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

Promoting Project Management In Conversation

The Strategic Alignment of the Project Portfolio (Part 2)

The Strategic Alignment of the Project Portfolio (Part 1)

5 Steps to Manage Project Dependencies

Are You Documenting Smartly?

The Project Manager’s Influence, Part 2

Categories: Stakeholder, Teams

by Lynda Bourne

In my last post, I discussed one of the more effective approaches for understanding team interaction: the McKinsey 7-S framework. The basic premise of framework is that there are seven internal aspects of an organization that need to be aligned for a company to succeed:  

  • Strategy: The agreed-upon approach to accomplishing the project’s objectives
  • Structure: The way the project team is organized, including who reports to whom
  • Systems: The tools, techniques, and processes used by the team to execute the strategy
  • Shared Values: The core values of the team that are evidenced in its culture and general work ethic.
  • Style: The behavior patterns of the team, how people interact, and their approaches to leadership and authority
  • Staff: The makeup of the team — “having the right people on the bus,” as Jim Collins writes in his book Good to Great
  • Skills: The existing skills and competencies of team members

Project managers can have the most impact on style and shared values. These elements are typically set at the beginning of a project and new team members tend to adapt based on what they see from their colleagues.

Changing these elements mid-project is difficult. If you start right, the tendency will be to perpetuate the good behaviors as the team grows.

However, if you need to spur a shift, I suggest taking these steps:

  • Start with shared values. Are they consistent with your structure, strategy, and systems? If not, what needs to change and how can those changes be implemented?
  • Examine the hard elements next. How well does each one support the others? Identify where changes need to be made. The project’s objectives don’t change but everything else can be adapted (including the strategic approach) to maximize the chance of a successful delivery.
  • Finally, look at the soft elements. Do they support the desired shared values? Do they support the desired hard elements? Do they support one another? If not, what needs to change?

As you adjust and align the elements, you'll need to use an iterative approach. Make adjustments, then analyze how those changes have impacted other elements and their alignment. This may sound like hard work, but the end result of better performance will be worth it.

What are your tips for shifting your team’s style and shared?

Posted by Lynda Bourne on: March 29, 2017 04:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (9)

Playing the Right Leadership Role

Leadership Role

By Peter Tarhanidis

It is not unusual for project leaders to fill a variety of leadership roles over the course of the many unique initiatives we take on.

As I transition from one client, program, employer or team to another, my personal challenge is to quickly work out the best leadership role to play in my new environment. Therefore, I find it helpful to have some knowledge of leadership theory and research.

Leaders must understand the role they fill in relation to staff and management. That typically falls into three categories, as defined by Henry Mintzberg, Cleghorn Professor of Management Studies at the Desautels Faculty of Management of McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada:

Interpersonal: A leader who is either organizing the firm or a department, or acting as an intermediary. He or she is the figurehead, leader or liaison.

Informational: A leader that gathers, communicates and shares information with internal and external stakeholders. He or she is the mentor, disseminator, and spokesman.

Decisional: A leader that governs and has to make decisions, manage conflict and negotiate accords. He or she is the entrepreneur, disturbance handler, resource allocator and negotiator.

During one of my recent transitions, I thought I was a decisional leader, but I was expected to play an informational role. When I acted on information rather than sharing it and gaining consensus toward a common goal, my team was very confused. That’s why it’s so important to know the role you’re expected to fill.

When you start a new effort, how do you determine what role you’re expected to play? How has that contributed to your success?

Posted by Peter Tarhanidis on: March 17, 2017 09:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (12)

Don’t Forget About Human Resources

By Taralyn Frasqueri-Molina

Because human resources is so process-oriented, it’s easy to overlook its need for project and program management.

The human resources department’s projects may not be customer-facing and highly visible, but it is very likely that they will make your work life easier! They might be focused on integrating or retrofitting an HR information system, changing an organization-wide benefits provider, developing a new employee handbook or designing and releasing an employee satisfaction survey.

I’ve had the pleasure of working on several HR projects. Though they weren’t product launches delivering external customer value, they were critical to internal business operations. Because they are so essential to internal success, if you’re the person responsible for enterprise roadmapping, you must ensure HR projects are part of the way forward.

One human resources area that benefits exceptionally well from stellar project management is organizational design. Don’t pass up the chance to work on an organization redesign project—you’ll be teaming up with not only human resources, but also with service designers, team managers and executive leadership.

There are many stages to an organizational design project. Organizational design projects have a lot of moving parts. Early on, it can be easy to get stuck in the research and design parts, constantly reviewing and revising. Later, ensuring companywide adoption can seem like a never-ending slog. A project manager can be a boon during these critical phases by keeping the focus on smaller, incremental milestones, and communicating when that milestone progress is made. This keeps the project moving forward, the momentum continuing even though the results of the final goal may be nebulous and still too far away.

In the end, you’ll deliver a model that will become the operating structure for the entire organization—helping all of its employees navigate through a changing business environment. And maybe even disruptive changes that pose grave threats to the organization.

What types of human resources projects have you led? Where else do you thinking project management could be beneficial for human resources?

Posted by Taralyn Frasqueri-Molina on: January 05, 2017 04:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

Customizing Your Leadership Style

 

by Peter Tarhanidis

I’ve served in various leadership roles throughout my career. In one role, I worked with engineers to build and deliver a technical roadmap of solutions. In another, I was charged with coordinating team efforts to ensure a post-merger integration would be successful.

All of my leadership roles ultimately taught me there’s no-one-size-fits-all style for how to head up a team. Instead, the situation and structure of the team determines the right approach.

Traditional teams are comprised of a sole leader in charge of several team members with set job descriptions and specialized skills, each with individual tasks and accountability. The leader in this environment serves as the chief motivator, the coach and mentor, and the culture enforcer. He or she is also the primary role model—and therefore expected to set a strong example.

But, this traditional team setup is not always the norm.

Take self-managed teams, for example. On these teams, the roles are interchangeable, the team is accountable as one unit, the work is interdependent, the job roles are flexible and the team is multi-skilled, according to Leadership: Theory, Application, & Skill Development, written by Robert M. Lussier, a professor of business management at Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts, USA.

On a self-managed team, each person’s capabilities support the team’s overall effectiveness. While these teams do need to have their efforts coordinated, they spread leadership accountability across the group.

Members each initiate and coordinate team efforts without relying on an individual leader’s direction, according to Expertise Coordination over Distance: Shared Leadership in Dispersed New Product Development Teams by Miriam Muethel and Martin Hoegl.

Effective leaders adjust their style to the needs of varied situations and the capability of their followers. Their styles are not automatic. Instead, they get to know their team members and ensure their teams are set up to succeed.

How do you pick the right leadership style to use with your teams?

Posted by Peter Tarhanidis on: December 22, 2016 03:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)

How to Influence Others

Categories: Stakeholder

by Lynda Bourne

I recently wrote a post about influencing without authority, which looked at building credibility and “currency” to trade for the support you need. Those ideas buy you a seat at the table. This post looks at ways you can influence situations to move everyone to a satisfactory outcome once you’re at that table.

Smart influencers recognise it is often futile to work against powerful resistance. Rather than fighting the situation (and making it worse) they look for subtle ways to influence the outcome. Key methods of smart influencers include:

  • Being open and aware. In stressful situations, effective influencers slow down, take a breath and observe before taking action. When we focus on our breathing we relax, which increases our perception, can provide a new perspective and heightens empathy.
  • Using movement to trigger an attitude change. Suggest, for example, going downstairs for a coffee. It may open up other ways of “moving together.”
  • Using the space around you to influence attitudes—both in formal meetings and in your own office. Creating the right ambience will help you influence others. Things to consider include:
    • A meeting table is divided into personal zones. These zones are maintained zealously. Make sure you don’t inadvertently cross the lines.
    • Be aware of personal space and seating hierarchies. Rather than confronting the “opposition” across a rectangular meeting table, consider setting up a round table where everyone can work together.
  • Using collective language. “We” is almost always better than “you.”
  • Avoiding closed questions. It is easier to avoid getting a “no” in the first place than to change a “no” into a “yes” later. Consider these three examples:
    • “Do you like my suggestion?” This is a closed question and if the answer is “no” you have nowhere to go.
    • “You do not appear to like my suggestion, why?” This is better. You now have a conversation starter but the ‘why’ has negative implications. It may seem as though you are blaming the other person for disagreeing with you.
    • “How could my suggestion be improved to make it acceptable to you?” This opens up a whole new paradigm. If the person makes some suggestions that are incorporated into the overall proposal, the proposal becomes “our suggestion.”
  • Focusing on what you want to achieve. By openly stating what you want to achieve, you lead by example and create an opportunity for others to do the same.
  • Keeping body language in mind. For most people, the reaction to body language is subconscious. It can help or hinder your attempts to influence. Focus on:
    • Paying attention. This makes the other person feel valued and is likely to enhance your ability to influence the situation.
    • Your hands. Gestures can have very different interpretations in different cultures.
    • Not overreacting to body language. It is a complex language and generally reacting to superficial signs can cause more harm than good. But paradoxically, your subconscious reading of the whole situation will often be accurate.
    • Not faking body language (unless you are a professional actor). To get yours right you need to have the right attitude first and then let nature do its bit. For more information on this, read Influence: Body Language Silent Influencing by Michael Nir.

The ability to influence people is a key leadership skill. One way to acquire the skill is to watch others in a group situation and see how the people who are influencing attitudes and actions are behaving. Then try emulating their behaviours in your next meeting.

How effective are you at influencing others?

Posted by Lynda Bourne on: September 13, 2016 08:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (17)
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