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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Water is Full of Sharks

In the past, I enjoyed reading the book, "Power and Politics in Project Management" by Jeffrey K. Pinto (and still review it periodically). One section of the book has had special significance for me of late. I have to admit that I'm not a very good politician. I have learned over the years that playing politics is a skill set I need to work on. As mentioned in the book, we need to be aware of all political behaviors (Naive, Sensible, and Shark) and react to them appropriately if we are to keep ourselves from getting in to trouble.

One behavior I have had the unfortunate experience of witnessing lately is that of the Political Shark. These types of people have certain character traits that if not recognized can negatively impact our careers. These sharks know how to play the self-serving political "game" and don't mind leaving blood in the water. They are experts at manipulating the system to get their way and have no interest in serving anything but their own desires. They have loyalty only to themselves and their own goals.


To quote from the book, "work with them (sharks), and one is likely to be used and manipulated; get between them and their goal and their behavior becomes utterly amoral." "The only cause these individuals espouse is their own."

The author goes on to make an important point; Sharks "enter organizations with the express purpose of using politics and aggressive manipulation to reach the top."

As summarized in the book, Sharks are:

* Opportunistic

* Self-serving and predatory

* Manipulators that will use fraud and deceit when necessary

* Bullies that will misuse information and use others to service their own means

Do you know or work with or for a shark? What can a project manager do to ensure these types of individuals don't negatively impact their projects?

Here are some things to keep in mind:

* Be aware that sharks exist in your organization

* Know who the sharks are and avoid them whenever possible

* When working with sharks, be very careful not to become their prey

* Learn to be politically "Sensible"

* Be a good negotiator

* Expand your network and be fair and honest in all of your dealings

* Be comforted in the fact that Sharks will eventually move on to new feeding grounds

It is unfortunate that political sharks are so prevalent in organizations. They offer little value to the organization other than to serve their own means. Occasionally sharks do good things, but the cost of their behavior will always be a disruption to the organization. The benefit is rarely worth the cost.

Don't trust a shark. Don't turn your back on them and don't take them lightly. Remember they are self-serving and will stop at nothing to satisfy their appetite. I have seen the damage they can do first hand and I know they are indiscriminate in the way the feed. Even though we have to swim with the sharks, we don't have to become their victims.

Keep your friends close, but the sharks closer.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Project Challenges

I just received the latest addition to my project management library. The book, The Wiley Guide to Managing Projects is big (over 1400 pages), comprehensive, expensive, and has more information than I could absorb in a lifetime. While I wouldn't recommend the book for everyone, I would say that it covers just about every aspect of project management in enough detail to make it a book you should consider having on your desk.

I have been very busy with a large enterprise project that has been a real challenge. As project managers we have all been in the same boat regarding managing projects that have taken on a life of their own. We have the knowledge, experience, and lessons learned from past projects to manage these projects effectively, yet our current project(s) aren't going as planned. Are you managing "change"?

Project change and the associated problems/opportunities they create are all part of the project management game. Changes to project scope can improve project results, however it helps if we can anticipate these changes so we can manage them more effectively.

Project change requires that we communicate and anticipate. Failure to manage change can result in project failure and cost overruns. Additionally, relationships can be damaged and careers ruined. Needless to say, these things happen to project managers everyday.

So what do we do when faced with the big project challenges? My advice is to keep plugging away and rely on your experience, knowledge, perseverance, and project management fundamentals to get your projects back on track.

Any war stories you have can be added to the comments section.


Stephen F. Seay, PMP

Keep fighting the good fight.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Good Project Management Websites

The list of useful Project Management links was found on the forums over at

REPOST - Cleaned up Links and Formatting

The new eProject eLounge (A great source of blogs, forums, download, and other info)

100 Rules for Project Managers (Some great gems of project management wisdom from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.)

12Manage – Management method, models and theories

4PM – Free project management knowledge library

AllPM - Project Manager's Resource Center

ASAPM (American Society for the Advancement of Project Management)


CIO Magazine (Good information for a variety of subjects including project management.)

CM Today - Configuration Management News

Cutter IT Journal

Defense Acquisition University 4 PMs

Earned Value Management

Effective Meetings

e-Programme - Portfolio Management Web Site

GanttHead - Developed for PMs by PMs

HrGopher - Good HR information for everyone

Information Systems Specific Interest Group (PMI)

IT-Director.Com, information for the IT Director

itmWEB, IT Management information

ITtoolKit for Managing Technology, PM Toolkits and information

The wisdom of Max Wideman


MIT's Project Management Resources

NewGrange - Center for Project Management

PM Boulevard

PMI (Project Management Institute)

Portfolio Management Forum

PowerPointers - Creating Effective Presentations

Product Development & Management Association

Project Development Disciplines from Paul Allen

ProjectHero - Real World War Stories

Project Magazine - Free Online Resource

Project Management Forum

Project Management W3 Site

Project Manager Today

Project Smart Resource Centre

Projects @ Work Magazine

Service Level Management

The Software Engineering Laboratory (NASA)

Software Program Manager's Network

Software Project Management Sites

SoftwareDioxide - Ecosystem 4 Software

StickyMinds - Resource 4 Building Better Software

TechGuide - Practical Guidance for IT Pros (BNET)

University of Washington Project Management Guidelines

Virtual Project Management & Teams

Workaholic International Network

Software Projects Org

IPMA (International PM Association)

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

In Project Management, Criticism is Inevitable

Criticism is something we can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing. Aristotle, Greek philosopher and scientist

Many of you probably know that every now and then I can be critical of a situation or type of person. Evidence of this fact can be seen in last week's posting or others regarding teams, executive apathy, etc. One thing we can all learn about criticism from others - "if you expect criticism, you will seldom be disappointed when you receive it" - Author unknown.

We know that not all criticism is constructive. Many types of criticism are destructive and that is what I want to talk about. Destructive criticism is something you receive that offers virtually no value, and comes from people that don't have your best interests at heart. Sometimes the criticism may have some merit, however when speaking about destructive criticism, the presentation wasn't communicated effectively or was only meant to do harm.

Remember, criticism is just an opinion, but if offered constructively it may be valid and helpful.

Keep an open mind when being criticized. Don't let the criticism control you or change what you think about yourself. Ask yourself, can I learn anything from the criticism? Can I change anything? Should I change?

I don't take criticism well, and I tend to discount those people around me that criticize others too much. I need to take my own advice and learn to be more accepting of criticism, especially when it is constructive.

Some rules we should follow regarding criticism:

Never criticize another behind their back. Keep in mind what Stephen Covey says and have "respect for the absent".

If there is nothing to be learned when you are criticized it is best to ignore it and move on with your life.

Responding to criticism that has no value will only reduce you to the level of the person doing the criticizing.

Don't let deceivers deceive YOU!