Posts Tagged With: Stakeholder analysis

What is your project management familiar?

Familiar – Noun, a supernatural spirit or demon, often in the form of an animal, supposed to serve and aid a witch or other individual.

Project managers frequently wish that they had a trusted right-hand person who could help them out of challenging situations but why not broaden our imagination to think about the benefits of our multi-legged friends? Dear reader, before you start worrying that I have lost my marbles, fear not, this is merely a Gedanken experiment to help you gain a deeper understanding of yourself.

Let’s consider a few of the ones which came to my mind.

A dog

A canine will sacrifice itself if you are about to be thrown under the bus by an untrustworthy stakeholder and will cheer you up after you’ve experienced a rough work day. But you must also remember that dogs don’t lead long lives so this might not be the best familiar if you are working on a long project.

An elephant

“An elephant never forgets” goes the cliche, so just imagine the benefits you’ll gain by not having to document much of the information generated by your projects. Elephants are also able to carry a lot of weight which means that they could help you better bear the burden of a complex project. Unfortunately, they also generate a lot of waste so you might find yourself spending too much time cleaning up after your familiar.

A cobra

The swaying motion and spectacle markings on the hood of an alert cobra can be hypnotic which might be just what is needed to help you sway the attitude of your stakeholders. Cobras can’t be tamed so you might have to constantly protect yourself from being bitten.

A fly

A fly has compound eyes which enable it to see the world in a completely different manner than we can. This could be extremely helpful when trying to understand a decision or issue from multiple perspectives. Just imagine the benefits of having your very own “fly on the wall” – think of all those hidden conversations which you will now be able to eavesdrop on! Unfortunately, one fly looks very much like another to an untrained eye so you could end up accidentally swatting your familiar.

A pig

Pigs are among the animal kingdom’s smartest animals and have a phenomenal sense of smell. A pig could help you sniff out untruths faster than a lie detector could and when the going gets tough, your familiar might save your bacon.

A bear

There’s no doubt that a bear could be a formidable ally to have your back in challenging meetings but do you really want a familiar which will sleep for almost a half year at a stretch?

So if you were granted the wish of having an animal familiar what would it be?

Man is the only animal that blushes, or needs to” – Mark Twain



Categories: Project Management | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Have you rotated your project’s tires?

A standard semi-annual ritual for many who live in cold climates is swapping all season to winter tires on our cars and back again. This exercise also presents a good opportunity to catch up on any other outstanding preventative maintenance for our vehicles.  For those of us who live in places which observe daylight savings time, we are reminded to change the batteries in our smoke alarms whenever our clocks spring forward or fall back.

Here are a few questions to consider if its been a while since you’ve performed preventative maintenance on your projects.

What’s the what? It can be too easy to have our heads down and keep executing the project, but what if there have been some shifts in the environment which have eroded the project’s benefits? While this isn’t a primary responsibility for most project managers, ignoring expected outcomes might be considered negligence.

How’s the how? Assuming we are comfortable with the project’s objectives, are the solution and delivery approaches still viable? If we chose an adaptive approach, is that still the best choice? Are there any early warning signs that solution design or architecture might be flawed and should be revisited? Is there any waste that’s been introduced in our product or project processes which could be eliminated?

Risks revisited? If its been a few weeks since the contents of the risk register have been reviewed chances are some new risks could be identified and the assessment of older ones might need to be refreshed. It’s also a good practice to periodically assess the effectiveness of risk responses and see if any key assumptions made to date can be confirmed.

Stakeholders surveyed? Similar to the risk register, if there are cobwebs on your stakeholder register you’d likely want to see if any new stakeholders have emerged and whether the attitude, interest and power of existing stakeholders remains the same. How effective have your stakeholder engagement strategies been to date and do they need to be adjusted?

Team thriving? When’s the last time you did a pulse check on the health of your team? Was your last team building activity months ago? Even if no one has joined or left the team, you need to regularly monitor team morale and provide opportunities for individual and team development.

Lessons learned? Has any new knowledge been identified, curated and most important, disseminated and learned? Even on projects following a traditional delivery approach, the team should regularly reflect back on what has been learned to help them and others improve.

Ignoring such good practices won’t usually cause immediate issues but paying down project management debt gets costlier the longer you wait!



Categories: Project Management | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Maintain a sense of change urgency through agility

According to John Kotter’s model for leading change, the first step to overcoming inertia requires us to instill a sense of true urgency in those we need to support, implement and sustain the change. While it is ideal if this urgency is tied to What’s In It For Me, at a minimum, we all want proof that committing our time and political influence to a particular initiative at this very moment is cheaper than the cost of doing nothing.

But the steps in Kotter’s model, like PMBOK processes, are not to be followed in a purely sequential manner. 

Significant organization transformations usually require a year or more to become “the new normal” and we are only fooling ourselves if we assume that those stakeholders who were focused and motivated to champion our initiative in its early days will continue to remain so for the long haul. Executives and mid-level managers are constantly juggling competing priorities and as long as it appears that a change initiative is not on fire, their attention spans are likely to be shorter than that of a goldfish.

As such, we need to iterate back to instilling that sense of true urgency at regular intervals. The specific cadence varies based on the complexity and duration of a transformation. Fan the flames too rarely and the spark will be extinguished. Do it too often and you’ll be treated like the boy who cried “Wolf!”.

But is reminding stakeholders that they need to support us enough to gain this support? Maintaining focus requires quid pro quo otherwise we are likely to hear “What have you done for me lately?” 

This is why regardless of the nature of a transformation we need to inject agility into its delivery. We can follow adapted versions of key Manifesto principles such as:

  • Our highest priority is to satisfy our stakeholders through early and continuous delivery of business value
  • Deliver business value frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale
  • At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to implement change more effectively, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly
  • Change champions and the team must work together frequently throughout the transformation

Newton’s first law: An object at rest remains at rest, or if in motion, remains in motion at a constant velocity unless acted on by a net external force.



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

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: