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Is everything a project or is it all? Interview with Ben Synder

Today, I interview Ben Snyder, author of Everything is a Project 60 Lessons from Successful Project Driven Organizations. I spoke with Ben about his book, starting from the title.
Hello Ben. Let’s get to it. Not everything is a project. What about repetitive tasks such as manning a customer support help desk?
It’s true that everything is not a project. Although the title of the book was intended to grab attention, it is a gross exaggeration. However, I believe that there are more projects in organisations today than ever before. If people saw their work more as projects, and used the disciplines associated with projects, they would be more successful in delivering their jobs.
While managing a customer service desk is not typically considered project work, it is possible to launch an effort to improve customer service within an organization. It’s all about the bigger picture. Today’s knowledge workers have projects that they can work with, even if they don’t recognize them as such.
Your book is composed of lessons drawn from your own experience. How did you collect all the lessons?
These lessons result from 27 years of experience working with or consulting for organisations that organize their work around projects. These organisations were different and had unique skills. Over the years, many industries and business lines within companies have made the switch to using a project structure. I was able to witness it all firsthand and learn from the lessons learned. The best part was that all of the lessons were repeated in different companies. As they progressed, I would guess when they would encounter a lesson.
I hope you spotted them early enough! Which lesson is your favorite from the book?
What is the Profile of a Good Project manager? This lesson was not easy and was not what Systemation expected. The assessment to evaluate project managers was based on the project management process as well as the knowledge, skills, and aptitudes required to succeed at each stage.
We found that those who scored well in all sections of the assessment were excellent project managers, but they didn’t stay there for long. They also tend to climb the corporate ladder quickly. While good project managers didn’t score well on all parts of the assessment, they were able to complete the task with few predictable difficulties. This is where most project managers are not great, but they are good enough.
My favorite was the one about haunting deadlines. I thought that the project manager was brave in that instance. He deliberately changed the project deadlines in order to give his exhausted team a break and allow them to refocus on the project with more energy. It worked, though I imagine it was difficult for him to negotiate that with his manager. How do you deal with deadlines?
Not all deadlines are equal. Some deadlines are difficult and cannot be missed. Some are more manageable and can be missed. Management must recognize that not all deadlines are equal. If they treat all deadlines equally, there is no priority between them. This can cause hard deadlines to be slipped and soft deadlines to be met on time. Priorities help us to deal with the imperfect world we live in. It is important to determine if a deadline is on the critical path.
Organisational leaders are often not able to say no to their managers or their own wishes. Their organisations often take on too many projects in a short time span and are subject to huge schedule delays.
Toast is the cover image of your book. Is that where the idea came from?
It was the best way for a provocative statement such as “Everything’s a Project” to be a humorous one. Many life experiences can be considered projects.