Category: My books shelf

“Quiet influence: the introvert’s guide to making a difference” by Jennifer B. Kahnweiler PhD

I found the book valuable from a number of perspectives. It is well-researched and anchored in real-life experiences of introverts in different lines of businesses. Yes, introverts do work in sales and project management!

I am an ambivert, so the book spoke to me, as the narrative is respectful in the sense that the author does not re-educate the introverts. The book rather builds on introverts’ strengths and skills to help them maximise success with a clear call to stop acting like an extrovert. The basic idea is that you do not need to raise your voice or exude passion in excess in order to make a difference. The author offers towards that goal a number of tools, strategies and inspirational stories. I find many of them relevant in the project management world, as we aim at making a difference within and through projects.

I have successfully applied some of techniques, as I was reading the book. For instance, developing an influencing project plan, preparing LAQs (Likely Asked Questions) before a meeting, AEIOU technique, “the eyebrow test” and many more.

Enjoy reading it and share what you liked, as well as what other books you read on the topic.

Advertisements

“Getting Past No” by William Ury

“Getting past No” is one of my favourite books on the art of negotiation. Its author, William Ury, is the cofounder of the Program on Negotiation at Harvard University.

Cooperation is one of the most effective means of achieving the objective of any project, hence my interest in the art of negotiating and breaking barriers to cooperation.

The value of the book is in the techniques it offers and the explanations behind their efficiency and effectiveness in different power relations. So, if you are looking for inspiration or help in difficult situations, I highly recommend the book.

Case in point: how I used one of the techniques offered by the book to breakthrough in a difficult situation. The technique is called “don’t escalate: use power to educate”. The author used a quote from Sun Tzu to anchor this technique: “The best general is the one who never fights”. In one of projects under my responsibility, the team was confronted with a client whose desire to exercise power was notable. It manifested in the smallest project’s details, up to the desire to veto the selection of service providers. The team kept explaining how service providers are selected based on the legal agreement the project had with the sponsor. Nevertheless, many activities remained blocked as the client kept insisting.

I travelled to the project’s site for a face-to-face meeting with the client. We had one hour. I started the meeting with “easy to digest” stuff, were we achieved together considerable progress. My colleagues, noticing that 50 minutes into the meeting we have not tackled the contentious issue, started showing signs of worry.

I was waiting for the right moment. When the body language of the people on the other side of the table told me that they begun to relax, I brought up the issue. First, I reiterated what they already knew from my colleagues (to show that we act as a team and they can trust them). Secondly, I used our power to educate by explaining the administrative and legal consequences of an additional clearance mechanism, which was not in our initial agreement. I also knew how important for them was to complete the project on time, as any delays would have been costly. We concluded the meeting with the client by sealing our initial agreement and no further demands in this respect were made.  Upon the project’s completion, the client wanted to continue to do business, which is a clear sign of “win-win”.

“Heart Coherence 365: A guide to long lasting heart coherence” by Dr David O’Hare

My reflexologist introduced me to this book. Its title sounded like a book on project management so it resonated with my thinking framework and my professional need at that moment. I needed to emotionally realign myself in a period of turbulence. And times of turbulences are not rare in project managers lives.

Moments of anger, disappoitment, feelings hurt, fights, pressure are part of the life in project management. Your heart accelerates, your breath is short, you can’t think straight, your self-esteem might have been hurt… If you have a good self-awareness, you know what to do and how to get back to the safe and sound harbour. If you are looking for help, this guide can offer it. Hence, i am sharing it here for any fellow colleague to refer to in times of need.

I read it in one go. The author kept his promise to keep it simple and understandable for a non-professional audience. 365 means 3 times a day, 6 times a minute, 5 minutes. All you need is your breath and mindfulness. And a quite space. The guide offers detailed explanations on how to reach 365. The 365 is the foundation i was looking for in my modest yoga and meditation practice.

If you are curious to learn more, visit http://www.coherence.info.

Stay healthy. Breath.

“Managing Development. Understanding the Inter-Organisational Relationships” book

I often go back to this book I got during my studies for the Development Management degree at The Open University. I offers insights from  twelve professionals in a variety of development management fields. It is edited by Dorcas Robinson, Tom Hewitt and John Harriss.

The book essentially answers the question: how can relationships between organisations be managed so as to build the public action and outcomes desired from development interventions? It explores the diversity of inter-organisational relationships which exist in reality and the array of relationships which are being promoted by policymakers. In this book, partnership is taken to be just one form of inter-organisational relationship amongst many. This book is enlightening on other forms of engagement  between organisations captured by terms such as alliance, network, federation, coalition. It makes you more aware of important forms of non-engagement or dis-engagement at times when you wonder what happened to what you though as a strong partnership.

The 3 Cs of inter-organisational relations – competition, co-ordination, co-operation – are debated and analysed. The book concludes with a case study and practical advice into making inter-organisational relationships work.

 

„Fail-Safe Management: Five Rules to Avoid Project Failure” by Jody Zall Kusek and Marelize Goergens Prestidge

New to the job, I had a silent prayer in my head: “Please don’t let me fail”. This fear of failure was almost paralyzing. I only conquered it when i learned to learn from failures. It took a number of failures to get there. Then I learned that i am not alone thanks to a number of books, among which a World Bank publication i would like to share with you.

Fail safe mngt

The book gives insights into five rules the authors advise to follow for a fail-safe project management:

Rule 1. Make it about how.

Rule 2. Keep your champions close and your critics closer.

Rule 3. Informal networks matter – use them.

Rule 4. Unclog the pipes.

Rule 5. Build the ship as it sails.

This book is both a good acquisition and an inspiration. It might not be eye-opening on all accounts (as it depends on your level and extent of project management experience) but it still contains a number of important lessons to take away for mindful managers. Here are a couple of mine:

A. In many cases failure is „baked into” the project almost from the start by managers and team members who simply fail to be mindful of the details and who focus on avoiding the obvious problem spots that any project will face as it goes along.

B. „Build the ship as it sails” suggests to start on a smaller scale and pilot whenever possible. Keep learning.

C. The definition of success will vary, depending on who assesses it. Making a difference to people on the ground is a mark for projects making progress in development.

D. Regardless of whether the stakeholder is a champion or a critic, these relationships must be managed to avoid project failure (the book includes a tool to manage stakeholders relations).

***

It would be rather boring, I would say, to have a fail-proof project.  From time to time I let some failures occur. For a variety of reasons. One of not-so-distant-in -time failures of mine was to draft the project’s work plan based on an overly estimated partner’s commitment. An unexpected management change in the partner organisation demanded a serious rethinking of the implementation approach through for example resource- consuming  alliance building and bottom-up approaches. I have on my desk a brochure with the nice faces of the previous management of the partner to remind me not to let my over-optimistic outlook to take over pragmatism in project planning.

Failures are the learner’s best friends in projects life and in time i learned to identify and address them. Reasons for failures in projects are multiple and the approaches to deal with them differ. They therefore deserve a separate post, to which i’ll return. In the meantime, a fail-safe and learning rich project management!

Ted Talks on Project Planning and Team Management

I grew to understand that you can learn about how to manage a project from a variety of sources, even from watching ants in the process of building their nest.

If you are still not convinced about this less conventional source of knowledge and your learning style is more visual or if you just want to listen to a good talk here is a selection of 6 Must-Watch Ted Talks on Project Planning and Team Management, by . Enjoy!

6 Must-Watch Ted Talks on Project Planning and Team Management