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!