The Lazy Project Manager Podcast

December 7, 2017

Have you checked out my podcast?

Peter Taylor The Lazy Project Manager Podcaster Speaker Author

Well episode 183 included two fascinating interviews with Cedric Waldburger (a man with no office and no home but with many enterprising initiatives going on in his life) and Parikshit Basrur – Executive | Academic | Researcher (another really interesting guy)

Interested? Check it out here http://www.thelazyprojectmanager.com/podcaster

Peter Taylor is a PMO expert who has built and led four global PMOs across several industries, and has advised many other organisations in PMO and PM strategy.

He is also the author of the number 1 bestselling project management book ‘The Lazy Project Manager’, along with many other books on project leadership, PMO development, project marketing, project challenges and executive sponsorship.

In the last 5 years, he has delivered over 350 lectures around the world in over 25 countries and has been described as ‘perhaps the most entertaining and inspiring speaker in the project management world today’.

His mission is to teach as many people as possible that it is achievable to ‘work smarter and not harder’ and to still gain success in the battle of the work/life balance.

More information can be found at www.thelazyprojectmanager.com

 

LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/parikshitbasrur/

Twitter @parikshitbasrur

LinkedIn https://ch.linkedin.com/in/cedricwaldburger

FB: https://www.facebook.com/sendtask.io/

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Catsuits and Parachutes

December 6, 2017

The following is an extract from my new book ‘How to get Fired at the C-Level: Why mismanaging change is the biggest risk of all’ in association with my friends at Tailwind Project Solutions – previous extracts followed a series of 5 Challenges that I think every organisation should consider, and consider very carefully – and now we will look at the 5 tests of control:

Challenge 4, if you remember, was all about investing in good analysis and in good reporting so that the precious portfolio of change is well looked after and cared for, in a kind of management by exception sort of way.

This book is not the book to advise you on what portfolio reporting or dashboard solution to choose and it is not about how you should go about implementing such a solution (I did suggest one specific dashboard view you might ask for from any supplier and/or solution though so make sure you lock that one down).

But I would like to offer some general advice and it is in the area of scale or being ‘fit for purpose’.

There is a great presentation by Tom Peters where he talks about some organisations that get so big that they forget about some of the basic, simple, everyday stuff.[1]

He produces a tiny shampoo bottle that he has taken from a hotel bathroom and he asks, rhetorically, ‘who was the average user of this bottle?’ The answer being that most likely this was going to be used by a middle-aged business traveller who more than likely wore reading glasses. He then asked, still rhetorically, ‘where was this likely to be used?’ And the answer this time was of course it would be used when the middle aged business traveller, who most likely wore reading glasses, was taking a shower. He paused for effect and summed up; this product was most likely to be used by this guy in a shower without his reading glasses in in steamy environment with water running and when he wanted to decipher between the two almost identical bottles of shower gel and shampoo. Result: frustration and improper use of products.

A definition of ‘fit for purpose’ is ‘something that is fit for purpose is good enough to do the job it was designed to do’, but you could argue that the shampoo bottle, standing next to the shower gel bottle, and sometimes also next to a ‘body lotion’ bottle, is fit for purpose. The trouble is you need to distinguish the shampoo bottle first to then use it and for it to truly become ‘fit for purpose’.

When it comes to reporting then this very much applies. Your portfolio reporting process and solution needs to be a good ‘fit’ for the purpose you wish to put it to, practical, usable, understandable, with the right data in it.

Yes, you can have the all-singing, all-dancing, let’s take this barn and put on a show with fireworks and banners approach and good luck to you – you might need it but almost certainly not. This is the ‘parachute approach’ making the solution so copious and all-covering that there is no danger in being exposed in any way – but guess what? You can’t move in it, well not very fast anyway, and it isn’t particularly suitable for most needs (unless you are actually jumping out of a plane of course but this is actually a metaphor so not relevant), and most of the material is wasted.

The alternative approach is to make it as minimal as possible, only the bare data available, lean and focused, tight as can be – this is the ‘cat-suit approach’ which does the job, precisely and nothing more – this is a good looking solution for sure and this may well work, but probably not, someone will want something extra (and justify that they need it) and suddenly you are making alterations, without any spare material to make that even remotely possible without causing an embarrassing rip.

The sensible approach is, of course, somewhere between the ‘parachute approach’ and the ‘cat-suit approach’ – perhaps the ‘It’s Friday dress down day in the office comfortable jeans with stretch denim approach’ or something like that.

Make it fit for purpose just don’t take the whole ‘fit for purpose’ too far:

In a circus, the Bearded Lady and the World’s Strongest Man fell in love, and decided to start a family. Soon the Bearded Lady fell pregnant[2].

A few weeks before she was due to give birth the Bearded Lady and the Circus Ring-Master were talking.

‘How’s it going?’ the Ring-Master asked, ‘Are you well?’

‘Yes thanks, we are very excited’ said the Bearded Lady ‘We have so many plans for the baby and we want to be supportive parents’.

‘That’s great’ said the Ring-Master ‘Do you want a boy or a girl?’

‘Oh, we really don’t mind as long as it’s healthy’ said the Bearded Lady ‘Oh and it fits into the cannon…’

TAKE THE TEST: The action for you now is to look at your reporting and ensure that it is right for your needs, the executive team’s needs, and the business needs. Can you access the data you need to make the right decisions? Is that data accurate and timely? Does it truly represent the change underway inside your organisation?

If not then best do something about that fast or you will be making ill-informed decisions, or worse no decisions at all.

Tailwind Project Solutions was formed in 2014 to provide a bespoke approach to project leadership development. Owned by Director & CEO Alex Marson, the organisation works with large FTSE 250 clients including some of the biggest companies in the world in the Asset Management, Professional Services, Software, Automotive, Finance and Pharmaceutical industry.  The company has a team of world-class experts who provide a bespoke approach to the challenges that our clients have, and the company was formed because of a gap in the market for expertise which truly gets to the heart of the issues clients are facing – providing a robust, expert solution to change the way that companies run their projects.

At the time, the market was becoming flooded with training companies, providing a ‘sheep dip’ approach to project management, and the consensus was that This didn’t solve the real challenges that businesses and individuals are experiencing in this ever-increasing complex world of project management. The vision was to hand-pick and work with the very best consultants, trainers and coaches worldwide so that Tailwind could make a difference to their clients, to sit down with them, understand their pain points, what makes them tick, and what is driving their need for support.

These challenges being raised time and time again are in the project leadership space, from communication issues, not understanding stakeholder requirements or having the confidence to “push back”, lack of sponsorship support, working across different cultures, languages, levels of capability and complexity. We expect more from our project managers – we expect them to inspire, lead teams and be more confident.

Tailwind’s experience is vast, from providing interim resources in the project and programme management space, supporting the recruitment process, experiential workshops, coaching – from project managers through to executives, providing keynote speakers, implementing PPM Academies, PM Healthchecks and Leadership development. The approach is created often uniquely – to solve the real challenges of each of their individual clients.

http://tailwindps.com/

[1] Originally published in ‘Project Branding: Using Marketing to Win the Hearts and Minds of Stakeholders’ (RMC Publications, Inc. 2014) – author Peter Taylor

[2] Originally published in ‘Project Branding: Using Marketing to Win the Hearts and Minds of Stakeholders’ (RMC Publications, Inc. 2014) – author Peter Taylor

How to avoid a Project

November 24, 2017

The following is an extract from my new book ‘How to get Fired at the C-Level: Why mismanaging change is the biggest risk of all’ in association with my friends at Tailwind Project Solutions – previous extracts followed a series of 5 Challenges that I think every organisation should consider, and consider very carefully – and now we will look at the 5 tests of control:

The Cycle of Engagement (some also refer to this as the Cycle of Resistance, but that might be considered somewhat cynical) describes some typical stages in a project. Not stages of the project lifecycle you understand but stages of even getting to the project lifecycle, in getting the project started – despite the business case being approved and the project being well and truly ‘in the portfolio’

It goes something along these lines:

Corporate change initiative approved and announced, everyone cheers loudly. Kick off meeting (party) fueled by marketing spend is completed.

A department or team are asked to pick up the project and implement the change in relation to their day to day work.

The cycle commences…

  1. Ignore- Take a project logo’d beanie hat and mouse mat from the program kick off meeting and put on your desk, and then actively ignore the project for as long as humanly possible through non-communication
  2. Avoid – When ignoring the project, no longer works then instead loudly welcome the project initiative and then dodge your department or team being involved through any avoidance tactic you can think of
  3. Argue – When called out on this behaviour start arguing that you really aren’t the best team/department/group to be active at this point in time – if you can get away with pointing the finger at an alternative (and clearly in your opinion, better placed team/department/group to go before you) definitely do that – it may buy you more time
  4. Impact – An extension to the argument step can be that the impact is too much to bear right now and if only you can wait a few weeks/months/years (delete as appropriate) everything will be so much better and you can really focus
  5. Cost – Throw in cost as well if you can – this always gets people’s attention especially if you can challenge the assumptions on the initial business case (and if you can point to another team/department/group better placed i.e. more cost effective i.e. cheaper, to go before you then go for it)
  6. Start – Finally, you will most likely reach a point of acceptance (more than likely as a result of you wanting to keep your job) and the project, the change will finally be undertaken in your department/team etc’ – did out those logos’ goodies and shout ‘hallelujah’ for all to hear
  7. Fast – Then immediately ask a) what is the fastest way to get this done and dusted and b) can you just copy another team/department and make the change – even if it doesn’t really fit your real needs

You see what is happening here – no real commitment or buy-in, only lip service to the change and the value of that change.

Back to that classic isn’t it?

1.           What do we want? ‘Change’ comes the loud reply from all

2.           Who wants change? All hands go up as one

3.           Who wants to change? No hand goes up

Ensuring a successful change, it is necessary to create that clear vision and to make sure people are ‘on board’ with that change.

TAKE THE TEST: If you recognise this behaviour inside your organisation then you definitely have an attitude issue and your organisation needs to do a whole lot of Organisational Change Management[1] (OCM) and generally get out there making people realise that this stuff is important.

Tailwind Project Solutions was formed in 2014 to provide a bespoke approach to project leadership development. Owned by Director & CEO Alex Marson, the organisation works with large FTSE 250 clients including some of the biggest companies in the world in the Asset Management, Professional Services, Software, Automotive, Finance and Pharmaceutical industry. The company has a team of world-class experts who provide a bespoke approach to the challenges that our clients have, and the company was formed because of a gap in the market for expertise which truly gets to the heart of the issues clients are facing – providing a robust, expert solution to change the way that companies run their projects.

At the time, the market was becoming flooded with training companies, providing a ‘sheep dip’ approach to project management, and the consensus was that This didn’t solve the real challenges that businesses and individuals are experiencing in this ever-increasing complex world of project management. The vision was to hand-pick and work with the very best consultants, trainers and coaches worldwide so that Tailwind could make a difference to their clients, to sit down with them, understand their pain points, what makes them tick, and what is driving their need for support.

These challenges being raised time and time again are in the project leadership space, from communication issues, not understanding stakeholder requirements or having the confidence to “push back”, lack of sponsorship support, working across different cultures, languages, levels of capability and complexity. We expect more from our project managers – we expect them to inspire, lead teams and be more confident.

Tailwind’s experience is vast, from providing interim resources in the project and programme management space, supporting the recruitment process, experiential workshops, coaching – from project managers through to executives, providing keynote speakers, implementing PPM Academies, PM Healthchecks and Leadership development. The approach is created often uniquely – to solve the real challenges of each of their individual clients.

http://tailwindps.com/

[1] Organizational Change Management (OCM) is a framework structured around the changing needs and capabilities of an organization. OCM is used to prepare, adopt and implement fundamental and radical organizational changes, including its culture, policies, procedures and physical environment, as well as employee roles, skills and responsibilities.

The ESP connection

November 18, 2017

The following is an extract from my new book ‘How to get Fired at the C-Level: Why mismanaging change is the biggest risk of all’ in association with my friends at Tailwind Project Solutions – previous extracts followed a series of 5 Challenges that I think every organisation should consider, and consider very carefully – and now we will look at the 5 tests of control:

Another quick test of control is the ‘Executive board to Sponsor to Project Manager’ relationship or the ‘ESP’ connection test.

Let’s start with the simplest form of this test by asking ‘Is there one?’.

Does the executive team interact with project sponsors on a regular basis, perhaps are they even the executive sponsors themselves? And do the sponsors interact and engage on a regular, bi-directional manner with the project managers?

Come up with a ’No’ at any of these connections and you have trouble ahead. You do need all three and you do need them connected and communicating.

If you don’t declare a complete and utter ‘No’ then the next step of the ‘ESP’ test is to consider any weak points in this ‘Executive board to Sponsor to Project Manager’ relationship. Here we can go back to the question of do the executives understand change (and projects), and/or do the change sponsors understand what it means to be such a sponsor, and how to go about being and effective sponsor, before arriving at the project management community and asking they know what they are doing, do they have experience and are they supported in skills and tools and method?

Such a consideration will allow another perspective on the robustness of your entire change management structure and to focus where there is a need.

One point here. If there is a problem at say the ‘E to S’ connection and also at the ‘S to P’ connection, then the priority has to be to focus and fix the ‘E to S’ problem first as the higher the issue the bigger the issue is in my personal experience.

TAKE THE TEST: Consider each level on the ESP connection and evaluate the change leadership maturity at each level – then assess the strength of connection at each of those touch points, ‘E to S’ and ‘S to P’.

Tailwind Project Solutions was formed in 2014 to provide a bespoke approach to project leadership development. Owned by Director & CEO Alex Marson, the organisation works with large FTSE 250 clients including some of the biggest companies in the world in the Asset Management, Professional Services, Software, Automotive, Finance and Pharmaceutical industry.  The company has a team of world-class experts who provide a bespoke approach to the challenges that our clients have, and the company was formed because of a gap in the market for expertise which truly gets to the heart of the issues clients are facing – providing a robust, expert solution to change the way that companies run their projects.

At the time, the market was becoming flooded with training companies, providing a ‘sheep dip’ approach to project management, and the consensus was that This didn’t solve the real challenges that businesses and individuals are experiencing in this ever-increasing complex world of project management. The vision was to hand-pick and work with the very best consultants, trainers and coaches worldwide so that Tailwind could make a difference to their clients, to sit down with them, understand their pain points, what makes them tick, and what is driving their need for support.

These challenges being raised time and time again are in the project leadership space, from communication issues, not understanding stakeholder requirements or having the confidence to “push back”, lack of sponsorship support, working across different cultures, languages, levels of capability and complexity. We expect more from our project managers – we expect them to inspire, lead teams and be more confident.

Tailwind’s experience is vast, from providing interim resources in the project and programme management space, supporting the recruitment process, experiential workshops, coaching – from project managers through to executives, providing keynote speakers, implementing PPM Academies, PM Healthchecks and Leadership development. The approach is created often uniquely – to solve the real challenges of each of their individual clients.

http://tailwindps.com/

ABI Evaluation

September 30, 2017

The following is an extract from my new book ‘How to get Fired at the C-Level: Why mismanaging change is the biggest risk of all’ in association with my friends at Tailwind Project Solutions – previous extracts followed a series of 5 Challenges that I think every organisation should consider, and consider very carefully – and now we will look at the 5 tests of control:

ABI stands for ‘Allocate, Burn or Invest’ and is a way of looking at how organisations truly ‘manage’ their change investments after they are sanctioned.

From the previous ‘Control Test’ of portfolio value you will now know the ‘what’, that is the ‘what is the value of our change investment’, which is an excellent start.

Now we come to the ‘so what’ part.

‘So what do we do with this change investment?’

The ‘A’ for allocate is when an executive team take the first part of the process very seriously and exhaust many, many hours scrutinising business proposals and change propositions, evaluate alternatives and options, ponders long and hard, challenges and re-challenges the change advocates and then allocates the money, whilst at the same time (in much the same way as in the Men in Black films) erase their minds of the change investment and everything that just occurred in order to carry on with the rest of their business responsibilities and business as usual.

What happens with this ‘Allocate’ path is that there is no ongoing control of the changes that have been launched and success is very much dependent of the under-lying organisational team and the priorities that the feel they have. Success is possible but far from ensured.

The second answer to the ‘So what do we do with this change investment?’ is the ‘B’ for burn. The allocate option works to some degree if there is some maturity of project delivery inside the organisation, it works if there are people who care, and it doesn’t work if these are not in place. In this situation, the allocate actually becomes a ‘burn.

Anything that is approved will be left to burn away (think of it as money on a bonfire) and be destined to not deliver most or any of the expected business benefits. Without management and control and accountability, alongside that maturity in change delivery, it will be wasted – perhaps not truly burnt but money used a little here and a little there, a resource ‘borrowed’, and a little help provided over there on that other important activity. The bottom line is it will go and the benefits will not replace its disappearance.

The third, and final, answer to the ‘So what do we do with this change investment?’ is the ‘I’ for investment. Here are in that happy place where the executive team do take the first part of the process very seriously and exhaust many, many hours scrutinising business proposals and change propositions, evaluate alternatives and options, ponder long and hard, challenges and re-challenge the change advocates and then finally allocate the money, but they do not forget all about it. They remember, they care, they enrage, they get updates and ask for status analysis and business benefit realisation progress and so much more.

Forgetting ‘burn’ (and I think you will agree we should) then ‘allocate’ means to distribute (resources or duties) for a particular purpose, which is a bit of a one-way process, whereas ‘invest’ means to ‘put (money) into a commercial venture with the expectation of achieving a profit – less of a one-way process and more of a ‘two-way/we’d like to get something back’ process to me.

And this requires ongoing and continual interaction with the change underway.

TAKE THE TEST: Think of your own organisation and (honestly) decide if you are an ‘A’, ‘B’ or ‘I’ type of executive team? You might even take it down to the individual executive team member (or make it personal to yourself perhaps) asking ‘is this person’, or ‘am I’ an ‘A’, ‘B’ or ‘I’ type?

Once you know this you can contemplate what this means for that big number you came up with in ‘The true value of change’ exercise.

Tailwind Project Solutions was formed in 2014 to provide a bespoke approach to project leadership development. Owned by Director & CEO Alex Marson, the organisation works with large FTSE 250 clients including some of the biggest companies in the world in the Asset Management, Professional Services, Software, Automotive, Finance and Pharmaceutical industry.  The company has a team of world-class experts who provide a bespoke approach to the challenges that our clients have, and the company was formed because of a gap in the market for expertise which truly gets to the heart of the issues clients are facing – providing a robust, expert solution to change the way that companies run their projects.

At the time, the market was becoming flooded with training companies, providing a ‘sheep dip’ approach to project management, and the consensus was that This didn’t solve the real challenges that businesses and individuals are experiencing in this ever-increasing complex world of project management. The vision was to hand-pick and work with the very best consultants, trainers and coaches worldwide so that Tailwind could make a difference to their clients, to sit down with them, understand their pain points, what makes them tick, and what is driving their need for support.

These challenges being raised time and time again are in the project leadership space, from communication issues, not understanding stakeholder requirements or having the confidence to “push back”, lack of sponsorship support, working across different cultures, languages, levels of capability and complexity. We expect more from our project managers – we expect them to inspire, lead teams and be more confident.

Tailwind’s experience is vast, from providing interim resources in the project and programme management space, supporting the recruitment process, experiential workshops, coaching – from project managers through to executives, providing keynote speakers, implementing PPM Academies, PM Healthchecks and Leadership development. The approach is created often uniquely – to solve the real challenges of each of their individual clients.

http://tailwindps.com/

The true value of change

September 22, 2017

The following is an extract from my new book ‘How to get Fired at the C-Level: Why mismanaging change is the biggest risk of all’ in association with my friends at Tailwind Project Solutions – previous extracts followed a series of 5 Challenges that I think every organisation should consider, and consider very carefully – and now we will look at the 5 tests of control:

We have already identified in an earlier article that knowing the true value of your investment in change, and the consequential cost of failure to deliver this change is critical.

On that basis now is the time for you to ‘do the math’ and work your change portfolio investment out, an example was covered in ‘Challenge 1 – Invest in the right portfolio management’ – so you can reference that if you wish.

Before you start how big do you think your Portfolio is right now and how big do you think it really might be? It will be interesting to compare later on.

OK – start with your Portfolio value. How simple is that to discover? The figure doesn’t have to be 100% accurate, you are looking for a rough order of magnitude really – but if it is really difficult to even start with a ROM valuation you might consider why that is, and how can your organisation manage change if it doesn’t know the basics?

Assuming that you do have that number to hand now all you need to know now is the ratio of Compliance projects versus Growth projects. The same argument stands in this case if you struggle to identify that percentage mix. But again, it is a rough estimate that is needed for this exercise.

And then select or identify the Cost/Impact ratio and the growth Value Add ratio – these really should be part of your business case approval process by the way.

And finally, estimates of disruption ratio percentage (use the 20% provided if you don’t have a true idea of your own organisations percentage) and failure factor ratio percentage but only for the growth projects. For the compliance projects it could well be something like ‘Go to Jail, do not Pass Go) or some serious fine etc. – feel free to quantify this if you can of course – it may well be significant.

 

 

P Portfolio Value (Starting Value) £
C/G Compliance (@ 40%) £

(40% of ‘P’)

Growth (@60%) £

(60% of ‘P’)

CI Cost Impact (2:1 for Compliance) £

(2*’C’)

VA Value Add (4:1 for Growth) £

(4*’G’)

TSF Total so far £

(‘C’+’G’+’CI’+VA’)

D Disruption (@20% of initial Portfolio value) £

(20% of ‘TSF’)

F Failure Factor (10% of Growth – planned value add) £

(10% of ‘VA’)

TP True Portfolio Value £

(‘TSF’+’D’+’F’)

 

 

TAKE THE TEST: Run the numbers and ‘do the math’ and then step back and take in the figure at the end

There you have it – the truth, the whole truth, and most likely, scarily nothing but the truth.

Tailwind Project Solutions was formed in 2014 to provide a bespoke approach to project leadership development. Owned by Director & CEO Alex Marson, the organisation works with large FTSE 250 clients including some of the biggest companies in the world in the Asset Management, Professional Services, Software, Automotive, Finance and Pharmaceutical industry.  The company has a team of world-class experts who provide a bespoke approach to the challenges that our clients have, and the company was formed because of a gap in the market for expertise which truly gets to the heart of the issues clients are facing – providing a robust, expert solution to change the way that companies run their projects.

At the time, the market was becoming flooded with training companies, providing a ‘sheep dip’ approach to project management, and the consensus was that This didn’t solve the real challenges that businesses and individuals are experiencing in this ever-increasing complex world of project management. The vision was to hand-pick and work with the very best consultants, trainers and coaches worldwide so that Tailwind could make a difference to their clients, to sit down with them, understand their pain points, what makes them tick, and what is driving their need for support.

These challenges being raised time and time again are in the project leadership space, from communication issues, not understanding stakeholder requirements or having the confidence to “push back”, lack of sponsorship support, working across different cultures, languages, levels of capability and complexity. We expect more from our project managers – we expect them to inspire, lead teams and be more confident.

Tailwind’s experience is vast, from providing interim resources in the project and programme management space, supporting the recruitment process, experiential workshops, coaching – from project managers through to executives, providing keynote speakers, implementing PPM Academies, PM Healthchecks and Leadership development. The approach is created often uniquely – to solve the real challenges of each of their individual clients.

http://tailwindps.com/

Professionalise Project Management

August 1, 2017

The following is an extract from my new book ‘How to get Fired at the C-Level: Why mismanaging change is the biggest risk of all’ in association with my friends at Tailwind Project Solutions – the extracts follow a series of 5 Challenges that I think every organisation should consider, and consider very carefully – this is the final of the five challenges:

Invest in great project management skills – not just project managers

And how can you Invest in great project management skills? Perhaps we might begin with the PMO.

Since PMOs lead the project management community – either directly or indirectly, according to your PMO model (see appendices) – then by considering what the best PMOs offer we can gain some insight and see that:

  • The best PMOs have consistent, repeatable PM practices across the enterprise. All projects are held to the same standards and requirements for success. They have also eliminated redundant, bureaucratic PM practices that have slowed down projects
  • The best PMOs have the most experienced PMs in place and have a program underway to recruit the best PMs, develop their existing PMs into the best and to maintain this level of quality and experience
  • The best PMOs sponsor training and facilitate communities of practice to promote PM best practices in their organisations. Such communities of practice provide PMs with a forum to share their knowledge and share experiences

You can see that is not just a matter of recruiting the best project managers. That helps of course, as does developing the best project managers. Nor is it just having the best sponsors in place (we have covered that in some detail already), although having the best sponsors means that there should be a path for project managers to become sponsors.

It is not just about the provision of a ‘lean’ framework for these sponsors and project managers to work to – and by ‘lean’ I mean that every part should add value and not create unnecessary waste.

And it is not only about having a great project community – think way wider than just project managers in that community – or about having amazing education, mentoring, coaching or any means to raise skills.

It is about having all the above and anything else you can constructively think of providing to create an environment that provides and celebrates great project management skills.

To understand Challenge 5 further take a look at these three arguments:

  1. Project Management will always be a niche capability
    1. It’s the skill and experience of the individual project manager that makes or breaks a project;
    2. The need for success means that projects have to be driven by a ‘niche capable’ project manager;
    3. General managers will never have the time, the experience, the training, or indeed the skills, to manage any project beyond that which is simple in its goals;
    4. No executive gets promoted because of their project management skills; they get promoted for other reasons. Executives do not need project management skills but project sponsorship and product ownership skills.
  2. Project management is a core skill
    1. If you believe, as most evidence is now directing us, that we are moving to the ‘projectification’ of society, where work is less and less a line activity and delivered in the majority through projects, then it is clearly vital that all managers now understand the dynamics of projects and have basic skills and understanding of the process of project management to make the most out their organisation’s investments;
    2. All managers need to think in terms of controlled and carefully monitored delivery of outcomes, against a fixed budget and expectations of a quality outcome, that is as projects;
  3. Project management is both a niche capability and a core skill
    1. Project management methodology is a ‘core skill’ that all managers need to be aware of but, the actual project management activity is still a ‘niche capability’, for which additional training and experience are required to be successful;
    2. Managing a small, simple project is no big deal and most people can do it. Managing a large, complex project with substantial risk, diverse stakeholders, a geographically distributed team, multiple constraints and high stakes is best reserved for experts;
    3. The successful business of the twenty-first century recognises the value of niche project managers working under a supportive executive that has a foundation of project core skills.

I personally believe that there will always be a need for project managers, but what is also needed these days is a new management capability of successful project delivery. One man can’t do it all on his own (even Batman has Robin by his side).

All of which, I believe will make you reconsider the full project delivery capability within your own organisation, and then consider how well you and your organisation are supporting these project leaders.

To completely address Challenge 5 – invest in great project management skills – not just project managers – for as many people as possible to ensure that ‘projects’ are appropriately understood, and supported as a consequence.

We have now explored the five key challenges

  1. The challenge of investing in the right portfolio dashboard (getting a good and accurate view from the very top);
  2. The challenge of investing in real professional project sponsorship or executive leadership (project sponsors are from Venus if you remember);
  3. The challenge of investing at the C-level in a chief projects officer and, ideally, a PMO (added to the C-level);
  4. The challenge of investing in the means to know the true status of your strategic change/project investment (having good analysis and good reporting)
  5. The challenge of investing in professionalising the project capability and competence within your organisation (professionalise your project management).

It is now time to take stock, and to assess your own organisation’s position regarding these five challenges.

In the subsequent blogs we will cover five test points to apply against these 5 elements before moving on to describe five simple steps to move forward with all of the above in a controlled manner.

Tailwind Project Solutions was formed in 2014 to provide a bespoke approach to project leadership development. Owned by Director & CEO Alex Marson, the organisation works with large FTSE 250 clients including some of the biggest companies in the world in the Asset Management, Professional Services, Software, Automotive, Finance and Pharmaceutical industry.  The company has a team of world-class experts who provide a bespoke approach to the challenges that our clients have, and the company was formed because of a gap in the market for expertise which truly gets to the heart of the issues clients are facing – providing a robust, expert solution to change the way that companies run their projects.

At the time, the market was becoming flooded with training companies, providing a ‘sheep dip’ approach to project management, and the consensus was that This didn’t solve the real challenges that businesses and individuals are experiencing in this ever-increasing complex world of project management. The vision was to hand-pick and work with the very best consultants, trainers and coaches worldwide so that Tailwind could make a difference to their clients, to sit down with them, understand their pain points, what makes them tick, and what is driving their need for support.

These challenges being raised time and time again are in the project leadership space, from communication issues, not understanding stakeholder requirements or having the confidence to “push back”, lack of sponsorship support, working across different cultures, languages, levels of capability and complexity. We expect more from our project managers – we expect them to inspire, lead teams and be more confident.

Tailwind’s experience is vast, from providing interim resources in the project and programme management space, supporting the recruitment process, experiential workshops, coaching – from project managers through to executives, providing keynote speakers, implementing PPM Academies, PM Healthchecks and Leadership development. The approach is created often uniquely – to solve the real challenges of each of their individual clients.

http://tailwindps.com/

July 27, 2017

The following executive sponsorship development methodology has been designed and proven by Peter Taylor – find out more peter.b.taylor@btinternet.com

Critical to any project’s success is having a good project manager. We all know that, but then it is also pretty important to have a good project sponsor: but like the saying goes ‘you can pick your friends but you can’t pick you relatives’. The same might be said of project sponsors.

It has been my experience that the skill profile of project managers continues to grow, and more and more organisations are investing in project managers in a disciplined and mature manner. But the same cannot always be said of project sponsors; many wrongly believe that project sponsor is just a figurehead – never called to actual duty – and for these reasons I concluded some time ago that we are in the age of the ‘accidental project sponsor’.

But how do you effectively go about developing project sponsors inside an organisation? In my book ‘Strategies for Project Sponsorship’ (Management Concepts 2013) I uncovered the reality – 85% of organisations had project sponsors in place, yet 83% of these organisations did nothing to help, train, support, guide, or develop these sponsors, and yet 100% of these same organisations recognised that having a good project sponsor was critical to project success! Go figure!

But the challenge is that these sponsors, these executive leaders, are ‘too cool for school’. And so, I have developed a process, or methodology, that recognises that a different approach is required to raise necessary standards in project sponsorship (see figure above).

Stage 1 Preparation work

Here it is important to collect some background into the current project success rates and issues, and taking comment on the ‘health’ of project sponsorship inside an organisation

Aligning terminology used (for the workshop)

Gathering any sponsorship templates or guidelines in place

Agreeing format/timing/delivery of the workshop

Stage 2 Workshop

Here the key is to take a collective of the executive leadership on a journey of understanding of the importance and value of project sponsorship in general – not to target individuals or to challenge specifics; but only to reach consensus that ‘investment in sponsorship is needed’, and that ‘there is real value in this investment’ for the business

Delivery of the workshop

Summarising output and recommendations

Stage 3 Project Manager Development

Here the key for project managers, whilst the ongoing project sponsorship is happening, is to empower them to work effectively with the sponsors they have right now. Development would include; what role a sponsor should play and what good sponsorship looks like, how to understand the sponsor they have right now and how to work more effectively with them, understanding the role that project managers should play in developing project sponsorship inside their own organisation, and recognising (at a personal level) what is needed to make the transition from project manager to project sponsor.

Stage 4 Sponsor Coaching

Here, once the awareness workshop is completed, then the most productive way I have found to work the existing project sponsors is through one-to-one coaching. Away from the glare of their peers and in privacy of their own offices, many are more open to change and also open to asking for help and guidance of becoming better project sponsors. This allows for a very personal, private, and focused engagement to bring the best possible outcome with regards to sponsorship capability; it also offers the opportunity to identify ‘good sponsors’ and ‘good sponsorship behaviour’ to use as a showcase for others.

Stage 5 Project Manager Surgery

Here there is the realisation that this is not a one-time solution and there will be questions and challenges. To follow up on the project management training regarding sponsorship, the open offer of a ‘surgery’ perhaps one month later, allows the project managers to come back with questions and requests for help with regards to the sponsors they are working with on a day to day basis. This, in turn, contributes to the effectivity of the one-to-one coaching of the same project sponsors with whom the project managers are working with.

Stage 6 – Health Check

Here it is good to take a step back and consider, objectively, the progress that has been made, and what needs further effort of focus and, of course, to celebrate success and progress amongst sponsors and project managers. If there are areas requiring further effort, then make the necessary plans at this stage. But if reasonable improvements are recognisable, now is perhaps a great time to bring the communities together in some way in a combined acknowledgement of joint achievement.

A final part – Future Project Sponsorship Development

The key to all of this is the need for organisations to acknowledge that the projects they sanction are the ones they believe will deliver the business’s strategic objectives. To succeed in these initiatives, then it is logical that they would want these projects to be as low-risk as possible and key, if not critical. Part of this low-risk management strategy is to invest in and support great project sponsors – now and in the future. Therefore, to formalise project sponsorship development can be considered the best possible investment for future change.

Peter Taylor is a PMO expert who has built and led four global PMOs across several industries, and has advised many other organisations in PMO and PM strategy.

He is also the author of the number 1 bestselling project management book ‘The Lazy Project Manager’, along with many other books on project leadership, PMO development, project marketing, project challenges and ‘Strategies for Project Sponsorship’.

In the last 5 years, he has delivered over 250 lectures around the world in over 25 countries and has been described as ‘perhaps the most entertaining and inspiring speaker in the project management world today’.

His mission is to teach as many people as possible that it is achievable to ‘work smarter and not harder’ and to still gain success in the battle of the work/life balance.

More information can be found at www.thelazyprojectmanager.com – and through his free podcasts in iTunes.

Lazy but looking to be Busy

July 7, 2017

“Life? Don’t talk to me about life.”

 So said Marvin from The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Marvin, more fully known as Marvin the Paranoid Android, is a robot manufactured by the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation. He is equipped with “Genuine People Personalities”  technology which is designed to make him more like a person. Marvin is a severely depressed robot. He’s regularly so depressed that, when he gets bored and talks to other computers, they commit suicide and die.

And life, others say, is what happens to you whilst you are busy making other plans. That is very true in my own very recent experience as I am now back out in the big wide working world seeking new challenges and new opportunities.

 After two and half great years investing heavily in a Global PMO and in project and program management, the company I was working for have done a complete U-Turn and abandoned project management as a primary focus and, as a result, don’t feel the need for a Head of Global PMO. Warning to all you PMO leaders out there, you are never completely safe…

 And so, I speak to my world wide network of friends, peers, colleagues, and social acquaintances to seek any and every opportunity to continue my work in PMOs, project management development, and delivery of change.

 Speaker – Trainer – Workshops – General scaring the hell out of C-level executives – MC – Event host and/or manager, PMO development and re-engineering, and, well, pretty much anything else related to the project world – that’s me.

 Anything I can help you and your company with, anywhere in the world, then please get in touch and get the Lazy Guy back being Busy (and productively lazy) once again.

 Thank you. Peter

 

 

Peter Taylor is a PMO expert who has built and led four global PMOs across several industries, and has advised many other organisations in PMO and PM strategy.

He is also the author of the number 1 bestselling project management book ‘The Lazy Project Manager’, along with many other books on project leadership, PMO development, project marketing, project challenges and executive sponsorship.

In the last 5 years, he has delivered over 250 lectures around the world in over 25 countries and has been described as ‘perhaps the most entertaining and inspiring speaker in the project management world today’.

His mission is to teach as many people as possible that it is achievable to ‘work smarter and not harder’ and to still gain success in the battle of the work/life balance.

More information can be found at www.thelazyprojectmanager.com – and through his free podcasts in iTunes.

Know the value of your change

July 3, 2017

The following is an extract from my new book ‘How to get Fired at the C-Level: Why mismanaging change is the biggest risk of all’ in association with my friends at Tailwind Project Solutions – the extracts follow a series of 5 Challenges that I think every organisation should consider, and consider very carefully:

Challenge 4 – Invest in good analysis and good reporting

A great place for your new CPO, newly appointed after completing Challenge 3, to start perhaps is in ‘Project intelligence’.

We will come on to the definition of this term in one moment but to begin we need to clearly differentiate Challenge 1 – Invest in the right portfolio management, which was all about knowing what your true portfolio value is. Challenge 4 is all about correctly understanding the status and the health of that portfolio, and all the projects and programs that make up that portfolio.

This is ‘Project Intelligence’.

There are probably as many definitions of intelligence as there are experts who study it. Simply put, however, intelligence can be described as the ability to learn about, learn from, understand, and interact with one’s environment.

This general ability consists of a number of specific abilities including:

  • Adaptability to a new environment or to changes in the current environment
  • Capacity for knowledge and the ability to acquire it
  • Capacity for reason and abstract thought
  • Ability to comprehend relationships
  • Ability to evaluate and judge
  • Capacity for original and productive thought

Environment in this definition has a wider meaning that includes a person’s immediate surroundings, including the people around him or her. Environment in this case can also be something as small as a family, the workplace, or a perhaps a project team.

A project, as we all know, is a temporary endeavor, having a defined beginning and end (usually constrained by date, but can be by funding or deliverables, undertaken to meet unique goals and objectives, and usually to bring about beneficial change or added value. The temporary nature of projects stands in contrast to business as usual (or operations), which are repetitive, permanent or semi-permanent functional work to produce products or services.

But what if you combine ‘intelligence’ with ‘projects’, what would you achieve? Well a successful project manager certainly needs to address the specific intelligence abilities:

  • Adaptability to a new environment or to changes in the current environment – projects are all about delivering change and the ability to oversee such change requires a great degree of adaptability.
  • Capacity for knowledge and the ability to acquire it – projects also require a continuous learning process to understand the change that is being delivered, the lessons that are there to be learned. The combined knowledge of the core and extended project team offer the best platform for project success.
  • Capacity for reason and abstract thought – logical application through the methods of project management will deliver a degree of likely success, the ability to ‘think outside the box’ and supply beneficial adaptations to process and solutions will deliver the rest.
  • Ability to comprehend relationships – projects are all about people and the relationship of people with other people.
  • Ability to evaluate and judge – such is the essence of project leadership and decision making.
  • Capacity for original and productive thought – problem resolution and the comparative analysis of options is a constant need in good project management.

In all aspects, the project demands the intelligent project manager.

But what else is required to support successful project delivery, not from the individual’s perspective but from the organisation as a whole?

Here we can introduce a new term that refers to these requirements; Project Intelligence.

Project Intelligence (PI) refers to the skills, processes, technologies, applications, metrics and practices used to support successful project delivery from the organisation as a whole.

Common components of Project Intelligence include:

  • Project Management skills, maturity and certification (from project contributor through to senior project (or program) roles)
  • Project Sponsorship skills and maturity
  • Project Methodologies and practices
  • Project Management Information Systems
  • Project (or Program) Management Office (PMO) activities and focus (supportive, directive, controlling)
  • Executive/Management skills, maturity and experience in project delivery
  • Project based organisational maturity
  • Project Support technologies (Resource Management, Skills Database, Scheduling and Time Management, Cost Management etc.)
  • Project Dashboard and Reporting technologies

Project Intelligence aims to support a project based organisations successful project capability.

Whilst we may believe we understand all of these components of PI perhaps we should explore a few of them in some detail.

For example, many organisations have a growing capability in project management skills, this is the next challenge, Challenge 5 – Invest in great project management skills – but many do not specifically train beyond the project management role itself. They don’t develop great project sponsors, going back to Challenge 2 – Invest in non-accidental project sponsors – nor do they train people to undertake objective lessons learned activities either.

Executives in general have acquired project knowledge – well let’s be honest here, it tends to be project experience and usually ‘experience’ of a painful type – but few will come close to understanding the mechanics and skills of being a project leader unless they have been through the ‘project delivery’ world. This is Challenge 3 – Invest in a Chief Projects Officer in part but beyond that, why not consider some form of education – projects for the non-project managers – so that the widest audience can understand why projects are different.

And the deployment of project dashboards is, sadly, often a means to either move swiftly away back to safe operational issues if the dashboard looks ‘green’ or raise a lot of unhelpful noise when the dreaded ‘red’ appears; just when the project needs all the positive help it can get. This is this challenge, of course – Challenge 4 – Invest in good analysis and good reporting.

Project Intelligence is all about having the very best environment to nurture and deliver project success through the needed skills, processes, technologies, applications, metrics and practices.

You organisation deserves the best possible ‘knowledge’ about your change projects and therefore Project Intelligence is what you need.

Here is another thought

I saw something for the very first time the other day, and it was one of those ‘why on earth have I never seen this before it is so obvious…’ moments.

I was reviewing a portfolio dashboard at a software vendor and they, as I have seen many times in the past in many systems, offered me views by project manager, business unit, location, value, phase and so on. But then I asked, and was delighted to see (after a simple sort edit) a view of the portfolio by… yes, you guessed it, by sponsor.

And why not.

Portfolio management should be much more than just a prioritisation of projects and resources exercise. It should be the representation in projects (and programs) of the competitive strategy that will allow business executives to convert their intentions into reality.

So, this is pretty serious stuff then.

All of this is placed in the hands of project managers, and they need to be held to task and held accountable but in the words of Standish ‘The most important person in the project is the executive sponsor. The executive sponsor is ultimately responsible for the success and failure of the project’

To me, these days anyway, for the executive team to be able to view their portfolio also by project sponsor and to see who of these ‘ultimately responsible’ people are performing (and who are not, thereby putting the business strategy at risk) should be a ‘no-brainer’.

When it comes to financial accountability, it seems—at least anecdotally—that projects often go over budget, deliver late, and deliver less than was expected . . . and there are absolutely no significant consequences at sponsor level. No one appears to be accountable and no one gets removed.

Now, if something goes wrong in the ‘real’ side of the business—sales down, profits falling, share price dropping—then it seems like something will be done and someone will be held accountable. Maybe this is because this is seen as ‘real’ business and ‘real’ work and as such has to be taken seriously.

Project sponsorship needs the same strength of focus and importance of status. The success or failure of a project is a direct reflection on the sponsor as the keeper of the organisational vision.

A ‘sponsor’ view of the project portfolio is an absolute key to this in the future I believe, and fits exactly into Challenge 2 – Invest in non-accidental project sponsors and this Challenge 4 – Invest in good analysis and good reporting.

Executives; demand this today!

Tailwind Project Solutions was formed in 2014 to provide a bespoke approach to project leadership development. Owned by Director & CEO Alex Marson, the organisation works with large FTSE 250 clients including some of the biggest companies in the world in the Asset Management, Professional Services, Software, Automotive, Finance and Pharmaceutical industry.  The company has a team of world-class experts who provide a bespoke approach to the challenges that our clients have, and the company was formed because of a gap in the market for expertise which truly gets to the heart of the issues clients are facing – providing a robust, expert solution to change the way that companies run their projects.

At the time, the market was becoming flooded with training companies, providing a ‘sheep dip’ approach to project management, and the consensus was that This didn’t solve the real challenges that businesses and individuals are experiencing in this ever-increasing complex world of project management. The vision was to hand-pick and work with the very best consultants, trainers and coaches worldwide so that Tailwind could make a difference to their clients, to sit down with them, understand their pain points, what makes them tick, and what is driving their need for support.

These challenges being raised time and time again are in the project leadership space, from communication issues, not understanding stakeholder requirements or having the confidence to “push back”, lack of sponsorship support, working across different cultures, languages, levels of capability and complexity. We expect more from our project managers – we expect them to inspire, lead teams and be more confident.

Tailwind’s experience is vast, from providing interim resources in the project and programme management space, supporting the recruitment process, experiential workshops, coaching – from project managers through to executives, providing keynote speakers, implementing PPM Academies, PM Healthchecks and Leadership development. The approach is created often uniquely – to solve the real challenges of each of their individual clients.

http://tailwindps.com/