PMTimes_June27_2022

Best of PMTimes – Project Karma: What You Think, Say And Do Matters

Projects are the vehicles for making things different. It is natural to want things to be different than they are.

Things can be better. Progress and improvement arise out of this desire. So may pain and suffering. Choosing the right projects and performing them well make the difference.

Projects are actions to effect change – to make more money; improve people’s lives. They deliver new and modified products, architectural wonders, events, and processes which impact both the environment the project work takes place in and the environment that receives the results. Within those environments people’s lives, the way they think, their values and how they relate with others are changed.

The Law Of Cause And Effect -Karma

Every action, whether to make things better or not, creates a ripple effect. The effect may be short lived or last for years, if not lifetimes. It may be felt near or far. Knowing that there is this ripple effect motivates one to be careful about what one does, what one says, and even what one thinks.

This is the Law of Karma or the Law of Cause and Effect. Every action has an effect. Everything is caused by something. Sometimes the effect is very subtle and minor; sometimes near and sometimes far. This is the foundation for process thinking and quality management.

Consider the project of planning a wedding. The way the planning and preparation are carried out influences the relationships among the stakeholders. The over controlling parent can turn-off the bride and groom and the other parents. An over controlling or over emotional bride can change the feelings of the groom and/or her friends and relatives. Even the decision of who gets to sit at which table can reverberate for years to come. One conversation can make or break a relationship.

A project to implement a new process for an operational group can disrupt the organization positively or negatively. It can cause ongoing conflict between management and labor, and either make for better ongoing performance or degrade performance depending on how well the project is executed and how the new process performed and maintained overtime.

A project to lay a pipeline across virgin territory can contribute to the pollution of the environment because of the immediate disruption of the construction project or a decade later when a leak spews oil into the land and water. The project can also result in profits, lower energy costs, and conflict among promoters, resisters, and supporters. There are any number of unforeseeable possibilities.

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Decisions And Actions

A decision to ignore or dismiss testing results or concerns raised by project staff can lead to a disaster, as it did in the Challenger explosion, killing the crew, costing millions of dollars and destroying the reputations of NASA management because of their faulty statistical reasoning.

Intentions, biases, values, and beliefs are the drivers of decisions. Decisions drive behavior. The way decisions are made influences relationships and outcomes. For example, being overly aggressive or using underhanded methods to get one’s way can cause distrust and anger that clouds relationships going forward to other negotiations.

Working With Karma

There are a number of strategies to apply this concept of cause and effect to promote optimal performance.

Some people ignore the Law of Karma entirely. They act as if there were no consequences and then are surprised by the results of their behavior. Some of these do, in fact, know about the Law of Karma, others are ignorant of it. Either way, there are consequences.

Some others fall into analysis paralysis. They spend so much time analyzing and worrying about what might happen that they miss the opportunity to act.

Others take a middle path that considers the question from multiple perspectives. They balance their analysis with intuition. They consider the time factor, uncertainty. They realize that there may not be a “perfect” solution.

Take A Beat

This last strategy is one to aspire to. When faced with a decision take a beat.

Relax, pause, breathe and think about what you are going to do. Just reactively diving-in, risks unforeseen consequences. So take a beat. Respond after the due diligence of assessing from multiple perspectives the pros and cons, risks and rewards, ripple effects, alternatives, etc.

Make the duration of the pause and the nature of the decision process right for the situation. Do you have an hour, a day, a month or does the response have to be in the moment. In project work, immediate response is not usually required.

The way a soldier or police officer reacts in a life-threatening situation requires a well-trained reaction. Yet, even in those situations, it is easy to get lost in emotional reactivity. Reactivity does not allow for a step back to think about one’s actions and their consequences. We have seen many instances of inappropriate reactivity leading to unnecessary deaths and ruined lives.

Most project managers have at least a moment to step back and consider the ripple effect of what they do or say. It is only lack of mindful awareness that keeps some from realizing it.

Responsiveness

With training in the cultivation of mindful self-awareness there is the possibility of a natural process of letting things unfold. Not in a sloppy, lazy way, but by being in flow so as to allow one’s skills, intelligence, analysis and intuition to emerge in perfect alignment with the needs of the situation.

Short of that, objectively observe what is going on internally and externally to create the platform for what to do next.

In any case, living requires decisions and actions. Actions include the actions of not acting, and of expressing oneself by speaking, writing, or with body language.

Responsiveness means making conscious decisions. Discerning whether they are unbiased or are really justifications or rationalizations after the action has been carried out. When reacting there is no conscious decision making, only the outburst or withdrawal.

No matter whether action stems from a well thought out decision or not, there is the ripple effect.

Picture dropping a stone in a still pond – the effect is ripples radiating out in all directions. Now imagine the stone falling into an already rippling pond into which many stones of different sizes are being continuously dropped in different places. That is more like our world. Complexity and volatility leading to uncertainty.

Sometimes in that kind of pond, the ripples from your stone, your action, are barely visible, sometimes they are operating under the surface to take effect later. Sometimes they don’t much matter. In any case, be mindful enough to remember the Law of Cause and Effect and responsive enough to choose what you do, say and think wisely

PMTimes_June22_2022

What Is Expected From Businesses In a Post-Pandemic World?

By Ian Chambers, CEO  – Linea

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic represented an era-defining paradigm shift for the world of business. Even though the most noticeable impacts of the pandemic have now abated in many parts of the world, the changes it has brought about in the way businesses operate are unlikely to be undone.

 

The dramatic changes to regular working patterns brought about by pandemic-era lockdowns, combined with a renewed focus on health and wellbeing, have dramatically shifted expectations of what professionals want from their roles. At the same time, customers now also expect a more flexible and conscientious approach to service delivery and are willing to favour companies who are able to provide this.

 

As such, every organization needs to adjust the way it operates to accommodate these changing realities. By implementing the necessary changes as part of an ongoing process of business improvement, companies can put themselves in a position to capitalize and thrive.

Shifting attitudes and expectations among workers and clients

Many of the changes that the pandemic has brought about can be explained by clear practical requirements – namely, businesses were forced to be a lot more creative and flexible in the way they operated during lockdown, and their employees and customers are now reluctant to give up that flexibility.

 

For employees, this means that staff have gotten used to being able to work from home and adjust their own working patterns or are keen to retain the additional health and wellbeing benefits they may have received during the pandemic. Expectations among customers and clients, meanwhile, have evolved in complex ways: some have grown accustomed to receiving more flexible terms and conditions, or improved remote access to services, while others may have become frustrated by the lack of face-to-face interaction with customers, and would prefer to return to pre-pandemic ways of working.

 

There are also an ethical or value-driven dimensions to this evolution, as the pandemic has made many people aware of existing failings and issues of unfairness with the previous status quo. Management can no longer expect to monopolies the highest salaries, while offering only limited flexibility to the workers responsible for generating value, without a risk of undermining their own recruitment capabilities or alienating socially conscious consumers.

 

As such, the challenge for organizations operating within these rapidly evolving markets is to show they can reflect and operate by the changing values of society. If they fail to do so, they risk being left behind.

How must businesses change to adapt to post-pandemic realities?

With all of this in mind, it is essential for companies to regularly review and implement necessary changes to their operating practices and service models, committing to an ongoing process of business improvement to ensure they are meeting the expectations of modern professionals, consumers and clients.

 

Here are some of the key areas in which we have seen businesses committing their efforts and resources in the wake of the pandemic:

 

  • Developing new core business values and principles that can be closely aligned to post-pandemic norms and expectations, and working to ensure that every member of the organization has bought into these goals and can exemplify them in how they work
  • Enshrining workforce wellbeing, engagement & stability as a central business value, by embracing of flexible working models, strong staff support, and opportunities for progression, to ensure the organization can attract and retain talent
  • Mitigating actual & perceived biases that could contribute to systemic unfairness or barriers to success, by viewing decisions from different stakeholder perspectives
  • Focusing on true customer-centric value and service flexibility, aligning with modern market expectations, to stand out in an increasingly competitive marketplace
  • Maximizing the use of diverse marketing channels to capitalize on current trends, while acknowledging the need for mindful content and socially conscious messaging
  • Adopting agile business strategies and approaches, informed by the lessons of the pandemic regarding how quickly circumstances can change
  • Creating and maintaining financial liquidity to provide future flexibility, giving the organization greater protection against unexpected shifts in the market
  • Driving value for money & profitability, while sensitively managing concerns around doing so, as businesses can no longer be seen to be cutting corners simply to protect the bottom line
  • Using societal appetites for progress to help accelerate the adoption of necessary change within the company, and to challenge conversative or risk-averse viewpoints within the organization

 

Not all of these changes can be implemented with immediate effect – some will involve a long-term process of change management, which will require the business to holistically review its current processes and operations to chart a gradual path of transformation, as measured by definable metrics and achievable milestones.

 

This can be difficult and time-consuming to achieve, but as the post-pandemic era continues to take shape, it will be an essential step for organizations across multiple sectors. Professional expectations and customer values are evolving quickly – and companies must do the same to remain at the forefront of their respective markets.

PMTimes_June21_2022

Understanding Enterprise Environmental Factors

Critical elements in strategic project management

 

As project managers, we can’t control everything.  In every project there are factors beyond our control that can have both large and small effects on the outcome of a project. Market demands, consumer tastes, corporate culture, even the weather, are all factors that can make a difference between project success and project failure.  While these are things we can’t change, we still need to be aware of the elements within our operating environment and what they mean to the projects we manage.

Enterprise Environmental Factors

Enterprise Environmental Factors (EEF’s) are conditions, not under the immediate control of the project team, that influence, constrain, or direct the project, program, or portfolio (Project Management Institute, 2021).  These are things that are beyond the control of the project team, and often the organization in which the project is taking place, that can have effects on the outcome of the project.  Projects take place in settings that can have effects, both positive and negative, on them.  Those factors can exist both inside of the company initiating the project as well as outside of it.  An organization and project team need to identify and consider those factors in order to increase the chances of project success (Arif-Ud-Din, 2020).

Strategic management is the systematic analysis of the factors associated with the external and internal environments of an organization to provide the basis for maintaining optimum management practices  (Thompson, 2010).  It means understanding what is going on both inside and outside of an organization in order to make better plans and decisions about what to do.  Simply put, strategy is deciding what to do to achieve your goals given what’s going on in the environment around you.  Strategic project management means the same thing; making decisions about actions to take in order to achieve your project goals and objectives in consideration of the environment in which the project is taking place.

Just as in general business activities, the operating environment of a project includes both the internal and external environments.  The internal environment includes everything within the organization; organizational structure, procedures, company culture, and so on.  The external environment is the environment outside of the organization and includes everything from customer tastes to legal restrictions, even the physical environment.

In summary, EEF’s are environmental factors, both internal and external, outside of the control of a project team that can have both positive and negative impacts on project results.  The chances of successfully completing a project are increased by strategically considering EEF’s in managing a project.

 

Addressing EEF’s in Projects

Because every project has at least some EEF’s affecting the outcome, every project manager needs to deal with and address those factors in each project that they manage.  All of the major project management methodologies and approaches have their own prescribed steps for addressing environmental factors, but when looked at as a whole, most of them recommend taking the same three steps: 1) Identifying the factors, 2) assessing them, and 3) planning for them.  Based on experience and best practices, this is also the recommended approach to take in addressing the issue of EFF’s in managing projects.  The overall goal is to strive for having a clear understanding of the project environment in order to be better able to pursue, and achieve, the objectives of the project.

 

Step 1: Identifying Enterprise Environmental Factors

From formal and structured assessments to informal examinations, several different methods exist for identifying EEF’s for every project.  The depth and complexity of each method may vary, but the overall goal is still the same, which is to develop as complete of a listing as possible of potential factors in the project environment beyond the control of the project team which may have effects on the outcome of the project.

Here are a few examples of ways to identify EEF’s in projects

PMI List of EEF’s

The Project Management Institute takes a formal approach to identifying enterprise environmental factors.  The table below examines both internal and external factors to be examined as inputs into various project development and execution stages.

PMTimes_June13_2022

SWOT Analysis

Performing a SWOT analysis is a good way to identify EEF’s in a project.  While it is not a categorical list, as provided by the PMI list mentioned above, it does force a project team to examine elements of both the internal and external project environments.  In doing so, a list of EEF’s emerges and can be identified.

PMTimes_June20_2022

One advantage of using this tool to identify EEF’s is that SWOT analysis is very well known and understood by most people, which makes it much easier to conduct.

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PESTLE Analysis

A more rigorous, but still approachable and usable analysis, is PESTLE.  PESTLE is an acronym standing for six macroenvironmental factors to examine that can be used in performing an industry analysis.

P Political
E Economic
S Social
T Technological
L Legal
E Environmental

 

Just like SWOT, the dimensions of the PESTLE analysis are not a categorical list of environmental factors in itself, but performing the analysis also helps to identify the various EEF’s that will affect a project.

Other Methods

Several other structured methods for market and environmental analysis exist; too many to develop a definitive list.  For market analysis, Five Forces analysis can be useful.  If culture is playing a factor in an international project, cultural dimensions such as those from the Hofstedde Institute or the GLOBE project might be useful.

More important than the tool or framework used to evaluate the project or market environment is the ability to identify the factors and how they might affect the projects chances for success.

 

Step 2: Assess the Identified Factors

With the list of factors in hand, the next step in the process is to asses each one.  The depth of the assessment will strongly depend on the needs of the individual project, but the following list can help to provide a basis for assessment that can be built on as necessary.

Each factor should be identified as internal or external to the organization conducting the project.  This asks the question, are the factors affecting success coming from inside or outside.  Does the identified factor increase or decrease the chance of project success?  This means identifying it as positive or negative. A factor can also be rated as neutral if it is simply an item for consideration in managing the project without any inherent positive or negative direct effect.  Is the factor stable or changing?  Assessing the stability of the factor means to examine if it will remain constant or if it is likely to change during the course of the life of that particular project.  Finally, any additional comments on the impact that factor might have on the project should be noted.

PMTimes_June20_2022

Step 3: Plan for the Factors and their Effects on the Project

Finally, based on the assessment of the identified factors, project managers are in a better position to plan for managing the project in consideration of those factors.  Negative factors can be mitigated as best as possible.  Positive factors can be potentially taken advantage of to increase the changes of project success.  Factors likely to change throughout the lifetime of the project can be scheduled for reassessment as needed.  Other impacts can also be considered as appropriate for each factor.

 

Developing a full understanding of a project environment and considering the potential impacts on project processes and outcomes is an important part of strategic project management.  Projects are unique, and so are the environments in which they operate.  Those environments are also likely to change as time goes on.  The ability to consider the project environment is a tool that every project manager should develop and be able to use.

PMTimes_June13_2022

What Every Project Manager Needs To Know To Create A Powerful Presence On LinkedIn

LinkedIn may not be the “sexiest” channel, but for all Project Managers, you need to have a strong first impression on the world’s largest professional network.

 

LinkedIn now has over 822 million members in over 200 countries, and two new members are joining every second. This is the channel where professionals are not wasting time; they are investing time.

While some people still think that LinkedIn is only important if you’re looking for a new job, it’s a much more powerful network than you probably know.

I like to call LinkedIn “your resume with personality” because it allows you to tell a better professional story than a structured resume.

LinkedIn also acts as a modern-day Rolodex. Instead of having a drawer full of business cards, LinkedIn allows you to keep a database of connections at your fingertips.

It also allows you to showcase yourself as a thought leader by providing the opportunity to share status updates and blog posts.

People are looking at your online profile before they meet with you. What is the first impression they see? Is it professional? Is it up-to-date? If not, you may be missing out on future opportunities.

The four areas you need to focus on are your photo, your headline, your summary, and your skills.

Your Photo

Your image is the first impression people see when they research your profile.

Are you presenting yourself as a confident, competent professional?

I’ve seen many inappropriate images including people who have included photos of their pets, their children, wedding photos and “duck face” selfies, but the worst has to be people who are shirtless!

Investing in a professional headshot is highly recommended, but at the very least, you want to have a photo where you are the only person in the photo, you are smiling and are dressed appropriately.

Since this is the business network, you will want to present yourself as you would at a networking event, meeting or business conference.

Your Headline

By default, LinkedIn includes your current position beside your professional photo, but you can tailor your copy to showcase your expertise in under 120 characters effectively.

If you wear many hats, you can simply use keywords, or you can phrase it as a powerful sentence that highlights what you do and how you help your target audience.

For example:
Business Analyst at ABC Company. Specializing in optimizing strategic goals for the transportation industry.
Or
Project Manager at ABC Company. Optimizing organizational process for the CPG industry.

This is a much more thorough “story” than simply Business Analyst or Project Manager and lets the reader know if you’re an expert in a particular niche.

 

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Your Summary

This is where you let your professional story shine! You have 2,000 characters to effectively tell your connections who you are, what you do and whom your company helps. The copy is truncated, so focus on a strong first sentence that stands out and invites the reader to “see more.”

Write your copy in first person voice (I am) instead of the third person voice (Leslie Hughes is) because it’s more likely to resonate with the reader.

Get on the “same side of the table” as your target audience. What do they want to read about you?

Include your accomplishments (what projects have you been involved in that has made a difference). Highlight some of your proudest moments throughout your career.

If you’re concerned that people will think you’re bragging, then stop right there. LinkedIn is where you’re SUPPOSED to include all your accomplishments, and if you include how proud and passionate you are about what you do, it shows that you’re committed to your industry.

And lastly, make sure you include a call-to-action in your Summary. How can people contact you? Do you prefer to connect via email or phone?

Your Skills

During my LinkedIn training sessions and keynotes, I’m often asked how much LinkedIn Skills matter on your profile, or better yet “Why do people endorse me for skills I haven’t listed?”

I originally thought this section didn’t matter at all, but I’ve come to find that the Skills and Endorsements section not only helps you to rank higher in LinkedIn search results, but it’s very important for when you’re actively pursuing a new career.

According to LinkedIn, members with 5 or more skills listed are contacted (messaged) up to 33x more by recruiters and other LinkedIn members, and receive up to 17x more profile views. Optimize the skills on your own profile – so that your connections can endorse you properly is as follows:

Click on Me > View Profile and then scroll down to the “Skills” block and click on the pencil or “Add a new skill.” Choose from a list of relevant skills you feel fit your skill set.

Focus on the top 3 skills, as these are the ones that appear most prominently (you can feature up to 50 skills on your profile.) Some skills may seem redundant, but the repetition of keywords is important.

You don’t need to spend a lot of time making sure your skills and endorsements are optimized, but they are an important component of your profile so take a few minutes to make sure it’s up-to-date.

Deepen Relationships On LinkedIn By Breaking The Ice With These Conversation Starters

Many of us think that LinkedIn is just a resume site, and it doesn’t have much pizzazz, but this professional networking site has a treasure trove of information about your connections.

Social Media has the word “social” built right into the name, and we often seem to forget that we are connecting with humans, but using technology to facilitate these conversations.

Reaching out to new people and making connections can be overwhelming and intimidating but there are a few ways you can turn a cold call or reaching out, into a warm introduction. Click on the person’s profile and then click on the “Connect” button. You will be invited to customize the invitation with a personal note.

Add in a conversation starter and get connected!

Conversation starter #1: Be sure always to send a personalized connection request to remind the person how you met, or why you want to connect with them. They will be much more likely to accept your request and even engage in two-way dialogue.

Conversation starter #2: If you accept a connection request from someone you don’t know, you may wish to start the conversation this way: “Thanks for reaching out to connect here on LinkedIn. I’d love to know more about your business and how I can help with your career. Can you send me a quick overview of what you do and the target audience you work with?”

Conversation starter #3: If you’re already connected to someone on LinkedIn but want to deepen your relationship with them, comment on their latest status update or share their recent post.

Conversation starter #4: Look at your prospective connection or current connection’s profile. Do you have someone or something in common you can talk about? For example: “Hi Alex. I noticed on your profile that you went to school at the University of Ottawa, I also went to Ottawa U. Small world!”

I challenge you to reach out and connect with about two of your connections per week, whether that’s a new introduction or deepening an existing connection. It’s a great way to keep networking from the comfort of your own desk!

PMTimes_June13_2022

Survey Says – Three Keys To Project Success

As successful project management is integral to thriving in today’s environment, what could be considered a lingering recession or somewhat of a recovery,  the company that can deliver project results with absolute assurance will lead the race.  Since I’ve seen too many businesses with fabulous ideas and limited ability to deliver project results, I thought it would be interesting to conduct a quick survey to find out the top three keys to ensuring success.

 

And the survey says:

  1. Clarity of Goals. There are countless examples of project teams with a confused set of goals.  The executives typically think everything is crystal clear; however, when the rubber meets the road, it has somehow become unclear.   Those who delivered the expected project results had absolute clarity. I’ve found in leading and participating in countless project teams that this is not nearly as easy as it seems, which is most likely the reason most executives cannot understand why the goals have become unclear.   Typically the goals are clear at the start; however, as conflicts arise, the waters cloud up. For example, on one client project, the objective was clear – reduce inventory.  However, during the implementation, conflicts started to arise with supplier reliability, customer requests (outside of agreed-upon service parameters), and space constraints.  Depending upon how each of these conflicts was handled, the project team had a different/altered perception of the project goals. For example, if the executives weren’t willing to discuss supplier reliability with the supplier, the project team altered its perception – reducing the importance of inventory reduction in favor of maintaining the current supplier performance.  On the other hand, if the executives addressed supplier reliability immediately, the project team confirmed its understanding of the importance of the inventory reduction goal.  Further, in this case, depending on whether the supplier conversations were handled in a collaborative or a competitive manner, the project team also altered its understanding of the goal.
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      I’ve seen examples where, even if the supplier didn’t immediately improve upon reliability, if the project team knew it was being addressed (and typically in a collaborative manner) and was considered important by the executives, the same confirmation of the inventory reduction goal occurred.  I’ve been involved with enough inventory projects that I’ve seen each of these situations occur more than once.  Of course, my job as a consultant is to demonstrate the impacts of these types of decisions on the client’s performance, and so this is just the start.
  2.  Ability to Execute.  A unanimous key to success is the ability to execute.  It is amazing how many well-qualified project teams there are that cannot execute.  It is not nearly as easy as it sounds. Execution relates directly back to the organization of the project (how much planning and thought went into who does what, when, how, in what order and why) and hard work.  There are no short cuts.  The devil is in the details. If task A must be completed before task B can begin, and task A is on the critical path, it is vital that the task owner understands the importance of beginning the task on time, communicating roadblocks, and communicating with task B’s owner.  It’s as simple as that.  If you find someone excellent at execution, appreciate him/her!
  3.  Follow Up. Last but not least, follow up.  This is closely tied with execution; however, it was noteworthy enough to warrant a separate item.  Follow up can be the blocking and tackling of following up on project tasks, communicating with project team members, coordinating with other interested or required parties, etc.  And it can also be follow up to clarify project goal confusion and follow up on overcoming roadblocks outside of the core project team’s scope of responsibility. Thus, leadership is essential. Those projects with leaders who are intimately involved in enough of the details of the project to understand the complexities and roadblocks well enough to address them with the appropriate people, succeed.  This often leads to confusion. The project leader doesn’t have to personally perform each of the tasks in order to make this happen; however, the project leader must be involved enough and familiar enough with the details, the critical path and the project team members.  It’s a tricky balance, yet the key to success.

In my survey, these top three keys to success were present in every significant success, and they were present in 80% of those cases with some level of success.  Are you focused on these keys?