Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Trying Too Hard

Personal Update

Many thanks to those of you who send me kind messages about my cancer. I waited quite a long time before posting an update as there have been several ups and downs. Put briefly, my throat cancer has cleared up following the radiotherapy; but cancer has spread to both lungs. They can't operate or risk radiotherapy as one of the cancers is very close to my heart, so after some deliberation they have just started me on immunotherapy (intravenous drugs every six weeks), which may or may not work, time will tell.

Meantime I started throwing myself into high-intensity exercise together with walking rugby and swimming but I overdid it and ended up with a fractured patella and a hernia. I should have known better at my age! 

The Project

I have just started working on a new book on agile time management. Merging conventional time management wisdom (which I have already published a book on), with an agile approach. It was partly triggered by my reading "Four Thousand Weeks" by Oliver Burkeman. 4,000 weeks refers to our average lifetime and I realised that I am well into my last hundred or so so I had better crack on and hopefully I will get it finshed in time.

I won't try too hard however.  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 think that they will be admired by their management 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 wise project manager does not make a fuss about things.  He allows things to happen and unfold at their own pace while observing them, for this is the way of the project manager. 

The Tao 

Lao Tzu tells us: 

Everyone sees some things as excellent, 

Therefore other things become bad. 

Everyone sees some things as good, 

Therefore other things are not good. 

Having and not-having produce each other, 

Difficult and easy bring about each other, 

Long and short reveal each other, 

High and low support each other, 

Tone and voice harmonize each other, 

Before and behind accompany each other.  


Therefore 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, 

Endowed but no claim for payment. 

Meritorious work done, then forgotten. 

Therefore it lasts forever. 

Sunday, December 27, 2020

A New Begining

I have just completed my first five weeks of radiotherapy and have two more weeks to go, so fingers crossed. The side effects are starting to show, the skin around my neck feels like it has beeen sunburnt and looks like it as well (bright red). I'm having to put moisturiser on several times a day. The NHS nurses and the staff at the RD&E in Exeter are really great and supportive, what a great project team. Everyone knows their role. But at the end of the day it is up to me and my body to get through this. So I decided to go back and have another look at life and maybe try to draw out some of the wider learnings from it and not just concentrate on the project management aspects. I will start it here from a project management perspective and as usual see where the way leads me.

The Way

The way cannot be learnt, it can only be known, so this represents a new look in my quest for that knowledge.  There will be darkness but out of that darkness will come knowledge of how things happen. 

Lao Tsu tells us: 

The Way that can be told is not the eternal Way. 

The name that can be named is not the eternal name. 

The nameless is the beginning of Heaven and Earth. 

With a name the mother of the ten thousand things. 



Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Letting Go

I haven't posted anything for a while as I have not been too well during the Covid-19 pandemic. It turned out after a lot of tests that I have cancer and I am now undergoing radiotherapy treatment, which has led me to have a long think about where I am.
I am 77 and have had a good life thus far (and was still playing walking rugby until the radiotherapy) so can't really complain but I do have a number of things that I need to take care of. Mostly to do with succession planning for my technical books and personal matters. So it really is time to start letting go.
I've got two great friends (one is also my son) who have taken on most of my technical books but don't have anyone to take over "Effective Time Management in easy steps", any offers? 
I don't think I want anyone to take over "The Way of the Project Manager" as it is very personal to me and it will eventually fade away. But if anyone is interested in doing something similar feel free to use it as a starting point or not, I won't mind either way.
For my health and wealth I'm setting up lasting powerers of attorney with my wife and children. 
The Way
In project management there is no point in trying to be perfect or admired. These don't have any impact on the project and they won't make the project or the team any more successful. By letting go of all emotional baggage and just being part of the team we not only benefit the rest of the team and the project, but we also benefit ourselves.
The Tao
Lao Tzu tells us: 

Empty your mind of everything
Let the mind rest at peace
The ten thousand things will rise and fall
Being open minded, you will act in a kingly manner
Being divine, you will be at one with the Tao
Being at one with the Tao is eternal
And though the body dies, you are ready.
The term 'kingly' is used in the Tao as an alternative to 'the sage'. It indicates possessing the clarity of knowledge, being open-hearted and open-minded. I hope that I can aspire to be both.

Friday, October 30, 2020

The Ancient Masters

I have just discovered that I have cancer. Not a nice experience but part of lifes rich patterns. The effective learning cycle was first espoused many years ago.  It is an iterative process that suggests we learn best if we go through four stages of the cycle: plan something, do it, reflect on how it worked and then draw conclusions from it about what we will do next time.   

However, when we start with somethig that wasn't planned we have to start at the second stage, do it. The cycle still works. I now have to reflect on what is happening and then draw conclusions from it. I draw strength from others around me that have been through the same process. What will be, will be. I am irrelevant in the great cosmos, all I can do is influence the furture by my behaviour now. I welcome cancer into my life.

I can share my experiences and encourage those around me to reflect on these and their own experiences.  Reflection helps us to see how things happen.  When we reflect we are grounded in the infinite. 

The Way 

The wise project manager is considerate and does harm to no one.  He is courteous and knows how to yield gracefully.  He is open and receptive and can clarify things for others, because he has been there himself.  The wise project manager is not trying to be enlightened, because he is enlightened. 

The Tao

Lao Tzu tells us:

The ancient masters were subtle and profound. 

The depth of their knowledge was unfathomable. 

The sage does not seek fulfilment. 

Not seeking, not expecting, 

He can welcome everything. 

Monday, August 10, 2020

Staying Aware

It seems that sales of the new book (Sourdough Bread Made Easy: second edition) have taken off. My first thoughts were that everyone had been awaiting it with glee. My second thoughts were that with the Covid-19 pandemic and lock down, more people were staying in and baking their own bread. That seems to fit with this blogs theme of staying aware.

One sure sign of a poor project manager is someone who doesn’t know what's going on in his project. In his insecurity, he may keep questioning the team to find out, but that will only irritate the team members and it is not the way.

The Way

We need to become silent and listen with our inner selves. The wise project manager stays in the present. The past is over and done with, there's no point in thinking about what might have been. Likewise there is no point in trying to second guess the future, it will be what it will be.

The Tao

Lao Tzu tells us: 

Look and it cannot be seen. Listen and it cannot be heard. Grasp and it cannot be held.

Grasp the strangeness which is Tao. Mindful of what exists now. Knowing the ancient beginning, is the essence of wisdom.  


Tuesday, June 02, 2020

Project Success

I have just finished my latest project, updating and releasing Sourdough Bread Made Easy: second edition. It is available on Amazon in paperback and e-book. So nothing to do with project management, but after walking rugby, baking sourdough bread is my second favourite hobby.  

For a project manager, success on projects is usually measured by whether the project is delivered on time, within budget and with all the required features and functionality (or on agile projects with all the required features and functionality that can be delivered in the available time). 

A poor project manager concentrates on getting the project in on time and within budget, a better project manager adds the required features and functionality (I like to think I ticked all three boxes on the book update).

The Way  

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 (so I await the judgement of my readers).  

The Tao

Lao Tzu tells us:
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.