Thought Leadership in Project Management: with Dr. Rick Johnson, Consultant in Construction Management

Rick (1)
Dr. Rick Johnson

Dr. Johnson specializes in the architecture, engineering, and construction professions. He has established a high level professional expertise in management science and project management on a global scale. As an inducted presidential member of the National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS); he has also evolved his leadership skills to a recognized national level through the Sigma Alpha Pi chapter of Lawrence Technological University. As a subject-matter management expert and practitioner-scholar in the building industry, Dr. Johnson provides certified construction contract administration and other management consulting professional services to clients.

Tell me a little about your background in project management as it relates to the construction industry?

I have been working in the building industry for more than 20 years. Primarily, this has been as an architectural practitioner with project management responsibilities. Architectural practice inherently involves managing projects and I have been a PM on various types from single-family residential to high-rise commercial buildings. Many times I split the role of architect and project manager but this generally depends on the scale of the project. For many years I specialized in religious, retail, and healthcare facilities and each type required management of budgets, schedule, and other resources, which are all prime areas of traditional project management.

How is the construction industry using project management differently from other sectors?

The building industry is one of the primary industries in the world that uses project management in dominant ways. In fact, the PMI has developed a construction extension that is specifically focused on project management practices for this industry. It is similar to the PMBOK but has concentrated areas due to higher levels of risk, cost, and time constraints associated with building projects (Project Management Institute, 2007). Construction projects are unique—just like project management is based on unique projects. No two projects are the same so the path to completion of a construction project requires proper individualized planning in order for it to be managed successfully. Therefore, a prime difference is the integrated impact that the big three project constraints have on the client’s ability to continue or terminate a project before it is totally realized.

What type of innovation and creativity is coming out of your industry that project managers should be aware of?

The biggest innovative or creative project management development is the intricate interface between technological advances and the different ways that stakeholders stay involved with a project from beginning to end. PMs should be aware of the faster pace that projects are expected to proceed under while also understanding that clients expect more for less. This means that a contemporary PM should be very flexible, but also firm when it comes to following a well-developed project management plan.

There has been a lot of chatter on LEED Projects in the last few years. What are your thoughts on this?

LEED stands for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design”. As a LEED Accredited Professional (LEED AP), I have learned that energy and environmental concerns are more prevalent than may be immediately noticed by the general public. Within the design and construction industry, practitioners are expected to design and build with a minimal degree of thought given to the impact of inappropriate materials. However, LEED requires the practitioner to pay a much higher degree of attention to negative matters of energy and the environment that can be avoided all together. A lot of the discussion taking place today seems to be centered on the cost involved with developing a LEED project. Some owners do not understand the higher up-front cost compared to the perceived benefits they may have down the line. LEED has to be sold to those who do not understand these benefits and this can make the case for LEED more complex if a monetary decision is the presiding factor for acceptance. On the other hand, owners who already understand the benefits and the role they play in reducing their carbon footprint initiate these types of projects with minimal resistance. They need very little convincing in terms of cost and benefits associated with those costs.


Are there unquiet skills, certifications and certain type of knowledge that students should be seeking in their education to get a career in your industry?

Students in current day construction education programs should be seeking to learn what the true expectations of industry are. For example, many design programs must teach students how to design building projects using traditional drafting methods, but students must also be aware of the limitation of its use in daily practice. Technological skills are highly expected in practice and professional certifications such as those provided by the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) would be fabulous for these types of professionals. For instance, the CSI’s Certified Construction Contract Administrator (CCCA) is one of the top professional certifications that a practitioner could have in this area (Construction Specifications Institute, 2011). This is comparable to having the Project Management Professional (PMP) credential as a project manager but specifically in the construction industry.

What are some emerging trends in construction project management that is changing the field?

One particular change in the field is something that is called “Integrated Project Delivery” (IPD). As defined by the American Institute of Architects (2007) “Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) is a project delivery approach that integrates people, systems, business structures and practices into a process that collaboratively harnesses the talents and insights of all participants to reduce waste and optimize efficiency through all phases of design, fabrication and construction.” (p.1). Based on this definition, a gap is present that implies a need for a meta-management system that is capable of adequately measuring and organizing the program and overall scope of an integrated project. This can be complex depending on the scale of the total undertaking.

How can my readers contact you or search for more information?  

Email: | LinkedIn: Dr. R. D. Johnson |Twitter: @RJDoctorate


21s Century Leadership: Healthcare Organizations

– By Dr. Terrence D. Duncan, DBA, MBA


Dr. Terrence D. Duncan, holds a Doctor of Business Administration degree from Walden University. He also holds a Masters of Business Administration degree with a concentration in Health Care Management. Dr. Duncan has two of his works published in health care related matters. With 10 years of experience as a claims adjuster for a third party administrator and Director of Safety, these combined level of experiences have benefited clients in numerous industries.

As a Divisional Director of Safety for one of the largest private skilled rehab company in the country, he has managed the safety and worker’s compensation administration for 40 skilled rehab centers and assisted living communities in four states. Dr. Duncan also carries solid worker’s compensation experience and knowledge in the following jurisdictions: IA, IL, IN, KY, KS, MO, and NE.

Dr. Duncan currently owns and operates a risk management and human resources consulting company, J.I Enterprises. The company specializes in lowering costs by providing quality solutions from providing recommendations in risk management, human resources, and worker’s compensation. His efforts have produced thousands of dollars in savings to clients in claim costs and mitigating unnecessary costs found through litigation.

The workplace and its employees have changed dramatically in the 21st century. Due to the advent of numerous social technology apps, smartphones, and selfies, the typical employee profile has evolved to a more dynamic and diverse individual. A more dynamic and diverse employee understands the importance of self. As a result, their individuality is projected into the workplace. The challenge of management is to not only meet key operational objectives, but to retain employees and adapt new ways to promote leadership.

In order to identify and interact with this new age employee, management should rethink their ways of leadership as the speed of communication and expectations have evolved amongst the average employee. Leadership is not as linear as it was in the past. Despite many books, seminars, and lectures concerning how to lead, those in management should consider a style that is most befitting of their personality, as well as understanding the dynamic make-up of the workplace.


The typical healthcare system consists of multiple positions and skill sets. Each position is similar to a spoke in a wheel that can only move if the manager is willing to bring each spoke into a synergistic effort. For example, in a nursing home, staff consists of CNAs, RNs, laundry, maintenance, housekeepers, dietary, admissions, and business office personnel. Outside of providing quality customer service to meet each resident’s needs, as well as provide solid operational results, leadership is a quality that cannot be provided through company policies or manuals. For this discussion, I propose three methods of how managers can improve their leadership in healthcare organizations within different skill sets of employees.

Communication with Clarity and Purpose

As a leader of the healthcare organization, communication is vital in administering quality of care to patients. Communication is vital to employee as well.  I recommend becoming clear in communicating your expectations of the staff collectively, and finding the time to communicate your vision and core objectives to each staff member. Staff are aware of most company policies and procedures; however, in healthcare, staff cannot provide quality care if the manager cannot provide quality care to their staff.

Effective Listening Means Patience

In healthcare settings, there truly is not a finite ending of a day. Once a task or project is completed, another one is on the horizon.  Despite all the demands placed on a manager’s desk and related deadlines, you must set aside time to listen to your staff’s concerns and needs. Realistically, you will likely not be able to address all their concerns; however, listening to them with a clear mind sends a message of compassion to your staff. Use your open door policy to ask about their day outside of work to show that you place value into their world outside of the workplace. Even if staff is noncommittal about discussing their world outside of work, you show interest in their well-being. This concern plays an underlining role into developing a chemistry between you and the staff member which results in higher performance.

Remove the Title and Become One with Staff

Despite the title on your name badge, take time to become personable. Do not only walk the floor, make sure you take the time to interact with staff regardless of their position or title. Staff reacts to relatability and a genuine personality. By appearing more “common” to your staff, your actions provide a belief that you are on their side. Even when it becomes time to discipline staff, they understand that you are not doing this to be spiteful. Instead, you are doing so because you are required to do so, and they were required to do their job.

Although there are numerous strategies in maximizing the efforts and talents of your staff it is important that your staff needs your leadership and guidance in moving the organizational vision forward. In a world of selfies and individuality, management must learn how to lead by incorporating their individual strengths into an organizational benefit. In this current economy where wages are relatively repressed and raises are not guaranteed, the emotional value of their position should be maximized to improve your organization’s efficiency.



Tips To Increase The Engagement Level Of Your Project Team

PM Center Insider

– by Dr. Wayne Richards Jr.

Dr. Wayne Richards
Dr. Wayne Richards

Dr. Wayne Richards serves as a PM Center Faculty teaching in the MPM Degree Program at Bellevue University. He is also the Program Manager of External Programs at Raytheon Intelligence where he leads the execution and supports the capture of internally/externally funded programs for professional engineering services and the buildup/integration, test of shelter systems for the External Programs PMO; responsible for an AOP of $10-20 Million annually. He earned a Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA) from Walden University, MBA from Troy University and BS in Business Administration degree from the University of Maryland UC. He brings over 10 years of project management experience.  He brings over 10 years of project management experience having worked in the U.S Air Force, manufacturing and aerospace industry.

Project Management is known for integrating complex requirements to produce an intended outcome (e.g. product or service).  The tasks of a project manager (PM) can be stressful if he/she does not properly manage the engagement level of his/her project team.  Employee engagement is the foundation of productivity and is guided by an interpersonal skill set that is derived from emotional intelligence. As a result, PMs must display astute emotional intelligence while managing execution through the various life cycles of projects.  The “Modern PM” must become versed in how to manage and address unwanted behavior, as well as providing a robust reward system to reinforce the behaviors that are needed to reach the intended outcome of the project.  Sound behavioral management will enhance project execution and increase the satisfaction of the project sponsor and key stakeholders.  Here are a few simple tips to increase the engagement level of your project team:


  1. Communicate often in a transparent manner. This approach reduces the level of uncertainty that a project environment brings during the initiating phase and establishes a foundation of trust within the team that you will supervise.
  2. Actively listen to the concerns of your team members and stakeholders. This approach will give your stakeholders and team members the willingness to communicate issues openly. Developing an environment that facilitates open dialogue gives the PM the ability to qualify and quantify risks. In addition, the PM will be able to challenge stakeholders and team members to find offsetting opportunities for the risks that are presented.
  3. Invite constructive conflict. Once the foundation of trust is established, the team will be more willing to go through the storming stage; conflict. The storming stage is a huge barrier and prevents project teams from transitioning into high performance teams.
  4. Take time to get to know your project team and key stakeholders personally in a genuine manner. You would be surprised at how engaged your stakeholders and project team will be after wishing them a happy birthday, wedding anniversary or remembering something about their personal hobbies. This practice helps to show your stakeholders and team that you value them as people.
  5. Praise in public and handle disagreements or reprimands in private. Tell the world about the successes that your team has achieved and do it often. This reinforces the behaviors that you need.  On the other hand, if you have faced the inverse of success handle that offline. Remain calm and work towards a resolution together and keep that communication to a small audience. Blasting team members for failures in an open forum will decrease employee engagement and cause the project to falter.
  6. Invoke shared leadership on your team. When team members have skin in the game they feel more accountable for the overall success of the project.

Following these 6 simple steps will allow the “Modern Project Manager” to achieve success in maintaining high levels of employee engagement in any project environment. The project manager must use these tools in a genuine manner in order for these tips to work. Increasing the interpersonal skill set is a key tool that a PM must have in his/her tool bag. All projects require the application of interpersonal skills and becomes increasingly challenging as projects are geographically dispersed across multiple regions and cultural domains.

What is the Best Power of the Project Manager?


By Fahad Usmani, PMP®, PMI-RMP®, contributing blogger

When I was studying this topic, I saw everywhere that the expert and reward powers are the best powers for the project manager, and all sources were pointing this out. However, I was not convinced, so I researched it and gave a lot of thought to this topic to find the correct answer.

Now I have passed my PMP exam and own a blog for PMP aspirants; therefore, I’m going to post my understanding and view on this topic in this blog post.

Please note that the views expressed in this blog post are my own. You may or may not agree with it; however, I would appreciate it if you share your thoughts through the comments section.

Okay, let’s get started.

You can define power as an influence on stakeholder to make a favorable decision. You can influence stakeholders in many ways: for example you can force them, or you can attract them with your charisma, etc.

According to the PMI, a project manager can use five types of power to influence his team members. These powers are as follows:

Formal or Legitimate Power
Reward Power
Punishment Power
Expert Power
Referent Power

These powers can be grouped into two categories: positional powers and personal power.

Formal power, reward power, and punishment powers are examples of positional power because you get this power just by being a project manager. In other words, the position of the project manager has this power in itself.

Expert and referent powers are examples of personal power.

I agree with everybody that reward and expert powers are the better powers for a project manager

But do you really think that these two powers are equally good?

Or do they really share the top position together?

I don’t think so.

Let me explain this to you in detail. I believe that after going through this blog post you will also have the same thoughts as I do.

Now I am going to give you a short brief about all types of power, and then we will discuss which power is the best for a project manager.

Formal or Legitimate Power

Since you are a project manager, you have this power. This power comes with the position itself; therefore, this power is also known as positional power. Team members will obey orders from you because they know that you have the formal power and authority to issue orders.


This type of power is seen in a projectized organization or in a strong matrix type of organization. In these types of organizations, you are in charge of your team and decide their performance appraisal, work assignments, etc.

However, if you are working in a functional organization or in a weak matrix organization, you will lack this power. In this case you may have to use your soft skills to get the job done.

Reward Power

A reward is something people desire. Reward power is, up to some extent, tied to the formal power of the project manager. You will get the team’s support because team members think that you are capable of rewarding them if they perform well. Rewards may be monetary (salary increase, bonus, promotion, etc.) or non-monetary (recognition, professional development, appreciation letter, day off, etc.).

Giving monetary rewards is often difficult, because sometimes you may be working in a functional organization or the budget is tight. Therefore most of the time rewards are non-monetary such as recognition, training recommendation, or a valuable assignment.

A reward should be achievable and it should not be a win-lose type of reward. Reward criteria should be fair, clear and achievable for all.

Reward power is a positional power, and you can have this power if you are working in a projectized or in a strong matrix organization. Although you can have reward power in a functional or a weak matrix organization as well, here you can offer your team members only non-monetary benefits.

Punishment Power

Nobody wants to get punished. Punishment power comes with the formal power of the project manager. Here, you will get your team’s obedience because the team members are afraid that if they don’t perform their duties efficiently, they may get punished. Here you use fear as a primary tool to get work done. Punishment power is also known as coercive power.

You will have this type of power if you are working in a projectized or in a strong matrix organization.

You will use this power when a team member is not performing well or is creating problems that affect your project objectives.

Expert Power

Being a subject matter expert itself is a great influential power. Team members will respect you for your technical expertise on the subject. They trust you because they think that you are an expert, have special knowledge on the matter, and know how to handle issues.

Expert power is considered to be a positive power that influences team members to follow your lead. If you do not possess expert knowledge then it would be difficult for you to gain respect from the team members.

Referent Power

If you are well associated with higher management, or have connections with some influential people in the organisation, you are said to possess referent power. Since you are connected with influential people, your team members want to connect with you as well.

This power may help you when you are a new project manager in the initial stages of the project when you may not have any other power except formal power; however, you may be perceived as being closely aligned with the top management.

My View

You can have any or all of the powers explained here, but to successfully complete the project you need to have at least three of these powers; i.e. formal power, reward power, and expert power.

Formal power establishes your authority as the lead of the project, reward power helps you motivate the team members, and expert power will benefit you to gain trust and support for your decisions from the team members.

Punishment power works in some cases, and the effects of referent power are not long lasting.

Now, again, which is the best power for the project manager?

Let’s revisit some key points and see in which case the team member will be more motivated and committed to performance:

A willing team member will do a better job, and the motivation of willingness to work comes from reward power. Team members will be willing to work more efficiently if they know that they are going to be rewarded for their performance.
With formal and punishment power, team members are beaten into submission, which I don’t think can be a cause of motivation for the team members.

With expert power, though, team members respect you and they trust your decisions, but this trust is not going to translate into motivation. Expert power can be a hygienic factor but can never be a motivating factor. An increase in performance and efficiency cannot be found without a motivating factor.

I accept the importance of expert power; however, I strongly believe that reward power is better than expert power to motivate the team members and get better performance.


It is important for you to know all types of power that a project manager can use in different situations and in different types of organizations. Your management style will depend on the situation and the type of organization you are working in. If you are working in a projectized organization, you will have punishment and reward power. However, if you are working in a functional type of organization, you will have to depend on expert power and your soft skills.

Please note: If you are preparing for the PMP certification exam, keep in mind that expert power and reward power are equally best as per the PMI, and if you get any question on this topic then you can select any of two (and of course pray that both do not come up as an option).

Fahad Usmani

Fahad Usmani, PMP®, PMI-RMP®, is founder and the author of A2Z of PMP Certification Exam. He has over 10 years of global portfolio management experience, specializing in leading complex corporate projects. He currently serves as an Inspection Engineer in Kuwait and facilitates project management training programs throughout the Middle-East.

PM Center of Excellence at Bellevue University


– By Dr. Emad Rahim, PMP, COMP, Kotouc Endowed Chair

We have been very busy the last few months getting our Project Management Center of Excellence up and running. There are only a handful of Universities that have established a Center of Excellence dedicated to the study and practice of project management. We wanted to get everything in place before launching so that we help raise the bar for other Centers across the country.  Within a short period of time we have been able to receive a lot of good press and interest in our work at Bellevue University and the Project Management Center of Excellence.

The Center for Project Management is developing the next generation of project leaders, providing the resources and mindset for managing complex organizational projects on a global scale.

The Center within Bellevue University’s College of Science and Technology is dedicated to performing research and advocacy, and providing education with respect to the profession and education of project management.

Below are some highlights that we are proud to share with you:

Project Eye Magazine (pg. 33-35):

Trends in PM Education:

PM Career Path in Thought Leadership:

How to Avoid Failure on IT Projects:


Dispelling Myths around Project Sponsorship

Dispelling Myths around Project Sponsorship

– by Radhia Benalia, PhDc, PMP, Certified Green Belt

Radhia Benalia
Radhia Benalia

Radhia Benalia is a pracademic. In addition to filling a leading position in a regional project management training and consultancy organization in the Middle-East, she is preparing a PhD thesis on Success Factors for Senior/Top Managers in Projects. Ms. Benalia has also a proven track record in leadership development and communication skills training. She worked extensively with the government and in NGOs or semi-government organizations, specifically in Canada. Radhia was nominated as candidate for party in office in 2009 Parliament elections in British Columbia, Canada. With CMCS, she has led the curriculum development of the entire project management post graduate diploma with the American University of Beirut for several tracks and has contributed to several project management and change management methodology development endeavors.

Connect with her on Twitter: @RadhiaBenalia

In times where organizations are starting to question a lot of what they do and strive to find ways to improve their chances for sustainability and growth, there is increasing scrutiny on people holding leading positions. Forward-thinking organizations are willing to invest in their people, involving even those filling some of the highest roles, but it is still not very common to see companies training their executive managers or senior managers on the role of a project sponsor.

Who exactly is the sponsor?

The sponsor is the person or group performing the functions of providing the Project or Program Manager’s authority, making investment decisions and providing direction- PMI Research Conference, 2012.

The senior manager directing a project is not always called a sponsor. In fact, according to OGC, they are the Senior Responsible Owner (SRO): “The single individual with overall responsibility for ensuring that a project or program meets its objectives and delivers the project benefits.” OGC, 2007.

Even if project-bound, the role of a project sponsor is a leading role and the behavior of project sponsors can have a direct impact on the success of the project. In fact, Project Management Institute (PMI) research has shown that having actively engaged executive sponsors is the top driver of project success. – PMI Pulse of Profession (2014). Academic research seems to confirm. According to Liu et al. (2013), top management support is one of the most critical factors for successful completion of projects.

Unfortunately, a large number of organizations are yet to prepare their managers and executives for the role of a project sponsor. The same organizations who invest intensively in training their project managers rarely invest in project sponsors or project-sponsors-to-be for several reasons:

1- People often assume that executives know it all and do not see a need for training.

2- Senior managers and executives are not always willing to go back to “school” and often display a negative attitude towards being taught what to do when sponsoring a project.

3- The project manager is seen as the ultimate point of accountability and assigning a project sponsor is sometimes seen as a mere formality.

All in all, and in stark contrast with the awareness that people have gained towards the role of project manager, the role of a sponsor is a topic that many are still grappling with.

Dispelling the Myths

In order to better understand the role of a sponsor, let us first dispel some myths:

Myth 1: Sponsorship equals Executive Management.

In fact, not every executive can be a sponsor. The profile of a good project sponsor needs to include the following:

1- He/she needs to have a profound understanding of the strategy of the business and be able to clearly convey it to the project manager and to the project team, whether the project is a “stand-alone” project or a PMO implementation.

2- The sponsor needs to act as the proxy of the business: He/she ensures that the project is aligned with the business strategy, and that it will indeed bring value to the organization. Then, he/she needs to rally the troops around the vision of the project.

3- This person can bring the funds and/or resources to the project, and can assume a political role where he/she would be protecting the project manager and the project team from negative organizational influences.

4- The sponsor needs to be ready to make difficult decisions, such as to cancel the project if it is found that the project’s outcomes will no longer bring added value to the business.

5- He/she needs to be an excellent communicator with a knack for simplifying and clarifying complex concepts. At initiation of the project, for instance, it is paramount that the project sponsor relays clearly to the PM and project team the exact scope and objectives of the project and ensures that they all have had their questions answered and that the work they do later remains within scope.

Myth 2: Sponsors need not to be trained on project management know-how. “After all, they make decisions at the organizational level”.

It is essential for the project sponsor to understand how a project works. He/she is not required to know as much as the project manager would on tactical project management concepts, but they both need to be able to speak the same language. It can be very frustrating for the PM to report to an executive that does not understand the significance of the indices or the risk register, for instance.
On the other hand, it can sometimes become a little risky when the project sponsor has profound knowledge of project management practices. This is because some would tend to micro-manage the PM or hijack his/her role. A project sponsor needs to let the project manager be in charge while providing the required support.

Myth 3: The higher the sponsor in the organization, the better. Always!
Not really. It can be very helpful to have a powerful project sponsor, especially to navigate politics. However, an executive sponsor is not always as accessible as a project sponsor from middle-management, for example. One of the key factors to project success is frequent communication between PM and PS, and it requires consistent involvement of the PS.

Good communication implies clear expectations for both sides from the beginning. The PS and PM should work on making frequency, type, and how to of communications crystal clear. As ambiguity is often embedded in all types of projects, it helps a lot not to add to it by making exchanges and expectations ambiguous as well.

In addition, a good working relationship between the PS and PM helps alleviate a lot of the hurdles. Mutual trust and honest communication where the PM is not worried about sharing “bad” news with the PS is the type of context that helps contribute to project success. On the other hand, withholding timely information has proven to be detrimental to the completion of a variety of projects and programs.

Myth 4: If any coaching or mentoring is going to happen, it’s going to be the PS coaching the PM.

In fact, an ideal situation would be one where both coach each other. The PS can coach the PM in motivating the project team or preparing reports that the executives understand and react to promptly, whereas the PM can have a primary role in coaching the sponsor in being a project sponsor! Some PMs do that through an interview at the beginning of the project or by having the project sponsor review and approve a “handbook” for communications, expectations, and questions to be answered, all actually delineating both roles.

In conclusion, the role of a project sponsor requires both art and science. The sponsor or top manager should be a key contributor to the success of the project by ensuring that they are doing a number of things like asking the right questions, preparing clear answers, motivating the project team, setting clear KPIs and criteria, listening carefully, dealing with ambiguity, helping the PM accept ambiguity, and sharing information that will help complete the project successfully. Truth is all of this requires a combination of “hard” and “soft” skills that are not always found in senior managers.