9 Great Excuses Not to Mature as a Project Manager

If you are reading this it means that you're struggling to mature as a project manager. You watch others get their certifications. You see more junior project managers getting the promotions. Your peers are getting the salary increases. Why not you? 

List of excuses

What are your excuses?

Just because you have practiced project management for a long time does not mean that you are getting better. Perhaps you have this gnawing feeling deep down inside that you aren't putting in the effort to mature as a project manager.

And it's frustrating because you are capable of more...way more!

We must not allow our excuses to hold us hostage. Examine them closely.

Furthermore, let's up our game, serve others, and reach our greatest potential.

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8 Powerful Ways to Manage Project Quality

Why is project quality often neglected? Well, it's hard to manage things we don't understand. And quality seems to be an esoteric concept to many people. Therefore, let's define quality and discuss some practical ways to manage project quality.

Project team focused on quality

Project team focused on quality

Quality Management Tips

1. Make quality management pragmatic. Many people do not invest appropriate effort towards quality because they do not understand it. The Project Management Institute defines quality as “conformance to requirements and fitness of use.” According to this definition, quality comes through clearly defining and meeting the requirements of the users and stakeholders.

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How to Become the Most Compelling Project Manager You Will Ever Know

Every project is a story. Projects begin and end. Plots and subplots abound. Interesting characters interact and react, with good and evil motives. Are you a compelling project manager who commands the ship?

10 Attributes of a Compelling Project Manager

Some project managers act in boring and predictable manners. Others capture and hold your attention. You can't wait to see the next chapter. What makes some project leaders so captivating and believable?

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How to Improve Interpersonal Project Management Skills

Think of the project managers you admire most. Often, these are individuals who possess more than the technical skills such as developing project schedules and performing risk analysis. These project managers have strong interpersonal project management skills. So, what are interpersonal skills? Why are they important? And, how can we improve these critical skills?

picture of project manager communicating to a team

Project Manager Facilitating a Project Meeting

What are Interpersonal Project Management Skills

Interpersonal skills are relational and communication skills. They are soft skills, but that does not mean they are not important. Seth Godin argues that these should be called real skills -- these skills are critical to our success.

Imagine a project team with strong-willed individuals who battled one another over a buy vs. build decision. Sally, a long-time employee and senior developer, made a case for leveraging the tools and experience of the company to build a solution. John, an operational manager said, "We don't have time to develop a solution; our competition is already ahead of us. Let's buy and implement a commercial solution as soon as possible." How would you have handled the relational and communication aspects of this conflict?

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How to Master Project Meeting Minutes

Do you and your team members lose track of the things you discussed in your project meetings? Who was to complete that action item? Who owns that risk? What did we decide to do? Sound familiar? Let's talk about how to master project meeting minutes.

Scribe typing meeting minutes

When I published my blog post entitled Four Meeting Problems, I received several questions about recording minutes. Questions included:

  • Who should scribe?
  • What makes a good scribe?
  • What should be included in the minutes?
  • How do you ensure the minutes are accurate?
  • Where should we store minutes?

Allow me to share a few tips. I am reminded of George Orwell's comment: "Sometimes the first duty of intelligent men is the restatement of the obvious." For both newbies as well as experienced project managers, it is good to get back to the basics.

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6 Tools and Techniques for Controlling Risks

Changes in project risks are inevitable. As a project progresses, the probability and impact of current risks change, new risks emerge, and residual risks may increase or decrease. What tools and techniques can project managers use for controlling risks and getting the results they are looking for?

Tool box with tools

Allow me to introduce you to two project managers—Tom and Susan. Tom started his project with a risk identification exercise with several stakeholders resulting in a list of 77 risks. He entered these risks into an Excel spreadsheet and stored the file in his project repository (and never looked at it again).

Susan, on the other hand, facilitated an early risk identification workshop. She periodically met with her team to review current risks and used additional techniques to identify new risks. In these risk review sessions, the team discussed the effectiveness of the risk responses and the risk management processes.

Which team do you think had the greatest chance of meeting their project objectives? Yes, Susan’s team wins the day, hands down.

Let’s look at six tools and techniques recommended in the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) 5th Edition for controlling risks. 

PMBOK 6th Edition

The PMBOK 6th Edition changed the process name of "Control Risks" to "Monitor Risks."


"Monitor Risks is the process of monitoring the implementation of agreed-upon risk response plans, tracking identified risks, identifying and analyzing new risks, and evaluating risk process effectiveness throughout the project."


Read my articles: 

Risk Control Tools and Techniques

1. Risk reassessment

Risk reassessments involve the following activities:

  • Identifying new risks
  • Evaluating current risks
  • Evaluating the risk management processes
  • Closing risks 

2. Risk audit

Project teams may have defined risk responses. The question is—“Are the responses effective?” Project managers facilitate risk audits to examine the effectiveness of the risk responses and to determine whether changes are required. The team also examines the processes to identify, evaluate, respond to, and control risks.

3. Variance and trend analysis

As with many control processes, we now look for variances between the schedule and cost baselines and the actual results. When we the variances are increasing, there is increased uncertainty and risk. Watch the trends and respond before the situation gets out of hand.

4. Technical performance measurement

Imagine that you are working on a software development project and that the functional requirements have been developed. You’ve planned to deliver functions at a point in time—at the end of the fourth sprint, at the end of phase 1, or a milestone. The technical performance measurement is a measurement of the technical accomplishments.

5. Reserve analysis

During the cost planning, the contingency and management reserves are added to the project budget as needed. As risks occur, the reserves may decrease. Depending on how your organization handles reserves and your risk management plan, project managers may request more reserves when inadequate.

6. Meetings

Project managers should be deliberate risk managers. Engage your team members and appropriate stakeholders in meetings to facilitate the risk management processes. For these meetings, be sure to:

  • Distribute an agenda with a clearly stated purpose
  • Invite the appropriate team members and stakeholders
  • Use appropriate tools and techniques
  • Distribute meeting minutes containing decisions, action items, issues, and risks 

Finish the Drill

Don’t be like Tom who started his risk management with a bang and quickly fizzled. The best project managers identify, evaluate, and respond to risks. And they regularly perform the control activities to keep the project healthy.

Hey, before you go, keep in mind—you can't control risks until you first identify risks. Click here to discover 7 ways to identify project risks.

How to Develop a Resource Management Plan

How is it that some coaches, leaders, and yes even project managers can take a rag-tag group and shape them into a high-performing team? How do these individuals secure the physical resources? It’s not an accident. It starts with a resource management plan.

picture of project team

What is a Resource Management Plan?

The resource management plan is "the component of the project management plan that provides guidance on how project resources should be categorized, allocated, managed, and released. It may be divided between the team management plan and physical resource management plan" (PMBOK® Guide—6th Edition, Page 318). 

“The cause of almost all relationship difficulties is rooted in conflicting or ambiguous expectations around roles and goals.” —Steven Covey

Human Resource Management Plan

So, what does one include in a human resource management plan? And how do I deal with preassigned resources?

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Evaluating Risks Using Qualitative Risk Analysis

Have you ever endured a project meeting where you spent hours evaluating risks? Afterward, team members walked down the hall saying, “What a waste of time! Now I can get back to the real work.” Today, let’s discuss the use of qualitative risk analysis to get you back on track.

What causes this frustration? First, the evaluation process may not fit the project – too complex for simple projects or deficient for large, complex projects. Second, the process may not fit the maturity level of the project team. Third, team members view the process as burdensome with little value.

Business people in a meeting analyzing content

Qualitative Risk Analysis

What is Risk Evaluation?

Risk evaluation is the process to determine the significance of each risk. There are two ways to evaluate risks:

  1. Qualitative Risk Analysis. Qualitative analysis such as rating probability and impact should always be performed. This allows you to quickly prioritize and rank your risks.
  2. Quantitative Risk Analysis. Quantitative analysis is not always performed. This analysis requires more time but provides more data to aid in making decisions. (We will cover quantitative evaluations in another post.)

Watch this YouTube Video: Qualitative and Quantitative Risk Analysis: What’s the Difference?

Watch this YouTube Video: Two Simple Methods to Analyze Project Risks Qualitatively

Why Evaluate/Prioritize Project Risks?

You cannot respond to all risks, neither should you. Prioritization is a way to deal with competing demands. This aids in determining where you will spend your limited time and effort.

We evaluate in order:

  •  To have the greatest impact. Eighty percent of the impact will come from twenty percent of the risks. What are the vital few things that we should do that will have the greatest impact on minimizing threats and maximizing opportunities?
  •  To respond wisely and appropriately. The goal of evaluating risks is to discriminate between one risk and another. This aids us in determining the amount of effort to invest in developing response plans.
  •  To assign resources suitably. Assign your most skilled, knowledgeable resources to the projects with the greatest risk.
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How to Build and Use a Risk Register

picture of a risk register and watchProject managers constantly think about risks, both threats and opportunities. What if the requirements are late? What if the testing environment becomes unstable? How can we exploit the design skills of our developers? Let’s consider a simple but powerful tool to capture and manage your risks—the Risk Register.

What to Include in a Risk Register

The Risk Register is simply a list of risk-related information including but not limited to:

  • Risk Description. Consider using this syntax: Cause -> Risk -> Impact. For example: “Because Information Technology is updating the testing software, the testing team may experience an unstable test environment resulting in adverse impacts to the schedule.”
  • Risk Owner. Each risk should be owned by one person and that person should have the knowledge and skills to plan and execute risk responses.
  • Triggers. Triggers indicate when a risk is about to occur or that the risk has occurred.
  • Category. Assigning categories to your risks allows you to filter, group, analyze, and respond to your risks by category. Standard project categories include schedule, cost, and quality.
  • Probability Risk Rating. Probability is the likelihood of the risk occurring. Consider using a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the highest.
  • Impact Risk Rating. Impact, also referred to as severity or consequence, is the amount of impact on the project. Consider using a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the highest.
  • Risk Score. The risk score is calculated by multiplying probability x impact. If the probability is 8 and the impact is 5, the risk score is 40.
  • Risk Response Strategies. Strategies for threats include: accept the risk, avoid the risk, mitigate the risk, or transfer the risk. Strategies for opportunities include: accept the risk, exploit the risk, enhance the risk, or share the risk.
  • Risk Response Plan or Contingency Plan. The risk owner should determine the appropriate response(s) which may be executed immediately or once a trigger is hit. For example, a risk owner may take immediate actions to mitigate a threat. Contingency plans are plans that are executed if the risk occurs.
  • Fallback Plans. For some risks, you may wish to define a Fallback Plan. The plan outlines what would be done in the event that the Contingency Plan fails.
  • Residual Risks. The risk owner may reduce a risk by 70%. The remaining 30% risk is the residual risk. Note the residual risk and determine if additional response planning is required.
  • Trends. Note if each risk is increasing, decreasing, or is stable.

Other Risk Register Tips

The Risk Register may be created in a spreadsheet, database, risk management tool, SharePoint, or a project management information system. Make sure that the Risk Register is visible and easy to access by your project team members.

The risk management processes include: 1) plan risk management, 2) identify risks, 3) evaluate/assess risks, 4) plan risk responses, 5) implement risk responses, and 6) monitor risks.

The initial risk information is entered when identifying risks in the planning process. For example, project managers may capture initial risks while developing the communications plan or the project schedule. The initial risk information may include the risks, causes, triggers, categories, potential risk owners, and potential risk responses.

As you evaluate your risk in the planning process, you should assign risk ratings for probability and impact and calculate the risk scores.

Next, validate risk owners and have risk owners complete response plans.

Lastly, review and update your risks during your team meetings. Add emerging risks. Other reasons for updating the risk register include change requests, project re-planning, or project recovery.

Other Resources:
Risk Register Template

How to Improve Your Strategic Planning, Analysis, and Alignment

The best-laid plans of mice and men oft go astray. Why? Individuals, teams, and organizations lack the healthy habits of identifying and managing the uncertainty that surrounds their world. Today, let's look at a step-by-step process to improve your strategic planning, analysis, and alignment with a particular focus on risk management.

rocket

What I found over the years is the most important thing is for a team to come together over a compelling vision, a comprehensive strategy for achieving that vision, and then a relentless implementation plan. —Alan Mulally

Strategic risk management is a process for identifying, analyzing, and managing risks most critical to the achievement of your goals. While many individuals, groups, or organizations perform risk management informally, a more structured approach has its benefits. For instance, strategic risk management can help you invest your precious time, money, resources and energy where it counts most.

The Scope of Strategic Risk Management

PMI Talent Triangle

The Project Management Institute says, "The ideal skill set (for a project manager) is a combination of technical, leadership, and strategic and business management expertise." —PMI Talent Triangle


Organizations are looking for project managers who can manage projects. Additionally, they want individuals who can help define the organization's strategies and ensure that the projects are aligned with the enterprise goals. 


During the project initiation process, a project charter should be completed. The project goals should align and support the achievement of the enterprise goals. Furthermore, the Project Steering Committee can help by defining and using project selection criteria to approve projects that fit the criteria, ensuring better alignment to the organization's goals. 


Want to know more? Check out my online course: The What, Why, & How of Powerful Project Charters.

Strategic risk management may be applied to enterprise, portfolio, program, and project levels of an organization. 

Let's Do Some Strategic Planning

So, here is a step-by-step process to help you improve your strategic planning, analysis, and alignment.

In the broadest sense, strategic risk management starts at an enterprise level. Even if your organization does not have an Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) Program, you can apply this process to improve your portfolio and program risk management. Lastly, if you only manage projects, consider this process as the context for your projects. Do you understand how your projects align with the organizational vision, mission, values, and goals?

  1. Define the Vision, Mission, and Values. What is your preferred future? What is the purpose of your organization? What do you value?
  2. Define Long-Term Goals. What are the long-term goals (typically 3 year goals) to support the mission? These goals will likely be broader than your annual goals.
  3. Define Annual Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). What will you measure? For example, you may have a KPI for profit or expenses. What is the target for the KPI? How do you calculate the KPI?
  4. Define Annual Goals. Using the KPIs, we can define specific, measurable goals. For example: “To increase profit by 5% over the prior year by 12/31/XX.” Cascade the goals. Lower level goals should align and support higher level goals. For example, you may have a hierarchy like this:
    • Corporate Goals (i.e. Enterprise Goals)
      • Business Goals (i.e. Business Unit or Division Goals)
        • Functional Goals (i.e. Department Goals)
          • Team Goals (i.e. Project Goals)
  5. Define Strategy. How will you get from your present state to the desired future state? Strategies may include action plans, projects, and programs.
  6. Identify Risks. Here is where risk management comes into play. What are the opportunities and threats for each goal? Who are the risk owners?
  7. Analyze Risks. What is the priority of the risks? Which risks matter most? At a minimum, complete a Qualitative Risk Analysis to prioritize the risks. In some cases, you may wish to complete a Quantitative Risk Analysis.
  8. Plan Risk Responses. Develop the risk response plans for the highest risks.
  9. Build a Scorecard. Develop a scorecard where actual results are reported for each of the goals. Determine the frequency of reporting (e.g., monthly, quarterly, bi-annual, annual).
  10. Monitor Risks. Periodically review the risks. Update assessments and response plans as needed.

Start Your Strategic Planning

You may be thinking—interesting article. But I want you to be more than interested. I challenge you to take action, particularly if you are an enterprise, portfolio, or program manager. Develop your strategic plan, identify your risks, and start managing those risks. Most importantly, add value by keeping your eye on the achievement of your goals.

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