Successful Teams Require Structure and Clarity

Experienced project managers know that, to be successful, teams need to work in an atmosphere of safety and dependability. But they also know that leadership is essential, to provide the structure and clarity needed to bring the project home. Project management expert Rich Maltzman, PMP®, explains why team leaders need to keep their eyes on the prize.
For a complete listing of MindEdge’s course offerings on project management, click here.

Copyright © 2018 MindEdge, Inc.

Six Tips for Leading Virtual Teams

Long-distance management poses some unique challenges

By Dan Picard
Senior Editor/Manager, Quality Improvement Programs at MindEdge Learning
Virtual teams—teams that work together toward a common goal but from different physical locations—are becoming more popular in the workplace, but leading a virtual team comes with its own unique challenges and difficulties. Because they often have little (or, in some cases, no) direct face-to-face or personal exchanges with their team members, virtual team leaders can’t rely on tried-and-true strategies to guide the team’s work and interactions.
In many cases, the issues that these leaders face are not unique; they occur in collocated teams as well as in virtual teams. But the processes and countermeasures used to address them can be more complex and complicated. Let’s explore some of these team issues and suggest some conventional responses:
six tips for leading virtual teams.

  1. Communication. While advances in communication technology may have simplified some aspects of information transfer for distributed teams, the logistics of that transfer have become more convoluted. Because virtual team members miss out on overheard office discussions (in lunchrooms, in hallways, or around the proverbial “water cooler”), virtual team leaders need to find new ways to enhance or foster team communication. Some leaders create a “virtual team space” that includes cloud-based storyboards, shared portals, and even cameras and microphones that operate 24/7, to allow distant project participants to listen in and connect with their teammates.
  2. Team Integrity. Because virtual team members often work in isolation, it can be hard for them to jell together as a team, and a sense of “connection to each other” may be lost. In such situations, it is often helpful to hold “virtual lunches” or “virtual coffee breaks” that are intentionally not work-related, to allow project participants to talk about their families, weekend plans, and/or personal lives, and to bond with their coworkers in non-project ways.
  3. Team Composition. For a virtual team to be effective, it must be comprised of the right “type” of individuals—i.e., people who have an innate sense of motivation and self-direction—because they won’t have someone watching over their shoulders all the time. In truth, some people are just not cut out to be on virtual teams because they can’t push themselves to meet responsibilities on their own; these individuals should be bypassed during the team selection process.
  4. Team Development. In a virtual team environment, it can be especially difficult to coach and enhance team member skills, due to the lack of direct interaction or opportunities to watch team members in action. Virtual team leaders must make a focused and concerted effort to address shortcomings and enhance skill sets for all team members, regardless of location.
  5. Managing and Measuring. Because they are physically separated from team members and are unable to observe their work habits and progress, virtual team leaders may want to make the project’s guidelines and metrics clear and explicit before work begins. For example, it may be helpful to clarify team roles and specify metrics early in the project, as a way to define expectations and avoid confusion at later dates. It may also be helpful to have frequent check-ins with distant team members, to hold them accountable for results and to guarantee that progress continues to be made.
  6. Diverse Styles. A virtual team may be comprised of people from around the world who have different work styles, work ethics, decision-making methods, languages, or any number of disparate characteristics. It is incumbent upon the team leader not only to accommodate these differences, but also to remove any ambiguity that these differences may cause, to ensure that the team is working as effectively and efficiently as possible. This may take additional time and effort, but it must be addressed to ensure success.

While virtual and collocated team leaders may face similar types of issues as they work with their teams, the ways that leaders address these issues are often very different, due to the environments involved and the influence the leaders can wield. But with some adjustments to their styles, virtual team leaders can still strengthen ties within their teams and produce positive results, no matter where team personnel are located.
For a complete listing of MindEdge’s course offerings on project management, click here.

Copyright © 2018 MindEdge, Inc.

When You’re Managing Stakeholders in a Virtual Environment, Good Communications Are Vital

What’s the secret to managing project stakeholders in a virtual environment? Project management expert Rich Maltzman, PMP®, says the principles of stakeholder management are largely the same, whether you’re operating virtually or not. You still need to identify all the stakeholders; assess their power, attitude, and interest; and try to get them all on board. But in a virtual environment, he says, good communications are at a premium: not only do you need to keep the stakeholders informed and up-to-date, you also need to pay attention to the nuances of tone, tempo, and other paralinguals that may not translate easily into an email or text.
For a complete listing of MindEdge’s course offerings on project management, click here.

Copyright © 2018 MindEdge, Inc.

Bigger Projects Require More Intense Schedule Management

Whether you’re running a birthday party for your nephew or managing a multimillion-dollar construction project, you’ve got to pay attention to the schedule. Project management expert Rich Maltzman, PMP®, warns that the more extensive your project, the more intensive the schedule management must be. The good news: for really big projects, there’s enterprise-level scheduling software that can take care of everything for you.
For a complete listing of MindEdge’s course offerings on project management, click here.

Copyright © 2018 MindEdge, Inc.

Effective Meetings Need to Focus on Outcomes

The ability to run an effective meeting is an important skill for any project manager—but these days, it seems more and more like a lost art. Management consultant Johanna Rothman has some sage advice: Make sure you have a detailed agenda. Focus on outcomes. Prioritize decisions over discussion. And make sure you’ve got the HiPPO in the room!
For a complete listing of MindEdge’s course offerings on Project Management, click here.
For a complete listing of MindEdge’s course offerings on Agile, click here.

Copyright © 2018 MindEdge, Inc.

The Seven “Flavors” of Agile

From Scrum to Kanban, there’s a version to suit your needs

By Dan Picard
Senior Editor/Manager, Quality Improvement Programs at MindEdge Learning
When most people think of the Agile approach to project management, they envision a team holding daily 15-minute meetings to update colleagues as they complete the items on a prioritized task list. While this image may be typical of one form of Agile, it represents only one of the many methodologies under the Agile umbrella. In truth, there are several types of Agile methodologies that can be used iteratively to create and improve project results that directly and immediately provide value to end users.
the many flavors of agile
The Agile Methodologies
Any Agile framework includes a “light” methodology—one that relies on the close interaction of practitioners to collaborate and uncover needs in quick cycles, rather than producing long, elaborate plans that may be obsolete by the project’s end. The most common methodologies include:

  • Scrum. Scrum is the form that most people visualize when they think of an Agile approach. Scrum structures work in short, iterative cycles (called sprints) where team members pull from a list of requirements that have been prioritized so that the features developed first are of the highest value to customers. At the end of each sprint, the team presents a usable product to its target audience, then turns its attention to enhancing its processes and procedures before launching a new sprint.
  • Extreme Programming. Extreme programming (XP) is an engineering-based system that uses automation and an inwardly focused effort to increase productivity and minimize interim work products. It incorporates automated testing and integrates results on a daily basis, as team members pair together to review and correct mistakes as they are generated.
  • Lean Software Development. Lean software development focuses on eliminating all the steps and processes that do not add value for customers or for the organization. Removing these wasteful activities and tasks allows development teams to focus on creating results that reflect what customers want and appreciate, and reduces the time to market for products and services.
  • Kanban. The Kanban method prevents teams from being overwhelmed by limiting the amount of work that can be in process at one time. Work is “pulled” into the next stage of a project only after existing work has been completed. This method is especially helpful in areas where new requirements are added to a system at varying times and in varying amounts—it allows the team to focus only on a limited amount of existing work, without worrying about what work will be waiting in the production pipeline.
  • Scrumban. Scrumban combines the Scrum and Kanban approaches to organize work in short sprints and limit the amount of work-in-progress in each project stage. Work is again pulled into action only after current tasks have been completed.
  • Scaled Agile Framework. The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®) uses a systems-thinking approach to synchronize work and project results across an organization, and to scale Agile processes and practices to larger, more-complex projects. It views the interactions between and among organizational projects, to ensure the best rhythm and flow of work for projects and programs.
  • Large Scale Scrum. Large Scale Scrum (LeSS) is used to coordinate multiple Scrum teams, which are working concurrently, to create one large-scale product or project result. It synchronizes the teams’ actions and activities to achieve overall goals and objectives efficiently.

Regardless of the approach chosen, all of these methodologies share commonalities that are based in the Agile Manifesto and Agile Declaration of Interdependence: working in close collaboration with customers; adapting to change quickly and efficiently; integrating results into working products; and focusing on providing value to end users. At the same time, all of them aim to increase satisfaction among customers, staff, and management by empowering employees to produce results at a sustainable pace, while meeting user requirements and enhancing revenue streams.
For a complete listing of MindEdge’s course offerings on Agile Project Management, click here.

Copyright © 2018 MindEdge, Inc.

Emotional Intelligence Is a Critical Asset for Project Managers

Emotional intelligence is a two-part skill, says Megan Marini, co-founder of Boston Business Women: it’s the ability to work well with others, as well as the ability to manage one’s own emotions. And both of those abilities are important for project managers, who must manage not just the performance of their teams, but the expectations and demands of their superiors, as well. “You have to manage up, and you have to manage your team and make sure everybody’s happy,” she says. “You have to understand the dynamics of everybody else, and of course the company culture at large.”
For a complete listing of MindEdge’s course offerings on project management, click here.

Copyright © 2018 MindEdge, Inc.

Project Managers Need to Manage the Stakeholders, Too

Every project has stakeholders—individuals or institutions that are involved in, will be affected by, or have influence over the project’s outcome. It’s the project manager’s job to deal with them. A successful PM needs to know who the stakeholders are, understand their expectations, and (probably most important) manage their influence over the project.
For a complete listing of MindEdge’s course offerings on project management, click here.

Copyright © 2018 MindEdge, Inc.

The "Right" Stuff: Four Keys to Resource Management

Managing People Properly Is the Key to a Project’s Success

By Dan Picard
Senior Editor/Manager, Quality Improvement Programs at MindEdge Learning
One of the most important, and most complex, tasks for any team leader or project manager is effectively managing the people assigned to the project. Experienced project leaders know that successful projects are not the culmination of elaborate procedures, complicated tools, or elaborate techniques; they succeed because the people involved are integrated, organized, and empowered, which then frees them to put their skills to use in the most effective way possible.
Group of project team members put hands together
As a project leader, you quickly learn that your role in managing resources depends on four factors: using the right resources in the right way at the right time in the right environment. Finding the correct resources, capitalizing on their strengths, prioritizing their use, and providing a favorable environment for them to work in will unleash their ability to affect all goals and objectives positively.
The Right Resources
In today’s project environments, having the right resources means that your resources must meet the project’s needs and objectives – but they must also support the organization’s strategic goals. They need to know how their achievements relate to and sustain company plans and initiatives, as well as how those achievements align with “the bigger picture.” And they need to be selected because their core strengths are truly necessary for the work at hand – not simply because they represent the traditional departments or functions that would “normally” be enlisted on a project team. As the project lead, it will fall to you to guarantee that the people you select can fulfill these obligations clearly and accurately.
The Right Way
To ensure that you are successfully deploying the resources you have, you will need to have intimate knowledge of each resource’s skill level and the skill levels needed to complete your project. You may want to think in terms of a “skills register” (that describes each resource’s ability to complete needed work) that you can match to a “skills inventory list” (that documents the skills you’ll need to meet your objectives). Connecting items from these two points of view will guarantee that project needs will be met with the best resources available.
The Right Time
Determining the right time forces you to consider factors both inside and outside of your project’s boundaries – i.e., to focus on optimal resource use from an organizational perspective, not just a project perspective. As organizations work to “do more with less,” resource scheduling and prioritization have become more critical than ever. But by understanding the interactions and dependencies among all projects in the organization, you can better navigate and negotiate for the resources you’ll need without creating conflicts or bottlenecks.
The Right Environment
Lastly, you’ll need to create an environment suited to your resources: one that allows them not only to execute as needed, but to grow and thrive at the same time. In many instances (especially those that run in hybrid Agile/Waterfall methodologies), this may require that you act as an information resource or adviser to help team members adapt and operate in new and unfamiliar circumstances. Or you may need to adopt technologies that will allow your teams–especially your virtual teams–to continue to collaborate and interact as needed, without interference or interruptions.
Remaining Vigilant
Underlying these suggestions is the understanding that as a project manager or team leader, you must keep a watchful eye not only on your own resource management, but also on resource use in other parts of your organization. Your ability to be attentive and alert, and to select, prioritize, and utilize your resources effectively, could well be the difference between exceptional achievement and inadequate results.
For a complete listing of MindEdge’s course offerings on project management, click here.

Copyright © 2018 MindEdge, Inc.