The views expressed in this article are strictly those of Max Wideman.
The contents of the book under review are the copyright property of the author.
Published here May 2019

Introduction | Book Structure | What We Liked
Downside | Summary

What We Liked

This book contains a very thorough coverage of the sorts of "communications" challenges that anyone is likely to experience while working in an intensive people-activity organization. Such organizations may range from volunteer societies, to government services, to health services, to Internet services. And that is let alone the hi-tech projects in which our author, Michael Campbell, obviously excels. Indeed, the author recounts well over 100 "stories" that he has experienced directly or indirectly, and in every case he provides recommended approaches for dealing with each.

For the project manager, as the book's title suggests, it is all about "Getting the right support at the right time for your project." And as indicated in our Introduction to this Review, or as reflected by the list of chapter contents, this book covers a wide range of "People-situations" typically encountered in a large project with a large number of "stakeholders" involved. Many of the recommendations may seem to the reader to be more or less obvious and straight forward when presented. Unfortunately, the recommended responses do not necessarily come to mind when you are faced with any one of them yourself, especially when the awesome image of senior management gets involved.

So this is the value of this book, effectively a primer on communicating on all matters project related, especially including upper management, all based on the author's own practical experience.

Perhaps even more significantly, the key player in all of this, aside from yourself, is your project's sponsor. Not only is "Sponsor" identified in over 40% of the chapter titles but in fact occurs in every single chapter in the book. So what if your project does not have a sponsor, or at least have someone effectively in that role? Or worse yet, someone who is formerly appointed to the project sponsor's position but either has no idea what is required, or no interest in appropriate involvement? If you do not deal with this upfront, your project will be in trouble from the get go.

The following are several examples of the author's advice more or less chosen at random to demonstrate the value of this book.

Choosing a Project Champion[3]

"The idea of having an executive sponsor has been around for a long time. [But] ... most of us who have managed projects for any length of time recognize, it is often very difficult to keep sponsors engaged throughout a long project so that they are ready to help you at key junctures. That is why I believe it is important to turn to the additional role of project champion. In my experience, the best candidate for champion has some critical characteristics that help you make a project successful."

The author goes on to describe four bullets covering such a person's attributes and how they can help.

Defining the Scope[4]

"As part of my engagement with my sponsor, I was reviewing the Scope Statement that included what was in scope and what I believed to be out of scope. Imagine my surprise when my sponsor told me that he expected customized training as a part of preparing people for the go-live. As you can imagine, this was a big deal for the project."

"[However,] I was able to have a conversation in which I expressed my opinion that the budget for the project did not seem to include enough money to cover more people — those I would need to build customized training. After I presented an estimate on what the additional cost would be, my sponsor went to the other executive stakeholders to find out if they would support additional money to build customized training ... . [They] decided that the generic training would be enough after all. Basically, they wanted customized training but were not keen on paying for it."

Common Language for Business: English[5]

"[I]magine a situation where the project team is composed of individuals from multiple countries and English is a second language for many of them. The potential for misunderstandings or misquotes is much higher. In these projects, I work very hard to explain the risks involved and to collaborate with my sponsor to secure the services of a communications specialist for the project. I truly believe that having an individual who is fluent in English and the dominant native language of the largest number of the project team is the best way to ensure successful communications."

The author does not mention where, in the budget, money for such a person might be found.

Listening Styles[6]

One of the chapters we found most useful is Chapter 7: Listening Styles and How Using Them Effectively Helps You to Engage an Executive. Obviously, in any message especially verbal, listening is the necessary companion to sending. Without listening capability on the part of the audience, the message becomes an abject failure. So, in this chapter our author discusses Listening Styles.

As he says:

"First of all, Kittie Watson, PhD, and Larry Barker, PhD, have done some great work in helping people understand the listening styles that people employ. The styles they identify are:

  • People-oriented: They are concerned with how people will react.
  • Action-oriented: They want someone to get to the point quickly.
  • Content-oriented: They value technical information and data.
  • Time-oriented: They are very conscious of time, particularly wasting time.

Each of these listening styles has strengths and weaknesses. Let's look at each of them in more detail."

Author Michael Campbell then goes on to tabulate the Strengths and Weaknesses of each of these four styles, followed by a general review under such headings as: Purpose of the Communication; Target; Potential Barriers; Jargon and Acronyms; and Formal versus Informal.

Book Structure  Book Structure

3. Ibid, p15.
4. Ibid, pp 128-129.
5. Ibid, pp 189-190.
6. Ibid, pp 63-68.
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