Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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/

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.

Add to the C-Level

June 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 – the extracts follow a series of 5 Challenges that I think every organisation should consider, and consider very carefully:

Challenge 3 – Invest in a Chief Projects Officer

Well it starts with strategy formulation which is no longer the annual exercise it used to be – nowadays it is an ongoing iterative activity.

And since each strategy gives birth to one or more projects this adds to the portfolio constantly. Often, it should be honestly admitted, in some form of infinite capacity model – just keep adding projects and we will sort out the resources later.

The idea of a chief project officer is not new but it can be described as ‘emerging, with more organisations investing at this level in one person to represent the change programs at the highest level. If you think about CEO’s being most often fired for mismanaging change then it is a ‘no-brainer’ you would have thought if your portfolio is a significant one and – based on Challenge 1 – Invest in the right portfolio management – it is often more significant than you might think (see previous blog).

When project management, projects and change are elevated to the ‘C’ level of importance, one of the distinct advantages is it can no longer be viewed as optional, distracting, annoying, special or unimportant by all the other business functions. A Chief Projects Officer, or whatever title you may wish to bestow on this position, should make it easier to manage change initiatives across an organisation, should reduce that organisation’s exposure to the impact and potential; realisation of major risk, and can drive lower costs through economies of scale. All of which should deliver better results across the board, with higher engagement of all stakeholders and impacted employees.

A Chief Projects Officer (CPO) is typically responsible for providing governance over an organisation’s internal projects – external, or customer facing projects can be also covered but that is entering a slightly different world – with a focus on:

  • Ensuring all projects support the current strategic objectives
  • Managing the overall portfolio risk to the organisation
  • Driving efficiencies in delivery and economies of scale
  • Managing resource requirements across the project portfolio
  • Ensuring that all change is led by a skilled professional project management community
  • Leads, and is aided by, the PMO
  • Reports to the executive team

And how can you get a ‘CPO’?

Well why not fast track one through the project world?

I have seen in the companies that I have worked for, and I am sure that you have all seen it as well, the special ones amongst us that are on a fast track up through the organisation destined for the hallowed ground of ‘C’ level appointment. We all watch in awe and wonder at the skill and ability in acquiring new skills and mastering new responsibilities and generally doing a whole better than us.

And there is nothing wrong with that at all. They experience the company as broadly as possible with experiences in finance and in sales and in marketing and in manufacturing and even sometimes in services perhaps. They get first-hand experience of the component parts of the businesses that they will one day lead and this is a valuable preparation. These are the ones identified as having future leadership potential and any company will invest in such people for their joint futures.

Sadly, I have yet to see a future ‘C’ work their way through the project arena, the PMO, the project management practise. It seems as if, when it comes down to it, that the project side of the business (as opposed to the operational side of the business) is maybe a little less important, a little less attractive?

There is a danger of course in putting a non-project person in charge of projects.

A comment from my recent PMO Survey summed it up with ‘the management in charge of the PMO are highly experienced operational managers, each with a significant and solid track record. Unfortunately, that expertise does not translate into projects where the deadlines, delivery management and interaction between different role-players are significantly more acute than in operational management’.

So perhaps the ‘C’ is not immediately destined for the PMO leadership role but surely there is a critical need for such future leaders to understand the nature of their ever increasingly project based activities.

Take an action all of you executives – talk to the ‘powers that be’ and to the fast track talent development agencies in your companies, and open up your PMO with an invitation to ‘come on in and enjoy the experience’.

In the long run it will only benefit the PMO, your projects, you yourself and, of course, the organisation. Projects are here to stay and with the increase in project activity inside organisations then really the next generation ‘C’ level should understand as much as they can about our world.

 

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/

How project management can improve your business

June 20, 2017

 

We all know that effective project management is a key contributor to a project’s success. Still, we often forget to think about the bigger consequences that project management can have on the rest of business. Working on your project management skills does a whole lot more than boost your resume, it has serious impact on your business’ bottom line. Now that’s a definite selling point for any potential employer.

Share knowledge across your company

No-one understands who works where and who knows what more than a project manager. With experience managing human resources across your projects, you’re well equipped to help a business build a culture of knowledge sharing. By using project management skills to identify where specific skill and knowledge sets are, you’re well equipped to strategically share your talents’ expertise across the organisation.

Make the most of the resources you have

By being held accountable for resources at every project phase, you become aware of where in your company resources are abundant, and where they are scarce. Project management teaches you to keep track of where human resources are and what they have to offer. You also learn the limitations and possibilities that come with managing a budget – all of which is integral to running a business. You can manage customer expectations when resources are scarce, find ways of improving productivity and reduce business costs by putting the right people in the right places.

Manage time and budget like a pro(ject manager)

Knowing how to manage a budget and keep projects tracking to deadline is one of a project manager’s most valuable skills. Managing the budget and timing for an entire business, however, is something only a project manager at the top of their game can handle. By bringing your expertise to the table, you can use your valuable skills to deliver business insights that other professionals might miss. Project managers run a tight ship, and that’s often the approach businesses need.

Strive for continuous improvement

Project managers learn to continuously improve their processes and find new, more efficient ways of completing tasks. In today’s age of disruption, businesses need this approach on a company-wide level. By implementing new processes on a company-wide level, you can instigate the change that sees profits rise and productivity skyrocket.

However, you can’t just expect everyone to jump on board straight away – and project managers know that. Great stakeholder management skills are crucial when it comes to rolling out any change or improvement in a company. Having experience managing stakeholders across teams and departments is a great card to have in your back pocket when managing a business.

Having a project management approach to managing business is more than just a nice philosophy – it’s common sense. Great project managers are well equipped to shine in the world of business. Improving your skills and applying them at an enterprise level is a sure-fire way to start your path to success.

If you’d like to improve your project manager skills, without having to leave the workforce, consider studying a Master of Project Management online at Southern Cross University Online. Flexible study loads mean that you can strengthen your experience with postgraduate study without putting life on hold.

Puppy Love

November 19, 2016

It is OK, you can relax – I am not launching in to a version of the (in)famous Donnie Osmond song, but the house has a new puppy.

pretzel

Well to be brutally honest, after only 7 days, it is really that the puppy has a new house since pretty much everything revolves around this 4 lb bundle of chaotic energy and general cuteness.

Even I, who didn’t want a dog – we have cats; cats are easy, arrogant and aloof but they show you just enough love to make sure you keep feeding them and keep the central heating on in the winter for them – yes, even I, must admit that ‘puppy’ is quite the charmer.

But my goodness has it caused disruption in the house by its arrival. The general mess, noise, piles of incredibly annoying squeaky toys (why do they have to make that awful sound), training pads lying in nearly every room and two very, very grumpy cats stalking outside are just some of the impact results. Life as usual is on hold right now.

But we will get there, it will all settle down eventually.

Anyway, you know, it reminded me of something I teach about project teams.

Long ago, Bruce Tuckman defined the stages of teams as ‘forming, storming, norming and performing’ (and now ‘mourning’ as well as project teams disband quickly and move on to other projects and other teams) – I am sure you all know about this – it has been around since 1965 (the fifth stage was added in the 1970s) – but if you don’t know this model then you should, start here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_Tuckman

But the part many project managers forget is that project teams do not (usually) all gather on day one of a project and disband on day ‘x’ at the end, instead resources come and go throughout the project and this therefore has the result of multiple disruptions to the ‘forming, storming, norming and performing’ process.

Don’t believe me? Then get a puppy…

The point is, you may have formed your core project team and successfully navigated the storming phase, normalised and might well be in that beautiful performing phase being incredibly productive when bam! A new key subject matter expert team is called in and, through no malicious intent on their part, drags the team backwords in to the storming phase most likely.

Just think about this when significant new resources come on board, and be prepared. The closer your team is the faster you will progress back to the norming stage but there will be a few days of rough progression more than likely.

And as for the puppy – I should use its name shouldn’t I – the puppy, ‘Pretzel’, will no doubt settle down, the house will settle down and normality (a new normality for sure) will resume.

Pretzel may not be the love of my life but it is rising the ranks fast damn its cute puppy fluff, deep dark eyes (it is always the eyes isn’t it), and general licky love.

I am sure I didn’t want a dog.

 

 

 

Peter Taylor

Peter Taylor is a PMO expert currently leading a Global PMO, with 200 project managers acting as custodians for nearly 5,000 projects around the world, for Kronos Inc. – a billion-dollar software organisation delivering Workforce Management Solutions.

Peter Taylor 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 4 years he has delivered over 200 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.

When Projects turn to a Tower of Babel

November 7, 2016

Different countries, multiple languages, global organizations…The challenge of international projects

shutterstock_140433208

In this day and age, international teams and projects affect most companies; and they can often be a source of headaches for project managers. They must be managed from different countries and in multiple languages.

Needless to say, international projects prove to be strategic for companies that wish to remain competitive. So, how can you manage international projects when it’s already difficult enough to carry them out locally?

By following a few basic rules, an international project is no more complicated than any other. Like all projects, two things are essential: planning and organizing.

A Tower of Babel

The biggest challenge for international projects is communication. It’s much easier to exchange with colleagues face-to-face. But since this isn’t always possible, a communication strategy needs to be put into place.

Poor communication can result in distortion, delays, or worse, a complete loss of information. This miscommunication can be fatal to a project and its trajectory.

Errors can often be attributed to a lack of communication or insufficient documentation tools. Some tools are simply not suitable for geographically disparate teams. The unorganized distribution and sharing of information via emails and document attachments, makes collaboration very difficult for the various stakeholders. And monitoring project progress, issues and processes without interruption, becomes almost impossible. To address these problems, international project teams use a communication and project management platform. This platform enables them to gather information and to work in close enough proximity to “normal” conditions, ie. managing a project team that’s in the same office.

During the establishment of a communication strategy, we recommend considering the following:

Distance:

Multinational projects involve teams and stakeholders who are geographically separated and the personal relationship with employees is almost non-existent. From a strategic point of view, regular meetings tend to enable better collaboration and therefore, the ability to react more quickly to changes and issues. Nothing is more real for managers, stakeholders or team members than the personal exchanges they have with one another. This is why it’s important to plan meetings in person when it is possible.

Language:

Usually, global teams work in a multilingual environment. And the language barriers often lead to delayed, false or imprecise information. It’s therefore essential to define a general language for communication.

Corporate Culture:

Teams located around the globe can have different management styles and ways of working. It’s important to communicate these cultural differences. This will improve team productivity for leaders and stakeholders, in order to have the right expectations when problems occur.

Time Zones:

Working with an international team requires coordinating activities across multiple time zones. Project managers must develop a strategy for providing regular meetings to communicate with certain team members of that time-zone. This way, objectives will be reported in every region. In addition, team embers can serve as informants and provide feedback to global leaders.

Access to information:

Ensuring access to relevant information for an international team is more complex for global projects. Especially since going into the office to ask a colleague a question isn’t an option! That’s why it’s important to establish specific processes, such as, documenting the details of the project and ensuring that important information is accessible to all. Quick access to information is essential for the effective management and success of a project.

As we’ve seen, international projects are subject to unique challenges in terms of communication and decision-making. It’s necessary for organizations to consider solutions to deliver projects on time and ensure customer satisfaction, despite the geographical distance of the team. Documentation and communication are essential factors. Genius Project provides a tool for document sharing, archiving, annotation and commenting on documents. The software takes the role of the connector and centralizes information. There’s no need to request the latest version of a document from colleagues who won’t be responding until the following day. The information is in good hands and the project can move forward at any time!

 

For more information on Genius Project you can visit Genius Project ‘s website.

The Social Project Manager

November 4, 2016

The Social Project Manager

Balancing Collaboration with Centralised Control in a Project Driven World

We human beings are social beings.

We come into the world as the result of others’ actions. We survive here in dependence on others.

Whether we like it or not, there is hardly a moment of our lives when we do not benefit from others’ activities.

For this reason, it is hardly surprising that most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationships with others.

Dalai Lama

Social project management is a non-traditional way of organising projects and managing project performance and progress aimed at delivering, at the enterprise level, a common goal for the business but harnessing the performance advantages of a collaborative community.

There is a paradigm shift ongoing in many organisations that is all about finding a practical balance between the challenges to traditional project management made by what is known as Project Management 2.0 – which encouraged a move away from centralised control of projects and instead promoted the value of team collaboration – and the practical recognition that large scale projects do require a stronger form of centralised control and governance.

It is this balance, if correctly made, that will take the best of both worlds and move project management into the highest levels of performance and achievement, into the world of the social project and therefore the world of the Social Project Manager.

Naturally the starting point for conversation around social project management is with the project management role itself; what does this specifically mean for any project manager, what should they think about, and should they adjust their behaviour? But let’s expand this thought process to the project team as a whole and consider how such social tools impact the team performance.

Thought: I believe that all project team members, including the project manager, who welcome any approach that reduces the amount of time invested (and for the greater part wasted) in meetings.

Add to that the ever-present challenge to project managers of getting true commitment to the project goals from contributors then an approach that achieves this will also be welcomed.

If we consider the world of the project team, of which the project is part of course but also a separate entity in itself – and one that can be constantly in flux throughout the project lifecycle with team members coming and going, joining the team with their skills and time and then leaving to return to their ‘business as usual’ roles and responsibilities.

Thought: If you have ever managed a project for any significant length of time I am sure you will recognise, as I do, that the project becomes a ‘being’ in itself and takes on a ‘life’ within the organisation and project community.

As such the concept of communicating ‘to the project’ is one that I personally find logical, it becomes in many ways ‘one of the team members’.

I feel we can think of the communication as at three levels, all interacting with each other and crossing boundaries – social means fewer boundaries after all so perhaps we should say ‘without boundaries’ – but to understand the types or themes of project conversations then the diagram below might help:

I describe these as the three elements of ‘social’ project communication – and it is critical to empower all three and provide a seamless flow of engagement, interaction, conversation, and idea generation, decision making and team-building through all channels.

peter_taylor_keynote_v3

Considering ‘social within project’

Beginning with social within project then this is the communication about the project components, the tasks, the activities, the challenges and the team members themselves, the mechanics of meetings and reports and briefings, together with the deliverables and benefits.

Everything that is to do with the project lifecycle and the end goals of the project.

When is ‘A’ required? What will happen if ‘X’ happens? Can we get help from someone on ‘Y’? Are we going ahead with ‘B’? What did we learn from ‘C’? And so on.

Here the social project management team engages with each other to share knowledge and update each other on progress, seek assurance and help, encourage and congratulate, solve problems and celebrate achievements. It should be a self-regulating activity with the team contributing and providing knowledge and wisdom to each other, it is when the sum of the parts is definitely greater that the whole.

This ‘team’ will include the project itself based on the previous insight that the project becomes itself is a “member of the project”, with whom other project members can communicate, and who can communicate with other project members.

Collective purpose is shared and reinforced through this social within project communication and, as we have seen, by using a social project management activity stream and project-centric communication, the feedback about what is going on with the project becomes nearly constant which adds to the value of this type of project communication.

Considering ‘social about project’

I noted in another of my books ‘Project Branding’[1]  that ‘I learned something very important a long time ago, when I first started out in project management: no matter how good a job you do, if you don’t let people know, then most people just won’t know!’ and I went on to advise that ‘The art of project marketing is to ensure that your project is understood, expected, appreciated, welcomed, and supported within its organizational home (and, if relevant, the wider community of stakeholders. Such acceptance is crucial to long-term success, since this is where the project deliverables will eventually be implemented, once the project has been completed. Project marketing is the proactive process of educating all stakeholders about the value of your project deliverables in order to aid successful delivery and acceptance.’

Social about project is this very world of project marketing and perhaps even project branding which is the purpose and process of ensuring that your project is well known (for good reasons) and is well understood, together with the right levels of expectations set for the widest community of stakeholders.

Considering ‘social around project

Think of your own working day, today or yesterday – it doesn’t matter. Now think about how much of the day, at the start over your first coffee, when you bumped in to so and so at the water cooler, at the start of that meeting with the team from the other building, or when you joined that conference call with the remote users… how much of that time was spent in talking about non-project matters? Non-work matters actually. How many minutes during each event and how many hours in the day?

This doesn’t make you a bad working or lazy, it makes you human. Human to human interaction is social in its very nature.

Humans are in fact highly social beings. We all like to be surrounded by friends and family and co-workers and we all valuing being able to share our own personal experiences with others, and to hear what others wish to share with us in return. In fact the recent appearance of all of the various social tools, and their incredibly rapid adoption illustrates the fundamental desire for social belonging and interpersonal exchange.

Therefore it has to accepted that whatever ‘project’ or ‘business’ orientated social tools that you provide will also be used (hopefully respectfully) for ‘around project’ social communication and this is actually a good thing.

It helps bond team members (we will see this in the later section around remote and virtual teams) and adds an honest ‘human’ aspect to the communication. This in turn can only aid the project.

Therefore, looking at these three elements of ‘social’ project communication, I believe that the best social project managers, the ones who understand the value and potential of this new social world, will be the ones that combine these elements into one cohesive communication experience.

To a degree it is a leap of faith and perhaps very different from how project managers have gone about the job in the past.

Thought: One of the significant issues that I uncover which project managers who have only just started on the project management journey is the bad practice of channeling as much communication as possible through themselves, thereby creating a bottleneck for decision making and an unnecessary burden to the time of the project manager

It is a time of change and, as discussed, there is a paradigm shift ongoing with a move away from centralised control of projects and a rise in the value of team collaboration for many organisations and therefore project managers.

It is about taking the best of both the traditional project world and the opportunity of the new social project world, the world of the Social Project Manager.

 

social_pm

The Social Project Manager, Balancing Collaboration with Centralised Control in a Project Driven World Dec 2015, Gower (Peter Taylor)

 

 

 

 

 

Peter Taylor is a PMO expert currently leading a Global PMO, with 200 project managers acting as custodians for nearly 5,000 projects around the world, for Kronos Inc. – a billion dollar software organisation delivering Workforce Management Solutions.

Peter Taylor 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 4 years he has delivered over 200 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.

[1] Project Branding: Using Marketing to Win the Hearts and Minds of Stakeholders; Nov 2014, RMC Publications, Inc (Peter Taylor)

The Social Project Manager’s Toolkit

October 11, 2016

What: A Social event exploring everything you need to know to collaborate effectively as a project team

When: Thursday December 1 2016 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM

Where: The Yacht London is a permanently moored 1927 luxury steam yacht with a fabulous history, situated on the North Bank of the Thames, between Embankment and Temple, in what is known as “The Mayfair of the River”, just a short distance from the Houses of Parliament it boasts magnificent views of the Thames and Southbank

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Who: A unique event with both Elizabeth Harrin (A Girls Guide to Project Management) and Peter Taylor (The Lazy Project Manage)

Why: Why should you attend? Elizabeth and Peter, will be exploring the exciting but challenging world of social project management that all companies must embrace in order to be more effective – and they will be providing you a toolkit you can use immediately

Time to book your place:

Join us in a funky social environment – relax, enjoy a glass of bubbles, afternoon tea and a 3-hour fun and practical workshop with two of the world’s leading experts on project management.

FIND OUT MORE

Here’s what will you get from this event…

  • Understand the value, in both quality deliverables and reduced waste, in adopting the social project principles
  • Learn practical steps to benefit from the social project management world
  • Develop better collaboration in your project team including:
    • choosing the right technology for the job
    • build better stakeholder relationships
    • communicate more effectively about your project
  • Receive the Social Project Manager’s Toolkit
    • A set of concepts, case studies & practical tools & templates that you can use tomorrow to help your projects adopt the ideas behind social project management

This event is taking place in a beautiful, social environment where you will be able to loosen up, engage with your peers and get ready to be seriously challenged by Elizabeth & Peter as they lead you into a future way of working, learning about and supporting your challenges, and helping you to change the way you do business.

And there will be time at the end of this workshop to chat with both authors/presenters on a 1-2-1.

BOOK YOUR PLACE TODAY

Organisations must move with the times, increase productivity, reduce employee stress levels and become smarter in the way they manage projects – it is clear that social project management is the wave of a new and better process for Project Management that can deliver all of this.

Tips for Project Success in the Automotive Industry

September 11, 2016

A guest post by my friends at Genius Project

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Automotive projects present challenges to companies with regards to time management, capacity and budgets. Here are a few ways to help put the right tools in place.

Automotive projects are often very complex. Project management software can help manage this complexity

For example: In Germany, 80 % of the project in the automotive are delivered but only 30 % of these projects are delivered without delays and meeting budget. (2014, GPM Deutsche Gesellschaft für Projektmanagement e.V., German association for project management)

Modern automotive companies are often organized in phases. This organization means they separate the actions and projects of automotive production according to APQP (Advanced Product Quality Planning), in phases or stages. One of the most practiced management methods for APQP was developed by Edget and Cooper. It consists of defining the phases and process steps, marked by checkpoints and milestones.

When choosing project management software, the automotive industry must take into account the requirements and processes of the industry. In the best case scenario, the APQP process is already integrated into the solution. A project management software, guarantees compatibility with industrial processes and standards, such as phases, milestones and APQP. By integrating these functions, the tool also supports service product development in the automotive industry, in a suitable manner.

In addition to features relating to the sector, the software also offers basic functions of project management. These basic features are not available in the same way among project management software developers. Basic functionality, for example, can be made for all members of the project within the company, but also for external access, regardless of the phase of a project or the details of planning; and at the very least, they can rapidly obtain a global vision. It also has the ability to include as many phases as required. It should be easy to make minor changes in each phase without substantial administrative involvement.

When it comes to planning timelines, Gantt charts are considered some of the most important tools offered by project management software, to visually represent phases and milestones. Project planning requires precise resource management software that’s integrated with the system. This is not only in regards to human resources, but material resources as well. Many tools take into account time sheets and show project progress, one by one.

Changes, including those related to deadlines, have a significant impact on costs, but can also have an impact on budgets. In this context, precise tracking of costs and budgets is an important criterion when choosing project management software. Precise resource planning, especially with regards to capacity and budget, is a decisive factor for project success, and should be equally considered as flexibility, ease of use and compatibility with other applications, when choosing the right software.

Genius Project is an enterprise project management solution and a market-leading software in the automotive industry, thanks to its classic features for project management.

Find out more about the powerful features of Genius Project at Genius Project

 

Communication Breakdown

June 17, 2016

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‘If you wish to persuade me, you must think my thoughts, feel my feelings, and speak my words’ Cicero, Roman orator and statesman.

The would be ‘lazy’ project manager will think very, very carefully about what they need to communicate and how they need to communicate it and why they are communicating what they are communicating.

The general guidance is that some 70-80% of a project manager’s time will be spent in communicating. That is 70-80% of their time!

So, if you play the productive lazy game at all, and you only apply it in one area of project management it makes blinding sense to do it here, in communication. This is by far the biggest activity and offers the greatest opportunity of time in the comfy chair.

Imagine if you would able to save some of that 70-80% of your time, how much more relaxed would you be?

There is, to my mind, a great book – Alpha Project Managers by Andy Crowe[1] – it talks about ‘what the top 2% know that everyone else does not’ and it certainly identifies communication as a key area that top project managers excel at.

The book, based on a survey of 5,000 project managers, states in its findings:

‘Good communication is comprised of more than how the message is delivered. The information itself, the method used, and the timing with which it is delivered all contributes to effective communication.’

Communication on a project is a two way process. You are communicating out and you are receiving communication back at you and the usual complexities of filters and noise typically confuse the process of giving and receiving clear, accurate and understandable information.

Communication is also sequential, communicated through chains of people, which will add that ‘Chinese whispers’ effect – either intentional or accidental.

Add to that the sheer volume of communication these days, email, phone calls (landline and mobile), written, presented, verbal and so on, then life can be very tough for project managers to learn what they need to learn and to share what they need to share.

I was taught a truth in my early project management days – reporting is not communicating! The fact that the critical facts and important truths are buried somewhere in a report that the right people may be in possession of does not, in any way, mean that they have received the message.

I have also learnt that to waste time and effort in ‘defensive’ and ‘offensive’ communication, typically email these days, is truly pointless and will distract the project manager from the real issues. I know building an email trail that, to put it bluntly, ‘covers your ass’ is easy to do but far better results can come from directing those same efforts in really effective communication.

Effective communication is about isolating the critical information, utilising the optimum communication method for the person (or people) that you need to communicate with, and delivering that information at the appropriate time. I would also add that to ensure that you receive the right information back to you then you need to educate people on what information you need, how you would like to receive that information and when.

Understand how communication works

Now; you can go and do your homework, you can read a book, you can attend a course, you can ‘Google‘ to your heart’s content, and you will find lots and lots and lots of information about communication[2]. I really don’t want to get too technical here but simply put, and just so that you have a basic understanding, here is a summary:

There is a source – someone/something sending out the information.

There is the medium – this is the means by which the information is sent. Maybe this is spoken or electronic (email, fax, web etc) or through the telephone, maybe it is paper based (letter, poster, memo, post-it etc), or it could be an image or visual, or a sound. It can actually be silent through a look, a smell, body language, colours, or the arrangement of text (numbers or letters).

Right then we have what is known as the receiver – someone/something that is receiving the information…

And the final part of the process is feedback – the source will not know whether the communication that has been sent has been successfully received unless some feedback is received (some action or change in behaviour).

OK, got that, easy? Well no, there is a little more (well lots more if you study the topic properly).

Communication is just not simple, there are lots of different types of medium by which to send information and the way that the receiver understands the information might be very different to that which was intended. Most of us will have received a text message from someone that was taken to mean something completely different to what was intended for example, the same can applied to email.

On top of all that there are actually barriers to communication that can add to the challenge of communicating in successful and clear way. These can include:

  • Language (you are communicating between speakers of different languages or, if in the same language there may be an imbalance in the level of those language skills, or local dialects may be in place)
  • Content (maybe there is some ‘deep space’ technical content involved or acronyms or just long words that not everyone understands. Another variant of this are the levels of knowledge and expertise of the sender and the receiver)
  • Understanding or the lack of understanding of what the receiver wants or needs (how they wish to be communicated with and what they want to communicated)
  • Feedback (there can be a level of inadequate feedback, or none at all – have you ever been on those long conference calls where nobody says anything apart from the speaker?)
  • Emotional – your very mood can cause communication interference (if you are angry or upset)
  • Quality of the information being sent
  • The medium used (resigning from your job by text is not advised for example)
  • Lack of trust or honesty in the source
  • Lack of attention from the receiver (maybe a matter of priority, the status of the source or just poor listening skills)
  • Cultural differences

There are so many that it is amazing that we can communicate as well as we do on a daily basis.

Well often I fail at this. For example, telling my three boys it is time for bed should be easy. ‘Children, it is time for bed’ – job done. In reality, they will be watching the TV or on their laptops or playing their game machines, or more typically doing all three at the same time. I will be somewhere else in the house and they won’t be listening anyway and even if they did, they would be filtering me out because they don’t want to hear this particular piece of information. And so it results in the message being sent many times, at varying ranges and volume (and accompanied by increasing threats/incentives).

Be honest and be open

So having solved all the above challenges on communication I would suggest that in order to keep the levels of successful and productive communication high then it is very important that you are both honest and open in all of your communications. Even if you cannot share everything with others you can at least be open and say that that is the situation and why.

Be honest and keep your promises, do what you say you are going to do, deliver what you say you are going to deliver. Trust is critical. The lack of trust or honesty in the source (you) is, as we have already seen, one of the barriers to communication. But if you fail someone then they are not only likely to resist future communications they are less tolerant on understanding such communications.

And finally honesty in communication should also extend to not overpromising or ‘overselling’ anything.

There is very good Swedish saying ‘Sälj inte skinnet förrän Björnen är skjuten’ which roughly translated means ‘Do not sell the skin before the bear is shot’. What is the point in successfully communicating to someone and overcoming all of the challenges that that entails, only to communicate something that isn’t even true?

Communicate in the modern way

Now I get started on the modern world. The world of emails and texts and electronic information, the world of mobile phones and Blackberry’s, the world of conference calls and webinars, the world of almost instant communication. Shouldn’t it be easy these days?

Well ‘yes’ but also ‘no’, and the ‘no’ is mainly because of three factors. One is the massive reduction in non-visual communication – email, text, phone, conference calls etc – and the less visual activity (both sending and feedback) the greater the risk of misunderstanding. You know we even try and compensate for this – think of the ‘smiley’ faces we add to emails and texts for example. Secondly there is an equally massive rise in the sheer volume of communication each day – how many emails do you get each and every day? And thirdly, the speed of communication development means less time considering the receiver(s) – in the days of letter writing far more time was put in to constructing these forms of communication – how many times have read something you originally wrote some time later and thought ‘I didn’t mean that’ or how many times have you copied someone on an email without checking the email ‘trail’?

Effective but minimal communication is always recommended.

So my ‘Top 10’ tips on being ‘productively lazy’ when comes to communication:

  1. Understand how people, individuals, each want to be communicated with and adjust your style to suit them
  2. Explain to people how you yourself want (need) to be communicated with (and why)
  3. Prioritise communication targets (if you do get temporarily overloaded reduce your communication to this list)
  4. Validate that the communication you are providing is working for the receiver – in particular for critical information does written communication need to be supported by your spoken clarification?
  5. Delegate by plan – you have a project team so you don’t have to be involved in everything (decide what you can delegate ahead and make it happen)
  6. Filter – what you do get, don’t get involved in those communications that you don’t have to and someone has just copied you on and delegate at every opportunity
  7. Delegate by action – as and when you get new topics of communication always consider who else can do this for you (and then enforce that delegation)
  8. Enjoy the real benefits of Self Resolution (I am not saying don’t do your job but actually it is amazing how many ‘issues’ or ‘questions’ can be answered or resolved without you getting involved, don’t leap in immediately, give others a chance)
  9. Don’t get involved just because it sounds interesting – ask yourself ‘do I want to get involved’ and then ‘do I need to get involved’, get involved only if you answer ‘yes’ to both those questions
  10. And now on to email, lovely, lovely email – the features and functions of Outlook are many but I personally feel this leads to many forms of abuse
    1. Firstly I would say don’t just save it – edit it – filter it – summarise it – store it, and don’t store it in Outlook, put the essence of what the email is about somewhere else for later reference. Typically I have less than 20 emails in total in Outlook at any time, but I get a lot of emails each day. By keeping the list low it is easy to see new mails coming and to deal with them almost immediately, I never feel overwhelmed this way.
    2. Many people will disagree with me regarding emails but I personally find that ‘If you have to scroll you have lost control’ so you can forget all your fancy email rules and filters and the like, I would say just deal with them and move on.
    3. And do yourself and everyone else a favour, don’t copy people just because you feel like it, don’t create ever growing distributions lists, do remove people from email lists if you can (why reply to all every time – it is not necessary), don’t use blind copy, do remove email trails that are unimportant, and don’t copy yourself on emails (if you do feel you need that sort of audit trail you are probably screwed anyway)
    4. Last but not least, if you have to forward something to someone, think about it twice, read the entire email trail carefully, and then think about it on last time before pressing the ‘send’ button. Email is great, but use it wisely.

Communicate the communication plan

Every project should have a communication plan in place. Make sure that everyone knows what this plan is and how they should be contributing to it.

Also, validate its effectiveness on a regular basis, if it needs amending do so – and let everyone know.

Reporting is not communicating

Another well known project management law, Cohn’s law, sums this up so well. The more time you spend in reporting on what you are doing, the less time you have to do anything. Stability is achieved when you spend all your time doing nothing but reporting on the nothing you are doing’.

Putting together fantastically accurate and detailed reports and sending them to anyone and everyone, is most definitely not communicating. They won’t be read, no one has the time or interest to do this, and they won’t be valued and worse, when they do contain project critical information, they will be ignored. You are wasting your time.

Conclusion

The would be ‘lazy’ project manager should think very, very carefully about what they need to communicate and how they need to communicate it and why they are communicating what they are communicating.

Remember, the general guidance is that some 70-80% of a project manager’s time will be spent in communicating. That is 70-80% of your time!

So, if you play the productive lazy game at all, and you only apply it in one area of project management then apply it here, in communication. Save some of that 70-80% of your time by applying productive rules to all of your communication and you will see the benefit very quickly.

You will be able to successfully communicate what you need to in an easier way and leave yourself free to focus on all of the other aspects of project management, or even perhaps take it easy for a few moments – you deserve it!

[1] One of the best ways to improve your performance as a PM is to hear how the best already do it.

Imagine having access to the top project managers from organizations and industries around the world. Imagine uncovering what they do, how they approach their challenges, and what they know. This book gets you inside the minds of these top managers and shares their practices, their attitudes, and their secrets.

 

This groundbreaking work is based on The Alpha Study, a landmark survey of over 5,000 project managers and stakeholders. ISBN: 0972967338 http://www.velociteach.com/books/alpha.aspx

[2] Communication is the process whereby information is imparted by a sender to a receiver via a medium. Communication requires that all parties have an area of communicative commonality. There are auditory means, such as speaking, singing and sometimes tone of voice, and nonverbal, physical means, such as body language, sign language, paralanguage, touch, eye contact, or the use of writing. Communication is defined as a process by which we assign and convey meaning in an attempt to create shared understanding. This process requires a vast repertoire of skills in intrapersonal and interpersonal processing, listening, observing, speaking, questioning, analyzing, and evaluating.

 

Peter Taylor is the author of two best-selling books on ‘Productive Laziness’ – ‘The Lazy Winner’ and ‘The Lazy Project Manager’.

In the last 4 years he has focused on writing and lecturing with over 200 presentations 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.