Monthly Archives: January 2009

The Project Management Manifesto

The Project Management Manifesto is a call for the US government to properly oversee and manage projects that will be financed with taxpayer money. The originators of the Manifesto recognise that lawmakers and government officials in the USA have good intentions and are working hard to address the recession. But it is the project management profession that understands how to plan, manage and govern programs and projects. There are best practices available that should be used and promoted. It is very important that the stimulus funds are used as effectively as possible, and not wasted.

According to the PM Manifesto website: “We are a community of project management leaders who are experienced in delivering results. As seasoned professionals, we know that there are three key elements to achieving the successful completion of projects that all Americans want and our country desperately needs. We urge that these elements be part of all projects launched through The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.”

I believe this initiative should be extended to Australia and every other nation who’s government is planning to spend our children’s taxes to minimise the impact of the world-wide recession. The challenge is for project management leaders world wide to latch onto this initiative, couple it to effective practices and standards such as PRINCE2, PMBOK® Guide, OPM3, P3M3 and others and make a difference.

Project managers, project management professionals, company executives and government leaders are encouraged to visit the PM Manifesto website at http://pmmanifesto.ning.com to read the declaration and proposed policy measures, and then decide how to best make use of them ‘at home’.

For more on the launch see the PM Forum web site at seen at http://www.pmforum.org/blogs/news/2009/01/ProjectManagementManifestoPublishedinUS.html.

PMI Launches ‘PM Teach’

PMI’s new PM Teach is aimed at encouraging Universities and Colleges to teach accredited project management courses. The PM Teach program makes a range of resources available to academic staff interested in developing a PM course and then having the course accredited by PMI.

A key component of the PM Teach program is linking academic institutions with R.E.P.s that have the skills and knowledge to assist in curriculum development. Mosaic has joined this part of the program based on the work of Dr. Lynda Bourne at a range of institutions including RMIT University Melbourne and The University of Sothern Queensland, both in Australia; and more recently the University of Maryland (UMUC).

For more on the PMI program see: http://www.pmiteach.org

Earned Value Confusion = No Value

I have just finished reading another article published in late 2008 where a proponent of Earned Value seems to deliberately set out to do as much damage to the general acceptance of the methodology as possible!

From its inception EV has been plagued with confusion generated by acronyms. EV ‘experts’ used to prove how knowledgeable they were by confusing business managers with a barrage of acronyms and formula. Before the turn of this Century, a decade ago, leaders in the profession recognised one of the major barriers to acceptance of EV was a general lack of understanding and sought to simplify the ‘alphabet soup’ that was making EV too hard for busy managers to understand.

ANSI EIA 748 A released in 2002, AS 4817 2003 released in 2003 and the 2000 version of the PMBOK® Guide all adopted a common, simple set of acronyms:

EV = Earned Value instead of BCWP (Budgeted Cost of Work Performed)

PV = Planned Value instead of BCWS (Budgeted Cost of Work Scheduled)

AC = Actual Cost instead of ACWP (Actual Cost of Work Performed)

These standards between them cover some 90% of the world’s Earned Value community! The intention was (and is) to demystify the process of Earned Value so managers could understand the data their project ‘controls’ staff were generating and use the information to make wise decisions. A really great idea! EV is an extremely useful and powerful tool if the data being presented to management is understood and acted upon.

What I cannot understand is why so many self professed advocates of EV are so keen to cause confusion by writing articles using the old, superseded acronyms.

  • Is it to try to look clever by confusing the ‘dumb reader’?
  • Is it to attempt to re-wind history back to the 1990s?
  • Are they actually opposed to the general use of EV and seek to prevent its general adoption by spreading confusion?

The UK (where EV is used to a very limited extent) is the only place that still published standards that use the old acronyms. These ‘standards’ are primarily from the Association for Project Management rather than British Standards.

Surely it’s time everyone used the same acronyms for the same item in an EV article and dragged themselves into the 21st century – it’s hard enough getting EV accepted in senior management circles without so-called experts and practitioners creating excuses for ‘not understanding’ by reverting to outdated acronyms, even in the UK??

What do you think?

Stakeholder Management Workshop Design

One of our trainees asked in a feedback form why don’t we use a ‘real’ case study for out Stakeholder Management and Communication Workshops. A good question deserving an answer:

  1. To develop a useful scenario for a short 1 or 2 day workshop you need a few ‘larger than life’ characters – good guys bad guys and some in between. If these were based off a real life situation we could be sued. Most of the characters in the case study are an amalgamation of some people we have met….. but they are designed to highlight characterisations rather than individuals.
  2. The scenario needs to be very simple to run through all of the issues involved in managing and communicating with stakeholders. ‘Real’ scenarios are usually far too complex for a workshop (unless you are working inside an organisation and everyone already understands the business).
  3. By developing a totally fictitious business in an exotic location, the ‘Paradise Isld. Utilities Corporation’ (PUC) everyone in the class is free to imaging ‘what might be’. If the scenario was too real some people would ‘know the answer’ based on direct experience and others would be left out.
  4. When you are dealing with stakeholders, you can never know exactly what their version of reality is! You have to base your decisions on what you think their perceptions of the project are. Your stakeholder management and communication plans are based on your team’s perceptions of the stakeholder’s perceptions. The advantage of a neutral scenario is this ‘fog’ is the same for everyone but the teams in the class can decide exactly what the right outcome should be. We have seen some amazingly different scenarios created in the minds of teams from the same information and the great thing is they are all 100% correct. The learning comes from dealing with the scenario as imagined and crafting effective communication strategies to manage the stakeholders.

So in short, the reason we use a fictitious scenario is we feel it helps us deliver much better training outcomes for public classes and internal workshops already have a built-in scenario in the organisation.

What’s your experience?

Expectation Management

I cannot think of anyone in the last 30 years who has carried a greater weight of expectation into a new job than Barak Obama. Not only the diverse expectations of over150 million Americans, but also the hopes and expectations of billions of people around the world.

Expectations include; solving the economic crisis, balancing the American budget, promoting racial harmony and equality, solving the Palestinian crisis, the Iran crisis, the Iraq crisis and possibly even the Afghan crises… sorting out the American car industry, delivering health care to the underinsured and solving unemployment and poverty to name a few.

With all the resources of the USA and the White House it’s a massive challenge and we whish President Obama every success in his endeavours.

My concern is the backswing when unrealistic expectations are not fulfilled. How President Obama manages this is likely to be educational and if the last 24 hours are anything to go by highly innovative. I could not think of a more effective way to mark the difference between the old Presidency and the new than seeing the President Elect helping out at a charity on the holiday before his inauguration.

This is a project management blog – the rest of us need to remember ‘unrealistic expectations are unlikely to be fulfilled’ and we need to make sure our stakeholders expectations are managed if we expect to be successful. For President Obama, the rules may be different – I certainly hope so there’s a lot for him to achieve.

As Theodore Roosevelt said in 1910 during a speech at the Sorbonne in Paris:

It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause, who at best knows achievement and who at the worst if he fails at least fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

There’s lots to do and many of the changes will need good project managers to make them happen.  The next few years will be an interesting and hopfully successful journy.

Key Stakeholders

I was recently asked by a colleague for the definition of key stakeholder. Everyone writing about stakeholders uses the term probably synonymously with ‘important stakeholder’ but what is the actual definition?

One definition is from Cornell University, Information Technologies. Their definition is: ‘Key Stakeholders are a subset of Stakeholders who, if their support were to be withdrawn, would cause the project to fail’.

This definition is probably true of IT and internal projects but ignores important stakeholder groups such as the ‘environmentalists’ opposed to a major engineering project. Some important stakeholders will never support the project and are focused on preventing it proceeding (or in the example above, at least minimising its impact on the environment). They may never see the project’s output as good or desirable – for these, effective stakeholder management is about finding an effective, ethical way of neutralising the threat they pose.

We use the term key stakeholder to identify members of the sub-group of stakeholders who have the power to substantially damage the project and may potentially cause it to fail. This group are both important and influential/powerful; they may be individuals such as an important manager or entities such as a regulatory authority. This concept of key stakeholder is used extensively in my book Stakeholder Relationship Management: A Maturity Model for Organisational Implementation (due for publication, September 2009).

Key stakeholders must be both important and influential

Key stakeholders must be both important and influential

Our definition is:
Key stakeholders are a subset of stakeholders who have power to prevent the project from achieving its full set of objectives and potentially may cause the project to fail.

This is the flip side of success. Before you can win a game, you have to not lose it. (Chuck Noll, ex-Pittsburgh Steelers Coach). If you fail to manage your project’s key stakeholder community, your project is almost certain to fail: not failing however, does not mean succeeding.

A large proportion of the project’s key stakeholders will also have the power to influence the determination/perception of the project’s eventual success. But in most circumstances, if the project is to be deemed successful, a large numbers of additional stakeholders will have to want to make use the project’s output to realise the value/benefits the project was initiated to create.

For the project to be deemed successful, most stakeholders must perceive it as a success

For the project to be deemed successful, most stakeholders must perceive it as a success

Achieving success involves significantly more than just completing the project on-time and on-budget. For more on this see my earlier post Success and Stakeholders.

Definitions:

  • Organisation’s Stakeholder: Stakeholders are individuals or groups who will be impacted by, or can influence the success or failure of an organisation’s activities.
  • Project’s Stakeholder: Stakeholders are individuals or groups who will be impacted by, or can influence the success or failure of the project’s work and/or its deliverables.
  • Important Stakeholder: A stakeholder who has been identified as important, using an appropriate prioritisation methodology (such as the Stakeholder Circle®), for the purpose of allocating scarce resources to ensure effective communication and to focus other stakeholder management initiatives.
  • Key Stakeholder: A stakeholder who has to power to prevent the project from achieving its full set of objectives and potentially may cause the project to fail.

Note: By these definitions, key stakeholders are always a potential risk to the project (opportunity and/or threat) but may not be particularly important ‘at this point in time’ if the relationship is working well (ie, they may not need high priority communication at this point in time). This will be the subject of a future blog.

Are you aware of any better definitions of key stakeholder?  Your comments are welcome.

Success and Stakeholders

I have been putting the hard yards into finishing my new book on Stakeholder Relationship Management Maturity (SRMM®) over the holiday period and have been considering the relationship between success and stakeholders.

One potential conclusion is that success is gifted to you by your stakeholders, you have to earn the gift but there is no way of knowing for sure if it will be granted. This means as a project manager, sports person or business executive, you have to put the effort in to ‘win’ by delivering ‘on-time and on-budget’, finishing first or achieving the planned objective; but achievement on its own does not translate to success. Success is when your achievement is acknowledged by your key stakeholders and they declare it a ‘success’.

Some of the world’s most famous buildings were project management disasters, but they are now considered outstanding successes. The Sydney Opera House overran time, overran budget and the original scope not achieved. The London Eye needed an additional £48 million loan from British Airways to finance is construction in addition to the original capital raising and was months late in opening to the public (in 2005 BA sold its share of the project for £95m and waived £60m of unpaid interest).

Success seems to come from a combination of two factors. One is delivering something of real value to the stakeholder. The other is when a critical mass of key stakeholders recognises the value and appreciates it. Value is not a synonym for ‘on-time and on-budget’ these two factors only matter to the extent that they impact on the usefulness of the outcome when it’s actually used by the stakeholders. Certainly time and money may be important, more often they are not; particularly if a longer term view of benefits realisation is considered. Benefits are realised when the product is actually used and this requires the relevant stakeholder’s participation in actually using the product or output to achive the intended outcomes.

Another important factor in achieving success is meeting the stakeholder’s expectations. This involves identifying and managing their expectations (unrealistic expectations are unlikely to be fulfilled) which in turn requires effective two-way communication. But the stakeholder community for any business activity can be huge.

Three groups of Stakeholders

Three groups of Stakeholders

There are a vast number of potential stakeholders who you don’t know and can’t see. This group is often considered as ‘classes’ of stakeholder such as ‘the public’. The only way to reach individual people this group is through broadcasting messages in a similar way to a corporation advertising it brand image to a general audience. Businesses see this activity as Public Relations (PR) or Marketing. In project space, this is the casual audience for general project newsletters, headlines on a project web page and the corporations ‘rumour mill’.

A sub-set of the overall group are the people you know you need to positively influence. In business these groups are the focus of targeted advertising campaigns with specific ‘calls to action’. In project space they may be groups such as the end users of a new system. You need to ‘sell the benefits’ of the product or project to this group so they buy-in to the concept and appreciate the value of the outcome you are creating. There are still too many for one-on-one communication but a carefully planned ‘sales campaign’ associated with effective change management and similar initiatives are critical if you expect a successful outcome. Many of this group may be recipients of routine monthly reports and the like but more is needed; you need to create positive expectations and then deliver on them.

The smallest and most important group are the key stakeholders who wield significant influence or power. This group require targeted one-on-one communication to build and foster positive relationships. It’s a two way process, you need support from them, they need to appreciate the benefits your project or activity will deliver. The Stakeholder Circle® methodology and tools are focused on identifying the ‘right’ stakeholders at the ‘right’ time in a project for this critical communication activity. Failure with this group will generally cause your project to fail and before you can ‘win’ you first have to ‘not lose’!

However, the thought in this blog is these key people are probably not enough on their own to declare the final result of your efforts and outstanding success. Real success requires buy-in from a much larger group of stakeholders, such as the 30 million visitors who have ‘flown’ on the London Eye.  But is your organisation mature enough to support the type of structured communication needed to achieve this level of success?

My SRMM® construct addresses the maturity of an organisation to engage in effective stakeholder relationship management and this is a critical start. The bigger question is who’s responsible for the wider communication: the project team, the change manager, the sponsor or the organisation?  Achieving real success is definitely a lot more complex than just being on-time and on-budget….  Perhaps this could be the subject for another book?