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Today I have come across an excellent article about passion in design.  It is entitled “The Game Has Changed. Design for Passion.” and has been written by Adam Nash. While Adam talks about design thinking his observations can and should easily be applied to your projects.  Hence, the question is “are you passionate about your project? are you passionate about your team members?”  If not, you better find out what it takes.  Have a look at Adam’s view below:

The Game Has Changed. Design for Passion (by Adam Nash)

One of the most exciting developments in software has been a resurgence in the focus and priority on design.  With the growing dominance of social platforms and mobile applications, more and more people are growing comfortable productively discussing and utilizing insights about human emotion in their work.

Google: The Era of Utility

The progress of the last five to seven years is really a significant breakout from the previous generations of software design.

For decades, software engineers and designers focused on utility:  value, productivity, speed, features or cost.

If it could be quantified, we optimized it.  But at a higher level, with few exceptions, we framed every problem around utility.  Even the field of human-computer interaction was obsesses with “ease of use.”  Very linear, with clear ranking.  How many clicks? How long does a task take?  What is the error rate?

In some ways, Google (circa 2005) represented the peak of this definition of progress.  Massive data.  Massive scalability. Incredibly utility.  Every decision defined by quantifying and maximizing utility by various names.

But let’s face it, only computer scientists can get really passionate about the world’s biggest database.

Social: The Era of Emotion

Like any ecosystem, consumer technology is massively competitive.  Can you be faster, cheaper, bigger or more useful than Google?  It turns out, there is a more interesting question.

Social networks helped bring the language of emotion into software.  A focus on people starts with highly quantifiable attributes, but moves quickly into action and engagement.

What do people like? What do they hate? What do they love? What do they want?

In parallel, there have been several developments that reflect similar insights on the web, in behavioral finance, and the explosion in interest in game mechanics.

Human beings are not rational, but (to borrow from Dan Ariely) they are predictably irrational.  And now, thanks to scaling social platforms to over a billion people, we have literally petabytes of data to help us understand their behavior.

Passion Matters

Once you accept that you are designing and selling a product for humans, it seems obvious that passion matters.

We don’t evaluate the food we eat based on metrics (although we’d likely be healthier if we did).  Do I want it? Do I love it? How does it make me feel?

The PayPal mafia often joke that great social software triggers at least one of the seven deadly sins. (For the record, LinkedIn has two: vanity & greed).  Human beings haven’t changed that much in the past few thousand years, and the truth is the seven deadly sins are just a proxy for a deeper insight.  We are still driven by strong emotions & desires.

In my reflection on Steve Jobs, he talks about Apple making products that people “lust” for.  Not the “the best products”, “the cheapest products”, “the most useful products” or “the easiest to use products.”

Metrics oriented product managers, engineers & designers quickly discover that designs that trigger passion outperform those based on utility by wide margins.

The Game Has Changed

One of the reasons a number of earlier web giants are struggling to compete now is that the game has changed.  Utility, as measured by functionality, time spent, ease-of-use are important, but they are no longer sufficient to be competitive. Today, you also have to build products that trigger real emotion.  Products that people will like, will want, will love.

Mobile has greatly accelerated this change.  Smartphones are personal devices.  We touch them, they buzz for us. We keep them within three feet of us at all times.

Too often in product & design we focus on utility instead of passion.  To break out today, you need to move your efforts to the next level.  The questions you need to ask yourself are softer:

  • How do I feel when I use this?
  • Do I want that feeling again?
  • What powerful emotions surround this product?

Go beyond utility.  Design for passion.

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Today I want to share some of  Q&As from Neal Whitten’s book Neal Whitten’s Let’s Talk: More No-Nonsense Advice for Project Success—Over 700 Q&As! which I highly recommend to anyone seriously interested in project management and leadership.

 

Q. As a leader, is an ego a help or a hindrance?

A. Mostly a hindrance. When you go to work each day, leave your ego outside. It’s not about you. It’s about the success of your project, organization, and company. It’s about good business. An overactive ego can get in the way of making sound judgments, establishing and maintaining good working relationships, and learning and growing from our mistakes.


Q. As a young person, I am not seen as a leader to be treated with respect, even though my teams and projects have received high marks for success. How can I deal with this “handicap”?

A. Savor your youth. Do not wish it away; it will evaporate sooner than you would like. All of us were young employees once. You must channel your energies and passion into performing your best.

But a word of caution: Show respect for the knowledge and wisdom of those older than you. Be open to their ideas, and do not come across like a know-it-all. As much as you think you know now, you will know far, far more in five, ten, or twenty years. For now, you may have to work harder than others, but you will win over some converts.

Q. I don’t look forward to the plethora of problems that confront me each day. As a leader, am I in the wrong job?

A. Perhaps, but if you expect to remain a leader in whatever job you choose, you must learn to like and be comfortable around problems. You should adopt the attitude that “problems are our friends”—without problems, you probably would not have a job. Moreover, your level of salary is likely related to your ability to solve problems.

As a consultant and mentor, if I did not have problems to confront, I would not have a job. I sincerely and enthusiastically look forward to the problems that my clients throw at me. If too many are coming my way, then I will prioritize them, and the most important and urgent problems will be solved first.

The higher you climb career-wise and the more responsibilities you take on, the greater the likelihood that you will be unable to resolve every problem. You will either need to get help from others or accept that some problems take longer to resolve than you’d like. Whatever challenges you must confront, thinking about problems with the right mindset can make all the difference in your effectiveness and enthusiasm.

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BQA Knowledge Base is a go-to repository of whitepapers, presentations, and articles intended to keep QA leadership and practitioners ahead of the game. Use the sorting tool in the right column to find the topic you seek.

Recent whitepapers include:

Soon my own whitepaper on Outline of Best Practice Requirements Management will be posted there, too.  Stay tuned.

 

 

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Everyone has different ways of studying for the Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification. You may carry the PMBOK® Guide around with you, or use flashcards. You may join your local Project Management Institute (PMI)® Chapter and study in a group. Whatever your study path, someone has been there before you.

While everyone has a slightly different story to tell, there are some things that make a big difference to your chances of success with the PMP Exam. Luckily, exam candidates are very happy to share their stories and lessons learned with you. We have reviewed and analyzed a number of lessons learned from the PMP Exam that successful exam takers have posted on our website. Here are our top 7 lessons learned.

1: Make a plan

“I had a plan laid out and had to rebaseline it twice but it helps to view where you are and align it once every 2-3 days,” says one student on our forum. Create a plan in a format that works for you and stick to it. It’s OK if it changes every so often, but having a plan will allow you to assess if you are on track with your studies. And you can take corrective action if you are not.

2: Read the PMBOK® Guide

You might think this is obvious, but it really does help to have a copy of the PMBOK Guide. “Get a copy of the current edition and read it twice,” recommends one successful student. “The first time highlight the important parts and the second time make flashcards of those highlights. Doing the flash cards will help get the information into your head.” You can then go through your flashcards daily to remind yourself of the key points in the PMBOK® Guide. “It is also a good reference,” the new PMP adds. “Go through the glossary twice… you will notice a few interesting definitions like Elapsed Time and Duration.”

The PMBOK® Guide is the basis for the majority of the questions in the exam, so you really do have to know the concepts and the terminology thoroughly.

3: Take sample exams

Several successful students recommend taking full PMP exams. “The use of full exams besides learning is to get to a discipline in taking the 4 hour exam,” one explains. “If you build on your mistakes, analyze why you are wrong, the final exam will be much easier. I also advise you to mark those answers which you guess, as next time you may guess wrong!”

Note what you got wrong in your sample exams. “You should try to understand why you answered incorrectly,” recommends another successful candidate. “I made a list of some categories such as ‘ITTO knowledge’, ‘Concept not understood’, ‘Question misunderstood’.”

Taking sample exams will help you establish where you need to concentrate your remaining study hours by flagging up the areas that you don’t fully understand.

4: Make the most of your study time

One exam taker explains how they found extra hours in the day to study. “Commuting to my work and back takes 2-3 hours so I decided to utilize this time effectively by listening to The PM PrepCast.”

Find moments in your day where you can study. “If you have an iPhone download an app that will allow you to practice all your ITTO’s,” recommends a student. “It will make it fun to practice.”

Passing the PMP exam successfully requires a lot of study – more than perhaps you first thought. Seek out extra time in the day where you can revise concepts to boost your study hours.

5: Be confident

“Trust yourself,” advises one new PMP. “If you can score around 75-80% in an exam simulator, you can feel confident about passing the exam.” Building your confidence is a key strategy to successfully passing the exam. You want to enter the exam room knowing you have the skills and knowledge to pass the PMP Exam. It will make you feel better about the exam itself, especially if you have not taken an exam for some time.

6: Time yourself

Four hours may seem like a long time but PMP certification holders know that it goes quickly. “Plan on your exam time expanding during the real exam,” suggests one student. “I had been taking practice exams in about 2.5 hours. On the day of the exam, I had under 3 minutes left on my timer when I hit submit. I spent much more time analyzing questions than I had before.”

You don’t want to run out of time in the exam so make sure you know what 4 hours feels like. Check you can get though a complete sample exam in that time.

7: Listen to others

Yes, lessons learned are a great way to prepare! Talk to previous students, discuss your study plans with members of your local PMI Chapter and listen to as many people talking about their own journey to becoming a PMP as you can.

One successful student on our forums recommends listening to interviews through podcasts. “People are asked about their experiences during their preparations and the exam itself,” the new PMP says. “Listening to the different opinions and experiences motivated me a lot. At the beginning of your study time you get an understanding of the effort it takes to pass the PMP Exam.” Talking and listening to others will help you establish if your study plans are on track.

Want more PMP lessons learned? Go to www.pm-prepcast.com/ll to read more advice from previous PMP candidates. There are always great ideas and suggestions that people have for other exam takers. For even more PMP Exam support, take a look at The PM PrepCast for your exam preparation. It’s full of advice, interviews and lessons from people who have successfully taken the journey to becoming a PMP. And when you’ve completed your own PMP journey, don’t forget to come back and share your experiences on the forum as well!

 

About the author: Cornelius Fichtner, PMP is a noted PMP expert. He has helped over 18,000 students prepare for the PMP exam with The Project Management PrepCast and offers one of the best PMP exam simulators on the market.

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What would you say is the biggest problem on projects today? Is it the ever increasing complexity? Is it project sponsors who are absent?  Is it the impossible expectations that our customers have?

Robert Szilinksi and Michael Krebs (www.esentri.com and www.social-pm.com) say that it’s neither of these. Instead, our top problems are all internal to our project teams. They are communication, collaboration and integration of all team members and their knowledge into the overall project.

Robert and Michael’s answer to help improve project management is to enable our teams to work on a level that is more integrated, based on sharing and trust. Much of this in connection with Social media tools for project management. We’ll get a ton of tips, tricks and lessons learned from how they have used these social media tools on projects.

Want to learn more?  Visit Cornelius Fichtner’s latest podcast and spread the word.

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[by Margaret Meloni, MBA, PMP ]
Oh there is a problem alright. And it starts with the fact that you have a boss, peer or project team member who is completely in denial about the chaos that is all around them. If they do see any kind of issues, well those issues start with you. This is not meant to be spiteful. This is the behavior of someone who is completely oblivious to the fact that they cause problems. If they do have any inkling that there is an issue, then they have a perfect excuse. Do any of these sound familiar?

  • “I did not call you back because you never left me a message.”
  • “I did not forget our meeting; my admin did not put it on my calendar.”
  • “My office may look messy, but leave it alone. I have a system and I know where everything is located.”

What kinds of chaos surround this person? Their chaos can be lack of organization, time related or memory related. The chaos created by this person looks like chaos created by creative types or even by someone who deceives others into thinking they are organized. The key here is that they absolutely do not own their issue. They really do not see that there is a problem. If they miss a meeting, they can blame their assistant who did not remind them of it. They really think you didn’t leave them a message because their assistant gave it to them and it was buried under the piles of paper on their desk.

So what’s a project manager to do? Well let’s look at what not to do first – do not blame them. Do not put them on the defensive. Do not constantly harp on them about the problem. Do not argue with them about their excuses, just move on. Find a way to work around the problem because you’re not going to be able to change them.

Now step back and look at the big picture. What do you want from this working relationship? Where do they have problems and how can you help? Even if you don’t feel like you want to help them, remember you are helping yourself too! With that in mind:

  • Be proactive. If you know their issue will cause a problem for others on the project team, step-in. This may mean you politely remind them of customer appointments or work package due dates. It may mean you hand deliver important memos to them and watch them read those memos. What you are doing (without them knowing it) is nipping a potential problem in the bud.
  • Create a simple process for organizing shared information. Stay away from their personal space, but be willing to be responsible for other areas. Enlist the help of others on the project, too. Your problem child may respond to the organization and join in because they want to be part of the group.
  • If they work for you as a full-time project resource, be the boss and give them direction. Advise them that missing meetings, deadlines and not returning phone calls is not acceptable. Mentor them away from the damaging behavior and toward a positive outcome.
  • Acknowledge that they have other skills. There are other areas where they are strong contributors, which is why they got selected to work on the project in the first place.

You may think that’s a lot of trouble to go to, but it will actually save you time and make your job less aggravating. Hand delivering memos might seem a bit extreme but you’ll know that they’ve been read. Another method that works is to deliver the memo and have them initial that they have read it. This also serves to create a paper trail that no one can argue with.

If you do have to call them on the carpet about their behavior, ask them how you can help them get control of their disorganization. Knowing that you’re willing to help them will make them much more willing to work on the behavior that is causing so much chaos for the project.

As for their other skills, take advantage of them. You may want to find what they are best at and exploit that. If your problem person excels at something that another project team member isn’t so good at, perhaps he or she could take the burden off their co-worker in exchange for that person handling their calendar.

And remember, their behavior is about them, it is not about you. Don’t take it personally.

About the Author: Margaret Meloni, MBA, PMP, is an executive coaching consultant for IT professionals. She helps project managers and teams work together better by improving their soft skills. Learn how to successfully combine your technical and soft skills in her webinars from The PDU Podcast (www.pducast.com) and from her website at www.margaretmeloni.com.

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[by guest blogger Cornelius Fichtner, PMP]

In May of 2011 The Project Management Podcast launched its Project Leadership Series at www.pm-podcast.com. The series started with interviews with Thomas Juli, author of Leadership Principles for Project Success, and Rick Valerga, author of The Cure for the Common Project: Five Core Themes that Transform Project Managers into Leaders. More interviews and discussions on project leadership are planned throughout the year. To kick us off let’s begin with an explanation about what project leadership is and how project managers can start out on the path of becoming true project leaders.

Defining project leadership

“There are so many definitions of leadership out there,” said Thomas. “Leadership has to do with the right attitude and understanding the core principles of building an overall vision, knowing about the power of collaboration, knowing how to promote performance in the team he or she is leading, and then still having the maturity to reflect on their own activities and creating a culture of learning. And last but not least, a leader ensures results because this is the bottom line.”

Rick agrees. “I define leadership as the ability to influence others to deliver results,” he said. “Project leadership exists at the nexus of project management and general leadership.”

Project leadership doesn’t mean being a strategic visionary sitting at the very top of your organization. It’s about leading the project team to achieve their objectives and producing a successful result.

Getting to success

“If you run a project, you have to be knowledgeable and experienced in project management,” said Thomas. “Project management is basically structuring chaos and without the structure, you cannot really be creative. That means without project management, there cannot be project success.”

However, Thomas doesn’t believe that project management skills are the only thing necessary to deliver a successful project.“Leadership gives the project a direction, the right direction,” he said. “If you talk about sufficient conditions of project success, we’re talking about leadership.”

Without someone providing this overall direction, the project team members run the risk of going off in several directions, or nowhere at all. It’s difficult to achieve results in that situation. Thomas believes that to get to success projects need both management and leadership. Fortunately, one person can fill both functions.

Leadership basics

“Integrity is the absolute foundation for project leadership,” said Rick. “Integrity means never letting your project live a lie. So if your project plan is a house of cards, or your schedule will be indisputably delayed, or if you discover that your product will fall flat in the market, you need to have the courage to bring these issues to light.”

Rick said that managing expectations is key to building integrity. “When we’re doing this, we’re making responsible commitments even under duress,” he explained. “That’s integrity.” He also explained that integrity comes from solving the projects’ toughest problems without destroying our team members or their families, and providing frequent up-to-date, consistent messages that are agreed across all the project stakeholders.

Leading others

Teams are at the heart of projects, and project leaders can’t lead if they don’t have people to lead. “Let’s face it, projects are at their best when people are at their best,” said Rick. “I’m not just talking about taking care of the troops and then getting out of the way which many project managers do. Projects are at their best when all the people are at their best including the sponsor, customers, suppliers, adjacent functional organizations.”

Thomas agrees. “As a leader, it is your responsibility to create an environment that promotes performance on both the individual and the team level,” he said. “First of all, you want to be a role model. You have to walk the talk. Demonstrate authentic leadership.” By that, he means making sure that your words and actions align. Don’t set rules for the team and then break them yourself.

“You really want to empower your team,” Thomas added. “That means you have to give the team the information it needs and you have to share the power so that the team can actually get the opportunity to excel and have an active hand in project success.”

When the team feels empowered, there is no need to micromanage them. Thomas believes that it is important to want them to feel empowered, and not just pay lip service to the team. You have to be able to trust the team members. “You have to let it happen,” he said. “You have to give the team the opportunity to show how it can perform. That’s very important.”

Starting out

If becoming a project leader sounds difficult, Rick had some simple advice about how to get started. “One way to start is by simply listening,” he said. “We have a vast amount of knowledge available to us through our stakeholders. We need to make sure that we are regularly tapping into it.”

Another easy step towards becoming a leader is to celebrate performance. “You want to look for behaviors that reflect the purpose and values, skill development and team work and reward, reward, reward those behaviors,” said Thomas. “Don’t wait until the very end of the project to celebrate the same results. Celebrate performance.”

The great thing about leadership is that we’ll instinctively know what it feels like to be doing it right. The people around us will let us know that we’re doing a good job. “In the end,” Rick said, “our projects are judged by people, the customers, the sponsor, the team members. Most of these people are not imbued with project management theory. They only judge whether the project lived up to its billing as interpreted by them. It’s a subjective process and above all, these people hate to be surprised. So the best way to address this is by making expectation management a daily mantra.” That’s good advice for any leader.

Listen to the complete interviews on project leadership with Rick Valerga and Thomas Juli on The Project Management Podcast for free at www.pm-podcast.com.

About the author: Cornelius Fichtner, PMP is a noted project management expert. Since 2005 he has interviewed over 100 project managers from around the world on The Project Management Podcast at www.pm-podcast.com. The interviews are available for free. Topics cover all areas of project management like methodologies, PMOs, earned value, project leadership and many more.

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