Monday, September 19, 2016

PMP Protein: Conflict, Conflict Management and Conflict Management Techniques

By Saurabh Singhal, PMP

As per the Oxford dictionary, conflict is “A serious disagreement or argument, typically a protracted one”.  Going by the definition, it looks like conflict is something which should be avoided and can cause serious damages if not done so. 

On the contrary, conflict is good in a project environment since it brings different perspectives of dealing with things! It assists the Project Manager to analyze the things better and help him or her do certain things like decomposition, time and cost estimation etc. in a better way. However, if the conflict is not handled in a proper and smooth manner, it could jeopardize the project and its objective. 

It leaves us with so many questions like how much of conflict is good for the project, who is responsible for dealing and resolving the conflict, and what are the ways to deal with the conflict. Let’s take them one by one in a question-answer format.

1)    Is conflict good for the project?
Conflict is good for the project if it is managed properly. Successful conflict management results in greater productivity, positive working environment and healthy relationships.

2)    Can conflict be totally avoided in a project?
According to the PMBOK® guide 5th edition, “conflict is inevitable in a project environment.” It is bound to happen in a project since project is supposed to be completed within the constraints of time, cost, scope, quality, risk and customer satisfaction. 

3)    Who has the responsibility to resolve the conflict?
Project team members who are engaged in the conflict are initially responsible for the resolution. However, if the conflict escalates, it is the responsibility of the Project Manager to facilitate and resolve the conflict.

4)    What are the consequences of improper conflict resolution?

  • Proper conflict management has its advantages. In fact, improper management has its own consequences, few of which are:
  • Low team morale
  • Impact on authority of the project manager
  • More personal clashes
  • Low productivity and efficiency
  • Low quality work

5)    What are the sources of conflict?
There are various sources of conflict starting from the most common source i.e. Schedule to the least common i.e. Personality. This is shown in the figure below. 

Figure – Various Sources of Conflict

6)    What are the methods to deal with conflict?
PMBOK guide 5th edition suggests five methods to deal with conflict.
  • Withdraw/Avoid:
    In this conflict resolution technique, the Project manager tries to avoid the conflict or simply retreat. He will wait for the issue to be resolved either by the involved parties themselves or within some time itself.

    This method can be applied when the stakes are low or when the issue is not worth investing the PM’s time or when the issue is likely to disappear on its own after sometime.
  • Smooth/Accommodate:
    In this technique, the project manager tries to smooth the situation by finding the areas of agreement. The project manager concentrates on what is agreeable to those involved in the conflict and avoids getting into too many details.

    This method can be applied when there is lack of time and the manager may need a temporary resolution with less time.
  • Compromise/Reconcile:
    The project manager takes input from both the parties and tries to make a compromise. Both the parties gain something and lose something. In other words, compromising is a “Middle Path” chosen by the manager as a resolution.

    This method can be used when both the parties involved in the conflict want to win or when both the parties are equally important or when a temporary solution is needed quickly.
    This method is a Lose-Lose situation for both the parties involved.
  • Force/Direct:
    Here the manager pushes one’s viewpoint onto the other. This is a Win-Lose situation and it may demoralize the team.

    This method is good when stakes are high and an immediate solution is required or when the relationship is not that important.
    It is always advisable that the project manager should follow up with the team and explain why that particular solution was taken. This may alleviate the situation to some extent.
  • Collaborate/Problem Solve:
    In this method, the project manager listens to multiple viewpoints, discusses the issues with all the parties involved and come to a solution agreeable upon by all. This technique is considered a Win-Win approach and it enhances team’s commitment towards the project.

    This method is good when the people involved in the conflict are important or when the issue requires time and multiple viewpoints or when the team members are comfortable with each other.
7) What are the factors that influence which method to choose to deal with conflict?
There are several factors that influence the conflict resolution technique. Some of them are
  • Importance of stakeholders involved in the conflict
  • Magnitude or intensity of conflict
  • Time available for investing in resolution
  • Motivation to resolve conflict on a long-term or short-term basis

So, which is the best method to deal with conflict?

PMBOK guide does not recommend any specific technique to be used in all the situations since it depends on the situation and the stakeholders involved in the conflict. However, collaborate or problem solving is the most preferred technique as it emphasizes on open discussion, rationale thinking and consensus among those involved.

For the PMI®-PMP® exam, conflict management is an important topic and questions frequently come on it in the exam. Also, you can apply these techniques in live projects. 

Written by Saurabh Singhal:

          Saurabh Singhal is a Business Analyst in ERP domain and works with CGI, India as a Lead Analyst. He is a certified PMP from Project Management Institute (PMI). He is passionate about various aspects of project management and loves a good debate on topics that varies from Project Management to Business Analysis to Software Development methodologies. Currently he is leading the business analysis and project management efforts for an upgrade project to use a standard Human resource system across all its geographical locations. In his free time, he loves to travel, and in fact, maintains a blog on it. He can be reached at  and connected via LinkedIn.

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    Footnote: This is a new initiative taken to share the PMP exam topics and tips by fellow professionals and colleagues who have cracked the exam. The series will cover a range of topics on the PMP exam and various aspects of project management. I am thankful to Saurabh in writing the first article in this series, which I believe will enrich others in their journey for the PMI-PMP exam. 

    Sunday, September 18, 2016

    PMP Success Story: Own Study, Right Coach and Building High Confidence Made All the Difference

    Manoj Sharma felt to be on the top of the world when he saw “Congratulations” on his screen while appearing for the PMP exam! 

    He got his credential after a preparation of few months, but his approach was quite different, which you can read below. 

    Manoj was part of my class in June 2016. I remember him as someone who listens intently. Also, he was used to a lot of notes – on all the areas I would emphasize as important or key. I think, he would not have missed a single tip/example/trick that I shared in my sessions. 

    His experience is quite detailed. Go on and read his unique experience. 


    What inspired me to be a PMP?
    I have been managing a team for last 3 years. However, I never thought of getting my knowledge translated into a certificate, as I used to believe that real life experience matters more than a paper! But then I met some of the colleagues who shared with me the benefit of getting this certificate and PMP exam journey they went through. It was quite inspiring for me and I told myself “Let me do it”.

    How did I choose the provider and the coach?
    I was sceptical from beginning from taking any training for PMP preparation as I believe in self-study a lot. But then, after some research over google, I came across the PMP program conducted by Satya as the mentor, read many positive reviews and finally decided to go for it. Now I can see it was a decision well made.

    PMP Coaching Experience

    How the classroom session helped?
    Like many other PMP aspirants, I was initially looking for 35 initial hours of learning only from the training program. However, as I moved through the days in the classes, I got many new things to learn, which would not possible to get exposed to by self-learning. We had many group discussions over some topics which makes you think the topics in depth rather than memorising them.

    The PMP classroom session was a great learning experience. Satya shared many live examples which made the tough topics very easy to understand.

    What are the key takeaways from the classroom session?
    I must say that don’t go to any training expecting that it will make you clear the numero-uno management test of PMP in a span of 2-3 weeks. Have your own preparation first from the easily available online materials and books. Once you are confident that you are having a grasp on the subject go for a coaching program like that of Satya’s. This way you will learn more and can get your doubts and queries answered in a group. It was very effective in my experience. 

    What are the areas of discussion which made the differences?
    The group discussions during lectures, quiz sections, presentations - all helped to gain confidence in the subject.

    My Own Study
    My overall preparation time was around 4 months, which I have noted below. And, as said before, my preparation stared before joining the classroom session. 

    Initially started with Rita Mulcahy’s book and I was literally clean bowled by it. It made me think that I will never be able to clear the dreaded exam PMP! But soon I found the able support of the book ‘Head First PMP’, which was quite simple in approach and made me confident that PMP exam can be cleared.

    I made some notes which I used to carry while travelling to office and back to keep myself fresh on the subject.

    I was done with one read of Head First and attempted some online tests, but was still scoring in 60% range, by then I realised that I need to deep dive into concepts to score better. Then, I started searching for an online program for getting the mandatory 35 hours learning to apply for the certification test.

    I zeroed in on the program conducted by Satya and started attending his classes. In parallel I was reading the PMBOK and Rita’s book. 

    It’s the time when all things started falling into place. I was asking lot of doubts in his classes which I came across while reading the books. Thanks to Satya for clearing all the doubts, which made me more confident. As a result, by now I was getting close to 80% range in all the tests which I attempted.

    I didn’t want to delay the exam much further as the more you delay the more you forget. Hence, I took the PMI membership and registered for the exam. I intimated my superiors and previous managers of the content which I was going to put in my application – just in case if my application goes for an audit.

    I kept a window of 2 weeks after registration before the exam, and took 3 days off from office before the exam just to keep me relaxed during the preparation window from hectic office environment.

    Finally, the day came. I started early from home for the centre took some snacks with me (avoid heavy oily food as it can make you drowsy).

    It was as usual traffic jams in Bangalore. But I still managed to reach 1 hour before the appointed time. Be aware that those 4 hrs can be very killing for anyone, so take as many practice exams as you can possible take.

    My PMP Exam Experience

    What are the type of questions that I faced?
    I got very few questions on mathematical and all of them were very simple. I also got many situational questions, some of which were tricky.

    There were many questions on stakeholder management which seems an easy topic but there can be very tricky questions made from it. For them to answer correctly you need to back up with your experience.

    What was my strategy for the exam?
    I was targeting to finish all questions in 3hrs (my first round) and keep 1 hr for attempting the marked ones – question I could not answer initially. But then, reality bites!! By the time I was done with first go, it was already close 3.5 hrs done! I still had close to 20 questions marked. So I devoted the remaining time to marked questions and then felt that it’s getting more confusing now. I took a 5 minutes’ break and after that, again tried to attempt the rest of the marked questions.

    And, the final moment.
    Just before the exam was about to end, I clicked on the submit button.  I was starting to get tense, after I fill up the feedback form, which comes post submission. But post that, another screen came up, which said “CONGRATULATIONS”! It felt like I was on top of the world.

    Suggestions for PMP Aspirants
        -  Dos
            •  Be calm, never let the exam fever control you
        -  Don’ts
            •  Don’t follow multiple sources of knowledge limit yourself to 3-4 max which are well known. There are many people and blogs on internet which have wrong or outdated information which will create a lot of confusion and will waste your precious preparation time. Be careful on that respect. 


    How I want to pursue my learnings on PMP in my professional and/or personal life?
    PMP learning is applicable in both professional and personal life, you need to set up smart goals and pursue them. Take well-judged decisions by cost-benefit analysis, do a documentation of lessons learned, manage your costs and plan well in advance to avoid issues later.

    Concluding remarks
    If I can do it (2 proficient,3 moderately proficient in the performance domains), you can do it as well. All you need is a plan and stick to your plan. There will be times when you will be pulled to office and personal situations, no matter what happens stick to your goal. All the best!!!

    Brief Profile: I am Manoj Sharma and working as a Project Lead with WIPRO Technologies. I have over 11 years of experience in managing Mainframe support projects. 

    Manoj’s PMP credential is available at PMI’s online registry.

    I am thankful to Manoj for sharing his experience and believe it will help the readers of this blog, who are aspiring to be PMP. 

    Sunday, September 04, 2016

    ‘Practical RMP with Oracle Primavera Risk Analysis’ Gets Introduced to The Middle East

    Practical RMP® with Oracle® Primavera Risk Analysis”, a unique course, which covers both the theory and practical aspects of risk management, has been introduced to the Middle East with customers from UAE and Saudi Arabia.

    Practical RMP" is a specially designed course, which caters to the need of Risk Management Professionals - to get the (RMP®) certification from PMI®, and apply their understandings using a hands-on tool - Primavera Risk Analysis. In this post, some important features of this course have been outlined.

    Risk Management is a crucial aspect of Project, Program and Portfolio Management. A well-managed project (or program or portfolio) means that risks are continuously identified, assessed, owners assigned, strategized for responses, actions taken by risk action owners and continuously monitored and tracked. 

    But, how this course helps the Risk Management Professionals? There are many features in this course. Here I have outlined only ten features. For comparison, followings are taken:
    • Theory: Practice Standard for Risk Management® and the PMBOK® Guide from PMI
    • Hands-on Practical: Oracle Primavera Risk Analysis Software (PRA)

    Feature # 1: Risk Management Plan – Theory Vs Practical 
    The Risk management plan is prepared in the planning process. It has contents such as Project description, risk management methodology being used, roles, responsibilities of the manager, probability and impact definitions, probability and impact matrix etc. 

    In this course, you will be preparing a risk management plan on own your own (in .DOCX/PDF format) with the help of Primavera Risk Analysis tool.

    Feature # 2: Risk Register – Theory Vs Practical 
    Risk Register is also prepared in the planning process, details of which are outlined in the Practice Standard for Risk Management and the PMBOK Guide. 
    This course tells you how they are done in a real time project. Sample of the risk register – both qualitative and quantitative - from a project is shown below. It is prepared with the PRA software.

    Feature # 3: Risk Probability and Risk Impact Matrix – Theory Vs Practical
    Risk probability and impact are the two key characteristics of a risk, on which analysis of the risk is done. While the standard and guide, and the guide talks about the theoretical aspect, in this course, with the help of the software, the matrix is prepared.
    A real impact matrix, taken from one of the course’s modules, looks as shown. 

    Feature # 4: Qualitative Risk Analysis Vs Quantitative Risk Analysis – Theory vs Practical
    Both the aspect of risk analysis – qualitative and quantitative – are done in risk management. 

    To know a list of differences between qualitative and quantitative risk analysis, you can refer this link: Qualitative vs Quantitative Risk Analysis 

    The key aspects of Quantitative Risk Analysis are to analyse the overall project risk and find out the contingency reserve. Various probabilistic distributions such as Triangle, BetaPert, Uniform et al as theoretically noted in the standard and the guide can be applied. In the below screenshot from a live project, the quantitative risk register is shown.

    Feature # 5: Theoretical Risk Sensitivity Analysis Vs Real-time Risk Sensitivity Analysis 
    Risk sensitivity technique is applied in the quantitative risk analysis. One example of it is “Tornado Diagram”. With the help of the software tool, various sensitivity analysis can be done. A tornado diagram, taken from the project from this course is shown below. 

    Feature # 6: Monte Carlo Analysis – Theory Vs Practical
    In the below diagram, coming as result of Monte Carlo analysis, the chances of the project meeting the target is 50% with a budget of $75,855 whereas there is chance of 80% to meeting the budget, if it is increased to $83,815. 

    Feature # 7: S-Curve Analysis 
    Theoretically, S-curve analysis is mentioned in the risk management practice standard and the guide. Practically, below, the curve shown is via the distribution analyser of the PRA tool. S-curve is also available in Feature # 6 as just noted before. 

    Feature # 8: Risk Response Planning – Theory Vs Practical
    There are various risk response strategies such as transfer, mitigate, exploit, accept – for both negative (threats) and negative (positive) risks. This has been compared and contracted with the risk mitigation strategies in the PRA tool. In Primavera Risk Analysis tool, there are certain differences in terms, but underlying concepts remain similar. 

    Feature # 9: Risk Manageability, Risk Proximity - Theory Vs Practical
    Below one shown is the risk proximity. This is called risk urgency as the theoretical standards say. Risk with high proximity (or urgency) requires near time response. In the hands-on PRA tool, you can set the scale, a sample of which is shown below. 

    Similarly, it Risk Manageability, which informs whether the risk is manageable, can be practically considered with the PRA tool. 

    Feature # 10: Work Performance Reports – Theory vs Practical
    There are various reports which are available – risk matrix report, risk score report, butterfly matrix report, criticality distribution reports etc.
    Below is the butterfly matrix report, from a live project, as done with the help of PRA Tool. 

    Of course, in addition, there are a number of other topics which are covered, such as Risk Breakdown Structure (RBS), Contingency Reserve, Management Reserve, Risk Theme, Risk Attitude, Risk Tolerance, Risk Re-assessment, Risk Impact Plan etc.

    At the end of the course, you would not only learn the theories from the standard and the guide, but also the practical aspects of it with multiple hands-on practical sessions. Of course, you will also have all the reference practical files in .PLAN and .RRX format, a few in .XER format.

    Details on "Practical RMP" course is available at: 

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    Thursday, September 01, 2016

    PMP Success Story: Continue With Your Momentum No Matter What May Come

    Saurabh Singhal successfully cracked the PMP® exam and believes it is a huge confidence booster. The learning that he has, in this process, also helps him in talking to the senior management in his organization. 

    Saurabh was part of my class in January 2016. He was sitting at the front of my class and I remember him to be very attentive throughput the session.  After being a PMP, when he called me, his sense of joy was palpable. I share his happiness. In fact, the other good part is this: Many from this batch have gone successfully through the PMP exam and few have also shared their experiences in this blog. 

    Below, he has outlined his ups and downs, being selected and clearing the audit process and again starting off with renewed vigour. Go on and read his unique experience. 

    For quite some time I wanted to broaden my sphere and increase the horizon of my work. The PMP credential seemed to be a good option but I never took it seriously until I got a chance to attend a training in my organization. The training was called Projects Leads Workshop which introduced me to Project Management concepts like Project Charter, WBS, Estimation techniques etc. 

    I then started to look for a good training institute and most importantly, a good trainer. I searched for PMP registered REPs on the Internet and got a brief profile about the trainer, Satya Narayan Dash and found him to be good.

    PMP Training Experience
    I attended the classroom training in the end of January, led by Satya Narayan Dash. I must say that after just a couple of hours I knew I made a right decision. He was very knowledgeable and explained the concepts really well. 
    One of the things that I liked most about his coaching style is that he was correlating the Project management concepts with real life scenarios, which made the things quite clear to me. His flowcharts were really helpful in understanding the overall process flow.

    At the end of the session, I had a plan with me. The only challenge was to stick to it. Now that I’ve cleared the PMP, I think I managed it fairly.

    My Own Study
    Before I get into my detailed study plan, I would like to tell you that I just referred two books i.e. the PMBOK® guide and the prep book by Rita Mulcahy and attempted only the free mock quizzes available on the web. 

    I started with the PMBOK. I used to complete one knowledge area in couple of days and attempted the questions related to that area. Although there were so many things which were not clear at that time but I still continued because maintaining the rhythm was crucial. After finishing the PMBOK, I started reading Rita’s book and I maintained the same pace as I maintained for PMBOK. After reading the book, a lot of things started coming into perspective. The process charts in her book were really helpful to identify and distinguish various processes. 

    After I finished reading both the books, I tried my luck with my first mock tests. I finished it much before 4 hours but I scored around 70%. I tried some other tests taken from the web. I scored the same in those tests as well. 

    I did some retrospective and found my weak areas. I reread those Knowledge Areas from both the reference book and PMBOK guide, and I found that this time I’m able to understand most of the things. I then read both the books again and attempted the mock tests again. This time I started getting scores above 80% and I felt that I can take the exam. I remembered the IITOs related to just two Knowledge Areas, Risk and Procurement because there are lot of questions that requires you to know the Process in which you are based on those ITTOs. For all other I had prepared my own notes to understand the overall flow.

    My PMP Exam Experience
    As soon as I did the payment, my application was selected for audit. Here is when I would like to associate my learning with the essence of my topic “Don’t break the Journey”. Till the clearance by the audit process, I did not study any further. And the effect that had on my confidence is extremely profound. When I resumed my studies with some more mock tests, I found that not only I’m scoring little low but my confidence has also gone low. So my suggestion is to not break your studies. Continue the momentum no matter what may come.

    I reached the Prometric centre 45 minutes the schedule time and they allowed me to start the test before the schedule time. There is a 15 minutes session on how to use and navigate the system. I sat there and utilized all those 15 minutes to get relaxed. Initial few questions were tough and as you move further, you get used to it. I marked just 10 questions for review and at the end of three hours, I completed all the 200 questions. I just reviewed those marked questions and changed the options only for a couple of questions and submitted the exam. Neither did I have patience to go over all the questions again, nor did I have energy left. And I also knew that my first attempt is usually right. 
    • 95% of the questions were situational and scenario based, e.g., “What should the PM do next in this case”? My suggestion is that read all the options at least twice before marking the answer because options are really close. 
    • Think logically about what would happen if PM does what is there in the option and you would arrive at the right answer. 
    • Quite a few questions were on closing the project. So understand the differences among various documents that needs to be updated during closure.
    • Did not encounter any question where I had to write down any formula to get the answer. There were no questions on network diagram either.

    Suggestions for PMP Aspirants
      - Dos:
          • Understand the concepts well especially the Tools and Techniques.
          • Define a study plan and stick to it.
          • Attempt as many mock exams as possible.
          • Think like a Project Manager in the exam.
      - Don’ts:
          • Don’t lose confidence during the initial few minutes of the exam. The exam really tests the
            mental strength along with analytical thinking.
          • Don’t break your journey.

    One of the primary reasons for doing PMP for me was to diversify my work. Though, this is not accomplished immediately, the confidence that PMP credential has given me is getting reflected in my work now. I’m acquainted with project management terms and terminologies now and I’m more relaxed and confident in talking to the higher management.

    Brief Profile: Saurabh Singhal, Lead Analyst in CGI, Primarily a Business Analyst in the ERP domain.


    Saurabh’s PMP credential is available at PMI’s online credential registry.  

    I am thankful to Saurabh for sharing his PMP experience.  I believe it will help the readers of this blog, who are aspiring their own credentials.