Showing posts with label stakeholder. Show all posts
Showing posts with label stakeholder. Show all posts

Friday, July 12, 2013

Transparency is your Friend in Strategic Planning

The more I speak throughout the world, it is becoming more clear that there is a growing fear when it comes to strategic planning.  There is a general fear in transparency.  Why is that?  I meet with many project managers across the globe that emote a general apathy.  Frustration is the most common emotion due to what they feel is a series of mandated dates, misunderstood requirements, and most of all, over-utilized staff.  Executives that I meet with are most frustrated because they are constantly hearing that projects are on track until the last minute or by the time they hear of an issue, the project is too far down a path for a course correction.  They all state that they want a solution.  The solution is simple:  transparency.
First, let’s analyze the myth of the mandated date.  Most project managers feel that almost every project that is received comes with a due date attached.  This creates panic, frustration, and many times poor quality as corners get cut to meet the mandated date.  Most Executives that I meet with tell me that while a date is attached, it is only done in order to provide a guideline.  It is not mandated and can be changed if proper data is supplied as to why the dates need to be altered.  They would be shocked to hear the measures that their staff is going through to meet the dates that many times are arbitrary.  Why is there such a disconnect and frustration all around when seemingly everyone wants the same thing?  The answer is the filtration process.  There is a huge filter between the Executives and the workers called Middle Management.  This layer is often needed, however, it can be the most damaging layer to the timeline, data, productivity, and ultimately the bottom line.
There are a few examples of this layer.  There was a company trying to change their core product to a newer generation product where this type of filter was on display.  This organization’s number one initiative continually failed to even come close to its production date or budget.  It missed its target by years and millions of dollars and the production date was reset multiple times.  The organization wanted to focus on improving its project management practices and hired an outside firm.  It was clear early in the consulting engagement that transparency in the reporting process was needed.  It was evident that the prioritization, resource management, and project reporting processes were all lacking and continue to be filtered by the middle managers.  The organization that was hired to change these processes brought in software to bring transparency to these processes, sell the executives on the need to do it, signed project scope statements, and even held town hall meetings to sell the entire organization on why it was necessary.  There were two key departments that were responsible for most of the resource constraints and missed dates.  Many of the other department leaders commented and wondered how these departments would react to the views and direction that was being shared in the meetings.  When it came time for the controversial meeting, one of the key stakeholders who had attended all of the meetings gave conflicting directions and made it seem as if the project team did not have a clear plan of implementation.  The manager even gave conflicting timelines and completion dates.  This left the impression that the agreements made by senior management and other levels earlier in the project were not set and the momentum of the project was quickly halted.  After that meeting, questions about scope and direction of the project were raised even though a signed scope statement and agreed project plan had been clearly laid out.  It was clear that the stakeholder did not want the software, or better yet, the transparency the software would bring to the organization. Perhaps that middle manager was looking for some job security but instead, it was obvious that the man in the middle was part of the problem.
Another example is when CA debuted the new CA Clarity Playbook.  It gives the Executives the ability to drill directly from their strategic plans to the project performance easily from their iPad®.  It is truly amazing and transparent.  The early feedback is fantastic from all the Executives and project managers that I have met with.  There is one group that I could see getting a bit nervous and it is the same group that everyone already knows.  It is the group that I identify as the “spinners” or Middle Management.  The ones who do not want the transparency.  The teams that like to massage the data or change all of the reds to greens.  These are the ones that may be afraid of this technology.  I can tell you this, transparency is your friend.  Time and time again, it is 3% of the organization that is causing 90% of the issues.  We all know who they are.  We all know where it is coming from.  If I asked you, the reader, which department is most responsible for delaying projects and then polled the rest of your company, it would be no surprise to you. It is the same people who complain about how busy they are, however, never seem to produce any results!  What I do not understand is why we consistently cater to this group.  Why business continues to punish the 97% of the organization that does work extremely hard and does do the right thing only to allow the 3% to continue to not be transparent?
This is part 1 of a 5 part series where I will be exploring why transparency is your friend in strategic planning.   I will be walking through all phases of strategic planning including what Executives do with their plans, how often should plans be revised, as well as accountability, and whether or not organizations should be measured against it. Any thoughts or comments or items that you want me to address, please leave them here or on twitter @rickamorris.
No Day but Today,

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I don't acknowledge it....therefore it doesn't exist!

Is this a reality?  I overheard a conversation last night at dinner where a guy was explaining to his friends that he has not gotten a cold in the last 15 years.  He stated that his grandmother told him that there is no such thing as a common cold.  He believed her and ever since he has never gotten a cold.  One of his friends asked, “Do you ever not feel good?”  He said, “Sometimes my nose will be stuffy or I get a sore throat or cough.  I will feel run down and will stay in bed a couple of days……but it’s not a cold!  They don’t exist!”  Call me old fashioned, but that sounds like a cold to me.
It reminded me of my top 5 favorite quotes from a sponsor.  We were running a project and the sponsor had announced to the entire customer base the completion date of the project before the project was even opened in the organization.  Her statement committed us to a 10 month project to be delivered in 4 months.  I approached the sponsor and told her that we would have to do some serious risk management on the project.  Her response is still a classic: “Rick, this project has no risk because it must be done on time!”  If we don’t acknowledge it, it must not exist.
This same denial seems to be true for sponsors when they set a project date or budget.  They often will tell a project manager, “just figure it out,” or, “just make it happen.”  As if the project manager can just wave their magic wand and a new month will be created or a bag of cash will appear.  Projects have been run this way since the beginning of time.  Why is it so misunderstood?  I like to compare projects to weight loss.  Look, I would love to take a pill at night, never have to work out, eat whatever I want, and lose weight.  The reality is that eating right and exercise is what it takes.  The sales numbers for weight loss fads, products, pills, exercise machines, etc. is staggering!  Every day I hear an ad for a new product that promised dramatic weight loss without changing and of the bad habits that lead to the weight gain in the first place.  It is this same mentality that continues to plague projects.  This mentality that if we put it out there it will happen and if we don’t acknowledge the bad stuff, it doesn’t exist is the basis of many of the organizations in business today.  Then everybody is surprised when something doesn’t go as planned.  This goes all the way back to the way the project was selected and how most likely the budget was trimmed via a spreadsheet to get it to meet an arbitrary number that feels right to the executives.  Sure we can cut 20% of this project, there was probably padding in it anyway!
Risk does exist.  Project failure is a very real and repeatable process.  Yet we continue to not acknowledge it.  For example, a project manager will be told that they do not have time to plan, the project must start now.  The project fails.  The project team does a lessons learned session and blames the lack of planning as the reason why.  Then the team will agree that more planning will be necessary.  Then the next project comes along and the same project manager is told that there is no time to plan, it must start right away!  One of the greatest things we can do as project managers is simply acknowledging that these things do exist.  Documentation and metrics capture that show these patterns is paramount.  We must acknowledge these failures.  It is the first step in resolution.
Go forth and document!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Stroke the Ego of Your Stakeholders!

In the continuing series of answering questions asked after my presentations of Stop Playing Games! here is the next question I received:

"When you stated that Project Managers don't publish negative facts about the project for fear of backlash from their stakeholders, you mentioned that you should stroke their do you do that?"

That is a great question and  a technique that is not utilized often enough, in my opinion.  Project managers are often naysayers or are viewed as the ones who are very negative.  I think part of it is how we were taught.  We were taught to own the project.  Success and is the project manager's to own.  I think we should own the leadership, but there is a fundamental flaw in this belief.  It is not our scope, it is not our budget, most likely it is not our what exactly do we own?  Where did it become the norm that the project manager owns the outcome of a decision that they did not make?

Rolling with this theory, if we don't own it...then all we can do is facilitate it.  PM's must remember to ask for what they need and push the decision back to where it belongs.....the stakeholder or sponsor.  This is where we stroke the ego.  Make sure that you ask them...not tell them.....what they would like to do.  It goes something like this:

Mr. or Ms. Sponsor, we have an opportunity on this project, but I really need your help.  In order to secure the date that you have asked for, we would need to get an additional three resources.  However, we could move some scope around as well.  Not sure what the best answer is and I could really use your advice.

This pushed the decision back to the sponsor, but also shows that you respect them and their opinion.

So the technique is to truly value their opinion and bring them into the decision making process.  I have seen so many projects fail due to unrealistic demands where the date, budget, score, or how unrealistic the demands are discussed with the sponsors or stakeholders.  In my experience, if you get the data that you need, come up with options not problems, and present them in a respectful manner, you will be more successful.

Try it and let me know how it goes!

Hoping you too can find your life's passion,