When you inherit a project from another project manager (whether your successor was fired or somehow managed to escape to another project), you have to watch for the danger signs of a dysfunctional team. There are consistent early warning signs of a problem team.
Dysfunctional Project Team: Warning Signs
Early in your tenure as the new project manager, a stream of people from your project team may warn you about other team members. The offenses include a laundry list of “sins,” such as: treachery, bad behavior, low productivity, poor quality work and disruptive behavior. These people may say they’re coming to warn you. But what they’re trying to do is stab fellow team members in the back.
Another kind of behavior can come from the more experienced and senior members of the project team. They may suggest that other team members have already badmouthed you to the company’s senior management.
You need to be careful not to overreact to any of these situations. Most of the information is untrue. And it certainly is not intended to help you.
Dysfunctional Project Team: The PM’s Focus
What you have to focus on is the progress being made on the project’s plan. That includes determining how well each of your team members is doing with their assignment. While you’re reviewing that, you also need to confirm the project scope with senior management. You must “take the temperature” of your key stakeholders to avoid surprises from them. Now you’re ready to tackle your dysfunctional project team.
Watch a project manager in action video about a project manager who inherits a dysfunctional team. See the steps he takes to make them productive and to finish the project on time and within budget. He meets with each team member individually and then with the entire group. He uses a variety of motivational techniques to turn the dysfunctional group into a productive team. Leading Teams Main Page
Watch this video of a common way to screw up a project plan. Is it familiar?
Pretend Project Due Dates
The sponsor plucks a project due date out of the sky. Then the tells the stakeholders they’re accountable for meeting that date. No one believes this pretend due date is realistic. They back into the due dates for their deliverables but they aren’t committed to them. Watch the managers faces in this video and see how much commitment they have to the dates. These people know they are going to fail before they even start work. They’re all trying to figure out how they will throw something together by the due date. They know they’ll then spend months fixing it.
Project Planning Blunders: Due Dates
Realistic Project Due Dates
The way a project manager and sponsor should set the project due date is by calculating the amount of work that each task requires. An effective technique is to let the team members take part in estimating the number of hours worth of work their task will take. Then you convert the number of work hours into the task’s duration. The duration is also based on each team member’s availability to work on their project task. Main Project Planning Page
When you use that technique to develop your task duration estimates, you gain a significant number benefits. First, the team members have a reasonable amount of commitment to the due date because they participated in setting it. Second, you and sponsor can accurately track progress. You can measure the number of hours worked versus the estimated hours. That gives you an exact idea of the percentage of work completed and the percentage of work remaining. With that information, you can calculate when the work will be done. The third benefit is that the team members are not held accountable for finishing their task by a certain date. They are accountable for finishing within a certain number of hours worth of work.
You can learn the best practices for planning projects with realistic due dates in our project management basics courses. Take a look at the basics course in your specialty.
It takes a lot of work to make a project disaster as bad as this one. Our 4PM.com cast members show you how in a Project disasters comedy video about how to screw up a project.
The PMs and team members are preparing their failed project for a big project status meeting. You’ll see micro-managing PMs frantically hiding problems and berating team members for finishing early. Other team members point fingers at each other while sleazy executives maneuver for their political advantage. Whacked-out IT staff members use a million phony excuses about why the system is late. While the Human Resources people back-stab the Sales people to avoid blame for a pointless employee survey. You’ll see all the things NOT to do on a project.
You’ll also see how the PM deals with the inept executive sponsor of the project, Mr. Lonegan. He starts more projects than the organization can possibly finish. His projects never have a clearly defined scope so the project managers and team members have to guess about what they think Mr. Morgan wants the project to deliver. Because the project managers are not sure what Mr. Lonegan wants, they make very vague assignments to their team members. That way they can’t be blamed but the team member can.
The final icing on Mr. Lonegans’s disastrous cake is the red hot anger he directs toward any project manager or team member who admits to being late. Mr. Lonigan probably convinces himself that he is a dynamic leader with very high standards. In truth, Mr. Lonegan is a complete failure as a project sponsor. And he drags down and rest of the organization with him.
These characters may remind you of some of the people on your projects and the interpersonal challenges they give you. If you remember characters or situations from your experience, share them with others in the blog.
If you have outrageous examples of how to screw up a project, send them to us in a comment and we’ll try to work them into the next episode of 537 Ways to Screw Up a Project.
Every project manager learns the Project Management Foundations on their first project. These foundations give them the skills they will use on every project they manage. Our video is about a brand-new project manager starting her first project with an executive who doesn’t know how to correctly sponsor the project. In fact this executive, Mr. Cordalon, has the worst project track record in the entire organization. Our novice project manager has no idea how to handle him. But fortunately she gets advice from two senior project managers in the project office. They have dealt with Mr. Cordalon on several projects and they know how to handle him.
Project Management Foundations – The Scope and Deliverables
Mr. Cordalon tries to wiggle out of providing the project scope. He gives the new project manager nothing but the project’s completion date and its acronym. Armed with the advice of the two experienced project managers, the new project manager goes back to him and asks the right questions to properly define the project scope. In the next step, the rookie leads Mr. Cordalon through the process of defining the project’s high level deliverables, constraints and risks.
Project Management Foundations – Identify Stakeholders and Requirements
The project moves on to more of the Project Management Foundations which include identifying the stakeholders and gathering their requirements. Mr. Cordalon wants to keep the project a secret so there’s no interference from other departments. Guided by her two behind-the-scenes advisers, the new project manager persuades process as a new project manager learns the Project Management Foundations of her professionhim that there is value in identifying and actively managing the project stakeholders. The new project manager successfully gathers requirements from the users and stakeholders. The project pros teach her how to evaluate requirements in terms of whether they are necessary to deliver the project scope.
Project Management Foundations – WBS and Estimates
In the rest of the movie, the new project manager assembles her project team. She has them participate in the formulation of the work breakdown structure (WBS) and leads them through the process of estimating the duration of their tasks.
In summary, the video takes you step-by-step through the
Project Management Foundations: A Project Manager's 1st Project
Passing the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM®) exam the first time and earning the CAPM® credential, requires you to pass a rigorous 3-hour exam from the Project Management Institute (PMI)®. You have to answer questions about the project management processes, definitions of the inputs, outputs, tools and techniques and the basic mathematical formulas used in project management. You must also know how to correctly answer the tricky multiple-choice exam questions. Earning the CAPM credential is a great way to launch your project management career. CAPM Certification
Busy professionals want to pass the CAPM exam with as few hours of study as possible. No one wants to go through the rigorous preparation for a second time. So how does a young professional pass the CAPM exam the first time?
CAPM Exam – Pass The First Time: Step 1
First, don’t sign up for a class where you have to study with 15 to 30 other people. That a waste of your time because there’s a low probability of passing the first time. These courses are one-size-fits-all but not everyone comes to the class with the same level of education or experience. Unfortunately the class has to move with the pace of the least qualified person or the instructor who has X weeks to finish the class.
CAPM Exam – Pass The First Time: Step 2
The key to success is individual training with a certified project manager as your coach and mentor. (Yes, it is more expensive than sitting in a class with 30 people.) When you take our CAPM Exam Prep course, you prepare for the CAPM exam with your personal mentor. you will cover all the CAPM material at your pace and as your schedule permits. The two of you will focus on those areas where your knowledge is weak and move quickly through the areas where your knowledge is strong.
95% of our CAPM Exam Prep students pass the first time. That’s because our materials are tailored to their individual learning style. If you’re a visual learner, we will provide written materials for you. If you learn best from flowcharts and dot point lists, that’s what we will provide. If you remember stories or videos about the right way to manage a project, we have those for you too. You learn much more efficiently and will be able to answer the CAPM exam questions accurately when you study with a personal instructor who tailors the course to your learning style.
CAPM Exam: Pass the First Time
The sample lecture is from our Certified Associate Project Manager (CAPM) Exam Prep course. It focuses on estimating the resources you need for a task. It covers the tools and techniques project managers use to develop accurate estimates and how they use the estimates to develop an accurate project schedule.
Project Stakeholders are anyone who is impacted by the project. That includes managers and executives, users, contractors, vendors and team members. Watch this “project manager in action” video about influencing project stakeholders. It’s followed by a discussion of the best techniques for influencing the stakeholders and gaining their support for your project. Project Stakeholders Main Page
Too many project managers think they don’t have to be persuasive. They think all they have to do is talk about the technical details and impress people with their knowledge. Unfortunately that never works. Those project managers are forced to manage projects without active support from the management or executive ranks.
Influencing Project Stakeholders: Active Listening
What good project managers do is actively listen to the managers and executives who are stakeholders in their project. Executives like to talk and successful project managers encourage them to do so. You need to pay close attention to what the executives are saying and ask questions. In these conversations you hear about the performance pressures the executives face. Once you find out about those pressures, you can try to address them in the project and you’ll gain an active supporter.
Project managers who have trouble listening must learn to keep their mouth shut as the executives describe what they want. That’s far more effective than discussing technology details which the executives don’t understand and have no interest in learning. Use the techniques discussed in the video and document them in your stakeholder register so you can easily recall each executive’s issues. Then you’ll know what to talk about the next time you’re in a meeting with them.
Influencing Project Stakeholders: Why You Need Them
You need the stakeholders’ participation to define the project’s requirements and deliverables. From the very first project stages, you need to gain the support of the managers who will lend people from their departments as project team members. They will not commit their resources to a project if they don’t think it will benefit their department. You’ll also need to influence project stakeholders when you need them to approve your plans for managing the project’s risks and change requests.
Techniques to Persuade and Influence Management
You can learn proven techniques for managing and influencing project stakeholders in our online project management courses. You’ll work privately and individually with a expert project manager. You control the schedule and pace and have as many phone calls and live video conferences as you wish. Take a look at the course in your specialty.
Project launch, also called project initiation, is a critical phase of every project. If it is not done properly, the odds of the project’s success drop significantly. The purpose of the launch/initiation meeting is to build team member and stakeholder enthusiasm for the project. The project manager must also communicate the key strategic issues for the organization that this project will address.
Project Launch Video Synopsis
This video starts with the project sponsor calling the meeting to order and giving a brief description of what the project will produce. The sponsor makes threats to the project team about what will happen if they finish late. He also argues with one of the key team members about the special packaging that will be required for the new product. As the sponsor and the team member start to argue, the project manager interrupts and suggests a way out of the problem.
The sponsor then threatens punishment if the project is late. The project manager steps in and explains to the sponsor that his threats and attempts to lower the team’s estimates will not make the project finish on time or early. The project manager wins the debate but the angry sponsor may take up the issue with the VP.
In this video, watch how the project manager politely but firmly stood up to a terrible sponsor. She knew she had to stop the sponsor’s bad behavior during the project launch/initiation phase. If she didn’t, it would continue throughout the entire project and lead to failure. She took responsibility for the project’s performance but would not commit to a completion date without a clear scope statement and information about the resources available for the project. She did a great job defending the team members to the sponsor but she made it clear that their assignments would be stated as measurable business results.
At the end of the video, watch private interviews with the project manager and team members and learn how they felt about what happened during the launch meeting.
You can learn the steps in a proven project methodology from launch through planning, scheduling, tracking and reporting in our online project management basics courses. You work privately with an expert project manager who is your instructor and coach. You control the schedule and pace and have as many phone calls and live video conferences with them as you wish. Take a look at the course in your specialty.
All project managers spend a great deal of time with executives handling Project Questions after status reports, project plan presentations and discussions of change requests. How the project manager handles these project questions will have a significant impact on the level of executive support the project receives.
Project Questions Video Synopsis
You’ll see a project manager who has just completed a status report and is answering questions from several executives. One of the executives is a micromanager and is very uncomfortable with the freedom that the project manager has allowed members of the team. Another executive wants the project manager to take a more authoritarian approach with the team members by using punishment to encourage outstanding performance. And another executive is simply angry with the whole project because it’s not giving her what she needs. So she’s very dissatisfied with the project manager’s work. You will listen to each of the executive’s questions. Then Dick Billows, PMP will analyze what the executive has said and suggest the appropriate answer the project manager should give the executive.
As Dick points out, each of these executive types is very common in organizations so project managers must become accustomed to handling the sort of questions and challenges each type presents. This approach requires you to try to know as much about your audience as possible before the presentation. And you should prepare answers to the most likely questions so you’re fully prepared. This also lets you avoid having to develop answers to the questions “on the fly.” There’s no way to avoid having to think on your feet, but having prepared answers on the most likely questions will allow you to move through the Q&A session much more easily.
Dick’s introduction and analysis were filmed on snowshoes at 11,000 feet in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. The cast segment was filmed in Kawai, Hawaii. (This guy gets around.) Hope you enjoy it.
How to Handle Q & A Sessions With Managers After a Project Presentation
You can learn how to answer project questions in our online project management basics courses. You work privately with an expert project manager who is your instructor and coach. You control the schedule and pace and have as many phone calls and live video conferences with them as you wish. Take a look at the course in your specialty.
Watch the Project Team From Hell point fingers at each other just before a big status report meeting with the company president. These people have so many excuses they don’t know which ones they’re going to use or who they will blame for all their screw ups.
Listen to the hysteria, the deceit and the finger-pointing. Does it sound like what goes on in your organization?
Project Team From Hell – Status Report Video
It’s Friday, the last day of the month, and time for project status reports at Royster Industries. Every project manager will have to stand up and deliver their status report to Mr. Lonnegan, the company president. The project managers at Royster Industries are in a frenzy today and every Friday. Not only are they trying to prepare their own status reports but they’re actively engaged in trying to sabotage other project managers’ status reports. People are starting rumors that make absolutely no sense but people still overreact to them. Some of the folks from the IT department are seeking solace in marijuana edibles while others have taken to hard drink in the morning. The rookie project managers are particularly vulnerable to the lies that older PMs are telling. Several of these rookies are nearing a nervous breakdown by overreacting to the horror stories of what Mr. Lonnegan has done to project managers who don’t make positive status reports.
Still other project managers are busy developing excuses for the poor performance of their project. Some will point fingers at the project team, accusing them of treachery and sabotage. Others are giving erroneous status data to less experienced project managers in the hope that they will use it in their report and fall prey to Mr. Lonnegan’s harsh tongue. It’s a typical status report Friday at Royster industries where they have never completed a successful project (not a surprise). Amid the comedy, see if you can spot some of the mistakes made in your organization.
How to Screw Up Project: Status Reports
You can learn the correct way to work with your team to prepare and present professional status reports in our online project management basics courses. You work privately with an expert project manager who is your instructor and coach. You control the schedule and pace and have as many phone calls and live video conferences with them as you wish. Take a look at the course in your specialty.
Three point estimates are a best practice in project management because they produce accurate estimates and stronger team member commitment. They also provide us with risk data on the probability of more or less work, and duration, on tasks than we had planned. See a PM do three point estimating the right way in the video.
The improved estimating accuracy in three point estimates comes from the fact that we are considering the risk inherent in any task. We identify with the team member the risk factors that can make a task take more or less time than the best guess estimate. Then we give the team member the opportunity to estimate the work load if adverse risks occur. We also ask the team member to estimate the work if positive risks occur that affect the task. From those three estimates; best guess, worst case (pessimistic) and best case (optimistic), we can calculate the probability of various task durations. That allows us to talk with the project sponsor about the level of certainty the sponsor wants on the project duration.
How To Do 3-point Estimates With Your Team
Example of Three Point Estimates
As an example, we might discuss a task that has a best guess estimate of three weeks duration. The probability of completing the task within that best guess estimate is 50%. We can also offer the sponsor probabilities of 60, 70 and 80% certainty. As always, there is a cost to increasing our certainty and that often comes in the form of increased labor costs. Having this data allows us to give the project sponsor the opportunity to pay for more certainty.
The improved team member commitment in three point estimates comes from the fact that we engage our team members in estimating the work and duration of their tasks. When team members are given the opportunity to participate in the estimating process, the final estimates they have more confidence in the numbers. That is in sharp contrast to the PM simply telling the team when they must be done . Having this discussion with the team about the risks on the task also gives us another big benefit. If we identify the risks that could cause the task to take longer than the best guess estimates, we try to mitigate those risks very early in the project lifecycle. Early risk identification and mitigation is always preferable to firefighting when we’re halfway through the task.
As you watch the video on Three Point Estimates, observe how the project manager teaches her team to come up with the three estimates. Then you’ll see the project manager use the estimates with the project sponsor to give him choices and also fend off arbitrary cuts to the project’s duration. Finally you will watch private interviews with the team members so you can see their reaction to the three-point estimating process.