Tuesday, 2 November 2010


I had a mentoring meeting today.

It's great to get some feedback, knowing that you're going in the right direction.

I wish that I'd asked to be mentored a long time ago. Luckily the guy who agreed to be my mentor is really supportive and positive, so I'm getting loads out of it.

Friday, 29 October 2010

What the Winners Do (quote)

“The winners clearly spell out what needs to be done in a project, by whom, when, and how.

For this they use an integrated toolbox, including PM tools, methods, and techniques...If a scheduling template is developed and used over and over, it becomes a repeatable action that leads to higher productivity and lower uncertainty.

Sure, using scheduling templates is neither a breakthrough nor a feat. But laggards exhibited almost no use of the templates. Rather, in constructing schedules their project managers started with a clean sheet, a clear waste of time.”

Milosevic, Dragan and And Ozbay, “Delivering Projects: What the Winners Do,” Proceedings of the Project Management Institute Annual Seminars & Symposium (November 2001).

Beating up the Public Sector

I've been reading a lot of stuff recently about "failed" projects within the public sector.

Because we've changed governments recently, there were bound to be projects that got culled. It has long been the remit of any new government party to cull the "good ideas" of the one before, so how come people suddenly think that these projects have failed? We're blaming the Project Managers for a change in political wind-direction.


According to these blogs, UK government has no idea how many projects there are and how much is being spent on them. I'm sure that there is adequate data available, but I think the problem is that there are often several categories of project within an organisation.

  • Firstly, there are the massive projects which are really high priority and status.
  • Secondly, there are the medium projects which are lower priority, but will still be run by from within a P3O.
  • Thirdly, there are the projects which are run at a department level. These are "under the radar" of the P3O, so would fall into the "not known about" - yet they are crucial to the development of the organisation.
  • Finally, there are the "non-projects" which are typically too small to be run as projects, or work-packages which are being run with some sort of project methodology.

There are usually good reasons for each and every one of these projects, but how many of these show up on the radar? Where is the cut-off point for reporting? What constitutes a government department? (Are we talking just civil service, or civil service plus QuaNGOs?)

Ask yourself this question. Do you know of all the projects which are running within your company? It's likely that if you have heads of department or directors, then you don't know the correct answer either.

The problem is that practically everything is described as a project these days. If you sit on the train, you'll hear the word "project" being talked about constantly. Are these people all project managers? Probably. Are they trained and competent? Probably not. Are they all in the public sector? Unlikely. Will their projects all be successful? Stats say that 70%+ won't.

I regularly read that over 70% of projects fail, so surely the answer is to govern and run everything through a P3O? Well maybe not, but you certainly have to think about the following:

  • If you use ad-hoc staff to manage projects, then you're re-inventing the wheel over and over again. Milosovic and Ozbay (PMI, 2001) say that this is a waste of time.
  • If you use consultants to manage projects, then you're losing "lessons learned" at the end of the project and the rule above applies.
  • If you don't train the staff, then you're planning to fail.
  • If you don't train the senior managers, then you're setting up the PM's to fail.

Government is a highly complex environment for project delivery. The trick is to be able to balance all the usual project issues and also hope that the political rug doesn't get pulled out from under your feet.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Three Questions (revision)

After having read the original text, Hartman (and Skulmoski) actually set the following three questions:

Who: who gets to vote on the first two questions?
Won: what is success for the project?
Done: when is the project finished?

Which is actually easier to remember than Turner (2010) 's paraphrasing of the questions!

Higher Learning

I recently enrolled on an MSc course in Project Management and after receiving the first assignment in referencing and plagiarism, I was kinda struggling to see why I shouldn't do something more vocational.

Having thought a little about the assignment and navigating around the library website for research papers, it totally clicked.

I am currently writing a document on user requirements, so I found some appropriate research material, downloaded and read it, analysed it, referenced and quoted it in my work so that my work carried more weight. Result!

It's weird, but I'm already starting to notice a lack of references in the books that I've read before. I know that referencing makes text difficult to read, but it really does give your work much more credibility.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

The "three questions"

Francis Hartman (2000) said that in order to assess the customer's expectations, you should ask the customer three questions:

1) On the last day of the project, what will the project team hand over to Operations?
2) How will project success be judged?
3) Who has an opinion on questions 2&3?

If you think about it, this is genius.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010


What makes people think that they don't need advice from others or close their mind to an alternate viewpoint?

I think it's fear.

For years I closed up to the idea of asking questions of other people or asking for help. Suddenly I realised that admitting you don't know everything can actually more of a strength than a weakness.

It makes you more approachable and human.

I had my first meeting with my mentor today. I asked to be mentored and within 10 minutes, I knew it was going to be worthwhile for me.

It was great to get an outsider's perspective on things. To let them ask you what you are doing and how you are doing it and let them really test your understanding of your own project. If you can answer all the questions, you really know what's going on, and you've covered most of the bases.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Juggling Sand

Hi there, and welcome to "Juggling Sand"

I have been toying with the name for some time now. When I originally moved into project management, it felt like "juggling sand" - something that it was impossible to do without failure.

Further in, i've changed my mind but I love the name too much to discard it!

So, what is this blog for? Well, the simple answer is that I'll be using it to document my learning and use of project techniques over time. I also want to use it to document my "lessons learned" and what I've learned from project experiences.

I am a professional project manager, not only working on projects but also reading up on techniques, frameworks such as PRINCE2 and guidance such as APM's PMBoK.

Hope you find this of use!