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
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.”
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.
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.
Posted in coaching, dashboard, leadership development, metrics, process improvement, project management
Tagged business, group dynamics, managing successful projects, Measurement, Performance measurement, Performance metric, project management, project management methodology, project management tools, Project manager, Vendor (supply chain)
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
Posted in dashboard, emotional intelligence, leadership development, metrics, presentation skills, project management
Tagged business, dashboard, group dynamics, managing successful projects, metrics, Project and Program Management, project management, project management methodology, project management templates, project management tools
Managing emotions is key to managing projects
You are a Project Manager. You may not realize it, and you may have some other title engraved on your business card, but believe me—you are. Envision a Saturday morning. Paint brush in hand, in-laws arriving tomorrow, and you angry at the realization that there’s not enough paint to finish the guest room. Your spouse is standing by, volunteering well-intentioned guidance “Don’t fall off that ladder!”
At this very moment, you are a Project Manager, trust me.
What’s more, I can predict the outcome of this project based in large part on the very next thing you do. It’s not whether you actually fall off that ladder, or whether you’re able to get more of the custom-colored paint. Sure, you’ll need to address those things… but the real predictor of how your day’s going to unfold is what you say next to your spouse:
(read the rest of my guest post at Tom’s Planner.com)
Posted in emotional intelligence, leadership development, project management, soft skills
Tagged business, emotional intelligence, emotional intelligence training, Fundamentals of Project Management, group dynamics, Intelligence quotient, managing successful projects, project management, project management methodology, project management tools, Project manager, soft skills, soft skills definition
Special Guest Bob Jewell, CEO of Omega Leadership Group
We had a great live audience turnout for the latest episode of “PDU For Lunch” featuring leadership veteran Bob Jewell of Omega Leadership Group. Did you miss it? No worries, you can view the recording (and still earn a PDU toward maintaining your PMI certification!)
WATCH THE RECORDING
Bob Jewell polled the audience on a number of interesting points about the PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge) and challenged the use of some very common terms like “scope” and “critical path.”
Posted in emotional intelligence, leadership development, project management
Tagged A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, business, Critical path method, management, managing successful projects, PMI certification, PMP, Project and Program Management, project lifecycle, project management, Project Management Institute, project management methodology, project management steps, Project manager, project manager job description
A project crippled by scope, budget, and time.
The Broadway production of “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” has been plagued with significant delays, cost overruns, technical failures, scathing reviews, and most recently, the apparent dismissal of its director, the esteemed Julie Taymor. Those familiar with the Broadway community know Ms. Taymor as the brilliant creative and directorial force behind the smash hit “The Lion King”, as well as numerous other successes of stage and film.
Wondering if I could diagnose the situation from the perspective of project management, I spent a few hours reading articles that piece together a history spanning six years of this massive undertaking. Where did it go wrong? Was there a single point of failure, or a barrage of circumstances that brought this now $65MM (and growing) debacle to its knees? Continue reading
Posted in emotional intelligence, leadership development, project management, soft skills
Tagged Bono, Broadway theatre, business, emotional intelligence, group dynamics, Julie Taymor, managing successful projects, project management, project management methodology, project manager job description, soft skills definition, Spider-man turn off the dark
Is Certification Worth It?
As I speak to audiences about the importance of soft skills and emotional intelligence in project management, inevitably I’m asked my opinion on the value of a certification from the PMI (Project Management Institute) such as the PMP (Project Management Professional.) This topic is very polarizing in our professional community. The camps generally divide into : 1) Those who sought the PMP on their own and found it to be an excellent training opportunity; 2) Those who were required by their employer or felt pressured by the job market to obtain it; and, 3) Those who are active resisters or were just never required to get one.
First off, let me state clearly that I do not have a PMI certification. Heresy, you say? Well, the reality is that the PMP certification gained prominence at a time when I was already firmly established in my career. My employers, knowing my skills and track record, never pushed for me to obtain it.
So is there a value in having the PMI certification? My strong answer is… it depends. Let’s look at the requirements and costs, and then I’ll tell you what I really think. Continue reading
Posted in coaching, leadership development, mentoring, presentation skills, project management, soft skills
Tagged business, emotional intelligence training, group dynamics, management, managing successful projects, PMI certification, PMP, project lifecycle, project management, project management methodology, project management steps, project management tools, project management training, project manager job description, soft skills definition