Month: July 2016

a bit of PR for projects

“Not only must Justice be done; it must also be seen to be done” (Lord Chief Justice Hewart). This post is not about justice per se. It is about doing justice to projects.

I believe that it is a project manager’s duty to do justice to the team work. And making the project seen and visible is part of that. I admit, I am a bit obsessed with project PR. My obsession is up to the point of using project PR to build the demand for change by making the project activities known to the public.

It is also about accountability to the project’s sponsor. Imagine your sponsor is a baby and you’d like to please her.

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If the budget allows it, a good PR person/a communicator on the team is a blessing. Sometimes, it is luxury. Communication-works-for-those-who__quotes-by-John-Powell-39

Regardless, there are a number of things a project manager or an assistant can do. One of them is to have a press release or make public a note after each milestone/ event. It is also good for the record, and prevents or answers many of monitors and performance auditors questions.

There are many tips on how to draft a good press release or project information note.

I often use the following simple structure for public communication on the project’s web site and social media, with the caveat that there is no one-size-fits all formats and the content and style need to adapt to the audience:

– When and where the event took place.

– What was the objective/why did people gather.

– Who participated. A quote /two from participants.

– How was the objective achieved/what was the result.

– Next steps/follow-up. Make sure you’ll actually do what you write about.

No abbreviations. “anything that requires an explanation inhibits communication”, Elon Musk.

And a nice catchy title, as a ribbon on a packaged gift.

Make it a PR – expert team work to make sure the right messages are conveyed in the right way. Follow  visibility requirements your project has to conform to.

Keep your audience informed at regular intervals. Only Santa has the privilege to ‘go public’ once a year.

Last but not least: write it for the reader. Keep it short, make it engaging, easy to digest.

More on communication https://myprojectdelight.com/2016/07/20/communication-my-lessons-learned/

and good tips on https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-de-corporatize-your-content-tara-hunt?trk=hp-feed-article-title-channel-add

Communication: my lessons learned

Often forgotten basics for both projects and non-projects environment:untitled

Smile.

Be welcoming.

Introduce yourself.

State your objectives.

Unveil full agenda.

Some soft rules:

Human stories convince. Show human faces. Bring them as guest speakers, if possible. Protect their identity, if necessary.

Present as a believer. I cannot convince, if I am not convinced. It needs to create an emotional connection, that will stay with your partners beyond your interaction.
Give numbers in a context. Otherwise, they are empty shells. They say ” lies, damn lies and statistics” for a reason.

Do not preach; use “we” not “you”. Do what you “preach”. Otherwise, can say good buy to your credibility at a next encounter.

Two-way communication is key. Listen. Create time and space for learning from communication. The result might get you to a total which is more than the sum of the parts.
The efficiency of the receiver depends on the efficiency of the sender. Always. If nothing follows after your email, revisit it.
Have a non-communication expert to communicate. Have yet to meet an outstanding communication expert, both a knowledgeable and mindful practitioner.

Divorce the orthodoxy of power point presentations. Have a different approach: stage a show, use class room presentation materials e.g.

Power point is visual media. Use images and diagrams on a “one per slide” basis. Keep the text for hand outs.

Be humble and honest. Focus on lessons learned and what you plan to do with them.

In development work, aim to embed results in our counterparts’ work through their communication channels. It builds both visibility and ownership.

Enter into communication partnerships and alliances. Design, mold and promote common messages.

Smile. Create a stereotypes-free fun environment.
Always revert to your objectives. Seek confirmation of objectives achieved or delve into what more needs to be done for a happy communication.
You may wish to visit other more academic related sources, e.g. the Open University free courses on Communication or the Harvard Business Review and share your views and experience.

 

You’ve got mail: writing for action

“To: Mary, John, Peter

Subject: budget

28,72% total budget implemented… on what else can we spend money for?

A good day,

Laurence”

The email received no response. Nothing happened.  It could have been as well written to the saints Mary, John and Peter.

Early in project management I received a valuable advice, which I gladly share: the efficiency of the receiver depends on the efficiency of the sender.

Much of the communication in projects happens through emails. When there is no response to that important email of yours, you might want to revisit it and your email communication style.

Some believe that “it is a miracle that effective communication ever occurs” (Carol M.Lehman and Debbie D. Dufrene, Business Communication, 16th ed. South-Western, 2010). The good news is that miracles can be produced, through trial and error, more trial, more errors untill the silver lining is there.

I gladly share a few magic tricks which helped me improve my project communication, with the disclaimer that I am still learning and still improving. Break the it down and inspire people to act. How? Politely by
A. bringing the issue to their attention,

B. making them aware,

C. motivating them: inspire them to adhere,

D. involving them: make them accomplices.

In short, make them want to do what it needs to be done and give them means to do it. At length, from the sender side, he/she needs to adapt the attitude to the receiver, propose a clear and acceptable objective, structure the essence in solid ideas, use arguments to explain and convince, propose a concrete and precise action. The effect on the receiver is as follows: he/she is attracted by the format, the objective is of interest, he/she retains the essence and is persuaded by the argument and knows what he/she has to do.

***
Going back to the email above, an option would be:

“To: Mary, John, Peter

Subject: for Action: an interesting budget issue

Our Financial Department just shared the latest budget report, which we all received i trust. The project we are in charge of show at the moment a modest spending rate of nearly 30% at the beginning of its second year of implementation. Delivery is indeed not the only parameter according to which projects performance is assessed, yet it is an important one. For the Department and the sponsor. The target is still 95% by the end of the project implementation.

Please find attached a detailed report on areas where budget underspending is recorded. I suggest to meet tomorrow to agree together on a recovery plan. I trust each will  bring his/her proposals and updated work plans to the table for the project to reach the delivery target.

I remain available to answer any question and support you the best i can,

With thanks,

Laurence

You might know the Buddhist joke about the email: A zen student asked his master: “Is it okay to use email?” “Yes”, replied the master, “but with no attachments.”  Wishing all to see the silver lining both in attachments and detachment.

More tips: “How to Write Email with Military Precision” by Kabir Sehgal on https://hbr.org/2016/11/how-to-write-email-with-military-precision

Also: Thrive Global

Steve Jobs Knew How to Write an Email. Here’s How He Did It

“Undoubtedly, Apple co-founder and visionary Steve Jobs wrote several thousands of emailsthroughout his life. Relatively few of them have been shared with the public, and most of those are short responses to customer complaints.

But there are a few trails out there that show the skillful way Jobs used written communication. Let’s take a look at just one example and see what lessons we can glean from it.

[Note: This email was made part of public record when it was used as evidence in a U.S. lawsuit againstApple accusing the company of conspiring to raise the price of Ebooks in violation of antitrust laws. Apple was found guilty, although the company denied it had done anything wrong and fought the decision through the appeal process. The U.S. Supreme Court eventually declined to hear Apple’s appeal, meaning the company was required to pay a $450 million settlement.]

In 2010, Jobs and Apple were preparing to release the iPad. A key feature would be the tablet’s ability to function as an e-reader, similar to Amazon’s Kindle (which had already been out for a few years). Of course, the more publishers willing to contribute books to Apple’s iTunes store, the more appeal the iPad would hold.

Four major publishers had already signed on, but another, HarperCollins, was holding out.

Negotiations eventually centered around a key conversation between Jobs and James Murdoch, an executive at News Corp. (HarperCollins’ parent company). Murdoch wasn’t convinced his company (and its partners) could agree to the terms Apple was offering, especially regarding the “ceding of pricing to Apple.”

Jobs proceeded to write an email to try to convince HC to join.

Here’s what it said:

James,

Our proposal does set the upper limit for ebook retail pricing based on the hardcover price of each book. The reason we are doing this is that, with our experience selling a lot of content online, we simply don’t think the ebook market can be successful with pricing higher than $12.99 or $14.99. Heck, Amazon is selling these books at $9.99, and who knows, maybe they are right and we will fail even at $12.99. But we’re willing to try at the prices we’ve proposed. We are not willing to try at higher prices because we are pretty sure we’ll all fail.

As I see it, HC has the following choices:

1. Throw in with Apple and see if we can all make a go of this to create a real mainstream ebooks market at $12.99 and $14.99.

2. Keep going with Amazon at $9.99. You will make a bit more money in the short term, but in the medium term Amazon will tell you they will be paying you 70 percent of $9.99. They have shareholders too.

3. Hold back your books from Amazon. Without a way for customers to buy your ebooks, they will steal them. This will be the start of piracy and once started there will be no stopping it. Trust me, I’ve seen this happen with my own eyes.

Maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t see any other alternatives. Do you?

Regards,
Steve

Project cycle management: a seasons view

There are Four Seasons hotels. There is Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”.  And the four seasons of a project. A project is born, it works and beneficiaries harvest. Pretty much alluding to Spring, Summer and Autumn. Sometimes Winters enter projects’ lives. It happens in “frozen” project. Although some may challenge that a frozen project is still a project. Or, if all gone according to plan, Winter is the season of evaluations and reflections. Or just plain hibernation to recharge batteries.
This is a metaphor for project cycle management. It is just a perspective to the by-the-book definition.

Project cycle management (also known as PCM) is the process of planning, organizing, coordinating, and controlling of a project effectively and efficiently throughout its phases, from planning through execution then completion and review to achieve pre-defined objectives or satisfying the project stakeholder by producing the right deliverable at the right time, cost and quality, according to a classic definition.

Different methodologies speak of different phases/cycles and related tools. For example, in EuropeAid terminology the term project cycle management is used to describe decision-making procedures used during the life-cycle of a project (including key tasks, roles and responsibilities, key documents and decision options). You can read more https://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/sites/devco/files/methodology-aid-delivery-methods-project-cycle-management-200403_en_2.pdf.

Some use the term “The Project Development Cycle”: the project begins, continues, ends and begins again. Some organisations manage their projects by the following 4 phases: initiation, planning, implementation, closure.

The PMBOK terminology refers to at least 3 phases in a project: initiation, intermediate, final.

The Project Cycle in the framework used by the World Bank includes the identification, preparation,appraisal, negotiation and approval, implementation and  evaluation phases.
At OECD, projects follow the identification, appraisal and detailed plan, implementation and monitoring and evaluation stages.

These are just couple of examples of different general frameworks applicable in different organisations. By all means, projects need to follow the sponsor/organisation’s rigours. Yet, finding your own perspective to look at the project’s life cycle in a simplified way, be it a seasons-view or any other view, is intended to make things easy for you and allow you to enjoy the process.  An accurately identified project’s season helps determine the right approaches and tools to design, plant, harvest or evaluate/mitigate.

What seasons do you see in this pic?