Posts Tagged ‘lazy’

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/

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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

Puppy Love

November 19, 2016

It is OK, you can relax – I am not launching in to a version of the (in)famous Donnie Osmond song, but the house has a new puppy.

pretzel

Well to be brutally honest, after only 7 days, it is really that the puppy has a new house since pretty much everything revolves around this 4 lb bundle of chaotic energy and general cuteness.

Even I, who didn’t want a dog – we have cats; cats are easy, arrogant and aloof but they show you just enough love to make sure you keep feeding them and keep the central heating on in the winter for them – yes, even I, must admit that ‘puppy’ is quite the charmer.

But my goodness has it caused disruption in the house by its arrival. The general mess, noise, piles of incredibly annoying squeaky toys (why do they have to make that awful sound), training pads lying in nearly every room and two very, very grumpy cats stalking outside are just some of the impact results. Life as usual is on hold right now.

But we will get there, it will all settle down eventually.

Anyway, you know, it reminded me of something I teach about project teams.

Long ago, Bruce Tuckman defined the stages of teams as ‘forming, storming, norming and performing’ (and now ‘mourning’ as well as project teams disband quickly and move on to other projects and other teams) – I am sure you all know about this – it has been around since 1965 (the fifth stage was added in the 1970s) – but if you don’t know this model then you should, start here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_Tuckman

But the part many project managers forget is that project teams do not (usually) all gather on day one of a project and disband on day ‘x’ at the end, instead resources come and go throughout the project and this therefore has the result of multiple disruptions to the ‘forming, storming, norming and performing’ process.

Don’t believe me? Then get a puppy…

The point is, you may have formed your core project team and successfully navigated the storming phase, normalised and might well be in that beautiful performing phase being incredibly productive when bam! A new key subject matter expert team is called in and, through no malicious intent on their part, drags the team backwords in to the storming phase most likely.

Just think about this when significant new resources come on board, and be prepared. The closer your team is the faster you will progress back to the norming stage but there will be a few days of rough progression more than likely.

And as for the puppy – I should use its name shouldn’t I – the puppy, ‘Pretzel’, will no doubt settle down, the house will settle down and normality (a new normality for sure) will resume.

Pretzel may not be the love of my life but it is rising the ranks fast damn its cute puppy fluff, deep dark eyes (it is always the eyes isn’t it), and general licky love.

I am sure I didn’t want a dog.

 

 

 

Peter Taylor

Peter Taylor is a PMO expert currently leading a Global PMO, with 200 project managers acting as custodians for nearly 5,000 projects around the world, for Kronos Inc. – a billion-dollar software organisation delivering Workforce Management Solutions.

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

In the last 4 years he has delivered over 200 lectures around the world in over 25 countries and has been described as ‘perhaps the most entertaining and inspiring speaker in the project management world today’.

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

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

The Social Project Manager

November 4, 2016

The Social Project Manager

Balancing Collaboration with Centralised Control in a Project Driven World

We human beings are social beings.

We come into the world as the result of others’ actions. We survive here in dependence on others.

Whether we like it or not, there is hardly a moment of our lives when we do not benefit from others’ activities.

For this reason, it is hardly surprising that most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationships with others.

Dalai Lama

Social project management is a non-traditional way of organising projects and managing project performance and progress aimed at delivering, at the enterprise level, a common goal for the business but harnessing the performance advantages of a collaborative community.

There is a paradigm shift ongoing in many organisations that is all about finding a practical balance between the challenges to traditional project management made by what is known as Project Management 2.0 – which encouraged a move away from centralised control of projects and instead promoted the value of team collaboration – and the practical recognition that large scale projects do require a stronger form of centralised control and governance.

It is this balance, if correctly made, that will take the best of both worlds and move project management into the highest levels of performance and achievement, into the world of the social project and therefore the world of the Social Project Manager.

Naturally the starting point for conversation around social project management is with the project management role itself; what does this specifically mean for any project manager, what should they think about, and should they adjust their behaviour? But let’s expand this thought process to the project team as a whole and consider how such social tools impact the team performance.

Thought: I believe that all project team members, including the project manager, who welcome any approach that reduces the amount of time invested (and for the greater part wasted) in meetings.

Add to that the ever-present challenge to project managers of getting true commitment to the project goals from contributors then an approach that achieves this will also be welcomed.

If we consider the world of the project team, of which the project is part of course but also a separate entity in itself – and one that can be constantly in flux throughout the project lifecycle with team members coming and going, joining the team with their skills and time and then leaving to return to their ‘business as usual’ roles and responsibilities.

Thought: If you have ever managed a project for any significant length of time I am sure you will recognise, as I do, that the project becomes a ‘being’ in itself and takes on a ‘life’ within the organisation and project community.

As such the concept of communicating ‘to the project’ is one that I personally find logical, it becomes in many ways ‘one of the team members’.

I feel we can think of the communication as at three levels, all interacting with each other and crossing boundaries – social means fewer boundaries after all so perhaps we should say ‘without boundaries’ – but to understand the types or themes of project conversations then the diagram below might help:

I describe these as the three elements of ‘social’ project communication – and it is critical to empower all three and provide a seamless flow of engagement, interaction, conversation, and idea generation, decision making and team-building through all channels.

peter_taylor_keynote_v3

Considering ‘social within project’

Beginning with social within project then this is the communication about the project components, the tasks, the activities, the challenges and the team members themselves, the mechanics of meetings and reports and briefings, together with the deliverables and benefits.

Everything that is to do with the project lifecycle and the end goals of the project.

When is ‘A’ required? What will happen if ‘X’ happens? Can we get help from someone on ‘Y’? Are we going ahead with ‘B’? What did we learn from ‘C’? And so on.

Here the social project management team engages with each other to share knowledge and update each other on progress, seek assurance and help, encourage and congratulate, solve problems and celebrate achievements. It should be a self-regulating activity with the team contributing and providing knowledge and wisdom to each other, it is when the sum of the parts is definitely greater that the whole.

This ‘team’ will include the project itself based on the previous insight that the project becomes itself is a “member of the project”, with whom other project members can communicate, and who can communicate with other project members.

Collective purpose is shared and reinforced through this social within project communication and, as we have seen, by using a social project management activity stream and project-centric communication, the feedback about what is going on with the project becomes nearly constant which adds to the value of this type of project communication.

Considering ‘social about project’

I noted in another of my books ‘Project Branding’[1]  that ‘I learned something very important a long time ago, when I first started out in project management: no matter how good a job you do, if you don’t let people know, then most people just won’t know!’ and I went on to advise that ‘The art of project marketing is to ensure that your project is understood, expected, appreciated, welcomed, and supported within its organizational home (and, if relevant, the wider community of stakeholders. Such acceptance is crucial to long-term success, since this is where the project deliverables will eventually be implemented, once the project has been completed. Project marketing is the proactive process of educating all stakeholders about the value of your project deliverables in order to aid successful delivery and acceptance.’

Social about project is this very world of project marketing and perhaps even project branding which is the purpose and process of ensuring that your project is well known (for good reasons) and is well understood, together with the right levels of expectations set for the widest community of stakeholders.

Considering ‘social around project

Think of your own working day, today or yesterday – it doesn’t matter. Now think about how much of the day, at the start over your first coffee, when you bumped in to so and so at the water cooler, at the start of that meeting with the team from the other building, or when you joined that conference call with the remote users… how much of that time was spent in talking about non-project matters? Non-work matters actually. How many minutes during each event and how many hours in the day?

This doesn’t make you a bad working or lazy, it makes you human. Human to human interaction is social in its very nature.

Humans are in fact highly social beings. We all like to be surrounded by friends and family and co-workers and we all valuing being able to share our own personal experiences with others, and to hear what others wish to share with us in return. In fact the recent appearance of all of the various social tools, and their incredibly rapid adoption illustrates the fundamental desire for social belonging and interpersonal exchange.

Therefore it has to accepted that whatever ‘project’ or ‘business’ orientated social tools that you provide will also be used (hopefully respectfully) for ‘around project’ social communication and this is actually a good thing.

It helps bond team members (we will see this in the later section around remote and virtual teams) and adds an honest ‘human’ aspect to the communication. This in turn can only aid the project.

Therefore, looking at these three elements of ‘social’ project communication, I believe that the best social project managers, the ones who understand the value and potential of this new social world, will be the ones that combine these elements into one cohesive communication experience.

To a degree it is a leap of faith and perhaps very different from how project managers have gone about the job in the past.

Thought: One of the significant issues that I uncover which project managers who have only just started on the project management journey is the bad practice of channeling as much communication as possible through themselves, thereby creating a bottleneck for decision making and an unnecessary burden to the time of the project manager

It is a time of change and, as discussed, there is a paradigm shift ongoing with a move away from centralised control of projects and a rise in the value of team collaboration for many organisations and therefore project managers.

It is about taking the best of both the traditional project world and the opportunity of the new social project world, the world of the Social Project Manager.

 

social_pm

The Social Project Manager, Balancing Collaboration with Centralised Control in a Project Driven World Dec 2015, Gower (Peter Taylor)

 

 

 

 

 

Peter Taylor is a PMO expert currently leading a Global PMO, with 200 project managers acting as custodians for nearly 5,000 projects around the world, for Kronos Inc. – a billion dollar software organisation delivering Workforce Management Solutions.

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

In the last 4 years he has delivered over 200 lectures around the world in over 25 countries and has been described as ‘perhaps the most entertaining and inspiring speaker in the project management world today’.

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

 

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

[1] Project Branding: Using Marketing to Win the Hearts and Minds of Stakeholders; Nov 2014, RMC Publications, Inc (Peter Taylor)

That Starbucks Moment

October 23, 2016

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

So what is the ‘Starbucks Moment’?

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

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

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

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

alligator

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

Old Man Flying

October 14, 2016

OK, so this morning the postman arrived.

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

And yes, you are right, it does.

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

Let me explain.

Exhibit A

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

delta

Message: Busy, working, traveller, professional, valued

Now let us trip lightly across to the second letter.

The one that is somewhat contradictory to the first one.

Exhibit B

img_1488

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

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

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

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

Not happening – not a plan.

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

Point

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

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

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

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

I’m not ready to give up yet.

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

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

 

Peter Taylor

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

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

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

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

The Social Project Manager’s Toolkit

October 11, 2016

What: A Social event exploring everything you need to know to collaborate effectively as a project team

When: Thursday December 1 2016 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM

Where: The Yacht London is a permanently moored 1927 luxury steam yacht with a fabulous history, situated on the North Bank of the Thames, between Embankment and Temple, in what is known as “The Mayfair of the River”, just a short distance from the Houses of Parliament it boasts magnificent views of the Thames and Southbank

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Who: A unique event with both Elizabeth Harrin (A Girls Guide to Project Management) and Peter Taylor (The Lazy Project Manage)

Why: Why should you attend? Elizabeth and Peter, will be exploring the exciting but challenging world of social project management that all companies must embrace in order to be more effective – and they will be providing you a toolkit you can use immediately

Time to book your place:

Join us in a funky social environment – relax, enjoy a glass of bubbles, afternoon tea and a 3-hour fun and practical workshop with two of the world’s leading experts on project management.

FIND OUT MORE

Here’s what will you get from this event…

  • Understand the value, in both quality deliverables and reduced waste, in adopting the social project principles
  • Learn practical steps to benefit from the social project management world
  • Develop better collaboration in your project team including:
    • choosing the right technology for the job
    • build better stakeholder relationships
    • communicate more effectively about your project
  • Receive the Social Project Manager’s Toolkit
    • A set of concepts, case studies & practical tools & templates that you can use tomorrow to help your projects adopt the ideas behind social project management

This event is taking place in a beautiful, social environment where you will be able to loosen up, engage with your peers and get ready to be seriously challenged by Elizabeth & Peter as they lead you into a future way of working, learning about and supporting your challenges, and helping you to change the way you do business.

And there will be time at the end of this workshop to chat with both authors/presenters on a 1-2-1.

BOOK YOUR PLACE TODAY

Organisations must move with the times, increase productivity, reduce employee stress levels and become smarter in the way they manage projects – it is clear that social project management is the wave of a new and better process for Project Management that can deliver all of this.

Warning Signs Your Sponsor Doesn’t Care About the Project—and How to Change That

July 8, 2016

Critical to any projects success is having a good project manager we all know but after that then it is pretty important to have a good project sponsor, in fact it can be argued that the project sponsor is the more critical role; but, like the saying goes, ‘you can pick your friends but you can’t pick your relatives’ and the same is true of project sponsors.

There are many ‘types’ of project sponsor and some are really good at what they do but most can, at best, be described as the ‘accidental project sponsor’ – never having been trained, supported, or advised as to what is expected of them.

In ‘Strategies for Project Sponsorship’ the authors offer advice on many types of sponsor with suggestions for ways to work with them, or compensate for their ‘skills’ or ‘interest’ gaps. They also speak of the concept of a ‘balanced sponsor’ – being involved in the project, being objective about the project, being supportive of the project, and being reactive to project needs.

If your sponsor offers none of these key attributes and remains distant from the project, disengaged and/or disinterested, then first you need to find out the root cause:

  • Do they not know how to act as a project sponsor?
  • Or do they not believe in the project and don’t want to be associated with it in any way?

Test the reality with a one-on-one with the sponsor. If they are willing to give you time for such a meeting then it may be more a case of the former in which case:

  • Speak honestly about the issues that you are facing and the challenges your project is dealing with as a consequence of their lack of involvement.
  • Discuss what is expected of project sponsors and what the business also expects.

If it is the second reason then go back to the business case and explore the original thinking:

  • Did they have concerns at the start about the business case – and if so what were they?
  • Or do they see the role of the sponsor as a nuisance that is an added burden to an already busy schedule?

Based on this understanding you can plan a means to re-engage the sponsor if possible, and if not you need to plan to ‘fill the gap’ through your own efforts and any additional executive support you can obtain.

It has been said that ‘A project is one small step for the project sponsor, one giant leap for the project manager’ – but wouldn’t we all be that much happier if that ‘giant leap’ was supported by a really focused and competent project sponsor?

 

 

 

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.