PMO Perspectives Blog https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives A blog about the PMO and everything Project Management related, by Strategy Execution Thu, 10 Jan 2019 11:03:37 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.9 140013268 How To Decide What Projects Not To Do https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/how-to-decide-what-projects-not-to-do/ https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/how-to-decide-what-projects-not-to-do/#respond Thu, 10 Jan 2019 11:03:37 +0000 https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/?p=26762

There are not enough resources in your company to Do All The Things. Right? You have a finite amount of money. You have a flexible (but ultimately limited by money) pool of people to do the work. You probably have a long list of good ideas and business cases that you’d like to turn into ...

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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Projects and Project Management

There are not enough resources in your company to Do All The Things. Right?

You have a finite amount of money. You have a flexible (but ultimately limited by money) pool of people to do the work. You probably have a long list of good ideas and business cases that you’d like to turn into projects.

Or, to rephrase, you have a long list of work ides that senior managers would like to get done as projects.

It’s not difficult to see the problem. You can’t do it all. So how do you decide what not to do?

Set Priorities

First, you need to know what the priorities are. The priority work should align to your corporate strategy.

You’ll probably have some big picture goals, maybe some company values, and a strategy. All of these things help set the direction for choosing projects. However, alone, they aren’t detailed enough to help you put projects in a specific order of priority.

You need selection criteria for that.

Create the Project Selection Criteria

Project selection criteria are the characteristics of the projects you do want to do.

One of them will be ‘strategic fit’ or ‘alignment’ but alone that isn’t enough. Frankly, a canny manager can make anything sound like it has strategic fit. You need other criteria for selecting whether a project should go ahead.

These can be derivatives of strategic fit, paired with a mixture of other criteria that are appropriate for your business. For example:

  • Does the project help achieve regulatory compliance? If so, it may be a requirement for your business to do the project, whether it aligns with strategy or not.
  • What return on investment does the project expect to deliver? Over what time period? Projects with a higher return should get priority. Sometimes time period is important too. Typically, projects that pay back in a shorter period are considered a better investment.
  • How complex is the project? You may decide to prioritise lower complexity projects at busy times for your business, or at times when you are struggling for resources.
  • What strategic goals does the project support? Projects that support more than one strategic goal could be higher priorities than those that only support one.
  • Is the project essential to remain competitive in the marketplace? Building an online purchasing system isn’t compliance and may not be on your strategy roadmap, but if all your competitors offer the ability to buy online, then you should be prioritising that too.
  • Does this project support our environmental and corporate social responsibility goals? There may be good reasons for investing in ethical or green projects throughout the year, for example, if your company has a commitment to spending, say 20% of environmental initiatives.

You can also add other, more practical factors like:

  • Is the resource available?
  • How will the project be funded?
  • How long is the project schedule to be?
  • Does the project have an executive sponsor?

Your PMO should come up with (if they haven’t got already) a list of the project prioritisation categories. Ideally, you should be able to assess the criteria on a numerical basis, so that the “answer” pops out as a single number.

Pick the Right Projects

Strategic AlignmentArmed with your list of business cases (or ideas) and your selection criteria, you can make informed decisions about what work to take forward. Hopefully, your selection criteria – when applied to each business case – have given you a clear numerical position for each.

Be warned: there is likely to be a lot of discussion around what number each project should be granted for each criteria. When the outcome is that the project possibly won’t get done, the stakes for project sponsors are high.

You can best deal with this by having a specific process in place for project selection. Perhaps you have a committee that debates and decides how each business case fits with the criteria. Find an approach that everyone can agree on, publicise it (to show you are making the decision in a fair way) and use it.

Take your list of business cases or ideas. Apply the selection criteria to each idea, marking each business case on its merits, on the ranking scale.

All you have to do is put the list in numerical order. The ideas scoring the highest are at the top of the list – these are your top priority projects. The ideas with mid-ranking numbers fall towards the middle of your priority listing. Everything else falls towards the bottom – we’ll come to those in a moment.

You still have finite resources, so while you have a neatly ordered priority list, you still have to work out what is realistically achievable with your current resources. You need to agree on this internally.

You may opt to do the top 10 projects, or as many projects as you can do until you hit your budget of £x. Or you might apply a bit more analysis and work out how many people hours are required for each project, how many humans you have on the team and generate a final list from there.

However, you do it, you should end up with a list of projects, in priority order, that cuts off at the point you can’t take on any more.

The good ideas that fall below the cut off-line can sit there until you have more people or more money – as long as nothing else with a higher priority number comes along first.

Say No to the Wrong Projects

By default, the projects that don’t meet your selection criteria are the ones you should not be doing. You can further split the ‘wrong’ projects into two piles:

  • Those that you can’t do right now, for whatever reason.
  • Those that you shouldn’t do ever.

The time might not be right for a particular project. For example, it doesn’t make sense to recruit a bunch of people when you know that next month an office is closing and you’ll have plenty of skilled resources looking for alternative positions.

Keep those ideas on the list and have a plan to take them forward to the next step when the timing feels better.

As you work through the selection process it should become apparent which are the initiatives that should never be taken forward and become a project.

They will be the activities that are so far from strategic alignment that you know they couldn’t make sense for your business. They are the ideas that have a scarily high investment for almost zero return (and no other sensible reason to do them either). These are the business cases that get rejected.

Let the proposers know that these ideas will not be taken forward in their current form. Those individuals may be able to rework the business case, tweaking the proposal to become something that isn’t ridiculous. If they can do that, you should be open to reviewing the proposal again and looking at it with fresh eyes.

Doing the right projects means actively deciding not to work on the wrong projects. How do you do that in your business? Tweet us @2080StrategyEx. We’d love to hear your thoughts!

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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Happy Holiday Season and a Prosperous 2019! https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/happy-holiday-season-and-a-prosperous-2019/ https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/happy-holiday-season-and-a-prosperous-2019/#respond Fri, 21 Dec 2018 09:45:37 +0000 https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/?p=26749

From all of us at Strategy Execution, please accept our warmest wishes for a happy holiday season and a prosperous 2019! We would like to thank you for your support along our 40,000+ monthly readers. We will return raring to go with fresh New Year insights on the 10th of January.

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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From all of us at Strategy Execution, please accept our warmest wishes for a happy holiday season and a prosperous 2019!

We would like to thank you for your support along our 40,000+ monthly readers.

We will return raring to go with fresh New Year insights on the 10th of January.

Strategy Execution

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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Adopting Business Agility at Moonpig: A Case Study https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/adopting-business-agility-at-moonpig-a-case-study/ https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/adopting-business-agility-at-moonpig-a-case-study/#respond Thu, 13 Dec 2018 11:50:12 +0000 https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/?p=26614

A well-known start-up in the UK, Moonpig is all about making someone’s day brilliant.  An e-commerce business, it enables people to create personalised cards online which are then printed and sent to recipients.  In addition they offer a range of gifts and flowers. Moonpig was founded in 1999,  before Lean and Agile approaches had become ...

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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A well-known start-up in the UK, Moonpig is all about making someone’s day brilliant.  An e-commerce business, it enables people to create personalised cards online which are then printed and sent to recipients.  In addition they offer a range of gifts and flowers.

Moonpig was founded in 1999,  before Lean and Agile approaches had become mainstream in the UK.  It was not until about 2013 that Moonpig first began to adopt Agile practices.  As with most organisations, it began in product engineering.  More unusually, having recognised the benefits of agile working, Moonpig’s leadership team were keen to see if the wider organisation could also benefit from this approach.

In this post Amanda Colpoys – a Lean, Agile and Growth Coach, shares her experiences as she set out to introduce business agility at Moonpig. She outlines the vision and the outcomes they hoped to achieve, and then describes how they sought to introduce changes, and the benefits delivered.

The Journey Begins – “Let’s Try This Agile Thing”

While this post focuses primarily on organisational agility, it’s worth covering the early beginnings in technology as those successes paved the way for widespread adoption.

Moonpig began its agile transformation by establishing a Product Management team and cross-functional teams of developers and QAs.

Like many, we used the Scrum framework to start optimising the software development process and we increased the emphasis on quality, adopting software craftsmanship and XP practices.

We also sought to build cross-functional skills within the teams, gradually phasing out the dedicated QA role and developing all engineers to design, write, test and deploy code.

One key challenge we faced was a monolithic legacy codebase.  It was clear that agile management practices could only deliver only some improvements in efficiency  – to really deliver at pace we needed to improve our technology.

Over the next 2 years we focused on re-architecting the codebase, moving from a monolith to a service oriented architecture. In parallel we invested in continuous integration and deployment.  As deployment frequency increased we migrated from Scrum to Kanban and emphasis shifted from tracking velocity to optimising cycle time.

That investment in technology is ongoing, but the combination of those early investments combined with improved working practices delivered considerable benefits.

We reduced deployments from once every three weeks to 3-4 times per day and average cycle time dropped from 16 days to 5 days. Improvements in speed enabled us to adopt lean product development practices, testing and validating iterative changes.

Collectively these efforts resulted in substantial business growth.  As well as the financial benefits, product engineering teams demonstrated much healthier results in the annual staff survey:

40% Higher Engagement

46% Higher Enablement

27% Higher Alignment

Consequently Lean and Agile practices were seen to be delivering benefits in speed, ROI and engagement.  Encouraged by these results, the leadership team asked me to explore the possibility of extending lean and agile working across the wider organisation.

The Context for Change

My first step was to understand the challenges faced within our business functions.  Having been firmly rooted in product engineering since joining Moonpig, I had little knowledge about the wider business operation.

I spent many months getting to know the teams, what they did, their processes and their challenges and frustrations.  The feedback I received will, I imagine,  be familiar to most:

This coupled with my own observations lead me to identify some core problems:

  • Lack of alignment between teams
  • Lack of visibility, communication and collaboration
  • Lack of speed
  • Ineffective process
  • Limited use of data and experimentation to optimise outcomes

However, I could see no reason why the working practices we’d used successfully in product engineering couldn’t be adapted to different contexts, and I started to formulate a plan to introduce change.

The What and How?

It’s worth briefly outlining what exactly I hoped to achieve and what positive outcomes I anticipated.

What?

Essentially I sought to create a system of work that would optimise performance across the whole organisation, allowing us to innovate and move fast at scale, whilst being a great place to work.

The specific outcomes I hoped to achieve were improved business outcomes leading to higher ROI, reduced cycle time across all value streams and higher levels of employee engagement.

Inspired by Jonathan Smart, I refer to these outcomes as “better, faster, happier”.

How?

To achieve these outcomes, I formulated a high level plan:

  • Align relevant people around key outcomes, removing conflicting priorities and dependencies.
  • Leverage lean working practices — visualising work, reducing work in progress and focusing on finishing.
  • Embed a customer-focused, data-driven, experimental approach to minimise wasted investment.
  • Create a culture of autonomy where teams are empowered to deliver the best outcomes.

Getting Started – Aligning the Teams

This was the most disruptive change.  Like most businesses we had organised ourselves by function, but I’d observed that this prevented us from aligning and collaborating effectively.

I proposed that instead of aligning ourselves by skill set –  by what we did – that we organise our teams around what we wanted to achieve.

To accomplish this I worked with the leadership team to define a long lived set of metrics that represented growth for our business.  This was very much about the “why” rather than the “what”.

An outcome like retention, for example, will always matter.  What we do to influence retention will change relatively often, but the outcome itself is constant.

I believed this mattered as it would help us create long-lived teams.  There is an overhead to commissioning and decommissioning teams so it was helpful to develop a structure with some long-term stability.

With a set of long-lived metrics in place, we were then able to work out which people and skills we needed to achieve those outcomes, and thus our new team structure emerged.  Inevitably we didn’t get this 100% right the first time, so we did adapt it once we’d seen the new teams in action.

Like many organisations we were influenced by Spotify’s approach; whilst we ended up with something quite different, it shared the same principles and we adopted their terminology.

As we evolved our cross-functional model we defined three tribes around core product and service, growth and foundations.  Each tribe contained multiple squads with outcomes which supported the higher level tribe objectives.

Squad Principles

As “squads” have become well-known, people have developed preconceptions about what a squad is.  To that end I’ll clarify the definition of a Moonpig squad and the underlying principles.  A Moonpig squad is:

  • Organised around an outcome and a value stream – it has a clear purpose
  • Resourced to achieve that outcome – it is independent
  • Empowered to decide how best to achieve an outcome – it is autonomous

Our squads are not, as is commonly assumed, “an engineering thing”.  If a squad’s outcome doesn’t rely on technology, there won’t be any product engineering in the squad.  Conversely, a mission which is product or tech lead may not need support from any business function. The mission and outcome determine the composition of the squad.

Functions in a Cross Functional World

It’s worth noting that functions are not obsolete in a cross-functional world; indeed they have a critical role.

Functions provide the guidelines and principles within which members of a function can operate autonomously across multiple squads.

The engineering function, for example, will be responsible for defining preferred technology and coding standards. A creative or brand function will define clear brand guidelines.

Functions provide the boundaries which enable autonomous working in cross-functional teams without compromising quality or consistency.

Getting Better, Faster and Happier

With our cross-functional squads in place, we were able to start leveraging lean and agile working practices to optimise performance.  These will be very familiar to anyone in the agile space.

Getting Faster

Aligning teams delivered instant improvements in cycle time, but there was still much room to improve.  Rather than adopt specific frameworks, I used the concept of “minimum viable agility”.  I encouraged each team to visualise their workflow, hold a daily stand-up and a retrospective every two weeks.  With these core practices in place we were then free to support each team to tailor and optimise their own processes.

Over and above this we put in place ways to measure cycle time and bottlenecks across all workflows so we were able to provide squads with real data to help them optimise speed of delivery.

Getting Better

Alongside improved delivery capability we wanted to encourage a more data-driven, experimental approach.  Experimenting increased in all areas, helping to optimise everything from marketing content to product range.  It is still early days and there is plenty of scope to increase the tempo, but the widespread adoption is encouraging.

Cross-functional working supported the growth in experimentation as skills and experience in this area cross-pollinated within squads.

Getting Happier

You’ll recall at the beginning of this post I described how product engineering teams had shown much higher levels of engagement, enablement and alignment.  By extending the same way of working to all of our teams we hoped to see scores in these areas increase across the board.

Outcomes

Before I discuss outcomes, it’s worth putting them in context. The changes I’ve described took place over 6–8 months, so we are still at the “MVP” stage!  However, as with an MVP, we are looking for early validation of the approach, and the signs thus far give us reason to be confident.

Getting Better

Whilst I can’t reveal actual numbers, the squads delivered very healthy growth during the first 6 months. A less scientific, but no less revealing, indicator was that the leadership team were extremely pleased with the squads’ results!

Getting Faster

We saw more dramatic gains in speed, particularly in delivery of our marketing content where we saw cycle times reduced from months to days.

Getting Happier

Happiness was difficult to measure as we had no baseline. However, I was able to extrapolate some results by comparing annual staff surveys from before and after the change. These saw marked improvements in areas such as alignment & involvement (+13%) and enablement (+21%).

While this is the beginning of a journey, and there is still much room to improve, the early signs have given me confidence in the approach.

It has also convinced me personally of the potential of business agility.

As long as Agile remains a “tech thing” we consign ourselves to optimising a single corner of an organisation.

Lean and Agile comprise a set of principles which are ultimately agnostic of technology — every part of the organisation can benefit.

You can read a more detailed case study of Business Agility at Moonpig here

About the Author

Amanda is a freelance coach and consultant helping organisations to adopt lean, agile and growth practices, enabling them to grow, innovate and deliver value at scale.

 

For more information on Lean and Agile, you can listen to our webinar on the Strategic Potential of Lean and Agile

For more information about Agile Project Training, please click here

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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Project Management Gatherings https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/project-management-gatherings/ https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/project-management-gatherings/#respond Thu, 06 Dec 2018 11:20:45 +0000 https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/?p=26598

Working in project management has always had a heavy emphasis on people. It’s people who make projects successful and it’s people coming together, working collaboratively; sharing experiences; swarming and standing up together that really makes a project tick. Project meetings; daily stand-ups; a community of practice; lunch and learns – there is a myriad of ...

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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Thinking Differently - Project Meetings and Gatherings

Working in project management has always had a heavy emphasis on people. It’s people who make projects successful and it’s people coming together, working collaboratively; sharing experiences; swarming and standing up together that really makes a project tick.

Project meetings; daily stand-ups; a community of practice; lunch and learns – there is a myriad of different ways we come together to progress delivery and continuously learn about how to do that better.

It was with this in mind – and the fact that I love bringing people together, mainly PMO gatherings – that made me listen to a podcast which featured Priya Parker as she spoke about her new book – The Art of Gathering – Create Transformative Meetings, Events and Experiences.

There are some really great insights here that are perfect for thinking differently about the gatherings we have in the project world. Overcoming those dreadful meetings where everyone is invited where no decisions get made whilst people tap away on laptops and mobile phones. This is not a book about quick tips to kerb behaviours, it’s much deeper than that and in this article, I highlight some of the points that really resonated with me.

Why Are We Really Here?

 

The Art of GatheringWe’ve heard it a hundred times or more – if you make the purpose of the meeting really clear, you’re more likely to have the right people there making the right kind of decisions.

Except to really define the purpose of the meeting probably takes more than you would expect.

The first insight is not confusing purpose with categories. Categories are things like project status meetings; lessons learnt workshops; project board meetings and so on. We get drawn into designing a gathering based on the kind of category it is – and start using a template or set of activities that normally go along with that category of a meeting without really fully understanding what the real purpose is.

Let’s take project status meetings as an example – is the true purpose of these meetings just to update everyone on the status of the project (in which case why bother with a meeting when an information pack can be distributed) or is it a meeting to focus on the potential pitfalls that might be coming our way in the next few weeks or coming months?

Just because we have always had project status reports in a certain format or structure – are they really fit for the real purpose of having them? We can start to think differently – change the structure perhaps – or who we invite to these gatherings if we really understand why we’re doing them.

Meetings should be structured and designed around the desired outcome – this is also a great way to really understand what the true purpose is.

What Needs to Be in There?

 

When you start to understand the real purpose of your project gatherings – the purpose can be used as a bouncer.

This means you use the purpose of the meeting to decide what goes on in that meeting and what stays out. That can be the activities you choose, the direction it takes, the people who are invited and those that are excluded.  “Inviting people is easy, excluding people is hard”.

We’ve all been in project meetings where EVERYONE seems to be invited – there’s representation from different departments; different strands of the team; senior executives and so on. It’s not often that these meetings are productive and seen as a useful place to spent time.

When there is a real purpose to the meeting – you can also exclude with purpose. With our project status meeting example, it’s only the people who really have an input into the potential pitfalls coming at the project over the next few weeks.

Learning to exclude with kindness is a fascinating read – it’s kind for the people who have a valid reason for being there, you’re protecting the people in there and the whole purpose of the gathering in the first place. I loved the phrase, “by closing the door, you create the room” which by creating the right attendee list and excluding others, you’re ready to really get down to business.

There are three questions that Priya advises you can use to exclude well:

  1. Who not only fits but also helps fulfil the gathering’s purpose?
  2. Who threatens the purpose?
  3. Who, despite being irrelevant to the purpose, do you feel obliged to invite?

It is in answering these questions that the true purpose can come to light and the third question which really tests that purpose.

Another extract shows why the third question is important:

It is to shift your perception so that you understand that people who aren’t fulfilling the purpose of your gathering are detracting from it, even if they do nothing to detract from it.

That’s because every single person in that room affects group dynamics – and even though they might not be actively contributing or saying very much at all – the rest of the people in the gathering will feel they should include them in some way – it takes time and attention away from the real purpose of the meeting.

Project Meetings

How Many of Us are There?

 

You can exclude people from meetings based on the size of the meeting you’re running. There are ideal sizes for gatherings depending on what the purpose of the gathering is. It’s not scientific yet sizes of gatherings do ‘shape what you will get out of people’.

A good conversation and it’s between 8 and 12 people. Good for brainstorming meetings or what Priya calls ‘table moments’ where everyone can get around a table comfortably together talking on one topic.

Go smaller if decisions need to be made – 6 or less is a good figure.

Where Are We Holding It?

High Impact Communications

 

Often in project team meetings, we don’t get a huge amount of options – it’s the meeting room down the corridor, a breakout area near the canteen, a little corner to huddle in.

The venue we hold our meetings in need to be fit for our purpose – the environment we hold our meetings is such an important aspect that it can affect the ‘version of you which shows up at the meeting’. Venues should try to embody the reason why you’re meeting – brainstorming is going to be very different to a tough client negotiation session. Venues can shape the behaviours of the people attending – spaces and places can reinforce underlying assumptions.

Spaces can also force people out of their usual comfort zones and habits – a good idea is to perhaps think about where your next project meeting should not take place and then hold it there.

If you’re looking for different outcomes – wanting to shake things up, get the team doing things differently, thinking differently – this could be the small change needed.

Leading the Gathering

 

Finally, in this article we focus on the host – perhaps that’s you, a Project Manager leading a team meeting, a PMO Manager leading a Community of Practice meetup or a Programme Manager hosting the kickoff.

This is about taking control of the gathering – finding the balance between letting people fulfil their purpose of being there and keeping the gathering moving along to fulfil the overall purpose.

Here a great example from Ronald Heifetz, a professor at Harvard on leadership, in his first day of a class on Adaptive Leadership. In starting the lecture, Heifetz decided to do nothing, just sit quietly at the front of the auditorium, staring blankly. The students arrive and sit, and become increasingly nervous and restless as this carries on for about 5 minutes. The students are confused and unsettled. Some start to get tetchy, speaking up asking what’s happening, when will it start, others tell them to be quiet and wait – that it’s a test, surely?

MeetingsWithout the lecturer taking the lead, doing what lecturers normally do, the class starts to take over – dealing with each other, not understanding who will start to take charge or stop the arguing that has sprung up. Heifetz, after 5 minutes or so, announced “Welcome to the Adaptive Leadership class” and everyone signs, great relief.

He’s started the lecture by showing what happens when you abdicate responsibility – leadership responsibility. “You don’t eradicate power. You just hand the opportunity to take charge to someone else”. By giving people free rein, just like with these students, you don’t make their lives easier or give them space to do whatever they want to make themselves happier or more productive – it just makes people unsettled and anxious because the social norms have been tested.

With project meetings, you must take control throughout. Not with just kicking off the meeting and then sitting back, expecting conversations to lead to decisions – or actions to be picked up by members. It’s not enough to “set a purpose, direction and ground rules. All these things require enforcement” And if you don’t do this, someone else will and not necessarily in line with your true purpose.

With no enforcement, that’s when it’s likely that meetings become dominated by someone who likes the sound of their own voice – or someone with the most seniority – or political game playing. Priya recommends that hosting gatherings is done with ‘generous authority’. When you’re hosting with generous authority you have three goals – protect your attendees; equalise your attendees (leave your pretences at the door and treat everyone fairly) and finally, connect your attendees to each other.

Thinking Differently About Meetings

 

The book goes on to focus on areas such as etiquette and pop-up rules; the logistics of meetings and events and how to spice them up; how to get attendees ready for meetings and what not to do when starting your meeting up. It looks at attendees being authentic in meetings, running and closing them down.

Gatherings of all kinds are frequent occurrences throughout our organisations and for those working in project management environments, we know that every meeting we host or attend should have a strong purpose and a clear outcome. Equally, we know that time is precious and that decisions need to be made frequently throughout the day, with many different and diverse people.

Thinking differently about how we use this precious time to get real, productive outcomes can make all the difference – by looking at branches of psychology, sociology and other social sciences we can deepen our understanding of how people meet, collaborate and work – and as a project leader how you can harness that for the benefit of the project and for the delivery organisation.

Looking for something to spark that ‘thinking differently’? Take a look at the Adaptive Strategic Execution Programme, it features topics such as adaptive leadership, design thinking and making sense of complexity.

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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Six Reasons Why Strategy Execution Goes Wrong And How To Recover https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/six-reasons-why-strategy-execution-goes-wrong-and-how-to-recover/ https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/six-reasons-why-strategy-execution-goes-wrong-and-how-to-recover/#respond Thu, 29 Nov 2018 11:49:00 +0000 https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/?p=26581

You’ve created a robust corporate strategy and aligned all your projects. Now all you have to do is sit back and wait for your strategy to be delivered, right? Unfortunately, it’s not often as simple as that! In this article, we share six reasons why strategy execution might go wrong and how you can address ...

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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You’ve created a robust corporate strategy and aligned all your projects. Now all you have to do is sit back and wait for your strategy to be delivered, right?

Unfortunately, it’s not often as simple as that! In this article, we share six reasons why strategy execution might go wrong and how you can address them.

1. Get Alignment Right

First, strategic execution can fail because the work the business is doing does not take it closer to the strategy. If your strategy was to send a rocket to Mars, and all your projects were to do with stellar discovery or building a camera to take pictures of Mars, then you aren’t aligned.

However, we talk a lot about strategic alignment and how to get the right projects to deliver your strategic goals. I think the understanding of alignment between the vision of a company and how to translate that into concrete work to do that helps you get closer to the vision is now well understood.

However, as a recap: Set your strategy. Define the projects that have to happen to deliver the strategy. Do the projects.

Let’s move on!

2. Build Trust with Other TeamsStrategy Execution

Coordinating work across multiple teams is essential for delivering on your strategy. If you’ve got the alignment right, then failure to execute is the next biggest challenge.

In a study published in HBR, only 9% of managers reported that they could rely on other departments to deliver on promises. A little over half of the respondents said that they could rely on their colleagues in other teams “most” of the time. In the article, Donald Sull, Rebecca Homkes and Charles Sull say that other departments are not ranked much more reliable than third parties that companies typically work with, like suppliers.

So what happens when you can’t trust your colleagues to do their work? You put tactics in place to plug the gaps. For example, you don’t share project resources because you know if they are under your direct control, you’ll actually get stuff done. You duplicate effort just in case the other team does nothing. You micromanage. You end up with delays, or you say no to great projects because you don’t fully trust that as a business you’ll be able to deliver.

This sounds extreme, but it’s something that – if you are honest – you have probably seen in your own organisation. How often does an issue with another team get worse before it gets better? Perhaps the solution is a sticking plaster. Perhaps it never gets resolved, and relationships between the teams never recover.

3. Train Your Project Leaders

To combat the challenges of lack of trust between departments, project leaders need to be able to work cross-functionally. Seeing the bigger picture has never been more important. If you want your strategy to actually be realised, then you have to work as a team to do so.

Project managers talk about collaboration all the time, and many teams do it very well. Supported by project management software and collaboration tools, it seems like businesses have finally grasped the importance of making it easy for people to work together, even if they are part of a globally-dispersed virtual team.

However, the actual “doing” of collaboration is always a little trickier in practice. Support project managers and leaders with an understanding of what it means to lead across departments.

> Take a look at the Adaptive Strategy Execution training available

4. Project Managers: Build Credibility

As a project manager, what can you do? First, secure a mandate for your project that means you have cross-functional authority, delegated from your project sponsor, to work with teams across the business as required.

Second, build your personal credibility so that you are considered knowledgeable and trustworthy – someone all teams want to work with. If your reputation goes before you (and it’s a good one) then you’ll find it so much easier to get your colleagues from around the organisation to commit to what needs to be done.

5. Manage Change

Strategy execution is sometimes more of a challenge than it needs to be because of poor change management practices.

Normally, when I talk about change management, I mean the process of assessing and incorporating changes to scope into the project plan, but in this case, I mean all types of change management:

  • the process of change management on a project, leading to changes to the project scope, timeline, budget or some other parameter
  • the process of identifying and reacting to industry or environmental change, leading to changes in the strategy
  • the wider integration of business change into the organisation, leading to the adoption of the new ways of working, tools, process or transformation delivered by the project into the organisation.

Strategy execution is like any other type of project execution. You start off thinking it will go one way, and if you are lucky you get there – with a fewChange Management twists and turns along the way.

While those twists might not change your underlying strategy, how you intend to achieve it might change. Perhaps new projects are added or old initiatives mothballed. Some projects change scope. Something happens in the external environment – say, a change of legislation – that affects how you need to execute your strategy.

As a project leader, you have to go with the changes, leading your team through uncertainty noting that the end goal still remains. Lack of flexibility and struggling to be responsive to all kinds of change is another reason why some companies fail to deliver on their strategic goals.

6. Reward Performance

Does your business truly have a performance culture? When strategy execution fails, it could be because people in the business aren’t rewarded for strategic success.

That sounds strange, but it’s more common than you might think. For example, think about a retail organisation with many shops. Each shop has targets. They are all targeted on hitting particular sales figures. No shop is targeted with supporting the organisation hit overall sales figures. So when a shop assistant goes off sick at the most profitable branch, none of the other branches nearby ring up to offer some of their staff to fill the gap. That action would help the other branch hit its targets, and as they are the most profitable in the group, go towards helping the business overall meet target.

This is a simplistic example, but you can see how, when departments are tasked with their own goals, they work on their own goals. When departments are tasked with contributing to the overall strategy, they have more latitude to take creative solutions to make an active and useful contribution.

Make sure that the metrics for managing staff and team performance are as aligned to the strategy as the projects.

What do you think about the ideas in this article? Have you ever worked with teams who don’t collaborate across the business? Tweet us @2080StrategyEx. We’d love to hear your thoughts!

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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Project Leadership – The Art of Stepping Away From the Detail https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/project-leadership-the-art-of-stepping-away-from-the-detail/ https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/project-leadership-the-art-of-stepping-away-from-the-detail/#respond Thu, 22 Nov 2018 11:33:48 +0000 https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/?p=26377

On small, tactical projects it’s not unusual for the project manager to double up and also be a team member who completes some of the team’s work and who makes detailed decisions. It can be a great way to utilize people’s skills, especially if the project doesn’t need a full-time project manager. On large strategic ...

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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Project Leadership

On small, tactical projects it’s not unusual for the project manager to double up and also be a team member who completes some of the team’s work and who makes detailed decisions. It can be a great way to utilize people’s skills, especially if the project doesn’t need a full-time project manager.

On large strategic projects, however, it’s a different story. Large projects require a project manager who is dedicated to steering the project and to leading the team – as opposed to doing the detailed work. Intellectually we know that this has to be true, but in reality, many project managers struggle to step away from the detail. As a result, they work overtime to stay in control and to get it all done. Ultimately it’s a losing game as there will never be enough hours in the day to cover all the details on a large project.

Why is it So Hard to Give Up Control?

Through my leadership work, I have come to recognise that people with certain traits and personality types find it particularly challenging to step away from the details. I have seen this with people who are task-oriented and who want work to be completed in the right way or who want it to be completed quickly.

Ambitious, driven and analytical managers often can’t resist the temptation to attend every meeting, to read every email and to be involved in the resolution of detailed issues. Especially technical project managers and subject matter experts feel that they need to know it all and do it all because it’s familiar territory to them.Project Leaders

But even non-technical project managers find it hard to let go. Many managers thrive when they are in control and their ego gets a boost when they are able to impact decisions and resolve issues. Wanting to be liked, validated and appreciated is human nature and many project professionals justify their role by putting their hands in as many pies as possible.

When they have spent the day putting out important fires on the project, it gives them a sense of instant gratification, which they don’t get from strategizing and engaging in long-term planning activities.

When We Hold Onto the Detail We Disempower the Team

Not surprisingly several issues arise when project managers are unable to let go of the detail. The first problem is that when the project manager is involved in detailed decision-making and issue-resolution, there will be a lot less time available to maintain the overview, to coach team members, to build relationships with stakeholders, to plan and to keep an eye on the commercial aspects, the vision and the business case.

If the project manager isn’t attending to these strategic aspects of the project, no one will.

The second issue is that managers who are too involved in the detail run the risk of becoming what Liz Wiseman refers to as Diminishers. A Diminisher is the stereotypical Know-It-All, who tells people what they know, how to do their jobs, and then test their knowledge to see if they are doing it right.

Diminishers have high standards, and a high level of knowledge, but they rarely share their knowledge in a way that invites contribution. Rather than shifting responsibility onto other people for finding solutions, Diminishers stay in charge and tell others – in detail – how to do their jobs.

Many Diminishers see themselves as thought leaders and think that they are doing the organization and their team a favour by driving the project forward through their involvement. But unfortunately, they don’t realise the restrictive impact they are having on others. Being a good leader is not about having the right answers nor is it about making all the decisions or solving all the problems.

Leadership is about unleashing other people’s potential and that’s only possible if the team is allowed to learn and experiment on their own. Working with a diminishing project manager is demotivating and disempowering.

Controlling Managers are Prone to Stress

The third problem is that project managers, who are too absorbed in the detail, are much more likely to burn their candle at both ends and to suffer from chronic stress. Wanting to be in control to the nth degree – and perhaps even to be praised for their heroic efforts – comes at a personal cost, which is unhealthy.Project Leadership Training

I recently spoke to a project manager who was so worried about his project failing, although it was still in the initiation phase, that he was working until midnight most evenings to validate decisions and to move the project forward. He acknowledged that he had a problem but blamed a lack of people to delegate to as the root cause.

It’s often easier to blame the constraints of our projects for our controlling behaviour, but the truth is that we need to look inside ourselves to find the root cause and to address it. Many leaders have successfully learnt to delegate and to empower others to run with the details in spite of aggressive deadlines and limited resources.

Learning to Delegate is a Necessity and a Sign of Strength

The first step is to acknowledge that the primary role of the project manager is to set the course and to empower the team to make the best possible decisions along the way, rather than making all the decisions for the team. This is particularly true in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) environment where it’s impossible for one person to know it all.

The project manager must build a reliance on a strong team who is comfortable operating in an ambiguous environment. Taking a step back from the detail is therefore not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength and shows that the project manager is comfortable giving up some of their power to the team.

The second step is to learn to delegate elegantly. Elegant delegation happens when the project manager delegates work which the team finds motivating and which it will grow from. Delegating a task or a decision to the team doesn’t mean that the project manager detaches himself and simply trusts that the task will be performed successfully.

The project manager is still involved in defining the task and in agreeing what a good outcome looks like. They guide and support the team member to use the right thinking patterns and approaches, thereby empowering them to own the detail. If something isn’t going to plan they will ask challenging questions and encourage the team to take responsibility and think harder. But they will not jump in and take back control or decide how the work should get done.

In summary, large strategic projects require a project manager who is dedicated to steering the project and leading the team as opposed to doing the detailed work. This is a challenge, especially for technical project managers and subject matter experts, who feel that they need to know it all and do it all.

If project managers don’t learn to step away from the detail they will disempower the team, become less able to navigate the project in a VUCA environment and they may ultimately suffer from burnout. Learning to delegate is not only possible, it’s highly necessary, and when done correctly it becomes a win-win situation for everyone involved.

>>  Find out more information about the Project Leadership Management and Communications 3 day course

Project Leadership and Communications

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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Coaching Tips for Project Managers and Their Teams https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/coaching-tips-for-project-managers-and-their-teams/ https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/coaching-tips-for-project-managers-and-their-teams/#respond Thu, 15 Nov 2018 11:04:20 +0000 https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/?p=26274

One of the hardest shifts in mind-set needed when moving from an operational to a project management role, is the letting go of the project tasks yourself. After all, you will have spent a number of years working in project teams and you performed tasks to a high standard, which helped you get that coveted ...

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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Coaching and Project Managers

One of the hardest shifts in mind-set needed when moving from an operational to a project management role, is the letting go of the project tasks yourself.

After all, you will have spent a number of years working in project teams and you performed tasks to a high standard, which helped you get that coveted project manager role.

Deep down, you suspect that other people probably can’t do those tasks quite as well as you can, and for that reason, you are reluctant to let go.

In many jobs, as you get promoted to leadership roles, it is possible to keep doing tasks yourself until you learn the hard way that this isn’t the best use of your time, but of course as a project manager, you have to let go – you are responsible for the organisational side of the work and other people perform the tasks. You probably don’t have the expertise to do them yourself anyway.

But herein lies the problem: you want the tasks performed to the standard you would do them yourself, but you are relinquishing control.

This is something that we address in our Coaching & Mentoring for Improved Performance course, in which we examine the following delegation rule:

When you delegate a task, the quality of the work will be directly equivalent to the skill and commitment level of the person performing the task, unless you intervene as a coach.

So what is the message here? As a project manager, you need to coach your project team to ensure work is performed to the highest standard, in the shortest time possible. Unfortunately though, many project managers don’t know how to coach effectively.

How to Delegate

When delegating a task, you can behave in one of three ways: you can abdicate, direct or coach.

Abdicating is easy. Unfortunately, it is also completely ineffective as a leadership style and dangerous in terms of the expected results.

If we abdicate as we delegate tasks in our projects, we set a task, then disappear (figuratively or literally), returning on Deadline Day to expect everything to be completed perfectly. Of course, this is very often not the case, as per our delegation rule above.

All too often, the task is completed to a poor standard, if at all. And of course, it is the project manager who is accountable. Samuel Johnson defined abdication as:

The act of abdicating; resignation; quitting an office by one’s own proper act before the usual or stated expiration.

And this is how many people delegate. Then they are surprised when the work is not completed as they had hoped.

To direct is to behave at the opposite end of the scale – it is delegating without relinquishing any control at all.

Whilst this might bring in better results than abdication, directing (or micro-managing) is hard work and a waste of resources. It takes the time of the person performing the work, but in the action of directing, it absorbs a great deal of time from the project manager as well.

Whilst directing may result in the task being completed to a high standard, for the time it takes, the project manager may as well have performed it himself. It is also completely ineffective as a development tool and fails miserably to empower the team member or help them grow.

Another way

So we’ve seen that operating at either end of the delegation spectrum is far from ideal. The sweet spot is in this centre ground between the two. A dictionary definition of “to delegate” would read something like this:

To send and authorise another person to act as one’s representative

And that is what effective delegating should be. It is giving a task to a subordinate, yet appreciating that they act as your representative, and therefore helping them to perform in a way that represents you (and them) in a very good way.

It is not dropping a task on them and running, and it is also not micro-managing towards task completion. It is empowering with authority, yet remembering that the coachee is your representative and that you are ultimately responsible for the successful completion of the task.

We call this coaching. When a project manager coaches effectively, she (and according to coaching guru Sir John Whitmore, women adapt to this much better than men) supports the team member appropriately to achieve greatness for the team member and first-class results for the project manager.

Project Managers CoachingWhat is coaching?

Remember our delegation rule from earlier:

When you delegate a task, the quality of the work will be directly equivalent to the skill and commitment level of the person performing the task unless you intervene as a coach.

This means that we can delegate a task to (almost) anyone, and if we support them effectively as their coach, they will complete the task to our standard.

Choose a team member who is highly-skilled and very committed to the task and that intervention might be minimal (yet still vital); choose someone who is less experienced and it might require more effort from you as a coach, but the task can still be completed to the same standard.

And that extra effort isn’t without a long-term benefit, because by investing in someone now, you are helping them grow for the future. Further down the line, that person will become your highly-skilled, very committed and thus highly-valued team member who can embrace your most challenging assignments with enthusiasm and confidence.

Coaching and MentoringHow to coach

At TwentyEighty Strategy Execution, we define coaching as:

An interpersonal process built on mutual trust, understanding and expectation that guides and influences the development of individuals and teams to realise potential.

In our Coaching & Mentoring for Improved Performance course, we work through a four-step process to simultaneously achieve the results we need in our delegated task and drive the growth of the coachee.

1. Determine Current Performance

Before we can delegate a task to a coachee, we need to understand what their current performance level is likely to be on that task.

How do we do that? Through a combination of discussion and observation. We discuss with the coachee to understand their skill, confidence and commitment levels and we observe them doing similar tasks in other areas.

Through expert use of questioning structures, we can accurately understand how they are likely to perform on the delegated task and therefore what interventions will be necessary as a coach.

2. Define & Assign Work

Once we understand the support needed, we consider the most effective way to communicate the task to our coachee. We make sure we are communicating what is required of the task and why the task is important in order that the coachee will be best-prepared to approach the task without feeling patronised or micro-managed.

3. Guiding Progress

Here is where we dive into “proper coaching” as we guide the coachee to progress both in the task we have delegated and in their own skill set.

Using appropriate questioning techniques, we help the coachee to find their own solutions to achieve satisfactory results. It’s a bit like being a psychiatrist in an American film: you ask lots of questions and don’t give any answers.

Instead, you help the coachee to self-analyse and consider various potential outcomes of their actions, reaching an agreement on the best way forward. This continues through a series of coaching sessions until the task is complete.

4. Evaluating results

When the task is finished to the coachee’s satisfaction (which, if we’ve coached well, will also be to our satisfaction), we evaluate the results: firstly of the finished task, then of the coachee’s performance and finally of our performance as a coach.

If the finished task isn’t of the right quality, or the coachee hasn’t grown during the process, then the responsibility rests with the coach. We need to self-coach as we consider how we behaved, what worked and what didn’t, to improve our own performance next time.

This effective and well-proven approach can be hugely effective in facilitating the successful completion of tasks and projects, yet the majority of project managers (and managers in general) have never been trained in the required skills.

With our coaching course, we can equip project managers and any leader with these essential skills to maximise the performance of their teams.

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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Top Three Skills and Competencies of a PMO Director https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/top-three-skills-and-competencies-of-a-pmo-director/ https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/top-three-skills-and-competencies-of-a-pmo-director/#respond Thu, 08 Nov 2018 16:29:57 +0000 https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/?p=26267

What are the ideal skills and competencies of a PMO Director that make him or her successful on the job? Here are some of my thoughts; I welcome any input from blog readers. First of all, let me start by saying that not every PMO is the same, so perhaps some of the skills and ...

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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Strategy Execution

What are the ideal skills and competencies of a PMO Director that make him or her successful on the job?

Here are some of my thoughts; I welcome any input from blog readers.

First of all, let me start by saying that not every PMO is the same, so perhaps some of the skills and competencies might be more or less important in some cases.

Good Business Sense

Based on my own experiences, as well as conversations I have had with others about their PMOs, it is clear that having a good business sense is vital for a PMO Director.

Isn’t the success of a PMO not directly linked with the support the PMO will get from upper management?

If a PMO Director does not have the necessary skills to interact with business leaders at their level, then it will be very difficult (to say the least) to have a successful PMO.

I would say that every PMO, perhaps with the exception of a grass-roots PMO, where (senior) project managers are forming their PMO bottom up; needs to have a director that has good business sense, and the ability to communicate the PMO in a language that makes sense to the rest of the business.

Sales

Linked to the skill above, a PMO Director needs to be a good “salesman”.

Selling the PMO upwards, as well as selling project management practices, procedures, etc. to project managers is one of the major tasks he/she has.

Do not underestimate the importance of this, a PMO Director is successful if he/she can sell the importance of good project management practices within their organisation.

Leadership

It should not come as a surprise that effective leadership is my third skill that a PMO Director should possess. How do we know that our PMO Directors are real leaders?

Here is a small “shopping list” to steer you in the right direction:

  • Do they know where the PMO is going, and are they able to put it in simple words?
  • Do they tell people what to do, but not how to do it?
  • Do they do their homework, and are they always well prepared?
  • Do they lead by example?
  • Do they ask people to work as much and as well as they can, not more, not less?
  • Do they take care of their people?
  • Or are they perhaps simply someone that people like to work for/with

If the answers to these questions are ‘yes’ then you are potentially looking at a real leader.

These are just three top skills and competencies.

I am interested to get your feedback on these and more and encourage you to share your own experiences.

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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Insights on Teams and Project Work at Google https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/insights-on-teams-and-project-work-at-google/ https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/insights-on-teams-and-project-work-at-google/#respond Thu, 01 Nov 2018 11:52:11 +0000 https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/?p=26246

Did you know that Google has a website dedicated to a ‘collection of practices, research, and ideas from Google and others to help you put people first’? It’s called re:Work and a number of the practices were shared at the recent Agile Business Conference in London by one of the HR Managers from Google. re:Work- ...

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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Project Teams

Did you know that Google has a website dedicated to a ‘collection of practices, research, and ideas from Google and others to help you put people first’?

It’s called re:Work and a number of the practices were shared at the recent Agile Business Conference in London by one of the HR Managers from Google.

re:Work- you can take a look and browse at your leisure here –  is perhaps little known but it has a huge amount of insights into areas such as leadership, team management, workplace, innovation – here’s the overview:

Google re:Work

The session at the conference was “What Makes an Effective Team?” and shares insights from Google’s Project Aristotle.

Google ManagersYou might already be familiar with Google’s previous project – Project Oxygen – which focused on their research into what makes a great manager. The whole approach to the research is fascinating in itself.

Project Aristotle – named that way because of the Aristotle quote, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” – is perfect for the focus on teams.

In this article, we take a look at a few of the insights shared on the day.

Psychological Safety

The research showed that it was less important who was on the team than how the team worked together.

The number one dynamic of a team is psychological safety, it’s defined as:

Psychological safety refers to an individual’s perception of the consequences of taking an interpersonal risk or a belief that a team is safe for risk-taking in the face of being seen as ignorant, incompetent, negative, or disruptive. In a team with high psychological safety, teammates feel safe to take risks around their team members. They feel confident that no one on the team will embarrass or punish anyone else for admitting a mistake, asking a question, or offering a new idea.

Similar to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – the five-tier model of motivational theory –  where the first four levels are all about the basic and psychological needs that need to be met for human motivation.

With this in place – the foundations – the rest of the team dynamics include; dependability; structure & clarity; meaning and impact:

Google

Objectives and Key Results (OKRs)

To help teams become more structured and have those plans in place, Google opts for OKRs. Like Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) OKRs at Google are also about setting what they call ‘moonshots’ or stretch goals. Success at Google is about reaching 70% of the OKRs, but if you’re able to reach those – what seems like impossible to obtain – moonshots, that’s where the exceptional Googlers are, achieving extraordinary performance levels.

Interestingly, the stretch goals could potentially have the effect that failure to obtain them are unmotivating to staff – however, they find that even failure to reach the moonshots leads to  “substantial advancements” in performance.

Google at Agile Business Conference

Google at Agile Business Conference

Area 120

Talking about team motivation, Area 120 is the place – an open forum – for ideas. Ideas are shared and teams pick up the ideas and create. This is linked to the 20% time allowed for innovation. Many people have already heard that Googlers get to spend time on projects that interest them – 20% of their working time can be dedicated to the project.

With Area 120 – Googlers are working 100% of the time on 20% of the projects which have a real chance of becoming commercially viable products or services.

“We build, launch, and iterate on dozens of novel ideas that might otherwise not be explored. Most of these experiments will fail. But our teams succeed when we test the limits and learn something new.”

>>You can check out Area 120 and sign up for early adoption and become a tester

Dog Food

Google has an internal process called Dogfooding. It’s all about all Googlers using Google products internally, become testers themselves before products are launched to the public. Dogfooding helps teams receive feedback fast and enables them to learn from failure faster. They see ‘feedback as a gift’and dogfooding forms the final stage of their programs of innovation and design thinking.

Dogfooding across the whole organisation is also linked to their approach to growing talent.

The G2G program – Googler-to-Googler – ‘which offers opportunities for all employees to share their knowledge and learn from their peers’ brings teams and people together from across the business.

Innovation

Finally, we would expect nothing less than innovation featuring highly in teams. Amongst the guides and insights on areas such as developing innovative workplaces and enabling staff to become more innovative in their work – it’s design thinking that brings this subject alive and allows people to develop their thinking and grow their knowledge.

Google takes it inspiration from frontrunners – IDEO and Stanford D School – yet if you’re interested in exploring design thinking in the project management context, take a look at the Design Thinking for Results – part of the Strategy Execution program – to get you started on this extraordinary subject.

 

Design Thinking at Strategy Execution

Interested in exploring design thinking? Take a look at the upcoming [Design Thinking for Results]

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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Stress on Strategic Projects and How to Deal With It https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/stress-on-strategic-projects-and-how-to-deal-with-it/ https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/stress-on-strategic-projects-and-how-to-deal-with-it/#respond Thu, 25 Oct 2018 10:15:58 +0000 https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/?p=26233

On strategic projects, stress is often a topic that looms just below the surface. On one of the leadership programmes we’re running it has really come to the fore. The participants are leaders of large strategic construction projects with a complex stakeholder set-up, tough clients, tight budgets and deadlines linked to stringent contracts. In addition, ...

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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Strategy Execution - Project Stress

On strategic projects, stress is often a topic that looms just below the surface. On one of the leadership programmes we’re running it has really come to the fore.

The participants are leaders of large strategic construction projects with a complex stakeholder set-up, tough clients, tight budgets and deadlines linked to stringent contracts.

In addition, the health and safety concerns associated with the industry add further pressure to those who are in charge.

From the participants we have been in touch with through the leadership programme, we have seen many who work excessively long hours and appear to be at the brink of burnout, some who have been signed off work for months due to stress, and others who have successfully learnt from past incidents and who are now able to switch off from it all.

Work-Related Stress Can Be Deadly

 

Someone who that happened to is a project manager who we will call Peter.

Several years ago Peter was in charge of a portfolio of design and build projects within the rail industry. The workload was significant and the pressure to develop and implement the schemes was unrelenting.

Peter’s requests to his line manager and business unit manager for additional support were ignored and after nine months of non-stop work (including weekends and late nights), he collapsed with severe chest pain.

He was rushed to the hospital where he ended up in the Cardiac High Care. He was diagnosed with Pericarditis, caused by the high levels of stress he had been subjected to.

The incident served as a wake-up call for Peter and his employer that work-related stress can be deadly.

Peter’s employer instigated a number of changes, including training to recognise warning signs of stress, regular staff health surveillance and a training programme on how to effectively deal with stress.

Peter completed the training and was able to change his approach to pressures at work as a result.

He began to exercise, make time for the important things in life and he made sure that he got enough sleep. Very importantly he also learnt to ‘switch-off’ from work at the end of the day and he turned off his my mobile phone between 7pm and 7am.

The good news is that today – many years later – Peter leads projects that are far bigger and more complex than in the past and experiences them as less stressful.

We can learn a number of things from this story.

First of all, we must learn to recognise and take the warning signs seriously as project-related stress can be deadly.

Secondly, the employer and employee must take joint responsibility for minimising negative stress.

The employer has a big role to play in not setting unrealistic deadlines and expecting staff to be self-sacrificing superheroes. But the employee must also learn to listen to their mind and body and find the courage to say stop when they are approaching their limits.

Many Project Managers Find it Challenging to Ask for Help

 

Project Management and Stress

This step is a huge challenge for many project managers who don’t want to appear weak and ask for help.

They are high achievers who thrive by going the extra mile to deliver a good piece of work. In many cases, these project managers are so driven by the desire to contribute to a strategic project, with major positive results for the public, that they don’t even realize that chronic stress is creeping up on them. They are simply too caught up with work to notice the warning signs.

The third thing we can learn from Peter’s story is that when we set ourselves up correctly and take the right precautions, then it is absolutely possible to keep negative stress at bay and avoid burnout.

Not only is that much better for our body and soul, it is also better for the results of our projects.

Studies show that when people are stressed their level of IQ drops significantly, which negatively impacts their ability to solve problems and to perform well. That’s because blood and oxygen are diverted from the prefrontal cortex to the amygdala, which the part of the brain that initiates the fight or flight response.

We Need to Create a New Culture Where We’re Able to Show Vulnerability

 

Chronic Stress

At a project level, we can minimise stress by making sure that our plans are realistic and that we have sufficient contingency in place.

On many projects, there is an expectation that people are 100 per cent effective, but that’s simply not the case and we have to account for that.

Having clear role descriptions, a common set of practices and mutually agreed ground rules will also help minimize stress. There is nothing worse than working in a dysfunctional team and not being able to articulate it or address it.

We have to create a culture, not only where we can talk about the behaviours we expect from each other, but also where we can express how we feel.

When we’re able to show vulnerability, ask for help, and when we care about our co-worker’s wellbeing, we will have come a long way. Employers, project managers and team members need to jointly create this kind of culture.

Each Person has to Set and Respect their Own Boundaries

 

Project LeadershipBut more action is needed to keep negative stress at bay, we also have to set boundaries at an individual level and be honest about the kind of work-life balance we want.

We each have to check in with ourselves and notice about how we feel in our body, mind and spirit.

Are you operating within your zone of peak performance or have you got to an unhealthy place, where stress has become chronic?

Perhaps you have aches and pains, you are unable to sleep at night, you are irritable, you feel overwhelmed and you constantly worry.

If you recognize any of these symptoms it’s time to take action. Scale back on the number of hours you work, make time for friends and family and don’t take work home.

Focus on a few activities or hobbies in your spare time that give you energy. These activities don’t have to take up a lot of time. I know people who have successfully lowered their stress levels by walking their dog more regularly on their own, by playing the guitar or by taking out a few minutes to sit in stillness and focus on their breathing.

If you feel trapped because there is too much work on your plate, speak to your manager about it or discuss it with a trusted colleague.

Sharing your problem is a healthy response to stress and it might open your eyes to how you can begin to work smarter and delegate more.

It can be difficult to see how it’s possible to delegate more, but there will always be a way to empower the team to take more responsibility whilst freeing you up to provide leadership.

 

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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5 Ways to Share Your Vision on Strategic Projects https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/5-ways-to-share-your-vision-on-strategic-projects/ https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/5-ways-to-share-your-vision-on-strategic-projects/#respond Thu, 18 Oct 2018 10:10:31 +0000 https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/?p=26046

All projects have a vision, even if it is never written down. The vision is what you want the project to achieve. It speaks to the need to see the change and to know what is coming. Or, to say that in a less management-speak way: a project vision is a statement of what the ...

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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Strategy Execution

All projects have a vision, even if it is never written down.

The vision is what you want the project to achieve.

It speaks to the need to see the change and to know what is coming.

Or, to say that in a less management-speak way: a project vision is a statement of what the end result will look like.

Defining the end result is relatively easy for smaller projects. You can say that you’ll launch a new product, update a process, introduce new procedures or policies.

On a strategic project, the end result is often vaguer. It’s often some kind of transformative business change that will lead to improvements across a number of areas like customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, financial results and culture.

It is worth adding a caveat to that: some strategic project may have very simple visions.

I once worked on a project to change the ERP system of a company. That was hugely strategic for the business at the time, but had a very clear end goal and a vision we could communicate in a few words – and everyone understood it.

Let’s assume that you already have the vision for your project. Whether it has been simple to define or a long journey through countless workshops and brainstorming sessions, you’ve got a vision. You know where you are going and what the end result of this change will mean for the business.

So how do you share that with other people?

The Challenge of Sharing the Vision

Leading with VisionGreat communicators know that there is more to getting your message across than standing up and saying it once. There is a reason that the mantra for giving a presentation is ‘tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, tell them what you’ve told them’.

People in the organisation come and go over time. Strategic projects often see staff turnover, just because they tend to take longer than other projects the company is doing because they are larger and more complex (again, that isn’t always true, but it’s fair to assume that many strategically-important projects do fall into that category).

You can’t simply share your project vision once and expect it to embed and permeate throughout the organisation.

Methods to Share the Vision

You need to share the vision for your strategic project many times. And you should do it across many different channels.

People take in information in different ways. Typically, people need to hear information a number of times before it starts to feel real to them. If you are dealing with organisational change, it can be helpful to reiterate the message over and over because people may be worried about what it means for them, so they won’t take in the whole thing the first time.

Here are 5 ways that you can share the vision. Pick and choose which you think would work best in your environment, or do them all!

1. New Starter Inductions

If your project is truly strategically significant, everyone needs to know about it. Talk to HR about including information about the project in new starter inductions. You could create a handout or slide deck to be shared with new starters. This only needs to include the headlines for the project and what it means for staff.

It’s also useful to tell people where they can get more information, so if they are directly affected by the change or want to know more, they have somewhere to go.

2. Management Briefings

Take advantage of the fact that most businesses have management briefings from time to time. Whether that’s a Town Hall style meeting or an all-hands conference, there are opportunities at work for everyone to get together.

Try to get your project on the agenda for these. Even a 10-minute update helps keep your project front and centre and on the strategic radar.

There are other ways that you can use briefings to your advantage. Prepare a management presentation pack for team leaders to share with their teams. This could include information about progress updates on the project, for example. You could update the pack regularly and also tailor it to different areas so that each business division got information relevant to their teams.

This information can then be cascaded to teams via the managers.Clear Vision

3. Web Communications

Make use of the company intranet and website pages to communicate the vision for your strategic projects.

If you think there would be public interest in what you are doing, create a micro-site or webpage on your public website to share the news. This can really help set the tone for internal communications as well. For example, many software development companies share their product roadmap and the release of new features. While they wouldn’t want to publicly share anything that would be groundbreaking in their industry for fear of losing that competitive advantage, there is information that can be shared publicly about the direction they are taking for the product.

Equally, you can create an intranet site or page on your collaboration tool to share information internally about the project. The tone and language used all go towards reinforcing the vision, plus it gives you a platform to share that message multiple times.

Every communication online should be underpinned by the vision. If you have your vision as a kind of project strapline, you can build it into the design of your internal comms. For example, quoting it in your project newsletters that you then share online too as a PDF file.

4. Posters

A humble poster is a powerful tool! A few well-chosen words can tell people a lot about where the project and the business are headed. If your project is strategically important and has a wide impact, you can use posters as a way to get the message across.

Think about other visual communication options as well: you might not always need it to be a poster. Many reception areas have video screens. Perhaps a rotating presentation might do the job and be more ‘modern’ than a poster in the staff rest areas.

5. Video

Video is perceived to be hard to do, but actually, you can get a lot of return from a video. It’s a good way of making sure that the same message is heard by everyone, regardless of where they are in the organisation. If you struggle to keep your project team on brand with messaging, video might be the answer!

Video is powerful because it combines a number of elements. You can interview key stakeholders about what the project means for them. You can show the product being built or demonstrated.

Your internal comms team may already have people on staff who could produce the video for you or be connected to cost-effective agencies to do the job of recording and editing. Given the budget on many strategic projects, this may not turn out to be as expensive as you thought – and it gives you a communications tool you can use across many channels during the life of the project.

Whether you choose to do big presentations or regular newsletters, both or neither, the important thing is to find a cadence for communication that helps you reinforce the vision for your strategic project. Take every opportunity to keep reminding people of what your project is all about, and you’ll find that eventually, it seeps into the culture of the organisation.

What’s your favourite project communication method? Let us know by tweeting us @2080StrategyEx. We’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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Design Thinking for Project Improvement https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/design-thinking-for-project-improvement/ https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/design-thinking-for-project-improvement/#respond Thu, 11 Oct 2018 10:00:04 +0000 https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/?p=25609

There is a culture shift required to operate effectively in a complex environment; to collaborate, to learn as you go, be curious and take risks, focus on high-value whilst still having a system or a framework. Design Thinking can give us a process as well as a new approach to decision making/ problem-solving.  It can ...

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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Design Thinking

There is a culture shift required to operate effectively in a complex environment; to collaborate, to learn as you go, be curious and take risks, focus on high-value whilst still having a system or a framework.

Design Thinking can give us a process as well as a new approach to decision making/ problem-solving.  It can help to respond to this key challenge; that 41% of projects fail to deliver and capture optimum value for the organisation or in the marketplace*

You may be familiar with IDEO’s Design Thinking process, which has been around for many years. It is a strategy that encourages the use of imagination, intuition and systemic reasoning to explore new possibilities for solutions, typically products. But imagine taking that thinking into the project realm, and using imagination, intuition and systemic reasoning to explore new possibilities for solutions for not only products, but also projects, processes and systems.

 

“To realise its full value, design-thinking must be pushed beyond centres of innovation to everyone in the organisation, with the goal of improving all aspects of the enterprise – not just product development.”  How to Innovate Using Design Thinking

 

To build this way of problem-solving and innovation into our projects, processes and systems we need to leverage some IDEO design thinking methods, but also, innovation techniques and principles of new product development and Lean Startup.

In a previous post, I introduced you to the PSC Model (Perceiving, Sensemaking and Choreography) Take a look at Decision making in Turbulent Project-Based Environments). PSC has been found to be a powerful decision-making tool, a problem-solving method, a foundation design within projects, processes and systems:

 

By applying the PSC design thinking process to our strategic initiatives we can be more;

  • Lean (iterate or pivot) and nimble in dealing with a volatile strategy; which can be a big performance lift for those who lead project based work;
  • Responsive and resilient to shifts in the marketplace. This is about change responsiveness not about change management;
  • Adaptable; we’re about accelerating strategy to action so we look at the Minimum Viable Product or Project and adapt as we go.

 Perceiving, Sensemaking and Choreography (PSC): Design Thinking for Results

When we perceive we want to learn from our stakeholders what the problem is and what they really need. To do this well we need to proactively seek to see things differently and overcome our natural bias’ in order to understand complex contexts and uncover the real needs of our organisation, customers and stakeholders. We do this by;

  • Defining the Problem
  • Uncovering the Need
  • Framing the Challenge

Research conducted by Duke Corporate Education has despite our best attempts, concluded that it is impossible for humans to be completely objective when perceiving a context – an unfortunate, but verifiable reality. We suffer from bias from our pre-existing experiences. Leaders must consciously seek to see things differently  (A lot of design thinking comes from Ethnography) in order to understand complex contexts. We want to unlearn more than we learn to be able to move forward.

To define the problem we need to spend time gathering as much information as we can by spending time with our customers, so we know what’s really going on and what is needed. Once we understand the concept we can then begin to look at a problem in a non-traditional way and reframe the challenge ahead.

Sensemaking is about viewing the system/issue in a holistic sense to create an integrated picture from multiple perspectives to help bring viability. Collaboration is the key to innovation where we can grow our ideas and stress test them with others.

We do this by:

  • Generating Ideas
  • Innovating Concepts
  • Building a Business Model Canvas

 

Sensemaking involves the generation of ideas after we have gathered our data, ideating around them and then sharing and collaborating with others to test the ideas. And finally to see if it makes sense from a business perspective. For this we can use a business model canvas.

Design Thinking and ProjectsCertain elements of the canvas make up the market side on the right:

  • Different customer segments have different requirements, wants, and needs.
  • They turn to a particular company, product, or solution because it provides a value proposition that gives them the benefits they desire.
  • Value is communicated and delivered to customers through customer relationships and channels.
  • Value is captured from the customer through revenue streams.

Certain elements of the canvas make up the matrix side on the left:

  • Key resources are those assets which an organization uses to create and offer value.
  • Key activities are the actions which resources use to create and offer value.
  • Some resources and activities belong to the organisation, and some are acquired from/performed by
  • Creating value and revenue incurs costs. The cost structure of an organisation can be optimized to allow the value proposition to generate the most value for the organization while still paying attention to the channels, relationships and revenue streams that capture value in the first place.

 

In Choreography we need to take the soundest idea and find channels and vehicles that help us on our journey. We need to navigate informal networks and build collectives through:

  • Prototype and Pitch
  • Test and Learn
  • Iterate and Pivot

Choreography is an iterative loop. All of the steps of the PSC model up to the creation of the business model fall into the imagination/creative side of design thinking.

The business model is an inflexion point that gives you a solid ground to begin implementing an innovative offering through a test-and learn approach. Based on the findings of your test-and-learn approach to implementation, you re-enter the process in different spots.

Some feedback from a test may result in a positive finding that lets you iterate and try another test to prove/improve value, keeping that part of your offering in the implementation space.

Other feedback from a test may cause you to pivot and come up with a re-imagined offering, in part or in whole. You may refine part of the business model, or you may need to go as far back as redefining the design challenge (maybe you were solving for the wrong problem in the first place).

The Design Thinking Context

It’s important to validate whether or not you actually need your project, process or system. A way to do that is to consider 4 tensions that are at play. These four tensions that generally work to create a novel offering can be used to ensure we are on the right track with our product, process or system.

The ‘novelty’ can be an idea or solution which can be internal or external in the form of a project, system, process or product. Try to keep that in mind as we continue through.

 Design Thinking in Project Management

 

 The vertical axis is about customer desirability and business profitability. The offering must meet a legitimate felt need for the customer but must also be designed in such a way that the company captures adequate VALUE for delivering an offer that meets that felt need. Customer need vs will it make money.

The horizontal axis is about market competitiveness and organizational capability. The offering must be unique and differentiated enough to be difficult to imitate by the competition or it will just be copied; however, the organization must have the capability to deliver the offer in an efficient and effective manner.  Is it out there vs is it realistic?

It’s a good tool for the start and end of the design thinking process.  At the beginning, this helps us to check in on whether or not our idea is required and realistic, but it is also helpful later in the process it helps us to validate our idea when developing our pitches.

Design Thinking for Results

Design Thinking is not a new concept. But over the last several years, it has gained popularity*  among business leaders to help them think outside the box with their projects, processes and systems.

Find out more about Design Thinking with the three-day Design Thinking for Results course

Design Thinking for Results

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Strategy Execution and Duke Corporate Education have partnered to create and deliver the Adaptive Strategic Execution Program. Strategy Execution’s proven expertise and business techniques combined with Duke Corporate Education’s cutting-edge university research and learning methodologies infuse the program with a unique combination of modern theory, practical frameworks and hands-on practice leaders need. Research shows that great innovation rarely comes from single eureka ideas, but rather from combining existing ideas in novel ways. This partnership has done just that. Together, we’ve combined the capabilities of two successful companies in a new way that provides innovative solutions for our clients. 

  

 

 

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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Agile and Agility: The Future of Work https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/agile-and-agility-the-future-of-work/ https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/agile-and-agility-the-future-of-work/#respond Thu, 04 Oct 2018 10:32:30 +0000 https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/?p=24939

Last week saw Agile Business Consortium celebrate 25 years since its inception with the Agile Business Conference focusing on the theme: Creating Generation Agile. The 2-day event focuses specifically on the business side of Agile – using delivery approaches and shifting mindsets to deliver projects, products and services faster and more successfully. It also focuses on ...

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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Agile

Last week saw Agile Business Consortium celebrate 25 years since its inception with the Agile Business Conference focusing on the theme: Creating Generation Agile. The 2-day event focuses specifically on the business side of Agile – using delivery approaches and shifting mindsets to deliver projects, products and services faster and more successfully. It also focuses on the bigger remit of business agility – the need to be able to be smarter, more flexible, adaptable and responsive to our changing work environments.

During the course of the conference, both session speakers and exhibition vendors created a sense of urgency – how a change in the workforce is not only needed today but also how the next generation of the workforce will fare. The former covered topics such as transformation and delivery methods – SCRUM, SAFe, Disciplined Agile and so on. The latter about education policy and preparing school children to be workplace ready.

Last week also saw the launch of a new report from Accenture on the future workforce – How to accelerate skills acquisition in the age of intelligent technologies – which gave a stark figure for the UK which could miss out on as much as US185 billion of cumulative growth promised by intelligent technologies – if they can’t meet future skills demand.

Accenture

We take a look at three very different sessions from the Agile Business Conference which highlights Agile and agility in the future of work.

The Future of Work: Human Resources

Peter Cheese

We heard from Peter Cheese, CEO of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), the professional body for the Human Resources.

He asked the simple question, “what is it that we need in the workplace in the future?” The simple answer, humans.

This was driven by the World Economic Forum(WEF) research that the top skills for the future of work are all behavioural focused (see image below for the top ten) and our next generation workforce can come from diverse places because employers shouldn’t be all fishing in the STEM-graduate talent pools.

He also talked about how we work is just as important as where we work as people looked for flexi and agile working  (working from home, part-time, compressed working hours, annual hours and so on)

Learning and development for the future was next – covering both agility and adaptability – through core training programs, embedded learning and collaborative learning. Although worrying for the UK is the decline of investment in workplace training (employers in the UK are spending 50% less than EU levels). Learning will need to be more student-directed – and determined by themselves to fill the gaps needed by themselves and their organisations.

The concern is – are we currently teaching children to be this kind of lifelong-learner?

The barriers we will face in the future of work?

  • Overcoming social norms and attitudes – presenteeism is rife for example.
  • Corporate cultures and manager’s mindsets
  • Operational pressures
  • Lack of technology infrastructure
  • Government policy

None of these are areas where change will happen quickly or be taken lightly. There is much work for everyone to do.

 

Skills

The Future of Work: Schools

Jason Gaulden from America Succeeds shared insights from their latest report – The Age of Agility. The report focuses on the education of children today and whether we’re preparing them for the workplace. The workplace Jason talks about is one where, “need to get comfortable with uncertainty, embrace flexibility, and reset expectations about the employer-employee relationship”.

The report also highlights the problems we know automation will bring – where a lot of low level, entry-level jobs could cease to exist as tasks become more automated through technological advances. He highlighted the point brilliantly when asking the audience, “what was the first job you did at the age of 14, 15, 16 years old, and does it still exist today?” The petrol pump attendant and the milk delivery round are just not there anymore.

The overview in the report from Deloitte Review brings it all together clearly. The changes that are happening in the world today; how that affects work – and what individuals, businesses and the governments need to grabble with.

America Succeeds is lobbying for the changes needed at the school education level to get kids ready for the workplace. They’re worried that the current education system won’t be teaching them, at the very least, the WEF skills requirements of the future. Have a read of the report.

Age of Agility

The Future of Work: Agile

The conference looks specifically at the business of Agile – how businesses can adopt the principles and approaches, not just at the project and product development level – across all of the business.

Many of the case study sessions focused on individual company journeys in Agile transformation. One organisation shared its transformation principles:

  1. Dare to dream – be ambitious
  2. Deliver value – early and often
  3. Create role models for new ways of working
  4. Action before perfection
  5. Dedicated, empowered, cross-functional teams

Their principles don’t mention Agile anywhere – they’re describing how their business is on a journey to transforming the way they do business – both with their customers and with their employees.

The future of work isn’t capital-A – Agile – rather it’s agility, nimble, quickness – a new or refreshed approach to management and leadership.

Sure there are Agile projects and product development teams, living and breathing Agile, SCRUM, DevOps – and working out how to scale it up with the likes of SAFe and LeSS.

The future of work seems to be all about embracing the disrupted, volatile, complex and complicated world of work and using it to create better workplaces for the future – one where lifelong learning, flexible working patterns and interesting work is the norm.

Agile and agility – we’re just at the beginning of the future and we’ve got a lot to learn.

WTF?

As Peter Cheese said, “What’s the future?”

It’s going to be interesting to see how skills really do develop for the future of work.

 

Find out about the Future of Work adaptive skills with the Adaptive Strategic Execution Programme

Adaptive

 

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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Negotiation Skills for Project Managers https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/how-to-improve-your-negotiation-skills-project-managers/ https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/how-to-improve-your-negotiation-skills-project-managers/#respond Thu, 27 Sep 2018 09:01:24 +0000 https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/?p=23734

Negotiation has three major steps: planning, engagement and closure, but knowing these isn’t enough to breeze through the negotiations you have to do at work. Negotiation skills for project managers are on the long list of soft skills that project leaders should seek to improve, but how do you do that? In this article, we ...

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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Negotiation Skills for Project Managers

Negotiation has three major steps: planning, engagement and closure, but knowing these isn’t enough to breeze through the negotiations you have to do at work. Negotiation skills for project managers are on the long list of soft skills that project leaders should seek to improve, but how do you do that?

In this article, we discuss why negotiation skills are important for project managers and share some tips for how you can improve your own.

Why Negotiation is Important for Project Managers

We use our negotiation skills every day. From reasoning with a 5-year old about what they can have for breakfast, to discuss who gets the car or picks up the shopping with your partner. We negotiate our way through life – and project management is no different.

In a project management context, especially on strategic projects, negotiation is essential. Here are some situations where your ability to negotiate weighs heavily on your ability to deliver the project successfully.

  • You are involved in the strategic negotiations with vendors about the goods and services they have to offer the project. Through skilled discussion, you find a scenario which is a good outcome for them and also a positive win for your company.
  • You are negotiating the involvement of a contractor on a project. By looking at the commitment they need from your organisation, and how you can work together to effectively deliver the project, you both end up in situations that your managers will be happy with.
  • You are talking to senior stakeholders and trying to secure their involvement and support in a new transformative change project. By explaining the rationale for the work in ways that make it easy for the stakeholders to get on board, you ensure they will back the project and provide the resources you need. Meanwhile, your project will provide vital exposure and development opportunities for their team members, so it feels like a successful deal all round.

Being able to negotiate opens the door to more supportive stakeholders, better relationships with your clients and a more positive working environment where everyone feels they are getting something out of the engagements.

Negotiation and Conflict

Negotiating can also be a useful strategy to deal with conflict on a project. While it’s almost impossible to avoid conflict totally, being able to negotiate your way around it is a handy skill.

Conflict often has the ability to bring a project to a grinding halt. If you can win people over and defuse the situation through creating a positive outcome for everyone (or at least something people can live with) then that will keep your project moving forward.

negotaion checklistNegotiation is also a useful skill to have in a less ‘transactional’ role, for example when you are mediating between two team members, or trying to establish common ground for requirements when stakeholders disagree about what the project should deliver.

Improving Your Negotiation Skills

So how do you improve your negotiation skills? As negotiating is something you probably do every day, it’s actually not that difficult to find moments to focus on doing it better. Here are 5 tips to think about.

  1. Practice

The first thing to do is to get a lot of practice! Notice when you are negotiating – you probably do it more often than you think. Watch how you approach a negotiating situation, how it makes you feel and what you think could go better next time.

  1. Get prepared

Next time, spend a little effort in preparing for the negotiation. If you know you are meeting a supplier, think through what might be in it for them and what you want to get out of any deal. Consider the alternative contract terms, and what you have the authority to commit to.

Be clear about the outcomes you would consider brilliant, OK and unacceptable.

Then you will go into the discussion feeling more confident and also knowing how you want the conversation to end. However, remember to stay open to their points as well. It isn’t a negotiation if you refuse to shift your position and force through an outcome you decided on long before your supplier ever arrived in the room.

  1. Manage your emotions

Conflict situations and negotiations often bring out the worst in people! Be prepared for how you are likely to react in a difficult and perhaps awkward conversation. Think about what you feel like during pauses in the conversation, for example, and try to get comfortable with silent thinking time.

  1. Allow enough time

Remember that negotiations are often ongoing. It’s unlikely that you’ll have one meeting and get everything sorted out. For large contracts, there could be multiple meetings with the vendor and then their legal team to ensure that everything is documented effectively, to the satisfaction of both parties. And even when the deal is done, you may find yourself negotiating finer details, or new terms, to keep the project moving along in the right direction.

  1. Listen

When you prepare for a negotiation, you put a lot of effort into thinking about what you are going to say, how to say it, how to respond to what you think the other person is going to say. You also need to be prepared to listen.

Listening will help you identify pain points for the other party. It will help you really understand what they want, when perhaps they don’t even know that themselves in a way they can articulate.

When you are actively listening, you are more likely to be able to formulate a response that the other person thinks is acceptable. And that’s what you want.

It can also help to learn the dynamics of competitive and collaborative models of negotiation, so that you recognise them and can use them more easily.

Understanding the theory, and having the opportunity to practice it in the classroom – a “safe” environment – will give you the confidence to test out those skills back in the workplace.

A negotiation skills training course will give you those foundations as well as let you test out the fundamental skills of other delegates, while receiving feedback. negotiation skills training course

Whether you are involved in formal negotiations with suppliers or not, you’ll find it easier to do so many things as a project manager when you have confidence in your ability to negotiate.

As there are so many opportunities to negotiate in our working lives on project teams, it should be relatively easy to find time to practice these skills.

Like all soft skills, knowing how to have challenging conversations that result in good outcomes for both parties is something that we can improve over time.

With the right knowledge, the structures and techniques, and some practice and effort, you’ll be able to face negotiating knowing that you can do your best for your project and your business.

What’s your top tip for negotiating on a project? Let us know by tweeting us @2080StrategyEx. We’d love to hear your thoughts.

>> Find out more about the Negotiation Skills for Project Managers course here

 

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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Leading Strategic Projects From the Front and From Behind https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/leading-strategic-projects-from-the-front-and-from-behind/ https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/leading-strategic-projects-from-the-front-and-from-behind/#respond Thu, 20 Sep 2018 10:26:58 +0000 https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/?p=23660

What’s the difference between management and leadership? Leadership is a broad topic and it won’t come as a surprise that there are many different ways of leading a team.  In my work I often distinguish between management and leadership as a way to highlight that leadership is concerned with people as opposed to planning and ...

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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Strategic Projects

What’s the difference between management and leadership?

Leadership is a broad topic and it won’t come as a surprise that there are many different ways of leading a team.  In my work I often distinguish between management and leadership as a way to highlight that leadership is concerned with people as opposed to planning and tracking tasks.

Managing ProjectsAs a project manager it’s tempting to be overly focused on tasks, deliverables, processes and solving problems. After all a huge part of a project manager’s job is to plan, monitor and mitigate risks. And because it’s essential that the project is delivered on time, the project manager’s interaction with team members often becomes transactional, wanting to check that work has been completed. To my mind these project managers aren’t leading the project. They are managing it.

Leadership is different to management in that it’s much more people-oriented. A leader is concerned with providing the team with a vision and is good at understanding what motivates each individual. A leader is someone who is able to inspire and empower team members rather than simply telling them what to do. On this basis you may feel that I’m a proponent of leadership and an opponent of management, but that’s not the case.

As project managers we need to be rational and task-oriented but we must also be mindful of people and understand how to best engage each individual. In other words, our challenge is to manage tasks and lead people.

Are real leaders those who lead from the front?

Within the spectrum of management and leadership there are different styles that we can use.  With some styles we lead from the front and with others we lead from behind. Think of a leader for a moment – someone who you consider to be respected and skilled at what they do. It may be that this person is good at taking the lead and setting the direction for the team.

If the leader is very visible and dominant we would say that they lead from the front. They show the way and they direct the troops.

People who lead from behind are less visible. They are not the front-runners but the ones who are good at mobilizing others. Think of someone you know who is good at empowering others to make their own decisions. Those who lead from behind are typically good at asking questions and guiding the rest of the team. They don’t have a big need to be seen as the decision-maker. On the contrary they value team participation and decentralized decision-making.

Years ago I used to feel that real leaders were those who were leading from the front. They were the strong leaders who were decisive and who knew the best way forward. I tried to be that kind of leader, but didn’t always succeed. I didn’t feel I had sufficient subject matter knowledge to direct the troops. I had to rely on other team members to set the direction.

Today I see my reliance on others as a good thing. Strong leaders need to know when it’s time to step back and make space for others.

How can you practice your visionary leadership style?

We have to be careful not to see the world of leadership as black and white. With leadership there are no simple answers and no size fits all. All leadership styles have a time and a place. Leading from the front is extremely valuable when the project is being kicked off. The team needs direction and they need clarity on what the project’s objectives are.

Project managers may quickly lose credibility if they are not able to swiftly convey the vision to the team. The more strategic the project is, the more important it is that the project leader is connected with the vision and has the ability to convey what senior management and the project sponsor want to achieve.

If you would like to practice becoming a more visionary leader, try to spend time perfecting an elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is a short 90-second pitch that you can use to convey the essence of your project to a stakeholder or a new team member who you meet in the elevator.  The idea is to highlight the purpose, vision and benefits of the project in a way that makes the stakeholder respond: “that sounds interesting. Tell me more! “ You want to engage and inspire the other person and make them feel that the project is worthwhile. Visionary leaders lead from the front and are excellent at conveying the bigger picture.Project Leadership

The directional leader, who gives clear instructions and tells others what to do, can also be perceived as a strong leader who leads from the front. If the vision and objectives of the project are clear it can be tempting to overuse the directional style – especially if the project manager understands the subject matter.

I work with many project managers who have a technical background as engineers. When they lead a project they are typically very solution-oriented and often know what it takes to move the project forward. They are strong role models who lead the project from the front. This can be a great advantage if the project is behind schedule, if there is a crisis, if the team lacks knowledge or if the stakes are high. But if overused, the directional style can discourage team members from contributing and taking ownership.

To get the best from the team, project managers need to learn to also lead from behind and give the team space to step forward.

How can a project manager lead from behind?

When the project manager leads from behind they can appear to the outside world as being less visible. But internal to the team they influence team members to make the right decisions and to move the project forward. How do they do that? By ensuring that objectives are clear and by coaching the team to find the best way forward.

In other words, they provide direction on “what” needs to get done but allow the team to find the “how”. Asking challenging questions of the team is one of the main ways in which a project manager can lead from behind.

If you would like to become better at leading from behind, practice your coaching skills. When a team member approaches you and asks about your opinion or your direction, resist the temptation to give advice and instead see it as an opportunity to coach them. Ask them what they would like to achieve, what they have already tried and what some options might be for resolving the issue.

At first the team member might just want you to give them the answer, but with time they will come to appreciate the trust, autonomy and influence that comes with this leadership style.

Leading from behind is an approach, which is best introduced gradually on a project. As the project starts out, there is a need for direction and guidance. But as the knowledge and skill level of the team increases, you can safely begin to take a step back and lead fromCoaching Skills for Project Managers behind. It’s worth bearing in mind, that as you begin to take a step back you may face some resistance from senior management or from the client.

As far as they are concerned, they want a visibly strong leader who is in control, who can answer their queries and who can quickly solve problems. Don’t let this pressure deter you from leading your project team from behind. It is possible to give your clients what they need and at the same time encourage team members to step forward and make decisions.

On strategic and complex projects it’s essential that the project manager can lead from the front as well as from behind.

The complexity may be so great that there is a big need for direction. But at the same token the high complexity levels mean that there is also a need for all team members to contribute, to question, to innovate, and to solve problems. On large projects it’s impossible for the project managers to have all the answers, and pretending that they do can be very dangerous.

Enjoyed the article? Find out more about managing strategic projects with the Adaptive Strategic Execution Programme.

 

 

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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One Page Project Reporting https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/one-page-project-reporting/ https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/one-page-project-reporting/#respond Mon, 17 Sep 2018 11:27:15 +0000 https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/?p=23213

According to Second World War historians, Winston Churchill wanted all of his progress reports on only one sheet of paper. Given the huge challenge ahead of him at that time, it’s understandable that he did not want to be distracted with large amounts of paper! Perhaps we could learn from his practices. Although a lot ...

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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Project Reporting

According to Second World War historians, Winston Churchill wanted all of his progress reports on only one sheet of paper. Given the huge challenge ahead of him at that time, it’s understandable that he did not want to be distracted with large amounts of paper!

Perhaps we could learn from his practices. Although a lot of reporting takes place through automated tools nowadays, it is advisable to keep the reports on the status of projects for which the PMO is responsible, as concise as possible.

A reporting format that has been successful with some companies in keeping paperwork to a minimum and report on just four key areas

Basic Information

Here we find a description of what the project entails, information about the sponsorship, who is working on the project (like the PM, BA and the primary SME’s).

Normally this information should stay static. Only when people are changing jobs, or if a major change request is granted, would this part change.

Accomplishments

Both what already has been accomplished and what is still to be done should go here.

Particular focus should be given here to entering only the accomplishments, and not being worked on.

So a good example of an accomplishment would be: “Completed the Business Requirements document”, a bad example would be: “Work continues on documenting the business requirements”.

On the accomplishments still to be completed, a good example would be: “Started work on the Functional Specification to be completed by 04/04/10”

Key Milestones and Deliverables

Here also, keep it short and sweet. The deliverables should be briefly described, like “Business Requirements document”, with a start date, target/planned completion date, percentage complete and the status (green, yellow, red).

If a deliverable is slipping and will be delivered late, the original date as well as the new completion date should be recorded. Once a deliverable is complete, remove it from the report when the next version of the report is issued.

Key Issues and Risks

If your organisation maintains a risk register by product, like the PMBOK® suggests, extract the major risks and identify the one that potentially could delay the project.

Be short on the description of these risks and mention their severity level (show stoppers, etc.).

If you use colour coding for risks, avoid using green, if something is a risk, how can it be green? Unless everybody understands that green means that the risk has been resolved (but then it would be no longer needed in this chapter!)

Adding the name of the person who owns the risk is the only other item that should be noted in this part of the report.

These 4 headings should be put on one sheet of paper, preferably without using the reverse side of it.

Make Winston proud!

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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How to Measure Success of Strategic Projects https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/how-to-measure-success-of-strategic-projects/ https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/how-to-measure-success-of-strategic-projects/#respond Thu, 06 Sep 2018 10:57:12 +0000 https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/?p=20932

In project management circles there is often disagreement about how to measure success of projects. Traditionally a project’s value is measured according to the triple constraints of time, cost and quality, also referred to as the Iron Triangle. These three dimensions form the cornerstone of most projects. Not only do we need to understand the ...

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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Strategic Projects

In project management circles there is often disagreement about how to measure success of projects. Traditionally a project’s value is measured according to the triple constraints of time, cost and quality, also referred to as the Iron Triangle.

These three dimensions form the cornerstone of most projects. Not only do we need to understand the trade-off between time, cost and quality when we plan the project, it’s also hard to imagine that a project can be successful if it’s delivered late, if it’s significantly over budget or if it fails to deliver the quality that the customer wanted.

Strategic Projects

But there is more to successful project delivery than the triple constraints – not least when we consider strategic projects. Strategic projects distinguish themselves by being initiated by top management and by being linked to the organisation’s strategic objectives. They have a business case and they have strategic benefits that they must deliver.

Contrast that to a tactical project, initiated by a local team in response to problem or an opportunity they have encountered. Whereas the tactical project is focused on short-term deliverables, the strategic project is likely to be concerned with long-term benefits.

The triple constraints are great for measuring short-term success but they don’t tell us anything about the longer-term benefit of a change. We need a way to measure strategic success related to the business case.

ProjectsBenefits Delivered

We have to understand if the change is valued by the customers after it’s been handed over, if the product or service we have delivered is easy to maintain and operate, and if it’s making economic sense over a longer period. Too many projects measure success only at the point where the product or service is delivered – and not what happens afterwards.

I was fascinated by Dr. Knut Fredrik Samset’s view on how to measure strategic success, when I came across his report some years ago. Samset is a Professor of Project Management at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

He says that a good marker of success is the delivery of benefits in a strategic context. He argues that the triple constraints of time, cost and quality are tactical success criteria, whereas factors such as sustainability, relevance, impact and effect are strategic success criteria. In his report ‘Making Essential Choices with Scant Information’, he writes:

“Judged in a broader perspective, a successful project is one that also significantly contributes to the fulfilment of its agreed objectives. Moreover, it should have only minor negative unintended effects, its objectives should be consistent with needs and priorities in society, and it should be viable in the sense that the intended long-term benefits resulting from the project are achieved. . . In essence, five requirements or success factors are fulfilled: efficiency, effectiveness, relevance, impact and sustainability. These are tough requirements that go far beyond the issues usually covered by many planners and decision-makers…

What is termed efficiency represents only the immediate indications of a project’s success in delivering its outputs. Clearly, there are many examples of projects that score highly on efficiency, but subsequently prove to be disastrous in terms of their effect and utility. There are also numerous projects which fail to pass the efficiency test but still prove to be tremendously successful both in the short and the long-term.”

 

According to Samset, strategic success is essentially a question of getting the business case right, something, which many project managers would say is outside of their scope. Their job is to deliver a product or a service within time, cost and quality constraints, and not to ensure that the project’s concept makes good economic sense or that it’s contributing to the organisation’s strategic objectives. But if we want to see fewer projects fail we have to give more consideration to the strategic value of projects and their long-term impact.Strategy Execution

Although the project manager cannot take sole responsibility for a project’s business case, they do have a role to play and can – together with the project’s executive – ensure that the project is successful both in the short and long-term. The project manager’s role is to deliver value to the company and client – not just to complete the project on time and on budget.

Strategic Success Criteria

As we engage with our clients in understanding what will ultimately make the project a success, we essentially have to consider the three tactical dimensions of time, cost and quality (this is what Samset refers to as ‘efficiency’), as well as the following strategic dimensions:

  • The effect of the project on strategic objectives such as efficiency gains, market share, cost savings etc.
  • The relevance of the project to its users, i.e. what is the response from the users? Do they accept and embrace the new service or deliverable?
  • The impact and sustainability of the project, i.e. is the product easily maintainable, has it been produced using sustainable methods and resources and can its waste be recycled?

 

Measurable Benefits

When agreeing these tactical and strategic measures we have to make them as SMART as possible, i.e. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time bound. It’s uninteresting to state that the effect of a project should be an increase in market share without also noting what the desired share of the market should be, by when and how that compares to today’s market share.

I work with many organisations who are not able to evaluate the success of their projects – including some very strategic ones – because they don’t agree a set of measurable criteria up front and because different parts of the organisation have a different view of what success looks like. What a missed opportunity for evaluating their projects and improving the way they work.

Regarding the time horizon that we’re measuring to, it’s equally important that we agree a measure, which is acceptable to all stakeholders. The success of a project may look very different if we measure the effect of it after 10 years as opposed to 3 years.

Everything may look nice and smooth the moment the project team finishes the work and hands it over, but how does it look several years after? Surely that question has to be taken into account. The project’s success criteria should be evaluated over the life span of the project and adjusted if there is a change in corporate strategy or market conditions, such as legislation and customer demand.

Strategy ProjectsIt makes little sense to maintain that a project should increase the firm’s market share from 12 to 14% if the market share happens to have dropped to 10% by the time the project is ready to launch.

Evaluating Users

I like how Samset highlights the need for a project to be relevant to its users. If a product is being developed to specification, but the users for some reason don’t like it, it will not be seen as a success. Many project managers are ill equipped to deal with the emotional response from users who don’t like a product or a service delivered to them.

If that happens it’s insufficient for the project team to simply refer back to the requirements and state that they delivered what they were asked to deliver. If the users don’t like what they see the project manager will have to acknowledge it.

Evaluating the user’s response becomes easier if we have the courage and insight to ask the users how they feel about the product while it’s under development. We have to be brave enough to ask them if they would be comfortable using the product and to listen to their feedback.

The best way to make a product relevant and usable is by focusing on the user experience. We can do that by prototyping the solution and by working closely with the end users throughout the project. We have to be able to illustrate to the users what they will get long before the product has been fully developed.

So as you see measuring success of a strategic project requires so much more than simply talking about time, cost and quality.

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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The PMO and Stakeholder Engagement https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/the-pmo-and-stakeholder-engagement/ https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/the-pmo-and-stakeholder-engagement/#respond Thu, 30 Aug 2018 10:36:56 +0000 https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/?p=21265

How can the PMO support project managers in stakeholder engagement? That was the question raised at the PMO Conference in a session delivered by Louise Worsley in London over a year ago now. It’s a question that still gets raised when the PMO looks beyond the more technical and analytical aspects of their work in ...

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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How can the PMO support project managers in stakeholder engagement? That was the question raised at the PMO Conference in a session delivered by Louise Worsley in London over a year ago now.

It’s a question that still gets raised when the PMO looks beyond the more technical and analytical aspects of their work in supporting portfolio, programmes and projects in an organisation and thinks about how they can assist and support behavioural interactions.

Everyone knows that stakeholders are crucial to project success – and right now, stakeholder management has been sidelined to make way for stakeholder engagement.

In this article, we take a look at who stakeholders are – how they are engaged rather than managed – how a stakeholder mindset is established – the different types of stakeholders and finally how PMOs can get involved in project and programme stakeholder engagement and whether stakeholder engagement can also be utilised by the PMO itself.

We start by understanding who stakeholders are, and draw on the PMI PMBoK definition. Stakeholders are:

an individual, group or organisation who may affect or be affected by or perceived itself to be affected by a decision, activity or outcome

An even shorter definition, stakeholders in projects are “the involved or the affected”.

Stakeholder Engagement

Taken from Linkedin – CITI Limited (Click to Enlarge)

Stakeholders Engaged Rather Than Managed

There’s been a real shift away from the term “stakeholder management”. Management implies the co-ordination and control of people (stakeholders) rather than the participation and responsiveness of the term engagement [Read more about the 5 ‘Musts’ of Stakeholder Engagement]

In projects today, we’re looking for meaningful engagement which roughly translates to:

  • a willingness to listen
  • ability to discuss issues of mutual interest
  • being prepared to consider changes in light of the engagement

It’s a two-way street and its the job of the project manager to be able to foster that kind of culture, create the right kind of environment to enable conversation, debate and decisions to be made.

It may feel like a subtle change – from management to engagement, yet we know wherever people exist on projects, it’s never going to be an easy ride.

The Different Types of Stakeholders

We’re interested in everyone, the “involved and affected”in projects yet some stakeholders are more important than others. Traditionally, understanding role-based stakeholders are where most of the project management training has focused.

Role-based stakeholders – when we look at the different types of projects below – are the ‘involved’- the people and groups who have a defined relationship to the project. In less complex projects there are relatively few stakeholders and where there are, they tend to be role-based. As projects become increasingly complex, with more stakeholders, the profiles of these stakeholders change.

They become agenda-based stakeholders. These people and groups may feely very strongly  (passionately) about the project but you won’t necessarily identify them by going to your governance documents.  They may be obvious – they may not.  They may emerge late on in the project – if you like, the affected.  The way you identify, assess and engage with these groups is often quite different from the role-based stakeholders. You see these types of stakeholders a lot when the projects affect the general public, like a new runway or building a new nuclear power station.

 

 

Project Management Training

Using the PMO to Engage Role-Based and Agenda-Based Stakeholders

The approach – the project management techniques, processes and tools – differ depending on the type of stakeholder.

That’s where the PMO enters.

They’re the custodian of the different methods, frameworks, processes and techniques. They’re there to assist the project manager in whichever activity they can.

Learn

Sometimes the role of the PMO as a Centre of Excellence means they’re there to support/educate / coach – offer training for project managers if its felt it is needed.

Matrices

Sometimes the more directive PMO will offer hands-on support in approaches such as SEAM (Stakeholder Engagement Assessment Matrix), RACI (Responsibility Assignment Matrix) and the facilitation of them. They’ll also pick up communication activities that touch stakeholders frequently with the right messages.

Cognitive

For more agenda-based stakeholders, PMOs can work with project managers to determine Power – Interest Matrices, use their own connections and relationships to provide input into salience analysis and cognitive mapping. There’s much for the PMO to explore here, new thinking and approaches that can be adopted by the project delivery organisation.

Connectors

The PMO should also be the connector. In the 2002 book, Tipping Point from Malcolm Gladwell, he explains that there are three different archetypes of people. Mavens, salesperson and connectors. The connectors: “…these are people who, every time you ask a question, start flipping a Rolodex in the back of their mind, saying, “Who do I know who knows this? Who do I know who has done this? Who do I know that I need to connect you with?” [Productive Flourishing] The connectors in the organisation who can bring lessons together from other project managers, where stakeholder stories can be shared.

Who’s Who

The PMO as connectors are also very useful for understanding ‘who’s who in the zoo’, the political relationships in the organisation, the organisational network analysis of who is connected to who and with what agendas. The PMO see and hear a lot.

Word of Warning

The PMO’s role is to support good project delivery – not manage it. The role of the PMO in stakeholder engagement is to help the Project Manager foster an environment where stakeholder engagement can flourish. The PMO has to take its own medicine and engage with the Project Manager to understand how and where it can assist.

That leads us nicely to the final point. Can the PMO effectively learn the lessons of good stakeholder engagement through projects and turn that inwards when it comes to the PMO’s own work?

Can they identify all the stakeholders of the PMO? And the level of influence these stakeholders have? Are they involved or affected? Who’s the most important? And how are they engaged?

The PMO should be exemplary and that starts with their own stakeholder engagement.

 

Stakeholder Engagement

 

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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Top 5 Competencies for Strategic Project Managers https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/top-5-competencies-for-strategic-project-managers/ https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/top-5-competencies-for-strategic-project-managers/#respond Thu, 23 Aug 2018 10:24:07 +0000 https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/?p=19937

Is there a difference between managing ‘ordinary’ projects and managing ‘strategic’ projects? I think that there is. First, we have to acknowledge that there are different types of project. Of course, no project should be started that doesn’t have some direct link back to the strategy and purpose of the organisation. Otherwise, what’s the point ...

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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Is there a difference between managing ‘ordinary’ projects and managing ‘strategic’ projects? I think that there is.

First, we have to acknowledge that there are different types of project. Of course, no project should be started that doesn’t have some direct link back to the strategy and purpose of the organisation. Otherwise, what’s the point of doing it at all? If it doesn’t help the company move forward, it’s not something managers should be supporting.

But there are still different types of project, and we should acknowledge that some are more strategically important than others. A small product launch might fit within the strategy, but a programme of organisational change will be strategically transformative, in a way that putting a new software app on the market never could be.

I think that managing different types of projects requires different skills. There are a lot of overlaps and the core competencies remain the same. However, having worked on ‘ordinary’ and ‘strategic’ projects I have seen first-hand that the requirements of the project manager are different.

Here are the 5 top competencies that I think are particularly important for project managers in a strategic project delivery role.

1. Communication

It is so, so important that you learn how to communicate effectively at all levels. The types of communication you do when managing small, tactical projects are not the same when you are working on initiatives that are strategically important.

You didn’t get to manage a strategic project through being bad at communication, so you probably already have good skills in this area. But there is always more to develop.

On strategic projects, you will have more need to use your negotiating, influencing and conflict resolution skills – yes, these are a type of communication.

You might be giving more presentations, to more senior people who have a higher expectation of your delivery. You’ll be in meetings with external parties who have significant influence: perhaps government officials, regulators orCommunication on Strategic Projects industry representatives. At this level, there is more exposure, and more possibility to get it wrong.

Learning effective communication skills will help you get heard. And when you get heard, you have more chance of being able to secure the resources you need to effectively deliver your projects, winning the support required.

2. Business Acumen

Having a business-orientated mindset elevates what you do as a project manager from someone who simply delivers what they are asked, to someone who adds real business value.

When you are on a strategic project, this is crucial. You have to understand the link between what you are doing and the wider business. You need to be able to see the implications for other teams. And if you don’t know what they are, you need to know that there probably are some implications and go out and find them.

Business acumen, and being able to think in a business-focused way, will help you communicate in a language that managers understand. It gives you the context for the change. You are better able to share the vision for the project with other people and see how it fits into the bigger picture.

I think this is probably the single most important competency to develop because it’s not often considered or taught on courses in the same way that skills like communication and interpersonal skills are. Yet it has the ability to set you apart from the crowd as the project manager who really ‘gets it’.

3. Coaching

You might not have previously considered coaching to be a core skill. However, on strategic projects, it is essential that you have the right people doing the right work. That might mean that you are developing people as you go.

Coaching helps your team find their strengths. On large projects, you can’t always be there to hold someone’s hand. Team members need to be able to step up themselves, act confidently and do what is required. And you need to trust them to be able to do that.

Learn how to coach. It will make a huge difference in your team’s performance. And if you can get a coach yourself, you’ll see big improvements in the way you lead your team too.

4. Budgeting

Project managers know how to manage a budget. However, that’s typically a short-term endeavour that is separate from the profit and loss accounting of a team.

When you take on a role in strategic projects, you are more likely to need to understand the Project Budgetinglonger term financial implications of the project. Understanding how budgets are created and managed outside of a project environment can help.

This skill is also essential if you move into programme management, as many programmes involve an element of business as usual activity too. This would involve the day-to-day operational financial management and perhaps being responsible for the P&L for your area too.

Learning how to develop a budget from scratch is a helpful skill for all roles. You can take that further by improving your ability to talk about money, communicating why you need it, sharing the latest financial reporting information and decoding what the statements mean for your team.

5. Taking Charge

Leadership isn’t always given to you. Sometimes you have to step up and take charge because no one else is.

On large projects, it’s unlikely that you’ll find no one in charge from an executive management perspective. All strategic projects should be sponsored by someone very senior in the organisation, so while you are in charge of the project itself, the outcomes and strategic direction will most likely be led by someone else.

However, you will find moments where there is a leadership vacuum. Someone is on holiday. A particular element of the project has fallen through the cracks as it isn’t clear where it sits. These are the times where you need to extend your leadership reach, step up and take charge – even if that is simply in an interim capacity until someone else comes along.

This is a difficult competency to practice, but you can improve your leadership skills for managing organisational change.

What do you think are the top competencies for people managing strategic projects? Tweet us @2080StrategyEx. We’d love to hear your ideas!

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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Influencing: How to ‘Get Things Done’ https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/influencing-how-to-get-things-done/ https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/influencing-how-to-get-things-done/#respond Thu, 16 Aug 2018 13:00:49 +0000 https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/?p=20177

A leader who needs to ‘get things done’ requires strong influencing skills within his or her organisation. Having strong and refined influencing skills in this VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) environment can help a leader improve the success of project execution. How? By understanding how people and organisations work, acquire more resources as required ...

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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Strategy Execution

A leader who needs to ‘get things done’ requires strong influencing skills within his or her organisation. Having strong and refined influencing skills in this VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) environment can help a leader improve the success of project execution. How? By understanding how people and organisations work, acquire more resources as required (people and money), and improve morale by advancing careers. Being able to influence effectively is vital to quick access to information and resources.

Influence is truly a skill. Let’s explore five specific things you can do to increase your chances of success as an influencer.

Understanding Your Organisation

The more you can understand how your organisation works and how internal and external forces can affect project execution, the more you can see what part you have to play and how you might mitigate or intercept where possible. Societal, Technological, Economical, Political, Environmental and Legal shifts can all affect the organisation’s strategy (and are outside of our control), but to be continuously aware of how our competitive landscape is changing can allow us to speak with authority and keep issues top of mind when looking at strategy and alignment of strategic projects.

When trying to execute or get work done, if you consider the SELF model below, leaders are the hub between the domains of work, strategy and people and as such need to have the ability to influence across all of these areas to ensure successful execution. In this complex business environment these three domains must be navigated and adjusted simultaneously in real time, so it’s imperative that you are well versed in your organisation’s strategy, how work gets done and what your people are doing to support that so that you have the credibility when it’s time to influence.

Perhaps consider creating a ‘heat map’ of your organisation to identify where it operates well and where there are areas for improvement. There are tools that can help with this such as the Strategic Execution Framework. It takes you through 6 key domains; Ideation, Nature, Vision, Engagement, Synthesis, Transition. This doesn’t just help with diagnosing strategic execution, it also helps explore and get to know these vital aspects of your organisation.

 

More Detail on the Strategic Execution Framework

 Understanding your organisation might just help achieve the goal of completing your objectives and executing your project.

 

Developing Your Networks

 ‘36% of businesses report working with double or more partners than they were two years ago’ – Accenture Technology Vision 2018

Accenture explains that ‘gaining an advantage over the competition means forging strong and plentiful partnerships’ to get ahead. Strength in numbers, through networks. Networking is the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions for purposes of the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business. Networks also happen to be the way work really gets done- networks are the real organisation chart of the adaptive organisation. By developing a strong (not necessarily large) network you create an opportunity to overcome your own bias, enhance the breadth and depth of knowledge and increase the speed and the innovation required in this fast moving business context we are now in.

It’s worth exploring your influence in these three networks: Operational, Personal and Strategic.

Operational: your influence can help get work done more efficiently and maintain group capacities. Here you would look to deepen your working relationships

Personal: use your influence to enhance your professional development and broaden your contact base so that you can make and get referrals as required

Strategic: if you can leverage your relationships where you have created inside-outside links it may help you to influence strategy and to figure out future priorities and gain stakeholder support to move things forward.

Be mindful of who you are working with now, and in the future. Assess who can help get things done (formal power vs influential/respected) and involve key groups such as clients, advisors, suppliers and vendors. Exchange information, link across the organisation, generate support and assistance, and solicit advice and perspective. All of this helps you to build your networks so that when you need to move things forward on your projects, you have the right players in place to influence!

(Linda Hill talks more about types of networks in Being the Boss, the chapter on networks.)

Building your Credibility

To be influential you need to be credible. And two elements can determine your credibility:

CONFIDENCE + COMPETENCE = CREDIBILITY

Confidence means people have trust in your ability to look after them and their work. Competence means you have the technical knowledge and people skills to succeed as a leader. But how can you build your own credibility so that you are seen as highly competent and trustworthy? Consider these 13 behaviors from Stephen Covey and Rebecca Merrill: The Speed of Trust, Simon & Schuster, 2006

You will have much more influence as a leader and achieve project success if your teams believe they can count on you to do the right thing.

 

Getting Political

Do you find yourself saying ‘I don’t want to get involved in all that politics’? Well, as management professor and consultant Kathleen Reardon explains in her new book, It’s All Politics, “talent and hard work alone will not get you to the top… the most talented and accomplished employees often take a backseat to their politically adept coworkers because they’ve failed to manage the important relationships with the people who can best reward their creativity and intelligence. “

“The only way to avoid “politics” is to avoid people (which isn’t realistic OR advisable); politics can be positively characterised as the art of influence, and more specifically, the art of organizational influence, so once you reach a certain level of technical competence, success is all about this type of politics.

Organisational politics can be defined as:

  • Positioning your ideas in the most favorable light
  • Knowing what to say, and how, when, and to whom to say it

Increase your influence and consider politics as your friend. ‘Positive Politics’. Politics is about positioning your ideas in a favorable light. By paying attention to your own values, such as compassion, justice, prudence, you can avoid being “political” in the bad sense.

Being able to influence successfully really helps us in times where we often have no formal authority over team members. Our projects/programs may be temporary centers of commitment. Others often set agendas, time frames, crucial resources (money, people, technology, information) or we may work with people who may have competing demands on their time (multiple projects)or disagree about the importance of the work we are doing. Working on the 5 areas discussed gives you a great starting point to be the influencer you need to be in the context of which we work today.

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For more on Influencing Without Authority… Strategy Execution and Duke Corporate Education have partnered to create and deliver the Adaptive Strategic Execution Program. Strategy Execution’s proven expertise and business techniques combined with Duke Corporate Education’s cutting-edge university research and learning methodologies infuse the program with a unique combination of modern theory, practical frameworks and hands-on practice leaders need. Research shows that great innovation rarely comes from single eureka ideas, but rather from combining existing ideas in novel ways. This partnership has done just that. Together, we’ve combined the capabilities of two successful companies in a new way that provides innovative solutions for our clients.

The program is available for group delivery on site at company locations as well as on-campus enrollment at Duke University or on-line for individuals. The program enables leaders to take their individual and team performances to the next level increasing the odds of project success. Learn more about the Adaptive Strategic Execution Program and get started today. 

Additional Resources:

 

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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How to Build Support for Strategic Change Projects https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/how-to-build-support-for-strategic-change-projects/ https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/how-to-build-support-for-strategic-change-projects/#respond Thu, 09 Aug 2018 10:47:46 +0000 https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/?p=20171

Strategic change projects that have been commissioned from the top of the organisation can have wide-ranging effects on the employees that are impacted by them. Imagine, for example, a decision to roll out a new CRM system across the company, or the decision to move the company’s headquarters to a cheaper location further away from ...

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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Organisational Change

Strategic change projects that have been commissioned from the top of the organisation can have wide-ranging effects on the employees that are impacted by them.

Imagine, for example, a decision to roll out a new CRM system across the company, or the decision to move the company’s headquarters to a cheaper location further away from the city centre. Whereas some employees may welcome the change, others will oppose it.

The Human Impact of Projects

 

Change ManagementUnfortunately, it’s not uncommon for managers who lead projects to focus on the technical aspects of getting the job done, rather than the human impact of the change. As a result, the projects may deliver a successful output (i.e. a new system or a new office) but fail to deliver a successful outcome and benefit because the efficiency gain is limited when people aren’t fully bought into the change.

If the users don’t like a new IT system, or don’t see the point of it, they will work with lower levels of productivity and be a drain on the team supporting the system. The same is true for the office move. If people perceive that they are going to be worse off in the new offices, their work ethic and productivity will drop. They may even find a job elsewhere.

You may feel that the above examples are exaggerated, but overlooking the human impact of strategic change happens over and over again.

I remember a time from my own corporate career when the emotional side of an IT project was very poorly handled. The company I worked for had two different order-handling systems for different product lines and decided that they wanted to consolidate everything into one system.

The decision, which wasn’t officially communicated to staff, began to circulate as a rumour. The news was upsetting because the two order-handling systems were supported by two different teams with different skill sets.

No one understood the reason or the consequences of the consolidation, and there were many open questions about the impact and what would happen to the redundant team. Would they be retrained and offered other jobs, or would they be made redundant and lose their job?

The uncertainty carried on for over a year.

The affected team members began to leave the organisation because they felt unsafe and because they were being left out of the decision-making process. No one likes to have a change imposed on them that they think will negatively affect them.

As it happened, this strategic change could have been turned into a positive event had it been handled properly. The two teams could have been involved in the change process and been given a chance to understand the benefits right from the start.

So how can organisational leaders – and project managers – involve people in the process and deliver a long-term success where the stakeholders support the change?

Share an Inspiring Vision

 

The first step in bringing people on-board has to be communicating the vision of the initiative.

People crave certainty, clarity and information and they want to understand why the change is happening. Too many leaders are uncomfortable stepping up and leading with vision and don’t recognise the importance of it. But it’s vital that the employees understand what the project is trying to achieve and that their managers are open and honest about it.

If senior management doesn’t yet have all the answers, it’s better to say that than to say nothing.

Ideally, the managers should share a vision that’s inspiring and that makes people feel ignited and motivated. What are all the good reasons for the office move? How will the new offices look? What facilities will they have and what new opportunities will arise as a result? Telling a coherent and appealing story – without making people feel that they are being sold to – is an art rather than a science.

When it’s done well it engages the audience emotionally and shows people how they fit in.

Make the Status Quo Less Appealing

 

Driving Change

It would also be wise for the Change Manager to highlight all the reasons why the change is required and why the status quo is not an option.

Many people don’t like change because it makes them feel uncertain, and so they would rather stick with what they know.

From an evolutionary perspective, our brains are wired to keep us safe and to respond to potential danger. When we are faced with an organisational change our instinctive reaction kicks in because it makes us feel unsafe. We know what we have, but we don’t know what we will get.

One of the easiest and fastest ways to shift humans away from the way they’ve always done something and into a new place is to make the status quo unappealing. This means that managers have to point out the challenges, risks, and downsides of staying in the existing offices or continuing to use an existing IT system and thereby making the status quo less appealing.

The message must be delivered in an honest and authentic way and the employees must not feel that they are being sold to or manipulated.

Address People’s Emotional Upset

 

Sharing an inspiring vision, communicating more and making the status quo less appealing may not be sufficient to win the employee’s support for a strategic change.

In addition, managers need to focus on building trust and removing people’s doubt and fear at an emotional level.

If people aren’t bought into a change it’s because they are uncertain about how it will affect them – consciously or unconsciously. They may believe they will lose something of value (such as status, belonging or competence) or because they fear they will not be able to adapt to the new ways. These concerns won’t disappear until the Change Managers address people’s emotional worries and make them feel safe.

How can organisational leaders do that? By entering into a dialogue with people and listening to each person’s concerns.

In addition to one-2-one meetings, managers can facilitate workshops where ideas can surface and be debated in a wider group. They can also send out surveys to elicit views and opinions from staff and set up discussion forums. It’s important, however, that these forums don’t become mechanical processes. There needs to be a real recognition of how people are feeling.

Not surprisingly there seems to be a direct correlation between a manager’s ability to work at a deeper psychological level and bringing about successful change. When embarking on this journey, leaders should consider the human needs of a project team, which I wrote about in a previous post. We have to consider how people’s needs are affected in the short, medium and long-term as a result of the change.

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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The Servant Leader PMO https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/the-servant-leader-pmo/ https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/the-servant-leader-pmo/#respond Thu, 02 Aug 2018 10:34:26 +0000 https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/?p=19949

Servant leadership at its simplest is defined as; Look after your team and they will look after you and you’ll have a great team Back in June this year at the PMO Conference in London, Richard Hendrickse, a Portfolio Manager at Nationwide shared his insights into why the PMO are natural servant-leaders – both as ...

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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Agile Servant Leadership

Servant leadership at its simplest is defined as;

Look after your team and they will look after you and you’ll have a great team

Back in June this year at the PMO Conference in London, Richard Hendrickse, a Portfolio Manager at Nationwide shared his insights into why the PMO are natural servant-leaders – both as individuals and as an entity within an organisation.

The whole subject of servant leadership has had a resurgence recently with the concepts raised in the Agile Manifesto in 2001. Before that with SCRUM, the whole leader concept has servant leadership at its core:

The name “Scrum Master” represents a pattern known as Servant Leadership. A Servant Leader manages a team not by telling them what to do, but by removing impediments that get in their way and by coaching them in agile best practices. It can be thought of as a type of stewardship

It’s certainly not a new type of leadership, it’s evidently been around since 500BC and “Serve to Lead” is the motto adopted by the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS) in 1947.

The interesting thing about servant leaders, and what makes them difficult to spot and potentially emulate or reward, is you barely notice them. They’re the people who get things done with minimal fuss and noise. Often this has a negative effect because of this intrinsic motivation to be a servant leader means they’re often unseen, even unappreciated. Nevertheless, servant leaders get results if an organisation manages to keep them!

Research in the 1970s from Robert Greenleaf led to a more philosophical take as it looked at servant leadership in society and from then on, further research has produced tangible outcomes like the attributes of a servant leader as shown below from Spears and Sipe and Frick:

 

What is Servant Leadership?

 

At its simplest it is serving your team, putting them first. That then leads to them looking after you. Two words figure highly in servant leadership – authenticity and community. By being authentic, you’re able to build a community in which people want to belong and want to work hard to keep that community together and prospering. For a more detailed overview and history, take a look at Wiki.

In the session at the conference, Richard shared his insights that he believes the PMO is a natural servant leader and I’m inclined to agree with him. Let’s explore further why that is, we’ll start with the attributes of a servant leader.

Servant Leadership Attributes

 

Taking Spears’ ten attributes or behaviours:

  1. Listening – active listening which includes being seen to be listening is something every individual in a PMO needs to demonstrate. Get all the facts first, asking questions.
  2. Empathy – being aware of how people are feeling, being able to gauge reactions, choosing communication styles based on an individual’s preference.
  3. Healing – being able to rebuild bridges after damage or change, focusing on how to make things better.
  4. Awareness – knowing what is happening in the organisation and the context in which you’re working in – but not becoming all knowing and controlling
  5. Persuasion – techniques to use when you have responsibility and no authority
  6. Conceptualisation – making the complicated and difficult plainly understood – and being able to communicate that to stakeholders.
  7. Foresight – using experience to predict or using previous lessons to plan future work or needs
  8. Stewardship – the PMO is the stewart of project management practice in an organisation, the place where assets are looked after and improved.
  9. Commitment to the growth of others – creating capability in others which enables them to become more skilled in what they do.
  10. Building a community – the PMO and the people who work in it, have a strong sense of community, they stay together.

If we take a look at the Sipe and Frick pillars of servant leadership, the additions of putting people first, enabling collaboration, systems thinking in problem solving and understanding the bigger picture and well as the detail and being an excellent communicator.

The PMO and the people who work within it can of course benefit hugely from adopting these behaviours or attributes in the work they do.

Richard’s own insights were driven in part from an agile transformation programme which he was a part of as the PMO lead. It was this Agile mindset which led the PMO to think – with new approaches and methods we need new leadership approaches. The PMO Leads at Nationwide indeed think that the introduction of an increasingly Agile way of working is a great opportunity, “We’ve been waiting for this” is their response.

PMOs Stuck in the Servant Role

 

So what is the opportunity for the PMO? For too many people working in PMOs today, they’ve been stuck in servant mode for too long. Carrying out the same command and control role when in reality the business is changing the way it approaches projects and programmes. With Agile, self-empowered teams are looking for environments in which to take risks and carry out experiments, not be bogged down with checklisted, stage gated process. There is no room for a rigid PMO with a set of old dated principles.

The PMO needs to look to the principles of servant leadership – not only to manage the PMO itself but to also improve the whole entity in the organisation too. Move from servants to servant leaders.

Below, servant leadership in the workplace from Iarocci and highlighted alongside it, the key insights from the Agile PMO report from PMO Flashmob, gives insight into how the PMO today, supporting and enabling Agile delivery is already thinking about and adopting servant leadership attributes.

Becoming PMO  Servant Leaders

 

Authenticity and community are two of the most important parts of servant leadership. The team is more important than the individual and the PMO generally identifies very strongly with this, much more than say, the project managers within a business or programme managers.

Being authentic is about leading by being yourself, otherwise keeping up the pretence of being someone else will inevitably fail.

Becoming a servant leader is about developing all of the attributes associated with it – and also being able to have the opportunity and responsibility to be in charge, not just for a short period but over time; to be responsible for others regardless of where you are and what you do in the PMO. It also requires investment – in knowledge building as well as time spent with others to learn from and be guided.

To exploring the PMO becoming servant leaders in an organisation there are a set of questions to think about – for you and your PMO:

  1. How do you select people to work in or lead your PMO? Do you focus on past experience or their capabilities as a potential leader?
  2. How are people invested in? Is it by training course or by time from colleagues, peers and managers?
  3. Is there an opportunity to practice new skills? To try out behaviours like those of a servant leader?
  4. Are you making people responsibile for other people? Does the PMO Analyst take care of the new hire?
  5. Do you have a community? Is there a community of practice (CoP) or something less tangible?
  6. Who do you reward? The often overlooked and unseen servant leader or those that shout loudest?
  7. Who is the backbone of your PMO?
  8. What traditions do you have in the PMO? What stories do you tell about your PMO and what stories are told by others?
  9. Find the existing servant leaders in your PMO and the wider delivery organisation – they’ll be the onesmaking things work but you’ll not notice unless you know what you’re looking for.

In today’s delivery environment with a multitude of different approaches and methods to getting work done, plus the drive towards being more adaptive in how we work to respond quickly to change, the PMO has a choice to make in how it chooses to fit into that environment. Command and control PMOs aren’t going to cut it anymore so how will you adapt and will you be looking at what kind of PMO leadership is required to create a team that prospers and is valued by the organisation?

 

 

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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Managing Communication on Strategic Projects https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/managing-communications-on-strategic-projects/ https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/managing-communications-on-strategic-projects/#respond Thu, 26 Jul 2018 10:58:08 +0000 https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/?p=17750

Communication is an important part of any project, but it seems to me that strategic initiatives need even more of a focus on engaging stakeholders and communicating effectively. With a strategic project there is far more to lose if the message doesn’t get across in a way that creates commitment and action. Having said that, ...

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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Strategic Project Communications

Communication is an important part of any project, but it seems to me that strategic initiatives need even more of a focus on engaging stakeholders and communicating effectively. With a strategic project there is far more to lose if the message doesn’t get across in a way that creates commitment and action.

Having said that, I don’t think that the core principles of communication are that different between strategic projects and other types of work like smaller projects. There are, however, some considerations that are worth calling out so that you can make your strategic project communications as effective as possible.

There are 3 questions to answer when carrying out the communications activity on your strategic project:

  • Who are you communicating with?
  • What are you communicating about?
  • How are you communicating?

Let’s look at each of those in a bit more detail.

1. Who Are You Communicating With?

There are different levels of communication on a project – and strategic initiatives are no different. I can explain by showing you how one of my strategic projects dealt with communications to different audiences. We had a number of stakeholder groups:

  • Core project team
  • Wider project team
  • Internal users
  • External users

Each of these needed different types and frequency of communications.

The core project team got weekly meeting minutes from our team meeting, with the actions, tasks and deliverables. The day-to-day stuff that they needed to do their jobs.

The wider project team comprised people who were subject matter experts and interested in the project but not to the level that they needed to attend a weekly meeting. These people got a weekly round up email covering the progress, challenges and key news from the week.

Internal users is a broad group, and they were segmented into change management champions, who were supporting their departments during the delivery phase, and their colleagues. These two different audiences needed slightly different communications to reflect their level of knowledge about the project and what needed to be done.

External users received communications as and when we had something relevant to say to them. They were very much part of the comms plan, but not privy to the internal workings of the project team – it wasn’t relevant to them and wouldn’t have been appropriate to share this information with them.

The general rule is: tell people what they need to know at the time they need to know it. So the different groups on your projects will receive communications in a timely manner. This is particularly important for strategic projects because there is often a lot to say, over a long period of time.

Watch the webinar: Communications for Enhanced Strategy Execution: How to Effectively Communicate to Get More Work Done

2. What Are You Communicating About?

Strategy Execution TrainingStrategic projects often need communication about the vision and mission, the overall goals. This can be more important than the day-to-day information or the ‘how to’ information because when you are delivering something important and transformative, you need to bring people along with you.

Think about the types of message you need to get out there:

  • Sharing the vision and creating a roadmap to the future state
  • Practical guidance on what the changes mean for individuals
  • ‘Next steps’ and ‘things to do now’ communication at a very transactional or tactical level that helps teams take action to step them closer to reaching the strategic goals.

All of these need to be combined to create the full message for your strategic delivery. However, be careful about over-communicating too. Space out your messages so that people don’t suffer from overwhelm.

Top Tip: Make sure there are feedback loops built into how you communicate so that you get to hear if the messages aren’t having the desired effect. Then you can quickly move to do something about it to ensure you get the results you need.

3. How Are You Communicating?

There is a range of new-ish technology that can help you deliver communications effectively. You could look at:

  • Webinars
  • Slack-type social networks
  • Intranets and microsites
  • Chat bots
  • Video on demand or live videos
  • Infographics

And more. This is on top of the ‘normal’ project emails and newsletters. I think that for strategic projects it’s more incumbent on us to come up with innovative ways to get the message across. There is more requirement for the messages to ‘stick’ and make an impact, and technology can help achieve that.

Think about the tools available to do that and how you could make the best use of what you have.

Creating A Repeatable Communication Process

Many strategic projects feel like one-off initiatives – the kind of work where processes couldn’t be repeated because the deliverable is unique or transformative. But there are plenty oStrategy Executionf benefits to creating a repeatable communication structure within your project, even if you are sure that the processes couldn’t be reused elsewhere (and you might be surprised at how much could be reused on other strategic projects).

  • Having a process for your communications has huge advantages including:
  • Everyone knows what they have to do to get a comms drafted, approved and issued
  • Stakeholders know what to expect in relation to the format and frequency of communications
  • You stop thinking about how to do the comms and are free to spend more time thinking about the messages within it.

This last one is huge, and the main reason for me that processes and repeatability is so important in projects. I have so much work to do that involves critical thinking, analysis, conflict resolution and the like that I don’t want to spend much time thinking about the transactional steps involved in getting a comms out.

I want a simple checklist or process that says what I do, who needs to read it (which will differ depending on what is in it) and how it gets distributed. Every time a communication is required, I can go back to the same steps and use my brain power for something else instead.

Answering these three questions and constantly considering your communications in relation to your deliverables, will help you manage strategic project communications effectively.

How do you plan and manage communications on your strategic projects? Tweet us @2080StrategyEx. We’d love to hear about how you get the message out about your key initiatives.

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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Agile + PMO = Love https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/agile-pmo-love/ https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/agile-pmo-love/#respond Thu, 19 Jul 2018 10:11:16 +0000 https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/?p=19810

Agile + PMO = Love But then, love is always complicated  This is a topic that will probably not catch a lot of attention. Because those who do Agile don’t want to hear about PMOs (too rigid, tend to kill agility,etc.) and those in PMOs don’t want to hear about Agile (no planning, no documentation, ...

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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Agile + PMO = Love

But then, love is always complicated 

This is a topic that will probably not catch a lot of attention. Because those who do Agile don’t want to hear about PMOs (too rigid, tend to kill agility,etc.) and those in PMOs don’t want to hear about Agile (no planning, no documentation, no management, etc.). Bad news for all of you!

The world has changed and you have to work together. An example of how the world has changed is that the stereotypes mentioned above apply less and less.

Agile

And speaking of stereotypes, let’s talk about some that concern Agile. If you work in a PMO, this might clarify a few things for you.

  • Agile is total freedom, chaos even! In Agile we empower people to act independently but within some boundaries.

There are two elements to consider here: the empowerment and the boundaries. The Agile team will never decide about the product (that typically comes from the product owner), they’re just given little freedom so they can think of better solutions to achieve results. And they receive enough power to be able to make some decisions which otherwise would take too much time and involve other people unnecessarily.

  • Agile methodologies are not real methodologies! Yes, they are!

You do not need 500 pages to convince people of the seriousness of a methodology. They are lightweight (not light!) because they do not want to constrain people too much. If you give people a process for every breath they take you turn them into process operators. With Agile we want people to add value while using just enough structure (that is methodology and processes) that would work for them instead of slowing them down.

  • Roles are very unclear! The fact that most organisations implement Agile roles poorly doesn’t mean these roles are not properly defined.

An example from experience: more than 80% of those who say they do Scrum do not have a Scrum Master and a Product Owner in place. When you decide you want to do it, you really have to do it. Simulating a Daily Stand-up won’t do it.

  • Agile is easy! Well…It usually takes a complete change of how the performing organisation is thinking and behaving.

And this effort may easily be spread across a few months and even years.

  • Agile may work for a small project but it will never be a company-wide So, what is the alternative then for the whole company?

Taking 3 months to make any decision? Finding the best excuses for failing on customer satisfaction? Agile might in fact be the salvation for many organisations. Want proof? Look at all the struggling industries out there trying to survive in a more and more customer-centric world and more and more powered by AI.

PMO

It may sound very strange and maybe some of my fellow agilists will not agree but many of these challenges can be easily fixed or at least improved by working closer with PMOs. But let’s look into the PMO-related stereotypes now. If you’re an Agile guy, this should make you think about how much you need a PMO.

  • They’re not very useful!

Most of them are actually very supportive. They can make your life much easier by providing support and consultation. Not to mention resources, tools and proven best practices.

  • It’s the Police!

Even if that were true, can you imagine a world with no police? And what did we ever do to deserve “less” police? You need order, you need calm and you need somebody to keep an eye on how things go. It’s for you own benefit.

  • Control freaks!

If they are freaks then yes, it’s bad! But for most it is just making sure that whatever we decided to do, we’re actually doing. Quite often we fear control because of our own failure to perform. Controlling is what catches you when you are not doing what you were supposed to do. Think high-school exams!

  • They only care about compliance!

Well, somebody has to! When you’re too busy with the day to day business you might be tempted to cut corners, maybe make some sacrifices, be too creative and it is always good to have somebody out there who will watch out for you.

Agile + PMO

Let’s see now how these two worlds can work together. Particularly because in reality there are just one world.

We’ll look at some examples considering typical PMO functions (supportive, consultative, controlling, compliance) in collaboration with some standard Agile practices. Here they are:

  • Client relationship.

Although Agile comes with some clear roles (ex. Product Owner), processes (ex. Sprint Review) and artifacts (ex. User Stories), an Agile team will usually inherit an organisation’s way of doing business.

PMOs can help a lot when it comes to sponsorship, account management, escalations not to mention the protection when the Agile will…fail fast!

PMOs can also help with the translation and explanation of some very agile terms like iterative product development, product increment, customer demos, etc. so those on the other side actually understand what they mean.

  • Customer feedback.

Many organisations complain about not being able to talk to customers face to face. They usually blame management for not allowing it or corporate policy.

PMOs can be a very powerful ally who can move things faster into the right direction. They can come up with the right processes to do it, the right sponsorship and ensuring it has the right impact.

  • External dependencies.

Those who are doing Agile know how hard it is to achieve flow (delivering continuously without any blockage) and how damaging it is when something happens and that flow is blocked. And, in most cases it is caused by some external factor or dependency.

A solid PMO can support with putting the right agreements (SLAs) in place and the right governance so it is actually respected.

  • Empowerment.

It’s never easy to let it go and it’s never easy to take full responsibility. With a more structural approach, typical for a PMO, the organisation could strike a balance between empowerment and risk management. And done gradually, of course.

  • Training.

It is shocking how poorly trained people are when it comes to Agile. Especially those who supposed to be doing Agile. Even if they are trained, quite often it is just an isolated training experience with no connection to the overall personal development strategy of the corporation.

Again, great opportunity for collaboration with those in charge of the project management practice and its maturity.

  • Mindset.

Many people agree that doing Agile involves a change in the way of thinking but very few are actually doing something about it. The benefit of having the PMO involved, maybe even make it PMO-driven, is that it would make it more strategic, more structural and better resourced. Safer and more secure also.

  • Failing fast.

Since we talked about the mindset we also need to mention failing fast. PMOs have the power to turn this approach based on experimentation, suppositions and fast failing into something that is truly company-wide and more aligned with the corporate values and practices.

In the end, this is how you create a culture of innovation and creativity.

  • Planning.

PMOs usually serve as an intermediary between management who wants predictability (deadlines, budgets, etc.) and the reality which is more agile than you would expect.

You can explain to an Agile team the need for some predictability and work with them to focus more on releases and roadmaps rather than iterations. You can also sell some of the benefits of the “as-you-go” planning to management and work with them to embed some flexibility into their long-term plans and commitments.

  • Conflict management.

Everybody has conflicts, extremely few have a conflict strategy. So, the moment you have a conflict in your team, it all comes down to WSTL (“who screams the loudest”). This becomes even more critical when the conflicts involve people from different teams or departments and because they usually turn into fights, everybody loses.

Having a clear strategy, endorsed by a PMO will give everybody the guidelines about how aggressively you can defend your ideas, how critically you can challenge others and how much you have to obey without questioning.

  • Reporting.

You say Gantt chart, I say burn-down chart. Maybe if we could just talk about why we really need those reports, we could actually come up with something useful. From Agile you can learn that documentation, including reports, should be produced only if it provides some value to somebody and not in excess. It’s a mean to an end.

From PMOs you can learn that some people might have different communications needs and you have to be respectful of that and provide them with the right information, in the right format and when they need it. In every company, a clear and honest discussion about project metrics and KPIs is in order.

  • Tools.

PMOs can be very valuable partners when it comes to getting the right tools. Particularly if the need just occurred and there was no way you could have planned it and budgeted it from the beginning.

While the project team – Agile or not – only looks at one project, their project namely, a PMO might consider this as a long-term investment with a much larger ROI. And they can be easily convinced to invest in some tools that will improve the efficiency of project management activities. Not to mention the effort to implement the tools and train people to make the most of them.

If you want an example, here a simple observation from the real world. From all those who use Jira, only a handful are aware of what it can actually do and even fewer are using it at its full capability. Probably they just thought they needed a tool to track post-it’s electronically.

  • Best practices.

A very big concern in many organisations is that they have people with great experience and people with almost no experience when it comes to doing Agile. And, for some reason, they have a hard time making those experiences available and shared throughout the company.

PMOs can help a lot by creating the environment, the tools and the culture of sharing best practices. And it is not that much about sharing some experience (nobody needs another SharePoint!) as it is about getting it across, understanding it and incorporating it into your practice.

  • Visibility.

One thing I discover very often when I deliver Agile courses is that people who work for the same company, usually discover what they colleagues are doing during the course. And they do admit that they do not talk to each other.

There’s a lot of highly valuable information to be shared: what has worked well, issues, risks, challenges, problems, best practices, etc. Having somebody in charge of cross-project communications would definitely help a lot. And that sounds like a job for a PMO.

  • Corporate strategy.

Most Agile teams still maintain the old thinking, our job is to execute whatever they tell us to execute. While there is definitely some value in execution, it is much more valuable to understand the reasons behind execution. Unfortunately, too often, nobody shares those high-level ideas with a team.

Maybe they are aware of the project’s vision but most people totally miss the strategy of the company they work for. Whilst being impacted every single day by that strategy!

A PMO can educate people on how the company is organised, what are the priorities, what are the KPIs, what is important and what is not. And next time an executive says “Sorry, I don’t have the budget!” you can actually understand what they mean.

  • Methodologies. For most people doing one methodology right is hard enough. However, for optimal results you must at least understand other ways of managing projects too. When you work in project management your job is to deliver project-based work and results and it is very helpful to develop a fluency in more than one methodology. Invariably you will have to “interface” with other teams who might use other methodologies or frameworks. PMOs could be great teachers or at least promoters of this learning and exposure.
  • Control. Yes, that’s correct, control! We love “feedback” but we hate “control”. Maybe because we associate “feedback” with “we can improve” and “control” with “I might get caught”. It doesn’t matter how you call it, somebody should tell you when you are doing it right and when you’re not. As someone who’s doing Agile, I would be very happy to delegate the controlling to someone else from outside (like a PMO) who’s not directly involved and who can keep me on track. Even if sometimes the news might not be very pleasant.
  • Compliance. We all hate it but we all need it. The problem is that we don’t always understand it. It could be because nobody bothered to explain it. It could also be that people just take it for granted and don’t try to understand it. But once you go deeper you realise how important it is. A big breakthrough for many people is applying Agile practices to compliance projects. Which normally leads to getting the results you want (being compliant!) faster and also a bit cheaper.

 

In spite of some 70 years of experience, some people still look at Agile as something new, a trend that will go out of fashion soon. Or like it’s just some kids playing. Involving a PMO with the right structure and governance can turn Agile into a serious option for many customers. Agile, by itself is fun and efficient. With PMOs backing it can also be trustworthy and credible.

Obviously, this list can continue with countless examples of how PMOs can embrace Agile practices and agilists can better understand how PMOs can help them in their Agile journey.

In conclusion, every possible collaboration or lack of can be seen as a threat or as an opportunity. While there might be some threats out there, we get much more benefits from considering the opportunities. And from those opportunities derive the benefits. In the end, it is all about delivering benefits, isn’t it?

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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Four Agile Practices for Project Managers to Adopt Today https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/four-agile-practices-for-project-managers-to-adopt-today/ https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/four-agile-practices-for-project-managers-to-adopt-today/#respond Thu, 12 Jul 2018 10:04:56 +0000 https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/?p=19475

With the use of Agile project methodologies (SCRUM, XP,…) gaining momentum, and their advantages being widely proclaimed, many project managers and their teams are wondering whether they should embrace them, and if so, how. Back in 2001, the writers of the Agile manifesto agreed on 12 principles, which further defines how to run an Agile ...

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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Agile Project Management Training

With the use of Agile project methodologies (SCRUM, XP,…) gaining momentum, and their advantages being widely proclaimed, many project managers and their teams are wondering whether they should embrace them, and if so, how.

Back in 2001, the writers of the Agile manifesto agreed on 12 principles, which further defines how to run an Agile project:

  1. Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
  2. Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
  3. Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
  4. Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
  5. Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
  6. The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
  7. Working software is the primary measure of progress.
  8. Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  9. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
  10. Simplicity — the art of maximising the amount of work not done — is essential.
  11. The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organising teams.
  12. At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behaviour accordingly.

Before going all the way through a major re-organisation and corresponding change in mindset that Agile entails, we have identified four Agile practices that can be put into place at once, and guarantee to have a positive impact on any project.

Our four principles have been chosen in order of ease of implementation rather than the degree of impact. They are all within the sphere of influence of the project manager and the team, so do not require any involvement or contribution from senior management.

They are:

  1. Retrospective (12).
  2. Define results of activities so you can measure progress (3).
  3. Simplify (10).
  4. Customer centric, (1)

 

1. Retrospective

AgileAgile Principle 12: At regular intervals the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behaviour accordingly.

All methodologies recommend documenting and incorporating “lessons learned’. For an organisation these are pure gold; building on best practices and eliminating recurrent mistakes.

Unfortunately, these often only happen during the close-out phase of the project, or rather don’t happen because the team is forced to move on to the following project, which is already running late.

Instead of waiting until the end of the whole project “lessons learned” can be captured during each weekly review. Just picking out “one thing we do well and will do again” and “one thing we will change this week to do better” can quickly lead to significant improvement.

Recording these points in the weekly project report means they can be reviewed the following week and not lost from view. Though this seems easy, even the simplest items are quickly forgotten.

Be prepared to come back to these points, maybe more than once, before they are fully integrated into daily working practice. Even though there may be many points that are working well, and just as many points to improve, pick just one of each every week to help keep focus. Note also the emphasis on the “we”; if the items identified are within the control of the project team the chances of something happening are high.

 

2. Define results of activities so you can measure progress

Agile Principle 3 Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.

Since not all projects are about software development we will take the liberty of rephrasing this principle as “Deliver measurable results frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.”

When drawing up the Work Breakdown Structure for the project, a common practice is to list the activities, cutting them into smaller pieces until they can be reliably estimated and delegated.

One major activity in building a house might be listed as “Lay foundations”. Expressing the same thing as “Foundations laid according to specs.” means the result of the activity is used to measure completion, rather than the hours spent on the activity itself.

At first sight this might appear to be nothing more than an exercise in semantics. However, the focus has now changed from “doing things” to “achieving results”. Being able to show the customer results that demonstrate progress towards the overall end goal is reassuring. True, this is not a demonstration of “working software”, but nonetheless it is a clear and measurable step towards the project’s end goal.

Measuring progress with the results of the activities also helps to improve the “definition of done”. This will most likely lead to a fruitful discussion before the work actually begins. Reviewing results is also more satisfactory for the customer, and is likely to lead to more constructive feedback than looking at the progress (or not) of a line on a bar chart.

You can also use Agile to become agile: for each review it is possible to improve how accurately you can forecast the results expected for the following review, and how precisely you can describe them.

 

3. Simplify

Agile TrainingAgile Principle 10. Simplicity, – the art of maximising the amount of work not done – is essential.

If you can take a step back it is possible to identify many ways of simplifying the project, both what is being done and how it is being done.

For this article we will take one example. No matter how large or complex the project it is essential to provide an overview of the whole thing in 30 seconds or less, ideally using some form of graphic illustration. The overview must be understandable to a reasonably intelligent person who has an adequate grasp of the language being used, not just reserved for the experts. This might sound like an insult to those who have been working for years on, for example, building an experimental thermonuclear reactor**, yet the benefits of creating this anchor cannot be over-estimated because that all the other elements of the project can link to it.

Producing the overview can be a challenge, so it is valuable to have a friendly person, neutral to the project, who can extract the bare bones thanks to not knowing too much of the detail. A reliable test of the effectiveness of the overview is that any member of the project team can present it. An even better test is if the Customer of the project can present it. If you calculate the number of times the project will need to be presented to newcomers then cutting the overview down from 30 minutes to 30 seconds represents a considerable time-saving and a real-life application of maximising the amount of work not done.

 

4. Customer centric

Agile Principle 1. The highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.

However, if you are not actually working on a software project then it is perfectly legitimate, as we did for point 2, to substitute “results” instead of “software”. In either case it’s important to know what the customer ranks as “valuable”. You might think that this should have been number one on this list as well, so let’s see how the previous three points in this article contribute to building, maintaining, or, if necessary, rebuilding customer confidence.

Many Customers and Sponsors are overseeing multiple projects, as well as their other activities; their attention is in high demand. A concise 30-second description of the project (Point 3) brings their focus back onto it rapidly.

Next, by showing the Customer or Sponsor some concrete, measurable results (Point 2) the Project Manager can distinguish herself and the team from many of the other projects the Customer is handling. All too often the project manager only talks about issues. Of course, it would be naïve to assume that these do not exist, but if this is the main topic on the agenda then it hardly builds any confidence. Problems and problem solving become so preponderant in the project that, focus on the Customer and value are lost. Talking about results and progress can make a refreshing change.

Thirdly, let the Customer know that the team has already implemented some improvements (Point 1) and what the impact has been. This demonstration of autonomy is likely to build trust and creates an opening to engage the Customer in the cycle of becoming more Agile.

Conclusion. Fully implementing the twelve principles given in the Agile Manifesto is a lengthy journey. It required commitment and dedication at all levels of the organisation: it is not going to happen overnight. However, this article does show what can be done to apply Agile principles, and how this can be beneficial, first and foremost for the project manager and the project team members.

** The website for the abovementioned experimental thermonuclear reactor is an excellent example of simplification: https://www.iter.org/mach.

 

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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Building Teams To Improve Strategy Execution https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/building-teams-to-improve-strategy-execution/ https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/building-teams-to-improve-strategy-execution/#respond Thu, 05 Jul 2018 09:16:31 +0000 https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/?p=17796

The concepts of strategic alignment have been around for some time. You probably see this most clearly in staff appraisal processes. Wherever I have worked, my manager has waited to get objectives from his or her manager and so on, and then cascaded objectives to me. The point is that everyone in the organisation, from ...

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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adaptive-strategic-execution-training

The concepts of strategic alignment have been around for some time. You probably see this most clearly in staff appraisal processes. Wherever I have worked, my manager has waited to get objectives from his or her manager and so on, and then cascaded objectives to me. The point is that everyone in the organisation, from the CEO to the most junior or personnel, has objectives for the year that hang together to drive the business forward.

And yet…

The idea of strategic alignment might be pretty well embedded in the way that we manage departments and teams, but strategic execution is something different. Being able to effectively reach those goals we have set for ourselves is more of a challenge. But why, when project teams have clear targets and departments know their objectives, is that even a problem?

Donald Sull, Rebecca Homkes and Charles Sull did some research (which was published in Harvard Business Review) into why this was the case. They wanted to find out why strategy didn’t get delivered when the strategic alignment process looks like it is working just fine.

The results were really interesting.

Alignment is not the same as execution

What they found was that managers typically think that aligning everyone behind the same strategic objectives is the answer to making sure that strategy actually gets delivered through projects and tracking business as usual activity against the agreed goals.

That was far from the case at the time of their study, and, I’d argue, is still the case now.

Lining up your business and project teams to understand the strategic goals and their part in reaching them is one thing, but getting the work done is something else entirely. Being succesfully able to complete strategic projects goes far beyond setting and tracking the right targets.

So what is going on?

The researchers found that there’s a trust problem in many organisations.

Unreliable colleagues affect the delivery of strategic projectsadaptive-strategic-execution-training

As project managers, we know that we need to get work done through other people. Unfortunately, not everything we are tasked with managing is within our direct control. That’s partly because we don’t have the skills to do it all, and partly because our job is managing the work and the people, not doing the doing.

Sometimes I think it would be easier if I was able to do all the doing as well because then at least I would be confident it would get done. I’m sure you have been in situations where you may have felt the same!

The researchers uncovered that 84% of managers said they can rely on their immediate colleagues – their boss and their direct reports – to get tasks done. That’s good news. In a project team, it’s nice to know that your project sponsor and immediate core project team have your back. They should be allocated to the project and available with a reasonable amount of certainty, to do the work that you have together allocated.

So far so good. Teams that have confidence in each other are the kind of teams that deliver on their objectives.

But then the researchers looked at whether managers were confident in other departments’ ability to keep their promises and do the work required of them.

Only 9% of managers said they could do that reliably, all the time. Only half thought they could rely on their colleagues in other departments most of the time.

Wow!

This is a huge area of mistrust and concern, and it means that teams aren’t confident that work will get done. On a project team, this lack of confidence applies to the people who aren’t your core colleagues. You might struggle to get time from business as usual specialist roles like lawyers, contract managers or press officers. You might struggle to get time with subject matter experts whose opinion is needed at one meeting, or people who work in different business teams where your project relies on their business process. An example of this kind of process would be the finance team, where your project purchase orders and invoices go through the company’s standard finance processes. How much time do you waste chasing up payment on behalf of vendors you are using on your project? (Or is that just me?)

Implications of not trusting your colleagues

The researchers concluded that when you can’t rely on colleagues to do their work effectively, you compensate for their poor performance. The workarounds and behaviour you resort to is what ultimately undermines being able to get those projects finished in an effective way. This includes:

  • Duplicating effort, so doing the work another team should be doing because they aren’t doing it or they aren’t doing it properly
  • Delaying project deliverables, because you don’t have what you need in order to move the work on
  • Failing to capitalise on good opportunities because you don’t have the confidence you’ll be able to see it through
  • Letting down customers, because you can’t keep your promises.

This doesn’t look like a very strategically driven organisation to me.

Fixing poor coordination

This problem is so widespread that you can’t pin it on one particular team. It’s not thatStrategy Execution your team is awesome and everyone else in the business is frankly shocking. The other departments probably think they are doing a great job and everyone else is letting them down. So if individual departments are performing fine, the problem lies in the conversations between teams.

Poor coordination between departments is at the root of many of these issues. If you want a simple fix to improve your strategy execution, this would be it. Note that I said simple, not easy! It’s straightforward to understand that conflict between departments and poor handoffs add delay and angst to any project. It’s less straightforward to implement a plan to address those issues.

Around 30% of respondents in this research reported that their great challenge for executing their company’s strategy was the failure to coordinate work across units. Everyone’s work is important. Your loyalty is to your own department and your own tasks is perhaps naturally more important than responding to an email from someone in a different building.

On project teams, fixing the interdepartmental coordination issues is really important. If your core project team members don’t have the backing of their ‘home’ teams, that could cause some serious delays.

Using a project management office to manage cross-department working and multi-disciplinary teams is one consideration. Setting up service levels between teams, promoting cross-functional working and having representatives from all teams on project meetings could also be helpful.

However, being aware of this problem is a large part of the solution. The more you can spot and call out issues with asking for and getting support from other teams, the easier it will be to work constructively with managers so that everyone is pulling together.

What tips do you have for breaking down barriers between departments? Tweet us @2080StrategyEx. We’d love to hear you manage working in a matrix organisation and with the support of your colleagues.

 

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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Overcoming Roadblocks to Innovation on Strategic Projects https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/overcoming-roadblocks-to-innovation-strategic-projects/ https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/overcoming-roadblocks-to-innovation-strategic-projects/#respond Thu, 28 Jun 2018 10:23:32 +0000 https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/?p=17783

When leading strategic projects we have to be careful not to fall into the trap of micromanaging the detail and executing projects in the same way as they’ve always been done. Instead we must strive for a new standard and deliver the outputs, outcomes and benefits of our projects in the most effective way. New ...

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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When leading strategic projects we have to be careful not to fall into the trap of micromanaging the detail and executing projects in the same way as they’ve always been done. Instead we must strive for a new standard and deliver the outputs, outcomes and benefits of our projects in the most effective way.

New methods, tools and technologies become available every day, and it’s our job as project managers and leaders to challenge our teams to make the best use of them. By consistently looking for new and better ways of delivering solutions, doing business, saving money and optimising human potential we help our clients achieve their objectives.

The project managers who are the most successful at serving their clients and challenging the status quo are those who are skilled at observing the project from different angles and perspectives. Together with the team they question each part of the project and assess which aspects are working and which are not. They have the courage and energy to consistently look for opportunities to better utilise resources, people, technology, processes, knowledge and ideas. But it’s not necessarily an easy path as it’s much easier to maintain the present state than to question it and improve upon it.

What are the roadblocks?

Although it’s such an important aspect of strategic projects to challenge the status quo, many project managers aren’t doing it. How come? What is holding them back and is anything holding you back? Do you make an effort to rise above the day-to-day project activities and assess how things could be done better? And do you involve your team in the process by challenging the2080 Strategy Execution Coursesm to help you find the answers?

Many project managers defend themselves by saying that they don’t have sufficient knowledge of the project or of the client’s business to be able to suggest meaningful improvements. Or they argue that they have their hands full. That they are too busy keeping track of what is going on to be able to also spend time improving and innovating. After all, most of us would like to leave the office at a decent hour, and if the price is to stay late in order to work on something, which no one has asked for, then the motivation may quickly tail off.

What is your reason? I invite you to take a moment to assess which of the following roadblocks might be holding you back:

  • You have a lot on at the moment and you don’t feel you have the capacity to extract yourself from the detail of the project and think about innovation.
  • You know it is important to take time out to evaluate the project, but you somehow never get around to doing it.
  • You don’t feel that you have sufficient knowledge about the current state of affairs and about how your client’s business operates in order to challenge it.
  • Your team is inexperienced and needs a lot of direction. You don’t feel it is mature enough to assist with value-added idea generation.
  • You have lots of innovative ideas and an appetite for making changes but the organization you work for is conservative and risk-averse and you have difficulties securing their buy-in to bring about the changes you dream of.

If any of the above scenarios ring true for you what could you do to overcome them? Remember that challenging the status quo isn’t the easiest thing to do, but it is the only way to create real progress. Standing still is the same as moving backwards. The world is moving very fast and your project needs to move with it.

Overcome your fear of standing out

It turns out that there are a few psychological reasons that can help explain our lack of innovation.

The first reason relates to a fundamental human need we all have, which is a need to be accepted and to be part of a group.

When we lead the way, by proposing new ways of doing things, it can be disruptive to the environment where we work. There is a real risk that project managers who are too critical towards existing ways of working will be seen as disloyal and skeptics, although the opposite is probably true. Ultimately, their news ideas may cause a fall out within the project environment.

The second reason is linked to the first one – it is our basic need for safety and security.

Our brains are wired to keep us safe and to protect us from danger. So even if you have some great innovative ideas your team members might not support them. They may prefer the safe familiar options because they somehow worry about the risks and uncertainties associated with new approaches.

As you can see these underlying reasons might be working against you. But successful leaders of strategic projects don’t follow the easiest or the safest path. They follow the right path and do what’s ultimately best for the project and for the people involved. In his TED talk, Stop stealing dreams, Seth Godin puts it this way:

‘Fitting in is a short-term strategy that gets you nowhere; standing out is a long-term strategy that takes guts and produces results. If you care enough about your work to be willing to be criticised for it then you have done a good day’s work’.

The big breakthroughs don’t come from optimisation

In many cases it might be easier for project managers to look for marginal gains – that is small and gradual adjustments to processes, tools and technology – instead of making radical changes.

Identifying marginal gains doesn’t require people to stick their neck out too much. It is one of the quickest and safest ways to optimize a project and definitely has its place.

It is an approach where we improve tools, fine-tune workflows and increase motivation and engagement of the team. It’s about mapping out all of a project’s moving parts and looking for small improvements that can be made.

But marginal gains have a limited effect.

The big quantum leaps and breakthroughs don’t come from optimisation or modernisation. They come from innovation, experimentation and risk-taking.

Taking risks is part of the parcel and that invariably means that project managers and their teams have to be prepared to stand out and to be wrong! They have to be prepared to risk something – unless they want to stick with marginal gains.

The big take-away from this post is that leaders of strategic projects shouldn’t let underlying psychological barriers hold them back from questioning the status quo.

It’s within their sphere of influence to remind their clients, sponsors and team members that it’s okay to experiment and to fail and that it’s necessary to move forward in spite of uncertainty.

Project leaders can help bring about a shift towards a more risk-accepting culture by helping their teams to fail productively. That means learning from our failures and accepting that mistakes can be good as long as they genuinely help the team advance and get closer to the end goal. So perhaps it all comes down to getting better at making our failures smart and learning from what could otherwise be demotivating failures.

Seth Godin – Stop Stealing Dreams

 

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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How To Improve Credibility as a Project Manager https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/how-to-improve-credibility-project-manager/ https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/how-to-improve-credibility-project-manager/#respond Thu, 21 Jun 2018 10:15:21 +0000 https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/?p=18222

When I’m mentoring project managers one of the key things I hear time and time again is that they want to be given more responsibility and have greater influence over the work. Project managers often struggle from not having budget and resource responsibility. If you don’t control these elements of the project, you don’t really ...

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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When I’m mentoring project managers one of the key things I hear time and time again is that they want to be given more responsibility and have greater influence over the work.

Project managers often struggle from not having budget and resource responsibility. If you don’t control these elements of the project, you don’t really have the option to take many decisions about how the work unfolds. You can’t do anything to address risk either because people don’t take your recommendations seriously. You struggle to influence the outcomes of negotiations, or your suggestions aren’t taken on board – although if someone else suggests the exact same thing, their words are lapped up and lauded like they’ve spoken some perfect truth.

This is the curse of not being credible at work.

In the worst situations, you become a de facto project coordinator doing schedule management and tracking. You get all the not-so-fun admin tasks and all the burden of making the project a success but none of the things you need to actually step up and lead the work.

Gaining credibility at work is one of the ways that you can build your career. If you are credible as a project manager, people will give you the tricky projects and the resources you require to get them done. If they trust you, they’ll leave you to largely manage by yourself without that awkward micromanaging that you may feel you sometimes get.

But where does credibility come from? And how do you get it?

Credibility Tip #1: Build Competence

You can’t be seen as credible unless you know your craft.

That means you should build your skills. You need to have the technical and social competences to be able to manage projects before anyone will consider you credible and influential.

There are several project management competence models. The Association for Project Management has one. The UK government has the Project Delivery Capability Framework. Your own project management office may have created an internal competence framework and assessment.

To be honest, it doesn’t really matter which one you use as a personal reference. The chances are, the people judging you in the workplace aren’t going to be mentally comparing you against those standards. They will simply assess whether you get the work done in a professional way and give them the outcomes they are expecting.Scheduling

Technical competence is easier to get than the soft skills. You can go on a training course to learn your project management software, or the best ways to create a project schedule or do cost control. Yes, you can go on a course to learn more about leadership, but somehow it’s harder to truly internalise the changes required to lead in a different way and sustain that level of personal change over time. All soft and social skills can be learned and improved, but you need real commitment to see long-lasting change.

However, the key here is to show that you can do the job. Getting a project management credential may help you, especially if you move between organisations and your new colleagues have no idea of your previous track record for delivery. A certificate can show that you’ve achieved a baseline in competence.

Credibility Tip #2: Build Confidence

Yes, confidence matters hugely. No one is going to consider you influential if you can’t get your point across in a meeting. You need to be able to hold the attention of a room and behave in a confident way. If everything about your body language says, “I don’t want to be here and I don’t know what I am talking about,” then why would anyone consider your advice to be a credible recommendation?

Building confidence is harder, especially if you have recently joined the organisation or are new to project management – whatever your age and prior business experience. However, there are some things that you can do.

Adopt a positive attitude: a lot of confidence issues are in your head. If you think you can’t do it and that you aren’t confident, then you will come across that way. Of course, there’s a balance between being over-confident and arrogant and hitting the right notes for confidence at work. Get some feedback on your behaviours if you have concerns over whether you are getting it right.

Check your body language: sit or stand tall. Don’t fiddle with your hair, jewellery or glasses. You’ve heard all this advice before, right? Google ‘body language’ and try to pick up one trait that will help you appear more confident. For me, it’s standing with both feet flat on the floor at hip distance apart when I am presenting. I do still balance on one leg or stand with my legs crossed, but at least now I’m thinking about how I look more, and making conscious efforts to project confidence.

Do your homework: I feel least confident in situations where I know the least information. Do some preparation before meetings, especially those with senior stakeholders. Know your numbers and know what you want to happen next, so that you can steer conversations in that direction. I find something that really helps is talking to other attendees before the meeting, so that you can get a feel for where they are going. Start to socialise your ideas and you’ll find that it is far easier to get them accepted on the day.

Building credibility isn’t something that happens overnight. It’s a long-term goal for you as a project manager, and focusing on confidence and competence will help you achieve it. Over time you’ll stop worrying about whether people see you as a safe pair of hands at work, and start to realise that you do have influence!

What tips do you have for building your influence and developing your confidence at work? Tweet us @2080StrategyEx. We’d love to hear your tips for improving your skills and building your credibility so let us know!

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 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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Decision Making in Turbulent Project-Based Environments https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/decision-making-in-turbulent-environments/ https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/decision-making-in-turbulent-environments/#respond Thu, 14 Jun 2018 09:19:48 +0000 https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/?p=17510

“It is feeling more and more chaotic for our leaders… change coming in from all directions… and they need to make decisions with more certainty so that the outcomes will be successful.” Leadership and Strategy Execution in a Chaotic World How do you make decisions without all the facts, where challenges are less predictable and ...

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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Adaptive Leadership

“It is feeling more and more chaotic for our leaders… change coming in from all directions… and they need to make decisions with more certainty so that the outcomes will be successful.”

Leadership and Strategy Execution in a Chaotic World

How do you make decisions without all the facts, where challenges are less predictable and information is less reliable? All we know is in this VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complicated, Ambiguous) world change in constant. Our leaders need to make decisions with ‘more certainty’ but is there more than one approach? Let’s take a moment to explore contexts; two operating environments where leaders of project based work are comfortable making decisions, and where they are struggling.

Complicated vs Complex

Complicated, or technical contexts, are easy to identify and can be solved by applying tried and tested solutions, where the traditional approach to project management and decision-making still applies. When we switch to a complex operating context, we move across a certainty/predictability chasm where cause and effect cannot be foreseen, and therefore a different approach is required.

For example, a complicated context is flying a plane where the pilot must deal with a number of changing environmental factors to land the plane safely at the desired destination. But a complex context in comparison is air traffic control that has been designed to continually adjust as conditions change in relation to one another.

A highly skilled leader will be able to identify the context they are in, but also work to cross the chasm between the two, to bring something that is complex into a state where we can start to plan and use tried and tested knowledge from the past.

Making the Right Decisions

Let us consider why we make decisions. To get results and outcomes. To commit to a course of action. To affect future progress. But it will be difficult to achieve these outcomes if leaders aren’t taking the appropriate action for the right context. It’s important to;

  1. Decide what context you are in
  2. Apply your appropriate approach
  3. Be mindful of “slowing” down decision-making

Adaptive Mindset

When working in a complicated operational context, the traditional approach to project management still applies because there is a medium-high certainty and predictability, multiple cause and effect relationships and a requirement for expert analysis and diagnosis which can have multiple right approaches/pathways to a solution. So we can plan and anticipate, exchange structured information with defined interfaces, track progress against targets and identify issues, develop a hypothesis and solve problems (Project Management 101!).

The PSC Model

In complexity, the VUCA environment has a bias for action rather than making decisions. Perceiving (P), Sensemaking (S) and Choreography (C) has the intentional methodology to slow our thinking down as opposed to jumping to bias or past action/reaction. The skills of perceiving (SEE differently) helps leader reframe situations with a beginner’s mindset to avoid biases and default thinking.

The skills of sensemaking (THINK differently) helps leader fully understand the systems they encounter and use adductive logic to find progression paths. The skills of choreography (DO differently) help leaders navigate informal networks and build collectives to solve problems.

Perceiving

Despite our best attempts, it is impossible for humans to be completely objective when perceiving a context as we suffer from bias from our pre-existing notions and default to what we know.

Leaders must proactively seek to see things differently in order to understand the complexity and uncover the latent needs of the organisation, customers and stakeholders. When dealing with constant change, the need to see the big picture and to frame and reframe what you see is one of the most important roles a leader must take on in perceiving.

Having a beginner’s mindset (like starting with a clean slate) allows us to leave our biases behind and let curiosity in. In turn, we can then start to see a bigger, and often different, picture.

Sensemaking

Leaders need to see a system/issue in a holistic sense. Creating an integrated picture from multiple perspectives can help bring viability to the collective sense of the system at play. Working with others can improve decision quality by exploring alternatives and recognizing where our thinking might be biased. Collaboration is the key to innovation where we can grow our ideas and stress test them with others.

Together leaders need to take adductive action and look for data and patterns that might contradict existing notions, ideas, and assumptions, and then try to make sense of it to find progression paths forward that cut through complexity.

Choreography

With a number of ideas on how to move forward, leaders then need to take the most sound idea and find channels and vehicles that help the journey. Complex adaptive systems cannot be controlled and must be solved by networks of individuals who hold different vantage points to make collective sense of what is going on and take action to move forward.

This requires that leaders build and influence collectives of individuals outside their sphere of control in order to nudge the complex adaptive system into a desired direction. It also requires leaders to have the confidence to take action to re-establish order, test and iterate as many actions as possible and make go/no go decisions ruthlessly.

Complex contexts require a new approach to problem-solving and decision-making. Our response now requires constant shifts in attention and to be able to move seamlessly across perceiving (seeing), sensemaking (thinking) and choreography (doing).

A common derailment in either context is the desire to make a decision quickly. In both contexts taking the time to stay away from an action/reaction response, whether we have experienced the situation before (complicated), allows time to move away from an automatic and emotional response and come to a considered evaluation with logical or idyllic conclusions.

Leading in Context

Annie Duke, author of ‘Thinking in Bets’ says:

“We need a mindset shift. We need a plan to develop a more productive habit of mind. That requires foresight and practice, but if it takes hold, it can become an established habit, running automatically and changing the way we reflexively think.”

We need to constantly review our context and have a capacity for paradox. Leading in context involves moving from the complicated to the complex and back again. The move to complex occurs as new information is collected and new actions are taken in. Then as patterns are defined and new information is labeled and categorized, the complex becomes complicated once again, albeit with a higher level of understanding.

Decision making is a skill, and can be taught. The chief enemy of good decisions is a lack of sufficient perspectives on a problem. Collaborate with others and feel the sense of possibilities expand, and see ways forward emerge from the present confusion.

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 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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How Can You Become a True Customer-Driven Organisation with Agile? https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/how-can-you-become-a-true-customer-driven-organisation-with-agile/ https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/how-can-you-become-a-true-customer-driven-organisation-with-agile/#respond Thu, 07 Jun 2018 10:35:22 +0000 https://www.strategyex.co.uk/blog/pmoperspectives/?p=17497

When talking to my business clients I like to ask the question: “Why do you want to become a customer-centric organisation?” And the response I usually get is along the lines of: “What else would we do?” Despite it being the decent thing to do, as well as sounding good, there is another, more important ...

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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Agile Training Methods

When talking to my business clients I like to ask the question: “Why do you want to become a customer-centric organisation?” And the response I usually get is along the lines of: “What else would we do?”

Despite it being the decent thing to do, as well as sounding good, there is another, more important reason to becoming customer-driven – it pays off. In other words, it is the profitable thing to do.

If you are a truly customer-centric business you are more likely to build and sell more valuable products because they ultimately deliver more compelling benefits. And consequently, you can charge more for them.

Putting customers first makes you think twice about how you spend your valuable time and your customer’s hard-earned money. You tend to be more efficient which translates into reduced costs.

With more sales and reduced costs comes higher profitability. And you will need these profits because you will have to reinvest them in smarter solutions and technologies, more efficient resources and motivation – in order that you can sell more value. But at least you’ll get to keep some of it. (One way you can see examples of this is to write down the products that you love and use, then go online and check the profitability of the company who sells them.

Finally – and probably most importantly – you will make your customers happy. Today we don’t have to use suppliers and products we don’t like anymore because we have more options. And these options make us happier. (Whether we’re switching because the new product is better is unclear – but when an airline you want to use charges you more than they should, when your bank increases their fees or when a cab driver is rude to you, finding alternatives feels good.)

The business case for becoming more customer-centric is simple: more revenue, optimised costs, higher profits and customer satisfaction. Basically, all the things that every CEO should care about.

So how is Agile going to help my organisation to be more customer-driven?

Every Agile project starts with a vision. A vision is the “why”. The reason you are undertaking the project – the business case. Except it has to be expressed from the customer’s perspective. In other words, what’s in it for me as the end customer? What benefits do I get?

If there is no direct benefit for the customer, but you have to do it for compliance, regulation, migrations, etc. be very careful about how much time and energy is dedicated to it.  If there is too much, there won’t be enough left for the projects that actually deliver something valuable.

Agie Project ManagementTo get closer to our customers, understand them better and feel what it’s like to be a customer we use personas. These are representations of end customers that are so everybody on the project team can understand why they are working on the project.

Not only do we start with a vision of the end customer benefit, we try to stay consistent with this approach at all times. Every requirement in an Agile project will have to be expressed in the same way. If the vision makes a promise, I want to see how that promise is respected and fulfilled by every requirement in the project. (I say requirement because is a universal term that anybody understands. In Agile we use different names like metaphors or user stories.)

Every functionality should deliver something beneficial for the end customer. If it doesn’t, you’re going to really need to explain why you want to do it. To make it more realistic, here is the format of a user story: “As a user type, I want this functionality so that I get this benefit”. At any moment you will be working on a functionality because somebody wants it for a personal reason. This way you will be delivering value to your customers and reduce the time spent on useless things.

And because we live in a VUCA-world (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous), we want to make sure we’re always in sync with our customers. They might not know what they want, might not be able to express it or, as it happens quite often, they change their minds.

That is why in Agile we focus a lot on getting customer feedback as soon and as frequently as possible.  With Agile this is mandatory, meaning that it is part of the framework. For instance, if you chose to do Scrum, at the end of every sprint (which typically takes a few weeks) you will do a so-called Sprint Review. This is basically a demo of the result of the sprint to get customer validation and hopefully more ideas. If your interpretation of what customers want was wrong, at least you’ll learn it fast, after only a couple of weeks. We call this failing fast. Or, if it’s too much for your strict corporate culture, call it experimentation. But this review will also allow you to evolve the product in the way that customers think is valuable to them. You can think of this as some sort of customer co-creation of the product.

Another great thing about Agile is how you can easily and seamlessly incorporate changes. We capture these changes by keeping in constant contact with the customer (see customer feedback section above) and we implement them by focusing on iterations rather than on the overall project. When the team is working on iteration they are focused on delivering the most important functionalities at the moment, while remaining open to changes that could affect the next iteration. Short term more predictive, longer term more adaptive. We also understand that changes are not actually changes. They are improvements and if somebody is asking for some changes there must be a good reason for it. Our job is to make sure we make it happen.

Agile Training MethodsMany people ask how you make sure you’re always in contact with the customer. The answer is by having a dedicated role for this. It may have different names but the most common is product owner, the title used in Scrum.

The responsibility of a product owner is to ensure that the product delivers value and benefits to the customer and manages the day-to-day operations related to the product backlog: talking to customers, adding new requirements, re-prioritising the existing ones, supporting the delivery team and managing the stakeholders.

Earlier I made a bold statement, that Agile will make you more efficient. That is, reduce costs and deliver more results. Doing more with less, as you may have already heard a million times. We do that by spending some time on retrospectives at the end of each delivery cycle (sprint). In a retrospective, the team will typically discuss how they can be more efficient. And it not just a simple discussion. They will think about how different processes might be adjusted, how new tools could be deployed so the next sprint delivers more results. When they deliver more results per sprint (which means same timeframe and same resources) this translates into higher efficiency so more results are achieved with the same or less costs.

In conclusion, Agile is a vast universe of ideas, tools, practices or philosophies that should help a lot when trying to deliver more value to the customer. It is actionable, hands-on with immediate results. The worse thing that can happen is it doesn’t work and you return to the old way of doing business. But experience shows that it does work!

 

AGile Practitioner Bundle

 This post first appeared on PMO Perspectives Blog.

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