Penny Pullan talks about writing A Short Guide to Facilitating Risk Management

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In this video I talk to Penny Pullan, co-author of A Short Guide to Facilitating Risk Management. If you prefer to read a transcript, that follows below. This was filmed on location at the PMI EMEA Congress in Dublin in 2011.

Elizabeth: Well, I’m here today with Penny Pullan who is the co-author of the new book “A Short Guide to Facilitating Risk Management”. So hello Penny, thanks for being here.

Penny Pullan: That’s all right! Good to see you.

Elizabeth: Tell us a little bit about the book.

Penny: Well, I wrote  the book with Ruth Murray-Webster who’s an expert in risk; the human side of risk and risk attitude. And when she met me and found out about the work that I do on facilitation, especially around risk workshops and also on working virtually, she could see that these two together would really fill a big hole that exists at the moment around risk; how to get people to engage with risks, and how do you get them to own the risk in their area.

There are an awful lot of organisations out there that have spent a fortune putting in lots of processes around risk, possibly even teams of risk specialists, probably buying in some sort of complex software to support risk processes and then they find to their horror that all of these, haven’t actually done anything. Maybe it hasn’t worked, maybe that money has been wasted. So how do you make risk management work when you’ve got these crises in there?

Elizabeth: So how did you find out what advice people needed?

Penny: What we did is we spent about a year talking to individuals, and also going to different organisations running different sessions. I did that with the APM, with the IIBA and various different groups of people who are actually working with risk and asked: “What are the issues that you have with risk management and getting risk management to work?”

In fact, one of the chapters of the book is about sixty different issues that came up, most of them came up many, many times, and the suggestions that we have for each of those.

Elizabeth: So what was it like doing the writing?

Penny: Well, coming up with the idea is easy. That took me not very long at all. We split the chapters. Some are from Ruth, some are mine. So I tended to get the ones that are around facilitation; the role of the facilitator, what is facilitation and how do you do it. I had everything mind-mapped out, I like mind-maps! So yes, that’s it – that’s what’s going to be in my chapter, and then I just needed to turn that into a written chapter.

I think I underestimated this ever so slightly – yes you’ve got a big grin.

Elizabeth: I’ve been there myself.

Penny: Then you know! I’m not quite as naïve an author as I was before doing this.

So some of the chapters went to revision 22. Since Ruth and I were working together, each revision was when it went to the other author. Being held to account  was quite good, it would then come back to me having gone around another layer.

I think it has certainly improved by going through all those different revisions.

Elizabeth: One of the unusual things about your book is that it’s got illustrations.

Penny: They’re fantastic.

Elizabeth: They are excellent illustrations. What was it like working with the graphics?

Penny: Well, we worked with Vanessa Randall, so they’re not done by me which is good. Vanessa is a brilliant graphic recorder. This is the first time she has done illustrations for books but I suspect it won’t be the last.

Elizabeth: Could you explain what graphic recorder does?

Penny: She will help people who are at conferences. For example, she did the International Project Management Day a couple of years ago. She pulled together all the ideas at the conference throughout the day and drew them up live on a huge piece of paper.

So for her, it has been a little bit of change to do pictures for a book but I think they really bring the book to life.

There’s one cartoon I particularly like which shows someone sticking their toe into a puddle with a shark’s fin sticking out of it, do you remember that one?

Elizabeth:  Yes.

Penny: It’s not a very complicated or serious book but it should be able to make quite a big difference. It’s very practical.

Elizabeth:  Great! Penny, thank you very much!

Penny: Thank you!