I’ve read The Feedback Imperative by Anna Carroll recently and something stuck out for me. I know that giving project team members feedback is important – that was hardly a revelation from the book. But Carroll did talk about why we don’t offer feedback and it got me thinking. Project teams thrive on knowing what is working and what isn’t; it’s the way we get better at delivering projects and why we spend so much time doing post-implementation reviews and talking to project customers. So what would cause us not to give feedback? Here are 4 reasons that Carroll discusses in her book.
1. Lack of support
This is probably a major one for most project managers. The lack of support when it comes to providing feedback manifests itself in several ways. Perhaps you don’t have a good role model – you never get feedback from your manager so you are not sure what it should look like. Perhaps feedback is actively discouraged, or there is not a culture of calling out people on their mistakes. Maybe no one bothers to celebrate success around you so if you do it there is a risk that it looks insincere. It could be as simple as that you don’t have enough time to prepare feedback so you can’t give it properly and therefore choose not to do it at all. Read more »
What do you really need to know in order to be a great project manager? A paper in the Project Management Journal* has gone into this in a lot of detail, and analysed the Project Management Competency Development (PMCD) framework with the aim of identifying whether project managers are developing their skills in the right areas – the areas that employers actually want. The whole thing revolves around an understanding of what makes a project manager competent, in other words, whether they are capable of doing a good job.
I’m curious to know whether I am doing a good job and what makes up the competency framework that would dictate whether I can be assessed as doing a good job, so let’s take a look at the framework in more detail.
The PMCD framework, according to the researchers, covers three main dimensions of competency for project managers: knowledge, performance and personal.
- Ownership issues
- Technology issues
- Timing issues.
This week I want to look at three further reasons why your project might not see the benefits that were predicted in the business case. Let’s get started.
1. Capacity for change
Timing of a project is one thing – you can’t expect to implement a project when a department is going through another massive change and still get the same results as if you did it at a time when things were quieter and they were focused 100% on your initiative. Capacity for change is slightly different and relates more to an individual’s ability to get on with working in a new way.
Without the appropriate support and training, users will not adopt new ways of working and therefore won’t be able to deliver the expected level of benefits. This is hardly news, but sometimes the knock on implications for benefits are overlooked. Training focuses more on how to complete tasks ‘the new way’ and not about why they are doing it this way and what benefit that brings to the company.
You’ll also have to deal with people who are resistant to change, regardless of how much training and support they are offered.
Actions to address this:
- Project plan should include adequate training for users.
- Project plan should include an adequate support period after project has gone live.
- Communications plan and stakeholder management plan should address how to deal with employees resistant to change.
However positive your project sponsor when the project starts, sometimes organisational culture simply gets in the way of a good result. There are several things at play here. Often the business focus is on driving down costs and not on achieving value. In other words, spending money on training may be seen as an unnecessary investment but in reality it will significantly contribute to the delivery of value (and, of course, everyone needs to agree on what ‘value’ is).
Keep the project culture positive by sharing quick wins, and putting in place a good communication plan so that everyone can see how the project is working towards delivering benefits. Make value and benefits part of the regular project messages. This has the added advantage of helping people see that those business case targets are achievable, and this is a good way to win round the sceptics.
Actions to address this:
- Communications plan should cover positive messages and bringing on board local champions to help build a positive culture around the project.
Sometimes project benefits don’t get delivered because the data is wrong, or flawed. This can happen at the point of business case creation, for example using incorrect assumptions to calculate predicted future sales, or during the project, or afterwards. I’m sure you have seen this too: business cases put together based on information that is difficult (or impossible) to measure and then teams tasked with ‘proving’ that the project has been a success.
Good data starts at the beginning of the project with the business case, and as a project manager you may not be involved at this point. However, you can review the business case once you are assigned to the project and put tasks on your plan to ratify the data and ensure that you are still on track to deliver the agreed benefits.
Talk to your project sponsor about how they intend to report on project benefits later and then you can build in a mechanism for them to do this. For example, if they intend to report on new sales as a result of your marketing campaign, your project needs to include tasks to enable the marketing campaign to be linked to new sales and a report produced showing how many sales were generated as a direct result. You’d use something like a campaign code for this – it’s a very simple example but it helps illustrate my point and you can see how that would translate into appropriate data and reporting for whatever it is that your project is delivering. Even if these reports are not used during the project you can (and should) build in the functionality now.
Your PMO team may have more insight into how to get the project data to be as accurate and reliable as possible so that it is of use for management decisions. Don’t be afraid to draw on their expertise, especially if you have concerns that your benefits look unrealistic.
Actions to address this:
- Project plan should include regular reviews of business case to ensure project is on track to deliver against stated benefits
- Project plan should include tasks to deliver appropriate management information tools/data to help benefit identification and reporting later on.
Hopefully your projects haven’t suffered from difficulties identifying, recording and reporting benefits, but if they have in the past you can use these pointers and actions to avoid that situation in the future.
Do you have any tips for successful project benefits realisation? If so, let us know by leaving a comment in the section below.
Managing projects is already a complex balancing act that must consider scope, resources, and production while attempting to maintain unity and focus across the project team. For global projects, these difficulties are amplified. And though entering foreign markets has become more nuanced for brands, the Great Recession of 2008 only increased the appeal of developing markets, ensuring that global projects, and therefore global teams, will continue to become more common.
But expanding into new markets or harnessing the expertise of globally-based personnel is far from simple. Let’s examine strategies in three major categories for managing global teams.
The first step is choosing who will lead the project, and who will provide additional, supporting leadership. Depending on the importance of locality it may be best to appoint a local executive with strong management capabilities. Flying in a manager from your global headquarters can undermine the authority of your local employees, who have valuable insight into the regional markets and expectations of the regional staff. On the other hand, a trusted leader from your main office may facilitate greater communication between the local office and your main base.
The importance of time zones can’t be overstated, and need to be taken into account on all project decisions, even when selecting which employees to train. Employees who aren’t comfortable with flexible (and sometimes inconvenient) meeting times, or other collaborative tasks, will not make good candidates for the project.
To ensure that every member of the global team feels adequately engaged, it’s important to schedule time to communicate outside of just email or instant messaging. A face to face meeting may not be possible due to costs, but even having a regular phone conversation can do wonders for moral.
The most difficult part of managing teams on a global scale is undoubtedly culture. While prior training in cultural norms should be a prerequisite, preparation doesn’t guarantee that everything will run smoothly. Employees from different cultures may have varying opinions about work requirements, or even about neighboring cultures that they may be asked to work with.
The best way to navigate this tricky territory is clear communication and expectations. While work standards may vary between cultures, if the project manager institutes an honest environment with clear expectations, there will be no confusion during the project about what standards need to be met.
Since it’s a given that global teams will be remote, choosing the right project management software is paramount. Global projects require greater collaboration, which can be facilitated by software platforms with powerful teamwork features.
For example, instead of relying on email for document sharing, consider implementing a PM system that allows users to create private wiki-pages around specific elements of the project. This establishes a knowledge base that’s more easily accessible and controllable than storing information in disparate files on a hard drive, through various Google docs, or at worst in an email client with thousands of other messages.
Additionally, video conferencing or built-in instant messaging can bridge the gap between countries and culture by making collaboration more intuitive. Time tracking capabilities are also useful when working with remote contributors, because it adds a level of transparency across the project team, eliminating any confusion over time zones.
Software considerations should also extend to verticals: is there software developed to fit the specific requirements of your industry? Usability plays a large role in the effectiveness of the PM software, and if your industry has specific workflow patterns you’ll want to replicate those inside your program. If the software isn’t intuitive to implement and compelling in its functionality, then company adoption will be low.
Managing global projects demands an ability to deal with complex tasks and a masterful understanding of communication and culture. However, technology plays a critical role in managing projects of this scope, so developing standards around which applications should be used and how information should be stored is critical. Selecting a strong project management platform can help alleviate many of these headaches.
The only reason we do projects is to get some kind of benefit for our companies. That might be the right to stay in business (as would happen if you were working on a legal/compliance/regulatory project or something similar) or a financial or other commercial benefit. Without benefits, there isn’t much point in doing projects.
I think everyone realises this, so apologies for stressing the point. What I want to look at today is what barriers you might face when trying to get those benefits in the business case turned into something tangible and useful for your company.
I understand that traditionally project managers haven’t had much to do with benefits realisation. This has been seen as the role of the programme manager, or a business change or operational manager. But I think this is a narrow-minded view of what the project manager can do. And a lot of issues with benefits realisation start with the project’s delivery phase. You have to build in the ability to get the benefits while the project is taking shape. And who better to do that than the project manager?
Let’s look at some reasons why projects don’t get the benefits that are predicted and what you can do about them. Read more »