How do you deliver projects that satisfy stakeholders?
Written 4 June by Antonios Papadimitriou (Anthony Eric)
Founder of MAE
Christopher was excited to enter a new project in the role of head project manager. Years of successfully delivering projects 9 out of 10 times were hopefully going to make this another success. This was a time-critical project and the client was a top 5 priority. He couldn’t sleep the night before and counting the sheeps above the bed didn’t help. His thoughts went through past projects and future possible project obstacles. Was he going to deliver satisfactory? Would his career get that boost he long waited for? He arrived at the office the next day, and he realized the scope and boundaries were out of the blue. Butterflies started to dance in his stomach and he started running around like a hunted chicken looking for help. What would come next would surprise you.
That is the start of a classical business story many project managers recognize. I was fortunate in my multifunctional and multidiscipline career, 2005-2020 to be part of some really game-changing telecom projects and I worked for some of the most respected telecom providers in the world. My MBA education covered project management effectiveness, and I’m a certified PRINCE2 project manager. I therefore believe to be a credible source to write this article.
You may wonder why I am writing article after article on this education and business website, on my spare-time, and entirely for free. What do I gain out of it?
I’m in the business of business education, and education is about always looking for the latest and greatest knowledge but also to share skills and knowledge to keep my students, followers and fans updated and motivated to reach their targets and life ambitions. If I can be a part of my readers’ journey, I would be delighted.
I hope you find this summary useful to your actual and future projects. Although I haven’t made millions in personal profits, I’ve managed international development and roll-out projects that were in the size of a million USD. Here is what you need to know to satisfy project stakeholders when delivering projects satisfactorily.
First of all, who are the stakeholders? Stakeholders include the project board (supplier, client, project executive), project team members, and depending on project complexity, media and government may also be interested and/or have the power to influence the project. One of the biggest mistakes is to treat all stakeholders equally. Some stakeholders have financial power, or power in terms of networks. Some stakeholders want to be part of decision making while others are fine sitting on the sideline and getting informed.
What is needed before planning the project? A clearly defined business case including the scope. The scope is an agreed and dynamic document (it may change) that outlines the timeline, quality metrics and the budget, followed by brief technical and project specifications. The customer representative sitting on the board, and the KAM – key account manager, and the project executive must agree on a realistic and clear business case including the scope before letting the head project manager put the scope into action by developing a project plan.
Tools & techniques
Another key aspect before constructing the project plan is to get the necessary tools and techniques. PRINCE2 project management methodology and PMI offer templates, tools and techniques including a business case. PMBok by PMI does not tell you what tools and techniques work most effectively for certain projects in certain industries. But it tells you what tools and techniques that can be used in certain phases of a project to get a better overview of the progress to understand if a project is on-track.
I wrote about project effectiveness and the use of tools and techniques in my project management whitepaper available on Amazon. The report states how to deliver successful projects leading to competitive advantage by considering tools, techniques in combination with leadership dimensions (EQ, IQ, MQ). I can recommend you to read it as it was developed in cooperation with a Swedish blue-chip and HRM and project professors in the UK and the USA.
Accordingly, it is vital to learn how to use the necessary tools and techniques in a project and to choose a project methodology that is applied by the vendor (the firm delivering the project). Take a course online and study the manuals before starting a project. A good idea is to work with a project mentor who knows how to get it right in each of the phases. SCRUM, RUP, PRINCE2, PROPS, and PPS are a few examples of project methodologies.
So what is project management really about?
Work well with people
It’s about working well with people. It’s a people’s business just like sales is a people’s business. A successful project manager does not need to know everything about a product. But he needs to know how to find the right information, and who to ask in order to get a product or service delivered according to the project plan that also leads to satisfied stakeholders.
I make the case it’s more important to find a potential project manager with the right personal project attributes, rather than finding a project manager with the experience of running similar projects but with inadequate personal characteristics of being a good project manager. I am talking about EQ and MQ mentioned in my whitepaper on Amazon. You can always learn how to run a project, and you can learn some of the traits of high emotional intelligence (EQ). But some people just have it innately, in the same way as some people become triathlon winners, boxing champions and football stars. There are millions of people playing football worldwide, and some do it very well, but there is only 1 Mr. Maradona (or 1 Mr. Messi).
Working well with people includes agreeing with the KAM, the key account manager. He is probably keen on getting bonuses and reaching rising sales quotas so he is likely to overpromise deliveries that are not feasible in reality. The project manager is probably going to get a tighter deadline, or insufficient resources to meet a tight budget. That is one big problem in today’s projects. KAM and the head project manager must agree on realistic objectives before the kick-off.
Working well with people include (a) team building and ice breakers (b) recognition (c) introduction and delegation (d) be responsible and supportive (e) listen and take actions (f) communicate well.
(a) Team building and ice-breakers. The Internet is full of team building and ice-breaker activities so I won’t cover it in this article. Break the barrier between people and get people closer. Get people to understand the importance of the project to the business, their career and perhaps, the community. Make people feel they are contributing to a project that makes a real difference.
(b) Recognition. People love to get positive feedback and to be recognized in public for strong achievements. It builds confidence and it creates motivation. And as we know it, a high level of motivation leads to productivity and the attitude of “walking the mile to get things done”. Praise people in public and criticize privately, one-to-one in a room. If you really have to criticize someone, use a soft tone, be understanding, show respect and use soft words. If you want to know how to do this, welcome to acquire my consulting advisory services and business training packages.
(c) Introduction. Make sure people get to know each other by introducing team members and by spending time together on lunches, coffee breaks and out of office activities. There is no need to get personal, but find common interests through activities that bring people together. I remember when I once joined a very boring digital team, and from the very beginning, I felt it was not the team I wanted to be part of in the long run. Similar values, beliefs, and an unbiased cooperative attitude didn’t exist among all team members and their jokes made me sleepy. The manager tried hard, by taking us out on lunches and dinners. But I never felt excited to work with them. In such cases, it’s better to leave it, or, to ask for a role where fewer people interaction is needed.
(d) Delegate. Know who sits on the right skills and knowledge to deliver parts of the project, and delegate tasks effectively. Make sure people know what to do, and how to do it when delegating. Don’t think you can do it all alone, perfectly well, especially not in large projects. You will need the support of team leaders, coordinators, engineers designers, coders, negotiators, risk managers, communication gurus, and people with strong networks in the business in order to succeed as a project manager.
(e) Be responsible and supportive. If someone comes to you as a project manager with a problem, listen carefully, and take the time to provide constructive feedback and be cooperative. When I was working as assisting project manager at Ericsson, the head project manager sometimes stepped into my office, sat on a chair, and we had really good and friendly talks. Talks based on mutual respect, and a mutual interest to deliver the project exceptionally well. Because I was working with leaders who listened, and who knew how to prioritize and how to delegate, I was happy to sometimes work 6 days per week, and 200-240 hours per month to keep the project on track. Effective and motivating leadership and management can be the best resource in business, besides those inventing new ideas leading to patents and an edge over competition.
(f) Communicate well. We used to make the joke that while running projects in the telecom business, our biggest weakness was communication. Get it right by understanding who needs what information and who needs to be invited to what projects. Understand how to report progress and how to structure reports for those reading it. Agree on communication channels during the project to avoid having key players excluded from critical information. It is all about getting together in the same room and starting talking with a clear goal in mind. Take notes of who is sitting on what skills, knowledge and duties and be constructive and productive in your meetings.
Objectives and obstacles
A project manager needs to know the project objectives and obstacles that may occur and how to deal with them. Project objectives are secured by working tight with the client (the project buyer) and by knowing why the project is executed, and what resources are given to complete the project. Resources include time, people, money, machinery, plant, equipment, and facilities. Obstacles will occur and one way to minimize the occurrence is to read previous project lessons learned. And talk with experienced project managers in the enterprise. Project management is all about talking with the right people and to get the right information to better plan your projects. A descent risk management plan with contingency and mitigation plans also help the projects in situations things go wrong or may go wrong.
A strong project manager is not only good at dealing with people and communicating effectively. He is also a strong negotiator. At some point, you will have to stretch plans, and change priorities, and different levels of the organization will be involved. One example is when one of our clients, China Mobile bought a large deal from Ericsson. We were working with smaller clients like Telstra Australia, and priorities suddenly changed concerning resources. Key players in the project were needed to serve China Mobile. And the project board had to agree on a changed scope with Telstra. Much more can be said about negotiations, and you are welcome for a free of charge consultation by contacting me here.
In conclusion, with this report, I wanted to summarize key aspects of delivering projects successfully with satisfied stakeholders. I covered key themes of a successful project manager and I look forward to hearing from you.
Copyright (C) 2020. Antonios Papadimitriou Anthony Eric by MAE. All rights reserved.