Our Mad March sale is over

IMG_9605Our Mad March sale is finally over but our world-beating prices remain for 2014 with our guarantee to beat any comparable price by $50.

Our fully catered, 4 and 5 day classroom courses for PMP and CAPM  are $1397, no more to pay (GST included).  See: http://www.mosaicproject.com.au/

Prices for our Mentored Email™ self-paced distance learning courses for PMI-SP, CAPM and PMP depend on your location and your selected options.

  • PMP Mentored Email courses – available world-wide from $680: see more
  • CAPM Mentored Email courses – available world-wide from $600: see more
  • PMI-SP Mentored Email courses – available world-wide from $520: see more


New Articles posted to the Web

BeaverWe have been busy beavers updating the PM Knowledge Index on our website with White Papers and Articles.   Some of the more interesting uploaded during the last couple of weeks include:

And we continue to tweet a PMI style of exam question every day for PMP, CAPM and PMI-SP candidates: See today’s question and then click through for the answer and the Q&As from last week.

You are welcome to download and use the information under our Creative Commons licence

Core Traits of a Reliable Schedule

CIOB_BookThe recognition of the need for effective schedules is a strongly emerging trend.  There are a number of assessment tools described on our Scheduling home page, and the related White Paper focused on the DCMA 14-Point Assessment Metrics  highlights the value of a ‘good schedule’; as does the CIOB ‘Guide’ to managing time.   The Core Traits of a Reliable Schedule adds a practical protocol to these existing resources.

The Core Traits of a Reliable Schedule is aimed at codifying schedule best practices. The Authors have endeavoured to codify the essential elements of a reliable schedule into a comprehensive protocol. It organises established and emerging best practices for CPM and GPM schedules into 20 core traits.

  • ‘A’ Traits correspond to comprehensive schedules,
  • ‘B’ Traits correspond to credible schedules,
  • ‘C’ Traits correspond to well-constructed schedules, and
  • ‘D’ Traits correspond to controlled schedules.

The Core Traits of a Reliable Schedule ties the 20 best practices, to indicators of reliability, to the consequences of non-conformance, in a straightforward and practical way. A useful free synopsis can be downloaded from http://pmaconsultants.com/services/innovation/core-traits-of-a-reliable-schedule/  and if you like what you see, the full protocol is available for purchase.

Practical Project Politics

PMI expects project managers to be politically smart and recognises that the appropriate and skilful use of politics and power help the project manger be successful (PMBOK® Guide Appendix X3.7). But what is organisational politics?

no-politicsProject Managers tend to be ‘doers’ that like the action of delivering tangible results, things that have value. Most successful PMs are skilled at managing project sponsors or steering committees and their cross functional teams, and the best are good at navigating complex organizational structures.  But, project managers are usually not office politicians and are usually not very good at playing corporate politics.

They see ‘playing politics’ as an undignified form of behaviour where logic, discipline, transparency and loyalty are replaced by deceit, secrecy and subterfuge. And whilst this may be true of some ‘political operators’ everyone in corporate management is involved in organisation’s politics and the biggest mistake a project manager can make is to assume that organizational politics don’t exist.

Project Managers need to understand corporate politics so they can see the warning signs of danger, and can position themselves to survive in politically charged environments. Politics is normal and dealing with it is just another part of an overall stakeholder management strategy.

Organisational politics is neither good nor bad in itself, it simply how power gets worked out on a practical, day-to-day basis. ‘Politics is an influence process in organizations to achieve power to change the balance of power to accomplish your goals or purposes’ (Kakabadse and Parker Wiley 1984). Project Managers need power to do their job and need to use politics as one way of gaining that power. In other words, politics is about power, influence, and access, and about working with the system to get what you need; which is not necessarily a bad thing.

A good working definition of politics is: ‘the use of one’s individual or assigned powers within an organisation for the purpose of obtaining advantages beyond one’s legitimate authority. Those advantages may include access to tangible assets, or intangible benefits such as status or pseudo-authority that influences the behaviour or others’.

‘Good politics’ is about working with the system to achieve positive results and helping to meet or exceed your project’s objectives. It’s about maintaining relationships and getting results at the same time. This can be achieved by finding win-win solutions and working to achieve mature compromises.

‘Bad politics’ is when someone works the system to make themselves look good at the expense of others. Bad politicians are focused on winning at all costs and abusing power systems to impose their will on others. This usually result in win-lose situations that can be highly de-motivating, destructive and dangerous to all involved.

Some traits of political players you need to be wary of include:

  • Self Promoting: they take credit even when they have not earned it
  • Manage up: they buddy only with power brokers
  • Spread gossip and talk badly about others who are not present
  • Distance themselves from failure
  • Throw bombs into situations and then retreat into the shadows
  • Extract information and opinions, without sharing their own.

Some of the ways to counter these traits and position yourself for success include:

  • Consistently meeting and/or exceeding the expectations of your stakeholders. Delivering results brings you organisational credibility that is not easily negated by the words and actions of others. This is best achieved by proactive stakeholder management!
  • Learn the political landscape of your organization. Be aware of how politics are unfolding around you. Determine the political players in your organization. Observe their actions and tactics. Anticipate what they will do next. Identify the power blocks and alliances that exist. The more you know, the better you can determine the course of action that is best for you.
  • Actively manage your reputation. It’s ok to talk about your successes and to self-promote in a positive way. And, also promote your team and/or the people around you who helped with the success.
  • Do not let negative talk fester. If someone engages in negative talk about you, your team or your accomplishments confront them with facts – address it quickly.
  • Don’t take sides unnecessarily. Try not to become part of one of the existing power blocks, this often limits your options going forward. Instead keep your options open.
  • Create your own alliance with people who are aligned with your values and engage in ‘good’ politics. Recruit people into your circle of influence by offering them support, encouragement, information, input, feedback, resources and access to others in your network. Earn their trust and respect through positive deeds and actions. Building your network will take time but it is worth the effort
  • Don’t denigrate others. It’s easy to be trapped into a discussion where negative sentiments are being expressed about someone, even if you do not agree. Say, “I’m not comfortable talking about ‘Person X’ when they are not in the room. If you have an issue with them I suggest you talk about it with them directly.”
  • ‘Keep your friends close, your enemies closer’. Sun Tzu, the author of the Art of War, understood that you have to be able to think like your enemies if you want to defeat them. So don’t shut out those who practice “bad” politics – rather, engage them, try to understand their perspectives, and learn their patterns. The more you know about them, the better you can manage your relationship with them.
  • Remember, it’s not personal. Stay detached, don’t let your emotions dictate your actions, find support in your network, stay positive and, focus on delivering positive results.
  • Think and look for “Win-Win” solutions. Win-lose outcomes will create enemies.
  • Be true to your core values and principles. If a person or action does not fit within your core values you need to reconsider your path going forward.
  • Be trusting but expect betrayal. Pragmatic trust is the key to successful engagement, if you are not prepared to trust people, they will not trust you (see more on The Value of Trust).

Organisational politics can be an ugly game in organisations that are not well lead and governed, often played by those whose only objective is complete, selfish victory (for one effect of this see: Poor Governance creates complexity). To avoid project failure, we have to recognise those who engage in bad politics, protect ourselves and our teams from them, and steer clear of situations where we might violate our core values.

To succeed as project managers, we need to link good politics with good stakeholder analysis and  management and proactively use one’s individual or assigned powers within the organisation to obtain the support and resources needed to achieve your project’s objectives and ‘meet or exceed’ your stakeholder’s expectations. In reality, this is the only way you can succeed.

Project Governance and Controls Symposium – Canberra

PCGS BackThe outstanding line up of international and local speakers for the PGCS in Canberra on the 6th and 7th May is nearly complete: Confirmed speakers include:

Professor Michael O’Donnell, Head of the School of Business at the University of New South Wales.

Dr Tom Ioannous, Group Executive Director Performance Audit of ANAO

Mr Col Thorne, General Manager Land and Maritime at DMO

Ms. Karen Richey, Assistant Director for the Applied Research and Methods Team at the Government Accountability Office (GAO – USA).

Mr. Stephan Vandevoorde, head of the Airport Systems Division of Cofely Fabricom N.V./S.A. and a founding member and Director of the EVM Europe Association (www.evm-europe.eu)

Mr. Stephen Hayes, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the International Centre for Complex Project Management

Mr. Mark Phillips,  President of Standpipe Manager, Inc. a U.S. based consultancy delivering innovative program management services, who will be launching his new book.

And Christen Bergerud (Ecosys), Harold Petersen (UXC Consulting), Yvonne Butler (The Palladium Group), Raf Dua (Micro Planning International), Elissa Farrow (About Your Transition), Louise Hart (Author), with more to come…..

At $820, the symposium represents fantastic value for a two day event.  Can you afford to miss this outstanding line up of international and local speakers?

To find out more and register visit the Symposium website at: http://www.pgcsymposium.com

PMI Voices Post

ideasMy latest contribution to the PMI Voices on project management blog has just been published: Adjusting to Team Time Warps, this post looks at different ways people perceive time (and why some are always late for meetings).

My earlier ‘voices’ posts are at: http://blogs.pmi.org/mt-search.cgi?blog_id=1&tag=Lynda%20Bourne&limit=20

Using negative feedback

In January, my blog The art of giving feedback looked at the topic of providing actionable feedback on performance to your team members. The post suggested all feedback should be actionable and most should be positive. However, it is inevitable that some feedback has to be critical in nature and ways to deliver this to achieve the maximum effect were discussed.

What was not discussed in January, the focus of this post, is how we can make use of negative feedback directed to us! Every manager and team leader has a supervisory role that requires them to offer feedback to their ‘team’ (or direct reports), whilst also being part of their manager’s team making them the recipient of feedback from their ‘bosses’ as well as from peers and in more open organisations subordinates. In short we all give feedback and we all receive feedback!

Receiving positive and constructive feedback is a pleasant experience that lifts our spirits and increases motivation and commitment; it’s easy and enjoyable. Making positive use of negative feedback is more challenging, particularly if the feedback is not well constructed, but is also the key to real improvements in your performance. You need to listen then act (see more on Active Listening).

The starting point is to accept that the negative feedback with openness and gratitude, even if you do not agree with it. You must keep in mind this type of feedback is intended to relay information that may be useful to you as long as you hear what is being said. What you then choose to do with the information is your decision, to be made later; but before you can decide on a course of action, you have to have listened to, and understood, the full message. After you have listened to the feedback say, ‘thank you’ and ‘I appreciate you taking the time to bring this to my attention’.

But be careful, unfair and overly negative feedback is used as a tool by bad managers and workplace bullies to demean and control others and requires a more robust approach discussed in Dealing with difficult people. You should not put up with this kind of attack, if you do, it will persist. However, even whilst ‘pushing back’ against this type of attack, there may still be opportunities to learn and grow – it’s sweet revenge on the bully to be able to use their ‘put-downs’ to help you advance your career.

So regardless of the intentions of the person providing the criticisms, the ways to turn negative feedback into a positive learning opportunity include:

1. Own it. Accept the feedback and make any necessary changes. Do this by turning the feedback into a list of actionable items and write down a SMARTER solution (see more on SMARTER) for each piece of negative feedback. Then work your plan.

2. Assume good intentions. Don’t automatically jump to the conclusion that the person providing negative feedback is ‘out to get you’, and remember that they are (or should be) criticising your work, not you as a person. Once you’re able to do this, it is much easier to make positive changes.

3. Clarify expectations and goals. Use the negative feedback as a chance to clarify your manager’s expectations and as an aid to understanding your role.

4. Build rapport. Use the negative feedback loop as an opportunity to bond with your manager. Their job is to help you develop, whilst yours is to bring results. Schedule regular meetings to discuss your progress and goals; get to know your manager and understand what he or she values most in an employee. This is your chance to show that you’re open to change and capable of growth, and is a great opportunity to show that you are mature, cooperative, and able to make necessary changes.

5. Get a mentor. Use this as an opportunity to find a mentor or strengthen your relationships with co-workers. If you’re in a situation where you need help or support—this is a great time to build those relationships.

6. Use reflective learning. This as a good time for some serious self-reflection. Use the opportunity to think about all the ways in which you can improve your behaviour and attitude.

7. Appreciate the attention. Remember that all constructive feedback (even negative feedback) is a sign of interest and a sign that people want to help you do better.

None of these ideas are particularly difficult to implement once you make the initial transition from seeing negative feedback as an ‘attack on you’ and reframe the criticism as an opportunity to learn and improve your performance. Achieving this needs ‘persilience’ but is well worth the effort (even with bad managers) – the alternative is to become negative and defensive which can only lead to dissatisfaction and eventually leaving or losing your job.