“I spend a lot of time trying to understand"
What are you working on right now?
I’m working on a project for the central IT department of the Danish National Police, where I’m responsible for planning the physical and organizational relocation of a police unit. The project consists of six different tracks, and I’m responsible for the IT track. It’s a politicized project with a short deadline, which is a challenge for risk assessment and quality, especially because it includes a partial relocation of personnel and equipment.
Knowledge sharing in the project takes place between the client’s internal resources and the police unit that’s being relocated, as well as the new network that will service the police unit. My role is to let these stakeholders contribute their knowledge, which I then collect and share in a script.
What challenges do you face in relation to sharing knowledge?
It’s a very broad project, so tasks and knowledge have to be coordinated across the six tracks. You have to constantly consider whether a decision affects the other tracks, which is difficult to figure out in the context of such a large project. Though it might seem unimportant that a project manager changes a relocation from the second day of the month to the first day, this has to be communicated widely, because it’s another project manager’s job to hire movers and set up tables.
How do you tackle that challenge?
I spend a lot of time trying to understand how knowledge comes to me, how much should be communicated to others, and who specifically needs that knowledge. People shouldn’t be bombarded with information. It’s about finding a balance. My approach is to write weekly status reports, and include all relevant information in a bullet list. If an item on the list is relevant to someone, they can ask for more detailed information. I send this status report by mail to get it out quickly and to reach a broad audience, but I also hold status meetings every other week in my track that include employees from both organizations.
What do you think is the most interesting aspect of knowledge sharing?
Even though I know a lot about IT, I try not to interfere in factual knowledge. If I make certain assumptions, I take the specialists’ work from them, and this is one of the greatest pitfalls for a project manager in my view. My job is not to tell them what to do. It’s to clear obstacles from their path so they can do their job. This approach brings out the best in the specialists: Their job is not simply to perform a task, it’s to think about what’s the best solution for the organization.
How do you keep your knowledge up to date?
I make an effort to find time for a course at least once a year, because this is where I get a lot of my new knowledge. I also gain new experiences from my work, because all projects are implemented in different ways. After each task I complete, I update my own templates so that I can reuse them later on.
What networks are you part of?
I have a group of colleagues from ten years back. All of them have worked with project management, and some of them are managers today. We meet a couple of times a year, and often invite someone to give a talk. Most recently, I heard Stephan Jensen speak about change projects. At another talk I attended, we were shown an exercise you can use if there’s a bad atmosphere at a project: the participants all say something positive about each other and put a PostIt note on each project group member for each comment. This gives a project group a good boost. I also keep up with some of the consultants I’ve worked with on different projects. We meet for a beer or a bike ride and talk about where we’re at and what challenges we have.