Project Accelerator News The latest project management news, views and project management sites from the around the world Thu, 29 Jan 2015 15:50:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 How businesses will change in the age of full connectivity Thu, 29 Jan 2015 09:42:44 +0000 Within the next few years, businesses and the lives of their employees will transform beyond many peoples’ imagination. As we enter an age of complete connectivity, high-speed mobile and cloud technology already enable flexible working from home and adapting people’s schedules to their needs. The question is how it will improve businesses’ productivity? Will it change the way companies operate?

A new business world

Already, companies are seeing the effects of new digital and social trends. New regulations for flexible working in European countries including the UK will lead workers to increasingly expect new schedule agreements. By the year 2020, employees will gain even more autonomy thanks to 5G connectivity, which is predicted to be up to 100 times faster than 4G.

Thanks to high-speed connections, it won’t be necessary for employees to live close to their company’s offices, or even in the same country. Workers could soon choose to work for employers anywhere in the world and oversee the most rewarding projects from the comfort of their homes, while being adapting their schedule to their own needs, provided they achieve the project’s goals.

Whether they are digital at the core or not, every company will be influenced by permanent connectivity. In this way, a novice electrician will carry out his job wearing a camera, while taking instructions from a senior electrician located elsewhere. Similarly, one doctor will be able to guide another’s movements in an operating room on the other side of the world, in real time. With the proper tools and documents accessible to the right people through a shared cloud, it won’t matter anymore where team members are working on a project.

What’s more, large investments in desk-bound computers are coming to an end as many businesses implement BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies, meaning they won’t necessarily have to allocate large amounts of budget to reap the benefits of 5G connectivity. As well as the IT departments, employees – who prefer to use operating systems and mobile devices they know well – will have a big say in technology decisions.

Increasing productivity

By embracing new ways of working and comprehending new cloud based project management platforms, businesses are operating more efficiently and increasing their competitiveness while their organisational cultures are becoming more collaborative.

More and more, employees are using online collaboration tools to exchange knowledge, solve problems and better manage projects. By being more connected, teams are essentially becoming increasingly productive and engaged.

Changes in project management

Thanks to full service project management tools, managers and team members can work on any type of project, no matter how complex, from anywhere in the world. Cloud technology enables easy and secure access to any type of file from laptops, phones and tablets, and allows several team members to work on the same document simultaneously without version conflicts. The latest project management platforms also allow instant messaging among team members, promoting open and transparent communication.

A good example of how this can be done is the use of Kanban boards, visual systems in which task cards are placed in columns labelled ‘To do’, ‘In Progress’ and ‘Done’. While they have long been seen as useful tools, it is their digital version which is truly taking centre stage. Digital Kanban boards have the potential to be at the heart of all communications and actions, offering a clear sense of evolution as work progresses and relevant task cards are moved into the appropriate columns.

We often think of technological changes as being complex. But in truth, the always connected world enables a return to simplicity and structure, as management is made easier and people are freed from the constraints of place and time.

Business growth

Cloud technology is already helping teams to become more and more involved in decision making. Collaborative cloud based tools are facilitating communication, contributing to making team members more effective while making them feel that they are part of a tight group.

Not only are teams working on their own terms, but they are also becoming increasingly productive, ultimately driving business growth.

Thanks to cloud technology and the advent of 5G networks, an uninterrupted, always connected environment is changing the way we live and work. Within the permanently connected world, the keys to business and personal growth will be to constantly adapt, stay on top of developments and harness new communication technologies.

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Praxis Framework published by APM Mon, 26 Jan 2015 11:43:19 +0000 As the need for rounded project management professionals becomes even greater, a new publication aims to guide individuals and organisations through the confusing landscape on the journey to becoming a true professional.

With Praxis Framework: An integrated guide to the management of projects, programmes and portfolios, author Adrian Dooley draws the best from recognised guides already available to create a single, integrated approach to the four key platforms of project management knowledge, methods, competency and capability maturity.

With many years’  experience in training and developing project managers and working with organisations wanting to improve their project delivery, Dooley recognised that there was considerable frustration and confusion over the variety of guides, tools and techniques all aimed at creating the ‘professional’ but using different language and terminology.  This created a professional jigsaw of pieces that didn’t fit together.

An Honorary Fellow of the Association for Project Management (APM), he was also the lead author on the recently published APM Body of Knowledge 6th Edition.

“I had long felt there was a need to harmonise, rationalise and integrate the principles contained in guides such as the APM Body of Knowledge, PRINCE2, ISO21500, MSP, MoP, P3M3, OPM3 and others.

“Working on the APM Body of Knowledge 6th Edition entailed bringing together disparate topics from many different contributors and make them speak with one voice and in one language. That was half the job of creating a common framework so I set about re-writing others in a common and consistent style,” he explained.

Because it draws from a variety of sources as well as those of APM, the contribution of Praxis Framework is recognised by the association as so significant it is publishing the hard copy version the interests of furthering professional discussion and debate and to complement its own range of qualifications, publications and memberships.

Writing in the foreword, the APM says: “As a way of reaching ever greater heights of success and meeting the needs of a complex and ever changing world, all professions aim to first define and then master their professional arena. This begins with a process of discussion and debate, to challenge existing norms and assumptions.

“The Praxis Framework aims to trigger just such a debate within the project management profession and will hopefully encourage more organisations to take a holistic approach to improving their capability maturity,  contributing to APM’s strategy for 2020 where ‘all projects succeed’.”

To purchase a copy of Praxis Framework please visit the APM website



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New technologies revolutionise Kanban Tue, 20 Jan 2015 10:30:22 +0000 The Kanban approach is gaining popularity in businesses across the world.

The Kanban approach is gaining popularity in businesses across the world.

Experts agree that as the world becomes fully connected, a non-stop, always-on communicative environment is changing the way we live and work, making project management increasingly difficult. More and more, project managers work with teams spread across the globe who often feel as if they are constantly being bombarded with data from dozens, sometimes even hundreds, of sources in real time. The result is an information overload, inevitably followed by an inefficient use of resources, missed deadlines, confusion, and failed projects.

With studies showing how the visualization of information can counterbalance cognitive overload, more and more project managers are turning to the use of a 60 year old Japanese method called Kanban  to help bring clarity to today’s projects and help team members achieve their goals.

Thanks to the cloud and its ever-present mobile connectivity, Kanban has been updated and is making a digital comeback in digital form.


Visual cards

The Japanese term “Kanban” means visual card. A Kanban system includes a board which has been divided into several columns, one for each project workflow. The most basic boards have three columns – ‘To Do’, ‘In Progress’ and ‘Done’. Cards are placed under each category to represent project workflows, moving through the columns as tasks progress.

This provides immediate clarity regarding any project, no matter how complex, as it allows team members to easily absorb large amounts of information and visualise what everyone is working on. In other words, Kanban boards enable smooth team collaboration, boosting team productivity.


Simple yet efficient

Studies carried out in the fields of group psychology and behavioural science show the brain processes images far more easily than it does text. By visualising information, people can counterbalance cognitive overload, which occurs when they receive too much information or too many tasks simultaneously, not being able to process information properly.

Interestingly, while it is now that the Kanban approach is gaining popularity in businesses across the world, it was first developed by Toyota in post-war Japan, when the country sought to revive its industry by improving production levels. Following Toyota’s positive results, Kanban started being recognized as a tool for eliminating uncertainty and promoting sensible and appropriate follow-through actions.


21st Century Kanban

As today’s workforce tends to be mobile and geographically dispersed, the traditional office Kanban board is no longer functional as a central hub. Instead, digital Kanban boards have the potential to be key project management tools.

Based on the cloud, the updated Kanban board can bring together team members located in different parts of the world, offering real time overviews of the projects they’re working on, which they can access from laptops, tablets or mobile phones.

Digital Kanban boards facilitate the transfer of knowledge, joint problem solving and coordinating individual commitments. When each team member enjoys such benefits a ripple effect takes place, ultimately improving individual performances and the management of projects by bringing clarity and simplicity to processes.

The best Kanban tools also enable transparency and communication among team members, reinforcing their good behaviour and sense of personal responsibility. Underpinned by social features such as conversation chains, feedback features and activity streams, social tools offer full insight into who is in possession of what information, who is doing what and when – even showing who has or hasn’t completed their tasks on time.

By quickly obtaining information and being able to make swift decisions, team members can then connect effectively with others within the organization who can contribute to their work. This facilitates an open work culture with full transparency, self-organization and engagement as the main ingredients, eliminating the need for managers to attend endless touch-base meetings.


Key to efficient project management

We live and work in an increasingly connected and complex environment. To operate more efficiently, project managers are adopting new ways of working. They are starting to use the latest cloud collaboration and project management platforms in order to build collaborative communities within their organisations and increase their efficiency and competitiveness.

Digital boards are therefore key to enabling flatter organisational structures where managers can prioritize tasks and where team members can become more involved in the decision-making process.




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Organizing Effective Project Meetings Sun, 18 Jan 2015 16:03:56 +0000 Introduction

Throughout our careers, we will face hundreds maybe thousands of meetings. Many approaches have been developed to ensure meaningful meetings but the objective remains the same – to have an effective and successful meeting deliberating, reaching agreement, assigning tasks or formulating plans.

Nevertheless, many meetings can be just a meeting place where people exchange greetings, discuss things not in the agenda, finish up coffee and leave. Why is this happening? Without clear intent of the purpose of the meeting, people will just be wasting time. But this is not the only reason that so many meetings fail to meet the objective. There are many other challenges which include the preparation for the meeting, time and venue where the meeting is conducted, managing the mood of the meeting and also participant’s attitude and desire to be part of and contribute to the meeting.

For most of the time, most of the meeting organizers will focus on ensuring the smooth running of the meeting but the other key factor is how the meeting is prepared.

This paper will discuss some of the best practices for Organizing Effective Project Meetings as designed and customized based on the practice in a government agency involved in research and development of IT projects. It will discuss some of the best approaches which could be applied in any type of project.


Meeting Preparation

To have a productive and effective meeting, requires good preparation from the beginning. It is important for the meeting organizer, typically the chairperson, to start the planning described in the section below:

  • Define Meeting Objective

The objective of the meeting must be clear, and needs to be communicated as soon as the meeting is being broadcast to the participants. The objective of the meeting will drive the energy of other important elements required for the meeting preparation.

  • Know Your Topic – Establish Meeting Agenda

With the objective of the meeting established, the very next thing is the agenda of the meeting. It has to be as detailed as possible and needs to be sent to the participants a few days before the meeting. The detailed agenda shall also mention the expectation of each item to ensure the participants prepare the required answers, feedback or update. In some meetings, the participant would to some extent need to share their extensive findings in a presentable format. Without prior notice of the agenda, the participants might not be ready for the meeting which end up with another meeting needing to be arranged. This will waste everybody’s time but, worse, any decision which depends on the findings will also be delayed. Some delay is just too expensive as it might cause delay to the project.

  • Know Your People – Identify The Participants

Who shall be attending the meeting? As soon as the agenda is confirmed, the chairperson shall be able to start putting the name of the person responsible for the items in the agenda The persons expected to participate in the meeting must be notified a few days prior to the meeting. Sometimes, since most of the people are engaged in more than 1 project, the person responsible for the agenda item might not able to attend the meeting. In this scenario – a replacement participant is required to ensure a fruitful discussion of the particular topic.

An agenda for the meeting will ensure appropriate preparation for the meeting by the participants, but most importantly will ensure the right person attends for the items to be discussed – this is the key to a successful meeting. If the person invited is not the key decision maker, there will be a risk that any decision made is incorrect or incomplete.

Another important aspect when sending the invitation for the meeting is that we shall not at any time invite anybody without a proper understanding of how he/she could contribute to the meeting.

  • Know Your Time- Choosing the Appropriate Time for the Meeting

The organizer should know the best or the most appropriate time to have the meeting. In many cases, based on observations of previous projects – the first half of the day is the best time to have a meeting to generate new ideas i.e. brainstorming, working out a solution to a problem or issue. The second half of the day, when peoples usually are already tired, would be good to have a meeting to follow up on action items or status updates of action items captured in earlier meetings.

For most of the cases, it is recommended to schedule meeting in between 9am-5pm, not outside working hours. Avoid starting a meeting shortly before the lunch hour, or the end of the day as it is almost certain that the participants are not able to fully focus on the agenda and end up wasting everybody’s time.


  • Know Your Location – Choose the Meeting Place

The venue for the meeting is one of the important things the meeting organizer has to arrange. The meeting venue can affect the overall mood of the meeting. Factors to be considered in choosing the venue:

  • Project team distribution because some project teams are not co-located. The best venue for a meeting would be a central place for all the project team’s locations
  • If the meeting is to be held outside of the office consider the distance, mode of transport and traffic to the destination. Some meetings are delayed just because team members are not able to make it on time.
  • The tools required for the meeting. If a conference call or video conference is required, the venue selected shall be equipped with a projector and speaker phone. Nowadays, there are technologies available to provide uninterrupted and high quality video conferences. Among the basic tools required for a meeting is a whiteboard and a projector.
  • Size of meeting room vs the participants needs to be assessed. The room needs to comfortably accommodate the participants, and enough chairs need to be provided. If the room is congested, it will impact the effectiveness of the meeting.
  • Amenities such as toilets and refreshments nearby also need to be checked.
  • A room with a conducive environment would be a plus. Run down interiors or a room with an unpleasant odour would affect the focus of the participants.



Well organized project meetings will result in a greater chance of achieving the meeting’s aims. Participants will attend the meeting with clear objectives, well prepared and ready to actively participate in the meeting.

When the meeting preparation is smooth, the next thing is how to conduct an effective meeting. This will be the next topic to be covered in an upcoming paper.


Ishak, Mohd Nazrul
Mohd Salleh, Zainal Abidin

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Eliminating the fear factor Mon, 12 Jan 2015 10:23:18 +0000 Bad boss2The PMBOK® Guide and most modern management texts emphasise the importance of leadership and motivation over directive control.  This is for a very good reason, as modern management evolved during the Industrial Revolution, the function of most workers was to ‘man the equipment’ to literally keep the wheels of industry turning.  In the 21st century, most businesses equip the person with computers and other tools to allow them to work creatively and efficiently. The regimented discipline of the industrial age which required a bobbin to be changed on a loom within seconds of the cotton running out or breaking is no longer needed and is counterproductive if the 21st century organisation is focused on creating new knowledge or systems (eg, software development) or on customer service.

Fredrick Taylor was probably the last management writer to advocate strict management control over the workers in his books and papers describing ‘scientific management’. By 1914, Henry Gantt, a contemporary of Taylor, was advocating training and motivation as the keys to increased productivity, describing the ‘old school’ managers who focused on regimented discipline, underpinned by the fear of dismissal or penalties ‘driving managers’[i]. By the 1950s Peter Drucker was defining this old fashioned management approach as outdated ‘command and control’, highlighting the ineffectiveness of the managers who still tried to use19th century approaches based on fear and intimidation to enforce their authority over subservient underlings. Drucker was probably the first person to recognise the concept of ‘knowledge workers’ and to understand managing knowledge workers needed a completely different management paradigm.

Unfortunately more than 60 years later, far too many managers still tend to use an authoritarian management style despite the ineffectiveness of this approach being demonstrated since the beginning of the 20th century. In the age of knowledge work ‘command and control’ is highly counterproductive. It is simply an act of futility to tell a person she MUST come up with a bright idea to solve a problem within the next 30 minutes or sanctions will be applied! Fear damages creativity and destroys openness; frightened people cannot work effectively in a ‘knowledge economy’.

These ideas in the 1980s W. Edwards Deming published his 14 key principles for management.  Principle #8 is: Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company.  If people are people are fearful of being ‘blamed’, the last thing they will do is pass on accurate information about an issue or a problem. Whilst everyone is happy to pass on ‘good news’, management access to high quality information only occurs if the people in the organisation also feel it is safe to pass on the ‘bad news’ that identifies problems that actually need management input and assistance to resolve – you cannot solve a problem you don’t know exists……

Effective management decision making depends on the open transmission of ‘bad news’. Project controls staff need to know what is really happening and need honest estimates of future consequences to provide ‘planning advice’.  Team members with a problem need to be able to ask for help early rather than waiting until the issue becomes ‘big and obvious’.

To understand how serious this problem can be, one of the causes of the ₤425 million loss so-far on the ₤2.4 billion U.K. Universal Credit program, caused by ‘weak management, ineffective control and poor governance’, was that no one in the development team felt able to highlight their problems to senior management. Fear of being blamed kept the knowledge of the problem from the people who needed to know[ii].

The solution to this problem is contained in Point 10 of Deming’s principles: Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the work force …. Such exhortations only create adversarial relationships, …… substitute leadership!

Trusting and empowering your team, open communication, leadership and motivation are all closely interlinked and in combination create high performance tams. This is not a new concept; the Prussian military developed the concept of auftragstaktik at the beginning of the 19th Century with its core tenet of ‘bounded initiative’. Provided people within the organisation hierarchy have proper training and the organisational culture is strong, the leader’s role is to clearly outline his/her intentions and rationale. Once this is understood, subordinate personnel can formulate their own plan of action for the tasks they are allocated and design appropriate responses to achieve the objectives based on their understanding of the actual situation, exploit opportunities and mitigate problems[iii]. Ever earlier, Chinese philosopher Laozi said “A leader is best when people barely know he exists. When his work is done, his aim fulfilled they will say ‘we did it ourselves’.”

What these ideas mean for project managers is to:

  • Move from a position of telling to asking;
  • Work to build open and trusting communication, don’t ‘blame’;
  • Move from using control tools such as schedules as a target (to measure failure) to using them as a means of collaboration to build success; and
  • Be prepared to forgive mistakes – encouraging creativity always has the possibility of the idea ‘not working’.

This is a different paradigm to old fashioned ‘command and control’, but one that has been proven to be far more effective in many different situations during the last 100 years.

If surveys of employees are to be believed around 70% of managers are still operating in a ‘command-and-control’ mode relying on authority, discipline and ‘fear’ to drive performance and their team’s commitment to the organisation and performance suffer accordingly. So the key question from this post is are you up to the challenge of managing in the 21st century by eliminating the ‘fear factor’ from within your team?

[i] For more on the work of Henry Gantt see:

[ii] The saga Universal Credit saga is on-going, the Report for the UK National Audit Office: at Reference 3.23 states in part: The culture within the programme has also been a problem. The Department intended to ring-fence the Universal Credit programme from cost savings being made in other areas. It decided to deliver the programme through a single delivery organisation within the Department. Both the Major Projects Authority and a supplier-led review in mid-2012 identified problems with staff culture; including a ‘fortress mentality’ within the programme. The latter also reported there was a culture of ‘good news’ reporting that limited open discussion of risks and stifled challenge.

[iii] For more on auftragstaktik see:

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Is the future of business in the cloud? Fri, 02 Jan 2015 16:34:13 +0000 If you sometimes worry about the pace of change in IT and the corresponding need to keep up with technological innovations, then you’re probably not on your own. Innovators invent completely new ways of doing business and you need to do your best to keep abreast of developments, particularly when it comes to the way you use IT.

If you’re a young entrepreneur then you will have been brought up in the world of computers, smartphones, tablets and apps. They are a natural part of both business and recreational activities.

If you have a problem getting your head around new ways of accessing information, such as cloud computing, it’s not very difficult to start to drill down to what is going to work for you and your business.

The irresistible rise of cloud computing

It wasn’t so long ago that if you wanted to set up an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system for your business to integrate and streamline all your departmental functions, you’d have had to lay out a considerable amount of capital. ERP is a business software system that allows you and your key managers and other employees to input, interpret and manage data from a central database.

Usually operating in real time, it allows instant snapshots of where manufacturing and production are, linking accounts with purchase invoices and receipts, and making business operations far more efficient and effective.

In the past you required significant amounts of hardware, such as desktop computers and servers, not to mention software upgrades that had to be implemented by an IT department: all that infrastructure didn’t come cheap.

This is where cloud technology has started to make significant inroads into the provision of ERP.

Firstly, you don’t need a large hardware infrastructure with all the capital costs associated with that. What you do is buy into an ERP system provided by a company that supplies software as a service (SaaS). You and your employees can then access the software via the cloud from anywhere and, for the most part, with any device. You don’t have to be stuck in the office; your sales team can keep right up to date with the business operations from anywhere in the world.

International benefits

Cloud computing is fast, flexible and agile, helping to reduce business complexity without impinging on efficient operations.

Take a company such as Timken, global manufacturers and suppliers of steel and bearings. Their traditional ERP took five years to implement across their whole worldwide organisation, but it took just 18 months to implement a cloud-based solution that was deployed to more than 20,000 people. The speed of implementation meant that the business realised immense value far more quickly than it would otherwise have done.

The cloud is the future

Sometimes you need to run with new developments to benefit your business. For many there seems little doubt that the cloud holds the future of ERP and many other key software solutions, freeing businesses to generate value through their IT departments rather than just their previous costly role of configuring, maintaining and upgrading premises-based systems.

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Which Project Management Qualification is Right for me? Tue, 30 Dec 2014 12:18:31 +0000 jQuery(document).ready(function($){wp_cta_load_variation('3954','','0')});


Many people ask us which would be the best project management qualification for me. The answer depends on you particular circumstance and where you want to go with your career as a project manager.

To get you going in this video we review the main qualifications, PMP, PRINCE2 and the APM project management qualification. We answer the following questions.

  1. How much do you have to learn to pass the exam?
  2. How difficult is it to pass the exam?
  3. What are the prerequisites
  4. What is the value of each in the market place?
  5. Which is the best indicator of project management competence?
  6. Overall how would we rank each of the qualifications?

There are many project management qualifications open to new and aspiring project managers.  So in this video look at the main options for project management training and certification. In reality the three mainstreams PRINCE2 PMI and APM. Each has qualifications different levels as you can see below.


slide 2.2

In this video a focus on the main ones from each of the streams. These are PRINCE2 practitioner, PMP certification, APM foundation in project management and the APM project management qualification. There are other project management certifications around the world but these the main ones used in the UK.



How much do you have to learn to pass the exam


So how much to have to learn in order to pass the exam. With easy way of doing this is just to look at the thickness of the study guides and manuals associated with each of the different courses. The largest is the PMI’s guide the project management body of knowledge with  415 pages of content. However not everything you to pass the PMP certification is in the body of knowledge so probably also going to have to look at a PMP study guide for those extra bits you need to know in order to pass the exam. So we gave this three stars. The APM project management qualification as a study guide which is 344 pages long. This is published by the APM in partnership with Parallel Project Training. This is fairly similar to the level of detail you need to acquire PRINCE2 practitioner qualification which is also 343 pages long. We gave both of these two stars. The APM foundation qualification is quite easy to study 153 pages. You can read this study guide and weekend and therefore we gave this one star.



PMP certification has the most strict prerequisites requirement for between 3 to 5 years of experience depending on your formal qualifications. In addition you must also show 35 hours of training. The APM project management qualification has no formal prerequisites but we recommend between want to years experience before embarking on this course. PRINCE2 practitioner does formally have the foundation qualification is a prerequisite for this is mostly done as part of the five day course. Most people have no experience can pass PRINCE2 without too much difficulty. The APM foundation qualification is designed for  team members and new project managers and as such has no formal prerequisites. Most people get quite a lot from this introductory course.



Value in the job market

value in the job market really depends on what market you are looking at. The international and multinational markets to PMP is most widely recognised. Especially for organisations that based on the US. APM project management qualification is very strong in the UK especially in defence, construction, local government, and infrastructure sectors. PRINCE2 is the most widely recognised project management qualification in the UK especially in IT, central government and related sectors. Based on this week in the PMP four stars, APM project management qualification three stars, PRINCE2 practitioner two stars.  the APM foundation qualification one star.


 How easy is it to pass the exam

PMP certification is a four hour multiple choice exam. Most people find it quite challenging it combines principles of project management with some scenario based decisions. So for this reason we’ve given this four stars. The APM project management qualification is a three-hour written paper with 10 short essays. Most people find this quite challenging so is also given this three stars. The PRINCE2 practitioner qualification is a to a half-hour scenario-based objective testing multiple choice examination based on the case study. Most people do quite well in this exam so we given this two stars. In the APM foundation qualification is a one hour multiple choice which almost everybody passes and so we given this one star.



 Which is the best indicator of a competent project manager

In their project management benchmark report asked people as many project managers which qualification was the best indicator of a competent project manager. The survey said that 36% of those asked felt that the APM project management qualification was the best. Followed by PRINCE2 at 24% and PMP certification at 21%. Nineteen of project managers felt that none these qualifications indicated a competent project manager. This is quite interesting given that we said that the PMP was the hardest and had the best value in the jobs market but I think it reflects that survey was done in the UK and and so the sample holding the PMP is quite small.





Overall summary of project management qualifications

So weighing  it all in the balance, we decide to give the PMP certification five stars, the APM project management qualification three stars, PRINCE2 practitioner qualification two start and the APM foundation two stars. However this is just a general guide and every individual has different training needs and aspirations. So should I further advice guidance on which would be the most appropriate qualification for you then please do get in touch with Parallel Project Training and will be more than happy to talk through your situation..




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A guide to contractors for the first-time project manager Mon, 15 Dec 2014 16:57:50 +0000 You have finally achieved your goal and been appointed to manage your first building project. It is likely that you have been working as an assistant project manager for a period of time, but now you are on your own. Organizing the day-to-day running of the site and setting up a timeline for the project has become second nature. You also know exactly when each trade has to be on-site, and how long a specific section of the project should take to complete. All the costings will have been finalized and orders placed with suppliers and contractors. But what about dealing with contractors when they actually appear on-site? The following provides a basic guide for project managers dealing with contractors for the first time.

Paying the contractor

 Paying a contractor is somewhat different to paying a directly employed worker. Employees, for the most part, receive their remuneration through a tax withholding system, which means taxes and social security payments are deducted from their wages or salary at source. The employee then receives the net amount due and the employer pays the taxes and social security due directly to the tax authorities every week or month.

In order to be paid, a contractor must submit a timesheet every week or month as a record of time spent on-site and any overtime worked. As the project manager you will be required to check each timesheet to ensure the hours being claimed are accurate, raise any disputed hours with the contractor and finally approve the timesheet for payment. In order to avoid possible litigation it is essential that you authorize payments as quickly as possible. If payment is delayed for an unreasonable period the contractor is also within his or her rights to cease working on the project. Once authorized you must hand the timesheet back to the contractor, who is responsible for submitting it to their umbrella company or agency who will raise an invoice, which is sent to the main contractor for payment. Contractors who are trading as limited companies prepare and submit the invoices themselves.

What can go wrong?

 When project managing a busy site, it is inevitable that things will go wrong from time to time. The most common issues relate to contractor’s timesheets. The contractor may be suspected of claiming hours that have not been worked, or timesheets may be misplaced. In either of these cases you should talk to the contractor as soon as possible and try to resolve the problem with the minimum delay. In situations where the contractor is suspected of over-claiming hours you are advised to carry out spot checks and monitor sign-in and sign-out times.

 Other issues relating to late payments include the contractor’s agency or umbrella company withholding payment, the main contractor’s accounts office withholding payment, late submission of the timesheet by the contractor and the main contractor receiving the timesheet late from the project manager.


 Claims for expenses may be submitted by the contractor from time to time. The contractor is responsible for submitting the claim, including supporting documents, such as receipts, to you in a timely manner. Once approved, expenses claims follow the same process as that of timesheets.

As a first-time project manager, you may find it useful to check out one or two umbrella companies; for example, offer a range of services and are one of the foremost players in this highly specialized sector.

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Why are they (you) fighting? Sun, 07 Dec 2014 00:41:22 +0000 FightingMost issues and points of difference and even bad events are resolved without conflict.  Negotiation, discussion and helpful 3rd party input resolve the issue. Even when the issue is stressful and damaging (eg someone runs into your car…) most of the time people deal with the situation without descending into acrimony. But at other times a similar situation can quickly descend into conflict and acrimony.  Why? And what can you do to help calm the situation??

The key thing to bear in mind when a ‘fight’ breaks out is it is always personal and emotional. If you can remove personality and emotion and all that remains is a difference or disagreement that can be negotiated, compensated and resolved.  Conversely whilst a person’s emotions are dominant, rational decision making is nearly impossible!

Unfortunately, emotions kick in quicker and are far more powerful than rational thought. Fight or flight is one of the most basic of survival strategies and the triggers for an emotional ‘fight’ response are based on each individual’s life experiences. As soon as a ‘trigger’ matching the learned pattern of a perceived threat is sensed, the ‘fight’ reaction cuts in. Some time later – a few seconds or a few hours later – rational thought may be sufficiently powerful to override the need to ‘fight’ but it always lags the instantaneous emotional reaction.

These emotional reactions are why it is possible to train people in one community to ‘hate’ everyone from another defined community (including innocent people they have never met), and why some people immediately become aggressive the second they see someone else they are programmed to react to.

The key to solving these problems within your work and social groups lays in the fact emotional reactions are based on learning, either from ‘social training’ or from personal experience, and frequently involve reacting to a ‘stereotype’.

The easiest of these to manage is where a stereotype is directly involved; you simply have to distinguish the specific person from the overall stereotyping. Yes everyone from the PMO is an interfering bureaucrat focused on wasting time by gathering excessive detail…… But Mary from the PMO is different; she is really a ‘project manager’ and can help you learn to use this tool to make your job easy.  In this scenario, Mary has been reclassified as a ‘project manger’ and taken out of the ‘PMO stereotype’.  This is always easy to do because there are no positive stereotypes; you simply need to highlight the positives in the individual.

Where the ‘fight’ is more personal your task is much harder, particularly if you are involved in the ‘fight’.  The key is still to remove the emotion to make room for rational considerations but removing deeply felt emotions can be very difficult.

A starting point is to remember emotions are instinctive, rational though needs work.  Factors such as tiredness, stress and other emotional events can all shift the balance of power towards the instinctive emotional reaction of ‘fight’. Reducing any of these can help rational thinking.

The next factor is emotions are driven by chemical reactions and the body will slowly return to neutral.  Taking ‘time out’ to cool down will allow rational thinking to cut in, provided the emotions are not triggered again as soon as the other person is brought back into the discussion. This process can be encouraged by diversionary tactics such as changing the focus of discussion, changing the place of discussion or doing something completely different (it’s a good time to go down the pub…).  Even simply dimming the lights helps – research shows emotions are stronger in bright light – a quiet dimly lighted space really does sooth the emotions….

Mediators use a number of tactics to start a rational negotiation in this type of situation, one is to encourage each of the parties to a dispute to ‘let it all out’ and vent their anger in a controlled environment, once a person has done this it is very difficult to maintain the rage.  Another is to hold one-on-one discussions and carry messages back and forth for a while between the parties so that the trigger for fighting (the other person) is taken out of the equation and the messages can be heard.  Then if there is any common ground, rational debate can start and with luck and good management continue once the parties are face to face.

The PMBOK® Guide advocates keeping disagreements professional and based on rational discussions of information, and ultimately any agreed solution to a problem will be reached by rational discussion (including mediation and negotiation).

However, whilst this is desirable, we are all people with emotions and sometimes our emotions will take over. A good manager recognises this and uses social skills to allow time for the emotions to settle before using more proactive negotiating tactics to bring rational debate back into play. For more on conflict management see:

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Why do we still teach Maslow? Mon, 03 Nov 2014 12:08:18 +0000 This question was recently asked in a LinkedIn forum. It went on to say that Maslow was ‘disproven in the 1950s’ so we should not continue to teach it.

In case you didn’t know. Maslow’s ‘hierarchy of needs’ is a theory of motivation published by Abraham Maslow in 1943. It was never based on any empirical research and was, in effect, Maslow’s opinion from his own experience. Its popularity arises from the fact that it ‘feels right’ on an intuitive level. In effect, any ‘disproval’ of Maslow’s theory would be a disproval if his opinion – which doesn’t make sense.

But there is a bigger issue that this question touches upon. How should we regard the standard models of human behaviour that are frequently quoted in all management (not just project management) training?

If you have been on one of these courses, you may well have been introduced to Hersey and Blanchard (Situational Leadership), Tuckman (Teamwork) or Thomas-Kilmann (Conflict Management) to name but three.

There are a myriad of these models to describe many different aspects of human behaviour. Different models were, and continue, to be developed using varying degrees of empirical observation. No doubt some use statistics to validate their results but these are no ‘Standard Model’ in the mould of particle physics. No one will claim to have defined human behaviour to the 5-sigma degree of certainty required to prove the existence of the Higgs Boson.

All models of human behaviour are approximate theories. They are not taught because they are proven, they are taught because they make you think about people and the way they behave in a structured way.

These models should always be taught in a way that emphasises that they are ‘ideas’. There are conflicting and complementary ideas – all of which provide a framework to organise personal experience in a more efficient way.

So the next time someone teaches you about one of these models, see it for what it is – a starting point to try and understand how people behave, not a set of rules that people always adhere to.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs will never be ‘proven’ and equally I don’t see how it could be ‘disproven’. But it does have enough intuitive sense to make you start thinking about motivation and, hopefully, make you want to learn more.


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