Stakeholder Management Supporting Senior Managers’ Executive Round Table

August 26, 2013

Stakeholder Management Pty Ltd is co-sponsoring the 2013 Senior Managers’ Executive Round Table that is being run in conjunction with ISSEC and PMOz.

Hosted by  Kirk Botula, CEO of the CMMI Institute and supported by a range of industry experts, the Executive Round Table is a strategic level forum which aims to address the question: Achieving Business Value through Program Success – why is change so ‘hit and miss?

This is an exclusive event, separate from the rest of the ISSEC and PMOz conference programs open to executives and senior-level management – invitation only!  The round table’s goal is to promote and encourage dialogue and sharing of lessons learned among peers. The key benefits of attending the Round Table are:

  • Collaboratively defining potential solutions to the current challenges faced by organisations;
  • Using real data on the benefits and returns-on-investment from implementing proven methods to address these challenges; and
  • Learning from the presenters and each others experiences.

This fully hosted event is an initiative of the Systems and Software Quality Institute and PMGlobal and will be run in conjunction with ISSEC and PMOz.

Venue: Grand Hyatt Melbourne
Date: Wednesday 18 September, 2013
Time: 11:30am – 2:30pm

The good news is that as sponsors of this exclusive event, we have a limited number of invitations available – if you would like to join the ‘round table’ call or email our office before the 3rd September.

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The social dynamics of governance – Bullying and Pressure Projects

August 16, 2013

A number of current news items have highlighted the complexity and interconnectedness of governance in organisations. The blog post is going to draw together four elements – high pressure projects, bullying, the need for organisations to provide a safe workplace and the need to support people with mental illness; all of which have interconnected governance implications.

To lay the foundation for this post, the interconnected nature of governance has been discussed in our post Governance -v- Management: A Functional Perspective and is best displayed in this ‘petal diagram’

Petal Diagram Governance

The catalyst for this post are some recent changes in Australian workplace legislation that is forcing all types of organisations to consider how they manage the mental health of their paid and volunteer workforce.  In essence these codified requirements are no different to the pre-existing requirements to protect the physical wellbeing of the workforce and others interacting with the organisation, the only difference is mental heath and wellbeing are now overtly covered.

The new uniform national workplace health and safety laws require employers to ensure that workplaces are physically and mentally safe and healthy, and the work environment does not cause mental ill-health or aggravate existing conditions.  Under these harmonised laws ‘reckless conduct’ offences incur penalties of up to $3 million for corporations and $600,000 and/or 5 years jail for individuals.

 

These challenges cannot be avoided; it remains illegal to discriminate against individuals on the grounds of disability, including mental disability, in the same way it is illegal to discriminate on the grounds of age, sex, race, and religious and other beliefs.

These are not trivial issues as the  $230,000 penalty (fines and costs) awarded  by the Victorian Supreme Court against the former operator of a commercial laundry for ‘workplace abuse’ and the  reputations damage suffered by CSIRO (Australia’s premier scientific research organisation), over on-going bullying allegations demonstrate.

There is a growing awareness of psychological hazards in the workplace including bullying, harassment and fatigue; and the consequences of organisational failures in this area can extend well beyond the strict legal liabilities.  To avoid prosecution and reputational damage, organisations are increasingly being required to take proactive, preventative actions and implement a culture, reinforced by effectively implemented policies to manage these aspects of workplace health and safety. Attitudes are slow to change and creating a culture that properly respects and protects mental wellbeing will require a sustained focus at the governance levels of the organisation as well as in the day-to-day management of the work place.

The payback for good governance and effective management in this area is that organisations that promote good mental health in the workplace are seen as great places to work, and have higher levels of productivity, performance, creativity, and staff retention, and tend to financially outperform other less well governed organisations. These are very similar findings to organisations that actively support and embrace ‘Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) – apparently the good guys finish first (not last)!!

However, managing this change is not going to be simple!  Organisations are under ever increasing pressure to adapt to a rapidly changing environment and to produce ‘more with less’ to survive. One of the key capabilities enabling quick and effective strategic change is the domain of project and program management. In response to these organisational pressures, project managers are increasingly being placed under stress to be faster, cheaper and better and to deliver the new capability or ‘thing’ in record time.  Couple this to the mistaken belief of some managers that setting ‘stretch targets’ is a way to motivate workers (even though sustained failure is known to be a major cause of stress and demotivation) and you end up with a classic governance dilemma.

Deciding how to best balance these competing demands require an overarching governance policy supported by a sympathetic implementation by management to achieve both a safe work environment and an effective management outcome.  In the absence of effective governance managers are left to sort out their own priorities and frequently are driven by short term KPIs focused on easy to measure cost and time performance criteria. In these circumstances concern for performance frequently outweighs concern for people.

These issues are compounded by the fact that far too many middle and project managers lack effective people skills and can easily drift from pushing for performance to micro management to outright bullying. The mental wellbeing risks include applying undue pressure to perform that induces stress leading to depression; as well as more overt acts of aggression and bullying. The Australian Fair Work Amendment Bill of 2013 defines workplace bullying as ‘repeated, unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or group of workers that creates a risk to health or safety’.

Unfortunately, at least in the Australian context, bullying is a major unreported problem. A recent survey by the University of Sydney (see the report summary) has found that workplace bullying tends to be peer-to-peer and occurs at all levels of organisations. Most incidents occur within the presence of one’s peers, including bullying in meetings and other managers are unlikely to intervene. The problem is insidious, nearly 50% of the survey respondents reported bullying in the last year, and only 16% organisation assisted the situation when the problem was reported. But, ignoring the issue is a high risk strategy.

All types of organisation need to develop focused strategies to reduce the opportunities for bullying to occur at every level from the board room table down to the shop floor; and to policies backed by procedures to deal with bullying effectively when it does occur, in ways that support the victims. Bullying is illegal, causing damage to a person’s mental health is illegal (and bullying is only one way this can occur) and failing to effectively manage the consequences of mental illness is illegal.

The ongoing damage being caused to CSIRO’s reputation by the publication of the report into bullying within the organisation demonstrates the way these problems can escalate into a major issue for the Board. The on-going publicity associated with potential litigation and prosecutions has a long way to run before the final wash up allows CSIRO to move forward with a clean slate. And, as the CSIRO report suggests, the consequences of breaking the law are likely to be a small part of the overall damage caused governance failures in this important area.

The reason this is primarily a governance issue is the challenge associated with developing a philosophy and culture that empowers management to resolve the dilemma associated with balancing commercial objectives against personal wellbeing objectives – there is no ‘right answer’.  It is all too easy for executives to decide the organisation needs a new capability, managers being tasked to deliver the required outcome with inadequate resources, and the project manager to be given an unreasonably short timeframe for delivery.  The pressure to ‘perform’ inevitably leading to increases in stress, conflict and potentially bulling. But whilst there are many questions, and decisions, there are few clear answers:

  • When does the need to perform and work extended hours slip into workplace fatigue and an unsafe work environment?
  • When does the project manager’s desire to push team members for maximum performance slip into bullying?
  • Who is responsible for creating the unsafe work environment:
    –  The PM operating at the tactical level?
    –  The managers that set the strategic objectives?
    –  The executives who created the overall environment?
    –  The ‘governors’ who failed to offer appropriate leadership?

Good management can certainly alleviate some of the symptoms, but good governance is needed to eliminate the root cause and promote mental wellbeing in the workplace. At least in Australia there are now effective laws to help and the data shows improving this aspect of an organisation is good for business, and of course excellent stakeholder management.


Stakeholder Management Maturity

August 14, 2013

Recognition of the importance of stakeholder management has taken a huge leap forward since the release of the PMBOK® Guide 5th Edition.   The next challenge, addressed in this blog, is for organisations to be able to map their maturity with a view to improving their stakeholder management capabilities.

The PMBOK® Guide lays out the fundamental framework for effective stakeholder management and aligns fairly closely with the structure of the Stakeholder Circle® methodology we have been developing for the last decade. Within the PMBOK:

  • Process 13.1 deals with the identification of stakeholders and the creation of a stakeholder register.   This is directly supported by the Identify and Prioritise steps in the Stakeholder Circle® methodology. The key difference is the PMBOK tends to classify stakeholders based on simple 2×2 matrices, the Stakeholder Circle uses a more sophisticated analysis that prioritises stakeholders based on their importance to the project rather than just their attitude (positive or negative).
  • Process 13.2 Plan Stakeholder Management, links the stakeholder management section of the PMBOK to the Communication  section and focuses on defining the current  attitude of each stakeholder, the realistically desirable attitude we would like the stakeholder to have, and the communication strategy needed to maintain satisfactory attitudes and beneficially change  attitudes that need improving.  These concepts directly align with the Visualise and Engage stages in the Stakeholder Circle methodology.
  • Then the hard work of effectively engaging and communicating with the important stakeholders begins (without ignoring the less important ones).  The planning, managing and controlling of communications (from Chapter 10) link to process 13.3 Manage Stakeholder Engagement. Issues identification and management is a key element in this process and a core element in our Stakeholder Circle database tool.  The next upgrade of the Stakeholder Circle database tool will add a contact management module to facilitate the rest of this process.
  • The final process in the PMBOK® Guide, 13.4 is the standard PMBOK controlling process that actively encourages the regular review of the overall stakeholder management process and aligns exactly with Stage 5, Monitor changes in the Stakeholder Circle® methodology.  As with effective risk management, the environment needs to be continually scanned for emerging stakeholders, and if the current engagement strategies are not working with identified stakeholders, new ones need to be tried.

The good news is the framework we developed in the Stakeholder Circle® methodology nearly 10 years ago and the framework adopted by PMI in the PMBOK® Guide and most other competent stakeholder management methodologies all lay out the same basic steps.  And, as PMI claims for the PMBOK in general, these processes have become generally accepted good practice.

The challenge now is to build these good practices into the culture of organisations so they become simply ‘the way we do business’.  Maturity models such as P3M3, CMMI and OPM3 look at the stages of developing and implementing good practices in organisations.  The SRMM® Maturity Model has been designed to provide a similar framework for organisations seeking to develop an enhanced stakeholder management capability.

The five levels of the Stakeholder Relationship Management Maturity (SRMM®) Model are:

  1. Ad hoc:  some use of processes
  2. Procedural:  focus on processes and tools
  3. Relational:  focus on the Stakeholders and mutual benefits
  4. Integrated:  methodology is repeatable and integrated across all programs and projects
  5. Predictive:  used for health checks and predictive risk assessment and management.

And for each level of maturity, the SRMM Model defines the key features, the good practice components, and the expected tools and reporting process expected at that level of maturity, together with some general guidance.

SRMM is designed to be an open system that would support any effective stakeholder management methodology (not just the Stakeholder Circle), which means SRMM is a useful tool for implementing a stakeholder management methodology based on the PMBOK’s processes as effectively as one using the more sophisticated capabilities of the  Stakeholder Circle.

The SRMM® Model is available for downloading and use by any organisation planning to implement effective stakeholder management under a free Creative Commons licence. Download you copy of the SRMM® Model.


Leading Knowledge Workers

August 8, 2013

Peter Drucker announced the passing of the ‘command and control’ style of business leadership in the 1950s. He and others recognised it is an act of futility to tell a person she MUST come up with a bright idea to solve a problem; but this does not stop a lot of ‘C’ and ‘D’ grade mangers from exacerbating failure by trying to control everything and blaming everyone else when the inevitable happens.  Knowledge workers need motivating, guiding and inspiring by their leader so they feel empowered to deal with the issue or challenge.

This is not a new concept, the military developed the concept of auftragstaktik at the beginning of the 19th Century (see: Command or Control).  Ever earlier, Laozi said “A leader is best when people barely know he exists. When his work is done, his aim fulfilled they will say ‘we did it ourselves’.”   Laozi’s Tao Te Ching underpins Daoism, which in modern China is both a philosophical tradition and organized religion. He advocated humility in leadership and a restrained approach to statecraft. His emphasis on ‘naturalness’ translates into a way of life characterized by simplicity, calmness, and freedom from tyranny.

One way you can translate these concepts into the modern workplace is through the effective use of questions.  Christine Comaford, an executive coach and author of SmartTribes: How Teams Become Brilliant Together advocates asking five ‘teaching questions’ for every one piece of advocacy or instruction.

If you continuously give detailed orders, you are teaching your team dependence. Whereas asking questions encourages learning and development, and frees up your time as your team takes on the new skills.

The type of discussion recommended by Comaford goes like this: ‘George’ comes to you and says, “Hey boss, how should I process this order?” And you say, “Well, what would you do? … Okay, what else? … Who should we loop in? … What could go right? … What could go wrong?”

She has found that if you ask that person the five questions on three separate occasions; by the end of the third inquiry session, they are going to ‘get it’ and start to forge a new pathway, and they’re going to go, “Wow, whenever I go and ask the boss for orders, he actually asks me what I would do”. ‘George’ will come to you for one or two more validation sessions – then he’s off and running. He owns his area of responsibility.

The most effective intrinsic motivators are autonomy, authority and achievement (see more on Motivation), and the skilful use of effective questions is one effective way to crate these factors in your team (see more on Effective Questions).

And the really good news is that by teaching your team confidence and competence with questions rather than dependence with orders, they are more likely to have the ideas and skills that will help you succeed.

So what’s your ratio of orders given to questions asked?