Project managers face many challenges every day. Whether it is a risk that suddenly becomes an issue, a deadline moving backwards or other unanticipated changes, the project life is rarely a picnic.
One challenge project managers don’t want to see is problem behavior by sponsors. Projects need sponsors to provide executive support and resources. So it is essential for the project manager to find ways to have working relationships with all types of sponsors.
An article in September’s PM Network® provides a roadmap of cringe-worthy sponsor behavior—and advice on how to deal with it. Sometimes the advice might appear counterintuitive, like offering calm empathy to an angry or even bullying sponsor. But it works!
For the micromanaging sponsor, a project manager might have a team meeting to review the governance and function of each team member. But don’t forget to find out why this type of sponsor feels the need to “get into the weeds”—there may be a legitimate reason.
The poor communicator makes it difficult to get answers—and answers you get tend to be vague or unspecific. Project managers might need to build more rapport with this type of sponsor and start with more open-ended questions. If this doesn’t work, perhaps a third party of similar or higher rank than the sponsor can trigger more complete communication.
A rubber-stamping sponsor might seem like a good thing, making approvals quick and easy. But if a project veers out of strategic alignment, this type of sponsor might not be helpful. If this happens, the project manager should talk with the sponsor about strategic alignment and seek to focus the sponsor’s attention on that. In some companies, the project manager might have to go to a higher-level manager once in a while to confirm strategic alignment.
Finally, the “AWOL” sponsor is just too hard to track down. How can the project manager get on that sponsor’s calendar? The answer to pinning down an overbooked sponsor might involve being available outside the usual working hours, or limiting a meeting request to 15 minutes. But if sponsor absenteeism is causing the project to slip, the project manager might have to suggest the use of a backup sponsor.
What have you done to keep projects on track despite these types of sponsors? Please share your stories in the comments below.
I confess that I have a strong interest in transportation, especially trains. So I am thrilled with the cover photo on this month’s PM Network® magazine, which shows a train in a tunnel from London’s Crossrail, the largest infrastructure project in Europe.
For those working on major infrastructure projects, the thrill is not necessarily the train; it is the systematized effort to produce and share lessons learned from one megaproject team to future teams. The U.K. Parliament insisted the team creating Crossrail capture and curate lessons learned to help future megaproject teams be efficient and navigate complex challenges.
The initiative, called Crossrail Learning Legacy, generated and shared around 650 documents from decades of planning and 10 years of construction. All these lessons, ranging from contractor oversight to limiting environmental impact, are shared on Learning Legacy’s website.
To ensure the lessons’ value, the Learning Legacy team captured feedback from institutes representing areas such as civil engineering and occupational safety and health. Crossrail used that feedback and a review of a similar effort done by the 2012 Summer Olympics team to organize the information into 12 knowledge subject areas.
It was critical that each document explain what happened, what went well and what needed fixing. Finally, the information needed to offer recommendations for future projects.
So what were some key recommendations for future megaproject teams? Set up a governance structure to make sure the team could handle high-stakes contracts with large amounts of taxpayer funds; develop a benchmark to drive and improve contractors’ performance; increase project teams’ environmental awareness; and assess health and safety metrics frequently.
Did your project team ever do a major lessons-learned initiative to share your experiences? Please tell us how that worked in the comments.
While most of my PM Network® posts aim to draw you into one of our interesting feature stories, today my goal is to tell you about the Voices section of the magazine.
Voices is where you will gain information and perspectives that you can use right away. It’s a place where you can see the value proposition of your PMI membership.
This is especially true for one of our most popular Voices columns, Career Q&A. Written by Lindsay Scott, the director of program and project management at the recruitment firm Arras People, this column answers readers’ questions on getting ahead in your project management career. In August PM Network, Lindsay talks about whether volunteer work will help someone break into project management (training and networking might be a better bet), and protecting yourself from giving free advice when interviewing for new consulting engagements (avoid specifics in your answers).
PM Network’s Voices help you at all levels of your project management journey. In this month’s issue, several practitioners provide nugget-sized advice on what their greatest challenge was when adapting to agile approaches. Our leadership columnist focuses on creating a compelling vision for your team. The Culture Club column talks about the power of ritual. And, for an executive’s point of view, Inside Track turns to an insurance company CIO to tell how having someone in the C-suite with a project management background helps ensure that technology-related projects align with organizational strategy.
We do not neglect practitioners who are out there day in and day out, getting things done. The appropriately named Getting It Done articles are written by readers who enjoy sharing tips and techniques that might help you do your job.
The August issue gets it done with an article promoting cross-organizational approaches to manage risks on nuclear power plant projects. Another article advocates for cross-cultural training to improve global projects’ chances of success.
Be sure to turn to the Voices section of PM Network every month for valuable advice and opinions. If your projects and/or careers has been impacted by the magazine’s Voices, please share your story in the comments.
Digital disruption is hitting even the most old-line industries. In the current PM Network®, we explore how IT projects are improving mining. A report shows that four out of five mining and metals organizations expect to spend more on digital technologies over the next three years. More than half point to robotics and automation as the top spending areas in mine operations. And 56 percent are considering merging their IT and operational technology groups in the next 12 months.
A big challenge is gaining the support of workers, who have to learn how to pilot remote-control machines, and supervisors afraid their decision-making responsibilities will be taken away (they won’t be).
Experts say planning this type of project must be done carefully and without shortcuts, or the projects might lack strategic value and won’t harness the full power of the technology. Project managers must see these initiatives as transformational.
Startups and research centers are involved in mining-sector projects, launching pilots that include electric autonomous vehicles that are continuously charged by a modular and movable electrical and induction system. The vehicles, without the weight of batteries, are very efficient.
Look for articles covering the rapidly changing world of projects and project managers in every issue of PM Network. Are you involved in a digital transformation project in an old-line sector? Tell us about it in the comments.
Leadership skills, alongside people skills like communication and negotiation, are more important than ever, according to this year’s Pulse of the Profession® report. But what does it take to gain and use leadership skills—and be recognized for that so as to pave the way for promotion and more responsibility?
In this month’s PM Network® magazine, we hear from a portfolio manager, chief project officer and PMO director who explain how they climbed the organizational ladder through developing and deploying leadership skills.
Sydney, Australia-based Ada Osakwe, PMP, portfolio manager with Qantas, attributes her growth to pushing herself and exploring all parts of a business to build knowledge and perspective. She says that rotating into different business units every couple of years serves to challenge herself to grow as a leader. She also has a performance plan that lists leadership training she wants to complete each year. On top of that, Ms. Osakwe has a professional development plan that she constantly updates.
Olawepo Ogunniyi, PMP, who is chief project officer of DropQue in Lagos, Nigeria, attributes continuous learning for helping him take on greater challenges and strengthening his leadership abilities. Besides completing a master’s degree in project management and teaching project management courses, Mr. Ogunniyi gained leadership skills while in the banking industry by helping lead projects dealing with acquiring another bank and deploying a large number of ATMs. And he attributes volunteer work in the community for broadening his perspectives on what leadership is.
Chicago, Illinois, USA-based Renee Cardella, PMP, is a PMO director at Press Ganey Associates. She attributes her promotion to a similar PMO post at another company to curiosity and a willingness to ask questions. Early on, she faced a leading-up challenge of convincing her CIO that her organization needed to elevate its project management maturity. She gained her current post by stressing her leadership experience. That was necessary because Press Ganey mainly uses agile approaches and Ms. Cardella’s previous experience was strictly waterfall.
The moral of all these stories is that leadership and people skills pay off, but like everything else, you have to learn and want to learn.
What are your experiences with obtaining and using leadership skills to grow your career?