90 Percent

Project management, productivity, change management, and more!


Leave a comment

Just acquired my PMP certification!

I am proud to announce that I am officially certified as of today 🙂

I heard multiple times that the exam was hard, but honestly, if you are well prepared, it’s not that bad! However, if you don’t prepare… well…. good luck!

Here is my experience with the exam and the preparation:

Contact hours

It actually all started with PMChampion which included the PM PrepCast. The PrepCast gave me my 35 contact hours before I could apply. It was also a great way to go through all the material before going into the PMBOK. When I was done watching the videos, there was an online exam that I had to pass to receive officially my certificate for the hours, and that went well.

Applying for the exam

First thing’s first, you have to become a member of the PMI. Although you do not need to become a member to become certified, you will receive a free copy of the PMBOK guide, and most importantly, you will receive a discount on the exam which is higher than the one year membership. Becoming a member is a no-brainer. It’ll also make your life easier to apply for the test and then keep track of your PDUs.

If your project management experience is stretched out on many projects like me, then make sure you have a couple of hours of free time to apply and I strongly suggest you first list all the projects you ever managed in the last years. Personally, I did not go to university, therefore, I had to enter 7500 hours of experience and 5 years on a timeline, so you may have to enter 4500 hours and 3 years.

Quick tip for non-PMP project managers : if you haven’t already, start an excel sheet (or any type of sheet) listing your projects and hours spent, updating it as you go; it’ll make your life easier for the application, and it’s always a good reference to have! Note that your hours have to be separated between the 5 process groups of the PMBOK.

Back to applying: it’s easy with PMI’s interface. Just login, and you can find where to go quickly. The application is easy, but time consuming unless you have worked on a few very large projects. If you are like me, who worked on more then 100 projects, well, you have to enter the dates and hours for each, and write a description of the project and what you have done (about 350 to 550 characters each). I could barely remember some of the projects that dated 5 years before but I was lucky enough to obtain timesheets from ex-colleagues!

Once you have applied (and paid), you find out if you are audited. It’s random, and I wasn’t so I cannot give out much information here except that I have read you may have to have your managers vouch for your hours by signing something. Otherwise, you wait a couple of days for your application to be accepted and then you have one year to set your exam date and pass (max 3 tries).

You do not set the date with PMI, there are test centers where you can set your date online. You have to find the nearest and apply there.

I strongly suggest you give yourself at least 2 months to study, even 3 to be safer.

Preparing for the exam

I read the PMBOK once and often used it as a reference, it could be easily read thanks to The PM PrepCast I watched before, I know it would have been harder to grasp everything if I hadn’t watched it before.

I watched the PM PrepCast a 2nd time to review everything (yes, all 30 hours again!).

When I was done, I read Head First PMP, which gave me a last minute study addition. It’s easily read and actually helped me remember even more information before the exam.

In parallel of watching The PM PrepCast and reading those 2 books, I used Flashcards to study while taking walks, they came with the PMChampion package I bought. I simply transferred them to my iPhone and used them as I walked. That way, I could catch some sun while studying 🙂

I also answered many test questions (over a thousand) including 5 complete 4 hours simulations. In total, I must have answered about 1500 questions and obviously you must review your tests and understand your errors, otherwise you are wasting your time.

The day of the exam

I can honestly say I have never studied so much for an exam, but I felt ready when I went in.

The test center was a simple small office actually, with 2 persons there; one that greet me, and the other that monitored people going in and going out and the people taking the test.
You cannot bring anything inside so they will check pour pockets and even use a metal detector. Don’t worry about your stuff, you get a small locker with a lock.

Inside the room, you have several computers separated by panels, you each have a calculator, and all you hear is mouse clicking!

First thing I did was to use the 15 minutes of tutorial time to create my brain dump sheet, where I wrote all the formulas and all the processes separated by groups and knowledge areas.

After that, you have 4 hours to do the test. If you take breaks (you take a many as you like), the clock doesn’t stop. I was surprised that we could just walk out and go anywhere we wanted… They use a metal detector before we go in but we can go out and go anywhere… Makes it a little easy to go somewhere fetch information, not that it’s alright to do so obviously, but I would have thought it would be more controlled than that…

Anyway, I took one break so I could grab my water bottle, I went back in and finished. Once all 200 questions were answered, I reviewed all of them before ending the exam.

After the exam, there is a little survey of how it went with the test center before you get your result. While I was answering the survey, I was sure I was going to pass, but you never know! And then seeing the ‘Congratulation’ on the screen just made my day!!

All in all, although the exam is hard, the fact that I was prepared made it easy (or tolerable at least!) and I do not regret a single hour of study! So if you want to take the exam, don’t get discouraged by what other people might say, just make sure you are prepared.

If you need any help or tips in order to earn your PMP certification, don’t hesitate to contact me, I’ll gladly give you a hand.



The power of error inside a team


Source: jdurham

We learn from our mistakes, right? Error brings knowledge, and knowledge is valuable. Therefore, error is valuable!

Why are people so afraid of making mistakes?

  1. Afraid of what people will think;
  2. Do not want to face the consequences;
  3. Imagine the worst that can happen and want to prevent it;
  4. Do not want to disappoint;
  5. etc.

Ground rule

It’s important to value errors, especially inside a team, and it should be a ground rule right from the start. By doing so, teammates will feel better overall when they are working, and when they make a mistake, they will be able to concentrate on how to fix it, and prevent it in the future instead of focusing on what the team will think of them. The result is a team that works together instead of pointing fingers.

Make it clear

It’s important to clarify what’s expected of the team towards mistakes. For example, some errors may be caused by taking risks, taking those risks may be outside what’s tolerated amongst the team; we want to accept mistakes but we want to avoid people taking unnecessary risks. Here, the rule could be simply that before taking that risk, it must be discussed and if the team decides to take the risk, the mistake will be shared with the whole team.

Lessons learned

Those mistakes may be tiny, but may also have a large impact. The knowledge gained from that mistake becomes a lesson learned out of your project, and it’s important to communicate it to the whole team and other colleagues that may face the same problem, you may save them tons of time (and money!).

It’s important when discussing lessons learned that you focus on :

  1. why it happened
  2. what was done to fix it
  3. what must be done in the future to prevent it

Also, avoid pointing fingers at all cost, talking about it must make everyone feel like they learned something and not that they messed up (that’s the hard part).

A simple way of preventing accusations is always talking about what the team did and not what one person did in particular. For example, instead of ‘Joe used a new script that created a bug’, we could say ‘We used a new script that created a bug’. Simple!

Practice makes perfect

It may seem hard at first to look at an error as a good thing, even more to have the whole team thinking like that, but as each project is done and mistakes are made, if the focus is on the knowledge gained and the team are working together to fix errors, then people will be more and more comfortable and will work even better together.

In conclusion, accept mistakes

For many of you, it’s going to be hard, but work on it. Mistakes are alright, accept them, learn from them, and the knowledge you will gain will help you grow in all aspects of your life. People will notice more how to get up after a fall than the fall itself!

Any stories to stare? Don’t hesitate!


Leave a comment

3 tips to manage your emails


Source: Yoel

Managing emails, especially when you receive 50-100 per day, can be hard and can slow down your productivity.

Here are some tips to help you with that:

1. Plan your email checkups

First thing’s first: you must avoid checking your mails ‘live’ as if you were chatting. Emails are meant to send information to someone and expect an answer in a reasonable amount of time. If you expect an answer right away, pick up the phone or use a chat.

If you are always looking at your mails, here is what it does to your productivity:

  • You interrupt what you are doing every 5 minutes, therefore, you will have a hard finishing your tasks on time or within the amount of time you initially planned to spend on them.
  • Since you should be doing something else while checking your mails, you will nut be focused and only quickly scan the mails. The result is you will tend to neglect to answer or store them appropriately.
  • At the end of the day, you will have accomplished nothing and yet have spent 8 hours at the office. So what happens? Overtime!
  • Some may go as far as looking at their emails during meetings, which is a complete lack of respect for everyone, it will of course make you miss all the important information that is being said, and it prevents you from contributing.

2. The inbox is for unread mails only

How I have seen so many inboxes with over 500 old mails and it’s funny to see people painfully look for specific mails amongst this accumulated mess! It’s also those people that I know will not answer half my mails so I make sure to plan follow ups 🙂

The inbox should only be for unread mails, nothing else. See the next tip to help you with that.

3. There are 3 types of emails

You may receive 100 mails today, but they can ALL be categorized into 3 types while you are going through all your inbox:

  • Actionable emails: A mail that requires you do to something or to reply. Those are the mails you want to store in a ‘TO DO’ folder so you can come back to review and complete those actions (or delegate). By doing so, you make sure you miss nothing. For GTD fans, you may want to use the 2 minute rule here, meaning any action/reply that require 2 minutes or less must be done right away.
  • Information emails: Emails that require nothing of you, but that contain important information about something (ex. About a project). Those mails must be stored inside folders separated by projects (or other folder hierarchy). They will be out of your way but easily found when you need the information.
  • Junk emails: Any mail that is not in the first two categories is useless, so delete it.

The end of emails?

I’m reading more and more articles on people trying to stop using mails, instead, they use project management interfaces for all communications, including with the client. I have not tried it myself, but I’m curious to hear feedback from others have you tried it!