Tag Archives: project management

Project Management – summer tips from project experts


By Elisabeth Goodman, 29th June 2019

I have been spending a pleasant few hours browsing through the APM’s summer issue (no.299) of their quarterly publication Project and have found it a rich mine of information for the subjects that RiverRhee covers in its courses for project and line managers.

Here then are some extracts from this summer’s issue of Project – with a focus on Project Management.

Waterfall and Agile techniques can be fruitfully combined for structure and creativity

Many of our clients work in small Life Science or Biotech companies.  Their projects can follow an established methodology, especially if they are providing CRO-style (Contract Research Organisation) services to external clients.  Often though, their projects are more exploratory.  They may be assessing whether a particular methodology might work, or may even be developing that methodology.  Or they may be finding out what kind of activity a specific chemical or biological entity might demonstrate.

Illustration from Emma De Vita’s article “Hybrid and Proud” in Project, Summer issue, 2019

Emma De Vita is editor of Project. Her article cites several examples of how project managers are combining the Waterfall methodology for the overall project structure, with the Agile methodology for the creative interactions within the team and with clients. This “hybrid” approach could also work very well for our Life Science clients.

These quotes from Jim Conroy of Project Objects are particularly apt:

“You can’t not do it [waterfall]. You…need to assess whether that [[project or idea] is a good strategic fit, whether you’ve got the cost for it and the right resources to make it happen. Then you do have to go through a process..[reviewing] deliverables, and tasks and workflows..that need to get done and validates.”

He says that Agile is about:

“waiting for the mess of creativity to manifest itself”.

Five top tips for brilliant projects

In another very helpful article, Emma de Vita shares her top tips for “getting your project to a flying start”.   Her tips resonate very well with what we tell our delegates:

Tip 1. Have the right people on your team and make the most of their ‘soft’ skills as well as their technical ones.

Project team members are often selected on the basis of their availability and, usually, on the basis of having the necessary technical skills.  Emma quotes Christine Unterhitzenberger (Lancaster University Management School’ who says: “It is important that you are not just given people because they are available, but get the people who can make the project a success.  They need to want to see it happen and speak up for it – get them on your side.”

Emma goes on to cite the importance of understanding the softer or behavioural skills that distinguishes each of your team members, so that you can really make the most of those skills, as well as their technical ones.  This is something that we help people explore through such personality tools as Belbin Team Roles and MBTI.

Tip 2. Build the team.

Emma quotes Nick Fewings (Ngagementworks): “as the project gets bigger, risks appear and stress occurs. If you get people who understand each other, they can mitigate that stress.”  Face-to-face kick off meetings, of fun-site meetings’ and electronic collaborative working spaces are all given as examples for how to do this.

Other approaches that we suggest include: encouraging people to work across the team in different combinations of twos and threes, and setting up regular one-to-one meetings to encourage open conversations about all aspects of the project, people- as well as task-related. However, as Nassar Majothi (WSP) suggests: “you only really become a team when you are in the thick of it”.

Tip 3. Clearly articulate your vision.

A clear vision is so important to get everyone on board, motivated, and working towards a common purpose.  It also helps people to get back on track when there is any change or uncertainty.  Emma’s quotes from Fewings and Unterhitzenberger corroborate this.  She also points out that you sometimes need external advice to help you clarify this vision – and, whilst our clients’ experiences are not necessarily the same as hers, they certainly often need constructive dialogue with their stakeholders to help them do that.

Tip 4. Set the (strong) culture and pace for the project.

Project leaders or managers should certainly take advantage of their role on a project to set the tone for what they want to achieve.  Emma quotes Majothi on this one:

“Invariably the team will take the personality of the leader.  Show that you are actually going to hold people to account from day one.  That sets the culture pretty quickly.”

There are so many ways that a leader can influence what happens on a team.  We put a lot of emphasis on these in our work with line and project managers. (See for example our blog on temperature checks or diagnostics for high performance teams.) Spending time clarifying expectations, roles and responsibilities, routes of communication, decision-making processes; all these things will help to set the culture and pace for the project.

Tip 5.  Build strong relationships with your stakeholders

Our Life Science and Biotech clients’ customers can be some of their most challenging stakeholders.  So it’s great to see stakeholders included in Emma de Vita’s top five tips.  Like us, she emphasizes the importance of putting in the time and the effort to understand things from their perspectives.

She also quotes Fewings’ suggestion that you find the people in your team who are really good at stakeholder management and make it one of their key roles.  It’s about keeping the communication lines constantly open so that stakeholders know what is happening on the project, and have the opportunity to influence it to make sure that it reflects their needs.  This approach brings us back to the opening item in this blog – adopting a hybrid approach to Project Management that will enable you to have a high level of interaction with your clients within the overall structure of your project.

conclusion

This summer issue of Project has been a particularly interesting read.  There are other articles with tips about productivity, and about addressing difficult relationships which I will be reflecting in one or two other blogs.

Notes

RiverRhee runs an Introduction to Project Management course (both in-house for clients, and as open courses).  Do get in touch if you would like to learn more about our approach.

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.)  Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

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Working across silos – leadership in the matrix and in multi-functional projects


By Elisabeth Goodman, 14th May 2019

7 Seismic Shifts for Leadership. Based on Michael D Watkins. Material used in RiverRhee and PERLA’s course “Transition to Leadership”, delivered to members of One Nucleus working in the Life Sciences.

Working across silos – an enabler for developing leadership skills

I recently delivered one of RiverRhee‘s and PERLA‘s Transition to Leadership courses where we share, amongst other information, Michael D Watkins’ “7 seismic shifts” for new leaders.

An essential skill, when moving into a leadership role, is the ability to become familiar with the vocabulary, systems, structures and cultures that are unique to each area of the organisation.  Those working in specific technical fields – such as biology, chemistry, clinical, IT – will have their own ways of communicating and understanding each other, of working and of making decisions, which will be quite distinct from those working in HR or finance for example.

To be effective, a leader must be able to engage with people right across the organisation, and so shift from being a specialist in their field, to becoming a generalist across all areas.

Delegates at RIverRhee's Transition to Leadership course

Delegates discussing the “7 seismic shifts” at RiverRhee and PERLA’s recent Transition to Leadership  course.

Working across silos, in an organisation that may already have a matrix structure – where people are assigned to functional departments, but also work on multi-functional projects – is a great way to develop this broader awareness and understanding.

There are valuable tips on this whole topic in: “Cross-silo leadership.  How to create more value by connecting experts from inside and outside the organization”, by Tiziana Casciaro, Amy C. Edmondson and Sujin Jang, Harvard Business Review, May-June 2019, pp. 130-139.

Shifting the emphasis from vertical to horizontal collaboration

The authors of the HBR article share their findings from conversations with individuals in companies around the world.  They found that whilst people prioritise the vertical relationships (i.e. those that they report to, and who report to them) in their day-to-day work, it is the horizontal relationships, across functional groups in the organisation that will bring the greatest value to customers.

Horizontal relationships, across functions, is where there is the greatest scope for innovation and for the larger scale projects that will support integrated research, development and customer service.

As the authors say, these kinds of horizontal relationship can be the most challenging for people, as they need to learn about and relate to people who may have very different ways of thinking and learning.

As with all the best HBR articles, the author have some tips for helping leaders and those who work with them to operate horizontally, across the silos in an organisation.

Developing and making use of “cultural brokers”.

Some people are well-placed to bridge the gap between different parts of the organisation.  Examples of these, in the organisations that RiverRhee works with, are project managers and leaders on cross-functional projects.

The authors of the HBR article suggest that there are two types of “cultural brokers”: those who act as go-betweens, translating the language of the two domains in more one-off , or time-restricted collaborations; and those who take the time to facilitate collaborations in a way that will be longer-lasting and able to function without the “broker”.

Either type of “cultural broker” will need to develop the multi-functional and/or multi-cultural skills, enhanced with strong interpersonal skills, to enable them to facilitate this kind of rapport and collaboration between others.

Encouraging and developing skills in asking good questions

We all know that asking questions is a powerful adjunct to learning – it’s a technique that we teach in RiverRhee’s courses.

Instilling a climate of curiosity is a great way to foster collaboration and hence activities such as innovation and continuous improvement – as described in a previous blog (Curiosity, Continuous Improvement and Innovation).

The authors suggest that the best practices for asking good questions include:

  • Asking open questions – rather than those that just require ‘yes’ ‘no’ answers.  And what’s more, questions that contain as little of the questioner’s preconceptions as possible such as: “How are things going for you?” [This is also referred to as “clean” language.]
  • Transitioning to more specific questions as the collaboration develops – ones that will reveal and so allow sharing of greater depths of knowledge such as: “What can you tell me about x?”
  • Checking your understanding by playing back what you’ve heard and understood – saying something like: “Can you help me check that I have this right?  What have I missed?”
  • Checking in with the other contributor(s) on their perspective of how the collaboration is going – asking something like: “What can we do to work together more effectively?”

Getting people to see things from others’ perspectives

The HBR article gives some very interesting examples of organisations that have taken novel approaches to this.  The main thing is to recognise that most people that we interact with have different perspectives to our own, and this may be even more so if they are working in different parts of a company.

Apparently whilst most people have the skills to understand other people’s perspectives, they are not necessarily motivated to do so.  It is therefore a leadership responsibility to role-model and to encourage this form of behaviour to support a more collaborate approach across an organisation.

Building internal and external networks

This is another way that leaders can role-model and encourage others to develop skills and habits for working beyond their more immediate (vertical) work group:

  • Create cross-functional projects, meetings and agendas that encourage horizontal networks, conversations and collaborations
  • Encourage employees (give them the time and resources) to explore networks that go outside their areas of expertise.  The authors advocate crossing domains between art, science, technology, business etc. – as the basis for true innovation.

Conclusion

Working across silos will help leaders to develop essential skills which will enable them to be more effective.  This way of working already exists, at least in part, for those operating in a matrix organisation and/or working on large cross-functional projects.

It’s a way of working that offers greater potential for innovation, solving complex problems and meeting customer needs.

It requires encouragement, role modelling by leaders, training and support to enhance the take-up of this form of horizontal collaboration across all parts of an organisation.

notes

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.)  Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Influencing skills for Project Management – lessons from the military


By Elisabeth Goodman, 27th April 2019

Photograph of Emma Dutton MBE by Louise Haywood-Schiefer for “How to win wars and influence people” in Project, Spring 2019 pp.22-27

Project is the APM’s (Association for Project Managment) regular publication for its members.  This spring’s issue carries a fascinating article by Ben Hargreaves, editor of Project, featuring Emma Dutton MBE.  The article describes how she has founded a consultancy, the Applied Influence Group, to apply what she has learnt from gathering intelligence for the British Armed forces in Afghanistan, to the world of Project Management.

Parallels between military influencing and influencing projects

The article highlights some of the points made by Emma Dutton in her talk to the APM’s recent National Conference for Women in Project Management.  The parallels between the two worlds of influence include:

Multiple, complex stakeholder relationships

Shifting loyalties and volatile environments

A [or some] very demanding client[s]

The first and last points are certainly ones that the Project Leaders / Managers in the Life Science companies that we work with at RiverRhee would echo:

  • They often have to work with a range of stakeholders within and outside their companies, with different cultural backgrounds and communication styles, and with high expectations of the project team.
  • Although the loyalties are perhaps more stable, and the environment not as volatile as those which Emma Dutton experienced, there is often a high degree of uncertainty as to the possible outcomes of the scientific work

Emotional intelligence at the heart of good influencing skills

Emma Dutton makes an interesting observation from her experience of working in Afghanistan that is quoted in the article:

Afghanistan is a country built on relationships.  Afghans’ interpersonal skills are much more developed than the average Western person’s.  That’s how they survive.

and:

The mission was to influence hearts and minds as much as it was to collect information.  You had to be genuinely empathetic.  We are all humans, and we know when people are being real.

Emotional intelligence is a strong component of RiverRhee’s training, workshops and coaching for project and operational leaders, managers and team members.  See www.riverrhee.com for details of our various courses, including those on influencing and communication skills.

This, together with what Emma Dutton describes as “emotional management” or regulation of ones emotions, is also described by Daniel Goleman* and others as emotional and social intelligence:

  • being aware of our own emotions, attitudes, behaviours and those of the people we are interacting with
  • making conscious choices about how we express or adapt these emotions, attitudes and behaviours in order to get positive outcomes for all parties

These are the qualities that will enable project managers and leaders to influence the diverse and challenging stakeholders that they interact with.

Emma Dutton’s advice seems very wise indeed:

[do] your work  before you get in the room. Understand the people you are talking to.

As Ben Hargreaves concludes in his article:

Understanding drivers, likes and dislikes, motivations, anxieties, interests, attitudes and beliefs is all-important for the influencer.

Notes

*Daniel Goleman et al are authors of a very helpful series of booklets “Building Blocks of Emotional Intelligence” that Elisabeth Goodman has reviewed in earlier blogs as listed here:

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.)  Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

What to do about project overload?


By Elisabeth Goodman, 4th November 2018

Illustration from “Too Many Projects” by Rose Hollister and Michael Watkins, Harvard Business Review, Sept-Oct 2018 pp. 65-69

As many of the organisations that I work with are really struggling with this issue, Rose Hollister’s and Michael Watkins’ Harvard Business Review article on “Too many projects” (Sept-Oct 2018, pp 65-71) was very appropriate.

Why care about too many projects?

The authors assessment of the potential of too many projects mirrors the kinds of things we have been hearing from our RiverRhee clients in Life Science / Biotech SMEs:

  • increased (negative) stress
  • concerns about the negative impact on the quality of output
  • low morale
  • high turnover

Why organisations end up having too many projects?

It happens so easily…

1. Lack of awareness

As organisations get larger and more complex, they develop more silos so that it’s easy to lose sight of yet another addition to the portfolio and it’s impact on workload.

One department or function will add another project which will in turn impact on other departments or functions whose resources may not be equal to the additional workload.

Organisations will typically have no overall view of their portfolio, nor any mechanism to measure the number of projects within it.

2. Lack of judgement

One more project… according to the HBR authors this can happen through:

  • ‘Band aid’ initiatives: a supposedly quick fix which can end up being the wrong solution for a problem
  • ‘Cost myopia’: cut backs on resources without reassessing the project’s goal, scope, requirements.  (Or, in my clients’ experiences, expansion of scope without reassessing the resources.)
  • Political ‘logrolling’ (a term coined in 1835 by US congressman Davy Crocket) where a senior manager will take on another project just to help a colleague out – not wanting to break any promises
  • General under-funding or under-resourcing of projects

3. Lack of (or the wrong) action

Without a clear view of the portfolio or a way to measure it, and without any formal process for assessing or reviewing the status of projects it can be easy to…

Not have the means or will to stop existing projects..

Prioritise by function or department than by the organisation as a whole..

Add new projects without cutting others…

Make across the board cuts in resources that don’t take into account the impact on individual departments / functions and their projects..

Is project overload an issue for you?

The illustration from the HBR article at the top of this article is an extract of a diagnostic that organisations can use to assess whether project overload is an issue for them.  If the answer to any 4 of the question is ‘yes’ then you will need to find ways to better manage your portfolio..

Good practices for keeping your project portfolio in check

So… how to keep your project portfolio under control should by now be fairly self-evident:

  • Take a cross-organisation view of your portfolio.  Get a true count of the number of projects, and understand the impact of each project’s impact on other departments or functions.  Have leaders work together for this integrated view and approach.
  • Evaluate each initiative before you start.  The article includes examples of the questions to ask.
  • Have a review and sunset policy. Review projects and portfolios on a regular (monthly / quarterly / annual) basis.  You might even, as the authors suggest, expect project teams to reapply for resources in order to continue!  The sunset policy is a clause within the project’s brief describing when / how they will end the project.

And… create a mindset within the organisation that stopping a project does not equate to failure or a lack of merit.. but rather to strong decision making and objectivity.

NOTES

About the author. Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.)  Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals). Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Appreciative Inquiry – a tool and philosophy for positive change


The Appreciative Inquiry five-step model

The Appreciative Inquiry five-step model

By Elisabeth Goodman, 5th November 2016

Asking questions sets the tone for what will follow – start from what’s working well

It seemed obvious from the moment that our facilitator, Andy Smith (Coaching Leaders), mentioned it at the start of the two day course on Appreciative Inquiry (AI) that I attended this week. The minute you ask someone, or a group of people a question, you have influenced their mindset. Ask them what they like about something, or what is going well, and the chances are they will relax, open up and be in the mood to be creative. Ask them what’s not working and they may get defensive, close up and descend into despondency.

That’s a simplification of course as people may want to air their problems before they can open up to explore solutions, and they may automatically rise to the challenge rather than wait to be asked the right question. But the general premise of AI is to focus on what’s working well, on what people do best and on everyone’s potential to do so much more and better. Asking the right, open, positive questions will enable this to happen.

There are implications for coaching and personal development, for team building, for problem solving, decision making, innovation, knowledge and project management and for managing change! This blog just highlights a few of the ways to do this. There’s obviously a lot more about this that I will weave into RiverRhee‘s work and that you can find out about from some of the references below.

A new five-step model

The illustration at the start of this blog is of the five-step model. (Andy calls this ‘the 5 Ds’ but I already have a different 5D model that I refer to for time or productivity management so I will keep these distinct.)

Define the topic to be explored in an affirmative way: so it is stated in terms of what you want to move towards, rather than the problem to be moved away from. Focus on the vision and your mind and body will be already working out creative ways to achieve it.

Discover all the things that you are already doing well towards achieving that vision. This is where the affirmative questioning really starts to kick in.

Dream what it would be like when you achieve that vision: what will you hear, feel, see, think? What would it be like if a miracle happened overnight? This step engages the emotions: the heart as well as the mind and creates a really compelling vision.

Design all the possible alternatives (without evaluating at this stage) for achieving the dream. Build on what’s going well and stretch beyond that.

Deliver – this is the point at which you evaluate the alternatives and decide on the next steps to achieve your vision.

Applying Appreciative Inquiry to coaching

People familiar with the GROW and T-GROW models of coaching will have spotted that define equates with setting the topic (T) or goal (G). Discover equates to reality (R) but with a focus on what’s working well rather than on what’s generally happening. Dream is an enhanced version of the goal. Design equates to options (O) but holding back on evaluating those options. Deliver equates to will ( W ).

The slightly different order of the AI five-step process means that the aspirational vision or dream can build on the positive mood generated and so be more creative than the early definition of the goal permits in the GROW model. Although, in practice, either model can be iterative in a coaching situation.

Appreciative Inquiry and team building

The five-step model could also be used with a group of people in a team situation, to explore how a team can become more effective and attain, or sustain high performance. It could be used ‘live’ within a workshop, as an alternative to using pre-workshop diagnostics or temperature checks as described in some of my previous blogs for team development.

So the team can define in real time what it wants to achieve, discover all the things it is currently doing well, dream of what it could do, brainstorm how it could get there (design), and then agree the actions to take forward (deliver). The team could use rating scales (1 to 5, 1 to 10 etc) at any point in this discussion to make their assessments and goals more tangible.

Appreciative Inquiry and problem solving, decision making, innovation, knowledge and project management

As the previous sections demonstrate, the five-step model has built in approaches to aid with problem solving, decision making and innovation. Focusing on what has gone well and using the dream steps arguably allow people to go beyond just fixing the problem into new realms of creativity.

Apparently others have already explored how to apply AI in Lean and Six Sigma, and I shall look into this more. Certainly, exploring what has gone well and why, in the Measure and Analyse phases of the DMAIC are possibilities that I do already touch upon in my RiverRhee courses. We also sometimes use ‘blue sky’ thinking to imagine a ‘to be’ way of working in the Improve phase.

De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats, and the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis also encourage equivalents to the Discover step (yellow hat, and Strengths respectively), the Dream step (green and Opportunities), and Design (green again, and the actions arising out of the SWOT analysis).

Andy also mentioned SOAR (Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, Results) as an affirmative alternative to SWOT and which should give more scope for the Dream step!

Finally, knowledge management techniques will obviously benefit from AI, especially as having a productive conversation is at the heart of sharing knowledge between people. After Action Reviews, Learning Reviews or Retrospects (or Lessons Learned exercises in Project Management) already explore what went well. So AI techniques and philosophies would enhance the outcomes in these areas too.

Appreciative Inquiry and managing change

Last but not least, AI has something to offer those leading or dealing with change and so support one of my missions which is to create ‘navigators‘ as opposed to ‘victims’ of change! We can aim to understand and look for ways to maintain, enhance, or at a minimum, compensate for the best of what people previously had in creating whatever the new situation might be. And we can ensure that that new situation is as compelling a vision or ‘dream’ as possible.

In conclusion

There are lots of opportunities to apply Appreciative Inquiry tools and ways of thinking in our working and home lives.  I am using some of these applications already, and looking forward to exploring more with with clients, colleagues, friends and family!

I’ll try not to be a “rose-tinted evangelist” though: we still need to acknowledge the very real problems and challenges that people experience and how they feel about them.

How might you apply AI?

further references

ABOUT THE author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus, a quality assured training provider with Cogent Skills and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads on Membership, Communications and Events for the Enabling Change SIG committee.

Personal knowledge mapping – applied to project management


By Elisabeth Goodman, 27th March 2016

Our mental maps

I’ve noticed lately that my brain is not as sharp as it usually is.  For example, when setting off in my car I have to think carefully about where I’m going, and then re-create my mental map of how to get there. Trying to remember the name of an actor, I see his face, his expressions, other things that he’s acted in before his name eventually comes back to me.  Hopefully this lack of sharpness is just a temporary result of how busy my work and life have been, and this Easter break will act as a restorative!  Meanwhile, it’s a useful context for this blog…

Isn’t a lot of what we remember dependent on the mental maps that we’ve created?  How we’ve slotted together various pieces of information?  Like the game we used to play with the children: here’s a person, a place and an object – let’s create a story from them.

MBTI judging

Creating and using maps of what we know..

Personal knowledge maps as analogies of organisational knowledge maps

In organisations, knowledge maps are described as an inventory of their internal and external sources of information and knowledge.  I quite like the idea of considering our mental maps as personal knowledge maps.

Creating personal knowledge maps about Project Management

Teaching people about Project Management recently has acted as a reminder and an illustration of how I pass on my own mental knowledge map to others.  My one-slide overview that I shared in  “A second look at project management, RiverRhee Consulting November – December, 2015” is a useful artefact to act as a starting point, or framework , for sharing my map and to help delegates build their own.

We go on from there to explore all the different aspects of managing a project such as: clarifying the goals, scope, anticipated benefits and building a strong relationship with the sponsor; understanding the constraints the project is under; identifying key milestones, and interdependencies and developing a project plan; managing risks, issues, decisions and actions; managing stakeholders and the associated change; building a strong project team.  We explore each of these topics: my experience and theirs, tools and approaches.  They reflect upon, practise and apply their existing and new knowledge to specific challenges they have been tackling.

As we talk we discover that the delegates have some useful resources and artefacts that they can slot into their new maps for managing projects:

  • Other people with expertise that they can draw upon
  • Formal meetings that are part of their organisation’s mechanisms for making key decisions about projects
  • Documents that describe procedures or act as templates for managing projects
  • Databases that hold key information about projects and which they are expected to add to

Each time I teach a course like this, my delegates’ experiences, resources and artefacts become woven into my mental map too so that, next time I share it, with a new set of delegates, they too benefit from the new knowledge that I’ve gained.

On a more personal note

This idea of personal knowledge maps and what might happen to them was made especially poignant to me recently as I read “Still Alice” by Lisa Genova, and about the main character’s experience of Alzheimer’s.  As her disease progressed it eroded so many of her memories and of the connections or mental maps she had made.  Distressing as the story was, it was also heartwarming in the account of how Alice and her family dealt with it.  How for example they created videos to remind her of their shared memories. And how feelings could still be communicated.  It was a reminder to me too of how much I value this dynamic sharing and development of our individual maps as I interact with others.

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams and their managers to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. (We use coaching, training, facilitation, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads the Internal Collaboration theme of the Enabling Change SIG committee.

More common factors for managing successful change


By Elisabeth Goodman, 29th January 2016

APM events are a great opportunity for developing our professional knowledge

Discussing common factors for managing successful change with delegates at the APM event

Tapping into delegates’ knowledge at the APM event

I led a seminar this week for the Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire Branch members, as a member of the committee of the APM Enabling Change SIG and also as an independent change practitioner.

It was apparent from the level of discussion, and from the results of a poll at the end of the event, that many of the delegates had either started their journey in practising change management, or were already well experienced in it. So it was a great opportunity to learn from the knowledge within the room, as well as passing on some of my own, and of my committee colleagues’ knowledge.

We explored all types of change

We were exploring all types of change: organisational, IT, process-related, and others. I shared three of my own case studies, and also captured examples of some of the delegates’ own change programmes.

Examples of change programmes and projects

We identified more common factors for managing successful change

I had a starting list from a previous blog on common factors for managing successful change and adapted from those I use for RiverRhee Managing Change training and consulting activities. I’d added more factors to this list based on suggestions from my committee colleague Martin Taylor and from previous seminars that we have run together.

A starting list of common factors for successful change

The delegates came up with an impressive list of their own suggestions.

Suggestions of common factors from delegates

Some additional insights on behavioural change, and on change agents

Although one of the suggestions for types of change included behavioural / cultural change, delegates recognized that in fact all changes require recognition and attention to behavioural change to be effective. I referenced “Influencer” as a book that focuses on this.

Delegates also highlighted the skills needed for change agents to be effective, and I mentioned that “Creating Contagious Commitment” had some useful insights on this topic.

(The links above are to: Why thinking in terms of burning platforms and tipping points is not enough to drive change – a blog that references both books.)

Closing thoughts

Exploration! A picture in the lobby of Leeds Metropolitan hotel

A picture in the lobby of Leeds Metropolitan hotel

I have no doubt that there are more “common factors for managing successful change” to be identified.

Perhaps you would like to suggest some?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams and their managers to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. (We use coaching, training, facilitation, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads the Internal Collaboration theme of the Enabling Change SIG committee.