Tag Archive: PMP

Workplace Conflict; The Good, The Bad & The Useful

For a good portion of my career, I thrived on being a marketer. From my early days as a market researcher, an account manager, and eventually an agency executive, I loved the strategy and process of creating great concepts with compelling messaging that influenced buyers’ behavior. Managing a creative team, a client team, or corporate team, is sometimes burdened with conflict. Handling conflict was not my favorite part of the job, ever!

I aspired to broaden my career and went back to school for a Masters in Leadership Development about 12 years ago. Through a confluence of introductions, opportunities and also being an adjunct instructor at Drexel University, I joined one of my cohort’s businesses, Merit Career Development. Initially, I began helping them with a new branding initiative, but in an “Ah Ha” moment we realized that I’d likely be a strong trainer for Merit, too.  We were right. I have been running corporate trainings for Merit now for five years and I love it! But here’s the surprise: one of my favorite courses to facilitate, is Conflict Management (followed closely by Critical Thinking & Decision-Making.)

Why do I now enjoy talking about managing conflict? Because it makes sense to me now! And I also realize how much value it provides in driving better ideas and solutions. If we didn’t have conflict, and we all agreed on everything, we would live in a pretty boring, uni-dimensional world. How could we effectively cultivate new ideas or innovation without conflict?! It would be much tougher! The process of resolving conflict is very important, as well. It helps build and strengthen relationships, trust, and influences the development of new solutions to the challenges we face every day.

How do we make conflict good and useful?

Ultimately, it comes down to three important things:

  1. Being respectful towards the person or people who have a different opinion
  2. Opening yourself to hearing another perspective (opinion, solution, recommendation, etc.)
  3. Taking the time to truly understand the other opinion

Learning to listen and take the perspective of the person you are in conflict with, or reframing your perspective, as we discuss in the Critical Thinking course, is extremely helpful. It can be enlightening. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and give their idea a chance to be a winner to best understand the opportunities that may exist.

The results of working through conflict can be similar to a great brainstorming session; not all ideas are good or practical, but they often result in a better idea emerging through conversation and compromise. When this happens, the best part is that there is not one winner and one loser; everyone is a winner and feels ownership in the solution.

Good luck with conflict. Embrace it and become a better person by managing it with respect. You just may like the outcome!

Look for Part 2 of this series next month where we’ll share proven tips for recognizing different conflict styles and how to most effectively respond to them.

To learn more about the author, Gail Cooperman, or the workshops she teaches, click here.  If you would like to bring any of our trainings to your location, please contact Jim Wynne at jwynne@meritcd.com or call 610-225-0449.

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Why Simulation-Based Instruction is the Best Way to Learn!

sitrain_teams_playing_wide_sts

The Chief Operating Officer (COO) asks the Chief Executive Officer (CEO): “What if we spend time and money training our employees and they leave the company?”

The CEO responds: “What if we don’t and they stay?”

Taking time and resources to train your personnel is often looked at as a necessary evil. Training employees takes them away from their day-to-day tasks and the cost will be reflected on the bottom line. Adding to the challenge of supporting training, is the uncertainty of the return-on-investment at both an individual and organizational productivity level.

As an executive who is considering training your team, the most important question you should ask is not: Should I train my team? but rather: What method of training should I use? Different training methods result in varying levels of content retention. Of course you want to ensure that your organization achieves the greatest value from training, so relevant content as well as deploying the use of experiential learning techniques should both be priorities.

learning-_pyramid

As the image to the left illustrates, participatory learning, especially using simulation for practice, provides the highest level of retention for training, second only to “teaching others.”

What is simulation-based learning? It is an instructor-guided, interactive learning environment that replicates an actual business, technical, or educational challenge. It permits the learners to practice resolving issues in a relatively worry-free atmosphere. Not only is it authentic and relevant to the learners’ work, but it provides a safe environment to learn; mistakes won’t result in costly repercussions. It’s ideal to spur on innovation, too, because it allows for creative problem solving.

Simulation-based learning is the most effective technique for developing every professionals’ knowledge, skills, and attitudes, whilst protecting the organization from unnecessary risks. It is useful in resolving practical dilemmas, and provides four real-time benefits.

  1. EXPERIENTIAL & REPETITIVE LEARNING. While in traditional lecture-based training, the desired outcome is merely explained; in simulation learning, individuals achieve an outcome from first-hand experience. Adults, like most people, learn better through experience. In the simulation, individuals have the opportunity for repetitive practice, which helps increases retention.
  2. KNOWLEDGE INTEGRATION. A key facet of any learning is that understanding is increased when it is linked to some already known piece of knowledge. Simulation-based learning, because of its participatory nature, has the added benefit of being able to psychologically link concepts and allow participants to link knowledge areas through their actions.
  3. RISK-FREE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT. Regardless of our attitude, learning research validates that we learn by making mistakes. In fact, they are invaluable to the participant. If executive decision makers can participate in relevant and realistic simulations, they can safely make mistakes, learn from them, and promptly apply their learned knowledge to their real work challenges, avoiding costly mistakes or unintended consequences.
  4. ABILITY TO ADJUST THE LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY. The technology provided in most simulation-based learning tools are designed to allow the difficulty level to increase as the competency of the individuals and teams improve. This provides additional flexibility and continual learning opportunities for a varied level of experienced personnel.

Simulation-based learning is the most effective learning technique for both your employees and your organization. Your training dollars are better invested with simulation training because of higher learning retention. Further, because your team will practice with relevant and practical scenarios, the potential for catastrophic mistakes is mitigated.

If you’re looking for a relevant, engaging interactive learning environment with simulation, call Merit and ask about our SimulTrain® project management training experience. Contact Jim Wynne at  jwynne@meritcd.com or call him at 610-225-0449.

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Understanding How Risk Management Can Improve Organizational Performance

One of the biggest challenges in risk management is risk identification. Humans are naturally optimistic, therefore we do not like to recognize or discuss risks. We need to incorporate processes such as scenario planning and the pre-mortem technique into our forecasting practices. These techniques help us overcome our aversion to recognizing and discussing risks. Only after we have identified risks can we implement tactics to reduce their probability.

Merit is frequently asked to help businesses, federal agencies and membership organizations reduce or mitigate risk – regardless of their size and business type. Often their project teams collaborate and discuss methods for improving their risk status but have proven to be flawed. The most common flaw that sets them back is their goal to have all risk plans drive their risk probability and impact to zero, in which case it would not be a risk.

Risk_RegisterStandard risk responses include Avoidance, Mitigation, Transference, and Acceptance (passive/active). At Merit, we developed a reporting process that would show that the risk factors were decreasing as the project progressed. Supplemented with suitable risk responses, the true reduction of risk probability occurs over time.

The added value that we incorporated into the risk management process was two-fold. First, because of the desire to drive the risk to as low as possible, the use of multiple risk responses could be utilized. The second process improvement would be not only to subsequently reassess the risk, but also to re-evaluate the risk probability and impact matrix after the implementation of the risk response over time.

Probability_Impact_MatrixThe Probability and Impact Matrix is one of the tools that we recommend in a risk management strategy.  It is superimposed with risks that are labeled or numbered as in the above example. “Red” area risks were uniquely documented on a trending month-to-month basis such that it could be seen “driving” toward zero.

The implementation of a risk response would then “reclassify” the risk event for the next reporting period. However, the biggest impact on reducing risk is time.  Time because we are progressively refining our process as our project develops, and because the physical window (amount of time available) for a risk event is reduced.

We invite you to learn about our modified process template so you too can incorporate it into your project plans. For more information, to learn other advanced risk monitoring, reporting, and controlling techniques or to schedule a risk management training customized for your team, contact Jim Wynne at jwynne@meritcd.com or by calling (610) 225-0449.

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3 Reasons Why a PM Credential is Essential

Young team_PM Credential; photo credit iStockWhether you’re yearning to get a real job or a better one, the struggle to make your résumé stand out from the competition can be a demoralizing impediment to landing the right position. Portraying your skills and value to a company in a unique way without a long job history can seem nearly impossible. However, developing your skills in project management can make you a sought-after asset to any organization. Becoming a Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) is a relatively easy and inexpensive way to unlock better jobs and significantly higher salaries in almost any industry. This certification will build skills to effectively managing a project from planning and projections to execution through completion.

For those who hold a CAPM certification, earning the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification will allow you to further distinguish yourself and display your mastery of the subject. This leading certification carries a significant increase in annual salary.

1. Vast Job Opportunities

Glassdoor.com, a leading job listings and information website, has over 300,000 active listings for project management positions nationwide. Project management skills and knowledge are also applicable outside the borders of the US. Skills in project management benefit practically every facet of every industry. From IT, to banking and finance, sales, medical services, human resources, and research positions; project managers are in extremely high demand. Developing your skills in project management will grant you increased access to any industry that interests you.

2. High Perceived Value

A survey conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit saw the majority of international executives identifying project management as “the single most important skill for their current and future success.” The US News and World Report has also ranked project management in the top three of most desired skills sought by employers. The demand for these skills means that a recognizable project management certification will distinguish your résumé from the competition in a way that a typical 4-year degree college degree cannot. No matter the industry, a CAPM or PMP certification will identify you as a necessary leader and team player who is focused on the efficient completion of assignments.

3. Greater Salary Potential

Glassdoor’s salary tracker also shows average Project Manager salaries to range from $81,000 to over $125,000 with multiple postings in excess of $200,000 annually. Simply obtaining your CAPM or PMP certification will increases your real and perceived values and have a direct effect on your income.

CAPM vs PMP

 

  CAPM PMP
Who Should Apply Entry-level employees or those with little project management experience For CAPMs or experienced Project Management Professionals
Experience Required No experience required Minimum 4,500 hours of project management experience and 35 hours of Project Management education
Certification Maintenance Retest after 5 years Achieve 60 PDUs every 3 years to maintain a current knowledge of project management issues and strategies
Benefits Access to multiple industries and lucrative employment.Salary increases and resume distinction.Introduction to the field of Project Management Resume distinction through proof of subject mastery 12.5% increase in salary vs those in equivalent position without a PMP certification.Maintaining a current and multi-industry knowledge of Project Management

The CAPM examination can facilitate your achievement of the more prestigious and financially awarding PMP certification.

According to the Project Management Institute, which awards the CAPM and PMP certifications, they both focus on:

  • The skills to initiate a project
  • Project preparation and planning proficiency
  • Executing, monitoring, controlling and completing a project
  • Estimating activity costs
  • Planning for quality at every stage
  • Performing quality assurance
  • Hiring, leading and managing a project team
  • Foreseeing and planning for the unexpected

For more information on the PMI or the CAPM/PMP certifications, visit www.PMI.org.

CAPM and PMP Test Prep

Successful CAPM and PMP candidates typically use multiple study aids to prepare themselves for the exam. Although many business schools are incorporating CAPM and PMP test preparation into their classes, standalone assistance is also available. For more information on the CAPM or PMP certifications and effective test preparation, please visit meritcd.com/courses/Project_Management or contact Jim Wynne at jwynne@meritcd.com.


© 2015 Merit Career Development. All rights reserved.

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When the Test Stakes are High, Practice is Key

When the Test Stakes are High, Practice is KeyRemember the morning you took the SAT? Or GMAT? Or LSAT? Like many professionals, you probably have vivid memories of worrying about these tests, not to mention pouring over test prep books and attending expensive courses to maximize your scores. After all, the results would play a major role in your future direction and career.

Even now that you are in the professional world, the testing doesn’t necessarily end. Many professions, including project management, offer test-based professional certifications where success has profound and positive professional consequences in the form of career advancement, higher salary and the respect of your peers.

However, as enticing as those benefits can be, professional exams, preparing for and passing a test—like the one necessary to earn the Project Management Professional (PMP) designation awarded by the Project Management Institute—is difficult. Moreover, as a working professional, test preparation not only has to be effective, it also needs to be time efficient. Few professionals have time for weeks- or months-long preparation classes.

Practice, practice, practice

The good news is that research suggests that this kind of time commitment is not necessary to maximize results. A simpler approach to test preparation can be highly effective for many people. The research indicates that the key to maximizing test scores is becoming familiar with the test format and the types of questions being asked by taking practice tests. This practice testing helps you get used to the thinking and problem solving you will need to pass the formal test.

For example, a team of German researchers found that students taking both “high-stakes” and “low-stakes” tests (based on how much of a personal investment the students had in the outcome of the test) performed substantially better when they took practice tests. Similarly, another study of school-age children found that just three hours of practice testing had a statistically significant impact on final test results.

If you are pursuing the PMP designation, for example, Merit Career Development’s Project Management Assessment offers such a practice test. The assessment consists of 50 multiple-choice questions of varying difficulty that takes about an hour to complete and tests your knowledge of the PMBOK Guide’s (Project Management Book of Knowledge®) practices and terms.

Merit’s PMI examination simulator, X-AM PMP®/CAPM®,helps prepare certification candidates in an easy and efficient way. Candidates become accustomed to the kinds of questions asked during the examination while practicing with the X-AM PMP®/CAPM®, which includes over a thousand questions with feedback on each one.

To coach or not?

Less clear is the impact of coaching on test performance. Some research suggests that coaching, while not essential, can also help prepare you and help improve your scores when coupled with practice test taking. However, one study of 500 SAT test takers who had participated in formal coaching programs found little difference in the scores of those who received this coaching and those who did not.

The core argument for practice testing is that these assessments help you understand what to expect before you take the actual exam. When you know what to expect, taking the exam becomes much less daunting. That, in turn, helps you build confidence in your ability to do well on the test. Research has shown that practice tests alone can help improve both test-taking capability and test-taking confidence.

Moreover, in a sort of virtuous cycle in which positive action leads to more positive action, as your greater familiarity with the test breeds confidence, it also makes you more motivated to take the test. And let’s face it, when a professional certification test costs several hundred dollars, building this confidence is an essential part of the test preparation. You will be more committed to taking the test and feel much more comfortable paying for it, if you are confident that you will pass.

Interested in learning more? Click here to view Merit’s Project Management Assessment and the PMI prep simulator, X-AM PMP®/CAPM®.


© 2014 Merit Career Development. All rights reserved. For more information, please contact Jim Wynne at jwynne@MeritCD.com.

 

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