Posted by: Gilad Lev-Shamur | January 13, 2012

Back to Basic Series– part 1: Stakeholders analysis

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A man should know when to admit that he did a mistake.

We already talked in the past about Ego in project management . This time I did a mistake.

I did not recognize correctly the stakeholders of the project. Not because I was not familiar with their interests / agendas.  Just because I did not do an organized processes in order recognize them.

If we will return to the basic of project management, we could find several basic rules and tools that every project manager should master them before even considering learning how to use sophisticated software or smart estimation process…

Stakeholder analysis process is one of them. It helps you recognize all the relevant people involve in your project.

PMBOK definition: “Stakeholders analysis is a technique of systematically gathering and analyzing quantitative and qualitative information to determine whose interests should be taken into account throughout the project. It determines the interests, expectations, and influenza of stakeholders and relates them to the purpose of the project. I also helps identify stakeholders relationship that can be leveraged to build coalitions and potential partnerships to enhance the project’s chance to success”

PMs might think they can skip this process due to:

• Unprofessionalism (not familiar with process)
• And most important, Ego

If I look on my project, Ego was the case.

When I got this specific project, it had bloody history. A lot of arguments and disagreements during design, politics, tight budget…

I thought that I am familiar with the specific organization handling the project and started to work immediately. Meetings, emails, schedule meetings, design meetings and so on. I tried to shoot  in all directions.

This was a mistake.

I did not start my work in this project doing a real stakeholder analysis process. It is true I did some checking on the key personal (as I saw it) in the organization. But I never did a thorough process of analyzing if additional people have influence or interests in this project.

And as you can imagine, it blow in face.

At some point of the project (the most challenging one, as you can imagine) I was surprised to know that there are other people I should know. Someone else is really the decision-making.

This discovery required from me and the project team to do extra work in order to involve these stakeholders in the project. It delayed the project and will probably cost us in $ and reputation.

Why this happen? Ego.

I thought I know the organization, neglected the importance of the new environment I needed to work in, the new team members, counting too much on successful history and so on.

The main message I am want you to remember is that:

Assume that every project is unique. That every project involves someone you are not familiar with or change his role from the last time you worked with him. Only by that you will prevent surprises like I had.

Here you can find interesting articles about stakeholder analysis:

Stakeholder adventure maps. Drawing Smileys and walls.

How to build stakeholders analysis

Tools and psychological tidbits for stakeholder engagement

Good Luck!

Gilad

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Posted by: Gilad Lev-Shamur | July 14, 2011

Contracts Series – Part 1: Can we create an unbeaten contract?

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“verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on”

Samuel Goldwyn

 

Every PM know this feeling. The uncertainty before signing an important contract. Did I forget something? Did I protect my interests?   Did I set an appropriate change process which will keep me from bankrupt when changes will start to pop up, as they always do? and so on…

As it happen in most modern organizations, you will get the help of a procurement department which has an expertise in this area. But as the accountable to the project success, you will want to make sure you are backed-up. You do not want surprises.

Most PMs become obsessive collectors of documents. You collect during the years any document that describe requests from the contractor, set him limitations or enforce some actions. And when I say any, I mean it.

It became absurd. You find yourself adding documents from past projects, just because you do not want to be the one that remove them, you add documents just because one line, you add documents that you do not fully understand what they mean just because someone else did it and you change lines in your contract that has double meaning or write the same thing over and over just to clarify your point.

We do all this work just to find, after the project started, that we missed something. Can it done differently?

In his column  ” In Praise of the Handshake “ (Harvard Business Review ) Dan Ariely give us a challenge: If we cannot create an unbeaten contract (as any experience PM will tell you), do we have another way? According to Ariely, we have.

Instead of trying to put all our rules in it, is it possible that  in case of a conflict it will be solved according to the accepted practice in this area?

We just need to define what accepted practice is.

According to Ariely, a common social norms or values can lead people to the same solution (If A happen we for sure need to do B). So how we make sure that we and the other side are at the same page?

The solution might come from another publication by Dan Ariely: “Predictably Irrational “. Ariely called us liars. We do not exaggerate, but when we got the chance we will probably slipped. One of the ways to prevent such things, is to mention us the social norms we are obligate too.

So here is an idea: keep your contract short. Put in it only the necessary things. In addition, prepare an ethics and norms document which every side will signed. Another way is to do business with people who are formally obligate to the same social norms and ethics like you. For example, all certified PMPs signed the “code of ethics“. Doing business with another PMP supposed to let you play in a game with known rules.

It is sound idealistic in some way, but is the other way let you feel safe?

Good luck!

 

Gilad

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Posted by: Gilad Lev-Shamur | July 4, 2011

Projects funding – the playgrounds of the big boys

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“Always be nice to bankers. Always be nice to pension fund managers. Always be nice to the media. In that order.”

John Gotti.

It is one thing to manage the project planning and execution phases. It is another thing to achieve the funds that will eventually move the all process.

Specialization in the project management profession can take you to  higher levels in this field. You might get bigger projects to manage, get the most complicated tasks with the highest exposure and get yourself few promotions. But in order to jump and start play with the real sharks, be involved in the strategic planning process and gain additional control, you should master the funding process. Specially in a big organization.

Money talks!

Without the ability to achieve funds to your projects, you will not be able to move any initiative, or you will need to reduce your SOW, increase your projects duration, ignore quality issues and so on.

So how you become a master with the funding process in your company?

  • Find a mentor – No matter how many guidelines you will read, nothing compare to a good teacher in this field. There are too many politics, bureaucracy barriers and surprises.  A good mentor will prevent you doing catastrophic mistakes (which might cause to a delay in your funds approval or even project cancellation), will sharpen yours documents and presentations and is most necessary in your first steps in this field.
  • Understand the different  projects categories – Different projects have different funding processes and budgets. Knowing what to submit where, can achieve the necessary budget. Some projects have multiple funding options (for example, a system upgrade budget might also be achieved from energy conservation budget if you just present a positive ROI) or are part of specific strategic budget for example. Dig into details in this part.
  • Understand the timelines – Different processes have different time cycles. For some you need to do half-year preparations and for the others you just need to show you can spend the money ASAP.
  • Who approve what – You can prepare yourself by knowing who take the final decision. In some cases it might cause you to change the bucket you are targeting.
  • Do not work alone  – It is not a one man show. Get advice from your supporting groups (if you are working in a company with structured processes, you will probably forced to do that).
  • Do an alignment with your customers – If you are trying to get a budget for an internal customer project, do an alignment with him. Bring him to your approval sessions to back up you with the business justification.

“I only wish I had more time for fund raising”

Nido Qubein

Good luck!

Gilad

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Posted by: Gilad Lev-Shamur | June 26, 2011

PMO series – part 5: How to choose the PMO software

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When coming to choose the best software for our PMO, we cannot find a single solution. There are different demands and the answer may be changed during the PMO development process. Sophisticated solution might not suit if we take into consideration additional data:

Choosing our software is not like entering into the computer store and buy some games. As the process of choosing our software and implementing it in our organization can take several  months / years, and the implications of choosing the wrong software might be devastated, you should work carefully to capture all the relevant data.

Research

You should do some research before you can jump to the water and play with nice graphs and indicators:

  • What are you using – review all the tools you currently use to manage your projects. What solutions they give you? What they can not do? How many applications you need to operate? Who can operate them? And so on..
  • What you need – as trivial as it sound, many people skip this step and start looking for the answer before knowing the question. As I see it, this step should involve all the factors that might use the PMO software: project managers, engineers, customers, management, teams members, etc.  you should check whether (but not limited):
    • It should handle the project schedule
    • You need to link between different projects
    • You need a place to store the projects documents
    • You need the software to manage the project from the project request (initiation) phase
    • It should store the projects risks
    • It should have built-in reports ( and easily add more)
    • It should manage/ report the projects costs
    • It could control the access for specific  area (permission levels)
    • You need to manage a portfolio with it or separate projects
    • It should have internal/ external access.

Find solutions

After completing the research, we should start looking for our solution. There are different places in which you can look, part of them are closer than you think:

  • In Your company – you will be sometimes amazed how one department in a big organization, do not know what are the tools and techniques another department is using. Start with your IT guys. They usually have a marvelous collection of PM tools with nice graphs and indicators. Check how they use it and how you can implement it in your departments.
  • In professional events – Usually all the big companies have some place where they present the latest solutions provided by them.
  • From professional literaturePM Network , blogs, etc.
  • From colleagues in the industry – this might narrow your search for software which is appropriate for your needs.

Choose your software

You gathered all the relevant data. Now it is the time to choose the appropriate software. You should check whether they fit to the needs you found in the research phase (remember that you will not found a software that fit all. You should rank them by their importance to you). Consider also:

  • The implementation process – do you need a specialist? Could you do it by yourself?
  • Organization guidelines– could you install any software you want or you need the IT department to approve it first?
  • Current solutions – your company might already purchased a license to one of the suggested software.
  • Price – of course…

The bottom line is that choosing a PMO software, is not just looking for nice graphs and dashboards. Doing it right will save you a lot of money and will give you a software that will serve you for long time.

Good luck!

Gilad

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Posted by: Gilad Lev-Shamur | June 16, 2011

Ego- Control it or it will control your project

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“Show me someone without an ego, and I’ll show you a loser”

Donald Trump (1946 – ), How to Get Rich

I wish it was that simple.

As a project manager, you should not totally put off your ego. But it will control your project unless you will control it.

Over the last years I found myself wondering what will make me a better project manager (What are the 5 basic rules of project management?). Is it improving my knowledge in scheduling, risk management…? Should I devote my time and develop complex matrixes and documents control systems? I do not think.

As I told you before, as I see it, the 5 basic rules of project management are:

·         People

·         Measure your work

·         Say Yes

·         Keep doing your scope

·         Say the truth

You can see that the softs skills are as much important as your technical knowledge. Soft skills include: communication, leading people, negotiation and so on. Controlling your ego will help you sharpen these skills. You should control it as a manager of people and for sure as a project manager that usually work in a matrix environment.

1.       Ego and your team: unless you will not work with team again, you can work 24 hours per day and no surprises will pop up (Project’s unexpected: change as a way of life for today PM), you need your people in order to succeed.

I assume that you want to be the decision maker. Otherwise you would not choose this job. But in order to keep your people motivate and in order to hear other opinions (believe it or not, there are other smart minds around you), you should create an open atmosphere where they can challenge you and suggest better ways.

Managing a project is not like managing a military action  

2.       Ego and your customer: this section is mostly about project managers that work with internal customers. When you work with external customers you will probably be more caution with your attitude.

You are familiar with the situation: a project manager from the company projects department is appointed to manage a system upgrade project. He has his schedule and budget constraints. He understands this project is a special request from the CEO and he is here in order to do it. He knows what to do.

 Just make sure those operation / system users’ guys will not disturb him. So what if they will need to use it for the next 10 years?

So if you want a quiet environment to work without the need of upper management solving conflicts between you and the ops guys, the solution here is simple: hug them. Do not agree on everything, but put your ego aside and talk with them as were talking to an external customer. Bring them to your side by convincing them. Do some small concessions and get an agreement on the important issues in return.

3.  Ego and yourself: “Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it.” Colin Powell (1937 – )  

 Good luck! 

Gilad

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Posted by: Gilad Lev-Shamur | June 16, 2011

Back to business!

It’s all right letting yourself go as long as you can let yourself back
Mick Jagger (1943 – )

After long pause (too long…), new posts are coming.

Enjoy,

Gilad

Posted by: Gilad Lev-Shamur | February 5, 2010

How to control your design- Analytical Design Planning Technique

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Today post is written by Paul Waskett from Adept Management Ltd

Many programs over-runs and cost over-spends in the construction industry are the result of contractors working with poorly coordinated design information. The ‘ADePT’ (Analytical Design Planning Technique) technique is used to develop integrated design programs (IDPs) which ensure that designers are able to work together to generate a fully coordinated design – note that without an IDP this can be very difficult to achieve and coordination is often still being sought during the construction itself.

This approach has been used on a range of complex design and engineering projects, in fields ranging from ship-building to IT projects. However, its widest use has been in planning and managing the design stages of construction projects such as schools, hospitals, highways, hotels and commercial developments. In projects such as these, the areas of the project where the design team are required to work together to develop a coordinated design normally relate to key interfaces such as those between building structure and envelope or between sub-structure and below-ground services.

 The approach is a highly structured way to plan, and subsequently manage, the design activities within a project. It is aimed at development of a design program which is fully integrated across the design disciplines and subcontractors and based on the critical flows of information between members of the design team. Subsequent management of information flows is regarded as a much better way of controlling the design process than simply monitoring production of deliverables or rate of fee spend. There are three stages to planning with this approach, and a further management stage. The following image illustrates the three stages which are discussed in some detail below.

In the first three stages, the approach identifies a sequence of activities which minimizes the iteration in the design process and ensures any assumptions which the team need to make are ones which can be made with confidence. This is achieved by weighting the dependencies between activities. The calculation of sequence priorities the availability of outputs associated with the most critical dependencies. Any interdependent, iterative groups of activities which remain in the process following sequencing are often multi-disciplinary. They represent places in the design process where design team members should work concurrently to solve the interdependent problem.

 Usually they also represent elements of the construction, and therefore of the design output, which require coordination.

 Having produced a target design schedule, the design process needs to be controlled. ADePT incorporates an approach to process control which preempts deviation from the target schedule by analyzing constraints, which then allows the schedule to be kept up-to-date and used in meaningful way.

In Summary, the ADePT methodology and tools provides a means of planning, managing and controlling the delivery of a project on the basis of coordinate interdisciplinary working. There are many benefits to decision-makers from utilizing this approach: the number of assumptions that cannot be made with confidence is minimized; risk and cost implications can be understood and subsequently managed; wasteful iteration can be eliminated; and focus can be given to taking interconnected decisions quickly and effectively. Ultimately, the approach offers a means of planning, controlling, and managing projects in an informed, coherent, and achievable manner.

 

Paul Waskett is a Mechanical Services Engineer by training and he has worked in Design Management since 1996. He developed the ADePT methodology from theory to practical application and is a Director of Adept Management which was formed in 2002 to deploy the methodology in industry.

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Posted by: Gilad Lev-Shamur | January 29, 2010

5 communication mistakes that project managers do

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Keeping the project triangular (scope, time, budget) will not assure you a success in your projects. Today more project mangers understand that customer satisfaction is another element which has major impact on project’s success or failure. Achieving this satisfaction is mainly depended on your communication skills and methods.

Junior project managers tend to focus on the basic triangular.  They find it easy to learn the technical side of the project management world. In their eyes, mastering scheduling software and estimation models will bring them the glory. They tend to neglect the communication side of the project only to find their huge mistake at the end.

There are few reasons for this behavior:  no one explain them why it is important, feeling comfortable with the technical aspects, not understanding the organization politics, character and so on.

But in the end, if they survive, they will have to improve and master the communication aspects of project management.

The PMBOK state that:”Effective communication creates a bridge between diverse stakeholders involved in a project, connecting various cultural and organizational backgrounds, different level of expertise, and various perspectives and interests in the project execution or outcome”.

As a project manger you must understand that planning and managing  communication is the key for your success:

Here are some of the mistakes project managers do in their way to destroy their chances for success:

  • You are not the only one that want to complete this project

Looking at the project from one set of glasses can cause you a lot of problems. Every project team member has his own agenda, exposed or not. Ignoring (even by mistake) few team members, you may put yourself in problematic point. If you will work to satisfy them, you will gain their support and satisfaction.

Communication depends on expectations. Understanding your stakeholder’s priorities, what they need to know, what the forces that drive them are, will help you get your targets.

The communication plan contained the stakeholder analysis, helping us to recognizing these expectations. The PMBOK define several methods to classify and analyze stakeholders (power/influence, power/authority and so on), but the important part of this analysis is to make the effort to understand what exactly each of your stakeholders want to get from this project.  

  • Why you are hiding this?

Keeping the data close to you chest is probably one of the biggest mistakes you can do. Your customers want to know what is going on, your boss want to get real updates and you must supply that.

I saw too many project managers that did not share their problems with their customers. Instead of using their customers to help them solve issues in the project, or just  let them know  about project troubles, they try to keep business as usual. In the end it blows in their face.

Unless your customers are living in the fairytales land, they know that changes can happen, delay in shipments happen and quality test can give bad results. They probably will not like that, but surly they will want you to update them.

  • Why should I bather to update him?

In our complex world, it is not easy to understand the relationships between people and groups. There are visible connections and there are hidden connections.

The hidden connections are created due to interests or mutual history that you cannot see or understand.

Do not ignore people just because they seem to have less power than other ones. You may find yourself ruin your relationships with senior manager just because you ignore lower level technician who, surprisingly, started his career in the company with this manager and sometimes sit to drink coffee and chat with him.

  • Talking heads

The project manager is not the only one that communicates during project execution.  The problem starts when several people give instructions, send reports and other messages, to the project team.

You should clarify  who has the authority to communicate what and not confuse the team with several speakers.

  • Stop talking

I will not broaden in this section. Just remember:” Constantly talking isn’t necessarily communicating” Charlie Kaufman.

Good Luck!

Gilad

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Posted by: Gilad Lev-Shamur | January 18, 2010

Why projects fail? Start with your management commitment

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Recently I read few posts describing the reasons for projects failure. Most of them mentioned the same elements: bad communication, lack of risk management, unskilled project managers and so on. While I agree with most of  them, one post , written by Kareem Shaker – There are too many Projects and few Project Managers   – made me think that we might emphasize the least important reasons. 

In his post Kareem stated that: “I personally believe that the project manager himself can be the no. 1 reason for a project failure”. I must say that in first glance this statement look like something I could live with. But when I analyze the different projects environments and scenarios, I realize that we should invest more thinking before we jump into conclusions.

Before we continue, I must say that I do not try to reduce the project manager responsibility. Most of the things Kareem mentions are correct: you find unskilled people at the project management profession; PMs do not apply standards and so on. But before we asked why this happen, I think that we should do some digging work in his conclusion (that we have few good  project managers ) to reach deeper levels.

As in every investigation we do, we should search for the root cause for specific findings. The major finding is that  many failed projects. When we stared asked our self why, we could go in two directions, up and down. Down to the project manager, and up to the senior management. I claim that going up, trying to find explanation for projects failure in the senior management behavior, will supply us the root cause for both directions.

In his post- Eight Causes of Project Failure – , Neil Ryder presents a report which show few statistics about project failure (awful, as we all know) and describe few contributed factors for projects failure, among them:

  • “Lack of clear link between the project and the organization’s key strategic priorities, including agreed measures of success.”
  • “Lack of clear senior management ownership and leadership.”

As I see it, when a project fail, the senior management (whether it is the PMO leader, projects  group manager and so on) should first ask herself: did I appointed the right project manager to this job? Did I gave the appropriate support to the project manager? Was I involved and monitored the project progress, or did I pop up when things started to mess?

We should understand that project mangers do not come from nowhere, and although they need to have leadership and communication capabilities they do need support.

I have seen in the past years few project managers which failed (big time) in critical projects. Without knowing the all story, you might assume it was their own failure. But if you knew that:

  • They did not have local manager who open doors for them, smooth the area while closing problematic issue with customer’s high level management.
  • Their managers did not actually understood the business importance of their project and due to that did not supply to them the needed resources.
  • The PMs need to follow  some bureaucratic procedures without someone helping them to overcome this (this is equal to having the wrong projects organization structure –PMO: centralized or not?).
  • Their managers appointed them because they were good technical guys or because no one else was available or the management did not fully understand why this role is important.

You would probably ask their managers few questions.

As I said, project managers are responsible for their project.  This is a fact. They should not blame other people if they did not do their work properly. But without educate the senior managers why project management methodologies are important, without understanding that this is a profession and not just a title, they will appointed the wrong people to these jobs.

Eventually, someone needs to offer them the job. It is all about management commitment. This is the root cause.

Good Luck!

Gilad

P.S.

This could be a topic for another post, but I do not think that the functional manager role is easier. Working in mixed department – operation and projects- I can assure you that you have some benefits as project manager, being able to forget your project after the handover ceremony. But we will discuss  this in the future.

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Posted by: Gilad Lev-Shamur | January 13, 2010

Why project managers should also be politicians?

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“Diplomacy is the art of telling someone to go to hell and having them look forward to the journey”

I need to warn you: this post can put you in trouble. The issue of organization’s politics is flammable, which in the wrong hands can cause to crisis, arguments and slow your progress.

But unless you are working in a vacuum or building yourself an igloo in the cold north (doing the work alone. Adding your family will add the politics), the organization’s politics are inherent part of any company in the modern times.

From some reasons, the organization’s politics term is always looked like negative thing. But when I talk about organization’s politics, I aimed to all the exposed and hidden relationships that exist in the organization and the way you can use them. These relationships are based on friendship, interests, hate, history and possible future gain. It does not different from any other part of the human society.

As project manager you are dealing with people. As your project become larger, your stakeholder amount increase. You are facing different forces pushing you to different directions, when all the time you are just searching the way to complete this work.

If your project is managed in a matrix structure you have additional problems. Your resources belong to different groups which have different ideas on how the project should be handled. You might find yourself working to mediate between different groups in the organization (which their disagreements are totally not connected to your project) instead working on your project plans.

So how you should disarmed this mine field without damaging your project and ruins your reputation and connections? 

Meetings are just for the protocol

Except the design meetings, training, business update and so, the good project manager will start his meetings after he already talked with all the important stakeholders. I tried to get agreement on the hard decisions in face to face meetings before I gather everyone.

Identify the key stakeholders, sit with them and get their agreement. If you are doing that correctly, the talks you will do in your floor café, might be more important than any presentation you will deliver in a meeting.  

Keep on good connections with the operations groups

Unless you are part of these groups, you will need to work hard to keep them close. The engineers and technicians from these groups can make your life miserable and in the other side, could be your life buoy.

 The operation groups have good connections with all the departments in the organization due to their day to day support. Through them you can build the right relationship that will help you push your project.

Identify the key stakeholders

In every group you should find the opinion leaders. Moving them to your side will help you get the group agreement. As I mentioned in the previous section, start with the operation groups. They have large influence (more than you think) due to their day to day interactions with the other departments.

Be careful in what you say

Remember – some things cannot be reversed.

To summarize the idea: you can avoid the politics during projects execution. Knowing what to do and how to act will improve your success chances.

Good luck!

Gilad

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