I remember when project management was easy! Not easy to deliver the project – that has always been hard work, and will continue to be so – it was easy because the project was all you had to focus on. The project manager had inputs, deliverables, some time and a set of resources. Project management was about managing those elements to produce the desired result, or finding a solution if those resources were insufficient.
In short, in the old days we had:
• Control over the resources on our projects
• Projects that were locked-down early in the planning in order to facilitate clear deliverables
• Projects that had the standing within the organisation to command resource allocation
• Project sponsors with the power and the will to clear the path for the project
• A clear organisational desire for the project to proceed
This model worked throughout the 1980s and 1990s and even into the early 2000s. Projects were envisaged, planned, resourced and operated outside business-as-usual activities. They were temporary organisations within the business and had clear, unambiguous interfaces with the rest of the organisation. Resources would be allocated to our projects and return back into the organisation when the project was completed.
As the projects neared completion a buzz would develop, delivery dates were anticipated, training began and the “new” thing would be introduced to the organisation and become the new business-as-usual.
Project management tools, processes and procedures – the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) as the Project Management Institute (PMI) calls it – developed against this background. From there, the PMI accreditation system evolved to demonstrate a candidate’s ability to operate in that sort of environment. Candidates would document inputs and outputs and record their hours operating an appropriate process to convert those inputs into outputs.
But times have changed.
During the last decade there has been a shift in the organisations we work for. I suspect this comes from the pressure on organisations to be leaner and to account more for every cent spent, meaning that there are no longer resources available to pull onto projects without impacting elsewhere. It also reflects the pace of technological change which requires the organisations to make more changes than ever before, and faster. This means that there are more projects running. They often have a wider scope than before – touching more of the organisation – and are not as clearly defined as they used to be, either because of fast-tracking (designing the deliverables as the project progresses) or ignorance about the technology making it difficult to properly scope the project because the project’s first deliverable is an understanding of the technology. The result is that organisations try to concurrently use the same resources to deliver business as usual and projects. People very often are working on two or more things at the same time.
So now, the people who used to be available to work on projects are already deployed. They have day jobs. And projects no longer stand-alone, but are tasks that must be achieved alongside business-as-usual and using the same resources.
Now, project managers:
• Do not have control over the resources for the project
• Need to negotiate for resources when they are required
• Must be able to estimate project time based on partial involvement of resources
• Understand that their resources are working on a number of different tasks at the same time
• Must manage a project knowing that it has the same, or lower, standing than other business activities
• Must work to a scope that is likely to change through the life of the project
• Are still expected to deliver clear, unambiguous certainty about outcomes and delivery
• Cannot rely on sponsors as they may not be empowered, may be ambivalent about their role and may have external reasons for wanting the project to under-perform – leading to them not fighting for the project manager
This means that the project manager has evolved from someone who manages a simple equation of inputs, deliverables, resources and time to an entrepreneurial politician who must negotiate with the organisation about each element of that equation.
This has been acknowledged by the PMBOK, which now includes a tenth area of knowledge called stakeholder management. I have also acknowledged it in my own practice by choosing to only work with project managers who have a very flexible approach to the tracking, recording and ordering role (scheduling, tracking, reporting, etc) and who are also skilled at the campaign side of project management – influencing across all levels of the organisation to get people to willingly, and at the right time, do what the project requires to move it towards success.
Unfortunately very few project managers are highly skilled at the campaign side of project management. This is due to a selection bias, in the past, favouring project managers who were good at tracking, recording and ordering; and training that has not yet evolved to teach the campaign side of project management.
I have some ideas about this which I will outline in my next post. Until then, please comment on what you have observed, or what you think the solution may be.
Projects and programs: we don’t mess around, we just make them happen.
PMBOK 5th Edition is out. You know I’m a PM tragic (and I hope you are too as it’s important to keep up and on top of what we are doing and the expert field in which we operate). I’d like to think that you were waiting for the Jan release of PMBOK, but I suspect you’ve had other things on your mind. I still think it’s a good idea to get a copy though – I can’t tell you how important I think it is to keep up to date.
However, I live in the real world so I’ve taken the liberty of reading it (yes – while I was on leave and it’s in the category of being at the front of the field) and decided to send you a few snippets. At least you’ll be able to talk about it knowledgeably if anyone asks.
Basically, the book is a lot thicker (an indication that either there is a lot more to say; there was a lot of clarification needed following the last edition; or they’ve found a way to complicate stuff and that always takes up more space to write).
On reading, there isn’t much to worry about, the basics are all there and any changes are mostly minor ones.
The most noticeable change is the addition of a 10th knowledge area. For those of you who are interested, the 9th knowledge area – ‘integration’ – was an Australian inclusion which I can tell you about if you are interested. Now ‘stakeholder management’ has been included. I confess I rolled my eyes because if projects aren’t about stakeholder management the rest is just admin. Anyway, I digress.
The new section, Chapter 13, does what all the chapters do. It describes the knowledge area, breaks it down into components, suggests inputs and outputs and basically provides a framework which isn’t bad.
I found a few things interesting (when you read it you may well find more or different things interesting).
1. It includes four (4) versions of stakeholder identification models….. well it lists them and gives a generic example of one. The models are all good but there is no guidance as to how to slot stakeholders into each model..I found that frustrating and went googling for more detail but it is sparse – I’ve started to work some of that out and will send it through as I get there.
(a) one of the models (salience) sounded very interesting but (and perhaps I’m not very bright) I found the explanations and diagrams I could find on the web a little less than clear – so I am starting again and will share that with you as well.
2. There is a further section in the engagement levels of the stakeholders – they provide 5 but I think there needs to be a sixth…… more on that soon too.
3. My favourite which I arrived at with enthusiasm is the new section 22.214.171.124 (yes it’s very heavy on subbing the paras) Interpersonal skills. There are four dot points explaining why you need them…. to
(a) build trust
(b) resolve conflict
(c) active listening
(d) overcome resistance to change
(perhaps you can spot the problem with the list – but I digress).
That’s it! no explanation, guidance etc. Perhaps….. oh dear, nope, I’ve got nothing.
4. Then there is the section that suggests the value of monitoring stakeholder engagement – a worthy suggestion – addressed with the further suggestion of adjusting your strategies…… sigh…… for a fleeting moment I had hoped for a ‘how to’.
I went away from my reading a bit despondent – I needed more. Then I hit on the idea that the PMBOK is like a filing cabinet with all the folders in place (though for mine I’d move stakeholder stuff to the front not just add it at the end, but no matter) and space for the content (would have been better with some hints about where to get the content but we are smart and will work it out).
I’ll be back soon with some of my interpretations of what is suggested and with some meat on them so you can put them in the folder and actually use them.
In the meantime, and as a teaser, when you are considering stakeholders think about the following elements:
Power: does the person have the power to influence the project deliverables or the organization (legitimate or personal)
Legitimacy: do they have the right by position or influence to impact the project.
Urgency: do they have the ability through whatever means to change the priorities of the project or other stakeholders?
As I said just a teaser.
Projects and programs: we don’t mess around, we just make them happen.
A great opportunity for aspiring project professionals has opened up with the launch of AIPM A.C.T. Chapter’s new special interest group – Young & Emerging Project Professionals (YEPP).
Initiatives such as this bring people and minds together, forging relationships that can last a lifetime.
… It only takes moments and it won’t hurt a bit.
A few years ago, a meticulous research study of 860 Project Managers (whittled down from 5,258 PMs) and 4,398 of their stakeholders was undertaken. Called ‘The Alpha Study’, and led by Georgia-based Project Manager and author Andy Crowe, one of the aims of this landmark study was to try to define the qualities that made an ‘Alpha’ Project Manager more effective than any other. Crowe published the findings in his book, ‘Alpha Project Managers (what the top 2% know that everyone else doesn’t)’, which challenged many of the assumptions in the profession of project management today.
Essentially, the assumptions of the PMs were tested against those of their stakeholders, and perhaps not surprisingly, it turned out that most of us are making incorrect assumptions about what our stakeholders want and how we should relate to them. Interesting too was that only 18 (2%) of the study group were identified as Alphas – 6 female and 12 male, a close approximation of the gender split across the whole study group.
Crowe discovered that Alpha PMs were the ones who consistently delivered projects that met the project goals, managed stakeholder expectation, and kept the customer, the team and the organisation in harmony. And whilst it might appear obvious that naturally, an elite PM would be achieving results like these, the reality is that most PMs find it simply impossible.
‘Alpha Project Managers’ is interesting, and has attracted discussion from all sides. But importantly, it encourages you to think about how you manage your own projects. I’ve extracted some quotes for you to read, but if you’d like to read more, it’s available from Amazon in either hard copy or ebook format.
Which one would YOU buy?
When considering a PM, clients look to see what we’ve done to improve ourselves over the years and what we’ve done to keep up. Are we up to date with the latest thinking (even if we think it’s rubbish)? Have we delivered the same project over and over, or are we fresh in our approach and broadening our thinking and value? Are we doing what worked years ago and trying to make today fit into yesterday ? Basically, can we deliver in the reality of today’s corporate environment?
Portfolios Programs Projects – simply making them happen
Peter Reefman loves his job – and he loves a challenge. He’s been a Project Manager for over ten years, and says that it’s precisely the satisfaction gained from overcoming challenges that makes being a PM such a great career.
Challenges such as resistance to change… Or being expected to manage a project with no control of finances nor any management of the vendor… Technology issues that could not be adequately addressed by a vendor but being told to use it anyway… Or even trying to deliver an effective solution when the solution had been picked before the requirements had been defined… Do these sound familiar to you?
Meeting such challenges and resolving conflicts have gained Peter many accolades from happy, indeed grateful customers. Part of the key to success is in achieving the right equilibrium between senior management and their vision, and the team members and their efficiencies, and Peter’s experiences in the world of PM have enabled him to shed new light on the often debated ‘Top Down v Bottom Up’ approaches.
Recently, Peter’s article, “Project Management – Top Down or Bottom Up” appeared in AIPM’s Project Manager magazine. In it, Peter presented some thoughts on these approaches to planning from a Project Manager’s perspective, and provided ideas and strategies that have helped create a better balance for all those involved.
Read a plain text PDF version of Peter’s article.
Click here to read the PDF version of the original article as it appeared in ‘Project Manager’ (The article was first published in the December/January 2011 issue of Project Manager, magazine of the AIPM (www.aipm.com.au).
In the meantime, Peter continues to love his job.
And his advice to others?
- Engage with your stakeholders!
- Listen to them.
- Try to get into their skin.
- Work at understanding their business drivers.
Change. Yes, it’s time to discuss this frequently used term that can cause grown PMs to run for cover. I prepared a presentation for a client to use with their management team (and yes, I slipped a couple of slides in there about RNC) to help explain and support the need to do things differently. Their challenge is that they continue with group training, team building exercises, culture surveys, etc, and yet projects and business, as usual, struggle… and change is stymied.
The presentation clarified why the old approach doesn’t work and that you can’t cause change unless the individual feels okay about it. It was a resounding success and we are now all focussing on the key building block of the organisation – the individual.
View my CHANGE presentation here.
Hi, I recently rediscovered this article which I wrote nearly a decade ago, in 2002. It seems like yesterday, but of course, life and times were very different. We were on the cusp of a number of major political, financial, technological and environmental shifts. What were the challenges facing PMs in 2002? And today? Has the PM environment moved with the times? Let me know your thoughts too…. read more
I thought it would be a good idea to present some insight and overview on the conferences I attended last week.
I chose to attend the first – the International Conference of Global Studies -because it focused on global management – overall management not just related to projects. I was invited to speak, but I wanted to give you a bit of a brief on what I heard and learned.