Category Archives: Project Management Books

APM Book Review: The Mentoring Manual, Julie Starr

Here is the full review for the Mentoring Manual published in APM’s Project magazine Summer 2015 edition:

Book title The Mentoring Manual

Author (s) Julie Starr

ISBN number 978-1-292-01789-1

Publisher Pearson Education Limited

Price £14.99

It makes you look at mentoring from a different angle – helping you recognise where existing relationships may already adopt the role of mentor, and how to distinguish mentoring from other relationships.
The book encourages you to take on the theory as you work through it, even if you don’t fully accept the concepts rather than re-engineering to enhance your own methods.
The book benefits project managers in that it has short exercises to practice which are easy to follow and not too time consuming – this helps the reader fully grasp the methods and can benefit from quick win scenarios (ideal for those working in busy environments). PMs ideally should be nurturing their teams and the book uses business scenarios which can be aligned to your current needs. The book takes a common sense approach to delivering and makes you think about how mentees might receive information, a trait I would say is required for a PM, however to have a refresh is always good practice. This would make an ideal beginner’s book for PMs new to mentoring and is ideal reference material to keep on the shelf to go back to as it doesn’t need to be read from start to finish in one go. The general theme is about working on relationships, therefore perfect for any PPM professional who could benefit from assistance in this area. Arguably it is the relationship management which harvests the best results within projects and programmes. It’s not PM specific, so it is also good for all management professionals, it is this generalist approach which does however feed well into any given scenario – as PM can be very diverse this lends itself well to the field.
There is a split between self help content and practical detail, the switch between the two makes for a different approach to this type of book.
You are encouraged to question your approach and as such this will shape your methods and management style in a positive way as it really tries to embrace how our actions are viewed from all angles.


Book Review: The Project Management Coaching Workbook, Susanne Madsen

This review features in the APM Project Magazine October 2013.

Project header

Book Title: The Project Management Coaching Workbook

Authors Name:  Susanne Madsen
Publisher:  Management Concept Press
List Price: £52.77
ISBN: 978-1-56726-357-2

Full review here:

Susanne Madsen,  a coach in the field of project management – has delivered projects for a number of years and now supports others in the project execution . The book is designed to work through what you want to achieve from your projects, provide insight and provoke thought processes to help you achieve your goals. It addresses common challenges faced, providing tools and approaches which can be adopted to engage with on projects with an aim to drive a more confident and effective delivery approach. Susanne combines these tools and approaches to guide you through the bigger picture of managing projects, considering team leadership, effective relationship building and attitude to managing projects.

I must say that on a whole this is a fantastic workbook, as it really considers vital elements of what needs to be considered throughout the project lifecycle. As this is written from a coaching perspective the first step which talks through what you want to achieve is great because it is written for you rather than a text book which has a rigid path of author stating XYZ. By making you think about what you wish to achieve and the type of PM you want to be it really plays on your experiences and makes you think about how you can improve all aspects of your style and approach.

Each section has tips for different aspects of PM for consideration which summarises and bullet statements which makes for easy following and quick referencing. There are also a number of exercises throughout each step with tables and sections to write in key information – this forms a great way to actually engage with the book and encourages you to actually reflect on practices and score yourself on various aspects.

As this is a workbook, it benefits all those in the project management delivery domain – it is great for the less experienced in that it is well structured and runs through a great deal of process and can be used as a training manual for constructive support. It is equally useful for the well seasoned project manager who is happy to review their practices and keen to ensure they have not fallen into bad habits. I would also recommend the use of this book for group sessions, gathering groups of PMs to work through each section in weekly workshops.

Susanne has clearly dealt with a great number of challenges in her career, whether they be personally or through coaching others. Her ability to grasp the various aspects and structure the book in a way which is not daunting but is interrogating strikes a very pleasing balance. I have read a number of coaching books and not found any to be as engaging or easy to use, the reason for this is a less formal but professional approach – this is the sign of an excellent coach who believes in what they do and will happily share their insights.

Secrets of powerful teams: Revealing ideas of NLP and the use of words

The ongoing challenges of creating the magical bond between team members in small and big endeavors can be elusive. What more, in the last few decades it has become increasingly challenging, since we have been moving from emphasis on social skills and communities to technical and managerial skills, as a result the lore concerning the magic of teams has been lost.

When I’m facilitating workshops for business professionals, project managers in software development, seminars for finance and IT professionals, consulting with marketing and supply chain experts, I am surprised to witness their low propensity for soft skills literacy. They know the hard aspects of what needs to be done, however they remain clueless when required to lead the teams that help them accomplish the required objectives.

As most of these teams are cross functional in a matrix organization, it is likely that the leaders and managers of these teams do not necessarily have direct hierarchical control over the team members. Requesting deliverables from the team members becomes challenging. Even when the managers do have hierarchical power, the contemporary concepts of empowerment and motivation prevail, making direct commands unpopular to say the least. Yet again requesting fulfillment of the objectives and deliverables becomes tricky. It is quite remarkable that simple concepts for creating positive interactions outside the business world are hardly ever used within business and project teams.

In order to lead through the challenges of both collocated and virtual teams we can use concepts from Neurolinguistic programming (NLP). It is a powerful technique with proven results.

We will explore only a fraction of what NLP is about, specifically several words that are used redundantly in almost each and every team interaction. These words are mostly negative, yet common in team interactions, create noise in the communication, confuse the message, and carry a baggage of ill-considered meanings.

The first word we will examine is – Try

The first word that is used quite often without understanding the implication is: Try.

For example: ‘we will try running this test next week’ or ‘please try to have the results by Wednesday’ or even ‘I tried really hard’.

To understand the issue with- try – view this link: .

Try – masks the intent and carries an element of implicit failure within the message. As Yoda said, you either do it or you don’t there is no try. Either you’re going to run the tests next week or you’re not going to run them next week. When you’re saying that: you are going to try to run them next week, most like you’re not going to do it. When I’m telling you: please try to have the results by Wednesday, I’m actually saying that it is fine that they’ll come in by Thursday or Friday or even next month.

Let us look at an email example written by Mark, a team leader:

We have indeed defined a way of work, but we also defined a process for completion of tasks, that we should try to stick to.

What is Mark saying? Did we define a process just so we should try to stick to it? Or did we define a process that we must stick to? By using try, Mark undermines his authority as a team leader; he defined a process so that the team members will follow it.

The abundant use of the word try in many teams, both co-located and virtual, is a sign of fear that both leaders and team members have of stepping up and asking for commitment and responsibility.

Bottom line – drop the TRY it does not add anything to the communication!

The second word we will examine is – Should

The second word that is used quite often without understanding the implication is: Should.

‘Should’ has a flavor of admonition, guilt, and manipulation, especially when other people are using it; by blurting out-loud a general statement with the word ‘should’.

For example: “you should always finish what you’re eating and never leave anything on the plate”. Also: “this should have been completed by now”. And yet another: “you should not get up before the manager has left”.

Let us look at a meeting, where Tina – a production lead, is saying:

Tina answers: “we should focus on production levels as this is what is driving the transfer to production, trust me I’ve been here and have seen these projects many times

In this case Tina is using ‘should’ to reprimand the team and also to have it her way by defining an imaginary rule and enforcing it upon the team. Actually what Tina is saying: “I want to focus on production levels”. Many times people use should instead of ‘I want’, this is the case with parents and children. The admonition of: “you should be nice” is actually saying: “I want you to be nice”.

Observe the power and direct impact of the second sentence as opposed to using ‘should’. People use the word should to mask their wish or need. Instead of directly stating what they want, they construct a stipulation without naming a person responsible for carrying it out.

In families we often hear such a ‘should’ sentence: “the lawn should be cut”. This is indirect communication that with time can create resentment. Actually the person would be better off asking directly what he wants to happen: “please can you cut the lawn now”, is a much better question. Notice that this question can lead into conflict as the other person might rebel and disagree. By using ‘should’ we are avoiding the conflict between our wishes and the other person’s wishes. The truth is that the conflict is not avoided; rather as the communication is not direct it is unclear what the person wants the other person to perform. The conflict thus is exacerbated and not mitigated. The extensive use of ‘should’ stipulations occurs in families, in couples, and naturally also in teams.

Monitor the ‘shoulds’ in your teams, they are barriers to effective communication and reduce the potential power of the team.

The third word we will examine is – Why

The third word that is used quite often without understanding the implication is: Why.

Why carries a sense of blame to it. for example: “why did you break the glass?” One can see that the usage of ‘why’ here is not about receiving an answer but more about rebuking for the actual breaking of the glass, since there is not a good answer for this question. A wisecrack answer might be: “because I like to see you get mad…” actually, it is just the right answer for a question with the word ‘why’ and often an answer we receive from teenagers for ‘WHY’ questions.

For example, at the same meeting, Ashley the project manager is answering:

Ashley tries to gain control back and asks Tina: “why do you think this is now relevant for our meeting? Let’s try to get back on our planned agenda!”

In this case Ashley is blaming Tina by asking her the question. Ashley would have been better off saying: “Tina, I would like to revert to our defined agenda, I think these are relevant issues for another meeting”.

The word ‘why’ carries guilt and finger-pointing into our team communications. It is better that we leave it out of our messages as it doesn’t have any positive impact on what we are saying. Rather it is clearer to state what we want to achieve or alternatively ask information gathering questions using the word ‘how’.

For example Ashley might ask: “Tina, can you please explain how these figures impact the transfer to operations?”

Notice that while ‘why’ structures a closed ended question, ‘how’ questions are open-ended and investigate as to the process that led to a certain consequence.

The ‘whys’ don’t contribute to clear communication instead they add guilt and finger-pointing, drop them!

Michael NirWant to learn more about the secrets and more NLP words? Six Secrets of Powerful Teams A practical guide to the magic of motivating and influencing teams (The Leadership Series) , available on Amazon

Find Michael’s other publications on:

Michael has been providing operational, organizational and management consulting and training for over 14 years. He is a certified project management professional and Gestalt process facilitator, offering training, consulting, and solutions development in project and product management, process improvement, leadership, and team building programs
Michael’s professional background includes a significant amount of work in the telecoms, hi-tech, software development, R&D environments and petrochemical & infrastructure business.

Best books on change management

Have you ever looked out for the numerous books that are available on the topic of change management? With such a wide range of options, how will one know which book to select and which one will be worth reading? Here are a few books that would be very worth your time.

Navigating Through Change‘Navigating Through Change’ is the title of one book written by Harry Woodward and Mary Becham Woodward. This book presents its readers with a guide to live through all periods of change that are specific to human issues. Woodward is a change management consultant to many big IT and medical firms. In this books, he also offers a detailed strategy for change management that you can apply to a number of situations to help get through change from the very first impact up to its lasting consequences. Harry Woodward has also written another popular book titled ‘Aftershock: Helping People Through Corporate Change’. This is a practical guide to help employees survive the painful process of change in the organization. It gives you different examples of change – such as technological innovation, new management and limited resources – and tells you how to survive in each particular situation. This book has been field tested and not only does it help employees but it also helps managers to develop crucial skills and strategies to deal with the employees’ reaction to change.
Managing TransitionsAnother business consultant became the author of a book named ‘Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change’. In this book, William Bridges attacks that area of change which people not only avoid, but do not even recognize. This area is the human side of change. This book addresses both employees as well as managers in the business world today who are well aware that change is required to improve the performance of a business. William Bridges herewith emphasizes on the fact that it is humans who are responsible for making the change happen.


Leading Change‘Leading Change’ is one book written by John. P. Kotter that gives another view on change management. His main thesis of the book is that the reason why strategies for change often fail is because the changes do not really alter the behavior of humans. In this book Kotter points out the most common mistakes that effect change and he also provides steps for overcoming such obstacles. The process of these steps includes analyzing competition and thereby creating a sense of urgency and the identification of potential crisis. In addition to this book, John Kotter has authored another well read book titled ‘Force for Change: How Leadership Differs from Management’. Here, he not only addresses the issue of change, but also how change management is closely associated with leadership and management differences.

The books mentioned above are all dealing with different aspects of change. Therefore, deciding to read these few books is guaranteed to give you an overall perspective of the issues of change management and how employees as well as managers should deal with change.

About the author: Eric Lewis is an experienced blogger in various fields. He loves writing articles about translation services and books. Follow him on Google+.