Learning To Speak Project Management: Fighting From Two AOs!

As you probably know by now, every week I host a free webinar for transitioning military Members, Veterans and Retirees. During these lively, interactive 120-minute webinars we like to call the Missing TAP Class, we do two main things.

First, we describe and discuss the meaningful, lucrative opportunity project management presents to them based on their existent military training, abilities, conditioning, and talents.

Second, we help the attendees translate their military missions into commercially viable project summaries they can use on their PMP® application, their resumes, and in their job interviews!  BOOYAH!  Talk about value engineering!

This ability to translate military experience into something a civilian hiring manager recognizes, understands, and will pay for brings huge dividends to the transitioning military Member, Veteran or Retiree!  First, it can significantly impact the likelihood and quality of landing that meaningful post-service career and its paycheck, and second, this super power single-handedly neutralizes one of the biggest transition hurdles MVRs have faced for generations; translating what I did and can do into something a civilian hiring manager values and will hire me for!

This installment presents the the translation of a mission to redeploy a unit from one AO (Iraq) to a second AO (Afghanistan), while serving both markets (i.e. Areas of Operations)!  This Summary is extremely relevant as civilian organizations are constantly undergoing transformation with regards to organizational structure and footprint and business processes.  This ‘project’ represents then, experience and skills needed by organizations right now as they plan and execute projects to help them do so.

1) The Framework

The Project Management Institute provides a three-component framework which includes the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (i.e. PMBOK® Guide), the situational-based PMP® exam, and the PMP® Examination Content Outline (PMPECO).

The PMBOK® Guide provides the how-to, the PMPECO provides the what (i.e. the tasks), and the PMP® provides validation of the two for the Veteran project manager.

2) The Tools

We use 1. a MS Excel spreadsheet to capture and manage the Member, Veteran or Retiree’s project management experience for the PMP® application; 2. a MS Word document containing a dozen or so completed project summaries written by MVRs and accepted by PMI; and 3. a piece of paper and a pen!

3) The Process

Step 1 of the three-step process is to jot down five to ten reflective, conversational statements about a mission you’ve planned, led, communicated about, and closed out. Missions are synonymous with projects. Step 2 is review the project activities contained in the tables found on pages 5-12 of the PMP Examination Content Outline, or tab 2 of the MS Excel spreadsheet found on the Home page of www.vets2pm.com. Step 3consists of synthesizing the two sets of statements. This process produces a detailed, succinct, cogent project summary that is in a language familiar to many a civilian hiring manager, Project Management! Watch!

4) This Installment’s Example: Workforce Reorganization to Fight from Two AOs!

Since missions and projects share the same definition (temporary endeavors that produce unique results, goods, services, or capabilities), this means we can translate them into commercially viable project summaries.

To do that, we use the project activities found in the PMPECO. Following the process described above, two weeks ago I asked if anyone had a mission they’d like to translate. A USMC GySgt responds with “how about the tasker to move Air Ops from Iraq to Afghanistan?”, to which he added “without disrupting OPs in either AO”.  “Right on Gunny!” I say.

As he begins talking, I copy the following reflective statements…”[1] Identify the personnel to take with and those to leave behind and [2] identify the gear and equipment needs of both sets of Marines”.  Additionally, he had to consider each component’s “[3] skills, abilities, and certifications as aligned to the two unique missions and markets”.  Finally, he mentioned [4] “risk management” numerous times throughout his narrative, as you can imagine.

With Step 1 completed; jot down some reflective thoughts about the project, we moved on to step 2, picking out PMI-promulgated project activities statements to match up with his statements. We chose one activity to represent each of the five Process Groups depicted in Table 3-1 of the PMBOK® Guide, page 61: Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring and Controlling, and Closing. We do this because there is a 550 character limit on the summary block when entering the information into the application system at www.pmi.org. Five to six sentences (a project objective statement plus five process group activities) yields, on average, about 520 characters, give or take a dozen.

For Initiating, we chose the Task 4 as our representative project activity.  This activity discusses identifying “high level risks, assumptions, and constraints based on the current environment, organizational factors, historical data, and expert judgment in order to propose an implementation strategy”. Wow! We see almost everyone one of his statements in this activity alone! But specifically, we see how his examination of risks, assumptions, and constraints helped him scope the project, plan the project, and resource it within environmental and organizational constraints, i.e. statements [1 and 2].

In Planning, the group collectively (yeah, these are really cool interactions to watch as a diversity of rank, branch, specialty, and experience inter-plays lively) picked task 1, which concerns “gathering intel”, which is military speak for reviewing and assessing “detailed project requirements, constraints, and assumption with key stakeholders based on the Charter (i.e. tasker or para. 1 of the OPORD), lessons learned and using requirement gathering techniques…to establish detailed project deliverables”, i.e. based on what we know and what we know we need to do, who is going where and when and what will they be able to do to execute plan once on station [statements 1, 2, and 3]?

For Executing, we picked task 2, which was execute the movement as laid out in the project management plan (i.e. OPORD). The team members performed their movements, equipping, watches, logistics, and duties in accordance with the plan, reporting and documenting their performance and results the entire duration of execution [3].

During the simultaneous Monitoring and Controlling, we see statements [3 and 4] in task 3, reviewing the performance against plan and milestones to make sure we’re meeting the project requirements, i.e. we are meeting the project’s quality standards, as planned, which means triggering risks must be at a minimum if things are going according to plan right!

Finally, for Closing, the group liked task 5, collecting all of the information, compiling it with lessons learned, and reviewing project performance with the Sponsor (i.e. Commander) in order to turn it all into operational capability.

Our ultimate summary came out something like this…

Identified and documented risks and assumptions to frame the project and receive Charter approval (IN). Project SMEs gathered and analyzed project information to create a feasible, reality-sensitive project management plan (PL). Executed project management plan while maintaining business continuity in both markets (EX). Personnel equipped timely and milestones met with few controlled changes (MC). Collected, analyzed, and briefed lessons learned, resulting in a way-ahead plan for Operational implementation post-project (CL).


There it is, fresh out of the oven! A 530 character-long, commercially viable project summary, about a uniquely military mission! We can now put it on the Retiree’s PMP®application, their resume, and they can talk it in their CIVDIV interviews! The listening civilian hiring manager would only hear a project manager speaking, not an Marine aviator!

The value in this ability, and the product it produces, your project management resume, is immense! Civilians know what to do with project managers and how much to pay them! When you’re speaking Project Management, you are completely familiar to them! You just overcame the language barrier that’s been dogging our military transitions since Legionnaires left the Roman Legions!

Until next installment Brethren and Sistren!


Eric is a decorated two-Service, two-Era US Military Veteran; Serial Founder; experienced, credentialed project manager and PMI Chapter-recognized mentor; and an entertaining instructor/public speaker on project management, deep learning and the military transition, PMI’s PMP®, CAPM® and ACP® exams, Vetrepreneurship; and project manager development. He helps Military Veterans change their lives profoundly through project management, entrepreneurship, and AI through inspiration, translation, training, and placement. For more information, please visit https://vets2pm.com, www.militaryvetstone.com, and www.linkedin.com/in/docwright2012.

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