Tag Archive: project management

Workplace Conflict; The Good, The Bad & The Useful

For a good portion of my career, I thrived on being a marketer. From my early days as a market researcher, an account manager, and eventually an agency executive, I loved the strategy and process of creating great concepts with compelling messaging that influenced buyers’ behavior. Managing a creative team, a client team, or corporate team, is sometimes burdened with conflict. Handling conflict was not my favorite part of the job, ever!

I aspired to broaden my career and went back to school for a Masters in Leadership Development about 12 years ago. Through a confluence of introductions, opportunities and also being an adjunct instructor at Drexel University, I joined one of my cohort’s businesses, Merit Career Development. Initially, I began helping them with a new branding initiative, but in an “Ah Ha” moment we realized that I’d likely be a strong trainer for Merit, too.  We were right. I have been running corporate trainings for Merit now for five years and I love it! But here’s the surprise: one of my favorite courses to facilitate, is Conflict Management (followed closely by Critical Thinking & Decision-Making.)

Why do I now enjoy talking about managing conflict? Because it makes sense to me now! And I also realize how much value it provides in driving better ideas and solutions. If we didn’t have conflict, and we all agreed on everything, we would live in a pretty boring, uni-dimensional world. How could we effectively cultivate new ideas or innovation without conflict?! It would be much tougher! The process of resolving conflict is very important, as well. It helps build and strengthen relationships, trust, and influences the development of new solutions to the challenges we face every day.

How do we make conflict good and useful?

Ultimately, it comes down to three important things:

  1. Being respectful towards the person or people who have a different opinion
  2. Opening yourself to hearing another perspective (opinion, solution, recommendation, etc.)
  3. Taking the time to truly understand the other opinion

Learning to listen and take the perspective of the person you are in conflict with, or reframing your perspective, as we discuss in the Critical Thinking course, is extremely helpful. It can be enlightening. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and give their idea a chance to be a winner to best understand the opportunities that may exist.

The results of working through conflict can be similar to a great brainstorming session; not all ideas are good or practical, but they often result in a better idea emerging through conversation and compromise. When this happens, the best part is that there is not one winner and one loser; everyone is a winner and feels ownership in the solution.

Good luck with conflict. Embrace it and become a better person by managing it with respect. You just may like the outcome!

Look for Part 2 of this series next month where we’ll share proven tips for recognizing different conflict styles and how to most effectively respond to them.

To learn more about the author, Gail Cooperman, or the workshops she teaches, click here.  If you would like to bring any of our trainings to your location, please contact Jim Wynne at jwynne@meritcd.com or call 610-225-0449.

Permanent link to this article: http://meritcd.com/blogs/workplace-conflict-the-good-the-bad-the-useful/

Are You Smarter Than a 6th Grader?

We all know that kids are pretty smart these days; just watching my neighbor’s 3-year-old son find Elmo videos on my cell phone makes that clear. But we’d still like to think that as grown-ups, we are brighter, more intelligent and better decision-makers than 6th graders. But are we? We had the opportunity recently, to conduct a project management experiment with a 6th grade class and, well, we were in for quite a surprise.

For more than 15 years, Merit Career Development has trained thousands of individuals to help them improve their project management (PM) skills. In 2010, we incorporated SimulTrain®, a computer-based, online simulation tool, into all of our PM workshops whether it is a one-, two-  or five-day program. SimulTrain always provides a engaging, hands-on, and fun learning experience that significantly boosts skill retention. Essentially, adults; PMs, nurses, accountants or other professionals who want to master these skills, really appreciate this program!  But 6th graders??
The 3 M's Second Period Leading TeamThrough a confluence of circumstances, that began with an invitation from the Keystone PMI Education Foundation Coordinator, Mr. Myles Miller, and the Keystone Chapter of the Project Management Institute, we supported a pilot with 6th graders at the Eyer Middle School in Pennsylvania’s North Penn School District. The parents and students were quite interested in learning the life skill of project management. While some of us were doubtful that our workplace-related program would resonate with these young students, we had enough people willing to give this a try that we scheduled the program. (You can see SimulTrain in action with adults.)

For several weeks before the competition, Myles instructed the students about PM fundamentals and common workplace terminology. When the big day arrived, the students formed teams of four and competed for the best scores throughout the event. In addition to Merit bringing the technology and leadership to the school (the same that is provided for adults), Buckeye Pipeline and the PMI Keystone Chapter sponsored this program, providing the funding for food, t-shirts and trophies for the students.

John Juzbasich, Merit’s CEO, facilitated the SimulTrain “competition”, and confirmed that he ran this program the same way he does for the adults. He provided an overview of the simulator screens, the project at hand — in this case planning a soccer event — timed intervals for the program, and review periods. Scoring took place throughout the competition.

We were amazed at how well the students grasped the technology, the project management concepts and the “game” overall. They did really well and seemed energized, enthused and anxious to play this again. When looking at their scores in each category, we saw that the students performed roughly on par with most of the adults who’ve participated. John Juzbasich insisted that he did not adjust the pace or in any way, make it easier for the kids than the adult version we regularly deliver.  Don’t just take my word, so please click through to these short videos and see for yourself.

Red TeamThe simulation project management competition also generated interest from many families whose children did not have the opportunity to participate the first time this was held, prompting a follow up event scheduled for Spring, 2017. Because the interest is so high, the school is planning to make SimulTrain a regular part of the Eyer Middle School curriculum. A number of universities are also interested in adding project management with simulation to their curriculum. The University of Scranton recently held a competition among their engineering students. There is a similar day scheduled at Lehigh University next month.

Everyone benefits by learning project management skills for school, work and life planning. If you want to expose your child or yourself to SimulTrain, the best project management learning program available, contact Jim Wynne at 610-225-0449 or jwynne@meritcd.com.

Permanent link to this article: http://meritcd.com/blogs/are-you-smarter-than-a-6th-grader/

Why Simulation-Based Instruction is the Best Way to Learn!

sitrain_teams_playing_wide_sts

The Chief Operating Officer (COO) asks the Chief Executive Officer (CEO): “What if we spend time and money training our employees and they leave the company?”

The CEO responds: “What if we don’t and they stay?”

Taking time and resources to train your personnel is often looked at as a necessary evil. Training employees takes them away from their day-to-day tasks and the cost will be reflected on the bottom line. Adding to the challenge of supporting training, is the uncertainty of the return-on-investment at both an individual and organizational productivity level.

As an executive who is considering training your team, the most important question you should ask is not: Should I train my team? but rather: What method of training should I use? Different training methods result in varying levels of content retention. Of course you want to ensure that your organization achieves the greatest value from training, so relevant content as well as deploying the use of experiential learning techniques should both be priorities.

learning-_pyramid

As the image to the left illustrates, participatory learning, especially using simulation for practice, provides the highest level of retention for training, second only to “teaching others.”

What is simulation-based learning? It is an instructor-guided, interactive learning environment that replicates an actual business, technical, or educational challenge. It permits the learners to practice resolving issues in a relatively worry-free atmosphere. Not only is it authentic and relevant to the learners’ work, but it provides a safe environment to learn; mistakes won’t result in costly repercussions. It’s ideal to spur on innovation, too, because it allows for creative problem solving.

Simulation-based learning is the most effective technique for developing every professionals’ knowledge, skills, and attitudes, whilst protecting the organization from unnecessary risks. It is useful in resolving practical dilemmas, and provides four real-time benefits.

  1. EXPERIENTIAL & REPETITIVE LEARNING. While in traditional lecture-based training, the desired outcome is merely explained; in simulation learning, individuals achieve an outcome from first-hand experience. Adults, like most people, learn better through experience. In the simulation, individuals have the opportunity for repetitive practice, which helps increases retention.
  2. KNOWLEDGE INTEGRATION. A key facet of any learning is that understanding is increased when it is linked to some already known piece of knowledge. Simulation-based learning, because of its participatory nature, has the added benefit of being able to psychologically link concepts and allow participants to link knowledge areas through their actions.
  3. RISK-FREE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT. Regardless of our attitude, learning research validates that we learn by making mistakes. In fact, they are invaluable to the participant. If executive decision makers can participate in relevant and realistic simulations, they can safely make mistakes, learn from them, and promptly apply their learned knowledge to their real work challenges, avoiding costly mistakes or unintended consequences.
  4. ABILITY TO ADJUST THE LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY. The technology provided in most simulation-based learning tools are designed to allow the difficulty level to increase as the competency of the individuals and teams improve. This provides additional flexibility and continual learning opportunities for a varied level of experienced personnel.

Simulation-based learning is the most effective learning technique for both your employees and your organization. Your training dollars are better invested with simulation training because of higher learning retention. Further, because your team will practice with relevant and practical scenarios, the potential for catastrophic mistakes is mitigated.

If you’re looking for a relevant, engaging interactive learning environment with simulation, call Merit and ask about our SimulTrain® project management training experience. Contact Jim Wynne at  jwynne@meritcd.com or call him at 610-225-0449.

Permanent link to this article: http://meritcd.com/blogs/why-simulation-based-instruction-is-the-best-way-to-learn/

Why Success is More Likely with Active Listening

Listening includes a lot more than just hearing words. Frequently, we need to interpret or infer a deeper or underlying message beyond the spoken word. We deploy many of our senses to detect non-verbal cues and assimilate our life experiences with the verbal message when we actively listen.

Usually, the objective of a conversation is to expand the listener’s knowledge, perspective or sensitivity to a topic that impacts behavior or beliefs. In the workplace, managing projects can implode due to poor communications. These can result in missing a critical deadline, budget overages, decreased sales, and in some cases, costly lawsuits.

The most effective communication takes place when both parties are actively listening. So what is “active listening” and how do we do this?

Your active listening is apparent to the other party through your audible or visible signals. This can include something as subtle as raising our eyebrows, leaning towards the speaker, or using certain gestures (like a thumbs up, high five, etc.) Tilting our heads when we listen, on the same angle as the speaker, generally reflects a subconscious agreement  Uttering sounds like “uh huh” or “hmm” also tell the speaker that you’re paying attention. In America, making eye contact is considered a must in showing that you are listening, although this does vary in some cultures.

Of course asking good questions is one of the best ways to demonstrate that you are listening.
If you don’t have any questions (perhaps, because the message is crystal clear to you) then paraphrase the speaker’s message. You can preface your restated summary by saying something like: “Ok, now, if I understand what you’re telling me, you’d like to … (paraphrased summary of speaker’s objective).”

It is important to be authentic, too! In your effort to make it evident that you genuinely hear the speaker’s message, do not diminish your own persona or credibility. Be sure to phrase your introduction to your rephrased statement in a style that is consistent with the way you speak.

Why not find out if you’re as good a listener as you think you are? If you haven’t taken this insightful (and free) listening assessment yet, you can right now – or later when you have about 45 minutes and no distractions. When you’re ready, take the Active Listening Assessment here. Upon completion, you will receive an explanatory report along with tips and techniques that you can use to become a better active listener and communicator.

If you or your staff would benefit from mastering effective communications, improving active listening and learning “meaning-centered communication”, we can help. Please contact Jim Wynne at jwynne@meritcd.com or call him at 610-225-0449.

NOTE: PMPs: This assessment qualifies for one PDU and you will receive a certificate.

Permanent link to this article: http://meritcd.com/blogs/why-success-is-more-likely-with-active-listening/

Understanding How Risk Management Can Improve Organizational Performance

One of the biggest challenges in risk management is risk identification. Humans are naturally optimistic, therefore we do not like to recognize or discuss risks. We need to incorporate processes such as scenario planning and the pre-mortem technique into our forecasting practices. These techniques help us overcome our aversion to recognizing and discussing risks. Only after we have identified risks can we implement tactics to reduce their probability.

Merit is frequently asked to help businesses, federal agencies and membership organizations reduce or mitigate risk – regardless of their size and business type. Often their project teams collaborate and discuss methods for improving their risk status but have proven to be flawed. The most common flaw that sets them back is their goal to have all risk plans drive their risk probability and impact to zero, in which case it would not be a risk.

Risk_RegisterStandard risk responses include Avoidance, Mitigation, Transference, and Acceptance (passive/active). At Merit, we developed a reporting process that would show that the risk factors were decreasing as the project progressed. Supplemented with suitable risk responses, the true reduction of risk probability occurs over time.

The added value that we incorporated into the risk management process was two-fold. First, because of the desire to drive the risk to as low as possible, the use of multiple risk responses could be utilized. The second process improvement would be not only to subsequently reassess the risk, but also to re-evaluate the risk probability and impact matrix after the implementation of the risk response over time.

Probability_Impact_MatrixThe Probability and Impact Matrix is one of the tools that we recommend in a risk management strategy.  It is superimposed with risks that are labeled or numbered as in the above example. “Red” area risks were uniquely documented on a trending month-to-month basis such that it could be seen “driving” toward zero.

The implementation of a risk response would then “reclassify” the risk event for the next reporting period. However, the biggest impact on reducing risk is time.  Time because we are progressively refining our process as our project develops, and because the physical window (amount of time available) for a risk event is reduced.

We invite you to learn about our modified process template so you too can incorporate it into your project plans. For more information, to learn other advanced risk monitoring, reporting, and controlling techniques or to schedule a risk management training customized for your team, contact Jim Wynne at jwynne@meritcd.com or by calling (610) 225-0449.

Permanent link to this article: http://meritcd.com/blogs/understanding-how-risk-management-can-improve-organizational-performance/

Emotional Intelligence (EQ): The Essential Secret to Great Performance

The concept of emotional intelligence, EQ, has been studied for over 30 years. Research shows that high EQ predicts success beyond an individual’s knowledge, skills and abilities. Emotionally intelligent leaders have significantly greater annual profit growth, increased customer satisfaction, and higher personnel retention. In management, the more senior the leader, the more the EQ matters. In sales and customer service capacities, the higher EQs correlate directly to success.

RedheadStudies show that lack of EQ may limit a person’s ability to achieve results. Lower EQ scores correlate with lower merit pay increases, lower job satisfaction and more burnout. Managers’ and supervisors’ EQ scores correlate with their performance ratings.

The definition of emotional intelligence has been the subject of ongoing debates; however, researchers all agree that it consists of two principal components. The first component; intrapersonal skills or self-awareness, is the ability to recognize one’s emotions as they occur, helping one gain self-control in potentially emotionally charged situations.

The second component, interpersonal skills or social awareness, is the ability to recognize others’ emotions. The ability to express empathy enables one to have more positive relationships and minimize unproductive conflict. EQ helps put people at ease, build and mend relationships, confront problem employees, and manage change.

It is important to note that emotional intelligence can be learned. Understanding and incorporating specific EQ skills, techniques, and behaviors can help improve both the intrapersonal and interpersonal skill sets. An intra-personal skill, self-monitoring, can help one can limit or minimize emotional hijacking. Let‘s look at this closer…

Emotional IntelligenceWe all have specific words or phrases that are steeped in emotion. During the 1960s and 70s, the term “nuclear power” raised a great deal of emotion—both positive and negative. Similarly today we have emotionally charged words or phrases such as “gun control”, terrorism, and consumer privacy. It is important to recognize one’s own emotionally charged phrases and stop the emotional hijacking that is about to take place.

By recognizing our emotional responses when we hear a cue by self-monitoring, we can prevent emotional hijacking before it takes place. Stopping to recognize the emotional trigger is an important first step. Taking a deep breath, and/or silently counting to 10 can help us regain composure and react in a rational manner.

As for interpersonal skills, empathy helps us develop more positive relationships with others at work. Increasing our display of empathy enables us to connect with another person on an emotional level, thus allowing us to develop a meaningful, trusting relationship.

The question remains, however, how much emotional intelligence do you have—what is your baseline? Do you have an EQ deficiency, or are you well above average? There is only one way to know your EQ baseline and that is to take an assessment. Many exist on the Internet, some free others fee-based, however they may not stand up to statistical reliability and validity standards.

We invite you to take our free online self-assessment http://www.meritcd.com/assessments/eq/ and see how you compare to others; it takes less than 15 minutes. You will receive a report comparing you to the general population and you will know your starting point. With your baseline in hand you can select appropriate techniques and build your self-awareness and social awareness skill sets, and improve your emotional intelligence.

Would you like some guidance to improve your staff’s EQ? Merit offers half-day and full day workshops that help participants understand, identify their baseline, and strengthen their emotional intelligence. With exercises and interactive assessment tools, this workshop is engaging and life changing. For more information, please contact Jim Wynne at jwynne@meritcd.com or call him at 610-225-0449.

Permanent link to this article: http://meritcd.com/blogs/emotional-intelligence-eq-the-essential-secret-to-great-performance/

5 Tips to Prioritizing When a Project Runs Into Trouble

Changes Ahead sign; iStockEven the most carefully planned project can run into trouble. Unanticipated weather problems can disrupt the logistics of construction projects, a key software developer quits to take new jobs or an engineer underestimates the time needed to implement components of a production line. Whatever the issue, the challenge of finding a solution falls to the project manager (PM).

It’s a high-pressure situation. The sequence of tasks laid out in the project plan suddenly has holes in it. In essence, the rules of the game have changed though its original objectives remain. Now, the PM must sync up the effort’s priorities with an unanticipated reality. This can mean revisiting the original plan — or at least portions of it — with an eye toward redeploying resources and revamping task lists. All the while, the client expects you to meet the project’s original scope, schedule and budget.

Such situations can’t be addressed on the fly. Developing a plan of attack requires care and detailed communications with everyone involved in the effort.

Determine the most important component. Is the most important driver scope, schedule, available resources or cost? If nothing else, taking a fresh look at this will confirm whether the assumptions you made in your original plan still hold. That’s important as you sketch out an approach to surmounting the new challenges you face. For example, if delivery date is the overriding concern, you may need to adjust the project’s scope or add resources. If budget’s the priority, trimming scope may be your best option. Whatever the situation, the project’s overarching goals are obvious and critical considerations.

Develop a matrix. Create a grid for the project’s key features and determine whether each is required, important or nice to have. (More articles on creating matrixes here and here. *See end of this article for sample matrix.) This will help you do two things: First, get a sense of what’s realistic in terms of time, cost and scope given the challenges you have and, perhaps more important, give you a starting point for discussions with your stakeholders and team.

Consult the project team. It’s essential to view that matrix as a working document. While you’re compiling it, talk to the project team to get its take on what’s required to complete each feature given the new circumstances. Their input will help you present an accurate picture to stakeholders of the project’s true status and their options going forward.

Talk to the stakeholders. With a clear picture of the project’s technical needs, you’ll be able to provide stakeholders with an accurate view of the scenarios available to them. For instance, if the launch date is critical, you can show exactly how additional resources can maintain scope while meeting the original schedule. Again, though, make it clear that you’re gathering information and presenting options. As you did when creating the original project plan, your goal is to develop a consensus around your solutions.

Document everything. Clear communication is always a vital part of project management, but it’s especially important when things are in flux. Be sure everyone involved understands the concerns of others and has their own interests addressed. Once you’ve settled on a course of action, get necessary approvals promptly on paper or by email.

When unforeseen events disrupt your plan, it’s important to take a step back. Evaluate the circumstances carefully and work with the project team and stakeholders to set the priorities necessary to keeping the project on-track.

Merit Career Development can help you develop the skills to respond to real world project management challenges. In fact, many mentioned in the first paragraph of this article are likely to take place in our simulation tool, SimulTrain®. This tool creates an engaging training experience using state-of-the-art computer-based technology. Our PM training programs include key project management topics like risk management, scheduling, managing scope and cost, and leadership skills including negotiation, improved decision-making, and conflict management. For more information, please contact Jim Wynne at jwynne@meritcd.com.

*Sample Matrix to Help Prioritize PM Elements

Matrix prioritizing

*A sample matrix for a Chemical Tracking System from Software Development, September 1999. Source: http://www.processimpact.com/articles/prioritizing.html


© 2015 Merit Career Development. All rights reserved.

Permanent link to this article: http://meritcd.com/blogs/how-to-prioritize-when-a-project-runs-into-trouble/

How to Coach an Underperformer

How to coach an underperformerIt can be one of the most uncomfortable situations a project manager faces: You have a team member who simply isn’t delivering. Their work may be late or poor. They skip meetings or don’t file their progress reports in a timely manner. For whatever the reason, their role in the effort hasn’t gelled, and the gap is causing everyone else to scramble.

Most PMs dread such scenarios. After all, it’s never easy to call out someone on their performance. But when the need arises, you have no choice but to address the issues quickly and firmly. If ignored, personnel challenges can spread as other team members shoulder extra work and become distracted from their own priorities. Ultimately, the project’s quality, schedule and budget can be threatened.

The conversation is made all the more awkward by the unique relationship PMs usually have with their team – a position that’s more about dotted lines than formal reporting structures. When the underperformer isn’t a direct report, the PM must take the approach of an interested and invested colleague, a fellow team member whose focus is on solutions rather than blame.

Talk to the person. Your first order of business is to meet with the person and examine the issues you face. Express your concerns, but make clear that you’re beginning a conversation and looking for a solution, not issuing edicts. Be sure to get an acknowledgement of the problem and an agreement that it has to be resolved.

Be clear. Explain the ramifications of the person’s lagging performance. For example, by missing his own deadlines, he’s holding up the work of his teammates. Or, because she’s skimping on quality control, her colleagues have to put in extra time to identify and fix problems on top of meeting their own responsibilities. Be honest about what you’re seeing, and specific in your observations.

Understand the problem. The issues may be symptoms of a larger problem. Your team member may be facing challenges at home, with his boss, or something else. Whatever the underlying cause, it’s important to understand the forces that are at work here. After all, you can’t address a matter until you know its dynamics.

Have ideas. Good project managers always have solutions in mind. That’s as true when it comes to working with people as it is when facing logistical or technical hurdles. As you come to understand the problem, develop approaches for addressing it. It might be the person has too many competing priorities and needs clarity. There could be a personality conflict with another team member. Whatever the issue, proactively work with the person to develop an approach that will get their efforts back on track.

Put in the time. Coaching people takes time – sometimes a lot of it. Chances are, a single conversation isn’t going to do the trick. Set up regular one-on-ones with the person so you can track her progress and follow up on previous discussions. Develop metrics so you have an agreed-upon mechanism to measure her performance until the situation is resolved.

Remember, this process should be interactive. Encourage the team member to develop his own ideas, and listen to them carefully. Sometimes, all a person needs is an opportunity to talk things through in order to get refocused.

For more information about how Merit Career Development can hone your leadership and management skills, please contact Jim Wynne at jwynne@meritcd.com.


© 2015 Merit Career Development. All rights reserved.

Permanent link to this article: http://meritcd.com/blogs/how-to-coach-an-underperformer/

Tips for Negotiating With Project Stakeholders

StakeholdersProject managers have to be expert negotiators, able to forge agreements between people who often have competing agendas. For example, the sales team may be determined to speed up a project so that it launches before the holiday shopping season, while Product Development wants to delay long enough to include a hot new feature. Meanwhile, the development team warns that a change in either schedule or scope will wreak havoc on the work they’ve already done. Whatever the dynamics, the project manager has to labor between parties to develop an acceptable solution.

Negotiating with stakeholders is tricky. They can be possessive of a project and pressured about its outcome. Because they have so much riding on its success, they can become prickly when issues challenge their assumptions or their comfort level. At the same time, their lack of technical expertise can make it difficult to understand the options that are viable for resolving an issue. And, of course, project managers can’t unilaterally impose a solution. They have to rely on their negotiating skills to keep things moving forward.

In the end, all participants want the same thing: a successful project that is complete in scope and delivered on-time and on-budget. For this reason, maintaining a perspective of partnership often pays the most dividends.

Think About Their Point of View: Recognizing why your stakeholder approaches an issue in a certain way is as important as understanding what they’re arguing for in the first place. For example, grasping the Sales department’s considerations – their overall targets, the competitive pressure they face and the demands salespeople hear from customers – will allow you to have more effective discussions around their concerns about schedules or feature sets. Similarly, understanding the technical and logistical constraints of the development staff will lead to more meaningful conversations about delivery and quality control.

Be Prepared. You can’t go into a negotiation assuming you’ll wing it, so anticipate your partner’s concerns, and be ready to address them. If you know tradeoffs will be required, outline the stakeholder’s choices and explain the impact each will have on the project’s scope, timeframe, and budget. In some cases, schedule is the overriding concern. In others, it might be cost. Bear those priorities in mind as you lead the discussion. It doesn’t make sense to stress the schedule-related aspects of a problem when the stakeholder’s mind is on how much money they’re spending.

Be honest: It’s just as important for stakeholders to understand the challenges you face. So be proactive about sharing your perspective, and remember that the stakeholder’s goals are impacted by many of the same things that influence yours: You all want the project to succeed, for example, and for your company to be well positioned in the market. Always be forthright in discussions about business outlook, project status and any difficulties you may anticipate. Not only will this provide a complete picture, it could help uncover solutions as the stakeholders weigh in with their own experience and ideas.

Listen: In any negotiation, it’s important that both sides be heard. Be sure to let the stakeholder outline their viewpoint, and ask questions when necessary to make sure you understand where they’re coming from. As your discussion continues, address the issues they’ve raised or promise to research areas that you can’t reply to on the spot. Too often, negotiations go off-track when one party believes their concerns are being given short shrift.

Of course, the situation is complicated by the unique place where PMs sit. Responsible for addressing everyone’s concerns, they almost never have the pure authority to pursue a particular approach without building some kind of consensus. Even if they did, successful projects are rarely built by edict. The best project managers have a knack for getting all sides to understand the others’ point of view and work cooperatively to attain the effort’s overriding goals.

Stakeholder Management can be tricky. Learn how to work with your internal partners more effectively in Merit Career Development’s Stakeholder Management course. To learn more, please contact Jim Wynne at jwynne@meritcd.com.

Stakeholder Mgmt


© 2015 Merit Career Development. All rights reserved.

Permanent link to this article: http://meritcd.com/blogs/tips-for-negotiating-with-project-stakeholders/

3 tips for creating a successful communication plan

3 tips for creating a successful communication planA communication plan is an essential tool for project managers to plan for resources, establish deadlines and reduce the likelihood of costly surprises. Project managers can use communication plans to create goals, set expectations, allow room for criticism and enable a dialogue for all stakeholders.

Although communication plans are important, not all project management training focuses enough on the critical skill of creating a reliable plan. Improve your effective communication skills and follow these three tips next time you develop a plan for a major project.

1. Identify all stakeholders and their influence levels

When you establish a communication plan, the first step is to assemble your stakeholder team and assess what members’ roles will be and how they can be most effective. Because stakeholder teams are made up of people from various departments or even separate companies, there are numerous barriers to communication. An effective plan removes these barriers, establishing clear lines for discussion among project members.

In order to make more effective use of time and resources, analyze the influence level of each stakeholder and plan accordingly. For example, a meeting without a decision maker present may end up wasting resources and the time of those who attend. Conversely, meetings should not be set for high-level stakeholders when only minor details are discussed and their presence is unnecessary.

2. Select an appropriate method of communication for all stakeholders 

A common cause of miscommunication is the multiple channels used in today’s workplace. Business communication can take place via email, over the phone, through texts or on video chats. When you create your plan, set a clear mode of communication so that no records are lost and key stakeholders aren’t left out of conversations. Video chats are often the best for keeping remote stakeholders engaged with the rest of the team, but email can help by providing a clear record. Help your team decide on the modes that work best for them.

3. Establish the frequency and level of detail 

A communication plan should plainly and unequivocally lay out the times and dates that members are expected to meet, talk or present data. Meetings held too often may lead to reduced attendance, while meetings held too infrequently may create gaps in communication and loss of productivity.

The level of detail required for each should be established beforehand, so that everyone is on the same page and prepared, leading to less wasted time. Regis College also points out that communication plans that improve productivity also contribute to lower resource costs because work is more efficient.

And don’t forget the project’s executive when building your communication plan. Make sure to include opportunities for the executive to communicate expectations, changes or even kudos.


© 2014 Merit Career Development. All rights reserved. For more information, please contact Jim Wynne at jwynne@MeritCD.com.

Permanent link to this article: http://meritcd.com/blogs/3-tips-for-creating-a-successful-communication-plan/