The Project Directors profession is in continuous evolution. With Agile, approaches, interactions and customer collaboration become the protagonist.
In fact, the Agile Manifesto in its four statements hit two of the four Trust Principles. Let’s see these four Trust Principles:
- Customer Focus: don’t ever force your own interest over your Customer’s interests.
- Collaborate: build trust by collaborating with your Customer, helping them achieve their objectives, and looking for win-win solutions.
- Build Relationships: business is not about companies, it is about trust-based relationships built between people. These people call on administrators for implementing transactions in a business framework. If we are only performing transactions, this is because we are only dealing with the administrative side. A trusted Project Manager knows that the power is in relationships.
- Be Transparent: sometimes we choose easy short-term paths by exaggerating or over-promising project results. This is not a good option. The Customer needs to make his/her own decisions, and we will be useful as a trusted adviser if we always share all the information we have with them.
If we analyze these principles and also the Agile Manifesto, we can conclude that a Project Director needs to be a Facilitator for both the Customer and the Project Team!
Recently Agile PMOs have merged as a real value-driven solution for driving value in corporations and customers. The same Trust Principles also applies to them.
The fact that most traditional PMO attempts have failed in the past was exactly because of this lack of value – only focusing on setting methodology but with little or any Customer interaction.
Now more and more businesses are discovering the high value in Project Directors or an Agile PMO as the Facilitators (or translators) between a project’s production (the Project Team) and a project’s delivery (the Customer’s needs).
The most powerful tool for becoming a trusted and value-driven facilitator is listening!
Many times, we jump to conclusions before having all the information. In fact, we have probably and previously formed our own opinion; while listening, we are only filtering and gathering facts for our own view of reality (i.e. confirmation bias). Listening is not about this at all.
Listening means to be very patient and comfortable while listening carefully to each of our Customers and Project Team members. First, analyze and synthesize carefully what is being heard, and then reflect back on the facts and the emotions involved.
We need to plan (yes, I said plan in the sense of scheduling) informal spaces of interaction (e.g. a daily or weekly coffee break for listening to the concerns of others involved). In many cases, listening to them is enough to build better trust in relationships. But also, sometimes, as a result of those listening sessions, we need to take actions as Facilitators. We listen because we care about them. And if we care about them, we need to help them solve their concerns. If we hit the “nail on the head” in identifying what is really important for our Customer or Project Team members and we help to correctly drive that situation towards success, they will become connected into a long-term relationship of trust with us.
So the trick for providing value is very easy as it is only the correct identification of their concerns. What are they worried about? What can I do for helping them?.
One time, a Project Director told me a little trick for helping in this matter. The trick was to record his conversation with the customer on his smart-phone and later re-listen to it. Well, that’s one option, and I’m sure there are many more.
In any case, I suggest never leaving a conversation without having 100% clarity and identifying those concerns with your partner (Customer or Project Team member), because this is not about “guessing”, this is about discussing what they care about and agreeing to useful solutions.