Category: Room for inspiration

The door to the Room for Inspiration is opened 24 hours a day. It its meant to help put things into a perspective and to discover ways your project management skills can make a difference. Inspiration is a free commodity. I just have to open my eyes and look around me. Sometimes a bird building her nest can help you learn a trick or too about project management for house building :)

Thought of the week: Preparation

Thought of the week: “prep unto others as you would have them prep unto you” borrowed from top chefs advice.

Every kitchen has a Kitchenhand. Their tasks include basic food preparation such as washing salad and peeling potatoes. Yet rheir role is essential for the whole kitchen. If they do not come to work or stop doing the preparations, the whole kitchen stops. The chef might remember their names only when the supply is not at hand. Yet, he/she will pay the price if the kitchenhand is not looked after.

I find similarities in the project management world. Picture a big and important decision making meeting, for which the interpretation equipment was not tested and prepared. Or a new service launch day for, which the clients’ applications are not ready. Or an interoperatibility module which has two systems in test mode to connect to.

Basically, any of the above are tasks performed by what is tempting to see as “little people”: an assistant, an IT staff without a corner office, a liaison officer, etc. By my book, these are the most important links in the chain of a project.

Therefore, as a project manager Do:

– check regularly on them, to identify any difficulties they may have;

– help them with anything beyond their control:

a reminder to the supplier/contractor of its obligations under the contract for that interpretation equipment

a meeting with other departments/members of the team on that interoperability,

a cup of coffee or tea if they run out of breath doing all they can for the big project day.


Thought of the week

“Strength lies in differences, not in similarities” Stephen R. Covey.

It might sound strange coming from a project manager who loves standard operating procedures and

streamlining. Some recent and not so recent manifestations showed me that by

listening to a different point of view,

embracing it and

acting on it together, in spite of our differences

is what makes a project great to work on.

A difficult or just messy project?

A difficult project is usually a result of external influences and circumstances, beyond project team control.

Chaotic processes, blurred roles and responsibilities between team members, unrelated and stand alone resource-consuming activities, scattered resources make a messy project.

Mess is usually self-created and contributed to by team members in a laisser-faire type of project management. “Do not do today what can be done tomorrow” leisurely style.

What can you do if you find yourself in charge of a messy project?

For a “change”, you can create your own MESS:





Measure what can be measured: time to task completion, delivery delays, number and price of units for inputs etc.

Evaluate why is it taking so much time/ resources. Why things do not work in the team. Where is the bottleneck.

Solve things that can be solved quickly, for a team motivation boost.

Submit results to sponsor/client.

Keep doing it until sail is on course.

A project story: a project was dragging its feet for eight months, in a 18 month timeline. It had:

– three team members,

– a beginner project manager, with very little experience and no coaching,

– no activities in sight and lots of email traffic,

– an abundance of frustration between field and headquarter’s team members,

– a client left to wonder why it wanted the services in the first place.

After a quick MESS by the new the project manager, the project was recovered and reached 96% of spending. It delivered the promised on time. The solution was to facilitate the team’s access to inputs (international expertise in this case). The client was happy and asked to continue the collaboration. From MESS to mission accomplished.

What’s your experience with messy projects?

Measuring impact

I literally absorbed the article “AEI’s President on Measuring the Impact of Ideas”, which appeared in Harvard Business Review. The author Arthur C. Brooks, the President of American Enterprise Institute—one of the oldest and best-known think tanks in the USA – gives many insightful perspectives on measuring the success of think tanks on the ideas market.

I drew parallels to the development work where demonstrating impact was a challenge even before the “golden era”. Donors need to show evidence to the tax payers that they’re creating value with what they give. They need to see data. Having an intangible product or a number of short lived outputs impresses no one. The (hopefully positive) change needs to be seen and felt.

The article helped reminding that a clear and genuine metric for success is a good start in any development project. Yet, one tends to turn it, for a variety of reasons, in a formal ticking-the-box exercise or toss it all together on the “no-one-reads-it-anyway shelf”.  I found that by simply asking the members of the team “why are we doing this? how will we report against it in one/two year time?” helps in crafting a realistic and committing metric.

Thanks for the inspiration, Harvard Business Review! The link to the article:

Thought of the year

2017 felt as a year of resilience testing more than before. Constant demands. Changing circumstances. It brought the knowledge of thyself and others to a new level. Humanity was put to test. Relationships evolved. All these are precious gifts of knowledge.

Thank you, 2017!

2018, let’s make the most of it and continue to thrive!

Inspired by “Those leaders with strong self-knowledge – who have a clear understanding of their skills and shortcomings, their frustrations, and their core principles – are more likely to sustain those needed reserves of resilience to thrive through adversity and change.” Ron Carucci, The Better you know Yourself, the More Resilient You’ll Be, Harvard Business Review.