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
Conrado Morlan
Kevin Korterud
Peter Tarhanidis
Vivek Prakash
Cyndee Miller
David Wakeman
Jen Skrabak
Mario Trentim
Shobhna Raghupathy
Roberto Toledo
Christian Bisson
Linda Agyapong
Jess Tayel
Rex Holmlin
Ramiro Rodrigues
Taralyn Frasqueri-Molina
Wanda Curlee

Recent Posts

Are Traditional Scrum Masters Becoming Obsolete?

Kick-Off Meetings: The Beginning of Success or Failure

Hackers: A Safety Issue

Leaders exert influence for success

Business Transformation With the End in Mind

Leaders exert influence for success

By Peter Tarhanidis

Whenever I’m in a leadership role I try to be sensitive to the level of influence I gain, retain and lose. Influence is a precious commodity for a leader. And it can be disastrous if you lose your team or if tensions arise that reduce one’s effectiveness to achieve a goal.

I recall one of my client assignments where the goal was to ensure a successful integration of a complex merger and acquisition. The team had slipped on dates, missed key meetings and there were no formalized milestones.

I set up casual meetings to discuss with each member what would motivate them to participate. One clear signal was that management had changed the acquisition date several times. This disengaged the team due to false starts that took time away from other priorities.

During the sponsor review, I reported there was a communication breakdown and that no one shared this effort as a priority. At that point, the sponsor could have used his position of power to pressure everyone to do their part. However, the sponsor did not want to come off as autocratic.

Instead, he asked if I would be willing to find an alternative approach to get the team’s buy in.

I realized my influence was low, but I wanted to help improve the outcome for this team. So I talked again with each team member to negotiate a common approach with the goal to be integration-ready without having an exact date.

Ultimately, our goal was to have all milestones met while a smaller core team could later remain to implement the integration when management announced the final date.

A leader uses influence as part of the process to communicate ideas, gain approval and motivate colleagues to implement the concepts through changes to the organization. 

In many cases, success increases as a leaders exert influence over others to find a shared purpose.

Tell me, which creates your best outcomes as a leader: influencing others through power or through negotiation?

Posted by Peter Tarhanidis on: May 31, 2017 10:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (13)

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)

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)

Meet the Culture Change Challenge With These 3 Tips

Categories: Agile, Change Management

By Christian Bisson, PMP

My last post about change stuck with me, so I want to revisit the topic by focusing on organizational cultural change here. Culture change means implementing new habits, new ways of thinking, new ways of working and so much more.

It presents a major challenge.

Why? Well, it’s more than processes, tools or documents—creating an organizational culture means changing people. This is as challenging as it gets.

When you’re looking to implement a culture change, here are few items to consider:

 

1. It takes time.

Most people will expect cultural changes to take a max of a few weeks, which is generally unrealistic. To level set expectations, share a roadmap of your changes.

The map should include high-level milestones of what the change will entail — training, meetings, etc. Then specify the objectives so people are on the same page as to why this is being implemented.

The roadmap will ultimately show that the changes are under control. It should mitigate any concerns or problems people will imagine.

2. You’ll need support.

A culture cannot be changed by just one person. There needs to be buy-in and it must be obvious.

I once had to implement daily Scrums with about 15 people, all of whom were accustomed to daily Scrums being long, painful meetings.

Changing that perception to one where meetings would last less than 10 minutes, where people would be on time, stand up and commit to the work they would aim to accomplish, was a challenge. I started by seeking out the colleagues in the group who were already on board with the change.

These early adopters helped me push others to stand up, be on time and ultimately helped keep things rolling when people went on tangents or brought up items out of turn. They were the first to jump in and “commit” to tasks rather than just saying whatever to get the meeting over with. It created a snowball effect, and we soon had efficient 10-minute meetings in place.

It’s a small example of a culture change, but it shows that having buy-in made all the difference.

3.  Seek feedback.

All team members react different during a culture change. Some will let frustration accumulate and burst when it’s too much, others might complain as time goes, others will be constructive, others will never share, etc.

You want to take control over that by welcoming feedback, as often as you can, from as many people you can. Obviously, don’t talk to everyone everyday. Use your judgment — for example, you might want to talk to those colleagues impacted the most every week, while speaking to others only monthly.

While more time-consuming, gathering feedback from people is better done one on one. It gives you a chance to connect with the individual. If you speak in large groups, the majority of people will remain quiet while others take over.

How have you tried to implement changes to your organizational culture? Share your stories and your tips!

Posted by Christian Bisson on: October 03, 2016 07:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

Wading Into the Deep Waters of Regulatory Compliance

By Conrado Morlan

During the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, you may have seen them on TV: men around the Olympic pool in red trunks and yellow t-shirts, with whistles around their necks and flotation devices tucked beneath their arms.

Yes, they were lifeguards.

Why are lifeguards needed in a pool where the world’s best swimmers are competing? The answer is simple: regulatory compliance.

FINA, the sport’s international governing body, states in its guidelines that “owners of public pools or pools restricted only to training and competition must comply with the requirements established by law and the health authorities in the country where the pool is situated.” The law in the state of Rio de Janeiro requires the presence of lifeguards at swimming pools larger than 20 feet by 20 feet, according to The New York Times.

As a project manager leading the efforts of a global or regional project, you will need to be aware of all the regulations that may impact your project. Assuming that you can lead a project in the same way you do in your country of origin is a bad assumption.

Preparing for Compliance

Complying with regulations can mean big hurdles in project deployment, so you need to plan ahead to avoid any major impacts. At the same time, regulations may be an opportunity to establish relationships with governmental entities that define the regulations (as Amway did in China in the last decade).

When dealing with regulations in your projects, remember:

  • You are not always in control. The existing standardized and repeatable processes to execute projects, as well as the existing technological platform to implement the project, may not be applicable or available in certain countries. You will need to think “outside the box” and move out of your comfort zone to make your project successful.
  • The rules in other countries are unique. Regulations, culture and resources vary. Get insights from your local team to understand and take advantage of the established rules.
  • You may need to take a step backward. Adaptation is key in global projects. All the features and functions delivered by your project may not be necessary for a particular country. Have a list of the minimum features and functions required to make your project successful.

As a global project manager, you need to develop and master your cultural awareness. This will help you to establish the foundation of communication and identify cultural values, beliefs and perceptions.

This will help you understand the local environment and market, build long-term, trusting relationships and keep your project in track.

As a global project manager, how do you face regulatory compliance in different countries?

Posted by Conrado Morlan on: September 02, 2016 05:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)
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