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Archive for the ‘Book Recommendations’ Category

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.

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Projects become more prevalent.  Not surprisingly the art of project management becomes more popular.  Unfortunately this does not imply that the more projects there are the more successful they are.  As a matter of fact a significant percentage of projects fail or do not yield the desired results.  While in recent years the number of successful projects are on the rise, it is scary how slow this process has been.  Todd Williams’ book  “Rescue the Problem Project: A Complete Guide to Identifying, Preventing, and Recovering from Project Failure (2011) is a welcome and much needed aid to help rescue and re-align struggling and failing projects.  It is a very valuable resource for anyone working in a project management.  Regardless whether or not the own project is on its way to glory or doom.

Williams embraces a holistic approach to project management.  He explains the need and value of existing project management tools that help rescue the project management.  And he goes beyond the mere listing of tools.  In the Introduction of the book he stresses four key factors that are critical in rescuing a problematic project: (1) The answers to a problem in or with a project are in the team. (2) A strong team can surmount most problems. (3) Stay involved with the team. (4) Objective data is your friend, providing the key way out of any situation.  By emphasizing the value of the team Williams goes beyond a mechanical “Abhandlung” of a recipe book for project rescues.  He explains in simple, plain and thus easy to understand language why most answers to problems in and with a project are rooted in the team.  A project is not made up of resources but human beings interacting in a social environment, building communities and network.  As complex and complicated this network is, it contains an endless number of potential traps and opportunities at the same time.

Having set up the foundation of his approach to rescuing projects Williams outlines 5 steps to recover struggling projects:

The first step is to realize that a problem exists.  As simple as this sounds this may actually be the most difficult step of all.  The key is that the awareness of a problem is not limited to the operational level of a project but that management has to acknowledge this fact and expresses an interest in resolving the issue, helping the team to become successful.

The second step to project recovery is an audit of the project.  The term “audit” has a negative connotation to many project practitioners.  This must not be the case if all audits would follow the guidelines Williams describes in his book.  He starts analyzing the human role in a project, followed by reviewing the scope on a red project, determining timeline constraints and examining technology’s effect on the project.

The insights gained from the audit analyzed in the third step.  They are the ingredients for planning the actual project recovery.  To me this part of the book is the most valuable one.  Not because the author develops a clean and clear outline effective approaches to analyzing audit data but because he explains how they fit in with the core statement of the book, that a strong team is one of the critical success factors for project recovery.  Doing so he stresses that project recovery is not a mechanical task, following a checklist and applying sane project management techniques.  Instead he explains that it takes leadership and oversight, a deep understanding of the heart and soul of a project.  Acknowledging the fact that more and more projects do not follow the traditional, sequential waterfall approach, Todd Williams gives an overview of other project management frameworks and methodologies, namely Agile and Critical Chain.  He then compares them with respect change management needs, customer relationship, estimations, project constraints, subcontractor relations, and team structure.

The fourth step to project recovery is to propose workable resolutions.  This is when the recovery manager presents the insights from the audit analysis and concluding mitigations and negotiates the next concrete steps with the project sponsor and stakeholders.  Williams stresses the importance of staying focused on project recovery and not getting sidetracked by distractions such as maintenance and other conflicting projects.

Last but not least, the fifth step involves the actual execution of the recovery plan.

As hard, tedious, frustrating and rewarding project recoveries can be one of the key questions is what project managers can learn from past mistakes and successful recoveries.  This is covered in the final part of the book entitled “Doing it Right the First Time: Avoiding Problems that Lead to Red Projects”.  It shows that project failure often starts at the very beginning of the project.  It can be prevented by properly defining a project’s initiations, assembling the right team, properly dealing with risk and implementing effective change management.

While the book may be most interesting to those who are facing or have faced problem projects I hope that novice project managers read this book, too.  It will help them avoid common mistakes and set up a good and solid structure for project success.  And in case troubles arise this book will help them guide projects to safer havens.

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[reprint from Cornelius Fichtner’s blog: http://tinyurl.com/4xj4ddy.]

In May of 2011 The Project Management Podcast launched its Project Leadership Series at www.pm-podcast.com. The series started with interviews with Thomas Juli, author of Leadership Principles for Project Success, and Rick Valerga, author of The Cure for the Common Project: Five Core Themes that Transform Project Managers into Leaders. More interviews and discussions on project leadership are planned throughout the year. To kick us off let’s begin with an explanation about what project leadership is and how project managers can start out on the path of becoming true project leaders.

Defining project leadership

“There are so many definitions of leadership out there,” said Thomas. “Leadership has to do with the right attitude and understanding the core principles of building an overall vision, knowing about the power of collaboration, knowing how to promote performance in the team he or she is leading, and then still having the maturity to reflect on their own activities and creating a culture of learning. And last but not least, a leader ensures results because this is the bottom line.”

Rick agrees. “I define leadership as the ability to influence others to deliver results,” he said. “Project leadership exists at the nexus of project management and general leadership.”

Project leadership doesn’t mean being a strategic visionary sitting at the very top of your organization. It’s about leading the project team to achieve their objectives and producing a successful result.

Getting to success

“If you run a project, you have to be knowledgeable and experienced in project management,” said Thomas. “Project management is basically structuring chaos and without the structure, you cannot really be creative. That means without project management, there cannot be project success.”

However, Thomas doesn’t believe that project management skills are the only thing necessary to deliver a successful project.“Leadership gives the project a direction, the right direction,” he said. “If you talk about sufficient conditions of project success, we’re talking about leadership.”

Without someone providing this overall direction, the project team members run the risk of going off in several directions, or nowhere at all. It’s difficult to achieve results in that situation. Thomas believes that to get to success projects need both management and leadership. Fortunately, one person can fill both functions.

Leadership basics

“Integrity is the absolute foundation for project leadership,” said Rick. “Integrity means never letting your project live a lie. So if your project plan is a house of cards, or your schedule will be indisputably delayed, or if you discover that your product will fall flat in the market, you need to have the courage to bring these issues to light.”

Rick said that managing expectations is key to building integrity. “When we’re doing this, we’re making responsible commitments even under duress,” he explained. “That’s integrity.” He also explained that integrity comes from solving the projects’ toughest problems without destroying our team members or their families, and providing frequent up-to-date, consistent messages that are agreed across all the project stakeholders.

Leading others

Teams are at the heart of projects, and project leaders can’t lead if they don’t have people to lead. “Let’s face it, projects are at their best when people are at their best,” said Rick. “I’m not just talking about taking care of the troops and then getting out of the way which many project managers do. Projects are at their best when all the people are at their best including the sponsor, customers, suppliers, adjacent functional organizations.”

Thomas agrees. “As a leader, it is your responsibility to create an environment that promotes performance on both the individual and the team level,” he said. “First of all, you want to be a role model. You have walk the talk. Demonstrate authentic leadership.” By that, he means making sure that your words and actions align. Don’t set rules for the team and then break them yourself.

“You really want to empower your team,” Thomas added. “That means you have to give the team the information it needs and you have to share the power so that the team can actually get the opportunity to excel and have an active hand in project success.”

When the team feels empowered, there is no need to micromanage them. Thomas believes that it is important to want them to feel empowered, and not just pay lip service to the term. You have to be able to trust the team members. “You have to let it happen,” he said. “You have to give the team the opportunity to show how it can perform. That’s very important.”

Starting out

If becoming a project leader sounds difficult, Rick had some simple advice about how to get started. “One way to start is by simply listening,” he said. “We have a vast amount of knowledge available to us through our stakeholders. We need to make sure that we are regularly tapping into it.”

Another easy step towards becoming a leader is to celebrate performance. “You want to look for behaviors that reflect the purpose and values, skill development and team work and reward, reward, reward those behaviors,” said Thomas. “Don’t wait until the very end of the project to celebrate the same results. Celebrate performance.”

The great thing about leadership is that we’ll instinctively know what it feels like to be doing it right. The people around us will let us know that we’re doing a good job. “In the end,” Rick said, “our projects are judged by people, the customers, the sponsor, the team members. Most of these people are not imbued with project management theory. They only judge whether the project lived up to its billing as interpreted by them. It’s a subjective process and above all, these people hate to be surprised. So the best way to address this is by making expectation management a daily mantra.” That’s good advice for any leader.

Listen to the complete interviews on project leadership with Rick Valerga and Thomas Juli on The Project Management Podcast for free at www.pm-podcast.com.

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I have written many posts on the right leadership principles for project success.  I strongly believe that effective project management needs to have a solid foundation in leadership.  Without leadership chances are that projects become “just another project” – far from the sought after “Wow”-project.

The question arises what skills are actually are needed for leadership to develop.  I have outlined them in my my book “Leadership Prnicples for Project Success”, but it is always great to read a fresh perspective on this very important topic of leadership skills for project managers. Claudia Vandermilt of Villanova University offers such a fresh and inspiring perspective.  In a recent blog post she outlines the following 5 leadership skills for project managers.  They are:

  1. Provide Structure
  2. Communicate Clearly
  3. Lead by Example
  4. Encourage Trust
  5. Motivate

I encourage you to read the complete blog post by Claudia to learn more about these skills.  Only so much: These 5 skills go hand in hand with the 5 leadership principles (1. build vision, 2. nurture collaboration, 3. promote performance, 4. cultivate learning, 5. ensure results) I elaborate in my own book.  They compliment each other.

Note though that knowing about these principles and required skills doesn’t make you a leader yet.  You have to practice them, live by them.  And, keep in mind, that these principles and skills make success more likely.  Alas, they are no guarantee.  It is up to you to make the most out of it.

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I am happy to post 2 new reviews of my book “Leadership Principles for Project Success“.

See for yourself what others think about the book:

Patrick Durkan:  http://www.pmworldtoday.net/book_reviews/2010/dec/Leadership_Principles_for_Project_Success.html

Elizabeth Hurrin:  http://www.arraspeople.co.uk/camel-blog/projectmanagement/book-review-leadership-principles-for-project-success/

If you are interested in reviewing the book and write an official book review, please let me know.

 

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Steve Denning, author of “The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management” (Jossey-Bass, 2010) has published a great article on Forbes.com entitled “Wal-Mart And The Futility Of Traditional Management”.  In this article he points out the declining business numbers of Wal-Mart and compares them to thriving and innovative businesses such as Amazon.  He explains that the central reason for this decline is traditional management of the 20th century in which profits are the driver of economic activity.  But, “working over “pricing and merchandising issues” isn’t going to save Wal-Mart. Instead Wal-Mart has [to] reinvent itself. Wal-Mart has to start delighting its customers.

It is true that Wal-Mart is an excellent example of “traditional management” as we have seen in so many firms for a very long time.  It is also true that Wal-Mart has to change something unless it was go down the drain sooner or later.  However, I am not convinced that a change in management may be sufficient.  Radical management as Steve describes it in his book is the right ingredient.  Alas, I don’t think they are sufficient.  What it takes to change the game in cases like Wal-Mart is LEADERSHIP.  This leadership ought to be based on the principles of radical management.  Leadership has to ignite the fire for change and innovation; radical management can sustain it.

The 7 basic and inter-locking principles of radical management according to Steve Denning are the following:
1. The goal of work is to delight clients.
2. Work is conducted in self-organizing teams.
3. Teams operate in client-driven iterations.
4. Each iteration delivers value to clients.
5. Managers foster radical transparency.
6. Managers nurture continuous self-improvement.
7. Managers communicating interactively through stories, questions and conversations.

Leadership starts with assessing and understanding the situation; this includes understanding its customers and finding out what delights them.  This is a first step.  Then leadership has to help build a vision for change.  Without this vision, the “project” is likely to fail.

It will be very interesting to see whether or not Wal-Mart will be capable of making this change.  Personally, I have some doubts.  In Germany Wal-Mart miserably failed in its market entry.  Not because it sold the wrong products.  Not because the products were not always cheaper.  But because Wal-Mart did not bother trying to understand the culture of German customers.  This is negligence, yes.  But even more so it shows that Wal-Mart has the wrong attitude; it lacks the willingness to look left or right.  Call it arrogance, ignorance or whatever you like.  It is the recipe for long-term failure.

Wal-Mart has a lot of money and a lot of assets.  These will secure that Wal-Mart will be around for quite some time to come.  However, as long as it limits its focus on managing them, its business will deteriorate.  Radical management as proposed by Steve Denning is a necessary condition for change but it is not sufficient.  What it takes is LEADERSHIP based on radical management.

To learn more about this kind of leadership for success, read my book “Leadership Principles for Project Success” (CRC Press, 2011).

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Drawing for 3 Free Copies of Leadership Principles for Project Success by Thomas Juli and published by CRC Press announced for PMForum’s PM GiveAways™ Program

Dallas, Texas, USA — PMForum has announced that the next project management book to be given away through its PM GiveAways™ Program will be “Leadership Principles for Project Success”, by Thomas Juli and published by CRC Press.  PMForum’s PM GiveAways Program was announced in a breaking news article in July 2010, which can be seen at http://www.pmforum.org/blogs/news/2010/07/FreeProjectManagementStuffPMForumLaunchesPM.html

This book is about project success and the secret to achieving this success, effective project leadership. Filled with samples, templates, and guidelines, it covers the five principles of effective project leadership: building vision, nurturing collaboration, promoting performance, cultivating learning, and ensuring results. Using non-technical language, this practical guide explains how to integrate these principles into daily work to help you effectively set up, manage, and align your projects for success.

Some special features of the book:  Explains the principles encompassing the core of effective leadership and shows how to apply them to everyday projects; Discusses setting up, managing, and aligning projects to meet business needs; Illustrates how project leadership works through numerous real-world case studies; Describes how to rescue projects in trouble and close them successfully; and includes many samples, templates, and practical guidelines that readers can immediately use in their projects.

According to PMForum’s Managing Editor David Pells, “I had an opportunity to chat briefly with Mr. Juli at the PMI Global Congress in October, during which he mentioned his new book.  Now I see that it is a good addition to a project manager’s library.  We are happy to offer it in our GiveAways program.”

Leadership Principles for Project Success; by Thomas Juli; published by CRC Press; ISBN 978-1-4398-3461-9; 296 pages; Hardcover; © 2011; US$69.95. For more about the book, click here.  .  A copy of this book will be shipped by the publisher at no charge to 3 lucky winners. Drawing to be held on 11 February 2011.  For rules and to register, visit http://www.pmforum.org/PMGiveAways/Free-PM-Books.html.

PMForum’s PM GiveAways™ Program is based on periodic DRAWINGS for free educational and professional project management products and services.  PM GiveAways™ will include project management courses, books, conference passes, software and other valuable items.  Drawings will be held at least monthly, with the products and services to be given away announced in breaking news articles ahead of time and on PM GiveAways™ web pages.  To learn more or to register for drawings for free project management stuff, visit http://www.pmforum.org/PMGiveAways/PMGiveAways.html.

About CRC Press

CRC Press is a premier publisher of scientific and technical work, reaching around the globe to collect essential reference material and the latest advances and make them available to researchers, academics, professionals, and students in a variety of accessible formats.  Its mission is to serve the needs of scientists and the community at large by working with capable researchers and professionals from across the world to produce the most accurate and up to date scientific and technical resources.  Click to see CRC’s project management titles.

About PMForum

PMForum operates www.pmforum.org, the world’s first website devoted to professional project management and still one of the most popular online sources of project management news and information.  PMForum also produces the monthly PM World Today eJournal where articles, reports and stories about projects and project management around the world can be found; free subscriptions at www.pmworldtoday.net.

SOURCE: PMForum, Inc.
editor@pmforum.org

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A couple of years ago I came across the bestselling book “The Instant Millionaire:  A Tale of Wisdom and Wealth” by Mark Fisher.  I openly admit that when I first heard about this book the title itself was most appealing.  Reading the subtitle, it confirmed my interest.  And it was a good buy.  No, it was an excellent purchase.

This book is not primarily about how you can optimize your financial situation.  You can certainly read it from this perspective.  But you may miss the most important element, the core of the book.  The book is a tale of wisdom and wealth.  It is about pursuing your goals in life.  And it is about having the right attitude towards yourself, your goals and your environment.

Let me share some  quotes which give you a better idea about the thrust of the content:

  • Be expansive and positive in your thoughts
  • Never lose happiness
  • Be courageous enough to act immediately
  • Don’t lose your perspective
  • Be precise in your desires
  • Don’t fight against your problems. The clouds will disappear

Now compare these insights to, say, a project you are about to set up, manage, rescue or re-align.  What you need to start is a vision. You need to have a direction or else the project will not take off into the right direction. Spend the necessary time to build this vision – with your team.  Share your excitement, talk about the challenges you have identified and how you can master them, be precise in what you want to achieve.  And – never lose happiness, i.e., enjoy the process, have fun.

This book is excellent from many perspectives.  I highly recommend it.

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Even if they don’t call the shots, project managers can still have power over their teams.” – This is the subtitle of a new article in the magazine “PM Network”, June 2010 issue.

The article explains why project managers ought to try to forge relationships with team members and uncover their motivations.  It also outlines that rewards, recognition and appreciation are often overlooked tools for building credibility.

It is a very good article about a well known challenge in project mangement, namely, having to lead without authority.  Ok, if there is one thing I don’t particularly like it is actually the subtitle of the article.  It is not about having power over your team.  It is about team leadership.  In order to achieve this you have to understand and appreciate the dynamics of the team and acknowledge the motivations of each individual and become part of the team.

I am proud to say that I contributed to this article.  My input is highlighted in the text. Click this link to read the article. Feedback is highly welcome!

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I dare say that I have created a number of good PowerPoint presentations.  At least according to the feedback I received from the audience.  And I am working to become better, i.e., create even better presentations – if I really have to use PowerPoint.  Still, my skepticism about the value of PowerPoint has been growing for some time now.  Maybe it is because I witnessed so many PowerPoint presentations which were sooooo bad and boring that you didn’t really have a choice but to dislike PowerPoint.  Then, on the other hand I witnessed some great presenters who made use of PowerPoint.  But differently.  One of the things I have seen more and more in good PowerPoint presentations is the use of simple photos which little if any text.  Pecha Kucha presentations serve as an example.

Still, bottom line:  if you can, don’t become a slave of PowerPoint; instead, try to carry your message across without any digital aids.  On this token, have a look at Lee Cockerell’s blog post:
One of the comments states:  “... the program [PowerPoint] does come in handy when the goal is not imparting information, as in briefings for reporters. The news media sessions often last 25 minutes, with 5 minutes left at the end for questions from anyone still awake. Those types of PowerPoint presentations […] are known as “hypnotizing chickens”.”

Remember the saying, “A tool with a fool is still a fool“.  It applies to the use of PowerPoint, too.  So, if you think just because you are apt using PowerPoint and claim to be a good presenter, think again.  If you cannot tell your story without PowerPoint, chances are, you are not such a good presenter after all.

If you do have to use PowerPoint or are expected to do so, become knowledgeable of the immense technical features of PowerPoint.  But again, don’t become a slave.  PowerPoint is a tool and should remain as such.  There are quite a few good books on PowerPoint.  Two of them I’d like to recommend:

(1) “The Say It With Charts Complete Toolkit” by Gene Zelazny.

This is considered one of the standards for learning how to create good presentations – with or without digital aids.

(2)”Slide: ology:  The Art and Science of Presentation Design” by Nancy Duarte.

This book reveals the huge potential of the right use of PowerPoint.

These are great books.  Still, never ever forget the potential perils of PowerPoint.  Becoming a greater presenter and speaker doesn’t require to master PowerPoint.  If, however, you do have to use PowerPoint, you better master PowerPoint, too.

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