Project management for employee empowerment? Solam veritatem.

Empowerment is a buzz term that we hear a lot about in leadership. It has been defined as “the giving or delegation of power or authority; authorisation; the giving of an ability or permission”.

Empowerment is based on the belief that employees have the ability – and want to take on more responsibility. It gives employees greater authority and responsibility to take care of the needs of the customer. To this end, employees are provided with the means for making influential decisions.

Everyone within an organisation should be involved in meeting customer expectations and improving the quality of services and goods they provide.  Empowered employees understand their role in supporting this very vision by tending to the customers’ needs.

A company can define its own empowerment strategy among the following and many more initiatives:

1. Top management commitment. This includes developing an organisational definition of empowerment that includes well defined boundaries and management training.

2. Keepimg the customers’ needs at the very centre of the strategy. When employees are empowered to make decisions that help the customer, they contribute to the strategy and business objectives.

3. Handing over of the decision making power to front line employees. Delegation may be something as simple as allowing an employee to make service recovery decisions.

4. Training employees to take on these new customer focused responsibilities. This may include customer service, problem solving, negotiation and conflict resolution skills.

5. Giving access to information and data that can be used in their decision making process. This information might include feedback from customer satisfaction surveys or customer comment cards that can help make informed, customer-focused decisions.

6. Placing trust and confidence in employees to make the right decision. A manager that second-guesses an employee’s decisions can impact an employee’s confidence in their decision making ability.

7. Authority and decision making responsibility comes with specific expectations and boundaries. An employee may be empowered to correct a situation for a customer up to a certain amount.

8. Providing mentors. Mentors should have successfully done something that the employee can learn from. For example, if an employee is learning to be empowered to perform service recovery, their mentor should be someone who has learned the critical thinking skills to assess different situations and come to reasonable conclusions.

9. Positive support through coaching and role play to successfully negotiate more decision making scenarios. We all make mistakes when we first begin making decisions so it is important to provide good coaching and positive reinforcement.

10. Compensation and performance expectations are aligned around customer needs. This encourages employees to make the right decisions.

11. Assess social styles to match employee competencies with job responsibilities. Using an effective assessment tool like DISC or Myers Briggs can help identify employee strengths.

12. Employees are provided the appropriate tools and equipment to do their job. Some employees are very vocal about their needs but others will work with aging equipment and never speak up. Assessing changing technology and equipment should be part of an organization’s strategy for empowered employees.

13. Have a plan to implement an empowerment environment. Implementation should be mapped out and a timeline for all aspects should be written so all understand the timing and process of implementation.

Lastly, organizations with strong empowerment models show that productivity and customer satisfaction improves within an empowered culture.

Taking the above into consideration in a Project Management context, and more specifically the various models of Project Management applied in our day and age, RINCE2 and Agile are two approaches that can be looked into. This is because the right model must be applied to the correspondingly right context, without which the project is set on the path of doom right from its very outset.

That said, it usually is a combination of various approaches that will suit a project, the organisation it is being implemented in and various other parameters that must be taken into consideration whilst defining the specific measures of a given approach; they can go from the definition of the project itself.  the period of project implementation, its cost, its complexity but to name them .

This comparison will be presented independently but under the analysis framework.

There are many a guidelines set forth in terms of project management. These vary greatly depending mainly on the complexity of the project. As a result, the guidelines can be summarized into four main stages of a project’s progress:
– initiation,
– planning ,
– execution and control, and
– close out and evaluation. .

2.1.            Project initiation: This stage includes every step undertaken to seek out the best service providers who present their cases to argue their ability to compete the project. The winner of this call to tender then gathers the client’s requirements. It includes negotiations to amend the requirements when deemed necessary in the best interest of the project. And then, when everyone has agreed to all the terms and conditions, both parties sign an agreement.2.2.            Planning phase: Planning is critical for success. Take a wrong decision in this stage, and you’ll feel the repercussions right to the very end, and even in the project’s afterlife. Therefore, the management must look at all possible outcomes of every possible step and be prepared to act in consequence. The project plans address the project scope, timing, and budget. Once all of that is established, the schedule is developed, and resources allocated. Its a bit like applying the right formula to a given mathematical problem and then following it through. If anything goes wrong or is overlooked, the project will run end up uncontrollably running into a wall.

2.3.            Execution and control: After deciding what should be done, it is now time to do it. The simpler the project, the closer the link between execution and control. When you do something, it is important to report to all parties concerned that it is being done or has been accomplished. The management team, in most cases, tasked with oversight, has to tick off those boxes, hence the combination of execution and control. The simpler forms of control may be time related – but it is for the top management to implement the right control measures. Some independent control bodies are generally required for intermediate control and final validation.

2.4.            Closeout and evaluation: Achieve all the steps that had been decided upon in a timely and satisfactory manner, and it is time to closeout the project. With deliverables being in line with client’s requirements, the next step is acceptance and completion of payment. Immediately after closeout is the right time for the team to evaluate the project and how things can possibly be improved in future projects. Even if the project weren’t directly affected, such an evaluation can help the various stakeholders tighten their grasp on things in the future.

PRINCE2 approach

Prince2, from its very name denotes that there was a previous version. The initial version concentrated developing a system to provide a framework to manage IT projects. In 1996, an upgrade brought about a broader scope, and Prince2 became a methodology standard to manage more than just IT projects. In the 21 years of is existence, it has been affected by numerous updates and changes to accommodate business projects and environments.

It is based on the following principles:

i.            Continue with business justification

ii.           Learn from experience

iii.          Define roles and responsibilities

iv.          Manage by stages

v.           Manage exceptionally

vi.           Focus on the product

vii.          Adapt the approach to the project environment

So if you base your approach on the above principles, you are managing your project as per Prince2, which can encapsulate the necessary project governance needed to steer the project to success. Prince2 can include Agile Project Management as long as it is adapted, which is the 7th of the above principles.

3.1.            Project initiation: All projects go through this stage. The person who had the brainchild brings together people to collaborate with, and the team thus created forms the project management board, which in turn draws the project brief that contains the objectives, the significance of the project to the business, and determines whether it is worthwhile and viable.

The initiation is the role of the project board and its roles are described. In Prince2 methodology. The board then oversees and controls the project; the latter includes making decisions as to achieve accountability targets, whereby the final decision is that of the project manager.

3.2.            Project planning: In Prince2, initiation leads to planning. The brief prepared previously is developed into a business case that covers all possible eventualities. Thus, identiying the project control measures and strategies, establishing quality related issues, and the entire project plan is specified.

To make it effective, a plan should bring together the product of all teams working under the board to achieve the objectives outlined by the plan. A time schedule and the resources available guide this stage of the project.

This step in a PRINCE2 project defines three important aspects:
the reporting and control arrangement ,
the time and costs budgets, and
the risks through review of the daily log and reviews.
This step falls under the Project Manager’s responsibility, and depending on the structure and the complexity of the project, the project manager hands it over to his supervisor for review who then submits it for the Project Board’s approvals

3.3.            Execution and control: Execution involves every team member regardless of function. In PRINCE2, it requires for various elements of the plan and the control systems to work hand in hand towards goal attainment. Some of the control measures define:

the framework and scope of adherence to the plan,

the time schedule for the activities, and

the effective and efficient use of resources.

It is now that the Board will monitor the issues, dependencies, and risk and effective management within the context of occurrence.

The execution and control processes run concurrently, and mean that four aspects become critical;

i.  Who is doing what and when.

ii. What could potentially affect work and a contingency plan to mitigate the risk, the effects, or to alleviate them.

iii. For effective execution of a PRINCE2 project, the project manager should establish deliverables from one team to another.

iv. For effective execution of a PRINCE2 project, communication is core. A communication plan is critical and should be followed effectively.

The successful delivery of the project on time and within the set costs is the objective of every project execution process. However, this might depend on the product description guidelines contained in the project plan in PRINCE2.

The execution and control process according to PRINCE2 is further divided into four different stages;

3.3.1. Directing a project: The project board activities in the execution and control phase of project management are to oversee the project as described. This role is played through decision making by the various board members for the objective of meeting accountability targets.

3.3.2.Controlling a stage: One of the principles of PRINCE2 project management approach is stage-by-stage model of the execution process. Based on this principle, it is essential for the effective controlling of a stage for the realization of the stage deliverable. The controlling process of stage is basically to determine how the fundamental work packages of the stage are authorized and completed (David & Roland, 2006). It is the responsibility of the project manager to control a stage and manage each sub-process and foresee its progress for the execution and delivery of the stage. In doing so, progress reports and exceptions should be submitted to the project board. The critical processes involved in controlling a stage include authorization of work packages, progress assessment, identification and analyzing of issues, and determination of stage status.

3.3.3.Management of product delivery: In complex projects, under the project manager are team leaders who directly foresee the execution of various work packages.  This process determines how the project manager links with the team leaders. It provides formal requirements for the execution, delivery, and acceptance of the tasks in the project. The objectives in this process are;

i.            Authorization and agreement mechanism for work before it is allocated

ii.            To create a common platform for team leaders, team members, and suppliers to ensure that each is aware of the  expected deliverables

iii.            Ensure products are delivered within specifications

iv.            To appraise progress to the project manager for effective management

3.3.4.Management of stage boundaries: This determines what should happen at the end of the stage. After stage controlling, management of boundaries specifies what happens next. In addition, this process allows for measurement of the project progress as outlined in the project plan. In case a stage has moved outside the tolerance levels, then this process provides an opportunity to determine what to do next.

3.4.            Closeout and evaluation: After the project objectives are achieved, PRINCE2 provides a formal process through which the project should be brought to a close. However, majority project overlook this vital process. The closeout and evaluation process requires reallocation of the personnel and other resources that were used in the project. Evaluation is all about reviewing the project and audit of every stage. The closeout process should also identify any next-in-line project that the business should consider.

Agile approach

Agile project management approach was established in 1995 through collaborative effort between APMG- International and the Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM) Consortium. The approach was developed for handling agile projects mainly in the complex corporate niche. Agile approach is built on the principle of human interaction management and founded on a process of human collaboration. The approach is used in software, website, technology, and in the creative and marketing industry. In agile approach, the project is perceived as a series of relatively small activities conceived and undertaken to manage as per the situation in an adaptive manner, contrary to having a per-planned process.

Agile project management approach has three distinguishing features;

i.            It is consistent since it involves frequent testing of the project under development

ii.            It is the only approach that actively involves the client in the project management process

iii.            The only generally limiting aspect is that it requires the client to be available and have sufficient time to participate

Agile is guided by eight principles which are;

i.            Function on the business objectives

ii.            Timely delivery of the project deliverables

iii.            Collaborative approach

iv.            None quality compromising approach

v.            Continuous and clear communication

vi.            Iterative development

vii.            Founding be incremental

  1. Demonstrative control

4.1.            Initiation stage: The most widespread  agile methodology is scrum and it is presented in this case.

The initiation state of scrum involves two major activities;

– determining the roles for the personnel resources and

– determining the number of sprints required for the project.

The scrum team is made up of:

– the product owner,

– the scrum master, and

– the development team.

This team is self-organizing and cross-functional and more importantly, does not depend on other deliverables.

Thanks to the cross-functional nature of a scrum team, it is competent and must not rely on anyone beyond itself. Thus, they optimise flexibility, creativity and productivity.

The structural and functional model ensures that the deliverable is designed and built as per feedback. The size of the development team is also determined in this process. A scrum team should be the smallest possible to be able to carry out a significant work per sprint.

4.2.            Planning phase: Planning in scrum aims to minimise the number of unforeseen meetings. Events are time-boxed and delivery must be punctual. Scrum planning takes place at sprint planning by the whole team and aims to answer these questions;

i.            What is the increment deliverable to the realised from the upcoming sprint?

ii.            How will the work resulting to the increment be achieved?

4.2.1.In-sprint deliverable: This process involves forecasting functionalities within a sprint. It is guided by the owner through sprint-based decisions and leads to completion by means of a sprint goal. The input includes the backlog, the last tranche, the team’s capability in sprint, and past performance. After forecasting, it is time to set a sprint goal, which is to be achieved by overcoming the backlog and is used as a guide and answers the why as regards the increment.

4.2.2. Getting the work done: This is your ops team which gets the hands dirty and sees to it that the increment will be marked “done” in the end. First, a system is designed so as to evaluate the amount of work required to convert backlog into product. It is meant to be enough for the sprint at hand. The plan is decomposed into daily units and the development team self-organizes to undertake the plan. Adjustments can be made with the owner’s consent. To address specialised needs, an external expert is called upon to intervene.

4.3.            Execution and control: Execution in agile starts with a daily scrum. Here, set daily work units towards the realisation of the sprint goal are set. It is comprised of backlogs selected for that specific day. It’s a 15 minutes time-boxed event wherein the team synchronises activities to create a 24 hour plan.

Here, the team inspects what was done previously and forecasts the achievable for the next scrum. It is considered best practice to hold daily scums at the same venue as ensured by the scrum master, and carried out by the team members.

Possible items for daily scrum are:

  • What was done yesterday?
  • What is to be done today?
  • Any possible impediments

The objective is to help team members understand and establish their contribution towards achieving the goal. At the end of the day, the team meets to review  backlogs.

4.3.1.Sprint review: After a sprite, a review is held with the purpose of inspecting the increment and adapt the product backlog is need be. During this review meeting, team members and stakeholders collaborate on what was done in the sprint and any changes to the product backlog. In addition, the attendees collaborate on how to optimize the value of the product. The sprint review meeting is an informal meeting and the presentations are intended to provide feedback and boost collaboration between the various stakeholders. For the case of month-long sprint, there is a monthly 4-nour meeting held to review the sprint.

4.4.            Closeout and evaluation: Closeout in agile project management approach and scrum in particular may mean the end of a sprint or termination of the project. Given the project in scrum methodology is carried out in sprints, closeout is in commonly in the form of sprints. Scrum closeout is done in the form of sprint retrospective. Sprint retrospective is an opportunity for the scrum team to inspect its status and plan on how to improve for the next sprint. This process happens after sprint review and before the next sprint planning and its length is normally dependent on the length of the previous sprint.

If the product achieves the desired level of “done,” then the sprint review summarizes the project and lays down any improvement aspects for any future agile projects.

Conclusion

From the above comparison it is quite clear that PRINCE2 and Agile are both significantly different approaches in spite of having a similar approach towards goal achievement: initiation, planning, execution and control, and closeout and evaluation.

Yet, a closer look will reveal a fundamental difference in the methodologies; whereas PRINCE2 views the project goal as its yardstick of project completion and achievement, Agile divides and subdivides the project into bite sized piece-meals and consumes them on a daily basis.

PRINCE2 is a singular, progressive process with concurrently running execution and control aimed at achieving the set goals; Agile, on the other hand, executes in a time bound manner and whilst being sandwiched by two slices of control. We also realise that PRINCE2 centralises the control and requires the Project owner to maintain a tighter leash on the course of each of the steps, whereby the proverbial buck keeps coming back to the Project owner. Agile might seem similar, as it runs in shorter cycles, tends to give more liberty to the implementing team,so that if the expected goals are not met, the deviation from the intermediate goal will mostly be negligible and allow for corrective measures in the following sprint(s). This allows for specialist knowledge to be used whilst implementing measures, which is not always the case with PRINCE2. For an organisation to promote empowerment through a new project, I would have a tendency to turn towards Agile rather than PRINCE2 which is a much better approach where processes have been etched in stone and deviation from them is not only cumbersome by also time and effort intensive.