Friday, February 03, 2017

Trying Softer

I find myself under a lot of pressure in my day job at this time but am trying to stay calm and do what I need to do to get things done. I know I can rely on the rest of the team to do the right things so I can let them get on with it.

The urge to try harder when things don't quite go right is a common one, but a project manager trying too hard is a sure sign of insecurity and incompetence. When we are in control and know what we are doing we are relaxed and at peace with ourselves and our project. 

The Way  
The wise project manager knows that trying to rush things gets you nowhere. He knows that fame will complicate his life and compromise simplicity in his day to day work. He knows that selfishness obscures his deeper self. Therefore he avoids all these things. He does his work and moves on. 

The Tao  
Lao Tzu tells us:  

Standing on tiptoe is not steady. 
Being self-centered is not enlightened. 
Being self-righteous is not respected. 
Boasting is not being grown-up. 

Those who follow the Tao,
Call these surplus food or baggage.  
Something found bad.  
The followers of the Tao avoid them.  

Friday, January 27, 2017


One thing I have observed over the years is that a wise project manager does not spend all his time talking about problems and issues.  He gets on and does something about them and only speaks when it is necessary. He demonstrates what needs to be done by his behaviour rather than by what he does.

The poor project manager tries to impress his team and project stakeholders by talking about what he is doing, but it carries little weight. Being dramatic or egocentric neither does any good nor looks good. When we try and force things to happen, those things will go wrong. So what is the right way?

The Way  
When we do the right things by following the Way, we will be rewarded and the right things will happen. So the wise project manager trusts his team and in turn the team trust him.

The Tao  
Lao Tzu tells us: 

To talk little is natural.  
A whirlwinds does not last all morning.  
A rainstorm does not last all day.  
Why is this? Heaven and earth!  

Even heaven and earth cannot make things eternal,  
So how is it possible for man?  
He whose concern is Tao,  
His path is Tao oriented.  

He who is virtuous,  
Experiences virtue.  
He whose concern is error,  
Loses the way.  

When you are at one with the Tao,  
The Tao welcomes you.  
When you are at one with virtue,  
Virtue welcomes you.  

When you are at one with error,  
Error welcomes you.  
He who does not trust enough  
Will not be trusted.  

Friday, January 20, 2017

Letting Go

Things are very hectic at the rugby club at the moment, lots of things to try and sort out including preparing our budgets for next financial year. The last project (extension to the spectator viewing area and safety barrier) was completed successfully and we got a grant from the RFU towards the work, which was nice. Car park improvements and an electronic scoreboard come next. Meanwhile we've an away game down at Lanner, in deepest Cornwall on Saturday so a fun day out for all.

The Paradox of Letting Go  
When the going gets tough it is sometimes hard to let go, yet when we stop trying, things fall into place all by themselves. Poor project managers drive themselves and their team harder but that is not the way. 

The Way
The wise project manager adopts the Yin or feminine approach. By giving up trying and going with the flow they can overcome obstacles and achieve their objectives. When we give of ourselves we become more. When we feel exhausted we will grow strong again. But most importantly, when we desire little a great deal will come to us.  Let go in order to achieve, this is the wisdom of the feminine.

The Tao  
Lao Tzu tells us:  

Yield and overcome,  
Bend and be straight,  
Empty and be full,  
Wear out and be renewed,  
Have little and gain,  
Have much and be confused.  

Therefore the sage embraces the Tao,  
And is an example in the world.  
Not by nature conspicuous,  
Therefore they shine bright.  
Not by nature aggressive,  
Therefore they achieve recognition.  

They do not quarrel,  
So nothing can quarrel with them.  
Strange the saying “Wrong is the model for perfect.”  
Can this be an empty saying?  
Be truly whole,  
And return to the Tao.  

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.