Brighton School of Business and Management February 2012 Student Newsletter
Contributions from you, our students, are very welcome. if you have information, advice, website links, or ideas, that may be of help to other students, please send them to us.
Personal & Career Development – Tip of the Month
The tip this month is a simple, but important one.
As illustrated by the message in the Theme, below, most roles, jobs, positions, at all levels in organisations of all kinds, have many similar essential requirements in terms of knowledge, understanding, and expertise.
As the demands of employers, customers, and clients increase, and as organisations search for more ways to reduce costs, and to streamline and integrate their activities, so the demands on individuals and managers increase at the same pace.
Individuals at all levels, and in all roles, are now expected to have multiple skills and a wide range of knowledge of most business areas.
Our Tip of the Month is, therefore, that to build a successful career it is now essential to show evidence of possessing that wide range, rather than only a single area, of expertise.
To achieve that, it is necessary to look at complementary areas of expertise, such as found in project management, quality management, and other specialist areas, and to learn from them and add that expertise to your own portfolio of knowledge.
Our tutor team strongly recommends that managers at all levels build the study of complementary areas of expertise into their professional development action plan.
February Theme – Project Management
Due to the substantial interest – from our students in many different roles and businesses – generated by last year’s newsletter on Project Management, we are returning to it in this issue.
Links to Management in general
However, although the focus is on the role of the project manager, the articles and information shown here should be of interest to all our students, because, with the exception of a few specific tools and techniques, the role and responsibilities of a project manager, and the areas of knowledge, understanding, and expertise needed, are, in essence, those needed by most middle and senior managers, in most organisations and most business sectors.
The Role of the Project Manager in Maintaining Motivation and Morale
In difficult business and economic times, such as we are currently experiencing due to the recession, most project teams are faced with ever-shrinking budgets and ever-increasing demands to do more with less.
In such an environment it can be very difficult to maintain the morale of individuals and teams. As project managers, how do we maintain (or if necessary, rebuild) morale in our teams? It’s a vital part of the job; without it, we are facing a project disaster. But it is no easy feat at a time when resources are tired, frustrated, concerned for their own future and fed up of hearing the same old stuff about how important they are to the success of the project.
Now is the time to cash in the goodwill from the “good times”
If you are fortunate enough to have been working with at least some of your team members for a while, then they will have seen how you lead them when things were better. They will know that you are not just regurgitating outdated platitudes now, but that you genuinely do appreciate their efforts and the commitment that they make to the projects that they work on. You can’t survive simply on your reputation as a good leader, but neither should you underestimate the power of a good reputation.
Of course the same can be said for a bad reputation, so be prepared to deal with that as well! But none of that helps us now–regardless of how we acted before – we are now facing a crisis of commitment in a bad economy, so let’s focus on that.
As a PM, your relationship with your team needs to be based on trust and respect–that’s not news. But for that trust and respect to exist there needs to be a fundamental acceptance by the team that you know what you are doing and can lead the team through the project. That requires you to acknowledge what is going on and not act like nothing is wrong.
When project teams are suffering because of increased workloads or an employer that is making cutbacks, then that will inevitably impact team member motivation. For you to pretend that is not the case–and to expect them to be upbeat and highly engaged at all times–is to ignore what is happening and will lead to a loss of respect for you and a further reduction in the willingness of the team to go the extra mile to make the project successful.
You need to acknowledge what is happening and the way that it is making people feel, and you also need to allow people the time and space to deal with that in their own way. You may well be feeling the same way yourself, and that’s okay. But you can’t allow it to affect the way that you manage the project. You have to help the team to avoid allowing their feelings to impact the project.
Focus on controlling what you can
In any job there are a lot of things that are completely beyond our control from a corporate standpoint (reorganizations, mergers, etc.) as well as major changes or cancellation of our projects. It’s natural to be concerned about these (especially in a difficult economy), but we need to ensure that we help our team to focus on what they can control.
It’s a cliché, but still true: the best thing you can do to secure your position is to do as good a job as possible on the tasks assigned to you. There’s no guarantee that bad things won’t happen, but by demonstrating individual worth each employee is doing the best that they can to secure their position.
As the project manager, you need to help the team to stay focused on their work and help them to make the connection between their work and their security. Don’t be naïve–I have heard PMs tell people that they don’t need to worry about losing their job because they are a “high performer”. That sets unrealistic expectations; quality of work/performance is only one factor that goes into deciding who has to leave when downsizing occurs.
Also avoid giving your team members the wrong focus–I have seen project managers try to motivate employees by telling them that they are being watched by senior management and if they impress them then they will be okay. That gives people the wrong motivation–they are focused on looking good rather than on doing the best job that they can, and that can lead to finger pointing and attempts to “put one over” on colleagues.
Instead, provide regular evidence to your team that the work that they are doing is important. Help them to make the connection between their tasks and the overall project–and then the connection between the success of the project and the success of the organization. This will help team members to retain (or rebuild) their sense of belonging to the organization, of doing something that is adding value. It will provide them something substantive to focus on rather than be distracted by concerns over their future.
This is not simply a case of telling them that they are doing important work–prove it. The project is build (or should be built) with each piece of work tied back to one or more deliverables. In turn, those deliverables are tied to one or more objectives for the project. By showing that connection to a team member you can give someone with a relatively small set of tasks a very significant reason for their involvement in the project–by connecting the dots for them, you provide tangible evidence that they are vital to the initiative’s success.
Focus on creating a secure and stable environment
Even if you can successfully achieve all of the above, the team morale will be fragile. The smallest setback on the project can cause serious concern among team members and destroy any progress that you have made. It is important that you maintain a “climate of calm” on the project–eliminating as much drama as possible and playing down issues that arise. Don’t pretend that issues don’t exist (that’s back to ignoring reality), but have an upbeat, solutions-focused attitude to dealing with them (it really does make a difference!).
While it may seem an odd statement, you should also try to avoid letting the team get too excited about small successes. It can be tempting to clutch at any achievement and celebrate it, but that can backfire in a number of ways–a let-down afterward, a sense that it is a “fake” celebration, etc.
In this environment, you really are acting as a shock absorber for the team–absorbing the ups and downs of the project while providing the team members with a stable and predictable environment in which to perform their tasks
Let’s not kid ourselves–the economy recently has, to use a technical term, “sucked”. To pretend otherwise is to deny reality (see above!), and we can’t expect that our team members will always be highly motivated and inspired to give everything that they have and more. That may be what’s required, but everyone is experiencing increased stress, increased work, reduced job security, reduced career prospects, etc. People are in survival mode right now, and they need stability and security above everything else (it’s Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in practice).
As project managers, we are probably feeling the same way–we have seen colleagues lose their jobs, we are being asked to meet seemingly impossible deadlines and we are dealing with stakeholders who are becoming more and more unreasonable (because they are going through the same thing). It’s important that we are able to separate our feelings from what is needed to deliver the project successfully and help our team members (and stakeholders) do the same.
Is it fair that we have to help everyone else to do that when there is no one to help us? No, but that’s the job!
* from an article by Andy Jordan at www.gantthead.com
Stakeholder Analysis – Winning Support For Your Projects
Stakeholder Management is an important discipline that successful project managers use to win support from others. It helps them ensure that their projects succeed where others fail.
Stakeholder Analysis is the technique used to identify the key people who have to be won over. You then use Stakeholder Planning to build the support that helps you succeed.
The purpose of Stakeholder Analysis is to identify who your stakeholders are. It is essential to understand their power, influence and interest, so you know who you should focus on. With this knowledge you can then develop a good understanding of the most important stakeholders so that you know how they are likely to respond, and so that you can work out how to win their support.
Gaining support from powerful stakeholders can help you to win more resources – this makes it more likely that your projects will be successful.
By communicating with stakeholders early and frequently, you can ensure that they fully understand what you are doing and understand the benefits of your project – this means they can support you actively when necessary.
The stages of Stakeholder Analysis are explained below:
Identify Your Stakeholders
The first step in your stakeholder analysis is to brainstorm who your stakeholders are. As part of this, think of all the people who are affected by your work, who have influence or power over it, or have an interest in its successful or unsuccessful conclusion.
The table below shows some of the people who might be stakeholders in your job or in your projects:
|Senior executives||Alliance partners||Trades associations|
|Your co-workers||Suppliers||The press|
|Your team||Lenders||Interest groups|
|Prospective customers||Future recruits||The community|
Remember that although stakeholders may be both organizations and people, ultimately you must communicate with people. Make sure that you identify the correct individual stakeholders within a stakeholder organization.
Prioritize Your Stakeholders
You may now have a long list of people and organizations that are affected by your work. Some of these may have the power either to block or advance. Some may be interested in what you are doing, others may not care.
For example, your boss is likely to have high power and influence over your projects and high interest. Your family may have high interest, but are unlikely to have power over it.
Someone’s position on the grid shows you the actions you have to take with them:
High power, interested people: these are the people you must fully engage and make the greatest efforts to satisfy.
- High power, less interested people: put enough work in with these people to keep them satisfied, but not so much that they become bored with your message.
- Low power, interested people: keep these people adequately informed, and talk to them to ensure that no major issues are arising. These people can often be very helpful with the detail of your project.
- Low power, less interested people: again, monitor these people, but do not bore them with excessive communication.
Understand Your Key Stakeholders
You now need to know more about your key stakeholders. You need to know how they are likely to feel about and react to your project. You also need to know how best to engage them in your project and how best to communicate with them.
Key questions that can help you understand your stakeholders are:
- What financial or emotional interest do they have in the outcome of your work?
- Is their interest positive or negative?
- What is their objective?
- What information do they want from you?
- How do they want to receive information from you?
- What is the best way of communicating your message to them?
- What is their current opinion of your work and is it based on good information?
- Who influences their opinions generally, and who influences their opinion of you?
- Do some of these influencers therefore become important stakeholders in their own right?
- If they are not likely to be positive, what will win them around to support your project?
- If you don’t think you will be able to win them around, how will you manage their opposition?
- Who else might be influenced by their opinions, and should those people be recognised as stakeholders in their own right
A very good way of answering these questions is to talk to your stakeholders directly – people are often quite open about their views, and asking people’s opinions is often the first step in building a successful relationship with them.
Stakeholder Management is the process by which you identify your key stakeholders and win their support. Stakeholder Analysis is the first stage of this where you identify and gain an understanding of the needs and objectives of your most important stakeholders.
This information can then be used to manage each stakeholder individual or group appropriately, in order to satisfy their needs and maintain their support and contribution to the project.
* from an article by Rachel Thompson at www.mindtools.com
Learning How to Avoid Project Failure
Tutor Team Note: Although this article is about Project Failure and how to avoid it, the points made and the advice given here can be applied to most activities and events in most organisations in most business sectors.
For example, where the “sponsor” is mentioned, that can be replaced by “senior management support”, and where “business case” is mentioned, that can be replaced with “strategies and objectives”.
Definition of Project Failure
A project is considered a failure when it has not delivered what was required and-or not in line with final expectations.
Therefore, in order to succeed, a project must deliver to cost, to quality, and on time; and it must deliver the benefits presented in the business case.
Reasons for Project Failure
Here are some of the main reasons why projects fail:
The wrong business requirements have been addressed
If your project is set up to deliver the “wrong thing,” it may be considered a failure even if everything is delivered on time, within budget, and to the required quality. This seems harsh. But if your project doesn’t deliver what the organization really needs, this will inevitably negatively affect how it’s perceived. This is why it’s so important to conduct a thorough business requirements analysis.
It’s not possible to deliver the business case
If your business case can’t be delivered, then you have an impossible task. To make things worse, after the business case is approved, delivery of other things then becomes dependent on your project. This makes changing your project’s deadlines, budgets and expectations more difficult.
For example, once you’ve promised to deliver a new airport baggage management system, airlines may schedule additional flights for shortly after the system’s launch, so that they can take advantage of the new capacity. If the baggage system doesn’t work, or if it has major problems during testing, it may be hard to convince senior managers to allow the project to be delayed, because they will have to give up promised increased revenue.
When you write your business case, make sure you think through the project requirements in detail, and identify what’s needed to ensure that you can deliver those requirements. Don’t just list assumptions – make sure you explore them thoroughly. Review other, similar projects, so that you don’t forget any major items. If you’re delivering a new system, review your hardware and interface requirements. If you have major risks, include sufficient contingency resources (people, budget, and time) to manage those risks appropriately. Remember that implementing change is hard!
In many cases, business case documentation is written before a project manager is assigned. If you’re the incoming project manager, make sure you don’t simply accept these documents as they are!
You’re responsible for delivering the project, so be sure to review the business case. Validate assumptions, and identify any gaps or areas that need more detail. If difficult conversations are needed, have them now. Once deadlines, requirements, and budgets are set, expectations are much more difficult to change!
Governance is poor
Few projects ever start without a sponsor. This is the person who has identified the need for change in an area of the business, and who is committed to making that change happen. He or she plays a vital role in ensuring the project’s success. A good sponsor can make a mediocre project fantastic, and a poor sponsor can delay and frustrate a fantastic project team.
The project sponsor is supported by the project’s governance bodies, usually in the form of a steering group.
These governance roles are essential: they provide direction, guidance, and critical review of the project and its progress. As project manager, you’re involved in the day-to-day running of the project, but governance groups can take a step back and look at the project from a different perspective. They can ask difficult questions about progress and performance. They may see things that you’ve overlooked. However, they can also support you by providing contacts and insights that help you get things done, and by providing “political cover” when you need it.
Project managers don’t usually have any influence over who their project sponsor is. Sponsors either self-select, or they’re chosen because of their position in the organization. However, you often have more influence over who is in your steering group. As such, if you know that your project sponsor lacks passion for the project, or if the sponsor doesn’t like to say no to people who keep trying to expand the project scope, then make sure you balance this with tougher or more engaged steering group members.
Implementation is poor
If you deliver your project competently, you’ll avoid poor implementation – right? Unfortunately, it’s not that clear. Delivery can be complex. You need to manage risks, issues, and scope; manage your team; and communicate with stakeholders.
Delivering change is hard, and not everything is in your control. Therefore, being competent isn’t enough for good implementation, but it’s a good start! There are a lot of tools available to help you.
People lose focus on the project’s benefits
Projects are based on a list of benefits that must be delivered. For example, you may need a faster customer service process, you may need to produce products more cheaply, or you may need to improve the quality of your service. These benefit statements should be refined so that they’re clear, concise, and quantified.
The project team then focuses on detailed planning, and on delivering the line items in the project plan – building a new system, developing training packs, mapping out new processes, and so on. At this stage, the team may forget about the benefit requirements.
This often results in a project deliverable that’s well built, but doesn’t provide the necessary benefits. For example, if the project plan focuses on designing and building a system, you could get a fantastic system, but one that’s not being used by the business.
To avoid this problem, adopt a benefits management approach throughout the life of the project, and remember the need to deliver the required benefits when you’re planning and delivering your project.
The business environment changes
This is probably the trickiest area. If the business’s needs change, then your business case can become outdated before you’ve actually completed the project. You may have to review your original requirements and goals partway through the project to decide how to proceed, and this may result in changing the scope of your project – or even cancelling the project altogether!
If you’re working in an environment that’s changing fast, you can help reduce the risks by doing the following:
Making timely decisions – If the project is clearly not going to be able to deliver the revised requirements, don’t ignore this. The sooner you communicate this, and the sooner you make a decision about the project’s future, the better.
Considering smaller projects – It’s more difficult to change direction in a large cruise ship than in a tugboat. So, think about whether a proposed project’s scope and delivery timeline are appropriate within your business environment. Delivering projects in smaller pieces is not always appropriate, but it’s worth considering.
For a project to be successful, it’s not enough simply to manage your project competently, and deliver a good quality product.
To avoid failure, make sure you have identified the right business requirements, created an achievable business case, put strong project governance into place, managed a high-quality implementation, focused on benefits, and monitored your changing environment.
Above all, be sure to manage the expectations of your stakeholders, so that they stay supportive. After all, these are the people who will declare your project to be successful – or otherwise.
* adapted from an article on www.mindtools.com
Professional Development for Project Managers
All professionals, at all levels, must continuously develop their knowledge, understanding, and expertise, in order to maintain their present positions and to enable them to progress in their careers.
For project managers, the basic project management skills are a given, and this article assumes that you have that basic foundation of planning, communication, risk management and others.
Here we focus on a small group of knowledge areas which we feel are critical to the role of the project manager, and which need to be continuously developed.
You can never have too much communications training–it’s such a fundamental skill for project managers, who need to communicate effectively with their teams, clients, suppliers, and a wide range of other stakeholders.
Time spent advancing your ability to communicate efficiently and effectively is never wasted. It’s also training that is never complete–communication truly needs lifelong learning.
The cause of failure for many projects can be traced back to a failure to identify and/or manage one or more risks appropriately. There are very few organizations which truly master project risks, so we would always encourage people to improve their risk management skills.
This needs to include training on how to identify and recognize risks, how to plan for them and build in contingency, how to manage the risks and how to respond when risks become reality. This can be a little more difficult than communication training because it needs to dovetail the concepts with the processes, procedures, tools and templates that are used by your organization. However, a strong understanding of the concepts applies regardless of the mechanics that your employer uses.
Planning and Scheduling
This is clearly one of the core skills that project managers need, but it may also be something that has clearly established processes within your organization, and you may have project schedulers available to you for extremely complex project scheduling activities.
Regardless, skills development in this area is critical, as it is the foundation stone on which the operational phase of a project is built. An in depth understanding of scheduling tools and techniques, such as work breakdown structures, network charting, and critical path analysis, is essential.
A sound understanding of the principles of Quality Management is critical to all project managers. In addition, the project manager must be familiar with systems such as ISO9000, ISO14001, Business Excellence Model BEM-EFQM, Investors in People IIP, and if working in a Charity or Not-for-Profit organisation, then PQASSO also.
Without this understanding the project manager will not be able to effectively manage the quality assurance and quality control aspects of the project, and as a result the project will not be successful.
Although change control is an ever-present feature of the project manager’s role at the operational level, a wider awareness of the impact of change is now a necessity. Reactive and proactive changes made in the wider organisation and its external environment, such as changes of strategy, structural changes, cultural changes, changes in customer-user profiles, and legislative changes, will all have an impact on the operational activity, including any projects which are underway or planned.
Management and Leadership
In today’s complex business environment it is no longer sufficient to have narrow, specialist expertise only. All managers at all levels, including those managing projects, are expected to have a wide range of management and leadership skills that they can apply appropriately to the many diverse situations, events, and issues that they are required to respond to.
A sound understanding of the theories and models of management and leadership is now as essential as expertise in the application of project management tools and techniques.
A Personal Gap Analysis
The range of skills (awareness, knowledge, understanding, expertise) demanded of today’s project manager is wide and diverse.
To ensure that you are equipped with these essentials, it is necessary to establish which of them is currently missing, or needs to be improved on, and then plan and take positive action to fill the gaps which have been identified.
Project Management and Related Qualifications
In the UK there is a range of project management qualifications, at Foundation, Professional Specialist, Postgraduate and Masters’ level, and a wide range of short courses and workshops available in most cities.
Here at Brighton School of Business and Management we offer the:
Diploma in Project Management Level 4 – suitable for project team members and others interested in project management
Advanced Diploma in Project Management L6 – designed for experienced project specialists and project managers
Higher National Diploma HND in Business Management, Business Finance, Business Marketing, and Business Human Resources – all of which contain Project Management and Quality Management units
Diploma in Events Management L5 – which has a major project management theme as the events industry utilizes project management tools and techniques in its approach
Diploma in Management and Leadership L5 – which contains units on Project Management and Managing Change
Study Resources of the Month
Dr Paul Gardiner: Project Management: A Strategic Planning Approach – Palgrave MacMillan, 2011
John Hayes: The Theory and Practice of Change Management – Palgrave MacMillan, 2010
Evans & Lindsay: The Management and Control of Quality – South Western College, 2010
Vicky Billingham: Project Management: How to Plan and Deliver a Successful Project – Studymates, 2008
Quotes from the Gurus
“Operations keeps the lights on, strategy provides a light at the end of the tunnel, but project management is the train engine that moves the organization forward” – Joy Gumz
“A project without a critical path is like a ship without a rudder” – D. Meyer
“Nobody can explain exactly how Honda is organized, except that it uses lots of project teams and is very flexible” – Kenichi Ohmae
“Do not simply repeat the tactics which have gained you your last victory. Learn from your mistakes and then let your methods be regulated by the variety of circumstances you will face in the future” – Sun Tzu
Useful Study Links
In keeping with this month’s theme, here are some websites that have articles and newsletters related to project management: