The APM Podcast
How to be a great project leader

How to be a great project leader

November 6, 2020

In this episode, our topic is how to be a great project leader. We pin down exactly what it means to lead a project and how this role is evolving to reflect the changing nature of projects and obviously in 2020, the pressures of the Covid pandemic. In this podcast, host Emma De Vita, editor of Project journal, asks how a project leader needs to behave to be highly effective, and what mindset you need to thrive in this role.

 

APM’s 7th edition of its Body of Knowledge defines project leadership as: providing vision, direction, feedback and support so people can do their best work. And to do this in an environment of change and uncertainty. Project leadership is usually performed with limits on a project leader’s power requiring them to adopt a style that builds team and wider stakeholder commitment.

 

Our panel discusses in-depth what this definition means in practice, giving lots of advice on how you can become a better project leader, particularly during these challenging times.

 

On the panel are:

  • Gordon MacKay, project management capability lead at Sellafield and author of a forthcoming book on project leadership for APM.
  • Mike Bourne, professor of business performance, action, execution and implementation at Cranfield School of Management.
  • Claire Fryer, director of behavioural management and executive coach at Costain.
Project Innovators – Matthew Moran, The Open University

Project Innovators – Matthew Moran, The Open University

October 16, 2020

In the ‘Project Innovators’ season of podcasts, Project journal editor Emma De Vita is speaking to project professionals who are leading projects in an innovative way at a time when many of us are hoping the world of work and projects can be reset for a post-COVID-19 world.

In this episode she speaks to Matthew Moran, Head of Transformation at The Open University, and occasional lecturer in the OU Business School. Matthew is one of the educators on the ‘Project Management: Beyond the Basics’ course on FutureLearn, a collaboration between the OU and APM. He is also an advisor and consultant to a number of education institutions and edtech startups and companies. 

Matthew is writing a book on hybrid project management for APM, aiming to help project managers to do hybrid better. Instead of being irreconcilable opposites, he argues that project managers need both linear and agile for projects of any degree of complexity – and that the best results are achieved when we acknowledge the need for both, and when we aim to get the best of both (by understanding and making trade-offs between the upsides and downsides of each).

Project Innovators – Caroline Raynor, Costain

Project Innovators – Caroline Raynor, Costain

October 2, 2020

In the ‘Project Innovators season of podcasts, Project journal editor Emma De Vita will be speaking to project professionals who are leading projects in an innovative way at a time when many of us are hoping the world of work and projects can be reset in a better way for a post-COVID-19 world. 

In episode one, we meet Caroline Raynor, project manager and principal archaeologist for the Costain Skanska JV, who designed and led the Saint James’s Gardens excavation in London's Euston as part of work for HS2s London terminus. It is the largest archaeological excavation of a burial ground in Europe, and HS2 as a whole is probably the largest programme of archaeological works driven by a single project in recent times. 

Caroline has pulled off an amazing feat in that she not only borrowed lean principles from the world of manufacturing, but also actively encouraged a far more gender-balanced project than the norm, with a 43 per cent female demographic on-site. Emma spoke to Caroline at the end of September just as the BBC's Britain’s Biggest Dig series began airing – the first episode of which was all about the Saint Jamess dig. Catch it on iPlayer. 

VUCA, hybrid and adaptability: reflections on BoK7

VUCA, hybrid and adaptability: reflections on BoK7

September 8, 2020

In this episode, our topic is the APM Body of Knowledge. The seventh edition of this core text for the profession was published in 2019. One year on, the book’s co-editors – Dr Ruth Murray-Webster and Professor Darren Dalcher – co-host an episode that reflects on the changes and updates made to the seventh edition.

They discuss the considerable challenges and responsibilities of updating what they describe as a “foundational knowledge document” for the profession. They consider the background and context to BoK7, the significant changes it introduced and the future of project-based management in an uncertain world.

Ruth and Darren have written about their belief that a chartered profession does not require black and white ‘rules’. Instead it needs reflective professionals who can think about and devise ways to navigate a messy context in a nuanced way.

Listen now to take a deep dive into the fundamentals of the project profession in 2020 and beyond.

The Golden Thread: recognising the contribution of project management

The Golden Thread: recognising the contribution of project management

August 25, 2020

This episode explores the findings from The Golden Thread, a research series by APM and PwC. The first Golden Thread paper was commissioned to throw light on a profession that has been hidden and undervalued for too long, and to prove that the size of the project profession in the UK is significant and growing. Two follow-up reports focused on fast-growth sectors for project management (including health, pharma and life sciences, SMEs, and charities) and regional hubs, including the Northern Powerhouse, the Heathrow Corridor and Cambridge’s Silicon Fen.

In this podcast, host Emma De Vita (editor, Project journal) asks: what’s the big-picture take on project management in the UK? Is the profession given the serious recognition it deserves? And what does the future hold for project management amid the ongoing global pandemic?

On the panel are:

  • David Thomson, head of external affairs at APM.
  • Andrew Edkins, professor of the management of complex projects and former director of the Bartlett Real Estate Institute at UCL (Andrew was also on the Golden Thread academic advisory panel).
  • Tony Mulvahil, a consultant, coach, trainer and educator for project managers in the world of SMEs, and case study participant for The Golden Thread. His consultancy is called Planning for the Best.
Crisis Talks – Joanna Rowland, HMRC

Crisis Talks – Joanna Rowland, HMRC

August 10, 2020

In the Crisis Talks season of podcasts, Project journal editor Emma De Vita asks project professionals to share their stories of managing, adapting and pivoting their projects through lockdown and now as restrictions are eased.

In this episode we meet Joanna Rowland, director of HMRC’s COVID-19 Response Unit, responsible for the department’s strategic approach to the pandemic. Joanna is the senior responsible officer in charge of delivering the chancellor’s flagship economic interventions, the Job Retention and Self Employment Income Support schemes, as well as the new Eat Out to Help Out and Job Retention Bonus schemes. Joanna is also the head of the project delivery profession for HMRC and a Fellow of APM.

She has been at the heart of the government’s response to the pandemic, so it was a privilege to get some time with her and ask her what it’s been like to be in the thick of it. Read more from Joanna in the upcoming autumn 2020 edition of the Project journal.

Crisis Talks – Andrew Higson, Balvac

Crisis Talks – Andrew Higson, Balvac

July 27, 2020

In the Crisis Talks season of podcasts, Project journal editor Emma De Vita asks project professionals to share their stories of managing, adapting and pivoting their projects through lockdown and now during this next phase as restrictions are eased.

In this episode we meet Andrew Higson, a project manager at Balvac, part of the Balfour Beatty Group, which is a specialist in the repair, strengthening, refurbishment and protection of buildings and civil structures.

Andrew manages the successful delivery of infrastructure projects. His current project – Palatine Road – is being undertaken on behalf of Highways England. It involves significant temporary propping to facilitate critical repairs to 15 piers, which carry both carriageways of the M60 across the River Mersey in Greater Manchester.

Andrew is also a keen mountaineer and founder of the Black Dog Outdoors mental health charity, which promotes the benefits of outdoor recreation for mental wellbeing. He explains why now, more than ever, it’s important to spend time in nature.

 

Crisis Talks – Paul Hilton, Mott MacDonald

Crisis Talks – Paul Hilton, Mott MacDonald

July 13, 2020

Our Crisis Talks series explores how project managers are adapting and pivoting to meet the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this episode, Emma De Vita (editor of APM’s Project journal) speaks to Paul Hilton, programme director at global engineering, management and development company Mott MacDonald.

Paul lives in Singapore and oversees the delivery of 13 Future Cities projects across nine cities in six countries in South-East Asia. The programme aims to promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all. It prioritises the needs of girls, women and the most excluded people in these communities and is aligned to the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Paul began work on the programme when it kicked off in 2019, and has carried on leading it through the COVID-19 crisis while Singapore has been in lockdown and his local teams in the Philippines, Myanmar, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia have been contending with the pandemic. The 13 projects range from a smart ticketing transport system in Ho Chi Minh City to an earthquake and tsunami warning system in Surabaya. Paul tells me about the challenges of managing the programme as the world heads towards a new normal, and how being an expat has made him more resilient to the trials of the COVID-19 crisis.

Crisis Talks – Hannah Gledhill, Hotel Chocolat

Crisis Talks – Hannah Gledhill, Hotel Chocolat

June 29, 2020

Our Crisis Talks series explores how project managers are adapting and pivoting to meet the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this episode, Emma De Vita (editor of APM’s Project journal) speaks to Hannah Gledhill, senior project manager at Hotel Chocolat.

The British chocolatier has small project team focused primarily on product development. Just prior to lockdown, it had begun a process of transformation, working closely with the Kaizen Institute to foster a culture of continuous improvement and greater efficiency.

That commitment to transformation has continued throughout lockdown, despite the mounting challenges, as Hannah explains. Hotel Chocolat experienced the same initial challenges as many businesses – unfamiliarity with virtual technology and practices, and a period of uncertainty around which projects would be affected and how.

However, as Hannah explains, the team was already geared up to go through “an element of pain” as it kick-started the Kaizen transformation to become a slicker operation. They hadn’t bargained on a pandemic, perhaps, but the period of uncertainty has provided a test of their new culture.

Listen now to hear how Hannah and her team emerged from the initial crisis management phase and kept the nation happy in lockdown through the medium of chocolate.

Crisis Talks – Sonia Sharma, Channel 4

Crisis Talks – Sonia Sharma, Channel 4

June 15, 2020

Our Crisis Talks series explores how project managers are adapting and pivoting to meet the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this episode, Emma De Vita (editor of APM’s Project journal) speaks to Sonia Sharma, head of planning and corporate PMO at Channel 4.

Sonia explains the challenges of working within an organisation of low project management maturity, where staff are sometimes resistant to the structures and governance she is trying to implement.

Prior to lockdown, Sonia had been working on building up the enterprise PMO, while in February Channel 4 had kick-started a significant transformation programme. When COVID-19 hit, the organisation experienced a “chaotic” few weeks, with staff unsure how to react. The wider picture for the broadcaster looked challenging, with major events such as the Paralympics postponed, leaving Channel 4 facing a revenue hit and the task of rescheduling through the summer.

After a difficult few weeks, Sonia found that staff managed to adapt effectively to new ways of working. She relates how her team approached the prioritisation of their portfolio, a shift in the pace of work, the challenges of a virtual workforce, and more.

Through the crisis, Sonia has kept a focus on achieving a lean state and maintaining it at the broadcaster, with senior executives growing in their awareness of the importance of project management.

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