When I teach project management, I often ask, “What are the top contributors to challenged or failed projects?” Without exception, I hear—poor communication. Project managers understand the importance. How can we improve? Let’s look at five bad communication habits to avoid and what to do about each.
Busy Billy blasts an email containing the project charter to all his stakeholders. He quickly moves on to other project management tasks, relieved that he’s done his part in getting everyone on the same page. He never mentions it again.
This scenario reminds me of the husband who told his wife 30 years ago that he loved her. She hasn’t heard those words since. But he thinks he’s done his job. Spouses (and project stakeholders) need to hear things more than once.
How to improve: Plan your communication activities. For example, the project sponsor and project manager could review the project charter in the kick-off meeting. Bill could periodically review the charter with his project team to ensure that the team is aligned with the original intent of the project.
Learn to Better Manage Enterprise Risks Through Project Risk Management
Many organizations have adopted enterprise risk management (ERM) as a way to make better decisions, get stronger operating results, and meet regulatory requirements. These same organizations may have program and project managers managing scores of projects. However, few organizations have yet to actually unite the enterprise and project risk management efforts.
Consequently, efforts are disjointed, projects lack strategic alignment with the organizational objectives, and resources are not properly utilized. Unfortunately, these organizations are not realizing their full potential.
What is Enterprise Risk Management?
The Risk Management Society (RIMS) defines ERM as “a strategic business discipline that supports the achievement of an organization’s objectives by addressing the full spectrum of its risks and managing the combined impact of those risks as an interrelated risk portfolio.” Why is ERM important?
There are many ways to engage stakeholders. You can facilitate discussions in your project meetings. A business analyst may elicit requirements. The lead tester may develop a team for testing. Let’s look at a different form of engagement–the use of an internal blog.
Engage: occupy, attract, or involve (someone’s interest or attention)
One communication tool that I’ve used for enterprise programs such as implementing a Project Management Office (PMO) or an Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) Program is an internal blog. Blogs are a form of pull communication used for large volumes of information or for large audiences such as an organization. Subscribers access the blog content at their own discretion.
What’s An Internal Blog?
An internal organization or company blog is a regularly updated website or web page that is written in an informal or conversational style. An individual or a small group may run the blog. Blogs are a great way to share internal news and knowledge, improve company and team communication, and inspire stakeholders.
Project stakeholders–individuals, groups, and organizations– may be impacted by or may have an impact on your projects. It’s critical to understand how people inside and outside your organization may affect your projects. Let’s explore stakeholder management power tools that can help you quickly identify which stakeholders matter.
Why Analyze Project Stakeholders
Some project managers say they don’t have enough time to analyze the stakeholders. So, why is it important? The short answer is to determine how to spend the limited time project managers do have.
Stakeholders are not the same. Their power, interest, influence, expectations, and impact differ greatly. Consequently, it’s important to identify the most influential stakeholders.
Projects are dynamic and stakeholders make things interesting. At any given time, an individual may exert their influence and cause disruption to your project. Or perhaps a group may be struggling in terms of their attitude towards the project. And let’s not forget outside organizations who may be impacted by our project.
How do we keep up with all these moving parts? The stakeholder register. A little time spent identifying, evaluating, and capturing stakeholder interest and concerns can pay big dividends. The register is particularly helpful when managing large projects and projects that are moving at a fast pace.
There is something about putting our pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard. As we see all the stakeholders in once place, we can determine how to best use our limited time. How and when should we use our interpersonal skills to engage and influence stakeholders?
Practical Tips for Identifying, Analyzing, and Influencing Your Stakeholders
Projects can be engaging and even enjoyable, or it can be a source of aggravation and stress. If you put some care and time into identifying, analyzing, and managing your project stakeholders, you’ll have a better project experience and improve your chance of success.
Remember what Charles Schulz said through the character of Linus: “I love mankind…it’s people I can’t stand!!” Schulz is saying that he loves mankind. But the problem is that individuals have flaws that can make life difficult.
One of the most critical elements of project management is developing relationships with key stakeholders—individuals, groups, and organizations. It is through these relationships that we can better define and control scope, understand requirements, mitigate risks, and improve project processes. One of the top reasons that projects succeed is stakeholder involvement.
For most of my career, I have served in financial service organizations. As a project and program manager and PMO director, I’ve had the responsibility of procuring the necessary products and services from sellers. In other words, I was a buyer.
I recently left the corporate world to develop my LLC where I provide consulting services and teach courses to help project managers prepare for their PMP and PMI-RMP exams. Now, I am a seller.
Whether you are or a buyer or seller, good communication and doing what you say is critical to success. What can we do to get everyone on the same page and for the buyer and seller has a mutually beneficial relationship? Allow me to offer three recommendations.
1. Define the Buyer/Seller Relationship
First, healthy buyer/seller relationships require clarity in the roles and responsibilities. Think about a project that requires third-party professional services. Perhaps you need an outside team to develop a new software application.
A bribe is seen as a charm by the one who gives it; they think success will come at every turn. Proverbs 17:8
Last week, Harry and I were running, and he told me about his procurement risk blog series. Since I am a fraud prevention guy, we began discussing the risk of vendor kickbacks to those with the power to purchase.
I have seen vendors provide free liquor, women, trips, cars, boats, and cash–all to guarantee their bid acceptance. One such case provided “hundreds of competitively-bid contracts to favored vendors in exchange for gratuities” including “hot tub parties with strippers.”
If vendors know your employees’ weaknesses, they can exploit them. And if they do, significant harm lies before you. The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners’ fraud survey showed that 35% of the cases were corruption-related with a median loss of $200,000.
Discover the Power of Project Procurement Management
As we initiate our projects, we may find that our organization lacks the skills and knowledge to create the project deliverables and meet the project objectives. In other cases, we may need products outside of our organization. Project managers use procurement management to secure these needed products and services.
The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) says that Project Procurement Management “includes the processes necessary to purchase or acquire products, services, or results needed from outside the project team.” Our ability to find and procure the right resources at the right time will enhance our chance for success.
Project Procurement Management
1. Develop a Procurement Management Plan
So, how can we improve our project procurements? Start by developing a Procurement Management Plan. The plan describes your approach to acquiring the necessary products and services from outside organizations. This plan may include things such as:
I have had the privilege of managing two PMOs, both composed of several project managers. It was always interesting to watch—the best project managers were the ones who had a habit of identifying risks, both threats and opportunities. And these individuals did not perform the risk identification just once at the beginning of their projects. Rather, they had a habit of reevaluating their projects with an eye toward new risks.
Wise project managers know that there are unknown risks lurking in every corner. Each new phase of a project brings uncertainty, some significant, some not. Furthermore, as new stakeholders enter the scene, new interests and concerns can cause our projects to get off track.
If you’ve been burned by risks recently, let’s talk about what you can do to improve your chance for future success.