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Revisiting Managing Stakeholders, how to Nurture and thrive the relationship

Managing Stakeholder Relationships

Stakeholders can make or break projects, in order to ensure project success, effective stakeholder management is required. Identifying key stakeholders, dealing with difficult ones and creating a management plan can be overwhelming if you don’t know where to start. Building positive relationships with stakeholders and proactively meeting their expectations can make the life of a project manager much, much easier.

Firstly what is a stakeholder? A stakeholder is an individual, group or organization that is impacted by the outcome of a project. They have an interest in the success of the project, and can be within or outside the organization that is sponsoring the project. Stakeholders can have a positive or negative influence on the project.

There are a lot of people involved in getting a project from inception to a successful completion. Knowing how to manage each and everyone one of them, even those who don’t work directly under you, is very important.

Who can be a stakeholder? Some examples are as follows.

  • Project leader
  • Senior management
  • Project team members
  • Project customer
  • Resource managers
  • Line managers
  • Project user group
  • Product testers
  • Group impacted by the project as it progresses
  • Group impacted by the project after its completion
  • Subcontractors to the project
  • Consultants to the project

A stakeholder is a person, like any other member of the project, and some will be easier to manage than others. Each with their own personality which needs to be managed, to ensure productive dialogue with them to know the project goals which have to be met.

Stakeholders should be treated as any other task on a to-do list: by prioritizing them. Over the course of a project, one stakeholder might be more valuable in terms of the project objections than another, whereas some stakeholders might demand more attention than others.

When stakeholder management is discussed, it refers to creating a positive relationship with stakeholders by meeting their expectations and whatever objectives they agreed to in the project. This relationship isn’t just granted, however. It must be earned. Trust can be earned by building a positive relationship with stakeholders through proactive communication and by listening to their needs.

One way to do this is by interviewing the project stakeholders—not all of them, but certainly the most important ones. As speaking to experts to get the background needed for particular fields or groups, so when you do have one-on-one conversations with the stakeholders, you’re well-informed and ready to get the most out of that time together.

Be mindful that stakeholders aren’t infallible, their impact can be negative as well as positive. Stakeholders might have inaccurate or out-of-date information. That’s where your stakeholder management part comes into play. Vet any data provided by a stakeholder to ensure accuracy so that you don’t make key project decisions based on the agendas of others.

There is a process for this, like there is a process for everything in project management. One is to document stakeholder communications, do this formally within the project plan by noting their names, roles in the organization and who they represent. Document every conversation you have with these key project partners, both to record their interests and requests, but also to be able to review their information later for accuracy. If you’re conducting interviews, ask the stakeholders if you can record those conversations, as any record of interaction is important to document.

Next you want to keep to a process of communications with stakeholders, and make sure that process is transparent, so everyone knows what to expect. This includes project requests or feedback, and how to document and respond to those requests needs to be subject to a formal process of review and approval. This lets the stakeholders know that requests are subject to review, and that you have a process that is being adhered to for those formal requests. This protects both parties from scope changes and miscommunications that can impact the project.

Providing regular and timely project status reports that are appropriate for the stakeholders is crucial. Going into details with team members, while executives are going to want more of an overview. So, tailor the reports to the audience. Don’t forget to follow up with stakeholders as well, asking questions to see if they have any feedback. This way they are being managed and proactively communicated, to know if there’s discontent or some decision has been made that will impact the project.

A stakeholder might be working on multiple projects, which means they’re not going to have the same closeness to the project as you. But that doesn’t mean they’re not getting other information about your project from other sources. You don’t want them to be subject to gossip or get incorrect information that might sway their opinions in the project. If they do make an assumption or get misinformation, this has to be rectified immediately. Sometimes they might not want to hear that truth, but better it comes from you, so you can control and manage it.

If your stakeholders aren’t satisfied with the results of a project, you’ve failed. Therefore, in order to successfully complete a project, it’s essential to gain a clear understanding of who your stakeholders are, what their expectations are and what motivates them. This process is called stakeholder analysis.

Stakeholder analysis identifies and prioritizes stakeholders before the project begins. It organizes stakeholders into groups according to how much they participate in the project, what their interest level is and how much influence they have. Once these people are identified and organized, then you must figure out the best way to involve each stakeholder in the project, including the best channels for communication based on their needs.

Communication is key to stakeholder analysis because stakeholders must buy into and approve the project, and this can only be done with timely information and visibility into the project. The former puts the project in context, while the latter builds trust. All this leads to the project being in strategic alignment with stakeholders and the overall business goals of the company.

A good place to start figuring out who the stakeholders are is by reviewing the project charter, which documents the reason for the project and appoints the project manager. Among the information about objects, budget, schedule, assumptions and constraints, project sponsor and top management, this is how the stakeholders can be discerned.

Part of identifying the different stakeholders is dividing them into groups. Internal and external stakeholders which also determines their relationship to the organization. An internal stakeholder is someone whose interest in the project is directly related to being a part of the organization that is managing that project. They can be team members, execs, owners or even investors in the organization.

External stakeholders are those who aren’t directly related to the organization, but they’re impacted by the project to some extent. These are usually suppliers, creditors and public groups.

The issue that arises with all these stakeholders involvement to the project is that often their interests might be in conflict with one another. Therefore, it’s critical that project managers not only identify these stakeholders but also work out a plan in which to manage their sometimes contradictory expectations.

Stakeholder analysis is a way to get help from key project members. Once the key stakeholders are determined, then invite them into the kick-off to help align the project with strategic objectives. Their experience helps a project avoid pitfalls and getting their help builds stronger relationships. They can also help with conflict resolution during the project execution.

Stakeholders are also crucial for delivering the resources needed to get the project done right. When there is good communications between a stakeholder and a project manager, then the stakeholder can help deliver the people, tools and other resources necessary to get the project done.

The process of going through a stakeholder analysis is also a way to build a relationship of trust with stakeholders. Once a line of communications is open with stakeholders, develop a good rapport and show transparency into the project, it encourages trust.

Stakeholder analysis uses a technique called stakeholder mapping. Before getting started, decide on the focus of the project. This will determine who is most important in terms of stakeholders. Once determined, list the stakeholders which come in all shapes and sizes. While it’s important to narrow the focus that comes in later. At this point you want to list everyone who is a stakeholder, no matter the level of their significance to the project. As you list your stakeholders, keep in mind that they fall into two main categories: those who are affected by the project and those who contribute to it.

Some stakeholders are going to have more importance to the project and their expectations will have more of an impact than others. Discern this by using an influence-interest matrix, which is a box broken into four sections. Place your stakeholders in one of the four boxes based on their interest and influence levels.

The top of the box is broken into two sections: keep informed and manage closely.

The lower half of the box is also broken into two sections: minimal contact and keep satisfied. Anyone placed to the right of the box has more influence, while anyone placed near the top of the box has more interest. If a stakeholder is placed in the top right, then they have a lot of interest and influence, making them important players in the project.

Once the list has been established, begin prioritizing them by importance to the project. Decide who among them have the most influence on the project and are affected by it. You can use the influence-interest matrix again to help with prioritizing stakeholders.

The status of stakeholders are not static, they can change throughout the course of the project. Stakeholder analysis is not a one-time thing, but is a process that should continue throughout the project.

Finally, with the information created in the stakeholder map, figure out how to engage stakeholders. This is the process by which stakeholders are one over, get their understanding and support to help fuel the project, putting it on the right course. This leads to a communication plan that outlines the channel and frequency of communications between you and each stakeholder.

To summarize all of the lessons learnt and put them into practice, follow these five steps to make sure all of the bases in the stakeholder management plan are covered.

1. List Your Stakeholders

The first step to any good stakeholder management plan is knowing your stakeholders.

2. Prioritize Your Stakeholders

Note which stakeholders are going to have a bigger influence over the project, and at which stage their influence becomes lesser or greater.

3. Interview Your Stakeholders

Working with new stakeholders can be tricky at the start—some are easier to manage than others. Depending on the type of project, there will either be many voices from outside the company with different personalities and demands, or many voices inside the company with competing goals. Here are some example stakeholder interview questions to ask to get sorted:

  • Why are you interested in this project?
  • What are your expectations for this project?
  • If you have a team involved, what do you expect from them?
  • Which deliverables are you most interested in?
  • What inspired you to get involved in this project?
  • What do you hope this project changes after launch?
  • How quickly do you see this project rolling out?
  • If you feel positively about this project, why?
  • If you have worries about this project, why?
  • Do you prefer in-person meetings, phone meetings or email?

4. Develop Your Matrix

A quick mock-up of a quadrant to sort your findings will help you easily distinguish those with high interest, high priority versus low interest, low priority. It will also help to sort all those in between.

5. Set & Manage Expectations

Clearly identify which stages each key stakeholder will be involved in, and timelines by which their feedback is needed. Include a schedule of office hours for them to easily reach you so that they can have time to provide feedback either in a private setting or in a group. As always, be realistic, transparent and honest at every project phase—your stakeholders can tell, and will thank you for it.

Stakeholders play a key role in making a project happen. They believe in the project, and are devoting time, money and resources to the project. Without proper management, they can make things extremely clunky with a lot of messy red tape along the way. This is achieved by keeping an open line of communication, which is the most important step to a good stakeholder management plan.

Let us know your thoughts and how you manage stakeholders within projects. All the very best with your project management journey.

Project Management Leaders in an integrated team.

A leader is looked upon as the one who steers the course, and this is the case in project management. However, the person at the helm is only one in a system to deliver a project successfully. A leader is not someone who barks orders, and in project management it is someone who is a leader of an integrated team. A team with shared responsibility of the team and stakeholders to deliver a project on time and within budget.

Project leaders rely on data, and use tools like dashboards, Gantt charts and time tracking software to achieve project success.  Leadership is often misunderstood in general and in particular in project management, yet it’s one of the most important positions on the project team.

Leadership isn’t one thing. There are many different styles and combinations of those types. The most common forms of leadership are;

  • Transformational
  • Leader-Member Exchange
  • Adaptive
  • Strengths-Based
  • Servant
  • Transactional

Project leadership, put simply, is the act of leading a team towards the successful completion of a project. But of course, it is much more than that. It’s about getting something done well through others. But project leadership requires skills in both managing people and tasks. It is a soft skill; part art, part science. Looking over the management style of anyone in charge of any project, there will be a myriad of ways in which goals are accomplished. Much of these differences are based on the person’s personality and what style of leadership they naturally gravitate towards.

Further a project leader is someone who leads a project, but that doesn’t really get to the bottom of this seemingly simple title. There are project managers, who are responsible for many of the aspects that we associate with leadership. They assemble the team, devise the plan and manage resources to maintain the schedule and keep within budget.

But leadership is a quality that should be expressed by everyone. It’s not just leading by example, such as the project manager rolling up their sleeves and joining in on the work as needed, but everyone on the project team must take a leadership role. They need to own their responsibilities and manage the tasks assigned to them. The last thing anyone wants is a team of robots who can’t make a move without being directed.

That said, there is a project leader and their job is different than that of the team they manage. They have to straddle many worlds being both technically organizationally adept, able to engage effectively across boundaries, connecting talent with key challenges. Think of a project leader as the consummate integrator. They help others succeed.

Project leadership is difficult work, and while most project managers are adept at leveraging the tools and processes of the trade, there’s no single body of knowledge to learn and pass a test on when it comes to leading successfully. It’s the ultimate school where learning by doing is the only way forward.

There are however, common approaches of successful leaders, which are outlined by the following 10 attributes:

  • They are grounded and centred
  • They are aware and mindful
  • They create solutions
  • They are analytical
  • They can evaluate risk
  • They can generate a sense of urgency
  • They are insightful
  • They build cohesion
  • They motivate people
  • They achieve results

Above all remember that leadership is fluid, Just as dealing with people requires nuance, so does determining what makes up a good leader. Still, these 10 points are pillars on which you can build project leadership. Emulating respected project leaders is a good place to start, those who have experience and have lead projects in ways that you wish to emulate. Seeking out help from a mentor is recommended, because they can add a depth of dimension to the process that all the books in the world can never articulate.

Another thing to do is keep in mind the following six concepts that hold good metal.

1. Mind the Gap: Take time to explore the gap between navigating and leveraging the tools of the trade and leading others.

2. Team Development: If you take care of the team and ensure that you form and frame the right environment, the team will take care of the initiative.

3. Let the Team Define Your Role: From alignment on the purpose of the project to treating team members with respect to ensuring fair and even accountability to setting expectations high to not micro-managing.

4. Teach Your Team How to Talk: Spend time focusing on strengthening your facilitation skills.

5. Teach Your Team How to Decide: Teams succeed or fail based on how they navigate moments of truth in the form of key, often irreversible decisions.

6. Everyone Communicates, Leaders Connect: Great leaders at all levels strive to connect with team members on something a bit more personal than status meetings and reports.

Everyone has a theory on what makes a great leader, and with good reason. Leadership is a quality that’s important for success and yet so difficult to define. But great leadership isn’t subjective. People have studied leadership. A strong understanding of leadership provides us with a variety of legitimate options for different scenarios, and helps a person set up themselves, their team or company for success. People are more intentional than reactional when it comes to leadership.

Leaders are people who are able to inspire others to share, motivate and act on a vision, encourage others and help them overcome obstacles in pursuit of that vision.

The following is a list of some core values of a strong leader.

  1. Communication: The ability to disseminate information and listen actively.
  2. Motivation: Getting people to want to do what you need them to do.
  3. Delegation: Knowing that you can’t do everything and trusting others to help you carry the load by completing assigned tasks.
  4. Positivity: Keeping a positive attitude, regardless of the situation, helps with morale.
  5. Trustworthiness: People aren’t going to listen to you or do what you ask if you don’t first instil a sense of trust.
  6. Creativity: There will always be problems that can’t be solved by rote; you must think creatively and be open to taking chances. Employ divergent thinking to find unique solutions.
  7. Feedback: Leadership doesn’t take place in a vacuum. Listen to your team, stakeholders, advisors, mentors, etc., and take their opinions seriously.
  8. Responsibility: You can’t expect people to follow you if you’re not taking responsibility for the bigger picture and your behaviour.
  9. Commitment: You also cannot expect to lead others if you are not committed to the project.
  10. Flexibility: Things change, and rigidity can ruin a project, so you must be willing to adapt and not hold too tightly to anything.

A project manager can be thought of as wearing many hats. The best know this and shift from leaders to managers many times during the day, doing what it takes to move the project forward. By doing this they set an example for the team, which benefits everyone.

If you want to encourage, inspire, motivate and fuel your team, leadership by example is one of the best ways to get buy-in and build trust. What are the practical things people can do to encourage, inspire, motivate and fuel their teams to complete more project tasks? Good leadership is supported by many things, from teams to tools. Let us know you thoughts on leading project teams and how to get the best results from your resources. We would like to hear from you. All the very best on your project management journey.

Lessons learnt from working remotely

Conducting projects in 2020 was a real challenge in 2020 and is set to continue in 2021. Delivering projects from the confines of the home environment provided new ways to ensure project success, many myths of remote working have been debunked during the pandemic. One involved productivity, it was proven that people have been more productive while working remotely that when working within the office environment.

Remote workers are not less reliable or less productive than their onsite colleagues. In fact, statistics have shown time and again that remote workers are more productive, work longer hours, and are less likely to take time off than onsite employees.

Because remote workers can’t be physically monitored in the same way onsite employees can, they can help assuage fears about reliability by over-communicating with their teammates and manager. This all boils down to how a team works, but if it is determined that co-workers are looking for assistance after hours, it can help to set regular office hours, or provide hours of availability. Setting status on platforms like Slack can help with this, exchanging phone numbers for emergencies can allow to work more flexibly, while maintaining availability to the team. Once a system has been worked out, it’s important to be consistent with it.

Remote work does not stagnate career growth, the salary breakdown of remote workers surveyed was 74% earning less than $100k per year, and 26% earning more, compared with 92% of on-site workers earning less than $100k and 8% earning more. In addition, there are 18% more executives working remotely than there are working on-site now. The possibilities of promotion in the remote realm are evident in the statistics.

Communication is key for anyone moving to remote work. This shows itself in many ways, only because people are not onsite to casually overhear and offer support, then being proactive helps. By reaching out regularly to offer a helping hand to teammates lets them know how reliable a partner you are to them. You’ll also need to be very direct and proactive with managers. By letting them know what your career goals are, and helping to set milestones to reach those goals, you’ll ensure that you’re taking all the right steps to reach your potential, no matter where you work from.

For some people, when they picture their remote co-workers, they envision laptops on the beach, conference calls from cabins on cliff tops, and jet-setting teammates hopping from foreign coffee shop to foreign coffee shop. However, the reality is many employees prefer to perform their remote work from home.

For those with a spare bedroom or space in their home, setting up a remote office can help ease the distractions that come from working onsite with co-workers. Walk-ups for questions or coffee breaks disappear when you can close a door and be totally alone within a dedicated workspace. Reliable internet, an ergonomically sound chair, and a good sound desk that is a pleasure to use.  By spending more time working from home, remote workers can enjoy savings on work travel, daily office expenses like lunching out at a restaurant, and coffees for those who set up shop at cafes.

While it certainly is true that working remotely can cause some loneliness — 19% of remote employees report this as their biggest challenge — it is by no means an insurmountable or inevitable pitfall of the remote lifestyle. Remote workers attend more meetings weekly than their onsite counterparts, and report higher job satisfaction.

It’s important to host virtual team building activities and celebratory meetings to keep remote teammates included. Particularly when using a hybrid team to deliver a project, with both remote and onsite co-workers. Ensure regardless of where the meeting is being conducted, that people are not talking over the top of each other.

Without the option for offsite team lunches, motivational posters around an office, or special coordinated days, it is still possible to build a team culture. Company culture can act as a guiding light for employees when they’re stuck on a project and unsure of their next move. If it is identified what is wanted to be at the heart of the culture, whether that’s customer, creativity, collaboration, or anything in between, create a shared baseline from which employees can make decisions.

There are several ways to go about building company culture for remote work, but if the core values are implemented, that are shared company-wide, it is a good start.  From on-boarding new employees to coaching tenured ones, bake culture into everything that is done, and it’ll become second nature to the team.

As you beef up your remote presence or look to finally dip a toe in the remote-working pool, don’t assume any possible pitfalls are inevitable. Plan communicate clearly and consistently, utilize technology (like collaboration software) to help teams stay connected, and successfully deliver projects. Let us know your thoughts on delivering projects successfully remotely, we would like to hear from you. All the very best on your project management journey.

Project Manager role enhanced by Artificial Intelligence.

The future is here, we hear that almost daily, how can the future help the humble project manager, should project managers fear the onset of Artificial Intelligence?(AI). Some fear the role of the Project Manager may be eliminated as AI becomes more prevalent in the workplace. Should that really be the case? or can AI help in delivering projects.

AI can be seen as an opportunity in creating new opportunities, allowing the Project Manager to transform their role to focus on more critical and crucial responsibilities.

AI in the business world is something of an open door, a new avenue to take and is less threatening than when it was first interpreted. As it refers more to robotic functions such as operations, data collection, tracking and reporting; those repetitive tasks which hold far less value, but which need to be accomplished within business. In complex projects AI tasks save time and improve data accuracy, thus allowing PMs Better interpretation of the data. Automating workflows, predicting risks, eliminating human bias, preventing cost overruns, or digging deeper into big data for real-time insights, these are all tasks which allow the PM to spend more time on the human side of a project: the business, stakeholders and customers. AI allows the PM to provide more succinct strategic advice to the business, to be a more substantial leader providing value outcomes, rather than simply being a manager. AI can more effectively guide PMs on where to focus their efforts, thereby more accurately increasing the potential for project success.

AI is not a threat to project management jobs, but a way to spend less time managing and more time doing those tasks that add true value to a business. Project Manager’s soft skills like communication, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, leadership and understanding the needs of stakeholders, are more valuable and more marketable than ever, and very much in demand in the world of AI; skills currently void within any robotic AI machine.

Since the core of the project management profession is not easily transferrable to a machine, PMs should not be fearful of AI inadvertently hijacking their jobs. PM jobs differ widely in complexity, and encompass unforeseeable or taxing challenges which cannot easily be tackled by AI. This is AI’s limitation. It is relegated to recognizing patterns within data and making conclusions or forecasts based on those patterns. Therefore, AI is optimal for repetitive, predictive or computational tasks. In other words, AI is more like a tool to enhance the project management field, rather than to displace it. Imagination and adaptability is far more fluid within a Project Manager than within AI machines. If anything, the adoption of AI in projects will encourage the PM to embrace techniques which will sharpen soft skills, making the PM even more marketable.

The introduction of automation during the industrial revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries gave way to faster manufacturing processes. This was enough to frighten many trades’ people during that period, who felt their jobs would be lost to machines. The automobile modified transportation, making the use of horses rather obsolete. The introduction of email forever changed the demand for posting letters in the mail. Each one of these transitions involved some form of mechanization, which altered the demands for certain jobs. Rightfully so, AI is yet another stage in this move toward more encompassed automation within the workforce. Like in the past, each time there was a dramatic shift in mechanization, new jobs were created, and many current jobs were enhanced, making them even more in demand. But, throughout this change there was always someone needed to plan, manage, monitor and control the work, and make crucial decisions on the job. The role of the Project Manager will continue to evolve, and will undoubtedly play a pertinent and pivotal role in the world of AI, just as it has done throughout the history of automation.

Let us know your thoughts on AI, do you think it will assist or deter from project delivery, are you using AI within your projects now, tell us how we would like to hear from you.

Managing multiple project simultaneously

It is the skill of a project manager which dictates how they manage multiple projects at once and successfully deliver each. It is definitely a juggling act as every action taken in one project needs to feed into the next with fluidity and poise, and when done right, a skilled portfolio manager can make it seem like no trouble at all. However, one mistake can have a water ripple effect and it can all come crashing down.

Managing multiple projects at once, formally known as portfolio management, is a technique that can be cultivated and mastered. Portfolio managers must be able to prioritize tasks within projects, monitor their team’s performance, and allocate their resources effectively.

There are potential pitfalls in managing the delivery of project simultaneously. First there must be understanding if indeed multiple projects are being managed at one time.  As Sometimes, it can be difficult to tell where a task or phase ends and a project begins. In a sense, a project is made up of many smaller projects. That’s how they’re managed, the larger tasks are broken down and finally delivered into a series of steps made up of small tasks.

These tasks are then collected under project phases, such as planning or executing. But these phases could potentially be viewed as projects in and of themselves. A project is defined as an activity done by one or many team members over a specific timeframe that ends with a deliverable. A task would seem to fall under this definition, except that it’s usually one thing that can be in a session. Therefore, a project is bigger.

Managing multiple project is evident when you’re responsible for several big and separate deliverables. This involves different teams. While these projects might work in concert with one another, they are distinct enough to require unique plans, schedules, etc.

Managing a project involves the development of a plan, scheduling, taking risk and resources into account, managing the team and budgeting. Tasks are less complicated, but benefit from a certain level of management.

Projects, like tasks, start and end. Both often start as a task list, but whereas tasks can often be accomplished with a simple to-do list, projects require more coordination. So estimation of cost and time is required and understood to complete each task.

In fact, tasks can be looked at individually, but a project must structure those tasks. They need to be prioritized. The tasks require resources, and those resources need to be assigned before the task can be worked on.

Usually, you’re not going to make a risk management plan to tackle a few tasks. There might be risk involved, but then again—there’s risk involved in everything. However, a project must look at all the tasks in context to the risks inherent in executing them. These risks go beyond the mere task. The project can be impacted by weather, supplies and more.

Though tasks are little projects, they differ enough with the constraints of a larger project to require a unique method of management. As projects grow in complexity, tasks relatively stay the same in that they’re broken down into small, manageable bits. Therefore, to-do lists and prioritizing is usually as much as needed to get tasks done, while projects require more detailed methodology.

When dealing with more than one project to manage, you have to be efficient with time or risk burnout. There are a lot of disparate things to do, often at once. It can be done, of course, but requires that the following are a few tips.

When planning for one project, planning can occur for multiple projects. The last thing needed is to start the week unprepared and just wing it. No matter how good you are, things are going to get out of control quickly. Therefore, make weekly plans for yourself, look at the work ahead and prioritize it. Know your upcoming deadlines. Meet with your team and stakeholders. It’ll probably change day-to-day, but at least you have a structure.

Communication is the life’s blood of any project. Your project plan, status reports and so much more are all communication tools. Managing multiple projects means that you act as the hub that leads to both multiple stakeholders and teams; therefore, you must update stakeholders and direct your teams. Remember, communication is also listening. Get feedback and be responsive.

Plans change. Things happen. You can’t be attached to a schedule without risking it going off track, overspending or losing quality. Just as you would when managing one project, and more so with multiple projects that exponentially add to the possibility of change, you need to monitor and review your progress and performance regularly. Have a plan in place to manage change and adjust the schedule, costs or scope accordingly.

If you have a tendency to feel that for something to get done right you have to do it yourself, lose it. There’s no way one person can manage multiple projects without support. Accept help and delegate work that can be delegated to associates. There’s tons of paperwork and other minutiae related to managing multiple projects that can be done by others. Oversee it, sure, but don’t overdo it.

Don’t use Post-It notes or keep the schedule on scraps of paper. Where are your important dates and numbers? They should be at your fingertips, probably best on an online project management tool that can automatically alert you of approaching deadlines, and collect all your files in one place and plan, schedule, monitor and report on your project.

It’s not going to be easy, even if you plan and are prepared. Managing multiple projects is challenging. The problems that come up when managing multiple projects are akin to a shadow world of best practices.

It’s obvious, but bears repeating, that communication can make or break a project. If you’re unable to clearly explain to your team what has to be done, you’re going to spend more time and money than necessary on tasks. If you can’t communicate the state of the project to stakeholders, they’re going to interrupt with the proper management of the projects.

If you don’t trust your team, they’re not going to trust you. Without building trust in the project, you’re jeopardizing the project. This speaks to delegating. If you’re not sharing the responsibilities of the project, then the people you work with are going to suspect you don’t trust them. Whether that’s true or not, you’re eroding morale and risking the success of your projects.

As in one project and only more so with many, if your team doesn’t know who does what chaos ensues. Projects should run like machines, with each team member doing their part like gears that meet and move the project forward. If they don’t know their roles, and what they’re responsible for, things jam up fast.

If you don’t put the work in before execution of the project plan, you’re going to have to do it while executing the plan. That’s a recipe for disaster. Each project you’re managing must have a thorough project plan and on top of that, you need to have a plan in place to manage all the other projects at once. That’s a lot of planning, but you don’t want to do that when you’re spending money and losing time.

The use of project management software can assist with streamlining the process and providing information at your fingertips. The project management software chosen is up to you, there are many on the market which can provide exactly what is required, just chose the one which makes you comfortable should you go down this path. Whether you decide to use software or not, managing multiple projects is a real skill, and delivering each successfully is an even greater skill. Let us know your thoughts and how many projects you were able to manage simultaneously, we would like to hear from you.

Project Board Duties and Behaviours for effective leadership

The operation of effective leadership in a project board comprised of executive, sponsor, senior user and suppliers is essential for the success of the project outcome. Although their role can be demanding, combining responsibility for business as usual operations with operational improvement and developing new products/services.

To understand how project board members, need to face these challenges, the following should be considered:

  • What should projects expect from the project board?
  • What should the project board expect from project managers?
  • How does the project leadership delegate and still retain control?
  • What kind of decisions are the project leaders expected to make?
  • What is the composition of an effective project board?

By establishing an environment which is clear about how a project will be run, which includes defined roles and responsibilities, helps ensure the project leadership does not micromanage the project manager.

Creating this controlled environment means that everyone should understand the project management method or framework adopted by the project or organisation as a whole.

As a result, this allows project managers to make decisions by providing a mechanism for this to happen. It also determines the tolerance levels exercised by the project board. This is ‘managing by exception”, one of the principles of the PRINCE2 framework.

The project framework or method should be clear about the role of senior management and the project board. Above all, that should incorporate the specific duties and preferred behaviours of senior leadership throughout a project. They include:

  • Accepting that the project executive and board member, are ultimately accountable for project success – supporting, directing and steering the project to completion
  • Assigning a project manager but not, thereafter, relinquishing responsibility and effectively “disappearing” for the duration of the project
  • Organizing and endorsing an integrated, cross-functional approach typical of many project team structures
  • Ensuring there is ongoing user involvement and commitment to the proposed change
  • Employing the continuous business justification concept (or adding value in Agile approaches) to ensure the business case remains valid and therefore the project is viable, deliverable and desirable. If so, senior management will be responsible for authorising each subsequent stage of the project
  • Ensuring there aren’t too many projects running in parallel to maximise success
  • Providing unified direction, communication and being an effective leader for the project manager in a collaborative and facilitative way; this is essential in Agile project scenarios where transparency and collaboration keeps the project on schedule and de-risked
  • Ensuring project managers and teams are empowered to make decisions – absence of this is a principal reason for project failure
  • Escalation: to make sure decisions are made at the right level and avoid “decision latency” – another reason for project failure.
  • Having regular project board meetings scheduled, but also reviewing their necessity when there are no key decisions to make, such as moving to a next stage or altering project scope
  • Diagnosing and avoiding problems – where are the weak spots in the plans? What are the risk management and mitigation plans?
  • Taking responsibility for delivering benefits to the organisation.

By hosting project board awareness sessions is one, effective way of improving the overall performance of project boards, interaction with project managers and overall project leadership.

In facilitating these sessions, it helps project boards to fully understand the project management method principles adopted by the project/organisation and ensure they too know how to adhere to the principles.

It’s also an opportunity to discuss the ideal behaviour of senior management in the project, such as accountability, offering unified direction, knowing how to cope with delegation, effective communication and allocation of resources.

Equally, it’s useful to project boards to recognize the importance of building relationships with their project managers. For example, knowing what keeps the project manager awake at night helps project leadership identify when and where to take action to ensure success for the project and organisation.

Having a greater awareness among project board members about the factors that contribute to either project success or failure will help them make the connection to the abilities and skills they need for effective project leadership.

And that might also include gathering facts on the ground in their own organisation about which principles and practices are needed to improve their project board performance.

Developing and being able to deploy a wide variety of project leadership skills is essential throughout the life-cycle of a project and, not least, at the points where project boards are required to make significant decisions. This demands serious understanding and preparation as, at the point of decision, they need all the knowledge and evidence to commit the organisation’s budget and resources with confidence. Let us know your thoughts on the role of the leadership team and if they have assisted or hindered your project delivery. All the very best on your project management journey.