Project Management

Transformation & Leadership - Insider Tips

by , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Today's world is influenced by change. Project managers and their organizations need to embrace and sometimes drive changes to keep up with the pace in highly competitive environments. In this blog, experienced professionals share their experiences, tips and tools to manage and exploit changes and take advantage of them. The blog is complimentary to the webinar series of the Change Management Community Team and is managed by the same individuals.

About this Blog

RSS

View Posts By:

Luisa Cristini
Nic Jain
Ruth Pearce
Abílio Neto
Vitaly Geyman
Walter Vandervelde
Steve Salisbury
Ronald Sharpe
Angela Montgomery
Tony Saldanha
Ryan Gottfredson
Joseph Pusz
Kavitha Gunasekaran
Amrapali Amrapali
Barbara Trautlein
Carole Osterweil
Rob Bogue

Past Contributors:

John ORourke
Ross Wirth

Recent Posts

Stakeholder management in research: How to keep people engaged and interested in your project

Call for Volunteer - Transformation & Leadership

PM perspectives - Lincoln on Leadership for Today

When High Performance Turns Toxic

Is it Time to Re-brand and Re-charter the IT Function?

Stakeholder management in research: How to keep people engaged and interested in your project

Who are the stakeholders in your research project and why is it important to engage with them? How can you keep your project team and people outside interested in your project? How important is communication with your key stakeholders and how can you make sure your communication is effective?

Stakeholder management is key to scientific research. Every project has stakeholders who can influence the project in a positive or negative way. The ability to manage stakeholders in an appropriate manner can mean the difference between success and failure. Stakeholder engagement is important to increase support and minimise resistance from key stakeholders.

Identify your stakeholders

Stakeholders are people, groups or organisations that could affect, be affected or perceive to be affected by any decision, activity or outcome of the project.

It is important that all stakeholders are identified regardless of how major or minor they are. This is because they will be categorized after they are identified. If stakeholders are omitted there is a likelihood that they may become evident at some point during the project’s lifecycle and introduce delays or other obstacles to the project’s success.

Stakeholder analysis is the process by which you identify your project’s stakeholders:

  1. Will the person or their organization be directly or indirectly affected by this project?
  2. Does the person or their organization hold a position from which they can influence the project?
  3. Does the person have an impact on the project’s resources (material, personnel, funding)?
  4. Does the person or their organization have any special skills or capabilities the project will require?
  5. Does the person potentially benefit from the project or are they in a position to resist this change?

Any individual who meets one or more of the above criteria can be identified as a stakeholder.  Stakeholders from the same organization can be grouped in order to simplify stakeholder management.

Once you have identified your stakeholders you can analyse the list (your Stakeholder Register) and categorized or grouped them assigning a level of impact they may have based on their power, influence, and involvement in the project. You should also add any description which might be helpful to plan your stakeholder engagement. How could the project stakeholders identified in the previous section be impacted by the project? Do any of the stakeholders link/relate with each other? You can also visualise your project’s stakeholders on a power/interest grid and prioritise them based on the grid.

A stakeholder analysis is very beneficial because:

  • It helps understand who are your stakeholders and their role in the project
  • It allows identifying the focus of each stakeholder or group
  • It helps develop stakeholder an engagement strategy

Plan your stakeholder engagement

Once you have identified and analysed your stakeholders in the stakeholder register, you can develop a Stakeholder Engagement Plan. In the plan you should describe how stakeholders will be approached and by whom in the project team, as well as how often the project team will communicate with them.

First you need to carry out a stakeholder engagement assessment: what is the current level of engagement of each stakeholder? What is the desired engagement level? You will prioritise your stakeholder engagement based on the power/interest grid and your stakeholders’ engagement levels:

  1. Unaware: Unaware of the project and potential impacts
  2. Resistant: Aware of the project and potential impacts and resistant to change
  3. Neutral: Aware of the project yet neither supportive nor resistant
  4. Supportive: Aware of the project and potential impacts and supportive to change
  5. Leading: Aware of the project and potential impact and actively engaged in ensuring the project is a success

Once you have prioritised your stakeholders you need to decide how to engage with them, that is, how you will communicate with them throughout the project. What information about the project will be communicated to which stakeholders? How will the communication be delivered and when? Who will be in charge of the communication? How often will feedback be requested from the stakeholders? How will the feedback be implemented in the project?

Receiving feedback from your stakeholder is crucial in research projects because engaging with your stakeholders by listening to their feedback and incorporating their needs in your research means co-production of knowledge, important to achieve results.

Communication is key to stakeholder management

Communication is crucial for stakeholder engagement because it is the most powerful tool:

  • To ensure that stakeholders clearly understand project goals, objectives, benefits and risks
  • To build trust
  • To resolve conflicts
  • To overcome resistance
  • To achieve the desired level of engagement

You should communicate and work with your stakeholders often throughout the project to meet their expectations and needs, address issues as they occur and foster appropriate engagement strategies. The timing of your communication with your stakeholders is also important. Engagement at appropriate stages helps to obtain or confirm their commitment to the success of the project.

Keep an agile mindset

Research projects are a way to explore the unknown and in most cases, you do not know what to expect as a result. Keeping an agile mindset helps address changes that might occur along the way and overcome challenges. This is important also when engaging with your stakeholders so here are some points to keep in mind to embrace change:

  • Revise stakeholder engagement strategy often as requirements might change throughout the project
  • Keep stakeholder register up to date as new stakeholders might appear and key stakeholders might change
  • Deliver often project increments (knowledge/research outputs) as a way to engage with your stakeholders and request feedback
  • Favour collaborations to find solutions to research problems

References

Posted by Luisa Cristini on: June 23, 2021 11:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Call for Volunteer - Transformation & Leadership

 

Within PMI’s online community, ProjectManagement.com, a group of volunteers organizes monthly webinars on the topic of Change Management. To complement this webinar series, they also maintain a blog, Transformation & Leadership – Insider Tips, featuring lessons learned and diverse perspectives from experienced professionals. This team is currently looking for someone to assist with their endeavors to advance conversations around change management and provide tips and tools to the online community (in a volunteer capacity).

 The volunteer blog & webinar coordinator is responsible for sourcing, working with, and facilitating presenters through:

 1) the webinar development process; and

2) the blogging process for the Transformation & Leadership blog 

 He/she will host practice sessions for presenters and help facilitate live webinars for the team in the area of Change Management. The volunteer will also work with presenters to contribute change management content to the blog. The volunteer should be an active team member who is enthusiastic about providing great webinars and blog posts to the community on ProjectManagement.com.

 This volunteer will:

 • Meet with team on a regular basis to discuss plans for webinar & blog program

• Assist in planning webinars and provide updates as necessary

• Coordinate scheduling of webinars and complete PMI presenter forms for each webinar

• Coordinate and facilitate presenter practice sessions

• Host live webinar sessions (about one webinar per month)

• Coordinate scheduling of blog posts for the Transformation & Leadership blog, and review blog content to ensure compliance with User Guidelines

 The estimated time commitment is 4-5 hours per month with weekly team meetings - all virtual. The volunteer should have strong project, program, and/or portfolio management skills and understand and commit to PMI’s objectives and goals around increasing member value and knowledge delivery. PMI membership is required for this role. This is a team of volunteers, so flexibility is needed, and experience with Webex is strongly encouraged. PDUs for Giving Back can be claimed in accordance with the policies outlined in your credential's handbook.

 If you are interesting in volunteering, please contact Laura Schofield via the Inbox on ProjectManagement.com with:

-your statement of interest

-an explanation of any experience that you have facilitating webinars

by 30 June 2021. An interview with shortlisted candidates and the volunteer team will be conducted.

Posted by Nic Jain on: June 10, 2021 10:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

PM perspectives - Lincoln on Leadership for Today

This blog post has been created by: Ed Pelic, Nic Jain, Joe Colon, Cady Johnson, Smita Shetty, Heather Benson, Cathy Fisher, Simon Lato, Babette Ten Haken, Craig Karagitz

The group of contributors is made of practicing project managers to help build their leadership skills, learning from the best minds of all times. Please note we are not endorsing any specific book or piece of content. The material is used only as a framework for the members to transform how they perform as leaders through principles discovered and applied to specific situations that Project Managers encounter.

The group recently completed reading Lincoln on Leadership by Donald Phillps.  Key learnings from a Project Management perspective have been summarized in this post. The extraordinary challenges Lincoln faced as President while the United States was engaged in civil war and his leadership actions in response are arranged in the theme categories (sections) of People, Character, Endeavor, and Communication.  Some elements of Lincoln’s life prior to his Presidency were reviewed as well. 

We learned how Lincoln’s leadership actions demonstrated the golden principles. We explored the leadership principles practiced by Lincoln and reflected on ways to incorporate them into daily practices and interactions. In this way, leadership situations Lincoln experienced can be leveraged to develop and enhance individual leadership skills in a transformational way.

Key Leadership Learnings

  •  Be an effective communicator.  Use several mechanisms to achieve this.

Know your audience - frame your message to suit your audience.  Use clear and simple language.  Don’t use terms or abbreviations unknown to your audience.

One on one conversation - speaking one on one is a good technique to win over a friend or rival to adopt your position.

Use anecdotes - be a good story teller to illustrate your point of view.  People will understand the message in the story and remember it going forward.

Humor - use of humor is effective in disarming people and putting people at ease.

Lincoln worked diligently on the Gettysburg address.  His few minute speech is considered one of the best speeches of all time.  The speaker before Lincoln spoke for 2 hours, yet nobody remembers who the speaker was or his speech.

  •  People follow character.

Character is very important for an effective leader - people will choose to follow a leader who establishes trust through his/her actions and character.

“Have malice toward none and charity for all”

Failure builds character - Do not let failures diminish your drive.  Learn from the experience as a foundation to try again with greater knowledge.

  • Be engaging with people.

Management by walking around - meet your team members on their own turf, get out into the field.

Delegate effectively - provide opportunities for other. After communicating expectations, do not hesitate to take action if people are not performing.

Believe in yourself - know yourself and promote your values.  Remain determined.

This video addresses additional scenarios discussed by participants, including how they would apply these learnings to real-world scenarios faced by Project Managers.

 

Posted by Nic Jain on: April 26, 2021 12:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

When High Performance Turns Toxic

"We asked about building high performance project teams and found a recurring theme of brutal cultures and mental health issues"

Whilst this CEO was interested in leadership on big budget infrastructure, engineering and IT projects, we see a similar pattern in many sectors. The lessons are universal.

Toxic cultures stymie high performance – it’s hardly newsworthy. How come these dynamics persist – even when leaders are charged with monitoring well-being? What are we missing? What can leaders do to improve success rates?

The CEO was Collin Smith, of ICCPM (international Center for Complex Project Management).  He was talking about the toxic cultures identified in ICCPM’s Roundtable Research.[1]

Toxic cultures and mental health

"Teams in bigger and more complex projects often have a battle rhythm characterized by cognitive overload, decision fatigue, day in day out conflict and excessive stress. This results in poor mental health or even PTSD like symptoms

He continued,

Unfortunately, there’s a trend: leaders in these projects keep pushing and pushing – to the detriment of their own mental health and that of their teams. And productivity suffers.

Although these project leaders are responsible for monitoring staff well-being, at times they seem to exhibit a pride in the scar tissue they’ve acquired over decades. They tend to baton down the hatches, crack the whip and crank up the stress to get things done.

Yet our research tells us, when complex projects really get tough the opposite is needed. We need leaders at their very best in terms of critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and adaptability.

We need leaders who, despite the overload and stress, can slow down rather than becoming more transactional and process driven."

 

That’s where the ideas I introduced in my earlier blogs come in.  

SCARF a Brain–based Model for Managing People on Projects  explores how the human brain works, and how our response to social threat takes our Thinking Brain offline.

 Change Requests and the Project Stress Cycle   extends these ideas by demonstrating  how excess stress increases complexity, and reduces the chances of project success.

Now consider the project leaders Collin was referring to. They are no different from you and me. 

We know from the SCARF model, the human brain loves certainty. Yet they are dealing with masses of uncertainty and the stakes on their projects are incredibly high. This means many of them are under constant stress.  

In other words, their Thinking brains are offline. And we know from those earlier blogs, when our Thinking brains are offline, we see things less clearly. If we can’t really see what’s going on, we start making assumptions about what is actually happening.  After all, we’re wired for survival.

The fight/ flight reflex says it all. If we’re not going to run away, we may well start fighting. And that increases stress levels, and makes a brutal culture far more brutal.

So what can we do about it? 

Breaking the toxic cycle starts with self-awareness

In my view we need to take a new look at the skills for successful project leadership, and put self -awareness at the top of the list.  I argue it's THE key skill.

By this I mean you  need to be able to ask, at any time – ‘what is going on for me right now?’

What’s going on for me, means working out how I’m feeling about this

Note I use the Feeling word, which doesn’t feature in many business conversations, because answering this question helps to bring our Thinking brains online.

Once you know how you’re feeling, you can consider how other people might be feeling too. You can then move on to consider what do you have to do to:

  1. bring your Thinking brain online?
  2. bring their Thinking brains online?’

Thinking brains have to be online

Our Thinking brains have to be online for us to be able to collaborate well, be high performing and motivated

They have to be online for us to inspire people and learn well.

If you're cracking the whip,  all you're doing is evoking a fight and flight response. Nobody will be able to think clearly, so they will make poor decisions.  Project performance will suffer. 

The research is clear.  We need leaders who, despite the overload and stress, can slow down rather than becoming more transactional and process driven.  And that means leaders with a high degree of self awareness.  

References

Project Leadership: The game changer in large scale complex projects

Image by Sebaastian Stam on Unsplash 

Posted by Carole Osterweil on: April 19, 2021 12:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Is it Time to Re-brand and Re-charter the IT Function?

Is it Time to Re-brand and Re-charter the IT Function?

Very few functions have evolved as much in the past 3-4 decades as the IT function. It’s been in the vanguard of driving efficiency and transforming legacy operations, and has been rewarded in being moved out of the backrooms of the company and into the boardrooms.

However, with great power comes great responsibilities. We need to ask if we in the IT function are doing enough to transform our own legacy behaviors. I would contend that not all organizations are. Which is why it might be time to re-brand and re-charter the IT function. I call this new re-branded organization the “digital resources function”.

Why Re-charter the IT Function?

With digital transformation becoming the #1 priority for most company boards, expectations from the IT functions have increased. At its heart is the change from “managing” technology to “leading” the digital transformation of the enterprise. The change isn’t just administrative though, there are technologies, platforms and people skills that will need to be redone. I have identified six vectors of change –

  1. More flexible technology platforms: Amazon and other digitally native companies have the capability to make hundreds of noticeable changes to their systems to test out new business models daily. They use a new generation of digital capabilities to blend scale with speed, to support constantly evolving digital business models.

In contrast, the current technologies in most enterprises were originally built for enterprise efficiency and scale. They are large, complex, took a long time to implement, and take even longer to modify. Think large enterprise resource planning (e.g. SAP) implementations. These monolithic systems worked extremely well in the past because the goal at the time was scale. The new digital revolution has changed that goal.

 

  1. More agility in execution: Ask any large enterprise business unit leader their opinion on IT projects in general and you will likely find their response liberally sprinkled with “millions of dollars” and “years to implement”. Meanwhile, a digitally native start-up could rent a server with an order-processing software and have a business up and running in minutes. Large enterprise IT organizations have a big challenge on agile execution.

 

  1. Skills on newer technology: The top 5 high-paying skills of 2018 according to CIO magazine[i] are Information Security, DevOps, Data Science, Business Application Development and Machine Learning. The only thing you need to know as a leader is that perhaps only one of these five (i.e. Business Application Development) would have been on that list five years ago. How many of your IT professionals have been in the enterprise for more than five years? How many have kept up with the latest skills?

 

  1. New capabilities to lead digital transformation: The IT professional of the future will need as many non-technical skills including creativity, communications, influencing and teamwork, as technical. Further, I use the term “technical” in its broadest sense to include items such as process mapping, business model design and LEAN execution, in addition to IT technology. This is to be expected as the role of the IT function evolves from “doing” technology to “leading” digital transformation. The new digital resources function requires a skill-set that is of a transformational leader, who also happens to be a guru on technology. The traditional approach has been to rely on consultancies that seem to have such a mix. There may be a legitimate role especially during transition, for consultancies. However, this is problematic long-term, keeping in mind the goal of leading perpetual digital transformation for the organization.

 

  1. Governing the digital ecosystem: The freelance workforce in the US is growing three times faster than the overall workforce and is projected to be the majority by 2027.[ii] Within the freelance workforce, the growth in IT is faster than most other functions. Secondly, as systems across one enterprise to another get more inter-connected, the predominant skill-set in demand will become more governing and less managing.

 

  1. Updated vendor ecosystem: It’s very likely that the mix of IT vendors and partners who were associated with the old IT function may not be the best fit for the Digital Resources Function. Part of this is easy to understand – the vendors who were optimal for stability and cost-efficiency goals might not be fit for digital transformation. However, that’s only half the issue. The other half is that the same digital disruptive forces are acting upon the IT industry as well. Traditional IT service partners are being squeezed as their people-centric businesses get disrupted. Being locked into multi-million, multi-year contracts with the older-generation IT providers, even for “commodity IT” services may not be in your best interests. Current contracts may be optimized for cost efficiency over agility and innovation. The dirty little secret of IT outsourcing is that the IT providers take a given scope of work, freeze it, and promise to deliver it for 15-50% less cost partly by ruthlessly optimizing efficiencies and partly because there’s not much innovation on the old scope of work.

 

Why Re-brand the IT Function?

As we’ve learned from the experience with constantly upgrading our smartphones, technology gets old fast. That’s true of IT functions in the enterprise as well. IT technologies, IT scope of operations and IT skills all have incredibly short life cycles. That’s been historically true and is not a surprise. What’s new is that the piston-engine version of IT has reached an inflection point. It needs a consciously different engine. We’re no longer talking evolution; we’re talking about a dramatically different redesign. The new IT function is not just about new technology platforms, a new charter of work, or newer skills; it is about leading all the other functions and business units in the company to new technology-enabled business models. The digital enterprise needs digital to be done by every function, but powered by IT. Which is why I believe that the new IT function needs a totally new charter and a new name – The Digital Resources Function.

 


[i] Scorsone, G. (2018). 5 hot and high-paying tech skills for 2018. [online] CIO. Available at: https://www.cio.com/article/3269251/it-skills-training/5-hot-and-high-paying-tech-skills-for-2018.html [Accessed 19 Dec. 2018].

[ii] Caminiti, S. (2018). 4 gig economy trends that are radically transforming the US job market. [online] CNBC. Available at: https://www.cnbc.com/2018/10/29/4-gig-economy-trends-that-are-radically-transforming-the-us-job-market.html [Accessed 19 Dec. 2018].

Posted by Tony Saldanha on: April 07, 2021 12:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)
ADVERTISEMENTS

"America had often been discovered before Columbus, but it had always been hushed up."

- Oscar Wilde