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October 2011 Archives

5 Steps to Plan the Project Planning

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There is a saying: "Every minute you spend planning will save you 10 minutes in execution." As a project manager, I've learned that along with communication and execution, planning is one of the three key ingredients for project success.

Planning is not just a one-off activity completed in the early stages of a project. Planning is a process (or rather a group of processes), conducted throughout the project. And like every process, planning itself requires a plan and a setup, which defines the planning scope, details and deliverables.

So how do we plan the planning? Here is my five-step approach:

1. Decide on the project management methodology, framework or practice you will use on the project. Depending on the approach, you might require different planning styles, deliverables, details or rigor.

You might have to go ahead with a detailed planning process if you will use a waterfall approach. Conversely, you might have to keep the planning thin if you will use an agile approach, such as scrum. Or, your planning might be predefined and framed if you have to use your organization's proprietary methodology.

2. Plan project time for planning. In average, at least 10 percent of management time should be allocated to project planning.

3. Write down a checklist of all project documents you plan or need to deliver. The list will mostly depend on your project's complexity, organization and methodology. (More on this in my next post.)

4. Start planning early and continue planning throughout the project.
Some of the planning documents, such as the high-level schedule or scoping documents, might have to be kept frozen upon sign-off. Other documents, such as the risk management planning or rollout planning, will typically require updating as the project progresses.

5. Continuously improve your planning.
Improve planning by communicating the planning outcome with your project team and by collecting their feedback regarding your planning performance. You can use this feedback for continuous planning improvement.

As the project progresses, keep a log of your planning issues to track gaps you encounter along the way. This is the "planning lessons-learned" document that you can also use for continuous improvement.

What do you think? How do you plan for project planning?

See more on project planning.

Contribute to the Project Management Profession

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This weekend at PMI® Global Congress 2011--North America, I accepted the PMI Distinguished Contribution Award.
 
As the first Mexican national recipient of the award, it's an honor and a responsibility. This award represents the global recognition PMI bestows upon individuals who contribute to the growth of the project management profession.

In 2008, I joined a group of volunteers that acts globally and domestically. I learned about the extent to which PMI volunteers offer their services, including writing PMI standards, preparing questions for certification exams, organizing global congresses, and presenting at PMI events.

My first official volunteer activity was as a presenter at PMI® Global Congress 2008--Latin America in São Paulo, Brazil. There, I had the opportunity to meet practitioners from different latitudes and to share my experience working on multigenerational and multicultural project teams.

After the global congress, I had many more opportunities pop up to continue supporting PMI's culture of volunteerism and promoting the value of multicultural project teams.
 
I seized the opportunity to mentor young project managers and create project management knowledge. I was able to impact society after I helped the PMI Madrid, Spain Chapter translate into Spanish the Project Management Methodology for Post Disaster Reconstruction. The final product was ready at the time an earthquake hit Chile. The local chapter and Chilean authorities used this document to help manage post-disaster projects.

These opportunities have been excellent learning experiences that have enriched me personally and professionally. They've given me the opportunity to touch lives and persuade other colleagues to volunteer.

I've been lucky that the team members noticed my volunteer efforts and endorsed my nomination for the PMI Distinguished Contribution Award.
 
If you are an experienced project practitioner and would be interested to contribute to the profession you can:

  • Create project management knowledge. Write articles for project management magazines or chapter newsletters. Become active in a community of practice. Or, conduct presentations at PMI congress events or monthly chapter meetings.
  • Share your experience updating PMI standards. PMI standards are updated frequently and subject matter experts are required to create and manage the context of the new versions.
  • Bring fresh blood to your local chapter. PMI chapters always look for volunteers that can be part of the chapter board or who are willing to support the chapter functions.
How have your contributions to the project management profession enhanced your career?

See more posts from Conrado.
See more posts from PMI® Global Congress 2011--North America.

IBM's Watson Project a "Monumental Feat"

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Earlier this year an IBM computer dubbed Watson trounced a pair of former champions on the TV quiz show Jeopardy!

No small feat.

It only came about after a complex project that resident Voices blogger Jim De Piante, PMP called the "single greatest challenge in the history of computer science."

Mr. De Piante, who served as a project manager on the IBM initiative, talked about Watson's creation with attendees at PMI® Global Congress 2011 -- North America.

The idea to launch the Watson project was spawned by the success of Deep Blue, IBM's chess-playing computer that won a six-game match against the world champion at the time.

The project scope was deceptively simple: win Jeopardy! But this required "some serious science." The computer had to understand natural language be able to arrive at a single, precise answer to a question, which was often loaded with quirky clues.

At the start of the project, IBM's technology could answer in about two hours and it was wrong about 66 percent of the time. Watson had to snip that down to three seconds and get it right 90 percent of the time.

Through an exhaustive series of testing, tweaking, perfecting and testing again, Watson achieved its goal.

Then the team had to figure out how to transport the 9-ton system across the country, from its home in upstate New York, USA to Hollywood, California, USA, where Jeopardy! is taped.

For a number of reasons, Mr. De Piante's team changed its approach: Instead of Watson going to Hollywood, Hollywood came to Watson. IBM built a "studio" and hired an actor to serve as the host. In the studio, they held "sparring matches," where Watson practiced against IBM employees and former Jeopardy! contestants. In 55 matches against former Jeopardy! champions, Watson won 39 times.

In the end, what began as an IBM researcher's far-fetched idea in 2004 was deemed an unequivocal success six years later.  

"Winning the Jeopardy! match isn't why our researchers created Watson," Mr. De Piante said. "The Jeopardy! match helped make us all aware of a technological marvel, which will radically change the way we interact with computers."

Mr. De Piante's presentation also featured five project practitioners playing a round of Jeopardy! against a demonstration version of Watson. The humans were no match for the machine.

See more posts from PMI® Global Congress 2011 -- North America.

Gladwell Says "Tweakers" Rule

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In a business landscape that seemingly puts a premium on originality, it's the borrowers and followers -- those who tweak the ideas -- that thrive.

That was the message best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell hammered home in a thought-provoking keynote address at PMI® Global Congress 2011 -- North America.

Mr. Gladwell outlined three types of organizational cultures:

1.    Intellectual ones come up with big ideas
2.    Innovative ones are entrepreneurial and risk-taking
3.    Borrower cultures nimbly combine the traits of the first two  

Paradoxically, the most successful organizations come behind the first wave of originality, adapting and improving the concept.

Before Apple became an icon of global innovation, for example, Steve Jobs borrowed and implemented ideas from Xerox to come up with the venerated mouse.

Tweakers and followers may not be the first to market, but they benefit from seeing how new technology evolves before they make their own market commitments.  "That kind of insight is only the kind of insight that comes to the one that follows," Mr. Gladwell said.

Just think of the search engine showdown between AltaVista and Google. (I think we all know how that one turned out.)

Of course, sometimes an organization's culture is dictated by its circumstances. In its early days, Apple had no choice but to borrow, follow and be nimble. It was "desperate," Mr. Gladwell said: It simply didn't have the staff or money to be as innovative as its wealthy counterparts.

"Resources can stand in the way of that hunger, of making a big difference in the marketplace," Mr. Gladwell said.
 
Organizations can change their culture of innovation -- if they have the courage and ability to admit they're doing something wrong. And that's a characteristic Mr. Gladwell classified as "insanely hard to find" in leaders. He added that almost any professional can become a practical real-world innovator, but only if that person has permission from management.

Innovation is a phenomenon of the masses, not of the elite, he said. "Tweakers" are the ones sparking the greatest advances, exponentially raising the power of existing technology by making small changes.

Read more posts from congress.

 

Olympic Megaproject Unites Canada

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John Furlong had a vision: Unite all of Canada behind the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. Under his leadership as head of the Vancouver Organizing Committee, that vision became the driving force behind the 14-year megaproject.

In a moving presentation at PMI® Global Congress 2011 -- North America, Mr. Furlong gave an insider's look at how, with solid risk management, the project team overcame a slew of unexpected obstacles to deliver the biggest project ever staged in Canada.

For example, all the team's scientific data -- going back 100 years -- indicated there would be enough snow on the mountain scheduled to host snowboarding and skiing events. There wasn't.

The result was a 24/7 effort on the eve of the event to bring in snow from 100 kilometers (62 miles) away. In the end, it was ready for action.

Rallying people behind the Olympic vision meant reaching out to every corner of the country -- literally in some cases. Part of the team, for example, was tasked to ensure that every Canadian had the chance to see the Olympic torch. Team members drew and redrew maps, trimmed out rest days from the schedule and ultimately pulled off a 106-day torch relay.

The darkest hour of the games came when Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili died during a training run. The outpouring of support across Canada helped Mr. Furlong realize the entire country was behind the organization. That backing helped his own team get through the crisis.

Mr. Furlong shared four takeaways from his Olympic experience:

  1. You have to have a vision, a belief in something so strong that it will get you out of bed when you feel like you can't.
  2. If you're given the leadership role, surround yourself with people who are not the same as you, and who won't be afraid to challenge you, but will still stick together.
  3. Even in your darkest hour, you have options. Although you risk humiliation and failure, if you don't have the courage to fight, you don't know what you're capable of.
  4. Never sell your integrity to anyone. Once you do, you can never get it back.

Mr. Furlong finished with this advice for all project managers:

"Sometimes you have to get on your hands and knees and claw your success out of the dirt."

See more posts from PMI® Global Congress 2011 -- North America.

"Miracle" Project Wins PMI Project of the Year Award

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Shave US$100 million from a project's budget and your stakeholders will likely be thrilled. Shave another US$100 million from the budget and the entire project management profession will likely take notice.

The team behind the Prairie Waters project of Aurora, Colorado, USA, did just that. And last night at PMI® Global Congress 2011--North America, it was named 2011 PMI Project of the Year.

After a two-year drought in Aurora, the project aimed to provide an added 10,000 acre-feet to the city's water supply.

What set this particular project apart from the pack? "Excellent project management" and "a little bit of luck," said Larry Catalano, manager of the capital projects division for the City of Aurora, as he accepted the honor.

"Just imagine for a moment: one program management firm, three construction managers, four city project managers, five design engineering firms, seven general contractors, 10 bid packages, 36 regulatory agencies, 140 property easements, 410 permits and 11 city council members representing 330,000 people that weren't too happy about their water bills being increased," he said. "Sprinkle in a few attorneys here and there and add an owner-controlled insurance program and I think it's a miracle we got this project done at all."

Mr. Catalano called Prairie Waters "truly a legacy project" for the city.

The project required constructing a 34-mile (55-kilometer), 60-inch (1.5-meter) pipeline, four pump stations, a natural purification area and one of the world's most technically advanced water-treatment facilities, which handles 50 million gallons (189 million liters) per day.

During the project's design phase, city council members required project leaders to cut US$100 million from the initial estimated budget of US$854 million. In the construction phase, project leaders created incentives for contractors to come up with ways to deliver the project more cost effectively, while maintaining safety and quality standards. Any cost savings were split evenly with the city and the contractors.

The project was ultimately delivered for US$653 million -- and two months ahead of schedule.

The Prairie Waters project was honored along with two finalists: Oak Grove Steam Electric Station, Franklin, Texas, USA and EMAL Smelter Complex, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Look for video case studies of all the finalists along with more awards coverage and a full list of winners on PMI.org

Gladwell and Watson -- And a Lot More is Coming at Congress

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Like any good fan of bleeding-edge business thought, I'm always interested in what author Malcolm Gladwell has to say about innovation.

This weekend at PMI® Global Congress 2011 -- North America, Mr. Gladwell is slated to give a keynote on organizational culture and innovation drawing on lessons learned from Xerox, Apple and IBM. He'll also cover how project managers can inspire creative thinking to help drive business growth and, just possibly, change the world.  

Resident blogger Jim De Piante will lead a session showcasing Watson, IBM's supercomputer that beat out contestants on TV quiz show Jeopardy! Learn about the IBM Grand Challenge that led to Watson, a revolutionary undertaking that required a different sort of project management.

John Furlong will discuss his role as the mastermind of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic & Paralympics Winter Games. Teaser: It involved a US$1.76 billion budget, more than 2,600 participants, 82 nations, 86 events and 55,000 volunteers. Intrigued? We'll have more.

Congratulations to the Prairie Waters Project, the 2011 PMI Project of the Year recipient. They were awarded last night, along with several other winners. We'll have more on the awards ceremony coming later, plus much more as the event goes on.

Follow @PMINAC and use hashtag #pminac to keep up with congress happenings on Twitter.

And of course, stay tuned to Voices for more posts from congress through the weekend. If you're going, see you there!

The Invisible Side of Different Generations in Project Teams

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Generation X represents the majority of members in project teams around the world. (The exact date range of this generation varies, but for the purpose of this post, it is those born in the 1960s through the early 1980s).

These team members are potential candidates to transition to higher ranks once their senior project managers and program managers are ready to retire.

Veteran project managers and program managers who are close to retirement are looking for the right successor. But that can be challenging because of the divergence of values among generations.

Cultural and generational beliefs and behaviors have both "visible" and "invisible" components.
 
Visible elements of beliefs and behaviors are easy to observe and represent the 'what' of cultures and generations. For example, baby boomers are confident, independent and self-reliant, and those from the Silent generation are disciplined and loyal.

The invisible part is not easy to observe and represents the 'why' of cultures and generations. It holds values, beliefs, attitudes and assumptions that are a result of shared experiences.
 
During Generation X's childhood years, in the mid 60's and 70's, there was an intense competition between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union. This competition influenced people to strive towards their country goal and fostered teamwork.
 
The competition between countries included fields like economy, politics, science and sports. Generation X was born into, and grew up in this competitive environment. They have taken their culture and spirit to the workplace and positively impact project teams with their pragmatism, competence and technological savvy.

In my opinion, project managers and team members of different generations need to look on the invisible side of their beliefs and values to understand each other and avoid stereotyping and creating the wrong perception.
 
As a project manager, what would you say is the main contribution of Gen X team members?  What other invisible factors had a positive effect for generations now in the workforce?   

Timeboxed Meetings Foster Efficiency

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Official project meetings normally take up so much time that most see it as time wasted. How do you ensure you're getting or delivering information that you want without wasting time? How do you train your team members to be more efficient in sharing information you need?



There is one technique in agile scrum that I particularly like and have found very useful. I'm pretty sure this technique has been around for a long time, only now they have a special name for it: the timeboxed meeting.

Timeboxing is typically used when a project schedule is divided into separate time periods -- each period has its own schedule, deliverables and budget.

When you apply timeboxing to a meeting, each team member answers three questions:

  • What was done yesterday?
  • What challenges were faced?
  • What is the plan for today?
Ideally, three minutes is given to each person to answer in a timeboxed meeting. So if five people are giving updates, only 15 minutes is spent in total. Upon finishing, members immediately go back to completing their tasks. If anyone is unable to attend the meeting, an email containing answers to the three questions suffices.



In reality, having team members summarize their last 24 hours into three minutes is challenging. Without focus, and practice, they will undoubtedly fall into the trap of over-elaborating and, worse, finger pointing.

In the beginning, you might want to try five minutes per person, but reduce the number of participants. This means you will have more than one session of timeboxed meetings. As your team gets more comfortable, start reducing the time and adding team members per session.



Remember, the idea is to hold these meetings daily with the objective of sharing updated information quickly. As an added benefit, you're indirectly coaching your team members to be more focused and efficient.



As project managers, we have to determine whether a technique is counterproductive. If the idea of having a daily update meeting seems too taxing, try holding them every other day. If you feel that getting team members together at one time is difficult, improvise and ask them to send text messages or email instead.



Have you used timeboxed meeting techniques? What methods do you use to increase the reporting efficiency within your project team?

Manage The Knowledge Gaps

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To be great in project management, we can't only be familiar with our role as the project manager. We must be educated about other roles in the profession, as well as most, if not all, knowledge areas.

But project managers often do the work they like and are familiar with, rather than work that needs to be done. Even if it's work that contributes to a project's overall success, I find that many of us focus on tasks that we're familiar with or that we already know we're good at.

Regardless of how great I am with some tasks, I know that I must fill in my own knowledge gaps with team members' expertise. Because in addition to being a good project manager, the real trick to getting things done is surrounding myself with a capable, well-trained project team.

Instead of trying to learn everything and being everything to everyone, I accept that I won't always know it all. I ask for input from the team on a regular basis. This makes the team feel needed and appreciated for their contributions and makes the project execution more efficient.

Do you tackle the tasks you're good at rather than those that need to get done? How do you balance your own expertise with that of your team members?

Networking Practices for Project Results

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Last week I attended my first formal networking how-to event. I was curious to learn about the differences and similarities between general networking and networking for project success.

What interested me the most was a slide detailing three types of networks: operational, personal and strategic.

In the project environment, networking for operational, personal and strategic goals is a core competency for project managers and team members. In all my training sessions, I always repeat the statement "90 percent of a project management job is communication."

In fact, I go as far as to say networking is a skill that can lead to project success. For example, networking comes in handy in the following areas:

With stakeholders:
On projects we talk to all our internal and external stakeholders on a regular basis. Therefore, we have to network.

We network to acquire and manage resources, vendors and contractors, and also to ascertain and explore risks, strengths and opportunities for the project.

Our personal objectives can be met because well managed, informed and engaged stakeholders equals a happier project manager.

In project communications planning:
Project objectives should be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound). Similarly, project-networking activities should be smart too.

Networking activities should:
  • Assess the quality of working relationships
  • dentify where better relationships are required in order to complete the project
  • Develop a wide support network
  • Follow up on tasks or commitments
  • Build and maintain relationships to get the job done
  • Focus and pursue the right networks understand where they fit in and how to communicate with them effectively, know their likes and dislikes and what motivates them.
Within the project team:
Project managers must have networking skills to successfully engage, lead and build the team. These skills will enable the project manager to be a mentor and leader of the team.

Project managers should network with their teams to delegate, collaborate, motivate and ensure they work together.

With interpersonal skills:
Networking can help project managers build self-confidence, and devote time and strategy to build and reciprocate through meaningful networks. Plus, meeting others and finding common ground and mutual areas of benefit and collaboration is always helpful to a project manager.

I can confidently assume that since the history of projects, good project managers have been networking out of necessity or risk project failure.

Certainly in my own case, I have been naturally 'networking' without really knowing that I was doing it. The difference now is that I am more aware.

What do you think is a networking best practice? Is project success dependent on a project manager's networking abilities? What benefits has networking brought to your projects? What role has networking played in your projects?

Adding Generation Y to Projects

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Generation Y is entering the workplace. As the children of baby boomers, Generation Y may not always fit the behavior you see in many organizations, but that shouldn't impede how you leverage their talents and competences when working as team members on a project.

These 20-something new graduates, or "millennials," have lived in a technologically ubiquitous world. They've always been recognized independently of their abilities and have mastered virtual collaboration skills.
 
Projects provide an ideal work environment for millennials because of their temporary nature. Many in Generation Y are searching for assignments that fulfill them personally and challenge the status quo. And they like to develop solutions supported by technology.

Their attraction to technology may cause some project managers to find it challenging to communicate with millennials who don't follow traditional business formalities. For example, those that favor sending task and project status via text message rather than standard report templates.
 
In the project environment, millennials are closer in temperament and outlook to baby boomers. They look for smart mentors who don't talk down to them. When these types of relationships mature, boomers will show millennials how their wants can align with an organization's needs.
 
Millennials bring much to project environment: the ability to rapidly adapt to change, the ease with which they embrace diversity and a strong collaborative spirit. They've grown up in a changing and diverse world and have mastered many abilities that are important to projects.  

As a project or program manager, how do you attract young team members and keep them on your projects? What is the biggest challenge you have faced in working with millennial team members?

Read more from Conrado.
Read more on teams.

The Changing Role of Technology in Project Communication

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The first global delivery model (GDM 1.0) was created a few decades ago to reflect the outsourcing and offshoring of IT services, mostly in India. A global delivery model is typically a method of executing a technology project using a team that is distributed globally.

Now, there are many choices in terms of outsourcing, and technology plays more of a role in project communication. As such, GDM 2.0 is on the horizon. And project managers must reorient themselves to the changed environment of cloud, social and mobile computing.

I would describe GDM 2.0 as "intelligently distributing the project's work, team, leadership and governance across multiple locations and leveraging technology to provide high-speed, high-quality and low-cost solutions to global customers."

A few of the tenets that contribute to providing customer value using a GDM 2.0 are:
 
  • Reduced cost: Executing projects at low-cost locations spanning multiple countries, cultures and languages
  • Abundant talent: Accessing talent across different locations
  • Follow the sun: Leveraging time-zone differences to maintain continuity in managing projects
  • Quality of service: Using best practices, lessons learned and standards to provide faster, better, cheaper and steadier services
  • Knowledge and collaboration: Implementing robust knowledge-management systems to help build a seamless flow of information across multiple teams, projects and locations
  • Continuous learning: Using ongoing training to prepare project professionals for the market, customers and projects

Here are a few of my thoughts on the future of GDM 2.0:
 
1. Almost all IT service providers are now building their own private clouds, making the provisioning of IT resources faster and cheaper. In the past, project managers had to wait for weeks or months to get certain IT resources.
 
2. IT service providers that develop applications using platform as a service (PaaS) and that implement package applications using software as a service (SaaS) now involve cloud providers. Project managers must be aware of the various risks, contractual obligations, security issues and potential legal issues of working in this multi-party environment.
 
3. IT service providers are building process platforms that leverage cloud infrastructure. That means project managers must learn to work with competitors, as customers might select process platforms from multiple IT service providers.
 
4. Mobility in project management will be a norm in the GDM 2.0. IT service providers have to mobilize their project management, software engineering and other critical governance processes to improve project performance. These service providers will need to make investments to rebuild their project management tools and applications to work on mobiles or to procure mobile project management applications.

What do you think the future of GDM will hold?

See more posts on project communication.
 

Establishing a Culture of Acknowledgment

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Editor's Note: In response to a recent comment on the "The Power of Acknowledgement," by Judy Umlas, commenter Lina asked, "Would you mind explaining or giving the steps to start implementing the acknowledgment culture in a team?" The following is Judy's response.

Lina, I think you have asked a very important and worthwhile question.

Here are some steps you can take to establish or enhance a culture of acknowledgment (and appreciation) on a team:

1. If you're a project leader for a new team, all the better. At your project kickoff meeting, announce that you have heard about the value of acknowledging team members for their accomplishments, and for who they are and what they bring to the team.
 
Be clear that people should only acknowledge team members that they truly feel deserve it. Otherwise, the acknowledgment will fall flat and be considered insincere. If the project is already underway, set up some specific time to discuss this at one of your regular project meetings.
 
2. Make the statement that everyone has a unique talent or gift that they bring to the team. Stress that they are all tasked with finding these gifts and talents.
 
3. In my book, The Power of Acknowledgment, I discuss 7 principles of acknowledgment, which can be summarized as follows:

  • The world is full of people who deserve to be acknowledged.
  • Acknowledgment builds intimacy and creates powerful interactions.
  • Acknowledgment neutralizes, defuses, deactivates and reduces the effect of jealousy and envy.
  • Recognizing good work leads to high energy, great feelings, high-quality performance and terrific results. Not acknowledging causes the opposite.
  • Truthful, heartfelt and deserved acknowledgment always makes a difference in a person's life and work.
  • Acknowledgment can likely improve the emotional and physical health of both the giver and the receiver.
  • Practice different ways of getting through to the people you want to acknowledge.
Ask people how these principles "show up" for them. Do they recognize that being acknowledged is an innate human need? Without it, people cannot survive, let alone thrive.

4. Share with them Stephen R. Covey's quote from 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: "Next to physical survival, the greatest need of a human being is ... to be affirmed, to be validated, to be appreciated."

Keep the conversation about acknowledgment going throughout the life of the project. Then, do a wildly successful job as a team. The culture of acknowledgment and appreciation will allow that to happen.
 
How do you create a culture of acknowledgment within your project teams?

Successful Techniques to Lead Project Facilitated Workshops

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A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide)--4th edition states in chapter 1.1, "Good practice means there is general agreement that the application of project management processes has been shown to enhance the chances of success over a wide range of projects ..."

"...Good practice does not mean that the knowledge, skills and processes described should always be applied uniformly on all projects. For any given project, the project manager, in collaboration with the project team, is always responsible for determining which processes are appropriate, and the appropriate degree of rigor for each process."

In my experience, these passages are the essence of project management. Think about it: not all processes must be applied to every single project. And the project manager, with his team, is responsible for selecting the applicable processes and the rigor with which they'll be used. Beautiful, isn't it?

Process uses techniques. One of the most important techniques that I've applied is the PM's role as a workshop facilitator. To successfully apply this technique, you have to develop your skills in this area.

A facilitator's success relies on his or her preparation for each session. This includes the opening statement, the icebreaker exercise and the group dynamics you will be using to build trust, among other things.

Remember, every facilitated session has two main elements: An underlying process to achieve desired results and the content.

When you facilitate, it's important to understand that you can only work with process -- not the content. Facilitators must detach from the content. If you want to provide an opinion on it, you have to make it clear to the audience that you are abandoning your role as facilitator, then give your objective opinion and then let the audience know when you're putting your facilitator hat back on.

Finally, trust in yourself and in your ability to execute. In the end, the truly magical thing is the discussion and sharing that takes places within all participants during the session. This will really help you and your team to gain confidence, identity, sense of membership and a common understanding that can only be achieved in this type of setting.

Have you had success in implementing any of these techniques? What tools and techniques have you used to facilitate effective workshop sessions?

See more posts from Jorge.

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