Saturday, June 17, 2017


I once asked my old Tai Chi teacher, Yano, what the ten thousand things were. He just smiled and poked me in the stomach (he was like that). It was obvious, I should have thought about it or meditated.

Meditation requires peace and quiet but in the hurly-burly of project life it sometimes seems that there are very few moments like that. But we do need these moments of tranquility to slow down, take stock and re-charge our batteries.  

The Way  
The poor project manager worries about what is happening or not happening on their project, frets about what else might go wrong and gets angry at life and the world for their problems. That way lies despair!  

The wise project manager uses the time to meditate calmly, returning to his inner self and becoming silent. What is happening when nothing is happening? What is the difference between what is happening and how it happens? 

Through meditation we can start to understand the process and through understanding the process we can begin to understand the principle. This is the way things happen so we begin to understand what is happening on the project .

The Tao
Lao Tzu tells us:  

Returning is the movement of the Tao. 
Yielding is the way of the Tao. 
The ten thousand things are born of being. 
Being is born of not being. 

Friday, June 09, 2017

The Root of Things

Not a very good start to the Lions tour so far, narrow victory over a scratch side and losing to the bottom club (albeit one with eight All Blacks in it) the Auckland Blues (my son David's team). Next up the Crusaders (the top NZ side) tomorrow so it doesn't get any easier. Meanwhile walking rugby is going well but we are struggling to get volunteers for our Groundforce Day (sprucing up the clubhouse and grounds) tomorrow.

The Project
I currently have three people reviewing the content of the new book and the silence is deafening! Should I start to worry as it's due to the publishers by the end of the month!

When things start to get difficult on a project it is sometimes tempting to abandon the way. A poor project manager will try to use pressure to influence events, but the harder he tries, the worse things will get. When we try to interfere with nature, nothing works right. Things start to go wrong, the project team becomes disillusioned and the project ends up failing. We need to recognise that power comes from the natural order of things. Natural events are potent because they act in accordance with how things work. They simply are.  

The Way  
On a project we are all team players. Success comes through co-operation and providing a service to others. Therefore the wise project manager is not self-centred; he nurtures the team, co-operates with them and is their servant. Potency comes from knowing what is happening and acting accordingly. Freedom comes from obedience to the natural order. This way the project progresses, the team is happy and the project is in harmony with nature.

The Tao  
Lao Tzu tells us:  

Of old these arise from the one:  
The sky was able to be pure,  
The earth was able to be tranquil,  
The spirits were able to be spiritual,  
The valley was able to be abundant,  
The ten thousand things were able to be alive,  
And the rulers were able to lead.  
All these came about.  

If the sky was not pure it would split open,  
If the earth was not tranquil it would erupt,  
If the spirits were not spiritual they would vanish,  
If the valley was not abundance it would wither,  
If the ten thousand things were not alive they would be extinct,  
If the rulers did not lead they would be toppled.  

Therefore cheap is the root of expensive,  
Low is the root of high.  
The rulers consider themselves alone, bereft and unworthy,  
Fail to use worthless as their root.  Is it not so?  
The substance of the vehicle is not the vehicle.  
Do not wish to be shiny like jade,  
Be dull like rock. 

Friday, June 02, 2017

Virtuous Leadership

Over the years I've had the pleasure of meeting a few really good project managers and the misfortune of meeting a lot of poor project managers.

The Way  
A poor project manager tries to behave in what he think is the ‘right way’ for a project manager to behave. He acts as if busy but never seem to achieve anything. This sheds no light on anything and usually backfires as the team think he doesn’t actually know what’s going on. 

The wise project manager is aware of what is happening in the team and acts accordingly. There are no ways to behave that will ensure successful leadership. It cannot be calculated or manipulated and it is never achieved by trying to look good. The wise project manager just does the right thing.  

The Tao  
Lao Tzu tells us:  

True goodness is not virtuous,  
Because it has virtue.  
A foolish person tries to be good,  
Therefore has no virtue.  

The sage does nothing,  
Yet leaves nothing undone.  
A foolish man is always doing,  
Yet much remains to be done.  

When a truly kind man does something,  
He leaves nothing undone.  
When a just man does something,  
He leaves a great deal to be done.  

Therefore ignore Tao and virtue ensues.  
Ignore virtue and kindness ensues.  
Ignore kindness and justice ensues.  
Ignore justice and etiquette ensues.  

A man of etiquette despises goodness
And sets in motion confusion.  
His concern is himself and what serves him,  
It is the beginning of folly.  

Therefore the truly great man looks to the substantial,  
And not what is on the surface.  
The true fruit not the flowery.  
Dismissing the one, grasping the other. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Doing Little

Walking Rugby

Walking rugby really seems to be taking off, we had ten people again last night, so 5-a-side on a 20 x 40 pitch worked well. And everyone is enjoying it! But I digress as I was really going to talk about doing little.

The Way  
Some people get confused when a project manager appears to be doing very little and yet things still seem to get done. But the wise project manager knows that is how things work. The Tao does nothing, yet everything gets done.  

The poor project manager appears to be too busy, always rushing about so nothing actually gets done. When the wise project manager finds himself getting too busy, he takes a step back, returns to selfless silence and centers himself. Being centred creates order and when there is order, there is little to do.

The Tao  
Lao Tzu tells us:  

Tao abides in non-action,  
Yet nothing is left undone.  
When kings are able to conform to this,  
The ten thousand things will develop naturally.  
Transformed, yet wishing to achieve,  
I shall repress them with the simplicity of the nameless.  
The simplicity of the nameless,  
Acts without desire.  
Without desire,  
The world will be at peace.  

Friday, May 19, 2017

Subtle Insight

Walking Rugby
The games is starting to gather momentum! We had 10 of our walkers turned up last night for a coaching session and game run by Jason Luff (former Exeter Chiefs player and now Regional Development Officer for Devon RFU). Lots of pics taken for publicity and we should get a write up in the local paper and Estuary magazine. And we are going to keep on training and playing through the summer. Much better than cricket!

As we get further into a project it is not unusual to find out that we don’t have enough human resources or budget to achieve everything that we would like to accomplish. A poor project manager might try and push the team to achieve more that they are capable of and they will probably fail. A wise project manager will work out the available options and take them to the business for a decision on which to take.  

The Way  
All behaviors contain their opposites: a show of strength suggests insecurity and what goes up must come down. The wise project manager knows that if he wishes to prosper he needs to be generous. Pushy, bullying project managers often have disastrous projects. As they say: be nice to people on the way up as you are likely to meet them again on the way back down. 

The Tao  
Lao Tzu tells us:  

Strength ensured,   
Weakening may be considered.  
Prosperity ensured,  
Ruin may be considered.  

This might be called a subtle insight.  
Weakness conquers strength.  
And a country’s weapons,  
Should be hidden from the people.  

Friday, May 12, 2017

Keep It Simple

As a project manager I always tried to keep things simple. Yes I had a detailed project schedule for myself but I created a simplified high-level version for the project stakeholders and extract detailed deliverables lists for the project team to work from. That way it keeps things simple and easy to follow. 

Poor project managers get caught up in the drama and excitement of new ideas. They always want to try something new and different. They fail to observe what is going on around them, so they don’t see how things happen. They confuse the people around them and there is a loss of harmony in the project team. 

The Way  
The good project manager stays with the single principle and understands the team process. He keeps away from chaos and conflicts. He keeps things simple and clear for the team and so the work of the team progresses smoothly. When the project ends, the team are in good spirits and say “we did it!”, for indeed they did.

The Tao  
Lao Tzu tells us:  

Hold the great image,  
All under heaven will come.  
They come without harm,  
In happiness and peace.  
Passing strangers might stop for music and food.  

Trying to describe the Tao, insipid!  
As if without taste.  
Look, it cannot be seen.  
Listen, it cannot be heard.  
Use cannot exhaust it.  

Friday, May 05, 2017

The Single Principle

The Project
I'm now on the first draft of the last chapter of EVM in easy steps. If anyone out there fancies reviewing it for me (particularly if you've used it) please let me know.

The Way  
Good project managers spend a lot of time communicating with their project stakeholders. Keeping them in the picture by explaining what the project team are doing and listening to them to make sure the project delivers what the business needs. This is in line with the single principle. 

The single principle is found everywhere and everything works according to it. You cannot own the single principle and it does not own you. It is great because it is universal and all-inclusive. The way benefits all without return and without prejudice.  

The wise project manager follows this principle and does not act selfishly. He works with everyone, not just the people he likes. He does not seek to control people and knows that true leadership is not about winning. He works to create an awareness of what is happening on the project and in the business. He gives a selfless service to all .

The Tao  
Lao Tzu tells us:  

The great Tao flows everywhere,  
The ten thousand things rely upon it,  
But it allows them to act freely.  

It achieves its work, but takes no credit.  
It clothes and nourishes the ten thousand things,  
But demands no sovereignty.  

Can it be called insignificant?  
The ten thousand things return to it,  
But it does not rule them.  

Can it be named for this greatness?  
It does not regard itself as great,  
Therefore it can achieve greatness.