Archive for March, 2008

Airlines in-flight mobile phone usage update

Posted by Peter on Mar 30 2008 | Case Studies

Here’s an update to the Article on mobile phone usage in aircraft.

Emirates

Emirates and AeroMobile announced a few days ago that the world’s first authorised cellphone call was made by a passenger during an Airbus A340 flight between Dubai and Casablanca. The call was made at cruising altitude, after passengers were permitted to make and receive both calls and text messages. Emirates are planning to fit additional aircraft with the cellphone system later this year. To minimise annoyance, the flight crew requested passengers to use phones on silent-mode and will shut off the in-flight service during long-haul night flights.

Qantas

Qantas is also planning to allow cellphone usage during flight, but for SMS text messages only, after a nine-month trail period during which they received plenty of stakeholder feedback.

So different airlines have decided to offer different services, based on surveys and feedback:

  • Emirates - full voice and text sms
  • Qantas - text sms only

We’ll be watching to see how they manage passenger and other stakeholder feedback after full system deployment.

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Genetically Modified Crops and Stakeholder Management

Posted by Peter on Mar 24 2008 | Articles

GM Crops

Genetically modified (GM) crops are already being used in many countries including the United States, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, India, China, Australia, and some European countries. According to a report in The Economist, the market for agricultural biotechnology doubled from about $3bn to $6bn from 2001 to 2006, and is predicted to rise to over $8bn by 2011.

The use of GM crops to produce food has, however, been fiercely resisted in the UK and some other countries in Europe due to various concerns about their safety and possible environmental damage. For a balanced view, take a look at this Wikipedia article.

From a Stakeholder Management perspective, I was wondering why the perceptions of GM crops were so different between different countries. Reports indicate that GM crops give higher yields with less water, energy and fertiliser, thereby solving some of the following problems:

  • An increasing worldwide demand for food
  • A decrease in the amount of land and water available for farming
  • An increase in the cost of energy

In general, farmers seem to like the new varieties of pesticide resistant crops as they can grow more with less, and therefore make more profit. But how to convince sceptical European consumers? It appears that we may, however, be approaching a ‘tipping point’ where the momentum for change becomes unstoppable and GM crops become more readily accepted by consumers, as new varieties of GM crops are predicted to provide strong benefits to consumers.

We may soon see soya oil that tastes better, is healthier, and produces no trans-fats during cooking. When consumers (stakeholders) see the benefits to them, in the form of healthier food, then we might see the more widespread acceptance of GM foods. That is exactly what we say in Project Stakeholder Management - show people the benefits of your project and they will become your supporters. Keep monitoring the news for updates on the GM food situation.

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Definitions - ‘E’

Posted by Peter on Mar 24 2008 | Definitions

More light-hearted definitions of project management and associated terms, to help with project and stakeholder communications:

E-Mail

(a) Electronic Mail. Mode of communication from computer to computer.

(b) Permanent record of everything you said. Yes, all your emails are saved and can be read by the IT people. You might even send a nasty email to the boss by mistake (surprising but many people inadvertently do just this).

Empower

(a) To give power or ability to someone.

(b) Something that managers are unlikely to grant to you, because being ‘empowered’ means being in control and being free to take action in accordance with your own judgment, instead of the manager’s judgment.

Entitlement

(a) The feeling that you are owed or deserving of something without needing to do any of the work to get it.

(b) An expectation that is increasing nowadays, as some companies have extensive perks including free drinks, a gym, rest areas etc. These companies only serve to increase worker demands as they see what other companies give away.

Executive Decision

(a) To independently make a definitive choice.

(b) Something that almost never occurs, due to the huge number of managers who need to sign-off or approve even the smallest choices. See ‘empowerment’.

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Update to the Project Management Body of Knowledge

Posted by Peter on Mar 18 2008 | Articles

PMBOK

The Project Management Institute (PMI®) are now in the process of updating their global standards documents:

  • A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK®Guide)
  • The Standard for Program Management
  • The Standard for Portfolio Management
  • Organizational Project Management Maturity Model (OPM3®)

These standards are established by taking into account the knowledge, opinions and experiences of project teams, subject matter experts and project management practitioners. As such, exposure drafts of all these standards are now available for comments on the PMI website. Comments will be closed on 22 March 2008.

We are glad to see that the sections in all documents relating to Project Stakeholder Management have been expanded considerably, reflecting the importance of this subject to Project Managers and people working on projects globally. The guidelines given in the new documents follow the principles that we already established here at ProjectStakeholder.com with additional elements that we will incorporate into our Stakeholder Management model.

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Email and Communications Management

Posted by Peter on Mar 03 2008 | Articles

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Email is a great help when communicating with our project stakeholders. There are, however, some limitations of the email format that can cause our messages to be misinterpreted, often leading to conflict.

I’ve been wondering why emails can be the cause of conflict, and can offer these comments:

Much research has shown that success in communications involves three components:

  • The message (comprised of the words you use)
  • Your ‘body-language’ (body movements and gestures)
  • The tonality of your voice (acoustic patterns including tone, pitch, and accent)

The relative importance of words / body language / tonality, are open to debate but it is clear that all of them do play a part in the messages we send. Email, of course, does not allow any body language or tone at all, relying solely on the words. Missing out these important parts of a communication can increase the chances of a mis-communication or mis-interpretation to occur.

But why?

Many years ago we relied on formal type-written reports and seemed to get less conflict than now. Perhaps this is because the formal report does not allow for any emotion, and is read for it’s content alone. Email is different, as the reader seems to assume a body language and tone to match the content, perhaps due to the informal ‘conversational’ style of the medium. If a reader makes the wrong assumption, then our message gets distorted and incorrectly received.

I once received an email from our company secretary asking for my size preference for a new company t-shirt. I saw the opportunity for some office humour by sending the shortest possible email, and replied only with the letter ‘L’ (for my t-shirt size). I was very proud at having sent the world’s shortest email but later noticed that our secretary seemed upset and would not talk to me. After a while I discovered that the secretary assumed I was in such a hurry that I could not be bothered to give a proper reply, and was somehow ‘looking-down’ on her. So my attempt at dry humour ended up generating conflict. Lacking any emotional content, the secretary inserted her own content and acted accordingly. If this is what a single-letter email can achieve, just imagine what damage can be caused by longer and more involved email correspondence!

My recommendation for one-to-one conversations is to simply pick up the phone as a preference to email. Ask yourself why you want to use email in this case?

Here are three tips for the use of email:

  1. Limit the number of people you copy an email to. Copying a huge list of people can be interpreted as political games. And you may be surprised to learn that some people auto-delete any emails that have been copied to them, to ensure they only get relevant information.
  2. Don’t use ‘bcc‘ ( an email option where people can be copied without the recipient being aware). Once people know that you use it, they won’t trust you fully. Why are you hiding something?
  3. Think carefully about any ‘out-of-office’ auto-reply that you use. The auto-reply might be sending a message that your schedule is more important than the customer’s needs. Have someone monitor your email, or use a remote-access device.

Words, tonality and body language are the only means we have to relate our individual understandings, experiences and feelings. Let’s continue to place equal emphasis on all three avenues of communication.

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