Amateur Theatre and Project Management

I occasionally do amateur/community theatre. That’s a great example of people collaborating for a common purpose and demonstrates project management that makes the best of people, materials, time and working space.

  • The cast and director (the project team) assemble two to three months before the production date (typically a booking for a week to include technical setup, dress rehearsal and 3-4 days performance days)
  • The logistics of hall booking, sound equipment, advertising etc. are managed to that date.
  • As the team develops, they learn each others strengths and weaknesses and bond as a team committed to putting on the best performance that they can on the agreed date. If that means late nights rehearsing, learning lines on the train or while out on a run, then that gets done.
  • The motivation is intrinsic and guided by the script and directors vision of how the play will be performed. All members of the cast may add their own ideas and interpretations, so that the production is a collaboration.
  • The cast use their creativity and research to interpret and make their characters ‘real’. When they finally perform, success and applause brings them to the higher levels of Maslow’s Hierachy – self esteem and self actualisng.
  • Customer feedback, applause, laughter or stony silence is immediate.

During performance, things will go wrong. Props don’t work or are not on stage. Actors may miss lines or cues or even forget to appear. All sorts of unpredictable things can and do happen. But often the audience will not be aware of this as problems are solved immediately and creatively. It’s team work that delivers this – and everyone in the production, from those on stage, to backstage crew and program sellers etc is a vital cog in the mechanism. It’s a long way from PRINCE 2 and it’s fun!


Let General Stanley McChrystal Explain Why Adaptability Trumps Hierarchy

Agile working was being used 70 years ago by Lockheed Skunk Works and by the Venetian Arsenal in 15th century Italy. It has now been defined as a methodology. However I believe that agile working is more than a methodology. It’s a way of working that a traditional, command and control, company cannot quickly achieve by just sending people on agile working training and then applying a step-by-step approach to ‘being agile’.

True agile working is achieved by high capability individuals working to a common cause, and finding creative and adaptable solutions to problems.

This article, Let General Stanley McChrystal Explain Why Adaptability Trumps Hierarchy, contrasts the approach of the surgical team of Drs Caterson and Carty, where adaptability is part of their world (“Operations are unpredictable. You always have to adapt.” Dr Matthew Carty) and that of General Motors where command and control working, information silos and politics resulted in a ten-year delay in fixing a fatal ignition switch problem which killed at least 13 people.

Traditional top-down structures sustain a hierarchy but limit adaptability. In contrast, adaptive small teams operate as a network based on shared skills, knowledge, beliefs and common objectives.

Equation for Change

This Equation for Change was posted on Linkedin a couple of years ago.  The image quality was poor so I’ve redrawn it.  I have not been able to find the original source but credit to them for a simple and effective checklist for managing organisational change.  You can download a pdf version here


Books I recommend


This is a very practical book on how to manage virtual teams across time zones and cultures.

This is an excellent example of how a failing organisation, the USS Benfold,  became seen as the best ship in the Navy.  Captain Abrashoff did this  by inspiring the people under him to achieve their best.   The lessons within this book apply to any organisation.

Our common image of the jester comes from paintings of mediaeval courts, Shakespeare’s plays or a pack of playing cards.  The jester was generally a man, although there were some female jesters.  They  were quick witted, accomplished entertainers who played instruments, juggled, told jokes, did acrobatics and tricks.  They did more than entertain, they also poked fun at pomposity.  The fool would be a valuable addition to most organisations.

David Firth’s book is enjoyable and informative.

An interesting book (and associated website) that defines thirty four themes or talents.  By taking an online test, your top five themes are provided.  The driving philosophy is to identify and develop your strengths rather than struggle with your weaknesses.  Makes sense to me!

Here are my top five themes:

1. Strategic
2. Ideation
3. Self-Assurance
4. Futuristic
5. Learner


Although this is called a handbook, at over 800 papers you would need very big hands! However this is a comprehensive reference to the 6 Sigma methodology, suitable everybody from Green belt to black belt.

With over 100 symbols in BPMN V2.0, process maps can be unintelligible unless their creation is guided by a simple structure. Bruce Silver’s approach is for level I with an abbreviated symbol set suitable for business use and level II with an extended symbol set for IT implementation. This is a logical way of working but may not be obvious to beginners in process modelling.

The Lean Six Sigma pocketbook is a well written and practical guide to the six Sigma toolset.   It’s worth keeping a copy in your briefcase.

 This book shows how to  how to  use simple sketches to share ideas and solve problems. No drawing skill is needed.

 This book, edited by Dr Penny Pullan and James Archer  is a very useful addition to the professional business analysts library.  Business analysis  can result in organisational change, not just implementation of yet another IT system. Influencing change is what this book addresses.

One of the must have books if you are interested in Toyota’s approach to business process improvement. 

 I wrote this guide,  at the time £0.77 was the cheapest that I could sell it for.  It would be free if I knew how to adjust the price. 

Organisational Change & Insight

The Business Analysis Body of Knowledge is now in it’s third edition and was published by the IIBA in April 2015.   At over 500 pages, it’s a large book but is an excellent reference guide for the international business analysis professional.
 There is (in my opinion) a lot of rubbish circulating about agile working. It seems to become one of today’s fads which is not really understood. However it’s not anything new and if you want an example of agile working as a philosophy and a way of producing technological advances at an unbelievable rate,  I recommend Skunk Works. Lockheed Skunk Works developed the U2 spy plane, the SR 17 blackbird and many other aircraft were so advanced that they were often mistaken for UFOs!

 This is one of Tom Peters first books, and in my opinion the best. I bought my first copy nearly 20 years ago when studying for a Masters in Manufacturing Systems Engineering. Chaotic organisations still abound today and the messages in this book remain relevant.

 Clearly written and immediately useful, this is one of the first books that I bought on becoming an independent consultant.

 This is the book that started the Total Quality Movement, which in turn kicked off the Sis Sigma Methodolgoy.  This is when people woke up to the fact that Japanese manufacturing was not competing on cost alone, but on quality, efficiency and reliability.

 Right brain thinking and creativity is not just for artists and ‘creatives’.  It’s a serious business tool that can uncover solutions and opportunities invisible to linear thought.

 Provides a graphical approach to business model generation and analysis which is useful for both consulting and developing your own business. There’s also an accompanying iPad app.

 I use mind mapping a lot.  I find it works well for me in understanding and breaking down complexity and for revision.  This book is a good introduction to mind mapping.  My favourite mind mapping tool is free – it’s Freemind which you can download it from SourceForge by clicking on this link   as it’s written in Java, ic works on Android, Mac OS and Windows.

 This book shines a light into the sometimes murky and unscrupulous world of management consultancy.   If you are a consultant or if you use consultants, the book will give you some ‘Aha’ moments.


 This is book describes effective schemes for producing jokes.  Written by Sally Holloway, a successful comedian and writer, it’s worth every penny if you need to create a humorous speech or even want to try standup.  I bought it in a hurry after agreeing to compete in the humorous speech category in a competition arranged by my local Toastmasters International group.  

The speech went down a storm and I won the best speaker award.  The book gave me ideas and an approach that worked.  Highly recommended!

I’ve just bought this for my own use, on the recommendation of Dr Penny Pullan of Making Projects Work