Catching the slipstream of the back-to-school energy

Are you feeling left out of the excitement that comes at this time of year when the start of school, college and university is offering a plethora of  possibilities to others? New shoes and stationery sets, notebooks and pristine text books all seem to promise the opportunity for a new start that re-vitalises best intentions.

What can we do to leverage the energy in the air and not succumb to the shortening days and the all-too inevitable leaf-fall? How can we rejuvinate our work and enthuse those around us?

It is a great time to grab the lift of the slipstream of those around us and get the energy and fun back into our focus for the next stage gate or milestone or something else we can find to hook on to. There are many possibilities for what you can create from here – go do it!

Read more in our articles section.

Lost your ‘Pause Button’ ?

A couple of years ago we lost our power supply on Christmas Eve. Within an hour or so we had re-planned how we would cater, relax, and remain safe. As project managers we think nothing of stopping and replanning for the sake of our team, our stakeholders, and all those who rely on us. It is what we do well. So how come it is so hard for us to do this for ourselves?

One of our 5 Ts of Extraordinary Project Management is “Taking Care of Yourself” – learn more here about the 5Ts of EPM.

What would it take for you to find just 10 mins to plan how to find your ‘Pause Button’?

What will be the boundaries you set in place so that you get to re-charge your batteries too??

Common Sense – how to reclaim it

Delivering a project full tilt towards ever challenging deadlines can drive us into the weeds. Demands of ‘do more, with less, faster’ challenge us to roll up our sleeves and be super-heroes. Our instincts can lead us to rush to hone our scope and focus on landing whatever we can. Later our reflective hindsight can leave us wondering how and where we lost our common sense – ours and that of our team?  Although frequently counterintuitive, the simple answer is to stop and think. Really……..just stop and think but do so properly.  Step back, take stock, look at the wider situation. Breathe and think…and common sense will come flooding back.

Who is covering your back?

Extraordinary Project Managers build teams and create Tribes of followers to help deliver their Target and navigate the uncertain Terrain of the business and political world that surrounds us. Seth Godin defines a Tribe as a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. Building our Project Tribe is just one of those things we do instinctively but need to remember to do consciously in the seemingly ever-increasingly resource-constrained project world.

Our Tribe will inevitably span a range of levels and functions in the business we operate within and may well include our customers and other external sponsors. Thinking about our Tribe, meeting their needs, and knowing what we can count on them for is an integral part of operating at an exceptional level as Project or Programme Managers. Being mindful that our Tribe is wider than both our Project Team and our stakeholders, we will purposefully build those connections in a steady and collaborative way. Our wider Tribe will help us to have support we can call on when we need it, and also eyes, ears and perspectives that we might not otherwise have benefitted from.

Once we have worked out who is in our Tribe, who we are continuing to connect to, and who is connected to the idea or change we are delivering, we can start working out how they sit in their Attitude towards us and where we need them to be. Albeit totally subjective and risking bias, we can assess which if the 5 Attitude As are most appropriate for our Tribespeople and decide what to do about it, if we need to do some Tribe-building. The 5As we use are Advocate, Ally, Associate (neutral), Adversary and Abdicators….. and then there is ‘Captain Chaos’ who delights us all in flipping from Advocate to Adversary and back again.

We often don’t get to choose our team but we do get to choose who we connect to and how we build our Tribe. Extraordinary Project Managers are mindful and intentional but you won’t see that in a job description!

Pivoting into a 2nd career in the project management world with out having to return to ‘Start”

Bridging the gap between the current career and a move into project management continues to be a challenge unless doing so as a subject matter expert who then gets the opportunity to take on a project. There are many people, particularly women, who have amazing skills and have excelled up the career ladder into various roles including Executive Assistants and operational roles in Finance and Purchasing amongst many. These talented individuals have the skills of getting on with people from all areas, skills of persuasion, delegation and collaboration, problem solving, being practical….and many more which have been developed and honed.

The problem that many face is that they find they can’t move sideways into project management as they don’t have the experience needed.  The typical project methodology courses are at best very dry, difficult to engage with without some experience of working in a project, and can be, at worst, a mechanical process to help you show you know the tools pass an exam so you can add the letters to your CV. I do concede that my last comment might be a bit harsh….so please forgive….but you probably do get the point which is that days of project methodology is probably not the best introduction to the project world.

We have a fabulous resource pool of talented and experienced people who know how to make change happen and how to ‘get things done’, often through quite tricky organisational terrains. It is hard to help them leverage those skills into the project word without being sent back to ‘Start’. And what makes this even worse is that the place you often are sent to as ‘Start’ is the PMO assistant where the very skills you have that would make you a fabulous project manager or work stream leader are not best matched to what you need to ‘run the Risk Log effectively’.

That’s why we have developed a one day seminar and workshop that can help you start your career pivot into project management. Have a look at Project Management Un-Packed – it could be the stepping stone you are looking for.

Project Management Unpacked

Terrain, one of the 5Ts of Extraordinary Project Management

The project has its Terrain (Internal) which sits within the Terrain of the Business and the wider world (External).

EPMs maintain awareness of the Terrain within the project and the Terrain external to the project.

They focus on the few things that must have attention at this point in the project.

They ‘keep an eye open’ for those things that will need attention in the next period and note the speed they are approaching.

……… a bit like driving on the motorway….

“Dealing with the surprise of unexpected disruptions is central to being a manager of projects” but “Why is plain English and common sense so complicated?”

I am just reading an article in the latest International Journal of Project Management which I receive as part of my membership of the Association for Project Management.

I was really excited to read that the unexpected can happen and that these are not indications that something has gone wrong nor are they occasions for a Project Manager to feel self-doubt. Yay….a scientific paper stating that stuff happens sometimes, of course, and it is OK.

Great stuff!!

But why is the title of the paper need to be “The wisdom of conversations: Existential Hermeneutic Phenomenology for project managers” ????

It makes me wonder what we are over-complicating in our projects?

Project Assurance – Help or Hindrance?

It takes courage to encourage your stakeholders to bring in an external auditor/assurer and  have the spotlight shone into all the nooks and crannies of your project. It is so difficult to contain the frustration of having to divert resource to compile comprehensive documentation the reviewer inevitably requires whilst keeping the delivery on track. And then there are so many questions and sometimes mis-understandings that result from being an outsider to the project. Over the years I have had a number of my programmes audited and I have concluded that we have really benefitted from this process 50% of the time whilst the other 50% has been a tick box exercise by people who just don’t seem to get what the project is really about or the context in which it is being delivered or who are simply serving their ‘Will we get our bill paid?’ objective. It feels rare to find a truly challenging ally who really knows how to undertake a professional assurance audit and who really helps the programme or project manager rather than adding to their burden of work.

What’s your experience been?

Have you been involved in an audit and how did it help you?