Monday, 28 March 2011

I was watching George Osborne deliver his budget speech on Wednesday, trying to be a super cool executive with my iPad propped up on my desk, happily multitasking by sorting my emails, updating a report, painting my nails and eating a cheese sandwich (that list is a powerful argument against open plan offices!)

Anyway, I was half listening/watching George at work and it reminded me of the worst type of project management meetings that I attend as a Project Sponsor. They are bad because the project manager delivers a speech, doesn't draw breath for my questions and tries to sum up each point with a sound bite as if he/she is being interviewed by Sky News.

If the project is being managed by a less experienced Project Manager then I have a degree of sympathy. Talking at someone is a sign of insecurity, not stopping for questions is driven by fear of not knowing the answers to the questions. When it's an experienced Project Manager I think it's a warning sign that they will rush through their presentation, never staying long enough on one topic for penetrating questions to be asked.

If this applies to you either as a Project Sponsor or a Project Manager my recommendations for a meaningful two way exchange of information, opinion and decisions are:

If you are the Project Manager:
- Give the progress report using milestone reporting - don't give a blow by blow account of every activity but concentrate on the results of that activity I.e. Milestones
- Keep your information factual and in a way that enables each piece of information to be compared. For example, report each milestone as on or over schedule, the reasons for this and what you are doing about it
- Check that there is agreement with your actions (don't forget that this is a chance to ask for advice and guidance)
- Identify when a milestone has been reached and closed off, in contrast to those milestones that are reached but in doing so have identified interdependencies and knock on effects to the next period of activity
- Check that there is agreement with your assessment of the interdependencies (again, don't be afraid to ask for guidance - use the experience of others to check your assumptions and your analysis of the situation)

If you are the Project Sponsor:
- Remember that aggression or impatience generally leads project managers to reduce the information they provide for fear of criticism
- Ask questions that enable you to ensure four outcomes:
o Understanding and agreement of the progress made so far
o Clear instructions on any rework or amendments that are required and the resourcing of these activities - are you prepared to delay other work in order to fix something, or will you authorize overtime, temporary staff etc?
o Agreement to the work proposed for the next period
o Clear instructions on any reductions or increases in expectations for this next period and their impact on resource plans
- Use your experience of other projects to give advice and guidance to the Project Manager

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Creating a compelling change story

At Maven we have a reputation for continually growing and changing and the number of new products and services that we create for our customers is high.

As we get ready to roll out a new accredited course in Management of Portfolios (MoP) I have been thinking how we ensure that all parts of the company hear the same message about this latest change.

Its my job as the sponsor for the MoP project to make sure everyone is excited and engaged with each launch that we do, and so this is the check list of points I use when creating a ‘change story’. I hope you find it useful, as ever, I welcome your comments:

Sense of urgency – why this change is needed now
 Describe the problems that the change will fix
 Explain the opportunities that can be exploited as a result of making the change
 Outline the risks if the change is not successfully implemented

Desirable outcomes – positive description of the result of the change
 How it feels to work for the organisation
 What type of work the organisation does
 How it is viewed by customers and suppliers
 The reputation it has with regulators and media

Impact – an acknowledgement of the scale of change
 List the biggest changes
 Identify those who will be impacted the most

Call to action – how employees can participate
 Brief description of key actions that senior management are taking
 Options for activities that employees can become involved in

Monday, 14 March 2011

Red Nose Day campaign

Just launched campaign have given the team red noses and deeley boppers to wear throughout the week. Bought the 'Giggler' which is a soft nose that laughs whenever its picked up - definitely going to drive us crazy by the end of the day, with a good chance its dropped out the window before Friday

Monday, 7 March 2011

Using change management to scope my project

I continue to write the new book on how project management needs to take the lead in managing change if projects are ever to realise their benefits. This week I am putting together a series of Mini Workshop Guides to help project managers address the key issues of change management including:

1. Understanding the context for the change i.e. seeing the bigger picture by asking how the change will contribute to strategic objectives, who is driving the change that the project will support, who are the likely winners and losers from these changes, how time sensitive is the delivery of the benefits from the change

2. Understanding the detailed changes that the project is supposed to bring about including changes to information used for a process, the process itself, the outputs including information used for the next process, the decisions that need to be taken, the reports that are produced etc, changes in the size and make up of the teams involved in the process, changes in the level of authority and reporting line for each team member

3. Understanding the communication that is required to ensure everyone is informed about the proposed changes and has a chance to comment on them and engage with them prior to the changes taking place

I am interested in how these 3 areas fit with the scoping and the requirements gathering that project managers are responsible for at the start of the programme, but also how this information needs to be reviewed and updated as the project progresses and how this can lead to requests for change.

What are the most important questions you ask before getting started on a project – do you ask about the bigger picture, do you get to know the winners and the likely losers before you plan the project? As ever, all comments and emails welcome.