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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.

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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.

 

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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)

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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.

PMI Are some more equal than others?

May 6, 2016

‘All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others’

That was a proclamation in the novel Animal Farm, by George Orwell and I offer up, not a proclamation but a declaration, followed by a disclaimer, but beginning with a statement – and that statement is ‘I am a worried man, no let me correct that, I am a worried project manager’.

Worried that I am speaking too much, that others (like myself) are speaking too much, that we as a group might have become boring, irrelevant and potentially be doing detriment to the profession that we all love; which is the main reason we speak at events and conferences and congresses in the first place after all, at least I hope that is why…

And the declaration is I am challenging all of the project management organisations and publications around the world (you may have seen a series of articles from 2015 at the same time as the PMI EMEA Congress in London and this year I am back again just before the PMI EMEA Congress in Barcelona but that is because it is at this time of the year I reflect on what I am doing, and look at the project community around me – and so, to be very clear I am not just attacking PMI ).

And finally the disclaimer; whilst it is true that I have presented at four PMI Congresses in the past (Amsterdam 2009, Milan 2010, Washington 2010, Dallas 2011) it is now 5 years since I have spoken at any of the regional congresses, apart from PMI Australia and PMI New Zealand and, as such, I hope to be looking at this in an objective way, as an attendee rather than part of the presentational team.

So what is my concern and why am I mentioning PMI? Well I’m not just focusing on PMI but the behaviour I am concerned about seems to be rather more prevalent within PMI and PMI Congresses than others. More prevalent please note, but the rest are not free of all guilt in this matter.

Let me explain.

I go to project management conferences, a lot. I go to speak sometimes and I always go to listen and when I go to listen then I want to be entertained, educated, challenged and enthused. Often I am and occasionally I’m not. And it was through thinking about how to select the best speaker and topic that I suddenly realised that perhaps I, and therefore PMI, was playing it way too safely. Perhaps, even worse than that, they were playing a dangerous game that could all end in tears.

PMI’s global membership currently exceeds 500,000, impressive of course. But then how many of these members are represented or have an opportunity to ‘take to the stage’ at the local events, national events or regional events? Very, very, very few I would say – perhaps 200, perhaps less?

I was struck recently by a project management peer who stated ‘there is a danger of devaluing these events through lack of change and diversity of speaker, message and approach’, this is from someone who proudly describes themselves as a ‘regular attendee of PMI events around the world’.

Now I considered this a very interesting thought, and one that offered up some challenges to myself personally as clearly I am ‘out there’ and I am a ‘regular speaker’ at project management events around the world. As a representative from PMI UK stated not so long ago, I am ‘on the circuit’.

But clearly people do speak at these events, apart from myself, and you and I could probably quickly bring to mind some names of people we have seen in the past, perhaps more than once, perhaps more than a few times. And it was at this point I got worried. Yes I could easily name some people and yes I could remember seeing them more than once at congresses and yes they were interesting and ticked all of the boxes I listed earlier for defining a good speaker but … what about all of the other project management professionals out there, why don’t they have a voice? Why do the same people seem to get the chance to speak their thoughts and not the majority?

PMI (and IPMA/APM for that matter), should not be perceived as a ‘club’ who indirectly ‘help to promote’ certain individuals/organisations as ‘experts’ time and again. They instead should be seen as a safe haven for those who wish to raise their voice and be heard on their experiences and their challenges.

To bring about some further objectivity (I am trying here but it isn’t easy since I realise might be part of the problem) I conducted a simple survey[1] through LinkedIn and Twitter and this is what I found.

I started with simple positioning questions of ‘How many project management conferences had people attended in the last three years and then validated if the responses were from attendees or speakers.

As you can see a reasonable mix of respondents, both speakers and attendees ranging from none through to more than 6 conferences in the last 3 years.

Peter Taylor PMI Survey Project Management Conferences             Peter Taylor PMI Survey Project Management Conferences

I then asked one of the key questions ‘Do you feel there is a good mix of speakers at project management conferences?’, and here it began to get interesting.

Peter Taylor PMI Survey Project Management Conferences

As you can see only 9% said ‘always’ so you could take from this that 91% think the opposite but really we should look at the 21% who declared ‘not often’ and ‘never’ – why do people feel this to be the case?

I offered survey respondents the opportunity to make some comment here and what was said included:

  • Yes for most conferences, the mix is quite good
  • Depends on how well conference organisers have analysed audience needs and identified tracks with specialised PM information
  • I see a trend of having more and more people who have more polish than substance giving talks at conferences
  • It also seems that there is a preference to have talks with broad appeal, this, I feel, has led to a reduced number of more technical talks on advanced topics
  • An OK mix but you do see the same old same old as well

I then extended the questioning to assess if people felt that the same people got to present too often?

Peter Taylor PMI Survey Project Management Conferences

Only 10% felt that there were always new speakers, rather low don’t you agree? 21% were happy with the mix, also I would venture rather low, and a rather concerning 68% suggested that they felt the same speakers sometimes presented too often or they were clear that the same people spoke (too often).

Comments again included:

  • Well, some speakers engage with conference leaders and hence are known well
  • It’s a bit of a club of speakers, like the board of directors – non exec and exec directors, one invites the other and vice versa
  • It depends on the conference, sometimes it is the same speakers and other times, it is mixed up well
  • I would say yes, there is mix, but the main speaker(s) tend to come from a small select group

Considering the impact that those who felt negative about this issue I asked if people were ‘voting with their feet’ by not attending future project management conferences and received the following insights:

Peter Taylor PMI Survey Project Management Conferences

22% stated that ‘yes they had stopped going because of this very ‘issue’ along with a further 18% who were thinking of not attending in the future.

Some of the associated comments included:

  • Speakers seem to be chosen based on their content or their reputation, but not their ability to inform and entertain, however, I usually find at least one speaker per conference who inspires me
  • The ones I attend are the ones with good speakers… IPMA in particular has a very poor choice of speaker
  • I believe that PM speakers must be more visionary and share concepts that expand beyond the conventional methodology, for me that means being strategic
  • The challenge is to find speakers with different perspectives and views who are good presenters
  • The key things are: [1] they have to be good, [2] deliver value, and [c] represent a rich diversity of views
  • My biggest complaint of conferences is that the description of a session does not match what is actually presented. A lot of times for the wow factor, the description is written very well and draws you in but the content is only a portion of what was described so I feel disappointed whereas if I would have known better what to expect, the content may have been fine
  • I like a mix of project professionals and non-project professionals to give insight to areas outside my profession
  • Mix of Speakers is like real life, some days are bright and wonderful, some are dark and boring, most are in between
  • It’s best when the Speakers align to the conference theme

Surely all this should make (all) conference planners sit up and pay attention?

The one comment that most caught my attention was this one:

  • I do wonder sometimes when some of these so called experts last did any practical project work?

For clarity I then removed those that had stopped attending, for whatever reason, and this gives us a somewhat terrifying future potential with 29% (almost a third) thinking about stopping attending conferences in the future because they are tired of hearing the same people (the ‘same old same old’ as previously noted).

Peter Taylor PMI Survey Project Management Conferences

Now I have to be honest, at this point the natural personal instinct is to stop and say nothing, after all it is in my own interest to bury this and not highlight something that I am a party to.

But those of you who know me will realise that once I start I have to finish and so we must continue our journey my fellow conference attendees. There is no escape from reality now.

Based on my ideas and this feedback I checked out the PMI congresses in EMEA and NA and APAC since 2010 and guess what? Yes, lots the same faces turning up year after year. If you just check the 2016 EMEA agenda you can easily find more than one person who has spoken at the same event in the last three years for example. But no names, it is not about anyone in particular but more about a concerning trend.

Using my own situation, and after talking to PMI in 2015, I learned that there was a 1 in 5 chance of speaking based on a ratio of sumissions to available slots for the 2015 congresses (no, it isn’t that simple as you will see later on). I assumed that this has increased over time due to a growth in membership and interest in speaking at these events, therefore for simplicity let us say that there has been a 1 in 3 chance of being selected anytime from 2010 to 2016. I presumed that perhaps it was lower in the early days and it is higher now but for simplicity, as I said, we will go for a 1 in 3 ratio.

So for Peter ‘The Lazy Project Manager’ Taylor to be selected as previously covered (Amsterdam 2009, Milan 2010, Washington 2010, Dallas 2011) means 1 x 3 x 3 x 3 x 3 which gives us an 81 to 1 probability, I am quite liking those odds, put me down for ten pounds, it is a reasonable gamble.

Now hold on to your hats and check out these odds… (using this 1 in 3 chance ratio)

  • 1 person to speak at 5 out of 6 of the last 6 EMEA Congresses – 243/1
  • 1 person to speak at 5 out 6 of the last 6 EMEA and NA congresses – 59,049/1
  • 1 company to speak (using multiple speakers) at the last 7 EMEA and NA Congresses – 4,782,969/1
  • 1 company to speak (using multiple speakers) 26 times at 13 Congresses in last 7 years – 2,541,865,828,329/1

I’ll take that wager, one pound down to win and I can retire tomorrow!

And for some balance:

  • Chances of winning the UK lottery 13,983,816/1

And yes, those stats are real.

I put my concerns to Cindy W. Anderson, Vice President, Brand Management at PMI [2]and she advised me that the PMI process went along two streams, in fact one was that speakers could be ‘invited’ to speak and not have to go through the call for proposals process. Now this was news to me.

  • Stream 1 is the CFP (Call for Papers) process which is formal and automated. PMI provides the following text on the website for those who wish to submit a proposal to use as a guide when drafting their documents. This is also the basis for ‘blind’ SME (subject matter expert) review of the submissions.

 

    • Proposals should provide attendees with: New skills, capabilities and behaviors to allow them to deliver successful projects; real-life examples of how technical project management skills, strategic and business-management insight and leadership capabilities that can enable organizations to execute projects, programs, and strategic initiatives effectively; or access to cutting edge tools and insights into best practices that attendees can apply to their daily work

 

  • Stream 2 is where PMI staff select speakers for some sessions, based usually on information that we need to deliver to a specific audience. In many cases, these audiences are very niche, such as R.E.P.s or those interested in business analysis, and the information is oriented toward a certification, practice guide, or other content that PMI promulgates. In some cases, people known to PMI (generally someone who is a Fellow of the Institute, or has some specific background as an Institute-level volunteer) are tapped for these types of sessions.

So are some more equal than others?

So there you have it, we are where we are but I am more worried about where we end up. I started this article by saying ‘I am a worried man, no let me correct that, I am a project manager and I am worried’.

The question comes back down to not what is good for any one speaker or company or organisation with regards to project management, and not what is good for myself or that Lazy Project Manager guy either come to think of it, but rather what is good for the project management profession as a whole and that I strongly feel is ‘diversity’.

You might say, well Peter that wasn’t a very large survey was it? Or how scientific were the questions? (and therefore the responses) and you would be correct, but the results seem to confirm my suspicions and at the very least PMI, or other, might consider conducting a more substantive piece of research – using objective external resources of course.

Either way I don’t believe you can argue against the facts I laid out about speaker selection (or pre-selection in some cases) and the mind-boggling chances of speaking that often by chance (or blind selection). I was particularly taken aback by the comment ‘people known to PMI (generally someone who is a Fellow of the Institute, or has some specific background as an Institute-level volunteer)’ as this seems to suggest that once you are in the club then you are in for good and potentially there is no room for anyone else to join.

Of course there are new speakers at these conferences, I have seen some of them so I know they exist, but I question is that enough?

I’m probably doing myself out of some work here but why not go the ‘presidential’ route and say you get to speak at (for the sake of argument) three regional or global conferences and that is it, beyond that you make way for others, and no ‘special passes’ for the select few.

Or maybe, in order to nurture new speakers, those who have presented and reached their limit might be allowed to co-present with one or two new speakers to help them on their journey, perhaps do this no more than a couple of times in order to avoid this being a new route to seeing the ‘same old same old’ again.

After all if ‘we’ are the acknowledged ‘good’ speakers of today (I am just putting myself out there, it is really your decision if I am any good or not) then where do the speakers of tomorrow come from if we stop them getting a chance to share their ‘voice’?

I feel that we might just need something radical here to stop us all ending up talking to and listening to each other in a small room somewhere in the world, with a large banner that reads ‘Global Project Management Conference’ whilst the rest of the project management profession, in their millions, gets on with the ‘day job’.

We started this with a George Orwell quote from ‘Animal Farm’ and here is another Orwell quote but from his ‘1984’ book instead:

‘He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.’

 

The future isn’t ours now is it?

What do you think?

 

 

 

 

 

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] LinkedIn/Twitter promoted ‘SurveyMonkey’ survey – April 2016 – 109 respondents

[2] May 2015

Leading and Delivering the Best PMO for your Business

March 31, 2016

As a part of the PMI Australia Conference (Adelaide 30th and 31st May) where I will be delivering a keynote on ‘The Social Project Manager’ – I will also be leading a one day master class on 1st June on ‘Leading and Delivering the Best PMO for your Business’ at Flinders University in the CBD, Adelaide.

By adding this post-conference Masterclass to your registration, you get the chance to spend a whole day learning from one of the most experienced PMO leaders in the world.

Numbers are strictly limited for the Masterclass, so please make sure you book early to guarantee your spot.

  • For Conference delegates:  $400 (full-day).
  • For non-delegates:  $600 (full-day).

As a registered delegate, it is an easy 4 steps to add a Masterclass to your registration.  Go to the online form at https://www.plevinevents.com.au/pmi2016.php

  1. tick the box “I am already registered”
  2. add your name
  3. select the Masterclass and
  4. make payment.

For further information about each Masterclass go to http://www.pmiac.org.au/masterclasses/

I look forward to meeting you in May.

EVENT MANAGEMENT

Plevin and Associates Pty Ltd

PO Box 54

BURNSIDE 5066

South Australia

 

Tel. Nat. (08) 8379 8222

Tel. Int. +61 8 8379 8222

Fax. Nat. (08) 8379 8177

Fax. Int. +61 8 8379 8177

Email: events@plevin.com.au

The Social Project Manager

February 19, 2016

A project is a temporary endeavour where people come together to work towards a common goal and purpose; it is therefore a temporary endeavour that must rely on a social system of communication and collaboration in order to succeed.

But for common purpose to be achieved there cannot be chaos.

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 on-going in many organisations that is about finding a practical balance between the challenges to traditional project management made by 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. 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 manager.

Social_PM

Based on the book The Social Project Manager: Balancing Collaboration with Centralised Control in a Project Driven World – this is the first in a series of 12 videos exploring the world of the Social Project Manager –

https://youtu.be/A-kt2umTO2U?list=PLVmvTj_zUGUpvHh2X-Ex4kVkHP6n5PYYI

 

Not my circus, not my monkey

January 8, 2016

(Original Polish translation: Nie mój cyrk, nie moje malpy)

In simple terms this means ‘Not my problem’ but let’s be honest, ‘not my circus, not my monkey’ is a whole lot more colourful to say and will definitely get you noticed when you say it.

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This thought or attitude draws us to a typical challenge for the project manager who wants to be more ‘social’ since in traditional terms a project manager would have the attitude of ‘this is my problem’ and, as a result, would get involved to resolve the issue. Now in the more ‘social’ world the project manager needs to have the attitude that the project team should be capable of resolving issues without involving the project manager in many cases. Not all of course, since some would be significant enough to escalate to the project manager level. But in general terms it is a change of focus for many project managers.

That said I have, ever since ‘The Lazy Project Manager’ was written, advocated that project managers need to trust their teams a lot more that perhaps many do, and the move towards being a social project manager demands that this is the case.

When it comes to involvement then in my other book on ‘productive laziness’ called ‘The Lazy Winner’ I speak specifically to a decision process that helps project managers, and others, assess whether any specific activity is your ‘problem’, or perhaps I should say ‘is your circus, is your monkey’ (if you can have a reverse version of the polish idiom).

There are 3 tips[1] I recommend and below I have adjusted these 3 tips to the world of the social project manager:

Tip #1: Do I want to get involved? Even if I do want to get involved, do I need to get involved?

Don’t do something just because everyone else does it or because it is the ‘usual thing to do’. Just running with the pack is never going to allow you to take control of your own time and will only lead you in to over-commitments. It will also detract from your project team’s capability and confidence in resolving questions and issues themselves, without having to always involve you, the project manager.

If you really want to change things for the better then begin by asking yourself two questions: ‘Is this really necessary I get involved?’ and ‘Is this really worth getting involved (for yourself and for the project as a whole?’

If the answer is ‘no’ to either of these questions then simply don’t! Of course there will be times when you ignore this advice because you are compelled to get involved because ‘it is the right thing to do’ but really you need to make these exceptions just that, exceptional.

Challenge yourself the very next time a decision has to be made that involves your personal time – ask those two critical questions ‘Do I need to get involved and do I want to get involved’. By addressing objectively the decision making process, rather than being swept up in enthusiasm, acceptance of delegation, or assumption that you do have to do something then you will be better prepared to a) do what is important and b) do a good job on what you accept is important.

Tip #2: Is the result or outcome worth my effort?

Only do the things with the most impact. It is all about applying the good old 80/20 rule. What are the most critical things that you need to get involved in? What is the 20% that will deliver the 80% of value (and not the other way around that most people do – often the easier actions that deliver a false sense of progress). Get the priorities right and you will achieve far more, and by prioritising this way and assessing if the outcome or output is worthwhile then you can help do what is most important.

Your time is limited (some people seem to believe that time is flexible and infinite but they also tend to over-promise and under-deliver) so invest it only in things that give you the most return on your personal investment. As with all of these guiding rules there will be exceptions.

Tip #3: Do I have to get involved myself?

Ask yourself if you really are the best possible person to do whatever it is that needs to be done or is there someone else in your project team who is better qualified than you to do this thing? Or indeed can the collective team, using social tools, address the issue or task in a far better way than you can yourself. Being honest here and thinking about the project as a whole rather than yourself will lead you to make better decisions.

The strength of saying ‘No’ should not be underestimated and saying ‘No’ can be a very positive thing, if you don’t say ‘No’, ever, then you will never achieve anything. There is the ‘what goes around comes around’ idea as well. Sometimes you shouldn’t say ‘no’ because despite the fact that you may not want to do something, need to do something and there is someone who could do it better, you do want to help out and be that team player or Good Samaritan.

Or, it is in your interests to get involved so that you can learn some new skills, in which case you may well not be the most obvious person for the job.

It is all about balance and priority. Overall you want to deal with the important stuff plus a reasonable amount of other stuff.

If you keep saying ‘yes’ then your backlog will never go down and you will spend far too much time working on the unimportant and your project team will be passive and defer always to you in your role as a project manager, in other words you won’t be a social project manager and they won’t be a social project team.

At every opportunity you must think your actions through to the end, as best that you can, and aim to optimise your personal return on your personal investment whilst at the same time maximising the project teams capability to deliver as a collective, as a social collective.

[1] In The Lazy Winner there are actually 5 tips but the latter 2 are focused in the scale and scope of involvement rather than the question of being involved or not.

#PMSELFIE

December 20, 2015

Oh you know what is coming, it is the season of goodwill and great cheer, and selfies and hashtags for sure are going to be part of this (#RESISTANCEISFUTILE), and that is fine of course.

In case you have been away from Earth recently a selfie is a self-portrait photograph, typically taken with a digital camera or more likely with a camera phone, held in the hand (or supported by one of those weird selfie sticks).  Such pictures are usually shared on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, or some other social networking site.

#selfie

OK, so back to the here and now. Selfies are fine of course and can be fun, with the appeal coming I guess from how easy they are to create and also to share, not forgetting the control they give self-photographers over how they present themselves – unlike when someone else makes you stand in a pose and say ‘cheese’ or worse, snaps away without you knowing and then proudly shows you the embarrassing results. Normally selfies are intended to be self-flattering or showcasing being with a certain other ‘significant’ person, and I say intended but we all know that ‘in the moment’ (especially when that moment is alcohol fuelled) can lead to some less than flattering outcomes even when you are supposed to be in control.

But why do we do it and what do we expect to get out of the activity?

Starting with the ‘why’ then Everyday Sociology argues that we now use selfies as a way of  projecting our identities onto others, ‘The more pictures you post of yourself promoting a certain identity—buff, sexy, adventurous, studious, funny, daring, lazy (smile) etc. – then the more likely it is that others will endorse this identity of you’. So the selfie can be a way of you demonstrating what sort of person you are, and getting others to agree with you.

And for the ‘what’ then researcher Dr. Owen Churches, from the school of psychology, Flinders University in Adelaide, who has studied the neuroscience of face perception for years states ‘Most of us pay more attention to faces than we do to anything else’ and goes on to say ‘We know experimentally that people respond differently to faces than they do to other object categories’.

So by focusing on the facial image and by projecting the image we want to show then we would hope to get others attention and to gain a positive response back as well as a reinforcement of the image we desire.

But at this time of year why not consider the opportunity of a project management ‘selfie’ that is less the image that we wish to believe we are and more of a chance to consider what we truly represent in the project business world right now and, as a positive result, identify just one aspect that we would aim to improve in the coming year, think of it perhaps as a New Year’s ‘PM’ resolution of improvement, something that will make us all better project managers in 12 months’ time.

So I wish you all the best at this special time of year and why not, along with all of the other festive activities, sneak in a quick #PMSELFIE

The Project Managers’ Theme Tune

October 13, 2015

What should the theme tune be for all project managers?

A while ago ran a survey to find out the answer to this critical question and all of you PMs out there in project management world climbed aboard the bandwagon and voted in your thousands.

At the end of stage one of the LinkedIn discussions I had 187 suggested tunes and by the end of the full campaign over 200 tunes. No one can argue that the project management musical taste was not a full and varied one for sure!

There was even a purpose built (or rather penned) offering in the shortlist from ‘Mr IPM Day’ himself, Frank Saladis – The Project Manager Blues. Beyond that we had suggestions ranging from classical to heavy metal and through punk and new wave and many more, such as ‘Bob the Builder’ and ‘The Muppets’ theme tunes.

Number 1

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The winner was, only just – it was a close battle between the top two songs throughout the competition – Mission Impossible by Lalo Schifrin. Congratulations to that old classic (I know there have been updates with Limp Bizkit and half of U2 but the original is the best).

You know when this won out I thought ‘hey that is a pretty negative song … is that what all of my fellow PMs think? We are just trying to do something impossible?’

If you analyse the songs in the long list (and the shortlist) and broadly categorise them as:

  • Positive/Optimistic
  • Neutral/That is just life
  • Negative/Depressive

Then you get a pretty even mix across the three categories.

But if you do the same across the final top ten songs then I would say you get an 80% score in the Positive/Optimistic camp.

Chart Song Percentage of vote
1 Mission Impossible – Lalo Schifrin/U2 6.16%
2 Under Pressure – Queen 6.11%
3 Look on the Bright Side of Life – Monty Python 4.93%
4 I will survive – Gloria Gaynor 3.59%
5 We are the champions – Queen 3.08%
6 Communication Breakdown – Led Zeppelin 2.86%
7 I Did It My Way – Frank Sinatra/Sid Vicious. 2.75%
8 We could be heroes (just for one day) – David Bowie 2.69%
9 I Promised You a Miracle – Simple Minds 2.63%
10 Eye of the Tiger (theme from Rocky) – Survivor 2.52%

 

Mission Impossible

Mission: Impossible was an American television series which chronicled the missions of a team of secret American government agents known as the Impossible Missions Force (IMF). The leader of the team was Jim Phelps, played by Peter Graves, except in the first season, during which the leader was Dan Briggs, played by Steven Hill.

A hallmark of the series shows Phelps receiving his instructions on a tape that then self-destructs, accompanied by the iconic theme music composed by Lalo Schifrin. I am pretty sure these days Health & Safety would not allow that but as a youngster it seemed a pretty exciting moment – instructions received and destroyed to protect the team.

The series aired on the CBS network from September 1966 to March 1973. It returned to television, as a revival, for two seasons on ABC, from 1988 to 1990 and later inspired a popular series of films starring Tom Cruise.

Project Impossible?

Whilst the title suggests an almost certain failure the IMF team never did fail (at least I can’t remember them failing at all).

They planned meticulously and completed a risk assessment along with contingency actions before embarking on their extreme missions.

The plans always utilised the full range of skills in the team (the regular agent line-up during the first season consisted of Cinnamon Carter (Barbara Bain), a top fashion model and actress; Barnard “Barney” Collier (Greg Morris), a mechanical and electronics genius and owner of Collier Electronics; William “Willy” Armitage (Peter Lupus), a world record-holding weight lifter; Rollin Hand (Martin Landau), a noted actor, makeup artist, escape artist, magician and “master of disguise” plus of course the leader of the team Mr Phelps, Jim Phelps (Peter Graves).

They used the latest and greatest equipment (OK so maybe they weren’t working on a restricted budget) and throughout change management was a reality as the mission variables often depended on some smart out of the box thinking on the move.

And they delivered.

On time.

(Each week).

So at the end of the day I salute all of you who voted for the Mission Impossible theme tune, a pretty damn good choice I would say.

It all started with me singing ‘Always look on the bright side of life’ and ended up with a new official and democratically selected tune to help each and every one of us in our day by day project activities.

This article will self-destruct in ten seconds time – Good Luck!