Using Story-telling Techniques to Capture the Experience of High-performing Project Managers
Have you ever been concerned about the loss of knowledge and experience when senior project/programme managers retire? In the world of project management this is a classic case of Lessons Learned, but Knowledge and Wisdom lost.
In South Africa where skills shortage is considered an acute concern, this is pertinent, but it’s also a global phenomenon. The challenge we have today is to capture the essence of this wisdom, Project Lessons Learned, in a way that is relevant to future usage, readily searchable and easy to store.
It is important not only to capture knowledge from retired project managers, but also to share the know-how and experience of our most successful practising project managers and share these with the South African project community in particular, as well as with a global project manager audience.
One fundamental mechanism for passing on human wisdom since early civilisation, has been story-telling. Knowing this, an idea was born.
Collect Success Stories from experienced project/programme managers in order to share experiences and to promote learning across the project and programme management community of South Africa and eventually abroad.
Proposed Story Collection Framework
To collect success stories following an approach of structured interviews and guided questions to elicit ‘rich descriptions’ of events from experienced project and programme managers. The stories will be written up as mini case studies with the aim being to describe the learning point. It will be stored centrally, categorised, indexed to enable search, and shared by making it accessible to the members of the PM community in South Africa and globally, who can use it for references by sector and keywords.
How would you like to contribute?
- Share your thoughts about the proposed framework for capturing and sharing success stories from experienced project managers
- Nominate experienced project/programme managers to collect stories from
- Submit projects that would be useful to learn from
- Nominate yourself to participate in this initiative and make a contribution to the PM community
Please send a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Download the Success-Stories-Shared Brief as a guide to the approach.
Example of a Success Story Shared
The first of a series of Success Stories Shared comes from a project manager who formed part of a multi-national team charged with regaining market share for their client. It was a complex project with international stakeholders introducing language and culture barriers and a timeline of eighteen months.
The company was not a convert of formal project management methods and was, at the time, using a lite version of Prince2. The translation of strategy into an executable plan whereby stakeholders’ visions of success as a single and agreed common understanding, was particularly difficult.
What has worked well?
The successful outcome of the project was based largely on the company’s strong corporate governance working to achieve the strategic objective which was to re-capture its market share. The Prince2 Board structure proved to work well with decision makers working quickly and decisively.
Highly effective skilled specialists collaborated regularly by sitting together, resulting in fewer meetings than normal and a cohesive, integrated team.
Dealing within a marketing environment, the team had to adopt flexible project management processes, translating PM terminology into business terms, with ‘risks and issues’ translated into ‘considerations and opportunities’ and the project plan becoming the ‘cycle plan’.
In retrospect the project management team learned that, in spite of the size of the organisation in question, which is governed by bureaucracy, the project team achieved a quick turn-around time from decisions to implementation. The lesson learnt from this is to prevent delays with decision making by global stakeholders, the project plan included a schedule indicating the decision makers’ levels of responsibility in the chain of command which proved to be an invaluable time saving measure.
While the organisation values and uses the formal Prince2 approach, here it was crucial that this approach was adapted by the project manager to meet the demands of this specific project in order to achieve the objectives and desired results.