Are you Ready to Create Value with Your Stakeholders?

Sound equalizer five channels in natural light

Sound equalizer five channels in natural light

How you view your projects is really a matter of perspective.  What frame are you looking at your projects through?

Is it constructive?

Does is make it easier for the team to function?

Or does it increase the level of frustration?

Being effective may mean you need to change your approach to managing the project.  You may be focused on completing the project a certain way, but your customer has a very different idea of what ‘success’ looks like.  To effectively navigate your way through the project’s lifecycle, you may find the idea of ‘project success sliders’, taken from Rob Thompson’s Radical Project Management to be useful.

From Thompson’s point of view, there are 7 criteria that your project can be judged as successful on:

  1. Have Satisfied Stakeholders
  2. Meet the Project’s Objectives/ requirements
  3. Meet an Agreed Budget – resources/ capital/ equipment
  4. Deliver the product on time
  5. Add value to the organization
  6. Meet Quality Requirements
  7. Have a sense of professional satisfaction for the team

Whether they’ve been upfront about it or not, your customers know where their project sits for each criterion, ranging from 0 to 10 (critical).  They also know how each criterion is prioritized amongst the seven.  Is delivering the project on time more important than meeting the budget or ensuring that the team has a sense of professional satisfaction?

Do you think the customer is at a 6 when it comes to meeting your project’s objectives, but more of a 2 on Deliver the project on time?

And which criterion is more important at this time?

In some cases, you may be able to discern their perspective, in others, it might not be a bad idea to discuss how they rate and rank these.

If you’re feeling frustrated, it may be an indication that your understanding of the project and their gauge of how the project should be proceeding are not aligned.  You may feel strongly that it’s important to meet the Quality requirements, but the customer is dealing with internal stakeholders it wants to keep happy and some project objectives that make delivering on all three criteria an impossible task.

It might be time to adjust your sliders and manage your project so that you keep your stakeholders happy. True stakeholder management is not just delivering the project on time, “it is to involve and engage stakeholders in value creation.”*   If you are not aligned on how to approach the project, it will be virtually impossible to work with your stakeholders to create value.

Try out Thompson’s Success sliders.  Let me know how it goes, leave a comment or send me a tweet, my id is jgodfrey.

Note: Quote from Mario Henrique Trentim, PMP, RMP, PMI’s 2014 Harold Kerzner Award winner during a IPMDAY2014 Expo webinar.  

Three Steps to Improved Meeting Facilitation

How much time do you spend in meetings?

Copyright 2015 Dollar Photo Club by Dmitry Vereshchagin

Copyright 2015 Dollar Photo Club by Dmitry Vereshchagin

I estimate that most of my working hours are spent in some form of meeting – whether in a One-on-One discussion or with a team.  Like me, you  probably spend most of your time on a conference bridge.

If you do, you may be interested in learning more about how to be more effective in managing, scheduling or facilitating conversations. If you are, I would highly recommend the presentation “High Impact Facilitation,” presented by Lynne Cazaly on the InfoQ website.

In the hour and a half long presentation recorded at Agile Singapore 2014, Cazaly talked about the process of facilitating and how to improve.  She had many useful tips for new or continuing-to-learn facilitators, but she had three key recommendations on how to improve.  Read these high level tips and then go check out the full presentation.

Prior to your event/ meeting:
  1. Prepare yourself
    When you’re trying to facilitate, it can be difficult to listen patiently to a colleague if your thoughts and worries are pressing on you.  Staying centered so you can recognize other people and hear their responses is impossible if you’re still worrying about the fire on your other project or the three sets of meeting minutes that you need to finish before the end of the day.

    If you have a complaint or gripe with someone on your call – leave it on your desk or take it for a walk and leave it outside.  Do not take it onto the conference bridge with you.  It will prevent you from being your best.

  2. Prepare your environment

    If you have reserved a room, go make sure the room is set up the way you need it.  If you need whiteboard markers, now is the time to make sure they will be in the room.  If you need a projector, make arrangements for it to be installed and confirm that it works with your laptop (In one memorable moment, I came to a meeting with without an HDMI converter for an old-tech projector.  Fortunately my technical lead is Mr Gadget – so the day was saved).

    Copyright 2015 Dollar Photo Club by emirkoo

    Copyright 2015 Dollar Photo Club by emirkoo

  3. Prepare your process

    Cazaly said something very interesting that caught my attention.  The more I thought abut it, the truer it seemed.  She said, “Facilitators are process directors – they put a structure over the top of a meeting and run that structure”.  By structure, she meant the agenda and the approach.  If everyone is on the same page with:
    a) The type of meeting  – Are we listening to status, Do you expect people to consult with you on a topic, or is the team trying to solve a problem?

    b) Your topics and

    c) Approach to facilitating, then you have defined the boundaries.

After all three of these legs of your meeting are in place – you are free to focus on encouraging participation and getting to the expected outcome of your call.

She speaks for over an hour and has many more insights to share – so I encourage you to watch the presentation and learn.  Watching her facilitate the event made me realize that she could very likely teach a week-long course on facilitation.  In short, it’s worth your time.  After you check it out, leave me a comment, send me a tweet.  My id is jgodfrey.

Quote: Perspectives shape your experience

Copyright 2015 Dollar Photo Club by vlntn

Copyright 2015 Dollar Photo Club by content w

“Perspectives shape your experience – of meetings, of relationships, of life.  Sometimes you need to lead with your attitude.  You simply need to choose to step into the world with a perspective that is empowering.  Think about it: Attitude affects how you relate to life.  When you realize you can shift your attitude on demand by choosing an empowering perspective, it changes everything…..Sometimes the first step in getting to an empowering perspective is to notice when you are not looking forward to an experience.  By noticing that you are not relating to something powerfully, you open the door to choosing a different perspective.

Meetings Matter: 8 Powerful Strategies for Remarkable Conversations, Paul Axtell

Copyright 2015 Dollar Photo Club by content w

Copyright 2015 Dollar Photo Club by vlntn

The Ant and the Elephant: Quotes Worth Considering

Copyright 2015 Dollar Photo Club by Kagenmi

Copyright 2015 Dollar Photo Club by Kagenmi

After re-reading The Ant and the Elephant last week to write the review, I found some quotes from the book that shook me up and made me think.  These quotes are another reason that the book is worth reading and buying from Amazon so I thought I would share them with you.

First: “Make Fear Your Friend, Not Your Master.”  

This was one of the pieces of advice that Brio, the wise owl, gave Adir to help him reach his goals.  Adir was “was frequently afraid of failure, and because of that, he hesitated to lead with confidence.”  One of the worst things you can do when you are taking a risk with a new approach or a new idea is to be timid in its execution.  If you are not confident or ‘sound confident’ in what you are trying to do – others can hear it.  While you may get through the meeting, you will not be as successful as you would have been if you had moved forward with confidence.  You’ll second guess yourself, not follow through on everything you were planning and so you won’t be effective.  Making Fear your Friend is good advice to newbies to welcome fear when it comes and don’t let it intimidate you into changing your plans.  Stay strong and stick with your original plan.

Secondly: “Without conflict there is no growth, and truthfully the most challenging conflict is within ourselves.  Resolving inner conflict empowers us to change our lives.”

It’s no secret that self-knowledge will help you be more effective in your job.  Some of your the conflicts you face will be internal.  At times you may struggle to step back and understand what is driving your reactions.  Brio’s advice on how to overcome the conflicts are another part of what makes the Ant and the Elephant an excellent read.

Finally, the last quote that shook my complacency a little:

Copyright 2015 Dollar Photo Club by Faithie

Copyright 2015 Dollar Photo Club by Faithie

“…Commitment is active.  It’s judged on a sliding scale.  We can reach a level of commitment and discover there’s still more we can do….When you’ve fulfilled the commitment you established for yourself, commit even further.”

Before I read this quote, I thought commitment was binary – either you were or you weren’t.  The idea of commitment being on a sliding scale where there are degrees or greater levels of commitment than your current state was a paradigm change for me.  The question: How Committed Are You? is a question only you can answer. Frankly, it is it exciting to learn that you can grow in commitment in the various areas of your life.

These are not the only quotes from the book that made me stop and think.  These are just the ones that had the greatest impact on me.  I encourage you to read The Ant and Elephant and buy it if you have the same reaction I had.  Have you run across any great quotes in your reading lately?  Leave me a comment or send me a tweet, my id is jgodfrey.

Equip Yourself To Reach Your Goals: The Ant and The Elephant

Copyright 2015 Dollar Photo Club by vishnukumar

Copyright 2015 Dollar Photo Club by vishnukumar

Imagine someone watching the 1988 Olympic Opening Parade and getting the crazy idea that they’d like to be one of the athletes marching in the next Olympic parade.

Imagine that they have no training and very little competitive experience in any sport.

Would you believe that in a few short years, they put themselves in the position of being among the top speed ski competitors in the world?

That was my introduction to The Ant and the Elephant: Leadership for the Self  by Vince Poscente.  His description of the events that led up to his run in the Olympics was presented at the 2014 Project Management Congress to a group of Project Managers that was as caught up in his story as I was.

As he walked us through the mental training steps he took to get to the 1992 Olympics, he walked us through the 5 key principles explained in The Ant and the Elephant.  As soon as his talk ended, I bought the book in Kindle Form and started reading.

I soon discovered that the book was even better than the speech.  In the book, the reader meets Adir, an ant who loses his home in a storm.  Throughout the rest of the book, we watch Adir learn how to lead and guide his elephant, Elgo, to his goal: the Oasis.

The Ant and the Elephant addresses the problems we all have when we try to change.  Who hasn’t had to deal with your own negativity or that of others?  Have you had to confront your own fears?  The Ant and the Elephant teaches the reader how to motivate herself to persevere until she achieves her goals.  Adir and Elgo show us that most of the work in changing our circumstances is linked to managing our mental state.  By the end of the book, we learn…

  • How to refine our vision
  • Manage our negativity
  • Consistently improve
  • Strengthen our confidence and
  • Control our responses to any situation.

I recommend that you buy this book.  Its practical 5-step process to managing mind and emotions will teach you how to equip yourself mentally so that you can successfully navigate the obstacles between you and your goals.  Have you read this book?  Leave a comment or send me a tweet, my id is jgodfrey.

Communicating to Internal Teams

Which is the best answer for “How do team members find out what’s happening on your project?”

A. At the Watercooler

B. On the Sharepoint Site

C. Osmosis

D. Project Manager

Your answer will let us know whether your team knows where the project is headed.

“At the Watercooler” or by “Osmosis” would leave some of your team members in the know – and others in the dark.  Providing a Sharepoint Site would be a step in the right direction, but only if everyone on the project team is aware of its location and has permission to access the documents.

Copyright 2015 Dollar Photo Club by beawolf

Copyright 2015 Dollar Photo Club by beawolf

On a regular basis, communicating to the customer tends to be our focus.  When it comes to communicating change to the team,  we tend to lose focus, but it should be just as important.  We forget that usually, as the Project Manager, we are the center of the communication hub between the customer and other high visibility teams/ resources/ stakeholders.  When that happens, there may be teams that get left out.

To avoid gaps in your team’s shared understanding, the PM should remember three things:

  1. Remember: Team members from different functional areas may not share information freely even if they both know they are working on the same project.  If you’re in an organization that is more functional than matrix, this might be even more common than you think.  What you learn from one team may impact another – share what you learn with the other teams.  Leverage your status call to improve the sharing of information between functional areas.
  2. Remember: Information informally communicated may not be sufficient. Just because you spoke to one person on a team does not mean that it was shared with everyone on that team.  You can ask that each team rep at a meeting share information with her team – only to find out that a critical step was not shared with another person on the same team performing the same work.  Ensure that everyone is on the same page – discuss changes in your status calls, share it again in email and share again, if needed.
  3. Remember: Just because you sent an email or words came out of your mouth during a call does not mean that the message was actually received and understood.  Confirm that what you meant to share with the team was understood and that everyone is on the same page.

In the best of all possible worlds, the Project Manager is not the hub of communications.  Strong teams that work with each other week after week don’t necessarily rely on the PM’s presence to share information.  However, in some environments, the random nature of the teaming make these three suggestions something to keep in mind.  Do you have other suggestions that might help improve communication for internal teams?  Leave a comment or send me a tweet, my id is jgodfrey.

Watch How You Talk To Yourself

We can be our own worst enemy at times.

Whether we say the words out loud or not, we are always talking to ourselves.

Copyright 2015 Dollar Photo Club by aleutie

Copyright 2015 Dollar Photo Club by aleutie

Just as guard rails can prevent drivers from running off of the road, setting up guidelines for your thoughts can make your self-talk an advantage – not a limiter.

In his book, Personal Effectiveness in Project Management, Zachary Wong, PhD, suggests the following mental techniques to use to keep your self-talk positive:

  1. Keep It Real.  Or as he explains it later – keep small things small in your mind.  Earlier in my career, the smallest mistakes I made were things that I brooded over.  Brooding over what you’ve done wrong has the same impact as a hen brooding over her eggs: they grow.  Instead of acknowledging the problem and moving on, you turn it into something that hangs over your next decision and the next.
  2. Keep your boat afloat.  To me this made the most sense.  You are bombarded daily with requests, complaints, and escalations.  To stay positive – you need stay level-headed, “keep both feet on the deck and don’t jump ship – trust your inner dialogue.”  So much of the noise you hear is made to push you off your center so you act out of character or without thinking.  Stay focused.
  3. Maintain a ‘want’ state of mind. This is part of Dr Wong’s larger argument in his book that you understand your motivations and wants.  You come from a larger space when you are motivated by your wants and not your needs.  Define what it is that you want to see happen and act from that basis.
  4. Stay open-minded.  So many conflicts tend to come from people hanging onto rigid views about ideas or situations.  His suggestion is to stay open by making observations, not judgments; “focus on the process, not the outcome, create options, not predictions.”  Coming into a meeting with a fixed idea of how things should turn now, may not be as effective as staying open to how the discussion flows in the meeting.
  5. Make Your First Thought Positive.  Here is where I tend to fall down.  It’s good to be proactive about self-improvement and trying to do better next time, but you need give yourself a break.  It will feel better if you focus on the things you did right – first.  What did you like or what went well this time? Then you can tweak the areas where you need to improve.
  6. LIGHTEN UP.  Unrelenting focus on always doing the right thing or making the right decision can be exhausting.  Throw in a little fun and keep your sense of humor.  As he writes, “Enjoy your imperfections – it’s all part of being human.”

Do you have any other suggestions on how to keep your self-talk from tearing at your self-confidence?  Leave a comment or send me a tweet, my id is jgodfrey.