Why Should We Run RAP Sessions?

Almost every project manager has experienced the difficulty of getting key players (stakeholders) in his or her project to agree on important issues such as the scope and objectives.

Project Manager (on phone to key stakeholder Mary):

Mary, hi. I have jotted down some ideas on Project X. You folks in finance are really important and I would like to get your input. When can I see you? Oh! You're away till next week. How about next Tuesday? Fine, see you then.

(Five days later)

Mary, as you can see the objectives as I see them are A, B, C, D. What do you think? Oh, you want to review them with your people. OK, I'll see you next week. Thanks.

(Five days later)

Hi, Mary, I see that you prefer the objectives to be A, B, C, D and E. Thanks. I'll send you a final version after I've checked with Bill in Audit.

Project Manager (on phone to key stakeholder Bill):

Bill, hi. I have reviewed the objectives of Project X with Mary and the finance team. Audits are really important and I would like to get your input. When can I see you? Oh! You're really busy. Next Wednesday? Done, see you then.

(Two days later)

Bill, as you can see, the objectives as Mary and I see them are A, B, C, D and E. What do you think? Oh, you want to review them with your people. OK, I'll see you next week. Thanks.

(Five days later)

Hi, Bill, I see that you prefer the objectives to be A, B, D, E, and F! Aargh.

So, there we are. Seventeen days into the project, your two most important stakeholders cannot agree on the objectives of your project. You are into the good old stakeholder run-around game. What are you going to do?

Faced with this conflict, you have a number of options:

  • Give up and make up your own objectives;

  • Resign;

  • Hire consultants and give them the project; or

  • Get Mary and Bill into a room and try to achieve some consensus.

Of course, most project managers select Option 1 and another project from hell has started. The only professional option is Option 4 and, using the RAP process, you can provide a mechanism where the conflict between your stakeholders can be put on the table, recognized, and resolved. [2]

[2] In one of our clients , this looping around with stakeholders had taken more than a year before we RAPed the project in two days.

Different Stakeholders, Different Agendas

In all projects, there will be conflicts among your various stakeholders. This is a normal situation, as different people will have different expectations and perceptions of what the project is all about.

There is an old fable about three blind people who are confronted with an elephant. One feels the trunk and declares that it is a snake, another feels the elephant's legs and argues that it is a tree, and the third feels the ears and disagrees, saying that it is a bird. Similarly, in a project, different stakeholders will see different parts of the project and, until they are all together, no one will understand the whole.

As shown in Figure 6.1, the more stakeholders that you have in your project, the more likely there will be differences between the perceptions of scope and objectives.

Figure 6.1. Different players, different agendas


Clearly, the earlier these differences are identified and resolved, the better. The RAP process and the role of your project sponsor are critical in assisting you in the resolution of these conflicts.

The recognition and resolution of conflicts in expected scope, objectives, benefits, quality, and so on are central to the new project management models, and all the techniques in this book have been designed to assist in both modeling and resolving this conflict. Clearly, the greater the number of stakeholders, the greater the potential for conflict.

So This Is My Problem. Why?

The scenario between Mary and Bill is typical of a particularly difficult political game that is played with project managers in all organizations. The key to solving the conflict between Mary and Bill is to undertake the first step in solving any problem, which (as noted by Gerry Weinberg in a seminar in 1980) most people skip. Step 1 in solving any problem is to ask yourself "Whose problem is it?" If you ask this question first, you'll often find that it is not your problem. Of course, unless you're careful, the political game quickly makes it your problem. In this case, the conflict is between Mary and Bill ”it is their problem. However, unless you get Bill and Mary together where they can see that it is their problem, it'll quickly become your problem. Your job as a project manager is to facilitate the process by which your stakeholders can solve their own problems.

In addition, as we have discussed earlier, the participative nature of RAP sessions ensures that the team members and project stakeholders are part of building the vision for the project. The complex nature of projects and the need for people to be committed to achieving the success of the project must be based on buy-in and ownership by all participants , whether they are in the team or outside as stakeholders.

Great Idea But I Don't Have a Team Yet

If you do not know who your team members will be at the time of planning, at a minimum see if you can get a colleague and key stakeholders to be involved. When the team members are appointed, you should undertake another RAP session involving them. If for any reason, key stakeholders are not prepared to be involved in the planning of the project (i.e., they don't want to be committed to the plan), then you should raise this with the project owner or sponsor (we'll discuss this more later).

They're Everywhere

There will be at least 10 stakeholders on every project you do. If you can't find 10, keep looking. They're out there somewhere.

Radical Project Management
Radical Project Management
ISBN: 0130094862
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2002
Pages: 136
Authors: Rob Thomsett

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