Posts Tagged ‘programme’

The ESP connection

November 18, 2017

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

Another quick test of control is the ‘Executive board to Sponsor to Project Manager’ relationship or the ‘ESP’ connection test.

Let’s start with the simplest form of this test by asking ‘Is there one?’.

Does the executive team interact with project sponsors on a regular basis, perhaps are they even the executive sponsors themselves? And do the sponsors interact and engage on a regular, bi-directional manner with the project managers?

Come up with a ’No’ at any of these connections and you have trouble ahead. You do need all three and you do need them connected and communicating.

If you don’t declare a complete and utter ‘No’ then the next step of the ‘ESP’ test is to consider any weak points in this ‘Executive board to Sponsor to Project Manager’ relationship. Here we can go back to the question of do the executives understand change (and projects), and/or do the change sponsors understand what it means to be such a sponsor, and how to go about being and effective sponsor, before arriving at the project management community and asking they know what they are doing, do they have experience and are they supported in skills and tools and method?

Such a consideration will allow another perspective on the robustness of your entire change management structure and to focus where there is a need.

One point here. If there is a problem at say the ‘E to S’ connection and also at the ‘S to P’ connection, then the priority has to be to focus and fix the ‘E to S’ problem first as the higher the issue the bigger the issue is in my personal experience.

TAKE THE TEST: Consider each level on the ESP connection and evaluate the change leadership maturity at each level – then assess the strength of connection at each of those touch points, ‘E to S’ and ‘S to P’.

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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Bangers and Mash

August 19, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Got it? Excellent.

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

 

 

 

Peter Taylor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Sexy Project Management

February 1, 2014

(50 Shades of Project Management that is anything but grey!)

At a recent major conference for project managers, after the opening keynote speech, the audience was invited to ask questions of the renowned ambassador for the project management profession. One question that somewhat took the speaker aback was ‘when will project management be sexy?’

A great question I felt and one that the speaker responded to reasonably well (eventually, after the initial shock…) but a question that has made me think about the concept of ‘sexy project management’ for some time since that particular event.

SPM

What do we mean, in this context, by ‘sexy’? Well the dictionary offers us three possibilities:

1. Concerned predominantly or excessively with sex; risqué: a sexy novel

2. Sexually interesting or exciting; radiating sexuality: the sexiest presenter at the conference

3. Excitingly appealing; glamorous: a sexy new car

I think we can leave options 1 and 2 alone, of course there must be some real sexy project managers out there and I am sure one or two of them partake of the whole ‘physical’ stuff (perhaps even occasionally with another project manager and perhaps even without the safety aid of a WBS) but for the purpose of this conversation I am going with option 3 ‘Excitingly appealing; glamorous’.

Many (way too many) people think of project management as dull and worthy, and boring and necessary, and as ‘well someone has to do it I guess but I’m glad it is not me’.

An example of this can be seen with a simple experiment – find a project manager and ask them two questions, the rule being they must answer fast with their first thought, the first thing that comes to mind. Do that and it will most likely go something like this:

‘What are you?

‘A project manager’

‘What do you do?’

‘I… er … manage projects’

And there you have it – explaining project management in an attractive way is not so simple, for any of us – experienced project managers or would be project managers.

Probably not overly scientific but there was a survey[1] of 1.000 Australians asking to name the top ‘sexy’ professions and this is what they came up with:

5 sexiest professions for men are.

  • Soldier
  • Emergency Service Personnel
  • Tradesmen/Construction Worker
  • Sportsmen
  • Doctor

5 sexiest professions for women are:

  • Sport/Recreation
  • Medical Worker
  • Hospitality/Tourist
  • Student
  • Lawyer

Seriously! We are less attractive than lawyers!

There are plenty of other similar surveys (mainly from dating sites I note with interest – in this case maybe you should not put ‘project manager’ down if you are lonely and single.

But I digress; back to the important question of ‘How do we make project management sexy?’

Perhaps we can consider those who are entering our ‘profession’ these days what is it that attracts them to this job? I mean there must be some reason that these people decide not to be soldiers, lawyers, doctors etc and instead choose to be project managers (or at least study to be project managers).

I took the liberty to check out a number of UK Universities who were offering a project management degree. What did they say to attract people to their courses, and to project management?

Sadly what I found was that they said very little that gave any indication that project management was an exciting, energising, fun and important job. Here are a few examples:

‘The MSc Project Management is designed for those who wish to develop their project management skills and abilities’

‘Project management is now a mainstream management discipline in many organisations. This course provides a solid grounding in the principles and practice of project management with the overall aim of increasing your ability to contribute to business effectiveness’

‘It is designed to meet the increasing demand for professional project managers, both nationally and internationally, who are able to provide the increasingly sophisticated management required to meet the challenges of providing and managing projects across a broad spectrum of organisations’

‘The course focuses on developing skills for careers in project management including both theory and applied aspects, and is mapped against key professional body competencies. The knowledge, understanding and skills can be applied to a range of environments that bring together resources, skills, technology and ideas to realise benefits or achieve objectives, operating within the multiple project constraints of cost, scope, time and quality requirements’

Nothing particularly thrilling in these ones, worthy statements all of them, but how do they use this to attract those future project managers?

What about the thoughts on project management itself?

‘Project management is about how you deliver a defined set of changes at the right time, the right cost and the right quality’

‘Project Management is the application of appropriate management strategies in order to effectively coordinate the realisation of complex and dynamic projects. The applied skills and competencies of a project manager are necessary for the successful completion of large and complex projects, particularly within the ever-changing marketplace’

‘Project management is about managing the technical, cultural, political and financial aspects inherent in all projects’

‘In every business, and in every industry, there is a need for effective project management’

 ‘A successful project manager balances the conflicting goals of resource usage, quality of product, time to market and customer satisfaction.  The programme is intended to provide the student with the technical and process skills to undertake the role of a project manager in the modern business environment’

OK, I am a project manager and know how great this job can be but for goodness sake even I am yawning at this point. There must be something more engaging to say about project management surely?

‘In the twenty-first century, the dynamic and challenging world of business has encouraged the increasing use of project management across the sectors’

True.

‘Organisations, businesses and governments are more aware than ever of the strategic importance of effective project management’

Also true.

‘Offer a foundation of essential management skills required to align and cascade corporate strategy throughout the organisation’

And this can’t be argued with either.

‘The line between success and failure in any project is a lot of pressure on any manager’s shoulders. Empowering yourself with project management skills and business acumen will ensure you can be a successful, dynamic leader’

But for goodness sake you wise and clever educational leaders find something more interesting to say, something (dare I say it) ‘sexy’ to say to attract the very best of the best to the courses you offer.

Now I freely admit this was a fast and dirty check on Universities websites so please if you head up such a course and you have something really attractive, exciting, energising and ‘sexy’ that you do say about project management please do let me know I would be delighted to read it.

Moving away from the universities what about the project organisations we all know and love?

PMI, when speaking of the PMP[2] states ‘The PMP recognizes demonstrated competence in leading and directing project teams. If you’re an experienced project manager looking to solidify your skills, stand out to employers and maximize your earning potential, the PMP credential is the right choice for you’

Axelos when referring to the PRINCE2[3] qualification (foundation) states ‘The purpose of the foundation qualification is to confirm you have sufficient knowledge and understanding of the PRINCE2 method to be able to work effectively with, or as a member of, a project management team working within an environment supporting PRINCE2’

And APM, when describing the RPP[4], state ‘APM Registered Project Professional (RPP) is a pan-sector standard for those able to demonstrate the capabilities of a responsible leader, who have the ability to manage a complex project and use appropriate tools, processes and techniques’

Again, all oh so worthy and technically accurate, but so what?

Let me give an example of what I am talking about. My son is taking driving lessons to learn to be able to drive on his own eventually. Now the DVLA  describes the mandatory practical test (there is a theory component as well) as ‘The practical driving test is designed to see if you – can drive safely in different road and traffic conditions and know the Highway Code and can show this through your driving ability’

Now why does my son what to take this test? Why does he want to be a qualified driver? Certainly not so that he ‘knows the Highway Code’ or so that he is able to ‘drive safely in different road and traffic conditions’. Nor is it because he is desperate to be able to parallel park, reverse around a corner or complete a ‘three point turn’ (as I still call it).

All of this is, of course, important but this is only a means to an end.

He wants ‘Freedom’. He wants to escape us, his parents. He wants to be able to visit his girlfriend without catching two buses, especially when it is cold and raining. He wants to be able to take his mates out and about town. He wants to be able to stay out later. He wants a whole lot more that the technical capability of being able to safely control a mechanised object. If there was no end-result of ‘Freedom’ then he wouldn’t have bothered. ‘Freedom’ and ‘Independence’ are the ‘sexy’ factors that make him want to get out there and take the driving lessons, to read the Highway Code, to take practice theory tests, and to revise and practice ready for that all important test date.

And so it should be with project management.

That one question that took that unsuspecting speaker aback has an answer already.

‘When will project management be sexy?’

Now! It is already.

We just need to find the words to describe it in the right way and, you know what, those students currently studying for their degree in project management know that it is ‘sexy’ already.

Feels good doesn’t it?


[1] VictoriaMilan.com.au April 2013

[2] www.pmi.org Project Management Professional

[3] www.prince-officialsite.com Projects IN Controlled Environments

[4] www.apm.or.uk Registered Project Professional