Author Archives: MMeloni

Please Elaborate…. Progessively

“Why do the Project Charter and the Project Scope Statement contain some of the same information?”

“We just provided that information, isn’t this just repetitive? Are we wasting time?”

Excellent questions.

When you are creating some of your project management deliverables, you might feel like you are repeating yourself. You are. But you also are not. Confused? Let’s consider progressive elaboration.

As you start your project, you do not know what you do not know. You start off with some basic information. For example,

• The purpose of this project is to improve our customer experience by providing customer service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Because you know your organization and your industry, you might already have some strong ideas about what the above really means and how it will really be accomplished. It is also possible that your organization is looking to shake things up and do things differently. How do you know?

Ask questions of course! Question your project sponsor and your key stakeholders about their plans for customer service. Take the purpose statement that was used to create a business case or a project proposal and you elaborate on it. Perhaps as you are writing the charter you find out more:

• The purpose of this project is to improve our customer experience by providing customer service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to existing account holders only.

Now you know more, you have elaborated on your previous understanding. This is progressive elaboration at work.  And this might be enough to write a Project Charter to announce the project and for the project to be granted a project manager and to be assigned a priority.

Next you and your team discuss the best way to provide customer service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

• You can hire extra customer service representatives and open up the phone lines to 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
• You can set up a service where customers can text their questions and they receive a response also via text.
• You can set up an online customer service question forum where customers can post their questions and receive a response within an agreed turn around time.
• You can give customers access to a specific Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) area for after hours questions.
• You can assign each customer a customer service concierge with a specific hotline they can call or text or email 24/7

All of the above could meet the stated purpose of providing customer service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to existing account holders only. Which approach or approaches will you use?

With additional discussion with your sponsor and your stakeholders, you learn that they had absolutely no intention of providing a customer concierge service. They also do not like the idea of paying for extra customer service representatives. But they do not think that a text message-based service is good enough. After discussion, it becomes apparent that no matter what approach is used, human beings will be required to provide the service. In order to reduce the costs of adding staff or paying overtime to current staff, it is decided that the solution will involve a text message based solution, combined with a FAQ area and an online customer service question forum. The constraint you receive is that each shift will have no more than two representatives working.

Progressive elaboration has taken you from an initial idea or statement about providing customer service to a definition of who receives this extra level of customer service. Now you are defining how.

As you have progressed through the project you have elaborated on what you are really doing. Each formal deliverable that discusses the purpose of the project contains additional information. Once the scope statement is signed off, you expect fewer changes. Otherwise, you might find yourself contending with scope creep.  An excellent discussion for another day.

Difficult Negotiation? Check Yourself!

Arguing

Why are some people difficult? Maybe they are mad at you. Maybe they do not like working on this project. Maybe they are being difficult to hide some other issue. So many maybes.

What you do know is that they are blocking your ability to move forward. Anytime any type of negotiation is required, you know that the first thing this person will do is devise some type of barrier.

We cannot do that because… That will never work because… I cannot accept that approach because…
This is seriously getting in the way of your success.

And YOU are not about to let that happen. You have a project to lead and a schedule and budget to meet. You don’t have time for barriers. Well guess what my friend? You need to make time for barriers. In negotiations difficult people put up barriers. In fact there are five common barriers that you will encounter. Can you guess the first barrier?
Go on give it a try.

The first barrier on the list is Y-O-U. Now you might thinking, “Hey, you do not even know me. How do you know I am the problem?” I do not need to know you to know that it is human nature to have an emotional response when you think that someone is not cooperating with you. Especially when you believe this is not the first time and especially when you believe this person is being intentionally difficult. With all of that going on in your head, it would be difficult for it not to create a barrier. And what you need is a breakthrough, not a barrier.

Your first step in negotiating with a difficult person to get your emotions in check. What you really want is to feel like the two of you are sitting next to one another, that you are on the same side. And you cannot do that until you give yourself a chance to calm down. Take a break. Do not respond out of anger or spite or an urge to get even. Do not respond until you can do so in a calm and even tone.

Once you can do this, you are on your way to sitting on the same side. The next thing you want to do is to step to their side. Stepping to their side is all about trying to understand the situation from their perspective. It is about being confident that you will be able to come to an agreement. It is about finding common ground and things you can agree on, even if it is agreeing that this situation is challenging. That is a start; together you have reached an agreement. This might just pave the way to other agreements and it allows you both to show that you are not always in combat mode.

Consider the following quote:

“Rarely is it advisable to meet prejudices and passions head on. Instead, it is best to conform to them in order to gain time to combat them. One must know how to sail with a contrary wind and to tack until one meets a wind in the right direction.” – Fortune de Felice, 1778

Once you have your emotions in check and you have stepped to their side, it is time to sit side-by-side and work as partners. Remember, this is a difficult person you are negotiating with and this means you will face more barriers. And each barrier requires a breakthrough. A breakthrough you are more than capable of facilitating.

Curious about the other four barriers? I hope you can come see me at the PMI-OC Building Leaders for Business conference on September 10, 2016. Together we will discuss each of the remaining barriers along with some tips on how to turn those barriers into breakthroughs. Click here or cut and paste this link into your favorite browser to learn more. http://www.pmi-oc.org/conference

Hope to see you soon!

Jerry Ihejirika: Bringing Laughter to Project Managers Everywhere

Recently I had the chance to meet (or e-meet), Jerry Ihejirika. Jerry works tirelessly to promote and improve project management and to help us see the humor in it all. I hope you enjoy getting to know Jerry as much as I have.

Margaret Meloni
pmStudent Community Leader

 

1. Why don’t you start out by telling us your name and how you got started in project management?

I’m Jerry Ihejirika and my project management journey began in 2008 when I gained admission in the university to study Project Management Technology (PMT). I got my bachelor’s degree in PMT 5 years after and I have been professionally contributing to the promotion and advancement of the project management profession. My project management blog and social media groups have been helpful to many young and aspiring project managers, globally.

 

2. Where in the world are you? Tell us a bit about your country.

I’m currently based in Lagos, Nigeria. Nigeria is a wonderful country that is blessed with rich human and natural resources. Her natural resources, most especially the crude oil, are the main source of income. With the fall in crude oil prices, the Federal and State Governments have awaken from their “sleep” to seek for ways of diversifying the economy which is something that should have been done years ago. From the project management point of view, the awareness level of the profession is above average in 3 major cities: Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt, and low in other cities. We have also experienced a lot of abandoned and failed projects in the country, most especially in the public sector.

In March 2010, the then President of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan set up the Presidential Project Assessment Committee (PPAC) headed by the then FCT Minister, Engr. Ibrahim Bunu “to assess and provide necessary information on the status of on-going Federal Government projects across the nation.” The committee made an inventory of 11,886 on-going capital projects being executed by the Federal Government, which stood at N7.78 trillion. These drew much attention to the means by which projects are implemented and the monitoring mechanisms set up to monitor those projects. Even till now, the monitoring mechanisms for capital or public projects are still very weak. This is not to say that the country does not have experienced project managers even though more is needed. The “politics of things” and corruption in the public sector contributes more to the high rate of project abandonment and failures in the sector.

 

3. How do you think your experience in your country shapes how you write about project management?

My knowledge, observations and experiences of projects and project management in Nigeria influences how I write and talk about project management. Most of the early articles on project management that were published on my blog where more of how we can create more awareness, promote and advance project management in Nigeria. Though I still write such articles because the awareness level here is still low and more needs to be done, I have started writing insightful articles on career development because I have observed that most of the young and aspiring project managers here are confused as to how to properly define, plan or advance their project management careers. I have also been writing articles on social media in project management because innovative technologies and digital transformation are both having big impacts on project management and Africa needs to move forward with the change.

 

4. What type of projects do you work on the most?

I am a Writer and a young Digital Project Manager so I dedicate most of my time in writing articles, managing my blogs, managing my social media activities and managing my clients’ digital projects.

I’m still working on an initiative known as the Project Management for Africa Initiative. The initiative would focus more on the educational aspect of project management in Africa. We want to support universities in Africa and help them produce more qualified project management graduates. We have started gathering rich and current books (hardcopy) on project management and leadership from Authors and publishers in North America, Europe and Australia. The books will be donated to the libraries of universities that are offering a degree program in project management and to persons who are pursuing a bachelor’s or master’s degree in project management in Africa.

That’s not all. I recently launched a Project Management Career Clinic. The Career Clinic is working towards collaborating with recognized project management professionals and career experts from various industries and sectors with the aim of offering tailor-made services to our clients. Our mission is to help people define, plan, strategize and advance their project management careers in Nigeria.

 

5. What inspired you to write about humor and project management?

Wow! The Comedy Project Manager’s Blog is my latest blog. Maybe you don’t know about it, but I do have a way of making people around me laugh. Do not misunderstand me; I’m not a Comedian. I’m just an ordinary guy who wants to bring out the funny and sometimes the annoying side of me and blend it with project management. *smiles*

However, do you know that sometimes an important message can be delivered in a funny or ranting style? Therefore, for some of the articles that would be published on the blog, it’s not only about the jokes, humors or rants, but also about the message.

 

6. How do you find your stories for your blogs?

Posting consistently is one of the major challenges of blogging.

For the JI’s Blog: I get most of my ideas from reading wide. When I have the time, I read anything that catches my attention or that sounds interesting. I also try to stay current on things happening in the world of project management, blogging and digital media.

For The Comedy Project Manager’s Blog: I get my inspirations from being observant. There are a lot of terminologies being used and many things that are happening in the world of project management, and some are funny! So, I try to look at how I can use some of those terminologies, happenings or events to create an article for the blog. It is more about seeing or hearing something from a different perspective and trying to be creative about it in a way that it would fit the blog.

 

7. Have you ever had a time when your team did not share your sense of humor?

Actually, there’s no team for now. I get the inspirations all by myself, I do the writings all by myself, I do the second reading and editing all by myself and I manage the blog all by myself. So, it’s a matter of whether my readers do find my articles funny or interesting or not. Maybe tomorrow, there might be a team behind the blog but for now, it’s just me.

 

8. What else would you like us to know? This is your chance to tell us anything you like.

Let me use this opportunity to once more thank those who have donated books to the initiative. The likes of Elizabeth Harrin, Ranjit Sidhu and Helen Curel. And we are still accepting book and software donations. I also want to thank you, Margaret, for being a part of my “Top Project Management Bloggers’ Interview.”

Risk Management is All in YOUR Head

Everything in life has some risk, and what you have to actually learn to do is how to navigate It. – Reid Hoffman

No project is without risks. It is all in how you handle those risks. And the place to start is at the very beginning. The minute that a project idea is discussed is when you and your team should start thinking, “What could happen?” You are not shooting down an idea, you are thinking strategically. In fact, you are helping to ensure the success of this new project. The better prepared that you can be, the more likely you are to be able to navigate those unknown and unplanned events. Yes, you can prepare for the unknown.

Risk management begins in your imagination and in the imaginations of your team members. You could say it is all in your head. YOU and your team want to walk around thinking, “What could happen?” This should be followed closely by, “And what will we do about it and who needs to know?”

In this way you develop the risk management mindset. Risk management is always important. You don’t stop thinking about project risks until the project ends. Of course there are several project risk management tools and techniques to help you. You can look at your Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), you can look at lessons learned from past projects and you can conduct brainstorming sessions.

The good news is that there is a new pmStudent course dedicated to this topic and covering all of the basics.

Now you can get into that mindset and also master Project Risk Management.

If you are new to risk management, or you work in an environment that does not really employ risk management or you would like a refresher, then this new course from pmStudent is just for you.

Be sure to check out www.learn.pmstudent.com/the-project-risk-management-course

A Little Discipline is a GOOD Thing

55You might feel uncomfortable reprimanding a team member in front of the rest of the team. None of us like to be told we are less than fabulous, especially in front of our colleagues. Despite this, you do have a responsibility to advise team members when they are not living up to expectations.

“If we don’t discipline ourselves, the world will do it for us.” – William Feather

A private discussion is a good idea the first time a team members lets you down. You do want to make sure that they are OK and there could be an issue that they are not comfortable discussing in public. A private conversation allows you to express concerns and allows your team member to respond to those concerns. For example if during a status meeting it becomes clear that a team member has missed a deadline. Don’t ignore it, certainly ask him or her for a brief explanation and ask for a commitment to a new date. If the new date will not work, state that. The follow-up and check-in comes after the meeting. Stop by (or if he or she is virtual call), and ask if everything is OK. Ask if there are obstacles that are preventing the successful completion of his or her work. MOST people will get the point.

If that team member lets you down a second time, you want to be more pointed in your discussion. You might even mention that you notice that this is the second time that he or she has been late. Ask for a new date and make a point of saying that you will follow up with him or her later for additional discussion. In this way the team understands that you are not ignoring the situation. It is similar to when you were in grade school and you knew someone was being called to the principal’s office. Be fair and cautious in this approach, if you know your team member is going through a difficult situation, a situation that he or she wishes to keep private, and then you want to temper your language. You do not want him or her to feel like you are beating them up, yet you do not want the team to think it is OK to miss deadlines. In this instance you might pass up the opportunity to mention how many times the team member has been late, but definitely mention that the two of you will speak later.

There is a situation where you should probably provide a firm response right away and that is if you really believe that a team member is being disrespectful to another team member or to you. This type of behavior should be discouraged right away. You do not have to be mean or harsh, but you do want to be firm. And you do want your team to see you stand up for them and to stand up for yourself.

 

 

We Can’t Roll with Role Conflict

In perfect 20/20 hindsight, Mary Carol realized that what the team was facing was a classic case of role conflict, and perhaps role ambiguity too. Two team members had just come to her to complain about a third team member. Although at first she was surprised, Mary Carol realized that she could have seen this coming.

“Why should we bother attending design reviews if he is not going to listen to any of our ideas?” asked both team members in unison.

The design reviews in question had required some heavy facilitation and there were clearly some disagreements about the best way to move forward with the new system. Truthfully it would have been a surprise if there had been no conflict around the design. In fact it was better to have the conflict NOW before the design was solidified.

After listening to the two concerned team members, Mary Carol changed the next design review to a touch base session with all three of the team members involved. While she pondered how to handle this potentially emotionally charged conversation, she had an ‘Aha moment’.  The tool she needed to guide the team through this conversation was at her fingertips. In fact she wished she had been more formal in her approach and had created this item earlier.

What was this magical tool? The responsibility assignment matrix or RAM. Using the responsibility assignment matrix to walk each team member through their roles in the design process would make it easier to clear up role misunderstandings and address role conflict. It would also create a conversation that was less about two-team members complaining about the third and more of a conversation about shared expectations and responsibilities. It was clear that all three team members had some confusion about their roles. And Mary Carol knew that role conflict and role ambiguity created stress for project team members. She also knew her role was to resolve this exact type of conflict.  She was glad to be able to use the RAM as the focal point of this discussion.

To prepare for the meeting Mary Carol created a draft RAM, filling in the names of the team members and the work to be completed. She purposefully left the rest empty so that together they could fill it out and when team members disagreed about their roles, she was ready to facilitate the conversation.

What a relief to have project management tools and techniques that help to ease the tensions in a potentially difficult situation. That is the art and science of project management!

Use this Recipe to Diffuse Anger

What me, upset? OK not you, but let’s consider the fact that perhaps one day, someone close to you may become angry. Perhaps even in the workplace. And you already know that communications become clouded when anger does the talking. Try this recipe next time anger appears on the menu.

Take these ingredients: An open stance that shows interest; direct eye contact that builds trust; a soft and measured tone of voice and a non-threatening posture (sitting down is good). Combine all ingredients by modeling the behavior you want the angry person to exhibit.

Prevent participants from reaching the boiling point by avoiding pointing, raised voices or sarcasm.

Maintain a consistent level of respect while all ingredients are mixed and measured. Don’t give up, sometimes this recipe can be prepared quickly and other days it needs to simmer more slowly.

Serve with generous helpings of patience and enjoy a healthy professional relationship.

Got Slack?

Have you ever heard someone say something and think, “I could not have said it better myself?” Well those were my thoughts when I read the story below. It is my honor to share with you the thoughts of Janet DiVincenzo when it comes to slack.  Enjoy!

-Margaret

Got Slack?
By Janet DiVincenzo

got_slack__by_l33chy

I’m lucky in that my commute to work allows me to ride my bicycle.  One recent morning I set out for work on my bike.  I had to arrive a little early because my office was going to be used for a film shoot and I had some light housekeeping to do.  So this wasn’t the morning to be late.  I was running a little late when I left the house but I wasn’t cutting it too close. Or so I thought. About halfway to my office, the chain slipped off the sprocket.  I’m no bike mechanic, but I’ve done this sort of repair a few times. Still it’s never pleasant to get your fingers full of grease.

So I pulled over, threw down my backpack, and got to work. Okay, I can do this, I tell myself. But the chain was so taut I could hardly move it. There has got to be SLACK in this chain somewhere!   Find the slack, I told myself!  Soon I found the slack and repositioned the chain. Phew.

The rest of the ride got me thinking about slack of a different kind. In project management, slack, sometimes called float, is the amount of time something can be delayed with causing other delays.  I didn’t have much slack in my schedule this morning – but I had enough to overcome my little setback.

So, what about you? Do you allow enough slack when you plan your projects?  When building a schedule, do you assume that everything will pretty much go according to plan?  Or do you build in time for when things go awry? Because, you know they will, right?

Biography of Janet DiVincenzo
https://www.linkedin.com/in/janetdivincenzo

Janet is an Assistant Director for Online Learning at the University of California, Irvine. In this capacity, she collaborates with campus faculty to design their classes for online delivery. She also serves as a consultant for instructors and staff on pedagogy, technology, and best practices related to online and hybrid education.

Janet has taught for UCI Extension for several years, both in the classroom and fully online. She has taught: Leadership, Management and Team-Building for the Project Environment; Introduction to Project Management; and Project Management for Elearning Professionals.

Janet has a B.A. in Spanish and an M.A. in Latin American Studies. She holds two certifications:  Project Management Professional (PMP) from the Project Management Institute and Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP) from the Association for Talent Development (ATD).

Team Bully? Just Walk Away

“He that fights and runs away, May turn and fight another day; But he that is in battle slain, Will never rise to fight again.” – Tacitus

wlp-office-bully-590-300

The above quote is not meant to imply that you will be engaging in warfare at the office. It is a very old quote and yes it was aimed at those who did battle. The take away for you and I is about being strategic in our interactions with our colleagues. And some of your colleagues are not worthy of your time and energy.

My first and favorite approach when faced with a bully on the team is to refuse to engage with him or her.  It is the simplest and quickest approach.  When people come to me and ask how to deal with the team or office bully, the first thing I ask is, “Do you absolutely have to be around this person?”

Frequently the response I receive will be something along the lines of, ”Well of course I have to deal with her we work together.”  But often further questioning indicates otherwise.

Just because you are in the same office or part of the same organization does not mean you have to engage with someone, at least not on a regular basis. If your work does not require you to be in regular contact with the team or office bully, then stay away. When you do have the need to interact with him or her, make it as brief as possible. If he or she begins to bully you (and I am assuming that we are discussing verbally), do not respond, simply hang up or do not answer that email or text or walk away. As the quote above suggests, do this the first time and do this every time.

“The way to work with a bully is to take the ball and go home. First time, every time. When there’s no ball, there’s no game. Bullies hate that. So they’ll either behave so they can play with you or they’ll go bully someone else.”Seth Godin

If the bully is on your team and you are the project manager consider making a resource change. Perhaps there is another resource that can fill this role? Do what you can to minimize his or her involvement in the project.

It’s not that you want the bully to pick on someone else. But given that you probably cannot completely change a bully, what you can do is refuse to be bullied. And who knows? Perhaps if everyone takes this approach your bully will change or move on.

This is very good example of when avoidance is the best approach to a conflict.

Your thoughts?