Reading Time: 2 minutes
My book review this month is on The Project Book: The Complete Guide to Consistently Delivering Great ProjectsWritten by Colin D. Ellis, the book was the Australian Business Book Awards – Best General Business Book Winner in 2020 and a Best Management And HR Book Finalist in 2020. It is chocked full of great tips and I will focus on five.
  • I’ve often written that most of us do the best we can on any given day, given the situation we are in. And I believe that to be generally true. We never know the other demands that those around us face in their own lives – whether it be chronic pain, mental health issues, or family demands. But there is a phenomenon called the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Students at Cornell University, David Dunning and Justin Kruger developed the research on this and published it in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 1999. The basic gist is that “incompetent people (their words) didn’t recognise their own lack of skills or the extent of it. Worse, they couldn’t recognise the skills that others had either.” (p. 14) This points to the need for smart hiring decisions, and proper coaching and training programs.

  • Ellis points out that it is easy to send people to certification courses but it doesn’t guarantee that your projects will be done on time or within the budget. You need to embrace a culture that is constantly striving for improvement.

  • Many, including me, have written about resilience and how to build resilience. I have talked about how leaders can assign tasks to people on the team that play to their strengths and/or interests. Ellis notes that when people are assigned more challenging tasks, it helps enhance their resilience. (p. 59) Yet, from my research into the work of neurology professor, Dr. George Bartzokis, the tasks need to be just challenging enough so that they can be accomplished with effort. If they are simply impossible dreams, that won’t work.

  • Ellis talks about the need for good listening skills and points to the work of Tanya Drollinger and Lucette Comer. In their work, they note that empathetic listening has three steps. Sensing – what else is being said or implied? Processing – write and think about what was said. Respond. Summarize what you heard them say and reflect on it. (p. 69)
  • When the business case for a project is developed, a critical piece is the benefits that the project is intended to produce. And yet, according to Ellis, “a KPMG survey of over 100 organisations in New Zealand found that only 21 per cent consistently achieve benefits from their projects.” (p. 171) I have written before on the importance of ensuring that projects will generate the planned benefits, but whose responsibility is that? Ellis argues that the project team must be ever cognizant to ensure that the planned benefits will be derived. And while he’s not wrong, I think it’s important to distinguish between the benefits that will be immediately recognized upon completion of the project and those that will emerge over time – such as better sales volume from a store relocation. For the latter category, a team needs to be in place to monitor those benefits in the longer-term – likely in the PMO (project management office).