Author: Carl Pritchard

Carl Pritchard, PMP®, PMI-RMP® is the author of seven project management texts, and co-produced “The Audio PMP Prep: Conversations on Passing the PMP® Exam” with Bruce Falk. He is the U.S. Correspondent for the British Project Management Magazine, “Project Manager Today” and serves on the board of directors for

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MS Planner Fields: Flex a Little Text (or Numbers) Muscle!

Unlock hidden project management power by leveraging Microsoft Project's text and number custom fields for tracking risks, lessons learned, resource details, and more.

Webinar Highlight: Communicating Effectively with and without Microsoft Project…and without the Spin!

We will discuss effective communication and the importance of understanding whether our messages are truly getting through.

Communicating Effectively with and without MSP

WebNLearn: Communicating Effectively With and Without MSP…and without the spin!

In this webinar, we will learn about Sprint ceremonies including sprint planning, daily scrum, sprint review and sprint retro.

Those darn Risk Register boxes! What really goes in there?

Project Management Institute (PMI)® Professional Development Units (PDUs): This Webinar is eligible for 1 PMI® PDU in the Technical category of the Talent Triangle. Event Description: It’s one thing to fill out a form. It’s another thing entirely to know what you’re putting in the boxes and know that it has meaning. In this entertaining romp with risk, Carl Pritchard examines the joy of the risk register and the real value behind filling out the boxes properly. Carl gives you a chance to see why “high” doesn’t always mean “high” to everyone on the team and to explore the pains and joys of risk ownership (and who makes the ideal risk owner). He’ll look at responses and their outcomes, pointing out that “nothing happened” may be an outcome that cries out for change. Carl puts his PMI-RMP to work as he examines the point behind the risk categories and explains what risk sources really mean to us in the long run. He’s the author of two risk management texts and has lectured on risk from Sydney to Saskatchewan. Join us for an opportunity to find out how even MS Project can be used as a specialized Risk Register! Presenter Info: Carl Pritchard, PMP®, PMI-RMP® is the author of seven project management texts, and co-produced “The Audio PMP Prep: Conversations on Passing the PMP® Exam” with Bruce Falk. He is the U.S. Correspondent for the British Project Management Magazine, “Project Manager Today” and serves on the board of directors for Have you watched this webinar recording? Tell MPUG viewers what you think! [WPCR_INSERT]

I KNOW It’s Around Here Somewhere: A Look at Those Darn Risk Register Boxes

As a risk maven, I love encouraging organizations to build out a comprehensive risk register with all of the bells and whistles. Those bells and whistles?  Event, probability, impact, overall priority score, overall priority, risk owner, risk response, risk category… the list could go on and on. There are two tragedies that often happen; however, with this mountain of information: 1. The only person who knows what it all means leaves the organization 2. The information gets tucked deep in the bowels of SharePoint®, never to be heard of again The risk register problem would likely go away entirely if every project had a project librarian or archivist, but that’s a luxury few organizations can afford. The somewhat amazing solution can be found in, of all places, Microsoft Project®. Most people don’t think of Project® as a risk tool, given that it doesn’t have all the flexibility of Excel® or other third-party add on’s. The real beauty with Project®; however, is that its limitations actually force better project management practice, particularly when its capabilities are flexed to serve as a home for the risk register. In teaching risk management, I encourage participants to identify risk at both the project level and at the work package level. When using Project® in that regard, the opportunities are noteworthy. As most advanced users are aware, Project® comes with 30 supplemental text fields, as well as 30 number fields. At best, most organizations use only a handful, but these should be any risk manager’s greatest friend. They can become the home for a task-specific risk register. They can also link out to risk register documentation elsewhere, if there’s a standard organizational “home” for that information.   So, What’s Different About Storing Risks in Project®? If I asked you what the risks were on a home construction project, you could come up with a dozen quick responses and most likely they would all be completely unrelated. We could fail to get permits, stopping the project. We could have our master carpenter fall ill with some untreatable disease. We could decide to change the requirements, pushing back our ability to finish on time. With limited structure for the question, there is limited structure for the answer. However, if we have a project plan carefully crafted and stored in Project®, we can now fill in the risk register on a task-by-task, work-package-by-work-package basis. Instead of looking at risks on the overall project, we can get down to where risks happen—in the specifics. We are now asking at a detailed level—What are the risks associated with excavating the foundation?  We may fail to maintain the survey lines at the site, causing the excavator to dig the wrong hole. (And don’t think I just made that up. I asked a backhoe operator that exact question, and he shared that that happens on about every third project). If I have the columns for Event, Probability, Impact, Description, etc. set up within the tool, I capture risks for all of the work that’s being done. Not only that, I capture risks specific to the work and the work in progress. When work is actually done, I get to push back and say, “Can I now retire this risk?” and that’s not a question we often get to ask! If we have gone so far to create labels for our Text17 and Number11 fields (by way of example), we can also create views. Views afford us the ability to create a standardized, up-to-date risk register, still related directly to the elements of work throughout the project or associated with work that remains in process or undone. But, what if there are some global risks?  What about risks above the work packages?  Risks at the summary levels? The same cells for the risk register exist at the higher levels of the WBS. Thus, it’s possible to have the conversation at both the micro- and the macro- levels. If a more powerful, Excel®-driven, or Word®-formatted risk register is required, let us not forget the power of Paste-Link. By linking out to a risk register in another format, we are able to retain the information, tie it directly to the project (every time the file is opened), and not lose track of where we put those pesky risks. Keeping risk information disassociated from project information is a tragedy waiting to happen. Many project managers would rather not deal with risks, particularly at a detail level. Many risk managers see themselves as oracles who should not be pestered to have a conversation about when and where the risks may transpire. With a simple connection between the conventional tool of a risk register and the tools afforded by Project®, we become more effective managers at all levels. I invite you to watch my on-demand webinar, Those Darn Risk Register Boxes! What Really Goes in There?, to explore this topic more deeply.  

Winning Presentation Skills

Event Description: The winning project, the winning program, the winning career are often defined by the presentation skills of the manager involved. Winning presentation skills are not defined by charisma, but by practice, audience knowledge and passion. In this one-hour seminar, Carl Pritchard shares his facility with the podium and gives you the tips you need to grab and hold an audience. You’ll learn tricks about presentation preparation, audience assessment, the crucial opening seconds and an effective close-out. Upon completion, participants will be able to: Presenter Info: Carl Pritchard, PMP®, PMI-RMP® is the author of seven project management texts, and co-produced “The Audio PMP Prep: Conversations on Passing the PMP® Exam” with Bruce Falk. He is the U.S. Correspondent for the British Project Management Magazine, “Project Manager Today” and serves on the board of directors for   Have you watched this webinar recording? Tell MPUG viewers what you think! [WPCR_INSERT]

Avoiding Death by PowerPoint (and other Presentation Arts)

We CAN! We WILL!  With either of those word pairings, you can set yourself off on the right foot for your next presentation. But, with the wrong opening, you can kill it with equal levels of ease. We’ve all been there. It’s the presentation from Hades. The speaker seems a bit confused and ducks behind the podium or refuses to turn on his/her web camera. At that point, everyone knows the downhill slide of the fatal presentation is officially underway.   Death on the Dais Whether the dais is real or virtual, it’s relatively easy to die there. Five ways to kill a presentation happen within the first five minutes of any presentation opening: Death by Technology Death by Disorientation Death by Diffidence Death by Recitation Death by Dullness You probably recognize at least one or two of the five deaths, and for each, you need to become the master of avoidance strategies.   Technology You are an expert. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be presenting to a crowd, but if you haven’t mastered the tech, you’re going to appear insecure and unsure at a time when you’re trying to project true mastery of the subject matter. You may be thinking, “But, Carl, there should be someone there to help me! I shouldn’t be doing their job for them.” Wouldn’t that be lovely? Alas, in many cases, the speaker is actually more adept with technology than the support team. First and foremost, know what technology will support your presentation. For web presentations, AdobeConnect, WebEx, GoToWebinar, GoToMeeting, and Zoom all have their own individual quirks. Want to get a feel for which one to use? Talk to a salesperson at any of these providers and ask for a comprehensive demo. Ask them all the questions you need to ask and have a list of concerns prepared. They’ll provide support for their own product like no-one else. If you’re going to be a live setting, plan for at least a 30-minute window to test everything out. For the lavaliere microphone, it should be clipped on the center of your blouse or shirt about four inches below your chin (with your head held erect). While you may be offered a “clicker” to advance your slides, be sure you know where the actual computer is and how to advance slides without remote support. You never know what may happen!   Disorientation Now that you’re all set, you are 30 seconds away from glory…or fiasco. Depending upon your reference literature, you have between ten and thirty seconds to get any audience to appreciate and respect you. That’s it. In under a minute, you are a hero or goat (and no, I don’t mean “greatest of all time”). Because you have less than half a minute, you should rehearse. Not once. Not twice. Shoot for 15 to 30 rehearsals of the intro. You can do this in the comfort of your car on your way to the venue, but better yet to have started practicing a week prior. You need that time to build confidence and nuance. And, even though you’ve rehearsed the opening seconds dozens of times, you’ll still be inventing a new opening when you’re delivering the remarks for the first time. If you know those words and how you’ll deliver them, you have a chance to look far more relaxed as you march through the content.   Diffidence You are sharing insight! People came into your presentation, briefing, or meeting optimistic that you will succeed. They want you to “wow” them. This is not a time for apologies and a lack of self-confidence. It’s a time for gratitude and energy. Thank them! Tell them why the subject matter matters, and remind them of it throughout! You are still grateful. The subject matter still matters. It shouldn’t feel forced. It shouldn’t leave you doubtful. You have one of the greatest gifts from your audience. Their time.   Recitation You learned to read in elementary school. So did your audience, and they can read silently at more than TWICE the speed that you can read aloud. So, if you’re tempted to read your slides, don’t. By the time you’ve clicked to the slide, and read the first two words, they’ve absorbed it. If you’re a natural-born reader, my best advice is to just tell yourself to back off. There are tricks; however, if you just cannot help yourself. Read a single word. Give that one word on the slide power. Make it the focal point. Make your audience see that one word differently than they saw it before. Can’t find the power? Consider… Turn the bullets into a story. Share names, backgrounds, cultural norms, and other information. Everything you see here actually relates to a co-worker of mine from years ago. Her name was Freda… Bring the audience into the slide. Look here at this third bullet. Who here has actually dealt with that? Do you mind sharing how it happened to you? Kill the slide. Learn how to black out the presentation temporarily. If the slide is too alluring and you really want to read it, just shut it off for a minute. Most people will believe you’re doing this for effect. They’re right. It changes the focus of the room and keeps the attention where it belongs.   Dullness You are not dull. Really. Even if you have convinced yourself that you are dry as toast, dull as dishwater, and the presenting ultimate snooze-fest…you’re not. Here are some quick turns on how to make yourself compelling: Vocal tone and inflection. Use the full range of your voice. Don’t be afraid of talking like Uncle Bob if his vocal tone would better serve an element of the subject matter. MOVE! Even in virtual settings, you need to maneuver around the dais. Look off-stage or off-camera. Create a fictional world just inches out of the audience’s sight. Your smile gives people the sense that you’re having a good time, and they should be as well. Struggle with that, and they’re going to struggle with granting you likeability. Once you identify a couple of people in your audience, make them the characters in your stories. You may recall that Edwina here said she really wanted to lead that project. Just suppose she told her boss, let’s call him Marty, that she…. The entire time you’re talking about Edwina, she’s the center of the presentation universe. For you? The pressure is off briefly. For her? She carries the aura of celebrity. Virtual or live, it’s stagecraft. It’s a matter of building an environment where people are actually anxious for insight and engagement. They’re looking for insight. You have the honor of providing it for them. Seize that honor. Want to learn more on avoiding what I call Death by Powerpoint? Watch my on-demand webinar, Winning Presentation Skills. It’s eligible for 1 PMI® PDU in the Power Skills category of the Talent Triangle.  

Slam on the Breaks! – The Challenges of Communication and Three Steps to Overcome Them

In addition to the dozens of other hats I wear, I occasionally serve as a technical manuscript editor for a major publisher. In reading the work of others, I’m reminded how profoundly we miscommunicate without realizing it. Some of you read the title for this article, recognizing the non-spellcheckable glaring typo in it.  Think about what you thought when you saw it. Idiot. Unreal. Someone should have caught that! This is one sorry post. It’s a word. A single word. And yet it screams from a mountaintop about the quality of the work included within. We think we communicate all the time. We believe communication is taking place. We post blogs. We send e-mail. We answer our cell phones. And yet, in many cases, we’re only really participating in an illusion of communication. I’d like to suggest a few ways to minimize the illusory nature of communication and clarify what we’re saying: Repetition (sort of) Affirmation (Amen) Echo   Repetition (Sort of) We really don’t want to repeat ourselves, but in many instances, our message doesn’t get heard the first time around. One trick to overcoming the shortfall of simple repetition is to find different ways to say the same thing. Rather than simply repeating “I need the truck tonight,” try it in different ways. “I’m taking the Christmas tree out to the recycling center tonight. I’ll be using the Ranger.”  And again, “I really don’t want to scratch up the roof of the car with the dried-out Christmas tree. This seems like a truck-worthy event.”  Repeat yourself, and you become obnoxious, but finding different ways to send the same message will clarify and help ensure that your message makes it through (albeit through a different channel).   Affirmation One powerful way to ensure the message is getting where its going is to seek affirmation. In my Christmas tree example, the sender has the opportunity to gain concurrence from the receiver that his message has been received. While there’s little affirmation to be sought for “I need the truck”, there’s plenty of room for an “Amen!” when you explain that the dried-out, brittle Christmas tree could scratch the roof of your sedan. Getting others to see the logic behind your statements and the insight behind your communications ensures that they hear what you’re saying in the context in which it’s being said. And, if they don’t concur?  At least you have an early warning that they don’t see the message the same way you do. In that case, there’s a need for some remediation.   Echo I confess to being a TV junkie. I watch NCIS, CSI, and Law & Order over and over and over.  My lovely wife, Nancy, gets a little frustrated with it sometimes. In fact, one of her favorite sentences when I’m absorbed in a show is “What did I just say?” What did she just say? She wants an echo. She wants to be sure I really heard what she said. A good way to verify that your communication is clear is to request an echo. Going back to our example, you could try, “I need the Ranger tonight to take the Christmas tree to the recycling center. It’s the last night they are open.” Anyone who can repeat back that statement will get all of the elements necessary to ensure the message was received as intended. Look at all the pieces: The truck The recycling center The urgency (or embarrassment) of getting rid of the Christmas tree tonight All of the pieces are there, and if someone can repeat it, there’s little room for argument. If you don’t like asking for the full-blown echo, consider the most important components of it. For example, “So, you understand I’m taking the Ranger to the recycling center, right?  And it’s tonight because…” They’ll at least fill in the blank with “It’s the last night.”  Speaking of communication, you might be thinking, “Carl, this seems a little pedantic. Don’t they have a responsibility to get the message?” They may, but it’s up to the communicator to do what they taught us in journalism school at OSU—Tell ‘em, Tell ‘em again, and Tell ‘em that you told ‘em. The more we can do to ensure our messages are not only sent, but received, the further ahead we all are in terms of ensuring communications have actually occurred. Watch my on-demand webinar, Communicating UP!, where you’ll get the opportunity to learn how to distill your message down to its core elements, create a common vision, and engage an audience quickly and effectively. This Webinar is eligible for 1 PMI® PDU in the Power Skills category of the Talent Triangle.  

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