Category: Tips and Tools Box

“Tips are like free hugs. Only without that awkward feeling” I read once on a Tips Box of a juice bar in an airport. Same goes for Tips on this blog. Feel free to borrow!

Strategic planning explained to kids and not only

– What are you going to do on this mission, mom?

– Help an organisation with Strategic planning, sweetheart.

– What’s strategic planning?

Explain this to a five year old. And then to a group of 20 board members, all of whom are lawyers.

So the strategic-planning-explained-to-kids-and-adults-story goes like this:

You are happily building your legos. At some point you’ll hear me “Dinner is ready!”. You know you want to finish building your lego-that would be your aim/objective in strategic planning. Dinner time is your timeline, same in strategic planning.

You follow your lego instructions-that would be your activities in achieving your objective. Your lego bricks are your resources. If the time to dinner is too short and you want to finish on time, you may need to call for help. That would be your parents/partners’ support.

Your satisfaction with the lego built and its compliance with the picture on the box would be the criteria/marks to assess your result.

That in short, my dear, is strategic planning.


Meetings: The ultimate time-suck and what to do about them | TED Blog – re-post

At the beginning of my career, i worked in a team where the team leader will have morning meetings every day.  He missed none and expected all team members to be there on time, even if they had to leave the hospital with a drip in their veins. It’s a bit of an exaggeration but we all met in our professional lives bosses-fans-of-meetings. I now understand the reason he was so adamant about it: it was matching his command-and-control type of leadership and he believed it was good for the team discipline. It worked. The project did bring results. Back then electronic means of communication were largely science-fiction so personal interaction was pretty much the only control tool he had in his arsenal.

I love to attend meetings when the objective is clear and all are committed to respecting others’ time. I also organised numerous team meetings with a variety of objectives: for instance, progress review, check-in, decision-making meetings. I will not pretend all meetings I organised achieved their objective and that was fine as it gave me a number of lessons-learned I carry in my tools box.

As September approaches and the work will get speedier after Summer breaks, their majesties – The Meetings – will make their entrance. If you are looking for inspiration on how to have meaningful, productive and beneficial meetings, here is a number of great tips and a great variety for inspiration:

The big idea: Meetings, the ultimate time-suck, and how to fix them

Enjoy reading and watching!

Recovering troubled projects

When i recovered the first project about ten years ago i did not know this kind of projects are called ‘troubled’. Couple of years latter i enrolled in a training called “Recovering troubled projects’ by PMI where the ‘Aha!” moment descended upon me: this is what i did! i recovered a troubled project! And the professional pride went up 10 points :).

The recovery of a troubled project is very much an emergency room type of execution:

1. assess the status of the project to identify reasons of failure and bottlenecks in both the internal and external environment;

2. based on the diagnosis, prepare and agree a recovery plan,

3. execute,

4. monitor,

5. follow-through to the objective set. With a cake and a bottle of champagne, if that’s in order.

Recovering a troubled project requires twice the effort and the commitment on all sides:  the team, the sponsor, the client. It requires trouble-shooters abilities. A project manager will also have to deal with a likely low-morale of the team, if the team is still there. Or a new team, with its own – unknown – dynamics.

If you are looking for inspiration:

Project Management on remote control: relationship building

– Hi! Where are you?

– at work.

– what are you doing?

– seating behind my desk.

If a project manager is at the answering end in this dialogue, i would become worried.

Projects lives are outside project manager’s office. A site to inspect. A group of people to meet. A team’s office to go to. We live in an era where more and more project work is done long distance – by e-mail or by phone, or “on remote control”, as i call them. A project manager cannot really barge into the team’s room, when located miles away. Unless he/she has super powers to get there in a blink of an eye or can teleport the team.

In today’s globalisation, “relationship building, paradoxically, becomes more crucial than ever”, the authors of the “The New Leaders” book believe. Since working on remote control projects, my awareness of it became even more acute. I am on email at least 75% of time. When signs of potential misunderstandings arise, i pick up the phone or call for a skype call.

I also have created a tradition of “Friday Delight”. It is an exchange by email with members of the team on a variety of issues of common interest, for example, highlights of a training they went on. Or i just ask them to send to all their favourte tune of the week, inspired by Taylor “The Project manager who smiles”. It’s a good indicator of their mood, usually. Through Friday Delight, we also learn about team members’ important life events, such as marriage for instance. I found that it builds a sense of rapport. If for some weeks i do not initiate an email with ” Friday Delight ” in the subject line, i get messages from members of the team reading ” i miss Friday Delight”.

Stay close. Build relations. Enjoy it together.



The 4 Types of Project Manager – re-post

I came across this intriguing article “The 4 Types of Project Manager” by Carsten Lund Pedersen and Thomas Ritterv in Harvard Business Review.

According to this article, the four types of project managers are:

  1. Gambler
  2. Prophet
  3. Executor
  4. Expert

The audience of the article is top executives.The article claims any organisation would need a few of each to identity and pursue growth opportunities and that it is the executives duties to identify the right type of project managers for the types of projects to be implemented.

I do not like categories and i am biased when it comes to project managers categories (clearly! exclaims my professional pride). Thanks to Daniel Kahneman (“Thinking, fast and slow” book) i understand that it is a psychological fact – to judge and categorise. It has to do with human brain biases. Putting aside my initial reaction to categories, after having read the description of the four types i realised that i a might be mutating as a project manager. I can be any and all at the same time. Almost a self-proclaimed Wonder Project Manager (you get the self-ironic tone here).

Reading it from the project manager’s perspective, the article gives ammunition to project managers when in a position to ask for a particular project to be assigned to them. Enjoy reading and enjoy managing your projects with the best of your skills!

The 4 Types of Project Manager

JULY 27, 2017

How to Work with Someone Who’s Always Stressed Out – re-post

At my last medical check-up the doctor asked me to rate my level of stress from 1 to 10. It was a 5 for me.

Projects dynamics create premisses for stress. Self-management, team-management, stakeholders management, deadlines, milestones, critical paths bring presure and be inheritely stressful. It is a project manager’s job to monitor his/her own level of stress and the level of stress of team members to identify signs of burn-out and look for preventive remedies.

This requires a number of emotional inteligence competences and extra care. For inspiration, i read The New Leaders: Transforming the Art of Leadership by Daniel Goleman, Richard E. Boyatzis, Annie McKee.

When stress is unavoidable and it becomes part of daily work life, you can find here useful advice provided by Rebecca Knight, in Harvard Business Review, 7 August 2017. with some Do and Don’t.

Slow down. Manage with care.

Listen to Imany:

Project clients’ feedback

“Thank you. It is the first time someone asks about our experience with the new processes”. I still remember the voice of the regional branch director i heard about ten years ago.

The project was a simple deal to the project team in the bank’s head office: design, test, launch. As the launch was done in all regional branches, i anticipated animosities. I had no clue of the kind to expect, as the product was new and the processes – run in a change management environment. My risks mitigation strategy was simple: a feedback form and a call line for the branches to give their immediate feedback. As a result IT, client communication and staff learning issues were signaled on time and the project team was able to deal with them efficiently. At the receiving end, the customers felt no bumps and continued their business as usual.

Creating a framework for feedback is also a reliable tool for the project manager to address low or mediocre performance in the project team.  When facing a confused or angry user at a phone call or email distance, team members tend to understand better how much depends on how well they do their job.

If of interest,  you can read more on this here

Listen. Learn. Give back. And repeat.