Posts Tagged ‘lazy’

Professionalise Project Management

August 1, 2017

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

Invest in great project management skills – not just project managers

And how can you Invest in great project management skills? Perhaps we might begin with the PMO.

Since PMOs lead the project management community – either directly or indirectly, according to your PMO model (see appendices) – then by considering what the best PMOs offer we can gain some insight and see that:

  • The best PMOs have consistent, repeatable PM practices across the enterprise. All projects are held to the same standards and requirements for success. They have also eliminated redundant, bureaucratic PM practices that have slowed down projects
  • The best PMOs have the most experienced PMs in place and have a program underway to recruit the best PMs, develop their existing PMs into the best and to maintain this level of quality and experience
  • The best PMOs sponsor training and facilitate communities of practice to promote PM best practices in their organisations. Such communities of practice provide PMs with a forum to share their knowledge and share experiences

You can see that is not just a matter of recruiting the best project managers. That helps of course, as does developing the best project managers. Nor is it just having the best sponsors in place (we have covered that in some detail already), although having the best sponsors means that there should be a path for project managers to become sponsors.

It is not just about the provision of a ‘lean’ framework for these sponsors and project managers to work to – and by ‘lean’ I mean that every part should add value and not create unnecessary waste.

And it is not only about having a great project community – think way wider than just project managers in that community – or about having amazing education, mentoring, coaching or any means to raise skills.

It is about having all the above and anything else you can constructively think of providing to create an environment that provides and celebrates great project management skills.

To understand Challenge 5 further take a look at these three arguments:

  1. Project Management will always be a niche capability
    1. It’s the skill and experience of the individual project manager that makes or breaks a project;
    2. The need for success means that projects have to be driven by a ‘niche capable’ project manager;
    3. General managers will never have the time, the experience, the training, or indeed the skills, to manage any project beyond that which is simple in its goals;
    4. No executive gets promoted because of their project management skills; they get promoted for other reasons. Executives do not need project management skills but project sponsorship and product ownership skills.
  2. Project management is a core skill
    1. If you believe, as most evidence is now directing us, that we are moving to the ‘projectification’ of society, where work is less and less a line activity and delivered in the majority through projects, then it is clearly vital that all managers now understand the dynamics of projects and have basic skills and understanding of the process of project management to make the most out their organisation’s investments;
    2. All managers need to think in terms of controlled and carefully monitored delivery of outcomes, against a fixed budget and expectations of a quality outcome, that is as projects;
  3. Project management is both a niche capability and a core skill
    1. Project management methodology is a ‘core skill’ that all managers need to be aware of but, the actual project management activity is still a ‘niche capability’, for which additional training and experience are required to be successful;
    2. Managing a small, simple project is no big deal and most people can do it. Managing a large, complex project with substantial risk, diverse stakeholders, a geographically distributed team, multiple constraints and high stakes is best reserved for experts;
    3. The successful business of the twenty-first century recognises the value of niche project managers working under a supportive executive that has a foundation of project core skills.

I personally believe that there will always be a need for project managers, but what is also needed these days is a new management capability of successful project delivery. One man can’t do it all on his own (even Batman has Robin by his side).

All of which, I believe will make you reconsider the full project delivery capability within your own organisation, and then consider how well you and your organisation are supporting these project leaders.

To completely address Challenge 5 – invest in great project management skills – not just project managers – for as many people as possible to ensure that ‘projects’ are appropriately understood, and supported as a consequence.

We have now explored the five key challenges

  1. The challenge of investing in the right portfolio dashboard (getting a good and accurate view from the very top);
  2. The challenge of investing in real professional project sponsorship or executive leadership (project sponsors are from Venus if you remember);
  3. The challenge of investing at the C-level in a chief projects officer and, ideally, a PMO (added to the C-level);
  4. The challenge of investing in the means to know the true status of your strategic change/project investment (having good analysis and good reporting)
  5. The challenge of investing in professionalising the project capability and competence within your organisation (professionalise your project management).

It is now time to take stock, and to assess your own organisation’s position regarding these five challenges.

In the subsequent blogs we will cover five test points to apply against these 5 elements before moving on to describe five simple steps to move forward with all of the above in a controlled manner.

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

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

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

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

http://tailwindps.com/

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July 27, 2017

The following executive sponsorship development methodology has been designed and proven by Peter Taylor – find out more peter.b.taylor@btinternet.com

Critical to any project’s success is having a good project manager. We all know that, but then it is also pretty important to have a good project sponsor: but like the saying goes ‘you can pick your friends but you can’t pick you relatives’. The same might be said of project sponsors.

It has been my experience that the skill profile of project managers continues to grow, and more and more organisations are investing in project managers in a disciplined and mature manner. But the same cannot always be said of project sponsors; many wrongly believe that project sponsor is just a figurehead – never called to actual duty – and for these reasons I concluded some time ago that we are in the age of the ‘accidental project sponsor’.

But how do you effectively go about developing project sponsors inside an organisation? In my book ‘Strategies for Project Sponsorship’ (Management Concepts 2013) I uncovered the reality – 85% of organisations had project sponsors in place, yet 83% of these organisations did nothing to help, train, support, guide, or develop these sponsors, and yet 100% of these same organisations recognised that having a good project sponsor was critical to project success! Go figure!

But the challenge is that these sponsors, these executive leaders, are ‘too cool for school’. And so, I have developed a process, or methodology, that recognises that a different approach is required to raise necessary standards in project sponsorship (see figure above).

Stage 1 Preparation work

Here it is important to collect some background into the current project success rates and issues, and taking comment on the ‘health’ of project sponsorship inside an organisation

Aligning terminology used (for the workshop)

Gathering any sponsorship templates or guidelines in place

Agreeing format/timing/delivery of the workshop

Stage 2 Workshop

Here the key is to take a collective of the executive leadership on a journey of understanding of the importance and value of project sponsorship in general – not to target individuals or to challenge specifics; but only to reach consensus that ‘investment in sponsorship is needed’, and that ‘there is real value in this investment’ for the business

Delivery of the workshop

Summarising output and recommendations

Stage 3 Project Manager Development

Here the key for project managers, whilst the ongoing project sponsorship is happening, is to empower them to work effectively with the sponsors they have right now. Development would include; what role a sponsor should play and what good sponsorship looks like, how to understand the sponsor they have right now and how to work more effectively with them, understanding the role that project managers should play in developing project sponsorship inside their own organisation, and recognising (at a personal level) what is needed to make the transition from project manager to project sponsor.

Stage 4 Sponsor Coaching

Here, once the awareness workshop is completed, then the most productive way I have found to work the existing project sponsors is through one-to-one coaching. Away from the glare of their peers and in privacy of their own offices, many are more open to change and also open to asking for help and guidance of becoming better project sponsors. This allows for a very personal, private, and focused engagement to bring the best possible outcome with regards to sponsorship capability; it also offers the opportunity to identify ‘good sponsors’ and ‘good sponsorship behaviour’ to use as a showcase for others.

Stage 5 Project Manager Surgery

Here there is the realisation that this is not a one-time solution and there will be questions and challenges. To follow up on the project management training regarding sponsorship, the open offer of a ‘surgery’ perhaps one month later, allows the project managers to come back with questions and requests for help with regards to the sponsors they are working with on a day to day basis. This, in turn, contributes to the effectivity of the one-to-one coaching of the same project sponsors with whom the project managers are working with.

Stage 6 – Health Check

Here it is good to take a step back and consider, objectively, the progress that has been made, and what needs further effort of focus and, of course, to celebrate success and progress amongst sponsors and project managers. If there are areas requiring further effort, then make the necessary plans at this stage. But if reasonable improvements are recognisable, now is perhaps a great time to bring the communities together in some way in a combined acknowledgement of joint achievement.

A final part – Future Project Sponsorship Development

The key to all of this is the need for organisations to acknowledge that the projects they sanction are the ones they believe will deliver the business’s strategic objectives. To succeed in these initiatives, then it is logical that they would want these projects to be as low-risk as possible and key, if not critical. Part of this low-risk management strategy is to invest in and support great project sponsors – now and in the future. Therefore, to formalise project sponsorship development can be considered the best possible investment for future change.

Peter Taylor is a PMO expert who has built and led four global PMOs across several industries, and has advised many other organisations in PMO and PM strategy.

He is also the author of the number 1 bestselling project management book ‘The Lazy Project Manager’, along with many other books on project leadership, PMO development, project marketing, project challenges and ‘Strategies for Project Sponsorship’.

In the last 5 years, he has delivered over 250 lectures around the world in over 25 countries and has been described as ‘perhaps the most entertaining and inspiring speaker in the project management world today’.

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

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

Lazy but looking to be Busy

July 7, 2017

“Life? Don’t talk to me about life.”

 So said Marvin from The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Marvin, more fully known as Marvin the Paranoid Android, is a robot manufactured by the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation. He is equipped with “Genuine People Personalities”  technology which is designed to make him more like a person. Marvin is a severely depressed robot. He’s regularly so depressed that, when he gets bored and talks to other computers, they commit suicide and die.

And life, others say, is what happens to you whilst you are busy making other plans. That is very true in my own very recent experience as I am now back out in the big wide working world seeking new challenges and new opportunities.

 After two and half great years investing heavily in a Global PMO and in project and program management, the company I was working for have done a complete U-Turn and abandoned project management as a primary focus and, as a result, don’t feel the need for a Head of Global PMO. Warning to all you PMO leaders out there, you are never completely safe…

 And so, I speak to my world wide network of friends, peers, colleagues, and social acquaintances to seek any and every opportunity to continue my work in PMOs, project management development, and delivery of change.

 Speaker – Trainer – Workshops – General scaring the hell out of C-level executives – MC – Event host and/or manager, PMO development and re-engineering, and, well, pretty much anything else related to the project world – that’s me.

 Anything I can help you and your company with, anywhere in the world, then please get in touch and get the Lazy Guy back being Busy (and productively lazy) once again.

 Thank you. Peter

 

 

Peter Taylor is a PMO expert who has built and led four global PMOs across several industries, and has advised many other organisations in PMO and PM strategy.

He is also the author of the number 1 bestselling project management book ‘The Lazy Project Manager’, along with many other books on project leadership, PMO development, project marketing, project challenges and executive sponsorship.

In the last 5 years, he has delivered over 250 lectures around the world in over 25 countries and has been described as ‘perhaps the most entertaining and inspiring speaker in the project management world today’.

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

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

Know the value of your change

July 3, 2017

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

Challenge 4 – Invest in good analysis and good reporting

A great place for your new CPO, newly appointed after completing Challenge 3, to start perhaps is in ‘Project intelligence’.

We will come on to the definition of this term in one moment but to begin we need to clearly differentiate Challenge 1 – Invest in the right portfolio management, which was all about knowing what your true portfolio value is. Challenge 4 is all about correctly understanding the status and the health of that portfolio, and all the projects and programs that make up that portfolio.

This is ‘Project Intelligence’.

There are probably as many definitions of intelligence as there are experts who study it. Simply put, however, intelligence can be described as the ability to learn about, learn from, understand, and interact with one’s environment.

This general ability consists of a number of specific abilities including:

  • Adaptability to a new environment or to changes in the current environment
  • Capacity for knowledge and the ability to acquire it
  • Capacity for reason and abstract thought
  • Ability to comprehend relationships
  • Ability to evaluate and judge
  • Capacity for original and productive thought

Environment in this definition has a wider meaning that includes a person’s immediate surroundings, including the people around him or her. Environment in this case can also be something as small as a family, the workplace, or a perhaps a project team.

A project, as we all know, is a temporary endeavor, having a defined beginning and end (usually constrained by date, but can be by funding or deliverables, undertaken to meet unique goals and objectives, and usually to bring about beneficial change or added value. The temporary nature of projects stands in contrast to business as usual (or operations), which are repetitive, permanent or semi-permanent functional work to produce products or services.

But what if you combine ‘intelligence’ with ‘projects’, what would you achieve? Well a successful project manager certainly needs to address the specific intelligence abilities:

  • Adaptability to a new environment or to changes in the current environment – projects are all about delivering change and the ability to oversee such change requires a great degree of adaptability.
  • Capacity for knowledge and the ability to acquire it – projects also require a continuous learning process to understand the change that is being delivered, the lessons that are there to be learned. The combined knowledge of the core and extended project team offer the best platform for project success.
  • Capacity for reason and abstract thought – logical application through the methods of project management will deliver a degree of likely success, the ability to ‘think outside the box’ and supply beneficial adaptations to process and solutions will deliver the rest.
  • Ability to comprehend relationships – projects are all about people and the relationship of people with other people.
  • Ability to evaluate and judge – such is the essence of project leadership and decision making.
  • Capacity for original and productive thought – problem resolution and the comparative analysis of options is a constant need in good project management.

In all aspects, the project demands the intelligent project manager.

But what else is required to support successful project delivery, not from the individual’s perspective but from the organisation as a whole?

Here we can introduce a new term that refers to these requirements; Project Intelligence.

Project Intelligence (PI) refers to the skills, processes, technologies, applications, metrics and practices used to support successful project delivery from the organisation as a whole.

Common components of Project Intelligence include:

  • Project Management skills, maturity and certification (from project contributor through to senior project (or program) roles)
  • Project Sponsorship skills and maturity
  • Project Methodologies and practices
  • Project Management Information Systems
  • Project (or Program) Management Office (PMO) activities and focus (supportive, directive, controlling)
  • Executive/Management skills, maturity and experience in project delivery
  • Project based organisational maturity
  • Project Support technologies (Resource Management, Skills Database, Scheduling and Time Management, Cost Management etc.)
  • Project Dashboard and Reporting technologies

Project Intelligence aims to support a project based organisations successful project capability.

Whilst we may believe we understand all of these components of PI perhaps we should explore a few of them in some detail.

For example, many organisations have a growing capability in project management skills, this is the next challenge, Challenge 5 – Invest in great project management skills – but many do not specifically train beyond the project management role itself. They don’t develop great project sponsors, going back to Challenge 2 – Invest in non-accidental project sponsors – nor do they train people to undertake objective lessons learned activities either.

Executives in general have acquired project knowledge – well let’s be honest here, it tends to be project experience and usually ‘experience’ of a painful type – but few will come close to understanding the mechanics and skills of being a project leader unless they have been through the ‘project delivery’ world. This is Challenge 3 – Invest in a Chief Projects Officer in part but beyond that, why not consider some form of education – projects for the non-project managers – so that the widest audience can understand why projects are different.

And the deployment of project dashboards is, sadly, often a means to either move swiftly away back to safe operational issues if the dashboard looks ‘green’ or raise a lot of unhelpful noise when the dreaded ‘red’ appears; just when the project needs all the positive help it can get. This is this challenge, of course – Challenge 4 – Invest in good analysis and good reporting.

Project Intelligence is all about having the very best environment to nurture and deliver project success through the needed skills, processes, technologies, applications, metrics and practices.

You organisation deserves the best possible ‘knowledge’ about your change projects and therefore Project Intelligence is what you need.

Here is another thought

I saw something for the very first time the other day, and it was one of those ‘why on earth have I never seen this before it is so obvious…’ moments.

I was reviewing a portfolio dashboard at a software vendor and they, as I have seen many times in the past in many systems, offered me views by project manager, business unit, location, value, phase and so on. But then I asked, and was delighted to see (after a simple sort edit) a view of the portfolio by… yes, you guessed it, by sponsor.

And why not.

Portfolio management should be much more than just a prioritisation of projects and resources exercise. It should be the representation in projects (and programs) of the competitive strategy that will allow business executives to convert their intentions into reality.

So, this is pretty serious stuff then.

All of this is placed in the hands of project managers, and they need to be held to task and held accountable but in the words of Standish ‘The most important person in the project is the executive sponsor. The executive sponsor is ultimately responsible for the success and failure of the project’

To me, these days anyway, for the executive team to be able to view their portfolio also by project sponsor and to see who of these ‘ultimately responsible’ people are performing (and who are not, thereby putting the business strategy at risk) should be a ‘no-brainer’.

When it comes to financial accountability, it seems—at least anecdotally—that projects often go over budget, deliver late, and deliver less than was expected . . . and there are absolutely no significant consequences at sponsor level. No one appears to be accountable and no one gets removed.

Now, if something goes wrong in the ‘real’ side of the business—sales down, profits falling, share price dropping—then it seems like something will be done and someone will be held accountable. Maybe this is because this is seen as ‘real’ business and ‘real’ work and as such has to be taken seriously.

Project sponsorship needs the same strength of focus and importance of status. The success or failure of a project is a direct reflection on the sponsor as the keeper of the organisational vision.

A ‘sponsor’ view of the project portfolio is an absolute key to this in the future I believe, and fits exactly into Challenge 2 – Invest in non-accidental project sponsors and this Challenge 4 – Invest in good analysis and good reporting.

Executives; demand this today!

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/

Add to the C-Level

June 22, 2017

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

Challenge 3 – Invest in a Chief Projects Officer

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

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

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

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

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

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

And how can you get a ‘CPO’?

Well why not fast track one through the project world?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

http://tailwindps.com/

How project management can improve your business

June 20, 2017

 

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

Share knowledge across your company

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

Make the most of the resources you have

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

Manage time and budget like a pro(ject manager)

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

Strive for continuous improvement

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

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

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

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

Project Sponsors are from Venus

June 14, 2017

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

Challenge 2 – invest in non-accidental project sponsors

‘We are unique individuals with unique experiences’ John Gray, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus

Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus is a book written by relationship counsellor John Gray. It has sold more than 50 million copies (a handful more than my own best-selling book The Lazy Project Manager) and spent 121 weeks on the US bestseller list.

The book and its central metaphor have become a part of popular culture and so I found myself, as I thought about my ongoing (since 2011) Campaign for Real Project Sponsors, that maybe we could think of project managers and project sponsors in similar terms.

The book states that most common relationship problems between men and women result from fundamental psychological differences between the sexes. The author exemplifies this through the book’s eponymous metaphor: that men and women are from distinct planets – Mars and Venus respectively – and that each sex is in tune with its own planet’s society and customs, but those of the other are alien to it.

Now it is possible that this comes into play if, say the project manager is a man and the project sponsor is a woman. (I explored this in the book Strategies for Project Sponsorship (Management Concepts Press) with my co-authors Vicki James and Ron Rosenhead, where – at Vicki’s suggestion – we agreed to separate the roles by gender.) But for now, let’s simplify the situation by assuming that gender plays no part in this.

For project success many sources of authority boldly declare good project sponsorship is critical but sadly the reality of the situation is less than perfect sponsoring. Often – very often – project sponsors will have received no training or support for their critical role. In Strategies for Project Sponsorship we confirmed that, with 85% of organisations surveyed declaring that they had ‘sponsorship in place’ but 83% confirming the worrying truth that they did nothing to support, train or guide these project sponsors.

Many speak of the ‘accidental project manager’ but the reality is that the current generation of project sponsors can also be considered the ‘accidental project sponsors’. Although they may not have any background in project management or project-based activity, having reached a senior level within their organisation based on other achievements, they have assumed or have been given that role. Remember that there is not currently any official body of knowledge for project sponsors to help them understand best project sponsorship practices.

And yet project sponsors don’t just need to support projects; good project sponsors also support the project manager and project team. It is said that a project is one small step for a project sponsor and a giant leap for the project manager. Wouldn’t we all feel so much better if we knew that the project sponsor’s one small step would ensure that the complementary giant leap would lead to a safe and secure final landing?

The project sponsor/project manager partnership is one that needs to be built on a relationship of trust and mutual objectives.

As John Gray says, ‘If I seek to fulfil my own needs at the expense of my partner, we are sure to experience unhappiness, resentment, and conflict. The secret of forming a successful relationship is for both partners to win.’

Project sponsorship is not about an either/or situation but a win/ win, with both the project sponsor and the project manager benefiting.

It is, after all, about the project and therefore about the business benefit.

In Strategies for Project Sponsorship we found that the best of project sponsors operated in a very balanced way, being involved in the project, being objective about the project, being supportive of the project and project manager, and being reactive to project needs.

The project manager clearly needs to be equally balanced.

We also found that the best project managers understood what a good project sponsor should do and how they, as project managers, needed to behave within the reality of the partnership, and with the project sponsor that they were ‘given’. As the saying goes, ‘you can pick your friends but you can’t pick your relatives,’ and it must be appreciated that the same is true of project sponsors.

Each project sponsor (and each project manager) will be different, will be imperfect, and will have strengths and weaknesses but if the two individuals understand each other’s responsibilities and capabilities then a balanced, effective and positive relationship can be achieved (and subsequent project success). To once again quote John Gray, ‘Relationships thrive when communication reflects a ready acceptance and respect of people’s innate differences.’

This needs to be taken seriously and if the relationship is not working changes need to happen, fast.

There is some fantastic work going on with and for project managers.

We have landed on Mars and we are setting up home and making it look damn good (in most cases) but the weight of effort is all on that side of the scale. Venus, on the other hand is comparatively undeveloped and in need of a real make-over.

In ‘Project Management Institute, Inc. Pulse of the Profession™ March 2013’ it was assessed that the value impact on poor project sponsorship from the executive level had real significance. The report suggested that with regard to meeting project goals there was a +29% variance with good sponsorship in place but when there wasn’t good project sponsorship in place there was a -13% variance of project failure, that is there was a 13% greater chance of the project not delivering what was expected.

Investment in project sponsorship is evidence that the executives are taking strategy investment seriously, whereas not doing so can be seen as an example of the C-suite failing its own business and if we think about this in terms of the portfolio we valued in the previous article (we started with £20m and ended up with £105.6m remember?) doing nothing to develop good project sponsorship would mean that 13% of the value of the portfolio (£13.7m) could practically be written off from day one. Even if you only take the portfolio starting value – £20m – you are losing £2.6m.

How would your CFO feel if you asked him to take £2.6m in banknotes and stuff it in the shredder right now? If anything, not investing proper C-level support in strategy is worse than this, since besides the huge financial loss you should consider time and effort: all those people wondering what they have been working on all this time only to see negative returns.

I hope that the point is now well made – investment in professional project sponsors who see this as an integral part of their role is critical to your organisation protecting and benefiting from your portfolio of investment.

 

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/ 

A View from the Top

June 7, 2017

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

‘Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future’ John F. Kennedy

Challenge 1 – invest in the right Portfolio Management

Knowing the value of your investment in change, and the consequential cost of failure to deliver this change, is critical.

So how can you get across the message that executives need to stop failing their projects without looking like a project manager with a chip on their shoulder?

Fear is one way, so why not try this simple exercise when you get the opportunity. Putting a price on something works well, I find.

Start with your company project portfolio value (this should be a reasonable reflection of the strategic investment). For the sake of this example I am going to use pounds’ sterling but of course it works with any currency. I am also going to use a small portfolio value of say £20m; again, please insert your own figure here.

The next step will depend on the type of industry you are in but if we choose a typical regulated commercial model for a business it can be said that out of that total portfolio some projects are compliance driven and some business driven. In this example, we will use 40% as compliance and 60% as business growth projects. Therefore, in this example we have £8m invested in compliance projects and £12m in business development projects, again insert the appropriate figures for your organisation. A regulatory light organisation may devote only 20% of portfolio to compliance, with 80% devoted to growth.

You know your business so I will leave it up to you to decide.

But we don’t stop there. For each project to be sanctioned there must be a ‘value added’ benefit. For compliance projects this might be expressed better as cost impact. So, failure to deliver ‘X’ will result in a potential fine of ‘Y’, and/or a potential loss in self-certification of ‘Z’ and so on. All such failures have cost impacts. This may be a 2:1 ratio calculated as the potential penalties for non-compliance plus the actual project-investment costs. In our example this would be £8m multiplied by 2 plus the original £8m, which equals £24m.

Now for the rest of the portfolio, the business growth or development projects. There would be no point in investing £1 to gain £1, there must be a return on investment. In terms of a ratio that typically might be at around 4:1 (apply your own business factor here you should be able to find relevant figures in your business case approval process). Therefore, investing £1 would gain a return in investment of £4. Using the same maths as the compliance projects we now have in our example a total of £12m multiplied by 4 plus the original £12m, which equals £60m.

We now have a ‘true’ project portfolio value of £24m plus £60m which gets us to a chunky £84m.

And guess what? We haven’t even considered disruption of business costs during the projects. What shall we say here, maybe another 20% of the total portfolio investment, so about £16m or so? But the two types of project don’t behave in the same way. I suspect that the 40% we allocated as compliance project investment has a greater success ratio than the other projects. It is not that these projects are any more ‘healthy’ but the fear of non-compliance ensures that the company throws resources at these projects in a way that it doesn’t with the 60% that are business development projects, ensuring ‘success’ the hard (and costly) way.

Now if the compliance projects are ‘successful’ (he says smiling knowingly), then the other 60%, the growth projects, must carry even higher levels of potential failure.

Work out these figures now. In our example, we will use 10% across the whole portfolio for simplicity.

Can you work them out?

Do you have the data (the accurate and real data) to do this? If not, does that worry you? (It should.)

Looking back at our portfolio we said 40% was compliance activity and 60% was business growth but think about it, on balance how many of these growth projects represent real clear blue strategic change?

I bet that most are just to keep pace with your market and perhaps only 10% of projects represent real change. So again, if failure is the ‘norm’ and the focus on success tends towards the compliance end of the project scale, how successful is this 10% – the true change projects you have underway in the organisation?

I realise that these figures are open to interpretation and maybe my maths is a bit rough but you can see the general idea. It is a little like fantasy finances but the underlying points are that a) your portfolio is bigger than you think it is and b) unless you are in the special minority you probably don’t have a good insight into how this portfolio investment is being managed and how the organisation’s money (and future) is being protected.

In our example this takes a £20m base portfolio right the way up to £105.6m.

Extensive investment in strategy through projects needs to be backed up by real commitment to successful delivery and, whilst the development of good project managers backed up with appropriate processes and methods is critical, it is the clear responsibility of the executive leaders to connect such strategy to project activity and to sponsor these projects in a competent way.

Hopefully putting a value on the portfolio will have woken up the executives (or even you).

 

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

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

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

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

http://tailwindps.com/

How to Get Fired at the C-Level

March 3, 2017

I am delighted to announce the release of my new book – How to Get Fired at the C-Level: Why Mismanaging Change is the Biggest Risk of All

how_to_get_fired

Getting fired at the C-level is easy – and this book will tell you exactly how to go about it with ruthless efficiency.

But perhaps not getting fired is your preferred outcome and, if that is the case, then you might have a challenge or two in the arena of strategy execution since the number one reason CEOs get fired is mismanaging change!

Leading executives, it seems, do too little about strategy implementation, do not apply the appropriate level of attention to such critical organisational change, and often relegate sponsorship and leadership to lower management, whilst the c-suite get on with their ‘day jobs’.

‘How to get fired at the C-level’ will explore this challenge, and since all challenges are really opportunities, will show ways to not only significantly reduce change failures but also how to dramatically raise the capability, speed, and success rates of delivering strategic change in your organisation.

It also offers a simple means to evaluate executive engagement, and to offer a series of very practical steps to let you be the person who puts the ‘C’ for change into the ‘C’ level.

Author: Peter Taylor is 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’.

www.thelazyprojectmanager.com – free podcasts also in iTunes

New Year’s Eve

December 30, 2016

A New Year’s resolution is a tradition in which a person makes a promise to do an act of self-improvement, such as losing weight, doing exercise, giving up smoking etc

nye2

Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts apparently, and the Romans began each year by making promises to the god Janus, for whom the month of January is named. In the Medieval era, the knights took what is known as the ‘Peacock vow’ at the end of the Christmas season each year to re-affirm their commitment to chivalrous behaviour in the coming year.

But despite all of the good intentions at Midnight on the last day of the year many, if not most, do not stick to their resolutions it seems, success appears to be somewhat illusive. The most common reason for participants failing their New Years’ Resolutions, according to one piece of research, was people setting themselves unrealistic goals, while 33% didn’t keep track of their progress and a further 23% forgot about it. About one in 10 respondents claimed they made too many resolutions.[1]

A study by Richard Wiseman from the University of Bristol involving 3,000 people showed that 88% of those who set New Year resolutions fail, despite the fact that 52% of the study’s participants were confident of success at the beginning. Men achieved their goal 22% more often when they engaged in goal setting (where small measurable goals are being set; such as, a pound a week, instead of saying ‘lose weight’), while women succeeded 10% more when they made their goals public and got support from their friends.

This last year I was fortunate enough to travel to 11 countries, on a total of 51 flights (I visited some countries more than once, the US many times in fact), and covered 124,000 miles in total. I presented on many subjects including ‘The Lazy Project Manager’ (still popular after all this time), PMO leadership, Sponsorship and many more, but in 2017 I have a new resolution, one that has been nearly 12 months in the making.

My new book will be released on 13th March 2017 and it is called ‘How to get fired at the C-level’ with the sub-title of ‘Why Mismanaging Change is the Biggest Risk of All’.

The idea of the book is that it offers a simple means to evaluate executive engagement in strategic change, and to offer a series of very practical steps to let the person (or people) who puts the ‘C’ for change into the C-level.

Of course, it is all about projects but it is targeting at the highest level in organisations.

Therefore, my New Year’s Resolution is to engage at least 10 organisations at this C-level and have robust conversations with them about such matters as professional project sponsorship, investment in project management and true portfolio management, amongst other matters – check out Mars and Venus as one example of what I am talking about.

I will though, require your help to do this.

The book will be out, as I said, in March, there is a presentation developed and there are two short sharp (1-2 hours) workshop developed to engage and drive the C-level to clear understanding of challenges in this area and offer simple practical advice for improvement.

A sort of ‘How not to get fired at the C-level’ plan of action if you like.

The help I need from you, if you feel this is a challenge in your own organisation, is to get me an invitation to talk to your executives, to help them see the reality, and to help them make the necessary changes to become truly successful at strategic change delivery.

Thank you in helping me with my New Year’s Resolution.

How can I help you?

Well think of this, in the very early hours of 2017 by all means set yourself a target for personal improvement in the coming year but remember the key lessons:

  • Don’t overload yourself: Be realistic with what you can achieve perhaps set only one goal
  • Share your goals: If people know about your goal they can a) help you along the way and b) perhaps act as an incentive to keep going
  • Keep track: Think about how you will monitor your progress, remember that those small measurable goals work better than a big end year target
  • Make it happen: Don’t just set some goals then forget about them, too many people do that and achieve nothing, instead take action

 

Happy New Year to all and make it a ‘Productively Lazy’ one!

 

Peter

 

 

 

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] https://www.finder.com.au/press-release-new-year-resolutions-2014