Visit Report – University of Westminster Stakeholder Engagement APM Event

IMG_0203A visit to London on Thursday 16th March allowed a visit to the University of Westminster who were hosting an APM event on project problem solving through stakeholder engagement. The guest speaker, Fiona Magee from CITI Ltd drew on her experience in consultancy in Programme management to emphasise the importance of  ‘Stakeholder Engagement’ as an essential prerequisite for realising the benefits from projects.

Failure to engage the stakeholders, can mean that a project produces outputs as intended but there is no take up of the results and benefits are not achieved. Magee reported many instances where project managers attempted to hand over outputs to stakeholders who were unwilling or unprepared to take them up. She then debunked the Five Myths of stakeholder engagement which can affect projects.

  1.  We Manage our stakeholders
    Using the term ‘stakeholder management’ indicates that we co-ordinate and control our stakeholders. Is this really our intention? Can we be successful with this approach? The term ‘engagement’ indicates participation and responsiveness. We seek to engage our stakeholders and can only manage the project’s engagement with them. This distinction is really important.
  2. ‘Everybody’ is a Stakeholder
    This attitude can lead to futile efforts in pleasing everyone who has any connection with a project. There are two types of stakeholder – role based and agenda based. Role based stakeholders have roles in the project e.g. project sponsor, team member, supplier. They are an intrinsic part of every project and need to be engaged. Agenda based stakeholders are ‘around’ the project and are affected by it. In some projects, managing these stakeholders is hugely important. In other projects, they may not play a significant role.
  3. We understand our stakeholders
    The classic ‘stakeholder analysis’ matrix classifies stakeholders according to their interest in the project and the impact they have on the project. We need to take a questioning approach to this analysis. Is the project sponsor really a high interest and high impact stakeholder? Some project sponsors have little interest in the project and need to be engaged to increase their interest. By questioning the actual position of the stakeholders, we can take action in order to address any potential problems for the project.
  4. It’s all about communication
    Communication is important for engaging stakeholders but we need to consider what we are trying to achieve with our communication and why we are communicating rather than just the ‘how’ and ‘when’ of the communication. If we are trying to change behaviour, it can be useful to consider Beckhard and Harris; change formula.
    We can ‘nudge’ behaviour in the direction of engagement and this taking this  into consideration with our communication can be very effective.
  5. Some projects do not need stakeholder engagement
    Projects vary in the degree of complexity of their stakeholders. Some projects have few stakeholders and all are role based. In this case, the stakeholder engagement will not take significant effort. However, other projects have a wide range of stakeholders with complex interrelationships and we can expect these will require significantly more effort to engage. We could call these ‘stakeholder sensitive’ projects and there is a lot to be learned from them.


A visit to APM HQ

Last week, I visited Association for Project Management Headquarters at Princes Risborough. This is an address I have seen on lots of forms but never previously visited. Over the past years, I have had regular correspondence with APM concerning membership, qualifications, accredited training, arranging events for the NW branch and even contributing to developing standards for apprenticeships in Project Management. Hardly a week goes by without some contact with APM. Most of my contact has been by phone or email. Realising this is true for many APM members (Princes Risborough is not just somewhere you ‘drop in’.) I decided to take some photos on my visit so I could share the whole experience. APM staff agreed to help.

Photos above – Venetia at APM reception is really helpful – first impressions count. Stephen Miller (Education) and Anna Grabham (Volunteers co-ordinator) are in regular contact with the volunteer community.  Keo-mony Mith deals with course accreditation and Jo deals with queries about membership and qualifications.

With the news in December of APM being awarded a Royal Charter, we should expect many changes in the coming months. This is a real milestone in the development of project management as a profession. APM members are awaiting further advice about how to become Chartered Project Managers, this will involve a major change of the institution itself. Many APM staff have been working diligently in the background to achieve this and we look forward to their continued advice and support as the profession moves forward.

So, lots of changes expected at APM HQ in terms of the organisation itself and how it supports the profession, watch this space!

Apprenticeships: then and now

img_9759Apprenticeships are a radical new development in education – or are they? The word ‘apprentice’ conjures up a lot of images. These range from children in Victorian times apprenticed to a trade to young entrepreneurs jockeying for a position as Sir Alan Sugar’s next protégé. The Government has pledged to support 3 million apprentices in the UK by 2020. Are we returning to Mr Gradgrind’s vision in Hard times? Definitely not. Today’s vision of an apprenticeship is very different. Apprenticeships are very much supported by employers, education providers, Government and Professional bodies.

In 21st Century England, the Government has sponsored apprenticeships as a way of encouraging individuals to combine working in industry with studying. This has advantages for the individual, the employer and the academic establishment involved. The individual gets the opportunity to ‘earn while they learn’, they are working in industry from the start and their studies are sponsored by their employer. This leads to highly motivated learners who are keen to apply their knowledge in the workplace. From an academic perspective, working with these learners can be challenging and extremely rewarding. Text book knowledge is questioned, discussed and contextualised in the classroom and often in the workplace. Employers are involved in setting the standards for apprenticeships which are then delivered by training providers and educational establishments.

In project management terms, a Higher Level Apprenticeship in Project Management was launched by the APM several years ago. Following the Sainsbury report, the Government decided to rethink apprenticeships and employer groups were formed to write new Trailblazer standards. Once a standard has been approved, with its associated assessment plan and costing, it is available for training and education providers to develop programmes of learning to support the standard. Employers can then recruit apprentices and work with the training and education providers to support their development.

The Level 4 Project Management Trailblazer Apprenticeship Employer Development Group is a group of employers from different sectors and led by Sellafield. This group prepared the standard and assessment plan which is now available on the Government website and will influence the training of project management apprentices for many years. The photo marks the formation of the Employer Review Group who will support the standard and ensure it is being delivered effectively in the years to come. This group is being led by the Cabinet Office. The attendance of more than forty people at the inaugural meeting is evidence of the level of interest and support from industry in taking up this standard.

So, when you hear Project Management Apprenticeships – this is where we are now. A strong employer led group establishing standards and working together with education and training providers – all to support the development of the future workforce. It’s not about Mr Gradgrind or Sir Alan Sugar, it’s all about the apprentice and their development.