Leaders exert influence for success
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Human Aspects of PM,
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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?
Strategy In a VUCA World—Part 2
By Lynda Bourne
In part one of this post, I introduced the management concept VUCA, which stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.
Managing VUCA effectively at the project level should not be underestimated: The agility and decision-making needed to respond to VUCA will inevitably have effects on the outcomes of projects and programs and, consequently, the direction of the organization.
Naturally, there will be a difference between planned and implemented strategy. One approach is to see this gap as “strategic non-alignment” and assume it’s bad. The alternative is to see the gap as strategy that emerges from the work of the organization and changes in the environment, then actively manage its effect to capture as much value as possible.
This idea is not new. It’s been nearly 40 years since the concept of emergent strategy was developed by academic and management author Henry Mintzberg. This concept seeks to create a framework that can identify and act on emerging strategies, resulting in a more incremental approach to strategy formulation. Developing strategy from the bottom up may be a novel concept for many organizations but academic studies suggest this is an important value-adding process.
Projects and programs are a rich source of VUCA, and almost everyone says successful project management offices (PMOs) and portfolio managers should have a strategic focus. Given that, I suggest it’s time to start conversations with your executive management about identifying and managing the emergent strategies that are appearing in your organization as a consequence of projects and programs responding to VUCA. This will maximize the value created and influence the next iteration of formal strategic planning.
In their 1985 paper Of Strategies, Deliberate and Emergent, Mintzberg and fellow academic and author, James A. Walters, concluded by suggesting “strategy formation walks on two feet, one deliberate the other emergent.”
The challenge for PMOs and portfolio management professionals is to engage with the gap between implementing strategy and adapting strategy. They also have to engage with the challenges that arise from allowing sufficient agility and flexibility to maximize value in a VUCA environment without sinking into undirected chaos.
By adapting these elements to the strategic levels of the organization, you may be able to reduce the potential chaos of VUCA within a project or program:
How do you reduce the potential chaos of VUCA?
Strategy In a VUCA World—Part 1
By Lynda Bourne
Traditionally, strategy and strategic alignment are viewed as a deliberate process. An organization’s governing body determines the vision and mission. Then, along with executive management, the governing body crafts a strategy to move the organization toward achieving that vision.
The result is a strategic plan that forms the basis for effective portfolio management. This plan sets the objectives for projects and programs and measures their success in terms of contributing to implementing the strategy and creating value.
In the last few years, however, management thinking has embraced the concept of VUCA and developed approaches to dealing with the challenges that the modern world presents.
VUCA, which originally emerged from military leaders, stands for:
Have you encountered VUCA on your projects? What form did it take?
Be sure to come back for second post on VUCA in a couple of days.
By Conrado Morlan
“Without strategy, execution is aimless. Without execution, strategy is useless.” —Morris Chang, founding CEO, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Ltd.
In the first part of this series, I outlined the groups in the organization that must support the strategic alignment of the project portfolio:
Let’s dive into those groups a little further.
The Executive Group
The executive group shares the strategic plan with the organization, highlighting the high–level strategic objectives that will support its growth and move it to the next stage.
This group defines the strategic governance processes — that includes policies and monitoring guidelines to ensure the strategic objectives will be achieved. It establishes a governing body that will ensure accountability, fairness and transparency. The project portfolio governance will adhere to the strategic governance to align the project portfolio and drive the execution of the strategic plan.
During the development of the strategic plan, a thorough risk assessment should be conducted to assign a risk level to the initiatives included in the strategic plan. The risk assessment will feed into the strategic alignment process to ensure the portfolio of projects will keep these risks top of mind each step of the way.
The governance body will also monitor the performance of programs and project to ensure the expected benefits are being delivered as planned.
The executive group will interact on a frequent basis with the project group to address governance issues, changes in strategy that may impact the portfolio and risks. Meetings with the operations team, on the other hand, will focus on monitoring whether benefits are being created and harvested, as well as how those benefits are impacting — postively or negatively —the strategic objectives.
The Project Group
The project group will cover all areas of the project management profession: portfolio management, program management and project management.
This group will “translate” the strategic plan into elements of the project portfolio and align them with the strategy. Priorities, sequences, dependencies, risks and other elements from the strategic plan will cascade into the project portfolio.
The project portfolio will establish an execution framework that will consider the organization’s existing cross-functional capabilities, operations, and processes, and assess technical and operational requirements to identify gaps that need to be filled to support the successful execution of the project portfolio.
The project tam will:
The project group will interact on a frequent basis with the operations group to ensure projects will deliver the expected benefits, and define how those benefits will be “harvested” and used as an input to subsequent phases of the protfolio and strategic plan.
The Operations Group
The operations group will support program and project teams during implementation and will be the recipient of the benefits delivered by the programs and projects. The execution of the strategic plan is a cross-functional effort and every function in the organization will need to contribute to its success.
The operations group may encompass many of the functions of the organization and will be active participants throughout project implementation. But this group’s participation is most important in the post-implementation phase to ensure a sustainable environment for the achievement of the strategic goals.
This group will work closely with the project group on the ongoing management of the portfolio to monitor benefits realization, and will play an active role in the orchestration of demand management and capability management to ensure resources will be available when needed in order to avoid any delays in the portfolio.
If you’ve worked on strategic initiatives, how have you collaborated with these groups in your organization? What advice can you share?
By Conrado Morlan
“The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” —Michael Porter
Over the last two decades, organizations looking to remain competitive have realized that creating a strategic plan is not enough. The smart execution of that strategy is also needed to move an organization to the next stage.
One way to drive better execution is to align the project portfolio with the organization’s strategy. This should encompass all current and future initiatives, programs and projects — including business projects, operations projects, technology projects, etc.
The project portfolio is the strategic plan’s execution framework. It calls for cross-functional efforts that provide a holistic view to the participating areas, and helps them better understand the strategic goals and how their contributions will move the organization to the next level. This instills a sense of ownership among the participants.
Strategically aligning the project portfolio allows an organization to establish an execution approach that will allow it to improve existing processes and optimize the selection and sequence of initiatives.
Leaders should screen, filter, and select programs and projects based on the organizational strategy and — for those selected — they should define:
Roles and responsibilities: Who will be involved, as well as each person’s level of involvement and authority
Stakeholders: Who will be impacted by the initiatives and their level of influence in the organization
Resources: What resources could be assigned to programs and projects, and their current capacity and capabilities to support the selected initiatives
Funding: What funds will be available to implement the selected programs and projects
Risks: What internal and external risks would affect the strategic plan and therefore the portfolio of projects, and what risks will be accepted or mitigated
Benefits Realization: What benefits will be produced by each program and how those will be harvested
To achieve that alignment, the following groups must support the initiative:
In the second part of this series I will explore how these groups interact to establish the best execution approach and achieve the strategic goals defined in the strategic plan.
As a portfolio, program or project manager, have you been involved in the strategic alignment of the project portfolio in your organization? What was your experience?