It is pretty usual for a project manager to find him/herself in a position of taking over a project under implementation. I remember my first day at a multi-year multi-million … Continue reading What to expect when: taking over a project under implementation
Tag: lessons learned
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 Meeta Sharma. Enjoy!
“Stress free sustainability. Leverage your emotions. Avoid burnout and Influence anyone”by Adam Hammes
A useful reading for anyone involved in advocacy and campaigning for good causes. Project managers might find it handy, in change management and in dealing with stakeholders. Contrary to first impressions, this is not a biology book. Animal images are metaphors the author uses skillfully. The polar bear is the image of a survivor in spite of harsh conditions it lives in. The Killer Bee gives a clear sense of why aggressiveness does not work well with sustainability. The description of a Sea Otter gives a sense of playfulness to learn from.
The book is centered around the author’s personal journey from sadness and loneliness to pride and arrogance and invasiveness. All to the detriment of causes he believed in, but failed to secure the support they needed. As the book unfolds, evidence from science comes in smoothly. The big secret he shares is to leverage your emotions and listen to people. Make your passion less about you and more about communities. Anger and pride cloud judgment. Courage and acceptance have a funny way of leading to truth and mastery. This book is about how to create positive change for someone.
“Focus. Be selective. Work smarter not harder. Be more strategic. Leverage your emotions. Do not be taken over by them. Avoid burn out. Eliminate stress” advice which is very much valid for the project management world.
Part Two of the book is about How to eliminate stress by understanding the three stages of influence people go through – Contempt, Curiosity, Commitment. Strategies for moving from one stage to another: showing, sharing, shaping, are explained. Many aspects are based on science of how people make changes. This book made me discover or rediscover a number of highlights:
– Focus on similarities instead of differences to understand.
– Change and organisation need each other.
– Change is difficult, even when it’s positive.
– Practice active listening.
– Maintain integrity while building trust.
– Be playful, not pushy.
– Story telling is a critical skill.
On couple of instances, I missed the interpretation of exercises’ results and an analysis of what to expect from them. At the same time, the book offers free tips via eco-influence website and real world, easy-to-use examples. The author uses neurological science to prove his points. And for more, warmly recommend to immerse yourself into a stress-free journey for anything you’d like to achieve. Happy and Stress-free sailing to all!
What to expect: on your first work day as a project manager
I asked my fellow colleagues about their first day as a project manager. Brand new, I mean. That very first day. New role. New position. New organisation. Plenty of fun stories. Here is Simon’s story:
“On my first day as a project manager I brought a cactus to work. Small, round, spiky. It mirrored my sentiments that day. It was too small to notice on my desk, yet once you touch it, you’d not know what to expect. I had a meeting scheduled in an hour with the programme manager. I was in the dark as to what this title meant. My smiling young colleague, with whom I was to share the office, offered to give me a tour. The tour turned into a “learn- to- manage–the-coffee-machine” exercise on the office kitchenette. The coffee machine was not very collaborative. It probably sensed my cactus mood that day. Luckily for both of us, a lady arrived to the rescue of the poor machine. Ten minutes later I was in the office of the programme manager and I noticed the dark green coffee mug I just saw in the kitchenette. I realized in a sec that the earlier rescuer is my boss. “Do you manage all your projects the way you handle the coffee-making?”, she asked me. “I am jobless”, i thought to myself. “No, you are not” she said, as if reading my mind. “If you evaluate the situation and tell me your lessons learned”. “On my first day as a project manager I brought a cactus to work. Small, round, spiky. It mirrored my sentiments that day. It was too small to notice on my desk, yet once you touch it, you’d not know what to expect. I had a meeting scheduled in an hour with the programme manager. I was in the dark as to what this title meant. My smiling young colleague, with whom I was to share the office, offered to give me a tour. The tour turned into a “learn- to- manage–the-coffee-machine” exercise on the office kitchenette. The coffee machine was not very collaborative. It probably sensed my cactus mood that day. Luckily for both of us, a lady arrived to the rescue of the poor machine. Ten minutes later I was in the office of the programme manager and I noticed the dark green coffee mug I just saw in the kitchenette. I realized in a sec that the earlier rescuer is my boss. “Do you manage all your projects the way you handle the coffee-making?”, she asked me. “I am jobless”, i thought to myself. “No, you are not” she said, as if reading my mind. “If you evaluate the situation and tell me your lessons learned”. And he did. he did.
Just in case you are curious about Simon’s lessons learned: Your first day at work does not need to be a blind date. Unless you like to be fully surprised. You were hired for the job, so, probably, your planning skills mattered in the decision. So use them to build self-confidence. Picture your first day. In as many details as you can. Re-reading the job description from the perspective of the job holder will help. Visualize yourself with rolled-up sleeves. Refresh your memory with faces from your interview. Your supervisor was very probably there. It will prevent awkward moments as the one Simon faced.
Make an office tour with the objective of introducing yourself to colleagues, at an appropriate pace. The coffee machine can wait.Feel the office atmosphere.
A meeting with your superviser on your first day is an advantage. I can testify to that. And not all get it. So make full use of it. It will give you answers to the four basic Ws:
What projects you are given to manage.
Who are your project team members.
When is the first milestone.
Where is your project in the programme and/or the organisation/company’s strategy.
Upon return to your desk:
a. make an inventory of docs on files.
b. start reading project documents. Make side notes.
c. schedule meetings with your team members. Let them know in advance your questions or the framework for discussion. It will give you and them a well prepared meeting.
Finally a golden advice I got from my first job: remember – you manage the projects. And not the other way around. Smile, be pro-active and enjoy your first day, dear new project manager!
“The project manager who smiled” by Peter Taylor
– What are you reading now, Oxana?
– “The Project Manager who smiled”.
– Did you write the book? asked my good friend Frank.
– I wish. It’s Peter Taylor’s book, I smiled in response.
– See, it could be easily about you.
I do smile. Indeed, a lot more than at the beginning of my project manager’s path.
I believe now in the value of fun in project management. Walt Disney’s saying “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible” resonates with my believes as project management is often about making the impossible possible.
I discovered the book 3 years ago. I wish I discovered it at the beginning of my project management path.
It is one of my favourite books so far on project management.
The book is about having fun and being productive. In its Foreword, it brings the evidence of linkages between fun, good mood and healthy atmosphere and, ultimately, productivity.
Some personal notes I made:
It is unorthodox in a tools-templates-square–linear thinking project management world. Nevertheless, the book talks to you on pragmatic levels, from project manager to project manager, regardless of the size or location of your project.
It relies on a wealth of other project managers experience for things tried and workable approaches.
It puts a smile on the reader’s face and makes sure it stays there till the end.
The author is brave enough to give personal examples and stories, showing that there are gains in vulnerability. For example, in a moment of despair, Peter recalls a case when he walked out of a room full of team members, closed the door and pretended to be a boss firing him in a very loud voice.
You’ll not often find “expectations management” tackled in project management books. It has its place in this book. The book gives workable approaches to the management of expectations through e.g. constant feedback mechanisms.
It gives reassurance that creativity has its place and role in project management, making it thus appealing to more creative spirits who want to do project management.
Each chapter on Fun Inspiration, Fun Jokes, Fun Motivation, Fun Status, Fun Ideas, Fun Theme Tunes, Fun Team is followed by a PM Celebrity Gossip, sharing reputable project managers’ experience and projects’ successful fun stories. You can really relate or have an aha! moment in these gossips.
I warmly recommend it! It works both in project management and in overcoming storms at home. My kid will certainly respond with a smile when, in a moment of unhappiness, I’ll point a finger at her with ”don’t you dare smile, do not even think about smiling”. Enjoy the book!
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