Five Results from Emotional Upgrade
The people side of project management (or any management role) is the hard bit. We have to effect action and change while being conscious that we cant make people do things. We got to get them to take action for their own reasons.
Being emotionally aware can really help us understand both ourselves and therefore understand what makes others tick.
So what is emotional intelligence: Emotional Intelligence can be defined as an understanding one’s own feelings, the feelings of others, and managing the emotions to enhance growth and living. The major domains of emotional intelligence are knowing your emotions, understanding these emotions, motivating yourself, recognizing the emotions of others, and establishing a strong balanced relationship with them.
So get yourself an Emotional upgrade. First with self-awareness (the understanding of ones strengths, limits and confidence). This evolves into social emotions (sensing others emotions), helping to develop these emotions and on the long run building lasting bonds with people.
Five results of emotional upgrade include:
- Self- confidence: After having read and studied your own personal emotions, you are confident that you can bring them under subjection at every time, this inflicts a level of self-control and a sound sense of self-worth and capabilities.
- Adaptability and influence: This means you’re sensitive and flexible enough to maneuver into people’s emotions, feelings and at times their decisions thereby resulting into a striking level of positive commitment in their activities and regulars. You have studied them enough to relate with them at their highs and lows.
- Relationship management: Conflict management, being a change catalyst, building bonds, teamwork, and collaboration with others is achievable when there is a conscious review of ones emotions.
- Social competence: This expansion of awareness and empathy of the environment increases communication and the ability to persuade, and develop opportunities to strengthen the growth of others.
- Leadership: Here, your team is willing to allow you lead and are willing to work with you to meet set goals because you inspire them to achieve the collective vision.
Emotional intelligence may have gone off your radar but I suggest you give it another looks.
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Planning and Execution of Test Cases During Agile Development Iterations
During the software development process it is vital to establish a robust process of software quality assurance, even if you are developing using an Agile development methodology.
It is important to mention that Agile development should not be confused with development without a defined quality management software. It is strongly recommended that the tasks of creating test cases and performing automated tests be planned for each development iteration.
In addition, having a test-focused person is a key to the quality of software development during the Agile iterations.
Agile Planning and Quality Assurance Tasks
The Agile iteration planning process allocates at least one resource for testing activities, and does not involve this resource in development activities within the iteration. This process is important to avoid poor quality testing.
Within a development team of five people, having at least one person focused on these tests tasks will greatly help to ensure the quality of the software. In this case we are talking about functional tests (black-box testing) planned and written through test cases. However, we must not forget that the unit tests (white-box testing) are the responsibility of the development team, and the tasks of developing these unit tests must be estimated together with the backlog items.
The advantage of include planning and execution quality assurance tasks even in an Agile software development cycle is the concern of the development team in delivering quality software to those responsible for running the tests. It is amazing how the simple fact there is a person planning and thinking about software testing already increases the quality of the software.
Here are some tests tasks that can be executed during a development iteration:
- Creating a test-planning;
- Creating the detailed test cases for each user story or backlog item;
- Preparing test environments required for system tests;
- Preparing test data: getting real data from production or simulation.
In addition the tests can be automated, so the tasks below can be included:
- Automating unit tests;
- Automating functional tests;
- Writing mocks, test drivers, data simulators, test frameworks.
Tools for planning and running tests
It is not the purpose of this article to present test tools. However, it is important for the agility of the software development process to look for tools to automate the execution of the tests as well as documenting the test plans and the test cases.
Remember that tests can be re-used in future development iterations, so it is very important to define a centralised method and tool to manage the test plans and test cases. An efficient test management tool will help you with the agility and quality of your software.
The following are some suggestions for test tools:
- Test Collab
- TestFLO for Jira
- Microsoft Test Manager (Test planning and automation)
- Microsoft Team Services (Test cases)
- Selenium (Automation of functional tests for Web applications)
Preparing for and Passing the PMP Exam
Having got the approval email from the PMI and before you schedule the exam, let us just revisit the exam content outline:
- The PMP exam consists of 200 objective-type questions with 4 answer options.
- The five domains consist of questions in the following ratio:
|Monitoring & Controlling||25%|
- 25 out of 200 questions are not counted towards the score, as they may be for pre-release testing. As such you don’t know which 25 questions are not graded, and so you should just treat it as 200-question exam.
- The maximum time to answer all questions is 4 hours.
- The PMI does not disclose your pass score; in most cases the pass score is thought to be around 61%
So you have built up your confidence over time; have already taken the 35-hour course; have gone through the PMBOK Guide; and have a fair knowledge of project management practice. Now you need to test that confidence by answering questions and checking the answers. Once chapter-level answering is finished, you need to go for a mock test of 200 questions; a minimum of two full 200-question mock-up exams passed at above 80% is suggested. This is an indication that you are adequately prepared to venture into the actual exam.
How to Handle Each Question
One of the advantages we have in answering objective-type questions is that the right answer is in front of us – we just need to select it. Carefully read the question-and-answer choices. Attach importance to words such as always or never, except for, or have to, best, worst, most, least, first, last, etc., and then determine which answer the question is looking for. Look at the following example question.
Conditions that are not under the control of the project team that influence, direct, or constrain a project are called:
- Enterprise environmental factors
- Work performance reports
- Organisational process assets
- Context diagrams
The term conditions NOT under the control needs to be carefully read. Answer A is correct. (Note that the question calls for a plural answer, and all answers are plural.)
Here is another example where we need to read carefully:
A logical relationship in which a successor activity cannot start until a predecessor activity has finished is known as:
- Start-to-start (SS)
- Start-to-finish (SF)
- Finish-to-start (FS)
- Finish-to-finish (FF)
Answer C is correct. A clear scrutiny of the question and the answer choices is required. You need to eliminate the answers that do not fit with the question.
External organisations that have a special relationship with the enterprise and provide specialised expertise are called:
- Business partners
- Functional managers
Based on experience, we can quickly eliminate A, C and then D, to correctly answer B.
A practical tip is to not spend more than a minute with a single question. You can come back to the question later. Sometimes, the other questions may throw some light on this question for you. Try to recollect the study that you did within that knowledge area and process group, and work out where the question belongs. For some questions you may have to recollect your project management experience. Here is a question where we need to recollect process ITTO – Input, Tools and Techniques, and Output:
An output of the Direct and Manage Project Work process is:
- Activity list
- A work breakdown structure
- A scope statement
The answer is A
It is recommended that you try to remember ITTO to select the answer to these types of questions. I suggest that you get familiar with these by reviewing them regularly so you as much get a ‘feel’ more than just learning them off by heart.
After you enter the testing centre for the exam, you will be given a pencil and paper and 15 minutes’ preparation time. This can be used to prepare a chart of process groups, knowledge areas and certain tables or formulas you can recollect. This may be handy for answering the exam questions. Try to utilise all of the 4 hours’ exam time to check your answers before you submit. Best of Luck!
PMP – Applying for and Scheduling the Exam
Having decided to go for a prestigious PMP certification, one should plan and carry out several steps as follows:
- Receive 35 hours of project management education.
- Become a PMI member.
- Apply for the PMP exam and receive an approval email.
- Book the exam in a testing centre.
- Take the exam and pass it.
Between the last two major steps, there is need to prepare for the exam. One can decide on the timings depending on situational conditions:
- The PMP exam is conducted by the PMI through authorised testing centres.
- The PMP exam application is submitted online to the PMI.
- The entire application process happens through the PMI Online Certification System.
The application process proceeds as follows:
- You submit your online application.
- The PMI reviews the application and sends you an email approval, which is valid for 1 year. You can submit the exam fee at this point, and PMI will ask you to schedule the exam with an authorised testing centre.
- Some exam applications are randomly selected to go through an audit process.
The PMI takes every step possible to ensure the quality and integrity of the certification. To this end, some exam applications are randomly selected to verify the education and experience reported in the application. Note that not all applications go through this audit process – it is completely random. Applicants are advised to carefully provide true information while applying, and not to worry about the audit process.
Besides the educational and experience qualification, there is a requirement of having received 35 contact hours of relevant education. The commonest way of doing this is taking a formal course with a PMI-registered educational partner. In this course, all of the project processes covered in the PMBOK Guide are taught in a highly comprehensible manner. As this is done in a class environment, or conducted in a boot-camp manner, candidates can devote exclusive time and attention to it, which goes well towards exam preparation. Some educational partners provide online training as well. Whether online or with a classroom-based course, after this formal education is completed a certified document of proof is received. After this you can apply for the PMP exam at any time.
Application and Approval
The exam application is submitted through the PMI certification online portal. You will receive an invitation to pay for and schedule the exam. You can schedule the exam with an authorised testing centre of your choice. After getting an approval email from the PMI, there is a time limit of a year to schedule the exam, though it is usually done earlier! There is no payment to be made to the testing centre. Please note that the 35 hours’ education that you receive from an educational partner is different from that in a testing centre. You are advised to take into account an adequate amount of exam preparation time when deciding the date of your exam, and only then do the scheduling.
The next part is Preparing for and Passing the PMP Exam
Or Try the Althris Free sample exam online
PMP Certification – To Be or Not to Be?
Project Management Professional (PMP) is the most important industry-recognised certification. It is one of the flagship certifications offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI), the leading not-for-profit professional membership association. PMP is recognised globally as a gold standard in project management. The PMP certification can provide a significant advantage when it comes to salary and earning potential. Well over 700,000 certified PMPs around the globe stand as testimony to its benefits!
Gaining and maintaining PMP certification goes with its own process, starting with the first goal of passing the PMP exam. There are certain prerequisites as to eligibility for taking the exam. The PMP Handbook by the PMI outlines the eligibility criteria. The first step is to see whether you meet the following prerequisites:
- A secondary-level degree (high-school diploma, associate’s degree, or the global equivalent);
- 7,500 hours spent leading and directing projects;
- 35 hours of project management education.
- A 4-year degree;
- 4,500 hours spent leading and directing projects;
- 35 hours of project management education.
Explanation of educational qualifications
- A high-school diploma or associate’s degree or global equivalent means education partaken for 3 years or less after school leaving.
- A 4-year degree means any graduate degree such as Engineering or Technology, of 4 years’ or more duration, which is partaken after 10+2 school years.
- You will need to show 36 hours of PMP related Project Management Training from a training organisation such as Althris Training Dublin
Explanation of experience requirements
- For diploma holders, the project management experience required is 7,500 hours. This is roughly 60 months or 5 years’ experience.
- For degree holders, the project experience required is 4,500 hours. This is roughly 36 months or 3 years’ experience.
Explanation of “Leading and Directing Projects”
This means that you should briefly state any job/experience that you have done in the field of planning, execution and control. It is not necessary that you should have experience in all of the project processes.
Explanation of Non-Overlapping Experience
- Let us assume that you have managed two projects in the year 2016. Project A ran from January 2016 to May 2016 (5 months). Project B ran from March 2016 to February 2017 (12 months). This should not be taken as 17 months’ experience as there is an overlap of 3 months. Experience will be taken as 14 months only.
- Experience reported should have been accrued within the last 8 consecutive years prior to your application submission. If you are applying in 2017, you can report experience between 2009 and 2016.
The PMP exam has a price of US$405 for PMI members, and $555 for non-members. PMI membership is not mandatory for you to take the exam. However, it makes sense to become a PMI member, at a fee of $139, as you get an exam fee reduction of $150! Additional benefits can also be enjoyed with PMI membership. 35 hours of project management education needs to be undertaken through a Registered Educational Partner (REP) that imparts the training and grants the necessary certificate towards fulfilment. Its cost can be ascertained from the education partner.
The next part of this article is “PMP – Applying for and Scheduling the Exam”
The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) presents the guidelines for best practices that can be applied to projects. It also presents a standardised terminology. PMBOK guideline preparation itself follows ANSI standards, so it is natural that it goes for a standardised terminology! Generally a single word (or phrase) is used to define or describe a process (or element) of project management. Those who have worked on projects can readily appreciate the benefits of standardised terminology in the project management profession. In the real world, we have seen the confusion created by using different words for the same thing.
One of the important phrases that have started appearing from PMBOK Guide Third Edition is tailoring. The usage of this term in the later editions is growing, and there is an even greater emphasis on tailoring in the 6th edition, which emphasises the importance given to tailoring. Project management methodologies/processes are constantly increasing; and real-life projects are becoming ever more diverse and complex! The saying One size does not fit all goes well here. It makes sense now to throw some light on tailoring.
Tailoring is making project methodology fit. There may be different situations warranting different methodologies and the adaptation of different processes. Industry type, environment, organisational experience, kind of project, etc., may lead to different processes being chosen for different projects. Each project is unique with its own set of goals, resources and constraints. Tailoring is the act of adapting different processes to make them suitable for different projects. The standards, guidelines and rules presented in PMBOK may be general and globally applicable. There is a need to design and tailor the processes so that desired goal is achieved in each project.
The project manager along with his/her team is responsible for the process of tailoring. To quote PMBOK,
for any given project, the project manager, in collaboration with the project team, is always responsible for determining which processes are appropriate, and the appropriate degree of rigor for each process. Project managers and their teams should carefully address each process and its constituent inputs and outputs.
When the project manager and his/her team do this they obviously buy into this.
There can be several stages in tailoring. In the initial stage, the PM methodology may be based on the PMBOK Guide. In the second stage it is more geared towards the elements of the project and based on Organisational Project Management Office (PMO) guidance. The third stage of the tailoring can be at the project execution level, depending on how well suited the processes are for achieving the desired outcome. As we can see, tailoring is done throughout the entire life cycle of the project. Another important aspect to remember is the documentation. There is a need to document the tailoring process approach in the project management plan, and then at the execution stage, in terms of how each process was tailored, and why it was added, removed, or revised.
Four key takeaways from this blog post are:
- Tailoring is making project methodology fit.
- The PM and team are responsible for the tailoring process.
- Tailoring is done in three stages.
- Tailoring needs to be documented.
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A user story is a short and simple description of the customer’s need. It is usually told from the perspective of those who are requesting the new feature or requirement. A user story is short and sweet, but prompts the developer to get a handle on what is required. It makes it easier for the developer to produce an on-target feature of superior quality, and allows them to understand the goals and needs of the customer more quickly. It is normal to write a user story on Post-its or index cards.
Usually, user stories have a specific format, such as the following:
“As a [persona],
I want to [do something],
so that I can [realise a reward].”
This is a sample from my training course where we ask students to use Lego to build features.
The user story prompts the user to ask questions, and suggests, for instance, specifying not just any cow, but a cow that can be milked.
Use the acronym INVEST to get to the best user stories.
So a user story should be all of the following:
- Independent (I): A user story should not depend on another one. Dependent user stories are difficult to estimate and prioritise, and removing a dependent user story often causes problems in others.
- Negotiable (N): A user story is not just a text detailing the features that the product owner expects, or a piece of functionality that will be implemented. Look on a user story as a starting point for a conversation, or an opening problem for the team to suggest solutions to.
- Valuable (V): We cannot just create fun user stories. We must describe the value that the customer will get from this user story.
- Estimable (E): There must be enough information to allow the team to make an estimate about the user story, otherwise it cannot be started.
- Small (S): A user story cannot take more than one sprint to complete. Any user story larger than this will be impossible to plan or estimate safely. If it’s too big, create an epic and split it into smaller user stories.
- Testable (T): If you cannot test a user story, you cannot know whether it’s worked. If a specific user story cannot be tested for lack of information, do not put it in your backlog.
Use themes and epics when necessary.
If you use the INVEST concept to create user stories, and can keep to it, you’ll have good quality stories. In some situations you will see the need to separate them into themes or epics.
- Themes: A theme is a group of user stories that share attributes in common. Often, multiple user stories will have similar goals, or be related in an obvious way. All of them are directed together to a single path; however, they do not need to encapsulate a specific feature or necessarily be delivered together. So a theme may contain several epics or several user stories.
- Epics: An epic is a great user story that cannot be completed in a single sprint, resembling a theme being built with multiple stories. Although the stories that make up an epic are completed independently, their value to the business may not be delivered until the entire epic is complete. This means that it does not make sense to deliver an epic until all the stories tied to it are complete.
Althris provide Scrum Master Training in Dublin and Cork, check out our PSM sample exam papers.
Facing into an exam is never easy, particularly if your company is paying for it, or if you are doing it with a group of work colleagues; you don’t want to be seen as a failure.
At the moment of writing this, there are two well-known certificate centres. The first one is the scrum.org organisation, run by Ken Schwaber, which does a certification titled Professional Scrum Master (PSM). The second is the Scrum Alliance team, which makes you Certified Scum Master (CSM). In this article, I am writing about PSM certification, but those hints are also valid for CSM candidates.
To pass the PSM exam at the first level, you need to focus both on preparation for the exam, and on the exam itself. Below you can find seven tips that can definitely help you in reaching your goal.
1. Attend a good Scrum Master training course.
It all begins with training. You can study on your own, but it is like learning the rules of physics from a book. It is possible, but without any practice and instant feedback from the trainer, you may understand things the wrong way. There is a lot to be learned from the classroom environment – feedback and questions from other student enhance the learning experience. There is also the opportunity for ongoing support from your classmates.
In everywhere there are Scrum courses of varying quality on offer, so the most efficient way to select one is probably by asking people. Word of mouth is very powerful, and you will get real information about the trainer.
The training programme must contain practice hours. This is when you verify your theoretical knowledge, and where you really absorb the material. Listening to lectures is boring, and you actually don’t learn that much; but practising it during the course helps you get a real understanding. On top of that, when you figure out how things work, you are more likely to remember it automatically.
Please check how many participants are to attend at a given date. The higher the number is, the lower chance of individual contact with the trainer and of having all your questions answered. On the other hand, being alone is not good either, as you need a team you can train on. In my opinion, eight to 12 people in the room is the right number, as the trainer can replicate two Scrum teams. 6 works but at 16 its getting hard to get the trainers attention.
Real Practice – learners design their own Scrum process.
2. Do open assessment.
On the scrum.org page, you will find the “Open Assessments” tab where you can check your knowledge about the Scrum framework. This sample exam is a must-do thing before the exam, for three reasons.
The first reason is that it will allow you to check whether you are good enough to pass the final exam. It will save you stress and money, as this is free of charge, so you have nothing to lose.
The second reason is to see what the real exam looks like, and how fast you are able to read and answer the questions. It will help you get used to the pressure of time, and will give you a feel for the exam and how it looks.
The third reason, equally important as the first two, is that by answering those question, you are still learning. What is great is that you can do open assessment many times, and each time you will answer different questions. By doing this, you simply learn new things, and new ideas appear in your head. You can find answers to them later in books, and so your knowledge will grow. Remember that some of those questions are similar to, or the same as, the ones in the real exam – so don’t just pluck answers from the air.
Try the Althris Sample Exam here
3. Explore the Scrum Guide.
The Scrum Guide is your primary source of knowledge. It is a short read, but every sentence matters. It’s dense with information, so read it a number of times and stop to think about the implications of each sentence. As it is for many experienced Scrum Masters, you will still need to look back at this document throughout your career, so get to know it.
The PSM I exam is sometimes tricky, and a small detail can decide whether your answer is correct or not. General knowledge is not enough, as it leads to quick but wrong answers in the exam. You need to know exactly how concepts are presented in the guide.
4. Buddy up for a day.
If you are already working in an Agile company where there are Scrum Masters, you are lucky. Ask any of them if you can become his or her ghost for a couple of days. Buddying is a learning technique, where one employee does their daily tasks as usual, while the second person follows what is going on. The buddy accompanies the employee all day long.
You learn by observation, but you also get to ask anything about the Scrum Master’s work. The most important thing in this exercise is that you will encounter real-life situations, which will generate tons of questions in your head. You can get instant answers to those questions, as the expert is at your fingertips. I can guarantee that you will learn a lot, and it will be a kind of interesting experience for you both.
5. Use discussion groups.
I am subscribed to several Scrum groups on LinkedIn and, from time to time, I am notified by email about some new threads. People ask loads of questions, from the basic level, like “We have teams of 10; is that OK with Scrum?” to more sophisticated ones such as “How do you manage dependencies between teams working on the same backlog?”
You should read first before contributing any questions. As you read loads of questions and answers, you will get to see different points of view, and then start to formulate your own.
The second thing is that discussion groups are another way to find replies to your topics. Don’t hesitate to post your doubts, even if you are a newbie. Experienced people really do like to respond – I think it makes them feel more like experts. And you get the benefit of their knowledge
6. Choose the perfect time and place.
The good thing about the PSM exam is that you can take it at a place and time of your choosing. Most people are at their peak effectiveness in the morning, but there are exceptions to this rule, so choose what is best for you. The other important thing is choosing a place. Be sure you won’t be interrupted, and there won’t be any annoying background noise.
Having a space where you can read out the question also really helps concentration for some people, and certainly reduces stress.
7. Read the exam carefully.
There are 80 questions, and 60 minutes to answer them. It means that you have one minute to read the question and give the answer, so don’t be in a rush. As I mentioned above, some of the questions are tricky, and one word can change the whole meaning of the sentence. Spend most of this minute on reading thoroughly before answering. When you get stuck, give the most probable answer, and continue. The system allows you to go back and change the answer if needed, but really a straight-through read is often the best way. It’s a short exam, and you may not have the time to revisit the questions as you go.
You can use this article as a starting point for your own checklist before the exam. Check what works for you and what doesn’t. And, after all, this is hard work – so don’t forget to celebrate the success. You will soon be a member of a small elite group of certified Scrum Masters.
I am also due to publish an ebook (just tidying it up at the moment) with further information and pointers, so subscribe to be the first to get an issue.
David is currently writing a more detailed guide on the PSM exam linkin to get further updates
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