Zero Inbox Without Hassle

3 min.

Summary

Often an ardent wish of most of the colleagues I know does not succeed. Many approaches lead to endless long to-do lists or parked mails in your inbox. With approaches like Getting-Things-Done (GTD) and other approaches, which are also applied to mail handling, additional software or other compromises are often involved. I have to say, I have my inboxes quite well under control and not the other way around. Some time ago I came across an approach by Luise Freese, which is very good but not completely suitable for my and probably many other colleagues. I need subfolders for my projects and don’t want to do several steps per mail. Therefore my suggestion is slightly modified and in my opinion simplified.

Objective of Zero Inbox

No mails in the inbox, grouping of tasks by context and the ability to find all mail immediately. Especially with the latter Outlook often plays tricks on me because the “Machine Learning” search results are not always correctly prioritized / sorted. Another reason why I still create folders in the project folder in Outlook.

Preperation

Create a _ReadMe and _ToDo folder below the inbox. The underscore is helpful, because then these folders are always on top, directly below the inbox. These folders can also be placed under “Favorites” (right-click, show in favorites).

Create categories in Outlook like @Phone @StandUpMeeting @Waiting.

Outlook-Categories

Next, expand the ribbon bar in Outlook:

Expand Ribbon Bar

Then we create so-called QuickSteps:

Set Up Quick Step

An example of one of the specified quicksteps:

Quick Step – Standup Meeting

In detail it is set as follows:

Quick Step StandUp Meeting Setting 1st Part.
Quick Step StandUp Meeting Setting 2nd Part.

The short text of the “standard reply mail” can be entered as follows:
“Hi, I would like to discuss / close this item in the next stand up meeting instead of having a further mail exchange.”

Another Quickstep can look like this:

Quick Step – To Do Next Week

with the “default mail text”: “Hello, Busy times these days. Just wanted to let you know that I already set a reminder for end of this week and will get back to you by then. If it is more urgent please chat with me on MS Teams.”

And then a Quickstep for completed tasks:

Quick Step – Closed Activities (Clear)

Finally, the following Quicksteps should be created in a modified form:

@Stand Up, @Wait, @Phone, News, Read, Do Today, Do Tomorrow, Do This Week, Do Next Week und Clear bzw. Close.

Have fun using it.

Barcamps without frustration

2 min.

Summary

If I was dissatisfied with Barcamps in the past, it was mostly because the session planning did not lead to full transparency for me. So I went to different sessions, which were a surprise for me regarding the format. I think it is important that it is very transparent for all participants, which format and which session has been planned. Sometimes the format develops differently during the session – that’s the great thing about barcamps – but the type of session makes it more secure to choose the “right” session.

How to make the session format transparent for everyone

That is why face2face barcamps should show these session types (and more) on every session card with abbreviations or even on a prepared card with checkbox option.

In the virtual barcamp this categorization should also be selectable on the virtual session card. For the 4th Barcamp “Führung im Projekt” 2021 this is how it will be:

Session-Card

with following categories:

  • Workshop = max. 10-minute presentation and subsequent joint elaboration, e.g. on the electronic Microsoft whiteboard or another jointly available electronic document stored in the Team SharePoint.
  • Problem definition = collegial consultation. I have a situation that I would like to reflect on and would like to receive input.
  • Impulse presentation = maximum 15 minutes of impulse presentation and then discussion.
  • Serious Game = Exercise / learning game with the aim of providing information and education. An authentic and credible, but also entertaining learning experience is the focus of interest.

The participants for the virtual Barcamp “Guided tour in the project” will use an online form before the Barcamp and also at the beginning of the Barcamp before the planning of the session to submit their session suggestions, which are then already categorized accordingly.
To ensure the documentation of the sessions, the integration of external tools (e.g. additional electronic whiteboards besides MS Whiteboard in the session) is not desired and not allowed due to data protection reasons.


Have fun at the next barcamp and choose the right sessions!

My crisis with the corona virus and the positive change in program management

7 min.

Summary

The article examines how working in programs has changed due to the exclusively virtual way of working. Special attention is paid to the changes in governance, working methods and perception of hierarchy in the company. This contribution is accompanied by a survey on some hypotheses on the future of leadership especially under the aspect of distributed work in order to support or reject these hypotheses. Nevertheless, I will try to formulate some future prognoses on this subject already now. The article wants to give some hints which experiences we should in any case take with us into the “new normality” and thus firmly anchor them in our way of working. People and companies who do not learn and adapt from this crisis and only want to return to a supposed old normality will fail in the future.

Flashback

On March 2nd I did not go to North Rhine-Westphalia like every week before, because I had cold symptoms and since a few weeks the corona virus was on everyone’s lips, also in our program. So I thought it would be appropriate not to endanger my colleagues in the project and planned one week of remote work. Thought, done. Being one of the few “local” colleagues not to be on site, as expected, led to a lot of more time being spent for work, as now much had to be done via team video call. And this in planned meetings, which was perhaps previously easily clarified across the desk. In the course of that week, my company decided to stop all non-essential business trips and let me work exclusively from my home office. What can I say, the next few weeks were pure stress, because all the meetings, which were previously held locally and often hybrid, were now virtualized, which led to many additional hours of work. Despite my 5+ years of experience in pure home office (globally virtual distributed programs or project portfolios) in my 20+ years of experience in project and program management, virtual work during Corona was another dimension. I would like to go into this in the course.

This personal (including capacity-) crisis has, as often, also led to something better. What exactly has changed?

Changes in governance et al.

When it comes to governance, many people think first of meetings and the committee structure. This is fundamentally correct, but it is not complete. My calendar was overloaded the first 3-4 weeks of purely virtual work, because now a meeting was often set up virtually for many “little things” and then 30 minutes with colleagues was the lower limit. Thanks to Outlook. I immediately remembered the 22-minute meetings. The goal is to have meetings in

  • 22 minute slots,
  • to have a clear agenda,
  • ideally, distribute written reading material on the topic of the meeting in advance and in good time,
  • start the meeting on time and have a clear focus.

I have configured my Outlook so that meetings last either 25 minutes or 50 minutes by default. Here the settings in Outlook help to ensure this. My experience in the virtual environment is that meetings last until the planned end. On site meetings last until someone has to leave because they are changing rooms. Moving from one room to another demand time. In the virtual environment this is usually not granted. Often there is not even time for bio breaks. Unbelievable!

In order to avoid the overcrowded calendar, a daily stand-up meeting of the teams should also be planned in the virtual environment. Here it is important that appropriate video conferencing and collaboration tools are used. I use Planner from Microsoft or Trello in my volunteer work to support backlog, spintplanning and standups. With both boards, the daily stand-up meeting with a core team of a program or, as with me currently, the project portfolio management team of typical up to 7 direct reports can be supported very well. Sprint planning and retroperspectives are of course also included.

Another proven meeting sequence is to schedule escalation and decision meetings ideally several times a week and, in the best case, cancel them if nothing needs to be decided or addressed. These fixed regular dates allow for quick decisions, even in times when the calendars of our senior management are full. Should the need arise to be more than once or twice a week, the role descriptions, RACIs etc. must be checked carefully. Then, in my experience, there is not enough information and decision-making authority at the right level. Basically, my remarks on governance and escalations apply here, of course.

Due to the complete virtualization of all meetings, I have noticed a democratization of these meetings. Anyone can switch on the webcam and be present in a prominent position, unlike in hybrid meetings. Anyone can use the “raise hand” function in the collaboration tool. Everyone can see what is being drawn on the virtual whiteboard and not somewhere on a locally available flipchart. Everybody – and not just the local senior management at the table – can be seen equally in the gallery view of the video software. Quietly and secretly, this changes the style of the meetings and, above all, the greater participation of formerly “never-in-meeting room attendees”, because they are, for example, offshore.

Overall, an asynchronous working of the team is to be enabled, e.g. by check-ins in the morning (these can also be created manually in Microsoft Teams). For teams that work on different topics and only interfaces are relevant or where for whatever reason the daily stand-ups are not possible, the check-in approach is recommended in any case. An active exchange on the check-ins should take place via the comment function. Otherwise there is no added value. If a person asks the check-in question manually, no automatisms have to be established via additional tools. In my team we had solved this manually in MS Teams in which a colleague set the daily question at the start of work.

Due to the higher concentration/stringency of virtual meetings, team members quickly notice exhaustion due to the high sequence of meetings. The one or the other coffee talk can then be made possible virtually.

For me, the more intensive cooperation – intensive because of the even higher level of structuring – has confirmed that the team composition is particularly relevant as already described in 2019. For me, in the intensive virtual cooperation I noticed a weaker expression of the intercultural differences. Perhaps this is related to the democratization described above. Here it would be interesting to know what your experiences are about this. Please put them in the comments. Furthermore I have put up a few hypotheses on which I would like to hear your opinion:

Your more advanced hypotheses are welcome in the comments below.

Does Corona bring long-term changes?

This almost philosophical question was already intensively discussed in the media months ago and many authors came to the conclusion that the corona pandemic will change many things positively in the long term. More regionality, less travel, more … I believe realistically, many positive aspects will be forgotten, despite the long duration of the restrictive measures.

Even when the volcano Eyjafjallajökull erupted in Iceland, many had predicted that air traffic would be reduced in the long term. Immediately after the volcanic ash had blown away, air traffic was back at a very similar level.

Maybe some things will change due to the fact that nobody else could work the same way as before during the Corona ban and some things have hardened due to convenience or because companies have taken measures to avoid further shocks. Everyone, including sales representatives, conducted virtual customer conversations and were forced to work with “the unimaginable”. Let’s see.

Ultimately, the further development of the technology will anchor one or the other change in the long term, because ultimately cost-benefit considerations are always applied by individuals and companies. So we can hope that my forecast of changes as described in the article Project Manager in 2030 will come true. Perhaps our ethical and moral approaches have changed so much during Corona, which will directly lead to a change in our common future.

Which changes should be “cemented”?

The crisis described at the beginning leads to transformation. How the transformation develops and solidifies cannot be guessed in advance. Nevertheless one should of course try to “build in” as many positive aspects as possible.

Due to the asynchronous mode of operation in virtually distributed teams, early intermediate work results should be shared in any case – in line with WOL. In the office on site, the interim status review is often provided by informal coffee break conversations, which allows the maturing “product” to receive continuous feedback. In the virtual world, as much as possible of the semi-finished product should be shared in a structured way.

It is also useful to check whether your own self-organization tools are still the right ones, even when working remotely.

What I have firmly decided to do is that even if everyone else around me falls back into the “post-volcanic eruption-back-to-normal” effect, I will work virtually in a team in my programs at least every third week in order to constantly put the program into remote operation. Otherwise many positive effects will be lost.

We should also avoid hybrid meetings in the future. If parts of the team are remote, then everyone should go to virtual meetings because of the “democratization” described above and the higher effectiveness.

The definition of the communication principles in the project gain more importance due to the necessary home office work, because a formalization with more asynchronous work is absolutely essential.

There is one more thing we should maintain: The care for each other and the often heard, in my opinion, serious statement: “Stay healthy!” In this sense… Stay healthy.

Your hypotheses?

Virtual Coffee Breaks

3 min.

Summary

In times of corona (in virtual projects anyway always) communication within the team and also across close team boundaries (entire project environment) is essential for project success, but difficult to ensure. Telephone conferences can cover planned topics, but cannot bring up the spontaneous ideas that would otherwise arise in the coffee kitchen. We are all in more web conferences than ever before, but the coffee conversations are irreplaceable and therefore a few hints how to use them in virtual space.

How to do it

Just send out an calendar invite with webconference details and remove the ticks under Response Options for “Request Responses” and “Allow New Time Proposals” so that you are not bothered by replies. But leave “Allow Forwarding” ticked. But send it only to a random sample of team members and non team members ofter the wider project enviornment. Ideally initially to ~ 10 team members. Further will be receiving the invite by others. See sample text below.

With following text suggestion for the invite:

I currently have many more telephone calls than I do have meetings on site in London and I don’t get “real work” started until the evening. This is certainly not only the case with me. Nevertheless, I notice that we have far fewer contacts across provider boundaries and also across tower boundaries. That’s why I think we need more conversations that just happen to occur by chance. So please get involved in the following.
 
We just meet at the coffee machine in building C1 6th floor by chance and have a little chat. See rules and hints below.

  • Rules
    • You must join with your web cam turned on.
    • You need to have a coffee or tea prepared for yourself before joining.
    • You may forward this invite only to one further member of the Apollo program after you have participated yourself in the “coffee break.”
    • The first topic of conversation after you join the videoconference must not be business (instead, for example, homeschooling, weather in your home town).
    • The 10th or each additional participant leaves the coffee kitchen (the call) due to overcrowding and arrives a little earlier for the next appointment.
  • Notes:
    • I myself will probably not be around very often, but you can meet yourselves. When I’m there, I’m not going to host. Everyone should enforce the rules themselves.
    • You can run away from the coffee machine with everyone and chat in a small circle in the hallway (by making your own phone call).
    • I have set up 3 similar appointments. As it is known that these are distributed naturally, I am curious which of the colleagues has all 3 appointments in his calendar first. If you have all 3 coffee appointments of me in your calendar, take a screenshot of each of them and send it to me. The 10th entry receives a bottle of wine from my personal wine cabinet.
    • If somebody finds this idea stupid –> delete appointment in your calendar, but do not complain.

Your experiences

I would be interested in your experiences with such or different kind of virtual non-organized sessions. Please comment below.

Definition of goals in the “Six Interdependencies” playing field

4 min.

Summary

Project objectives are the establishment of requirements which are as quantified as possible and which must be met in order for a project to be considered successfully completed. Conflicts of objectives are to be avoided. An absolute prioritisation of the goals is recommended. In the case of objectives, one must always pay attention to the combination of SMART objectives, completeness of the objectives and, above all, the delimitation of benefit and non-objectives. An absolute prioritisation across all goals in order to be aware of one’s own priorities is helpful. In addition to the magic triangle, the aim is to distinguish between non-targets, benefit targets and now consciously the negative benefit targets as damage and to provide resource planning optimised for all organisations involved.

What are goals and how should they be?

Project objectives are the establishment of requirements that are as quantified as possible and that must be met in order for a project to be regarded as successfully completed. DIN 69901-5:2009-01 defines the project objective as “the totality of individual objectives achieved by the project”.
A complete definition of objectives requires the identification of all relevant stakeholders, which can lead to conflicts of interest. Conflicts of objectives are to be avoided, i.e. the different project objectives must fit together.
The magic triangle defines performance (including quality), costs and deadlines. The magic triangle is supplemented by further dimensions through the six interdependencies.
The goals are to be defined as SMART:

Specific/Simple Simple, understandable, concrete
Measurable Operationalized, quantified
Achievable/attainable Achievable, socially accepted, worthwhile
Realistic/Relevant Objectively attainable
Timeable/Timely Concretely planned in terms of time

Define objectives in a delimited way

Often there is talk of “never-saturated stakeholders”, I have experienced in practice that it helps to have absolute prioritisation across all goals in order to make people aware of their own priorities. In other words, in addition to the must-can-target categorization, a prioritization with a clearer definition of what is the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, … x most important goal is recommended.

One must always pay attention with the goals to the combination of SMART goals, completeness of the goals and above all the delimitation of benefit goals (= business benefits/business objectives) and also non-goals. A consideration of these target categories certainly helps to encourage the stakeholders to make a clear statement or to hold on to their expectations in advance, to commit them even better.

The benefit of the project can be defined by the benefit goals of the project. And just as with risks and opportunities, there is a positive and negative sign here. With the “Six Interdependencies” I have consciously chosen the negative sign (i.e. damage here) as the initial viewing angle, as with risk management, in order to deliberately provoke this lighting. In the past, benefits and thus benefit goals were often and well defined by project managers (in contrast to their performance goals).

Social goals

In my opinion, an example of “training on the job” within the framework of the project is a good example of a social goal that can be well defined in terms of objectives, provided that “training on the job” takes place during the course of the project. If, on the other hand, this “training on the job” takes place in the follow-up of the project on the basis of the use of the project object (e.g. use of the implemented software in everyday operations after the end of the project), it is a clear benefit goal and must also be defined as such. If, on the other hand, the training is essential for the implementation of the project, it is a performance goal, because otherwise the object of performance will not be completed or achieved.

Goals in the playing field of the Six Interdependencies

The supplemented interdependencies help my perception according to the clear definition of the project object and the demarcation by the use of this and the well definition of the basic conditions (context determination) in the framework of resources, damage and stakeholder satisfaction.

In my opinion, the Six Interdependencies bring more to light the things that have so far been defined, in part neglected, on the edge, next to the magic triangle, by benefit goals, resource planning (but so far only with the focus on the project and not as is now the case with the Six Interdependencies of the entire (parent) organization(s) involved). In practice, I have already achieved positive, more conscious and more complete goal definitions and delimitations. Thus the six interdependencies show all known practice-proven project methodical aids like magic triangle, in addition delimitation of not goals and use goals and now consciously the negative use goals as damage, conscious restriction of the resources and however not only for the project (as it happens classically with the resource planning primarily), but also for all organizations involved an optimized resource planning.

Thus, the Six Interdependencies are a combination of already known, previously independently considered influences and now additional consideration of damage and cross-organizational resource consideration together:

Six Interdependencies

What now newbie? Or who does not ask, remains stupid …

3 min.

Summary

You come to a new company and take on a new role or you take on a new project? How you plan a good handover was described in handover of a program in 6 phases. Now you are in a conversation with one of your new colleagues to determine where the shoe pinches or what needs to be tackled first. Since you will usually not only have an interview with a single colleague in order to have an overall view of the situation, it is advisable to conduct these interviews in a structured manner. For this purpose, I have collected a few questions over the years that are suitable for each interview and can raise interesting aspects.

How do I organise the interviews?

You should always differentiate between team-related and individual questions, because in the beginning it is easier to talk about the team or the overall situation than directly about your own sensitivities.

  • Team or overall situation
    • What is the biggest challenge we face right now or in the near future?
    • Why are we facing this challenge?
    • What are the most promising and untapped growth opportunities?
    • What do we have to do to realise their potential?
    • If she were me, what would you focus on?
  • Individual
    • How satisfied with your task? In which direction do you want to continue?
    • What do you expect from your job in the short / medium term?
    • What do you expect from me?
    • What are your strengths / what do you want to contribute to the team?
    • Which work processes can be improved?
    • What is the cooperation/productivity in the team/team atmosphere like?
    • What do you / the team / the department need to perform better?
  • Wishes to the genie in a bottle?
    A question that often brings up ideas that have not yet been expressed is the question about the three wishes to the fairy. Specifically this means which 3 wishes would you put to the fairy in the given context. Surprising and often very helpful answers come up. These often round off the picture or bring out completely new aspects.

How do I ask?

If the flow of conversation comes to a standstill, you want to recognize a clear priority or you want to find something out more precisely, then the following questions are appropriate.

  • Conversation fit
    It is very important to find out whether something is depressing the other person and whether the conversation is not meaningful at the moment.
  • Alternative or comparative questions
    • What’s better: this or that? Either way? Here or there?
    • If that, then what? If not so, by what means?
    • Scaling questions: On a scale from 0 to 10, how do you deal with this situation?
  • Determination of causes
    If you believe that the mentioned cause or reason is not yet substantially addressed, then follow up like a small child with 5 times “Why? If you don’t dare to use them, the 5-Why-method is also popular with scientists.
    Asking for the “why” can also reveal the reasons for the behaviour and the motivation of the behaviour.
  • Paradoxical questions or worsening questions can help in the event that creative solutions are needed or a new perspective is to be adopted. Example is, what do I have to do to make the product a flop?
  • Circular questions help to look at situations from different angles. For example, what would Mr Müller say?
  • As an alternative to the genie in the bottle question, you can also place the wonder question: The initial situation is that, as if by magic, all problems have been solved and you ask what would be different, how do you know that the problem is gone, how did the cooperation change or which other question of change can be helpful?

Achieving regularity

Carry out such discussions immediately after entering the new role or task and, above all, regularly. This will keep you on the ball. If you want to record changes early on and across the entire workforce or the entire team, my contribution to team spirit and early indication is ideal. The questions are also a good basis for an employee interview.

Transformations and project culture or leadership towards change

3 min.

Summary

Transformation is not a change process, but a small crisis. 80% of people prefer stability to change. Change is a necessary evil for this type of person to move from one stable state to another. The change agent or project manager must therefore change old rules, which allow the no longer desired action strategies. In order to change a project culture, the patterns of thought and behavior of all participants must be changed. Project culture is the sum of all thought and behavior patterns of all people in the system. It is a misconception that managers or project managers should give fewer rules and instructions so that the team can and will become innovative.

Transformation is a crisis

Transformation is not a change process, but a small crisis. Therefore, a change agent does not have to admonish that certain actions are no longer desired or that others are desired. On the other hand, he should consciously take old patterns of thinking / possibilities of action as the basis for application through other rules. The “Change Agent” does not carry out change, but limits or expands room for maneuver. And he coaches consciously, but does not monitor. He must ensure that the old strands of action are not used for 90 days in order to make a new pattern of action possible for the colleagues involved. In this period new patterns of thinking are sought, old habits are thrown overboard and the new patterns of thinking are finally applied without effort.

So much for the ideal world.

Stability is the dream of most people

80% of people prefer stability to change. The reason for this is that people want to use as little energy as possible to achieve something. A change needs more energy and is therefore unwanted. Changes are a necessary evil for this type of person to move from one stable state to another. This is also seen by these people as a criticism of their previous attitudes, actions or whatever is to be changed. In today’s complex world, in which stable states – if at all – arise only very briefly, constant change is rather the normal state. I assume that today’s environments therefore perceive people as more stressful.

Project managers or “change agents” should change something over which you have no influence: Thinking patterns and attitudes of participants. As I said, the agent must therefore change old rules that allow for strategies that are no longer desired. With the new rules each participant in the transformation will then acquire new patterns of behavior and thinking.

If I want to change something, I must consciously plunge myself and my organization into a crisis in order to bring about a change.

Changing the project culture

In order to change a project culture, I have to change the patterns of thought and behavior of all participants, because they shape the project culture. Project culture is therefore not a centrally defined guideline, but a sum of all thought and behavior patterns of all people in the system.

The well-known leadership models and project organizations are often based on very old models such as military and church structures. These models create stability, but no change. This is because the limits for patterns of thought and behaviour are set. In leadership it becomes more and more important to forget the existing (patterns of thinking or behaviour) in order to make innovations possible.

The misbelief as a leader should be given fewer rules today

It is therefore a misconception that managers or project managers should give fewer rules and instructions so that the team can and will become innovative. In order to enable innovation, the project manager has to set different / new rules so that the team changes from the “comfort zone” (old thinking patterns and actions) to a new state and can create something new.

Stakeholder Management as an Element of the Six Interdependencies

4 min.

Summary


In order to identify the right stakeholders of the project, the environment analysis is carried out as a precursor. The social environment factors are included in the stakeholder analysis and it is recommended to consider them according to the following dimensions: Power and conflict potential. The objective of the stakeholder analysis is to group the stakeholders in the individual quadrants of a 4-quadrant portfolio in order to represent a corresponding number of stakeholder strategies. If I consolidate the stakeholders in a stakeholder portfolio quadrant, I have the chance to plan a consolidated measure using the common strategy of the quadrant. Various sources of error in the preparation of the stakeholder analysis are pointed out.

What is a stakeholder?

As already mentioned in my “Six Interdependencies“, the consideration of stakeholders is an essential component for project success. Stakeholders are individuals, groups of people, organizations or the entirety of all those who are involved in the project, directly or indirectly affected by it or have a justified interest in it.

Environmental analysis as a basis for stakeholder analysis

In order to identify the right stakeholders of the project, the environment analysis is carried out as a precursor. The project environment analysis is a systematic, forward-looking consideration, observation and analysis of the positive (supporting) and negative (disruptive) influences of the project environment on the project, to be introduced as early as the initiation phase. A distinction is made between the social and factual environmental factors. A further distinction can be made between project-internal, project-external or company-internal or company-external factors. A differentiation exclusively between internal and external factors is not specific enough. Opportunities and risks in the further course of the project planning can be determined from the objective environmental factors and interfaces of the project can be made conscious.

Stakeholder analysis and its determination

The social environment factors are included in the stakeholder analysis and it is recommended to consider them according to the following dimensions: Power and conflict potential. Other dimensions such as influence, interest can be qualitative but not necessarily clearly grouping dimensions. Interest and influence can be positive, negative, high or low. The advantage of power and conflict potential is that they can be high and low, but not positive or negative at the same time. Why do we only want to record high and low values of the two dimensions and not e.g. values with very high, very low etc.? Low conflict potential stands for (potential or actual) promoters and high conflict potential for (potential or actual) opponents. In practice, a constant consideration of the (potential) opponents and promoters is necessary anyway.

The objective of stakeholder analysis is to group the stakeholders in the individual quadrants of a 4-quandrant portfolio in order to subsequently reflect a corresponding number of stakeholder strategies in it. It therefore makes sense to group the stakeholders in a portfolio into high and low power, high and low conflict potential. A direct allocation of stakeholder strategies can then take place directly.

Stakeholder strategies and their allocation in the portfolio

The following strategies can be included in a stakeholder portfolio:

  • Participative strategy based on participation and active involvement, communication and information of the project environment actors, e.g. joint decision making workshops,
  • discursive strategy, which (mostly reactive) is geared to the objective analysis of the project environment, e.g. by means of conflict resolution instruments,
  • repressive strategies characterised by the use of organisational, informational or factual power, e.g. management requirements or selective information.

For the fourth quadrant, it is recommended to provide for purely informational measures, which, however, do not represent a real strategy and are therefore not referred to as such.

A meaningful stakeholder portfolio thus looks as follows:

Stakeholder-Portfolio

Stakeholder strategies – why is that?

Why do I want to look at strategies and not just measures for each stakeholder? Measures per stakeholder are time-consuming and costly. If I now plan individual measures for each stakeholder, I have a complex bundle of measures. If, on the other hand, I consolidate the stakeholders in a stakeholder portfolio quadrant, I have the opportunity to plan a consolidated measure using the joint strategy of the quadrant.

Typical sources of error in stakeholder analysis

If stakeholder strategies are mapped on the basis of dimensions other than power and conflict potential, there is a danger that the stakeholders will not be clearly classified. If, for example, the stakeholder’s interest is highlighted instead of the power dimension, secretly positive, negative, high and low groupings are possible and therefore multiple allocation to portfolio quadrants is likely. I have observed this in many misguided stakeholder analyses.

Another problem can be the failure to conduct a continuous stakeholder analysis. You should always look at stakeholders anew. Shifts in power in a company can change the dimension of power, but above all the characteristics of the dimension of conflict potential can change again and again. The stakeholder’s potential for conflict with the project can change as a result of changes in attitudes towards the project as a result of project developments.

A renunciation of the combined indication of names or roles already in the environment analysis and then also in the transfer into the stakeholder analysis can lead to a generalization and to an overlooking of important characteristics. Mr. Mayer-Schulze can be a pedantic, conflict-laden comrade-in-arms, but his role as a user does not necessarily suggest this.

Grouped environmental factors such as “steering committee” instead of the performance of all individual steering committee members may lead to lump sums and thus the overlooking of specific interests and influences.

What belongs in the status report?

2 min.

Summary

A regular status report is important in the project. The status report is the basic information for the members of the steering committee. It is advisable to create a list of the typical contents of a report, which can be used in any presentation form. Also the status light colours must be well defined to ban the watermelon effect.

Addressees and occasion

A regular status report is important in the project. Regular means that a predefined cycle or on certain predefined occasions is created and delivered to the specified recipients. The objective is to present the progress of the project, to address decision-making needs and to point out risks and problems. The status report is the basic information for all members of the steering committee.

Content

Each status report should include the following:

  • Management Summary
  • Status light
  • Defined indicators (often performance, deadline and costs) and optionally their development in an Earned Value analysis
  • Achievements in the reporting period
  • Planned but unachieved in the period
  • Initiated or planned measures
  • Planned for the next reporting period / upcoming milestones
  • Top (3) risks
  • Necessary decisions

Status Light Colours and the Eternal Controversy

Again and again there are energetic discussions about which colour the status light should have. It often doesn’t make sense to take part in them and as a project manager you should have a clear and above all simple, easy to understand and valid definition for all levels at hand in order to be able to avert the watermelon effect (red inside, green outside). The following definition can be of help:

  • Red = Problems exist which can no longer be solved at the reporting level and which have a negative effect on the defined indicators (usually performance, deadline, costs) or which have already had an effect. Measures were not effective or not possible. There is a need for decision or action at the higher level (level above that of the reporting party).
  • Yellow = The defined indicators show plan deviations. Problems exist that the reporting person plans to solve. Measures have been or are being taken (list of measures required). The need for decision or action on the part of the higher authority is foreseeable if the measures taken do not have an effect.
  • Green = No problems at the reporting level. The defined indicators show no deviations from the plan.

A possible file naming convention for the status report can be found here.

Resources – what ugly word?!

3 min.

Summary

You know Germans have more words to say something similar but different. There is always a “sound” connected to similar words. An “Einsatzmittel” as an earlier DIN term and a synonym for the current term “resources” for the project. Resources in project management are personnel and material resources that are needed to carry out processes, work packages and projects. Many people say that to describe personnel or project staff as “Einsatzmittel” or even resources is not adequate. As already noted in my article “Six Interdependencies” resources / resources are limited available for a project.

Resource planning

In the planning phase of the project, the resources are displayed on the timeline in which they are available to the project. The aim is to anchor the resources in the project as briefly, evenly and as little as possible. Because the use of resources causes costs and above all also as with “Six Interdependencies” noted deficits in the line organization or in other projects.

Qualification for personnel and specification for material resources are the decisive characteristics of resource characteristics in resource management and the determination of demand.

The relation to agility

In agile project management, resource planning is just as relevant as in classical project management. Even if, for example, SCRUM teams are usually available full-time for the entire sprint length, they still represent a critical factor, since their capacity is to be used just as “optimally” as in classic PM by selecting the relevant user stories. Even in agile projects, factual resources such as available mainframe time slots are regarded as critical resources with the same dedication.

Resources and their sound

The introduction of the term resources and resource management has met with much criticism in the German speaking project manager community in connection with sounding lack of appreciation of the employees in the project and its qualification. The qualification required for project employees is subject to constant change and is certainly viewed differently today than it was when DIN was amended in 2009. The orientation towards employees has also changed considerably since then. Nevertheless, it can be stated that if the term “resource” is seen in connection with “one time usage”, this is inhumane and in any case cannot be seen as good. It would be careless and degrading. On the positive side, since it is regarded as inevitably lost, the term “resources” on natural resources such as crude oil or nature as such has had a positive impact in recent years on the term resource in German language. This also gives rise to hopes that a pure view of resources as labour/worker will increasingly lose ground. For the awareness that it can represent lost lifetime for any human, as long as it sees no sense behind the given task. What makes sense for the individual person, but also for society as a whole, will become an essential factor in resource management in project management, because even today, personnel for many tasks can simply no longer be found on the “market”.