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Pam Stanton, The Project WhispererWelcome to the blog for Pam Stanton, The Project Whisperer. Here you’ll find articles, announcements, and news related to project management and leadership– which as we all know, requires “Heart, Brains, & Courage.”

Please join the conversation! Share your thoughts, reactions, and experiences. We want this to be an interactive forum, so don’t be shy, and don’t hold back.

Tea and a Bacon Sandwich: What Really Makes Projects Work

From time to time I receive an engaging email from someone sharing “Project Whisperer” experiences. This note from Jon Aikman rings so true, especially the part about sitting down “over tea and a bacon sandwich.” Jon graciously allowed the re-printing of his note. Enjoy! – Pam

Project management

What Really Works

“I have worked in managing building projects for more than 20 years and in the early days I was deeply interested in learning about different planning and scheduling techniques and other project management tools. My experience showed me that they were useless on their own and what got things moving smoothly was sitting down over tea and a bacon sandwich with a subcontractor listening to his issues about cash flow, lead time for deliveries, access to the site and how he struggles to pay his mortgage. Much more productive than shouting about how he is behind programme and needs to catch up by next week or he’s not being paid.

I also lived and worked in Indonesia for 6 years where the total difference in culture, economy, expectations and technology forced me to break my project management skills to basics and develop a PM approach that fitted the framework I was working in. Nothing to do with scheduling techniques or Gantt charts.

My approach to construction projects is that all buildings are imagined, designed and built by people for people to use and they only get built by everyone co-operating and working towards a common goal. Nothing has changed really since the pyramids were built except we can now build more complex structures, faster and more safely.

I recently became accredited as a mediator and I’m working on a business concept providing project team support – establishing project teams, providing ways to help the team to work smoothly together and helping building industry clients organise their internal decision making processes so that they can be very clear about what they need to achieve from a building projects. All the things I used to do as a project manager but hopefully being able to achieve better results by not being in that PM seat with its other burdens.”

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Jon Aikman

Jon Aikman, Ashburnham Project Management

ABOUT JON: Jon Aikman has a degree in Civil Engineering and an MSc in Construction Management. From 1987 to 1994 he was with Balfour Beatty Construction learning how to manage construction projects, where he learned the power of building a rapport with project team members (He says that eating together is a great rapport builder and UK construction sites collapse when no tea is available!).

Jon  left the contracting business to join a construction consultancy in London for a short time before going to Indonesia in 1995. He was a project manager for a property developer in Jakarta until returning  to UK in 2001. Since then he has been self employed at Ashburnham Project Management . Earlier this year he trained as a mediator with the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators.

The Impossible Dream: When Vision Kills Execution

Vision Overload Can Kill Execution

Some of my best leadership insights come not from the moments when I’m the leader, but from those when I’m being led. And I’m not talking about those fleeting inspirational hot-flashes that come when witnessing a moving speaker at a big conference. What’s more, when I’m being led well, I may not even notice… but when I’m being led astray, that’s when I really learn. I suppose living it is learning it, so long as you take time to stop and smell the dog poop.

And what “I now know for sure” (to co-opt Oprah Winfrey’s line) is that good leadership is sometimes about what NOT to do— a YinYang balance of push and restraint. Continue reading

The Courage of Your Convictions

I’ve just crossed the one-year mark of my post-corporate journey– one that started with a decision to STOP doing something, without fully mapping out what I would START. It was a profound personal epiphany, and it also left me jobless.

I was burned out, for sure, but mostly frustrated by the desire to contribute in a larger way. My demons of self-doubt had finally given way to new voices in my head:

"Hear Me Now and Believe Me Later!"

“I actually know what I’m talking about. My approach delivers successful initiatives. You might not want to listen, but… (now in Hans & Franz voice): Hear me now and believe me later!”

But how to position myself to be able to do my thing? Continue reading

Project Metrics: The Double-Edged Sword

Metrics can swing both ways

Metrics can slice both ways!

We all know that metrics are critical to running a business. We need those leading and lagging indicators of performance, so we can change course where needed and keep doing what works.

Metrics, however, are a slippery beast. In addition to measuring the results of actions, they also motivate action. And this is where things can go either fabulously right, or terribly wrong. What’s worse is that we may not realize what outcome we are promoting until it is too late.

Here’s an example from early in my career. This experience seared onto my brain the awesome power of metrics to influence behavior. And with that power comes great responsibility to ensure that the outcome we motivate is the one that we want.

Continue reading

Stop Wasting Time

Thank you to guest author Margaret Meloni  of Meloni Coaching Solutions Inc. for sharing her insights  in the following article.  More about Margaret appears at the end of the post.

Having One of Those Moments?

So there you are in line at the grocery store or the hardware store or the bank. It could be anyplace really. You could be on hold waiting for a customer service representative or waiting for a meeting to begin. You have time on your hands, what do you do with that time?

Click Here and Listen to this 2 min 31 sec Message from Margaret or continue reading.

What time, you ask? You really do not plan on being in line or on hold or waiting for more than five minutes. It’s not a large block of time. What difference can it make? The difference it makes depends on how you spend that time. Do you:

  • Spend it being annoyed that you have to wait?
  • Spend it becoming perturbed because someone in front of you is taking too long?
  • Spend it being critical about the children in front of you who are (according to you) misbehaving?
  • Spend it reviewing the front covers of gossip magazines?

Are you wasting timeIf you are doing any of the above or something similar, you are wasting time. I am not suggesting you multitask. I am not going to propose that you use this time to make phone calls or balance your checkbook or write notes. I am going to propose that you do something more constructive with your time than engage in negative thinking. Continue reading

Dashboards and Pumpkin Muffins: A Confession

Meaningful dashboard metrics

Wake Up And Smell The Metrics!

I have a confession to make.  It’s from the days when I was still working for a large corporation and leading part of an enterprise-wide strategic IT change initiative. It was huge and encompassed dozens of programs and sub-projects, all aimed at transforming the global IT organization. It was driven top-down and had strict reporting requirements including a mega-metric that tracked who didn’t submit their weekly report. That particular metric got a lot of attention from the Steering Committee of VPs, who were being held accountable by the CIO to submit a consolidated dashboard.

Every week, I dutifully, painfully, and manually composed the required PowerPoint dashboard slide, doing my best to force-fit my program status into the pre-ordained format—which didn’t really work. I had to choose one color—Red, Yellow, or Green, to characterize the current status of my entire program, which was global and massive in itself. I had already been warned by my leadership that there were no “Reds” allowed, and no getting creative with “Oranges” as some do… so my choices were Green or Yellow. There was a tiny box for a 6 pt. font paragraph commentary on that status, which made me feel a bit better, since I could at least qualify the color rating.

Well, feeling rushed and cranky one November Friday, I decided to try a little experiment. Continue reading

Get The Towel First: How Our Brains Trick Us into Indifference

I’m about to share one of my top process efficiency discoveries of all time. Well, OK, I don’t want to oversell this… but it’s something that both amazes and amuses me, many times a week.

Before we continue, however, a bit of context is required.  Female readers will resonate with this immediately. And for the men—well, you’re about to get a peek into that mysterious enclave known as—The Ladies Room (and yes, we persist in calling it that, despite the more P.C. signage of “WOMEN” on the door.)

Emotional Intelligence and Public restrooms

What Causes The Mess?

So Ladies: I think that you’ll agree that large public restrooms can be pretty messy. There’s almost always soapy water pooled on the counters and floors. Paper towels fallen from overstuffed trash bins lay half-soaked, and sometimes there’s even a muddy path leading to the stalls.  Leaning over to reach the wall-mounted soap dispenser results in a wet jacket hemline. Ugh.

What’s up with this? It doesn’t happen at home (exception noted for any family with 2+ young children.)  Is it the sheer volume of usage that causes  this mess? Or is it… something more subtle?

Continue reading