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