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?
Discover 10 ways to get more done in your meetings
How often do you hear someone say, “We’re having too many meetings, lasting too long, and they are woefully mismanaged.” And yet, meetings can be the indispensable tool for getting work done.Let’s look at 10 ways to revitalize your project meetings and get more done.
10 Meeting Boosters
1. Meet somewhere new. One simple but effective way to reinvigorate your meetings is to meet in a new location. What about meeting at an external location or meeting outside on a nice day. Variety is the spice of life.
2. Meet at a different time. You have a recurring meeting where you’ve been meeting from 3:30 – 4:30 p.m. every Tuesday for the last year. How about moving the meeting to Tuesday morning from 8:30 – 9:30 a.m., schedules permitting, to leverage greater energy in the mornings.
3. Use a different facilitation technique. A bad habit is using the round robin every meeting. You start with the person on your left and you rotate from one person to another for updates. Use a different technique such as a whiteboard for example. Ask for the most significant limiting factors on your project and capture them on the whiteboard.
4. Rotate meeting roles. For meetings with ten or more people, I recommend that you assign meeting roles—facilitator, scribe, time-keeper, and gatekeeper, to name a few. Consider rotating the roles allowing different people to lead in different capacities. This gives everyone a greater appreciation for each role.
5. Invite someone new to the meeting. Perhaps you and the team have been trying to resolve a problem and you’ve met three times. Feeling stagnant? Invite another subject matter expert to provide a different perspective?
6. Undertake a team-building exercise. Wise leaders know how and when to inject team building exercises. Facilitate a problem-solving exercise, develop a work breakdown structure, or identify ways to improve project communication.
7. Develop or revive your ground rules. Perhaps your team has developed some bad habits—getting off track, showing up late, or reading emails on their smartphones. Ask your team to identify ground rules for future meetings that can drive better performance.
8. Do more planning and problem-solving. One big meeting problem is the lack of engagement. Participants are passive—brains are turned off. Rather than using meetings to report status, use the time to plan, to solve problems, and to innovate.
9. Stand up or walk for a meeting. Many agile teams perform daily stand-up meetings, fifteen minutes in length, to discuss: What did you do yesterday? What will you do today? Are there any impediments in your way? Rather than having a stand-up meeting, try a walking meeting (notify them in advance) where you discuss these questions.
10. Monitor energy levels. I’m not a fan of all-day meetings, but sometimes, they are necessary. Recognize that energy levels will likely diminish in the afternoon. What can you do to improve energy throughout the day? Provide good coffee and healthy snacks. Take a periodic stretch break. Break up into groups to discuss a topic or problem—have someone from each group share their group’s thoughts. Keep things moving.
It’s Your Turn To Revitalize Your Project Meetings
Good leaders shape their team cultures. Think about your teams. What changes would you like to see in their attitudes and behaviors? Implement one or two of the ideas in this article. Evaluate whether the team is getting more done. Never let your meetings get into a rut. Periodically, try something new!
The Project Management Institute (PMI) released the PMBOK 6th Edition on September 6th, 2017. Some certified project managers may respond with, “Ho-hum. I’m glad I got my certification behind me.” However, I think PMPs and other certified project managers should actually read the PMBOK 6th edition. Why?
PMI conducts Role Delineation Studies for each certification every five to seven years. These studies help PMI understand how project managers perform their duties and lead cross-functional teams within the constraints of schedule, budget, and scope.
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.