Book review: Everything is a Project

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“Projects are the mechanism we use to move our departments forward one step at a time,” writes Ben Snyder, CEO of Systemation, in his book, Everything is a Project. He continues:

“Projects are what we use to execute our initiatives in chunks, make our products better, organise our efforts, and turn ‘what could be’ into ‘what is’. In reality, everything is a project. Some are big. Some are small. Some require a lot of process and discipline, while others can be handled on the fly. There’s a very specific set of skills and processes that are required to get work done through projects effectively and consistently.”

Everything is a project? Really? Snyder defines a project as “a temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product or service.” With that definition many things will fall into the ‘project’ bucket, but not everything, surely. Snyder confessed in an interview for A Girl’s Guide to Project Management earlier this year that he doesn’t think everything is a project after all.

Despite that, this is an interesting book. It’s made up of 70 lessons on project management inspired by Snyder’s work with his clients over the years. The format works. It is bite-sized chunks of straight-talking advice, like never care about your project more than your sponsor does.

3 traits of people who make thing happen

In one of the sections Snyder talks about the three traits of people who make thing happen. They are:

  • Be likeable. People do business with people they like. Pay attention to how people respond to you and moderate your behaviour accordingly.
  • Be generous. Do favours for people. It pays back.
  • Be a master of leverage. This means seeing the bigger picture and finding small points of negotiation to create positive outcomes for all concerned.

I think this last point needs a bit more explaining so here is the example from the book (paraphrased).

Linda needed a keynote speaker for an event at short notice. She called Marcia and asked her to speak. Linda was on the organising committee of a conference Marcia wanted to attend, and Linda said that if Marcia was available to speak, she would arrange for Marcia to be invited to the conference. Despite having a holiday booked, Marcia said she could be the keynote speaker. Some might call it bargaining, but it gets things done.

Plan well and reward good planning

“The proper way to approach a project is to first determine the level of certainty required, then let the level of effort be determined as a result,” writes Snyder. This is a great way to begin planning, assuming your project organisation and sponsor buy into it.

If they do, perhaps you work in a company that frowns on heroism. “Great organisations reward prevention,” Snyder writes. In other words, there is something wrong with organisations that reward firefighting and project heroism – running around trying to sort a project out when it should have been planned and managed properly from the beginning. Yes, sometimes projects need rescuing but this should be the exception, not the rule. Companies that overly reward heroes at the expense of project managers who don’t let their projects go red in the first place have their priorities wrong.

Everything is a Project has some general business and leadership advice mixed in with the project anecdotes. It’s good to remind yourself of this type of thing from time to time.

I’ll give the last word to Snyder:

“Know the importance of your project, determine the certainty needed, get the right project manager, have them predict the end result, and expend the required effort to bring it to a reality. That’s the pathway to project success.”

Want to read Lesson 67: What’s the Profile of a Good Project Manager? It appeared on A Girl’s Guide to Project Management in April. Click here to read it.

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