MGT 598: Why it’s worth waking up for class on Saturday mornings…

Besides the fact that MGT 598 is one of the last classes that stands between most of us and our diploma, a recent study from consulting firm Project Management Solutions has concluded that companies gain a variety of benefits by investing in instructor-led classroom training on project management.

The survey results report that “project management training initiatives improved eight aspects of business and project performance by an average of 26 percent.” Categories that were cited include: stakeholder satisfaction, scheduling, decrease in project failures, keeping projects on budget, gathering requirements, quality, productivity, and time to market. While the results are somewhat subjective, the percentage is high enough where I think we can all agree the improvement was significant.

The findings indicate the type of training invested in also makes a difference in the results. According to the study, 69% of respondents rated instructor-led classroom training as the most effective method. I guess we’ve come to the right place!

Personally, I know that I have already benefitted from many of the in-class and blog discussions our group has had. One that is top of mind this week relates to the category called out above related to “decrease in project failures.” It seems that one of the best avenues to accomplishing this objective is employing risk management techniques. While risk management seems like an obvious topic to consider, truthfully, I have never worked on a team where this topic was formally discussed in the planning stages of the project. It hasn’t been until something begins to go wrong where this concept has been addressed.

By addressing the topic of risk management in our own class projects, it is already easy to see the benefits of risk management can be significant. Including a risk analysis in the early planning stages of the project can help the team think through potential challenges and proactively try to avoid some of the potential obstacles. It is certainly a practice I will continue to employ as I manage projects in the future.

What has been the most worthwhile learning for you so far in MGT 598?


The Importance of Communication Skills in Project Managers

The Project Management Institute published an article earlier this year discussing the importance of assessing people skills in project managers. “The best project leaders don’t just manage projects. They manage people too.” Because many project teams are cross-functional in nature, the project manager must be able to communicate with and motivate people from a broad range of backgrounds and experience levels. The article states that “ninety percent of a project manager’s time is spent communicating with stakeholders.” The article goes on to explain that when choosing a project manager organizations should look for individuals who can:

  1. Communicate project goals cross functionally and with all levels of the organization.
  2. Unite project stakeholders through collaboration and teamwork.
  3. Gain project buy-in with active listening and relationship-building.

Last week I had a first-hand opportunity to see a project manager demonstrate these skills. I participated in a three day kick-off meeting as part of the team who will be implementing organizational design changes that are happening in our business unit. This project is very complex and the results will impact employees at all levels of the organization. Although the project manager for this team is new to the business, it quickly became clear that she had significant experience in project management. Some of the activities she initiated to make this project kick-off a success were:

  • The agenda, goals, and expectations for the kick-off meeting were clearly communicated to the team in advance of the meeting. Team members knew exactly what information they were expected to prepare for the discussion.
  • Time was allocated according to priorities and while minor modifications to the agenda were made as the meeting unfolded, the project manager made sure the meeting stayed on track.
  • Each member on the team had a role in the meeting and was expected to provide input and gain understanding on what other team members were contributing. Ground rules were set in advance to minimize outside distractions.
  • Time for relationship-building was scheduled at the beginning of the meeting and during the team dinner.
  • At the end of the meeting the project manager reviewed all action items, along with the agreed upon due date and individuals responsible for follow-up.
  • A roundtable discussion was held at the end of the meeting for people to provide input on what worked well and what they still had concerns about. Each team member was required to comment, ensuring everyone’s voice was heard.

After leaving the meeting I felt like the next steps in the project and the expectations for my role were very clear. I also felt comfortable with and respected by the others on the team, even though this was the first time I had met many of them. Most importantly, I felt like we had set up a good foundation for which to build success. These positive outcomes were primarily due to the communication among the team which was facilitated so well by the project manager.

PMI Article: