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Author: Mike Morton

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The Evolution of the Project Manager Role

Oct_13_Ptimes_croppedOver the last twelve years I have seen the role of project manager evolve. The most significant transformational change I have witnessed involves the subtle integration of a diagnostic framework into the baseline project management approach.

Previously, a project manager was strictly known as an entity that coordinated the execution of easy to understand tasks usually made available in the form of a checklist that was provided at the commencement of an engagement. I refer to this project manager as the “checklist” project manager. A project manager would inherit an agenda consisting of tasks that needed to be delivered within defined timelines. In most cases the project manager did not conduct any project due diligence, provide input towards the project approval process or confirm the strategic value of the items found on this checklist – all needed to justify the existence of a project. The purpose of the role was simply to deliver the tangible results found on the bulletin within the prescribed period

The role of the project manager has recently morphed to include a diagnostic phase of work. In most cases today the project manager must holistically diagnose the current internal and external environments and conclude through facts the necessity of a project before it can be initiated. On average more project managers find themselves engaged in unearthing the business justification for the existence of the project, the recommended solutions that will satisfy the business needs and both determining and delivering the required executable actions needed to bring the solution to life. I refer to this revised role as a “consultative project manager.” Previously, after organizational due diligence had been performed (usually by someone acting in a consultative role) and a project need justified, a series of tasks would be simplified and organized on a checklist and then this checklist would be assigned to a project manager for delivery. The “consultative project manager” has eliminated the need for organizations to have a consultant diagnose the current situation and recommend a solution and a project manager to deliver the results needed to realize the solution.

This metamorphosis has served the project management profession, clients and project managers well. The project management profession has benefited from a correction of perceptions – from being perceived as simply task coordinators and executors to critical and strategic thinkers who can perform the business due diligence needed to quantitatively and qualitatively justify the need for a project. The clients have benefited because they now can receive both diagnostic and action frameworks from a single resource and thus have eliminated the need to have two separate resources (consultant + project manager), ultimately lowering the total cost of each project.  Finally, the project managers have been thrust upon a world that mandates an increase in cognitive competencies and mindfulness that leads to a more advanced skill set, increase in knowledge and ultimately long-term career prospects.


During the dot com hysteria many organizations employed a first to market strategy and subsequently many products with minimal ROI justification were rushed through development. The emphasis on schedule, easy access to capital and the employment of first to market strategies all led to many checklist project manager job opportunities coming to fruition during the dot com era.

Once the dot com bubble burst, organizations emphasized costs over schedule, did not have easy access to capital and reluctantly employed a risk-averse growth strategy all due to the deteriorating economic landscape. Naturally, most organizations employed cost cutting strategies in order to meet street earnings expectations. When looking for expense reduction opportunities one of the first things most organizations realized was that in the past the delineation of project work was inadvertently and expensively separated into two areas – diagnose the need for a project (diagnostic framework) and deliver the actions needed to satisfy the project purpose (execution oriented framework). The diagnostic framework was usually assigned to a consultant and the execution oriented framework was assigned to a project manager. Embraced with a corrective economic cycle most organizations amalgamated the two roles into one thus reducing expenses. Many checklist project manager job opportunities were lost.

Additionally, the new, consultative project manager role was assigned internally to further reduce costs and in most cases without any organizational readiness assessments being performed. Existing internal project managers were “told” to handle the new role expectations. Unfortunately, most internal project managers at that time remained locked within their checklist dogma and were not prepared to handle the new expectations. The failure to accept these new role requirements led to the demise of many checklist project managers.

The role amalgamation resulted in many checklist project managers being unemployed simply because they did not possess the training, experience, skill or will needed to diagnose the internal and external economic, industry and business landscapes needed to produce somewhat complicated analyses required to justify the strategic value and necessity of a project. Almost immediately, the large management consulting firms, mostly known for only performing diagnostic based work began altering their value propositions and delivery models to include an execution oriented framework. These firms would now offer a new service that included problem diagnosis, solution recommendations and solution implementation.


The purpose of a consultative project manager is to supply the results needed to realize corporate strategy. The consultative project manager is perceived as both a creator of business value and the driver of a results oriented framework. Consultative project managers must have the cognitive abilities to internally and externally diagnose a business situation and provide reconciliatory recommendations supported by complex domain specific data. Additionally, this person must holistically understand strategic intent and opportunities, translate organizational strategy into tangible executable actions and deliver the results needed to satisfy the vision supporting the strategy.  

The transformational change of the project manager role is an important milestone for the profession. Being seen as a both a creator and supplier of strategic equity a project manager has now increased their organizational value. This increase in status has mostly reduced the amelioration of common misperceptions. The consultative project manager is perceived to be a holistic thinker and collaborator who can assess and improve a situation through justifiable projects that deliver value. Whereas, the checklist project manager was mostly perceived as an IT based task coordinator and executor who preaches the merits of a delivery framework.

Additionally, the status earned by the consultative project manager brand has assisted these individuals with acquiring a seat at the executive round table when corporate vision, goals and strategy are being set. A checklist project manager would rarely be invited to an executive forum and asked to provide input towards the organizational strategy formulation process.

The project manager’s role, post dot com era, evolved to include a diagnostic facet whereas in the pre dot com era, the position was mostly relegated to an execution role. This amalgamated role is in high demand today. Organizations want a single resource that can supply both diagnostic and action frameworks. Project managers who adopt the skills needed to satisfy the qualifications associated with the consultative project manager role will realize an increase in employment prospects and lay the foundations for long-term upward career growth. The checklist project manager position is obsolete – the consultative project manager role has arrived are you prepared?

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George Konstantopoulos, MBA, PMP, PgMP, CMC is a Sr. Consultant at Welch International Management Consulting Group Inc. He has managed strategy portfolios and executed complex program and projects in the high-tech, banking, IT, marketing, utilities, retail and professional services industries. His entrepreneurial spirit and keen business insight have benefited many organizations through his effective consultative engagements and compelling achievements. George regularly lectures on management consulting and project management. Additionally, he facilitates quarterly seminars intended to help project managers understand the qualifications associated with consultative project management. You may contact George at [email protected] or through his blog spot at

How to Balance Creativity and Project Management Risk in Today’s Economy

Ptimes_sep_29_feature_croppedIn today’s project environment the minefields have grown increasingly more difficult for both the new and seasoned PM to navigate. The economy has cornered project team members into a stifling box of “non-creativity”. The team members equate creativity with risk and that is not seen as a good thing, when there is a chance the risk can turn negative. The PM must fully understand the reason for team members’ reluctance when they are pushed to take chances.

The PM must continuously stress to the project team that acceptance of risks , and managing them correctly, could possibly increase the planned ROI on the project.

The project team faces internal and external risks that they must first understand and then work with the PM to manage. The external risks are relatively self evident. The project must deal with vendors, market conditions, weather and all things that are outside of the business entity where the project is being executed. The internal risks are more sublime and need a seasoned PM at the helm to manage these types of risks. The internal risks can encompass the following types:

  • Internal Resource Issues. This is one of the most common internal risks. The resources that you have either picked or have been assigned can quit, become sick or just decide they do not believe in the project and intentionally of un-intentionally reduce their productivity. This reduction in effort directly correlates to the loss of creativity.
  • Internal Politics. This risk is the one where the novice PM has the most difficulty with in the execution of the project. In today’s economy, with current downsizing and double digit unemployment, people are sharpening the“knifes and do not hesitate to use them when the times get tough. The politics played will directly impact all team members due to the fact that a team member now needs to think how someone will react if politics is in play.
  • The “Head in the Sand Mentality.” This is the one where the PM can quickly do something about to ensure it is mitigated. In most environments senior management is knowledgeable in risk but in most cases is not well schooled in the intricacies of project risk. This lack of subject matter expertise ultimately trickles down to the everyday project staff. The staff sees senior management not taking risk so they follow it and creativity takes the hit.
  • The “Misc” bucket. This is the catch-all bucket where the PM has to deal with internal styles of senior management, general sales issues that are impacting profitability, rumors, and general ebb and flow of the business.

 The PM needs a suitable action plan to anticipate this risks and also deal with the other risk areas mentioned above.

 PM Risk Action Plan

  1. The PM needs to be fully accepting of being not only a project manager but a risk manager. There are too many seasoned PMs that not do not understand risk but even when they do they only utter the risks with the lights out!
  2. The PM needs to discuss openly with senior management the construction and implementation of the risk management plan. The senior management needs to be assured that risk spots are being identified, managed and closed aggressively. There needs to be some level of agreement that the team will take on risks to increase ROI and these risks will be monitored and reported. This senior management compliance then needs to be communicated to the whole team that risk, although a four letter word, is not something to be totally feared
  3. The PM then needs to educate the team, the whole team, on risk. They need to use qualitative methods to identify, capture, manage and report risk. The idea of ” what I do not know is what scares me” is very true here. The team members will slowly unleash the non-creative chains once they realize they have seen a risk trigger or are in a risk area. The knowledge is power rule then overtakes the risk adverse team member.
  4. The risk register that was formulated in the identifying risk exercises needs to be reviewed at each team meeting. The team should actually celebrate a risk encounter and the successful navigation out of the mind field. Once people see this happen they will internally calculate that being more creative is a good thing.
  5. The PM then needs to wrap in the results of the risk register to the lessons learned and ensure it is presented to all team members and stakeholders.

There are obviously extenuating circumstances with each project when dealing with risk The key environmental variable is that you must assess the risk culture before you start the project, continue to assess once the project is being executed and reinforce the results at all levels at the end of the project.

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Jim Hannon has over fifteen years of diversified experience in the Information Technology and Financial Services Industries, functioning primarily as a Senior Project Manager/Lead Business Analyst/Program Manager with proven experience in trading systems and numerous financial applications domestically and globally.

Jim currently holds his MBA, PMP, PM-RMP and is certified in Prince 2 fundamentals. Jim is planning on sitting for the PgMP and PM-SP in the next 6 months.  He also teaches Project Management at Boston University and Excelsior College and created the PM program at Excelsior. Jim is also a Senior Professor at Cambridge College.

Jim also has a consulting firm The Bentley Group, which offers PM and Business Analysis services.

Effective Project Sponsors Needed: Relevant Experience and Education Definitely Required

PT_Sept_22_feature_d011932dad7214c2f1d55cc9ad15dc1fThat’s a sign I’d very much like to see!

The hard truth of it is that many of the people sponsoring our projects aren’t qualified to do so. Some aren’t experienced enough to be effective sponsors, and even if they are experienced, most haven’t been taught how to be an effective sponsor and what being an effective sponsor means. At their best, many sponsors can be well meaning but also less than helpful. At their worst, they can be downright dangerous to you and your project.    

So why does this happen? It happens because we have a bad habit of encouraging the “accidental” sponsor. Let me be cynical about this (it won’t be the last time) by telling you how project sponsorships are handed out in some organizations. When the senior executives meet and determine, or are dragged into the understanding, that they need to appoint a project sponsor for a major initiative, it’s too often a matter of assigning whoever’s next: “They say we need a sponsor, and I sponsored that last IT project thingy—it’s your turn.”          

Through some misguided respect for arbitrary authority (and putting someone who doesn’t know much about projects at the top of the project heap is about as arbitrary as it gets), and through unthinking deference to seniority, organizations and the project managers in them too often make the mistake of thinking that the person or people the executive team has appointed as the sponsors for our projects will be, must be, the “right” sponsors to help make the project a success.

Who Is the Right Who?

Dr. Francis Hartman says that the who question is probably the most important of the Three Key

Questions he asks at the beginning of any project.1

“For this project, when will we know that we’re done?” Hartman asks to establish a project end point and an associated set of deliverables that all stakeholders can agree represent the end.

  1. “At the point at which we’re done, how will we know that we’ve won?” Here, he’s aiming to get agreement among all project stakeholders on the metrics of success for the project, a clear and shared definition of success established well before the project starts.
  2. “Who gets to make the call on questions 1 and 2?” The right sponsor or sponsors usually declare on behalf of the organization that the project is “done” and that the team has “won” by successfully completing the project.

Yes, the most senior person in the organization—everyone says “the president” the first time they’re asked—can ultimately make the call on questions 1 and 2, but we’re looking for the person further down the organization, the person who is closest to the action, the person that the organization will empower to “make the call” on questions 1 and 2 on its behalf.

Don’t be fooled into accepting “figurehead” senior executive project sponsors if they aren’t close enough to the project that it won’t affect them personally or just because you think they’ll have the authority to make decisions. If you do, you’ll probably end up with sponsors who have little time for, or interest in, what you’re doing.

The great value of experience aside, we need to be able to explain to sponsors that project experience is different. No, sponsoring a project is not just like running a division, and it’s not just like effectively marketing a product—it’s all of this, and more, and different. And we need to be able to explain that project sponsorship is not an occasional thing, but an active thing, a verb more than a noun, an important commitment that will demand time, engagement, and most importantly, accountability.

And here’s the big kicker that sponsors need to be aware of: Whether a project succeeds or fails, a project sponsor should be accountable for that success or failure, as much or more than anyone on the project team, including the project manager. And the executive the sponsor works for needs to understand this, too. Accordingly, there are two questions you should ask that’ll go a long way toward telling you who the right project sponsor should be:

  • If this project succeeds, will the person or people I’m thinking about as sponsor benefit directly and visibly from the project’s success?
  • If this project fails, will this person be directly and visibly “hurt” within the organization?

 Experience tells me that if the answers to both 1 and 2 aren’t a resounding yes, you’ve got the wrong sponsor. 

How Many Sponsors Are Too Many?

One solid, engaged, accountable project sponsor is very good. Two solid, engaged, accountable project sponsors are OK but more difficult to manage. Having more than two sponsors isn’t effective at all. What you’ve got then is a steering committee (a badly executed idea most of the time) trying to act like a sponsor. People sometimes make the mistake of thinking that any exec whose area is affected by the outcome of the project, either directly or peripherally, should have a sponsorship role. No, they shouldn’t.

I worked on a financial systems upgrade project in Pennsylvania a few years back where the hosting organization had identified two project sponsors—the CFO and the CIO. So we did our stakeholder analysis carefully and thoroughly (see Chapter 11 for a complete discussion of managing stakeholders’ expectations) and came up with a plan and schedule that specifically addressed the expectations of both of these important stakeholders and their organizations.          

As expected, the CFO was all about compliance and reporting, and the CIO was all about aligning the new system with his IT road map, as well as the systems, standards, and integration that implied. Our plan covered both. But the CFO was all about making an aggressive schedule that he’d already committed to his boss and to the board (the fact that he’d committed to a date before a plan was put in place was another issue).        

The fact of the matter was that we couldn’t get the system in on time and still meet all the IT road map requirements and implications of the CIO’s expectations. Of course, we could have caved and said we’d do it all on the tight schedule, which would have been a disaster, but I’m pleased to say we stood our ground.        

But the problem remained: We had two sponsors with conflicting expectations. At our request (and this had to be handled delicately), the president stepped in. Recognizing that adherence to the IT road map was also an important consideration wherever possible, he made it clear that the date was the most important constraint and asked us to adjust the plan accordingly. He also acknowledged—with the CIO in the room, God bless him—that everything the CIO wanted couldn’t be accommodated within the required schedule. The CFO was then designated the single accountable project sponsor, with the CIO as an important member of the project advisory team. The CIO wasn’t thrilled with the outcome, of course, but he understood what was required, and more importantly, that it wasn’t the project team who’d told him he couldn’t have everything he wanted; it was the president, so he didn’t blame us. Sure, we were able to give the CIO much of what he wanted on the project, and he was a supportive stakeholder, but he wasn’t the accountable project sponsor, and because of that, we were able to resolve a potential multiple-sponsor conflict.

We assume that if executives have earned enough esteem in their organizations to be assigned such an important role that they must, therefore, also be well qualified to be effective sponsors, right? Wrong. Project sponsors aren’t like a good Cabernet; they don’t age into greatness, and their seniority often has little to do with their potential effectiveness as sponsors. And too often, their work experience doesn’t count for a lot in a project environment. Those who are experts on process—for example, corporate controllers who built their reputation on honing a repeatable process like the month-end close—may be ill-prepared to sponsor a project initiative, where the work is linear and non-repetitive.

Worse yet, with all their other (i.e. non-project) experience, senior people may fall back on what they know, what’s worked for them in the past, regardless of where that experience came from: “I don’t think we need to do that formal stakeholder analysis stuff. It’s a lot of work, and I don’t think we have the time. Let’s just get everybody together around a table and work it out—that’s always worked well in the past.”

Dumb Ideas: Project Kickoff Meetings and Most Sponsors’ Roles in Them

Not that a kickoff meetings is a dumb idea in and of itself, but they’re a dumb idea when they become purposeless cheerleading sessions: “This is the most important project we’ve got going in the company today!” says the sponsor (who almost invariably won’t have much time for the project team after the kickoff). Never mind that there are three other “most important” projects underway at the same time and competing for the same resources.        

If a project sponsor is prepared and equipped to come out with absolutely clear and usable directions for all those gathered—a very public declaration of the answers to the Three Key Questions, for example—in terms intended to reduce or eliminate uncertainty, that would make for a useful kickoff meeting. But kickoff meetings aren’t often working meetings; too often, they are casual and poorly planned meet-and-greet sessions that don’t accomplish much more than putting faces to names. Worse yet, a project sponsor might leave such a meeting with the impression that their work is largely done—“I’ve encouraged the team and set the tone and direction for the project”—when in fact, it’s just beginning.      

If your kickoff meeting is likely to be nothing more than a social occasion, or if the project sponsor will simply sprinkle a little holy water on the project and then disappear, don’t bother having one. Here’s a warning sign: Your sponsor says “I’m really too busy to attend the project planning meetings—go ahead without me.” Best advice? Don’t. Be brave enough to say, “Your role as project sponsor is critically important to the success of this project, and it doesn’t make sense to move ahead with the planning without your direct involvement and input. We’ll just have to wait to get started until you have the time.” And then you’ll want to remind the sponsor that, all things being equal, every day you delay the start of planning (that is, planning with the sponsor) is at least one day later the organization should expect the delivery of the project.

Making A More Effective Sponsor

Just knowing all of this doesn’t help much, does it? And you’re not likely to be well received by a sponsoring executive if you point out that they are probably unqualified for the job. But there are things you can do to help make your project sponsor more effective.

Train and Educate the Sponsor

I’d never propose playing the role of CFO for one of my clients, and certainly not without formal training in finance and accounting first and a lot of experience besides, so it’s interesting that some people think that a project sponsor might be able to do that job without any training at all. Sponsors, just like you and me and anyone else on a project, need to be educated about what it takes to effectively work with a project team. Just as PMs need to be taught to deal with executives, sponsors should be explicitly, deliberately taught to deal with projects, project issues, and project people. They need to learn about change management—the effective trade-off between cost, duration, and performance.

The key is to convince them of all of this without causing offense. Senior roles sometimes come with senior egos, and senior egos don’t like to be told that they need training. Some advice:

  • Unless your sponsors are unusually open minded, don’t suggest that they take training with the team. Senior people don’t usually like to do that, and certainly not in a situation in which what they don’t know might become readily apparent to all the other attendees.
  • Suggest that sponsors attend project management/project sponsorship sessions that are specifically run for senior people/sponsors. All of the project management conferences I’ve attended run special sessions, and even whole tracks, just for the most senior people. When sponsors are in a room with other people whom they see as potential colleagues at the same level, when they’re not concerned about showing what they don’t know, they tend to be a little more open and a little more receptive to advice on effective sponsorship.
  • Ask for their help (this is a really good idea in general, and I’ll come back to it a few times). Most people are flattered to be asked for help, sponsors/senior people included. If you tell them how badly you need their support and understanding and how important it is to you and the project that they get up to speed on the PM stuff they’re going to have to deal with, how critically important the role of sponsor is to the success of the project, and how much you’re looking forward to working with them, you may be able to convince them to spend a little time on up-front sponsor education. And while you’re at it, don’t call it education; tell ‘em that it’s an opportunity to “spend time with other senior people like you.”

You’d be surprised how amenable people can be to your suggestions when you validate their role and seniority and ask for their help.

Select a Sponsor Deliberately

A project sponsor should never, never, never be a figurehead position. As early as possible, make clear the importance and significant contribution required from a project sponsor. Make sure that you include a clear and exhaustive description of the role and responsibilities of the project sponsor in every document you produce, as early as possible. The sponsor’s duties and how much they’re expected to participate must be clear up front. We need to be deliberate and selective about where we need sponsor support—for example, we should specify what we want our sponsor to know about the organizational culture.               

If a potential sponsor isn’t willing or available to put in the time and energy required per the project charter, do we really want them as a sponsor? I can hear you now: “But I don’t get to pick the sponsor, and no one asks what I think about it.” You have two choices: Diplomatically but forcefully point out what is needed in an effective sponsor now, before you start the project, or deal with the implications of having an ineffective or unhelpful sponsor later. I know which one I’d choose.

Insist on Sponsor Accountability… Carefully

How brave are you? Brave enough to ask your sponsor, “Is this project on your performance review?” You should be. Yes, it’s a tough question to ask, but there are tougher implications later, if you don’t. Just how engaged do you think a sponsor will be if your (very important) project doesn’t have an impact on their performance rating?

While you’re working with your team members on their accountability agreements (another very good idea), talk to your sponsor about their accountability agreement, too.

Insist on Sponsor Clarity, Clearly

A project sponsor I worked with last year, who was acutely aware of the political implications of what he was doing, and even more aware of the negative implications of uncertainty and confusion, started us off on the right track by saying:

“OK, now that I’ve heard everyone’s input, I’m going to make a decision, ‘cause that’s my job as project sponsor. The decision is option A. The decision is not option B. Does everyone here understand that I’ve decided on A and not B? Please nod your head to show that you understand.

Let me say this again. Not B, but A. If you were in favor of B, sorry, that’s not how it’s going to be. Let me be clear about this: No work should be done on B, I don’t want to hear about B anymore, the discussion is now closed. All of us are now working on A. Got it? A, not B. Not B, but A.”

My kind of project sponsor!

 “Excerpted with permission from Guerrilla Project Management by Kenneth T. Hanley. © 2011 by Management Concepts, Inc. All rights reserved.”

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Kenneth T. Hanley, M.Eng. (Project Management), is the principal of KTH Program and Project Management, Inc., which specializes in managing large and complex programs and projects; helping its clients organize strategic project portfolios; coaching project managers and executives in effective management practices; and establishing and managing effective program management offices for an international client base. 

Ken also teaches effective leadership, organization, and project management in graduate management and engineering programs at universities throughout North America and is in demand as a speaker at project management conferences around the world.

Ken is the author of Guerrilla Project Management

1 Francis T. Hartman, Don’t Park Your Brain Outside: A Practical Guide to Improving Shareholder Value With Smart Management (Newtown Square, PA: The Project Management Institute, 2000).

Four Tips for Improving People Skills

HR professionals and headhunters classify skills into two categories, hard skills and soft skills.  “Hard” skills are easier to define because they apply to a specific function  – computer programming, database management, driving a truck, piloting a plane, designing a house or office building (architect), building a cabinet (carpenter) or wiring a building (electrician).

Soft skills, on the other hand, embrace all the interpersonal relationships vital to selling a company’s products or services. In the past, many organizations considered hard skills more important than soft ones when considering job candidates.  While an IT or engineering company may initially put more weight on technical skills when evaluating job candidates, they look for candidates who have both. They’re ultimately the most valuable because they have the potential to go the furthest.

People Skills Open Career Doors

The quality of interpersonal or people skills is one of the important reasons rank-and-file employees are promoted to management positions,” according to John Agno, an Ann Arbor, Mich.-based executive coach and career counselor. “As they move up the organizational ladder people skills become even more important. “Executives are promoted for their abilities to ‘bring in the numbers,’ take tough stands and create strategic plans,” says Agno, “But when they bomb, it is usually because of poor or mediocre people skills.”

To improve people skills, Agno offers four tips:

  1. Learn to Conduct Productive Conversations. Comfortable people skills open the door for easygoing conversation, says Agno. Excellent rapport between people is built through conversation. Initially, conversation may be hard to start. That’s why it’s important not to think about the structure of a conversation, “Be open to conversations that you are unprepared for. Focus on the interests of the other person rather than your own. And look for opportunities to ask non-threatening questions.”

    “It may seem awkward at first, but it sets the stage for a respectful exchange,” Agno adds. Good decisions are usually made when the right questions are asked.

    And don’t let anxiety or tension stand in your way.  It’s normal to be nervous when interacting with people for the first time. Most people mistakenly dwell on discomfort, failing to realize that the other person is nervous as well.  So take it as a given and use small talk (the weather, the economy, sports) as a bridge to relaxed and comfortable rapport.

  2. Read Body Language. Successful salespeople have learned how to get a reading on people based upon their facial expressions, gestures, posture and eye contact. Once they read the body signals in others, they can apply it to themselves. A relaxed expression and constant eye contact communicate a sense of self-confidence and poise that relax the person you’re dealing with, making it easier to sell a product or rally support for a position.

  3. Seek Feedback and Criticism. It takes time and hard work to build strong people skills. Learning can only take place if you’re constantly seeking feedback and criticism.  Open yourself up to the notion of lifelong learning and bettering yourself.

  4. Master Listening. Masterful communicators have learned that building a comfortable rapport is finding the divine balance between speaking and listening. Most people are too intent on speaking. They don’t realize that the only way to get a true reading on another person is to listen to what they have to say. It sounds obvious. But listening often involves learning how to be silent and waiting for the other person to express his viewpoint. Silence often opens the door to active, fruitful conversation. In time, you’ll learn to be an empathetic listener.

Empathetic listeners are listening not just to be polite, but because of a genuine desire to understand the person they are speaking with. As soon as honest concern is sensed, the door is opened to sharing information. It’s a simple concept that leads to winning contracts, solving technical and business problems and mediating interpersonal conflicts – even saving lives.

 Don’t forget to leave your comments below

Bob Weinstein is editor-in-chief, Troy Media. Based in New York, Bob has been covering the workplace, consumer electronics, technology, project management, corporate and small business marketplaces for more than 30 years. He can be reached at [email protected].

Princely Support for Project Managers

Getting projects right in tough times gives an organization an immediate advantage. The current economic climate puts every aspect of the organization under the microscope: return on investment, day-to-day operations and staff skills – they all get the spotlight treatment. How you manage your operations becomes more and more important and will determine how you come through the tough times.



Project management, and the ability to balance change with business as usual, is a key differentiator. Your project management ethos shows how you go about your business. An organization with mature project management systems will deliver consistently on time and within budget. Using a tried and tested methodology to deliver projects is the difference between theory and practice. And one project management methodology stands out: PRINCE2.

In the UK and Europe, PRINCE2 is the project management methodology of choice. On the western side of the Atlantic, PMI’s Project Management Professional (PMP) certification is more widespread. However, in global terms there is not much in it. There are around 400,000 qualified PRINCE2 project managers and 385,000 Project Management Professionals (PMPs).

What is not always understood is that PRINCE2 is completely complementary to the PMBOK. The PMBOK is what the project manager (PM) should know – a descriptive body of knowledge. PRINCE2 is the methodology – it is, step by step, what the PM should do; it is prescriptive. More and more managers in the US and Canada are acknowledging that PRINCE2 has a role beside the PMBOK.

In future articles, I’m going to look at this growing phenomenon. I’ll explain what makes PRINCE2 such an essential tool for project managers – how it works and what makes it special. It won’t all be theory – I have real life examples of PRINCE2 at work in Canada and the United States and insight from PMI PMPs who use PRINCE2.

Richard Tucker PMP, PRINCE2, a senior US project manager with experience in the US Federal Government and Fortune 500 companies agrees about the PMI-PRINCE2 fit and adds that PRINCE2 can, in fact, reduce experimentation in the project management equation and ultimately direct a project team to success. “Where PMBOK is the ingredients, PRINCE2 is the recipe. They work together well,” says Richard, who is Director of Client Services at ICOR Partners in Arlington, VA.

From its beginnings in 1989 as the UK Government standard for IT project management, PRINCE2 has rapidly spread its wings and, since it was released as a generic project management method in 1996, its popularity has grown.

PRINCE2 is a structured methodology suitable for the management of all types of projects. It provides organizations with a repeatable methodology and a common language and document set.

In order to describe what a project should do, PRINCE2 has a series of Processes which cover all the activities needed on a project from start to finish and to provide clear, step by step, direction. PRINCE2’s processes are complemented by several Themes, such as Risk and Quality, which provide the building blocks of the project, along with clear Principles which empower the project team to deliver using concepts which have stood the test of time.

In the UK, PRINCE2 has been widely adopted and adapted by both public and private sectors. It is well established in most sectors where it is frequently required by buyers in their RFPs. Elsewhere PRINCE2 is growing strongly with hotspots in Europe, Africa and North America.

In this global village, how often does our business have an international dimension? It’s an ideal time to take advantage of the shrinking world and look at how these two traditions can work together.

My colleague Alvin Gardiner, an award winning PRINCE2 Practitioner, Trainer and Registered Consultant who was on the Scoping and Review Group for the latest refresh of PRINCE2, is just back from doing consultancy in Canada. He sees PRINCE2 and the PMBOK as sitting together comfortably, having much in common, but with gaps in both, as he explains: “PMI talks about methodology but doesn’t actually define a methodology and so PRINCE2 actually gives you the method around which you can hang the characteristics of PMBOK.”

He adds: “A seasoned PMI-trained project manager usually sees PRINCE2 as a useful step forward. It gives them the method that they can then use to help them deliver with the PMBOK approach.”

In particular, two things stand out from the PRINCE2 methodology which can really help PMPs deliver their projects better. The Business Case and Product Based Planning are unique to PRINCE2. And they can be the key to the success of a project. As Alvin says: “If you don’t have a Business Case, you don’t have a project. Product Based Planning gives you a clear understanding of the scope and terminology for your project, so you focus on how you are going to deliver your end product.”

We will come back to these key features in more detail in the future.  Next time, however, we will discuss why – and how – PRINCE2 works for North American project managers.

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Paul Atkin is a leading authority on the PRINCE2 project management methodology. He combines over 20 years of hands-on project management experience with a unique insight from personally training more than 900 PRINCE2 students. This gives him a deep – and intuitive – understanding of PRINCE2. As Founder and Chief Executive of Advantage Learning Paul has harnessed his enthusiasm to gather a talented team of PRINCE2 consultants and trainers who deliver official training on four continents. Paul can be reached on +44 (0) 131 668 2445 or [email protected].