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Monday, May 26, 2014

Great Project Managers

I have a book entitled “What Makes a Good Project Manager” by James S. Pennypacker and Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin. In the book, there is a reference to a 2001 ComputerWorld article that discusses “The Perfect Project Manager”. The consensus of the article was in the world of Information Technology (IT) there are three general areas of Project Management competency: Technology, Business, and Behavior (in no certain order).

One of the CIOs interviewed in the ComputerWorld article stated “in order to motivate IT workers, you need … an understanding of human behavior and how to motivate teams.” Do not miss this important point. Project Managers are primarily team leaders, motivators, and communicators. Project Managers will not be successful managing IT projects if they do not have an understanding of basic human behavior.

It has also been determined there are three Project Management skills that are required for success in IT:

General Management Skills

Project Management Skills

IT Management Skills

Under General Management, the key areas of expertise are (not in order):

Thinking Skills

Organizational Awareness

Leadership

Interpersonal Relations

Communication Skills

Many companies are now interviewing Project Managers placing a heavy emphasis on character traits versus professional competencies. These companies realize if a Project Manager cannot get along well with others and have poor communication skills they will not be successful.

The key to project success is having a competent project manager and the number one competency of a project manager is honesty. Research has shown that projects are more likely to fail because the human elements are not managed. In order to mitigate this type of risk project managers need to develop skills that support sound decision-making, good communications, motivational techniques, and conflict management.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Off the Cuff: Tom Peters on Front Line Managers

Project Management Politics

Politics is the art of getting things done (influencing).  

As Tom Peters say's “No Politics = No Implementation”.

  Develop powerful allies in your organization to help you get your project implemented.  Be sure to show appreciation to all those people that help you along the way.

Friday, May 16, 2014

You Aren't Communicating!


When project teams are surveyed at the end of failed projects, poor communications is always cited as being one of the major causes. Why does this keep happening? Why is project communications so poorly executed so often. My short answer is that many project managers are arrogant, inattentive, and oblivious to the feelings and needs of the project team.

Project managers get busy. Many times they don't make time to manage project communications properly. Also, the project manager may think they are doing a good job communicating, but that may not be the case.

Project managers must remember that the project team is made up of individuals. Each person on the team has a preference for the types of communication they like to receive, and each person processes communications differently.

Some things to monitor that may point to poor project communications are:

Trust - Does the team trust you (the project manager)? How do you know? Everybody will not trust you all the time. Team members that don't trust the project manager will not be open in their communications. They will tend to either shut down or challenge the project manager at every turn.

De-motivated - Where are we going? Are we going where we said we were going when we started? Did we clearly state where we were going before we started?

Whining - Despair and anxiety take over the team or key team members. Infighting is prevalent and people are starting to talk openly about the project being a failure.

Incompetence - Team isn't sharing information and learning. Perhaps the team has had little to no training, or the training received was of poor quality.

All the above can be overcome, however it requires that the project manager is listening and changing strategy when necessary to get the team back on track. Just because you are a project manager doesn't make you a good communicator, however ignoring problems like the ones mentioned above will make you a bad project manager.

My two cents are, be a leader. Lead through your communication and your ability to motivate your team to get the job done. Be on the lookout for the above warning signs. When you see signs of the warning signs act quickly, follow-up, then continue to monitor.

Poor project team synergy is the fault of the project manager. There are a lot of incompetent project managers that are hurting our profession because they either refuse to alter their communication styles or are too arrogant to change. My advice to them is to change their ways or leave the project management profession.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Ignore your Detractors!


Tom Peters a highly regarded speaker and writer said it best in his book The Project 50, “as project managers we should not try to convert our project enemies by overcoming their objections” and I would add through appeasement. Tom states “we should set out to surround and marginalize them; additionally, the most effective change agents ignore the barbs and darts, their time is spent on allies and likely allies”.

It seems to be in our nature to take on those that oppose us, particularly if they have been attacking us behind our backs. This taking on of the opposition is a waste of valuable project time and detracts the project manager from the task at hand. All projects will have detractors, whiners, and complainers. Don’t waste your time trying to convince them of the error of their ways. Let your project’s results answer your critics!

As project managers we need to spend our time working with our advocates and supporters, not answering our critics. If you say you don’t have critics on your project than I say you probably aren’t a very good project manager. The project manager that has friends everywhere on his projects is usually trying to satisfy everyone, and many times at the end of their project – if it ever ends – there will be low overall satisfaction due to all of the tradeoffs that were made between all of the competing interests.

When you push people, demand excellence, set deadlines, push for quality, hold individuals accountable, and are firm on agreed upon commitments you are going to ruffle some feathers. Get over it, and realize no matter what you do on your project there will always be detractors. Just don’t let the detractors sway you from implementing your project on time, on budget, within requirements, and most importantly with a satisfied customer as your biggest fan.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Mark Goulston, MD writes:
A toxic person...
    1. Interrupts.
    2. Doesn’t take turns.
    3. Takes advantage of people who are down.
    4. Gloats in victory.
    5. Is sullen in defeat.
    6. Is not fair.
    7. Lacks integrity.
    8. Is the kind of person you’ll avoid if you possibly can.

Three good responses to nearly every type of toxic person...
"Huh?" This one word can stop a jerk in his tracks. Use a mild, neutral tone of voice. Do this when the toxic person says something utterly ridiculous but acts as if he is being perfectly reasonable. This response conveys that what the toxic person is saying doesn’t make sense. It works because it signals that you are not engaging with the content of what he said.
"Do you really believe what you just said?" Use a calm, straightforward tone, not a confrontational one. This question works because toxic people often resort to hyperbole to throw others off balance. They are prone to using the words "always" and "never" to drive home their points. However, don’t expect the toxic person to admit that he is wrong. He is more likely to walk away in a huff -- which is fine because then you won’t have to waste more energy dealing with him.
"I can see how this is good for you. Tell me how it’s good for me." This response is a useful way to deal with a toxic person’s demands. If he stalls or changes the subject, you can say, "Since it’s not clear how this is good for me, I’m going to have to say no."

We say these things?