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Webinar: Nick Fewings' Arabian Nights - Turning a project team round in the desert

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Reflective account by Jim Dale (ProgM Secretary)

Okay - let me be up-front and confess - this was my first ever webinar! Candidly the idea of passively sitting in front of a computer screen for an hour watching, PowerPoint slides and listening to a speaker drone on did not appeal to me. If it is unenticing for the listener what must it be like for the poor speaker with just a screen to interact with!

Heresy - I hear you shout – this is the age of social media, webinars are accessible to hundreds, indeed thousands, they don’t involve the cost and time of travelling, they allow busy people to get on with their days jobs blah blah. ‘Yes’ I know this but I was still not a webinar fan; that is until earlier today.

Firstly, I want to say a big thank you on behalf of the Committee to Nick Fewings, the Co-Director of TheColourWorks for delivering an interesting, interactive presentation, with passion and flare. Secondly, well done to the APM for hosting this event. Nick’s presentation was about conflict and dysfunction amongst a team of project professionals working in Saudi Arabia. From my experience you don’t have to go very far to find conflict in project teams, but I guess a Bedouin tent in the Arabian Desert is more glamorous than an office in a London Borough Local Authority!

Nick’s presentation was anything but a passive experience. He introduced a series of on-line voting experiences, which were simply brilliant. We were asked, for example, about the typical issues in projects and then asked to ‘vote’ electronically.  At the same time a constant stream of useful suggestions, questions and comments were being logged and displayed on the ‘twitter’ stream.

Nick spelt out three common causes of project failure as weak leadership, inadequate resourcing and poor stakeholder engagement.  The link is, of course, people. People will ultimately determine project success or failure. This may sound obvious but it is frequently forgotten as we strive to deliver projects focusing on PPM, methodology, systems and processes.

Another fact that Nick emphasized was that we all have different personalities that condition the way we learn and respond to change. Nick’s simple and visual colour-coding system, used in-conjunction with a further poll, reinforced this point.

Now the really neat thing about webinars is that they can easily be recorded and made available to all:

So what learning can I take from Nick’s thought provoking presentation?

1) We must invest time getting to know our teams and what makes them tick;
2) We need to understand why change is resisted and help people progress quickly through the change curve;
3) We need to invest in a range of different communication styles to engage effectively with out stakeholders; and lastly,
4) Take a hat with a built-in fan when visiting the Arabian Desert!

Nick’s presentation slides are made available below to assist sharing and for those with green / yellow tendencies can be further shared with others.

Due to compliance changes, you cannot view the SlideShare's slides unless you accept statistics cookies to be able to view this content.

Several questions were asked during, and at the close, of the webinar.  Nick has kindly addressed all of these which appear below.

Future events:

Please check out ProgM’s annual conference, ‘Delivering More for Less’ which is scheduled for Tuesday 26 November 2013. We have some great speakers and there will be lots of opportunity for networking.

Finally, we need your help:

If you have experience of major organisational change (in any capacity) we invite you to complete an online survey which will inform a ProgM white paper setting out best practice for programmes delivering collaborative transformational change.

The survey can be accessed here.

Further information about the survey is available on the APM website.


Nick Fewings: Q & A

Q. Nick - Dent and Goldberg wrote a paper challenging the commonly held view that people resist change. Too often communications is a one way broadcast, not surprising people get frustrated.
A. I wholeheartedly agree. We naturally communicate in our own style and unless we have an understanding of others' needs, our communication can fall on deaf ears.  As an example Fiery Reds will talk about success, targets, deliverables whereas Earth Greens want to know the impact on people and customers. Bridging this gap is vital so that all needs are met.

Q. Shouldn't the HR department or the people in charge of employing the team be aware of how to build a team?

A. Most definitely. However in my experience the project team is often put together based on technical skills alone and scant attention is paid to investing quality time in getting the right people on the bus.  Forward thinking organisations that I work with profile their available project staff and take this into account when putting the team together. Additionally they have an understanding of team dynamics from day 1 of the project and will often devote a day early on understanding individual relationships.

Q. Thank you, very interesting. I did the survey a few months ago, but got no supporting information on how to use the Discovery profile.  This has been really useful.

A. Hopefully this was not via The Colour Works. We either de-brief profiles in a workshop setting or ensure individuals have a 30-min telephone or face to face de-brief. We also provide a 'Getting The Most Out Of Your Profile Guide' as further support.

Q. Can you please advise what the famous five issues are for effective change?

A. They are:
1. Clarify the Change – Vision
2. Involve Staff - Appropriate Skillsets
3. Manage Resistance - Incentives to Change
4. Communicate - Ensure 2-Way Feedback
5. Track Progress - Have An Action Plan


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  1. Alastair Smart
    Alastair Smart 27 September 2013, 07:54 PM

    Since leaving the UK a year ago to support a project in Canada, I have missed the thought-provoking APM (Branch and SIG) events.Webinars have provided me with a means to stay connected with what is happening in the APM community, and I have found the platform / tool to be a lot better than anticipated; I'd had expectations of audio problems and shaky recordings of a projecter screen!I'm fortunate that the time difference allows me to join in before leaving for work, so I haven't had to risk poor Wi-Fi or conflicting commitments.The 'Arabian Nights' presentation was a particularly good example of audience participation through the voting buttons, and having a specific Twitter hashtag to accompany the presentation also helped the sense of inclusion. The process of submitting typed questions via a toolbar avoids the audio free-for-all that might come from using conference-calling. I do still miss the networking aspect so I'm looking at local opportunities for this - webinars will never be able to replace meeting up with people, but they certainly have their place as a personal and professional development tool. 

  2. Merv Wyeth
    Merv Wyeth 04 September 2013, 04:01 PM

    Hi folks,Not being the type to allow grass to grow under our feet, ProgM have organised a further webinar for 21st Oct 2013 entitled Using Research to improve the delivery and effectiveness of Change Programmes We are really looking forward to welcoming Rod Willis @RodWillisGTC who will discuss his research on 'resistance to change.' Jim Dale, will then present the interim findings from his Major Change Collaborative Survey (There is still time to have your say by completing the survey before the event ... although we will look to engage you in conversation through online polls and Q & A and finally a cameo from Martin Taylor who will provide a 'sitrep' on the formation of the new Change SIG.ProgM are also exploring ways to make our research more international / global in nature and planning to use the upcoming IPMA event to extend our research to the four corners of the earth (it is still flat isn't it?) Our intention is to reach out to the other 54 member Assocations that make up the IPMA as part of the forthcoming Congress.We are also looking to see if we can organise 'hybrid' events to compliment the great mix of physical and vitual events that APM are planning. For example, along the lines of the joint APM / AIPM breakfast / evening event that Benefits Management SIG organised entitled 'The Benefits of sharing experience with Australia' (Autumn, 2010)In conclusion, I was going to say watch this space, but that's much to passive when we are talking about change, so instead ... Get involved and help Change the World!Merv  

  3. Vivianne Walters
    Vivianne Walters 03 September 2013, 08:13 AM

    Dear Jim and Nick  As others have mentioned, your very interactive webnair format with instant polls would convert people to its global advantages where face-to-face networking is impracticable. You did go back to get client feedback after 12 months what would you in a situation where the programme/projects ran for a period of over several years, say 5+? It is possible the profiles of some of the team members would change. How do you deal with the impact on team dynamics?

  4. James Dale
    James Dale 02 September 2013, 08:46 PM

    Thanks Ed  for sharing information about  APM Conference: ZeroThis has the feel of being another first for the APM.  I am planning to listen in and participate.  Well done to you and the others for pushing and redefining the boundaries here. As you say....exciting stuff.Jim

  5. Edward Wallington
    Edward Wallington 02 September 2013, 08:10 PM

    Following on from Jim's comment, communications must add value, be these via a webinar, face to face event, project meeting, email etc.  ROI suddenly takes on a new meaning when we consider the investment made in e.g. composing an email, and the time taken for the team to read and digest. The return on this investment needs to be greater than the effort put in.  It must add value, and give benefit.

  6. Edward Wallington
    Edward Wallington 02 September 2013, 08:04 PM

     Thanks Hugo, I agree that webinars should not be relied upon as the only means of communication.  I personally see webinars as one of a suite of tools/approaches that the PPM community should be utilising as part of our self-development/continuous professional development (CPD.) One area that I think all projects will benefit from is having a skilled and motivated team.  This includes having a knowledgeable team based on grounded skills sets, experience and up to date awareness.  These aspects can be from a combined set of training courses, webinars, face to face events and meeting, self-led development, etc. I am speaking at the APM Conference: Zero which will be a 100% virtual conference with interactive sessions and a worldwide audience.  This event certainly looks to embolden us with up to date skills and knowledge, utilising ground breaking technology exciting stuff!  

  7. James Dale
    James Dale 02 September 2013, 06:58 PM

    Hi GuysEvent ROI makes a lot of sense.  Thanks Neil for passing on this information.  And 'yes' Merv I agree we need to capture the metrics and understand what this is telling us.     Project managers would be wise to avoid embarking upon a project unless it was clear that the benefts are greater than the costs + risks + timescales.  We need to apply the same discipline to communications.  The APM is a knowledge organisation and increasing Event ROI, whether through webinars or physical interactions, represents core organisational activity.  With properly planned, professionally executed and interactive webinars we can and must deliver more for less.  We can also apply the same disciplines to project stakeholder engagement.  Simples.....

  8. Merv Wyeth
    Merv Wyeth 02 September 2013, 05:38 PM

    Some time ago I wrote an article entitled Webinars - Star Trekkin' reflecting on a recent positive webinar experience of my own. I believe that in the hands of professionals a webinar really can be a most engaging learning experience. In my article I quote from Rachel Bernstein who in her blog entitled Making the most of Webinars (HBR) argues:"whilst webinars are highly ubiquitous, they are not generally very good teachers. Content is often not tailored to the viewer, the virtual experience offers few opportunities to engage with speakers, and there is precious little in the way of quality control."When done really well webinars are conversational and friendly in nature ... and I am guessing that the better they are the better the ratings and overall viewing figures.This set me thinking to find out how the #apmarabiannights content had performed on the APM YouTube & Slideshare channels. The short answer is very well indeed with current viewings for YouTube at 202 views and Slideshare 929 views.I believe that publicity surrounding webinars before, during and after an event is key. If done well it really does help to extend reach and exposure as well as embed learning and share knowledge.The marketing collateral can also be very powerful - having a positive impact on future events and not simply because through word of mouth. Satisfied customers tend to be net-promoters, both of the APM and great speakers such as Nick Fewings and Jane Sparrow. They also tend to complete the post-event surveys and their feedback and topic suggestions are useful for matching forward planning to audience demand.RegardsMerv

  9. Neil White
    Neil White 01 September 2013, 08:35 PM

    Jim, your comment re being scientific reminded me of the great work that Elling Hamso is doing around Event ROI ( The rigour that this brings to event management requires that both the pre- and post- event communications are considered in the planning process. Once you have understood the logic of the approach and see the benefits it goes against the 'new-grain' simply to hold an event without considering the needs of your target audience. Neil

  10. James Dale
    James Dale 01 September 2013, 08:47 AM

    Thanks Neil  -  I find myself in complete agreement.  I also think we need to be a little more scientific and understand the costs, reach and potential impact all of the other communications tools in the box.   The aim should be to maximise the effectiveness of the initial communications by some 'post' event or reinforcement activity.  This could be as simple as a thank you email following 'face to face' contact; addressing unanswered questions from a webinar; preparing write-ups following a speaker event etc.  Maybe some rational management and a handful of metrics might actually assist in developing a more informed shared understanding in this area.    Regards Jim

  11. Neil White
    Neil White 31 August 2013, 02:11 PM

    I can think of more reasons for, rather than against, for the use of webinars and am sure that a bit of rational thinking can assist in deciding when it is an appropriate communications medium.I am also in accord with the previous comments and agree with premise that face to face communication is the best way to communicate effectively. But as a change manager who spends much of his time focussed on the people-side of change and communications I can tell you that this is not always the case. A significant number of people simply do not have the facility (emotional intelligence? etc) to engage in community based dialogue. They would rather walk on coals than raise their heads above the parapet. However the webinar medium, suitably enriched with the interactive features that Merv Wyeth et al are endeavouring to introduce us to in the APM, provides these people with the facility to engage and be heard without compromising their need for invisibility. No matter what the disposition of each individual is we should try to reach-out to everyone with no exceptions for this reason alone I believe that webinars are a valuable tool in the communication toolbox. Neil.

  12. James Dale
    James Dale 29 August 2013, 08:50 PM

    Thanks Geoff and David.  And Geoff I do like that thoughtful / reflective pose!  You are both right  -  webinars are not for everybody but they do add to the communications mix.  What strikes me is that a well run, interactive webinar can deliver a big very big bang for our  bucks.  Your comments have prompted me to think about some of the phyiscal events we (ProgM)  have held in the past.  London, midweek, after work always seems to work.  Sandwiches, some networking, 60 minutes for an inspirational speaker and then off to catch the train home.  Great value and great if you work in London.  But maybe we should be thinking of raising the bar a little.  Perhaps the default position should be to 'record' all speakers (unless there are reasons not to).  Upload the slides into slideshare; prepare a post event blog and make the package available within 2 -3 days.  In time we would gather a huge knowledge pool and it would be a great resource we could all tap into. Jim

  13. Geoff Reiss
    Geoff Reiss 29 August 2013, 07:36 PM

    I've been sold on webinars as a convenient, fast and cheap way to communicate. They are not for everyone and certainly not for every situation but they are useful tool when applied to the right need at the right time.I delivered one webinar in a paper storeroom within a consulting company's office - the quietest place I could find :-)Now let's try and put two and two together here:1: Nick's presentation and style has swayed a number of people towards webinars as a practical form of communication. The power of the voting and commenting seems especially well received.2: Nick's presentation focusses on people, teams of people, communications and involvementPutting these together makes me think of running regular project webinars amongst a project or programme team. This might be a great way of communicating especially where the teams are dispersed. Teams could contribute, vote on decisions, learn about other people's issues and challenges, contribute in many ways.Perhaps a seperate stakeholder webinar would work well in some initiativesIs there evidence or experience of this working amongst a project team? 

  14. David Coombes
    David Coombes 28 August 2013, 11:12 PM

    As has already been mentioned, getting the right mix of communications is the answer and the real key to unlocking the door.  Really understanding who you are communicating to and putting yourself in the shoes of the 'customer/recipient' can often help.I have never experienced a 'bad' APM face to face event, but we do need to ensure that our events add real value - perhaps we should all take a look at 'Percha Kurcha'?  We also need to remember that not everyone in the project management community has day time access to webinars from their desktop PC or laptop, so being able to watch later is an 'Essential' requirement. Unfortunately I missed the 'live' webinar by Nick, but having seen him present in the past I am looking forward to 'catching up' at the weekend! David

  15. James Dale
    James Dale 28 August 2013, 09:07 PM

    Thanks for this BrianYou are of course right:  nothing beats face to face incorporating genuinue two way communication.  Fortuitously you have reminded me of another benefit  -  the value of the recording.  I missed your original webinar.   Now here is a spooky thing  -  I am travelling to Birmingham tomorrow where agile will almost certainly feature on the agenda.  Expect an increase in your viewer listings by at least 1!The key is determining the right mix of communications.  I am not certain what that should be,  but for now I am smitten by the potential of webinars.Kind R  Jim  

  16. Brian Wernham
    Brian Wernham 28 August 2013, 07:53 PM

    Jim,Face-to-face is best, but I agree with you if used as 'part of the mix' of other types of interaction, Webinars can be very effective.The one I gave on Agile project management earlier this year had hundreds of attendees (and over 90% stayed until the very end!), and just as many people have watched it since on the APM Website and also on YouTube.But we mustn't forget Agile Principle #6 "The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation."Someone I have not heard from for years heard Tom Robinson play my request on the Pink Floyd special simulcast on Radio 2 and 6Music and has just contacted me through LinkedIn using my Twitter hashtag!  And it was just this 150 character Tweet that initiated that chain of connections that has re-united me with an old friend: Click here to see it: 

  17. Merv Wyeth
    Merv Wyeth 28 August 2013, 10:07 AM

    Hugo,Thanks for your response and I agree that Face-to-Face conversation has to be the best. It is as at the core of how we as the human race connect with eachother.I came across this interesting Infographic in Slideshare - that I would have prefered to have embedded within this comment - anyway please find the link for now.It states, as we both well know, that Video Conferencing Technology offers the benefits of communicating face to face without incurring the high costs of travelling to in-person meetings in a global economy.As I understand it the APM version of GoToWebinar which currently supports events with up to 500 attendees doesn't yet have the facility for 'presenter' video. This facility is currently available on the 100 user version. I guess once it does become available (and I will ask the good people at Citrix Online) it will help make webinars even more interactive and engaging and ultimately lead to more trusting and credible relationships between all parties.Thanks again.Merv

  18. Hugo Minney
    Hugo Minney 28 August 2013, 10:00 AM

    Webinars close some doors (opportunity for networking, 93% of communication signals), but as Jim Dale explains, open others (twitter feed of conversations ABOUT the conversation, voting).I must confess I don't think we've found the surefire solution to making every project succeed yet (resourcing isn't the excuse it's often used for, some people can achieve the impossible and others can't make a project work with endless resources) but this contribution certainly moves knowledge forward