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Sunday, September 30, 2007

ProjectSteps Has a New Look

I'm going to Atlanta, GA at the end of the week to attend the annual PMI (Project Management Institute) North American Global Congress. I always look forward to attending this event and this year is no different. If you are a PMP (Project Management Professional) it is a good place to earn some of your required PDUs (Professional Development Units) to maintain your PMP certification with PMI. Besides earning PDUs, it is a great forum to learn about the state of project management and current "best" practices in the project management industry.

By the way, if you are attending this year's Global Congress drop me an e-mail and maybe we can meet for a beer. You can reach me at sfseay(at) or sseay(at)

Finally, this week brings a new look for the ProjectSteps blog. Do you like it, hate it? Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts.

Have a good week and don't forget to have fun!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Don't Be a Victim of Politics

Politics and projects go hand in hand. Team conflict, competing agendas, stakeholder dysfunction, resource constraints, and a myriad of other challenges exist and will send your project careening out of control if not managed properly.

What is a project manager to do? Here is a list of things to keep in mind when managing projects in a highly politicized environment:

Learn to negotiate from a position of strength

Do everything you can to educate those around you about Project Management. Stress the benefits and overcome the objections by pointing to your successes.

Master the art of influence.

Understand that masterful politicians are sometimes helpful to you and your project, but can also be detriment to your project's success.

An effective executive sponsor can help minimize political time wasting events that slow project progress and increase project budgets.

Recognize that conflict on your project is inevitable and necessary. How you respond to conflict will determine how successful you are.

Mastering the art of negotiation is a critical skill for project managers.

Negotiate up front how much power you will have as project manager, how and where it can be used, and when it applies to securing needed resources for your project.

Realize that for the most part internal politics wastes time and is usually not something that people enjoy.

Team commitment and loyalty will help to minimize project politics.

Don't fight a political system you don't understand and can't influence. Leave that to the experts. (Hint: get these experts to support your project if possible).

A good communications plan will help to lessen the politics on your project.

Every project usually has at least one "politician" in the organization that is out to either sabotage it, or will try to ensure that it isn't fully implemented.

Recognize that change (which is what projects are all about) scares some people and your project's deliverables can lead to a loss of power or influence for certain individuals or departments. Anticipate this and have a plan to deal with the behaviors that will surface.

Successful project managers need to learn to "swim with the sharks" and not get bitten. They need to be determined, focused, and act professionally and ethically. Project managers must know how to relate to people and manage relationships by being effective leaders and by applying the right balance of negotiating skills, motivational techniques, team building, and optimized communications.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Would You Like Cheese with that Whine?

Project teams are dynamic and interpersonal relationships amongst team members are always in a state of flux. Some teams are high performing and function at a high level over a long period of time. Other teams can't seem to come together and function at all.

An effective, experienced project team leader is an important part of any successful team, however, all team members must be personally accountable for their actions and be supportive of other team members if the team and project are to be successful.

Individual team member behaviors can contribute to team success in many ways. Emotional maturity and willingness to compromise are two important team member traits that help make a good team dynamic and lead to a successful project outcome.

Here are some negative team member behaviors I have personally observed. These behaviors detract from team synergy and place an unfair burden on other team members.

Projects fail or take longer than they should when team members:

Leave problems for others to solve rather than solving the problems themselves

Routinely blame others (stakeholders and/or other team members) or circumstances for not getting their tasks complete on time

Aren't personally accountable for their project task outcomes and timelines

Are unwilling to hold stakeholders accountable for their responsibilities

Aren't properly documenting their findings and defining a scope of work or adhering to an agreed-upon project scope

Aren't documenting Scope Change Requests

Aren't bringing issues and concerns to the team for discussion

Are constantly complaining, whining, and finger-pointing

Are unwilling to reach consensus with their team members

Are unwilling to let go of past negative circumstances and relationships

Are unwilling to admit past and current mistakes and learn from them

Play the victim and exhibit passive-aggressive behavior

Have a recurring theme in their dealings with others that everybody else is wrong and they are right

Continually demanding that things be done their way when it is contrary to the stated direction of the team

Team members who exhibit some or all of the above behaviors above should be placed on a performance improvement plan as their behavior is disruptive to the team and the project.

Project teams can't afford to have team members that aren't willing to compromise, are emotionally immature, and are a constant distraction to the team. In addition to being placed on a performance improvement plan, these team members should be released from the team as soon as possible as they are detriment to team cohesiveness and productivity.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Good Project Manager

These are obvious, but you can never get enough good advice, right?

Show appreciation - thanking people for their assistance is not only the right thing to do it is expected.

Listen effectively - think before speaking. Listen attentively. Make the person feel like they are the only thing you are focusing on.

Give credit to others - always give credit where credit is due.

Don't be negative - negative people can kill team creativity. Eliminate them from your team if possible.

Have a work/life balance - don't forget that all work and no play makes for a dull life.

Don't have hidden agendas - they are only hidden for a while, and most people realize what you are doing.

Be willing to publicly admit your failures - there is nothing more pathetic than the person that never admits a mistake.

Talk about the problem not the person - don't personalize problems and make them about a person or group. Be willing to focus on only on the problem.

If you lie down with dogs you will get fleas - be careful of your relationships in the workplace. Trust, but verify.

Don't gossip - gossip can hurt careers and projects. Don't participate in gossip and don't allow it on your team.

Use Empathy not Sympathy when dealing with delicate issues - Empathic listening is listening with intent to understand. Sympathetic listening is a form of agreement and judgement.

Diagnose before your prescribe - if people don't have confidence in your diagnosis, they won't have confidence in your prescription

Keep your commitments and promises - enough said.

Remember while you are free to choose your actions, you aren't free to choose the consequence of those actions.