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Saturday, December 26, 2009

How to be a Good Project Manager

Show appreciation - thanking people for their assistance is not only the right thing to do it is expected.

Listen effectively - think before speaking. Listen attentively. Make the person feel like they are the only thing you are focusing on.

Give credit to others - always give credit where credit is due.

Don't be negative - negative people can kill team creativity. Eliminate them from your team if possible.

Have a work/life balance - don't forget that all work and no play makes for a dull life.

Don't have hidden agendas - they are only hidden for a while, and most people realize what you are doing.

Be willing to publicly admit your failures - there is nothing more pathetic than the person that never admits a mistake.

Talk about the problem not the person - don't personalize problems and make them about a person or group. Be willing to focus on only on the problem.

If you lie down with dogs you will get fleas - be careful of your relationships in the workplace. Trust, but verify.

Don't gossip - gossip can hurt careers and projects. Don't participate in gossip and don't allow it on your team.

Use Empathy not Sympathy when dealing with delicate issues - Empathic listening is listening with intent to understand. Sympathetic listening is a form of agreement and judgement.

Diagnose before your prescribe - if people don't have confidence in your diagnosis, they won't have confidence in your prescription

Keep your commitments and promises - enough said.

Remember while you are free to choose your actions, you aren't free to choose the consequence of those actions.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Cool Gadget for Thirty Bucks!

Use coupon code MCU2009-06 when checking out

Overview from TI

Texas Instruments (TI) introduces the eZ430-Chronos, which is the world’s first customizable development environment within a sports watch. Taking the popular line of eZ430 development tools to the next level, the kit allowsdevelopers to easily harness the leading integration, ultra-low power and wireless capabilities of TI’s CC430 microcontroller (MCU).
The eZ430-Chronos is priced at $49. Key features and benefits are listed below:
  • Wearable form factor allows customers to conveniently develop in remote locations
  • TI’s SimpliciTI and BM Innovations’ Blue Robin™ RF protocols enable developers to easily establish wireless links regardless of RF knowledge, right out of the box
  • Available in three different RF frequency bands – 915, 868, and 433 MHz – allowing for worldwide usage
  • Integrated 3-axis accelerometer for motion sensitive control as well as sensors for measurement, including altimeter, temperature and batteryvoltage
  • Internal CC430 memory available for data storage, holding up to 11 hours of data such as heart rate
  • eZ430 emulator for simplified programming and debugging on top of basesoftware framework and RF functions
  • USB-RF access point for PC communication and automation, supported by production-ready source projects, including, but not limited to, motion-based mouse control, sensor data logging with wireless PC download, keyboard and presentation control as well as time and calendar sync
  • Large 96 segment LCD display driven directly by CC430
  • Low cost system includes all supporting hardware and software, increasing accessibility and reducing development cost

Monday, December 14, 2009

Geek Culture Diagram

A Leadership Void

"What creates trust, in the end, is the leader's manifest respect for the followers" - Jim O'Toole, Leadership Change.

A leadership void exists when the goals of the leaders aren't embraced by the followers.  Respect, or lack of it plays a big part in helping to create this void.

Some leadership principles I have come to believe are:

Be consistent in what you say and do. Inconsistency shows a lack of focus. Being inconsistent will undermine your credibility with others.

As a leader you will need to provide focus, constancy of purpose, and clear direction to your team. The problem with many leaders isn't a lack of personality or charisma, it is a lack of focus and follow-through.

When leading remember "beware of no man more than thyself" - Thomas Fuller. Ask for feedback from others. Remember the higher the leader is in an organization the more blind spots he or she will experience.

A good leader is a master of the big picture and is knowledgeable of the details. A leader that isn't willing to get involved in the details is just plain lazy and won't have the respect of the team they are leading.

Be careful about negative assumptions. Leaders that are high achievers know their behavior tells the truth about their assumptions.

Leaders ensure that their followers know where they fit into the big picture.

Leaders who underestimate the intellect of others tend to overestimate their own.

Other things that are always displayed by a leader are the ability to:

Create and nurture a vision


Leave your ego at the door

Think before acting (not quick to criticize)

Be a risk taker

State and meet commitments

Be a role model

Have a can do attitude

Encourage success

and finally...BE VISIBLE

Thursday, December 10, 2009

10 Most Important Things

Florida Power and Light management came up with the list below of the ten most important things they think helped them complete the St. Lucie 2 Nuclear Power Plant on schedule, within cost, and without major quality issues.

  1. Management Commitment
  2. A realistic and firm schedule
  3. Clear decision-making authority
  4. Flexible project control tools
  5. Teamwork
  6. Maintaining engineering before construction (design before build)
  7. Earlsy start-up involvement
  8. Organizational flexibility
  9. Ongoing critique of the project
  10. Close coordination with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (strong, fair oversight)
This is an awesome list that can be adapted to any environment and project.  Do you have a top ten list of things you need for your project to be successful?

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Keep IT Simple! - Redesigned

There was a popular survey some time ago that asked leaders in several mid-sized companies about their success. One of the main reasons that many were successful is they focused on simplicity in everything they did. The study concluded that simple, focused companies were more profitable.

The Pareto or 80/20 Principle can help us realize the power of keeping things simple.

Some popular statistics that relate to the Pareto Principle are below:

80% of beer is consumed by 20% of the beer drinkers

80% of classroom participation comes from 20% of the students

80% of traffic jams occur on 20% of roads

20% of your clothes will be worn 80% of the time

80% of sales are generated by 20% of the sales staff

80% of problems are generated by 20% of the employees

80% of problems come from 20% of the customer base

Now that we know this, how do we make things simpler?  Try looking at your business processes to eliminate waste and complexity.

Questions to ask yourself and your organization when seeking to simplify your business processes:

What are our processes?

Who are our customers?

What systems do we use? Do we have the right systems in place to support our business?

What services do we offer internally and externally? Are they still valuable today?

Look for the 20% that adds value and eliminate or redesign the rest. 

We are looking to automate, minimize, isolate, reduce, redesign, throw away, reinvent, rejuvenate, refresh, retire, or reallocate those things that are not helping us to achieve simplicity.  Achieving simplicity can be hard, but the rewards are worth the effort.

Keep it Simple!!! 

Free Christmas Music

Want some free Christmas music?   Head over to this page on and download  29 free holiday songs. 

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Doing Things!

Another short, excellent Tom Peters Video - Click Here

Tom is one of my heros.  I have posted several of his videos here in the past.  Check out his website at for more stuff

Monday, November 30, 2009

Good Project Estimating is an Art and a Science

I have been burned more times than I can count by bad estimates. What can a project manager do to help ensure the accuracy of estimates?  First we should understand the basics behind the estimating process (there are many more than I have listed here). Some items to consider are:

The more unique the project, the more of a challenge it will be to get good estimates

Estimates are only as good as the estimator is at predicting the future

Padded" estimates are not always bad as long as the padding is communicated (... and as long as the Project Manager is the one doing the "padding")

An estimate is not a bid

Estimates using sound estimating practices, performed by experienced estimators from clear specifications should never be negotiated

Ballpark estimates are guesses and should be treated as much by the project team, management, and the project sponsor

Other items to consider when estimating are:

Ensure the statement of work or contract is clear and understood by the person(s) doing the estimates

Ensure that a schedule or mandated date doesn't drive the estimating thought process

Include Risk Management in the estimating process

Ensure that estimates take into account the skill level(s) of the person(s) that will do the work

If your work breakdown structure (WBS) is flawed, your estimates will be inaccurate

Accurate estimating is an art and a science. The estimator (or team) must take into account historical data from past projects, the team's knowledge and experience, the project risks, the statement of work and other project information to make the best estimate possible.

Keep in mind when planning your project that estimates aren't hard and fast numbers. They are guesses, however they should be very good guesses if you have good estimators and are following tried and true estimating practices.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Deming and Project Management

Continuous Improvement is the output of a good Quality Management process, and Continuous Improvement requires the proper application of quality tools and techniques. One of the most recognizable Quality Tools is the "Deming Wheel". The Deming Wheel is a simple diagram that focuses efforts around four processes: PLAN, DO, CHECK, and ACT (PDCA Cycle). While this diagram may seem simplistic at first sight, it is a very powerful tool when applied to projects. In fact, Project Management is dependent upon the PDCA Cycle to deliver effective results.

A quick summary of the PDCA Cycle follows.

Plan is the initial phase of the PDCA Cycle. High levels goals and objectives are agreed upon and resources are acquired. In this phase we are identifying a particular problem or problems and breaking them down into manageable tasks. We want to decide specifically how we will solve the problem and establish metrics to measure progress.

Do is executing the Plan. Also, reporting is done in this phase to check progress. Do can be prototyping in the IT world, designing experiments, constructing a building, building a model, etc.

Check is the evaluation phase. Did we do what we said we were going to do? Did we meet the project's objectives? What does the data tell us? This is where are metrics are analyzed. We are looking at our KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and making recommendations for action.

Act is the adjustment phase. What are we going to do to get back on track or to make improvements? Should we continue or cancel the project? Do we need to re-plan and start the cycle over again? Here we are acting on our findings from the Check phase. We want to make sure we are acting on the right information at the right time.

The PDCA Cycle is a great tool to help us be successful in Project Management. Using proven Quality Management tools that support Continuous Improvement will help project managers to do a better job managing their projects.

Remember the Four Principles of Quality Management are:

Customer Satisfaction

Plan Do, Check, Act (PDCA) Cycle

Management by Fact

Respect for People

Combining these Quality Principles with your Project Management Processes will lead to powerful results for your customers. 

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hope and the Project Manager

Hope is important in project management because it helps us keep our commitments, and also helps us put our faith in others . Don’t get me wrong. Hope won’t make you successful; however, hope can guide us to change the unchangeable and gives us courage to do the right things.

Hope gets us ready to fight the good fight. Hope helps us survive the storms that always come. Hope can dispel fear and give us the strength to carry on. To be good project managers (and leaders) we must always realize (and hope) that our best days are ahead of us.

Hope inspires confidence. Hope is contagious. Hope helps us keep commitments.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Project Status Reports

Click here for article

Project Management Culture

Moving your organization to embrace a “project management culture” takes time and patience. A great first step an organization can take is to ensure that their project leaders are trained and fluent in the discipline of Project Management. Also, and most importantly, senior management must understand and embrace the value of project management, and commit to support the process of implementing project management throughout all levels of the organization.

To help change the organizational culture to one that embraces and values project management, it should fund and support the development of a project office, which can help facilitate rolling out this “project management culture”.

Some first steps that should be taken:

  • Clearly define the roles and responsibilities of existing project managers and project support personnel
  • Develop a basic project management training plan for the entire organization to familiarize all with the project management verbiage and practices
  • Identify and provide specialized advanced training for all project leaders and functional managers
  • Develop a project management office (PMO) to provide enterprise coaching, and to develop and manage your organization’s project management methodology
  • In addition to the methodology, the PMO should develop and maintain standard project management templates for the organization to use
  • Ensure that existing projects are audited and meet your organization’s minimum project management standards
  • Setup a program where your PMO provides coaching to less experienced project managers and oversight of all enterprise projects
  • Ensure all projects have Lessons Learned captured
There are many more things that can be added to the list above, but the intent of this posting was to get people thinking about ways to change the Project Management Culture where they work.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Theory Z 2.0

Free advice to help you keep your job (or get through life with a smile):
  • Trust and be trustworthy
  • Recognize changing conditions and relationships, and adapt quickly
  • Commit to doing your best in everything you do
Do you have a Theory Z?

Visit and leave a comment. 

Stephen Seay, PMP

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

How to Lead Geeks

Ralph Nader once said, "I start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers". In the IT world it is hard to produce leaders, and it is doubly hard to produce and keep followers.  

On his blog, Alexander Kjerulf talks about How Not to Lead Geeks and mentions that "the main reason IT people are unhappy at work is bad relations with management". He goes on to say that "the fact is that IT people hate bad management and have even less tolerance for it than most other kinds of employees".

Wow, I couldn't agree more.  I see the mistakes listed below happen every day. I can only wonder how much more productive "geeks" would be if these mistakes weren't repeated on a regular basis.

Here are Alex's thoughts on the top 10 mistakes he has seen managers make when leading geeks:
1) Downplay training
I had a boss once who said that “training is a waste of money, just teach yourself”. That company tanked 2 years later. Training matters, especially in IT, and managers must realize that and budget for it. Sometimes you get the argument that “if I give them training a competitor will hire them away.” That may be true, but the alternative is to only have employees who are too unskilled to work anywhere else.
2) Give no recognition
Since managers may not understand the work geeks do very well, it’s hard for them to recognize and reward a job well done, which hurts motivation. The solution is to work together to define a set of goals that both parties agree on. When these goals are met the geeks are doing a great job.
3) Plan too much overtime
“Let’s wring the most work out of our geeks, they don’t have lives anyway,” seems to the approach of some managers. That’s a huge mistake and overworked geeks burn out or simply quit. In one famous case, a young IT-worker had a stress-induced stroke on the job, was hospitalized, returned to work soon after and promptly had another stroke. This post further examines the myth that long work hours are good for business.
4) Use management-speak
Geeks hate management-speak and see it as superficial and dishonest. Managers shouldn’t learn to speak tech, but they should drop the biz-buzzwords. A manager can say “We need to proactively impact our time-to-market” or simply use english and stick to “We gotta be on time with this project”.
5) Try to be smarter than the geeks
When managers don’t know anything about a technical question, they should simply admit it. Geeks respect them for that, but not for pretending to know. And they will catch it - geeks are smart.
6) Act inconsistently
Geeks have an ingrained sense of fairness, probably related to the fact that in IT, structure and consistency is critical. The documentation can’t say one thing while the code does something else, and similarly, managers can’t say one thing and then do something else.
7) Ignore the geeks
Because managers and geeks are different types of people, managers may end up leaving the geeks alone. This makes leading them difficult, and geeks need good leadership the same as all other personnel groups.
8) Make decisions without consulting them
Geeks usually know the technical side of the business better than the manager, so making a technical decision without consulting them is the biggest mistake a leader can make.
9) Don’t give them tools
A fast computer may cost more money than an older one and it may not be corporate standard, but geeks use computers differently. A slow computer lowers productivity and is a daily annoyance. So is outdated software. Give them the tools they need.
10: Forget that geeks are creative workers
Programming and most IT work is a creative process, not an industrial one. Geeks must constantly come up with solutions to new problems and rarely ever solve the same problem twice. Therefore they need leeway and flexibility. Strict dress codes and too much red tape kill all inovation. They also need creative surroundings to avoid “death by cubicle”.
Making one or more of these 10 mistakes (and I’ve seen managers who make all 10) has serious consequences, including:
Low motivation
, high employee turnover, 
increased absenteeism, 
lower productivity, 
lower quality
, and bad customer service
Happy geeks are productive geeks!

Monday, October 26, 2009

From Ordinary to Great

What common behaviors or attributes turn ordinary people into great people? Here are a few I have assembled from various sources, including Tom Peter’s book "Reinventing Work, The Project 50" .

Great people almost always have had some of the traits below:

They are Risk Takers

They often don’t appear rational

They are obsessed with success (success is clearly defined up front)

Their ideas are often ahead of their time

They can be peculiar, creative, off-the-wall

They are often described as irreverent

They have a burning passion to make their dreams come true

They are determined to make a difference

They have little tolerance for the “the way it has always been done” crowd

They LOVE to go against the grain

They have thick skin

They have charisma

They thrive on chaos and often love to generate chaos

They are great at what they do

They hate J.A.M.S – Just Another Mediocre Success (Tom Peters)

They have a positive influence on the lives of others (not everyone, all the time)

They make lots of mistakes and are quick to admit they made them

They often ask forgiveness vs. permission

They hate, hate, hate politics and petty people. (They will occasionally play the “political” game to get what they want, but they know most career politicians are disingenuous, self-centered, and are only interested in furthering their own careers.)

They are great at marketing

They are often (not always) great listeners

They are masters of the little (important) things

They know how to sell

They hate whiners, complainers, and corporate Dilberts

They aspire to something higher than themselves

They are concerned with doing the “right” thing

They often make lots of people mad (usually the politicians and career procrastinators)

They know how to laugh

They call others out for a lack of commitment or disingenuous behavior

They know that most of the “suits” are empty


Should project managers adopt some/all of these behaviors? The great ones already have.

Stephen F. Seay, PMP

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Weekend Break - Cool Trampoline Acrobats

Future of Reading

I just bought a new Kindle and I have to say these things are really cool.  I won't give a review here because there are tons of them online, however, I will say that the Kindle's screen is much better than I expected, and the ability to upload your own documents to the Kindle for viewing is also a great plus.

Read more about the Kindle below:

Kindle Wireless Reading Device (6" Display, U.S. & International Wireless, Latest Generation)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Project Managers and Meeting Facilitation

I really do not like attending most meetings.  I find my time would be better spent doing other things. One of the reasons I dislike most meetings is they are poorly facilitated.

A facilitator is: one who brings organization and process to the meeting so attendees are able to interact effectively and make sound business decisions. They enable good meeting habits and support the group to achieve exceptional outcomes.

A facilitator provides leadership without taking control. They get others to assume responsibility and help them to participate and lead effectively.

Facilitators should:

Assist the group to identify goals and objectives around the meeting topic

Help identify attendee needs

Guide discussions to keep them focused on the agenda

Ensure assumptions are brought out and discussed

Guide the group to consensus on issues by ensuring all attendees are heard

Use tools and processes to ensure the meeting is run efficiently and good decisions are made (action items, meeting minutes, parking lot, etc.)

Lead brainstorming sessions

Help attendees to assess their skills and assist them in building new skills to support the meeting's objectives

A good facilitator can bring clarity and focus to a meeting. There are many resources on the internet, and there are many good books on the subject of meeting facilitation. Effective meetings help to build effective outcomes. Ineffective meetings can be seen as time-wasters and can alienate some of the people you need the most. If you waste people's time they probably won't attend any of your meetings in the future.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Eight Stage Process of Creating Major Change

Changes is what projects and project management is all about. I like the process below for creating major change. It was taken from the book "Leading Change" by John P. Kotter (see source information at the end of the posting).

1. Establishing a Sense of Urgency
a. Examining the market and competitive realities
b. Identifying and discussing crises, potential crises, or major opportunities

2. Creating the Guiding Coalition
a. Putting together a group with enough power to lead the change
b. Getting the group to work together as a team

3. Developing a Vision and Strategy
a. Creating a vision to help direct the change effort
b. Developing strategies for achieving that vision

4. Communicating the Change Vision
a. Using every vehicle possible to constantly communicate the new vision and strategies
b. Having the guiding coalition role model the behavior expected of employees

5. Empowering Broad-Based Action
a. Getting rid of obstacles
b. Changing systems or structures that undermine the change vision
c. Encouraging risk taking and non-traditional ideas, activities, and actions

6. Generating Short-Term Wins
a. Planning for visible improvements in performance, or “wins”
b. Creating those wins
c. Visibly recognizing and rewarding people who made the wins possible

7. Consolidating Gains and Producing More Change
a. Using increased credibility to change all systems, structures, and policies that don’t fit together and don’t fit the transformation vision
b. Hiring, promoting, and developing people who can implement the change vision
c. Reinvigorating the process with new projects, themes, and change agents

8. Anchoring New Approaches in the Culture
a. Creating better performance through customer and productivity-oriented behavior, more an better leadership, and more effective management
b. Articulating the connections between new behaviors and organizational success
c. Developing means to ensure leadership development and succession

SOURCE: Adapted from John P. Kotter, “Leading Change,” Harvard Business School Press 1996

Monday, October 05, 2009

A Collection of Project Management Sayings - Rewind

Good estimators aren't modest: if it's huge they say so.

The sooner you begin coding the later you finish.

A verbal contract isn't worth the paper it's written on.

What is not on paper has not been said.

If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.

If you fail to plan you are planning to fail.

If you don't attack the risks, the risks will attack you.

A little risk management saves a lot of fan cleaning.

The sooner you get behind schedule, the more time you have to make it up.

A badly planned project will take three times longer than expected - a well-planned project only twice as long as expected.

If you can keep your head while all about you are losing theirs, you haven't understood the plan.

When all's said and done a lot more is said than done.

If at first you don't succeed, remove all evidence you ever tried.

Feather and down are padding - changes and contingencies will be real events.

There are no good project managers - only lucky ones.

The more you plan the luckier you get.

A project is one small step for the project sponsor, one giant leap for the project manager.

Good project management is not so much knowing what to do and when, as knowing what excuses to give and when.

If everything is going exactly to plan, something somewhere is going massively wrong.

Everyone asks for a strong project manager - when they get him they don't want him.

Overtime is a figment of the naïve project manager's imagination.

Quantitative project management is for predicting cost and schedule overruns well in advance.

Good project managers know when not to manage a project.

Metrics are learned men's excuses.

For a project manager overruns are as certain as death and taxes.

If there were no problem people there'd be no need for people who solve problems.

Some projects finish on time in spite of project management best practices.

Good project managers admit mistakes: that's why you so rarely meet a good project manager.

Fast - cheap - good: you can have any two.

There is such a thing as an unrealistic timescale.

The more ridiculous the deadline the more money will be wasted trying to meet it.

The first 90% of a project takes 90% of the time the last 10% takes the other 90%.

The project would not have been started if the truth had been told about the cost and timescale.

To estimate a project, work out how long it would take one person to do it then multiply that by the number of people on the project.

Never underestimate the ability of senior management to buy a bad idea and fail to buy a good idea.

The most successful project managers have perfected the skill of being comfortable being uncomfortable.

When the weight of the project paperwork equals the weight of the project itself, the project can be considered complete.

If it wasn't for the 'last minute', nothing would get done.

Nothing gets done till nothing gets done.

Warning: dates in the calendar are closer than you think.

There is no such thing as scope creep, only scope gallop.

Anything that can be changed will be changed until there is no time left to change anything.

If project content is allowed to change freely the rate of change will exceed the rate of progress.

If you can interpret project status data in several different ways, only the most painful interpretation will be correct.

A project gets a year late one day at a time.

A project isn’t over until the fat check is cashed.

Powerful project managers don't solve problems, they get rid of them.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Arrogance and Leadership Don't Mix

Arrogant leaders are by nature self centered. They believe their success is because of their own abilities and qualities. They are quick to point out the mistakes of others and rarely take the blame for anything that goes wrong. They are project killers because of their poor listening skills and their inability to see beyond themselves and their narrow views. They know best, and find it burdensome to give others the stage. Challenge them or try to draw them into a debate and watch out! You will be quickly labeled as inflexible and unwilling to accept “what is best”.

In Jim Collins’ book “Good to Great” he found through surveys that humble leadership (opposite of arrogance) was one of the many leadership traits that contributed to the long-term success of organizations. Humble leaders get involved, are willing to listen to opposing viewpoints, and have high self-esteem. They have high moral values, which causes them to be centered on doing things right for the right reasons. They energize others, and believe their talents are a gift to be kept in perspective both in the work place and in their personal lives.

Note: This doesn’t always apply, but you would be surprised. Look at what the arrogant leader and the humble leader drive to work. That can tell you a lot about who they are and the image they are trying to portray.

One of the things we know is that leaders can’t effectively lead if they don’t know what is going on. A telltale sign of the arrogant leader is they don’t care about the details. That is because details are beneath them. They also believe that execution is beneath them. They are the grand strategist and don’t have time to get involved in the details. They are interested in headlines, not deadlines. Serving the greater good takes a back seat to serving their own self interests.

Another trait you might see is that arrogant leaders are threatened by the “good” leaders. They fear the good leader’s success and often view them as weak and ineffective (envy is a four letter word). In fact, many arrogant leaders see humility and attentiveness in others as a character flaw. We know by observation that the arrogant leaders are the ones with the weak character, the ones with the poor communication skills, and are the ones with the low self esteem. The arrogant leader’s weaknesses are easy to spot. They don’t fool anybody but themselves. Remember the CEOs of Enron, MCI/WorldCom? At one time they were arrogant, now they are in prison.

Emotional Outburst #1 - Arrogant leaders are organizational pariahs, and are terrible project managers.

A leader that motivates and inspires has to be visible, informed, and respected. Like any good engineer knows, you sometimes have to get your hands dirty to solve problems and gain the respect of the people doing the work.

An arrogant leader is the opposite of a servant leader. Whether they wear a skirt or a suit they are inhibitors to organizational excellence and their thirst for power destroys team synergy and employee morale.

We can sum up this type of behavior in one word...Arrogance -

As taken from the Inner Frontier

"ARROGANCE - Those to whom much has been given sometimes suffer from arrogance; or rather the people around them suffer. Arrogance is doubly a pity, because the talents of the arrogant serve primarily themselves. The arrogant assumes his views and opinions are The Truth. In arrogance, natural confidence goes sadly awry. Rather than the self-assurance born of knowing his own strengths and limitations, arrogance admits no limits. The arrogant brooks no weakness in himself and may even secretly rejoice to find flaws in others. But imperfections are inherent in being human, so the arrogant, like everyone else, always has feet of clay, however well hidden they may be. Fearing exposure, haughtiness forms a hard shell masking inner emptiness."

Monday, September 21, 2009

Use Constructive Behavior

Many of us deal with difficult people using the age-old adage of an "eye for an eye". If we are snubbed, we ignore the other person. If we are disrespected, we in turn show disrespect. This mentality is not only self-destructive, but is damaging to the career of a project manager.

When we reciprocate with bad behavior against another, nothing is resolved. By reverting to negative behavior we have fallen into a lose/lose relationship where nobody wins, and we do as much damage to ourselves as we perceive we do to others. What can we do when we feel bombarded by the negative attacks? There are several things we can do to avoid the trap of a reciprocating fire with fire.

I suggest that you read a couple of books I have found to be enlightening. The first is Stephen Covey's "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" and the other is "Love is the Killer App" by Tim Sanders. Both books offer powerful insight into the human condition, and more importantly offer critical advice you can use everyday.

Some things to be aware of when dealing with others:

Be aware of the perceptions others hold about you

Keep a balance between your emotions and your ctions

Seek first to Understand, then be Understood (Stephen Covey Habit)

Be an Active Listener

Diagnose before prescribing

Consult with others you trust before making important decisions

Be Trustworthy

Don't Coerce, but Persuade

Accept the fact that some people will just be Unreasonable

Be the Solution, not the Problem

The best times in life and the worst times are usually tied to our relationships. Do not be a victim of your relationships, but an example of how others should act.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Don't Be a Victim of Politics (Rewind)

Politics and projects go hand in hand. Team conflict, competing agendas, stakeholder dysfunction, resource constraints, and a myriad of other challenges exist and will send your project careening out of control if not managed properly.

What is a project manager to do? Here is a list of things to keep in mind when managing projects in a highly politicized environment:

Learn to negotiate from a position of strength.

Do everything you can to educate those around you about Project Management. Stress the benefits and overcome the objections by pointing to your successes.

Master the art of influence.

Understand that masterful politicians are sometimes helpful to you and your project, but can also be detriment to your project's success.

An effective executive sponsor can help minimize political time wasting events that slow project progress and increase project budgets.

Recognize that conflict on your project is inevitable and necessary. How you respond to conflict will determine how successful you are.

Mastering the art of negotiation is a critical skill for project managers.

Negotiate up front how much power you will have as project manager, how and where it can be used, and when it applies to securing needed resources for your project.

Realize that for the most part internal politics wastes time and is usually not something that people enjoy.
Team commitment and loyalty will help to minimize project politics.

Don't fight a political system you don't understand and can't influence. Leave that to the experts. (Hint: get these experts to support your project if possible).

A good communications plan will help to lessen the politics on your project.

Every project usually has at least one "politician" in the organization that is out to either sabotage it, or will try to ensure that it isn't fully implemented.

Recognize that change (which is what projects are all about) scares some people and your project's deliverables can lead to a loss of power or influence for certain individuals or departments. Anticipate this and have a plan to deal with the behaviors that will surface.

Successful project managers need to learn to "swim with the sharks" and not get bitten. They need to be determined, focused, and act professionally and ethically. Project managers must know how to relate to people and manage relationships by being effective leaders and by applying the right balance of negotiating skills, motivational techniques, team building, and optimized communications.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Accepting Criticism (Rewind)

The other day while talking with one of my bosses I was told that I can come off sometimes as being pessimistic. I wasn't expecting this remark and had to think for a moment about my response. Basically my response was that yes, at times I can be pessimistic. After the meeting I started to think about my behavior over the past year, which led me to remember something I learned long ago. If we expect criticism we will seldom be disappointed when we receive it.

There are many types of criticism, and usually none of it is welcome. Destructive criticism seldom offers any value to the person receiving it and can cause them to be close-minded regarding any future criticism. While the criticism I received was presented in a constructive way, it still didn't make it easier to take. And for what it is worth, we must remember that criticism is just one person's opinion.

What is my point regarding all of this? Constructive criticism can help make us better by forcing us to stop and think about how we act, and interact with others. We need to remember that a positive, optimistic attitude will help us to build strong relationships and obtain the trust and respect of others.

Criticism is something we can avoid easily - by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing - Aristotle

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Leadership Defined. Period.

“Leadership is the art of accomplishing more than the science of management says is possible.” - Colin Powell

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Project Success

It has been said, you are only as successful as your last project. In my organization a project was recently implemented that was deemed a great success by the project manager while many excluded stakeholders deemed the project a failure. How could this happen? To summarize, the project was poorly planned, poorly documented, and communications were severely lacking. Also, the project was initiated in such a way that it purposely excluded key stakeholders so as to avoid a potential conflict.

Unfortunately, this project perfectly displays project management immaturity and inflexibility. It reinforces my stance to never allow weak project managers that have a history of poor communications and a "go it alone" mentality to manage a project. Past bad behavior can often be an indicator of future behavior.

Friday, August 21, 2009

To the Idiot Mobile! (Rewind)

Here we go on another project journey. You have met with your stakeholders and all of them are in agreement as to where the project is going (objectives), what the journey will look like to get to the project’s destination (plan), and what can be expected when the project is complete (deliverables). But wait, your project (like a journey in a car) has been taken over by somebody else and is now out of your control. You have just found yourself in the back seat (no longer driving and in control) of the Project Idiot Mobile. You discover quickly that it is careening out of control and you are on a white-knuckle ride to who knows where. What do you do?

I have taken a ride in the Idiot Mobile more than once and here are some tips you can use to avoid this mind-numbing ride.

Be the Leader of the Team From the Start. Control the keys of the Idiot Mobile and don’t let anyone drive it and make sure you always leave it in the garage. Don’t assume anything unless it is documented in your project charter’s assumptions section. Don't allow stakeholders to take over your project and direct it onto a path that wasn't agreed upon in the Project Charter.

Understand Politics is a Way of Life on Your Project. Understand you will have to deal with people who don't want you to succeed. As Tom Peters said be aware that your project can fail because of "...people that are envious, people who feel their turf is being invaded, people who have a b-i-g stake in the status quo, people who are just plain afraid of change. Therefore, you will need ... Herculean (Clintonian) political skills to ... neutralize ... finesse...and in some cases just plain outsmart-surround-co opt ... these naysayers".

Have Thick Skin. Be smart up front and try to recognize who will be unsupportive of your efforts. Be prepared with a response. Be able to accept criticism and bounce back quickly. Know when you are on the wrong path and get on the right path quickly.

Make Strong Allies with Those that Have the Power. Remember that those with the power make the decisions. A good project manager is a good politician, and also keep in mind that Politics is The Art of Getting Things Done.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Project Sponsor - Good and Bad (Rewind)

Most projects cross departmental or enterprise lines of authority, and many projects get funding from more than one source. We all should know that projects are temporary endeavors undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result. It is the temporary nature and uniqueness of projects that make the job of the project manager so difficult. Project managers must work with different groups of people (stakeholders) to meet project objectives, and usually don't have any much authority to get stakeholders to perform the project work. A strong project sponsor can help the project manager address the people issues (and many more project issues that will arise).

A project sponsor's role is to help make project decisions (formal authority), and he or she is ultimately responsible for the project's success. The sponsor comes from the executive or senior management ranks (depending on the size of the project) and should be influential, a respected politician, and have a track record for getting things done. You don't want a "Political Shark" for a sponsor.

The sponsors authority and stature should be such that they are independent as much as possible of the project's goals and objectives so they can cut through the political landscape to get critical project decisions made.

Sponsors don't just support projects; they support the project manager and project team. They are the project champion and won't allow others to sabotage the project manager, the project team, or the project's goals. They have authority that comes from their title and position within the organization. In order for sponsors to be effective they must have organizational respect, proven leadership qualities, and be honest in their dealings. As mentioned before, they aren't political sharks, they are adept at rallying the troops (project team and stakeholders), presenting a clear message, and are supportive of the project manager.

Ideal Sponsor Responsibilities

Writes the Project Charter

Help to define project team roles and responsibilities

Acts as an advisor to the project manager

Removes obstacles

Has control of project funding

Reviews and Approves any Statements of Work/Contracts and Planning Documents

Bad Sponsor Characteristics

Always too busy to meet with the project manager and project team

Doesn't have time to write a project charter

Won't get involved in assigning project roles and responsibilities

Doesn't have time to approve documents, or delegates all sponsor responsibility to others.

Blames others when things go wrong, and/or won't work to resolve project issues

Always takes credit for any project success

Is surprised when the project's deliverables aren't what they expected

A bad sponsor is a project manager's worst nightmare. Avoid them at all costs if possible.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Dysfunction Junction

I have worked in, around and for IT organizations for most of my career, and it still amazes me how poorly these groups communicate. Why do IT departments believe they aren’t accountable? Why won’t they communicate and form real partnerships (not pretend relationships). Why doesn’t IT management realize that in regards to IT tools and services many times perception is reality? Look at just about any survey, most IT tools and services are rated poorly by those that pay for them. Why? My answer is poor project management practices delivered through a dysfunctional organization.

What Does Dysfunction Look Like?

When you go to meetings, pretend to listen then walk away and criticize those you just met with, that is dysfunction

When you pretend to trust others, but look for ways to poke holes in their beliefs, that is dysfunction

When you reward mediocrity…dysfunction

When you create something that has questionable value yet hold it up as something awesome….hyper-dysfunction

When you support and encourage weak "leaders" that cause upheaval and mayhem …you have dysfunction

When enterprise standards and processes are ignored…you guessed it…dysfunction

When commitments are made than ignored…yep…more dysfunction

When the people in ivory towers refuse to sit down with the commoners... dysfunction

When you reward your team for winning the silent “us vs. them” war… dysfunction is the winner (guess who is the loser)

When you allow a rogue manager to steamroll others inside and outside your department…you have dysfunction

When you treat your staff like mushrooms (in the dark)…you again have dysfunction

In closing…be real, be relevant, be a team player, and most of all be trustworthy. Nobody respects a talking head. You have to be visible, engaged and respected to be effective and relevant.

Remember, if you aren't visibile you aren't relevant and if you aren't relevant you aren't needed.

Monday, August 10, 2009

No Democracy for America!

In America we don't live in a Democracy, we live in a Republic!

Good Video explaining the difference.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Thoughts on Talking

"Small minds talk about people, moderate minds talk about events and great minds talk about ideas" - Author Unknown. I could do a better job at this. It is very true statement.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Weekend Break - Monolith on Mars!

THIS mysterious monument could be proof there was once life on Mars.

The rectangular structure — measuring five metres across — was photographed by a super high resolution camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The giant monolith juts out of the planet’s surface casting a huge shadow below. Its emergence on website Lunar Explorer Italia has got space buffs speculating if it could have been constructed by creatures once living on the red planet. The monument resembles the black monolith seen in Stanley Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

In the movie the structure is believed to be a key to man’s evolution. And astonishingly Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the Moon, revealed a similar monolith was detected on Mars’ moon Phobos. Speaking last week, he insisted: “We should visit the moons of Mars. “There’s a monolith there – a very unusual structure on this little potato shaped object that goes around Mars once every seven hours.

“When people find out about that they are going to say, ‘Who put that there? Who put that there?’”

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Bad Project Theater

In earlier posts I have written about project failure and poor project management practices. In the IT world we all know that just because a project is seen as a failure doesn't mean that parts (or all) of that project aren't implemented. Many times egos in IT won't admit to project (product) failure, and end-users are stuck with crap systems that don't deliver anything approaching value. Sometimes these systems linger for years. Yikes, Help!

Project value can’t be dictated; it must be planned, agreed upon, and is easily recognized. We can't be told something has value. We must be shown and form our own opinions.

I have been a project manager in an IT/Telecomm environment for over twenty years. Failed IT projects aren't unique to any one industry or business segment. They are often a result of a mentality that says we know best, and we believe we are smarter than everybody else.

We can sum up this type of behavior in one word...Arrogance -

As taken from the Inner Frontier

ARROGANCE - "Those to whom much has been given sometimes suffer from arrogance; or rather the people around them suffer. Arrogance is doubly a pity, because the talents of the arrogant serve primarily themselves. The arrogant assumes his views and opinions are The Truth. In arrogance, natural confidence goes sadly awry. Rather than the self-assurance born of knowing his own strengths and limitations, arrogance admits no limits. The arrogant brooks no weakness in himself and may even secretly rejoice to find flaws in others. But imperfections are inherent in being human, so the arrogant, like everyone else, always has feet of clay, however well hidden they may be. Fearing exposure, haughtiness forms a hard shell masking inner emptiness."

Professional project managers are always honest, open, and ethical. They realize that project success is in large part determinded by the stakeholders and sponsor, not the project manager.

My advice is to (hopefully not arrogant) leave the drama, back door deals, and shady practices to others and be a valuable asset to your customers and sponsor.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

I'm Worse for Having Known Them

I have recently been reminded that arrogance mixed with a little power can be destructive and divisive to an organization.

A good project manager must always rise above the this type of petty political partisanship and keeps fighting for what is right and best for the organization.


Never use fabrications, slander, and distortions to sell the value of your project/product

Never tear down another organization ( or person) to build yours (yourself) up

If you aren't visible you aren't relevant. If you aren't relevant you aren't needed

Never pretend to be something that you are not. You can only fool another fool

Never be so cocky as to believe you have nothing to learn from others

If you haven’t learned from the mistakes of the past you are probably already repeating them

If you are not honest, ethical, and trustworthy you can’t be effective at anything except politics

Taking others people's ideas and repackaging them as your own is pathetic, dishonest, and just plain sad

The value of your project’s product can only be judged by end-users, not you

Your reputation is determined by others, not you

Product bells and whistles rarely add value. They usually end up in a product because the designer was lazy and without imagination.

Surround and marginalize your critics. Don't let them define who you are.

Beware of Project Snakes and Sharks. They can wear pants or skirts.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Ambiguous Project Goals

Conflict and problems on projects often arise because of ambiguous project goals. You can’t achieve the goals on your project if they are not clear, agreed-upon, and communicated to all stakeholders. Ambiguous goals result in confusion and conflict.

Make sure that your project's goals are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time constrained)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Successful Projects Bring No Recognition

When projects are successful, often nobody notices. Possibly the best measure of project success is that the project manager implements without fanfare or notoriety.

Success is the reward for lots of practice

Click Photo to Enlarge

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Apollo 11 Lauch Video - I was there!

40 years ago today, as a member of my local Boy Scout troop, I was at Cape Kennedy (Canaveral) in Florida to witness the launch of Apollo 11.

What a project that must have been to work on!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Collaborate = Conflict?

When people collaborate there will sometimes be disagreement. Disagreement doesn't have to be a bad thing, and in many instances constructive disagreement can lead to a better solution. With that in mind, it is important for all participants in the conversation to recoginize when productive disagreement becomes destructive. When collaborating with others, a project manager has to be an expert negotiator to ensure that project communications are kept open, civil, and productive. While comprimising isn't the right answer when collaboarting, sometimes it is the only answer when consensus can't be reached.

Don't allow your project communications to deteriorate into pitty bickering and fighting. As the project manager it is up to you to keep project communications civil and productive. Be respectful of others and demand respect in return.

When managing conflict remember to:

Understand when a conflict is out of hand

Help to defuse emotions

Focus on questions that ask why, how, and what

Search for solutions together

Evalutate solutions that make sense and are agreeable

Thursday, June 25, 2009

My Project is Late Again!

Is is late because of...

Design Changes – Design changes during project execution almost always cause delays and impacts to your budget. Once the Scope document has been signed, any changes to the design need to go through your Scope Change Request Process.

Skill Sets – When planning, assumptions are made regarding people's skills. Sometimes these assumptions turn out to be wrong. Also, you will usually have people on your team who are new or are less experienced. These new or lower skilled workers won't be as productive or effective as higher skilled workers. Make sure your project plan has accounted for skill levels.

Unplanned Work or Workarounds – Many times changes must be made to the sequence of planned work. These changes can impact time, cost, budget, and quality. Think about these risks up front and discuss what if any workarounds will be used.

Rework – Rework happens; it is part of project management. Ensure your project plan accounts for rework.

Team Morale – Turnover, project conflict, sick time, vacations all can wreak havoc with your schedule and budget; plan for these things. A happy team is a productive team. Ensure your team is working towards a common goal and not working against each other. Remove disruptive team members from your project if their behavior can't be changed.

Schedules – Trying to do too much in too little time will result in delays. Once you get behind it is very difficult to catch up. Your project will have delays. You need to have contingency plans to get back on track quickly.

Work Environment – Ensure that your team has a proper workspace. Cramming people into poorly designed work spaces will lower productivity.

Tools – Ensure your team has the right tools to do the job. Having the right tool, but not getting into the teams hands at the right time will cause delays in your schedule.

Project Manager Overload – Too many people on a project team without the proper management oversight can cause major problems for the project manager.

Overtime – Adding hours to people's schedules in order to make a deadline will usually do nothing but increase your budget. Adding overtime rarely results in getting a late project back on track.

Executive – Executive apathy can kill your project. People are usually not going to make your project a priority if their boss isn't willing to tell them it is important. Deadbeat executives kill team morale and project momentum.

Plan for the above "risks" and you will start to bring your projects in faster, cheaper, and with higher quality.