Friday, July 29, 2016

Soft Skills

There are lots of courses available about how to be a project manager, but they tend to concentrate on the hard skills of project management. The Way is all about the soft skills, but what are the soft skills a project manager needs to get things done?  

The wise project manager knows he doesn’t have direct authority over the team, so he needs to build trust and respect to get things done.  

The wise project manager knows he can't do it all himself, so he delegates, lets go and trusts the team to do the right things.  

Life is full of trade-offs so the wise project manager is prepared to understand other peoples' needs as well as those of the project.  

The wise project manager knows that people need to be encouraged and praised and thanked for what they have done on the project.  

Team Building 
The wise project manager knows that team spirit is a wonderful thing, with it everyone will push together.  

There will be difficulties and difficult people; the wise project manager stays calm in these situations and nurtures the team.  

In summary the wise project manager brings out his feminine side (unless of course she already happens to be one of the 20% of project managers who is a woman, in which case be thankful and be yourself).  

The Tao 
Lao Tzu tells us:  

The spirit of the valley does not die,  
It might be called the Great Mother.  
The origin of heaven and earth.  
Ever present and everlasting.  
Use it, it will never fail.  

Friday, July 22, 2016

Using Peoples' Skills

Last week I mentioned Johnny Beirne and his excellent Project Management Paradise web site at He talks to me about my approach to project management on episode 5 if you would like to hear my thoughts. One of which was on peoples' skills.

Using Peoples' Skills
When it comes to project team members, it is quite normal that some will be better at certain things than others. Some will be very competent at what they do and others less so. Some will be more dedicated and some less so. I always have to smile when people raise things like Belbin roles as a pre-requisite when selecting project teams. “We must have a completer/finisher” is the usual cry but in my experience you are lucky to get people with the technical skills you need, let alone team skills. 

The Way  
The wise project manager learns to work with the people he gets given and thanks them for their efforts. The light of awareness shines equally on what is good and what is bad. One person is as worthy as the next. Knowing this the wise project manager does not pretend to be special. Silence is a great source of strength. 

The Tao  
Lao Tzu tells us: 

The sage is not humane,  
Considering all as grass dogs.  

The space between Heaven and Earth,  
Is like a flute or sack.  
It is emptied but not lessened.  
Move it and more comes out.  

Many words add up to nothing.  
Nothing equals holding to the center.  

Note: The Tao uses the term ‘grass dogs’ to indicate that things might be good or evil.  So the sage does not take sides but considers all equal regardless of their virtue.  

Friday, July 15, 2016

What is the Way?

Firstly let's say what the Way isn't. It isn't a methodology, it isn't a religion (although some people have tried to make it one), it isn't a how to do things and it isn't a set of project management guidelines. It is much more than any of that.

This week I was discussing the role of methodology with Johnny Beirne for a future Podcast on his website. Poor project managers believe that if they follow a methodology, faithfully, then they are running their project the right way, but that is not the way. Yes there is a role for methodology or standards but it's not how to run a project.

The Way
The Way is a philosophy. The Way is a single unifying principle. The Way is about how things happen. The way cannot be learned, it is just there. Nothing made the way, the Way simply is. The wise project manager does not search for the Way, he runs his project in harmony with the Way by following natural law and the single principle.

The Tao  
Lao Tzu tells us:

The Tao is like a well,  
It is used, but never used up.  
It is like an eternal void,  
But filled with infinite possibilities.  

It blunts the sharpness, unravels the knots,  
Dims the glare, mixes the dust*.  
Hidden deep but ever present.  
I do not know from whence it came.  

* Note: The word dust or dirt is used to indicate things that might be soiled, corrupted or even sensual.  But as the Tao is universal it includes all things even things that might be considered as bad.  

Friday, July 08, 2016

Simple Wisdom

It has been interesting looking at our politicians at the moment as they scrabble to convince us how good they are (apart from Boris, who did the exact opposite and Jeremy, who is just being Jeremy). It is of course the same for project managers. Poor project managers are ambitious and desperate for success. They want advancement but this will create havoc for their project team.  

The Way
The wise project manager concentrates on making sure the project team have what they need to create the project and protects them from external interference. Getting things done doesn't have to be frantic and the team don’t have to be busy. If we just act normally and co-operate with one another, the project team can achieve great things. The wise project manager is concerned that the team functions well and that what they do is effective. 

The Tao  
Lao Tzu tells us: 

Do not glorify great men,  
And the people will not quarrel.  
Do not treasure valuable possessions,  
And the people will not become thieves.  

Therefore the sage would lead by:  
Emptying people’s minds,  
And filling their stomachs.  
By weakening their ambitions,  
And strengthening their bodies.  

If people lack cunning and desire,  
Those who scheme will not dare to meddle.  
Practice not doing and all will be well.  

Friday, July 01, 2016

Try Softer

Trying too hard to achieve something will usually end in disaster.  I've always had an interest in why projects fail and one of the common reasons is project managers who drive themselves and their project teams into the ground by trying to achieve the impossible.   

I once received some excellent advice from a ski coach.  He said that I should try softer rather than trying harder.  “Imagine that the handles of the ski poles are little canaries in your hands”.  Several dead canaries later I finally stopped trying so hard and it worked!  Of course I immediately got very excited at my success, crossed my skis and had a spectacular crash!  The way is not always without a sense of humor.  

Project managers who drive themselves and their team seem to think that they will be admired for their efforts, in fact they are often laughed at.  People who tell you how good they are and how hard they work are likely to be insecure.  People who try and impress you with the demands and complexities of their job are probably confused by it themselves.  

The Way  
Now consider the opposites.  People who don’t try too hard will usually achieve what they are working for because they are working within the limit of their competence.  People who admit that they are always learning from what they do are the ones with the real knowledge.  People who make things seem simple and easy to understand are the ones who really know what they are talking about.  

The Tao  
Lao Tzu tells us:  

The sage acts without motive,  
Teaches with no words of doctrine.  
The ten thousand things arise and fall,  
But he has no claim of ownership,  
Meritorious work done, then forgotten.  
Therefore it lasts forever.