Interview with Laura Dallas Burford

Jan 14, 2014 | |
I hope all of you are having an amazing year 2014, today we interview Laura Dallas Burford; who is a vision mover with domestic and international experience who focuses on partnering with management by aligning strategy and projects. She has experience with big four consulting organizations; was a managing director at a start-up international technology consulting organization; and currently is the owner of LAD Enterprises, a management consulting company. Over her career, she has worked for or provided consulting advice to several Top 100 corporations and led numerous large multi-million dollar information technology and business improvement programs, outsourcing efforts, start-up initiatives, and project turnarounds. Currently, she provides project related services and training to assist organizations in realizing their goals and is a Certified Project Management Professional (PMP®

Please tell us how you became a project manager?

I became a project manager early in my career. I was in a management-training program at top US Corporation and working as a programmer/analyst when a project manager resigned. Because of my experience, Management felt I could do the job and assigned me the role of project manager for a cost accounting system. It was great experience but in the early 1980's, project management was not a specialized field of study. Outside of information for engineers on managing projects, there was with limited information for business or technical project managers so much of my project management training was on the job.

What has been the most challenging for you as a project manager? 

This is a tough question because every project has its own challenges. Two common project management issues that I continually struggle with are estimating the level of effort and duration when working with a team of all part-time team members, a topic discussed in the book, and working with first time project team members with limited or no project management knowledge, which is one of the reasons for the book.

However, as a project leader, I have found the most challenging aspect of project management is the building a productive and high quality team. Every project manager has been trained to build a team with the right skills and knowledge. Every project manager strives to have a team that works towards a common goal. However, building the right team is more than assigning people with the right skills and knowledge because the best teams are those where all team members feel that they are making a meaningful contribution and are satisfied with the job. To create such a team takes time and requires communication, collaboration, and compromise with a project sponsor, potential team members, functional managers, and even corporate human resources. Not assigning a person to the team, even if they have the right skills and knowledge, can be the best and right option for both the person and project.

What was the most challenging project you even managed and why?

My most challenging project was writing and getting Project Management for Flat Organizations published because I moved from the role of project manager, managing my writing efforts, to becoming a client of the publisher with client expectations. I was looking at the production effort as a project, a unique event with a specific start and end date while the publisher considered the effort an operational activity. As the book progressed through the production process, different people became involved and the understanding of expectations changed highlighting the importance of communicating.

Your recent book "Project Management for Flat Organizations" is one of ten winners of the 2013 Small Business Book Awards. Why did you decide to write the book?

The idea to write this book developed over time and is based on experiences with client projects and project management courses I teach. The attendees in the courses vary but tend to be new project managers with little or no formal training in project management, project team members, business leaders, functional managers, and project sponsors—all of whom are looking for something to assist them with their job so that they can successfully define, plan, and work a project.

Among all the available project management books, why do you think this is the one that will help newbies understand what they need to know about project management?

My book provides a simple, no-nonsense, cost-effective approach to project management. It explains the fundamentals of project management and then walks the reader through the entire project life cycle from management concept to completing the project. The book focuses on three critical activities: the first key activity is the defining of the project outcome and the recording of that definition in a scope statement (or project definition); the second activity is to plan what needs to be done and create a project plan documenting what needs to occur to accomplish the outcome; and the third activity is to “work the plan,” successfully delivering the outcome with the aid of a status report.

The book does not focus on nor was it written for people focused on sitting for a certification examination; rather it is a basic book that a person new to project management can understand and use as a reference tool when managing any type of project.

It appears that the 7 sections and 22 chapters cover everything that a person working on a project needs to know about project management.  Was this your goal? 

Use of the work “everything” suggests comprehensive coverage of project management. This was not my goal though I intended to provide a comprehensive introduction to project management for novice readers. The book builds on three critical activities—defining the project; planning the project; and working the plan—and is divided into 7 sections with 22 chapters. Each chapter is short and easy to read enabling the reader to focus on the chapters that are important to him or her without reading the entire work.

The beginning of each section provides an overview of information to be covered, a brief explanation as to the importance of the section, and a description of each chapter within the section. Each chapter starts with a list of the subjects covered, and ends with a review of key points and step-by-step instructions. The theory of the subjects is introduced and then, using examples, visual aids, tools, and techniques, the chapter walks the reader through applying the theory. Included in the chapters are short stories, scenarios, suggestions, reference tables, questions to consider, and guidelines intended to illuminate the subject, issues, or skills.

Where can your book be found, if someone wants to purchase.

The book is available from J. Ross Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and any Indie Book Store. Reviews of the book can be found on Amazon’s site .

A downloadable copy of Chapter 7: Define the Project Scope and three free downloads, known as WAV files, associated with the book:
•Project Management Word Templates (templates that are referenced throughout the book)
•Selecting a Project Management Software Application—A Whitepaper
•Ten Steps to Create a Project Management Methodology—A Whitepaper
are available at J. Ross Publishing Sign-in is required for the WAV files.

Additionally, the book is available as an e-book (i-bookstore)

Thank you Laura.