Project managers, team members, and other stakeholders have disagreements, some heated, some not. What’s important is how you respond to project conflicts? Conflicts can be beneficial if handled in an open, transparent manner.
Successful project managers do not run away from conflict; they run toward it. They call it out by name in a neutral and unoffending manner. And they quickly engage the appropriate stakeholders in order to discuss and resolve the issues.
Furthermore, the best project managers are risk managers constantly mitigating conflicts. How? First, these leaders communicate well—they tell the team where they are going, how they will get there, and when things will occur. Second, they clarify goals, priorities, and requirements. Third, these project managers work with their teams to break down the project and make activity assignments clear.
People grow tired of working for unappreciative organizations. If it goes on long enough, the top performers get frustrated and leave. Therefore, it’s important to develop a culture of appreciation.
But rewards and recognition can be tricky. People are motivated in different ways. John may be thrilled by his challenging project work and the opportunity to learn something new. On the other hand, Susan is supercharged by gestures of appreciation—public recognition or a simple thank-you card.
Furthermore, many project managers don’t have the budget for doing much. How can we create a recognition and rewards program that shows our appreciation and motivates our team, sometimes with limited means?
Ever watched what happens when a new team is formed? Maybe you’ve seen a new team of little league baseball players, a music group, a civic group, or a business team. The initial dynamics can be rather rocky and uncertain, even with skilled individuals.
Imagine a new project team that was formed to consolidate customer service centers from 20 locations across the United States to five regional locations. The goal for Phase 1 of the project was the consolidate four centers in the Southeast to the Atlanta Customer Service Center. Here were some of the attributes of the team:
Resources were preassigned
Eight people comprised the core team
Each team member lived in a different city
Ages ranged from 28 to 62
Four of the team members have worked on several projects together in the past
Two members have never been on a project team
If you were the project manager, how would you assess the team? What steps would you take to develop the team? How would you help the team move through the team stages of forming, storming, norming, and performing more quickly?
Are you looking for ways to improve your project communication? You’re not alone. Most project managers know that 90% of their time is spent in communicating – hearing, speaking, and seeking to understand.
Project managers constantly communicate — coaching, summarizing action items, influencing stakeholders, educating team members, listening, facilitating decisions, creating a contract with a third party, escalating an issue, and meeting with a project sponsor, to name a few. Great project managers are first great communicators. How can we get better?
Last week, I talked about How to Develop a Quality Management Plan. Today, I’d like to share common quality management mistakes. Being aware of these failure points can help you and your project teams to identify and manage quality risks.
Quality Management Mistakes
1. Failure to Define Quality
Quality means different things to different people. One person may say that they own a high-quality diamond ring. A builder describes his quality homes.
What does quality mean to a project manager and the project team? Quality is the degree to which a project meets the requirements. This implies that the requirements are known and that the needs may be met partially or fully.
In his book — Just Enough Requirements Management — Alan Davis shares, “Various studies suggest that errors introduced during requirements activities account for 40 to 50 percent of all defects found in a software product.”
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What are Project Requirements?
Project managers talk about this topic a lot. Stakeholders hear the term “requirements” but interpret the meaning in different ways. Before we can manage anything, it’s critical that we have a working definition.
Requirement: something that is needed or that must be done. –Merriam-Webster Dictionary
The Project Management Body of Knowledge defines requirement as “a condition or capability that is required to be present in a product, service, or result to satisfy a contract or other formally imposed specification.”
Karl Wiegers — author of Software Requirements — shared this definition: “Requirements are a specification of what should be implemented. They are descriptions of how the system should behave, or of a system property or attribute.”
Have you ever encountered conflicting ideas when facilitating change within a department, business unit, or across an organization? Do you often see resistance to your change efforts? Have you ever started down a path that made perfectly good sense to you but seemed crazy to others?
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Perhaps you’ve recently started a program. The program team has been working on an organizational strategy, where the mission is translated into a strategic plan that is subdivided into projects. You are looking for ways to align your efforts to gain the greatest benefit.
For any program, it’s critical to identify your stakeholders and seek to understand their needs and expectations. Invariably, stakeholders have different needs. How can we resolve and harmonize the different stakeholder perceptions and distinct expectations?
Three Ways to Surface and Resolve Conflicting Ideas
1. Identify Stakeholders. First, identify the stakeholders. Stakeholders include individuals, groups, or organizations — internally and externally — that may be impacted by the change initiative. In the program example, stakeholders might include the project sponsor, the project team, the project manager, the board, program vendors, information technology, and human resources, to name a few.
2. Analyze Stakeholders. Next, identify the needs and concerns of the stakeholders. We should also identify the stakeholders with the greatest interest and power. Who can influence the change in a positive or negative manner? Change can be deliberate (planned) or emergent (unplanned). As much as possible, guide the change process in a deliberate manner. Things coming out of nowhere can be highly disruptive.
3. Facilitate the Resolution of Conflicting Ideas. After identifying and analyzing the stakeholders, turn your attention to resolving the conflicts. In the change management world, this is called sensemaking. Sensemaking consists of things that help individuals and groups to make sense of what’s happening around them. How does this happen? It often occurs in hallway discussions, rumors, gossip, and half-baked emails.
Healthy sensemaking, however, consists of activities aimed at understanding the impact and outcomes of the change process and agreeing on how to move forward. Approaches include:
Clarifying the mission
Defining the strategy
Engaging the stakeholders in the change process
Identifying the initiatives to support the strategy
Are You Making Sense?
What change initiatives are you managing right now? Does the change make sense to your stakeholders? If not, consider identifying and analyzing your stakeholders. Pay particular attention to the high-power / high-interest stakeholders. Then apply some of the approaches listed above to harmonize the interests of your stakeholders. Best wishes!
Got any new team members? Tom replaced Bill as a developer at the midpoint of a software development project for an insurance company. Sheila, the project manager, had her hands full with multiple projects and hoped that Bill had provided Tom with the necessary information to hit the ground running.
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At Tom’s first project meeting, he was rubbing the back of his neck, twisting his watch, and bouncing a foot. Tom asked a few shallow questions that indicated that he had little understanding of the project. In the following weeks, Tom repeatedly reported being behind schedule on his activities. Over time, Sheila saw the healthy project fall into a state of trouble. The project team, who had worked so hard, was frustrated.
We’ve all dealt with situations like this one. Team member transitions can be difficult and can cause our projects harm. What can project managers do to reduce risks and to ensure a smooth transition?
Whenever a new team member is assigned to your team, the individual has questions. Take ownership of the transition process and ensure that the key questions are answered up front. Here are five key questions:
Our lives are the sum total of all the decisions we’ve made – financial decisions, health decisions, whether to marry or not to marry, whether or not to have children, and where to work. My goal today is to help you make better project decisions. Here’s why — individuals, teams, departments, and organizations who make better decisions improve their chance for success.
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Think about how hard it is for you to make decisions alone. You go to a store to buy toothpaste. How many choices do you have? There are shelves of toothpaste to whiten your teeth, strengthen the enamel, protect against tartar build-up, and probably one to freshen your dog’s breath.
It’s hard enough for an individual to make a decision. What happens when we add another person to the mix? The husband likes cooler temperatures in the house; the wife is constantly turning up the thermostat.
Let’s make things even more interesting — let’s create a project team of eight people. The team members have different backgrounds, work experiences, expertise, and motives. Now decision making is exponentially more complex.
When project teams fail to make good decisions, it can be costly. Poor decisions cause rework resulting in missed deadlines, higher cost, and adverse impacts to team morale. If these issues are pervasive across an enterprise, the organization will likely fail to fulfill its mission.
Life is filled with new adventures and experiences. Remember the first time you rode a bike, climbed a tree, or took a job. New adventures are exciting, but they can be filled with great uncertainty.
Project managers may be asked to manage a project, unlike anything they’ve ever faced. Consider Sue, an event planner, who was asked to manage a project to implement a new accounting system for her organization. Sue had no accounting background or experience in implementing software.
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To varying degrees, every project is different from our prior projects — that’s what makes them unique, and for me, this is what makes project management fun. It’s different every day.
But, some projects are completely alien to us; the endeavors are foreign to our experience. How should we approach these projects? What steps can we take to improve our chance for success?