Category: Collaboration

What skills do PMs need to lead complex projects?

Posted by Elizabeth Harrin

According to PMI’s Navigating Complexity: A Practice Guide, there are 6 skills that project managers should develop in order to excel at managing complex projects. Let’s take a look at what they are and how you can get them.


Complex projects benefit from a project manager who has domain knowledge. Subject matter expertise can really help as it’s based on real-life, practical experience of this industry sector or discipline.

How do I get it? Expertise is gained over a long period of time. It relies on carrying forward the learning from one project to another and working in a domain for a while. You can speed up the process by getting a mentor, reading and researching lessons learned from other domain experts and working on several projects concurrently. But really, expertise comes with time. Read more »

Project Management and the Temporary Engineer

Posted by Rachel Matthews

A ‘temp’ is a temporary employee, often hired for a time-sensitive project. In general, most temps are acquired through a staffing agency.
It’s crucial to choose the right temps for your project. As the project manager, it’s up to you to complete the assignment to the bosses’ standards, but this can’t be done if the engineers you hired aren’t competent. The solution is hiring people you can count on, and the following is advice to help ensure that your next temp is hard-working, reliable, and fully competent to perform the task.

Choose a Reputable Staffing Agency

If you’re finding your temporary employees on websites, such as LinkedIn and Craigslist, you’re basing your decision on the word of the potential temp. How do you know Susie Q is really a COE (College of Engineering) graduate? How do you verify that she’s telling the truth about her education and experience? Unfortunately, even employers can be catfished. To avoid this pitfall, hire a staffing agency.

A reputable staffing agency is going to fully vet their candidates, ensuring your temp is fully qualified for your project. The staffing agency will verify the temp’s references, education, background, and employment history. They may perform screenings and background checks, saving you the headache of performing these tasks yourself.

The Right Temp for the Job

If your project is very specific, you’ll want to choose a staffing agency that’s also specific. For example, engineering placement agencies specialize in staffing a range of fully qualified engineers. These temps will understand the various mechanics involved in development, computing, and testing. Some will specialize in robotics, while others will be trained in computer design. Because the agency specializes in engineers, you’ll have a larger pool of engineers to choose from. Thus, you’ll guarantee yourself a temp that’s fully qualified to work on your project.

“Your business can realize service excellence delivered at its highest level of performance: through a fully scalable range of engineering workforce solutions, led by a tenured staff for more efficient, consistent outcomes,” writes Kelly services, on a page that details their engineering workforce solutions.

Choose a Team Player

It never hurts to select candidates based on their team experience. Ask potential candidates, “Have you ever worked on a team before?” If her answer is yes, ask her to detail the experience to you. If the engineer hasn’t worked on a team before, it’s up to you whether or not to give her the job. (If her attitude is positive, and you believe she’ll be an asset, give her a shot. Alternatively, if she has a negative attitude, it’s probably not a good idea to work with her.)

Non-Disclosure Agreements

Some people don’t have great ethics. If your project involves new ideas (ideas which can be stolen), you may want to ask any temporary employees to sign a non-disclosure agreement. This agreement is going to protect your project, and any subsequent ideas. You don’t want your temp to steal your hard work.

A non-disclosure agreement protects trade secrets. It’s a contract that forbids parties to share (disclose) confidential information. If your temp spills the beans on any new ideas you’re fleshing out, you’ll be able to sue her in court.

From Temp to Permanent

If you find a temp engineer you like working with, don’t be afraid to request that worker for your future projects. Keep in mind that she may not consistently be available, especially if she’s in demand. The only way to guarantee her availability is to offer her a permanent position in your company.

Rachel Matthews is a freelance writer with a background in business who’s been relying on her entrepreneurial skill set since she was in high school.  She enjoys writing about anything from health and beauty to current political news.”

6 Ways To Personalise Your Mind Maps

Posted by Elizabeth Harrin

Whether you are experienced at mind mapping or just starting out; whether you use them occasionally for project meetings or for a range of diagramming needs, you can personalise your mind maps to get them looking just right. Here are some of the features you can use to make your mind maps really stand out.

1. Use colours

Colour can add meaning. Red symbolises things that might be a problem. Green symbolises features that you definitely want to include. Blue represents features that have already been delivered… you get the picture. You can create a ‘colour index’ for your project so that everyone understands the options and can ‘read’ the colours at a glance.

iMindQ lets you change the colour of the whole map in a graduated format, with level one topics showing as darker on the map with subsequent levels getting lighter in colour. You can also change the background pattern and the colours of lines and boundaries so you can make it look exactly how you want. Try not to add in too many colours; it’s normally better to stick to one or two and use variations on a theme instead of adding in every colour that you possibly can. Read more »

5 Reasons to use mind mapping software

Posted by Elizabeth Harrin

I don’t use mind mapping software often because I nearly always have a notebook and pen with me and prefer to take notes that way. I also ‘think in lists’ rather than visually so mind mapping isn’t a natural structure for me to use. I have sat next to people at conferences who have mind mapped a presentation instead of taking linear notes like me and it is fascinating to watch.

However, recently I’ve been looking into it more. I have less time available (doesn’t everyone?) and it is more convenient to take notes directly into a software tool so I don’t have to retype them when I get back to the office or out of the meeting. And running workshops really does need some kind of mind mapping tool when you are trying to generate ideas from the people in the room. So I’ve been considering why I would use the modern type of mind mapping product and come up with these 5 reasons. Read more »

5 Easy Ways to Collaborate

Posted by Elizabeth Harrin

If you’ve been working as a project manager for some time, you’ll probably remember the days when all your project team sat together in the same office. In fact, you may still have that, especially if you work in an Agile environment. There are certainly plenty of benefits of having your team around you.

But for many project managers, that isn’t the reality any more. Project teams are increasingly split and project managers have to manage their resources from wherever they are in the world. Add to that an increase in people with flexible working options, the requirement to work from home or from the road and you’ll realise that it’s essential for project managers to be able to collaborate effectively with their team mates, regardless of location or time zone. So how do you do that? Here are 5 easy ways to collaborate with your colleagues.

1. Share your files online

Online document storage has to be the easiest way to get everyone using the same files and to avoid miscommunication. Don’t waste time looking for the latest copy of the project plan or hunting through emails for the most recent version. Store everything online and then the whole team will be able to see the latest revision of your plan.

With everyone being able to see and work on the latest version you’ll save time and stop some of the general queries that project managers have to deal with every day. A tool like Seavus Project Viewer, which enables cloud-based online document sharing, will help with this.

Read more »