Top 10 things that people do wrong when trying to manage that tricky temporary endeavour that is designed to bring about a positive Change…

They put an inexperienced ‘non’ project manager in charge – projects are just different and you need to have the experience to lead them

  1. They don’t treat it as a new activity that deserves focus and attention, but rather they behave as if it is just an addition to their current workload – the danger is that the project is not thought through from start to finish and given the appropriate priority of their time
  2. They don’t give the time needed to the manager of the project to do the job properly – which leads to a bad job, or excessive extra hours and possibly a bad job
  3. They don’t support the project manager by partnering them with a good executive project sponsor, but instead leave the project manager to just get on with it – often ending in frustration and lack of resources from the organisation above
  4. They never consider risk once the project begins – which leads to surprises, sometimes nasty ones that can derail the whole project
  5. They assume that when people are allocated to a project they will do everything asked of them as a priority, when the reality is they have a day job as well, which will be the real priority – it never ends well and typically doesn’t get the work done on time
  6. They don’t communicate effectively – this requires the right information delivered in the right way at the right time to the right person – and reporting is not communicating
  7. They say ‘yes’ way too often, just to be nice – change is both the greatest opportunity to a project manager but also the greatest risk – people wanting more and more from the project will ensure it never ends
  8. They don’t care about the outcome of the project, it is just another job to do – without care there is never consideration or effort

And number 10… They fail to think of that all-important ‘work/life balance’ – projects are about people and a good project manager should always take this in to consideration and should definitely be ‘lazy’.

This means that we should all adopt a more focused approach to managing projects and exercise our efforts where it really matters, rather than rushing around like busy, busy bees involving ourselves in unimportant, non-critical activities that others can better address, or which do not need addressing at all in some cases.

Peter Taylor is known as The Lazy Project Manager and is a project management office (PMO) expert.

He is currently leading a global team of more than 200 project managers acting as custodians for more than 5,000 projects around the world from Kronos Inc., a billion-dollar software organisation delivering workforce management solutions.

Peter is also the author of eighteen books, including the number 1 bestselling project management book, The Lazy Project Manager. In the last four years he has delivered more than 200 lectures around the world on his mission to show people how to work smarter, not harder in their quest for career success. and

Read more:

The Accidental Project Managers

“Hello, please come in. Take a seat. How are you today?” It often starts like this. “I wanted to thank you for all of your hard work, especially your contributions on the legislative burden, as you know, we are pretty stretched and the FCA keep piling on new regulation.” Pause, do you know what is coming next? ” There’s a new requirement from the FCA, something to do with key decision makers being qualified and their decisions audited and traced. The leadership team have discussed it and your name came up. You have been doing good things and we think it’s time you had an opportunity to shine. We need you to take a lead on this project.”

There is it, the word project. It’s done and on you in a flash, you will be managing a project. Why? Well because you have shown some competence in a technical area and you are willing and because you have not yet said no. It’s too late to say no and in any case, you are still vaguely flattered. They did say shine, right?

I have a statistic for you. In the past ten years, I estimate that I have taught, coached and worked with 2,500 people working in project management. Of that 2,500 I estimate that 80{e8a48bf1014efa1f514ba2ea7b318659948c550611071653509ba02309d505df} became project managers by accident and of that 80{e8a48bf1014efa1f514ba2ea7b318659948c550611071653509ba02309d505df} over 50{e8a48bf1014efa1f514ba2ea7b318659948c550611071653509ba02309d505df} have no idea what they are doing other than working extremely hard. We have an epidemic of unqualified and inexperienced accidental project managers responsible for delivery and we are suffering. An Ernst and Young survey in 2014 pointed out that over 60{e8a48bf1014efa1f514ba2ea7b318659948c550611071653509ba02309d505df} of mega projects are over cost and 70{e8a48bf1014efa1f514ba2ea7b318659948c550611071653509ba02309d505df} over schedule. We can assume that these statistics apply roughly down the project value ladder and relate to every industry. Projects are on the increase, change is on the increase and the business response is to ‘promote’ a subject matter expert.

We have all been thrown in at the deep end, made mistakes, we all have some battle scars to show and tales to tell but surely that’s not the best way to conduct business. I mean, would you send an unqualified lawyer in to negotiate a position, an unqualified, inexperienced accountant to audit, a graduate engineer to consult on a skyscraper. Of course not but this project management stuff, well it’s common sense, right? The problem is it is common sense, up to a point and common sense can get you a long way because you are a subject matter expert right? What happens when common sense runs out and budgets need drawing up, schedules developing, communications scheduled, stakeholders persuaded, user acceptance tests conducted. Risks, issues, failure, cost, delay, incrimination, insecurity, the Peter principle. At best the project manager escapes with a sense of humor in tact and some valuable lessons. At worst we have damaged a perfectly good subject matter expert who may never again hold up their hand.

I have three things to say, three recommendations but before I do I wanted to talk at the problem from the business perspective, to clarify that there is no simple pill or remedy for this problem. The business is there to make profit and doing so requires ever faster evolution and competitive advantage. That means speed to market and cost management. The business want this problem to go away quickly snd at a minimal cost, they want this opportunity to be leveraged and in the marketplace yesterday, at minimal cost. When the operations start saying, “wait, slow down we don’t have qualified resources, we need to triage or buy in experience or take our time, we are speaking two totally different languages. Operations have suddenly become the business prevention department and it’s the business that brings in the revenue so get on with it! It’s a situation that requires understanding on both sides to avoid conflict and ensure that the best opportunities and the worst problems are being given the best project resources and that there is a succession plan for new project professionals.

Three considerations for avoiding project failure due to inexperienced project managers.

1. Ensure a broad education and support is available to all project managers at all levels in ways that work for them. Training, coaching, mentoring, apprenticeships.

2. Be realistic about risk. If there is little or no risk then get on and deliver the project but if there is moderate to high risk, consider the ability of the resource to safely deliver success.

3. Not everyone is cut out to be a project manager. Review role competencies and plan for succession not resignation.

I was fortunate enough to view this first hand while working with a big Scottish Bank. The change department had two superb programme managers who not only took ownership for delivery they also brought all the up and coming project professionals with them, including in some cases, helping individuals to realise that project management was not for them.


By Adrian Pagdin, Project Management Evangelist for Tailwind Project Solutions

Why PMP, by Ray Moore

When we come into contact with people in the world of project management the topic of certification can often be discussed. Some of the questions are:

  • Why should a project manager become PMP certified?
  • What will the certification give the business?
  • Will it guarantee more successful project deliveries?

I achieved PMP certification many years ago working in Cisco Systems as it was part of the development path of project managers for the professional services group. It was not a mandatory certification but an opportunity to measure my ability and experience to global standard and from a personal point of view to achieve something of value. Undertaking the relevant training in preparation for the PMP examination opened my eyes to many areas of project management that I found to be most rewarding and honestly helped me to become a much better prepared project manager and in my role of more recent years as a consultant and trainer in the field. We can all become very insular and focussed in our own application areas, however what the Project Management Institutes (PMI) Body of Knowledge (PMBoK Guide) provided me was a greater appreciation for things that we may not have been aware of. The guide is constructed for projects across all industry sectors and projects of all sizes. Delegates often ask on training courses if there is anyone out there who does all of these processes, as it seems we would spend all our time documenting the project and never actually delivering anything. This is the beauty of the guide, it’s tailorable and as a professional project manager we have the knowledge and skills to be able to use what we need and when we would need it. Do you need to be certified to do this? No, however if you invest the time to understand its content, then go the extra mile and get certified. Of course to remain certified, we need to continue our learning and development, which is another great reason why the certification works, we stay current in the discipline.

From a business point of view, PMP certification sets a standard and helps to differentiate your organisation from your competition or if they already have certified people, then at least you can get on par with them and look for further opportunities to move ahead of them. It may be a customer requirement, that as a supplier organisation, you may need to satisfy in a proposal that you have certified project managers and will help you win new business.

Common language and common understanding leading to defined project management methods across the discipline is vital to success of delivering successful projects on a regular basis. I have come across many organisations who have struggled to implement these methods that would have enabled them to become effective and consistent, however those that have succeeded, which by no means is a short term time frame, have benefited greatly. This type of approach not only satisfies our certified people but also gives our aspiring project managers a career path they can follow and look beyond the PMP and higher positions within the business.

My view on the final point about the guarantee of success if you are PMP certified is most definitely “NO”. There are no guarantees for success but what the certification does is to raise the bar of expectation on the project manager to be successful and deliver a satisfactory outcome. Being familiar with PMI’s ten knowledge as part of the PMP certification and having a greater understanding and appreciation of them will help us see the larger picture across all of the key areas and be able to integrate them into a successful plan and project delivery. I believe that many of us like to be seen as the project manager that can bring the project home so the expectation on our shoulders is the level of pressure and stress that helps us thrive to do our jobs and do them well.

This article was written by our resident PMI expert, Ray Moore

There is a risk that …

‘Have you got a risk template?’

That’s the starting question.

‘Of course, do you want the RAID Log, a Risk Log, an Exec Summary or a Value at Risk driver?’

‘Eeeeeh, I have no idea, I just want to flag some risks!’

Ever got caught up in the web of risk identification, management, resolution? It’s an industry, not that I am knocking that industry after all, if it’s risk documents and templates that you are after, Tailwind PS is in the business of providing them for you. It’s just that, well sometimes simple is better.

My friend Richard was talking to me yesterday about low hanging fruit so with that in mind, Clare, this is the simple and effective way of getting risks on the agenda.

1. Why am I (a busy executive) worried about these things called risks? Well because they can make you into an even busier exec if you don’t watch out so, number one … There is a risk that … and insert impact. We will be fined a million dollars, we are about to get a whole heap of negative press, 25{e8a48bf1014efa1f514ba2ea7b318659948c550611071653509ba02309d505df} of our customers are going to leave and take their combined fifty million of annual spend with them. Got your attention? (I like to call this the blackberry moment, will the exec put her blackberry down and listen to me now?)
2. Why is this event going to happen? This is the trigger or the event that is going to cause the bad thing to happen. There is a risk that a bad thing is going to happen because … we might fail to gain consensus and deliver documents late. or we are getting close to rushing something out that is substandard, might fail and get into the press.
3. How likely is this to happen, how much do I need to care? 1: very unlikely less than 15{e8a48bf1014efa1f514ba2ea7b318659948c550611071653509ba02309d505df} (blackberry moment), 2: fairly unlikely 16 to 40{e8a48bf1014efa1f514ba2ea7b318659948c550611071653509ba02309d505df}, 3: likely 40 to 60{e8a48bf1014efa1f514ba2ea7b318659948c550611071653509ba02309d505df} (coffee moment), 4: very likely 60 to 85{e8a48bf1014efa1f514ba2ea7b318659948c550611071653509ba02309d505df}, 5: certain 86{e8a48bf1014efa1f514ba2ea7b318659948c550611071653509ba02309d505df} plus (scotch moment)
4. So what are you/we/I going to do about this … full attention and buy into the strategy to mitigate the risk event or trigger.

There is a risk that a bad thing might happen because we are subject to some threats. The likelihood of this event happening is x{e8a48bf1014efa1f514ba2ea7b318659948c550611071653509ba02309d505df} and so we are recommending the following action.

Feeling better?

I think that this is the way that the brain works. What is the bad thing, why, when, how much, help!

It’s a simple formula but it works and it gets you in the conversation mix.

Does that work for you?

How do you get real risks on the agenda and resolved?

Why it is all about risk

NCToday I saw the light. Not in a road to Damascus way, but as in a light bulb being turned on. I saw it in the faces of my group that I was facilitating. You see, we had spent two days talking about risk and they kept saying, ‘you are preaching to the converted’. They nodded and I nodded and so we talked about requirements gathering and scoping and we talked about change management and sequencing, we talked about communication and we talked about testing and still they nodded sagely, ‘we get it.’

Then there was the moment, as if the sun had just burst through the cloud or the light bulb had come on and I saw it in their faces and I lnew. I knew that they knew and they knew that I knew. We had just finished a critical path mapping exercise with post it notes (we know) and we had talked about estimation (we know) and we had talked about base lining (yes, we know) and then we talked about modelling and about challenging assumptions and about getting intimate with dependencies and we talked about what would happen if you didn’t do these things and that’s when it happened, the moment.

So we need to pause for a moment and we need to consider all of our actions as project managers.

  • We communicate because if we don’t there is hearsay and rumour.
  • We plan for communications because if we don’t we probably won’t.
  • We test our communications because if we don’t they might not achieve the desired outcome.

There is a risk that the project will meet resistance and encounter delays because stakeholders expectations are not recognised, managed or aligned therefore we should recognise, manage and align …

I’m sure that you know but do you really get it, that everything we do as project and change managers is as a response to risk. The greater the risk, the greater the control, right …

Tailwind PS provides a suite of controls for responding to project risks.

Adrian Pagdin is a Partner with Tailwind PS, a business advisor, programme manager and published author.

Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom

I do not think that I am alone in feeling utterly disenfranchised by the election that is coming to the citizens of the United Kingdom in the next few weeks. It’s a congruence thing for me. I just don’t believe a word that these politicians are saying to be true, other than that they want to win an election. The thing is, I can’t say for sure whether they are lying or not, because they don’t answer questions. They are evasive and this raises suspicions. Oh I expect they are proud of the ability to turn a question to their advantage but it’s not doing a lot for their integrity.

Buddha said that there are three things that cannot be long hidden, the sun, the moon and the truth. I mean, in which other area of our lives would we place our trust in someone who blatantly will not give a direct answer? Well actually quite a lot in business.


Okay so I said it there’s politics in business and sometimes, in fact quite often, there’s truth, lies and political truth and lies and the latter seem to be acceptable.

So I am working with a client whose project is in serious trouble. I ask her what she is reporting, green, she replies. Green? Situation normal, how can that be? Well apparently we don’t report red in this organisation, it’s unacceptable.We’ve got a plan, I hear. If we get through the next round of funding then we can fix this.

I recently bought a bag from a crowd funded company. I say bought because I paid my money in the expectation that I would have the bag by Christmas. As I write this it is April, no bag and increasingly sparse communications from the retailer. They started off saying that the delays were to get it right, now they don’t even bother to make something up. I won’t be recommending them.

Is it okay to lie about our projects, if the end justifies the means? The PMI’s code of ethics and professional conduct is pretty clear on this, ‘…we are committed to doing what is right and honourable.’ Albert Einstein puts it this way, ‘Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.’

I once got an amusing power point slide. At the top was a box with the words, ‘you have a problem’ at the bottom another one that said, ‘no problem’ There were various routes to get to, ‘no problem’; blame someone else, hide it, ignore it but the path least travelled was the most direct one, admit and fix it.

If there is a problem or there is to be unwelcome news, this is my advice:

1. Fail early and recover quickly
2. Fail cheaply and recover cheaply
3. Fail honestly and recover honestly

You might be remembered for the failure but you will always be remembered as a liar.

Adrian Pagdin is the author of It’s the People: Practical lessons in project leadership and stakeholder management.

Free Physio Appointment for the Corporate Athlete

Would you? Have you? I have.

I saw the sign in my gym. Free 15 minute physio assessment, running gait analysis. The places went pretty quickly and I was pleased to have gotten my freebie! Why not after all, look a gift horse in the mouth. Nothing ventured, nothing gained after all.

Actually I did have a niggle. I am a runner, I enjoy running and like most middle aged runners I suffer some twinges and pain now and then. This time it was a recurring niggle, left Achilles tendon. So I turned up with some optimism and proceeded to put myself through the paces with a young phsio called Craig.

Craig had me on the running machine first with and then without shoes. I squatted, walked and stretched and after some scribbling and serious expression Craig announced that my gluteus were not firing. ‘If we could get those gluteus firing we could get you injury free, faster and stronger.’

Well he had me on injury free. ‘What must I do?’

Well I will spare you the exercises and the sales pitch but I do want to go over the freely given and received feedback. A severe critic might say that the feedback was not freely given but given in the hope that I would buy more physio, building a profitable relationship for Craig and his colleagues. Let’s put that aside, it’s the fact that as an athlete (I like to use that label, I once had an event band with the word athlete on it, I have clung to it ever since) I seek out and crave feedback that will allow me to go faster further, more easily. It’s not just me, there are ten times more personal instructors now than there were ten years ago. There are twice as many physio’s in the same time frame. Anyone that is in any way sports minded is interested in feedback to perform better. You wouldn’t dream of going skiing without fitting in a quick lesson.

Professional athletes know all about this. Fitness, speed, control, sleeping patterns, diet , pillows, the shape of push bike cranks. They have all been studied with a view to improve athlete performance. Find a champion athlete and you will find a finely tuned appetite and ear for any feedback that will give that person an edge.

So, you’ve got it, why does this not translate into our professional lives of work and specifically of those responsible for delivering profit? I am going to speculate, I think it is out of embarrassment. I think that we are embarrassed that someone else might see, think, feel that we are less than perfect in our role. Why, if they think that and I admit to it, then they might tell someone else who might tell my boss and I might lose my job! We are embarrassed to give feedback for fear of offending the other person so we don’t or we do it badly it’s awkward so we don’t do it again.

Do you know how most feedback is prefaced?

  • ‘You probably don’t want to hear this.’ So I probably won’t!
  • ‘You can ignore this if you want.’ So I probably will!
  • ‘I don’t mean this personally.’ So I will take it personally.

So I’ve got some simple rules that will allow those giving and receiving feedback to do it openly, safely and clearly with a view to us all becoming champions, or at least not getting injured as often.

  1. Deliver feedback immediately or as quickly as possible after the event.
  2. Give it openly, honestly and without emotion, almost as an afterthought.
  3. Start with a positive, ’I have something for you …’
  4. Use a simple structure, ‘This is what I saw/heard you do, this was the reaction or outcome and this is how I felt’
  5. When receiving feedback simply say thank you as earnestly as possible.

So number 3 can be varied, with number 4 it is essential that if it was something that someone said that you repeat it as accurately as possible, the recipient will really value this. Number 5 is essential if you ever want that person to give you feedback again.

A culture of feedback is hard to start and easy to stop but so valuable in high performing organisations.

Go on, get that free assessment and become a corporate athlete.

Adrian Pagdin is the author of the book ‘It’s the People: Practical Lessons in Project Leadership and Stakeholder Management.’

Are you enjoying change?

What is it about change professionals? I mean, why do we do it? I know that some of us get handsomely paid and work in glamorous locations but the rest of us just toil away to collapse over the line, don’t we?

I asked this question at the beginning of a recent workshop with a group of retail banking change professionals. Specifically, what is it that you enjoy about change?

I expect that there are few surprises with the answers:

  • Positive outcomes
  • It’s never the same
  • Making a difference
  • Enjoy success
  • Overcoming challenges
  • Appreciation and recognition
  • Solving problems
  • Engaging with different people
  • Seeing things through
  • Overcoming the challenging and the complex
  • The voyage of discovery
  • Collaboration and team working
  • Challenging the status quo

Now one of the participants described it in a different way and she started off by saying, ‘I don’t really like change at all.’ Then followed on, ‘I don’t like the uncertainty of change but I do like overcoming that uncertainty and I do like the challenge.’

I was flying up North that same morning and had enjoyed a conversation with one of the BA cabin crew. She told me that she had been flying for 17 years but that now she worked part time, 10 hours a month and enjoyed the freedoms. She went on to describe how flying had changed over the past 15 years, it wasn’t as much about fun for the air crew as it was. She had paused before finishing, ‘…but I have looked at other jobs and I realised that everything that I found attractive about these other jobs I already have and enjoy with BA.’ We smiled and parted company she back to Heathrow and me onwards.

I remember opening my second hotel back in 2002. I had learned a lot from the first hotel a few years earlier and I took the opportunity to recruit a lot of change oriented individuals. These were people that were mentally agile and practically focussed. Able to change direction quickly and challenge the status quo. Three months after a very successful hotel opening they had almost all left! Upon reflection I realised that the team that I had recruited were perfect for opening a hotel, for being part of change but were ill suited for ongoing management. Their replacements turned out to be terrific managers, focussed on tasks, teams and individuals, only partly on the need for change.

The point is that while change managers can be made, there is a set of preferences that make someone naturally attuned to change:

  • Challenging the status quo
  • Breaking and fixing things
  • Building things
  • Variety and challenge

Conversely there is a set of preferences that make someone naturally attuned to management:

  • Maintenance
  • Focus on KPI’s
  • Consistency
  • Constant improvement

If we have a preference, an enthusiasm for aspects of a role, does that mean that we should be good at it?

The gallup book, Strengths Finder, by Tom Rath is at the forefront of beliefs that have been used by sports coaches for decades. Simply put, if you have a talent, an enthusiasm allied to ability for something then it’s likely that you can improve it. Sports people build on a talent, a god given ability and can become great. Winners, World Class, Olympians in some cases.

So it’s not theory, it’s practice. If you enjoy change, or aspects of change, there’s a good chance that you can become really great at it. If you enjoy flying and have done for years, chances are that you are good at it and will continue to enjoy it.

Oh I’ve gone too far here so before I start chanting and evoking Buddha’s teaching about work and service, I should stop. In closing I urge you to ask yourself the question, what do you enjoy about change and when you’ve answered the question ask yourself another. How much of your time are you spending or able to spend doing the things that you enjoy, feel passionate and excited about? How much time are you spending using your strengths?

Adrian Pagdin is the author of the book, ‘It’s the People. Practical Lessons in Project Leadership and Stakeholder Management.’

The Accidental Project Manager

Ever been ambushed, walking past management’s door and presented with ‘a project’ to complete?
Have you walked away feeling slight trepidation about how to start this ‘project’ and how to balance it off with your day job?
It might be some comfort to know that you are not alone. In fact over 70{e8a48bf1014efa1f514ba2ea7b318659948c550611071653509ba02309d505df} of people delivering projects do so outside of their day job.

A few words from advice from the professionals:
1. Estimate how much time you think this will take you and then add 50{e8a48bf1014efa1f514ba2ea7b318659948c550611071653509ba02309d505df} on top.
2. Make a list of everything that is in and out of scope.
3. Make a list of the people who will help, make, or hinder your progress.
4. Make a list of the big things standing in the way of a successful completion.
5. List out the first five steps to overcome obstacles and get started.
6. Go and see the project originator (ambusher) and share your five steps to get sign off and support.

The most important relationship is with the person that owns the project and has the authority to see it through, the originator, ambusher or sponsor.

This is the first in a short series about healing with projects as an accidental project manager.