Posts Tagged With: Project performance

All knowledge areas are important but some are more important than others

I am occasionally asked by learners in my project management fundamental classes which is the most important knowledge area in the PMBOK® framework. My usual response is to say that each knowledge area is important but the emphasis and level of effort spent on each will be vary depending on the specific context of a given project.

But if I was forced to choose one PMBOK® knowledge area to recognize over all others, it is Project Stakeholder Management.

This choice might surprise some of my readers, especially given how much I’ve written about Project Risk Management. After all, Project Stakeholder Management is the newest knowledge area, and is covered in fewer pages in the PMBOK® Guide than the others. The triple constraint doesn’t include stakeholders so why would I emphasize it more than scope, schedule or cost management?

One reason for this is that knowing who your key stakeholders are as well as understanding their attitudes towards and influence over your project are key inputs into many of the processes from all of the other knowledge areas. This is why Identify Stakeholders is one of only two processes in the Initiating Process Group.

If you have been involved with project work for a while, you will have been part of or at least heard from teams who ended up coming in over budget, behind schedule or delivering less than was approved, but as a result of effective stakeholder management, the project was still deemed a success. You might have experienced the opposite with a project which was completed on time, within budget, and with scope delivered within quality specifications, but the dissatisfaction of a key stakeholder resulted in everyone feeling the project had tanked.

One of the reasons that many of us entered the project management profession was that we wanted to continue to develop our skills. While we can get better at scheduling, budgeting or any other hard skills, there is much greater potential for long term learning by focusing on soft skills. Honing the multiple competencies required to manage stakeholders provides us with a career long development road map and the returns on this investment are likely to be much greater than with hard skills.

Advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence will negatively impact many current jobs. I don’t worry too much about the project management profession. So long as project work is done by and for human beings, the need for effective stakeholder management will continue to be a hedge against automation-driven job losses.

They may forget what you said — but they will never forget how you made them feel – Carl W. Buehner

 

 

 

 

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Categories: Project Management | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Just because you have information radiators doesn’t mean senior stakeholders will review them!

Information radiators are a great idea.

After all, who wouldn’t want to reduce the effort involved in keeping stakeholders up-to-date about a product or project or increase the consistency in messaging to all stakeholders?

But convincing executives to use information radiators as a primary means of staying current is not an easy task. Yes, there might be a few early adopters who are open to trying a different way  but most are likely to prefer to receive these updates the way they’ve always got them through one-on-one or steering committee meetings using status reports. So project managers or Product Owners spend time harvesting and curating information from the radiators into traditional status reports or presentation decks.

This introduces a few challenges:

  • The activity of creating these reports or presentation decks is non-value add
  • The information shared is likely to be somewhat stale
  • There is an increased likelihood of reduced transparency as the “warts & all” information available in radiators might have been redacted or modified to fit the spin which the publisher wished to portray

So how can we help executives through the transition to using information radiators?

Start with why – if they don’t understand how traditional reporting approaches hurt them, they are unlikely to have any sense of urgency about adopting a different approach. Whether it is reducing delivery costs or improving the quality of information presented, find out what concerns them and use that as a lever for change.

Second, you will want to ensure that the information radiators being published are relevant to senior stakeholders. Taking the time to understand what they need to support their decision making should help in creating dashboards which they will actually want to use.

Finally, rather than asking them to make the significant leap from a meeting-based approach to a self-service model, consider continuing the meetings, but use information radiators as the supporting materials for the discussions in place of traditional presentation decks. This should spark your stakeholders’ curiosity as they are likely to ask questions based on their interpretation of the information published which will provide you with an opportunity to provide live “color commentary” about the project or product’s status.

If you want management to change, you need to apply effective change management.

 

 

Categories: Agile, Facilitating Organization Change | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Are you being (responsibly) transparent?

We might assume that transparency should be a given when delivering value through our projects so why is it that the actions of teams or the stakeholders supporting delivery don’t always demonstrate that basic hygiene factor? Transparency is so critical that the Scrum Guide lists it as one of its three pillars and it is similarly echoed in the reference materials for many other agile delivery methods as well as in PMI’s Code of Ethics.

Transparency is a rising tide which lifts the attitudes of all stakeholders:

  • Customers benefit as they have to spend much less effort in understanding what is really going on
  • Sponsors benefit as they will develop stronger, more positive relationships with teams and are better equipped to support their teams in a more timely manner when issues arise
  • The project manager and team benefits as they don’t have to worry about putting the right “spin” on events and are less likely to get distracted or waste effort in needless status updates for stakeholders. They will also benefit if the higher levels of trust which result from increased transparency encourage enterprise groups to lean out governance requirements by focusing on the few outliers rather than punishing the majority.

I wrote a few years back about the downsides of unfiltered transparency as this could generate unnecessary panic or encourage micro-management from our stakeholders, but responsible transparency is key to creating trust.

Responsible transparency is about providing the truth, warts and all, but ensuring that sufficient context gets provided so that our stakeholders’ reactions to the truth are appropriate. Project teams have many tools and techniques available to them which can provide transparency about progress and impediments, but using these in isolation may not provide that context. For example, reviewing individual work items in a sprint backlog without also being aware of the sprint goal(s) identified by the Product Owner doesn’t help a stakeholder see the forest for the trees. Similarly, trying to interpret a burn down or burn up chart without understanding the team’s delivery approach or the contents of a sprint or release backlog might create the wrong perceptions.

So as you strive for transparency in your information radiators and other communication methods, ensure that you are providing the necessary color commentary to make the information meaningful.

The single most important ingredient in the recipe for success is transparency because transparency builds trust – Denise Morrison, (Former) CEO, Campbell Soup Company

Categories: Agile, Project Management | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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