Key Success Skills – Functional

Communication

“Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character.”                                          Albert Einstein

It is a widely published and known fact that 90% of a project manager’s time should be or is spent on communication. Communication includes several activities (meetings, managing conflicts, discussions, debates, reporting etc.) conducted by different means (e- mail, phone, fax, teleconference, video conference etc.) at different times and places. Though communication involves multiple parties, the project manager should take responsibility for clear understanding of all messages between parties involved in a project, thus ensuring smooth information flow.Communication is about sending and receiving clear and specific messages that are understood by the parties involved. These messages translate into desirable actions and outcome. Communication can be direct and/or interactive through verbal, signs and body language. In interactive communication the preferred mode is constructive discussion. Constructive discussion leads to solutions, while destructive discussion leads to deadlock.

Communication Techniques

“Writing without thinking is like shooting without aiming.”                                   Arnold Glasgow

Before you initiate a communication identify appropriate audience or recipients of the message, and ensure that the theme, subject or agenda is stated clearly to encourage focused message and discussion. That does not entirely prevent distractions caused by others who may not share the theme or intentionally and silently pursuing a different agenda. However, stating your theme, subject or agenda upfront enables you to focus or re-focus the participants on the message.Effective communication requires maturity, understanding, professionalism and good judgement. A project manager should have a big heart, not focusing on noises or distractions. Your ability to recognize trees from the forest, differentiate reality from fiction, deception and politics from straight talk, and diplomacy from misrepresentation, will play a big role in crafting your message and response to every situation. As a project manager, you should be sensitive, bold and decisive; be tolerant of diverse opinions but not tolerant of non-performance, which could negatively affect team effort and project outcome.You may be distracted, dealing with difficult people, insulted and rudely treated by a stakeholder. However, your ability to maturely resist distractions and not give in to cheap shots will be rewarding. Recognizing every bad or ugly situation and its impact on the outcome will help you to determine the right judgement to ensure positive outcome.The use of a well established project governance and communication plan will enhance your communication effectiveness. A communication plan should at the minimum identify and specify key stakeholders, their interests, message description, message format and frequency. A clear communication plan captures stakeholders’ expectations and ensures that relevant messages are shared with the appropriate stakeholders.Obtain the communication requirements from all stakeholders, to develop the communication plan. Validate the communication plan with the stakeholders, that is, obtain their consent. Table 1 contains a reference or link to a communication plan/guide template.

 Table 1 – Communication Guide Template

  

Communication Hints and Tips

  • Do not in any way misrepresent or manipulate facts. You may get immediate benefits, but the end result and consequences may be more costly than the earlier gains. Be factual and tactful.
  • Do not allow your ego to be paramount in dealing with others and project issues. You have to be focused; you cannot afford not to be. Many things happen on projects – good, bad and ugly. Your ability to stay above the water will always pay off to making the project successful.
  • Avoid sending generic messages or reports. Send customized, focused and relevant messages to the stakeholders. Some stakeholders may consider your message irrelevant (this may not be necessarily true) due to non-direct value to their specific role or due to frustration in dealing with the high volume of messages they receive. Do not take it personal. You may not be able to please everyone, just fine tune your communication approach and information sharing effectiveness, based on the circumstance. Limit the number of messages and reports you send out or publish. Keep it simple, consolidate where possible and share with the relevant recipients.
  • Avoid resolving conflict via e-mail or fax, as they may be recorded, recalled or referenced for purposes you may not expect. Preferred and recommended method is face-to-face discussion. Explore other verbal means where face-to-face meeting is not possible, especially in the case of remote teams.
  • Whatever you do, show good attitudes and behaviours. These are what people see. Keep your personal and cultural believes to yourself, they may impact your attitude and behaviours. No matter what you do, not everyone will be pleased, because some may make a perception of you even without knowing you well enough. It takes time to build trust and you may not have enough time to do that during the duration of a typical project. However, your effort, candour and accomplished result will be the evidence of your substance.
  • Showing good attitudes should be a given for a project manager. Realising you may not always be right, acknowledge your mistakes and you will not drag issues unnecessarily. Most stakeholders will show understanding if you acknowledge your mistakes and demonstrate ability to learn fast. Nonetheless given in, in order to smooth things over or hide issues, is not advisable. There are situations where compromise could make sense, for instance when there is no apparent difference in value creation from alternate options. You are not a project manager because you are smarter than others, it is a discipline or role that you have chosen to make a difference, so act wisely.
  • Do not expect everyone to agree with everything you say or do. Ensure you have the buy-in of most stakeholders. However, if you have to wait until everyone agrees with your message or proposal, you may never accomplish anything. Sometimes it is wise to act first and ask for forgiveness later.
  • Be respectful, show good manners, and act fairly and legally. Good behaviours are not constraint by believes or cultures, rather they cut across cultural boundaries. These behaviours will take you anywhere and enable you to connect with your project teams, even in a multi-cultural setting or organization.
  • Be aware of others egos, ask questions rather than dictate. This will enable you to elicit facts and bring out the best in others. Whatever you do, be patient but act swiftly. There are differences between patience and slackness, and between swiftness and erratic behaviour.
  • The quality of the matching of your words, actions and result is the measure and evidence of your substance and performance.
  • When you have a meeting or presentation, particularly with the external stakeholders, spend time to prepare with the core team and other key stakeholders to clarify agenda, capture issues, review options and understand implications of the situations. This way you minimize surprises during the actual meeting or presentation.
  • Promote interactive meetings and presentations. This way, stakeholders feel a sense of belonging, participation and responsibility for the information being shared and decision making, going forward. This in turn promotes commitment to fulfil stakeholders’ expectations.
  • When you communicate with the business clients avoid the use of technical or professional jargons. Shield them away from the product technicalities and express every situation in terms of solutions, issues/risks management and value creation.

Presentation

Presentation is a major part of communication activities. Each presentation should be focused to the target audience. The key steps to effective presentation include the following:

§  Define the subject of discussion, the goal of the presentation and the audience.

§  Plan your agenda. Outline, gather and prepare content and practice before the presentation.

§  Ensure a clear path from start to end, make the connection. Focus on the key issues and avoid fluffy stuff.

§  Be comfortable and sound natural, and stick to the relevant points and keep to time. Be simple, clear and audible.

§  Listen attentively and respond to criticism gracefully or turn criticism into opportunities.

§  Make it interactive, particularly if you are seeking suggestions and/or decision on the next steps.

§  Re-state objectives at the beginning and at the end; confirm understanding and positions of the audience. Include details and additional information, if applicable, in the attachment or as appendix.

Scope Management

“The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has limits.”                  Albert Einstein

To be a successful project manager, you must ensure and maintain a clear, accurate and concise scope for the project, regardless of the changes during the life time of the project. That is, include only the required work or specific requirements to fulfill the project goals. Otherwise, some stakeholders may exploit situations where scope is not properly managed and controlled. Usually most people continue certain behaviours as long as they are getting result. Handle each scope change request based on its own merit and demonstrate the implications of the change to the client to aid in making appropriate decisions.A competent project manager understands (or seeks to understand) the project mandate, goal and expected outcome, and is able to explain them to the project team and other stakeholders. The project mandate is a point of reference to ensure and sustain project team focus. Run-away projects occur due to lack of controllable scope, caused by ‘scope creep’ (i.e. uncontrolled introduction of new request into an active project). Scope creep should be controlled through effective scope change management.It is very important to include scope change management procedure in the project charter and integrated project plan to remind the client of the importance of respecting the original scope and following due process to effect scope change. This does not have to be an elaborate procedure to ensure its effectiveness; however, it should be clear in terms of the key steps, roles and responsibilities. Emphasizing the importance of scope change management and the implications of disrespecting it should be discussed, as required, with the client and other key stakeholders.Avoid making significant scope change (or any change, if possible) towards the later part of the project life cycle, to prevent delay to the project completion. The change management workflow is described in Chapter 24 – Monitoring and Controlling. Table 2 includes a reference or link to a scope management document template

.Table 2 – Scope Management document template

Template: PPMGuideProjectManagementPPM_ScopeManagement.doc

 

Problem Solving

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Albert Einstein

Effective problem solving, at every stage of the project life cycle, is critical to the successful delivery of projects. Simplifying or breaking down sometimes seemingly complex issue is at the heart of problem solving. The project management itself is about developing solution to a major problem, for example, constructing a new road to promote trade between cities, delivering a modernize health operation equipment to reduce surgery turn-around time etc.

Problem Solving Technique

Sometimes it is a wise idea to involve external parties, not originally part of the project team, in solving problems. This provides independent thoughts and expertise in problem analysis, diagnosis and resolution.Solving problems require the following key steps:

§  Problem profile: includes problem name, owner, stakeholders and roles. Log the problem as an issue or risk to be resolved.

§  Problem definition and description: guides the problem understanding, analysis and resolution.

§  Investigation, analysis and diagnosis: brainstorm ideas, identify root causes, divide and conquer (break down into smaller parts), and propose solution options or alternatives. In doing this, separate ideas generation or options identification from ideas evaluation to ensure that several alternatives are considered towards establishing an optimized solution.

§  Test solution options: subject the solution options to quality testing and recommend or choose an optimized solution.

§  Implement solution and verify resolution.§  Close: document the problem, solution and lessons learnt. 

Time and Priority Management

“You will never find time for anything, if you want time you must create it.”           Charles Buxton

Time is money, it is fixed. Realistically, you have only 24 hours per day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year (except leap year – 365 plus ¾ day). You have the choice and opportunity to allocate and use your time as you wish. You cannot stress the time; you can only explore it wisely.Do not delude yourself about multi-tasking, except you are a multi-person or engage several persons to work on some tasks in parallel, where and when possible. In computing, the concept of time slicing, with single processor, was called multi-tasking; however, real multi-tasking was achieved through multi-processors. In essence what most people called multi-tasking is juggling multiple tasks, using time slicing. Time slicing re-allocates a processor time to a newly active task while a previously active task is temporarily inactive or idle.The way you use your time makes a significant difference to your life and the result you accomplish.

Remember the 80:20 rules. It has many plausible interpretations. For example, 20% of productive people’s time is spent adding 80% value to total productivity. It means most people spend 80% of the time on things that add little or no value. Hence the difference between great outcome and just okay outcome could be the effective management of the same time available to all of us.

Know your limit. Considering the effect of the law of diminishing returns, working long hours does not usually correlate to delivering more. Knowing and keeping to your optimal functioning limit promotes good health, alertness and effectiveness in delivering successful and quality outcomes. Healthy workforce is a highly productive workforce.

It does not matter how busy you are, the important thing is what you are busy doing. Spending most of your time doing quality and valuable things that help push the limit is very critical to the success of your outcome. Hypocrisy and mediocrity are two things that you have to deal with, as a project manager or leader, by assigning well defined work packages or activities, with agreed quality, time and cost, and ensuring timely feedback on show stoppers. You have to be on your guard and take nothing for granted.The key to effective time management is not just about techniques and tools, it is about practice, practice and practice.

Prioritize effectively; eliminate tasks that add no value. Aim before you shoot.

Practice delete, defer, delegate and act. Whenever you have a new action item, you should decide whether to act on it now, defer it, delegate it, delete or keep it for information only.Table 3 shows a sample time/priority management matrix. Time/priority management matrix enables you to manage your daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly priorities in a way that enables you to focus on the first thing first. The goal is to focus your attention on current and top priorities, track and monitor their status.

Table 3 – Time/Priority Management Matrix

Timing – March, 2009(Daily, Weekly, Monthly etc.) 
L…………………………Urgency è…………………..……H ·   Documents re-organization – complete items clean-up       ·   Enterprise Financial System project – Complete project charter·   Interactive Voice Recognition project – Decommission old system·   Practical PM guide project – Complete agenda outline 
·   Reading/Study: Mastering strategy·   Future vacation plans       ·   Status reports – all projects·   Ab9.NET – complete site design·   Personal – complete physical check-up  

L……………………………………………..………..Importance à………………………………………………..……………….HNote:The items in the boxes could be project work packages, activities, tasks and other work activities. Customize if for your specific needs. Be realistic – limit each box to 3 items. Priority groups include

  1. High-Importance / High-Urgency (requires most attention)
  2. High-Importance / Low-Urgency
  3. Low-Importance / High-Urgency
  4. Low-Importance / Low-Urgency (least attention, mostly deferred items)
PPMGuideProjectManagementPPM_TimePriorityManagment.doc

  

Research – Fact Finding

Research skills could be applied to small, medium and large undertakings and may span short to long time to complete. The goal is to explore and come up with a solution to a problem or situation.Key steps to a successful research include:§  Identify and describe the key issues that need to be addressed.§  Define and establish the research objectives. These objectives are critical to the success of the research outcome.§  Determine data/information sources and types.§  Determine research approach (qualitative and/or quantitative).§  Design the research method (data gathering, study, survey etc.).§  Collect/gather the required data.§  Analyze data.§  Report outcome.Each step must be handled with due diligence to avoid research errors and avoid faulty or inaccurate outcome reporting. Research goal is to report the fact, not working from the answer to the question.

 

Conflict Resolution

“In critical and baffling situations, it is always best to return to first principle and simple action.” Winston Churchill

Some people may believe that conflict is bad for the project team and try to avoid or hide them. Practically and to the contrary, conflict could be good for the team, be it personal or professional. It brings to the open the hidden issues, which if not discussed and resolved, could have devastating implications for the project.Conflicts could take different forms. In projects, the most common conflict categories are personal and professional. All conflicts, be it personal (could be due to personal ego or personality clash) or professional (due to differed opinions or ideas), need to be confronted and addressed timely and decisively, before rumours and misinformation take control over the facts.In a personal conflict, two or more team members may have past grudges which could affect their relationships and conducts on the project. For a professional conflict, there could be strong debate on alternate solutions being passionately and aggressively pursued by individuals or groups within the project team. Personal conflicts may take longer time to resolve than the professional conflict. One of the reasons is the fact that personal conflict causes are usually hidden and may take longer time to discover. In project management, conflicts can be resolved through negotiation, instruction, arbitration and diplomacy, among other techniques.

Tip to remember: Avoid resolving conflict via e-mail and fax, as they may be recorded, recalled or referenced inappropriately and used in ways you never anticipated. Preferred conflict resolution method is face-to-face discussion, combining effective and honest communication, counselling and negotiation or mediation.In resolving conflicts, adopt or encourage debate rather than argument. Debate or respectful discussion leads to agreement (win-win outcome). Argument or destructive discussion leads to deadlock (loose-loose outcome) or mediocre solution (win-loose or loose-win outcome) at best. When you move from debate about issues to proposal of options or solutions to resolve identified issues, further discussions of the options lead to acceptable resolution, albeit not completely sometimes but could lead to shift in previously rigid positions. Debate approach shows that fair and honest resolution is desired, and it, usually, encourages the parties involved to co-operatively work together to resolve conflicts.Depending on the nature of the conflict, you may have to resort to other conflict resolution methods such as dictate based on positional power (usually the last resort, but not recommended) or instruct, particularly in a situation whereby the cost of doing nothing outweigh the viable conflict resolution method.

 

Issues and Risks Management

isk management is a discipline of identifying, assessing, mitigating and monitoring risks. Issues management is concerned with identifying, assessing, resolving and monitoring issues. Note the difference – risk mitigation and issue resolution. An issue is a potential problem that needs to be resolved now or as soon as possible in order to prevent negative impact on the project. A risk is a form of issue, which can be avoided or mitigated (by direct action, or indirect action – e.g. insurance). Risk can be expressed qualitatively (descriptive – e.g. emotional stress leading to lower moral and low performance) and quantitatively (measured in numeric term – e.g. loss of profit due to anticipated competitors’ strategic action).Risk is measured as: (probability or likelihood of an event occurring)*(impact of the event occurring). Risks can be categorized into financial, political, technology, project management, organization, environment and business risks.

  • Issues and risks can, and should, be identified at any point in the project life cycle. The project team members should work together to identify risks and act responsibly to mitigate, eliminate or minimize their impact.
  • Issues and risks profile and tracking should include: identity (short description), likelihood, impact, date identified, action parties, target resolution date, status monitoring and outcome.
  • Issues and risks should be logged for tracking, monitoring and future references, as part of the knowledge base or historical information. They should be part of the project team meeting agenda, not only as and when they occur or an ad-hoc event – being proactive is the key here.

Table 4 includes a reference or link to issues and risks management document template.

Table 4 – Issues & Risks Management Template

PPMGuideProjectManagementPPM_IssuesRisksManagement.doc

  

Product/Industry Experience

The project manager does not have to be the product/industry subject matter expert, but requires good understanding or knowledge of the industry and/or product of the project; some past experience will be highly desirable. This will help the project manager to ask relevant questions, coordinate better, understand and respond to issues faster and engage the team in a timely and effective way.Some level of understanding or knowledge of the product/industry is very valuable, sometimes necessary, for successfully delivery of projects. The product subject matter expert is usually responsible for the product delivery management or a sub-set of it.Examples of product/industry include engineering (electrical, mechanical, civil, chemical, and architecture), information technology, accounting/finance, human capital management among others and their specialized areas such as road construction, power engineering, computer software, data management, commercial banking, pharmaceuticals etc.

Procurement/Contract Management

Projects make use of resources (professionals, equipment, materials and services) to accomplish their goals. Some resources could be internal to the organization or already available, while others could be external to the organization. External resources are procured through contracts/agreements, offered by the receiving (demanding and paying) organization and accepted by the supplying organization.The focus here is the procurement of external resources for the project. However, the same procurement processes (as-is or modified) could be used to secure internal resources, particularly in large organizations where resources are shared through cost sharing or established internal processes and agreements.Figure 15 shows the procurement key phases and steps. Each organization may have its own customized and detailed processes for each phase. The important thing is to understand the phases and steps, which make up the procurement life cycle and the critical elements to ensure a smooth flow end-to-end.  

  Figure 15 – Procurement Guide

 

Stakeholders Relationship Management                                            

Dealing effectively with the stakeholders within and outside your core project team is crucial to the success of your project. Stakeholders include client representatives, sponsor(s), champion, business and technology subject matter experts, project team members, suppliers, service providers and agents. In the course of the project life cycle, you will deal with various stakeholders using written or formal contracts and, sometimes, informal agreements. Your communication, contract/procurement management, negotiation and influencing skills will serve you well here. Particularly when you deal with suppliers, you need to have good grasp of the suppliers’ contractual obligations and ensure that they are respected and followed. Whatever you do, do it professionally and legally.

Avoid conflict of interest or principal-agent problem, which could compromise your good judgement or lead to a biased judgement.Either separately or as part of the communication management plan, maintain a human resource availability chart and contact information for the project stakeholders. This will enable you to know who is available when and possible backup person to ensure continuity of planned activities and accommodate their absences in your project schedule.In addition to maintaining up-to-date stakeholders’ contact and roles information, it is useful to maintain stakeholders’ influence assessment, represented by a power-influence matrix.

Table 5 shows the stakeholders’ power-influence matrix. Keep this confidential to yourself. You do not want to let stakeholders know your perception of their power and influence, which could vary depending on the aspect of the project management activities under consideration.The power-influence matrix could be created and customized per project, per process group, per work package or per deliverable, to make it specific and effective. Understanding the influence and impact of the stakeholders on the project enables you to anticipate and prepare to manage challenges and ensure successful desired outcome.

Take note of the following in managing the project stakeholders:

  • The importance of timely engagement of stakeholders cannot be understated, as it goes a long way to obtaining valuable support and commitment of others. Avoid after-thought involvement of the key stakeholders; though better be late than never could be your last rule of engagement.
  • Be self-aware and pay attention to projects and other activities, which your project depends upon to be successful. However, mind your business and avoid being engrossed or distracted by events or activities that are not related to your project.
  • You may interact with overzealous stakeholders whose actions, like trying to play the project manager’s role, may affect project team dynamics and outcome. You need to continuously educate your stakeholders about the need to work in harmony for the good of the project. This may seem obvious, but it pays to discuss and re-emphasise the need for cooperation and its implications for the project. You are the captain of the ship and accountable for safe sailing. Even if the President is in the ship or on board, he/she can make demands (needs, change request etc.), but he/she should not tell you how to sail the ship, to ensure safe voyage. If you are not in control of the ship, you cannot make excuse for failing to remain a competent captain in turbulent waters. Therefore, stay focussed and sail safely as a bold, courageous and competent captain.


Table 5 – Stakeholders Power-Influence Matrix

 Stakeholders Power-Influence Matrix 
L………….…Power/Authority è……..…………H ·   A. Lev, Service Delivery Manager  ·   John Paul, Project Sponsor·   Azu Azoh, System Delivery Engineer ·    ·      
·   Binta Lee, Project Analyst·   Dave Zo, QA Analyst     ·   Project Champion·   Ade  John, Technical Lead – Infrastructure Design·      

L………………………………..………………………..Influence à………………………………………….….…..……………….H

Note:The information above are samples only, and the names used are fictitious (not real). This could be created or customized per phase, per work package, per deliverable etc.

1.     High-Power / High-Influence (highest impact, requires most attention)

2.     High- Power / Low- Influence

3.     High- Power / Low- Influence

4.     Low- Power / Low- Influence (least impact)

Keep this confidential to yourself. You do not want to let a stakeholders know your perception of their power and influence (which could vary depend on the aspect of the project management activities under considerations). 

PPMGuideProjectManagementPPM_SRMInfluence.doc

 

Human Capital Management    

 “Given a choice, most people will opt to succeed. They will surprise you with their resourcefulness and determination. All they need is some help with their technique and a little encouragement from a mentor.” James A. Hatherley

As a project manager, out of everything you manage, either directly or indirectly, the most delicate and important part is the human capital management. Depending on your organization structure and culture, you may or may not have direct positional power over your team members. Your professional maturity, effective communication, influencing and negotiation skills are very crucial, particularly with stakeholders you do not have direct control over.The key here is effective communication. It requires maturity, understanding, professionalism and good judgement. A project manager should be sensitive, bold and decisive; tolerant of diverse opinions, but not tolerant of non-performance, which could negatively affect team effort and project outcome. What you need is a committed, not conforming, team to achieve success. Deal cautiously and fairly with the project team members. Wrongful use of power makes people to be mediocre or conformant.

Table 3 – Time/Priority Management Matrix (page 68) is applicable to human capital management.As a project manager, you may experience strange and unprofessional behaviours from some stakeholders, within and outside the core project team. These are part of the challenges that confront a project manager. Ensure that you do not allow such behaviours to derail the success of the project. Focus your attention on results and deal appropriately with the behaviours that impact them. You may ignore, respond maturely or defer your response and avoid noises to ensure that you accomplish the desired outcome. It is not strange, but the situation could be tempting to fall for it, so beware and do not allow others’ behaviours to derail the success of your project. You will not regret acting wisely.

Team building is a key aspect of effective human capital management. Take note of the following, as part your team building effort.

  • Promote, among your team, shared vision, shared responsibility or work sharing. Avoid the blame game, and encourage team members to take leadership role on assigned work package, activities or tasks.
  • Leadership: Encourage and promote leadership behaviours in your team. Each person responsible for the delivery of an assigned work package, activity or task is a leader in his/her own capacity and responsible for seeking others support to successfully complete the assigned work. Leadership cut across different levels and effective leadership effort coordination produces top result, by engaging everyone and creating a sense of belonging.
  • Sometimes people could be the problem. However, you may not be able to solve all people’s problems. Those that are interpersonal among team members should be your focus. A long time personal issue which has become endemic in a person attitude and behaviours are difficult and usually takes time to resolve. What is your best way out? Encourage professionalism by ensuring each team member understand his/her role as an actor in the current ‘episode’ (project) as transient and accept the contractual obligation to act in accordance to the contract terms, as their roles may vary from project to project.

 

Monitoring and Controlling

“Trust but verify.”                                                                                                    Ronald Reagan

In order to effectively monitor and control project activities, work assignments should be clearly defined and measured. Remember the simple rule: you cannot measure what you have not defined; you cannot monitor and control what you have not measured. Measure the relevant things in order to ensure the effectiveness of the monitoring and controlling activities. For instance, measuring how many hours someone spent in the office, per day or per week, may be of little use or less effective compared to measuring the quantity and quality of work completed within a time period.Project manager should not leave things to chances. Trust your team but trust their deliverables more. Deliverable is the only thing that counts.

“Trust but verify”. You do not have to be a micro manager to monitor and control project activities. However, you need to set clearly defined work and expected outcome that the action parties understand in terms of the quality of the outcome, timing and cost. Monitoring key parameters and trends will serve as signals that will determine your next actions – drill down for more information, re-confirm expectations or adjust expectations. Essentially, you want to monitor specific work outcomes, schedule and financial performance, and exercise necessary control or corrective actions as appropriate.Some medium to large size projects may engage the service of a quality assurance analyst to document and track agreed work packages, activities and associated deliverables. The goal is to avoid delays on the critical path items (items on the longest path of the project) and ensure that project quality expectations are met.

Work Organization

The importance of your work organization cannot be understated. A disorganized or less organized project manager could be a problem to the project. Having information is good, but if you cannot easily find the information in a timely fashion, it is not a pleasant thing. Therefore get organized. It is not difficult; rather it is more unpleasant to be disorganized. Effective organization of your work impacts your thought process and overall performance of your team and project. Essentially, you need to organise project vital information, including documentation, electronic mails and other materials (printed memos, faxes, contracts or agreements etc.). Figure 16 is a simplified structure for organizing your electronic mails and documentation. It can be customized based on your needs.

  Figure 16 – Project (Work) Organization

Negotiation

Negotiation is one of the decision making techniques such as direct, instruct, arbitrate or mediate. Negotiation is the preferred decision making technique in situations where the parties involved do not have the direct power or control to determine what the other party should do. For instance, the buyer has money and the seller has the product/service, neither can legally obtain what the other has without given up something in return. That does not mean they will end up with the same real value of what will be exchanged – that depends on the skills of the negotiators. However, to both parties the worth of what is received and what is given up is considered the same or at par.Negotiation in good faith means that an agreement for exchange is reached based on the merits of the options proposed. That is, you do not reach an agreement by tricks and ploys such as threat, aggression, condescending behaviours etc.; but by decent and legal means.The following four key phases are critical to a successful negotiation: preparation, debating, proposing and bargaining. The key steps in each phase are discussed next.

Prepare/Plan:

  • Identify the negotiating parties’ interests.
  • Identify key issues that need to be resolved and tradables (exchangeable items) required to fulfill your interests.
  • Rank the tradables in order of importance and (guess) estimate the same for the other party.
  • Establish your entry point and exit point (the maximum tolerance level or value) for the identified tradables that will fulfill your interests.
  • The priorities you established will become valuable tools in your negotiation process.

Debate:

  • Discuss in good faith – you can be reasonable and firm without given in to others’ tricks, ploys and hypes.
  • Debates constructively, do not engage in destructive debate (argument). Debate leads to solution, argument leads to deadlock.
  • Constructive debate behaviours include making neutral or non-offensive statements, asking questions instead of assertions and assumptions, give assurance (a demonstration of paying attention to others’ concerns) and summarizing negotiating parties’ point of views.
  • Argumentative behaviours include irritation, assumptions and assertions, interruption, point scoring, attack and blame game, and threats.

Propose:

  • Essentially, debate moves you to proposal. When you make a proposal to fulfil an interest, ensure that you make it conditional, using firm language, without committing yourself. Proposal is for consideration, it is not a bargain or agreement, but could lead to an agreement, if both parties agreed to it. Proposals move from being tentative to specific as you move towards the bargaining or agreement phase.
  • Your condition or demand on other negotiating party could be vague or specific, and your offer must be vague, in order to avoid committing yourself. Express the condition before the offer. Examples: if you are prepared to pay $1500 (specific condition), I may consider selling a measurable part (vague offer) of the goods; If you are prepared to lease at a reasonable (vague condition) discount, I may (vague offer) be willing to review the duration (vague offer) of the contract.
  • Also, when you receive a proposal, your response should follow the above conditional statements. Ask questions to clarify the proposals before you respond.
  • Having gone through series of proposals, you may have to summarise them and ensure clarity between what you are getting and what you are giving up.

Bargain (Close):

§  Bargaining is about reaching an agreement.

§  In bargaining, both condition and offer must be specific. Examples include: if you pay $1500, I will deliver 10 pieces of the temperature measuring devices; if you lease the vehicle for $250 per month, covering use and regular maintenance, I will accept the 4 year lease contract. Bargaining makes proposal specific.

§  Ensure that the condition statement comes before the offer. ‘Yes’ response to a bargain means agreement. ‘No’ response means deadlock or another round of debate and proposals.

§  Effective bargaining leads to an agreement.

§  Once you have an agreement, put it in writing and obtain both parties approvals/signatures to make it bidding on both parties. This way you will avoid counter offer and/or counter claims after an agreement has been reached.

Revive a Troubled Project       

“In critical and baffling situations, it is always best to return to first principle and simple action.” Winston Churchill

Sometimes, a new project manager may be required to take over an existing project, which may have been in trouble for various reasons. You can revive a troubled project by going to the basics. Do not mend a rag, it will become worse. The preferred approach is to review and renew the project concept and planning.The following are the key steps to taking over and reviving a troubled or existing project:

  • Review the current status, by referencing the existing project documents (project charter, milestones timeline, project schedule, integrated project plan, issues and risks records, and financials).
  • Discuss with the existing core project team to review the status, issues and risks, challenges and experiences. Brainstorm options for resolving the identified issues and moving forward.
  • Interview and discuss with other key stakeholders (including senior management team) on their expectations, concerns and support.
  • Prepare a position paper, indicating the current status, key issues and options for the project realization (or cancellation, if appropriate); and recommend the way forward to the appropriate governing body. The goal is to maximize value and profit or minimize losses.
  • Depending on the outcome of the review and the approval received, you may have to re-activate or cancel the project with adequate closing documentation.

Quality Management

Quality Management (QM) includes quality control, quality assurance and quality improvement. Quality control is ensured by setting key thresholds for the measured attributes and managing expectations within the established thresholds. Quality assurance ensures that the outcomes or deliverables meet the defined and agreed client expectations and standards. Quality improvement takes inputs from quality control and quality assurance to develop and implement solutions to address deficiency or improvement needs. Any defect or issue detected requires resolution which may be simple or complex. Some improvements may be implemented during the current project life cycle, through change management process, or deferred to a later date.Quality management activities are performed for project management and product delivery management, as good practices. All phases, work packages and deliverables should be monitored for quality assurance. Exercise appropriate quality control measures to manage performances outside the established tolerance range or thresholds.For product delivery management, quality assurance is usually accomplished through comprehensive product testing in the laboratory (a less expensive option) by the product experts or testing group, or in the field (a more expensive option) by selected users or customers.

Project Interface and Dependency

A project may have interfaces and interdependencies with other projects, organizations, technologies and partners. It is important to understand the nature of these dependencies and their implications for your project. Collaborate with the affected stakeholders to manage these interdependencies.Key project interdependency attributes to record and manage include:

  • Interface type, projects involved, organization, technology etc.
  • Interface description
  • Relationship – formal or informal
  • Expectations – deliverables
  • When to deliver the expected deliverables
  • Key contacts
  • Status and remarks

Table 6 includes a reference or link to a project interface document template.Table 6  – Project Interface Template

Template: PPMGuideProjectManagementPPM_ProjectInterface.doc

 Project interface and dependency is discussed further in part 6 (Deliver Result).

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