By: Maricarmen Suarez, PMBOK® Guide–Seventh Edition Development Team member
Is project management a science or an art? While we could debate this fun question for decades, I think we can all agree that there are elements of both. Our profession continues to evolve with a focus on quality, globalization of reach, and the velocity of change—we have seen it all. But first things first, at the center of it all, we see one thing in common—people. I genuinely believe that it is those human interactions that help us deliver value through project management. Consequently, a fundamental principle of project management seems to be stakeholder engagement.
Anyone that is impacted by changes can be considered a stakeholder. It is critical to define who our stakeholders are, acknowledge their motives and define their engagement, as well as understand their level of involvement and sphere of influence. As a practitioner who is continuously assessing the stakeholder pool, I ask myself daily that old question: “where should I spend my time and energy? With the optimists? The naysayers? Or the ones sitting on the fence?” I’m not sure there is a right answer to that, but my experience has taught me that the best solution is “all of the above.”
The optimist will always have a positive, can-do attitude. They help you move your initiative forward and, depending on their level, they can prove to be an invaluable resource to influence others.
As for the naysayers, it is essential to understand their drivers, i.e., what motivates them? Why are they against the project? What would it take to get them to a middle ground? Is there an unidentified risk, either opportunity or threat, that may have been overlooked? By no means, am I suggesting that everyone can or should be converted to the “right” side of an initiative; but as a project leader, my role is to ensure that everyone has a voice and that needs are met. I guarantee that while the naysayers may never be cheerleaders beaming with support, they have enough to be able to compromise and not derail or stop our initiatives.
That leaves the ones on the fence—those on the middle ground that can go either way but are choosing to stay on the sidelines to see what happens next. These stakeholders are the ones I find myself spending more time and energy with. Simply because I consider them sponges. The fence-sitters feed off of other stakeholders. While I can’t control every channel and every interaction of these stakeholders, I can ensure they have the right amount of information to make an informed decision.
Some best practices I use to proactively engage stakeholders include:
I consider stakeholder engagement a pivotal principle—projects are undertaken by people, for people. As practitioners, we have a unique opportunity to engage and serve stakeholders proactively. As they say in the flight safety briefings, always put your own oxygen mask on first, before helping others.
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Nick Clemens, PMBOK® Guide–Seventh Edition Development Team member
As a project manager I find myself immersed in uncertainties and change. People roll on and off my program teams, my management chain changes frequently, and my customer base is in flux. I am a contractor for a larger US Federal Department and even within the US Federal bureaucracy change comes quick and often. I think for large bureaucracies the problem is not change, it’s here and must be dealt with. The problem is adaption and response.
The same is true for projects. Project leaders must adapt and overcome. Our response as project leaders must insure the on-time delivery of our products and services within project constraints. This is how we deliver benefits that create value for our customers and companies alike. And for those who like to deliver incrementally, I’m also talking to you. Implicit in the idea of a Minimal Viable Product (MVP) is the delivery of a benefit that creates inherent value for both the user and the supplying enterprise.
So how do we keep track of where we are going with everything changing around us? To paraphrase the Cheshire Cat in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, If you don't know where you're going, any road can take you there. The answer is to go back to basics. Basic project management principles provide us with a framework to guide us when our projects are troubled. The PMBOK® Guide–Seventh Edition development team is taking just that approach in updating The Standard for Project Management. We are looking at a better way to guide project leaders using a principles-based approach that will allow flexible responses to an environment fraught with change and uncertainty.
So, what’s a project management principle that could help us to navigate our complex environments and keep track of where we are going? It has to do with “systems thinking” and is related to a management principle from the risk area, “work to balance threats and opportunities.” The principle I am thinking of is around the idea of Think Holistically.
Holistic thinking tells us to get out of the weeds, to see the forest for the trees. In other words, as a project leader have a vision for your project. That vision should include your project’s purpose, value to be delivered, impact to the business environment, and its effect on the people involved. Holistic thinking also includes understanding the trade-off space to ensure the team delivers outputs that will drive outcomes. It allows self-organization of work but keeps the pieces integrated. Holistic thinking challenges assumptions and mental models to broaden the possible solution space.
Whether managing a group of work packages to a project plan or integrating a couple of scrum teams to deliver a MVP according to a release plan, the challenge to the project leader is the same—keeping on track to meet our customer’s vision and expectations and delivering outcomes, even if the precise end goal is not fully defined at present. I didn’t say it would be easy. In most cases the days of the practically perfect project plans went out with the departure of Mary Poppins, not in the most recent Disney sequel, but in the original 1964 movie! To say the least, a principles-based approach to project management has been a long time coming.
So, think holistically to keep the focus of your project 100% aligned with your customer’s vision and expectations. Remember as the project leader your job is to deliver and create value for your customers and company. Everything else is in the weeds. The key is to recognize, evaluate, and respond to the dynamic circumstances within and surrounding the project delivery systems as the systems interact and react with each other.
by: Klaus Nielsen, PMBOK® Guide-Seventh Edition Development Team member
Did you know that many organizations have unsuccessfully tried to implement an off-the-shelf, or ready-made, project management methodology and found that it was unsuitable for their projects, their organization, and their level of organizational project management maturity?
This often results in a lot of money, time and effort spent with little return and a decrease in staff morale. The one-size-fits-all approach is not working, because no two projects are the same. Different people, clients, vendors, technologies, cultures, approaches, sizes and such require extensive tailoring.
Designing the delivery approach based on the context of the project, its objectives, stakeholders, and the environment is much more difficult than it may sound. Designing the delivery approach requires tailoring. We use tailoring to our project management methodology with the hope of buy-in from team members. In some cases, a tailored approach produces a more customer-oriented focus, centers on best-for-project approach, and reflects a more efficient use of project resources. It also helps to ensure that when the team agrees to use specific processes, tools, or ceremonies, everyone is aligned, and use is consistent.
But who has not experienced the damage from tailoring not done correctly? I have! It’s when project team members are not using the methodology, independently modifying the methodology, or following the process for the sake of the process.
When we tailor, we have a wide range of options. I tend to look at the processes and see whether it would work or not. Often, I have been faced with too many processes of little value. In some cases, inputs, tools, and techniques may be omitted or changed to make them work within a specific context. Also, when tailoring I examine the level of documentation required, as it’s often a great chunk of work. I want to make sure all project artefacts, documents, and plans provide value — not just documentation for the sake of documentation. Thinking back, if you had to apply everything the same way to all your projects for the last 20 years, that would be a nightmare. Firstly, I rarely do the same kind of projects the same way twice. Secondarily, if I had to do it all over, I would make a lot of changes (hopeful that I have learned something along the way). Think of tailoring as your opportunity to apply lessons learned.
I think it’s difficult to talk about tailoring without touching upon efficiency and effectiveness. Now it becomes slightly trickier. I don’t see one without the other. I know some of you may have concerns about the connotations of these terms, so let me try to explain my view.
Effectiveness talks to providing our customers with value through product delivery and producing the intended or expected result. It is also associated with the results from the actions of the team members and the project manager.
On the other hand, efficiency talks to how we are performing or functioning in the best possible manner with the least waste of time and effort. It is also associated with how things are done.
Who has not heard the following statement: “The fundamental reason why projects are late is because of inefficient use of resources. My job as a project leader is to move our expertise around to tackle as much work as possible, and to do so seamlessly?” In this case, efficiency means getting more work done with the least loss of time, which is done by maximizing utilization. In this case, efficient IS effective. In my native language of Danish, we use the same term for these two concepts.
For others, efficiency is a poison. For them it also means maximizing utilization, which requires that we overcommit and confuse our staff, leaving them no slack to breathe or innovate. To them, efficient is the OPPOSITE of effective. However, that was not the intention.
Just to wrap it up: Design the delivery approach based on the context of the project, its objectives, stakeholders, and the environment. Maximize value, manage costs, develop flow and enhance speed by utilizing just enough process. I think there might be a principle or two in there.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year at PMI! Global Conference is just around the corner, and with this year’s exciting 50th anniversary celebrations, we are certainly counting down the days! If you will be in Philadelphia for the conference, please stop by the ProjectManagement.com Community booth and say hello. We would love to meet you!
In this month’s look at what’s currently happening around the community, we’ll let you know how to keep up with all of the excitement at Global Conference – from near and far – as well as the other great community activities occurring in the final months of 2019!
Register for PMI® Business Analysis Virtual Conference 2019: Registration is open for the PMI® Business Analysis Virtual Conference 2019 which will be held on Wednesday, November 13th. This virtual event will explore the latest trends in business analysis and provide you with the insights, resources, and tools to advance your career and enhance project success. Register today! This year, we welcome:
PMI® Organizational Agility Conference Available On-Demand: If you were unable to attend the recent PMI® Organizational Agility Conference on Evolving Approaches to Resilient Value Delivery, you can view all of the sessions on-demand here.
Ask the Expert at PMI® Global Conference: Ask the Expert is back by popular demand at PMI® Global Conference 2019! These one-on-one sessions allow you to discuss your project question or problem, get advice about navigating the project management career path, or talk through issues currently facing the profession from a trusted and established ProjectManagement.com expert. If you are attending Global Conference, sign-up for a session here.
For those who will not be in Philadelphia, you can follow our Experts at Conference through the PMI Global Insights blog where they will share their experiences and insights from the event.
Industry Discussion Threads: This year, PMI launched a new initiative focusing on four industry segments in the fields of IT, Finance, Government and Construction. As part of that focus, we have been highlighting some existing PM Network content on ProjectManagement.com in order to engage the community and learn more about specific industry needs. Check out the industry discussion threads in Project Management Central!
Discover PMI - Ask Us Anything! Series: Learn more about PMI’s Job Board by viewing the latest session on-demand - Powering Your Career with PMI: Explore the PMI Job Board to Power You Career - featuring Ansley Stauffer.
Project Health Framework: Join fellow community member, Uri Galimidi, as he discusses A Billion Dollar Project Health Framework in his eight part webinar series. You can now access Part 1 through Part 5 on-demand! Check the Live Webinars calendar for the remaining sessions.
If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to a member of the Community Engagement team – we’re happy to help you. As always, stay tuned to the Critical Path for your community news!