Learning PM Success Secrets From Product Managers

PM ChangeAgent Commentary

In the early 1990s, a corporate executive and I were talking about the talent in his organization, and he asked me a question: “What’s the difference between a project manager and a product manager?” I knew he had his own answer already, so I asked him: “I can think of a dozen differences, but what do you think is the difference?”

He replied, “The Product Manager has a personality.”

I was shocked. As a practicing project manager and consultant, his reply stung. But then, this company was a major Aerospace/Defense contractor, and despite the Integrated Product Team initiatives of the 1980s, some of the old-timer Project Engineers were still not known for their interpersonal skills and scintillating style. But to make such a blanket statement? Even by the early 1990s, I had had worked with thousands of project managers who had great interpersonal skills—and personality galore!

A Product BOK
I was reminded of this discussion several years ago, when PM Consultant/Speaker/Author Gary Heerkens suggested that I should assist in a new initiative, to develop a Product Management Body of Knowledge. Gary put me in touch with Greg Geracie, who had completed a useful and popular book on the subject (Take Charge Product Management), and was working with a professional organization on this Body of Knowledge project.

Gary, Frank Salidis, Lee Lambert and other “great minds” in the pm community made significant contributions, and I reviewed their results, as a technical editor. They did a great job of bridging the gaps and overlaps between pm and pdm. The end result, The Guide to the Product Management and Marketing Body of Knowledge (ProdBOK®) went to press in 2013, and is available at a reasonable price at Amazon.com and other booksellers. See the ProdBok on Amazon.

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.ru Ready?

PM ChangeAgent Commentary

Two recent experiences resulted in the title of this article: First, we were recently in Russia to keynote a very successful Project Management conference, and .ru is the national web domain for Russia. Second, we recently saw the latest updates in Project Management Institute’s “Are You Ready?” campaign. For the last few years, they have been pivoting to embrace the leadership/behavioral and context/strategic linkage aspects long-advocated by IPMA, International Project Management Association.

I especially appreciate this pivoting action because these were our PM consulting firm’s (Goff Associates, Inc., the ProjectExperts) key differentiators from the early 1980s. Our clients’ success was based on their early embrace of the importance of these demonstrated competences. And, I have long-fought for the consistent application of the factors that make the greatest difference in project and organizational success–even in the era when they were a difficult sale. It’s about time all professional associations recognize the importance of these factors for success!

Project Management 2013: Mission Possible!
The conference, organized by infor-media Russia, and held at the Swissotel Krasnye Holmy Moscow, was very well-managed, interesting, and informative. Among the most interesting parts was the level of experience of most participants–truly outstanding, compared to many events I have participated in. It is an audience similar to the high level of sophistication of the UT Dallas PM Symposium, the PMO Symposium, and of course, our IPMA World Congress. As kick-off keynote speaker, my primary role was completed early in the event (except for a panel later in the morning), so I had the opportunity to relax, observe and enjoy the other presentations.

So why was I in Russia, keynoting a major PM conference? Because this is a highly visible event, and SOVNET, IPMA-Russia, arranged for me to bring the IPMA global perspective, giving one of my “Stacy speeches.” SOVNET President Alexey Polkovnikov and past IPMA Executive Board member Alexandr Tovb made sure I was able to not only participate in the conference, but had the opportunity to see some of the major attractions of Moscow.

Read more.ru Ready?

Dinner Speech at PMAF Congress, Helsinki, part 2

PM ChangeAgent Commentary

We suggest that you begin with Part 1 of this post, a summary of points made at the Dinner meeting of the PMAF (Project Management Association Finland) national congress.

3. Highlights of IPMA Services and Product
The IPMA Competence Baseline, ICB®, is the foundation for advanced application of the practice of project management. It is our profession’s key to moving beyond tested knowledge, to demonstrate competence and produce business results. And it uniquely focuses not just on technical aspects of project management, but the essential interpersonal skills and contextual savvy it takes to achieve project success.

That said, our 4-L-C, advanced Four-Level Certification system, assesses and recognizes the demonstrated competences at increasingly higher levels or roles, from Certified Project Manager, to Certified Senior Project Manager, Program Manager, Senior Program Manager and Projects Director (depending on the member association—not all certify all levels).

While recognizing individuals who produce results is smart, we don’t stop there. Successful project teams are the most valuable talent in any project oriented organization, and our Project Excellence Awards program recognizes the world’s most effective project teams. Participating in a rigorous evaluation, where independent, professional assessors evaluate both PM processes and business results, successful teams can benchmark their performance against other winners, and further improve their results.

At the overall organization level, IPMA Delta offers the unique opportunity to assess the strengths and areas for improvement of the entire organization. This helps Member Associations to grow stronger relationships with their corporate members, and attract new ones, as they see the value in smarter use of their performance improvement funds. And, IPMA Delta helps participating enterprises in their marketing, offering a unique certification of the enterprise’s level of project maturity.

Read moreDinner Speech at PMAF Congress, Helsinki, part 2

Dinner Speech at PMAF Congress, Helsinki, part 1

PM ChangeAgent Commentary

In November, we traveled to Helsinki, Finland, to represent IPMA, International Project Management Association, to “wave our flag,” at the PMAF (Project Management Association Finland) national congress. Leveraging our presence, hosts Heikki Lonka, President, Jouko Vaskimo, Certification Chair, and Jyry Louhisto, General Manager, signed us up for meetings with their organizational and certification leadership teams, added two presentations, two panel sessions, and the most challenging one, a dinner meeting presentation that was to address six areas of interest to PMAF members.

Most dinner meeting participants are usually more interested in visiting with friends they have not seen for months or longer, rather than listening to some dignitary from afar, droning on about topics of little interest. But Jyry was adamant that it was important to “wave the IPMA flag,” so we accommodated him. PMAF expected around 250 people for this dinner meeting, and there was to be no projector, and no Powerpoint slides. Naked-mic speaking, as it were!

The Topics
The topics to address were:

  1. IPMA’s basic principles
  2. The role of IPMA in support of member associations such as PMAF
  3. Highlights of IPMA’s services and products
  4. The importance of international networks to PMAF and its members
  5. PMAF’s role in the IPMA Family network
  6. What IPMA would like to be in the future

An interesting list of topics, and when asked how much time to take, Jyry said 15 minutes. A lot of ground to cover in a short time! To prepare, we used IPMA-USA co-founder Lew Ireland’s technique of posting the key thoughts on a series of note cards. Reviewing the notes afterwards, we realized that, while targeted for Project Management Association of Finland, most of the comments are accurate and useful for our other Member Associations in the IPMA Family—including IPMA-USA, IPMA-USA.

So you now have the benefit of a second helping of the starter course for the November 2012 PMAF dinner presentation (an excellent meal, by the way).

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Indicators of PM Competence

PM Certification commentary by William Duncan, IPMA-USA Certification Director. I haven’t been very reliable about posting here regularly. Part of the reason is that I often get involved in LinkedIn discussions about subjects that are near and dear to my heart … like project management competence. So in lieu of copying my comments in here, … Read more Indicators of PM Competence

Stakeholders Benefit From a PM’s Perspective

PM ChangeAgent Commentary

Our recent series of IPMA (International Project Management Association) meetings and events in Asia was rich with the opportunity to meet great people, dialogue about the benefits of our chosen practice or profession, and with innumerable sudden insights. Not to mention a wealth of topics for this often-longer-and-deeper-than-normal blog.

In this case, the setting was an early Sunday morning flight over the Himalaya mountains of Nepal. Sponsored by PMAN, Project Management Association of Nepal (thank you again!), it was a beautiful morning, and on takeoff, we saw the city of Kathmandu waking up. Soaring to mountain heights, and rising above the clouds, we were able to track each of the peaks jutting above the clouds. Showing the benefit of a plan, we each had a map of the mountains we would see in our journey from North to South. StakeholderView

The Stakeholder View
The first mountain we saw barely peeked through the clouds. The next several were progressively higher. From our window seat in the small plane, those on the left side of the plane had a decent view out of the tiny windows. Those on the right had a more obscured view. We all had other obstacles, such as the wing of the plane blocking a portion of the view.

Similarly, in many projects, our key Stakeholders don’t always have the same clear view of the project as does the team. The Stakeholders are often part-time participants. They don’t have time to read all the documents, and may miss important meetings, “because of pressing priorities.” They do not have the clear project vision they deserve.

One quick discovery made a difference in our blocked view. If we looked out-and-back, rather than out-and-ahead, the wing was not in the way. Of course, this was difficult, because it was clear that the route of the plane was taking us to ever-increasingly tall mountains, so in our eagerness, we were still often looking, even straining, to see what was coming.

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