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Please note that the blog “Empowering Leadreship” has moved to a new site.  The URL is http://motivate2b.com/blog/.

All past posts have been moved as well, so no content has been lost.  Enjoy the new site.

Thomas

PM Coaching WorkbookWARNING:  This is a workbook.  Do not read it if you want to read just another book on project management, project leadership, and project success.  If, however, you are sincerely interested in learning what it takes to develop and improve your project management and leadership skills and you are eager to learn why and how these are crucial ingredients for project and personal success, get a copy of this book and start working with it today.
Note that I wrote working with this book.  For it would be a shame if you were just reading this book like any other, then put it on a bookshelf and forget about it.

So, what is this book about?  The back cover states “Starting with an insightful self-assessment, The Project Management Coaching Workbook: Six Steps to Unleashing Your Potential offers tools, questions, reviews, guiding practices, and exercises that will help you build your roadmap to project management and leadership success.”  True.
What makes this book special is that it starts out with an insightful definition of project management and project leadership.  Susanne explains “As a manager, you are typically involved in scheduling work, delegating tasks, coordinating effort and resources, monitoring and guiding progress, building teams, and appealing to rational thinking.  As a leader, however, your role is to inspire people, explain goals, share the vision, provide focus, be a role model, monitor morale, create a positive team feeling, and unleash potential.” (p.8-9)

The book is about both: project management and project leadership.  It is this stretch that makes the workbook special.  There are a lot of books about project management and probably even more on leadership.  Unfortunately, there are only a very few that explain why and how management and leadership has to be dealt with together.  Maybe it is because it can be quite a stretch.  This is certainly true.  Just because you are a good manager does not make you a good leader.  On the other side, if you are a good project manager it is probably because you also embrace qualities and skills of project leadership.  Effective project management therefore is the combination of strong task management and people management and leadership.

The book is into 6 major parts, each corresponding to a 6-step assessment and coaching model.  They are:

Step 1: What do you want to achieve? Create your vision and mission statement

Step 2: Self-assessment: Create a benchmark of your current skill set

Step 3: 360 feedback: Seek feedback from managers, peers, and customers

Step 4: Action: Create an action plan and move forward

Step 5: Guiding practices:  Learn more about project management and leadership techniques

Step 6: Progress review: Examine your progress and determine next steps

Each of the chapters include an explanation of the core concepts and then quickly walks the reader through a self-assessment and guiding questions and principles which show the reader how to apply the principles in a daily project setting.  It is not dry theory, it is very pragmatic and it encourages you to become active.  After all, it is a workbook.

Target audience:  Whether you are a novice project manager or have been in the profession for years, you will get a lot out of this book.  Hence, I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in project management, project leadership and project success.  It is also a book for a team, a department, a division or even a whole company that wants to take team and project performance to the next level.  Indeed working with this book in a team will reveal more about good management and leadership on the individual and group level than working with the book by yourself.

Shortcomings:  … none really.  Personally, I would have liked a bibliography but that’s pretty much it.

In a nutshell: (4 ½ stars out of 5)  A must-read for those who want to take project management and leadership to the next level.

Madsen, S. (2012). Project Management Coaching Workbook: Six Steps to Unleashing Your Potential. Tysons Corner, VA: Management Concepts.

Project for Passion

Today I have come across an excellent article about passion in design.  It is entitled “The Game Has Changed. Design for Passion.” and has been written by Adam Nash. While Adam talks about design thinking his observations can and should easily be applied to your projects.  Hence, the question is “are you passionate about your project? are you passionate about your team members?”  If not, you better find out what it takes.  Have a look at Adam’s view below:

The Game Has Changed. Design for Passion (by Adam Nash)

One of the most exciting developments in software has been a resurgence in the focus and priority on design.  With the growing dominance of social platforms and mobile applications, more and more people are growing comfortable productively discussing and utilizing insights about human emotion in their work.

Google: The Era of Utility

The progress of the last five to seven years is really a significant breakout from the previous generations of software design.

For decades, software engineers and designers focused on utility:  value, productivity, speed, features or cost.

If it could be quantified, we optimized it.  But at a higher level, with few exceptions, we framed every problem around utility.  Even the field of human-computer interaction was obsesses with “ease of use.”  Very linear, with clear ranking.  How many clicks? How long does a task take?  What is the error rate?

In some ways, Google (circa 2005) represented the peak of this definition of progress.  Massive data.  Massive scalability. Incredibly utility.  Every decision defined by quantifying and maximizing utility by various names.

But let’s face it, only computer scientists can get really passionate about the world’s biggest database.

Social: The Era of Emotion

Like any ecosystem, consumer technology is massively competitive.  Can you be faster, cheaper, bigger or more useful than Google?  It turns out, there is a more interesting question.

Social networks helped bring the language of emotion into software.  A focus on people starts with highly quantifiable attributes, but moves quickly into action and engagement.

What do people like? What do they hate? What do they love? What do they want?

In parallel, there have been several developments that reflect similar insights on the web, in behavioral finance, and the explosion in interest in game mechanics.

Human beings are not rational, but (to borrow from Dan Ariely) they are predictably irrational.  And now, thanks to scaling social platforms to over a billion people, we have literally petabytes of data to help us understand their behavior.

Passion Matters

Once you accept that you are designing and selling a product for humans, it seems obvious that passion matters.

We don’t evaluate the food we eat based on metrics (although we’d likely be healthier if we did).  Do I want it? Do I love it? How does it make me feel?

The PayPal mafia often joke that great social software triggers at least one of the seven deadly sins. (For the record, LinkedIn has two: vanity & greed).  Human beings haven’t changed that much in the past few thousand years, and the truth is the seven deadly sins are just a proxy for a deeper insight.  We are still driven by strong emotions & desires.

In my reflection on Steve Jobs, he talks about Apple making products that people “lust” for.  Not the “the best products”, “the cheapest products”, “the most useful products” or “the easiest to use products.”

Metrics oriented product managers, engineers & designers quickly discover that designs that trigger passion outperform those based on utility by wide margins.

The Game Has Changed

One of the reasons a number of earlier web giants are struggling to compete now is that the game has changed.  Utility, as measured by functionality, time spent, ease-of-use are important, but they are no longer sufficient to be competitive. Today, you also have to build products that trigger real emotion.  Products that people will like, will want, will love.

Mobile has greatly accelerated this change.  Smartphones are personal devices.  We touch them, they buzz for us. We keep them within three feet of us at all times.

Too often in product & design we focus on utility instead of passion.  To break out today, you need to move your efforts to the next level.  The questions you need to ask yourself are softer:

  • How do I feel when I use this?
  • Do I want that feeling again?
  • What powerful emotions surround this product?

Go beyond utility.  Design for passion.

On November 1, 2012 I had the privilege to speak at and attend the 2012 Synergy Projec Management Event in London, UK.  It was a fabulous conference with more than 500 people attending.  Considering that there were “only” about 850 people attending the PMI Global Congres EMEA in Marseile this May, the Synergy numbers are outstanding and speak for themselves.  There were a number of factors which made this event very special (compared to PMI GC EMEA):

  • focused on 1 day
  • diverse speakers with presentation topics not so much about technical project management skills but project management in action; speakers helped the audience to think outside the box
  • venue: the Indigo2 at the O2 arena is really impressive
  • organization

My own presentation “Project Management and Zen: Achieving a Work-Life Balance” was very well received, too.  As promised I am making the presentation available to the general public under the Creative Commons agreement.  Feel free to download the ppt-file, use it, spread the message, and please share your stories.

The final version of my presentation of “The Power and Illusion of Self-Organizing Teams” held at the PMI Global Congress North America 2012 on October 21, 2012 in Vancouver is now availalbe for free download.

Please let me know if you would like to receive the original file of the presentation which I would make available under the Creative Commons agreement.

Join us on November 15, 2012 for what is arguably the largest virtual project management event in the world!

Last year over 30,000 professionals attended, with rave reviews. This year we hope to reach over 50,000. Once registered, you will have access to over 30 recorded video presentations where you ‘ll learn about the most current and critical topics in the world today.
You can also visit Virtual Booths on various knowledge areas, live chat with the presenters, stop by Sponsor Booths, and download white papers and other collateral.
This free event can earn you up to 15 PDU’s.  Register Free Now at IPM Day 2012, visit http://www.iil.com or watch the official trailer of this unique event.

Myself, I will be talking about “Leadership Principles for Project Success“.


We all need and thrive for successful projects.  But what does it take to get there?  This session explains why project management alone is insufficient and shows why project leadership is the decisive factor for project success.  The session outlines 5 simple yet powerful leadership principles which, if applied systematically, can help you pave the path to project success. It illustrates how you can use these principles to set up, manage, and align your projects for success. Last but not least, it shows you how to become an effective project leader.

In a recent online discussion on LinkedIn a number of people have expressed their surprise that it is difficult to find an overview of all sessions at the PMI Global Congress North America 2012 in Vancouver (October 20-23).  I admit that I, too, had a hard time finding it on the official site.  Once I did I copied the material and created my own overview for offline review.  I want to save you valuable time searching for this material and hence make this overview available for free download: PMI_GC 2012 Sessions Overview

Enjoy!

 

Zen has been, is and most likely always will be one of the most influential, inspiring philosophies, perspectives of life.  Self-organizing teams on the other side seem to be a rather modern phenomenon, some people believe.  What does Zen and self-organizing teams have in common?.  Well, I don’t want to answer this question in depth at this time. However, what I can offer are two presentations I have uploaded to Slideshare.net which deal with Zen and Self-Organizing Teams.

Project Management and Zen

Today’s projects become increasingly complex and a test of our leadership. The question is how we can master this increasing complexity? Individuals in the team and the whole team need orientation and guidance or an inspiration how to do so by themselves. Personally, I have found that the philosophy of Zen offers many insights which can help us achieves this. This presentation introduces 10 Zen insights and translates them into the language of project management. It shows how to apply Zen insights in a project setting. Zen can help inspire us personally and how to interact effectively with our team, customers and stakeholders. Applying Zen in projects makes it easier to build teams, perform on a high level and deliver results which delight our customers and teams alike. It thus helps us and the team to evolve into a performing unit and excel.

Note: I have published this presentation under the Creative Commons agreement which allows you download the PPT-file for free and re-use it for your own purposes as long as you acknowledge the copyrights.

The Power and Illusion of Self-Organizing Teams

Teams and teamwork are the heart and soul of every project. This is especially true for agile teams. It is not the individual performance or accomplishment that counts but that of the team. Just like in team sports the team succeeds and fails together. The Agile Manifesto puts the team at the center of interaction. It states, “The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.” But what does “self-organizing” mean? Does “self-organizing” mean that team building is no longer necessary and that instead the teams do this by themselves? And, if teams are self-organizing why do so many teams and projects still fail?

I will give this presentation at the PMI Global Congress North America 2012 on October 21, 2012 in Vancouver, BC, Canada.

Today I want to share some of  Q&As from Neal Whitten’s book Neal Whitten’s Let’s Talk: More No-Nonsense Advice for Project Success—Over 700 Q&As! which I highly recommend to anyone seriously interested in project management and leadership.

 

Q. As a leader, is an ego a help or a hindrance?

A. Mostly a hindrance. When you go to work each day, leave your ego outside. It’s not about you. It’s about the success of your project, organization, and company. It’s about good business. An overactive ego can get in the way of making sound judgments, establishing and maintaining good working relationships, and learning and growing from our mistakes.


Q. As a young person, I am not seen as a leader to be treated with respect, even though my teams and projects have received high marks for success. How can I deal with this “handicap”?

A. Savor your youth. Do not wish it away; it will evaporate sooner than you would like. All of us were young employees once. You must channel your energies and passion into performing your best.

But a word of caution: Show respect for the knowledge and wisdom of those older than you. Be open to their ideas, and do not come across like a know-it-all. As much as you think you know now, you will know far, far more in five, ten, or twenty years. For now, you may have to work harder than others, but you will win over some converts.

Q. I don’t look forward to the plethora of problems that confront me each day. As a leader, am I in the wrong job?

A. Perhaps, but if you expect to remain a leader in whatever job you choose, you must learn to like and be comfortable around problems. You should adopt the attitude that “problems are our friends”—without problems, you probably would not have a job. Moreover, your level of salary is likely related to your ability to solve problems.

As a consultant and mentor, if I did not have problems to confront, I would not have a job. I sincerely and enthusiastically look forward to the problems that my clients throw at me. If too many are coming my way, then I will prioritize them, and the most important and urgent problems will be solved first.

The higher you climb career-wise and the more responsibilities you take on, the greater the likelihood that you will be unable to resolve every problem. You will either need to get help from others or accept that some problems take longer to resolve than you’d like. Whatever challenges you must confront, thinking about problems with the right mindset can make all the difference in your effectiveness and enthusiasm.

Teams and teamwork are the heart and soul of every project.  This is especially true for agile teams. It is not the individual performance or accomplishment that counts but that of the team.  Just like in team sports the team succeeds and fails together.  The Agile Manifesto puts the team at the center of interaction.  It states, “The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.”  But what does “self-organizing” mean?  Does “self-organizing” mean that team building is no longer necessary and that instead the teams do this by themselves? And, if teams are self-organizing why do so many teams and projects still fail?

This fall I will be answering these and other related questions at the PMI Global Congress North America in Vancouver. My whitepaper and preliminary Power Point presentation are now available for free download.

I am curious about your experiences with self-organizing teams.  Please share your thoughts and insights.

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