Thursday, February 22, 2018

PMP Success Story: Plan, Do, Check and Act

By Jim Kim, PMP

I’ve over 10 years of experience in multiple domains and I’ve handled multiple projects as a Project Manager. A PMP® certificate was something which was in my professional goal list for many years. But due to time constraints, I was never able to pursue it. In July 2017, I decided to take a break from regular work and that time I decided to actively pursue PMP certification.

PMP Coaching Experience
I decided to join Knowledgehut classes. I met Satya, who was our coach and led the sessions for 4 days. He helped us in going through the web of PMBOK®, quite effectively. Our doubts were cleared and we also had references to various blogs/videos/charts, which really helped in better understanding of the concepts.

Satya promised that by the end of the session most of us would be able to identify all the process groups (PGs), knowledge areas (KAs), inputs, tools and techniques and outputs (ITTOs). And surprisingly we were able to spell them out on the last day.

Own Study
The strategy was to follow the Deming’s Cycle, i.e., Plan – Do – Act – Check.

My plan was to simple - to read the PMBOK guide once by completing one chapter every day, then do the practice mock tests, analyse the results and keep trying till score was over 80% on regular basis and appear in the exam in next 2 months.

But as it is said, plans are made only to be changed. Same happened with me. The break from work didn’t last long, and soon I was back managing a big ERP transformation program and struggling between deadlines. PMP certification suddenly seemed to be distant dream. To keep the dream alive, I decided to join few FB groups on PMP preparation, so that I get my daily dose of inspiration.

The execution of the plan got shifted to December and thus started the ‘Do’ phase with reading of PMBOK guide.

Reading PMBOK guide itself was a big challenge, but decided to read it at least once. I focused on creating 2 to 3 summary page document for each chapter covering the important concepts.

Part 2 of the ‘Do’ phase was the practising Mock Tests. I started with Knowledgehut Mock tests in December end, scored 60% in the first test.

The ‘Check’ part started with the detailed analysis of the paper. I used to spend 2 to 3 hours in solving a paper and spend almost equal time in analysing it.

As an ‘Action’ item, found the topics which were missed in first read of PMBOK, add those topics to the chapter summary documents. I also went through ManagementYogi blog and YouTube videos to clear doubts where PMBOK has not provided detailed explanation.

This exercise was continued till I was scoring more than 80% marks in new Mock exams.

PMP Exam Experience
I scheduled my D-Day on Feb 13th and had booked the morning slot. My strategy for the exam was simple -  to remain calm and read every question carefully to understand the real meaning.

I first noted down the PGs and KAs table, key formulas and some terms such as resource levelling, resource smoothing etc., after the exam started. It took about 10 mins to complete this. The first question itself was a bouncer and had to mark it for later review. Next few questions were bit twisted but due to understanding of the concepts were able to answer them confidently.

I was able to go through all the 200 questions in 2.5 hours with a 10-minutes break in between. Since there was enough time, I started to revise from the beginning. This helped me in correcting 4 to 5 questions, which I had previously marked wrong. I was finally able to complete the revision with 5 minutes to spare, submitted the responses to check the result.

There was a congratulations message popping on the screen and I was on Cloud nine, finally I am PMP certified. I scored Above Target in all domains.

Types of Questions Faced
  • There were questions from all KAs.
  • I had multiple questions on Pareto chart analysis
  • There were questions on Fast Tracking, Risk response Strategies, 
  • Mathematical questions were from Cost Performance Index (CPI), Schedule Performance Index (SPI) and Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT). 
  • Most of these questions were not direct and one needs to apply the concept, and decide why the particular option is correct. 
  • There were many twisted questions on Project Charter and Contracts. 
  • Also, you need to be very clear with concepts of Communications Management, Stakeholder Management and Risk management area. In many questions, the choices would be from these areas and you need to find the most appropriate answer.

Suggestions for PMP Aspirants
  • Read the questions carefully. A single word can change the complete meaning of the question.
  • Look for eliminating the options if you are not sure about the right option.
  • Practice as much as you can and do analyse the mistakes made
  • Don’t panic, I gave the exam on 13th February. The cubicle allocated to me was also numbered 13. 
  • Keep calm. If you don’t know the answer of initial 2-3 questions, it is ok. It’s natural that one may not be knowing correct answers for all 200 questions.

Appearing for PMP certification itself is a Project, where one learns and executes lot of concepts mentioned in the PMBOK guide. The certification helped me in learning new concepts and would make me a better Leader and Manager.

Brief Profile 
Jim Kim, Associate Program Manager, Thoucentric. Involved in multiple ERP, Product Development projects across geographies, sectors. 

Monday, February 19, 2018

PMP Protein: Facing the Sun

By Manjunath R, PMP

We all face our top management in our day today professional activities. May it be presenting reports, proposing something, or clarifying something.  Sometimes, matter in hand will be in jeopardy while convincing the top management. There are several reasons for it. It may be the lack of artifacts, data, analysis of feasibility etc. But, most of the times, the modus operandi and the mode of evaluation of the top management will be discreet. Hidden agendas of Top Management are also one of the major factors contributing to unproductive meetings. 

It is difficult to question the top management about the transparency of bringing their motives on to the meeting table. It needs lot of experience and right attitude to bring out the actual expectations of the top management. If mishandled, the careers will be in jeopardy. Being honest sometimes will invite trouble. Like the proverb says 'Tall trees are cut first'.

Facing the top management is like facing the sun. One can’t keep staring at it, there is a risk of losing vision. With proper tools and techniques sun can be observed without harm. Same way with proper skill set top management can be handled. 

Most of the times, the top management tries to divert the issues to something which is not a part of agenda (not really important). This may be a part of their evaluation process, so as to know how important the agenda is and how desperate we are to bring the discussion back on track. Sometimes, top management plays the role of a Devil’s advocate to rule out all the possibilities which will have negative impact. If the business case is not feasible, it has to die on the discussion table. Top management plays role of a murder panel. 

Sometimes, it’s contrary. Top management will be so confident and enthusiastic about some business case that, they will not be in listening mode. They will be blindfolded about the negativities. Being aware of the negativities, middle management people fail to bring them on to the discussion table. 

Top Management sometimes may have decided something and call for the meeting to convey the same. But, before disclosing their verdict they would like to have some warm up discussions. 

It hard to know, what is in the mind of top management. It is always safe to double check the data and artifacts before presentation and to be clear about the agenda. Most importantly, being diplomatic helps a lot in facing top management. Emotions have to be kept under control. Surviving the scenario becomes more important.

Author: Manjunath R 
Manjunath R is a project management professional in construction industry. He is a graduate Civil Engineer. He is passed out from BIET (VTU) Davanagere in year 2005.He has been involved in construction industry as Deputy General Manager working for PDD Infratech. He has worked with several reputed organizations in Bangalore. He is having 12 plus years of hands on experience. He is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) from Project Management Institute (PMI). 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

PMP Success Story: A Hard-Earned Achievement

By Nidhin Sasi, PMP

I had attained Accenture Internal certification on Program Project Service Management (PPSM) Specialist in June, 2017. It built basic foundation on Project and Service Management with stress on Accenture Standardized Methodologies. The idea of PMP® certification stemmed from this experience to explore and also attain a globally recognized certification.

The preparation for PMP certification itself enhances your existing level of practical Project Management knowledge and experience. The PMBOK® guide provides an excellent framework touching upon all aspects of Project Management. PMP certification validates the experience and competencies in leading a project with very scientific methodology and real-world situation assessment. 

PMP Coaching Experience
My PMP classroom coaching was done at KnowledgeHut. Satya led the sessions. The classroom coaching laid the basic foundation for the PMP certification learning.

Satya has an interactive mode of engaging with live scenarios and questions which would make us think and understand the basic concepts. 

Key takeaways from the coaching include a foundational grip on all knowledge areas and key concepts especially – flow of the 47 processes, Earned Value Management (EVM), Critical Path Method (along with Forward Pass, Backward Pass), Risk Management/Register, Benefit Analysis, Strategic Management, Stakeholder Analysis etc.

Own Study
The classroom training was completed on 16th July’17. I started my preparation couple of weeks afterwards albeit at a snail’s pace due to hectic office and house responsibilities.
I tried to spend at-least an hour everyday including weekends, but could not stick to it. However, I ensured I that I didn’t keep a gap of more than a week. This way though I spent less study per day, I didn’t lose touch.

My preparation materials were classroom material, PMBOK Guide and “I WANT TO BE A PMP” book authored by Satya. 

My first target was to complete the course material along with chapter end questions. Next, I read end to end of “I WANT TO BE A PMP” and the PMBOK Guide. These were completed slowly, but I got a good grip. I WANT TO BE A PMP is a detailed version of Satya’s four-day coaching with very explanative videos and articles from this blog – ManagementYogi. The chapter end questions included some brain twisting ones that helped in bettering the understanding. PMBOK Guide meanwhile was little tough in the first read. 

Meanwhile I also completed my application during this period, for which I got help from Knowledgehut in having a sample spreadsheet to calculate the experience hours. Once the application was accepted, the seriousness of the exam preparation increased.

I made a full stretched study plan in a spreadsheet which I kept on revising till 2 weeks before the exam. I made 7 versions of the plan. This helped me to access how I was progressing and accordingly revise the plan and also put efforts to expedite the progress whenever it lagged. I attempted mock up exams after the complete the initial reading of these 3 materials. The initial scores were in the range of 65-75% with some questions which were very confusing. 

I reached out to Satya to clear most of my doubts in the concepts and mock exams. Satya amidst his busy schedule was kind enough to patiently respond to my numerous questions over phone and email. He has later said that it was my questions that he replied to the most.

After these many exercises, I got a good grip of the subject though there were still some confusions and doubts looming around. Then I re-read I WANT TO BE A PMP book and the PMBOK guide for the 2nd time followed by remaining mock exams of from I WANT TO BE A PMP book. This really increased my grip of the subject and cleared many confusions which previously I had. Then I took chapter end questions from PMP Preparation by Rita Mulcahy and mock exams from Oliver Lehman and the third mock exam from I WANT TO BE A PMP book. These mock exams exposed me to some really brain twisting and high-quality questions which prepared me well for the tough questions I was expecting in the exam.

Book Review - I WANT TO BE A PMP
The experience from Satya’s coaching and his blog made me to buy I WANT TO BE A PMP. 
The book has videos providing a detailed explanation on Earned Value Analysis, Critical Path Method, Critical Chain Method, Point of Total Assumption, Risk Response Strategies, Conflict Management, Soft Skills, among others. Key concepts are explained in a lucid manner with flow charts of the processes across Knowledge Areas.

The flow chart exercises will make you really understand the flow of processes.

The chapter end questions and the mock exams, especially the 3rd Mock exam, and the 75 questions based on Exam Content Outline (ECO) will not only equip you for the challenge of the exam but also of the actual challenge in real life project scenarios and good understanding of the subject.

PMP Exam Experience
I scheduled the PMP Exam for 17th January’18. This was scheduled before my actual plan which I was following because of office and house responsibilities. Due to this I had to slog the last 3 weeks including the New Year weekend.

Altogether I had attended 9 full mock exams of 200 questions previously due to which I had an idea of how to manage the time. My strategy was to take not more than a minute per question, i.e., first target was to complete more than 30 questions in first half an hour and 60 questions in the first hour and to ensure to maintain this pace or even increase the speed. At the same time, you should ensure you do not rush through the questions to achieve this pace because many times during mock exams in-order to achieve the pace, I had answered hastily which I realized when I read the question again, calmly. Hence, I ensured that pace is maintained but at the same time question is read thoroughly and each answer is gone through.

The actual PMP Exam was relatively very easy compared to some of the tough mock exams I attended and questions were relatively more straight forward. However, there were questions based on scenarios and where more than one answers seemed to be correct, for which you needed to spend more than a minute.

In questions where all 4 answers could be correct, I compared each question with every wording of the question. Also for some questions, you can start off by eliminating the wrong questions to zero down to two answers or one answer.

There were mathematical questions for Earned Value Analysis, Critical Path Method, and also question on Change Requests, Communications and Stakeholder Management.

Suggestions for PMP Aspirants
  • Read the PMBOK guide end-to-end and whichever book you are planning to buy, at-least try practicing the chapter end questions.
  • Maintain an exam plan throughout – apply a combination of rough order of magnitude (ROM), analogous, parametric, bottom up estimation techniques to estimate the time and in tracking and revising the plan.
  • Try good quality mock exams and ensure you try at-least 5 full 200 questions mock exams.
  • Visit the Exam centre once before the exam to analyse the traffic and to avoid looking for the centre on the exam.
  • Have a good sleep the day before and avoid last minute study.
  • Reach the Exam centre half an hour before your notification time to reach the centre with a calm mind.

  • Do not by remember anything by heart. Rather, try to have your real-life project scenarios in mind and how you will be using the tools and techniques and processes in those scenarios.
  • Do not attempt mock exams based on previous versions of PMBOK guide.
  • Do not pile up questions, try to clarify with your study group or your coach.

I would try to implement the PMP learnings in my work and also try to undergo advanced level of trainings, understand new concepts and keep track of the latest trends in Project management.

Brief Profile
Nidhin Sasi, Team Lead with close to 13 years of IT experience in Accenture Services Pvt Ltd and a 6 months experience prior to that in a small vendor company for Telecommunications field.

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