Interview with Paul Naybour

Paul Naybour

Paul Naybour is an experienced project management professional with particular expertise in change programme management, risk management, earned value management and project management training development and delivery. His academic background includes a BSc (Hons) from the University of Manchester, an MBA in Project Management and he is PMP certified.
Past projects have included managing the delivery of multi-million pound development programmes for Network Rail and Transport for London, which involved sourcing project, risk, planning and commercial management training from a wide range of suppliers and partners. Paul has also delivered project management training to clients in the Telecommunications, Financial Services, Engineering, Construction and IT sectors.
In his current role as Business Development Director of Parallel Project Training, he spends most of his time working with clients on developing and delivering bespoke project management courses. He uses his experience to empower organisations to improve their project success rate and individuals to progress in their project management careers.
Today, Paul has agreed to share some of his background, experience and insights in the project management field.

When did you first start working in project management?

I first started working on project management in the early 1990s when leading a small team preparing for nuclear power station outages at British Energy. I was sent on a course to use a planning tool call Project Management Workbench, but soon discovered it was easier to plan the projects on paper. These were very time and quality critical projects and I enjoyed the momentum that developed as the end date approached.

Who or what has inspired you most in the project management world?

One of the first people I came across was Rodney Turner and the Goals & Methods Matrix devised by Turner & Cochrane (1993). I came across this model while studying for an MBA at Bristol Business School; it’s a really simple way of understanding the differences between the different types of project we manage. I remember meeting him a few years later and having the chance to discuss his work.

How do professional PM credentials/certification help project managers in their careers?

Most PM credentials lay the foundations for a successful career in project management. It is rewarding to see people who came on a course I delivered progressing up the food chain. I had dinner recently with someone I trained several years ago and they are now a projects director for Network Rail. He said he had found the APMP course I ran useful throughout his career. It is particularly useful that the APM have a range of qualifications for different stages in a PM career so that learning and development can continue at all levels of experience. I often see project managers progressing through the different stages from APM IC to APM Registered Project Professional.

What is your view on project management becoming a chartered profession?

UK PLC has demonstrated that it can deliver fantastic projects, in particular the 2012 Olympics, and professional status would help us to market these project management skills to the world. So on balance I support a more professional approach, but the delay in achieving chartered status is preventing other initiatives from moving the project management profession forward. I wish we would get a decision one way or another. A chartered project professional status will raise the bar in project management competence beyond the normal knowledge based qualifications such as APMP and PMP.

What personal attributes are most essential in project management?

In some project managers I see a pessimistic and sceptical approach to the project being really successful; as if thinking really hard about what might go wrong will ensure success. However, I think what’s important is a determination to succeed no matter what.  Things will go wrong along the path but we need to keep on progressing with the project. An ability to inspire people when times are difficult is essential plus a very high level of attention to detail. It is quite difficult to find people who have this unique balance of attributes, which is why there are very few outstanding project managers in the world.

What has been the greatest challenge you have faced in a project management role?

Moving from the Nuclear Sector, in which I had worked since graduating, to the Rail Sector. The project challenges were the same but the culture and approach was very different. I learned a lot about the way in which different organisations work. The Nuclear Industry places a lot of attention on quality whilst rail focuses on a balance of quality and cost.

In your experience, what are the most common risks in projects?

Customers and resources: Customers because they change their minds about what they want or don’t communicate it fully at the beginning of a project; Resources because either they are not available in sufficient quality or quantity or they are diverted on to different projects. Project managers can manage these risks by making sure they get a better brief from the customer and by challenging the assumptions and constraints. Often these are more flexible than they appear. Resources are always a problem, but it can be a matter of trying to keep the best resources motivated and focused on the project.

What are your favourite project management tools and why?

Microsoft project: I have used it for so many years I can nearly always get it to do what I want.  It is a very flexible and powerful tool but you have to avoid getting too carried away with putting too much detail into it. I prefer to keep the plan high level in MS/Project so that you can do a summary in a couple of pages otherwise it ceases to be so useful.

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