Wednesday, 29 December 2010

The importance of project management skills

I am on holiday and still reading books about project management – well, to be fair, this book was a pdf that I downloaded from the lazy project manager (; it only cost £3.50 with the proceeds donated to Cancer Research UK. The book is a collection of lots of short stories about project management. Actually they are each a mini 'lesson learnt' and 'food for thought'. As with all advice the bits you remember are those most relevant to the projects you are currently involved in. Peter tells a lovely story about a warning light on his car dashboard and the project dashboard that his PMO uses to control over 250 projects simultaneously. I am currently managing a portfolio of over 40 projects and am well aware of how difficult it is to balance the need for reporting to satisfy my project sponsorship responsibilities with the need to minimise the amount of reporting that my project managers do so that they can get on with the real work. I also really enjoyed Peter's views on the contribution that project management makes to industry and the results of his survey assessing the importance of project management skills to career progression. To be honest, I probably enjoyed this bit of the book because it endorses some of the things that I have been writing about this year:


Let me know if you download this book from Peter’s site and what your favourite stories were.

Happy New Year

Friday, 24 December 2010

Season's Greetings

From all at Maven Training - Happy Christmas!

Monday, 20 December 2010

Holidays - a time to read

Christmas is always a time for taking things easy and reading a good book and I have kicked off my holiday with a look at "Social Media for Project Managers" by Elizabeth Harrin.

Obviously I am a user of social media (otherwise I wouldn't be writing this blog) but I don't regard myself as an expert. Elizabeth's book is an easy to use guide, really well indexed so it's easy to jump to the bits you need. The concept of the book is how social media can be used as the mechanism of project communication and how this can strengthen relationships within the project team and with other stakeholders. The book has lots of examples and explanations from a range of experts which brings the subject alive and they are nicely spaced throughout the content.

For the projects I am currently working on, the chapter on the benefits of Wikis and how to set them up is very relevant and I have picked up some good tips on what steps to take. There is also some really useful guidance on security issues, and guarding the content of project documentation. Elizabeth makes the very valid point that security controls can be used to guard access to information, but that can also provide the structure for controlling information flow throughout the project.

What books are you reading this holiday season, and what are the key actions that you are going to take as a result? Let me know

Monday, 13 December 2010

Planning for 2011

This week I am preparing to go on holiday - 2 weeks on a beach in Thailand, so plenty of time to think about the future and plan the next steps for Maven. Like many senior managers I need to ensure I know three key pieces of operational information:
• What are all the initiatives that we have completed this year and what has been their effect? I need to know what capability we have now, what areas of the business we have improved, what areas we have strengthened. Knowing this enables me to eliminate them to an extent from next years’ plans, which for a company as ambitious as Maven is really important as we always have more ideas than we have resources for.
• What initiatives do we still have underway, how near to completion are they and how many resources are they using? This helps me understand our capacity for new ideas and hopefully stops me falling into the trap of trying to launch all of the new initiatives in January, overloading the business with change in February and driving everyone crazy by March!
• Finally I review our strategic goals and use these as the basis for identifying the key areas for development and improvement, and then I break these down again into outcomes (programmes) and outputs (projects). This analysis is undertaken with my management team and we run our own portfolio management workshop to identify as many ideas for the next year as possible. Some of the techniques that we use to plan the portfolio of all our projects and programmes are the same as the techniques we use for project management I.e. Product based planning, activity based planning, scheduling and resource smoothing. I will run this workshop before I go away and then I can review our plans and finesse the for early January.

Wish me luck and let me know what you are doing to plan your work for 2011.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

No email? Fantastic!

I have just spent a day without access to email and I loved it!
This weekend the utility company cut off our office power supply for emergency works which meant our email server was shut down. I worked from home on Sunday designing a planning workshop for a client (that must be delivered before Christmas so it's fairly urgent). Normally when I am working I will periodically check my emails (maybe once an hour) but inevitably I read things that need to be actioned and so I am effectively changing from subject to subject, with only short bursts of time on any one issue. Without email I was amazed how enjoyable it was to lose myself in one subject, and how much more relaxing it was to fully engage with the task in hand and not try to ignore other issues and problems. Now that power is restored of course things are back to normal but I am going to try and turn my email off, block out several hours in my diary and really concentrate next time I have a complex task to do, because I want to retain this feeling of relaxed accomplishment. As project managers we are frequently praised for our ability to multiple-task, but perhaps we don't need to manage every task simultaneously, and a little bit more linear progression will speed up our progress through our To Do lists.