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This week’s German business magazine “Wirtschaftswoche” ran an article on interim management.  What it is, why companies need it and what they get out of it, and what it is like to be an interim manager.

If you always wanted to know what interim management is all about, have a look at it (provided you know German).

Happy reading!

 

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.

 

 

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.

PMI Global Congress EMEA, Marseille, France, May 2012

Please join me for my presentation on Wednesday May 9, 2012 at the PMI Global Congress EMEA in Marseille.  I will be speaking about The 5 Team Leadership Principles for Project Success and how they can help build and manage a performing and winning team.

Additional information about the presentation is available at the official PMI Global Congress EMEA website.

A handout of the presentation is available here as well as an article on the 5 team leadership principles for project success.

See you in Marseille!

Today’s projects become increasingly complex and a test of our leadership. What do you recommend to master this increasing complexity and to show your leadership skills at the same time?

Individuals in the team and the whole team need orientation and guidance or an inspiration how to do so by themselves. Personally, I have found that the philosophy of Zen offers many insights which can help us achieves this. In simple, easy to understand language it outlines avenues to find our lost individual and project identity, overcome burdens and master challenges, reduce complexity and guide us to personal success.

My latest presentation on the very topic is now available on Slideshare.

This presentation introduces 10 Zen insights and translates them into the language of project management. It thus shows how to apply Zen insights in a project setting. Zen can help inspire us personally and how to interact effectively with our team, customers and stakeholders. Applying Zen in projects makes it easier to build teams, perform on a high level and deliver results which delight our customers and teams alike. It thus helps us and the team to evolve into a performing unit and excel.

In a nutshell, the 10 insights are the following:

1. Identity:
You have to understand, accept and embrace the actual motivation of your project.

2. Timeliness in a time-sensitive world
We must not be became slaves of time pressure.  Instead we have to ensure a creative freedom and solve problems from the distance

3. The power of vision
Projects are NOT just about SMART project objectives.  As a matter of fact, SMART project objectives without a vision kills creativity, risks results and may lead to failure.

4. Overcoming Angst and the need for action
In situations of severe stress, don’t fall into the trap of rapid action or even blaming others. Instead, relax and take responsibility for your situation.

5. Invidiualism and hierarchy
Instead of being manipulated by others, this principle encourages us to personalize our projects and thus project success.

6. Leadership and motivation
Leadership and motivation go hand in hand.  We have unleash guiding energies in our team and develop a solution- and reults orientation in our team.

7. Simplicity
There is no law that complex problems require complex and complicated solutions.  Less is more.  This is a reminder not to get lost in the jungle of details and keep the eye on the vision of our project.

8. Truth and illusion
Let’s face it, perceptions are more important than facts.  It is futile to look for a simple truth.  After all a simple truth is no more than an assumption which may be false altogether.

9. Team play
Every project is about people, it is about teamwork.  Let’s nurture collaboration and enjoy the game of projects

10. Passion
If everyone on the team understands the WHY of the project, everyone can identify him/herself with the project.  The project becomes a part of them.  This passion sets the individual and the whole team free, resulting in team synergy and team magic.

Let me know if you are interested to hear / read more about it.

I have been a fan and avid support of true empowerment of people and organizations.  It is about sharing your information, experience, network, power and influence for the better of someone else.  It is servant leadership at its best.  Yes, it is about leadership and not management.  Why do I even mention this distinction?  Because it matters a GREAT deal.

As empowerment, Agile, Lean principles are becoming increasingly popular more and more managers embrace these ideas.  They claim to be honestly interested in trying them out in their organizations and teams.  This is good news and a noble act.  Alas, it means nothing if the manager in charge does not truly understand the underlying concept and philosophy of empowerment.  It is no longer about him or her, it is about helping others become successful.  This is really difficult for traditional managers.  Having to let go of their old concept of power and influence.  Letting go of their own “safety” net and build one for others.  Oha!

So, while I am usually excited when I hear managers talk about empowerment, empowering people or strong teams I have learned to become curious about their motivations behind it.  It is always good to question what made them change their old style of managing and instead “embracing” something new.  Indeed, embracing may not be the correct word.  For if you truly embrace an idea you become one with it.  You follow through, show your willingness to make mistakes and learn from them without giving up after the first downfall and then returning to the old school.

Empowerment is powerful. Much more powerful in its execution and its effects on people and organizations alike than any traditional approach.  It unleashes hidden talents, helps promote collaboration, promotes performance and ensures results.  But it doesn’t fall from heaven.  It takes leadership of one or more people.  It is them who have to drive building common vision, nurturing collaboration, promoting performance without micromanaging their teams, cultivating validated learning and ensuring that the teams deliver results and get credit for them.  There are a lot of obstacles to overcome: vanity, the lust for power and influence, insecurity – and a closed vs. an open mindset whereas the latter is characterized by the willingness to make mistakes and the drive to help other people and organizations succeed for the better of all.  Management on the other side, maintains and sustains the status quo, executes what is dictated from above (top-down management), allows micromanagement which kills motivation and creativity.  This is why I think that traditional management is the death of empowerment.

If you want to empower people and organizations you have to practice servant leadership; for it is not about you as an individual, it is about the greater good of the environment you are living in.

I do hope that more and more people and organizations understand and follow the path of empowerment.  Not for short term gains but for long term results which benefit us all.  Happy Easter!

Projects become more prevalent.  Not surprisingly the art of project management becomes more popular.  Unfortunately this does not imply that the more projects there are the more successful they are.  As a matter of fact a significant percentage of projects fail or do not yield the desired results.  While in recent years the number of successful projects are on the rise, it is scary how slow this process has been.  Todd Williams’ book  “Rescue the Problem Project: A Complete Guide to Identifying, Preventing, and Recovering from Project Failure (2011) is a welcome and much needed aid to help rescue and re-align struggling and failing projects.  It is a very valuable resource for anyone working in a project management.  Regardless whether or not the own project is on its way to glory or doom.

Williams embraces a holistic approach to project management.  He explains the need and value of existing project management tools that help rescue the project management.  And he goes beyond the mere listing of tools.  In the Introduction of the book he stresses four key factors that are critical in rescuing a problematic project: (1) The answers to a problem in or with a project are in the team. (2) A strong team can surmount most problems. (3) Stay involved with the team. (4) Objective data is your friend, providing the key way out of any situation.  By emphasizing the value of the team Williams goes beyond a mechanical “Abhandlung” of a recipe book for project rescues.  He explains in simple, plain and thus easy to understand language why most answers to problems in and with a project are rooted in the team.  A project is not made up of resources but human beings interacting in a social environment, building communities and network.  As complex and complicated this network is, it contains an endless number of potential traps and opportunities at the same time.

Having set up the foundation of his approach to rescuing projects Williams outlines 5 steps to recover struggling projects:

The first step is to realize that a problem exists.  As simple as this sounds this may actually be the most difficult step of all.  The key is that the awareness of a problem is not limited to the operational level of a project but that management has to acknowledge this fact and expresses an interest in resolving the issue, helping the team to become successful.

The second step to project recovery is an audit of the project.  The term “audit” has a negative connotation to many project practitioners.  This must not be the case if all audits would follow the guidelines Williams describes in his book.  He starts analyzing the human role in a project, followed by reviewing the scope on a red project, determining timeline constraints and examining technology’s effect on the project.

The insights gained from the audit analyzed in the third step.  They are the ingredients for planning the actual project recovery.  To me this part of the book is the most valuable one.  Not because the author develops a clean and clear outline effective approaches to analyzing audit data but because he explains how they fit in with the core statement of the book, that a strong team is one of the critical success factors for project recovery.  Doing so he stresses that project recovery is not a mechanical task, following a checklist and applying sane project management techniques.  Instead he explains that it takes leadership and oversight, a deep understanding of the heart and soul of a project.  Acknowledging the fact that more and more projects do not follow the traditional, sequential waterfall approach, Todd Williams gives an overview of other project management frameworks and methodologies, namely Agile and Critical Chain.  He then compares them with respect change management needs, customer relationship, estimations, project constraints, subcontractor relations, and team structure.

The fourth step to project recovery is to propose workable resolutions.  This is when the recovery manager presents the insights from the audit analysis and concluding mitigations and negotiates the next concrete steps with the project sponsor and stakeholders.  Williams stresses the importance of staying focused on project recovery and not getting sidetracked by distractions such as maintenance and other conflicting projects.

Last but not least, the fifth step involves the actual execution of the recovery plan.

As hard, tedious, frustrating and rewarding project recoveries can be one of the key questions is what project managers can learn from past mistakes and successful recoveries.  This is covered in the final part of the book entitled “Doing it Right the First Time: Avoiding Problems that Lead to Red Projects”.  It shows that project failure often starts at the very beginning of the project.  It can be prevented by properly defining a project’s initiations, assembling the right team, properly dealing with risk and implementing effective change management.

While the book may be most interesting to those who are facing or have faced problem projects I hope that novice project managers read this book, too.  It will help them avoid common mistakes and set up a good and solid structure for project success.  And in case troubles arise this book will help them guide projects to safer havens.

I am happy to announce the latest review of my book “Leadership Principles for Project Success” (CRC Press, New York, 2011) in the latest edition of the Project Management Journal (Vol. 43, No 1, 91).

The reviewer Michael F. Malinowski writes, “The adage in Thomas Juli’s book Leadership Principles for Project Success is a good one: “Leaders act, managers react.” The five leadership principles provide solid advice to act on, to build onto your project manage- ment skills by sharpening your leadership skills. This is a good book to read and to start applying immediately to your current project.

Read more, here.

A New Business Paradigm

Last night I had the chance to talk with Kim Page, author of the upcoming book “From Corporate to Conscious“, about the new business paradigm moving to a more holistic and conscious leadership style. The conversation can be listened to at http://bit.ly/secSwx.

I was and am very excited about the opportunity to speak with the Quantum Scene’s Kim Page who takes a look at business from an entirely different perspective; A CONSCIOUS perspective.  This is no new abstract idea or academic exercise.  It is a shift back to our true human nature.  It can help make our business world a better place to live and work in.
It can be questioned whether or not this is actually a new paradigm.  From the strictest point of view this may not be the case because a conscious perspective strings a cord we are, or ought to be, familiar with in our daily life.  Fact is that we have moved away from our inner core.  The result is that we have been creating a business world which is often entirely driven by greed and glutiny.  The call for a conscious perspective is a reminder that business is about exchanging goods and services, i.e., serving each other.

Why not keep this new paradigm in mind as we enter the new year 2012?!  Let’s live this new paradigm and make a difference in our own daily life and influence others.  Happy New Year!

The big and typical question you ask yourself at the end of the year how the past 12 months were, how you faired.  This year it is a simple question to answer: yes, it was a great year!  Or, shall I say another great year.  Most of my consulting this year was for an internet service provider in Karlsruhe.  Not only did were these consulting engagements challenging and intellectually rewarding it was and is convenient to our family for it is only a 35 minutes commute from Heidelberg to Karlsruhe.  One of the main reasons I am very grateful for this consulting opportunity.

Next to consulting I have been giving seminars, webinars, podcasts, presentations and interviews on numerous topics such as leadership, collaboration, learning project organizations, ethics, agile product development, team building, innovation, project management, and empowerment.  The main conferences I attended and spoke at were the PMI Global Congresses in Dublin and Dallas and the NASA Project Management Challenge in Long Beach, CA.  Wonderful events.  I can encourage every professional project managers to attend at least one of these conferences.  The learning is exceptional as are networking opportunities.

One of the major milestones in 2011 was the founding of i-Sparks I founded this summer.  i-Sparks is an open online innovation and learning community that facilitates innovation across entire systems. It provides a platform for people and institutions to discover, develop, and test new ways of operating and to put their ideas to work.  i-Sparks aims at every person or institution which is motivated to understand the root causes of today’s and tomorrow’s challenges, to rethink how people and institutions live and operate, and thus to create opportunities for redesigning business models and social change protocols, working more collaboratively across groups, institutions and sectors.

At present we are working on a first prototype which we plan to launch this coming spring.  Stay tuned and follow us on our website www.i-sparks.com.

Business is only one element in our life though it absorbs most of it these days.  Luckily there are the welcome breaks called vacation.  Have a look at my online photo albums for impressions of Long Beach,

Vail,

Vals

and South Tyrol.

So, what about next year?  The outlook is more than promising.  It is funny that lots of people talk about an economic crisis.  Unemployment is at a record low in southern Germany, economic growth is strong, the overall atmosphere and outlook are positive.  And yet other European countries and their economies are struggling.  There are numerous reasons for this imbalance.  I don’t want to start this debate.  What is worrying however is that people, i.e., European politicians and so-called experts, continue to talk about the dawn of another recession in Germany.  This, of course, can have an impact – psychologically.  Rationally and ethically, this chitchat is not comprehensible.  Let’s see what next year will bring.  I am optimistic and hope you too share this enthusiasm.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!