Friday, September 23, 2016


I have long been interested in how we measure success in project management. The standard answer is of course: deliver the project on time, within budget and with all the required features and functionality delivered. On agile projects it is: with all the required features and functionality that can be delivered in the available time and budget. 

Of course the project should also deliver benefits to the business in line with the business case, although strictly speaking, that is not the project manager’s responsibility. So maybe a poor project manager would stop there.  

But of course true success can only be achieved when the project has delivered something that the users are happy to use. In addition to the users there is also the project team; can the project be regarded as a success unless the team also are happy with the outcome?  

The Way  
So a poor project manager concentrates on getting the project in on time and within budget. A slightly better project manager adds delivery of the required features and functionality. But the wise project manager includes and cares for the users, the team and all the other project stakeholders. He lets them be the judges of whether or not the project is successful.  By fostering success in the users and team we can share in that success and truly say “that project was successful”

The Tao  
Lao Tzu tells us:  

Love disgrace as if frightened. 
Honor misfortune as the human condition.  

Why love disgrace as if frightened?  
Love because of being unimportant.  
Obtain it as if frightened.  
Loose it as if frightened.  

Why think of honoring misfortune as the human condition?  
Misfortune comes from having a body.  
Without a body, how could there be misfortune?  
Therefore honor life as yourself.  

Have faith in the way things are.  
Love the world as your own self,  
Then you can truly care for all things.  

Friday, September 16, 2016

Staying Calm II

River Otter at Budleigh Salterton, Devon
A slow stroll along the beach, ending up with this stunning view (the photo was taken on Christmas Day a few years ago). My favourite way of calming down. It always works!

Friday, September 09, 2016

Staying Calm

There can often be a lot of pressure in projects, simply by their very nature and also by task and deliverable inter-dependencies. If that wasn't bad enough, management always want it quicker if not also cheaper and better!

Things are not helped if the project manager responds to management pressure by interfering with the team and creating a lot more pressure in the process. When that happens the team can become quite disoriented and begin to lose its way. The lesson we can learn from the Agile approach is that the project manager stands back and lets the team do it. Even the Scrum Master is there to facilitate and not pressurise the team.  

The Way  
The wise project manager is guided by what he feels and not by what he sees happening around him. Stay still and calm and be guided by your inner feelings, not what you are being told. The rest of the team will pick up on this and stay centered. When we pause and take time to reflect, the way becomes clearer.

The Tao  
Lao Tzu tells us:  

The five colours blind the eye.  
The five sounds deafen the ear.  
The five flavors dull the taste.  
Galloping and hunting madden the heart.  

Desires lead one astray.  
Therefore the sage is guided by his stomach,  
And not his eye.  
He discards the one and holds the other. 

Friday, September 02, 2016

Inner Space

The start of the new rugby season is always exciting and for Topsham RFC it is even more so as we have been promoted to the Cornwall and Devon league (the highest we have ever reached). Watching the two pre-season friendlies against Exmouth RFC and Sidmouth RFC (both in higher leagues than us) and seeing the new coach (Chris Whitehead, former Exeter Chiefs hooker) and players starting to work together as a team was great. Our first league match is tomorrow away at Falmouth, so fingers crossed.

The Way
Agile project management is all about empowering the team and that is very much in line with the way. When the members of a project team work together on a project there is a concept of an inner space created by the team. This defines how they work together and even the mood of the team. It is the context for everything which happens within the team.  

Poor project managers tend to focus and concentrate on what the members of the team are doing and saying. They are also concerned about what is happening and what people are saying outside the team. The wise project manager knows that it is what is happening inside the team that is important. The silences and inner space reveal the team’s essential mood. Therefore the wise project manager pays attention to the silences.

The Tao  
Lao Tzu tells us:

Thirty spokes join the wheel’s hub,  
It is the center hole that makes the cart useful.  
Shape clay into a pot,  
It is the space within that makes it useful.  
Cut doors and windows to make a house,  
It is the space within that make it useful.  
Therefore advantage come from what exists,  
Usefulness comes from what is not there.  

Friday, August 26, 2016

Primal Virtue

A project manager has to do many things. Not taking sides or getting involved in squabbles, helping those involved to resolve the issues themselves is the correct approach. Leading the team without being possessive or dominating. Not taking the credit for the work of the team. 

The Way  
A poor project manager will try to dominate the team. This will grind them down and stifle their creativity. The wise project manager encourages the team and is supportive, without taking credit for the team’s achievements.

Lao Tzu asks a lot of questions in this chapter of the Tao and as project managers these are the questions we should be asking ourselves, most important can we lead without dominating?  

The Tao  
Lao Tzu tells us:  

Can you coax your mind from wandering, and keep to the original oneness?  
Can you let your body become supple as a new-born child?  
Can you cleanse your inner vision until it is pure?  
Can you love all men and lead them without cleverness?  
Opening and closing the gates of Heaven, can you play the role of a woman?  
Understanding all things, can you be without motive?  
Giving birth and nourishing, having yet not possessing,  
Acting yet not taking credit, leading yet not trying to dominate,  
This is the Primal Virtue.  

Friday, August 19, 2016

A Good Team

Yet more on the soft skills

I have always been impressed by how well people will work in a project team if you respect them and let them get on with it. My last big project team were all very professional. Of course some of them were better at some things than others but they were all good and capable of working well and they knew their stuff. It was a real pleasure and a privilege to work with them. Unlike at the Olympics, in many ways a good project team is better than a spectacular team. 

A poor project manager will try to micro-manage the team and want to be seen as a superstar. But superstars can get carried away with their own importance then, sooner or later, they will burn out and crash back to earth.  

The Way 
The wise project manager settles for good work and lets the team get on with things. He or she does not try and take the credit for what happens and has no desire for fame. They make sure the team takes the credit, as after all, they have done the work. Having a moderate ego demonstrates true wisdom

The Tao  
Lao Tzu tells us:

Fill your bowl to the brim,  
And it will spill.  
Over sharpen your knife,  
And the edge will soon be blunt.  

Amass a store of gold and jade,  
And nothing can guard it.  
Care about other peoples’ approval,  
And you will be their prisoner.  

Retire when the work is done.  
This is the way to serenity.  

Friday, August 12, 2016

More on Soft Leadership

Still on the subject of soft skills: pushy project managers may think they are being effective but they can have a bad impact on the team. Better to be relaxed and go with the flow, for that way the team will be positive and motivated. That’s not to say that you can be incompetent and get away with it, for the team will soon find you out. Just be fair and honest with the team and they will respect it.  

The Way
The wise project manager is like water. Water goes anywhere freely. It is yielding and flows naturally. The wise project manager does not push, so the team does not resent or resist, 

The Tao  
Lao Tzu tells us:  

The supreme good is like water.  
Water gives life to the ten thousand things without trying.  
It flows in the low places people reject,  
And so is like the Tao.  

Giving with fairness and compassion.  
Speaking with integrity.  
Governing without trying to control.  
Working with competence.  
Moving with good timing.  

Not competing,  
So not finding fault.