Thursday, September 27, 2012

PWWCBA 2012 in Photos

From paying a brief visit to Epcot Center, to book signings and networking galore PW&WCBA 2012 was a whirlwind of learning, inspiration and making new connections. From big picture ideas to project-specific case studies, our three days in Florida ran the PM & BA gamut.

Check out our photos for a glimpse of the action:


We'll be publishing insights from attendees of this year's PW&WCBA event over the next several weeks. Would you like to share your thoughts? Email them to Michelle LeBlanc at

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

It's Your Career, Drive It Like You Stole It

We'll be publishing insights from attendees of this year's PW&WCBA event over the next several weeks. Would you like to share your thoughts? Email them to Michelle LeBlanc at

Chuck Millhollan, It is your Career, Drive It Like You Stole It written by Demetrios Plessias

Chuck Millhollan spoke about how to lead your career to a better today and future. He compared a used broken down car idling by versus a muscle car as what your career could be compared to by others. He stated how it is important not to get led off the path of your career. He provided the following insight as food for thought.

- Know what your worth.
- Know your next position and plan for it.
- If you were going to show off your career, what would you show?

Statistics were given that 9% of jobs are found on-line while 75% of jobs are found due to networking. Chuck expressed the importance on not being invisible and to take advantage of social media sites and networking events. He expressed that your network is only as good as what you put into it. Your career is a large part of your self-worth therefore it should be maintained through knowledge sharing, obtaining certifications/licenses as well as keeping up with the latest innovations.

To add my personal thought to this session, I really enjoyed this session since Chuck made it interactive for all but the most I got out of it was that Chuck made me realize that one should not lose track on the development of their career even though it is very easy to be bumped off track. I have now developed a plan that would give my career the upgrade that it deserves. Thanks Chuck for the jump start.

Demetrios Plessias is a project manager for WSP Flack + Kurtz which is a consulting Engineering firm in NYC. He can be reached at

Monday, September 17, 2012

New Frontiers in PM: Creating High Performing Team

We'll be publishing insights from attendees of this year's PW&WCBA event over the next several weeks. Would you like to share your thoughts? Email them to Michelle LeBlanc at

Silvanus David provided a South African view on how to create a high performing team. The video shown of the cheetah, gazelle and the project manager is a unique way to indicate how important a project manager needs to be prepared for everyday challenges and possible risks.

As a professional in his field, to create a high performing team the following are a few items that are needed:
- Know your teams strength and weakness
- Team building
- develop as a single unit by knowledge sharing
- Treat team members as people and not as a resource object

Silvanus David discussed that demonstrating leadership within a team shows character. Being proactive not reactive are traits of a true leader. Leadership is earned and not bestowed. Believe in the capabilities of the team and increase their weakness. A high performing team creates value which leads to innovation. Give praise to the team by taking time out to acknowledge their effort and support.

As a follow up to this conference session, I went back to the office with a renewed vigor to sit with my team members, re-enforce team sharing as well as develop new ways to continue the development of my team with some of the ideas that Silvanus and I discussed. Thanks Silvanus for your professionalism and ideas.

Demetrios Plessias is a project manager for WSP Flack + Kurtz which is a consulting Engineering firm in NYC. He can be reached at

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Virtual Tool Time at #PWWCBA

The final afternoon at PW&WCBA allowed us to fill up our PM & BA toolboxes with some new ideas.

James Franklin, P.E., PMP, Project Manager, Shaw Environmental & Infrastructure gave several examples of PM uses for mind mapping, including building a presentation or PMP study guide.A mind map is a diagram, used to represent word or ideas graphically and can be used for improving brainstorming, collaboration or creating content. By creating these documents using mind mapping software teams can improve collaboration and prevent the rework of having to manually create diagrams or documents.
Mind mapping
In "Realizing the Full Potential of the Virtual Team" we learned that a higher level of early organization is correlated to a direct positive impact on the team's productivity, quality & interaction.  In addition to this, in a virtual team you need to be explicit and transparent throughout the project, providing self-service information that is available at all times.

Anyone can be trained to work virtually, but it involves a different skill set than co-located teams (an ability to ask questions and clarify and work independently, amongst others). Communication skills can pose a challenge on any team, but in a virtual team the problem can be exacerbated as modes of communication are removed and communication is often not real-time.

Lindsay Chamberlain suggests several tools for better managing a virtual team:
- Create a team charter that includes information such as expected review/lag times,  scheduling conflicts
- A workload and priorities log to track
- Virtual meeting technologies that prevent confusing conference calls (however, using computer-mediated communication every single time will lower effectiveness, aim for 10% or more person-to-person communication using face-to-face, webcam, or voice-to-voice)
- Regular communication of the vision and goals
- Determine training needs and comfort with virtual environments as soon as possible (first month)
- Open conversations about the virtual environment
- Avoid unintentionally privileging co-located team members

Lastly, Maryann Burns, Senior Project Director, The Travelers Companies, Inc asked "Are your PM Tools Keeping up with the Latest Innovations, Trends and Techniques?" Saying, to know what tool you need, you need to first look at what your purpose is (both today and for the future).  First conduct a current tools assessment and report findings, then design guideposts and develop a road map for implementation.

 Michelle LeBlanc is a Social Media Strategist at IIR USA and the voice behind the @Project_World twitter. She may be reached at 

#PWWCBA Live: Complex Projects

Our second two keynote sessions of the morning were Jim Durkin, SVP, WTC Transportation Hub, Tishman Construction Corporation and Connie Steward, SVP Human Resources & Organizational Development and Lysa Ratliff, Senior Director Cause Marketing and Partner Communications of Habitat for Humanity International.

Jim Durkin spoke on managing complexity and pointed out that complex project teams need to be able to manage: uncertainty, complexity, dynamic interfaces, significant external influences, extra risks that are difficult to quantify, on the spot decision making, prevention of scope creep and more.

In the WTC project (which is actually 8 separate projects) all of these come into play. The organization needs to track literally every piece of steel used from the time it is fabricated and meet various external milestones. The WTC Transportation Hub had to deal with bidding out materials around the world, managing 40 contractors and unions and planning to accommodate over 100,000 passengers per day in the final structure. External influences also created need for various changes, which the project team stays on top of with constant, daily communication: a design change not coming in on time could hold up over 1,000 people working in the field.

Habitat for Humanity Session
Connie Steward and Lysa Ratliff spoke about developing leaders for complex projects. Boundaries of race, culture, gender and more are challenges on Habitat for Humanity projects, build teams may not share a similar language, but these are not the boundaries that are the hardest for leaders in the organization, rather it often comes down to loyalty, respect and trust.

To be a successful leader, focus on processes, relationships & results. Having a common goal, trust and shared accountability will leave you ahead of the game.

Ratliff discussed the shift from managing a project to leading a project and shared the following lessons:
Create the culture first, build an environment of trust.
Get over yourself, it's about others.
Plan for contingencies, but learn to adapt and problem solve.
Focus on details, but don't get lost in them.

Michelle LeBlanc is a Social Media Strategist at IIR USA and the voice behind the @Project_World twitter. She may be reached at 

#PWWCBA Live: "Race Pace" and Collaboration

Don Mann, Former Member, Seal Team Six started off our final morning at PW&WCBA with some insights from his time with Seal Team Six and as a competitive athlete.

Don Mann signing books at PW&WCBA

Here are some of my key takeaways that can apply to the project management and business analysis world:

- be the quiet professional
- when a new member joins the team, your job is to train him to take over for you when you leave
- be confident and competent, but you won't be an expert in everything. Rely on subject matter experts
- Break macro goals up into micro goals
- Step out of your comfort zone and "train at race pace" (give it all you've got at all times)

Up next, Fredrick Redd, PMP, Director, Project Management Office, Port Authority and New Jersey Transit talked to us about "Developing & Leading an Innovative Approach to Creative, Forward-Looking Collaboration." Port Authority and New Jersey Transitis currently at a crossroads, having been in existence since 1875, there is a need for more collaboration and ultimately innovation. Organizational silos, a culture that is resistant to change and communication issues stand in the way of this. Four primary improvements challenged these silos for better collaboration:

- Public Private Partnerships
   - Reduces delays by increasing efficiency
   - Risks are weighed during all phases for better management
- Integrated Capital Management System
   - Integrate stand alone systems for better transparency of data
   - Standardize process and simplify access to data
- Net Point Scheduling Software
  - Allows intuitive view of project schedule
- BIM 4D Modeling Software
  - Used to model projects such as the World Trade Center Transportation hub, this allows the team to visualize conflicts, design changes and more.

By better communication of vision and strategy and measurement of benefits and lessons learned through these programs, the organization is continuing to break down silos and is more open to new ideas. More than the technical innovations, this transformation has also come from more "soft skills" approaches: using cross-functional teams and a stage gate process PMO.

Michelle LeBlanc is a Social Media Strategist at IIR USA and the voice behind the @Project_World twitter. She may be reached at

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

#PWWCBA live: The biggest challenge to decision making? Risk.

Michael Thorn started his afternoon session at ProjectWorld discussing whole body decisions, which is to say, the following three inputs on which we base decisions:

Brain = Rational logic
Heart = Passion
Gut = Intuition (Lack of data and/or time)

Passionate, "heart" decisions may make us feel the best, but "brain" based decisions are the easiest to back up. Data analysis, mainly performed by lower level employees, is what is going to drive many professional decisions, but ultimately it may be upper level management who reviews the results and determines success.

Here are my key takeaways:

Decision making is what all workers do, and what steers what the organization does.
Most organizations are good at doing analysis and investigation, but struggle with the "pivot point" of actually making a decision.

Ultimate criterion: does the decision create a positive outcome for the person and/or organization?

For effective decision making: consider alternate approaches and scenarios, assign (or accept) accountability for decisions, and communicate, communicate, communicate.

You can follow the 40-80 rule when timing is important: you need at least 40% off the data, but don't need to wait for all data to be available, make a decision with 80% of the data.

The biggest challenge to decision making? Risk. 
Risk management can help with this:
Identify what could go wrong, assign a probability of occurrence, and then determine the qualitative or quantitative impact. Mitigation  of these impacts is where you start making decisions. Knowing you have an ability to compensate for these risks (such as a project management contingency fund) may lead to more willingness to take risks.
Risk management is not a tool, it is a process of identification, analysis, control & measurement of outcomes that has to be carried out throughout the project to the very end.
Focus on the drivers & critical factors
Nothing replaces project knowledge and nothing replaces your judgement

Michelle LeBlanc is a Social Media Strategist at IIR USA and the voice behind the @Project_World twitter. She may be reached at

#PWWCBA Live: Tools, Techniques & Trends

Six Sigma in Software Development
I started the first afternoon of track sessions at ProjectWorld in "Six Sigma and the Software Development Life Cycle – a Match Made in Heaven, Maybe." Speaker Rebecca Burgess started off by defining the SDLC and then pointing out it's weaknesses (often tactical, short-term, poor requirements definition and may end with deployment) and then showing ways that Six Sigma can help fill this shortcomings.

Six Sigma for the Software Development Life Cycle is looking to accomplish "Strategic Success" - actual long term, implemented change. To do this, one should begin by documenting the default success criteria, gathering requirements from various sources (the voice of the customer, voice of the data, voice of the business & IT and looking at best practices from outside the company), performing comparative analysis and controlling business processes (using SIPOC & Swimlanes for example).

Up next was "Divide and Conquer: Bridging the Gap Between Scope and Requirements Managements with CLM Tools" with Cherifa Mansoura, PhD, Solution Architect, IBM
Bridging the gap between scope & requirements

Mansoura started the session by asking, are scope and requirements the same? Scope is the work that needs to be accomplished on the project (the product scope is the set of features that need to be developed on a product). Requirements are either derived from user needs or stated in a document such as a contract or standard specifications. The scope elements are NOT ONLY the requirements.

Every project must establish it's scope: what's in, what's out. Think of your scope as a box that contains both your requirements and other elements (change requests, risk, etc.) The container manages all of the work items inside the box.

Still to come this afternoon is our book signing with Ellen Gottesdiener and another track after the break.

Michelle LeBlanc is a Social Media Strategist at IIR USA and the voice behind the @Project_World twitter. She may be reached at

Live at #PWWCBA: Manipulate Your Way To Collaborative Culture

Harvey A Robbins
Harvey A. Robbins started us off at the first main conference day with three ways to develop a collaborative culture:
1. Select members of your team who have a natural tendency towards sharing information without the expectation of reciprocity
2. Teamwork and establishing clear expectations: Setting up goals, dividing up roles & holding people accountable
3. Manipulation: Use knowledge of personalities to build a team that works together
  • "Drivers" - outcome driven, process oriented, feedback rich. Good to delegate to and task oriented. Want to hear the 'what?"
  • "Expressives" - Creative, good for new product development. Want to hear the "why?"
  • "Analyticals" - Will keep you from making mistakes by tracking information and details. Want to know the "How?"
  • "Amiables" - People and friendship related, collaboration and communication focused. Want to know the "who?"
The question that Robbins recommends all managers keep in mind is "Who is responsible for what, by when, and how will we check with each other that we're on track?" When you are communicating with all personalities ("Broadcast versatility") you can speak to all potential readers by answer all questions and providing information on past events, future focus, details and the people that will be effected.

Michelle LeBlanc is a Social Media Strategist at IIR USA and the voice behind the @Project_World twitter. She may be reached at

Monday, September 10, 2012

An Agile Afternoon at #PWWCBA

The first afternoon at ProjectWorld and The World Congress For Business Analysts featured two summits, Innovation in the PMO: What's Next? and Transitioning Practices for Agile Delivery.

Here are some of my key takeaways from "Agile: The Kanban Way" with Gil Irizarry, Program Manager:

To implement Kanban for knowledge workers: start with what you do now, agree to pursue incremental evolutionary change (NOT "revolutionary change") & respect your current process

Kanban is about optimizing the whole & driving waste out of the organization, not necessarily specific activities. To implement, start by visualizing the workflow, limit your WIP & make your process policies explicit: improve collaboratively.

"Whatever you do, ask why?" - In doing this, you can identify your inefficiencies at each step along the way.

From Retrospective: Interactive Session, I'll let our attendees speak for themselves:
Attendees liked:

Teamwork & interactive presentations
Real-world Examples
Meeting each other

Attendees learned:

and attendees longed for:
 Untitled Untitled
 Not everyone was able to make it to the retrospective, what did you like, long for, or learn today?

Michelle LeBlanc is a Social Media Strategist at IIR USA and the voice behind the @Project_World twitter. She may be reached at

#PWWCBA Live: Building Risk Management Excellence

Joe Lukas kicking it off at PW&WCBA 2012

"You have risk all around you. Risk can be good or bad." - Joseph Lukas, PMP, PE, CCE, Vice President, PMCentersUSA started our workshop at PW&WCBA this morning by discussing the nature of risk. What do creating "New Coke," driving a car, and investing capital have in common? All of these activities carry risk...or uncertainty.

Lukas pointed out that risks are not always bad, they can also be opportunities. Risk management can contain both planning for adverse effects, but it can also be a way to plan for positive opportunities. Start thinking of it not as "risk management" but "uncertainty management."

Why do risk management?
- Technology, personnel or even project requirements may change over time, and the likelihood of change increases the longer the duration of the project
- Risk management can help you be prepared for these changes

So what are some ways to identify risks?
Brainstorm with the team: you can even ask "what could make this project fail?"
Checklists based on prior projects (in addition to "scanning the horizon" for new risks)
Describe the risk in 3 parts: causes, risk events & impacts

Once you've identified risk causes, events and impacts you can then assign each risk a probability of occurring and an impact value. There may be some risks that you choose to ignore, knowing that the impact or likelihood will be low, there may be others with a high probability that you can plan for. The probability and impact values will be subjective depending on what the project is, and can be determined by the member of the project team with expertise in that area.

Attendees of the workshop today went through a case study example using these tools to identify risks and create rankings of most important risks, each group found 6 or more risks for the project in question (the actual case study project team had identified 85 potential risks in their process!) Risks identified included everything from weather to difficulty or delays in obtaining permits to interpersonal conflicts or lack of buy-in from key individuals. You can do this for any project at home by brainstorming risks on your own project (identifying the cause, event and impact for each) and then assigning each a probability and impact value. Based on this you can rank the top risks from most to least likely.

Once you're aware of your risks and their probabilities/impact values, you can make your risk management plan.
Three techniques for risk response are:
Avoidance: eliminate the threat by eliminating the cause
Transfer & Share: reduce impact by sharing costs with an outside partner or share risks by contracting out
Mitigation: Reduce the probability to reduce the risk - take action to change the likelihood of a risk happening
Acceptance: (Active & Passive) Either have a plan in place for if a risk occurs, or passively accepting it when it occurs

Michelle LeBlanc is a Social Media Strategist at IIR USA and the voice behind the @Project_World twitter. She may be reached at