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'Plato Was A Project Manager' - An Analogy

Written by Charlie Byard – Wed 01 Apr 2015

Plato Was A Project Manager

We at Silicon Beach Training believe in making training engaging, interesting and easy to understand. Using analogies and stories in Project Management can make even complex concepts and ideas relatable, something that has been much written about in recent years - like this excellent article by Dan Vinson of PM Solutions.

We have been running successful PRINCE2 courses for many years (small classes, great material and superb pass rate). PRINCE2 is an impressive and notably sought-after qualification. It’s undeniably effective as a project methodology and makes projects far simpler for all parties involved. But even the most thoroughly planned projects can be difficult to relate to at times.

Project Managers need to be great communicators.

By using stories and analogies you can convey your project plans and ideas much more clearly, engage your team members and help them to remember what is important. 

Below we have had a go at putting some of these concepts into easy to relate to analogies, just to give you an idea.

The London Underground

Another week, another meeting, another project proposal. Time and time again you’ve been presented with a plethora of spreadsheets and columns – projected growth, return on investment. You, like the rest of your peers nod attentively as you drift off into another minor existential crisis.

Why can’t project managers just say it straight instead of presenting an already anxious team with more anxiety inducing figures? How on earth will you ‘implement digital system administrations to increase employee productivity by 200% whilst reducing overhead costs’, your Philosophy degree never prepared you for this.

Or did it? Your mind begins to race, heaps of scrap paper and mind maps eventually lead to your most impressive brainwave to date…

Plato was a project manager.

You dwell on this thought for a few moments before sinking back into your excel spreadsheet to calculate the potential costs of a programmer.

Years down the line you stand facing new employees, you’re as nervous as they are. As you begin to load the first pie chart of your meticulously prepared PowerPoint presentation you think back to that scrap of paper.

“Plato was a project manager” you say to yourself.

Ironically you avert your team their existential worries by using a technique Plato used to explain his own - an analogy.

Project management doesn’t have to be as complex as explaining our perception of the metaphysical – nor should it. Plato used analogies because they make life simpler and far more relatable to those around you. An effective project manager knows how to present plans in ways that inspire, not intimidate.

Mind The Gap

Here’s an example that will resonate particularly well with the Londoners amongst us.

6:40am – your alarm clock sets the day off, the beginning of a new project. You stare at your wardrobe of freshly ironed shirts and trousers, so many combinations, which is the most fitting for the day ahead (the planning stage of a project). You ask your significant other for their thoughts (your project team), they tell you why a green tie would go awfully with that pink shirt. You thought it was a great idea, but being the great project manager you are, you take a step back and come to the conclusion that a unanimous team decision in the planning stage of the project will let your team know you care about what they think and set a tone for cooperation and overall team satisfaction.

You step out of the door, thoughts set firmly on your destination (project goal) - The office (‘implementing digital system administrations to increase employee productivity by 200% whilst reducing overhead costs’).

But as we all know, the journey to work is rarely as simple as it should be. There are a number of hurdles and goals that you must reach in order to get to work.

Goal 1 - Stakeholder engagement.

Stakeholder Engagement

As usual the barriers aren’t working; you shuffle towards the intimidating network rail lady. But you’ve prepared for this, you and your partner (team) took the time to sit down and buy the monthly ticket. It came to an substantial cost and will certainly impress the stakeholder. You present the stakeholders with your railcard and ticket. She nods approvingly. With the stakeholders on board, nothing can stop you now.

Goal 2 – Recruiting new technical talent

Technical Talent

As you happily hop off the tube and begin to approach the next connection a voice from above sounds down. There will be a delay to your next connection. This is your opportunity as a project manager to speak to your partner and get them to research the next timely connection that will still allow you to get to work on time. They come back to you minutes later after having done their research. After much team deliberation they come to the conclusion that the 7:15 from Becontree to Barking is quicker, quieter, cheaper and still gets you to the office in time. It’s the best choice.

Congratulations, you and your team have recruited a programmer from a number of applicants and you didn’t even need twelve slides of bar charts.

Goal 3 – Implementation

You reach the platform for the 7:15 for Becontree to Barking. It arrives on time, the train conductor articulates how long the journey will take. This pleases you.

This could be an opportunity to tell your team that there could be potential setbacks to the programmer’s performance: delays, cost increases, sick days. Find your own way to describe how the journey from the start to end of the project could be affected by this.

The 7:15 has allowed you to reach the office on time. You achieved all the goals along the way and have successfully implemented digital system administrations to increase employee productivity by 200% whilst reducing overhead costs’

Goal 4 - Monitoring and Control

After your successful project, you and your team sit down to evaluate the project’s costs and how best to proceed with the next month’s commute. You unanimously decide that buying your ticket a week in advance made presenting to the stakeholders a less daunting task. The 7:15, you decide was the best route and subsequently you will continue to use the train for the foreseeable future. Your team has appreciated your attempts to communicate throughout and feel valued.

Monitoring And Control

The story or analogy you use is completely down to you. But a relatable analogy lets your team know their value in the project, highlights how important and effective communication can be and is overall, far simpler to understand than long winded corporate presentations where no one is clear on the best course of action.

These are merely examples of events that have occured in our fictional project. In reality, your analogy could stretch to describe each stage of a project plan - story telling is just a medium for Project Managers to articulate their ideas through and an incredibly effective one at that.

The beauty of using a London commute as an analogy is that so many things go wrong on the underground, it’s completely down to your discretion how many goals/delays there could be on the way to work – it will still be believable. The London underground is a funny place.

Who knows? Thanks to your inspiring analogies an Aristotle might emerge from your projects and go on to lead successful projects of their own.

We hope you enjoyed the post, if you’d like to read more, we really enjoyed Liquid Planner's '4 Tips for Leading a Project Kickoff Meeting'

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Tweets Are Already Appearing In Google Search

Written by Charlie Byard – Fri 27 Mar 2015

BREAKING NEWS - Your tweets are already appearing in Google search!

Earlier today we sent out a tweet about using analogies in Project Management written by, Project Management Solutions, a US based Project Management college.

Within an hour, we were looking up the author so that we could let him know we had tweeted him - always a good idea as it can help build relationships on your social media accounts. Our tweet appeared in the Google serps.

Dan Vinson Tweet

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An Insight into Brighton Festival Event Photography with Heather Buckley

Written by Charlie Byard – Fri 27 Mar 2015

Heather is always advocating Brighton as being one of the best places in the world for event photography; she was recently quoted in the Argus after her “British Life” photography award for saying so. Heather has been thinking of organising some event photography courses for a while. It’s something she has had great experience in. She has been running the Street Photography course in Brighton and has it off to a fine art. Learn invaluable photography tips during the day, have some fun, and take advantage of the opportunities that Fringe City, an annual Brighton Fringe event, provides.

There will only be two courses running during the Brighton Fringe Festival. They will take place on the 3rd and the 16th May. Delegates will start at Silicon Beach Training, where they will look at and discuss some of her favourite techniques, and how they might be achieved.

All the action is just down the road, so you can go down and warm up before the characters arrive, have a go at shooting before having lunch at a pre-booked cafe.

Places will be restricted to 6, Heather has a timetable prepared so everyone gets some time, more shooting takes place after lunch before taking the images back to Silicon Beach for reviews and a demonstration of Heather’s favourite processing tips.

Find out more or book a place on our Event Photography course.

Brighton Fringe Street Food

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The Best Responsive WordPress Themes for SEO

Written by Aaron Charlie – Thu 12 Mar 2015

Best Responsive Themes For SEO

What's that?

You've been advised to "keep it simple" on visuals and now you're even thinking about outsourcing your SEO efforts?

There's no need to skimp on form to enhance the function of your website.

I've picked out five of the best responsive SEO friendly themes for your WordPress site that look great, but look even better in search.

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7 Simple Steps to Planning Your Next Social Media Campaign

Written by Aaron Charlie – Wed 25 Feb 2015

Planning A Social Media Campaign

Are you thinking of using social media campaigns to engage with your customers? 

Looking for advice on how to create a successful social media campaign?

Social media campaigns have evolved from simple Facebook contests and Twitter competitions into fully integrated promotional campaigns spanning several social networks. Think Chipotle’s Scarecrow campaign or Dove’s hugely shared viral video campaigns. Of course much of these campaigns have come from big brands with resources that a small business would be hard pressed to match. Some campaigns like the ice bucket challenge evolve virally, but with a little planning there is no reason why your social media campaign can’t reach audiences beyond your demographic.

Creating your Social Media Campaign Plan

So you've been tasked to develop a social media campaign.

You use Facebook to connect with your friends but not much more than that. You follow celebrities on Twitter but you don’t have a clue about promoted tweets or the best hashtags to use.  Your boss says “we need to get on Ello, Instagram is hot and we just have to be on Bubbly don’t we?” Would you know how to get started?

A planned campaign is a successful campaign. A plan keeps you focused on the number of steps you’ll need to take along the way.

So how do you actually plan an engaging social media campaign with very little resources and not much time? Good question - one that we can help you answer in 7 simple steps to planning a social media campaign.

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Cinemagraphs are Coming to Facebook

Written by Aaron Charlie – Thu 19 Feb 2015

By now you probably will have heard the news that 'cinemagraphs' are coming to Facebook ads. If you haven't heard of a cinemagraph before then take a moment to appreciate the almost-hypnotic power of a Yellowstone waterfall from footage captured in a video 'Echoes in the Canyon' by David Hollandsworth.

A Waterfall in Yellowstone

Credit: Reddit user 'BigMurph26'

What is a 'Cinemagraph'?

A cinemagraph is usually video that, through image editing software has been converted into a sequential, looping gif. The creator has edited the video so that large portions of the image are stabilised and selected sections are kept mobilised. We expect marketers will take advantage of Facebook's autoplay function for videos. I personally believe that cinemagraphs will become the greatest aesthetic marketing tool to hit Facebook in recent years.

Cinemagraphs have been around since 2011 when Jamie Beck and Kevin Burg created the method to advertise their fashion photography. It doesn't take a trained eye to see why cinemagraphs are so effective. I imagine the Twitter and Tumblr users amongst us will be no strangers to the occasional 'living image'. Animated .gif's have long been an art form on Tumblr - almost exclusively (until now).

Twitter technically supports animated gifs. In reality, they have been converted into MP4 video and must be clicked on to be viewed. No surprises that they often don't take off.

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Working With Lists in Excel Step By Step (With Pictures)

Written by Andy Trainer – Thu 29 Jan 2015

Use these step by step instructions to sort your lists with maximum efficiency in Excel.

Sorting Lists

Excel can sort columns into order alphabetically and numerically. You can perform a single column sort of multi column sort.

The Sort command can be found on the Home tab under the Editing group.

Important: When setting up the list, include a set of column headings (as example below). These are used to control the sort columns. The list must be sequential, i.e. no row gaps from the top of the list to bottom.

Single Column Sort

Click into a cell in the column that you wish to sort by, as in the example below the First Name column.

Select the Data tab, then to sort by A to Z or Z to A.

Sort By A-to-Z

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How to Revitalise Negotiations and Close That Deal

Written by Andy Trainer – Tue 25 Nov 2014

You've been here before, the last time you and the client spoke you didn't exactly see eye to eye. Now months of negotiations are at risk and potentially big figures in profit too.

Stop.

Don't make that call. Re-evaluate where you are in negotiations and see what you can take from these killer tips to close that deal.

Negotiations are all about your relationship with the client. If you're seeing your role in negotiations as an opportunity to make money at the expense of the client then you're looking at it all the wrong way. Negotiations are professional relationships. Benefits should and can be mutually profitable whilst retaining a relationship with a client that will last years.

Our Negotiation Skills training will give you the knowledge and tools necessary to be able to conduct any negotiation as a competitive and collaborative negotiation.

Negotiating Skills Closing Deals

A good deal might not revive a bad relationship, but a good relationship can revive a bad deal.

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Herzberg's Two Factor Theory

Written by Andy Trainer – Thu 20 Nov 2014

When you ask any group of workers what motivates them to come to work, at least one and probably most will include 'money' in the response. Pay is a big issue for most people and is certainly a reason why people go to work, even sometimes staying in jobs they don't like. But is it a motivator?

Herzberg's Two Factor Theory suggests that there are two different sets of factors that determine job dissatisfaction and job satisfaction.

Herzberg's Two Factor Theory

Satisfiers/Motivation Factors Dissatisfiers/Hygiene Factors
  • Achievement
  • Recognition
  • Work itself
  • Responsibility
  • Advancement
  • Personal Growth
  • Supervision
  • Working conditions
  • Relationship with supervisor
  • Relationship with peers
  • Relationship with subordinates
  • Salary
  • Company policy and admin
  • Status

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Why Are Subject Lines Important?

Written by Aaron Charlie – Mon 17 Nov 2014

Are you, like countless many others, sitting on an inbox of hundreds, maybe even thousands of unread emails? Or are you wondering why only one hundred of the nine hundred and fifty three newsletters you sent out Tuesday weren't opened?

Email Marketing Subject Lines

If you’re struggling to get your emails read they probably share something in common with the unread emails in your own inbox.

Poor Subject Lines

"But surely if the content is great then my subject line won’t even matter?"

Somewhere hidden in the depths of your junk folder there is a quality article or offer relevant to you that you have missed.

You haven’t opened it. Why?

Thanks to a poor subject line

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