Would you like to make 2018 a successful year for your projects? I’m sure you do.
But what does it take to get there?
I asked people two questions:
What should people managing projects be aware of as we go into 2018 to make 2018 their most successful year ever?
What will you be doing in 2018 to have your most successful year ever?
Some amazing, talented people responded: people whom you may know as experts in their field and others, equally as insightful, who will be new to you. Amongst them I count my virtual mentors and project delivery professionals who inspire me.
The collected wisdom in their answers is incredibly valuable. I’m sure you take away tips and ideas for making this your best year yet managing projects at work.
There is one small thing, though. Many of the authors, trainers and experts I contacted wrote back to me with A LOT of information. Even once I’d edited the contributions, they were still over 9,000 words. I couldn’t fit it all in this blog post.
So I made you an ebook.
You can scroll down and get the highlights, and then read all the advice in the How To Make 2018 A Successful Year for Your Projects ebook.
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It’s a lot to read, so here are some spoilers drawn from common themes I heard time and time again in the interviews:
- Agile – if you don’t know enough about it, you need to start learning.
- Soft skills, interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence – whatever you call it, these are crucial.
- Leadership – ethical, authentic leadership is what helps get work done and set you apart from your peers.
Ready? Let’s jump in. And in no particular order we start with…
High performing teams are motivated by an exceptional vision. Work with your stakeholders to craft a clear and powerful vision for your project or your particular phase of the project. The vision becomes a touchstone for difficult discussions with stakeholders, a path to unity for all project participants and a guide post for decision making with your team throughout the project.
These past few years have seen an incredible evolution in the way software is built. In these next years, we’re going to see a new wave of what software can do with the growing capabilities of machine learning, artificial intelligence and data pipelines across enterprises.
As we go into next year, you should be aware that self-care and wellbeing are trends worth promoting not only because they feel good, but because they lead to better productivity and happier people.
The extension of self-care is caring for others, also crucial for project management and change management. Connecting with people, collaborating, partnering … so you can inspire enthusiasm, overcome resistance, and help make change happen.
My own personal themes are around remaining comfortable with high levels of uncertainty and therefore having much more flexible/looser plans for the business. Going with the flow seems to go against years of traditional project management thinking, but we have found it easier to do by focusing on our bigger purpose and values, all while remaining agile day-to-day so we can adapt quickly. It’s how we can help people and organisations adapt in fast-changing times.
In 2018, it might seem like we could let our increasingly agile, multi-disciplinary, and highly collaborative teams just get on with it. But we can do better. Successful project managers are those that embrace the mantle of leadership.
This starts with a solid understanding of success – remember your stakeholders’ tacit goals too – you’re in the rockstar-making business. Make them look good, and in turn, they’ll make you look good.
Practically that means asking yourself how are you going to make your team’s life better today? A well-documented plan? Proper briefs? Donuts? Be the person that moves mountains for them. And they’ll repay you in kind.
If you understand success, inspire your team, and serve them so they can be the best version of themselves, your 2018 is bound to be a good one.
With the release of the Agile Practice Guide along with the PMBOK® Guide Sixth Edition, we can’t ignore PMI’s direction to incorporate adaptive life cycles such as agile, iterative or incremental life cycles into project and development life cycles.
External factors around projects are constantly changing at a breakneck speed which makes it challenging to definitively control the outcome without frequent course correction.
PMI’s Project Management Professional (PMP)® credential will continue to thrive. It can serve as a baseline, but most project managers ought to layer some sort of agile certification on top of it. Brain Sensei’s Complete PMP® Exam Prep course can be taken anytime and anywhere. Its unique storytelling approaching using a Japanese female samurai makes learning project management and preparing for the PMP exam so much fun!
John A. Estrella, PhD, CMC, PMP, is Co-Founder and President of Agilitek Corporation and Brain Sensei, Inc. John is the co-author of Agile Project Management for Mobile Application Development.
My tip for 2018 is to pick one small detail of your professional practice each quarter. Work hard on it, to refine it to the best you can get. And then pick another for the next quarter. Here are four examples:
- The way you conduct one-on one meetings
- How you negotiate scope with your stakeholders
- The commitment and optimism you show to your team
- How you anticipate setbacks and deviations from plan.
Guess what my tip would be for 2019?
Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 13 best-selling books, including four about project management. He runs the online training site, OnlinePMCourses.com.
Agile project management is on the rise. Learning the different methodologies in Agile (e.g. XP, scrum, lean, etc.) and how to apply it can be extremely beneficial: that’s what I would advise for people wanting to have a year of managing successful projects.
This year, I will be adding additional courses to ExamsPM, and hosting another Project Manager Summit!
Helena Liu, PMP, is a project manager and the founder of ExamsPM, an organization that helps PMP-aspirants get certified.
For a successful 2018 my number one piece of advice is to do the basics well. Communicate thoroughly, be consistent and remember that your role is focused on both getting the work done and supporting the team.
In 2018, I plan to expand my book, Project Management for Creatives, into a full course, and dive more deeply into resources that guide successful implementation of tools, process and systems in the simplest way possible.
I think 2018 is going to bring more focus on business success metrics and less about scope, schedule and budget. I think when we think about how we are delivering our projects, we need to focus on Business Value, Customer Satisfaction, Governance and less about coming in on time and budget.
During 2018 I will be launching an update to my online PMO course, The PMO Lifecycle: Building, Running, and Shutting Down, I have brand new webinars in the works with materials never been shared before all based off of my Project Management Communication Tools book, and my PMO Lifecycle book.
Bill Dow, PMP, is a recognised expert in developing and managing Project Management Offices (PMOs.) He is co-author several comprehensive books, and runs regular webinars which you can find out about on his Facebook page.
We may be planning our exit from the European Union but there’s an important piece of legislation coming into force next year which is likely to survive Brexit. The EU General Data Protection Regulation may not sound very exciting but it is important if you are capturing personal data as part of your project. The new regulation includes some tricky elements in areas such as user consent and the penalties for finding yourself in breach are very substantial.
I am very much looking forward to adding events to our knowledge sharing activities within the Major Projects Community. The lesson I need to remember is that, whilst experimenting is an integral part of innovation, the most successful programmes are those that recognise the ongoing needs of business-as-usual and balance the tried and tested with the new.
Jonathan Norman is the Knowledge Manager for the Major Projects Knowledge Hub in the UK.
I am noticing two trends. First, virtual teams are becoming the norm. Second, the use of lean and agile tools and methodologies beyond IT, software and manufacturing. For example, Cardsmith has customers using Kanban to manage bookkeeping and accounting work.
These two trends taken together mean that visual, collaborative tools are becoming more important to teams. Visual, lean tools that truly engage all team members are going to become essential in 2018.
“Collaboration with context” is my current mantra. The context is the visual board in whatever configuration best suits the particular project and team.
Monica Borrell, PMP, is the CEO and co-founder of Cardsmith, a visual planning, communication, and project management tool.
If we’ve learned anything recently, it’s that our world – politically and socially – is a different place than it was in 2016. And for project managers and scrum masters, what’s critical is that the development emphasis is placed on pulling walls down between people, not putting them up.
The best projects are a result of the person that leads them or the environment they create. This has always been the case but putting time, money and effort into building and developing the emotional capabilities that underpin this, still doesn’t feature highly on most project managers ‘to do’ list.
Project teams thrive when they work for humble people whose values they associate with; who treat them in the right way, stand up for them, manage upwards, make them laugh and inspire them to do great work.
Be the best version of yourself in 2018 and focus on the skills that matter. Not only will you be happier and more productive, but everyone around you will too.
Colin Ellis is an award-winning international project management speaker and trainer. He’s the author of The Conscious Project Leader and The Project Rots from the Head and helps organisations around the world, transform the way they deliver. His online program The EQ Room gives anyone who has to deliver the emotional intelligence skills to get the job done, in the right way.
Agile has been the trendiest thing for a while now and 2017 saw Agile embedded in the project management domain globally. I think the goal for every project manager should be to upgrade their certification to an Agile Project Management Certification or simply ensure that you understand how Agile works, the terminologies and the different frameworks in it.
As collaboration software evolves, project managers will be able to further expand their scope for talent. Highly talented freelancers no longer need to travel into a major metropolis to find work in their industry.
What I think we’ll see in 2018 is that tools will be developed that will allow these freelancers to take their credibility with them across projects, allowing potential employers to judge work and merit based on data and results, not just word of mouth.
I see a future where Project Managers will be able to reference a talent hub to see how freelancers have delivered work in the past as well as view client feedback.
Vasily Klimko is CMO of Cerri.
The best way to make 2018 your most successful year yet is to plan for it! It sounds like such a PM thing to say, but it’s true. As PMs, we so often are focused on other people’s (team members, stakeholders) goals that we often to think of ourselves.
It’s going to be tough for me to top 2017, as my book Project Management for Humans was published and the conference I started, the Digital PM Summit, hit its fifth year! My goal for 2018 is to continue to follow happiness, and what makes me the most happy in my career is meeting and interacting with the many amazing people who make up the global project management community to share perspectives on the topics that mean the most to us.
Brett Harned is a digital project management consultant and project manager, author and conference convenor.
I believe that the fastest and most effective way to make my team the ‘best team’ is for me to be my ‘best self’. People respond instinctively to body language, words, tone and enthusiasm: if my verbal and physical cues indicate that I am uninspired and unmotivated, then why would I expect my team to have ‘pep in their step’ and a passion for what they are doing?
For me, my best self starts by prioritising the routines that bring about my best performance. This means putting my health (physical and mental), fitness and family first, even when everyone else is throwing their own problems in my direction. It’s only when I have this in hand that I can really start to relate to my team on a personal level, find out what makes them tick, and truly lead by example.
To be more successful in the coming year, the most important thing you can do is to learn how to calculate critical path by hand.
Hah! That’s not even remotely true! For most project managers, your success in the new year has less to do with your technical project management skills. Rather, as with most years, your ability to thrive has much more to do with your ability to lead and influence.
Here’s what I wish for you as you start a new year. Dial up your assertiveness, even if just a little. Speak up a little more often. Lean in a little more to the opportunities before you. Try some new things you may have checked out on.
Andy Kaufman, PMP, is an international speaker, author, and executive coach at the Institute for Leadership Excellence & Development Inc. He is also the host of The People and Projects Podcast.
As a project coach, I get many opportunities to ask the question,” What did you learn from most over the last few years?” So far no one has ever answered; “There was this great course…”
Most adult learning comes from relevant experience: challenges faced on a project, interactions with peers, or opportunities which force reflection upon and make sense of our experience.
Creating your personal learning environment is more than just responding to immediate needs in the workplace. It’s a way of life, a way of becoming a modern professional learner to meet today’s ever changing challenges.
One of the most successful learning strategies for me has been the gathering and sharing of stories from project and programme managers. My interest at the moment is planning. It’s such a fundamental part of projects and yet if you ask a project manager how they plan, it varies wildly.
Louise Worsley is a PPPM consultant and a visiting lecturer in project management at The University of Cape Town. She’s also the author of Stakeholder-led project management, Changing the way we manage projects.
2018 will be a year of rapid changes: in markets, in tech, and in companies. And that means major uncertainty that can affect project success.
But the effective project manager has a way to deal with unexpected change and uncertainty. She builds resilience into her team, her approach and her response to unanticipated events.
Resilience means being able to absorb unexpected events and changes while still reaching your goals. The effective project manager can do even more: she can build a team that is so resilient they are antifragile and thrive on change.
Dr. Robin Burk has extensive project, program and executive management experience in rapidly changing tech markets. She is the managing director of Analytic Decisions2 LLC and author of Check Your Connections: How to Thrive in an Uncertain World.
Project managers should pay specific attention to their team’s composition in 2018. Not only in skills, but also in experience and emotional intelligence. Learn what makes the people on your team “tick”. Obviously sometimes the job just has to get done, but working together and knowing your team will help you as a project manager align your resources appropriately.
If you want next year to be your most successful year, you should focus on decreasing the amount of conversations through chat, Skype or Slack that do nothing but interrupt the concentration of your engineers and designers.
They need an average of 3 to 4 hours of focused work to be able to generate their best work! You must be the one who defends them from interruptions that may arise.
I implemented this strategy over the last six months and I have seen the productivity of my team increase by 23.7% (yes, AMAZING!).
To have a successful year, you should be aware of how your projects align to your organisation’s strategic plan! If you can sufficiently map your project back to strategic goals and objectives, communicate the value that your projects would add to those goals and objectives, and both measure and report to leadership on your progress, then you will do well in 2018.
I will be focusing on relationship building, pushing myself to deliberately take time to connect more with the key players across my organisation, and I believe my projects will benefit as a result.
Scott Perry, PMP, is a project manager based in North Carolina, USA. He’s also a baseball fan and runs the site CatchersHome.com.
The new version of A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Sixth Edition is out and as promised, Agile is featured prominently. While not every project manager needs to be a part-time scrum master, project managers would do well to learn a bit about Agile and think about how they can apply these concepts to their own work.
Agile isn’t just for software projects, the idea of an iterative approach with rapid customer feedback and process adaptability can apply to how project managers work on a day to day basis.
Sarah Meerschaert, PMP, is a project manager working in Hamilton, NJ, USA, in the billing and payment industry.
Project managers should be aware of how important soft skills are to ensure a successful career. Often times PMs get caught up in the Agile vs Waterfall debate, or is the schedule perfect, or are all the words spelled correctly in a requirements document.
All of those are important, but not as much as learning to be an effective communicator, team builder, negotiator, and motivator. To make next year a successful year I’d recommend project managers focus on these soft skills to become better leaders.
Joe Pusz is President of The PMO Squad, a project management consulting firm. He has 20+ years as a project manager and PMO leader. Find out more or participate in his Veterans mentoring scheme on the website.
Agile practices are increasing in popularity. Even if your team isn’t adopting full Agile methodology, there are beneficial Agile practices teams can use. The retrospective is an easy one to use to help the team continuously improve. Do this by getting team feedback at various stages on what the team could do better. You can then incorporate any suggested
improvements during the project rather than waiting for the information from a “lessons learned” activity at the very end.
Leigh Espy, PMP, SPC, CSM, is an experienced IT project manager and coach. She also writes the blog Project Bliss and is author of Bad Meetings Happen to Good People: How to Run Meetings That Are Effective, Focused, and Produce Results.
I’m positively surprised that more and more project managers are waking up to the fact that projects aren’t just about tasks and schedules, but also very much about people. But we still have a long way to go.
Everybody would like to be part of a high performing team, but too few people put in the effort to create one. I would encourage all project managers to be more present when they interact with others and to be more mindful when they form a new project team. They should find out what motivates people on the team, engage them in the definition and planning stages and take the time to create a team charter. Make a conscious effort to pay people the attention they deserve next year.
Susanne Madsen is an internationally recognised project leadership coach, trainer and consultant. She is the author of The Power of Project Leadership and The Project Management Coaching Workbook. Find her on Twitter.
2018 will be a year for ethical and authentic leadership for project managers. Recent events in both the United States and the world have shown that scandals and sensationalism doesn’t work.
Emotional intelligence and understanding the needs of team members will be important to keep top quality team members on board.
This year my second book is scheduled to come out The Consummate Communicator: Five Traits of True Professionals. The five traits of true professionals are great principles for project managers. Spoiler alert: One is “civility” which is really a trait that is missing in contemporary business in today’s world.
I’d like to see PMs across industry sectors and geographies balancing their technical skills set with the behavioural and social skills set. There’s an increasing awareness of the impact and importance of behavioural sciences as part of the design, planning and delivery of projects, programmes, portfolios and change.
I’ve seen the way projects flounder because the project manager hasn’t seen the bigger picture, or recognised when they themselves were the target of politics or power plays; I’ve equally seen how successful project managers steer their way through organisations. I am particularly passionate about the need for project managers to comfortably influence without authority, moving easily around the organization between the C-suite and operational levels as well as across client and supplier organisations. This is a skill and part of the toolkit which every project professional needs in order to be that much more effective.
Project management used to be about DOING. In today’s global economy, resources have more options when it comes to employment. These resources want to work for people who are more than task masters. So, then the shift was on to LEADERSHIP.
Before someone can become a good leader, they must be a good SELF-LEADER. This is more about BEING than DOING. You see, you can’t BE a project manager. You can only be a human being who manages projects. The role you play is not the same as the person you are. You can always BE even if you don’t always DO the role.
Traci Duez is a leadership development specialist, author, speaker and the founder of Break Free Consulting. She has over 20 years of experience spanning medical technologist to project manager and executive consultant.
Next year why not make sure you step outside of your comfort zone and do something that scares you every month? If you are scared then it means you are testing yourself.
You gain new skills and knowledge that will help you to excel in both your professional and personal life. I’ve been doing this for years and I never fail to be surprised at what I learn.
Over the next 12 months I am going to ensure I focus on making more time to have continue my hobbies and have fun with my family. Life should not be all about work and recently I think I’ve let my dial slip a little too much the wrong way. This isn’t a terrible thing, but it is vital we relax outside of work so we can return on Monday revitalised for the week ahead.
If we do this then we can maximise the quality of our outputs both in work and at home with a smile on our face!
Jonathan Clay, PMP, MSP, is the current President of PMI UK Chapter and a project manager in the financial services industry.
Linky van der Merwe
For years, the emphasis at different training institutions has been on developing the technical project management skills with ad hoc leadership and some other soft skills training in between. However, research has shown that the development of a combined skill set with cognisance of a person’s business management experience is the best approach to improve our chances of success on projects.
Therefore, self-development should be high on the agenda for project managers who want to make next year their most successful year ever. And beyond that, never stop learning.
As professional project managers we need to be proficient with both traditional and Agile approaches and even be able to blend the approaches depending on what’s required by the projects we’re working on.
Executives are starting to realize that process is only one small component of success and that executing to a strategy takes more. At the core of this challenge are projects. Nothing gets completed in an organisation without a project getting it done. Now is the ideal time to understand how to transform strategy into successful projects and map out an educational plan to get you there. It will take years for companies to do the transformation. What an exhilarating time, though, to be at the genesis of a global business transformation that includes your career.
I am thrilled to see executives recognising the project management profession as a leadership role that is crucial for business success. I have been pushing this concept for over a decade. Businesses are finally moving that direction. I will be pushing this harder than ever this coming year. Organisations and each of us have so much to learn in this area.
Todd C. Williams, PMP, is the author of Filling Execution Gaps and Rescue the Problem Project. He is an executive consultant with three decades of experience helping organizations connect strategy to successful projects. Find him on Twitter and Facebook.
For nearly ten years, I have been helping thirty-something professionals to find jobs they love. But I continue to be surprised that super-smart individuals are still applying for advertised jobs, polishing their CVs and fretting over the perfect cover letter.
The truth is that most cover letters are discarded before your application hits the automated buzzword scanner. People hire people they like, based on personal qualities not a checklist. If someone likes you, they will find all sorts of reasons to confirm that you a good fit for their organisation. They’ll even ignore skill and experience shortfalls because “smart people learn quickly”. It’s what psychologist call conformation bias.
But you can only be liked by getting out from behind the keyboard and meeting people who can help you. Ask to meet to meet for a coffee, to get their advice about how you might find a role in an organisation “like theirs”. And when you do meet, that genuine admiration will show through in your micro-body language and your curiosity. And those are the two most powerful ways of being liked and being on your way to a job you love.
Gary Lloyd has been leading IT enabled change for over 20 years, in banking and financial markets. He is also on the executive coaching panel for Warwick Business School, a steering committee member of the School’s mentoring programme and owner of The Find A Job You Love Blueprint.
Phew! What an amazing range of perspectives! (And thank you, for making it to the end!)
Are you ready for more in-depth analysis of what you can do – and what our experts are doing – to make 2018 the best year yet for a successful career? Download the ebook now!
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