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Taking the Multi-headed ICT Project Beast by the Horns

Any project manager knows that significant ICT projects are challenging beasts to manage. Complex streams of activity involving many everchanging stakeholders means the beast has multiple heads that often want to go in different directions. Ask any lion trainer and they’ll tell you that tight routines and consistent little adjustments ensure that they don’t get eaten alive.

To tame beastly multi-stakeholder projects the same strategy needs to be used. It is absolutely vital to keep an easy, regular pulse on what is going on, but existing project management reviews and meetings don’t always do that very well.

Here are some ideas to help project leaders keep a tight view of what’s going on:

  1. Email or call regularly at a pre-arranged time with just 3 questions to get a stakeholder pulse- a fast moving project may pulse people with a weekly or fortnightly rhythm for example
  2. Follow individuals so you know where their sentiment towards the project has come from and where it’s heading- if you connect up what each person says at each pulse, you can see their project story
  3. Those individuals should be drawn from each involved stakeholder group and should involve people at all levels of involvement- not just senior people- as this is where many of the early warning signals come from
  4. Stay on top of the rolling in and rolling off of involved people
  5. Focus one master question on the big picture relating to the objectives of the project- e.g. ‘how likely do you think we are going to meet the project objectives together’ with two follow up questions- one on the good things enabling the achievement of the objectives and the second on the barriers that need to be overcome
  6. Use the results as metrics, but even more importantly use the voice of involved people to spark conversations about where things are going well in the project and where it needs improvement
  7. Write participation into the contract
  8. Report in real time and in the cloud, using built in work processes.


What are the benefits for project managers?

  • Get onto the front foot by nipping problems in the bud- as the saying goes, we should be spending more time building fire breaks than putting out forest fires. Don’t get blindsided by a problem that came from nowhere, when there were earlier symptoms. Dealing with unanticipated problems or misunderstandings can consume a big part of a project management team’s time and incur big remedial costs
  • Cut down on time-consuming face-to- face meetings which frees time to work on the important stuff
  • Creating an open communicative project culture amongst all involved people is a regular reminder that all projects are reliant on positive collaboration amongst stakeholders
  • Avoiding a bitch session by asking for the positives as well as areas to improve keeps morale up and brings a balanced view
  • Maintaining focus on the project’s big picture objectives keeps every person involved in the project
  • Identifying people who are reluctant to participate in the pulses is an early warning signal about their lack of willingness to openly communicate and collaborate
  • Good project managers know that only part of their job is to run project tasks according to plan- a big part is the management of expectations of involved people- not just the client, but also contractors- this applies equally to new stakeholders coming into a project, as it does to those who have been involved in the long run. Flushing out stakeholders whose expectations are out of synch saves time and money later on
  • Identifying and addressing pockets of negativity amongst stakeholders helps avoid parts of the project spiral out of control.

 

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