Dr. Jimmie Flores

Month: September 2013

The Interview to Select a Key Project Team Member


Managing projects is far from easy, but yet project managers are expected to deliver on time, within budget, and to the customer’s requirements. Project success is even more difficult today because of the uncertainty and complexity caused by technology and globalization.

Project managers must be prepared to meet today’s challenges, and this means possessing strong management and leadership skills. For example, organizational skills alone are insufficient to meeting project objectives.

The Interview

When given the opportunity, the project manager must select individuals who will commit their time and attention to the project. The interview process is critical and must be given adequate attention by the project manager.

PM: Bob, can you tell me more about your project work experience?

 BOB: Yes … sure. I began working on projects about six years ago while at ARP Technologies. We built web portals that managed the supply chain process used by shipping companies.

PM: What type of work did you do on the projects?

BOB: My main job was to collect requirements from the customer. I used a few templates to find out exactly what the customer wanted. When the design work was tricky, I would visit with the client face-to-face, but most of the requirements meetings were done on Skype.

PM: What are some of the challenges you faced when collecting these requirements?

BOB: The main issue is finding out exactly what the customer wants. I had a plan to follow, but I made sure to ask additional questions to learn about the features and functionality they wanted. In other words, I was trying to bridge the gap for the customer. Once we knew the baseline, we could measure progress.

PM: What are skills you used to gather this information from the customer?

BOB: The best skill I recommend is active listening. I made sure not to dominate the conversation. I also made sure to avoid using techie language. Our customers were mostly the business-type, and too much geek-stuff would complicate the discussion.

PM: How did you handle changes on your projects?

BOB: Reject them on the spot! I’m joking! We had a clear process to manage changes, such as the change control board [CCB]. Before going to the CCB, though, I discussed the proposed change with the team. I wanted to make sure we understand the change well.

PM: What problems might you encounter if you have too many changes on the project?

BOB: Scope creep! We need to make sure the changes are necessary for this project. If the customer merely wants some items that are nice to have, we need to explain the consequences, such as extending the schedule and increasing the budget.

PM: How did you handle the situation where the customer was too demanding?

BOB: My approach is to understand what the customer wants. In some cases, they just want to be heard. However, this communication with the customer is essential to project success.

PM: Great, Bob! I appreciate your time, and I will be in touch soon.


In this interview, Bob is hitting the key points. As discussed, Bob is focused on knowing exactly what the customer wants. He is going to listen to the customer’s needs, but following the change control process is important. Even though Bob interviewed well, the PM must follow-up with references before making a decision to bring him on the team.

The Nuts-and-Bolts of Passing the PMP® Exam

When I prepared for the Project Management Professional (PMP)® exam, I failed to pay attention to the page containing the following information in the PMBOK® Guide: Project Management Process Group and Knowledge Area Mapping (Table 3-1). As a project manager corporate trainer, however, I reference this page many times. It’s a key resource to doing well on the exam.

PMP Training

Process Groups

When you take the PMP® exam, your grade is based on how well you scored in each of the five process groups. The exam is weighed as follows:

  • Initiating – 13%
  • Planning – 24%
  • Executing – 30%
  • Monitoring & Controlling – 25%
  • Closing – 8%

Thus, the middle three process groups carry the most weight. You are provided with only the following evaluation from PMI for each process group:

  • Proficient
  • Moderately Proficient
  • Below Proficient

If you score Moderately Proficient in each section, you will pass. However, if you are Below Proficient in a big section, such as Executing, it could spell trouble. You could, however, make up for it by being Proficient in Monitoring and Controlling.

Focus on the 47 Processes

If I were to study for the PMP® exam again, I would take p. 61 of the PMBOK® Guide and break in into manageable pieces. I would read through each process to make sure I have a clear understanding of the processes, inputs, tools and techniques, and outputs (ITTOs). However, it’s counterproductive to try and memorize all the ITTOs. There are far too many of them, and some of them are used many times.

Make sure you are clear with the alignment of processes relative to the process groups and knowledge areas. For example, know that Direct and Manage Project Work is aligned both with Integration Management (knowledge area) and Executing (Process Group). By having this information in mind, you have key knowledge that will help when answering questions on the exam.

Back to the ITTOs

Like many other students, I tried to memorize all the inputs, tools and techniques, and outputs. I started with Develop Project Charter, and did okay with this process. After a few days, I had all processes in Integration Management memorized, but this still left 35 processes (in the 4th edition of the PMBOK® Guide). I quickly made the determination that this was going to be an impossible task.

I decided to take a different approach, and learn the material, and not memorize it. Therefore, I focused on the intent of the processes, and what they produced. What do you think is the output of Develop Project Charter? Right! Project Charter. My feeling is that if there is only one output, there is a chance that it will be tested on the exam.


The PMP® exam is a toughie. There are 200 questions, and only 175 are tested. The other 25 are test questions, and are not part of the score. Unfortunately, you don’t know if they are real or test questions, so you must treat them all equally.

By focusing on p. 61 of the PMBOK® Guide, you can develop a game plan. You can cover one or two processes per day, which means you could be ready to take the exam in fewer than 60 days. Of course, it’s a good idea to take practice questions, too.

The PMP® credential is a game-changer, and I hope it’s part of your professional development goals.

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How Projects Translate to Big Bucks

When you think about it, projects are the main reason that businesses gain a competitive advantage over the competition. In an interview, the late Steve Jobs talked about how he moved the iPhone project ahead of the iPad initiative. He stated that the business case was strong for a mobile phone. In other words, he had the vision to see where Apple could gain a stronghold (Big Bucks) in the market. It’s obvious that his decision was the right one.

PMBOK® Perspective

For those of you preparing for the Project Management Professional®exam, it’s important you have a clear idea of how the PMBOK®defines a project:  A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result (p. 3, 5th ed.).

Here are examples of a project:

–          The City of Baltimore officials approve an initiative to build two new libraries.

–          Zamora Construction Company is hired to build a new store for an Aaron’s Sales and Lease franchisee.

–          The University of North Dakota School of Business is given the go-ahead to add a Project Management certification program.

Providing Value to the Stakeholders

When launching a project, we must keep the stakeholders in mind. In other words, we need to know the benefit or value, such as:

–          The City of Baltimore is going to improve its literacy rate in its community.

–          An Aaron Sales and Lease franchisee will provide its products to consumers who need furniture, electronics, and computer equipment.

–          The University of North Dakota will add a project program to provide project management training to working professionals.

In other words, the project work must be aligned with the organization’s mission and vision statements. By making sure there is a fit, the organization can leverage its human capital, equipment, and historical knowledge.

Projects Deliver a Product, Service, or Result

Projects must have a deliverable that is provided to the customer. In the Initiating Process Group, the sponsor (or customer) creates the project charter, which is the document that authorizes the project manager to launch the project.

We must ensure that the deliverables are stated in the project charter. That is, the customer must be clear with the tangible product, service, or result that they will receive. Thus, our communications plan requires that we engage the customer throughout the entire project. In some cases, formal sign-offs are required. However, the project manager must make it a habit to seek customer feedback via informal techniques, such as over a lunch meeting or through a webinar.


The top-notch organizations implement a project management process. To excel in managing projects, a process or methodology must exist. Just as important, leading companies provide in-house project management training for their employees. By doing so, a common body of knowledge is spoken throughout the organization.

While methodologies, frameworks, and processes are important, there is no substitute for leadership. Henry Ford, Steve Jobs, and Marissa Mayer are vision-oriented people who understand what the customers want today and in the future. Therefore, project management excellence requires both following a proven framework and an undeniable support of the company’s leadership team.

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