Thursday, 26 February 2009

PRINCE2® for Girls - and all the Women in Technology

We were delighted to see large numbers of women have attended the BPUG Congress – proof indeed that the ladies are becoming more and more visible among the ranks of project managers, which has in the past been dominated by men.

Of course, we are not being sexist here and the success of the gentlemen is still as interesting to us – however, we are indeed very pleased to see women gaining acknowledgement and more senior roles in their organisations.

This is a theme that is becoming more and more prevalent – and we should know: our CEO, Melanie Franklin, has been a leader within this industry for many years now!

Elizabeth Harrin, the author of Project Management in the Real World and blogger of PM4Girls, gave a presentation at BPUG on how to use web 2.0 technologies to enable better and more frequent communication. Elizabeth combines her writing career with a programme management role at Spire Healthcare – no mean feat!

Meanwhile, Sue Vowler of Project Angels is the Lead Author of the new P3O Guidance which is creating huge amounts of interest among senior executives in both the public and private sectors.

Another woman who is playing a very important role in the Project Management world is Emma Jones, the new Chief Examiner for the PRINCE2 exams. Emma enlightened delegates at the BPUG Congress as to the impact of the update of PRINCE2 on the accompanying examinations. She reassured everyone that their PRINCE2 Practitioner qualification will remain valid until they need to re-register, and that the update is more “evolution than revolution”.

Maven Training is joining in Suw Charman-Anderson’s crusade to “Bring Women in Technology to the fore” by supporting the Ada Lovelace Day – an international day of blogging, taking place on 24th March, to draw attention to women excelling in technology. Suw says: “Women’s contributions often go unacknowledged, their innovations seldom mentioned, their faces rarely recognised. We want you to tell the world about these unsung heroines. Entrepreneurs, innovators, sysadmins, programmers, designers, games developers, hardware experts, tech journalists, tech consultants. The list of tech-related careers is endless.”

And that’s not all!

As we’re sensing a bit of a movement here, we thought we would celebrate by launching a new course especially for the ladies! Called PRINCE2® for Girls, the first course will take place on 30th March at our training centre in London. As a special treat, all delegates will receive a complimentary head and shoulder massage after their course. Go to our website for further details!

What about the boys?

Don’t worry though boys – we haven’t forgotten about you and have already got our thinking caps on as to what we can do specially for you. We’d love to hear your ideas so let us know via this blog!

Monday, 23 February 2009

Dubai a global leader? Not in this case!

By William Franklin, Client Relations Director of Maven Training Ltd.

With its gleaming spires reaching into the hot blue desert sky, each one promising prosperity, aspiration and possibly 5-star hotel service, it is hard to imagine that Dubai is behind the world in anything. However, that is exactly what is happening with regards to Dubai’s positioning on the world economic stage.

Having just returned from a week spent in Dubai on business development, I was amazed at how clearly the Dubai ‘business-scape’ was six months behind that of the UK. The business community is collectively holding its breath and business leaders wait to see when the financial cycle will turn and allow them to plan for future investment. During this time basic decisions are being postponed or even cancelled pending a wider strategic review with the most visible being the closure of many regional offices of international companies.

Despite this communal breath-holding of the business community, countless staff continue to drive into work each day as evidenced by the traffic jams on Sheikh Zayed Road being no less painful. And what is each of them thinking about while sitting in their car? Mostly – and one can only presume – are seeking clarity on their own skills set and whether it is sufficient to (a) keep their existing job, (b) find another job or (c) change career. It is these staff that business leaders need to proactively engage to help their business through these difficult times.

So where does this all fit into the comparison with the UK market? Well as the business development director for a leading training company specialising in project and programme management training, I have had direct experience of what the Dubai market is going through since August 2008. A form of national hysteria gripped the market, especially at the time of the collapse of Northern Rock and then Lehman Brothers, and everyone held their breath. But as we know you can’t hold your breath for ever, and sure enough by the end of December 2008, demand from organisations to upskill their remaining staff and develop their own methodologies returned stronger than at any time in the previous six months. With the crash forcing management teams to take decisive actions, reverting to basic principles became the preferred strategy whether it was geographic presence, core product line or simplified corporate structure.

Reverting to the sunny skies of Dubai, organisations should take heart from the experience of the UK market. Based on the timeframes in this blog, I would expect that rationale behaviour of the Dubai market to return in April or May this year. This means that internal HR Training teams only have another two months to put into place updated individual training plans aligned to the new corporate strategic goals as identified by the CEO. If you wait for the market to show tangible signs of recovery, you may actually miss out on another six months of skills development.

Is this too optimistic a view? If you are reading this in Dubai you may think so, however I would recommend canvassing opinion from your UK contacts to check this out yourself.

Friday, 20 February 2009

What makes being a Maven trainer worthwhile?

Or “A Trainer’s most uplifting moment”.
Or even “When is it ok to hug a delegate?”

Read on – this is a true story told by Graham Devine, one of our Senior Training Consultants.

“Part of my life as a Maven Trainer involves duties that go well beyond the classroom, and events which have extreme emotional effects. It’s not just about ‘learning’ and study – and for me this makes working with Maven so worthwhile.

Let me tell you about a recent incident which illustrates the point.

Fidan (to protect the person I have used a fictitious name) had previously taken the PRINCE2 Practitioner exam, after her own self-study for Foundation, but had failed. She was desperate to get the Practitioner Accreditation and so booked herself on a Maven Consolidation course for a second attempt.

With three weeks to go she asked Maven if she could talk with a trainer to help her decide on the best approach for her pre-course preparation. As I was to be the trainer for her Consolidation course I picked up this request. Using her previous exam scores and talking with Fidan we worked out a revision and self-study plan for the next few weeks. I should point out that Fidan’s first language is not English – and whilst she had excellent spoken English sometimes the subtleties and idioms used in written questions fazed her.

Over the next few weeks I coached Fidan through phone calls and e-mail exchanges, I was looking forward to meeting her in the course.

During her course it became apparent to me that she was having difficulties with the written exam questions – she could comprehend what was required but it took a long time, and she was getting stressed by this. During the second day of the course I asked Fidan about her background and circumstances and I realised that the examination board could offer her more time in the exam. She was delighted. I also found out from her that passing this exam was one of the conditions of her continued work-permit – Fidan’s plans and future rested on this one test tomorrow!

Ok, day of the exam – Fidan started well knowing she had an extra half-hour. I checked with her occasionally and offered her some guidance on interpretation of some questions. Half way through the exam Fidan asked to speak with me – I took her outside the classroom. She was much stressed and didn’t believe she could do all the questions in time – this was so stressful for her she broke down and cried – she was in great distress.

As an invigilator I could not offer her more time – the examination board would not allow that – but I could ‘stop the clock’. So, for the next 15 minutes, through the tears, we calmly talked it through – I tried to guide her in an adult way. This seemed to work; at least it calmed her down. I suggested that if she wanted to carry on we could put her into a separate room on her own – a good idea said. So, she settled down again with the exam ‘clock’ restarted. Throughout the remaining time I checked on her regularly – she was still not having a good time but I kept her focussed.

At the end of the exam I could see from her answer sheets that she had missed one or two questions (out of nine) – quietly, I was thinking to myself that it was very unlikely she would get a pass – I was saddened by this; Fidan had put in so much extra effort, she was intelligent, capable and driven – was it fair that she should fail? What about her work-permit?

We said our good-byes, I asked her if a hug was appropriate (partly for her and partly for me), sent her away, she went to see her sister to commiserate (still crying) and I got the train home – I have to say I felt really ‘low’.

Fast forward a week and half – exam results day – imagine my utter astonishment and absolute joy when I saw Fidan’s score – 180. SHE HAD DONE IT!

I have e-mailed and spoken with Fidan since – she is over the moon, and still cannot believe it. What a fantastic way to end the week for me – and by the way, all of the other delegates passed as well. It’s nice to be part of an organisation that cares – welcome to Maven Training!”

Aaawww, hasn’t this just melted your heart? Well, I know mine has! Thank you G.D. for your super contribution to this blog!

Wednesday, 18 February 2009


The APM Group, the body responsible for accrediting training organisations and administering the PRINCE2 examination scheme, has issued a statement regarding the update of PRINCE2 and the impact this update will have on the Foundation and Practitioner examinations.

Candidates are advised that there will not be a major difference between the 2005 and 2009 versions of PRINCE2. The APM Group therefore recommends candidates not to delay their training or exams. Furthermore, all candidates who have taken their examination on the earlier edition of the method will find their qualification remains valid until they need to re-register.

PRINCE2 Registered Practitioners need to take the re-registration exam within five years of their certification date as shown on their certificate. All certificates are valid for the registration period shown on them and exams do not have to be retaken outside of the normal re-registration cycle.

When the 2009 exams are released the re-registration exams will be based on this version and not previous versions. Candidates are then advised to attend either a short course from an Accredited Training Organisation (ATO) rather than simply reading the new manual. Both the Foundation and Practitioner Examinations will be based on the new ‘Managing Projects’ manual and will not include material from the new ‘Directing Projects’ book. Depending on demand an examination based on the Directing manual will be developed and launched towards the end of 2009.

The 2009 examinations will come into practice once the official manual has been published and they are dependant on this publication. It is expected that both the publication and examinations will be available during Q2 2009.

There will be a crossover period for exams – for a minimum of three months after the launch of 2009 – where exams will be issued on either the 2005 or 2009 version of the manual. After this, exams will be based on 2009 manual only. Dates during which either examination version can be taken will be confirmed when the launch date is finalised, as will the date for the withdrawal of PRINCE2:2005 examinations.

Investment in training on previous PRINCE2 versions will not be lost as it is still a valid and productive methodology for the management of projects. The refresh of the manual updates and improves the method but it is not a major re-write. Users of the 2005 version are under no obligation to update to the 2009 version, though of course may do so if they wish to. If the system is working well for an individual or organisation at the moment they are under no pressure to change this.

The PRINCE2:2009 examinations at Foundation and Practitioner level will be available in all the languages which the PRINCE2:2005 ones are; Chinese (Mandarin), Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Spanish (Castilian). All languages will be available at the launch of the PRINCE2:2009 examinations.

All currently approved ATOs will be permitted to train PRINCE2 2009 provided they have updated their courseware – and the updating of course materials is well underway here at Maven Training.

The APM Group is running a series of sessions to update ATOs on the method and pilots of the new examinations will take place during March and April 2009.

For further announcements see the PRINCE2® Official Website and OGC Best Management Practice News.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

BPUG Congress

Last week we attended the second annual BPUG Congress, and from the conversations we have had, we can say that there is a lot of evidence that organisations are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their approach to project management. The delegates we spoke to were of a very high calibre – and all of them had specific questions and issues which they had come to the Congress to address.

Members of our Marketing and Client Relations teams (including Craig Aldridge, Sam Tuckey, Nick Tipping and Director William Franklin), spent the two days talking to delegates and attending the sessions. William said that it was a very enjoyable couple of days and that the atmosphere was excellent because people were focused on specific questions they wanted answers to.

We had some extremely interesting conversations with delegates and were able to give help and advice to those who wanted to get on and start making a difference to their organisations by adopting Best Practice.

Our CEO Melanie Franklin found that delegates had already implemented project management and their interest had now been elevated to programme management. She said that “more senior executives are becoming aware that programme management provides a strategic route map, and they’re willing to fund programme and project offices because they realise they will achieve efficiencies that have otherwise eluded them”.

Not surprisingly, Sue Vowler’s presentation on P3O (Portfolio, Programme & Project Offices) was very well attended as delegates grappled with how to make the new guidance work in their organisations.

Perhaps the economic climate has honed the focus of board level executives to getting things done, and they want to know how initiatives such as P3O will contribute to the bottom line.

We were also delighted to meet the author of the Stepping into Project Management blog, Soma, which we all follow avidly – along with Elizabeth’s lovely PM4Girls.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Mr Bhatti's Pearls of Wisdom

Oh, the beauty of the Infinite Wisdom of Senior Managers... Everyday our Managing Director, Salman Bhatti, enlightens us with his ever so significant and serious quotes, which never fail to make our days more fruitful. Today I am delighted to share some of his classic “Pearls of Wisdom” with you. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Deep thoughts
“Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday”.
“’Smile’, they said, ‘life could be worse’. I did, and it was…”
“The wisdom of the wise is a large degree of common sense”.

About Work
“Why is there so much month left at the end of the salary?”
“Isn’t it heavenly to do nothing and rest afterwards?”
“I like work; I can sit and stare at it for hours”

Mundane reflections
“A good day is when all the wheels on your shopping trolley go in the same direction”.

Men and women
“God made beautiful women – and then they turned into wives”.
“A woman changes a lot after marriage, especially her husband.”
“A bachelor is someone who comes to work from a different direction every morning”.

“Expert: someone who has stopped learning”.
“Never learn to do anything. If you don’t learn you will always find someone else to do it for you”.

Growing old
“Middle age is when your broad mind and narrow waist change places”.
“Wrinkles are hereditary – parents get them from their children”.

On Business
“The trouble with opportunity is that it looks so much bigger going than coming”.
“Diplomacy: the art of saying things in such a way the no one knows exactly what you mean”.

And finally, on the complications of communication
“I know you believe you understand what you think I just said. But if hope you realise that what you just heard is not what I meant!”

What would we do without such wonderful remarks?

PS: since Melanie talked about the 50th anniversary of Charles Darwin's 'The Origin of Species' on our last post, I just thought it was worth mentioning that today is his birthday.

Monday, 9 February 2009

The Evolution of the Project Manager

I have just been watching the David Attenborough programme about Charles Darwin , celebrating the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Origin of Species . The description of the process of natural selection started me thinking about how project managers have evolved over the last few decades – as we adapt to our environment we shed certain characteristics and gain new ones.

PRINCE2® Timeline

15 years ago, project management was seen as a specialism, using planning and estimating skills including earned value analysis, use of critical path analysis (worked out on pieces of paper using mathematical calculations). 10 years ago, the use of planning software (Microsoft Project and Primavera especially) was all the rage and contract project managers who had an in depth ability in this software were highly prized (and highly praised). In the last 10 years there has been a move away from software to methodology, evidenced by the huge numbers of people with qualifications in PRINCE2® and MSP™. In the last five years this has developed into a desire for project managers to apply the methodologies to the circumstances of the organisations for which they work – scaling the use of the methodology for different sizes and types of projects and adapting the documentation to include terminology used within the organisation. It makes me wonder what the next five years will bring. Already I am starting to see growing interest in the application of interpersonal skills such as communication skills, team management skills and particularly leadership skills to grow the ability of the project manager to handle complex political environments, and manage the under-resourcing commonly associated with projects. What do you think the next big thing is going to be in project management? Send in your comments and let’s see how good we are at predicting the future!

Thursday, 5 February 2009

A week in the life of a PRINCE2® Trainer

Being a Maven Training Trainer is no piece of cake, given the very best is what this organisation expects from them. Still, they love it and are happy to share their feelings with us. See this piece, by Narinder Dhaliwal, one of our many loved-by-our-delegates Training Consultants.

“This week I was training an open course with 13 delegates from various walks of life. With the current economic situation in mind I found that I had at least four delegates on my course self-funding their training as they were either already out of a job or were going through redundancy! This made me realise just how important this week would be to them. I also had another trainer sitting in on my course observing me for the first two days. Now if you are a trainer you may be able to relate to how I was feeling – very nervous and a bit worried because I had to live up to a certain expectation!

Well, I am pleased to say days one and two went fine with all the delegates pretty OK (apart from exhausted!). Now came day three – the day of my assessment. Oh, yes, I was due for my assessment again and I was shaking like a leaf. No matter how many times anyone tells me that I am good at what I do, and had no need to worry, it made no difference to me. I didn't sleep a wink the night before! What if the assessor found a fundamental flaw in what I was saying or doing? What would happen? I'd essentially have no job!!!! These were just some of the things going through my mind. To top it off the assessor decided to stay for the entire day (up until just before 3pm which is when I would have finished the slide set).

During lunch he had said to me that he was 'happy with me, and he really liked my training style' but 'would like to stay on'. So although I felt a sense of relief, the fact he was still there made that relief turn to doubt, because all I kept thinking was why he had decided to stay on. Is he not sure? Well I won't know the answer to that now because he quietly got up at 2.45pm and left the room.

Thursday and Friday are another chapter and I will tell you about that another time, what I will say before I go is that as trainers it is never easy because there is a constant pressure to deliver excellence!”

Monday, 2 February 2009

Changes on the M_o_R Exam

What a day today, eh? All this snow (the heaviest for 18 years!), people stuck at home for lack of trains/ buses/ tube (delete as appropriate), major traffic issues... but the landscape is just SO pretty! We at Maven Training managed to deliver our services normally: our courses ran, our people who didn't make it to the office worked from home - it was business as usual, despite the chaos. That, dear readers, is what we call a great team - I heard (I'm one of the people worlking from home) that our CEO Melanie Franklin was even more delighted with Maven than she usually is, so here's to the team, Mel!

On a second note, we have an important piece of news to give you, about the changes on the M_o_R Practiotioner Examination. What used to be an essay-based exam is now an OTE (Objective Testing) format - that is, an objectively marked assessment, which lasts three hours (including reading time). For this test, each of the nine questions is worth 20 marks, giving a maximum of 180 marks in the paper - pass mark is 50%. The exam is an 'open book' examination, which means delegates can make use of Management of Risk: Guidance for Practitioners (the Management of Risk 'guide') published by TSO.

Want to know more about M_o_R (no pun intended)? Click here!