Dealing with Difficult People

An interesting and useful post on Dealing with Difficult people from the Think Simple Now Blog. Some of the key points are below but check out the full post now. http://thinksimplenow.com/happiness/dealing-with-difficult-people/

In every project and through your day, you will encounter that person and situation that you need to decide how to respond.  There are many practical suggestions in this post on dealing with those difficult encounters. Review and pick a few to try when the next event in your project needs to be managed. Employing these techniques can smoothe the way and help you to decide when a response is and is not apporpriate. Becoming a master at managing difficult persons and situations will only lead you to manage high payoff projects for high impact results.

Here are some tips for dealing with a difficult person or negative message:

1.Forgive

2. Wait it Out

3. “Does it really matter if I am right?

4. Don’t Respond

5. Stop Talking About It

6. Be In Their Shoes

7. Look for the Lessons

8. Choose to Eliminate Negative People In Your Life

9. Become the Observer

10. Go for a Run … or a swim, or some other workout.

11. Worst Case Scenario

12. Avoid Heated Discussions

13. Most Important

14. Pour Honey

15. Express It

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Project Tips: Leadership through Turbulent Times

Are you experiencing major changes in your business or organization? Well, if you are not now you probably will soon. Working in technology companies, the only guarantee is “Change will happen”. There are some common steps that you can take as a leader to help navigate through the change and help your project and team thrive and survive it. This is not easy, so please don’t think that is intent of the article. I just want to provide some tips to help along the way. You must be committed to make things happen and drive successfully.

– What qualities will it take?
Focus, Tenacity and resources are the key working through massive changes. Cultural changes can be some of the most difficult for organizations and often managers declare victory when the change effort was anything but that. There was slim evidence to support the claims. If a project I am working is held accountable for the success, I sure want to make sure the team is taking the right steps and driving activities to have strong evidence of succes. It is the key to proving the team made it happen.

– Start with accepting the difficulty of the task. Do your homework. You will encounter problems when you stop listening to other team members and stakeholders. There needs to be an overwhelming amount of credible information that visible throughout the changes. Bring in information from external customers as a way to quiet the internal noise or disputes about what reasons are. Internally, you can survey people to get information about where to focus your efforts, how to communicate through changes. It is tough to ignore the voice of the customer.

– Establish a sense of crisis. When people are spending time trying to figure out why change is happening, your communication is not sufficient. There needs to be a compelling case created, use customer examples, industry info, market info, financial info and make sure that there is crystal clarity on why there is a crisis and why things must change. Show that existing success will vanish because of the situation and what objectives will be of the change and what plan is to make sure it happens.

– Create a business strategy with direction info the entire team can translate to business they know. All change should be based on business strategy as that is the hard reality of why chang is happening. It needs to be driven be the marketplace. This is also the quickest way to move a company to change. The art is to build a sustainable future and what are the programs and projects that will be needed to delivery on the strategy rapidly.

– Align people and support systems. This is when the message becomes real. When you can look around or talk to people and observe behavior and hear the impacts, questions, doubts. People are going to have to do things in a different way than before. As the leader, your challenge is to overcome inertia of watching what happens. You want to discourage the business as usual way and encourage working in the new model. Encourage contribution and the new opportunities that will be driven to meet the market needs.

– Keep everyone informed and involved. This is a constant cycle every day, week to focus on through every change. Bringing people in for personal involvement will give them feeling of ownership of the change. Working behind closed doors and bringing out the end result is a sure way to surprise and cause a tough battle to overcome inertia. Look for people who play a role as key centers influence within organization.

How you manage through change does greatly influence the success or failure. You must be resilient and maintain candor as you will see and say many things. People will be looking to you for direction, communication and leadership. Be an enthusiastic evangelist of the future, your optimism and hope is important to show so people can see a glimpse of where we will get to. At the end, the ultimate payoff for high performancea and delivering success are exceptional financial results and more stakeholder value. Just remember when you are in uncharted territory, that it will require big thinking, learning from others, and staying agile during turbulent times. Its not always easy, but each time you look back you realize that leaps were made and it is well worth the journey. Make it Happen!

Project Tips: 9 Ways to reset expectations

One of the activities that any program or project manager must do is keep expectations in line with project deliverables. The perception or view of project success or failure is based on what people expect to be accomplished versus what actually is. Here are some quick tips to use.

  1. Manage to communicate, communicate, communicate throughout the entire project
  2. Always do what you say you’re going to do!
  3. Don’t ignore any warning signs, dig into concerns and make sure they are addressed.
  4. Keeping the project schedules and issues logs current, and review them with your team regularly.
  5. Manage changes and communicate them out timely
  6. Manage risks in the project, have owner and mitigation/ action plans to address and let others know there is attention to managing them
  7. Listen to your team! Don’t shoot anyone for raising red flags and challenging questions.
  8. Escalate major issues when you need to, whether to a steering committee, management, or other stakeholders.
  9. Continue to set expectations, reset expectations and calibrate all players as appropriate.

How to Fast Track your Project Recovery

The first step is to evaluate the overall project. This can be done through a basic project audit to identify the problems and the severity of them. Some of the questions to start with are around the fundamental definitions of project.

  • Confirm who the project sponsors and stakeholders are.
  • Clarify roles and responsibilities.
  • Validate the project objectives.
  • Validate the project’s priorities and risks..
  • Determine the mechanisms for escalating questions, concerns, and problems and how they are functioning.
  • Determining whether you have the right resources available; both people and funding sources needed for the project
  • Assessing whether you have the right documentation, records, requirements info, etc
  • Is there an updated project plan?
  • Is there an updated action log, with owners dates that are getting closed out?
  • Do project meetings happen when needed? Are the right people in attendance?

Then use a simple ranking process to prioritize the top contributors. Now, stop before jumping into fix it mode (we all like to do that). You need to look at the serious problems found and what root causes contributed as well as the benefits of the project. Evaluate the value proposition and make sure the scope and problems do relate to what needs to be delivered for the benefit proposition. Ask the tough questions, and make sure that the value, resource, investment is still priority with stakeholders and do a candid review of findings and interview stakeholders as well for their ideas and input. Once the decision is agreed to that the project is worth rescuing than follow the advice below to fast track your efforts. It is important to accelerate rapid action to ensure you can get team motivated and momentum to change how things are being done.

Now take a look at that prioritized list, ask yourself what level of effort is needed in each area. Are there a few areas that you can quickly stop the bleeding? Is the situation severe enough you need to stop all work till actions implemented? Is it only that key work areas require corrective measures so work can continue in other areas? For example, if scope is “out of control” then it might be a simple change to allow no scope changes without change request, impact assessment and review board to have appropriate checks in place before having team effort diverted to that work. This should at least firm up the current scope and limit the detours caused by ever changing scope of work. Pick those areas, and put task force in place to implement quick actions to turn situation around. This will build evidence and belief in stakeholders and the team that change is happening and will be effective.

The next step is to go back to the list and review remaining items for most critical biggest impact items. Do you have people issues? Project planning issues? Technology gaps? Change management dilemma? Do you need to pursue a new sponsor? There are so many potential causes that it takes some honest critical assessment to get to the heart of the matter. Take the time to talk to team members and really get to the bottom of where issues lie as your recovery plan will be far more effective. As the project manager after you have completed this effort you are on the road to avoiding project failure. Take the time at this stage to prepare communication, be transparent to all on the team and stakeholders on findings and plan to develop action plans.

The next stage is to develop your project recovery plan and sell it to the team, stakeholders, customers, suppliers etc that may be part of project. Begin your planning and communication with a healthy dose of reality. If something should have worked based on X assumption and it wasn’t, don’t continue to assume it will and determine a viable alternative. The recovery plan itself will vary widely based on the size, scope and type of project you are working on. Basic elements are issue statement, root cause, impact, resources required, short term actions, long term actions, date fix will be in place, who the accountable person will be. If there are multiple options, than lay those out without playing the blame game so decision can be made. This will take strong communication and salesmanship to convince all parties that this project will be successful and ensure strong support needed. At this point, you may be communicating with a frustrated team, angry customers, internal political battles, competing agendas amongst other issues so be deliberate in crafting your message.

Once you have review the plan and gained agreement with support to move forward on implementation. Start fresh with scope, schedule, planning to calibrate they are the best path forward. Than you really need to focus on motivating the team, building confidence that team will triumph and track and report on the plans. Keep careful tabs on the progress to continue to respond and plan for any new potential risks. Your actions should be quick and decisive to ensure that there is highly effective progress. It is up to you to work the plan, keep communication real timely and relevant to all stakeholders.

7 Ways to Communicate with Your Stakeholders

The most important element in stakeholder communications is identifying the target audience. Be deliberate and seek out input from all known groups to find the unknown groups. It can be tough when too late in the project a critical person or group is identified that has not received any of the communication through course of project and has valuable links that need to be addressed. So make sure you avoid this scenario and take all the steps early to create a document with all stakeholders you need to manage communication with. Once you have that the ways below can help you keep communication active, frequent and ongoing collaboration so there is strong support for you project.

Formal Methods for Communicating– If they don’t exist already, create them. Make occasions when info should be presented.

1. Meetings – One of the most common ways to communicate. They can vary from only 1 person to thousands based on message and audience appropriate. It is up to you to maximize every minute of the time spent to have dialogue. Make sure it is a dialogue and not a monologue. It is the best way as you have the verbal and non verbal cues that enhance the communication and avoid misinterpretation.

2. Conference Calls– These days this is the most common as it does not require the time and expense of travel. The dialogue can take place though its dependant on voice intonation and clarity of the verbal message. They only require cost of phone call and there are many paid and free services that will facilitate use of a conference call line for many people to dial into. Its also a common way for classes to be recorded and replayed when its convenient for you.

3. Newsletters/ Email/ Posters – This strategy is one way communication and utilizes emailed updates, hard copy brochures, posters, newsletters mailed or emailed. One of the weaknesses is that messages are delivered and you cannot guage if they were read and understood, deleted as sometimes there is no feedback. That immediate feedback is valuable for strengthening your message and making sure impacts and feedback are quickly received.

Informal Methods – It is important to not only rely on formal channels but to utilize informal communication as well. The impromptu channels are often more information rich and critical for relationship building.

4. Hallway Conversations, Bathroom conversations – These meetings are great for one on one communication, but also be clear and do not establish false expectations with casual comments dropped.

5. Lunch Meetings, Drink at the bar after work – These casual environments can be great for connecting, getting feedback, ideas, and work to build support

6. Sporting events – tennis, golf, etc are an easy forum to get the input on what support exists, feedback on ideas, brainstorming to strengthen your communication and build stakeholder support

7. Voice mail – this is often underutilized since email is so common but still shown to be more often listened to than an email will be read. By using voice intonation for excitement, urgency, etc it can be more compelling. This can be a solo voice mail, a voice mail broadcast to large team or you could pursue use of automated calling to get the word out depending on the size of audience

Project Communication Plans

Its not enough to just have a plan. It is critical to seek to understand what your stakeholders desire both spoken and unspoken. The expectations must be carefully managed from beginning to end. Every team and project varies in its rate of change, so pick the most advantageous communication channel, frequency and make sure its effective. Just as having the plan is important, monitoring its effectiveness, adding and canceling supplemental ways of communicating will be required.

Communication is a constant, error on the side of over communicating as there are always people that didn’t hear, understand or make connection when they heard it the first time.

Quick Guide to Crafting your Program Marketing Campaign

Are you struggling to understand how to power up your message for you program? Are your customer’s, stakeholders and team informed and cheerleaders for your program? Much like the political campaigns of Clinton, Obama or McCain the foundation for success is market awareness and getting the word out. What lessons can we learn from these famous campaigns and apply locally to your project?

The first key is YOUR MESSAGE. Know it. Refine it. Manage it. And then

STICK TO IT! Repetition and consistency build recognition and familiarity and eventually trust with your audience.

Start early with your message and deliberately plan communication and building support and cheerleaders for your program. Some critical principles to note are:

  • Marketing is not an emergency. It’s a planned, thoughtful exercise that started a long time ago and doesn’t end until you’re done.
  • Making promises and keeping them is a great way to build a program brand you want recognized
  • Marketing begins before the project is delivered
  • Living and breathing an authentic story is the best way to survive in a competitive landscape through your program or project
  • Good marketing encourages the right sort of conversations. Conversations among the team and other organizations happen whether you like it or not.
  • Projects and Products that are remarkable get talked about.
  • People are uninformed and impatient. Start with that and craft your message to be effective then you will be surprised by the outcome.
  • Marketing that works is marketing that people choose to notice.

A practical way to craft this positioning with a well thought out statement. In order to craft this consider, what is main outcome of your project and why it is significant or unique, who is your target audience and what is your call to action that is needed. Take the time to work through this and make it simple and concise, even if your project is complex and technical. The clarity of this core message is worth the time investment to get it simple and clear.

Example Scenario

SITUATION: Launching a new product to market

OBJECTIVE: Increase revenue, build market awareness and sell solutions

OUTCOME: Market will have knowledge of product and build a funnel for x% of sales.

AUDIENCE: Market segment – small businesses, project stakeholders internal to organization that will be ambassadors to customer

MESSAGE: Simplify your marketing with easy to customize collateral

METHOD: Create campaign to target customers through email, web, radio, customer sales visits

INDICATORS of SUCCESS: #sales contacts, Revenue sales dollars, Profit margin

Public relations efforts, like advertising, can help to build project awareness among shareholders, customers, project team and stakeholders. Many small and large businesses consciously utilize PR as a way to obtain free press about their products and services. The key of PR is that it is an effective way to generate valuable word of mouth advertising.

PR events can leverage the effects of advertising and promotion programs by tying all these marketing elements together. For example, a local on-site PR event for a public product launch could be a tent event that could have featured product, raffles, etc that gain attention and make people stop in. Your target market could be reached through billboards, radio announcements, local clubs, Public relations is an ongoing process and must be worked at every day on every level of your project from the way you deal with your target market. Make it a habit to constantly consider the image you are projecting.

Create an Action Plan

Objective: Implement new software functionality for customer upgrade

Who?

What?

When?

Cost

What Else?

Sponsors

Scope, Schedule, Resources, Risks

Biweekly email, monthly meeting

Sales

New features, schedule, what is not included

Sales training, staff meetingsContinuously as new info committed to

$

Large customer accounts

Schedule, new capabilities, technical ability

At product checkpoints, through account teams

$

Service

Support process, training plan, release schedule, impacts

Product checkpoints, per training plan schedule

$

Project Team

New features, what is excluded, changes to current release in new release, schedule, scope, risks, etc

Weekly meetings

So to recap, what you need to do to build a strong marketing campaign campaign and building cheerleaders and communicators to help get your message out and ensure a high payoff results and successful program is delivered.

1. Identify the situation by defining the problem.

2. Define goals and outcomes.

3. Identify your target audience.

4. Determine your message.

5. Choose a method to get your message across (product and distribution).

6. Determine indicators of success.

7. Develop an action plan.

8. Implement