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
Joanna Newman
Vivek Prakash
Christian Bisson
Linda Agyapong
Cyndee Miller
Jess Tayel
Shobhna Raghupathy
Rex Holmlin
Roberto Toledo
Ramiro Rodrigues
Taralyn Frasqueri-Molina
Wanda Curlee

Recent Posts

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Avoid the Internal Project Trap

Take Advantage of the Talent Gap

Project Success Buzzwords: Are These the Same?

Understanding Expert Judgment

A Checklist for Shared Outcomes

By Peter Tarhanidis

I was recently assigned to transform a procurement team into one that managed outsourcing partnerships. I realized the team was very disengaged, leaving the strategy up to me to define. There was no buy-in. The team and the partnerships were sure to fail.

But I was determined to make the team successful. For me, this meant it would be accountable for managing thriving partnerships and delivering superior outcomes.

To get things back on track, I had to first get alignment on goals. Setting shared goals can help to shape collaborative and accountable teams that produce desired outcomes.

Establishing goal alignment can be a difficult leadership challenge; however, leaders must gather the needs of all stakeholders and analyze their importance to achieve the desired organization outcome.

I often use this checklist to tackle this challenge:

  1. Set shared goals in consensus with teams to motivate them to achieve the desired outcome.
  2. Link shared goals to key performance indicators (KPIs) that lead to the desired outcome.
  3. Integrate goals into individual and project performance reviews to drive accountability.
  4. Measure KPIs to keep teams on track.

I used this checklist during the procurement team project and it helped to reset and reinvigorate the team. Once we aligned around shared goals, team collaboration increased and the organization started to achieve the targeted business benefits.

If you’ve used a checklist like this before, where have you stumbled and how did you turn it around?

Posted by Peter Tarhanidis on: July 18, 2017 03:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

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 (14)

The Importance of ACCURATE Communication

Categories: Ethics

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?

Posted by Lynda Bourne on: January 11, 2017 07:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (15)

Project Leaders as Ethical Role Models

 

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:

  1. Your organization. It can share its values and conduct compliance training on acceptable company policy.
  2. Regulated industries. These have defined ethical standards to certify organizations.
  3. Certifying organizations. These expect certified individuals to comply with the certifying group’s ethical standards.

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:

  • Create an environment that reviews ethical standards with the project team
  • Consider that some individuals bring different systems of moral values that project leaders may need to navigate if they conflict with their own ethics. Conflicting values can include professional organizations’ values as well as financial, legislative, religious, cultural and other values.
  • Communicate to the team the approach to be taken to resolve ethical dilemmas.

Please share any other ideas for elevating the ethical standards of project leaders and teams, and/or your own experiences!

Posted by Peter Tarhanidis on: February 22, 2016 09:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (22)

Want to Be Ethical? Follow Principles, Not Rules

By Mario Trentim

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.

  1. Imagine you hire a stockbroker. You ask his unbiased opinion on the best investment, and he provides you information about assets he already manages without mentioning others that might better suit your needs. Is that ethical behavior? What if you, as a project manager, offer a solution to your client that you know isn’t the best one because it’s the easiest for you?
  2. Suppose you visit a doctor. He’s in a hurry, so he doesn’t perform the necessary diagnostic steps. He prescribes a general drug that might help you—or might not. And he asks you to come back in two months. Is that ethical behavior? What if you, as a project manager, don’t take the time to gather requirements and instead try to force a one-size-fits-all solution on your client?

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.

Posted by Mario Trentim on: February 10, 2016 11:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (15)
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