Friday, January 13, 2017

To Jump or not to Jump

Welcome to 2017
I trust you all have a happy and rewarding year. As usual I will be dripping in my thoughts, meditations and opinions as we go, with a little bit about life (or the continuous learning program as I like to think of it).

Speaking of continuous learning, I was contacted by Emily of Master of Project, regarding their training courses. I promised to take a look and I did. They do seem to have some good courses, both in terms of learning and towards accreditation, plus a very nice web site. Well done Emily. I will test out their free Agile Scrum Overview and report back. Meantime their web site is at: if you are interested.

For myself, I have a number of small projects on the go at the moment and was reflecting on the fact that projects can sometimes get very confusing and it is not always easy to see the way. If the way was simple, it would be easy to see that one option would be right and another wrong. But projects are not like that, they tend to be noisy and confused, with competing calls for attention coming from all sides. 

Poor project managers tend to jump every time someone yells. Wise project managers calmly point out that to jump would impact on other activities and asks the jumpee to consider which other project activities they would like to be put aside to allow the jumper time to plan and execute the jump on their behalf.  

The Way  
If we accept that everything is connected in some way (even the people asking us to jump), then we are always potentially on the way. If we struggle and fight against what is happening then we will surely loose the way. If we accept, in silence, that things are the way they are, then we move forward along the way. So in times of turmoil the wise project manager holds onto the belief that everything happens according to one universal principal.  
Be calm and clear, and think about the results of taking actions before reacting. Then take the actions that will gently steer the project back towards its objectives.

The Tao  
Lao Tzu tells us:  

The greatest virtue is to follow only the Tao.  
The Tao seems wild and obscure.  
So obscure, so wild,  
But within it there is form.  

So profound, so dark,  
But within it there is essence.  
This essence is very real,  
And within it there is truth.  

From the very beginning until now  
Its name has never been forgotten.  
To observe the source of all things.  
How do I know the nature of the source?  
Because of here and now.  

Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 Review

It's always good to look back and review how things went as part of an experiential learning process, so this is my review of 2016 and no don't worry, I'm not going to mention Brexit or Trump!

January began as usual with me opening Topsham outdoor swimming pool on New Year's Day (I'll be doing it again on Sunday morning). The rest of January was taken up with worrying about storm Gertrude and flooded rugby pitches.

February things started to pick up and we were able to play a few games. Not a lot else seemed to be happening!

March saw the publication of a white paper on why projects really fail, while on the rugby front Exeter Chiefs needed to bounce back from a bad loss to Leicester, and Topsham needed to keep up the pressure for a play-off spot.

April spent two weeks in Jamaica, saw a good bit of the island and met some great people. While back at home Topsham RFC secured promotion from Devon 1 to the Cornwall and Devon league, brilliant!

May saw the start of the cricket season (yawn) so I turned my concentration onto what we can do to make sure projects go right (rather than looking at why they go wrong).

June looked at the steps we need to take to implement successful project management.

July discussed the soft skills of project management.

August looked at building a good team and pre-season training started at long last.

September saw the need to stay calm and how we should measure success in project management, while the new season kicked off well.

October saw things building up to Bonfire Night, our biggest fund raising event at the club and another great team effort.

November the fifth was a great success and hopefully we captured all the lessons learned for next year! I also started walking rugby taster sessions at the clubhouse.

December and thoughts turn towards the Christmas and New Year (two weekends with no rugby at Topsham), but fortunately Exeter Chiefs kept us entertained, making it into the top four after a poor start to the season.

So that was my 2016 in a nutshell.

Here's wishing you all a very happy and successful New Year.

Friday, December 23, 2016

So here it is again

All is quiet at the rugby club this weekend, no rugby, because it's Christmas! I was going to do a post on something quite profound but I decided against it so here's a quick run down on where things are:

The extension to the viewing area and wooden safety fence are completed and are looking good. 

On the walking rugby front we have a group of eight people so far who are keen to give it a go, so we are going to continue the indoor taster/training sessions on Fridays in the new year. We should also be getting some publicity on it in the New Year so hopefully it will begin to take off. We need to get a few more people so we can start playing 5 a side outside on the mini rugby pitch.

So looking forward to the New Year with our first walking rugby session on Friday 6th January and our first home game on Saturday 7th January: our Men's 1st XV against Withycombe. 

So Happy Holiday to all over the pond and a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year to those on this side of the pond and down under.


Friday, December 02, 2016

Traditional Wisdom

Projects teams tend to start out with boundless enthusiasm. They are going to change the world (or at least a small part of it) for the better. It’s usually as we get to the middle stages of a project that the problems start to emerge. The project manager’s role is to facilitate and clarify conflicts. But this is not something we get taught, it relies on common sense (which is difficult to teach) and traditional wisdom (which has to be gained).  

The Way
When the going gets tough a poor project manager will often rely on theoretical models and processes, but these are only tools and templates. The wise project manager responds to what is happening in the here and now. He is happy to serve others. The wise project manager does not make a fuss; he is quiet and reflective. The wise project manager prefers what is common and natural for this is traditional wisdom.

The Tao  
Lao Tzu tells us: 

Give up learning, and put an end to your anxiety. 
There is little difference between one and another.  
Is there a difference between good and bad?  
Must I fear what others fear?  

The people are excited,  
As if enjoying a sacrificial feast.  
As if climbing up to the terrace in spring.  
But I alone am quiet and uninvolved.  

I am like a new born babe.  
I alone am bereft as if homeless.  
Everyone has more than they need,  
But I alone seem left out.  

I have the heart of a fool,  
Very confused!  
Other people are bright,  
I alone am confused.  

Everyone else has a purpose,  
But I am ignorant as a rustic.  
I alone am different,  
And am nourished by the great mother.  

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Self Improvement

Just realised I haven't posted anything for a month! Sorry about that but pressure of work at the day job (Treasurer of Topsham RFC) has been telling lately. Talking of which we had our first taster session of Walking Rugby at the clubhouse yesterday afternoon, great fun had by all and some good exercise, I was certainly feeling it by the end.

Self Improvement 
There are any number of books and courses that promise to make you a better project manager, but of course no book or teacher can make you a better project manager. There are no rules or techniques that can develop these qualities, you need to discover things for yourself. 

The Way 
A poor project manager may go on lots of courses but this will only make him a sadder person while making the people selling the courses richer. The wise project manager develops and improves through practicing silence and meditation. 

The Tao  
Lao Tzu tells us:  

Give up sainthood, renounce wisdom,  
And it will be a hundred times better for everyone.  
Give up kindness, renounce morality,  
And the people will go back to filial piety and compassion.  
Give up cunning, renounce profit,  
And robbers and thieves will disappear.  

If these three are not sufficient in themselves,  
Consider natural simplicity,
Cherish nature’s work,
And let things take their course.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Keeping Calm

Bonfire Night
The biggest fund raising event of the year for Topsham Rugby Club is November 5th. I was very heavily involved last year but this year I am leaving it to the team to organise. There will be a lot of pressure but I have trust in them to get it done.

There is often a lot of pressure at key times in a project. A poor project manager gets caught up in this pressure and consequently loses sight of what is happening. The wise project manager recognises that he needs to make space and step back in order to observe what is going on before doing anything. 

The Way  
The way represents the single principle of how everything works. When we keep it simple and follow the path there will be harmony in the team and people get on with the project. When we leave the way, the team will start to argue about what they should or should not have done and what might or might not have then happened. The project team begins to lose their motivation and they start to take sides.

The wise project manager recognises what is happening and returns to first principles. He needs to calm the team, reassure them and bring them back to the way. 

The Tao  
Lao Tzu tells us:  

When the great Tao is neglected,  
Humanity and righteousness arise.  
When wisdom and knowledge appear,  
They beget great falseness.  

When there is no peace within the family,  
Filial piety and maternal love arise.  
When the country is confused and in chaos,  
Patriotism is born. 

Friday, October 21, 2016


Lao Tzu tells us that there are four types of leaders and this seems to apply quite well to project managers, see how many of the four you have come into contact with:

Weak Project Managers
Ineffectual project managers that have been promoted to their level of incompetence. They struggle to get anything done and are generally seen as losers. Consequently no one wants to be in their team and we can all agree they are poor project managers.  

Feared Project Managers
These guys get their way by threatening and browbeating their team. Any good people in their team take the hint and move somewhere they will be more appreciated. While the bad ones will try to imitate their behaviour or worse still toady up to them. Again I am sure we can all agree that they too are poor project managers.

Charismatic Project Managers
These are the interesting ones. Typically they lead from the front, are popular and can even have fans, but are they wise project managers?  Take them away from their team and the team will stumble as they have become too reliant on the project manager. They are not usually poor project managers, but they are not wise project managers.

Wise Project Managers
The wise project manager is barely noticed. He does not intervene unless it is absolutely necessary and allows the team to run itself. He facilitates with a light touch and delegates wisely. The team gets on with its work without fuss and bother.

The Way 
The wise project manager trusts in his team and they, in turn, trust in him. Greatness does not come to those who go looking for it, it comes out of humility.

The Tao  
Lao Tzu tells us:  

When the best ruler governs,  
The people are barely aware he exists.  
The next best is a leader which they know and love.  
Then one who is feared.  
The worst is one who is despised.  

If the ruler does not trust the people,  
There will be no trust in him.  
The best ruler doesn’t talk, he acts.  
When his work is done,  
The people say “We did it!”