Penny Pullan

Penny Pullan
Dr Penny Pullan is Director of Making Projects Work Ltd. Penny is a highly-qualified project manager, facilitator and trainer, with a broad experience both inside multinational companies and as an external consultant. Penny is experienced in facilitating risk workshops and equipping others to do so.

So says the blurb on the book. But who am I really?

I suppose that ever since I was a small girl, I’ve been interested in what makes projects work. In university, I studied engineering and went on to gain a PhD in Nanotechnology from Cambridge. But that didn’t answer my question. The deeper I got into technology, the less I seemed to know!

Moving on into the world of work, I had the fortune to join Logica’s Cambridge division to do serious things with cutting edge technology. From human factors (the first commercial websites) to machine learning (trying to get neural networks to predict the stock market which didn’t work and power station load which did) and Agile (DSDM was being developed around me.) When I moved on again, I joined a team who had been working for two years but still didn’t know what they were doing or where they were going. The question came up strongly again. What is it that makes projects work?

In Mars Inc. after working on projects for several years, I joined an internal consulting group: Effective Business Change. Over six years in this amazing team, I learnt so much about what makes projects work. I learnt that communication between people is vitally important. To this day, I prefer to work very visually and help others to do so at I learnt how groups work together on projects. The terrible bombings of 9/11 introduced me to working virtually on global projects and I help others to do so now at

It was in Mars Inc. that I began to run risk workshops for other people.
The first time I did this, I’m pretty sure that we just transferred the risks from the head of a senior person along with his own ratings of probability and impact directly to the risk register, despite all of the other people in the room. Hierachy is one of the biggest pitfalls in risk workshops. I realised that I had a lot to learn and an internal facilitation course got me started on the right track. Over the years, I worked out or learned from others what worked and what didn’t.

After working as programme manager for an international programme involving governments in West Africa, the United Nations ILO and directors of confectionery projects, I realised that the work I was doing had application outside Mars.
I left and set up Making Projects Work Ltd, where I still work today. My clients range from multinational companies through to utilities, universities and non-governmental organisations.

In 2009 I met Ruth for the first time, having read her excellent book on Risk Attitude the year before. Very quickly, she realised that the combination of our two interests and talents was just what she was looking for to make risk work for people. So here we are writing this book together. Thank you for your interest and please do get involved by signing up for our community here and commenting on our blog page here.

I’d like to say a bit thank you to my family for putting up with me writing the book and especially to my husband who spent days reading it and suggesting changes that improved it no end. Here we all are:

Pullan Family in New Zealand in 2011

Here’s more on how I work with clients and who they are:

The majority of my work is with people in multinational organisations who are grappling with tricky projects and programmes of change. Tricky usually means a combination of:

  • risky, with uncertain outcomes;
  • working with virtual team members dispersed around the globe;
  • complex and often ambiguous requirements;
  • complex and often culturally diverse mix of stakeholders, who need to be interested, engaged and involved.
  • With this context, people say I bring order and clarity, providing support and tools to cut through the problems and to emerge successful, delivering benefits at the same time as developing the individuals involved. My facilitation skills are fundamental to my work, especially in risk management.

    I’ve been described as ‘an entertaining and engaging public speaker, dramatically illustrating how you can apply the tips and tricks’ described in this book to powerful effect in your own organisation.
    Clients of my company, Making Projects Work Ltd, include Novo Nordisk, Abbott Laboratories, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Quintiles, the UK NHS and other government departments, ESI, the National Grid, several leading UK Universities and international charities, banks, insurance companies, telecoms and IT providers.
    You can find out more at
    +44 (0) 1509 821691
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