Posts Tagged ‘project management’

How project management can improve your business

June 20, 2017

 

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

Share knowledge across your company

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

Make the most of the resources you have

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

Manage time and budget like a pro(ject manager)

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

Strive for continuous improvement

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

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

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

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

Project Sponsors are from Venus

June 14, 2017

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

Challenge 2 – invest in non-accidental project sponsors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The project manager clearly needs to be equally balanced.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

http://tailwindps.com/ 

Challenging Change

April 25, 2017

The following is a guest article from my friends at Tailwind Project Solutions:

In his new book – How to get Fired at the C-Level: Why mismanaging change is the biggest risk of all – Peter Taylor challenges the foundations of organisational change, asking if the c-level executives out there are truly ready for change to be successful in their own businesses?

You can read more about this at SME www.smeweb.com/sme/how-mismanaging-change-is-the-biggest-risk-of-all – where Peter describes the four-year study by LeadershipIQ.com which found that the number one reason CEO’s got fired was …. wait for it …. mismanaging change.

He talks of business growth, even business existence, being built increasingly from such change; strategic change – new markets, new products, change driven through regulatory demand, change driven to maintain market share, change driven by mergers and acquisitions, changes driven by new executives, and so on.

And he argues that by putting those two parts together, a world where executives get fired on a regular basis for mismanaging change and a business world of increasing change, then you have a high-risk scenario it seems in many board rooms across the world.

Worrying!

But Peter, ever the pragmatist, offers some practical advice through his 5-5-5-5 model for assessing change foundations and making improvements to such foundations in his book.

 

And at the project level Peter offers some advice on the 10 Things People Often Get Wrong When Managing A Project (or change) as you can see here in Female First http://www.femalefirst.co.uk/books/peter-taylor-how-to-get-fired-at-the-c-level-1045268.html

He explores the most common things that people do wrong when trying to manage that tricky temporary endeavour that is designed to bring about a positive change i.e. a project.

Perhaps there is a solution to the worry after all. Why not talk to us at Tailwind Project Solutions to see if we can help http://tailwindps.com/

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 as a result 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 really 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/

Challenging the C-Level Executives

April 12, 2017

How to get Fired at the C-level goes beyond the constraints of a book.

To that end the author offers some focused workshops, keynote presentations and insightful supporting education to help organisations achieve the success in strategic change that they desire, and to help C-level executives understand the challenge and benefit from the opportunity.

This is all about bringing a reality check to your executive team, and help can be found right here.

If your organisation or team needs a short sharp executive ‘scare’ session (or reality check) then Peter Taylor can deliver this, customised for your organisation, your executive team and the time available.

If you need to take it to the next level of detail, then the author offers two specific workshops based on his book.

Both can be customised to suit your audience’s needs and indeed, a fully customised engagement can be proposed if you feel your organisation requires something very specific in order to help you look at what you should be considering and doing to make sure your change, your projects, your organisation and you are still around for the foreseeable future.

Workshop 1: Executives – stop failing your projects!

Yes! You read that right – not ‘Executives – stop your failing projects’ but ‘Executives – stop failing your projects’.

The report Why good strategies fail: Lessons for the C-suite published by The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited in 2013 stated in its conclusion that there was a need for increased C-suite attention to implementation (and therefore projects). It said, ‘Leadership support is the most important factor in successful strategy execution, yet a substantial number of survey respondents indicate that the C-suite is insufficiently involved’.

This is why I make the loud and bold challenge that executives are failing their projects and why I strongly believe the situation needs to stop – now!

The workshop will explore the true value of your strategic change portfolio (projects) – which will probably be bigger than you think – and will explain why it, you and your organisation are at real risk of failure (and wasting a lot of that financial investment).

What you should do about this critical situation is, of course, explained simply. The two key actions you need to take to avoid strategic change failure will be introduced, making this undertaking far less onerous than it would have been had you attempted it solo.

 

Workshop time                                           1 to 3 hours[1]

Participants                                                 C-level executives and senior project leaders

 

Workshop 2: Two key actions you need to take to avoid strategic change failure

If you are concerned about strategic change failure, and by association your portfolio of projects, then there are two key actions that can dramatically de-risk this potential situation.

Step 1: Strategies for project sponsorship

It is stated in the Standish Chaos Report, amongst many others, including PMI’s ‘Pulse of the Profession’, that the sponsor is the person who is ultimately responsible for the success (or failure) of the project, who represents the business and the business change. And yet, there is a chasm in many organisations between this statement and the reality of the professionalism and associated investment in development of those active sponsors.

We will explore the current challenges of project sponsorship maturity and offer some techniques for creating an effective sponsorship community as one of the two foundations of project success.

Step 2: Building the best PMO

Here will explore the true value of a good PMO in guiding project success and supporting the sponsor community in the management of the portfolio of project change.

We explore what is meant by a balanced PMO, a design developed by Peter, as well as presenting a new working model for project management excellence with the project academy concept.

This all adds up to a critical second foundation for project success.

The workshop will be an interactive experience with first-hand case study insights and the opportunity to spend some time with one of the world’s most experienced PMO leaders.

Workshop time                                           2 to 3 hours[2]

Participants                                                 C-level executives, senior project leaders, sponsors and PMO leaders

The workshops are standalone but related and follow the journey from strategy investment through to the key foundations of change/project success.

Also available are keynote presentations based on this book, on project sponsorship and PMO leadership.

Peter Taylor

Known as The Lazy Project Manager, Peter Taylor is a project management office (PMO) expert.

He is currently leading a global team of more than 200 project managers acting as custodians for more than 5,000 projects around the world from Kronos Inc., a billion-dollar software organisation delivering workforce management solutions.

Peter is also the author of eighteen books, including the number 1 bestselling project management book, The Lazy Project Manager. In the last four years he has delivered more than 200 lectures around the world on his mission to show people how to work smarter, not harder in their quest for career success.

www.thelazyprojectmanager.com and http://tailwindps.com/how-to-get-fired-at-the-c-level/

[1] Workshop timing can be customised to the availability of the audience – the shorter workshop focuses only on the high-level issues with minimal interaction time permitted, the longer workshop allows for a ‘deeper dive’ and with audience interaction and discussion

[2] Again, here the workshop timing can be customised to the availability of the audience – with the longer workshop allowing for some audience interaction and discussion

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

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

February 17, 2017

A guest post by my friends at Genius Project

teams-picture

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

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

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

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

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

You can visit the Genius Project website.

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

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.

How many licks does it take to get to the centre of a lollipop?

September 30, 2016

I saw the above recently and a) I wondered why does that matter and who cares anyway, and then I thought b) you mean someone has actually investigated this?

I saw the headline on an article from Live Science where it was explained that science now has an answer to the famous question asked in the iconic Tootsie Roll Pop commercial (no idea what that is? Well go check it out on YouTube).

The answer apparently is 1,000. Well that is one answer at least.

The article states that – From the experiments, the researchers created mathematical formulas to explain how fast the materials dissolve. Just for fun, they tackled the “How many licks?” question, and found that a lollipop with a radius of 0.4 inches (1 cm) licked at the equivalent to a flow rate of 1 cm per second would reveal its centre in about 1,000 licks. Of course, plenty of real-world factors affect that number. Online, posts about Tootsie Pop licking experiments report numbers ranging from 144 to 850 licks. “It could be 500; it could be 1,500 … It’s kind of a crude estimate,” study leader Leif Ristroph, a physicist at NYU said. “But it seems like it’s working pretty well.”

In the end though it is not how many licks does it take but it is the pleasure in enjoying the lollipop – remember that – and of course, it is all about your technique, a nibbler, a biter, a full frontal assaulter, or a take your timer. It just doesn’t matter really; the science is just the science; the lollipop is the treat.

In my recent book ‘The Social Project Manager: Balancing Collaboration with Centralised Control in a Project Driven World’ (Published by Gower) I speak about the various aspects of value that social project management, supported by social project management tools, can provide.

I note that collaboration, which is the heart of social project management, means proactively sharing and actively helping.

The best kind of mind-set a team can have is one of proactive sharing. For one thing, sharing enhances collaboration and takes away selfish “fiefdoms.” For example, instead of people hogging info and becoming roadblocks for productivity, project data can be stored in a central database for all to access.

I also observe that self-organization beats top-down management every day.

Self-organizing teams aren’t rogue cowboys doing whatever they want. They’re flexible, responsive teams that decide how best to attain goals and deadlines set forth by management. Thus team members distribute tasks amongst themselves, plan their own work schedules within the set deadlines, and may even decide who is best equipped to lead a certain project.

The goal of self-organization is to encourage self-actualization of team members: to bring out their sense of ownership of the project and their decisions. Studies have shown that if you decide on your own task load, you will feel more responsible for your work, and usually even more motivated to execute at your highest standards.

And finally I declared that communication beats guessing, I trust no-one out there is going to argue with that one?

And that brings us back to the lollipop ‘science’.

Someone has the answer – almost certainly, and if not the answer some real insight in to the potential answer or solution(s) – and therefore the wider your social network extends, the more open and inclusive you are then the faster you will be able to connect with the persons, or people, who know the answer to what you are asking.

And when they do help you out in this way – give them a lollipop, why not?

‘Back, you know, a few generations ago, people didn’t have a way to share information and express their opinions efficiently to a lot of people. But now they do. Right now, with social networks and other tools on the Internet, all of these 500 million people have a way to say what they’re thinking and have their voice be heard’ Mark Zuckerberg.

Now it was whilst writing this article that the question (urban myth it turns out to be) of ‘why don’t duck quacks echo’ came to my mind and so I asked the question, and duly received the answer.

Well the answer as provided by Salford Acoustics is that a duck’s quack does in fact echo and they did this as part of the British Association Festival of Science using ‘Daisy’ the duck. Again, check it out yourself right here.

Ask enough people and you will receive the answer, or possibly several answers, but at least you will be better informed.

 

 

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 Open Door Policy

September 23, 2016

The importance of being accessible but in a controlled way

I’m all for being there for people, honest I am. It’s just that people take advantage of it if I am.

So for the ‘productive lazy’ project manager I would suggest that it is perfectly acceptable for the lights to be on and for no-one to be at home; not all of the time obviously, and at critical times access and visibility are all too important. But for the rest of the time, why not let the whole of the team work a few things out for themselves, take some degree of responsibility and decision making, and generally get on with the tasks at hand.

Being there when you are really needed and being there all the time are very different things indeed.

Being reachable in a controlled manner, and within an acceptable timeframe, to answer appropriate questions (and not stupid ones) is equally important. The last thing you want is a long line of people queuing up at your desk waiting to ask advice, and you phone flashing with an ever increasing number of messages, all the time whilst you inbox is reaching capacity with incoming demands for your attention.

This can lead to the ‘lights on all the time’ syndrome, a very dangerous condition:

‘What should I do now?’

‘Breath’ you might reply

‘In or out?’

You have so many other more useful things that you could be doing, like reading a good book in the comfy chair for example.

Avoid the swamp

This is linked in so many ways to the communication topic already covered. If you create a communication plan that guarantees to swamp you from day one, what is the benefit; to you or to the project?

None!

The plan should ensure you are not seen as the oracle for all matters, nor that you are the bottleneck for a constructive information flow within the project team. Most projects develop communication plans in a certain way; that is as a plan that is the documented strategy for getting the right information to the right people at the right time. We all know that each stakeholder has different requirements for information and so the plan defines what, how and how often communications should be made. What project managers rarely do is consider and map all communication flows, official, unofficial, developmental or complete, and do a load analysis across the project structure of these communication flows. Of they did they would spot bottlenecks much earlier on that they normally do, usually this is only identified when one part of the communication chain starts complaining about their workload.

Consider the open door policy

The ‘open door’ policy has become a real management cliché.

‘Of course’ managers pronounce in a firm voice’ my door is always open to you all, day or night; I’m really there for you’.

Empowerment in this way has become more an entitlement for the project team than a project manager’s choice; they just expect you to be there when they want you to be (and not even when they need you to be there either). An ‘open door’ policy can easily transform a project manager’s role from that of an authority, and managing, figure to that of a subservient accommodator with little chance for exercising control on those that demand access to them.

Be a good manager

The best manager is the probably the one who reads the paper or MSN every morning, has time enough to say ‘hi’ at the coffee machine, is isn’t always running flat out because they are ‘late for an important meeting’. By that I mean that a good (an obviously ‘productively lazy’) manager has everything running smoothly enough that they have time to read the paper or MSN and so on. This is a manager who has to be confident in their position and capabilities.

A good manager will have time for their project team, and being one who has everything running smoothly, will allow that to happen.

A good manager does not to be on hand twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. They do not have to have the answer to every question nor do they have to be the conduit to the answer to every question. There is a whole project team out there – go talk to some of them – they probably will have a much better answer to hand anyway.

Think about number one

You honestly want the best for yourself as well as for the project; I understand that, so give yourself that chance. Have you ever met a project manager who has put themselves down as a project risk? ‘Yeah, well I am just too nice a guy, can’t say no, can’t turn someone away, love to chat’ – likelihood 80%, impact 100%, mitigate now!

But hopefully by now you also want to apply the productive lazy approach so consider this; let the team deal with 80% of the communication, 80% of the questions, 80% of the issues, and let the 20% come through you for consideration and guidance. You don’t even have to ‘solve’ that 20%, I would further suggest that only 20% of this 20% are likely to be answered by yourself in an adequate manner, there are always others that can better advice.

Think about the rest

OK, you have dealt with the ‘thinking about number one’ thing, now what about your team? Well by dealing with ‘number one’ you will have already done the team a huge favour. You will be accessible when you need to be accessible. The lights will go on as and when they are really needed – it is a kind of ‘green’ project management policy.

The worse thing that can happen is that just at the moment when there is a ‘clear and present’ need for someone to speak to you, whether that be on a project or on a personal matter, you are just too tied up with a whole pile of nothing to even give them the time of day. Remember the whole ‘respect’ and ‘reputation for team support’ team thing we spoke about earlier, well this is a major contributor the that.

Analyse and reduce

And this is not a one off action; you need to keep on top of this as well. Projects change, communications develop, and roles flux. Do a quick analysis of what information and queries flow through you, and how and regularly re-assess. Can others deal with some of this? What are the important components that you should be involved in? Are there too many questions and communication from certain sources? And so on.

Make sure that everyone knows that the lights will go on and when and how they can turn that light on fast if they really need to.

A project manager’s tale about the importance of position

This one is not my tale; it is the story of a friend of mine, a friend who is, of course, a project manager. A project manager who I know to be very good at team building, a real ‘people’ person.

Picture a new project with a new project office. Apparently the company my friend was working for had reserved some brand new office space in a building that they were going to move other departments in to in the coming months. In the meantime the project team could take over one floor.

Now, I have been in many project offices over the years ranging from a single desk to a temporary office unit (grey boxes that get lifted in to place by a crane and officially described as ‘relocatable and modular accommodation’ apparently). But, by all accounts, this new building that my friend moved in to with his project team was superb.

He chose a nice new desk by a window and with a view facing the doors so that he could see all that went on, people coming and going, working (or not working I guess), and so on.

And so life was good and thus did the project move forwards in a pleasing way.

The only feature that was lacking was a decent coffee machine. They had a temporary one to begin with but the team waited with baited breath for the new, top of the range, super-dooper, hot beverage dispenser.

It arrived one week day morning, wheeled in on a trolley barrow. My friend was elsewhere at the time on important project business. When he arrived back in the project office he was somewhat surprised to see that his desk now had a new neighbour. A coffee machine.

‘Hey, grab a coffee, its great’ was the general cry from the project team. I am sure that that is what he did, before walking the two feet back to his desk.

The project office was full now and so it was too late to move desk. Oh well, a great project office with a great coffee machine was not something to make too much fuss about.

And then things went downhill:

Day 1 – People started saying ‘hello’ each time they lined up for a coffee at the machine by his desk.

Day 2 – People started conversations as they waited for their freshly simulated brewed cup of java by his desk.

Day 3 – People started sitting on his desk, whilst they waited for coffee, said ‘hello’, engaged in conversation and were generally sociable.

Day 4 – People asked him where the spare coffee cups were and what ‘error 54g’ was.

Day 5 – People asked him what the telephone number for the coffee repairman was so that they could report ‘error 54g’ and get the coffee machine fixed.

Day 10 – People started using the phone on his desk whilst waiting for a coffee etc.

Day 15 – The project manager left the building.

In actual fact he did move desks, he manage to secure a small space across the landing from the main project office. It wasn’t ideal as he was now removed from the project team but, on balance, it was better than the alternative.

It doesn’t matter that you want to run an ‘open door’ policy in order to be as accessible to everyone, if you want to get on with your job you do need some ‘space’. To be right at the centre of everything all of the time is not conducive to being a good project manager.

It was the coffee machine or the project manager, and the team made it clear that the coffee machine won hands down!

A final comment

So for the ‘productive lazy’ project manager it is perfectly acceptable for the lights to be on and for no-one to be at home; not all of the time obviously, and at critical times access and visibility are all too important. But for the rest of the time, why not let your project team work a few things out for themselves, take some degree of responsibility and decision making, and generally get on with the tasks at hand.

Being there when you are really needed and being there all the time are very different things indeed.

‘You never know till you try to reach them how accessible men are; but you must approach each man by the right door’. Henry Ward Beecher

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

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

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

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

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