Category Archives: Project Management

Working in “far flung” or global teams – revisited


By Elisabeth Goodman, 13th January 2020

Working in geographically dispersed teams is a challenge for line and project managers

The issue of how to best to manage geographically dispersed, remote or virtual teams was a hot topic at our recent Introduction to Management course.

It seems that all the challenges of how to properly support, involve and engage team members become even more acute if you are not able to see and work with people on a day-to-day basis.

A few years ago, I facilitated a seminar for the APM (Association for Project Management) on “Working in far flung teams” (You can read my write-up of it here: https://elisabethgoodman.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/working-in-far-flung-teams-notes-from-an-apm-east-of-england-apmeoe-event/).

I included an illustration inspired by the HBR article “10 Rules for managing global innovation” (October 2012) which I updated for our Introduction to Management course.

Good practices for virtual team

Key points from an HBR article from October 2012, as shared at a 2013 APM meeting and in RiverRhee’s Introduction to Management course

Global teams bring cultural challenges too

The Winter issue of Project (the APM’s journal) carries a very good article by Alexander Garrett on this same topic, entitled “Working beyond borders”.  The article has some great tips on avoiding “cultural gaffes” and “unconscious expectations”.

As the author points out, behavioural norms can differ significantly from one country to another.  They can affect expectations for how people participate in team meetings in such ways as:

  • How much material should be prepared for review and reflection in advance vs. more open-ended approaches to discussion
  • How much people put themselves forward and are comfortable about expressing their ideas and opinions vs. waiting to be asked or preferring to do so in private
  • How comfortable people are about making decisions without consulting others outside the meeting

Global team meetings are generally conducted by phone or video conferences which bring added challenges, assuming the technology is working correctly, for:

  • Ensuring that everyone is engaged
  • Picking up cues for when people want to say something
  • Interpreting tone and body language and any associated emotions

Additional tips to bear in mind

So the additional tips from this latest article include:

  • Learn as much as you can about the cultural norms for the countries that your team members come from
  • Take time to build an understanding of each team member on a one-to-one basis (they won’t necessarily conform to their country’s norms)
  • Establish team working practices that will optimise the ability of each member of the team to fully participate outside and within team meetings, such as:
    • Varying meeting times to fit in with different time zones
    • Agreeing norms to ensure everyone can have their say during meetings
  • Make these as explicit as necessary – either individually, or with the team as a whole.
  • Find other ways to facilitate informal communication if face-to-face meetings are really not an option.  The author suggests Google Hangouts or Slack and the use of emojis.

Conclusion

There’s a very apt closing comment to the Project article:

“Only when you understand your team members as individuals, create the structure to facilitate communication and decision-making, and build a genuine sense of team spirit will you be ready to surmount the challenges ahead.”

Notes

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.) Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus.

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

 

Looking after your well-being in Project Management


By Elisabeth Goodman, 29th October 2019

The Autumn issue of Project, the APM’s (Association for Project Management) quarterly publication, carries a couple of articles on the very important theme of well-being.

Illustration from “Under Pressure” by Emma De Vita, in Project, issue 300, Autumn 2019, pp. 40-45

Working on life science projects can be a high stress activity

The APM commissioned some research by the University of Manchester, led by Dr Clara Cheung, amongst 184 global APM members.  The results, summarised in “Under Pressure” by Emma de Vita, in the Autumn issue of Project (pp. 40-45), indicated that the areas of “highest psychological stress are resources and communication, balanced workload, work relationship and job conditions”.

Working on projects can be extremely demanding and stressful in the Life Sciences sector that we work with at RiverRhee.

Our clients are often working on high stakes projects: ones that their clients expect them to deliver within very defined timelines and budgets.  Yet the nature of the science can make the outcomes (let along the timelines and budgetary requirements) very uncertain.  Added to this, it’s very common for a company’s client to change their mind about the nature or scope of their requirements – which again will have implications that may need to be negotiated.

In addition to this, most of the companies that we work with operate a matrix structure.  Whilst this will have many benefits in terms of flexible use of resources and expertise, it can lead to added levels of stress in terms of resource availability when crises occur, and lack of recovery time for the people involved.

Potential ways to look after your well-being in project management

The article by Emma De Vita, and another in the same issue of Project, by Mike Clayton (“Resilience means reaching for your oxygen mask first”, p.15) have the following suggestions:

1. Monitor your well-being and pay attention to the warning signs

Work stress can make itself felt in terms of both our physical and mental health through such signs as tiredness, headaches, stomach upsets, depression and anxiety.  We don’t have to be stoical about these, and acknowledging and choosing to do something about them is not a sign of weakness.

We can either do something ourselves to alleviate these through such things as:

  • planning and managing our work differently
  • ensuring we get enough rest, exercise, a healthy diet

or we can reach out to others to help us address the underlying causes.

2. Develop and use your support network at work and at home

We don’t have to deal with work pressures on our own.

Mike Clayton suggests spending time on tending our relationships outside work as a vital support network.

Project leaders can also develop their teams so that, in a high performance team everyone:

  • Is invested in the success of the project
  • Plays to their strengths
  • Puts as much emphasis on building relationship within the team as on getting the job done
  • Provides support for each other

Beyond that, as Emma De Vita suggests, your line manager, HR or GP are potentially there to help.

3. Set ground-rules for yourself and for your project team

A project leader’s approach will set the expectations and culture for how a team will operate.

Considerations for looking after each other’s well-being could include such things as:

  • Limiting e-mails to working hours
  • Using a flexible approach to meeting times to allow for travel times and home commitments
  • Thinking about how the project team can use technology to enhance its productivity

If you are a project team member, rather than the project leader, you may or may not have the scope to influence your team’s ground-rules.  But you may have more scope than you think.

4. Learning and development

Project and time management training might be available to you to address some of the other underlying causes of stress described at the start of this blog.

If you don’t have the option of going on a course for these, then consider getting hold of a book, or an online resource.

You might find some of my other blogs on these subjects useful too…

See for example:

NOTES

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.) Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus.

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Re-building working relationships with emotional intelligence


By Elisabeth Goodman, 9th August 2019

Emotional intelligence - the basics

Emotional intelligence – the basics. Illustration by Robin Spain for RiverRhee

The Summer issue of APM’s (Association for Project Management) Project magazine has a couple of excellent articles on rebuilding relationships.

Susanne Madsen (p. 63) addresses how to strengthen your relationship with internal stakeholders who have become cynical and negative over the years.

Marion Thomas and Sarah Walton (pp. 65-67) have an amusing article about how to take on adversarial project team members. They suggest that team members fall into one of 5 types (the adjectives are my additions):

  • enthusiastic advocates
  • supportive allies
  • passive associates
  • problematic adversaries
  • unhelpful abdicators.

As the names imply, some types will be more harmful in their effects on your work than others.  People can also flip between categories depending on changing pressures on them, or even how you interact with them.

As all three authors point out, there is a lot that can be done to repair such damaged relationships in a very positive way.  These strategies rely on engaging your emotional intelligence.

Oh and never use email to do this – face-to-face is always best to pick up on body language as well as tone.  The telephone is a back-up option if face-to-face is not possible.

Here are a few tips, inspired by the articles and also with a few of my own elaborations.

 1. Assume positive intent.

It’s amazing how much of a difference the ‘going in’ attitude that you adopt in your interactions with others can make.  It’s very true that “behaviour begets behaviour” – and that others will very often reflect your behaviour.

As Susanne Madsen says – someone else will sense if you feel negative when you approach them and are likely to become hostile in return.  It’s an almost automatic emotional response.  Her advice? Present yourself as a friend rather than a foe.

2.  Try to see things from the other person’s perspective.

We have a tendency to think that someone is a difficult person, or being difficult, whereas what might be happening is that they are struggling to find the best way to deal with a difficult situation.

Marion Thomas and Sarah Walton take a similar stance:

When people are being difficult there is usually an underlying reason

Here is what Susanne Madsen suggests:

If you are in doubt about somebody, assume that their need is to feel listened to, accepted and appreciated.  That thought alone can transform your professional relationships.

We need to use our best observational, questioning and listening skills to understand another person’s perspective.

Then, if we can at least acknowledge the situation that they are dealing with, and maybe even help them with it, we will ultimately make our working relationship with them that much stronger.

3. Connect with the whole person – rather than with aspects of their behaviour. 

This is something that Marion Thomas and Sarah Walton explain very well.

They suggest that you aim to get to know something about the other person that enables you to connect with them at a personal level as well as at a professional one.  It might be something that they enjoy doing in their spare time, something about their home situation, a personal ambition.  You might be able to share something about yourself that might help them to connect with you too.

Connecting with someone as a person should make it easier to keep any ‘difficult’ occurrences in perspective, and also to open conversations about them.

4. Pick your battles

This is based on another point made by Marion Thomas and Sarah Walton.  They suggest that you assess the impact of any apparently negative or adversarial behaviour, and then match your action appropriately.

In some cases the ‘damage’ may be one of discomfort only, that can be safely ignored.

In other cases it might be more damaging for instance to team morale, or to the quality of service to customers, or to the outcome of a piece of work.  In these situations, you will need to take action.

Actions will include:

  • Engaging other people who are better positioned to influence them – perhaps because they have a good relationship with them
  • Speaking directly to the person concerned (see point 5. below)

5. Articulate your perception of a situation and seek a way to address it collaboratively.

Any interaction involving emotions is very easily influenced by assumptions and misunderstandings.

If:

  • assuming positive intent
  • trying to see things from the other’s perspective
  • connecting with them as a person
  • using the influence of others

have not somehow addressed a situation, then it’s time to articulate what you are observing.

As Thomas and Walton point out, it’s a good idea to prepare well for any discussion of this type by:

  • Thinking about the other person’s style of working and communicating and how you can approach them in a similar style
  • Looking for any positive aspect of their behaviour and/or work that you can speak about in terms of the value that they bring
  • Gathering evidence that you can use to illustrate the behaviour that you are observing and what a difference changing it would make

This is about trying to engage their emotional intelligence to understand the consequences of their actions.  The skill is to do this objectively, non-confrontationally, without implying blame.

A good tactic is to talk about the behaviour that you have observed, how you are feeling about it, and the different result that you would like to achieve.  If you can encourage and persuade them to find a better way forward, or if you can work collaboratively to find one, then you will get a  much more robust and longer lasting outcome.

Notes

There is more about using emotional intelligence to manage conflict in one of my earlier blogs: Conflict is the lifeblood of high performing organisations.

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.)  Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Project Management – summer tips from project experts


By Elisabeth Goodman, 29th June 2019

I have been spending a pleasant few hours browsing through the APM’s summer issue (no.299) of their quarterly publication Project and have found it a rich mine of information for the subjects that RiverRhee covers in its courses for project and line managers.

Here then are some extracts from this summer’s issue of Project – with a focus on Project Management.

Waterfall and Agile techniques can be fruitfully combined for structure and creativity

Many of our clients work in small Life Science or Biotech companies.  Their projects can follow an established methodology, especially if they are providing CRO-style (Contract Research Organisation) services to external clients.  Often though, their projects are more exploratory.  They may be assessing whether a particular methodology might work, or may even be developing that methodology.  Or they may be finding out what kind of activity a specific chemical or biological entity might demonstrate.

Illustration from Emma De Vita’s article “Hybrid and Proud” in Project, Summer issue, 2019

Emma De Vita is editor of Project. Her article cites several examples of how project managers are combining the Waterfall methodology for the overall project structure, with the Agile methodology for the creative interactions within the team and with clients. This “hybrid” approach could also work very well for our Life Science clients.

These quotes from Jim Conroy of Project Objects are particularly apt:

“You can’t not do it [waterfall]. You…need to assess whether that [[project or idea] is a good strategic fit, whether you’ve got the cost for it and the right resources to make it happen. Then you do have to go through a process..[reviewing] deliverables, and tasks and workflows..that need to get done and validates.”

He says that Agile is about:

“waiting for the mess of creativity to manifest itself”.

Five top tips for brilliant projects

In another very helpful article, Emma de Vita shares her top tips for “getting your project to a flying start”.   Her tips resonate very well with what we tell our delegates:

Tip 1. Have the right people on your team and make the most of their ‘soft’ skills as well as their technical ones.

Project team members are often selected on the basis of their availability and, usually, on the basis of having the necessary technical skills.  Emma quotes Christine Unterhitzenberger (Lancaster University Management School’ who says: “It is important that you are not just given people because they are available, but get the people who can make the project a success.  They need to want to see it happen and speak up for it – get them on your side.”

Emma goes on to cite the importance of understanding the softer or behavioural skills that distinguishes each of your team members, so that you can really make the most of those skills, as well as their technical ones.  This is something that we help people explore through such personality tools as Belbin Team Roles and MBTI.

Tip 2. Build the team.

Emma quotes Nick Fewings (Ngagementworks): “as the project gets bigger, risks appear and stress occurs. If you get people who understand each other, they can mitigate that stress.”  Face-to-face kick off meetings, of fun-site meetings’ and electronic collaborative working spaces are all given as examples for how to do this.

Other approaches that we suggest include: encouraging people to work across the team in different combinations of twos and threes, and setting up regular one-to-one meetings to encourage open conversations about all aspects of the project, people- as well as task-related. However, as Nassar Majothi (WSP) suggests: “you only really become a team when you are in the thick of it”.

Tip 3. Clearly articulate your vision.

A clear vision is so important to get everyone on board, motivated, and working towards a common purpose.  It also helps people to get back on track when there is any change or uncertainty.  Emma’s quotes from Fewings and Unterhitzenberger corroborate this.  She also points out that you sometimes need external advice to help you clarify this vision – and, whilst our clients’ experiences are not necessarily the same as hers, they certainly often need constructive dialogue with their stakeholders to help them do that.

Tip 4. Set the (strong) culture and pace for the project.

Project leaders or managers should certainly take advantage of their role on a project to set the tone for what they want to achieve.  Emma quotes Majothi on this one:

“Invariably the team will take the personality of the leader.  Show that you are actually going to hold people to account from day one.  That sets the culture pretty quickly.”

There are so many ways that a leader can influence what happens on a team.  We put a lot of emphasis on these in our work with line and project managers. (See for example our blog on temperature checks or diagnostics for high performance teams.) Spending time clarifying expectations, roles and responsibilities, routes of communication, decision-making processes; all these things will help to set the culture and pace for the project.

Tip 5.  Build strong relationships with your stakeholders

Our Life Science and Biotech clients’ customers can be some of their most challenging stakeholders.  So it’s great to see stakeholders included in Emma de Vita’s top five tips.  Like us, she emphasizes the importance of putting in the time and the effort to understand things from their perspectives.

She also quotes Fewings’ suggestion that you find the people in your team who are really good at stakeholder management and make it one of their key roles.  It’s about keeping the communication lines constantly open so that stakeholders know what is happening on the project, and have the opportunity to influence it to make sure that it reflects their needs.  This approach brings us back to the opening item in this blog – adopting a hybrid approach to Project Management that will enable you to have a high level of interaction with your clients within the overall structure of your project.

conclusion

This summer issue of Project has been a particularly interesting read.  There are other articles with tips about productivity, and about addressing difficult relationships which I will be reflecting in one or two other blogs.

Notes

RiverRhee runs an Introduction to Project Management course (both in-house for clients, and as open courses).  Do get in touch if you would like to learn more about our approach.

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.)  Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Influencing skills for Project Management – lessons from the military


By Elisabeth Goodman, 27th April 2019

Photograph of Emma Dutton MBE by Louise Haywood-Schiefer for “How to win wars and influence people” in Project, Spring 2019 pp.22-27

Project is the APM’s (Association for Project Managment) regular publication for its members.  This spring’s issue carries a fascinating article by Ben Hargreaves, editor of Project, featuring Emma Dutton MBE.  The article describes how she has founded a consultancy, the Applied Influence Group, to apply what she has learnt from gathering intelligence for the British Armed forces in Afghanistan, to the world of Project Management.

Parallels between military influencing and influencing projects

The article highlights some of the points made by Emma Dutton in her talk to the APM’s recent National Conference for Women in Project Management.  The parallels between the two worlds of influence include:

Multiple, complex stakeholder relationships

Shifting loyalties and volatile environments

A [or some] very demanding client[s]

The first and last points are certainly ones that the Project Leaders / Managers in the Life Science companies that we work with at RiverRhee would echo:

  • They often have to work with a range of stakeholders within and outside their companies, with different cultural backgrounds and communication styles, and with high expectations of the project team.
  • Although the loyalties are perhaps more stable, and the environment not as volatile as those which Emma Dutton experienced, there is often a high degree of uncertainty as to the possible outcomes of the scientific work

Emotional intelligence at the heart of good influencing skills

Emma Dutton makes an interesting observation from her experience of working in Afghanistan that is quoted in the article:

Afghanistan is a country built on relationships.  Afghans’ interpersonal skills are much more developed than the average Western person’s.  That’s how they survive.

and:

The mission was to influence hearts and minds as much as it was to collect information.  You had to be genuinely empathetic.  We are all humans, and we know when people are being real.

Emotional intelligence is a strong component of RiverRhee’s training, workshops and coaching for project and operational leaders, managers and team members.  See www.riverrhee.com for details of our various courses, including those on influencing and communication skills.

This, together with what Emma Dutton describes as “emotional management” or regulation of ones emotions, is also described by Daniel Goleman* and others as emotional and social intelligence:

  • being aware of our own emotions, attitudes, behaviours and those of the people we are interacting with
  • making conscious choices about how we express or adapt these emotions, attitudes and behaviours in order to get positive outcomes for all parties

These are the qualities that will enable project managers and leaders to influence the diverse and challenging stakeholders that they interact with.

Emma Dutton’s advice seems very wise indeed:

[do] your work  before you get in the room. Understand the people you are talking to.

As Ben Hargreaves concludes in his article:

Understanding drivers, likes and dislikes, motivations, anxieties, interests, attitudes and beliefs is all-important for the influencer.

Notes

*Daniel Goleman et al are authors of a very helpful series of booklets “Building Blocks of Emotional Intelligence” that Elisabeth Goodman has reviewed in earlier blogs as listed here:

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.)  Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

What to do about project overload?


By Elisabeth Goodman, 4th November 2018

Illustration from “Too Many Projects” by Rose Hollister and Michael Watkins, Harvard Business Review, Sept-Oct 2018 pp. 65-69

As many of the organisations that I work with are really struggling with this issue, Rose Hollister’s and Michael Watkins’ Harvard Business Review article on “Too many projects” (Sept-Oct 2018, pp 65-71) was very appropriate.

Why care about too many projects?

The authors assessment of the potential of too many projects mirrors the kinds of things we have been hearing from our RiverRhee clients in Life Science / Biotech SMEs:

  • increased (negative) stress
  • concerns about the negative impact on the quality of output
  • low morale
  • high turnover

Why organisations end up having too many projects?

It happens so easily…

1. Lack of awareness

As organisations get larger and more complex, they develop more silos so that it’s easy to lose sight of yet another addition to the portfolio and it’s impact on workload.

One department or function will add another project which will in turn impact on other departments or functions whose resources may not be equal to the additional workload.

Organisations will typically have no overall view of their portfolio, nor any mechanism to measure the number of projects within it.

2. Lack of judgement

One more project… according to the HBR authors this can happen through:

  • ‘Band aid’ initiatives: a supposedly quick fix which can end up being the wrong solution for a problem
  • ‘Cost myopia’: cut backs on resources without reassessing the project’s goal, scope, requirements.  (Or, in my clients’ experiences, expansion of scope without reassessing the resources.)
  • Political ‘logrolling’ (a term coined in 1835 by US congressman Davy Crocket) where a senior manager will take on another project just to help a colleague out – not wanting to break any promises
  • General under-funding or under-resourcing of projects

3. Lack of (or the wrong) action

Without a clear view of the portfolio or a way to measure it, and without any formal process for assessing or reviewing the status of projects it can be easy to…

Not have the means or will to stop existing projects..

Prioritise by function or department than by the organisation as a whole..

Add new projects without cutting others…

Make across the board cuts in resources that don’t take into account the impact on individual departments / functions and their projects..

Is project overload an issue for you?

The illustration from the HBR article at the top of this article is an extract of a diagnostic that organisations can use to assess whether project overload is an issue for them.  If the answer to any 4 of the question is ‘yes’ then you will need to find ways to better manage your portfolio..

Good practices for keeping your project portfolio in check

So… how to keep your project portfolio under control should by now be fairly self-evident:

  • Take a cross-organisation view of your portfolio.  Get a true count of the number of projects, and understand the impact of each project’s impact on other departments or functions.  Have leaders work together for this integrated view and approach.
  • Evaluate each initiative before you start.  The article includes examples of the questions to ask.
  • Have a review and sunset policy. Review projects and portfolios on a regular (monthly / quarterly / annual) basis.  You might even, as the authors suggest, expect project teams to reapply for resources in order to continue!  The sunset policy is a clause within the project’s brief describing when / how they will end the project.

And… create a mindset within the organisation that stopping a project does not equate to failure or a lack of merit.. but rather to strong decision making and objectivity.

NOTES

About the author. Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.)  Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals). Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Aligning expectations will help to reduce misunderstandings and conflict


By Elisabeth Goodman, 16th July 2018

If we don’t know what is expected of us, it can be hard to deliver it!

No matter how informal the management practices may be in your organisation, there will come a point when someone will query what it is that you are there to do and whether you have delivered it.  That someone might be you, in a conversation with your line or project manager, or your line or project manager in a conversation with you!

We work with fast-growing Biotechs, and also with more Library and Information groups in more established organisations.  The formality of their management practices varies enormously in both, but discussions invariably arise which reflect some lack of clarity about expected roles.

Such lack of clarity might result in:

  1. Expected tasks not being completed, or not being completed on time
  2. Unnecessary work being done on tasks that are not required
  3. Lack of recognition of work that exceeds what would otherwise be expected of someone
  4. Stress for and conflict amongst any of the parties involved

There are a number of tools available to help manage expectations

Tools for managing expectations

Aligning expectations will help to reduce misunderstandings and conflict. Slides from RiverRhee’s courses for those who are new to management.

Job descriptions define baseline expectations for roles and responsibilities

Job descriptions used to be a standard tool in organisations to define the expectations of someone’s role at work.  They are still generally used as the basis for recruitment, but are not always maintained as a reference point for ongoing roles.  So it’s not unusual for delegates on our courses not to have a job description, or for it to be out-of-date or not specific to their role.

Those with an HR role in small Biotechs often struggle with having the time or expertise to document all the roles in an organisation – so we often suggest that individuals and/or their managers have a go at drafting their job descriptions.   Those without job descriptions in larger organisations could also consider doing this.

Even a draft job description can act as a starting point for agreeing expectations.

Objectives document and facilitate discussions about more transient responsibilities

Again, the organisations that we work with have variable practices around objective setting.  Done well, they can be used for managing shifting expectations during the course of a year.

Whereas job descriptions define broad areas of responsibility for an individual, objectives reflect new areas of activity, opportunities for improvement, and more transient responsibilities that may come and go.

So, for example, a scientist with responsibilities in a particular therapeutic area, or for particular types of assays, may have an objective to investigate the feasibility of moving into a new therapeutic area, to develop new or improved assays or to develop relationships with a new client

Similarly, an information scientist with responsibility for supporting a particular customer group may have an objective to identify good practices for extension to another customer group, or to develop a new type or product or service.

How objectives are defined will vary from one organisation to another, but some form of the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) acronym is commonly adopted.

Whilst setting objectives can be challenging, as they generally evolve over the year, not documenting them will create even more challenges in terms of meaningful discussions about expectations and what has been achieved.

Project charters ensure that individuals, their line managers and project managers are all aligned on expectations

This RiverRhee newsletter (A second look at Project Management), also referenced the use of project charters.  Such charters can take a variety of forms, but the key is to include unambiguous details of who is expected to do what, and by when.

Again, these details are likely to change over the course of the project, but they act as an agreed starting point to facilitate conversations amongst all those involved.

Notes

This is the second blog in a series that will be covering all the different modules of RiverRhee’s management courses, in the run down to our next courses in September 2018. (You can read the first blog – Management is about more than just getting the job done! here…)

Keep an eye on RiverRhee’s website for details of our upcoming courses for managers and teams.

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.)  Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals). Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.