I regularly write articles, which are published all over the place – online, in print and in various journals and magazines. I wanted to provide a single place were all of them can be found. I think of this as my library. Many of the articles are published elsewhere first, especially if I have been commissioned to write a piece. Sooner or later they will all end up here. There is a rough and ready categorisation into the sorts of topics I most regularly write about. The content here is all provided free and I hope you find something that is both enjoyable and helpful.
This article contains a speech originally given in London in December 2015.
Thanks for the introduction, and good morning everyone. It’s nice to be here talking to a community of my fellow project managers. It can be an interesting job being a project manager. But it’s one of those jobs that unless you have done it, or worked very closely with, you don’t really have a good grasp of what it entails. Our discipline has been a domain of huge debate over the last 10 years or so, focusing on the battle between aficionados of Agile and traditionalists keeping the flame of waterfall going.
A few years ago I went back to the town I went to school in. I met up with some friends I had been to school with, (a long time ago!). When I met my friends they were sitting with an old man who I vaguely recognised. It turned out he had been a teacher at my school. We had a very pleasant evening reminiscing over old times. I enjoyed the company of my old teacher.
On most projects thinking sooner or later turns to stakeholders. Unfortunately, it is usually later rather than sooner. Stakeholder management is regularly kicked off only when there is a problem with stakeholders.
Most organizations face the challenge of repeatedly resourcing projects, and critically allocating good project managers. A common answer is to set up a central project management team.
This can seem relatively easy, but there are pitfalls on the way to setting up a successful project management team. In this article I will look at four key questions anyone setting up a project management team must consider, and then outline the main steps in setting up such a team.
We all do it all the time: we communicate, we interpret and we connect. We communicate through our words, body language, tone, actions and behaviours. And we constantly interpret everyone else’s words and behaviours. We start doing this as soon as we are born. When we get this right we form strong connections.
Early in my career I was volunteered, (I know that’s an oxymoron, but most of us have experienced “being volunteered”), to join a quality circle. We met on a regular schedule, discussed problems and identified solutions. Our managers kept stressing how important our quality circle was. It was interesting for a while. Nothing much came from it.
Perhaps nothing came from it because “being volunteered” was the wrong starting point. I think it did not work because the expectation of what our quality circles were going to achieve was out of proportion.
There are three outcomes that managers in business are regularly required to achieve. I want to discuss these three outcomes, or more precisely the inter-relationship between them. I am going to use the example of projects. That is not because this is an article for project managers, but because projects provide a very clear example of the problems of trying to achieve these three outcomes simultaneously. The ideas in this article are widely applicable beyond the specific domain of projects.
The three outcomes are: meeting commitments, enabling flexibility and keeping resources 100% utilised. The main message of my article is simple: you cannot achieve all three. Constantly trying to do so is a waste of effort that misses an important opportunity.
I am often involved in recruiting project managers for my clients. Project managers who clients hope will deliver the perfect project. What is it that makes me want to interview a project manager, and what CVs do I throw in the bin? At all times, but especially in tough times like the present, successful project managers are those who's skills are relevant to their customer’s needs. This is really important when it comes to changing your role. So, how do you make yourself appealing to that customer? Here are 6 simple tips that in my experience will increase your chances of getting that new job.
I was not the most diligent of students first time around. The pleasures of a vibrant social life seemed much more interesting. But I ploughed my way through 4 years of a double honours degree in Mechanical Engineering and Economics. Like many graduates, I have never practiced my academic disciplines. I have never worked as an engineer or an economist, and much of what I learnt has been discarded to the dim recesses at the back of my mind. I can at least say I had a brilliant time at university.
One of the habits I have observed in management is the tendency, in trying to solve a problem, to focus in one area, when it is a different issue that lies at the bottom of the challenge being faced. A key reason for this is the questions that are asked.
When is it appropriate to say no to a piece of work? If you are in professional services, are a contractor or consultant there will be regular times when client work is in the offing. Then you need to think “should I do this piece of work”.
As a consultant I have worked in a lot of organizations. Those organizations have varied in terms of culture, location, scale and sector. During my time in all these organizations there is one phrase which I hear most often. I suspect it is one that every other consultant, business advisor or contractor hears. And that phrase is “we are different”.
Change management literature is full of advice about the importance of clear objectives. Clarity is always recommended: why are you changing, what do you want to achieve, what will it be like when the change is complete? Business language is replete with associated terminology: objectives, goals, outcomes and visions.
The first question surrounding any new project management book should be – why? There are thousands and thousands of project management books, and amongst those thousands there are quite a few that are very good. We all have our favourites.
Reporting is a central part of project delivery. There is a variety of reports to produce: status reports, budget updates, steering committee packs and so on. Reporting can take up a significant proportion of project resources, and is often a point of dissatisfaction for project managers, project sponsors and other stakeholders.
All business projects result in an outcome in the form of a change. In business it is important to be able to measure these outcomes. How should you approach this? The following article is extracted from a book I wrote recently, The Financial Times Briefing: Change Management, and provides some thoughts on measuring change.
One of the ongoing frustrations for anyone running a project management team in a business is being asked to deliver activities which should not be considered as projects. This is particularly common when project managers or project management teams have a good reputation in a business.
A common point of tension for many organisations is the way strategy converts into projects. (I am assuming there is a meaningful strategy. This is obviously not true everywhere, but that is a whole different sort of problem which is not covered in this article).
Dealing with change in organisations is well recognised as a significant and ongoing issue. Change comes in many forms – from re-organisations, through all sorts of adaptations resulting from contextual and environmental pressures, as well as changes arising from opportunities that organisations identify.
There is a common tendency in business nowadays for project managers to produce a “plan on a page”. This document is often created as 1 PowerPoint slide. It provides, at a glance, an overview of the key activities of the project, the overall timescale, and sometimes a very high level view of the dependency between key activities.
This article was co-authored with renowned M&A specialist and author Danny Davis. It first appeared in the BCS online journal.
Mergers and acquisitions are a common part of modern business, and most managers will find themselves in the middle of one at some time in their career. For many managers it is a regular aspect of their profession life.
How do you become a better project manager? It is bold to promise to answer this question in a short article. But my experience tells me it is promise I can keep, at least for some readers. There is one simple truth for project managers - and for that matter any manager.
A few weeks ago I posted an article here ( “Methodology: Guidance or Rules?”) with some views on the development of delivery methodologies. I want to build on that today with some simple tips for anyone involved in designing or implementing new project or change management approaches.
The development of standardised approaches, the capturing of best practice and the creation of project management accreditation have moved the project management profession on significantly over the past few decades. Arguably, it is only since we have these things that we can really call ourselves a profession rather than just a loose affiliation of people with a relatively similar role to perform.
I would like to continue the discussion I started a while ago on highly performing project teams. This is a topic that I think is very important, but one that we do not discuss often enough as project managers. In this article I want to focus in on preparing team members for a project.
Prioritisation is crucial for effective project management in organisations. It is prioritisation that gains access to those resources required to get the project done. Without prioritisation there can be a continuous fight for resources and projects drag on and on.
I am very interested in what makes a high performance project team. I don’t have all the answers to this topic, and I am really interested in other people’s views. This article contains some of my views of what helps. I hope it encourages you to share yours.
Read any guide to project management, or have a discussion on project management processes, and there is normally one important assumption that is taken for granted. Your work as project manager starts at the beginning of the project. Unfortunately, this is not always the situation.
Last week I posted an article discussing the challenges and possible approaches to managing consultants on project teams. But what if it is you who wants to be the consultant? This week I look at the other side of the coin and discuss the approach to becoming a consultant.
I am often asked about management consultants as it something I profess to be, and is something I have talked and written about. This article is the first in a pair about the consulting profession. This first article suggests ways to manage any management consultants on your project teams. In the second I will look at it from the other direction and discuss how people go about becoming consultants and what it means.
If you are someone who has read management textbooks for a long time then you will have noticed, over the last few decades, the increasing emphasis on leadership skills. Successful businesses are presented as those that have great leaders. In contrast, unsuccessful businesses are often presented as those without a vision or without bold leaders.
Two of the biggest recent trends in management have been Six Sigma and Lean. These were originally separate approaches, but they are often conflated nowadays into Lean Six Sigma. In this article I treat them as one discipline, although each brings different tools, areas of focus and value.
In this article, I want to share some of my experiences of developing new products. I have been involved in several projects to launch new products, and a few to start new businesses. But I’m writing this as much for a general lesson I have learnt from those projects, as to discuss detailed lessons about product development.
We are going through as tough an economic period as many people can remember. The fun of the Olympics aside, I keep hoping for light at the end of the tunnel – but I can’t see it yet! For lots of organisations the difficult times are far from over, and in some sectors the situation is actually worsening. In this article I want to stray away from pure project management – to a related topic: managing change. I do this because I think there are lessons for project managers.
I recently wrote a piece for on helping your sponsor to be a better project sponsor. I wanted to follow this up by giving my views on the role of the project sponsor. I will argue in this article that the role of the sponsor depends on the situation and the people involved.
As project managers we all have an image of the perfect project sponsor. We want a sponsor who gives us enough space to get on with our job without constant interference, but we also want a sponsor who is there immediately when we need them to be. We like sponsors who are decisive, who ensure all those important authorisations are given without delay. It’s also appreciated when the sponsor is explicit in his or her praise for our work.
Revolutions and counter revolutions are a central and often repeated part of history. They stretch into the current times, and will no doubt continue to happen in future. Revolutions pitch one group with existing powers, against another group who want to seize power. The stakes are usually high for both sides.
We have all fallen into the trap of doing insufficient risk management. When this happens at some point on our project something bad occurs. This something was predictable, at least within a range of probabilities – worse, it was often avoidable. If we had taken the time to do risk management properly we could have predicted the problem, and we could have taken action to avoid it.
There are two isolated communities involved in delivering innovation and enhancements in business. Each community knows of, but remains relatively uninformed about, the other. The first community is that of change management practitioners, the second is that of project managers. In a business context at least, there is significant gains to be achieved by bringing these communities together. This article is a request to try and close the divide.
In this article I look at the assumption underlying many project plans that the future is actually predictable. The article is based on a chapter of my book “The Management Book” winner of the Management Book of the Year 2013.
I was recently asked to do a short piece of consultancy to help a client sort out some trouble with one of their projects. We all know that projects can go wrong for many reasons. In this case it did not take long to work out the cause of their difficulties.
I am really interested in the development of project management as a discipline, and how we can continue to make it better. With this in mind, I want to talk about three, possibly seemingly unrelated, project management topics: best practice, continuous improvement and the adoption of new project management practices.