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What I’m Reading May 2015

Best project management books and other books

I finished reading Heat Wave* and at the same time, caught up with the last ever episode of CSI: Las Vegas. I need to find myself some crime drama that can replace those gaping holes in my wind-down time. Notice how the project management books of the month don’t feature at the top? I’ve needed that wind-down time this month: it has been a tiring few weeks, one of those months where you feel as if you’ll never get on top of anything.

I always forget that I have books on my iPad. Heat Wave was a Kindle book and it tires my eyes to read on the screen. I think reading on an actual Kindle would be better but I can’t lug one of those around as well as an iPad. I’ve started reading Mário Henrique Trentim’s book, Managing Stakeholders as Clients which I’m enjoying so far. I like reading about stakeholder management because I think we talk about doing it but don’t actually have many techniques outside the traditional stakeholder analysis matrix that help do it.

Mario was kind enough to send me his book but I bought Message Not Received by Phil Simon. I read one of his earlier books back in 2009 and didn’t much like it (read the review here) but a quick flick through shows that this one is going to be a million times better. It’s the next thing in the pile to read because I’m hoping the communications theory will inform the next edition of Social Media for Project Managers, my own book.

There, I’ve said it. I am writing a second edition. No, really. This time it really will happen. Really. I mean really really.

Well, with a prevailing wind and some decent nights where the boys don’t wake up with teething, colds, or needing a change of bed linen, it might get done by the end of the year. I’m trying, honestly I am.

The Thomas the Tank Engine stories aren’t particularly well put together, in my view, and so I’m grateful that Room on the Broom and Don’t Wake the Beastie are featuring in our bedtime repertoire. Don’t get me wrong, there is still an awful lot of Thomas in the house. Note to self: do not sing the Thomas theme tune while walking through the office corridors. It’s embarrassing when you turn the corner and see someone standing there, and quite hard to explain that you thought you were only doing it in your head.


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How to Use Stories on Your Projects

How to use stories in project management

Stories create engagement on projects, as I’ve written about before. But knowing that as fact and being able to use them on your projects are two different things. Dr Jo Griffin from Northeastern University gave some concrete examples of how you can actually use stories as part of your project communications plan at the PMI Global Congress EMEA this month. Here’s what he had to say.

Use stories to connect and convince

Projects are done by teams, and for those teams to work effectively together you need to bring everyone along to meet a common goal. Jo talked about three ways that you could use stories to connect with and convince your colleagues to work with you.

1. Analogous stories

Early on in the project look back at what other projects have achieved and draw parallels. Use positive examples from the past that have delivered similar results, or results that had something in common with what you are trying to do and talk about those successes, and how your project will be like that. [click to continue…]

Why Projects Need Stories

Why projects need stories

“I am a bird, as green as can be. Is there room on the broom* for a bird like me?”

“Yes,” says Jack.

And, “Yes, says the witch,” I read, “and the bird flutters on. The witch taps the broomstick and…”

“Whoosh,” says Jack.

“They were gone,” I finish, and he reaches to turn the page.

He remembers the story. He remembers the pattern to the words, the cadence and the repetition. Because that’s what stories do. The good ones stay with you. They help you to remember.

This is what Dr Joseph (Jo) Griffin talked about at the PMI EMEA Global Congress in London earlier this month. He talked about why managers should be adept at storytelling at work, and started by giving four reasons.

  1. They engage us in a way that data alone cannot.
  2. They frame the data memorably.
  3. They provide context and highlight relevance.
  4. They persuade (although he said this point doesn’t work alone: stories need the other elements too before they become persuasive).

Let’s look at each of those in a bit more detail.

1. We’re biologically programmed to create stories

Jo talked about how brains are wired to automatically create stories. We’re creative beings; we imagine the lives of other people and we think in stories. That goes for the workplace too: your team are responding to project data in a story-led way.

“The storytelling mind will tell the truth when it can and make up lies when it cannot,” Jo said. “So are you going to be crafting that narrative or fighting against the narrative [stakeholders] create in their minds?”

In other words, where you don’t provide all the details about your project in effective project status reports and through other communication channels, your team and other stakeholders will fill in the blanks for themselves. And from experience, they normally create a much more dramatic narrative than what’s happening in real life. [click to continue…]

Managing the Urgent and Unexpected [Book Review]

Managing unexpected and urgent projects

Urgent and unexpected projects have to be rare to be tolerable. You couldn’t sustain a business that lurched from one unexpected initiative to another, but we all know they happen. Managing the Urgent and Unexpected*, by Stephen Wearne and Keith White-Hunt, is a book of case studies and commentary aimed at preparing organisations for these problem projects.

The lessons learned aren’t applicable to the majority of projects at individual levels. Rather, they are designed to help PMO and business leaders put plans in place for those unexpected issues where projects are started quickly and need to be done faster than normal.

Examples? The book includes case studies of dealing with the outcomes of natural disasters such as floods and broken power lines, along with the pile sift, make safe and remove operations at the World Trade Center following the 9/11 disaster in 2001.

The teams required for ‘unexpected’ work

‘Unexpected’ projects deal with a problem that has not been foreseen in terms of:

  • Probability
  • Nature
  • Timing
  • Scale.

Each of these requires a different type of team. [click to continue…]

Win a Project Management Fast Track Training Course!

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Win a project management training course. There's one simple question to answer and you could be one of four lucky winners! If you don't have much (or any) formal project management training and are just getting started then this is the perfect giveaway for you.

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PMI Global Congress EMEA 2015

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UK PM: Challenges and Celebrations

Project management in the UK

Find out how project management in the UK has changed and why the 2012 Olympics was a turning point for the profession. What do British project managers have to be proud of and how do we address the challenges of fragmented professional representation?

7 Tips for Attending Conferences

Advice for going to conferences

These 7 tips will help you prepare for attending your next conference to get the best out of your investment. The more preparation you put into any event before you go, the more you will benefit from attending, whether that’s a small social gathering at work or a huge industry congress.