Saturday, 16 April 2016 06:39

Aspirations and reality

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Imagine you are working on a project and it is going to finish late. It is a scenario that many of us will be familiar with. Is the project a failure? That depends. There are many situations in which a project is late. There are many situations in which a project – or at least a properly defined and well run project looks late, but isn’t. This happens when we confuse aspirations with plans.

Sunday, 06 March 2016 17:08

Giving the client's watch back

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We’ve all heard the joke: a consultant is someone who borrows your watch to tell you the time. What makes the joke funny, in the way Dilbert is funny, is that we know there is some truth in it. I don’t want to tar all consultants with the same brush, but some consultants really do just borrow your watch to tell you the time. To be fair, many don’t and even when they do, sometimes it’s what the client asked for.

In the UK TV comedy Dad’s Army, Corporal Jones was a character who at regular intervals would run around shouting “Don’t panic! Don’t Panic!” The joke was he was always panicking.

It feels like this on many of the projects I am involved in. There is some pretence about being calm, but there are many signs of panicking. And what is everyone panicking about? Usually, time and money.

There are many reasons projects and programs get in trouble. Problems we are all familiar with include: poorly defined goals, lack of sponsorship, ineffective prioritisation and access to resources, and when there is no drive to make progress. I have been involved in lots of projects in my career, and I’d love to say every one of them was a success, but it would be a lie. Quite a big lie. I have been in projects with every one of these problems, sometimes all of them.

I was at a project management conference a while ago. As usual, I ended up making a number of new acquaintances. Several times I did that normal introductory dance when you tell each other your name, where you come from and what you do for a living.

Saturday, 07 November 2015 11:35

What is the point of project management

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Not long ago I published a post titled "what's the point of change management?" (you can find it on this site). In this article I want to do the same sort of thing for project management. I aim to write a third article contrasting project and change management.

I was talking to one of my clients this week. He described his struggle to get his head and hands around a complex change he has been tasked with. I am very familiar with this feeling. There is that feeling at the start of  big change initiatives summarised by two questions: How do you eat an elephant? How do you catch a cloud?

The librarians with a hammer

A couple of years ago I was asked to speak at a one day conference for librarians. After speaking I stayed on and helped with some breakout workshops. It was not an audience I was used to working with. I liked that. I am always interested in working with people I don’t normally engage with. I find I often learn to see things from different angles. Overall, I had a very good day and I did learn some new things. But most of all it reinforced a lesson about hammers and nails.

Sunday, 09 August 2015 08:11

Best practice: scepticism and hubris

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Like many people who post on LinkedIn, I am deeply interested in the development of leadership and management disciplines - how we can continue to make them better. One way we can improve the way we work is to identify best practices and then apply them more widely. And this seems to be a commonly accepted approach. I want to express a bit of scepticism about this approach.

I’m about three quarters of the way through Proust’s magnum opus In Search of Lost Time. This novel has somewhat over 1.2 million words. It’s long - very long - and rather little happens in it. It is made up of a series of relatively trivial events bound together by the author’s observation and comments on those events. It’s not Game of Thrones.

I can try to give you a simple explanation of the book: “self-obsessed, sickly, rich guy’s musing on life and love in early twentieth century Paris”, but such a simple explanation hardly gives you a flavour of the book. I can’t really give you a good simple explanation of the book. You need to read some of it if you want to get a sense – and quite a lot of it to get a real understanding.

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