Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Project Management 2012: What's Coming... Part 1

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Project Management is rapidly changing, in terms of the availability of consulting contracts ('employment opportunities'), the expanded nature of the exceptionally good (i.e., eminently desirable) PM, and the new areas of special expertise which will require study and skill-sharpening. The field, and the nature of both the character and skill sets required of the best of breed Project Managers and Business Strategic Planning Officers has changed radically. Get informed and prepared NOW! Our old standby pals, Agile and Scrum, will no longer get us through the decision maker's filter...neither will obscurantism, tech-speak, leisure suits, and professionally-prepared resumes (i.e., generated through fill-in-the-blank-fields technology), or a strong recommendation from an influential old friend (who was just laid off due to budget constraints - oh, the irony!).

For 2012 and beyond, you must 1) overhaul your personality and presentation skills, and 2) learn a new matrix of emerging technologies and become very conversant in them. In this article, we will deal with reinventing yourself and your role -- we'll save the rest for Part 2.

1) Speak plainly, with confidence and conviction, and avoid technological jargon and excessive acronyms. Make eye contact. Don't be reticent. If the assignment or proposed methodology sounds hazy or foolish, question your interviewer about aspects of it that you find "troubling." Be involved in evaluating the Project immediately.

2) Work on your oral communications skills. You are going to have to get attention, keep attention and take control of conversations -- you are neither a low-level programmer nor a grocery clerk. You might look at resources such as TAKING COMMAND! and SENDING SIGNALS! to sharpen up your skills. You can no longer be a passive follower of someone else's ill-conceived idea; you must be proactive, immediately demonstrating interest, dedication, competence in expressing yourself and rapid ownership. Being articulate and being immediately passionate about a plan or project elevates you from being a servant, nerd, techie, or lackey to being a decisive, active, problem-solver... a leader is a valuable asset. A lackey is an unaffordable luxury and an addition to overhead.

3) Become highly proficient at speaking with management in non-tech terms (explaining things in terms of function, using business metaphors, and framing responses along the lines of "with it, we can...." and "without it, these other departments will suffer." Sound like a businessperson in explaining your decisions. If you become highly proficient at translating geek-speak into practical business cause and effect conversation, you will become an indispensable asset. Please believe me; Mr. Reginald X. Abernathy IX doesn't want to hear about data compression, SWOT, and Agile. He likely thinks that "Scrum" is something vulgar.
He (Reggie, the big boss) wants to hear about the problem, how you intend to solve it, how much it will cost, how long it will take, and what the return on investment will be. He might even want to hear about the basics of why you've chosen one particular solution over another one in simple cause and effect terms. Be the 'go to' conduit between business and IT.

4) Work diligently at being fully self-managing, and at project team management. A manager of any sort is a major asset, unless you're working for a quasi-governmental agency where your budget is subsidized, "bottom line" is never mentioned (let alone computed), and your performance is evaluated on how often you arrive on time.

5) Avoid discussing technological details or petty interpersonal issues with executives.

6) You must position yourself to be a part of management, thinking like as business captain, but being in charge of a technologically-oriented function that none of your colleagues (in management) wants to hear about. Speak to managers like a manager. Speak to your techno-team in their technical language.

7) Be up-to-date (a morning review of ALL TOP BUSINESS NEWS and INTERNATIONAL NEWS MEDIA AGGREGATOR on your computer for 30 minutes should make you aware of all the significant headlines relating to business and the state of the world, in general) on the news and business matters so you can participate in general business discussions with grace and ease. This definitely will serve to set you apart from the ranks of IT "isolationists".

8) Walk around a bit and be seen by non-IT management every day. Don't hide. Be highly visible.

9) When you are required to make a written presentation, be certain that the first section is in plain business language, has very simple visual charts, graphs and aids, and uses helpful metaphor. State the bottom line first. Don't write a mystery novel. You will indeed be judged by your first chapter, so have it be a concise, pointed synopsis of the problem, what was done to solve it, and that it has been 'fixed'. If you want to go to the head of the class, you might add a chart or table (simple, large type) of before versus after. Non-technoids truly fancy before and after charts -- especially if significant changes are evident. Be a hero (or a heroine) - give them a snapshot of what you've achieved for the benefit of the entire business.

I look forward to discussing this further in Part 2. Play stay tuned!

Douglas E. Castle

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