Stakeholder Management Strategies

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On occasion, I read a piece that speaks to me.  Recently, it was a post titled The Yellow Brick Road – What Do Your Stakeholders Expect, written by Bas de Baar, an independent project consultant based in the Netherlands.  Bas clearly articulated a story of his youth and aligned it with a stakeholder management strategy.

I loved this piece. If there’s one thing I think project managers and the like need help on, it’s developing stakeholder management strategies. I sometimes sit in meetings, as an observer, to see how the vendor is interacting with the client. Representing the client, I know what makes them anxious and what doesn’t. As the meeting progresses and the client feels they are not being provided enough information, they commonly become very anxious.

In the Yellow Brick Road piece, Bas described fond childhood memories of an annual family vacation.  As part of the planning process, his father wrote detailed driving instructions on how to find their way.  Based on the checkpoints his father had documented, Bas knew how much further they needed to travel to reach the next checkpoint or complete their journey.

Now imagine how much different his memories could have been, if his father hadn’t provided him with those documented checkpoints? Imagine if every time Bas become anxious from the long trip, he had to ask his father how much further they had to go?

I seemingly remember, as a child, doing this every time I got into the car.

How much longer until we’re there?

5 minutes

Put yourself in your stakeholders’ shoes.  Try to align your communications and management strategy with their current perception of the journey.

Graphic: Pictofigo

Performance assessment and drinking Kool-Aid

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This last week, I provided a performance assessment to a subordinate.  Though I understand the necessity, I’m not crazy about doing them.  Regardless of how objective the scoring criteria is, there always seem to be someone who sees the cloud in the silver lining.  The first question I get asked is, “why do we have to do this”?  Let me break out my trusty PMBoK, as if I need the excuse.

Section 9.4.1.3 (page 237) of the PMBoK, it states

the project management team makes ongoing formal or informal assessments of the project team’s performance.  By continually assessing the team’s performance, actions can be taken to resolve issues, modify communication, address conflict, and improve team interaction.

Though I try to be fair and balanced, I understand I sometimes must make uncomfortable and unpopular decisions.  When I completed my scoring, the results were mixed.  In some areas, this person exceeded my expectations.  In others, they fell short.  It was interesting to see the incited response.  “Why didn’t I get a perfect 10!!?”  I calmly responded, because nobody is a perfect 10.  That’s kind of a half-truth.  I do believe in outliers.  But, this person is no outlier.

I went over to the white board and drew a bell curve.  I then tried to explain that my scoring put her roughly in the middle.  There were areas which needed improvement and those were the facts.  Why do some people feel entitled to getting credit when credit is not due?  A percentage of people will exceed and a percentage will fail.  It’s simple probability distribution.

What I didn’t understand was she completely ignored the good rating and focused on the bad.  When push comes to shove, I’m the one doing the assessment.  I do believe I should explain myself.  But after that, people need to focus on themselves.  When I get assessed, I expect honest feedback, so I can do a better job.  There is always room for improvement.  Giving me 10 out of 10 across the board may make me feel good momentarily, but then what?

Don’t think I’m cold and calculated when it comes to dealing with people.  I would love to give everyone good scores, but then what would that say about me?  You’d say I’ve been drinking some strange Kool-Aid.  When people are doing a good job, I tell them.  If people are doing a poor job, I tell them.  If you don’t want an honest answer, don’t ask the question.

Does anyone out there have a recommendation for an objective (versus subjective) performance scoring?  What about ideas to motivate those who do not motivate easily?

My Personal Kanban Story

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A little over a month ago, Agile Zen started following me on Twitter.  They are creators of a very clean web-based kanban solution.  Around the same time, I connected with Jim Benson.  Jim is a collaborative management consultant.  He is the CEO of Modus Cooperandi, a consultancy which combines Lean, Agile Management and Social Media principles to develop sustainable teams.

Personal Kanban

Though I’ve used information radiators like kanbans in the past, I’ve been working in a non-Agile PMO for the last six months and it’s all very foreign to them.  Thanks to reading the works of David Anderson, Jim Benson, and AgileZen, I’m back in the game.  I’m using AgileZen on a daily basis for everything from business deliverables, to an entrepreneurial project, to my wife’s honey-do list.

My actual task completion velocity has noticeably increased in the last month.  I attribute that to AgileZen having a very easy to use product, Jim musing on a daily basis on the topic, and most importantly limiting what I’m working or focused on.

You can read one of Jim’s recent postings [here] You can check out AgileZen [here]

I wish I could thank all of the kanban supporters out there that I follow on a daily basis.  These 3 really have to be mentioned.  If you’re interested in Kanban, look them up.

Free Communications Management Plan Template

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Communications Management PlanI participated in a Communication Working Group session for the PMO today. Imagine a dozen people sitting around a table laughing for 10 minutes, when they realized I had shaved off my goatee. After the excitement subsided, we rolled up our sleeves and got to work. It was really quite refreshing to see how excited everyone was to be there. (We only had 4 people for the prior meeting) Ishikawa diagrams littered the walls and the smell of Scripto markers filled the air.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to have a Communications Management Plan.  Feel free to download my template.  If not, I recommend following the next 7 steps to write your own.

  1. List the project stakeholders and their associated roles and responsibilities
  2. Specify contact information for each stakeholder
  3. For each stakeholder identified, specify the information required to keep stakeholders informed and enable them to fulfill their project roles and responsibilities. Also, specify the timeframe, frequency, or trigger for distribution of the information.
  4. List the information that must be collected, summarized, and reported in order to produce the communication outputs that fulfill the stakeholder information requirements. Specify the associated collection and reporting details.
  5. List each report or document to be produced and distributed as a communication output to fulfill the stakeholder information requirements. Specify the associated distribution, storage, and disposition details.
  6. List and describe the distribution groups that will be used to distribute project information.
  7. Last, define all terms and acronyms required to interpret the Communication Management Plan properly.