Think Big, Start Small, Act Fast

You can’t really control a conversation.  I have tried, my plan is usually off the rails shortly after I have said, “Hello”.

But you can:

  • Determine what success looks like.
  • Think how you might get there and who can help.
  • Create an environment that will enable and accelerate the process.
  • Decide how to behave.
  • Take a deep breath and say, “Hello”.

The PM Unconferences have connected a few people with the energy and desire to collaborate. Interestingly this is a mix of the TR and non TR people. That makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.

For a flavour of the New York event see Doug’s blog at . Diane and Louise are collating photos and outputs and will issue these very soon also.  Thank you to all those who contributed. This includes all those who attended.

I was elated about it all on Friday (despite the frustration of being in London!), but then came back down to earth with a great big, “Now what?”.  The sense of engagement is fantastic, but not an end in itself, it is a precious precursor of the next phase, it has a terrifyingly short half life. We ran the Unconferences the way we did on purpose. We did it so we could go to the next stage, and do that on purpose too. The clock is ticking.

In January we outlined what we thought success looked like for the TR PM Community and how we might get there. It needs a refresh. We’ve made progress, but I am not sure we have got much better at project management as a result. We have an opportunity to do this now.  The objectives of the first phase were to extend community, identify advocates and determine purpose. I didn’t put it quite like that. It was longer, obviously, you know me.

The next phase is to distill purpose from the unconferences and then fulfill it through the community, using corporate resources to accelerate our progress.

We will think big, start small, act fast. 

I have outlined what I think the next steps are. I have deleted vast swathes and limited myself to a couple of simple thoughts.  Here goes…

Its time to get a bit more specific about, “What getting better at project management” means.  I am going to get off the fence.

One of the things I saw captured in London was “Just Enough Process“, something similar to this came up in New York. Another topic raised in New York related to “The way we work” which is about how we communicate, collaborate and the tools we use, but also to how we behave.

You will decide, but those sound like two great places to start.

We will organise a couple of fairly informal, part work, part social kick offs. At least one in London and one in NY to chew this over and then take action. We will encourage the same in other locations.

What will actually happen when the conversation starts? I have no idea. That too makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

More on this very soon.  Doug will likely issue a few more updates as well so watch his blog that I connected to above..

While the next steps settle, I will keep posting here so our external guests can remain up to speed.



4 thoughts on “Think Big, Start Small, Act Fast

  1. As project managers, we tend to like to know where we are heading. But in a culture-change process (which this is), it is really hard to be specific.

    Some five years ago, I was tasked with creating “a culture of PM excellence” in Deutsche Telekom. I think since then we have travelled a long way down that road, but it is still difficult to be precise about exactly what we have achieved.

    Two observations:

    1) Our project managers behave in a more consistent way, are more self-assured, and regard themselves as part of a community.

    2) Some of our more perceptive senior stakeholders have observed the change of behaviour, and they like it. They particularly like the fact that project managers have adopted similar behaviours – because they know what to expect, and most importantly they know what is expected of them.

    Has this improved our ability to deliver projects successfully? I would like to believe that it has, but I certainly can’t prove it. Our top project managers naturally work on the biggest, hardest projects – and they are the most likely to fail, or at least run in to difficulty. So a “success rate” metric just doesn’t work, or leads to undesirable behaviour. Be careful what you choose to measure and how you go about measuring it, as the act of measurement disturbs the system (hey – if we can link project management to thermodynamics, hen surely I can introduce some quantum mechanics too?)

    If anyone has cracked this nut of actually proving the value of what we are doing, I’d love to hear about it. Until that happens, I’m happy to continue as an act of faith, with occasional anecdotal evidence of success.

  2. Russell,

    Thanks. This echoes the emerging discussion we are seeing on the same topic.

    The “Ways of Working” topic having evolved (straight away!) into one about outcomes and leadership. In particular that outcomes are the ultimate measure of success and that a PM sets the behavioural tone for the team at all sorts of ways including how we communicate.

    WRT “Just enough process”, part of the challenge is balancing the need for consistency with ability to be flexible and innovative. I suspect the answer lies in standards rather than prescriptions but I am trying hard not to lead witnesses at the moment.



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