Posts Tagged ‘speaker’

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.

 

Advertisements

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

Is your project Ticketyboo?

January 9, 2014

This article is an extract from my book on project management fun – The Project Manager Who Smiled – available HERE AT MY ONLINE STORE

One of my favourite words to update anyone on a project status is ‘ticketyboo’.

Use it and I will guarantee that you will stop them in their tracks and most likely start a conversation that will be entertaining and enjoyable.

But what does it mean?

Well there are a number of theories regarding the origin of the expression but in general terms is ‘all in order, satisfactory, as it should be’ or ‘Everything is going fine and things are proceeding smoothly or quickly’.

It first appeared in the early 1920s and was in general use by the 1940s. It is still used in the UK by people of ‘a certain age’ apparently and has become rather old fashioned (well that puts me in place doesn’t it).

There is one theory that it is a relic of the British Colonial presence in India and it may have originated in the British military with one of the most accepted and common theories connects it to the Hindi expression ‘Tikai babu’ or ‘Tickee babu’ meaning ‘Everything’s alright, sir’.

It could also be the combination of the phrase (favoured by toffs) of ‘that’s the ticket’ with the childish phrase of ‘peek-a-boo’.

There are others who believe that the expression may have originated in Scotland, where it’s the title of a popular children’s song. In fact a song called ‘Everything Is Tickety-Boo’ was recorded by Danny Kaye[1] way back in 1958 as part of the film ‘Merry Andrew’.

I have also been told that this expression is heard more often in Canada these days, but I can’t confirm this at all except that as the term was popular in the RAF, and there were many Canadians working with the RAF during the war then the adoption of the term would make sense.

Regardless of origin and regardless of historical meaning I still maintain that it is one great word to sum up your project (hopefully) and one brilliant word to get people talking to you, and talking about the project as well.

And so I give you ‘ticketyboo’ – use it today, why not?

You will find yourself totally ‘ticketyboo’.

Want more fun?

Then get your copy of The Project Manager Who Smiled today – available HERE AT MY ONLINE STORE


[1]Feel free to look this up on YouTube and have fun learning the lyrics at your next project team meeting.

What’s in a Name?

January 6, 2014

A big ‘yo yo’ from the master mixer TLPM

‘That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet’ William Shakespeare from Romeo and Juliet

Or to put it another way

‘Hi! My name is… (what?) My name is… (who?). My name is… Slim Shady. Hi! My name is… (huh?) My name is… (what?). My name is… Slim Shady’ Eminem (Marshall Mathers)

I do like to have a good contrast in life and that was certainly one of the extreme ones.

But the point is that we all use tags, nicknames, brands, titles, whatever you would like to call them. Some, such as ‘Slim Shady’ aka ‘Eminem aka ‘Marshall Mathers’ aka … more than most perhaps, but we use them all the time.

The other day I was cheerfully teasing my teenage son – us fathers have to have some pleasures in life after all – about his musical tastes (a lot that I actually share with him) and particularly about some of their names.

‘Tiny Tempah’ being a good example. A huge star these days but, excuse me if you will, a rather silly name I think and one that would have normally been a real problem at school once upon a time. And then there is ’50 cent’ and ‘P Diddy’ and ‘Vanilla Ice’ and ‘Snoop Dog’ and ‘LL Cool J’ and ‘Soulja Boy’ and ‘Ice Cube’ and my favourite ‘Del tha Funkee Homosapien’.

Eventually the teenager had had enough and responded on the attack.

‘Well you call yourself ‘The Lazy Project Manager’! How dumb is that?’

Point well made I had to agree (although his allowance has been severely cut). And I am not alone out there.

Ladies and Gentlemen I kindly offer you ‘Papercut PM’ and ‘Project Shrink’ and ‘Deep Fried Brain’ and ‘Earth PM’ and ‘Gantthead’ and ‘Raven’s Brain’ and ‘Drunken PM’ and ‘Journeyman’ and, since we are on such a roll, ‘The gorilla is named Hogarth’. Quite a list and these are only a few that came to mind right now – there are many, many more great PMs out there blogging away (just check out my website for a more complete list www.thelazyprojectmanager.com ) and a whole bunch of them are known by their alter-egos.

So what is in a name? Why do we do it? I mean I do have a name that my parents bestowed upon me – ‘Peter Taylor’ – so why was ‘The Lazy Project Manager’ born to replace my perfectly suitable name?

Well in my case it was to articulate a way of being a project manager, the ‘lazy way, the ‘productively lazy way’. To be honest describing the way I work as the ‘Peter Taylor’ way or the concept as the ‘Peter Taylor Project Manager’ probably would have gone nowhere fast and I doubt if my publishers would have picked up on the book proposal.

But ‘The Lazy Project Manager’ said it all, provides a great hook in for people, and it reflects me as a person and a project manager. And over the last two years through my original website, speaking engagements, the book, the eLearning courses, the articles and associated activity ‘The Lazy Project Manager’ has become a brand. Indeed my publishers have just commissioned the second book in the ‘lazy’ series so the brand will grow in the coming months.

A brand is the identity of a specific product, service, or business. A brand can take many forms, including a name, a sign, a symbol, a colour combination or a slogan or indeed a mixture of all these. The word brand began simply as a way to tell one person’s cattle from another by means of a hot iron stamp and a legally protected brand name is called a trademark. The word brand has continued to evolve to encompass identity – it affects the personality of a product, company or service. I would hope with ‘The Lazy Project Manager’ that brand means good service, value for money, and great entertainment through a learning experience.

So what is your ‘brand’? How do you present yourself and your projects?

There are three major categories of communication within a project Communication Plan: mandatory, informational, and marketing.

Mandatory and informational communication is, typically, well addressed by project managers; it is simple to understand and to carry out. The third element of marketing communication however is often neglected, to the detriment of the project and its likely achievement of success. Branding a project is achieved through creating a project personality with which stakeholders can have a relationship and therefore an emotional attachment; that is in essence that they actually care about the project outcomes. This personality or identity is known as the project brand and it is key to maximising buy-in and support from the widest range of stakeholders. If marketing communication wins the minds of these stakeholders then project branding should win their hearts as well.

Of course, branding takes time and money and effort, so you also need to have a project with a long time horizon. A steady stream of positive communication, combined with the positive feeling of the project branding, will help the project be successful and should help overcome any negative perceptions that the project may have.

Perhaps the simplest branding technique is to have a project name that reflects the people, the project, the company and the purpose. I have asked, through LinkedIn discussions, for people to share with me their project names and the reasons they were chosen and whether they were successful or not, and why. But I would love to hear more so please contact me through www.thelazyprojectmanager.com

Is there a ‘Tiny Tempah’ project out there somewhere? Maybe a ‘P Diddy’ school of project management might be attractive?

Anyway I am off now to watch some TV, maybe an old western with Clint Eastwood in.  I love those.

Maybe one of the ones with the ‘Man with no Name’ – what a brand!

Green Bean PMs – Happy New Year

December 31, 2013

How should new project managers learn from the ‘Old beans’

When my kids were young they loved to play one particular game at the annual birthday parties. This game involved ‘Beans’ – all of the kids standing ready and waiting for instructions and then the cry would go up of ‘Beans’ and the game would begin.

‘Runner beans’ as a call would mean that everyone had to run on the spot. ‘Jumping beans’ meant, naturally, a lot of jumping up and down in one place. ‘French beans’ meant a chorus of ‘Ooh la la’s’ and waving of arms in a posh French way. And ‘Baked beans’ meant … well you know kids so I am sure that you can work that one out for yourself. It goes without saying this is the one ‘Bean’ that they loved the most.

Then at the end a final call would be ‘Human beans’ and the kids were back to normal human beings (or back to kids anyway which meant even more noise and dancing around and general excitement).

At my new company I hear a lot about ‘Green beans’ and the challenge of inducting and developing raw talent in to the organization. So when the call goes up of ‘Green beans’ for project managers what should this mean?

I think that key to having a successful induction of the ‘Project beans’ will include:

Give them a safe place to start

Projects are, by their very nature, tricky beasts and for a ‘newbie’ to learn the practical skills of project management we should ensure that they enter the PM world in a controlled way. Hopefully being handed a new project to lead and being told to ‘get on with it’ (as I was when I became a PM) is long gone.

Rather we should allow the ‘Green beans’ to experience project reality by taking up a small part in another project managers project, and watching and learning and getting involved in a small way.

In addition, if there are project reviews, health checks, and retrospectives taking place (and I really hope that there are) then this is another great entry experience for the young ones to see and learn.

Another safe(r) environment might be internal projects – rather than external customer facing ones.

Key is to make the environment of learning a safe one.

Give them a friendly place to work

Where should they work and report when they first start out? Well don’t leave them out in the cold and without peers and project professionals around them. If you have a project practise then this is the place to nurture those ‘beans’.

Make it easy for them to ask the questions that they will need to ask and make it easy for them to see experienced project managers in action.

We all know that there is a world of difference between theory and practice so give them the support they need to move away from the theory.

Key is to make it easy for them to find out all of the stuff that will need to find out.

Give them a helping hand

Appoint a mentor from out there in project management land who will be there to listen to them from time to time and gently point them in the right direction when they need help – such a person will be invaluable to the ‘beans’ in the early days of being a project manager.

Encourage them to make the effort to look outside your organization and connect to some truly wonderful project managers and experts out there on the www. There is a huge amount of advice and guidance through local project management groups, through conferences and meetings, through the online discussions and blogs, and lots more. (It may be in this area the ‘Green’ ones might have the upper hand on us ‘Grey’ ones since all this social connectivity is second nature to them).

Key is to build the best possible network for now and the future and to use it wisely.

A final thought

And a final word for the ‘Green beans’ themselves.

Be enthusiastic at all times. Trust me; project management is a great place to be right now, you probably won’t be able to stop yourself smiling.

So when the cry goes up of ‘Project beans’ join in all that noise and excitement along with all the other ‘Project beans’ (We will be shouting and dancing as best as our ‘Old bean’ legs will let us).

I kind of wish I was ‘Green’ all over again.

Happy Project Managers

December 22, 2013

Walt Disney said ‘It’s kind of fun to do the impossible’ but, unfortunately, many project managers seem to think, or have been trained to think, that ‘It’s kind of impossible to do the fun’ when in reality I say ‘It’s kind of not possible to not do the fun when you’re trying to do the impossible, or something close to the impossible’.

In my previous ‘Lazy’ books – ‘The Lazy Project Manager’, ‘The Lazy Winner’ and ‘The Lazy Project Manager and The Project from Hell’ I have included as much ‘fun’ as I can think of (and get away with), even in ‘Leading Successful PMOs’ I gave it my best shot, but with this book, The Project Manager Who Smiled, the shackles are off and it is 100% humour all of the way.

And it is not just myself that believes in ‘fun’ at work, listen to what two people (who wrote the forewords to the book) have to say:

In our recent survey on working habits, one of the questions that we asked 2,000 team members, managers, executives and business owners was, “What stimulates your efficiency at work?” Good mood was cited as the second strongest motivator of productivity, ranking higher than such serious factors as a possible reward or fear of superiors. Over 57% of respondents said that good mood is a very powerful motivator. Only a sense of responsibility received more votes.

This data seems to show that if we want to work on our projects in an efficient and stress-free way, a sense of fun, laughter and humor might be a tool no less powerful than detailed planning and helpful software, among many other things. Winston Churchill said, ‘A joke is a very serious thing’ so let’s plug in a bit of science before you dive into the world of project management humour.

If we look at neuroscience research as a whole, we will find a lot of reasons why humor isn’t just fun, but also healthy and useful. First, endorphins are released, which trigger positive emotions and make difficult things seem easier. I once asked one of PMI Global Congress organizers, Paula Jayne White, about the lessons learned from orchestrating such a large event.  She emphasized the immense value of humor, stating, ‘It’s the only way to manage all of the moving parts, so that the event comes together flawlessly’.

Now, going back to neuroscience, there are also other chemical processes in the brain which make a direct impact on stress and tension reduction. Pumping some extra oxygen to the brain, laughter literally gives the brain more ‘fuel’ for thinking, working and learning.

At work, a good laugh not only reduces tension and relieves stress, but also helps to increase team bonding and boost morale. Many businesses, both big and small, demonstrate original ways to incorporate fun into work. For example, representatives of Volvo shared how they held online parties across distances. Say, a team from one country ordered food into the office in another location for an impromptu celebration; everyone loved it!

At Wrike, we are ahead of the curve in a very competitive market. This takes a lot of hard work, and one of our productivity ‘secrets’ is that humour is a large part of our culture. It keeps stress low, promotes team spirit, and boosts creativity. We create internal graphical memes that we display in our break room, fun T-shirts, and brainstorm April Fool’s Day press releases. One imaginative new feature that has been discussed is a Wrike toaster that imprints your daily to-do list into your bread. Another idea is a Wrike gamification package with a bag of carrots, a stick and a collection of Boy Scout badges.

During our regular team video-conferences that bring together multiple offices, we discuss the latest achievements and future plans, with stats, graphs, mock-ups, and other more technical things. However, we also share some of our leisure photos and fun stories. It’s a great way to get to know each other better so that the team is connected not just professionally, but also socially. Work is big part of our lives, and we love it.

There are many different ways in which humour can help you and your team at work. So, enjoy the abundance of fun stories in this book, smile and get inspired for creative solutions to the challenges you face on your project management journey.

Have fun and stay productive!

Andrew Filev is the founder and CEO of Wrike, a leading provider of project management software that makes daily work easy and stress-free for thousands of companies.

What do you want out of your work life? Think about that for a second.

If your answer is ’a steady pay check and peace and quiet until retirement’ then don’t bother to read this book. You can just go right ahead and join the army of disillusioned, cynical zombies slogging through their work life in a permanent state of ennui, though why anyone would want to, I’ll never understand.

But hopefully your answer goes a little something like this:

’I want to kick butt at work, deliver great and successful projects and make a difference. I want to wake up in the morning excited to go to work and have a great time while I’m there. I want to be an inspiration to my co-workers and everyone around me – I want them to be happy that I’m there. I want to come home from work fulfilled and with energy to enjoy my family, friends and my life.’

If this is you then this is the book for you. And what’s more, I salute you for having the stones to go against the grain and deciding to actually enjoy your work life and just have some ‘fun’.

Think about it: You will spend a third of your life at work. You’ll spend more of your waking hours at work than on anything else, including friends and family. Make those hours count. Make them enjoyable and fun. And make sure that the results that come out of those hours are worthy of your time.

And this is not soft, idealistic, naive, hippie thinking. This is about enjoying work, certainly, but it’s also about success. Because people who are happy at work do better work. When you’re happy, you are more productive, more creative, more open, more likeable and a better leader. You’re also less stressed and get sick less often.

This also means that there’s a business pay-off to happiness. In short, happy people make for successful projects and successful projects, along with all of those happy people, make happy companies which guess what? Make more money.

So read this book and learn how you can enjoy work more and be more successful. And why anyone wouldn’t want that, I’ll never understand!

Alexander Kjerulf is the founder of Woohoo inc and one of the world’s leading experts on happiness at work. He is a speaker, consultant and author, presenting and conducting workshops on happiness at work at businesses and conferences all over the world.

So there you have it – ‘fun’ is good!

I do really believe in all of this fun stuff you know. Time flies when you are having fun and project work gets delivered, and delivered well, when the project team is having a jolly good time.

The Project Manager Who Smiled is packed full with ideas and jokes, inspirational thoughts and quotes, suggestions and maxims, anecdotes and all manner of good material that I just know you will steal and use in your own projects – and that is exactly what I want you to do.

Go ahead and don’t be shy out there – fill yer boots!

In between all of my personal thoughts and the great submissions I received from project managers all over the world there are some superb contributions under the heading of ‘PM Celebrity Gossip’ from some project management experts that I have had the pleasure of meeting, and in some cases, working with, in the past. I know you will love these.

And there are two fabulous case studies of organisations ‘walking’ with joy on the fun side of the project world, and not only that, seeing some real return on the investment as a result.

I hope that you enjoy it and share it all with your project teams.

Peter ‘The Lazy Project Manager’ Taylor

 

To get a great deal on the book go to www.thelazyprojectmanager.com and select The Lazy Store option

And have a smile with this YouTube video of Father Christmas meeting The Lazy Project Manager http://youtu.be/JfUqGuKNZIs

Presentation Tips

December 19, 2013

You are already an expert on Presentation Skills – I mean, how many presentations have you suffered in your time at work? Clearly you can recognise a ‘good’ presentation and a ‘bad’ presentation. You have so much experience!

Here are my top 5 tips to improve your own Presenting Skills.

To Begin: Open on a high and finish on an equal high– start and finish your presentation with a story or example or key point, something that will both relax you and get the audience engaged, and leave them wanting to find out more at the end.

Getting the audience’s attention right from the beginning is essential – remember the first 10 minutes window is the first point of opportunity to lose your audience, and having lost them they are very hard to get back.

The Content: If you talk about something you know well then rehearse to control your time and avoid getting ‘carried away’. If you don’t know the subject well then still rehearse and possibly invite people who know more than you do on the subject to be there to support you if needed.

Don’t try and deliver 100% in the presentation – takeaways/hand-outs/follow-ups etc are all acceptable (after the event)

Time: It’s not the volume but the message that counts. Don’t waste people’s time.

The average presentation is 60 mins – say an average audience is 100 people so this may be just 1 hour of your time but it is 100 hours of your audiences’ time. Wasted if I you are not ‘good’ – and this is equal to 4.2 days!

Last year I presented to around 7,000 people which is a potential of 292 days of wasted time if I got it wrong.

Better to prepare and deliver a great 30 minutes rather than a mediocre 60 minutes.

Hands up anyone who has ever complained about a presentation finishing early?

And be prepared to adapt to time constraints – time of day – organisers demands etc – be flexible

The Practicalities: Or the three Ps:

  • Prepare, a well-rehearsed presentation will keep your audiences’ attention
  • Present, the smallest part time wise
  • Profit, Your audience should gain something from the experience

Break the Rules: There are a number of ‘rules’ that you may have been taught over the years.

  • 6:6:1 rule (6 bullets /6 words/1 idea on one slide) – not a bad rule but try and avoid it – use pictures instead of words, the slides (if you have slides) are for your audience and not for you!
  • Agenda – tell what are you going to tell, then tell and then tell what you have told them … absolutely not, entertain them, educate them and leave them wanting more and open to talking after the presentation
  • Thank the audience – well yes but to close this way is a very flat ending to a presentation, better to close out with a call to action or simple ‘next step’.

Break the rules and have fun with your next presentation!

And you can also still get access to the recorded version of my ‘Presentation on Presentations’ webinar at http://www.thelazyprojectmanager.com/page4.htm

 

Buttered Toast, Cats and Risk Management

December 19, 2013

The buttered cat paradox is a common joke based on the tongue-in-cheek combination of two pieces of wisdom:

The first is that cats always land on their feet.

And the second is that buttered toast always lands buttered side down.

Now consider what would happen if the piece of buttered toast was attached, butter side up of course, to the back of a cat and then the cat was dropped from a large height.

Some people suggest that the following will occur. As the cat falls towards the ground, it will slow down and start to rotate, eventually reaching a steady state of hovering a short distance from the ground while rotating at high speed as both the buttered side of the toast and the cat’s feet attempt to land on the ground.

This idea appeared on the British panel game QI, as well as talking about the idea, they also brought up other questions regarding the paradox. These included ‘Would it still work if you used margarine?’, ‘Would it still work if you used I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter?’, and ‘What if the toast was covered in something that was not butter, but the cat thought it was butter?’, the idea being that it would act like a placebo.

The supposed phenomenon was first observed in the New York Monthly Magazine, which published the following poem in 1835:

I never had a slice of bread,

Particularly large and wide,

That did not fall upon the floor,

And always on the buttered side!

 

A study by the BBC’s television series Q.E.D. found that when toast is thrown in the air, it lands butter-side down just one-half of the time (as would be predicted by chance)] However, several scientific studies have proven that when toast is dropped from a table it does fall butter-side down at least 62% of the time.

Why is this? Well when toast falls out of a hand, it does so at an angle. The toast then rotates. Given that tables are usually between two to six feet there is enough time for the toast to rotate about one-half of a turn, and so it lands upside down relative to its original position. Since the original position is butter-side up then the toast lands butter-side down.

Now ignoring the paradox and concentrating on the simple piece of buttered toast dropping from your hand you could address this ‘risk’ in two ways. The first being that you rip out all of your kitchen fixings and tables and then re-install new ones that are at least 10 feet off the ground. This will result in any future toast drops have a 50/50 chance of turning sufficiently to end up buttered side up – a saving of 12% of cases using the Q.E.D. experiment results. But this would be pretty costly and impractical.

Alternatively you could just be more careful when you eat buttered toast. Sit down.  Don’t rush. Have the butter and toast on the table together. This would potentially deliver greater end results regarding a significant reduction in dropped buttered toast in the first instance and therefore the percentage of cases where the toast falls buttered side down would be irrelevant.

Risk management needs to be relevant, appropriate and reasonable.

Besides, cats hate having toast stuck to their backs!

Communication (Silence can be Golden)

December 19, 2013

In The Hitchhikers Guide to the Universe (Douglas Adams) – which readers will know is one of my favourite reads – there was a race called the Belcerebons of Kakrafoon Kappa who had a very unhappy time. Once a serene and quiet civilization, a Galactic Tribunal sentenced them to the powers of telepathy solely because the rest of the galaxy found that peaceful contemplation a contemptuous thing. As a result Ford Prefect compared them to humans because the only way the Belcerebons could stop transmitting their every thought to each and every other Belcerebon was to mask their brain activity by talking endlessly about complete and utter trivia.

Recently I have turned in to a bit of a commuter between my home and London and, as a result, I have spent a few long hours on the train in to the city (and home again).

I have decided that the Belcerebons now inhabit a new home in the universe, that of the standard class coaches of the inter-city train that I am forced to share with them.

Now, of course, I own a mobile phone and, of course, I have the phone switched on but apart from the occasional text it remains unused, and on ‘silent’. Others it seems, even at 7am in the morning, have the need to exchange monumentally unimportant trivia about their personal and working lives through the medium of shouting in to a mobile phone.

What has this to do with project management you may well ask (and probably do ask)? Well I am constantly going on about communication being the key differentiator that makes for good project managers, as opposed to competent project managers.

Good communication comes from the perfect harmony of the right message delivered the right way and at the right time. Much of this timing comes from planning for such communication, and more than that it is the filtering out or removal of unnecessary communication that delivers no value and distracts others.

And good communication comes also from thought and reflection, often through periods of silent contemplation. If everybody on a project attempted to communicate out to every other person at the same time then very little, or perhaps no, communication would really occur.

Now of course there will always be some occasions that urgency dictates the exchange of information at a moment’s notice but for the most part this is not the case, it can wait, in fact it is often far more effective to wait.

I think that, instead of one ‘quiet’ coach on each train for those that wish to have peace on their journeys that there should be one coach allocated solely to those few who lives are far more important than the rest of us and whose ever thought must be conveyed immediately (and loudly). Let them all sit in one place and out-loud each other, they will probably enjoy it.

For the rest of us travelers let there be peace with the acceptance that the occasional important call might take place for very good reasons.

Perhaps I am becoming a grumpy old project manager but hopefully not; I just feel that in project management (and life in general) less is most definitely more especially when it comes to communication. But don’t get me started on the soon to be with us use of mobile phones on a plane…

Happy travelling!

Projects as Usual

December 19, 2013

I was a great fan of the original Batman series on television, yes the ones that look really quaint these days, and which starred Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin; as the two crime-fighting heroes who defended Gotham City on an almost daily basis from a range of great villains, such as The Penguin and The Joker.

Back in the 1960’s when this programme aired I loved the perceived violence (without violence – unlike the modern day big screen versions) that ensured when Batman and his trusty sidekick took on the evil geniuses’ gang members.

Biff! Bap! Bam! Kerpow! Job done!

I was, of course, always Batman when it came to play time.

Well, let me give you a new version of that style of language to consider – POP, BAP and PAU! Job done!

Any business consists of two types of work these days, the temporary project based work – led by a project management community – and the regular operational work – led by business managers.

Regular operational work consists of activities on a daily repetitive basis that keeps the business going, such as accounting, production, sales etc. Business projects are different, they are temporary tasks that the business initiates to promote build the company on some way, such as new products, marketing campaigns, new offices etc.

That said they do have some similarities – both operate under some management control – both have budgets – both should have some sort of plan etc

Now both work types contribute to an organisation’s success in terms of products, services and marketplace standing but things are changing, it seems more and more of business activity is now project based (one major company declared that over 60% of their business was now project led).

POP: Projects as projects, pure and simple (well probably not simple. More likely complex and challenging hence the need for a dedicated project manager).

BAP: Business as projects is definitely on the up as each organisation strives to achieve strategic goals and maintain/gain market share, remain profitable/successfully and differentiate themselves from competitors.

PAU: Which leads to the concept of projects as usual, a point on time that some companies have already reached, where the project based activity exceeds the business as usual activity. This may be the very nature of the business – innovative or new to the market, or it may be a more traditional business that has entered a significant expansion phase or is on an acquisitional path for example. In this situation each and every business manager needs to understand and acquire effective project management skills in order to stand a chance of being successful.

Job done:  Well not quite. Just knowing this is the case and actually having the skills in-house to make it likely to succeed are very different.

I believe that more and more people will enter the business world having gained the necessary basic and broad project management skills through schools, colleges, universities and other development routes. But each organisation will have to supplement this capability with more local skills of how they manage projects. But the future is looking very promising for the world of Projects, Projects as Usual and Business as Usual I think.

As Batman said in one of the most recent films ‘You know that day that you once told me about, when Gotham would no longer need Batman? It’s coming’.

I believe that there will always be a need for project managers, but what is also needed these days is a management capability of successful project delivery – one man can’t do it all on his own (even with Robin by his side).