I wish I had me when I was you...

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"I wish I had me when I was you..." That expresses precisely how I feel each time a project manager or PMO leader tells me a story about their frustrations encountered while trying to create effective and sustainable change, build (or fix) a PMO, or deliver projects successfully. I always think to myself…I wish I knew then what I know now. I’ve made it my mission to share with you everything that I have learned while creating change and building PMOs in both large and small organizations for the last 24 years, many of those years as an employee in the "hot seat" responsible for building internal capability. I’m hoping these articles help you along your journey as you continue to evolve and develop skills and techniques to be the high-IMPACT leader you are meant to be. Learn more at ImpactbyLaura.com

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5 Steps to Avoid Rescuing Project Team Members

What happens when you rescue your project team members?

Addressing Process Non-Compliance

Hot Topic: Stakeholder Engagement

Are you doing progressive elaboration or perpetual elaboration?

5 Steps to Avoid Rescuing Project Team Members

Last week in Part 1 of our discussion on what happens when you rescue your project team members, we discussed a few of the problems that come with being the hero and doing the work for others. This week, in Part 2, discover how we avoid finding ourselves in the position of not delegating and ending up doing all of the the tasks we know we shouldn't be doing.

Ending the cycle of rescuing to drive higher performance

If you want to be a high performer, you must be able to deliver on the work that you are responsible for while still ensuring that your team is delivering on their commitments.  You cannot get caught up in the myth that your job is “fire fighter” for the team and that you are just being a “team player” by jumping in, rolling up your sleeves, and rescuing the team members each time work doesn’t get done. You must position yourself as the driver of IMPACT instead of the doer of all tasks. Here are a few techniques you can use to help ensure that the project overall remains successful while you maintain your sanity (and stop doing all the tasks you know darn well you shouldn’t be doing):

  1. Be firm.

When tasks are being assigned/accepted, be clear and be firm that the assignee will be held accountable for delivery AND that their manager will be kept abreast of all status updates to that work. Your job as a project manager is to ensure that those that are accountable for the work understand what to do, how to do it, and that they commit to getting it done. Then, you trust but verify that this work is getting done according to the commitments made. You aren’t being the bad guy by holding others accountable.

Many leaders struggle with this first step, trying to balance firmness and kindness. Always start with being clear and firm, then kind. This order is key because if you put kindness ahead of clarity, then you can easily send mixed messages when trying to sweeten the nice-factor.

  1. Clearly define roles and responsibilities.

You will have plenty of work to do on the project without doing other people’s tasks. Have a clearly defined roles and responsibilities chart that indicates what types of activities you do and what the other roles are responsible for doing.

This isn’t about showing your superiority. This is about clearly delineating the lines between what belongs to you and what belongs to every other project team members (sponsor included). Each person on the team has their role to play, just like an orchestra each playing instruments. If the conductor doesn’t do their job, the entire symphony falls apart.

There is real benefit in this step, so don't skip it. When you clearly define roles and responsibilities everyone knows what to do and everything gets done. People work together better when they understand exactly what their roles are. You will even find there is less energy wasted on things that don't matter.

  1. Put names (other than your name) on the tasks.

Project managers have this bad habit of assigning their name to tasks on a schedule if they don’t know who should be doing it. I strongly discourage this. Put the department name or the name of the manager of the functional area and allow them to be the one to tell you who should be doing that task. Unless it’s clearly in your area of responsibility, the task, risk, issue, decision or other update should not have your name on it.

Delegation of tasks to the appropriate team members not only benefits you, but it benefits the entire team. The team members and managers get a feeling of importance when tasks are delegated. Ensuring tasks are delegated increases the morale, confidence, and productivity of the project.

  1. Understand why work isn’t getting done.

Make sure you take the time to figure out why people aren’t getting tasks done instead of rescuing them when things aren’t getting done. Are they overloaded or have higher priorities? Talk to them and their manager. Are deadlines getting missed? Then do your job of modifying the timeline, getting other resources, or escalating the risks to the schedule to your sponsor. That’s the role of the project manager.

Ensure that step 3 above was done well. Did they fully understand the task? Did the team member confirm commitment? These are steps that are necessary to confirm accountability for the tasks that are delegated. Take steps to revisit the delegation process and avoid taking the task on personally.

  1. Take the time to teach and coach others.

If the challenge is that the work isn’t getting done because the responsible team members isn’t clear on what to do, you must make sure that they get the necessary training and development to be able to perform their role effectively.

If you are having trouble delegating the work because you feel like you “don’t have time” to show someone else how to do something, just remember it will always be your task if you don’t take time to show others how to do it.

As a leader of a project team, a part of your role is to help guide others toward finding their own solutions, managing their time more effectively, and coaching them to take responsibility for their work and commitments.

We all have more work to do than time to do it. Hold the role of project manager sacred and make sure that you set yourself up for success by being clear about the work that you are responsible for, how you will be measured, and how you will measure others and hold them accountable for the work they are responsible for on your project.

This will protect you, your credibility, and your sanity.


Thanks for taking the time to read this article.

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Fill out our one-minute survey if you have topics you would like read more about.

I welcome your feedback and insights. Please leave a comment below.

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Warmly,

LauraBSignature_black

Posted on: February 19, 2018 07:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (11)

What happens when you rescue your project team members?

We’ve all been there. The work is piling up. The deadlines are hovering over our heads and our project is behind schedule. It’s so tempting to just jump in and start rescuing the project to make sure that the ultimate outcomes are achieved. We want to be the hero and we know we are ultimately accountable for project success, but there are some big challenges that come with being the fire fighter and rescuing our project team members when they aren’t getting their work done. In this two-part article, we will first take a look at what happens when you become the rescuer for your project team, and next week in part 2 we will dive into how to avoid becoming the rescuer in the future.

Here are a few of the problems that come with being the hero and rescuing your project by doing the project work for others:

  1. You become the one that does the work.
    When we rescue others by doing the work for them, they will let us keep rescuing them and doing the work for them. See a problem with this? Now it becomes the thing you “just” do to knock it out or help out others…and they will let you keep doing it.

  2. You don’t get your own work done.There’s no way you can rescue others by doing their work and still stay on top of all the things you should be doing. If you are a manager of any kind or lead others, you certainly have more work on your plate than you really have time to do. So, why do you think you have time to take on the work of others and still get your own stuff done?
  3. Not only that, but people will start to point out all the things you didn’t get done that ARE your responsibility because you were so busy doing other people’s work. Yes, seems unfair, doesn’t it? You know you aren’t supposed to be doing that work, so do they. Sometimes they are grateful, but most of the time, the fact that you did other people’s work is not how you will be measured. You will be measured for the work you were supposed to be doing…that isn’t getting done.

  4. You lose the ability to hold others accountable.
    If people see that they can get away with not doing something they are supposed to, regardless of how many times you told them to do it, they will just not do it. It’s simple. It’s not that they are necessarily being difficult or trying to cause trouble, they may just have their energy focused on other things. However, people will see that there really aren’t consequences to not doing what you have assigned them and others will start exhibiting the same behavior. This is extremely dangerous to your effectiveness with the team.
  5. The entire team is less productive.
    If your job is to help to facilitate the work (instead of do it all yourself), and your time is spent doing the work for others, you won’t have time to make sure that all the work that should be getting done, is getting done, the way it should be getting done, when it should be getting done.
  6. You lose your authority.
    You become one of the doers instead of one of the leaders. I’m not saying you should never roll up your sleeves and help, but what I am saying is be very careful how you proceed. As managers, we must have a level of authority to assign the work and facilitate work completion and if we are doing the same tasks as everyone else, or doing everyone else’s tasks, then we are a task doer instead of a manager making sure the work is getting done. Your job is to facilitate the work.
  7. People wait to get rescued.
    There are several reasons that this is likely to happen and it isn’t just always because they are lazy. While laziness can certainly plague teams, it’s also possible that they just don’t place as high a priority on the task as you do, therefore they will let you keep doing it. Or, it’s possible that they are just completely overwhelmed themselves and you aren’t being the squeaky wheel, so they are doing the other things they need to be doing…and you are rescuing them…so, it’s still getting done, right?
  8. You perpetuate the problem.
    So many of us have said it: “It would take me longer to explain it, so I will just do it myself.” Yes, sometimes this is true. We do something that we know we really should delegate to someone else because it just seems easier to do it ourselves. However, once you have this mindset, you will miss the opportunity to teach someone else how to do something so that NEXT time, you don’t have to do it. Think about it. If it’s something that will ever possibly happen again, do you want to be the one that does it every time? Maybe one time it would “just be easier” to do it yourself, but if the task will come up again, you should make sure someone else is equipped to do it themselves.

The other problem here is that things are never a “just” or as “easy” as we think they are. That 5-minute task could turn into a four hour back and forth email conversation and chasing people down to get answers…wouldn’t it have been better to have this on the right person’s plate from the start?

So, how do we avoid finding ourselves in this position of not delegating and ending up doing all of the tasks we know darn well we shouldn’t be doing?

It's simple! Next week in part 2, I will address how to be firm, clearly define roles and responsibilities, and how to understand why work isn't getting done.


Thanks for taking the time to read this article.

Click here to receive these blog posts right to your inbox.

Fill out our one-minute survey if you have topics you would like read more about.

I welcome your feedback and insights. Please leave a comment below.

See you online!

Warmly,

LauraBSignature_black

Posted on: February 12, 2018 07:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Addressing Process Non-Compliance

What to do when people aren’t following your project management process...

So, you’ve spent all this time and energy building and putting into place a process for people to follow to help them achieve better project outcomes and now you have some that aren’t complying. What do you do?

First, you must make sure your project management process is usable.

If your process is complicated, hard to follow, or hard to figure out where they fit into it, people won’t use it. Make sure you are keeping it simple and as streamlined as possible. Read more about this here:

The problem with process: Why your projects and PMOs are failing before they ever get off the ground

Fight, Flight or Freeze – Resistance to Implementing PM Practices

Are you owning the process, or are they?

Once you have made sure it’s not the process and it really is a people issue, here are some techniques you can use:

Make sure they know HOW to comply.

Do your homework to understand the reasons for non-compliance before raising a red flag to others.

  1. If it’s a knowledge issue, get them the right/right-sized training/coaching.
  2. If it’s a motivation issue, find out their WIIFM (what’s in it for me) and tie their success to the overall goals that matter to them and their organization. For example, if getting a promotion is on their radar or getting that key assignment, show them how a win on this project will help them get recognition. If that’s something you can help with (such as making sure their successful project is recognized), then offer that support.
  3. If it’s a misunderstanding of their role, clarify that WITH them so that you can agree to what they must do.
  4. If it’s laziness, you can try appealing to their sense of responsibility to the community or the stakeholders on the project by showing them the impact of their lack of participation.

In any of the above instances, they won’t pay attention unless you have some specific metrics you can point to and impacts you can clearly articulate. Be prepared with facts, not finger pointing or emotion.

If the above doesn’t work, then it’s time to start looking at who else can help you…

Do you have an engaged and supportive sponsor that cares whether this process is being followed? If so, engage them and tell them about your concerns about noncompliance. This can often be the PMO leader that established the process, the PMO’s sponsor, your leadership team, or the leader/boss in the area where the non-compliance is taking place. Here’s how to have that conversation:

  1. Make sure that you can clearly articulate the impact of the non-compliance. That can range from pointing out how it’s impacting other stakeholders because they don’t know what’s going on with the project, or when and how they are supposed to engage, the project isn’t meeting the timeline or scope, quality is suffering, etc.
  2. Show them how it’s impacting the morale of other PMs that are complying because they feel like it’s not “one team, one fight” with the non-compliant person.
  3. Be clear about what you have done to help this person back so that they see you have tried several options before coming to them.
  4. Make sure you are keeping this conversation objective and about the impacts that are being caused by the behavior, not an attack on the person.

Then it’s time to get a little more public.

After you have given the above options time to work, you can try a more open approach. Bring the issue to a more public forum via the PMO leader or portfolio manager. Let’s assume this is the role you are in.

In your regular PMO/PPM meetings, let the group know that you will be going through a routine audit to make sure that everyone has all the support they need to effectively use the process. Let them know both a timeline to give them time to prepare (and comply), as well as exactly what metrics are going to be used to ensure compliance.

I would highly recommend that this list of measurements be very straightforward and simple. The more complicated, the more it will feel like this audit is becoming “the work” and people (especially those that don’t want to comply) will complain and draw attention to the intensity of the audit as a distraction technique.

Then, you need to give them some time to comply with these standards, making sure that any opportunities for training/coaching/support are provided. Once that time for compliance has been satisfied, bring the group together and review where each project stands. Your goal for this session is to gain commitment and support from leadership on compliance or put the leadership team in a position where they must approve any non-compliance.

That’s right…there might be a reason why certain projects wouldn’t have to comply. You may not like their reasons, but at the end of the day, the leadership team needs to make an active decision to either get the non-compliant project back on track or take responsibility for non-compliance. The goal here is to get to the source of the problem and get to a decision so we can cut back on the drama being caused by angst, frustration, etc. Then we can all get back to Getting. It. Done.


Thanks for taking the time to read this article.

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Fill out our one-minute survey if you have topics you would like read more about.

I welcome your feedback and insights. Please leave a comment below.

See you online!

Warmly,

LauraBSignature_black

Posted on: February 05, 2018 08:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Hot Topic: Stakeholder Engagement

Thank you to all who answered our recent survey questions! Based on the feedback, stakeholder engagement is a hot topic. Let me help you drive high impact results via stakeholder engagement. Here are a few very informative articles that can help you build stronger and more productive relationships with your stakeholders.

People Are Not Resistant to Change Learn 6 ways to effectively bring stakeholders through change.JPEG image-BC7BD3CEE580-1

Dealing with Difficult Stakeholders Discover 8 simple steps to managing stakeholders (even the difficult ones).

 

Happiness: The Secret Sauce for Productivity Find your secret sauce and the break the paradigm of the unhappy majority.

Lessons in Stakeholder Management from Mr. Rogers Apply Mr. Rogers principles to engaging stakeholders throughout the project lifecycle.

These are simply a few of the strategies that will give you the ability to build more productive relationships with your stakeholders helping you to drive high-impact results and Get. It. Done. Don't worry, there is more on the way. Coming soon I will be offering a full repository of tools, templates, and training that helps you to effectively leverage your resources and develop your own capabilities to deliver superior and sustainable results consistently, driving ever higher return on investment.

Stay tuned!


Thanks for taking the time to read this article.

Click here to receive these blog posts right to your inbox.

Fill out our one-minute survey if you have topics you would like read more about.

I welcome your feedback and insights. Please leave a comment below.

See you online!

Warmly,

LauraBSignature_black

Posted on: January 29, 2018 08:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (10)

Are you doing progressive elaboration or perpetual elaboration?

When I was teaching my Project Management training to a client last week, my client said something that stuck with me, “Our problem isn’t progressive elaboration, it’s perpetual elaboration. We will analyze and over analyze and spend so much time trying to break down the work that we forget to do the work.” Such a strong point.

JPEG image-FE00D0F92BE6-1We were talking about right-sizing process. I always emphasize the importance of making sure to check every step along the way that you aren’t doing too much process and not enough work. We talked about work breakdown structures and the concept of Progressive Elaboration.

If you haven’t heard this term, or it’s been a while, “Progressive Elaboration” is a method of continuing to provide further detail into the planning process as it becomes available. The goal is to help the project team to continue to manage with greater accuracy, control the process more effectively, and achieve greater success with project delivery.

Many organizations struggle with, and are on the lookout for, the cases of analysis paralysis that usually takes place during the requirements phase. Another thing to look out for is perpetual elaboration. This is when you spend way too much time focused on getting the schedule perfect and breaking it down to such a level of detail that the project schedule itself becomes unmanageable. We’ve lost sight of the thing that’s most important: DOING the work.

JPEG image-F962DDE4D9C2-1Think about it. What level of detail do you actually need to go to in the schedule and what level of accuracy do you really need in order keep the project moving? Don’t let the planning process become so much of the work that the work isn’t getting done. Instead, look for the level of “just right” that gets you the information you need to move the project team forward and get to the business of getting work accomplished.

 

Your goal is to elaborate on the plan as you are progressing through the life cycle and gaining more knowledge about the elements that make up that plan. Your goal is to progressively elaborate to a point that is useful to you and the team to keep the project moving forward in the right direction. To keep the team focused on the work of getting the project done.

What you want to avoid is the process of making the project management too much of the work and spinning cycles on getting the plan so detailed and so elaborate that it becomes an unmanageable tool that gets in the way of productivity instead of supporting it.

Progressive elaboration by phase

Let’s look at it from the various project life cycle phases. When you are in the beginning stages of defining a project, a phase I call “Discovery,” you don’t yet know all the details of that project or what will go into ensuring success. You are building a business case and starting to define the “what” and the “why” of the project. At that time, we cannot provide a great deal of accuracy as to how long the project will take or what resources will be required for it to be successful. Make sure you are asking the fundamental questions about the goals, purpose – the why of the project and whatever other details are needed to ensure that the decision makers can make an educated and informed decisions about the priority of this project relative to others and whether or not it should be given the “go ahead” to proceed.

Then, we go into an “Initiation” phase where we develop the charter and start answering some very high-level questions about resource needs, risks, scope, etc. We know a little more and have done a little more digging. We have continued to elaborate on the scope, timeline, etc. We don’t yet know the details of what the plan will reveal, but we have answered another level of questions.

Now we hit “Planning.” During this process, we should begin to develop requirements so that we can effectively plan the work, based on that scope. We build a work breakdown structure (WBS) to further define the work of the project. We know a little more, we are progressively elaborating on the scope, and with that, we can now start addressing the timeline, we know more about what resources we need and when, etc. However, there is still more to learn as we continue through planning and into actual project benefits delivery.

As we continue onto “Delivery,” the execution phase, we then learn more about what reality is going to do to our schedule. Our friend Murphy (remember Murphy’s Law?) peeks his head into our plans and we need to adjust. We are going to learn more and we are going to have to take those learnings and apply them to the schedule and see what impacts are generated…we are progressing and we are elaborating.

This process continues through project delivery, generally, and sometimes doesn’t end until the project does. This can be OK, if we are maintaining a strong hold on scope. We can certainly continue to provide more detail to the process if it’s useful, but if we aren’t controlling the scope process, this is where we will experience scope creep.

Scope creep happens when we don’t have a good change management process to help us control change to scope and we allow too many of the “it’s just one thing, it’s just one feature” kind of conversations to happen. Each one of those, by the way, can be addressed with a “Yes, and…” meaning, we can say, “Yes, we can make those changes and here’s what the impact will be to our timeline and costs.” It’s the triple constraint dance we all must do.

Don’t let them put you in the position of always saying “no” when “yes, and…” will address the situation and put the onus back on the requestor to own the decision and impacts.

So far, progressive elaboration sounds like a nice and healthy process that we do to address new information that comes to us as we go through the project phases. It is. It should be done. It’s helpful to know that it’s perfectly OK to not have all the answers upfront when you start a project and that you will get more information later and can update your plan accordingly. What you want to avoid, however, is spending so much time and energy on getting to the lowest possible level of detail that tracking status becomes a full-time job and you become a low-level tasker instead of a benefits delivery project manager.

JPEG image-29985D2C6FBC-1Remember, there is no such thing as a perfect plan…until the project is over and we’ve gone back to update that schedule to reflect what happened.

 

If you are a project manager or responsible for project management process in your organization, think hard about what you require of yourself and the team in terms of project planning activities and deliverables. I highly encourage you to spend sufficient time doing planning upfront and being prepared to adjust as new information becomes available, however you do not want to spend the vast majority of your time focused on continuing to iterate on that same plan at the expense of project delivery.

Remember that project management is not the end game. Project management is the process that we use to drive business results. Your job is to know when and how to use the tools of project management to help you drive those business results in the most efficient manner possible.


Thanks for taking the time to read this article.

Click here to receive these blog posts right to your inbox.

Fill out our one-minute survey if you have topics you would like read more about.

I welcome your feedback and insights. Please leave a comment below.

See you online!

Warmly,

LauraBSignature_black

Posted on: January 22, 2018 07:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)
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