Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Art of Networking

Networking is a special form of communication aimed at developing a network of people with a stake in your life and career. Having a strong network is critical to your professional development but you cannot approach this in a selfish way – as with every stakeholder relationship, there needs to be a two way advantage, the only difference is rather then seeking mutually advantageous business or project outcomes, you are looking to your network to help you become more successful. This is achieved by developing a well-rounded network.

Some of the important people to have in a well rounded network include:

Your Mentor: This is the person who has reached the level of success you aspire to have. You can learn from their success as well as their mistakes. Heed their wisdom and experience. Mentors help you discover your solutions to your challenges.

Your Coach: The coach is someone who sets you goals, targets and challenges (think ‘sports coach’). They help with critical decisions and transitions and offer an objective perspective with no strings attached.

Your Industry Insider: This is someone in your chosen field who has expert-level information and who keeps you informed of what’s happening.

A Trendsetter: This is someone outside of your chosen industry who always has the latest buzz on any topic that you find interesting. The goal in having this person in your network is to look for those connections that spark innovation via the unconventional. It will also help you keep your conversations interesting.

Your Connector: This is a person who has access to a vast array of people, resources and information. As soon as they come across something related to you, they send you an e-mail or picking up the phone. Connectors are great at uncovering unique ways to make connections, find opportunities that otherwise would be overlooked.

An Idealist: This is the person in your network you can dream with and brainstorm ways to make the dream come true. Without judgment, they are focused on helping you achieve the impossible.

A Realist: On the flip side, you still need the person who will help you keep it real and challenge you to actually make your dream happen.

The Visionary: Visionary people inspire you by their journey. One personal encounter with this type of person can powerfully change the direction of your thinking and life.

Your Partner: You need to have someone who is in a similar place and on a similar path to share with. This is a person you can share the wins and losses with. Partners will also share resources, opportunities and information.

Your mentee: This is someone you can serve as mentor to. Someone you can help shape and guide based on your experiences.

Building a diverse network that includes people from different industries, backgrounds, age groups, ethnic groups, etc. … that fit into the roles listed above is far more empowering than building a deep network that only includes people from your current profession, limiting potential opportunities.

Achieving a dynamic network requires you to find the right people connect with and through the connections develop a robust relationship.  The balance of this rather long post will look at these two aspects in turn.

Meeting people, or at least being in a room with a lot of other people is fairly easy to achieve, there are professional associations, conferences and a range of other events you can attend, the only real challenge is creating time and picking up the courage to go out and meet people face-to-face.

Unfortunately, virtual networking is only a pale substitute; certainly networking tools such as LinkedIn and others have users that number in the millions, allow professionals to expand their networks to numbers never before possible, and help you connect with colleagues past, present and future from around the world these are largely ‘shallow’ connections. In-person networking, where connections are more personal, builds relationships that are stronger and creates impressions longer lasting. Virtual networking can certainly help feed into personal networking but then you need to make those connections and impressions that count.

The next time you attend a networking event and start a conversation with a stranger (or a virtual contact) you need to be an effective communicator and develop rapport.  These ideas will help:

Never pass up an opportunity to connect. Sometimes even a seemingly random relationship leads to a big payoff.

Make connections from the executive suite on down. Seek contacts are at all levels in a hierarchy and take the time to talk about their hobbies and interests, even at work!

Be prepared. Have a standard set of questions that you can use to begin a discussion; not only will you be ready to approach someone; you won’t do all the talking. The fastest way to build new relationships is to inquire about the other person’s work, and then ask about their biggest challenges or successes. For more on questions see: Active Listening.

Focus on each connection. When you are networking with someone at an event give them your undivided attention. Networking is about building lasting relationships, not about pushing unwanted business cards at strangers. Concentrate on what the person is saying and try to pick up nuances you can leverage later. But don’t ignore the cards – people are impressed when you meet again and you recall their name along with details of your last meeting and most of us need a prop to help remember this key information.

Build rapport. Build rapport by applying these simple steps:

  1. Find common ground. When you talk to people try to find out what you have in common with them by asking different questions and listen closely for commonalities. Try to find professional and personal commonalities, just make sure it doesn’t feel like an interrogation!
  2. Maintain eye contact. When you’re speaking to someone your eye contact will let them know you are interested and listening. This is a key part of ‘Active Listening’.
  3. Use open body language. Face your body toward them and at times even lean in when they are talking, this will show them you’re engaged. Avoid leaning back, facing away from them or crossing your arms, as this can indicate you don’t agree or that you’re uninterested.
  4. Be aware of your facial expressions. Be conscious of your facial expressions when people are talking to you. If frowning they may think that you disagree with them and if you’re smiling and nodding they will think you agree or are telling them to go on, but your expression needs to be authentic.
  5. Mirror the person you are speaking with.  Mirroring means matching the body language, speech and tone of the person you are talking with, and is a great way to build rapport quickly.
  6. Be confident and friendly.  People are naturally attracted to warm, happy and friendly people so make sure you are. Not only will it make you more likeable, you will also help those who are nervous to feel more relaxed around you.
  7. Make them feel good about themselves. When the opportunity arises, pay the person you are talking with a genuine compliment. When we make others feel good about themselves, they naturally warm to us and remember us more positively.

Then Follow up right away. Connect with your new contacts on LinkedIn or friend them on Facebook if you use your account for professional purposes. This is where in-person networking and online networking converge, and don’t overlook the potential of e-mails and phone calls to people you know and with whom you’d like to stay in touch.

Effective networking is both fun and valuable all it takes is practice.

Two events not to miss

Two events in Melbourne not to be missed!

1: IPMD Melbourne:

First on the 14th November – Melbourne’s first ever International Project Management Day breakfast.

IPMD_Medium_RGB

To preview Dr Amantha Imber, the breakfast keynote speaker’s thoughts on innovation and creativity see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nfUNp9LABhU.  Want more?  Download the event PDF and book your breakfast from: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/ftp/IPMD_14th%20Nov_Melbourne%20Event.pdf

Unfortunately I cannot make the breakfast – we are running our last PMP and CAPM courses for the year that week (starting 11th November) and as a scheduler, know being in two places at the same time is difficult. For more on the training see: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/Training-Schedule.html

2: Making Sense of Schedule Risk Analysis – Free Event

Second, on the 20 November, international risk management expert, Tony Welsh, President of Barbecana Inc and developer of the Full Monte risk analysis tool is the speaker at the AIPM Project Controls SIG (PC-SIG) meeting to be held at The Water Rat Hotel, 256 Moray Street, South Melbourne: http://www.thewaterrathotel.com.au/, on Wednesday 20th November (start 5.30pm). There is no catering for the forum but interested participants are invited to pre- and post-forum drinks at the bar (after all it is a pub!!).

This is a free event open to anyone with an interest in project controls, however, to make sure there’s adequate seating we are asking you to register with AIPM at http://www.aipm.com.au/iMIS/Events/Event_Display.aspx?EventKey=VI131120&zbrandid=2139&zidType=CH&zid=5168408&zsubscriberId=505907810&zbdom=http://aipm.informz.net (the event is free). But as long as you don’t mind the risk of standing, pre-registration is not essential. And I definitely will be attending this event.

Why collaborative time management matters

A survey of the UK construction industry by NBS, part of RIBA Enterprises, has revealed an increase in the number of disputes over the last 12 months. And that disputes over extensions of time outweighed any other reason

The second annual NBS National Construction Contracts and Law Survey was carried out in June in July 2013. Undertaken with the help of the membership of more than 20 industry bodies, the survey of over 1,000 clients, contractors and consultants found that 30% had been involved in one or more contract entering into dispute in the last 12 months compared to 24% in the previous year.

It is also clear from the NBS survey that many disputes involve large sums of money and have a significant effect on the construction process.

Respondents were asked to identify the main causes of disputes in 2012, with “extensions of time” being named by just under half the sample, at 49%. Other reasons included defective work, named by one in three (32%), valuation of interim payments (16%) and contractual terms (6%).

Another question asked the sample to identify the issues that had caused most problems during the construction phases of projects in 2012. “Assessment of delay and extension of time” emerged as the most problematic issue, identified by 44% of clients, 63% of contractors, and 48% of consultants.

“Lateness in payment” was named by 9% of clients, 34% of contractors and 20% of consultants.

On actual disputes, 70% said that none of the projects they worked on in 2012 had seen a dispute, by 17% had been involved in one disputed project, 6% had involvement in two, and 7% had been involved in three or more.

The survey found that collaboration was far from the norm, and therefore failing to reduce the number of disputes. 49% of those questioned said that they had not used any collaboration techniques on projects that started in 2012.

When the remaining 51% was questioned further on collaboration, 32% had worked on projects with formal partnering arrangements, 12% on projects with alliancing agreements and 20% on projects with non-binding partnering charters.

But the most common form of collaboration was “a contract that included the ethos of trust and mutual collaboration”, at 61%, although the report’s authors question how effective this would be.

One solution to this problem launched in 2013 is the new CIOB Complex Projects Contract which includes the requirement for effective schedule management (read the post) and is backed up by the CIOB PTMC time management certification (see more on the certification).

Communicating Success

As reported by PMI’s 2013 Pulse of the Profession™, an organisation’s ability to meet project timelines, budgets and especially goals significantly impacts its ability to survive. The Pulse study also demonstrated that the most crucial success factor in project management is effective stakeholder communication. PMI’s findings show that high performing organisations are more effective communicators and that organisations assessed as highly-effective communicators are five times more likely to be high performers than minimally-effective communicators. To read more download the report: The High Cost of Low Performance – The Essential Role of Communication.

There are probably several reasons for this strong correlation between effective communication and project success. From the broader stakeholder management perspective, projects and programs are only really successful once their outputs have been adopted by the stakeholders within the end user community and are being used to generate value. This means changing the way the stakeholders and the organisation work, which requires change!  Creating the desire for change within the affected stakeholder community requires highly effective communication and interestingly, if the communication is believed, the way people react and feel changes in response to the messages.

Research in Australia, New Zealand and the USA has consistently demonstrated physical changes in people based on what they have been told. Scientific studies ‘down under’ have shown people who are told wind turbines cause health problems experience health problems. The symptoms of ‘wind farm syndrome’ are only found in English speaking communities that have been exposed to anti-wind farm propaganda.  For more on this see: Wind farm:  https://theconversation.com/how-the-power-of-suggestion-generates-wind-farm-symptoms-12833 and https://theconversation.com/new-study-wind-turbine-syndrome-is-spread-by-scaremongers-12834

Positive effects can also be communicated, in a 2007 study, Harvard researchers told one group of female hotel attendants that their usual duties met the surgeon-general’s recommendations for an exercise regimen. Four weeks later, the researchers found improvements in blood pressure, body mass index, and other health indices among the informed group, relative to a control group of attendants that had not been so informed.

These effects appear to be real, Hilke Plassmann, Assistant Professor of Marketing at INSEAD reports that a study she co-conducted in 2008 measuring neural responses to drinking wine showed different responses to ‘cheap’ and ‘expensive’ wines. But, the researchers deliberately misled participants about the prices of the wines, claiming one cost US$45 when it actually cost US$5 and presenting another as costing US$10 when it really retailed for US$90.

Participants were instructed to sample various wines through a straw from inside an MRI machine which allowed their brain activity to be observed while they were consuming the wine. What was found were changes in the neural activity in an area called the medial orbitofrontal cortex, which is an area that encodes our experience of pleasure.

The findings highlighted the speed with which humans form lasting impressions that synthesise all types of data. The bias kicks in at a very early stage, and for the wine tasters, it really changed their taste perception.

From sportswear to cars, expectations of a product or service can actually create a resulting experience. Consumers are constantly told that the latest Nike running shoes or Mercedes-Benz can offer higher performance. Consumers believe it, they make a purchase and they experience it. What this implies in the realm of project stakeholder management is the conversations around your project will have a direct effect on how people experience the change!  Negative gossip and scaremongering will cause bad reactions, positive news creates positive experiences.

The expectations created by communication (or lack thereof) will tend to become self fulfilling prophecies – to make this work for you, you need to communicate to your stakeholders the expectation that the change your project is creating will be beneficial and good for the majority of the stakeholders.  If this message is both true and believed (the two elements are not automatically connected), the experience of the stakeholders is more likely to be positive.

Achieving this level of communication requires a combination of strategic thinking backed up by effective implementation, with a clear thread of responsibility running throughout.  The best strategists believe:

  • If I can’t articulate how we’re actually going to make this project work, it probably won’t work. They know that there are a lot of gaps, holes, and challenges in their strategies. They tirelessly keep a critical eye on the viability of their plans and stay curious — continuously asking themselves and others, how will this really work? When they find issues, they team up with others and fix it.
  • While it’s painful to integrate execution planning into strategising, it’s even more painful to watch the strategies fail. Good strategists understand that effective planning leads to effective execution and outcomes.
  • Sounding smart is overrated. Doing smart is where the real value lies. Ideas are just that — ideas. They know that if they’re not executed well, their strategies are nothing more than daydreams.

The best executors believe:

  • They need to be involved in the strategy process early and contribute practical insights to the overall development of the objectives.

  • They need to know the “whys” behind the strategy. They want to know the intent and the thinking behind the strategy.

Communicating for success means making a significant proportion of your stakeholders into ‘executors’ who believe in the benefits of the project/program and use their beliefs to influence others. Authenticity is crucial but so is passion and communication.

2014 PMP and CAPM Training Program launched

Mosaic’s classroom training schedule for PMI’s  PMP and CAPM credentials has been published including a new 4 day super intensive Bootcamp!

–  Last courses for 2013 start November 11th – still places available.
–  First Mosaic Bootcamp starts 20th January 2014

See all of our courses at: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/Training-Schedule.html

Classroom courses are offered in our home town, Melbourne, Australia – worldwide we are still delivering our uniquely effective Mentored Email™ course for the PMP, CAPM and PMI-SP credentials.  For more on the Mentored Email™ option see: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/Training-Mentored.html

And of course, all of our courses are backed by our training guarantees.

Making Sense of Schedule Risk Analysis – Free Event

Mosaic Project Services is pleased to be supporting a free AIPM Project Controls SIG  (PC-SIG) meeting to be held at The Water Rat Hotel, 256 Moray Street, South Melbourne VIC, 3205: http://www.thewaterrathotel.com.au/

Date: Wednesday 20 November 2013,  Start 5.30 pm – Start (note earlier start time) Finish 7.00 pm –  There is no catering for the forum but interested participants are invited to pre and  post- forum drinks at the bar (after all it is a pub!!).

The agenda for the meeting is:

  • 17:30 Welcome to the AIPM SIG COP
  • 17:35 AIPM News – John Williams
  • 17:40 Project Controls Developments – Pat Weaver
  • 17:45 Presentation “Making Sense of Schedule Risk Analysis” – Tony Welsh
  • 18:45 Wrap up
  • 18:50 Close (after-meeting drinks/ dinner option)

The main presenter is Tony Welsh, President, Barbecana Inc. http://www.barbecana.com

Tony was one of the founders of Welcom (producer of Open Plan and Cobra) back in 1983.  He sold the company to Deltek in 2006 and has recently started a new company, Barbecana.

Barbicana

Tony grew up in South East London and holds degrees in physics from Oxford University and in operations research from the London School of Economics. His career began at Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) under the direction of John Lawrence, a leading light in operations research (O.R.) and editor of the British O.R. Society journal. His work focused on sales forecasting, media scheduling, and measuring the affects of advertising.

Since 1980, Tony has been involved exclusively with project management software, for most of that time at the company he co-founded, Welcom. During that time he has been personally responsible for, among other things, the development of no less than four schedule risk analysis systems.

His paper will start with a brief discussion of the nature of uncertainty and how we measure it, the validity of subjective estimates, and why schedule uncertainty is different and more complex than cost uncertainty.  This will include an explanation of the phenomenon of merge bias.

It will go on to explain how Monte Carlo simulation works and why it is the only valid way to deal with schedule uncertainty.  Reference will be made specifically to uncertainty relating to task durations, resource costs, and project calendars.

The main part of the paper will deal with how to determine the input data, including correlations, and how to interpret the results, including estimated frequency function, cumulative frequency function, and percentile points.

The paper will conclude with a discussion of sensitivity analysis, its value, and the difficulty of doing it properly.

This event is a rare opportunity for Australian based project controls professionals in and around Melbourne to engage with one of the founders of the project controls profession, still active in developing and advancing our skills and knowledge.

To help manage numbers you are asked to register with AIPM at?  http://www.aipm.com.au/iMIS/Events/Event_Display.aspx?EventKey=VI131120&zbrandid=2139&zidType=CH&zid=5168408&zsubscriberId=505907810&zbdom=http://aipm.informz.net  (the event is free).  But as long as you don’t mind the risk of standing, pre-registration is not essential.

As the event sponsor, my hope is we have a really good turnout for the event and look forward to seeing you at The Water Rat – there’s plenty of street parking and the pub is on the #1 tram route.

Construction project management is a very old profession

At a recent ISO meeting in Sweden the Korean delegate, Young Min Park,  showing a video that compared the processes in ISO 21500 (Guidance on project management) and mapped them against the historical records of the construction of Hwaseong Fortress in Korea that was built from 1794 to 1796 by King Jeongjo of the Joseon Dynasty. Most of the processes described in ISO21500 were practiced in the management of the construction project and there is documentary evidence to support this.

Hwaseong_Fortress

However, typical of many historical records, time management is not documented.  The costs, quality and other features are well recorded and the construction was finished early but no information on how!

Hwaseong_Fortress_Map

Despite this, the brief video is a delight and shows that it is the practices that matter, not what we call them (although as we all know, having consistent words does help communication!). Enjoy the video; it’s only four minutes long, but is derived from the detailed project management records still held in the Royal archives in Korea.

Video: Historical project tells about project management