“All change is not growth, as all movement is not forward.” – Ellen Glasgow, American Novelist (1873-1945).
A virus outbreak has virtually shut down the world, bringing all of us to a screeching halt, just as if we were in a dystopic horror movie: Welcome to 2020 in a Nutshell.
Suddenly everything stops, we are couped up, confined at home, learning quickly to stay connected in new and different ways. Businesses closed and changes we never expected and now we are attempting to learn a way forward. We certainly don’t always feel that we can grow from these changes.
Changes we made in systems, years, even decades ago, just came together to create the perfect storm on our projects and business operations. We have found out, painfully, how local economies relate to global supply chains. And as the pandemic developed, we have suddenly found ourselves moving from managing a crisis to an almost minute-to-minute urgency mode. Crisis becomes an urgency when it keeps going. Our planning efforts and tools give way to reaction without much reflection. In all of this, we still must move forward.
Understanding and adeptly combining two major components of project management knowledge can help us: The Stakeholder Engagement Matrix and the Communication Plan can lead the way forward. Using a stakeholder matrix strongly related to requirements, risk ownership and communication needs, as well as a closely monitored change request approval process, can be a life saver. This matrix will provide a picture of who, what, where and how to address all the issues at hand.
Using these combined tools allows the project manager to recoup and revisit pressing business needs and align them with strategic goals. The new situation’s circumstances can be adapted to a more disciplined Agile way, getting everyone’s focus back on track quickly, using feedback to assure better control of the situation.
How to move forward
The magician’s wand is the stakeholder’s willingness to get involved, be honest, define a meaningful purpose, share the facts and respect each varying view and substance brought to the picture. That tall order can be brought about when we pay attention to each other, being respectful and inclusive about how to support the anticipated outcome value of the project.
You may ask, “How does that apply to my project, program and teams?” In every possible way. By definition every project is unique, and we all have a role to play in making it a success. Renaissance Project is our magic wand, our refresh button, a new way of looking at the way we do things and find better ways, lots of new ideas, talking, sharing, exchanging, learning to agree to disagree.
What we do, makes a difference.
Managers, administrators and the Project Manager must practice understanding how to maximize the value of stakeholder engagement, using our competencies to control the process, respectfully managing all the moving parts, from responding to varying stakeholder needs through to the final creation of the product or services delivery. A more communicative focus on the reactions of the people involved is not a really magic wand, but an acute awareness of interpersonal dynamics in times of crisis.
As an optimistic portfolio manager, I encourage you all to practice your people skills, to pay attention to your stakeholder’s struggles and emotions, such as how they see their needs changing, because, as Maya Angelou once wrote, “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” Make sure your actions are consistent. I believe this is how we can make it out of this crisis of urgency, and the next one, together. Define what it means to you, your team, your enterprise, make it real, listen and create your own Renaissance project.
Author: Gabrielle B Haskins, PMP, ICPAgile, PMI-DA Champion, Tiba LLC Executive Portfolio Manager