PMI-ACP Exam Domain: Stakeholder Engagement

  1. Interpersonal Skills for Agile Success

On your PMI ACP exam, you will have some questions about interpersonal skills, about emotional intelligence. So this is the part of the course that focuses on and the old adage that the soft stuff is the hard stuff and the hard stuff is really the easy stuff. Well, all right. Well let’s hop in and we’ll talk about what are the interpersonal skills that you need to know as an agile project manager. First off, emotional intelligence. So emotional intelligence, it’s really the ability to identify and influence our emotions, but also the emotions of others. We’ll talk more about that coming up.

Active listening, facilitation techniques. How do you facilitate meetings? How do you negotiate? We want to be fair and equitable that it’s not all for me. We want it to be good for both parties. How do you do conflict resolution? And then what is participatory decision making? Those are all things we’re going to talk about in this lecture. First off, emotional intelligence. As I just mentioned, it’s the ability to identify and influence our emotions and the emotions of others.

So I like that idea that we’re influencing our own emotions, that we aren’t so reactive, that we pause and think and consider, then we react. But it’s not just other people, but it’s ourself. Within emotional intelligence we have these four thoughts of how do we regulate, how do we recognize? Notice that we have two for self and two for social. So under self we have self-management, that we have some self-control, that we’re conscientious of our actions and our emotions, where we have adaptability, drive and motivation. It’s all about self management, about making ourselves do what needs to be done.

And then self-awareness, our self-confidence, our emotional self-awareness, and that we have an accurate self assessment. Now the other side here we have these social skills and social awareness. So social skills are how do we influence others? What inspirational leadership do we provide? How do we develop others? What about teamwork and collaboration? Then social awareness, we have empathy, organizational awareness, and then understanding the environment that we’re operating in. These are the quadrants. If we look at them another way, these are the quadrants of emotional intelligence.

We have self-awareness, self-management, and then we have others. So we have social awareness, but we also have management, our relationship management. So these are the four quadrants of emotional intelligence. Now we’re going to look at some active listening, three levels really, of listening. So hearing what someone is really trying to say. So level one is internal listening. Level two is focused listening. And level three is global listening.

All right, let’s look at these now. So level one, internal listening words are heard, but we’re not very attentive. We interpret the meaning, how is this going to affect me? That’s all internal listening, not the best type of listening. Focus listening is a little bit better. Focused listening is the speaker’s perspective that we empathize with the speaker. We look for emotional indicators such as voice and tone. Also facial expressions and words that try to understand where that speaker is coming from. We’re relating to the speaker, so that’s a bit better than what we saw just with internal listening that we are focused on the speaker.

Now let’s look at the top tier with global listening. So we’re building on level two. We’re building on what we just talked about with focused listening. And now we’re looking for a higher level of awareness. So subtle clues about the meetings of the speaker, the meaning, I should say, the speaker’s posture and energy. This helps us to develop a fuller context of the message, really understanding where that individual speaking from. Facilitation so we’re running effective meetings and workshops, keeping people involved. So we go in to facilitate a meeting. We first need to have goals. So what are our goals? What’s the purpose and the reason?

And are those communicated to the participants? Like an agenda? Maybe you just write the agenda on the whiteboard, but everybody knows why we’re here. Rules. You have ground rules and you hold people accountable to these rules. Like showing up on time, like not having side conversations, speaking to the whole group, not just to the agile PM. These are all rules that everybody agrees to and that we abide by. And then the timing so important. Set a duration for the meeting, timebox your meetings, and then assisting you make the meeting effective by assuring that everyone may contribute.

So sometimes you have to facilitate and pull people in. At other times you have to ask people, let’s let someone else contribute. So hold that thought. Negotiation is important as well, that negotiations happen throughout the project, sometimes every day. So our goal of the negotiations is to be fair and equitable, to consider the tradeoffs so you consider the priorities of the user stories. We do not want zero sum games. This means only one person can win. An example of a zero sum is the employee of the month. That only one person can be the employee of the month. Or we have to have this included as a requirement. And you cannot change your time or cost. That’s a zero sub. Nobody wins. Only one person wins because they get what they want. Healthy negotiations. We have given and take. Now, conflict resolution, conflict is natural.

We’ll talk more about conflict when we get into team development. But conflict is really we have differences of opinion or competing interest or who knows why conflict happens. Lots and lots of reasons why conflict may exist. Now some conflict is healthy. It’s part of team development. There’s a phase of team development called Storming. We’ll talk about that coming up now. There are these five layers to conflict and they’re just kind of nicknamed all right, let’s take a look at this table with the five different levels of conflict resolution. So level one is we have a problem to solve, we have information sharing and collaboration. It’s open and fact based that we’re all working towards the same goal. Level two though, we have a disagreement. Now we’re thinking about personal protection. So self-interest trumps resolving the conflict that people are more guarded and closed. Level three is there’s almost like a contest between the people that are in conflict. So winning trump’s the conflict resolution.

This includes personal attacks. Then level four, we’re on some type of a crusade where my whole group is what I’m protecting all the people that agree with me. That’s more ideological. And then level five, you’ve got some world war of just destroy the other people and there’s little or nonexistent communication. So these are all five levels of conflict. Obviously most of them are probably going to be in the first three, but things could get escalated. As a project manager, we need to see this and anticipate it and facilitate resolution without preventing the team from being self organizing and self leading. Participatory decision making. The idea where everyone involved makes the decision, so we get stakeholders involved. It’s not just the project team on most decisions, we need communication and decision making. This is critical to keep everyone informed and engaged. This is about building ownership and buy in. It involves stakeholders when making decisions. Stakeholder involvement increases as they commit to the project.

So if we let people make decisions, they feel ownership and they feel like they’re going to be more involved and more committed. Let’s talk about the concept of convergent and shared collaboration. Convergent means we have participating decision making models, so we have conversations for collective agreements. So convergent means we get buy in and synergy and we invite people to participate and ideas converge. Shared collaboration is where people are involved and they have decision making done in a fair equitable way, so that everybody’s input is a value that we just don’t consider the project team or just consider the person who makes the most in the room. So shared collaboration is everyone participates. One way that we can do convergent and shared collaboration is just simple voting. So it’s a participatory decision approach, so people can vote for or against it by a show of hands.

Another one that we could do is thumbs up, down or sideways. So thumbs up means you’re in favor of it. That person wants the decision to happen. Thumbs down, of course you don’t want it. And then sideways is your neutral or undecided fist of five. Voting is where you take your hand and you score it. We’re like on a scale of one to five, one being very low, five being very high, or five being low, you don’t want it and one you do. So you have to decide upfront, what do these number of fingers mean? But it’s a way to vote or assign points to an idea and then we have this model called the Highsmith Decision Spectrum, where participants put a checkmark on spectrum, like a likerd scale from in favor all the way to veto. So, okay, with reservations or mixed feelings or I’m not really in favor, but I’ll commit to it. So these are all ways to look at participatory decision making. So I would encourage you to be familiar with those as you prepare to pass your PMI ACP exam.

  1. Stakeholder Engagement Section Wrap

Are you feeling pretty excited? Are you feeling pretty good about what you’ve accomplished? I mean, you’re through section four, great job. Let’s take a moment and recap section four of all about managing and engaging stakeholders. And I’m going to send you on your way to the next section. I know you can’t, can’t wait. All right, so in this section we talked about stakeholder engagement, about working with project stakeholders and creating that shared vision so that we both understand what we’re going to create in the project. The definition of done.

We talked about creating collaboration throughout the project and this is done a number of different ways, but that we’re working with our stakeholders, not an us against them. Mentality communication is so important in agile or really in any project, but we want to communicate with, not to our stakeholders. And of course we use some interpersonal skills, so some emotional intelligence and some listening skills. We talked about in this section, one of the important topics we looked at was creating an agile charter that the charters give authority for the project and for the project manager. They’re from the project sponsor. Now, while an agile could be lightweight or very detailed, it basically establishes that the project can exist and it’s backed up by this individual, the right person for the project sponsor.

It needs to be someone with enough authority over the resources to be used in the project and then acknowledge the charter acknowledges that change is likely, that change is going to happen and it’s likely going to happen and everyone is in agreement with that. This is not a predictive approach. Agile charters are acknowledging that there is uncertainty and that change is likely and that change is expected in this section. We also talked about agile modeling, about how do we model and then create a visualization. So whiteboards one way to do it, take a picture or you could do it on a piece of paper.

But we like the idea of a low tech, high touch. So yes, you might create this in Visio or PowerPoint or what have you, but for your exam think that these need to be a lightweight and low tech, high touch like whiteboards picture, maybe a good hint there. All right, so agile modeling is where we model process flow or data flow or user case diagrams, things like that. Planning, communications, really important. We’ve seen this as a theme throughout this section. So we look at who needs what information, when do they need it, what’s the technology, what’s the method, what about facilitating meetings? Do we need a communications management plan and a strategy? Larger projects typically yes, smaller projects typically no. And then we update project documents accordingly. Interpersonal Skills this is where we spend a bit of time in this section talking about these interpersonal skills.

Emotional intelligence, active listening, facilitation techniques, negotiation, conflict resolution and participatory decision making. All important things to pay attention to for your exam and all things that we covered in this section. Finally, one of the most important topics from this section was about participatory decision making, that we want our stakeholders to be involved in decision making. This promotes synergy and a sense of ownership of the project. It’s critical to keep everyone engaged. It involves stakeholders. It’s a real thing for your exam value and involving stakeholders if in stakeholder involvement increases as they commit to the project because they feel a sense of ownership, a sense of responsibility. All right, great job wrapping up this section. I hope you’re feeling proud of yourself. You’re nearing the end. I have confidence that you can get this done. I hope that you’re feeling that confidence as well. Keep feeling good. Let’s keep going.