Episode 168 –  Manage This Moments – Celebrating Milestones

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30 Minutes
Home Manage This Podcast Episode 168 –  Manage This Moments – Celebrating Milestones

About This Episode

Bill Yates

Manage This first hit the airwaves January 2016. In this episode, we celebrate seven years with over one Million listens! And we are so grateful to have you, our listeners, with us for the adventure. We have talked to many project managers and subject matter experts in our endeavor to bring you top-notch advice and encouragement as you navigate your projects. Join us this episode as Bill Yates shares about his background in project management and the insights he has learned over the past seven years from our many distinguished guests.

With the training that we do, we get to meet so many interesting, diverse people across all industries. We’ve selected a few episodes to recall the valuable lessons learned from our guests. Take a listen for a recap on topics such as: why the brain needs a routine, doing our best work in a crisis, resiliency, listening well, teamwork, creating psychological safety, and eating “failure cake”. We also recollect some of the large-scale projects we’ve featured in our episodes and the valuable lessons we took from the project managers on those incredible projects. To our listeners, we cannot thank you enough for the likes, the reviews, and the ideas and enthusiasm that you bring when you reach out to us. You’re keeping us inspired!

Just a reminder, at Velociteach, we offer learning opportunities for project managers. You can prepare for your PMP®and PMI-ACP® exams with our exam prep bootcamp, a comprehensive, accelerated learning program, which includes live instruction and study tools. With the Velociteach no-risk guarantee, get certified or get your money back! Also, InSite is our award-winning platform for online learning. With 70+ online, self-paced courses aligned to the PMI Talent Triangle™, you can prepare for the PMP® or CAPM® Exam or earn your PDUs.


Browse our InSite online courses : you can prepare for the PMP® or CAPM® Exam, or earn more PDUs

Favorite Quotes from Episode

"…it just made sense.  With the training that we do, we get to meet so many interesting people, such a diversity of projects across all industries.  And the thought of, … what if we have the opportunity to go talk with these project managers, these practitioners, and hear more about their projects?  And to talk to other subject matter experts I thought was right on point…"

Bill Yates

"So many times with a project you’re changing the status quo.  You’re figuring out a better way to do something, or you’re figuring out a more desirable product and trying to launch it.  That involves innovation.  One of the key lessons within innovation is the ability to listen."

Bill Yates

The podcast by project managers for project managers. Manage This podcast is celebrating two milestones: seven years and over one million listens! Bill Yates shares about his background in project management and the insights he has learned from our many distinguished guests. Listen in for some Manage This moments as we recap conversations with some of our interesting guests, and we recollect some of the valuable lessons learned from project managers who are working on truly remarkable projects.

Table of Contents

00:23 … Celebrating Manage This
02:51 … Bill’s Thoughts on the Podcast
03:38 … Bill’s Beginnings in Project Management
04:59 … Value in Project Management
05:48 … Velociteach
06:51 … Behind the Scenes
08:15 … Lessons Learned
08:37 … Kory Kogon – Productivity
10:00 … Doreen Linneman – Finding your Why
11:03 … Kieran Duck – The Complex Project Toolkit
11:39 … Elizabeth Harrin – Multiple Projects
12:29 … Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez – Project Management Handbook
13:07 … Henk Van Dalen – Be Bold
14:28 … Phillipe Schoonejans – International Cooperation
15:49 … Ian Crockford – Project Planning
17:01 … Keith Ward – Resilience
18:30 … Matt Cooke – Facing Challenges
19:45 … Women in Project Management
21:05 … Innovation in Project Management
22:44 … Scott Miller – Listen First
24:12 … Dan Ward – Psychological Safety
26:08 … Scott Berkun – Stay Curious
27:17 … Stefano Mastrogiacomo – Team Alignment
28:49 … What’s Next?
29:31 … Closing

NICK WALKER:  Welcome to Manage This, the podcast by project managers for project managers.  This is our chance to talk as professionals in the field of project management.  We want to address your concerns, your needs, and to give you not only some tips on bettering your game, but to encourage you in it.  I’m your host, Nick Walker.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Now, wasn’t that a surprise, hearing Nick Walker’s voice again.

BILL YATES:  Loved that.

Celebrating Manage This

WENDY GROUNDS:  We are so grateful for what he brought to Manage This. He’s not in the studio with us, unfortunately.  And if you’re wondering why we’re having this throwback, today we’re celebrating over seven years of Manage This.  And we also have over one million listens to the podcast.  Nick was our excellent host for the first 100 episodes.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, yeah.  We’ve got a lot to celebrate, and we have so many fun memories to go through, I mean all the podcasts that we’ve had, the first 100 with Nick, and you’ve stepped in and done such a marvelous job since then, Wendy.  It’s been wonderful having you in here, too.  And we’ve just heard so much great advice, learned so many interesting things.  We just want to thank our listeners for the recommendations.  They have connected us with authors, with interesting projects, with all kinds of ideas.  And we love it.  Keep those ideas coming.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Yes.  Yes, yeah.  Nick’s shoes were very hard to fill.  This was definitely outside of my comfort zone.  I was quite happy just doing the behind-the-scenes work.  But it has been fun.  It has really been probably the most fun I’ve had in a job.

BILL YATES:  Well, it’s a delight having you in here.  And I love having somebody with a perspective that is as diverse as yours in terms of the industries that you’ve worked in.  And you’ve never been a project manager.  It’s been another hat that you’ve worn.  And so I think you bring some simplicity to some of the questions where I get myself a little tied up trying to think, how do I ask this question?  And you jump right to the heart of it, and I love that.

WENDY GROUNDS:  I’ve certainly learned a lot about project management.  And we are grateful to Andy for starting this podcast.  What we’re going to do is pop back and forth and hear excerpts from previous episodes.  And the first one we’re going to start with is Andy.  We asked Andy a while back why he decided to start Manage This, so let’s take a listen.

ANDY CROWE: … project management is a really difficult job for a lot of people because you’re effecting change.  And the world resists change.  So you have people trying to create something that doesn’t exist, to make something different.  And this gives us a chance just to have a conversation with people.  Every couple of weeks we get a chance to talk. 

…But that was the whole goal is just to engage people, and part of it to say, look, we know it’s a tough job.  There are easier ways to make a living than being a project manager.  A lot of times it’s more of a calling than a profession.  It’s something that you, you know, you can’t imagine doing anything else.  It’s a chance for us to engage with people.  And We’re doing it because we love this profession, too.

Bill’s Thoughts on the Podcast

WENDY GROUNDS: All right, Bill.  I’m going to put you in the hot spot for a bit.

BILL YATES:  Mm-hmm.

WENDY GROUNDS:  And I want to ask you a couple of questions.  When Andy said to you, “Let’s do a podcast,” what were your thoughts?

BILL YATES:  Ha ha ha ha.  I remember thinking, “Sure, let’s do a podcast.  Now, how are we going to do it?”  I had quite a few questions about how that was going to work.  But it just made sense.  With the training that we do, we get to meet so many interesting people, such a diversity of projects across all industries.  And the thought of, hey, wait a minute, what if we have the opportunity to go talk with these project managers, these practitioners, and hear more about their projects?  And to talk to other subject matter experts I thought was right on point with what we do as a project management training company.  So I loved the idea.

Bill’s Beginnings in Project Management

WENDY GROUNDS: How did you get into project management?

BILL YATES:  Yeah, for me I kind of backed into it.  When I got out of university the first job I had was with a utility called Duke Power.  I think it’s called Duke Energy now.  My wife and I met in college.  And I had the opportunity to move from Duke to a consulting practice here in Atlanta that worked exclusively with utilities and was financial software.  Here’s the boring part.  If you think about some of the ERP implementations or financial system implementations that were going on with big companies, we had a software solution that fit into that specifically for utilities.

So I got to work with utilities all over the United States.  And some were AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern Company, you know, you name it, small to large utilities that needed this system.  And what was fun for me was being able to go to their office and meet with them, meet with their teams, help them understand the solution that we provided, and then just helping them through that implementation project.  So my experience with projects was they were usually like six-month to one-year projects.  And it involved a good bit of travel.  So it was fun for me to be in their offices and see how things worked, to kind of see behind the scenes and see some of the soft skill leadership aspects that came into play.

Value in Project Management

WENDY GROUNDS:  What did you enjoy about being a project manager?

BILL YATES:  You know, for me it’s pretty basic.  I love results, I love getting things done, I love having a checklist.  Putting something in front of the client and seeing the client be excited about it, that’s a delight to me.  That’s a fun thing.  So there’s kind of a basic side to project management that I really enjoy in terms of producing results.  And then to me the cherry on top is that you’re doing it with a team.  And so for projects that’s always been a fun spot for me, seeing what a team can do and how they can stand up a successful project.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Now, Manage This is brought to our audience by Velociteach.  And you’ve been at Velociteach for many years.  How long have you been here?

BILL YATES:  Oh, so many years.  Andy was needing another instructor and somebody who could write content with him.  So I joined the company in 2005.


WENDY GROUNDS:  Talk about why you saw value in being part of Velociteach.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, so you said the key word.  The key word is “why.”  It goes back to that Simon Sinek question of why.  I always describe it to people as we’re a project management training company.  And there are two things that we really try to do.  One is help people get certified, and the other is to help people get better.  So for project managers, as they grow professionally, many times they want to get a certification.  Those tests are difficult, really stress people out.

So we have live classes.  We have materials, resources, stuff you can buy on Amazon.  We license materials.  And we have online courses that help people pass a difficult exam.  But then we also have a ton of material and content that’s developed to help project managers get better, whether it’s a work breakdown structure or how to negotiate something with a customer, how to get my team members to get along.  There are so many aspects that we go into.  So we have different products that our customers can use to just get better as a project manager.

Behind the Scenes

WENDY GROUNDS:  Now, let’s go a little bit behind the scenes. I want to introduce someone else who is on our podcast.  We have Danny in the studio with us, Danny Brewer.

BILL YATES:  If it weren’t for Danny, we would sound like Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse every week, or whatever he decided he wanted us to sound like.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Right, right.  Danny makes us sound good.  He also – he calls us out sometimes if we say the wrong thing, or we kind of forget our words a bit.  He’s really helpful.  Danny, we really appreciate you.

BILL YATES:  You know, one of the things about Danny, too, while we’re bragging on him, he’s such a good troubleshooter.  There are times when we have guests who are connecting from Australia, from Europe, from every continent.  And sometimes you can have technical issues.  So somebody doesn’t connect, or they don’t have their microphone set up properly or whatever.  So Danny’s very patient and helps our guests feel like they’re coming across well, too.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Yeah, he’s quite unflappable.

BILL YATES:  And again, as we think about who’s in the room, there are so many other people that are connecting with us, and that’s you, the listeners.  We cannot thank you enough.  We thank you for the likes, for the mentions, for the follows through the different podcast apps that you use.  But most importantly, to me, we just love the ideas, the enthusiasm that you bring.  It gives us fresh breath and fresh life when we get those comments from you that a particular podcast or a section really resonated with you and made a difference in your day-to-day activity.  So thank you for those.  You’re keeping us inspired, keeping us going.  Let’s just continue the momentum.

Lessons Learned

WENDY GROUNDS:  So we’re going to dig into some of the lessons that have been learned from our guests.  Unfortunately, we can’t go through all of them.

BILL YATES:  I’m with you, Wendy.  It’s like I feel like we need to apologize upfront.  This is like a sample platter.  We’re going to cover some of the guests and some of the comments that  they made.  But we’ll give you, in the show notes, the episode numbers.  So if there’s something where you’re like, ooh, I’d like to hear that conversation, I think I missed that episode, we’ll give you some of that so you can go back.

Kory Kogon – Productivity

WENDY GROUNDS:  I took a look at our stats, and some of our most popular episodes have been subject matter experts.  And one of those people was Kory Kogon.

BILL YATES:  Oh, Kory was fantastic.  Such a delight.  I think it was Episode 131 with Kory.  It was solutions for extraordinary productivity.  We talked about her book. It’s called “The 5 Choices:  The Path to Extraordinary Productivity.”  And in that Kory highlights three productivity challenges:  decision management, attention management, and energy management.  She describes five choices to implement to master these challenges.  Kory explains why the brain needs a routine and how we can do our best work in a crisis. 

KORY KOGON: … what has risen to the top are these three key challenges that you mentioned with the main one being that it really is about getting our arms around the skills of decision management because every email, every text, every child knocking on the door, every pet that comes up on your desk, all of that are decisions you have to make in the moment.  And our brains are acting in a linear kind of way.  We’re just trying to – you know this.  You go through your emails.  Like let me just get through these 20 emails before I get some real work, you know, that kind of thing.  So decision management, how do we get our arms around that and make the highest value decisions is really key, as the number one challenge.

Doreen Linneman – Finding your Why

WENDY GROUNDS:  Another person that has been a very popular guest, and we still get comments on this podcast, was Number 140, Doreen Linneman.  Her podcast was “What’s Your Why?  Ignite Your Project.”  And Doreen says that the cornerstone of mental toughness is finding your why.  She also gave really good advice on resilience, motivation, adaptability, and growing your grit to help project managers envision their potential and build stronger teams.  If you’re looking for some inspiration, listen to this one.  Let’s take a quick listen to Doreen.

DOREEN LINNEMAN: So for example, why you work determines how well you work.  Let me say that again because it’s really, really important.  Why you work determines how well you work.  So that’s why you work at company XYZ.  But also why you were on this project determines how well you’re going to do on this project.  So slowing down and figuring out the whys of each project or the whys of your company only tee you up for greater success.

Kieran Duck – The Complex Project Toolkit

BILL YATES:  You know, Wendy, as we talk about subject matter experts, there are a couple more that I need to just mention.  And the first is a conversation we had with Kieran Duck, who was Episode 147.  The title was “Managing Complexity:  The Complex Project Toolkit.”  Some of the projects that we run are really color by the numbers, and others are not.  Others are really complex. Kieran offers a toolkit to use with projects that are particularly complex. If you’re doing projects that are really complex, check out the advice from Kieran in his book titled “The Complex Project Toolkit.”  

Elizabeth Harrin – Multiple Projects

There’s another example, and it’s Episode 167, it’s a recent conversation we had with Elizabeth Harrin, and that was how to manage several projects at once.  The research shows the majority of project managers are managing multiple projects at a time.  Elizabeth wrote a book describing her approach to managing multiple projects.  And she shared her five-step model with us.  That was very on point and extremely helpful advice.

ELIZABETH HARRIN: How do you create your schedules in a smart way so that you’re not overloading yourself, you’re not overloading everybody else, and how can you make good decisions about where to spend your time?  So it’s understanding the big picture schedule, understanding the priorities you were just talking about, and thinking through different ways to view that information so you can spend your time in the most appropriate ways week by week and look at the horizon and see what’s coming.

Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez – Project Management Handbook

BILL YATES: Another author and thought leader that we have to mention is the champion of project management, and that is Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez.  It was such an honor having Antonio join us and talk about his project management handbook.  It’s the “Harvard Business Review Project Management Handbook.”  And in that we got into some depth with a tool that I think many project managers will benefit from.  It’s called the Project Canvas.  

So people can check out that episode. I encourage you, check out the book.  I mean, just this week I had coffee with somebody who’s new to the project management field, just to share ideas with him.  And afterwards this was one of the resources that I was sending to him.

Henk Van Dalen – Be Bold

WENDY GROUNDS:  All right.  Another thing that we always get very excited about is talking about projects, and people who are doing absolutely amazing things.  We spoke to Henk van Dalen of the Ocean Cleanup project, he had some amazing advice.

BILL YATES:  One of the takeaways I had from that was just to be bold.  We don’t have time for the perfect plan.  Their goal with the Ocean Cleanup project is to remove plastic from the oceans.  Now, that is a complex problem.  But let’s listen to Henk’s advice in this area.

HENK VAN DALEN: So every time there’s a setback, there’s also a moment of reflection, bringing it back to the mission, what are we trying to achieve, and then are we still on the correct path?  And don’t necessarily see every test a failure, but more as a beautiful learning to know maybe how something doesn’t work or what elements you can get out there to make sure you benefit from that.  But that does mean that it’s a dynamic environment you work in, and you have to definitely keep that passion and strong will together as a team.  In the end therefore we will succeed. …And I think that is what we are constantly trying to do is challenge ourselves and definitely think with risks in our mind, but also dare to be bold enough to make that step to get out there and learn. 

BILL YATES:  So you have to be bold.  You have to get started.  You have to put something out there in the field and just see how it works, make adjustments, and go from there.

Phillipe Schoonejans – International Cooperation

WENDY GROUNDS:  People who are also being very bold is the European Space Agency.


WENDY GROUNDS:  We spoke to Philippe Schoonejans, who is involved in human and robotic exploration.  And he’s a project manager in the Mars Sample Return Mission, definitely a bold project.  He talked a lot about international cooperation and how teams work together and the complexity that that type of cooperation brings to a project.

PHILIPPE SCHOONEJANS: So we have a lot of clever people who would want to have the most beautiful engineering solution for everything.  I could myself easily also fall into that trap because I see beauty in a very simple design, but simple is difficult.  And I think we should also accept that the better is the enemy of the adequate, and that we have a lot of political constraints where we cannot always take the best company for each particular job because we have to develop high-tech in all of our member states.

So sometimes this leads to a solution which is completely adequate, but not the 100 percent perfect solution.

So I think our job is to be happy with that, and, within the full set of requirements that we have, which are technical, but also political and financial and timing-wise, we have to come up with the adequate solution.  And when we’ve found that, we should be happy with it and proud of it, and that it is an important thing for us which should give us the job satisfaction. 

Ian Crockford – Project Planning

BILL YATES:  You know, Wendy, another example that I thought of was the conversation we had with Ian Crockford, I think it was Episode 134, “Creating an Olympic Legacy:  London 2012 Games.”  Ian was the program manager for the buildout, preparing for those Games.


BILL YATES:  And, he talked a lot about planning, how important planning upfront is, especially when you have the temptation of, oh, my gosh, we have so many venues we have to build.  We need to get to work.  But he said you need to really pause, dedicate adequate time and resources to build a plan first.  Let’s hear from Ian.

IAN CROCKFORD: The project management discipline that we’ve learned, it actually works very, very well.  Right?  We use it, and sometimes use it loosely and sort of cut corners on things because we know how to do it.  But if you do it diligently and pull all the systems together, from your governance, your meetings, your risk management, your design management, your cost management, stakeholder management and everything, it actually works.  And it’s a joy because a project is so complicated, and there are so many moving parts, you need that structure to hold it together.  All your project controls and all that kind of thing, it just works really well.

Keith Ward – Resilience

BILL YATES:  We had an interesting conversation with Keith Ward in Episode 141, “Lessons Learned Digging a $570M Tunnel Under the City of Seattle.”  And, you know, one of the takeaways that we had from Keith was in cases where you have really long projects, or you may even refer to it as a program, to be technically correct, you need to be resilient.  And to be resilient you have to take care of yourself.  When you’re going to dig a three-mile tunnel underneath the city, you’re going to hit some obstacles and have some bad days.  So let’s hear from Keith about his perspective on that.

KEITH WARD: Project and program management is so rewarding when you lead a team to successfully deliver a project.  But it can be really tough, and it really requires a lot of excellent communication and leadership skills.  And you also, I think, need to be prepared, or have a high degree of resiliency because it is tough.  Long haul, you know.

So I would encourage younger project managers to really focus on developing their communication and leadership skills through courses.  You know, I learned about the project management body of knowledge.  I wasn’t schooled in that early on.  That was a big eye-opener.  Mentors, talking with peers, welcoming feedback from your teams, and then trying new things.  And then, you know, keep an eye on your resiliency.  Take care of yourself.  Especially now, you know, it’s been hard on everyone.  And then when things happen, when those risk events start raining down, as we would say in Seattle, you’ll be ready for those.

Matt Cooke – Facing Challenges

WENDY GROUNDS:  Now, somebody who had to face a lot of challenges was Matt Cooke, who worked on the Golden Ray salvage operation.  That was Episode 154.  This ship capsized.  It was a cargo ship that was carrying 4,200 brand new vehicles.  And it was in the Brunswick Harbor here in Georgia where the ship capsized.  And the team had to cut through the hull and carve it into eight massive sections to haul it off.  It was just a phenomenal project.  And not only was that a challenge, but while they were doing this project, they had to face many challenges with tides, weather.  COVID hit.

There were just multiple things.  But they were successful.  They managed to get this complete ship taken out of the harbor.  Let’s hear a little bit from Matt what he said about the challenges and how he tried to stay ahead of them.

MATT COOKE: I think my biggest job as the project manager was to keep looking ahead and trying to think about what’s next. What’s the next challenge we’re going to face. What’s the next task on our to-do list. And trying to stay ahead of that because that’s where I needed to kind of keep ahead of our teams and try to make sure that then we were thinking a few steps down the road so that we weren’t coming up to those roadblocks unprepared. 

Women in Project Management

WENDY GROUNDS:  One thing I have enjoyed is meeting women in project management.  And one guest that I’ve really enjoyed talking to is Jody Staruk, who is a project manager/project leader for Consigli Construction.  That’s Episode 132, talking about women in project management.  And then we talked to an author, Susan Mackenty Brady, who talked about flourishing in leadership.  And that was Episode 155.  She has excellent advice on how to arrive and thrive once you’ve got in a position of leadership, particularly for women, how to really thrive and enjoy that position and be the best leader you can be.

SUSAN MACKENTY BRADY: I’d say the second thing that has helped me a great deal is my relationship with myself, which is how do I manage my thoughts and feelings such that I can come from a place of warm regard and respect, even if I disagree with you.  Not just for you, but also for me.  So I think we get triggered out of feeling good enough about ourselves, and we get triggered into feeling like other people are disappointing us.  …So learning the speed of the return to healthy warm regard or compassionate center, or your best, most grounded, centered, aligned self.  Doing that consciously and quickly will help you navigate all relationships in your life, not just work.

BILL YATES:  Those were excellent conversations

Innovation in Project Management

WENDY GROUNDS:  So another common theme that comes up in many conversations with practitioners and our subject matter experts is innovation.  It’s definitely a popular theme.

BILL YATES:  Oh, yeah, it is.  And it makes sense, you know, so many times with a project you’re changing the status quo.  You’re figuring out a better way to do something, or you’re figuring out a more desirable product and trying to launch it.  That involves innovation.  One of the key lessons within innovation is the ability to listen.

One of our favorite conversations that we had was with John Carter, Episode 112.  John is a project manager and the co-inventor of the Bose noise-canceling headphones.  He shares the original patent with Dr. Amar Bose.  John shares a surprising discovery they made by talking to customers about critical features and really listening to them.  These are John’s words.

JOHN CARTER: I knew we were onto something.  And what was really interesting is that we thought as inventors we’d know exactly why customers would really clamor for this.  And we thought it was improved bass response.  This headphone would give you better bass.

And it does.  We started offering this, trying it out, getting feedback from various customers.  And the feedback we got was not bass or the performance.  This is noise reduction.

The benefit was noise reduction.  Now, we knew about noise reduction, but we didn’t think that consumers would really find that the most appealing.  That discovery, which is you have no idea, even the inventor has no idea about what consumers will ultimately value your invention for.  And you would think you would know that, and you’re completely wrong.

Scott Miller – Listen First

WENDY GROUNDS:  Two things that we took away from this was don’t make assumptions, and listen to your customers.  Listen to the users.  Find out what they value the most.

Another person that we spoke to, as well, was Scott Miller, Episode 150, also on the same theme of “listen first.”  Scott talks about how he’s naturally a terrible listener because listening sucks.

BILL YATES:  That’s what he said.  Scott was so funny.  He described how he’s most interested in sharing his thoughts or fixing problems and telling people his opinion.  I found that a bit relatable.

So he had a section in his book that we asked him to describe further.  It’s called “Listen First.”  And in that, Scott shared his personal battle that he faces in not interrupting others, to listen first.  Let’s hear from Scott.

SCOTT MILLER: And so if you want to listen with the intent to understand, you do several things.  You really check how many questions you ask because lots of times the questions you’re asking someone else are about your need to create context.  The fact of the matter is, most people will tell you what they need for you to know.  And if they haven’t, you ask yourself, do I need to know that?

 Listening does suck for me.  And I like to talk.  But the fact of the matter is you don’t build relationships when you’re talking.  You build them when you’re listening.  When you’re demonstrating empathy, when you’re really caring and kind of wondering, so I wonder why they think that?  What’s going on? 

Dan Ward – Psychological Safety

BILL YATES:  As we’re talking about this theme of innovation and the importance of listening, let’s look at another aspect, too.  For your team to produce breakthrough solutions and be known for their innovation, you have to create the right environment.  That brings us to a topic of psychological safety.  It’s a key lesson that if you want to create a team that can thrive, you need to start by creating a safe workplace.

WENDY GROUNDS:  This came up when we were talking to Dan WardEpisode 153.  And he had some really good advice about creating psychological safety, and making it safe to fail, was what he said.  One of the things was a very novel concept, and he called it “eating failure cake.”  And we’ve put this into practice.  I’m going to let you listen to Dan so you can find out about the failure cake.

DAN WARD: You know, failure is inevitable.  No matter how good you are, how smart you are, how tall or good-looking you are, in some cases things just aren’t always going to work out the way we hope.  And my team has this amazing, beautiful, delicious practice that we do.  We call it “failure cakes.”  When something doesn’t go the way we hoped, we get a cake, and we get it from like a fancy bakery.  And we have the bakery write the words “You failed” on the cake.  And we sit around and we eat that cake while we talk about the experience.

This gives us this welcoming, playful environment to process our own failures.  It helps destigmatize our failures.  It creates an environment where on the team we would regularly say, hey, let’s try this. And it might not work out, but the worst thing that could happen is we get some cake.  So that’s tremendously encouraging.  It helps us create an environment of psychological safety so people feel free to speak up, to try stuff, to propose ideas, and to do some experiments.  And they’re delicious.”

WENDY GROUNDS:  If you’re not afraid to fail, you’re not afraid to try something and be innovative.  So, yeah, we’ll challenge you.  Why not add some failure cake to your next retrospective?

Scott Berkun – Stay Curious

BILL YATES:  So a final word on innovation.  We were delighted to have Scott Berkun as our guest in Episode 114.  And we discussed his book entitled “How Design Makes the World.”  So Scott’s talking about that need for innovation and project management to work together.  And he also gave a great word just encouraging project managers to stay curious.  Let’s hear from Scott on that.

SCOTT BERKUN:  I think the best advice for project managers is to become really curious about how projects outside of your domain are managed, as I said before, everything is a project.

A chef at a restaurant is a project manager.  That’s a whole world as a different vocabulary and a different set of metaphors than the one that you know. So same thing for making a rocket that goes into space or a website, everything is a project.  You become curious about it, and once you do, you will discover all these different ways of thinking about your work that will challenge you and will inform you with metaphors and tactics that your domain doesn’t know about yet.  So be curious, study other kinds of projects.

Stefano Mastrogiacomo – Team Alignment

BILL YATES:  Now, there’s another one, and Wendy, I’m going to make you say Stefano’s last name.  Help me out here.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Stefano Mastrogiacomo.

BILL YATES:  Bam.  That was perfect.

WENDY GROUNDS:  I think that’s right.  He’s probably listening, thinking, oh, gosh.

BILL YATES:  No, no, it’s all wrong.  Stefano was our guest in Episode, 129.  And in that we talked about team alignment.  That was the focus of our conversation.  Stefano shared tools with us.  There’s the Team Alignment Map, the Team Contract.  And then it goes deeper.  There’s the Fact Finder, the Respect Card, and I love this one, the Non-Violent Requests Guide.  So those five templates can be found online.  And they’re real eye-openers, thinking about how do I get some of these difficult concepts across to my team, and how do we have maybe challenging conversations early in our project life so that we can flourish later in the project.  Let’s hear from Stefano.

STEFANO MASTROGIACOMO: …mutual understanding and psychological safety, have been at the core of the creation of the tools that are, you know, “High-Impact Tools for Teams.”  Because these were the missing plugins in my own practice to deliver more successful projects.  I think we have amazing tools out there…  But I was missing the human component embedded in the tools, you know, mixing both, because we’re humans, and language fails, and trust is not always at super levels.  And these are two essential requirements for succeeding as a team.

Bill Yates: Great advice from Stefano.

What’s Next?

WENDY GROUNDS:  Looking forward, what do we have coming up?  We’ve got a bit of everything.  We have another big exciting project.  We have an excellent conversation on creative problem solving that I think you’re really going to enjoy.  And we have a very interesting discussion on knowledge management.

So thank you once again for being our listeners.  We appreciate you.  Feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions about the podcast, any questions about project management. Email us at manage_this@velociteach.com. We’d love to hear from you. 

BILL YATES:  Yeah, It’s exciting to hear where this message is going and how it’s impacting practitioners.


NICK WALKER:  As you may know by now, there is an extra benefit you receive from these podcasts.  We’re all looking to earn PDUs, Professional Development Units, toward recertifications.  And by listening to this podcast you’re just one step from putting some free ones in your pocket.  To claim your PDUs, go to Velociteach.com and choose Manage This Podcast from the top of the page.  Click the button that says Claim PDUs, and click right through the steps.

That’s it for this episode of Manage This.  We hope you’ll tune back in for our next edition.  So until next time, keep calm and Manage This.


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