Posts Tagged ‘lazy project’

The true value of change

September 22, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

(40% of ‘P’)

Growth (@60%) £

(60% of ‘P’)

CI Cost Impact (2:1 for Compliance) £

(2*’C’)

VA Value Add (4:1 for Growth) £

(4*’G’)

TSF Total so far £

(‘C’+’G’+’CI’+VA’)

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

(20% of ‘TSF’)

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

(10% of ‘VA’)

TP True Portfolio Value £

(‘TSF’+’D’+’F’)

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://tailwindps.com/

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Big challenge: Getting your project team to work as a team!

February 17, 2017

A guest post by my friends at Genius Project

teams-picture

A project team is a group of people who work together on a project with a common goal. They have different skills and specializations but their work all culminates in the delivery of the project.

Numerous studies have shown that a project progresses effectively when the team is working on activities that are clearly defined and planned. While it is important to set a timetable and targets, some companies are confronted with cultural differences, dispersed geographical locations and different working methods. Teamwork is not always so simple!

Here are some tips to increase collaboration in your project team.

  • Roles and responsibilities must be set from the get go. It’s necessary for everyone to know their objectives and mission to be able to work in their role effectively. In addition, it’s important to define the project leader and who to contact in the event of a problem or change.
  • Encourage employees to share their opinion. It’s important to provide input during meetings and discussions. The team is more dynamic and responsive when the players propose solutions and share any difficulties. A team always benefits from the discussion and the different opinions are enriching.
  • Organize useful meetings. We cannot say enough that transparency is essential in project management. This transparency makes it possible to have a positive dynamic within the group. Collaborators are informed, instructions are clear and information is distributed. A meeting should only be held if there is a need. The meeting should have a simple and precise objective. It may also be recalled that the project kick-off meeting is also important for a project team. It allows team members to get acquainted.
  • Spend time as a team. Team members need to spend time together informally. Activities outside the office are essential for strengthening group dynamics. Whenever possible, this reinforces the feeling of being part of a team. Team lunches are easy to organize and equally effective.
  • Communicate. Communication is an essential criteria for successful projects. Meetings, emails, online discussion groups … there are many possibilities to ensure optimal communication when delivering a project. Email is not always an indicator of the quality of communication, and that’s where project collaboration tools come in. Genius Project offers a “wall”, akin to most social media platforms which is integrated into the project management software to facilitate communication within the team.

A connected project team is essential to successful project delivery. Organization, communication and planning enable employees to gain a global vision of the project, to understand the issues and to be more effective in their respective roles.For more information about Genius Live!

You can visit the Genius Project website.

When Projects turn to a Tower of Babel

November 7, 2016

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

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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 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.

Bangers and Mash

August 19, 2016

Now if you are from the UK you will 100% know what I am talking about, and if you are from Canada, Australia or New Zealand (I am reliably informed) you will also have a good chance of knowing what ‘bangers and mash’ are. But, if you are from elsewhere and haven’t had the personal pleasure of enjoying a mouthful of ‘bangers and mash’ (tasty) then you are probably completely confused.

For the record, ‘bangers and mash’, also known as sausages and mash, is a traditional British dish made up of mashed potatoes and (typically) fried sausages.

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The sausage part (or ‘banger’) may consist of a variety of sausage flavours made of pork or beef or a perhaps even a Cumberland sausage (if you are being posh) and the dish is sometimes served with onion gravy, fried onions, baked beans, or peas, preferably – in my personal case with ‘mushy peas’. And so we are off again aren’t we? You have no idea what mushy peas are do you? Sorry, go look it up on the world-wide web of wonder.

Why ‘banger’ I hear you ask? Well, the term is attributed to the fact that sausages made during World War I, when there were meat shortages, were made with such a high water content that were very liable to pop under high heat when cooked, whereas modern day sausages don’t have this attribute, they just sizzle, delightfully so.

I wrote an article a while ago on ‘The Business of Meaningless Words’, about the growth in bland tired and need-to-be retired clichés LinkedIn Article but there is another aspect to such ‘code’ that isn’t meaningless but still needs to be known, or translated, in order to communicate efficiently.

‘Bangers and mash’ for example is not shorthand for ‘sausages and mash’ but rather an alternative term, colloquial, perhaps even slang, but still if you say started work in an English pub that both served good beer and ‘pub grub’ food then you would need to know what it was for sure. I’d be in there ordering it!

PMI’s White Paper on Communication states ‘Communication is what allows projects — and the organization — to function efficiently. Conversely, when key players at any level fail to deliver their end of the communication bargain, projects face unnecessary risks’

And one of the levels of failure can be in not explaining terms to people who do not know them and, here’s the balance, asking what terms mean if you don’t know them or understand their meaning.

See what I did there? Yes, it is a two-way responsibility. Explain, don’t assume understanding together with ask, don’t fake understanding.

Got it? Excellent.

Right I’m off for a quick bevvy, and fancying a nice plate of bubble and squeak for supper with perhaps a chip butty on the side[1]. How about you?

 

 

 

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] You have no idea what they are either do you? Go look it up on the world-wide web of wonder.

Sharing Economy at work?

July 3, 2016

A guest post by my friends at Genius Project

The phenomenon of the sharing economy can be attributed to the likes of some popular names such as Uber and Airbnb.

The magazine Alternatives Economiques, defines it as people creating value together. This form of economy is actually developing itself in the context of social media and internet platforms. Sharing cabs, exchanging homes, sharing knowledge, borrowing supplies, sharing meals…the list is long.

Does this sharing economy have an impact on working styles?

And, what are we really sharing at work?

The question may sound naive, but it’s a question worth asking. Phone lines, emails, open workspaces…it looks like, especially in smaller companies, it’s becoming easier to share information and data. In theory, employees in an organization collaborate several times around a project. They share and comment on documents (the description of a document for example), analyze the results (if project X was not delivered successfully, we have to evaluate the reasons before launching a new project with the same partner), compare status progress (if the drawing phase is not finished, no need to launch the production), or share information on team member availabilities (if X is working on Project A this week, he will only be able to complete project B next week). The reality is in fact, quite different. We often observe that information and data are not reaching everyone in the company. The information and documents can be modified and evolve during a project. Documents can arrive with wrong information, become restricted or even disappear. The consequences are often late delivery, reduced efficiency or even disappearing information.

If our everyday lives are sharing oriented, the reality in the workplace is actually quite different. The early 2000s, we saw the development of social networks in the private sector. In 2016, we see these practices slowly making their way in the professional sphere.

When Facebook implemented Facebook @ Work, Microsoft deployed Yammer and Salesforce developed Chatter, enterprise 3.0 is gaining ground. Companies are offering more solutions in order to facilitate communication and increase collaboration within the company. A great example is JC Decaux, who recently replaced its intranet with a social platform. Software providers are now adding social functions to each of their solutions. Genius Project project management software, now has its own social collaboration platform. With Genius Live!, collaborators publish information relevant to their projects on a common wall. Documents are easier to share and emails are less in number. Social networks close the geographic gap between employees in different time zones. The company can then foster collaboration methods and share best practices. The corporate culture is also growing thanks to this collaborative innovation plan. Collaboration is part of the digital transformation. This transformation is moving full steam ahead.

Companies seek to work better together and to improve their productivity. The practices from the private sector arrive in the professional world. Now, to your posts…

To know more about Genius Project and its collaboration tools: http://www.geniusproject.com

Simply the Best

June 24, 2016

There was a very famous (at least in the UK) advertisement for a type of beer that is brewed using bottom-fermenting yeast at lower temperatures and for longer durations than those typically used to brew ales – I of course mean lager. Now, for those of you who may never have seen this advertisement, then the ‘joke’ was that whilst it was not allowed to declare that the goods a company sold and promoted were the best this Danish brewer (and their ad agency) came up with the tagline that their lager was ‘probably the best lager in the world’. Very clever – ‘probably’ the best.

Now The Lazy Project Manager received an accolade recently that, on the face of it may appear to be the exact opposite of such high praise and declaration, but which is, in my humble opinion, exactly that – high, high praise indeed. Better than even ‘probably’ the best.

With the benefit of the international success of The Lazy Project Manager book I have been extremely fortunate to secure speaking engagements in many parts of the world (still not Iceland though…hint, hint).

Now as part of this process you can get such speaking bookings typically in two ways. Someone finds you or has seen you speak, and contacts you to request your time or you submit, through some form of paper submission, an offer to speak at a future event. For example this is how the PMI Congress system works – you submit an outline presentation and, if they like the sound of it (and you) PMI request a full paper and presentation etc. Many events use such a mechanism.

So I considered a project management event in a certain part of the world and thought a) this would be good to promote The Lazy Project Manager in a new location and b) the place in question was a very attractive place to go to. This event required would-be speakers to submit a paper and once this was done that paper would be reviewed by 3 ‘peers’ in a blind review process. That is they don’t know who you are and you don’t know who they are.

All good so far and something I had done a number of times before (with a good success rate).

And so I duly submitted a ‘paper’ based on ‘The Lazy Project Manager’ to this certain event.

Now I absolutely freely admit that it was not a ‘paper’ in the official sense of the word. It was, in fact. an exact replica of a submission that gave me the opportunity to speak at a number of events around the world

This time it was not to be – my submission was rejected.

I was not overly surprised that my paper was rejected; the submission process and structure demands were a little more rigid than I had encountered beforehand, and – as I have already mentioned and come clean about – I didn’t make any additional efforts to enhance my existing paper or presentation in this particular case.

As a result I won’t be going to the ‘XXXXX’ Conference in ‘XXXXX’ after all. Not a big problem.

I was, however, a little surprised at the final review comment. As I mentioned you got three blind reviews in this process and the purpose is to a) assess for inclusion in to the event and b) offer guidance to improve the paper for a potential future submission. In my case two reviewers offered some guidance but for number three it was all too much.

What reviewer number three said was (and this is a direct quote here) ‘In short, it is among the worst paper I ever reviewed in my record’. Not even a ‘probably’ the worst – it was the worst. I am not sure they were supposed to make such an emotive declaration but they obviously felt that they had better things to do in life.

And the result?

I was a happy man.

Why aren’t I upset I hear you ask?

I had clearly plumbed new and so far unknown depths for good old reviewer number three and they just wanted to let me know – loud and clear. Well mission accomplished but I am really fine about it.

Here’s why.

Can the minority be right when the majority disagree?

Several thousand copies of The Lazy Project Manager sold around the world. 25,000 plus people have so far listened to me present and argue the value of ‘Productive Laziness’. I have had many, many great and positive points of feedback. And the world, it appears, wants to be lazy.

Is this what I aimed for?

Now, the book was conceived and written to be the antidote to the deep, dark and often depressing tomes on project management theory. It was about project management practice. It was a guide to real life project managers to help them manage themselves in a way that would ease their working life. It is about reality. And it was written to be read – easily read – and if easily read then the lessons, I hope, just as easily learnt.

‘Probably’ exactly what it is supposed to be.

It was never meant to be the subject of ‘papers’ and deeply researched matters; it was meant for the masses and the ‘coalface’ project managers.

So I thank you Reviewer number three – I salute your wisdom – and I appreciate the affirmation that I am pitching the message at the right (and useful) level.

‘The worst paper I ever reviewed’ means that I am speaking to the people I wanted to speak to – I am using the language that I wanted to use to reach these people, the project managers of the world.

The Lazy Project Manager is ‘Simply the best’, and by that I mean is it written ‘simply’ in a style that is accessible to all and it is the ‘best’ that I could do to share my experience and whatever wisdom I have gleaned on the way through project life.

I have no idea who reviewer number three is but I thank them and, should they ever wish to get in direct contact, then a copy of The Lazy Project Manager is theirs as a further ‘thank you’. They reaffirmed a key message in good communication.

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

The Art of Productive Laziness: Simply the best.

Long may it continue – it is ‘probably’ the most ‘lazy’ thing in the world.

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.

Communication Breakdown

June 17, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Understand how communication works

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be honest and be open

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

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

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

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

Communicate in the modern way

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

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

Effective but minimal communication is always recommended.

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

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

Communicate the communication plan

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

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

Reporting is not communicating

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

In the last 4 years he has focused on writing and lecturing with over 200 presentations around the world in over 25 countries and has been described as ‘perhaps the most entertaining and inspiring speaker in the project management world today’.

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

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

Project Branding

May 20, 2016

Extract from my book ‘Project Branding’ published by RMC Publications, Inc.

Project_Branding

The project name is important in setting the tone and personality of the project, and this name can be a powerful marketing tool, or even a major part of the brand for a significant project. The name should reflect the overall goals and objectives of the project—what the project is about and what it’s meant to deliver. Over time, people will subconsciously start to link the name to a set of associations they make with the project.

Consider, for example, “Project Phoenix” (how many of those have you come across?)—a good enough name and one that is often selected to show the desire to resurrect or improve some system or other. But (yes, there is a “but” in this case) what happens when the project hits issues? Then the jokes about “burning up” or “going to ashes” or “this bird is dead” might come thick and fast, and the project name becomes tainted.

In short, the project name is a valuable aid to communications inside and outside the project team. So it’s worth taking the time to think carefully about a suitable name for the project. Make sure the name conveys the following:

  • The “big idea.” What lies at the heart of the project change?
  • The vision for what this project will accomplish. Where are we going? What will the outcome be?
  • The principles behind the project. What are the key features/characteristics that will be reflected in the project deliverables?
  • The personality of the project. How do you want the project to be perceived?

Typically a name falls into one of the following four types:

Descriptive: These are names that simply say what the company or project actually does. For example, “Move” was used to label an office move, saying all that needed to be said about what was happening.

Evocative: Names in this category suggest associations with the project or company, but they don’t try to describe it precisely. For example, “Advance” is a project name that evokes thoughts of progress, things getting better, and advantage.

Abstract: These names are unusual (in the context in which they’re being used) and therefore stand out from the crowd. They make no clear reference to the nature of the project. For example, “Blue” was a project name that came about because the supplier’s primary color for their marketing material was blue, but the name eventually came to stand for a brighter horizon/future

Acronym (or abbreviation): These are contractions of a title or phrase based on the first letters of each word. The end result should be a name that is easier to say and recall than the full version, but one that still clearly relates to the organization, project, or item. A simple example might be “RED” (Rapid Enterprise Deployment), a memorable acronym with a suggestion of importance and criticality.

Here are some other tips to consider when choosing a project name:

  • First, when you are brainstorming or collecting ideas for a project name, you will need to filter the suggestions. You will need to imagine the name in various potential moments—both positive and negative—of the project’s future. How will the name stand up at these potential points in time? Will the name work in all extremes?
  • Then, ask yourself if the name is politically correct, and not just in your mind. Remember here to consider the full spectrum of stakeholders, too: both those closely related to the project and those more widely associated with the project. In these days of multi-country, multi-cultural projects, just be careful what you end up with when choosing a project name. The clever acronym that you have constructed in Portuguese or English might well be just that at home—a clever acronym. But in another country, it might just mean or translate into something completely different.
  • Make sure your project name is easy to pronounce. If people can’t say it, then they won’t use it. And make sure it isn’t awkward. Don’t, for example, misspell a word to fit an acronym. You will get fed up with people telling you that you have spelled it incorrectly.

Now, you do need to think through your project name carefully, but don’t overthink it either. Too much can be made of a project or product name, but many great names start out with humble and less thought-out origins. In the biography Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson describes how Apple founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak discussed many options for company names, including “Matrix,” “Personal Computers, Inc.,” and “Executek.” Jobs, however, had just arrived back from working on a fruit farm. He suggested “Apple” and the rest, as they say, is history.

On the other side of the marketing coin, Apple experienced some issues with the pre-Macintosh PC when it was named “Lisa” (allegedly after Jobs’s daughter). The official company line was that it stood for “Local Integrated System Architecture,” and the unofficial one was that it stood for “Lisa: Invented Stupid Acronym.”

There is a wonderful Dilbert cartoon by Scott Adams that starts with the news that the company has run out of acronyms, and so they can’t start any more projects. They can’t create any new acronyms either, because that would then be a project, and they can’t start a new project because . . .they’ve run out of acronyms!

So don’t push that one too far. Be creative, but don’t constrain yourself by trying to be too clever or to force something out as an acronym.

 

Leading and Delivering the Best PMO for your Business

March 31, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I look forward to meeting you in May.

EVENT MANAGEMENT

Plevin and Associates Pty Ltd

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BURNSIDE 5066

South Australia

 

Tel. Nat. (08) 8379 8222

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Email: events@plevin.com.au