Posts Tagged ‘peter taylor. lazy project manager’

Presentation Counts

August 5, 2016

I was recently in a restaurant in a foreign land (well foreign to me of course but less so to the locals).

Lazy Peter Taylor

The location was good, the décor and ambience very acceptable, the company most enjoyable, and the snow fell softly outside providing a winter wonderland visual delight through the large windows.

But sadly all of that positive build-up for a great evening’s dining was almost outweighed by the food and service.

After an initial ordering experience the diners elected to eat the same main course but each agreed that the chef’s vegetable of choice for the evening was not to their personal liking. It was the humble Brussels sprout, a member of the brassica family that enjoys a somewhat tarnished image which, considering its status as a nutritional powerhouse, is perhaps a little unfair. Its reputation is perhaps mostly due to the great British Christmas Day cooking technique: take sprouts, cut, trim, boil until at least twice dead and then for five minutes more. Then, finally, pile into a large dish and leave – because nobody actually likes Brussels sprouts (at least not cooked this way).

Anyway the request was made to replace said evil vegetable with an alternative, and asparagus tips were requested. And so the meal continued through a mediocre appetizer and on until the main course finally arrived … without Brussels sprouts (the good news) but also without anything in their place as requested (the bad news).

The waiter was recalled and cajoled and encouraged to resolve this rapidly, at which the staff applied all of their skills and training, by ignoring us and disappearing. Eventually after a long period, during which most of the meal was consumed, the waiter did reappear and proceeded to almost, but not quite, save the entire situation.

With a silver platter and a silver fork of delicate proportions the waiter proceeded to ceremoniously, and with great flourish, place two small asparagus tips across the centre of each diner’s remaining half-eaten meal.

It was theatrical and exaggerated and, had it not been for the sheer humour of the whole thing, he may just have got away with it. Presentation can win the day.

There is an old story about a crisis in a company when it was discovered that one of their products was actually killing customers. This was a major issue and one that delivered headlines that were very bad news for the company. However a savvy and spirited marketing executive quickly went to work to resolve the situation. After a few days of bad publicity and press, with the death toll mounting, the marketeer launched a major fight back.

The first press release read ‘Company X extremely concerned for its customers…’

Sadly the problems continued and more customers met their maker as a result of the killer products. The bad publicity continued and the situation looked desperate.

The marketing executive did not walk away from the challenge nor did he give up the battle. He worked late into the night thinking blue sky thoughts about a solution to this issue and finally came up with a plan.

The next day a press release was delivered to the world at large that simply read ‘Company X sees a massive reduction in dissatisfied customers…’

It is all in the presentation and in turning negatives in to positives.

Our waiter tried but just failed; he couldn’t carry it off completely and is probably from Barcelona anyway (yes that is a Fawlty Towers[1] reference and not an insult to wonderful Barcelona, one of my favorite cities).

As a project manager you have to be calm, confident, assured and in control at all times. There will be times when you need to recover from sticky situations and on those occasions you need to have the skill to find the positive and the will to present it convincingly.

Presentation counts!

 

 

[1] Fawlty Towers is a British sitcom produced by BBC Television and first broadcast on BBC2 in 1975 and 1979. Twelve episodes were made (two series, each of six episodes). The show was written by John Cleese and his then wife Connie Booth, both of whom also starred in the show.

The series is set in Fawlty Towers, a fictional hotel in the seaside town of Torquay, on the “English Riviera”. The plots centre around rude and deranged manager Basil Fawlty (Cleese), his bossy wife Sybil (Prunella Scales), a comparatively normal chambermaid Polly (Booth), and hapless Spanish waiter (from Barcelona) Manuel (Andrew Sachs) and their attempts to run the hotel amidst farcical situations and an array of demanding and eccentric guests.

In a list drawn up by the British Film Institute in 2000, voted by industry professionals, Fawlty Towers was named the best television series of all time.

 

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.

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PMI, do you still love me?

March 2, 2015

Now look, it is really important to put this in some real context. I have been a member of PMI for 10 years now, and will continue to be a member. I am a project manager in ‘good standing’ with my PMP secured many years ago and regularly updated through the CCR process.

I am currently leading a project management community of around 200 PMs around the world and they are supported in membership of PMI through my company and many are either PMP certified or on a path to certification through our training partners. PMI representatives spoke at a recent conference for these same project managers.

Personally I have presented at 77 different PMI events throughout the world in the last 5 years, from the UK to USA to Australia, through conferences and congresses, local chapter meetings, and webinars. Yes, in the spirit of full disclosure 28 of these were paid for ‘gigs’ but that is my job after all and last year alone I did 12 such events without charge as a way of giving back, and because I enjoy it of course. And I will continue to do this; as I write this I have two further local chapter presentations lined up already.

And so I hope you can tell that I am not a ‘PMI hater’, quite the contrary, but I am feeling somewhat unloved right now.

PMI

Let me give you three examples.

Congress: The EMEA Congress is in London this year, and I will be there, but I submitted two papers for potential presentation and neither were accepted. Well I say neither were accepted as I don’t officially know one way or the other. PMI hasn’t told me. I assume it is a ‘no’ since I am not on the agenda that has been published and I have spoken to several others in my network who are presenting and have, obviously, heard from PMI. The official response to my submissions was ‘Notifications to accepted applicants will be sent by December 19th, 2014’ and I have heard nothing so I am not in but, and here is my gripe, why haven’t I heard something? I mean I, and presumably many others, put the effort in to submit a paper and potentially prepare a presentation so why can’t PMI be bothered to even send a ‘sorry you have not been successful this time around but we really appreciate your interest and investment of your time…’? It is another conversation about how some people seem to get to speak, through the blind selection process, at congress after congress around the world, they clearly have a knack of pitching a subject better than me these days it seems, but that is not the source of my concern in this case, it is the lack of communication back to the PMI member.

I did follow up on this with an email to the congress contact and guess what… nothing, no response at all. PMI – I am feeling unloved.

Book: I have now written 15 project management books and some while ago I thought it would great to have one title published by PMI. Great kudos after all I will admit. If you go online you can see the PMI Book Publishing Program and look at the book submission document that needs to be completed if you like.

I do have books, two at present, that are for sale on the PMI Marketplace so I presume it safe to say that I haven’t upset anyone in PMI by telling everybody that they need to be ‘lazy’ project managers.

Anyway the advice on that form is that if you do submit a book proposal, and I did, then ‘You will be contacted by the Manager, Publications approximately 6 weeks from receipt of your proposal regarding our decision’ – guess what… I wasn’t contacted, ever, nothing at all. The book concept was brought to fruition but by another publisher. Rejection is fine, it happens in life and it certainly happens in publishing (a lot) but rejection by default of no response is not acceptable I would say. PMI – I am feeling unloved.

Complaint: As I mentioned earlier I do speak a lot for free at PMI events and one such event was a webinar for one of the Communities of Practice and it was a very popular presentation, based on my Lazy Project Manager book. However one person made a complaint to myself, the CEO of PMI and the head of the Community of Practice. The complaint itself was, I feel very confident in saying this, completely foolish. The person complained that to include ‘lazy’ and ‘project manager’ in anything was an insult to the profession. But ‘no’ he had not read the book, one of the best-selling project management books ever I am proud to say, and ‘no’ he had not even attended the actual webinar, he was complaining from a point of principal. Silly really. I responded, copying everyone on the original complaint email, and politely put my counter-argument and explained the concept of ‘productive laziness’, my experience in project management, and invited the complainant to listen to the recorded webinar and, if he was still unhappy, to get back in touch with me for a further conversation. That was the last I heard from them. But you know throughout this process I heard nothing from PMI at all. Someone had complained to the very top of the organisation and I, the member and volunteer speaker, was doing all of the situation handling. PMI – I am feeling unloved.

As I said, I am no ‘PMI hater’ (yes I know there are such people out there) but I am a member of the PMI family and I would have expected a lot more in the way of communication and interest. I feel, based on my involvement and contribution to PMI and the project profession as a whole that this is a reasonable and considered challenge to PMI to try a bit harder. At chapter level I have had no issue at all but at corporate I think perhaps the whole ‘we are there for the members and not our selves’ might have been forgotten by some.

When it is time to renew my membership PMI loves me. When it is time to re-certify my PMP then PMI loves me (a lot).

‘Good things happen when you get involved with PMI’ – so the PMI website declares and that is without a doubt true. I have enjoyed my years of working with and through PMI but there is still that whole ‘love’ thing that just appears to me to be missing.

And so I ask the question: PMI, do you still love me? I hope you do…

What does project management mean to me – a Project Manager’s Sermon

September 25, 2013

[This blog piece is part of the first ever PM Flash Blog – an idea by Shim Marom]

There is a well-known Project Management ‘joke’ that starts…

‘In the beginning there was the plan and the plan was good.

But then came the assumptions, and the assumptions were without form and the plan was completely without substance and the darkness was upon the faces of the employees’

It ends up explaining through a sequence of bad-communication why projects fail. It is amusing and I used it in my recent book on project management fun ‘The Project Manager Who Smiled’, but it is definitely not what I feel about project management.

As one of the generation of ‘Accidental Project Managers’ (that is I was just given ‘something to do’ one day and it turned out to be a project I learnt much later on) project management has come to mean a great deal to my personal and professional life and it is fantastic to be part of something that has, and will continue to, mature year after year. I was asked to write a short piece for a PM magazine recently on ‘legacy’ and I think this is very relevant to the question about what project management means to me.

After nearly 30 years in project management it is only natural, from time to time, to consider what legacy will I, and my fellow project managers, leave behind for the next generation of project managers? After all it has been the major part of my working life and a period of intense development of the ‘profession’.

Perhaps personally I can consider that my writings, including ‘The Lazy Project Manager’, can be one form of legacy, but in general how have the ‘Accidental Project Managers’ done?

Well I would argue ‘not bad’ should come back on the report; the growth in awareness of all things ‘project’ and the maturing of all of the professional communities, along with the focus on project skills and methods in most organisations is a pretty good place to be today. Plus there is a vibrant wealth of knowledge out there (books, websites, blogs, podcasts, communities of practice, magazines such as ‘Project’ and so on) that project managers today can tap in to.

Yes, of course, 100% of projects are still not successful (and probably never will be) but project health is so much better these days in general and much of this is to do with the investment in project managers (training, support, certification etc) – the days of the ‘Non-Accidental Project Manager’ are definitely with us.

And there is much left to be done naturally; raising the standard of executive sponsorship, connecting business strategy to project based activity, making project management a default step on the path to the top, the ‘C level’, of an organisation etc.

But all in all I think we should be proud of our achievements and be confident that the generation of ‘Intentional Project Managers’ entering the project management world today have a great legacy to build from.

So for me, project management is the future. There will be, of course, business as usual, and there will be projects to deliver significant change, and there will be a hybrid that I call ‘projects as usual’ – smaller change initiatives that managers and others with a basic project management skillset will manage as part of their day to day job. Because I believe that more and more people will enter the business world having gained such basic project management skills through schools, colleges, universities and other development routes.

So whilst the ‘joke’ might make us smile it isn’t true of the future:

In the beginning there was the plan and the plan was good.

But then came the assumptions, and the assumptions were without form and the plan was completely without substance and the darkness was upon the faces of the employees.

And they spake amongst themselves, saying ‘It is a crock of shit and it stinks!’

And so the employees went unto their supervisors, saying ‘It is a pail of dung and none may abide the odour thereof.’

Thereafter the supervisors went unto their division managers, saying ‘It is a vessel of fertilizer and none may abide its strength.’

And the division managers went unto their general manager, saying ‘It contains that which aids plant growth and it is very strong.’

And soon the general manager went unto the Board, saying ‘It promotes growth and is very powerful’, adding ‘This new plan will actively promote the growth and efficiency of this organization.’

And so it came to pass that the Board looked upon the plan and saw that it was good and so the Plan became Policy.

This is how s**t happens!

Rather I think it will go…

In the beginning there was the plan and the plan was good.

And the project manager who takes charge of the plan was also good.

And this is how change happens.

I look forward to seeing my profession of project management in the hands of those who believe in project management in the future.

Amen to that.

Peter Taylor (The Lazy Project Manager) – 25th Sept 2013

www.thelazyprojectmanager.com

“P.S. This post is published as part of a first ever project management related global blogging initiative to publish a post on a common theme at exactly the same time. Over 70 bloggers from Australia, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, France, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, UK and the USA have committed to make a blogging contribution and the fruit of their labour is now (literally NOW) available all over the web. The complete list of all participating blogs is found here so please go and check them out!