Voices on Project Management

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Voices on Project Management offers insights, tips, advice and personal stories from project managers in different regions and industries. The goal is to get you thinking, and spark a discussion. So, if you read something that you agree with--or even disagree with--leave a comment.

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Cameron McGaughy
Marian Haus
Lynda Bourne
Lung-Hung Chou
Bernadine Douglas
Kevin Korterud
Conrado Morlan
Peter Tarhanidis
Mario Trentim
Jen Skrabak
David Wakeman
Roberto Toledo
Vivek Prakash
Cyndee Miller
Shobhna Raghupathy
Wanda Curlee
Rex Holmlin
Christian Bisson
Taralyn Frasqueri-Molina

Recent Posts

Are You a Decisive or Divisive Decision Maker?

Managing Your First Strategic Initiative? Here’s What You Need to Know

Risk Priority vs. Risk Urgency

Facing Generational Needs

There’s No I in PMO

Are You a Decisive or Divisive Decision Maker?

Categories: Communication

By Lynda Bourne

The way decisions are made can lead to division and discord—or to understanding and commitment. What’s your style?

The Divisive Decision Maker

Divisive decision makers give the appearance of strength and speed.  Every issue is quickly reviewed by the manager (even when they don’t necessarily need to be involved) and a decision is decreed. The manager then expects everyone to comply with the outcome; dissent and alternatives are not tolerated (to do so would be a sign of weakness).

The problems with divisive decision-making include:

  • The assumption that, in all things, the leader knows best.
  • There is a lack of consensus—people are expected to do what they’re told.
  • There is no commitment from the rest of the team to implement the decision.
  • There is a high likelihood the decision will stop being implemented when the manager looks away to focus on the next important decision.

Unfortunately, in many situations, being seen as an assertive decision maker is confused with being an effective decision-maker.

The Decisive Decision Maker

Decisive decision makers recognize that making a decision is only one step along the road to a good outcome. They know they need others to collaborate if the decision is going to achieve the intended result and actually stick. Rather than rushing, they spend time thinking through the decision-making process.

Considerations for the decisive decision maker include:

  1. How urgent is the decision? As with the divisive decision maker, decisive decision makers know that a prompt decision is better than a delayed decision. And, in an emergency, the best option is for the decision maker to issue an order and use his or her authority to enforce the decision. However, the vast majority of decisions do not need an immediate answer (even if a senior manager is asking for one “NOW!”). And in those instances, the decisive decision maker spends time thinking through the best options to achieve the outcome he or she would like.
  2. Does the leader need to make the decision or does the leader need to facilitate a decision-making process? Unlike divisive decision makers, decisive decision makers do not need to be the fountain of all decisions. They let the right people make the decision and let those people take credit for the work. They use their authority to support an effective process, taking the actual decision-making role only when needed to get the best outcome.
  3. What type of decision is being made? Decisive decision-makers understand there are various types of decisions (ranging from simple problems to dilemmas and beyond) and use this knowledge to determine the best decision-making process for each situation.

Decisive decision making allows the leader to use the decision-making process to reinforce the team and build commitment to the overall project and to making the specific decision stick.

 

Also, because the decisive decision maker focuses on achieving the best outcomes, they are better positioned to review and adapt any decision if later or better information shows that an improvement or change is desirable. (At the same time, however, decisive decision makers know the difference between dithering—the hallmark of people who cannot make decisions—and making prudent changes to a decision based on new circumstances.)

A divisive decision maker, on the other hand, tends to see any change to a decision they have made as a threat to their credibility as a decision maker.

What tips do you have for dealing with divisive decision makers?

Posted by Lynda Bourne on: November 30, 2016 03:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (10)

Managing Your First Strategic Initiative? Here’s What You Need to Know

 

By Kevin Korterud

 

Beware: Strategic initiatives aren’t the same as typical projects—they tend to be considerably more complex. For example, strategic initiatives are usually bound by some form of dramatic urgency around schedule (regulatory, market), costs (process improvement) or consumer satisfaction (subscription, satisfaction).

But the differences don’t end there. Let’s look at some other complex dimensions that must be considered when leading a strategic initiative:

 

1. Stakeholder Management

The stakeholder landscape is much more broad on a strategic initiative than a project. In strategic initiatives, stakeholders typically span multiple departments within a company, creating multiple primary stakeholder groups. And these stakeholder groups will often have nearly equal shares in the success of the initiative, thus creating potential authority conflicts.

In addition, there are also governance functions—risk management, legal, etc.—that will have either a primary or secondary stakeholder role.

 

2. Communications

The complex stakeholder landscape necessitates communication processes that serve vastly different audiences. There exists both a two-dimensional communications problem: one dimension is horizontal (i.e., across stakeholders) and the other is vertical (i.e., involving higher levels of leadership). What once was a linear communication process on a project now becomes more of a matrix process to deal with the breadth and depth of stakeholders.

Communications will need to be carefully tailored to different functions and levels of stakeholders. For example, more detail for operational functions, and simple, high-level summaries for leadership consumption. 

 

3. Progress Tracking

Strategic initiatives bring with them inherent complexities that can quickly overpower the progress report tracking processes that are commonly used to manage projects.

For example, strategic initiatives will typically have more suppliers than on a typical project. These additional suppliers bring with them different commercial arrangements, delivery methods, status reporting formats and progress metrics. On top of that, all of these progress tracking components need to be harmonized across the various suppliers in order to achieve a cohesive and durable view of progress position.

Project managers will need to review, refine and agree on common progress tracking processes, reporting and metrics that are universally accepted by all suppliers. By creating this single harmonized view of progress tracking, you are more readily able to identify and address delivery volatility.

 

When first presented with the prospect of leading a strategic initiative, project managers need to balance the excitement of leading a high-visibility engagement with the practical realities of effectively and efficiently managing delivery. By putting essentials in place, project managers can successfully move on to the next step in the career journey: leading their second strategic initiative!

What essentials can your share with project managers new to strategic initiatives that will put them on the path to success?

 

Posted by Kevin Korterud on: November 20, 2016 12:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

Risk Priority vs. Risk Urgency

Categories: Risk Management

By Marian Haus, PMP

How do you identify the most important risk(s) to focus on during a project? It is the essential challenge of risk management.

One technique is the qualitative risks appraisal—using qualifiers to assess risk importance. Two popular qualifiers are risk priority and risk urgency. While the terms can have overlapping meanings, they each reflect different qualitative dimensions of project risks.

The Terms Defined

Risk priority combines the assessed likelihood of a risk to occur (i.e. risk probability) and its projected impact. Risk urgency, on the other hand, is a different risk dimension. It reflects the time criticality of a risk to occur.

By assessing risk priority, project managers can identify and focus on the high-priority risks. By appraising risk urgency project managers can ascertain the time left before measures or responses would need to be implemented. With risk priority the main focus is on the impact, whereas with risk urgency the main focus is on the measures or responses that are to be implemented in a timely fashion.

I see risk priority and risk urgency as complementary dimensions of risk management. They both deserve an equally important treatment from project managers.

Assessing Priority and Urgency

For some projects, project leads might treat risk priority and urgency separately. For others, they might combine the risk priority and the risk urgency to amplify the risk priority.

When treated separately, a very common approach to assess priority is the (probability x impact) matrix. Additionally, a (impact x urgency) matrix helps project managers focus on the high-impacting and immediate risks.

When treated together a (priority x urgency) matrix can help project managers assessing the risk severity, which is a derived qualitative risk dimension.

Here are two examples:

Risk #1: Our database will exceed its available disk-space capacity during the project.

Probability: Medium (considering the data volume increase observed over the past x months)

Impact: High (considering this could lead to business interruption and financial loses)

Urgency: A response might be needed in 4 to 6 months (the project runs for 12 months)

The (probability x impact) matrix will rank this risk as a high priority risk, yet the low urgency will categorize the same risk in a (impact x urgency) matrix as requiring monitoring rather than immediate action.

Risk #2: An approaching heavy storm may lead to power outages in our manufacturing line.

Probability: Medium (considering this has happened a few times in the past and our power reserve infrastructure is reliable)

Impact: High (considering this could lead to temporary production standstill)

Urgency: Verify immediately the status of the power reserve capacity

The (probability x impact) matrix will tell us that this risk cannot be ignored and the (impact x urgency) matrix will tell us that this risk requires immediate action and continuous risk monitoring.

The big takeaway: Risk #2 is both a priority and urgency risk.

How do you distinguish between risk priority and risk urgency? 

Posted by Marian Haus on: November 17, 2016 04:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Facing Generational Needs

Categories: Leadership, PMI, Volunteering

By Conrado Morlan

“Those who criticize our generation forget who raised it.” ―Unknown

I had the opportunity to attend PMI® Leadership Institute Meeting 2016—North America in San Diego, California, USA, and met PMI chapter board members from several countries.

An ongoing conversation during that meeting centered on how to renew and refresh chapter membership and appeal to younger generations.

One of the foundations that will help PMI chapters better interact with multi-generational communities is to develop and master “generational competence,” which according to Ceridian “describe the adaptations or competencies organizations must develop today to meet the very diverse needs of four generations in the workforce and the marketplace.”

While discussing the topic with my fellow chapter board members, I found there is a common belief that generations are defined by age when in reality generations are defined by common experiences and key events.

Also much of the research around generations and generational differences has grown out of the United States and therefore is U.S.-focused.

Here are some alternatives to the typical generational buckets:

U.S. Generation Name

Approximate Years of Birth

Alternate Terminology

Matures

1914 - 1945

Traditionalists (USA), Silent Generation (USA), Veterans (USA),

Baby Boomer

1946 - 1963

Generation Me (USA), Unlucky Generation (China), Dankai Generation (Japan)

Generation X

1964 - 1980

MTV Generation (USA), Baby Bust Generation (USA), Génération Bof (France), Crisis Generation (Latin America), Burnt Generation (Iran), Generation Bharat (India)

Generation Y

1981 - 2001

Millennials (USA), Generation Next (USA), Yutori Generation (Japan), Generation Pu (Russia), Born-Free Generation (South Africa)

Generation Z

 

Mid 90’s or Early 2000s -

Globals (USA), Post-Millennials (USA), iGen (USA), Digital Natives (USA), Globalized India (India)

Even individuals born in the same approximate marker years are defined differently by the events they have experienced. For example while the U.S. Baby Boomer generation is associated with the notion of the "American Dream,” the Unlucky Generation in China lived through three years of famine and cultural revolution.

At the same time, many of these generations are tied to stereotypes. For example, “Millennials are entitled narcissists,” “Gen Y looks for instant gratification,” “They are not capable of interacting offline,” are some of the comments I’ve heard. Stereotyping, however, fuels conflict within a multigenerational community.

What Generation Y Thinks

During the Leadership Institute Meeting, I looked for opportunities to speak with Generation Y attendees. Across the board, they felt PMI board members from older generations need to develop generational competence to bridge the gap of understanding. This competence will help them learn how to communicate, connect and engage with potential PMI members of different generations.

Membership campaigns will need to align with Generation Y values—happiness, passion, diversity, sharing and discovery, according to Patrick Spenner, a strategic initiatives leader at CEB.

PMI chapters will need to promote the profession as one that:

  • Offers continuous challenges as changes in projects happen
  • Enables growth in organizations and makes the work exciting
  • Opens new opportunities in different industries as project management skills are highly transferable

Perhaps the most important takeaway in my discussions with Generation Y members was that they reject generational labels. Call them young professionals

As a project manager volunteering for a PMI chapter, what is the most challenging situation you have faced within a multigenerational community?

Posted by Conrado Morlan on: November 16, 2016 10:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

There’s No I in PMO

by Cyndee Miller

Executive coaches love their sports metaphors. But for me, a good PMO is a lot like a killer band. From the singer to the manager to the unheralded sound-check guy, it takes everybody doing their part to get results.

At BC Hydro—this year’s PMO of the Year—everyone from the document controllers and project managers to the project directors and portfolio managers are working together.

“It’s really them who won the award,” said Ken McKenzie, vice president of capital infrastructure project delivery for the Canadian utility. “They put in the hard work every day.”

And wow, are they delivering results: In the last five years, over the course of 563 projects, BC Hydro’s projects came in an aggregate CA$12 million under budget.

Like any successful band, the BC Hydro PMO also relies on buy-in from above. “Without that executive sponsorship it’s really difficult. They’re a big part of why our PMO is so successful.”

Mr. McKenzie graciously recognized the other two finalists as well: “I’d really like to congratulate the other two finalists, Entel and Parker Aerospace.”

He encouraged other organizations to pursue the award—and not just for the cred. “It makes companies get an external perspective,” he said. “It’s a fantastic process, and I learned a lot about our PMO in the process.”

For an inside look at the three PMOs, check out videos on PMI’s YouTube channel and look for in-depth case studies on each of them in upcoming PM Network issues.

That’s an official wrap on this year’s coverage. Fear not, we’ll be headed back for more PMO Symposium action 5-8 November in Houston, Texas, USA.

Posted by Cyndee Miller on: November 11, 2016 03:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)
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