Oliver Filler from Plan International discusses project management and the benefits of PMD Pro

Oliver Filler from Plan International discusses project management and the benefits of PMD Pro

Project Management, Uncategorized

This article was originally published on Humentum

Oliver Filler, Program Quality Manager at Plan International, talks about his experiences in project management, rolling out program-wide improvements and how PMD Pro has helped provide a foundation for project management learning in the developing world.

George Miller: Hello and welcome to this podcast from Humentum. My name is George Miller and I recently had the opportunity to talk to Oliver Filler, the project management lead at Plan International, about his experience of rolling out PMD Pro training. Why did they choose PMD Pro? How did they prepare to introduce it and, critically, how have people found it and what impacts has it had? But before we got onto these big questions I began by asking Oliver about his own background in anthropology. What had got him interested in that?

Oliver Filler: I was just fascinated by people in society and why the world is the way it is, and looking at social constructs and behaviors, and why there is poverty: why are some individuals completely marginalized from society when others seem to have all the luck? I spent a lot of time in India during my university degree and my masters looking at the caste system and looking at the discrimination of Dalits, who are the untouchables within the caste system. That was around the time of the 2004 tsunami, so I thought I’d look into how that has an impact on aid and the distribution of aid. And so I looked at discrimination against Dalits as part of the tsunami response and made a lot of contacts that way with NGOs. It embedded my passion for development and humanitarian work and led into my first job with Save the Children.

George Miller: Was there an alternative course that you could have taken in which you became an academic? It sounds like you were thinking about the big structural issues as well as what was happening on the ground. Is that the path not taken?

Oliver Filler: Yeah, originally I was going to read English literature so I took a massive deviation from the path. People always ask me, do you have these plans in life and set up these goals? My opinion is that you miss opportunities that way and life :is too short to plan it out for 60 years only to realize it wasn’t what you wanted to do. So I have always veered towards the things that interest me, veered towards the things that I care passionately about and think are either great injustices or think that I can contribute something with my skill-set, so I try and maintain a flexibility, which is actually quite a useful skill-set for project management as well.

George Miller:So you began your career in this sector with Save the Children.  What were you doing back then? 

Oliver Filler:I was in Kashmir looking after education projects and some elements of monitoring and evaluation as well. It was post-conflict, fragile-state work. It pushed me down the path of humanitarian aid, which is most of my background. So fast-changing contexts, insecurity, but meeting huge needs. You’re dealing with very vulnerable individuals, so it was hard work but something I cared very much about. The entry into my career really was through Save the Children. You can deal with the insecurity, you can deal with the hard work, you can deal with the changing contexts and the frustrations because you’re dealing with very vulnerable individuals and you’re trying to support them as best you can. So as long as you’re meeting needs, it’s maybe not easy to forget about it, but you can accept some of the risks that you’re dealing with.

George Miller:Looking at it from the outside, I guess a lot of the time you must be so much in the moment when you’re in the field that it’s difficult to take a step back and think: is this the best way to do it? Are there other ways to do it? To keep an eye on the big picture because you have immediate human needs that you’re meeting. 

Oliver Filler: Absolutely, it’s the boiled frog syndrome where you don’t quite realize what’s going on around you because you’re in the middle of it. It’s a real risk with the work that we do in the humanitarian sector that you don’t have time to step back and look at the bigger picture. That is where project management comes in, because the role of a project manager is to provide that oversight and that space. While your team are running around trying to do the best they can in the middle of it, you need someone to be able to step back and look at the bigger picture and organize things. So that was where I first saw the need for that and probably a humanitarian context is the starkest reality to show that.

George Miller: We’re talking about a decade ago, a little bit more than that? What was the status of project management back then in the humanitarian sector?

Oliver Filler: It wasn’t just the humanitarian sector. I’d say the [whole] sector has professionalized a lot. I was coming in really at the cusp of change within the sector, so increasingly it was being professionalized; we were looking at project and programme management; we were looking at monitoring and evaluation and accountability, accountability to beneficiaries, making sure that communities are able to give their opinions and feedback and are at the heart of the projects that are designed. It was a fascinating point in the sector’s history because there was  massive change and with massive change you have huge challenges and obstacles. Ultimately we were looking at behaviour change, you know, these new ideas coming in, contradicting the way that the sector had been working previously.

George Miller: And what was pushing that change? 

Oliver Filler: I think it was just the flow of the sector. What generally happens, especially in the humanitarian context, is that a huge crisis will happen, the sector will respond and then we’ll learn. We’re lucky sometimes if we just pick up elements of the learning and embed it in the next response. But I think we just hit the cusp of this massive change point where enough had been learned in order to realize that things had to dramatically change. That was reflected in the sector, in the agencies that work within the sector. But I think it was also mirrored by funders, and where funders change their mind and funders start to prioritize things, the sector tends to follow as well. So I think things came together at the right time. It’s not to say that we are perfect where we are now, that we’ve learned everything and we’re doing everything marvelously. That’s certainly not the case, but I think it was a point where we had started to really push for doing things professionally, openly and transparently and that has now helped us improve the sector generally.

George Miller: So you came along on the cusp of change.  

Oliver Filler: I think so. I came in at a time where I was able to benefit from the changes that were being made. I’ve been lucky enough to learn as I go and be introduced to new training and new ways of working. But I was also at the heart for Save the Children of pushing a new monitoring and evaluation approach in responses certainly.  

George Miller: Can you tell me a bit more about that in practical terms, that new approach and your role in it?

Oliver Filler:  At Save the Children we realized that emergencies were being responded to in a knee-jerk way and there was the rationale – which is easy to understand, how we got into this mindset – which is that we must be doing it right because we’re doing it. This is the same with project management: ‘I know how to manage a project because I’m a project manager’. It’s a trap that we always fall into and there was a realization, not just for Save the Children but for the wider sector, that actually we needed to professionalize; we needed to look at our processes; we needed to push for openness and transparency. One of the things that Save the Children pushed earlier than most international organizations, I would say, was monitoring, evaluation, accountability and learning, especially in humanitarian responses. Making sure we’re able to track what we’re doing, tracking our outputs, tracking our outcomes. What are we actually delivering, what quality are we delivering for people? We may be distributing things, but are they the things that people want? Save the Children really drove that early on in the sector. Likewise, running things like real-time evaluations: a few months into a humanitarian response, having an opportunity to step back and ask, is this the right response? In the middle of a manic humanitarian response, are we actually doing the right thing or have we fallen into the trap of just doing the same thing over and over? So real-time evaluations were really pushed by Save the Children early on and that sparked a big change in the sector. Then embedding monitoring and evaluation within that response and making sure that it’s there at the beginning rather than brought in as an afterthought. So instead of ‘we’ve been responding for a couple of months, should we bring in M&E?’, M&E goes in as part of the first phase response.

George Miller: I guess that any cultural shift meets with resistance or inertia or skepticism. Was that something that you remember encountering back then?

Oliver Filler: Yes, the difficulty is that you’re trying to embed a new way of working in a system that doesn’t know how it’s supposed to embed it, and how it’s supposed to work. So you end up with people line-managing M&E specialists who don’t actually know how M&E should work, and that’s just one example. There is a dange

Why choose project management?

Why choose project management?

Project Management

This article was originally published on APM

A career as a project manager can be exciting, varied, fulfilling, and productive. The fact there is a clear start and end date means you will feel a sense of achievement on completion, with clear milestones along the way. Many project managers talk about the feeling of pride they experience in delivering something that makes the world a better place.

While salary is an important aspect to consider, and certainly, project managers tell us that theirs is a very healthy one (£47,500 being the average salary of and experienced project manager according to APM member survey respondents), people also report a high level of job satisfaction: 80 per cent. Find out more in APM Salary and Market Trends Survey 2018.

PMD Pro Success Story: Maged Kassoum

PMD Pro Success Story: Maged Kassoum

Case Studies, PMD Pro, PMD Pro Certification, Project Management

Name: Maged Kassoum
Country: Syria
Study: Self-Study or Training 

“I am Maged Kassoum. A humanitarian young man worker based in Syria. I think no effort is required to define or explain SYRIA.
I am writing to tell you about my experience in achieving PMD Pro Level1, especially how I proudly gained PMD Pro certificate.

Living in conflict zone, I apprehend the deep need for acquiring more professional skills and competences in humanitarian domain, especially in project development sector. I joined many INGOs: Syria Recovery Trust Fund/SRTF as field coordination officer; Islamic Relief Worldwide as FLS project officer and ACTED as TVET and SME Livelihoods assistant.

During that time, my need to have more knowledge about managing projects increased fast; it even turned to a must. I was eager to attend and to study the most professional course which enable me to manage relief and aid projects professionally.

Again, short time available to educate myself due to my engagement in relief work, unsafe environment due to different war works- fighting between opposed sides, battles, air attacks and different bombardment- and other catastrophic circumstances prevented me from attending development and training center.

At last, I decided to search the internet for the ideal platform which can grant me this professional training. I registered in disasterready.org because I see it verified and reliable one. I read about PMD Pro in its content.

Applying Agile Project Management Methodology to Natural Disaster Projects

Applying Agile Project Management Methodology to Natural Disaster Projects

Project Management

by Peter Marlow

This research paper, entitled “Applying Agile Project Management Methodology to Natural Disaster Projects” by Marie Desiree M. Beekharry, University of South Australia, investigates how agile methodology can best be applied to the management of natural disaster projects to ensure more effective outcomes. It’s available for download/access at the UNISA Website.

The increasing volatility of our global environment is proving a major challenge for governments, aid and private organisations in delivering effective and efficient post- disaster relief and recovery project management (PM). When disasters strike, especially when consequences become catastrophic, demands on all resources and capabilities in the affected countries exceed supply. The traditional PM decision-making system is impeded by overly bureaucratic and political issues, and in addition there is a lack of local knowledge and ability to diffuse problems. Therefore, it is essential for the disaster management (DM) community to consider alternative methods to enable more effective PM and assist those affected to transition from post-disaster chaos to smooth recovery.

The aims of the research were:

1. To assess the current PM practices in post-disaster projects;
2. To evaluate which elements of best-practice PM are most essential for an adaptable methodology to manage post-disaster projects;
3. To understand the issues and challenges and seek potential solutions for the management of post-disaster projects;
4. To examine whether national and international organisations face similar issues and challenges and how an adaptable methodology would impact post-disaster projects; and
5. To propose an agile framework which can be applied to post-disaster projects.

Eight Disaster Management projects (earthquake, typhoon and tropical cyclone disasters) were studied and analysed in depth. Project Managers and emergency managers were surveyed. Based on the findings and lessons learned, an agile framework for post-disaster projects has been developed.

Introduction to Agile Project Management

Introduction to Agile Project Management

Project Management, Uncategorized

by Peter Marlow

Agile is defined as “relating to or denoting a method of project management, used especially for software development, that is characterized by the division of tasks into short phases of work [delivering value early and often] and frequent reassessment and adaptation of plans”. Agile concepts can be applied to many projects and can achieve better outcomes than more traditional methods.

In every project the project manager’s challenge is to balance the triple constraints of Time, Cost and Scope (see section 1.3 of the PMD Pro Guide). Each of these constraints is connected to the others. Whenever one of these constraints is restricted or extended, the other constraints will also need to be extended/increased or restricted/reduced.

The project manager needs to understand the relationships and trade-offs that exist between each of the constraints and agree priorities with stakeholders before the project is launched. It’s often hard to change these once the project is in progress.

Generally, donors and stakeholders can be inflexible about the project scope, so time and cost have to be adjusted to balance the triple constraint and build an acceptable plan. The problem is that circumstances often change during projects that impose a change of scope. This forces a difficult rebalancing process, which, if unsuccessful, causes time delays and cost overruns – and unhappy stakeholders.

The Agile approach to Project Management turns this approach upside down:

• Time is fixed by dividing the project into short fixed time iterations;
• Cost of resources is fixed;
• Scope is variable. It focuses on the highest priority requirements, with the expectation that the scope will evolve as the project progresses.

There is a decision gate at the end of each iteration to re-prioritize existing requirements, to consider any new ones as the project moves forward, and to plan the next iteration. It’s a form of rolling-wave planning. The aim is to deliver the most important requirements within the budgeted cost and time, but maybe not all the requirements. For this process to work it has to be highly collaborative. It’s essential that project stakeholders are closely involved, particularly users.

With this approach, donors and stakeholders will be more confident approving the project because costs and schedules are defined up front and the overall risk is lower. Hopefully, donors and stakeholders will accept that they can’t have everything, but what they do get will meet the main objectives of the project. So ultimately, the Agile approach to project management can result in a more successful outcome.

The essential element of the Agile process is to be able to prioritize the project’s requirements into four categories of importance:

• Must have – these requirements are guaranteed to be delivered;
• Should have;
• Could have;
• Won’t have at this time.

This is known as the MoSCoW priorization (the term MoSCoW itself is an acronym derived from the first letter of each of four prioritization categories). This process can be difficult as stakeholders often prioritize all their requirements as Must Have! A rule of thumb is that typically the ‘Must have’ requirements should take 60% of the project effort whereas the ‘Could have’ requirements will take no more than 20% of effort in each iteration.

Agile focuses on small incremental changes. The challenge can be that the bigger picture can become lost and create uncertainty amongst stakeholders. Building consensus takes time and challenges many norms and expectations. Resource costs can be higher; for example, co-locating teams or investing in infrastructure for them to work together remotely. The onus can be perceived to shift from the empowered end-user to the empowered project team with a risk that benefits are lost because the project team is focussed on the wrong things.

Another criticism of Agile is that it can encourage project teams to cut corners, resulting in a poorly supported outcome. It’s important to remember that Agile projects need to be managed carefully just like any other even if they are “light touch”. For example, the necessity for heavy project documents should always be questioned with stakeholders. Things should not be done just because “we’ve always done it that way”.

The critical governance decision is to select the appropriate approach as part of the project strategy and keep this under review. Level of certainty versus time to deliver is the balance that needs to be considered when selecting suitable projects to go Agile.

Agile integrates well with PMD Pro phase model as part of the tailoring process. But before using Agile you should discuss what you are trying to do with your line management, donors and stakeholders, and seek buy-in from them. It may require a change of organizational culture to make it work!

NGOs need to be Agile to survive and thrive – Agile is for everyone, it just needs to be applied with a big dash of common sense.

So, in summary:

Agile is a way of working which initially seems to be counter-intuitive;
• It’s a mind-set that follows a philosophy and a series of principles;
• It’s flexible and adaptable to changing environments;
• It works in increments or iterations;
• You need to ruthlessly prioritize to make it work;
• Deliver little and often, test frequently to ensure greater quality;
• Needs focused, collaborative, empowered, transparent;
• With the right projects it can produce better outcomes.

With acknowledgement and thanks to the Agile Business Consortium at http://agilebusiness.org and the Association for Project Management (APM) at http://apm.org.uk

Inspiring students about project management

Inspiring students about project management

Project Management

Posted on APM by Bobbie.

Over 180 teachers from schools and colleges across the UK have signed up to our campaign, ’Make it Happen’, with the specialist youth engagement agency We Are Futures.

Part of our suite of outreach support for schools, colleges and universities, the campaign was designed to inspire and raise awareness of project management as a career. It is also aligned to help schools and colleges meet their Gatsby benchmarks of good career guidance.

Aimed at 15 – 18 year olds, the ‘Make it Happen! toolkit’ gives an inspiring and practical solution for students to help them manage their school projects. The kit includes a student project guide, a teacher guide, a launch PowerPoint presentation, and a selection of case studies. Registered students can also request a half day mentoring session with a project professional.

Caspar Bartington, APM’s education manager said: “Recent APM research shows that the project profession is one of the most popular careers for students to aspire to. We are excited about the opportunities this pilot campaign offers us to engage meaningfully with students undertaking different projects, and in so doing make a worthwhile contribution to schools and colleges.” Continue reading “Inspiring students about project management”

Inclusive PMD Pro for Visually Impaired

Inclusive PMD Pro for Visually Impaired

Development Sector, PMD Pro, Project Management

Author: Cristiano Moura

Inclusive Project Management for Development Professionals methodology for Visually ImpairedInspired by the democratization of information and access to management tools provided by the PMD Pro Guide, Cristiano Moura developed a method to train the visually impaired in project management, specifically in the initial phase of the Project Life Cycle. This method proposes that the visually impaired can design projects, improve management, attract resources and be recognized professionals of the social development sector, after all, now they can see how to make a good justification of their projects and design structured projects, taking into account the tools of Identification and Design of Design, as Tree of Problems, Tree of Objectives and mainly the Logical Framework.

And how could that be possible? Eyes of a visually impaired person are also in their hands, so the idea was to enable them to experience the tools through touch. And why? Because there was a problem that in an expositive class would be extremely complicated to work with this audience. So, some questions guided the creation of this method, for example: “how to explain and make visually impaired that at the time of justifying the project we would have to use a problem tree?” “How could we make them understand that in roots, trunks and branches, we would have causes, central problem and effects?” Continue reading “Inclusive PMD Pro for Visually Impaired”

Desafios do Gerente de Projetos

PMD Pro, Project Management

Um desafio, por definição, é uma situação difícil ou perigosa que alguém enfrenta, então a primeira coisa que geralmente pensamos quando falamos em desafios é numa situação que enfrentamos, a partir da qual podemos triunfar ou não.

O interessante, então, não é somente analisar o desafio, mas também os elementos que farão a diferença entre encará-lo de maneira bem-sucedida, ou simplesmente enfrentá-lo e deixar ao acaso o sucesso ou o fracasso que se pode obter.

Na Gestão de Projetos Sociais, os desafios são inúmeros. Na grande maioria dos cenários, temos um problema social, muito difícil de resolver, causado por inúmeros fatores e que foram mantidos por anos.

Somados a esse problema, estão diferentes atores, com interesses diferentes, e muitas vezes a única coisa que fazem é contribuir para tornar o problema ainda maior. Embora alguns atores estejam interessados em contribuir para a resolução do problema, eles o fazem com sua própria metodologia, portanto é comum que alguns esforços sejam duplicados, mas é também comum que a abordagem ou estratégia de alguns atores dificulte a nossa intervenção (metodologias paternalistas, por exemplo).

Além do exposto, encontramos desafios na obtenção dos recursos necessários para a implementação dos projetos. De recursos financeiros, cada vez mais escassos, ao talento humano, onde o maior desafio que enfrentamos é encontrar a pessoa ideal no momento ideal para desempenhar o papel ideal para o projeto.

Para aqueles que tomam os desafios como uma grande dor de cabeça, o campo de gestão de projetos sociais pode ser um caminho errado. Mas para aqueles que apostam em um futuro com melhores condições e valorizam a satisfação de ver mudanças positivas nas comunidades em que trabalham, enfrentar esses desafios é o melhor incentivo para entregar um projeto de sucesso.

Qual pode ser a diferença entre encarar um desafio bem-sucedido ou falhar na tentativa?
A partir da minha experiência:

  1. Tenha uma ideia clara da magnitude do desafio. Uma chuva forte não é o mesmo que um furacão.
  2. Preparar a estratégia e as ferramentas necessárias, de acordo com a magnitude do desafio. Não há nada pior do que querer enfrentar o furacão com um guarda-chuva simples.
  3. Sempre tenha um plano B, um plano C e um plano D, se necessário. A magnitude do furacão geralmente muda durante a sua trajetória.
  4. Sempre tenha um objetivo claro. Isso faz que você veja o mesmo desafio de uma perspectiva única e, portanto, sua estratégia deve ser única. O furacão chega a todos, mas se você estiver no comando da companhia elétrica da cidade, sua estratégia será radicalmente diferente do que se você fosse responsável por uma creche!

Os 4 passos anteriores têm algo em comum… Cada passo implica preparação. Você não enfrentará desafios de maneira bem-sucedida sem se preparar para isso!

Inscreva-se para o Webinar Desafios do Gerennte de Projetos

Data: 4 de setembro 2018

Hora: 18:00 hora do Brasil

Facilitador: Juan Manuel Palacios

Project management – a first career choice

Project management – a first career choice

Project Management

This article was originally published on APM.

If you’re reading this, you are probably a project professional. You won’t need convincing of the fact that project professionals make things happen.

Among a student audience, the project profession has had relatively little visibility, typically being part of a STEM-related activity which, while laudable, doesn’t do justice to the sheer breadth of opportunity projects offer.

If you have several years of work experience, your project life is likely to have been your second or third career stage rather than your first – or something you had previously done alongside another role. There is nothing wrong with that but there is a sense that the time has come to promote the first-career project professional.

Aside from the Royal Charter and the Chartered Project Professional title, the other timely opportunity to help us broadcast the message is the recent launch of the Project Manager Degree Apprenticeship, a fantastic way to gain a degree, a professional qualification and sector experience.

As the chartered body for the project profession, it is important that APM raises the profile of the world of projects with everyone, including those still in education.

The good news is that the more students understand what projects are, the more they like the idea of being part of one. We know this thanks to our recent research. Continue reading “Project management – a first career choice”

Trends in Project Management in 2018

Trends in Project Management in 2018

Project Management

This article was originally published on APMG International.

There are two trends that have been growing in 2017 and will start to have a real impact in 2018.

The first is the greater understanding of agility. Now you may say that Agile has been around for years and has really taken off in 2017 and that’s not new. But I am not talking about Agile, I’m talking about agility.

In the last couple of years lots of people have jumped on the Agile bandwagon as if is it the answer to all project problems. These Agile evangelists tell us that every project should be Agile and Waterfall projects are doomed to failure.

They are wrong and the profession is starting to realise this. In 2018 we will start to talk about agility as something that we apply to different degrees according to the context of each project. It isn’t a binary choice between Agile vs. Waterfall, it’s about how much agility do we need to apply to respond to the different levels of uncertainty in every project. Continue reading “Trends in Project Management in 2018”