Stakeholder Relationship Management

April 29, 2010

In addition to normal bound books, Stakeholder Relationship Management: A Maturity Model for Organisational Implementation, is also available as a Gower eBook. We have just been updated on the first quarter sales for the 150 or so Gower books that are available as eBooks and Stakeholder Relationship Management is the second best-seller for the last quarter.

Gower’s eBook can be purchased in their entirety or you may opt for short term access to the book or access to only one or two chapters. The eBook format currently available is Adobe eBook (pdf). For more information visit the Ashgate/Gower website.

To purchase normal books, see http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/Book_Sales.html for the options available.


The Central Role of Stakeholder Management

April 24, 2010

20 years ago, stakeholder management and shareholder/owner management were almost synonymous. In the intervening period, much has changed.

Most enlightened thinkers now place stakeholder management at the centre of effective business operations. The business needs to support, empower and satisfy the people working within the organisation, the general public and customers (now classes as Corporate Social Responsibility or CSR) and the owners of the business. All of these people are stakeholders.

Since the passing of the Sarbanes Oxley Act, organisational governance has become an important focus. For all types of organisation this is directly linked to governing the work of the people engaged in the work of the business; ie, stakeholders.

Since the GFC effective risk management has also become of increasing concern. Risk management is not the foolish attempt to avoid all risk – this is impossible, rather the effective management of risk within the risk tolerance thresholds of key stakeholders including the organisations owners and managers; ie, stakeholders.

Stakeholder Management

As summarised by the diagram above, business operations are intrinsically linked to, and require, effective governance, to meet the expectation of the organisations owners, within acceptable risk parameters to deliver value to society and the organisations clients or customers.

However, whilst stakeholder management is central to all of these processes, effective stakeholder management requires the allocation of scarce management resources to focus on the relationships between the work and the most important stakeholders. At the most fundamental level, the purpose of the Stakeholder Circle® methodology is understand ‘who’s who, and who’s important’ in the stakeholder community surrounding your work.

Once you understand this the effective management of stakeholders becomes possible. However, without the clarity of insight created by the careful analysis of the stakeholder community to determine who is really important the potential for wasted effort is enormous. As with most planning process, the payback from effort expended in analysis, is the reduced incidence of issues and problems as the work proceeds.

Can you afford not to focus some effort on effective stakeholder management?


The Value of Trust

April 18, 2010

Trust is a key element in the effective management of project teams and contracts. Trust speeds everything up and lowers costs but you have to continuously demonstrate you are completely trustworthy or people will quickly lose confidence in you. As the level of trust goes down, the speed of doing business goes down and costs go up. When levels of trust are low, or distrust exists, relationships and communications are ineffective and everything has to be proved or validated.

Balancing the cost of validation, checking and supporting legal documentation, the requirements of no trust, against the speed and cost effectiveness of trusting the information and actions of others is an interesting dilemma. How much is enough to pay for the lack of trust? Where are the pragmatic limits??

Temporary organisations such as project teams (particularly virtual teams), where people are brought together to complete a given task that requires a high degree of collaboration, within tight timescales and with a high cost of failure don’t have time to allow trust to develop naturally. They have to work out their differences on the fly and blindly trust one another to do their jobs. This is ‘swift trust’ and can be a powerful force but it is fragile and easily broken.

In other places a reputation for integrity and trustworthiness can be established and may pay dividends.

We are working on a White Paper looking at the role of trust within projects. Any thoughts of comments will be welcome. Previous White papers can be downloaded from http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/WhitePapers.html


The Art of Learning

April 3, 2010

I deliver a significant number of training sessions each year through Stakeholder Management and Mosaic Project Services; including both face-to-face classroom courses and using our Mentored Email™ distance learning methodology.

One of the interesting observations is how the rate of information absorption (ie, learning) varies from person to person. The rate of learning does not seem to be correlated to a person’s IQ, industry or role in the workforce. If anything, people who absorb the learning more slowly seem to retain the information longer.

It would appear the ability to learn is a skill that is exercised naturally by younger people, but as one grows older this natural ability seems to fade with only some adults maintaining their innate capability to learn, frequently linked to active practice via university courses, etc. When presented with a large volume of new information (eg, a PMP course) the rest of us need to learn how to learn!

Some of the easier ways to absorb, make sense of, and retain information include:

Using analogies and metaphors

You can learn abstract processes by creating metaphors for more common events. So whenever you learn a fact, ask yourself what the idea is similar to in the tangible world; eg, a data store in a software program may be a cupboard with different things on each shelf.

Build mental pictures

If you break apart a complex mathematical formula into components, you can try to imagine what it would like as a graph or how each component influences each other in a railway switchyard.

Build on the basics

Do a bit of extra research on your most difficult topics focusing on their foundations. You might not understand the more complex theories perfectly, but it makes understanding your testable material much easier.

Become the teacher

The act of explanation creates connections. Ask yourself how would you explain what you’re learning to someone else? Teaching forces you to simplify and break down complex ideas and then re-connect them to build the overall picture.

Stop writing transcripts

Try to free yourself from rigid note taking (the course handouts fulfil this need), instead write down ideas in branches and connections. Add your own thoughts, diagrams and arrows linking ideas so you have a web of information. ‘Mind mapping’ tools are great for this but pencil and paper work just as well.

Draw Diagrams

Most people think in pictures and maps. Research suggests drawing will increase your concentration and help develop the connections between ideas. A picture may not be worth a thousand words, but it can often illuminate the connections that lead to a greater understanding.

There are many more sophisticated memory techniques available in a range of books on the subject but certainly in our areas of teaching, the ability to link ideas and understand the flow of both ideas and information seem to be the key to real understanding.

This opens up a second strand of thought – making the best use of a training course. Some simple tips that will help you to get the most from your training course include.

Before the training course

  • Have a clear picture of what you hope to get from the training course expressed in terms of the benefits to you: a pay rise and promotion is more motivating than a PMP credential.
  • Do any pre-course reading and make a note of any questions to bring along and ask the trainer. You won’t pay extra if you make the trainer work hard……

At the training course

  • Arrive prepared
  • Be open to learning new concepts, even if these challenge your previous understanding
  • Don’t be afraid to ask the trainer to clarify points; remember that if you don’t understand something, it is likely that you are not the only one
  • Share experiences when they are relevant and learn from others in the group, they are likely to be from different industries and have different experiences; take advantage of the fact that you’re surrounded by people with diverse work backgrounds.
  • Dedicate time each evening to completing your homework activities, or reviewing the work covered during the day (our training courses cover a great deal of content in a condensed fashion – reviewing the material each day helps to cement the ideas in your mind).

After the training course

  • Use the resources provided during the training course to help you integrate the concepts into your every day work life (the first 24 hrs after the course are a critical period for reinforcing learning by practice).
  • Make the effort to change if you have discovered better ways of approaching your work, but remember you will need to explain the benefits of the change to people who did not attend your training sessions.
  • Recommend the training to any colleagues that you believe will benefit from it

Learning new things should be an enjoyable process at all stages of life and career, and is becoming increasingly important to stay competitive in a rapidly changing world. Learning how to learn effectively is the first step along the journey.