The Project Management PodcastAuthor: OSP International LLC
25 Sep 2017

The Project Management Podcast

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Project Management for Beginners and Experts. Are you looking to improve your Project Management Skills? Then listen to The Project Management Podcast™, a weekly program that delivers best practices and new developments in the field of project management. The more companies understand the importance of sound Project Management, the more will your skills be in demand. Project Management is the means used by companies today to turn their vision and mission into reality. It is also the driver behind transforming a business need into a business process. The Project Management Podcast™ looks at how project management shapes the business world of today and tomorrow. Find us on the web at http://www.pm-podcast.com or send your emails to info@pm-podcast.com. The Project Management Podcast™ is a trademark of OSP International LLC. All other trademarks mentioned are the property of their respective owners. Copyright © 2005 - 2017 OSP International LLC. All rights reserved.

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    Episode 398: Coaching, Mentoring, Training & Motivational Techniques #PMOT

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    For your Project Management Professional (PMP)® Exam Training
    PMP Exam Simulator

    Susanne Madsen
    Susanne Madsen, Author

    Every project that you and I have ever and will ever manage depends on people’s skills.

    The sponsor relies on you as the project manager to successfully lead the team, you rely on the team to have what it takes to create all the deliverables at the required quality, and the end user -- the recipient of what you and the team deliver -- must have the skills to use the product you finally give them.

    But what if the skills don’t match up to the tasks at hand? What if a team member is lacking a skill? What if the technology is so new and different that your users will have a hard time with it? The answer is of course coaching, mentoring and training.

    And there is no one better than Susanne Madsen (www.susannemadsen.com -- www.linkedin.com/in/susanne-madsen-1134312) who coaches and mentors project managers into project leaders to come on the program and help us understand these three similar yet different activities.

    PDU Tip

    This interview is 42:34 minutes long. This means that you can "legally" only claim 0.50 PDUs for listening to it, because in order to claim 0.75 PDUs the interview must be 45 minutes long. However... if you first listen to the interview and then also read the following article from Susanne about coaching and project management, then you can go ahead and claim 0.75 PDUs!

    Click to read the article

    Episode Transcript

    Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

    Podcast Introduction

    Transcript coming soon!

    Above are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only. Please subscribe to our Premium Podcast to receive a PDF transcript.


  • Posted on 17 Sep 2017

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    Episode 397: Lessons Learned Management Techniques

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    For your Project Management Professional (PMP)® Exam
    PMP Exam Simulator

    Elizabeth Harrin
    Elizabeth Harrin, FAPM

    There is no doubt in my mind that you have heard the term lessons learned before.

    It is mentioned extensively throughout A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, (PMBOK® Guide), I teach it as part of my PMP training lessons and my favorite search engine gives me over 51,000 results for the search term “lessons learned in project management”. In fact, as an experienced project manager you have probably participated or even chaired one or two lessons learned meetings yourself on your own projects.

    But let’s consider the bigger picture around lessons learned. What process do we follow? What management techniques are there for lessons learned? Are all documented lessons learned equally valuable?

    These questions need answers. And so I’m happy to welcome Elizabeth Harrin (www.girlsguidetopm.com -- www.linkedin.com/in/elizabethharrin/ - ) who has the answers for us!

    Episode Transcript

    Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

    Podcast Introduction

    Transcript coming soon!

    Above are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only. Please subscribe to our Premium Podcast to receive a PDF transcript.


  • Posted on 10 Sep 2017

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    Episode 396: More Projects Are Using Agile Than Ever

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    For your PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® Exam
    Agile PrepCast for PMI-ACP Exam Prep

    Joseph Flahiff
    Joseph Flahiff, PMP, PMI-ACP

    Are you using an adaptive life cycle to manage your projects? You know, something that falls under the general umbrella of Agile like Scrum, XP, Kanban or DSDM?

    And if your answer to this question is yes, then think about when exactly you started using these approaches, because that date says a lot about you and your organization. If you started 20 or more years ago then you can consider yourself to be an innovator, but if you started just recently you are a laggard. (And just in case you are wondering, I would put myself in the middle with what is called the "early majority".)

    But no matter when you started your journey into Agile it might be interesting to know how many of us out there are actually using Agile on our projects. And according to Joseph Flahiff (www.whitewaterprojects.com -- www.linkedin.com/in/josephflahiff) there are more than you would think.

    How many more? He doesn’t have an exact number, but then again nobody knows how many waterfall-based projects there are either. However, studies done on this subject and a number of other indicators lead him to believe that Agile is now the new normal. The number of Agile projects is massive, which is just one more reason to also get started with your PMI-ACP Exam Prep

    PDU Tip

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    Click to read the article

    Episode Transcript

    Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

    Podcast Introduction

    Cornelius Fichtner:   Hello and welcome to Episode #396. This is the Project Management Podcast™ at www.pm-podcast.com and I’m Cornelius Fichtner. Are you using an adaptive life cycle to manage your projects? You know, something that falls under the general umbrella of Agile like Scrum, XP, Kanban or DSDM and if your answer to this question is yes, then think about when exactly you started using these approaches because that date says a lot about you and your organization. If you started 20 or more years ago, then you can consider yourself to be an innovator, but if you started just recently, you are a laggard and just in case you’re wondering, I would put myself somewhere in the middle with the early majority. If you are a project manager who wants to become PMI ACP certified, then the easiest way to do so is with our sister podcast, the Agile PrepCast and get your certification training for the exam by watching the in-depth Exam Prep Video Training from www.AgilePrepCast.com . But no matter when you started your journey into Agile, it might be interesting to know how many of us out there are actually using Agile on their projects and according to Joseph Flahiff, there are more than you would think. How many more? He doesn’t have an exact number but then again nobody really knows how many Waterfall-based projects there are either. However, studies done on this subject and the number of other indicators lead him to believe that Agile is now the new normal. The number of Agile projects is massive. Enjoy the interview.

    Female Voice:   Project Management Podcast™ Feature Interview.

    Cornelius Fichtner:  Today with Joseph Flahiff, Project Management Author, Consultant and Organizational Alchemist

    Cornelius:   Hello, Joseph and welcome back to the podcast.

    Joseph Flahiff:   Hey Cornelius. Thank you and it’s great to be here again. I love [talked over]

    Cornelius:   Wonderful. We’re happy to have you.

    Joseph:   Thank you.

    Cornelius:   So why were you interested in writing an article about how well Agile is implemented around the world?

    Joseph:   You know I was thinking about it. I was actually looking forward at what’s coming next. Agile’s been around for about thirty years depending on where you measure it from twenty to thirty years. People would not think of it as being that old but it really is and I was thinking about what’s next? The world’s changed a lot since then. The people that were innovating those things are now not innovating those things. That’s a sweeping judgment and I don’t mean to make it sound that way but there’s not a ton of innovation happening on the Agile front—at least not as it was in the original time frame and so my thinking was: “Hmm, who are the innovators today and what are they innovating?” so that’s what’s going on in my mind and it led me to think about where Agile is in its adoption and is anybody doing innovation yet or—those kinds of things.

    Cornelius:   What is the 10,000-foot summary of your findings?

    Joseph:   From about 10,000 feet you could see that it’s pretty clear that at least 50% of IT organizations out there have adopted some form or semblance of Agile practices or are being Agile. They self-proclaim that.

    Cornelius:   Alright, and just for our metric users, 10,000 feet is about 3,048 meters. [chuckles]. Why is this finding important for our listeners for our Project Management Podcast™ listeners?

    Joseph:   Well it’s important because 50% is half of the people out there in the world. That means that a lot of folks are already using Agile practices and just about anywhere. You know—flip a coin—if you take a new job, 50-50 chance that those people at the new place have adopted some form of Agile or are going to soon.

    Cornelius:   Yeah. Strange coincidence—this morning—and I’m not making this one up, I received an email from a friend/colleague of mine from Orange County who said that he is actually having trouble finding a Project Management job because he does not yet have Agile training. There seems to be adoption in progress here. But before we move any further, let’s talk a little bit about the word “adoption” and particularly adoption levels and what all of this means and please tell us what is the diffusion innovation curve that you mentioned in your article?

    Joseph:   Yeah, the diffusion of innovations curve—that was developed by Everett Rogers back in 1962 and he was doing a study interested in how new innovations get distributed or diffused into society. He did research into about 508 different studies and he took their data and pulled it apart. These studies were in anthropology, in sociology, education and industrial and medical sociology. All of these studies he compiled together and out of that, he drew his conclusions, right? And he created this, essentially a bell curve, so he found that the distribution was essentially a bell curve and it followed a pretty predictable pattern. There were these early people who actually created the innovation. So, they are the people that went out and tried something new and failed that and tried again and failed and suddenly created something new. This would be—in the Agile context—would be the people who founded the Agile movement.  At that time, it was really the late 80’s early 90’s, they were actually calling it lightweight development practices when they actually had a name for it. So, those are the innovators, then the next group of –that’s about 2.5% of the entire population anytime you’re talking about an innovation. 2.5%. So, then there’s this next group of people that are the early adaptors. They are the folks that have a Tesla or are looking at getting solar panels for their roof. They’re the people who had the first iPhone, those people who are willing to put up with some stress and some failures because they like the new shiny thing, the new fancy thing. They like to be out in front. That’s about 13.5% of the population. The next group is the early majority group—they are about 34% of the population. That’s when you start seeing mass adoptions of something. If we started seeing everyone’s driving a Tesla or right now you see everybody’s got an iPhone or something like an iPhone, right? The early majority is when you start seeing that about half the time, people have those things because at that point you’re at 50%. The next group of people, the next 34% is the late majority—those are the folks that are a little bit behind that curve but still adopting. As mass adoption starts to happen, they’re “on-board”. That’s 34% and the last little group are the laggards and they’re the people who will adopt something kicking and screaming, right?   

    Cornelius:   Right. That’s my brother who finally got a smartphone last year.

    Joseph:   Yes. Yes. [laughs] There you go. That’s the laggards. They’re a small percentage of the population. They believe life was better before sliced bread.

    Cornelius:   So, where is Agile in this model? Where is Agile adoption here?

    Joseph:   Yeah, it’s an interesting question because it’s hard to just put a pinpoint on it and say, “This is exactly where it is”—because nobody has pure data. There was a recent study by HP and in their study, they showed that about 16% of the population said they’re using pure Agile and then another 24% said they’re using some hybrid form of Agile so that’s 40% of the population so if you just look at that and people who are saying they’re doing something Agile is 40%. In that same study, another 51% said they were leaning toward Agile. So, if you take all of that together, that’s 91%. That leaves you 9% leftover who are—there’s 2% that’s pure waterfall and 17% that are leaning more toward Waterfall.

    Cornelius:   Yeah OK, so this study has just one data point that we’ve got, right? In your article, you list a few more so let’s take a look at those. You grouped them under nice headings. Let’s take a look at these headings. The first heading is “Agile Adoption curve, underdogs no more”. What do you mean by that?

    Joseph:   For most of the past 30 years, the Agile community has kind of fought an underdog fight. They have been—we have been—I’ve been one of us—have taken the approach that we have something really good and we want to share it with you. Please listen to us. We know that most of the people use a sequential or Waterfall model but there’s this other thing that we could do and it’s better. It can get you more speed and greater predictability and adaptability as your deploying things like software, right? It’s been an underdog fight. We’ve been the one that no one expected really to win. I remember back in the day—back in the early 90’s—early 2000’s going to Global Congress and things like that or people would still say, “Oh, Agile’s a fad, it’s not going to stick around. It’s just a fluke” and then after a while it got, “Well, you know what? Maybe it’s sticking around”. Well, now we’re seeing that it’s starting to be the tidal wave. It’s being the majority, not the minority.          

    Cornelius:   So, from that perspective, when should a company think about adopting Agile?

    Above are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only. Please subscribe to our Premium Podcast to receive a PDF transcript.


  • Posted on 19 Aug 2017

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    Episode 395: How to Pass the PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® Exam

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    Agile PrepCast for PMI-ACP Exam Prep

    Yazmine Darcy
    Yazmine Darcy, MBA, PMP, PMI-ACP, CSM

    This is another episode where I’m asking: Are you currently studying or thinking about studying for your PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® Exam? Wonderful. That’s what we are going to be talking about.

    In this interview you are going to meet Yazmine Darcy (https://www.linkedin.com/in/yazminedarcy). Yazmine is not only one of my students and coworkers, she is also the project manager in charge of developing the sample exam questions that we use in our PMI-ACP Simulator. And so, if you not only want to know how to prepare for your own PMI-ACP Exam but also want to hear about all the work that goes into creating one of the training tools you could be using, then you have come to the right place.

    As you know, the rules of all Project Management Institute (PMI)® exams are such that we are not allowed to discuss specific questions from the exam. But we can discuss her overall experience, general thoughts on the process and her recommendations to you. So you can look forward to an experience and tip filled interview on how to prepare for and pass your PMI-ACP Exam.

    Full disclosure: Yazmine Darcy and Cornelius Fichtner both work for OSP International LLC, makers of The Agile PrepCast and The PMI-ACP Exam Simulator.

    Episode Transcript

    Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

    Podcast Introduction

    Cornelius Fichtner:   Hello and welcome to Episode #395. This is the Project Management Podcast™ at www.pm-podcast.com and I’m Cornelius Fichtner. This is another episode where I’m asking: “Are you currently studying or thinking about studying for your PMI ACP Exam?” Wonderful! Because that’s what we are going to be talking about. This is the third and final interview in which we learn from one of my work colleagues, how they passed their PMI ACP Exam. And of course, that brings me to this: If you are a project manager who wants to become PMI ACP certified, then the easiest way to do so is with our sister podcast, the Agile PrepCast and get your certification training for the exam by watching the in-depth Exam Prep Video Training from www.AgilePrepCast.com . In this interview, we are going to meet Yazmine Darcy. Yazmine is not only one of my students and co-workers, she is also the project manager in charge of developing the sample exam questions that we use in our PMI ACP Exam Simulator. So, if you not only want to know how to prepare for your PMI ACP Exam but also want to hear about all the work that goes into actually creating one of the training tools that you could be using, then you have come to the right place. As you know, the rules of all PMI Exams are such that we are not allowed to discuss specific questions from the exam but we can discuss Yazmine’s overall experience, general thoughts on the process and her recommendations to you so you can look forward to an experience and tip-filled interview on how to prepare for and pass your PMI ACP Exam. And now does a podcast interview qualify as an information radiator? Enjoy the interview.

    Female Voice:   Project Management Podcast™ Feature Interview. Today with Yazmine Darcy, Senior Project Manager for OSP International.

    Cornelius:   Hello, Yazmine and thank you very much for stopping by.

    Yazmine:   Hello Cornelius. Thanks for having me over.

    Cornelius:   Sure. Well, first of all, congratulations on passing the PMI ACP Exam.

    Yazmine:   Thank you [laughs] I am glad that it worked out.

    Cornelius:   [laughs] When exactly did you pass?  

    Yazmine:   I passed in November. I recall it was a holiday weekend, so I studied and prepared on a Friday and I went in and took my exam bright and early on a Monday.

    Cornelius:   OK. The PMI ACP is not your first exam, right? You’ve already taken the PMP before that.

    Yazmine:   That’s right I took my PMP a few years back.

    Cornelius:   Right. And then you also have an MBA on top of that.

    Yazmine:   That is true. [laughs]

    Cornelius:   [laughs] OK. What we also have to do at this point is we have to insert a disclaimer because you and I are colleagues. We both work for OSP International. We are a training company and we do offer PMP Exam Training and PMI ACP Training and I believe you used both our Agile PrepCast and our Exam Simulator, right?

    Yazmine:   That is true.

    Cornelius:   That is true and you are also in charge of making sure that our Agile sample questions in the simulator get updated to the latest exam specification. We’ll get to that later on but just to get this disclaimer out at the very beginning. So, my first question is always very similar. Now that you have passed the exam what is your No.1 recommendation to the listeners who are currently preparing for the exam?

    Yazmine:   I think my No. 1 recommendation is for people to understand what their goal is when taking this exam. For myself, I wanted not only to pass but also to have good understanding of all the material. So, in retrospect, unlike many other students who may not have read through most of the books. I opted to try to at least read through, not thoroughly, skimmed through in some cases, but for purposes of the work that we do and in order to prepare for the exam, I thought it important to go through and spend the time and read those 12 references. Probably not what everybody wants to do but in my case, I did.

    Cornelius:   OK, let me just jump into this one here because currently, the PMI ACP Exam has a recommended reading list of about 12 books or so. We can see at the horizon that this is going to change—that PMI is working on the Agile Practitioner’s Guide and very likely at some point in the future, the Agile Practitioner’s Guide is going to be the thing to read as you’re preparing for this exam. So, let me ask you this: Even though the exam is currently based and the one you took based on those 12 books—you read those 12 books—is the way you studied still going to be applicable in say, five years, ten years down the road when someone’s listening to this interview?

    Yazmine:   I think with the advent of the Ag Book, that’s probably less likely to be the case. I think that 12 references will always be useful but it is a very specialized knowledge, very deep knowledge that is useful for a practitioner to have and own these references and that’s what they are—they’re references. If you needed to learn more deeply about a particular topic, it’s nice to have it on hand, you can read about the specifics of Scrum or Kanban, but likely for preparation for the exam, the Ag Book ten years from now will be very well-used and developed. So that will be sufficient to use to prepare for the exam.  

    Cornelius:   Right. So just like people studied the PMBOK Guide today as they are preparing for the PMP Exam, in the future, they may be studying the—well, we call it sort of Ag Book jokingly—the Agile Body of Knowledge. I think the working title is the Agile Practitioner’s Guide. Whatever it will be called in the future more focus on this but the other study materials that you used I believe you read—correct me if I’m wrong—you did read an Exam Prep Book. You did go to our Agile PrepCast and you did use the questions in our Exam Simulator, right? That would still be something that you’d recommend?

    Yazmine:   Yes, definitely. I probably watched through the Agile PrepCast twice over the course of two years and more thoroughly in preparation for the exam and in particular, I found the lessons on the Agile Manifesto and Values and Principles and Different Methodologies quite useful. But I also used another Exam Prep Book, again, good understanding of all the seven domains at a high level and where I was like, “Oh I don’t understand more of this than I have the 12 references that I could refer to” and all that was very useful in preparing for the exam. 

    Cornelius:   I’m very glad that you said that because when I did the interview with Stas Podoxin and people who already have listened to this one and Stas said that because he took a course at the University of British Columbia, that course really overlapped about 80% so he did not find the Agile PrepCast all too helpful in addition to this but you’re saying that there was value in you watching and listening to the Agile PrepCast. Is that right?

    Yazmine:   Yes and I found that, again, when you can listen to it, that’s one mode and I think that’s what I did maybe a couple of years prior to actually taking the exam then it’s useful because there’s so many topics. You can use it and you don’t have to navigate from the very beginning all the way to the very end but you can select based on your own knowledge. I already know about this topic. I think there’s no need to listen to this for myself. I think that I’m adequately prepared. But no, when I wanted to refresh—a total refresh on Scrum ceremonies and make sure that I understand the specifics in great detail, that I didn’t forget something or I misunderstood something, then I can sit down and set aside half hour whatever I needed to complete that lesson and listen to that lesson more attentively. So that’s how I used it. I didn’t probably use it in the start here and listen to every lesson a little bit a day, I didn’t use it in that straightforward fashion. I tried to use it as I needed it in a very Agile fashion, I would say.

    Cornelius:   Right, yeah.  The intent is actually to do—start here and go all the way through—the more important lesson at the beginning, some of the less important ones are at the end but you are an unusual student from that perspective because we worked together, you had access to this for years. But let’s talk about the Exam Prep Book that you used. What book did you use and what did you enjoy most about it?

    Yazmine:   Yeah. I used Mike Griffiths book.

    Cornelius:   What a surprise. It seems like that’s the answer that I get from everybody these days.

    Yazmine:   I think again because it is organized by the domains and for example in the first few pages they have a table and it’s divided by tools and techniques and knowledge and skills. So, at the high level, he has lists of different topics, so it helps guide you through the different topics. He gets through the topics in a relatively small amount of number of pages compared to the 12 references. So you know you have covered the breadth that you need to cover for purposes of preparing for one’s exam. And it’s easy reading—it’s not very difficult –on the lighter side, compared to other references.

    Cornelius:   You have the MBA, then you took the PMP and then you decided to go for the PMI ACP. Why did you select the PMI ACP over, I don’t know, maybe a CSM or other Agile certifications?

    Yazmine:   That’s a good question. In part, it is related to the work that we do and definitely taking the exam helps in preparing others to prepare for the exam but in general, I just think that the way that we worked has evolved quite a bit especially since the time that I took my MBA. I have been on many traditional projects in the past and the idea that things changed and to embrace that—what a concept. In fact, you try to fix everything so that you can predict it and you probably spend so much effort trying to make sure that you’ve planned everything upfront but you end up having to change things in between. So, I think that the need for an Agile approach—this is how the world operates now. Things move very quickly. I didn’t explore the CSM—oh I do have a CSM, sorry! [laughs]

    Cornelius:   [laughs] There’s so many letters after you and you keep forgetting.

    Yazmine:   Sorry. We use it almost every day, you almost forget that you have it and it’s not like you go around and sign your name and put all the letters behind it. I think you gain knowledge as you go and it just becomes sort of part of your repertoire, so to speak. And yes, I do have my Scrum certification and we do use Scrum on our own projects. So, yes.

    Cornelius:   Yeah. This is maybe an interesting history for the listeners. When we originally developed our PMP Exam Prep Course, that was done fully in a traditional Waterfall-based project management approach. Then we started with the Agile PrepCast—helping people prepare for the ACP and also the simulator and again that was based on traditional best practices. We were only starting out on Agile back then. Later on, when PMI changed the ACP Exam, we had already started out on the Agile path and we did the updates using Agile practices and right now, pretty much as we are recording this interview, we are in the process of updating our PMP Training, the Waterfall-based certification and we’re actually using Agile practices to update a training course that is focused on traditional Waterfall-based. So, things are certainly evolving and changing over the years.

    Yazmine:    It’s a bit ironic, I guess, if you think of it that way. [laughs]

    Cornelius:   Yeah [laughs]

    Yazmine:   Even as we approach something, the material and the content itself might be based on something very traditional. The way in which we operate is Agile because things changed within our team. Maybe the methodology itself is more stable and certainly from PMBOK 5 to 6 there are changes and its similar ideas, it’s ever evolving but in our team definitely, things happen and we need to be able to adjust ourselves to the changes.

    Cornelius:   Alright, back to you and your PMI ACP experience. You mentioned that you have a lot of experience on traditional Waterfall-based project. How then did you determine that you were in fact eligible to take the PMI ACP Exam with all the Agile experience you needed?

    Above are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only. Please subscribe to our Premium Podcast to receive a PDF transcript.


  • Posted on 05 Aug 2017

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    Episode 394: Project Management is Hard. Complexity Makes it Even Harder. (Premium)

    This episode is reserved for subscribers of the Premium Podcast. Learn how to subscribe to the Premium Podcast to access this interview and transcript...

    For your Project Management Professional (PMP)® exam use PMP exam prep on your phone with The PM PrepCast:
    The PM PrepCast for the PMP Exam

    Jordan Kyriakidis
    Jordan Kyriakidis, CEO of QRA Corp

    One thing that every project manager notices over the course of her or his career is this: We begin with managing relatively simple projects. Here we learn about the theory of project management, its good practices and how to apply them. And as we get better we are assigned to bigger and more important projects.

    But in recent years you may have begun to notice that even though your projects may not have become any bigger their complexity has never the less steadily been increasing. In other words, if you took a project you managed 5 years ago and repeated it today in exactly the same way then the one thing that would definitely change is the complexity caused by an increase in interdependencies.

    And that’s where Jordan Kyriakidis (https://www.linkedin.com/in/jordankyriakidis/) and I are starting this interview. We are exploring why complexity is increasing, whether it is actually real or just a perceived problem, and what you can do about it.

    PDU Tip

    This interview is 29 minutes long. This means that you can "legally" only claim 0.25 PDUs for listening to it, because in order to claim 0.50 PDUs the interview must be 30 minutes long. However... if you first listen to the interview and then also read Jordan's related white paper, then you can go ahead and claim 0.50 PMP PDUs!

    Click to download the white paper

    Episode Transcript

    Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

    Podcast Introduction

    Cornelius Fichtner:   Hello and welcome to this Premium Episode #394. I’m Cornelius Fichtner. As always, Premium means that this interview is reserved for you, our Premium subscribers. Thank you very much for your financial support of the Project Management Podcast™ One thing that every project manager notices over the course of her or his career is this: We begin with managing relatively simple projects. Here we learn about the theory of Project Management, its best practices and how to apply them and as we get better we are assigned to bigger and more important projects. But in recent years, you may have begun to notice that even though your projects may not have become any bigger, their complexity has nevertheless steadily been increasing. In other words, if you took a project that you managed five years ago and repeated it today in exactly the same way then the one thing that would definitely change is the complexity caused by an increase in interdependencies and that’s where Jordan Kyriakidis and I are starting this interview. We are exploring why complexity is increasing, whether it is actually real or just perceived and what you can do about it. Enjoy the interview.

    Female Voice:   Project Management Podcast Feature Interview. Today with Jordan Kyriakidis, CEO and co-founder of QRA Corporation.

    Cornelius:   Hello, Jordan. Welcome back to the Project Management Podcast

    Jordan:  Thank you. Thank you for having me back. It’s a pleasure to be here.

    Cornelius:   In our first interview we talked about Natural Language Processing, the word complexity came up a couple of times so we decided to follow it up with an interview on the increasing project complexity and how it’s impacting us project managers. How do you define complexity yourself in the context of Project Management?

    Jordan:   Well, that’s like a four-month long course (laughs). Can I go just on complexity?

    Cornelius:   OK. We have thirty minutes (laughs).

    Jordan:   I’ll give a closed notes version. There’s many measures of complexity. Some simple measures which I think are not very good is the budget, the length of the project, whether you’ve done it before and I’ve heard some companies say: “If we’ve done a project before then it’s easy, if we’ve never done it before then it’s hard”. I think a kind of measure that I use and I may be betraying my own background here is a good measure of complexity is not how long and what break down structure is or anything simple like that. It is really the interdependencies of all the different components of the project and if everything depends on many other things, then it is an example of a very complex project. I can give you maybe more visual image that maybe helpful. If you think of say—let’s say for example—of all the tasks you need to do just look at the word breakdown structure and you draw that as like a graph. You have a little circle that represents each task you want to complete and then you draw a line between tasks that are related or interdependent as we have all these circles with the lines connected to them, does that make sense so far?

    Cornelius:   It does.

    Jordan:   Now if you look at that and what you’ll see for a very complex project, you’ll see a lot of closed loops, a lot of circles and a lot of ways you can start at one note and traverse around and come back to where you started from and the more of those you have, the more complex your project is. You can imagine a simple project that is very long—say your project takes—ok, you say this project can take like eight years to complete but you can do everything in a very clear, linear fashion that the next task cannot begin until the previous one finishes and there’s one straight—like a one-dimensional path to completion. That—and it could be a very expensive project, it could be a very –but that is a very simple project, the structure of it is very clear. A complicated network diagram this is called, will not look like they will have like loops and hoop backs and they’ll just look like they’re very, very complicated.

    Cornelius:   So, is this interdependency the main reason why project complexity is increasing or is this something else?

    Jordan:   Yes, there’s interdependency or an interaction between different components and that is one of the primary reasons why projects fail or go far over budget or the time just gets blown out of the water. It’s because of this—because then what happens –you may have heard this refrain that it’s possible to make no mistakes and still fail. What that means is that if you have a lot of interaction between various components of a project, what happens is that you can have something go wrong and the error is not associated with any one particular task. The error is associated with how this task depend on each other and it’s the interaction where you have these problems arising.

    Cornelius:    How can our listeners recognize this increasing complexity. You gave us the visual of draw out the WBS and start creating almost like a neural network to see what connects to what. Is that the only way? Are there any other ways?

    Jordan:   I think that is a very good way to do it. I told you right away whether you have something complex or not. Another thing you can recognize complexity is if you’re doing—say in the planning phase and you start realizing that there’s actually many different ways you can like plan out this project into a safe schedule—let’s talk about scheduling, for example. You realize that there’s many ways you can schedule a project and you can’t really say one is better than the other, they are just different ways of doing it. That’s one little clue you can have that you are dealing with something that’s very complex. When you have to make choices, project managers are always making choices and your choices are between things that is not very clear—which one is better overall than another choice, right? It depends—one choice maybe better for certain things, not better in other things and so that is almost definition of a difficult choice. That would be another sign that you’re dealing with an increasing complexity in your project. Yet another one is if you start doing a sensitivity analysis and you find that small changes can have a big impact. Especially a big impact on something that seems very unrelated to what you changed. I see like there shouldn’t be any connection there but somehow there is. So, these are all the things that are signs that you’re dealing with a complex project and my feeling is that the project manager listening now who have experienced all of these with increased frequency as we move into the future in the recent task.

    Cornelius:    We’re all living in a more and more interconnected world—does this mean then that complexity is increasing on all projects or can you think of any areas where no, it’s not really increasing? 

    Jordan:   I would say it’s not increasing on all projects but generally speaking, the larger project is—these days the more complex it is particularly there are some kind of –I would say—some projects that are almost always becoming more and more complex. And that is if your project involves a lot of technology, if it involves a lot of software and if it involves especially software or hardware integrated together into one unit. These are areas where I would say, are ripe with complexity.

    Cornelius:   Is the increasing complexity actually a problem? Is this not simply a challenge that we, project managers have to rise up to and meet?

    Jordan:   Well, it is certainly the latter—it certainly is a challenge a project managers absolutely have to rise up and meet. There’s no question of that. Whether it’s a problem or not I guess that maybe a bit a symmetric question. I think that it’s a problem in the sense that it makes the job of managing the project more difficult. However, it is not a problem in the sense that complexity is bad and we should not have it. And so, if you look at, for example—maybe I can argue by example and if you look at cars. Cars now are far more complex than they were say, a generation ago. There’s far more computer processing going on in there but generally speaking, this is a good thing. Cars are actually much safer now. Cars are more reliable now. Cars in almost any measure are much better and some of them are really getting less expensive too even though they’re becoming more complex. In that sense complexity is a very good thing but the poor project manager who has to manage the new technology in these cars for them there’s new challenges involved with it.

    Cornelius:   I read an article of yours about this complexity and one topic you talked about was the status quo. A two-part question here: maybe you can tell us a little bit about what you mean by the status quo of handling project complexity and also give us an example from a project that you experienced where the rise in project complexity meant that the status quo was no longer an option.

    Jordan:   Well, you can see the status quo varies from industry to industry and the status quo for example if we pick aerospace, the status quo for handling project complexity is you have all these –you generally have a review. You start off with a systems requirement review, you go on to preliminary design reviews, design reviews and then you go into actual implementation. Various industries have variations of the theme. You have these milestones that you have to meet and they are requirements and designs before you go to the actual implementation. The status quo, typically if we take, say, let’s dive in the middle of processing and doing a design review, if it is for big project this will involve people getting together in a big room and they’ll spend three or four days, all getting in the room and you’ll have project managers, you’ll have budget people, you’ll have engineers in there and they’ll put up—they’ll present the requirements and they’ll present the designs and they’ll discuss how these designs actually meet the requirements. They’ll go back and forth and discuss various scenarios and they’ll move on that way and at the end of the meeting, they’ll have a list of things that are things that need to be addressed, some action items that before the project can move on, all these open loops have to be resolved and then they can move on. When I say status quo, that’s what I have in the back of my mind. I’m not sure if that’s been your experience as well for typically how this is done? [talked ove]

    Cornelius:   Yeah. Pretty much.

    Jordan:   So the reason why I think the status quo is no longer an option is because –when will that work well? That works well if you have very highly qualified people in the room who are doing it for a while or experienced, they know what they’re doing and they’re working on a project that they have seen before, they know how it works out, they have made mistakes in the past, they know not to make mistakes again and if you have that situation they’ll say the status quo actually works pretty well. However when you have this complexity at a level not seen before, when every phase depends on every other phase, and every task within a phase depends on many other tasks within that phase and you’re dealing with new technology that has not been introduced before and you’re dealing with software infused throughout the whole system that you haven’t had before. Now people are less certain of where the risk lies and where the danger lies especially if the danger really lies in not just one error happened but a series of anomalies can happen in a certain order and then that’ll cause problems. It’s very difficult to actually rule out for humans and so in these cases you really cannot capture all the errors that are inherent in a document and what you find is that you have the design reviews and what will happen is there is going to be dangers lurking—dragons lurking in your project that you don’t even know about and so you don’t have any mitigation plans for them until you start building something and you’re deep into the implementation and you start seeing that things are not working the way it ought to be working and you wonder why. Why? Because you didn’t uncover it way back in the design stage. I think that was rather a long-winded answer to your question.

    Cornelius:   No, it gets the picture across quite well. So, how do you propose then that project managers handle or even thrive amidst this increase of complexity?

    Above are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only. Please subscribe to our Premium Podcast to receive a PDF transcript.


  • Posted on 12 Jul 2017

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