January 18, 2018


Project management advice, tips, tools and recommended resources for existing and aspiring project managers.

Nelson Mandela – One of the Biggest Leaders in Modern History

The 5th of December 2013 was a tragic day for South Africa, the passing of Nelson Mandela at the age of 95. He has changed the course of modern history because of his fight against apartheid, the 27 years spent in prison and serving as our nation’s first black president of a democratic elected government.

Nelson MandelaAs a leader he will always be remembered for his passion to fight for his vision, his willingness to forgive, freedom for all and reconciliation.

Nelson Mandela was born the son of a tribal chief in Transkei, a Xhosa homeland. Many South Africans of all races call him by his clan name, Madiba, which means “reconciler,” as a token of affection and respect.


A statement made during the sabotage trial in 1964 by Mandela showed his ideal:

“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

He was sentenced to life in prison, which he spent mostly at Robben Island off the coast of Cape Town.

In his autobiography, “Long Walk to Freedom,” he would write about his life after prison:

“As I finally walked through those gates … I felt — even at the age of seventy-one — that my life was beginning anew.”


President of first democratic elected government

South African President  Nelson Mandela takes the oath

South African President Nelson Mandela takes the oath

When Mandela became President in 1994, he closed his inauguration speech with:

“Let freedom reign. The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement! God bless Africa!”

Mandela celebrated holidays and hosted friends among the huts of rural Qunu in a replica of the prison guard’s home where he lived during his final days of confinement. Qunu is also where he was buried on 15 December 2013. About 5,000 people attended the state funeral, and millions more watched it on television.

Father of the Nation

Mandela statueNelson Mandela is known as the father of the nation. This is evident when looking at new banknotes, released by the central bank in 2012, showing his face. Mandela statues are in front of buildings and squares; places are named after him. South African Airways even emblazoned his silhouetted image on planes.

There are some famous projects associated with the Nelson Mandela Foundation. From the Centre of Memory a $1.25 million project to digitally preserve a record of Mandela’s life, went online last year. The project by Google and Mandela’s archivists gives researchers access to hundreds of documents, photographs and videos.

The Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund (NMCF) is a charitable organization founded by Nelson Mandela. Its mission is to help individuals from birth to age 22, and particularly orphans of the AIDS crisis. The fund currently has offices in Johannesburg, South Africa (Head Office) and in London, United Kingdom, which focuses on fundraising.

Mandela Soccer World CupThe Nelson Mandela Day’ project is to inspire individuals to take action to help change the world for the better, and in doing so build a global movement for good. Ultimately it seeks to empower communities everywhere.

Mandela’s last public appearance was in 2010. It was during the Soccer World Cup 2010, hosted by South Africa at the Soccer City stadium when he smiled broadly and waved to the crowd during the closing ceremony of the World Cup.

The other unforgettable appearance during a sport event was during the 1995 Rugby World Cup, hosted by South Africa, when he appeared at the final in Johannesburg, wearing a Springbok jersey to congratulate the victorious home team. Mandela Rugby world cup


Visionary leader

He will be remembered as a visionary leader who managed to unite South Africa and who set an excellent example to leaders.  As stated by Joyce Banda, the president of Malawi: “Leadership is about loving the people you serve and the people you serve falling in love with you. It is about serving the people with selflessness, with sacrifice and with the need to put the common good ahead of personal interests.”

That is what Nelson Mandela stood for and how he has won the hearts and minds of many people not only in South Africa, but all over the world. He was truly inspirational as captured in many of his quotes:

“A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination”.

“When people are determined they can overcome anything”.

Thanks Madiba for the legacy that you are leaving behind…

5 Essential Practices for Explaining Projects to Stakeholder

By Guest Author: Jo Ann Sweeney

Are you frustrated you’re no longer getting the support from stakeholders that you need for your project to succeed? And you have difficulty in explaining your projects properly?

Perhaps you have hit resistance to the changes. Maybe you are working on a multi-site, multi-country or long-term project and, midway through, you’re struggling to keep key people interested and involved.

The fact is, keeping sponsors, senior executives and end users involved for the duration of our projects takes effort – experience also helps!

Over many years as a communications consultant working on complex and multi-site projects, no matter the size of your team or budget, I have learnt key lessons in winning stakeholder support.

Here are 5 essential practices for explaining projects:

1.      Simple and practical

When it comes to planning the communication aspects of any project, the simpler the plan, the more effective it is. It can be as simple as a bulleted list of things to do and key messages we wish to get across.

However, more useful is a communication framework that clarifies:

  • The objectives for communications activities
  • A prioritised list of key audiences
  • Which communications channels to use
  • A calendar of activities
  • Monitoring mechanisms
  • Who is responsible for delivery.

One of the biggest benefits of a simple structure is that we spend less time planning and have more time for managing each of the activities.

2.      Understand their perspectives

Project communication is about more than project updates. People want to be personally involved; they want content that relates to them and that they can relate to. This means tailoring content to their needs rather than presenting it from the project team’s perspective.

Here are some guidelines to tailor the content:

  • Understand who they are –  the obvious plus what they think and feel
  • Uncover what they are interested in – usually what their performance pay is based on
  • Relate to their view of the world – are they thinkers, people-focused, or action-oriented
  • Identify shadow issues – unacknowledged attitudes and behaviours that impact their support
  • Balance their needs – sponsors, senior execs and end users have different needs.

3.      Clear aims

There are four over-arching reasons for telling people about your project:

  • Knowledge – you want them to know more than they currently do
  • Attitude – you want them to feel more positive than they do
  • Support – you want them to say positive things about your project in public
  • Involvement – you want them to get involved in some way.

These reasons form a spectrum with ‘knows nothing’ at one end and ‘fully involved’ at the other. If you want an individual or audience grouping to be fully involved then you will need to move them along the spectrum using communication activities that build on each other.

Using this spectrum we turn communications activities into a stepped process based on business objectives. It ensures activities are linked to business need and the project’s core aims.

4.      Flexible schedule of activities

When we use a flexible schedule to manage communication activities we are able to respond to unexpected issues and to changes we aren’t able to predict.

A schedule is just a framework to show clearly what is going to happen and when; it can be complex and difficult to update or flexible and easy to change.

Being flexible means we can change any of the components – deadlines, audiences, delivery channels, responsibilities, monitoring – as and when we want without causing extra work or problems in other work streams.

5.      Take audiences on a journey

Communicating projects is all about taking our audiences on a journey from where they are now to where we want them to be.

We plot where each of our audiences is now in terms of familiarity and favourability; and where we want them to be. Then we map a journey that will help them to get there.

By following these essentials on your projects, you will win stakeholder support that will help your project to succeed.


Jo Ann Sweeney is a communications consultant and mentor who helps project managers win the support of their sponsors, senior executives and end users.

She has launched the brand new Communicating Projects MasterClasses starting in September 2011 to help teams present their projects so audiences listen and understand. For full details, visit: http://www.sweeneycomms.com/communicating-projects

A Project Manager Is As Good As His Last Project

Surely you have all heard the phrase: “a project manager is as good as his/her last project. Today I want to share a story with you that will also illustrate this point.

project manager is remembered by his last projectIn December (our summer holiday time) we went to a beautiful beach town where many people enjoyed their yearly leave. In this small town there are many small traders who sell things from the side of the road, on the pavement. It ranges from jewellary, sunglasses, souverniers, clothes, etc. A lady who use to sell handmade dolls, walked across the road to give a doll to the daughter of a friend of her. When she crossed the street again to walk back to her stall, she was hit by a car and she died in hospital a few hours later from head injuries.

The following day there was a photo of the lady in the local newspaper with a picture of the 5 year old girl holding the doll that was given to her by this lady. She would always be remembered not only by her beautiful handmade dolls, but also by her last act of kindness, giving one of her precious dolls to a friend…

As a project manager I know this holds true for projects as well. People will remember you from your last successful project. For this reason it is very important to treat every project as if it is your last. It may be your last project for that specific company, or for that specific customer or with that specific team.

A project manager should not only look after his/her reputation, but also the perception of the project he/she is responsible for.  You should be doing the right things, but also doing things the right way in the eyes of your customer. Work with your team to please the customer.

Sometimes the customer requires small things, like providing refreshments at a Steering Committee meeting for senior managers, to keep him happy. Your team requires your support, your guidance and leadership, and consistent communication regarding project related work. If team members are treated with respect and much is expected of them for delivery, they will live up to your expectations.

Creating a culture of collaboration where team members provide feedback and discuss problems openly, will contribute to a successful project. Building good relationships with your team as well as your customer, is an essential ingredient for making your current project worthwhile to remember. When coupled with on budget, on-time delivery you will be remembered as a good project manager, but even if you don’t achieve the triple constraint (on time,within budget and with quality), but through good communication practices you managed to keep your team motivated and the customer happy, you have hit the target to execute a successful project – one people will remember you by!

By the way, being called back by customers for additional projects, is one of the best recommendations (and compliments) that a project manager can hope to receive.

Please comment and share if you have had good experiences with ‘last’ projects.

I Want To Be A Project Manager When I Grow Up

Recently I came across a good presentation about taking project management ‘out of the box’. What this means, is to spread the word outside our project management community about what a great bunch of people we are and how project management is a valuable skill to pretty much everybody. It is about telling people what you do and what the typical working day of a project manager looks like.

Thinking back at how I ended up becoming a project manager, I remember landing in project management by accident, but staying here on purpose. It is because it is such a good fit for my personal strengths and skills. But I never grew up thinking that I wanted to become a project manager. I didn’t know of the existence of such a career choice and much less of what was expected of such a person.  So it is to this day. How many young people, school leavers, know what are the duties and qualities of a good project manager?

Also, project management is not a typical career choice. It is usually part of many advanced management courses that are offered at universities and colleges all over the world.  Typically, you would study to become something else. Then by portraying the qualities that would make you fit for an effective and efficient project manager in your industry, often project opportunities would come your way. Before you know it, you would have transformed to become a professional project manager. Read about my journey to project management in my blog: About Project Management Passion.

How important is project management in today’s world?

With one-fifth of the world’s GDP being spent on projects this year clearly business isn’t just about operations anymore. Competitiveness and innovation is what drives projects in this world.

We are part of a dynamic, resourceful and ever evolving world that demands change as part of its survival. And change demands projects and projects demand project managers. So it seems we, the project managers of the world, are pretty important in the scheme of things. Mostly not “life or death” important but still important enough.

Now is the time that it is even more critical to succeed, and succeed with a higher level of certainty than seen before since those projects that will be commissioned in the future, as well as the ones that are allowed to continue in the current climate, will be expected to deliver higher business impact, be under closer scrutiny from senior management and be under far more pressure to succeed.

And guess what, who will be the one that is under the most pressure, the project manager!

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Source: “Getting Project Management ‘Out of the Box'” by Peter Taylor, Author of ‘The Lazy Project Manager’.

About the author: Linky Van Der Merwe is a Project Management Consultant and an IT Project Manager with 15 years IT industry experience and 12 years Project Management experience. She consults with small-medium business owners and service professionals about project management processes and tools, best practices and successful delivery through projects. She can be reached at linky@virtualprojectconsulting.com

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An effective way to speed up results with business projects is to apply a simple Project Management framework to deliver your projects on time, to budget and with desired quality.

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