Tag Archives: project management

5 “things” to promote learning in projects

1: generate immoveable deadlines – forcing project teams to focus on what is required (to meet the milestone) and to rethink problems and look for creative solutions

2: encourage cross-functional teams and/or construct teams of people who rarely or never work together – enhances the chances for new thinking between different disciplines and the reframing of project problems, issues and opportunities

3: focus on processes and methods for cross-functional working rather than creating new structures (ie, the quality unit) to do the work

4: but don’t be constrained by those processes – encourage teams to (consciously) subvert existing processes to ensure the project is a success. Organisational processes are the rythm section that enable project teams to improvise with rigor

5: the collection, analysis, dissemination and tranfer of new knowledge and learning from projects should be treated as a project in its own right – learning leakage is always a problem and should be minimised (see here).

Top Five Reasons Why Prince2 Sucks – link

An interesting post here on the problems of Prince 2 or any PMM where project energy is caught-up in templates and processes arather than project results. I can’t comment on the technical points (reason 3) but some of the other issues identified, I’ve commented on before.

Learning in project teams

I’ve been thinking more about learning in projects and the infrastructure & processes to enable more effective learning and knowledge exchange and development. I see the experience of project working as the building block for ‘deep’ collaborative working. Learning in projects operates broadly on three levels:

Individual: often focused on developing new skills and knowledge but should also include reflecting on new experiences (of being a member of this project team, of dealing with that customer situation).Obvious individual learning is often captured through organisational performance management/ appraisal systems or simply becomes part of the individuals portfolio of competences. But, as Jay Cross and Keith Sawyer recently identified, learning is a social and collaborative activity requiring some form of reflection with and through peers

Team: can be seen as a collaborative and reflective process of:
– exploration: the deliberate search of similar and related experiences & knowledge from within and outside the team. Dialogue here should be open and constructive “yes and …” rather than “yes but …”
– analysis: fact-based analysis, testing potential options. I’ve found using a structured process works best here
– capture: documenting decisions, processes, meetings using photos, recordings, wikis, blogs and (even) reports
– do: test, review, reflect and get things done
Collaborative learning here has a twin function of (a) working through together how project objectives can be best achieved and (b) reflecting together on what the joint experience of the project is identifiable and transferable to other teams/ projects for further testing and so ultimately to co-create model processes, procedures and models that generate organisational learning

Organisational: where new/ emerged capabilities are transfered and absorbed as organisational practices – often incremental changes of continuous improvement.

I’m intending to write further posts on specific tools to build on the learning potential of projects and project teams.

Project Management 2.0 Blog: Social Project Management: Another Point of View – link

An interesting post here on PM 2.0 – a more ’emergent’ approach to managing projects that is more about collaboration and learning – especially in the build, test, rebuild approach.

Managing Complexity: Train Your Brain -link

svprojectmanagement have this article on complexity thinking in projects. The article reflects some of the key questions I come back to about projects and organisations in general, especially the question on a “school of fishes swimming together without a manager. Why don’t they need overhead?”. See managing complexity by nurturing emergence – interesting stuff that needs exploring further from a pragmatic perspective of doing the right things well. What are the implications of self-organising project teams for project management as (a) a profession and (b) a practice?

Planning sessions

Interesting article on running a planning session using what they call a ‘storyboard’ approach – I’ve used something similar (described here) but utilising de Bono’s six thinking hats. Its interesing to see the glee in some people’s faces when we get onto the black hat stage of basically destroying ther initial plan!

Project management & complexity – link

Cognitive Edge

now this should be an interesting study to keep track on

to project management sense-making complexity

Real project management – link

  1. svprojectmanagement.com » “We don’t need no stinking Gantt chart!”

    an excellent article on managing projects through team commitment and enabling the project manager to manage the project as a whole venture rather than (a) managing the plan(ning) and (b) getting in the way of getting things done. Marvellous!

    to project projectmanagement … 1 day ago

Project manager competences

Was pointed to this post on PM Hut from Raven’s Brain on project management skills and competences. The emphasis on the ‘softer’ people management skills:

be a leader and a manager

be a team builder and a team leader

be a negotiator and an influencer

be an excellent communicator

alongside other skills you’d expect in terms of planning, be a problem solver, be organised and be a competent planner. The need for excellence in communication but only a “competent” planner chimes with my experience – plans change in the act of implementation but changes are only really effective if they’re clearly communicated. Its should als be noted that excellent communication should also include excellent listening. Listening tends to be an overlooked managerial requirement, communication is too often understood as explaining rather than as the proper back and forth of dialogue. Dialogue is critical to better preparation to the ebb and flow of the complexities of real organisational life – for more discussion on dialogue and related issues, have a look at Cognitive Edge, Dialogos and Anecdote for example.

Pushing paper

This post from Raven’s Brain on the role of project managers included the following conclusion:

Beware the perception of PM as paper-pusher. Schedules, status, coordination, all matter. But if this is what people think our job is, forget about being highly valued. Paper is a tool for, and can help with, analyzing, summarizing, communicating, and identifying goals, work, problems, etc. But the paper part of our jobs can’t get us all the way to solutions for complex problems-and focusing too much on that aspect can turn people off. If that happens, they may never see the highest value we do have to offer.

Its a good point but this weakness in the profession is reinforced by the language and concerns of too many PMs – the talk is of compliance, scope creep, reporting and change control … rather than the language of business value, learning, opportunities that gives the profession a bit of a negative image and a perception that project management is from another era (not two point zero enough!).