Month: October 2016

Content and form in Projects

– Do you serve coffee only in the paper cups?, I ask the barista in an airport, directing his eyes to the white porcelain I noticed.

– Yes, in paper cups, he replies. But we can do it in porcelain. Only for you.

You can easily guess how much I enjoyed my cappuccino. And how much he enjoyed his well-deserved tip.

It is a job made easy when clients know what they want and the way they want it. See for example this cute lemur: The ideal client, right?

In the project’s world, it is not always the cute lemur we sit across the table. I was once working with a client who called me back after a meeting on technical requirements for the IT procurement with an innocent “I asked Mr Google, but he gave me no hints on what to include in the procurement notice”. 

Some clients know what they want – a new building, let’s say. But do not know or have not thought about what this building should do for them and how its functionality should match the organisation’s needs. It is not always that I know the answers straight away. In such cases, I press my “expert SOS ” button. And I get the client talking to the expert. I may spoil though their idyllic talk with the “keep it within the budget” reminder. And, as a project manager, I need to remember that it is not easy for the expert either to match the expectations of the client and of the project:

If the “expert” button is beyond reach, consultations with stakeholders and Systems Thinking come to rescue. If you wonder what is “Systems Thinking”, this is the source I first learned about it

Regardless of the approach chosen to identify what the client wants, the key is to make sure the ownership is there. We do want the client to enjoy his building and what it does for them. The same way I enjoyed my cappuccino, at least.

A good laugh together keeps the objective closer: ice-breaker

Joy and productivity link. A good laugh makes people more productive at work. See for example the research by Cheng and Wang, ‘Examining the Energising Effects of Humour’, Journal of Business and Psychology, 2015,

Projects are fertile soil for jokes and a good laugh together acts as a team GPS, Keeping all on course and shortening the journey, without cutting corners though.

I was in a training room. The trainer, Frank, was a consultant hired by the project. I sat at the back of the room, quiet as a mouse. Duty-wise, i needed to check on clients satisfaction by observing. I also love the topic – building leadership skills. The trainer knew i was coming and that he may as well ignore my presence. He chose to announce it. “Our project manager is here”. It was hard not to. I was the only women in the room.

For an ice-breaker, Frank assigned me to a group of participants and gave me a task. “I hope I will still have a job tomorrow”, said Frank to everyone’s’ laugh in the room.

“Happy to be an ice-breaker, Frank”.