Posts Tagged ‘project trainer’

Thank you World!

September 18, 2014

The Lazy Project Manager (5 years old this month) is in all of the Amazon top 100 PM book charts around world!

Get your free eBook ‘The Extra Lazy Project Manager’ from Amazon or www.thelazyprojectmanager.com (5 Years menu option)

Thank you!

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50 Shades of Lazy

August 4, 2014

Have I got your attention now?

Maybe you are one of the few that has not yet come across the global phenomenon that is the ’50 Shades’ trilogy of books, if so then somehow I still got your attention to read this article. But if you have heard of the books then perhaps this is the reason you stopped to read my few words.

The title was small piece of marketing, a hook to draw you in, something to catch your eye and get you interested in investing a small amount of your time to read a little more. The linking of the ‘lazy’ brand to a global success story (in the publishing world) was intentional and, as you must be reading now, it worked.

I mean the article could have been entitled ‘The potential benefits of a significant focus on extending the presence and understanding to the wider stakeholder community on the anticipated project deliverables and associated business advantages…’ but I am thinking that this would have appealed to slightly fewer people.

I learned something very important a long time ago, when I first started out in project management; that no matter how a good a job you do if you don’t let people know then most people just won’t know!

Then it seemed to come naturally to me to share what was going on within a project to all of the team members and to also share outside the project team to others. I quickly built up an affinity to and a relationship with the marketing departments within the organisations that I worked for. Mostly, in the early days, to make sure that I gained access to all of the ‘goodies’ that marketing departments always seem to have to hand – the golf umbrellas, pens, polo shirts etc. But that rapidly evolved in to realising how the marketing department, or at least the people with the marketing skills, could help me out on projects.

Projects are all about control and discipline and delivering to a plan; a plan , it should be noted, that the business has already signed off on. So why, with that authority behind each and every project (and if you don’t have such authority how did the project even get approved?) do we all struggle to get our project all of the focus and resources needed?

The trouble is that no matter what is signed off by the business, unless you exist in the perfectly balanced portfolio world or have unlimited resources, then you will meet such difficulties in delivering your project.

The trouble is also that you will meet some levels of resistance from your stakeholders. Projects are about change and change tends to worry most people. Spreading calm and assurance and information and care is critical for all project managers.

And the benefit is that no matter how well the project plan is adhered to and your directions are carried out there is absolutely no harm, and very often a lot of value, in letting the business and outside or more remote stakeholders know all of the good work you and your team are doing and how this work (the project deliverables) may well help them in the near future. It can certainly lead to advice, guidance and often support as you deliver your project to the business.

One of my early mentors in project management gave me one great piece of advice ‘no surprises’. And by ‘no surprises’ they meant for everyone, all the stakeholders, anyone and everyone you and your project could or would impact in some way.

After 5 years in project management I eventually got to go on a proper course and gained my first certification. After 15 years I eventually gained the necessary support and time to study marketing at a UK school of management to learn more about this subject and how I could aid my projects more in the future.

Both of these learning experiences have helped me a great deal over the years.

And now, more than ever, project managers need to de-risk their projects and raise their chances of success by working effectively that includes effective marketing of their projects.

Back to the infamous ’50 Shades’ books then, it was through the power of the social network and word of mouth that has made these books as hugely successful as they are, it seems that everyone is talking about them. Even by writing this article I am clearly aiding the marketing and therefore the selling of these books (I give the author and publishers of the ’50 Shades’ books my full and unreserved permission to do the same for my ‘Lazy’ books) and that is how you would wish your projects to be represented.

You want people hearing good things about what you are doing and then freely telling others all about it.

So be successful and market!

The F-Word

July 31, 2014

No I am not getting all ‘Anglo-Saxon’ and aggressive but rather reflective on a presentation I delivered earlier on this year – titled ‘The F-Word’.

Well you can’t accuse me of not going for the attention grabbing headlines in my blog articles[1]

Actually the ‘F-Word’ I want to talk about is not the one you may be thinking of…

The conference theme I presented under was in fact ‘Fight, Flight or Freeze’ and this is what inspired me to consider these responses and validate that they were aligned to the spirit of ‘The Lazy Project Manager’.

There are actually 4 responses to a stress situation, or imminent danger event:

  • Freeze
  • Flight
  • Fight
  • Fawn

The fourth was named by Pete Walker, a therapist who said ‘I have named it the fawn response…the fourth ‘f’ in the fight/flight/ freeze/fawn repertoire of instinctive responses to trauma. Fawn, according to Webster’s, means: to act servilely; cringe and flatter’.

To explain this further to my audience I used a mammoth v caveman situation back in pre-history, the dawn of the would-be Lazy Project Manager/Caveman/Hunter.

Mammoth

Ug, let us call our caveman Ug for the sake of a name, was pretty fed up. He went out each day to hunt for food for his family and tribe members and each day, after many hours, he would return home with a small mammal of some sort and each day his family and tribe members would consume the food and demand more for tomorrow. And so the next day Ug would have to do it all over again. No rest. No time to himself. And yet, budding deep inside Ug was the makings of a ‘Lazy’ (in a good way) man.

One day, as he gazed down across the plains from the cliff side where he and his family and tribe lived in the caves he stared at the herd of mammoth wandering around and eating.

It suddenly came to him – if he could kill a mammoth his family, tribe and pretty much anyone else that might wander past the caves at meal times would eat for days and days and he, Ug, could take a well-earned rest.

And so Ug hatched a plan to kill a mammoth.

To be honest it wasn’t a good plan but it was his plan and the next day saw Ug action his less than well thought through plan by striding down the hillside with a large stone club in one hand a large spear in the other.

He headed directly for the first mammoth and with a loud war cry that attracted the attention of all of Ug’s family and friends, not to mention the attention of all of the mammoths nearby, Ug hurled his club at the head of the mammoth. The club flew through the air and bounced on the mammoth’s large hairy skull.

This resulted in two things. One that Ug now only had one weapon left, the spear, and two Ug had the full and undivided attention of the rather large mammoth with the three metre length tusks, 8 tonnes of body weight, and a minor headache.

Ug moved on to stage two of his unfortunately unimpressive plan and threw the spear at the same mammoth, again with a mighty war cry. Up on the hillside his family members cheered (hopefully) at Ug’s bravery.

This resulted in only one thing that really mattered.

Ug was facing a charging mammoth of significant size coming at him at impressive speed and he now had only four options:

4Fs

  • Freeze – not so good in this case as the mammoth is in front of Ug and heading his way (at speed and with a real purpose)
  • Fawn – you rarely want to pet a mammoth in any situation and this was definitely a ‘situation’ that petting was inappropriate
  • Fight – well Ug better have quite a few friends with a lot more weapons willing to join in the fight really fast and in reality these were all still up on the hillside loudly discussing the situation Ug had managed to get himself in to
  • Flight – sounds the most sensible in this situation, live to ‘FFFF’ another day!

History will allow us to fast-forward some months and see Ug, the now truly ‘Lazy Project Manager’, with a significantly improved plan born out of vivid personal experience overseeing an organised activity with all of the male tribe members driving a mammoth isolated from the herd towards a pre-selected cliff edge to fall to certain death ready for the hunters to recover the body. Fast-forward a few hours from that and we can see Ug and all of his family members feasting on roasted mammoth and Ug looking forward to a few weeks rest and relaxation before his next hunting trip – hunting smarter and not harder!

Flight in this case was the right choice but there is another F-Word that Ug should have considered before that almost fateful first attempt at mammoth hunting.

Let’s meet Nigel, Nigel has a body – lots of it, inside and out and Nigel is in ‘a situation’ – what happens to Nigel’s body?

(Warning – this is the science bit)

A reaction begins in the amygdala, which triggers a neural response in the hypothalamus. The initial reaction is followed by activation of the pituitary gland and secretion of the hormone ACTH. The adrenal gland is activated almost simultaneously and releases the neurotransmitter epinephrine. The release of chemical messengers results in the production of the hormone cortisol, which increases blood pressure, blood sugar, and suppresses the immune system. The initial response and subsequent reactions are triggered in an effort to create a boost of energy. This boost of energy is activated by epinephrine binding to liver cells and the subsequent production of glucose.

Additionally, the circulation of cortisol functions to turn fatty acids into available energy, which:

  • Acceleration of heart and lung action
  • Paling or flushing, or alternating between both
  • Inhibition of stomach and upper-intestinal action to the point where digestion slows down or stops
  • General effect on the sphincters of the body
  • Constriction of blood vessels in many parts of the body
  • Liberation of metabolic energy sources for muscular action
  • Dilation of blood vessels for muscles
  • Inhibition of the lacrimal gland (responsible for tear production and salivation)
  • Dilation of pupil
  • Relaxation of bladder
  • Inhibition of erection
  • Auditory exclusion (loss of hearing)
  • Tunnel vision (loss of peripheral vision)
  • Disinhibition of spinal reflexes
  • Shaking

Do you recognise any of this? I certainly do.

I ran a significant project in the early days of my project management career and, to put it simply, I made myself pretty ill as a result. I was so focused and so involved in well ‘everything’ that I suffered from stress both during and after the project ended. I did neither myself nor the project any good acting this way.

There are many negative effects of stress:

  • Physiological effects
    • Headaches
    • Muscle tension and pain
    • Chest pain
    • Fatigue
    • Changes in sex drive
    • Upset stomach
    • Problems with sleeping
    • Urinary problems
  • Psychological effects
    • Anxiety
    • Restlessness
    • Lack of motivation or focus
    • Irritability or anger
    • Depression
  • Behavioral effects
    • Over-eating or under-eating
    • Drug or alcohol abuse
    • Social withdrawal

Stress is, in the short-term, a good thing in that those instinctive responses to trauma kick in and we move in to survival mode rapidly and go for our selected ‘F’ response but stress in anything but the short-term is a bad thing, as I found out to my own personal cost.

But I learnt from the experience and this led me to the revised behaviour that forms the basis of The Lazy Project Manager[2] – just like Ug I learnt from the bad experience and changed the way I acted.

One last piece of advice – there is a real risk with regards to the ‘Fight’ syndrome option. Used successfully in one situation there is a real possibility of a future addiction to this option in the next situation and the one after that and so on. You face a tough situation and select fight mode, as a result you win the day or get want you want – you feel great! And so you respond the same next time around and there is no longer a possibility for any other response and this doesn’t make for a good project manager (or person).

And so on the real ‘F-Word’, the one I want to talk about, the one that our caveman friend Ug should have used, the fifth ‘F’.

5Fs

This F-Word is ‘Foresight’ – the greatest strength a project manager has is to be prepared.

I was given some great advice when I started out from my manager and that was ‘No surprises’ – he said that he would support me in all situations as long as he was pre-warned by me. He didn’t expect me to be perfect and he knew there would be problems at times but as long as I was the one telling him about the issue or challenge first he was confident that I was in control but if someone else told him first then I perhaps wasn’t.

So ‘No surprises’ is a good motto for all project managers.

And that is where ‘Productive Laziness’ comes in – working smarter and not harder – being well prepared and therefore being capable of dealing with anything.

Go forward use the F-Word wisely and have foresight!

Peter

Blog Post Author: 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 20 countries and has been described as ‘perhaps the most entertaining and inspiring speaker in the project management world today’. He also acts as an independent consultant and trainer working with some of the major organizations in the world coaching executive sponsors, PMO leaders and project managers.

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 www.peterbtaylor.co.uk – and through his free podcasts in iTunes.

[1] Sexy Project Management for example is my most popular article with over 3,000 views so far, and I have done ’50 Shades of Lazy, that was pretty popular as well.

[2] The Lazy Project Manager, Infinite Ideas, published 2009 – author Peter Taylor

Executives: Stop Failing Your Projects!

May 29, 2014

Yes you read that right – not ‘Executives; stop your failing projects’ but ‘Executives; stop failing your projects’

In ‘Why good strategies fail: Lessons for the C-suite’ published by The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited in 2013 the report stated, in the conclusion, that there was a need for increased C-suite attention to implementation (therefore projects) ‘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’.

On the subject of finding the right level of C-suite engagement the report declares ‘… one of the most worrying findings of our survey is that leading executives at a large number of companies do too little about strategy implementation. Only 50% of respondents say that strategy implementation secures the appropriate C-suite attention at their organisation. Similarly, 28% admit that individual projects or initiatives to put strategy into place do not typically receive the necessary senior-level sponsorship’.

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

C Suite Executives

So how can you get this message up to the highest level in your organisation?

Well fear is one way so why not try this simple ‘script’ when you get the opportunity.

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

Now this next step will depend on the type of industry you are in but choosing a typical regulated commercial model for a business then it can be said that out of that total portfolio some projects are compliance driven and some business driven. In this example we will use 40% as compliance and 60% as business growth projects. Therefore we have £8m invested in compliance projects and £12m in business development projects.

But we don’t stop there. For each project to be sanctioned there must be a ‘value added’ benefit. For compliance projects this is less ‘value add’ and more ‘cost impact’ and so perhaps this is a 2:1 ratio as a result of potential penalties for non-compliance plus the actually project investment costs. In our example this would be £8m multiplied by 2 plus the original £8m, which equals £24m.

Now for the rest of the portfolio, the business growth or development projects, then you don’t invest £1 to gain £1 – what’s the point? – Of course not, there has to be a return on investment ratio that typically might be at around 4:1 (apply your own business factor here presumably you have something in your business case approval process that has such a figure defined?). Therefore investing £1 would gain a return in investment of £4. Therefore using the same maths as the compliance projects we now have in our example a total of £12m multiplied by 4 plus the original £12m, which equals £60m.

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

In the ‘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 regards 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% more likely chance of the project not delivering what was expected.

Investment in project sponsorship is evidence that the executives are taking strategy investment seriously, and not doing so an example of where the C-suite are failing their own business and investors (and projects).

Taking our £84m portfolio and doing nothing to develop good project sponsorship means that 13%, or £10.92m, is practically written off from day one.

If your CFO is in the room right now and paying attention tell them to go get the shredding machine and stuff £10.92m in to it right now – you might as well as this is what is more than likely going to happen to all that money, all that investment, it will just disappear and you will have nothing to show for it except a lot of resources wondering what they had been working on all this time (I would say burn it, visually more powerful but also more of a safety risk).

And hey we haven’t even considered disruption of business costs during the projects – what shall we say here, maybe another 20% of the total portfolio investment, about £16.8m or so?

And you know what? Everything is never equal. I suspect that the 40% we allocated as compliance project investment has a greater success ratio than the other projects, not that these projects are any more ‘healthy’ but that through the fear of non-compliance the company throws resources at these projects over and above the other 60% of business development projects and achieves’ success’ the hard (and costly) way.

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

Workout these figures now.

And looking back at your portfolio we said 40% was compliance activity and 60% was business growth but think about it, of the balance how much is real ‘clear blue strategic change’? I bet that most is just to keep pace with your market and perhaps only 10% is real change. So again if failure is the ‘norm’ and the focus on success tends towards the compliance end of the project scale, how successful are the true change projects you have underway in the organisation?

Now I realise that all of these figures are open to interpretation and maybe my maths is less than perfect but you must get the general idea. Big investment in strategy through projects needs to be backed up by real commitment to successful delivery and, whilst the development of good project managers backed up with appropriate processes and methods is critical, it is the clear responsibility of the executive leaders to connect such strategy to project activity and to sponsor these projects in a competent way.

Hopefully all of this will have woken up the executives and you have their full undivided attention but just in case here is one last statistic that may well help.

A four-year study by LeadershipIQ.com interviewing over 1,000 board members from 286 public and private organizations that fired, or otherwise forced out, their chief executive found that the number one reason CEO’s got fired was …. Wait for it …. Mis-managing change! And what is change if not projects.

And so I go back to my opening statement and shout it out once more ‘Executives; stop failing your projects!’

Peter Greenwood, group executive director— strategy, CLP Group agrees, in ‘Why good strategies fail: Lessons for the C-suite’ notes that ‘Companies fail or fall short of their potential not because of bad strategies, but because of a failure to implement good ones’.

 

And if you need some help with this message then I am happy to speak on your behalf – just email me at peter.b.taylor@btinternet.com today and let’s get that message heard loud and clear!