Monthly Archives: October 2011

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.

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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