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)

That Starbucks Moment

October 23, 2016

In life it is important to celebrate everything that should be celebrated and enjoy those special moments as well.

So what is the ‘Starbucks Moment’?

Well firstly it has to be noted in the interest of objectivity that ‘there are other coffee franchises and independent stores available to you as a consumer’, I am not specifically recommending Starbuck’s, and I am not being sponsored by them either (but hey, always open to such offers) – in fact it isn’t even my usual coffee haunt (there goes the sponsorship deal) – but I experienced a ‘Moment’ in a Starbucks and so, for me, it is known as the ‘Starbucks Moment’ – name it as you wish, the ‘Nigel Moment’ or the ‘Maud Moment’ or even just the ‘Moment’, doesn’t really matter.

And the details of my own ‘Moment’ aren’t really important either but personally it was a moment of clarity and huge emotion and it was, without doubt, one of life’s special moments for me.

The coffee was OK as well, Tall Caramel Macchiato, I even had a Cheese and Marmite sarnie to go with it if you really wanted to know, but it wasn’t the coffee or the snack that had anything to do with the ‘Starbucks Moment’, these were just pleasurable incidentals.

My point on this rambling story is that we all have moments such as these, some small and some big (some perhaps even life impacting) and it should go without saying that, in these moments – or very soon afterwards – you should recognise what has happened and celebrate them in style.

alligator

In projects, it is often difficult to remember, when you are neck deep in alligators that you are there to drain the swamp – or some such similar analogy. But throughout the project lifecycle there are moments that need celebrating, and celebrating with your project team.

So take the time to identify and recognise these moments, take a breather from the whole ‘alligator’ issue and focus on the success or achievement and celebrate it. Doesn’t have to be a big party with all the works, nice when that does happen of course, but it can be small; a pat on the back, a smile and a thank you, a gift (maybe even a Starbucks gift card perhaps – now my legal representative says I have to say ‘there are other coffee franchises and independent stores available to you as a consumer’), in fact anything at all that recognises the ‘Moment’.

Speaking of alligators, I was only last week on an airboat in the Florida swamps hunting (OK well spotting) alligators – wonderful fun.

The captain of the airboat, Cap’n Fred as he was known, said about how to avoid being eaten by alligators. The common myth is that you run in zigzags as alligators can only run in straight lines but Cap’n Fred said this was rubbish and the best way to avoid being eaten by an alligator was to ‘trip up the guy next to you and then keep running’ – good joke.

In the project team world it is all about no-one being left behind because you need each and every person, and therefore one way to do this as a project manager is to spot those ‘Moments’ and celebrate them appropriately.

So my advice is make sure you know when you, or someone near you, has had a ‘Starbucks Moment’ and enjoy that moment in style.

 

 

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 http://www.thelazyprojectmanager.com – and through his free podcasts in iTunes.

Old Man Flying

October 14, 2016

OK, so this morning the postman arrived.

Well, I hear you say, what is so unusual about that Peter, surely it happens every day doesn’t it?

And yes, you are right, it does.

But today was different – it wasn’t the usual selection of bills to be paid and advertising rubbish – oh no, today I received two very conflicting messages about my life.

Let me explain.

Exhibit A

After nearly two years ‘in the air’ to the US I have reached a milestone of the highest level with Delta – which is very nice, certainly has its advantages, and is generally a good thing.

delta

Message: Busy, working, traveller, professional, valued

Now let us trip lightly across to the second letter.

The one that is somewhat contradictory to the first one.

Exhibit B

img_1488

Now, I freely admit to 35 years’ experience in project management.

I know what you are thinking young lady in the front row of the audience, how can there be so much experience crammed in to such a young and attractive body… but that is the case. And to add to that, project management was by no means my first job – go do the math (as my American colleagues would say).

And so I accept, somewhat grumpily, my increasing years – you can’t fight time after all.

But come on, an invitation to visit a Retirement Village! Seriously!

Not happening – not a plan.

Message: Time to stop being busy, think about slowing up at work, staring at the ‘no longer valued’ career/life precipice

Point

Is there a point to all of this or am I just struggling with a dilemma of my life?

Actually I think there is. I’m productively lazy, I have a fascinating and varied life with the PMO leadership role, the Lazy Project Manager speaking engagements (other topics are available so please visit my website www.thelazyprojectmanager.com), writing (yet another) book, and generally enjoying travelling the world (just off to Orlando as I write this for example) and meeting new people and so on, and so on.

A work colleague told me that I should bag a room with a big window as it will make me happier in the retirement village – bless their little cotton socks, they will be escorted out of the company very soon, trust me.

My compromise is that I will enjoy the ‘those who need more time to board the plane’ option and secure a window seat on the plane, and keep on working.

I’m not ready to give up yet.

And don’t you dare give up on us ‘Boomers’ – we know one hell of a lot after all these years.

Thank you – I’m going for short power nap now to recover.

 

Peter Taylor

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 http://www.thelazyprojectmanager.com – and through his free podcasts in iTunes.

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

y1

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.

How many licks does it take to get to the centre of a lollipop?

September 30, 2016

I saw the above recently and a) I wondered why does that matter and who cares anyway, and then I thought b) you mean someone has actually investigated this?

I saw the headline on an article from Live Science where it was explained that science now has an answer to the famous question asked in the iconic Tootsie Roll Pop commercial (no idea what that is? Well go check it out on YouTube).

The answer apparently is 1,000. Well that is one answer at least.

The article states that – From the experiments, the researchers created mathematical formulas to explain how fast the materials dissolve. Just for fun, they tackled the “How many licks?” question, and found that a lollipop with a radius of 0.4 inches (1 cm) licked at the equivalent to a flow rate of 1 cm per second would reveal its centre in about 1,000 licks. Of course, plenty of real-world factors affect that number. Online, posts about Tootsie Pop licking experiments report numbers ranging from 144 to 850 licks. “It could be 500; it could be 1,500 … It’s kind of a crude estimate,” study leader Leif Ristroph, a physicist at NYU said. “But it seems like it’s working pretty well.”

In the end though it is not how many licks does it take but it is the pleasure in enjoying the lollipop – remember that – and of course, it is all about your technique, a nibbler, a biter, a full frontal assaulter, or a take your timer. It just doesn’t matter really; the science is just the science; the lollipop is the treat.

In my recent book ‘The Social Project Manager: Balancing Collaboration with Centralised Control in a Project Driven World’ (Published by Gower) I speak about the various aspects of value that social project management, supported by social project management tools, can provide.

I note that collaboration, which is the heart of social project management, means proactively sharing and actively helping.

The best kind of mind-set a team can have is one of proactive sharing. For one thing, sharing enhances collaboration and takes away selfish “fiefdoms.” For example, instead of people hogging info and becoming roadblocks for productivity, project data can be stored in a central database for all to access.

I also observe that self-organization beats top-down management every day.

Self-organizing teams aren’t rogue cowboys doing whatever they want. They’re flexible, responsive teams that decide how best to attain goals and deadlines set forth by management. Thus team members distribute tasks amongst themselves, plan their own work schedules within the set deadlines, and may even decide who is best equipped to lead a certain project.

The goal of self-organization is to encourage self-actualization of team members: to bring out their sense of ownership of the project and their decisions. Studies have shown that if you decide on your own task load, you will feel more responsible for your work, and usually even more motivated to execute at your highest standards.

And finally I declared that communication beats guessing, I trust no-one out there is going to argue with that one?

And that brings us back to the lollipop ‘science’.

Someone has the answer – almost certainly, and if not the answer some real insight in to the potential answer or solution(s) – and therefore the wider your social network extends, the more open and inclusive you are then the faster you will be able to connect with the persons, or people, who know the answer to what you are asking.

And when they do help you out in this way – give them a lollipop, why not?

‘Back, you know, a few generations ago, people didn’t have a way to share information and express their opinions efficiently to a lot of people. But now they do. Right now, with social networks and other tools on the Internet, all of these 500 million people have a way to say what they’re thinking and have their voice be heard’ Mark Zuckerberg.

Now it was whilst writing this article that the question (urban myth it turns out to be) of ‘why don’t duck quacks echo’ came to my mind and so I asked the question, and duly received the answer.

Well the answer as provided by Salford Acoustics is that a duck’s quack does in fact echo and they did this as part of the British Association Festival of Science using ‘Daisy’ the duck. Again, check it out yourself right here.

Ask enough people and you will receive the answer, or possibly several answers, but at least you will be better informed.

 

 

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

The Open Door Policy

September 23, 2016

The importance of being accessible but in a controlled way

I’m all for being there for people, honest I am. It’s just that people take advantage of it if I am.

So for the ‘productive lazy’ project manager I would suggest that it is perfectly acceptable for the lights to be on and for no-one to be at home; not all of the time obviously, and at critical times access and visibility are all too important. But for the rest of the time, why not let the whole of the team work a few things out for themselves, take some degree of responsibility and decision making, and generally get on with the tasks at hand.

Being there when you are really needed and being there all the time are very different things indeed.

Being reachable in a controlled manner, and within an acceptable timeframe, to answer appropriate questions (and not stupid ones) is equally important. The last thing you want is a long line of people queuing up at your desk waiting to ask advice, and you phone flashing with an ever increasing number of messages, all the time whilst you inbox is reaching capacity with incoming demands for your attention.

This can lead to the ‘lights on all the time’ syndrome, a very dangerous condition:

‘What should I do now?’

‘Breath’ you might reply

‘In or out?’

You have so many other more useful things that you could be doing, like reading a good book in the comfy chair for example.

Avoid the swamp

This is linked in so many ways to the communication topic already covered. If you create a communication plan that guarantees to swamp you from day one, what is the benefit; to you or to the project?

None!

The plan should ensure you are not seen as the oracle for all matters, nor that you are the bottleneck for a constructive information flow within the project team. Most projects develop communication plans in a certain way; that is as a plan that is the documented strategy for getting the right information to the right people at the right time. We all know that each stakeholder has different requirements for information and so the plan defines what, how and how often communications should be made. What project managers rarely do is consider and map all communication flows, official, unofficial, developmental or complete, and do a load analysis across the project structure of these communication flows. Of they did they would spot bottlenecks much earlier on that they normally do, usually this is only identified when one part of the communication chain starts complaining about their workload.

Consider the open door policy

The ‘open door’ policy has become a real management cliché.

‘Of course’ managers pronounce in a firm voice’ my door is always open to you all, day or night; I’m really there for you’.

Empowerment in this way has become more an entitlement for the project team than a project manager’s choice; they just expect you to be there when they want you to be (and not even when they need you to be there either). An ‘open door’ policy can easily transform a project manager’s role from that of an authority, and managing, figure to that of a subservient accommodator with little chance for exercising control on those that demand access to them.

Be a good manager

The best manager is the probably the one who reads the paper or MSN every morning, has time enough to say ‘hi’ at the coffee machine, is isn’t always running flat out because they are ‘late for an important meeting’. By that I mean that a good (an obviously ‘productively lazy’) manager has everything running smoothly enough that they have time to read the paper or MSN and so on. This is a manager who has to be confident in their position and capabilities.

A good manager will have time for their project team, and being one who has everything running smoothly, will allow that to happen.

A good manager does not to be on hand twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. They do not have to have the answer to every question nor do they have to be the conduit to the answer to every question. There is a whole project team out there – go talk to some of them – they probably will have a much better answer to hand anyway.

Think about number one

You honestly want the best for yourself as well as for the project; I understand that, so give yourself that chance. Have you ever met a project manager who has put themselves down as a project risk? ‘Yeah, well I am just too nice a guy, can’t say no, can’t turn someone away, love to chat’ – likelihood 80%, impact 100%, mitigate now!

But hopefully by now you also want to apply the productive lazy approach so consider this; let the team deal with 80% of the communication, 80% of the questions, 80% of the issues, and let the 20% come through you for consideration and guidance. You don’t even have to ‘solve’ that 20%, I would further suggest that only 20% of this 20% are likely to be answered by yourself in an adequate manner, there are always others that can better advice.

Think about the rest

OK, you have dealt with the ‘thinking about number one’ thing, now what about your team? Well by dealing with ‘number one’ you will have already done the team a huge favour. You will be accessible when you need to be accessible. The lights will go on as and when they are really needed – it is a kind of ‘green’ project management policy.

The worse thing that can happen is that just at the moment when there is a ‘clear and present’ need for someone to speak to you, whether that be on a project or on a personal matter, you are just too tied up with a whole pile of nothing to even give them the time of day. Remember the whole ‘respect’ and ‘reputation for team support’ team thing we spoke about earlier, well this is a major contributor the that.

Analyse and reduce

And this is not a one off action; you need to keep on top of this as well. Projects change, communications develop, and roles flux. Do a quick analysis of what information and queries flow through you, and how and regularly re-assess. Can others deal with some of this? What are the important components that you should be involved in? Are there too many questions and communication from certain sources? And so on.

Make sure that everyone knows that the lights will go on and when and how they can turn that light on fast if they really need to.

A project manager’s tale about the importance of position

This one is not my tale; it is the story of a friend of mine, a friend who is, of course, a project manager. A project manager who I know to be very good at team building, a real ‘people’ person.

Picture a new project with a new project office. Apparently the company my friend was working for had reserved some brand new office space in a building that they were going to move other departments in to in the coming months. In the meantime the project team could take over one floor.

Now, I have been in many project offices over the years ranging from a single desk to a temporary office unit (grey boxes that get lifted in to place by a crane and officially described as ‘relocatable and modular accommodation’ apparently). But, by all accounts, this new building that my friend moved in to with his project team was superb.

He chose a nice new desk by a window and with a view facing the doors so that he could see all that went on, people coming and going, working (or not working I guess), and so on.

And so life was good and thus did the project move forwards in a pleasing way.

The only feature that was lacking was a decent coffee machine. They had a temporary one to begin with but the team waited with baited breath for the new, top of the range, super-dooper, hot beverage dispenser.

It arrived one week day morning, wheeled in on a trolley barrow. My friend was elsewhere at the time on important project business. When he arrived back in the project office he was somewhat surprised to see that his desk now had a new neighbour. A coffee machine.

‘Hey, grab a coffee, its great’ was the general cry from the project team. I am sure that that is what he did, before walking the two feet back to his desk.

The project office was full now and so it was too late to move desk. Oh well, a great project office with a great coffee machine was not something to make too much fuss about.

And then things went downhill:

Day 1 – People started saying ‘hello’ each time they lined up for a coffee at the machine by his desk.

Day 2 – People started conversations as they waited for their freshly simulated brewed cup of java by his desk.

Day 3 – People started sitting on his desk, whilst they waited for coffee, said ‘hello’, engaged in conversation and were generally sociable.

Day 4 – People asked him where the spare coffee cups were and what ‘error 54g’ was.

Day 5 – People asked him what the telephone number for the coffee repairman was so that they could report ‘error 54g’ and get the coffee machine fixed.

Day 10 – People started using the phone on his desk whilst waiting for a coffee etc.

Day 15 – The project manager left the building.

In actual fact he did move desks, he manage to secure a small space across the landing from the main project office. It wasn’t ideal as he was now removed from the project team but, on balance, it was better than the alternative.

It doesn’t matter that you want to run an ‘open door’ policy in order to be as accessible to everyone, if you want to get on with your job you do need some ‘space’. To be right at the centre of everything all of the time is not conducive to being a good project manager.

It was the coffee machine or the project manager, and the team made it clear that the coffee machine won hands down!

A final comment

So for the ‘productive lazy’ project manager it is perfectly acceptable for the lights to be on and for no-one to be at home; not all of the time obviously, and at critical times access and visibility are all too important. But for the rest of the time, why not let your project team work a few things out for themselves, take some degree of responsibility and decision making, and generally get on with the tasks at hand.

Being there when you are really needed and being there all the time are very different things indeed.

‘You never know till you try to reach them how accessible men are; but you must approach each man by the right door’. Henry Ward Beecher

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.

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

 

Bringing a whole new meaning to ‘Business Casual’

September 2, 2016

The other day a work colleague made the following observation to me ‘You bring a whole new meaning to business casual’ was what they actually said, and they most certainly were not referring to the clothes I was wearing at that particular time.

men-tie

Let’s start with what exactly is ‘business casual’ in the general meaning of the phrase:

noun: business casual – relating to or denoting a style of clothing that is less formal than traditional business wear, but is still intended to give a professional and business like impression.

Business casual has become the standard in many work environments in recent years but there is no general agreement on the definition of the term itself, ‘business casual’ seems to be reliant in finding the right meaning based on several factors; industry, company, number of employees, culture, internal role versus customer facing, geography, climate, local culture, age and probably a whole lot more.

But we all know someone, in the workplace, that seems to be confident in whatever they are wearing. Capable of carrying a presentation, a meeting, a conversation regardless of how the clothes that they are wearing fit, or perhaps align, to what the others in the same presentation, meeting or conversation are wearing. They have in some ways transcended ‘business casual’ or even ‘business formal’ (I am presuming that is the correct term for the opposite of business casual by the way).

I personally found myself in a situation where I had to ‘transcend’ in this way, and it didn’t immediately feel comfortable and it was as a result of a tie, or lack of tie, or more accurately a tie being in the wrong place.

I had to do a presentation at a company that I had been working at for some time as a project manager/consultant and the dress code at this organisation was ‘business casual’. But the presentation was a more formal one with some senior stakeholders from the board attending and therefore I concluded that in this situation it was more of a ‘business formal’ occasion and required a tie to be wrapped around me in a manner that I had longed enjoyed it not being wrapped.

Anyway, I selected a tie from my limited options (can you tell I am not a tie lover?) and placed it carefully over the chair in my home office the night before I had to travel up to the company location just to make sure I didn’t forget it.

As a result of my careful planning I naturally grabbed all of my necessary belongings in the early morning, phone, laptop etc, and headed up the motorway only to realise when I arrived at the visitor’s car park, and went to put the tie on, that it was in fact still safely hanging over my chair some 120 miles away. Forgotten.

Despite a panic search amongst my colleagues for a spare tie I had to enter the room with an open necked shirt and deliver my presentation.

It went very well, thank you for asking, and in the post-speaking period I was happily answering questions and generally holding court with many people, including the senior stakeholders (who wore very impressive ties I have to say) without any detrimental effect.

I, of course, tie lover that I am not, felt this proved the fact that ties are the clothing of the devil and not to be trusted near one’s neck in any situation. Christian Grey can keep them as far as I am concerned, whatever the colour.

Now of course if the dress code is say shirt but no tie, jacket optional and you turn up in torn jeans and a t-shirt this would be a really hard act to carry off but I have certainly seen some great speakers on the circuit for example who dress exactly like that, and conversely I have seen a lot of suited and booted (and collared and tie’d) speakers who were really bad. Really, really bad in some cases.

But back to where we started, the observation to me ‘You bring a whole new meaning to business casual’.

I take that as a compliment. Productive laziness is perhaps the performance related soul-sister of ‘business casual’. Being comfortable and confident in what you do, in the safe knowledge that you are indeed effective and efficient without the constraints of the organisational ‘tie and collar’ rigid processes is a good thing I believe.

So please break free and act ‘business casual’ in what you do.

Occasionally you have to follow process, there is a time and a place for casualness, and occasionally even I have to wear a tie (November 2015 was the last time I believe) but mostly you don’t and life, the business you work for, and you, are all the better for it.

 

Peter Taylor

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 http://www.thelazyprojectmanager.com – and through his free podcasts in iTunes.