We all know the “lessons learned” part in projects design. Some of us dread writing it, some – enjoy it. I used to be a fervent advocate of reflections and pausing to learn from past projects’ experiences to pave the way forward. As I grew professionally, I learned how illusionary that can be. This new perspective is not meant to diminish the value of reflections, it just sharpens the awareness of their limitations to what it can actually mean for decision-making in project planning and implementation in constantly changing environments.
“I would rather eat a cactus…than run a project” by Lesley Elder-Aznar
I found the title funny, even if I would rather not eat a cactus, in any event, unless it has been processed into agave syrup. Many of the aspects touched upon resonated with my project manager’s life in the corporate world: negotiations with other departments, the surprise of learning about costs recharging, change management…
The book covers the lifespan of a project from initiation to the business case, kicking of the project, executing, communication and training plans, to closing and monitoring of the project. Sections on project roles (who is who), agile project management and behaviour changes enrich the technicalities with insights.
As the author tells us herself: “The whole purpose of this book was to demystify project and project jargon, to make it less scary, to make it more accessible to everyone. Not just the people who are working in project world, but all of the people who are on the receiving end of change, or unwittingly seconded onto a project.”
It is indeed a book largely for uninitiated. Yet, those who are more experienced can still find useful reminders. I also read it as an invitation for staying humble in interactions with more junior by experience colleagues.
It also felt at times as reading through training materials or attending a training as on some pages the author “speaks” to you (“hold on..”, “humor me…”). There is nothing wrong with that and there are readers who prefer this way of presentation of information. It can also inspire you in you are preparing for a training delivery – forget not to give credit.
The lines that made me smile:
“If you have a Finance team that can organise this without you promising to name your first-born child after the Finance Manager, then you are destined for success!”
“Your friendly Finance business partner will spend much time explaining to you about cost-centres and WBS (work breakdown structure) codes and how it’s all going to take place in the monthly cycle. Just nod along and ask them to email you when it’s done. Or you risk wasting years of your life trying to understand it.”
Pro tip of the week: what counts
I always find it invigorating to learn from other disciplines. During the reporting season, it is worth reminding ourselves about what matters.
Pro tip of the week
Cognitive diversity enables innovation, strengthens the sense of belonging and improves the performance of individuals and teams. Go with this mental set-up to the next team meeting, armed with good listening skills, and see what happens.
« AI and the Project Manager » by Peter Taylor
Finally! The promised land of a project manager who is looking forward to enhancing own abilities, freeing the agenda of routine, necessary yet boring tasks, and, more importantly – finding ways of supporting decision-making process through forecasting and risk management. I can see clearly the many benefits an intelligent and ethical application of AI brings to my professional and personal life. With an estimated 80% of saving effort provided by AI, I will eventually find time to write that book I am thinking about.
One feature which distinguishes Peter’s books from the hundreds of books on project management is authenticity and unreserved sharing of own experience, with all its ups and downs of “the old and the wise”, delivered in a no-non-sense style. It responds to my brain’s need to learn from others. Another point of attraction for me is his very own perspectives on conceptual matters, such as, for instance, Actionable Information, for AI. I get that more than the widespread understanding of the acronym, especially if in your own language the word “intelligence” is void of the meanings it has in English.
The book is meant for reflective practitioners. Peter asks many important questions and invites us to stay inquisitive. After all, AI does not stay put. From a brief introduction and dismantling some myths surrounding AI, categories of AI into the core if it all – “people -centred AI”, each of us will find things to learn from and ponder on. Projects are about, by and for people, no doubts there.
And those afraid of or resisting AI should remember this: “The danger of artificial intelligence isn’t that it’s going to rebel against us, but that it’s going to do exactly what we ask it to do” (Janelle Shane).
My main take away: Stay calm, learn to benefit from AI and help people thrive! Thanks, Peter! So, when is a legacy sequel coming up?
“The presentation secrets of Steve Jobs” by Carmine Gallo
I like books which make me think, books that help me move on the path I choose. Books that bring out the best of my inquisitive instincts. “The presentation secrets of Steve Jobs” is such a book. It is loaded with unpacked and ready to use techniques of the best CEO of the times we are living in.
I believe each project manager is a CEO, by roles, if not by definition. It is one of our roles to come forth in front of various audiences of teams, stakeholders, sponsors. If you want to learn Jobs’ secrets behind being “insanely great in front of any audience” then you may want to read this book. If you’d like, you can do your own research into it. Only if you want to. Otherwise, Gallo did it for us. He unpacked Jobs’ magic in tiny bits to absorb with ease.
Gallo takes the reader through 18 scenes divided between 3 acts on Create the story, Deliver the experience, Refine and rehearse. In each act, there are doors and passages to simple, yet amazing techniques to apply in presenting to any audience. He highlights the basics of preparations and unveils what I see as the essence of it all: talk about things you are passionate about; rehearse, rehearse, rehearse; and be authentic.
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