Een goed gesprek over project management

Geschreven door Niels Meijssen.
06 51 45 47 35

Fer Tummers heeft zijn sporen verdiend in de maritieme industrie, waar hij verschillende management posities vervulde. Nu helpt hij organisaties herstructureren en deelt hij zijn kennis met anderen. Voor dat laatste interviewt hij o.a. een aantal professionals over hun rol als projectleider. En ook ik was aan de beurt 🙂

We leerden Fer al uitgebreid kennen tijdens de werksessies voor zijn website Command F. Nu waren de rollen omgedraaid en mocht ik de vragen beantwoorden. Hierbij het resultaat!


Meet the Professional

By Fer Tummers, originally posted on LinkedIn

Niels Meijssen – entrepreneur, partner and project manager DWVD and Fello

Today I am driving to Delft for my next interview. For me it is like driving back in time, back to my days at Delft University of Technology. The streets and buildings bring back memories of crossing the city by bike, riding from building to building (and to various associations and bars of course). The quarter where DWVD and Fello are housed gives rise to different feelings. In these buildings, I have spent many hours on exams: mathematics, physics, strength of materials, etc. Every time I visit DWVD a certain nervous feeling catches me. However, that feeling disappears when Niels opens the door. An energetic, enthusiastic and very friendly guy lets me in and provides coffee (tea for Niels) and we settle in a meeting room that is decorated like a living room.

Who is Niels Meijssen? (in 3 words, 2 numbers and 1 animal)

Words come easy to Niels: entrepreneur, internet and Zen. Of course, I am intrigued by Zen and want to know more. Niels explains that one of his hobbies used to be Jujutsu, the classical form. “Obtaining my shodan (equivalent to a black belt) has probably been my biggest achievement yet. It required massive perseverance and numerous repetitions while I am impatient by nature”. The Jujutsu brought Niels into contact with Zen meditation and till today he finds time to meditate daily. Entrepreneurship is in Niels’ blood. “I knew already for a very long time that I wanted to start my own business”. As a student Niels has been busy building websites and developing business ideas. Nevertheless, he started his career working for various companies, but after a couple of years the opportunity to join DWVD arose. “It felt liberating for me”. “I had the luck to grow up with internet and still remember my first internet connection (with modem) at home. Look where we are today!”

Numbers are a bit more difficult, but after giving it some thought the numbers 1.73 and 14E come to mind. 1.73 is the square root of 3 (in Dutch: ‘de wortel van drie – DWVD’). Niels joined DWVD and made the team complete again as the 3rd colleague (after one colleague left). “I saw an opportunity to join and offered to work for the company for 6 months without pay and leave a decision to hire me to the other partners”. After 6 months, Niels had become indispensable and became partner. “14E is my house number. It is a very special house, a very modern design back in the 1930’s and the only one actually built according to this design in Blijdorp, Rotterdam”.

Coming up with an animal seems to be difficult. After long deliberation Niels decides for crocodile. Niels loves to travel the world and has seen crocodiles in the wild. “It is fascinating. First, you don’t see the animal. It takes a lot of effort to spot the animal in its environment. Once you see it (how can you miss it, it is no small animal) you realize that you are looking at a very old animal, a dinosaur”.

What drives your passion for projects?

Niels likes to have clear goals to aim for and to start something new with a lot of enthusiasm and energy. But in the end, it has to be finished, completed. “I like that projects have a clear head and a tail, a start and an end”.

How do you help others with project management?

“I am mainly a facilitator and a kind of vacuum cleaner”. Niels is convinced that his colleagues find him a good project manager if they can do their sketching or coding undisturbed. “I make sure that everything goes smoothly around here and keep all distractions, like questions, e-mails and phone calls from clients, as far as possible away from our developers and designers”. He distinguishes between a ‘maker’s schedule’ and a ‘manager’s schedule’. “Makers (designers, programmers) work most efficiently if they can do their work in undisturbed blocks of approximately 4 hours; 4 hours before lunch and 4 hours after lunch. Managers work most efficiently if they do their work in undisturbed blocks of 1 hour”.

What is the biggest challenge in large projects?

The biggest challenge is definitely managing client expectations. “My biggest challenge is to make my client aware that, to deliver a very cool product, he has to work very hard too. A client can’t lean back and wait till things happen”. It is all about finding the right balance. “The more a client is able to give, the more he will receive back from us”. The other key word is trust. Many clients have their own ideas and personal taste. However, these should be separated from what they try to achieve. “Our business is mostly about conveying certain feelings, colors, shapes. The result is often very different from what clients had initially in their mind”. At DWVD the team has learned to never just send e-mails and ask for feedback. “I prefer face to face meetings or use Skype and explain ‘live’ what we thought and did”. “It is never ‘us and them’ but always ‘we’; we are 1 team with our client”.

What is your key project management advice?

Niels’ advice is ready for wisdom on a tile. “Adopt a facilitating role, develop and manage the relationship with your client and work to become 1 team with 1 goal”.

What is the one question you really want me to ask you?

Niels has worked both in large industrial and in shipbuilding projects and in internet projects. “Both worlds are very down to earth, you don’t have to wear a suit and tie, what I like”. But both worlds are very different as well. Industrial projects tend to be very large and complex. Planning is often a very complex network planning and project managers are mostly not interested in the detailed activities. “In our projects, planning is much simpler. Our planning is capacity (individual) driven and shows what this means for our business and for room for new projects”. Where the industry often uses sophisticated software programs, most software is too complex for small businesses. “Too many functions and options that we don’t need and will never use. Keep it simple”. I like these last words – a great conclusion of a very pleasant discussion, as is always the case with Niels and the team of DWVD.


P.S. Volg Fer ook op LinkedIn, waar hij schrijft over projectmanagement en andere interessante thema’s.

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