Great project managers have great networks

Much research over the last twenty years has attempted to identify the characteristics of successful project managers. However, more recently, this has been questioned and replaced with a more interesting debate. What makes for successful project management? The argument goes that even the ‘best’ project manager acting alone without support from the organization and appropriate collaboration with peers and other stakeholders is unlikely to be successful.

In our own research on the characteristics of successful project managers, we found that the high performers were much more likely to have extended personal and professional relationships within and outside their organizations. It wasn’t just that they had more expertise to draw upon, but also that when they needed to interact with stakeholders, to further the goals of their projects, they were more likely to have pre-existing relationships to draw upon. They built up and valued ‘social capital’ in ways that less experienced project managers were unlikely to do.

Great project managers have great networks

Continue reading “Great project managers have great networks”

Be a Modern Professional Learner

As a project coach, I get many opportunities to ask the question,” What did you learn from most over the last few years?”   So far no one has ever answered; “There was this great course” or even, sadly; “There was this great presentation you did on…”.

Most adult learning comes from relevant experience: challenges faced on a project, interactions with peers, or opportunities which force reflection upon and make sense of our experience.

Continue reading “Be a Modern Professional Learner”

Conflict in the project workplace : A coach’s perspective

High conflict levels unbearable

Conflict levels were so high at work that Paula had reached the point where she just wanted to resign her contract and leave it all behind her.  She knew that this was not a good move – she liked the company she was working with – “it was just a few people that were causing me the problems”.

What she hadn’t really understood (but her Employment Agent was alerted to) was that the problem was bigger than this.  Paula was beginning to get a reputation amongst managers and her peers as somebody who was just too difficult to work with – too high maintenance.  As one manager commented – “she seems to be good at her job – good at getting things done – but she really does rub others peoples’ backs up”.

Paula agreed to be involved in a coaching experience instigated by her Employment Agent to see if a resolution could be found.

Continue reading “Conflict in the project workplace : A coach’s perspective”

What makes a good benefits analyst?

Some years ago we published the results of a survey on what were the key skills and competencies of a portfolio business analyst.  Even then we struggled to find a suitable and commonly used job title for those analysts involved in supporting the development of business cases and benefits management plans.  We have come across so many names – business case analyst, benefits analyst…

Five years later and benefits management remains an aspiration rather than a reality in most organisations.   Heather van Wyk presented on her experiences in benefits management at the EMEA PMI Congress in Berlin.  She relates how, when she quizzed the audience, only a handful of participants felt that businesses were successful in implementing effective benefits processes.

Continue reading “What makes a good benefits analyst?”

Culling projects: A critical portfolio process

With most organisations reporting more projects that they can resource, stopping projects which are addressing yesterday’s problems may be even more important than not starting those projects designed to address today’s.

In a review of 15 client portfolios, the UK project consultancy group, CITI reported that in annual portfolio prioritisation more than one-third of the projects and programmes approved were carried forwarded from previous years, with 20% having survived two annual review processes.  The question perhaps to ask is – does this reflect a real need for long-term projects or is it that management decision making around stopping something is just so much harder than approving a project to start?

Significant portfolio management attention has been paid over the last few years to developing improved governance processes around the front-end selection and prioritisation of projects.  But portfolio monitoring and control is a much greyer area and often confusion arises between the governance responsibilities at the portfolio and project sponsorship levels.

Continue reading “Culling projects: A critical portfolio process”

The PMO as knowledge broker

Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely

Identifying lessons learnt is a necessary part of the project process, not only does this information have the capacity to lighten the workload of the project manager, but it also places the company running the project, in a position of increased competitiveness – however, this is only if the knowledge is actually applied. Unfortunately, the reality confronting many project managers is that once boxes have been ticked and projects completed, it is very rare that this information is accessed and utilised in future projects.

Continue reading “The PMO as knowledge broker”

Want more pace in your projects? Governance is the key

Increasing the pace of delivery of projects takes a lot more than just working faster.  For most projects the biggest time-thief is decision-making.  It’s not the effort, it’s the elapsed time it takes to appraise the various stakeholders of the issue, get a consensus and then transmit their response to the project. If you really want to increase pace of delivery, then it is the elapsed time-stealers that have to be streamlined… and of these, the most important? Governance.

Continue reading “Want more pace in your projects? Governance is the key”

The myths of stakeholder management

Project stakeholder management has borrowed many of its concepts from other discipline areas. This cross-usage of wisdom is helpful but its application in projects is still to be proven and bedded-in to the way we do things.  After all, it’s only in the last few years that stakeholder management has been recognised in project management bodies of knowledge.  In the meantime trial and error application has resulted in a number of myths about its application to projects.

Continue reading “The myths of stakeholder management”

Going solo: The project management way!

Last year I watched my daughter make her first solo flight in a light aircraft.  That means she took off in an airplane on her own, and landed it. She was just 16 and had ten hours training.  The first I knew it was happening was when the instructor said quietly to me,  “You might want to stay around to watch this lesson!”.

Photo by Martin Adams on Unsplash

If you haven’t experienced going solo in a airplane, this is pretty much how it works. After you’ve made three perfect landings in a row, the instructor casually remarks: “Not bad, why don’t you do the next three circuits on your own?”  They then climb out of the airplane leaving you alone with the engine running and ready to go.  At that moment the airplane seems tremendously quiet, the right-hand seat looks tremendously empty and the runaway looks tremendously short!

Continue reading “Going solo: The project management way!”

Project management: Have we lost the plot?

So, these two people meet.  Discovering they were both teachers, the woman from New Zealand asked of her male English colleague, “What do you teach?”. “Mathematics.” he replied, “How about you?” “Me”, she replied, “Oh, I teach children!”.

How we frame what we do, the way we describe ourselves, what we do, and what we do it with, fundamentally affects how we manage ourselves.  That’s just as true in project management as it is in education.  As a professional project manager, what is it we say we do, what is it we say we are, and why does it matter? Continue reading “Project management: Have we lost the plot?”

From right-size governance to agile governance

If you’re working in a structured project environment with a project office, the chances are that you are using a right-size governance approach.

What does that mean?  Essentially, the level of management attention and oversight varies appropriately, depending upon the characteristics of the project, such as size and complexity, or the level and significance of the impact of the project on the organisation. 

Continue reading “From right-size governance to agile governance”

Is Agile a planning-free approach?

The introduction of Agile as a software product development approach is having a significant and positive impact upon the way IT projects are delivered. However, in our coaching interventions, we are finding some confusion among project managers. Some experienced project managers quickly learn how to adapt and integrate Agile practices into their toolset. It is just another approach, which used appropriately in the right projects increases their ability to deliver. Others move straight to denial; change-weary, they avoid or downplay the usefulness of the Agile framework– “It’s nothing new.” That is their loss! Of greater concern are the more junior project managers who, faced with Agilists, lose their bearings. “What is my role in this?” “How does the governance work?” “How do I plan?” And most worrying–“Do I need a plan?”.

Continue reading “Is Agile a planning-free approach?”

Stop looking for a superhero project manager

I have a memory passed down via family members that as a 9-year old when I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I responded that I wanted to be an expert!   I’m sure my parents find it a very irritating response and would have preferred an answer like doctor or engineer or lawyer!

Whatever I meant at that time, I am pretty clear now, that this is just not possible. Today there is so much information, so many insights and experiences that we need access to as project managers–this cannot possibly dwell in the body and spirit of one person. Karen Stephenson captures it perfectly in her phrase,“I store my [know-how] knowledge in my friends”.

Continue reading “Stop looking for a superhero project manager”