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Thursday, 19 October 2017 02:54

Seven Ways to Take Responsibility for Your Own Skills

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this content is from the TenStep weekly "tips" email dated 2017.18.10

Seven Ways to Take Responsibility for Your Own Skills

Many companies do not see the need to spend money on training. However, it is not just the responsibility of your company to train you. You need to take personal responsibility for keeping your knowledge and skills up-to-date. The high price of training classes can be a deterrent for people seeking to sharpen their skills. However, the good news is that there are many alternatives to traditional standup training classes. You should be creative in where you look for learning opportunities (or "learning events"). Some examples of non-classroom based training are as follows.

  1. The Internet. You should start any search on the internet. You might be surprised how many free resources are there. You will find free tutorials, discussion groups, training material, articles, expert columns, etc. If you want to be a better project manager, you will find hundreds of resources, templates and columns.

  2. Webinars. Many companies sponsor free seminars on the web – webinars. These are usually an hour or two in length, and include a live presentation and some opportunity for questions. In many cases they are sponsored by vendors, but the content is still very valuable in exchange for the short sales pitch you will receive. (TenStep has a large library of free webinars on our website.)

  3. e-Classes. This is a pre-recorded or pre-built class you take at your own pace. You may have to pay a fee for this more substantial learning event. However the price may be only a couple hundred dollars or less. These classes can vary in terms of value and quality, but your out-of-pocket investment is a lot lower as well.

  4. Books / e-books. This is learning the old fashioned way. Any subject worth learning is usually one that has a number of books available. The advantage of a book is that you get a vast amount of information for a relatively small price. Of course, you still have to invest the time to read the book once you buy it.

  5. Magazines. There are many project management and technical magazines available. In most cases they are available for free. These will provide articles and columns of interest. 

  6. Mentors. You may be able to locate a coach or mentor. These are people that will make some time available to discuss topics of interest. For instance, if you want to learn more about project management, you can discuss the profession and ask questions of an experienced project manager.

  7. Hands-on opportunities. The best way to learn new skills is to be able to apply them in the course of your job. You may be able to apply some creativity. If you are a team member, for instance, perhaps you can leverage your project management training into an opportunity to manage small projects. You may also be able to apply the new skills in your personal life through volunteer projects with your church or schools. The key is to be creative in looking for ways to convert “book skills” into on-the-job experience.

People need to take personal responsibility for their careers, including ensuring that they stay reasonably well versed in new skills. Training is a mind-set. You need to build learning events into your job on an ongoing basis. Be inquisitive and keep up on where your profession is going. There are no guarantees, but lifetime learners (employees and consultants) will always have an advantage in the job marketplace of the future. 


At TenStep we are dedicated to helping organizations achieve their goals and strategies through the successful execution of critical business projects. We provide training, consulting and products for organizations to help them set up an environment where projects are successful. This includes help with strategic planning, portfolio management, program / project management, Project Management Offices (PMOs) and project lifecycles. For more information, visit www.TenStep.com or contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Tuesday, 17 October 2017 00:11

Remind Yourself of the Value of Planning

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this content is from the TenStep weekly "tips" email dated 2017.11.10

Remind Yourself of the Value of Planning


How many times have you heard about or been involved in a project that struggled? Or perhaps it just was not as successful as it needed to be. Did you ever spend time looking back to see what caused the project to go wrong? If you did, chances are that you will have said, "You know, we should have spent more time planning."

Most projects have deadlines, and it seems they are getting shorter and shorter. Hitting aggressive deadlines puts pressure on the project manager to start the project as soon as possible. However, remember that urgent projects need to be finished sooner - not necessarily started sooner. The project will finish sooner if you do not have rework and chaos.

Before the project work begins, you need to spend time in up-front planning to make sure that the work is properly understood and agreed. This is not wasted time or 'overhead' time. This is the time the project manager spends ensuring that the project team and the sponsor have common perceptions of the project, when it will be complete, what it will cost, who will do the work and how the work will be done. Templates



 can help document the results of the planning process, but you still need to develop the content.At the end of a difficult project, the benefits of planning might be obvious. But the benefits are also known ahead of time as well. At a high-level, these benefits include:

  • Understanding and gaining agreement on project objectives, deliverables, scope, risk, cost, approach, etc. This ensures that the project team and sponsor agree on the work that is required.

  • Determining if the original business case is still valid. When the project was initially approved, the project cost and duration were probably estimated at a high-level – maybe up to ± 50%. Now that the project is starting, the estimates should be revalidated to get them closer to ± 15%. This additional refinement may result in the estimates ending up higher than before, and these higher numbers may make the business case unattractive. For instance, a project that requires 10,000 effort hours might make business sense. If the more detailed planning process results in a more refined estimate of 20,000 hours, the project may not make business sense anymore.

  • Making sure the resources you need are available when you need them. This is a result of creating the project schedule with resources assigned.

  • Providing a high-level baseline from which progress can be compared. This is a result of creating the milestone timeline based on the more detailed schedule.

  • Validating the processes used to manage the project ahead of time with the sponsor. The procedures that are used to manage the project should not be a surprise. They should be discussed and agreed to ahead of time. 

The effort required to define the work depends on the amount of information and the level of detail that need to be understood and documented. It should make sense that small projects need a shorter planning cycle and larger projects need a longer planning cycle. The duration required to plan the work depends on the length of time necessary to discover and document the information, as well as the time required to gain agreement and approval from the client.

At times, the project manager can get frustrated because of the difficulty in gaining agreement with the client on scope, schedule and cost. But that is exactly the reason this work is done ahead of time. Think of the problems you will encounter trying to gain agreement with the customer on scope, schedule or cost when the work has started and the deliverables are actually being produced.

The key is to plan the project well and finish it early - not plan poorly and finish late.



At TenStep we are dedicated to helping organizations achieve their goals and strategies through the successful execution of critical business projects. We provide training, consulting and products for organizations to help them set up an environment where projects are successful. This includes help with strategic planning, portfolio management, program / project management, Project Management Offices (PMOs) and project lifecycles. For more information, visit www.TenStep.com or contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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400Click Here to Listen to the Interview: http://bit.ly/PMPodcast-400
Read More: http://bit.ly/PMPodcast400

Becoming better at project management and by extension also becoming a better project manager does not necessarily mean learning about and then also implementing the latest tools, techniques or methodologies. Instead, it can simply mean that you start paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment and nonjudgmentally. That’s mindfulness.

Mindfulness as a business practice and leadership tool has seen a significant increase in press coverage lately. It originally started out as a means for improving yourself and your interactions with others but you will find that many leadership articles in the large business journals will make reference to it.

And so we are very glad to welcome Margaret Meloni (www.margaretmeloni.com) to look at Mindfulness for Project Managers with us today. We will give you a definition, discuss the benefits, but most importantly we go through a number of familiar project management situations to see how mindfulness will help us improve and become better leaders.

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this content is from the TenStep weekly "tips" email dated 2017.05.10

Agile in Practice – Four Reasons to "Build for Today"

One of the philosophies of Agile projects is to “build for today.” In other words, you should design, build and test only what is necessary to meet the needs of the user stories that are selected in the current iteration.

In some respects this goes against the intuition of many team members that feel it is more efficient in the long-term if they take into account potential future requirements. The thought is that you should build to support this future functionality “while you are there” and then later when the requirement is actually selected you can finalize the work with much less effort.

In the Agile model this is generally seen as a false tradeoff for four reasons.

  1. First, the time it takes to design, build and test to support future features will mean that you cannot get as much done in the current cycle. You are supporting fewer current, concrete, high-priority requirements in exchange for vague, distant potential future requirements. This is not seen as a good trade-off.
  2. Second, it is possible that this extra, future functionality will never be needed or requested. The customer may have requested this future functionality in a traditional project, but in an Agile project, the difference between “wants” and “needs” is much more focused. Who knows if the extra functionality will make it into a future iteration? The world is full of systems functionality that is written into programs but never utilized.
  3. Third, it is very possible that you may not implement the future requirement correctly anyway. The product owner will not discuss it or test for this future condition. Even if a future requirement seems simple and fully understood, it is possible for misunderstandings and errors to occur. Then you are out-of-synch trying to test and debug problems that should not even be a part of this iteration. Each cycle will also have its own challenges. You don’t need to compound things by introducing problems that are not a part of this release.
  4. Fourth, if the extra functionality is needed in the future, it will have its turn in a future cycle. When the functionality is chosen, the work will be constructed and tested. In an Agile project, you will likely visit the same sections of the solution multiple times. You don’t have to worry about building extra functionality “while you are there” because it is very likely you will “be there” many more times before the project is completed.
This philosophy should be applied for process functionality, performance, security, etc. The “build for today” approach is also an example of “minimally sufficient,” which is another Agile philosophy. You want to make sure that you do everything required to support the customer needs, but no more. 



At TenStep we are dedicated to helping organizations achieve their goals and strategies through the successful execution of critical business projects. We provide training, consulting and products for organizations to help them set up an environment where projects are successful. This includes help with strategic planning, portfolio management, program / project management, Project Management Offices (PMOs) and project lifecycles. For more information, visit www.TenStep.com or contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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399Click Here to Listen to the Interview: http://bit.ly/PMPodcast399
Read More: http://bit.ly/PMPodcast_399

The one thing I really like about project management is how unpredictable my days can sometimes be. I come to the office in the morning with a clear plan of what we are going to do today, and then something happens.

Maybe something breaks, a critical resource is unexpectedly not available today, or -- even more normal -- the customer wants a change and he wants it now. I love this challenge, because as a project manager I now have to re-evaluate the situation and change my plans accordingly. That is situational project management.

However, there's more to situational project management than just responding with a knee-jerk reaction. These times demand situational awareness, skill and finesse from us project managers.

And so I’m very happy to welcome Oliver Lehmann (www.oliverlehmann.com -- www.linkedin.com/in/oliverlehmann/) who literally wrote the book on this topic. The book is called Situational Project Management the dynamics of success and failure.

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