By Christian Bisson, PMP
I recently had the privilege to participate in the 9th Montreal agile coach gathering. Along with meeting great people and having a chance to exchange ideas with them, I had the opportunity to learn about “liberating structures”, a concept developed by Henri Lipmanowicz and Keith McCandless.
Liberating structures are 33 alternative structures for facilitating meetings, work sessions or retrospectives. Unlike conventional structures, such as status reports or presentations, liberating structures are meant to distribute control of the conversation so that all participants are part of shaping direction. This ultimately helps everyone work together while feeling more in control. According to Lipmanowicz and McCandless, conventional structures are either too inhibiting or too loose and disorganzed to achieve this.
Within your organization, liberating structures can be used to organize and facilitate work sessions, retrospectives or other types of meetings. These structures range from simple and fast exercises to those suited for more structured and longer meetings, giving a diversified toolset for various circumstances.
One evening during the 9th Montreal agile coach gathering, everyone gathered into small teams, picked one of the liberating structures randomly, and took 25 minutes to understand and discuss it with the objective of presenting it to everyone else afterward within a three-minute timebox.
Our team picked “critical uncertainties”, which makes you focus on essential and uncertain realities, and then plan strategies according to different possible futures. Among brainstormed ideas, you need to identify the most robust strategies (i.e., the ones that would work with the most possible futures). You can then plan action items based on what was discussed.
Another one that caught my interest is “1-2-4-all.” It is simple and can be used in so many circumstances, yet it is efficient to help a group of people (small or large) communicate and share great ideas.
For anyone out there who is a fan of liberating structures, I’m curious to find out which ones you used, in what context, and how was the result. Please share and discuss!
By Dave Wakeman
I’ve been thinking a lot about personal branding lately. When I consider how it applies to the world of project management, I come around to the idea that maybe we haven’t put enough emphasis on it.
Why? Well, I’m going to let you in on a secret.
Are you ready? You sure?
Not all project managers are created equal!
This might not be a surprise. But if I ask you to step back and think about how you position yourself t, are you doing enough to differentiate yourself from others around you?
This is important because differentiation can be the difference between working on awesome projects or not.
So, how do you differentiate yourself as a project manager? Here are a few ideas.
1. Focus on the outcomes you have produced.
Most of the time we think about spec, am I right? Unfortunately, that doesn’t do us the most good because just doing our job often isn’t enough to stand out from the competition. We need to know how delivering spec or going beyond spec leads to improved business outcomes for our organization, our partners, our team.
Just think about the ways your work made your business money, saved money or sped up a project. All of those can be expressed as outcomes that will make you stand out in comparison to others.
To turbocharge a focus on outcomes, answer the all-important question: “Why did my work matter?”
2. Emphasize and highlight opportunities created and risks protected against.
Risk mitigation is a core skill of every project manager, or it should be. On the other hand, how often do we think about our ability to create opportunities?
Here’s how you can put your opportunity creation into words that highlight your importance and differentiate you from other project managers. Focus once again on the outcomes and the way the opportunities repositioned your organization or your partners. Maybe you saved a lot of money due to spotting an opportunity to streamline a process.
It could be that you recognized an opportunity to add to a current project in a way that was impactful for your partners and created new revenue. The “how” isn’t so important—focus on how you are impacting the projects you work on or investigate by your PM skills.
3. Toot your own horn.
Humility seems like a high calling. It may have been in the past, but in today’s world—where everyone is sharing their best life on social media—humility is a career defeater.
When I first started out as a consultant a number of years ago, I had the same feeling…people will buy from me due to the quality of my work. Wrong! You have to tell people how you help them and how you can create value for them.
You don’t have to be a blowhard to do it well. Just focus on some of the ideas we discussed above, like your ability to generate positive outcomes for your projects and partners. Show the ways that your skills have increased the profitability of your business. Share some ideas that you have developed through your experience that can help other people do their jobs better.
The most important thing is to make certain you are letting people know that you are not just a project manager, but an excellent project manager who focuses on the right things and gets results. That’s really all differentiation is.
How have you differentiated yourself? Please share your experiences below.
by Cyndee Miller
There’s no denying the buzz around gender diversity and parity in the workplace over the last couple of years. Last May, when PM Network ran a cover story about the state of women in project management, we saw the issue taking on an “extraordinary and undeniable urgency, with demands for gender equality rising to a roar heard around the world.” From Washington, D.C., USA to Sydney, Australia, millions of people marched for the cause. In Spain alone, more than 5 million workers took part in a “feminist strike." And it looks this year will be the same.
So after all the protests, after all the articles about equal pay in the workplace, after all the calls for female representation in the C-suite, how is it that the world has made so little progress?
Indeed, by some measures, we’ve even slid back: Last year, proportionately fewer women participated in the labor force, according to the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) latest Global Gender Gap Report. And the situation may get even worse in a workplace increasingly driven by rapidly changing technology. Working with LinkedIn, WEF found women represent only 22 percent of the artificial intelligence (AI) workforce and that they’re less likely to be in senior roles or signal expertise in high-profile, emerging AI skills.
At the current rate of change, WEF predicts it will take 202 years to achieve economic parity. Two centuries? That’s spectacularly depressing.
In some ways, the project management profession may serve as a blueprint for achieving greater workforce inclusivity. Women are now a fixture in the profession, often leading prominent or priority projects. Check out that picture above. Those are just some of the powerful female project and program managers featured in PM Network in the past year alone. These women delivered results, from rebuilding a veterans’ healthcare facility decimated by Hurricane Katrina to testing a viticulture robot on an Italian winery. They got it done. They made strategy a reality.
The project management profession isn’t perfect, though. As in many other fields, wage disparities persist. There’s an approximately US$11,000 gap between average male and female project manager salaries in the United States, according to the latest edition of PMI’s Earning Power: Project Management Salary Survey. China follows a similar pattern: CNY220,036 for men versus CNY193,502 for women, on average.
So what needs to change? A big part of the problem comes down to actually recognizing there’s a problem. PMI 2019 Pulse of the Profession data show 65 percent of male respondents say women face “no major obstacles” in project management today. Only 39 percent of women agreed with that.
The blinders have to come off if organizations are going to attract the best project talent and capitalize on the full value women bring to the management ranks. And that’s going to take some real effort.
“Diversity, gender equality, it’s not something that changes overnight—because people’s opinions don’t change overnight, unfortunately,” says Kush Dhillon, engagement manager at Capgemini in London, England. “It’s a learning process.”
It’s also a process that must be fully supported by senior leaders committed to making it an ongoing conversation.
“And through that, I absolutely fundamentally believe—and it’s been proven—that the business will do better, the people in your business will be happier,” she says.
Ms. Dhillon is part of the upcoming episode, “Empowering Women and Girls” on Projectified™ With PMI. I got a sneak preview and strongly recommend you download it next Wednesday (13 March). After all, the discussion should go on long after we mark International Women’s Day today. (And while you’re at it, you should also check out “Women in Project Leadership — Gaining Ground” from last June.) You can also head over to fellow Voices blogger Jen Skrabak, PfMP, PMP, who recently took a look at three cognitive biases holding women back.
Get this right and the effects would be massive. According to the Women in Work Index 2019 from PwC, if Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development countries matched their female workforces to that of Sweden—which has a 69 percent female employment rate—the total GDP boost could be as much as US$6 trillion.
In the meantime, the reporter in me wants to hear about your experiences. Do women in project management still face significant obstacles? Are you seeing improvement?
By Jen Skrabak, PMP, PfMP
Over nearly two decades in project management, I’ve learned a number of strategies to make my voice heard and advance in my career. Much of that success has come by “leaning in,” as Sheryl Sandberg advocates.
As a woman in project management, I believe the following are key:
International Women’s Day is March 8, and this year’s theme is #BalanceforBetter. Please share your thoughts on how we celebrate the achievement of women while we continue to strive for balance for women socially, economically and culturally around the world.
Imagine you're a project manager reporting to a senior director of a subsidiary, with a dotted line to a group director in the HQ. In a meeting, you're caught in their crossfire. What would you do?
If you’re wondering whether getting involved in the politics is mandatory, the answer is yes. What if you wish to stay away? You can, but you’ll put your career at risk.
There’s no need to be afraid of organizational politics. Often the top performers are those who have mastered the art. In the organizational hierarchy, there is a level beyond which winning at politics is more important than mastering any technical skills.
What Are Organizational Politics?
Workplace politics are simply the differences between people at work—whether they’re contrasting opinions or conflicts of interest. They’re important, because you need these politics to:
What Aren’t Organizational Politics?
Politics aren’t about cheating or taking advantage of other people. They are not about:
It is not about me over you (win-lose), but both of us together (win-win).
Why Are Organizational Politics Inevitable?
You can’t avoid them, because the following are all sources of politics:
Some of these factors are always present in an office, making politics inevitable.
How to Win in Organizational Politics
The most common reactions to politics at work are either fight or flight, which can have harmful consequences. Remember, we always have a choice to approach the situation and then hold on, understand or work out a viable solution.
Here are few steps you can take:
Know Enterprise Environmental Factors:
The first step is to understand the source. You can put together a winning solution if you understand factors influencing your project execution, such as organizational culture, organizational structure, various communication channels, organizational policies, individual behavior and risk tolerance of stakeholders.
Politics always come down to the people who are involved. Until we understand their interests, power, influence, buy-in and support, it may not be easy to prepare a strategy. There are various tools like the power/interest grid, buy-in/influence grid, stakeholder engagement matrix, etc. that help in stakeholder analysis and preparing strategies. There are tools like power/interest grid, buy-in/influence grid, stakeholder engagement matrix etc. that help in stakeholder analysis and preparing strategies. In fact, it is a good idea to always maintain a stakeholder register so you have information ready to quickly deal with a situation.
Discover Hidden Agendas:
Hidden agenda aren’t always as bad as they appear. Many times a personal objective is driving someone’s actions. Therefore, it is necessary to talk to the people and understand the driving factors behind their opinion and actions to strengthen your strategy.
Somehow, we are encouraged to think that someone has to lose in order for us to win. We see our colleagues as rivals instead of as our team members. This may be because of the organization’s politics. We have to find a solution that not only makes you win, but others too. This may not be easy, but understanding other people’s point of view and putting your feet in their shoes will help you find a win-win solution.
Build your network:
One of the best ways to do this is through networking, which builds relationships. This will help you better understand other people’s viewpoints and get their support in facilitating a solution. Networking is also very effective in getting buy-in and reaching consensus.
By taking these steps, you can propose win-win solutions and steer your projects to success.
What ideas do you have for dealing with organizational politics? Please share your thoughts in the comments below. I look forward to reading about your experiences.