Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Solutions sought – Solutions provided: Project Challenge March 2009

By William Franklin, Client Relations Director at Maven Training.

Two days in Birmingham NEC with close to 1000 delegates attending and we came away with a clear picture of the state of the UK project & programme management world. Simply put, individuals are seeking qualifications to evidence their existing skills set through accredited examinations such as PRINCE2®, MSP™, M_o_R® or PMP®, while organisations are looking for support in structuring their project and programme environment. Both groups are feeling the pressure of the current economic environment but also both groups found solutions through discussions with Maven Training.

As part of the event, Melanie Franklin, CEO of Maven Training, gave a talk on the importance of Interpersonal Skills for Project Managers. This 45-minute talk exceeded not only our expectations but also that of the organisers. The 110 seats were filled well before the start time and a further 60 delegates gathered in any space they could find to listen to what is being described as the 4th Dimension of Project Management (the other three being:-
- i) Application of Best Practice methodologies
- ii) specialist industry skills
- iii) technical project management skills).

Without going into depth as this subject is covered in Melanie’s Darwin blog, the 170 delegates greeted the talk with enthusiasm as while some of the subjects made uncomfortable listening, they all hit home and gave a route map to follow when returning to the office. To those reading this blog, thank you for your participation – and watch this space for our one-day Interpersonal Skills course. If you are interested in finding out when Melanie is speaking again, just send an email to info@maventraining.co.uk.

Returning to solutions, our corporate enquiries focused on how to structure internal systems and procedures to ensure maximum impact using restricted capital. Use of Programme Offices and the new P3O qualification was high on the agenda as was development of bespoke 1-day events enabling whole organisations to gain access to a common approach. Unsurprisingly, most enquiries were driven by the mid-senior level management and not the Board but with downward pressure on budgets and increased expectations on delivery, organisations have to operate as a single unit if they are to succeed. We have many conversations to be followed up over the coming weeks but if we have not called you, feel free to chase us.

As a thank you to those delegates that visited our stand, we are offering special discounts on a wide range of our open courses and bespoke programmes. Just make sure you that when you call us you mention the fact that you visited our stand last week. On a final note, we will be exhibiting at the next Project Challenge, which will be held in London on 30th September 2009. We look forward to seeing you there!

Friday, 27 March 2009

Essential Elements Campaign rolls out

This month saw the roll out of our new marketing campaign, themed “The essential elements of programme and project management”.

We’ve associated the Essential Elements of our training with the Essential Elements of nature: the earthliness of Project & Programme Management, the winds of Change Management, Management of Risk are represented by fire and our Interpersonal Skills are as adaptable as water.

The campaign focuses on the Essential Elements that every programme and project manager needs – tools, techniques and training in project and programme management, change management capability, management of risk and interpersonal skills.

Our message is simple: we’ve got everything you need to enhance your skills and help you deliver successful projects.

We hope that our delegates love the new fresh feel of the adverts, which will be displayed across a range of media throughout 2009.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Ada Lovelace Day

Today we are celebrating Ada Lovelace Day – a day of international blogging to draw attention to women excelling in technology. It’s the idea of Suw CharminAnderson . Suw feels that the contribution of women in the workplace often goes unacknowledged, their innovations seldom mentioned, their faces rarely recognised – so she asked for pledges to nominate women in technology who are unsung heroines.

Having launched PRINCE2® for Girls this month – as well as celebrating Mother’s Day here in the UK – we are very happy to nominate Soma Bhattacharya, author of steppingintoprojectmanagement.blogspot.com – a newbie’s diary.

We met Soma at this year’s BPUG event. She had travelled half way around the world to get to the event and we think her energy, honesty and enthusiasm will take her a long way in her role as a project manager for Atlas Software.

The view of our CEO Melanie Franklin is that all professional people should break out of their day jobs and get networking. They should keep their skills up to date by attending courses, joining associations, and participating in networking sessions. In the current economy, taking a genuine interest in your profession and going the extra mile to show how committed you are, will mean you remain a valuable asset to your organisation.

We think Soma is a shining example of this approach and we salute her – happy Ada Lovelace Day!

Monday, 23 March 2009

The Maven Training Course Matrix – find out which course is right for you

If you are working in Project and Programme Management and want to increase your skills and knowledge but are not sure which training course will suit you, we at Maven Training have something that will certainly help you: The Maven Training Scale of Learning.

The Maven Training Scale of Learning, sweetly nicknamed the “Training Matrix” by our staff, covers courses in Project, Programme, Change and Risk Management. It also includes the Maven Training Skills Academy™ courses, which focus on skills like communication, leadership and conflict management.
The Matrix clearly lays out the courses so you can see which ones are appropriate to you.

Our CEO, Melanie Franklin says that there is a lot of choice in some of the areas of programme and project management training, and not very much choice at all in other areas, but our Training Matrix tries to make sense of what is on offer, so people can easily see what is appropriate to them and also how much time they need to allocate in order to attend a course.

There are courses which will help people at all levels develop basic knowledge and skills needed to work effectively and successfully in a project and programme-based environment, as well as those wanting to expand their essential understanding and gain the required skills to work efficiently.

If you would like to get one-to-one advice on which courses are suitable for you, come visit us at Project Challenge this week (25th – 26th March)!

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Free Careers Consultations at Project Challenge by Arras People

Our friends at Arras People, the Project Management Recruitment Specialists, are offering 30 free careers consultation appointments at the Project Challenge Spring Show on the 25th & 26th March 2009 at the NEC Birmingham .

The consultations are being offered on a first come, first served basis to project management professionals who attend the show. So if you’d like advice on anything from switching careers, training, or getting your CV in tip-top condition, look no further!

Lindsay Scott, Director at Arras People, said: “The Project Management Careers Clinics have been a popular and useful service to over 600 project management professionals over the last three years. A lot of our consultations are normally done over the phone or carried out at our head office so we wanted to launch our first year exhibiting at Project Challenge with something special for delegates”.

Project Management Careers Clinics are a well established and popular offering from Arras People, through which project management professionals gain access to the Arras recruiters for career advice and guidance. “Over the last three years hundreds of project people have taken these one-to-one consultation sessions to health check their CV’s and positioning in the market. The Project Challenge Spring Show sees the Careers Clinics on the road for the first time,” Lindsay said.

The free ½ hour careers consultations can be booked online, so hurry book yours today here !

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

By William Franklin, Client Relations Director at Maven Training.

“You want us to wear WHAT over our trousers?” was the immediate comment from those staff who had not yet experienced a Red Nose Comic Relief day in the UK before. Once explained, there was unanimous encouragement for the event with all staff putting their efforts into raising money for the event. At the end of the day, we raised £250for Charity through a combination of over-priced cookies (but they were very very good home made ones), rather weak general knowledge quiz (that taught all of us something new) and naturally rather bizarre dress sense. Congratulations to Craig who went the whole way. By far the biggest contributions however were our delegates where for each booking made on the day, Maven Training donated £10 to the cause. Thank you all for booking and helping us raise the money.

We look forward to supporting Red Nose day in 2010 and hope you join us for this special day.

Monday, 16 March 2009

PRINCE2 Model - a tall job!

By Norma Hart, Training Associate at Maven Training.

I don't know if other trainers use the Maven process model this way but this week I asked the delegates to construct it as a group on a large wall space in the training room. I took out the white boxes which list the management products created in each process so they had to use their memories or the P2 manual to place the documents next to the appropriate process. It took about twenty minutes at the beginning of Thursday and was a useful exercise for them ( building confidence and reviewing learning) and for me ( they made a couple of mistakes, telling me which topics to concentrate on ). Fortunately my one male delegate was very tall so he could place the project mandate on the ceiling!

Friday, 13 March 2009

BBG Annual Golf Event – Dubai UAE

By William Franklin, Client Relations Director at Maven Training.

Maven Training was proud to sponsor the 14th Annual British Business Group golf day on 12th March 2009. Held at the internationally acclaimed Emirates Golf Club in Dubai, the scene was set for a combination of excellent golf skills, dramatic scenery and significant networking opportunities – although not necessarily in that order.

With over 140 golfers testing their wit against a challenging course, it encouraged frank exchanges of ideas on the global economic climate, business opportunities and development of new strategic concepts. During these challenging times, it was encouraging to see so many decision makers being frank about their skills and capabilities of dealing with the current trading cycle, willing to offer and receive advice.

From my discussions, I came away with the view that 2009 would remain challenging with the recurrence of growth occurring after the summer of 2010. Just having this common view enables business managers to plan to organisation change and product development and placement with more confidence.

When my questions turned to training needs, very few people took the view that training was not essential in these current times. The biggest concern they had was how to identify what training was relevant, how to justify paying for it (not surprisingly) and when it could be fitted into business as usual. To address these points, Maven Training will be delivering an introductory speak at the next BBG Breakfast meeting on 18th March at the Raffles Hotel and later in April or May at an evening debate. At these events, Maven Training will outline how it is able to assist BBG members in particular with these issues.

To summarise – the business community in Dubai should take heart that there is such a strong network of support and events such as these as invaluable in helping to gain perspective on how 2009 will play out.

Well done BBG!

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Workshops are great – just don’t forget the biscuits…

We have the knowledge, we have the method, we have the templates – but how do we… well, how do we get started?
By Graham Devine, Training Consultant at Maven Training.

A common problem faced by many organisations is that the investment in Project Management training, methods and ‘frameworks’ generates benefits that are averaged across the whole piece – in reality, what is needed is a ‘step change’ in a distinct area of change (project or programme).

Workshop events (when well facilitated) are a powerful way of creating this step change – all the while being excellent value for money, as well as complementing education and learning perfectly. A recent experience of mine illustrates the obvious benefits.

A London Local Authority had identified it had to re-write its Housing Lettings Policy to meet new legislation and address serious flaws in the current Lettings Scheme – they wanted to do this as a workshop. Why? Well, they had been exasperated by their experience over the years of consultants being brought in to solve the problem – in reality the consultants only tinkered with the problems and did not involve nor understand the needs of staff, stakeholders or partners.

So, a workshop it is then! Note that the client wanted to do a bit of Project Management training in the workshop as well as generate some Project Definition outputs (clear objective, scope, identified deliverables/dependencies, people involvement – team & stakeholder).

Day 1

You need a great facilitator (that’s me then!) to carry a workshop group. Naturally delegates are suspicious, unsure, unclear, and wary, so the person running the event has to be able to meet the people at their level whilst still moving them on.

We played games such as ‘Draw a Project’ (to ensure we all understand what one is), plotted ourselves on a ‘how do you feel/what do you know’ grid (allows individuals to be really be open about their current place), ‘spot the user/provider/influencer’ (to get a view of people needs in a project). We also took the mickey out of the Project Manager by pulling their draft Project Brief together (to clarify: I had already talked to him in order to understand his ideal objectives so this was wholly appropriate in this case!).

End of day 1 results – people were working hard, but they also had fun. Some delegates now understood more about this potential project and their involvement than before (no amount of Project Brief/PID would have given them this). The workshop individuals were also culturally changed – they had never been told before that they had the answers – and that’s the beauty of the workshop: this event was designed to show them that the organisation they worked for had faith in their opinions, experience and capabilities.

Day 2

Re-wrote the project objective to be very different from the draft Brief – this time it was more relevant, realistic and measurable. We also determined what jobs needed to be done and hence appointed some likely roles (e.g. we found a Project Support person and highlighted two others for Assurance). The key output on this day was agreement on key deliverables (about 50 items), the dependencies between them and, importantly, what the first two key milestones were. As a wrap-up for the 2-day event I had captured all of their outputs in both digital photo format, and electronic documents which were sent back the day after to the Project Support person. The digital photos of the team at work were also put into a Project Kick-Off bulletin as a communication to the rest of the organisation.

And hey, I had fun too – because it lifts the human spirit to see individuals and groups be given ‘permission’ for doing and thinking in a fun and open way.

The two key measures of success for me on this event were, firstly, the Project Manager saying – “we’d like you back for other workshops please” and secondly, the picture I took of the most negative and entrenched person in the group giving a big smile and a thumbs up to the camera!

PS: I also provided tons of biscuits – that always works!

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Red Nose Day – Friday 13 March 2009

Well it is that time of year again and to offset some of the economic doom & gloom, we at Maven Training are going to put something positive back into the world.

£10 donation for every booking made on Friday: Maven Training will donate to Red Nose Day the proceeds from this activity. Any booking made – whatever or whenever the course – will result in £10 being donated from the proceeds. If delegates want to match this with a donation of their own, we would welcome it.

Dress-down Friday: all staff will come to work in dress-down. There are two stipulations: (a) our outfit must have something red and (b) Senior Management would ask that staff donate at least £1 (but if possible, £5).

Food: those of us with culinary skills – if a cake is made, each slice can be bought for £1 on the Friday.

Maven Training Centre: while it is exam day, we will have a collection bucket in the reception area with a big red nose drawn on it. Also, we will get some croissants/chocolate cakes available to be purchased by delegates first thing for £1 (or whatever they want to donate).

Regional or corporate courses: if any one of our corporate clients wishes to donate or if we have courses running regionally, any donations can be added to the pot.

So, this is what Maven Training is going to do for this special date – please share with us what you and your organisation are planning to do too!

Happy Red Nose Day!!!

Monday, 9 March 2009

When do you lose control of a plan?

Angela Faithful, Training Consultant at Maven Training, tells us that to some delegates losing control of a plan means war… Read this anecdote involving an MoD delegate on a PRINCE2® course!

“One of my delegates on a PRINCE2® course worked for the MoD and was nearing retirement. He was very much the stereotypical RAF gentleman – even with a lovely white mini handlebar moustache. During our session looking at the control loop (Plan – Monitor – Control – Plan etc) he piped up: “Well the way we look at it, you lose control of a plan once the enemy gets involved!” The rest of the class really thought this was funny – but on reflection, perhaps we should always try to identify the enemy at least in our Risk Management!”

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Westley Cockle’s journey into Project Management

We are extremely proud to post, for the first time in this blog, something that was entirely written by one of our delegates. Westley Cockle went through the hard process of leaving the Services and starting a professional career as a civilian. Here, he tells us more about his decision, how he ended up in Project Management and what Maven Training has done to help this transition run as smoothly as possible. Read on!

“First of all I’d like to give you a bit of personal background so you can assess yourself against me whilst this passage is being read out to you: I’ve been in the military and in particular the Royal Marines for 12 years. I’m a high flyer and have reached the dizzy heights of Corporal during that time. I handed in my notice about nine months ago with a view to setting up an expedition company. Unfortunately, for one reason or another, that fell through. GREAT – four months into my resettlement and I didn’t have a clue what to do. The only thing I knew was that I wasn’t going back to the military because I had made my decision.

So how did I get to the Project management decision?

Previously I’d heard people talk about Project Management at work so I thought I’d research it some more. Naturally my first port of call was job advertisements on the web to see exactly what companies wanted from a ‘Project Manager’ and then to see if I had any transferable skills to bring across from the military into Project Management.

Have a look at these and see what you think (taken from the internet by ‘googling’ ‘Qualities of a Project Manager’):

Team Building
Problem solving skills
Control under pressure
Good communicator
Inspires a shared vision
Time management

Well that was a good start.
I’m sure we can all associate ourselves with most of these. The next step was to see just what a project was.

According to the APM BoK: ‘A Project is a unique, transient endeavor undertaken to achieve a desired outcome’.

At the point of reading this I was in charge of the combat survival phase of our training program. I had to plan, develop and deliver this part of the training using a new area in the UK, and I was using all the above skills. This is a good example of managing a project but I think the quote from the APM BoK embodies what the military is all about. We all get given tasks from our line managers, often these are unique tasks that we will have to plan for and deliver in a certain time period, using a set amount of resources and to a specified quality – and that is a Project.

Step two complete and project management was looking like a very real opportunity.

Step 3 was to further research the subject to see if it actually interested me. Obviously reading books was a good start but one of my most beneficial experiences was to go to the Project Challenge exhibition in London. This is where I met Maven Training, but as well as this, I got all the answers to any unanswered questions I had about Project Management.

At the end of the day I had:

Looked into Project Management Courses (i.e. PRINCE2®, APMP, PMI®)
Met with Maven Training and got a tip from William Franklin (Client Relations Director): ‘Look up Project and Change Management on a job site’
Met lots of contacts
Handed out CVs
Organised some potential work experience
Met with Project Management recruitment agencies
Furthered my knowledge on Project Management

In short that one day gave me information on courses to make a start in Project Management, a quality training company to facilitate those courses, good contacts for work experience and future employment and a much better understanding of what it was all about.

Step 4 was to actually get these courses done. The choice of training provider was made for me by the ELC (Enhanced Learning Credits) and the APMG (Association of Project Management Group) because they both accredited Maven Training. Basically ELCs were happy for me to spend their money on Maven Training and the British governing body for Project Management were happy with the quality of the training provided – which, incidentally, was top quality.

The courses I chose to do were PRINCE2®, APMP and Principles of Change Management:

PRINCE2® is a methodology. Simply put, it tells you how to get from A to B and if there are any problems go to C or D to sort them out. It’s a great start/introduction to Project Management and will set you up for the APMP if you choose to do it. Fortunately I had two weeks off before this course began to study and I needed every bit of it. As a newcomer to PM you’ll need more than the recommended 20hours of pre-course study.

The APMP is the nuts and bolts of PM. You’ll have a good knowledge of PM after the PRINCE2® course but you’ll have unanswered questions due to the subjects not being covered in detail or not at all in the PRINCE2® syllabus. I recommend this one because you’ll look like you mean business in PM and it’ll separate you from and raise you above the PRINCE2® standard. They complement each other very well. Again it’s a very intensive week – I also had two weeks off to study for this exam and need every bit of it.

Principles of Change Management
I did this course on William’s recommendation. Look at Project and Change Management on a job site and you’ll see why – coupled with that it goes very well with our current economic climate. I found this very interesting because there is a strong representation of team work and leadership in the syllabus. We work in that environment but this gives you the theory behind why it does or in some cases doesn’t work. It does get fluffy at times but you’ve just got to get your military head off and put your civil head on (after all that is why you’re there).

Step 4 complete – which brings me to the present day. In answer to the question that I’m sure you’re all asking. ‘Yes I have managed to find a job.’ In all honesty, though, I did have connections in the company that have employed me. Having said that, they did need me to be PRINCE2® qualified and they are very pleased with the APMP and Change Management qualifications.

The current climate is a pain in the backside but things are still moving and I feel confident that I could find work elsewhere if needed. The one set back you will have is the experience in the commercial world. You’ll have to convince the organisations you approach that the Military is Project Management and you’ve been practicing it for years. This will be an easier task than you think, most of the people I have spoken to have agreed with me. I have also met with and heard about a lot of ex-military personnel in the Project Management field – it’s a discipline that we seem to warm to pretty quickly so GOOD LUCK and I hope this has helped you on your way”.

Monday, 2 March 2009

What’s in a Word? What's in a Name?

The meaning of ‘Maven’, by Carol Elliot, Training Consultant at Maven Training.

I recently read the book “The Tipping Point”, by Malcolm Gladwell. I found it both inspiring and ambitious. In reading this book I discovered the meaning of ‘Maven’. The paragraph below are quotes from Gladwell’s book.
“Mavens are really information brokers, sharing and trading what they know. They are intense gatherers of information and impressions, and so are often the first to pick up on new or nascent trends. To be a Maven is to be a teacher. But it is also, even more emphatically, to be a student. A Maven is someone who wants to solve other people’s problems. The fact that Mavens want to help, for no other reason than because they like to help, turns out to be an awfully effective way of getting someone's attention. The word Maven comes from the Yiddish and it means one who accumulates knowledge”.

Wanting to know more, I ‘googled’ the word Maven. These are my findings …..

- (noun) someone who is dazzlingly skilled in any field

- (countable) American English someone who knows a lot about a particular subject

MAVEN (also ma•vin n ) a person who has special knowledge or experience; an expert

The word (it seems) originated in United States from Yiddish
[Yiddish meyvn, from Hebrew mēbîn, active participle of hēbîn, to understand.]

Seemingly, since the word was introduced to English (with attestations going back to 1952), the world has been blessed with a multitude of mavens. Nowadays you can find a sports maven, a political maven, a public relations maven, a principle-driven policy maven; a cruise maven, a gift maven; a movie maven, a sci-fi maven, even a local historic legal maven. There is software known as File Maven, a computer buying guide (by Business Week) called Maven.

So what about a ‘training’ maven?

We now have one: Maven Training Ltd. The quality of our training materials and our history of successful pass rates allow us to class ourselves as dazzling, expert ‘training mavens’!