Monday, 29 October 2018

"If everything seems under control, you're not going fast enough": A Project Management workshop with Dyson

James Whitehead, Cohort 2018

Initially, the title of this post seems to be a risk-inducing quote. In fact, this is part of the philosophy that Dyson lived by in order to be the thriving, successful company that is is today. Impressively, the company has tripled its workforce over the past five years and is undoubtfully a leader in innovative product development.

SELA Cohort 2018 had the delight of welcoming Richard Wheatley from Dyson to share some of his insight, at a recent workshop on Project Management. Richard, a Sheffield Electrical Engineering graduate, is Global Head of Verification and Test with Dyson. Something I learned from his talk was that to develop amazing products, you must exceed the boundaries; you must embrace and take advantage of risk. However, it is essential to understand the risk itself and never lose sight of the consequences.

Here are my top three tips I took away from Richard.

1. Be creative

It is essential to not only fixate on one area of interest when designing a product but to think broadly and to be open minded.

It is important to be open to incorporating new ideas throughout the stage of product development.


2. Use failure as a stepping stone

Failure is an opportunity to learn, to reflect, and to see what can be done better next time. As a project manager, it is important to always push the team forward.

Dyson’s new “Cyclone V10” took 5127 prototypes and the “Supersonic hair dryer” took 6 years to produce… Never give up.

3. Never forget the scope

It is very important that everyone in the project team understands the scope and the boundaries of the project. Successful projects have a well-defined and approved business case.

Being an effective project manager doesn’t mean single-handedly finding the best solution to a problem yourself. It is allowing your functional team, who are really the experts in their field, to find the best solution themselves (which is always the most efficient one!).

Project management is a complex topic and people have spent many years studying it. Programmes have been developed, such as ‘PRINCE 2’, involving the methodology for best practice project management.

Finally, it is a process that I believe is constantly evolving, as we are always discovering new methods and techniques to increase project efficiency. Despite the complex nature of product development, being a successful project manager truly relies on the importance of being self-aware, a fundamental leadership trait.

Stepping Stones Image © Derek Harper, CC BY-SA 2.0
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