program management


5 Tips for Hiring Your Best Project Manager Yet

Four candidates competing for one position. Having CV in his hand

Organizations (both for profit and not) set out to actually achieve their goals, not just to set goals for the sake of having them, right? Why is it, then, that most of these same businesses overlook one of the most critical aspects of goal achievement? Having solid project managers that can make it actually happen!

If you don’t have skilled project managers, garbage in will still equal garbage out – no matter how amazing your tools and technology are!

Solid project managers (PM) are the very people responsible for making their organizational goal(s) come to life, yet they are often an after-thought. PMs are the very people that take those organizational goals, break them down into manageable (and ACTIONABLE) chunks, and assign them to the various roles needed – people with the right technical skills to handle their part in the project. The PMs actually get the project moving, and continue to monitor to make sure they progress in the right direction. You cannot achieve your goals, your vision, and your strategy, without this. But how do you find the right PM? First, you need to understand how to look!

Here’s what you need to do to hire a great project manager:

 

  1. Stop Hiring the Plumber to Do the Electrician’s Job

If you need electrical work done, who would you call, a plumber or an electrician? Seems like a silly question, I know, but why is it that we seem to call on non-PM’s to suddenly become PM’s, then? Sure, these people are probably great people, have great people skills, or maybe they are well-liked, and that’s all great! But, it isn’t enough! Solid performing project managers take much more than just a fancy title change. In fact, even a certification hardly means you have a quality project manager on your hands! Understanding this is your first step.

 

  1. Be More Specific in Your Search

Don’t advertise the project management job using generic criteria like “Communicates well”, or “Works well with others”. Those are great traits to have, but being this vague is a sure way to receive a lot of unqualified applicants! While it may take some time up-front, it will save you time and frustration later if you are more specific in your description of the work you need done. Solid project managers can work on almost any kind of project because their skills are transferable regardless of industry. That said, many have worked multiple project types and have preferences in the area they want to work! Being clear with exactly what you’re looking for will help to attract the PMs that are looking for that kind of PM position.

 

  1. A Technical Expert is Almost Never the Best Approach

Unless your project is relatively small and not very complex, asking your project manager to also serve as your technical expert is a bad approach. The same goes for using this approach in reverse (asking a technical subject matter expert to also be your PM).

Do you really expect your project manager to be amazing at managing the entire project, as well as someone who can understand the intricate differences and designs behind every network router and switch? Why not hire a network engineer for that, and let your project manager do their actual job – as a project manager? A solid project manager’s knowledge runs a mile wide and an inch deep in the topic area – anything they don’t know in the topic area could be easily learned. Anything detailed and technical they need to know in the topic area, they should be able to reach out to the technical subject matter experts to obtain information on.

Simply put, there are entire Masters and Doctorate degree programs set up around being a PM – this is a technical area of subject matter expertise (SME) in and of itself, and for good reason! You wouldn’t ask an Eye Doctor to work on your heart, would you? Then why would you ask a Systems Engineer to suddenly become your Project Manager, and expect them to know how to effectively do it?

 

  1. Specify the Framework(s) To Work Within

Do you want a quick deliverables in small pieces? Perhaps you want it Agile. Do you want to know the resources needed before you even begin? Then you’re looking at Waterfall (which even Agile must do, by the way). Are you looking to gain process efficiencies? Then Lean Six Sigma might be what you’re after.

The reality is, there are growing numbers of project management frameworks, and I’ve found that they all have overlap. Very few are actual methodologies, too, which is why I’m calling them “frameworks”. Most are framework within which to work, which is why I believe that, regardless of framework preference, I would require all project managers have keen awareness to the Project Management Institute’s (PMI) Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK). Why? Because it isn’t a framework or a methodology, it’s a comprehensive body of knowledge on all things project management and remains relevant regardless of framework preference.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for an actual methodology, consider Projects In Controlled Environments (PRINCE2), a UK standard. The point here is that thinking one framework or method alone is the “answer to all”, is probably not the case. Having a well-rounded PM should be knowledgeable of the various frameworks available.

 

  1. Understand the Strategy

Many project managers live deep in their project management bubble, without any realization of how their project actually fits into the overall organizational strategy. When looking for a project manager, consider one that is knowledgeable enough to describe the context within which their projects have performed. They should be able to articulate how their project impacted the business.

 

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Why Focusing on Innovation is Killing America

by Jodie Marzett, of www.TheMarzettGroup.com

Innovation alone isn't enough

Innovation alone isn’t enough

 

If you believe that jobs are created by innovation, and that innovation is what drives our economy and business growth, you may want to rethink your position. Before you grimace and stop reading – hear me out.

The model most believed is that inventing new ideas results in new businesses, and from those new businesses comes the creation of new jobs. While this sounds exciting, the reality is that jobs and economic growth come primarily from entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs have customers, and those customers create more new jobs, resulting in economic growth.  In fact, all inventions require an entrepreneur to turn that invention into a product or service that has customers willing to buy it. Innovations without customers are worthless, right?

I equate this to lack of planning. If you have a great idea, and you turn your idea into a reality – a tangible “thing”, but you have no plan beyond building that “thing” (how are you going to sell it, market it, ensure it is solving some problem that exists in the market, etc.), then you just wasted an awful lot of time. If you haven’t thought through your entire business model BEFORE you start innovating, you’ve likely wasted a whole lot of brain power. Why? Because, once your amazing innovation is created, you’ll have to run around trying to figure out whether or not anyone will actually pay money for it. What if you find that people are not willing to pay for your amazing invention? Or what if you waste another year simply trying to market your new, already-built “thing” before you start seeing any sales or revenue from it? So many people waste that precious up-front time in planning things all the way out first, before they waste their time. Time is a non-renewable resource that, once gone, you can never get back. In fact, time is more valuable than money itself, because you can always make money back, but time – once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.

Innovators are creatives, and I firmly believe that the world needs them. It’s just that, far too often I see people jumping to build “the next big widget”, when they haven’t clearly thought through who will actually even USE that widget. Is it really something people even want? What do they have NOW that they use, and will the widget address their true problem, or is it just a band-aid to their problem? Before a creative innovates a solution, they better make sure someone else hasn’t already solved the same problem, but a different way (and often times, a better way). They also better make sure they understand the root cause – what the real problem actually is, instead of trying to solve “symptoms” of an overall problems (the typical “band-aid fix”). This holds true regardless of industry, too! It doesn’t matter if you are in the public or private sector, the saying “build it and they will come” is a risky one, at best, and more often than not it is simply a failed approach.

So, it isn’t that we don’t need innovators. Instead, to truly push us forward, we need innovators paired with entrepreneurs that are true project managers – people who understand the value of solid, up-front planning. So many organizations have “strategies”, and what they believe to be “solid plans” to achieve their strategies. What they don’t realize is that, without understanding every single action needed to achieve that plan, it isn’t a viable plan. Without understanding every single resource required to perform those actions (be it money, time, personnel, skill sets, training, facilities, etc.), they don’t actually have a viable plan – they have nothing more than a “wish”. Let’s look at this in the form of an example, shall we?

If you were taking a road trip to Disney World, you wouldn’t do it without having a plan in place, would you? For example, what gear would you pack for your trip? How many people will be traveling in the car so you can decide between driving your Honda Fit (small) or your Honda Odyssey (large)? How much money will you need to pay for gasoline on your drive? Does your car need to be serviced before you drive out? Which roads will you take to get there, and how long will it take you? Where are you starting from? Where will you be finishing? Will you have one or two hotel stops along the way, or drive straight-through? Will you bring food along for hte drive, or just plan to stop at restaurants along the way? In other words, you may not have written down every single detail, but you have a complete plan – and when you don’t, you become frustrated, irritated, and the trip itself becomes less enjoyable. The same scenario holds true in business. If you don’t have a crisp and clear plan that captures who is doing what, when they are doing it, what they are doing it with (equipment, money, people, etc.), what process they are doing it within (governance and decision-making), chaos ensues. Sadly then, not far behind that is a decrease in moral. You may claim to be an “agile” organization, or a die-hard PMI Framework follower – it doesn’t matter. If you aren’t following a plan (it can be iterative, and should be), you can’t get there. Not without a lot of retrying and inefficiencies along your path.

My point? Pair the innovators with proven entrepreneurial project managers (no offense, but simply having a “PMP” behind your name doesn’t make you a “proven” PM) to have a feasible plan for bringing those amazing innovations out into the public and private sectors. The goal is to benefit REAL customers, who will get REAL value from the end results, and who would find the value great enough to pay for it. These combinations are the power that generates jobs and spark economical growth – you cannot focus on just innovation alone, or we’ll all fail.