All Systems Go! Podcast – Episode 170

Project Management Principles for Entrepreneurs feat. Mike Clayton

All Systems Go! Marketing Automation and Systems Building with Chris L. Davis
All Systems Go! Marketing Automation and Systems Building with Chris L. Davis
Project Management Principles for Entrepreneurs feat. Mike Clayton
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Episode Description

Ep. 170 – In this episode of the All Systems Go! podcast, Chris sits down with Mike Clayton, an experienced project management trainer, author, and YouTube educator. They discuss project management best practices for marketers and freelance consultants and also cover simple ways to start integrating project management into your business, even if you’re not hiring yet. If you feel your business lacks control and strategy, this conversation will give you insights into the project management capabilities you need.

  • 2:28 – How Mike got into the world of project management
  • 6:15 – The difference between startups with and without project management
  • 8:20 – What project management really means and the mindset that is required for it
  • 12:40 – Chris and Mike discuss using Gantt charts and other PM tools to gain clarity and control
  • 19:50 – The telltale signs you need a project manager
  • 23:23 – Mike’s prediction for how AI will affect project management and assistant roles
  • 35:06 – How to find the right project manager
  • 38:03 – Overview of predictive vs adaptive (agile) project management
  • 40:14 – Tips for adding PM to your team incrementally as you grow
  • 41:44 – Core skills needed for a good project manager

Narrator 0:00
You’re listening to the off systems go podcast, the show that teaches you everything you need to know to put your business on autopilot. Learn how to deploy automated marketing and sell systems in your business the right way with your host, the professor of automation himself and founder of automation bridge, Chris Davis

Chris Davis 0:32
welcome everyone to another episode of The all systems go podcast. I’m your host, Chris L. Davis. And just thank you, thank you for your continued listenership everyone. Today I’ve got a a very necessary conversation, I’ll say, all right. Our guest today is Mike Clayton. And he is Dr. Mike Clayton. He is a project manager and founder of Online PM courses.com and a presenter of the successful project management YouTube channel. By the way, I was on LinkedIn just the other day and I saw another company shouting out Mike and they was having his videos in their. In their promo I looked, it appeared to be a promo so very well known in the space. And as a PM trainer, he’s trained many 1000s of learners in his books have sold nearly 100,000 copies. He’s introduced his introductory pm book is how to manage a great project. And everyone the reason why I’ve got Mike with us today is because I’ve got project management experience in terms of witnessing the benefits of it working with startups and even in my corporate experience. And I feel like there’s a gap, there’s a misunderstanding at times on the importance, the power and how to properly leverage project management skill. So Mike is on today everyone to help us navigate this project management space, not from a technological perspective, but more from a

Mike Clayton 2:51
That’s a good question. I mean, I guess,

Mike Clayton 2:54
I guess it sort of wasn’t it sort of wasn’t. So I started in terms of work, or for many, many years, my plan was to be an academic in the world of physics, I, as you said, I’m a doctor, I did my PhD. And I always plan to go into academia. But as an undergraduate, I’ve done what I now know of as projects, particularly event management, and I got a real buzz out of them. And when it came to kind of make up my mind up on applying for permanent lectureships, at universities, something in me said, Actually, let’s try going into industry. And I went into consulting. And

Chris Davis 5:00
Jaden said, and his approaches are what I would now recognize, recognize as good project management, kind of approaches to things. So I guess I’ve always had that kind of ability to see how to plan things into stages and take things up and pay attention to risk and all the things that we have to do as project managers to make things happen successfully. And to assure ourselves that something uncertain is going to turn out or is likely to turn out all right, which is really what project management is all about. Yeah, and I want to set the table for for everybody, and even myself, so everyone know that I’m here as a learner as well. And the context I like to create is the story of two startups that shall remain nameless, you have startup a and startup B. Startup, A is a proponent of project management, they, they they take project managers per department, and you’ve got multiple project managers, the project managers are meeting with the leadership team to ensure that everything is is aligned, then you have startup B, that is opposed to project management, and their ethos. And philosophy is, hey, you’re a professional, manage yourself. You manage your own projects, and make sure things get done. Now, what I experienced was startup a that had a project manager, things just tended to flow smoother deadlines were were able to be hit more consistently. And then the ones without was more siloed. There were things still getting done. But they were the schedules didn’t align that it was hard to keep in communication with all departments. And then externally, I don’t know if users or customers felt it, but it was very disjointed. So I look at that experience and realize I’m a proponent of project management. So that’s one piece. But two is, Mike, when it comes to

Chris Davis 7:02
building a business, they’ll tell you, hey, you need a VA, you needed the graphic designer, you need a web developer. And now they even got, hey, you may need to OBM and online business manager which I have feelings about, which is a whole nother topic. But you have all of these things, what you don’t hear is, hey, you should have a project manager, you need a project manager for that.

Chris Davis 7:25
So so with that being said, I want to give you the floor and really talk about the importance of project management. And for those that don’t have it, what friction points they’re probably experiencing, from a lack thereof. And I think that’s it quite an interesting observation about things people tell you should have. And I don’t know what the VA market is like in the States, here in the UK. I mean, it should be an international market, because it doesn’t matter where your VA is. But a lot of the VA is I see kind of pitching themselves to me is you know, we’ll be doing project management. And I think the question you have to ask there is, what do they mean my project management. But your your example of business a and business B is, is lovely, because that what you observed is exactly what I would expect if if you tell everybody to manage their own projects, basically, you get a whole raft of behaviors that flow from that. And the first is that people acquire sharp elbows. If they’re being incentivized to manage their own projects and deliver their own thing, then their incentive is to get anyone out their way that is impeding them. Which means that if you’ve got two initiatives which need to run together, but they draw upon, let’s say, a common resource, then my interest as a one person, professional project manager, is to fight for that resource and to shove the other person out of the way. But the other thing that you get is, and this happens in big organizations with a lot of project management, a lot of project managers in in within them. But at a much more strategic level is, if you imagine a big corporation see has

Mike Clayton 9:07
2030 4050, you know, senior vice presidents across the world, each of whom has ideas for projects, which will deliver value to the business.

Mike Clayton 9:18
But the business does not have the capacity in terms of resources in terms of budgets to invest in all of those.

Mike Clayton 9:25
Now, if at the top of that organization, see, they do not have someone who is controlling that portfolio and saying which of those projects are the right strategic projects for us now and allocating resources and closing down the others, then the projects that are likely to succeed

Mike Clayton 9:45
are the ones that have the loudest, most pushy, assertive managers behind them. Whereas business D might have a few professionals who say what do we need strategically and they do

Mike Clayton 10:00
Design a portfolio that balances everything. And suddenly the organization prioritizes and delivers the right projects, scaling that bounce down to your business a and business B, business a with project management, running across it is able to say right, now’s the time for your projects will come to the fore. And now’s the time for your workstreams to take a lead. And now I need you to help them. So you get exactly what you plan for.

Mike Clayton 10:29
So what is project management about? Well, one of the things, you know, when you’re talking about startups and startups are about the most uncertain adventures by project, the US Project Management Institute defines a project as a novel endeavor that delivers products, services,

Mike Clayton 10:51
processes, with, too, you know, within a deadline, and you and also with it with

Mike Clayton 11:00
limitation on resources, because projects, you may have a budget, you may not have a budget, you may be doing on a shoestring. But even if you’ve got a budget, it’s going to be limited. So

Mike Clayton 11:12
a startup is absolutely novel, it is absent. So you’ve got all that uncertainty of what do we do as project managers. Our one mission in life as a project manager, is to bring control to a chaotic environment.

Chris Davis 11:28
And what is more chaotic, what is more uncertain than a startup? So the skills of project management are all about bringing together the people you’ve got and the resources you’ve got, and using them to best effect and making sure that you as a project manager, and your client or boss or sponsor, in our case, the entrepreneur that is and the founders who are funding this, they know exactly what is going to be happening and how their decisions are flowing through into actions. Otherwise, it’s chaos. Yeah, and here’s what’s interesting. Here’s what I find interesting. You can always pay attention software is the startup company, SAS software, software, as a service companies are, are really telling to where the market is because they’re often responding to their customer base. And what you see I do some tech talk here is from notion to air table, click. I don’t know about us, and I have to double check. But I’m pretty sure Asana, you know, you name the tool. They’re all adding timeline, and Gantt charts. Now, I’m going to be fully transparent and honest here, everyone I’ve used, I usually just bypass all of that I jump over like, oh, Gantt chart, Okay, anyways, Kanban, and all these other views, you know, and that’s, that’s how I do it. However, I was recently burdened by having a project that my team and I was working on. And then I had another project external to me. And I said, Man, I’m starting to get lost. In it all. It’s starting to be overwhelming. I have software, Mike, I’ve got click up. I’ve got irritated, like, I’ve got project management enabled tools. But somehow I’m still lost. And it was a friend of mine that shared she shared this spreadsheet. That was a Gantt chart, though, she was like, Chris, this is how I stay organized. And this is how I keep on track, keep up to date with all of my projects, say, hey, wait a minute, let me let me try this out. Now. I’ve never been the builder of a Gantt chart. I’ve been the recipient of a project manager having one and then telling me when things were due. So I was kind of planning the project manager role in this one. But Mike, I have to say, if the software companies are adding these features, that means there’s demand for it. And then to once I did it, my I, it for me, I’m a visual person. So I think that was the missing link. Instead of having a list of checkboxes and due dates. I don’t I think my brain can’t conceptualize what they really mean. But when I saw the Gantt chart, and I said, Okay, if we have all of these tasks, outlined and connected and dependent, the day that we’ll actually be able to finish it is this and what if I take a week off and everything shifts? I was like, Oh, I could see the impact more visually. Yeah, that was my that was my process. And I feel that many entrepreneurs are missing this piece. They’re missing this, this this approach to things that marketers have really bastardized the name of and you

Mike Clayton 15:00
instead of a project now what’s called a lunch mic. Right? It’s and this is not different, say runs by any other name. I think it’s interesting that you, you talk about Gantt charts, and Gantt charts are the poster child for, for project. Project management. You know, when, when you talk about project management, everyone thinks of a Gantt chart, let me take you back to, you mentioned a whole load of project management tools. And some that maybe you wouldn’t think of as project manager tool like notion. But yeah, you can, you can kind of throw names there like Sarna, Monday JIRA

Mike Clayton 15:34
Fabbro, click up all these different tools. And you and I know that there is no best tool, there are just tools that have what you need to do your work. And then you pick, depending on your approach to selection, I always say, you know, find the tools that do everything you need them to do, and then pick the one that has the least friction for your users. Because, you know, her tool that users don’t use is useless.

Mike Clayton 16:01
But actually, project management is the same ignore the software, there are a whole raft of different tools and techniques we use as project managers. And Gantt chart is one of them. And some people are put off by gang shots. And you know what, that’s fine, because it may not be the right tool, the right kind of thinking tool to help you to get a mental sense of control of your project. And, in fact, one of the things I think that

Mike Clayton 16:28
entrepreneurs will find difficult about the kind of project environment and why project management is so useful is when they start thinking about all the things they want to do, they get a sense of overwhelm this, I want to do this, I want to do that. But I’ve got to do that as well, I’ve got to get this done. And the lawyers are chasing me for this and the accountants chasing me for that. And, and so you’ve got all this thing. And of course, project management is designed largely to take all the stuff you need to do and organize it. Yeah. And a Gantt chart is just one tool for presenting that organization. What it does is it takes all those tasks, and it shows you how they pan out in time, which I believe and you have found for most people, is actually the most convenient way to think of it. And of all the Project Manager Tools. Gantt chart is the one that’s most useful, which is why I think all the different software, software’s are building getting shots in and long before you start seeing the marketing automation tools starting to

Mike Clayton 17:31
gain sharding. Or possibly, possibly, you’ll just say to their AI build me a Gantt chart based on these automation. And it will, but I think, you know, we actually need to start right at the beginning of the project management thing to say, you know, what are the what are the steps that we need to take to build this startup, or to build this project. And

Mike Clayton 17:55
a lot of entrepreneurs will be familiar with the concept of a roadmap will actually what we often think of as a roadmap is really not a lot different to a simplified Gantt chart. So

Mike Clayton 18:08
but there are things on the roadmap that

Mike Clayton 18:13
make it so much easier to get from, I want to build this business. And I’ve got an idea through to launching the business and putting it into an operational mode. And even when it’s in operational mode, we have marketing campaigns to launch we have new products to launch, we have expansions to make happen, we have, hopefully new premises to take on as we grow. So that those project management skills that you acquire as an entrepreneur, or you bring into your team as an investment as soon as you can afford to

Chris Davis 18:47
those skills and those processes will stand you in good stead as your business grows. And you will grow the range of tools you’re using and the approach you take to managing a project. Yeah, and you mentioned when you can afford to I want to talk about two states of business. I want to talk about one state of business where you know, you’re profitable and you’re really looking to to optimize become more efficient. Then you have the second one that we’ll talk about, well, hey, what if I don’t have all of that money? What what do I do then? But for those those businesses because even in my consulting, I’m often interfacing with the project manager. And whenever there’s one involved things just seem to flow smoother. So in that respect, if you have the capability, what what are some of the what are some of the telltale signs in your company? What would someone be experiencing what are some of those friction points where there is a clear need our whole to for a project manager?

Chris Davis 19:57
I think that the obvious sign will be

Mike Clayton 20:00
Should we get a sense of overwhelm sense of, you know, I don’t know what to do next, what’s most important, that’s, that’s classic. Another thing is things go wrong and completely out of the blue and catch you by surprise that when you look back at them, you think I should have known that it’s not like

Mike Clayton 20:18
the markets collapse, or there’s an epidemic, where the entrepreneur couldn’t reasonably have predicted it. But you and I know that in an entrepreneurial life, you do something, anything, you know, what if I thought that through more carefully, that wouldn’t have happened. So, so that starts to happen, you find that you’ve got lots of people, you’ve got lots of capacity, whether they’re, you’ve employed them, or you’re using them. But somehow it doesn’t feel like they’ve, they’re all working at full stretch, because you don’t quite know how to brief them. But what you do find is that you as the entrepreneur are working late hours, because you have to be feeding stuff to them for them to be productive. So all of those kinds of inefficiencies start to build up to a sense of overwhelm. And it’s come back to you know, what project managers crave above all else’s control, because that’s what our job is to create. And the entrepreneur that doesn’t feel they’re in control of their

Mike Clayton 21:18
emerging business is in desperate need of a either a project manager or some project management skills, to exert that control and to claim ownership of all the different tasks, organize them, prioritize them, sequence them, and start getting them ticked off. Yeah, and this is important, because the question is, I felt this in the future that somebody was listening, it was like, Well, okay, but what does a project manager do? And I’ll let you answer. And I think the question comes from, well, wait a minute, my VA does that. Right? Wait a minute, my operations person does that. And what I would invite to the table for you to clarify is, is that a fair expectation to put that on your VA? Or put that on your executive assistant? Or is this a total separate practice that if you’re a profitable company, this is the position you should be looking to feel? Okay? Well, it is, it is reasonable if your VA has project management skills, to use your VA, as a project manager,

Mike Clayton 22:33
they may market themselves to the VA with project management skills, and they or they may market themselves as a freelance project manager. It’s also true that some

Mike Clayton 22:46
personal assistants have or can acquire project management skills effects on my channel, I introduced interviewed a very inspiring American project manager called Andrea Anna Marshall. And she is now an expert in scrum methodology and Scrum Master. But she told the story of starting off as a, as a personal assistant to her boss, who said, You know what, I need you to be managing projects, let’s get you some training and do that. So it is entirely reasonable. And so I don’t kind of say, you know, there is a project manager person, and unless you are that project manager person, you can’t go near projects and manage them. But it’s like everything.

Mike Clayton 23:28
Anyone who has the willingness to learn can acquire the knowledge, start to practice it. And if they keep on keep that learning mindset, they will increase and improve their skills and be more capable of taking on projects. But you did ask, you know, what is it a project manager does for you. And I think that’s the key. That’s the key because, you know, you can call yourself an entrepreneur, you can call yourself an ops director or whatever. Actually, project management is what you do. And I think it is best summed up in terms of, you know, the flow of a project, the different stages of a project, and what we have to do at each but sitting over all of that, I think is, one is coordination of resources, and activities. And by resources, I mean, the people of course, but also the material resources, the equipment that you need, the the consumables and materials that you need the money as well. I mean, money is the master resource you can buy, it’s what you use to buy all the other resources, including people.

Mike Clayton 24:30
So you have kind of oversight of the resources and of the tasks but the other thing a project manager has to do and this is why, you know, there’s as as in your business, so in mind, AI is taking the world by storm, and people are saying, you know, will ai do away with project managers.

Chris Davis 2:17
application methodology perspective. So I couldn’t think of any one better than the doctor himself. Mike, welcome to the podcast. How you doing?

Mike Clayton 2:28
Chris? It’s a delight to be here. I’m absolutely fine. And looking forward to speaking with you.

Chris Davis 2:33
Yes, yes. So so I’ll let let me ask you this, Mike. How it was Did you always, was it always project management? Or did you start elsewhere? And kind of find your way into it?

Mike Clayton 24:46
Well, interesting, who knows what the far future holds or even the medium term, but in the short term, my prediction is that what AI will do is it will do away with the need for project managers and perhaps their assistant seems to be doing a lot of the administrative load of gathering data, collating data, analyzing data, presenting data, those sorts of things. But the core of project management is about coordinating people to do things. And what skill does that require? It requires the ability to listen to people’s concerns, to explain what you need them to do, and to work with them to create the environment where they do it. Yeah. Which, on the face of it sounds a bit like an operational role. So the difference is that an operational person is going to be most comfortable when they’ve got an established process. And they can make sure that that keeps running like a well oiled machine. Yeah. Yeah, the project manager, it has that personality and that skill set that actually makes them comfortable. Building that process and refining that process and changing it day to day, as the project evolves, as new people come and go from the project. So I think that’s really how I see project management. And so I think, you know, the, the operational mindset of we know how it’s supposed to work. And if it’s not working, that way, we’ll fix it isn’t quite right for project management. Because the project managers mindset is new day a new set of challenges. Let’s work with the people we’ve got around us to address those. So at the end of the day, we are not where we were, we are where we want to be.

Chris Davis 26:31
Yeah, that’s, that’s good. That’s very helpful. And as you were explaining that I was thinking, is it preferred? I have an answer to this. I’m interested in what the good doctor has to say first, though, is it preferred that you get a project manager with experience in your industry? Or is a project a project a project doesn’t matter? What industry?

Mike Clayton 26:57
You know, that’s one of the biggest debates in the in the project management profession? Do you as a project manager need expertise in the industry in the sector? My answer has always been no. Project management is the discipline. And that’s how I kind of I was a consultant. So I had no expertise in anybody’s sector. And I went from sector to sector and projects project. But if you are going to make that work, you need, we keep coming back to that the learner mindset that says right, I’m in a new sector. So first working day of January in 2000, I had rolled off just before Christmas, a two and a half year project, preparing a huge UK based what we call footsie 100, equivalent of your fortune 100 company, for the year 2000. You and I will remember that the world was going to end when computers didn’t know how to handle the date change and why an exciting project. So second January, I flew out to Holland. I’m in the UK to work on an in an internet startup. In 2000, it was going to be the first telephone telecoms company to use a tip to build a whole company from scratch. Based on voice over IP, it was probably about five years too early. And so I had to manage a project which was about integrating huge ERP type systems, we were using SAP we were using Siebel, I’m not even sure broad vision still exists. So I don’t know whether your audience will know broad vision, we huge amounts of middleware, make it all work, huge technology. Plus, it was basically a telecoms business. I’ve never worked in telecom sector. So the way I made that work is I arrived there, I found out who my so I was working for Deloitte. So at the time, found out who the workstream leaders were the the experts at the top of each area of work from my firm. And over the course of two or three days, I had lunch or dinner with each of them. And I said, teach me about what you do and how it fits in, I started off with the systems architect, and I said, draw me a picture of the system we’re making and explain it to me. And he drew what he called a pillar diagram, basically all the different things connected. And my purpose was not to think that I could become an expert in any of these things. My purpose was to know enough so that when anything cropped up, I knew who was the right person to speak to, or you know what domain I was in, and I could diagnose it. So my answer is that for most projects, you probably don’t need to go into the project with that expertise of the sector of the function, or whatever. But if you have that It’s an asset. So if you are an entrepreneur and you’re bringing in a project manager, ordinarily prefer someone with a bit of experience in your sector, or better still, I would say, a near adjacent sector, because that gives you the sweet spot of they can hit the ground running, perhaps only joking. But they’ve got a little bit of transferable knowledge. So they can see things from a select in perspective, because of course, there’s always a benefit to being able to bring in ideas from different places and say, Well, you know, the, particularly with a startup, you don’t want your startup to look like a dozen one other businesses in your sector. Yeah, that’s why you’re starting up, you’ve got a new idea. So perhaps, but so I, I would say probably, you don’t need that skills. But I’m open to the fact that there may be some sectors where the value of having sector skills is far higher than in most cases.

Chris Davis 30:58
Yeah. And I think I think I see it more in the tech space. Like, for instance, for me, when I went when I bring on someone in this capacity, it will be beneficial if you’ve managed a project where we’re launching a course running a webinar, you know, things of that nature. Now, those aren’t unique things, their events, right, their events, their their their products, that things of that nature. However, there’s intricacies there’s a knowing that, okay, if we’re going to be using this, this, if we’re going to be running this webinar, maybe we need to have social media graphics done by this. And since you’re integrating it with the certain software, like the small details, and I liken it to me, I’m in the field of automation. I feel Mike, I really do feel like I can come into any business and intelligently accurately implement automation. Now, what’s my what is my, my go to? Well, I learned it going direct to consumer in a SAS environment. So if you put me in that environment results will come faster. Take me out of that put me in b2b. Can I figure it out? Yes. Will I figure it out? Yes. However, the time factor may be a little longer. And I think that’s the difference, right.

Mike Clayton 32:21
And there’s another parallel between your experience as a, an automation expert and my experience as project manager. If you go into a business where you’re not familiar with their their line of business, you aren’t dependent on having a client who can articulate their need, clearly enough that you can say, okay, now I see what your strategy is, now I see what you’re trying to do, I can build you an automation, I can plan you a project that will get you there. But if you’ve got a client who says, Well, I don’t really know what I want, then your lack of sector experience means that you don’t know what they should want. Whereas if you come in with second experience, you can say, right, here’s a range of things that you could be aiming for. But you know, what I was thinking and be careful the clients you work for, if you’ve got a client who really can’t articulate what they want, they’re not really ready to buy an automation expert or project manager. There was a, there was a slide that I saw, that was a presentation by a senior vice president, I think of going to remember it and I cannot remember which business it is. It’s a big tech business and US tech business. She’s European, Senior Vice President, I think. But she basically said, you know, whenever you go and see a client, you need them to explain to you what it is they want. And because of that, AI is not going to take your job because AI can’t make get someone to articulate their needs. Whereas a good consultant whether it’s a project management consultant, or it’s a marketing automation consultant, or any other consultant is adept at asking the questions that draw out. And this is the you know, I You mentioned kind enough to mention my my book, how to manage a great project, which is my kind of introductory book on project management. And it divides project management into eight stages. And the first stage is and they’re all labeled by questions. And the first great question is, what do you want? You can’t start managing a project until you know what it is you or your client or your boss wants. And so the first skill of project management is helping your sponsor to articulate what success looks like. And you know why you know why they want it, what are the benefits they’re gonna get from it so they can later use it, you can justify the costs and that’s exactly the same. I’m sure when you’re helping someone design A marketing automation it’s, you know, what is it you want this automation to do? What’s the goal of the automation?

Chris Davis 35:06
Yeah, yeah. And you sometimes you just have to pay to discover what you need. And, you know, if you’re bootstrapping that may, that may be a little harder to hear, then if not, because a lot of times Mike and this goes global, is we want that perfect off the shelf professional, just know everything, do everything and not realize it’s 80% relying on us to communicate. And if if you happen to get somebody with your industry or domain expertise, they’ll be able to fill in the gaps, Hey, you said this, but are you thinking about XYZ? To me, that’s what really makes a solid project manager is you’ve done the best job that you can do to communicate what you know. And they see hold, oh, but have you thought of this? How about that, I think that’s the sweet spot that you in, let’s be fair to everyone. Sometimes they have to grow with you. They may not have all of that expertise. But as long as you’re aware of that, when you’re bringing them on whether it’s freelance or in any other capacity, just understand that okay, this is what I would like to see your existing skill set translate to as you learn my industry, right? That’s a that’s a different conversation. But the other side of the coin is, everybody’s like, okay, great, we’re in a will to go get a project manager. Let’s go look, right. But then you have the other side of the entrepreneur that’s listening. It’s like, wow, I mean, I can barely afford my subscriptions to my CRM, software, and XYZ, where am I going to get this project management person? Oh, my gosh, it might doom? What tips do you have for the person who’s not yet in a financial position to be able to bring on a project manager and maybe a freelance or part time capacity?

Mike Clayton 37:08
Yeah. And if you really can’t bring bring someone on, then build the skills in your team. I mean, that’s the joy of the modern world is that you can get training easily and cheaply. I mean, you can buy a book for $20 and read it. And know, you know, really what you need to do to know to get started with project management, you can go to a website like mine, you can or even to my YouTube channel and pick up stuff for free you can go to the you know, the Udemy is or whatever. So there’s, there’s lots of skills, pick up those skills actually record, the first step is to recognize value. The other thing, you know, would be remiss of me if we’re talking about project management, particularly in your in the tech space, not to least acknowledge that there are two broad approaches to project management. So there’s what I grew up with, which is now known as either traditional project management or predictive project management or plans, project management, or what I consider to be a derogatory term, but widely used waterfall project management, the idea that we can figure out how to go from A to B in a series of steps. We know where we want to get to, and we will plan that out. And that’s that’s how I grew up managing projects. And on the other side of it is what is properly known as adaptive project management. But most people call agile project management, or they label it with one of the frameworks or methodologies the commonest of course being Scrum. Now, like last year on my channel, before this year came along, and it was the year of AI and PM, my catchphrase for the channel was all project management is hybrid project management. That is to say, if you have a mindset that says we either need to do everything in a predictive paradigm, we need to plan everything out from day one, and follow that plan till we meet it. Or you say, You know what, predictive project managers rubbish, we need an agile project that says we don’t plan anything, we just do a week’s worth of stuff, and then we review and we do another week’s worth of stuff. Yeah, I do not believe that the world works well. When people take an extreme position, and assume it is right. The world works best when we recognize the value in, in this case, the two different approaches. And then we create a hybrid that says, For this project, at this moment, in this startup, for what you want to do today, the best balance is here. And I’m going to draw tools from this and I’m gonna draw tools from that tomorrow, I may change my mind. So when you’re looking either to train yourself up or train your team up or hire someone in with project management, the most important thing is that you either create or hire someone with skills at both ends of that spectrum, who is prepared and able to To draw on a range of different ideas, because you know, if if the only tool you got in your toolbox is a hammer, everything starts looking a bit like a nail. And, you know, the one trick pony is not going to not going to be flexible enough to deal with things. So yeah, get get yourself some training, if you can’t afford to bring someone in. Or you know what a lot of, you know, if you’re an entrepreneur, then if you’re going to be a successful entrepreneur, then you’re the sort of person you can talk to people, you’ve got networks, in all, all walks of life, whether they’re from college, whether they’re in your current social life, whether they’re in your business life, whether they’re on LinkedIn, whatever social media, you use, reach out, and find people who can give you a piece of advice, you know, where’s the best place to start? Project managers, you know, a keen to talk about their professionalism. You know, if I come to you and say, you know, I just got this, you know, I need to get started with automation. What that was, that was the one thing I need to start with to get me kicked off in the right direction, you’d be happy to give that piece of advice to a friend or a colleague, and so would I, in project management terms. So that’s how to get started. But then I would say, once you start to generate some of that revenue, either take one of your existing people and give them more time and more focus on the project management, or bring someone into the team who is there to do that, so that, that your staff can go back to what they were doing? So bring it in incrementally if for nothing else, and to prove to you the value of what’s what’s happening here. You know, it’s that proof of concept. Yeah, project management is no different to anything else.

Chris Davis 41:44
Yep. And I’ll say this, everyone, and I’m saying it to myself, as well. Some of the skills that I’ve looked for and found be very helpful to me, are process oriented skills, the they had to be a process oriented thinker. And were very organized, and a great communicator. And when I say communicator, I’m not talking about they can write a very, they can write a very formal email, or they’ve got good grammar. I mean, they can clay ask clarifying questions. Hey, you said this was launching next week, by next week. Did you mean Friday? Oh, wait a minute, I guess I just kind of threw next week out there, right, they really add definition to broad language and laziness that we kind of operate in, in the day to day of getting things done. Those are three core skill sets that I always look for, in a person in that capacity bonus, if those organizational skills translate digitally, and they can be digitally organized, oh, my goodness, where Listen,

Mike Clayton 42:52
actually, that links to the fourth one I’d add in. And it’s linked to the communication. But most project managers have to lead and really get people to do stuff without authority. And it’s nice to think that, you know, if you’re an entrepreneur, you lend your authority to the project manager. And every everything they asked someone to do, that you’re they’re asking with your authority, the reality is that does that’s not going to happen, because there is that. So you need someone who can influence and persuade who has those, that personality, those communication skills that can bring people on whether it’s stakeholders, who might have a stake in what you’re doing, or whether it’s team members who would really rather just get their head down and do their own thing, rather than actually contribute to the other thing, which happens to be more important today. And that links very well to the you know, the digital organization, because of course, if you can bring in the team members you’ve got available as a project manager and engage them to collaborate on the current project priorities, then one of the things you need to be able to engage and collaborate on is a shared collaboration tool. Because if you if you’ve got, if you’ve can’t persuade people to use the shared collaboration tool, then the project management becomes much more laborious it becomes, frankly, old school, the only way you can know what everyone is doing by is by talking to everyone every day. Isn’t it lovely now that when people comply properly, you can open up your desktop and just see what people have completed since since you last looked at it. But that will only happen if you can bring people in into that. So which is why you know I always say you know, pick the pick the software that does what you need it to, and then choose the one that creates least friction with the team because then they’re most likely to use it.

Chris Davis 44:48
Absolutely. Well, Mike, listen, this has been great. A lot of insight, a lot of stuff for me to think about and Listen, everyone. You don’t always know me anything that you need to know, sometimes you just feel the pain. So hopefully some of the pain that we’ve pointed at that you’ve been experiencing in your business, you now are that much more informed on a path forward and perhaps a new professional on your team to explore new skill sets that you need to have, or need to add to your existing team or yourself. Mike, if anybody wants to connect with you, on YouTube, you’ve got to book your very well knowledge in this area, where can they go?

Mike Clayton 45:35
Right. So the best place is to go to my YouTube channel, which is online pm courses. And there’s a new videos every week about project management. But on that channel, there are a whole load of videos about the basics of project management. If you want a structured course, go to the online PM courses.com website. For your viewers and listeners who are entrepreneurs and want to get started with learning some basic project management, the Fast Start program is probably you know, two and a half hours of videos that will get them in, if they if you’re really committed, then go for the skills mastery program, which is about six, seven hours of videos, which will give you all the skills you need to really get going. So those are the two places. But as all as always, I’m a professional, your professional. LinkedIn is the place where we get together. So find me on LinkedIn. And I mentioned that you’re part of Chris’s community or one of his listeners or viewers. And I’d be delighted to link with you. And share my knowledge with you that way too.

Chris Davis 46:43
Great, great. Appreciate that, Mike. And I’ll say this everyone in case you didn’t connect the dots. You can go through these pm courses that Mike has. Or you can send the person on your team that you would like to acquire the skills through these courses. So again, think outside of the box. You’ve got help. You’ve got resources in this area. Mike, Dr. Mike Clayton, thank you so much for coming on to the podcast. I greatly appreciate it.

Mike Clayton 47:14
It’s been a great pleasure, Chris, thank you for inviting me. Yes, yes,

Chris Davis 47:17
absolutely. Listeners, thank you for your time. Thank you for your attention. See you all online and until then, automate responsibly, my friends.

 

Narrator 0:00
You’re listening to the off systems go podcast, the show that teaches you everything you need to know to put your business on autopilot. Learn how to deploy automated marketing and sell systems in your business the right way with your host, the professor of automation himself and founder of automation bridge, Chris Davis

Chris Davis 0:32
welcome everyone to another episode of The all systems go podcast. I’m your host, Chris L. Davis. And just thank you, thank you for your continued listenership everyone. Today I’ve got a a very necessary conversation, I’ll say, all right. Our guest today is Mike Clayton. And he is Dr. Mike Clayton. He is a project manager and founder of Online PM courses.com and a presenter of the successful project management YouTube channel. By the way, I was on LinkedIn just the other day and I saw another company shouting out Mike and they was having his videos in their. In their promo I looked, it appeared to be a promo so very well known in the space. And as a PM trainer, he’s trained many 1000s of learners in his books have sold nearly 100,000 copies. He’s introduced his introductory pm book is how to manage a great project. And everyone the reason why I’ve got Mike with us today is because I’ve got project management experience in terms of witnessing the benefits of it working with startups and even in my corporate experience. And I feel like there’s a gap, there’s a misunderstanding at times on the importance, the power and how to properly leverage project management skill. So Mike is on today everyone to help us navigate this project management space, not from a technological perspective, but more from a

Mike Clayton 2:51
That’s a good question. I mean, I guess,

Mike Clayton 2:54
I guess it sort of wasn’t it sort of wasn’t. So I started in terms of work, or for many, many years, my plan was to be an academic in the world of physics, I, as you said, I’m a doctor, I did my PhD. And I always plan to go into academia. But as an undergraduate, I’ve done what I now know of as projects, particularly event management, and I got a real buzz out of them. And when it came to kind of make up my mind up on applying for permanent lectureships, at universities, something in me said, Actually, let’s try going into industry. And I went into consulting. And

Chris Davis 5:00
Jaden said, and his approaches are what I would now recognize, recognize as good project management, kind of approaches to things. So I guess I’ve always had that kind of ability to see how to plan things into stages and take things up and pay attention to risk and all the things that we have to do as project managers to make things happen successfully. And to assure ourselves that something uncertain is going to turn out or is likely to turn out all right, which is really what project management is all about. Yeah, and I want to set the table for for everybody, and even myself, so everyone know that I’m here as a learner as well. And the context I like to create is the story of two startups that shall remain nameless, you have startup a and startup B. Startup, A is a proponent of project management, they, they they take project managers per department, and you’ve got multiple project managers, the project managers are meeting with the leadership team to ensure that everything is is aligned, then you have startup B, that is opposed to project management, and their ethos. And philosophy is, hey, you’re a professional, manage yourself. You manage your own projects, and make sure things get done. Now, what I experienced was startup a that had a project manager, things just tended to flow smoother deadlines were were able to be hit more consistently. And then the ones without was more siloed. There were things still getting done. But they were the schedules didn’t align that it was hard to keep in communication with all departments. And then externally, I don’t know if users or customers felt it, but it was very disjointed. So I look at that experience and realize I’m a proponent of project management. So that’s one piece. But two is, Mike, when it comes to

Chris Davis 7:02
building a business, they’ll tell you, hey, you need a VA, you needed the graphic designer, you need a web developer. And now they even got, hey, you may need to OBM and online business manager which I have feelings about, which is a whole nother topic. But you have all of these things, what you don’t hear is, hey, you should have a project manager, you need a project manager for that.

Chris Davis 7:25
So so with that being said, I want to give you the floor and really talk about the importance of project management. And for those that don’t have it, what friction points they’re probably experiencing, from a lack thereof. And I think that’s it quite an interesting observation about things people tell you should have. And I don’t know what the VA market is like in the States, here in the UK. I mean, it should be an international market, because it doesn’t matter where your VA is. But a lot of the VA is I see kind of pitching themselves to me is you know, we’ll be doing project management. And I think the question you have to ask there is, what do they mean my project management. But your your example of business a and business B is, is lovely, because that what you observed is exactly what I would expect if if you tell everybody to manage their own projects, basically, you get a whole raft of behaviors that flow from that. And the first is that people acquire sharp elbows. If they’re being incentivized to manage their own projects and deliver their own thing, then their incentive is to get anyone out their way that is impeding them. Which means that if you’ve got two initiatives which need to run together, but they draw upon, let’s say, a common resource, then my interest as a one person, professional project manager, is to fight for that resource and to shove the other person out of the way. But the other thing that you get is, and this happens in big organizations with a lot of project management, a lot of project managers in in within them. But at a much more strategic level is, if you imagine a big corporation see has

Mike Clayton 9:07
2030 4050, you know, senior vice presidents across the world, each of whom has ideas for projects, which will deliver value to the business.

Mike Clayton 9:18
But the business does not have the capacity in terms of resources in terms of budgets to invest in all of those.

Mike Clayton 9:25
Now, if at the top of that organization, see, they do not have someone who is controlling that portfolio and saying which of those projects are the right strategic projects for us now and allocating resources and closing down the others, then the projects that are likely to succeed

Mike Clayton 9:45
are the ones that have the loudest, most pushy, assertive managers behind them. Whereas business D might have a few professionals who say what do we need strategically and they do

Mike Clayton 10:00
Design a portfolio that balances everything. And suddenly the organization prioritizes and delivers the right projects, scaling that bounce down to your business a and business B, business a with project management, running across it is able to say right, now’s the time for your projects will come to the fore. And now’s the time for your workstreams to take a lead. And now I need you to help them. So you get exactly what you plan for.

Mike Clayton 10:29
So what is project management about? Well, one of the things, you know, when you’re talking about startups and startups are about the most uncertain adventures by project, the US Project Management Institute defines a project as a novel endeavor that delivers products, services,

Mike Clayton 10:51
processes, with, too, you know, within a deadline, and you and also with it with

Mike Clayton 11:00
limitation on resources, because projects, you may have a budget, you may not have a budget, you may be doing on a shoestring. But even if you’ve got a budget, it’s going to be limited. So

Mike Clayton 11:12
a startup is absolutely novel, it is absent. So you’ve got all that uncertainty of what do we do as project managers. Our one mission in life as a project manager, is to bring control to a chaotic environment.

Chris Davis 11:28
And what is more chaotic, what is more uncertain than a startup? So the skills of project management are all about bringing together the people you’ve got and the resources you’ve got, and using them to best effect and making sure that you as a project manager, and your client or boss or sponsor, in our case, the entrepreneur that is and the founders who are funding this, they know exactly what is going to be happening and how their decisions are flowing through into actions. Otherwise, it’s chaos. Yeah, and here’s what’s interesting. Here’s what I find interesting. You can always pay attention software is the startup company, SAS software, software, as a service companies are, are really telling to where the market is because they’re often responding to their customer base. And what you see I do some tech talk here is from notion to air table, click. I don’t know about us, and I have to double check. But I’m pretty sure Asana, you know, you name the tool. They’re all adding timeline, and Gantt charts. Now, I’m going to be fully transparent and honest here, everyone I’ve used, I usually just bypass all of that I jump over like, oh, Gantt chart, Okay, anyways, Kanban, and all these other views, you know, and that’s, that’s how I do it. However, I was recently burdened by having a project that my team and I was working on. And then I had another project external to me. And I said, Man, I’m starting to get lost. In it all. It’s starting to be overwhelming. I have software, Mike, I’ve got click up. I’ve got irritated, like, I’ve got project management enabled tools. But somehow I’m still lost. And it was a friend of mine that shared she shared this spreadsheet. That was a Gantt chart, though, she was like, Chris, this is how I stay organized. And this is how I keep on track, keep up to date with all of my projects, say, hey, wait a minute, let me let me try this out. Now. I’ve never been the builder of a Gantt chart. I’ve been the recipient of a project manager having one and then telling me when things were due. So I was kind of planning the project manager role in this one. But Mike, I have to say, if the software companies are adding these features, that means there’s demand for it. And then to once I did it, my I, it for me, I’m a visual person. So I think that was the missing link. Instead of having a list of checkboxes and due dates. I don’t I think my brain can’t conceptualize what they really mean. But when I saw the Gantt chart, and I said, Okay, if we have all of these tasks, outlined and connected and dependent, the day that we’ll actually be able to finish it is this and what if I take a week off and everything shifts? I was like, Oh, I could see the impact more visually. Yeah, that was my that was my process. And I feel that many entrepreneurs are missing this piece. They’re missing this, this this approach to things that marketers have really bastardized the name of and you

Mike Clayton 15:00
instead of a project now what’s called a lunch mic. Right? It’s and this is not different, say runs by any other name. I think it’s interesting that you, you talk about Gantt charts, and Gantt charts are the poster child for, for project. Project management. You know, when, when you talk about project management, everyone thinks of a Gantt chart, let me take you back to, you mentioned a whole load of project management tools. And some that maybe you wouldn’t think of as project manager tool like notion. But yeah, you can, you can kind of throw names there like Sarna, Monday JIRA

Mike Clayton 15:34
Fabbro, click up all these different tools. And you and I know that there is no best tool, there are just tools that have what you need to do your work. And then you pick, depending on your approach to selection, I always say, you know, find the tools that do everything you need them to do, and then pick the one that has the least friction for your users. Because, you know, her tool that users don’t use is useless.

Mike Clayton 16:01
But actually, project management is the same ignore the software, there are a whole raft of different tools and techniques we use as project managers. And Gantt chart is one of them. And some people are put off by gang shots. And you know what, that’s fine, because it may not be the right tool, the right kind of thinking tool to help you to get a mental sense of control of your project. And, in fact, one of the things I think that

Mike Clayton 16:28
entrepreneurs will find difficult about the kind of project environment and why project management is so useful is when they start thinking about all the things they want to do, they get a sense of overwhelm this, I want to do this, I want to do that. But I’ve got to do that as well, I’ve got to get this done. And the lawyers are chasing me for this and the accountants chasing me for that. And, and so you’ve got all this thing. And of course, project management is designed largely to take all the stuff you need to do and organize it. Yeah. And a Gantt chart is just one tool for presenting that organization. What it does is it takes all those tasks, and it shows you how they pan out in time, which I believe and you have found for most people, is actually the most convenient way to think of it. And of all the Project Manager Tools. Gantt chart is the one that’s most useful, which is why I think all the different software, software’s are building getting shots in and long before you start seeing the marketing automation tools starting to

Mike Clayton 17:31
gain sharding. Or possibly, possibly, you’ll just say to their AI build me a Gantt chart based on these automation. And it will, but I think, you know, we actually need to start right at the beginning of the project management thing to say, you know, what are the what are the steps that we need to take to build this startup, or to build this project. And

Mike Clayton 17:55
a lot of entrepreneurs will be familiar with the concept of a roadmap will actually what we often think of as a roadmap is really not a lot different to a simplified Gantt chart. So

Mike Clayton 18:08
but there are things on the roadmap that

Mike Clayton 18:13
make it so much easier to get from, I want to build this business. And I’ve got an idea through to launching the business and putting it into an operational mode. And even when it’s in operational mode, we have marketing campaigns to launch we have new products to launch, we have expansions to make happen, we have, hopefully new premises to take on as we grow. So that those project management skills that you acquire as an entrepreneur, or you bring into your team as an investment as soon as you can afford to

Chris Davis 18:47
those skills and those processes will stand you in good stead as your business grows. And you will grow the range of tools you’re using and the approach you take to managing a project. Yeah, and you mentioned when you can afford to I want to talk about two states of business. I want to talk about one state of business where you know, you’re profitable and you’re really looking to to optimize become more efficient. Then you have the second one that we’ll talk about, well, hey, what if I don’t have all of that money? What what do I do then? But for those those businesses because even in my consulting, I’m often interfacing with the project manager. And whenever there’s one involved things just seem to flow smoother. So in that respect, if you have the capability, what what are some of the what are some of the telltale signs in your company? What would someone be experiencing what are some of those friction points where there is a clear need our whole to for a project manager?

Chris Davis 19:57
I think that the obvious sign will be

Mike Clayton 20:00
Should we get a sense of overwhelm sense of, you know, I don’t know what to do next, what’s most important, that’s, that’s classic. Another thing is things go wrong and completely out of the blue and catch you by surprise that when you look back at them, you think I should have known that it’s not like

Mike Clayton 20:18
the markets collapse, or there’s an epidemic, where the entrepreneur couldn’t reasonably have predicted it. But you and I know that in an entrepreneurial life, you do something, anything, you know, what if I thought that through more carefully, that wouldn’t have happened. So, so that starts to happen, you find that you’ve got lots of people, you’ve got lots of capacity, whether they’re, you’ve employed them, or you’re using them. But somehow it doesn’t feel like they’ve, they’re all working at full stretch, because you don’t quite know how to brief them. But what you do find is that you as the entrepreneur are working late hours, because you have to be feeding stuff to them for them to be productive. So all of those kinds of inefficiencies start to build up to a sense of overwhelm. And it’s come back to you know, what project managers crave above all else’s control, because that’s what our job is to create. And the entrepreneur that doesn’t feel they’re in control of their

Mike Clayton 21:18
emerging business is in desperate need of a either a project manager or some project management skills, to exert that control and to claim ownership of all the different tasks, organize them, prioritize them, sequence them, and start getting them ticked off. Yeah, and this is important, because the question is, I felt this in the future that somebody was listening, it was like, Well, okay, but what does a project manager do? And I’ll let you answer. And I think the question comes from, well, wait a minute, my VA does that. Right? Wait a minute, my operations person does that. And what I would invite to the table for you to clarify is, is that a fair expectation to put that on your VA? Or put that on your executive assistant? Or is this a total separate practice that if you’re a profitable company, this is the position you should be looking to feel? Okay? Well, it is, it is reasonable if your VA has project management skills, to use your VA, as a project manager,

Mike Clayton 22:33
they may market themselves to the VA with project management skills, and they or they may market themselves as a freelance project manager. It’s also true that some

Mike Clayton 22:46
personal assistants have or can acquire project management skills effects on my channel, I introduced interviewed a very inspiring American project manager called Andrea Anna Marshall. And she is now an expert in scrum methodology and Scrum Master. But she told the story of starting off as a, as a personal assistant to her boss, who said, You know what, I need you to be managing projects, let’s get you some training and do that. So it is entirely reasonable. And so I don’t kind of say, you know, there is a project manager person, and unless you are that project manager person, you can’t go near projects and manage them. But it’s like everything.

Mike Clayton 23:28
Anyone who has the willingness to learn can acquire the knowledge, start to practice it. And if they keep on keep that learning mindset, they will increase and improve their skills and be more capable of taking on projects. But you did ask, you know, what is it a project manager does for you. And I think that’s the key. That’s the key because, you know, you can call yourself an entrepreneur, you can call yourself an ops director or whatever. Actually, project management is what you do. And I think it is best summed up in terms of, you know, the flow of a project, the different stages of a project, and what we have to do at each but sitting over all of that, I think is, one is coordination of resources, and activities. And by resources, I mean, the people of course, but also the material resources, the equipment that you need, the the consumables and materials that you need the money as well. I mean, money is the master resource you can buy, it’s what you use to buy all the other resources, including people.

Mike Clayton 24:30
So you have kind of oversight of the resources and of the tasks but the other thing a project manager has to do and this is why, you know, there’s as as in your business, so in mind, AI is taking the world by storm, and people are saying, you know, will ai do away with project managers.

Chris Davis 2:17
application methodology perspective. So I couldn’t think of any one better than the doctor himself. Mike, welcome to the podcast. How you doing?

Mike Clayton 2:28
Chris? It’s a delight to be here. I’m absolutely fine. And looking forward to speaking with you.

Chris Davis 2:33
Yes, yes. So so I’ll let let me ask you this, Mike. How it was Did you always, was it always project management? Or did you start elsewhere? And kind of find your way into it?

Mike Clayton 24:46
Well, interesting, who knows what the far future holds or even the medium term, but in the short term, my prediction is that what AI will do is it will do away with the need for project managers and perhaps their assistant seems to be doing a lot of the administrative load of gathering data, collating data, analyzing data, presenting data, those sorts of things. But the core of project management is about coordinating people to do things. And what skill does that require? It requires the ability to listen to people’s concerns, to explain what you need them to do, and to work with them to create the environment where they do it. Yeah. Which, on the face of it sounds a bit like an operational role. So the difference is that an operational person is going to be most comfortable when they’ve got an established process. And they can make sure that that keeps running like a well oiled machine. Yeah. Yeah, the project manager, it has that personality and that skill set that actually makes them comfortable. Building that process and refining that process and changing it day to day, as the project evolves, as new people come and go from the project. So I think that’s really how I see project management. And so I think, you know, the, the operational mindset of we know how it’s supposed to work. And if it’s not working, that way, we’ll fix it isn’t quite right for project management. Because the project managers mindset is new day a new set of challenges. Let’s work with the people we’ve got around us to address those. So at the end of the day, we are not where we were, we are where we want to be.

Chris Davis 26:31
Yeah, that’s, that’s good. That’s very helpful. And as you were explaining that I was thinking, is it preferred? I have an answer to this. I’m interested in what the good doctor has to say first, though, is it preferred that you get a project manager with experience in your industry? Or is a project a project a project doesn’t matter? What industry?

Mike Clayton 26:57
You know, that’s one of the biggest debates in the in the project management profession? Do you as a project manager need expertise in the industry in the sector? My answer has always been no. Project management is the discipline. And that’s how I kind of I was a consultant. So I had no expertise in anybody’s sector. And I went from sector to sector and projects project. But if you are going to make that work, you need, we keep coming back to that the learner mindset that says right, I’m in a new sector. So first working day of January in 2000, I had rolled off just before Christmas, a two and a half year project, preparing a huge UK based what we call footsie 100, equivalent of your fortune 100 company, for the year 2000. You and I will remember that the world was going to end when computers didn’t know how to handle the date change and why an exciting project. So second January, I flew out to Holland. I’m in the UK to work on an in an internet startup. In 2000, it was going to be the first telephone telecoms company to use a tip to build a whole company from scratch. Based on voice over IP, it was probably about five years too early. And so I had to manage a project which was about integrating huge ERP type systems, we were using SAP we were using Siebel, I’m not even sure broad vision still exists. So I don’t know whether your audience will know broad vision, we huge amounts of middleware, make it all work, huge technology. Plus, it was basically a telecoms business. I’ve never worked in telecom sector. So the way I made that work is I arrived there, I found out who my so I was working for Deloitte. So at the time, found out who the workstream leaders were the the experts at the top of each area of work from my firm. And over the course of two or three days, I had lunch or dinner with each of them. And I said, teach me about what you do and how it fits in, I started off with the systems architect, and I said, draw me a picture of the system we’re making and explain it to me. And he drew what he called a pillar diagram, basically all the different things connected. And my purpose was not to think that I could become an expert in any of these things. My purpose was to know enough so that when anything cropped up, I knew who was the right person to speak to, or you know what domain I was in, and I could diagnose it. So my answer is that for most projects, you probably don’t need to go into the project with that expertise of the sector of the function, or whatever. But if you have that It’s an asset. So if you are an entrepreneur and you’re bringing in a project manager, ordinarily prefer someone with a bit of experience in your sector, or better still, I would say, a near adjacent sector, because that gives you the sweet spot of they can hit the ground running, perhaps only joking. But they’ve got a little bit of transferable knowledge. So they can see things from a select in perspective, because of course, there’s always a benefit to being able to bring in ideas from different places and say, Well, you know, the, particularly with a startup, you don’t want your startup to look like a dozen one other businesses in your sector. Yeah, that’s why you’re starting up, you’ve got a new idea. So perhaps, but so I, I would say probably, you don’t need that skills. But I’m open to the fact that there may be some sectors where the value of having sector skills is far higher than in most cases.

Chris Davis 30:58
Yeah. And I think I think I see it more in the tech space. Like, for instance, for me, when I went when I bring on someone in this capacity, it will be beneficial if you’ve managed a project where we’re launching a course running a webinar, you know, things of that nature. Now, those aren’t unique things, their events, right, their events, their their their products, that things of that nature. However, there’s intricacies there’s a knowing that, okay, if we’re going to be using this, this, if we’re going to be running this webinar, maybe we need to have social media graphics done by this. And since you’re integrating it with the certain software, like the small details, and I liken it to me, I’m in the field of automation. I feel Mike, I really do feel like I can come into any business and intelligently accurately implement automation. Now, what’s my what is my, my go to? Well, I learned it going direct to consumer in a SAS environment. So if you put me in that environment results will come faster. Take me out of that put me in b2b. Can I figure it out? Yes. Will I figure it out? Yes. However, the time factor may be a little longer. And I think that’s the difference, right.

Mike Clayton 32:21
And there’s another parallel between your experience as a, an automation expert and my experience as project manager. If you go into a business where you’re not familiar with their their line of business, you aren’t dependent on having a client who can articulate their need, clearly enough that you can say, okay, now I see what your strategy is, now I see what you’re trying to do, I can build you an automation, I can plan you a project that will get you there. But if you’ve got a client who says, Well, I don’t really know what I want, then your lack of sector experience means that you don’t know what they should want. Whereas if you come in with second experience, you can say, right, here’s a range of things that you could be aiming for. But you know, what I was thinking and be careful the clients you work for, if you’ve got a client who really can’t articulate what they want, they’re not really ready to buy an automation expert or project manager. There was a, there was a slide that I saw, that was a presentation by a senior vice president, I think of going to remember it and I cannot remember which business it is. It’s a big tech business and US tech business. She’s European, Senior Vice President, I think. But she basically said, you know, whenever you go and see a client, you need them to explain to you what it is they want. And because of that, AI is not going to take your job because AI can’t make get someone to articulate their needs. Whereas a good consultant whether it’s a project management consultant, or it’s a marketing automation consultant, or any other consultant is adept at asking the questions that draw out. And this is the you know, I You mentioned kind enough to mention my my book, how to manage a great project, which is my kind of introductory book on project management. And it divides project management into eight stages. And the first stage is and they’re all labeled by questions. And the first great question is, what do you want? You can’t start managing a project until you know what it is you or your client or your boss wants. And so the first skill of project management is helping your sponsor to articulate what success looks like. And you know why you know why they want it, what are the benefits they’re gonna get from it so they can later use it, you can justify the costs and that’s exactly the same. I’m sure when you’re helping someone design A marketing automation it’s, you know, what is it you want this automation to do? What’s the goal of the automation?

Chris Davis 35:06
Yeah, yeah. And you sometimes you just have to pay to discover what you need. And, you know, if you’re bootstrapping that may, that may be a little harder to hear, then if not, because a lot of times Mike and this goes global, is we want that perfect off the shelf professional, just know everything, do everything and not realize it’s 80% relying on us to communicate. And if if you happen to get somebody with your industry or domain expertise, they’ll be able to fill in the gaps, Hey, you said this, but are you thinking about XYZ? To me, that’s what really makes a solid project manager is you’ve done the best job that you can do to communicate what you know. And they see hold, oh, but have you thought of this? How about that, I think that’s the sweet spot that you in, let’s be fair to everyone. Sometimes they have to grow with you. They may not have all of that expertise. But as long as you’re aware of that, when you’re bringing them on whether it’s freelance or in any other capacity, just understand that okay, this is what I would like to see your existing skill set translate to as you learn my industry, right? That’s a that’s a different conversation. But the other side of the coin is, everybody’s like, okay, great, we’re in a will to go get a project manager. Let’s go look, right. But then you have the other side of the entrepreneur that’s listening. It’s like, wow, I mean, I can barely afford my subscriptions to my CRM, software, and XYZ, where am I going to get this project management person? Oh, my gosh, it might doom? What tips do you have for the person who’s not yet in a financial position to be able to bring on a project manager and maybe a freelance or part time capacity?

Mike Clayton 37:08
Yeah. And if you really can’t bring bring someone on, then build the skills in your team. I mean, that’s the joy of the modern world is that you can get training easily and cheaply. I mean, you can buy a book for $20 and read it. And know, you know, really what you need to do to know to get started with project management, you can go to a website like mine, you can or even to my YouTube channel and pick up stuff for free you can go to the you know, the Udemy is or whatever. So there’s, there’s lots of skills, pick up those skills actually record, the first step is to recognize value. The other thing, you know, would be remiss of me if we’re talking about project management, particularly in your in the tech space, not to least acknowledge that there are two broad approaches to project management. So there’s what I grew up with, which is now known as either traditional project management or predictive project management or plans, project management, or what I consider to be a derogatory term, but widely used waterfall project management, the idea that we can figure out how to go from A to B in a series of steps. We know where we want to get to, and we will plan that out. And that’s that’s how I grew up managing projects. And on the other side of it is what is properly known as adaptive project management. But most people call agile project management, or they label it with one of the frameworks or methodologies the commonest of course being Scrum. Now, like last year on my channel, before this year came along, and it was the year of AI and PM, my catchphrase for the channel was all project management is hybrid project management. That is to say, if you have a mindset that says we either need to do everything in a predictive paradigm, we need to plan everything out from day one, and follow that plan till we meet it. Or you say, You know what, predictive project managers rubbish, we need an agile project that says we don’t plan anything, we just do a week’s worth of stuff, and then we review and we do another week’s worth of stuff. Yeah, I do not believe that the world works well. When people take an extreme position, and assume it is right. The world works best when we recognize the value in, in this case, the two different approaches. And then we create a hybrid that says, For this project, at this moment, in this startup, for what you want to do today, the best balance is here. And I’m going to draw tools from this and I’m gonna draw tools from that tomorrow, I may change my mind. So when you’re looking either to train yourself up or train your team up or hire someone in with project management, the most important thing is that you either create or hire someone with skills at both ends of that spectrum, who is prepared and able to To draw on a range of different ideas, because you know, if if the only tool you got in your toolbox is a hammer, everything starts looking a bit like a nail. And, you know, the one trick pony is not going to not going to be flexible enough to deal with things. So yeah, get get yourself some training, if you can’t afford to bring someone in. Or you know what a lot of, you know, if you’re an entrepreneur, then if you’re going to be a successful entrepreneur, then you’re the sort of person you can talk to people, you’ve got networks, in all, all walks of life, whether they’re from college, whether they’re in your current social life, whether they’re in your business life, whether they’re on LinkedIn, whatever social media, you use, reach out, and find people who can give you a piece of advice, you know, where’s the best place to start? Project managers, you know, a keen to talk about their professionalism. You know, if I come to you and say, you know, I just got this, you know, I need to get started with automation. What that was, that was the one thing I need to start with to get me kicked off in the right direction, you’d be happy to give that piece of advice to a friend or a colleague, and so would I, in project management terms. So that’s how to get started. But then I would say, once you start to generate some of that revenue, either take one of your existing people and give them more time and more focus on the project management, or bring someone into the team who is there to do that, so that, that your staff can go back to what they were doing? So bring it in incrementally if for nothing else, and to prove to you the value of what’s what’s happening here. You know, it’s that proof of concept. Yeah, project management is no different to anything else.

Chris Davis 41:44
Yep. And I’ll say this, everyone, and I’m saying it to myself, as well. Some of the skills that I’ve looked for and found be very helpful to me, are process oriented skills, the they had to be a process oriented thinker. And were very organized, and a great communicator. And when I say communicator, I’m not talking about they can write a very, they can write a very formal email, or they’ve got good grammar. I mean, they can clay ask clarifying questions. Hey, you said this was launching next week, by next week. Did you mean Friday? Oh, wait a minute, I guess I just kind of threw next week out there, right, they really add definition to broad language and laziness that we kind of operate in, in the day to day of getting things done. Those are three core skill sets that I always look for, in a person in that capacity bonus, if those organizational skills translate digitally, and they can be digitally organized, oh, my goodness, where Listen,

Mike Clayton 42:52
actually, that links to the fourth one I’d add in. And it’s linked to the communication. But most project managers have to lead and really get people to do stuff without authority. And it’s nice to think that, you know, if you’re an entrepreneur, you lend your authority to the project manager. And every everything they asked someone to do, that you’re they’re asking with your authority, the reality is that does that’s not going to happen, because there is that. So you need someone who can influence and persuade who has those, that personality, those communication skills that can bring people on whether it’s stakeholders, who might have a stake in what you’re doing, or whether it’s team members who would really rather just get their head down and do their own thing, rather than actually contribute to the other thing, which happens to be more important today. And that links very well to the you know, the digital organization, because of course, if you can bring in the team members you’ve got available as a project manager and engage them to collaborate on the current project priorities, then one of the things you need to be able to engage and collaborate on is a shared collaboration tool. Because if you if you’ve got, if you’ve can’t persuade people to use the shared collaboration tool, then the project management becomes much more laborious it becomes, frankly, old school, the only way you can know what everyone is doing by is by talking to everyone every day. Isn’t it lovely now that when people comply properly, you can open up your desktop and just see what people have completed since since you last looked at it. But that will only happen if you can bring people in into that. So which is why you know I always say you know, pick the pick the software that does what you need it to, and then choose the one that creates least friction with the team because then they’re most likely to use it.

Chris Davis 44:48
Absolutely. Well, Mike, listen, this has been great. A lot of insight, a lot of stuff for me to think about and Listen, everyone. You don’t always know me anything that you need to know, sometimes you just feel the pain. So hopefully some of the pain that we’ve pointed at that you’ve been experiencing in your business, you now are that much more informed on a path forward and perhaps a new professional on your team to explore new skill sets that you need to have, or need to add to your existing team or yourself. Mike, if anybody wants to connect with you, on YouTube, you’ve got to book your very well knowledge in this area, where can they go?

Mike Clayton 45:35
Right. So the best place is to go to my YouTube channel, which is online pm courses. And there’s a new videos every week about project management. But on that channel, there are a whole load of videos about the basics of project management. If you want a structured course, go to the online PM courses.com website. For your viewers and listeners who are entrepreneurs and want to get started with learning some basic project management, the Fast Start program is probably you know, two and a half hours of videos that will get them in, if they if you’re really committed, then go for the skills mastery program, which is about six, seven hours of videos, which will give you all the skills you need to really get going. So those are the two places. But as all as always, I’m a professional, your professional. LinkedIn is the place where we get together. So find me on LinkedIn. And I mentioned that you’re part of Chris’s community or one of his listeners or viewers. And I’d be delighted to link with you. And share my knowledge with you that way too.

Chris Davis 46:43
Great, great. Appreciate that, Mike. And I’ll say this everyone in case you didn’t connect the dots. You can go through these pm courses that Mike has. Or you can send the person on your team that you would like to acquire the skills through these courses. So again, think outside of the box. You’ve got help. You’ve got resources in this area. Mike, Dr. Mike Clayton, thank you so much for coming on to the podcast. I greatly appreciate it.

Mike Clayton 47:14
It’s been a great pleasure, Chris, thank you for inviting me. Yes, yes,

Chris Davis 47:17
absolutely. Listeners, thank you for your time. Thank you for your attention. See you all online and until then, automate responsibly, my friends.

 

Today’s Guest

Dr Mike Clayton is a Project Manager. He is founder of OnlinePMCourses.com and presenter of the successful Project Management YouTube Channel, OnlinePMCourses. As a PM trainer, he has trained many thousands of learners, and his books have sold nearly 100,000 copies. His introductory PM book is ‘How to Manage a Great Project’.

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