Project Management

LOOK! WE’RE IN THE WALL STREET JOURNAL! (KIND OF)

I was talking with a client recently and we were discussing the powerful impact successful change strategies can have on an organization. We were both sharing our continued surprise at how simple strategies can have such far reaching impact. Even though we have both seen and experienced it many times it is still delightful to watch the impact of successful change collaboration unfold. Our discussions led us to a past client experience. One we are proud of and never tire of sharing… Take a look. It’s a great story. And it’s a story I’d love to help create in your organization as well.

A process for collaborative change: Blueline Simulations’ “Voice of the Customer.”voice-customer

1. Listen first. A series of stakeholder interviews reveals prevailing biases and mental models.

2. Build a straw man. We propose a design that is explicitly informed by the client’s own words.

3. Tell the story. We record a webinar and produce an interim report to introduce the design to key organizational influencers.

4. Test and refine the design. Stakeholder response leads us to produce a new iteration in preparation of the next step.

5. Present the big idea. The final report is a testament to the work of the organization’s stakeholders… and becomes a powerful artifact for change.

Respect is one of those words and concepts that carries with it big ideas and expectations

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Equally critical to creating and maintaining trust among project teams has to do with having respect for each other. That includes respect for the client organization…what they’re trying to accomplish, the steps that they must go through in their process and their challenges, and respect for what each team member brings with them to a project.

Respect is one of those words and concepts that carries with it big ideas and expectations. It happens that in my role as project manager, sometimes I’m the only one who may have worked with everyone on the team, and often the team members may not even know each other. And yes, in those cases there can be skepticism about the value of team members, what they can contribute and initial impressions of personality, knowledge and/or skill may need to be overcome. In building trust in these situations there are some things I’ve found that work well.

  • It’s important to allow each team member to share with me, and when appropriate, with the other team members, the experiences and ideas they have that they think are relevant to the project at hand. That doesn’t mean that at times discussions aren’t stopped because they are headed in the wrong direction, but even that can be done in a respectful manner that acknowledges the person offering the suggestions.
  • It’s important to be mindful of personal preferences and to accommodate those whenever possible. It may seem small, but being considerate of meeting times and locations, of restaurant choices/dietary restrictions of team members, and of family or other personal obligations can go a long way in building trust.
  • It’s important to understand the capabilities of people and to respect that they may need additional help in new areas OR that they may be a great team resource and can provide assistance in a particular area of expertise.

Creating and Maintaining Trust Among Project Teams

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project-blog2It won’t come as a surprise that clear communication is vital to building relationships with project team members. But what does that mean? It encompasses a myriad of things when bringing people together to work on a project.

  • It’s not assuming that the members of the project team want to be communicated with in the same way that you like to receive or deliver information.  It’s important to find out each team member’s communication preferences, especially in this world of various communication devices and methods, and to be flexible enough, when possible, to accommodate those differences. And to trust that the information will flow when, and as, needed.
  • It’s anticipating client and internal team member needs and asking great questions with sincerity and without ulterior motives, then proactively engaging in dialogue that leads to meeting those needs or searching for alternative solutions that can be agreed upon.
  • It’s also about identifying and interpreting non-verbal cues. Doing a literature review will net varying statistics regarding percentages of non-verbal vs. verbal communication, but for the purposes of this discussion, that’s really not important. What’s important is that we know that non-verbal communication is a very significant part of communication, and we need to pay attention to and acknowledge what we observe…and act accordingly. It makes an impression when we notice the little things about others and helps to build the relationship.
  • Building trust through communication means deciding to communicate even when the message isn’t pleasant. I find that sometimes team members want to shield sharing a message that may be unpleasant or that there may be hesitancy to deal with something that is messy. In my experience, THIS NEVER WORKS! I have found that in the long run, hitting situations head on and dealing with them leads to trusting relationships — a lot better than pretending that a problem doesn’t exist. What a great way to build trust by acknowledging with the team that yes, what’s facing us is difficult/not what we expected/will take us some time and effort to figure out, but that we have the tools to do it and we’ll do it together.

Communication is important to building trust because it’s how we stay in the reality of the situation we’re working in – it’s how we gather information about how we’re doing and what we need to start, stop, or continue — as we work together throughout the project. It’s the way we course correct as, and when needed, and it’s one way each team member knows that they matter.

Creating and Maintaining Trust Among Project Teams

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In our business, like most others, working effectively with project teams is critical to our success. Today’s constantly changing marketplace is forcing teams to evolve while demanding higher levels of productivity and efficiency.

The modern workforce is much more diverse now than it has been in years past, not just with ethnic or gender diversity, but with diverse work styles, diverse personal priorities, generational diversity, etc.

All of this is changing the nature of the project team and workplace dynamics. Today, we must frequently consider things like:

  • Resources external to a physical location as team members
  • Flexible schedules
  • Global time zones
  • Heavy work loads
  • Different work styles
  • A plethora of communication methods and technologies

Because there is so much being said about trust in the workplace, I thought I would weigh in on the importance of creating trust among these diverse project teams. It has been my pleasure to work with some very talented professionals throughout my career, and sometimes I wonder how and why I’ve been so lucky to have derived so much satisfaction from what I’ve chosen to do. I do understand that a good part of that is due to the people I have worked with, what we have been able to create, and the relationships that we have created while working together.

So when you think about it, how does it all work? How can these people with distinct characteristics/needs/backgrounds/values/technical know-how trust each other enough to work together to create success… however that is defined for a project?

Over the next several weeks, I plan to share a few specific ideas and experiences with you. See you next week…

Simulation Develops Results Focused Leaders at Fortune 300 Company (Part 1)

In my previous life as the head of Alltel University, and owner of its leadership development programs, I went in search of a capstone training event for the program we designed for 300 Directors and Vice Presidents across the organization. Having provided 360 assessments, external coaching, and internal workshops to this group on its Core Leadership Values, I wanted an immersive experience that would build strategic thinking skills and adaptable decision-making in a competitive and dynamic environment that would test participants behaviors against the Values, as much as their Executive acumen.

Extensive research went in to understanding the current market offerings in the simulation field, as I felt this would give us our best chance to provide a memorable, yet practical experience for our attendees. Participants in the program represented various organizational functions including customer service, sales, legal, marketing, engineering, products and finance.

My challenge was that there were dozens of providers to sort through! All touted their simulation solution as the “most advanced, “ “easiest to deploy,”  “best immersion,” and so on. I simply did not have the time or experience to be able to sort out the best from among these providers.

Then, through a combination of circumstance, timing and a little luck in the evaluation process, I came across Blueline Simulations. What was intriguing about them is they had already done all of this research to identify the simulations and providers with the highest customer satisfaction. On top of this work, Blueline offered program and project management resources, so by working with Blueline, we could do everything from negotiating terms to planning our implementation to conducting the simulation itself.

While there were several companies that made the final cut of proposals, it was clear that for our needs, Blueline Simulations was the best choice for this initial opportunity, and had the capability and capacity to grow with us. Together with Dan Gregory at Blueline Simulations, we selected Executive Challenge™, a competitive, multiplayer simulation that puts participants on the leadership team of a virtual company.

In my next posting I will share the nature of the program, how we customized it for Alltel’s needs, and what the outcomes were in delivering the simulation. Stay tuned!