Identify Stakeholders (& Zombies)

The Program Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) would have you Identify Stakeholders at the crossroads of the Initiating process group and the Communications knowledge area.  Basically, what the Project Management Institute (PMI) is trying to say is you should be identifying all of the people who are somehow related to the project.  Who holds a stake in the success or failure of your project?  You should complete this activiy at the beginning of your project lifecycle. This isn't bad advise.  It doesn't matter if you're a Project Management Professional (PMP) or an Agile practitioner.  The idea here is to lower the risk of having someone, who may be for or against your project, from disrupting things.  You have to accept that everyone has different and unique motivations.  Know your sponsor, product owner, stakeholders...zombies.  Zombies!?  Of course.  Once you identify everyone even remotely associated with your project, try to understand their motivations so you will be able to build relationships.  But look out for the zombies.  They won't listen to you and just do what they want.  Don't pass judgement on them.  Zombies are zombies.  They're going to do whatever they want and you and everyone else is just going to have to deal with it.

Today I was in a meeting with a zombie.  Everyone in the meeting appeared to have the same opinion of the topic at hand. Everyone, that is, but the zombie.  The topic itself really isn't important.  But it was basically a room of people against one zombie.  You may start to ask yourself what the zombie must be thinking.  Seriously, it's an exercise in futility.  Just make sure you know who they are early on and make some contingency plans.

So, remember kids, identify stakeholders (and zombies) early in your project.  Start building relationships with the people.  Find out what motivates them.  Know who are the zombies!  Take appropriate action, either by buying large quantities of plywood to board up doors and windows to the office or get some brain flavored mints.  If you can't keep the zombie away, the least you can do is freshen their breath.

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Red PM Pill vs. Blue PM Pill

Due to a wicked sinus infection, I wasn't at the client site for several days.  I found myself taking pill after pill, trying to get myself back to a condition where I could return to the program and really be effective.  I think I took every colored pill under the rainbow.  I chuckled to myself as I took a blue pill, as I thought about the movie The Matrix. In a memorable scene, the character Neo is faced with a decision.  By taking a blue pill, he could continue believing what he wanted to believe.  By doing so, he was ignoring reality.  The one who was giving him an opportunity of enlightenment was Morpheus.

Morpheus: This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill - you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.

Welcome to the world of project management, Morpheus.  I've learned over time, which of my stakeholders to give the red pill to and which to give the blue pill to.  To be truthful, many don't even want you to offer them a pill.  It's my job to support and advise stakeholders related to the program.  It's not my job to tell a stakeholder which pill to take.

When managing stakeholders, you really need to understand their motivations and expectations.  Not all stakeholders want the program or project to succeed.  Of the ones who do want the program to succeed, I've witnessed complete polar opposites of figurative pill popping.  On one side of the spectrum, I've dealt with a stakeholder who wanted to know every little detail of what was going on with a project.  This micro-manager almost choked on his red pills.  On the complete other side of the spectrum, I've had a stakeholder who showed up for a project charter meeting, swallow the blue pill, and just let everything take its course.

For those in the middle, there is a bit of a punchline.  Mix both a red pill and blue pill and you get a purple pill.  "Purple Pill" is a trademark for a heartburn medication, which is exactly what you'll need at some point of a project.

So, I'm back in the office today.  I sat in a meeting with 50 other people and listened to a monthly status briefing by a vendor.  As I looked around the room and thought about writing this, I muttered to myself.

red-red-blue red-blue-blue....

Starting Is Easy; Finishing Is Hard

I once saw (via video podcast) a wise man (Jason Calacanis) say "starting is easy; finishing is hard." When he said that, it was a moment of absolute clarity for me.  I'm not saying he verbalized the meaning of life.  He did state, however, what I've often conceptualized but was never able to verbalize.

What Jason stated in 6 words is what I've seen many colleagues struggle with.  Who doesn't have projects and tasks to complete and deadlines to meet?   I've tried multitasking, thinking it would make me more efficient.  I've tried using a productivity pyramid.   All I did was start more tasks, not finish more.  That's the key right there.  It doesn't matter how many things you start if you never finish them.

The solution to my past problems has been the use of kanbans, referring to them as information radiators.  These information radiators were large billboards strategically placed around the office so anyone could passively see the status of the current project.  You could see what the highest priority was, what was currently being completed, and what was being delayed.

I believe the key to those successes was in the ability to visualize our work.  Everyone knew exactly what they needed to complete and everyone else knew if it was getting done.  People were not allowed to go on to ancillary activities until their assigned tasks were completed.  Another important facet of the kanban, we limited our work-in-progress.  This forced-focus on limited tasks and constant feedback loop is very powerful and very productive.

If you would like to read my complete guest post at the Personal Kanban website, on how I visualize my work and FINISH it (don't forget the comments), just follow the [link].

Meeting PMP Eligibility Requirements

Process Group Activities GraphWhen I was completing my PMP application, back in 2006, I recall reading the eligibility requirements and asking myself where I had the greatest gaps in my project management experience.  PMI did a good job of listing the process groups and activity "buckets" in which I could associate my time.  To visualize my strengths and weaknesses, I identified each activity provided by PMI as a process group subcategory and then associated project hours within a spreadsheet.  Though PMI had a requirement that I document experience in each of the process groups,  I had a personal requirement that I improve where my skills were lacking. This post isn't about my strengths or weaknesses, though you could assume by the graph that it would be Initiating and Closing.  It is about my identifying my experience gaps and helping you identify yours (in the eyes of PMI).  If you're a PMP or an aspiring PMP, take a look at the attached.

Step 1: Review the Process Group Activities PDF.  It will define the subcategories.

Process Group Activities PDF

Step 2: Associate subcategory hours on a project basis.  The formulas are already in the worksheet.  All you need to do is add your hours to the Project Data sheet.

MS ExcelActivity Breakdown By Process Group

Step 3: Review the Graph on the tab titled "Graph".  If you don't identify your strengths and weaknesses from the data sheet, you will certainly see them in the graph.

Best Regards,