Extreme Ownership

A really interesting and insightful video on ownership from a ex Navy Seal – Jocko Willink.

Extreme Ownership: In summary, people are not robots and sometimes they don’t do exactly what you say. So sometimes you have to lead and inspire to make things happen. And also without engaging with the team properly and the less input you get on planning; the higher chance it may not be successful.

So involve team members and get them to own their tasks and even the plan. By owning such things they are part of what is being done and should put more effort into it.


Stakeholder Management and Communication

I have been reading a book called Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari.

I can’t say I agree with everything that is said in the book, but it makes a lot of excellence points and one of the things that stood out for me is when it notes how groups of people such as tribes, armies and empires that rise to power are not always the most powerful or have the biggest armies.

These factors can be very important, but the key thing is simply the relationships, deals, negotiations and comprises that the group makes. This key to building success.

I think this very much applies in business and the relationships you build with your colleagues, team members and stakeholders. Obviously not with any murders or wars! But a key thing to bare in mind here is that communication is often regarded as a soft skill, but in fact it’s a very hard skill to master and also to do well regularly. But one of the key points to working with stakeholders or team members successfully is communicating with them well, confidently and building trust. If required a person should push him or herself to communicate with transperancy, and face to face where ever is possible.

You cannot be lazy or scared in doing this; as that is often one of the faults in communication. You must step out of the safe zones and speak to people in good and bad situations. Also being clear, concise and listening to what others have to say is very important.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Job Interviews: Part 7 (Key points for your CV or Resume)

Before getting to the interview you will (likely) have to send your CV or Resume. Below I have entered some key points for inclusion and consideration on your CV.

  • For one of the jobs that I got after a successful couple of interviews. The project director told me that I stood out because project management came across as a genuine interest for me and not just something to pay my bills. Regarding this you should include any extra curricular activities that relate to the role and show your interests in your chosen career.
  • These could include projects that you have done in your own time, building your own website, helping to put on an event, managing a youth group etc… Anything that you have actually done and have enjoyed doing.
  • Also put down any clubs or groups that you belong to, or that you manage in relation to project management, technology, agile scrum, etc… I used to help manage a digital project managers group through meeetup.com and this also stood out on my CV. If there are no such groups in your area, then start one on meetup.com or a similar website.
  • Create your own blog or website that demonstrates your interests and skills in IT or project management.
  • Obviously putting in your previous roles, skills and achievements is key. But if you are just starting out and struggling to find your first role. Then add some voluntary work or setup your own project in your own time – that could be anything that interests you and also put that on your CV or Resume (make sure though it sounds interesting and challenging to deliver).
  • Gaining extra qualifications is always going to be beneficial and will certainly never hurt, so look at courses in your chosen area of project management or IT. Such as Certified Scrum master, Agile courses or waterfall based courses such as Prince2 or PMP.

Job Interviews: Part 6 (Some specific examples)

Below are some specific examples of interview questions and also some possible responses. It would be great to hear any feedback or thoughts on these.

  1. Interview Question: An Ambiguous Client – what would you do?

1.0 Setup a workshop or meeting and discuss the matters at hand and a way forward.

1.1 Make the workshop as fun as possible. Keep it visual and prepare a structure for how it will work and what the deliverables from the workshop will be.

1.2 Lead and drive them forward to make decisions and to feel good about what is being or could be implemented. Paint a road map and try experimenting if only to move things forward.

1.3 Utilise the values that lies at the heart of all human beings. For example you want to deliver what is best for you and the firm. You want to deliver a great piece of work; that reflects well on all those involved so lets drive the project forward.

2. Interview Question: What would you do if the two senior members of staff disagreed on who a solution should be implemented and you had to get it delivered in a short time span.

2.0 Setup a meeting or workshop where they can sit down and discuss the issues.

2.1 Get them to agree a way forward. (Tell they can’t leave until they do, as long as the mood in the room is right and some humour is applicable!)

2.3 Remind them it is a business as well and that solutions come when ideas evolve by speaking to customers, internal or external, or the client.

2.4 Finally if necessary escalate with an even more senior member of staff.

3. How would you deal with a situation where you were told a website had to go live on a certain date, but shortly before this you were told by the dev team that it wasn’t going to happen in time.

3.1 I would talk to people. Then I would escalate the situation with my senior manager.

3.2 I would clearly communicate internally the issue to all that has arisen.

3.3 I would see what resources could be moved around to help resolve the issue.

3.4 I would also communicate with the client the possible risk. Not ideal, but it’s better that than saying it on the day. And I would want to be in a situation with the client already where I had a good working relationship and I had kept up good communication with them.

3.5 Finally I would look at an ad-hoc solution that would cover for a few days while the website was prepared. This would be in my “what-if” risk log already.

Job Interviews: Part 5 (Interview unknowns)

In an interview you can never really be sure of what you may be asked and what left field questions may come out of the blue.

This whole matter again relates back to your ability in dealing with complexity and unknowns. And a good calm approach to resolving a matter or question that you do not know is a key skill to have.

If you get asked a question that you are not completely sure of the answer to; then staying calm and concise and also showing your ability in dealing with the unknown is key.

  • Obviously you cannot possibly know everything about everything, and there is much more you don’t know then you do know. So again dealing with unknowns is a key skill and generally speaking humans should be far fonder of resolving a problem or question, rather than just finding an immediate solution.
  • Because problems are the challenges and they can came up all the time, as opposed to solutions which is what we seek as an end result. But an actual end solution is not the process or way for getting to that solution.

One of the ways in which I respond to a question I don’t know the answer to, or for that matter a issue I don’t know what the solution could be; is by making sure that I have a good network of people, resources, knowledge base and firms that I know, or know of, and that I am able to plug into (Linkedin, stack overflow and such online resources is one of the key ways I keep a network. And by getting to know everybody I am working with or who is a key contact at the firm where I work).

This way if I get asked a question I might stumble on I can confidently say that I have built and I am continuously building a network of subject matter experts and knowledge that can provide me answers to questions and matters that I am not sure of.

Job Interviews: Part 4 (Dealing with Stakeholders)

One of the key questions you will likely be asked if going for a project management type role is how you deal with stakeholders.

I have noted down some of the key details that I may respond with when asked this question.

  1. Good communication is key. Be confident, open and friendly, be happy to see them.
  2. Do not communicate with a stakeholder(s) just over email; if you drop a key stakeholder an email and you need a response; call them up by phone or message them on skype or what messenger is available. Ideally go and speak to them directly when and if you can.
  3. I often can get more done when I meet or talk to people face to face, and if I can I will always try and engage face to face with a stakeholder. As opposed to just using email which can isolate or distance people from yourself.
  4. Respect them, keep them involved and do not be afraid of getting a negative answer from them.
  5. Build a good relationship with them and talk of past experiences or anecdotes. People love talking about old stories or happenings and this one good way to bond with people and build trust.
  6. Finally trust is a sure fire way to be able to negotiate and resolve issues if and when they come up.

And also when in an interview use your real life examples or experiences. I am sure your recruiter will tell you this, or you will read about it in another article on interviews. This will obviously show your experience and that you are not just talking generically with pre-memorised answers.

Job Interviews: Part 3 (Project processes overview)

One of the standard questions I often get asked at job interviews is what is the project process I would follow for Agile or Waterfall. This is a pretty straight forward question to answer, but it’s interesting to hear from recruiters, or even those giving interviews of how some candidates can barely answer this.

The processes for project management I outline in an interview are below – obviously these are pretty common knowledge and you may want to change the wording. But this is at a high level what I will describe (some times changing the wording myself) if I am asked such a question in an interview around project management processes.

1.0 Stages of Project Planning (Waterfall like).

1.1 Conception / discovery.

1.2 Planning.

1.3 Monitoring / progress.

1.4 Delivery.

1.5 Closure.


2.0 Agile Scrum (Agile like).

2.1 Idea.

2.2 Pre planning Session.

2.3 Planning Session and estimation.

2.4 Product backlog creation.

2.5 Sprint planning and sprints.

2.6 Standups.

2.7 Retrospective.