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    The Critical Path

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    Welcome to The Critical Path--the home for community happenings and events on ProjectManagement.com! This is where you'll find community news, updates, upcoming events, featured member posts and more. We'll also be showcasing hot topics in the project management arena and bringing you interviews with industry experts. The Critical Path is our primary way of getting news out to members, so be sure to check back for updates!

    About this Blog


    View Posts By:

    Marjorie Anderson
    Kimberly Whitby
    Laura Schofield

    Past Contributers:

    Carrie Dunn
    Danielle Ritter
    Kenneth A. Asbury
    Craig Dalrymple
    Rebecca Braglio
    Kristin Jones

    Recent Posts

    Mighty Fight: The Importance of Stakeholders in Achieving Project Outcomes

    Changes Coming to the Online Community!

    Apply Now for a PMI Sponsored Research Grant

    Project Teams—The Whole is Greater than the Parts

    4 Ways to Earn PDUs—and Reach Your 2020 Career Goals

    Mighty Fight: The Importance of Stakeholders in Achieving Project Outcomes

    Categories: standards

    by Maricarmen Suarez, PMBOK® Guide-Seventh Edition Development Team member

    At the center of every project effort, we find people. Stakeholders in various positions can and will impact the outcome of our endeavors. As practitioners, it is essential to engage these stakeholders early and often to understand their needs and interests. Active engagement will be a critical success factor in realizing the intended value of the project. Simply put, choosing whether or not you want to engage stakeholders is not an option—engagement is a must!

    An example that comes to mind is a project to contain the further spread of a virus outbreak. There are certainly millions of stakeholders that would have to be considered in this case. A public health crisis not only impacts patients and healthcare workers on the front lines, it also includes the media, medical supply providers, and many others inside and outside of the healthcare industry. Think about the supply and demand challenges should manufacturing plants have to close for an extended period of time. Yes, an outbreak has the potential to disrupt entire markets, and the stakeholder impacts are immense. This can be overwhelming!

    While planning the stakeholder engagement, it is crucial to recognize that the stakeholder landscape is rarely static. Individuals or organizations will morph throughout the life cycle of the project; new actors will appear while others move to the background. Their degree of influence will also have ebbs and flows. Focusing on the response to the virus outbreak, we can identify the World Health Organization as a stakeholder with a high degree of influence. This specialized agency is concerned with global public health and leads the collaboration of many other segments to ensure the highest possible levels of health around the globe. Understanding the influence a stakeholder has can help us develop a specific engagement approach.

    Another criterion to consider is the impact or the degree to which a stakeholder can effect change. In our example, think of the clinicians and public health officials. They can positively impact the outcome with their clinical management decisions or their ability to share clinical data in a timely fashion. Project leads can act as a force multiplier by being aware of stakeholders’ needs, interests, and opinions. This will allow the project lead to facilitate a shared solution, focusing on delivering value.

    People fuel project delivery. Often we can think of this in terms of the “what” and “how” of efforts. The “what” is the result that the project aims to deliver, the outcome ultimately leading to value. The “how” is the behaviors or skills that foster a collaborative stakeholder landscape. Some tools that would help a practitioner in this area include:

    • Interpersonal skills: Things like integrity, honesty, and respect are essential to fostering healthy relationships.

    • Communication: Open and transparent, a practitioner should be able to flex their style as needed to ensure everyone is engaged and informed.

    • Collaboration: We win or lose as a team. Being able to function in a cross-functional environment and craft shared solutions is pivotal to success.

    Ultimately, the impact of engaged stakeholders can lead us to develop better response strategies and project outcomes. In our example, engagement can lead to better understanding, carrying out a plan, and communicating effectively. These are certainly steps to achieve the outcome of containing the spread of a virus!

    Over the years, I have shifted my perspective from stakeholder management to stakeholder engagement. Humans, unlike widgets, can’t be managed, and attempting to do so is an exercise in futility. They can be engaged within the context of the project type, industry, environment, or delivery approach. Correctly engaging stakeholders, understanding their individual needs and levels of influence, and aligning the project efforts to support those needs is essential. This critical focus area will lead to the achievement of a much stronger outcome. This is why I believe stakeholder engagement is an essential project performance domain for all projects regardless of type and approach.

    Posted by Laura Schofield on: February 25, 2020 09:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

    Changes Coming to the Online Community!

    Change is in the air at PMI and within the online community!

    Over the coming months ProjectManagement.com will be undergoing a community transformation and we want to make sure you are up to date on the latest information while also giving you an opportunity to provide your feedback as we move through the process.

    As part of this transformation we will be migrating our current community to a new community platform and making updates that ensure that we continue to deliver the experiences you love within the online community (active discussions, the ability to connect with like-minded individuals, access to resources and information), while using the feedback that you have offered us as input to enhancements that will make connecting with each other and the resources you need and want easier. And while there may be some interruption to your current experience as we get further along in the migration, we want you to be assured that any changes to that experience will be communicated in advance to the extent that we can, and that ultimately our goal is to support the features you currently use, while benefiting from new and exciting features that will be available to you as part of our new enhanced platform.

    This is your community, so your input is important. We’ve already been speaking with a few of you to gain your insights on what will be meaningful to see in the future. And we want to make sure that we continue to hear from you. We are in the beginning stages of this work, but please stay tuned to this space for future updates and for ways that you may be able to get involved and lend your voice.

    This is an exciting time for PMI’s online community and we hope you're as thrilled as we are about the possibilities of what's to come!

    Stay tuned to The Critical Path blog for regular updates!

    Posted by Marjorie Anderson on: February 21, 2020 09:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (18)

    Apply Now for a PMI Sponsored Research Grant

    The PMI Sponsored Research Program awards grants of up to US$50,000 per project to support research whose themes and perspectives have direct application to theory and/or practice of project management.

    The 2021 call for proposals is now open through 25 April 2020.

    We encourage proposals on research involving multi-disciplinary teams of investigators or teams consisting of academics and practitioners who bring new ways of thinking and related bodies of literature to the field of project management. Investigators are welcome from both within and outside the field of project management, including management, organizational psychology, sociology, education, linguistics and others.

    To learn more about the program, including eligibility criteria, submission guidelines, key dates, and more, visit https://www.pmi.org/learning/academic-research/sponsored. You will also find published research from past PMI Sponsored Research Program-funded projects at https://www.pmi.org/learning/academic-research/published.

    Proposals can be submitted directly at https://pmi.submittable.com/submit.

    Posted by Laura Schofield on: February 19, 2020 09:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

    Project Teams—The Whole is Greater than the Parts

    by Betsy Kauffman, PMBOK® Guide-Seventh Edition Development Team member

    Teams are the lifeblood of any project. The dynamics of the team can either make or break the effort and, as such, it is essential we work to ensure the team is well cared for and the needs of the team are met. Therefore, it is essential we put great emphasis on teams when delivering projects—they are a critical component in all projects. I have worked with multiple organizations and teams and seen what a high performing team can accomplish when given the environment, leadership, and resources to be successful.

    When assembling a team, it is important to not only identify the skillsets necessary to do the work but also consider the personalities and dynamics to ensure they are complementary to each other. The goal with any team is to get them to become high performing in order to consistently and predictably deliver the work. Characteristics of a high performing team include, collaboration, trust, transparency, autonomy (to make decisions which impact the performance of a team), and working toward the same common goals.

    I am a big fan of creating teams where each individual is dedicated to the team. Work is brought to the team rather than breaking up the team and re-assembling new teams for each new effort. While this model may be tough due to current corporate structures where capacity and utilization are the main focus or how projects in the organization are currently funded, studies have shown we actually get greater output (and better outcomes!) from individuals when they are able to stay focused and not split across four or five different efforts. Also, from a human perspective, when we are part of a team we believe in and enjoy working together, and it causes us to “up our game,” both individually and collectively. We win or lose as a team.

    Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results. — Andrew Carnegie


    There are times when a team is not really a team but instead just a group of people working together, and its critical to know the difference. A team is able to have a healthy debate and resolve differences, they respect each other, they become accountable for delivering the work as a team, they learn and improve from each other, they are not afraid to speak up, they cover for each other when a conflict arises, they laugh together, and have spoken and unspoken team norms. However, when a group of people is just a collection of individuals working together, their individual interests and work are greater than the goals and output of the team. As a result, individuals are not accountable for delivering the work together, and often are focused on completing their individual work and handing (or throwing) it over to the next person to complete the next “step.”

    I see this phenomenon a lot when individuals are “silo’d” in their roles and are measured accordingly or split across multiple teams due to their skillset. For example, in a software project, we may have a “team” consisting of front-end developers, back-end developers, testers, business analysts, etc. The mindset of everyone is to complete their piece of work and hand it over to the next person while continuing on to the next task. Each individual is measured based on their individual output rather than the overall outcome of the project or story (if working in an agile manner), and it becomes a blame game when the work doesn't get completed within the time box.

    I have had the pleasure of working on high performing teams as well as coaching teams to high performance. All these teams were high performing because they were somewhat cross-functional in nature meaning they were encouraged and coached to come out of their lanes and learn new skills so they could complete the work as a team. They also were involved in the decision making for the team, they understood the big picture and outcomes of the project and had a voice in the best way to complete the work/project. Lastly, they collectively “owned” all phases of the work from design to development to release to post-production support, so they were accountable to producing and maintaining a high-quality product/project.

    As a leader, your role is to create, develop, and support teams to work collaboratively in order to achieve a project’s desired outcomes. A good leader values the capabilities and efforts of each individual and understands the difference between a successful and a failed project lies within the power of the whole team.

    When the development team was identifying and debating concepts for the performance domains for the PMBOK® Guide–Seventh Edition, there was no question or debate about the critical role teams play in project and product delivery. The only debate was do we focus on people and individuals or teams. Unanimously, we agreed the power was in the team and I believe it was the first domain we all agreed needed to be included in the new edition. For us to be able to deliver successful and valuable outcomes, we need to make sure we take the time and put great emphasis on building high performing teams. A team will deliver an outcome which meets (and probably exceeds) their customer’s needs when the team is:

    • aligned to the mission and the goals of the project,

    • provisioned with an environment and resources where the team is set up for success,

    • supported by leaders, and

    • provided the information and autonomy to make decisions.

    Given the impact that teams have on project success and delivering desired outcomes, I believe it is a project performance domain for any project that deserves intentional nurturing and development.

    Posted by Laura Schofield on: February 18, 2020 11:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

    4 Ways to Earn PDUs—and Reach Your 2020 Career Goals

    Many project managers find themselves too caught up in deadlines to focus on their long-term careers and professional growth. But there are plenty of reasons why you should carve out time for your own professional development, no matter your industry or experience level.

    For starters, professional development is key to gaining the skills and making the connections that advance your capabilities. Getting outside of your usual day-to-day—whether in-person or online—exposes you to innovative tools and best practices that broaden your understanding as a project manager. You can hone specific skills and acquire new ones that help you work more efficiently and solve problems more easily.

    Professional development empowers you to increase your value to your organization—and ultimately your earning potential—by mastering the latest disruptive technologies, forecasting trends, and enhancing your leadership abilities. You can even bring clarity to your own career goals.  

    At PMI, professional development units (PDUs) are an important part of your certification maintenance, but it’s not just a formality. PDUs show that you’ve actively pursued educational and philanthropic opportunities. In an increasingly competitive market, these factors can set you apart from your peers.

    PMI offers four ways to earn PDUs based on your schedule and preferences:

    1. In-person events

    Getting out of the office for in-person professional development exposes you to tools and tactics that you may not even know exist.

    Offered in multiple locations, PMI SeminarsWorld offers unique professional development through small-group training courses. Choose from more than 60 seminars designed to meet personal and organizational needs, earning up to 28 PDUs in the process.

    Other in-person events from PMI include EMEA Congress, Global Conference, and PMO Symposium®. These events feature diverse education opportunities, innovative keynotes, cutting-edge global perspectives, and networking with others who share your challenges and goals.

    1. Online courses

    One of the most convenient ways to earn PDUs, PMI’s online courses cover hundreds of topics in every area of project and program management skill development, from basic to expert levels.

    1. Webinars and virtual events

    Earn PDUs quickly—often at no cost—with webinars and virtual events offered through ProjectManagement.com. You can tune in live or listen to the recording when your schedule allows.

    You’ll find thousands of options with a how-to for just about any subject, including stopping workplace bullying, approaching a tech-savvy board of directors, and designing more effective project management systems. Narrow your search according to industry, popularity, PMI certification, even language.

    1. Giving back

    Help others while growing personally and professionally by earning Giving Back PDUs. These aren’t required for recertification but remain a great option for those with altruistic motivations. You can earn Giving Back PDUs by working as a practitioner, creating content, mentoring, or volunteering.

    Make time to grow with PMI

    Expand your capabilities and increase your value this year with PMI’s wide range of professional development opportunities. Earn PDUs with options designed to suit your individual objectives, schedule, and learning preferences.

    Posted by Laura Schofield on: February 12, 2020 09:31 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

    "Truth comes out of error more readily than out of confusion."

    - Francis Bacon



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