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Scratching the People Itch...

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Over the last three decades I have seen tremendous developments in planning, risk management, benefits management and governance all supported by process standardisation, tools and training. These developments are to be applauded and have formed the foundation of the profession.

But projects are still failing. Research indicates, and I strongly believe, that the human dimension is a key factor in the success or failure of a project. This statement is nothing new but the key is how we as a profession do something to improve the situation.

The human dimension is multi faceted and broad. It covers the knowledge areas of communications, teamwork, leadership, influencing, delegation, negotiation and conflict management but it also encompasses the behavioural and cultural dimensions inherent in all aspects of the project management domain.

For example, the behaviours to enable effective risk solicitation, the skills to develop a schedule “owned” by the team, the organisational project management culture, the political skills of portfolio management, the cultural aspects of learning, the skills required to harness and motivate a diverse functional team and the courage to say “no”.

These are the topics for me that really influence project success. Of course you need the foundation of process, tools and techniques but what really makes the difference is the behaviour and interactions of team members and project leaders.

The People SIG mission is: to raise awareness and encourage debate around the people aspects of project management, awaken appetite and influence opinion in the area and to offer thought pieces and insights to inspire project managers.

We are doing some good work. We have recently launched a series of workshops to address some of the key topic areas. These workshops will provide knowledge sharing and the opportunity to develop the topic into a tangible product that can be shared with the wider community.

But, does this scratch the itch?

What does the community want from the People SIG? What outputs would be useful or topics should we focus on? How should we engage across the SIGs and the Branches?

Your contribution and engagement would be welcome to ensure that the SIG delivers on what you need.


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  1. Mark Oliver
    Mark Oliver 12 May 2011, 06:46 PM

    I would like to thank those that have contributed for the great input.The comment on ensuring that the non-project professionals are properly engaged is great and perhaps something that we too often forget.Reinforcement of the back to basics message and and ensuring that the senior organisational stakeholders understand what the "project" requires are consistent themes from all sources.Watch out for a People SIG survey in the coming weeks where I will endeavour to capture this input and seek a wider input 

  2. Sheilina Somani
    Sheilina Somani 03 May 2011, 10:21 AM

    Having worked in numerous projects over the years, I've always subscribed to the people aspects being the most critical aspects to manage.  I've always been a non-technical project manager, or at least declared myself as such.At the commencement of any project brief I spend time with the executives and the extended team members to set expectations on the project, it's management, deliverables and outcomes.  The key focus being ownership being with the organisation at every level. We agree commitment levels, involvement, decision making and of course escalation.  Whilst I support and manage every aspect of my projects, I also ensure that team members, extended users and senior executives are involved and associated with each phase. In presenting project progress, issues, completion criteria, the first bullets are always relating to people context.  How commitment is being shown, what is being achieved or hindered as a direct result of people.For me, people skills are 'tough skills' and are often sorely underestimated by the term 'soft skills'.  Project management for me is a passion.  Learning about people (including myself), engaging, communicating and leading through the processes and practices are key.

  3. John Bryden
    John Bryden 28 April 2011, 10:29 AM

    I'd make the comment that full-time project professionals (regardless of their role and what they get called) generally understand what they should be doing and in terms of people specific issues, I'd be looking for the People Specific Interest Group to support the "soft skills" side of things and you already have those listed. But the people issues of non project professionals are also key.At the project resource level (subject matter experts being a good example) there are people who don't know how a project is supposed to work and don't care because they didn't want to be there in the first place. The People Specific Interest Group may have a role of developing material and best-practises of how to bring these sort of people into a project environment productively, and I'm meaning material aimed not at the project managers but at the project resources, which then enable the project manger to "harness and motivate" the team.And at the other end both Markus and Pat allude to executives not understanding project management and the issues this causes in a number of ways. I think that the People Specific Interest Group can make a difference  by developing material and best-practises  of how executives should contribute (for instance stakeholder training) to get the most out of their projects. That may also open the door on them understanding project management so that they can insist on higher quality project management practice.

  4. Markus Sullivan
    Markus Sullivan 22 April 2011, 08:46 AM

    In answering the exec question, we need to consider a broadly held view - Project Management is not a true profession.  Recently, a senior director admitted to me, that among the echelons of management, my 'profession' was not held in high regard, partly due to the lack of knowledge of what we do, partly due to a belief that planning and management is something that everyone can do, and partly due to the number of projects that fail...In answering the beaviours of those in the delivery, I so often find it's because no-one really understands the full picture of who does what, why, when and how (regardless of TORs etc).  I recently received a very puzzled look when I explained that, although I owned and managed against the plan, the plan was built by the other team members (with my TQA of course) - my colleague seemed to expect that I would develop the plan myself (in a box?), and then explain it to everyone else...I feel we have some really simple things that we can communicate that will connect the dots for non-project people and project people alike, and give immediate clarity to what, why, where, when, how and who, then, with everyone understanding the big picture, failure should wither with time and experience...

  5. Patrick Weaver
    Patrick Weaver 16 April 2011, 12:26 PM

    The problem is in 2 dimensions.  Technicians trying to be project managers management is a people business, not a technical business. Most technicians see people as annoyances and fail!  The growth to wisdom was described years ago, see: The Accidental Project Manager The Getting of Wisdom The rest is a senior management issue with the executives either actively encouraging or blindly accepting very poor quality project management practice in their organisations.  This was discussed in Cobbs Paradox: Cobbs Paradox states, We know why projects fail; we know how to prevent their failure so why do they still fail?  for the full post see: The second point allows the first to continue.  Treating an executive management failing as a project management problem does not help.  The question is how to persuade executives to stop squandering organisational resources??