Episode 347: Every Project Leader Needs a Project Plan (Free)
This episode is sponsored by The Agile PrepCast. PDU for PMP®:
This interview with Ron Black (www.linkedin.com/in/ronblack) is based on chapters two and three of his new book Leadership - The Everyday Superhero's Action Guide to Plan and Deliver High-Stakes Projects. Here is how Ron introduces the need for a project plan:
You're going to need a plan. No matter how urgent the moment may appear—stopping killer comet collisions, derailing evil tyrants from world domination, or dashing through security, grabbing a latte, and boarding your 5:31 AM flight in time to stow your roll-aboard in the last available space—you'll be more successful, more of the time, if you have a plan.Leadership by Ron Black
In our discussion, Ron and I will focus on introducing you to his "Super Power Points". These are poignant one-liners (i.e. "To finish faster, start a little slower") that he offers at the end of each chapter to summarize the message.
We review each of the 15 points from the opening chapters and Ron gives us his insights and recommendations that show why even the best project leader needs a plan.
Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome to Episode #347. This is The Project Management Podcast™ at www.pm-podcast.com and I'm Cornelius Fichtner. Thank you for listening in.
Before we start, I wanted to mention that we are listener-supported podcast. So if you enjoy our interviews then please visit www.pm-podcast.com/premium. Your subscription will help keep us going.
And now onto our topic which is "Every Project Leader Needs a Project Plan". Our interview is based on Ron Black's book "Leadership - The Everyday Superhero's Action Guide to Plan and Deliver High-Stakes Projects". And yes, he does indeed call those like you and me who work in project leadership superheroes and you will hear why very early in the discussion.
Ron has also given us one print copy and 9 electronic versions of his book to give away. The print version and 4 ebooks, they are for our premium subscribers and the other 5 ebooks, they are for everyone. So if you want to participate then please go to www.facebook.com/pmpodcast and look for the book giveaway announcement. I will repeat this again after the interview.
And now, put on your superhero cape and let's fly. Enjoy the interview.
Female voice: The Project Management Podcast’s feature Interview: Today with Ron Black, Author and Keynote speaker.
Cornelius Fichtner: Hello, Ron! Welcome to The Project Management Podcast™!
Ron Black: And hello, Cornelius! It's a delight to be here with you today.
Cornelius Fichtner: Well, thank you for joining us here. In our interview, we are going to do a review of some of the main points from your book: "Leadership - The Everyday Superhero's Action Guide to Plan and Deliver High-Stakes Projects". But before we get to that, would you please give us sort of the 10,000‑foot high level introduction to the book? What is it about and who did you write it for?
Ron Black: You know, Cornelius, it's clear to most of us who have been in this game of project management for any time at all that knowing the tools, the knowledge of project management methodologies is essential. And yet when I go out into the field and I see projects going on and sometimes you see that projects don’t always go as well as they could and I think that oftentimes, it is because there is perhaps a latent or a lack of leadership if you will in some cases or a resistance to step up and speak up at times.
When I wrote this book, this is my third book on project management, I really wanted to focus on how to use project management tools as tools of leadership to facilitate high levels of team work. So the 10,000-foot level is this book is dedicated to what I call everyday superheroes, people who lead projects, people who make tomorrow a better place by leading projects.
Cornelius Fichtner: Yeah and what's the story behind the cape, the superpowers, the superheroes, how did you come up with that?
Ron Black: I admit it's a little strange but then so am I. So alright! But honestly, you know when I look back on my life and my business career and in general, many of us have found our leadership skills by admiring people, by learning from others and I think that's the way I did as well. And when I crack it all the way back to where I got the beginning of this attitude, this notion, it actually tracks back to the top of my neighbor's garden shed when I was 8 or 9 years old.
A buddy of mine, Johnny, we were flying around the neighborhood as kids will do with towels wrapped around our necks and we were playing superman, you know superheroes. Life is an adventure when you are 8 years old and for most of us project managers, it still is, hence, the parallel. So Johnny and I found ourselves on top of this garden shed with no apparent way of getting down. It's easier to climb up than climb down. And then we were stuck and you know it didn’t take long and our mood soured. We were beginning to blame one another and things are looking pretty grim.
Ultimately, my buddy, Johnny, spontaneously gave us these few words of advice that honestly I cherish to this very day. He decided that there was one thing to do in this situation and that was to take action. So he backed up at the edge of the garden shed roof and he took as big, as fast and run as he could and he leaped into the air. Look, I thought for sure this would be the end of my buddy. But as he went by me, his last words was "Ronnie, trust your cape" as all superheroes must. And his youthful exuberance and if you will cavalier attitude, fortunately his bones bent rather than broke.
I expected to see this crumpled up kid on the side off the edge of the garden shed. But there he was. By the time I went over and looked over the edge and saw him, he was standing there and he looked like superman. He had his feet wide spread. His hands on his hips and his chest would tuck out. His chin was cocked over the side. He looked like a regular superhero. I'm pretty sure he felt like one too. And there I was still marooned so there I was. And you got to ask yourself whenever you are in a situation like that oh my gosh, what can I do? I had to follow the guy. So I left off the roof. I survived the tumble as well and we bounded on home.
This story did not stop. In fact, it has not stopped yet. Three years or 10 years later, he and I found ourselves outside the gates of Marine Corp Recruit Depot, right? And the last words Johnny gave to me as we shuffled off the bus to get on our yellow footprints and enter the gates of you know what, Johnny whispered to me over the din of all the shuffling and the noise of us getting off that bus and this crowd of young men. And he said: "Ronnie, trust your cape!" and that was the last thing Johnny said to me in 84 training days. It has come back to me time and time again. He stood up with me at my marriage, at my wedding, my best man. My bride comes down the aisle. This bonehead standing next to me looks over in my ear and giggles out loud: "Ronnie, trust your cape!" It's like "Common Johnny, good grief!"
But honestly this theme, this playful metaphor is kind of the universal truth, you know, that when we are in a situation that requires leadership, it requires a choice, yes. That's easy to analyze and that's easy to do the numbers and the risk. But what it also requires which is sometimes the most difficult part of it in my opinion is reaching deep down into our gut and being courageous and acting with courage choosing to put ourselves at risk, be it real or unreal, its perceived risk. And sometimes it's very real risk in our business. So trust your cape is a metaphor, the theme of the book and I try to relate to it and to the audience as I work with, the teams I work with, this playful metaphor that speaks a universal truth. So that's the story behind "Trust your cape." Honestly, like all good adventures, the story is not over yet. Every project I get into, it seems like there's an opportunity there…
Cornelius Fichtner: Trust the cape!
Ron Black: Trust the cape!
Cornelius Fichtner: Exactly! Alright, so what we want to do for the remainder of the interview here is we want to open up your book: Chapter 1 and Chapter 2, Everyday superpowers is Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 is Even superheroes need a plan and at the end of each chapter, you can summarize it into superpower points. I'm simply going to read all these points out to you and you can tell us what you mean with that.
Alright, so Chapter 1, Everyday superpowers and your super point there is: Sooner or later, every challenging project initiative or team assignment requires leadership.
Ron Black: I for one have never seen a perfect project and nor do I expect to see a perfect one. Something always happens. We never really can see the future as clearly as we'd like to. So there usually is a crock in every project or every initiative and sooner or later somebody has to make a hard choice, a hard decision. Somebody has to choose to stand up and speak up or speak truth the power. Sometimes push back to sponsors or stakeholders.
So those times, project management is not just a science. It's a skill. And there's the emotional energy that goes in to it. So my notion is that sooner or later all of us will have to make a choice that's probably not easy. It pushes us out of our comfort zone a little. Hence, leadership is required.
Cornelius Fichtner: The second super power point is the fact that leadership isn't a title, position or job description. Leadership is the choice to transform intentions into action. Tell us about that one.
Ron Black: You know, I think we all have our own notions and rightfully so of what leadership is and to define it. When you ask people what leadership is, you get a variety of answers. It's kind of like trying to define other important things like hope or charity or love or liberty. So what is leadership?
For me, it boils down to the courage to choose, to act, to take action when many won't or others don’t, to be the first to stand up and speak up. In my mind, choosing to move forward purposefully towards the results is what I use as my working definition of leaders.
Cornelius Fichtner: Yeah and that dovetails nicely into the third super power point that you have here. It goes like this: Everyday superheroes help others realize that they are more capable and resilient that they might otherwise believe. So this is not inward-looking. This is outward-looking right?