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?
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?
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?
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.
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.
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:Continue reading
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.
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.Continue reading
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.
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?
I recently decided to write my first book — The Intentional Project Manager (10 Things Successful Project Managers Never Tolerate). I’d like to share some transferable concepts that you can apply to your alien projects, Here are some tips:Continue reading
Can I be painfully honest with you for a minute?
What I am about to say may not feel good. In fact, I am certain that you will NOT enjoy it.
I have been hoping someone else would do the dirty work. But no one has stepped forward (at least that I know of).
You know how you’ve been struggling with your projects? Are you tired feeling like you live on another planet, and no one understands you.
Well, it’s not because you aren’t trying. It’s not because you don’t follow the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK). After all, you have your Project Management Professional (PMP) credential. You are a cut above the rest in your knowledge of project management.
So here it is.
Some project managers feel like they are running a race with weights tied to their legs. There are so many hoops to jump through…so many forms to complete…so many stakeholders to please. How can we move quickly, easily, and lightly?
Yes, Jack can be nimble, and Jack can be quick, but it will require that we break some old habits. Albert Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Try some new things to increase your speed.Continue reading
Weathermen have an allotted time to forecast the weather. How do they deliver the most important information in a brief amount of time? How do weathermen determine what to say? Let’s explore seven ways to communicate more effectively.
Your company’s future is at hand. Select and execute the right projects and you will reach your greatest potential. Select the wrong projects and you will fall behind your competition—possibly crash and burn.
I have seen companies wrestle with the project selection process for years. Which projects should we choose? Do we have the right resources to execute the projects?
Here’s a common scenario. Senior management has grand ideas on enhancing an existing product and leaping past the competition. The project sponsor has declared a six month project deadline.
The project manager expresses concern: there is insufficient information to determine whether the project can be delivered within six months. The project sponsor says we have no choice. Do the best you can.Continue reading
Just because you’ve been a project manager since the days of “Gilligan’s Island” is no guarantee that you are getting better.
As a matter of fact, you may be stumbling about trying to get off your island. Even the Skipper and the Professor can’t seem to help…encouraging…huh?
I have audited many projects through the years. Without exception, the projects in troubled waters have one common factor – a lack of basic risk management.
Why do project managers resist risk management? Don’t have time. That’s like saying you don’t have time to sleep.
Tried it but no one seemed to buy in? It’s time to apply risk management in a way that demonstrates the value.
Here are ten ways to improve your project risk management and improve your chance for success.Continue reading