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Project Management Skills
Project management skills are essential to getting things done in your organization; but all too often thing end up taking three time longer and cost twice as much as you thought. Today’s guest, Andrea Uvanni, has delivered multi-million-dollar projects on time and on budget with a never-ending focus on quality assurance and she’s here with some tips on how we can improve our project management skills.
What You’ll Discover About Project Management Skills (highlights & transcript):
* The project management skills people are missing most often [5:27]
* Project management challenges of working remotely [8:20]
* Tips for improving remote project management [10:20]
* When do you need to hire someone with professional project management skills? [12:17]
* How project management skills create accountability [14:20]
* What to look for when hiring a project manager [16:17]
* Why project management skills must include anticipating end of project consequences [22:55]
* And MUCH more
Hanna Hasl-Kelchner: [00:00:00] Project management skills are essential to getting things done in your organization, but all too often things end up taking three times as long and costing twice as much than you expect. Today’s guest, however, has delivered multimillion dollar projects on time and on budget with a never-ending focus on quality assurance. And she’s here to give us some tips on how we can improve our project management skills.
[00:00:27] This is Business Confidential Now with Hanna Hasl-Kelchner helping you see business issues hiding in plain view that matter to your bottom line.
Hanna: [00:00:39] Welcome to Business Confidential Now, I’m your host, Hanna Hasl-Kelchner, and today’s guest is Andrea Uvanni. Andrea’s background is in Advanced Industry Project Management. And as a consultant, she not only looks for ways to improve the process and drive efficiencies, she strives to educate the team on strategies and software to make life easier.
Hanna: [00:01:03] She grew up in a family that owned and operated various successful businesses across services, retail and food industries. As a result, she has a deep understanding of what it takes to run a business and she strives to make each client’s team more efficient so that they can work to live, not live to work.
Hanna: [00:01:24] She’s a certified business coach, financial analyst and keynote speaker and likes to consider herself to be a full-time optimist, bringing strategies for success to every situation. So I’m dying to learn more about what success strategies she can share about project management. Welcome to Business Confidential Now, Andrea.
Andrea Uvanni: [00:01:44] Thank you Hanna for the wonderful introduction. I am so excited to be here with you. Thank you again for having me on the show.
Hanna: [00:01:51] Well, thank you for joining me because project management is so important. You know, we often hear about it in the context of software installations and other big types of projects. Construction.
WHEN DO YOU NEED SERIOUS PROJECT MANAGEMENT SKILLS
Hanna: [00:02:04] Now do projects need to be a certain size before you can benefit from project management skills?
Andrea: [00:02:10] Absolutely not. I mean, there are different . . . I mean, I had projects in the past that have been as small as six thousand dollars. We’re going to transfer our team of five to a new piece of software or we’re going to create this new marketing strategy. And you can really take any piece of your business and run it in a project, no matter how small, to really create that efficiency and to build out that process that allows you to just repeat it again later. Regardless of fifty-five billion or five thousand, you would modify the process, but you can still use project management to drive it to success.
WHAT ARE PROJECT MANAGEMENT SKILLS?
Hanna: [00:02:48] So there’s some fundamentals there that we can benefit from. Let’s dive into what those project management skills are. What exactly are project management skills?
Andrea: [00:02:59] So it seems like the primary pieces of project management that you use, regardless of size, is going to be the identification of risks. Having a plan that you can outline and identifying what success really looks like. You have to have those key performance indicators and those can be anything. You don’t want to just say we want to complete our project by January 10th. You can complete it, but it may not be perfect.
Andrea: [00:03:25] You want to say . . . we want to have a . . . I mean, let’s just take a simple Microsoft implementation. We want to have the team up and running on Microsoft 365 by January 10th and have a basic understanding of all tasks associated with that project. So that may mean that everyone is functioning on the same software. Everyone has been educated on how to use that software, and you’ve had time to test it out, work out the kinks and make sure that it’s going smooth for everyone.
Andrea: [00:03:55] So there’s identify the risk, plan it, and then also completely define what that success looks like.
Andrea: [00:04:01] A lot of times people go in and say, okay, we’re going to run this project. And they say, you know, we just want to be complete by this date, but they don’t really look at what that what that success truly looks like and that’s when they fail at it. So I think those are the key elements I always want to see everyone look for regardless of size. And obviously on bigger projects, we break it down into milestones. But then you address each milestone in the same manner as well.
Hanna: [00:04:26] Well, because the milestones are just stages of the implementation process. But I like what you’re saying about being clear about what success looks like, because that’s really all of the deliverables that you’re expecting, regardless of what the “it” is that you’re trying to complete, whether it’s a marketing plan, a new product, a new service, a software implementation, which, you know, typically gets associated with project management. But it could be something smaller, too. So that’s good to know.
Andrea: [00:04:56] And . . .
Hanna: [00:04:57] In your experience . . Go ahead.
Andrea: [00:05:00] To say that, you know, even if it’s not a software piece and if you want to even just handle, you know, onboarding as though that’s a project, you know, bringing that new team up to speed or bringing in a new employee up to speed, I think those basics are going to be there for everything. And I like to break down whatever task is coming up. If it’s large enough to track, maybe it can be incorporated into a project or maybe it’s big enough to be its own project.
THE PROJECT MANAGEMENT SKILLS PEOPLE ARE MOST OFTEN MISSING
Hanna: [00:05:27] Very good. Now, in your experience, what project management skills do you think for people who aren’t trained in that discipline, which skills do you think that they need the most help with?
Andrea: [00:05:39] I think the ones that people are usually lacking in the most is going to be either accountability or tracking. And the reason I say accountability or tracking is again, with the definition of your key performance indicators when you go into a project, OK, we’re going to take and assign the tasks that need to be done in order to complete the project; but they don’t assign who’s going to necessarily do them. And that’s when they fall between the cracks.
Andrea: [00:06:11] It’s one of the things where I’ve been on countless projects. We had a due date and I was like, OK, so how are we on this? And then I was like, I thought you were doing it. And I thought you were doing it and I thought you had this right. And so that accountability piece is one that so many people fail to assign. And it’s just I mean . . . that’s through the experiences I’ve had with teams. That seems to be that seems to be a big one.
Hanna: [00:06:36] Well, it seems to be right up there with the importance of identifying risks and the plan outlining the plan.
Andrea: [00:06:43] And so with the identifying risks, you also who’s going to prevent or mitigate that risk and how are we going to do it? So before you even plan the work, you know, knowing what those risks are kind of leads into that same piece. So I know I have my top three risks, and we’re always going to identify risks based off of whether or not it has a likelihood to occur and then what its impact is.
Andrea: [00:07:16] So if it has a very high likelihood of occurrence and the impact is minimal, maybe it’s something that we if we can prevent it, great. But if it occurs, it’s quick. We can handle it and move forward. But say it has that high likelihood of occurrence and it has the potential to impact the project for days, weeks or months. We know we need to include that mitigation in our plan.
Andrea: [00:07:41] And we also need to make sure that we’ve identified who is responsible for that mitigation. I’ve had that in the terms of, you know, in construction projects and sometimes even for the pharmaceutical world. We go in and we have we have a project planned out to the day, but we fail to consider that we might not pass an inspection. And you get to that inspection. We fail that inspection and we find out we had one reason that could have easily taken care of, but because it wasn’t identified, we never tracked whether or not that was going to be completed.
PROJECT MANAGEMENT CHALLENGES OF WORKING REMOTELY
Hanna: [00:08:20] Now, working remotely has just become a lot more commonplace. And so how has working remotely impacted project management, do you think?
Andrea: [00:08:32] I think it had a learning curve in the beginning of not being able to be face to face with your team. Even Zoom and video chat such as Teams and stuff, have really helped to bridge that gap between not being next to somebody and not being able to just pop by their desk and say something.
Andrea: [00:08:51] The Zoom took time to get used to. People had to get comfortable in front of the cameras. And I think that that communication faltered a little in the beginning to where we weren’t as efficient as we could have been. But I think that that’s also has improved, obviously, over the past eight months, ten months, whatever, wherever we are at this point.
Andrea: [00:09:11] And the implementation of using chat systems, some offices were using the internal chats before, somewhere. So using that has kind of taken place of the let’s pop by somebody’s desk and ask them a question. Let’s just send them a Team’s message. We’ll send them a Google chat, a Slack chat. And so the coordination piece of remote working for project management has caught up.
Andrea: [00:09:34] But I think some of the pieces that we’re still lacking is more of that in construction is we have to be on site. So some projects have just stopped for a little while, whereas other projects, they’re just taking the precautions necessary to be in person.
Andrea: [00:09:51] I’d say any other project management that is not required to be physically present. I guess what we’ve kind of lost is some of the big room discussions and those are happening in meetings. But it’s hard to have a multi hour big room discussion when you’re all on Zoom. There’s Zoom fatigue. I’m sure you’ve been on enough calls where by the end of it you’re sitting there, I’ve been holding the smile for two hours, what do I do?
TIPS FOR IMPROVING REMOTE PROJECT MANAGEMENT
Hanna: [00:10:20] Yeah. Yeah, definitely. People have been Zoomed out. So I appreciate the point. Now, if you’re a manager, what do you think would help with that Zoom fatigue, shorter meetings? I mean, what do you think?
Andrea: [00:10:35] Yeah, I think part of it is going to be a combination of just that shorter, more efficient meeting, and I think the pandemic has forced us into that a little bit and in a way, I think it has created more efficiencies for a lot of teams. You know, just as much you didn’t want to sit in a conference room for an hour before, but the Zoom meeting is sometimes more difficult than sitting in the conference room. So we’re all making an effort to make those shorter.
Andrea: [00:11:00] And some of the things that I’ve had my teams working on to make those meetings shorter is making sure that we have a published agenda ahead of time with established . . . the agenda puts the plan out. We’ve established our goals for the meeting and we know who are key people because the agenda is there. People know what’s expected of them when they enter the meeting.
Andrea: [00:11:22] So kind of handling it in the sense of you prepare for the meeting so that the discussion can be shorter and more succinct, making sure that any action items that require attention are in the agenda and then addressed in the meeting. And I think that also helps us eliminate meetings that are unnecessary when you publish an agenda ahead of time, because if you can answer all those questions in an email.
Andrea: [00:11:46] Now, the I think the big complaint that so many company employees and officers always have is, well, that meeting could have been an email. We can create that in a reality by publishing the agenda ahead of time with action items and maybe addressing everything we need. So when you get into that meeting, you’re just going to have that quick, here’s our critical item or major risk. Let’s discuss how we’re going to solve it and the rest of the nuances of the meeting can really be taken care of ahead of time.
WHEN DO YOU NEED TO HIRE SOMEONE WITH PROFESSIONAL PROJECT MANAGEMENT SKILLS?
Hanna: [00:12:17] Well, that definitely sounds like a plan. Now when it comes to business size or even the project’s size, when does it make sense for a business to outsource project management and engage someone with your skill set and your services, for example,
Andrea: [00:12:36] When your internal team is in . . . , not necessarily incapable, when your internal team is struggling to meet deadlines because they are not having the . . . I want to say even the organization, you know, they don’t have it. Everything in line. Knowing when deadlines are approaching. What tasks are required for those deadlines or they don’t have the time to coordinate their resources to get it done.
Andrea: [00:13:02] Even if . . . it could be something as small as having a project manager outsourced for five hours a week. And that’s something where this concept of project management as a service. You have software as a service. You subscribe and you say, OK, when you go in, you pick your subscription, I’m going to have five users and we’re going to pay monthly or annually. And you purchase that service for what you need.
Andrea: [00:13:27] You can do the same thing with project management. And hey, I have, you know, two teams. They’re running pretty well, but we need someone to keep them in line, someone to do daily scrums or somebody to do biweekly work plans, create this Looking Ahead and identify risks and issues and have those critical discussions. But we don’t need to hire a full-time employee. So maybe you have a five, 10, 15 hour a week contract that gives you that added value without bringing on the additional employee and all the burden that comes with that for a company.
Andrea: [00:14:03] So I don’t necessarily, I don’t want to put a dollar value on the project. So it’s really what does your team handle well? And when will that extra resource be helpful?
HOW PROJECT MANAGEMENTS SKILLS CREATE ACCOUNTABILITY
Hanna: [00:14:12] Well, it sounds also that an outside project manager would add a layer of accountability. If you know that you’re going to meet with that person, you know, next Friday, then, yeah, I got to have X, Y, Z done because they’re going to want to know where we stand, right?
Andrea: [00:14:29] Absolutely. And I mean that might, I have some clients where I meet with them daily. Some are, you know, we’re going to do a check in on Monday, Wednesday. Some are, Hey, we’re just going to meet every Friday at 9:00 a.m. This is . . . we’re going to go over your scope for the week.
Andrea: [00:14:43] And then in between, as conversations happen through email or through Teams or Slack, that information that trickled in, you will be updated in whatever tracker we’re using. So then come our meeting, hey, so here’s what I see has happened this week. Here’s an issue and if issues pop up that we know are critical, obviously raise the flag before the meeting. But then they know, like, OK, every Friday we’re going to have this discussion.
Andrea: [00:15:07] And last week I said I would go have this done, just like you were saying. You know, you need to get it done so that accountability is there so they can also update along the way. Some of my favorite, I’m going to say teammates on some of my client side, you walk into a meeting and they’re like, I updated the notes and we just we checked through the notes and we say, OK, cool. So what issue can I help you get through today? And then that’s when that’s our real discussion and planning for the meeting.
Andrea: [00:15:37] Same way. We can make those project management meetings with the team smaller, even from an outsourced piece. I don’t need to know every single detail of what happens in your company. I don’t need to be there forty hours a week to see it. Yeah, definitely. The accountability is there.
Hanna: [00:15:52] Well, that’s really helpful to help keep projects on track and another set of eyes to identify issues and help people work through it. Another voice, another pair of hands, another point of view, another perspective that’s not necessarily bogged down in all of the company minutia, but that can take the bird’s eye. Bigger picture point of view so I can see where that would be really helpful.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN HIRING A PROJECT MANAGER
Hanna: [00:16:17] Now, if I’m a small or medium sized business owner and I’m sort of in a growth mode, but like you said, I’m not prepared to hire somebody full time to be a project manager because I don’t have that many projects. But I do have an important initiative that I want to make sure stays on track and has some professional expertise applied to the rigors of managing the project and moving it forward so people don’t get bogged down.
Hanna: [00:16:46] How would I go about selecting a project manager? Are they industry specific?
Andrea: [00:16:51] A lot of times, yes. If you are a construction project manager, you want somebody who understands what the sequence of events and construction has to look like. You want, if you’re doing for software development, you want somebody who’s worked in the development side. There’s an old saying over the years that if you can’t . . . those who can’t do, teach. That is the absolute wrong way to look at project management.
Andrea: [00:17:15] You want somebody who has been there and done that and has learned through the experience. So you pick somebody who has grown in that industry. And I think some of the best consultants that I’ve worked with, partnered with and experienced in the past are ones that have started off as maybe just a project coordinator or your project engineer. They’ve gone through, they’ve done all of those small details that lead up to being able to say, OK, I’ve witnessed a project go terribly wrong and here’s how we fix it.
Andrea: [00:17:49] Definitely industry specific to a degree. And if you’re building, if you’re looking at different types of construction, they may have . . . you know . . . you want somebody who is familiar with pharmaceutical or semiconductor versus somebody who does houses. If you’re looking for software, obviously, they’ll look at your PC, your Mac Linux, like you can get very specific if you want to.
Andrea: [00:18:13] But if you’re looking for somebody who has the general project management mindset, those can be applied on a consulting side to almost any industry, because at that point you’re going to look at what the delivery processes are they doing traditional PM sequence? Are they doing Agile? Are they doing Waterfall? And so you can identify it that way as well instead of by industry.
Andrea: [00:18:38] So I would never take a traditional PM and ask them to jump in to an Agile project if they’ve never done Agile before.
Hanna: [00:18:46] Ok, well, now you’re talking about some specific jargon here. When you’re talking about a PM, I’m assuming it’s project manager.
Andrea: [00:18:53] Yes
Hanna: [00:18:53] But what is Agile and what is Waterfall? Educate me here.
Andrea: [00:18:58] So Agile is taking short sprints. And that’s really if you were to say, you know, we want to deliver this project and we’ve broken it down into, you know, for the next week or the next two weeks, our goal is to, let’s say 50 percent of the next milestone. Your team focuses purely on that one section for that week or two, and then you get to that week and you say, OK, so what do I have left? Do I have anything that I didn’t finish that I need to continue into the next sprint and then you build out the next one.
Andrea: [00:19:39] So it’s always been like one- or two-week increments. At each one you can kind of identify if there’s issues coming up, if you need to modify and change. But being Agile, you’re not making your plan that is set in stone for the duration of the project. You’re adapting and being agile with how you handle it each step of the way.
Hanna: [00:19:59] Aha. Waterfall? What about Waterfall?
Andrea: [00:20:02] The Waterfall is very it’s much more structured in the terms that you’re going to completely develop all of your requirements, then you’re going to completely design everything versus like I said, Agile. You do these two-week sprints and you may decide on week two, hey, that’s not working. We’re going to switch. We’re going to do this. And then you change what you’re doing and that may change your requirements versus Waterfall. It flows from one bucket to the next. And if you change something, you have to go back up to that requirements bucket all over again.
Andrea: [00:20:37] So the Agile has been adopted more in recent years than Waterfall. But there is also some you know, some people who do both. But the Waterfall piece,
Hanna: [00:20:51] OK
Andrea: [00:20:51] So Waterfall really typically would go from developing your requirements, designing, implementing and then like your verification or possibly commissioning, bring everything up to full operating speed. And then we can even include maintenance in some of the project management pieces as well. I typically wouldn’t include maintenance, but maybe identifying what that maintenance should look like and how often it should occur.
Hanna: [00:21:19] Sounds very comprehensive.
Hanna: [00:21:21] Now, if I wanted to hire a project manager and. All right, I’m going to pick an industry. All right. Let’s say I want to create a website. And so I need a website developer. But still, when it comes to the project management piece of it, what kind of questions should I be asking? Things that would be transferable to any industry?
Andrea: [00:21:44] You should be asking what type of project management they prefer to use. Are they typically an Agile manager? They typically a Waterfall manager? Do they like to handle it in just a traditional here’s your schedule.
Andrea: [00:21:58] What type of communication do they use or how would they plan to communicate throughout the project? And that’s really how you’re going to have people who like to be in constant contact with you as a client. Then you’re also going to find people that, hey, Hanna, I only want to talk to you once every week or once every two weeks. But if I have a problem, I’ll let you know. And it’s really going to come down to what your comfort level is in some people.
Andrea: [00:22:22] I think it would also benefit them to have a project manager who has a here’s our check-in schedule and here’s how we’re going to address this, because it also, as a business owner, may force you to step back and let the person you hired deliver and do what they’re great at. So I would say the big question is going to be, what’s your style project management? What’s your communication style? And then also how are you going to deliver this package? Your final product is you’re going to receive this website.
PROJECT MANAGEMENT SKILLS INCLUDE ANTICIPATING END OF PROJECT CONSEQUENCES
Andrea: [00:22:55] But that also falls into what those KPIs are. What’s that key performance? What does that success look like? In the end? Some website developers, they’ll say, oh, yeah, I’ll build a website for you. But then any time you need something changed, you have to go back to them and ask them, hey, I need you to update this page. I need you to add this new service to this page, or they may deliver you a full package with all the rights to it and you make the updates as you want and only go back to them if you have something major that you need redesigned.
Andrea: [00:23:22] And that can also fall into more than just websites. Obviously, if you have marketing projects that you’re taking on, is that product truly yours in the end? What’s their deliverable? And how do they . . . some people won’t work with others if they won’t allow them to maintain the rights because they want you to come back for more service.
Hanna: [00:23:44] Yeah, definitely. And it also increases the pain of disconnect. If at some point in the future you decide, oh, Andrea, you know, it’s not working out here. We just want to take it and bring this in-house and you’re like, tsk, tsk, tsk, no, I own this. Yeah, exactly.
Andrea: [00:23:59] I would recommend for a lot of people that now you define what that disconnect looks like in that contract because, you know, taking it away from somebody midstream is probably not the best idea, even if you don’t think it’s quite like, oh, you got this 90 percent of the way, I can handle it from here. But ten percent is the worst part at the end. But define it early on.
Hanna: [00:24:22] Excellent. Well, Andrea, if someone wants to get in touch with you, we’re going to have your contact information on the episode page at BusinessConfidentialRadio.com. But if you’d like to give your website, now would be a good time to do that.
Andrea: [00:24:39] So it’s the Moriaeg.com standing for the Moriae Group.
Hanna: [00:24:51] Well, thank you, Andrea. This has been really informative. I like the tips. I like the questions, things for people to think about when it comes to project management so that they can accomplish their goals and get it done in an efficient manner to achieve their success milestones.
Andrea: [00:25:07] Thank you again, Hanna. I mean, this is awesome. If there’s anything else that comes up. I mean, this has been an absolute pleasure.
Hanna: [00:25:14] That’s our show for today. But don’t go anywhere. I have a really easy ask for you. Would you please open your podcast app and give us a five-star review and leave a comment about what you love most about the show? I do read them all and it’ll take you less than a minute. And while you’re at it, share this episode, tell someone about it, because the best way to grow our audience is by word of mouth.
Hanna: [00:25:35] And if you want the detailed show notes, links to connect with my guest or stuff that we talked about, even if you want to ask a question, have a show idea. Come on over to BusinessConfidentialRadio.com. I’ll catch you on the next episode. And in the meantime, have a great day and even better tomorrow.
Guest: Andrea Uvanni
Andrea Uvanni’s background is in advanced industry project management and as a consultant she not only looks for ways to improve the process and drive efficiencies, she strives to educate the team on strategies and software to make life easier.
She grew up with a family that owned and operated various successful businesses across services, retail and the food industry. As a result, she has a deep understanding of what it takes to run a business, and she strives to make each client’s team more efficient so they can work to live, not live to work.
She is a certified Business Coach, Financial Analyst and Keynote Speaker and likes to consider herself to be a full-time optimist, bringing strategies for success to every situation.
Contact Andrea and connect with her on LinkedIn.
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