Friday, March 31, 2017

The Paradox of Trying

If a project manager tries to use too much pressure or force to get things done it is sure to backfire on him. By constantly intervening and interfering with the work of the team any team spirit will soon be destroyed and the quality of the work will go with it.  

The poor project manager tries to control the team rather than nurturing and encouraging them. By trying too hard and pushing the team they are blocking progress rather than encouraging it.  

The Way  
The wise project manager stays centred and grounded and encourages the team to function well by assisting them and dealing with any issues they may have.  He knows he is there to support the team and encourage them, not to interfere.

The Tao  
Lao Tzu tells us:  

He who would take over the world and change it,  
Will not succeed.  
The world is sacred,  
It cannot be done.  

He who would try to change it, will suffer defeat.  
He who would try to seize it, will fail.  
Some creatures act, some follow.  
Some snort, some praise.  

Some are strong, some are sick.   
Some bully, some destroy.  
Therefore the sage dismisses,  
The excessive and the extravagant.  

Friday, March 24, 2017

Setting an Example

The Project
I've just had the go ahead from the publisher to start work on "Earned Value Management in easy steps" and I've given myself a three month deadline, so here we go again! Apologies to everyone I told I had retired, but I couldn't resist it. 

I've mapped out the chapters and topics and started on the text but there is going to be a lot of work to get the charts and other illustrations right. I might try generating them from MS-Project but it might be easier to hand build the in Adobe InDesign (the editing tool we use).

Even though I'm right at the start of the project I find that today's post is about the middle to late stages of a project, when there are often battles to be fought by the project manager. At the same time there will also issues and problems to be resolved and some team members may need help and encouragement.  

The Way  
The wise project manager needs to act as both a warrior and as a healer.  As a warrior, showing power and decision, he displays the Yang or masculine aspect of leadership.  But most of the time the project manager acts as a healer in an open, receptive and nourishing way.  Providing assistance and encouragement to the team members is the feminine or Yin aspect of leadership. 

The Tao  
Lao Tzu tells us to:  

Know the strength of man,  
But protect the feminine.  
Be as an example to the world.  

Know the honour, protect humility.  
Be as a valley in the world.  
As a valley in the world,  
The eternal virtue shall be sufficient.  

Return to the state of the uncarved block.  
When the block is carved, it becomes useful.  
This for the sage is the example of adulthood.  
A great tailor cuts little,
And does not destroy.  

Friday, March 17, 2017


Happy St Patrick's Day to all those with Irish blood/Guinness flowing in their veins (I think I count under both qualifications) and good luck to Ireland in Dublin tomorrow when they attempt to spoil England's party. If they can beat the All Blacks in New York they can surely beat England in Dublin, especially with Jack Nowell left on the bench! Meanwhile Topsham RFC still face an uphill struggle to avoid relegation but if they can match last week's performance they could still do it. So that's the important stuff out of the way, and talking of the Way this weeks subject is subtlety

The Way  
Poor project managers knows that they need members of the team to carry out the work on the project, but they fail to recognise that they also need to serve these people. If there is no mutual need and mutual respect they are missing the point and will not see how things happen on the project.  

The wise project manager has an awareness of everything that needs taking care of on the project; he misses nothing.  In return the members of the project team need the project manager to steer them in the right direction and facilitate their work, and this he does willingly.

The Tao  
Lao Tzu tells us:  

A good walker leaves no footprints.  
Good speech is free of flaw and fault.  
Good calculation needs no tally or writing.  
Therefore the sage takes care of others,  
And does not abandon them.  
This one might call enlightenment.  

The good man provides a model for the bad man.  
The bad man a student for the good man.  
No matter how clever one is,  
If the teacher is not respected,  
Or the student not cared for,  
There is a great potential for error.  
This might be called an important subtlety.  

Friday, March 10, 2017

Staying Centered

There is a lot going on around me at the moment (I won't call it turmoil but it's sometimes a bit close to it :-) and it is all to easy to get distracted and carried away. So it is essential to stay centered and grounded. Being centered means we can keep our balance both physically and mentally. One of the things I remember from one of the more vigorous forms of the martial arts I once studied was the stance of the Ox.  Feet firmly planted on the ground, fists clenched by ones side, rock solid, totally grounded and ready for anything. I wouldn't recommend this in a project team meeting but the mental equivalent could work. The project manager who is centered and grounded can work with erratic people and critical situations without harm or fear.  

On the other hand a poor project manager will not be stable and can easily be carried away by the intensity of leadership. He will easily get distracted by what is happening around him, will make mistakes of judgment and loose his way.  

The Way 
The wise project manager is not subject to passing whims or sudden excitement. He knows where he stands and what he stands for. He is stable, has a sense of self and will not be knocked off balance.

The Tao  
Lao Tzu tells us:  

Heavy is the root of the light,  
Still is the master of the agitated.  
Therefore the sage, travelling all day,  
Remains centered.  

Though there are beautiful things to be seen,  
He remains unattached and calm.  
Why should the master of ten thousand chariots,  
Act like a fool in public?  

Lightness is the way to lose one’s root.  
Impetuousness is to lose touch with who you are.  

Friday, March 03, 2017

Back to the Way

Just got home after a three week holiday in Auckland and the Bay of Islands, New Zealand. Great country, great to spend some time with son David and his wife Anneke, and great to see the Auckland Blues (after a terrible season last year according to David) win the first game of the new season with an outstanding seven-try 56-18 victory over the Rebels in Melbourne. Meanwhile at home Topsham continued their battle for survival with a 36-28 win over Cornish Pirates Amateurs and Exeter Chiefs sit second in the Premiership after a draw with Wasps and wins over Worcester and Newcastle, but enough about rugby.

Earned Value Management
My publishers have been in touch to see if I could do a book on EVM so in the quiet moments away I've put together an outline synopsis for it. We will probably go for publishing it as a short e-book in the first instance as no-one is sure how big the market is for it. Then maybe expand it into a full book or shrink it into a chapter in the next revision of Effective Project Management in easy steps. Just when I thought things were getting quiet but then that is the Way.

The Way
Describing the Way is not easy as it is not a thing and it has no form or qualities. The way is simply the principle of how everything works. It is unity, it is universal and it determines everything.

The Tao  
Lao Tzu tells us:  

Something mysteriously formed.  
Born before heaven and earth.  
Standing solitary, alone and single.  
Constant and unchanging,  
Ever present and in motion,  
But it cannot be compromised.  

Perhaps it is the mother of the ten thousand things.  
I do not know its name,  
So I shall call it Tao.  
Trying to find a name for it,  
Invokes thoughts of greatness.  
Being great, it flows.  
Flowing it moves far away.  
Having gone far, it returns.  

Therefore Tao is great,  
Heaven is great,  
Earth is great,  
And the wise man is also great.  
These are the four great powers of the universe,  
Man follows the earth.  
Earth follows heaven.  
Heaven follows the Tao.  
Tao follows what is natural.