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.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015 12:57

Mapping the Stakeholder Universe

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The stakeholder universe is becoming ever more complex for organizations. It has always been a challenge to determine which groups of stakeholders to focus on. Current trends are exacerbating this. 

Traditionally there were three main types of stakeholders organizations had to consider. Firstly, there were the owners and funders of the business, such as shareholders and banks, ensuring their needs were being met by the organization’s performance and strategy. Secondly, there was the internal audience of staff and work colleagues, making sure they were motivated and understood the organization’s direction. Thirdly, was the external audiences of customers and suppliers, making sure they were happy to keep buying and supplying.

Tuesday, 05 May 2015 09:52

Throw the baby out with the bathwater?

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I often act as a facilitator, working with teams to create a picture of the desired future state for their organization. This picture acts as the guiding light or vision for the change initiatives they undertake. 

 

One of the best ways of creating this picture is as a team in a workshop. There’s a question I always like to ask at some point in such a workshop. That question is “after the change - what should be the same?”

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