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Making the Most of Risk

31st July 2007,

How’s your weather been? So far, it’s been very wet and cold this summer where I live in Leicestershire, with widespread flooding not far away. I hope that you and your family and friends haven’t been affected.

Avoiding ‘Death by PowerPoint’

All this rain is quite a challenge for me when I’m travelling, as I like to use large pieces of paper for presentations. I choose not to show endless slides to people, as all too often the symptoms of ‘Death by Powerpoint’ appear. Glazed eyes, nodding heads and even people falling asleep! Do people present like this to you? It’s just boring, isn’t it? I prefer engaging people and providing lots of different ways for them to take in the information and to interact.

One tool that works well for me is using graphics on large paper to help people see what I mean. It’s powerful, and you *really* don’t need to be an artist. There’s a chance to learn this technique, see below…

Other great tools: short video clips can really focus people on the purpose (remember last time?). Another useful idea is involving the audience to provide some of the content of a presentation. Here’s an example:

What makes the best project managers stand out from the rest?

A few weeks ago, I asked around a hundred project managers a question at a conference:

“What makes the best project managers stand out from all the rest?”

A helium balloon floating high above a bunch of ordinary balloons inspired the group to think of their experiences of the very best. The project managers thought on their own, then they formed small groups and shared ideas. Then each group posted up their key messages on a large board. What were the results?


Well, almost all of the responses were so-called ‘soft skills’. These should probably be called ‘tough skills’ as they certainly aren’t ‘soft and fluffy’. They take time and effort to develop.  

Here are some of the words used to describe the best project managers:

  • influential  
  • courageous  
  • integrity  
  • empathy  
  • rapport  
  • vision  
  • ability to listen actively  
  • holistic  
  • experienced

and much much more! Let me know if you’d like to see the full picture – just hit ‘Reply’ and I’ll send it to you.

Many of these skills are key to managing relationships and engaging with people in the projects that you are working on. Project teams get together in project meetings and workshops, which is where relationships often need the most managing!


I suspect that the skills listed above, known by some as HOCs (Human and Organisational Competencies), are the key to *change*, which is what projects and programmes are all about.  

How does this apply to me?

Take a moment to think about: Who stands out from the rest in your projects? What is special about them and makes them shine? What first step can you take to build on your own strengths and stand out even more?

Have a great summer! Till next month… and hope to see you in Edinburgh!



Penny Pullan


Making Projects Work Ltd.


This month’s success stories from readers


People are getting results from applying my tips. I met several of you at the IIBA (International Institute for Business Analysis) in London. Here’s what I heard:


* One analyst is using short, focused  conference calls often rather than waiting for the next big, formal meeting. He’s getting more done as a result!


* Another told me how her team state meeting objectives upfront and stay ‘on purpose’. They are leaving meetings *early* as a result!


* The red and yellow card ideas are keeping meetings focused for other reader in local government

and, today I heard of a vicar whose committees no longer take formal minutes but they write up clear actions on flipcharts for all to see!


© 2007 Making Projects Work Ltd., All rights reserved. You are free to use material from this Making Projects Work newsletter in whole or in part, as long as you include this attribution, including a live web site link. Please also notify me where the material will appear.


“By Penny Pullan of Making Projects Work Ltd.”


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