Category: Tips and Tools Box

“Tips are like free hugs. Only without that awkward feeling” I read once on a Tips Box of a juice bar in an airport. Same goes for Tips on this blog. Feel free to borrow!

Integrity in projects: Receiving gifts

“Oxana, the boxes of chocolate and tea are more for you”, read the email I received from the big boss of the organisation I worked for. It was after a meeting between top management and the project team. One of the consultants on the team offered to the chair of the meeting the famous chocolate.

“Thank you very much. I’ll pick them up and open the boxes for everyone to enjoy in the coffee/kitchen room” was my immediate response. I knew the ethics rules this Organisation had. And I was committed to apply them.

It was also an example for other team members who were puzzled at the meeting and watchful of management reaction.

A box of chocolate is a small thing, right? the temptation jumps in. Better check your client’s and your organization’s policies on Receiving gifts. If you are a free-lancer, check your professional quarters’ guidelines. PMI for example, https://www.pmi.org/about/ethics/code

Some guidelines are more gifts-tolerant and set a maximum value for gifts which can be accepted. They range from USD 30 or equivalent (UNDP) to 100 Euro of equivalent (Council of Europe). More important than the value are the intention and or perception of influence that gifts may carry. Some Organisations are outright intolerant to gifts, regardless of the value and source, in particular for staff involved in procurement. As project managers, we are involved in procurement.

I’ve seen guidelines which contain a permission to accept gifts, which otherwise would be insulting to the offerer, for cultural or local customs reasons. In such a case, the gift shall be immediately disclosed and transferred for a decision to management.

Once in Ukraine, at a dinner paid by the project at the end of the project, I was offered two traditional cakes by the client. I declined politely. “We know it is below the value of gifts you can accept. We checked.”, they insisted. “I will pass it to my colleagues in the local office, to enjoy it”, was my response. And so I did the next morning.

If I cannot refuse the gift, I make sure that offerer understands that I act in accordance with the gifts receiving policies I abide by and that I accept it on behalf of the team. And I share it with the team: be it a box of chocolate, traditional sweets, a bottle of spirits, an invitation to a cultural event, a tour, etc. I know it is given to me only because I am on this project and I am already paid for doing my job.

Some Guidelines prohibit gifts from certain sources: Government, for example, or vendors, as these carry the risk of being seen as a “downpayment” for a future favour on behalf of the organisation/company you work for. Money gifts are a No in literally all professional conduct guidelines I saw. No explanation as to why is necessary.

“What about gifts post-project?” you may ask. I can only congratulate you for having succeeded to transform a business relation into a friendship. Nevertheless, I would be watchful over how much time elapsed after the project, if you are not in a project design phase and if no strings are attached from either side.

Keep it professional and maintain your integrity watchful!

From the series “Integrity in project management”. To be continued.

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Gender mainstreaming in projects: a case study

Project A was designed to respond to institutional strengthening needs of an association of professionals – let’s call it Stars Alliance – and to contribute to improving the quality of the profession. Gender mainstreaming was included in the Project’s Work plan as a cross-cutting theme, yet its practical implication remained to be investigated and followed-up. The Project indicators were not gender-disaggregated at the start of the Project.

During its inception phase, the Project team used the stakeholders’ analysis to understand their roles, needs and situation. At the start of the Project, 30% of the Stars Alliance members were women. Yet, there were no women on its board and there were less than 10% of them in other internal management committees. Women have organised themselves into an association, let’s call it WLA.

WLA was established in March 2015 by 8 women lawyers. It was a young and small association with high aspirations to promote gender equality both within Stars Alliance and on the legal services market. The WLA was marginalised within the Alliance and its voice was weak. None of its initiatives, including gaining equal treatment of women professionals within social security, were supported by the Alliance.

The Project’s Stakeholders Analysis increased the understanding that for the gender mainstreaming to be successful, the WLA voice had to be heard and its capacity had to be strengthened. Moreover, including WLA in the Project meant that it would have the same effects and impact on men and women, both at the level of capacity and skills. A number of gender sensitive indicators were introduced, for example the number of women in the Bar pool of trainers; the number of women candidates to management positions and the number of women elected/selected in management committees.

Thus, the Project team pursued a pro-active role in involving WLA in the Project. The Project insisted on including WLA in all consultations organised to prepare the Stars Alliance Management Road Map, draft it organisational Strategy for 2017-2022 and its Communication Strategy. The Project also included consistently WLA representatives in all Project workshops, conference and seminars, breaking down little by little the isolation previously experienced. WLA was also included in the Project’s Steering Committee enabling the organization to make contributions and participate in decision making.

In addition to that, the Project implemented a number of activities designed specifically to strengthen WLA capacity as an organization.  As a result of these, WLA prepared its own Strategy for 2018-2023, started to collaborate with a similar organisation at the European level, organised its general assembly on a regular basis, multiplied by ten the number of its members, gained space on the Alliance website (where it can regularly publish its news and make itself visible and heard); presented an alternative report on women rights situation in the country at the UN Committee for Social, Economic and Cultural rights in Geneva.

All of the above contributed to making the WLA voice heard within the Alliance and externally, empowering it to take gender mainstreaming forward to the benefit of the  profession.

The Project’s approach to increase the capacity of WLA brought two lessons learned:

a. the Project had to be ready to mitigate risks of occasional disengagement from the Alliance management in Project activities, when WLA lead-activities were perceived as challenging to the institutional culture that existed since its establishment.

b. helping WLA to form partnerships – e.g. with the European women professional associations – was an important part of the sustainability of the action, as it anchored it in a network of organisations, which share similar challenges and aspirations.

Strategic planning explained to kids and not only

– What are you going to do on this mission, mom?

– Help an organisation with Strategic planning, sweetheart.

– What’s strategic planning?

Explain this to a five year old. And then to a group of 20 board members, all of whom are lawyers.

So the strategic-planning-explained-to-kids-and-adults-story goes like this:

You are happily building your legos. At some point you’ll hear me “Dinner is ready!”. You know you want to finish building your lego-that would be your aim/objective in strategic planning. Dinner time is your timeline, same in strategic planning.

You follow your lego instructions-that would be your activities in achieving your objective. Your lego bricks are your resources. If the time to dinner is too short and you want to finish on time, you may need to call for help. That would be your parents/partners’ support.

Your satisfaction with the lego built and its compliance with the picture on the box would be the criteria/marks to assess your result.

That in short, my dear, is strategic planning.

Meetings: The ultimate time-suck and what to do about them | TED Blog – re-post

At the beginning of my career, i worked in a team where the team leader will have morning meetings every day.  He missed none and expected all team members to be there on time, even if they had to leave the hospital with a drip in their veins. It’s a bit of an exaggeration but we all met in our professional lives bosses-fans-of-meetings. I now understand the reason he was so adamant about it: it was matching his command-and-control type of leadership and he believed it was good for the team discipline. It worked. The project did bring results. Back then electronic means of communication were largely science-fiction so personal interaction was pretty much the only control tool he had in his arsenal.

I love to attend meetings when the objective is clear and all are committed to respecting others’ time. I also organised numerous team meetings with a variety of objectives: for instance, progress review, check-in, decision-making meetings. I will not pretend all meetings I organised achieved their objective and that was fine as it gave me a number of lessons-learned I carry in my tools box.

As September approaches and the work will get speedier after Summer breaks, their majesties – The Meetings – will make their entrance. If you are looking for inspiration on how to have meaningful, productive and beneficial meetings, here is a number of great tips and a great variety for inspiration:

The big idea: Meetings, the ultimate time-suck, and how to fix them

Enjoy reading and watching!

Recovering troubled projects

When i recovered the first project about ten years ago i did not know this kind of projects are called ‘troubled’. Couple of years latter i enrolled in a training called “Recovering troubled projects’ by PMI where the ‘Aha!” moment descended upon me: this is what i did! i recovered a troubled project! And the professional pride went up 10 points :).

The recovery of a troubled project is very much an emergency room type of execution:

1. assess the status of the project to identify reasons of failure and bottlenecks in both the internal and external environment;

2. based on the diagnosis, prepare and agree a recovery plan,

3. execute,

4. monitor,

5. follow-through to the objective set. With a cake and a bottle of champagne, if that’s in order.

Recovering a troubled project requires twice the effort and the commitment on all sides:  the team, the sponsor, the client. It requires trouble-shooters abilities. A project manager will also have to deal with a likely low-morale of the team, if the team is still there. Or a new team, with its own – unknown – dynamics.

If you are looking for inspiration:

Project Management on remote control: relationship building


– Hi! Where are you?

– at work.

– what are you doing?

– seating behind my desk.

If a project manager is at the answering end in this dialogue, i would become worried.

Projects lives are outside project manager’s office. A site to inspect. A group of people to meet. A team’s office to go to. We live in an era where more and more project work is done long distance – by e-mail or by phone, or “on remote control”, as i call them. A project manager cannot really barge into the team’s room, when located miles away. Unless he/she has super powers to get there in a blink of an eye or can teleport the team.

In today’s globalisation, “relationship building, paradoxically, becomes more crucial than ever”, the authors of the “The New Leaders” book believe. Since working on remote control projects, my awareness of it became even more acute. I am on email at least 75% of time. When signs of potential misunderstandings arise, i pick up the phone or call for a skype call.

I also have created a tradition of “Friday Delight”. It is an exchange by email with members of the team on a variety of issues of common interest, for example, highlights of a training they went on. Or i just ask them to send to all their favourte tune of the week, inspired by Taylor “The Project manager who smiles”. It’s a good indicator of their mood, usually. Through Friday Delight, we also learn about team members’ important life events, such as marriage for instance. I found that it builds a sense of rapport. If for some weeks i do not initiate an email with ” Friday Delight ” in the subject line, i get messages from members of the team reading ” i miss Friday Delight”.

Stay close. Build relations. Enjoy it together.

 

 

The 4 Types of Project Manager – re-post

I came across this intriguing article “The 4 Types of Project Manager” by Carsten Lund Pedersen and Thomas Ritterv in Harvard Business Review.

According to this article, the four types of project managers are:

  1. Gambler
  2. Prophet
  3. Executor
  4. Expert

The audience of the article is top executives.The article claims any organisation would need a few of each to identity and pursue growth opportunities and that it is the executives duties to identify the right type of project managers for the types of projects to be implemented.

I do not like categories and i am biased when it comes to project managers categories (clearly! exclaims my professional pride). Thanks to Daniel Kahneman (“Thinking, fast and slow” book) i understand that it is a psychological fact – to judge and categorise. It has to do with human brain biases. Putting aside my initial reaction to categories, after having read the description of the four types i realised that i a might be mutating as a project manager. I can be any and all at the same time. Almost a self-proclaimed Wonder Project Manager (you get the self-ironic tone here).

Reading it from the project manager’s perspective, the article gives ammunition to project managers when in a position to ask for a particular project to be assigned to them. Enjoy reading and enjoy managing your projects with the best of your skills!

The 4 Types of Project Manager

JULY 27, 2017