The Importance of ACCURATE Communication
by Lynda Bourne
A number of recent examples from the corporate arena illustrate that being oblivious to unethical or illegal behaviour happening within an organization is not an acceptable excuse for allowing it to occur. Leaders will be held responsible—even when they claim to have no knowledge of the situation.
In a recently reported case, a very senior director was found to be in breach of his duties by the Federal Court of Australia because he didn’t make appropriate inquiries when alerted to the possibility of illegal actions taking place within his organization.
This is far from a unique example. The people governing your organization are coming under increasing pressure to know what is going on at every level — and to take appropriate actions as necessary.
What does this mean for the average person working in a project management office (PMO) or on a project team? Because projects and programs are becoming increasingly important to the development and growth of organizations, information about the performance of projects and programs now plays a critical role in the governance of the organization. This means you are responsible for ensuring the information delivered to executives is accurate.
But you cannot fulfil this obligation alone. It takes a team effort.
Ensuring the right information reaches the right levels of the organization involves creating the right governance systems and structures. These systems operate best in a culture of openness and accountability — and require leadership from the highest levels of the organization to operate well.
Project professionals can support these systems, but we cannot do a lot to create the necessary culture. We can, however, have a major influence on how information is created and disseminated in the governance system.
The key facets we can control are interlinked and interdependent, and are summed up in the acronym ACCURATE:
Available: The project information has to be accessible in various appropriate formats to all levels of management.
Complete: The project information needs to provide a full picture of the current and forecasted situation.
Concise: Executives are busy people—excessive detail does not help. They need to understand the bottom line.
Understandable: Project management is full of technical jargon. While we may understand the difference between EAC and VAC, executives will not. Communicate in business language.
Relevant: Just because it’s important to the project team doesn’t mean it’s important to the overall organization. Communicate information that is relevant to the achievement of business objectives.
Auditable: If asked, you need to be able to provide the source of the information and the processing steps taken to consolidate and communicate the information.
Timely: Markets operate in a 24-hour news cycle. Important information needs to be communicated immediately (you cannot wait for the monthly report).
Explainable: Project professionals need to be available to explain the information and help executives understand the consequences (typically this is a key role of an effective PMO).
Just as witnesses in court promise to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, project professionals have an ethical responsibility to make sure the information they are communicating meets this standard and is also ACCURATE.
How can you work toward ACCURATE communication in the New Year?
Project Leaders as Ethical Role Models
Human Aspects of PM,
New to Project Management,
Nontraditional Project Management,
PM Think About It,
Reflections on the PM Life,
Categories: Best Practices, Career Help, Communication, Communication, Complexity, Ethics, Facilitation, Generational PM, Human Aspects of PM, Leadership, Leadership, New to Project Management, Nontraditional Project Management, PM Think About It, PMI, PMOs, Portfolio Management, Program Management, Project Delivery, Project Failure, Project Planning, Project Requirements, Reflections on the PM Life, Roundtable, Social Responsibility, Stakeholder, Strategy, Talent Management, Teams, Tools
By Peter Tarhanidis
This month’s theme at projectmanagement.com is ethics. Project leaders are in a great position to be role models of ethical behavior. They can apply a system of values to drive the whole team’s ethical behavior.
First: What is ethics, exactly? It’s a branch of knowledge exploring the tension between the values one holds and how one acts in terms of right or wrong. This tension creates a complex system of moral principles that a particular group follows, which defines its culture. The complexity stems from how much value each person places on his or her principles, which can lead to conflict with other individuals.
Professional ethics can come from three sources:
In project management, project leaders have a great opportunity to be seen as setting ethical leadership in an organization. Those project leaders who can align an organization’s values and integrate PMI’s ethics into each project will increase the team’s ethical behavior.
PMI defines ethics as the moral principles that govern a person’s or group’s behavior. The values include honesty, responsibility, respect and fairness.
For example, a project leader who uses the PMI® Code of Ethics to increase a team’s ethical behavior might:
Please share any other ideas for elevating the ethical standards of project leaders and teams, and/or your own experiences!
Daniel Kahneman, Nobel laureate in behavioral economics and author of Thinking, Fast and Slow, has written about how people tend to make decisions based on the potential value of losses and gains rather than the final outcome. Considering our common cognitive and emotional biases, how can we cope with daily ethics challenges with integrity?
We humans are in some ways predictably irrational. “Common sense” doesn’t mean best practices. Some people might have totally appropriate but opposite stances on the same topic.
Does that mean ethical practices are a matter of choice? Of course not—ethics are a matter of common good: In his book Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do, Michael Sandel explores timeless philosophical and theoretical questions with real-world examples. He does the same in this video:
My conclusion is that the more we abide by a code of ethics based on strict rules and procedures, the more people tend to display unethical behaviors when faced with gray areas and edge cases.
So what’s the solution?
In How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life, Russ Roberts provides extremely valuable insights to the question above. In summary, we are much better off by teaching and praising Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments than by creating new regulations and sanctions to prevent unethical behavior.
What All This Means for Project Managers
What’s the upshot of all this for project management professionals? We must abide by the PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct, but it’s even more important that we adhere to ethics focused on the common good.
Project managers face extreme pressure. Shortcuts are tempting—but in the long run they seldom pay off. Here are two examples of unethical temptations that put our work into the broader moral perspective that I think is so valuable.
It’s easy to point fingers at doctors and lawyers—their work dramatically impacts people’s lives. A mistake made by a prosecutor may imprison an innocent. A doctor’s mistake may kill or handicap a patient.
How about project managers’ mistakes? You may put your project in jeopardy, of course. But that’s not all: You may put your team members, client and other stakeholders at risk. You may even bankrupt your organization.
The bottom line: The most surefire way to maintain high ethical standards is to think frequently about the far-reaching impacts of your work—on worker safety, the environment and social well-being, for example. Our choices matter—in ways we can’t necessarily anticipate.
How do you respond to everyday ethical challenges in your project management practice? Share your thoughts below.
Project managers work hard to keep stakeholders informed. Nonetheless, sometimes when a stakeholder asks about the status of a project, he or she gets the impression that a project manager is hiding something or being less than honest.
Here are three circumstances where stakeholders may get this feeling, and how you as the project manager can handle them to ensure you’re viewed as trustworthy.
1. You can’t disclose certain information or documents. On our projects, we become the caretaker of all information and documents, including some that can be extremely sensitive. Stakeholders might request the home phone number of a team member, the contingency target of a budget or other confidential information. In some cases, your organization may require a security clearance or other confidentiality measures.
In this sort of scenario, it’s appropriate for a project manager to say, “Let me check on disclosure agreements and provide allowable information."
2. You’re the bearer of bad news. Project managers sometimes must communicate negative issues, risks or unforeseen events to stakeholders. The risk here is that a stakeholder might believe the project manager had prior knowledge of the problem, or even allowed the problem to fester as a way of extracting additional funds for the project.
To avoid a “shoot the messenger” scenario, it’s a good idea to not blame someone for a problem. A better tactic here may be to arrange a discussion on the topic with key decision-makers. This could lead to a satisfactory acceptance or a suitable compromise.
3. You made an error. You may have inadvertently distributed a report with wrong information. Mistakes happen. As soon as possible, apologize and acknowledge that the wrong information was given.
Our reputations as project managers depend on us being creditable and trustworthy. We must always be honest and remain professional and polite, no matter what the concerns of a stakeholder are.
How do you handle stakeholders who question the truthfulness of a project’s status?
By Lynda Bourne
The project management world and the wider business community are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of soft skills. However, as I know only too well from working with clients through my project management consultancy, there’s a big difference between managers being aware of their importance and actually investing in developing the capabilities.
Before most organizations (and individuals) will invest in improving soft-skill capabilities, their value needs to be demonstrated.
A recent report prepared for McDonald’s UK provides a solid foundation for understanding the importance of soft skills to the U.K. economy. It’s likely indicative of the situation in similar economies such as the United States, Canada and Australia.
Soft skills fall into six interlinked sets of competencies, according to a Michigan State University study, “Comparative Analysis of Skills: What Is Important for New Graduates”:
· Communication skills
· Decision-making/problem-solving skills
· Self-management skills
· Teamwork skills
· Professionalism skills
· Leadership skills
To value these skills within the overall economy required some extensive analysis. The overall productivity in the economy was disaggregated into the five drivers of productivity: investment, skills, innovation, entrepreneurship and competition.
The skills driver was then further disaggregated into parts: technical skills, technology skills, literacy, numeracy and soft skills. Soft skills covered the range of capabilities outlined above.
Based on this analysis, soft skills were found to underpin around 6.5 percent of the U.K. economy, and this contribution was expected to grow strongly over the next five years.
The research highlighted that employers rated soft skills above academic qualifications, with 97 percent believing these skills are important to current business success. Worryingly, 75 percent of employers say there is a soft skills deficit within the U.K. workforce.
The report also quotes a range of surveys from the U.S. showing soft skills were ranked ahead of or equal to other competencies, but many job applicants don’t list soft skills in their résumés.
In the U.K., 54 percent of employees have never included soft skills on their CV, and one in five felt they would be uncomfortable discussing their soft skills with an employer.
Deficiencies in the U.K.’s current stock of soft skills were found to impose severe penalties on the economy, causing major problems for business and resulting in diminished productivity, competitiveness and profitability. And over half a million U.K. workers will be significantly held back by soft skills deficits by 2020, according to the research.
Soft skills matter and contribute significantly to productivity. But there is a measurable—and widening—skills gap, and soft skills are underrepresented in skills development initiatives probably because results are hard to measure. Changing this attitude is a major challenge for organizations, business and individuals seeking career development.
How do you think soft skills can be developed?