Administration, Management, and Finance

The No-nonsense Guide to Project Management

Read an exclusive interview with Barbara Allan in which she discusses writing her new book, The No-nonsense Guide to Project Management, and offers advice on the skills needed for both small and larger, complex projects.

 

What research did you do for the No-nonsense Guide to Project Management?

My earlier book on project management was published by Facet in 2004 and this provided a starting point. A lot has changed since then so I carried out a huge amount of online research in the academic and professional literature, as well as searching the websites of library and information services to identify good case studies. In addition, I researched the current professional project management literature to gain their perspective. Finally, and this is the most enjoyable part, I contacted library and information workers as well as people teaching project management to gain their perspectives.

What is your experience of project management?

I’m lucky as I have had lots of experience of project management and I have always gravitated towards projects and volunteered to get involved in them. Some examples include: closing a library; moving libraries; creating a new library and information service; introducing new ICT systems; designing and developing both e-learning and traditional courses; introducing new working practices and contracts; leading an institutional-wide programme with a budget of more than £2.3M.  Like most people, I have also experienced many projects in my home life: moving house; DIY projects; organizing celebrations and parties; organizing holidays. Basically, the same skills that are used in these domestic projects are essential for professional projects too.

Do you get stuck when writing?

Yes, I sometimes have so many ideas and examples buzzing about my head that it is hard to sort them out. When this happens, I tend to go for a long walk with my dog and think it through. Alternatively, I get out my Post-It Notes™ and takeover the kitchen table as I spread them about and work out the connections and contradictions between different ideas.

 How does the new book differ from your previous book on this topic?

There are many major differences. I think the first one is that standard project management methodologies such as PRINCE2® and Agile are now commonly used in library and information services. In very large and complex projects, library and information services (or their parent organisation) regularly employ professional project managers often on a contract basis and they use these standard methodologies which means that a wider group of people learn about them. Another difference is that a wide range of technologies are used in project management. For example, specialist software packages, such as MS Project, may be used to help manage the project and these provide a wide range of reports which come in very useful at meetings. Collaborative software which enable teams to work together and jointly produce reports and other outputs are very useful particularly in international projects where team members may be working in different geographic regions and time zones. In addition, social media has made a huge impact both in terms of supporting team working and also in publicising the project. Both crowdfunding and crowdsourcing are used by some libraries and I found this a particularly interesting topic to research.

Does this mean that all project managers need to use these technologies?

This is a really good question. It depends on the size of the project. If you are leading a small project involving relatively few people then you can manage it using everyday tools such as your diary and a spreadsheet. However, you may choose to use specialist software as a way of learning how to use it and gaining an additional skill for your CV. In contrast, if you are leading a large and complex project then I think it is vital to use appropriate tools as a means of managing and sharing the project information.

What has stayed the same in project management in the past decade or so?

I think the basic idea of following the project cycle and working through each stage in a systematic manner is essential. The detailed process of documenting each stage is important as it means any change in personnel can be relatively easily managed. In addition, making sure that you have considered all the risks that may adversely affect the project and thought about how to reduce or eliminate the risk is important too. Finally, following standard procedures for managing the project budget is vital.

 

The project life cycle

Allan_blog image

Managing risks sounds a little scary. Is it?

I always enjoy the risk management side of any project. Basically, it involves thinking about five questions: What can go wrong? How likely is this to happen? What is the likely impact on the project? How serious is each risk? How can the risks be managed?Identifying the risks can be fun and sometimes teams come up with extreme examples which cause laughter. A key lesson is to allow time for unexpected events. For example, I was once involved in a library move and the initial movement of furniture resulted in an epidemic of fleas. Quite revolting and we had to call in professional pest control people to sort it out. Overall, we lost a lot of time but we had built that in as our contingency so the project still met its deadline.

What about the people side of projects?

Leading and managing the people side of projects is vital if the project is to be successful. It is particularly important in strategic projects such as merging two libraries or developing shared services where major changes are taking place. These strategic projects may take 2-3 years to implement and there needs to be a management of change process in place to help support everyone through the change.

In all projects, the project manager needs to identify and think about all the stakeholders who are involved in the project or may be affected by it. She then needs to work out (with her team) how to work with and communicate with this diverse group of people who will all have different needs, expectations and concerns. In the No-nonsense Guide to Project Management, working with different groups including virtual teams and also volunteers is explored with practical guidance on how to work effectively. Nowadays, many projects involve partnership working, e.g. working with local, regional or international partners, and it is important to pay attention to establishing, developing and maintaining the partnership if it is to be successful.

What is your advice to librarians entering the profession?

My advice is to gain as much experience as possible. Take up opportunities to be involved in project work and, if possible, sign up for training courses on project management. Project management is an important skill for all library and information workers and it is essential for anyone wanting to move into management and leadership positions. Finally, it offers very interesting opportunities to shape your library and information service and the services and products on offer.

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash (This interview originally appeared on the Facet Publishing blog).

Barbara Allan is an author and trainer. Her background includes managing workplace and academic libraries. She has spent many years working in business schools where her focus was on enhancing learning, teaching and the student experience, and the internationalization and employability agendas. Her qualifications include a doctorate in education (on the topic of e-mentoring and women into leadership). She is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and was awarded a National Teaching Fellowship in 2008. A member of CILIP, she is the author of several Facet Publishing titles, including Emerging Strategies for Supporting Student Learning (2016), The No-nonsense Guide to Training in Libraries (2013), Supporting Research Students (2009), and Blended Learning (2007).

Books hot off the press, Meet the Authors at the ALA Store in Orlando

Located just inside the Shuttle Bus Entrance at the Orange County Convention Center, the ALA Store offers products that meet the widest range of your promotional and continuing education/professional development needs—as well as fun gift items. Make sure to carve out some time in your schedule during the conference to stop by and examine the many new and bestselling items available!

ALA Store hours:

  • Friday, June 24            12:00 pm – 5:30 pm
  • Saturday, June 25       8:30 am – 5:00 pm
  • Sunday, June 26          8:30 am – 5:00 pm
  • Monday, June 27        9:00 am – 2:00 pm

ALA Graphics will feature a selection of popular posters, bookmarks, and promotional materials, including new 2016 Teen Read Week and Banned Book Week items. And stop by early to get your pick of conference t-shirts—they sell out fast! We’ll also be introducing several brand new items and exclusive gifts:

  • Libraries Transform Expert Badges
  • CSK Book Award T-shirts
  • CSK Book Award Pashmina (limited quantity and only available at the Conference Store)

ALA Editions and ALA divisions are excited to offer several new titles hot off the press, such as “RDA Essentials,” by Thomas Brenndorfer; “Engaging Babies in the Library: Putting Theory into Practice,” by Debra J. Knoll; and “The Librarian's Nitty Gritty Guide to Content Marketing,” by Laura Solomon. Come by the ALA Store for these special Meet the Author events:

Saturday, June 25      

Sunday, June 26      

Remember that you can now find titles from ALA Neal-Schuman and Facet Publishing in the ALA Store. You can also get free shipping on all book orders placed in the ALA Store (posters, bookmarks, and other gift-type items are not eligible for this offer).

Stop by the ALA Store to learn more about our eLearning opportunities. You can also arrange for a live demo of RDA Toolkit—just contact us by June 20 to request an appointment.

Prices at the ALA Store automatically reflect the ALA Member discount, so there’s no need to dig out your Member number. And remember that every dollar you spend at the ALA Store helps support library advocacy, awareness, and other key programs and initiatives!

Continuing the Conversation: Hiring, Training and Supervising Library Shelvers

We just wrapped up Pat Tunstall’s three-part workshop Hiring, Training and Supervising Library Shelvers. This was a fantastic event with some great discussion! 

Pat’s slides for all three parts are posted below. If you didn’t have a chance to participate, check them out!

Continuing the Conversation: Creating Presentations that Don't Put People to Sleep

We just wrapped up Maurice Coleman’s workshop Creating Presentations That Don’t Put People to Sleep. Maurice did a fantastic job of leading this event, which included some great discussion!

The readings, resources and slides for the event are listed below. Have further questions or comments? Whether you participated in the event or not, feel free to chime in via the comments area below!

The Readings for Today’s Workshop:


Resources Mentioned During Today’s Event:


Maurice’s Slides:


New Workshop: Be a Great Boss: Kickoff to Your Year of Learning

Be a Great Boss: One Year to Success, a 2011 ALA Editions bestseller, is organized like a calendar along 12 monthly themes comprising 52 modules. Growing as a manager means learning by experience. Even so, professional development does not have to be haphazard. The book invites you to learn proactively, providing structure and a print companion on what can be a lonely journey.

In this season of goal-setting, make your commitment to improved management skills more social and register for the new ALA Editions Workshop Be a Great Boss: The Kickoff to Your Year of Learning. Starting January 5, author Catherine Hakala-Ausperk will present a series of four webinars over the next three months. With her as your guide, you will join fellow participants in a learning community, interacting in chat during the webinars and in email discussions in between sessions.

Catherine presented a Workshop in the fall. Her comment on the follow-up blog post is an example of the guidance that you can expect after webinar discussions.

This excerpt from the book shows the structure and some ideas of the program.

Be a Great Boss

Community Partnership: How to Raise Money and Build Relationships

Paul Signorelli is currently teaching the ALA Editions eCourse Community Partnership: Raising Money and Building Relationships. The course begins today, but its not too late to register at the ALA Store.

At a very important yet oft-overlooked level, every member of library staff is now a fundraiser in a very competitive environment. That’s because great fundraising comes from the building of great relationships, and all library staff members play a role in nurturing and sustaining positive and mutually beneficial relationships between libraries and the communities they serve—in good as well as in challenging times.

Fostering effective collaborations is at the heart of the ALA Editions’ Community Partnership: How to Raise Money and Build Relationships, which runs online from Monday, October 3 through Sunday, October 30, 2011. But don’t let the fundraising aspect scare you. We’re as much concerned here with the collaboration-relationship side of the equation as we are with the funding and in-kind gifts that result from those relationships.

There are wonderful resources to be explored here, including the Urban Libraries Council report Making Cities Stronger: Public Library Contributions to Local Economic Development. It’s as fresh today as it was when it was published in January 2007. We’ll be using it as an anchor to our explorations and discussions of how partnerships are developed and what some of our most creative colleagues have been doing to serve as active participants within their communities.

We’ll also have access to the complete version of Providing for Knowledge, Growth, and Prosperity: A Benefit Study of the San Francisco Public Library rather than the executive summary that is available on the Internet. Reading and discussing that document in conjunction with the use of other articles, short online videos, and PowerPoint presentations from several sources will help us recognize the benefits we bring to our communities so we can better demonstrate the worth of our organizations to our current and prospective community partners.

And we’ll finish this four-week interactive course with an in-depth look at one of the hottest recent library-business community partnerships—the e-reader project between the Sacramento Public Library and Barnes & Noble.

There will be plenty of other resources to explore, and the collaborations we develop will include the interactions among our learning colleagues from libraries across the country as we use an online bulletin board to share weekly assignment postings, engage in optional weekly office-hour chats, and produce resources we can immediately use in our efforts to create, nurture, and sustain partnerships that benefit our communities.

To register, please visit the ALA Store.

Continuing the Conversation: Be a Great Boss

We just wrapped up the ALA Editions Workshop Be a Great Boss  with Cathy Hakala-Ausperk. We had some fantastic discussion during this event, and we’re using the comments area of this post to continue it. Whether you attended or not, feel free to join the conversation!

The Preliminary Readings from Today’s Event
Cathy’s Slides

Be a Great Boss--ALA Editions Workshop

Workplace Learning & Leadership: It’s a Book!

They may not be as heart-warming and engaging as the words “it’s a girl” or “it’s a boy” are. And we’re certainly not giving out cigars. But the phrase “it’s (finally) a book” is tremendously satisfying and rewarding to those of us who have given birth to one.

The recent publication of Workplace Learning & Leadership: A Handbook for Library and Nonprofit Trainers, which Lori Reed and I co-wrote for ALA Editions over a two-year period while meeting quite a few other professional and personal commitments, does bring home the satisfaction that accompanies any extended act of creation—particularly one that celebrates the spirit of collaboration by itself being the product of extended and extensive collaborations.

And it’s far from being all about us. Workplace Learning & Leadershipreflects the collaborations we established with acquisitions editor Christopher Rhodes and other colleagues at ALA Editions. It also is the result of collaborations with the trainer-teacher-learners—many of them active in the ALA Learning Round Table–who volunteered hours of their time for the interviews that are the heart of the book

Given the theme—that workplace learning and performance professionals are increasingly ineffectual if we don’t assume leadership roles within our organizations and foster the development of communities of learning—there’s little surprise in the acknowledgement that our colleagues helped create what ALA Editions published. It’s one thing for trainer-teacher-learners like Lori and me to try to pull together our own experiences in a way that helps others learn how to create effective training programs. It’s quite another to recognize that learning is at least partially fostered through effective storytelling, and that it takes a lot of great storytellers to create a book about effective learning.

Gathering some of the best storytellers we know, then taking a back seat to those storytellers so they could engage readers in a memorable and entertaining learning experience, reflects what we all know about learning: it has to be sticky. And stickiness is enhanced by a variety of voices.

The foundation for all of this, of course, is recognition that success in training-teaching-learning is rooted in a sense of humility. It’s not about any of us posing as the ultimate experts in our field. Nor is it about achieving a level of expertise and then resting on our laurels. Learning is continuous—as is the act of gathering and documenting practices that benefit all of us—so what we have done throughWorkplace Learning & Leadership and our ongoing attempts to stay ahead of those who rely on us to provide effective learning experiences is to celebrate.

We are celebrating the joys and benefits of collaboration. Of community. And the effective use of leadership to the benefit of all we serve. We are also celebrating the leadership skills all of us have developed as well as the leadership skills we see in others. Most importantly, we are celebrating the positive effects our efforts have on learners and the people whom they ultimately serve.

It’s all about providing something of lasting worth. Something that contributes to the workplace learning and performance endeavors we all adore. And something that will reach and touch members of our community we otherwise might not have the chance to meet.

Truth is Stranger than Fiction...

One of the themes of "Be A Great Boss: One Year to Success" is that leaders can and should learn a lot from one another. That's proving to be the case with this book! I was contacted recently by someone who said he'd purchased copies for friends and colleagues and they'd decided it would be helpful to have somewhere they could go to discuss what they were learning and the experiences they were having. So, a Facebook group was born!

Trevor A. Dawes, from the Princeton University Library, created the "Be A Great Boss" group to provide "a space for those reading and using the book, Be A Great Boss, to share their experience with other readers in an attempt to learn even more through the shared experience. All comments on how the lessons have helped (or not) your daily work lives are welcome. " If you'd like to read more or to join, go to  http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#!/home.php?sk=group_111147028962562&ap=1.

Who Wants to be a Manager

Catherine Hakala-Ausperk is the author of Be a Great Boss: One Year to Success.

As an adjunct faculty member at Kent State University’s School of Library and Information Science, I start each semester by telling students in my Management class that, when I took this course back in the 80s, the professor began by asking us “Who wants to be a manager?” Only a few of us tentatively raised our hands, fearing the wrath of our peers either because of our ambition or our foolishness at dreaming so big. Everyone else was there because it was a core class.

Undeterred, she assured everyone they’d learn something useful in the coming weeks, even if management wasn’t the specific career path they’d chosen. Now, I tell students they’d better all be raising their hands because times have changed and today, as professional librarians, they’ll no longer have the choice to opt out. They’ll all be managing something!

Staffing models and organizational charts have changed and are continuing to do so. Driven both by economic reality and modern service expectations, when libraries can fill open positions with MLIS librarians, they’re asking and requiring more professional work than ever before. “In today’s market,” I explain, “if I don’t need you to supervise people or manage a department or budget or facility, then I’m probably just going to hire a para-professional.” Finally, all hands go up!
Another sobering reality sinks in around the second class or so. “Between right now and when you start your first day as a manager,” I caution them, “this will probably be the only management education you’re going to get.” One class. Then, maybe a few years will go by. But, maybe not. In libraries around the country, recent grads are finding themselves in positions my contemporaries and I would have expected to spend years working into. Today’s managers are “newer” (I won’t say younger, since that’s not always the case) than ever before.

So, where do they turn to learn more? How can they find other opportunities to develop those management skills that are probably as distant as memories of grad school research papers? One option is to take themselves through a one-year, self-development course using “Be a Great Boss: One Year to Success.” Written for both brand new managers and ones who’ve not had a training opportunity for some time, my book will help them work at developing the understanding, skills and passion that great bosses need!

In most libraries, we send the bosses to training last, right? After we’re sure all our other staff members get the crucial, task or operational education they need to serve the customer? What director wouldn’t admit that her or his management staff, in large part, couldn’t use a refresher course that could get them all on the same, productive, effective page? For the cost of a copy of the book for each manager, entire leadership teams, from the newest to the most experienced members, can gain valuable training and development from the comfort of their own offices by completing this book.

Applicants, even those right out of library school, flock to management openings and present great educational backgrounds and high levels of energy. What many of them need is a little more training to go along with that. What most professionals need is on-going learning.

After all, we’re all going to be managing something, right?

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