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October 2012 Archives

How to Manage Multiple Stakeholders on a Program

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Programs are formed by projects with stakeholders from both similar and different backgrounds. Therefore, program managers must be able to work with diverse personalities.

For example, Taiwanese fashion designer Sun Hua Chen wanted to get young people interested in the fashion industry. He saw an exhibition by fashion photographer Su Yi Liang, which spurred the idea that a fashion photography exhibition would be a good way to interest upcoming generations in fashion.

"The Big Shot Charity Photography Exhibition" first held in 2011, will hopefully become an annual event held at the Fubon Cultural & Educational Foundation in Taiwan. The foundation is known for its work in supporting young people.

The end result that first year was 111 designers, photographers and non-profit workers who collaborated to make the exhibition a success. The event raised US$308,200 to support young adults' work in art and design.

But reaching that level of success wasn't easy. For starters, Mr. Chen found it challenging to get the foundation to understand his vision, mainly because of the vast difference between the fashion industry and charity work.

To secure buy-in, he presented a benefits realization plan in a way that the foundation would understand. They translated the potential effect of the fashion event into how much money could be raised, which would in turn benefit the foundation's stakeholders.

The stakeholders also had different concerns based on their interests. On one hand, there were artists and designers seeking perfection and impact. On the other, there were volunteers and professionals seeking efficiency and effectiveness through non-profit.

However, both groups understood that they needed each other's strengths to make the event a success. In this case, that meant utilizing one group's creativity and the other's business sense. It was the eventual synergy of both groups that resulted in the event becoming an annual success.

How have you managed a large, complicated program successfully? Do you have any tips for managing multiple stakeholders?

Lessons Learned from PMI® Global Congress 2012--North America

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After the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York, New York, USA, architect and planner Frederic Schwartz set out to rebuild lower Manhattan, one project at a time.

Each proposed project pulled in 50 city departments -- an astronomical number of stakeholders. And having gone "mano a mano" with then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Mr. Schwartz told Congress attendees to always "believe in yourself and never stand down."

He worked that same brand of stakeholder management in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, after Hurricane Katrina flooded 80 percent of the city in August 2005. With US$14.5 billion for levee repairs and another US$8.5 billion for home revamps, Mr. Schwartz headed projects to rebuild 21 historic areas, 9,000 acres (3,642 hectares) and 1 million homes.

And in that process, he learned the value of reaching out to the local community. Along with door-to-door research, his team held 200 district meetings in churches and politicians' homes. Mr. Schwartz also pulled in local architects, engineers and historians. "We could not have moved forward without local experts," he says.

Also at Congress, four leaders in the profession discussed the state of women in project management. Moderated by Immediate PMI Board of Directors Past Chair Beth Partleton, PMP, the panel included Leigh Stevens of Microsoft; Teresa A. Knudson, PMP, of Mayo Clinic; and Eleanor Silverman, PhD, of NASA.

The comprehensive panel discussion covered a range of topics, including a new take on the triple constraint: work, home and family.

There's no question of the value that female project managers bring to projects. It's just good business. "A diverse workforce is a business imperative -- 83 percent of consumer decisions are made by women, yet 90 percent of tech products are developed by men," said Ms. Stevens.

For women looking for an edge in what remains a male-dominated profession, Ms. Knudson recommended training. "Education is one of the best ways to find a trap door up and around the glass ceiling," says Ms. Knudson. "And it is something women have within their control."

The panelists agreed that developing trust among team members -- regardless of gender -- helps overcome project challenges. "In the best project I've worked on, there was respect, and there was trust," says Ms. Stevens. "For me as a leader, being able to create that environment where you feel like people have got your back is key."

Which Leadership Style Fits Your Personality?

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Don't try to be like Warren Buffett if you're more Sir Richard Branson, said best-selling author Marcus Buckingham in a thought-provoking keynote address at the PMI® Global Congress 2012 -- North America.

Project professionals in leadership positions must let their personal strengths shape their unique style of management. For example, Sir Branson, head of British conglomerate Virgin, is a public figure, championing his brand. Warren Buffett, head of U.S. financial firm Berkshire Hathaway, is more of a behind-the-scenes leader.

"One leader's techniques are not transferable to another," says Mr. Buckingham. "What looks authentic with one leader looks foolish with another. People follow your authenticity. Only try techniques that fit you."

He identified nine types of leaders:

1. Advisers are invigorated by the challenge of solving others' problems.

2. Connectors align the most-qualified team members with the appropriate problem.

3. Creators ask, "What do I understand about the challenge ahead?" 

4. Equalizers are driven by commitments and ask, "What is the right thing to do?" 

5. Influencers inspire team members to action.

6. Pioneers boldly explore uncharted territory and look for ways to do things differently. 

7. Providers are concerned with team members' well-being first and foremost.

8. Stimulators raise the team's energy level.

9. Teachers are in a constant state of development, always looking to learn.

In today's world, nearly everything is customized to the individual. For proof, Mr. Buckingham pointed to social media juggernaut Facebook. At every login, its more than 1 billion users magically receive ads fit for their personalities.

Leadership development is just as unique. 

So, what kind of leader are you?

Read more posts from Congress.

Odds-Defying Project Wins 2012 PMI Project of the Year Award

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Seven years had passed since the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency gave engineering firm URS a 1 percent chance of meeting a global treaty deadline to destroy 220,000 chemical weapons. 

But on 20 October at PMI® Global Congress 2012 -- North America, the URS project team accepted the 2012 PMI Project of the Year Award -- a high honor showing excellent project management can defy the odds.

Steven Warren, PhD, PMP, project general manager at URS, called the project a "massive undertaking."

The company would be destroying the largest stockpile of chemical weapons in the United States. 

To reduce the risks on the eight-year project, the team packaged each nerve agent into different "campaigns," during which only the designated chemical could be incinerated. For instance, from September 2004 to July 2007, only sarin gas munitions were destroyed.

Given the volatility, safety aspects were featured prominently at meetings. And around the facility, the team placed safety signage with a "safety message of the day" along with updated statistics, such as the number of hours since the last work injury.

Despite the extensive safety precautions, in March 2010 a worker ignored protocols and was exposed to mustard agent. Though the worker only suffered minor injuries, the mistake could have been fatal. The accident prompted regulators to shut down the site for a month as they investigated.

In response, the team created a position dedicated to identifying potential safety issues throughout the facility. Empowered to escalate problems to management, this team member circulated weekly safety reports among the highest-ranking members of the team.

The project was ultimately delivered under budget and early -- a powerful, true team effort.

"On behalf of URS; our contractors; our client, the U.S. Army; our stakeholders; and even, to a lesser extent our regulators, thank you," Mr. Warren said in accepting the award.

The winning project was honored along with two finalists: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Capability Replacement Laboratories project, Richland, Washington, USA; and Procter & Gamble, ordering, shipping and billing process project, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA. 

Look for video case studies of all the finalists, more awards coverage and a full list of winners on PMI.org

5 Steps to Master Requirements Prioritization

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Requirements prioritization is a recognized project management practice. It's a decision-making process that enables project managers to focus on the deliverables that add the most value to a project's outcome.

It is quite rare that projects are conducted without time, scope and budget constraints. Most projects will likely need requirements prioritization.

Sometimes the prioritization process can lead to conflicts between the project beneficiaries. You might have to scope in requirements that address one person's needs, while de-scoping other requirements that address someone else's needs.

This five-step approach can help a project manager master requirements prioritization without getting into conflicting situations:

1. Prioritize as a common practice
Make it clear from the beginning that requirements prioritization is a common and required practice for any project that deals with constraints. Without prioritization, a constrained project could fail to reach its objectives.

2. Involve stakeholders
Not everyone on the project team should be involved in prioritizing requirements, but not involving the right people in this decision-making process could lead to project conflicts or missed project objectives.

The project's beneficiaries -- such as product owners, end-users or business departments -- should prioritize their own requirements. But project sponsors or organizations outside the project, such as legal departments, can be involved in your prioritization process.

3. Qualify requirements    
Identify and apply key qualitative dimensions that support prioritization, such as priority, severity, urgency, complexity or mandatory requirements. Then identify and apply key quantitative dimensions, such as weight or grades.

Use numbers to reflect the possible grades for each qualitative dimension. For example:
  • 0.1 = low
  • 0.5 = medium
  • 0.8 = high
  • 1 = critical
Then, depending on the project's nature and context, use factors that weigh the importance of a qualitative dimension as compared to the others. For example:
  • Factor 0.2 for complexity
  • Factor 0.4 for priority
  • Factor 0.7 for urgency
  • Factor 1 for severity
4. Use a prioritization formula   
Based on the qualitative and quantitative values, define a formula or matrix to apply when prioritizing requirements.
For example, a requirement with high severity will get a 0.8 rating (0.8 x 1) and will be prioritized ahead of a requirement with a high urgency (0.8 x 0.7= 0.56)

5. Document the approach
Document the prioritization approach in the requirements management plan as part of the project management plan. This leaves no room for interpretations, doubts or subjective biases during the prioritization process.

How do you prioritize requirements on your projects?

Make Your Project Communication Really Sing

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The core purpose of communication is to share information or direct a behavior change. This is particularly true of communication with your project team members.

The challenge of effective communication is keeping a consistent point and changing your presentation and rhythm to avoid becoming boring.

Great communicators use a similar approach to great music. It does not matter if you listen to Beethoven's "Symphony No. 5" or Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody." You find consistency and variety in both. Patches of high intensity contrasted with quieter movements create a memorable and complete masterpiece.

The same effect can be achieved in your communication by balancing positive and negative elements of a message or changing the direction of the information flow.

For example, if you want someone to stop an undesirable behavior, point out the problem, but also highlight the benefits of the change you want to occur. Or rather than telling the team they are behind schedule, change the direction of the information flow and ask them for ideas to regain the lost time. The point you are making is consistent, but the variety in presentation leads to engagement.

Another key element is to finish on a high note. Great music does not fade away. It builds to a crescendo!

Great communicators such as Martin Luther King Jr. or Winston Churchill had a consistent, heartfelt message they communicated in a way that would create a strong reaction in their listeners.

Both had different speaking styles, but each had a real sense of rhythm and performance. Their speeches are carefully crafted for effect, but the presentation adds enormous weight to the message.

While you may never need to 'fight on the landing fields' or 'have a dream' to change a nation, taking the time to think through how you will present the information in your communication in a way that is engaging and memorable will help you be more effective in getting your message across to your audience.

Do you spend more time drafting your message or thinking about how you will communicate the message?

5 Ways Agile Helps Mitigate Project Quality Risks

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The agile process helps reduce such risks as poor product quality or building the wrong product entirely. Though agile and Scrum were originally designed for software projects, their iterative process and techniques apply beyond their initial intended industry.

Here are five ways agile and Scrum techniques can curtail project quality risks:

1. All practitioners must review project requirements with the client.
In agile, the "user story" is the basic building block for agile requirement lists. A formal "acceptance test" is an integral part of that user story, as is explicitly reviewing it with the client to verify you have customer concurrence on the deliverable.

2. Agile teams collaborate while creating project components.
Inspections or pairing can prevent up to 50 percent of possible defects, according to research I conducted with colleagues. In addition, collaborating helps team members share other knowledge about the product or tools used to meet project needs at a critical stage.

3. Authors create a consistent set of verification measures.
Ideally, this takes the form of automated verification tests designed to catch missing functions or incorrect product behavior. These tests are run by the original author, as a sort of control against variables, and also used for regression testing by other team members. Yet even if a project passes these tests, it's also crucial that the product components are streamlined from the get-go so they can be easily maintained or extended in the future. This is called "refactoring."

4. Quality teams test small project deliverables as they are written.
Since the deliverables have been inspected or pre-tested, at this point you should expect few errors.

5. Feedback from a demonstration.  
Agile teams hold demonstrations for their stakeholders, showing items completed since the last demonstration. The key is to elicit feedback from stakeholders and use it to improve the product. This provides one final chance to confirm that what the team produced was what the customer wanted. In this way, ideas and changes can be addressed before the completion of the project.
In addition to the following checklist for agile and Scrum risk reduction, it never hurts for teams to employ risk lists to further improve project performance:

  1. Client review of each acceptance test
  2. Team collaboration in inspection or pairing
  3. Test automation by the author and refactoring cleanup
  4. Independent testing by the quality team
  5. Demo to the client

How else do you think agile helps mitigate risk? What steps do your teams take to mitigate risk?

Read the Organizational Agility report for an in-depth look at how agile organizations increase their success rate on new projects, even in a volatile global economy.

What's Missing?

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When a project manager or team member is unsure of what to do, it's often because there's something lacking. And in my experience, it's usually lacking in all or some of these key areas: knowledge, experience and the project's intended benefit.

In an IT project, for example, let's say you are in charge of the rollout of new computers and rearranging the workstations. You would need to be clear on the requirements first, and you would have to assess if the budget is sufficient for all the required resources and activities you will need to execute. It's your project management knowledge and experience that will aid you in completing the required tasks correctly.  

You may have had experiences where you felt that you were clear on the goals and direction of the project. But depending on where you got the information, and if you don't understand how a particular organization operates, you might be going in the wrong direction.

No matter how much project management knowledge or experience you have, if you don't have knowledge of or experience with the stakeholder or project owner, you will end up failing or negatively impacting the business.

While this might seem like common sense, my experience shows that many people are struggling and looking for creative and advanced solutions to something that is simple. They spend countless amounts of energy and time to figure out a complex solution rather than just looking at the obvious.

In reality, they are missing something in their knowledge, experience or understanding of the project goal or direction.

Use examples from your life to validate this for yourself. Look at an area where you are actually having trouble or an area that is not working as well as you'd like it to. Something is likely missing in your knowledge, experience or project comprehension whether you want to admit it or not.

Have you ever been unsure of what to do in a project? Was it because you were missing something in one of these key areas?

Are You an Assertive Project Manager?

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"People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care."

--John C. Maxwell

Have you ever heard your project manager say something like "I'm not here to make friends; I'm here to get things done"? This is known as extrovert management. 

On the other hand, some project managers manage more as an introvert. They are less aggressive and more passive in their approach. 

There is a range of assertiveness, which can be understood as a person's tendency to actively defend, pursue and speak out for his own interests.

Assertiveness is a key point for a leader's ability to achieve results, according to a 2006 study from researchers Daniel Ames and Francis Flynn. They found that our natural tendency to focus on negative information suggests that the costs of low or high levels of assertiveness may often outweigh the benefits in the eyes of observers. 

So what is the best approach to assertiveness in the context of project management? It depends on the project.  

Perhaps the bottom line is to develop our ability to cover a wider range of assertiveness and adjust our behavior to the context of the project. 

For instance, on short-term projects, being more assertive will give us the ability to achieve results. But on a large project, the best approach might be more moderated in assertiveness to build good relationships with our team, which allows us to collaborate productively in the long run. 

Which kind of project manager do you prefer? And which kind of project manager are you?

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