Archive for February, 2008|Monthly archive page

PM Interviews: Alex S. Brown

This week I had the pleasure of asking Alex S. Brown to share some of his extensive project management knowledge and experience with us. Alex has worked for a whole host of large companies in a variety of environments. He now runs his own business delivering training and coaching to other project management professionals as well as being a popular speaker at numerous events.

Q: Many people may already know you from the articles you publish on www.alexsbrown.com or through your training and speaking work. Can you give us a brief summary of your career to date?

I graduated from Princeton University and my first experience with project management came at Automatic Data Processing. I did not even know I was doing project management or that there was such a job but I was starting to run projects. I started doing sales support for market data services and grew into managing development projects.

I went on to work at Merrill Lynch, Chubb & Son and Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance, gaining responsibility for more complex projects, mostly in IT. I discovered and joined the Project Management Institute (PMI) in 2000 (while working at Merrill Lynch). That was a huge step for me. I quickly got my Project Management Professional (PMP) qualification and starting speaking and writing.

At Mitsui Sumitomo I began working closely with the top senior managers: doing strategic planning and helping them execute their strategic plans through projects. Recently I have gotten involved in other professional organizations, including the International Project Management Association (IPMA), the American Society for the Advancement of Project Management (asapm) and the Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering (AACEi).

In June of 2007 I decided to work full time for my own company: Real-Life Projects. I wanted to be able to share what I had learned with as many different people as possible wherever those ideas were going to have an impact.

Q: Starting out on your own must have been a big step. Do you feel it was worthwhile? What were the highs and lows?

It was definitely worthwhile. I enjoy the life and the freedom of running my own company. Continue reading

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Persuasion and the Path of Least Resistance

How important do you think your powers of persuasion are to your leadership ability? In his book How to Lead Jo Owen thinks it is a critical skill:

“Leadership involves getting people to do things. Emerging leaders are not put off by a lack of formal authority. They persuade other people to help and support them.”

One persuasion technique that I have found to be very effective is based on the premise that people tend to do what is easiest for them. To put it another way: they follow the path of least resistance. All you have to do in order to achieve an almost Jedi like power over all those around you is Continue reading

PM Interviews: Bruce P. Henry

This week I caught up with Bruce P. Henry, Director of Rocket Science at LiquidPlanner, to find out what he’s been up to, glean a little more information about LiquidPlanner and explore his views on the future of project management.

Q: Many people will already know you from your blog Bruce’s Brain and your involvement with LiquidPlanner. Can you give us a brief summary of your career to date?

My involvement with technology started in Hollywood. I ran a computerised teleprompting business out of my garage for a couple of years before switching to Macintosh consulting. After a year or so of 18-hour days, I left Los Angeles and moved to Laramie, Wyoming to pursue a degree in Physics. I took my BS in Physics and BS in Mathematics from the University of Wyoming and then headed to graduate school at the University of Washington. With my MS in Physics firmly in hand, I began testing software for Microsoft as a contractor. I went full-time at Microsoft but was lured away by Ed Jung and Nathan Myhrvold to join OpenDesign. Two years later I joined Expedia as a test lead and, over five years, worked my way up to becoming their Senior Director of Quality Management. I left Expedia and joined Charles and Jason at LiquidPlanner in 2007.

Q: I imagine LiquidPlanner has been the focus of your attention for the past year or so. How has that time been?

I think working at a good start-up is kinda like riding a hyperactive roller coaster. You have these huge ups and downs and sometimes they come just minutes apart. Continue reading

Book Review: Coaching for Performance

I read Sir John Whitmore’s book Coaching for Performance sometime ago. It caught my eye again recently as I was rearranging my book shelf so I flicked through it and considered how valuable it had been to me.

The book is focused on how you can effectively coach people in order to get the best out of them. It explains clearly the difference between teaching, traditional management and coaching. Furthermore it describes what the limitations of teaching and traditional management are and why coaching is often a more effective approach. Continue reading

PM Interviews: Pawel Brodzinski

Over the coming weeks I will be publishing a series of interviews with successful project management professionals, experts and gurus. My main aim for this series is to discover and publish a range of views and opinions on what challenges project managers face, what approaches they find useful and how they perceive the future of project management.

This week I spoke to Pawel Brodzinski who has had a wide range of experiences within software project management and often writes entertainingly about them on his blog.

Q: Many people may already know you from your blog on software project management. Can you give us a brief summary of your career to date?

My career so far has been quite a mixture of different positions related to software development including both “rank and file” and management roles. I worked at every stage of the software development lifecycle before moving to management roles which I think gives me quite a unique background in the software industry. For a time I worked for a large company building from scratch a development and implementation team for a new ERP software product. Unfortunately I couldn’t stand corporate politics and decided to move to a small company where I took over the development and project management division. That company split up and I ended up as COO of a spin-off from it: Wind Mobile.

Q: What are you currently working on?

Apart from fire fighting on projects whenever needed I look after an ongoing process of rebuilding the technical team within the company. The original goal was to move the company from a “guerrilla” operating model on to something much more organized. Continue reading

Microsoft, Yahoo and Knowing Your Product

Jeff Staddon has commented in his post Microsoft’s Yahoo Blunder that Microsoft’s acquisition of Yahoo represents a poor investment. He points out that the fundamental business model of Microsoft (as a software vendor) is incompatible with the advertising based model that Yahoo is built on.

One cornerstone of your business model is understanding what you are selling. Microsoft sells software. Yahoo sells advertising. Another fundamental is knowing your end customer: who is the final buyer in the supply chain and how does your product get to them? Without understanding these two things everything you do, from sales through to ongoing support, will be weighed down by an uncertainty of purpose. Continue reading