There are very few mentors who achieve eternal glory in the hearts and minds of their pupil. Ron Rosenhead is one of them. Ron Rosenhead is a very popular project management consultant, trainer and speaker. He is the co-author of the book “Strategies for Project Sponsorship” and has also written an eBook ‘Deliver That Project’. He is the Chief Executive of Project Agency and has more than 20 years of experience in the field. Let’s start his interview without any further delay.
TaskQue: First of all, tell us how you started your career? What was the real attraction which led you to the world of project management?
Ron Rosenhead: Well let’s start by thanking you for inviting me along to answer your questions.
I got into project management in a strange way. I was the head of training for a large organization. They were going through massive change and much of my work was supporting people to deliver these changes through organizing briefing sessions, training and coaching senior managers alongside managing the massive changes this brought to the training function.
Then one day a person knocked on my door and asked a question that completely changed the direction of my career: Have you got a few minutes…?
This person had been given a large piece of work (his words) and they did not know how to do it. I found out that others had the same issue and ran a workshop. I called this work organization and planning! Essentially this was the forerunner to project management training. This was before PRINCE2 and there was no training I could organize other than that I ran. The focus was on the professionals who had no prior experience of interacting with projects managers, solicitors, accountants etc.
This gap in the market was the one I realized I needed to fill and in 1990 I started the Project Agency.
TaskQue: Tell us about your company “Project Agency”. What is its Moto? What are the mediums through which they operate?
Ron Rosenhead: Moto: “Project Agency works with companies to increase the probability of project management success by running a range of workshops, training courses and public speaking. There is often a confusion what to do when a person is given a project which is where we come in with very practical solutions.”
We work across sectors and focus on the professionals e.g. the accountant, marketer, IT specialist. We have worked with most professional groups.
In 2013, I co-wrote Strategies for Project Sponsorship and much of my time is taken up with promoting the value of having engaged and active sponsors – again through workshops, training and public speaking.
Over the last few years, we have worked in the engineering sector, IT, University and automotive sectors.
TaskQue: You are a very famous project management trainer. How important is training for an already certified project manager?
Ron Rosenhead: The world does not stand still and this means we need (no matter what profession we are in) to keep abreast of all these changes. Even if you are certified, this is only one way of developing further knowledge and skills.
I believe we should be investing more (time and money) in training – I always have! But training is only as good as its application and managers need to ensure that real value is gained from any development activity by getting any staff member who receives training to apply the learning to the job!
TaskQue: Among all the project management knowledge areas, which one you think plays the most crucial role in the success of a project?
Ron Rosenhead: I feel interpersonal skills is a key skill, all involved in project management and still need to be developed further.
Let me give you an example of what I mean. Several years ago I ran a project management event in Geneva. I introduced the idea of further developing our interpersonal skills. This was a course that involved project management skills as well as the softer people skills.
When I switched from the ‘hard’ project management areas to ‘soft’ interpersonal skills there was an interesting reaction. I told the group that they were really engaged and had a lot of discussions and asked a lot of questions about me and each other. When I introduced interpersonal skills the group was really quiet; almost suspicious of me! Then, one person said that he had been criticized by his team for his lack of listening skills (we were going to do a listening activity about 40 minutes from this point). The rest of the room could hardly believe this and quizzed him about this. He said to them that this degraded him to a huge extent when he was told this and now spend much time in developing his listening skills.
He turned the group and after that, they were much more engaged and actively participated in all of the soft skills activities.
TaskQue: You are a seasoned project management consultant. What would you like to advise young project managers?
- Get as much experience as you can
- Attach yourself to an experienced project manager
- Develop and further develop your people skills (projects are delivered by people, not processes)
- Volunteer to be part of a project team on something outside your normal skills area
- Be yourself and professional at all times
- Learn how to say no – see point 3 above
- Develop your wider skills base to include presentation skills, strategy development, leadership/management skills, financial management skills to name a few
- Use the internet to find out as much as you can about project management and what is going on in the PM community
- Write your own blog on project management – this will be a new thing for some of your readers and may give them a new information!
TaskQue: Regarding scope management, in your opinion what are the most common lapses that project managers commit?
Ron Rosenhead: I feel projects are often started without a full understanding of the project scope. I ran a one-day refresher program for a client and I sent out a questionnaire to those attending to check their needs in more detail. Poor scope management was mentioned as an issue.
What is needed is what I call the ‘false start’. By this I mean hold a kick-off workshop, develop the business case and scope and before formal sign off, work with it for a week or two and then firm up on the scope. This will overcome the issue of a stakeholder not being able to articulate what is needed.
I have one suggestion that was made on a course a few years ago. A company recognized that scope creep was a key risk to all projects. They introduced ‘scope freeze’. This meant no project scope could be changed without the person who wanted to change the scope; talking to the sponsor, project managers and key stakeholders. If there was a general consensus that this was a good change to the scope then the person requesting the change had to organise a meeting where all the key people would attend. At that meeting, the person had to present his case, make the change and if everyone agreed, then change the scope.
The company reported that scope management was much better managed this way and actually brought people together by having a clear vision for all to follow.
TaskQue: Share your experiences when it comes to IT project managers. Do you have any words of wisdom would you like to share with them?
Ron Rosenhead: I suggest that IT staff should look at the answer to question 5 as a starter. That will help!
In my company, many people have worked with many different professional groups in many different sectors, including IT. My advice would be to really develop knowledge about the organization you work in. IT project managers are in a central position – they cover the whole organization and need to understand a lot about how one part of the business works as opposed to another.
Why? As you work on different IT projects, you can build on the experience and learn new things for other upcoming projects.
TaskQue: You have been working in project management community for more than two decades. Can you please name few people who have been the source of inspiration and motivation for you?
Ron Rosenhead: My wife Sue! She says she knows very little about project management however she has raised 2 great children while managing the home really well and managing me – dashing off to all points North, South, East and West. She is a real source of inspiration!
Other people include:
The Tao of Project Management
Like many people I have dipped in and out of various blog sites, articles and books. There are so many inspirational people out there doing great things and we all need to discover who works for us!
TaskQue: Which conferences or events have you attended? Would you like to share some of the great experiences that you had at those events?
Ron Rosenhead: I mainly speak at conferences these days (about project sponsorship) and I have just returned from a great conference here in the UK. This was organized by Universities and Colleges Information Systems Association. Two of their groups, Corporate Information Systems Group (CISG) is partnering with its sister group, Project and Change Management Group (PCMG) held a conference in Brighton.
The delegates were motivated, keen to learn and shared a lot. I have been to other conferences where this is not the case!
TaskQue: Apart from your professional life, what are your interests and hobbies?
Ron Rosenhead: Family is a big thing in my life. I have family in Leeds (200 miles away) as well as spread over London where I am now based.
I am a life-long supporter of Leeds Rhinos (Rugby League) though sadly do not get too many games as I am too far away. In addition, I do like eating out!
I recently took up Nordic Walking and I really do enjoy it. Indeed, I wrote a blog posting about one of my ventures – http://bit.ly/2h5bKOM
Cinema, being with friends, reading, walking, swimming are all on the list and I do try and balance all of these alongside meditating which I need to pick up again.
TaskQue: Nobody can deny the importance of project management software in large projects. TaskQue is an online task management software which enables you to prioritize, monitor and assign tasks to your team members. What are your reviews about that?
Ron Rosenhead: I do not think you will like the answer here…
My main concern is not software. This is NOT anything against TaskQue, my task is to ensure people have the knowledge and skills so they can use the software.
I have had too many people say after a course thank you; I think I can now use the software. What has happened within companies is that they sometimes purchase software without training staff in how to deliver projects. The training for the software may be intuitive or it may be classroom based or online, but the basic question, how do you deliver project management skills, is often omitted. For this reason, I try and steer clear of recommending a specific software solution.
I did say you would not like the answer!