Category Archives: Project Management Lessons Learned

Rainy days in projects – Project Manager CV Tips

Inspired by the never ending rain at the moment I have decided to share a really interesting piece of work a client has worked on and it ties nicely into PM CV tips, as it is a great example to talk about on the CV. I have spoken about how important it is to include project war stories in the CV as it adds another dimension to the document and really helps to demonstrate your management style. War stories are the bits about the projects which are often left out of the CV but they are important in demonstrating how you overcome major issues when delivering projects.

The story….

Sarah* is an Interim Project Manager who was tasked with implementing a data centre and quick reference application on all products for a large organisation. On arrival to the new assignment she found that the stakeholders were less than receptive to the change and being particularly difficult when it came to sharing information which they “held close to their hearts”.  It was these stakeholders who were the key to all the product information and as they had always held their own information in pocket books, they felt the information belonged to them and not the business. Sarah worked very closely with the stakeholders to gain buy-in through a number of means, such as one to one meetings and group workshops. She had to sell the change in a way which didn’t threaten the team but demonstrated just how useful it would be moving forward. Forming individual relationships and finding out personal “likes” etc Sarah managed to crack the core issue and was able to deliver a robust application which all the stakeholders finally agreed would be an asset and essential tool to cataloguing products.

You like coffee, yes

Now it would be easy to state in the CV that Sarah delivered on time and to budget blah blah blah, but knowing the issues she came up against and how she overcame them says a great deal to the reviewer of the CV. Therefore some subtle changes to the remit talking through difficult stakeholders and gaining buy-in, coupled with a strong, concise key achievement highlighted at the top of the CV, really brings so much more to the document.

As a former project manager, I know only too well that delivering projects isn’t always straight forward and it is the people skills and management style which can make the difference between a successful project and another statistic for a failure. When you are putting together your CV, always pause to think about the extra mile you go to achieve success.


*name changed for the purpose of the blog

Good Project Management – when things go bad

Over the years of managing projects and listening to others tell their tales of PM, by far the most interesting stories are those which contain elements of difficulty. This isn’t just because we all love to hear when the proverbial hits the fan for amusement, it is because we start to get a sense of unity and learn a lot by how issues have been overcome. It says lots about an individual and their professional style, bringing a different slant to the overused “on time and on budget” results.

Projects fail for a number of reasons, and how we react in the face of pending failure makes us who we are – this is something which is rarely recorded in a CV and probably one of the key elements which sets you apart from your peers in the field. Put yourself in the hiring managers’ shoes, if you are looking for a good project manager does this mean someone who has only ever had smooth running projects which have always been delivered on time and to budget or do you think you would look for a successful PM who has a portfolio of projects which have not all come to fruition? How many times have you been managing a project which has lost sight of the benefits or the benefits are no longer aligned to company strategy? Would you want a PM who can hold their hand up and push back on the sponsor to close it down to reduce cost impact? And on those key projects which have tangible benefits, but the scope is slipping – a PM who can recognise the signs and take action to bring it back on course through good management?

PM War StoriesI would be a little worried assigning a new PM who has never managed the tricky elements of project delivery to my valuable portfolio for these very reasons. When you are looking for a new position whether it be a promotion or a move into a new organisation you should think about what sets you apart from others and what actually makes you a good PM – the same goes for the support roles too, PMO professionals are empowered these days and the responsibility to ensure your programmes and projects succeed come down to how you engage with the delivery staff. Understanding the business objectives and identifying where bottlenecks occur is paramount to setting you apart from others. Talking about how you can analyse and apply solutions to the programme of work will not only highlight your professionalism but also work in your favour for moving up the career ladder.

By demonstrating your good management skills through dealing with the difficult aspects rather than merely focusing on success you will be presenting a good case for your prospective employer to interview you. Don’t be afraid to talk about it, embrace it and all the positive elements which go with it.

Stakeholder communications – lessons learned

Stakeholders play a huge role in projects and effective communication is key to success, working closely with the team to ensure we are all singing from the same song sheet.

So why do so many not talk about their stakeholders in their CV? Your CV is the first piece of communication a hiring manager sees from you, by omitting detail about arguably one of the most important aspects of your role from the CV you are selling yourself short.

Let’s take a look at the fundamentals of stakeholder engagement:

  • Establishing who your stakeholders are – once engaging in a new project it is important to understand who your stakeholders are and list them in order of importance to the project.
  • Create a communications plan – work with your stakeholders to schedule in regular contact, understand their other commitments and set up a style which fits with this.
  • Honesty – don’t hide major issues from your stakeholders, talk about them and provide tangible solutions. You aren’t doing anyone any favours by keeping them in the dark, being upfront but constructive is essential.


Adding this kind of detail alongside some context such as stakeholder locations, involvement and difficulties (yes we have all dealt with tricky customers), you can really start adding value to your CV. It is the anomalies and how you manage them which really start to set you apart from your peers in the field.

I have seen far too many CVs which place all the emphasis on the projects and none on how you work – yes, we want to know what the projects are but remember the CV is about you so we also want to see how you work. Simply listing a string of skills just doesn’t cut it with employers, actually adding in detail about what this means in your role is where you really add value. Forgetting the stakeholders is not giving the right impression and this is the first impression, so work on creating a CV which is inclusive and really tells the reader about you.

Council signs saying what we are all thinking – Friday snippet

Whilst walking the dog recently I came across a new sign in the cemetery – now it may not sound like the best place to walk the pooch but there is a rather lovely “outer” walkway which is very popular for dog walkers and families, a must for town centres! The sign is an official council notice, but rather than signs of times past which might state; “Dogs must be kept on leads at all times” and “£xxx fine for dog fouling” etc this sign says so much more. On reading it initially I thought, wow that can’t be official but I also completely agree with it. From factual to explaining why we should comply actually struck a chord with me – perhaps a new way of reasoning with those who consistently break the rules.

I am one of few responsible dog owners that always cleans up after my dog and always has him under control. I do “tut” a lot at owners who let their dogs run a mock over graves and do swear under my breath when I step into faeces (who doesn’t right!).

I can see this approach to tapping into people’s consciences to deter bad behaviour could really work. Similar to project communications – we are often told not to do this or must do that but how often is there an explanation for the reasons behind the “rules” in place?

I have worked with a fair few colleagues and stakeholders who didn’t want to rock the boat by pushing back on decision makers and asking why!?

As much as we encourage questions and expect them – it doesn’t usually happen that way, so why not take a different approach to working and talk about reasons / affects as much as you would benefits!