New Year, New Job? What’s Your Plan for Success?

If you are like me, your new year coincided with a new job, CONGRATULATIONS!

If again you are like me, you have probably hit the ground running. That’s the natural response. No doubt, there are many of things on your plate—some of which your boss wants done ‘yesterday’.  So I understand your situation, but I want to encourage you to take moment to consider the following question:  “What’s your plan for success?”  Whether you are in a new job or not, taking the time to answer this question can improve your professional success, as well as the success rates of your projects.  And what better time to do a plan than at the start of a new year?

As you consider your plan for success, here are seven things to think about:

1.  What’s the culture of your organization? Even if you are in the same job as last year, the culture may have changed based on new management or direction. Knowing what’s important and highly valued in your organization gives you information you can use when you are making decisions, working with partners or team members, resolving problems, and presenting to upper management.  There are many factors that drive internal variations in the culture of business functions (e.g. finance vs. marketing) and units (e.g. a fast-moving consumer products division vs. a pharmaceuticals division of a diversified firm).  One of my favorite books related to leadership and culture is written by Edgar Schein, Organizational Leadership and Culture.

2.  Which resources and tools does everyone use? You may not have strong SharePoint skills, for example, but if that is how your organization collaborates and shares information, you’d better learn quickly or you will be left out.  Figure out if there is a process or tool that is the key to your new position and make sure you become an expert at it!  This may mean asking for documentation (good luck), job aids, books or finding training to acquire the skills and knowledge you need.

3.  How does the organization communicate? Is there open, honest communication, or do people hoard tips, project status, and critical information?  If it’s the latter, you’ll have to prove yourself and build your network quickly to be able to get what you will need to succeed?  Become an effective communicator in your new role and it really takes practice, practice, practice.

4.  How are people resources selected for, and managed on projects?  Are there a few key people who seem to be on every project, overused and overworked and in short supply?  If so, why? Is the organization thin in the project resources you’ll need to succeed? Is outsourcing a possibility if hiring is not?  Is there a resource management or resume database you can review to get a feel for skill gaps that will affect your projects?  Or even better, are there resources in the organization that everyone has put into the “wrong” jobs and just need your “management” to motivate them into a better role in order to succeed?

5.  Which projects are key?  If your organization has many projects ongoing, and you’ve been tasked to manage more than one of them, how can you quickly figure out which projects are important, and where to focus your attention? Perhaps there is a project portfolio that ranks the projects and indicates the business strategies each of them supports. If not, schedule a meeting as soon as possible to understand which projects are most critical to your management.  Be sure to learn any tips from peers or books on how to avoid the pitfalls that may have already been done.

6.  Get to know and understand your new boss.  I wrote a post in 2009 about Surviving a New Boss, and many readers have told me this is a key for success in a new role.  Be sure you plan out your strategy and plans for

7.  Don’t neglect your own development.  The New Year is always a good time to reflect on the success you want to achieve within this job, and as you plan for your future growth.  I recently read a good little book Breaking Tape: 7 Steps to Winning at Work and Life. It’s a practical seven-step guide to help you define and achieve success to make the positive changes you desire.

I hope these suggestions help you get started on the right foot this year, whether you’re in a new job, or not. Do you have other tips you can share?

Integrity and the Project Manager

“If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.”Mark Twain

I recently came across a post on leadership and integrity by Michal Ray Hopkin, who reminds readers that integrity is one of the top attributes of a great leader. Integrity is the trait of truthfulness, reliability, and uprightness. It is the act of living up to one’s word and delivering on promises made.  It is often demonstrated when people do the right thing for the right reason, regardless of consequence.

Every project manager is a leader in your organization, whether the teams they lead have 5 people or 50 people on them.  Your project managers are representing your organization, as well as the project, to your clients.  So I think it’s useful to ask what integrity means in the project management world?

I recognize that PMI and its PMP certification, now includes ethics in its certification materials. While that is a great thing, I contend that ethics and integrity are very hard to learn or teach.  So while a PMP won’t guarantee that your PM has good integrity, the behaviors he or she demonstrates and the benefits that are associated with integrity can be observed. Here are some of the behaviors I look for when I am seeking integrity:

  1. A PM who tells the truth using simple language, without distorting facts or manipulating people.
  2. A PM who doesn’t try to hide information; in fact, he or she sets up tools and reports that enable him or her to create project transparency—status, schedule, running rate, etc.—without being forced to do so.
  3. A PM who keeps his or her commitments and delivers the results promised; a PM with a track record for delivering results over a number of projects.
  4. A PM who is accountable for the project status and results, who takes responsibility for the end results without pointing fingers at others.  A PM who has this trait is also likely to hold his or her individual team members accountable for results.
  5. A PM who confronts tough issues directly and can discuss the issues honestly, even when people don’t like the answer.

SO….Think integrity is just a soft skill? Think again!  Once you find a project manager with integrity, hang onto them and support them.  Doing so will bring measurable benefits to your organization.  For example, project managers with integrity help your organization build client trust. Clients will quickly discover whether or not the project manager is representing project reality and sharing accurate information, even when it means that tough issues must be addressed.  Another important benefit of having project managers with integrity is the retention and stability of good team members.  People will stay on tough teams when they know that the project manager’s integrity will not be shaken when tough decision need to be made or when something goes wrong. This is especially important on complex projects with significant risk, where it is even more critical to keep the team stable.

(for those of you who are not Project Managers, but manage people, I would suggest that the same or similar behaviors are what you should be aiming for)

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