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Project management success

  • Like most professions in the post-pandemic world, project management has undergone yet another conceptual transformation while also redefining how the projects of the future will be managed with the release of the 2022 PMI Talent Triangle.

    Keeping up with these new trends will be crucial for a project manager’s success while also sounding a warning bell for companies who wish to attract top talent to manage their increasingly complex projects in a hyper-competitive landscape.

    What’s New: The 2022 PMI Talent Triangle

    Project management concept

    Let’s face it: managing projects has never been an easy task and many of us have oftentimes felt frustrated with the limited roles yet high levels of responsibilities placed on project managers. The American comedian, Rodney Dangerfield, so eloquently coined the expression, “I can’t get no respect!” and I am quite sure that many PMs can identify very well with this statement in our misunderstood profession.

    Since the advent of the project management profession in the late 1960s, the general expectation has been that project managers are everything to everyone on a project, even though the role was often considered a purely operational one (basically managing the “schedule”), with the relevant activities starting once the project award was received from the customer.

    Despite this limited official level of official responsibility, the very success of the project always rested on the PM’s shoulders, hence a significant source of frustration and misalignment.

    In May 2022, the Project Management Institute (PMI) finally confirmed what many of us had been preaching since the late 1990s in their release of the updated PMI Talent Triangle:

    Project Managers are, in fact, business owners who need to adapt ways of working and strong business acumen to manage their projects in our increasingly complex, changing world.

    This is definitely a game-changing initiative, but also a much-needed one to set companies up for better success on their customer-facing and also internal projects. It also now forces PMs to develop crisper, more well-rounded skills to be able to achieve these lofty aspirations.

    PMI Talent Triangle Update | PMI

    Applying The 2022 PMI Talent Triangle: Ways Of Working

    Project manager attends a team meeting

    The previous traditional and agile schools of thought have now evolved into a very extensive toolbox that allows PMs more flexibility when managing their projects.

    It also now creates the expectation that project managers must “master as many ways of working as they can—so they can apply the right technique at the right time, delivering winning results.”

    This is both exciting and challenging to apply in larger companies that must possess (or develop) a greater degree of organizational ambidexterity to survive in the long term.

    Among these new tools are design thinking, transformation, data modeling, and performance management, just to name a few. These tools complement the PMBoK (Project Management Body of Knowledge) and now offer an incredibly diverse array of techniques that PMs can use to manage their projects.

    Too many choices? Information overload?

    So how can PMs determine the best working method for each project when there is so little time between the commercial phase and project award? For me, this is one of the primary reasons that project managers MUST be engaged even prior to the bid preparation so as to analyze the full scope and strategic importance of each project.

    In this way, the work breakdown structure, or WBS (i.e., the nucleus of the project), can be customized to cover only what needs to be bid and executed. This also allows for better identification and alignment of organizational assets to be used on the project.

    This is why strategic meetings with the key decision-makers and stakeholders must be held as early as possible, even at the prospect identification phase. The adept PM will develop a questionnaire to steer the conversation and arrive at the “best way” to structure both the commercial proposal and execution plan.

    Applying The 2022 PMI Talent Triangle: Power Skills

    Project management concept

    As I have mentioned in previous articles, communication is THE most important skill for a project manager and this new pillar emphasizes an increasingly collaborative approach to leadership, to foster innovation, empathy, and ownership.

    In this way, The PM empowers their team with the aim of more effective stakeholder management, now at all levels of the project, to drive change and meet project goals.

    By using techniques such as neuroscience, business psychology, emotional intelligence, and brainstorming sessions, PMs of the future will be able to develop a more empathetic, humanistic approach to understanding the challenges of managing their projects as well as the needs of the ever-wider range of stakeholders to be managed.

    Let’s not forget that projects are still managed by people, so understanding the human psyche, cultural differences, intergenerational preferences, and historical perspectives are major inputs that affect team performance.

    We also cannot ignore global trends such as diversity and inclusion, climate change, and other geopolitical events which shape our behaviors, policies, and actions. They also challenge the PM to be an extremely adaptable, active listener.

    These techniques should be on every PM’s mind while conducting meetings, planning work, and interfacing with stakeholders. I find this to be very powerful in fostering creative, innovative approaches to solving problems, one of the project manager’s main functions.

    As an example, I promote a cultural minute at the onset of select meetings to give team members an opportunity to share specific topics of interest. These can then be woven into the main topic of the meeting, or even specific parts of the project to enhance team engagement.

    Finally, I believe this increased interpersonal skillset is quite effective in driving coaching, mentoring, and training across the project management spectrum for we all know the current challenges of retaining and attracting top talent!

    Applying The 2022 PMI Talent Triangle: Business Acumen

    Project management software on a laptop

    From a purely operational focus to a new business owner mentality, PMs now need to understand the “macro and micro influences in their organization and industry and have the function-specific or domain-specific knowledge to make good decisions.”

    I particularly love this pillar of the new PMI Talent Triangle because it really elevates the standing of the PM within an organization, while challenging the functional managers to up their games to support the key projects and initiatives of the company.

    It does challenge the PM to now do their homework so that they really understand:

    • The business context of the project (organizational goals, strategy)
    • The key market drivers (regulatory, currency, geopolitical)
    • The competitive landscape (important during execution as well)
    • What success looks like (sustainability, corporate image)
    • Potential gaps to execute the work (CAPEX, OPEX, skills)

    Instead of only being involved after project award, this now means early involvement of the PM during the commercial, pre-award phases of the project in order to develop better relationships with customers (and other key stakeholders), while evaluating project requirements to ensure that the project team will be able to actually execute what is being promised.

    The value that a project manager brings to an organization can truly be leveraged as organizations are now seeing just how much influence a PM has throughout the project.

    For example, during the execution of a project, the adept PM who applies business development or customer service techniques can gauge not only the level of customer satisfaction at any given point in time (rather than only at the end) but can also find out about competitors’ performance, opportunities to upsell by becoming aware of new project scope, other customer projects, as well as a whole host of opportunities that could arise, including innovation to respond to future trends/needs.

    It also better prepares the PM during management of change (MOC) or variation order negotiations as they will have a much clearer understanding of how the original scope of the project was negotiated, thus providing important insight as to customer psychology, main decision-makers, etc. This then leads to a more consistent customer experience not to mention more sales!


    I for one am extremely motivated by the release of the 2022 PMI Talent Triangle as I feel like it has finally given project managers validation in our mission to show just how much value we bring to an organization. It also keeps us relevant by responding to megatrends while providing us with a very complete toolbox to adapt our project management techniques so that we do not overkill or underkill our projects. It does challenge us to redefine what it means to be a project manager while also giving us that ever-so-important seat at the executive table.

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  • I have spent many man-years serving as a project manager both formally and informally. I confess—I do not like project management. Project managers often have all responsibility with minimal authority. PMs are the face of problems to the customer and take many hits for actions outside of their control. PMs often do the “dirty work” in the project while others receive the glory. However, being a PM is necessary for organizational success.

    I may not like it; however, I respect being a PM. PM actions are necessary and difficult. These activities can be rewarding if executed well. PMs must be able to respond quickly, and these ideas are some of the lessons I learned the hard way.

    What Is Being A PM Anyway?

    Project management/manager concept

    Being a project manager, you are the coordination between many factions all working together to accomplish a larger task. You are the glue to hold projects together, and you are the central node to the spider web network among the team members.

    Project managers absorb information from all the stakeholders and consolidate these inputs into a unified plan of action. This plan defines the course for completing the project. Schedules, action item lists, documentation, and meetings originate with the PM for dissemination. PMs should be the first to know about problems, and they often work to mitigate risks to the overall project.

    How Do You Be A Good PM?

    Project manager talks during a work meeting

    Being a good PM takes some effort. You cannot passively manage a project and expect positive results. You need to act.

    My recommendations have developed over years of experience. I have made mistakes, and I have learned to incorporate strategies to avoid my previous transgressions. Although I am not saying these are the “be all/end all” list of actions, I think these strategies can plant the seeds for your own activities.

    Communicate, Communicate, And When You Think You Are Done, Communicate More

    Project manager communicates with her stakeholders

    Regardless of the size of the team or the complexity of a project, I believe you cannot over-communicate. The team must be aware of the project status and decisions made to ensure success.

    Shying away from problems without sharing them with the team is a common mistake. PMs must communicate the good, the bad, and the very ugly. Failure to share these details drives mistrust. Rumors begin, and stories unfold. Communicating the truth builds trust and unity among stakeholders.

    Frequency is a balance, and PMs do not want to burden the team (or themselves) with unnecessary details. Too little, people on the team are left to their own devices; too much, the PM may appear to be crying wolf. Experience will be a guide, and a common approach is a minimum of once a week connecting with each stakeholder or group. When in doubt, err on communicating more than necessary ensuring you have delivered your message.

    Keep Charts, Reports, Minutes, And Updates Simple… Complexity Breeds Confusion

    Project manager organizes information using project management tools for his stakeholders

    Everyone talks about MS Project®, Primavera®, or any myriad of tools to manage a project. When required, use them—simply. When not required, use the most effective tool possible, even Excel®.

    With the volume of emails everyone receives in a professional setting, the challenge is reading and digesting volumes of information every day. The more complex your message as a PM, the less likely the stakeholders will comprehend it. Simple charts, tables, and bullets summarize ideas and use subsequent details to reinforce the message.

    The more complicated PMs make the process, the more unmanageable the project may become. Even the most complex multi-year project can be simplified. Work to make your updates as clear as possible. Your audience will appreciate the brevity.

    “RAIL” Lists Can Be Your Best Ally…

    I learned to use a very simple “running item action list (RAIL)” for capturing information. Utilizing this tool in meetings keeps things very simple and easy to communicate. I have included a typical format above.

    Sequentially add action items to the list by date. Describe the task to complete briefly. Add due date and responsibility. Status percentage updates each time you discuss an item and only 100% when completely closed. Notes is an open field to capture information each time an item is discussed.

    By capturing these action items, PMs have a record of questions, concerns, and details discussed throughout the project. Sharing the file with the team during review meetings or as an attachment within messages keeps people informed. Open items are easily searched, and completed items are for reference.

    Each time the file is modified, the PM can save a copy by date/revision and maintain a working record of all discussions throughout a project. In the event of a discrepancy, cross-reference older files as an item of record.

    Communicating “Bad” News Or Problems

    Project manager communicates with a stakeholder

    Every project will face issues to address. In our current world, supply chain delays are prevalent in nearly every industry. Design setbacks and failed tests can delay a project unmeasurably. You will have problems—trust me!

    So what do you do? Keep it to yourself and deal with it? Limit the discussion to a small team? What and how do you tell the customer?

    In my experience, you first identify the problem and discuss it within the internal team. What went wrong? How did this happen? Identify some alternative solutions and measure feasibility.

    Before having 100% of the answers, I engage my customer. I explain the situation, and I define some of the alternatives listing potential solutions. I gauge the impact on the project timing. Then, I ask for their suggestions.

    Involve your customer in problems. Many customers appreciate the candor and the opportunity to participate in the process. They may not be happy; however, they have a stake in the solution. I have discovered my customers often have ideas we had not considered when presented with the issue.

    My biggest takeaway is NEVER hide anything. Yes, you will make people angry. Yes, stakeholders will be disappointed. Yes, you may get in trouble. Deceiving the team that “everything is all right” to find out later you were covering up only creates distrust and fear. Be honest and sincere, and you will see improved results when dealing with problems.

    Final Advice

    Happy business people during a project management meeting

    Project management is often a thankless, difficult job. Everyone has managed a project at one time—whether professionally or simply around the house. PM work is challenging.

    You can plan now on how to make the project run efficiently. You can prepare your communication methods defining them with the team. You can develop your templates to keep communication simple. You can agree with stakeholders on how problems are presented to the team.

    With some planning, PMs can create simple strategies to make the process flow well. Knowing how to manage the project’s intangibles will allow you to focus on where to add value.

    Finally… execute! The stakeholder is looking to you to succeed. Show them you can deliver, and make your project a success! Good luck, and know that I appreciate your efforts because I walk in your shoes.

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