Friday, December 6, 2013

43: Gentle Intervention

The Project
I have just finished chapter 6 (implementing program management) but had to go back and make a few changes to earlier chapters to keep everything consistent. Just starting on chapter 7 (managing a program) and I’ll end up having to make changes to chapter 6 so I don’t duplicate anything. There’s a nice symmetry to all this.

Many things can cause conflicts on a project: schedules, budgets, technical opinions and administrative procedures to name but a few.  The project manager has to deal with these conflicts to keep the project on track and I have known some project managers that take the approach of confronting problems head on.  

The Way  
The wise project manager takes a more gentle approach.  If there is a problem, he tries to identify the cause of the difficulty.  If someone is being difficult, the wise project manager is assertive about the issue but does not over-react.  He is gentle with them and explains what he wants to achieve.  But if that doesn’t work, he still does not over-react, he steps back and yields knowing that their resistance will relax.  The wise project manager realises how much how little can achieve.  

The softest thing in the universe,  
Overcomes the hardest.  
That which has no substance,  
Can penetrate where there is no space.  
I thus understand the value of being motiveless.  
Teaching without words.  

Friday, November 29, 2013

42: Creative Energy

I really needed some creative energy today as I’m going round in circles with chapter six (implementing program management) and can’t figure out how to phrase things. Gave up and went down to The Bridge Inn for a pint of Yellowhammer before lunch and the problem is diminished – I’m taking the afternoon off and forgetting about it!

Creativity in projects often comes from the interaction between opposites.  If everyone on the project is in total harmony and agreement things will be very peaceful but there will be no spark.  Getting the team round a table and discussing an issue or a challenge can often lead to sparks flying but that can prove to be a very creative process.  

A poor project manager will try to force others to do what they want and will ultimately be undone by it.  The wise project manager acts in a facilitation role rather than trying to drive the team.  

The Way  
In order to lead the wise project manager learns how to follow.  In order to prosper the wise project manager learns to run the project simply.  The natural balance of nature and of the team will ensure the right outcome.  Follow others, live simply and encourage the creativity of the team.  

Men dislike that which is helpless, insignificant or bad,  
But this is how kings and lords describe themselves.  
When things diminish, they will increase.  
When things increase, they will diminish.  
What the ancients taught, I will also teach.  
That which is strong has no control over its death.  
This will be the basis of my teaching.  

Monday, November 25, 2013

Announcing Reviews in Google Places for Business

People come to Google to search for information about local shops and restaurants so they can make the best plans and purchases. That’s why as a business owner, you want to make sure you put your best foot forward online. With a quick search, locals -- or even people new in town -- can read reviews from your regulars to find the right place for a romantic dinner, a prize-winning turkey, or the perfect (last-minute) present for Mom.

Today, we’re introducing Reviews in Google Places for Business. Now you can learn what your customers are saying about your business on Google and across the web, in one place. If you have a verified business listing, you will now see your customer ratings and reviews in the easy-to-use review inbox.

Read and respond to customer reviews in the reviews inbox

Easily respond to customer reviews
Reviews also allows you to start a conversation with your customers by directly responding to comments left by users on Google. Are your customers happy with your service? Thank them for the kind words so they recommend you to their friends. Do they mention some areas for improvement? Ask them for suggestions so they visit you again.

And if you feel your business deserves more good reviews, or if you are missing feedback on your work, all you need to do now is to encourage your customers to post reviews on your Google+ page.

Business owners using the new Places for Business interface can now find the Reviews tab when they log into their dashboard as usual.

Not verified yet? Seize the moment and get started now at

Friday, November 22, 2013

41: Disturbing Wisdom

The Project
Nearly finished chapter 4 (Portfolio Management) but I’m struggling to create a yin and yang graphic to illustrate the portfolio life cycle. I’ve created the basic shape with one large and two small circles and made the two small circles black and white but I can’t work out how to make the other two segments black and white. If anyone out there knows how to create a smooth curved vector or how to flood fill a segment of two overlapping objects in InDesign please help!

Things happen on a project and it is important that the project manager finds out how and why. The wise project manager finds out and acts accordingly.  The poor project manager, even if they do manage to find out, dismisses it as nonsense.  The poor project manager thinks kindness is weakness and selflessness is not the way to get ahead.  

The Way  
People who do not see how things happen are sceptical about the wise project manager’s behaviour.  Because his motives are obscure he is hard to figure out.  It is not easy to understand a person whose foundation is invisible.  But this is the way things happen.  

The best scholar hears of the Tao,  
And practices it diligently.  
The average scholar hears of the Tao,  
And sometimes practices it and sometimes not.  
The foolish scholar hears of the Tao,  
And ridicules it.  

Friday, November 15, 2013

40: Meditation

The Project
I've now received the new templates from the publishers and started typesetting the first couple of chapters of "Project Program and Portfolio Management in easy steps". The new layout looks good. It's due for publication next March so I've plenty of time but it's a big subject to cover in easy steps. Working largely on my own these days I sometimes forget about taking a break when I'm in the middle of a interesting topic but I usually find a little time for meditation at least once a day.

Meditation requires peace and quiet but in the hurly-burly of project life there are very few moments like that.  We do need these moments of tranquility to slow down, take stock and re-charge our batteries.  But how does a project manager use them?  

The poor project manager worries about what is happening or not happening on their project, frets about what else might go wrong and gets angry at life and the world for their problems.  

The Way  
The wise project manager uses the time to meditate calmly, returning to his inner self and becoming silent.  Through meditation we can start to understand the process and through understanding the process we can begin to understand the principle.  This is the way things happen so we begin to understand what is happening on the project.  

Returning is the movement of the Tao.  
Yielding is the way of the Tao.  
The ten thousand things are born of being.  
Being is born of not being.  

Friday, November 8, 2013

39: The Root of Things

Project Program and Portfolio Management
I am well into writing chapter six now (Implementing Program Management) and it is all starting to fall into place quite nicely. It’s interesting how much the Capability Maturity Model features (something I spent a lot of time promoting back in my working days) and how critical having at the very least a well-established Project Office in place before moving into Program Management. It really is the root of project, program and portfolio management maturity.

Sometimes when things start to get difficult on a project it is tempting to abandon the way.  But when we try to interfere with nature, nothing works right.  Things start to go wrong, the project team becomes disillusioned and the project ends up failing.  

The Way  
Success comes through cooperation and providing a service to others.  The wise project manager nurtures the team, cooperates with them and is their servant, this is true leadership.  Potency comes from knowing what is happening and acting accordingly.  Freedom comes from obedience to the natural order.  This way the project progresses, the team is happy and the project is in harmony with nature.  

If the sky was not pure it would split open,  
If the earth was not tranquil it would erupt,  
If the spirits were not spiritual they would vanish,  
If the valley was not abundance it would wither,  
If the ten thousand things were not alive they would be extinct,  
If the rulers did not lead they would be toppled.  

Therefore cheap is the root of expensive,  
Low is the root of high.  
Do not wish to be shiny like jade,  
Be dull like a rock.  

Friday, November 1, 2013

38: Virtuous Leadership

The Project
I’ve got the material for the first four chapters of “Project Program and Portfolio Management in easy steps” ready now: Introduction plus one chapter on each of Projects, Programs and Portfolios. I’ve roughly worked out what the remaining chapters will be about but they will probably change a bit as I work through them. I’ve sent the publishers a synopsis so hopefully they will get some positive feedback from their main customers.

Back in the days when I used to run project management courses, I used an exercise to get the delegates to describe the characteristics of the most effective and ineffective managers they had ever known.  I would write their positive and negative characteristics on two flip charts and some of the negative flip charts we produced were hilarious if not scurrilous.  

The Way  
Poor project managers may try to behave in what they think is the ‘right way’ for a project manager to behave.  They act busy but never seem to achieve anything.  The wise project manager is aware of what is happening in the team and acts accordingly.  He doesn’t try to do anything, he just does the right thing.  

True goodness is not virtuous,  
Because it has virtue.  
A foolish person tries to be good,  
Therefore has no virtue.  
The sage does nothing,  
Yet leaves nothing undone.  
A foolish man is always doing,  
Yet much remains to be done.