by Christian Bisson
Conflicts arise on any team. It’s inevitable. What’s important is making sure they’re resolved before they grow into something bigger.
It often feels like unfamiliar territory to some, but resolver of conflicts is one of the many hats a scrum master must wear. And while there’s no singular right way to resolve conflict, I’ve found success with following steps:
Ensure those in the conflict have someone they can talk to. Once they get their feelings out, the door is open for them to act more rationally toward the other, or it gives you an opportunity to go deeper (see below).
Encourage a conversation.
It may sound simple, but a big part of conflict resolution is allowing both sides to hear one another. By default, we work to avoid conflicts and we’ll avoid the conversation that we know we should have as adults to make our conflict go away.
As a scrum master, there’s room to suggest bringing the other party into the resolution. The worst that will happen is that the team member will refuse, giving you an opportunity to dig deeper to gain a greater understanding and then ask questions to understand what’s really going on.
Even after you listen and encourage a conversation, it still may not be enough to resolve the situation. You may have to dig a bit deeper. Analyze the situation: Who initiated the conflict? In other words, who seemed to respond negatively to an event/response? That’s the first person you want to talk to. Ask open-ended questions to help the team member arrive at a rational thought/answer. And hopefully, that person will open up.
What are your biggest lessons learned from resolving conflict within your project teams
by Marat Oyvetsky, PMP
When professional service organizations work with customers to implement technical solutions, teams often rely on in-house technical staff for support and system/network access during implementation, testing, validation and training. And this is happening more during the pandemic. With limited access to onsite facilities, internal customer teams are more involved in the design and implementation process as they facilitate access and internal knowledge vital to the project. This creates management and resource issues that many professional services teams never had to face prior to COVID-19.
It starts with establishing regular communications with customer stakeholders—they’re the first line in advocating for the project’s success. They invested their company in the solution and are the champions of the project. Along with discussing the milestones, budget, issues and risks, project leaders should expand the conversation to include resource allocation for the customer’s project. Transparency is also vital in not only building trust but also in ensuring customer stakeholders fully comprehend what resources—both internal and external—are required for each task and milestone and what the overall level of effort might be. This will allow them to not only plan their own internal company requirements but to work with the project leader in planning their team’s support of the project.
Establishing internal and external customer communication becomes even more vital in situations where the implementation team relies on the customer team knowledge and access to complete certain tasks and milestones. Creating internal team meetings will allow the professional services team to discuss the project, the issues, risks and tasks associated with each milestone and align on all the project. Creating external customer team meetings will allow both teams to come together and review the project in full—addressing the issues, risks and milestones together and following a plan to completion in lockstep.
Project leaders also must be aligned with the customer engineering managers. In many cases, the professional services project leader has all of the responsibility and none of the required power necessary to drive the customer teams to complete certain tasks and milestones as they also have a responsibility to their own jobs. Communicating the tasks, milestones, level of effort and requirements to customer engineering management will allow the project leader to sync with customer management and ensure resource requests for time and deadlines are communicated and planned for. And that will keep the project and the teams on track and on budget.
COVID has created many challenges in working remotely for both professional services organizations and commercial company teams. One of the best solutions? Solid and planned communication between the professional services organization, the customer stakeholders and the teams to ensure transparency, resource planning, milestone, task and dependency alignment.
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve encountered in aligning stakeholders during the pandemic?
by Lynda Bourne
Projects mean reports! Many project teams are required to produce weekly and monthly reports for their client as part of a contract, or because of an internal set of reporting requirements. This process comes with challenges:
That raises a big question: Do we need traditional reports? Developments in business intelligence, artificial intelligence and system integrations offer a far more useful solution—putting real-time information in front of the people who really need to know now.
Most of the information on virtually every project (even traditional construction projects) is recorded in various software tools. With a little bit of organization, the data can be brought into a business intelligence (BI) system in real time. The result: a dashboard showing what’s occurring in real time, usually with a drill-down capability to see what has changed and why.
The problem with BI is usually too much information and added noise created by different elements within the tool being updated, edited and corrected at different times. This generates false differences for short periods of time. This is where artificial intelligence (AI) comes in to play two useful roles:
Do reports still have a role? My answer is yes, but it’s a different role. Reports are needed to explain something or to show the results of an investigation or inquiry. For example, a team (or individual) may be tasked to report on the preferred subcontractor to engage for a particular role on a project. The report provides leadership with the information and options needed to make a decision. In fact, this would be a far better use of the time currently spent by PMO and project staff preparing and distributing weekly and monthly reports.
I want to hear your thoughts: Do traditional reports still have a place among project teams?
I’ve been familiar with remote work and virtual teams since 2010. I’ve also witnessed how digital transformation has enabled the adoption of new business models, flatter organizational structures and hybrid project management approaches since then.
In the wake of the global pandemic, I’ve received many questions about building high-performing virtual teams, and how to improve collaboration and productivity as a whole in the workforce.
Before I share some lessons learned with you, I’d like to remind you that we live in uncommon times. Predictions and models aren’t capable of guiding us as they were before the crisis. As quickly as teams have adapted to going virtual, there remains a great deal of uncertainty and a number of challenges that have yet to be overcome.
Going back to January 2020, you and your team likely were used to working together in a particular context. Maybe you had flexible working hours, and some team members worked remotely. Perhaps you were all working 9 to 5 in the same physical office space. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you had a routine.
When the world came to a full lockdown, the concept of remote work and the modern workplace shifted dramatically. We also saw the shuttering of schools and places of business. I told my employees and team members in March: We don’t expect you to be as productive as you were in the office. Take your time, take care of your family and health.
With time, people started adjusting and adapting to the so-called new normal—and forming new habits. There are many books and references about habit formation. I came across an insightful research article published by the European Journal of Social Psychology, which concludes that the repetition of behavior in a consistent context results in increasing automaticity and productivity.
As we made our way in the new work ecosystem, we thought we needed some structured guidance. We addressed that with open discussions, one-on-one meetings, and a shared space for ideas, emotions and lessons learned about working from home.
New Habits for the New Normal
Through a collaborative effort, my team built a work-from-home manual. It’s not mandatory, but it does provide some helpful advice:
Now I’d like to leave you some food for thought:
Let me know in the comments below.
Alexis Ohanian has racked up quite a list of accomplishments in his 37 years. He cofounded Reddit, sold it and then came back to help rescue it. He wrote a bestselling book. He cofounded a seed stage venture fund. But when it came time to have a chat with one of his fellow speakers at the latest gathering in PMI’s Virtual Experience Series, he seemed deeply concerned that people were going to be convinced he was a slacker. It wasn’t entirely unjustified. He was, after all, talking to Tanya Elizabeth Ken, the 17-year-old founder of LakshyaShala, an NGO dedicated to helping kids around the world gain equal access to education.
No shocker here, both of them had some interesting thoughts on how to revamp the educational ecosystem—a timely topic as kids around the world head back to school.
Introducing children to the virtual classroom forms habits that impact future work behaviors and outcomes. “Teaching someone how to learn online unlocks all kinds of doors,” Ohanian said.
With the vast power harnessed by digital learning comes an even greater responsibility to create platforms that are accessible. Despite all of the technological advances spurred by the global pandemic, systems of education remain unbalanced across the globe.
“Virtual learning can reach a wider audience, but we need to take into account the people who don’t have the access/resources,” said Ken. “If you want to solve a problem like equality in education, then we need to solve all the hindrances families are seeing.”
There’s still work to be done, she said. And while improving access to education sits high on her priority list, so too does improving the quality of education.
“The education system does not teach us entrepreneurship and project management skills,” Ken said.
Ohanian admitted he didn’t think much about project management until college and even then he used it mostly to plan his EverQuest guild or Quake 2 clan. But he also said those skills were the only way he was able to develop Reddit. “Project management is how you build a startup,” he said. (It’s also apparently how he helped plan his rather complex wedding. “It wasn’t always that romantic, but it was effective, gosh darn it.”)
Whatever the project you’re working on, this is a time that demands the ability to contend with astounding change. And empowering students to think of themselves as problem-solvers builds that agility from early on, said Ohanian. “Real life doesn’t have a syllabus,” he said. “The more a student can exercise the muscles of resilience, the better.”
Part of building resilience—on projects and in the classroom—is pushing past failure.
“You’re taught to avoid failure at all costs as a student, to get good grades, but life is full of failures and setbacks,” he said. “Get comfortable with failure—not because you’re not doing the work, but because struggling and disappointment and learning from it, that’s life.”
That theme of resiliency bubbled up quite a bit and it’s no doubt emerging as the new must-have skill as we all attempt to navigate the next normal. The goal shouldn’t be to just bounce back, but to bounce forward, said session speaker Greg Githens, PMP. Expect to be surprised—and seize the unknown, he said. Don’t let uncertainty stall progress: Do a lot and do it now, said session speaker Norma Lynch, PMP.
So get cracking. And get ready for the next Experience PMI event, “A New World View: Our Global Impact,” slated for 20 October: http://ow.ly/569n50Biskx
Before we reconvene on the Interweb, tell me: How are you becoming a more resilient leader?