A Peek into my Project Management Toolbox

by Diane Brady, CSM, PMP, PMI-ACP

In my years as an IT system integrator and process change agent I have seen many individual project management professionals go a bit over the top on the PMBOK framework, and then there are others that have curled my hair with their “let’s just go with the flow” approach.  The area in-between these two points is vast, and the right method is very dependent on the situation and is usually not found on either extreme.  As project managers we need to understand many methods, why they work, when to use them, and when not. 

In my career I have had two very distinct ah-ha light bulb moments that have changed my approach to project management significantly.   The first was when I first received Agile Scrum training from Ken Schwaber.  I had been working in the Microsoft ERP space for many years, guiding clients in their implementation of accounting and enterprise software.  It was always challenging to get the customer engaged and collaborating with you throughout the process: we were making major changes in the way they would do their work, customizing the systems to fit their processes and then after months of work to tailor the system, at delivery they were not happy.   After two intense days of training with Ken in Scrum, I realized I needed to find a way to incorporate what I learned into a non-agile environment so that both I and my clients could reap the benefits.   It took me years to do this, using time boxes for work, team stand-ups, and demonstration cycles, all without using the “A” word… (agile… shhh!).  We used full Scrum for back-end customization work, and intersected it with our client-facing non-Agile work.  No one knew the difference. My success motivated me to perfect the approach over time. 

The second ah-ha for me was a deep dive into lean and continuous improvement.  I worked through a lot of process change to improve systems and I wanted to add more tools to my toolbox.  Over a period of several years I had studied continuous improvement and I wanted to find a way to incorporate this into my project management style.  I began a course on lean thinking that once again gave me great insight as to how I could I help my clients make process decisions and improve their systems.  I simply incorporated basic value stream mapping, whole system thinking and visualization techniques to walk them through the process.   I became their change agent, guiding them from As-Is to As-Built. There was something about brainstorming around a whiteboard, mapping out changes to reduce waste and be more efficient that seemed to get them jazzed and championing the process – it felt like magic.   Again, all of this without ever using the “A” word!   Many of these techniques are now becoming mainstream because they are so effective. 

No one was happier than I when PMI launched the PMI-ACP (Agile Certified Practitioner) certification.  Here we begin to see how all these tools come together with traditional project management to give us a complete toolbox for any situation.   This course is now offered once or twice a year by the PMI Portland Chapter and I am privileged to be a part of this.   I continually learn new ways to use this information from class participants. 

Another very exciting offering by the Chapter is the two back-to-back upcoming Lean workshops.  These are the same two courses that I learned so much from and that changed my approach to systems implementation and ongoing sustainability. This will be offered to our members at a great price point in May. The Chapter has been waiting for this level of high-quality Lean training, and I couldn’t be happier to see this come to Portland. I hope you will take the challenge and register for these two great opportunities to learn more about Lean Thinking and Lean Leadership.

Our world of project management is changing, and while parts remain the same, having the knowledge to incorporate different techniques and methods gives us an edge in our ever changing, complex world. 

And being part of a community of like-minded professionals is another great way to get that edge! I really hope you'll let us know how the Chapter can serve you better… and then come grow with us! You can get more info and sign up on our website (http://www.pmi-portland.org/).

About the Author

Diane Brady, CSM, PMP, PMI-ACP, is Past President of PMI Portland Chapter and Acting Director of ACP Certification

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