Posts Tagged ‘workshops’

Professionalise Project Management

August 1, 2017

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

Invest in great project management skills – not just project managers

And how can you Invest in great project management skills? Perhaps we might begin with the PMO.

Since PMOs lead the project management community – either directly or indirectly, according to your PMO model (see appendices) – then by considering what the best PMOs offer we can gain some insight and see that:

  • The best PMOs have consistent, repeatable PM practices across the enterprise. All projects are held to the same standards and requirements for success. They have also eliminated redundant, bureaucratic PM practices that have slowed down projects
  • The best PMOs have the most experienced PMs in place and have a program underway to recruit the best PMs, develop their existing PMs into the best and to maintain this level of quality and experience
  • The best PMOs sponsor training and facilitate communities of practice to promote PM best practices in their organisations. Such communities of practice provide PMs with a forum to share their knowledge and share experiences

You can see that is not just a matter of recruiting the best project managers. That helps of course, as does developing the best project managers. Nor is it just having the best sponsors in place (we have covered that in some detail already), although having the best sponsors means that there should be a path for project managers to become sponsors.

It is not just about the provision of a ‘lean’ framework for these sponsors and project managers to work to – and by ‘lean’ I mean that every part should add value and not create unnecessary waste.

And it is not only about having a great project community – think way wider than just project managers in that community – or about having amazing education, mentoring, coaching or any means to raise skills.

It is about having all the above and anything else you can constructively think of providing to create an environment that provides and celebrates great project management skills.

To understand Challenge 5 further take a look at these three arguments:

  1. Project Management will always be a niche capability
    1. It’s the skill and experience of the individual project manager that makes or breaks a project;
    2. The need for success means that projects have to be driven by a ‘niche capable’ project manager;
    3. General managers will never have the time, the experience, the training, or indeed the skills, to manage any project beyond that which is simple in its goals;
    4. No executive gets promoted because of their project management skills; they get promoted for other reasons. Executives do not need project management skills but project sponsorship and product ownership skills.
  2. Project management is a core skill
    1. If you believe, as most evidence is now directing us, that we are moving to the ‘projectification’ of society, where work is less and less a line activity and delivered in the majority through projects, then it is clearly vital that all managers now understand the dynamics of projects and have basic skills and understanding of the process of project management to make the most out their organisation’s investments;
    2. All managers need to think in terms of controlled and carefully monitored delivery of outcomes, against a fixed budget and expectations of a quality outcome, that is as projects;
  3. Project management is both a niche capability and a core skill
    1. Project management methodology is a ‘core skill’ that all managers need to be aware of but, the actual project management activity is still a ‘niche capability’, for which additional training and experience are required to be successful;
    2. Managing a small, simple project is no big deal and most people can do it. Managing a large, complex project with substantial risk, diverse stakeholders, a geographically distributed team, multiple constraints and high stakes is best reserved for experts;
    3. The successful business of the twenty-first century recognises the value of niche project managers working under a supportive executive that has a foundation of project core skills.

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

All of which, I believe will make you reconsider the full project delivery capability within your own organisation, and then consider how well you and your organisation are supporting these project leaders.

To completely address Challenge 5 – invest in great project management skills – not just project managers – for as many people as possible to ensure that ‘projects’ are appropriately understood, and supported as a consequence.

We have now explored the five key challenges

  1. The challenge of investing in the right portfolio dashboard (getting a good and accurate view from the very top);
  2. The challenge of investing in real professional project sponsorship or executive leadership (project sponsors are from Venus if you remember);
  3. The challenge of investing at the C-level in a chief projects officer and, ideally, a PMO (added to the C-level);
  4. The challenge of investing in the means to know the true status of your strategic change/project investment (having good analysis and good reporting)
  5. The challenge of investing in professionalising the project capability and competence within your organisation (professionalise your project management).

It is now time to take stock, and to assess your own organisation’s position regarding these five challenges.

In the subsequent blogs we will cover five test points to apply against these 5 elements before moving on to describe five simple steps to move forward with all of the above in a controlled manner.

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

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

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

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

http://tailwindps.com/

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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!

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).

International Project Management Day 2013

October 28, 2013

International Project Management Day

The international project management day (IPM day) is intended to encourage project based organizations worldwide or organizations who utilize project management methodologies to schedule some type of recognition event within their organizations or coordinated locally with others to truly demonstrate appreciation for the achievements of project managers and their teams.

Check this website out as it provides you with the contacts, information, and resources to help you plan your organizations IPM day and to help you get your area’s IPM day proclamation to help project managers in your area receive acknowledgement and appreciation for their work.

IPM Day is the first Thursday of November – 7th November this year – IPM DAY WEBSITE

Creativity is essential for successful projects!

Come join Stephen Dowling and ET Management Training, for a supercharged networking breakfast to celebrate International Project Management Day 2013 and unlock your hidden creativity.

Breakfast event: 14th November 2013, 7-9am – Melbourne, Australia INFORMATION

Bonus: There will be a World Exclusive from The Lazy Project Manager at this event.

Don’t miss it!

Celebrate with A Special Gift for your Team Members

And why not treat your project team members with some real FUN this IPM Day 2013.

Get them a copy of The Project Manager Who Smiled by Peter Taylor.

GET THE PM WHO SMILED