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The Art of Positive Politics: A Key to Delivering Successful Projects

  • By: scott.roberts on 18 May 2018

by Vijay K. Verma (PMI Fellow, PMP, MBA, P. Eng.)

Today’s business environment is characterized by global competition, rapidly changing technology, and a limited human resource pool with the proper skill mix. Now more than ever, project management is critical to an organizations’ survival; balancing the constantly shifting business landscape to execute strategies and transform goals into reality. At its core, power and politics are critical factors in determining the success of a projects but they are rarely, if ever, discussed in depth in project management literature. Internal politics permeate all levels within an organization and should be taken into consideration when navigating any project.

Whether you want it or not, politics exist in every organization and are an important part of project management environments because projects are done by people with different viewpoints, expectations, interests, and personalities. People are the ones who make things happen or prevent them from happening.

The existence of politics within any given project can be labeled as either positive or negative. Negative emphasizes “I”, whereas positive emphasizes “we”. Although politics cannot be eliminated entirely, efforts should be made to minimizing negative politics with through the implementation of positive ones. Focusing on personal agendas, finger pointing, and favoritism are all prime example of negative politics. On the other hand, positive politics focus on the team as a whole - redirecting the energy of people involved to create a culture of more collaboration, synergy, and commitment. It is unfortunate that positive politics are less understood, and that many managers at various levels view them with suspicion and uncertainty.

The Art of Positive Politics is a new book by author Vijay K. Verma that sheds light on organizational politics and provides guidelines to manage them at all levels to deliver successful projects. The book will enable readers to understand: positive and negative politics, the Ten Commandments to powerfully minimize the impact of negative politics, ways to analyze the landscape to identify a stakeholder’s political positions, understanding and managing political behaviors, and managing politics at the upper management and project levels.

Vijay K. Verma is an internationally renowned speaker and author. He wrote a three-volume series on the Human Aspects of Project Management published by the Project Management Institute (PMI): Organizing Projects for Success, Human Resource Skills for the Project Manager, and Managing the Project Team. In 2009 Mr. Verma was awarded the PMI Fellow Award and prior to that, the 1999 PMI David I. Cleland Project Management Literature Award (for his book Managing the Project Team), and the 1999 PMI Distinguished Contribution Award for sustained and significant contributions to the project management profession.

New Video: Asked to Train? Insider Tips for Knowledge Transfer Success

  • By: pcadmin on 06 Apr 2018

Join Procept Associate Terry Kozlowski as she shares tips on how to best teach others. Useful if you are interested in adult training or even if you are just asked to show a colleague how to perform a complex task, this webinar will help you succeed.

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New Video: Project InfoBursts

  • By: pcadmin on 03 Apr 2018

Join Procept Associate Ralph Kuhn as he addresses how taking a casual approach to project communications management may put your project or program at risk.

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New Video: Using a Capability Lens to Identify Project and Program Risk

  • By: pcadmin on 02 Apr 2018

Join Procept Associate Mark Peco as he discusses how to use a data-driven approach to identify project and program delivery risks.

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New Video: Do You Know What Should Be on Your PM Radar? Key Trends in Project Management

  • By: pcadmin on 02 Apr 2018

Join Procept Senior Associate Sylvie Edwards as she discusses trends in the project management profession and how you can prepare yourself for the coming changes.

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New Video: Conflict on Projects - Please Tell Me Why?

  • By: pcadmin on 02 Apr 2018

Join Procept Senior Associate, Janice Petley, as she explains the most common causes of conflict on projects — and what to do about them.

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Breakfast Showcase - Mindfulness

Join us on Thursday, April 19, for a complimentary breakfast showcase on Mindfulness.

Mindfulness has been proven by science to reduce feelings of stress, make our bodies healthier, and allow us to appreciate day to day life – ups and downs included. In the workplace, mindfulness can be credited with improving decision-making and enhancing clarity and creativity.

Space is limited so please RSVP as soon as possible.

To learn more about this event and to RSVP please click below.

Event Date: 
Thursday, April 19, 2018 - 08:00 to 10:00
Event Type: 

Why Do We Do It?

  • By: robin on 16 Mar 2018

As project managers, when we start a project, it is usually just a concept. To get from this concept to the finish, we need procedures, methods, and tools. However, there is more to project management than this. I’ve always considered myself to one who got things done and from my experience, project management also involves:

Technology. You’re starting with a blank piece of paper and developing what you think someone else wants. New technologies and materials allow you to be even more creative. By using technologies like 3D printing, you can physically show the stakeholders what you are planning. You need to be aware of new advances in technology and have your team apply them to the project. 

Daily problems. You need to be able to solve problems, which occur daily. Following a systematic approach rather than trial and error will result in better solutions. Be prepared to think outside the box. Look ahead; what can you do now to prevent a problem in the future? 

Getting what you need. Since all your resources are limited (labour, equipment, material, and funding) you must work at acquiring what you need. You must anticipate what you need in advance and get commitments for the resources. If you have a history of delivering what you promised, this makes getting resources easier. If people want to work for you, even better. 

Your team. You should know your team. Take every opportunity to train the junior members of the team. Use your projects to improve their skills. Understand what motivates each member and change your style to match theirs.

Being honest. Projects go through highs and lows. There are always good and bad rumours and it is up to you to be honest about them. The team needs to stay focused through the ups and downs.  
In the end, we do it all because projects are fun and can take from six months to up to two years or more to do, so your team becomes important to you. When the design, construction and startup come together and everything performs as designed, there is a “rush” of satisfaction and achievement. A high or an emotional release. You can get the “rush” on small projects that work out, as it depends on your skill level. This is the joy of working on projects, being a project manager, and what keeps us going. 

Watch the following video to the end which illustrates the “rush”, the feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment better than I can explain it in words:

I hope you are lucky enough in your career to experience this.


Morley Selver

Agile Methods And The Need For Speed

  • By: robin on 13 Mar 2018

When asking people why they want to use agile delivery methods, one of the most common reasons I hear is that they want to “deliver faster.” It seems that there is a widespread frustration with the way administrative bureaucracy, inefficient development processes, and overburdening governance processes impede project performance. In many cases, an apparently simple, short development project cannot be delivered quickly because of the process and governance overheads that stretch the project out across the calendar and act as a multiplier on the estimated project budget.

Of course project sponsors are frustrated with this situation – I’d be frustrated too. If there is needless red tape slowing down a project, that is an evil that should be rooted out and eradicated within our organizations. The problem, however, is that agile methods are not about delivering faster; rather, their benefits are in other areas:

Lower Risk of Building the Wrong Thing — With frequent demonstrations of the evolving solution, the project sponsor and other stakeholders can see where the project is headed and they can redirect the project team’s efforts if there has been a misunderstanding of requirements. Additionally, this redirection can include the addition of new requirements or changes to existing requirements to ensure the project is delivering optimum value. It is important to note that the business stakeholders’ understanding of what they asked for evolves over the course of the project, bringing new insights and new requests.
Rapid Reduction in Technical Risk — Through careful prioritization, the project team can quickly eliminate technical risk in the project by validating the solution design in early iterations. If an assumption proves wrong, or if the solution design does not work, then there will be minimal rework required (and possibly plenty of time remaining on the schedule) to correct the issue. Once the major technical issues have been resolved, the remainder of the project should proceed without further major interruptions.
Higher Quality — By testing throughout the project, defects are found early when there is time left in the project to correct them and relatively low level of rework required to correct the problems. This is very different from the waterfall method wherein testing is performed at the end of the whole project, leaving little time left for correcting issues and a higher likelihood that corrections will require significant updates across many areas of the completed solution. Add in the benefits of regression testing – retesting past features/deliverables to ensure that recent changes or additions have not impacted them – and we can see that our most important items are tested and then retested over and over to ensure that they are of the highest quality at the end of the project.
Reduced Waste — Agile methods put a very strong emphasis on continuous improvement activities with an aim to improve efficiency of the delivery process, allowing teams to reduce waste. At the end of each iteration, the delivery team holds a retrospective — a “lessons learned” meeting – where team members identify processes that are working effectively, those that did not work well, and what changes can be recommended for the next iteration to improve the teams’ productivity and the quality of its deliverables.
Improved Trust — Under the agile delivery model, a project team makes smaller, short-term commitments that are easier to estimate and to achieve. As a result, the team develops a reputation for meeting their commitments, which helps build trust with the business sponsor.
Open, Transparent Communications — Agile methods recommend frequent, open communications between team members and also between the project delivery team and the project sponsor. Daily team meetings help team members understand each other’s issues, fostering collaboration, mentoring, and early identification of issues to the project manager for resolution or escalation. Daily access to the project sponsor helps with escalation and rapid decision making. Agile status tracking techniques, such as requiring the delivery team to demonstrate completed deliverables at the end of each iteration, also help to improve transparency by revealing the true progress of the project — there should be no last-minute surprises for the sponsor of an agile project.
Improved Morale — With a team able to meet its commitments by delivering completed solution components on a regular basis, the team members feel productive. Combined with the positive results of continuous improvement activities, team members know they are being efficient and see the value they are creating for the business. Shared team goals lead to cross-functional cooperation, which also adds to team productivity. All of these lead to good morale among team members.
Lower Risk of Being Late or Over Budget — The above benefits combine to reduce the risk of the project completing late or over budget. Frequent feedback cycles ensure that misunderstandings are surfaced earlier when there may still be time to correct them without impacting the timeline. Continuous testing finds defects earlier to that they may be fixed earlier, reducing the risk of a major defect being found in the last days of the project. Continuous improvement activities (retrospectives) ensure that the project focuses on delivering efficiently. Transparent communications help to reduce misunderstandings that may lead to rework or other project delays. As you can see, many of our agile practices contribute towards reducing the risk of the project exceeding schedule and budget constraints.
The above items are the most common (and substantial) benefits that organizations achieve through the use of agile methods and none of them related to speed. There are a couple of other benefits, however, that do tie in to the need for faster delivery:

Earlier Delivery of Business Value — By breaking the project down into segments that are delivered incrementally in regular intervals, the project creates the opportunity for the sponsor to make some use of a completed portion of the solution partway through the project. The sponsor may decide to use the partially-completed-but-still-functioning solution to beat competitors to the market and capture valuable market share, demonstrate to business partners what will be forthcoming when the project is complete so that they can begin aligning their own business offerings with the new solution, begin training users of the solution before the entire solution is complete, or any number of other beneficial scenarios. To capture early benefits in this way, the project sponsor needs to carefully prioritize project requirements and work with the project team to build a release plan that aligns with the business’ strategy. Each release to a production state requires a significant investment in acceptance testing, independent quality assurance, data migration, training support staff, and other production-readiness activities. Business sponsors should carefully consider these activities and costs when determining how often they should promote work-in-progress into production, as too frequent promotions can negatively impact the business case.
Possibility of Completing the Project Early — Something that rarely happens under the waterfall method but which becomes feasible using an agile approach is the early completion of the project, saving significant time and money. If a waterfall project is terminated three quarters of the way through, the project team is probably still building the solution or is just entering the testing phase. At this point, the solution is untested and likely has many defects preventing its use by the project sponsor to achieve the expected business value. With the delivery of the solution in fully-completed segments throughout the project, with the ordering of those segments in order of business priority, and with early and continuous testing, there is the opportunity with agile methods for the business to decide to end the project early, when the remaining work is of lower priority not being worth the extra investment to build those pieces.
These last two items, when implemented, can lead to faster delivery. Project sponsors should be very conscious, however, that the early promotion of a partial solution to production incurs significant extra costs for acceptance, production readiness verification, and other transition activities. The option to end the project early also comes with the cost of cutting out some of the lower-priority project scope.

In both of these cases, increased speed of delivery comes with a significant cost that needs to be carefully considered. Sponsors citing “the need for speed” as their primary reason for pushing for an agile approach may not understand the other benefits that may be easier to obtain and may more meaningfully impact their bottom line. Single-mindedly pushing for speed may jeopardize the attainment of the project business case without a sound understanding of the activities required to transition deliverables into a production state. Project sponsors should engage in broader discussions with the delivery team to understand the required transition activities and to prepare a delivery strategy that maximizes the delivery of business value considering all relevant costs. As always, increased communication is vital for project success.

Kevin Aguanno, PMP, MAPM, IPMA-B, Cert.APM, CSM, CSP is a principal consultant with GenXus Management Consulting, a specialist in project and programme management strategy consulting with deep expertise in agile delivery frameworks. Author of over 20 books, audiobooks, and DVDs on agile topics, Aguanno teaches agile methods at several universities and at conferences around the world. Find out more at www.AgilePM.com.

NEW VIDEO: Choosing the Right Iteration Length

  • By: pcadmin on 16 Jan 2018

Join Procept's Agile Practice Lead, Kevin Aguanno, as he answers common questions all new agile practitioners ask such as how do you choose the right iteration (or sprint) length for your project? Should you always choose the same length? And can you vary them?

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