Saturday, December 29, 2012

Pennies in Actions

During this time of celebration, I believe it is a good practice to give back, pay it forward, or do something you might consider being generous. So in that spirit I am supporting a nonprofit charity that is raising money for a very important cause. Some of you may know that my wife Marie recently had breast cancer surgery at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvannia. However, prior to the surgery, Marie received a series of vaccine injections as part of a new treatment for her early breast cancer (stage 0 cancer, also known as ductal carcinoma in situ or DCIS). It is a promising treatment that not only treats the cancer, but helps reduce the risk of recurrence. The doctor conducting the clinical trial of this new treatment, Dr. Czerniecki, is being funded in part by a nonprofit called Pennies in Action and I have made it part of my blog.

Pennies in Action was started by one of Dr. Czerniecki's patients. On the Pennies in Action website, you can find out more about the charity and the vaccine research it is supporting. I ask you to be generous in your thoughts and with your funds. I thank you in advance for your support and your generosity. May you and yours have a great holiday season.

Benny A. Recine, MBA, PMP, PMOC, CAMS

Friday, December 7, 2012

How to overcome communication difficulties when the culture is bad

A colleague commented on my last blog on communication difficulties:
“ I have noticed that while it is indeed a disruptive member at times, more often it’s the culture of questioning the scope, effort, time, etc - well after the project has been started. If possible, perhaps a future blog could be how a Project Manager (PM) can effect/change the culture of an organization, especially when resources are shared and rotate from project to project.”
Unfortunately, my colleague brings up an important point. As much as I believe the disruptive team member is a problem a PM may face, the PM’s biggest communication issue may come from the organization itself, especially when resources are not only shared, but scarce. And let’s admit now that there are organizations that have a culture where individuals question every initiative that may add to their daily work, and some organizations have negative individuals in them. This is an unfortunate reality that some PMs must face. I am not sure a PM can change a difficult organizational culture, but the question is, how does a PM go forward with their initiative in this environment?
First an admission, then…
So, the first thing to do when there is a problem is to admit there is a problem. Some say that admission is 50% of getting to the solution, and I agree that this is true. If a PM is in a bad place because every initiative is questioned, even if the scope has been agreed on or after the project has started, then the PM must come to terms that this is a risk that must be faced. That does not mean the PM is powerless or even at a disadvantage. As I have stated in previous blogs, the PM must communicate the value of the project, particularly if the project is a strategic initiative.
The PM must also have the proper project documents with him/her at all times. This includes the scope statement, the statement of work, and management signoff on all of them. I was asked recently,  ”How you deal with team members who don’t agree with the project scope?” Well, at the kickoff meeting, I go over the statement of work and the approved scope statement and ask the obvious question, “Are there any questions about the scope of the project?” This does not eliminate ALL of the issues that a negative culture can bring to a project, but it sure helps to disarm the negative person at least in the beginning.
Stay true
This statement means to keep straight, or in PM terminology, keep to the project plan. We all know that change is inevitable in a project. This may open an opportunity for that negative member to question that if there is change, is the scope of the project correct? Remember that a change in scope does NOT mean the original scope was incorrect. It does mean the original scope was incomplete and must be adjusted. That must be the message a PM provides to the project team. Once a deliverable is identified as missing from the project, a PM must communicate the message of adding to the success of the project, or more importantly, adding to the value of a project. This can deflect some of the negative responses to change or even the implementation of the project.
And, if that doesn’t work
Even the best defense of a strategic project can still be met with questioning or negative comments. This may be the reality of the organization, in which case a PM must look him or herself in the mirror and ask a question: “Is this something I must adjust to?” Reality and life are hard teachers. Nothing can teach you a harder and tougher lesson than life. The question isn’t if life is a tough teacher, the question is, are you a good student? Sometimes, the PM (or anyone) must look deep within themselves and ask if there is something they can do about the organization. If the answer is no, then other questions must also be answered. That may be a whole new topic and blog.
These steps may not help change the culture in the organization, but it will help the PM in working the project. 
I am open to discussion at any time on these blogs or anything else related to project management you would like to explore. If you would like to comment about this blog, please do so by posting on this blog or by responding in an email at Benny A. Recine.You may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.