- Respecting and trusting his players -- garnering responsible behaviors in return
- Allowing time for life beyond cricket, resulting in a fresh enthusiasm for both the training regime and the game
- Setting high expectations, but using a supportive style to encourage striving for excellence rather than demanding excellence
- The government's desire to look good by reducing patient waiting time
- The hospitals' desire to achieve the maximum budget income for the year
- The administrators' desire, both in the hospital and the government, to avoid rocking the boat
- The KPIs you choose communicate to stakeholders what you think is most important. What is easy to measure is not necessarily important.
- What you choose to measure will change behaviors. Focus on things that matter, such as value and benefits, not easy-to-measure statistics, such as time and cost.
- Make sure the data is validated.
- A KPI system cannot solve the problem, but it can be a powerful facilitator of solutions if it's set to measure the right statistics and ask the right questions.
- Gold Medal: Covers the things that matter directly to people, including pride, achievement, praise or humiliation.
- Silver Medal: Centers on the purpose and mission of the organization and what matters to the overall business. It considers what will help or hinder us in pursuit of our goals. Examples might include profits, market share or brand image.
- Steel Medal: Considers the effects on the quality or fitness for purpose of what we're doing, either positive or negative.
- Glass Medal: Looks at impacts on our ability to innovate and change to do things in a new or improved way.
- Wood Medal: Draws attention to the environment in the broadest sense, describing positive or negative effects of our decisions or actions on the world around us.
- Brass Medal: Asks whether there's any resulting change in the way we and others perceive or are perceived.
- Gold: Issue an internal news item showing the CEO cooperating with the project despite the inconvenience.
- Steel: Make sure the duct is accessible in future without demolition work.
- Glass: Use the repairs to offer an opportunity to update the CEO's office color scheme incorporating her preferences.
- Stifles your talent and limits your opportunities for advancement
- Twists circumstances and conversations to their benefit
- Punishes you for a mistake rather than help you correct it
- Reminds you constantly or publicly of a disappointing experience or unmet expectation
- Takes credit or withholds recognition for new ideas and extra effort
- Focuses solely on meeting their goals and does so at your expense
- Fails to respect your need for personal space and time
- Manage your time. Set a limit on the amount of time you spend beyond the hours needed to complete the project work. For example, you should politely but firmly decline an invitation to a peripheral meeting.
- Express yourself. Reveal aspects of your personality that reinforce your values. Sometimes it's a matter of letting people in a little bit to help keep your boundaries intact. If aggressive behavior offends you, say so (in a firm, but non-aggressive way), but you also need to consistently act in an assertive (rather than aggressive) way.
- Build your reputation, and do it carefully and consistently. Everyone plays a role at work. Your co-workers should know what you stand for and what to expect from you. Then, don't waiver. Authenticity is the key -- behave in the way you expect others to treat you.
- Change the conversation. Stay focused on the project and away from nonproductive behavior. Avoid gossip, criticism and other negative conversations by simply stating: "I don't really have time to discuss that just now, but I really do need your input on this project issue." If the attack is on you personally, ask to "take the conversation off line and focus on this important project matter now."
- If you can't see and articulate how the change is actually going to change work, it probably won't work. Explain "how" and keep explaining to everyone affected by the project's outcomes.
- While it's painful to integrate change management planning into your project planning, it's even more painful to watch your project fail. Make sure all aspects of the change are covered in your project plan or the associated change management plan -- and that the two plans are coordinated.
- Keep explaining the "whys" behind the change. Once is never enough! You need a well-thought-out and implemented communication plan.
- The only antidote to scaremongering is information. And that information needs to be accurate and believed. What's actually going to happen is never as bad as the things people imagine "might happen" in the absence of easy-to-understand, well-communicated facts.
- Delegating. Some tasks are simply better delegated to an expert who knows how to do the job well and quickly. I'm sure everyone could learn to use pivot tables in Excel. But is it worth several hours of struggle when a knowledgeable expert — even if it's the most junior team member — can solve the issue in a few minutes?
- Engaging team members. Ask a team member to talk you through a challenge he or she is working on. You'll get the lowdown on the task at hand, and good insights into how he or she works.
- Stop talking to yourself and decide that you are going to talk to someone else.
- Decide who that will be.
- Craft the conversation. Write down what you are going to ask them and how you hope they will respond.
- Schedule a meeting with the person and promise yourself you'll ask him or her for help and be open to his or her suggestions.
- Tell someone else of your intentions; someone who will hold you accountable for having the meeting and asking for help.
- Understand it — it has to be realistic to them.
- Know their teammates and other stakeholders will like and commit to it.
- Get excited about it.
- Believe they can make it happen.
- Once upon a time...
- Example: The project risk register identified...
- But one day, something changed...
- Example: The recent findings have escalated this risk significantly by...
- Because of that... (This is repeated as many times as you wish.)
- Example: Because of this, we have had to change...
- And then _____ occurred.
- Example: This change caused...
- Until finally...
- Example: Which means the project must...
- And the moral of the story is...
- Example: And we need your approval to implement these recommendations.
- The ethical culture of a team is unlikely to be any stronger than the standard set by the team leader, and is usually slightly less ethical.
- The ethical culture of a less senior leader is unlikely to be any stronger than the standard set by the senior leader, and is usually slightly less ethical.
- Positive reinforcement, such as praising people for notifying you of a mistake they have made.
- Encouragement of open reporting of "bad news" in any form.
- Establishment of systems that strongly encourage ethical behaviors, such as refusing to allow derogatory remarks in any form (jokes included). This would require backing by formal systems, such as clearly defined and protected "whistle blower" procedures.
- Each stakeholder needs something from the project to further his or her interests, or alternatively, needs nothing from the project.
- The project requires the active support (assistance or resources) of the important stakeholders, or alternatively, requires nothing from the stakeholder.
- Project needs nothing/stakeholder needs nothing: Stakeholders in this quadrant are usually protesters. In this case, you have two communication options: You may be able to defuse their opposition by providing better information, but this only works if the protesting is based on false assumptions. Otherwise, you may choose to limit communication with the stakeholder whilst keeping the communication channels open.
- Project needs nothing/stakeholder needs something: The stakeholders in this quadrant are the easiest to manage from a communication perspective. You are already providing their requirements as part of the project deliverables. All that's required is to provide reassurance that their needs will be fulfilled. If their requirements are outside of the project's scope, the stakeholder should initiate a change request.
- Project needs something/stakeholder needs something: This group needs active management. Project communication must clearly link the stakeholder's support or resources to how the project fulfills his or her requirements. Take the time needed to develop robust relationships to facilitate cooperation.
- Project needs something/stakeholder needs nothing: Stakeholders in this quadrant are a major risk. They're typically regulatory authorities, or people who have to inspect or approve the project's work as part of their business. Carefully build a proper professional relationship that respects the integrity of the stakeholder's position while at the same time ensuring your communications are received and acted upon.
Every project manager and team leader wants to direct a team of motivated people. And many team leaders probably know that the most powerful forms of motivation -- autonomy, mastery and purpose -- center around self-actualization.
So as a project manager or team leader, it's up to you to facilitate these circumstances for each member of your project team. To do this, you need effective communication in three key areas:
1. Comprehension. Make sure the person assigned to a task understands the work and measures of success, and agrees he or she can achieve the desired outcome.
Asking the team member questions and listening to his or her suggestions on how to best accomplish the work helps develop the team member's sense of ownership associated with autonomy.
2. Acknowledgement. Everyone likes to feel they have accomplished something in their workday. Facilitating this feeling is part management -- minimizing interruptions and diversions -- and part communication.
Make sure a team member's progress is acknowledged on a regular basis and "accidentally" catch the person doing something right. You have to notice and rectify errors in performance. Balance this negativity by acknowledging positives. This is a daily process to keep the team motivated and focused.
3. Purpose. Change is inevitable in project management, and it's up to you to maintain a sense of purpose throughout a project's lifecycle. The challenge usually comes when you have to move a project team member to another role or change his or her objectives. This can be especially frustrating if the team member has developed a sense of purpose around his or her overall project objectives and work.
If you simply instruct people to change, you risk damaging or destroying motivation. Instead, communicate these four points:
- The problem with the current situation, and the consequences of not changing.
- The reason the proposed change has been preferred over the other available options.
- The expected benefits from adopting the change.
- The contribution the person can make while achieving the new objective.
- John, we need your help in testing. Mary is out sick and the schedule is weeks behind. If we don't catch up, the whole project will be delayed.
- I'm asking you to help because you have more experience in testing than anyone else.
- With your skills in testing and your knowledge of the development, I'm sure we will be able to recover the lost time in testing with minimal disruption to the development effort.
- With good management all around, I'm hoping this change will prevent a delayed completion, but we need you to make this possible. Are you willing to help?
Above all, communicating to motivate has to be authentic to be effective, and it need not require too much time and effort. Plus, the extra time spent motivating will be more than repaid in better team performance.
How do you keep stakeholders happy on your project team?
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?
Chances are that the only information the executives received about your meeting was the agenda and the briefing notes, which focus on the project's status and technical performance. This is abstract data that takes time to read and understand. As a consequence, it becomes paperwork that is put aside to read later, buried under other paperwork and eventually forgotten.
To be successful in attracting the attention of busy executives, focus on a 30-second 'wake-up call' that will cut through the thousands of other messages circulating in your organization and get the executives attention. You cannot communicate unless you get the other person's attention first; so your 'call' must persuade each member of the committee to be both physically and mentally present for your meeting. Only then will your more complex messages be heard and possibly acted upon.
The solution is 'What's In It For Me' (WIFM).
WIFM appeals directly to the attention and decision-making functions of the human brain. The amygdala, a part of the brain, rules much of our actions and behavior.
The amygdala determines in a fraction of a second what we pay attention to. It will pay no attention at all unless it can immediately see WIFM. To cut through each executive's communication overload, your 30-second 'wake-up call' needs to be direct and simple and appeal to the person's emotions. Pleasure and fear are equally effective emotions, so the call should worry the executive--or make him or her feel good. It should not focus on a third party, such as you or your project.
The amygdala is expert at screening everything that doesn't directly interest it, including things that are abstract, complex or about someone else. Uninteresting or confusing messages are rejected in the blink of an eye, before the rational and analytical areas of the brain have a chance to begin the thinking process.
Only after you have gained the executive's attention can you engage with the person and deal with the substance of the meeting. Strong messages start this process, but the real work of the meeting will require the use of more highly crafted forms of communication built around the concept of effectively 'advising upwards.'
Ask yourself: 'Are we getting the attention of those most important to us?' If you are getting attention, are you keeping it and building it? And if you don't know, what can you do to find out?
The only significant difference that was noted from the last 2,000 years is the proliferation of formal tools and techniques we now use compared to the 'seat of the pants' (or should that be toga?) approach used by Roman managers.
However, in my opinion, the authors, Derek Walker and Christopher Dart could have added a few more differences.
For example, the simpler social structures of the Roman era provided a direct link between project initiator and the manager responsible for the work. For major works, the emperor would frequently be the person directly funding the project. He would also appoint the manager. Another way projects were launched: To enhance his or her prestige, a benefactor funded other projects.
The appointed manager bore personal responsibility for the project's success. Interestingly, he also had to lobby for the unpaid appointment. The manager's prestige and the standing of his family for generations to come could be influenced by success or failure of a significant project.
Most of the actual work was contracted to commercial organizations on similar terms. The contractor was obliged to complete the work for the price agreed upon by both parties. Failure could literally have fatal consequences for the contractor and serious consequences for his descendants.
Probably the most significant difference between the Romans and today's project professionals was the overall commitment to success demonstrated by the Romans. There were direct lines of accountability from the benefactor funding the project to the contractors delivering the work. Everyone's prestige was at stake.
Today, the complexity of modern organizations and multiple competing objectives tends to obscure the link between a project and the organization's overall strategy.
Most project managers are committed to the success of their projects. But this commitment is not necessarily reflected in the higher levels of the organization, as evidenced by the number of articles on 'selling' the benefits of a project to organizational management.
When there is a clarity of purpose, such as building the London Olympics, remarkable results can still be achieved. Unfortunately, within the matrix structures common in most organizations, in my opinion, one of the real challenges is finding a 21st century way to recapture the Roman's top to bottom commitment to the success of each project.
How do you think this level of stakeholder alignment could be achieved in your organization?
Executives have a central role in this process. There is a direct link between the decision to make an investment in a project and the need for the organization to make effective use of the deliverables to generate the intended benefits. In turn, this creates a valuable ROI.
According to PMI's 2012 Pulse of the Profession, in organizations where senior management has at least a moderate understanding of project and program management, 59 percent of the projects successfully meet or exceed the anticipated ROI. This is compared to just 51 percent of the projects in organizations where the senior management has a limited comprehension of project and program management.
This is where a project sponsor comes in.
An effective sponsor is the direct link between the executive and the project or program. The sponsor is crucial to ensuring top-level management support for the project contributes to the project's success and is critical to achieving the ultimate goal of generating an ROI.
According to Pulse, 75 percent of high-performing organizations have active sponsors on 80 percent or more of their projects.
If your project has an effective sponsor, make full use of his or her support. The challenge facing the rest of us is persuading less effective sponsors to improve their level of support.
To impart project knowledge into other areas of the business, the team needs to be able to 'advise upward.' Here are three tips to do so:
1. Create a conversation about value with other project managers and teams within your organization. This is a very different proposition to being simply on time, scope and budget. It's about the ultimate value to the organization created by using the outputs from its projects and programs. The key phrase is "How we can help make our organization better?"
2. Use the right evidence. Benchmarking your organization against its competitors is a good start, as is understanding what high-performing organizations do.
3. Link the information you bring into the conversation with the needs of the organization. Show your organization's executive how this can provide direct benefits.
In most parts of the world, organizations need to do more with less to stay competitive. Developing the skills of project sponsors so they are active is one proven way to achieve a significant improvement with minimal cost.
In fact, if projects are supported more effectively, there may be cost savings and increased value at the same time. And what's in it for us as project managers? We have a much-improved working environment. Everyone wins.
Do you have an active sponsor on your project? Do you think active sponsors improve project success? How involved are the executives in your organization?
To discuss Pulse of the Profession on Twitter, please use #pmipulse.
See more on the Pulse of the Profession.
Discussed in a book of the same name by Sam L. Savage, the flaw of averages basically explains why everything is behind schedule, beyond budget and below projection.
For example, you're developing two software modules. Both are expected to take between eight and 12 weeks to complete. When both modules are finished, your organization can start a new process, which requires four additional staff.
Your boss asks you for a completion date so the additional people can be brought 'on-board' and the new profitable line of business started. You say, "Eight to 12 weeks," and your boss replies, "Give me a date!" You estimate that a safe date would be 10 weeks, the average of eight and 12 weeks.
Everyone is happy. But should they be? Let's look at the flaw of the average:
Based on your projected date, your boss works out his profit forecast for the next quarter based on an estimated profit of US$1,000 per week. You take the first seven weeks developing the application, and the new team uses the application for the remaining five weeks.
This sounds sensible, but the estimate of US$5,000 profit is the best that can be achieved. If you finish early, there is no upside. The new people will not be available.
If you finish late, however, sales will be lost. The cost of the unproductive new staff will be an added expense until both modules are working. On average, the profits achieved are likely to be significantly less than US$5,000.
Plus, you're more likely to be late than early. The probability of finishing each of the modules in 10 weeks or less is 50 percent. It's like tossing a coin - there is always a 50 percent chance of it landing on 'heads.'
Since two modules need to be finished in 10 weeks or less, think of the options when you toss two coins:
Tails + Tails
Tails + Heads
Heads + Tails
Heads + Heads
There is only a one in four chance of you achieving the 'average.' That 25 percent probability means there is a 75 percent probability of being late. Therefore, on average, you can expect to be late.
All you did was assess a reasonable number based on your expected average time to complete each module. The problem is not your estimate, but the way it is being used. This is the flaw of average.
The next time you are asked for a 'number,' use your skills in managing upward to build flexibility into the conversation.
For example, offer your boss a safe date with an option for improvement. "We will definitely be finished in 12 weeks, and there is a possibility of finishing sooner." Point out the cost risks of being early and late. Keep the boss updated as you work through the project.
Or, do some serious analysis. Offer your boss a range of dates with different levels of probability. You need tools for this, but you want a target date with an 80 percent probability of achieving.
Effective stakeholder management needs more than simply complying with a request -- however reasonable it may appear on the surface.
-- H. L. Mencken
When a relationship with a key stakeholder breaks down, or there is some other failure in your project, it's tempting to assume there is a 'root cause.' We think that by finding and fixing this key factor, the problem will be resolved.
Many tools help find the root cause and these tools work for simple problems. However, they are dangerous to use in complex systems.
The '5-Whys' approach assumes that each presenting symptom has only one sufficient cause. By asking 'why?' five times, you can drill down to the root cause.
For example, say that your boss complains that her computer is not working. You see the plug is out of the wall socket. You replace the plug and solve the problem, right? Well, the answer depends on how you define the problem:
Problem: Lack of power. Solution: Replace the plug.
Problem: Lack of training or knowledge. Solution: Teach your boss about the plug.
Problem: Poor joinery design. Solution: Put the power points on the desktop instead of on the floor.
The '5-Whys' approach requires the right definition of the problem to start digging for a root cause. Even then, the approach only follows one line of thinking, which limits its ability to identify complex interactions.
When considering problems in socio-technical systems, such as stakeholder relationships, the assumption that there is a single event that triggers a chain of events that lead to a problem is false.
Most problems have multiple contributing causes. Each element is necessary but only when all of the elements are combined 'correctly' is there sufficient impetus to create the breakdown. When trying to understand failures in complex systems, like relationships, a different paradigm is useful.
For example, let's say you used a range of motivational techniques to help your team perform that have worked well in the past. This time, however, the team disintegrated, and productivity dropped. Chances are that the problem emerged from a confluence of conditions often associated with the pursuit of success. But in this specific combination, there was "trigger failure;" each item was necessary, but on its own or in a different combination could be more beneficial.
These unexpected outcomes are encountered because complex systems, like relationships in and around a project team, have emergent behaviors, not resultant ones.
Complex causes require subtle management. You need to be continually prepared for nonlinear behaviors where small problems can result in large and cascading failures.
Rather then resolutely applying your standard approaches, look, listen and 'tune-in' to your team. When a complex system reaches the tipping point and collapses into failure, it is too late. You need to feel the issues emerging and adapt to the changing situation.
How do you detect failures in stakeholder management?
Read more about stakeholder management.
"War is the realm of uncertainty; three quarters of the factors on which action in war is based are wrapped in a fog of greater or lesser uncertainty ... The commander must work in a medium which his eyes cannot see; which his best deductive powers cannot always fathom; and with which, because of constant changes, he can rarely become familiar."
Projects aren't much different.
Military leaders and project managers both need the active support of their teams to be successful. But support involves more than just following orders. Active supporters work with you to achieve success in difficult circumstances.
Here are a few theories I've adapted from the military that may help project managers running a large project:
The right of one objection
This doctrine says that regardless of the rank of the person giving the command, if you have information that shows the command may be wrong, you are obliged to share that information with the issuer. Once the objection has been properly considered, the objector is expected to comply with the final decision.
Unfortunately, many project team members tend to keep information to themselves rather than risk getting in trouble with authority. To reduce the concern, adopt a policy guaranteeing no sanctions against a team member who raises the one objection. More importantly, information withholders become liable to an equal share of the consequences if they have kept quiet.
Decentralize execution planning to the lowest possible management level. This way, those who must execute the work have the freedom to develop their own plans.
At each level of management, the plan should dictate a subordinate's actions only to the minimum degree necessary. Ideally, rather than dictating a subordinate's actions, a good project plan should create opportunities for the subordinate to act with initiative.
Effective planning should facilitate shaping the conditions of the situation to our advantage while preserving freedom to adapt quickly to changes in the project's circumstances.
Planning should be participatory and evolutionary. The main benefit of planning is engaging in the process -- the planning matters more than the plan.
We should view any project plan as merely a common starting point from which to adapt as required -- and not as a script that must be followed. Plan far enough into the future to maintain the initiative and prepare adequately for upcoming phases, but not so far that plans will have little in common with actual developments.
Adapt these ideas to the circumstances of your project, and they should help you make your internal stakeholder management more effective and your projects more successful.