Posts Tagged ‘lazy project manager’

Tips for Project Success in the Automotive Industry

September 11, 2016

A guest post by my friends at Genius Project

genius-project-logo-195-150-1

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.

Life or Laptop

August 12, 2016

In my bestselling book ‘The Lazy Project Manager[1]’ I have one chapter entitled ‘Breathe Normally’ where I describe the following situation:

You are on yet another flight, either to or from your latest project engagement, somewhere in the world. Maybe you have been lucky, maybe the flight is on time and you know your luggage is safely stored in the overhead locker, you are not seated in the middle seat between two sumo wrestlers with body odour and this flight does offer complimentary in-flight beverages.

You settle back in your seat and begin to drift in to that ‘yet another flight’ snooze, vaguely aware that the cabin crew member is, for the one thousandth time, explaining to you how to complete that complex conundrum of buckling and unbuckling your seat belt. You begin to disengage from the world around you…

But wait! The lady in the uniform, vainly talking to everyone but knowing no-one is listening in return, is about to utter a supreme piece of wisdom.

In the event of an emergency, an oxygen mask will drop in front of you from the panel above. Place the mask over your mouth and nose, straighten out the strap, and pull the strap to be sure it is tight on your face. After you are wearing it securely, a tug on the hose will start the oxygen flow. It makes sense to put your own mask on first, before helping others. Breathe normally.

Breathe normally.

To begin with I used to think that this was the craziest thing possible to say. If I was ever on a flight where the oxygen masks were to drop down you can be sure that I would place the mask over my face, pull the strap as tight as possible, tug the hose until I felt the sweet taste of oxygen flowing. But the last thing I would do would be to breathe normally. I would breathe like it was my last moments on this earth (or air at this point, earth presumably about to enter the equation in a rather nasty crashing, crushing, exploding sort of way).

Breathe normally.

Not a hope in hell!

But actually breathing normally is really, really good advice. Being calm, wasting less energy, wasting less oxygen, thinking clearly and considering the situation in a reasonable, objective manner is absolutely what is most likely to help you to survive.

In the project world when all around you are going crazy with panic then breathing normally will allow you to consider the situation, assess the core issues, plan a response and carry out the actions with the minimum amount of effort and to the maximum effect.

Emirates_logo_svg

 

I was sadly reminded of this advice when I read about the crash of Emirates Flight 521 which was a scheduled international passenger flight from Thiruvananthapuram, India, to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, operated by Emirates using a Boeing 777-300.

On 3 August 2016, the aircraft carrying 282 passengers and 18 crew crashed while landing at Dubai International Airport. All 300 people on board survived the accident and were safely evacuated from the aircraft. This, of course, is an excellent outcome considering what happened to the aircraft very shortly after the evacuation had been completed, and all credit to the crew for managing this situation.

Emirates is one of my preferred airlines and I have only positive experiences from the many miles I have journeyed under their care.

But there were some disturbing images recorded in the smoke filled plane with passengers attempting to retrieve luggage from the overhead compartments instead of focusing on the clear priority of getting everyone off the plane as quickly as possible. Perhaps this is human nature, certainly this is not the only example of this behaviour – other plane emergencies have experienced similar actions.

The thing is we all face priorities, daily, and we all have to make decisions, sometimes difficult ones, but rarely can you be faced with such a simple decision as in the case of EK521. There is nothing I own that outweighs my own life. Simple. And there is nothing I own that outweighs another person’s life either. Simple.

Breathing normally is critical and sometimes those decisions that you have to make, for yourself, and for those around you aren’t even decisions at all, there is only one answer.

Thoughts

Whilst no passenger died sadly Jassim Al Baloushi, a firefighter, died while battling the flames aboard Emirates flight EK521 and my thoughts go to his family for their loss.

Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, commented ‘We offer our condolences to the family and friends of the nation’s martyr and we pray Allah grant them patience and solace’.

Saif Al Suwaidi, director of the General Civil Aviation Authority, said: ‘I salute his ultimate sacrifice that kept many from harm’s way. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family’.

 

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

[1] https://www.amazon.com/dp/1908984554/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_x_1LxRxb8Y62D8J

Executive Project Ownership

May 25, 2016

I need your help with the research for my new book ‘ How to avoid getting Fired at the ‘C’ Level’ (working title) – looking in depth at the reality of executive level engagement and understanding of the business change that they have ultimate responsibility for, through the project portfolio that they own, for the organisations that they lead.

Your privacy is guaranteed and therefore I would hope for a completely honest response to all questions; good, bad or otherwise, plus we are only talking about 10 questions and so barely 5 minutes of your valuable time is required.

sm_primary

You can access the survey here https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/Executive_Project_Ownership

 

Thank you.

 

Peter Taylor

 

‘The Lazy Project Manager’ – author, speaker and head of a global PMO

 

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

The meaningless blog

March 31, 2016

Can I borrow you for a sec because I’m stacked? It will be a win-win situation. I have been blue sky thinking and want to keep you in the loop on my thinking outside of the box, as well as picking your brains, I’m just playing devils’ advocate on this teamwork/dreamwork idea. Will it work? Well how long is a piece of string?

Have I lost you? I suspect I have as the above paragraph includes all ten of the most annoying things people say in the office according to a survey of 2,000 people by recruitment website reed.co.uk

SONY DSC

 

Rubbish aren’t they – time for a paradigm shift, we can’t boil the ocean with limited bandwidth but there is low hanging fruit out there so let’s tee it up, circle back, take it offline and do more with less. We need to break the silos to move the needle because it is what it is. What we must do at the end of the day is run it up the flagpole, bite the bullet, peel back the layers of the onion and take it, if push comes to shove, to the bleeding edge. Making sure we are not out of pocket, which is par for the course, let’s get one throat to choke whilst opening the kimono, and synergize as we all drink the Kool Aid. Awesome!

Clearer? I think not, you have no idea what I am on about do you and no surprise. That paragraph included twenty five of the most overused phrases from Business Insider UK. The thing is that they were all once a neat and creative way of expressing a thought or an idea but overuse has made them into first clichés and then just bloody annoying things that some of our work colleagues roll out regularly on calls and at meetings, presumably because they can’t think of anything intelligent to say instead. Clichés appear to make you connected to what is going on without actually having to have any real understanding or anything of value to contribute. It is like a code that just gets you out of a tricky moment.

Question: ‘What do think of this new approach?’

Answer: ‘You have my buy-in on this particular swim lane, I like the core competency and feel empowered as a result’

Yes, I am back at it again, this time looking at the Forbes most annoying business jargon list.

There are lots of moving parts when you put your best practice ducks in a row and leverage the scalable solution from the burning platform. It is imperative that we drill down and smell the coffee in this one-stop shop because today is the day and tomorrow is our future.

Oh my, it is addictive isn’t it?

So please, be a rock star … and stop!

Think, say something meaningful, or at least rephrase that tired and needs-to-be retired cliché or you may hit the ground running with an elephant in the room and an 800 pound gorilla making you last to the party! You have been warned…

 

Give me ‘C’

March 11, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Need for Speed

February 12, 2016

Now an immediate disclaimer from me, this article really isn’t about anything to do with speed but it is a neat title I thought.

Tachometer and arrow on 7 (done in 3d)

Well when I say nothing to do with speed it does in an indirect way.

Let me explain.

This week I found myself in a cold draughty church hall with 19 other fellow humans on what is known in the UK as a ‘Speed Awareness Course’ – yes I had been caught fair and square by a speed camera sometime late last year. The National Speed Awareness Course (NSAC) scheme is designed, in the official words ‘to allow the Police to divert low-end speeding motorists to a re-education course’. The idea is that the course is designed to change the driver’s behaviour with ultimate goal of preventing the driver from reoffending in the same way.

So there you have it – guilty as charged and paying the price. I should have no complaints, and I don’t – other than why couldn’t the course have been somewhere nicer, why was I only allowed one coffee in 4 hours, why was the course 4 hours anyway when it could have been delivered in 2 hours, and why did we have to have two trainers?

All that aside and getting back to the point of this article, one of the two trainers did make a statement that started me thinking. He first asked the group ‘When did you get your driving licence and pass your driving test’ and most of us said around the age of 17 to 19, and then he asked when would we next have to be assessed for our driving skills and the common answer was ‘aged 70’ which is correct. Now even at age 70 all you have to do is apply and complete a form and you get another 3 years of driving in the middle lane on the motorways of Great Britain at 44 miles an hour (OK so that was a little stereotyping but hey you know what I mean) so no real test as such.

And here is the key – the trainer asked a final question, ‘what other activity that you have to take an exam for (practical and theory these days) can you keep doing for 53 or more years and never have to take any additional training to keep doing?’.

Now there’s a thought I indeed did think!

Consider the growth in traffic volumes in the last 50 years – consider lights, seat belts, air bags, navigational technology, brakes – consider road layouts and length of journeys undertaken – consider what that Audi A5 Sportsback I now own can do compared to my first car, a wreck of a Ford Anglia – readers can check what this actually is at their leisure but the point is it all adds up to a very different world from the point of passing a driving exam.

This is one reason I kind of like the various project management certifications out there because it is not just a matter of passing but also at renewing with evidence of practice engagement, education and contribution – I am looking at my PMP certificate as I write this (and I freely acknowledge other certifications are out there and are just as good); passed on 2nd November 2006 and renewed 3 times so far.

There must be project managers out that have taken and passed (or just stayed until the final day in some cases – you know it is true) project management courses and have never been back on any form of re-education since.

For sure practice is really, really important but I would argue that is not enough. You end up in a bubble of self-justification and personal measurement if you don’t set yourself against your peers and against the world-wide community of project managers.

Your value in the marketplace cannot be objectively measured.

And you cannot identify ways to get even better than you are, and yet there are so many ways through reading, blogs, podcasts, conferences and congresses, shared team experiences, and much, much more.

Did I at the end of the ‘Speed Awareness Course’ learn anything, yes I did and did it also remind me of some things I have forgotten, again yes it did. So was it worth it? Well yes, I just wish I taken my coat with me.

These days I am built for comfort and not for speed.

 

#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

Peanut Butter, Jelly and Project Management

December 4, 2015

One of the first things Marissa Mayer did on becoming Yahoo’s CEO and being tasked with rescuing the once mighty company was to launch an assault on unnecessary bureaucracy with the creation of ‘PB&J’.

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A play on the ‘peanut butter and jelly’ much loved in the U.S; she has cut away layers of red tape and instituted an internal online service called ‘PB&J’ which actually stands for ‘Process, Bureaucracy, and Jams’. This initiative allows employees to complain about organisational blockages and excessive overheads that slow action and decision-making.

“Jammed by problems and see a solution? We are looking at how to streamline process, reduce bureaucracy, and remove jams — PB&J!,” Mayer wrote in an internal memo.

“Share your ideas on what would make your job easier, boost your productivity and help solve problems.”

“….Do you see a problem and know how to solve it? Want to brainstorm with colleagues about what to fix and how to fix it? Give us your ideas. Or be heard loud and clear by simply voting.”

I have spoken many times on the fact that a successful project management office (PMO) should be a ‘balanced’ PMO, and this includes striking the right balance right between people and process. Both are critical to project success and both come under the remit of the PMO.

But it is the responsibility of the PMO to ‘make life better’ for the people – the project managers, so that they can effectively and efficiently do their jobs – and for the business, so that the projects are seen to be under control and delivering benefits.

Often one of the first tasks I get involved in when helping a company develop a PMO and associated project management practice is to review the methods or frameworks that they use to guide their project managers. And in many cases, I’ve found quality reviews and some control points or stages need to be put in place to improve the control.

But it is always a concern that anything added should add proportional value. For example, quality assurance should deliver quality (and not be a burdensome universally hated overhead that delivers no real benefit to anyone).

One way to do this is to think carefully when you design such a process.

The other is to follow Yahoo’s example and make sure that you have a ‘PB&J’ in place for the PMO team to let you know when you have got it wrong.