Friday, December 21, 2007

A Christmas Post

I wish you a hopeful Christmas
I wish you a brave New Year
All anguish pain and sadness
Leave your heart and let your road be clear
They said there'd be snow at Christmas
They said there'd be peace on Earth
Hallelujah Noel be it Heaven or Hell
The Christmas we get we deserve

This is the last verse of "I Believe in Father Christmas." Greg Lake (Emerson Lake & Palmer) wrote this song as an objection to the commercialism of Christmas. You don’t need snow to have a happy Christmas (which is good, because we’re spending Christmas in the Caribbean), it comes from within. So whether you believe in the true spirit of Christmas or you are a cynic, you get the Christmas you deserve. Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


I mentioned in my last post that I like music. Check this out - reverse engineering

A Meme

I've been tagged with a meme from Mariposa. I'm supposed to tell 8 things about myself and then tag 8 other blogs. Here are my facts, I'll have to try to think of other blogs to get.
  • I love to travel around the world, met other people, and learn about other cultures.
  • I enjoy good food and wine, sometimes a little to much, which leads me to the next one...
  • I have been running competitively since 1981. I've also done some bike racing, triathlons, duathlons...anything for fun.
  • I still consider Chicagoland my home, even if I don't get there as often as I like.
  • I'm married with 2 teen agers back in Kansas, but soon we'll all be together in the Cayman Islands.
  • I really like music. I play guitar when I get the chance (not often enough).
  • I started my professional career as an officer in the US Navy. I had a very high-level security clearance. I would tell you more, but than I'd have to kill you ;<)
  • I have 3 bikes; one for road racing, one for time trials/triathlons, and a mountain bike. I have raced on all of them.
There it is...

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Danish Philosophy

I'm in Denmark again and I was reading about a famous Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard. I came across a quote I really liked;

"The thing is to find a truth which is true for me"

This applies to each of us, personally and professionally. I've shared many of my ideas on project management, but everyone has to figure out what works for them. If my ideas don't work for you, I've still succeeded by pushing you in a better direction.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” - The Dalai Lama

I saw this quote and thought it was worth repeating. Compassion is taking the time to be aware of other's distress. Working on projects can bring stress which can lead to distress. Are we as leaders taking time to be compassionate, or do we just keep pushing our team harder?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

If Lao Tzu were a project manager - part 5

"The sage guides his people by putting himself last" - Tao Te Ching, chapter 7

Servant Leadership has been a popular phrase recently, but clearly it goes back a long way. In modern times, Robert Greenleaf wrote the book “The Servant as Leader” in 1970 and others like Stephen Covey, Peter Senge, and Ken Blanchard also supported the notion. However, writing from 4th century B.C.E. India also supported the idea of the leader as servant.

So what is servant leadership? The leader first decides to serve and then leads as a way to serve. It emphasized collaboration over a hierarchical control structure. Trust is important and power should be used ethically. Since project managers don't always have hierarchical power anyway, this can be a good model to follow. You put your project team first and help them succeed, which will bring success to the project itself.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Agile or Traditional, How to Chose

Here's a link to an article I've written recently on how to decide if agile or traditional is the best approach to a project. Enjoy.

Agile Article

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

If Lao Tzu were a project manager - part 4

"And the sage’s greatness lies in taking no credit" - Tao Te Ching, Chapter 2

To me, this quote talks about team building. As project managers, we are leaders and as leaders we have to give serious consideration to the development of our team.

I interviewed a project manager recently that I think exemplifies this quote. We were discussing how she ran her projects and the topic turned to team development. She did a number of things to recognize her team, from financial incentives for performance to recognition on birthdays and other small things like cooking dinner for the team. She looked for opportunities, big and small; to tell her team they were important.

So what have you done today for your team? Deepak Chopra would say your gift doesn’t even have to be something material. It could be a show of appreciation, a compliment, or even a silent prayer for them. So go be a leader.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

If Lao Tzu were a project manager - part 3

"So the sage only looks at what is really real. He doesn’t look at the surface." - Tao Te Ching, Chapter 38

So here I am doing a project in the Nordics. One of the topics of discussion has been on status reporting. I have seen a lot of organizations that use the red/yellow/green stoplight motif for their status reports. I have also seen project managers that figure out how to manipulate the data so that their project will appear as green until things really fall apart, at which time they go to red. Taking this approach doesn’t really help because management can’t see when things start to go wrong and when they need to step in to assist.

An effective organization will have true transparency in their reporting. When an issue surfaces, it is communicated without fear of “shooting the messenger.” There’s not a focus on who’s to blame, but on how to fix things. Without this type of open communications, status reports aren't worth the paper they're printed on.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Another day, another country

I'm on the road again, this time to Copenhagen. My project involves assessing how well projects are being run in the Nordics region for my client. I'll be interacting with folks from Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland.

The cultural side of this project will be interesting. Although my client has grouped all these countries together to run as a region, they are each unique. It gets back to the discussion about the world being flat or not. To what degree do you have to consider culture when working across multiple countries, even when they are close together?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

If Lao Tzu were a project manager - part 2

"Everything must have its roots, and the tendrils work quietly underground." - Tao Te Ching, Chapter 16.

Plants can't survive without roots. Likewise, a project can't survive without a plan. There may be varying levels of planning, but without a plan the project will wither up and die.

So what is the right level of planning? It is really based on the project. If you are working in a stable environment and have a good idea of what your requirements are, you can put together a pretty detailed plan. If you have a lot of uncertainty, you are better off starting with a high level plan and working out the details through an iterative approach.

Regardless of the approach, you should still plan out how long the project is going to take. Timeboxing works well in uncertain conditions. You determine when you're going to finish and you get as much done in that amount of time. If you prioritize the work, you know you'll get the important stuff done.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

If Lao Tzu were a project manager - part 1

I did a presentation a while back with a colleague where we compared the leadership styles of Lao Tzu and Sun Tzu. I was thinking about that presentation recently and came up with the idea of doing a series on what Lao Tzu would do if he were a project manager. So here’s the first of the series, starting with project initiation and the project vision.

“If the sage governs with vision then his people will not go wrong.” – Tao Te Ching, Chapter 3

During my recent presentation at the PMI Conference, I talked about how important the vision was in agile projects. In reality, it is important for all projects. A good vision will help the project manager and team make good decisions down the road. The vision should be developed during initiation and captured in the project charter.

Is the project manager responsible for the vision? To some degree, yes. Ideally, the project owner should be the one with the vision. However, the project manager should challenge the project owner to ensure the vision is good.

So what is a good vision? It should give the project team a picture of the end state. It should provide motivation. It should come to their rescue during project conflict.

I recall one project I managed where the vision was good. We were building a computer-based product catalog (before the days of the web). The owner gave us the general features he wanted but he also had a vision of a product that would “wow” the customer when they installed it, something that would look really cool. That vision shaped the project. The team got excited to show off new ideas. When we were at decision points, we thought about which choice better supported the vision. Having a good vision drove us to a successful project.

So what’s the vision of your project? Does the team know it? Is it working to guide your project? If not, maybe you need to talk to your project owner.

Friday, October 19, 2007

A Blog Carnival

Today I decided to share some of the blogs that I read. If you have other blogs that you like, or even write yourself, let me know.

Leading Answers is written by Mike Griffiths. I saw him speak on Agile PM at the PMI Global Congress this year. His blog contains practical advice for any PM.

I like keeping up on what's happening in technology. I have turned to ars technica as a good source of info. Along similar lines, but more focused on hardware (i.e., playtoys) is Engadget.

I remember reading Fast Company about 10 years ago when the idea of the personal brand first came out. If you want to work on improving your personal brand, then I suggest a visit to the Personal Branding Blog.

And to wrap things up, John Dvorak's blog. I listen to John as part of the crew of the TWIT podcast.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day - The Environment

Today is Blog Action Day, an attempt to get bloggers from around the world to write on a single topic. The topic today is the environment.

I thought I would share some of the things I have been doing to do my part in helping the environment and reduce my carbon footprint.

I use an electric lawnmower instead of a gas one. Mine uses a power cord, which is a little bit of a hassle to deal with, but better then using a gas mower. I also use a push broom and rake rather then powered accessories to clean up the yard.

I drive a Honda civic, pretty good on the gas mileage. I make sure the tires have enough air and keep it maintained properly. I have also tried to make the effort to ride my bike when I have to make a short trip to the grocery or liquor store. A computer backpack with a padded pocket works well for wine bottles.

Of course there's other stuff like watching the thermostat at home, turning off lights etc. Is there more you can be doing to help the environment?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Another PMI Conference

I have just got back for the 2007 PMI North America Congress in Atlanta. As usual, it was an excellent event (and I don’t just say that because I was part of the planning committee).

I also presented a paper that compared traditional and agile project management methodologies. Let me know if you'd like a copy (AND-provide your email so I can send it to you.)

I met George Pitagorsky, PMP, the author of the book “The Zen Approach to Project Management” You can find the book here. I haven’t read the whole thing yet, but based on the first chapter, it looks pretty good.

As usual, it was a chance to re-connect with old friends and meet new friends. During the course of events I was reminded that it is a small world. On an escalator ride, I met a gentleman from Bangalore, one of my recent trips. At the airport, I met someone on their first trip to India.

The thought I had is that we should always treat people well, because we never know when we’ll cross paths with them again.


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Is the World Really Flat?

The book "The World is Flat" by Thomas Friedman is a pretty popular business title. I even gave it to my board of directors for the PMI component I was running. I recently heard an interview on a Harvard Business Review podcast where the author of another book, Pankaj Ghemawat, argues the world isn't all that flat (his book is "Redefining Global Strategy: Crossing Borders in a World Where Differences Still Matter"). Read more here.

Having traveled to Central America, Europe, India, and Japan in the past year, I have to agree that there are still differences and anyone doing business on a global scale has to take into account the differences in each country they are working in.

I am currently working with a client that is moving towards a more global approach to how they run projects. One area they are not losing sight of is the local culture of the different countries they are working with and how that can impact the project.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

My favorite from Lao Tzu

Men are born soft and supple; dead, they are stiff and hard. Plants are born tender and pliant; dead, they are brittle and dry. Thus whoever is stiff and inflexible is a disciple of death. Whoever is soft and yielding is a disciple of life. The hard and stiff will be broken. The soft and supple will prevail.

This is one of my favorite thoughts from Lao Tzu. There have been times on projects when I was firm in my position and wasn't willing to compromise when in hindsight that is what I should have done. Are you flexible when you need to be?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Lost Sutras of Jesus

I have a book I really enjoy, The Lost Sutras of Jesus. The story goes that a around 600 C.E. a group of monks went to China to teach Christianity. Their teaching got blended with Eastern philosophy, producing a set of teachings that reflected both cultures. A few hundred years later the teachings were hidden as the political environment changed and they weren't discovered again until the 20th century.

One particular quote I like is "There is no single name for the Way. Sages do not come in a single form. These teachings embrace everyone and can be adopted in any land."

From the project management perspective, I see this as saying there is no one way to run a project. Just because we are using a PMBOK approach (for example), doesn't mean we have to criticize Prince2 or Agile or any other approach. We can learn from all of them. We should always be open to other people's ideas.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Morning Coach

I've been listening to a podcast for a while now that fits into my philosophy. It's call Morning Coach and is hosted by JB Glossinger. He talks about practical ways to improve your life from a metaphysical standpoint. It's only 15 minutes long, so it's easy to fit into my day. There's actually a live call, but I subscribe to the podcast in iTunes. There's also a website being put together here. Check it out.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Seeking Approval

Are you working for other's approval? Lao Tzu once said "If you look to others for fulfillment, you will never truly be fulfilled." The idea here is that we can work hard and not make other people happy because we can't control how other people will react.

So when you're working on a task, give it your best effort. Take time to understand what others are looking for and deliver the best you can. At the end of the day though, your happiness can only come from within.

Sunday, September 02, 2007


I finished my project in India. It was a great opportunity to see what was going on in the world of global outsourcing. For those of you that might think India is a place to turn to as a cost savings, I think you're missing the boat. I was impressed with the capabilities of the people I worked with. Their approach to project management was very mature, this is a place to turn to for high quality project execution.

I'm off tomorrow to Montreal to start working on some portfolio management stuff. It will be some interesting work, plus it's a lot cooler there then here in Kansas.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A Rememberance

My Father passed away earlier this week. We knew his time was near, but it still happened faster then anyone expected.

The Family has all gathered here and we've been sharing stories from our past. I heard a story about how I almost ran my mother over when I was 18 months old and I released the parking break while the car was parked on a hill. This sharing of stories and laughing is how my family is dealing with the grieving process.

Always remember,

life is short,

break the rules,

forgive quickly,

kiss slowly,

love truly,

laugh uncontrollably,

and never regret anything that made you smile. - Unknown

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

A Hindu Prayer

I learned a Hindu prayer today

"In the human life,
Let there be light where there is dark,
Let there be truth where there is untruth
and let there be nectar where there is death"

I also heard a new tradition at the start of a project (or starting anything new). A project sponsor I was talking to said he "Goes to the temple and cracks some coconuts." This is a Hindu tradition. When starting something new, to pray for luck, you go to the temple and offer a coconut by cracking it at the temple. I don't think that technique made it to the PMBOK Guide.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

In the Land of Gandhi

I have been in Bangalore, India for the past week. Today's newspaper had an article about Gandhi. He once said “My life is my message.”

So what's the message we are conveying? As project managers, we should be leaders. Are we thinking about all the aspects of that role?

As I've spent time with people here, I have given pause to a number of things I have done without thinking. Even something like eating meat or having a beer with dinner. Just because we've always done something doesn't mean we have to keep doing it. And when someone's different, we should take the time to understand why. Being in a place like India really gives me the chance to understand another culture.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Mistakes of Man

One of the mistakes of man, as stated by Marcus Cicero, is to insist that something is impossible because we cannot accomplish it. If we think something is going to be impossible, then it probably will be.

Do we run into this on our projects? What do you do when faced with an impossible task? Do you give up or get more creative in trying to solve the problem? Next time, before labeling something as impossible, try looking at it from another perspective.

And to my old friend, yes it's really me. Drop me a note with your email address.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Get to Action

“Lose this day loitering, ‘twill be the same story Tomorrow, and the rest more dilatory; Thus, indecision brings its own delays And days are lost lamenting over days, Are you in earnest? Seize this very moment; What you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Courage has genius, power and magic in it; Only engage, and then the mind grows heated. Begin it and the work will be completed.” - Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Ever sit around procrastinating about what to to? Stop it! Just get to action. If you get started, the task will get done.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

A new social network

I found a new networking site, described as "MySpace with Integrity" It's called Zaadz.

Their mission is "We're gonna change the world. Our math goes like this: you be the change + you follow your bliss + you give your greatest strengths to the world moment to moment to moment + we do everything in our power to help you succeed + you inspire and empower everyone you know to do the same + we team up with millions like us = we just affected billions = we (together) changed the world."

So if you want to connect with other people that care, go check them out.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Portfolio Management

I recently wrote an article for the Center for Business Practices on portfolio management. You can read it here.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself" - Franklin D Roosevelt

This quote comes from FDR's 1933 Inauguration speech. The US was at the height of the Great Depression and he was trying to convince people that their "common difficulties" were only over "material things."

Does fear have a place in project management? Isn't that what risk management is about? Risks are unknown events that could impact our project. Some may keep us up at night in fear.

As FDR was pointing out, there is a difference. With risk, we can assess the impact and probability and plan a response should it happen. Fear is emotional, it just happens, but we can take steps to alleviate fear.

From the Dhammapada 212-216 (a collection of sayings of the Buddha):

"From what is dear, grief is born,
from what is dear, fear is born.
For someone freed from what is dear
there is no grief
-- so why fear?

From what is loved, grief is born,
from what is loved, fear is born.
For someone freed from what is loved,
there is no grief
-- so why fear?

From delight, grief is born,
from delight, fear is born.
For someone freed from delight
there is no grief
-- so why fear?

From sensuality, grief is born,
from sensuality, fear is born.
For someone freed from sensuality
there is no grief
-- so why fear?

From craving, grief is born,
from craving, fear is born.
For someone freed from craving
there is no grief
-- so why fear?"

Thursday, May 03, 2007


A few years ago, a colleague of mine and I gave a presentation comparing the leadership styles of Sun Tzu and Lao Tzu. Sun Tzu authored the Art of War and Lao Tzu is credited with the Tao Te Ching.

One similarity was how both of them used the image of water. Water will seek the path of least resistance, but in its yielding can create something as impressive as a canyon.

It’s a good leadership metaphor. It is in weakness that we are strong. We’re better off going with the flow then trying to resist.

Sunday, April 22, 2007


In the book "The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success" Deepak Chopra talks about karma. He says it's both the action and the consequence of the action. He goes on to explain that everything happening today is a result of past choices we've made.

Now while there are many project management analogies I could think of, the one that comes to my mind first has to do with relationships. How we have treated people in the past will impact our current and future situations.

Another book I'm working my way through is "never eat alone" by Keith Ferrazzi. This book stresses the importance of developing good relationships. The lesson for any of us is that by building good relationships now, we will have more opportunities for success later. Everyone we come across has something to offer us, we need to figure out what it is by taking the time to really get to know people.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


“A great thing done is never perfect, but that doesn’t mean it fails” – Tao Te Ching

I’ve been working recently with an organization in Japan that is trying to improve their project management capability, but not making a lot of progress. The parent company has established the processes for running projects, but within Japan, they have been slow to adopt these standards.

My Japanese counterpart on this project shared an observation with me. He said that in general the Japanese are not quick to adopt new things blindly. Everything from manufacturing to religion, they make their own first. At the same time, he said that is probably why the Japanese are willing to accept different ways of doing things.

Do you think there’s only one way to run a project? Or, are you more flexible? One thing I like about an agile approach is that it encourages experimentation and even failure in order to quickly figure out what’s going to work best. It may not be perfect, but it will solve the problem it was meant to solve.

Monday, March 12, 2007

More thoughts from Japan

I'm still in Japan and I went out to a famous Buddhist town of Nikko over the weekend. Back in 782 CE, Shodo Shonin established a monestary here. There are lots of Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples in the area. I took a hike up to one shrine up a small 900 meter high mountain that was marked on my map.

The map couldn't prepare me for the hike. Sure, it showed I would be going up, but it didn't show the step switchbacks I would have to cover to get to the top. It also didn't give me any idea of what the shrine at the top of the mountain would be like. However, I was glad I made the journey.

A project plan is like a map. It's meant to help guide us, but that's it. It's not the project or our deliverables, it's just helps us get there. While the best project plan doesn't necessarily mean we'll make the customer happy, without a plan we run a high risk of getting lost. So make sure your plan will get you to were you want to go.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A haiku

I’m in Japan for a while on business, so I thought I would share a haiku I came across. It is from Basho Matsuo, considered one of the greatest haiku writers.

Samidare ni
tsuru no ashi
mijikaku nareri

Roughly translated this means:

In the seasonal rain
a crane’s legs
have become short

The interpretation is up to the reader. What I think is important on international projects is trying to understand the culture of the countries you are working with. It may bring some new perspective to your life.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Mayan Civilization

I was in Mexico part of last week and over the weekend for my company's annual meeting. While there, I had the opportunity to visit the ruins of the Maya city in Tulum. It was exactly what I expected a Mayan city to look like, a city carved out of the jungle. The temple was impressive, right at the edge of a cliff leading down to the Caribbean. The Mayans didn't have a lot of tools and relied on human labor (and lots of it) to do the work. One possible reason for the Mayan decline is a revolt by the working class.

So how do we keep our working class from revolting? How can we keep the project team happy? Clearly, we don't want to work them to death. One company I've done some work with lately doesn't have a very sophisticated portfolio management project. Anyone can start up a project and expect the resources will be able to support it. The end result is that key resources are assigned to more projects than they can reasonably work in an 8 hour day. The solution here is a portfolio management process that looks at resource allocation and doesn't allow a project to go forward if resources aren't available to support it.

As for the Mayans, they declined but never completely disappeared. Even today a number of the Mayan languages are still spoken and other traditions still exist. I wonder if the same will be said about us in 1500 years.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Groundhog Day

February 2nd is Groundhog Day here in the US. On this day, Phil the Groundhog is brought out of his box, and if he sees his shadow, we have 6 more weeks of winter. The movie “Groundhog Day” with Bill Murray, based on this event, is one of my favorites.

With the cold winter we’ve had in Kansas, I sure hope Phil doesn’t see his shadow. I’m ready for spring. I know Phil’s observations don’t really have any impact on the weather, but isn’t it fun to hope?

Do we run our projects this way? Do we hope that something will turn out right? Maybe we’ve identified a risk, but we hope it will go away without impacting the project. A book titled “Hope is Not a Method” came out a few years back. I remember my boss at the time really keying in on the message. We can’t just hope things will go well; we have to be proactive about it. We need to plan a response to those risks, at least the high ones.

So while I will be watching what happens with Phil, rather then hoping for an early spring, I’m going to take a trip to Cancun next week!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Think Diversity

Yesterday was a bank holiday here in the US to honor Martin Luther King Jr, the great civil rights activist. It got me thinking about diversity and the benefits it can bring.

As a project manager, I’ve had diverse teams to work with. I’ve come to realize diversity isn’t just a skin color or the country where someone is born. Diversity may be experiences, opinions, or even the type of food someone likes. If you've had a team potluck lunch and enjoyed some different recipe someone brought in, you were appreciating diversity.

What it comes down to is that everyone is unique. As a project manager, recognize uniqueness and how it can bring value to the project. When having a discussion on possible approaches to a problem, a diverse group of participants will bring about more options. So next time you’re recruiting for a team, think diversity.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

New Year's Resolutions

The New Year has arrived. My children were asking me about any New Year’s resolutions I had made. I told them I don’t make any specific resolutions on New Year’s Day, that I try to always keep my goals and dreams a part of my life.

Our family recently watched the movie What the Bleep Do We Know. It was really thought provoking, tying spirituality and physics together. One topic that stuck with me was how we can create our future by first envisioning it. One of the commentors talked about how he takes time at the beginning of each day to think about how he wants that day to turn out, and things do turn out the way he wants.

As an athlete, I have found I do better in races when I take the time in advance to mentally rehearse the race. I now do the same thing for work. I get to my office, take some time to check for any urgent emails or voice messages, and then get ready for the day. First, I read a daily spiritual message I receive via email. Then I take time to think about how I want my day to turn out. I think about my projects and what I want to accomplish. If I have a conflict to work through, I think about how I want that to turn out. I even think about my workout for that day and what I want to accomplish. Then I get to work, knowing what I want to accomplish that day.

Try it for a few weeks, see what happens. Goethe once said if you can believe in yourself, anything can happen.

Drop me a line and let me know what you think of the blog,