Project Template: MPUG readers will recognize this as an .mpt file. Open the template and it contains two custom views: one configured for planning the project, and the other configured for updating the schedule. Other configurations include a Fixed Duration task type, because the last thing users want to figure out is task types. A custom Ribbon: When you use fewer features of Project, you need fewer tabs. Our Tame ribbon has a Plan tab and Manage tab, each providing access only to the features the user needs to plan and manage the schedule. The Plan tab, shown below, contains every feature needed from setting the Project Start Date to setting the Baseline. A step-by-step method for planning and managing a schedule: Project works best when we follow some basic rules, such as setting a Project Start date before entering tasks. The buttons on the Versatile Plan tab are organized left to right to reinforce the correct steps. Training focused on the steps of planning and managing: Our Tame Microsoft Project! class is typically five to six hours long, when delivered live. That’s less than a third of the time of our Mastering Microsoft Project class. Taking it online, at your own pace, gives you the option to review topics once you start putting the Tame approach to work on your own projects. What Is Lost With Microsoft Project Light? Your copy of Microsoft Project doesn’t change. All the features are exactly the same. The Tame ribbon and custom Tame views focus the user on the features they need, but they don’t change anything. When a user decides to start tracking cost or leveling resources, there is nothing in their way. Summary: The Typical Project Light User As we listened to the clients that wanted a simpler version of Microsoft Project, it became easy to identify them. Is this you? Maybe you are the classic Microsoft Project Light user! You DO manage schedules using Project You DON’T manage costs with Project You DO need to know WHO is assigned You DON’T need to know how many hours a person will work per day or month Our Tame Microsoft Project users can be working on part-time projects, where resource leveling is too much overhead, or major construction projects where they use accounting software to track costs. “Light” doesn’t refer to the project size, it describes the effort to use Microsoft Project. To MPUG readers, the author is offering a 30% discount for Verstile’s online, self-paced training that includes the full Tame Microsoft Project solution. Use discount code: Tame30. Related Content Webinars (watch for free now!): Task Planning using Microsoft Project What’s the value of Schedule Risk Analysis? Articles: Levels of Project Scheduling Proficiency Are You Using the Team Planner View Feature in Microsoft Project? Resource Leveling: Scheduling vs. Leveling

Manage Projects Using SharePoint, Lesson Four

Project Management Institute (PMI)® Professional Development Units (PDUs):This Webinar is eligible for 1 PMI® PDU in the Technical category of the Talent Triangle. Overview:  Training on technology accelerates learning and adoption. Teach your teams to manage projects on SharePoint 2013. Perform the most important project management activities using the out-of-the-box features of SharePoint. Learn how easy it can be to set up a project site that keeps your team informed and engaged. SharePoint is designed as a platform for creating collaborative business applications. You’ll learn the SharePoint applications that already exist to help you manage the schedule, track issues and risks, and control critical project documentation, all while keeping your team updated with the latest project information. Lesson Four Topics: Design a practical home page for your project.Create a summary view for your sponsor.Use a SharePoint template to save time on your next project. Watch Lesson OneWatch Lesson TwoWatch Lesson Three Presenter Info: Amber Butler can quickly show you how easy it is to build a project site in SharePoint. She built Versatile’s solution from the ground up after attending a SharePoint class and working side-by-side with some of Versatile’s project management experts. She has a practical, easy-to-follow method of teaching. Have you watched this webinar recording? Tell MPUG viewers what you think! [WPCR_INSERT]

Manage Projects Using SharePoint, Lesson Three

Project Management Institute (PMI)® Professional Development Units (PDUs):This Webinar is eligible for 1 PMI® PDU in the Business Acumen category of the Talent Triangle. Overview:  Training on technology accelerates learning and adoption. Teach your teams to manage projects on SharePoint 2013. Perform the most important project management activities using the out-of-the-box features of SharePoint. Learn how easy it can be to set up a project site that keeps your team informed and engaged. SharePoint is designed as a platform for creating collaborative business applications. You’ll learn the SharePoint applications that already exist to help you manage the schedule, track issues and risks, and control critical project documentation, all while keeping your team updated with the latest project information. Lesson Three Topics: Document collaboration is easy in SharePoint.Record useful status reports with minimum effort.Risk management for Stakeholders: The Stakeholder page.The six point project status agenda creates a cadence of progress.Use alerts to promote collaboration. Watch Lesson OneWatch Lesson TwoWatch Lesson Four Presenter Info: Amber Butler can quickly show you how easy it is to build a project site in SharePoint. She built Versatile’s solution from the ground up after attending a SharePoint class and working side-by-side with some of Versatile’s project management experts. She has a practical, easy-to-follow method of teaching. Have you watched this webinar recording? Tell MPUG viewers what you think! [WPCR_INSERT]

Manage Projects Using SharePoint, Lesson Two

Project Management Institute (PMI)® Professional Development Units (PDUs): This Webinar is eligible for 1 PMI® PDU in the Technical category of the Talent Triangle. Overview:  Training on technology accelerates learning and adoption. Teach your teams to manage projects on SharePoint 2013. Perform the most important project management activities using the out-of-the-box features of SharePoint. Learn how easy it can be to set up a project site that keeps your team informed and engaged. SharePoint is designed as a platform for creating collaborative business applications. You’ll learn the SharePoint applications that already exist to help you manage the schedule, track issues and risks, and control critical project documentation, all while keeping your team updated with the latest project information. Lesson Two Topics: Why Risks and Issues Tame the Project. Add an Issues Page and tips for practical issue management. Add a Risk Page and tips for practical risk management. Watch Lesson One Watch Lesson Three Watch Lesson Four Presenter Info: Amber Butler can quickly show you how easy it is to build a project site in SharePoint. She built Versatile’s solution from the ground up after attending a SharePoint class and working side-by-side with some of Versatile’s project management experts. She has a practical, easy-to-follow method of teaching. Have you watched this webinar recording? Tell MPUG viewers what you think! [WPCR_INSERT]

Manage Projects Using SharePoint, Lesson One

Project Management Institute (PMI)® Professional Development Units (PDUs): This Webinar is eligible for 1 PMI® PDU in the Technical category of the Talent Triangle. Overview:  Training on technology accelerates learning and adoption. Teach your teams to manage projects on SharePoint 2013. Perform the most important project management activities using the out-of-the-box features of SharePoint. Learn how easy it can be to set up a project site that keeps your team informed and engaged. SharePoint is designed as a platform for creating collaborative business applications. You’ll learn the SharePoint applications that already exist to help you manage the schedule, track issues and risks, and control critical project documentation, all while keeping your team updated with the latest project information. Lesson One Topics: The Vision: Top five project management activities to incorporate. The Foundation: Create a SharePoint sub-site for your project. Add a schedule page and some tips for practical schedule management. Connect your schedule to your Outlook. Watch Lesson Two Watch Lesson Three Watch Lesson Four Presenter Info: Amber Butler can quickly show you how easy it is to build a project site in SharePoint. She built Versatile’s solution from the ground up after attending a SharePoint class and working side-by-side with some of Versatile’s project management experts. She has a practical, easy-to-follow method of teaching. Have you watched this webinar recording? Tell MPUG viewers what you think! [WPCR_INSERT]

The Curious Case of the Disappearing New Hires

The Curious Case of the Disappearing New Hires

A large company decided to reward project managers and team members based on performance. Sounds good, right? Tie people’s pay to the outcome of a program or project. Success leads to better pay and failure leads to pay reduction. Now everyone has skin in the game. Except that multi-year programs that naturally have personnel turnover now have a new recruiting dimension. Imagine this recruiting conversation: Hiring Manager: “You’ll be rewarded if this program is profitable.” Potential Project Manager: “How is the program doing now?” HM: “Not well. It hasn’t been profitable for the past two years.” PPM: “So… I’ll be rewarded based upon the failures of past executives, PMs, and team members? Hmm. Think I’ll pass on that…” Previous Post Next Post Image Source