Coffee Talk: 5 questions about
project management…

…with Harald Zuber

Before we leave the office for the weekend, we stop for a quick coffee talk with our project management colleagues to chat about their best practices. Well, not literally, but that's how we designed our interview series "5 questions about project management". To be fast, intense and refreshing like a good cup of coffee.

Today, we’ll talk with Harald Zuber. He is a portfolio manager at Deutsche Bahn with over a decade of practical experience in project business. He talks about the importance of common sense, good dinner and soft skills.

1. What is your favorite project management method?

Common sense. I adapt methodologies and procedure models according to the specific project at hand and team I am working with. Currently, we often end up with a mix of traditional and agile. We combine both methods to fit the team and we use an inspect & adapt approach to constantly improve our team work.

I prefer working with adults who collaborate based on the individual setup of a project and agree on an initial routine which is then optimized in an iterative process rather than with people who force their favorite method on each and every project.

People are more important than methods. If I have the chance to gather a good team and if I can generate a common understanding of the task, then methods are secondary.

2. Do you use project management software for bigger projects? If so, which one?

Microsoft Excel – the second best tool for everything
Microsoft SharePoint – mainly used as a data storage and calendar
Microsoft Project – If there is something bigger to plan
Cisco Jabber / Slack – for quick questions and fast team communication

3. What is your favorite routine in a project?

A monthly team dinner works wonders for team spirit. To be honest, I love to think a bout new problems, find the right allies to tackle it and motivate them to do a project with me. At the very start of a project I invite smart people to discuss how to best approach a topic nobody of us has dealt with so far.

In jour fixe meetings I like to ask “How are you at the moment?” and by doing so I get a pretty good impression what current problems are. A better impression even than any other method would deliver.

4. What is the most underestimated factor for project success?

- Soft Skills: How you handle people is much more important than professional expertise.

  • Managing expectations
  • Communication
  • Transparency about all specifications and mutual expectations towards deliverables
  • Clarity of all stakeholders converning the project which is more rare than you might think
  • Transparency regarding problems
  • Accepting failure and mistakes as part of the workplace culture

5. What is your biggest time waster?

  • Bureaucracy, administration, e-mails: It never feels like I’m doing something productive.
  • Remind customers, managers and employees to keep their committments
  • Do other people’s jobs because I gave up hope that they will deliver on time

Thanks for your time and all the best for your next project.

Posted by Paul Henkel on March 2nd, 2018 under Project Management
Tags: 5Questions project management