Leadership for Project and Executive
People routinely ask me the question, "What do you do when you find yourself on a project that is a hopeless failure?" It was raised again a few weeks ago in a Focus.com roundtable and then last week in an interview with Andy Kaufman. It only matters if the executives above the project are ignorant to how dire the situation is. It is tricky, trying to convince someone that they have a problem when they refuse to acknowledge the obvious—a tough and politically dangerous sell. The general consensus is "dust of the résumé." However, there is a logical approach to the problem—be logical.
People often fail to realize how many actions in work and our personal lives rely on negotiation. It could be negotiating a raise, setting up conditions about using a resource, determining a task's scope, or adjusting a delivery date. We do some form of negotiation daily. Even though we learn to negotiate at just about the same time that we learn to communicate, we rarely understand the science and art behind it. By establishing a process around negotiation, we maximize our chances for success. A process ensures that we understand the wants and needs of the person on the other side of the table.
Leadership is more than leading the people reporting to you. Too often, you need to lead people over which you lack any authority. The absence of hierarchical advantage adds a challenge, but is ideal training on how to deal with managers, customers, and difficult people. The key is making them feel the direction chosen is theirs. One of the best methods of doing this is storytelling.
In many years of recovering failing projects, I have found a few management actions whose rationale seem completely absurd. Regardless of my efforts, I am unable to understand or dissuade them from their decisions. These decisions either precipitate the failure or greatly exacerbate the project's dilemma. Regardless, due to management's level of shear desperation, they can only be classified as stupid decisions. If there were the Darwin awards for management, these would qualify.
From years of experience in recovering red projects, I estimate that only a third of all problems that affect red projects are actually on the project; the other two-thirds are in the surrounding organizations. Poor policies and procedures or lack of commitment by the customer, vendor, integrator, or organization overshadows problems on the project. Unfortunately, project managers do not have the authority, or even the influence, to address these issues. Their only course of action to complete the project successfully is to band-aid the problem. This must change if companies are going to quickly and accurately implement business initiatives.
Reading an article the other day, the author was lamenting on how Project Managers were under educated and needed to know more about earned values analysis, risk probability determination, finite schedule development and other tools that make a Project Manager great. She was arguing that certifications, like PMI's PMP® certification, needed to have more testing on those subjects.
One cornerstone of leadership is our personality traits. Leaders need to develop and hone nine core traits—accountability, ethics, inspiration, decisiveness, awareness, empathy, confidence, focus, and humility—to ensure they can lead a diverse workforce. This session is a deep dive into these traits using a roundtable discussion format—the audience voices their opinions of what the trait is and the presenter moderates the discussion and giving guidance on what the trait means in a business setting. This highly interactive format session is called a "What Would You Do?" style. In this session, 5 to 10 minutes is spent talking about what trait, what the trait means, and hearing from the group on how they have would exhibit the trait. This brings significant audience interaction, involvement, and broader education.
eCameron took a serious look at project sponsorship by conducting a series on non-scientific interviews. Initially the focus was the healthcare industry. As patterns started to emerge, however, others outside of that industry expressed serious interest. To address that interest and better understand the larger issue we expanded the interviews to outside healthcare. Candid and confidential interviews were conducted with project related personnel including executives, sponsors, project managers, and Project Management Office (PMO) managers. In summary:
- Sponsorship is an issue in all business domains.
- Good sponsorship is an essential component in creating successful projects.
- Many issues are pervasive across industries.
- Sponsors need to work with project managers to design a successful project outcome.
- Sponsor roles are neither properly defined nor supported.
This white paper presents the results of the research and highlights areas where organizations need to improve to change their project success rates.
Months ago, maybe over a year, now, I was blasted for talking about innovation in the context of information technology (IT) projects. The gist of the complaint was that all IT folks think they are building some new groundbreaking, revolutionary application that requires the latest in technology's tools. I agreed with his argument, qualifying that although this seems to be a pervasive theme, IT is a discipline that needs to keep one-foot in the pioneering frontier. Regardless, I had to concede that many innovative initiatives are more about a technician playing with some new toy. Jobs like implementing ERP interfaces to manufacturing execution systems (MES) only sound new. Unfortunately, I must say, "been there done that." Most IT is neither new of innovative. To avoid squandering funds, executives must understand and direct what needs to be innovative and permeate the company's culture with that knowledge. Otherwise, the wasted time and expense will suck a company dry.
Leaders make decisions. This requires a core set of actions to gather the best information, hear out the concerns of others, and making a decision that everyone will follow—even if there is not unanimous agreement with the decision. Although there are hundreds of actions leaders must take, there are four core actions that all great leaders do—listening, dialog and discussion, selling a vision, and eliminating blame. This session will discuss those actions in a roundtable format that we call a "What Would You Do?" session. In these sessions, the presenter acts as a moderator spending 10 to 15 minutes per topic working with the audience talking about what the action is, how to best do it, and hearing from the group on how they have carried out the action. This brings significant audience interaction, involvement, and broader education.