I pay attention to your comments, believe me. This post, in fact, was driven by comments to an article of mine on ProjectManagement.com. Daniel Moskowitz and Luis Branco requested more information on techniques I wrote about in Improve Stakeholder Relations by Adding a Social Component related to building a project web share site that will be effective for stakeholders. I got started on my response to the comments and it turned into almost two full posts.
The goal, according to the original article, is to have a project share site that not only works for your project team, but also attracts stakeholders and has useful and timely information they need to keep them doing their job in the project, however that is defined.
These design ideas and communication enhancers are based on sites I have created and also from what I have seen done by others. Always keep your audience in mind. Stakeholders do a lot and your project is just a small part of their work life. They may have just minutes to understand what is happening in your project and be able to respond/participate properly.
What to Place Front & Center
Provide stakeholders with what they need immediately or with just a click. Give them basic context.
To summarize, then, your "front and center" content should include
Other Content & Where to Place It
The application you use to build your project site typically allows you to format your page with one or two "rails" on the sides for additional content, links, announcements, etc. that are not important or urgent enough to put "front and center". They can contain links to other areas of the site. You can also use the area below the "front and center" section for additional detail that is more static.
Avoid These Design Mistakes
It's easy to become excited about what you can do, but a common problem is putting in too much content on the Home page that must be updated. Soon, for various reasons, you will have less time and desire to manage this page. If someone else is updating the page, perhaps there is less of a problem.
Look critically at what you create to see that you have not simply left the design to "default" or "common" without thinking about stakeholders.
In my next post, I will describe more about applications that are used and using "push" and "pull" emails.
Losing workers during a project is very disruptive. You have to replace that worker or extend the project activity in order to respond properly. But replacing that worker takes a lot of time, including identifying the correct candidate, interviewing candidates, making a decision, waiting for that individual to make a decision and actually begin, then onboarding that new worker. How much time does that take in your organization
It should be worth your time, then, to use tactics to keep workers in place. Sometimes tactics related to keeping workers happy require that the workers report directly to you. Yet there are still plenty of tactics that are effective even if project workers do not report directly to you. James Sudakow made some good points recently regarding manager behaviors and employee burnout. Here I have adapted a couple of his points for you as project manager to avoid workers quitting. After that, I added related guidance built off findings from a study publicized recently.
Make sure workers know why changes are required
In recent posts I have written about the importance of letting the project workforce know about the strategy behind the project. But there is more to this. Project workers should also know the reason behind project changes. For example, be clear when changes to requirements is driven by better stakeholder understanding of the final solution and will provide better benefits in the end. Or that changes in the schedule are due to a dependent project that will now be in sync and provide a better customer experience.
Avoid getting busy and just quickly organizing the project adjustment without providing a full explanation to connect workers to the big picture. Always provide time to answer worker questions. You must show that you care about team member involvement and to do that you must be responsive to their questions, their concerns, and their feedback.
Monitor for poor performance and deal with it
Where have you seen poor performance affecting your project workers? It could have been from stakeholders who are slow to respond to requests. It could be from partners who do not provide information in a timely manner. It could have been from workers on your team who are actually weak links in the chain. When it is project workers, you should act quickly to remedy that poor performance. It is especially important for those on your team to know that you will do something about this if they cannot. You must identify poor performers and facilitate their improvement so that negative impact does not impact the rest of the team. If you have to escalate the deficiency to the individual’s manager, do so.
Be wary of stretch goals
You might be under the impression that stretch goals in your project will be an effective way to motivate your team to better productivity. Unfortunately, you would be mistaken.
How do we know? There was a study done within the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences, which is doing a lot of research of interest to project managers. This study looked specifically into the effectiveness of stretch goals. To summarize the findings, it was determined that stretch goals are rarely effective, except in the case of certain organizations that accept high risk, in particular, the ability to accept certain financial losses in search of a “winner”. Other organizations did not benefit and even suffered from using stretch goals.
What does this mean to you? It means that you should think twice before planning your schedule with short duration as a motivation tool or to fit in a larger organizational stretch goal. Instead,
These are proven steps that build success and worker engagement, and do not demotivate workers with unrealistic deadlines.
Whether or not you have direct report responsibility, you have a lot of influence over whether your project workers stay in your project or leave it. The simple tactics above, and many other good management practices, are not complicated and will keep you from suffering the fate of those who must replace lost workers midstream in their projects.
Don’t forget to check out my articles on this site (two decades worth!) for more tactics to succeed in managing your workforce.
How many times have you read an article with manager or supervisor techniques and come away disappointed that you could not use them as a project manager? They are meant for entrepreneurs, those with direct reports in operations or just make assumptions that are not true for you.
It's frustrating because no manager could use help more than a project manager with temporary teams, temporary efforts and a rotating list of skeptical stakeholders. Luckily, you are able to use many of the same tactics, certainly those that focus on influencing and motivating rather than those leveraging your authority over salary and career advancement.
This blog has covered many of these techniques over the years. The techniques below allow you to get the most out of a project team even if it is temporary, and not burn the individuals out or misuse them or abuse them. The best techniques allow you to end up with project team members who would be glad to join your team again.
Help project team members with their personal advancement
You may not be able to promote workers or give them new roles in the organization, but you can help them meet their career development goals.
Help the changing team work together better
You may know tactics related to helping individuals work better. For example, you may be able to recognize ways to set up an individual for success in their role. What you may not have practiced previously is techniques used to help the entire team work together better. This is more important in projects where workers enter and exit the project work at different times. When new members enter a team, act to minimize the “bond” that the existing team members have.
Make sure your employees feel a sense of accomplishment
We often talk about motivating workers by giving them positive reinforcement publicly. But we do not always focus on a related technique of helping them feel a sense of accomplishment. This turns out to be important – especially important in environments where a feeling of accomplishment is more rare. Examples of such environments are those that commonly have long projects, or where resources move quickly from project to project without having a chance to think about their impact.
These tactics will not only motivate your project workers, they will help make you stand out as a more sophisticated project manager. When you get results and have a motivated team, you are a valuable resource in any organization.
In my article this month I discussed tactics to assist you with strategy implementation by maintaining the proper culture. That article did not look at troubleshooting tactics, but I'm rectifying that here with several troubleshooting tactics that will help you take your career to the next level. You might want to check out the article first to make sure you get certain background information.
On to troubleshooting. Recall that in a project or program closely associated with strategy implementation, you as a project manager have a critical role in helping achieve the business strategy. That gives you a certain prestige, power, cache. Don't be afraid to use it. But use it wisely by taking careful steps.
Characterize identified obstacles to escalate properly
Suppose you identify an obstacle to implementing business strategy such low participation by one or more stakeholders. Is the cause simple overallocation or actually resistance to the strategy? Those are two very different situations. If you can, you need to know before you can effectively intervene.
Problems that stakeholders report that are from known competing priorities or reduced resources are common and can be handled through your typical risk and issue management. On the other hand, problems arising from certain "silos" that do not want to participate, require a different tactic.
What would be the cause of resistance to the business strategy? Some individuals, job roles, or departments can be affected negatively by the strategic plan being implemented. Jobs can be lowered in prestige, shifted around the organizational structure or even lost. Implementing business strategy is serious business. And you can represent danger as the project manager. Even if the fear or anxiety is unfounded resistance can still affect your "strategy" project and must be dealt with.
What might you hear from a stakeholder or partner if there is resistance to the business strategy? Hint: You will not hear "I disagree with the business strategy." But listen for phrasing like in these examples:
Or you may get a tip off from another stakeholder or sponsor that one or more stakeholders are known to be negatively affected by the strategic changes and then see actual resistance.
Intervene effectively for resistance to the strategy
Suppose that you have followed all these steps and identified and have evidence that a stakeholder Is not participating because of resistance to the strategy itself. In this case you must use a very specific type of intervention that is unlike the regular risk and issue management process you normally follow.
Projects implementing business strategy are not given to just any project manager. You have to be able to handle the basics without thinking too much because you are dealing with higher-level risks and stakeholders - and the stakes are greater. Succeed by using your understanding of business relationships and breaking down complex problems into step-by-step solutions.
This is the fourth post in a series related to Robotic Process Automation*, begun in association with PMI's Information Systems and Technology Symposium, June 14, 2017, where I presented Becoming an RPA-Ready Project Manager. You can filter posts in this blog to find all related to "RPA". You can also watch that presentation for PDU credit.
Without the right prepared resources during organizational change, frustration will be the order of the day. Deadlines will cause conflict. The much-touted vision will ring hollow. Success will be difficult.
In an initiative where organizational change is brought about by automation, including rolling RPA projects, resources have to be available at certain times to complete specific work. If they are not available, then the frustration spiral takes over. Examples below from such a hypothetical organizational change show how to identify and deal with resource problems and how to avoid errors managing resources over which you have control.
Organizational Change Effort Role: RPA Project Team Business Process Specialists
Potential Problem: You lead an RPA project that will be completed within a couple of months and representatives from the business that know the process to be automated are not available or not assigned near the point at which you are to start. This could be due to:
…or other reasons
What You Can Do as Project Manager: No matter what the reason that caused the problem,
Organizational Change Effort Role: Change Specialists
Potential Problem: Your project is dependent on a separate effort to communicate about the change in advance and to get general agreement with the vision but evidence you see does not indicate that the communication has occurred, or the vision has been accepted. This could be caused by:
…among other reasons.
The result is that certain project team members, partners, stakeholders are not hurrying to work with you. They do not know what your project is. Or they are avoiding your project.
What You Can Do as Project Manager: No matter what the reason that caused the bad communications, you must act when the environment is not conducive to success. In any organizational change effort,
There are many other roles in an RPA project, but the example of business process specialists is good to address because success of the project is mostly dependent on their availability. Likewise, there are many roles in a large organizational change effort, even one that is solely built around continuous automations. Change specialists are key to setting up a positive environment for you to manage your project. Unfortunately, you as a project manager have less authority to manage problems associated with roles outside the scope of your project. Still, your usual tactics of (a) direct communications with constructive problem-solving and (b) risk management are useful there as well. Using those tactics will make you a positive force against frustration in organizational change.
(If you are thinking that Resources needs certain skills for automation projects and organizational change then you are correct, but we will deal with the issue of skills in a future post.)
* Robotic Process Automation: Configuring a software robot, using one of the relatively new tools available, to complete a certain part of a work process formerly completed by FTEs. RPA is not Artificial Intelligence, but simply a way of automating the execution of well-defined business rules. Projects are short and bring quick benefits to the organization.