When Life is Fragile, You Gotta Get Agile

This is the draft of a TEDx talk I plan to give some time next year (Spring 2019).   I am pitching the idea next Friday, November 2nd, at an event given by the four organizers of independent TEDx talks in the Chicagoland area.   The main purpose of this “Shark Tank” of ideas is to give immediate feedback to the participants to see if the idea they have is truly worth sharing in the TEDx format.

Here’s the two-minute pitch I plan to give:

Agile is a term used to describe a new form of project management that relies on self-organizing teams, meetings at regular intervals, and constant communication with stakeholders.   When my father suddenly passed away, my siblings and I ended up following these same principles to work together to put together his funeral in a short amount of time.   It was afterwards that I realized that these methods not only help in an time of rapid technological changes, which is what they were original meant for, but they were also help to me and my family to help cope in a time of rapid emotional changes.   So that is why I say, “When Life is Fragile, You Gotta Get Agile.”

If the pitch for the talk is accepted and I am chosen by one of the organizers, here’s the outline of what I plan to say:

Project management has been traditionally done in a way that is predictive or linear, in the sense that you make a project plan once for the entire project at the beginning, and you follow that plan until your project is done.   But in the field of information technology, because the changes in technology are so rapid, you need to develop your product rapidly and to adjust to changes that may happen during the project.   This is why a new type of approach was needed which is called agile project management.  Although I was familiar with traditional project management because of my background in manufacturing, I was fascinated by this new method which emphasized speed and frequent feedback with customers to make sure that what is produced is what the customer really wants.

While I was studying this, my world was turned upside down by the sudden illness and death of my father.   He had been complaining about pains in his side which my siblings and I thought might be a gall-bladder attack.   We took him to the hospital and the doctors confirmed that and said he should have surgery on the following Monday.

I went in Saturday morning to see him and he looked like he was uncomfortable.  I asked his caretaker “he is in pain?”   “No, the doctor gave him something for that.   He’s just being stubborn.  There’s nothing on the TV that interests him and he’s bored.”   Well, my father had been a reporter for the Sun-Times in his first career so I know that he wanted to watch the international news programs to see what was going on in the world.   Well, I had something that might get him out of his mood…

“Hey, Dad, look what I brought?   A newspaper!”  Suddenly, the scowl turned into a look of interest, and he took it from me eagerly.   Then he did something extraordinary, he sat up straight in bed, and said in a very formal sounding voice, and said, “I’ll remember you in the will…”  “Oh, Mr. Rowley,” admonished his caretaker.  “Don’t say such things!”

Well, the next day I went in to the house after church and made sure to pick up the big, fat Sunday paper from the porch.  “THIS will keep his mind off the surgery,” I thought.   Just then, my sister called…

“Oh, hi Nora, I was just on my way … no, I’m not driving just now.  Oh … oh no.  (Sigh.)  Well, I guess I was on the way to the hospital, so I’ll meet you there.”   My sister said my father had suddenly passed away just a few minutes ago and she got the call from the nurse.

When I got to the hospital, they showed me the room they had put him in.   The nurse had said she was attending the patient in the next bed over, when she heard my Dad call out.   When she opened the curtain, she saw him with his hand outstretched as if he was reaching out for somebody.   She said he said the word “Dorothy” (my mother’s name), and then his eyes rolled up, he collapsed in the bed … and he was gone.

Seeing him lying there, he looked like he was just sleeping, as if any second, he would sit up, look around, and say, “now, where the hell did I leave my reading glasses!”  But no, he was gone and what the nurse had said gave me some picture in my head of him reuniting with my mother.

“Well, Dad, there’s nothing more I can do for you now.”  Except maybe there was.  I had brought my planner with me as I always do–maybe I could start on making plans for my Dad’s funeral and make sure to invite everybody that ever meant something to him.  THAT’s something I could do for him.   I had nothing else to do while waiting for the hospital paperwork in any case, so I sat down and started writing.

When my sister came in and we hugged and she had her chance to say goodbye, she came out and asked me what I was writing.  I told her I was starting to write down a plan of what needed to be done for his funeral, and she asked to take a look.   “Do you mind if I add something?”  This was her polite way of saying, “hey, you missed a spot.”  So she took over my journal and was adding things that she thought were important to do.

My younger brother came in and the same thing happened:  after he visited with my Dad, he asked if he could add to the plan.   And then we called my older brother in California, and after telling him the sad news, we told him about our plan and HE asked if he could add to it.   So between the four of us, we organized what we had to do and then picked out those parts of the plan we wanted to take care of.   We decided we would meet after day at 11 AM with my older brother to go over what had been done the previous day and what needed to be done the following day.   Our goal was to have his funeral some time during the next weekend.j

I was in charge of communications with his relatives and friends and I found out pretty quickly that we would have to change our plan.   My Dad’s extended family lived in St. Louis, and they had to travel about six hours to get up to where we live in the Chicago South suburbs, so we knew we wanted to hold the funeral on Saturday afternoon.  However, my Dad had a ton of friends in an organization called NAMI, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, where he had been President for many, many years after his retirement.  They were having a NAMI Conference … Saturday afternoon, when we were planning to do the funeral.   We came up with a compromise.   We would have a wake on Friday night for his friends from NAMI, so they could end up going to the conference, and then on Saturday afternoon, we would hold the regular funeral for his family members and any other friends that lived here in the general area.

It was through this constant communication with his friends and extended family that we got many of the ideas for pictures to display at the funeral, and one idea that I particularly thought Dad would have enjoyed was to invite people to write stories about their encounters with my Dad, because he was natural storyteller and would have enjoyed hearing them.

That whole week, the regular communication between members of my family, who met every day to discuss our plans, and the constant communication with his friends and extended family allowed us to include as many people as possible in the process and so they all felt they had contributed to the sendoff which went off without a hitch on Friday night and then Saturday afternoon.

It was only afterwards, when I returned to my studies of agile project management, that I realized that our family had unwittingly been following some of the principles of agile.

  • Self-organizing teams–in traditional project management, there is a project manager who acts as the director of the team.   This wouldn’t have worked in our case anyway–my siblings  didn’t allow me to boss them around when we were younger, and they certainly wouldn’t have allowed me to do it now!   In creating our plan organically and having people choose what part of it they wanted to take care of, we were able not just to get everything done, but to do it in a way that helped strengthen our relationships at really stressful time in our lives.
  • Regular team meetings–in order to make sure we were moving along with our plan, or could ask for help from each other if we needed it, we met every morning at 11:00 AM or so after breakfast, late enough so that my brother in California could participate in our conversations before he flew out to Chicago to join us.   This helped uncover any issues quickly so we could solve them right away.   In addition, having this ritual of regular communication helped us have some sort of an anchor to hold on to when our emotional lives were going through a roller coaster.
  • Frequent feedback with stakeholders–in this case, the stakeholders were my father’s friends and extended family.   Being in constant communication with them allowed us to adjust our original plan and do two separate events in order to accommodate everybody.   In asking for their ideas for the funeral itself, we allowed them to participate in the process and so they all felt they had been able to contribute to it, as well as giving us the emotional support our immediate family needed at such a time.

And that is why I say, when life is fragile, you gotta get agile!

And one more thing, but those of you who may have been wondering:  my Dad did remember me in the will.





Language Mentoring Course: An Example of Agile-Based Learning

Now that I’ve finished with my project of going over every process in the 6th Edition of the Project Management Body of Knowledge or PMBOK® Guide, which shows you the traditional “tricks of the trade” of project management.

However, there is a new set of approaches to project management collectively referred to as agile, which brings a new flexibility and dynamism to project management.   Agile itself is a reaction in the project management world to the effects of the fourth industrial revolution, a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres, collectively referred to as cyber-physical systems.   As the power of individual computing machines launched the third industrial revolution (as the power of steam did for the first industrial revolution and the power of electricity did for the second), the power of computing machines that are linked together through the Internet is transforming entire systems of production, management, and even governance through the effects of digitization and artificial intelligence.

The influence of agile project management is spreading to the point where the Project Management Institute or PMI, when it published the 6th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide late last year, decided to put out as a companion piece, the Agile Practice Guide, which was developed jointly by PMI and the Agile Alliance.

My new project is to go through the Agile Project Guide and to blog about its contents.  In the very first section, the Introduction, I read a sidebar note that fascinated me about agile-based learning:

“Education is a prime and fertile ground  to expand agile practices beyond software development … Agile techniques are used to provide focus on prioritizing competing priorities.   Face-to-face interaction, meaningful learning, self-organizing teams, and incremental and/or iterative learning that exploit the imagination are all agile principles that can change the mindset in the classroom and advance educational goals.”

(from Sara Briggs article “Agile Based Learning:  What Is It and How Can It Change Education?” published in Opencolleges.edu.au on February 24, 2014)

When I read that note, I knew I had the subject of my first post on agile approaches!   As a coincidence, I had just started a few weeks earlier a course put on by Lydia Machova of Language Mentoring s.r.o. called Language Master.   It is designed for those who already have an elementary grasp of their target language, and want to move on to intermediate or advanced levels but are feeling stuck using the more traditional language-learning methods of using a textbook in a classroom setting.

This is her description of what Language Mentoring does in this course:

“The main aim of Language Mentoring is to help people enrich any form of learning with additional learning based on 4 pillars of language learning:

  • We must enjoy learning a language (if it’s not the case, the methods must be changed)
  • Mastering any language requires a huge amount of contact with the language.  (There is no shortcut; the work simply must be done.)
  • A great amount of contact is of no help if it’s just once a week.   You need [methods which will allow you] to learn often and in smaller amounts–ideally every day (ideally an hour a day, but this can be adapted.)
  • Language learning is only sustainable if you find a system–when you know your destination and the way to get there.

Within these basic principles of language learning (fun-contact-methods-system), everybody is able to put together their own combination of methods and resources that suits them best.  Just like a jigsaw puzzle. ”

Now compare those principles Lydia set forth in her blog


to the agile techniques mentioned in the paragraph above, and you can see that they correspond rather well:

  • Face-to-face interaction (contacts, meaning contacts with native speakers)
  • Meaningful learning (fun, where you choose materials which interest or motivate you)
  • Self-organizing teams (system, where the participants choose the language they want to study, the three main focus areas, and the materials they choose to use)
  • Incremental and/or iterative learning (methods which are pursued often and in smaller amounts)

Okay, how does this language class work if we don’t have a traditional classroom and use traditional textbooks?

  1. First, I chose my target language:  Chinese.   I studied Chinese for three years in graduate school, but since I didn’t use it after I graduated, my ability to communicate in that language deteriorated.   I decided a year or so ago to start studying Chinese again in order to gain the knowledge I had lost.
  2. Second, I chose a target goal:   B2.  Let me explain what this means.   I took the official Chinese language proficiency exam called HSK (which stands for Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi) at the third or B1 level.  There are six levels in total: A1 and A2, B1 and B2, C1 and C2.   B1 is the intermediate level, and I wanted to be able to get to the upper intermediate level, which would allow me to understand the main ideas of a complex text such as a technical piece related to my field of project management.
  3. Third, I chose the prioritize those areas of language learning I wanted to focus on:  in my case, listening, speaking, and reading (other focus areas on writing, vocabulary, and grammar).    The primary focus was listening, and I decided to study that for one hour a day (for six days out of seven per week), and the secondary focuses were speaking and reading an hour every other day (i.e., for three days out of seven per week).
  4. Fourth, I chose a series of methods (including a few textbooks, but mostly apps that I could use on my mobile phone, such as:
  • Listening (ChineseClass 101 podcasts, Yoyo Chinese)
  • Speaking (Rosetta Stone, Intermediate Spoken Chinese textbook)
  • Reading (LingQ, Intermediate Written Chinese textbook)

I did also choose materials that covered writing, vocabulary, and grammar, but the main ones I wanted to focus on were the methods listed above.

Now what did Lydia do?   She set up the system, including an accountability sheet, where we enter into an Excel spreadsheet the number of minutes we study in each category of methods for the week, with our goal of meeting or exceeding the goals I set for myself.

And it’s already having an effect!   I do a lot of my listening practice in the car while commuting.   It isn’t making the other drivers any better drivers, but if any of them cuts me off while I’m trying to change a lane, well then at least I can now swear at them in Chinese as well as English!

I recommend Lydia’s class, and you can check out the link above to check out her methods.   But even if you are not interested in learning a foreign language as I am, you can definitely see that agile is not just influential in the world of project management, but in other fields as well.

The previous world of project management was like trying to manage a river through irrigation techniques.   By building various walls and dykes, you try to steer the water into productive uses in order to grow food.   In traditional project management, you use planning to try to steer the financial resources of your company into productive uses in order to complete a project.

But with the extent and the pace of technological change becoming so rapid, it’s more like trying to trying to surf the ocean waves as they crash onto the shore.   You can’t steer the waves of change, but with agile methods, you can at least try to ride those waves so that you go in the direction you want to.

With that, let me bring my post to a close.   My next post will cover the topic of disruptive technology, that tries to win the game in a clever way:  by rewriting the rules!

6th Edition PMBOK® Guide–Process 13.4 Monitor Stakeholder Engagement: Outputs

This post covers the output of the activity containing in the tools and techniques for this process covered in the last post.

13.4.3  Monitor Stakeholder Engagement:  Outputs  Work Performance Information

With regards to this process, this represents the current status of stakeholder engagement, in other words, to what degree does the stakeholder support the current project, as compared to the desired levels of stakeholder engagement. Change Requests

As a result of monitoring stakeholder engagement, if any change requests are made as a result, then these change requests are processed in process 4.6 Perform Integrated Change Control.  Project Management Plan Updates

Of course, the primary component of the overall project management plan that will be update will be:

  • Stakeholder engagement plan–any updates regarding information about stakeholders are added to this component

In addition, the following components may need to be updated as well:

  • Resource management plan–the project team’s responsibilities for stakeholder engagement activities may need to be updated.
  • Communications management plan—the communication strategies for engaging with stakeholders may need to be updated.  Project Document Updates

The main project document that needs to be updated, of course, is:

  • Stakeholder register–new information about stakeholders is updated as a result of this process of monitoring stakeholder engagement.

In addition, the following project documents may need to be updated as well:

  • Issue log–if any stakeholders attitudes have changed towards any of the existing issues in the issue log, then the log may need to be updated.
  • Lessons learned register–if as a result of engaging stakeholders, any lessons are learned about challenges and how they could have been avoided, then these are added to the register.   Of course, if approaches turn out well, then these positive lessons should also be added to the register.
  • Risk register–if any risk are related specifically to stakeholders, then these may need to be updated as a result of interaction with the stakeholders as a result of this process.

And with that, we have finally come to the end of the review of all 49 project management processes, a project which has taken me several months to accomplish.   At first, you may think “well, you’ve just copied the contents of the PMBOK® Guide for the purpose of understanding them–how does that add value for those reading the blog?”

I have tried to add the following to my blog entries:

  • Explanations of the concepts behind the processes
  • Organizing of “laundry lists” of inputs, tools and techniques, and outputs by knowledge area to make them more comprehensible
  • Adding explanation or examples to some of the entries from the Guide to make them understandable.

What’s next:  a few posts on the 6th Edition PMBOK® Guide regarding my impressions on the evolution of project management as reflected in the Guide, and then I move on to agile project management based on the Agile Project Management Guide issued by PMI as a companion to the 6th Edition PMBOK® Guide covering more traditional project management methods.   And, while I go over the material in various test exam prep guides I will discuss methods for answering certain types of questions on the PMP exam.  So I will still try to provide content on a daily basis for those who are planning to take the PMP exam, or those who are trying to expand their knowledge to cover agile project management.

Until then, learn not just to plan your life, but to enjoy it as well!

6th Edition PMBOK® Guide–Process 13.4 Monitor Stakeholder Engagement: Tools and Techniques

This post is on the tools and techniques of the final process for this knowledge, that of monitoring stakeholder management.

13.4.2 Monitor Stakeholder Engagement:  Tools and Techniques Data Analysis

  • Stakeholder analysis–helps determine the current position of stakeholders with regards to their engagement level.

Let’s say that the current position of a stakeholder’s engagement is not yet aligned with the desired level.   How do you decide what to do to make them aligned?

  • Root cause analysis–used to determine the basic underlying reason that stakeholder engagement is not yet having the planned effect.

Okay, now that you’ve analyzed the cause, let’s say you come up with a few options on how to respond to the variance between the current position and the desired position of a stakeholder’s engagement.   How do you decide among them?

  • Alternatives analysis–used to evaluate options to respond to variances in the desired results of stakeholder engagement.  Decision Making

Let’s say you’re doing the alternatives analysis mentioned above.   How do you finally make the decision about which option to go with?

  • Multicriteria decision analysis–several factors for successful stakeholder engagement are prioritized and weighted in order to help identify the most appropriate choice.
  • Voting–used to select the best response for a variance in stakeholder engagement.  Data Representation

The stakeholder engagement assessment matrix, introduced as an output of 13.2 Plan Stakeholder Engagement, is used to chart the progress in bringing the current level of stakeholder engagement (usually marked “C” for “current”) to the desired level of stakeholder engagement (usually marked “D” for “desired”). Communication Skills

  • Feedback–ensuring that information given to stakeholders is received and understood
  • Presentation–presentations provide clear information to stakeholders, and more effective than e-mails, newsletters, etc., because they provide an opportunity for real-time reaction from stakeholders in the form of a question-and-answer section at the end of the presentation. Interpersonal and Team Skills

  • Active listening–used to reduce misunderstandings and other miscommunication
  • Cultural awareness–cultural awareness and cultural sensitivity help the project manager to plan communications based on the cultural differences and requirements of stakeholders and team members.  For more information on cultural awareness, read The Culture Map by Erin Meyer.
  • Leadership–strong leadership skills will help communicate the vision of your project to stakeholders and inspire them to support the work and outcomes of the project.
  • Networking–ensures access to information about levels of engagement of stakeholders.
  • Political awareness–used to understand the strategies of the organization, understand who wields power and influence, and to develop an ability to communicate with these stakeholders.

And finally, the generic tool and technique used for a lot of processes:

  • Meetings–status meetings, standup meetings, retrospectives, or other meetings used to assess current stakeholder engagement levels and compare them to desired (planned) levels, and to use the data analysis and data representation techniques mentioned in the above paragraphs to come up with options to align them.

And finally, the last post about the outputs for this process!


6th Edition PMBOK® Guide–Process 13.4 Monitor Stakeholder Engagement: Inputs

If you look at Table 1-1 on p. 556 of the PMBOK® Guide, you will see a map of all the project management process groups and knowledge areas.

The five process groups in project management are:  initiating, planning, executing, monitoring & controlling, and closing.    Of all the ten knowledge areas, stakeholder management has the second largest “spread” in terms of the number of process groups it covers.   It has a process in each of the process groups EXCEPT for closing.   Only the integration knowledge area has a larger spread, with a process in all five process groups.

Process 13.4 is in the monitoring & controlling process group, but it’s not referred to as “control stakeholder engagement.”   Some of the processes in that group are referred to with the term “control”, such as “control scope”, “control schedule”, and “control costs.”   However, when it comes to communications, stakeholders and risk management, the processes in the monitoring & controlling are referred to as “monitor” rather than “control.”   This is because when you are dealing with people (communications and stakeholder management) or events (risk management), you are dealing with factors for the most part outside of your control.    However, at least with people, as opposed to events, you can engage with them and try to influence their behavior.

So in this process, you have Monitor Stakeholder Engagement, which means monitoring the project stakeholder relationships that you have been maintaining in the previous process 13.3 Manage Stakeholder Engagement.   The strategies for engaging stakeholders that you have been using up to this point are reviewed, and modified if necessary in this process.

Here are the inputs to this process:

13.4.1  Monitor Stakeholder Engagement:  Inputs  Project Management Plan

Of course the most important component of the overall project management plan for this process is the

  • Stakeholder management plan–this gives guidelines and information on how to do all of the other processes in the stakeholder management knowledge area, including this managing and monitoring stakeholder needs and expectations.

The other relevant components that may be inputs to this process are:

  • Resource management plan–for methods for management of team members (yes, team members are considered stakeholders in the project)
  • Communications engagement plan–defines the plans and strategies for communication to the project’s stakeholders.  Project Documents

  • Issue log–stakeholder concerns are documented in the issue log, as well as any assigned action items associated with managing the issue.
  • Lessons learned register–as lessons are learned in the course of managing stakeholder engagement, they can be be applied to later phases in the project to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of this process.
  • Project communications–communications that have been previous distributed to stakeholders as defined in both the communications and stakeholder management plans.
  • Risk register–identifies risks for the project, including those related to stakeholder engagement.
  • Stakeholder register–provides the list of project stakeholders and any information needed to execute the stakeholder engagement plan.  Work Performance Data

In particular, which stakeholders are currently supportive of the project, vs. neutral or resistant.  Enterprise Environmental Factors

Among those factors listed on p. 533 of the PMBOK® Guide, the ones that are the most important are:

  • Organizational culture, political climate, and governance structure of the organization
  • Personnel administration policies
  • Stakeholder risk thresholds
  • Established communication channels  Organizational Process Assets

Among those assets listed on p. 533 of the PMBOK® Guide, the ones that are the most important are:

  • Corporate policies and procedures for social media
  • Corporate policies and procedures for issue, risk, change and data management
  • Organizational communications requirements

With these inputs, we can now use the tools and techniques of this process, which are covered in the next post.

6th Edition PMBOK® Guide–Process 13.3 Manage Stakeholder Engagement: Outputs

Okay, so you’ve been engaging the stakeholders with the tools and techniques of this process outlined in the last post.   The key result of this process will be change requests that the stakeholders make, usually to the project or product scope.    If these change requests are accepted, then these changes will require updates to the project management plan as well as to some key project documents.

All of these outputs are the subject of this post.

13.3.3  Manage Stakeholder Engagement:  Outputs  Change Requests

After engaging with stakeholders who may be resistant to the project, it is possible that they may suggest a change in the scope of the project or the product that the project is intended to create.   Of course, even those who are neutral or supportive of a project may come up with an idea to improve the project or product and these changes, too, should be considered.

Another suggestion for a change might be with the process of stakeholder engagement itself, namely, a request to receive information more frequently and/or in a different form than currently received.   These changes are also considered.

As with all change requests, they are reviewed in the process 4.6 Perform Integrated Change Control.   Once they are reviewed by the change control board or whatever mechanism your project has in place to review such changes, then the approved changes are made to the project management plan and key project documents (see next two paragraphs).  Project Management Plan

If the change requests mentioned in the last paragraph are approved, they may end up creating changes to the project scope, in which case they might change the scope baseline (see project documents updates paragraph below).   If they are changes to the process of stakeholder engagement itself, however, they might require updates to the following two components of the project management plan.

  • Communications management plan–new or changed stakeholder requirements for communication may require updating this plan.
  • Stakeholder engagement plan–if in the course of this process, new or changed management strategies are developed to effectively engage stakeholders, then these are updated in this plan.

Although not listed in the PMBOK® Guide explicitly, the fact that the Guide mentions that many of the change requests from stakeholders will be to the project and/or project scope, another important component  of the project management plan that may be updated as a result of this process is the following:

  • Scope baseline–this consists of the project scope statement (where the requirements are broken down into the level of deliverables that fulfill these requirements), and the WBS and WBS dictionary (which further break down these deliverables to the operational level of work packages)  Project Document Updates

  • Change log–any change requests may be made to the change log.   This is important because if a stakeholder makes a change request and it is not accepted by the change control board, it will be important to communicate the reasons for that decision to that stakeholder.
  • Issue log–if an issue is brought up by a stakeholder, or if there are recent developments related to an issue brought up earlier by a stakeholder, then this is added to the issue log.
  • Lessons learned register–if effective approaches to managing stakeholder engagement are discovered in the course of this process, these are added to the register.   Likewise ineffective approaches are mentioned so that they may be discontinued.  In either case, this information can be used in later stages of the current project.
  • Stakeholder register–new information provided to stakeholders is added to the stakeholder register with regard to the following:
    • Resolved issues (see paragraph on “issue log” above)
    • Changes approved or not approved (see paragraph on “change log” above)
    • General project status

Every once and a while, it is important to take a step back and monitor the project stakeholder relationships and tailor your strategies to improve the engagement level with those stakeholders.   That is the purpose of the final process in this knowledge area, process 13.4 Monitor Stakeholder Engagement which is part of the monitoring and controlling process group.   We will cover the inputs to this process in the next post.

6th Edition PMBOK® Guide–Process 13.3 Manage Stakeholder Engagement: Tools and Techniques

This post covers the tools and techniques you use to manage stakeholder engagement.   Remember that in the Stakeholder Engagement plan, you create a stakeholder engagement assessment matrix which shows the current level of level of engagement of each stakeholder and the desired level of engagement.   The purpose of this process is to perform actions which move the current level of engagement towards the desired level.

13.3.1  Manage Stakeholder Engagement:   Tools and Techniques  Expert Judgment

You should consider expertise from individuals with specialized knowledge about:

  • Politics and power structures in the organization and outside the organization
  • Analytical and assessment techniques to be used for stakeholder engagement processes (especially the stakeholder engagement assessment matrix)
  • Communications means and strategies
  • Knowledge from previous projects regarding individual stakeholders and stakeholder groups that were involved in previous similar projects
  • Requirements management, vendor management, and change management.  Communication Skills

The stakeholder engagement management plan should contain the communications that are planned between the project team and the stakeholders.   These forms of communication can include:

  • Conversations
  • Issue identification and discussion
  • Meetings
  • Progress reporting
  • Surveys   Interpersonal and Team Skills

The interpersonal and team skills that can be used for this process include

  • Conflict management
  • Cultural awareness
  • Negotiation
  • Observation/conversation
  • Political awareness  Ground Rules

The team charter should not only define the ground rules for expected behavior between project team members, but also for expected behavior when engaging stakeholders.  Meetings

Project team meetings are used to discuss issues or concerns regarding stakeholder engagement.   The types of meetings that are beneficial for this process include:

  • Project kick-off
  • Sprint planning
  • Decision making
  • Issue resolution
  • Lessons learned and retrospectives
  • Status updates

The next post will cover the outputs to this process.

6th Edition PMBOK® Guide–Process 13.3 Manage Stakeholder Engagement: Inputs

Now that the plan for stakeholder engagement has been completed in the last process 13.2 Plan Stakeholder Engagement, it is time to execute that plan.   In this process, you manage stakeholder engagement throughout the course of the project.

13.3.1  Manage Stakeholder Engagement:  Inputs  Project Management Plan

Of course the component of the project management plan used as the main input for this process is:

  • Stakeholder management plan–this provides guidelines and information on all stakeholder engagement processes, including this one of managing stakeholder expectations.
  • Communications management plan–describes methods, formats, and technologies to be used for stakeholder communication
  • Risk management plan–describes the risk categories, risk appetites, and reporting formats that can be used to manage stakeholder engagement.
  • Change management plan–describes the process for submitting, evaluating and implementing changes to the project.  Project Documents

  • Change log–change requests are communicated to the appropriate stakeholders.
  • Issue log–stakeholder concerns are documented in the issue log, as well as any assigned action items associated with managing the issue.
  • Lessons learned register–as lessons are learned in the course of managing stakeholder engagement, they can be be applied to later phases in the project to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of this process.
  • Stakeholder register–provides the list of project stakeholders and any information needed to execute the stakeholder engagement plan.  Enterprise Environmental Factors

Among those factors listed on p. 526 of the PMBOK® Guide, the ones that are the most important are:

  • Organizational culture, political climate, and governance structure of the organization
  • Personnel administration policies
  • Stakeholder risk thresholds
  • Established communication channels  Organizational Process Assets

Among those assets listed on p. 526 of the PMBOK® Guide, the ones that are the most important are:

  • Corporate policies and procedures for social media
  • Corporate policies and procedures for issue, risk, change and data management
  • Organizational communications requirements

The next will cover the tools and techniques of this process.

6th Edition PMBOK® Guide–Process 13.2 Plan Stakeholder Engagement: Outputs

This is probably one of the simplest posts I’ve done in a long while.   I’m covering the outputs for the process 13.2 Plan Stakeholder Engagement, and there’s only one, which shouldn’t be surprising given the title of the process.   Notice, however, that most knowledge areas have a process called Plan X Management, where “X” is the name of the knowledge area.   In the case of stakeholders, however, PMI feels best to refer to this process as stakeholder engagement rather than stakeholder management.   This is perhaps because some of your stakeholders will be upper management and it would be presumptuous of you as a project manager to try to “manage” them.   Engaging, them, however, is okay.

13.2.3  Plan Stakeholder Engagement:  Outputs Stakeholder Engagement Plan

This identifies the strategies and actions required to promote productive involvement of stakeholders in the decision making process and the execution of the project plan.   The stakeholder engagement plan may include specific strategies or approaches for engaging with individual stakeholders or groups of stakeholders.   The stakeholder register is the main focus of this plan.

The next process is the executing process group, “Manage Stakeholder Engagement.”  (Here it is the engagement you are managing, not the stakeholders themselves.)     I will start with the inputs to that process.

6th Edition PMBOK® Guide–Process 13.2 Plan Stakeholder Management: Tools and Techniques

As with other planning processes, there are “generic” tools and techniques that are used in practically all knowledge areas, such as expert judgment, decision making, and meetings.   You talk to the people who know about your knowledge area, you get together with your project team in meetings, and you make decisions about what goes in the management plan.

Now there are some techniques which are specific to this particular knowledge area, the most important of which is the stakeholder engagement assessment matrix, which together with the stakeholder register will be the workhorse of not just this process, but all other processes in this area.

13.2.2  Plan Stakeholder Management:  Tools and Techniques  Expert Judgment

You should consider expertise from individuals with specialized knowledge about:

  • Politics and power structures in the organization and outside the organization
  • Analytical and assessment techniques to be used for stakeholder engagement processes (especially the stakeholder engagement assessment matrix)
  • Communications means and strategies
  • Knowledge from previous projects regarding individual stakeholders and stakeholder groups that were involved in previous similar projects.  Data Gathering

Benchmarking is a data gathering technique which compares the results of stakeholder analysis in the other tools and techniques for this process and compares them with information from other organizations.  Data Analysis

Data analysis techniques used for this process include:

  • Assumption and constraint analysis–analysis of current assumptions and constraints may be conducted in order to tailor appropriate engagement strategies.
  • Root-cause analysis–identifies underlying reasons for the current level of support of project stakeholders in order to select the appropriate strategy to improve their level of engagement.  Decision Making

Prioritization and ranking of stakeholder requirements is important, as is the ranking of the stakeholder themselves.   Those stakeholders with the most interest (those impacted by the project) and the highest influence (those who can impact the project) are often prioritized at the top of the list.  Data Representation

These are used to aid in data analysis and decision making (see the previous two paragraphs).

  • Mind mapping–visually organizes information about stakeholders, their relationship to the project, to each other, and to the organization doing the project.
  • Stakeholder engagement assessment matrix.   This supports comparison between the current engagement levels of stakeholders and the desired engagement levels required for successful project delivery.   Here is one way of classifying stakeholders:
    • Unaware–unaware of the project and potential impacts:  obviously you want to make these stakeholders aware, which means then they will turn into one of the following four classifications
    • Resistant–aware of the project, and resistant to any changes that may occur as a result of the work or outcomes of the project.  These stakeholders will be un-supportive of the work or outcomes of the project.   They might turn neutral or even supportive if you are able to address their concerns, which may involve changes to the project that mitigate the impact it will have on them and their department.
    • Neutral–aware of the project, but neither supportive nor nonsupportive, usually because it doesn’t affect them.  With these stakeholders, it is important to monitor if their position in the organization changes, because that may change their position with regards to your project.
    • Supportive–aware of the project, and supportive of the work and its outcomes.
    • Leading–aware of the project, and actively engaged in ensuring that the project is a success.   This last group is a separate one from “supportive” because the leading stakeholders can help you evangelizing to the rest of the organization.   In addition, if they are members of senior management, they will be the ones to do the heavy lifting in terms of communication with other members of senior management who are resistant to the project, mainly because they influence over those members where you as a project manager do not.   It should go without saying that you should always have at least one leading stakeholder on every project, namely, the project sponsor.

An example of the matrix is given on p. 522 of the PMBOK Guide.   Basically there is one line for every stakeholder, and the currently level of engagement (unaware, resistant, neutral, supportive, and leading) is listed as well as the desired level.

NOTE:   The stakeholder engagement assessment matrix is confidential to be used by the project team.   You can share information with the stakeholders, but not the matrix!  Meetings

As mentioned above, this is a generic tool and technique of ALL planning processes, because it is definitely an activity that the whole project team needs to be involved with because of its important for the success of the project.

With those tools and techniques, you can now produce the output of this process, namely the stakeholder management plan.  This is the subject of the next post.