Posts Tagged ‘speaker’

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

The Social Project Manager

November 4, 2016

The Social Project Manager

Balancing Collaboration with Centralised Control in a Project Driven World

We human beings are social beings.

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

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

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

Dalai Lama

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

peter_taylor_keynote_v3

Considering ‘social within project’

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

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

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

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

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

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

Considering ‘social about project’

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

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

Considering ‘social around project

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

social_pm

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

That Starbucks Moment

October 23, 2016

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

So what is the ‘Starbucks Moment’?

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

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

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

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

alligator

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

The Social Project Manager

February 19, 2016

A project is a temporary endeavour where people come together to work towards a common goal and purpose; it is therefore a temporary endeavour that must rely on a social system of communication and collaboration in order to succeed.

But for common purpose to be achieved there cannot be chaos.

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

There is a paradigm shift on-going in many organisations that is about finding a practical balance between the challenges to traditional project management made by Project Management 2.0 – which encouraged a move away from centralised control of projects and instead promoted the value of team collaboration – and the practical recognition that large scale projects do require a stronger form of centralised control and governance. This balance, if correctly made, that will take the best of both worlds and move project management into the highest levels of performance and achievement, into the world of the social project manager.

Social_PM

Based on the book The Social Project Manager: Balancing Collaboration with Centralised Control in a Project Driven World – this is the first in a series of 12 videos exploring the world of the Social Project Manager –

https://youtu.be/A-kt2umTO2U?list=PLVmvTj_zUGUpvHh2X-Ex4kVkHP6n5PYYI

 

The Need for Speed

February 12, 2016

Now an immediate disclaimer from me, this article really isn’t about anything to do with speed but it is a neat title I thought.

Tachometer and arrow on 7 (done in 3d)

Well when I say nothing to do with speed it does in an indirect way.

Let me explain.

This week I found myself in a cold draughty church hall with 19 other fellow humans on what is known in the UK as a ‘Speed Awareness Course’ – yes I had been caught fair and square by a speed camera sometime late last year. The National Speed Awareness Course (NSAC) scheme is designed, in the official words ‘to allow the Police to divert low-end speeding motorists to a re-education course’. The idea is that the course is designed to change the driver’s behaviour with ultimate goal of preventing the driver from reoffending in the same way.

So there you have it – guilty as charged and paying the price. I should have no complaints, and I don’t – other than why couldn’t the course have been somewhere nicer, why was I only allowed one coffee in 4 hours, why was the course 4 hours anyway when it could have been delivered in 2 hours, and why did we have to have two trainers?

All that aside and getting back to the point of this article, one of the two trainers did make a statement that started me thinking. He first asked the group ‘When did you get your driving licence and pass your driving test’ and most of us said around the age of 17 to 19, and then he asked when would we next have to be assessed for our driving skills and the common answer was ‘aged 70’ which is correct. Now even at age 70 all you have to do is apply and complete a form and you get another 3 years of driving in the middle lane on the motorways of Great Britain at 44 miles an hour (OK so that was a little stereotyping but hey you know what I mean) so no real test as such.

And here is the key – the trainer asked a final question, ‘what other activity that you have to take an exam for (practical and theory these days) can you keep doing for 53 or more years and never have to take any additional training to keep doing?’.

Now there’s a thought I indeed did think!

Consider the growth in traffic volumes in the last 50 years – consider lights, seat belts, air bags, navigational technology, brakes – consider road layouts and length of journeys undertaken – consider what that Audi A5 Sportsback I now own can do compared to my first car, a wreck of a Ford Anglia – readers can check what this actually is at their leisure but the point is it all adds up to a very different world from the point of passing a driving exam.

This is one reason I kind of like the various project management certifications out there because it is not just a matter of passing but also at renewing with evidence of practice engagement, education and contribution – I am looking at my PMP certificate as I write this (and I freely acknowledge other certifications are out there and are just as good); passed on 2nd November 2006 and renewed 3 times so far.

There must be project managers out that have taken and passed (or just stayed until the final day in some cases – you know it is true) project management courses and have never been back on any form of re-education since.

For sure practice is really, really important but I would argue that is not enough. You end up in a bubble of self-justification and personal measurement if you don’t set yourself against your peers and against the world-wide community of project managers.

Your value in the marketplace cannot be objectively measured.

And you cannot identify ways to get even better than you are, and yet there are so many ways through reading, blogs, podcasts, conferences and congresses, shared team experiences, and much, much more.

Did I at the end of the ‘Speed Awareness Course’ learn anything, yes I did and did it also remind me of some things I have forgotten, again yes it did. So was it worth it? Well yes, I just wish I taken my coat with me.

These days I am built for comfort and not for speed.

 

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!

5 Years of The Lazy Project Manager

May 29, 2014

Five years ago I released a small book that has made a huge impact, on myself and on many others it seems, and to celebrate this anniversary I want to know more about what you thought of the book and what else it should have had in it and perhaps what I should have left out. My intention is to write a short free eBook called ‘The Extra Lazy Project Manager’ based on your comments and suggestions and release it on 1st September 2014 to coincide with The Lazy Project Managers publication back in 2009.

If you wanted to write a short (300 word max) piece about how the book helped you that would be wonderful and I would include such contributions in the eBook.

Please spend 5 minutes to share your thoughts about the book (even if you haven’t read it I am interested) – the survey is here The Extra Lazy Project Manager Survey

The Lazy Project Manager

Rage Against the Machine

March 31, 2014

‘Welcome my son, welcome to the machine. Where have you been? It’s alright we know where you’ve been’ Pink Floyd, Welcome to the Machine – Wish you were Here

The Machine

Some months ago I was considering a full time role once again, my concern was ‘how long could I act as an independent consultant and trainer without actually practising project management?’, which is still an interesting dilemma for me today – any thoughts or great opportunities feel free to let me know.

Anyway I was pretty selective in what I considered but one opportunity did seem to be interesting, it was for a Global Head of PMO (this is the sort of role that I would consider in case you wondered). Eventually, after meetings with the agency and a phone interview I went for a face to face interview with the organisation in question.

It didn’t go well.

In fact it went quite badly from my point of view.

After the interview I phoned the agency and said I wasn’t interested and the main reasons were that this organisation appeared to have absolutely no passion for the projects that they were undertaking (perhaps something I could have helped with) but more importantly they were entirely process focused, and not in a good way, this rang alarm bells for me immediately. Being part of that set-up would have killed my creativity and I couldn’t see a happy ending.

Was I right about them? Well I think the answer came some many weeks later after the organisation had finally selected a new Head of PMO (and good luck to them of course, maybe they can check out my website www.leadingsuccessfulpmos.com for some PMO success style inspiration).

Their HR representative phoned me to give me the reasons that they didn’t select me for the job!

I said that I withdrew weeks ago and they said yes that was noted and thank you for the valuable feedback but that they had to follow the process of giving feedback to all candidates….

Was I right about them or what!

‘So welcome to the machine. Welcome my son, welcome to the machine. What did you dream? It’s alright we told you what to dream’

And this story is true – honestly it is.

I was recently shopping in a large chain sports store with my family. Now the main purpose of the trip was to buy some new trainers for one of my sons, and after some considerable time he finally selected an acceptable (design and brand) from his point of view pair and an acceptable (cost and cost) pair from my point of view.

He spent so long deciding that I took the chance to look for a pair of trainers for myself and chose my pair on the criteria of design and brand (and of course cost).

When I went up to pay for the goods I experienced a service engagement that was pretty unique and most certainly unforgettable. Of course the sales girl had been trained in the basics of the job and presumably had been encouraged to make the transaction an enjoyable and personal one – there was, no doubt, a pre-designed workflow in place, a process that needed to be undertaken.

So handing over the two boxes of trainers she dutifully checked the shoes – perhaps that they were a correct pair but certainly that I had the correct size.

‘Size 7’ she declared and I nodded (these were my sons trainers).

Moving on to the next box she went through the same process and declared ‘Size 9’ to which I nodded a ‘yes’, these were my trainers.

Then came the stunning moment when she looked up at me and said ‘Well you really are treating yourself aren’t you …’

Of course yes, I bought a size 7 for the daytime and a size 9 for when my feet got larger towards the end of the day!

Well I understood what she was trying to do and I appreciated the attempt at some form of real human interaction during this pre-determined process but there has to be logic in what is said and in this case there wasn’t any and so the whole thing fell apart.

‘So welcome to the machine’

A process is a systematic series of actions directed to some end, and there is nothing wrong with that at all, don’t think that I am anti-process, I’m certainly not.

But (yes there is a ‘but’) any process has to be relevant, appropriate and reasonable.

I was asked to consult for one organisation about a year ago and their issue was that ‘nobody is following our project delivery methodology’ according to the head of the PMO that I was to work with.

This organisation had invested a fair amount of time and effort in creating a single unifying and consistent methodology based on practical experience and lessons learned, they gathered suggestions for content and structure from all of their project managers across the world, and constructed what they felt was the ‘best of the best’.

It certainly looked good, was easy to navigate and had many tools and templates available to project managers.

They had developed a training program to ensure that everyone knew all about the new methodology and could access it for all future projects.

They used their marketing department to develop a complimentary series of promotional materials (hats, mouse mats, posters etc) for internal use as well as a set of flyers and other marketing collateral for customer use.

They commenced a help/support desk to gather feedback and recommendations for improvements.

They got their senior management to promote the new business tool through videos and presentations.

They even had a competition where one person could win an iPad by suggesting a great name for the methodology.

They seemed to have thought of everything…

And yet here I was a year after the launch of this all singing all dancing process trying to help them work out why ‘nobody is following our project delivery methodology’.

In fact the answer was relatively easy to uncover and exposed perhaps the single flaw in their approach to this initiative.

Customers didn’t like it as it seemed just too complicated. Now this didn’t mean that it didn’t need to be so but the delivery challenge that this method seemed to portray was in stark contrast to the apparent simplicity of the products that the customers were being offered by this organisation.

Experienced project managers didn’t like it because it mandated each and every step that they had to take and a) they didn’t believe projects were like that and b) it undermined them and devalued their professional experience.

Inexperienced project managers didn’t like it because it was over-whelming to them and as they progressed its use step by step, phase by phase, it seemed as if the project itself was on a completely different path and timescale and events overtook the theory.

In my book ‘Leading Successful PMOs’ (Gower) and the follow up companion book ‘Delivering Successful PMOs’ (Gower Jan 2015) I explored this issue and concluded that, from a PMO perspective:

  • The best PMOs are the managers of a flexible framework method to assist project managers in the delivery of projects
  • The best PMOs ensured that this framework, and the associated tools and templates, were suitable for each project as not all projects are the same

And there is the key. Not all projects are the same and not all project managers are the same.

What is really needed is a scalable and flexible and appropriate means to deliver projects that can be aligned to the experience of the project manager and is relevant to the project complexity.

For the company I was advising they initiated two things with regards to their methodology:

  • Creating a small scale, low complexity ‘project light’ version of the method with simplified templates and reduced scope
  • Promoting the full scale method (in fact it now referred to as a ‘framework’) as a reference tool for project managers to use as they see fit, with only 3 key ‘point in time’ and mandated quality milestones

They also developed a new process, which is a good thing I feel.

This profiles the projects at the initiation stage in order to understand the perceived complexity (and therefore risk to the organisation) and therefore the most appropriate project manager to use, from an experience point of view.

Time will tell on the success of this revised approach but the initial feedback is very positive.

So you can see that process can be bad, and process can be good. Just remember that any process has to be relevant, appropriate and reasonable.

And so the next time you are working on a process ‘improvement’ why not tune in to Pink Floyd[1] and consider the ‘machine’ and its impact on people.

‘Welcome’

 

[1] And ‘yes’ I was listening to them whilst writing this piece. Shine on you Crazy Diamonds!

Project Managers are from Mars and Project Sponsors are from Venus

February 28, 2014

‘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 an American author and relationship counsellor John Gray. It has sold more than 50 million copies (yes that is one or two 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 the ongoing Campaign for Real Project Sponsors that I began back in 2011, that maybe we could think of project managers and project sponsors in similar terms.

The book states that most of common relationship problems between men and women are a result of fundamental psychological differences between the genders, which the author exemplifies by means of its eponymous metaphor: that men and women are from distinct planets – men from Mars and women from Venus –- and that each gender is acclimated to its own planet’s society and customs, but not to those of the other.

Now it is possible that this comes in to play if say the project manager is a man and the project sponsor is a woman – as in the book Strategies for Project Sponsorship (Management Concepts Press) by Vicki James, Ron Rosenhead and myself – to aid the understanding in the book of the two inter-playing roles we (a suggestion from the lady from Venus, Vicki, actually) agreed to separate the roles by gender. But let’s not go down that path for now – let us assume that gender plays no part in this and that the two roles, the two people, are both from project ‘Planet’ (sorry maybe that was just a tad too corny but you get my meaning).

For project success many sources of authority[1] boldly declare that good project sponsorship is critical but sadly the reality of the situation is less than perfect. 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 declaring that they ‘had sponsorship’ in place but 83% confirmed the worrying truth that they did nothing to support or 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 really needs to be a good partnership built on a relationship of trust and mutual objectives.

‘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’ John Gray

Project sponsorship is not about an ‘either/or’ situation but a ‘win/win’ for both the project sponsor and the project manager, it is, after all, about the project and therefore about the business benefit.

If we look at the flipside of project success we can see this inter-connection and the consequences of getting it wrong:

Project Failure

This is a list of top project failure issues and clearly the lack of good project sponsorship can contribute to the unrealistic goals, the poor alignment, lack of resources and lack of leadership – in this case the project manager from Mars has one heck of a gaping hole to try and fill. Equally with a lack of good project management this contributes another vacuum of leadership, team engagement issues and poor risk management – in this case the project sponsor from Venus has no hope of dealing with the consequential impact.

In the book 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 as 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 that they had, and with the project sponsor that they were ‘given’. Like the saying goes ‘you can pick your friends but you can’t pick your relatives’ it has to be appreciated that the same is true of project sponsors.

Each project sponsor (and each project manager) will be different, will be imperfect, will have strengths and weaknesses but if the combined relationship of the two roles, the two people, both understand each other’s responsibilities and capabilities then the best balance possible can be achieved for an effective and positive relationship (and subsequent project success).

‘Relationships thrive when communication reflects a ready acceptance and respect of people’s innate differences’ John Gray

If you work in an organisation that needs to develop your project sponsors from Venus (and maybe also your project managers from Mars) then maybe check out the book, or contact me to find out how I can help. And spread the word, we do really need everyone to join the Campaign for Real Project Sponsors; there is a lot (a lot) of work to be done.

As an example, the latest PMI Project Management Body of Knowledge[2] (Edition 5) is a valuable and extensive document of reference with 185,230 words of wisdom crammed inside. Sadly of those words only 159 refer to project sponsorship at all, I’ll raise it to 179 words by generously including the 20 words in the glossary that refer to ‘organisational sponsorship’ – I am being generous as it mentions project sponsorship as one word ‘sponsor’s’ (and Project Sponsor is not in the glossary as a term). Anyway that means this most widely referenced body of knowledge has a mere 0.01% content related to the ‘most important person in the project…’[3]

OK I hear what you are saying, Peter that is the ‘Project Management’ body of knowledge so don’t be so harsh. Well maybe I might take the point (actually I wouldn’t, at the very least we should see a whole lot more about how the project manager needs to interact with the project sponsor but for the sake of this particular argument …) so let’s move across to the perspective of the organisation.

The OPM3 / Organizational Project Management Maturity Model[4] looks at the overall maturity of project based activity inside and organisation so there is no escaping the project sponsor on this one is there?

Well it seems that the answer to that question is surprisingly a big fat ‘Yes’.

Out of the 151 Self-Assessment Measures only 1 is related in any way to project sponsorship; ‘Are the sponsor and other stakeholders involved in setting a direction for the project that is in the best interest of all stakeholders?’

At least it is question number 1 on the list.

And of the 600 Best Practice measurements only 3 reference project sponsorship, numbers 1440, 1450 and 5460.

See what I mean? Still don’t think we have a problem?

This needs to be taken seriously and 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 dammed good; but the balance is all on that side. Venus, on the other hand is pretty much undeveloped and in need of a real make-over.

SFPS_Book_Cover

You can find out more at www.strategies4sponsors.com and you can also join the LinkedIn group – Projects Sponsors, to continue the discussion. Or contact me at peter.b.taylor@btinternet.com

‘Strategies for Project Sponsorship is a unique blend of practical, step-by-step tools; hard-won wisdom from the PM trenches; and solid, research-based recommendations. As a PM author reading this book, I found myself in awe of how nimbly the authors weaved together seemingly disparate elements: here citing research findings, there providing war stories or case study examples, and finally pivoting to morph these into powerful, ready-to-use tools. As someone who’s both managed projects and trained project managers for more than three decades, I know this for certain: This book should be in every project manager’s tool kit and in every project sponsor’s briefcase’ Michael Greer

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 with new books out including ‘The Lazy Project Manager and the Project from Hell’, ‘Strategies for Project Sponsorship’, ‘Leading Successful PMOs’, and ‘The Thirty-Six Stratagems: A Modern Interpretation of a Strategy Classic’ – with a number of other book projects currently underway.

He has been described as ‘perhaps the most entertaining and inspiring speaker in the project management world today’ and he also acts as an independent consultant 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.thelazywinner.com  – and through his free podcasts in iTunes.

  • Keynote
  • Presentations and Lectures
  • Master of Ceremonies
  • Inspirational Workshops
  • Training
  • Coaching
  • Authoring


[1] Check out Project Management Institute, Inc. Pulse of the Profession™, March 2013 and CHAOS Manifesto: The Year of the Executive Sponsor (Standish) 2012 and PricewaterhouseCoopers LLC: Insights and Trends: Current Portfolio, Programme, and Project Management Practices 2012 – The third global survey on the current state of project management as just a few.

[2]. The PMBOK® Guide—Fifth Edition is the preeminent global standard for project management from PMI. It provides project managers with the fundamental practices needed to achieve organizational results and excellence in the practice of project management.

[3] One of PMI’s foundational standards, the Organizational Project Management Maturity Model (OPM3®) – Third Edition is a guide to achieving organizational project maturity.

 

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