Monday, 14 June 2021

SOME REFLECTIONS ON A CAREER IN PROJECT MANAGEMENT



SOME REFLECTIONS ON A CAREER IN PROJECT MANAGEMENT

According to a report by the Project Management Institute there is demand for 88 million roles by the end of 2021. In this article my aim is to share some experience, notably contracting the theory with the reality of Project Management and noting some of the things that are well documented and pointless with the factors that are often absent but essential.

Since my aim is not to teach project management nor champion one approach over another (eg Waterfall v Agile, or PRINCE2 v Scrum) I will instead include references and links in the comments if anyone asks.

WHAT IS A PROJECT MANAGER (OR A PROJECT LEADER)

Project managers play the lead role in planning, executing, monitoring, controlling and closing projects. They are accountable for the entire project scope, project team, resources, and the success or failure of the project. There are lots of good texts explaining the role of a Project Manager (PM) and comparing to a Sponsor, Scrum Master, Product Owner etc. (See links in comments). What I would like to do here is draw upon my own experience and make the comparison of Project Manager with Project Leader.

I often see inexperienced and newly qualified Project Manager who can do exactly what the client wants and what the book or course says is the best way of doing it. They are like novice cooks following a recipe for a customer who knows they want a cheese omlette. What can do wrong? The client knows what they want and the book explains how to do it. When people hire student, graduate or cheap project managers this is what they get, and very often this is excellent value for money.

Problems arise when the client isn't able to clearly articulate what they want, or the idea is so novel to the organisation, technology, people or circumstance that the Dummy's Guide to Projects is not really helpful. Project Leadership is more like coaching or consulting, using discussion to help define and document the intended outcome and necessary outputs in a way that can be used to gain consensus, clarity, coordination and collaboration.  When this is achieved then perhaps you could delegate a Project Manager in the same way a Chef might direct a Cook, but in my experience ambiguity doesn't go away and there is a constant need to discuss, review and revise and this happens at a level of seniority where Project Management is more about people and stakeholder management.

WHAT IS IMPORTANT

It is interesting to think about what is important in the context of why projects fail and accordingly the key success factors in rank order.

Clearly defined objectives
Good planning and control methods
Good quality of project managers
Good management support
Enough time and resources
Commitment by all
High user involvement
Good communication
Good project organisation and structure
Being able to stop a project

We can see right away that communication and consensus (near the top) are critical to co-ordination and collaboration (which are necessary in all the subsequent elements). By speaking to experienced project managers  Sam Elbeik and Mark Thomas attempted to identify the critical factors that must be addressed if a project is to be completed successfully. They developed a six stage process for managing projects: define, plan, build the team, lead and motivate, control communications, review.

CLASSIC PROJECT FAILURES

The underestimation of complexity, cost and/or schedule

National Health Service – UK - Rollout of the Care Records Service component of the UK’s National Program for IT grinds to a halt after pilot sites report significant problems.  Already 4 years behind schedule, the initial pilot releases in London England were branded a shambles as failure to address culture change issues interacted with ‘technical faults’ to produce weeks of chaos at hospitals. Original scope and cost of project was radically underestimated.  Original budget was $4.6B, it has subsequently grown to $24B, with some observers estimating it could grow to as much as $40B.  

Failure to establish appropriate control over requirements and/or scope

Rate Collection Agency – Northern Island - Problems with local property tax (“property rates”) collection system result in $260M worth of payments going uncollected. Poor requirements specifications, missing requirements, problems migrating data from legacy systems, pressure to deploy the system before adequate testing had been completed.

Lack of communications

Department of homeland security – USA - Efforts to upgrade existing anti-terror tracking systems run into serious architectural and quality flaws. System fails to perform basic Boolean functions (AND, OR, etc) and reports of serious performance concerns surface. System performance and architectural concerns regarding use of XML over a relational database design, failure to meet security requirements, radical reduction in functionality versus systems it replaces (reasons for functional shortfalls not stated), failure by the government to staff key oversight roles, quality flaws, agency turf battles, plus some interesting allegations

Failure to engage stakeholders

Qantas - “Jetsmart” engineering parts management system is renamed “Dumbjet” by aircraft engineers because the system is so difficult to use. Failure to engage the engineers who would be the eventual users of the system into the requirements and design processes resulted in a system that the engineers deemed to be unusable once it was launched.

See more examples from the resources provided in the comments.

MY LESSONS AND LEARNING

I started as a computer programmer and later became Head of IT. I had a logical thinking discipline and analytical approach to problem solving and later managing systems and solution delivery. I then got involved in non-technology change when first working in retail and thinking about shoppers, suppliers, staff and the need to work with groups and teams with different needs and priorities.

This then went up a level when I took responsibility for the 'privatisation' of the Post Office and necessarily had to start thinking about laws, legislation, unions, policies and politicians. It was in this period that I did my MBA. At each stage of increasing complexity I learned more sometimes getting it right, and sometimes learning from mistakes.

I became a ICF Trained Coach and IoD Business Mentor when I realised that I understood systems and processes better than I understood people. I could discuss, design, build and deploy changes in banking, retail, public service or improve processes and performance in manufacture or service but I knew very little about psychology or the cognitive processes of change and the unconscious concerns that often underpin resistance or fear to change.

Ironically I am a World Champs and Commonwealth Games athlete, but I never applied the mindset of sport into the management of people because despite the frequent comparison they are very different. Nonetheless the combined experience of sport, technology, business, change, processes and people has been valuable especially given the academic underpinning with qualifications. This it not about the badge, but the books. It isn't about the certificate but the knowledge.

MY ADVICE

Read wisely, there are a few books from which you can gain many years of knowledge in a few weeks.  There is some brilliant stuff on the internet but a book is often better than a brochure or a blog when it comes to deeper learning.

Gain experience, take the jobs at the edge of your comfort-zone and work really hard to understand everything around that new role, sector or circumstance. When I took a role in a bank I also took a Corporate Diploma in Banking so that I properly understood the client, industry and culture as well as the project and planned changes.

Work hard to help people achieve their goals. Not every moment has been a success, but people will forgive you and work hard if they believe you are genuinely committed to helping them or their organisation achieve something important.

Ask people what they think. In the battle of ideas yours may have only one-vote, whereas others will come wrapped with different experiences and perspectives. Examine these very closely and then seek consensus rather than compliance.

See in comments below useful resources.

Tim HJ Rogers
MBA Management Consultant + Change Practitioner
ICF Trained Coach IoD Business Mentor
Tutor / Trainer for the Chartered Management Institute.
Mob 447797762051 Tim@AdaptConsultingCompany.com
#people #process #performance #projects #change

Useful resources to the above article.

What is a project manager? The lead role for project success
https://www.cio.com/article/3224865/what-is-a-project-manager-the-lead-role-for-project-success.html#:~:text=a%20project%20manager%3F-,Project%20managers%20play%20the%20lead%20role%20in%20planning%2C%20executing%2C%20monitoring,or%20failure%20of%20the%20project.

Scrum Master & Project Manager: What are the differences?
https://www.greycampus.com/blog/project-management/scrum-master-vs-project-manager-how-are-they-different

Top 10 Reasons Why Projects Fail
https://project-management.com/top-10-reasons-why-projects-fail/

Analysis of the examples in the “Catalogue of catastrophe” reveals the most common mistakes.
http://calleam.com/WTPF/?page_id=799

CMI Strategic Project Management
https://www.managers.org.uk/~/media/Angela-Media-Library/pdfs/Pathways%20workbooks/Level%207/Sample_Unit_7009.pdf


Tuesday, 11 May 2021

DO YOU HAVE A PROJECT OR A PROGRAMME?



A PROJECT IS..
A series of people, processes, technology and other resources organised to deliver outputs, outcomes and benefits which align with the strategy. The aim is to complete on-time, on-budget, to-specification, with low-risk and high-communication. The outputs / outcomes are clear and ideally SMART so that everyone knows exactly what will be delivered, why, and how and when this will complete and flipped into business-as-usual (and the project team disbanded)

A PROGRAMME IS...
Lots of projects all joined together in a sequence that delivered more than just one thing, but a whole sequence of things which may be separate, dependant or interdependent.

Separate projects might be a change in HR and a change in IT that have no relation to each-other but together achieve aa programme (strategic) aim.

Dependant projects more obviously are those where one must complete before the other starts. Arguably this could be one project with Phase1, Phase2, Phase3 but you may choose to split it into a programme of Project1, Project2, Project3 if they have different suppliers budgets, teams, aims, focus, timescales.

Interdependent are a mix of the above. Not exactly one after the other, but a more complex integration which inevitably happens where people and process change runs parallel to a business or technology change.

THE KEY DIFFERENCES AND CONSEQUENCES

So one issue is do you want 1 x mega-project or 10 x projects as part of a programme. As noted above a key factor may be if they have different suppliers budgets, teams, aims, focus, timescales, but also the competence, capacity of people (Sponsors, Project Managers, Participants) to mentally keep track of everything.

A PMO

In organisations without a formal Project/Programme Office to support the business with tools, training, tips, templates etc., you end-up with disjointed efforts and often projects that compete or even compromise each-other. I like to think of a Project/Programme Office a bit like Air Traffic Control at an airport.

The role of Air Traffic Control [ATC] is not to fly the plane (that is the airline and the pilot) but to provide the structure that ensures a safe journey: pre-flight checks (governance), enough fuel (budget), all passengers (stakeholders), an agreed destination (deliverables and benefits), a clear route (tasks and plan) and an available runway (approval).  ATC schedules take-off and landing and provides information and support to pilots. In some cases ATC may be linked to a flight school that provides pilot training.

Without ATC you may have project crashes which are harmful to the business, stressful for your people, and compromise the strategy which is about quality, products, services and profits. It seems to me your role might expand beyond 'project management' (the pilot flying the plane) to 'programme management' (the Air Traffic Control role of planning and co-ordination)

We are expert in projects, programmes and change. We can deliver projects, but also provide the tools, templates, training and support for businesses to develop their own in-house capability

Tim HJ Rogers
MBA Management Consultant + Change Practitioner
ICF Trained Coach IoD Business Mentor
Mob 447797762051 Tim@AdaptConsultingCompany.com















THINKING OF M&A OR BUSINESS INTEGRATIONS

 THINKING OF M&A OR BUSINESS INTEGRATIONS

If you are planning an M&A spree you will ostensibly need 3 groups of people ...

Group1 - who find, appraise, negotiate, acquire businesses as part of M&A acquisition process. These people will look at businesses differently to those who simply operate the business. Like a mechanic will look at a car differently to a driver.

Group2 - who post-acquisition integrate people, products, services, technology, legal, marketing etc. These people have the design template for how each acquisition should be integrated and a 90 day plan (?) for implementation .

Step 1 - Assemble the Project Team
Step 2 - Understand the Strategy
Step 3 - Review the Products and Services
Step 4 - Review the Support, Partners and Suppliers
Step 5 - Review the Organisation Structure
Step 6 - Review the Company Structure
Step 7 - Prepare the Service Teams
Step 8 - Communications
Step 9 - Culture and Process Change
Step 10 - Review and Migrate the Customers, Products and Services

See https://adaptconsultingcompany.blogspot.com/2020/12/a-guide-to-business-integrations.html

Group3 - who run day-to-day business after all the post-acquisition integration complete and following standard policies, processes, procedures etc.

The role, skills, qualifications, thinking and time-horizon of each are quite different. As consultants we can help with the design, as project managers with the delivery, and as coaches we can support the people.

Tim HJ Rogers
MBA Management Consultant + Change Practitioner
ICF Trained Coach IoD Business Mentor
Mob 447797762051 Tim@AdaptConsultingCompany.com


Monday, 10 May 2021

IS YOUR TEAM THRIVING, STRUGGLING, SUFFERING THROUGH CHANGE?

 IS YOUR TEAM THRIVING, STRUGGLING, SUFFERING THROUGH CHANGE?

People who are engaged (working hard) but not thriving in life (finding it hard)

61% higher likelihood of burnout often or always
48% higher likelihood of daily stress
66% higher likelihood of daily worry
double the rate of daily sadness and anger

Thriving: These respondents have positive views of their present life situation (7 or higher best life present rating) and have positive views of the next five years (8 or higher best life future rating). They report significantly fewer health problems and less worry, stress, sadness, depression and anger. They report more hope, happiness, energy, interest and respect. Across countries, the percentage of thriving employees ranges from 8% to 87%.

Struggling: These respondents struggle in their present life situation and have uncertain or negative views about their future. They report more daily stress and worry about money than thriving respondents do. Across countries, the percentage of struggling employees ranges from 12% to 77%.

Suffering: These respondents report that their lives are miserable (4 and below best life present rating) and have negative views of the next five years (4 and below best life future rating). They are more likely to report that they lack the basics of food and shelter and more likely to have physical pain and a lot of stress, worry, sadness and anger. They have less access to health insurance and care and more than double the disease burden compared with thriving respondents. Across countries, the percentage of suffering employees ranges from 0% to 35%.

Read more
https://www.gallup.com/workplace/313067/employees-aren-thriving-business-struggling.aspx
(Thanks to David Ogilvie FCMI for the share)

Tim HJ Rogers
MBA Management Consultant + Change Practitioner
ICF Trained Coach IoD Business Mentor
Mob 447797762051 Tim@AdaptConsultingCompany.com

Monday, 19 April 2021

ARE WE PRESSURING OUR PEOPLE (TO QUIT) WHEN WE SHOULD BE IMPROVING THE SYSTEM (TO PERFORM)

WORKING FROM HOME / WORK Most companies are prepared to accept some hybrid work as a permanent change (66% of firms feel it is inevitable and 73% of people want it) — and a minority embrace remote work as the main workplace as they imagine all real estate costs will soon be dropping from their traditional place on the ledger to the profit line. Thoughts How can we continue flexible working that makes use feel part of a community, rather than an isolated nomad. Perhaps A regular tribal gathering, rituals and routines that bind us, and choosing one or two methods of communication to connect us. Example instead of many, many confusing ways to connect (Email, Social Media, Video, Meetings) we select 1. What we use for urgent (WhatsApp?) 2. What we use to call for help (Chat?) 3. What we use to find information (IntraNet?) BOSSES ARE OUT OF TOUCH A report by Microsoft’s reveals business leaders are out of touch. High productivity is masking what’s really going on. If high productivity is leading to burn-out and resentment it isn't good. Moreover if the effort is due to fear of unemployment that isn't a good motivator or sustainable. Time spent in Microsoft Teams meetings has more than doubled (2.5x) globally. The average Teams meeting is up from 35 to 45 minutes year-over-year. The average Teams user is sending 45% more chats per week and 42% more chats per person after hours There was a 66% increase in the number of people working on documents. Thoughts How can we do to balance our efforts between work and welfare, about supporting people as well as getting jobs done. Perhaps coaching, mentoring and other caring initiatives (mindfullness, check-in, pastoral care) might help. Also switching the flow of information: receiving feedback, listening to ideas, help people feel engaged and valued. EMPLOYEES FEEL OVERWHELEMED The barrage of communications is unstructured and mostly unplanned, with 62% percent of Teams calls and meetings unscheduled or conducted ad hoc. And workers feel the pressure to keep up: Despite meeting and chat overload, 50% of people respond to Teams chats within five minutes or less, a response time that has not changed year-over-year. Fifty-four percent feel overworked. Thirty-nine percent feel exhausted. The workday has elongated by at least an hour. People do more work after hours and more work on weekends. Flexible working has become 24/7 working and down-sizing, contracting, and the gig-economy demand a 24/7 alert for work. Thoughts More than ever we need a focus on purpose rather than productivity, of value rather than volume. What can we do to reconnect with our reasons, motives and joy of working. THEY WANT TO QUIT 41% of employees are considering leaving their current employer this year. This year! And 46% say they’re likely to move because they can now work remotely. Most companies couldn’t deal with 10% of their workforce leaving in the same year and the second largest impact of a mass exodus would be higher costs to retain employees or higher cost to train new employees, or contract-hire people. Thoughts How can some of the interventions above help retain and recruit people? What can we offer to make work either a career (3-5 year) destination (training, qualification, experience, expertise ) or a great place to partner/contract (pay, brand, reputation, innovation). CONNECTIVITY HAS MADE US MORE SILOED Collaboration trends in Microsoft Teams and Outlook confirm that interactions with our immediate team, or close networks, increased with the move to remote work but our interactions outside of that team have diminished. Inevitably this created in-groups and out-groups strengthening bonds with those we interact with regularly at the expense of different people and diverse views. And that spells more competition (between teams) and less collaboration (for organisational goals) Thoughts What can we do to mix groups, encourage diversity, create new routes and channels, break-up patterns and routines in a way that keeps things exciting, alive, thoughtful, challenging, innovative and thinking without it becoming messy, chaotic and confusing. How can we introduce just enough 'chaos' to keep us vibrant, without overwhelming us? IS CRYING A GOOD TREND? Microsoft talks about authenticity in the workplace, about what percent was comfortable crying in front of their co-workers. Whilst mindfulness may have put us in better contact with our thoughts and feelings i do not feel a workplace that makes us cry is a good thing. Indeed it seems that the work ethic and culture is becoming toxic rather than supportive, and people have become the tools of productivity rather than the architects of it. Thoughts We should sweat our systems and our processes not our people. Machines should work 24/7 not people. Our people should be the architects and the mechanics, not the machines. Tim HJ Rogers MBA Management Consultant + Change Practitioner ICF Trained Coach IoD Business Mentor Mob 447797762051 Tim@AdaptConsultingCompany.com We deliver projects and change, and improve the confidence, capacity, drive and desire of the people we work with. FOLLOW AdaptConsultingCompany https://www.linkedin.com/company/adapt-consulting-company #People, #Process, #Projects, #Change, #Consulting, #Coaching, #Mentoring, #Training

Monday, 12 April 2021

THE VALUE OF FEEDBACK, OR NEVER COMPLAIN; NEVER EXPLAIN

 THE VALUE OF FEEDBACK, OR NEVER COMPLAIN; NEVER EXPLAIN

Never complain; never explain. This pithy little maxim was first coined by the British politician and prime minister Benjamin Disraeli, and adopted as a motto by many other high-ranking Brits — from members of royalty, to navy admirals, to fellow prime ministers Stanley Baldwin and Winston Churchill.

Feedback is an interesting thing, most people are shy to give feedback, generally opting for satisfactory 6/10 to 8/10 rather than a shocking 0 or superlative 10. If all your feedback is satisfactory is that good enough? If one person in a hundred suggests a low score or a high score is this more or less important than all the satisfactory scores?

What about second-hand or late feedback, is this more honest because it has the merit of reflection than direct face to face feedback?

When we receive negative feedback to what extent can we use this to remedy the past, apologise or recompense. Or should we simply note it and move forward, taking the lessons and applying them in the future, but in the meantime never complain; never explain.

What about positive feedback, should we use past successes, accolades and praise to herald future performance? Any investment business will tell you that the past is not always a predictor for the future.

WHAT METHODS DO YOU USE FOR FEEDBACK?

There are many ways to get product or service feedback

1. Customer feedback surveys
2. Email and customer contact forms
3. Usability tests
4. Exploratory customer interviews
5. Social media
6. On-site activity (via analytics)
7. Instant feedback from your website

There are also lots of ways to get staff feedback

1. New employee surveys
2. Employee engagement surveys
3. Pulse surveys
4. Stay interviews
5. Review sites
6. Managers
7. Employee suggestion box
8. Exit interviews

PLEASE NOTE IN THE COMMENTS YOUR EXPERIENCE OF FEEDBACK METHODS

Read more on Never complain; never explain.

https://medium.com/lovesex/never-complain-never-explain-601dc20cc864
https://medium.com/@chasewritesmore/never-complain-never-explain-4c4ff9c0e181

Read more on 360 Degree Feedback: See the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

https://www.thebalancecareers.com/360-degree-feedback-information-1917537
https://hbr.org/2019/03/the-feedback-fallacy
https://www.qualtrics.com/experience-management/employee/360-feedback-survey-questions/

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

THE VALUE OF GOOD MEETINGS

Meetings should always have some form of structure so that people arrive prepared and engaged and feel there is a purpose the the meeting, value in their opinion and importance in the outcome. The structure should not compromise the debate or become too bureaucratic, indeed a good structure will ensure that all points are considered, all perspectives are discussed and consensus  (and dissent) it noted in agreeing the course of action.

The ten behaviours that generate the finest thinking, and have become known as The Ten Components of a Thinking Environment, are: Attention, Equality, Ease, Appreciation, Encouragement, Feelings, Information, Diversity, Incisive Questions, Place.

You could use 2 documents, an Agenda before then meeting and Minutes after the meeting. Or instead you could have one document only and simply update it with additional detail so that it records the Before, During and After elements of the discussion.

 

MEETING (Title, Location, Time)
SBC Co Ltd  Joint Venture  9am till 10am Wed 7 Apr at SBC  HeadOffice

ATTENDANCE (Required and Optional Attendance)

AIM (Purpose or Intended outcome of meeting)
The aim of the meeting is to .......

BRIEFING NOTES
(Any notes, data, to consider before the meeting)

Please read this document {link}
Please watch this video {link}
Please being your top ten priorities

AGENDA
(Key topics in priority order to manage time)

Initials Time Topic Aim
TR 10mins Update on ABC Projects, decision re go / no-go
AB 10mins Update on Recruitment, decide candidate
CC 10mins Update on Goals, note/agree

DISCUSSION
(Key discussion points 1.Whats Done 2. Issues/Options 3. Next)


DECISIONS / ACTIONS
(Decisions/ Actions: Who, What, When, How Much)



Find out more a about a Thinking Environment here
https://adaptcoaching.blogspot.com/2021/03/the-10-components-of-thinking.html