This blog is about managing a project workforce. Stakeholders are not treated as a formal part of your project workforce, but maybe they should be at times.
When should you consider them as part of your workforce? When they have simple tasks that need to be completed. A common example is the project document approval task. (Simple? Maybe in theory!) This is where you run into delays.
Day 1 (Project Manager): "Please approve linked document in 10 days"
In project manager bars, where they drink the Release on the Rocks, this is a hot topic. How fast do you expect approvals in your organization? 3 days? 1 week? Two weeks? A month? I'm sure many of you Alert Readers have experienced extreme delays for approval at one point or another. If not, then you have just missed out on one of the fun times a project manager can have.
Here are some of the realities you must consider:
So it behooves us to come up with a list of tactics to avoid or handle this type of environment and the subgroup of stakeholders who do not approve in a timely fashion. Some of these you may think about doing but do not actually do.
Avoiding Delays Through Better Preparation
When you create your agendas for stakeholder meetings, be sure to explain:
Example: At the initial stakeholder meeting (or an early one), include bullets representing statements above and any related that are appropriate to your project.
Beyond the stakeholder meeting, there are other things you can do:
Work Planning for Better Preparation
What are some other techniques you use? Different environments need different tactics, so let me know what you have found successful. Do you have a problem with missing your chance to do these things and then having to suffer approval delays yet again?
As a project manager, managing people is a large component of your work. So it's worth Think about how you learn the techniques you use. Do some come from experience? From books, seminars or training courses? Did you learn some from watching others? Do you do things because everyone else does them?
Some of the techniques you use may be unproven. That is , they may not have been through rigorous testing to ensure they work. And if they have not, then you cannot be sure they work or even if they have the opposite effect than you want them to have.
Next, for your edification, are a couple of examples of what you can learn when people management techniques are studied.
Beware of the halo effect.
Imagine you are selecting between three candidates for a project analyst. You follow the common practice of interviewing the top candidates in order to choose the best one for the job in your project. The first comes recommended by people you have worked with and trust. They are in a different line of business with a very different culture, but tell you that the analyst has worked very well there. You talked to this candidate very briefly on the phone and liked her positive energy. She does not know much about your business, however.
The second candidate is from outside your company, but from the same line of business and a similar culture. He has plenty of experience. But, really…who cares? You have a decent recommended candidate that can be quickly transferred into your project. She's one of those great performers who do well in any situation.
Hold it right there! You are under influence of the halo effect! This syndrome causes you to think that an individual who has been found to excel at one job, will be good at almost anything. This is not true. Many studies over the years have shown that the halo effect appears in many situations and that it can lead to problems for the worker and the business.
Typically candidate selection follows a standard process, but I have never seen one that is specifically designed to avoid the halo effect. You have to do that yourself.
Beware the effects of the courtesy copy.
The second example is about the importance of knowing how to courtesy copy ("CC") people in emails. You probably have gotten the idea by now that communication and transparency can be improved easily by copying anyone involved on your emails. That way everyone is in the loop and cannot come back and say that they did not know what was going on. What did people ever do without email at work?
David De Cremer says his research indicates that courtesy copying can actually reduce trust, just the opposite effect that you want. Here's how you could be surprised in your project by the implications of your "courtesy":
These two examples show how workers can get the idea, whether true or not, that they are being monitored or micromanaged in some way. They get suspicious, especially in cultures where no clear policies in this area have been created. An undercurrent of mistrust leads to just the opposite culture than what was desired from this type of transparency.
What can you do in your project?
If you have experience with or other ideas on these topics, please comment.
The series on Organizational Change Management using Robotic Process Automation examples will return in my next post.
This is the second 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 "Robotic Process Automation".
Another component of organizational change management that you will need to monitor as a project manager is that the vision for the change has been communicated. Generally, you do not have to personally manage vision communication. It is the job of senior leaders to define and sometimes a special group helps to formalize the actual message into emails and intranet web pages. Still. it is wise for you to make sure it is going to be done properly or the tasks you are accountable for will not likely be successful as planned. You just have to love those out-of-project dependencies!
How do you know the vision of organizational change? It is a clear description of the target future state of the organization and the benefits that will be expected. Don't settle for anything less. For organization-wide RPA efforts, where the vision includes software robots doing some of the work previously done by most human resources, the description must include a more satisfactory workplace where workers complete less tedious, more valuable work.
If the vision is not communicated to everyone, your project gets run off the rails by
Don't wait for these symptoms to occur, unless you are a masochist. Treat proper organizational communication as an Assumption, Dependency or something else formal and reportable. My paramour Amelia was wisecracking at lunch the other day that if you publicize a dependency for vision communication, then you might spur "someone" into action to do it!
What about the rollout of that vision? You will know effective, broad communication of the RPA effort vision is occurring when great practices for organization-wide communications are implemented. That includes:
Make a note to look for these great practices to monitor your Assumption or Dependency. Don't see them? Consider managing as a Risk.
The communication should be continual and take many perspectives, such as
Per member Philippe Schuler responding to the first OCM post, success stories are also important in organizational change management communications. In RPA projects, workers (users) will be expected to be skeptical of the changes, but evidence that it has worked well previously will help calm fears. Especially useful stories for RPA will include any that show the workers who have robots working for them are more productive and happy with their now more valuable work - and thus making the vision manifest.
If you start to see a lot of push-back to your RPA projects, it may not be your teams' fault, it could be inadequate organizational readiness for your projects. Consider escalating with that as a potential cause. The solution to that problem should be different than having you just push harder yet again. It could be resolved as a management problem beyond your role.
* Robotic Process Automation: For our purposes, 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.
This is the first 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 will be able to filter posts in this blog to find all related to "Robotic Process Automation".
It's a couple of days after my presentation at the Symposium with an energetic crowd of attendees from all over the world. The chat stream was at times very funny. In addition to being a potential career path for us project managers, Robotic Process Automation lends itself to really humorous comments and interpretations. That will make it fun to talk about. Maybe we can all discuss it with my new girlfriend Amelia.
Let's get started.
As I said in my presentation, the first RPA-specific posts will be about Organizational Change Management (OCM). Organizational Change Management is a critical component of projects that require new work processes for people, on the business side or the technology side. RPA efforts are a perfect example. Unfortunately, the details of how this component integrates with project management is not always clear. It is worse when the organization in which you work does not have a mature OCM process to follow or a specific team that handles the OCM functions.
Picture it: Your new work process project is chugging along. The technology is near to being deployed. Quality of the new technology looks very good. The budget did not go over too much, thank goodness. You are planning to transition the final resources out of the project. You will be able to take a few days off finally.
But wait! Alarms are going off! In emails at least. Not everyone is ready. One of the unready groups is the Help Desk team. They have not finished their training and other preparations. You also hear there is a similar situation with the users on the business side.
Fast forward to the lessons learned session. It's a bit awkward when the training issue comes up. The actual lesson earned cannot be immediately agreed to by the attendees. You have to wonder, "What happened?"
It could have been any number of factors, all within the OCM component. In this special series of posts, I will go over as many of these factors as I can, all in context of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) projects. These projects present good examples albeit with the increased need for urgency that RPA demands.
Now back to OCM: One success factor for organizational change is that there is a general schedule communicated to all those affected by the change generated by your project. Not just the stakeholders. Not just the supervisors. The communication must be to all who are affected. They just need a summary of what will happen and when. They don't need your entire detailed work plan. This part of OCM has many benefits, including
For RPA projects, specific target dates may be given for the following activities
"Target dates" are fine, especially since it is best to communicate the high-level schedule as soon as possible. Later schedule revisions can be communicated in a timely fashion.
Communicating the general schedule of the steps leading to a work process and workforce change is just one part of managing that change. All together they will keep all teams associated with the project aligned, on time and with les resistance. Future posts in the series will cover other components of OCM and their relationship to RPA projects.
* 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.
The best information on stakeholders is safest hidden away.
That's the gist of a point I made in an article recently. The point was that good stakeholder information can be so controversial that you cannot place it in a standard stakeholder analysis document.
Stakeholders are a key part of your project workforce. And good stakeholder information is a very valuable project treasure. If you know your stakeholders well, you have already reduced surprises.
The wise project manager keeps two kinds of stakeholder information. The first kind can be documented in standard forms and posted on sites for document sharing. The second kind should be kept away from public view.
So there is a public analysis and there is a private analysis. Your public analysis, includes information like
Your private analysis can include all the public information, but have extra columns. These extra columns should show
Consider creating a diagram with level of Power/prestige on the X axis and on the Y axis, a spectrum from Fully opposes (project), Somewhat opposes, Neutral, Somewhat supports, Fully supports. Place stakeholders within this diagram.
How do you get this information? If you have been in an organization for a long time, you pick it up from experience. If you are new to an organization, then start talking to people informally about the stakeholders. Do your best from it appearing as an interview. You want the feel of a friendly (safe) conversation. Ask questions about the stakeholders.
And so on. You get the idea.
And, because this private information can be controversial if made public, you'll need to keep this for yourself in your own notebook or somewhere else where it will not get into other's hands. Like any valuable treasure.