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Project expert and academic John Algar named APM Honorary Fellow

Esteemed project practitioner, consultant and educator John Algar has been announced as the latest Honorary Fellow of Association for Project Management (APM), the chartered body for the project profession.

John is based at the world-renowned Cranfield School of Management where he is head of portfolio, programme and project management (P3M). He has held a position at Cranfield for more than 20 years, during which time he has developed and grown the business school’s project-related courses, which are offered to student cohorts that include business leaders and senior project professionals.

John recently spoke to APM about the Fellowship and his wider thoughts on the project profession.

What does it mean to you to be named a Fellow of APM?

I am thrilled with the award of Honorary Fellow and also to join colleagues who have already achieved this honour. I will continue to contribute to the profession by helping change the way organisations think about P3M.

I intend to continue, with our team, to deliver long-term value for each organisation with which we work. Through the development of their professionalism, all of us are committed to promoting and sharing the highest standards, developing others and improving ourselves as we travel along our differing paths.

At Cranfield, we offer pathways to Chartership and seeing graduates start or continue on the path to Chartership is rewarding for all. I hope to continue my contribution to change and engage in the strategic debates with businesses and, where possible, influence corporate policy to enable the growth of the profession.

What inspires you about your job?

I am lucky enough to work together, learn from and be inspired by colleagues, students and delegates that share the thirst for knowledge and indeed create an exciting learning environment. The programmes we run at Cranfield are highly participative and deeply engaged in participants’ learning paths. All my colleagues have new ideas and contribute research outcomes that inspire the majority of our teaching, not just in content but also the teaching methods.

What skills are important for successful project or programme practitioners and do you expect this to change in future?

The consensus suggests the top project killer has been and continues to be poor communication. Research shows that, despite the advances in mobile working and virtual realities, there is no real substitute for a face-to-face meeting, particularly when facing the challenges of pressured and dynamic projects, amplified further when the project is high profile and in the public domain.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused us all to adapt to teaching and working through virtual networks and online; it is interesting to observe how some have struggled more than others. Most of the more senior people in our industry I interact with have simply adjusted to online communications and carried on. Communication is at the core of this, and it is the difference in comprehension that I find most interesting; those that have a firm grasp of the subject do very well online.

From your experience, what project would you hold as an example of how to do a project well and why?

I have always focussed on what the project manager and leadership team have to deal with in “getting the project done” rather than satisfying the obviously politicised aspects that too often receive attention and effort that should really be focussed on the project.

Pearl GTL [gas-to-liquids in Doha] achieved 70 million working hours without a lost-time injury; Quite remarkable given what they were doing and where. Hats off to that team. This is a truly massive project and would be bound to fail without a comprehensive application of P3M.

There are many other large projects we could look at. At Cranfield we are also currently looking at micro and small projects. I have many years of involvement with SMEs where even a £5k, £50k or £500k project seems daunting to them.

The lessons from this is for all organisations and programme and project managers, and is summed up in these aphorisms: ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, ‘the devil is in the detail’, ‘simplicity does not precede complexity, but follows it.’

About APM Honorary Fellowship

Honorary Fellowship is awarded by APM to individuals who have made exceptional, demonstrable and significant contributions to project management or to the project management profession, in their own professions and careers. 

John Algar is head of portfolio, programme and project management at the world-renowned Cranfield School of Management. He has held a position at Cranfield for more than 20 years, during which time he has developed the business school’s project-related courses, led research projects and taught project skills to senior business leaders.

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