Learn how to Motivate your Manager at PMOZ

March 27, 2011

I have been asked to present a Keynote at this year’s PMOZ. The conference is in Brighton, Sydney from 2nd – 5th August, for more on PMOZ see: http://www.pmoz.com.au/

The focus of the presentation will be Motivate your Manager!  We all know senior management support is a critical element in the successful delivery of projects and programs. Without effective support from executives, project managers have difficulty accessing the full range of resources needed to achieve their projects objectives.

Covering key aspects of motivational communication across generations and cultures, my presentation will focus on a range of communication tools and methodologies project and program managers can deploy to motivate their managers to help them succeed. In most cases, a successful outcome is directly beneficial to the manager; the challenge is making the right connections.

The materials are based on parts of my new book, Advising Upwards: A Framework for Understanding and Engaging Senior Management Stakeholders

PMOZ is always great fun and has one of the best social programs in the business. I look forward to seeing you there!!

Cobb’s Paradox

March 18, 2011

Cobb’s Paradox states, ‘We know why projects fail; we know how to prevent their failure – so why do they still fail?’  PMI has recently published its latest Pulse of the Profession survey which shows some improvements on the 2008 and 2006 results but not much. Nearly half the projects surveyed in 2010 still failed to meet time and cost targets.

However, the PMI survey did highlight a stark difference between high performing organisations with a better than 80% success rate, and low performing organisations with a greater than 40% fail rate. And, the survey also clearly showed the processes typically used by the high performing organisations (and ignored by low performing organisations) are straightforward to implement and use; they include:

  • Using standardised project management processes.
  • Establishing a process to mature project, program and portfolio management practices.
  • Using a process to increase project management competency.
  • Employing qualified project managers.

Most of these elements coalesce around an effective project management office (PMO). Simply by standardising project management processes, the survey shows an organisation can expect a 25% increase in project success.

None of this new is new, KPMG demonstrated exactly the same point in its 2002 and 2003 surveys, supported by similar findings by PwC in 2004 (see: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/Resources_Papers.html#Proj_Off).

What’s worrying me is the large number of organisations whose middle and senior management are simply failing their stakeholders by not implementing these simple pragmatic steps. The question that should be asked is WHY?

The stakeholders whose rights are being ignored include the owners who have a right to expect efficient use of resources entrusted to the organisation and the people employed on the failed projects whose work life is made unnecessarily stressful.

As Deeming pointed out in the 1950s, quality is a management responsibility. Therefore, allowing poor quality project management processes to exist in an organisation is a management failure. To quote another mantra: quality is designed in not inspected in. Workers and project managers cannot be expected to retrofit quality into defective systems; systemic failures are a failure of management.

What makes the situation even more worrying is that the tools to develop a quality project management system are readily available. Models such as CMMI, P3M3 and PMI’s OPM3 maturity model has been around for years and are regularly updated.

PMI has recently moved to improve the availability and support for its OPM3 Self-Assessment Module (SAM). This basic assessment system is now sold and supported by organisations such as Mosaic that are qualified to deliver the full range of OPM3 services and help businesses achieve the best return on their investment (for more see: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/OPM3.html). OGC have similar arrangements for P3M3 as does CMMI.

So, given the tools are available, the knowledge is available, and the value has been consistently demonstrated; why are organisations still prepared to squander $millions on failed projects rather than investing a fraction of that amount in simple systems that can significantly improve the value they deliver to their stakeholders?
I would be interested to know the answer.

Rewards to Motivate Performance

March 11, 2011

When you do a good job, you like to feel appreciated and as a leader, rewarding good performance is one of the key ways to keep your team motivated. However, there is a significant difference in the way many businesses try to use rewards to motivate people and what scientific studies suggest are effective motivators.

The ‘carrot and stick’ approach has been shown to be largely ineffective. This is hardly new; Henry Gantt was advocating rewards over punishment as the most effective motivator as early as 1912. What is interesting though, is that providing transactional bonuses as the reward has also been shown to be largely ineffective. Simply providing a reward of ‘1’ if a person achieved 1X, and ‘2’ if they achieve 2X has little effect on motivation, particularly if the reward is money. If you don’t believe this watch Dan Pink’s TED presentation on the surprising science of motivation http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/dan_pink_on_motivation.html or look up Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory, wages are a hygiene factor, not a motivator.

What modern research has shown is the type of rewards that are effective. We all have a deep need for autonomy, the desire to direct our own lives, mastery, the urge to get better at doing our work and to feel successful, and purpose, the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.

If your leadership provides your team with these elements, you are likely to have satisfied and motivated people working together. Some of the key elements to integrate into your leadership include allowing team members the freedom to define their work within appropriate boundaries*, providing opportunities to develop new skills and linking their work to the objectives of the organisation and where possible benefits to society at large. Your job is to ‘join the dots’ and make the linkages: If we create a more efficient process, consumption will be reduced and there will be a benefit in the reduction of our organisation’s carbon footprint.

Rewards do not need to be large, but it helps if you can create a series of short, medium and long term aims to allow successes to be recognized regularly. Then provide rapid, frequent and clear feedback linked to graduated and scaled rewards for appropriate effort. The rewards themselves should reinforce the three elements above. Rewards that offer more autonomy or more control over a person’s work, or the opportunity to learn something new or polish an existing skill are far more likely to be effective than a transactional payment such as time off work. This is particularly true if the group as a whole can join in to celebrate the success.

So where can you start? One simple thing to try is the next time you need to direct a person to do a job, rather then telling them what to do and when it has to be finished, ask them how they can best achieve the objective of the task and how quickly do they think they can accomplish it. You may be surprised at the positive reaction.

* for more on bounded initiative see: http://mosaicprojects.wordpress.com/2010/07/30/command-or-control

Thoughts on Collaborative Working

March 5, 2011

The reason why trading goods, services and support creates value for all is simple – as long as there is a difference in abilities everyone wins…… A very simple example is where there are two things needed and two people need to have one of each. To make them:

  • Ms A is ultra efficient, she can product ‘X’ in one day and product ‘Y’ in 3 days.
  • Mr B is far less efficient but is good at ‘Y’. He can make ‘Y’ in 4 days but needs 6 days to produce ‘X’.

Overall to produce ‘X’ and ‘Y’ on their own Ms A would take 4 days and Mr B 10 days.

Now let’s introduce trade supported by specialisation. Ms A makes two ‘X’ and Mr B two ‘Y’, then they exchange one ‘X’ for one ‘Y’; so both end up with one each of the needed ‘X’ and ‘Y’.

The total time invested by Ms A becomes 2 days, a saving of two days and a 50% increase in efficiency.

The total time invested by Mr B becomes 8 days a saving of 2 days and an increase in efficiency of 25%.

Everyone is better off even before the advantages of specialisation are taken into account.

Archaeologists believe one of the key differentiators between Homo sapiens and Neanderthal man was Homo sapiens traded from very early in their evolutionary development, Neanderthals did not. Based on this simple example, collaboration can definitely pay dividends even in the 21st Century and may help you and your team avoid extinction.