Project Managers spend 90 percent of their time communicating based on what many books state and based on the everyday experience. They communicate with many stakeholders such as the sponsor, project team members, business and procurement departments. In many cases conversations are easy and pleasant, working for the same goal is exciting and fulfilling. However, sometimes they might be challenging and risky, especially when things do not go as planned and the budget is running short, or the scope starts expanding.
I would like to offer some tips I've gleaned from the book Crucial Conversations on how to handle critical conversations. The most dangerous risk is to avoid them, in one way or another troubles will come and find us unprepared! That’s what I used to experience when I was at the beginning of my career. Another option is to face them and try to handle them well.
When approaching a critical conversation, the first thing to do is to appreciate the value of dialogue and think of it as an opportunity to get as much information as possible to make good decisions. It is the starting point to elaborate and analyze options to come up with the solution. Useful takeaway for project managers is to always step in to facilitate meetings to gather any kind of information, especially when the situation is not clear.
The second aspect is to focus on the real problem, instead of focusing on fixing other people. How many times do we deal with colleagues or clients that are so different from us? Sometimes we have the impression that they manipulate us or they behave in a selfish way. Consequently, during the conversation our effort is mainly concentrated to protect ourselves from them, instead of solving the real problem. During critical conversations let’s not slip away from the goals we have set but, instead, let’s stick with them and focus honestly on what we really want for ourselves, for the other person and for the project.
Another important aspect is to look for signs showing us that the dialogue’s safety is at risk. When stakes are high and emotions become strong, it is easy to lose focus on the main topic of the conversation. Silence and the raising of one’s voice are evidence that emotions are taking over and they might go down an unsafe path. In essence, we cannot control others but we can control ourselves.
As a consequence of the previous point, it is recommended to keep the conversation safe. When at risk we should step back and bring the conversation back to a healthy dialogue. Understanding and acknowledging the other person’s feelings might help in delivering delicate messages. In a safe conversation there are two fundamental conditions: mutual purpose and mutual respect. The first one allows the two parties to perceive that the conversation brings them to common ground. Otherwise, when there is a lack of respect in the conversation, the two parties are more interested in defending their dignity than resolving the conflict.
During conversations, we should pay attention to what happens between the moment we feel something, because of the other person’s action, and the moment we react. What do we feel? And what do we do next? Between the two actions we should be careful on how we interpret the situation, we tell ourselves a story that sometimes does not correspond to reality. For example, during the project status meeting, the boss steps in and makes decisions on a particular issue. Is that because he or she does not trust us or is that because the issue has become so important that it has to be escalated to sort things out?
Now we are probably at the most important part of the article. Dialogue is a useful process to get as much information as we can but, at the end of the day, we have to make a decision, otherwise the conversation will end up fruitless. There are four common ways to make a decision: command, consult, vote and consensus. The decision on which method to choose has to be made based on who wants to be involved, who has the expertise on that specific topic, who has the influence to decide (and therefore may be better to involve) and the number of people that should be involved. And finally, after the decision is made, good project managers make sure that tasks have been identified and they have been assigned with due dates.
In the end, project managers must appreciate the value of dialogue, as it provides useful information to make a decision. They have to safeguard the conversation when the risk of slipping away from the main goal arises, being able to make a final decision and put it in action.
Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler, Crucial Conversations, McGraw-Hill, 2012.
The success of a process or a project depends on how well it is planned, organized, implemented and managed. Project managers in clinical study operations take on many challenges including multiple stakeholders, budget control and stringent quality and regulatory requirements. This event’s key note speaker Ms Gessami Sanchez Olle who brings along her tremendous knowledge and experience gave us a very interesting session of Clinical Trials in Project Management.
Clinical trials are highly complex enterprises that demand professional management at every stage and level. Utilization of the project management methodologies along with the conventional techniques would increase the chances of execution of clinical trials in a cost and resource effective, and time-efficient manner.
Although my background is not in pharma and I do not have much knowledge on clinical trials, I was glad to attend this event because I could gain great insights on how risk management can be applied to clinical trials.
The night began with a definition of “clinical trial” as any research study that prospectively assigns human participants or groups of humans to one or more health-related interventions to evaluate the effects on health outcomes. We then went through the process of discovery to commercialization of clinical trials.
Phase I to Phase IV is a complex journey of a clinical trial. The journey to Phase IV involves the internal and external stakeholders.
Project management becomes more complex due to known risks (known-unknown) and unknown risks (unknown-unknown/unforeseeable risks). In the pharma industry there are added uncertainties from the process of scientific research.
The PMBOK defines risk management as the identification, analysis, assessment, control, and avoidance, minimization, or elimination of unacceptable risks.
The application of risk management in a clinical trial is implemented through the process of risk management from the identification of a risk to its monitoring.
Risk management has immense impact on the success of a project, along with risk-based monitoring methodologies (RBM) that can be applied in a clinical trial that include centralized off-site and adaptive on-site. RBM is a clinical trial-monitoring technique that fulfills regulatory requirements but moves away from 100% source data verification (SDV) of patient data.
At the end of the session, we learned how Phase Study I, Phase Study III and Phase Study IV were conducted for a clinical trial along with the challenges that are faced therein.
along with other applications can go a hand in hand to
project management in clinical research
along with other applications can go a hand in hand to
I would like to summarize that project management along with other applications go hand in hand to enhance the process of clinical trials. Risk management can be applied well in the processes mentioned in the PMBOK for clinical trials to achieve most of its success factors.
Author: Adi Muslic, PMP
Last week was an extremely hot week and I hope you did not need to be outside for a long time. However, if you indeed had to do your work outside I would be happy to hear from you how did you manage to work in such hard conditions. Actually I am not sure how many of PMI membres in Switzerland actually work in sectors where working outside is a standard working environment. Would be nice to hear their stories.
Scrum and Agile - from theory to practice
Agile might not be the end of the journey, as the new global PMI CEO Sunil
Prashara has stated, yet not every company reaps the full benefits of agile. Many haven’t even jumped on the agile bandwagon yet. The 2-day PMI Master Class organized by the Swiss chapter in May in Zurich showcased how different industries leverage agile and scrum.
As we have learned from our trainer - the first PMI-ACP certification holder in Switzerland Silvana Wasitowa - failing (fast) is encouraged, multitasking is not optimal and line managers step back giving space to self-organized teams. And it is not about the daily stand-up meetings, it is not about the frequent delivery. It is all about the agile mindset.
In order to obtain insights from the field, I am approaching 3 PMI Swiss Chapter members of the leadership team who are also PMI-ACP certification holders with the following questions:
How different is Agile from the traditional Project Management?
Larisa Aragon: Agile can easily be integrated in a highly flexible Project Management Methodology. I have experienced and being trained in the Hermes 5.1 Project Management Methodology developed by the Swiss government. Agile is another important tool and skillsets (incl mindset) to approach the rolling planning in a different way.
Loic Hascher: The whole philosophy behind Agile is the implementation of short iteration cycle. Instead of trying to deliver the full scope in once through a planning stage, followed by an implementation stage and finally a closing phase, Agile cuts the overall scope to deliver it small piece after small piece.
David Fowler: There is no such thing as “traditional” Project Management. Projects are, by definition, unique. There are many ways to approach the management of a project and many techniques and frameworks available to support the project manager. Agile should be an integral part of that project management toolkit, which can be utilised when and where appropriate.
How do you practice Agile mindset?
Larisa Aragon: I like to think about the role of the project manager as a sports (agile) coach, empowering the players to take the best decisions according to their knowledge and experience, trust their abilities, ask the right questions and have fun together.
Loic Hascher: For me, being Agile means being open to change. We use to be trained to control changes. That changes can kill your project and that they need to be planned, assessed, evaluated, etc… But we also know that changes are inevitable in the fast paced world we are living in. Agile is all about welcoming changes and integrating them as part of the project while still being able to deliver value to the end customer.
David Fowler: Keep an open mind. Reflect on how you are delivering your project and if you are using the right approach to achieve the end goal: smarter, more flexible project management, embracing change and delivering business benefits earlier to your customer.
Author: Diana Lagalante