Credibility

April 27, 2013

There are all kinds of skills, qualities, and talents you need to be a successful project manager, but credibility is the single most important quality every project manager must possess. You certainly need to be able to see the big picture, be a leader, motivator, inspector and persuader; but, all of these qualities mean nothing unless you are seen to be credible.

Credibility is a combination of being seen to be trustworthy, convincing, and reliable. It is built in the minds of other people who are ‘watching you’ or need to rely on you, particularly your team members, managers and other key stakeholders. People judge for themselves whether to take you at your word or not.

The Building Blocks of Credibility:

The key building blocks are set out below:
Credibility-1
Trust is the foundation – when someone trusts you, you can build respect through ethical and effective behaviour. Trust is simply the assumption that you will behave properly and do what you say you will do; most pet owners trust their pets to behave! You earn respect by demonstrating ethical and effective behaviours. But respect is not enough – you can respect gallant losers and enemies.

The step from respect to credibility requires demonstrated competence, underpinned by knowledge (for more on competence see WP1056 Competency). When someone believes you are credible, that will listen to your advice and act upon your suggestions.

However, the beliefs perceptions and assumptions have to be real in the mind of the ‘other person’!

Credibility-2

If your operating framework is not aligned with the other person’s belief framework you cannot be credible to them – it’s all in the mind of the other person.

You may be the greatest IT project manager in the world, but if the way you dress and the jargon you speak does not fit with a particular senior executive’s beliefs about how competent mangers dress and speak, you will not be credible to that executive.

The way to break through the ‘belief barrier’ is to build empathy.

Credibility-3

Empathy is the capacity to recognise the emotions that are being experienced by another – the ability to ‘stand in their shoes’. Within business this is more generally characterised by a combination of beliefs and desires, and grasping these beliefs and desires is essential to being able to develop empathy.

The ability to imagine oneself as another person is a sophisticated imaginative process. An empathic interaction, however, involves you communicating an accurate recognition of the significance of another person’s ongoing intentional actions, associated emotional states, and personal characteristics in a manner that the other person can appreciate. It’s not the message itself that matters so much as the way it is communicated.
Put all of this together and you can build you credibility one stakeholder at a time.

Maintaining Credibility:

There are a number of things you can do as a project manager to maintain your hard earned credibility, including:

  • Do What You Say You Are Going to Do – Following through is easier said than done, and requires thoughtfulness to back up your words with actions…all the time. Your team is always watching how you behave. If you say you’re coming in early the next morning to knock out a tough part of the project plan, then make sure you show up early. Credibility starts with following through on your smallest commitments and migrates all the way up to your major promises.If you are not quite sure you can follow through; then don’t commit to it just yet. There’s nothing wrong with keeping your mouth shut and doing a bit more research before committing, and then following through on your promise.
  • Don’t Talk Too Much – The more incessantly you talk, the less credibility you will have. Certainly, project managers need to talk, usually a lot. The key is to find the optimal point at which you become and stay credible by moderating how much you say and what you talk about. You can always add a bit more ‘talk’ if needed, it is impossible to unspeak something that is already said.
  • Listen to Your Own Conversation – A very helpful practice is to listen to your own conversation and reflect on your dialogue with project team members. They’ll remember everything you say, so should you!

Some Simple Ways to Destroy Your Credibility

It takes years to build up a storehouse of credibility, and it is a great asset to have. Then, if and when you do make an honest mistake, that storehouse of credibility will bring you through the storm. However, there are certain things that will destroy your credibility within a matter of moments:

  • By Accident – Certain things are out of your. You must rely on others to do what they say they are going to do. You can follow up, cajole, and persuade as much as possible, but ultimately it is the responsibility of the resource to get the job done. Your superiors will understand for a little while if you are unable to deliver on a project because of other people’s shortcomings. However, these little accidents will ultimately undermine your credibility if they continue to occur.
  • By Covering Up – You will destroy your credibility if you deliberately conceal information, it is a breach of trust – the foundation of credibility.
  • By Being Manipulative – Another way to instantly lose credibility is to be manipulative. One technique of manipulation is convincing someone else that it’s in their best interest they get something done, when the reality is it’s in your best interest. Once the deception is uncovered your credibility is gone.

Conclusion

Build a solid base of credibility and your project management career will flourish. Trust is the foundation (for more on trust see: WP 10030 The Value of Trust). From this base your actions and competency build credibility. It’s hard earned, invaluable for influencing managers and ‘advising upwards’  effectively to help your managers help you, and it is easily destroyed!


How useful are BOKs?

April 21, 2013

We have the PMBOK® Guide, the APM BoK and many other BoKs and standards ranging from ISO 21500 to the PMI Practice standards.

We personally think they are useful and commit a significant amount of volunteer time to developing standards through PMI and ISO; as are the certifications to demonstrate a person has a good understanding of the relevant BoK (and we make money out of running our training courses).

However, we are fully aware that passing a knowledge based credential does not demonstrate competency (and that passing a competency based assessment does not demonstrate transferable knowledge – both are needed see: Developing Competency).

We are also aware that too many organisations place too much emphasis on ‘ticking boxes’ rather then taking time to assess people or optimise solutions. The easy tick in the box may avoid ownership of a problem but also tends to avoid the solution itself……

For these reasons we commend the Association for Project Management (APM – UK, publisher of the APM BoK) for publishing a short video, based on a talk given by our friend and colleague, Dr. Jon Whitty to the APM in Reading UK in Nov last year. I hope it starts you thinking.

See the video: http://www.apm.org.uk/news/courageous-conversation#.UXE_pLXfCSp


PMI Standards Round-Up

April 15, 2013

PMI StandardsThe three standards released by PMI at the beginning of this year were the:
PMBOK® Guide Fifth Edition
Standard for Portfolio Management Third Edition
Standard for Program Management Third Edition

As a consequence, the global PM community now has a set of basic standards that will remain stable for the next four years through to the next cyclical update scheduled for late 2016. The tight integration between all three standards means minimal duplication of ideas and best practices.

Whilst each of the PMI Credentials tends to focus on one of these three standards, the key thing from an organisational perspective is they are integrated, and after this round of upgrades better integrated than ever!

The Portfolio Management standard focuses on the investment decisions needed to select the best projects and programs to start and maintain to achieve the organisations strategy within its resource constraints. Selecting the ‘right projects and programs to do’.

For guidance on ‘doing them right’, the Program Management standard focuses on the business outcome and integration aspects of program management and the PMBOK® Guide covers off the basic skills and capabilities needed to deliver the project outputs efficiently.

Each standard can be used in isolation; however, the real power lays in using all three as a framework for organisational improvement – Creating an effective Project Delivery Capability (download the PDC White Paper). The final missing link, PMI’s updated OPM3 standard will be released later this year.

This means that organisations interested in developing a best practice capability across the ‘enterprise’ aimed at achieving the maximum sustainable value from its investment in projects and programs now have an ideal opportunity to buy into current thinking via these standards and time to develop improved processes.

We have enjoyed working through the standards and writing this series of posts on the improvements (for previous posts click here) – but 4 months down the track we now consider these ‘new’ standards business as usual, have consigned the ‘old’ standards to history, and will make this our last post on the updates. Our very last PMP and CAPM course based on the ‘old’ standards will be run at the end of May (view course details) and then we will be 100% aligned to the new and improved versions. We encourage everyone else to do the same.


Defining Governance

April 4, 2013

In a previous post, we defined management; this post seeks to achieve a similar definition of governance.

Governance is the act of governing. It is the way rules are set and implemented, and relates to the way decisions are made that define expectations, grant power, and verify the performance of people within the entity being governed.

To distinguish the term governance from government, governance is what a governing body does. It might be the governing body of a geo-political entity (nation-state – typically referred to as the government), a corporate entity (typically the Board of Directors), or another type of organisation. When looking at organisations and corporations (Corporate Governance), the governing body may be the individual that owns an organisation, but more typically is a small group of people at the apex of the organisation’s hierarchy.

Sir Adrian Cadbury (2002) defined the aim of corporate governance as aligning as nearly as possible the interests of individuals, organisations and society. Corporate governance is concerned with holding the balance between economic and social goals and between individual and communal goals. The governance framework is there to encourage the efficient use of resources and equally to require accountability for the stewardship of those resources. It is the system by which business corporations are directed and controlled.

Stewardship is an important governance concept. It includes:
Fealty: A propensity to view the assets at ones command as trust for future generations rather than available for selfish exploitation.
Charity: A willingness to put the interests of others ahead of ones own.
Prudence: A commitment to safeguard the future even as one takes advantage of the present.

The governance framework, set by the governing body, specifies the distribution of rights and responsibilities among different participants in the corporation, such as the board, managers, shareholders and other stakeholders, and spells out the rules and procedures for making decisions on corporate affairs. By doing this, it also provides the structure through which the company objectives are set, and defines the means of attaining those objectives and of monitoring performance.

The Functions of Governance
The governance function has two key aspects; the first is deciding what the organisation should be and how it should function. These governance decisions are communicated to management for implementation and the primary outputs from this part of the governance system are:

  • The strategic objectives of the organisation framed within its mission, values and ethical framework.
  • The policy framework the organisation is expected to operate within.
  • The appointment of key managers to manage the organisation.

These aspects are best developed using a principle-based approach that recognises and encourages entrepreneurial responses from all levels of management.

The second aspect of the governance system is oversight and assurance. The governing body should pro-actively seek assurance from its management that the strategic objectives and policies are being correctly achieved or implemented. The assurance and oversight functions include:

  • Agreeing the organisations current strategic plan (in conjunction with executive management). The strategic plan describes how the strategic objectives will be achieved.
  • Suggesting or approving changes to the strategic plan to respond to changing circumstances.
  • Requiring effective assurance from management that the organisations policy framework is being adhered to.
  • Requiring effective assurance from management that the organisations resources are being used as efficiently as practical in pursuit of its strategic objectives.
  • Communicating the relevant elements of the assurances received from management to appropriate external stakeholders.
  • Assurance to the organisation’s owners the strategy and policies are being adhered to by management and the organisation as a whole.
  • Assurance to a wider stakeholder community (including regulatory authorities) the organisation is operating properly.

The role of management is the mirror image of governance:

  • Providing input to develop the strategic plan
  • Implementing the approved strategic plan within the policy guidelines set by the governing body.
  • Providing assurance to the governing body that the management structure is:
    • Operating ethically and accountably
    • Providing effective stewardship of the resources available to the organisation
  • Providing timely and accurate information on achievements and issues.

Managing the organisation and making the executive level and operational level decisions needed to implement the agreed strategy and run the organisation within the ethical and policy framework set by the governing body are the core skills and responsibility of management.

Governance and sustainability
The key challenge for the governing body is balancing the competing needs of the organisations stakeholders, including but not limited to its owners, employees, suppliers, customers and society at large, so as to align as nearly as possible the interests of each stakeholder, the organisation and ‘society’ in a sustainable way.

Tripple bottom line

The four elements of sustainability are the three depicted above plus time. The current governors of an organisation need to be cognisant of sustaining the organisation into the future and governing so that the organisation can continue as a valuable contributor to the needs of its stakeholders in the medium and long term, as well as the current short term.

The Governance of PPP
Within this overall framework, the governance of project, program and portfolio management (PPP) is simply an integral part of the overall governance process. Whilst there are specific skills and elements associated with governing PPP these are governance requirements, the responsibility of the governing body.

Similarly the management of the organisation’s portfolios, programs and projects at both the overall enterprise level and the operational level is an integral part of the management process. So whilst there are specific skills and elements associated with the overarching management of the PPP domain at the enterprise level, these are management skills, and are the responsibility of the management team. In short, Governors govern, Managers manage.

To access our other papers looking at different aspects of governance see: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/PM-Knowledge_Index.html#OrgGov


PMBOK 5 – Some final thoughts

April 1, 2013

We are now well into the process of updating materials and writing new questions based on the PMBOK® Guide 5th Edition – From being something new, the book is now becoming increasingly familiar:

  • Our daily question has had a 5th Edition for the last 3 months: you can follow the questions on Twitter: see today’s question
  • Updates to our CAPM, PMP and PMI-SP courses are planned and under development – our new Mentored Email™ courses will start in late April.
  • Our last classroom course based on the 4th Edition will be at the end of May
  • The PMI examination change dates are:
    – CAPM 1st July
    – PMP 1st August
    – PMI-SP 1st September
  • The initial rush of people interested in buying the 5th Edition has subsided and we are effectively out of stock of the 4th Edition.

Overall as we become more familiar with the 5th Edition we are finding it to be a significant improvement. There are certainly a few issues and problems highlighted in earlier posts in this series (view the full series) but the enhancements significantly outweigh the odd regression.

One of the minor but important improvements is he ranges for cost estimates are back to the industry standards of -25% to +75% for ROM and -5% to +10% for detailed estimates. This pessimistic shift in the ranges more accurately reflects reality.

The rearrangement of the first three chapters is also significant and is aligned with the standards for Program and Portfolio management:

  • Chapter 1 sets the scene with:
    – definitions of a project and project management,
    – discussion of the relationships between project, program and portfolio management, in the context of organizational project management,
    – Discussions of the relationship between project management, operations management, strategy and business value
    – the role of the project manager.
  • Chapter 2 focuses on organisational influences including the influence of project stakeholders and governance on the project team and the overall project lifecycle.
  • Chapter 3 looks at project management processes and the structure of the rest of the PMBOK.

The reorganisation of this front section, facilitated in part by the move of the ANSI standard to Annex A1 is probably the quiet achievement in the standard. The section flows far more sensibly and logically than in previous editions.

In conclusion – the quality of the PMBOK® Guide 5th Edition has been enhanced by hundreds of small changes that make the work of transitioning our course materials hard work and will certainly require some hard work from anyone who has to update their exam preparation.

So a word of warning: If you are trained for the current exam make sure you sit before the change over dates – PMI do not have any flexibility in the timing of the system changes!! This includes re-sits. After the change over date, all new exams are based on the new standards.

But once through these changes we certainly have a better book for the next 4 years and the development team deserve congratulations for a job well done.