Viewing Posts by Gina Abudi
“Abigail” popped by the Ask the Expert booth to see me yesterday (day 1). Abigail is a fairly new project manager; she has worked on a number of project teams – but only recently was put in charge of a project with all remote team members.
On a team meeting call last week, Abigail and two team members called in from one location while four other team members called in from two other locations. The team was trying to solve a particularly knotty problem and were pretty vocal about how the problem occurred and the best way to solve it. Abigail shortly lost control of the meeting. It got contentious and there were arguments, blaming, and side conversations going on – not just in Abigail’s location but also another location where three members were calling in. One poor team member calling in from her home office was very quiet (probably because, as Abigail noted, she couldn’t get a word in edgewise!) Abigail never got control of the meeting and it ended within 45 minutes with no decision made on solving the problem and no plan to move forward. Since then, the problem has been solved by the sponsor who gave the team a solution to implement.
Abigail asked how she could have managed the situation.
What Could Abigail Have Done?
Abigail could have started with her own location and asked everyone to stop the side conversation and remain quiet. She then could stop the meeting and ask everyone to minimize the side conversations as they are distracting and don’t enable for full participation. She should also remind them that they are a team and pushing blame back and forth would not solve the problem.
Once she got everyone quieted down, Abigail can “reset” the meeting, ensure understanding of the problem and reiterate the goal to solve it in a collaborative way for the good of the project. She might use a “round robin” approach, calling on each individual to share their thoughts on the problem. By using a “round robin” approach, each team member will be able to share their ideas and thoughts and then more easily come to a collaborative solution.
What are your challenges? Stop by the PMI Ask the Expert booth in the Exhibit Hall at the Congress and meet with one of the experts. #PMICON18
Sell Others on why The Project Matters!
Too often project managers do not consider the importance of socializing their projects prior to actually beginning the work on the project. It may be because they haven’t thought of the benefits of doing so or because they feel the project is assigned and already decided upon, so why bother. However, the most effective project managers - those who take a strategic approach to how they lead their projects - look at projects from both the perspective of the organization and the perspective of the individual - thereby understanding the benefits of socializing the project early on during the pre-planning stages.
Undoubtedly, you may have to highlight the benefits of socializing projects to your project sponsor and other key stakeholders if this is not common practice already within the organization. Let’s look at an example. I was called in to work with a client who, about 5 months previously, had launched a project to change processes in how they captured and input client data to enable for improved marketing. They never socialized the project first. The end users, on average, had been doing the job in a particular way for about 4 years. Old habits die hard - no one wanted to change what they had been doing; it worked for them. It was 5 months already into the project when I was called in to help correct the situation - progress was very minimal. I recommended they step back and start again - this time taking some time to socialize the initiative and talk about the benefits to the organization as a whole, the departments affected and the individuals. First, however, we needed to do a bit of “repair work” to smooth over feelings.
Benefits of Socializing Your Projects
When we take the time to socialize projects before we actually start the project, we provide individuals with a “heads up” about what is going on and why. In this way, we provide a sense of comfort around the changes that will happen. It helps us to:
I consider socializing the project to be part of the “define” or “pre-planning” phase of the project. It helps me to find out who is supportive of the project and who I’ll need to spend some more time with to make them comfortable and convert them to champions. Depending on the size and complexity of the project and the number of individuals impacted within the organization, I may plan for anywhere from two weeks to a few months to socialize an initiative.
Selling Socialization to Executives
If you are in an organization that has never socialized projects before launch, you may need to sell it to the executives. This is not as difficult as you think. First of all, in most cases, as a project manager, you know about projects coming along before they are actually ready to start. Begin socializing the project then if you can do so. When I’m working with clients to help them develop more effective and efficient ways of managing their projects, I make sure that plans include involving project managers very early on in decisions to initiative projects so that, prior to actual launch, time can be set aside to socialize the initiative. Rarely do we cut into project time. And, when we do cut into project time, we have shown, time and time again, that by socializing up front, we actually spend less time on the back end managing expectations of those impacted and get much more commitment which enables to improved management of the project throughout execution. Additionally, we have found in some situations, that by socializing the project, we learned a few things we did not know that would have derailed the project down the road.
Frequently we look at projects from the perspective of the organization’s view. We understand how the project will benefit the organization and why it is the right thing to do now. We tend to forget about the individual. The individual is the one who will be impacted by the project in some way. We need to consider the project from the perspective of the individual, who, while certainly concerned about the organization is also concerned about him/herself. It’s only natural. Going through this person’s mind are questions such as, “What will happen to my job?” “Will I be able to do the role when it changes?” “What if I don’t have the skills I need?” “How can I handle all of this when I have so much going on personally?” These are all valid concerns of individual employees and the most successful projects are run by those who work with the individual to address these concerns through a variety of ways, such as:
These are just a few ways to socialize the project throughout the organization. Always choose a variety of ways to reach the largest group of people.
Take the time to socialize your projects prior to their actual start. You’ll find that you will increase the commitment and support for the project which only makes your job of managing the project much easier in the long run. The benefits are many and well worth the extra effort involved. Remember also, that, periodically, throughout the project, as a best practice, continue to socialize it by checking in with individuals to be sure they are still on-board and feeling good about what is going on.
Develop a document that will help you manage your BPI project!
Creating a project charter for your business process improvement (BPI) projects are a best practice for a number of reasons:
While we all know that, in theory, the project charter is handed to the project manager from the project sponsor, in reality this never happens! The project manager develops the project charter based on information from the sponsor and other key stakeholders. Too often project managers skip developing a project charter and focus purely on the project scope statement. I prefer to use both documents. I use the charter to develop a list of questions that provide me further information about the BPI project, why it is being undertaken, its link to the organizational strategic goals and the overall objectives for the project.
Once finalized and approved by the sponsor, the charter is then used to develop the project scope statement. This charter, as well as the scope statement, enables me to better manage my stakeholders as the project work takes place. I frequently refer back to that charter to ensure we stay on track with the project, pushing back as necessary when the project is taking the wrong direction or is at risk of doing so. It enables me to have better conversations regarding changes to the BPI project.
BPI Project Charter Components
Components of BPI project charters are described in the table below:
BPI Project Charter Best Practices
Here are the best practice steps I take to create a BPI project charter:
While this may seem initially like a large effort, it really is not. Spending this time up front to get the charter accurate enables for me to develop strong relationships with the project sponsor and any other key stakeholders. It also ensures that I understand what we are doing with this project and why – which enables me to have better conversations with team members and other stakeholders. You can’t effectively manage a BPI project – and get others committed to it – if you don’t know the business reason behind the BPI project. You notice that in each conversation with the sponsor I have advanced progress on the charter. Additionally, I have taken some steps in filling in the blanks myself based on knowledge I already have. It may not be completely accurate, but enables for far more productive conversations with the sponsor and other key stakeholders.
In summary, create a project charter for all of your BPI projects, to enable for getting your “head” around the project and developing key questions to ask sponsors to ensure you have what you need for project success.
Before you officially begin your next project, consider whether you can answer the following questions:
What else do you do to get ready for your projects?
Engaging employees in change projects is essential to ensure that the change initiative is accepted and “sticks.” Consider these five ways to engage employees in your next change initiative.