Abe Vincent Award Winner

 

Sarah Award Photo
Sarah Tyson accepting the Abe Vincent award from Therese Lawlor-Wright.

On graduation day, we had the pleasure of awarding the ‘Abe Vincent award for Project Leadership and Community Engagement’ to Sarah Tyson. Sarah has  graduated with an Fd Sc in Project Management from the University of Cumbria.

The award celebrates the contribution that project management skills make in the community and is sponsored by the friends and family of Abe Vincent. Abe was a young man who died from bone cancer at the age of 21. Abe did not study project management but he demonstrated many project management skills and used these to make a difference in the community. This included fundraising for charity and supporting and encouraging other people.

The award was open to students enrolled on one of the Project Management courses at the University of Cumbria. Applicants had to prepare a written description of the their work in leading a community based project and this was assessed by a panel of judges. The prize is a voucher with a value of £200. We chose a voucher saying ‘Above and Beyond’ for the award. This recognises someone who has gone above and beyond in using their project management skills for the benefit of others.

Sarah Tyson’s application described her use of Project Management skills in organising a field day event for the Young Farmers in West Cumbria. She chaired a group of 15 representatives of young farmer clubs to run a field day with 63 events. In the months of organising behind the scenes, she engaged stakeholders, responded to queries, co-ordinated the efforts of others, supported the group and held it together. On the day itself, she was the ‘go to’ person for any unforeseen events and also responsible after the event for handing over to the next committee. The field day resulted in  financial benefits in the funds raised and also many benefits in terms of bringing the community together.

With this award, we recognise and appreciate Sarah Tyson’s work in going ‘above and beyond’ studying project management in using her project management knowledge and skills for the benefit of the community.

 

 

 

Looking back, looking forward

 

Graduation Day marks the end of the academic year and is always a time to reflect, this year more than ever! 18th July 2017 marked the first graduation from the Project Management courses at University of Cumbria. We had 12 graduates from our Foundation degree in Project Management and eleven graduates from the University Certificate in Project Controls course. It is always a proud moment for staff to see our students graduate and also very pleasing to meet their friends and families at the ceremony. Graduation was in the historic setting of Carlisle Cathedral, definitely a place to appreciate and celebrate a historic moment with our new graduates!

After the graduation ceremony, there was a reception organised by the Project Academy. This was to celebrate the achievements of the students sponsored by Sellafield and also to recognise the success of the Project Academy in making project management education and training available across Cumbria. The achievements of the Project Academy are remarkable in drawing together providers of education and training to improve the skills base in the region.

There were many proud moments at the award ceremony, including the establishment of the Ian Marr prize recognising the Project Management Apprentice of the Year.  Sellafield has been at the forefront in promoting apprenticeships throughout its workforce across technical professions. In recent years, Sellafield led the employer groups who have established the standard for associate project manager apprenticeship. This is already making a huge difference with next year hundreds of apprentices expected to be enrolled across the country in public and private sector organisations. The employer group is now submitting the standard for the degree apprenticeship in project management and we look forward to providing this at the University of Cumbria in the future.

So, looking back, we recognise what we have achieved at the University in establishing the project management courses and the Project Academy for Sellafield. We recognise and celebrate and the efforts and achievement of the graduates in getting to this point with the support of sponsors, family and friends. We look forward to working together in the future to provide more opportunities and support for the project management profession.

Visit Report – University of Westminster Stakeholder Engagement APM Event

IMG_0203A visit to London on Thursday 16th March allowed a visit to the University of Westminster who were hosting an APM event on project problem solving through stakeholder engagement. The guest speaker, Fiona Magee from CITI Ltd drew on her experience in consultancy in Programme management to emphasise the importance of  ‘Stakeholder Engagement’ as an essential prerequisite for realising the benefits from projects.

Failure to engage the stakeholders, can mean that a project produces outputs as intended but there is no take up of the results and benefits are not achieved. Magee reported many instances where project managers attempted to hand over outputs to stakeholders who were unwilling or unprepared to take them up. She then debunked the Five Myths of stakeholder engagement which can affect projects.

  1.  We Manage our stakeholders
    Using the term ‘stakeholder management’ indicates that we co-ordinate and control our stakeholders. Is this really our intention? Can we be successful with this approach? The term ‘engagement’ indicates participation and responsiveness. We seek to engage our stakeholders and can only manage the project’s engagement with them. This distinction is really important.
  2. ‘Everybody’ is a Stakeholder
    This attitude can lead to futile efforts in pleasing everyone who has any connection with a project. There are two types of stakeholder – role based and agenda based. Role based stakeholders have roles in the project e.g. project sponsor, team member, supplier. They are an intrinsic part of every project and need to be engaged. Agenda based stakeholders are ‘around’ the project and are affected by it. In some projects, managing these stakeholders is hugely important. In other projects, they may not play a significant role.
  3. We understand our stakeholders
    The classic ‘stakeholder analysis’ matrix classifies stakeholders according to their interest in the project and the impact they have on the project. We need to take a questioning approach to this analysis. Is the project sponsor really a high interest and high impact stakeholder? Some project sponsors have little interest in the project and need to be engaged to increase their interest. By questioning the actual position of the stakeholders, we can take action in order to address any potential problems for the project.
  4. It’s all about communication
    Communication is important for engaging stakeholders but we need to consider what we are trying to achieve with our communication and why we are communicating rather than just the ‘how’ and ‘when’ of the communication. If we are trying to change behaviour, it can be useful to consider Beckhard and Harris; change formula.
    We can ‘nudge’ behaviour in the direction of engagement and this taking this  into consideration with our communication can be very effective.
  5. Some projects do not need stakeholder engagement
    Projects vary in the degree of complexity of their stakeholders. Some projects have few stakeholders and all are role based. In this case, the stakeholder engagement will not take significant effort. However, other projects have a wide range of stakeholders with complex interrelationships and we can expect these will require significantly more effort to engage. We could call these ‘stakeholder sensitive’ projects and there is a lot to be learned from them.

 

Think Global, Act local – APM Event Carlisle

 

Storm Doris raging outside did not deter the enthusiastic reception for Dr Ozma Taylor’s talk on ‘think Global, act local’ at the University of Cumbria’s Carlisle campus. The phrase Has been used in many contexts, but Dr Taylor discussed this in the context of how developing personal relationships and trust is a necessary prerequisite for international collaboration. Drawing on her extensive experience of international collaboration with the Chinese nuclear industry, Dr Taylor explained how cultural awareness had really helped to develop effective business relationships.

Key take away messages from Dr Taylor’s talk:
1. We need to be culturally agile and willing to adapt to develop relationships with other countries.
2. Chinese people really do not like sandwiches (but will be too polite to let you know). Please serve hot food if you are hosting them.
3. If there is a clash of cultures, explain politely where you are coming from to avoid giving offence.
4. ‘Guanxi‘ is a Chinese concept concerning relationship development. Ignore it at your peril, trust takes time to develop.
5. In many cultures, the real work is done outside of the formal meetings. Be sensitive to what is not said as well as what is said in the meeting.

Also, at the Carlisle event, three University of Cumbria students gave their perspective of what it means to be a professional project manager in the U.K..

The three students were all on the Fd Sc Project Management at the University. Their far sighted presentations included the impact of APM receiving its Royal Charter, a comparison of the APM code of conduct with that of the PMI and the role of continuing professional development.

Brian Wernham, APM board member, commended the students for the high quality of their presentations and gave an update on APM’s journey towards awarding Chartered Project Professional status. The prize for the best student presentation went to Wayne Cook who is employed by Sellafield and studying through the Project Academy at the University of Cumbria.

Student News – Andrew Bennett and the Brathay Apprenticeship Challenge

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Andrew Bennett is in the second year of the FdSc Project Management course at the University. He also is completing a level 4 apprenticeship in Project Management. Combining the apprenticeship with being employed at Sellafield and studying on a day release at the University makes for a very busy life. This Semester he is ultra busy having taken on the challenge of leading a team of apprentices in the Brathay Apprenticeship Challenge.

In this challenge, teams of nine apprentices compete in various challenges designed to develop team skills and to publicise apprenticeships to young people and employers. It’s a national competition, this year involving more than 650 apprentices from 75 organisations. The challenge is designed to develop leadership, teamworking and communication skills in the contestants. Eight national finalist teams will be announced in the House of Commons on 17th May 2017. The competition culminates in a four day workshop from 12th to 15th June with the overall winner announced on 14th June 2017.

Andrew has taken on the role of team leader and is already using many of the skills developed on his Project Management foundation degree course. His experience on the challenge so far has included giving presentations about apprenticeships to local employers and young people.

Andrew is looking forward to completing the community project which is part of the challenge. The project is called ‘Cumbria Youth Can – get the fitness factor’ and is designed to promote initiatives to improve physical and mental health of young people in Cumbria. The project will involve setting up a website with information on local sporting clubs and mental health initiatives to promote physical and emotional well being.

For the latest updates, you can follow the Sellafield Apprentice team on Twitter at @SLBrathay2017 or use the hashtag #BAC17 to find out more about the progress of all the teams in the Brathay Apprenticeship Challenge.

Andrew has promised to update us on the teams progress as the competition progresses, so watch this space……..

 

Why Study Project Management?

img_9360Thousands of students graduate each year from UK universities. Some subjects have very strong subject related employment figures following graduation. There are clear career paths ahead for graduates in medicine, dentistry and veterinary studies as well as nursing and education. In other subject areas the number of students in employment following their graduation is around 70%. The majority of these graduates are employed in a subject area that is not linked directly to their degree. In many cases, employers are not looking for subject specific graduate knowledge but the right person to fit into their organisation.
Project Management is a role which is seeing increasing professionalisation and a global increase in demand. The Telegraph published a short article  listing 10 good reasons to become a Project Manager. Employment opportunities , money and prospects feature at the top of the list. The Project Management Institute also reported that global demand for Project Managers is very high and showing signs of growth.

Currently, there are very few UK undergraduate programmes in the subject area of Project Management despite there being a huge demand for skilled workers. Project Managers are traditionally sourced from existing staff in organisations who need projects. So we have project managers in the health service and  IT as well as construction and manufacturing. These staff may have some training in project management or be qualified in other areas but lack training and confidence in project management. We could call these the ‘accidental project managers  it isn’t their chosen profession but they are in the role and can benefit from training and education to support and develop their potential.

Those institutions that offer Project Management as a subject in its own right include in their programmes the tools and techniques of project management itself but also include some personal and professional skills. These include communication skills necessary for dealing with people and managing conflict. Project Management degree courses also include business and finance skills to ensure that graduates understand the context within which projects operate. This mix of subject areas reflects the range of skills that project managers need if they are to be successful. These programmes will prepare graduates with a broad and relevant skill set making the task a finding a job easier and finding a job in the subject area related to their first degree quite likely.

Studying Project Management at University makes a lot of sense, it can lead to a varied career in many different industries, the job prospects are very good and salary expectations and career progression opportunities are also very strong. There are a limited range of project management degree courses available. The range of courses is likely to increase with the advent of degree apprenticeships. These courses will have appeal to new entrants into project management as well as giving the accidental project managers the qualifications and knowledge they are seeking to back up their experience.

If you are considering studying Project Management, please talk to us about our courses.

FdSc Project Management 

BSc (Hons) Project Management 

BSc (Hons) Project Management (top up)

Meet the Apprentices

Who chooses to become an apprentice or to take up an apprenticeship?

At the University of Cumbria, apprentices are already enrolled on our Foundation Degree course in Project Management. We find them highly motivated learners who are quick to grasp new ideas and seek to apply them in the workplace. Many are very involved in their local communities also – running sponsored events and making key contributions to voluntary organisations. We hope that the knowledge they gain on our courses and the skills they develop will have benefits in their work and also for the wider community.

For young people considering apprenticeships (or parents seeking to support their career choices) it can be good to have a talk with apprentices to find out why they chose this pathway and whether they would recommend it to others. Two of our Project Management students, Andrew and Chelsea are heavily involved in promoting apprenticeships as part of the Sellafield apprenticeship team effort in the Brathay Apprenticeship Challenge.

Employers can meet them at the University of Cumbria ‘Apprenticeship Information Events’ this week  in Carlisle, Ambleside or Lancaster.

You can find them on Twitter at @SLBrathay17 or tweet using hashtag #BAC17

 

 

 

A visit to APM HQ

Last week, I visited Association for Project Management Headquarters at Princes Risborough. This is an address I have seen on lots of forms but never previously visited. Over the past years, I have had regular correspondence with APM concerning membership, qualifications, accredited training, arranging events for the NW branch and even contributing to developing standards for apprenticeships in Project Management. Hardly a week goes by without some contact with APM. Most of my contact has been by phone or email. Realising this is true for many APM members (Princes Risborough is not just somewhere you ‘drop in’.) I decided to take some photos on my visit so I could share the whole experience. APM staff agreed to help.

Photos above – Venetia at APM reception is really helpful – first impressions count. Stephen Miller (Education) and Anna Grabham (Volunteers co-ordinator) are in regular contact with the volunteer community.  Keo-mony Mith deals with course accreditation and Jo deals with queries about membership and qualifications.

With the news in December of APM being awarded a Royal Charter, we should expect many changes in the coming months. This is a real milestone in the development of project management as a profession. APM members are awaiting further advice about how to become Chartered Project Managers, this will involve a major change of the institution itself. Many APM staff have been working diligently in the background to achieve this and we look forward to their continued advice and support as the profession moves forward.

So, lots of changes expected at APM HQ in terms of the organisation itself and how it supports the profession, watch this space!

Apprenticeships: then and now

img_9759Apprenticeships are a radical new development in education – or are they? The word ‘apprentice’ conjures up a lot of images. These range from children in Victorian times apprenticed to a trade to young entrepreneurs jockeying for a position as Sir Alan Sugar’s next protégé. The Government has pledged to support 3 million apprentices in the UK by 2020. Are we returning to Mr Gradgrind’s vision in Hard times? Definitely not. Today’s vision of an apprenticeship is very different. Apprenticeships are very much supported by employers, education providers, Government and Professional bodies.

In 21st Century England, the Government has sponsored apprenticeships as a way of encouraging individuals to combine working in industry with studying. This has advantages for the individual, the employer and the academic establishment involved. The individual gets the opportunity to ‘earn while they learn’, they are working in industry from the start and their studies are sponsored by their employer. This leads to highly motivated learners who are keen to apply their knowledge in the workplace. From an academic perspective, working with these learners can be challenging and extremely rewarding. Text book knowledge is questioned, discussed and contextualised in the classroom and often in the workplace. Employers are involved in setting the standards for apprenticeships which are then delivered by training providers and educational establishments.

In project management terms, a Higher Level Apprenticeship in Project Management was launched by the APM several years ago. Following the Sainsbury report, the Government decided to rethink apprenticeships and employer groups were formed to write new Trailblazer standards. Once a standard has been approved, with its associated assessment plan and costing, it is available for training and education providers to develop programmes of learning to support the standard. Employers can then recruit apprentices and work with the training and education providers to support their development.

The Level 4 Project Management Trailblazer Apprenticeship Employer Development Group is a group of employers from different sectors and led by Sellafield. This group prepared the standard and assessment plan which is now available on the Government website and will influence the training of project management apprentices for many years. The photo marks the formation of the Employer Review Group who will support the standard and ensure it is being delivered effectively in the years to come. This group is being led by the Cabinet Office. The attendance of more than forty people at the inaugural meeting is evidence of the level of interest and support from industry in taking up this standard.

So, when you hear Project Management Apprenticeships – this is where we are now. A strong employer led group establishing standards and working together with education and training providers – all to support the development of the future workforce. It’s not about Mr Gradgrind or Sir Alan Sugar, it’s all about the apprentice and their development.

 

 

 

 

Five go on a Strategy Awayday – lessons for a project team

famous-five-coverAccording to Twitter, a popular Christmas present this year was Bruce Vincent’s parody – ‘Five go on a strategy awayday’. What lessons are here for aspiring project managers? For anyone who needs reminding, the Famous Five are a group of English schoolchildren in a series of novels written by Enid Blyton in the 1940’s and 50’s. The Famous Five novels were hugely popular and very formulaic – the team usually had a mystery to solve without much adult intervention during their school holidays. Perhaps ideal training for project managers as each ‘mystery’ was a small project which could usually be solved by working together with limited resources and a fixed timescale. 

I read all the Famous Five books when growing up and found the characters easy to connect with in the ‘Enid Blyton for Grown Ups’ series. First, there is Julian who is always the group leader and sometimes exasperated at his team members. Anne is unfailingly nice to everyone. Dick is rather non-descript and just gets on with tasks in the background. George’s main characteristics were her attachment to Timmy the dog (the fifth group member) and her refusal to accept being female. 

As the novel opens, we meet the Grown up Famous Five on the London Underground as they go to the suburbs for a ‘strategy away day’. Julian has been working for several months on a large project that is expected to take several years to complete. As project manager, and realising his team is understaffed, he engages his Famous Five chums to help him out. So, he is basically transplanting this formerly successful team into his current project. They have been working together on the project for a month and all is going well, but they have been asked to attend a ‘strategy away day’. Right from the start it is presented as a challenge to the harmonious working of the team. Julian loathes team building exercises and finds being able to tell people what to do very gratifying, so the experience is not welcomed.

Julian who had been very assured in the children’s books is now a threatened middle manager who is hungover, irritable and fiercely competitive with rival teams from his employer. 

 The first team building exercise on the awayday involves a blindfolded Julian leading his team through a balloon minefield. His team members can direct him but only using words of support and encouragement and without using the terms ‘left’ or ‘right’. Anne proves to be very adept at this and we get the impression that she has been steering the team for years. 

famous-five-illustrationThe next group exercise involves all team members giving feedback on each other’s characteristics and their negative aspects. Unsurprisingly, Julian doesn’t like being labelled ‘domineering’, Dick is labelled as ‘lazy’, Anne is ‘too predictable’ and George as a ‘renegade’. Identifying and discussing these attributes does not have a beneficial effect and drives the team apart.  

Next, a communications exercise goes badly wrong. This puts the team at the bottom of the leaderboard and results in humiliation for Julian. Anne has to intervene to prevent a fight between her team and their gloating rivals. Going into ‘parent mode’ she tells them they are all being childish and commands her team to follow her outside. We are told ‘Anne had never spoken in this way before and they followed her, feeling utterly chastened’. Interesting that it has taken more than 60 years for Anne to overcome her niceness and discover her potential to lead the team!

Later, on an outward bound exercise, the team members take it in turns to be leader. Anne is a ‘nice, trusting leader’ delegating to her team. George is dictatorial, perhaps fearing others are as rebellious as she is herself. Julian takes a back seat and the group becomes confused and leaderless. All of them try to act differently to their previous teamworking ‘labels’ but are confused and resentment builds. The demoralised team seem unable to work together as their previously successful behaviours have been undermined and they try to negotiate new ways of working.

 Accidentally uncovering a plot by a rival company propels the five back into their previously successful behaviour patterns with Julian again taking the lead. A visit to the pub restores morale and they manage to save the day.

The lessons for project managers in this book are mainly about leadership and team working. Established teams have patterns of behaviour that can be difficult to break. We need to consider if these serve the project. Julian has problems trusting his staff which may be why he has called in his family and childhood friends to work with him. The behaviours that work well in a team of four are unlikely to work in the major project environment and he will need to adapt. Ultimately, despite his scorn, I would hope the away day would help give him some insight into the capabilities of his team members and other ways of working. Equally, having the opportunity to experiment with other ways of working might help the team members to grow and develop. Leadership is no longer seen as the attribute of a single individual. All of the team members can develop their ability to lead and the organisation can benefit as a result.