“There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.” – Henry Kissinger
The COVID-19 crisis has met the organizations totally unprepared for an event of this magnitude. Even the most experienced and skilled Project Managers would have failed to anticipate and capture this risk into their risk registers, leave apart the mitigation plan.
The disruption caused to business due to resulting lockdown, decline in sales and overall liquidity crunch has affected the project business critically. The June 2020 report from KPMG highlights the impact COVID-19 has had on the world economy.
While many of the companies have already started their operations in a phased manner, organizations and business need to have a clearly chalked out roadmap to deal with the situation and slowly recover from the huge economic shock brought by COVID-19. It’s a big dilemma. On one hand we need to move forward, but on the other hand we realize that in crisis, trial and error are direct way into insolvency and bigger catastrophes.
The courage to stand up and prepare ourselves to deliver in this new normal will be foundation of the economic recovery. We not only need to make progress on our projects, but also rejuvenate our people with new vigor and purpose.
As we ready ourselves for this “new normal”, the very question rings in everyone’s ear is How should organizations and Project Managers respond to it? The Project Manager’s role has become more important then even before. Every Project Manager is faced with two challenges right now:
Survive the crisis
Prepare ourselves to be successful when the recovery begins
Leaders cannot sit idle and simply postpone decisions to avoid errors. They will have to step up and lead through the crisis. While there is no single remedy to all the project problems, here are some tips to be considered by Project Managers to win the race in the post COVID-19 era.
Demonstrate empathy. In such dire times, this must be the first and foremost responsibility of a people’s manager. Be there for your people, listen to their problems and empathize with them. Everyone is dealing with different problems and the least you can do is to empathize and be available to help when needed. While employees who are able to work from home are dealing with problems like concerns on health of elders, managing kids due to closure of schools and sometimes even poor internet and “Zoom fatigue”, blue collar employees are facing unfortunate pay cuts and layoffs, while small vendors and contracts are on the verge of insolvency.
Revisit the Project portfolio and Business cases. The Coronavirus crisis has surely blown away the original project plans. The project which previously was a high priority pre-COVID, need not necessarily remain the same now. Revisit the project portfolios and determine what can be done, what need not done now and what needs to be done first. Revisit the business cases of the projects and prioritize the resources towards revised strategic objective.
Study the project contracts closely. Focus on risks and opportunities and check for any risks can be avoided and any opportunities that can be exploited.
Constantly communicate with Stakeholders. Communicate more with your stakeholders specially customers to understand the current priorities. Take an economic view on decision making and demonstrate agility to ensure that team is working on activities which are of high value to the customer. For example, while supplying equipment for a Power Plant project, understand what is going to be the erection schedule and which equipment they would need in order of priorities. Imagine manufacturing an equipment putting all the resources and realizing that the customer is not going to lift for next 4 months. Keep your project sponsors too aligned on the order of priorities and secure management support you would need to deliver them.
Take care of your Vendors and Contractors. Since not all businesses can move into virtual space, small vendors and contractors are the most badly affected links of the supply chain. Their effective management becomes very critical to delivery of the projects and hence they should be treated as Business partners:
Many vendors and contractors operating with limited cash flow are on the verge of insolvency due to limited order inflow and delayed payments – support them by easing out payment terms.
At the same time, be very vigilant about first signs of bankruptcy before awarding any new contract to them.
Finalize contracts based on Vendor’s capability to “complete” and not “compete”. While there will be a rat race to snatch the Orders and secure the business, only a few of them would have the capability to execute them in right time, and with right quality.
Inspection and expediting visits are on HOLD due to organizational policies of travel bans in COVID-19. Develop an environment of trust & transparency so that vendor shares correct status.
Work on Team Building and upskilling. Keep the communication channel open with your team. Demonstrate compassion, helpfulness and understanding. Use the time of less work to ready the team for future demands. Due to extended remote working, people tend to become depressed or detached. Try and book some slots with the team for team building activities. Keep some space for humor in the day-to-day project work.
Do not micromanage. Checking on the members’ away time and taking stock of every minute detail of their work is not a good idea. Rather create an environment where they are motivated to do their work when nobody’s watching.
These are challenging times and a Project Manager must step up to lead the change in approach. A silver lining though, in this crisis is that you will have a chance to take business critical decisions that cannot be thought of in other times. Remember, application of business acumen, informed decision making, and a lot of empathy will help to win the race in post COVID-19 era.
One of the key eligibility criteria for qualifying for the PMP® exam is successful completion of 35 Contact Hours of formal Project Management education. While discussing with many of the PMP® aspirants, we found a lot of confusion around this topic like, what are right platforms to earn these contact hours? Is there any difference between PDUs and “Contact hours”? Does a college or university course qualify for these contact hours? And many more.
Relax! In this blog, we will tell you everything you need to know about the project management education requirement for the PMP® exam. Let’s get started.
# Understanding the requirement:
The requirement for contact hours has been detailed out by PMI in the Project Management Handbook. The highlights of the requirements are as under:
The requirement is minimum 35 Hours of education. (As per PMI, one hour of classroom instruction equals one contact hour.)
It should be Formal & demonstratable.
The Course work should be complete at the time of your application. In-process courses would not count.
The education should include content based on Project Management topics like project quality, project resource management, project communication management, project scheduling, project budgeting & cost control etc.
In order to bring more clarity, let us elaborate further on few of the requirements –
It is not necessary to earn these contact hours in a single course. There is a big misconception that all these 35 contact hours should come from a single course which is totally untrue. You can undertake various course which would add up to the total time requirement.
The contact need not be in-person. It is not necessary to undergo a classroom training where you meet the instructor in-person. Specific Online courses also qualify for the contact hours. We will discuss the various platforms to earn these contact hours in the later sections of this blog.
The actual learning time needs to be recorded. You need to record the actual time given to learning the topics and not the break times in between. For example, if you attended a “one-day” workshop on the Project Management principles by a reputed and authorized education provider, you cannot count it as 24 hours. For that matter if the workshop timeline was from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM with 1-hour lunch break, you will only count it as 8 contact hours.
Similarly, while you may be able to record applicable classes that counted toward a degree, you cannot record the degree program in its entirety because some classes within the program will not apply to the requirement.
Another note from PMP Certification Handbook quotes:
One hour of classroom instruction equals one contact hour. If you have completed a university or college course on project management that met for three hours per week for 15 weeks, you would record 45 contact hours. If only a portion of a course dealt with project management, only the hours spent on project management can be applied toward the total.
Learning must be formal. Self-directed learning like reading books, watching instructional video on video streaming platforms will not count as contact hours. Any online course taken should be verified properly for the PDUs on offer.
Demonstratable. The contact hours being claimed should be demonstratable to PMI during the application, i.e., you should be able to prove that all the trainings / workshops / courses put together satisfy the minimum eligibility criteria. You will not be needed to submit the training documents to PMI but just to list it (only if there is an audit, you might have to present your documents). The best document to keep as evidence is the certificate of participation in the training.
# Education providers for the learning contact hours:
You can satisfy the PMP exam education requirement by successfully completing the courses / workshops / trainings from one of the following sources:
PMI registered education providers / PMI Chapters
Company / Employer sponsored Project Management programs
Classroom training / courses by Universities or training companies or consultants
Online training (which must include end-of-course assessment) by online education providers like LinkedIn Learning, Coursera etc.
# How are the “Contact Hours” and “PDUs” different?
While you might have heard these two terms, Contact Hours and Professional Development Units (PDUs) being used interchangeably on various forums, it is important to understand that these two terms are not necessarily the same.
Contact Hours are the formal professional education you undertake before getting certified to meet the eligibility criteria whereas PDUs are credits given for continuous professional development after you are certified. These can be earned in several ways including volunteering, self-study and also formal project management education.
To explain it further, attending a Project Management Training by your local PMI chapter would give you both Contact Hours and PDUs (depending upon whether you are attending the same before getting certified of after) whereas attending a PMI Chapter meeting would only earn you PDUs but not Contact hours.
# Getting the 35 contact hours Online
As mentioned earlier in this blog, there are multiple online and distance-learning education providers which offer 35 contact hours training through their courses. Here, you would find two options and you can choose one of them based on your learning style.
Self-Paced Online PMP Training
Virtual PMP Training – Live Classroom
While you can find multiple options on internet offering variety of courses, both free and paid-for, you should always choose a comprehensive (preferably but necessarily a single course covering all aspects of Project Management) course best suited to your learning style.
Hope in this blog, we have been able to explain you all the aspects of satisfying the formal project management education requirement for sitting for PMP® exam. It is important to understand the fine line between the Contact hours and PDUs so that you make correct decisions.
Please remember, it is very easy to fall in trap of considering the Contact Hours training just a mean to fulfil exam eligibility criteria but if done with intent, this can well be the foundation stone for your PMP success.
So, do not wait further, go and pick up those 35 contact hours and kick-start your PMP journey with vigor and enthusiasm. See you soon with our next blog.
Got few minutes available while travelling to your office or waiting for somebody? Want to utilize this time to master your project management knowledge and ace the Project Management Professional (PMP®) exam. We have got something for you! The PM-nuggets are portable, in-you-pocket, “single-sided” Project Management Flashcards which will help you memorize project management concepts […]
Having a thorough Project Budget is key to delivering project success. By definition: A Ball park estimate is a roughly accurate estimate, or an educated guess. Coming from baseball, this expression rests in turn on in the ballpark, meaning within certain limits. Let’s learn more about Budget estimation techniques, but with a twist 😉😃
“There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.” – Henry Kissinger The COVID-19 crisis has met the organizations totally unprepared for an event of this magnitude. Even the most experienced and skilled Project Managers would have failed to anticipate and capture this risk into their risk registers, leave apart the mitigation […]
One of the key eligibility criteria for qualifying for the PMP® exam is successful completion of 35 Contact Hours of formal Project Management education. While discussing with many of the PMP® aspirants, we found a lot of confusion around this topic like, what are right platforms to earn these contact hours? Is there any difference […]
We are back with yet another chuklesome dose of office satire. 😀 😀 😀
The moral of the story:It not enough to hire a high profile Project Manager in your organization and expect him to magically change everything. While having a resourceful Project Manager is one of the key aspect of attaining project success, nurturing a “Project-friendly” environment in your organization is equally important.
Project Management is not just about Deadlines, Systems and procedures. Project Management is a lot of fun too, if done right. With this series, we will try to tickle your funny bones with some sharp workplace satire bringing out the funny side of Project Management. We would also try to bring out the deep message the satire is trying to convey. Enjoy!
Unfortunately, in these times of rat race and professional friction, majority of people listen to reply and not to understand. One should realize that everyone they talk with knows something better than them and they should listen actively long enough to understand and use it productively.
In our previous post, we understood the importance of Project Management and how effective use of Project management tools, techniques and processes provides a strong foundation for organizations to achieve their objectives. All the projects are about teamwork; but how the teams work depends heavily on the type of organization and their governance structure.
A project may be managed in three separate scenarios:
A stand-alone project,
A Program – A group of related projects which are managed in a coordinated manner to obtain benefits. The respective inter-dependencies make the separate management of these projects challenging.
A Portfolio – Projects, programs, and operational work managed as a group to achieve strategic objectives.
Let’s understand more about what Program and Portfolio management are and how they differ from Project management!
Program management approach focuses on managing the interdependent projects in a coordinated manner to effectively manage risks, avoids conflicts for shared resources, achieve economies of scale in order to achieve management objectives which ultimately support organization strategy. Projects are combined into programs to provide coordinated control and support.
Project portfolios are used to effectively manage multiple programs, individual projects and operational work to achieve specific strategic objectives. Combining Programs, projects and operations together into a portfolio helps managing the resources better, enhance productivity, optimize the benefits and manage risks. The programs and projects that are included in a portfolio may not related but do support a common organizational objective.
A project or program is included in a portfolio based on the potential returns, scope for benefit realization, alignment with the organizational strategy and other factors important to business. Program management and portfolio management differs from project management in their lifecycle, objectives, focus and benefits.
The picture below indicates the interdependencies between Projects, Program, Operations and Portfolios.
Project governance refers to the framework within which the projects will be executed across the organization. It includes setting and application of processes, policies and procedures regarding portfolio, program and project work, which help to ensure that these initiatives operate within strategic plan of the organization and that they contribute towards delivery of the strategic organizational objectives. Project governance sets out guidelines to manage key areas such as risk, resources, communication and change.
Projects, Programs and Portfolios are driven by Project governance or Organization strategies. Although they differ in their level of contributions but still carry forward a common goal to meet strategic objectives.
Portfolio management aligns portfolios with organization strategies by selecting the right programs and/or projects, prioritizing the work, and providing the needed resources.
Program management harmonizes its program components and controls interdependencies in order to realize specific benefits.
Project management enables the achievement of organization goals and objectives.
The below picture illustrates the level of alignment of projects, programs and portfolios with the strategic objectives.
Project Governance can be established and effected by a Project Management Office (PMO). We will discuss more about PMOs in the next blog of our study resource series.
To conclude, Program and Project management focus on managing the programs and projects the “right” way while the Portfolio management focuses on doing the “right” programs and projects to meet organization’s strategic objectives.
The art and science of Project Management is evolving day-by-day with ever increasing complexity of the projects and competitive Business environment. The biggest gain one can have while preparing for the PMP® exam is to be able to apply the learning to your work and to be able to take better decisions.
As some wise men say, having a strong foundation is the most important step towards building the strongest and tallest of the buildings. Similarly, before diving deeper into the domain of project management, it is important to understand fundamental elements of Project Management. In this blog, we will take you through the Basics of Project Management.
Note: Developing good understanding of Project Management fundamentals (or Framework) will help you answer up to 5 questions correctly in the exam.
What is a Project?
PMI defines a Project as, “A Project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create unique product, service or result”.
Another definition of Project goes like this; “A Project is a collection of linked activities carried out in an organized manner with clearly defined start & finish points to achieve specific results.” Building a tree house is a project, so is putting a man on the moon. From the simplest of tasks to most complex business ventures, examples of projects are everywhere.
Let’s decode the important characteristics of a Project:
# It is Temporary…
Project is not a process. It is never ongoing and it always has a definite start and finish.
A project is considered to be ended, if any of these conditions is met:
Project objective is met (desired Product or service is created).
It becomes clear that the project objectives cannot be met and stakeholders decide to discontinue the project.
The need for the project no more exists.
# Creates a Unique deliverable…
A project always creates a Measurable unique deliverable which has never been created in the past in the exact same manner. These deliverables’ can be tangible or intangible and be in the form of Products, Services, results or a combination of all the three.
With increasing impetus for adapting agile methodologies, another important aspect of projects comes into foray.
# Progressive Elaboration…
A project revels itself more and more as it progresses. Based on the deliverable requirement and organization types, projects start with varying levels of early planning of scope, schedule and cost. There is always new information flowing in as the project progresses and the Project manager needs to keep making decisions to keep the project on track.
An important thing to note about projects is that projects might be temporary, but their deliverables might exist beyond the end of project. For example, a building or a power plant created as a result of construction project will exist even when the project is officially closed.
Why are Projects undertaken?
Projects drive positive change in the organization. They are undertaken to create business value and attain specific objective usually targeted towards creating or improving products or services. Projects are undertaken due to following four major reasons.
Why Project Management is important?
PMBOK® defines Project Management as application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to project activities to meet project requirements. Various subject matter experts call Project Management both a science as well as an art. A science, since it encompasses a systematic process of managing work efficiently and effectively to deliver expected results. And art, because it relies heavily on the skills of the Project Manager on how well he (or she) uses it to attain project objectives.
Effective Project Management is accomplished through the application and integration of project management processes – Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring & Controlling, and Closing. It ensures that organizations are staying focused and utilizing their resources on most important work. Tailoring the project management knowledge to specific project needs helps delivering projects in the most cost and time efficient manner without compromising on scope & quality.
Inefficient management of projects or absence of project management would lead to following:
Rework and rejections
Loss of reputation
In today’s competitive and dynamic business environment, Projects hold a key to value creation and benefits realization. At the same time, the art aspect of Project Management highlights the importance of Project Manager’s role towards organization’s success. It requires a Project Manager to use his skills like leadership, influencing, Organizing and strategizing to deliver Project success by deftly managing scarce resources, shorter timelines, tighter budgets and heightened customer expectations.
In the next blog of the series, we will discuss about the Project Governance and the relationship between Project, Program, Portfolio and Operations management.
With the ever changing technologies & rising customer expectations making Projects more complex than ever, Project professionals are faced with a challenge to shift to more agile mindset in order to ensure customer delight.
One would agree that the very foundation of management of Project Lifecycles or the Project Management lies in the Predictive (or Waterfall) methodology. But with ever increasing impetus for adopting Agile methodology, the onus lies on the Project professionals to create a bridge between the two worlds so that businesses don’t abruptly jump to the other side but walk calculatedly based on evaluation of factors such as the type of product being developed, the industry, and the organization’s preferences.
While both Agile and Waterfall remain equally popular & relevant project management approaches across whole span of industries, choosing the right approach can impact your budget, your schedule, and your project’s success.
I must admit here that I myself was a staunch supporter of using Waterfall methodology and would always wonder the capability of Agile methods in handling big projects. At that point in time, I came across a brilliant discussion session between industry experts Chris Croft and Doug Rose which introduced me to the importance of both approaches and in fact laid the foundation of this blog post. In this video, Chris & Doug sort of played flag bearers of respective methodologies and reviewed the similarities, differences, and best uses of agile and waterfall.
While manufacturing, education, healthcare and other industries are becoming agile to varying degrees, attaining full agility in other industries barring Software development still remains a distant thought.
In this blog post, we will try to dive even deeper into this comparison between Waterfall & Agile methodologies, evaluate the pros and cons, and identify their best use based on the merit of job in hand. This post would also include some of my key notes from the video I mentioned earlier and some questions for the audience, I would need answers for.
Let’s just start with the basics of Agile and Waterfall approaches, before we move into more elaborate comparison.
Waterfall Methodology (also known as Plan-driven or Predictive approach) requires scope, schedule, and cost to be determined in detail in the early stages of the project-before the work begins to produce the deliverables of the project. This approach follows a sequential and linear process of breaking down the Project into small actionable set of activities having fixed start & finish dates. Each step of plan driven (or Waterfall) approach represents a stage in the project or product development lifecycle and the team only moves to the next stage if the previous step is successfully completed generally passing through a Gate approval process. The most useful & popular tool used for this purpose is Gantt chart.
Agile Methodology (also known as Change-driven) uses an incremental, iterative approach with varying levels of early planning of scope, schedule and cost. Instead of in-depth planning in the early stages of the project, the agile approach relies on and encourages constant customer feedback and is open to changing requirements overtime. This approach is more externally focused than the internally focus conventional planning approaches.
Agile approach involves initial planning of very high-level scope sufficient enough to give preliminary estimates for time & cost. Scope is subsequently developed & refined with each iteration. Various functions work concurrently on the product, the work is organized into a backlog which is prioritized based on value it brings to customer. The goal of agile methodology is to deliver a complete, usable portion of the product with each iteration.
Comparing Waterfall v/s Agile:
Comparing the similarities and dissimilarities of Waterfall & Agile approaches is important to decide the best suited approach for your Project or organization type. The primary difference between the two approaches can be summed up in two words: Rigid v/s Flexible. This doesn’t necessary make one approach better than the other but guides us to choose their best application. Here’s more on the basic differences between the two approaches –
Waterfall is a structured (to some extent rigid) execution approach wherein you cannot move to the next phase until the previous one is completed successfully, whereas Agile gives you the flexibility to move back & forth based on Project need and emerging customer requirement.
Waterfall approach follows a sequential process where one set of activities follow others. Agile on the other hand uses an incremental process where lots of functions are working concurrently.
Changes are managed very carefully and can hugely affect the Project in Waterfall approach. Hence, any changes would have to go through a long approval process. Whereas the meaning of Agile is flexibility to change; it allows changes in the project requirements even when the initial planning is completed.
Waterfall approach exhibits a Project mindset with a long-term vision and forward planning in place, whereas in Agile exhibits a Product approach which includes delivering products meeting customer requirements in shorter runs.
There is a less stress on documentation in Agile as compared to Waterfall.
The most exciting thing about Agile (or SCRUM) is its iterative and incremental delivery and that everything is potentially ship-able.
Another criterion to compare Waterfall and Agile methodologies is the amount of uncertainty in the Project work which may range from definable work to high-uncertainty work. Definable work project are where processes and processes are very much established along with the sequence of the activities and those have given successful results in past projects. (Caution point: One should not confuse definable work with operations). As it is understood, the level of uncertainty & risk is low in these kind of projects.
Exploratory & Innovation kind of work requires subject matter experts to carry out not-done-before work and involves high-certainty. This kind of work necessarily requires agile mindset to deliver the results.
While there are not so many similarities between Waterfall and Agile, both have one common goal; to deliver quality products meeting customer requirements in the most efficient way.
In conclusion, there is no one-size-fits-all solution here and the choice of the Project management methodology really depends on the project, how clear are your/customer’s requirements, and how flexible you can be. One should also understand selecting the project management methodology is not a guarantee to success and one needs to back it up with their strong project knowledge and experience.
I will end this post with my closing comments and some questions for you all.
If your requirements are crystal clear, Waterfall is the way to go. When there is a big pivoting expected in terms of requirements, Agile is better suited.
While there is a big impetus towards implementing Agile in conventional manufacturing types of projects as well, in my understanding, Agile can be applied more appropriately to Software development, digital products development or Innovation kind of projects. For more conventional projects which are more challenging in terms of “execution” rather than “exploration”, Waterfall approach is better suited.
As I said earlier, I will leave the readers & industry experts with some questions. Please apply your thought process and reply in the comments section to have a logical discussion on these questions.
Agile doesn’t accommodate dependencies. Then can it be time effective since it doesn’t really have a “Critical path” to control?
Does lack of forward planning leads to regrets in Agile? And,
Can Agile control big projects like setting up Power plant etc.?
Once upon a time there was HERO Project Manager. His Projects were never late. They always met customer expectations & never ran over budget. Once upon a time! Doesn’t it sound like a fairy tale?
Project Management is not a fairy tale but yes every project tells a story. A project indeed is like a big blockbuster movie!!!
We like Movies. We enjoy seeing the Protagonist wearing his heart on his sleeves, showing his die hard attitude, achieving the goals of his life overcoming all the odds.
A Blockbuster Movie & a Successful Project have much in common: Strong Fundamentals (Story or Clearly defined Scope, Time & Cost), an ability to capture a vision, process that vision for others to see & then realize that vision for others to believe.
A movie is a director’s mean of recording his vision on a 70 mm film & then displaying it to the world. In order to portray the character in present, the actor has to see into the future. He must have a vision. Being a Project Manager is no different. A Project Manager must have vision for what the project is to be created. The Project Manager inherits the vision from the key stakeholders as does the Hero from the Director.
Projects, like a good story, have a beginning, middle, and a satisfying end. Let us think back to any project we have managed or worked. Can you recall the beginning, middle and a Hollywood ending? I bet, you will realize that all the projects you undertook were more or less like this only.
The story for all projects is that, they move through five process groups to get from start to finish. Within each process group there are key activities which help the project move along: Project Initiation, Project Planning, Project Execution, Project Monitoring & control, Project Closure. Each project, like a movie goes through risk & uncertainty. If the Project Initiation phase is the basic phase where the story is built (initial background is made), the Project Closure is the power packed action sequence.
As we know, a Project is a set of activities to create something that is outside of your day-to-day operations. Going by my snappy analogy, a Project Manager is like a Hero who using his courage & heroism (Knowledge & Skills), successfully brings about outstanding achievements. He like movies, have to deal with various Political, Economical & Social issues (Read: PESTEL Analysis of a Project).
In order to get the heroine (Customer Acceptance / Payment), he has to fight out all the goons (Project constraints of Scope, Cost & Time) & have to live by the Criteria set by heroine’s father (Customer).
The purpose of this analogy was to be bring out the importance of Project Management in every facet of our lives & at the same time stress on the fact that it is not a routine ‘Management’. It indeed is Special.
A project is like love; it has clear intentions at the beginning, but it can get complicated.