Voices on Project Management

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Voices on Project Management offers insights, tips, advice and personal stories from project managers in different regions and industries. The goal is to get you thinking, and spark a discussion. So, if you read something that you agree with - or even disagree with - leave a comment.

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Cameron McGaughy
Marian Haus
Lynda Bourne
Lung-Hung Chou
Bernadine Douglas
Kevin Korterud
Conrado Morlan
Peter Tarhanidis
Mario Trentim
Jen Skrabak
David Wakeman
Roberto Toledo
Cecilia Wong
Vivek Prakash
Cyndee Miller
Shobhna Raghupathy
Wanda Curlee
Rebecca Braglio

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Unleash Your Creativity to Ensure Portfolio Success

How to Use Your Position to Improve Team Members

Taiwanese Firm Simplifies Green Building Projects

3 Project Management Lessons From March Madness

The Value of Community

Taiwanese Firm Simplifies Green Building Projects

by Lung-Hung Chou

For practitioners who manage the construction of green buildings, projects can be complicated by different environmental standards around the world.

Taipei, Taiwan-based Sinotech Engineering Consultants, Inc. (SEC) set out to solve this problem by customizing a Building Information Modeling (BIM) software application used in the engineering and construction industry.

To help its project managers execute a project to build a new research and development building in Taipei, the organization incorporated environmental standards and concepts, along with a work breakdown structure (WBS) and critical chain approach to project management, in innovative ways.

Let’s take a closer look at this project, which PMI’s Taipei, Taiwan chapter recognized with a Project Management Benchmarking Enterprise Award.

A Solution for the Entire Life Cycle

Sinotech’s custom BIM application didn’t only collect different environmental standards for building construction that might apply to the project at hand. It also allowed standards to be applied at each stage of the building's progress from design to completion.

This means that during design, planning and construction phases—and even demolition and disposal—project managers could find the relevant standards and incorporate them into blueprints and project plans. For example, because the research and development building sought U.S. Green Building Council’s Gold LEED certification, the team imported into their plans the standards upon which that certification level is based.

Sinotech’s custom BIM application allows managers to comprehend all applicable environmental requirements throughout the entire life cycle of a building.The idea was to help project managers consider all green standards early in the project so they could be translated into specific design, planning and construction requirements.

This would allow architects and engineers to know—even before a single brick or slab of concrete was laid—if a building would meet a targeted environmental certification. If it wouldn’t meet the certification, inexpensive design changes could be made—and expensive changes after construction was underway could be avoided.

With all design and construction team members given access to the relevant information about green building standards, the custom BIM application strengthened communication—helping teams catch problems early in the project. 

The Project Management Connection

By adopting a work breakdown structure (WBS) for all the different standards involved in any given building management project, Sinotech integrated into its BIM system an understanding of project management.

This meant that standards would directly correlate to the work packages required to meet those standards. With complicated environmental standards translated into concrete goals and work packages, managers and workers can avoid being overwhelmed by different levels of requirements and complicated information for each work item.

SEC also built a critical chain project management approach into the application. Suppliers and subcontractors, and the resources they require across the entire supply chain, can be efficiently scheduled in accordance with their cost and co-dependence by integrating an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system into the BIM system. This helps building projects move closer to lean construction.

The End Results

For green building standards to deliver their financial and environmental benefits, they have to be incorporated into every stage of the project.

By facilitating that process, Sinotech brought clear value to the organization’s project. As planned, the new research and development building in Taipei’s Neihu Light Industrial Zone obtained green building certifications including Gold LEED level and Taiwan Architecture & Research Center’s Intelligent Building Silver level and Gold EEWH level.  

Posted by Lung-Hung Chou on: March 19, 2015 05:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Seattle's Troubled Tunnel: 3 Communications Tips for Regaining the Public's Trust

One of the biggest public works projects in the United States right now has some major problems. It’s a more than $3 billion effort in Seattle, Washington to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct, an aging elevated highway on the city’s waterfront, with a 2-mile-long tunnel. If you’ve been keeping an eye on the project, you know that the tunnel-boring machine (dubbed “Bertha”) broke down more than a year ago, creating various challenges and overruns. Public outcry is mounting.

Now, if you’re like me and believe in the power of communication to ensure that projects run more smoothly, the tunnel project has highlighted the need for more openness, better stakeholder management and speaking to your audience in understandable ways, instead of falling into buzzwords or corporate speak.

If I were working on the project right now, here are three things I would look at to regain the public’s trust and help everyone in Seattle and the state of Washington understand exactly where the project is.

 

1. Be willing to convey incomplete information. The project’s big challenge is that the machine built specifically for drilling the tunnel encountered a setback when it struck a metal pipe during the excavation process. Unfortunately, it took project leaders over a week to convey the extent of Bertha’s problem, the course of action and any sort of timeline to get things back on track. Since Bertha stopped working in December 2013, information has trickled out to stakeholders.

The project’s leaders could have set a much different tone early on by stating what they know and what it means to the project—along with an acknowledgement that they really aren’t 100 percent sure what the solution is, and a clear statement that they will work to provide status updates to all stakeholders as often as possible.

Instead, it’s been “hard to get straight answers,” as the Seattle radio station KUOW put it.

 

2. Be honest. This really goes hand in hand with the first point about having the confidence to convey information that is accurate, even if it is incomplete. The public has begun to doubt that project leaders are being honest about the tunnel’s current status and future. This is partly because when the city’s department of transportation (DOT) or the state government has updated the community about the project, they have given information that seems farfetched and is tough to believe in light of Bertha’s lack of progress.

Case in point: A DOT official recently toldSeattle’s City Council that the project was “70-percent complete.” That claim was met with a great deal of skepticism by journalists and members of the community.

The lesson for project managers is: Don’t fudge information to avoid blowback. In the long run, you are putting your project at a strategic disadvantage because you may lose funding or you may come under heavier oversight…or worse. So just explain things in an honest and forthcoming manner.

 

3. Be consistent in the delivery of information. A lack of consistent communications has been one of the big failings for the Seattle project team. And when there’s an information void, it will usually be filled by something you aren’t going to like. In this instance, the lack of communications has led to a real breakdown of trust.

That’s why you need to make a plan for communicating consistently with stakeholders. It should include the best ways to communicate with specific stakeholder groups, and a plan for gathering accurate, up-to-date information from the project team. To ensure timely gathering, build the consistent delivery of information into day-to-day project activities. Set a schedule of when you want your team members to communicate information to you, and hold them accountable.

In turn, you need to inform key stakeholders of when and how you’ll communicate information to them, and then stick to that plan.

 

In most cases, communications comes down to recognizing the importance of clarity in effective project leadership. In Seattle, you can see what a lack of a clear process can do to the trust between stakeholders and the project team. I’m confident that most unsuccessful projects began to unravel when communications stopped being clear and consistent.

         What do you think? 

Posted by David Wakeman on: January 23, 2015 10:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Project Managers as Change Agents

By Lynda Bourne

The start of a new year always brings a focus on change and opportunity. So with 2015 now underway, it’s timely to ask: What are the responsibilities of the project manager when it comes to dealing with change?

        The answer depends on what aspect of change you’re dealing with and what stage of the project you’re in.

All projects are initiated to instigate change — to create a new product, service or result. If the project is to realize its intended value, the change has to meet a need within the stakeholder community.

Determining this need is primarily the responsibility of the project sponsor and the change manager. The only responsibility of project managers at this stage of the project life cycle is to understand exactly what they are being asked to deliver and to highlight any omissions or issues to the sponsor.

        The next step is traditional change management, which involves preparing the affected stakeholders for the new product, service or process, fostering a desire to use it once delivered and supporting the transition from the old way of working to the new way so the intended benefits can be realized on a sustained basis.

This step will be the responsibility of the change manager; organizational change management requires a separate set of skills to project management and on anything other than a relatively small change initiative involves a significant commitment of time. If the project manager is expected to fulfil the change management role, the project charter and resourcing need to allow for this additional work. More often, the change manager is part of an overall program of work, or may work for the sponsor.

In my experience it is very unusual for the project manager to work for a change manager or a change manager to work for a project manager. However, if the organization is going to realize the maximum benefits from the project, the change manager and project manager need to be highly supportive of each other’s work and their responsibility for benefits management and realisation need to be clearly understood.

The responsibility of the project manager through the life of the project is to be aware of the needs of the change manager and adapt the work of the project to maximize the opportunity to realize benefits.

While many aspects of change management are outside of the project manager’s responsibilities, project change control is not.The project manager typically does not have the authority to approve most changes, but managing the project change control process is his or her job.

        The project manager, supported by the project team, is responsible for the following:

  1. Identifying that a change is required, requested or has already occurred (or is occurring)
  2. Scoping the change and understanding its effect on project objectives
  3. Preparing recommendations regarding the change
  4. Identifying the appropriate person with authority to approve the change. For internal changes, this may be the project manager. For all other changes it is usually the sponsor, a change control board, the customer or the designated customer’s representative (e.g., a superintending engineer).
  5. Cooperating with and supporting the change authority in its decision-making
  6. Managing the consequences of the change by implementing approved changes and ensuring rejected changes are not implemented

 

The connection between change management and change control is that every change that is managed through project change control processes affects some aspect of the project’s outputs. Therefore each change should be considered from the perspective of stakeholder needs and the overall realization of benefits through the organization’s change management processes and ultimate use of the project’s deliverables.

        Managing the project life cycle from idea creation to benefits realization is increasingly being referred to as “the management of projects.” The difficult bit in the middle of actually creating the project deliverables is “project management.”

To successfully implement change and maximize value realized by the organization, both “the management of projects” and “project management” need to be synchronized.

Posted by Lynda Bourne on: January 19, 2015 05:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

10 Tips for Sustainable Change Management

Categories: Change Management

In my experience, project managers must accept change management disciplines as part of their project management plans in order to reduce the risk of an initiative failing. And in recent posts, I've discussed how:

In this post, I'll discuss how project managers have an opportunity to make a long-lasting impact on an organization by indicating where change disciplines integrate with project management. That's because the keys to successful change management lie in the project management process groups. By leveraging the project management processes and activities across the project life cycle, we can build in and ultimately sustain change. Here are 10 ways to address change in your project management plan: 

  1. Gather requirements during the initiating phase to articulate a change management plan as part of the project charter.
  2. Design a plan that integrates the work activities and drives performance by using a specific approach, such as John Kotter's 8-Step model.
  3. Engage stakeholders early to gather their expectations and gain their commitment.
  4. Integrate change needs into risk, scope, budget, communication and human resources plans during the planning phase.
  5. Identify change leaders as part of the project team, or hire subject matter experts to engage and coach staff and leaders to drive change. 
  6. Execute an integrated communication and change management plan that assesses the culture for change readiness, and communicate new expectations and ways of working in the future to become accustomed to new behaviors.
  7. Generate quick wins to display the new ways of working as examples of change outcomes. I create a quick list of wins by gathering insights from stakeholder interviews and a review of performance measures. This allows the team to build momentum and credibility for the new work approaches.
  8. Gather feedback during your monitoring phase to modify approaches and thus continue to drive desired change outcomes. This allows you to evaluate what techniques work well and which ones need to be stopped or tweaked to support the adoption of new behaviors.
  9. Sustain the change by developing a transition plan to operations that includes trained teams. Make sure a sustainability assessment is conducted at predefined periods, beginning with quarterly reviews, to continue governance.
  10. Celebrate the team's accomplishment on the internal change that will drive the future of the organization. These celebrations should acknowledge individuals and teams who have adopted the new behaviors--and thus help create successful role models for others to learn from and emulate during adoption.
As a management consultant, I used this checklist of tips to help me move from strategic planning to tactical implementation to sustainable operations. For example, I once had a client organization that deployed a new service management provider to improve its delivery and cost of IT operations. As the client introduced the new provider, the service delivery measures were not improving and were starting to miss the ROI expectations of the business case.  

I was hired to review the business processes that underpinned IT service delivery, and develop an improvement plan to restore the service delivery organization and meet the business case expectations. I started by conducting a prime value chain analysis and conducted stakeholder reviews to gather requirements. Based on my evaluation of best practices and the activities that hurt service delivery, I developed an initial management improvement plan. This plan was based on process reengineering, redeploying resources and reorganizing governance. 

During the implementation planning, I used every one of the steps above to ensure I was leading through the change, engaging stakeholders and staff while ensuring the organization would be able to sustain the new ways of working after my assignment ended.

Which of the above steps do you find most valuable in ensuring sustained change? 

For more on change management, purchase PMI's Managing Change in Organizations: A Practice Guide

Posted by Peter Tarhanidis on: December 04, 2013 12:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Communicating Change

To implement a successful change initiative, you must first create the desire for change within the affected stakeholder community. If stakeholders believe the message being communicated, the way they react and feel changes in response.

Research in Australia, New Zealand and the United States has consistently demonstrated physical changes in people based on what they've been told. Studies report people Down Under and in Canada who are told wind turbines cause health problems actually experience health problems. Similarly, in a 2007 study, Harvard researchers told some female hotel employees that their usual duties met the U.S. Surgeon General's recommendations for an exercise regimen. Four weeks later, the researchers found improvements in blood pressure, body mass index and other health indices among the informed group compared to a control group of attendants who hadn't been so informed.

What this suggests is the conversations around your change initiative will have a direct effect on how people experience the change. Gossip and scaremongering will cause bad reactions; positive news creates positive experiences.

To drive success, you need to make the right conversations. Some strategies to help include:

  • If you can't see and articulate how the change is actually going to work, it probably won't work. Explain "how" and keep explaining to everyone affected by the project's outcomes.
  • While it's painful to integrate change management planning into your project planning, it's even more painful to watch your project fail. Make sure all aspects of the change are covered in your project plan or the associated change management plan -- and that the two plans are coordinated.
  • Keep explaining the "whys" behind the change. Once is never enough! You need a well-thought-out and implemented communication plan.
  • The only antidote to scaremongering is information. And that information needs to be accurate and believed. What's actually going to happen is never as bad as the things people imagine "might happen" in the absence of easy-to-understand, well-communicated facts. 
Expectations tend to become self-fulfilling prophecies. You need to communicate the expected change your project is creating will be beneficial and good for the majority of the stakeholders. If this message is both true and believed (the two elements are not automatically connected), the experience of the stakeholders is more likely to be positive. 

Communication often can mean the difference between project success and failure. A 2013 PMI Pulse of the Professionâ„¢ in-depth report shows that executives and project managers around the world agree that poor communication contributes to project failure. Of the two in five projects that fail to meet original goals, one of the two do so because of ineffective communications. The study also reveals that effective communication is a critical factor in creating success.

Given the stakes, it's time to ask: How much positive communication do you do each day?
Posted by Lynda Bourne on: November 05, 2013 10:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
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