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Tag: Best Practices

PMTimes_July16_2024

Red Flags in Contractors

The contractor is generally the builder and can cause serious damage if not scouted for wisely. They are mandated to execute works and pay the largest share of the project sum. Adequate due diligence is very important since 70% of the work rests in their hands. Here are a few insights to be keen on:

Lack of licensing or insurance: A reputable contractor will have the proper licenses and insurance to protect both themselves and their clients. Be sure to ask for proof of both before hiring a contractor.

No references or portfolio A good contractor will be happy to provide you with references from past clients and show you their portfolio of previous work.

Poor communication: If the contractor is slow to respond to your technical calls or emails or doesn’t seem to be listening to your concerns or questions, it could be a sign that they’re not interested in providing good customer service.

Pressure to sign a contract or make a deposit: If a contractor is pressuring you to sign a contract or make a deposit before you’re ready, it could be a sign that they’re not trustworthy.

 

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Lack of clarity in the contract: Make sure the contract clearly outlines the work to be done, the timeline, the payment schedule, and any warranties or guarantees.

Poor reviews or ratings: Check online reviews and ratings to see what past clients have to say about the contractor. If there are a lot of negative reviews, it could be a red flag.

Unwillingness to provide a written estimate A reputable contractor will provide you with a written estimate that clearly outlines the costs associated with the project. If they’re unwilling to do so, it could be a sign that they’re not trustworthy.

Generally, it’s important to do your research and trust your instincts when hiring a contractor. If something seems too good to be true or doesn’t feel right, it’s best to keep looking for someone else.

A contractor`s primarily defined as a business person. Stay alert!

PMTimes_July10_2024

Critical Thinking is a Critical Success Factor

Critical thinking is a process for making judgments and decisions. It applies analysis and evaluation to decide if information makes sense.

 

Scenario

Imagine a scenario in which a convincing speaker argues for prioritizing projects in a certain way. She is in a position to make a unilateral decision or to influence enough people to agree with her opinion. She cuts off anyone who brings up facts or alternative opinions to question her statements and decisions. Her priorities become the basis for capital planning for the next several years.

Were those priorities best for the organization? Without critical thinking, we’d never know.

How often are design, strategy, or other decisions made based on biases, beliefs, and unsupported opinions?

 

Controversy

Critical thinking is a foundation for sound decisions, whether in the realms of project management, organizational dynamics, or politics. Without critical thinking, there is the danger of allowing despots and self-proclaimed experts to drive poor decisions.

Strangely, critical thinking is controversial. There are people, some of whom are in powerful positions to influence decisions, who oppose applying analysis to evaluate opinions, biases, and beliefs.

Is the opposition because critical thinking takes time and effort, or is it that ego gets in the way? People want what they want and do not want logic and facts to get in their way. Objectivity and fact-based reality are annoying to those who want their way, even if their way is of questionable value.

 

Requirements

Critical thinking requires:

  • Active listening
  • Open-mindedness
  • Growth mindset
  • Self-discipline, and
  • Self-awareness.

 

Active Listening

Active listening means listening to understand, by paying attention, allowing others to have their say without interruptions, questioning, staying focused, considering non-verbal clues like the tone of voice and body language, turning off thoughts like “I know what he’s going to say”, and withholding judgment.

 

Open-mindedness

Open-mindedness includes curiosity, the ability to accept multiple perspectives, and the possibility that you may be wrong. It is a quality that enables active listening.

Being open-minded is having a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset. It implies being curious and courageous enough to surrender to vulnerability and uncertainty.

Brene Brown in her book Dare to Lead writes that over time “we turn to self-protecting – choosing certainty over curiosity, armor over vulnerability, and knowing over learning.

When we avoid the uncertainty of not being perfect, in control, and believing that our way is the right and only way, we face the reality of unnecessary emotional conflict leading to bad decisions and unhealthy relationships.

Open-minded curiosity enables root-cause analysis. It avoids jumping to conclusions based on a need to eliminate a problem’s symptoms or to find someone or something to blame.

 

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Growth vs. Fixed Mindset

Your mindset is the sum of your attitudes, moods, perceptions, beliefs, and mental models. It determines your behavior and emotional responses.

A Growth Mindset thinks that failures and challenges are growth opportunities. Feedback is taken as constructive even when it is negative. A Growth Mindset is open to learning.

People with a Fixed Mindset do not like to be challenged. They define themselves in terms of success or failure and will often either give up or fight when faced with challenges. They tend to think that ignorance is a permanent quality rather than something that can be corrected by learning. They tend to be closed-minded.

A Growth Mindset is a foundation for critical thinking.

 

Self-Discipline

There is often a desire to “get to the point” as quickly as possible. We want to make the decision and get on with the action. We want to be right.

Critical thinking means not jumping to conclusions.

It takes time and effort to listen, analyze, and reflect on the short- and long-term implications of decisions. It takes self-discipline to slow down and avoid impulsively plunging ahead to make snap decisions without considering facts and alternative opinions.

We must take the time to use classical project management skills – estimating, risk management, communication, control techniques, procurement management, quality management, and working with people – to acquire the information needed to make informed decisions based on facts while considering emotions.

And when facts are not available, we must make sure that we are deciding with that in mind – understanding the risks involved. We must be clear and make it clear to others that estimates are estimates and not definitive predictions. Expectations are not always fulfilled.

Assess risks. Assumptions are fine if they are correctly identified as assumptions and there are alternative assumptions with an understanding of the probability of their being correct. We also need alternate pathways in case we run into problems.

 

Self-awareness

“Self-awareness is knowing who or what we are, our goals and intentions, strengths, and weaknesses, and the way the mind works, our inner workings. It is realizing that the blend of these affects our behavior. Self-awareness is the foundation for emotional and social intelligence. It enables self-management, the ability to choose how to respond rather than to react.”[1]

Self-awareness tells us that we are jumping to conclusions. It enables self-discipline and the management of our emotions and habits. With self-awareness, we can tell when we are being humble enough to accept the need to validate our certainty about being right. We can sense when we are arrogantly insisting that we are right simply because we believe it.

Self-aware we can be ready for anything because we have confidence in our resilience and adaptability.

It means questioning mindsets and motivations.

When you are self-aware you can sense when you are succumbing to the fear of stepping out of your comfort zone to confront uncertainty and the possibility of being wrong. And you perceive your effect on others.

 

Critical Thinking – A Critical Success Factor

Critical Thinking is using analysis and evaluation to make effective decisions. It overcomes bias and belief to make highly effective decisions and helps to minimize unnecessary conflict.

To be a critical thinker and to have an organization that values critical thinking, it is necessary to overcome resistance to investing the required time and effort and to cultivate

  • Active listening
  • Open-mindedness
  • Growth mindset
  • Self-discipline, and
  • Self-awareness.

Decisions and the actions they drive will be more likely to be the “right” ones the more people apply objectivity and rational thinking, whether in business, at home, or in governance.

 

[1] Pitagorsky, George, The Peaceful Warrior’s Path, Self-aware Living, 2023, p. 224.

PMTimes_July2_2024

Effective Strategies for Leading Remote Teams

In today’s professional landscape, remote work has become the norm, transcending geographical boundaries and redefining traditional notions of collaboration. For project managers, leading distributed teams presents both challenges and opportunities.

Managing projects with remote teams presents unique challenges that require adaptability and effective strategies. Successfully navigating the complexities of remote work demands a combination of effective communication, technological proficiency, and adaptive leadership.

In this article, we’ll discuss strategies to empower project managers to effectively lead remote teams and drive project success.

 

Leveraging Technology for Seamless Communication

At the core of successful remote collaboration lies effective communication. Effective communication is the cornerstone of successful project management, particularly when working with remote teams. There are various strategies for establishing robust communication channels that facilitate clear and timely information exchange. Some of these topics to be covered here may include:

  1. Utilizing proper communication tools: Explore various communication tools and platforms, such as video conferencing, instant messaging, and project management software, and highlight their features and benefits.
  2. Setting communication expectations: Discuss the importance of establishing clear communication guidelines, including preferred modes of communication, response times, and availability, in order to ensure seamless collaboration.
  3. Regular team meetings: emphasize the significance of regular team meetings to foster alignment, address challenges, provide updates, and encourage open dialogue among team members.
  4. Transparent documentation and knowledge sharing: Highlight the importance of centralizing project documentation, sharing relevant information, and leveraging knowledge management systems to promote transparency and collaboration.

Project managers must leverage technology to facilitate seamless interaction and foster connectivity among team members. Using collaboration platforms, video conferencing tools, and instant messaging apps facilitates real-time communication, enhances transparency, and strengthens team cohesion.

By leveraging technology as a communication enabler, project managers bridge the physical divide and cultivate a collaborative remote work environment.

 

Promoting Trust and Autonomy

Empowering remote teams relies on two key elements: trust and autonomy. Project managers must empower team members to take ownership of their work, make independent decisions, and contribute meaningfully to project outcomes. Establishing clear goals, defining expectations, and offering regular feedback creates a culture of accountability and trust within remote teams.

Entrusting remote team members with confidence in their expertise and capabilities unlocks their full potential, promoting innovation in remote work environments.

 

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Embracing Agile Practices for Adaptability

In today’s rapidly changing business landscape, the true essence of agility lies in fostering a mindset of adaptability, collaboration, and continuous improvement. Agile methodologies provide a flexible framework for managing projects in dynamic environments.

As organizations strive for true agility, it’s crucial to remember that agility is more than just a set of practices; it’s a way of thinking and working that empowers teams to navigate uncertainty and deliver value with speed and precision.

Project managers can leverage Agile principles such as iterative development, frequent feedback, and adaptive planning to navigate the complexities of remote work effectively. Breaking down projects into manageable tasks and conducting regular stand-up meetings and retrospectives promote transparency, collaboration, and continuous improvement within remote teams. Additionally, Agile practices enable remote teams to respond quickly to changing priorities, customer feedback, and market dynamics.

By embracing Agile principles and methodologies, project managers empower remote teams to adapt, innovate, and deliver value in a rapidly changing business environment.

 

Prioritizing Team Engagement and Wellness

Remote work can sometimes lead to feelings of isolation and disconnection among team members. Project managers play a crucial role in prioritizing team engagement and well-being in remote work environments. Regular team-building activities, virtual coffee breaks, and informal check-ins foster friendship within remote teams. Additionally, project managers should be mindful of challenges associated with remote work, such as work-life balance, burnout, and communication fatigue.

Advocating work-life balance, encouraging self-care, and offering assistance as necessary showcase dedication to the welfare of remote team members and create a positive work culture.

 

Empower Project Managers to Achieve Outstanding Results by Leveraging Data and Analytics

Managing projects means making decisions. Data-driven decision-making is essential for driving project success in remote work environments. Project managers can leverage data and analytics to gain insights into team performance, identify bottlenecks, and optimize processes. Utilizing project management software and collaboration tools allows project managers to track progress, monitor resource allocation, and identify areas for improvement within remote teams.

Project managers can use this predictive information to make better decisions and keep projects on schedule and within budget. A data-driven analytics approach enables project teams to analyze the defined data to understand specific patterns and trends. Executives can use this analysis to determine how projects and resources perform and what strategic decisions they can take to improve the success rate.

Furthermore, analyzing key performance indicators (KPIs) such as productivity, efficiency, and customer satisfaction informs strategic decision-making. By leveraging the power of data and analytics, project managers empower remote teams to achieve their full potential and deliver exceptional results.

 

Conclusion

Enabling project managers to effectively lead remote teams requires a comprehensive approach that includes communication, trust-building, Agile practices, team engagement, and data-driven decision-making. By embracing technology, prompting autonomy, and prioritizing wellness, project managers overcome the challenges of remote work and capitalize on its opportunities.

Using a strategic approach and commitment to continuous improvement, project managers unleash the full potential of remote teams, driving innovation and project success in the digital age.

Empowering project managers with the skills, tools, and strategies needed to succeed in remote work environments prepares organizations for success in an interconnected digital and virtual environment.

 


References

Edvin Lundstroem, 2024. Efficient Software Project Management: Strategies for Successful Implementation. Independently published.

PMTimes_Jun25_2024

Agile – Autonomy & Self-Organization

In one of our coaching workshops, we were discussing what makes an Agile coach successful. We had a good discussion on this topic, and we came up with two concepts: autonomy and self-organization, which seem slightly similar, but they are mostly used interchangeably.

So first, let’s see what these terms talk about.

[Note: These are very vast topics for discussion; we cannot conclude this in a few lines of writing; I have only highlighted them briefly here in this article.]

 

Autonomy: The cultural steps toward empowerment

Agile development relies more on people, their mindset, and their culture than on processes.

Leadership,

Collaboration,

Informal communication,

Flexible and participative,

Encouraging, cooperative

Are other characteristics of agile software development.

 

Many organizations are embracing agile ways of working in an attempt to build faster, more customer-focused organizations. They are redesigning themselves to create a culture where decision-making is transitioned away from middle management towards those working with customers on the front lines, i.e., teams.

Ultimately, they seek engagement in order to create a culture where the team is more empowered to truly delight customers. Autonomy is the critical ingredient for this change.

Autonomy is always implemented through leaders. Leaders should have thought that employees should get well engaged with the organization, and if Leaders really want a high standard of engagement, they have to look for self-direction, empowerment, and a and a little bit of control from employees over what they have to do—their task, over when they have to do—their time, over who they have to do with—their team, and over how they have to do their technique.

If organizations and leaders think about these aspects, then employees will surely do things better.

 

Autonomy is not where leaders or bosses tell employees exactly what to do and precisely how to do it; Leaders take away all employee choices of any kind and largely control what they should do; and Employees are compliant with leaders and follow their instructions without digging up their own thoughts and experiences. This is very bad, controlling, and hijacking the working relationship between employees and their leaders.

However, autonomy is often misunderstood as power.

Autonomy should not be confused with the need for power, which is entirely a different matter and one that some employees will avoid at all costs. The difference between power and autonomy can be summed up as follows: Power is the desire to control not just one’s own actions but the actions of others, while autonomy is concerned with the ability to operate independently.

(more control and less autonomy)

 

Self-Organization: The Desire to be self-managed and self-driven

At its simplest level, a self-organizing team is one that does not depend on or wait for a manager to assign work. Instead, these teams find their own work and manage the associated responsibilities and timelines; they do require a mentor who can help grow their skills.

 

Defining self-organizing teams

A group of motivated individuals who work together toward a goal have the ability and authority to take decisions and readily adapt to changing demands. Let’s look at some important ingredients for a self-organizing team:

  • They pull work for themselves and don’t wait for their managers to assign work. This ensures a greater sense of ownership and commitment.
  • They manage their work (allocation, reallocation, estimation, delivery, and rework) as a group.
  • They still require mentoring and coaching, but they don’t require “command and control.”
  • They communicate more with each other, and their commitments are more often to project teams than to the Scrum Master.
  • They continuously enhance their own skills and recommend innovative ideas and improvements.

 

Five essentials of self-organizing teams

  • Competency: Individuals need to be competent for the job at hand. This will result in confidence in their work and eliminate the need for direction from above.
  • Collaboration: They should work as a team rather than as a group of individuals. Teamwork is encouraged.
  • Motivation: Team motivation is the key to success. Team members should be focused and interested in their work.
  • Trust and respect: Team members trust and respect each other. They believe in collective code ownership and are ready to go the extra mile to help each other resolve issues.
  • Continuity: The team should be together for a reasonable duration; changing its composition every now and then doesn’t help. Continuity is essential for the team.

 

Creating a self-organizing team

A common criticism of self-organizing teams is, “We cannot just put eight random individuals together, tell them to self-organize, and expect anything good to result.”

Creating a self-organizing team can be considered a three-step process.

Training: Proper classroom training can help satisfy many of the principles that self-organizing teams require. Specifically, hard skills training is needed to make each employee competent in a particular domain or technology. Soft skills training is also helpful.

Coaching: Once the team starts working together, adopt a coaching style to see if the members are facing any difficulties. They may require more support and guidance at the beginning. Some indicators of a self-organizing team are: scrum ceremonies, team enjoyment of the work, and teams pulling tasks for themselves.

By the end of this phase, you will know the team is self-organizing. However, keep your eyes open to observe the team’s behavior and provide need-based coaching.

 

Mentoring: Once a team starts self-organizing, the journey has only just begun. Team members still require mentoring to grow their skills and maintain the balance of the team. This mentoring should also help with continuity by ensuring everyone grows together and remains motivated. As mentioned earlier, a self-organizing team doesn’t need “command and control,” but it does need coaching and mentoring.

Teams are not always static; they change over time, but the frequency matters. Building a self-organizing team is an on-going process. Whenever a team’s composition changes, we need to repeat the whole team-building lifecycle (forming, storming, norming, and performing).

 

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How can we relate these two concepts?

Autonomy and self-management are two different concepts, but they are starting to be used interchangeably, as I said before.

Okay, to set up the stage, let’s see from 30,000 feet and consider, for now, these terms as

Autonomy is at the top management level, whereas self-organization is at the team level.

 

In self-organized teams,

  • There are no managers. Everything is self-directed and self-driven.
  • There is no one to set goals; teams decide their own learning path.
  • In self-organizing, a team sets their destination, sets accountability for the tasks, and decides how to reach the destination.
  • How many tasks, how often they have to do them, how many hours they have to do—it’s totally up to the team.

Autonomy, on the other hand, is different.

  • Autonomy means that there is someone who sets strategic direction and the goal for the employee [let’s call that someone a leader or top management], but the employee has the freedom to decide how to achieve the given goal.
  • Managers are there to guide, provide feedback, and advise employees, but they will not watch over the employee’s shoulder every step of the way.
  • There is always someone to review you, give you feedback, and promote you.
  • In autonomy, the team themselves decides and is accountable for how to reach the destination. But the destination is not set by the team; it is set by someone.

 

 

 

1A: Micromanagement Culture: no high-level purpose; just shut up and follow orders. The team is also not mature enough, and the manager takes almost all the decisions. Teams are management-compliant. Management always says we are here to decide what is good for you; you just follow what we are saying. This is leading to poor performance.

1B: In a large organization, autonomy is a tricky balancing act. For example, suppose you have hired a junior developer. First, they will need training, direction, and coaching. Then, over time, they will become more skilled and experienced. And then they will understand the company’s business model. As this happens, you can trust them with larger pieces of work and with less supervision.

Teams are similar in this quadrant. They aren’t all ready for autonomy right away, where team maturity is low, which again leads to poor performance.

2A: This quadrant exactly talks oppositely to 1B. So leaders are good at communicating what problems need to be solved, but they are also good at telling teams how to solve them. However, teams are well mature and self-organized; they know how to approach the given goal; this level of autonomy leads to dissatisfaction and a loss of motivation in teams.

 

2B: High autonomy with higher team maturity means leaders focus on what problems to solve and let the teams figure out how to solve them. This culture always brings continuous improvement and a healthy working environment.

Autonomy is the biggest factor when people decide to leave their current place of employment. Often, employees will stay in a position even if the salary is low, so long as they maintain some level of control over how they perform their work. Autonomy provides employees with a sense of collective ownership; they have organizational citizenship and, thus, a sense of belonging.

Yes, autonomy plays a critical role in reshaping our workplaces, but don’t forget to balance autonomy with self-organization for better results.

Even if at the organization level, leaders promote autonomy culture, it does not mean at the team level we achieved self-organization immediately. There are certain stages (mentioned above) that lead to self-organizing and performing teams for better results.

 

Studies found that in many organizations, there is a lack of system for team support, and reduced external autonomy is an important barrier to introducing self-organizing teams. These findings have implications for software development managers and practitioners.

Still, the process of designing, supporting, and coaching agile teams is not adequately addressed and understood in the context of software development organizations.

Further, there is a need for new knowledge on how companies should organize for the right level of autonomy and utilize self-organized agile teams to attain better performance, productivity, innovation, and value creation, and thus increase competitiveness.

 

 

Follows:

-Jacob Morgan

-Daniel Pink

https://www.planview.com/resources/articles/what-is-self-organizing-team/

PMTimes_Jun12_2024

Mastering Project Management – 5 Powerful Techniques for Project Managers

In the real world of project management, success hinges on the adept application of techniques and methodologies that facilitate efficient planning, execution, and delivery. Whether overseeing a small team or orchestrating complex, multi-faceted projects, project managers must leverage a diverse toolkit of strategies to navigate challenges and achieve objectives effectively. Here are five powerful techniques that project managers can harness to excel in their roles and drive project success.

 

1. Effective Communication and Stakeholder Engagement

At the heart of successful project management lies effective communication and stakeholder engagement. Project managers must establish clear lines of communication with team members, stakeholders, and clients to ensure alignment of expectations, goals, and deliverables. Regular meetings, status updates, and progress reports facilitate transparency and collaboration, fostering a shared understanding of project requirements and priorities.

Moreover, proactive stakeholder engagement is crucial for managing expectations, soliciting feedback, and resolving conflicts or issues promptly. By cultivating strong relationships with stakeholders and maintaining open channels of communication, project managers can mitigate risks, build trust, and garner support for project initiatives.

 

2. Strategic Planning and Risk Management

Strategic planning forms the bedrock of successful project execution. Project managers must develop comprehensive project plans that outline objectives, scope, timelines, resources, and milestones. A well-defined project plan serves as a roadmap for the entire project team, providing clarity on roles, responsibilities, and deliverables.

Furthermore, effective risk management is essential for identifying, assessing, and mitigating potential risks that could impede project progress. Project managers should conduct risk assessments regularly, anticipate potential obstacles, and implement contingency plans to address unforeseen challenges. By proactively managing risks, project managers can minimize disruptions and keep projects on track.

 

3. Agile Methodologies and Adaptive Leadership

In today’s dynamic business environment, flexibility and adaptability are paramount. Agile methodologies such as Scrum and Kanban offer a flexible approach to project management, emphasizing iterative development, continuous improvement, and customer collaboration. Project managers can leverage Agile principles to respond swiftly to changing requirements, prioritize deliverables, and deliver value incrementally.

Moreover, adaptive leadership is essential for guiding teams through uncertainty and ambiguity. Project managers must possess the ability to pivot quickly, make informed decisions, and inspire confidence in their teams. By fostering a culture of adaptability and innovation, project managers can empower their teams to embrace change and drive continuous improvement.

 

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4. Resource Optimization and Conflict Resolution

Effective resource management is critical for optimizing project performance and maximizing efficiency. Project managers must allocate resources judiciously, balancing workload, skills, and availability to ensure optimal utilization of resources. By aligning resource allocations with project priorities and objectives, project managers can minimize bottlenecks, streamline workflows, and enhance productivity.

Additionally, adept conflict resolution skills are indispensable for resolving disputes, managing interpersonal conflicts, and maintaining team cohesion. Project managers must address conflicts promptly, objectively, and constructively, fostering a collaborative and harmonious work environment. By facilitating open communication and mutual respect among team members, project managers can mitigate conflict and promote a positive team dynamic.

 

5. Continuous Improvement and Lessons Learned

Continuous improvement is a hallmark of successful project management. Project managers should conduct regular retrospectives and post-project reviews to evaluate performance, identify lessons learned, and implement process improvements. By soliciting feedback from team members, stakeholders, and clients, project managers can glean valuable insights into areas for enhancement and refinement.

Moreover, embracing a culture of continuous learning and professional development is essential for staying abreast of emerging trends, best practices, and industry standards. Project managers should invest in ongoing training, certifications, and knowledge-sharing initiatives to expand their skill sets and enhance their effectiveness as leaders.

 

Conclusion

In the dynamic and fast-paced world of project management, mastering these five powerful techniques is essential for driving project success. By prioritizing effective communication, strategic planning, Agile methodologies, resource optimization, and continuous improvement, project managers can navigate challenges, inspire their teams, and deliver exceptional results. With a steadfast commitment to excellence and continuous learning, project managers can elevate their performance and lead their teams to triumph in any project endeavor.


References

Adams, John, and Bryan Campbell. 1982. Roles and Responsibilities of the Project Manager. Drexel Hill, PA: Project Management Institute PMI
Cavendish, Penny, and Martin Martin. 1982. Negotiating & Contracting for Project Management. Drexel Hill, PA: Project Management Institute PMI
James P. Lewis. 2007. Mastering Project Management: Applying Advanced Concepts to Systems Thinking, Control & Evaluation, Resource Allocation, McGraw Hill; 2 edition
Cathy Lake.1998. Mastering Project Management. Thorogood Publishing; Illustrated edition