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Archive for November, 2012

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.

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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.

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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.

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