Jonathan Norman is a highly experienced consultant and author on project knowledge management, knowledge sharing, and communities of practice. He has many coveted certifications and distinctions, including being a RSA and APM Fellow. His most recent salaried role was six and a half years as Knowledge Manager at the Major Projects Association, prior to moving to semi-retirement and consultancy in June 2023.
Q: Could you provide some insight into your background and what specifically motivated your interest in project management?
My route into project management is an unusual one. I spent the first 30 years of my career as a publisher of professional business books and training materials, much of it at Gower Publishing, where I published over 100 books and products on project management, including several titles that won the PMI’s David I. Cleland Award for Project Literature. Working with some of the most imaginative, experienced, and engaging authors introduced me to the whole landscape of projects and their management.
Q: Throughout your career, what project are you most proud of, and why?
In 2011, I was responsible for the initiation and delivery of something called GPMFirst, which was Gower’s vision for a publishing community of practice. The community was disbanded six years later, when Gower was acquired by Taylor and Francis. Nevertheless, I am extremely proud of the idea of a platform that combined our book content (broken down into individual chapters and fully searchable) with user content generated both by our network of authors and our network of users. The idea of bringing together content, authors, and users into a super community that could network and share has informed and influenced everything I have done since.
Q: Receiving feedback is crucial in project management. What strategies do you use to gather and integrate your team's feedback into your project management methodology?
This is one of the areas on which I have done most work in the last five years. I have worked with self-managed professional networks (including Sustainability, Sponsorship, Early Careers, and Inclusivity networks) at the Major Projects Association, where individuals from across industries came together to share feedback and insight from what was happening on their projects. More recently, I have experimented with tools such as Opiner, which enables almost real-time video feedback; Mentimeter; and have developed an approach for gathering and integrating human-centric data and feedback for projects.
Q: As an accomplished presenter and author, how do you incorporate real-world project scenarios into your material to enhance student and practitioner learning and understanding?
I draw on a whole raft of open-access materials for my writing and presentations, including the Major Projects Knowledge Repository, The Crossrail Learning Legacy, and The National Audit Office. Alongside the resources themselves, I work hard at my storytelling, my use of analogies, and at creating frameworks or using acronyms and checklists to give meaning to tacit knowledge.
Q: Many of our readers are aspiring project managers. What advice would you give them for a successful career in project management?
The discipline of project management is far larger and more thematically diverse than when I first started publishing on projects. Many of the best project-oriented organisations now offer career paths that allow you to develop upwards as a manager, in which case you will be broadening your experience and your skill set, or to reach the top of the profession within a specific discipline, for example, cost engineering or value management. Follow your curiosity where it leads you, and above all, make sure you take the time on LinkedIn and in person to build your professional network. There is no better free resource for advice, support and opportunity spotting.