Category Archives for 1=Initiation

9 Simple Ways to Quickly Start a Project

I wish I had a dime for every time that I have been handed a project with a deadline of yesterday. You've been there too? Well, let's talk about some practical steps that we can take to quickly start a project.

Jumpstarting a new project requires time and focus. Clear your calendar as much as possible. Secure a project administrator to help you with your administrative tasks. Delegate activities on existing projects. I also work during hours where I know that I will be least distracted, for example, early hours of the morning.

What Happens When You Get Behind

“No project recovers from a variance at the 15% completion point. If you underestimated in the near, you are generally off on the long term too.” – Gregory M. Horine

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10 Ways to Engage Project Stakeholders

Do you have a plan for how you will engage your project stakeholders? Have you stopped to think about the diverse needs of your stakeholders? Which stakeholders have the most power and influence? When and how will you engage with these people?

Project Stakeholders

What is Stakeholder Engagement?

Stakeholder engagement includes ways to attract and involve individuals, groups, and organizations who may be affected by a project or may affect the project.

Let’s look at some practical ways that you can better engage and influence your project stakeholders at the right times in your project lifecycle.

10 Ways to Engage Project Stakeholders

  1. Identify stakeholders early. You can’t engage stakeholders until you know who they are. As you are initiating your projects, start identifying your stakeholders. Create a project stakeholder register.
  2. Get stakeholders talking to one another. I invite key stakeholders to my initial project meetings as we are developing the project charter. I want to surface and resolve conflicts as soon as possible.
  3. Seek to understand before being understood. Steven Covey shared this principle years ago. It still holds true. People want to know that you really want to hear their perspective first.
  4. Listen, really listen. Part of understanding is making time to sit face-to-face, when possible, and truly listen. Ask probing questions.
  5. Lead with integrity. Meaningful engagement requires trust. Say what you mean; mean what you say. Then do what you said you would do.
  6. Engage your stakeholders in the estimates. Ask the people that will do the work for estimates. And help stakeholders to understand that there is greater uncertainty in the early estimates. Commit to providing refined estimates as your projects progress.
  7. Work WITH your team. The best project managers work with their stakeholders to break down their projects into deliverables and tasks. This helps everyone to have a better understanding of the project. Stakeholders will more likely support a plan that they helped create.
  8. Manage expectations. Each of your stakeholders has expectations, sometimes false expectations. Working with your team will clarify many of these aspects of the project.
  9. Say thank you. The project managers I enjoy most know two simple words—thank you. When team members and other stakeholders complete activities, respond to emails and voicemails, make you aware of things you didn’t know, respond with thanks.
  10. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Ninety percent of a project manager’s job is communication. Develop and maintain a communications plan. Creative project managers minimize a potential communications breakdown by communicating through a variety of channels, not one or two.

Are You Influencing Your Project Stakeholders?

I recently spoke with a project manager who works in a Project Management Office (PMO). Susan told me how people resist project management in her organization, a story that I’ve heard countless times. When I asked, “What are you doing to get support and buy-in?” With a puzzled look, Susan said, “It’s always been that way and I doubt it will ever change.”

Whether you are leading a PMO, a program, or a challenging project, you may have resigned yourself and feel there’s nothing you can do. I encourage you to press on. Identify and assess your stakeholders. Work with others to develop a plan to engage and influence the key stakeholders. As Winston Churchill said, “Never, never, never give up.”

How to Develop a Stakeholder Register

Today, let's explore the development and use of the stakeholder register.

How important is the early part of your projects? Gregory H. Horine says, “No project recovers from a variance at the 15% completion point. If you underestimated in the near, you are greatly off on the long term too."

There are several factors that affect estimates. For example, we may misunderstand the stakeholder needs due to poor stakeholder engagement and communication.

It’s frustrating, isn’t it? Over time, new stakeholders show up with additional needs. And this occurs in Waterfall as well as Agile projects.

So, what can we do to mitigate these risks? Identify and engage your stakeholders early. Seek to understand your their needs and interests.

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Are You Tired of Missing Big Project Risks? 3 Ways to Stop It

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.

picture of frustrated man

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.Continue reading

How to Conduct a Killer Kickoff Meeting

One thing that I've learned after twenty years of projects. Double down on your initial efforts. And one of the most critical events is your project kickoff meeting. Let's ensure that our meeting participants leave the kickoff meeting with a good understanding of the project and motivated for the hard work ahead.

Prepare Your Agenda

Proper planning prevents poor performance. Project managers should work closely with their project sponsor to develop an agenda for the project kickoff meeting. Here is an example of the contents:

  • Date, time, and location
  • Purpose of meeting
  • Meeting participants
  • Agenda Items
    • Vision of the Project (Project Sponsor)
    • Review of the Project Charter (Project Manager)
    • Team Exercise (Project Manager)
    • Timeline Discussion (Project Manager)
    • Wrap Up (Project Manager)

While the project sponsor and manager will lead much of the meeting, it's important to engage the participants. For example, for the team exercise, the project manager may conduct a risk identification exercise or facilitate a work breakdown structure (WBS) exercise.

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How to Get Awesome Results Through Your Projects

Project sponsors send a message to their project teams and other stakeholders through the goals contained in their project charters. The focus of the goals — either business results or project activities — will drive the project team. As Steven Covey said, “Begin with the end in mind.”

How to Get Awesome Results Through Your Projects

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock

Project managers are often asked to undertake projects to transform the business operations or to respond to an operational risk. There is often a disconnect. The project manager may not understand — since the sponsor may not have shared — how the project connects to the business strategy.

When writing project goals, the author — typically the project sponsor — should determine whether to state their goals as business results or as project activities necessary to drive the business results.

“If you tell people where to go, but not how to get there, you’ll be amazed at the results.” — George S. Patton

With this in mind, allow me to illustrate the difference and why it’s super important. Get this right and project teams will start to run in the right direction.Continue reading

How to Share Your Project in 60 Seconds

You get on the elevator with someone who asks you about your upcoming project. Can you clearly describe your project in 60 seconds?

How to Share Your Project in 60 Seconds

Photo courtesy of AdobeStock (edited in Canva)

Perhaps you are on the way out of a meeting with senior leaders when a Vice President asks you about your project. She says, “I only have a minute, but could you give me a brief summary of the project?”

Your ability to describe your projects helps others understand your projects. You (and your project sponsor) will be in a better position to engage your stakeholders and get their support. Are you ready?

Let’s look at creating a summary that allows you — at a moment’s notice — to tell others the most important information about your project.

Why do you need a project summary? Here are three reasons:Continue reading

How to Facilitate the Resolution of Conflicting Ideas

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?

How to Facilitate the Resolution of Conflicting Ideas

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock (edited in Canva)

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.

senseHealthy 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
  • Open communications
  • Team meetings

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!