By Sunil Srivastava
One of the most complex challenges facing software engineering teams today is the implementation of positive change that lasts - in other words, implementing change that sticks. When senior leadership of software engineering organizations discuss strategy, there is usually a lot of talk about managing change effectively and yet most organizations continue to fail in implementing sticky change.
Why Change Fails?
The reason sticky change is hard to maintain for most organizations is misdirected efforts. Senior managers seem to focus on realigning organizational structures and processes when they decide change is needed. In most cases, when change is discussed in executive meetings as a need, managers start thinking in the direction of team structures and protocols to show progressive change. Instead of assessing employee behaviors and organizational culture, they focus on changing processes to demonstrate change. However, the problem often goes deeper than just process change that and so change initiatives often don’t stick.
Sticky Change is Not Forced
Sticky change is change that is accepted by people who are subjected to it. Without their consent, it will only be a set of forced processes that they may continue to follow but with no interest.
What is more, this approach is counter-productive. Forcing change is bad for a number of reasons, including the fact that it makes employees feel trapped, which leads to distrust toward management and the organization as a whole.
To make teams implement lasting change, cultural practices in the organization should be changed strategically over time with adequate communication through horizontal and vertical channels.
Software teams can fail for a number of reasons, some of which include:
Change that matters is change that sticks.
Being able to transition software teams towards being more agile and delivering projects faster is something that is on the top of the agenda of almost very leader in the software industry. With time, leaders are realizing that they need to develop strategies and processes that will make change sticky and deliver the desired success and growth.
Communication and engaging the entire organization in the challenge of implementing change is critical to “sticky change”. Team members need to be engaged and made aware that they are integral to the solution that is being developed and it’s adoption is critical to its success. Team members priorities, values and goals should be aligned with those of the organization, and only then will the recommended changes be adopted & practiced by team members. Only in such a scenario will the change stick but that will take time and effort. Early failure should be anticipated and mitigation activities planned.
Remember that effective positive “sticky change” is a process and will take time.
When Project Managers plan implementations, they often do not adequately anticipate failure despite the risks associated with any project. Rather, they plan for the best case scenarios driven by the budget, deliverables, sponsor expectations and deadlines. And despite their best efforts at project management, failure rates remain high.
Project implementations can fail for a number of reasons — ranging from unrealistic expectations, poor methodology, poor requirements, inadequate resources, poor project management, untrained teams, unrealistic budgets, to poor communication and more. With such a long list of factors that can lead to failure, the chances of project implementation success seems low. Those chances can be improved by adopting these 5 best practices. These will help establish a clear understanding of expectations among all the stakeholders—be they business, sponsor, project team, to vendor partners and end users.
The entrepreneur Project Manager
Every project manager, during their career, short or long has worked with or heard of some PM who was the absolute best. The one on whose team everyone wanted to be and the one who always managed to deliver the desired results.
Now, every Project Manager knows that being able to scope, budget & schedule projects and being able to guide them through its lifecycle are the average days work. The bare minimum any PM should be capable of.
So, what are the qualities of a Super PM? What does it take to move beyond the ordinary and into the extraordinary?
I believe it is a Mindset. More specifically, the entrepreneurial mindset.
The best PMs have learnt through their experiences that to not just succeed but to exceed, one needs to think beyond just the basics of project management. It is not just enough to know about scheduling, budgeting, subject matter, etc. & somehow push the project through its phases towards its final milestone. These extraordinary PMs have realized that to be really successful, one has to be able to look beyond the mundane & rise beyond the ordinary.
They have adopted the entrepreneurial mindset.
The Entrepreneurial Mindset
A couple of definitions to consider:
a. Entrepreneur is a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk
b. Mindset - a mental attitude or inclination
According to Schumpeter, “the capabilities of innovating, introducing new technologies, increasing efficiency and productivity, or generating new products or services, are characteristic qualities of entrepreneurs”, while Robert B. Reich considers “ leadership, management ability, and team-building to be essential qualities of an entrepreneur”.
In a recent article on entrepreneurship, Dan Schawbel states that “A major shift is taking place, replacing the typical definition of an entrepreneur — “someone who starts a company” — with a newer definition, one based on the innate mindset of a person who sees opportunities and pursues them.”
And, as per the Financial Times, “The entrepreneurial mindset as refers to a specific state of mind which orientates human conduct towards entrepreneurial activities and outcomes. Individuals with entrepreneurial mindsets are often drawn to opportunities, innovation and new value creation.
Characteristics include the ability to take calculated risks and accept the realities of change and uncertainty.”
So, an entrepreneur is a take charge, self directed person who rounds up important resources & services to deliver a product or service to consumers that is of value. Now, while this description can describe any manager, there is one very critical difference between an entrepreneur & a manager. While most managers are very capable & dedicated to their work, only an entrepreneur manager, will consciously & subconsciously, act as if they have personal equity in the initiatives success or failure. It is not “just a job” for them. Entrepreneurs know that they cannot fail and that their failure will lead to the failure of the entire business or initiative.
Similarly, for each & every project, an entrepreneur PM will take extra initiative and considerable to ensure its success. This mindset of “personal ownership” is what sets this type of a PM apart from others. This mindset also drives the PMs efforts towards setting higher standards for performance & achievement. Entrepreneur PMs realize the importance & centrality of their team’s effort & work to deliver great results. They know that while they themselves cannot perform all the tasks & roles on a project, they are ultimately responsible for its success or failure and the impact on its stakeholders.
No project on its own is perfect or the best. There are always risks associated with it. And it is not difficult to assign blame for failure. If one looks for, they can find innumerable reasons such as blame the SMEs, sponsor, budget, the team, etc. to blame for failure.
For the entrepreneur PM though, success is the only way to go forward. They are personally invested in its success. Hence, they are never reactive & don’t accept excuses. They proactively approach each and every project and will demolish every barrier erected in their path. They will do whatever effort is required to find the solutions which will guide the team & project towards success. Their sense of project ownership is always high; innovation is a way of life; their appetite for risk is high and they are always striving for the betterment of the project.
A project is always undertaken to create something new or unique, even if it is a small update. The new product or service cannot be initiated by machines. Not as of now. Hence human resources are the most critical for a project for its success. Entrepreneur PMs know that.
Some common characteristics of entrepreneur PMs:
· Get’s the “big picture”
· Leader & motivator
· Team builder
· Patient (not easily rattled)
· Great listener & communicator
· Strategic & Organized
· Technically sound
· Effective task delegator
Entrepreneur PMs are often not the most technically qualified. In fact, my observation is that often, the most technically qualified & experienced people don’t make the best project managers. Technical competence is important to some extent for project management but not critical. Skills such as being proactive, understanding people and their goals, taking ownership, being able to “get the big picture”, etc. are more crucial for a project’s success.
Entrepreneur PMs are driven professionals who strive to excel and the thought of being able to interact with great minds daily, guiding them and extracting ideas excites them. An entrepreneur PMs mindset is analogous to that of a CEO in that they are always striving on delivering high value to all their stakeholders.
These days project budgets don’t stretch to nice things like bonuses for all team members for when the project completes on time. If the team members don’t work for you then you probably can’t give them a pay rise either. You might not even get enough in the budget left over for a party at the end of the project. Even if you do, you might be hampered by local tax laws that specify how much you can give gifts in lieu of financial amounts, and you could make it harder for people to complete their tax returns by giving any sort of bonus at all.
Common practice on projects is to take people out for a meal or even to a bar for drinks, but if your budget is tight you might have to resort to getting people to pay for themselves, or for you to pay for the first round of drinks, for example. There are other ways to motivate your team without it looking like you are being too stingy.
So, if you can’t motivate people to do a good job with financial incentives, what can you do to ensure they perform well (or to reward people who did perform well)? Here are some ideas.
Grant time off
You might have to check with their line manager, but granting someone time off in lieu of extra hours worked can be a great way to reward project team members who have put in extra hours during a push on a project, or a go live weekend. It’s also worth checking with HR about the policy for this, as you could be setting a precedent, but it is definitely worth considering.
Being ‘allowed’ to go on a training course might not seem like much of a reward. After all, surely this is part of your normal contract of employment with your boss – they should be providing training anyway. But in times like these where extra cash for training is hard to come by, operations managers might not have a training budget. You, on the other hand, could offer developmental activities as part of the project, and then encourage people to try out their new skills. There’s even a process for this in thePMBOK® Guide – Develop Project Team.
BY MARK SANBORN
We live in an age that seeks quick fixes and easy answers. Sometimes leaders abdicate their thinking to others and accept "prevailing wisdom," which is often an oxymoron.
I grew up, like most, accepting many things at face value. It wasn't until I started giving important issues like leadership a second and third thought that I realized I'd been believing what turned out to be some serious leadership myths.
Here are seven leadership lies and why they simply aren't true:
1. "All managers are leaders." Truth: some managers can lead and others don't or cannot. Management is a subset of leadership, not its equivalent.
Managers are good at setting up, monitoring and maintaining systems and processes. They hire people. But if they can't bring out better performance in people and take the organization beyond where it is, they aren't leading.
Leadership always involves change, improvement and growth.
2. "Some are born leaders." Truth: even someone with a predisposition to lead must learn the skills of leadership.
A young person who is 6'6" might have the predisposition to play basketball, but he or she still needs to learn the skills before they can play successfully.
Leadership might be more latent in some than others -- and you can't always tell -- so focus on what is developing someone's behaviors, not their biological background.
After years of dilly dallying and near misses, I have finally decided to go for my PMP certification. The boot camp option & online learning have never quite worked for me. I am enthusiastic at the beginning but sooner than later, work & life take over & the online study takes a back seat. I have found that for me, a class environment where I can interact with people, works best.
I know of many colleagues who passed it by going to a 4 day bootcamp or even just by using Rita's books & other online resources. My learning process is more stretched out. I take time to absorb & hence need stuff paced out.
So I l looked around and via Craigslist found a PMP certified teacher led PMP certification program in the south bay and signed up. Their ad said they guaranteed passing. How can someone provide such a guarantee? Let's see how it goes.
Did you know that project management has been around for more than 2500 years? If project management is defined as the act of assembling people to systematically achieve a shared goal, then it has existed since ancient history.
Whether it was the Egyptians erecting the Great Pyramid of Giza, an Indian Maharaja directing his skilled artisans while building the Taj Mahal or a Chinese King commanding the manual labor of millions to build the Great Wall of China, they were all endeavors of project Management.
Even though times, methodologies & technologies have changed, Project Management has kept its core goal intact: To deliver successful projects in a clear and effective way.
Below is a wonderful infographic depicting the history of project management as we know it as of now.
The success or failure of project has a great deal to do with the type of PM heading it and how he manages the various stakeholders. Below is an infographic that identifies 7 types of PMs. What is your personality? What do you think? Is there a type that is missed?