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Project Management

A free history lesson with every Project Management workshop!

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So many times, I get feedback from participants on my Project Management workshops that it wasn’t at all what they expected. Their perceptions had been that PM was riddled with jargon and all about filling in templates.

I try to make my workshops much more rounded than simply teaching project processes and tools. If you want that, go on a Prince2 course. In addition to running Kahoot quizzes and using Mentimeter to get feedback and capture learning points, I use stories from history to illustrate key project principles. Here are some of the anecdotes I use:

When President Kennedy spoke in 1961 about beating the Russians to the moon, he said; “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.

OBJECTIVE: land a man on the moon before 31/12/69
Critical Success Factor: return him safely to the earth

In 1953, Hillary and Tenzing set out to be the first to reach the summit of Everest. That was their objective. Arguably, they also had a critical success factor to return safely to base camp. Another CSF was to be able to prove they were the first to the summit. That shaped their project plan: somebody had to remember to take a camera and a flag. It would have been very embarrassing to reach the top and to have this conversation: “Get the camera and flag out Tenzing”; “Oh, I thought you were bringing them, Hillary”.

Read my blog post: CSFs are NOT your project’s objectives.

Dwight D Eisenhower said, “Plans are nothing, planning is everything“. This is one of my favourite project-related quotes because it clearly spells out why a budget, resource plan, schedule or Gantt chart are potentially useless! It is the thought process that goes into preparing plans that is important, not the document that is produced.

Henry Gantt was an American mechanical engineer and management consultant who was part of the scientific management movement along with Henry Ford and Frederick Taylor. He created the Gantt chart in the 1910s. Gantt charts were employed on major infrastructure projects including the Hoover Dam and Interstate highway system as part of Roosevelt’s New Deal after the 1930s depression.

In 2007, Steve Jobs announced the launch of the iPhone. He said, “Today, we are launching 3 revolutionary new products: a widescreen iPod with touch controls, a revolutionary mobile phone, and a breakthrough internet communicator.” It was a creative and amusing way to launch the iPhone and I use it to illustrate a discussion about Minimum Viable Product.

Finally, I refer to Steven Covey who wrote Seven Habits of Highly Effective People which is one of the definitive leadership books, first published in 1989. In particular, I introduce 1 of the 7 habits: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood” as part of a discussion on the importance of Project Managers needing high emotional intelligence. Participants then use this habit, plus the tools they have learned, to work through a series of PM problem scenarios.

Read more about my approach to helping clients improve their capability to manage projects and programmes.

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